It seemed that winter had arrived early this year. The breath of pedestrians sparkled like cobwebs in the cold air, puffs of smoke emanating from the cloaked figures that sauntered along the pavement. Mid-morning frost was sprinkled along the shrubbery, and clouds obstructed the sunshine from above, giving the sky a gray hazy atmosphere. Clock Town. The pullulating final extension of Hyrule that is no part of the Capital except in spirit-and the spirit runs deep through the industrious walls of the city, without any regard for the borders of the dominating, intrusive country surrounding it. Termina and the lands which it contains are one; there is nothing else. Woodfall. Snowhead. Great Bay. Ikana Canyon. They are all continuously connected, the last stretch of land of Hyrule's retained territories.
In the heart of Termina laid the small village of Clock Town, a notorious old industrial settlement that had existed since the time of the Creation. In rainy weather, the streets flooded in swift rushed torrents; mud gathered on the sidewalk, and the Mayor's Court House sagged in the square. Somehow, it was colder now than it had ever been: a strange change in the mediated temperatures of Clock Town's climate. People moved more slowly because of it. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of stores around it, taking their time with everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed so much longer than that. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Clock Town. Perhaps there would be if people gathered the courage to leave. But no one ever dared to such a thing; the unexplored regions of the land beyond their walls frightened most citizens to the core. They feared the unknown. They even feared the known. They feared everything.
The main residential area of the town-West Clock Town-comes into view. This was the largest area of Clock Town, and on a normal day, the most busy. The main attraction of the village in general was the only place of its kind for miles around, and it had made its reputation for being comfy, warm, and friendly. Stock Pot Inn had been around for years; Tortus Dapice and his wife Judith had originally started the business, and when Anju had grown old enough, she had entered into the family business, as well. Anju despises the work she does; she finds it to be extremely boring and unfilling. She had told me on multiple occasions that she'd give anything to work for a clothier of some kind, but she doesn't want to leave the Inn all to her mother. Her father had died when Anju was only twelve years old, and her grandmother-her father's mother-had passed away only a couple years ago.
My own mother had passed away when I was young, only a couple weeks after my seventh birthday. She was a noble from Calitia; my father met her at a social gathering of some kind when Hyrule and Calitia had been united together. He was middle-aged then, and she was fifteen years his junior. I was the product of their first year of marriage; six years later my mother became extremely ill and passed away from a sudden and life-threatening illness. I only had a few memories of her, in addition to a pendant that was hers and a small pictograph of her from her younger years. My father missed her dearly, and I knew better than to talk about her with him.
Because of my mother's early death, I was raised by a woman named Impa, a woman in her mid-forties, the last remaining member of the Sheikah tribe. I loved her dearly, and I know she returns my sentiments completely. She raised me ever since my mother died, saved me from death multiple times, and is always there when I need comfort.
"Zelda, we're almost at the Inn. I know this weather is brutal, but it's not too much further, alright?" Impa said to me, as if right on cue. I'm pulled out of my head for a moment, and I gave my attendant a small smile. I nodded and wrapped my arms around myself, attempting to block another gust of cold air that rushes through us.
She smiled back and rubbed my shoulder gently with a hand. Her ivory hair was pulled back as usual, her gleaming red eyes standing out against her pale complexion. Even though middle-aged, Impa has the appearance of a young adult. The Sheikah marks around her eyes create an alluring appearance, despite her maturity.
"Are you alright, Zelda? You've been awfully quiet ever since we left the Castle." Impa led me up a small flight of steps before speaking again. "Is there something wrong?"
I paused, unsure of what I should say. Her words immediately bring back memories of my dream, thoughts trailing to the image of Ganon, the man named "Kokuei", and the young guard who had been murdered. Was it the right time to tell Impa? I had planned to tell her before we left, but I had never gotten the right chance. By the time we officially left the Castle, I had forgotten about the entire dream altogether, until just now. I knew that my dream wasn't something to be ignored. Premonition or not, I knew I had it for a reason, and whatever that reason was, I needed to find it out and quickly.
"Actually...well, I don't know, Impa. I mean, I'm not sure if it's anything to worry about, but.." I said, unable to find the right words. We turn a corner, and then I decide to try again, taking a deep breath to calm my voice, which I had just noticed was shaking. "I had this dream last night. I think it might be some sort of a premonition, but I don't know. It was so real. It felt like I was there." A shiver ran down my spine.
Impa doesn't speak for a moment, contemplating her words silently before responding. I can see the worry and concern in her face, eyebrows crinkling together over widened eyes. "What was the dream?" she finally asked, putting a hand on my shoulder, as a comforting sort of gesture.
With another deep breath, I told her about my dream, spilling out every detail I could remember. The Spirit Temple, the dark room with a fire inside the grate, the dark man and King Ganondorf, the Gerudo girl, the plan of murders, flashing purple light...I said it all. I held nothing back. By the time I was finished, tears had formed and were gathering up under my eyes. I wiped them away before they had a chance to fall. I probably looked ridiculous, not to mention I probably sounded ridiculous too. Was I going mad? Ganondorf could not come back! How could he?
My thoughts are interrupted as two arms wrapped around my waist and placed my head against a warm body. Impa held me close, one of her hands rubbing my back in soothing motions. It instantly reminded me of when I was a child, when Impa would put to sleep every night. She'd hold me close like this, while humming my lullaby softly in my ear until I fell asleep. It always calmed me down then, and it was having the same effect now.
"Zelda...you should've told me this sooner," Impa said gently. "Was last night the first time you've had this dream?"
I nodded. "What do you think it means? Is it a premonition? Or maybe it's already happened..." I knew it meant something; my dreams were not to be taken lightly. But I didn't know what! Or what I was supposed to do. "I'm so scared, Impa. What if Ganondorf really is back?" The idea that he had escaped from the Evil Realm was laughable, but I couldn't deny what I saw in my dream. It had far too many elaborate details for it to be something I imagined on my own.
Impa didn't respond immediately. After a minute of silence, she stood back an inch so she look at me better. "We should contact Nabooru and see if they've been missing anybody recently. I think that's all we can do for now. I can talk to her and see if anything strange been happening in Gerudo Valley. Until then, I think you should try enjoy yourself today, Zelda. You've probably had a rough night."
But I didn't care about that. It didn't matter to me how much sleep I had gotten or that it was my birthday. I was worried-worried sick-about the possibility of the return of the Evil King. I cared about my people's safety, my friends-and Impa and my father. My own well-being was the furthest thing on my mind.
"Impa...what if he really is back? I can't just sit here while he..he might possibly be murdering more innocent people!" I exclaimed. My heart beats wildly against my chest as words ramble out of my mouth. "While I'm sitting around, someone could be dying! Or already dead! I can't just let more people suffer-"
"Zelda Althea Harkinian," Impa interrupted, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "You've done everything you can. Until we know more, we'll have to just wait it out and see what comes up. You're all stressed out, I can see that. You need to relax, Zelda. Enjoy yourself for once."
I bite my lip in thought, a bad habit I've had ever since I was little. As much as I hated to admit it, Impa was right. There wasn't anything I could do, not with the little information I had. Once we knew more, we could take action, but we'd just have to wait in the meantime. My stomach churned at the image of Ganondorf in the Desert Colossus, his dark magic killing that innocent Gerudo girl..her body growing lifeless before it even hit the floor...I quickly shook the memory out of my head. It was bad enough that I had to think about that in my dreams; I didn't need it while awake, too.
I looked up at Impa, and gave her the most believable smile I can, which probably wasn't very believable at all. "I'll try, Impa. Thank you." It was the least I could do for her.
She nodded, leaning down to kiss my head once. "I'll contact Nabooru and see if she knows anything. We're going to figure out all of this, alright?"
I wanted to believe her, but a sudden pain in my heart told me otherwise, and the horrible feeling of dread and worry flowed through me again. Just like Impa said, there was nothing I could do, but that didn't stop the feeling that something was going to go horribly wrong.
"...alright," was all I could say for now. Knowing that Impa was going to check the temple and the Colossus calmed me down somewhat, but it wasn't enough to last for very long. The dreaded feeling only returned again and I was back where I started. "I wish I could do something to help, Impa. I feel guilty that you're doing everything. I should be the one going to the temple." I hated feeling so useless. It was excruciating.
"Zelda, I know you do. You are always putting others before yourself, even if it means endangering your own life. But it might not be safe out there, and your father would be furious if you went. Please trust me, Zelda. The best thing you can right now is try to enjoy yourself and be with your friends. I know you've missed them." Impa pulled me close with a light squeeze.
"Yes," I admitted quietly, unable to deny her words. "I've missed them a lot. They keep me sane." They were the sole reason I recovered two summers ago, the reason I was still mentally stable. Anju, Malon, and Kafei. I owed them my eternal gratitude, a million times over.
I looked up at my attendant and sighed. "I know you're right, Impa. I'm sorry. I'll behave." As hard as it was, I'd do it. I trusted her with my life. There was no one else I would want going out to the Colossus. There weren't many people I knew who could stand the blistering weather of Gerudo Valley, much less survive the awful conditions that the Haunted Wasteland contained. In fact, only a few chosen individuals have made it across the Wasteland and lived to tell the tale. Impa was one of these.
"Thank you, Zelda. And don't worry, if I find anything at all, I'll tell you straightaway. We're going to figure this out." Impa rubbed my back in soothing motions again.
I prayed with everything I had that she was right.
Warm air ran through my cloak, and I'm grateful for the change in temperature. The front desk is empty, which surprised me. I turn to Impa. "Did they mention where they'd be?"
She nodded. "Your cousin said they'd be in the kitchen. But try to act surprised, because I wasn't supposed to tell you that."
I can't help but smile. "I'll do my best." We continued forward, passing the stairs and instead take a left to the kitchenette, which was behind the front counter on the opposite side of the hallway. It was a tad bit darker than usual (to add to the surprise, I assumed) but I managed to find my way. The kitchen is even more dark than the hallway. As I approached the entrance, hushed whispers fill my ears, and I stopped to listen.
"Are you sure she's here?"
"What? Of course she is. I heard her voice. I'm not an idiot."
A snort. "Could've fooled me."
"Shut up, Malon."
"You shut up."
"Both of you be quiet. Zelda is going to hear you."
It was silent again, and I waited a moment before I entered the room. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to let them know I was listening. Stepping quietly onto the tile floor, I wait one extra second and then opened my mouth to let them know I was in the room.
"Hello?" I say, my voice bouncing off the walls.
Lights from lanterns flickered on before I can react, and three familiar faces popped up from behind a counter. I am greeted with a loud chorus of "Surprise! Happy Birthday, Zelda!" I give them my best surprised face, and it seems to faze them for the time being. Anju, I assumed, had covered every counter with white tablecloths, except for the one in the middle, where a small pink cake and a pile of presents lay.
It was strange how well I had remembered their appearances, even though it had been several months since we had all been together. Malon and Anju, redheaded, blue eyed, and pale, were a complete contrast from my cousin, Kafei, whose amethyst coiffure and crimson irises were abnormal qualities in of themselves.
Anju and Malon hugged me tightly, Malon's ginger hair brushing against my cheek. Then Kafei puts an arm around my shoulders and leans down to whisper something to me.
"Don't worry, Zellie, Anju didn't make your cake. We didn't want kill you on your birthday," he chuckles. I laughed quietly, unable to stop myself. It was a known fact that Anju wasn't a very good cook; there had many instances where she had burned the food down to a crisp or started a fire. It was impossible not to tease her about it.
Malon snickered. "We're not that mean."
Anju frowned, slapping both Kafei and Malon on the arm. "Oh, shut up," she huffed, with both anger and embarrassment. "We should give Zelda her presents now, if you guys are done being jerks."
Kafei wrapped an arm around her, placing a kiss to her head as a silent apology. Anju grumbled, but eventually gives in and wrapped her arm around his waist, too.
Malon rolled her eyes. "Come on, Zel. They're over here." She hooked her arm through mine and lead me to the table with the cake and the presents.
My lips turned into a pout. " But I told you guys I didn't want-"
"And we didn't listen," she interrupted, obviously smug.
"So stop sulking and just open one," Kafei added, a smile on his face. He picked up one of the presents from the pile and puts it in my hands before I can react. "Here. This one is from me and Anju."
Their present-a small, neatly wrapped box-feels light in my hands. I reluctantly tear off the paper to reveal its contents. A glimmering silver ring lays inside-a ring that matches the necklace my mother gave me before she died.
"It's beautiful," I said truthfully, "Thank you." I was amazed at the similar details it shared with my mother's necklace. They were was practically identical.
"You're welcome, sweetie," Anju replied with a grin, tugging some of her crimson hair behind her ear. "I'm glad you like it."
"I love it." I slipped the ring onto my finger and smiled gratefully at them, embracing my cousin and Anju.
"Okay, now open mine," Malon said with excitement after I pull away, handing me another box. This box was much larger and heavier than Anju and Kafei's, and was about half the size of me. I teared open the paper, and I gasped at the object inside.
"Malon, thank you!" I exclaimed, turning to hug my friend. A beautifully hand carved bow lay inside the box, along with a leather quiver that held twenty or so arrows inside. Archery was a favorite pastime of mine, and it been a long time since I had gotten the chance to practice. "It's beautiful. Did you make this yourself?"
"Sure did," she answered with a laugh, "They're ridiculously expensive in Hyrule Castle Town, and I knew I'd do a better job anyway. I know you miss target practicing, so now you'll be able to do it more often."
I can't stop smiling. "Thank you," I said again, unable to think of much else.
"Sure thing, Zel." Malon squeezes my hand once.
There was a couple gifts from other friends: a favorite fruit of mine only found in the Kokiri Forest from Saria; a new saddle for my horse from Malon's sisters, Cremia and Romani (and a note explaining that Romani had gotten sick the night before so they couldn't attend); and a lovely set of earrings from Ruto (who also couldn't make it due to a visit to her cousins out in Great Bay).
After all the gifts had been opened, Impa left the inn to get someone to take them back to the Castle. Meanwhile, we sat around the table and talked and laughed about our lives; the biggest news was that Anju and Kafei have been trying conceive, unfortunately not having much success; Malon said that her uncle, Ingo, might be getting out of prison a few years early due to good behavior on in his part, which was surprising, considering how bad his behavior was before he got arrested; Kafei still refused to be Mayor, which is causing a lot of tension and fighting in the Dotour family.
"...why don't you just stop going to your old house?" Malon asked, finishing up the last bit of the cake on her plate. "Then they can't yell at you and you can't yell at them."
"You don't think I've tried that? They follow me everywhere," Kafei said with a clearly exasperated tone. "At the lab, here at the Inn..I'm surprised they're not here right now."
Anju patted his hand. "That's probably because they still think we're out in Calitia, remember?" she reminded him. Kafei thought about it for a moment, and then grins, remembering some forgotten memory.
"Oh yeah.." he whispered, looking reminiscent, a tiny smirk crossing his lips.
"Is that where you two went for your second honeymoon?" I asked them with a smile.
"Yep," Anju answered, grinning at me. "That's where your mother's from, right?"
I nodded. I didn't know very much about my mother's homeland, only that it bordered Hyrule's eastern boundaries and was "quite similar to our country's geography", according to my father.
"Did you have a nice time?" I asked, although I wasn't quite sure why. It was quite obvious that they did. But I was quite interested in their trip, nonetheless.
Malon snorted quietly. "Of course they did; it's written all over their faces." She glanced over at them. "Congratulations on the sex, by the way," she said blankly, giving Kafei and Anju a thumbs up.
Anju almost choked on her cup of water; Kafei had barely any time to react before she starts coughing and I have to cover my mouth with a hand to keep from laughing. "Malon!" she coughed, glaring at her. Kafei rubbed her back, but I can see he's trying not to laugh as well. "Don't do that! I almost choked," she muttered, her face a light red color. I was unsure whether it was from coughing or embarrassment...though I assumed it was probably both.
"You're fine, Anj," she grins, clearly smug about the entire ordeal. "You're just embarrassed 'cause you're a prude. Seriously, you two go at it like bunnies." Malon raised her eyebrows, as if she was waiting for Anju to deny it. "I'm sorry for making you cough a little, but I was only congratulating you guys on your five happy years of marriage."
She grumbled something incomprehensible. "I am not. I just was surprised that's all." Anju was still quite red in the face, however. "...it was a very weird way of showing it. But thanks I guess." She sounded unsure of Malon's congratulations.
Kafei snickered, wrapping an arm around her waist so he could kiss her forehead. "Oh, cheer up, babe. Malon doesn't mean any harm." I could see Malon smirk beside me, and I attempted to not smile.
She grumbled again, but decides to lean against Kafei's shoulder, anyway. "I'm sure she doesn't," Anju muttered. Kafei chuckled, kissing her head once.
"But really..I actually am happy for you guys. Five years is a long time...and you two deserve it. I'm impressed that Kafei managed to stay an adult this entire time." I can't help but laugh this time. Of all the things to tease my cousin about, this seemed to be everyone's favorite. I thought I even saw Anju crack a smile.
Kafei stared at his redheaded friend blankly. "Yes, congratulations to me." Malon and I both chuckle, but I give my cousin an apologetic look. The curse he had placed on him when was eighteen was a sensitive spot, but he managed to take his experiences wholeheartedly. At least, most of the time.
I take the opportunity to break the silence, turning to Kafei and Anju. "Old curses aside, I'm really happy for you two, as well. I hope you're able to have a child soon." I knew that they had been trying for a while now. "But I'm sure you will," I added with a small smile.
"Yeah, me too," Anju said, cuddling into Kafei's side. He kissed her head again, and a small smile tugs at my lips. The love that Anju and Kafei shared was something I thought you could only find in books. It was a real, honest love...something, I admitted grudgingly, I envied. To share a life with another person, to find your other half, your soulmate..it was something I had dreamed about since I was a young girl. Even though those dreams had died down quite a bit as I got older, somehow they still managed to creep back into my life occasionally. Anju and Kafei have been best friends since childhood, which was the main reason they seemed to fit so perfectly together. That kind of bond couldn't be broken.
A new voice interrupted my train of thought. I turned around in my seat, and the muscles in my face lifted when I see Impa walking through the doorway.
"Princess," she greeted me with a smile, standing by me now. "Are you having a good time?"
I nodded, still smiling. "Thank you."
She ruffled my hair, chuckling. "You're welcome." I frowned, which only made her chuckle again.
"I'm glad to see you're enjoying yourself," Impa said, still smiling. "Most people like birthdays and gifts, but you seem to be ignorant of such activities. It's a good thing to see you relaxing, for once."
Everyone chuckled, and I scoffed, more out of embarrassment than actual anger.
"Impa's right, Zel," Malon said, a sort of teasing tone in her words. "You work too hard. Everyone should relax sometimes, especially on their birthday."
I sighed, shaking my head. I couldn't be too mad at them, of course; they just found pleasure in teasing me. If fact, we all teased each other, but it was always lighthearted. They were like my other family, a family that I couldn't live without.
"Speaking of which," Impa said, moving my attention back into the real world. "I got you something." She pulled something out of her cloak pocket, and smiled at me. "I know you said not to, but...you're turning eighteen. It doesn't happen every day." She placed a medium sized wrapped box in my hands. "It was your mother's. Before she died, she told me to give it to you on your eighteenth birthday. You can open later, if you wish." She smiled knowingly.
I was at a loss for words. "...thank you," I managed to come up with. I held the present close to my chest, unable to stop smiling. I thought my heart might burst from happiness and appreciation, towards Impa and my friends. It actually frightened me to imagine what my life would be without them.
"Say thank you to Cremia and Romani for me."
Malon gave me one last hug before waving goodbye, and Kafei and Anju, one arm around each other, hugged and waved goodbye as well. I returned the gesture, smiling at all of them until I couldn't see them anymore. Once they were out of view, I turned around and walked beside Impa, pulling the hood of my cloak over my head again, blocking the cold breezes that hadn't let up. I hugged Impa's gift to my chest, eyes watering from the chilly wind that blew across my face.
It was silent between us for only a moment, and then my caretaker spoke. "Princess? I was thinking about what you said earlier...about the dream you had."
I wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. "What about it?" I asked warily.
"You mentioned that the servant who was in the room, Kokuei, said something about the princess and the hero finally being Ganondorf's." She looked down at me, speaking carefully, as if trying not to upset me. "...do you know if he meant the Hero of Time?"
I had knew that this topic would come up eventually. As much as I wished otherwise, I couldn't ignore it forever. "...it's possible. He wasn't all that specific, but...I don't know who else it could be."
Impa was quiet for some time before responding again. ''Zelda, if this is too painful for you-"
"I'm fine," I lied.
"Zelda, I know when you're lying. I raised you," she said, giving me a look. "I can see it's too painful for you to talk about."
I should've known better. I couldn't lie to Impa. I was like an open book to her. "..I can't avoid it forever, Impa. I have to get over it eventually."
"That doesn't mean it has to be right now."
"It's been two years. That's plenty long, I would think." Had it really been that long? As detailed as my memories were, it would seem much shorter than that.
"Even so, things like this take time." Impa rubbed my shoulder soothingly. "We can talk about it later."
I hesitated, looking up at her again. "...I'm sorry, Impa. I know I should be over it by now...but, it's harder than I thought it would be. I don't know what it is...or why...but...I just can't seem to forget. About..him." I couldn't say his name; no, it was impossible. Not without the unnecessary, painful memories trailing along with it.
"You don't have to apologize, Zelda. It's not your fault." She pulled me close as we continued on, navigating through Clock Town. "He's the one that left. It's only natural that it would take a while to forget about. Don't worry, though; you will eventually. It'll just take some time." Impa kissed my head, rubbing my shoulders again.
Impa's words seemed to comfort me for the time being. I knew that I'd probably be flooded with memories later, but for now, I tried to ignore that and focus on other things. It took a few minutes, but it did the trick; I soon forgot about the Hero of Time altogether.
I just hoped that it would last.
Tumultuous clanging brought me back to the present. I paused, and then soon realized that it was the clock tower's bells that had brought me out of my thoughts. I listened as the bells ceased after six dings; it was six o'clock, then. The maids would be here at any moment, preparing me for the commemoration for my eighteenth birthday that would start in just an hour. The staff of Hyrule Castle was extremely efficient; they prided themselves on it. I knew they were only doing their job, but I sometimes felt irritated when they were around me. It wasn't like I couldn't dress myself.
My maids, Constance, Ava, and Guinevere, darted into the room without knocking. They all bowed quickly, and Ava, a small, middle-aged woman with dark hair and big eyes, unfolded a package that I just noticed in her hands. Before I could ask them anything, all three of them gasped and giggled excitedly at what Ava pulled out of the wrapping. It's a dress, but not like any dress I've ever seen. This particular attire is entirely covered in reflective, precious gems, all the shades of blue you could possibly think to exist. I feel as if I am staring at a vast ocean or lake, about to be drowned within the silken layers of sapphire.
"Oh, isn't beautiful, Miss Zelda?" Ava sighed, as Constance and Guinevere giggle in agreement. "It's from your father; it's a present for your eighteenth birthday." She put the dress back in the package from which it came, joining the other maids in gushing over it.
They worked on me for the next hour, turning my skin into pallid satin. Then Constance went to work on my hair, pulling and weaving each strand so it rested perfectly against my head, strands hanging around my face. They erased my face with a layer of pale foundation and drew my features back out. Huge dark eyes, full red lips, lashes that threw off bits of lit when I blinked. Finally, they tightened the undergarments more firmly against my body.
They slipped the dress over my body, and I could feel the silken inside before I felt the weight. It was by far the heaviest apparel I had ever worn. I stepped carefully into my shoes that laid above my bare feet. There some adjusting and fidgeting. Then silence.
Impa entered the room then, holding the box that held her gift to me, still unopened. She pulled something out, and I finally saw what it was. A beautiful golden diadem is placed across my forehead, clasped against the back of my head. She lead me to the full length mirror, smiling next to me. "You look just like your mother," Impa whispered.
The figure standing before me has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash brightly. Where everyone is flawless and perfect. Where everything is radiant as the sun.
For a while, I just stared at my reflection. "Oh, Impa," I finally whispered. "Thank you."
She only kissed the top of my head, a silent answer to my thanks. Impa dismissed the maids and they all filed out obediently, closing the door behind them. I could still hear them, their giggles and chatter muffled, but still hearable.
"All ready to go?" she then said, looping her arm through mine. I nodded, at a loss for words. She kissed my head again, and then led me out the door.
The commemoration was housed in a spacious chateau which had formerly served as a convent inside the walls of Hyrule Castle. It looked like its usual splendid self, decorated for the celebration it was hosting. Golden banners gleamed by the light of hundreds of candles, floating overhead, attached to the magnificent marble walls. Every member of the Council sat together at the head of the room, silently listening with great interest. Now, with the glowing candlelight lighting up his face, King Daphnes Nohansen Harkinian IV, my father, paused dramatically before continuing his speech.
My father, was forty years old and a highly respected figure throughout the Royal Council and citizens of the country he governed. He had been one of the earliest crowned kings in Hyrulean history—at only age fourteen—but had one of the most successful reigns Hyrule had seen in years. He had successfully combined the lands of Hyrule and its neighboring country, Termina, together, increased the economic status, and Hyrule hadn't seen a single drop of bloodshed since the Great War
He couldn't of wished for a better audience. Dukes and duchesses from every neighboring country was in attendance, some I recognized and some I didn't. To the right, there sat each member of the Sages, representing each of the six races throughout Hyrule: Kokiri, Goron, Zora, Sheikah. and Gerudo. I looked at the table they were seated at more carefully. Tiny Saria, the Forest Sage, was sitting on a large pile of cushions beside Darunia, the ruler of the Gorons and the Fire Sage, whose tan hair spread out in crazy directions. Queen Ruto and Impa sat next to them, Sages of Water and Shadow. Their eyes faced my father, who was speaking again, standing proudly at the altar. On Impa's right side was the ebony, golden-eyed, crimson haired Sage of Spirit, Nabooru Dragmire - my least favorite member of the Sages. My loathing of Nabooru was matched only by her hatred of me, a hatred which had, if possible, had intensified over the last couple years...to be more exact, since the Hero's departure of Hyrule. I knew she blamed me for his disappearance, and despised me for it.
On Nabooru's other side, and in the very center of the Sages table, sat Rauru, the Sage of Light, his sweeping silver hair shining in the ominous light, his majestic red and orange robes embroidered with the golden Triforce in the center. The tips of Rauru's long, thin fingers were together and he was resting his chin upon them, staring up at my father, like every other person in room. But unlike everyone else, he looked lost in thought, as if his mind was a million miles away.
"...due to an event that will be starting in January, and continuing throughout the rest of the year," my father continued, "It will take up much of the Council's time and energy - but I am sure every single citizen will enjoy it immensely." He paused again, for dramatic effect, I assumed. "I have great pleasure in announcing that this coming year is going to be holding an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Gwyllgi Labyrinth will be taking place in Hyrule once again."
An excited whisper swept through the audience; some of the invited guests stared at my father, too appalled to speak. The whispers died down after a moment, and every person in the room looked at my father, eyes wide with enthusiasm.
"The Gwyllgi Labyrinth was first established some thousand years ago as a friendly competition between the seven races in Hyrule: Hylian, Kokiri, Goron, Zora, Sheikah, and Gerudo." He glanced over at the Sages before continuing. "A champion was selected from each race to represent their people, to compete in seven tasks that were set in each race's land. The Labyrinth took place every five years, as it was agreed that the competition was an excellent way to establish bonds between each nationality - until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the Labyrinth was discontinued."
Death toll?</b> What kind of tournament was this? My anxiety did not seem to be shared by the majority of the attendants below; many of them were excitedly conversing with one another, in hushed whispers. They were apparently far more interested in hearing about the "Gwyllgi Labyrinth" than worrying about deaths that took place hundreds of years ago.
"There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the Labyrinth," my father continued, the voices in the room dying down simultaneously, "none of which have been very successful. Fortunately, ("Right!" I thought to myself) our own Council and the six leaders of each race have decided that it's time for another try to start the Labyrinth up again." He glanced to the right, scanning each of the Sages carefully before continuing.
"Since it has been a over a millennium since the last session of the Labyrinth has taken place, some adjustments have been made. For example, since the Sheikah race has ceased to exist for many years, it has been decided that instead of a Sheikah champion, a champion from the country of Termina will be competing instead." The excited whispers filled the air once more, this new change hyping up the guests again. My thoughts immediately went out to Kafei and Anju. I wondered if they knew of this tournament. I would have to ask them.
"The heads of the seven races will be arriving with their contenders in December," my father said, "and the selection of seven champions will take place on January 7th of next year. An impartial judge will decide which contestants are most worthy to not only compete for the glory of their race, but also a thousand rupees prize money."
Many of faces below lit up at the prospect of such glory and riches. I knew it wasn't for the sake of themselves; every person in the room had enough wealth to last several lifetimes. I figured they were surprised that such a hefty amount of money would be given out to the winner, a peasant, no doubt. I could see that people were either gazing raptly at my father, or else whispering fervently to their neighbors. But then he spoke again, and the voices quieted once more.
"The heads of the participating race, along with the Royal Council, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only those who are of age - that is to say, eighteen years or older - will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. This" - my father raised his voice slightly, for several people had made noises of surprise at these words - "is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the Labyrinth tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take, and it is highly unlikely that contestants below eighteen years old will be able to cope with them. I will personally be ensuring that no one not of age will put their names in."
I felt a little relieved at this. At least they'll be an adult, I thought. I started to wonder what these 'tasks' were, and what made them so dangerous, but my father started to speak again, and I turned my attention back to him, listening intently. But he had finished everything he wanted to say, and now was thanking everyone for coming to the commemoration -which caused the audience to applaud loudly. As a last remark, he mentioned that the choosing of the seven champions would take place in the town square at nine on the seventh of January. He closed the ceremony, dismissing everyone. The guests immediately started to file out, chattering quietly -about the Labyrinth, I assumed.
Something about the name "Gwyllgi Labyrinth" was extremely familiar, but I couldn't remember from what or why. It wasn't until I decided to stand up from my seat that my mind was exploded with memories. Memories that told me exactly where the name was from.
"My King, may I ask how long we are going to stay here?"
"A week, " said the cold voice. "Perhaps longer. This place is adequate, and the plan cannot proceed yet. It would be foolish to act before the Gwyllgi Labyrinth has begun and the tributes have been chosen."
Zutanyæ shook her head vigorously, straining even harder to hear. She needed to listen more carefully, no doubt, for mishearing of phrases, like "The Gwyllgi Labyrinth," which was not a place at all.
My dream! How could of I been so ridiculously forgetful? My heart pumped vigorously, and my mouth started to taste strange. I felt sick. Emotionally distressed. I couldn't deal with this right now. Selfish as it was, I told myself I'd deal with it in the morning. I was only putting off the inevitable, but I didn't care. It was too much.
"Zelda?" My father's hand was on my shoulder, and he looked worried. "Is everything alright?"
"I'm fine," I lied carefully, slowly adapting to what he was actually saying. "I..I'm just a little tired, I suppose. It's been a long day." That wasn't a lie this time.
It was silent between us for a minute. That was it for our conversation. As I expected, there was only so much we could talk about, in any case.
"Well, I should get going. And you should get a good night's sleep," my father said suddenly, and I turned around so I could give him a nod. He planted a quick kiss to my cheek, with a short grumble of embarrassment. He wasn't very good at displaying public affections. I inherited this from him.
"I'll see you in the morning, then." I managed to ignore the crimson flush that dusted my cheeks, having decided to return the kiss back.
One of the best things about my father is that he doesn't hover. He left me then, up to his chambers to finish up some paperwork or some other documents, it seemed. Once he was gone, I remembered that I had planned to thank him for the dress. It would have to wait until the morning, I figured with a frown. Before I had a chance to think about it anymore, Impa was by my side, looking worried.
"Are you alright?" she asked concernedly. I still looked anxious, apparently.
I sighed. I couldn't lie to Impa. I really wasn't good at it in general, but Impa knew me like the back of her hand. "I just remembered a part of my dream just now. Ganondorf had said they were going to start whatever they had planned to do after the Gwyllgi Labyrinth had started. My father's speech...it just...I don't know what to do, Impa! I'm so scared...but I don't want to be scared. I need to be strong." I felt so sick to my stomach I thought I might cry.
She reached down to squeeze my hand. "Zelda, it's alright to be scared. You're only human." Impa smiled at me, kissing my head once. "But for right now, I think you need some sleep. I know today was extremely stressful for you."
I nodded. The only good thing about today was when I spent time with Anju, Malon, and Kafei in Termina, and I had no idea when I going to be able to do that again. "Maybe." I looked up at her, thinking of something else. "Did you get a chance to talk to Nabooru yet?"
"Not yet, Zelda. But I will tomorrow." Impa let go of my hand, kissed my head again, and motioned for me to follow. "Now, now, let's get you up to bed, alright? We can both think about all of this the morning. Stressing over it now will do us no good."
I knew she was right. With a tired sigh, I followed obediently behind her, as she took me up to my bedroom chambers in the west wing of Hyrule Castle. When we had reached our destination, she kissed me goodnight, telling me sternly to go to sleep. I was too exhausted to disagree. Now that I was alone, I had half a mind to just fall asleep in my dinner gown. But I miraculously managed to undress, hang the attire up carefully in my closet, slip into a thin nightgown, and crawl tiredly into my bed.
My head was buzzing. I couldn't think. I didn't want to think about anything anymore. My body felt tired, but my mind was wide-awake. Wide-awake and worried.
Was Ganondorf going to come back soon? Was he going to use the Gwyllgi Labyrinth to come back to Hyrule? Why was he waiting until the contestants had been chosen? Who did he mean when he said "the hero?" And what was I supposed to do about it?
My mind wandered even more rapidly, going to places I didn't want to return to. If he meant "The Hero of Time" did that mean that he was going to come back? Was he having these dreams, too? What was he doing about them if he was? I stared up at the ceiling, hoping for answers. But I never received any. I only was given silence and the sound of my ragged breathing.
I waited for a long time, but nothing came. I didn't know how long it had been -an hour at least- until my body's wants took over the alerted state of my mind, and I eventually fell into what I hoped would be a dreamless sleep.