The Aligning of the Star Charts
The people might have temporarily forgotten the newborn princess, but the Grand Vizier, Ryu, had not. He had scarcely grieved over the queen's passing. He had foreseen it and forewarned her: to give an heir to the kingdom would be the death of her. She understood the risk, but took it anyways. A star chart had been made when she had been born, and she knew it was her destiny to bear not just the heir of Hyrule, but one of the greatest rulers to have ever governed it. To shirk that responsibility might have preserved her own life, but spelled the end of Hyrule, and maybe even her own beloved home-kingdom of Erenrue.
The only thing that hadn't been known was the time and manner of her death. But, from the time of her conception, she had prepared for it the best she could, knowing her time might be up in nine months or fifty years.
She had not told the king, though. She was the solid, dependable one in the relationship. She kept her cool and was careful of what she said during tricky political negotiations. She was thoughtful of everyone—from the nobility of Hyrule down to the scullery maids who worked in the castle. It was she who had arranged the extra fireworks display and free ale long before the baby was born—not as a tribute to the birth, but as a way of thanking the people for supporting the royal family.
Yes, her death came as a blow to everyone, especially the king. He locked himself in his room after the funeral and refused to come out. For two days he did not open the door-not to even accept food-and the palace was rife with rumors that he had lost his mind from grief. A few of the more unsavory characters even whispered that he had killed himself, but no one would know it until the body began to stink.
All of this was going on right under the Grand Vizier's nose, but he took no notice of it. He had been up all night while the queen was in labor, constantly consulting star charts and making complicated mathematical figures so he would know the child's destiny the instant she was born. The destinies had continued to grow larger and darker and more complicated until, just when it seemed impossible that such a star chart could exist, a breathless maid came running into his study and announced the birth of the princess.
Ryu had gripped her tightly by the shoulders. Was she sure? Had the child been born that minute, or had the news to him been delayed?
No, the princess had been born less than a minute before. The maid had run straight up from the lying-in chamber as soon as the baby drew its first breath.
Ryu sent the maid away, then sat down at his desk again, double- and triple-checking his figures, making slight changes in the calculations to allow for the birth of a female child. But that hardly helped. In fact, as a female, the child seemed to have an even weightier destiny than she would have had as a male.
He met with the queen as soon as her doctors would allow, but when he saw her ashen face, he feared her death would come sooner rather than later.
He told her what he had seen in the child's star charts, but rather than be alarmed, the queen had only nodded solemnly.
"I knew I was to bear a child of destiny," she told him. "I didn't know if it would be my firstborn or not, but I am not surprised."
"Have you told the king?" Ryu asked her.
"No. I've never told him anything. He's not strong enough."
"But… he will need to know this if he is to guide the young princess properly," Ryu said delicately.
"It would be better if you guided her instead," the queen replied.
"Your Majesty, I fear I might overstep my bounds."
"You mustn't be afraid," she told him kindly. "His Majesty prefers that things work smoothly without his knowledge. Too many details only agitate him."
But Ryu had not listened to his queen's wise words.
While she lay dying, and then as the country mourned, and then even as the king locked himself away, Ryu had charted and read the heavens like he had never done before. The princess's chart became more and more complicated as he attempted to ascertain every small detail of her life. Where different choices might lead her on a slightly different path, he charted those contingencies out to the tenth degree.
Late one night—well after everyone else in the palace had gone to bed—Ryu wrote on his last piece of parchment.
He was in the middle of a complicated alignment of stars with the planet Iso—which seemed to doom Her Highness's sixth birthday party to disaster and possibly set up the beginning of an international incident—when he reached the end of the paper without reaching a conclusion. He reached behind him automatically, but his hand found nothing but bare wood.
He turned around and looked, but there was no paper left out of the stacks he normally kept on his work table.
He began to hunt around his study, but every paper he found was important—mostly the princess's star charts, but occasionally notes he had taken from books in the Great Library that helped him delve deeper into the stars.
He began rummaging through drawers and at last found a couple of sheets of paper that looked like old correspondence.
Triumphant, he returned to his desk and turned the parchment over so he could write on the blank back.
Then the candlelight caught on black letters which had bled through the skin.
There was something about that word that looked familiar. He leaned a little closer.
eluryH fo sthginK
Suddenly his brain made the connection with the backwards words: Knights of Hyrule.
Curious, he flipped the paper over. There was a simple, one-page star chart that did not belong to the princess. The smaller piece of paper with it proved to be a letter from one of his former apprentices—now the best astrologer in Castle Town, aside from himself (and he didn't really count, since he didn't do star charts for profit anymore).
As his eyes skimmed over the letter, he suddenly remembered why he had saved it. The letter spoke of a boy born the previous year in the village of Kakariko. The story of the boy's birth intrigued Ryu for two reasons: he had been born in that same village many years before, and, like him, the boy had been born a Hylian. He had planned to study the situation more carefully—perhaps travel to Kakariko Village and interview the people there and make up a genealogy for everyone to see if there was a stronger strain of Hylian blood there than elsewhere—but the impending birth of the first heir of the kingdom had made him put the information aside and forget about it.
Ryu studied the star chart carefully. His former apprentice had calculated that the boy was a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule—a noble line of warriors that would have put both the palace guard and the current so-called nobility of Hyrule to utter shame—and that he would one day go on a great quest, so the astrologer was recommending a course of basic study, followed by swordplay and military training.
But as Ryu gazed at the chart, he noticed that the planets and stars at the moment of the boy's birth aligned to make the same sacred shapes that the princess had in her star chart.
Startled, Ryu began laying out on the floor the dozens of pieces of parchment that made up the princess's star chart. He put them in order, so that they flowed from birth to as far as he had gotten, and then he stood back and took a look, comparing her destiny with that of the boy's.
The more he looked, though, the more disturbed he became. Soon he was rousting up his assistant to find him more parchment while he started consulting the stars all over again.
On the third day after the Queen's funeral, he finally sat back on his stool with a heavy sigh. He now understood the pairing of their destinies.
He hurried from his room and went immediately to the king's chamber. He was surprised to find the door locked; he had been too closeted from the rest of the goings-on in the palace to know that the king had been refusing all comers.
But Ryu didn't hesitate. As the second-most powerful man in the kingdom, he had a key to every door of importance (and keys to most of the ones that weren't so important)—including the key to the king's own chamber.
He pulled his keyring from his belt and promptly opened the door to the darkened room.
Never a man of tact—he had too many important things on his mind to worry about silly things like feelings—Ryu launched into his speech without even asking the king how he felt or if he would grant an audience. He didn't even check to see if he was still alive.
"Your Majesty, I have completed the Princess's star chart and must speak with you about it immediately."
He went around the room, lighting oil lamps on the walls and standing candelabras. When he had everything in the room lit, he turned to see a lump in the middle of the giant canopy bed.
The king wasn't listening to him at all.
He sighed the wearied sigh of the neglected genius and went to the bed. He began laying out pieces of charts in two parallel rows along the edge of the bed.
"You Majesty, please, I need you to look at these for the sake of your daughter."
The king reluctantly pulled the covers away from his face, looking at Ryu as if he didn't quite recognize him. It was only then that Ryu came to the realization that the king was mired in grief.
He tried to soften his tone to sound compassionate. "Come, Your Majesty. We must get on with the business of living. The last time I spoke to the Queen, she bade me to watch over the Princess, and that's what I've been trying to do—in my own way. Come, we must do what's best for her; that is what your beloved wife would have wanted."
Slowly, the king nodded. Ryu gently pulled the covers back, then wrinkled his nose. It had been several days since the king had had a bath.
Ryu quickly called for the chamber servants-who rushed in, relieved that the king was alive and at least mostly sane again.
In no time at all, they had him in the royal bathtub—a massive gilded affair which set in one corner of the royal apartments. Large windows ran from the vaulted ceiling to the floor and afforded spectacular views of the large, grassy plains and mountains which ringed the northern-end of the massive Hyrulian Plain—of which Castle Town sat in the center. But now it was dark, and the light in the bedchamber turned the glass windows into mirrors and they darkly reflected the glow of the lights and the shine of the gilded tub.
The king was soaking in the tub, being induced to eat some food by servants with silver platters full of dainties, when Ryu continued what he had been saying before.
"Your Majesty, about Princess Zelda's star chart…."
"Yes, yes, get on with it," the king said impatiently, already sounding weary. He was not an unintelligent man, but, as a boy, his tutors had had to fight with him constantly to get him to sit down, pay attention, and do his lessons. He constantly wanted to be up and doing things rather than sitting quietly and thinking. Over the years, Ryu, like the queen, had learned to distill his lengthy discourses into the bare facts. But it wasn't easy for the scholar.
Ryu put a pair of charts on the floor near the tub, where the king could lean over and look at them. Ryu knew the king wouldn't be able to understand any of it—no one but a trained astrologer and the person whose destiny it was could ever make heads or tails of it—but he liked to point at them as confirmation of what he was saying.
"I have been looking at the course of the Princess's life for many days now," he began, unable to avoid a bit of a preamble. "And, it just so happens, I took a look at her past lives as well."
The people of Hyrule believed in reincarnation. Just as the three goddesses who protected their kingdom renewed the plants every year after winter, so the people of Hyrule believed that after spending time in the Other World, they too would be reborn like the buds of the spring flowers.
"A former apprentice of mine," Ryu continued, "sent me the chart of a young boy born just a year before our Princess. He thought it might interest me, since the boy is a Hylian, like myself, and we were born in the same village.
"But, when I looked at the boy's chart while I was working on the Princess's, I noticed something quite extraordinary: their stars and planets align to form the same sacred shapes." He pointed to the drawings on each chart to illustrate his point. They had circles with star-shapes inside them, and complicated-looking geometric patterns that looked like a triangle within a circle, within a square, within an octahedron.
"What does that mean?" the king asked, already getting impatient with Ryu's long wind-up.
"That means that they have overlapping destinies. That's not uncommon; you and the late queen also shared some star patterns because your destinies intersected. What is unusual is the fact that they have shared destinies over…" he put down another two pieces of paper which had different patterns than the first two, but which matched each other, "and over…" he put down another matching pair of charts, "and over again."
He laid out a total of seventeen pairs of charts.
"These are only the ones I've had time to look for," he admitted. "There may be more."
"So, this boy and my daughter have reincarnated together?"
"Yes, Your Majesty. And always at times of great trouble. Cataclysmic trouble."
The king looked more concerned. "So… is this a warning to us?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"What do we need to do to prepare?"
That sounded more like the king Ryu knew. Despite his impatience and moments of inattention, the king could always be counted on to attend to the most important matters of state and do what was in the best interests of his people. Like Ryu, he didn't know how to account for their feelings—niceties had always been Her Majesty's job—but he did take care of them.
"That's just it," Ryu said dejectedly, "I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know? How can you not know?" the king demanded.
"Such major actions, which affect the destinies of many people, are never revealed ahead of time. In such times, each person is responsible for following his own destiny. If everyone stays the proper course—more or less—then things work out. But if someone goes against their destiny, then it can bring disaster down on everyone, like removing a single piece from the bottom of a house of cards."
He waved his hand over the numerous charts. "All I can see is the past, and in the past, bad things happened when these two reincarnate."
"Then we must endeavor to keep them apart," the king said with authority. "I can have him sent far away and I can send my daughter to live with her mother's family in Erenrue."
"But that's just it, Your Majesty," Ryu hurried to interject. "Despite the fact that these two always have overlapping destinies, they never intersect."
"Speak plainly, man," the king demanded, growing more impatient.
Ryu spread his hands. "Your Majesty, I think they continue to reincarnate because their destinies never intersect."
The king continued to look at him blankly, clearly not comprehending.
"In all these lifetimes," Ryu said, pointing to the charts, "through trials and tribulations, when the entire world rested on their shoulders, they never once married and had children; they never once intersected their destinies.
"That is a very strange thing. How can two people who have fates so intertwined—to the point that one can not survive without the other—not marry, at least once?"
Ryu looked up at the king in all seriousness. "I think we should see to it that they marry in this lifetime. I think that perhaps the cycle of cataclysmic events that surround them can be broken without anyone having to suffer in this lifetime. In fact, it's possible that these horrendous events happen in an effort to drive them together, but for whatever reason, they never marry. Although the stars aren't clear, I think their destinies lie in being together; by not marrying, they are defying their destinies, even if they don't know they're doing so, and it the cycle begins again when they reincarnate. But, given the increasingly dangerous nature of the events that surround them, we can't afford to allow them to remain apart."
"But you said that horrible things happen when they're together."
"Together, but not as one. That, I think, is the key."
"You think. You think! The lives of hundreds of thousands of people depend on this decision and you can only think about it. You're my Grand Vizier; you're supposed to give me direction, not supposition!"
"Well, look at it this way," Ryu argued, "something bad is going to happen; something always does when these two are born. You can't keep them apart because their destinies are so interconnected, they will come together no matter what. If you put them together on purpose—betroth them—then there's a slight chance that nothing bad will happen and the cycle will be broken. If I'm wrong, then we'll get what's coming anyways; it won't be any worse for trying."
"I don't like the sound of this at all," the king said, clearly unhappy. "And I can't fathom your logic. You said that the bad things happen because they're together—"
"But they're not really together, Your Majesty," Ryu interrupted. "They're side-by-side, yes, but they are not married. They do not have children. They never intersect their destinies."
"Who is this boy, anyways?"
"The son of a fisherman in the village of Kakariko. I myself was born there—"
"A fisherman's whelp?!" the king thundered, sending his bath attendants scurrying for cover. The king's temper was legendary; he often threw things.
"You want my daughter, heir to the throne of the greatest kingdom of the world—descendant of kings innumerable from all three corners of the world—you want her to marry a fisherman?!"
"But, Your Majesty, he is not without bloodline. He is a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule."
"The Knights of Hyrule? They died out ages and ages ago," he said dismissively. "Arguing this fisherman's brat is a knight is like arguing we're all gods because once, in the recesses of time, the gods created people and intermarried with them.
"My daughter is a princess," he continued, full of righteous indignation. "And one day she will sit upon the throne as this kingdom's queen. I will not put a common fisherman on the throne as her king."
"But this is their destiny. They must fulfill it—or else this same pattern will continue over and over again, every time plunging this world closer to total destruction."
"You think," the king spat. "You said a moment ago that you weren't sure; you were just guessing. Well, here is my guess: bad things will happen if the two of them are put together, so I'm going to make sure this son of nobody never has the opportunity to even lay eyes on my daughter."
The king got out of the bath, splashing water all over the silk carpets. His attendants rushed back in to begin drying him off, but he hardly noticed. He was already calling for his secretary to send in the captain of the guards for a special mission.
Ryu bowed to his king's wishes and slowly slunk out of the room without notice. His feet were heavy as he walked the long corridors and spiraling staircases back to his tower study.
He had tried his best, but now things were worse. He should have listened to the queen and said nothing to the king. He could have quietly guided the destinies of both of the children himself and seen that something happened to bring them together. Now, the king would do everything in his power to stop them from coming together. The stars would rebel at such interference and the situation would only become worse. If they were kept apart on purpose, they might not be able to fulfill their destinies and the entire world would be completely lost.
Why had they never married before? They had always survived every encounter. Were they stuck in the same pattern: princess and commoner? Was that what kept them apart lifetime after lifetime?
If they knew they were destined to be together, would that change things? If they knew they needed to intersect their destinies, instead of merely overlapping them, then maybe it wouldn't matter if another horror was unleashed; they would survive it again, but with foreknowledge of their destiny, they would retire together, not separately.
The boy was a descendant of the old Knights of Hyrule—a group that had gone extinct, save for one precarious line of descendants. She was a descendant of the ancient royal family of Hyrule. More telling of all, they had both been born Hylians.
And surely it wasn't a fluke that Ryu himself had been born a Hylian, too. Pure Hylians were known to live for a very long time—three times as long as humans. But even though all modern Hylians were of mixed blood, they still lived decades longer than the average human. …Time enough to set things right.
A fierce storm raged outside the cottage on the cliff above the sea. Rain dashed against the window panes so hard, it sounded as if sand was being thrown at them. The curtains—recycled from worn out clothing and bed linens—were pulled closed across the windows, shutting out the drafts of cold air that were driven in around the gaps in the wooden frame.
Inside, however, everything was snug. Mars sat cross-legged on the floor, mending his net in front of the warm, crackling fire—which glowed green and shades of blue due to the salt which had soaked into the driftwood. Link sat in the floor beside him, fascinated with the cording and playing with it with a baby's curiosity. Tatiana sat on the other side of the hearth in the rocking chair that Mars had made for her as a present when Link was born; she was humming happily while she made Link a new tunic. He was growing rapidly and had to have new clothes every few months.
They were startled out of their peaceful labors by a sudden, heavy banging on the door.
"Who on earth is out in this weather?" Tatiana wondered aloud.
"It must be something urgent," Mars said, pushing his net aside and rising to his feet.
He opened the door, and a dark figure was blown in along with the rain.
"Can I help you?" Mars asked cautiously. He didn't recognize the figure.
The man threw back his hood, and Mars and Tatiana both gasped in surprise: the elderly man had long ears, just like their son.
"I am Ryu, Grand Vizier of Hyrule," the man said breathlessly.
Mars started to bow to him, but Ryu put his hand out, stopping him. "We have no time. Where is your child?"
"Here," Tatiana said, picking Link up and rising to her feet. "Why?"
"He is in grave danger. You must give him to me."
"What?" she gasped, shrinking back from him and turning her body to hide her child.
Mars put his hand on Ryu's arm. "Here now, what kind of talk is that?" he said sternly.
Ryu turned back to him. "You don't understand. The king has sent soldiers here to look for this child. He is afraid that if this child and Princess Zelda ever meet, something horrible will befall this kingdom—and quite possibly the entire world.
"I tried to tell him, though, that they will meet regardless, and this evil will come regardless. But, if your son and the Princess were to marry, then everything might be avoided."
"What are you talking about?" Mars asked in utter bewilderment.
Ryu tried to appeal to the boy's mother instead. "Listen, my former apprentice was the astrologer who did this boy's star chart. He sent a copy to me because he knew I was a Hylian and had been born in this same village years ago.
"I had put the chart away without giving it much study, but I came across it when I was working on Princess Zelda's. That's when I noticed that they have overlapping destinies. And not just in this lifetime; they have been together at least seventeen times in the past, too.
"I think they keep reincarnating into the same harrowing situation over and over again because they never marry and rejoin the line of the Knights of Hyrule with that of the royal house."
"I… don't understand," Tatiana said hesitantly. She looked at her husband, but he was just as confused as she.
"If you understand nothing else, understand this: soldiers are looking for this boy as we speak. They are in Kakariko Village right now. Luckily for all of us, I knew exactly where to find you, so I was able to beat them here. But it won't take them long to find out where the fisherman with the Hylian son lives. They will come here and they will take your son from you."
"But that's what you're trying to do," Mars interjected.
"Yes, but I will take him and keep him safe and raise him to his destiny. If the soldiers get him, the king will exile him. Or worse, kill him. That would be the only possible way to keep him and the Princess from ever meeting. But I fear that if he does so, a great evil will befall us and this child will not be here to save us.
"Please, I beg of you—for the sake of your son and all of Hyrule—let me have the child."
Tatiana and Mars looked at one another for a long moment. Finally, Mars nodded.
With tears in her eyes, Tatiana reluctantly handed Link to Ryu.
"Will I ever see him again?" she whispered.
Ryu wrapped the boy up in his cloak, so he couldn't be seen. "It won't be often, and must be in secret, but I will make sure that you see him from time to time."
Tatiana hurried to her chair where she had dropped the green tunic she had been making for Link. She offered it to Ryu.
"I just finished this for him…." Her voice cracked and she was unable to continue.
Ryu took it from her. "I will see that he wears it."
Suddenly, he perked up, his ears alert. "They're coming. I must get away."
He looked at them one last time. "You must be in mourning when they come. Tell them that somehow your child toddled out of the house and fell off the cliff and into the ocean below and is lost. You must grieve for him as if he is truly dead. No one must know that he is alive and I have him. The king must think him dead. Understand?"
"Yes," Mars whispered.
"Good." And with that, he was gone.