Prologue: Chapter Six

ZELDA yawned and opened her eyes slowly, stretching her arms out above her head. The first thing she saw was the ornate roof of another woven tent, bright crimson with a blue and golden dragon coiling endlessly through it. The Princess shuddered squeamishly, for the shining curves and knots of the dragon's sinuous body reminded her horribly of the giant cobra in the Temple. She was lying on her back in a hard bed, covered by another beautiful hand-woven cloth... no, she saw, turning on her side, it was not a bed but some kind of low pallet. It was comfortable even so, and she wondered how long she had slept.

She rubbed at her eyes with her knuckles, a strangely childlike gesture out of which she had never grown, and sat up. Last night was a blur to her after Sofia and her friends had turned up--she remembered vaguely a long ride through the desert as the stars began to fade, and then she was being carried somewhere in the dark... The Princess sighed and shook her head to clear it, then gently lifted back the covers. She had been dressed in a simple linen shift, and she wondered where her own clothes had been taken. There were some garments laid out upon the sandy floor beside her bed, but she was for a sleepy moment sure that they were not for her--the Gerudo clothing, while clean and superbly made, would be considered highly offensive if worn at home. But was she not being prejudiced against her rescuers once more?

"When in Calatia, do as the Calatians do," the Princess muttered then, and took up the white silk trousers. The Western Desert might not quite be Calatia, but the proverb still applied. At least the thin silk would be cooler than what she had worn before, she thought and smiled. The top definitely would. It was a finely woven tight-fitting item of gold and scarlet thread, with tiny beaded jewels sewn onto the shoulder straps and to... well, other strategic areas. There were no sleeves and nothing to cover the stomach. It barely covered her chest. Zelda got into the clothes with a wry smile at the thought of Link's reaction to her new look, and then she found a strip of red cloth that would do to pull her hair back, Gerudo-style: she knew that she must look like a blonde Amazon with the outfit she had on, but she could not stand the prickling of her waist-length locks any more. Long hair was simply too hot in the desert.

"Zelda?" came Sofia's voice from outside. "Are you awake?"

The Princess ran a hand through her ponytail, fluffing up the long golden swathe. "Yes, I'm awake. Come on in."

The door curtain parted with a soft swish, and the red-haired woman stepped through in a blast of light and heat. "Well, don't you look nice!" Sofia said in surprise, regarding the Princess.

Zelda bridled. "If you know where they put my own clothes, please don't hesitate to tell me!" she snapped.

Sofia smiled and held up her hands in a calming gesture. "Peace, peace. I am afraid that the nomads burnt your other outfit and Link's tunic, Zelda--they were so dirty and desert-stained that they would not have served for anything better than rags anyway. Clothes are disposable here." The red-haired woman smiled and flicked her ponytail back over her shoulder. "The daughter of the tribal chieftain offered us both the pick of her wardrobe, but I had little choice when choosing your clothes. You are rather slimmer than she is, I am afraid. How do you feel?"

Zelda frowned, running her hand over the waistband of her new trousers--they were loose on her. "How do I feel? Worried, Sofia. Where is Link?"

"He is not yet fully recovered," the red-haired woman admitted, shifting her sandaled feet on the cool sand. "For awhile this morning we thought we should lose him. He responded badly to the elixir we gave him against the cobra's venom, and then of course he had been worsening for a long time before I came back." Sofia smiled at the Princess, her amber eyes flashing. "But I swear your friend is made of adamant, Zelda. He pulled through. He was very tired, and now he rests and sleeps."

"So he is going to be fine?" Zelda asked eagerly. "This is wonderful news! When I saw him so ill, I was sure he would die before you could do anything for him."

Sofia lifted a hand in warning. "Wait, Zelda--please do not get too excited yet. Link will live, yes, but he has taken some damage from the poison. He still has no sensation in his right arm--often, the paralysis lifts with time and exercise and we have no reason to doubt that it will do so this time, but--"

"What?" Zelda interrupted. "Paralysis? What are you trying to say?"

"He cannot lift or feel his arm and hand," Sofia explained. "But given the time he should recover most of the movement in it. I have seen this before when a bite is serious. We should be grateful that he lived through it at all, with the amount of poison he took. He is as stubborn as a goat."

"Poor Link," Zelda said softly. "Can I see him?"

"For a little while," the red-haired woman agreed. "It is your right as consort."

"Consort?" the Princess exploded. She stood with hands on hips and glared at the other woman with furious ice-blue eyes. "Who said anything about my being his consort? He is my bodyguard!"

Sofia raised an eyebrow.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Zelda snarled.

"Just that I have seen how he looks at you, and you at him," the red-haired woman answered mildly.

"There's nothing between us," Zelda insisted angrily. "We are merely traveling companions. Of course I am concerned about his health, he was badly hurt, but--"

"So he's not your boyfriend?" Sofia suggested.


"Very well, Zelda." The red-haired woman smiled, her eyes twinkling. "I'll take you to him anyway. Pretend you are his consort if you can bear to--it will make life much more simple with these people. They will not appreciate the idea of a young unattached man and woman traveling together. No," -as the Princess drew in another deep breath- "do not say it. This is purely a matter of what is most prudent. We are their guests and must abide by their rules. I have put my own life upon the line by bringing you two here."

Zelda sighed deeply. "I will do as you ask, Sofia." She raised her head and shot a cool glance at the other woman. "But this does not mean that there is anything between us!"

"Of course," Sofia said smoothly. She handed Zelda a pair of leather sandals. "Put these on, Zelda... the sand outside can sear the skin from your feet at midday."



Outside, the sun was high in the sky and Zelda wondered how long she had been asleep, though she did not ask Sofia. The place they were in was nothing compared to the tent city Gaelaidh, for it was a mere gathering of five or six wide tents arranged in a circle around the black remains of a campfire. Bony oxen of white or gray wandered through the camp, and horses browsed upon the small and woody plants that grew in the sandy soil. This place was on the edge of the desert where there was just enough water to support some plant life. Zelda looked up into the cloudless sky, a blue the deep color of cornflowers in high summer with the sun a disk of white gold overhead. Blue... not amber. There was little sand upon the winds.

She caught sight of one of the people of this settlement, a wizened old man sitting cross-legged on a mat in front of the dark opening of his tent, and scraping half-heartedly at the wooden shaft of a dart with a gleaming wood-handled knife. His skin was the color of chocolate and looked like tanned leather. A sparse mat of white hair covered his partly bald scalp, and grizzled stubble coated his chin. He looked up at her, eyes almost buried in wrinkes, and gave her a wide toothless smile. The Princess gathered her courage and smiled back at the ancient tribesman, lifting her hand in a regal wave. The old man chuckled bashfully, pleased as a child.

"That's it," Sofia muttered. "Act well and nobly, Zelda. They believe you're some kind of good spirit. These people have never seen a being with golden hair or white skin before. Live up to their expectations!"

"I see," Zelda said.

Sofia led her to a tent standing apart from the others, woven in soft leafy patterns of green and aquamarine. "This is the house of the doctor," the red-haired woman informed her companion. "Link was taken here to recover." Quietly Sofia stepped up to the opening and drew aside the curtain, motioning for Zelda to enter. She laid a finger upon her lips as the Princess passed within.

Link was lying on a pallet similar to hers in the center of the round tent. His chest and shoulder were bandaged, and his long red-brown hair had been combed and lay loose around his head. He slept peacefully, looking far more healthy than she had seen him last night. Careful not to make too much noise Zelda padded across the sandy floor towards the pallet and knelt upon the sand beside her friend, gently brushing his cheek with her finger.

He stirred and opened his eyes, turning his head towards her. "...Zelda?"

"Hello Link," she said softly. "It's me." Thankful tears grew in her eyes but she blinked them back. Now was not the time for weeping.

Link yawned. "We found the Temple, then," he said sleepily.

"Yes, that's right. And Sofia could become one of the Knights as well. If she agrees to come with us, we'll be halfway there already!" Zelda smiled. "You must get better soon, Link, so we can get on with our quest!"

"Don't want to hold you back." He lifted his left hand to his face, flicked back a lock of hair.

"You won't hold us back," Zelda said gently. "How are you feeling?"

He smiled weakly. "Tired. Drained. My arm-"

"I know. It will be all right." Zelda touched his right hand gently where it lay upon the coverlet. "Sofia says so, and I think we should trust her by now!"

"It doesn't feel all right," Link sighed. "It feels like meat. I could poke it with a knife and the only way I could tell would be the blood."

Zelda shushed him gently, stroking his cheek with her finger. "It is just an effect of the venom. You'll be able to use your hand again soon."

He blinked twice and then shook his head slightly. "Zelda... would you mind leaning back a little? That outfit is rather... shall we say... intimidating."

Zelda jumped to her feet, insulted. "How dare you!" she exclaimed, almost tempted to slap him around the face, snake bite or no snake bite. Then she smiled despite herself, and laughed with relief. "You must be feeling better if you've started doing that again."

Link clenched his jaw and sat up awkwardly, pulling the coverlet up around himself with his good hand. "Have they left me any clothes?" he asked, a little breathless.

"I am not sure that you are supposed to be up," Zelda began.

"I feel fine, Princess," he said firmly. "Just a little... tired, that is all."

Zelda cast her eye over the meager contents of the bare tent, and her gaze fell upon a pile of Gerudo garments upon the sand--neatly folded trousers like her own, a kind of open vest of leather, a wide cloth belt and a pair of sandals carefully placed on top. She knelt and picked up the clothes, then carried them to the pallet and set them down before him. "Would you like any help with that, Link?" she asked sweetly, fingering the white silk trousers.

Link blushed to the roots of his hair. "Er... no thank you, Princess," he stuttered, for once truly discomfited, and shifted his legs underneath the blankets.

Zelda bit back a giggle. Revenge was sweet, she thought. "Very well. I will turn my back."

"Please, Princess, at least go outside while I dress!" Link begged, his green eyes pleading. "I would not insist on being present while you... er..."

"Not a chance," Zelda said firmly. "I'm staying right here. You are still weak!" She smoothed back her golden hair and smiled wickedly. "Of course, if you were to address me as Zelda instead of "Princess", I might feel less like being stubborn..."

"I see," Link sighed. "So I have to promise to call you Zelda from now on?"

Zelda said nothing, merely waiting with her eyes firmly upon him.

Link held out for a few moments, but finally he squirmed under the coverlet and let out a sigh of exasperation. "All right, all right! I promise!"

"You promise to call me Zelda and not Princess?" she demanded.

"I... promise."


Link made a miserable face and his long ears even drooped. "I promise!" he sighed. "All right?"

Zelda smiled in victory. "See you in a few minutes, Link." She rose to her feet slowly and exited the tent, unable to keep a little swagger out of her walk.

Link, alone, watched the tent flap fall closed behind her, and then his dejected expression changed slowly to one of pure evil cunning. He pulled his left hand out of the mess of covers where it had been hidden, and uncrossed his first two fingers. "Gotcha, Princess," he whispered softly, and reached for his clothes.



"How is he?" Sofia asked as Zelda left the cool tent and stepped back into the boiling sunlight.

The Princess smiled. "We owe his life to these people," she said softly. "He is fine. He is getting dressed now."

The red-haired woman frowned. "He should stay in bed."

"Don't try and make him," Zelda insisted. "Link will never do what is sensible, trust me." She smiled wryly. "He is as stubborn as I am... although he does not have quite as much common sense."

Sofia laughed. "Ah well, it probably will not do him much harm to be up and about!"

Zelda smiled with the red-haired woman, and then her expression changed as a thought struck her. "Sofia," she began, "we should talk. About what the Goddess told us."

"I thought you would ask me sooner or later," Sofia answered slowly. "You wish to know whether or not I will be accompanying you on your quest."

"That was what I was going to ask, yes," Zelda agreed reluctantly.

Sofia nodded, and sighed. "I still have not decided. It disturbs me when I think about it. I am sure that fate wanted us to come together... but to leave my homeland, perhaps forever!" She stared down at the ground. "I am afraid," she admitted. "Part of me does not want to go with you at all."

"It is not a fair thing to ask of you," Zelda said finally, after a moment's silence. "Sofia, maybe we can find someone who can take your place in the Knighthood. There must be someone else."

"I am not sure of that," Sofia sighed. "Zelda, ask me again when we come back to Gaelaidh. First we must present you and Link to my father... and I have to beg his pardon for taking you to the Spirit Temple without consulting him or waiting for his permission." The other woman pulled an uneasy face. "I do not think he will be very pleased."

"We will deal with that when we come to it," Zelda promised. "Surely he can be brought to reason. I know something about kings, Sofia--I can help you talk him out of his anger."

"Thank you, Zelda," Sofia smiled. "I would greatly appreciate that. I will tell you this--I certainly will not leave without my father's goodwill. He and I... we do not get along perfectly all the time, but I do love him. He is a good man."

Zelda looked around once more, feeling strangely at home in the bivouac of the desert nomads. By Hylian standards these people lived in frightful poverty, barely subsisting upon the edge of the endless sands, yet in their own way they had just as many beautiful things as any Hylian farming family. The tents, now--they were works of outstanding beauty worthy of an incredibly high price in the markets back home, were they sold as cloth.

She became aware of the small band of ragged children beside the burnt-out fire. The oldest around eight and the youngest only just walking, the little group stared at her with identical wide-eyed expressions of awe. Both boys and girls were naked to the waist, and they had been baked to a warm nut-brown by the white-gold sun. Zelda smiled at them and waved, and shyly one or two waved back.

"You do realise that you will probably become a story they will tell to their grandchildren, don't you," Sofia murmured.

"Thus history turns in on itself," Zelda said softly. It was another example of the cyclical nature of history--she hoped earnestly that it was not a reminder of how history would turn back to Ganon's time in three hundred years.

The tent flap was pushed back and Link stepped yawning out into the sunlight. He was still pale, but he looked nothing like as bad as he had after the cobra's bite. "Farore, it's hot!" he exclaimed, screwing his eyes up against the sun. "How long was I asleep?"

Sofia shrugged. "I know not. I could not sit and watch the hourglass; I was busy." Turning her attention to Link once more she looked him up and down critically. "You look good in the desert clothes too," she said thoughtfully. "You are the wrong color, of course, but..." She let her words trail off into a pregnant silence.

"But?" Link ventured.

The red-haired woman smiled and tossed back a stray strand of her long hair. "Oh, I was just thinking to myself," she answered. "It may be that my father will be more understanding if you two look less like Hylians and more like humans."

"Cut his ears off," Zelda suggested.

Link did not find this funny.

"Well," Sofia laughed, "perhaps you could learn a few words of our language instead. That would surely help you to become accepted in Gaelaidh!"

"When should we leave?" Link asked eagerly.

Sofia frowned in warning. "Not until you are stronger, Link. We will wait at least a day or two."

"I feel fine," Link protested.

"Well, I do not think you are ready for a marathon or a long ride," Sofia responded firmly, "and that is what the journey to Gaelaidh will be. At least we do not have to worry about finding it--Gaelaidh is the only inhabited place in the desert that does not move around with the seasons!"

"Does this place have a name?" the green-eyed warrior asked, looking about him and taking in the small settlement for the first time.

Sofia shook her head. "They are the tents of the Simani tribespeople," she answered, "but they like all the nomadic peoples carry their home with them."

"How did we get here?" Link asked. "I must have fallen asleep..."

"You were very close to death for a while," Sofia told him seriously. "You were carried here."

"Oh..." Link said quietly, and was silent.

Zelda wiped her forehead in search of some relief from the blazing heat--her hand came away wet. "Well, shall we stand here until we are roasted alive, or should we move?" she asked dryly.

"If you please, you can go," Sofia smiled. "We have been given the freedom of this place by their leader, so we may enter any of the tents except for his own. I suggest that we go back to the place where you were, Zelda--it is larger than most and will comfortably take three people."

"They are very kind to just make room for us all like this," Link said earnestly. "We should tell their chief that we are very thankful for their help."

"We will," Sofia said. "I have already spoken with Siman, and he does not speak any Hylian so I will have to interpret--"

"Siman of the Simani?" Link interrupted with a smile.

Sofia inclined her head. "On accepting the leadership of a tribe, the leader takes the tribe's name as his own. Come now, both of you. Enough talking." Turning she walked back across the smooth ground toward the red-gold tent with the dragon pattern. Scrawny chickens who had been scratching at the ground scattered before her purposeful approach.

Zelda waited a moment before following Sofia and Link. Stepping close to the nearest tent she touched the fabric gently, trying to fathom of which substance the beautiful thing had been woven. The young princess could remember many unhappy afternoons in the castle back home, when her nursemaids had tried to teach her weaving and the other arts thought suitable for a lady. Zelda had never managed to complete even the simplest white cloth without getting all the threads in a tangle, snapping the weft and having to reknot it so that lumps appeared in the fabric, and even breaking the shuttle once or twice. Her creations always looked dreadful, and were often speckled with tiny rust-colored spots where she had pricked her finger trying to embroider the things. She wondered thoughtfully what would have happened to her, and what her life would have been like, had she been more adept with the practices of a Royal Princess's lifestyle.

"Zelda? Are you coming?"

Zelda jumped and relinquished the weave of the tent, letting the heavy material slip gently through her fingers. Looking behind her she saw that Sofia and Link waited for her at the tent flap and she hurried across the hot sandy ground towards them.

She could remember her childhood with crystal clarity, even from the earliest age. Her father, although he was kind and loving without fail when he saw her, was too busy to spend much time talking or playing with his young daughter and so by necessity Zelda was brought up mainly by women. It was a background she shared with most of the female nobility in Hyrule. She had been tutored by women, socialised with women and had been cared for by women. The Royal court was a female-dominated society--let the men play at soldiers, but the womenfolk would stay right at home and manage the kingdom's household affairs. Zelda remembered having to try and socialise with daft frilly creatures like Fellica, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Duke of Lotharia... at one time her father had wanted Zelda to become best friends with Fellica. But all the other girl had ever wanted to talk about was clothes. Dresses! Zelda couldn't stand the thought of it. Dresses with silk, dresses with satin, dresses with pearls and lace, dresses with matching muffs and petticoats... Her friendship with Fellica had lasted one stormy morning, during which time the gentle little Duchess had been reduced to tears and Zelda to stony silence.

And now Zelda had to fight and ride with the best of them. She knew that she was weaker and, compared to the others, shamefully unfit. But she had kept up with Sofia and he throughout their first taxing journey, and she could feel her body stronger and leaner than it had ever been. Without any conscious work on her part, she had developed a set of stomach muscles, leaner legs and arms and an endurance to rival most Hylians. There was a pleasant ready feeling to her body. In the past few days Zelda had done so much hard physical exercise that the Gerudo clothes and lifestyle looked positively good on her. If only Fellica or Gwyneth or any of those flighty ladies at court could see her now! She smiled as she ducked through the tent flap into the room where she had woken only a short time ago.

Sofia sat cross-legged on the floor and Link followed suit with less grace, flopping down with a groan of relief. The Gerudo garments sat well upon him too, the open vest displaying his smoothly defined muscles and clean lines. The bandage around his chest moved slightly with each breath, and his long red hair, red and golden-streaked now from the sun, curled down his back and around his neck and shoulders like a lion's mane. Zelda realised she was staring and averted her eyes, blushing slightly. She sat down carefully on the floor, her legs together in front of her.

"Would either of you two like some food?" Sofia asked.

Link grinned. "By Din, yes!"

"I would appreciate a drink," Zelda answered, wiping her forehead again. Even in the shade it was far too hot. She knew she had been sunburnt, but she had been so busy she had not even noticed it until it had reached the no-longer-painful peeling stage. Both she and Link were deeply tanned from the desert trek.

The red-haired woman jumped to her feet again, seemingly furnished with boundless energy. "I will go and find you something," she said, making for the door. "I know not what they will have for us, but there shall be enough for a meal. They may expect us to help them prepare the evening meal later--that is one of the rules of hospitality among these people." Sofia made a fist against her chest. "If they give you food and you do not repay them, there is a debt of lif-wrahu upon you."

"I will not ask what that means," Link said.

Sofia laughed. "Yes, that is something I should get around to while we are resting here! Both of you must learn at least some of our language before we have to attend my father the King." She stepped outside once more and let the tent flap fall back into place. Her footsteps, soft upon the sandy ground, receded and were gone.

Zelda leaned forward, clasping her hands around her knees. "Do you realise, Link," she began, "that we're only here because of her?"

He nodded. "Sofia seems so much like one of us now," he replied thoughtfully. "I would love to have her as one of the Legendary Knights--she is courageous, strong and self-confident, just what we need!"

Zelda sighed. "I still have not prevailed upon her to come, Link."

"It must be her choice," Link said with quiet resolve. "If we make her come and she does not truly wish to, she will be unhappy and that will not be good for our goal."

The young Princess laughed suddenly. "Why, Link! Whenever did you get so wise?"

Link smiled wryly. "Sometime after that snake bit me, I believe."

They shared a peal of laughter, expressing their joy at having come so far and their relief at having made it through all the dangers they had faced, intact and without too grievous an injury. Then they regarded each other through new eyes, reassessing their relationship with each other as it now stood. Now after all that they had done, they felt each other more nearly equals--Zelda more adept at the tactics and hardships of survival in a hostile land, and Link less in awe of the young woman who stood to inherit the sovereignty of the land of his birth as well as many others besides. Link found himself becoming less protective, perhaps, but Zelda found herself becoming less of a Princess at the same time. Perhaps in another less desperate time and place, they could have been brother and sister to each other.

Still giggling Zelda relaxed on the floor, setting aside any last residue of her Royal self-consciousness in order to meet him as an equal. "So," she said, mastering her happiness. "What about your shoulder? I saw that you were still feeling ill when you sat down."

"It's not a feeling of illness, Zelda," Link sighed. "I just feel tired--as if I could want to sleep forever." He touched his limp right arm. "This is not helping my mood... but I think Sofia is right. I can move my fingers a little already, although I still cannot feel them."

"It will come," Zelda said gently.

Link reached up and carefully loosened the bandage around his injured shoulder. "It's gone down," he informed the Princess. "It is not painful any more." Shuddering he gently soothed the soft white linen bindings. "The main thing I remember about the ride back from the Temple was the pain... it just got worse and worse until... I must have fallen asleep. I do not remember any of how we ended up here."

"You did not miss anything," Zelda smiled. "Tell me about your home in Calatia."

"Calatia?" Link said in surprise. "Have you never been there?"

"No," she answered. "Much to my regret."

The green-eyed warrior frowned. "Well... it is much like Hyrule. The people live off the land. Perhaps Calatia is not quite as fertile as Hyrule, but then few lands are. Hyrule has a perfect position... ringed by mountains, fed by a great river and on a plain which was created from volcanic soil..."

"I know about Hyrule," Zelda interrupted. "What about Calatia?"

Link smiled. She was so headstrong sometimes. "Yes, Calatia. Well, I grew up in a small fishing village called Haven, on the shores of Lake Lomere--"

"It sounds idyllic already," the Princess interrupted again. "Well, compared to living at North Castle, anyway!"

Laughing, Link held his hand up to indicate quiet. "There's some in Haven who would disagree with you there. But how can I tell you anything when you keep interrupting?"

"I am sorry, Link," Zelda answered, abashed. "I was always chided for my impatience back home."

"Much like me," he replied with a light grin. "My grandfather--you know, the last Hero--always told me off because I kept interrupting his reminiscences to ask questions. He was a grumpy old man, but he told me many fascinating stories about the old times in Hyrule."

"Wasn't he the one who had an affair with the Crown Princess?" Zelda asked, alert. She couldn't help enjoying a bit of scandal.

Link bit back a laugh. "Not really. That is, he would have married her but things never went his way. So, after a while they parted and he went back to Calatia. He never forgot her, though, and I heard that she never forgot him either. He told me amazing things that he had done with the Princess--once they had to rescue a flying unicorn which Ganon had captured and was using against them, and then there was this time when my grandfather was turned into a frog and had to be kissed to break the spell, but the Princess would not do it!"

"Who did, then?" Zelda asked in curiosity.

"My grandfather's guardian fairy," Link answered. "Spryte, her name was. When he was the Hero, there were still real fairies living in Hyrule. He used to talk about her a lot, too."

The Princess sighed thoughtfully, her cerulean eyes distant. "You must have had a wonderful childhood if your grandfather was the last Hero... all the things he would have taught you, all the things you could have done."

Link shook his head sadly. "Not really... He died when I was only seven. He was a very old man when I was born--he left it too late before he married, out of respect for the Princess."

"He must have been old," agreed Zelda. "He would have been sixteen or seventeen when Ganon last arose."

"He was never sure how long ago it was," Link smiled. "As I said, he was very old."

Zelda leaned back against the pallet, it being the only piece of furniture in the tent. Stretching her legs out, she asked, "What of your parents? You have said nothing about them."

"That is because there is little to tell," Link answered quietly. "My mother was a simple woman who had lived in the village all her life. As for my father..." The green-eyed warrior sighed. "He was a fisherman. I did not often see a great deal of him, because he was always working out on the lake. When I did, I had the impression of a hard, unimaginitive man who only really cared about getting by. He was, I think, a disappointment to my grandfather--my grandfather was upset about not siring a legendary Hero." He smiled. "But my father was a good man, and he looked after my mother and I, saw us through some difficult years."

"Your parents," Zelda began. "Are they--?"

"Still alive?" Link nodded. "Oh yes. And probably furious that I did not stay in Calatia to help my father out with his boat."

"I am sorry about pulling you away from your family like that," Zelda said tentatively.

Link smiled and waved his hand in the air. "Trust me, Princess, your summons was a blessing. I can think of nothing more boring than spending the summer mending nets and untangling crab lines."

"You certainly could not call this boring," Zelda agreed with a smile.

"Now," the young warrior said, leaning forward himself, "what about you, Zelda? What was your childhood like?"

"O Three," exclaimed Zelda in disgust. "It went so fast I barely noticed it. If you are anyone important to Hyrule--anyone at all!--your life is work, work, work, never a break, never any fun. The only free time I can remember is playing in the gardens with a set of tin soldiers one of the guards gave me. That was a sad story, actually--his little boy died before he was a year old, and so the man was left with the toys he had inherited from his father. He gave me the soldiers when he saw me throw my doll down the well."

Link blinked. "You threw a doll down a well?" he asked in bemusement.

Zelda shrugged. "My aunt bought it for me for my birthday when I was seven or eight," she explained. "I didn't want a doll, I wanted a bow and arrows. So as soon as she left I dropped it down the well so that my father couldn't make me carry it around and look grateful for it."

What a girl, Link thought, unable to resist a smile.



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