Escape to the Monastery
Link and Zelda both were immediately enveloped in a thick black smoke from the prairie fire. Below them, people were shouting that some of the houses in town were on fire. Others were shouting that the king was dead. In the chaos and smoke, no one noticed the huge brown eagle flying out an upper-story window with the Princess in its claws.
Link struggled to gain altitude. He desperately wanted to fly over the castle walls and out onto the plain, but Zelda was too heavy; her weight was dragging him down. The best he could do was glide in a downward spiral, trying not to drop her.
He sat her down rather roughly, but otherwise unhurt. As Zelda had told him, there was nothing more to changing than wanting to be either an animal or a human; the trick seemed to be knowing which animal to want to be. In any event, as soon as Link wanted to put his feet on solid ground, there they were.
Zelda was coughing from the smoke. "What are we going to do?" she gasped.
He took her by the hand and pulled her into a darkened section of the nearest arcade. "We have to get to the throne room and out that way; I can't fly you out."
"Follow me," she said, taking the lead.
The passage through the castle wasn't at all like their usual nightly forays when there were few guards patrolling the hallways in predictable patterns. Now, the entire guard was called out, and it looked like most of them were running in and out of the castle, unsure what to do or what rumors to believe.
Zelda and Link kept to the shadows, dashing past doorways as soon as someone's back was turned. They had almost made it to the throne room when they heard the voice they least wanted to hear at that moment.
"Captain, organize the guard!" Nagadii commanded. "We need to send half the guard into the city to help put out this fire that the traitors started. The other half needs to be organized into search parties. I want this entire castle examined from top to bottom. Check in every cupboard and under every bed and in every storage room. Find Princess Zelda and that boy Link!"
Link and Zelda ducked behind a suit of armor in an alcove as the Captain of the Guard went trotting past, calling out orders to his subordinates.
Link cautiously peeked around the corner, but found the main hallway deserted. I think we can make it, he told Zelda.
They ran on their tiptoes to the large double doors and pulled one open. Zelda normally never came by the main doors—because there was usually a guard in front of them, not to mention they creaked—but they were in the wrong part of the castle to come in through their usual back entrance.
Link winced as he eased open the door and it groaned softly on its hinges. He pushed it open as little as possible, then slid in sideways. Zelda did likewise, then gently pulled the door closed. She thought leaving it open would be more noticeable than the sound.
They ran silently down the long red carpet leading to the dais. Link threw himself against the back of the throne, opening the passage that led to the monastery.
Zelda flew down the stairs and hurried to light the lantern; Link was just seconds behind. Neither of them seemed to breathe until Link threw the switch that closed the trap door above them.
They hurried down the passageway.
"They'll be looking for us tonight," Link whispered. "And with the fire, there will be a lot of people outside the city. If the Abbot will hide us, I think it would be best if we left tomorrow night."
"Where are we going to go?"
Link pressed his lips together, thinking hard. "We might go to my family," he suggested after a moment. "I can count on them to give us shelter and supplies. We don't even have a way to defend ourselves at the moment; we'll at least need arrows for your bow and preferably a sword for me as well."
"Will your family be able to give us that?"
"I don't know, but at least we can trust them. The only problem is that I don't want to draw my family into this any more than I have to. When they figure out we're not in the palace or city, the first place they'll look is my village. We will only have a day or two before we have to move out."
"Where can we go?"
"I have no idea. But maybe my mother or Uncle Alfon will have an idea; they know the area better than I do."
When they reached the end of the passage, Link slowly pushed open the wall, carefully checking to make sure that the crypt was empty.
As soon as he saw the coast was clear, they hurried inside, closing the passageway behind them.
Zelda cautiously opened the door from the crypt. When the rusty hinges creaked, the abbot—who was standing in the Sanctuary—wheeled around. "Oh, Princess, you're safe!" he said quietly, but with great relief. "I was so afraid for both of you when this fire broke out. Thank you for coming back to tell me that you're safe; I would have worried all night if you—"
"That's not why we're here," Link interrupted. "There's trouble."
Link pulled the abbot down into the crypt with them and shut the door. He hurriedly related everything that had happened to them, beginning with the fire on the plain.
"We were set up from the beginning," Link said. "And I don't think it's an accident that the king and Master Ryu were killed tonight. If Nagadii had had his way, Zelda and I would also be dead and there would be nothing to stand between him and the throne."
"But… there are other heirs… other heirs to the throne," the abbot said, still looking shocked by the news.
"Yes, and you'll find they begin disappearing rapidly," Link said grimly. "Mark my words."
"But… but half the nobility of Hyrule is distantly related to the royal family—maybe more!"
"And those Nagadii perceives as a threat will be eliminated until the only people left are the ones who are too weak to worry him or those who support him out of fear," Link insisted. "Nagadii isn't going to want a class of semi-autonomous, educated, armed people walking around free. He wants people he can control."
The abbot continued to look at him in disbelief, as if it was too much for his kind heart to think so ill of someone else.
"Can we hide down here until tomorrow?" Link asked, changing the subject. "I'm afraid we'll be found if we try to leave tonight."
"Yes, of course. I'll bring you some food and water and blankets, then I can lock the door from the outside."
He started to turn away, but Link reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping him. "Whatever you hear about us," Link said, "you mustn't believe it. Nagadii is already telling people that we started the fire, when in reality, he had it set in order to flush us out and drive us into his trap. There is no telling what other lies he may concoct. While he is busy distracting the people with stories of how horrible we are—how everything that's happening is our fault—he will be getting more and more power for himself. By the time people realize that we're not the enemy, he is, it will be too late."
The abbot nodded.
"I don't care what he says about me," Link added, "but I do intend to see the Princess on her rightful throne one day. If you can, in any way, help dispel the rumors and lies about her, that would be a great help. Don't let Nagadii turn the people against their rightful queen."
"I will do everything I can to prevent that," the abbot promised. Then, with a rather low bow to Zelda—as if she was queen already—he hurried out of the crypt.
Zelda slumped miserably against a tomb. Her strength seemed to flow out of her like water down a drain, and she sank to the floor.
"I don't want to be queen," she muttered. "I don't deserve to be queen. I… I killed my father."
She burst into uncontrollable sobbing.
Link sat down beside her and put his arms around her, holding her to him while she cried. "Princess," he said soothingly, stroking her hair, "you didn't kill your father—not even by accident. If Nagadii didn't do it on purpose, I'll eat my hat. …Although it might take me a few days. It is rather large and a bit tough."
Zelda's sobs turned to chuckles, then she hiccuped.
Link held her face in his hands and wiped away her tears. "You are blameless," he whispered, looking at her seriously.
"If I hadn't gone out, none of this would have happened."
"That's not true. Master Ryu long ago foresaw a great calamity coming to Hyrule and that you and I would have to battle against it. This was inevitable. The gods designed it so."
"Why did he tell you that, but not me?" she said unhappily.
Link shook his head. "I don't know, Your Highness. I suppose he had his reasons."
"Did he think I wasn't strong enough to hear the news?" she pressed.
"I wouldn't think so; he often remarked at your tenacity and courage." He shrugged. "Perhaps it was better for you—better for fulfilling your destiny—if you didn't know in advance."
Zelda wasn't so sure about that. She still had a sinking suspicion that Master Ryu didn't believe her up to the job. Had he foreseen her father would die as a result of her actions? Was that why he didn't tell her? And if so, was it because he didn't want to make her worry in advance, or because he had seen the future and knew she couldn't be trusted to handle the situation well?
The abbot returned a short time later with blankets and food and water. He reported that the prairie fire had been so high and the wind blowing so hard, it had jumped over the city walls and some the houses' thatched roofs were on fire. He was going to send a delegation of brothers into the city to help with the fire brigade and any injuries, but he was going to stay at the sanctuary and make sure no one came near the crypt.
After the abbot left—locking them in—Link ate a little food, but Zelda still felt too miserable and guilt-ridden to eat. She did, however, drink a lot of water; her run and the exposure to the smoke had left her parched.
They wrapped themselves in the blankets—it was chilly in the underground crypt—and lay down on the floor. Zelda found the stone floor extremely uncomfortable. When she lay on her side, it made her hip and shoulder hurt, but if she tried lying on her back, she found it bothered her head and neck not to have a pillow.
Link watched her roll around fitfully. "Can't get comfortable?" he finally asked.
"No," she admitted.
"Sleeping on the ground takes some getting used to. It's horrible for the first few days, but you will become accustomed to it—I suppose because you get so tired, you could sleep standing up."
"Have you had to do it much?"
"Some. That was part of my training when I was younger. In fact, when I was six or seven, we went for an entire year without sleeping on a bed. Later, we occasionally had to go without when we were training in the field, or if we were being punished for some infraction."
"Were you punished often?" she couldn't help but ask.
He shrugged a little. "Not often. I didn't do things I knew would get me in trouble, but I had a bad habit of daydreaming during lessons, and sometimes I was reprimanded for that."
Zelda understood that; she had been fussed at countless times for daydreaming; she was especially bad about doing it when she had been out most of the night and was short on sleep.
Poor Master Ryu. She probably should have tried harder for his sake. He worked so hard to give her a good education, but she had never appreciated it or him properly. She had never even thanked him for his service to her.
She felt cold tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes and running down the sides of her face. She quickly hurried to wipe them off with her shirt sleeve.
"If you cry again, you'll make me cry," Link said, looking at her sadly.
She sniffed. "I won't tell," she promised.
"That's not what I'm worried about."
"What are you worried about?"
"Falling apart," he said bluntly. "I can't fall apart right now—not when we're still in so much danger. I have to take care of you first; I can grieve for the dead later."
She looked at him. "You know… I don't think I've ever heard any of my guards talk about taking care of me as you do."
"That's because they're just guards. I'm your knight—or, at least, I will be one day."
"What's the difference between a guard and a knight?"
"Guards are paid. And when you hire someone to do something for you, there's always the possibility that there will come a time when they say, 'I'm not going to do this because I don't get paid enough.' For some risks and trials, there's not money enough in the world to pay to have it done.
"But a knight serves you because he swore an oath to do so. Thousands of years ago, the Knights of Hyrule swore an oath on themselves and their descendants to always take care of the Royal Family. No matter what the risk or trial, I can never refuse because my oath—my ancestor's oath—has no limits."
"But… why would knights swear an oath to risk their lives if there was nothing in if for them?"
"Well, there was something in it for them. There was a symbiotic relationship between the Crown and the Knights. The Knights were given land and power and noble status; they just weren't given a wage. It was up to the King to make sure they were fairly compensated."
"I don't have anything to give you."
"I wasn't asking for anything."
"I know, but I mean… I don't know if I will ever have anything."
"You will if I succeed in my mission, which is to put you on the throne; and if I don't put you on the throne, then I don't deserve anything. But that's neither here nor there; there's nothing that I truly need; I'm not doing this out of a desire for land or power or riches."
"Why do you do it, then?"
He looked at her a long moment, as if surprised she had to ask, then he looked up at the ceiling and smiled a little. "Because I want to."