Ghosts from the Past
Zelda awoke in a strange, dark place. She would have been terrified at not knowing where she was, but for the familiar warmth beside her.
She stretched a little, feeling around in the dark to get her bearings. It felt like she was lying next to Link, her head in the hollow of his shoulder.
He put his hand on top of hers. "You're like a little squid, you know that?" he said, his voice quiet even in the stillness.
"A what?" she asked in disbelief. Surely he hadn't said what she thought he said.
"A squid. They have all these arms and if one ever gets 'round you, they're almost impossible to pull off; every arm you remove, they stick another one to you.
"That's the way I felt last night. Every time I woke up, you were lying on top of me or had hold of me so tightly I couldn't breathe. And when I tried to push you back to your side of the bed—arms. Arms everywhere. Clinging and grasping; I couldn't get rid of them."
Zelda sat up, grabbed a pillow, and hit him in the head with it. She could hear his muffled laughter through the feathers.
"I can't believe you're comparing me to some slimy, invertebrate sea slug!"
He grabbed the pillow before she could hit him again. "Not a sea slug; a squid. A sea slug is a totally different thing. For starters, it has no arms. I could have handled you being a sea slug."
She ripped the pillow away and hit him with it repeatedly—with him laughing all the while.
She finally gave up trying to punish him—since it obviously wasn't working—and she lay down again in a huff. But he rolled onto his side and put his arm around her waist.
"Oh, no," she said, trying to shove his arm away. "No. You need your space."
He just chuckled and pulled her closer. "Well, maybe not too much space."
"Don't squid me."
He fell over laughing. Even she had to start laughing at that point. It was impossible to be angry with Link when he was laughing; his laughter was so joyous, it was infectious. Of course, it was impossible to be angry with him for long, period.
He lay on his back and pulled her over so she was lying against his shoulder again. "Come here; we'll squid each other."
She giggled, but let him hold her. "What time is it, do you think?"
"It's still dark so… I don't know… maybe as early as three, but not later than five."
"In the morning?" she asked in disbelief. Yes, they had gone to bed about twelve hours before, but that still sounded ungodly early.
"Well, considering it's generally light in the afternoon," he replied, "I'm going to have to hazard a guess—and it's just a guess, mind you—that it might be morning."
"I'm going to beat you again."
She laughed. "Gods! I forgot you like that, don't you?"
"Just a little. Lightly. And not too often."
She lay with him in silence for a few minutes. "We're very weird people, you know that?"
"After everything we've been through, and after being alone for months, are you really surprised we've gone a bit off?"
"Well, no, I suppose not."
They lay in silence for a while longer. It was apparently sometime around five when they woke up, because the edges around the curtains slowly began to brighten, indicating that it was getting lighter outside.
"Zelda, I've had a thought," Link said, breaking their companionable silence after a while.
"The Soul Scepter can call up the souls of the dead."
"Do… do you think it would work for your father and Master Ryu?"
Zelda thought about it for a moment.
"I mean, they didn't actually die," Link continued, "and they're in the Dark World, but… maybe it works there, too?"
"There's only one way to find out," she said, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed.
She found the scepter in the closet where she had left all her clothes and equipment the night before. She brought it into the bedroom, but suddenly found herself hesitating. What would she say to her father if she saw him again? His last wish in the world was to keep her and Link apart; he had even been willing to kill to do it.
Could he see into this world? And if could, what would he think about Zelda's defiance? What would he think about the fact that she had slept with Link last night right here in her mother's bed?
Link got up and slowly walked over to her. "Do you want me to do it?" he asked quietly.
She felt tears welling up in her eyes. This was the reason—or, rather, one of the many reasons—why she loved Link: she didn't have to explain herself.
She nodded a little and handed him the scepter. He cleared his throat a little, then held it up. "I call forth Master Ryu and King Marcus of Hyrule," he said in a clear, firm voice.
She held her breath, watching to see if they could be summoned—part of her wanting to see them again, part of her not.
"Look!" Link whispered.
In the dim light, she saw a mist swirling over the carpet like a low-lying fog. It began to slowly rise and coalesce into two shapes, then it became more dense, bringing their features into focus. After a minute, the pearly-white figures of Ryu and Marcus stood before them.
Ryu smiled gently, looking a little teary-eyed. "Oh, Link… Your Highness… I'm… I'm so proud of you both. You did more than I could have ever expected. You just…." He got a little choked up. "I'm proud," was all he could say.
Zelda looked expectantly at her father, but an awkward silence descended when it looked like he would not—or could not—speak. Zelda began to wonder if something had happened to him in the Dark World.
But, finally, he managed a reluctant and rather gruff, "I'm proud of you as well."
Link glanced at Zelda, perking a brow. She knew what he was thinking, because she was thinking it as well: that wasn't much in the way of praise—especially coming from a father. Her grandfather—hell, even her tutor—had been more effuse and generous.
The silence grew even more awkward and Zelda began to feel hurt—which quickly turned into anger. She decided that it was better to leave before she worked up too much of a temper.
Who said she hadn't learned anything?
"Well, my mother's family likes me at least," she said in a parting shot, before turning to leave. She didn't know where she was going, but she wasn't going to stay there. Besides, let Link have the honor of throwing her father back into the Dark World.
"Zelda, wait," Marcus called out.
She stopped, but didn't turn around. Let him talk to my back, she thought to herself. He certainly didn't deserve to talk to her face.
"Zelda… this… isn't easy for me."
Zelda barked with derisive laughter. "We have just traveled the length and breadth of the world—more than once—have crossed the Endless Ocean, have fought demons innumerable, have been beaten, cut, stabbed, broken, poisoned, tortured—mentally and physically—have fought in a great battle with the army of Erenrue, defeated both Nagadii and the Lord of the Dark World, and have single-handedly saved the entire world from annihilation, and you think speaking to me is hard? You think being a proper father is hard?
"Sorry, I have no sympathy for you."
She walked to the door, her insides in turmoil. It felt good to articulate the hurt she had always felt having a father who didn't quite love her as he ought. But at the same time, she felt more pain than she ever had. Once upon a time, when she had known nothing outside the walls of the castle, she had barely recognized that he wasn't what he ought to have been. It was more a feeling that something wasn't quite right, rather than knowledge that it wasn't. Intellectually, she just thought that everyone's family was a little cool and distant—and that was even more so if your father was a king.
But now she knew better. She had seen how loving and supportive Link's family was—even to the point that they would be willing to die to protect him. And her uncle, who had only met her once before, had been kind and thoughtful, and he had sacrificed himself to save her life. Even her grandfather, who was as tough as they came, wasn't stingy with his praise. He had taken a liking to Zelda—and Link, too—and didn't have a problem saying so.
The grizzled old warrior—the Lion of Erenrue—who had never even met his granddaughter before she showed up on his doorstep at age seventeen, was a better father-figure than her own father.
"Zelda, wait," Marcus called out again—more desperate this time.
She unlocked the doors to the bedroom and threw them open.
"Zelda, I know I haven't been…." He paused.
She finally turned to look at him. "Even now you can't admit you were wrong, can you?"
"It's hard for me." He held up his hand. "I know that's not hard compared to what you went through, but… obviously I'm not you. I am me and this is my weakness. This is what's hard for me."
She had to grudgingly admit that she had her own failings. Thanks to Link and their trials, she had worked through most of hers. But her father had not had that opportunity to improve—he had no motivator to make him improve—so she supposed she ought to have some sympathy for him. …But only up to a certain point. He had to make an effort.
He took a deep breath, as if stealing himself for what was coming. "I was wrong," he said. "I admit that."
"Wrong about what?" she asked, meanly wanting to hear a full confession.
He sighed. "I… did you wrong—when you were growing up," he clarified. "I… I guess when your mother died, I… I didn't want to be… emotionally attached to anyone again. She… she was such a part of my life—such a part of me—and when I lost her, I lost part of myself. And I guess, looking back on it, I lost the best part of myself."
Zelda remained silent, listening to him. She had always heard that her father was devastated when her mother died, but she had never really believed the stories; he didn't seem like he could care that much for anyone. She hadn't considered that losing his wife had hardened him and made him care less.
"But that doesn't mean I didn't love you… in my way," he said, looking at her. "I kept you sheltered because I was afraid to lose you, too. And yet, the older you got, the more I saw your mother in you. You acted like me, but you looked like her. And sometimes… looking at you hurt. I saw her looking back at me, and it hurt."
He looked at his feet. "I provided you with everything you needed; you wanted for nothing. And I made sure I instructed you on how to be an able monarch. But now… I see that I needed to give you more than just material things and lessons. I guess all children need love—and maybe girls more so than boys—but that was the one thing I wasn't able to really give you—because I wasn't able to deal with my own demons."
Zelda was rather surprised; she hadn't expected such perception from her father. He wasn't exactly famed for his knowledge and cunning. But Nicoli had lost his stutter and seemed more confident dead than he ever had alive. Perhaps death took away hurt and fear and made it easier to see things objectively without irrational emotions clouding the issue.
She glanced at Link, who was watching the exchange silently, but with interest. He certainly didn't have to wait until death to understand anything about her; he understood her intuitively.
"What about Link?" Zelda asked her father.
He quickly glanced at Link, as if reluctant to look at him—as if looking might acknowledge his presence. "What about him?" Marcus asked.
"You haven't admitted you were wrong about him yet. And I think you owe him an apology for making him grow up in hiding and then trying to kill him."
Marcus winced. Admitting this was obviously an even more painful task.
Link crossed his arms. "I don't think he's sorry at all," he said.
"I did what I thought was best," Marcus said defensively.
"But don't you see that you caused the very thing you wanted to avoid?" Zelda argued. "You said that if Link and I came together, then something bad would happen. But it was just the opposite: something bad happened because you tried to keep us apart. You caused all of this—everything that happened, happened because you became obsessed with getting rid of Link."
Marcus looked away, clearly uncomfortable. "I did what I thought was best—what I thought would stop this from happening. How was I to know I was doing exactly the wrong thing?"
Link looked at him in disbelief. "Master Ryu told you. He warned you. And when I was lying there, chained up on the table waiting for my execution, I warned you."
"I don't think you were worried about the future at all—not really," Zelda said. "You were just hung up on the fact that Link was born common. Well, now he's a Knight of Hyrule. And a knight in Erenrue. What do you think about that?"
Marcus didn't say anything. He didn't even look at them.
"My grandfather saw his worth," Zelda continued. "Why can't you? Why can't you admit that you judged him for his birth and not for who he is inside—and you judged wrongly?"
"I didn't judge him wrongly," Marcus retorted. "I never said that he wasn't a good person or honorable—and he is those things, I will admit. But that doesn't change the fact that he's common."
"How can you think that someone who did what he did is common?" Zelda asked in disbelief.
"Zelda, it isn't just me," her father said, pleading with her to understand. "Your advisors will tell you that. And the people will tell you the same thing. Don't get your heart set on this boy, because they're not going to let you have him. I know what it's like to lose someone you love; don't do this to yourself."
Zelda turned away. She had heard enough.
"Zelda, I'm trying to protect you from yourself."
"I don't need help! I can take care of myself," she said, marching out of the bedroom.
She grabbed the chair that Link had wedged against the outer door and threw it aside, then she jerked it open and went stalking through the quiet castle. She didn't have a plan. She didn't have anywhere she wanted to go. She was so angry and frustrated, she didn't want to do anything other than walk.
But more than that, she wanted to keep her mind on moving and being angry so she wouldn't think about what her father had said. Because if she had to think about it, she'd see that he was probably right: the people wouldn't let her marry Link. It was always going to be an off-chance, but now that things were all chaotic, they wouldn't appreciate her flouting convention. They wanted things back the way they were; they didn't want something radical and new.
Of course, she had time to wait. Nothing said she had to marry day-after-tomorrow. Maybe if she took her time and let things calm down, the people might warm to the idea.
She sat down at the top of one of the grand staircases. She just didn't know what to do anymore, and the feelings of dread and crushing responsibility came pressing down on her again.
She never heard someone walk up behind her; there was just suddenly warm hands on her shoulders.
She turned to see Link draping a blue silk robe around her shoulders. "You probably shouldn't be parading around the castle in your nightgown," he said, before sitting down beside her.
"Says the man walking around half-dressed," she shot back, even as she put her arms through the sleeves of the robe and wrapped it around her body, tying it at the waist.
"Yes, well, people have higher expectations of you than me. Apparently," he added, "no one expects much of anything out of me at all… seeing how I'm common and all that."
She snorted with disgust.
"I happen to think you're right—and thank you for standing up for me—but your father may be right, too." He sighed and looked out over the entrance hall below. "It's complicated."
"I know." Then she sighed, too. "I don't want to think about it right now," she said.
He nodded. "I think that would be for the best. We have a lot more important things to do. No matter what happens, we always come last."
She felt her heart growing heavy, knowing what he said was true. Love was a luxury monarchs rarely could afford, and she definitely couldn't afford it right now.
"But at least we can check one thing off our to-do list," he said.
"Believe it or not, the Soul Scepter not only has the power to draw the dead into the world of the living, but it can also send them back."
"We already knew that."
"No, when you used it before, you just let go of it and the spirits returned to where they came from. But you can actually command the scepter to send them somewhere else."
"Such as the Light World."
It took Zelda a moment to realize what he was saying. "Did… did you send Father and Master Ryu back to the Light World?"
"So… they won't suffer anymore?"
She breathed a heavy sigh of relief. As angry and aggravated as she was with her father, she would never wish him to spend an eternity in a demon-riddled Dark World. A day… maybe. But not an eternity. And certainly Master Ryu had never deserved to spend a day in such a place.
"How did you know to do that?" Zelda asked.
"Master Ryu told me." He looked at her seriously. "Sometime—not now, but sometime in the future—I think you should try talking to your father again. Just because he doesn't like me doesn't mean that you should carry a grudge against him. Like he said, he loves you… in his way—the only way I think he can."
"But how would you treat someone who didn't like me?"
"I'd think they're an idiot, but that's different."
"No, not really; I think he's an idiot. That doesn't mean that I hate him, but I do plan on proving him wrong."
He looked at her appraisingly. "You're more like him than you think, you know. You're both hard-headed and opinionated."
"Yes, but I'm right."