The Locked Room
It was early afternoon before the townspeople stopped bringing in mercenaries and anyone else who was the least bit suspect, and the crowd which had been milling around, watching the proceedings, wandered off at last.
Zelda let out a heavy sigh. "Can I go to bed now?" she asked no one in particular.
Link offered her his hand. "Any time you want."
She let him help her up, then she slipped her arm in his, letting him escort her back into the castle—not because she needed his help and not because it was an occasion which required such formality; she did it just because she wanted to touch him and be close to him and she didn't think he would object to such an otherwise innocent gesture.
When they went inside, they found the castle almost completely deserted. "I wonder where everyone went?" Zelda asked, as she looked around.
"I daresay some people went home. The rest probably found a place to sleep."
"I hope so. I haven't exactly been a gracious host."
Link laughed. "I don't think anyone expects you to be. You do have a few more important things to do than to take care of the niceties like having someone draw a bath and turn down the bedcovers."
They went to the second floor and Zelda led him down a hallway. They stopped outside a room that Zelda had never once, in her entire life, entered—even though it was right next to her father's bedroom.
She tried the doorknob, but found it locked.
"Gods, will nothing go right today!" she shouted, the last of her patience ebbing away.
"The damn door is locked! And gods only know where the key is; Nagadii probably had it last."
Link sized up the situation for a moment, then he lifted his leg and gave the door a hard, swift kick with his heel.
The doorframe splintered with an awful crunching sound, but the door swung free.
"Damnit, Link, like I needed another thing around here to repair," she said with no real heat in her voice. She was already pushing the door open and walking in.
"What? I just assumed you weren't in the mood to wait for a locksmith."
"You know, you could learn some finesse; everything doesn't have to be beaten down or hacked up. You could have picked the lock with your knife or something."
He laughed. "Do you know how hard it is to actually pick a lock? You can't just stick your knife in the keyhole, wiggle it around, and boom, the door opens. If it was that easy, no one would bother making locks. …Besides, I never learned how to pick a lock."
"Something you don't know how to do? I'm shocked," she said, looking around at the small, dimly-lit room. The curtains were half-drawn, but she could see that all the furniture and objects were neatly arranged, as if the last occupant had just stepped away the moment before. The only sign that it had been deserted for a while was a fine coating of dust on everything.
There was a large white desk with gilt edges that still had stationary in the cubbyholes. There was even a bottle of ink and a quill laying there, ready to use. On the other side of the room, next to a small fireplace, was a couch and a couple of chairs in a white and silver brocade, and a marble-topped coffee table.
"What room is this?" Link asked, looking around.
For some reason, a lump came up in Zelda's throat and she had to swallow it before she could speak. "It's my mother's receiving room."
He turned to look at her. "Your mother's room?"
She nodded a little, then, before he could ask anything else, she moved to the double-doors opposite the one they came in. Unlike the outer door, they were unlocked.
Inside, the bedroom was as dim as the receiving room; heavy white curtains half-covered the recessed windows. There was a beautiful canopy bed opposite the door; it was hung with curtains of heavy white-silver brocade that matched the couch and chairs in the receiving room.
As Zelda walked in, looking around, she didn't notice the floor at first. But something made her look down and she gasped.
"Look at that!"
Link came to her side and looked down. The carpet in the room was white, but and woven in the center were the white arms of Erenrue on a blue background.
"She never forgot where she came from," Link said.
Zelda looked around the room and decided that rather than just looking dainty and feminine, the white and silver looked like something else.
"It's snow," she said, her voice coming out in a whisper.
Link looked at her. "What?"
Zelda gestured to the room. "It's snow. It's all white and silver like snow. But she left the stone walls bare. It looks like snow on the mountains around Pallis."
Link looked around. "It does," he said in amazement.
For some reason, tears began to spill down her cheeks. She had never known her mother, so it seemed silly to cry for her, but standing in her room, she suddenly felt as if she did know her, even if just a little. She imagined she was like Zeyde, but even sweeter. And even though she had to go far from home and marry a man she had never met, she made the best of it; she brought home with her.
Zelda hardly noticed Link pulling her close and putting his arms around her; she just found herself suddenly in the shelter of his embrace as she sobbed for reasons that she still didn't understand.
It took a little while before she could compose herself again. She finally pulled away, not looking at Link while she tried to dry her face and nose with the sleeve of her shirt.
"I'd offer you my sleeve, but I'm still rather short on clothing," he said. "And I think you would fuss if I tried to give you my pants."
She laughed, even as a last few tears fell from her eyes.
"I understand why my father locked this room and never came in it again," she said, looking around again. "I feel like I know her just looking at it."
"Have you never been in here?"
She shook her head. "No, never."
"Well, someone has," he said, looking around at the furniture. "There isn't seventeen years worth of dust in here."
"I hadn't thought about that," she said, realizing he was right.
"Someone kept it up—at least while your father was alive."
Zelda sighed and walked over to the bed, sitting down on the silky bedspread. "Oh, Link, I feel… I feel so lost. And alone. I've lost all my family, and all they left me is a job I don't know how to do."
He came to sit beside her. "I understand why you feel lost. But you do know how to do your job; you've been doing it wonderfully all day."
"I'm just making it up as I go," she admitted. "I have no idea if what I'm doing is right or not."
"Sweetheart, that's life in general; we're all just making it up as we go along."
He laughed a little. "Hell, I didn't know what I was doing when I got you out of here, and I had been training for just such an emergency all my life."
She smiled a little, but immediately went back to feeling melancholy.
"Are you planning on staying in here?" he asked. "Or is it too much?"
"No, I wanted to stay here. I mean, I couldn't sleep in my father's room…."
Even though that suite now officially belonged to her, she couldn't consider taking over it. She still felt guilty over her father's death—and the fact that they parted on such bad terms—and she didn't want to see anything that reminded her of him. She would feel like a usurper in his room. And even though her mother's room made her sad for what she had lost, at the same time she felt comforted by being surrounded by her mother's things.
Link pulled her in and kissed her on the forehead. "Get some sleep, then. You'll feel better about everything tomorrow, I promise. You'll be fresh and ready to tackle the world."
He started to get up, but she grabbed his hand. "Stay with me."
"I won't be able to sleep if you leave," she said. And she wasn't even lying just to guilt him into staying; she was so overwhelmed with sadness, she knew she would wallow restlessly in it for hours if she was left alone. No matter what room she stayed in, she couldn't stay alone.
"You know we can't do this—not here—not anymore."
"Just for tonight," she pleaded. "I'll feel better tomorrow; you promised I would."
He breathed a heavy sigh. "You know this is your neck you're risking now—not mine."
"I'll risk it." She squeezed his hand. "Please…."
"Alright," he finally agreed. "Let me see about the door."
Zelda got up and went to check her mother's clothes closet while Link tried to secure the broken door. Surprisingly, all of her mother's clothes were still folded on shelves and hanging from racks—just as if she had died the day before.
Her father must have left the entire room as a sort of memorial to her. But Link was right; it had been kept clean. Who cleaned it? And why did they bother? …Maybe her father had visited it after all.
She found a linen nightgown embroidered in blue silk with lots of soft white lace around the neckline. It reminded her of the ones Rayliss had; apparently her mother had brought it with her, perhaps as part of her wedding trousseau.
She put it on, then went back into the bedroom. She saw that Link had propped the back of a chair under the doorknob of the broken door, wedging it in place.
"I don't know what's worse," he said, as he shut the doors to the bedroom and locked them: "having someone walk in on us or having them find that we've barred the door. Imagination can cause worse rumors than the truth."
"Except that no one would think to look for us in here," she said, as she went around the room, pulling the curtains completely closed and plunging them into near total darkness. "That door has been locked for as long as I can remember; no one would think it odd that it's locked now."
"Well, I suppose that's true," he reluctantly admitted.
She climbed into bed while he took off his boots and slipped off his pants, leaving only his underwear on. He moved some knickknacks on the nightstand aside and laid the Master Sword on top.
"What are you afraid of?" she asked, eyeing the sword in close reach.
"Nothing at all."