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.
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..."
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."
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?"
"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...