By Princess Lelda
The queen stood slowly from her throne, age and pain taking its toll on the frail woman. Golden hair turning gray, her regal air had not diminished a bit. Even a visitor from a foreign universe would know to kneel in her presence. Worry streaked her face, but tears had long ago run dry from her glassy eyes. "Are you sure you're capable of this?"
"Your highness, I assure you," the young man, bowing in the audience of the court and royalty, lifted his head ever so slightly. Shining armor adorned his well-toned body, years of training since early childhood clearly evident in his fiercely atheletic figure. His tossled auburn hair shone in the dim light and his icy blue eyes glittered with the speed and agility of a cheetah. They examined him with speculation, rumors about his past and credibility whispering around the room like hornets let loose from a hive. These were desperate times, which called for desperate measures. But this desperate? Was the queen wise in choosing such a shady character for the job? "I can bring back any head you wish."
"No!" She slammed her jeweled staff into the floor, shards of marble flying up and landing as dust at his feet. "You are not to kill anyone! She is to be brought back here safely, without a hair on her head harmed. With the Ocarina. Is that clear?"
"Of course, m'lady."
Lelda hummed happily as she let the icing tube dance over the little person-shaped cookie, giving it the likeness of a smiling guard. As if they've ever smiled, she thought, setting it down alongside the pile of horses, lords, and ladies. Bringing the tray she walked out of the flour-dusted kitchen into the perfectly clean main store. The window was already arranged in a little candy landscape of Hyrule. Surrounded in a green bed of coconut grass stood a grand gingerbread castle, recreated loyally down to the last stain glass window, encircled by a blue sugared moat. A licorice drawbridge led the way inside, with marzipan trees dotting the grounds. With painstaking perfectionism she placed the cookie people and animals into their world.
Running outside she stood out in the street in front of the tiny candy shoppe, taking little steps around the display to examine it from every angle. "Perfect," she decided, spinning around and reclaiming her post at Market Sweets.
It's so sad this place doesn't last. Once the General Store buys this whole street and turns it into a gourmet coffee shop...how fun. Although Schroder would sell her own soul if it would get her a nice pile of rupees.
Ms. Schroder was the heavy, not-so-well aging inheritant of the candy shop. Her face was deep set in a perminant frown like an apple left in the sun all summer, and her skin looked like pancake batter poured over a creaky human frame. She'd inherited the place from her aunt, who'd passed away some time ago. She had no talent being or creating anything sweet, so when Lelda wandered in one spring afternoon she'd been more than willing to hire the help. That didn't sweeten her disposition in any way, however. A greedy old witch, she added hours and garnished wages on her whims. She hated children, love, friendship, and kindness...just about everything Lelda believed the shop stood for.
Lelda was a wonderful person. Living on her wits and whim, she could charm just about anyone, young or old, nice or not, right into the shop. The problem was, she was a very bad salesperson. She couldn't let anyone leave without trying a truffle or sitting long enough for a complimentary cup of cocoa. She was like a merciful spider, catching just about every thing that crawled by in her web but letting them all go free, starving herself in the process.
The little bell on the door jingled her out of her thoughts as a Keaton mask-wearing boy and his frazzled mother entered.
"Hello!" Jumped up Lelda, waving from behind the smudgeless glass counter. "Can I help you with anything?"
"No, he insisted on coming in here," the woman sighed, nodding toward the boy who was examining the jelly bean cabinet. All four of the shelves were crammed with clear jars, each full to the brim with a different flavor. "He was admiring that castle in the window."
"Oh, I've got a fan now!" She grinned, leaning down to gaze at the brightly colored jars alongside him. "I'm glad someone likes it." She waited for a response, but he remained perfectly silent. "Do you like jelly beans?"
"Which kind is your favorite?"
"Those ones," he said, pointing to a spicy cinnamon variety.
"Ah." From above the cabinet she grabbed a clear cellophane bag, and shoveled a generous helping inside with the silver scoop.
"Oh no, Timmy," the woman protested, "you already spent more than your allowance at the Mask Shop today."
"Don't worry, it's free," reassured Lelda, tying it with a red silk ribbon, dropping it in the boy's eager hands.
"Thank you!" He grinned, accepting the gift graciously.
"That's so kind of you," the woman went on, her tired and weary face softening.
"Please, don't mention it. Just be sure to come again."
"Of course." As the pair neared the door, the woman paused, giving Lelda an inquiring stare. She opened her mouth to speak, and seemed to think twice before finally saying, "I'm sorry, but...you look so much..."
Lelda's light heart crashed to her feet, freezing into an inpenetratable fortress of ice to hold itself together. "The princess," she finished, avoiding their eyes. From the corner she grabbed the dusty old broom, nearly strangling the handle as she swept furiously. "Yes, I hear that quite a lot."
"Oh. Well, good day," she exited, dissappearing down the street.
I wonder, she thought with a melancholy smile, if the 'princess' ever acted like she had a heart. Even when she was my age, did she still have that giant stick up her...
She jumped, not even seeing the old Ms. Schroder waddle inside the happy little shop, stopping in the middle and doing a visual sweep of the inventory.
"How many rupees did you take in today?" She mumbled in her nasaly voice.
"Ummm," she stalled, dropping a few of her own into the small wooden money box to make up for her giveaways, "about sixty, ma'am."
"Uh-huh," she glared at the shopkeeper, who stood back with her big, blue, innocent eyes. She loved to catch an opportunity to dock her pay, but Lelda could almost always find a way to outsmart her.
"Would you like some cocoa, ma'am?"
"What, on the house I suppose. Just like ever pathetic street crawler who's wandered in here has been offered?"
She remained silent, picking at a little smudge of caramel stuck to the counter with her fingernail. This job was really something she loved. If only it was owned by someone that wasn't such a sadist...
"Well?! Are you going to bring it out here, or are you goign to wait for a shipment of cocoa beans from the Gerudos?!"
"Yes, ma'am, right away," she said, hurrying into the back kitchen. As she poured a cup of the dark steaming liquid she peered around the room, making sure she was alone. Turning back she hacked up a large wad of mucus from the back of her throat and spat it into the mug. With a satisfied grin she glided back into the shop, handing the drink to the impatient Schroder. "Enjoy!!"
Eric had never time-traveled before. Mentally he checked off one more thing on his 'you can say you've done everything' list. Even though he was barely twenty, he could pretty much say it. This was also the first time he wasn't out to actually kill somebody. But the queen had demanded the best, and since her Hero of Time had passed on he was the man she called. And how could he deny a request of the Queen of Hyrule? Especially in the dire circumstance she was in. If he couldn't haul that spoiled princess back to her own time, ties between Devinia and Hyrule would be broken. If friendship and unity was not established now, it could mean war later.
Women, he thought bitterly, staring at the little picture of the girl smiling slyly back up at him, her eyes dancing with the delight of outwitting the future and spiting fate. Royal women. They've got a perfect life planned out and waiting for them, but they insist on running off and ruining everyone who made the mistake on counting on them. If they really knew what it was like to be born a peasant, to work every single day of their life and never get anywhere, maybe they'd appreciate the comfort and safety of their castles. Her mother had ensured the best future for her, all she asked was that she marry some respectable prince...they were probably the same way, perfect for each other.
His anger flared as he invisioned the princess living off her wits and charm, picking apart the decade and taking whatever amused her for a nanosecond, leaving the carcass to rot as she moved on to another. More than anything he wished he could slaughter this girl like she truly deserved, slowly and painfully, screaming her blonde head off. Look how much trouble she'd caused just to try and show her already frazzled mother some sort of lesson. He had accepted his lot in life. No one else seemed to struggle with it. Why should she be an exception? What right was hers to put two kingdoms through grief? But she was worth something, and had to come back home alive. Although to Eric a handful of dirt would carry more worth.
The Temple of Time hadn't changed a bit, though that wasn't much of a surprise, since it had been the same since before time began. Pale sunlight fell on the tile floor, filling the solemn tall-ceilinged building with a glow that knew no age. Walking inside there was no way to tell if he was 2000 years in the future, or 3000 back in the past.
Reclaiming a reality by stepping outside the sacred temple, he walked amongst the colorful townspeople. Running around trying to find a bargain or trade a chicken or get just a smidge of attention, Eric felt for the first time in his life at a loss. After a lifetime of chasing after criminals and theives, he realized that he had no idea how to find this seventeen-year-old relatively innocent female.
All right, he closed his eyes, attempting to step into his target's persona. My name is Lelda, I love to ride horses and pick wildflowers. My mean old mom made me mad, so I took the magical flute thing she valued so very very much and played a little song, and hey! I ended up here! Now, where am I going to go now? Ummm.....dress shop? Perfume parlor??
The sun was beginning to melt into the western hills, giving the moon its mystic entrance. People were saying their goodbyes and shuffling home, shopkeepers locking their doors and stuffing their sidewalk displays back inside. A potion shop, weaponry, target range...nothing he considered would attract the girl he was after.
In between an inn and some sort of bowling alley stood a humble tavern, music drifting out from the interior.
Thank god, I need a drink. Making a beeline for the bar he went in, greeted by the choking yet comforting smell of smoke and sweat. It was dim, crowded, and loud; the perfect place to be miserable.
An empty stool stood vacant at the end of the bar, and by the unwelcoming eyes that burned into him from the tables, he took the seat gratefully.
"Nice evenin' tonight," the gruff but friendly bartender observed, cleaning a glass with an old gray rag. He was like a mountain behind the counter, bald with fearsom tattoos running up and down his arm.
"Mhmm," Eric grunted, hunched over with the princess's portrait in his hand.
"Can I get you anything?"
"You got it." He filled the miniature glass with about two and a half swallows of the liquid. "What a peach," he whistled, noticing the girl's demurely seductive face. "Is she your girl?"
"Her?!" He had to fight to keep back the chuckle rising in his throat. "No. She's...a friend of my brother's. I'm supposed to find her, find out how she's doing. You know, that kind of thing. I think she's somewhere around here, but I haven't seen her yet."
"Hmmm," he snatched the picture out of his hands, examining it under the light with his beady yellow eyes. "Hey, I know this chick! Winnie!" He called to a vuluptuous waitress tending to a table full of drunks. Her frizzy red hair bounced up, and balancing a tray on her palm she sauntered over to the bartender and Eric's little conference. "Ain't that the girl that works at the candy shop?"
"Uh-huh," she nodded, looking at the picture with an air of evaluation. "Pretty girl she is. Much more so than most of the plain homey things that run this town." Eyeing Eric suspiciously she added, "what business do you have with her anyways?"
"A friend," he grumbled, losing patience with these simple townspeople. "Of my brother's."
"I see." She turned away, but Eric swore he caught a wink from her baggy red eyes. "Well, the chocolate shop doesn't upen until morning. We've got a few rooms upstairs. And if you're gonna be needin' some companionship..."
"That's all right." Hastily he stood, tossing a few rupees on the dusty counter and plucking the picture from the woman's cubby fingers. "Thanks."
Village folk, he thought as he stepped back into the star-bathed square. Not that he was a fan of the aristocracy. He'd rather spend an eternity in that shabby tavern with those whispering strangers and that over-the-hill whore than an hour with the Princess and her court quarreling over some betrothment. The only reason he'd agreed to this mission was out of respect for the Queen. A rare legend in her own time, she'd made sacrifice after sacrifice and saved the kingdom more times than he could count. And after her equally noble husband passed away, it was his duty as a citizen of Hyrule to aid her in any way possible. If that meant bringing the princess back without so much as a scratch on her peachy skin, then so be it.
Still, townspeople may seem harmless and dim at first glance, but gossip was their currency. They could make or break a person's reputation in just a few hushed sentences. People in general were a force not to be reckoned with. Don't care about them, don't trust them-it cut your worries tenfold.
"You know how I feel about this idea," Lelda said as Mother and a maid scrounged through her mountainous wardrobe.
"Of course I know how you feel," the Queen scoffed, laughter almost ringing in her voice. "You threw such a fit, I'm sure our friends in the Wasteland know your feelings on the subject as well."
"Don't be cross with me, mama. I agreed to meet this man. And be nice."
"One snide comment," she warned, "one sarcastic remark and I swear..."
She gripped her hairbrush, digging her fingernails into her own skin. "I know Devinia's relationship to Hyrule is important. That's why I've cooperated, for Hyrule's sake. Still, isn't there some other way to establish lasting peace? A way that doesn't involve marriage?"
"Sit still," she commanded, pulling the princess's hair up mercilessly on top of her head and shoving in some anchoring pins into the mass. "I've explained these complicated matters to you before."
"Ah yes. I'm a gift," she mimicked, making a face at her mother through the mirror. "A token, a stack of rupees offered to the other side."
"I told you," she sighed, her face falling with exhaustion. For a moment she felt a pang of guilt that she wasn't submissive, just to take a bit of the pain out of her mother's life. "It's not like that at all. No one has ever, will ever value you as less than a person. I'm simply trying to ensure that you'll be safe."
"Well," she said, "I suppose I really don't have to worry about it anyhow. I haven't even met him yet. Who's to say if he'll even like me?"
"Why wouldn't he like you?" Chuckled the queen, a bit of good humor returning to her expression. "Do you not see the mountains of gifts in the receiving room? The scrolls of names of knights and nobles waiting for a chance to attend just one of our parties to see you? You're the most beautiful..."
"Yes, I've seen the presents and names!" Angrily she jumped up, storming across the room in a near battle stance. "All pompous power-hungry idiots that want only power and money and something pretty they can flaunt in public and sleep with at night. Why can't I choose, Mother? Find someone who loves me for what I am inside and not the spoils that come with a princess?"
The queen's jaw set in her own show of anger, less animated but twice as intimidating as the girl who looked as if she would begin bombarding her enemy with satin pillows. "And you think that stable boy doesn't?"
A shot fired straight to the heart. "Mother!" She gasped, her jaw dropping to the floor. Even the little servant girl looked beyond shocked.
"What, you didn't think I knew? I'm brighter than you must take me for, girl. And less blind."
"Wesley is ten times the man any of them are," she tore back up on the defense, "at least he can keep an eye on a woman's face when he's talking to her."
"You're to stay away from that boy," she spun the princess around and began yanking at her corset strings, cutting off her air. "Lelda, is that clear?"
Lelda lunged forward, gasping for breath. She trembled in the dark, caught in the unsure blank fuzzy area between dream and reality. Every night she awoke from the vivid flashbacks, as if time were calling her back. Haunting her. Lelda, you've disobeyed. Time to come back. Time to face fate. Time, time, time.
Subconsciously, impulsively she reached under the bed to feel the cool, smooth, egg-shaped instrument. Still there. Good. She was safe.
Some nights she could fall right back asleep after one of these nightmares and awaken the next morning at peace. This was not one of those nights. Swinging her feet onto the wooden floor she made her way into the kitchen and put on a kettle of tea.
Six months. She had a small cottage by the lake, a job, friends...everything she always wanted but the only things she could never have in her old life. Six months with no one finding out who she really was, or coming after her. Still, the fear lingered. There was always the chance that someone would find her out. Forever she must be ready, ready to run. A fugitive of time.
The pot screeched, making her jump a mile as the delicate silence was broken. Laughing softly she poured her cup of tea and sipped, staring out the small window to the still mirrory lake. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but she made no noise. Didn't realize they were even there.
Market didn't awaken quietly. Merchants rattled carts into the streets containing everything from cuccos to windchimes, anything to make noise and draw curiosity. The clumsy girl in the hotel's kitchen dropped pots, pans, spoons and the like in a desperate attempt to make pancakes. Good morning greetings as people passed. A fraudulant entrepeneur peddling toy ocarinas proclaimed, "awaken the mythical powers of the Triforce! Thirty rupees is nothing compared to the treasures you'll uncover with this legendary instrument!" But above it all was the scent that forced Eric to awaken.
The smell of chocolate.
Lelda hummed to herself as she waltzed out of the kitchen. If she missed one thing from the past it would have to be the dancing. That elegant art in which your feet, your dress, your partner all became an outlet to the music. Bringing visual to sound.
Carefully she placed three freshly iced cakes on their platters, replacing yesterday's eclairs. Thursday was eclair day. Friday was cake day. Her favorite day, next to Apple Pie a la Mode Sunday.
A few days ago she'd actually won some approval from Ms. Schroder.
"Excuse me, ma'am," she said, "but I think I have an idea of how we could increase both business and profit."
"You mean, actually charge people for their candies?" The old meiser sneered over a bowl of gruel. Why did she insist on eating slop when she owned a shop full of decadent desserts?
"Combine the chocolate and sweets business in with a cafe. When people come in for candy, they'll stay for soup and a sandwich."
She raised her unibrow ever-slightly. "And how much would it be to start up."
"Not much. There's all the equipment we'd need right here. A few food staples and..."
"I'm not putting out a single green rupee for your crazy jaunt. But if you put your own funds into it, do whatever the hell you want."
With the help of her friend Pontoufe, the market baker, she was ready to begin her new enterprise today. Split pea soup slowly warmed over the fire, and room in the glass display case had been made for the sandwiches. Cucco and egg salad, vegetable, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly-arranged on little china plates and accented with sprigs of parsely and mint. Toothpicks with miniature Hylian flags crowned the baguettes, crossiants, wheats, ryes, and whites.
Business was notmally sluggish in the morningns. Too early for taffy and peanut brittle, most who jingled the door's golden bells were seeking coffee and hot chocolate to ring in the new day.
Yet even though it was the slowest part of the day, it certainly wasn't the most boring. Even the stubbornist, most grouchy of visitors would snap open like a jack in the box as they sipped the bittersweet liquid. Even Lelda found herself divulging her deepest and darkest secrets and passions under the cocoa's influence.
The recipe had come from a good friend and shop regular by the name of Gizelle. A native Gerudo, she stood four feet tall with scraggly white hair and a pointed nose. Wrinkles took the place of her old tan, and she creaked when she walked like a loose floorboard. Absurdly dignified she had a wit that hid beneath layers of bright robes and sashes. Shunned by the Market for her clear Gerudo features and speculations of witchcraft, she'd found a little haven in the welcoming shoppe.
She was a witch. "I've never met a real witch before,"admitted Lelda, stunned by the woman's confession.
"Nonsense," she cackled, her yellow teeth gaping open in a comical fashion. "You've met witches before. All the time. Even our Princess is a witch."
"Hmph, that's for sure," she grunted.
"You've just never met a bad witch. Witches are all around us. Anyone who can reach beyond reality, tap into something those dimwit boys in the lab coats can't explain. That's a witch. Here, let me show you," she offered, hobbling toward the kitchen. "Let's start with your cocoa."
"My cocoa? But what's wrong with it?"
"Nothing dearie. To a mortal it would be superb. But I want to make it magical, hm? Come. I'll give you the recipe."
Furiously she worked over the boiling pot, truly looking like a fairy tale villian over her cauldron. From pouches and bags at her side she pulled herbs and spices and leaves, combining with the chocolate and giving off a delicious aroma. Sweet, spicy...irrisistible.
"Hush!" Insisted the woman, not pausing for a moment. "I'll write down the procedure later. Just watch."
When the brew had finally simmered to perfection she ladled a portion into a green Triforce-patterned mug. "Go on, girl. Try it."
Hesitantly she lifted it to her lips, her eyes widening as the exotic mix slid down her throat. "Mmmm!" She exclaimed passionately. "What's in this stuff?"
"Peppers, herbs...just a few secrets of us witches with an inquiring streak. Now, my child," she lowered her voice, nearly brimming over with anticipation, "tell me. What brings you here to our Hyrule?"
Careful, Lelda commanded herself, trying to steady her aim. Become the arrow. Be one with the-
Bizzing!! The arrow escaped her grip, whizzing off toward the distant trees but falling short. Missing the haystack targed by about, oh, thirty feet. Give or take.
A soft laughter came from behind her; an empathetic, understanding sound. Squaring her shoulders she stiffened, the very tips of her pointed Hylian ears turning a bright crimson. She had been under the impression that she was alone.
"What are you trying to do, kill somebody?" He asked gently.
Who was this? She craned her neck around to peer at the stranger. A boy, couldn't be more than two or three years older than she was. Tall and lean, his hair a sandy dirty blond that fell in his eyes, which danced with tender amusement. He seemed not intimidated nor in awe of her, which was strange considering the simple brown peasant clothes he wore. There was no way he could be of higher status than she was.
"Do I know you?" She asked sharply, stuffing the bow behind her back.
"I've only been working here since I was ten. I see you everyday, with your horse."
"You're a servant then. In the stable?"
"A beautiful horse she is. Pansy?"
"Yes," she smiled fondly, reminiscing on the colt she had brought up since she was a child herself. "I named her because that's what my friends used to call me."
"Yeah." Not really what she'd call friends. When you were young, your friends were whoever you were forced to get along with while your parents had tea with each other. "I was the one with the nicest clothes, the most toys, the biggest yard...they made up for it by claiming I could never climb a tree or even survive outside the nursery."
"So I supposed you proved them wrong."
"I beat them all up," she beamed, her former glory coming back to life in her livid eyes. "Nearly broke Timothy McCarson's arm. Mother almost hung me. 'Ladies don't fight', one of her all-time favorite expressions." Her expression fell suddenly, and she realized she had just stripped herself down to her vulnerable reality, in front of this near-stranger no less.
"What's wrong?" He asked, a sincere note of concern touching her deeply.
"You...you don't act like other servants."
"You mean I don't act as if I'm in the presence of a god that's about to condemn me to hell?" The Princess shrugged. "Would you rather I did?"
"No, I didn't say that. It's just..." she eyed him suspiciously, "why do you act differently?"
"Because I see something they don't." He took a step forward, slightly closer. Delicately he took her hand in his own, turning it over in his palm. The chipped polish and rough skin, the result of a girl who'd skipped manicures to hold the reins of her cherished horse. His own hands had the same texture; chapped and dry, but stil soft and tender and warm. "I see a person, with her own ideas and will. Who is strong and clever, desperate to escape a future which is not true to her heart. One need not look hard to see there's more to her than the tiara on her head." She drew in a breath, feeling goosebumps rise on her skin. "A girl who, if I made her angry at this moment, would snap my wrist in two."
"I knew it!" Cackled Gizelle, throwing her head back and displaying her shabby set of teeth. "You were as foreign as a Zora in the Crater to this time. I could tell the first time I saw you."
"I can't believe I just told you that," she murmured, looking into the near-empty mug with distrust. "I've never told a soul."
"Don't worry, little princess." She patted her head reassuringly. "Neither will I. If your story is true-and the chocolat NEVER lies-then there's no way I'd put you in jeopardy by spreading it around. Just remember," she lowered her gaze, her wrinkles creasing in seriousness. "You cannot run away from your problems. Sooner or later, they will find you. In this time or another. It's not your fault, and it doesn't mean you've done the wrong thing. You simply must be ready to beat them down when they arrive. Well, time to go for today!" She exclaimed, gathering herself up and walking unsteadily toward the door. "I'll be back soon. Use the cocoa anytime you're in need of a good story."
From that day on, every visitor that ventured into the little shop for a gulp of chocolate ended up staying much longer than originally intended, spilling over stories of fame and fortune found and lost, love and life and death. And of course she never let the tales leave the shop's walls, just as Gizelle had honored her promise.
Today, however, a peculiar exception to the slow mornings rule. A customer was already waiting at the doorsteps, leaning casually on the red-and-gold streamer-decorated railing. However this man wasn't the average townsgoer. He wore armor, and not the tarnished old-school kind. New shiny metal, so that she could see her own reflection in it. His hair hung long around his head in an auburn hue, obviously he didn't care too much about trims. Still, the messy tossled look suited him well, that much-coveted but rarely pulled-off rugged persona.
Hmmm, I'm sure he has quite a story.
"Good morning!" She waved, flipping the cardboard door sign to 'open' in its lacy calligraphy she'd provided. "Come on in, you're my first customer of the day."
When that burly bartender had informed him Lelda was working at the village candy shop, he didn't actually expect that the Princess would be working hard. Perhaps pouring tea, whining about the weight of the kettle.
"Did you decorate this place?" He asked as genuinely pleasant as he could. Despite his impatience and intolerance he was an excellent actor.
"Yes. You like it?" Her grin was sweet, like the chocolate covered marshmallow and graham cracker sandwiches tempting him through the glass counter. A princess who could cook? It wasn't possible. It defined the very physics of the universe.
"Mmmm," he nodded, surveying the window display by peering over the paper sky-painted background. "Exquisite."
This wasn't an easy mission. In the past, an arrow in the back of his target's head and the job was done. Now he was stuck tiptoeing around mousetraps. He must earn this girl's trust. He couldn't force her back to the future. Not without causing some injury or another. Trick her into coming. It could take awhile, but time was one thing on his side.
"Here, let me get you some cocoa," she said decidedly, filling a green painted cup full or her concoction.
Witch hazel, copper cinnamon, vrai pepper.
Common trickery, like a fixed deck of cards up the girl's sleeve. Not an evil, even ill-intentioned prank. Still, it was effective. And he wasn't exactly in the mood to divulge any more than he himself found appropriate.
"No, thank you," he snubbed curtley. "I'll just take a slice of cake."
She stared at him, a gawking blank blink. Pouting she trudged over to the cake pedastols and brought a slice onto a plate. "I've never had anyone turn down a cup of cocoa."
"Maybe you need to work on the recipe." Begrudgingly she sat the dish in front of him, leaning on her right elbow. There was something about her, something the little picture failed to capture. Perhaps it was the flour and chocolate powder coating that brushed her white apron and face. Or maybe the scent of sweet and sophisticated vanilla which she carried so well, yet so naturally. But more than likely it was her unyeilding spirit, the tension of the snap inside her. For that, he had to give her credit. Still, she was a spoiled-rotten snob who put herself above her kingdom. Rearing girls were so difficult, and not even worth it. He pitied the King and Queen.
"So, what's your name?" Losing her cocoa powers, she'd have to resort to traditional means of conversation.
"Lelda. But I asked you first."
"It's Eric, then."
"Well Eric then, are you new around here? I don't think I've seen you before."
"Just passing through."
"Do you travel a lot?"
"Grazing the universe."
"Where have you been? Anywhere really exciting?"
"Here and there." His tightness was beginning to wear on her nerves, he could see it. "Why so interested in me? I'd rather hear about why such a beautiful woman like you is stuck peddling treats to noisy children and sour old people."
She blushed a deep complimenting strawberry hue, a sure sign her vanity was hungry and ready to gorge on whatever it could find. He was quite self-assured that he had her like a fish in a barrel, until he met her eyes. She looked tired, as if he'd uttered the last line five hundred times before and would do it five hundred times again. What was wrong with her? All girls loved to be told they were beautiful. It was what they lived for. Why else did they spend their entire lives staring inside a piece of glass at their reflection? To ensure that it was the best it could possibly be. Any man who was smart enough to catch onto that deserved more than that uncaring distant stare. "There's nothing exciting about me. I've never traveled past Hyrule's closest borders. Never seen Termina or the islands...it must be such an adventure. Getting up in the morning and not knowing what the day will bring, or where you'll end up. No routines, no seeing the same dreary faces day after day..."
Yes, such fun. Dodging from every attack and responsibility. No one who cared if you came back dead or alive. Nowhere to even come back to. "It gets old." He scarfed down the last bite of cake, scraping the leftover buttercream frosting up with his fork. "This is great."
"Thank you!" Without hesitation she plopped another thick piece onto the empty plate. Hmmm, the best way to her heart was through her stomach, he noted like a psychiatrist on his clipboard. Either that or she was some sinister witch who's goal was to give everyone in Hyrule severe diabetes. No, he decided, looking her over. She didn't look smart enough to think that one up. Whatever. This stuff was a nice change from crackers and the occasional fish he could catch...well, maybe the extremely rare fish.... "Jeez, you look as if you haven't eaten in a millennium. Haven't you been having supper?"
"Well, I'm not exactly willing to risk my life over a meal."
"The Cucco's Nest Inn. That's where I've been staying. That girl doesn't know the difference between vinegar and water."
"You've been staying at that wretched dump?!" She gasped, horrified. "No wonder you're feeling so miserable. And to think a place like that will never, ever go out of business."
A-ha. What an easy fool, moldable as a pile of clay left in the sun all afternoon. It was easier to crack through her surface than that of an egg. "What do you mean by that?"
"Oh, nothing." She quickly supn around, pretending to be absorbed in fixing the pins holding together her chignon. Still, he could clearly see the fair skin on her bare neck flush. "Well to be completely honest with you," she recovered, "if you're a guest in Hyrule, there's few accommodations. Unless you're a guest of the Princess. Then you usually get a free room at the castle."
"You don't care for the Princess."
She whirled back around, filled with piercing defiance. "What makes you think that?" She was so funny angry, her ankle-length blue peasant style dress spinning right along with her, the lacy petticoat beneath just peeking out from beneath. The pins that held up her hair quivered atop her head, like Kokiri holding onto a raft in the Zora Rapids.
"I dunno," he shrugged nonchalantly, "I've just never heard her name spoken with such utter loathing."
"Stop that!" The queen ordered harshly, looming over her daughter and casting a darker shadow than she'd ever shivered in before. "Stop this carrying on at once!"
"Damn it, mother!" She sobbed, barely able to bring her red tear-streaked face up from her hands. "I didn't lose a floor mop today!" I lost the one person who's ever loved me! How can I replace that?" Pondering the statement a moment she decended into another fit of sobs.
Mother had grown stranger and stranger, ever since Father's death. Now it seemed as though she had switched into a rabid survivor mode, dead set on saving the monarchy. The good of both kingdoms, the honor of the family-foreign principles which Lelda was being forcefully applied to. If Mother had lost true love, could she not sympathize? Father was not some prince she wed for political arrangements. True, being the Hero of Time, held important status. But all the status in the world couldn't make Lelda feel things she didn't feel. And the only thing she would ever feel for Syncubus was hate. Of course he was a dignitary, and even if Wesley had a chance to testify it was the future ruler of both Hyrule and Devinia's word against that of a stable boy's. Lelda's claims would also be overruled, as she was a woman. For some reason that impaired her perception of reality.
Why the Queen was so insistent on this betrothment Lelda wasn't quite sure. Perhaps it was the aging woman's realization of her own mortality. That combined with the notion that she had failed in raising a daughter prepared in running a kingdom which would not crumble into ruin. Someone from the outside needed to be brought in who could ensure their prosperity. And to Zelda, Syncubus fit the mold.
Such plans may look good on paper, but it wasn't as if the queen were asking her to perform a tea ceremony for bad company. She was making her become this man's wife, to take a vow for all eternity. To sleep in the same bed with him every night and have his children- how could she possibly when she despised him so?
Wesley had given her a hope. Shown to her a world she never knew existed for her. A world of love and passion, emotions that ran much deeper than wealth and beauty. He was the only person who'd ever taken the time to tap into her soul and find something more exquisite, rarer than diamonds. And in a morning's wake he was gone. And with him went that hope. What was there left to go on for now?
"Dry your eyes," she demanded, "you knew it would not last. He received his dismissal yesterday. He would have been long gone by now anyways."
"Wesley never would leave me! You couldn't have stopped him; Din, Nayru, and Farore couldn't tear us apart either! And even Syncubus can't destroy our love by locking him away from me. I will never, ever consent to marrying him."
In one swift movement, before she could even realize what was happening, the Queen swung her arm behind her and spun around, smacking her across the face. No one, not even one of her parents, had even thought of hitting her before. She shivered, not with pain but with genuine fear. The Queen looked about twenty years younger than she had just a few moments ago, enraged over a matter Lelda was yet to be aware of. Her graying hair hung around her fiery head in little wisps, like a silver dragon she stood. Lelda cowered before her, terrified she was about to be devoured but much too proud to beg for mercy. "You little slut."
This could not be her mother. Not the woman who shot her dissapproving glance at the King whenever he uttered the word "damn", who went to great lengths to ensure a ladybug's safe exit of the castle's interior. She had been pushed, tipped off the brink into insanity. It had crossed the Princess's mind before, but more jokingly than seriously. This was the first time her speculations had come to life so vividly.
"Are you trying to ruin this family?" She towered above her, ready to strike again. "Erupt all of our lives in scandal? How much respect could we possibly expect from our subjects when they were all reeling with the news that their Princess was sleeping with the boy who shovels shit out of the castle horse stalls?"
"Mother, please," her voice, a shaky plea, rose daringly from her throat. "I know they don't understand. You don't understand. If you could have seen the feelings between us..."
"You are a Princess! Everyone is watching you, depending on you. You CANNOT go around, acting like a common whore!"
A whore?! A girl who would let any man have her who tossed out a few rupees? If that's truly the extent of the depths the Queen believed Lelda and Wesley's relationship ran, hope had truly been locked away with him.
"You accuse me of being a slut and a whore, when you're the one peddling me off to the highest bidder!"
Another slap in the face, bitter and harsh. She couldn't bring herself to meet her mother's eyes, afraid of what she'd see. "Syncubus is going to propose to you tonight at the party."
"No..." she put a hand to her throat, feeling as if a noose had been placed over her head. Her mother, waiting to let the floor out from under her.
"You will accept, and be gracious..."
"No, mother! He's not a good man, like he is around you." She pleaded, striving to appeal to any bit of sympathy that may exist in her mother's heart. "I've heard him, heard of his plans for Hyrule..."
"Your highness." Yet another shadow cast over the princess's face. Even a distance behind the Queen she could feel that chill in the air. He strided forward, intensely handsome- and well aware of it. He stood and held himself on a pedastol of arrogance, appraising everything around him. A cluster of wildflowers were Worthless. A river full of ruby salmon was Money. She could feel him examining her now, calculating in his head how much she could be worth to him. His eyes flicked from her breasts to her face, then back again. He had to be almost seven feet tall from her own judgement, larger muscles than she'd ever seen on a human being, so strong he could easily lift a Goron, a Zora, and a Kokiri over his head the way Lelda could lift a thinly-bound book. His eyes were two colorless abysmal pits, which burned with the fires of Hell. She could conceive how from a distance how the women of court would swoon. Get only slightly closer, however, and you would know something was gravely wrong.
"Prince Syncubus," she said, relieved.
"A moment with the Princess?"
"Of course." Well for God's sake, Zelda was just finding Grottos all over the place. With a few quick strides she was gone, the door shut tightly behind her.
"You know Wesley didn't steal that scepter," she hissed, glaring up at his half-amused face. Swiftly he grabbed her arm, his hand reaching from her wrist almost two-thirds to her elbow. She could feel the tension, pain crumpling her to the point of tears. He could break her bone as easily as a dry twig.
"I'd really hate to see anything happen to tha boy, wouldn't you?" He watched her wither with sadistic pleasure, "that prison in the fortress is awfully run-down. Underground like that...it's been known to cave in on occasion. It would be a shame if there were some kind of accident like that."
She could have almost sworn her heart stopped beating. The pain became secondary to her intense worry. "Syncubus, no. No..."
"I'd suggest you make a resolution to start being a good girl. I'm sure you wouldn't want anyone you care about to get hurt."
"I'll be honest with you," she decided, gazing off into some other world. "The Princess is not one of my favorite poeple. But I'd rather keep my distance than lead some revolution. I don't want to hurt Hyrule, I just wish..." she trailed off, officially lost from the simple candy world she seemed to flourish in.
"So about these inns," he circled back, "do you know of a better one?"
"What's that?" She gave a nervous jump, the haziness about her fading. "Oh. Let me think."
"You wouldn't be renting, would you?"
"Me? No, this isn't really my shop," she explained, waving her hand around the room. "I just work here. And asking Schroder for a favor is like asking King Zora to do a situp. I've got my own cottage, but it's frightfully small."
"Is that an invatation?"
"I don't mean to impose."
"No, of course not."
"You wouldn't happen to have an extra guest room?"
"Well, there's the front room..."
"I would be more than willing to pay rent. In advance, if necessary. That is, if you cook at home as well as you do in your store."
She looked him over, squinting her huge blue eyes into little slits, trying to see through his rakish charm if he was one worthy of a chance. "Come back here at sunset," she concluded, "that's when I close up and go home."
"Thank you, m'lady," he gave her a quick nod, his hair falling over his deep brown eyes. "I'll see you this evening, then."
"Invitin' men into your home?!" Gizelle giggled, a strange kind of old lady giggle that sounded like a cat hacking up a wad of fur from its throat. "What would your mother think?"
"Gizelle, have I ever given a shit what my mother thinks?"
"The day you do, I'll know I've greatly overestimated you."
Lelda had never had a grandmother to confide in, but Gizelle was everything she could have ever wished for the role. She visited every day at noon, cheering the weary girl up and dispensing her golden advice when it was desired. Today she was wearing her favorite scarf, in honor of the new cafe. Now she sat on the bar stool, practically inhaling her bowl of split pea soup and cheese bread muffin.
"I wouldn't worry about that if I were you. He's just a guest," she gave her a wry look, quickly comprehending the woman's thoughts. "nothing like that is going to happen."
"Was he handsome?" She pried, watching with glee as Lelda's lips creeped up into a fond smile.
"Yes...but so what? I don't know the boy. It's not as if I jump into bed with anything that moves."
"Well, get to know him. You're so young, and there's an entire world that's waiting for you out there. Having just one true love in your life," she said, seeming calm and almost serious, is so very very rare it's a universal oddity. Most all of us get our hearts broken at least once before that 'thing' comes. Listen to me little princess," she implored, taking Lelda's hands in her own pair, which were long and shaky and worn like old leather. She stared into the girl's face, as if looking into that of her own daughter's. "I know how much you loved Wesley. I believe in that love, and I know it will last forever. But you will find someone again. Look around you, at all the opportunities the gods have blessed you with. Don't let your life end with just one heartbreak."
Listening to Gizelle's words she found herself trembling nearly as much as she. A huge heavy lump rose in her throat, making it almost impossible to swollow. Desperately she fought the tears which were dying to burst free. "I'm..." she choked, "I'm scared."
"Dear," she murmured, reaching up to stroke her cheek and catching a single salty crystal drop, which had broken away. "Of course you're scared. Love is scary. Life is scary. That's why it's worth living."
It was popular in Market City for people to claim that the sunsets at Hyrule Castle were the most beautiful to be seen. Whoever believed this had obviously never been to Lake Hylia. The water waved slightly like scales on a grand fish, shimmering brighter than the stars with the dying sun's last lights. The sky gleamed and pink and violet, the clouds becoming golden nuggets that only the flighty birds could reach.
The grass surrounding them was tall, wheaty and super-sensitive to even the slightest of breezes. As she lie on her back staring up at the heavens she could see the tips, wisping around above her seeming to scrape the sky.
When she sat like this with the sun melting away above her Wesley would call her Hime Hi, Sun Princess, with her hair spun all around her face like the golden rays of the sun. He loved to play with those shining locks, braiding them into a sloppy mess and sticking little flowers he'd find into them. In the end she looked like some fairy sprite who just stepped outside of a rosebud. Today, however, the sunset seemed to lack its usual luster, and her face was sullen and quiet.
"Lelda," he lay next to her, weaving his hand through the strands, "what's wrong? You seem so unhappy."
"Mmmm," she murmured, snuggling over closer to him and closing her eyes, basking in warmth. He put his arm around her, holding her close. Never did she want to leave this little world; the sun and the grass and her Wesley.
"When do you have to go back to Devinia?"
"Tomorrow," she murmured, not fighting hard against the drowsy sleepy feeling taking her over.
"Wesley, do we have to talk about it?" She begged gently, gazing up at his face with a playful pout.
"You can't just keep pushing it to the back of your head. Your mother is obviously very serious about this."
"I told you, it's all politics. They're not going to make me marry this boy. That's got to be illegal or something."
His grip became tighter around her body, as if a hurricane had just risen to carry her away. "This is more serious than you seem to like to tell yourself, Hime Hi. I talked to Nerissa this afternoon." Nerissa was a servant girl who worked inside of the castle, mainly as one of the Queen's assistant's hands. Lelda lifted her head up, curiously. "She's been present at some of these meetings that the Queen's been holding with that King from over there and his council and staff. Lelda, this isn't just politics. She's seriously giving you over to that Prince."
"She's already given him permission to pursue your hand in marriage. There's nothing either of us can do to stop them."
"Wesley, tell me you're joking."
Not a word escaped his throat, but the sorrow in his eyes spoke volumes that words could not. "Lelda, you know I would do anything in this world or the next for you. But this is something I'm absolutely powerless against. And it tears me up inside..." his fists clenched, speaking through gritted teeth, "that I'm not worthy enough to even protect you."
"Don't say that!" She pleaded, running her hand through his own hair, feeling the stubble on his face scratch her forearm. "Mother doesn't know about you and I. When she finds out that I've already found someone I love with all my heart and soul, she'll cancel any such plans she's made. She's not a woman without a heart. She's always wished for what's best for me. Even if I don't seem to agree with her," she laughed softly. They were hushed for a long while, until the rich sky had almost been overcome with low-hanging stars. "Wesley...did you ever learn about my father in school?"
"Of course. I did a huge report on him in forth grade. Got to dress up in a green tunic and get up in front of the class and play Zelda's Lullaby on the Ocarina."
"I wonder..." she thought aloud, "what he would want us to remember after he was gone. What he did, or who he was."
"There's so much of you in him," he perceived, lowering back down into the grass.
"Really?" A melancholy smile spread across her face. "Everyone has always told me I look like my mother."
"Yes, you do. But your spirit; that hatred of being fenced in, that longing for adventure, your courage and bravery and heart...you're a Hero of Time in your own right."
"Wesley," asked Lelda as she sat back, the young man leaning forward to kiss her, "do you love me?"
"Does the sun rise over this lake in the morning?"
"Yes, but what if it's cloudy?" She grinned, being difficult.
"Even through clouds, the sunlight still reaches the grass. Now, are you going to let me kiss you or are you going to be mean?"
"I'm never mean," she jerked forward, planting a quick peck on his cheeck before scampering off. "But first you're gonna hafta catch me!!"
Eric knew when to admit defeat. Only a fool wishing death upon himself would do otherwise. And defeat was easy to accept. The hard part was admitting he had underestimated, not taking the tiem to calculate the speed at which a deer could dash across the meadow. In his past he'd dealt with royalty only on rare occasion, and even then it was strictly in a court or formal setting. This scenario wasn't in any manual, nor in the experienec bank of anyone he could think of. Princesses, in general, had an enormous reputation of being easy broads. Their whole lives revolved around the zen of beauty, and they hunted compliments like Wolfos on a field rabbit. If you were the least bit clever you could have any one of them. Except the rebels.
Lelda was a rebel. He could see that right off. Being a rebel himself he could tell another from a mile away. Although that didn't make them at all related. Lelda's rebellion was so selfish, indulgent, and futile. Skip decades to escape an arranged marriage? She wasn't running from supression or violence or slavery. She had the nerve to snub a life of privelage with beautiful clothes, lavish meals, full education, and armies of security. He could name hundreds of girls right off the top of his head who would sell their very souls for just a day having what Lelda had. Girls who worked farms as hard as the mules beside them, girls who were forced to choose between starving or selling themselves off to strange men, girls who had to lie and steal to survive and were doomed to death when they were caught. Lelda would never have to bear any of that on her small slender shoulders, but she still threw it back in destiny's face.
Still, it was clear that the way into her heart wasn't an easy road. Girls like her were extremely loyal. To their ideas, principles, and loves. Hard to earn that loyalty but twice as hard to lose it. If he could make the Ice Princess fall for him he could herd her back to the future like a sheep.
The sun was low in the sky, ready to give birth to the pumpkin-like harvest moon. It was springtime in Hyrule, red and white geraniums lining all the shop's window boxes and bringing the Market together in floral harmony. He could see her inside, brushing a feather duster across her counters and shelves. She took such pride in what she did, as if all those truffles and petit fores were her own children. He felt a tiny pang inside of guilt for detesting her so, she wasn't quite as horrid as he'd painted her before. At least she'd found something semi-constructive to do with her time.
As she locked the door she turned the sign to 'Closed', and greeted him with a warm smile. "I haven't made enough money yet to buy a horse," she explained, walking out toward the bridge as Eric followed. An occasional shout would come from around them, and she would wave back accordingly, stopping a few times for some brief moments of conversation. She seemed well-liked and admired by these people, this woman of chocolate. She didn't fail to introduce him to a single soul, and he gave a pleasant nod and smile.
Across the bridge and into the field Lelda kicked off her brown heavy-looking shoes, walking across the grass barefooted. Before he could catch it a smile spread across his face, watching this girl dance across the muddy field. With an orchestra of crickets and owls the moonlight shone in her eyes, and he couldn't remember anything so beautiful ever before. Shedding the uncomfortable bulky boots of day and decending into the evening like a fairy creature. He could almost see the dainty wings unfolding from her back.
Blinking he shoved the thought away. Some of the most beautiful things in the world were the most deadly.
The cottage was a wreck. With a straw thatched roof it barely stood at all at Lake Hylia's shore, praying that no waves would conjour themselves up to strike. It wouldn't stand a chance. Tiny, too. A front room that combined elements of a kitchen and sitting parlor, and a bedroom beyond. Being as she woke up so early and came home tired, dusting and picking up clutter made about as much sense to her as hanging clothes out to dry in a hurricane. In short the shabby little excuse for a house's decor consisted of clothes and dirty dishes strewn about, crowning rickety chairs and a small table basking in the glow of a fire. A pot of soup steamed in the flames, the hearty smell permeating throughout.
Despite how the place may seem to others, she never felt so satisfied as when she walked through its door. It was Her Home, a place she'd earned with her own hard work and determination. A castle could never hold that kind of gratification for her.
Hastily she flung the mess from the furniature into the corner, sweeping away particularly noticable dust with the back of her hand. "Make yourself at home," she offered, taking two clean bowls out of the cabinet and ladling them to the brims with the pot's stew. "Try it," she coaxed, handing the seated Eric a bowl and bringing her own back to the chair across from him. "Zora chowder. Their coveted secret recipe."
"Good," he slurped up the whole thing before Lelda even had the chance to swallow a spoonful. "How did you happen to get it?"
"One of the regulars down at the shop. It was a gift."
"You have many friends?"
She reflected a moment on the question, pondering her answer. "More than I ever had in my life, before I began working the shop. I try to bring something good to people's lives. If they come in looking for comfort food, they're probably in need of some good conversation as well. It's funny, though," she added, staring down into the soup as if it held the key to some great mystery of life, "how sometimes, when you have the most people around you, that's when you feel the very loneliest."
"What did you do before you started there?"
"Not much." She'd created a simple little tale for when these kinds of questions came up, one so boring it needed not be pressed. "I was born here in town, went to school in Kakariko...worked at the ranch during my summers. You?"
"Grew up on the outskirts of the valley, went to school....fished."
"Oh." She wasn't sure, but she had a feeling each of them knew the other was lying through their teeth. Ah well, it was much more pleasant this way. "Let me get you a blanket," she said, standing back up as her supper was finished.
"No, don't bother. I don't care for the things. Too comforting."
"I see." Hastily she tossed the bowl in the washing basin's growing food-crusted collection. "Good night."
"Thank you," he called after her as she headed inside her bedroom, "for the soup."
"You're welcome. Sweet dreams."
As she slipped into her own bed she held her breath, straining to hear his breathing through the walls, not able to drift into sleep from wondering if Eric felt the longing too...
Lelda could feel her heart hammering in her throat, the rythm growing faster than it ever had before. Mud sloshing up to her knees, her calves feeling like lead from the running. It was fall, slowly freezing into winter and pouring down in almost sleetlike rain. The water soaked through her red shawl, plastering her clothes to her skin and turning the dirt path into a sinkhole. Pressing on she continued, discomfort overshadowed by the fear that fueled her exhausted body. It can't be too late. Surely he would not have left before saying goodbye.
Her hair had turned into molten gold, sticking around her neck and shoulders. She could feel the makeup on her face melting off, leaving revolting smears on her cheeks. With a final burst of strength she thrust the stable door open, stumbling in across the soft hay that had begun to gather, waiting for its need during the long barren winter.
"Lelda," she could feel his arms lifting her out from the straw-covered floor. "Lelda," he murmured, holding her tightly to his chest. He smelled of grass and fresh rain, crisp and classic. His hands rubbed up and down her back, making her feel warm and safe. As if no one could hurt her in his embrace. She could feel his breath tickle her ear and neck, and she felt sick. Not from the running or the rain, but with a longing of the likes she'd never experienced before. A madly animal hunger for the safety and warmth that possessed every physical and spiritual piece of her body she felt with him. For more of it, deeper and stronger and closer than it had ever been before.
Slowly she lifted her face back up, where she met with his tender kiss meeting the corner of her mouth, moving once more to the center of her lips. She was overcome with a wave of emotion. Her knees trembled and nearly gave way beneath her. She was held up only by Westly's strong arms and hot lips molding passionately with her own. Suddenly she felt his warm, moist tounge slide between her lips to carress hers and she curled her fingers into his soft mess of hair. Passion filled her as she felt his strong hand move slowly up her side to gently cup her breast. She gasped at the sensation of it, such as she had never felt before. He took advantage of this to bury his face in the tender flesh of her neck, kissing softly. He kissed gradually upward until she felt his hot breath in her ear. The sensation made her shiver.
"Oh, Lelda," he breathed,"Lelda, you are so beautiful."
He might as well have thrown a bucket of ice water on her. She released her arms from where they were wrapped tightly around his neck and turned her back to him.
"Am I?"she asked flatly, feeling nearly ready to vomit. She folded her arms defensively over her chest.
"Lelda, what's wrong? Of course you are," he said in a voice that made her heart ache. She turned halfway to face him with narrowed eyes. His face had the look of a forlorn and bewildered puppy suddenly begrudged it's playmate.
"Yes. Yes, I suppose I must be." She said coldly. Completely nauseated she turned and ran back into the rain.
Yes. Yes that's all it is, isn't it, she thought despairingly as she ran blindly through the sleet, He's not any different. Why should he have been any different?! Why?! I should have known. Her legs now felt like rubber from all the previous running and every gasp of cold air she took felt like needles in her throat. There was no way she could run all the way back to the castle, and she could hear Wesley's tiny-sounding voice calling from behind her.
"Lelda! Lelda, come back!" Off to her left she could just make out the shadowed gray outline of the barn, where the bulk of the livestock's food supply was stocked, and just now it seemed a haven, for she certainly did not wish Westly to catch her. She sloshed her way to the barn and yanked at the heavy door with many unsurpressable angry shreiks and sobs. She managed to haul open the door enough for just her slender figure to squeeze through. She was sobbing uncontrollably now and didn't bother to shut the door behind her as she climbed clumsily up the wooden ladder into the sweet-smelling haven of the hay loft. Her head spun when she reached the top and she collapsed gratefully into the soft, inviting hay where she could wallow in self-pity and injustice.
She never knew how long she lay there weeping before she felt a light hand on her back and a soft, regretful voice say, "I'm sorry if I scared you, Lelda. I didn't mean to. You know I love you. Please forgive me, I really didn't want to hurt you."
Her sobs subsided and now only hot, angry tears trailed unheeded down her face. "It doesn't matter. Go away Wesley, I don't want to see you anymore."
Wesley looked as if she had suddenly stabbed him unprovoked, though the heart. "What?! Why not?! Please Lelda, please tell me what I did to upset you so. I-I....you can't just leave me! I need you!"
Fury licked though Lelda's body like a fire. She sat up to face him. "Need me?! For what?! Ask yourself Wesley, for what?! What is it about me that you need so badly. Shall I tell you? I know the answer, I've known it all along but never wanted to face it before."
Her heart ached as he stared at her with his green, tear-filled eyes. Again like a puppy being beaten by it's master for a crime it was unaware it committed. Still, it needed to be said. "My beauty Wesley, nothing more. That's all anyone's ever wanted me for," thinking bitterly of her mother," or needed me for. No one really knows me and I doubt they care. But I'm not going to just give myself to anyone who doesn't and....what ARE you laughing at?!"
Lelda sat confused, yet enraged as Wesley crouched doubled over, face hidden and shoulders shaking with muffled laughter. Her lip trembled and her eyes burned with fresh tears. He wasn't taking her seriously. In fact, the little bastard seemed to be making fun of her!
"It's not FUNNY Wesley,"she cried, her voice breaking,"You can't even take me seriously when I'm pouring out my heart to you, and worse still, you have the nerve to LAUGH at me! Get out of here Wesley, I hope I never see you again!" She buried her face in her hands and turned once again back down into the hay.
"B-but Lelda,"said Wesley in between barely surpressed chuckles,"Y-you."Wesley suddenly burst into uproarous laughter."Lelda you look....you look hideous!"
"What?" Lelda slowly raised herself up on one elbow to peer at him. Surely he'd gone mad! Wesley continued to laugh hysterically at her, holding his sides as if it caused him pain.
"Yes darling, I'm sorry. But just now you look like death warmed over, you have since you stumbled right onto your pretty little backside in the stable earlier." Lelda was utterly shocked. She stared at Wesley in total disbelief. No one had ever said such things to her before, not as long as she'd lived. Especially not any man! She unconciously raised a hand and touched her hair, where she felt several pieces of straw matted into the damp and frizzled mess. She moved it quickly to wipe her cheek, and saw a large amount of mascara appear on her fingers.
My God, she thought in disbelief, I must look awful. Then why- "B-but Wesley,"she said,"then why....why did you say you love me? How can you? If you think I'm ugly then why-"
"I don't think you're ugly Lelda, and that's not the point," he said as he pulled a clean handkercheif out of his pocket. Leaning forward he used it to gently rub the tears and melted makeup off of her reddened face. "I mean look at you. Your face is melting, there's straw in your hair, your eyes are puffier than mushrooms and yet....,"he stared into her eyes and smiled,"Right now, I think I love you more than I ever have in my entire life. You're always beautiful to me Lelda."
Her heart melted, she threw her arms around his neck and nearly burst into sobs again. "Oh Wesley,"she cried, moving her mouth to meet his again,"I love you! I'm sorry, don't ever leave me."
He loves me! He really and truly loves ME! She thought joyously as she eagarly kissed him over and over again. Both rising simultaniously to their knees, they embraced, both crying, both kissing as if their lives would soon come to an end. Slowly Wesley moved his hand down her back and eased her gently backwards into the hay.
"I won't ever lose you Lelda," he said, his voice now deep and sexy with passion. Kneeling over her, he moved her damp shawl from her shoulders and began unlacing the strings holding her bodice shut with skillful fingers. He was breathing heavily now, somehow a sense of urgency filling the air. Frustrated he grabbed the edges of her bodice and savagely ripped it the rest of the way open, exposing her breasts. She gasped and instinctively covered them with her hands, but he moved them away to bury his face in her soft chest. She began breathing more heavily at the sensations of his hot breath and hands on her breasts, his warm tounge caressing her nipples. She began frantically unbuttoning his shirt, wanting, needing to be closer to him.
Sitting up he assisted her by pulling his shirt off and tossing it away like a rag. Leaning down again he pressed his chest against her's in a hot embrace, warmer and closer than anything either of them had ever experienced before. Both sweet and overpoweringly sexual at the same time. Kissing him more passionately than she knew was possible, she slid her hand down his stomach and into his pants, something she'd never even thought of daring before. He gasped as she touched him gently, then more desperately, still needing to be ever closer to him. Now completely overcome with desire, he pulled her skirt off leaving her completely exposed. Lelda's heart was pounding so she thought it would burst from her chest. She put her arms around his neck as he lowered himself slowly over her, staring steadfastly into her flaming blue eyes. She knew what was going to happen next, and yet she didn't know. Whatever it was, it was with Wesley, so she wanted it to happen.
Suddenly she felt it, his hot body painfully entering hers. She felt her inner flesh tear and bleed, making her cry out. Still Wesley stared into her eyes, never once averting them. Soon their two bodies, were moving beautifully, intimately, as one. Moaning softly she bit down on her lower lip, a few rogue tears escaping down her flushed cheeks. He paused for a brief moment to brush it away with his trembling fingers. "Are you-"
"No," she breathed, digging her fingernails into his shoulders and leaving little crescent-moon marks, pushing him back inside of her. With every rhythmic motion she felt lifted higher, her breath shorter and faster. She felt possessed by some kind of almost animalistic hunger until she finally let out a scream of pleasure. Her tensed muscles went completely limp as a rag doll, in a state of relaxed and soaring escasy. Wesley's strong body collapsed atop her own, his head resting in between her soft breasts. Her racing heart pounded against his cheek, and slowly they came back down together. Their breathing returning to normal deep inhalation and exhaltation. A few timeless minutes passed before he reached up and smoothed her hair, removing a few pieces of tangled straw. She looked up at him, her sweet face gentle with the serenity of an angel. "Thank you, Wesley," she whispered, tracing the outlines of his face with her fingertips. "I never wanted to share that with anyone but you." Her neck craned up to meet his lips once more, tender and sweeter than the finest chocolates. He moved down her throat and neck, back down to her heart. "Wesley," she lifted a finger to his lips, "I want to be with you like this forever. Every single night, from here until forever. Run away with me," she proposed, "let's leave this place. Forget we ever were came from this place called Hyrule. I could become your wife, and both our dreams would come true..."
"Lelda," he spoke, his voice full of empathy, "you know you can't do that. Our kingdom is counting on you to be there for it, for better or worse. You're such a unique and wonderful person, it needs a leader like you." he lied down next to her, and she nestled up against his warm body.
"I can't marry him, Wesley. My heart belongs to you, and it always will. I can't go against it, no matter what my mother or Edmuch or anyone else says."
"I know," he murmured, "and I will do everything in and beyond my power to stop it. And I promise you, I will. No matter what, I will find a way to prove myself to your mother and anyone else who tries to stand in my way. We'll never be apart again."
Lelda screamed as her entire body jerked forward, choking her blue and yellow Triforce quilt with a death grip. Her hands were clammy and shook as she tried to pull herself out of the dreamworld.
Wesley...where is he? He promised he wouldn't go, that he loved me...
No, it was just a memory. Scattered like ashes in the wind, he'd dissappeared, stolen by a thief out to ravage everything she had. That one night they'd shared was the only time she'd felt that kind of love. Holding her up, lifting them both to a state of complete togetherness and escasy. It was a feeling Syncubus's touch could never bring her to.
"Lelda," a crack of light in the door. She let out a tiny gasp, pulling the blankets up around her shoulders. For just a brief moment she believed it was her stable boy, returning after almost fatal misunderstandings to claim her once more.
"Eric," she said, remembering the guest that was gracing her home. "Come in," she offered, leaning against her pillow propped up on the headboard. "I apoligize, I didn't mean to wake you." "Don't worry about it," he reassured her, taking a seat on an old apple create across from her bed. "You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, it's okay."
"Nightmare? Monsters? Rabid fairy attack?"
She shook her head slowly, picking at a stray piece of thread sticking out from the quilt. "Eric, can I ask you something?"
"You can ask."
"Have you ever been in love?"
"Love?!" He stared at her strangely, as if she'd just asked him if he liked to pick his nose in public.
"Never mind." She smiled weakly, slipping back down onto her back. "Really, I'm all right. Juts a stupid dream, that's all. I'll try not to wake you again."
"All right, see you again in a couple of hours then."
As he closed the door and darkness once again engulfed the small bedroom, she felt an agonizing compulsion to run after him. Please stay, I feel so alone...
With a dissatisfied sigh she cocooned herself back up, sailing off into the angry sea of her past once more.
What a baffling case. Tortured by some kind of demon, her sweet sugar-coated persona was most obviously a well-crafted and rarely questioned mask. People, especially the simple towndwellers, normally didn't like to uncover things that could be ugly underneath. It was a very gilded world they put on for themselves. But what was it that ate away at her so? Guilt? Hmph, that's what she should be feeling. Selfish little bitch, it wasn't likely she'd have any kind of repentance for the damage she'd caused.
Love. Granted Eric had come up for this mission somewhat blindly, not spending much time in Hyrule before. He knew of Zelda and Link and the contributions to a peaceful world they'd made, that was common legend most everywhere. He'd even caught wind about the fact that their only heir was a disobedient female. But truth be told, he was far from knowing any kind of intimate details about her life.
Love...perhaps that was the phantom in her mind. Whom could it be? Her fiance? Not likely, considering the measures she'd taken to escape their marriage. Princesses and other girls of nobility frequently were corrupted by images of romance in storybooks and songs and went on disgraceful premarital flings with the lowliest of men, murderers and forest roamers whose dangerous cutthroat lives appealed to the fulfillment of their fantasies. These con-artists preyed on girls who had yet to grasp that their vows were meant to be used for the betterment of society, fooling them shamelessly into believing that they were the knights in shining armor sent to save them from their obligations. Lelda had probably fallen into this trap like a mouse on a hunk of brie. This world was a man's game, and women were just another prize that popped out of the treasure chest. When they tried to go against that, they only ended up hurting themselves.
Love was something he'd never really had, nothing he'd ever wanted or had the patience for. Orphaned from a young age he had survived by means hardly considered legal. Taking what he needed to eat by either stealing or in exchange for smuggling something for a shady character, the scum of the streets were quick to recidnize his agility and unsurpassed aim. The combination of skill and numbness in the heart after a childhood of struggle led quite nicely to his acceptance into Cuadernos Military Academy in his homeworld of Granseal, where he was trained with back-breaking discipline to become one of the world's most deadly assassins. He lived for the mission at hand, not burdening himself with any kind of alleigance to anyone else. In order to achieve the goal he occasionaly had to gain the trust of others, only to discard them after he was finished. That's all people were. Stepping stones.
A short little page boy entered the simply-decorated room, addressing the Hylian diplomats with a respectful bow. With a proudly perfected flick of the wrist he unrolled a parchment scroll. This wasn't the formal throne room, that would attract way too much publicity. This small place under guard of Devinia's forces was much more appropriate. "Her royal highness Queen Zelda, her daughter Princess Lelda, High Constable Henri Edmuch, Commander of the Guard Morcello Marccino, Lady and Lord..." he droned on, taking exaggerated pauses for breath with his amazingly high-pitched voice piercing the air, rattling off meaningless titles and names, "The subjects and court of the Devinia Nations welcome you." He glanced up, clearing his throat. Together the Hylians stood, preparing to formally meet with their Devinian counterparts.
The first to enter the room was the King, an older man with graying hair and deeply dark skin which was beginning to shrivel up into a brownish charcoal hue. Despite the wrath of age he had to stoop down to fit through the door, seeming to have faded away from his once strong and fierce stature. Seeming to submit into the shadows, knowing his reign and time were coming to a close. He must have been quite intimidating in his prime, striking fear into the hearts of many a grown man. A handful of other dignitaries followed after him, whom she was easily able to ignore until the page began, "and at last his majesty and heir to the Devinian throne, Prince Syncubus the Second."
She watched him enter, filled with anxious anticipation. He had a strong resemblance to his father, just as tall at least. But there was something odd about him, something that made her insides churn and her skin crawl. As soon as he'd taken a seat he locked his eyes on her. A stare that possessed her to tear away, to escape this conference to discuss her doom. A few formal greetings were exchanged before the King raised his hand for silence. "This meeting has been called for the newly-introduced worlds of Devinia and Hyrule to meet together and discuss resolutions to ensure the ongoing peace agreements between them."
"King Syncubus," the Queen said in that quiet voice everyone jumped to listen to with a breathtaking intensity, "I believe that High Constable Edmuch would be willing to explain our previously proposed solution to the rest of the court."
"Speak," he ordered with the wave of his hand.
As she had been watching the speakers her gaze averted over to the Prince, who was still gaping at her unwaveringly. Her eyebrows narrowed slightly with incomprehension, and a sick smile twisted in his lips, like he was watching an ant vaporize under a chip of glass. She darted her eyes away, unable to sustain looking at it.
Clearing his throat the Constable stood, acknowledging the court with a nod. "On the King and Queen's first initial forum they came to the mutual agreement that while treaties may retain temporary harmony, they will not be enough to be effective in the long term prosperity of the two worlds. The best way to deal with resolving these conflicts is to unite the two kingdoms into one vast world under one flag, brought together by the marriage of Prince Syncubus and Princess Lelda, wheras a new great capital will be constructed..."
He went on and on, raving of how he theorized that this "grand marriage" could benefit agricultural production and growth, lower crime rates, and minimize water pollution. She looked around expecting to see scoffs and stifled laughter, and was shocked by the serious nods and murmurs of approval that radiated around like waves on the still lake.
"The council admits it is intruiged by your ideas," some Devinia lord or another said as Edmuch sat back down, "and we wish to investigate this option further, with the consent of our Prince."
Of course. Who cares how I feel about the matter? No one would even think of asking for my consent on the matter.
With a grunty nod his decision was made. The meeting began to fragment into private conversations and barely noticed exits. Lelda stood huddled next to her mother, shivering like mad. "Stop fidgeting, Lelda," hissed the Queen.
"I can't help it, Mother. It's freezing in here."
"It's just fine. You're going to cause a scene."
I'm not a China doll. I can't always be cemented in pose...
A frigid claw grasped her shoulder, thick feelings of danger racing through her veins. "Princess Lelda. I don't believe we've been properly introduced."
She pursed her lips together, faking a pleasant yet tight smile. "No, I don't think so," she turned around to face him. He was handsome by Venus's standards, but his head was so filled with his own vanity and arrogance it seemed about to explode. And that ice that followed him in that thick aura; it just wasn't right.
"Queen Zelda, you didn't tell me how stunning your daughter was," he observed, as if she weren't even there.
"That's very kind of you," the fading beauty, whom looked so much like Lelda did now in the old portraits, smiled.
He scanned over her from head to toe with his deeply-set eyes, lingering on her body before forcing them to meet with her face once more. Her hands curled into fists at her sides. If Wesley were here he'd beat this man within an inch of his life, no matter what he was prince of.
"I'd like to see more of you, Princess," he decided. Raising his arm he snapped his fingers, and in an instant a servant girl was at his side. "Girl, alert the staff that we're going to be haing a grand dinner next Saturday evening. Just the two of us. To get to know each other a little better," he smirked.
"That would be lovely," Lelda said, her voice telling tales of the opposite.
Some mornings were just plain icky. You woke up, you could feel your pores clogging, and your hair made people ask if you'd just survived some sort of electrocution. In the old days, Lelda had about two dozen people all working ferenzically around her to make the problems go away. Now, staring at the mirror, she realized she didn't have a clue.
What happens when you sleep to make you look so horrible when you wake up? You're just lying there. And if you're getting well-rested, shouldn't you find yourself in the morning looking better?! With a few futile sweeps of her brush she trudged out into her front room, greeted by the sounds and smells of a morning kitchen. Rubbing her eyes she focused on Eric, who was pouring something out from the kettle. "Eric?"
"Good morning," he said, walking over with two mugs in hand. "Coffee?"
"Thank you," she said gratefully, guzzling down the bitter drink and feeling the roof of her mouth burn. "How long have you been up?"
"Oh, a couple hours. I don't spend much time sleeping."
"I see." She sat down on her semi-padded chair, pulling her knees up to her chest. "Are you coming along with me to the shop today, or did you have a previous engagement?"
"Did you want me to come along?"
She shrugged, getting up herself to refill her cup. "It's boring stuff. But I never turn down extra company."
"As long as I wouldn't be an annoyance..."
"Of course not."
"Count me in."
This was inconceivable. The little blonde princess was someone he'd never credit with intelligence. But she'd seemed brighter than this. Normally he'd be laughing, like watching a rabbit trying futily to escape a trap. But this was just a nusiance.
"I can't believe this!" The nervous Edmuch paced around the council room, his balding head like a ripe tomato on his stubby figure. "I had three times as many guards as required watching the Princess. How could she have stolen the Ocarina undetected?!"
Syncubus glared at him, the bumbling fool. All these pawns he had to deal with. The High Constable had agreed to help him by manipulating the Queen and council into believing in this marriage. Quickly he was proving he was much more difficulty than he was worth. Ah well. His throat would be slit soon enough, along with Queen Zelda and all the other morons that he no longer needed.
"Get out of here," he grabbed him by the collar mid-pace and shoved him out the door. "The Queen's going to be meeting with me."
"Yes, sir," he cowered, scampering away like the dispicable rat he was. He should have known better than to go for Edmuch's near-sighted plan. If he would have been listening to himsel he would have taken Hyrule by force. But no, he had sold him and the Queen on this 'diplomatic' conspiracy. It was too late to back out now. He should have advised the Queen to invest in a thirty story well-guarded tower to lock her daughter in.
Yet he had to admit, the Princess's will made his quest for Hyrule all the more enjoyable. There was no question in his mind that he could have any woman he desired. But he didn't want just any woman. He had the fastest horse, the largest military, the most lavish castle. And he would settle for no less than the loveliest, most lusted-after girl under the heavens. And Lelda, Princess of Hyrule, was that girl. Being as she wasn't easy just made him even more determined to have her. When he broke her spirits into submission it would be an excellent show of his power and strength to both kingdoms. Of course she would pay for this blatant act of treachery, but if she wised up to her situation and obeyed him she might find comfort.
Finally, when Hyrule and Devinia merged under his reign, the family legacy would be realized. His uncle had come so close to the dream, but by his idiocy fell short due that damn Hero of Time, Link. Thank god the King had died before the kingdoms even became aware of each other's existance. If it weren't for the Queen's estrangement she may not have even agreed to giving her daughter away. Still, it was clear that his die-hard courageous and idealistic spirit lived on within his daughter. Oh well. As soon as he had his way with her, that obstacle would be overcome as well.
"Ah, your majesty," he bowed down to lightly kiss her hand. "I must say, I have never met a woman who seemed younger every time I had the pleasure of seeing her." What a lie. Deprived of sleep she looked more like a walking corpse.
"I have no explaination for these recent events," she said wearily. "I don't know what could possibly be possessing my daughter."
"Explainations can wait, your highness. Right now, all I care about is the safety of my fiance."
"Don't worry, Syncubus. I've already taken care of the matter."
"Excuse me?" He blinked in genuine surprise. What the hell was this old broad talking about?
"I've sent Eric of Grasneal into the past to bring her back. The Sages granted him passage through time."
Outside help? In situations like this where egos and reputations were at stake, you never left the circle. Besides, if you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself. "You sent an assassin after my future wife?!"
"A former assassin, Syncubus," she tried to assure him, "he's not a murderer, he's an employee. He only does what his mission objectifies. He's not to hurt her, and he will not."
"I can't have a cutthroat killer chasing after the Princess," he fumed. He could see the fear building up in the Queen's heart, fear that was hard to stir. He thrived on that intimidation he could force out of people. "I will go to the future and bring the Princess back home myself before she's hurt or killed, or God knows what else..."
"Are you...are you sure?" She gasped. "I know Eric will bring her back unharmed. I'm absolutely certain of it."
"I cannot risk it," he swung his cape around his shoulders in a dramatic display, "and the well-being of my fiance is muc htoo important to be left up to chance."
"No! Eric," she laughed, taking the strawberry from his hand, "you've got to dip it into the sprinkles before the chocolate dries. Or else," she demonstrated, "there's nothing for them to stick to."
"Mmm," he grunted, pondering the matter with gravity. He took everything so seriously, all the time. Even the art of candymaking, which she took with a lighthearted approach, he tackled to conquer.
It had been two weeks since he had appeared inside her shop that morning. He'd been staying in the front room of the cottage, and Lelda had refused his payment.
"It gets lonely up here," she explained, "having someone else around is more than rupees could ever mean to me."
Still, she came across many of the little crystals stuck inside cushions and other little places he thought she wouldn't think he was the source of. They all ended up coming back to him in the end, though, despite his efforts. He'd passed the Gizelle test, which she assured them both was quite a feat. "I'm no pushover," she insisted. "There's more souls that I've dissapproved of in my life than ever found acceptable."
Blushing she glanced to the side, hoping to meet Eric's eyes. But he was still intently studying the strawberry and melted chocolate. She sighed a little, shaking her head to herself.
Perhaps it's hopeless, if he doesn't have room in his heart for me.
A few times she could swear she saw a glint of interest he had for her in him, but most of the time he seemed to have closed everyone else off to his real feelings. So whether he looked upon her with fondness or indifference remained a mystery to her. She herself grew more attached to the mysterious traveler with every passing day. With him around her smiles became less forced, her laughs less cringing. As she went to bed in the evening she would linger in her doorway, wistfully wishing that she could stay there with him, hear him tell hre that everything was all right.
But even so, a deep dark fear began to re-emerge from her deforsting heart. The last time she'd given in to love, it almost killed her. To be hurt or betrayed...and Wesley. She knew he would want her to be happy, not moruning and drowning in her own sorrow. He'd loved the life in her, the spark that kept her going even when things looked impossible. If he knew that he was preventing her from embracing happiness, it would kill him all over again. Still, when she was with Wesley there had been no doubt in her soul that he was her One and Only True Love. Finding another felt like a betrayal she would suffer an eternity in Hell for.
Don't be a martyr, Gizelle had warned her.
She gasped, almost dropping the platter of mini mousse pies. "What?"
He eyed her strangely. "You're staring. Are you all right, or am I about to ruin a perfectly good strawberry?"
"Oh, no. You're doing great," she assured him, patting his shoulder as she walked back into the front shop room. It was so slow today, boring as well. Only one person had come in, and even Gizelle was absent from her usual counter post.
It would be a shame if these were wasted, she thought, admiring the tiny pies, which were her personal favorite. Quickly she snagged one from the side, stuffing the whole thing inside her mouth. Oh, the rich chocolate froth; she could finish the entire plate easily. She'd named them Heaven's Clouds, and she didn't give them away quite as liberally as her other treats. Something stepped in the way of her light, casting a shadow over her face. Looking up out the window to the sky to see how the weather was, she could feel a strange tingling sensation up and down her spine.
A face on the other side of the glass. Dark eyes, gleaming with amusement and greed, ready to devour her like the sweet things in her shop. A wicked smile, handsome and heinous at the same time. Jet black hair streaked with red and silver, gleaming in the sun.
She felt as if she were falling, pushed of into an endless black void. Her breath seemed to leave her like snow in a bonfire. A blink, and he was gone.
He's here...he's waiting...toying with me...
Her head felt light, nd the red and gold decorations began to blur. Spinning and whirring together until they rose into a mighty shining dragon, crushing everything in its path. Its beady eyes sunk into her, its next target. Losing her balance and grip on the world she collapsed onto the floor, the only way she could find to escape.
He was beginning to break through to her, he could feel it. What had it been, two weeks? By the next weekend they would both be back in their true time and he would have his pockets stuffed with more money than he'd ever even seen before. Maybe even become Sir Eric of Hyrule for valiant bravery.
This job, it hadn't been quite as bad as he'd set out believing it would be. Lelda was...a likeable person. Perhaps under different circumstances, if she hadn't had such a Herculean lapse in judgement...ah well. Perhaps he would attend her wedding, to wish her the best. He pitied and envied her husband at the same time. She had to be the most extravagently lovely woman he'd ever seen; even in her raggy peasant clothes she looked like a goddess. But that kind of beauty came at a price. Lelda was not the submissive type. And in a situation she didn't choose, she'd be bucking back to the bloody end. She'd most likely be the death of the poor boy.
This damn cookery business. It was so much harder than it appeared. A complicated science in which the tiniest mistake could result in a mess taking hours to clean up and correct. Five times he'd confused baking powder with flour, and salt with sugar- so it was not his strongest point. He hadn't come here to become a chef. Still, if there was something he had yet to master, he would master it.
Suddenly he heard a peculiar thud from the front where Lelda had been. Abandoning the chocolate covered strawberries he burst into the shop, to find the Princess out cold on the floor. "Lelda!" He rushed to her side, gently taking her clammy wrist in his hand. A strong pulse, it was just a fainting spell. She was so pale, though. As if she'd seen a ghost. Probably a cockroach on the counter sent her into a fit.
Crap, now what do I do? Chivalry was as foreign to him as clouds to fish, and his mind flashed over to that surly boss of hers, Ms. Schroder. Nah, not a good idea to consult her over the matter. If it were up to her she'd f thrown her out in the alley the moment she lapsed in consciousness.
Carefully, gently he picked up the girl from the floor and, minding not to hurt her, walked out the door and acroos the square. She wasn't what anyone could consider heavy, and he'd hauled much worse across terrain a lot more rugged than the tranquilly rolling field. As he made his way to the lakeside cottage he happened to notice her face. So peaceful and serene, it almost forced him to stop in his tracks. Her soft coral lips and porcelain skin, her long eyelashes casting little shadows on her cheeks. Her golden hair cascaded down his arm, soft as silk and smelling of lavendar and white rose. It was as if he were carrying a falling angel.
There's just something about her, he puzzled as he fumbled with the front door, something that makes me want to...find something. Like I could tell someone about things. Or maybe stay in one place for a year, a decade; maybe a lifetime.
Delicately he placed her onto her bed, covering her with the quilt and fluffing the pillow behind her head. He felt a little ackward in this room, Lelda's sanctuary. Being inside a girl's bedroom was like a glimpse into their heart. The trinkets on the dresser, the pictures tacked to the wall, all revealed their deepest passions and fondest loves. He had seen this one before, and for a girls's room it was unusually bare. She must have left so much back at home.
Maybe more than I ever knew...
Lelda was standing in the left eave of the throne room, preparing to make her entrance. The grand hall was crammed with people, not only nobles that resided in Market City that usually made up the guest lists of castle affairs, but also included commoners and nobility from all corners of Hyrule, The Zorian Queen Ruto accompanied by her husband was carrying on a lively conversation with Zelda as the Gerudo leader Nabooru introduced herself to Prince Syncubus. The Kakariko Orchestra was set in the far corner, across from the trumpet players and announcing page at the entrance. Whenever the horns blared to proclaim the arrival of another honored guest, the middle-aged orchestra would peer around with dispising glares, mourning the interruption of a promising symphony. The violinists and cellos jumped back into a lively waltz and adoring couples joined hands, spinning around the marble floors, their heels clicking in rhythm. The women's skirts twirled around, in a view in the upper balconies like a birds on a rainy day over the umbrella-stocked city square. Tables lined the walls of the room, brimming with all kinds of delicacies. From Ganon's Food Cake to Crater Rock Sirloin, there was something and everything for everyone.
Above the floor were the balconies, where many of the older and less dancing-inclined guests gathered to mingle. Servant girls rushed around like mad Cuccos trying to keep up with the demand for champaigne. It was in this place where many of the knights and lords who had been chasing after Lelda's hand grouped together, posted over the best view of the throne.
"Is she here tonight?"
"Of course. Haven't you heard?"
"What this party is for, stupid."
"No, I just came to dance with the Princess. I haven't seen her since that picnic at the ranch.
"Well I wouldn't count on it. This is her engagement party."
"No, Prince Syncubus is going to be proposing to her tonight."
An unsteady, devastated murmured reverberated around the group. A few minutes later one of the more confident spoke up. "Well, I say don't give up! Who is to say she'll even accept?"
"The Queen has already given her complete consent and confidence. If the Princess went against that not only would she disgrace all of Hyrule, she'd most likely be executed for treason."
"Over a marriage?"
"It's happened before. With the control the Prince seems to have on the Queen, he'd avenge such a humiliation. Probably make up some lies about why the Princess refused to marry him, say she was carrying the child of some pirate or something. With those kind of lies, she'd probably kill herself for the sake of honor anyways."
"Politics. You need to find a better hobby, Fredrick. You're going to bore walls talking like that."
Lelda watched her soon-to-be fiance with loathing. There he was sitting on her Father's throne, as if he were already the King of Hyrule. She could see her entire life flash before her eyes as the future empire head perched on the throne of honor and courage, sipping his most expensive champaigne liberally. Watching her home crumble into ruin as he gouged every rupee from the world for himself, sitting silent at his side. No more human than the tiara on her head. Beaten down by the atrocities she'd witnessed and a lifetime without love. Her children growing up in a world of hate, greed, and vengeance; trained like dogs to carry on the new era of evil into the ages.
I can't do this, it's so wrong...
She'd tried so many countless times to reason with Mother. But it was useless. Absolutely useless. Decisions had been made, and she could either abide by them or be torched, erased from history. She turned to see the servant girl, who seemed about ready to burst from urgency. "Nerissa," she took the girl's shaky hands and held them in her own, trying to steady her. "Calm down. What is it? Hurry, I've got to make my appearance soon."
Nerissa was Wesley's younger sister, and had come close to being sent to the grim Gerudo Fortress prison with him. But Syncubus must not have held anything over her head, as she was spared in the conspiracy.
"Lelda, Wesley...he's dead." Her lip quivered, trying to stay strong in the presence of her mistress's daughter.
She threw her head back, a creepy laugh emerging from her throat tinted with insanity. "You're wrong, Nerissa. Wesley's just fine. He's just been arrested, that's all. You can take leave and visit him, if you like."
"No!! Lelda, listen to me!" The grip her tear-stained voice held on her was stronger than even Syncubus's had been. "I overheard Prince Syncubus and Constable Edmuch talking in the Honorary Guests's quarters. Syncubus had Edmuch conspiring against the Queen all this time!" She glanced around nervously, dropping her voice. "They'd kill me if they knew I knew about it, just like...you must believe me, your Highness. Syncubus ordered Wesley's immediate execution this morning, through Edmuch to hide it from the Queen and the Princess's attention. Wesley is dead, stabbed through the heart by the High Constable's sword."
A candy shop. Lelda was taking refuge in a primitive Market's sugary emporium. It was all just too hilarious. Did she think that she could prance around in candy land during the day and sleep at this shabby little cottage at night, never to be found? He grinned in the dark, envisioning all the horrid things he would put this girl through for this inconvenience. Maybe he'd kill her eventually, surely he would in the long run. After age faded her beauty and usefulness. But first he'd torture that fiery spirit out of her. Kill Link once and for all.
He'd have to make sure that damn assassin didn't make it back alive. Who knows what the Princess could have made him believe. And if he held some sort of confidence with the Queen, he could wreak havoc on Syncubus's plans. All of the months sucking up to that shriveled idiot of a woman and her court, resisting every urge to take the damn place in one swift strike; it was much too much to give up now.
Should I break it down, or knock first? He raised his fist over the door. I suppose I'd best be polite.
"Hey there," Eric murmured, bringing the glass of water away from Lelda's lips. "I was starting to wonder if you were ever going to come around."
Her eyelids seemed heavy on her groggy face, struggling to stay open and figure out what had happened in the mystery amount of time she could sense had elapsed.
"You faint like a Princess," he teased.
Instantly her eyes snapped open, the veil of fatigue thrust away. Her eyes pierced into his own, anxious and plagued with fear. "What?!"
Oh shit. "You know, all dainty and sweet."
She brought a hand to her head, closing her eyes again. "I fainted?"
"Dead away. What happened? You looked so pale, like blood had evaporated from your veins."
"I can't-" she gasped, her pupils doubling in size, "Eric! He's here!"
"We have to leave, before he finds me." She gripped his collar, as if ready to strangle him.
A sound from the front of the cottage. A deep, patient knock thrice on the door. Like an ax through a tree in a secluded forest it echoed through the quiet house. Lelda looked as if an eraser had been brushed across her face. He'd seen that look before, that of a man who knew he was meeting his doom. Completely frozen in fear. He rose from the apple crate he was seated on to answer it, but was held back by the hand which clasped the hem of his shirt. "No! Eric, I can't let him find me here!"
"Lelda, come on," he muttered, easily brushing her away. "Nothing's going to happen to you. Get a grip."
She could hear her protests as he crossed the living room. He'd never seen hre like this before, this girl who would throw herself in front of a galloping horse to prove a point. She seemed to think that the Grim Reaper was knocking at her door, and yet she allowed Eric to waltz right into her home. The man sent to betray her and drag her back to that which she'd fled. There wasn't much she could loathe more than he.
She hates me?
He paused on the doorknob, as shocked as if the door had grown a face and asked him if he had a good recipe for Cucco Pot Pie. How could that bother him so? If she realized in the end that she had been an absolute fool for ever offering him a slice of chocolate cake, what the hell of a difference did it make? He'd be long gone to other adventures, his rupees of reward spent or gambled away. How could he even consider giving a shit what she felt being abandoned and owned by some Prince?
Angrily he flung open the door and squinted in the dim light, trying to make out the figure in the doorway.
A huge giant of a man, towering before Eric, who had always been considered tall. His skin was a bronze covered in armor, with a leathery cape draped around his broad shoulders. His face seemed calm, but his eyes burned with malice.
"Can I help you with something?" He asked.
"Is this Miss Lelda's home?" He stepped inside authoratively, stooping down low to fit in the doorway.
"Mhmm." Who could this guy be? He'd surely remember meeting him if he had before.
"May I speak with her, please?"
"Well, I don't know if she-"
A door slammed behind them, and there was Lelda, poised in front of her bedroom with her bow and arrow in hand. Like a huntress on a deer she aimed at the guest, ready to let the arrow fly. He turned around slowly, a broad smile on his face.
"Lelda, ma petite chou," he sneered, "how lovely you look this evening."
Her breath was fast and desperate, her small body trembled with nerve and tension. Quite frankly the scene was so odd he couldn't tell whether he should subdue the frenzied Princess or hold the man down while she fired. A swift moment, before either of them could even think the bow was in the stranger's right hand and Lelda in a lock in his left. With one hand he snapped the simple weapon in two by simply squeezing it. He could see her desperately try to hide her struggle but was being crushed by the pain.
"Lelda, look what you've gone and done. Look how much pain and suffering you've inflicted upon yourself simply to buy yourself time." He slammed her against the wall, and already Eric saw that defeat. That sunken surrender of a woman who's sparkle and vivacious spirit was finally squashed. This was Lelda's fiance?! Could this monster be the man gentle Queen Zelda had selected for her only daughter to marry? Even if he was angry, to treat a young woman in such a manner was sick, especially if she was his future wife. True, he had thought venomous things about the girl before, but he would never act on them. Her back straight with her arms held at her sides, she turned her head away from both the men. "Did you think I was stupid? That I would never find you twenty years in the past?! Huh? Look at me!" He yanked her jaw to face him, and at that moment a flash of dignity brought her back to her former self. Defiantly she spat straight into his face.
"Go to Hell," she growled.
Eric couldn't watch this any longer. He had given his word to the Queen that the Princess would return home unharmed. With the sound of a sliding blade he unsheathed his sword. "Get away from her."
Damn him! How could he have come here? After all this time...time had not failed to catch up to her. No matter what she did and where she went, fate still came after her. What else was there for her? Here, at the mercy of the evil Prince of Devinia, she had reached the end of her rope. Cornered with no more cards to play.
Could he be right? Perhaps she had taken the world on her shoulders and was only equipped to hold a few small islands. Struggling only made it worse. Just give up the kingdom. If it was the god's will there was nothing she could do to change it. Her adrenaline tensed muscles slumped, ready to hail the surrender flag.
It has never been the will of the gods for evil to prevail over good.
She looked up at Syncubus's face, which was gleaming with his victory. He could sense the defeat of Lelda's soul, just moments away from accepting hre fate and place in his hands.
I will never be a tool of evil. My destiny is to overcome this, not give into it.
Furiously she tore away from the void she was slipping into, spitting in his face. "Go to Hell."
He winced, rage boiling over as he wiped the saliva away. A moment later he would have strangled her, had Eric not threatened him. "You," he laughed from far down in his throat, "think you would stand a chance against me? I wouldn't risk it. Lelda is going to be returning home with me," he stepped forward, shoving her down onto the floor behind him, "after I'm finished killing you."
"No!" She screamed, scrambling back to her feet. Syncubus possessed powers even she could not fathom. No man, no matter how skilled, could slay a man twice his size with a common sword. She couldn't just allow him to die, especially trying...trying to protect her.
He must care, have some feelings for me. If he would risk his life trying to help me, knowing the odds, he must.
The Prince was advancing slowly, his own sword in hand. Glinting in the light they ferociously clashed together, moving with a speed she failed to keep up with.
He can't win, there's no way.
Try as she might, the scene was just too horrifying to watch. Any moment she expected to hear Eric cry out in pain, falling wounded beyond hope.
No, this can't happen again...love stolen away from me.
A single teardrop welled up in the corner of her eye, getting heavy enough to slide down her cheek, leaving behind a river of woe. As it glided off her chin into her hands she took immediate notice of its astounding luster. Stronger than a diamon it sparkled with rays of silver, mesmerizing and haunting. Seeping into her skin she felt an incredible sensation moving quickly throughout her body. Closing her eyes she rose tall and strong, a golden light radiating from her skin like that of a goddess. Slowly raising hre arms above her head her eyes opened, locking onto the prince. The duel had come to an abrupt hault on both sides, and they gazed at the Princess in wonder. A tiny ray of light began to dance above her palms, growing into a head-sized mass. Such power, at a level she never could have imagined existed. Moving through her, gathering at her command.
Like a comet it shot through the air, blasting Syncubus back into the window and out onto the ground outside. Losing the attack from her body left her feeling completely drained, and when moments ago she'd felt the power of the gods her legs now gave out from under her. Only slightly returned from her supernatural high she fell backwards into Eric's awaiting arms.
Lelda had never seen flowers that grew this high. Almost like trees they towered over her head, fragrant with sweetness. A bright cerulean butterfly clung to a daisy's petal, quivering in the breeze. So beautiful and yet so delicate, with wings thinner than paper. With a giggle she raised a hand, just to touch it once, feel it tickle her skin.
"Lelda!" Her mother scooped her up, so that it felt she was flying in the great blue sky. The woman was wearing a dress made of cottony fuscia fabric, soft and comforting. She smelled like the flowers, as if she were spring. Their hair was the same color; sunny, smooth, and shining. "What did you find over here?"
She pointed back to the treasure she'd found, but the butterfly was gone. She stared at it, stunned, trying to figure why anything so admired would want to take flight. "Oh," Zelda cooed, "what a pretty flower you've found."
"Can we take it with us, mama?" She asked, stretching out toward it, "we could pick it and put it in a vase with water, and-"
"Now sweetheart, why would you want to do that? Don't you know if you pick a flower, it dies? Leave it here and let it grow. That way," she added, smiling cleverly, "the butterfly will have a place to come back to."
Before the little Princess could ask, another voice called out to her. "Girls, look! I caught one!"
In Mother's arms they ran to the lake's shore, where Father was standing with his fishing line. At the end, still wriggling desperately, was a tiny fish sparkling with a thousand colors in the light. It couldn't have been more than five inches long. Zelda leg her daughter back on the ground once more, who scampered to Link's side. The Queen remained some distance away, her hands on her hips, shaking her head.
"Daddy, let it go!" She begged, watching the fish's struggle for life with sorrow.
"It is too small to keep, isn't it?" Releasing the creature from the hook he eased it back into the water in his cupped hands, until it swam away on its own. "You will tell Marccino I caught one this time, right?"
"If you come up and eat lunch," Zelda called down to him, "I'll tell him you caught a whale."
Mother had brought along a grand picnic, packed up by the castle's chef in a big whicker basket wrapped in a red checkered tablecloth. She spread the cloth onto the grass and began setting out the food. Father fed Epona a carrot before sitting down with his wife and daughter. There was potato salad, creamy cole slaw, a loaf of freshly baked whie bread, slices of yellow cheese, tender cuts of cucco, miniature pie shells filled with chocolate mousse, pickles, deviled eggs, fruit ambrosia salad, chilled salmon, lobster tails, pasta stuffed with spinach and tossed with peas, a pitcher of pink lemonade for Lelda and strawberry champaigne for the King and Queen. It was enough for about 30 people, all crammed into the basket with care and thought.
Lelda was silent, lying on her stomach and leaning on her elbows, staring out at the water. "Lelda, come eat something," coaxed Link through a mouthful of potato salad, "here. I made you a sandwich." She peered back curioussly at the haphazard sandwich Link had slapped together, cheese coming out one side and chicken slipping from the other. Out of sheer pity for her hopelessly undomestic father she took the food and, squishing her eyes shut, took a generous bite.
"Mmmm!" It may have looked horrible, but the taste was delicious.
"It's good?" He asked anxiously, his eyes brimming over with anticipation and excitement. He really was like a child at heart.
"Great," Lelda assured him, "can you make me another?"
"You mean, you actually made something that's edible?" Zelda said, "can I try it sweetie?" The Queen leaned over, took a small bite, and chewed thoughtfully. "Link, I'm impressed. Perhaps you should abdicate your throne and start working in the kitchen."
"If you come with me and do dishes."
"Mommy," the Princess broke in, "will you tell me a story? Please?"
"A story?" She pulled her daughter up, seating her on her lap. "I feel so old," she sighed, "like one of those ranting women in town. Soon I'll be stuck in a rocking chair nagging everyone and rambling on about the old days."
"You're not old," contradicted Link, running his hands through her hair. He loved her so much that sometimes it felt as if he couldn't contain it, and would burst into a starry dust. Hyrule was secondary. It was the girl he loved whom was worth fighting for, worth the sacrifice of his youth. Worth everything he could ever possibly do for her and give to her, and more. "You're still, and always will be, the most beautiful girl in all the worlds. Although four years ago, you tied for first." He smiled back down at Lelda. The King never showed his teeth when he smiled, which left him seaming more solemn than he truly felt. "A story, a story...which one, little Princess?"
"The story?" Zelda laughed softly. "Didn't I tell it to you just a few days ago? And besides, you know I'm not good at storytelling."
"But it's my favorite!" She pleaded, "and you said tomorrow you were going to go to the fortress and I'd have to stay with Nana at the castle. And she can't tell it right. She always gets it mixed up."
"All right, if it will make you happy." She took a deep breath, reflecting on the tale she had lived and learned through a lifetime of adventures and trials. "Once upon a time, there was great chaos in the world of Hyrule. The forces of good and evil were waged in a huge conflict known now as the Imprisoning War. One woman, gravely injured by the army of darkness-"
"Grandma," Lelda added authoritively.
"Yes," Zelda nodded, "she fled her home with her baby son to the Kokiri Forest, where she pleaded with the Great Deku Tree to accept her son into the serenity of the forest children's village. There she died, and the boy was left to grow up among the Kokiri children. A very quiet and reserved child, he always seemed 'different' from the other children. It didn't help that he was the only one of them without a fairy. At the same time as this forest boy was growing up, Hyrule's Princess was just starting to let her wings flutter. She felt like a caged bird, trapped behind the walls of her castle with no adventure or freedom in sight. Then, one day, change came to her in a very strange way. A dream, in which dark clouds were billowing over Hyrule. Suddenly the clouds parted, and through the light stepped a boy holding a green and shining stone, followed by a fairy.
"The next day, a visitor arrived at the castle. A dark man from the desert far to the west, wearing strange clothes and heavy armor. He swore alleigance to her father, but she knew he was not sincere. Feeling the dark clouds in her dream symbolized the man, she tried to warn the King, but he dismissed any truth to her preminition.
"As the Princess was avoiding the desert King in the castle courtyard, she heard footsteps behind her. Whirling around in shock she found herself face-to-face with a boy from the forest, who couldn't have been much older than she herself was. Carrying the emerald Spiritual Stone of the Forest and followed by a little powderpuff fairy, she knew the other half of her dream had come into form as well. Together the Princess and the boy plotted to find the Triforce, Hyrule's greatest treasure, before the evil King could get to it. Unfortuantely, their plan was slightly flawed, as the King Ganondorf followed the forest boy into the Temple of Time on his mission to take it. Pushing the boy aside he seized the Triforce for himself, but as he reached for the golden relic it split into three. Ganondorf recieved only the Triforce of Power, with the Triforce of Wisdom going to the Princess and the Triforce of Courage entrusted to the forest boy."
"Mommy," she yawned impatiently, "I know this part. Can't you skip ahead to after you beat him?"
"After that? Well, the Princess and the forest boy became very good friends. They grew up together."
"Did the Princess like him?"
"Well, of course she liked him," she blushed a bit in spite of herself, "she always liked him, ever since that first time she saw him. But she was a fickle little girl, and she didn't want to show it. So she played some mean tricks on him, and as they got older she often tried to brush him away. But even after all that time the Princess was such a snob, the forest boy just wouldn't give up on her. And finally, he stole a kiss."
"And then what?"
"Well, they got married, and they had an adorable little girl."
"What happens next?" She asked anxiously, looking back from one parent to the other.
"What happens next?" Link broke in thoughtfully. "Well, they all live happily ever after, I suppose."
"Hey," Eric murmured. She could hear his voice, but his face was fuzzy above her own.
"Urmff," she groaned, turning over onto her stomach, burying her face in her pillow.
"Are you okay? You've been out for four days."
"Four days?!" No wonder she felt so hungry and icky.
"Gizelle came over, trying to give you some really nasty tea remedy. It smelled like piss-you nearly choked." She smiled, and found herself craving Cucco. "Do you remember what happened?"
"Is he dead?"
"Yeah. When I went outside to finish him off, he dissappeared. You vaporized him, Lel."
Lel? She blinked, not sure if she was still dreaming or not. Examining him she noticed for the first time that his eyelids were drooping, as if 20-pound weights had been attached to them. Bloodshot and exhausted, running on nothing more than coffee and worry. In those four days, he had never left hre side.
"You must be starving." Gingerly he wrapped his arms around her knees and neck, carrying her like a newborn into the living room, placing her on the one cushioned chair. When the knights and suitors had treated her in such a manner it had infuriated her. She was not weak, a bird with a broken wing. But now, she felt a deep graitude and love for Eric's kindness. He was trying to help her because he cared. The girl he wouldn't give up on.
He loves me.
"There," he said, handing Lelda a mug warm with smooth cream of tomato soup. A little sprig of parsley garnished the center, stuck in a plop of sour cream. She grinned, finishing the whole thing in almost one gulp.
"Good," she complimented.
"You think so? I thought it might be a little heavy on the salt. More?"
"Please," she nodded. He returned again, this time bringing the soup kettle along with him.
"Can I ask you a question? If you don't mind me probing." She peered over the brim at him, and shrugged nonchalantly. "Did you know that guy?"
She was quiet a very long time. Only the crackling of the fire and cricket symphony soundtracked the night. "You wouldn't believe my story, Eric. Not even if I told you."
To Lelda's dismay, an amused snort shook the young man into thick laughter. "Lelda, you could never, ever shock me beyond belief. I have had more twists in the path of my life than I could count." She still wasn't swayed, cemented in skepticism. "Go ahead. Try me."
Of course! Oh this was so horribly perfect. How could he have overlooked such a vital fact? Because he'd underestimated the powers of the Royal Family, that's why. He'd just made the exact same mistake his uncle had many hears ago during his battle with Link and Zelda. Luckilly it hadn't had the same result, he wasn't dead or banished to some realm god knows where. Came close, though. Nearly dead, the attack left him barely able to transport away before that bastard came out and hacked him to pieces. Grotesque scars and burns covered his body, reminders of his foolishness. When he was restored to his full strength he could erase them, but for now he would have to endure looking like a monster.
Ganondorf had gotten careless and overconfident, forgetting that he was up against Nayru and Farore, not two kids playing with a power they could never understand.
Lelda had minimal control over her powers. If she did have mastery, she could have destroyed him in the blink of an eye. But what power it was! So much greater than his own. It was simple. She was the product of Link and Zelda, guardians of the Triforces of Wisdom and Courage. The two monarchs had passed these powers down to their offspring, making her stronger than both of them combined. With understanding and training, she could destroy whole worlds with the wave of her hand.
And here he was, regaining his lost energy and healing in the caves under the Kakariko graveyard. These dark caverns, murky and damp, were notorious for their evil energy which radiated from the rocky walls. In his haste to conquer Hyrule, he'd not stopped to consider the powers opposing him at length.
This is all new to her, he reasoned, slowly recovering his normal breath, that was probably the first time she even realized she had it, let alone used it. Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Or, make them join you.
Lelda was idealistic and loyal, but such qualities were easy to manipulate. It would take cunning, timing, and luck. But if he succeeded, this goddess-pumped vixen would be his greatest instrument of destruction. Her body, mind, and soul; no more than putty in his hands.
And then, the Universe would follow.
Lelda could not have fathomed how much of a burden she had been lugging around all these weeks until it had been lifted through release. Eric hadn't asked any questions during her long tale, he hadn't needed to. The words poured out of her like water through a broken dam. Flooding over with her tears evening had crossed into night, the moon high in the midnight sky. The fire had dimmed to a few smoldering coals dying in the ashes. Now she sat buried in his arms, the last of it, her escape, about to top off the epic.
Eric couldn't come up with a term to express what he was feeling inside. How could he have been so wrong about everything? Lelda had given up home, love, and family. Not because she was trying to spite someone. But because if she had not, Hyrule would have been put in the hands of an evil maniac. And here he had come to make her life even worse than what she'd already survived, calling her a traitor and a whore and god knows what else. The most astonishing part, however, was that he cared. He didn't want to hurt this girl. He wanted to hold her and tell her that everything was going to be all right, and then he wanted to make it all right. So that never again would she know sorrow or fear, only laughter and joy that would echo through the air and surround her with warmth.
"After Nerissa told me that Wesley was dead, I panicked. It was as if the walls that were closing in on me were pressing against my skin, and all I could think of was escape. Run away, never come back. Not to somewhere in Hyrule, it wouldn't take much at all for them to find me there. I knew about the Ocarina of Time, my mother had shown it to me when I was a child. With it I could run away not only to another place, but another time. I left the throne room with Nerissa and ran up to my mother's chamber. I took the Ocarina from its velvet pillow on her shelf, along with a generous handful of rupees. I forced Nerissa to take a few, and instructed her to leave the castle immediately. It would be much easier for a common house servant to hide from the eyes of Syncubus' conspiracy than the Princess of Hyrule. Parting in the hallway I took off for the gates. People were already taking notice of my absence, I could hear shouts coming from all around me. Yet to leave-I had to. I felt cheated, forced out of my own home. My world at least. But it was no longer mine. Hyrule had changed, as had my life. I lifted the Ocarina to my lips, and played the Song of Time by memory. The world was engulfed in a blinding white light, and when I opened my eyes I was here. Twenty years prior to the time I'd left."
And then came he. Greedy as the fiance she'd left behind. He could never tell her of the reason he'd come into her life. It would ruin any of the new trust and happiness she was delicately rebuilding for herself, all for selfish repentance. The only thing he could do now was make amends, ensuring that she didn't have to live without love. By loving her, just as he had but refused to admit. Forever he'd live with the guilt of his original motives, but that was his own fault. He wouldn't pain Lelda by dragging her into it.
The Princess was curled up against him, like a child taking comfort in a parent after getting in a playground fight. "Four days ago," he broke through the silence, "I was sure that i had lost you for eternity. You barely had the strength left to breathe. And I vowed to myself that if the gods allowed you to return to me, I would never let you go." She slid to the other side of the sofa, shocked and trembling. "Because I love you."
It was what she had expected, at least out of hope. But to hear the words escape from Eric's heart-it was clear that saying what he really felt was the most difficult thing for him. And yet he'd done it, for her.
I love you, too.
Leaning forward she knew the words did not need to be exchanged between them, for they both knew it was true. Tilting her head, she felt the sweet taste of his lips brushing against her own, feelings that had been surpressed for so long bubbling over into their deepest passions and desires. She almost expected to see little yellow sparks bursting off their skin and falling like dying firecrackers to the floor below. So long it had been since she'd felt this way, but even that most cherished memory seemed far away and extraneous now. In this moment, this is where she was, and wanted to be.
He was so careful with her, as if any moment he expected her to break into a thousand little pieces of shimmer dust, scattering in the wind. Not once in her life had she wanted to be treated with gentility, to her it marked her as weak and incapable. But this was so different from that. Genuine affection. Thought for what would make her happiest and most comfortable.
I'll take care of you too, Eric. Forever.
Her lips still locked to hers he swung her off the sofa and into his arms, into her cozy bedroom. As he tried to maneuver through the doorway she let out a soft giggle, loosening his shirt collar around his neck, his short hair tickling her wrists.
"Are you sure you're not tired? You've been up for four days straight."
"I was," he admitted, "but I think I'll be all right now."
The sun poured through the glass window, shining into Lelda's eyes. They fluttered open, and she remained absolutely still for the longest time. Wrapped up in the bedsheet, Eric's bare chest cradling against her. It rose and fell against her bare skin, still deep in sleep. Poor thing, he'd probably stay lost in dreams for weeks to make up for the lost time. He looked so sweet with his eyes closed like that, the fierce shield of sternness lifted away. He looked like a little boy.
Carefully she slipped out of his embrace, taking care not to wake him. She pulled the quilt over his body and leaned over him, leaving a kiss on his lips. "I love you," she whispered in his ear. What was he dreaming about, so deep in his own world? Their life together? A fading memory? Another love? Impulsively her hand jumped to her throat. Not once, since the night before, had Wesley's name even come up in her mind.
He understands, I know he does. He loved me, enough to let me find hapiness elsewhere.
For the first time, she felt at peace with her loss. And with it, the strength to carry on.
From one of the apple crates she retrieved her soft cotton bathrobe, which she draped over her shoulders before letting the curtains open wide, fulling accepting the sunlight into her...their...newly-created world.
She felt as if the tracks of her life had just been dug up by the roots and tossed across the world in a whole new direction. Yes, she'd climbed some death-defying mountains, and more surely awaited her. But the excitement and brilliance of a new start filled her with hope. Perhaps she'd go into business for herself now. Quit Ms. Schroder's tyranny and turn the tiny cottage into a beautiful and inviting house, a bed and breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, she yawned modestly, I could use something myself.
She glanced over at her Sleeping Beau, who showed no signs of waking up soon. "I may have to wait for a dinner date," she laughed softly, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
Still grinning she danced into the kitchen, humming a cute tune under her breath as she began peeling an orange for juice.
"My, my. Aren't we lively this morning."
At the first syllable she screamed, letting the half-peeled orange ffall out of her hands and bounce off the counter. No force could have made her turn around, for the fear of what she'd find.
"Shhh," she heard footsteps inching behind her, chilled hands on her shoulder, letting the fabric slip away from them. His face watched her own in the mirror's glass, a frightening absence of hostility. A look beyond description, hungry but not rabid. Like he was about to open up a much-anticipated birthday present. His face moved in closer to her right ear, taking in the scent of her hair on the way. His fingers massaged the base of her neck almost hypnotically, nearly putting her right back to sleep. "You wouldn't want to wake up your little friend now, would you?"
More than she knew had gotten in the path of his destruction. For the first time in ages pace had graced her...and now, here he was. Back once more. How?! Was he not mortal? Could he not die?
"My dear, you look so shocked." His voice was cool and smooth, a cat's purr. "You put up quite a fight last night, and I'm not one to be easily impressed by any means."
Her lip began to quiver, as even her stern pride struggled keeping those tears at bay. "Look at you, so dismayed. You know this stubborn streak of yours, it really-"
Wzzztt! An arrow pierced through the air behind them, jamming into the Prince's shoulder. Smiling broadly he turned around, pulling the arrow out from his flesh, the blood dripping onto the floor. "Well, look. Here he is now."
"Eric!" One step toward rushing to his arms, and Syncubus had her clenched by the base of her neck.
"Why are you trying to kill me?" He asked with puzzlement. "Don't you want your reward?"
Had Syncubus decended into insanity overnight? He was rambling like a maniac! She looked to Eric, who was staring back at him blankly.
"You haven't understood it yet?!" Lelda exclaimed, trying to wriggle her shoulders out of his grip. "You can't win! We're too powerful even for you!"
"I didn't come here to win. But Eric, it seems you already have."
"What is he talking about?!" Lelda cried, baffled by the growing look of anguish on Eric's face.
"Why Eric, you still haven't told her? Oh, what a pity." He leaned down to whisper, "that Eric was hand-selected by the Queen to bring her dearest daughter home?"
No. This was a dream, a twisted and sick nightmare from his deepest fears. Any moment he would wake up, his Princess still beside him. Unhurt and unquestioning, ready to start over. Bury the past in the past and lock its ghosts in the closet. But there she was, in the clutches of a monster, terror filling her pleading eyes. So easy to read. Kill him, the liar. Tell me it's a trick. Hold me again, say how it's all going to be all right. I can't be hurt like this again, I could never take it...
"Lelda, it's...not like that," he stumbled, careful as if walking on nails, "not at all like-"
"You mean, you're not an assassin sent to trick the Princess into falling for you, then sweet-talking her into returning with you into the future so you could collect your handsome reward? What was it again? 15 or 20 million rupees?"
Tension was stacking high in Lelda's mind. One misstep or ill breeze, and it would be over forever. She'd been wounded so badly in the past, this was supposed to work out. For both of them. Now with this bastard Syncubus' manipulation-or could this be a case of manipulation on Eric's part? Even if he hid the truth from Lelda, it was still the truth. It was his plan, even if his heart had turned on its head. How could he blame someone else for his own evils?
"No! I mean," he fumbled, raising his eyes to met his love's, but wincing away. He was connected now, her pain was his pain. And in those two boiling pools of emotion staring back at him, it was as if he could feel his soul being torched. "Well, that's how it started out."
It echoed through the room, the princess's backbone of spirit breaking inside her. Her shoulders and neck slumped forward, as if someone had shot her in the back. Could she not say something? Scream at him every profanity she knew? At least it was some sort of sign, instead of this torturous silence.
Finally she raised her head, her hair falling ill-kept about her face. Her eyes slowly opened, as if being peeled, yet now they had changed. No longer could he tap into her heart and soul. She was blank, her happiness whisked away in less than a moment. "You used me." Her voice was flat and thin as paper, coarse and unforgiving. Choked by dissappointment and anger.
"No! Lelda, you know I love you!" She had to know, it was the truth. Truer than anything else in his life had been. "When I came here looking for you, I had nothing but a jaded contempt for everything. Nothing in the world could have ever made me happy. But you...you changed all that. You taught me all I know about love and trust and-"
"Shut up!" She screamed, pounding her foot into the floor so hard the entire cottage rattled with her rage. "You thought-you knew-this was going to be an easy job. The lovesick Princess, starving for any kind of affection she could get her hands on."
Before another word could be spoken Syncubus pinched a nerve in the Princess's neck between his index finger and thumb, a dazed trance washing over her as she fell backwards against him. "Well you just made this quite easy for me," he sneered at Eric, "don't worry. You and your petite amie will be meeting again shortly, I can assure you." With a woosh of his cape they were gone, leaving nothing but a trampled orange smeared on the floor.
His fists clenched so tightly he could feel the circulation being cut off below his wrists he stood, shaking his head back and forth. If he had to battle all the gods and Sages above he would free Lelda from that stone-hearted maniac. If he had to suffer an eternity in Hell he would do it to ensure she'd never be forced to live another day in misery.
Syncubus wasn't going to kill her. He was a strategist, taking his inventory and calculating how far it could take him. If he weren't the reincarnation of evil he'd make a wickedly challenging chess partner. To murder a girl as powerful as Lelda wouldn't make an ounce of sense. However, an uneasy feeling in Eric's gut told him that Lelda's fate, which the Prince had in store, was far worse than death.
Drip, drip, drop.
Tiny beads of ancient moisture fell on her arms and legs, stirring her back to life. She was so completely exhausted she could not find explaination as to how she found the energy to open her eyes. In doing so she felt she had lost the ability to think, at least in any clear sort of way.
The cavernous walls and mildew suggested somewhere underground, but that was about the extent of anything around her which aroused any vague recidnition. Both her hands and feet were tightly bound down to the raised surface, but rather needlessly as she couldn't make them work anyhow. Shards of crystal surrounded her like the lining of a coffin, radiating a frightening aura. It felt as if the energy keeping her alive was being sucked right out of her, like water from a sponge. Slowly but surely draining her life away. For some reason she could not recall she felt not the least bit of motivation to stay alive. Passively she allowed whatever force it was to suck her dry, longing for it all to be over. Just waiting for a break from the numbing pain eating away at her soul. Even the eternal sleep of death was welcomed as an alternative of being trapped in this life.
From her strained and ever-more clouding vision stepped a figure above her. One so familiar as hte back of her hand, and yet a name she could not place with him. His bronze skin was scarred with fresh burns, and his armor glowed purple against the crystals. His sunken-in eyes watched her like a starving wolf, hardly able to wait for the feast. Though he was scarred by battle he stood victorious, basking in the glow of his new world. It was too much for him to express, or even let fully sink in. The pride in winning, and the pleasure of the spoils. Without reservation he smoothed her hair with his hand. She could sense the pulse of desire in his touch, but she had no strength to compute it.
"It won't be long now," his breath tickled her ear, an arctic wind chill factor, "and you'll be mine."
Maybe it was the definite tone of his voice, or perhaps the memory she could not recall but swamped her in sorrow. Whatever it was, was too much to bear any longer. Closing her eyes she surrendered her soul to this parasite eating her away, waving it in to send her away into the serenity death provided.
The name flashed through her mind, the last free thought she was allowed before she could hear her breath slowing into a shallow gasp, her heart shutting away as something thick and heavy moved through her veins. If she'd had the energy to scream she would have deafened the world. Her useless muscles tensed, then relaxed. With the last beat of her heart, the last futile release of air, she gave her farewell to the world which she'd battled to this bitter end.
Eric's mind felt as if it had been completely washed away. No words could describe this numbing agony. Such a short time of true happiness, and now it was stolen away with the rising sun. Not knowing where the Prince and Princess had dissappeared to, what time or dark dimension she'd been smuggled away in, it was like surching for a single strand of hair in the whole of space. Again and again he would close his eyes and concentrate with the devotion of a saintbound monk, trying to locate even the slightest trace of Lelda's soul. Each time he would come back down to reality with absolutely nothing more than before. Helpless as a deaf and blind mouse in a lion's den he wandered around the little cottage, its mistress's warm vanilla and lavendar scent still lingering in the air like a ghost. For just a few moments he believed she would pounce out from behind a crate chair, laughing hysterically with her cruel joke. How could she really be gone?
Even when she was with him the night before he did not fully grasp how much she meant to him, how special she really was. While she was more beautiful than anything else created, that outer beauty was totally eclipsed by her kind and selfless nature. Her wit and humor, dedication and loyalty. Perfect, and yet imperfect enough to be loved by anyone. Even pure evil.
A knock on the door almost did him in. Shaking he made his way over to it, finding himself face-to-face with the hideous Ms. Schroder. "Is that shop girl here?" She demanded sharply. He stared back at her, the question echoing around in circles in his head. "Well?!" She barked impatiently. "Is she or isn't she?!"
"She's not here," his dry throat coughed.
"I thought as much. I've seen her kind, here one minute and gone the next like hail. I've sold the shop, it's going to be part of a new grocery store. The meat department, if I remember the man correctly. Here," she shoved a brown paper-wrapped parcel into his hands, "she left this there." She eyed it with indecision, not sure if perhaps she should have kept it after all. "Well if she comes back here," she turned away bitterly, "let her know there's a brothel opening up behind the treasure gamery looking for applicants."
He considered running after and killing the cruel old woman for her vinegar-tongued remark, but she wasn't worth it. She was already drowning in her misery, no need to add more cement to her ankles. Clutching the package he brought it into the makeshift living room. After examining it for quite some time he untied the coarse string binding it, revealing a beaten-up notebook. Flipping to the center flour and egg white stained page, he discovered it to be filled with handwritten recipes compiled by none other than Lelda herself. Heaven's Clouds she'd written across the top in her playful yet unmistakenly regal script, along with a comical doodle of herself with "my favorite!" coming out from hre mouth.
Syncubus had promised they'd meet again, being a man of his word, even if he twisted it. It was the only hope he had now.
The Prince had come from a family of sorcerers and witches, all adding their own unique recipes for the success of themselves and the destruction of others to the ancestoral anthology. His grandmother was a Gerudo huntress, a resident of old Hyrule. As her race only produced a male offspring every 100 years, a rather odd result had come from her selection as mother of the new Gerudo king. A set of twins, both contenders of the same throne. Fearing the confrontation that could arise from the conflicting powers she sent one of the sons far away to a land she'd kept secret since her discovery of it on a hunting expidition. Some years later that son had conquered Devinia's empire for his own, taking a string of Queens and finally a suitable heir. His brother, however, remained in Hyrule, making multiple grabs for power. Though coming painfully close he always fell before the powers of Princess Zelda and her guru, Link.
Raised by his mother, an enchantress and sorceress from Devinia's snow-capped mountains, Syncubus learned a multitude of secrets and tricks to outwit even the damned King and Queen whom had foiled his uncle's plans. This particular spell, the one he'd placed over Lelda, was both extremely powerful and extremely fragile at the same time. It only worked under very specific conditions. The victim had to be in an incredibly weakened state, and also must be willing to give up his or her life. If it worked, the victim's soul would be put in a limbo dreamworld, filling their body with pure negative energy. The former adversary was left as nothing much more than a mere puppet of their master. Only when their master, the one that cast the spell, was dead would the spell be broken. "Study this well, Syncubus," his mother advised, "though its use is rare as the comets that cross us, it may indeed be the key to toppling the old Hylian imperialists."
Syncubus knew Lelda was weak, after her first tap into her Triforce powers. But after her newfound romance with another no-account buffoon, there was no chance she'd be willing to give up her life to dark forces. Unless he could find a way to push her over the edge, which Eric made quite simple with his regrettable past. Now, with the Triforces of Wisdom and Courage on his side, Zelda didn't stand a chance. No force did.
He watched in breathless anticipation as Lelda's clenched fingers went limp, life departing from her weary body. Nervously he raised her wrist, feeling for a pulse but finding none.
A few hanging moments passed before a beat could be detected. Weak at first but growing strong with unnatural momentum. Stepping away he watched as the shadows consumed the Princess's body, tinting and accenting her bright features with an eerie aura of darkness. As her chest rose and fell with rapid breaths, her eyes snapped open with a vengeance. Quickly releasing his 'creation' from her restraints she sat up with his assistance, then scrambled off the platform into a floor-smooching bow at the Prince's feet. "Your highness," she murmured in a chilled and darkened tone, "I am forever in debt for this lfie which you have bestowed upon me. Please give me the honor of allowing me to serve you in any way I possibly can."
A quiet sigh of relief escaped from his lungs, ultimate success finally secure in his death grip. His smile was one of pure delight, everything he ever dreamed of wanting now begging at his feet for him to take and accept. Gingerly he leaned down toward her, lifting her chin with his finger. Her enormous lash-shadowed eyes started back up at him, almost glowing with the new energy her body was feeding into. Drunk with its power and hungry for more, her starved and wanting gaze was simply irrisistible. "My love, stand," he commanded gently, offering a hand to her feet. She took it graciously, her baby-smooth skin like silk in his palm. "You are not a servant, one who must beg and plead with higher powers. You are my Queen, my confidante...mine," he breathed, caressing her willing hand. "Together we shall destroy the weak powers against us and conquer all in the universe."
"I will do everything in my power to assist you," she vowed softly, stepping in toward him ever closer. "What a waste such power as that passed on to me was in the hands of good. Now that my true destiny has been awakened, the long-due fate of Hyrule will be fulfilled."
Who knew this girl could become any more lovely? But this dark side, accented with a frigid chill, made her truly worthy of the title Queen of Darkness.
Boldly he lifted her off the ground placing her a few vital inches closer, her body right next to his. The mad desire to possess her had turned into obsession for so many, but now it was to become his reality. Placing his hands on her shoulders he leaned down to kiss her. Without a wince or a slap he met her tender lips, and with the demure tilt of her head he knew her will was his own.
For an instant his mind flashed back to the old Lelda, and how much he'd wanted to see her fiery spirit overpowered by his force. Every time she glared at him with her passionately hate-filled eyes, all he could think about was of her screams as he pinned her down. Ah well, it was a shame. But it was most certainly for the best this way.
"I've waited so long for this," he whispered, his hands moving down from her shoulders to her lower back, untying the cotton bathrobe she'd left the cottage in, letting it fall away effortlessly to the floor. Feeling the excitement of this forbidden skin he took in every curve of her body as she turned and moved in exact sync with his desires, tracing the paths of his hands with her own, confirming exactly what he wanted. Though he'd had an army of girls before her, from servants to princesses, this one beat them all.
"I'm yours, your highness." Tearing away she glided back over to the crystal altar, turning to gaze back at him, beckoning him to follow.
Sunlight began to beat down into Lelda's eyes, commanding her into a foggy kind of consciousness. A friendly sky with puffy white clouds smiled down upon her, soft grass filled with daisies cradled her as she sat up. It was an expansive meadow, stretching out all the way to distant hills. Trees lined the edges, so dense and uninviting it seemed foolish to ever even consider leaving. Memories of life before the meadow were fleeting and scattered, becoming dimmer with every passing second. Technicolor butterflies fluttered at her cheeks, laughing at her confusion.
A warm and familiar voice filled the air, stirring the flowers and sending the butterflies to flight. She spun around to meet the man she was sure she'd lost to the ages. Unchanged from the picture in her mind he smiled fondly, tossing her up toward the clouds and catching her as she came back down.
"Wesley, you can't be here!" She ran her hand across his face, which was unquestionably solid. "You're dead."
"But so are you!" He laughed as he smoothed her hair away, kisses brushing up against her neck.
"No, I can't be! Wesley, you have to understand, I'm not done there yet."
"Hush. Don't you remember how much that world hurt you?" He stared intently into her eyes, stern and unblinking. "You belong here, with me."
"Here with you," she replied in a hypnotic trance, "here with you..."
Lelda looked out across the congenial Hyrule Field, a pout stuck on her face. Syncubus's hands encompassed her waist, noticing her concern. "Lelda, what is it?"
"This petty little Hyrule past," she sighed, "I want to go back home to the future and kill Zelda, so we can get on with our lives."
"All in due time, my pet. All in due time. First we have to finish off the thorns of this time, and make sure that you are in absolute prime condition." Although the spell had been going off without a hitch since its instatement several weeks prior, the Prince still wasn't ready to place one hundred percent of his trust in her. First she'd have to prove her unconditional loyalty through the ultimate test.
"Then why are we here?" She asked, scanning the tranquil plains and gentle hills.
"I thought this would be the ideal place to start working on your skills."
"Oh!" She giggled, stretching her arms. "I get it!"
"And, if you put on quite a show, like I know you can, we may draw that boy out of hiding."
"You mean Eric?" She offered.
"Yes," his face sunk into a grimace, and she could sense she'd said the wrong thing. "That's the one. Now listen very closely. I want you to focus on that ranch over there," he said, pointing toward Lon Lon.
"All right," she said, memorizing the arrangement of the trees and fences.
"Now, I want you to blow it up with nothing but the wave of your hand."
"The wave of my hand?!" She gasped, whirling around to face him, the hem of her gown twirling above her heels. In a sexy black low-cut, low-back dress that clung to her body like skin, making her appear as though she belonged deep in the depths of night rather than the sun-drenched field. "But the last time I used my powers it almost killed me, and that was just on one person."
"That's true, but this time is different," he said convincingly. "You had no idea then what your powers were. With my guidance, you are going to learn how to exploit those goddesses until they're stretched as thin as paper. Now, come on. Give it a try. Envision what it would look like engulfed in flames. The frantic storming of the animals, the screams of the people grabbing whatever belongings they can in a frivilous rush to save their lives..."
In her mind she could see the disaster, the lovely smoke cloud choking all of Hyrule in a slow and painful plague. Raising her hand she forked her fingers toward the ranch, and in a sudden burst of flames a single tree was reduced to a toothpick.
"Damn it!" She screamed, stomping her foot down in anger.
I've failed him, he'll be so dissappointed...
"Calm down, love!" He laughed. "Look at that tree, it's been scorched down to the very roots!"
"Yes, but you told me to destroy the entire ranch. Not a mere tree."
"Lelda," he kissed her forehead, "you take things so seriously. It is a sign of great things to come, but I'm not going to kill you if you fail on your first try. It was a good start." He examined her at arm's length from head to toe. "Do you feel tired?"
"No," she shook her head, "never been better."
"Good, you're getting better already. Now come on. Try again. You can do it this time."
I see fire, cries of pain, lives crumbling away in mere seconds.
With a burst of red flame the ranch was ablaze with sky-licking fire. As it caught on to the dry hay it turned from a crisis into an unstoppable inferno. She was absolutely delighted at first, until a stream of escapees came galloping out of the entrance.
"Don't let them get away!" He shouted. Pointing her finger at each one she could see, they were vaporized before they knew what hit them.
"I...I don't know if I hit them all!" She gasped, "a few still might have gotten away!"
"Don't worry! Look!" He brought her attention back to the flames, which were spreading from the walls of the ranch to the field. Being as the very heat of summer was just completing its yearly roast of Hyrule, the scorched grasses were like kerosine to the fire.
"It's coming, fast!" Lelda exclaimed, her nails digging into her prince's arm.
"Quick, Kakariko! It's walled in with stone, it can't touch us there." Literally running for their lives they tore through the field and over the bridge to the base of the Kakariko ascention. "Here, sit down. With the river surrounding this, the fires can't get past it." Out of breath they collapsed in the coarse grass, watching as the fire reached the edge of the river, burning all it could and then dying away. "Lelda, you've destroyed all of Hyrule Field iwth the mere flick of your wrist!" He laughed, throwing his head back and watching with delight as the cheerful blue sky was clouded over with the choking smoke. "Not bad for your first day."
"Your highness," she looked up at him lovingly with her equally clouded eyes, yet to break the 'highness' habit to which Syncubus barely objected. "Do I please you?"
"Please me?" Adoringly he wiped a smudge of ash from her cheek. "Lelda, you are absolutely perfect. I could not have dreamed up a better woman to be at my side." It was amazing what a little dark matter could do. One day she's jumping decades to avoid him, the next she's living to please him.
"You know what I'm going to do as soon as things get settled down back in the future?"
"I am going to seize every single cow in Hyrule," she grinned, folding her legs around his, "and I am going to bake you a record-breaking size cheesecake. Then I'm going to invite a dozen starving Gorons in to watch you eat a piece of it, then throw away the rest."
"My kitten, but you are wicked, aren't you?"
"Mmmm, but now we have to play the waiting game," she sighed, "I do hate the waiting game."
Clip, clip, clop. The sound of a horse closing in through the ashen field sent the couple to their feet, watching as the rider stepped through the smoke screen.
"But my darling, aren't those little games worth it?"
The heavy smell of fire made its way quickly through to the lake, and even the simple sides of nature seemed to sense that something was amiss. Birds took to flight toward Eastern Termina, fish poured into the temple under the lake. As Eric hurried out of the cottage to locate the flames, he could see a horse and rider race through to the lake, where the rider dove off the horse into the crystalline water. Moving in closer Eric could see it to be a young girl, around fifteen or sixteen with strawberry red hair, dressed in a simply decorated yellow dress resembling the Lon Lon Ranch's unique style. A dark crimson burn seared her right arm, and as she watched it blister up she burst into pitiful tears. Hearing Eric approach she watched curiously, allowing him to examine the wound.
"Hmmm," he murmured, "first degree, you'll be all right."
"Will it...leave a scar?" She sniffled.
"No, unless you pick at it. How did it happen?" He asked anxiously.
"A fire at the ranch." Her blue eyes grew wide as she reaccounted the horriffic event. "I was feeding Epona," she explained, gesturing toward the waiting horse, "when I saw a tree across the yard burst into flames, right out of thin air! At first I wasn't exactly worried, until I saw fire in the barn. Before any of us could stop it it got to the hay, then the field...I was trying to save the house, there were Cuccos in there! But a burning piece of wood fell on me..."
A sinking feeling began to weigh down on Eric's stomach, a vision flashing through his mind. His Princess bound to a stake like an accused witch, dancing licks of fire closing in on her, enticing him to show his face. Wilting in the heat with Syncubus smirking in the background, guiltless in his use of bait. The Prince was waiting for his battle, and if this was it, one of them would not see the next day's rising sun. "Do you have any idea what caused this blaze?"
She shook her head regrettably, swirling up sandstorms with her toes under the water. "I don't know, no one does. It was all so sudden."
"I'm going to try and see if I can make some sense out of this," he decided, jumping into the chestnut horse's saddle. "Mind if I borrow the horse?"
"She's kind of wild," she warned, "and she likes carrots!"
"There's oranges in the cottage," he called back to her with a wave as he took off, his heart pounding uncontrollably, "make yourself at home!"
The sight of Lelda, this twisted and tainted shadow of her former self, almost sent Eric into a panic. What had this monster done to her?! Dressed in strange dark clothing she watched him with clouded eyes of amusement and evil, the same smirk that graced her captor's face. The Prince wove and twirled her golden hair in his slender fingers, as if she were a cat he was stroking behind the ears. Like a perfect china doll she stood, transformed into an accessory that Syncubus could admire and exhibit. Her creamy peach skin, flowing hair, flowery face-all were altered somehow, shadowed by a hate most foreign to her. A heart-wrenching pain of love choked his insides at the sight of her, but it was more a pain of loss than a heartache of revolution.
"Eric, why do you seem so surprised?" The Prince sneered, releasing Lelda with a gentle shove. "I said you two would be meeting again, did I not?"
"Lelda." The name sounded strange addressing this shell, unfitting and wrong. All he could feel from her was cold. This was not the Princess of Hyrule, the girl who crafted chocolates and regarded her superficial beauty as an obstacle in life. What had he done to manipulate her so?
The Princess sauntered over to him in a shifted walk, moving in close as if to kiss him. Less than a breath away from his lips a sharp pain slammed through his head, as she delivered a swift side kick with her exaggerated heel. A faint trickle of blood pooling in the corner of his eye, the guilt of his role in the corruption of Lelda's pure and innocent soul bounced right back up. "Lelda, don't let him do this to you!" However futile the plea, if it could somehow reach her spirit, it was better than nothing. "You're a good person, a truly good person. No matter what he tricks you into doing, it's not your fault. But you've got to fight it!"
"What, you don't think I know I'm a puppet?" She cackled hideously, jerking her limbs in a marionette impression. "Face it, Eric. Your sugary little candy queen is dead. Surrender now, and perhaps we can store you away in the same dimension!"
Eric's hold on the sword he'd been carrying loosened almost to the point of dropping it. If she really is dead...is it now beyond hope? She's completely gone?!
The finality and gravity of this realization filled him with anger, the wrong committed against the girl he loved unforgivable, and seemingly unfixable as well. It made him sick to imagine what was a man as demented with evil as Syncubus would do to a girl like Lelda when she wasn't in control. Seeming to read his exact thoughts the Prince returned behind Lelda, grazing his hands down her sides. "She is an exquisite woman, isn't she? Especially beneath the dress."
Though rather obvious his sole intent was to trigger the bare kill instincts Eric had learned sinec beginning training as an assassin, it was impossible not to react. With the mindless exclaimation of a battle cry he charged at Syncubus, his sword clashing with the Prince's own. Back and forth over the field's ashes they tore at each other, each blocked by the other's equal passion for the fight. Eric's vengeance for Lelda's suffering and death, Syncubus' obsession for maintaining his streak of victory. It seemed to be an endless stalemate until a spark of inspiration flashed into the knight of good's consciousness. A wave of weaved golden hair, swirling around a young woman surrounded by an endless field of flowers. Her bare feet and pastel sundress added a happy kind of earthiness to this beauty deep in prayer, sparing tears falling from her closed eyes to the soft dirt below. They opened up, time slowing down as her head turned to him. She pleaded love and forgiveness, and a hope.
Don't give up, please. There is a way....
Syncubus' sword passed through Eric's guard, slicing his shoulder. The blood creeped down the blade in thick droplets, but he could no longer even feel it. "The end!" He cried, moving in for the kill.
With newfound inspiration he dodged out of the heavy sword's aim to take off his head, catching the Prince off balance. "The end indeed," he muttered, driving the weapon into his left abdomen.
"Syncubus!!" Lelda screamed, watching with horror as the blade came through to the other side of his body. As she rushed to his side his blood stained her hands and clothes, flowing like water from a stream. Stunned he fell back, clenching the wound which would have been fatal to any normal mortal man. Helping to ease him onto the ground she clasped the sword's handle, quickly kissing him in an attempt to offer comfort. "This will hurt," she warned. Scrunching up her face she pulled at the sword penetrating his flesh, releasing a painful grunt from the Prince.
Eric longed to go to her, shake the last of the demon inside away and invite her spirit to return. But she was still not the girl she was, the parasite remained. He hated to see her sad, even if it was over a death she should be rejoycing.
"Highness, don't die!" She begged, sinking down onto her knees. "You can't! That little bitch will come back, and then-"
Suddenly, with a last sprint of energy, he grabbed the crook of her arm. So tightly she could feel the circulation block as the skin flushed purple. "Then you must die as well," he demanded with gritted teeth, reaching for the sword she'd placed near his right side.
"No!!" With the speed of a cheetah and the flight of a bird he dove at the Princess, knocking her to the ground a hair's breath away from the blade's piercing of her heart. "You fool," her eyes narrowed into barely visible slits as she threw him off of her, "by saving me you have doomed yourself. You may have beaten my master, but you could never even scratch me!" Curling her fingers into her outstretched palm she opened them to reveal a blinding comet of goddess energy. "Well, what the Hell is your problem?!" She glared, holding back her fire briefly. "Aren't you going to fight me?"
He started back at her blankly, the attack gathering ever-more sparks of power. In the last hazes of the great fire it gave an eerie spotlight to the opposing lovers, as if on a theatre stage. "I promised I would never again hurt you."
"Fine then, have it your way!" Swiveling backwards she hurled the mass toward him, watching. Waiting to see him fall.
The attack shot through his body, rays of light radiating from his skin. However instead of tearing him apart, he simply absorbed the power Lelda had given him like a gift. Her eyes doubled in size, her mouth dropping open in disbelief. Why hadn't he been vaporized?! Before she could even grasp what she'd done he thrust both his arms at the Prince, the energy flying from his hands to his target. In an instant blast of dark murk and slime Prince Syncubus, the last heir to the evil dynasty, was expelled from the Universe.
A tiny cry leapt from Lelda's throat, a hardly audiable "aah!" she expressed the agony of her loss, and the terror of losing the powerhouse she'd seized from its rightful owner. "How..."
Because I love him, you hideous witch-whore. My goddesses won't destroy what their guardian's heart holds most dear. Even you couldn't change that.
"No!!" She clutched her head, shaking it with whiplash force. That damned Princess was rattling in her cage, ready to reclaim her life. "You can't come back to a body in pieces!" Yanking up the hem of her gown she retrieved a glistening silver dagger, bound to her thigh by a black satin garter belt. A scaled dragon's head with ruby eyes, the blade coming out of his wide jaw.
"Don't even try, bitch!" Jumping at Lelda he wrestled with her surprising strength, desperatly trying to confinscate the weapon from her. As they fought he could see the war raging within her own mind for control. Flashes of clarity shot through her eyes, the demon beginning to fade. Eric jerked her arm back toward him, accidentally snagging her fair skin with the blade. Each figure abandoned the struggle as silver-black ooze poured from her veins, steaming as it hit the ground and singed droplet craters in the Earth. Convulsing to hre knees she fell, the bloodless matter draining from her body. Slowly the shadows could be seen to fade, giving way to the light and subtle shimmer that was the real Lelda.
It's over...it's finally over...
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Connected to this simple yet vital function of her body was the greatest privelidge she'd always taken for granted. She didn't feel physically tired at all, but the mental and emotional toll was staggering. The death and havoc she'd wreaked on dozens of innocent people and animals. The treatment of Eric, who was risking not only his own life, but all of Hyrule for her. Regaining the memories of the last few weeks meant accepting guilt and grievance. The rape of not only her body but also her power and mind was something that could not be erased by the simple switch from bad to good.
As Eric looked down at the figure in his arms, he saw true evidence that love could conquer all. An idea he would have scoffed at a year ago, but now devoutly knew to be real. How he yearned to talk to her, congratulate her courage. Hope she would find it in her vast heart to at least hear him out. Not that he believed he deserved it, but...
How do you wake a sleeping Princess?
Tenderly he lifted her head, leaning over to place a single kiss on her blushing lips. As soon as he released her her eyelids began to flutter like a butterfly's wings, opening to reveal her blue and sparkling pure eyes. With her ruby lips, sapphire eyes, and hair of spun gold, she truly looked like a treasure.
"Eric." The word came out of her mouth soft and affectionate as her hand, rough from the rolling pins and brooms, reached up to stroke his cheek.
"You've gotta quit doing that," he almost choked, "a man could have a massive heart attack with your comings and goings." He eased her into the softest patch of grass he could find, the sun already making its curtain call sunset. "Listen, Lelda. I know you have every single right to hate me. I'd hate me too. And if you want me to leave and go back to the hole I crawled out of, I completely understand. But before you do, I just want you to know that I did truly love you. I do truly love you, and I always will. And I-"
"Shhh," she hushed, placing a finger to his lips. "I know you do. We've all made mistakes. I only hope the gods will forgive mine."
"It wasn't your fault, Lelda. You know that. You did everything in your power to stop it." "Yes, well," she sighed, her smile melting away into melancholy sorrow, "I'll be finding out soon enough."
Try as he may, he could not shake the gravity of her far-off stare into space. "What do you mean, soon enough?"
"We both know, Eric. Let's face it."
"Face what? Is something wrong with you? Are you sick? There's doctors. I'll sell my soul for a cure."
"The only disease I have," she clutched his hand, still staring out into the unseen, "is that of power. I'm not just powerful. I'm super-powerful. Eric, I could stomp my foot and obliterate all of Hyrule."
"I still don't get it." What was the use of arguing? She was absolutely right. She was a ticking time bomb, a sweet and pure-hearted bomb but dangerous just the same.
"In the Universe there must be a balance of good and evil powers. I'm tipping the scale. This kind of control can't belong to just one person. What if I fell into the wrong hands again?"
"That won't happen."
"But it did happen. I care about my world too much to take the chance. I love you too dear to risk you."
His head swiveled away from her, the validity and truth of the words much more painful than any kind of physical wound could ever be. "So this is goodbye."
"You act as if you'll never see me again!" She smiled. "We love each other. And as long as that love exists between us, we'll always be together. Death can't break us."
Death. So final, so unknown. Death did not become Lelda, so full of life and hope. "The thought of the world without you, it's like living the rest of my life without sun or stars or the moon."
"It won't be so bad. You survived life before you met me, and you'll find a way to survive after you've lost me, too. Open a restaurant," she suggested, "market could use a culinary fix. Now, tell me. What will you remember most of me?"
He turned back to her, opening his mouth to speak. "Up-bup-bup!" She cried. "Close your eyes!"
"What I will remember most," he said, obeying her request, "is your laughter." The melody of her soul, enhancing her smile, it embodied all of her charm and wit.
"Now think of that. Just that."
As the sweet sound danced through his head he could feel Lelda's lips pressing against his own, a little too longing. A little too heartbroken. As her warm tears fell on his own cheeks he had the impulse to open his eyes back up and embrace her, but he held back. This was hard enough for her, she had to handle it this way.
I have to go, she told herself again and again. Always running, Lelda. Thought time would turn away, never notice. It's claimed it all, and left you with nothing. Giving you the gift of power, then sending you into the exile of death.
Death was something she'd never sat around and thought about before. Even though it had touched her life many times before-Wesley and her father-it seemed far away and extraniant. Like it could never touch her.
Regrets filled her mind. The thought of being seen as a failure in her mother's eyes, of never becoming a mother or wife, of leaving Eric all alone in this cruel world...
I can't lose my nerve now, if I don't do it I never will.
Raising her hands up toward the sky she prayed to the goddesses for her acceptance into their Sacred Realm.
Eric, I'm so sorry....
With a burst of light he could see even through his eyelids she raised her arms above her head, directing the energy down upon herself. Before he could look she was already gone in an explosion of stardust. Gold flecks of her essence, scattering and rising to the sky. He grabbed for her, but only air filled her space. A summer's easy wind crept across the field, making a kind of whirlwind of the supernatural remains. After a few fleeting moments they faded away, leaving behind nothing but a memory.
There was no body of Lelda's to bury on the shores of Lake Hylia, under the shade of a weeping willow tree. Eric could clearly see the subconscious logic in this; she wanted to be remembered for her spirit, not her appearance. Instead, under the engraved marble headstone, was the Ocarina of Time. The treasure of the Royal Family, dead with its last heir.
He traced the lines of her name with his fingertips, the lacy scripped spelling out Lelda, sans her title. Minus the long list of her ancestors. The date, 917-914, may be seen as a mistake to the passerby. He had to wonder if the Queen and her subjects would ever discover it, unravel the myster of her daughter's fate.
A bouquet of roses he placed next to the grave, fragranting the air with their sweet smell. He sat beside her for hours, unaware of any world besides. The summer greenery would rust into fall, but without her. The tides would turn and the sun would continue to rise, but she would not be there to see it. It seemed so unfair, being born to such doom. Were you happy here? If not always, just for a moment? I was happy every minute you were near. Even if I didn't know it right away...
Even though the lines of good and evil, the two warring families, were extinguished, it was not the end. New powers would rise and fall, millions more would be sacrificed. Heroes and villians, and those in between.
When he thought about the future, the same vision came up instantly. A happy home, his wife by the fire, kids in the yard...but now dim and far away. The notion of finding another didn't even cross his mind. No other girl could ever fill her place in his heart. None could even come close. Such sadness there was now, such that even a Zora could drown in its waters.
Night was falling, crickets and frogs singing their lament. A cool breeze rustled the drooping branches of the willow, gentle waves rippling across the grass into the lake. A faint scent of lavendar sprigs and vanilla fields on its heels. And as he turned back to bid farewell to his Princess, he could just hear her laughter echoing through the evening air, dancing barefoot in the grass while humming the Regal Waltz. Her flowered sundress skimming her knees, her hair shining with the moon. Even the stars seemed a little brighter tonight, and oh how he envied them. Heaven would love her, of course it would. There was no one she could not charm, nothing that would fail to adore her. Like her rich chocolates she was a universal favorite, who now belonged to her own forgotten age.
"Lelda, I know you've forgiven me before," he said, crying absolutely silently as he spoke, "but I've got to ask you again. For what I'm about to do." All his life he'd been prepared to do this, and even now it had a nonchalant normality. No sweat broke as his hand held the cool metal sword, he only feared angering her soul at rest. "I have to be with you, I can't wait for death to claim it. I must seek it out myself. I'm sorry."
Without hesitation he drove the blade into his heart, falling instantly lifeless across her grave. Two tormented lives which finally found each other, reunited only by the violence they'd fought against. Tragic, and yet hauntingly beautiful all the same.
Princess Lelda's Fanfiction