Chapter 6: Zelda
“She was a pleasant little ray of sunshine, wasn’t she?” one of the black-haired girls asked. Zelda chuckled.
“She certainly was,” Zelda agreed, “but it isn’t nice to insult royalty, even in an offhand way.”
“Royalty?” the same girl said. Zelda nodded.
“Her Highness, Princess Amber-Elisabeth of Nydillan.” At Zelda’s response, the girl groaned.
“Oh. Yeah, I heard she was a snobby brat.”
“Ariana!” the other girl scolded, whacking Ariana in the shoulder. “Royalty!”
“Ah, Evie, it really doesn’t matter. She’s gone now, right?” Ariana said, wrapping an arm around Evie’s shoulders.
“So who are you?” Ariana inquired.
“You can call me Zelda.”
“What do others call you?” Ariana raised an eyebrow.
“That’s a story for another time,” Zelda explained. “Now how do you know each other?”
“Oh, we’re sisters,” Ariana said matter-of-factly. “Separated at birth, the whole thing.” Zelda’s face morphed into an expression of surprise.
“Oh?” She paused. “So how did you know that you were related?”
Ariana grabbed Evie’s face and thrust in next to her own. “Do you actually not see the resemblance?” she said. Zelda studied the girls’ faces, ignoring the looks of shock Evie was shooting Ariana at her face being manipulated. She did see the similarities between the girls - their pale skin, their sparse freckles, and, of course, the silky black hair that both sported.
“Ah,” Zelda nodded. “That makes sense.” She straightened her gown, which was starting to get uncomfortably itchy. Even though it was nearly impossible for Zelda to get hot, she was still sweaty and warm under the tight, heavy silk. The sapphires dotting the hem were weighing down the entire dress, and the bejeweled headband clenched around her temple was giving her a headache.
Evie, as it seemed, noticed her discomfort. “What’s that dress for?” she asked lightly. “It’s really pretty.”
“Thank you!” Zelda smiled at the soft-spoken girl’s compliment. “It’s for my performances - if you can call them that,” she explained.
“Performances?” Ariana asked, suspicion in her eyes once again. Wow, this girl really isn’t very quick to trust anyone, Zelda thought to herself.
“Yeah,” Zelda affirmed. “I’m Aisiia.”
“Wait - you’re Aisiia?” Evie asked.
Simultaneously, Ariana inquired, “What in the Realms does Aisiia mean?” Zelda frowned.
“You’re from Nydillan, aren’t you.” Zelda said this as a statement, not a question. Ariana nodded mutely.
“Because you don’t know what Aisiia is,” Zelda said with a laugh. Evie nodded knowingly.
“I see.” But Zelda wasn’t watching her anymore. She was unblinkingly staring at Ariana’s neck, where the silky green choker resided.
“What is that?” The playful, lilting tone in the Aisiia’s voice was gone, replaced with utter shock. Disbelief shone in Zelda’s amber eyes. The girl raised a hesitant hand towards Ariana’s neck. Ariana stood, frozen and mute, her emerald eyes fixed on Zelda’s slowly approaching hand.
Zelda’s fingers brushed Ariana’s choker. “It can’t be,” she murmured softly, her eyes tipping upward to meet Ariana’s. “How long have you had this?”
Ariana shrugged. “My whole life, I guess,” she responded. Ariana jerked her head away from Zelda, who winced in apology.
“Sorry,” she cringed, “but I just needed to see.”
“See what?” Evie intruded on the conversation. “Because I have one too.”
“Oh my god...” Zelda whispered. “The chokers. Victor’s chokers.” Her eyes flashed with powerful recognition, almost scarily so.
Ariana tapped her foot against the ground, sending up a shower of dirt. “Hello?” she snapped. “It seems you’ve forgotten that we just met. And now -” Ariana threw her hands up in mock surprise - “you’re touching my neck and talking in code about my choker.”
“Come with me,” Zelda uttered, knocking her hair out of her face as she turned to face a narrow alleyway. She was several paces away when Ariana and Evie exchanged a look.
“I say we follow her,” Evie said. “She knows about our chokers.”
“Hm,” Ariana voiced. “Fine. But if it turns out she’s a wicked witch, it’s me over you.”
“Got...it?” Evie agreed. The sisters took off, running to catch up with Zelda’s brisk steps deeper into the town’s rambling shacks. Once their moves were in line with the Aisiia’s, they slowed. “Where are we going?”
The girls walked in silence down numerous winding roads until Zelda stopped abruptly. “Here it is.”
The trio was facing a tiny house. The faded blue paint that colored the house was chipped and displeasing to the eye, and a single door hung slightly off its hinges. Zelda took in the state of the house with an appraising eye. “Hm,” she murmured. “Haven’t been here in a while.” She herded her companions onto the front step of the porch, where a wooden swing rocked gently, propelled by the wind. Its soft creaking noises put Zelda on edge. When she had lived here, the swing’s hinges were well-oiled, the door was firmly mounted to the wall, and the house was a deep cerulean blue.
Whatever Victor had done to this place, it was bad - which didn’t keep Zelda’s hopes very high for what lay in store for the interior of the house.
“Maybe she is a wicked witch,” Evie whispered loudly. Ariana chuckled under her breath.
“I heard that, you know,” Zelda said, without turning around.
“We know,” Ariana retorted.
Returning her attention to the task at hand, Zelda took a slow breath and pushed the door open.
Inside, the house was musty and cold. The only source of light was streaming in from the open door, and it illuminated spindly spiderwebs that decorated every corner in sight. A long hallway stretched from the door to a wall far away, and multiple doors lining the walls suggested many large rooms to explore.
Deja vu hit Zelda like a ton of bricks. Her steps swayed, and the area surrounding her was enveloped in an icy coldness. When she had regained her balance, she turned to face Evie and Ariana.
Evie looked okay enough, but Ariana looked very...cold. Her teeth were discreetly chattering, and her features looked frozen in place. When Zelda asked if she was okay, however, Ariana nodded and said yes.
“Just give me a minute,” the girl muttered. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Almost immediately, her face relaxed. The tiny flakes of frost that had dotted Ariana’s eyelashes melted and disappeared, and the faint blueness of her lips faded just as quickly. Ariana breathed a sigh of relief as she gained full access to the movement of her limbs and muscles once more.
And then it dawned on Zelda what Ariana was. But from the confusion that painted the girl’s face, she decided to leave it be.
Some things should always be found out on one’s own.