Rayliss's first stop of the morning was for flowers. The shop they entered obviously catered to a high-end clientele because it was no mere street vendor selling flowers on the corner; it was a large shop decorated with exotic flowers and filled with a combination of scents that was rather heady.
As soon as the store clerks saw Rayliss walk in, they dropped everything they were doing and hurried to wait on their royal customers. Link, Zelda, and Rayliss were given seats on a velvet couch and served tea and sweets. The salespeople brought in flowers by the dozens and the owner himself enumerated their qualities and made impromptu arrangements to show how different combinations looked.
"I don't know," Rayliss said after half an hour. She had narrowed the selection of pink flowers down to three types, but was still torn over which white flowers looked best with them.
"Janice, have we used any of these before?" she asked, looking up. But Janice, the chatelaine, wasn't to be seen.
"Where's Janice?" Rayliss said, looking around.
"I don't know," one of the maids said, looking around. "I thought she was right behind us when we came in."
The store owner looked at them in confusion. "Are you missing someone?"
"Yes, another woman," Rayliss replied.
"No other woman came in the store, Your Highness."
A moment later the bell on the door rang and Janice walked in, breathless and pink-cheeked; she looked like she had been running.
"Forgive me," she said, bowing a little to Rayliss. "Someone called to me just as we were leaving and I had to tend to something right away."
"Oh?" Link asked, looking at her. "What, exactly? Not an emergency, I hope?"
Her face became redder. "No, sir. Well, not a real emergency. Just… a problem. Someone… didn't know… how to handle something," she said lamely.
"I see," Link said. He glanced at Zelda with a knowing look before turning his attention back to the flowers.
Zelda had lived in a castle too long not to know what had just happened: the chatelaine had tattled on them.
It was her own fault; she shouldn't have said anything to Link and Rayliss with other people present; she ought to have known that everything they said would be carried throughout the castle until even the little page boys knew their business.
It made her face burn with shame again. She remained silent for the remainder of their time with the florist. Rayliss was content to plan things by herself, with occasional input from Link; they didn't seem to need or even want Zelda's opinion.
They went to several more shops for decorations and to order food and drink. Rayliss was very proud of herself; she had stayed up half the night planning the menu. Her figures for the amount of food they needed weren't always right, but the chatelaine carefully corrected them without causing a loss of face.
"This is going to be such a lovely party!" Rayliss said with delight as she crossed the next-to-last chore off her to-do list. "Everyone thinks your theme is great," she told Link.
Link chuckled. "Even if it was horrible, they would say that it's great, Your Highness; they want to sell us things."
She laughed. "You're probably right."
"I know I'm right," he corrected.
This elicited more laughter from Rayliss, but Zelda just stewed with jealousy. It was the sort of thing he liked to say to her—when he was speaking to her. But she had gone and insulted his honor, and she knew that was the one thing Link would have trouble forgiving.
Could she humble herself to ask his forgiveness, as he had done for her?
The thought of getting down on her knees before any person and begging pardon made her feel a little sick. How on earth had Link—who had no small amount of pride himself—managed to swallow it and so effortlessly beg her forgiveness?
"I only have one more stop to make," Rayliss said, interrupting Zelda's thoughts. She turned, leading them off the main thoroughfare and up a narrow alley.
"What's it for?" Link asked.
"Mother's medicine. There's an old woman up here who is a healer—one of the old kind. When I was young, I had a very bad fever that the court physicians couldn't relieve. Kara heard about it and came to the castle. Father and Mother were so desperate, they let her try her medicine and by the next day, I was cured.
"Kara's medicine can't cure Mother's headaches, unfortunately, but it relieves some of the pain and she says they don't last as long. It used to be that she would have them for nearly a month."
The alley winded up the side of the mountain by way of four flights of stairs and rather steep inclines. It was so narrow and the houses on either side were so tall, it was in near-perpetual twilight.
Everyone was breathless by the time they reached the little one-story cottage at the end of the alley. Behind it and to the right was nothing but the hewn mountainside; it was the uppermost portion of the city—and the farthest point from everything.
"Here we are," Rayliss said, sounding relieved. She knocked on the door and a second later—as if the occupant had been expecting them—it was opened.
The woman on the other side was ancient; her face was as wrinkled as a prune and her long gray hair—what could be seen under her cap—was stringy and thin. She was a short woman to begin with, but age had bowed her back until she was barely taller than a child.
But she looked at them with blue eyes that were still sharp and cunning.
"I've been expecting you, Your Highness," she said in a wizened voice. "Come in."
Link stood back and let Rayliss and Zelda enter first. But there was no room in the tiny house for anyone else, so Janice and the maids had to stay outside. Link shut the door behind him almost with relish; he had obviously not forgiven Janice for spying on them earlier.
"Have you been scrying again, Kara?" Rayliss asked.
Kara cackled. "Again? Always."
"If you knew Mother needed more medicine, why didn't you send some to the castle and save us the trip up all the stairs?" Rayliss complained.
"Because I wanted to see these two people here," she said, turning her gaze to Link and Zelda. "Long have I seen your coming in my scrying bowl."
She held her thin, gnarled old hand out to Zelda.
Zelda wasn't sure what she wanted—maybe to read her palm, like a fortune teller?—but she hesitantly placed her hand in Kara's.
She gasped as she was instantly transported to the weightless golden place.
You have not completed half your journey, the woman warned. The worst is yet to come. You and this Hero will need one another; nothing can be won alone.
And then, suddenly, she was back in her body, holding the old woman's hand. Kara grinned at her, revealing her toothless gums.
"Your Highness, are you alright?" Link asked worriedly. Zelda looked at him and noticed that his hand was on the hilt of his sword and it was half-drawn. She felt a little better knowing that, even though he was mad at her, he had not hesitated to act when he thought she was in some danger. That meant he wasn't so angry that he didn't care.
"Yes, I'm fine," Zelda said. Then she looked back at Kara. "You're a Hylian, aren't you?"
She laughed. "Yes."
Kara offered her hand to Link, but he didn't move. "Why didn't you tell us that to begin with?" he asked, still looking at her warily.
"An old woman has to entertain herself somehow," she said with a smile.
"I would prefer you didn't do it at Princess Zelda's expense," he said coolly, but he slid his sword back into its scabbard. "If you want to play, use me."
"Why do you think I picked her first?" She pointed a crooked finger at him. "To see how you would react."
"Who are you to test me?" he asked, perking a brow.
"Who are you to question me?" she retorted. "I am old enough to be your great-great-grandmother. I have seen things—things that have happened and things that have not yet happened. You would do well to respect my knowledge, young Hero. There may come a time when you need it."
She offered her hand again. "I won't offer a third time," she warned.
Reluctantly, Link took her by the hand. Zelda watched as he gave a little jerk and his eyes glazed over, as if his mind was a million miles away.
It was no wonder Link had reacted with fear when the same thing happened to her; it was rather spooky-looking.
A few moments later, he startled a little and life came back into his eyes. He actually smiled at Kara and she returned it. Zelda wondered what Kara had said to him.
"What's going on?" Ryaliss asked, looking between Link and Zelda and Kara with confusion.
"Hylians can speak to one another telepathically," Link explained, "at least once we've touched hands."
"And… that's what you were doing?" she asked, sounding unsure.
"Come, let me get your mother's medicine," Kara said, changing the subject.
She shuffled over to a table against one wall that was covered in fresh and dried herbs, measuring cups, and a mortar and pestle. There was already a small, wrapped package waiting there, and Kara handed it to Rayliss.
Suddenly the old woman stood up straighter, her entire body going rigid and her eyes sliding out of focus.
"What's wrong?" Zelda asked in alarm. "Is she having a stroke?"
Link reached out to catch her if she fell, but Rayliss took a step back, looking a little frightened. "She's having a vision," she said in a low voice. "She scrys, but sometimes visions sometimes come to her without warning."
A moment later, Kara came back, her body relaxing and her eyes focusing again. "I saw snow," she said. "There will be a trip through the mountains to the East."
"Who will make this trip?" Link said.
Link nodded. "That will be when I got to get the Master Sword."
"You will not be going the way you think," Kara warned. "And you will take Princess Zelda with you."
She grinned her toothless grin again. "It's good you came to see me; I can help you with your journey when it's time. Remember that."
She waved them away. "I will see you again—sooner rather than later, I think."
Zelda, Rayliss, and Link left the cottage. When they were outside and the door shut behind them, Rayliss shuddered. "She gives me the creeps when she does that. I mean, you'll be talking to her one minute and she just seems like a harmless old grandmother, and then the next thing you know, she's predicting stuff, or she'll do some bit of magic just to frighten you a little."
Rayliss shook herself, as if she could shake off the chill of fear. "I'm done. Let's go back and get started."