Exhausted—physically and emotionally—Zelda finally fell asleep, despite her initial uncomfortableness. The crypt was so dark and silent, it was impossible to tell how much time passed before she and Link both were startled awake by loud voices on the other side of the door.
"Abbot, we have reason to believe that Princess Zelda and the boy known as Link have been frequent visitors to this monastery. Are they here now?"
Link and Zelda sat up, looking at the door. The voices sounded as if they were just on the other side of it.
"No, there's no one here now, except myself and few of the brothers; the rest of our brothers are in the city, helping with the fire."
"Do you acknowledge that they come here?"
"Princess Zelda has come here before, yes. She is a lonely child and sometimes seeks my counsel. And, I believe she grieves for her mother, who is buried here."
"But she and Link—they come here together, don't they?"
"I don't believe I know a Link."
"Don't lie, Abbot. We know she and he come here often, in secret."
"Well, if they are here in secret, that must be why I don't know him. I only know Princess Zelda, and as far as I know, her coming and goings from here aren't secret; it would surprise me to find out they were."
The inquisitor laughed. "Do you mean to tell me that two people have been coming into your monastery frequently, for months, and you don't know about it?"
"Again, I only know about Princess Zelda. If she's been hiding some boy while she's been here, I don't know about it."
"Right…" the other man said doubtfully.
The door handle jiggled. "What's in this room?"
"That's the crypt."
"Why is it locked? Are you afraid the dead will get out?"
"Well, to be honest, some years ago I had some brothers who shirked their responsibilities by disappearing in there and taking a nap when they should have been working. I have kept it locked ever since."
"Open it. I want to take a look around."
"Gracious… it's been so long since it's been opened, I'm not sure where the key is."
"Look for it," the other man said with a cold, firm voice. "I want in there."
"What on earth for?"
"To make sure no one's hiding in there. Now find the key or I'll break down your door."
Link hurriedly blew out the lantern, plunging him and Zelda into near-absolute blackness. There was only a faint bit of light to be seen under the door.
Zelda felt suddenly very claustrophobic.
She felt Link moving around beside her, but she didn't know what he was doing. Her mind was racing with how to get out of the situation, but the only thing she could think of was to go back into the tunnel and hope that no one discovered it from either end.
She was snapped out of her thoughts by the soft grating sound of stone on stone.
What are you doing? she asked Link.
Making a place for us to hide.
She was confused. How could he make a place for them to hide?
"Abbot, what's taking so long?" the man outside the door shouted, sounding irritated.
"The key wasn't where I thought it was," came the abbot's distant reply. "There are a few other places I might have put it. As I said, I haven't opened the crypt in a while."
"Well, hurry up. I haven't got all night."
The next moment, Zelda felt hands on her waist. Get in, Link said.
Get in what? she asked, even as he lifted her up. The next thing she knew, she could feel herself surrounded by stone walls hip-high.
Link gently pushed her head down, forcing her to duck under a stone ledge.
It wasn't until she crawled out of the way, to make room for him, that her hand touched something that felt like a bone, and she realized where they were.
We're in a tomb!
Yes, I know, he said patiently, getting in beside her. Zelda could hear the heavy stone lid sliding back into place.
Her sense of claustrophobia increased tenfold.
We can't stay in here!
We have to. I don't think they'll look for us in here.
We can hide in the tunnel.
They already know we've been coming here at night; they may know about the tunnel as well.
The lid slid into place and Link lay down against the wall of the sarcophagus.
Lie here and be quiet, he told her, pulling her down to him. Let's hope they pass us by.
Zelda lay on her side, her back pressed against Link. He pulled a blanket over both of them and Zelda quickly became warm. But on the inside, she was still chilled by the thought of being in someone's tomb.
I hope whoever this is, he doesn't punish us for disturbing his tomb, she said.
I am much more worried about the living at the moment.
Before Zelda could say anything else, they heard the muffled sound of the crypt door creaking open. They both lay in absolute silence, straining their ears for some indication their discovery was imminent.
"See, there's nothing in here," the abbot told the searcher. "Nothing but the dead."
"Hmpf," the man said, not sounding convinced.
There was a pause, then the man said triumphantly, "You seem surprised that I know about this secret passage, Abbot."
I told you, Link said to Zelda.
"I'm surprised it's there," the abbot lied smoothly. "I've never known there to be another exit to this room. Where does it go?"
"Into the castle. That's how the Princess and that guard have been sneaking out."
"Ah. Well, then, that would explain why I haven't seen him. He could have been hiding in here and I would never know."
"You say you see the Princess often, and yet you say the door into the sanctuary stays locked. How does she get out?"
"I don't know. Maybe there's another way out of that passage? Goodness! There might be hundreds of passages under the castle. That castle is very ancient, and I do know there's an old sewer system that runs under it and Castle Town. There's no telling where all those passages might come out."
"Well, I suppose," the man said reluctantly, sounding less sure of himself.
Gods bless the Abbot, Link said. I would have never thought a holy man could lie so well.
"Come, let's get out of here," the abbot said. "This cold and damp makes my joints ache. I'm not as young as I used to be, you know."
"I know the feeling," the man replied, sounding less antagonistic.
And that might have been the end of it, but for someone kicking over something metal.
"What's this?" the man said.
"What? Oh, it looks like a lamp. Whoever was down here last must have left it. I'll take it…."
"It's warm," the man said. Then his voice became angrier. "It's still warm. Someone has been in here. Recently."
Shit, how could I have forgotten the lantern? Link berated himself.
"I'm telling you, this door has been locked for weeks," the abbot replied. "Maybe… maybe someone came in through the passageway, couldn't get out, then left again?"
"And left the lantern? And where would they go? The other end is being watched."
"Is there a passageway that leads off the other one?"
"Maybe. We'll soon find out."
The man called for some guards, who came thumping loudly into the room, their armor rattling. "You and you: stay here and see that no one leaves this room—the abbot included. You, come with me."
Silence descended again. Zelda had a knot of fear in her stomach. She knew there were no other exits from the tunnel. As soon as the soldiers realized that, the abbot was going to be in trouble and the soldiers would surely look in the tombs for them.
She shifted slightly as she began to ache from lying on the stone. Her hand touched something and instinctively jerked away—not wanting to touch the bones again—but a moment later, she realized it was some sort of fabric. Curious, she tentatively reached forward again and felt the softness of silk velvet under her fingertips. She traced over the fine fabric, then found a wide piece of fur trim. Whoever had been buried in the tomb, his clothing had been quite costly. He seemed to have been buried in a robe of state.
And then Zelda loudly gasped.
Link's hand was over her mouth an instant later. Shh….
I… I have to get out of here! She struggled to get up, but Link crushed her to him, pinning her down.
What are you doing?! he demanded. They're going to hear you.
She continued to struggle, but he only held on tighter until she could barely breathe. But that only made her panic worse. I have to get out. I have to! She said desperately, still trying to fight against him.
We can't go anywhere until they're gone.
This is my mother's tomb! She would have shrieked the words aloud, but for Link's hand still firmly clasped over her mouth.
Then pray to her to keep you safe, he replied rationally.
I can't stay here, she insisted. The idea of lying beside her dead mother horrified her.
If you show yourself, we will both die, Link said sharply. Your mother died bringing you into this world; the least you could do is live now and honor her sacrifice—not throw it away.
Zelda stopped struggling, feeling ashamed by her behavior. Of course he was right.
He released his tight grip on her when she stopped fighting him. Then he slowly stroked her hair with a comforting hand. I'm sorry this is so hard on you, but I truly believe if your mother's spirit could speak, she would tell you to stay. What would she care if you share her resting space, if it will keep you safe?
You're right, Zelda replied.
I often am.
His joke made her smile a little. A moment later, though, they were interrupted by voices.
"Well, Abbot, there's no one in the tunnel from here back to the castle, and there aren't any other exits. Care to explain how a warm lantern came to be in a locked room?"
"I haven't any explanation. I don't know how that lantern came to be in here, or why it's warm. This door has been locked for weeks, I tell you."
"They were here and someone let them out—and I mean to find out who," the soldier replied. There was a rattling of armor again and the sound of footsteps, which quickly faded away. There was no tell-tale squeak of hinges, though, which meant the crypt door was left open.
Should we stay or try to leave? Zelda asked.
I… don't know, Link said hesitantly. If they left a guard, he'll be on us before we can get out of the tomb… and neither of us have any weapons we can fight with.
He paused, thoughtful for a moment. I think we should stay for as long as we can, he reasoned. They expect us to be nearby, so they'll stay here for a little while. But they'll give up after a few hours, thinking we somehow slipped past them, and they'll broaden their search. That will make it easier for us to get out undetected.
But what about the door? What if they lock it?
We'll just have to chance it. The abbot is still on our side, and even if he's not in a position to help us, he might give word to someone else to help us.
There was nothing for them to do but lie in silence next to the bones of Zelda's mother. The stale, musty air and absolute blackness seemed to press in on them until it was enough to drive Zelda mad; it was as if she was already dead and consigned to an eternal tomb.
Think of something else, Link said.
Think of something else.
…How do you know what I'm thinking? Zelda asked in shock. If he had learned to read her mind, he hadn't told her about it.
You're fidgeting and your muscles are tense; that means you're probably thinking about something that makes you anxious. So think about something else.
Easier said than done.
There was a long pause. What are you thinking about?
Zelda remembered that Link had promised to take her to the ocean. Had it been that very night? It seemed like a lifetime had passed since they had sat under the oak tree and talked about the ocean. …Since he had kissed her.
What did it mean? She knew common girls kissed boys they were sweet on, but such a thing was unheard of for a princess. For them, their first kiss usually came on their wedding day when they were marrying a man they might not have known a mere two or three weeks before.
Whenever she had remarked on this, her maids had always assured her that love would grow in time. Hadn't her father and mother been in love, although they had only met two weeks before their wedding?
Love, like free-time, was a luxury not afforded most royals—princesses especially.
Zelda slowly began to relax and become drowsy. It was probably morning already, and they had only gotten a brief nap earlier.
It wasn't until she had almost dropped off that she realized she could feel Link's heartbeat against her back. It was calm and steady—just like him. No matter what happened, she could count on him to keep her safe; he would die before he let anything happen to her. And with that comforting thought, she drifted off to sleep.