Chapter 12 - The King's Folly
It was almost noon, but time didn’t matter when one was stuck in a prison of rock. Princess Ruto emerged from the water in the corner of her room, droplets glistening as they rained down her body back into the pool. Although Zoras dwelt on the land and could go for long stretches of time without water, they still needed to bath in it once in a while to keep their scales moist. Without this constant attention to being damp, a Zora could dry out within weeks and ultimately die.
When Ruto awoke during the night, she discovered they had already placed her in a bedroom and fastened the door tight. It was clearly not her own, but it was regal enough for her position, there were many creature comforts left including a nice spongy clamshell of a bed. Though father did not want her to leave, he still didn’t want her treated like some common prisoner; despite the fact she truly was one, a hostage in her own house.
Ruto collapsed on the bed, helpless to do anything. She had already tried searching for various ways of escaping either using her body or other objects in the room to aid her. All to no avail, she was trapped. Finally succumbing to the creeping sleep she lay on the spongy pillows and thought of the one thing that still meant anything to her, her future husband.
She was so upset that they didn’t at least let her keep her precious figurines. She had banged on the door continuously asking for them to be brought to her, all her requests were ignored. The fog of boredom permeated the room as she lost herself in daydreams. Imagining all sorts of rescue attempts by her husband; cradling her in his arms as he whisked her off into the night. She would close her eyes and smile.
Had it been hours? Or days? She couldn’t tell anymore. Surely by now someone should have come to deliver her father’s wishes? She had certainly been locked in this room long enough. Why hadn’t anyone come to get her by now? She had hardly any time to ponder that when she heard a familiar voice arising from beyond her room. She sprung off the bed and placed her head against the door to eavesdrop on the conversation happening on the other side.
“You don’t understand! This is urgent! I must see Princess Ruto!” The voice was muffled but sounded very familiar.
“And you don’t understand me, you can’t see her!” The guard rebutted.
“Don’t make me hurt you.” The stranger’s tone took on a deadly connotation.
“Don’t make me kill you.” The guard threatened.
Some loud scuffling originated from the other side of the door. Ruto leapt back a few steps when she heard a ringing clang and a crumpled bang on the wall. She heard a body slide off of it and apparently thrown across the hall. After a bit of silence, she heard a jingle of keys and the unlocking click of the door. She braced herself for the worst and crouched in a ready stance, easily able to pounce on the intruder if need be.
The door swung open banging against the rock wall rattling the hinges. In mid-pounce Ruto realized it was Link and her pounce immediately changed into a hug in midair. Her arms connected together around his neck and she knocked him to the floor. She hugged him so tight he was squirming with delight! She took the positive cue and started giving him wet kisses on his cheeks and lips.
“Oh husband!” Kisses, “I knew you’d come for me! You won’t believe,” more kisses, “my father has gone mad! You don’t kno-”
Link desperate to get away from her wet, somewhat slimy body, cut her off. He roughly pushed her off of him. He tried to get up but slipped and stumbled back onto his butt in frustration. Giving up, he just sat there where he fell and glowered at Ruto who was already sitting on her shins with her hands resting in her lap looking lovingly at him.
After examining his now soaked clothes, Link sighed, “A hello would have been nice Ruto.”
She girlishly giggled, “Oh, but you don’t know how much I’ve missed you husband!”
Annoyed, “And will you stop calling me that!”
She tried to embrace him again in a hug, but he edged away roughly. She smiled sadly, “But that’s what you are dear Link, my one and only husband. You accepting the Zora Sapphire from me only proved this. Now that you are back, you can reclaim it once more and we can finally be one!”
Link was getting agitated. If this kept up she might force him into something he didn’t want by sheer force of will. “Ruto, I returned the sapphire to your people, we aren’t married.”
“Then why are you here?” She cocked her head and looked at him inquisitively.
Link’s eyes snapped open as he face palmed himself. Of course for the sapphire! How was he going to get out of this one?
With a wretched moan, “I’m here for the sapphire…”
Ruto squealed in delight as she tackled him to the floor again. Amid vigorous protests she showered him with wet, salty kisses. Link was practically gagging. He knew he should have just gone straight to King Zora instead. His personal concern for Ruto clouded his judgment to the task at hand, he was more concerned with how she was doing rather than simply negotiating for the sapphire. Was his kindness to blame for this turn of events?
“I knew it!” She kissed him hard on the mouth, “I just knew you’d come back for me one day! I always hoped and sometimes I dared not believe…but it’s finally happening!”
He tried to roll her over so he could get up off of her scaly body but she took it as part of their marriage dance and continued the roll. Link let out a yelp of shock as they somersaulted right into the pool. Link surged up sputtering and tried in vain to escape the shackles of marriage. She merely grabbed his foot and started dragging him back into the water.
“We can say our marriage vows right here in the water! Good thinking Link!” She exclaimed.
Dear Goddesses! This is not how he envisioned this reunion. He had to stop this before it got too far and break her heart yet again.
“Ruto!” Link gasped, “We have no time for these matters. The army is on its way and will be here sometime tonight! I saw their encampments on the way here.”
She stopped pawing at him and looked away in grief, “So you’re not here to marry me?”
Link closed his eyes and shook his head. Ruto emitted a small cry as she slowly treaded through the water away from him. Why were things never easy? He hated breaking her heart yet again but here he was doing it once more! This time he would be taking the stone that symbolized the marriage covenant but would not be taking her heart with him. He would basically be cheating her out of that happiness.
“I’m sorry Ruto.” Link stuttered. This water was cold!
“It’s okay,” she sniffed, facing away from him, “I should have known better.”
Link felt awkward and decided to slowly get out of the water, “I’m going to reason with your father and see if he’ll lend me the Zora Sapphire once again.”
“You can’t Link. He has already made up his mind. He is going to wait out this army from the south and close the borders to his hall. No Zora is to leave.” Ruto explained.
“Regardless, I still need to try. Where is the sapphire now?” Link questioned.
Stifling a sob, she emerged from the water and with a nod of her head signaled Link to follow her out of the room. She plodded along the cavern halls numb, the feeling in her heart was near to bursting and she felt her world shattering. What else was there to live for if not for him?
The passages were strangely deserted but Link could hear a cacophony of voices drifting from the royal chamber, he also sensed a lot of bodies up ahead. He quickly looked around briefly to see if there were any other Zoran guards and noticed something odd. Some dark shapes were skirting the edges of the lagoon moving as if trying to remain unseen. He moved forward towards the edge of the overhang to get a closer look but abandoned it when Ruto cleared her throat. With one final glance back, he followed her directly into the midst of the entire Zoran community.
There was a hub of noise and activity within the royal chamber. Various guards were dashing to and fro with spears, swords and other oddities that resembled weapons. The din died as they began to take notice of their entrance, the chamber became deathly silent. All eyes laid on the two of them as they made their ascent to the royal podium as if to talk to King Zora himself. Link spied the sapphire gleaming in its pedestal at the top of the royal dais. Was it really this easy to steal? It was right out in the open, Link noted.
“King Zora.” Link’s voice reverberated throughout the room, “Before you do anything rash, I want to let you know that I intend no harm, either to the Zoras or Princess Ruto.” The king’s gills began to puff up with anger, Link continued, “I have also come to inform you that our enemy from the southern country of Nevachrea cannot be killed. We have to assume every soldier in that horde can come back from the dead, no matter how many times we kill them. Not with ten thousand Zoras could you do this, it is folly.”
Furious, the king bellowed, “Do not come here and tell me what my legions can or cannot do! We are quite aware of this so called ‘army’ and we are prepared to deal with it. We have blocked off all routes into the kingdom, so just how then did you get here?”
“Well,” Link laughed a bit, “funny that.” The king was not amused. “I actually came in from the canyon to the west via the Royal Family pathway. Although I didn’t have the ocarina this time, Impa actually kept it with her back in Kakariko village. Now why did she do that?” Link wondered himself as he tapped a finger to his chin.
Link began to ramble, stalling for time as plans of how to get the sapphire out raced through his mind, “So without that, you can imagine it was rather hard to get past that powerful waterfall right?” Link noticed several guards making their way behind him, he started blurting words out faster, “I kind of had to attempt a swinging-in style approach…yeah…that sucked.” He chuckled meekly.
With a jerk of his head, King Zora signaled to the guards to grab Link and bring him down. With a bound he leaped past Ruto who stood there stunned at his brash action, he snatched up the sapphire and quickly tucked it into a pouch before drawing the drawstring tight. Link crouched low as King Zora’s screech could be heard all the way down the cavern shaking the very foundations of their hall.
“Thief! Interloper! You are no friend of the Zoras! You are a Royal Family traitor! Guards kill him!” The king screamed.
Without a second thought Link grabbed Ruto’s hand and flew off the podium, splashing into the knee-deep water below the platform. He pointed directly at the king, no longer caring what happened next.
“You are the fool King Zora!” Link yelled and then spit in the water in contempt, “Do not forget this day when you made your last and fatal mistake!”
The king’s eyes dilated with malicious intent as the feral side took hold of his senses. With a sucking heave a stream of pure acidic juice spurted from his mouth and trailed after the pair. Link ducked quickly under the boiling flow of green acid as he tightly held Ruto’s hand and dashed into the side hall adjacent the royal chamber. Ruto was just as surprised as Link to discover her father had the ability to do that! Could she spit acid if she wanted to?
As they were splashing down the shrinking corridor they heard his roars, “Kill the Hylian! Retrieve my daughter! From this day forth, all Hylians spotted by a Zora will be killed on the spot without mercy! The Royal Family are now enemies of the Zora!”
His threats resonated throughout the cavern as they both leapt off the top of the waterfall into the abysmal depths of Zora hall. To prevent serious injury to Link, Ruto shifted in mid-air to place herself between her husband and the water hurtling up towards them. They smashed through the surface of the water with jarring force. A wave of pain surged through Link’s body as he sliced through the depths.
A scream resounded in the water as his view turned crimson. Link surfaced and glanced rapidly around him to find Ruto floating towards the shallow water with a flaming arrow stuck in her side. The fact Ruto had reddish blood only distracted him for a moment when he noticed another hail of arrows sailing through the air. He dove down quickly and observed the arrows’ lethal descent stall and stutter in the water.
Upon emerging he beheld Zoras being struck down by fiery arrows left and right. Several were still alive as they burned to a crisp. Their screams were unbearable. Link covered his ears blocking out the screeching that swirled around him. He wanted to scream, cry and release himself like never before, but he couldn’t. It was too much!
An arrow zipped by his nose barely nicking it, any closer and it would have killed him. Plunged back into stark reality, Link identified the arrow’s owner and found several men in greyish-black outfits kneeling on the ledge above the lagoon, raining down a flurry of fire arrows at the Zoras. An outraged boom signified they had reached the royal chamber and were locked in combat with the Zoran forces there.
Swimming swiftly towards the rocky shoreline, he heaved himself up onto the ground just as a swiftly falling Zora fell from above arms flailing. It punctured the surface of the water with a grand splash where it was promptly filled with arrows. Goddesses, these men were good marksmen!
Link hurried to Ruto’s side, and despite the pain it might cause, ripped the arrow out of her body dousing any flames spreading across her sensitive skin. Her eyes fluttered open as she turned in his direction, she was obviously aware of the pain. He glanced up towards the waterfall and marveled at the accuracy of the intruders, they must have hit her in mid-fall. Perceiving that the battle was moving further away from the lagoon and pushing back up into the royal chamber, Link felt slightly comforted they were not receiving that deadly attention.
He sidled up next to her body and lay beside her; clasping both her hands in his own. He could find nothing to patch the open wound; it was oozing a slightly brown liquid. His gaze flicked in the direction of her eyes as she moaned in pain. He could see nothing but love in those irises. She took and placed a clammy hand on Link’s cheek and made a weak attempt to smile but only managed to cringe in pain.
Ruto struggled to breath as she spoke, “Link…I guess my father was right. No Zoras were meant to leave this hall.” Link’s eyes began to water with tears as she bitterly continued, “All I wanted was to be with you. Why did these men have to come and ruin everything?”
Link simply shook his head. The cavern was being infected with a reddish hue as Zoran blood was spilt across the hall. “I don’t know Ruto. I don’t know why they do these awful things. Can you move?”
Ruto went into a spasm of coughing as Link attempting to pull her up into a seated position. She just flopped back down with a gasp.
“Link, my dear husband,” she grabbed the back of his neck and gently nudged it closer, “keep our marriage ring safe,” Link glanced down at the pouch that held the sapphire, “and leave me here. Please tell the others of our fate and of our folly. Maybe they will not be as foolish as we were.”
Ruto gingerly pointed to a specific corner of the lagoon indicating a way out, “There is a waterway there that will take you just outside Kakariko village. Please, warn the others.”
Link turned to leave when a gentle squeeze of her hand brought him back, “Please husband, I have one final request. Kiss me.”
Fighting back tears, Link tried to think of something to say to her but nothing would come to him.
“Kiss me.” She repeated weakly.
Looking dejectedly at the dying Zora he leaned over her, prepared to kiss Ruto fully on the lips. Her eyes beheld nothing but him and she waited with baited breath for his touch. Why was this so hard? It was only going to be one kiss and it was done. He inched closer to her lips, practically feeling the shiver from her body as he came closer to sealing a deal he had no idea he was committing to.
Their lips barely touched when Link’s hair frayed in the passing wind of an arrow shaft, he flipped over Ruto’s body as he dove headfirst into the water. Ruto began to cry as she dully watched her husband swim away and with one final kick, descend into the depths towards the underwater passage. She didn’t even bother turning her head when she heard boots stop just beyond her head.
Link struggled through the channel illuminated in sporadic patches of light from incandescent plants. Spying an air pocket he spiked upward and nearly knocked himself out against the limestone ceiling. The air pocket was miniscule. He had to quickly arrange himself so his nose and mouth gulped in the precious air from that minute space. Diving back into the depths he continued along the passageway, swimming by fish and other unknown creatures as he frantically searched for another air pocket.
With a lurch in his heart he spotted one a fair distance down. He began moving towards that safe haven of glorious air. Within a few moments it wasn’t getting any closer and his chest was bursting with the urgent requirement to breathe. His kicks got feebler as his vision slowly began getting dark around the edges. He fumbled through the water and lost sight of the air pocket altogether. He ignored the imposing figure swimming up to him and grabbing his tunic roughly.
Just sweet blackness…sleep…