The Circle is Complete
One Year Later
Link paced anxiously up and down the hallway outside the royal bedchamber. His father and brother sat on a nearby couch, watching him like spectators at a tennis match. Farther down either end of the hall, advisors, a few nobles, and curious servants stood around, waiting and speculating in low whispers.
The light from candles on the wall sparkled on Link's magnificent outfit. He was wearing a jewel-red tunic in the Kakariko style. The tunic was heavily embroidered with ropes and knots of gold thread around the hem, the cuffs of the short sleeves, and the neckline. Occasionally, a blood-red ruby winked amidst the golden glow.
On top of his still-unruly, sandy-blonde hair, he wore a crown of gold, studded with diamonds. Despite his nervous pacing, he looked every inch a king.
But it wasn't just for show. Despite the fears of Zelda's advisors, Link had quickly become a very popular king—easily as popular as Zelda, and quite probably making her more popular than she would ever have been alone.
When Zelda was too ill to hear petitions, Link heard—and ruled—on them alone. The court advisors had hung around nervously the first time he sat on the throne by himself—and a few people decided to delay their petitions, rather than let them be heard by Link—but of the ones he heard, he ruled fairly, explained his decision logically and in a way that even the simplest of men could understand, and he spoke to everyone—be they noble or common—with the same friendly, polite tone, as if he were speaking to a friend or respected acquaintance.
He only grew in esteem with the common folk—their admiration for his feats of bravery turning to outright love and worshipful devotion. The Kakariko style of clothing—which he frequently wore—became fashionable all over Hyrule, until people forgot that it had once been a quirky, regional design.
He was often seen in Castle Town—at least once a week—visiting friends or buying some bauble or clever amusement for Zelda. He rarely rode through town and never went anywhere with an escort, so the citizens never knew where he might turn up; they might round a corner one day and look up to see their king walking down the street whistling a happy tune, looking like nothing in the world was bothering him.
He rarely missed stopping by Madge's bakery shop. He would wait to go after the morning rush, and he and Madge and her husband—who had mellowed towards him over the years, and had even grown to like him—would sit around for a while, eating leftover sweet buns, drinking tea, and talking about what was happening around town. Link got all of his best gossip from them, and he often surprised petitioners with his knowledge of their cases before they even had a chance to relate it all. A few were especially surprised when they tried to spin things in their favor, only to find out that Link already knew the truth of the matter. It was soon whispered that Link's Hylian ears could hear everything in the city, and when he went for a walk around town, he was really listening to everything that was going on, so that no one could ever slip a falsehood by him.
It wasn't true of course, but Link certainly didn't disabuse anyone of the notion; he preferred it if everyone dealt with him honestly.
A low cry came from inside the royal bedchamber, snapping Link out of his thoughts. He stopped his pacing and stared at the door, as if willing himself to see through it.
As soon as the cry stopped, he began his pacing again.
"Son, you're going to wear yourself out," Mars said, watching as Link tried to walk the carpet threadbare. "Why don't we go somewhere else to wait? It would be better on your nerves."
"My nerves be damned," Link said, even as he chewed on his thumbnail. "I don't want to go anywhere else."
"This may take hours yet."
"Then I'll wait hours."
"I'd hate to see you give yourself a heart attack and leave your child an orphan before it's even born," his father pressed.
Link looked at him. "Where were you when we were being born?" There was a note of accusation in his voice; he already knew the answer.
Mars laughed, realizing he had been caught preaching 'do as I say, not as I do.' "Well, I wasn't there when you were born; I went for the midwife in a terrible storm, and by the time I got back home, you were already here.
"Meghan was born quickly, too, but not quite as fast—maybe about half an hour after the midwife got there.
"But, Alons," he slapped his youngest son on the back jovially, "Alons, here, couldn't make up his mind where he wanted to be; I thought he was never going to come."
"Yes, and where were you while you waited?" Link pressed.
"Pacing outside," Mars admitted with a smile. "But," he added, "it's because I've been in your shoes that I'm telling you to wait elsewhere—distract your mind."
"Zelda's mother died giving birth to her," Link said. "How can I distract my mind from that?"
Mars didn't have an answer.
Link went back to pacing.
The people in the hallway changed as the evening dragged on and they either got tired and had to go to bed, or they had to go to work. But there were always new people taking their place, eager to be nearby when the heir to the kingdom was born.
The cries from the bedroom became more frequent, then they became louder. If it weren't for Meghan poking her head out the door every hour or so, assuring Link that everything was going well, he would have burst in and demanded to deliver the baby himself. Even with Meghan's updates, he considered doing just that.
There were times when Link had trouble adjusting to being around so many people, all of whom were eager to wait on his every need. He—and Zelda, too—had become so accustomed to being alone and depending on just each other, they jealously guarded their privacy and their ability to do things for themselves—to the point that they still occasionally snuck out of the castle to spend evenings alone on the Great Plain, watching the stars and talking freely without worry that anyone might overhear them.
Now was one of those times when Link wished he could shoo everyone else away and be alone with Zelda. Of course, he would never actually want to send the midwife away—what if something was wrong and Zelda needed help?—but he wished he could be in the room, helping in some way—if only holding her hand.
That was what really bothered him the most: he was unable to help. He felt powerless—like he wasn't upholding his oath to take care of her and protect her. She was in pain, but he was not.
It didn't seem fair.
Suddenly, the cries of pain became one long, drawn-out scream. Link's heart seemed to be in his throat, choking him, and he was unable to breathe as he stared at the blank door.
The scream stopped, there was a brief pause, then another scream.
Link's hand was on the doorknob before he consciously thought about what he was doing. A second later, his father's arms encircled him, pinning his arms to his side.
"I have to."
Another pause, followed by another scream.
"You'll just distract them. And now's not the time for that."
"If that was true, someone would tell you," Mars said.
But Link knew that was a lie; who would want to tell him that Zelda wasn't going to survive? Their love for one another was every bit as legendary as their exploits to save the world. People remarked on the fact that they were frequently seen walking hand-in-hand. Even in the great love affairs of history, no king and queen had ever so openly displayed their affection for one another. No king so often gazed on his queen with such a look of adoration, it sent other women into a swoon.
No, if Zelda were dying, no one would tell him; no one would have that much courage.
Link struggled against his father's hold. "Let me go! I need to see her!" Gods, he prayed, don't let her die without me. Let me hold her one last time.
"Link, no." Mars insisted.
Link tried to pull the door open anyway—determined to go in, even if his father was riding his back—but Alons got between him and the door, so he couldn't open it.
"I order you to let me go!" Link demanded. "Alons, get out of my way."
"Order someone else," Mars said gruffly. "King or no king, you're my son and you'll not order me around—not after I brought you into this world."
Another scream pierced the silence and everyone in the castle seemed to be holding their breath, watching the drama unfolding in the hallway and waiting to know the result of the drama playing out in the bedchamber.
The scream broke Link's will more than his father's words or grip, and he began to sob.
Mars let go of him and turned him around. He took the crown from Link's head and handed it to Alons, then hugged Link to him, letting him cry on his shoulder.
"Zelda's a strong girl," Mars whispered to Link; "don't worry about her. Women who have half her strength bring babies into the world all the time. You'll see; she'll be fine."
"I wish I could do it instead," Link muttered through his tears.
Mars rubbed Link's back. "I know, son. I know. Trust me, I've been where you are; I know."
A moment later, Meghan threw open the door; in the background, the tiny cries of a baby could be heard. "It's a boy!" Meghan shouted happily.
There was a moment of stunned silence, then cheers. People began to hug and talk excitedly; some went running through the halls to spread the word.
"What of Zelda?" were Link's first words.
"She's fine—or, as fine as any woman is after giving birth. You can see her in a few minutes."
"But she's well? She'll be alright?" Link pressed.
Meghan laughed; Link resented her carefree attitude with such a weighty matter. "Of course! But, dear gods, Link, what have you been saying around her?" Meghan asked, her voice dropping lower so that only the family could hear. "She cursed something dreadful the whole time. Mother said she had to have learned it from you, because she cursed just like a sailor."
Mars laughed uproariously, clapping Link on the back so hard, he nearly stumbled. Even Link had to laugh, albeit more sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I wasn't always a good role model," he admitted. "But things got pretty bad sometimes, you know, and it just came out; it was in my blood."
"You better not have any more children," Meghan teased; "I don't think the poor old midwife will ever recover after that. The two of you will end up blacklisted and no one will want to deliver your next child."
Someone came by a moment later and thrust a glass of wine into Link's hand. Mars raised his own wine glass. "A toast to the new prince, and his proud—albeit foulmouthed," he added in a low whisper—"parents."
"Here, here!" everyone shouted, downing their glasses.
Link managed only a little sip; his stomach had still not untied itself from all the knots he had put in it, and it was not in the mood for any wine.
A few minutes later, Link's mother came out, wearing a smile, and she gestured to him. "You can come in now."
Link shoved his glass at Alons and hurried into the bedroom.
There was still a flurry of activity near the fireplace as women cleaned up and talked excitedly about the birth, but Zelda lay in the bed, holding the baby and looking rather serene, despite what she had just been through.
Link couldn't feel his feet; he seemed to float over to the bed. Zelda greeted him with a smile as he sat down beside her, careful not to jar the bed.
He leaned in and gently kissed her forehead "How are you doing?" he asked in a whisper, as if he was sitting beside someone who was very ill.
"Better than I was when I was in labor," she replied. Then she gave him a mock frown. "Is that the best kiss I get when I've just brought your child into the world? You could show a woman a little more gratitude than that."
He smiled. "Yes, ma'am," he replied, before leaning in and giving her a good kiss on the lips.
"That's better," she said grudgingly, as he pulled away. Then she reached out and touched his face. "Your face is splotchy. Have you been crying?"
"A little," he admitted with a shrug.
"Were you that worried about me?" she asked. Then she laughed incredulously. "Hell, after everything we've been through, this was nothing!"
"You mustn't mind anything she says," Ceily, called from the other side of the room. "She's had something for pain, and the midwife said it would make her loopy."
"Are you kidding?" Link said, looking at her. "She talks to me like this all the time."
The women all laughed.
Link turned back to Zelda and looked down at the baby in her arms; he had quit crying and now appeared to be sleeping. His face was red and a bit compressed from birth, but Link thought he was going to have Zelda's nose and maybe his chin. He certainly had their Hylian ears; they stuck straight out from the sides of his head, like wings.
Zelda noticed where his gaze fell. "Your mother said your ears looked like that after you were born, too, but they pulled back on their own after a little while. But the midwife suggested we keep a bonnet or something like that on his head for a month or so to encourage them to lay flatter; we don't want his ears sticking out like that permanently."
"I don't see any harm in doing that," Link agreed.
He reached down and gently rubbed the back of his finger against his son's cheek. The baby gradually opened his eyes and looked up at him. His eyes were a muddy sort of grayish-blue; Link wondered if they would turn out blue like his eyes, or gray like Zelda's.
"I want to name him Zeyde," Zelda said quietly.
They had discussed names—both male and female—endlessly. They had agreed they wanted to name their firstborn after someone important to them, and "Marcus," "Ranis," "Zeyde," "Ryu," and "Mars," had all been suggested if they had a boy, but they had never settled on one, deciding that maybe it would be best to wait and see which name best fit the baby when it was born.
"If that's what you want, then 'Zeyde' he shall be," Link declared.
"Is that what you want, though?" Zelda asked anxiously. "I feel bad that we had so many names picked out from my side of the family, and your family has certainly been a great help to us."
"Well, hopefully, we won't have only one son," Link said. "Maybe we'll use one from my side next time." He looked at her. "Besides, your uncle died for us. And then, even after he was dead, he protected us. He was someone I very much respected and admired, and I would hope that by naming our son after him, some of his spirit and character will be passed on.
"I am happy with that name," he concluded.
Zelda smiled. Link noticed she visibly relaxed; apparently she had been worried about getting his approval. He wondered how long ago she had actually decided on the name, but hadn't said anything because she didn't want to offend him or his side of the family.
Link looked down and found the baby looking at him rather intently. "Does 'Zeyde' please you?" he asked the baby with a smile.
As if in response, the baby managed to pull an arm free of his swaddling and wave it around.
Link's smile grew wider and he reached out a finger and touched his son's hand. The baby wrapped his tiny little fingers around Link's, and he marveled at how small, but perfect, Zeyde's hand was. He could see the little wrinkles in his skin at the knuckles, and his minute fingernails were perfect in every respect.
"Look how tiny he is," Link said in wonderment. He picked up Zeyde's hand and held up his own in comparison; the baby's entire hand wasn't a third the size of his palm.
He pressed the little hand against his, then gasped as he was suddenly pulled away to the timeless golden space which he had experienced before when bonding with other Hylians. It had never occurred to him that he could do such a thing with a newborn baby.
And then, before he had a chance to enjoy the peaceful, contented place, he was dropped back into his own body.
"Link, what's wrong?" Zelda asked, looking at him anxiously.
"I just bonded with him," he said, still feeling shocked. "I… I didn't know that would happen. I mean, he's just a baby; he can't even think for himself, much less talk."
"I guess it doesn't matter; a Hylian is a Hylian at any age," Zelda said.
"I guess so." When he looked down at Zeyde again, he gasped a second time. "Look!" he said. He held the baby's hand up so Zelda could see it.
There, on the back of Zeyde's tiny little fist was an even tinier Triforce, glowing gold through his skin.
"Just like when we touched for the first time," Zelda said, staring at it with as much surprise as Link.
And then Link had a sudden flash of insight. "This was our true destiny all along," he said in awe.
Zelda looked up at him. "What?"
It took him a moment to shake himself out of his amazement. "When I told Master Ryu about what happened to us the first time we touched, I asked him if maybe there was a third person who had the Triforce, since it didn't seem to make sense that something that is always shown in threes only manifested in two people. He didn't have an answer at the time, but now I see the answer.
"I think the goddesses marked us so that we would recognize each other—that we would know there was something special between us that sets us apart from others—even from other Hylians. And I think Zeyde's mark is proof that we did the right thing. It wasn't enough for us to just save Hyrule; the goddesses wanted us to be together, too. Master Ryu was right all along."
Suddenly they were interrupted by the booming of a nearby cannon. It rattled the glass in the windows and made some of the women shout in alarm.
As the official announcement of the birth echoed across Castle Town, Link felt one last, final weight fall off him. He had been carrying it for so long, he hadn't even noticed it was there until it was gone. Even after everything he had been through, and after Zelda declared her love for him, and after she decided to marry him, and after he had won the hearts and minds of the people of Hyrule, and after he had proven himself to be a good king—even after all of that, he had, deep down in his heart, never quite felt worthy; he still felt too common.
But now, he saw that he not only had the blessings of Zelda, her family, the common people, the nobility, and, yes, even the grudging admiration of their advisors, but he also had the blessing of the goddesses themselves. No matter what his station at birth, he had been born to be with Zelda. They had been destined to have this child. He was exactly where—and who—he was supposed to be.
The cannons rang out twenty-one times. The cheers from the people all around Castle Town and the tolling of the bells could be heard just before the fireworks were set off. They boomed almost as loudly as the cannons, then fizzled their glittery blue trail out against the black night sky.
Link carefully took the baby in his arms and went to watch the fireworks from a nearby window.
A flash of light caught the baby's eyes, and he stared out the window as the fireworks continued to explode.
"Those are for you," Link whispered to the baby. "We are that happy to have you. Everyone is happy to have you."
Zeyde turned his face back to Link and stared at him, then he waved his arm around and smiled.
Dear gods, he thought he could never love anyone as much as he loved Zelda, but his son had proved him wrong. He felt as if his heart was going to burst with all the love he felt for both of them.
Zelda watched him. "You look so happy," she said, speaking over the noise. "I don't think I've ever seen you so happy; you're almost… glowing."
"I am happy beyond words." He looked up and smiled at her, his eyes watering with tears of emotion. "And I will be happy for the rest of my life."