Chapter 1 - The Choice
Link woke up with a start, lightly perspiring as he looked around the courtyard for any perceived threat. After confirming nothing was amiss, he slowly laid back down in the grass placing his hat over his face to block out the rays. Relaxing in the palace courtyard soaking in the sun tended to be one of his favorite past times in recent days.
It had been many months since Link came back from the portal in the Temple of Time to warn Zelda of Ganondorf’s treachery. He was initially thought to be an assassin sent to kill Princess Zelda and was immediately detained. It wasn’t until Zelda vouched for him did they set him free. The news was brought to the king and although he was initially distrusting, Link’s persuasive tale helped sway his opinion. Ganondorf was arrested and tried in court. It was found that he had orders on him from some unknown villains who went by Koume and Kotake to seek and find the royal family’s ocarina. With Ganondorf in the Hyrule dungeons and border patrol along the Gerudo pass increased. All things seemed to be at peace.
At eleven years old, Link had seen many amazing things in his young life. He had traveled through time, destroyed a tyrannical dictator with the power of the Goddesses; he had explored a new alternate dimension ruled by masks with an ill-fated town under the shadow of an evil moon. He had long since failed in his objective in finding his dear companion Navi, the first and last fairy he would ever have. Long were the days where he would frolic and run through the forest with his Kokiri friends; spending many hours sleeping up against a protective tree in the pouring rain with his best friend Saria. The journey to recapture his youth was met with failure.
These days Link spent his time residing in the castle with Princess Zelda, his newly appointed friend much to the chagrin of her father (who always kept a watchful eye on her whenever Link was around). Most days Link would feel dejected and confined to the brick and mortar of the castle. The more he slipped out to the inner courtyard gardens, the better. It was some semblance of normalcy in his world that had flipped completely upside down.
Zelda would come to see him daily and would listen raptly to his stories about Gorons, Zoras, fairies, evil moons, giant fish and more. Despite her listening intently to him, he never did quite feel that she ever truly believed him. Gone were the great fairies of the springs he used to visit, gone were the fantastical creatures he would describe. Whenever he was finally allowed to take the princess on a field trip, the places he showed held none of the glamour and charm that had once been. Zelda would simply look at him, smile and give that small giggle that made him blush so. Over it all, at the king’s request, a person would always be in the shadows making sure they were safe.
Zelda had gotten it into her head to make a hero out of Link and appealed many times to her father at the good he had done in service of their kingdom by revealing Ganondorf to be the traitor he was. Unable to protest with his daughter’s earnest nature, he relented and allowed Link to become an honorary knight in the Hylian guard. At first Link enjoyed the lessons taught to him in swordplay by grandmasters of the art, but the more he delved into his role as a knight the more he realized he was becoming something he was not. He was blending into the normal life of the royal family and he began to loathe it.
The castle was abuzz with preparations for the royal feast that would be held at Lon Lon Ranch the next day for the yearly celebration of the Goddesses and to pray for another fruitful year of harvest. It was a joyous occasion where dignitaries of neighboring lands would attend. The multitude of races from Goron to Zora would send emissaries to the event as a sign of good faith and partnership. Link had never personally been to the festival himself and really wasn’t looking forward to it; just another excuse to dress him up in another one of those scratchy outfits that served no purpose but to look ridiculous.
“Link, are you out here?” came a voice from the courtyard entryway.
Link sighed and grimaced under his hat as he heard the voice of Zelda calling for him. He didn’t expect to get caught wearing his Kokiri garb with her again. He had only put it on to feel comfortable in his own skin and enjoy the morning sun. The knight’s raiment was simply unbearable to wear and made him sweat something fierce. Just prior to his knighting, he had his Kokiri tunic taken from him as it ‘wasn’t proper’ attire befitting a knight of Hyrule, much less of the royal family! He hadn’t wanted to let Zelda know he had snuck the clothes back just yet.
Zelda looked over the garden and spotted Link lying down on the grass, apparently content on ignoring her. Seeing what he was wearing, she squinted her eyes a bit in frustration as she marched over to him. Clearly he heard her stomping up to where he lay and he wasn’t in the least bit interested in moving from his comfy position. After a small clearing of her throat Link tipped the tip of his cap up with a finger to let one eye fall on her face.
“Link,” Zelda mustered with pseudo-upset tones, “I thought we took those clothes away from you. As the youngest knight in Hyrule’s history, you should be more thoughtful in how you look! What you do reflects not only on yourself but on-”
“It’ll be fine Zelda, no one is seeing me like this but you. It is not like it’s a big deal.” He let loose his finger and the green cap fell back over his face. After a moment of silence, he realized this was apparently the wrong thing to do.
Link scratched an itch on the underside of his arm, furious at his uncomfortable new clothes. He wore a tight fitting black shirt with two red plaid stripes where the buttons lay. The outer rims of his shoulders had flappy frills of a light grey color with sleeves cut off at the mid-forearm. His belt buckled with a clasp of pure obsidian in sharp contrast to his brown leather belt. He had donned ankle length black pants with a slim opening on the outer side of each leg with more white frills poking through. His boots were of standard Hylian attire with high reaching sides. He looked dejectedly into the mirror and sighed.
The door to his quarters opened up as Zelda strode into the room with the grace befitting her position. Princess Zelda was the pride of the kingdom and the sole heir to the Hyrule throne. She was beautiful beyond compare even at her young age. To prevent leering eyes from the townsfolk, she was usually heavily, yet regally dressed. She could never go outside or see another boy without putting on her headdress to cover her brilliantly glowing golden hair. She was lithe and petite for someone of her standing, many expressed surprise at how little she was. However her smile was as radiant as the sun and observers claimed she was always calm and collected, traits becoming of their future queen. At the tender age of twelve, she did her duty to fulfill the role laid before her.
She came up behind him and looked past him into the mirror to appreciate his appearance. He glanced over as she rested a hand on his shoulder before looking straight ahead into the mirror heaving a big sigh to emphasize his emotions to her. She simply smiled and shook her head.
“Link, I know you are not comfortable with palace life, neither was I when I was first groomed to be a young lady. All I wanted to do was play with the servant boys and girls out in the fields or help tidy up the horses in their stalls. When I was eight, I had to be taken away from all that. It was hard, but in the end you’ll be happy with us here in the castle. Much happier than you were fighting all those monsters and demons out there.”
He spun around so fast she withdrew her hand quickly for fear of accidently smacking him.
“Don’t you get it Zelda?” Link fumed, “I can’t stand it Zelda! I wanted to be that knight of yours in shining armor.” Zelda blushed a scarlet shade of red at this, “But I can’t. I at first liked the new tutors and teachers and what they were teaching me. Now it’s just stifling.”
Link walked over to the bed and looked at his vest he was to put on for the festival. It was emblazoned with the royal family’s crest on the back and was of a deep mahogany hue. It honestly would have completed the look of his ridiculous outfit. With a surge of anger, he picked it up and threw it across the room, narrowly missing the mirror Zelda was standing by.
“Link!” Zelda exclaimed.
“This isn’t me Zelda. I belong out in the forests, in the fields, in the mountains. You were right, I am what you called me once: a fairy boy. That is who I am and that is where I belong.” In a sudden burst of inspiration, Link’s eyes dilated open with excitement, “Come with me Zelda! Let’s go travel somewhere! Where is your sense of adventure?”
Zelda looked down in gloom, “Link, I am truly sorry, but this is where I belong. When my father passes away, I pray Goddesses, may it be a long time yet; I must be here to take the crown. I know my responsibilities and my duty. I cannot turn away from my destiny.”
Standing there in calm, yet benign defiance, she looked so unabashedly beautiful and regal. Link’s breath almost caught in his throat at the enormity of the decision that lay before him. It had only been a few short months, but he felt on personal speaking terms with Zelda. A friendship he already cherished dearly.
“Well,” Link said with a lump in his throat, “I am turning away from the destiny you are giving me.”
Zelda glanced away at a vase of flowers, obviously hurt.
“So I guess this is it.” She controlled the quivering in her voice as best she could.
Link closed the distance between them and gently put his hands on her shoulder, she tentatively looked up into his eyes. Such maturity there was in those eyes, dear Goddesses, what trials did this young boy have to endure?
“Zelda, this is not the end but the beginning. I will come back and visit, I just cannot stay. If you won’t come with me, then I know someone who will.”
Zelda’s glare riveted Link in a rush of jealous fury. The change in demeanor shocked even Link for a moment. With an icy tone that was meant to be far less harsh than it came out, “And just who would that be?”
“Malon.” Link stammered after a few moments of hesitation.
Looking back on it, Zelda had no idea why she did it. Her hand came up of its own accord and slapped Link across the face leaving a white mark that quickly turned into a deep shade of red. “How dare you mock me with her!”
Link stared at Zelda in shock that she had slapped him for something as benign as Malon. Finally regaining his senses, he scowled at her and through her heavy breathing did Zelda realize with sheer horror at what she had done. It hit her like a thunderbolt. Her pupils grew wide with agony at her foolish emotions.
“And just why are you so jealous of Malon? She is just a friend. Are you so afraid of losing me?” Link retorted.
Taken completely off guard, Zelda stood stupefied at the question. Why was she so upset at Malon? What did Link really mean to her? They were just children still, why should he have an effect on her so? The cold stark reality of her error began to sink in, “Link…I’m so sor-”
“You don’t have to apologize to me Zelda. I’ve had enough of this.”
Link had already started undressing himself directly in front of her. She was a bit shocked at the scandalous nature of it all, yet she was rooted to the spot unable to look away from the scene unfolding before her eyes. He tore off the regal garments and went to the chair where his Kokiri tunic lay. He jammed it down over his head and brought the belt around and clasped it at his waist. He flung on his boots and plopped the cap onto his head. He truly did look like a boy of the forest. Grabbing his sword and shield off in the corner by his bedside, he strode out towards the chamber door. He opened it and with a slight turn he looked back at Zelda. Was there a sense of regret there in his eyes? Without another word he walked off into another life.
Hearing the soft padding of his footsteps drifting away on the wind, Zelda slumped to the ground in a quivering heap. She wept uncontrollably into her hands. Why does he mean so much to her? She wondered. She barely knew him, why couldn’t she get over this? She had just sent away the only thing that mattered most in her life, the one friend she could truly be honest with. Link.
Seeing the melancholic princess weeping horribly, Impa quietly sat next to her as she usually did during these times of despair. Seeing her cry was a hard thing to stand since Zelda only cried two other times in her young life, once after the death of her mother. Impa chose to sit close by in case Zelda needed anything, she already knew the drill.
Impa was Zelda’s caretaker, a member of the shadow people that defended the royal family. They were known as the Sheikah. An ancient race which dwindled as time went on, she was one of the few and proud still left. Even sitting there next to Zelda cross-legged, she was an imposing sight to behold. She wore full body battle gear with retractable claw mechanisms attached to each wrist to inflict pain on an opponent. She always fastened a metal baton at her waist near the bottom of her back. The attributes and war-like properties of which were never fully understood by the Hylian guard since she rarely had need to use it. She swept back her graying hair as she gazed down at Zelda who seemed to be finally composing herself.
“He is quite a remarkable boy Zelda, I’m sorry that it had to be like this.” Impa soothed.
“It is not his fault, it was mine!” Zelda wailed, “I trivialized our friendship over something so insignificant! I wish I was never a princess! I wish there weren’t responsibilities! I wish I was just a normal girl…like…Malon.” Zelda whimpered on the verge of tears again.
With a reprimanding tone, Impa commanded, “You mustn’t say such things my princess. Link made his own choice, and he must live with its consequences, and sadly that also includes your feelings as well. I suggest you prepare for the feast tomorrow. All the dignitaries will be there and you must be at your best. Please no more crying, for my sake.”
Stifling a sob, Zelda nodded, “Of course Impa. The feast. I had almost forgotten.”
Zelda brought herself up off the ground and briefly patted down her dress to remove any dust or dirt still clinging to the fabric. She looked into the mirror and wiped away the tears from her eyes and composed her expression. After a time, she turned towards Impa who was now standing patiently by her side.
“Despite my feelings,” Zelda haltingly started, “I am a princess of Hyrule and I shouldn’t have let myself go like that. See to my servants that they are well groomed and prepared for the feast tomorrow. I want everyone to be in top form.”
With a flourish, Zelda turned and walked through the door and headed off to her quarters. Impa couldn’t help but whisper her own thoughts, “Despite my feelings princess, I think you should have let your feelings show more often with that boy.”
With that, she delved back into the shadows of the wall and vanished. As of the way of Sheikah in the art of shadows, if you are caught then you are dead.