Link's declaration proved true: he and Zelda both lived very long, very happy lives.
In a century and a half of marriage, their love for each other never diminished. In fact, their love affair became so celebrated and emulated, their wedding anniversary became a national holiday dedicated to love. Every year, as Link and Zelda toasted another year of marriage, all over Hyrule young men wooed their sweethearts and young lovers swore their own marriage vows.
At the castle, the sound of cannons boomed out thirteen more times over the years. Link joked that the sound was so regular, the people of the city were going to think they were living in a war zone. But the people loved to celebrate royal births; they were a great holiday.
When Zelda finally quit conceiving, some people actually expressed disappointment, to which she quipped, "Why do we have fourteen children? Because we didn't want fifteen!" Although, if the questioner rubbed her the wrong way, they got instead, "What do I look like, a bloody rabbit?"
But, despite publicly expressing her relief that her fertile years were behind her, Zelda would not have wished away even one of her children. She and Link broke with all royal protocol and gave the children something close to a normal childhood. They weren't closeted away in the royal nursery with no one around them but servants, as Zelda had been when she was growing up, and they weren't sent away to school, as Link had been. Zelda and Link both appreciated the fact that they had missed out on something important when they were children, and they made sure they took time out of their busy schedule to spend time with their children on a daily basis.
Each baby spent the first year of its life sleeping in a cradle in the royal bedchamber and Zelda nursed each of them herself—something that was totally unheard of for a noblewoman, much less a queen. But even after the children were moved into their own room, they weren't confined to it. For the remainder of Link and Zelda's reign, there were children running up and down the hallways of the great castle—sometimes in rather large herds.
Link and Zelda certainly had plenty of children on their own, but there were always more than just theirs in the castle. When Link's cousin, Ceily, married Duke Braddock and started their own family, their children practically lived with their royal cousins; Ceily and Braddock had trouble dragging them back to their personal apartments when it was bedtime. Spending any time at their estates caused a small rebellion and either their children had to stay behind, or some of Link and Zelda's had to go with them.
Meghan married a baron and moved away, but she and her husband visited often and added their five children to the mix. Alons trained with Link for several years—thinking he wanted to be a knight, like Link—but when he got a little older, he became interested in the family business and, when he was twenty, he ended up taking over both the fishing and Uncle Alfon's brining operation, combining them into one large—and very profitable—business. He married a local girl and had his own family. Link and Zelda frequently sent one or two children at a time to spend a few weeks with Alons or Mars and Tatiana, so they all grew up close to their paternal relatives.
There was also a lot of travel back and forth between Hyrule and Erenrue. Each year, Link and Zelda alternated between visiting or hosting the Erenrue royal family.
About a year after Link and Zelda married, quite out of the blue, Rayliss asked Sir Elgon to marry her. He had nursed a sweet spot for his queen ever since they had spent time in Nagadii's dungeons, so he was pleased beyond measure. She never crowned him king, though; he remained the Prince Consort. But that didn't bother him; like Link, he wanted the woman, not the queen.
Rayliss had been tempered by the Dark Days and she lost the silly, superficial personality that had caused everyone from Zelda to King Ranis to worry that she would be a weak queen. She actually turned out to be a good queen, and while Sir Elgon helped her, he did not have the role in policy and administration that Link had; Rayliss did the lion's share of governing on her own.
They had a total of twelve children—although their second-youngest, who had been born weak and sickly, died at the age of two. The other eleven children, however, always came with their parents on visits to Hyrule—and sometimes came, on their own, for additional visits—and the royal cousins grew up close to one another.
In fact, all the swapping of children between the royal families, plus all of the cousins from Link's side of the family that lived semi-permanently at the castle, led Link to declare he didn't even know which children were his, and every time he picked up a child, he asked him or her, "Are you my child?"—which never failed to make the children laugh. Sometimes they lied and claimed they weren't his when they really were, or claimed they were when they weren't, and Link openly wondered—more than once—if the smaller children even really knew who their parents were. But, in reality, it was never hard to tell Link and Zelda's children from the rest: all of theirs were Hylians; none of the others ever manifested the trait.
As the princes and princesses began to grow up and marry, a full-time genealogist had to be employed just to keep up with all the branches of the royal tree. A couple of Link and Zelda's children married their second cousins in Erenrue. Others married into the Hyrulian nobility. But Zeyde married a common-born Hylian girl who was the daughter of his tutor—thus beginning the tradition that every heir-apparent marry a Hylian, no matter what his or her social rank.
Link and Zelda's children were all especially long-lived—since they had inherited that trait from both of their parents—and they all outlived their human spouses. A couple of them never remarried, but most did marry again—sometimes as many as three times. With so many children and so many simultaneous generations living at the same time, it became difficult to figure out the degree of affinity between potential marriage partners—hence the need for a full-time genealogist.
But, as the royal children and grandchildren married into the nobility—both in Hyrule and Erenrue—and, later, into the wealthy gentry, they took their Hylian genes with them. Gradually, the Hylian race began to make a comeback until it was no longer rare to encounter someone who was Hylian; in fact, it became commonplace in Hyrule.
Whenever Link wasn't sharing governing duties with Zelda, or being swarmed under by children—all of whom seemed to naturally love and worship him—he worked on restoring the Knights of Hyrule.
He managed to convince the monks at the Westeastern Monastery to move back to Hyrule—and, in the process, change back to the original name, which was the Monastery of Hylia (although most people took to calling it the "Academy"). The brothers provided a good primary education to children from all over Hyrule—and sometimes from abroad. Once a year, Link would visit and observe, then he would select those who had a combination of talent and good character for more intensive sword and warfare training. If he still liked what he saw a few years later, then they would move into the castle and begin one-on-one training with him for further refinement. Those who did not make the cut were almost always offered jobs in the Royal Guard, or they found employment in Erenrue or Shi-Ha as guards, captains in the armies, or as teachers.
Hols—now Sir Hols—likewise made a yearly trip to the monastery, where he demonstrated his art. Those who showed interest were given additional studies in blacksmithing, and if they continued to show an interest, then Hols would take them in and make them his apprentices.
The children who excelled at studies instead of combat were selected by the brothers for additional education in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, science, religion, magic, and philosophy. Upon reaching their majority, they frequently entered into the employment of the government as clerks, with most working up to positions of scholars or advisors. Some became astrologers, magicians, or holy men of such high quality, their services were sought out by people from all over the world.
In fact, Link and Zelda made education a priority of their government, and, over time, they managed to establish schools all over the kingdom so that even the poorest person had access to at least a basic education. Where the ability to read and write had once been the purview of the nobility and wealthy gentry, it became commonplace to the point that it was surprising—even shameful—to not have at least a rudimentary skill. Those who were especially bright were sent to the Academy to further their education—even if Link and Zelda had to pay their way. No one was denied an education due to lack of money, and there was no limit to how high a person could rise. Hyrulian culture no longer judged people on the circumstances of their birth, but on their own merit.
As a result, the arts and sciences flourished—entering a golden age the likes of which hadn't been seen since the time of the ancients. Hyrule became known for its intelligentsia in the way that Erenrue was known for its warriors.
Shi-Ha went through a rough patch twelve years after Link and Zelda took the throne. One of their most popular generals managed to bribe and bully his way into power, and eventually he became a dictator. His first act was to launch a war against Erenrue.
Rayliss—at Zelda's prompting—had taken a conciliatory tone with Shi-Ha early on in her reign, and the government of Shi-Ha had indicated that they, too, were interested in permanently burying the hatchet. But when General Sho took over, all peace deals were terminated and he marched on Erenrue, thinking he could take it from its peace-loving queen and her crippled Prince Consort.
But Link and Zelda had friends in Shi-Ha—namely the entire City of Olchi. The city sent a message to Zelda, warning her of the plan to attack Erenrue, and she immediately forwarded the message Rayliss.
Then, without hesitation, Zelda called up her army. From all over Hyrule, her nobles came with their men—almost all of whom were archers. Most of the Royal Guard was mobilized, as well, to serve as cavalry under the leadership of the handful of Knights of Hyrule.
Zelda was noticeably pregnant at the time, but that didn't stop her from donning her Erenrue armor; she just had it adjusted to accommodate her growing belly. Together with Link, she rode to Erenrue at the head of the army.
They met Rayliss and Sir Elgon on the field in front of Pallis, where the last great battle had been fought. Like Zelda, Rayliss had her own suit of armor and grim determination on her face.
The soldiers of both Erenrue and Hyrule were heartened by the presence of Link and Zelda; on the other side, the Shi-Ha soldiers lost morale. Who could best two living legends—the two people who had saved the world from total destruction?
General Sho took to beating his men with a whip and cursing at them for showing cowardice. It didn't matter if they were fighting a combined army, he told them; didn't they know that Hyrule didn't have a real army—that they were nothing but a bunch of scholars with their noses stuck in books? And didn't they know that the best of Erenrue's warriors had been wiped out and not replaced by their peaceful queen? Would they allow themselves to be beaten by two women and a cripple?
He didn't bother to mention Link; there was nothing that could be found lacking in him. But, still, he was only one man, and one man didn't win battles; armies did. And General Sho was convinced that the armies of Erenrue and Hyrule were weak.
But when he sent his men into battle in what he thought was an unbreakable formation, he found how badly mistaken he was. Far from being emasculated by his wife's superior rank—as General Sho expected—Prince Elgon had been spending his time shoring up the security of the kingdom—just as he had once carefully overseen the security of the castle and royal family. Although most of the Erenrue nobles were young and untested, he had made sure that they were trained in the old ways. The quality of Erenrue's army had not slipped.
And although Hyrule's soldiers—outside of the knights and royal guard—were not Erenrue's equals, they were fine archers, and many men from Shi-Ha fell to their arrows long before the actual clash began.
Zelda unsheathed her sword—the one from Erenrue that Link had given her years before—and she rode beside him at the head of their cavalry, the first into the fray. As at the battle against Nagadii, they found that few people wanted to take them on directly; frequently they found themselves alone in an empty spot in the middle of the lines.
"Is this what you want?" Zelda screamed over the sound of battle. "Is this what you want, men of Shi-Ha? Is this the repayment that Link and I get for saving your country from Nagadii and the demons? You would attack my cousin—the only family I have left, and someone who has never done you any harm? This is how you thank me?"
The men around them began to lay down their arms. Slowly, a ripple went out through the Shi-Ha lines, as every man laid down his arms and surrendered.
When the General saw what was happening, he cursed at the men and beat those closest to him, trying to goad them into fighting. But one of his own soldiers rose up drove a sword through his throat, killing him and ending the battle.
It was the last battle Link and Zelda ever fought.
They trekked to Shi-Ha alongside the defeated army. When they arrived in the capital, Ninting, rumors swirled that Link and Zelda were going to take over the country and either incorporate it into Hyrule or make it a principality and install one of their younger children on the throne.
But Zelda surprised everyone by clearing out the government officials who were corrupt—even going so far as to execute them, as per Shi-Ha law—then she appointed new council members based on their test scores—also in accordance with the law.
In short, she restored it to self-rule.
It took so long to straighten out the mess in Shi-Ha, Zelda delivered their third daughter, Anne-Marie, while she was in Shi-Ha. Anne-Marie was the only child of Link and Zelda's who was born outside of Hyrule, and the people of Shi-Ha—who already loved Link and Zelda for returning their country to them—fawned over the baby as if she was their own princess.
Perhaps it was just coincidence, but the child who had been carried into battle inherited both of her parents' fighting spirit. She was one of just four women—and the only one of Link and Zelda's daughters—who became a Knight of Hyrule during Link's lifetime.
She had a fierce beauty about her that captivated men, even as it frightened them. She was as tall as her great-uncle Zeyde had been, with long, straight black hair and flashing blue eyes. She had a shapely, feminine figure, but her muscles were as hard as iron.
As a teenager, she had been out with some of the castle guards, having a drink (she was always wild for a princess), when some stranger slapped her on the butt as she passed by. She turned around and decked him as hard as she could. He fell to the floor, out cold. When he finally awoke, he found his jaw had been broken and dislocated, and he had lost a couple of teeth.
Just after she was knighted at eighteen, Anne-Marie went for a tour around Shi-Ha. The people remembered her and greeted her warmly. The Council invited her to stay and be their military advisor, and Zelda was quick to encourage her in that; Zelda knew she and Rayliss would never have to worry about Shi-Ha becoming aggressive towards them again while Anne-Marie was in charge of their army.
Despite the fact that Anne-Marie had no official title in Shi-Ha, other than "Honorable General," everyone called her "Princess." After she and a friend were ambushed by bandits one day, and she single-handedly defeated all eight of the men and rescued her wounded friend, everyone began referring to her as the "Tiger Princess."
Eventually, she grew so popular with the people, there was a call to restore the monarchy, and the Council offered to crown her Queen, provided her rule was limited; major decisions involving law or money would require the Council to vote to back it; if they did not agree, then she could not have it.
Anne-Marie sought the blessing of her parents, and when they gave it, she accepted the crown of Shi-Ha, making it the first constitutional monarchy. She married the Shi-Ha soldier who had been her companion since she had arrived in the country, and together they established what became known as the Tiger Throne, and, later, the Tiger Dynasty. The royal family eventually became famed for three distinctive traits: Hylian ears, blue eyes, and ferocious women. It was said that any man who wanted to rule the kingdom must first accept being ruled by his wife, because the queens of Shi-Ha—and nearly all of the monarchs of the Tiger Dynasty were women—would never bow to any man.
Link and Zelda lived to see most of the changes that they had wrought in the world. They celebrated an unprecedented double-diamond jubilee—one hundred and twenty years on the throne—before they announced their decision to step down. Arthritis had set up in many of Link's old wounds, and his left shoulder—where he had taken the arrow in Erenrue—pained him constantly.
The same wound had caused him to give up personally training the Knights of Hyrule when he was ninety years old, although he continued to supervise regularly and hand-select the recruits.
His successor in that job was a young knight by the name of Valens. As a baby, Valens had been abandoned at the castle gate—no one knew why, although it was possibly because he was a Hylian—and even though Link and Zelda were great-great-grandparents by that time, they took him in and raised him as if he was their own.
Valens never forgot his inglorious beginnings, nor Link and Zelda's loving generosity towards him, and all his life he strove to be worthy of them. Link recognized him as a spiritual heir, and that was why he bypassed his biological children and the nobility and turned the training of the knights over to Valens.
Six months after their grand, double-diamond celebration, Link and Zelda took the throne one last time. The throne room was packed with people; it was standing room only. The last time there had been a coronation, the attendees' great-great-great-great-grandparents had witnessed it. And given that Prince Zeyde was one hundred and nineteen years old, but looked like he was only in his mid-forties, no one outside the royal family was likely to live long enough to see another one.
Zeyde's wife, Catherine, was not a pure Hylian; like Link and Zelda, she had been born to two human parents who just happened to have a recessive gene. She was a few years younger than Zeyde, but looked considerably older. But luckily she had been pretty in youth, and she had matured into a handsome older woman who wore her age quite well.
Slowly, Zeyde and Catherine processed up the aisle—every eye watching them silently. When they reached the dais, they bowed low to Link and Zelda, before proceeding up the stairs and kneeling on pillows set before the thrones.
Together, Link and Zelda stood up. In unison, they reached up and lifted their crowns from their heads and held them high, for everyone to see.
"These crowns symbolize the divine right of the King and Queen to rule over Hyrule," Zelda said in a loud voice. "It reminds all who look upon them that they are the supreme law in the land. It also reminds them, through their weight, that the gods rule above them, and they must always be mindful of their laws—for just as the gods can grant kingship, so too can they take it away."
Then Link and Zelda stepped forward—Zelda placing her crown on Zeyde's head and Link placing his on Catherine's.
Zelda turned aside and one of the advisors handed her the Scepter of State. She held it aloft. "This scepter represents the might of the Crown and symbolizes the King's duty to defend this kingdom, and his people, from all enemies, foreign and domestic."
She handed Zeyde the scepter.
Link turned aside and received the Scroll of Law. Slowly, he lifted it over his head.
Zeyde could see the pain on his father's face; it was all his old arthritic shoulder could do to lift the heavy roll of parchment so high.
That was when Zeyde was suddenly struck with the realization that his parents were old and they didn't have many years left. They were so legendary—so far beyond the norm—so seemingly invincible—that he had thought, like a child, that they would live forever. But they weren't abdicating because they thought it was time to give him a chance; they were doing it because they couldn't physically handle the demands of the throne anymore.
But Link's voice never indicated he was in any pain; he spoke as loudly and clearly as always. "While the King is given power over his subjects by his crown, and power over our enemies by the scepter, the weight of the law is greater than either of those two powers. This is not a weapon for him to wield, but a burden for him to carry, and it symbolizes the heavy duty that he owes to all of his subjects because our monarchy never has been, and will never be, an absolute monarchy."
Link stepped forward and bent down to give Zeyde the heavy scroll.
When Link saw tears rolling down Zeyde's face, he smiled at him—the same kind, loving smile Zeyde had known all his life—and he kissed Zeyde gently on the forehead.
Lastly, Link and Zelda took off their velvet, ermine trimmed cloaks and clasped them around the shoulders of Zeyde and Catherine. Then, completely divested of all their symbols of rule, they helped the two new monarchs to their feet and guided them to the thrones. They carefully arranged their cloaks, then helped them sit.
The transfer of power from old to new was complete.
The court herald announced, "Presenting Their Most Royal Majesties, Defenders of Hyrule, Wielders of Justice, Keepers of the Peace: King Zeyde and Queen Catherine. Do you now pay homage and attend Their Presence."
Link and Zelda stepped back to the edge of the dais, and were the first to bow to them.
"Stop!" Zeyde said. He handed the scepter to Catherine and quickly set the Scroll of Law on the side table. Then he rose to his feet and went to his parents, pulling them upright.
"You will never bow to us," he declared. "You need never bend your knees to any man on this earth, because no one will ever be found to be your equals, much less your superiors.
"And from here on out, you shall be titled Zelda, the Queen Mother, and Link, the King Father, and you will both be addressed as 'Your Majesty,' just as you always have been."
Link bowed his head in thanks, then he and Zelda turned to face the audience.
The herald cried out again. "Presenting Their Majesties, Zelda, the Queen Mother, and Link, the King Father."
Link took Zelda's arm, slipping it into his, and they slowly descended the dais.
The audience bowed, and then, from somewhere in the midst of the crowd, someone knelt. Like a wave, everyone began sinking to their knees.
Link and Zelda glanced around, a little in awe at the display. And here and there, a few people gave them even more: they bowed all the way to the ground.
Valens—in the front row, along with all the other princes and princesses—had his forehead pressed to the floor.
Not far behind him was a middle-aged baron who also bowed to the floor.
When the baron had been a young man, newly-come to his title, he had ridden out with Link and Zelda and several other nobles in a hunting party. While they were talking and joking, a huge wolf—every bit as large as the one which had attacked Link and Zelda on the Plain many years before—ran from the woods and jumped onto the baron's horse, knocking him off. The next thing he knew, the wolf had him by the leg and was dragging him back towards the forest.
The other nobles froze in fear, but Link and Zelda—despite their advanced age—leapt off their horses and, with practiced ease, Link drew his sword and knelt down, while Zelda stood behind him, shooting at the wolf.
The beast let go of the baron and charged at its new foes. Zelda continued to fire into it, but it didn't slow down. When it drew close, she stepped back and Link rose to his feet. He neatly sidestepped the animal and chopped down on its neck as it passed by. It stumbled, then fell, yelping in pain. He quickly stepped in and dispatched it with a thrust directly into the heart.
Zelda hurried to the baron's side and cut the leg off his pants. The wolf had struck an artery, and his blood gushed up like a fountain. Link ran over and put pressure on his groin while Zelda tied a tourniquet above the wound. They instructed the other stunned men to construct a sling from bits of tack and saddle pads, and together, they carried the baron back to the city, where a healer was able to patch him up.
He had gone on to marry one of Link and Zelda's great-great-great-granddaughters and have a large family of his own.
Farther along, the Court Astrologer was similarly humbled. Thanks to Zelda and Link's policy of providing education to every student, he had been able to go to school, even though his parents were poor subsistence farmers. He had proven himself to be clever, so his teacher wrote to the castle, asking for a scholarship for him. Link and Zelda had provided the money for him to transfer to the Academy. Link remembered him from year to year and always checked on him when he visited. When he was older, Link secured a place for him as an apprentice to the previous Court Astrologer. Eventually, he worked his way up to the preeminent post and he was able to provide his elderly parents with a nice house and a comfortable retirement.
Then there was the washerwoman and her son. A decade before, Link had found a boy begging for food on the street. When he inquired about the boy's circumstances, he discovered that the boy's father had died and his mother worked as a washerwoman. But she had an illness that sometimes left her bedridden for days. She was in the middle of one of her episodes and was unable to work. They had run out of money and food, so she had sent him to beg.
Link had food sent to their house, along with an offer of employment. When the woman was able to walk again, she and her son moved into a room in the castle and she went to work in the royal laundry, while her son went to the school on the grounds that served all of the staff's children. Even when she was unable to work, they had their room and the right to eat in the staff kitchen three times a day. They never went hungry and never worried about being unable to pay the rent.
Eventually, she became one of the head laundresses—in command of dozens of other women—and the boy was in training to be a Knight of Hyrule.
There were dozens more with stories just like theirs—people rescued from poverty; people recognized for their talents and given an opportunity to prove themselves and rise in the world; people whose lives had literally been saved thanks to Link and Zelda's intervention.
Link looked around as he and Zelda slowly walked down the aisle.
"I think we've done alright," he said quietly to her.
She smiled. "Yes, I think so."
They had planned to quietly slip away to their rooms once they were finished with the coronation—preferring to let Zeyde take the spotlight for once—but when they left the throne room, Zelda tugged Link towards the front door instead.
When they stepped out onto the front steps, they found the grooms of the stable milling around, waiting for the new king and queen to emerge. The royal carriage was waiting to take them through the town so that the populace could see them.
Zelda stopped at the top of the steps, looking off into the distance. "Link, I had a thought."
She turned to him. "We're free," she said, as if this was a great revelation.
"What do you mean?"
"All our lives, we've had a destiny to fulfill—responsibilities and duties to perform. But we've done them all. We saved the world. We rebuilt Hyrule and put it on the road to a new Golden Age. And gods know we've single-handedly revived the Hylian race."
"We have done everything we were supposed to do—everything the gods and everyone else has ever asked of us.
"Now, we're free—free to live just for ourselves. We have nothing we have to do, nowhere we have to be—no obligations at all."
A smile slowly spread across Link's face.
"I feel like going for a ride," Zelda suddenly declared. "Do you feel up to one?"
"I can go anywhere with you," he vowed. Then he raised his hand and snapped his fingers. "Bring us a horse."
A groom ran off to the stables. A few minutes later, he came back, leading Zelda's white mare. A couple of stable boys were toting a mounting block.
Link and Zelda descended the stairs. Link gestured to Zelda to go first, so she climbed up the block and threw her leg over the horse and settled into the saddle. A moment later, Link mounted up behind her.
"Tell Zeyde not to wait up for us," Zelda told the groom, as he handed her the reins.
"Where are you going, Your Majesty?" he asked, looking bewildered.
"I haven't a clue," she said cheerfully.
Link laughed as she kicked the horse and they raced across the lawn and out the castle gate.
Everywhere there were people lining the roads, waiting to see the new king and queen pass by on procession. Imagine their surprise when, instead, they saw Link and Zelda cantering wildly down the streets, in their best court dress, laughing and jubilant as two children released from school for the summer.
They went out the eastern gate and Zelda kicked the horse into a full-out gallop. In astonishment, the guards at the gate watched as they rode off into the morning and disappeared out of sight.
? ? ?
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, KeriPeardonWrite a Review