The moment the door to the carriage closed on the festivities there was complete dead silence. Zelda kept her face down as the carriage jerked forward. She felt numb, though her mind buzzed blankly with vague images of Jeremy, her father, and fragments of thought. She had not seen him at her wedding. She couldn’t find him in the crowd. He was nowhere in the aftermath party that ensued.
Her father had arranged for a minor holding of the royal family to be used for their honeymoon, which was to last for about a week. “Plenty of time to get acquainted without people poking their noses down your neck, eh?” he had said. On the land there was a small manor surrounded by a lush, green ranch that was used for a few spoiled royal horses. It was there they were headed now, accompanied by only a royal guard and a few servants. The guard was to keep their distance from the manor and guard the perimeter. The servants were equally commanded to keep to themselves.
Though she ached dully, she felt like she should be feeling more. Maybe I’m in shock, she thought. Perhaps shock wasn’t too bad.
Link fidgeted uncomfortably across from her. She closed her eyes, trying to block him out. Eventually she would try to get to know him. But for now, all she could feel towards him was hate. If it weren’t for him she might’ve had a chance in presenting Jeremy to the inspection of her father. But now, thanks to him and his oh-so-big-deal heroism and sword play, she had lost the love of her life and maybe any chance she had to be truly happy. So for a while they rode on in that awkward quiet.
It was Link who broke it first a quarter of an hour later.
“So, I, um…guess we’re married now, heh.”
She kept her eyes closed. Maybe that would give him the hint that she wasn’t interested in talking. But he kept going, somehow encouraged by the sound of his own voice.
“Princess, you, I mean, I’ve been wanting to—though it really isn’t my place, though I guess it is now that I’m your husband. Oh Din, that’s weird to say.”
Oh please, shut up, she begged silently. She didn’t have to be reminded.
“What I mean to ask is, Princess, is…sorry if this is intrusive, but why were you crying? Back there when we were, I guess, exchanging vows, if that is what that’s called.”
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s because I didn’t want to marry you.”
There was a pregnant, even more awkward silence at this statement.
“Oh…” said Link quietly, “I guess you…you didn’t know me that well, after all.”
“If you must know,” said Zelda, figuring that sooner was a better time to break it than later, “it’s because I had someone already in mind, okay? So if you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it. This is hard enough as it is.”
She tried to focus on the sound of the carriage as it rocked gently over rocks and the clip-clopping of the horses hooves. Though the numbness was still intact, it felt fragile and she was afraid for the moment when it broke and all her sorrow and pain came rushing forward like the river over a broken dam. Her fingers brushed against the soft, plush velvet of the seat, absentmindly tracing little circles and squares in it.
“If you wanted someone else, didn’t you tell your father when he mentioned me?”
She sighed. “Of course I did. But he wouldn’t allow it, and I can’t—I’m not cruel enough to leave my father and people to go after some, some…” what could she call him? He wasn’t just some man. He was Jeremy; Jeremy the would-be-knight, who she would’ve traveled to the ends of the world with. Jeremy: dark, handsome, and playful Jeremy. She felt the velvet of the seat dig underneath her nails as she clenched it.
“Why wouldn’t he allow it?” asked Link. He sounded careful in his wording, clearly not wanting to offend.
“Because he thinks most men are sleaze and doesn’t trust me to pick through the crap and find the gem myself.” She sighed again, this time in exasperation and opened her eyes to give him a cold glare. “Why do you care anyways? Regretting marrying me now?”
“No.” he said quickly—a bit too quickly. “I mean, I would never regret marrying you, princess, but I am…I can’t stand the idea of…of causing you pain and taking away such happiness from you.” A deep blush crossed his face and he dropped his eyes to his boots, flower petals still clinging to them. She stared, taken off guard by his comment. This was not what she had been expecting of the great hero. She had been sure that a man having received such honors and praise for his skill would’ve gotten it too much in the head. A statement like that, though, was not the kind to come from a man sick with arrogance. In fact, he almost seemed meek.
“Don’t stress it,” she said. “My father just wants what’s best for me, and he did have a point. Most men are sleaze.”
Link looked up at her with a weak, friendly sort of grimace. “That sounds like someone in a story I heard on my travels. Except she would’ve said it more like: all men are sleaze and then some.”
“Who’s this?” she asked.
“A genie who claimed to be the mother of the Gerudo’s and the founder of the race’s hatred for men.”
Zelda’s curiosity perked. This was Link Knight, whose adventures and travels were legendary, and yet she had heard little to nothing about them. She had been too caught up in Jeremy and sneaking off with him to care. Now that they had a good six hour carriage ride ahead of them, she felt curious for the first time. What kind of stories did he have? What kind of man was he?
He noticed her change in expression and leaned his arms across his knees, his eyes bright blue even in the dim light of the carriage lantern outside. The crystal marriage pendent fell out from his shirt to dangle and sparkle.
“Would you like to hear the story? It might help distract you from your troubles. It’s the least I can do for the rough day I’ve caused you.”
Again she was thrown off guard by his somewhat alarming kindness. Zelda found herself shrugging.
He started after he got himself comfortable by folding his legs crosswise on the seat.
“I guess the way the story starts is with a man who was deeply in love with a beautiful princess.”
“Ugh!” she said instantly, “I change my mind! I don’t want to hear it if it has to do with love.”
“No wait! It really isn’t all that bad. I can start it in a different way if you like. I think you’d really like the story.”
Though she didn’t much care, she was still curious. So with a quiet ‘humph’ she settled herself down once more to listen.
“Okay, I think I can start it from a different place. How about with the genie first and with how she became so? Well, before the genie was a genie, she was an ordinary, though captivating mortal like you and me. Most of her life was spent in a brothel, however, where she was mistreated and used by men one after the other.”
“Wait, the genie was a prostitute first? Of course. This makes sense having the Gerudo as her descendents.”
“Actually, I find the Gerudo to be a very dignified race, in their own way.”
“What? Are you saying you actually like those women of the desert?” Zelda snorted. “Though it would make sense with you being a man and all.”
Link flushed once more. “It’s not like that, princess. Would it be all right if I continued the story?”
“Like any woman, she had dreamed of being loved and cherished, so when a man came that claimed to love her for her soul and not just for her body, as well as showering her with respect and affections, she was naturally captivated and almost disbelieving of her luck. She found herself loving the man with all of her heart. But then one day, when he finally asked if he could make love with her, she took the chance to refuse, thinking he loved her enough to respect her wishes. However, this was not so, and the man took advantage of her in the dirt and slime of a poor house. Afterwards, she died from her wounds and from a sickness, vowing her revenge on all men. With that, she sold her soul in the afterlife to be reborn as a temptress genie bound to a golden bottle to lure men into asking wishes of her just to find themselves more unfortunate than they were before. The more wishes a man asked of her, the closer they came to their utter demise. Her thirst for vengeance burned eternally, just as her broken heart would ache forever.
“About a thousand years later she came out of her golden bottle to find a man unaffected by her beauty. In fact, he was frankly surprised he had the bottle at all, for it was slipped into his bags by a Gerudo who wished him harm. When the genie offered to grant his wish as she did for all men she came upon, she was surprised to find him refusing at first. ‘Oh no,’ he said, ‘I’ve never heard a story where a wish from something magical bringing happiness. Besides, I’ll have all I wish once I find the opal necklace of the Spirit Temple.’ The genie persisted, trying to tempt him into wishing her to find it for him, but he refused, undaunted by the genie’s seductive spell. Do you know why he was unaffected by the genie’s beauty?”
Zelda couldn’t say. She hadn’t been focusing on the man in the story or why he didn’t want to make a wish. She had been more concerned with the genie that had been so abused by men.
“It was because he was so in love with his beautiful princess. In fact, the reason he wanted to find this opal necklace was because the princess had vowed to marry him if he could obtain it for her, and that was his deepest desire. His love for the princess made it impossible for the divine beauty of the genie—or any woman for that matter—to have sway on him. He only had eyes for the beauty of the princess.
“So the young man tried to get rid of the genie by pawning her off to a merchant. When he found out the untimely death and destruction of all that the merchant held dear, he found the bottle falling back into his hands and the genie once more returned to him, laughing at his futile effort. ‘You can’t get rid of me until you make a wish,’ she said to him, ‘who knows! Maybe I’ll find your wish worthy enough of good fortune.’ Time after time he tried to rid himself of the genie, wanting to only find the opal necklace as soon as possible, but every time he did another unfortunate man would either die or find his life far worse than death. Eventually he decided to keep the bottle and the genie to protect others from her.
“But the genie was a restless woman. She couldn’t stand being around a man for so long without having the ability to destroy him, for that was the downfall to her powers. She could only do with what she was wished with. She also was bound to her bottle unless wished free for a short time by her master. So, reluctantly, she was forced to assist the young man in finding the opal necklace, though she did try to kill him along the way, leading him into trap after trap which he weaseled out of barely each time. However, he never let go of the vision of his love and was never even tempted to be unfaithful to her, and this irked the genie even more. She could not believe that any man could have any pure intention and just knew the young man had to have other motives. Repeatedly she tempted him with visions, dreams, and even herself to find the falsehood in his integrity and loyalty, but each time he was unfazed and unbroken in his love.
“When they finally came upon the opal necklace, the genie was more bemused by him than she had ever been, for now the young man had gained the audacity of treating even her respectfully and honestly.”
“Audacity?” Zelda broke in. “Is that the right word?”
“Well, to her it was an audacity, seeing she couldn’t comprehend him being honest about his respect for her and his devotion for the princess.”
“Did she finally believe him then when he returned and gave the necklace to the princess? Was she jealous when he married his love?”
Link gave her a strange look, as though unsure of where she had come up with those ideas. He straightened from his leaning position to stretch his back.
“Princess, he never did get the necklace to her.”
“And why would the genie be jealous?”
“No no no, reverse. He doesn’t give her the necklace? You’re telling me he was a lying cheat after all? He gave into her temptation?”
He laughed softly, shaking his head. “So quick to jump to conclusions. You didn’t let me finish.”
Zelda tugged at her sleeves, suddenly embarrassed by her outburst. She had allowed him to make a fool of herself and her momentary forgotten bitterness returned. Turning her face to the side so she couldn’t see her slight blush, she made a low snort.
“You know it’s very unlady-like of you to keep snorting like that.”
She turned on him, an angry retort ready, but was stopped half way. He was smiling, a sweet tender thing, and his eyes were kind. He was just playing. He meant no offense. Scowling, she returned to glaring at her wall, once again thrown off by his unsettling kindness towards her.
“Fine. What happened?”
“For firsts, why are you so quick to doubt him like the genie? I barely mentioned that the princess never received the necklace and automatically you assume it was his fault.”
“What point are you trying to make, hero.” she snapped, unable to help it. “Are you daring to say I’m like a Gerudo?”
Link bowed his head, but his playful smile had turned serious. “And what is so bad about that?”
She gaped at him, incredulous. “What’s so b—they’re thieves! They’re murderers! They’re barbarians!”
“You speak from the eyes of a people who have been made biased by war. Tell me, have you ever even seen a Gerudo?”
Her sense of being a fool increased, and she found herself growing angry. How dare he demean her? Of course she had never seen a Gerudo! She was fortunate to have never seen one, especially as princess, and it was all due to her well-trained royal guards. But before she could aim a well placed insult to beat him back to his place, Link looked up and the way his eyes met her froze the words on her tongue. They were serious, older, and with a strange wildness that had been out of place in Zelda’s pampered, royal life. The wildness of a life without baths and soft beds, but filled with cold nights, hard ground, dirt, and dangers on the wind.
“They are shorter than Hylian women, but their skin is like glimmering, dark bronze. Their hair is like flames and their eyes are the color of the sun. They are strong and never allow themselves to be manipulated by others and pride themselves in their independence from men, both in mind, body, and heart, and yet they also pride themselves in never killing the innocent, the young, or the weak. And in the night…” he looked out the window, a glaze coming over his eyes as though he were reliving the memory in his mind. “…while I camped out in the deserts, I could hear them singing over the sands and hear the breathing drums of their dancing. It was like the desert had gained a heartbeat.”
She didn’t know what to say or feel to that. This was the man who had fought against the desert people and their king. The Gerudo had been their own tribe, but they had joined the other desert people nonetheless, so Link would’ve fought against them at one point. Ganondorf himself was known to be a Gerudo himself, the only male to be allowed to live amongst them—as their king, even. And yet here he was speaking of them with almost poetic respect and nostalgia. How could he feel this way? And what should she feel? All she knew of the Gerudo were burnt villages, countless men with their throats slit, and calamity following wherever they went. And that spirit smoldering behind his gaze…that alone moved her into silence.
Link closed his eyes.
“When the young man had finally found the opal necklace he could hardly contain his joy, for at that moment he felt like all his dreams were at the tip of his fingers. The genie, on the other hand, was exasperated by his silly exuberance.” He smiled to himself. “When he returned to his homeland, however, he came upon the people in great festivity. He soon found out that though he had been loyal to his princess no matter the circumstances, she had not. She had just been married to another, and from where he stood he could see that she was very happy, more happy than he had ever seen her. He saw that she truly loved that man.”
“That’s…” but she stopped. It somehow seemed inappropriate to make a comment here.
“The genie, however, saw this as her chance. She knew that the young man’s heart must be boiling over with betrayal and pain that he would want to avenge. She had witnessed firsthand the suffering the young man had to go to for this woman and knew his regret had to be great. She planned to prey on this for a wish that she may finally destroy him.”
“That wicked woman!” said Zelda. “Preying on him while he’s down!”
“Isn’t that what happened to her?” he sighed, laying down across the seats on his back and folding his hands over his chest. “You’d be surprised how much everyone does that to each other. Now did you want me to finish or not?”
She brought back her scowl and pursed her lips, but nodded.
“So, she tried him from within her bottle. ‘You don’t deserve this,’ she said to him, ‘after all you’ve done for her. She could’ve been happy with you too, you know. She still could. She may just think you are dead. Give me the necklace, wish me free, and I will return it to her and she will regret her decision and come to you. She will not be so quick to doubt you ever again.’ But the young man, after giving one more look at the loving couple, turned around and began to walk out. She didn’t stop, but continued to tempt him, offering to make him a prince to challenge the princess’s new husband. She even went as far as to say she could kill the man, leaving the way open for him. When they were finally alone and she was allowed out of her bottle, he did agree to make a wish. The genie was strangely not as delighted as she thought she would be. She readied herself.
“‘I wish that the princess will be happy, that she’ll have beautiful, healthy children, and that her husband will love her all the days of her life.'”
Link glanced back over at Zelda at this point, who was also lounging across the seats, throwing propriety out the window. She yawned, but kept her eyes to him to show she was listening. From outside a horse whinnied. An owl hooted into the night.
“The genie was caught off guard, yet she was not surprised. She had been half expecting this. Till the very end, until the princess had chosen someone else, he had been faithful. ‘Do you at least want me to return the necklace?’ she asked him. ‘No.’ he said. ‘I don’t want her to feel guilty over me. Let her believe I died. She will be happier that way.'”
Zelda waited for him to continue, but Link said nothing more. Having grown sleepy, her impatience wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been.
“What happens? Does the genie answer his wish? Do they get together?”
“Get together?” he wrinkled his nose. “Why in the world would they do that?”
Zelda rolled her chin around in exasperation. “Don’t you know how to tell a good romance?”
“What? Does every beautiful girl and handsome man together for too long have to end up as a couple?”
“Unless they aren’t permanently connected, yes! Why not?”
“That is the strangest rule I’ve ever heard. I wonder if that works in real life though.”
“Of course not. It’s just in the stories.”
“Oh…well, no. They don’t get together.” He hoisted himself onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow to get a better look at her. “But the effect he had on her proved to her that there was at least one good man in the world worthy of existence. This story is what brought the tradition in the Gerudo’s of their king being the first man to be born every one hundred years. There’s only one man they are culturally allowed to bow to, just as the genie, their forerunner and mother, bowed ever to only one man.”
“Do you mean she fulfilled his wish as he asked rather than destroying him?”
He nodded. “Yep. Every wit. And then she stayed and served him all the days of his life.”
“Another reason why they should’ve ended up together! Are you positive they didn’t, you know, fall in love?”
He chuckled. “Oh, princess.”
She huffed. “What? Going to make fun of me again.”
“Excuse me, but just a while ago you were telling me that you didn’t want to hear about love. I told you this wasn’t that bad, but apparently you’ve changed your mind.”
Grumbling a bit she flipped onto her side away from him, kicking through her thick wedding skirt. She was done. Link must’ve taken her movements as a sign that she didn’t want to talk anymore, for he didn’t speak the rest of the ride, allowing her to drift off to the gentle rocking of the carriage. Jeremy flitted in and out of half-formed dreams.
She awoke with a jolt hours later, feeling arms carrying her. Crickets played about her, and the night air felt moist and cool. Servants talked quietly to themselves with soldiers as they unloaded the horses and carriage.
“Wha—” she looked up into Link’s face, which smiled the moment he realized she had woken up.
“How are yo—”
“What the devil are you doing?”
Link’s face fell and several servants jerked to a stop to stare at the two, but quickly rush to cover up their surprise.
“I’m…I’m carrying you to the house. You were asleep.”
“Put me down!”
“B-but don’t you want to at least be carried over the threshold? You know…tradition?”
Her face flushed as she squirmed her way angrily out of his arms and back to the ground, fighting her way through yards of white wedding fabric on the way.
“Correction, I would if I actually liked you.” At this she proceeded to stomp her way across the lawn into the darkness where the silhouette of the large manor stood in the moonlight. She could hear the others following her—servants and most likely Link—but she didn’t care. In fact, now that she was awake the crazy urge to slip off her slippers and tear off into the night nearly took control. As she looked up at the manor, knowing somewhere inside was the honeymoon suite where she would have to face Link, her new husband, her numbness began to melt. She hiked up her skirts and sped up. She couldn’t let herself be seen once that numbness was gone. She had to keep control until then.
And yet her dread was growing.
A young maid ran ahead of her to unlock the door for her and light the lamps before her. Zelda followed her closely, itching to stay ahead of Link who she sensed had to be right behind.
“This way, your Highness.”
As her dread grew, she became unaware of where exactly the girl was leading her. Up a grand staircase, down a carpeted hall, twisting, turning, until finally she found herself in a large bedroom filled with only moonlight from some open windows. As the maid busied herself with the fire and closing the curtains, Link came in, followed by men carrying their trunks, which they placed in the corner of the room. As soon as they came, they scurried out. Zelda was plagued by the notion that they were running away from what they presumed to be the long awaiting passion that was soon to ensue. This irked her more than anything. As though she could make love with that ass.
The ass in question stood before her now, back lighted by the fire in the fire place. The awkward silence that had traveled with them now came into the room. All that was heard was the crackle of the fireplace. Link looked down nervously at his boots. He scratched the back of his head. Zelda clenched her skirts, wishing with all her heart to be alone.
“Do…do you want some help getting out of that gown?” he asked. At the flaring up of color in her face, he scrambled to explain. “I didn’t mean anything like that! It’s just I presume that dress has a lot of buttons or ties you can’t reach. Being a princess I wouldn’t be surprised if you were required to have a complicated gown, and, well…” his face turned a deep shade of maroon to rival hers. “I am your husband. I’m bound to see your undergarments eventually.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?” she growled, “If you’re aiming to get something—”
“No! No! Princess, I would never—it’s only what you want to do, I just thought—”
“You’re not coming near me, you understand? I don’t want you laying a finger on me!”
“Of course, Princess.” He bowed, and even the tips of his long ears were red.
She stomped away to her trunks in a rustle of skirts. “And go away! I don’t want to be near you.”
“Uh, Princess, I don’t know if that would be wise…”
With her defenses already beginning to crumble and the magnitude of what she had done that day starting to sink in, she lost all her patience.
“Wise! This isn’t a matter of propriety, Link. This is a matter of that there’s an unwanted person in my bedroom and I want to be alone! Is that so much to ask?”
She had never before seen a grown man look more like a puppy with its tail between its legs then she did when Link looked up at her, eyes wan and hands folded as though in prayer.
“Of course not, Princess. I was just thinking of the servants and your father. I doubt they’d want to know how our, um…sex life is doing.”
The word ‘sex’ made her cringe. The thought that now they were expected to do that gave her all sorts of nasty shivers. But he had a point. Zelda, of all people, knew the power of gossip. It could cause problems. At the same time, she found herself not caring.
“So? Do you want maids chatting up a storm about that behind your back and telling every noble in the kingdom?”
She bristled. “If it’s so important, what do you suppose we do Hero, because I am not letting you come near my bed no matter what anyone says!”
“I can sleep on the couch!” he gestured to the red velvet sofa next to the fire. “I promise if you don’t want me to I won’t touch you.”
She glared at him, then at the couch. But she had little time to debate it. She could feel the dreadful darkness beginning to well up within her. A soft voice in the back of her mind had begun to sing a bitter lamentation. Clenching her jaw in frustration as well as to hold back the growing stone in her throat, she spat out a reluctant ‘fine’ and turned to pull out her nightgown from her trunk. After she pulled it out and threw it over the lid, she proceeded to scrape along her back to undo buttons. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she came to realize the truth to his words concerning her dress. Link cleared his throat quietly and she could hear him tapping his boots on the wooden floorboards.
“Um…are you sure you don’t need help? If you want I can just unbutton it and turn away. I won’t look.”
“Why are you trying to be so helpful? Unlikely you won’t look.” she snapped, though her voice had begun to tremble.
“Do you trust me so little?”
He fell quiet. After her arms had begun to ache, however, and she could feel the tears dripping down her chin onto the shiny silk, she felt too humiliated to call a maid. What would they think of her? Finding her in tears in her honeymoon suite on her wedding night, asking help to get out her dress while her new husband was just right there? Damn people and their damn expectations, she thought angrily.
“Link.” she wanted to scream when his name came out almost in a sob.
She screwed up her face and threw her fists down. “Fine. But don’t you dare look!”
He said nothing as his fingers tugged down her back. The bodice of the dress slowly began to loosen itself. She watched the cloth shimmer in the firelight through her tears and lashes. What would happen to her now? Where was Jeremy now? Why hadn’t she done something sooner?
“There. I’ll turn around now, kay?”
Quickly wiping her eyes with her sleeve, she grabbed her nightgown and turned around to make sure. Link was indeed turned around—and taking off his clothes.
“What the heck are you doing?”
He paused halfway through taking off his undershirt. He moved as though to turn but quickly remembered his promise and dropped his arms, keeping his gaze firmly at the opposite wall.
“Princess, I’m…I’m getting ready for bed. You didn’t expect me to go to sleep in my wedding clothes, did you? That tunic is as stiff as though it were made out of horse hair.”
“Keh!” she couldn’t think of anything else to say. In the end, he was her husband. But the thought just made her more upset and furious and she refused to be okay with it, sternly looking at the floor as she stepped out of the wedding dress and into her nightgown.
“May I turn around now, Princess?”
But she was already digging under the covers of the large four poster bed. The welcoming softness made her cry harder and she muffled her sobs into the pillow. This was horrible. This had to be the worst wedding night anyone could ask for. It wasn’t romantic at all, and how could it be? The man she wanted most wasn’t there. And now she was filled with unease. How did she know that Link wasn’t going to sneak into her bed in the middle of the night and take advantage of her? After all, he was now legally her husband.
He was now her husband…after all…
Husband…and yet she didn’t- couldn’t- even love him, and all thoughts of Jeremy were suddenly secret adultery.
His voice came from right next to her. She felt his fingertips touch the top of her head as gently as raindrops. That sound of concern was in his voice again, and to her it could only be false, wrong, and out of place. She hated it.
“Don’t touch me!”
His fingertips disappeared.