The Mask of Truth
This story is a cross-over between the game Zelda 64 and the short-lived Zelda cartoon series from the late 80's. There was one episode that especially touched me; where Link almost left Zelda after she became interested in a white knight. What would have happened if he had, I've always wondered. Link is dark haired in this story because I liked the way he looked in the cartoon better than in the game.
The Mask of Truth
"Gone. I don't understand. What do you mean, he's gone?" Zelda resisted the urge to stamp her foot like a small child. "Where has he gone? For how long?"
Sprite sighed. "He's left, Your Highness. He said he wasn't needed here anymore and he was going to find a place where he would be appreciated."
"Oh for.." Zelda snapped. "He's acting like a big baby. He's throwing a temper fit because Pierre and I have become friends and he's jealous. He'll come home any day now."
Sprite paused. "I don't think so, Your Highness. He didn't look mad or upset. He just looked...sad. We Faeries can sense things. He didn't seem like he intended to come back at all. He asked me to tell you to look in the top drawer."
Zelda marched across the bare room and pulled open the drawer, and felt an odd catch in her throat as picked up a small, red-stoned ring, the only thing there.
"The protectors of our family always wear these as signs of our protection of them, the protection of our name and history. Together we serve each other, a tradition since Hyrule first began. Please keep this with you as a sign of our faith in you, and our trust."
"I don't know what to say. I'm..honored. I promise I won't let you down, Princess."
No goodbye note, no farewell, could have spoken as loudly as that lonely ring in Zelda's hand.
"He's really gone, isn't he?" She said quitely, still not wanting to believe it. "He's left us."
Sprite fluttered by her head. "I think he really felt like we didn't need him anymore now that Ganon is gone. And now that you have Pierre." Her tone was calm, but the accusation was as plain as if she had slapped the princess. He left because of you, because you hurt him.
She sat down on the bed, the ring biting into the white flesh of her palm. She looked at her hand for a long moment. Slender, pale, the skin soft and pliant. Link's hands were calloused from his sword. Hard and rough, but infinitely gentle when he was trying in his clumsy way to comfort her, or to quiet Epona, who trusted no one but him. Epona.
"Sprite, what was the name of that girl he mentioned, the one he got Epona from?" Zelda asked suddenly.
Sprite thought. "Malon." she said at last. "She and Link knew each other as little kids."
"If he was upset and wanted a place to stay for a while, do you think he'd go to her?"
"I think he'd go to her before he'd go to anyone else." Sprite agreed. "Let me think. He told me the name of the place she lived, something based on her name and her father's. Oh yeah, the Lon Lon Ranch in West Hyrule."
Zelda looked out the window at the rising sun. "I need some time alone. Please?"
"Oh, sure. Catch you later, Your Highness. And I wouldn't worry about Link He's good at taking care of himself. I'm sure he'll do just fine." Sprite fluttered out of the room.
Zelda leaned back on Link's bed, taking in the familar scent. Soap, smoke, a very faint scent of horse that always lingered on his clothing. All part of the arrogant, dark haired young man that had come to mean so much to her kingdom.
Your kingdom or you? A voice asked inside her head.
Both. She answered it. He couldn't be in a room without becoming part of everything there, leaving his mark. He was brash and insolent, with absolutely no respect for royality. She could count on one hand the number of times he had called her by her given name instead of "Princess." It was the way he said it negated the respect it implied, stated that she might be royal born but that she was no better than he or any commoner in the villages around the castle. There was something endearing about it, however, something in his eyes that begged her not to take his jibes too seriously, or himself either for that matter.
As a warrior, he was another man entirely. She had seen him very nearly lose his life for her on more than one occassion, only to get up and laugh it off a minute later, flirting shamelessly about how she should show her gratitude. She thanked him each time for his efforts; hadn't they all? He lived in the castle; he had a large, warm bed, all the food he could eat. What more did he want? She thumped the bed angrily and felt her eyes fill with tears. She fought them back, furious with herself, but unable to keep them from running down her cheeks.
She knew very little of his past, only that he was an orphan who had grown up in several different places. He'd lived on the ranch with his friend Malon before coming here to serve her kingdom, yes, he had mentioned that. She'd never been to the part of Hyrule he had grown up in, it was a rural area, not given to the problems the cities usually presented, and it governed itself well enough without her interference. Now it seemed important, a part of the friend she had never taken the time to really get to know. She should had pressed her questions harder, she should have...
"I should have done a lot of things." She whispered to herself softly. "I should have found a way to let him know that we do care about him here, that he wasn't just a tool to fight off Ganon."
She sighed and slipped the ring into her belt bag, and walked over to the window. The sky to the west was still dark and shadowed, the rolling hills and valleys disguising each other It was a beautiful land, untainted and pure. Her land. Her father was hale enough now, but it would only be a few years before he was unwilling or unable to rule any longer and she would be the queen of all of this vastness.
She couldn't do it alone. The realization filled her and she smiled through her tears. Link would come back. All she had to do was find him and apologize for taking him for granted and he'd forgive her and come home. He'd be there when she accepted the crown. She felt the bulge of the ring through the leather bag, and left the room.
Finding the ranch was harder than she expected. Just about everyone raved about the wonderful Lon Lon milk, but no one was very clear about where it came from. Malon or her father Talon always delivered it on time, however, so it couldn't be that far.
It was early morning on her third day after leaving the castle that she finally located it, a stone monstosity rising out of the ground in the middle of a bare field. "Well, they don't have to worry about nosy neighbors, that's for sure." Zelda muttered, and urged her horse up the path of the ranch.
The inside was a cheerful as the outside was forbidding. Cuccos pecked in the soft earth, and the sounds of cattle looing drifted out of the barn to her right She slipped down off of her horse, noticing a mustached man come forward to take the reins. He didn't speak but bowed respectfully to her and led the tired animal to a stall.
She kept her eyes open, taking in the large ranch as she went.
"May I help you?" A clear voice asked.
The young woman walking toward her was beautiful. Long, strawberry blonde hair fell against her shoulders, and even from a distance Zelda could see that her eyes were a vivid blue. Her smile was polite and friendly, but somewhat guarded neared her visitor.
"I'm..looking for a friend of mine." Zelda blurted out, disturbed by the probing stare. "His name is Link. I thought maybe he might of come here?"
"Please come inside." The young woman said, her voice taking on an odd sort of tension. "We can talk better there."
Reluctanty Zelda followed the girl into wooden building and up a flight of stairs. The door opened into a small but well kept apartment.
"You must be Malon." Zelda stated. "Link's told me about you."
"He's told me about you as well, Your Highness." Malon replied softly.
"You don't like me much, do you?" Zelda noted.
"I don't know you, Your Highness. I do know Link, and I love him like the brother I never had. Next to my father, there's no one I care about more in this world. I won't have him hurt again."
"I never meant to hurt him." Zelda protested, sitting down in a wicker chair. "I have to see him, to tell him that I'm sorry. That.." her voice trailed off.
Malon took the other chair with a sigh. "He's not angry with you, Your Highness. He holds no ill will at you at all. He loves you too much for that. I'd give anything to have a man love me the way Link loves you. He's stopped living in a dream world though."
"What do you mean by that?"
"He was always deluding himself that even if he was common born, or assumes he is, and you were a princess that someday you'd look at him as more than just a servent of your kingdom In his head he understood how foolish it was to dream that, but his heart was different Seeing you with Pierre brought it all home to him. You live in two different worlds."
"Pierre is a friend, that's all. It's nothing serious."
"This time it may not be, but what about next time?" She leaned closer to the princess. "Your Highness, could you live in a house with the man you loved, watch him marry someone else, watch him have children with her eyes?" Malon's own eyes narrowed. "Then what right do you have to ask that of Link? And if you did ask, he would do it. Don't do that to him, please. Let him keep his pride. He's earned that from you if nothing else. Let him go to find someone who can love him in return." Malon urged softly.
"Link's father is unknown." She said after a quite moment. "He may or may not be alive still, I'd say he probably died in the Fire Wars. Link's mother was injured in the journey from her home. Link was just a baby, only a few months old. His mother managed to make it to safety before she died. Link was entrusted to the care of the Kokiri people."
"Kokiri? That's just a myth, they aren't real." Zelda protested in shock. The image burned in her mind; a young, dying woman with a small baby, determined to get the child to safety while she still could. What guts she must have had, this unknown woman. A spirit shining in her son today.
"They were real enough to raise Link until he was ten years old." Malon retorted. "He left that year, something called to him that there was more to life than what he was living. He was different than they were, of course, and a lot of them didn't trust that difference, but they took care of him and I think maybe he still thinks of himself as Kokiri a little bit. He's a legend around here, you know. The princess of the Zoras still pines away for him; the King of the Gorgon's has a young son named Link in his honor. He doesn't have to look far to find people that care about him. He's in good hands with us, Your Highness. Please, I'm asking you to leave before he sees you here."
Boots thumped on the stairs at that moment and the door flew open. "HAH! Read it and weep, Malon. 45 seconds on your obstical course. New record. Damn I'm.." He stopped cold.
"Hello, Link. I...need to talk to you."
"You shouldn't be here, Princess. Go back to your castle." He turned to pour himself a cup of hot tea, noticing Malon slip out the door.
"Not without you. Link, we need you there. Please come home."
"I am home." He sipped the tea, made a face, and took another swallow. "For now, anyway. I've served your kingdom, Princess. Ganon is defeated; there isn't any reason for me to come back."
"Reason? I'll give you a reason, damn you." She shot, and grabbed him, pressing her lips against his tightly. At first he stood like a statue but then she felt his arms tighten around her waist and his lips moved against hers. Finally she pulled away. "There's your reason. I can't live without you. If you don't come home with me then your friend Malon needs to set an extra place at the dinner table because I'm not leaving without you."
Link rubbed his eyes tiredly. "That's not enough. I want more than that. I want a wife, I want a daughter to spoil, I want a son to teach to use a sword."
"I want those things too, Link." she felt tears brim in her eyes again.
"And you'll have them. With a rich prince." His tone was bitter cold. "Not some commoner."
"I don't want some rich prince." She smacked the table. "I don't want a white knight, I don't want a king." She choked on a sob. "I want my hero."
Link's back was stiff and he took a long breath. "I hope, for both our sakes that our children aren't anything as stubborn as you are." he said at last.
He turned around, and his own eyes were damp. "Your father told me when I came to the kingdom that I could have a boon, anything at all that I wanted. I've never collected on that. I think his daughter's hand might be just the thing."
"Here." Zelda fumbled in her bag and pulled out a ring, handing it to him. "Don't take it off again. I know that it's supposed to be you that gives me a ring but.."
"You're in West Hyrule now, Princess. The Zora women always give the engagment tokens. I ended up engaged to their princess and didn't even know it."
"You were engaged to the Zora princess?" Zelda asked, laughing and crying at the same time.
"It's a long story. She agreed to break it off when she realized how ugly her children would be with me as their father. I knew her when we were little kids. She was a stubborn, spoiled little brat who always had to have her own way and almost got me killed more than once. You know, typical princess."
"Are you going to act like that for the rest of our lives?" Zelda demanded in mock indignation.
"For the rest of our lives, probably." He agreed, coming closer to her and pulling her against him. "For now, I've got a better idea."