Briars Hurt for a Reason by VenusQueenOfFaeries
Summary: One year after OoT, Hyrule is at peace. After Zelda returns from a trip to Labrynna and the weather starts taking on odd patterns, Link becomes concerned for everyone's safety. Determined to get to the bottom of it all, he finds himself changing along with the rest of the kingdom. What is going on? Why's Zelda being so weird, and can he stop it all in time?
Categories: Fan Fiction Characters: Zelda, Link (OoT & MM), Impa
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 13 Completed: Yes Word count: 39427 Read: 147501 Published: Mar 12, 2004 Updated: Apr 22, 2004

1. Chapter 0 - Teaser by VenusQueenOfFaeries

2. Chapter 1 - Pretty In Pink by VenusQueenOfFaeries

3. Chapter 2 - Lily by VenusQueenOfFaeries

4. Chapter 3 - Journey to Labrynna by VenusQueenOfFaeries

5. Chapter 4 - Inheritance by VenusQueenOfFaeries

6. Chapter 5 - The Kid's Not All Right by VenusQueenOfFaeries

7. Chapter 6 - How's the Weather Down There? by VenusQueenOfFaeries

8. Chapter 7 - Shift of Power by VenusQueenOfFaeries

9. Chapter 8 - Gains and Losses. by VenusQueenOfFaeries

10. Chapter 9 - One Plus One Plus One Makes Three by VenusQueenOfFaeries

11. Chapter 10 - Winter Wonderland by VenusQueenOfFaeries

12. Chapter 11 - Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here by VenusQueenOfFaeries

13. Chapter 12 - Don't Scare the Boy! by VenusQueenOfFaeries

Chapter 0 - Teaser by VenusQueenOfFaeries
The day was a cold one. The sun above Hyrule Field shone, but provided no warmth for the land. Snow from the storm the night before covered the ground as a heavy white blanket. From a birds' eye, if in fact, there were any birds, one would have seen a lone figure emerge from a cave. If this hypothetical bird were to dismount from its perch and swoop in for a closer look, it would find, upon closer inspection, that this figure was a older male. Dressed in thick leggings, a turtleneck sweater, red scarf and a green tunic and hat, he hugged himself and shivered his way into Kakariko Village. His footsteps were the only blemishes in the smooth whiteness around him. A fierce wind blew and swept-up snow stung his face. The scarf blew straight back, almost choking him. Winter in Hyrule had never been so harsh. Usually bathed in the warmth of the sun all year round, the denizens of the tiny kingdom now huddled together for warmth, confused as to what was going on in their homeland.

He trudged through the snow and the stinging cold air and entered a tiny shack in the middle of the village, hugging himself tightly, eyes to the floor, bouncing a little with every step. Once he shut the door behind him, and the biting winds ceased, he looked up.

"Where is she?" he asked frantically, the glow of the fire in the hearth tenderly lighting his panicked face. The firelight caught his blue eyes and restored the spark that was ever-present in his youth, which had faded with age.

***


She lay still inside the castle. Though the room was brought some warmth from the torchlight, she was, quite literally, frozen stiff. She was dying. Her eyes were growing heavier by the second, one slender gloved arm across her chest, the other at her side. Her lips turned blue from cold and her long, icy blonde hair spread about her like a flaxen cloak. She was simply beautiful, but still dying, and because she was so, the day turned colder than any thermometer may have indicated.

The room began to spin, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker. She was powerless to stop it. One thing blended into the next, all the colors mixed together, and at the end of it all, a bright white light suddenly shone from overhead. It was nothing more than a point at first, but it soon grew and engulfed the entire room. She let out a small puff of air, struggling to breathe.

***


He interrupted her daily tea. The owner of the shack, a much older woman, though young of face, sat at the wooden table in the center of her home, wrapped up in a blanket with mug in hand, and studied the man's face. His freshly washed brown hair, showing hints of gray, hung frozen stiffly around his face, framing it gently, but rather harshly at the same time.

"Link, she's..." her soft voice trailed off. Her shoulders fell, her sharp red eyes found the floor, and she turned a tanned cheek towards Link. She couldn't bear to look at him now. The steam that rose from the tea collected on her face... dotting it with moisture... or was that a tear?

"Dammit, Impa!" Link cried. "I need to know! Tell me where she is!"

"You're too late, there's no getting to her now..."

"Please..." his voice softened to one of pleading and his eyes showed the same expression. He knelt beside Impa, with his hands on her knee. His ears had fallen slightly, and his melting hair dripped on her blanket.

"She's in the castle, Link."

Link stood up without a word and turned around to head back out into the wintry afternoon. In time, Impa stood up and slowly shuffled to the door to call after him.

"You won't make it in time, boy! Come back! You can't save her now!"

Link was either out of earshot or he simply chose not to heed Impa's words. She watched him leave, become a smaller and smaller green dot off on the horizon and eventually fade away. Impa stood in her doorway, quilt draped over her shoulders, and slowly fell to the floor. Another tear dared to roll down her face, but she wiped it up before it could have a chance to freeze.

"Goddesses be with you, warrior," Impa said softly to the doorframe. She stood up slowly and shuffled back inside her cozy little house, sipping her tea and trailing a bit of snow on the floor. It melted quickly.

***


In a high turret of the castle, the queen lay. Her eyes opened fully once more, taking in the brightness that bathed her entire body. Her struggle with life and death was ending, and she knew it. The brightness was calming. Another white puff of warm air escaped her lips as she exhaled. It was cold, too cold. She pulled herself away from the light and looked to her right, mustering up enough energy to turn her head. The door at the other end of the circular room didn't open as she hoped it would. It was time to stop hoping, dreaming, wishing. She turned her head back center with drooping eyelids and forfeited to the brightness. The Queen of Hyrule breathed her last and closed her eyes. Her heart stopped. Zelda was dead. Not more than a minute later, Link came rushing through the door of the turret only to find his leader fallen, cold as stone on which she lay. He took a few steps in and sat cross-legged on the floor next to her, gently stroking her cheek. He was surprised it had gotten so cold so fast. He picked up her head and cradled it in his lap as he wept bitterly. This wasn't how it was supposed to end.
Chapter 1 - Pretty In Pink by VenusQueenOfFaeries
The day dawned bright, sunny and dry in Hyrule. It was a perfect spring day. Our hypothetical avian friend from the beginning of the story was very real and now has a different perch. He was a newborn chick in a nest with three siblings, chirping loudly for food. His mother was poised on a branch nearby, waiting for an opportunity to feed her children a meal, and keep them silenced... for now. She spied a svelte figure below, whirling about madly, swinging a shiny stick around a bulbous tan object. She didn't care what the person was doing; she just knew that at the end of this funny-looking dance, Bulbous would fly open, and just as long as Bulbous fed her, and her young, soon, she'd be happy.

Link was in the Castle Courtyard, training with a fat sack of grain, the latest -- not to mention youngest, at only 18 -- addition to the Knights of Hyrule. After defeating Ganon, the Seven Sages quickly locked him in the Sacred Realm. However, Ganon's forces were able to escape and what would later be known as the Imprisoning War followed. Link, not blinking from one battle to the next, charged straight into the fray, slaughtering as many monsters as he could. More than half of the Knights of Hyrule were lost that day (the Imprisoning War was the bloodiest victory in the history of Hyrule), but Link, Hero of Time as it were, survived. When Hyrule recovered, Link was knighted by a grateful King and Princess, and earned his lodgings within the walls of Hyrule Castle, free to roam about as he pleased. Zelda took part in the Knighting Ceremony only for dramatic effect, since she helped seal Ganon away. No one else, save the other six Sages and Link, had an inkling of her identity as a Sage, least of all her father.

He thrust his sword into the sack, across and up, spilling forth its contents. Dozens of birds, not just Mommy, swooped down to partake of the free meal. One of them that hopped off found a worm and was presently fighting over it with another bird. Link chuckled to himself and decided to pause for a moment before hefting around another grainy foe. He looked around to check if anyone was present -- no one could see the great Sir Link pause to feed the birds -- certain airs must be kept. Fortunately, the only eyes present were his own and those belonging to the winged creatures pecking at the ground. He sat on the edge of the fountain and exhaled deeply, wiping the sweat from his brow. He extended his foot, and a fat little bluebird hopped on. Link swung his leg from side to side, giving the bird a little thrill, twittering and flapping its wings madly, before a voice from behind startled him.

"Ahem."

He tried to turn around and keep swinging his leg at the same time, but something went amiss as Link lost his balance and tumbled backwards into the fountain with a loud, large splash. The birds scattered in every direction, alarmed by both the sudden noise and the sudden moisture. Most of the grain was picked up, and Mommy had flown back to her branch to feed her babies. She looked over at the pitiful soul stuck in the fountain, and he surfaced at that moment. She turned back around to give her attention to her screaming children, wishing they'd pipe down for just a moment while she fed them.

Link sat up in the fountain, his clothes and hair sticking to him. He heard laughing coming from the direction of the voice that originally startled him. Instinctively, he tried to wipe the water off of his clothes, as if it were dirt, and didn't realize the same could not be done with water. After wading to the edge, Sir Link climbed out of the fountain and narrowed his eyes at the one who'd caused such a predicament.

"Ha ha, Zelda. Real cute. Real funny."

Zelda giggled as she tried to regain her Princess-ly composure. She succeeded, somewhat, and cleared her throat to expedite the process.

"Not in the slightest, Sir Link," she said calmly. "One of the most respected Knights of Hyrule falls into a fountain at the sound of a mere girl's voice. And after playing with a bird, no less. I don't believe I should have to lecture you on the proper behavior of a Hyrulian Knight, good Sir, but if you continue to act in this childish manner, than I am left with no choice and must be forced to do so," she continued, teasing. She used her words to keep herself dignified, because Link didn't realize there was still a lilypad on his head. The extra water weight his hat took on must have affected his judgment, and he didn't notice the cranial freeloader. The more Zelda spoke, harder she wanted to laugh, and the harder she fought to keep from laughing. Her face was contorting into all sorts of strange positions, mixed with effort, and Link saw what she was trying to do.

"What's so funny? I fell, it happens to everyone, even Knights, get over it," he said, wringing out his tunic, but keeping his sharp blue eyes on Zelda the whole time. His leggings were sopping wet, as well, but he'd have to wait for a more private moment to take care of that. A few of the birds decided it was safe, and had returned to collect the remaining grain.

Zelda cleared her throat once more and motioned to the top of her head, hoping Link would take the hint. He did, but for the wrong reason. His intent at that point was to remove his hat and shake out his hair, but once his hand reached the top of his head, he felt the lilypad and knew that it was the foreign object, not his hair, that the Princess was referring to. As coolly as he could, Link, without a word, removed the offending flora and tossed it back into the fountain, where it landed with a pathetic splash. Zelda, beet red at this time, erupted into a fit of giggles.

"The Princess of Hyrule collapses into a fit after spotting a lilypad atop someone's head," Link mimicked. "A Knight of Hyrule, no less, and she can't be serious about it. I don't believe I should have to lecture you on the proper behavior of a Princess, Your Highness, but if you continue to act in this childish manner, than I am left with no choice and must be forced to do so!"

"Ha ha, Link. Real cute. Real funny," Zelda retorted.

"I suppose the Princess thinks herself a comedienne."

"I don't think, I know. It's a fact."

"I think I have a better sense of humor than you do, your Majesty."

"I think differently. How do you claim to have a bett -- AH! LINK!"

The birds scattered once more as Link removed his hat and shook out his hair, spraying water everywhere, like a human sprinkler. Beads of water, mixed with a bit of remaining perspiration flew, and a lot of it caught Zelda, prompting her to scream. She, understandably, was not pleased, and she wanted to laugh some more, though she acted as if she were upset. Link, of course, laughed at his definition of humor.

"I told you I have a better sense of humor than you do," Link went on. His short, dirty blond hair stuck up and out in every direction as though a giant furball deposited itself on his head, and flashed a grin that all too often got him out of (and into) trouble as a youth. Realizing his tresses were out of order, he gathered a minimal amount of water from the same fountain he'd fallen into to start this whole mess and smoothed out his hair. He wrung out his hat as best as he could do and replaced it, still wet from the waist down, and only half dry from the waist up.

"This is a new... I can't believe you... just wait until my father..." Zelda stammered in her mock anger, trying to make Link feel guilty, ashamed, or frightened of the consequences of his actions. He didn't feel any of the three, of course, and Zelda knew when she looked up into his eyes, and they bore a "don't give me that crap" expression, she couldn't contain herself much longer and burst out laughing once more.

"I believe, why, yes, it appears Her Royalness has a bit of the giggles today," Link said, to no one in particular.

"Only because you're a riot, Link. You're too funny to realize what you do half the time!"

"Need I remind you I saved this kingdom?"

"With the help of a bunch of girls," the Princess mocked. Five of the Seven Sages were women.

"Don't call Darunia a girl! And it was a lot of good you did, getting trapped inside a crystal," he joked. "Besides, I was the most important part. I got the Stones and the Sword and the Medallions and everything."

"You wouldn't have had it not been for me..." Zelda continued. Their friendly bickering went well on into the afternoon. When they finished, Zelda's gown had dried, and Link was still a bit damp. They decided it was best if they both changed into drier clothes for dinner and headed to their respective rooms.

"You know, Link, I forgot what it was that I came out to speak with you about in the first place," Zelda said.

"Many a young lady has forgotten her words when in the presence of greatness," Link responded modestly.

"Buffoon," Zelda said. "Greatness indeed. You just fell in the--"

"Leave me alone!"

"It was a great splash..."

"Can it!"

Zelda led the way through the winding passageways of Hyrule Castle, and the pair stopped at her room first.

"As you know, good Sir, this gown is hardly what a Princess wears to dinner. I shall change and return in about thirty minutes. Willst thou accompany me to dinner?" Zelda asked in her princessy tone. She blinked her large blue eyes once.

"Verily, I shall, Highness," Link said. He took her hand, knelt beside her, and kissed the back of it. Zelda giggled.

"You may rise, Sir Link. I shall meet you here in a half hour."

"Indeed."

Zelda smiled as she entered her room, locking the door behind her. They always liked to "play" like this. Etiquette and being polite got on Zelda's nerves, not to mention Link's, who was still adjusting to the rules of upper-crust Hyrulian society. To the two of them, acting properly, when not in a serious situation, was something to be made fun of, and they took as many chances as they could get.

Link paused for a moment outside of Zelda's room, thinking he heard a noise, but dismissed it as Zelda throwing shoes across the room, trying to find just the right pair, when the noise was followed by her yelling.

"Impa! I need the pale green ones! NO! NOT THOSE! I don't need such a high heel tonight..."

He went to his own room and dressed in his Knights' attire, as was required for dinner, head-to-toe chainmail and an a dark blue half-tunic with the bright red and gold Crest of Hyrule, a Phoenix with the Triforce, emblazoned across the chest, black belt with his sword in its sheath at his hip. He pushed back the hood of his mail, parted his hair down the center, and was ready for dinner. He casually strode to Zelda's room, awaiting her emergence, to accompany her to the table.

Within the next minute, Link heard the lock on Zelda's door come undone, and the handle moved when she opened the door. She entered the torch-lit hallway like a ghostly vision; thin layers of some shimmering, pale green material formed her gown embroidered with tiny white flowers everywhere on the skirt, and long tight sleeves, ending in long frills at the elbows, met at an even tighter bodice. The skirt covered everything but the fronts of her shoes, pale green to match the dress, with a Triforce surrounded by flowers just visible on the toes. Her hair was done up in a neat bun, with a few tendrils hanging down, showing off her long, elegant neck, and slim, tapered ears, from which, Triforce-shaped earrings hung. She wore a long golden pendant with a large teardrop on the end. Zelda didn't know the meaning behind it; her mother gave it to her as a baby, and now that she could wear it, she almost never took it off, out of respect for her mother's memory. She also wore two golden bangles on each wrist. Zelda's crown was placed delicately amongst the bun and tendrils, with a scarlet red cape draped over her shoulders (covering the low back of the dress) for striking contrast. Simply put, she was absolutely gorgeous, and, on what was now becoming a daily basis, Link continued to be amazed by what a strikingly beautiful creature the Princess of Hyrule was.

"Wow," Link said unconsciously.

"Good Sir, that is no way to speak of a Princess," Zelda said, blinking her eyes again.

"Um, sorry," Link apologized. He suddenly straightened himself and offered his left elbow to Zelda. "May I accompany you to dinner, Your Majesty?"

"Of course you may, Sir," she said, as she accepted his arm and linked her slender one through his, her hand coming to a final rest across his bicep. They continued down the hallways, in step with each other, servants bowing and ducking out of their way the whole while. Link and Zelda snickered to themselves. At last, they arrived in the dining hall, where they were greeted by chamber music and the remaining Knights of Hyrule, speaking quietly amongst themselves.

The Knights themselves were big, burly men, most in their mid-to-late thirties, with families and facial hair. Their eyes, hardened from years of battle, spoke of atrocities they saw, ones they wished no one else to see. Link was less than half their age, half their size, with not even a girlfriend (though plenty young ladies claimed to be the only one Link would ever give his heart to) and peach fuzz dared to grace his flawless visage just last year. His eyes, though still bright with the spark of youth, also told the same stories, but on a far grander and riskier scale. He still looked younger than a squire, not fit enough to join, yet he sat and ate and drank with them, one of them, the best of them all. The Knighthood was a fraternity, and Link was the youngest brother. Of course, little brothers, especially the littlest brother, are always the butts of good jokes, and this littlest brother was no exception.

They approached the table and Zelda let go of Link's arm to allow him to pull out a chair for the Princess next to where her father, King Harkinian III, would be sitting. She sat and he pushed her in, closer to the table, and he took his own seat. The chamber group, seeing that everyone had been seated, played a different piece and the trumpets rang with fanfare has King Harkinian III entered the dining hall, a pair of guards at his side. He took his own place at the head of the dais and called the servants to begin serving the meal.

At dinner, Zelda was the life of the evening, relating Link's misfortune to the Hyrulian Knights, who unfortunately, missed the show in the Courtyard that afternoon.

"...And then he fell, backwards, into the fountain!" Zelda laughed. The King was unable to do anything else but to join her, as did the rest of the rest of the Knights. Link even saw smirks cross the faces of some of the servants, and he took a sip of wine to try and hide his expression of embarrassment. It was pretty easy for him to hide behind his wine, for he'd turned the same color: deep red.

"Oh, but that's not all, Father, it gets much better," Zelda went on, lightly touching her father's arm for attention. The Knights quieted and were hanging on to Zelda's every word, wondering what she could possibly say next. How could the Rookie have made a further spectacle of himself? Zelda turned to the other men and continued, speaking only slightly above a whisper.

"He had a lilypad on his head."

The table burst into a raucous laughter at Link's expense. Fists were pounded on the table, knees were slapped, wine spilled. The idea alone was incredibly hilarious, as were the varied mental pictures each member of the table had. The Knights knew, in addition to that, when not in uniform, Link preferred to wear a horrid tunic, preferably green, with brown or white coveralls underneath. On top of his supposedly outdated ensemble, he wore that silly hat to match. Each Knight, and Harkinian himself, pictured a "hat" on top of the hat, sopping wet, and dripping water all over Link and the ground, looking much like a wet cat, with dripping whiskers included, even though, obviously, he didn't have whiskers. Maybe a frog jumped out of the fountain -- or off of his head -- to add to the fun.

"And it even had a pink flower on it, so it looked like a little bobble hat!"

The laughter, somehow, got worse, echoing through the hall, and into hallways.

Enough was enough, and it was time for Link to salvage some of his dignity. While the others bellowed, he quietly ate and drank, making sure he finished whatever was on his plate, concentrating too hard on his meal in order to drown the others out. When Zelda made her last comment, which was pure embellishment, not truth at all, Link decided he heard enough for one night, and stood up to leave, much to the dismay of the others at dinner, so expressed by their simultaneous calls for him to stay.

"Your Highnesses, I thank you deeply for a most enjoyable evening and such delicious food," he said, bowing respectfully, but casting a sidelong glare at the Knights, who were still doubled over with laughter. "But alas, it grows late, and I have not yet finished with my training for today. I still have archery and a bit of swordsmanship to do for the day."

"Aw, Link, it's just in fun!" one Knight said, patting him heartily on the back, and almost knocking him over.

"Come on Link, grow up about it," another joined in.

"Yeah, Link, just be a man and wear your pink bobble hat!"

Of course, cheers and laughter followed the last comment. Everyone was so caught up in the joke, Link took the opportunity to slink away and return to his room to change. A few moments later, after he'd pulled on his white coveralls, he heard a soft knocking at his door.

"Just a minute," he said. The person on the other side waited patiently. Link hurried to throw on his tunic and hat, not particularly caring about his appearance after dinner and opened the door to find Zelda on the other side, still in her dinner gown.

"I suppose you're here to make more jokes," Link said bitterly, looking up and down the hallway. "Where's the rest of your crowd?" He ducked back inside to gather his belongings.

"Still downstairs with Father, eating, now that I've left. No, I haven't come to make more jokes. You said you were going to train a bit more and I wanted to, with sincere curiosity, come and watch you for a bit. It would also give me a chance to let the men tell even dirtier jokes without a lady present," Zelda said simply, as she stepped inside his room.

"The ever-considerate Princess of Hyrule," Link said. "But not when it's my neck on the line, eh?" He slung his scabbard over his shoulder, and hooked a quiver full of arrows to his hip, and headed down the hallway, closing the door to his room behind him, Zelda trailing all the way.

"It was a funny story, is all, Link, something to break up the monotony of politics at dinner. Besides, you were laughing about it this afternoon and I figured you'd enjoy it the second time."

"With the embellishments?"

"Dramatic effect! Didn't you see how much they loved it? And..."

"Again, with my neck on the line."

"They were laughing with you!"

"Right." They'd reached a door that led out towards the yard again. Link pushed it open and was caught with a flash of the setting sun. He threw up his arm to shield his eyes and walked into the yard, a cool breeze meeting both him and the Princess.

Link picked up where he left off that afternoon, as if he hadn't missed a beat at all, and fetched another sack of grain. He tied a rope around the middle, threw the rope over a tree branch and tied the end of the rope to a stump a distance away, adjusting the height of the sack as he did so. He went about this process silently, and though all the grain from this afternoon was now gone without a trace, the birds returned for more; the chicks chirped again as Mommy stood on guard, waiting for Bulbous to feed them once more; Pavlov's experiment in full swing.

He practiced against the sack of grain once more, attempting a new sword technique one of the established Knights had shown him. It couldn't hold a candle to the Spin Attack he'd mastered, but anything learned would be helpful. After many futile attempts to learn the skill, Link decided he'd had enough swordplay for one day and released the sack of grain, placing it on top of a stone wall as a target for his archery. Zelda took this opportunity to sit on the stump.

Link readied an arrow and fired, but he was so out of practice, it nearly missed the sack altogether.

"It was a funny story, Link," Zelda said again, to break the torturous silence.

"I know," Link said, as he notched another arrow. "I just got sick of hearing it so many times." He anchored to his chin and this time, his arrow flew true, and straight into the heart of the sack. He notched another.

"But that was only the--" Zelda stopped herself, figuring it would be better not to bother or provoke Link in any way. "So you're not upset?" she inquired.

"Nope," Link said simply, letting his third arrow fly. It was a decent shot. "Can't let petty things like that get to you when you're the new guy in the Order of Hyrulian Knights. The Knights do that for you," Link said, muttering the last sentence under his breath.

"Well, good," Zelda said, not hearing the last sentence. Her positive reaction prompted Link to release tension and put the bow down.

"Why?" he asked, thinking she'd heard.

"I just want to see my Knights at the top of their game, is all, without petty things slowing them down," Zelda said, blinking. Why was she being so passive now? "That, and I'm sorry for it."

"Is that why you were so quiet?" Link asked, mentally breathing a sigh of relief.

"Yes," Zelda said.

"Don't worry about it, Zelda," Link said as he joined her on the stump. "Don't worry about anything. Let the Knight worry for you," he continued, flashing her a smile. He gave her a quick hug and returned to his bow, and after a moment, spoke again.

"So now what?"

"Hmm?"

"Well, now that we don't have to worry about Ganon, what do we have to worry about?"

"Nothing really, Link. Everyone's at peace for now. It's a good thing, too. I can travel and learn about other nations and what to do should something arise and peace fails to continue. There aren't any other threats to Hyrule, though, and for that, I'm very grateful."

That's what you think, Princess, just you wait and see...
Chapter 2 - Lily by VenusQueenOfFaeries
A long, long time ago, at least 3 Gerudo Kings' reigns before Ganon popped up in Gerudo Valley, the Gerudo women were a peaceful group. They didn't steal or have nasty attitudes, but still kept mostly to themselves. In fact, the Gerudo took over the role that the Sheikah once had, and even then, not to such a drastic extent. The ancient Sheikah were cruel, ruthless people and used their psychic abilities, which far surpassed even that of the Hylians', to cause chaos and destruction throughout the land for decades. These Sheikah could not be stopped. These were the Dark Ages of Hyrule, and there are few written records of events that may or may not have happened -- even the Book of Mudora is not completely accurate -- and history has been recorded by word of mouth: accounts of war, folklore and tales of powerful magic. Unfortunately, yet also a blessing in disguise, the Sheikahs' power grew too strong for them to control, even psychically, causing their numbers to rapidly fall to the small numbers they hold today. The time where the Sheikah had control of Hyrule became known as the Great Tribulation, since the offending race held the others fearful, using only the power of the mind. When the Sheikah population decreased and the Gerudo took their place as Hyrulian bullies, it was simply known as the Transference. Although no one can tell, or will ever be able to tell, what is truth and what is fiction, it has been very well documented that the Transference did occur. During the time between the Great Tribulation and the Transference, a Sheikah girl was born in a field adjacent to the shore, surrounded by briars and lilies. She was named Briarleigh -- after the field -- Leelee, or more commonly Lily, for short, since most people called her that anyway.

Lily grew up in the time of the Transference. She and her family were outcasts in Hyrule, of course, since they were Sheikah. They were run out of town one night when Lily was no more than 3 years old, and their house was burned down after them. Lily's parents were killed a few days later, and, thinking she wouldn't survive on her own, the vultures left her to die.

***


The vultures left him to die.

The next day, Link decided he needed some fresh air. Actually, what he really needed was a break from all the jokes. There was constant humiliation. After taking a shower and stumbling his way out of the bathroom that morning, still half asleep, he found a pink bobble hat hanging on the doorknob of the door to his room. Furious, he nearly dropped the towel from around his waist. He took the hat with him and tossed it across the room. He sat on his bed and imagined the worst-case scenario... yelling for a moment about the hat, and throwing his arms up in the air in anger... then the towel would fall, and all he'd have to keep himself decent was that accursed pink hat. Of course, by some strange stroke of luck, the rest of the Knights would all stick their heads out and into the hallway to see Link with his hat. Dinner would be even worse than last night... Thankfully, this was not the case. Link pushed his hair, now brown from the water, out of his face and proceeded to get dressed.

Once out in the Castle Town, he was immediately recognized as Link, the Hero of Time, or to the ladies, the Most Eligible Bachelor in Hyrule. It wasn't before long that he was pushing his way through people, when he was just trying to get to the other side of town to get a bit of roast cucco (because for some reason, it was better outside than in the castle) and then on to the valley for a bit of riding and archery.

"Hi Link! Could you sign my boot?"

A boot? Well, at least you're one up from the kid who asked me to sign a napkin the other day...

"Link, I love you!"

I bet...

"Me too! I want to have your baby!"

Yikes!!

"Sir Link, it's an honor to meet you!"

Don't these people have lives? I wanna get something to eat, dammit...

"Sorry," he said, facing his crowd of admirers. "I don't have time to sign anything today. Maybe another time."

A collective "awwww" of disappointment rose from the masses, but the crowd failed to disperse. They hung around for just a bit more, hiding behind crates and buildings, their grasp on the concept of stealth not a very good one. Before long, they realized he was serious -- no autographs -- and the crowd diffused, however, it spread out slower than molasses. Link sighed. He turned back around to see if they had truly gone and caught one straggler at a wall... her skirts tattled on her.

***


Her skirts tattled on her.

"Hey! You! Come back here with that!"

Lily ran as fast as her feet could carry her, through small groups of other people, over logs and under barriers. In her hands was precious contraband, a small head of lettuce. Since the Transference, Lily was living day to day, on her own, in dire poverty. She'd earn a few Rupees here and there from magic tricks she'd perform, thanks to her psychic abilities, but it was nothing near what she'd need to support herself. Most people just gave her dirty looks, instead of money, besides. She didn't have any family, and there weren't many Sheikah left to turn to, since they were almost wiped out at the end of the Tribulation. The previous owner of the lettuce noticed the soft "whoosh" of a skirt, and looked down in time to see the girl swipe the goods. He gave chase, but Lily was so thin and light, she outran him easily. She found a corner where she wouldn't be disturbed and greedily devoured what would be her only meal for a while. Each leaf was quickly torn through, chewed and swallowed. Each leaf made Lily want more, and so, it was eaten faster than the last. Soon, there was no more lettuce, and though her belly was relatively full, there was still an emptiness inside Lily that could not be appeased. It was a mental need, one that Lily knew too well. In the past, her only way of dealing with this... something... was to distract herself, and she'd distract herself with performing some "magic" tricks.

Of course, it wasn't magic to her; it wasn't that special. Her Sheikah blood gave her access to strong psychic abilities, more than the telepathy and occasional clairvoyance that some Hylians possessed. Hers included telekinesis, astral projection, and a special brand of teleportation that would create a dummy image of herself the moment she disappeared, and when Lily reappeared ten to twenty seconds later, the image would slowly vanish, and Lily would tap her unsuspecting victim on his shoulder, from behind. Sometimes, this would scare the person half to death, at which point, the rest of the crowd that gathered would suddenly notice the Shadow girl scaring them, and throw their purchases at her. Lily would run for cover with an angry mob on her heels, out Rupees, out food, out sympathy.

Fortunately, this was not one of those times. She started teleporting around the square, just to get the attention of some shoppers. When she felt she had a sufficient crowd, she put on her little show, knocking off each trick with expert precision. When she came to the end, teleporting three times in rapid succession so that there were four images, she used her telekinetic powers to move the images. She performed a simple dance herself, so the images followed, but it included mixing up all four Lilys. When she was satisfied, Lily made someone guess which one of her images were real, after which she snapped down a Deku nut and the other three Lilys vanished. There were cheers and applause for Lily, as some onlookers gave her a few Rupees. She smiled gratefully.

***


She smiled gratefully.

He looked around to see no one was particularly watching him anymore, not even the roast cucco vendor just a few yards away. He quickly scribbled his name on a crinkled piece of paper, then playfully mussed up the little girl's hair; she couldn't have been more than eight. She skipped away happily, letting the paper sail like a kite. Trying to play off the autograph and not get harassed for more, Link tried to slink away slowly and finally get his cucco. Fortunately, his efforts were not in vain and he was successful. He found a stump and sat on it, munching on the drumstick. Mmm, today's were lemon-peppered, his favorite!

Upon finishing his lunch, he called Epona and rode over to the valley. He greeted some of the women on the way in and took his liberties at the range, shooting at the various targets he found. He heard a noise behind him and immediately whirled around, still on Epona's back, aiming an arrow at the intruder, who turned out to be no one else than a younger guard, sent to collect the saddles some of the other women left behind. She stood still, and he released tension in the bowstring.

"You should be more careful. I thought you were supposed to be trained in stealth," Link said almost shouting, his emotions getting the better of him, revealing his annoyance.

The Gerudo simply glared at him, gathered the saddles, turned on her heel, and returned to the Fortress, probably for a much-needed lesson in stealth.

He spat on the footsteps she left in the sand.

***


He spat on the footsteps she left in the sand.

The sand started to turn into a thin mud from the rain, since the sky decided to open up. It was a pleasant day, so Lily thought she'd try her luck around the lake... she'd gotten the short end of the stick on that one. The lake cleared out and Lily found herself in the center of the mix, trying to duck for shelter. She bumped into a man with a menacing and overbearing face, whom she quickly tried to avoid. The spit hit the ground, but splattered up onto her calf.

Not thinking anything of it, since she was a dirty Sheikah, he continued on his way. She stopped dead in her tracks. That was it, she had it. She was done with dancing for money in the square, or anyplace else. She didn't like the treatment she was receiving. Figuring that no one was around and no one would see, she sneaked up to the man that spat and grabbed him around his neck. Suddenly, she found herself strangling this person. He couldn't breathe. He struggled to get her off of him. And then... they fell. Lily knew what she did, but didn't know that death could be like this... so... clean. Silent. And it felt great! One of those that set her life into ruins was now gone. Revenge... sweet revenge. She smiled to herself.

And it was then that Lily decided to seek revenge on the rest of the people that betrayed her, that set her out on the streets. No more Ms. Nice-Sheikah, who would try to conform and deal with the life she was thrown into. It was time for her to take back what she deserved... and perhaps more, if she felt like it. This was a project that was going to take time, she knew, but she wasn't about to be discouraged, either. She balled her fists, her eyes blood red with anger, and set out a path for shelter, to sit and wait and plot. As for him, well, the victim lay on the ground, lifeless.

***


As for him, well, the victim lay on the ground, lifeless.

Link had a horrible day with archery, and it was happening a lot more lately. His aim was very far off, and it was something he didn't appreciate very well. He lay on the floor, now, waiting to be called for dinner, fully dressed, but hesitant to eat, at the risk of more harassment from his fellow Knights -- again. Impa knocked on his door to let him know that it was time to come to eat, and that she had already found an escort for herself and the Princess. Once seated and served, Link noticed that Zelda was not her usual self. She was nervous or upset or... something. She ate quicker than usual, with the appetite of a rabid wolfos.

***


She ate quicker than usual, with the appetite of a rabid wolfos. It was lucky that she discovered some leftover meat in a garbage alley. Tomorrow, she thought, as she chewed. Tomorrow, I start my revenge on the world.
Chapter 3 - Journey to Labrynna by VenusQueenOfFaeries
"The truth is, Link, no one knows how old the Sheikah people are, save ourselves," Impa explained. "I'm Zelda's nurse now, but I'm destined to continue to look after all of the members of the Royal Family for quite some time. Of course, we age, but at a far slower rate than do the other races of Hyrule and her neighboring lands. It is an anomaly among the people. Many believe the Sheikah have found a fountain of youth, and are unwilling to share. Others think that we have a strange bone structure that allows us to carry our insides differently, allowing them less wear and better overall health. Me, I'm not sure what it is, but you wouldn't believe I'm almost 90, would you?"

Link cringed at the word "fountain," but his eyes momentarily bugged out of his head at her last sentence.

"No way, you look so... well, young."

"Thank you," Impa said simply, and turned her attention back towards Zelda.

"I've never felt so young... younger than when the Knights compare me to themselves."

"You're Hylian," Impa said, not taking her focus off of Zelda. "You're supposed to be the way you are, and I'm supposed to be the way that I am. It's just the natural order of things."

"Sheikah are all like that, aren't you?" Link inquired. Impa looked at him quizzically before turning back to Zelda. He spoke again. "About keeping things natural and all. What's the deal with that?"

"It's part of our religion. You have your Goddesses and Triforces, we have Sha'krah, Creator of Life and Keeper of Peace." Impa looked at Link, whose eyes had found the floor. "Why?"

"Just interested in history of races other than my own, for once, I guess. I should start reading more, like Zelda, and not seem so na´ve all the time."

The Princess was currently reading on a bench against a stone wall in the courtyard. She sighed and turned another page, positively bored. She'd read this one at least a dozen times, but there was nothing else to do. Her lips moved as she read, not because she needed to do so, rather, because she memorized this particular passage and was reciting simultaneously with her mental voice.

Impa reminded Zelda of the time left before lunch, and Zelda nodded and waved her hand dismissively to acknowledge her notice.

Link took this moment to rise from the edge of the fountain -- he and the fountain had since made peace -- where he and Impa were sitting and continue sword-fighting against sack of grain. The birds returned, but didn't seem to bother anyone in the least, though all of them were screaming for a late morning meal.

"Speaking of races other than your own, Link, the Princess will be traveling to Labrynna tomorrow to meet with the Tokay people."

Link looked over his shoulder for a moment.

"What's so special about them?"

"They're isolated, is all," Impa said. They have a whole island to themselves in Labrynna, but no one else ever goes over there. She feels it's time relations were opened with Crescent Island, and that an alliance was established. The Tokay, after all, do have an abundance of Scent Seeds on their island. It might prove useful one day, you never know."

"Oh," Link said. He stretched his back. "Who's going with her?"

"I am. She'll only be a few days, and I'll be the only one she needs."

Link's heart and ears fell at the sound of the news. Part of him wanted to go with Zelda, just to be by her side. Then again, with more banter between them, Zelda probably wouldn't get to see any Tokay, because Link would do his best to keep her occupied, but no thanks to anymore rogue fountains, thank you very much.

"So what time are you leaving?"

"In the morning, shortly after breakfast. Labrynna is quite far away, as you know, and the journey will be well into tomorrow evening. She's so excited, Zelda. Can't wait to go. As soon as His Majesty said she could be the ambassador, she went running around trying to find any information she could on Crescent Island and the Tokay. Of course, she already read everything we have. She ate dinner quickly and was off searching again."

That's why she was so ravenous yesterday, Link thought. She was just excited.

Impa sighed.

"She's always been like that, thirsty for knowledge. Good quality for a leader. When she ascends, I'm sure Hyrule will see nothing but prosperity, all the better once this relation with the Tokay is opened up." She smiled at Zelda with a maternal sort of pride.

Link smiled at Zelda, too.

***


The next morning, Link slept in. He didn't wake up until the sun kissed him through the gaps in his window blinds. A murmur escaped his lips and he rolled over, but it was no use. He was awake. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes when the neighing of some horses caught his attention. He stumbled over to the window -- mornings were not his friends -- and peered through the blinds. An excited scene caught his attention, and he rubbed his eyes again to better focus on the goings-on below.

There was a decorated carriage with four white horses leading the way, tied together with pretty reigns, several Triforces adorning everything. On either side of the carriage were several guards and Knights, lining the way to the castle entrance. A fanfare rang out, and several maidservants led the way before Impa, Princess Zelda and the King.

"Shit!" Link leapt from the window and struggled to find his uniform. "How come no one told me about this?" Impa told you yesterday morning. You should have expected to send off the Princess, he argued himself. "That doesn't mean anything!" he shouted back, and hopped out of his room and outside, pulling on his boots as he did so, hair wild and unbrushed.

Link stumbled more down the steps of the castle and soon found his place among the ranks of the Knights, just as the initial fanfare was ending. He drew his sword and presented it like the other Knights did, as was tradition when a member of the Royal Family left on a journey. One of the older Knights, Faji, a Goron, elbowed Link in his right shoulder for being late. Faji was considerably larger than Link, and being a Goron, it was understood that his elbow must have hurt. Link resisted the urge to protect his smarting right arm with his left, since he was presenting his sword. He simply gritted his teeth and bore the pain, trying to keep his sword as straight as possible.

As the fanfare played, Impa stepped forth from the castle, followed by Zelda and lastly, the King. Link gasped, forgetting about his arm, again amazed by Zelda's appearance. This time she wore a deep wine-colored gown with an empire waist. Above the waist was a lace-up velvet front, the same wine color, but darker so that it appeared black. The laces up the front and back were done with satin cord. The skirts of her gown were layered; the lace ends of her petticoats were just visible beneath her main skirt, made of taffeta, with a layer of the sheer material, similar to her pale green dress, over it. The sleeves were of the same material, fashioned so that they gave the impression of a sleeve, tied together at her shoulder, elbow and wrist, otherwise flowing freely. Her shoes matched the velvet in color, and bore a higher heel than usual, making her look exceptionally tall. Zelda's long hair was allowed to flow freely down her back, and she wore a tiara as opposed to her crown. The only other jewelry she wore was the long teardrop pendant. She seemed to float down the steps and her hair sailed behind her. Link soon found his mouth quite dry and unable to take his eyes off of Zelda as she made her way to the carriage. He was snapped out of his trance by Faji, who elbowed him again, in the same spot, harshly whispering, "eyes front."

King Harkinian III bade his daughter goodbye, wishing her a safe trip, productive meetings and a speedy return, kissing her on the cheek. Zelda thanked her father for his wishes and curtsied before a footman helped her into the carriage. Link took a hard sidelong glance at Zelda and noticed that several silver rings also adorned her tiny fingers. She slipped inside the carriage and all that was visible was the back of her head. The King also gave his farewell wishes to Impa, and another footman helped her in the carriage on the other side. A seemingly far-off voice boomed.

"Knights! The Princess Zelda and Lady Impa!"

"Hail!" Link shouted in conditioned response, as did the rest of the Knights.

"His Royal Highness, King Harkinian III of Hyrule!"

"Hail!"

The fanfare rang again and the carriage drove off, leaving a grand cloud of dust in its wake. Once through the castle gates and out on the countryside, the next fanfare rang and the King went back inside the castle. Once he was safely inside and his guards followed, the Knights were ordered again.

"Knights, at ease!"

At last, Link's heavy left arm was allowed to fall. He sheathed his sword and held his arms behind his back, slyly rubbing the sore spot on his right arm, hoping that was the last time Faji would ever elbow him.

They stood around for a moment before they were called to attention and marched back inside, where they were dismissed. Link trudged back to his room, because his legs were getting heavier with each step. He undressed, drew the curtains on the window and went back to sleep in his underwear, the bruise on his arm purpling nicely.

***


Lily kept true to her word. The very next day she decided to begin work on her plan to get revenge on everyone that wasn't a Sheikah, but she wasn't anywhere near as strong as she would need to be to do so. It was more than 350 years before an opportunity opened up. She waited patiently, for an attack as perfect as hers was sure to ripen and sweeten with age. Lily had long since moved to the outskirts of Hyrule, living by herself in a forest beyond the mountains that surrounded the Kokiri Forest. She heard that a Gerudo king named Ganondorf was defeated by a little Hylian boy, whose name she had forgotten, but he was unimportant anyway. What were important were the consequences of the Hylian's actions.

Lily was well versed in Hylian religion. During her downtime, she read a lot, and 350 years was a long time to gather information, even if she didn't read a lot. She knew that the Hylians, as well as some members of other races throughout the land, believed in a trinity of Goddesses that created Hyrule, and left three Triforces as a symbol of the work they had done. Lily learned that, not too long ago, Ganondorf managed to get a hold of the Triforce of Power. Upon his defeat, the Triforce was set free, without an owner. Such a powerful object would definitely aid her in her mission.

A knock hit Lily's door one day, causing her whole tiny shack to shake. She answered the door, and to her surprise, it was a Hylian coachman, with his passengers waiting not too far away. Lily scowled at first, but recovered sweetly.

"Can I help you?"

"Sorry to disturb you ma'am," the coachman started, removing his hat. "Only my horses are starting to tire, and I'm in a foreign land. Perhaps you know of a place where I may be able to retrieve some water for them?"

Ugh. Horrid freeloader. You will be among the first to suffer, Lily's thoughts immediately responded, as the back of her right hand began to burn. She straightened herself and simply answered she didn't know, ignoring the sensation. Then she pretended her eyes just landed and the coach.

"Who are you driving?" Lily asked.

"The Princess Zelda of Hyrule, and her nurse, Lady Impa."

"Oh," Lily said, her demeanor changing once more as she curtsied lowly. "Please tell the Princess that I hope she has a safe journey to... to..."

"Labrynna," the coachman answered cheerfully on his prompt. "Crescent Island."

"To Crescent Island," Lily said, with a slight venomous change in her tone.

"I will. Good day to you madam."

"And you take care of yourself. Water those horses soon," Lily said, as he turned to leave and closed the door.

"Poor fool," Lily said loudly once she heard the carriage roll away. "He has no idea of the kind of destruction his information will cause. The Princess away from home, and on a remote island is a fortunate coincidence. The only way he could have helped me more was if he told me where the Triforce of Power lay."

She sighed.

"I should get around to finding where that is, anyway. Soon... soon, all of Hyrule will pay."
Chapter 4 - Inheritance by VenusQueenOfFaeries
Zelda stared dully at the rolling countryside all around her. She wasn't ever able to sleep in a moving carriage like Impa was. She sighed and rested her head on her hand and listened to the coachmen softly talking to the horses, as well as the bumping of the carriage wheels along the foreign terrain, since the carriage just passed the mountains, which bordered Hyrule. At least this part will be interesting, she thought. It's something I've never seen before.

She couldn't have been more wrong. This stretch of South Hyrulian land looked very similar to Hyrule Field, and it was something she had seen before. Grass, rocks, and trees were all that was visible for miles around. She wondered how long it would take to get to Labrynna, and how much longer by boat to get to Crescent Island. Her thoughts continued to wander.

What about Link? He seemed pretty upset at dinner three nights ago, and you didn't pay him much mind yesterday, even though Impa already had his attention. There was so much history you could have told him if you wanted to, Zelda thought.

"I'd probably bore him," Zelda said aloud. "I'd go on and on about the wars that separated the Hylia, starting the new races."

He'd listen to you; you've seen the way he looks at you. Anything you'd say, well, he'd be hanging onto your every word. He's cute like that.

Zelda giggled softly.

"Yeah, he is."

I think he likes you.
Chapter 5 - The Kid's Not All Right by VenusQueenOfFaeries
When Zelda came back into the Grotto, the scene that met her was the same as the scene she had left. The Tokay were still being... well... less than swift, and Impa still had her head on the table. Zelda sat at the table, and gently poked Impa in her side.

"Seeds!" Impa shouted, but the Tokay still paid her no mind.

"Excuse me," Zelda started, in a commanding tone. She opened her hand and there were several Scent Seeds in her palm. "I think we're done here Impa."

"Seeds!" Impa shouted again, this time awake.

"Exactly, and we need to know when the next boat to the Labrynnan mainland is," Zelda said.

The Tokay continued their bickering amongst themselves.

Impa sighed and stood up.

"Come on, Zelda, let's go. We can catch the boat ourselves and if not, we'll stay the night here... again."

It sounded as though it was something Impa simply did not want to do.

Impa led the way back to the northern shore, Zelda trailing just a few steps behind. It was a silent trip back, mostly because Zelda was fighting with Lily.

What are you doing here?! Zelda cried. Get out!

No, Lily answered. I have to use you.

What are you talking about?

Don't you know, child? Your people are the ones that put me in danger... yet you have what I need.

What...?

The Triforce of Wisdom! With it, I can access volumes of knowledge that would have otherwise taken me years to find.

What are you going to do?

It's simple, really. I'm going to take everything you know... and kill it. You're going to be helpless as you watch everything around you wither and die. And when I'm finished, you're going to go as well, the quickest of them all!

...

Dumbstruck? I'm not surprised.


"Zelda, hurry, we're going to make the boat if you move a little quicker!" Impa called, trying to flag down the rower.

"Hey! Stop! We need to get back to Labrynna!"

You don't have to tell me twice to hurry back, Lily's voice said inside Zelda's head.

Zelda and Impa climbed into the boat.

That night they arrived in Hyrule.

***


The next morning, the Knights held a muster in the front yard. They were marching parallel to the castle's boundaries when the carriage carrying Impa and Zelda pulled up. When one of the watchmen spied the carriage from the tower, he gave an alert. Within a heartbeat, the yard was full of souls scurrying about madly, while the Knights lined the way to the main doors, presenting arms. This time, Link was among the first to find his spot, so as not to get another elbowing from Faji. Today, his bruise was a very dark purple, almost black, but tunic and chainmail covered it.

The King stepped forth from the castle to greet his daughter, and her nurse. Zelda came out of the carriage first, and this time, Link bit his lip and clamped his eyes shut so not to catch a glimpse of the Princess. Impa followed close behind Zelda. Once they were inside the castle, and the fanfare played out, the Knights fell back in and continued their muster. Link couldn't stop thinking about Zelda in the dress, and received another elbowing (not from Faji, thank Din) for continuing straight ahead when given the order to flank.

Zelda went out to the courtyard unaided. Of course, Zelda led the way, but Lily was in control. Poor Zelda was at Lily's mercy, and even with Zelda's power, she was helpless in her own body. Once outside, Zelda stopped to pick some herbs and flowers. They were part of Phase Two. Somewhere in the middle of the Princess' flower picking, Link came out to the yard to the fountain to get his head wet.

"Hi Zelda," Link said, surprised she hadn't changed yet, but cheerful nonetheless. "How was Crescent Island?"

Zelda jumped in surprise and dropped half of what she'd picked.

"Um, not good. But we did get seeds," she answered, picking some up.

"Well, that's good. We didn't expect you back so soon."

"We didn't have to stay for long." Her expression changed and turned darker. "It was pretty easy to get what I -- we wanted."

Inwardly, Lily cursed herself for not being more careful.

This time, it was Link that didn't pick up on the flub.

"So we have the Tokay on our side, then?"

"Oh, no," Zelda said. "They didn't want to help."

"So then how did you get the seeds?"

"I took them," came the truthful answer.

Link paused and furrowed his eyebrows. Something wasn't right. Zelda wouldn't ever just up and take something from someone unwilling to help her out.

"Alright then," Link said slowly. "I'm tired from the muster, so I'm going to go relax in my room. I'll be there for a while, so if you need anything..."

Zelda smiled.

"Sure," she said.

Link hesitated again. He took one last look at Zelda, still smiling and clutching her plants, and left. He wasn't going to his room, though. He was going to Impa's. Something was really wrong. She didn't use her princess-y tone once.

***


That night, Zelda crept about the castle. Guards were on duty, both stationary and roaming, but Lily's superior stalking abilities allowed her to leave the castle undetected. Armed only with a dagger, Zelda easily made her way across Hyrule Field, with the Stalchilds as a minor annoyance. Around midnight, she made it to an abandoned house just on the outskirts of the kingdom. She gathered supplies from around her one-room shack and began mixing it all together.

"Just a few leaves of this, but a POUND of cucco eggs... unreal."

What are you doing? Zelda asked from inside her head.

"Starting the second part," came her voice.

What second part?

"I thought we went over this already," she snapped. "But this is so nothing happens to me."

What's going to happen to everyone else?

"How many times do I have to tell you? They're going to die!"

You can't do that!

"Why? A bunch of Hyrulians ruined whatever chance of a life I had. Why shouldn't I return the favor? And don't think you're going to stop me, Princess. Just because you're the one I've chosen to possess doesn't mean you're any stronger. In fact, you've become weaker, since you're reduced to only a voice in your head!"

The Princess stayed quiet and defeated.

At that moment, Lily finished her concoction, a thick, soupy liquid, and drank it all at once. She cleaned up her supplies and headed back to the castle.

"That's all for now, until tomorrow."

What happens tomorrow?

"Oh, you'll see, Zelda. It's not like you have a choice."

***


It was well into the night, but Link was still talking with Impa about his suspicions of Zelda's actions.

"Oh, Nayru! I just saw your arm! It's so purple, what happened?"

"Faji elbowed me two days ago because I wasn't front and because I was late for sending you off."

"Oh gosh, he's so rough... and it doesn't help that he's a Goron... wait, why were you late?"

"I slept in."

"I told you we were leaving! Something should have clicked in your head."

"How often does that happen, Impa, really?"

"Good point."

"I kept kicking myself about it. Anyway, something's just not right, Impa. I don't know what it is yet, but I can feel it," he said.

"She's fine, Link," Impa said for at least the hundredth time that night, and rolling her eyes. "There was nothing wrong with her on the way home."

"Well maybe something happened after she got here, or something about the island made her act differently. She didn't eat any of those Scent Seeds, did she?"

"Goddesses, Link, I was with her the whole time! And no, she didn't eat any. I'm certain she wasn't that hungry."

"It still bothers me. Something's off," Link said, his eyebrows arching into worry.

"If I promise to keep my eyes open for something, will you go to bed? It's nearly 1 in the morning!"

"Yes, but you have to promise, and let me know straight away if you see anything!"

"You worry too much about her, you know?"

Link blushed slightly.

"Uh, no, I didn't know that," he said, trying to hide the quickly rising color in his cheeks.

Impa folded her arms and let out a wizened "hmm." She didn't make any further comments on that matter.

"Fine, Link, I promise I'll look out for something. But I'm not going to try and trap her into something you want!"

"I didn't ask you to."

"I don't think you'd mind."

He blushed again.

"Good night, Link," Impa said, stifling a yawn. "You're probably going to need some sleep."

"Good night," Link said, as he left Impa's room, closing the door behind himself. He stuck his hands in his pockets and hung his head as he walked slowly back to his room. Something really was wrong with Zelda, he knew it, but he wasn't sure how he'd go about proving it.

He walked past Zelda's room and stopped when he heard a noise. Instinctively, his hand went for the sword at his hip. He drew it and pushed in the door just a bit, to see a small sliver of the bedroom. The moon lit a path across the floor, and there was a small nightstand on the side, but that was about all Link could see. Suddenly, something altered the light and a shadow fell on the floor. Link jumped around to change his view, and was surprised with what he saw.

Zelda was climbing in through her bedroom window.



A/N: Near LaGuardia Airport in New York, these trees grow with little yellow berries on them. In his infinite wisdom, my boyfriend decided to see what was inside of them two summers ago (2002). A PUTRID smell wafted when the berry exploded and covered his hands in a thick, yellowish-white goop. Since then, we've obviously learned to stay away from the "Scent Seeds" and are at a loss in figuring out how Link ever dealt with them. XD
Chapter 6 - How's the Weather Down There? by VenusQueenOfFaeries
The next day, after personal training and an early muster, Link went straight to Impa. He determinedly charged directly into her room and found her... brushing Zelda’s hair. Both women quickly turned their heads simultaneously to see who the intruder was.

"Link,” Impa said, startled. “What’s the matter?”

Link’s eyes found Zelda’s and she was able to hold his gaze a while before he stuttered.

“I... um,” he tried to look away and at Impa to speak, but he was drawn back to Zelda. She didn’t blink, rather, she stared at him, hard and fast.

“Uhh, it--it’s really not that important,” Link said, Zelda still holding his gaze, trying to duck out of the doorway.

“It’s has to be, Link, if you came in here like that,” Zelda said, emphasizing his name, as though speaking it for the first time.

“It’s really not, though,” Link continued. Then he thought of an idea.

“I actually just came in to ask Impa to escort her to dinner. I’ve never escorted her before, and I thought that I should, for once,” he said, finally escaping Zelda’s hold.

“Oh, how flattering, Impa,” Zelda said, looking up at her.

Impa hesitated a moment before answering.

“Yes, indeed. Thank you, Link, you may escort me to dinner this evening.”

She shot him a look of distrust and questioning, studying him for any body language. She knew he had an ulterior motive for the dinner invitation, and she wanted to know what. Link’s eyes flashed her back a message that now wasn’t the time to speak of what he wanted, but that escorting was.

“Thank you for accepting my invitation, Lady Impa,” Link said, bowing. “Now, if you gentlewomen shall excuse me, I have more practice and other Knightly matters to attend to before supper.”

Impa smiled and Zelda said nothing.

“Fare well,” Link continued, and left Impa’s room, closing the door.

Zelda spoke first.

“What’s he going on about?”

“Probably exactly what he said,” Impa replied.
“Practice and training. Maybe he’s also going out in the Town.”

“Oh,” Zelda said, and they both fell silent.

Impa fought all possible urges to think to herself, since she knew Zelda could pick up on them, and continued brushing Zelda’s hair, concentrating too hard on her locks. Zelda wouldn’t have heard Impa, though, because she was holding yet another argument with Lily.

He suspects something! Zelda said.

Don’t be a fool, Lily answered. That little boy? He’s nothing.

That’s what you think,
Zelda said.

Why?

I don’t have to tell you.

No, that’s right, you don’t have to tell me. I can find out for myself.

No matter what you find out, you’ll have him underestimated.

If you honestly believe that, then you underestimate
me, my dear.

***


Later that evening, once dressed for dinner, Link found himself approaching Impa’s room. He’d taken the long way and passed by Zelda’s room, and found that Faji was taking her downstairs. Link laughed to himself. Zelda was a pebble in comparison to Faji’s boulder-like stature. He knocked on the door to Impa’s room and turned to see Faji leading the Princess down the hallway. He didn’t notice when Impa’s door flew open and she grabbed him inside.

“You’re right,” Impa said breathlessly.

Link just cocked a brow.

“About Zelda... something’s not all there. She didn’t remember anything that happened on the island, and seemingly nothing before that.”

“That’s what I was going to tell you, Impa! But you wouldn’t--”

“Shh!” Impa hissed. “We have to go to dinner right this moment, but we can finish this conversation along the way.”

Link simply nodded in agreement.

They entered the hallway, in step, about the same height. Impa carried a grand fan with her, and held it up to her face when she wanted to speak.

“So what were you going to say?”

“I saw Zelda come in through the window last night,” Link said through gritted teeth. “It was just after I left you and said good night.”

“Which window did she come in through?”

“North side.”

Servants continued to duck out of their way and bow and curtsey as the pair continued down the long hallway.

“Hmm, the side least guarded. Keep an eye on her then, Link. I will too. Something’s definitely not right.”

They arrived to the dining hall with the usual music, most of the other Knights already in their seats, and as Link was sitting down, he noticed Zelda and an annoyed-looking Faji enter the room. What was going on? Zelda and Faji left for dinner far before he and Impa did. Faji never looked so upset the other times he led Zelda to dinner, either, Link noticed. He turned to voice his observations to Impa, but she was currently engaged in conversation with another Knight and Link certainly did not want to disturb them.

The back of Link’s left hand started to get warm, but he dismissed the feeling, and rubbed his hand unconsciously. He watched as Faji pulled out Zelda’s chair. She looked nervous again. Was she going to speak of her trip to Labrynna? She certainly hadn’t last night and Link was anxious to hear details, more elaborate than the ones the Princess volunteered the day before. Zelda looked down at her hands for a moment, which were folded neatly in her lap, then her eyes narrowed as she scanned the table.

Faji plopped down not too far from Link, and was heard to say something along the line of “That took forever, the long way. It was like she hadn’t ever seen the castle before.” He was, however, cut off.

The blaring trumpet fanfare rang out again through the dining hall, announcing the arrival of the King, as it did every single day. A hush fell over the table, and Link sat up and straightened himself.

King Harkinian III seated himself and dinner began.

About halfway through, the King initiated the conversation Link wanted to hear so much about.

“So, Daughter, how was your trip? Have you made much progress?”

Zelda had a mouthful of peas and chewed them quickly before speaking.

“Oh, um, it was horrible. I had to get the Seeds myself, and we left then. They’re probably still fighting.”

“Who was fighting?” the King queried. A slight note of anger rose in his voice.

Impa remained silent and let Zelda continue telling the story.

“The Tokay were. Amongst themselves. About the negotiations.”

“Have they finished?” the King asked.

“As far as I know, no.”

Link’s hand had been growing warmer throughout this exchange, but it wasn’t enough to draw his conscious attention -- yet. He continued to rub his hand as though he had an itch.

Likewise, Zelda’s hand was burning, but it had long since held her. She continued to look about the table rather nervously until her eyes fell on Link. She watched him rub his hand for a moment before speaking to him.

“Sir Link, is something the matter with your hand?”

“Huh?”

Zelda snapped Link out of his trance. He was paying attention to the conversation, but only slightly, since he had already heard this part. It wasn’t exactly thrilling to hear. But he did notice Zelda’s question, and reflexively looked at his hand. His Triforce was glowing.

“No, Highness, nothing is wrong,” Link said slowly, and looking up. “In fact, I’d like to hear more of your story of Labrynna. It’s been a long time since I was there last.”

Link’s hand hadn’t glowed around Zelda in years. Their Triforces had just gotten used to being near each other, Link supposed. So why was it glowing now? The only time their Triforces would even consider reacting was if one of them was lost, or if the Triforce of Power showed up. Yet, Zelda was sitting there, and no one else. What was going on?!

It’s him, isn’t it, Zelda?

I’m not saying a word!


***


That night, Link found himself in Impa’s room again.

“Your Triforce was glowing?” Impa asked, raising an eyebrow. She didn’t know whether to be skeptical or serious.

“Yes,” Link said for the fourth time. “It was glowing. Zelda knew it, too. I bet hers was and it tipped her off.”

“And that tipped you?”

“Well, of course. She said something was wrong with my hand, so I looked. I didn’t even realize I was fiddling with it.”

“Where is Zelda, anyway? She’s practically disappeared since...”

Link and Impa just looked at each other, suddenly realizing no one was watching the Princess.

***


In the run down shack on the edge of the Field, Lily was once again concocting. She took a chance by going out so early in the evening, but now was an optimal time to do her work.

What now? Zelda asked impatiently. What foul magic are you up to?

“I’m simply manipulating the world,” Lily answered in Zelda’s voice.

I don’t understand why you’d want to do this. You’re a Sheikah! Don’t you believe in order?

“Yes, I do,” Lily answered. “That’s why my plan is so beautiful. Everything is going to age as normal. Seasons will change, time will pass, everyone will grow old and die. However, it will just happen faster.”

You’re going to make time speed up?

“In the simplest of terms, yes.”

But you’ll die, too, there’s a fault!

“No, I won’t!” Lily said confidently. “Don’t you remember last night, sweetheart? That thick, soupy mess? ‘This is so nothing happens to me,’ recall? And nothing will happen to any other Sheikah. We shall be strong again.”

With that, Lily changed to her true form, and the Princess ceased to be for a few moments.

Lily stirred whatever she was mixing and began to chant in ancient Hylian, the language of all Hyrulians before the races split. She wasn’t old enough to remember her mother having taught her some, but a book she found in the library, having taken advantage of Zelda’s knowledge, made it that much easier. Zelda also knew how to read ancient Hylian.

“Jil-naaaaah quooooo miyyyyy fahhhhh-nak geeeee-pe-lub-iiiiid id,” she sang. She repeated herself and continued in a different line.

"Fooooot-nim shuuuuur’pe taaaaav ziiiiiwh!”

Zelda listened in a mixture of awe and disgust. It sounded like a bastardized version of the Song of Time.

A thin purple haze rose from Lily’s mixture. She waved her hands so that they formed a circle, and the mist followed her, forming an orb floating before her. Lily began to chant and the orb steadily increased in size. Soon, it rose through the roof and Lily stepped outside to control it. Bigger and bigger it grew, until it encompassed the house, the Field, then all of Hyrule. Everything was purple. Lily kept chanting until she felt the orb control her physical limits... and she knew then that she had made the orb as large as she could. That was when she let go, and the mist settled. Lily smiled to herself.

What did you just do?

“I aged Hyrule. Expect some significant changes in the morning.”

Of course, Zelda had just enough time to return to her room, lie on her bed and crack open a book, as Link and Impa came bursting through her door. Zelda didn’t even appear startled; she simply looked at them. Link and Impa, in turn, looked at each other, then back at Zelda before cautiously leaving the room. She wasn’t leaving much space for them to catch her.

***


The next day was dreadfully hot. It was abnormal for a Hylian spring, which was usually full of mild temperatures for a few months. Everyone felt the change, as though early spring had suddenly changed to late spring, or early summer. Not everyone, however, was taking the change well. King Harkinian was feeling ill.

He started the morning perfectly fine. He ate breakfast and attended to a few kingly matters, but it wasn’t long before the heat started to take its toll on him. Not being one for hot weather in even the summertime, Harkinian paled and passed out walking through the castle halls. The Knights were concerned, since this was a new reaction, as were many of the castle servants, but Zelda, oddly enough, seemed cheerful and high-spirited, as if happy to see an early summer. While her father lay in bed with a few sheets and open windows, growing sicker by the minute, Zelda spent more time in the library, as though stricken with the urge to reread all of her favorite books. Impa and Link were at the King’s side, serving as both guards and companions to Harkinian III, who was currently sleeping.

“He’s not looking too well,” Impa said sadly.

Link kept a stony face.

“He’s flushed and sweating, but shivering at the same time. It’s...” her voice trailed off and shook her head.

Link was sweating horribly himself, and his hair started to turn brown and stick to his face. He didn’t want to look at the shell of the King that lay before him, but he couldn’t look away either.

“The heat,” Link said unemotionally.

Impa looked at him.

“The heat made him this way. Hopefully, this is a freak occurrence and we cool down over the next few days. Even still... sometimes not even summer is this bad."

Impa looked at Link, then Harkinian, then Link again before speaking.

“As if we went directly into the heart of summer from the beginning of spring. It’s never happened before.”

Link, of course, knew it never happened before.

The next few days were agonizing. Against Link’s wishes, it didn’t cool down. It only became increasingly warmer. By the third day of the heatwave, there had been several deaths in Hyrule, and many more people were sick. Plants were dying, animals were going unwatered. Hyrule was suffering. The King was still sick, and taking a turn for the worse. Chills shook him constantly, though his body temperature was dangerously high. When he was awake, he felt nauseous, dizzy, angry and confused, almost delirious at times. He even looked far older than he was, and everyone attributed his appearance to his sickness. During the afternoon, the Knights were gathered outside mustering, with Zelda and Impa in the Courtyard conversing. A flustered maidservant ran through the halls of Hyrule Castle.

Her first stop, since it was closer, was to the Knights. She was scolded for interrupting, but received an apology when she told them of the King’s condition. She found Impa and Zelda, and they ran immediately to his chambers. Impa was the only one permitted to enter, since she could heal, leaving Zelda and the Knights to wait outside in painful anxiety.

"He’s stopped sweating,” was the muffled voice of the maid that came through the door. Obviously, it was not a good sign.

They tried moving the King into a cool bath to get some water back to his overly dry skin, but nothing seemed to ease his suffering. Somehow, he seemed most comfortable lying down with a cold cloth draped across his forehead. Pillows were placed under his feet, and Impa tried her best to calm the King, and speak soothing words. It seemed to be working.

Suddenly, King Harkinian started to convulse. The shiver had completely claimed his body; his breathing and heart started to race and the shaking became violent. His body jerked up and down off of the bed, and increased in intensity. It was unnerving to watch and when it appeared that the convulsions couldn’t get any worse -- they stopped -- just as suddenly as they began. The King was still, well, dry, but felt cooler to the touch. His chest visibly rose and fell once, but not again afterwards. His heart stopped beating. A collective gasp held the room as Impa and the attendants realized what happened. Impa decided she would be the brave soul to deliver the news. She didn’t want to face the waiting Knights, but she knew she had to tell them; word would be out soon enough anyway.

The door to the King’s chambers opened and a sullen Impa poked her head out. The Knights immediately stood and waited patiently for what she was going to say.

“I’m afraid I have some horrible news,” Impa said in a soft panic, stepping out into the hallway where the men and the Princess were gathered, deliberately finding her feet so not to see the expressions of worry across each face.

“King Harkinian III...” there was an awful, tense pause. “...is no more.”

The Knights could only stare in disbelief and Zelda started to cry.
Chapter 7 - Shift of Power by VenusQueenOfFaeries
“It... I...” Faji started.

“Don’t,” another Knight said, and clapped him on the shoulder. They shook hands for each other’s support.

YOU MONSTER! Zelda growled.

What? Lily asked innocently.

YOU KILLED HIM!

That was part of the plan. Now you -- or I rather -- get to be Queen. Do you see now how the Triforce of Power works? Otherwise, it would have taken at least a week to get where we are now!

I can’t be Queen... I have to be twenty-five.

You haven’t really looked in the mirror lately, have you, Princess?

What do you mean?

You sure do look twenty-five, Zelda.

What are you talking about? I’m eighteen.

Nonsense! Anyone that looked at you would say you weren’t a day under twenty.


Zelda ran away in tears to her room. Link immediately went to follow, but he was stopped by a stone-faced Knight, who pulled on his tunic. When Link looked back to see who was hindering his progress, his eyes met the other Knight’s. He shook his head, a silent command to just let Zelda go, and Link stopped trying to move.

Zelda, meanwhile, ran through the halls and back to her room, slamming the door and locking it behind her. Since Lily was in control, she easily turned off the tears as quickly as she had started them. She found Zelda’s vanity mirror and peered into it.

“See?”

Zelda looked at herself... and Lily was right. She looked a little bit older. And how that she mentioned it, her father looked older, and so did the servants and Link and Faji... but not Impa.

“But you’re going to be Queen anyway, dear,” came Zelda’s voice. “Hyrule has no leader, and the people are going to need someone to look up to. I mean, summer’s started early, there’s a drought, people are dying... What are you going to do?”

Zelda, from within, began to speak to Lily, but as soon as she attempted, she was silenced.

I--

“Nothing! That’s what you’re going to do! It’ll be a while before anyone realizes what’s going on... if they realize what’s going on. Right now, summer’s a little early, yet strong. Fall will come early too, but when it gets here, Hyrule will be so happy it’s not hot anymore, she won’t bother to realize that it should only be the beginning of summer. In another week or so after that, winter. Harsh and cold. No one makes it out alive, either. So, you see, your father was just one of the first to go...”

Stop it! Stop talking! Just... stop...

Lily didn’t respond, but thoroughly enjoyed listening to Zelda’s crying.

Zelda, on the inside, was hurting horribly. She was a prisoner in her own body, unable to do the simplest of things, like smile when she wanted to, or now, cry. Dozens of her people were dead from the heat, least of the casualties her father. She, and she alone, knew what was going to happen to her country, and was unable to stop it... or at least find a way to postpone it. She couldn’t even call for help. There had to be a way to have someone find out what was going on... but how... and who?

Just then, there was a soft knocking on the locked door.

“Zelda?”

Lily took over her role as Princess and managed a phony sob before granting the guest entrance. It was Impa.

“Zelda, you know that we have to talk.”

“I know,” said Zelda. Lily had lived long enough to see several changes of the Crown, and was aware she was about to be coronated.
Impa took Zelda’s hand, which she gently held in her own as she led the Princess back to the Knights, standing at perfect attention outside of the King’s bedroom. Even Link was staring straight ahead.

“Do you want to go in and... see him?” Impa asked.

Zelda simply nodded.

Attendants were still fussing over the King, as was a doctor. The entire room bowed before Zelda, as she tried to keep an expression of sadness and shock. Zelda slowly approached the bedside, and touched the King’s arm, in the same place she had at dinner just a few nights ago.

On the outside, Zelda appeared to be brave. Though her features showed sadness, her body language suggested that she didn’t want to cry, that she just wanted the excitement to stop, which was truth. Lily, quite good at acting, felt no attachment to the King, who appeared quite gray in death... as her parents had, and loved ones around her. She was satisfied and beamed on the inside. Zelda, on the inside, was a wreck.

Stop crying! What are you trying to do, drown yourself?

Zelda briefly dug her nails into the King’s flesh, before turning to Impa.

“I’m ready,” she said, without any expression in her voice.

Impa attributed it all to anger.

“Come on, then,” she said slowly. “You should change.”

Impa and Zelda left the King’s bedside, and servants and the doctor continued to fuss. As they walked down the hall, Zelda looked back towards the door. Link could have sworn he saw a slight smile grace her lips.

***


Later that evening, Zelda sat on her throne, still trying to keep her expression as stony as possible. In her left hand, she held a scepter, and draped over her shoulders was the beautiful red cloak she often wore. In addition, she was wearing a cold ice-blue dress, matching her feelings, with a not-so-constricting bodice, dropped waist and skirts a mile wide. Her hair was loose and wild. She, as always, contrasted with the dank backdrop of the torchlit castle, seemingly casting her own.

Under normal circumstances, this picture would have led Link to conjure some impure thoughts (then shake himself back to reality, wondering how he could slip off into such fantasies), but today was different. It wasn’t only due to the death of the King, but Zelda just seemed “off” in general. He expected she would have been flustered, not cold. He wanted to comfort her, like a friend would, but she was... distant, detached from everything.

While getting ready for her part in the ceremony, Impa passed Link, who was peering into the hall through a crack in the double doors. She placed a hand on his shoulder, and he whirled around, surprised to find that it was only Impa behind him. She urged him to stand with the rest of the Knights, as the coronation was about to commence.

A lone, solemn trumpet filled the hall with music. The air grew heavy with its sad melody, and a procession began for the coronation. Those present, and not in the ceremony rose to their feet as a double line of dignitaries approached the throne.

This is it! Lily thought excitedly. Zelda scowled as best as she could.

As the dignitaries took their seats, the Knights, wearing bright red and gold uniforms, marched in, two at a time. When a pair of them reached the end of the long corridor in the hall, he faced the middle, and placed his hand on his sword. This process repeated until the hall was lined with Hyrulian Knights, varying in size, shape, race, and, in Link’s case, handedness. As the final two Knights took their places, Impa and one of the non-elemental Hylian Sages walked, very slowly, in the aisle flanked by Knights and stood before Zelda, stopping just at the bottom of the steps before the throne.

“Knights, present arms!”

The sound of at least twenty swords simultaneously being unsheathed and held high was the only sound to follow the echoing voice.

After a pause, when the echoing finally died away, the Sage began to read aloud from the Book of Mudora. It was a rather long passage, and occasionally lapsed into Ancient Hylian. After the sage had finished, a troupe of actors began to reenact scenes in Hyrulian history, ending with the coronation of the first King of Hyrule. They showed how the Goddesses instructed the Crown to be passed down, and ended by displaying the page in the Book of Mudora where those events were recorded.

The actors took their seats and Impa climbed the steps. Zelda bowed her head and Impa held Zelda’s crown high above, for all to see. She then began to speak.

“In the name of Din, may you become one of the most powerful leaders of Hyrule. In the name of Nayru, may you have the wisdom to lead your country right. And in the name of Farore, may you have the courage to do so.”

Impa leaned over the Princess and placed a crown atop Zelda’s bowed head. She raised her head, and the newly crowned Queen and looked about. A far-off Knight shouted a command.

“Hail, Her Royal Highness, Queen Zelda of Hyrule!”

“Hail, Her Royal Highness, Queen Zelda of Hyrule!” the remaining Knights shouted. They seemed to raise their swords even higher over their heads, in similar fashion as when then Princess Zelda left on her trip to Labrynna. Zelda rose and, after the Sage and Impa stepped out of the way, slowly passed through the double line, under the canopy of presented arms, servants trailing her to straighten her skirts and cloak. Nobles and other dignitaries from neighboring countries applauded and welcomed the new Queen into their circle. Zelda, under Lily’s control, waved to them all and smiled wide.

***


The next day was the funeral for the King. It was still unbearably hot, and the long and drawn out Rites of Death didn’t help much for the suffering Hyrulians. Even though they were covered by the shade of the trees in the Royal Garden, the sun found a way to poke through the trees and beat down on their shoulders and heads. Commoners, unfortunately, suffered the most. The funeral was open for all to attend, but the commoners had to listen from outside, where there was no shade, and see what they could from peering around the shoulders and heads of others. Only nobles were allowed inside the castle’s gates to see and hear up close.

The Knights were gathered in a perfect circle about King Harkinian’s grave, with the newly crowned Queen Zelda at her fallen father’s feet. Impa stood, somber-faced, head bowed, next to her. The same sage from the previous day’s coronation stood at the King’s head, reading aloud several verses from the Book of Mudora once again. Following him, each Knight gave a short eulogy, and Impa finally delivered a proper one, having known the King all of his life. Zelda remained quiet. Upon the completion of all the speeches, flowers were placed on the gravesite and one by one, the commoners were allowed entrance to the castle and the gravesite to do so as well. Once they placed their flowers on the grave, they were quickly escorted out once more. Slowly, the throng dispersed, the Knights marched away and Zelda was left alone with her father. She looked at the casket for a minute; it was covered in all sorts of plantlife. She smiled evilly before placing her flower -- a dry, withered rose, still with its thorns, and a fresh lily, full of life -- on his grave, and walked away.

***


Over the coming weeks, not days as Lily originally intended, Hyrule grew warmer and warmer, killing off dozens of acres of land and citizens. With every death that was reported, she'd cheer, causing Zelda, still trapped inside, greater agony. The rising death toll was Lily's main reason for extending the summer, but soon she got bored, and decided to go ahead with the fall. When the summer ended, the remaining Hyrulians prayed to their respective sets of deities for mercy and to thank them for sparing their individual lives.

Link, on a day off from training, ambled around the market. It was a seemingly normal day for Indian summer (other than the fact that the calendar said it should only be the beginning of summer), with mild temperatures, and a breeze to cool the late afternoon air. His knee had been bothering him for the past couple of weeks in the worst way. It would start to lock and stiffen, often, when doing the simplest, least stressful of things; even walking. He'd heard of the other Knights complaining of stiff, battle-weary joints, but this certainly couldn't have been happening to him. He was still a young man. It did seem as though they were all achier recently.... Link was trying to find some bandages he could wrap his knee with, as all of the ones he had were quickly becoming tattered from overuse.

There was an old man, once a very reliable prophet in the middle of the square, rambling to himself incoherently in the middle of the Hyrule Castle Town Market. Shoppers ignored him now, though some commented on how he'd lost his mind and plummeted to the doldrums of insanity.

"The end of the year means the end of Hyrule!" the old man shouted suddenly. Several people turned to look at him, startled by the sudden noise. Others stood in front of their children in a protective fashion. Still others ignored the man completely, but continued to shop at a much quicker pace. Link was in none of the categories, and he soon found himself, led by his curious nature, approaching the man.

"Excuse me," Link started.

"The days get shorter as do the lengths of our lives! You know it true!" the man continued, not hearing Link.

Link tapped him on the shoulder.

"Excuse me," he said again, a little louder this time.

The old man whirled around. He had a big beard and once soft green eyes turned icy blue. Link knew this man; he'd met him on several of his travels before, but the old man did not seem to know who Link was and he continued his rant.

"The end is coming! We all grow old! We all grow weary! Look at yourselves and see the truth! Look at each other and--"

Suddenly, he stopped, and started again differently. His voice dropped.

"You... you there," the old man whispered, as though Link was several yards away. He reached his hands out so that they cupped the air around Link's face. Link instinctively took a step backward but didn't dare move any more.

"You know what to do, don't you?" His mind seemed to have come back to him all at once. Link looked around, unsure of what he was talking about.

"Link," he continued in his whisper, "like the rest of us, you grow old. Your time is short. You know it; you've felt it. You must find the source of these happenings, where the grass is young. It was not the Goddesses that are punishing us, for we were good. Please, before it's too late..."

Link stood there, still as stone, staring at the man whose hands still wanted to cradle his chin. The man's eyes grew out of focus, and he also stood motionless, still with his hands in the air. He listed a bit from side to side, as though he were a statue. Then he spoke.

"Look at each other and see we are wasting away!" His voice was loud again, his speech slurred and incoherent. He continued muttering. He was lost again.

Link turned away for a moment to continue to search for his bandages.

A scream.

Link drew his sword and whirled in the direction of the yell. The old man had both his hands gripping his forehead tightly. He looked to be in excruciating pain.

"Link... hurry," the old man panted as he slowly held out his hand. "The Queen shall grow cold... Take..."

And he fell.

He was dead.

The gathered throng gasped.

Link dropped his sword and shield and ran to the old man's side. He held his fingers to the man's neck, trying to feel for a pulse. There was none. Link hung his head in defeat.

As he was looking down, the old man's left hand caught Link's eye. It was still folded in a tight fist as though it were clutching something.

Come to think of it, Link thought, he told me to take something, he continued, unfolding the man's wrinkled hand. Though the old man's hands were wrapped tightly around it, Link managed to pry it loose.

It was a pendant. Link noticed instantly that it was almost identical to the one Zelda frequently wore, except this had elaborate engravings on it, one of a lily and one of the Sheikah Eye. This pendant was also silver. Link wondered what it could have meant. He pocketed it anyway, with a new determination welled up in him to find out what was causing all this harm to Hyrule.

As he began to stand up from the old man's side, Link's knee gave out again. This time, a sharp pain accompanied it. Link howled, dropped to the floor and grabbed his still-bent knee, rolling on the ground writhing in agony. The 18-year-old kid with the bum knee, so much so that he presently was unable to walk, was Hyrule's only hope.

May the Goddesses have mercy on her, for she doesn't stand a chance.
Chapter 8 - Gains and Losses. by VenusQueenOfFaeries
A young woman was kind and honest enough to buy bandages for Link, though her true motive was probably to brag to her friends. She giggled incessantly the entire time Link spoke to her, and as she skipped back to her group, where she started talking in whispers. Loud shrieks would rise from the gaggle of girls and die to whispers again. Link was used to this, and he stood up slowly to get ready to leave. He steadied himself for a moment before attempting to move any more. His leg told him it wasn’t quite ready to move yet, so Link sat back down on the floor and sighed.

A moment or two later, Link was finally able to start hobbling back to the castle. It took him a while and it was well after sunset before he made it. He thought about the old man’s words the entire way.

“The end of the year, end of Hyrule... shorter days... aging... I don’t get it. OW!”

His right foot managed to find a small pit in the ground. When he tried to take another step, he managed to twist his knee and fell to the ground, howling in pain. After a few minutes, Link was able to stand and steady himself, with his weight mostly on his good leg.

He suddenly realized he was silly for trying to walk and called Epona to carry him back the rest of the way. With every stride of Epona’s, though, his legs slapped against her sides, causing a sharp shooting pain through Link’s injured leg. He simply gritted his teeth and bore it, though pain-induced tears began to stream down his face.

It’s not much longer; there’s the castle up ahead, he thought.

He grimaced. Another stabbing pain overtook him.

Once through the castle gates, Link managed to dismount Epona without too much trouble. He gingerly tested his leg, and found he wasn’t able to put much weight on it at all. Apparently, his knee was very badly twisted, and it would cause him problems in the future, and horribly affect his fighting.

“I need a faerie,” Link thought out loud, as he scanned the courtyard after leading Epona back to the stable. There wasn’t one in Epona’s saddlebag; he knew that for certain, because it was empty. There weren’t any on his person and none happened to be flying around at the moment.

“Of course not,” he said, and hobbled slowly back towards the castle (which, thankfully, wasn’t very far), going very easily on his leg. When he got to the castle gates, Faji, who happened to be passing, noted his plight.

“Link... something the matter?” he asked. Faji managed to keep a peal of laughter stifled; Link’s strange green clothes were hilarious.

“Yeah... actually...” Link admitted, climbing the stairs at the entrance of the castle. “I twisted my knee. Can’t put too much weight on my leg...”

“Let me help you, then,” Faji said.

“No, no... it’s all right... really,” Link said breathlessly. He rested in the doorway, exhausted from his efforts of walking a few feet and climbing six stairs.

“Nonsense, I’ll help you back up to your room so you can rest.”

“No, really, I-- WHOA! PUT ME DOWN!”

Faji effortlessly hefted Link, jackknifed, over his shoulder. His upper body hung down Faji’s enormous back, and his legs were short enough so that Link’s toes failed to reach Faji’s chest. Link also tried to keep himself propped on his elbows on Faji’s back so his face didn’t hit the rock. He bounced with each step Faji took, but tried to keep his right leg straight to minimize further injury. It disoriented him, too, since what was “up” to Link was “down” to the rest of the world. Even scarier was the long fall that appeared to hold Link if Faji accidentally dropped him, and the size of Faji’s calves. Link was able to see them rather clearly, and from his angle, they appeared to be the size of his torso.

“This... really... isn’t... neces... sary... Faji...” Link said as he bounced.

“Don’t worry, we’re here,” Faji replied. He roughly removed Link from his shoulder, but gently placed him on the ground, sitting. Link stayed motionless for a moment to reorient himself.

“Are you going to be okay?” Faji asked.

“I think so. I’m kinda dizzy, though. All that blood in my head,” Link answered, holding his head. Could the hallway stop spinning for just one moment?

“I meant your leg,” Faji said, motioning. He bent over backwards to stretch out his back, which seemed to hurt him a bit.

“Oh,” Link said dumbly. “Yeah. I’ve got faeries. Are you going to be all right?” Link asked, noticing Faji stretch.

“Yeah. It’s just my back. Lately it’s started to hurt from lifting things.”

Link blinked, absorbing his statement.

“Well, okay, I’ll leave you, then,” Faji said, and he turned to leave.

“Faji?” Link started.

The Goron turned around and lifted an eyebrow.

“Thanks,” Link said meekly.

“You’re the Sworn Brother of Darunia, and a Knight of Hyrule. I have no choice.”

Something strange happened.

Faji’s face broke into an unmistakable smile.

Link was taken aback for a moment before returning it and raising his hand to wave.

Faji continued down the corridor, turned, and was out of sight.

Link sat on the floor for a moment, slightly dumbfounded, but came back to reality when his knee screamed in pain again. He reached for the doorknob and used his arm strength to pull himself upright. He opened the door to his room, and hopped over to his dresser. He pulled out a bottle with a flickering pink light on the inside. A faerie. Link held the bottle near his leg and opened it; the pink light floated out of the bottle and around his injured right knee. Instantly, his knee felt warm, soothingly warm as though bathed in summer sunlight, and the pain lifted away, like magic. The faerie healed it, grinned and giggled before taking one last circuit about Link’s leg, and flew away. Link rested his leg on the ground to test it. He could put weight on it now. He stood on it, leaned to the right, and then he jumped a few times. Good. It was sturdy. He decided to wrap it in his new bandages anyway, just as a precaution.

Thoughts of what the old man said in the square slowly crept back from the recesses of Link’s mind. What could his cryptic words mean? Aging, the Queen -- of course, that was Zelda -- the end of the year? It was only June. But... it felt like... September. Could that be part of it? Maybe...

Link rushed to his mirror. He’d never really stopped to think about his reflection recently, but now he noticed drastic physical changes. He noted the same changes he saw in everyone else. He looked older.

“Strange...” he commented. He continued to inspect his reflection and found hints of gray showing up in his blond hair... only the blond was starting to turn brown, like when he got it wet. He plucked some hair to get a better look at them, and winced as he did. Sure enough, what was once yellow turned brown, and what was brown turned gray.

“What the hell? I’m only eighteen!” Link cried, exasperated. Something was not right. He dropped his hair and studied the mirror once more. There was only one thing he could do.

A long time ago, when Link first started on his journeys, Impa would constantly remind him that if he needed to, he should ask for help.

“You very well may turn out to be the Hero of Time, Link, but you’re not indestructible. If you need help, ask for it. If it’s given to you, take it. There’s a saying amongst my people, ‘When one’s in need of sage advice, one must seek out the one who’s wise.’ You will find that asking for help can only make you stronger, instead of stubbornly refusing it.”

Of course, now would be the perfect time to seek out Impa’s help. Link took one more look at his reflection, as though he were trying to memorize his own features, and left his room. What he was thinking was going on was crazy, but Link knew from experience nothing was too crazy to not happen in Hyrule.

***


A half-packed suitcase lay open on the floor. Since Zelda’s ascent to the Throne, Impa found that she steadily had less and less to do for her. While it was true that Zelda wasn’t a little girl anymore, she didn’t know everything, and would still need guidance, or at least someone to talk to every now and then. Unfortunately, her help was refused, and Impa decided it was best if she left the comforts of Hyrule Castle for a bit and went back to Kakariko to take care of what was left of the denizens of her native town. It was a hard decision. Something told her that Zelda needed looking after, and Zelda seemed to be growing so distant from Link since she got back from Labrynna. It annoyed Impa to find Zelda acting so uncharacteristically, but she assumed the sudden change was brought on by the feeling that she needed to pick up exactly where her father left; and that her father’s death was eating her up on the inside. Impa would think about Zelda’s behavior from time to time, and how it could affect the kingdom. In the midst of the recent string of deaths, it was sure to be detrimental, especially as Zelda seemed to ignore that particular problem.

Impa just decided to take a break from packing. She lay down on her bed to thinking, when she heard a light rapping on her door.

“Come in,” she said, sitting up, and groaning slightly in complaint. The door opened a bit and a head poked its way into the room; it was Link’s. He spoke simply and straightforwardly.

“We need to talk.”

Impa only looked at him, slightly confused, head cocked, before she allowed him to enter.

***


“Tonight is perfect,” she thought out loud. “With that stupid Link out of commission with his bad knee, I can go where I want and do what I want,” Lily cackled.

She looked at the reflection of Zelda in the mirror. She was starting to look much older, almost forty or so. Zelda didn’t feel it. She still had the same weightless feeling she always had for the past few months. She’d gotten used to it somewhat, but still, she felt like there was nothing in the world better than being in control of her own body.

“And I think I’m going to go lakeside tonight,” Lily said into the mirror.

There was light knocking on her door.

“Who’s there?!” Lily demanded, in Zelda’s voice.

“It’s me, Zelda. I was wondering if I could go with you,” Link’s voice answered.

Go with me? How much did he hear?

***


“Remember when I first came to the castle eight years ago? Remember what you told me about looking for help if I needed it?” Link began.

“Go on,” Impa prompted.

“Well, I need your help.”

“With what?” Impa asked, standing and crossing her arms.

“I think I figured out what’s going on in Hyrule, with respect to the deaths...” Link said, and explained everything he’d deduced about the weather and the deaths, and his own injuries and aging. He spoke about the old man and how he was vital in helping Link piece together his hypothesis. He tried to mention every detail he could, but when it came to Zelda’s detail, “the Queen shall grow cold,” Link failed to come up with how it tied in to the rest of the goings-on in Hyrule.

“...but it doesn’t make sense how you haven’t aged... and you’re one of the oldest people I know!”

“I think you should keep a closer watch on her,” Impa said, rubbing her chin in thought. “Wasn’t it that not too long ago, you started to get closer?”

“She’s been pushing everyone away since her father died,” Link said.

“It’s true, but there you are. She’s been acting coldly. It’s also unlike her to shun either you or I. You should look after her.”

“But if she’s going to be all--”

“I don’t care how you do it. I only care that you do,” Impa ordered shortly.

Link swallowed a rather large lump in his throat and rose from his seat on the floor. One of Impa’s socks decided to stick to him, and he peeled it off and threw it back in the suitcase, chuckling. He remembered only a few months ago when it was a slightly more embarrassing lilypad he removed from himself... when Zelda acted like herself....

“As soon as possible, Link, please,” Impa added, trying to sound as calm as possible, and not yell.

“I’m going,” Link said, taking the hint. “I’ll think of something; I’m sure of it.” He started to leave.

“Link,” Impa said. He paused and looked over his shoulder. “Don’t you want to know where I’m going?”

He wondered what she was up to. He turned around fully, crossed his arms, and leaned slightly to the left, with a questioning look on his face.

“Kakariko,” Impa said. “To help out.”

Link only nodded and continued out the door. He thought the entire time he walked to Zelda’s room, and, as a result, he was surprised when he made it there faster than he thought he should have. On the other side of the door, he heard her talking loudly. He decided to press his ear to the keyhole to listen.

“And I think I’m going to go lakeside tonight,” he heard. Without thinking, Link knocked on the door.

***


Zelda threw open the door and shouted angrily at Link.

“How dare you eavesdrop on me!” she screamed.

“I only thought you could use some company, is all,” Link said, as he was pushed out of the doorway. Zelda, obviously disturbed by his presence, shoved her way past him and moved quickly through the hallway.

“We haven’t spent much time together at all recently.”

“Well, I don’t want anyone coming with me,” Zelda said, quite deliberately. “I can do this on my own.”

Link simply stood there dumbfounded. Do what? He let Zelda have her space, and addressed her properly.

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” Link said softly. He bowed and left. Zelda’s eyes cast a piercing glare over the Knight as he walked away. He turned down one of several corridors in the hall.

“Good,” came Zelda’s voice, half-frustrated, half-pleased.

Time to wreak more havoc.

With the soft whoosh of her skirts, Zelda continued down her hallway, through another, navigated a winding passage and left the castle, having decided to leave now instead of that night. The guards stood motionless, but only watched the Queen leave. No one knew where she was going, save herself, and Link, of course.

Link poked his head out from around the corner of the corridor he was hiding in. No one else knew where Zelda was going, but he certainly did and he was going to find out why.

***


Halfway on her way to the shack, Lily showed her true self again. She continued on her way, not having the slightest idea she was being followed. But even then, her follower was confused. One minute he was following Zelda… the next thing he knew, he ducked out from behind a tree and saw a strange Sheikah woman, with no trace of the Queen. He followed anyway.

It took most of the day for Lily and her follower to reach the shack, as they traveled by foot. Link hid behind a tree while Lily went inside. He waited to catch his breath, test how much more his knee could take (it seemed fine) and make sure she was staying in. When he was satisfied, he moved closer.

As he approached the house, he drew his sword, and it reflected the moonlight onto the ground... but there was something strange about the ground. Link knelt in the grass, about 20 feet away from the tiny shack, picking up a few of the blades and rubbing them between his fingers, studying it curiously. Some of the grass was brown, and the soil dry, as it was in the rest of Hyrule, but as it crept closer towards the house, it was still green, and the earth soft, as though unaffected by the weather.

But how can that be? Link asked himself. He was suddenly reminded of the woman inside and crept slowly to the back of the house. He flattened himself against the thin wall, sword still unsheathed, and moved as close as he could to the shack’s lone window. A few beads of sweat ran down his face. Why was he nervous? You’ve faced the unexpected countless times before, and this is no different, he told himself.

“I suppose,” he whispered aloud.

Right, so just look inside the house so you can see what you’re up against, Link instructed himself again. He obeyed.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been a most unsuspicious scene. A Sheikah woman was moving quickly around what appeared to be her home doing what appeared to be cooking. Of course, it wasn’t so simple.

I have to get her out, Link thought, turning back so that he lay flat against the side of the house. But how?

Light managed to catch his face. It came from inside the house, and it was awfully bright. Instinctively, he looked back inside. Fire.

That’s it, Link thought suddenly. I’ll set a fire.

Without thinking about the consequences, he took out a fire arrow and aimed it towards the base of the shack. It caught alight instantly, and began to burn very quickly. Unfortunately, the few dry leaves Link carried over on his boots caught fire as well, and soon, the ground around the shack was ablaze. The fire grew as the land around the house burned, and as the flames licked closer to the drier grass around it with each passing second. Link stared, wide-eyed, shocked. He couldn’t move, but he could still feel the heat from the fire. He felt the sweat forming at his hairline and slowly plotting an itchy path down his face. His palms were sweating too. His heart beat faster and seemed to jump into his throat. The fire danced in front of him, hypnotically, as though begging him to watch. It succeeded in catching his gaze for quite a few moments, but the sound of broken glass shook him loose. It only dawned on him, too late, that everything around him would burn... as well as everything in the house.

“ZEL-- huh?” he started, reaching and taking a step towards the house, but cut himself short as he saw a figure rush past him. It was the Sheikah woman. She fled, carrying a few things with her. Link watched her run for a moment, but realized there were slightly more pressing matters to attend to; like the ground he was standing on was fodder for the fire. Quickly, he picked his pack up off the ground and looked through it. There was nothing that would help him. He patted himself down for any item he might have had, no matter how small. Nothing.

“Shit,” Link cursed, looking up at the raging fire, helpless.

He’d find out who that Sheikah was later. For now, there was nothing he could do but turn... and run.
Chapter 9 - One Plus One Plus One Makes Three by VenusQueenOfFaeries
When Link was far enough away from the fire that it was safe to stop, he called for Epona. His knee was screaming out in pain from the sprint, but he couldn't stop to think about it. He had to get back to the castle, and alert the Knights. They would put out the fire together before it got too large and too out of hand. Epona was the fastest horse in all of Hyrule; surely she'd make up for any time Link lost while staring. Reliably, Epona carried Link back to the castle in a blur of green and brown; of rider and mount.

Upon arriving at the castle's main gates, Link was pushed aside by the rest of the Knights, who flew by in the opposite direction on their own horses. One of them stopped long enough to yell at him for not being around the castle, and to come and help put out the fire. He rode off again.

Link was dumbfounded. The fire was too far away to spot from the castle. How could someone have gotten back there before he did? The only way it could have been done was magic, but there was no one who possessed teleportation powers anymore, was there? He looked up, and standing in the doorway with a very sour look on her face was the Queen. Her scowl was penetrating, and very un-Zelda. For a brief moment, her gaze caught his, and her whole faced seemed to pale as she stared at him, with a look of near hatred.

Link didn't have to be told twice what to do. With a last look at Zelda's challenging expression, he urged Epona to turn around and rode off to join the crowd. He caught up with them in a matter of moments, and once on the site of the fire, joined a bucket brigade that started at the Lake to douse the flames.

The fire was still as lively as ever when Link returned. Those nearest to the blaze were already coughing violently, unable to withstand the smoke for very long. Still, they kept the buckets moving, though the water was of little aid. It was as useful as trying to bathe in a mud puddle. Despite that, Link found a place towards the end closest to the flames and passed buckets with his fellows.

And then, one of them fell. A Zora, not too far away from where Link stood, though further from the inferno. The bucket he was holding crashed to the ground and spilled, moistening the dirt he stood on. Another bucket followed suit before someone realized the hitch. The front of the line quickly ran out of buckets and complained, screaming at those behind them. They couldn't see what happened through the smoke. The back of the line panicked, not knowing what to do to help out the Zora.

Link tried to take control. He stepped out of his place in the line to direct and bring order back to the chaos. He screamed for attention, but above the roar of the fire and the din of the men's voices, he could hardly be heard. Faji noticed Link yelling at everyone, and lumbered to his side. Several of the Knights, especially the other Gorons, shouted at Faji for stepping out of place, while the remainder still worried about the Zora.

"What are you saying?"

"Listen to me, get yourself, Agnor, and the rest of the Gorons out in front; you are going to be the most fire-resistant. Next, the Hylians, and keep the Zoras closest to the water, got that? They'll pick up Zaphta and send him towards the Lake, meanwhile, the other end will keep sending buckets back up to the fire."

"Okay," Faji said. "We can do this together."

With the two of them working, each directing about half the Knights, they rapidly regained a working rhythm. Link commanded the bucket brigade and Faji organized Zaphta's transport to the Lake. Before very long, Zaphta was under supervised recovery lakeside, and the buckets were coming in at an even faster rate than before. The lines had become more efficient and they started making progress. Link was halfway pleased, but there were still loads of flames to douse.

Eons seemed to pass before the fire was out, and the Knights headed back on their horses, weary and covered head to toe in soot. The house, meanwhile, and the area surrounding it, was completely destroyed. Whoever was working there would have to find a new place to conduct her experiments, and perhaps a new place to live. Link couldn't help but keep looking back over his shoulder at the charred remains. The pain in his knee returned as a dull throb.

Zaphta rode back with a Goron, who made sure he didn't fall out of the saddle, as he was still uneasy on his feet, though feeling drastically better.

When they got back to the castle, it was Faji who dismounted first and spoke to the Queen.

"Your assessment, Sir Faji?" Zelda asked.

"A terrible blaze, My Liege, but all of the members of the Knighthood did their duty, one of us in particular."

"Oh?" Zelda said, a note of slight interest in her voice.

"Yes, Your Majesty. Sir Link--" Zelda made another disgusted face, but Faji continued, "was taking a great deal of responsibility on his own shoulders."

Zelda crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow skeptically.

"He took command of a rather grim situation, Your Highness. Completely reorganized the men without even thinking. It came naturally to him, and under such pressure. As young as he is, he should be commended."

Zaphta was feeling well enough to speak, and chimed in, "I nearly died because of the smoke, Majesty; I couldn't stand it. Sir Lincoln was the one who carried me back to the water while I was unconscious, I was told."

Link grimaced a bit at the sound of his proper name. Not to mention what Zaphta said wasn't exactly true. He liked that version of the story, but Link wondered who added the minor embellishment in their storytelling. He wanted to build up his own story! He strained his ears, though, to hear what Zelda would say next.

"I shall see to it personally that Sir Lincoln is rewarded properly," Zelda said quickly, with the same deathly serious expression as before. "There shall be no more discussion of the matter, Sir Faji," she went on, taking one last look at Link and disappearing inside the castle before anyone could notice that she had.

She never calls me by my full name, Link thought, still mounted on Epona.

"Do you hear that, kid?" One of the Knights asked, slapping Link heartily on the back. "The Queen's going to see to it personally that you're rewarded!"

"Yeah, I heard," Link said blandly. He dismounted Epona and led her to the stable, as some of the other Knights had already started to do. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Agnor and another Goron helping Zaphta down from the horse, and the other Zoras rushed over to help get Zaphta out to the infirmary.

The sun was just starting to rise over the eastern side of Hyrule Castle. It shone with all its might, but made no difference. The night sky was brightening; the full moon and stars were starting to go out just now, and the temperature was cool and brisk. A breeze whistled through the trees, rocking them gently. No one really noticed it, but a snowflake fell from the sky.

***


"That boy Link is going to be trouble, Zelda. What do you propose we do?"

Nothing, a defiant voice answered itself.

Lily was tormenting her again. The taunting was almost more than she could stand. It was midday, and after everyone finished sleeping, the Queen and her parasite included, Zelda found herself sitting on her bed with Lily.

"Oh, but I beg to differ. He's not any smarter than I thought, but, what's the word? Nosy. He's too much into your business, Zelda. That shouldn't be," Lily said, standing, approaching a mirror to gaze at the young Queen's flawless visage.

We've been friends since childhood, and he's my sworn protector. He has a right to know my business.

"Yes but you're the Queen. Even if he is a Knight, he should be nothing to you now." Lily idly fingered the ends of Zelda's hair.

Well he is something to me.

Lily arched an eyebrow and continued, throwing the lock of hair over Zelda's shoulder, turning away and pacing back across the room.

"And this Impa. Of what relation is she to you? I don't like how that boy goes off and keeps talking to her."

I don't have to answer you.

"You know I'll only make it worse for you in the end, Your Majesty," Lily chuckled mockingly.

Go find out yourself! Zelda screamed, a little more bravely than she'd intended.

"As you wish," Lily said, undaunted. "You know how easily I could make use of that little triangle you hold within you. And, well, since I am you, it's within me. And even if you did try to stop me, my power overrides yours." Lily was silent for a moment as she searched Zelda for information. "Your nurse, that Sheikah. I pity her. To have to have looked after the likes of you; you and your kind. How you all disgust me! To think, that generations before her, Sheikah have died fighting the Hylians, and now she works for them. Shameful. And she knows a bit, too. So the boy keeps going for advice," Lily hissed. "She's the brains and he's the brawn."

Zelda remained quiet.

"Two is always better than one, Zelda. Remember that when he foolishly wanders in here for a challenge. You know he will."

I do. But he'll win. I know that, too.

***


Link slept in that morning, and straight through until the afternoon. When he finally did wake up, sat up in bed to think. What exactly happened last night?

"Zelda got upset and left her room. I trailed her outside, lost her, but found someone else instead. She was a Sheikah, working magic."

He paused. Something seemed wrong about that. His left hand began to itch, and he scratched it absently, then ran it through his hair in an effort to tame it a bit.

"And she disappeared just as quickly." He made a mental note to ask Impa the next time he spoke to her if the Sheikah people were capable of teleportation.

But wait, he thought. If Sheik could... but Sheik was Zelda... but Zelda was under Impa's care... oh, I'll ask anyway. Watch Impa think I'm stupid or something.

He decided he couldn't push his tired mind any further, so he got dressed in uniform. The Queen wanted to speak with the Knights about what was going on recently in Hyrule, and wished to hold council with them about how to stop it. Something about this didn't sit well with Link, either, but he shrugged it away. Maybe something would come up during discussions. He headed downstairs, to where one of the dining halls was converted into a meeting room.

Link was surprised to find that he wasn't the last to arrive. He took a seat along the side of the table facing the window, between a Zora and a Hylian. The rest of the chairs quickly became occupied, and the moment they were, two heralds trumpeted a fanfare to announce the Queen's arrival. The Knights quickly jumped to their feet as though they had sat on porcupines. Link winced. It wasn't all that smart to have them inside. In such an enclosed space, they seemed very loud. Zelda entered through a set of double doors, trailed by several maids fanning out her robe and attending to her train.

"Gentlemen," Zelda began. "You are now no strangers to the bizarre occurrences that have befallen our country. The heatwave that claimed the lives of so many Hyrulians of all races was, by no chance, a mere seasonal abnormality. This morning, I was able to spot frost on the grass in the Courtyard, and as sure as some of you were sensitive to the temperature's rise, some of you are, no doubt, sensitive to its fall. As the Queen of Hyrule, it is my job to guide the people. As Knights, it is your job to protect them. However, I am at a loss. I suffered a great personal loss, as did many of my subjects, but I fear I have no way to guide them through. As my Knights, I am asking each one of you to keep protecting the Hyrulian people, and to help me guide them. Perhaps we can figure this out together," Zelda concluded, finally taking a seat. The Knights followed her.

"What do you propose we do?" she asked, lacing her fingers and, with her elbows propped on the table, rested her chin on them, head tilted to the left.

The Knights seemed nonplussed. Their sovereign, the Queen Zelda, ruler of Hyrule and Keeper of Knowledge, clueless! What in the hell were they supposed to do, then?! Most simply looked at one another, or suddenly became interested in the fabulous woodwork on the table and chairs. One of them dared to speak.

"Actually, Your Highness," he paused. Zelda nodded in acknowledgement and he stood to continue. "I saw something strange last night. Before the fire broke out."

Zelda's face went sour as Lily's efforts to refrain from frowning failed. She knew perfectly well what Link had to say. However, she had to remain outwardly uninformed, and let him speak, wondering exactly how the Knights would react.

"Well, Your Majesty," Link began. "I went for a short walk, but before I knew it, I found myself near Lake Hylia." He could see Zelda grinding her teeth together. "Before the cottage caught fire, I was able to see a Sheikah woman inside, and she was...."

But Link never finished his sentence because the room filled with laughter.

"A Sheikah?!"

"There aren't any Sheikah left!"

"Poor kid, slipping up again!"

At that point, a pink bobble hat was deposited on his head by an unknown source and even harder laughter followed. Link violently removed it from his head, going an angry shade of red and plopping down in his chair.

Lily covered her mouth to suppress giggles, but was relieved that the Knights though the idea of a Sheikah existing ludicrous.

You stop that! Zelda cried out.

Lily ignored her.

When the laughter died down, Zelda spoke first.

"It is obvious," and she paused until the laughter completely stopped, "that low spirits need to be raised."

The Hylian Knight on Link's left stifled his sniggering.

"But this is no laughing matter. It is gravely serious."

And seriously fun!

Do shut up, Zelda shot back.

"If you wish to say something of importance, good Knight, then speak it now, but do not waste Hyrule's time with such foolishness."

Link caught Zelda's superior expression and huffed, his eyes flashing with the anger of yet another unjust situation. He had something of importance to say, all right, but to say it would be treason, and the punishment for treason was death, even for someone as valuable to the kingdom as Link. He bit he tongue and thought it instead.

You've become a real bitch, Zelda. I know you have something to do with this; you know that I know, so why are you puppeting me around like this?

"Any ideas, gentlemen?" Zelda asked. The Knights shared dumb, blank looks.

And if no one believes me, I'll have to take care of it by myself, just like last time.

***


Last time, Link reasoned with himself, meant when he was a child and only he and Zelda believed her dreams (last night's fire didn't count). Of course, they'd been on the same side then.... But it didn't matter, and this time he'd pull through. A talk with Impa would calm him down and curb his eagerness a bit, perhaps set him more stable and more level than he was at the current moment.

Before he could realize what happened, Link found himself climbing a set of stairs in Kakariko, the ones that led up to Impa's front door. In another blink of an eye, he was seated beside her at the table. They were conversing over tea.

"And I don't suppose you were thinking very much in the first place," Impa scolded.

"What? I thought a lot! I had to reorganize everyone. Well, Faji did, because no one would listen to me, but it was my ide--"

"No, not that. You had your ocarina, didn't you? You could have played the Song of Storms and have been done with the whole thing."

"Oh. Oh yeeeeeeeeeah, that would have worked, wouldn't it? Still, nothing explains how the Knights knew before I could tell them what happened."

Impa shrugged.

"Anyway, I should get going. It's gonna rain or something. I can feel it; my knee's killing me," Link said, standing up to stretch. He nearly bumped his head on the low ceiling in Impa's cottage, but was careful to watch out for it. When his back cracked and he was relieved from at least that much discomfort, he moved towards Impa's door.

"You'd better hurry up and get home," she said suddenly.

"What? Why?" Link queried.

"It's not raining, it's starting to snow. And hard," Impa said, sipping. "And you can't teleport like I can."

"What?!"

***


Before long, Link found himself trying to cross a very small section of Hyrule Field. Impa wasn't joking; this snow WAS coming down hard. The wind had picked up since that morning, too, blowing the snow in his face, stinging his eyes and blinding him. After what seemed like an eternity, Link made it back inside the walls of the castle. A guard at the entrance gave him a puzzled look.

"It's nasty out there," was Link's reply as he hobbled back up to his room.

When he got there, Link noticed his reflection as he passed his mirror. His hair had been turned brown from the snow and a fine white dusting still remained. He ran a hand through to brush the powder out of his locks. He sat on his bed to take off his boots. While he did so, he couldn't help but think.

What was it that Impa said as I was leaving? I can't what like she can?

He threw his boots across the room and under the window to dry where they landed with a thud. At that same moment, comprehension dawned on Link.

"I can't teleport! Impa's a Sheikah; she can. That Sheikah woman must have teleported back to the castle and since Zelda -- I hope I'm right about this."

He sat back on his bed, and then decided it was just better to lie down. Wiggling his toes unconsciously, Link tried to think through his best course of action and decided it would be, again, best to talk to Impa. Maybe she could think of some strategy that would help Link out.

Link stood back up, fidgety from his nerves, and happened to catch his reflection once more. The "powder" in his hair turned out not to be powder at all. It was his actual hair.

The end of the year means the end of Hyrule!

The words struck him suddenly. The old man's cryptic message made sense now. For whatever reason, that Sheikah woman was controlling the weather with her magic, or making time speed up. That's why the weather was so extreme. That's whey everyone aged and why people died. And that's why only Impa -- and Zelda too -- were unaffected.

Figuring his revelation too pressing to wait until dawn, Link hastily tore off his uniform and changed into his more comfortable everyday clothes and a bright red scarf. He grabbed the Master Sword in its scabbard and strapped it on. He also took his bow and about a dozen arrows and set back to Kakariko.

The same guard that greeted him on the way in frowned in confusion as he watched Link leave now.

"I thought you said it was nasty out there, Sir," the guard started.

"Yeah, but it'll be even nastier in here if I don't go," Link said, throwing the confused guard a smirk over his shoulder.

Link turned forward again and saw the snow falling harder still, almost like he was caught in a blizzard. It would be too much for Epona to go through; he'd have to leave her in the stable and trek through this on his own. His knee whined again as he took his first stop into the winter, but Link ignored it. This was infinitely more important. And, if he succeeded, his knee wouldn't bother him again for at least another twenty years.

***


Lily delighted in how well everything was working. She thought, for best results, she'd have to work away from the castle, where no one would find her. Now she knew that to be completely true.

Since that fool Link burned her house, Lily was forced to keep her true self hidden and work in disguise as Zelda. However, being closer to Link only increased the power of her Triforces, facilitating everything. She stood in a high turret, looking over the vast whiteness that was Hyrule.

"Almost done, Zelda," Lily said in Zelda's voice. "Look at that blizzard. Feel it! The end is almost near."

Praise the Goddesses.

"Foolish child. For one who holds the Triforce of Wisdom... Don't you see? Soon, it will end. I won't even need you. And then you will wither and die, like the rest of this pathetic land! And finally... finally... I'll be able to avenge my family and my people."

You're just talk.

"Not so, Queenie. I've made good on everything thus far. Why should this be any different?"

Link knows what you're up to. He'll stop you.

"That boy can't stop the pains in his leg. He cannot stop me," she said, surveying the landscape once more.

"I want a guard sent to Impa in Kakariko, to tell her you're alright in this weather. That way, she'll know just where to find your cold, frozen body tomorrow night," Lily said lightly.

Tomorrow night? Zelda panicked, for the first time, through that exchange. There was no chance of making it out on her own. Her only hope was Link, probably asleep in his bed, worn out and still slightly upset by the day's events.

Hurry, Link. Please figure it out!

"No use in that," Lily spat confidently. "He couldn't save himself."

She turned away from the window just in time to miss a green dot slowly crossing the dangerous Hyrule Field.
Chapter 10 - Winter Wonderland by VenusQueenOfFaeries
White. Windy. Cold. Those were the fierce conditions Link faced as he tropped back through the storm, determined to make it back to Kakariko before he was buried alive, or before he froze to death, whichever first. He just hope they wouldn't happen at the same time, since he was just at the snow-covered Hyrule Castle Town and he could feel neither his toes nor his fingertips.

Just a little further, he kept telling himself. Just a little more....

He kept walking for what seemed like hours and for what seemed like miles, and soon found that he was lost. A swirling whiteness completely enveloped him; nothing was in sight. He tried to wiggle his toes and fingers, to keep blood moving in them, but they were so cold, he couldn't tell if they responded or not. He moved around, looking for anything -- any sign, marker or indication of where he was, and yet, nothing.

The wind picked up and snow was blown so that it came at Link sideways, burning his already stinging cheeks and turning them red to match his running nose. He snapped his eyes shut to keep the frozen flakes out. When he felt the wind let up, he opened one eye just a tiny bit to see what must have been a trick of the light, because it looked like a cave, and it wasn't too far away, either. He opened both eyes fully and he must have been either right or crazy -- there was a suddenly a cave in the middle of Hyrule Field.

His stomach did a sort of excited flip-flop, and when it landed, Link realized he hadn't eaten. He was, in fact, really hungry. Now that he was conscious of that, his stomach screamed for food, but Link ignored it; it would stop bothering him shortly, not to mention getting to that cave to keep alive and possbly warm was vastly more important, considering he no longer knew where the castle was.

He meant to take a normal step forward and stumbled, forgetting that he was standing shin-deep in the snow, already. He tried again, lifting his leg completely this time, and trudged ever closer to his goal. After a few more "hours" and a few more "miles," Link made it to his destination and explored the inside of the cave.

Once inside and out of the raging storm, Link quickly figured out that his cave wasn't actually a cave. Part of the outside wall of Lon Lon Ranch had been knocked down somehow and fell onto itself, creating a makeshift, but stable, shelter. It was sturdy enough and deep enough to provide cover for a couple of hours until the storm passed or whilte he took a little nap. He was so exhausted from his efforts....

***


Zelda made her way down through the towers and to one of the many Knights not doing anything in particular. She ordered him, as she wished before, to alert Impa that she was alright.

"Your Highness," the Knight started, protest obvious in his voice. Zelda frowned. "I know the Lady Impa wants nothing more than your safety, but, won't Her Highness consider the blizzard? It's blinding out there, and my kind doesn't fare so well in water or snow. Why don't you...."

"You weren't about to suggest I take a particular course of action without my asking, Sir Faji? To deny a direct order from me?"

Faji gulped.

"N-n-never, You Maje-Majesty," he stuttered.

"Then you will relay my mess--" Zelda put her hand to her chest, covering her heard, then quickly withdrew it. She looked shocked and surprised, and her eyes moved up and dwon the hallway she was standing in, but without focusing on anything. Faji noticed this.

"Highness?"

"He's gone," Zelda whispered.

"Who is?" Faji asked, just as softly, as though he really wished he hadn't asked.

"No one. Deliver my message," Zelda ordered as she turned and headed back to her tower.

I can feel it, Zelda, Lily thought. He's run off to find help again, and now he won't come out alive. I need him, she thought.

Zelda uttered a short prayer for Link, then noticed that she was headed back towards the tower.

Where are we going? she asked. Why are we going back to the tower?

"I don't think I'll need you much longer. We're going to make sure that I get the Triforce of Courage when Link dies out there. There's no way he'll survive," Lily muttered to herself. She failed to notice that Faji was not walking away from her.

Yes he will! He WILL! Zelda cried desperately. He won't... die....

***


Link opened his eyes. He was lying on top of a pile of stones. What? How did he get there? Then he felt the cold a little more and remembered. He had to get back to Kakarik, but he needed to brave the storm.... Fire. He needed a fire, and one unlike last time.

"Good thing I've got these arrows with me," he told himself. There happened to be another bit of grass on this side of the ranch's wall, kept dry by the collapse. Link notched a Fire Arrow and hit the grass. It burned feebly until the shaft of the arrow started to burn, too, then it went a little brighter. Link moved up to the fire as close as he could and began to warm his hands, wondering how he was able to fire the arrow as cold as his hands were. He never even felt the arrow he shot. As he tried to warm up, alternating putting his hands and feet near the fire, he wondered how much longer he'd have to sit and wait. His hands hurt now, so he switched them for his feet. They started to hurt before long, too. At least he could feel that, which was good. He had to stay awake, though. If he fell asleep, he might not be so lucky as to wake up again.

***


Faji turned back and started to carry out his Queen's orders. He stopped, thought, when he heard her talking to herself. He strained to listen but could only make out "need you," "of Courage" and "Link dies." Faji bravely waddled, as fast as his Goron legs could carry him, into the wintry weather.

Like Link, Faji found the snow horribly blinding, but, being a rock with short legs, he found it much more difficult to move, yet, he was determined to make it to Impa's. Travelling such a short distance many times over, as he was ordered to do several times under King Harkinian, soon became repetitive and Faji found himself so bored that he would count his paces. He'd long since memorized how many at a time and in which direction they went. He hoped it would help him out now and that all his boredom was not in vain.

Six hundred and thirty-seven this way, he thought, then turn left and go two hundred and fourteen more....

He also hoped that he didn't lose count.

***


Impa heard a knock on her door.

Who could that be? she asked herself. Link went home and no one can be stupid enough to come out in this mess....

She opened the door and all she was able to see was a large round stomach and very short legs. However, it was a very familiar large round stomach and familiar short legs, too.

"Faji?" Impa asked, shocked. "What in Hyrule are you DOING here?!"

"Queens Zelda... sent me to tell you... she's alright.... That she's in... in the castle...." Faji breathed, while Impa stared, open-mouthed. Of COURSE she was at the castle! Where the hell else would she be?

"And Link," he continued, "Is out there somewhere. He's... gonna die? I--I don't know...." he finished, as he tottered on his feet.

"Whoa, whoa, be careful!" Impa said, trying to keep him standing. She turned her head over her shoulder to survery her house. She'd let the poor guy come in, but truth be told, he just wouldn't fit. Link barely fit, himself, and he was only just a bit over six feet tall.

"That's all. I'll go back home now," Faji said dumbly. He slowly turned back around and took a few shaky steps before falling on his behind. Impa gave a sympathetic groan.

"You're not going anywhere," she said, looking up. The snow didn't seem to be falling as hard anymore. "I'll think of something."

At least it's starting to let up, she thought.

***


Lily and Zelda reached the top of their tower. Zelda stayed uncharacteristically quiet while Lily went off conducting another spell. She took Zelda's silence as a sign that she'd given up.

"Good choice," Lily said. "There's no point in fighting me anymore; there hasn't been for a long time. I'm glad you've learned is useless," she teased, as she dropped more ingredients of a potion she was mixing into a large, cauldron-shaped vat.

Zelda almost said something, but knew that it was better to keep her mouth shut if Lily thought she'd given up. Her thoughts were still an open book, though, and she tried to keep herself from thinking of anything but sadness. She tried thinking of Link dying out in the snow, of not finding him until it all melted, which could take weeks, but found it too difficult to bear too close to her father's death. She decided to dwell on that instead. It'd already happened; there was no way to change it. She'd never speak to her father again.

"Finished," Lily said cheerfully. She scooped out a ladleful of potion from the vat and drank it. Zelda had no idea what Lily thought she was doing. The power of the Triforce could not be inherited that way. It wasn't really inherited anyway, as she knew Lily believed. The Triforces always chose their new holders, and Power usually chose someone who... well, it could have always chosen better. Courage and Wisdom usually had to bail it out and save the world, time after time, so the legends said. But this time, Wisdom was under Power's control.

"When Link dies," Lily said, almost as though it had already happened, "I'll know. And I can claim his Triforce. Then, I won't need you anymore. I can shed this disguise and attack you wretched Hylians from inside your own castle. You won't know what hit you. And don't think you'll be able to get out of this, Zelda. You'll probably come off the worst of all."

Zelda forced images of her father's funeral through her mind and started to cry.

"Exactly," said Lily.

***


"PUSH!"

"He weighs a ton!"

"Well what did you expect, he's a rock!"

"The snow isn't helping much."

"We've got to get him up at least to Dodongo's Cavern. They can take care of him from there."

In the middle of the night, Impa raised the call to the sleeping citizens of Kakariko. She needed help, and no one was going to deny Impa what she needed. Everyone came out dressed in their nightclothes and snow boots to help push Faji up towards Death Mountain. Try as they might, they weren't making very much progress. It would take them hours to get him up just a little way; hours to travel a path that would take about ten to fifteen minutes under favorable conditions.

"Keep... PUSHING!"

"I'm trying!"

"We all are."

"My back is starting to hurt."

"Well imagine how the poor guy must feel!"

And it was uphill.

"He's slipping!"

"Brace yourselves!"

"It's... too... hard...."

"Can't... push...."

"Just TRY!"

Impa's was the sole voice of reason.

The sun was starting to rise over the eastern side of the Trail. It took seventeen aging villagers the remainder of the long night to push one helpless Goron up the trail. At least the walk was downhill now, and at least they'd get to have a little bit of sleep. Impa, though, was wide awake. She decided to stay awake as long as she could, and think things over.

"It's stopped snowing," she whispered to herself during the night. "I hope Link's alright."

***


Link spent a tired and hungry night in the cave he'd found. He managed to thaw out his hands and feet, and somewhat avoid hypothermia, though he felt really sore all over. He sat there, just watching the snow swirl in the wind, unable to do a damn thing about it. He hated feeling so helpless. After endless hours curled in the same position, he heard birds starting to chirp. Sunrise was coming soon. He noticed the snow had stopped falling, too, but he'd wait a little bit longer just to make sure. In the meantime, he let his mind run free. He wondered what time it was. He wondered what Zelda was doing; what the other Knights were doing. Had Impa helped out Kakariko like she meant to? Were other parts of Hyrule hit as hard as the Field was?

Link noticed a spot of light inside his cave. The sun managed to hit a hole between two bricks that were part of his wall and shine onto the floor. He figured it to be midmorning by now; the sun always rose later in the winter. He managed to crawl around what was left of the fire; just some dying embers. He dropped some snow on them and swirled the mess around with the remainder of the arrow shaft. Crawling was a difficult task considering the stiff muscles he'd gotten overnight, but with a bit of effort, Link managed to break out into the morning.

The snow was piled high, but not so badly enough that he couldn't make out landmarks. He looked off in one direction and saw the ground slope off. Next to it, the ground rose a little higher to a plateau. That was Lake Hylia and the pass to the Gerudo Fortress. There was Death Mountain, at its foot was Kakariko Village. That was where he had to go. Part of him wanted to scout out the rest of Hyrule, but it would have to wait. For now, he'd slowly and painfully make his way over to Kakariko.

***


Morning for Zelda meant Lily was growing impatient. She hadn't felt that Link had died yet. It couldn't have been that the poor boy managed to survive, could it? He was old, he was slow, he couldn't think as fast. Surely, he must have died out in the snow.

"I'm sick of waiting, Zelda," Lily spat. They were still up in the tower from the night before, waiting... waiting... waiting for someone to die who was still alive. Lily was understandably impatient.

"If he won't die, he'll come for you. I just don't feel like waiting. If something happens to one part of the Triforce, he'll know about it, won't he?"

He's being lowered into the ground, Zelda thought. I'm never going to see him again. Goodbye, Daddy....

Lily hmphed.

"Let's find out."

Lily held her hands over her head and began to chant. Zelda felt a horrible pulling sensation, strong enough to snap her out of her thought. It hurt. It felt like a very heavy weight was being lifted off of her head, but it was being placed on her chest, instead. She felt herself separating from something, and found it very hard to breathe. What was going on? She no longer felt weightless as she had for so many months now, but very heavy, and... in control? She felt her Triforce burning on her hand. A sudden jolt forward told her whatever was happening was over, but then a different feeling came over Zelda.

She found it even harder to breathe and she felt shrunken; her skin seemed to hang off of her body. Her legs could no longer support her weight, and she crumpled to the ground. Cold gripped her and held her still. She no longer felt the Triforce within her. Every part of her body seized up and her breathing became still more labored. She managed to look across the room and saw Lily standing there, a separate entity. She was laughing, Zelda could tell, but she couldn't hear it. Could she hear anything? She tried to speak and failed. Her lips refused to move. It hit Zelda what was happening. She was finally affected by Lily's destruction. She was going to die, just like everyone else. And still, Lily cackled.

"Thank you, Zelda," Lily said. She examined the back of her right hand where two outlines of the Triforce glowed. She'd taken Zelda's. "I told you I wouldn't need you much longer. Too bad you won't get to see what I'll do to Hyrule, or to the rest of your kind. However, I figure it good enough. A scrap of Hylian like you deserves what you're getting. Ah, revenge...."

Zelda let Lily continue on her rant, not paying attention to what she was saying. Before long, it wouldn't matter anyway.

"Mother," Zelda managed to whisper. She moved her hand across her chest to the teardrop pendant and waited for Death to come.

***


The day was a cold one. The sun above Hyrule Field shone, but provided no warmth for the land. Snow from the storm the night before covered the ground as a heavy white blanket. From a birds' eye, if in fact, there were any birds, one would have seen a lone figure emerge from a cave. If this hypothetical bird were to dismount from its perch and swoop in for a closer look, it would find, upon closer inspection, that this figure was a older male. Dressed in thick leggings, a turtleneck sweater, red scarf and a green tunic and hat, he hugged himself and shivered his way into Kakariko Village. His footsteps were the only blemishes in the smooth whiteness around him. A fierce wind blew and swept-up snow stung his face. The scarf blew straight back, almost choking him. Winter in Hyrule had never been so harsh. Usually bathed in the warmth of the sun all year round, the denizens of the tiny kingdom now huddled together for warmth, confused as to what was going on in their homeland.

He trudged through the snow and the stinging cold air and entered a tiny shack in the middle of the village, hugging himself tightly, eyes to the floor, bouncing a little with every step. Once he shut the door behind him, and the biting winds ceased, he looked up.

"Where is she?" he asked frantically, the glow of the fire in the hearth tenderly lighting his panicked face. The firelight caught his blue eyes and restored the spark that was ever-present in his youth, which had faded with age.

***


She lay still inside the castle. Though the room was brought some warmth from the torchlight, she was, quite literally, frozen stiff. She was dying. Her eyes were growing heavier by the second, one slender gloved arm across her chest, the other at her side. Her lips turned blue from cold and her long, icy blonde hair spread about her like a flaxen cloak. She was simply beautiful, but still dying, and because she was so, the day turned colder than any thermometer may have indicated.

The room began to spin, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker. She was powerless to stop it. One thing blended into the next, all the colors mixed together, and at the end of it all, a bright white light suddenly shone from overhead. It was nothing more than a point at first, but it soon grew and engulfed the entire room. She let out a small puff of air, struggling to breathe.

***


He interrupted her daily tea. The owner of the shack, a much older woman, though young of face, sat at the wooden table in the center of her home, wrapped up in a blanket with mug in hand, and studied the man's face. His freshly washed brown hair, showing hints of gray, hung frozen stiffly around his face, framing it gently, but rather harshly at the same time.

"Link, she's..." her soft voice trailed off. Her shoulders fell, her sharp red eyes found the floor, and she turned a tanned cheek towards Link. She couldn't bear to look at him now. The steam that rose from the tea collected on her face... dotting it with moisture... or was that a tear?

"Dammit, Impa!" Link cried. "I need to know! Tell me where she is!"

"You're too late, there's no getting to her now..."

"Please..." his voice softened to one of pleading and his eyes showed the same expression. He knelt beside Impa, with his hands on her knee. His ears had fallen slightly, and his melting hair dripped on her blanket.

"She's in the castle, Link."

Link stood up without a word and turned around to head back out into the wintry afternoon. In time, Impa stood up and slowly shuffled to the door to call after him.

"You won't make it in time, boy! Come back! You can't save her now!"

Link was either out of earshot or he simply chose not to heed Impa's words. She watched him leave, become a smaller and smaller green dot off on the horizon and eventually fade away. Impa stood in her doorway, quilt draped over her shoulders, and slowly fell to the floor. Another tear dared to roll down her face, but she wiped it up before it could have a chance to freeze.

"Goddesses be with you, warrior," Impa said softly to the doorframe. She stood up slowly and shuffled back inside her cozy little house, sipping her tea and trailing a bit of snow on the floor. It melted quickly.

***


In a high turret of the castle, the queen lay. Her eyes opened fully once more, taking in the brightness that bathed her entire body. Her struggle with life and death was ending, and she knew it. The brightness was calming. Another white puff of warm air escaped her lips as she exhaled. It was cold, too cold. She pulled herself away from the light and looked to her right, mustering up enough energy to turn her head. The door at the other end of the circular room didn't open as she hoped it would. It was time to stop hoping, dreaming, wishing. She turned her head back center with drooping eyelids and forfeited to the brightness. The Queen of Hyrule breathed her last and closed her eyes. Her heart stopped. Zelda was dead. Not more than a minute later, Link came rushing through the door of the turret only to find his leader fallen, cold as stone on which she lay. He took a few steps in and sat cross-legged on the floor next to her, gently stroking her cheek. He was surprised it had gotten so cold so fast. He picked up her head and cradled it in his lap as he wept bitterly. This wasn't how it was supposed to end.
Chapter 11 - Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here by VenusQueenOfFaeries
"Spare me the theatrics, boy," a voice said.

Link's ears flattened back as looked up into the same red eyes of the Sheikah woman he saw in the burnt-down house. They flashed, full of fire, but cold as the day. She was taller than he remembered, too, and gazing down at him with a look nothing short of hatred.

He felt small; small and very young, like when he first met Ganondorf. Though there was only one against him, Link felt outnumbered and threatened. He was probably correct in assuming that he was overpowered, but he still had to try to take this monster down. It was his job. He had to try and save what was left of Hyrule and avenge Zelda's death.

"Here," said Lily, offering her right hand to help Link stand up. He eyed it warily.

"Don't be foolish, I won't hurt you," she said, her arm still extended.

Link looked at it, then back down to Zelda. He gently shifted her weight and eased her back on the ground. He took Lily's hand and made sure he had as tight a grip as he could manage right-handed. As he helped himself up, he dared not take his eyes away from Lily's own, until a resounding crack echoed through the room, causing Link to scream out in pain and fall back to the ground. His knee had given again. Lily laughed.

"So," she began, sizing him up, "It seems that everything went better than I expected with you. Of course, I knew you'd age, but I didn't think so much. You look like you're at least in your mid-fifties!"

The best Link could do was glare and pretend his knee wasn't bothering him.

"And your knee," Lily continued, like she was reading his mind, "well, that's even surprised me. You should have gotten slower, too, not be as quick as you were when were still a young man."

"I am a young man," Link growled.

"If you believe that, then rest assured, you still act like one," Lily said. "But it's for your own good that you don't. You can't push yourself to your limits. You haven't fought yet, so you couldn't know. You'll wear yourself out too quickly."

What was she playing at?

"Why are you helping me?" Link asked. Lily laughed again.

"Boy, you are the only thing that stands between me and the entire Triforce. I know that somehow you figured out I gained control of the queen. I don't need her anymore, now that you're here, so I forfeited that control. However, under my control she hadn't aged. When I let go, my magic hit her all at once and she became too weak to keep holding the Triforce of Wisdom, so she passed it straight to me. The Triforce of Wisdom will help me realize the true potential of the Triforce of Power. I can use them together and soon, I'll be done with you, and I'll take your Triforce as well. Once I have all three, something that idiot Ganondorf couldn't do, I'll be able to avenge my people, who wrongfully entered servitude to your kind after the Transference. The Sheikahs shall be a proud and dominant race once more!"

"So why help me? Wouldn't I be easier to take on injured?" Link asked, stalling.

"Oh, yes, you'd be infinitely easier, but I'm not looking for easy. Zelda was easy," Lily admitted, looking past Link and to Zelda on the floor. "She practically invited me to possess her, the stupid brat. You actually present something of a challenge, what with your little triangle and the big, shiny sword on your back. I'll still defeat you, but at least you'll be something of an obstacle, Link, if only for a moment."

"Fine," Link said, finally getting to his feet. "I'll keep you busy for a little while, but a little while's all I need to take care of you."

"Nonsense," Lily spat. "I'm stronger than your buddy Ganondorf, remember, and I've got more dark magic at my disposal. They didn't call the Sheikahs the Shadow People for nothing, you know. A few arrows and sword strokes won't be nearly enough to take me down."

"We'll see about that," Link said, drawing his sword.

"Yes, we shall indeed," Lily said calmly. The room darkened. Daylight seemed to be sucked into a pool above Lily's outstretched hands. Link looked around, though it was getting harder and harder to see with each passing second.

I'm in trouble, he thought.

***


Zelda looked at the stark, blinding whiteness around her. It was as though she was trying to see through a cloud. She hugged herself, protectively.

"Do not be afraid, child," a voice suddenly rumbled. It was a voice Zelda knew too well, but she still jumped at the sound.

"D-- Daddy?" she asked cautiously.

"It is I," the King's voice replied.

Zelda's fear grew exponentially. If that really was her father's voice, that could only mean one thing, and she didn't want to face the possibility that she might very well be dead.

"It's alright, Zelda. You don't have to be scared," another voice said. It was unfamiliar, but mysteriously soothing at the same time. It was a softer voice; a woman's voice.

Zelda's eyes shifted from side to side, trying to find the owner of the voice. Did she know who it was?

"You know not my voice, but I am always close to your heart."

Zelda, through her shock, managed to glimpse down. The first thing her eyes landed on was the teardrop pendant her mother had given her. Zelda fingered it lightly for a moment.

"That's correct," the female voice continued. "I am your mother."

"Am I... dead?" Zelda ventured.

"No, you're not," Harkinian said.

"Then--"Zelda started, still idly fingering the pendant.

"You've only been knocked out, my sweet; physically overwhelmed with what you've had to bear," her mother added.

Zelda blinked twice in response.

"Haven't you pieced it together?" her father suggested.

Zelda took a moment to think. Comprehension suddenly dawned on her and she began to speak very fast.

"I know what Lily was doing! She possessed me, she wanted the Triforce of Wisdom and now she has it! She's trying to take the Triforce of Courage! She made everything change; she made you die, Daddy! I wouldn't ever do that, Daddy, and I'm so sorry; I miss you so much! She's made so many people die, and she's made Hyrule suffer! She's made everyone grow older than they should be... everyone, so it seems, except Impa--"

"And can you think of no way Impa is different from the rest of Hyrule?" the former Queen asked.
"Well, Impa's a Sheikah, of course, but--"

"There is something Impa taught you very early on about her tribe. About how they survive," Harkinian continued.

"They can live longer than we can," Zelda said reflexively. "But how does that matter now? And how am I still alive if she's killed everyone else?"

Zelda felt her mother smile. Because of the misty whiteness, she couldn't see her mother's face, and she would never know what she looked like, but Zelda could somehow sense her mother beam.

"There's something your father never told you, Zelda," she started.

Her Majesty's eyebrows furrowed into a knot of confusion.

"What do you mean?"

"You, yourself, are part Sheikah," her father went on. "And you can fight this."

"I am? I -- I can? Wait, I thought only pureblooded Hylians could...."

"That is an ancient law, Zelda. It has since been repealed. If you're wondering about your heritage, however, your Sheikah blood comes from me, and as you've seen from the likes of Impa and Lily, female Sheikahs hold more magic power than the males. You're fortunate, then. You can use your blood -- your magic -- to survive and to help Link defeat Lily," Zelda's mother said.

"How?" Zelda asked.

"Well, for starters, you can wake up. Like we've told you, you're not dead."

Zelda felt her father smile, this time.

"Can you tell me how?" Zelda asked. "I don't know how--"

"Yes," Zelda's mother picked up. "All you have to do is concentrate. Think about what happened right before you blanked out. Think of everything you left behind: of Hyrule, of Impa, who loves you, of Link, who saved Hyrule once already..."

"I have so many questions left to ask you, Mother," Zelda said.

"And you'll get a chance to ask them, sweetheart, but not yet," Harkinian said.

Zelda suddenly felt lightheaded as she listened to her mother.

"And Zelda... do something about Link, will you?"

Her mother's voice faded and her lightheadedness eased somewhat. She heard more voices, now, but couldn't make out whom they belonged to. It wasn't as important, however, as the feeling of control. Zelda opened her eyes, and though what she was able to see was very blurry, what she felt was better. She was back in complete control of her own body.

She found she was lying on the floor, and sat up very slowly, still ignoring the voices she heard and looked down towards her feet. It was truly her own body, still in the dress she'd worn that morning, so not very much time could have passed. She flexed her fingers to make sure it was all real. It was. Her Majesty tried to stand and though she was shaky on her own two legs, having not been in control of them for about six months, she managed to make it to her feet and leant against the wall.

It was then she decided to focus more on whom the voices belonged to. Again, there was one male voice and one female voice. Zelda blinked a bit more to focus, and upon rubbing her eyes with her right hand -- she used her left to hold onto the wall -- she spied Link, or at least, a left-handed, blond male clothed in green, and Lily, or an evil, silver-haired Sheikah woman poised and trying to kill the blond guy.

"Stop right there."

***


He felt dizzy and weak. He wasn't sure how much longer he could last. He was limping, now; his knee was barely able to support his weight. He felt another pang of hunger and another stab of exhaustion. Lily, meanwhile, hadn't broken a sweat. This was easy for her. It was almost fun.

"Give up, Link," Lily said. "You can hardly see me, let alone attack me. Brute strength -- or lack thereof -- can't win against magic. You have no chance of defeating me."

"Shut... up...." Link panted, then yelled. Lightning-shaped bolts of magical energy spread out from a corner of the room, streaking along the walls, ceiling and floor, to reach anything and everything, including Link and Zelda. Lily emerged from the shadows in the dimly lit room and strode over to Link, who was on his hands and knees, panting heavily.

"I told you," Lily taunted, "that you were no challenge for me." She now stood over Link, towering over him. "Two Triforces are better than one, Link. I told Zelda that before she died, when I told her that you would challenge me. I was right on both accounts. Two is better than one, you did come and challenge me, and now I shall make good on a third prediction: I will destroy you."

Lily raised her arm over her head and the same lightning-shaped energy flew from the walls and floor back into her hand. There was more this time, though. The lightning magic formed a sphere, but like a web around little orbs that were dancing around inside. The more energy they gained, the faster they danced, the more deadly they became.

Link managed to look up at Lily. Her red eyes were wide with anticipation and hungry for death. She broke into a mad sort of smile. Link, unable to defend himself and too weak to manage to dodge the attack, closed his eyes, lowered his head in defeat and waited for his death to come.

"Stop right there," Zelda warned.

Both Link and Lily looked up and to the corner where Zelda lay, or, was supposed to be lying. Neither could believe their eyes.

"Zelda," Link panted. Lily dropped her hand and stared as Zelda took a shaky step towards her.

"Thought you got rid of me, huh?" Zelda said slowly, one arm out for balance.

"I did get rid of you," Lily argued. "You... you must be a ghost."

"If I'm a ghost, then where's my body?" Zelda challenged. "Next time you try to take over a kingdom, make sure its Queen has no resilient Sheikah blood in her."

"You... what?" Lily was starting to look nervous. Obviously, she'd overlooked this not-so-small hitch in her plan.

"Try and remember, Lily. It was barely twenty years ago when then Prince Harkinian III took a wife. Remember the stir it caused, all because she had one-quarter Sheikah blood in her veins? Two Sheikahs in the court, now? They would soon rise, wouldn't they? And then when worry had finally died, the Princess was with child. It started again. Three? Three! No, they said. The child must never know. And she never did until just now," Zelda said, walking towards Lily. Her voice became stronger with each word, and her footing more sure. How she suddenly knew so much about her history was a mystery, even to her, but she pressed forward. "My mother's blood lives on in me. Her Sheikah blood lives on in me, and you can't be rid of me as easy as you may have anticipated. How could you have possibly looked over this important bit of information? Would that you had gotten the Triforce of Wisdom instead of Power now, huh? And speaking of which...."

Zelda raised her arm and showed Lily the back of her right hand. First, the outline of the Triforce appeared and then the lower left triangle slowly started to fill in and glow. The Triforce of Wisdom was back with its rightful owner.

"Mine, I believe," Zelda said.

Lily, dumbstruck in ways she'd never imagined, stupidly looked down at her own hand. There was only one bit of the Triforce glowing there.

"You've no proof!" she yelled desperately.

"Don't be stupid," Zelda barked. "This conversation hasn't been proof enough? But, if you need it, here it is."

Zelda held her mother's pendant in her hand and noticed a tiny clasp she'd never seen before, as if it was only meant to open at this exact moment. Gripping one side of the pendant with three fingers, she dug her fingernails into the small crack between the two halves and opened it. Inside the pendant were carved two symbols, one on each side. On the left, there was a phoenix holding up the Triforce with its beak, the symbol of the Royal Family. On the right was the Sheikah Eye, the symbol of the Sheikah clan. Below the Sheikah Eye was engraved in very tiny letters, "Zelda." Lily didn't have to be told what it was in order to understand.

"Can't destroy one of your own, can you?"

In the meantime, Link got back on his feet and caught his breath and surveyed the situation. Zelda, somehow, wasn't really dead and now she was threatening Lily. She humiliated her, made her feel so stupid. He smiled to himself, wondering at the same time how he was going to bring Lily down. Zelda was certainly weakening her mental defenses, but what about her physical ones? Going on the premise that neither woman had seen him stand up and scurry off to the side, he opted for a wait-and-see approach.

"I-- I don't...." Lily stammered.

"You don't what?" Zelda spat. "You don't remember the Queen? You're ages old, I know you do. You don't know where your plan went wrong? I thought I just told you. Pathetic. You just didn't know what you were doing."

Lily's head was spinning. How could this little slip of a girl, calling herself Queen of an entire country, not only come back from apparent death, but also insult her attack on the land and call her stupid? Her mental defenses, as Link noted, were gone, so she resorted to the only attack she had left, a physical one.

The light from the room faded again and gathered into an orb in Lily's hands, so quickly that Zelda didn't have a chance to see it, and she wouldn't have known what to expect if she had.

"Zelda, get down!"

Lily extended her arms and sent the orb rushing towards Zelda. It hit her square in the chest and she flew halfway across the small room with the sheer force of it.

Link's alert earned him Lily's attention once more. She rounded on him, but with a savage cry, Link charged towards her, sword drawn and took a swift swing.

Lily was right, however, in assuming that Link got slower. She was able to effortlessly dodge him and reappeared behind him.

"I thought I said you wouldn't be able to stop me so easily," Zelda said, sending a relatively weaker bolt of magic at Lily's back.

It affected her very little, but enough to draw her away from Link. She doubled back to Zelda and went for an attack, but Link tripped her up and she pitched forward, landing on her stomach, groaning.

Link sheathed his sword and ran over to where Zelda was and helped her keep standing. She was breathing a little heavily.

"The only way we're gonna be able to get her," Link started, "is if we work together."

"That's not going to work," Zelda said. "This time I don't have the power of the other Sages behind me. It's just us."

Link looked over at Lily, who was stirring.

"We've gotta do something!" he cried urgently.

"Don't worry about it. She'll go easy on me," Zelda said, standing on her own, keeping her eyes locked on Lily.

"I don't know that," Link said. "She doesn't look like she would."

"Look out!"

Crack!

Lily sprang to her feet and conjured up some of the lightning magic, which braided itself together to form something of a whip. She kept both Link and Zelda huddled together at a distance, able to strike them without their retaliation. Lily moved to crack the whip again but Link leapt forward, quickly drawing his sword at the last moment to dispel the magic. At the moment the magic made contact with the Master Sword, it was released and shot around the room in all directions, harmlessly ricocheting off the walls.

"Dammit," Lily said, reassessing her situation.

"Sword of Evil's Bane," Link said, raising his eyebrows. "You're gonna hafta do a lot better than--"

A whistle rang out this time. Before he had a chance to react, a shot of magic, taking the form of a spear sailed through the air and right at Zelda. She moved out of the way, but not completely. A lash of fire caught her cheek before the spear hit the wall and disintegrated. Link whirled around when he heard Zelda scream.

"Zelda!"

"I'm alright! It's just a scratch!" Zelda lied. The spear cut her right cheek rather deeply and her blood dripped down her face onto her dress. She touched her wound and winced a bit; her fingertips were covered in what seemed to be a lot of blood.

"Pay attention to me," Lily said while Link's back was still turned. She summoned her magic to take the shape of a fearsome-looking sword, one much bigger than Link's own.

"Oh, don't be upset. I can take ya," Link said, and charged forward again.

Thus followed a swordfight. As it turned out, Lily was no slouch with a sword. Link would have been only toying with her had he been up to full strength, but he was tired. His body was aging and needed rest, and he was mentally exhausted as well. However, the battle continued to be a stalemate until Link made a mistake and left himself wide open for an attack.

Lily took full advantage of it and took a big swing with her sword, striking Link. She caught him on his left breast and sliced across, marking a gash in his chest and ending at his left shoulder. He screamed again and was knocked backwards from force and pain, his blood crawling down his chest and arm, soaking his clothes deep red.

Once again, Lily stood over Link, ready to kill him, but a blast of light hit Lily from the side so forcefully that it even caught her by surprise. Zelda stood on the opposite end of the room, arms outstretched, with her binding magic pouring from her hands. It had taken her all this time to summon it. Lily dropped her sword and when it hit the ground, it broke into dozens of little balls of light. They sparkled for a moment, then fizzled and died.

"Link! Use a Light Arrow! It'll bind her!"

Link didn't have to be told twice. From his back, he pulled two Light Arrows from his quiver and expertly shot them both, simultaneously. The adrenaline coursing through him numbed the pain in his shoulder for now. The blood-slickened arrows hit their mark and pinned Lily to the wall. She screamed. Never had she been so overwhelmed by magic. Her Triforce was as nothing against the strength of these two.

"One more, Link! We've got her!"

Link shot another arrow, and it rang true as well, but this time, Lily didn't yell. Her screams were replaced with silence. Her chin hit her chest and her hands went limp at the wrist. She remained motionless.

"I think that's enough," Link said. He got up from the floor and began to gingerly brush himself off.

Zelda let her hold on Lily go and she fell from the wall into a crumpled heap on the floor. Link and Zelda looked at each other, then walked across the room and stood over Lily, looking at her with a mix of anger and pity. Lily rolled onto her back to look up at the weakened children who defeated her.

"Pathetic," Zelda chided again.

"Mercy," Lily begged, though she knew what the answer would be.

"No fucking way," Link growled. Lily shut her eyes.

"Two is better than one, Lily. See? I didn't forget. Link?"

"My pleasure, Your Majesty," Link said, as he drove the sword through Lily's heart.

There was a sickening sound of steel tearing flesh and a muted clang when the tip of the blade hit the stone floor. Lily's eyes shot open for a moment, then slowly rolled back into her head. Link made sure not to remove his sword for a good minute or two, when he knew she was dead; blood pooled at his feet before he did. He gave a tired sigh and turned to Zelda, staring at Lily, slightly open-mouthed, her own blood drying on her cheek. She looked to be near tears.

Link wiped his brow with his sleeve and gave one last look at Lily. Pain was starting to hit him now. He removed his hat and a faerie flew out and around him, bathing him in warm, pink healing light. His wounds closed and a scar was left on his chest, but he was fine otherwise.

"Let's go, Zelda."

"But..." Zelda started, and motioned to Lily.

"I'll take care of it, don't worry," Link said.

"O-- o-okay," Zelda stuttered, also taking a last look before allowing herself to be led out of the tower.

They walked down several sets of stairs in silence.

Should I say something?

What if it's inappropriate?

And she'll think I'm stupid...

And he'll think I'm stupid...


They looked at each other again and kept walking.

"Thank you," Zelda got out first, when they reached the final landing. She caught Link off-guard, and noticed him jump at the sound of her voice.

"Don't thank me, Zelda. This isn't over yet."

"What do you mean?"

"Look at me," Link said.

Zelda couldn't see what was wrong. He looked fine, well, as fine as he could have after just coming out of battle. He was cut in a few places, and sure, his knee was hurting him, but Zelda could rest easily once she saw his bright blue... oh.

His bright blue eyes weren't so bright anymore. They were rather dull. His hair was brown and gray and he looked tired, so very tired. Slight wrinkles made his face a bit shadowy. He looked awful.

"Right," Zelda said solemnly. "I suppose I look the same?"

"Not nearly as beat up as I do," Link said. "You weren't affected as much. And you didn't just get your ass kicked, either."

"And so now we've got to reverse this," Zelda said.

"If there's a way," Link added. "And I hope there is. Hyrule won't last very long if we don't find one."

"Well, then," Zelda said. "There's only one thing we can do."

"What's that?"

"Who do we always go to for advice when we can't figure something out on our own?"

"Impa," they said together.

Several guards came running up the stairs and met them on the landing.

"Your Majesty," one of them said. "We heard crashing and fighting upstairs. And...." he paused when he noticed her cheek. "You're bleeding. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Zelda said. "No thanks to you."

"There's a body upstairs," Link added casually. "You should probably get rid of it."

The guards looked at each other.

"You will get rid of it," Zelda commanded. "And you'll clean up, too."

The guards shrugged and marched, single file, up the stairs and out of sight. Link and Zelda turned to continue on their way.

"Cleaning up's a good idea," Link said, looking down.

"Are you going to be alright?" Zelda asked, worried.

"I had a faerie. I'm just gonna need a shower and change of clothes, now. I've got a scar, though."

"Oh."

More silence.

"Those guards of yours... they really are inept," Link commented.

"Yes," Zelda laughed. "Good thing I've got my Knight around."

She gave him a chaste little hug and Link smiled. His Queen was back.
Chapter 12 - Don't Scare the Boy! by VenusQueenOfFaeries
Link and Zelda had both requested, independently of each other, not to be disturbed, and decided it was time for a nap after their morning workout. When they had both awoken, it was nearly time for dinner. Link took his usual place among the Knights and Zelda waited until she was announced before entering the hall. Faji, still recovering in Goron City, was absent. For the first time in months, Zelda smiled at dinner. Of course, Link was the only one who knew why. She ate and drank merrily, laughing with her company. They found it odd and out of her character. She hadn't been this way since she was Princess, and even then she'd been odd since she returned from Labrynna....

"Highness," one of them began, "May I ask why you are so unusually cheerful tonight?"

"I don't know, but expect it more often," Zelda replied, winking at Link. "I feel as though a great weight's been lifted from my shoulders. And I feel that Hyrule won't suffer much longer."

"Cheers," said Link, raising his glass.

After dinner, Link and Zelda arranged to meet each other privately. They found one another in one of the less-traveled corridors in the castle. They were nervous. Their nerves were understandable, though; it was their first meeting, truly alone, in about five months.

"Where were you this afternoon?" they asked simultaneously.

"I was tired and fell asleep," they blushed.

"Me too," they chimed again.

They laughed nervously.

"So, time to see Impa, then?" Link asked.

"We might as well get right on that," Zelda said.

It was the first time Zelda left the castle on her own since she went to Labrynna. She laughed and smiled as wide as she could, as though she'd never known the outdoors before. She inhaled the cold winter air deeply as though she'd never properly breathed at all, as though it was full of everything she ever needed to make her happy.

"It's beautiful," she said, kicking up some snow. "Absolutely beautiful. I'll never take this for granted again. It's all so very amazing to enjoy on my own."

Link looked puzzled.

"But it's all snowy out," he countered. "There's nothing here but snow and dead trees. What's so beautiful about that?"

"I haven't experienced anything at all in the past few months, Link. It's all been from a secondhand point of view. You can't live that way. And besides, you mean to tell me you've never spent a winter in the Forest and thought it was pretty?"

"Well, not really, I--"

"I want to walk there," she interrupted.

"You do?"

"I want to enjoy this as much as I can, and I don't care about going through the town. Maybe I should let everyone know that everything's going to be okay in the end."

"No one's outside," Link went on. Was Zelda purposefully ignoring him? "And we have to take a carriage to the Village, if it can make it there, which I don't think it can. The snow's just too deep. Believe me. I was out in this stuff last night and I had trouble enough just walking."

"Okay, then," Zelda pouted.

A pause.

I hate carriages, Zelda thought.

"I'm sorry," she continued. "I got excited. We'll go back to the castle. I'll have the Kni-- the guards clear the way to the village and we'll leave as soon as possible!"

Zelda wasted no time in getting her guards on the move. She figured they should do some work; the Knights, especially Link, would get the chance to rest for once. Perhaps she would move her inept protectors to chores like this full time. With all the aged guards working together, it took only an astonishingly short amount of time to clear the snow all the way to the steps of Kakariko Village wide enough for the horse-drawn carriage. The horses were soon hitched and Link and Zelda stepped inside. The driver closed the door, climbed up to his seat and slapped the reigns across the horses' backs to get them moving. Though they protested some at the cold and the snow, the beasts had no choice and were forced to move on. Inside the carriage, Link and Zelda enjoyed little conversation.

"What are we going to ask?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think Impa knows?"

"I don't know."

Their destination was announced and the driver opened the door for Link who carefully climbed out of the carriage, wincing when his knee decided it didn't like the cold or the strain he put on it and buckled. Nevertheless, he looked ready to help a sick-looking Zelda out, but she took the driver's hand instead and shakily stepped down. Once her feet were firmly on the ground, she slipped her arm through Link's as they strode through the dying, frozen town.

Link knocked on Impa's door. The cold wood was harsh on his knuckles, and threatened to turn them raw should they repeat the action too much. Thankfully, this was not the case. Impa didn't answer the door herself, but granted her visitors passage.

"Come in," she said quietly.

Link pushed open the door and allowed Zelda to step inside before he did. When Link had followed, he shut the door behind them and Zelda gave her greeting.

"Hello, Impa."

Impa, who had her back to the door, poking at her fire, whirled around at the hauntingly familiar voice.

"Your Majesty," Impa said, surprised, and jumping to her feet. "What are you doing here?"

"We need your help," Zelda pled. "Why are you....?"

"She doesn't know what's happened," Link told a confused Zelda. Impa looked just as perplexed.

"What's happened?"

"Tell her," Link said.

"The Zelda that you've known since you left Labrynna wasn't really me," Zelda said. "I met someone... when I left you alone with the Tokay."

"I knew you shouldn't have gone alone," Impa scolded.

"Yes, I made a mistake. But this woman that I met, she... possessed me. She had the Triforce of Power and was using me to make Hyrule weakened to claim the whole Triforce for her own." Zelda knit her eyebrows together in disgust and dislike, her tone turning slightly dark and bitter.

Impa was taken aback by how calmly and simply Zelda spoke. She stared back at Zelda with her bottom jaw practically brushing the ground.

"But she, well, unpossessed me because she had my Triforce, and thought she could take Link's. She said that she didn't need me anymore."

"She took your Triforce?!" Impa cried.

"Yes, she had mine and the Triforce of Power. She let me free, though, thinking I was dead. Of course, I wasn't, only knocked out, and when I came around, Link and I destroyed her."

"This is the Zelda you know, Impa. The one you helped raise, not the reason you left the Castle," Link said. Zelda smiled, but only weakly, and it did little to remove the dark expression from her features.

"And you need my help?" Impa asked slowly, still not grasping the news.

"Lily may be dead," Zelda said, "But her magic has still gripped Hyrule. We need to counteract it."

"You know only magic can counteract magic, Highness."

Zelda shot Impa a withering look.

"It's me, Impa. Really. Call me Zelda."

Link spoke up next.

"We used a lot of magic in the fight," he volunteered. "We rested, but I don't know if we can use it again so quickly. And aside from Zelda's binding power, and the few arrows I've got, what magic do we even have?"

Impa thought for a moment.

"Link, I've got an idea. Do you have the Ocarina of Time with you?"

"Yeah, I've always had it on me since the fire," Link said, looking down as he remembered how his haste made that situation worse.

"What's your idea?"

"Well, I remember you talking about when you went to that Termina place. You used songs there, right?"

"More time travel," Link said, rolling his eyes in an annoyed manner. "I was so tired, I didn't know what time it was.... Travel really doesn't agree with me."

"Well, that's not the point," Impa went on, almost ignoring him. "You said you had a song that took you back three days in time, right?"

"It was the Song of Time, but it didn't do much in Hyrule."

"That's because you only played a few notes; that's all I ever taught you. It's all I had time to teach you. That's it," Zelda said, looking towards Impa. Impa nodded to indicate that Zelda was catching on to what she was saying.

"Try playing the whole thing and see what happens. It's worth a shot. If it doesn't work, then all that would have happened would be your serenading us."

"But I don't know the song," Link argued.

"You've heard it at least a hundred times in the Temple of Time. I'm sure you can figure it out," Zelda stated simply.

"I only know five notes!" Link said, exasperated.

"You mean to tell me you've had that thing for nearly nine years and you only know five notes? You've never been curious? You've never bothered to learn any more?"

"I never needed any more."

"Well, you need it now! We might not have much time before something even worse happens to Hyrule. We have to fix what's wrong."

"You say 'we' like you're gonna help."

Zelda sighed.

"Okay, I will, then."

Link and Zelda soon discovered that there were more holes in the Ocarina of Time than necessary. Zelda figured that with eight finger holes and a thumbhole, there were over five hundred possible combinations for Link's fingers, and at the moment he only knew five. It was Link, however, that noticed that when all the holes were covered, the sound was low. Lifting one finger at a time would raise the sound little by little. Most of the fingerings didn't work if the thumbhole wasn't covered, he'd observed, cutting their work nearly in half. Impa also threw in a few suggestions for the Ocarina, though she wasn't nearly as musically inclined as Link and Zelda were. With the three of them working together, the notes took about two hours to figure out. It was another twenty minutes before Zelda could write up the music, and forty to explain it all to Link, since he couldn't read what she'd written.

"Are you ready, Link?" Zelda asked.

"I think so," he said. "I just have to play this slowly to get it right."

"Speed isn't as important as accuracy. As long as you play the right notes in time, the tempo won't matter." She held up the sheet of music for Link.

"Here goes," he said, closing his eyes and putting the small blue flute to his lips. He inhaled deeply and played the six notes he memorized so long ago; the beginning of the ancient melody that, quite literally, transcended time. The Song of Time never did much in Hyrule before, but, if played correctly, it might actually get to save her. Link opened his eyes to read the notes on the page Zelda held for him, but he didn't seem to need it; his fingers moved on their own, as though they'd known the song for ages, another magical quality of the tune.

Zelda and Impa were both holding their breath, and Link would have probably done the same if he were a witness to this event. Part of him wanted to keep repeating, somewhere in the back of his mind, for reassurance, that everything would turn out okay, but he knew better than that. Though he wasn't really focusing on playing the melody, he still knew to concentrate because there were so many other things to worry about. He had to keep his pace constant and unwavering, his tone had to be pure, he had to phrase the music properly and his breath had to last as long as he could make it as well as support it all. He had to play.

The Ocarina's rich tones floated around the cabin and out through the door, soaring all the way to the edges of Hyrule. There wasn't a pair of ears that didn't catch it, Hylian, Gerudo, Goron, Sheikah, Kokiri or Zora, whether they knew it or not, and many wondered where the mysterious notes originated, and strained to listen out for the oddly enchanting minor melody. They looked to the sky. Surely such perfection, such beauty, could only come from the Goddesses? And suddenly, they all froze. All activity in the Kingdom of Hyrule stood still for exactly one minute. In that one minute, the flow of time reversed. At first it was only slowly; a few minutes were erased, and then an hour. Before long the hours turned to days, weeks and months. The past few months had been removed from the country's history, and Hyrule was returned to late summertime, as it should have been. The snow melted, leaves turned green and jumped back on their trees, birds came back from flying south, owls hooted to welcome the evening, and the temperature rose then fell as the summer sun set over the Lake and the Valley. When that one minute was over, Hyrule snapped out of its daze and returned to nighttime business as usual. Mothers called their children in from play, farmhands relinquished their posts tending vegetables in the garden and bartenders and innkeepers opened their doors for the expected summer night's patronage; all as if the disaster had never happened. Well, almost.

The Song, of course, failed to have an effect on Impa, who remained as she was during Lily's attack. She stayed as still as a statue, not daring to move.

Zelda let her breath go first. Everything felt... right, again. The odd sensation of her loose skin was gone. Did it work? Did the Song of Time really work? She looked at Link as he set the Ocarina down and noticed everything she loved about him was back. His hair, falling back over his eyes, was its youthful blond, with only hints of brown and absolutely no gray. He didn't look tired anymore; rather, he looked as refreshed as though he'd just woken up from a very long night's sleep.

Please look at me.

Her mental cue worked, for at that moment, Link looked up into Zelda's eyes, and she saw what she wanted to see. His eyes sparkled. The fire was back, and they burned, fierce and blue, like they always had. She loved those eyes. She could get lost in them; drown in them.

Link, meanwhile, felt something slightly different than Zelda had. She'd been affected by Lily's magic all at once. Her change was sudden, so she felt only as things were returning to normal after Link finished the Song of Time. Link, on the other hand, had gotten accustomed to the gradual transformations Lily had induced, so that he felt comfortable in his older body. When he played the Song and set everything right, he felt odd. He didn't know how to describe it, but he knew that he'd felt it once before; when he woke up in the Chamber of Sages at seventeen years old during his quest to defeat Ganondorf. He looked at himself, shaking his bangs out of his eyes to get a better look. Everything seemed to be the way it was a few months ago, but he wasn't sure. He looked for Zelda's reassurance, only to find her already looking at him with a pleading look in her eyes. It softened and disappeared when their eyes met. Zelda returned to her former state. Link hoped that he had, too.

"You did it," Zelda said.

Link could only muster a chuckle for a response. She still stared....

"Um, how's your leg?" Zelda blurted, blushing. If she was going to remain dignified, she had to keep the conversation casual and try not to stare at him so much, a massive chore for one so infatuated.

Link snapped out of his own trance and shifted his weight to his left and kicked his right leg.

"My knee's fine," he said thickly. "It feels like it's back to normal."

"You two look back to normal, too. And look," Impa said, peeking through the blinds. "The rest of the snow is gone and there are flowers on the ground."

Link and Zelda ran to another window to look and, sure enough, Impa was right. It was late summertime again. The town's nightlife was just beginning. Torches burned on stands, and windows were lit with a yellow glow that cast the Village into a spooky light. A few people strolled through the hamlet in search of evening activities. Had they noticed what happened yet, or were they simply unaware of the changes? Were the townspeople that oblivious to the danger they'd faced twice already? Link and Zelda wondered how anyone could be so dense.

"You know," Impa offered. "I don't believe that that worked."

The Queen and her Knight turned to look back at Impa, who they were sure had lost all sanity.

"What?"

"I had no idea that was going to work. It was just a guess."

"Good call, then," Link said, and turned back to the window.

"Zelda, I think you should go back to the Castle now," Impa said.

"Why? Everything's fine now. Everything's perfect. It's all the way it should be," Zelda said dreamily. Almost the way it should be, really....

"Yes, but the day's been taxing on you, even with your rest. If I'm not mistaken, you were possessed only this morning, then had to endure two radical physical changes, use your magic in between them, figure out, write down and explain music.... Do you want me to stop?"

Zelda was pouting. Impa was right, of course, but that didn't mean Zelda liked being told what to do, especially not twice, and especially not after she'd just stated that everything was well in the world.

"I think so, too, Zelda," Link said, unconsciously flipping the Ocarina of Time over in his hands.

"Alright," Zelda conceded. "But tomorrow, I'm going to enjoy this the way I want, and with no one out to stop me."

Impa smiled.

"Fine, then. Good night, Zelda."

"Good night, Impa, and thank you so much for all your help," Zelda said, then moved over to the door.

"Yes, Impa, thank you. Who knows what would have happened without you? We wouldn't have gotten this far. We wouldn't have overcome this. Credit's rarely given where credit is due, and believe me, it's due. If you hadn't known Zelda so well, if you hadn't been the one of "sage advice," well, this would all be nothing." Link ended his speech in a very low and grateful bow. Impa just smiled and chuckled softly.

"You remembered! You're welcome, both of you. You should go, now, though, before it gets too dark to see outside. You can't stay here. Besides, I have to see if Faji's going to be alright."

"What happened when he got here?" Zelda wondered.

"Faji?" Link asked.

"Zelda, under influence, ordered Faji to tell me where Zelda was last night. I don't know why."

"So you would know where to find my body," Zelda said bitterly, pushing her eyebrows together again.

"Faji came here?"

"Yes, Link, and it took some doing and nearly the whole Village to push him up Death Mountain Trail and into Dodongo's Cavern. That was at least as far as we had to get him. He would have died out in the snow. He was well on his way to death when he arrived here. Don't look so worried. I'm sure he's recovering."

"Yes. Well," Zelda showed genuine concern for one of her best Knights, but she couldn't dwell on that now. Another thought had just popped into her mind. Death....

"We'll see you soon, Impa," she said. Link opened the door for Zelda, waved, and followed her out. She linked her arm in his once again, and strolled to the steps at the edge of the Village, in the warm summer night, back to their waiting coach. Once again, she stepped inside and Link followed her, this time, bold enough to sit beside her. She cheered on the inside.

"I was wondering, Link," Zelda said when the carriage ride was underway. "What do you think happened to the Triforce of Power?"

"That's something I'd really rather not think about," Link said, trying to see through the windows of the coach at Hyrule Field, but he was met with a curtain of night and crickets chirping. "I've had to fight two very dangerous and powerful people holding the Triforce of Power in two years. I don't want to think who, or what, could be next, especially knowing that by this time next year they could very well have killed me."

"They'd have to be very strong to do that," Zelda commented.

"That's true," Link said sadly. "But you've seen what the Triforce of Power can do. You've seen it twice. You've fought it twice. You know what kind of adversary it is." He sighed. "And I've been lucky to have you helping me. Next time, Goddesses forbid that next time ever comes, but I might not be so lucky. And the people who are left are lucky, too. There could have been so many more casualties...." Link caught Zelda's miserable expression. "I'm sorry, you haven't had a chance to properly mourn His Highness."

Zelda sighed and laced her fingers together in her lap. Her thoughts flew back to her and hit her all at once.

"My father was a great man," she said, her voice trembling.

"I couldn't agree with you more, Zelda. I don't think Hyrule's ever seen better days. But now you have a chance to grieve."

"I only wish the Song of Time could have done something about him."

"It can turn back time, but no song, simple or magical, can bring back the dead."

Zelda, overcome, wept into his shoulder.

"It'll be okay, Zelda," he said, wrapping his arms around her. "You only have to be strong one more time. It's all over. It'll get better from here on out. Trust me, I've got a feeling it will."

Zelda turned her head up towards Link, the tears still shining in her eyes. She blinked them and a last tear fell.

"You're absolutely right, you know," she said. "It will. It will get better."

***


A few weeks later, Link was back out training alone in the Courtyard with his grain. The birds, long absent in light of the havoc Lily caused, were slowly learning to return to the Courtyard every afternoon for food. The baby birds had all grown and were feeding their own children, as a new daddy remembered; he had once been crying for food in the same spot where his children were now when his mother had fed him. He looked down to the green-clad figure as he thrust his sword into the sack. Go time.

Link had long since noticed the birds' return to the Courtyard. He'd seen them gathered and were waiting for him each day before he even came out. Hefting a sack of grain around again, he took notice of how many there were, and there were quite a few. He began to swing his sword about, slowly at first, then practicing a few of his fancier moves, as he usually did. He took a step back for the next one, jumped, spun, rolled, sidestepped and finally thrust his sword straight into the "heart" of his victim. The birds fluttered down, fighting for what they could get. Everything was back to normal.

The lilypads even floated peacefully on the surface of the pool, undisturbed, due to the lack of teenage Knights falling into the fountain. Some of them had pink flowers. Link knew never to make the same mistake twice and decided the grass would be a better place to sit.

"Link?"

It was Zelda, coming to watch him once again. Link looked over his shoulder to see who'd called and scrambled to his feet, shooing the birds away and batting any blades of grass off of himself, a far less embarrassing situation to be caught in.

"I wondered if I might talk to you for a minute. It's pretty important."

"Sure. What about?"

Zelda strolled towards Link, outwardly calm. On the inside, she was a nervous wreck and prayed to the Goddesses that she was doing the right thing.

Now or never, Zelda.

"I know," she whispered to herself. Link looked expectant as she stopped right next to him.

"I just wanted to say that I've had something to tell you since before... before everything started, you know."

"Go on," Link urged.

Go on, she urged herself.

"I've been meaning to, well, that is to say, I don't know how to put this...."

"Just spit it out, Zelda," he smiled. Goddesses, that was a beautiful smile....

C'mon, Zelda! She thought.

"I don't know if I can be dignified...."

"Then don't be," said Link, putting his arm around her waist and pulling her a little closer. "Tell me."

"Well, then, the truth is...." Zelda looked down at her hands, fussing with her skirt. "I-- I've felt that... for a long time I...." She took a deep breath, looked at him again and started over. "I've put my complete trust and faith in you. You saved my kingdom, not once, but twice, and with very little outside help. I'm more than just grateful for that. Since we were children, since the moment I saw you, I liked you. And, over time, the feeling just, well, grew. And I know now that you're important to me, very important. You've even helped me mourn for my father when I thought I would never get the proper chance. I... I...."

Link smiled again.

"I feel the same way," he finished for her, and awkwardly leaned in for what he hoped would amount to a sweet kiss, but Zelda turned her eyes down again and Link halted his advance.

"Well, there's one more thing," she said meekly.

Link murmured softly to suggest that she should continue.

"Hyrule still needs a king," Zelda implied, looking up at him, her big eyes pleading. She blinked twice.

Link stopped still. He didn't know what to say. He knew, of course, that Zelda was unable to run a country on her own; she had no idea how to do it and she was still very weak. He was fine with what he was feeling, with what she was feeling, but to ask him to help out in an even bigger role, to be the King of Hyrule. In essence, she was asking him to marry her. Well, that was a little too much for even Link to bear.

"I-- Zelda, I-- I'm sorry, I have to go," Link said. He realized his arm was still around her waist and pulled it away suddenly.

"I have to go now."

He turned away from Zelda quite mechanically and walked faster than usual. Once he figured he was out of her sight, he broke into a run through the castle. It felt good to run without worrying about his knee, but that wasn't the most pressing matter on Link's mind at the moment. She wanted him to be King. That was huge, and he just couldn't handle it. What was she getting at? Where exactly was she planning on going? He felt suffocated.

He felt like he was drowning in the castle. Leaving through the main entrance and running down the path felt like surfacing. Outside air had never been so welcome in his lungs. He breathed it in deeply. The sun shone brightly and warmly above with the promise of a cool autumn ahead. Link didn't stop running, though. He went straight for the stables where Epona was. He quickly saddled her and rode off. Epona was startled by such a sudden call to work.

He had no particular destination. He would ride in one direction for a bit, then suddenly change course. He knew nothing but that he wanted to be alone with his thoughts for a while. Epona kept hinting that she wanted to go to the ranch to visit Malon but Link flatly refused and turned her around in the opposite direction each time they approached Lon Lon. Epona didn't like his behavior at all and threatened to throw him more than a few times. Link decided it was best if they both cooled off for a bit and spent some time at the lake.

By the time they were lakeside, the sun was beginning to set. Link took off his boots and stuck his feet in the cool water while Epona took a long and well-deserved drink. He enjoyed the serenity and peacefulness that he usually found here, like the Lake was someplace only he knew about, someplace only he could access. He fell back and laid down on the soft grass on the hill with his hands under his head and shut his tired eyes. The wind blew and Link heard the leaves of the nearby trees rustling and ignored it.

"Link," the wind whispered.

Link opened one eye, and looked around, then shut it again. Perhaps he was just hearing things. There was no one else at the Lake but Epona.

"Link," it called again, this time a bit louder.

He quickly sat up and reached for his sword, listening intently now. He'd definitely heard his name called and scanned the area with sharp eyes.

"Link," it repeated, louder still. It was a woman's voice.

"Show yourself," he said, still listening, still scanning.

There was a rustling in the tree behind him. He turned and looked up in time to see a girl jump from one of the lower boughs and land, catlike, with a slight smile, on the sandy hill not far from where he stood.

"Link," she repeated, this time in his plain sight, standing and dusting herself off and pushing her bangs out of her eyes. She was a Gerudo, there was no mistake about that, but she was a blonde one; her tresses were in the usual high Gerudo ponytail, and they still happened to fall, like spun gold, to her small waist, with the ends of her locks tickling her bare, and well-defined, stomach and back. Her sun-tanned skin gave off an orange glow in the setting sun. Her almond-shaped eyes, with a hint of mystery and mischief behind them, shone a deep chestnut, but flashed all the colors in the rainbow. She was quite pretty, and Link knew it. The Gerudo girl also knew his name, but that wasn't surprising. There was no one who didn't know his name, especially among the Gerudo clan. Hadn't he just defeated their king a year or so ago? And he'd been welcome in the Valley since long before that....

"Who are you?"

"Honestly, how do you forget a blonde Gerudo?" she scolded, looking offended.

Link looked down and shrugged only to look back up at her and grin. She sighed.

"You got time?"

"Lots of it. I came here to think. Why?"

"Well you're gonna put thinking on hold for a bit. I need to tell you a story."

~*!THE END!*~




A/N: Okay, time to explain a few things. First, the Majora's Mask reference. Imagine that during the seven years Link was supposed to be sealed in the Chamber of the Sages, he really wasn't. Imagine that he was *really* off doing MM and Oracle, and he came back in time for the second part of OoT. And, all the musical jargon. I'm a flute player, and I know what goes into playing a woodwind like that, so of course, I thought of myself playing while I was writing. Also, if you play the Song of Time at the proper tempo (80 BPM), then it really does take exactly one minute. Nifty, ne?

Next, I know I was cruel to leave you off as soon as a new character was introduced but fear not! You can read more about this Gerudo girl in the next part of the story, Birdcage Evening Primrose (it's got a real title now!), by The Bonnie Returns/Oluademi Wolfwood. But, that's where the story's going to pick up. She's been kinda slow writing, so I suggest you all go read it and give it a review for a kick start. Remember, Bonnie, if we're planning a you-know-what, you gotta write this story. My part's done!

Third, the name of the story. I haven't gotten many questions on this, but I figured I should explain it because the title IS rather odd. If you haven't gotten it, go back and reread Chapter Two. If you still don't get it, consider this: Lily's proper name is Briarleigh. If you get caught on briars, you might get snagged. It could hurt. Lily hurt. Briarleigh hurt, because of what happened to the Sheikah after the Transference. She hurt for a reason, so, Briars Hurt for a Reason. A little farfetched, yes, I know, but it's MY story.

Lastly, thanks again EVERYONE for reading this story. I couldn't have done it without you and I hope you continue to read my stories and support me in the future. I thank you for your time and your patience. It's been so much fun writing this. I hope you enjoyed reading it, too. *sniff* Here's a final treat for all of you! *gives everyone chocolate!*
This story archived at http://www.kasuto.net/efiction/viewstory.php?sid=63