“There was once a man named Tall Stone who fell in love with the daughter of the Sun. He never beheld her face or form, for no man can look directly into the Sun, but he could see the work of her hands. She was the soft touch of morning light that spread open flowers and broke the sleep of night. As she followed her father into the day her soft warmth vanished within his overbearing fire until the drawing of evening, in which she used the sky as her pastel to give warning to shepherds of the storms that may be coming.”
“How did he know she was even there, then? If he couldn’t even see her? And how did he know that it was even a woman up there?” Zelda asked, looking past her downy pillows to Link who lay beside her on top of the covers with his head propped up with his hand. He kept his distance for her comfort. A fire burned in the fireplace on the other end of the room, lighting half of his face with amber light, which once again took on a kind, but amused, smile.
“Sometimes stories lose details while being passed down. You may just have to accept that he knew she was there, somehow.”
“Where did this story come from? The Gerudo?”
“Oh no. Far too gentle an introduction to a male figure. No, this is from the Gorons.”
“Gorons! Those rocky, mountain people have stories?”
He chuckled softly. “Zelda, I thought you would at least know the Gorons. Their allies to the kingdom, aren’t they?”
She could feel her face grow hot as once again she found herself lacking. She was the princess! How was it that Link knew more about the races in this land than she? And the Gorons were indeed close allies of the kingdom. In fact, her Father even called the leader of the Gorons, Darunia, friend—blood brother, even. She could even recall the huge bulk and oddly rocky, dirt colored hide of the Gorons who frequently came to the market to sell explosives and rare stones.
The now familiar softness of Link’s quiet voice, however, made it known to her he did not mean to demean her, so she curled deeper into her blankets and said nothing.
“The Gorons are more tale-happy than even we are. The key to being any sort of good company amongst them is to have a wide collection of tales.” he said.
“You must have been a favorite then.”
He bowed his head in gratitude. “Thank you for the compliment, but no. I knew many Gorons whose story banks put mine to shame. But anyways, would you like me to continue?”
“Oh! Yes. Please.”
He rolled onto his back before continuing. “As night came her mother, Lady Moon, would rise and she would then join her mother, where her gentle beauty made the stars sparkle. The night robes her mother would dress her in would spread about the sky in deep purples and blues before she fell asleep on the dark side of her mother as she turned. Tall Stone desired to see her. His desire soon become so that he could not sleep or eat, so he turned to his tribal leader for wisdom. The old woman told him that if he ever wished to see the maiden or to have her for his own he must speak to her father, as any good man would. The problem was, no one could even look at the Sun let alone approach him to speak. So the leader suggested he go to the much kinder and cooler mother of the daughter of the Sun, Lady Moon. To reach her, he had to climb to the peak of the eastern mountains to catch her as she rose from the edge of the land. Without any hesitation, Tall Stone packed supplies and headed for the eastern mountains.
“He made it after much toil (for this was before the Goron had gained their rocky hide and love of the mountains), to the top of the mountain just in time to reach the rise of mother moon. As she rose, beautiful and alluring with all her splendid silver robes wrapped around her, she turned to him with a knowing smile.”
Zelda found with her drooping eyes that as she listened to him, her pain was eased. The stories did more then gave her food for thought. They distracted her from the aching loss of Jeremy. In them there was a world not her own she could submerge herself into. Was this why Link offered stories as a way to help her feel better? Feeling her pain return with her distraction, she quickly turned her attention back to the story, realizing she missed the last bit he spoke.
“Wait, did he see the daughter of the moon?”
He paused half sentence to refocus his gaze on her.
“Didn’t you hear?”
“I sort of…was thinking about the last thing you said too deeply and got distracted.”
“Oh, um, the lady of the skies wasn’t there. She had business with her father that night. Anyways, Tall Stone gave his request to Lady Moon who was very gracious in her reply. She knew of him, having watched him through the night, and was pleased that he came all this way for her daughter’s hand. She could sense that he truly did love her when he explained his reasoning. So, with her approval, she gave unto him a magical cloak to wear to visit the Sun. She gave him instructions to wear it as he climbed the peak next to hers to greet the Sun as he rose the next day, for the Sun was in his best mood in the morning. ‘But,’ she said, ‘the moment you sense his light you must continue on with the cloak over your face, for although it will protect you from his heat, it will not protect you from his light. You must keep your eyes closed until you’ve made your way down this mountain or you will be blinded.’
“So Tall Stone adorned the cloak and accepted the invitation to rest from Lady Moon. As she rose higher into the sky she awoke him in time to begin his hike to the next peek. As he neared the top the Sun began to rise and he quickly covered his eyes with the hood of the cloak. As the Sun brought the morning he quickly noticed Tall Stone huddled before him in his wife’s cloak. He demanded to know what it was he sought after. When Tall Stone explain his love for his daughter and the wish for her hand, the Sun laughed. ‘But you’ve never seen the girl!’ he cried, ‘What if she is horribly disfigured and unattractive? And you’ve never met her! What if she’s a shrew or a whore?’ But Tall Stone just confessed he loved her and explained the beauty he had seen at her hands. He knew that she was kind, loving, friendly, loyal, and her fingers only knew how to weave beauty. If she was disfigured, he didn’t care. He only wished to make her happy as the beauty of her sunrises and sunsets had made him. The Sun, though strong and hard, was appeased by this and led his daughters hand into his. With his blessing he pointed him down the mountain and sent him stumbling off, barely able to keep himself from flinging off his hood to see his love at long last.”
“Romantic.” mumbled Zelda, imagining some flaming beauty before her closed eyes. She could hear Link breath out quickly in a soft laugh.
“Is it up to your standards then, Princess?”
“You almost asleep? Should I stop?”
“No!” she forced her eyes open. “I want to hear them get together.”
“But they are already together.”
“No.” her eyes drooped. “They have to kiss or something. Then they’ll be together.”
The breathy laugh again. “A kiss? That’s how it works then? Very well. I’ll finish the story. Don’t try so hard to keep those eyes open, though.”
“Meh.” She pulled out her arm to thwack him half heartedly.
“The journey down the mountain was more perilous than he had imagined with his eyes closed. He clung to the warm hand of his beloved who helped him as much as she could, though her soft voice only tempted him more to lift up his hood to see her. But he remembered the warning of the Moon and knew, as a blind man, he would never be able to be a proper man, protector, or provider for her. With that in mind he was able to wearily make it to the foot of the mountain. His feet were lacerated, his body bruised, but his heart triumphant. He knew he could find rest at last.”
Half formed dreams were forming in her mind. She saw the dancing Gerudo again, except this time she couldn’t focus on her, and soon she was looking up at the stars shifting into birds. Link’s voice came to her from across the expanse of encroaching sleep.
“There he threw off his hood at last and, weary with fatigue beyond belief, he looked upon his new bride to behold that she was more beautiful than he could’ve imagined. She held the pride and glory of the Sun, yet was soft to look up on like the Moon. When he recognized the beauty of the sunrise and set in her smile and the glitter of the stars in her eyes, he leaned over to her…” a puff of warmth across her face called her from her unborn dreams. Warm. She could hear his voice as a close, low rumble of a whisper. “And then he kissed her. And they were together forever.”
She thought she could feel the press of his lips against the corner of her mouth. But then again the Gerudo was dancing once more, this time besides a fiery beauty of a woman with ivory hot skin and sharp gold hair. The last thought she recognized before sleep claimed her was that she had the picture wrong. If this was a Goron story, the woman would’ve been a Goron. And Link hadn’t said anything about her being hot like the sun, but warm. But before she could reconfigure her picture, she was gone.
She awoke to find Link still asleep on the couch. Outside birds were twittering and she supposed that it was them that had called her from sleep. Feeling drowsy and slightly curious, she peered over the couch back to Link. He lay on his side with his lips slightly parted and thick, blond lashes fanned across his cheek. How odd that he should have such thick lashes, she thought. Then she heard something: clicking. As each of his slow breaths reached a climax, something would click before he breathed out. She couldn’t help but smile and felt mirth bubbling in her chest. Stopping herself from wondering if Jeremy clicked or snored in his sleep, she quickly got dress, brushed and braided her hair, and made her way to the kitchens.
She arrived to raised voices and a very disgruntled Hope with a cowering Dianne at her feet.
“—what do you suppose I do with this? Do you know what kind of trouble you could cause with your childishness?”
A squeaky voice answered her beneath her shouts. “I’m sorry, miss.”
“I don’t care if you think his heart is hers or not, I don’t ever want to catch you pulling this again.” Hope began to tear up a folded piece of paper in her hands. Dianne gasped in dismay and reached for the pieces fluttering down. With her head lifted up, Zelda could make out her features for the first time. Her skin was freckled, but not unsmooth or healthy. She had round green eyes, a button nose, and thin, but not unattractive, lips. She was ordinary, for sure, but not bad-looking. As the few escaped scraps of paper landed on the ground she caught them and held them tightly in her hands, but Hope would have none of that and forced her to throw them away, her face scowling and flushed. It was then that she finally noticed Zelda.
“Oh! Princess! I’m sorry you had to come at a time like this.” she said as Dianne scuttled back into the shadows. “You shouldn’t have to watch me disciplining the maids like this. Have you come for breakfast? Where’s the Mister?”
“He’s still asleep. And it’s fine, Hope. It’s not like I haven’t seen it before. May I ask what she’s in trouble with?”
“It’s none of your concern, milady. What would you like this good morning?”
“Some of those muffins you had the other day and some bacon would do nicely.”
“I’ll get to it. I pray you slept well?”
As Zelda seated herself at the counter she glanced back at the ginger maid, who sat on her little stool again with her head bowed, this time with a pile of potatoes to peel. She didn’t dare even glance up at the Princess. Zelda eyed the torn up paper in the trash, noticing only three words that were written there: love, can’t, and apology. She couldn’t help but be curious.
“Did she write a love letter?”
Hope sighed in exasperation as she set about unwrapping bacon. “Yes, Princess, but please don’t let it concern you.”
“Well?” Zelda turned to Dianne in the corner, who seemed to sense her gaze and peeled faster. “Who was the letter for? Is it for one of the guards?”
“Never you mind, Princess?” grumbled the cook. She slapped the thick bacon onto the griddle and hung it over the fire, where it began to crackle and pop pleasantly. With a last glance at the maid, Zelda turned her attention to the orange juice Hope had just set in front of her. Just as the bacon began to grow crispy there was a loud yawn and Link stepped in, his bedshirt bedraggled and his hair everywhere. To Zelda’s faint pleasure he had forgone wearing his green cap. She caught more movement behind her and noticed that Dianne had shrunk even more into herself, if that were possible, and was now peeling potatoes at an unheard of speed.
“Good morning, Your Highness.” said Hope, taking the time to curtsy before setting out the bacon.
“Your Highness?” Link blinked at this for a moment before shaking his head. “Really, Hope?”
“You will get use to it, good sir, I promise. Bacon and Muffins?”
“Yes, please! And good morning, my Zelda.”
She turned back from Dianne to see him gracing her with that soft smile of his. She felt her stomach squirm and a faint heat crawling up her neck. She took a sip of juice as he took a seat besides her.
“Hello, Hero. Tell me, did you know you click in your sleep?”
Hope chortled as she rolled out muffins before them and set herself about to filling another glass of orange juice. She asked Link if there was anything else he wanted and he asked for some honeyed sausages, which she set herself to immediately.
“Yes. It was the strangest thing! Every time you breath there’s this ‘click’ before you breath out.” Zelda nibbled a piece of her bacon happily as Link jammed a muffin. He seemed very amused by this fact.
“I think my grandmother told me I did once, but that was when I was a child. I thought I would’ve grown up out of it by now.” he sighed. “Grandfather’s going to have a hoot calling me all sorts of names.”
There was a loud clatter of a knife. Both of them turned in time to see Dianne clutch her fingers as the potato she had been holding tumbled to the ground. By the time Hope had come around to see what had happened Link had walked over and taken her hand. Blood trickled down her fingers.
“You shouldn’t try peeling potatoes so fast, you know.” he said.
The pale, thin fingers were trembling in his hands as he pulled out a handkerchief from his shirt and accepted a wet rag from Hope. Zelda watched as the scullery maid’s face turned all sorts of colors behind a thin curtain of orange curls and felt a twinge. Could it be the love letter had been for…?
Link carefully cleaned the blood away and wrapped up her finger tightly in his handkerchief.
“There you go,” he said. “Too tight?”
She shook her head furiously. He smiled at her and Zelda found a faint anger welling within her. When Link returned to her side at the table it took all her self control not to glare at him and talk normally. It was inappropriate of him to smile at her like that, she found herself thinking, married and all.
“I’m sorry, milady, your highness,” said Hope, curtsying to both Link and Zelda, “But we were under strict orders to be with you as little as possible by the king. So, if you please, I must ask you to leave the kitchen. If you’d like I can have more food sent up to you.”
Link blinked, a piece of bacon half way to his mouth. “Oh, uh, sure. Could we have something to take all this? And those sausages?”
Next thing Zelda knew, she was back outside in the front of the manor under that same tree of yesterday, watching horses run by as she tore apart muffins. The world still held that crisp smell and feel of morning, and the sun glittered behind the treetops on the horizon. The scene with Link and the maid kept replaying in her mind. He sat beside her, happily munching away at breakfast.
“This is like a picnic! Not too bad at all. And man, this bacon is good.” he said. She chewed slowly, trying not to ground her teeth.
“I’m supposing by that you mean me?”
“Don’t be snarky with me, what was all that about back there in the kitchen?”
He stopped half chew to look at her in confusion. “Huh?”
“And will you please swallow before you talk?”
He obeyed, clearing his mouth before asking what she meant.
“You know what I’m talking about. Getting all friendly with that maid while you gave her your handkerchief.”
Now his expression changed to disbelief.
“She was bleeding all over the place! What was a gentleman suppose to do?”
“Let Hope take care of it. She is her maid, after all. Besides, it was more that stupid little grin you gave her.” She angrily buttered her muffin, unaware of slathering some onto her fingers in the process.
“Oh come off it. You’re getting mad at me just because I was nice? I thought girls went goo goo over stuff like that.”
“Yeah! If it’s them, not some other girl!”
There was a semi-awkward pause as Zelda bit into her muffin with vigor and something clicked in Link’s head. Leaning back against the oak tree, a goofy smirk spread across his face as he coolly slipped in a piece of bacon into his muffin. Rearranging it unnecessarily he said casually, “There’s no need to get jealous, Zelda. I am, after all, married to you. If you want—”
But that was as far as he got before she screeched, “Jealous! Jealous! You think I’m jealous? Why in the world would I be jealous over you?”
Slightly taken back by her reaction, he said, “I only thought—”
“I’m in love with Jeremy. Jeremy! Or haven’t you been listening?”
He opened his mouth to reply but stopped, stunned. Slowly, he lowered his food and turned his face away from her, his demeanor closed. Zelda clenched her skirts, breathing hard and almost worried over how he would react. Though why should she? He knew better then to suggest such a thing. She explained it to him on their first night together where her feelings lay. Then why did she feel almost…guilty? There really was no reason for it. Yet she watched him in anticipation, anger simmering just beneath the surface.
When he next spoke his voice had lost the kind, soft quality she was use to.
“Princess Zelda, I want you to know that I will still never give up on trying to win your love.”
This caught her momentarily by surprise, which unreasonably switched to frustration, and confusion—a bad combination.
“What did I do to give you the inclination that I would ever love you?” she blurted out.
The harsh bitter tone she made even shocked her a bit. Yet all Link did was raise his eyebrows and frown. The wild fire had returned to his eyes. They were hard. This man she was not use to and it sobered her. He tossed his strange bacon and muffin combination back onto the plate and glared back at her.
“If you loved this man so very much, why did you go through with marrying me?”
“I-I-I’m a princess. It’s my duty.” She looked down at her hands. “I saw wisdom in my father’s words. Besides, I still ask myself that same question. I don’t know how to handle myself. I’m so cowardly and stupid, so willing to bow myself down. If only I were more like the Gerudo.”
Link snorted, an unruly and skeptical sound that was unlike him and his kind ways. She closed her eyes, now knowing he must be truly offended and beginning to feel the pinpricks of shame.
“Well, I’m sorry, Princess, that you are so disappointed with the lot you chose.” There was a brief quiet that expanded in her mind for hours in which Link sighed to himself and allowed his tone to soften once more. “You’re right, though. I did know, and I’ve known from day one about Jeremy. I shouldn’t act so…upset. I’m sorry my love for you has only caused you misery. If I had known…”
But at that he stood and walked out into the fields towards the horses, and Zelda didn’t have the courage to stop him. Did he just confess to her? That realization alone could’ve frozen her in place, but this had been the wrong moment for it. Rather than excitement over his affections, all she felt was dread for having made him so forlorn and hurt by it—not to mention having to reject it. Link Knight was not a bad man, nor was he comely or unhandsome. She thought of his heart jerking soft smiles and his time spent telling her stories and teaching her of the races of this land. He would make a fine King some day, she knew. And she also knew, probably more deeper than any other knowledge of him, that he would also make a fine companion and husband. He deserved her love, didn’t he? Her father had chosen well.
Covering her face in her hands, breakfast forgotten, she wanted to weep. Maybe she had been jealous. Why did she have to be so pitiful? She couldn’t let this end up bad like last time.
Jumping to her feet, she ran after Link who had already pulled himself onto the bare back of the dapple grey stallion. Both him and the horse flinched when they caught her sprinting at them and bright eyed.
“Take me with you!” she cried.
He watched in bemusement as she reached them and grabbed her knees to catch her breath. The horse sniffed her golden hair curiously.
“Wherever you are going. I..I want to go with you. Please. I’m sorry for how I’ve been acting.” she straightened to meet his eyes. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I…” she blushed, “I may have been jealous.”
In answer, he gave her the same, heart-jerking smile that Zelda found growing on her so: the smile that spoke of kindness, forgiveness, and a lack of mockery. He reached down a hand to her. For the first time she found herself smiling back and accepting his outstretched hand. He lifted her up with surprising strength and sat her in front of him. Her blush, original from exertion, deepened as his chest pressed against her and his thighs held her in place. What was the matter with her?
“Hold on tight.” he said, reaching about her to hold on to the stallion’s dark mane.
The Gerudo came to her mind all of a sudden, curving in her dance of freedom with her blood red hair framing her bronze body. Those exotic, amber eyes turned to her.
What is your wish? What is it that you desire?
And in that breath of a second where the muscles of the horse launched them forward and Link’s warm arms held her to him securely, she wondered.