The Legend of Zelda: The Circle of Destiny

Getting Down to Business

Link had Zelda send his siblings and cousin home; the day after Mars' arrival, the entire family was reunited for the first time in fourteen years.

Link only had vague memories of his father—he had only been five when Mars was lost, and he spent four of those years living somewhere else with only rare trips homes; Meghan and Alons, though, were both too young to remember him at all. But he was a lot like Uncle Alfon—a slightly quieter, less boisterous Alfon, but similar in all other ways—and it soon felt like they had known him all their lives.

Within days, they were laughing and talking all day while they worked as if they had never been separated. And with the addition of four more people, the workload was cut dramatically. Before long, Alfon's brinery was running at normal capacity and was able to process everything that came in by boat. In fact, he had excess capacity, since one boatload of fish wasn't enough to keep his people busy all week, and the family took to harvesting mussels and shrimp and seaweed for export in small casks of brine. Normally, such things were considered too trifling to bother packaging—only the local people ate it fresh—but Nagadii and his mercenaries had picked the kingdom clean, like locusts, and there was precious little food to be found elsewhere. So even small shore fish—that Link and his father caught with hand nets early in the morning—suddenly were valuable and worth the effort.

Even fish guts and bones didn't go to waste. Under normal circumstances, fields were used for two different crops in a year, then allowed to lie fallow for the third quarter. But with the introduction of potent fertilizer—like a slurry made from ground-up fish parts—plowed into the bare ground, the fields could be used without resting. Alfon exported the slurry to farmers all over Hyrule on credit; after the spring harvest, he would be repaid in food. The hope was that every field would be utilized to its maximum, allowing Hyrule to spring back from its lean winter.

The booming fish business wasn't only good news for Link's family. People were employed to work in the brinery. Tatiana was able to start paying her fishermen wages again. Barrels had to be made by the dozens. Canvas had to be bought, sewed into sails and covers for the salt pits, and repaired. Ropes and nets were in constant need. And Mars commissioned a new ship—paid for partially with cash and partially financed on credit—that employed every carpenter and shipwright in the county.

Everyone in Kakariko had work. Even former fishermen who had lost their own boats were able to fish from the shore, as Link and Mars did, and take their haul to Castle Town and sell it fresh. Soon they had money enough—or at least a reasonable promise of it—to commission construction of their own small boats.


After nearly two months of self-imposed exile, Zelda informed Link that Rayliss's coronation had, at last, been scheduled, and they arranged to teleport to Kara.

Link spent most of the morning just trying to get the dirt out from under his fingernails. It wouldn't do for the Lord High Chancellor to look grubby when representing Hyrule in a foreign kingdom—even a related one.

"You clean up pretty nice, son," Mars said with a touch of pride as he looked on Link, who was freshly bathed, coiffed (or as coiffed as his unruly hair ever got), and dressed in his court best.

"Anybody can look nice on the outside; it's not so easy to clean up the inside if you've made a mess of it," Link said sagely.

Mars threw his head back and laughed. "You've been here too long; you're starting to sound like the old salts."

"It does have a tendency to rub off," Link said with a smile. "But I haven't heard anything yet that's not true."

"Oh, well, you haven't been listening long enough. The biggest liars in the world are fishermen. Just ask any of them to tell you about the biggest fish they ever caught."

"Have you ever caught a really big fish?"

Mars spread his hands nearly five feet apart. "I swear I caught one this big once…."

Then he noticed Link's smug grin and he laughed, putting his hands down. "Damned if I didn't walk into that one."

Link laughed.

"It's instinct to tell a good fish story. …But I really did catch one that big. Others lie about their fish, but I don't."

"Whatever you say, Father," Link said patronizingly, before kissing him goodbye.

He made his rounds, saying goodbye to the others, then he reached out to Kara. She was ready for him, and a moment later, he was flying through the golden tunnel that spanned the distance between him and her.

A moment later, he was beside Kara. But before he even had his bearings, Zelda flung herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck, and proceeded to try to choke him to death.

"I take it we're not worried about being decorous?" he gasped. Kara had saved them the trouble of walking through town and had, instead, teleported them directly to the courtyard at the castle—a castle very much bustling with activity the day before Rayliss's coronation.

"Shut up and kiss me."

He laughed loudly, but gently pried her arms from around his neck. "Later, sweetheart," he whispered, bowing to kiss her hand instead.

Kara watched them with amusement. "I see things have been going well between you two."

"Better than good," Zelda said, unable to resist slipping her arm around Link's waist. It was being overly familiar, but it was less shocking than making out on the front lawn, so Link didn't protest.

Besides, he felt an overwhelming desire to be close to her, too.

"Ah, yes, you're talking about your spring plans," Kara said.

"How do you know about that?" Link asked curiously.

Kara cackled. "I have visions, remember?"

"So… you've seen what happens in the spring?" Zelda asked.

"Yes."

"Does it go well for us?" she asked anxiously.

Kara cackled again. "Doesn't it always?"

"Well, that depends on how you look at it," Zelda replied. "We won, but we suffered terribly along the way: broken bones, burns, cuts, sleep deprivation, poisoning… and I don't remember what all else."

Kara's eyes slipped out of focus; she appeared to be looking far across the horizon. "I think…" she said very slowly, "that your adventures are at an end. I see… a battle. A battle here. But that's some time in the future and seems to be rather minor. It will go well for you."

She blinked and her eyes came back into the present. "Other than that, it would seem your adventures in this lifetime are over."

"I'm not worried about more adventures or not," Zelda said impatiently. "I want to know about our marriage."

"You will find out about that soon enough, I expect."

"I want to find out now!"

Kara just laughed. "I am a healer, Your Majesty, not some carnival fortune-teller. I do not See on demand."

"You just did!"

"That came on me of its own accord."

"Bullshit."

Link snorted and turned away so that Zelda couldn't see that he was about to crack up.

"Really, Zelda," he chided in a low voice.

"I know she knows already. I just want to know, too," Zelda said defensively.

"Maybe I can't tell you for sure because not knowing will drive you to do what needs to be done, and knowing in advance will make you complacent and allow it to all fall apart. Have you ever considered that, hm?" Kara asked.

"No."

"Then trust my judgment on this."

Zelda looked at her warily. "You're bluffing," she decided. "You're just doing this to tease."

Kara shrugged her shoulders. "You never know. And you never will," she added, before laughing and walking away.

"She's an odd bird, isn't she?" Link asked, as he watched her disappear through the courtyard gate and meld into the rest of the traffic in the city.

"That's putting it mildly," Zelda said, sounding a tad-bit sour.

Link just laughed. "Kara does things her own way and she's not going to change for anyone." He turned to look at Zelda. "Not unlike some women I know."

"What are you saying?" she said, looking back at him with challenging eyes.

"You know what I'm saying."

She took a step closer to him. "No, I don't," she said, practically whispering.

"You. Are. A. Stubborn. Woman," he said in a whisper, matching her own.

"What of it?"

"It just drives me mad, is all."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes."

"Obviously it doesn't make you mad enough to leave."

"No, it's not that kind of madness."

"What kind of madness is it?"

"You'll find out on our wedding night."

That did it. She finally broke away from their tête-à-tête with pink cheeks.

He chuckled, feeling rather pleased that he had made her blink first in their little verbal showdown.

Gods, how he had missed being with her! Communicating telepathically every day just wasn't the same. He couldn't hear the inflection in her voice. He couldn't see the devilish way she looked at him, challenging him to argue with her. He couldn't feel the invisible sparks that flew between them when they were close. Their games of wit just weren't the same over long distance; the underlying threat of something physical—be it the violence of a duel or a slap, or something much more passionate—was what made the game exciting.

"Let's go in," Zelda said, bringing them back to reality. "It's cold."

"It is that," Link said, looking up at the leaden gray sky, which was threatening snow. A chill wind was starting to blow in from the northwest, too. Link had already gotten used to the milder ocean air that kept Kakariko above freezing most of the winter. He was still wearing the fall-weight clothes he had taken with him from Castle Town. By the feel of the weather, he might need to find something else to wear before their trip was over.

They headed for the front door, and as they were walking up the stairs, Sir Elgon came out onto the top landing and looked around, as if searching for something.

"Elgon!" Link called.

Sir Elgon's head whipped around and then a smile broke out on his face. He hurried over as fast as his lame leg would allow.

"Sir Link," he said happily. Link offered his hand and Elgon took it, then pulled him into a friendly hug. "How are you?" Elgon asked, patting him on the back.

"Just fine," Link replied.

Elgon turned to Zelda and bowed to her. "Your Majesty."

"Hello, Sir Elgon," she said with a smile, offering her hand. He politely kissed it.

"I just now heard that you'd arrived," Elgon said, straightening up. "My apologies for not being here to meet you. I didn't realize Kara was bringing you here just this second." He shook his head. "I'm not used to this traveling instantaneously stuff."

Link patted him on the arm. "Don't worry about it. It's not like we can't find our way around."

"Yes, there's no need to stand on formality with us," Zelda added. "I feel like this is my home away from home."

Elgon smiled. "I'm glad you feel that way, Your Majesty. Gods know our people love you."

He led them up the stairs and through the front door, chatting all the way. "Stories of what you did during the Dark Days have been running rampant through the city. Of course, our people loved you both for fighting with us, and then coming back and freeing the city from the demons, but the stories of what you did in between—of how you fought off many other demons—has just gotten the people excited beyond compare.

"When Kara told me that she was going to teleport you both here for the coronation, I asked her to do it here, inside the grounds, because I was afraid you might be mobbed if you tried to walk through town."

"Really?" Zelda asked, surprised. "I meant for our story to be told in Hyrule, but I didn't imagine it would reach here—at least not this quickly."

"So you told your story on purpose? It's not just rumors?"

"No. Well, I assume it's not," she corrected. "I told everything that happened to us to the best bard in Hyrule and set him loose with traveling money and a three-month deadline to cover all of Hyrule. Someone must have heard his stories and brought them here. I can only assume they're still mostly accurate."

Elgon looked confused. "Why a deadline?"

"Because I wanted it done sooner, rather than later."

"I… I'm afraid I still don't understand," he said apologetically.

She stopped in the hallway and looked around, but there was no one close enough to overhear. "Link and I wish to marry, but my advisors were against it, and there was some question about whether my people would be against it, too. So I thought if everyone heard what we went through together, they might change their minds about him—and about us."

Elgon still looked confused. "Why would your advisors not approve of Sir Link?" he asked, looking between Zelda and Link, obviously not seeing what made them a poorly-matched pair.

"Because I'm not noble," Link said.

Elgon's confusion mounted. "Do… do knights not count as nobility in Hyrule?"

"Well, yes," Link admitted, "but it counts for more if you were born noble. And I wasn't born noble—only created. That's what sticks in their craw."

"Shouldn't see why it would make a difference," Elgon said. "I'd rather have a courageous commoner beside me than a cowardly noble any day. Not that you are in any way common," Elgon added.

Link laughed. "You might not have said that if you could have seen me yesterday, sitting on the beach and shelling mussels by the dozens. I thought I was never going to get all of that slimy gunk out from under my fingernails."

"Hard work never tarnished anyone's character," Elgon said with all the wisdom of a seasoned sailor.

To Link's surprise, Elgon led them to different rooms than the ones they had stayed in before.

"This is Princess Austina's room," Elgon said, opening the door for Zelda. "She is lending it to you for your visit."

"She didn't have to give up her room," Zelda protested.

Elgon smiled. "She had her reasons," he said mysteriously. Then he gestured to the door handle. "The door locks from the inside and I'm the only one who has the keys. You'll need to ring the servants for service in the mornings, just as before."

Link understood what Elgon was hinting at: no one would walk in on Zelda in the morning, thus leaving him and her free to share a bed, if they wanted.

Elgon walked Link to the next door down. "Same for you: ring the bell if you need anything. Dinner will be at seven in the family dining room. Do you want me to send someone to remind you of the time or escort you there?"

"No, I don't think so; I remember my way around."

Elgon smiled. "See you then."

Link went into his room and looked around; it was, if possible, more sumptuous than the last room he had stayed in. A quick look around the room gave him a clue as to why. The closet was full of expensive men's clothing—silks and velvets and decorations of gold and silver and gems—and the bed hangings were a rich blue velvet embroidered with the arms of Erenrue in gold and silver with a mark of difference in black silk.

There was also a door that opened onto the adjoining bedroom.

"I'm guessing Princess Austina knows about our little secret, too," Link said, as he stood in the doorway looking into Zelda's room. "That's why she gave us adjoining rooms."

"I'm not sure if I should be grateful or embarrassed," Zelda said absentmindedly as she looked through a pile of things on her bed.

"What's that?" Link asked as he came to stand beside her.

"Things we left behind." She laughed. "Do you think they're giving us a hint that we need to take it home with us?"

"Maybe they're worried we'll become squatters," Link said with a chuckle.

There were two suits of armor—nicely polished and neatly laid out. The surcoats, one helmet, and one maile shirt were missing, however. Link had lost his helmet on the field and it was apparently never recovered. The surcoats had been burned by Kara to hide that Link and Zelda had been at her house. Link had worn his maile shirt out of Erenrue because they couldn't get it off him at the time. He had managed to make it home with it—albeit with some damage.

His wooden shield was there, too—the one that Uncle Alfon had made for him—and the bracers that Zelda had given to him for his previous birthday. He had left both behind when they rode out to battle and he had never had a chance to get them before they left for Shi-Ha.

Also there from their first stay was the blue silk and black velvet cote and silver collar of estate that Zeyde and Ranis had generously had made for Link to wear to Zelda's presentation party. Now, at least, he had something warm to wear to the coronation ceremony.

Even his old scabbard—left behind from their second visit—was in the pile.

Zelda had clothes, too; the pink dress trimmed in white fur that she had worn while she was there before was laid out on the bed, as was a little half-crown and some jewelry she had worn. The circlet with the sapphire tear-drop that she had lent Rayliss was there, too.

"Surely Rayliss doesn't mean to give me this stuff," Zelda said, indicating the crown and jewels.

"Why else would it be here?" Link asked.

"Maybe to wear with the dress for the coronation?" she suggested.

"Ask her at dinner."

After Link and Zelda were seated at dinner with Elgon, Rayliss, and the rest of the royal family, she did just that.

"No, those things are for you," Rayliss said as the servants put the first course on the table and began to serve everyone. "They don't look very good on me, but they're great on you."

"But… don't you need them?"

"No."

Zelda looked confused.

"Sir Elgon saved most of our Crown Jewels," Austina explained with pride. "He grabbed up everything he could before we were overrun and dumped it all into a well in the laundry. Nagadii and his henchmen never found any of it, and when he came back and told us where everything was, we were able to fish it out."

"I guess because they left Mother here as a sort of puppet ruler, they didn't loot us as badly as they did you," Rayliss added. "They ransacked some of our rooms, looking for us, but they didn't take much, other than obvious valuables. They didn't even steal my clothes, like they did yours."

"Nagadii wanted to erase the memory of Princess Zelda," Link explained. "She was supposed to be gone and never come back. You, on the other hand, were always a promise: if the people behaved, they might get you back. Leaving your things more or less in tact made it look like you might come back. If they had stripped out everything, then the people would know that Nagadii had—or would—kill you, and there would be no reason why they shouldn't rebel."

"That makes sense," Sir Elgon agreed.

"Well, for whatever reason he did it, I'm glad we're not as bad-off as you all are," Rayliss said. "Except for food; they did take almost all of our food and our herds."

"We have enough at the castle, but I'm not so sure about the rest of Hyrule," Zelda said. "If it weren't for Link and his family getting our fishing up and running in record time, I think we'd already be seeing famines. But, as it is, I'm not entirely sure if their efforts alone will be enough to feed all of us."

"Father's putting another boat in the water within the month," Link informed her. "And several other fishermen are having smaller boats built; they'll probably be out sooner than that."

"I still want to know where our bloody money went," Zelda said hotly. "How could that much coinage just disappear? We're trading in IOUs more often than we're trading with real currency."

"What do you mean?" Austina asked curiously.

"Say my uncle takes a load of salted fish to Castle Town," Link explained. "The fish merchant there might not have the money upfront to buy an entire barrel. But, of course, once he sells all of it, he'll have plenty of money. So he gives my Uncle an IOU for the amount that's owed and a date when he can come back and get his money.

"Meanwhile, my uncle goes back home and finds he needs more barrels if he's going to take his next load to town, but he doesn't have enough money to buy any. So, instead, he gives his IOU from the fishmonger to the cooper with an added note signing his rights over to the cooper. Then, when the collection date comes around, the cooper goes to town and collects the money from the fish monger himself.

"Sometimes IOUs or letters of credit can have multiple layers as they get passed around. Or they might even be torn in two with a note that the bearer of each half gets half the owed money."

"It works," Zelda said, "although it's rather more confusing and hard to deal with."

"I should say," Austina said.

"We could get more coinage into the economy if only we could increase mine production," Rayliss said. "We have good mines, but we lost so many of our young men to death or lameness that we're barely doing any production—and most of what's happening is being done by women."

Link looked at Zelda. "We have men to spare; a day doesn't go by that a group of men doesn't come to Uncle, looking for work. Fishing and some carpentry are about all we have going on right now, and there's only so much fishing we can do without boats—and those take time to build."

Zelda looked at Rayliss. "If we sent men up here for work, could you guarantee them a job?"

"If they're willing to mine, absolutely. We can pay good wages, but unfortunately food is hard to come by; prices are high. What we have is coming out of Shi-Ha… gods help us," she added with a sour scowl. "Nagadii largely left them unmolested, since they capitulated without a fight, so they have food to spare."

"Do we have any extra capacity?" Zelda asked, looking at Link. "Can we help feed Erenrue, too?"

Link leaned back in his seat with a sigh. "That's a tall order."

"But we need to get goods to them so they can get money back to us. Our miners will surely send part of their wages back home, to support their families, but the more expensive their food is, the less they'll have to send back."

"All this will be for naught if we don't agree to fix prices," Link said. "Once Erenrue increases their mining, they'll be flush with coinage. If they offer to pay twice what someone in Hyrule can pay for food, everyone will be trading in Erenrue and leave our people to starve. But, if we agree that a fish in Hyrule and a fish in Erenrue trade at relatively the same price, then we should be alright."

"What do you mean 'relatively'?" Rayliss asked.

"Well, if the price of a fish is one rupee in Castle Town and one rupee in Pallis, no one in Castle Town is going to bother hauling fish all the way to Pallis; they can make their money a lot easier in Hyrule. The price of fish—or anything else—in Erenrue has to include the cost of shipping it, plus a small amount of incentive. If the incentive is too great, then everyone will take their trade away from us in Hyrule. But if it's not great enough, then no one will bother to go to Erenrue. It has to be just enough that some people will be willing to do the extra work to make the extra money, but others will prefer to trade closer to home rather than invest in the time, equipment, and manpower it takes to ship out of kingdom."

They went around and around the table for the rest of dinner and eventually they hammered out a trade agreement that fixed prices on foodstuffs in Hyrule and Erenrue both until the spring harvest. Zelda also promised to disseminate a proclamation from Rayliss declaring that any able-bodied man or woman of Hyrule would be guaranteed a job in the Erenrue mines at set wages through the spring, with terms renegotiable after that.

"You know, some of your young men might not come back," Elgon pointed out. "We have a lot of young widows and unmarried women here; I daresay hard-working Hyrulian men will be a hot commodity."

Link laughed. "Yes, I could see how that would make them uneager to return home."

Zelda shrugged. "Most of our men managed to survive Nagadii's war. I think we can spare some for a good cause—especially as they will probably continue to support their folks back home for a while. That will keep our trade routes flowing, even after we recover from our food shortages in the spring."

"I'm so glad you came," Rayliss said. "I feel better about things now that we've talked."
"There's no reason why we shouldn't help one another," Zelda said. "Right now, what's good for my people is good for yours, and vice versa."

As usual, dinner went on for a long time. Link noticed that the food wasn't as elaborately-prepared before—probably because some ingredients were hard to come by—and the servings were smaller, but there was plenty of it. If he hadn't known how truly sumptuous even private family dinners could be at the royal palace, he would have never suspected that they had or excepted to have any sort of food shortage. But Link knew all too well that appearances were important; there came a time when you couldn't show how much you hurt or how wounded you were. In the kitchens, they might be doing their best to salvage soft or half-spoiled vegetables or watering down the cream, but on the table everything looked as it ought to.

When Link and Zelda rose to leave, Sir Elgon called in a servant, who picked up one of the candelabras from the table and led them out. Link was going to protest—they had found their way to the dining room; they hardly needed help finding their way back—when he stepped into the hallway and realized that there were only a few, widely spaced lights in the corridor, leaving parts of it shrouded in twilight.

"Probably ought to check our supply of candles when we get back," Link said to Zelda in a low voice. The servant lighting the way was a few paces ahead of them to give them a semblance of privacy, while still being close enough to be useful.

"I was just thinking that myself," she admitted.

"We can always adjust our schedule to make better use of the natural light—no morning meetings until after it's good and light, and dinner before it gets dark."

"You won't hear me complain about starting morning meetings later," she said.

The servant led them to Zelda's room first and lit the candles while they waited. As it grew brighter, Link noticed that the things spread across the bed were gone.

"What happened to our things?" Zelda asked, noticing they were missing as well.

"Packed, Your Majesty," the servant replied. "We just laid everything out so you could see if there was anything missing."

"Honestly, we had more stuff that I remembered," Zelda replied.

The servant looked at Link. "If you let someone know what you want held out, we will pack the rest for you tomorrow."

"What do you mean?" Link asked, confused.

"What clothes you would like left out, sir."

Link glanced at Zelda, but she looked as bewildered as him. "You don't need to pack my clothes; I'll do it when we're ready to go. I'm not even sure how long we're staying."

It was the servant's turn to look confused. "But, sir, that's a lot to pack!"

"I only brought four outfits with me—plus the one I left behind here; that's hardly a lot. I'll manage."

"No, sir, I'm talking about the other clothes."

"What other clothes?" Link asked, now convinced the man must have him mistaken for someone else.

"The late Prince's clothes, sir."

Link looked at him blankly.

"Her Highness, Princess Austina, said that you were to have them."

Link looked at Zelda again, then looked back at the servant. "She's… giving me all of Prince Zeyde's clothes?"

"Yes, sir. She said something about the two of you being close in size. And there's no one else here to wear them."

"There's a fortune in clothing in there."

"Yes, sir, but she said that you might have need of them. And, with all due respect, under our present circumstances, they're not really that valuable. We cannot, unfortunately, eat clothing."

Link looked at Zelda again.

She just shrugged. "It's like he said: it's not really valuable to them."

"Let me think about it," Link told the servant. He wasn't sure he was comfortable taking all of Prince Zeyde's clothing. It felt wrong somehow. There was no reason why he ought to be heir to anything that had once belonged to the late Crown Prince.

The servant bowed his head. "Very good, sir."

He lit the candles in Link's room, then departed. Link locked his bedroom door, stripped down to his underwear, then blew out all the candles and went back into Zelda's room. She was already in the bed, waiting.

He smiled to himself as he went around her room, blowing out all of the candles, leaving only the light of the fire to illuminate the large room.

He locked her door and put another log on the fire—it was growing colder and random flakes of snow were starting to float past the window—then he went around the bed and got in on the other side. He had to crawl over to Zelda's side.

"Why on earth do they make these beds so huge?" he said, as he settled down beside her. She immediately snuggled up next to him, resting her head in the hollow of his shoulder.

"I don't know," she said. "I feel like I'm sleeping out in the open with all this space."

They lay comfortably together in the dim light, listening to the logs occasionally pop and crackle. It was another of those moments that Link wished he could freeze in time. But they only had a month to go before he could come out of his exile; then it would just be a matter of—hopefully—planning the wedding. And he expected that Zelda would be in as much hurry as him to stage it as quickly as possible.

The looming deadline of return to Castle Town made him think of something that had been on his mind a lot lately. "So, I've been thinking about something," he said after a few minutes of silence.

"What?"

"I need to return the Master Sword, and after we're finished here might be a good time to do it. I may not have time later on," he pointed out.

"You're going to take it all the way back to Shi-Ha?" she asked.

"No, to the Lost Woods. Remember what Hols said? He thought that the reason why it rusted and broke was because it wasn't kept in its sacred place. I need to take it back there so that it's available if it's ever needed again. Gods pray that it won't be," he added.

"The Lost Woods aren't too far out of the way," Zelda said slowly, as if thinking about something.

"No—that's why I thought I might do it on the way back to Hyrule."

"I'll go with you."

"You don't have to. Besides, you don't want to be away too long. There's a lot to do and I'm afraid if you're gone too long, it might make the people anxious."

"Well, if you want me to travel back to Hyrule alone…" she hinted.

He recognized immediately what she was doing: she was trying to get her way by throwing out an argument he couldn't get around without violating his own sense of knightly duty. And, while he wasn't nearly as worried about her safety now as he had been when they first set out and she wasn't very capable of taking care of herself, the need to protect her was deeply ingrained. The idea of her traveling any distance alone bothered him—no matter how capable she had become.

Of course, even without taking that into consideration, he wasn't exactly a hard sell. Having her solely to himself for another week or so was immensely appealing. It would be like old times, minus the fear or constant need to hurry; it would be more like a pleasure excursion. Only the idea that it would be selfish of him to deprive the people of her presence made him suggest she go back without him in the first place.

She knew as well as he that the fight was over. "Why don't we leave here the day after Rayliss's coronation and go directly to the Lost Woods?" she proposed. "That way, I'll only be gone a week or so—hardly enough time for people to start worrying about me coming back."

"I think Rayliss said her coronation won't be until tomorrow evening, and you know how late they carry on around here. It will be hard to get up and leave early the next morning—unless you'd rather start at midday?"

"Alright, then the day after that."

"That will work."

They fell back into silence for a little while. Link was almost starting to doze when Zelda spoke. "So… I've been thinking about something a lot lately, too."

"Oh?" he asked, still only half-awake.

"I want to crown you at our wedding."

That woke him up. "What?"

"I want to go ahead and crown you at the wedding," she repeated.

"…Crown me what?" he asked with some trepidation.

"King—as co-ruler," she added, clarifying. Under normal circumstances, a king was supreme, but in cases where the throne passed through a woman, she could make her husband a co-ruling king, which meant that his power was equal to hers—but did not surpass it. Depending on how equal they wanted to be, they could either rule individually and interchangeably—so that one person's law or judgment was just as valid as the other's—or they could only rule jointly, meaning the signature and seal of both of them was required to make any law or judgment valid.

Of course, she didn't have to make him king at all. He could be made a Prince Consort, which made him royal, but kept him subordinate to her. Or he might just be "the Queen's Consort" with no royal title at all.

"Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself?" Link replied. "We don't even know if the people will accept me as your husband, much less as their king."

"If they'll tolerate the one, they'll tolerate the other."

"I don't think so," he argued. "It's one thing to marry a commoner; it's something entirely different to make him king and put him over everyone. If you think your advisors were apoplectic over you marrying me, just try to bring up the idea of crowning me king."

Zelda frowned, but didn't reply.

"Sweetheart, if you're worried about hurting my feelings, don't. I don't care what title you give me—or none at all. You're the only thing I want."

"That's not why I want to crown you," she said.

"Then why?"

"Because it feels right."

He could see that it was important to her—although he couldn't understand, for the life of him, why. If the past few months had been any indication, she was perfectly capable of running the kingdom by herself. Sure, he helped her—as all her advisors helped—and were expected to help—but when it came right down to it, she was the only person in charge and no one seemed to have a problem with that. All fears that the people would think a woman too weak to rule alone seemed to have vanished in the face of Zelda's formidable presence. She spoke and acted with complete authority, and the occasional glimmer of her temper kept anyone who tried to stray in line.

So why would she think that Link ought to be king alongside her?

"Well, let's see how things go," Link offered by way of compromise. "If the announcement of our wedding goes well, then we'll revisit the idea."

"And if it doesn't?"

"We'll have more important things to worry about than my title. Now that you've promised to marry me, I can't let go of that. I won't let go of that." He held her tightly. "Nothing else matters to me now but marrying you—and I won't do anything to jeopardize that."

She pressed a little closer to him, almost sighing with contentedness. But he knew her better than that. The issue wasn't closed; just postponed. So he better start wrapping his head around being king, because if that's what Zelda wanted, she'd make it happen—no matter how many arms she had to twist or how many heads had to roll.

And he really preferred that it wasn't his arm she was twisting. He knew from experience she could make him hurt if she wanted to.

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