Zelda before she finds out that Link is actually pretty average in size:
She doesn’t mind that he’s average though because he loves that hers is bigger.
Zelda before she finds out that Link is actually pretty average in size:
She doesn’t mind that he’s average though because he loves that hers is bigger.
Do y’all think that Link experiences sleep paralysis as a result of the shrine? Like- I’m sure we can all guess what he sees but it I know that a lot people who experience it, it usually only happens if they wake up from a really deep sleep so, it’s likely it only happens in places he knows he’s for sure safe in. Like say Kakariko village or in his home in Hateno Village.
And I just wonder, does he have a sleep paralysis demon??? Like, is it someone specific or does it change depending on who he happens to be thinking about before going to bed. And are their faces kinda blurred because he can’t quite latch onto their features very well on his own without the help of the sheikah slate? Or the picture of the champions?
Does it still happen even after he saves Zelda? Or does it happen less since Zelda is (likely) a light (get it? Haha) sleeper and is able to wake him up. Or even just being held by someone helps him sleep better?
I like to think that maybe Link does sleep better with someone to cuddle up on. So would Zelda. I just wonder who the first one to ask would be…. I should write a fanfic about it.
Me thinking about all the Zelink scenes that will happen in botw2 and realizing I have to wait at least another year to actually see them.
Zelda AU where Link and Zelda work in a plant shop together and Link is absolutely living his best life. It’s one of my last contributions to Linktober, where I redesign Zelda’s outfit and also the shop keep prompt. 🥲 Thank you for following my Linktober journey this might have to be my last one. 😖
If botw2 doesn’t end in Link waking up in his home in Hateno with a mechanical arm made from ancient tech and Zelda coming up the stairs with fresh blankets or towels or whatever else, only to stop at the top of the stairs when she sees him looking back at her, or anything similar to that. then I will think the game is not worth it.
But wouldn’t it be so romantic and cute if that’s what happened. Like- Zelda would just drop everything to go up and hug him and she would pull back and kiss him and it would end when Link’s look of surprise melts into a bright beaming smile before he pulls her in for another tight hug.
And when the credits roll we see Link with the descendants of the champions just showing off his new techy arm and we see new villages starting to form and many many more people in Hyrule, and at the very end it’s just a scene of Zelda working on Link’s arm while he watches her with a soft smile.
God fucking damn— I can’t keep waiting. I’ll just keep thinking of new things to get excited for.
Older Zelda in 1990s Sailor Moon Style
Hello, I'm not dead. This oneshot exists because of a reoccurring daydream I had listening to this song. I love movie soundtracks and I listen to them when I'm sad and make up unrelated stories that go along with the music. I forgot what that movie is even about but I still love the music from it.
Anyway, this is post calamity. Link, Zelda, and baby visit Vah Naboris a few years after sealing the calamity. Sadness ensues, because of course it does. WC: 3624
The beast, Vah Naboris, stood at peace in the sands, one mechanical leg still lifted in a half step long forgotten when it’s once mighty power was finally drained upon the completion of its mission. It sat, unmoving and alone, a silent protector of the lands the late Champion who had once piloted it had hailed from. Though the Gerudo people never forgot her sacrifice, life in the desert simply went on and the once heralded machine took its place on the horizon, no more significant than the slopes of the distant mountains that served as its backdrop.
“She’s been quiet for so long, we almost forget she’s here at all.” The still very young chieftain broke the silence around it, with her crimson, sand whipped hair plastered across her weathered cheeks. She had not ventured out so deep into the sands in quite some time and found the journey much harsher than she’d previously remembered.
“I should have come a long time ago,” Zelda’s weary voice lifted in the ever swirling sands around them, nearly carried away on her heavy exhale as she let her gaze fall into the security that was his face, always watching as he eyes drifted back and forth between them.
“She’s not going anywhere, I assure you,” Riju stepped forward, smiling at the small presence that stood amongst them that had yet to make a peep since the small rush of glee that had erupted from her tiny mouth when they’d first set off on the sand seals. “Are you sure you don’t want to leave the little one with me at the palace? Seems a dangerous climb for one so small.”
Almost as if on instinct, Link reached a quiet hand and pulled the child towards his hip, a wordless gesture that left Riju only to nod her understanding.
“We stay together,” Zelda explained for him, thanking Riju with a bow before moving to remove the ropes wrapped around her waist. “We should be back before sunset. If you’d still enjoy our company for supper?”
“Of course,” Riju smiled, giving Link a small pat on his arm before clicking her tongue at her faithful seal and sliding across the sands, leaving them alone once more.
They took their time with their equipment, triple checking the knots and metal hooks that would raise them back into the belly of the beast that had been untouched since Link left it last. Even the child too had to be secured, wrapping her arms around her father’s neck while Zelda swaddled her into the wrap that would hold her to his back on the long climb, shifting her weight in the fabric until she found a comfortable position to settle into. She tied and looped the straps around her small frame, readjusting as her weight settled against the knots and redoing all she’d done before over and over until Link finally stopped her.
“I think she’s good,” He tried to assure her as she yet again readjusted the straps keeping her firmly against him. She checked them once more just for good measure before sealing her lips on the little one’s delicate, sunkissed skin, whispering prayers of protection into the wind as it breezed around them.
“Are you ready?”
She wasn’t, but she was more ready than she’d ever been. She needed to see it. To see the place the woman she’d once loved as a mother had met her end. To know that her spirit had truly been freed as Link promised her it had. She had no reason to doubt him, but she’d been called to the sands all the same. In her dreams she could still feel the woman’s arms around her, lifting her up when the entire world felt as if it were doing its best to crush her down into the very grounds she’d been tasked with saving. But who will save me, Urbosa? She’d wept into her. Have faith, Princess. You are not so alone.
“Zelda?” His voice, as gentle as his touch on her arm, brought her blinking back to the present.
“Mama?” The child asked after her too, her own apprehension as clear as the redness across her cheeks.
“Yes, my little bird?” She offered her a reassuring smile, reaching across to readjust the small brimmed cap keeping the worst of the sun off her delicate skin and retying the small ribbon that was keeping it secured under her chin.
The little one craned her neck up and squinted against the sun, taking in the mammoth size of the structure above her before pressing her cheek into Link’s back, blinking heavily to keep herself from crying.
She’d been a quiet and tender child since birth, content to view life’s wonders from the safety of her parents’ arms despite their best efforts to encourage her to explore her own imagination and interests as they’d never been given the freedom to do. It suited Zelda just as well, who spent their evenings at home with the little one tucked safely in her lap, their eyes both scanning the page of the book before them as Link dozed in and out at their side, his hand always propped on either one of them, just to make sure they hadn’t gone too far. They’d lived a simple and peaceful life since fate freed them, only venturing outside of the safety of Hateno when she could no longer ignore the call in her dreams. It had been that call that had led them to where they were now, looking up at the massive structure they were about to climb so that Zelda may finally find some sense of closure within it.
“Are you scared, sweet one?” Zelda asked as she brushed the long strand of her sandy hair that had escaped her hat safely behind her ear.
She shook her head, but the tears came anyway; silent and soft, weeping into Link’s bare skin as he took one of her hands in his own and brought it to his lips for a kiss.
“If you close your eyes, you can pretend it's just our tree at home. I’ll even give you an apple when we get to the top for a snack,” he told her sweetly as he ran his thumb along the back of her hand, gently bouncing her up and down in her straps to soothe her as she pressed deeper into his back.
“Our tree is littler,” she mumbled into him, squeezing him tightly.
“Do you want to stay at the palace with Riju? I can take you back. All you have to do is tell me. You get to decide. You have a voice, too.”
She blinked slowly, considering her words before squeezing her eyes tightly shut and wrapping her legs around Link’s waist, shaking her head and sealing her decision as he gave her one last pat on her hand.
“I’ll keep you safe, I always will.”
“I know, Papa.”
“Both of you.” His eyes found hers as they reached for the beast and nodded at the same time before finding a secure place to jolt upwards and out of the sand.
It didn’t take long before Zelda was grateful for the bitter taste that was the enduring elixir at the back of her throat as she trailed underneath him, copying his foot and hand holds so that she didn’t end up in a plume of dust at Vah Naboris’ feet. He’d offered to carry them both up, but she trusted herself enough to simply follow him. It wasn’t the first time they’d scaled Hyrule together since they’d sealed the calamity and it certainly wouldn’t be their last, but something about this climb was more somber and left her feeling heavier than she ever had before.
This time they were approaching what felt like a grave instead of in the past when their climbs ended at a simple campsite. In those simpler times, Link would help massage her sore muscles and keep her giggling well into the twilight with stories of his adventures until they found rest in the others’ arms, serenaded into a soft slumber by the nighttime insects buzzing all around them. Here there would be no such comfort, only that emptiness that came with grief, and the aimless love she still held for the Gerudo Champion that echoed inside her with nowhere to land.
“You okay?” He called over his shoulder, causing the little one to peep a sound of disapproval at his dangling with one hand. Zelda could almost hear her complaining in his ear as he kept his eyes on her.
In their time spent together since the sealing, they’d developed an almost uncanny ability to sense the others’ unease, whether it came in the form of a reassuring hand on the back or a tight embrace in the middle of the night when it was most needed, they always seemed to know the exact time to offer comfort to the other. He had the same look on him then as he peered over his shoulder, the loose strands of his hair that had broken free from the tie tickling the edges of his face as he waited for her to tell him she was okay.
“Yes, I’m...alright. Let’s keep going.”
He gave her a soft nod before continuing his climb with her following just underneath him. Eventually they made it to the top and before she could breathe a sigh of relief, his outstretched hand pulled her the rest of the way up and into his arms. She was content to stand there against him, drowning out the sound of her own heart drumming in her ears with the faint thumping of his own until a hand in her hair had her peering over his shoulder.
“Mama, can I get down now?”
Once she managed to free the child from his back, she immediately lunged into her arms, tangling her tiny limbs around her as she burrowed into her neck. Zelda let out a soft laugh at the feel of her scrambling to get even closer, even when they were nearly as flush as they could be.
“That was scary,” she whined as she turned her face to watch Link while he slipped out of the harnesses that had secured her to his back, though he was too engrossed in his own memories to notice.
It was a different kind of homecoming for Link, who hadn’t stepped foot on the great structure since he’d freed it from the malice that had once imprisoned it, along with Urbosa’s spirit, in the months following his awakening from the shrine. He walked slowly across the patterned stone flooring, remembering with vivid detail the innumerable times he’d been slammed across it after falling off the various platforms or slung into walls by the mechanical monsters that had once crawled along the walkways until he’d cleared it of their presence for good.
It was a hostile truth for him that those memories would always remain the clearest, leaving the fragments of who he’d been before the shrine dim and still just out of reach. His sharpest memories would always be of when he was alone, clamoring for a future he couldn’t envision and battling to fulfil a destiny he couldn’t quite comprehend without the context in which it had been created. It hadn’t been until he’d seen her under the vibrant skies of Hyrule Field that his spirit remembered what his broken mind could not. They’d built a life together ever since, but the sting of what he’d lost was the same even still.
Zelda approached him with the child in her arms, watching the flex in his jaw tighten and the crease in his brow deepen as he shouldered his more recent past once more. He’d shared much with her about his journey and in her incorporeal, omnipresent state, she’d seen her fair share for herself, but there was still more to his story he hadn’t told her in his own words. Such as the anguish he was feeling then as he ran his hands over the archway in the middle of the beast as she lay her own across his back.
“I didn’t…” he stopped himself before turning around at her touch, noticing the tiny set of eyes watching him from her mother’s shoulder, “I didn’t think I’d survive this one.”
The little one reached for him then, letting him press her into his chest as he closed his eyes and reminded himself that he had survived. He’d done everything asked of him and more and had gained more than he’d ever imagined from it. As he held her, he remembered when he’d laid on the same stone floor beneath his feet then, praying the elixir that coated his throat would work faster than the blood pooling beneath him. He remembered the hopelessness he had felt. How he’d screamed in his mind that they’d made an error. That he couldn’t possibly succeed where every other champion had failed. That Hyrule deserved more; she deserved more than him who had already abandoned her once. But somehow he’d done it. He’d cleared the beast of the malice within and limped his way to the next, feeling the spark of Urbosa’s gift in his veins as he moved forward.
“Papa,” the child whispered to him, “Can I get down?”
He kissed her sweetly before setting her on the floor, scanning the space again to ensure there were no monsters still lurking in the shadows that may threaten to take her from him. But there was nothing more than the whistle of the wind between them and after her promises to stay close, he allowed her to explore the space around them as he turned back to Zelda, who hadn’t made a sound during the entire exchange.
“Are you alright?”
She merely shook her head, shaking free the wetness that had swelled in the corner of her eyes the moment the weight of it all finally settled onto her.
“She died here. You almost died here too,” The words stung on their way out, as if the act of speaking them alone somehow injured them even further. Though she knew Urbosa was long gone. Carried away by the desert winds as she was left to decay at the feet of the blight that ultimately killed her; stepped on and forgotten for a century as the kingdom she had died trying to save burned all around her.
“She’s free, Zelda. I promise you. I don’t know why she chose to leave after speaking with me. She should have waited for you, I’m so sorry. I didn’t...I just…”
His hands hung uselessly in the air as he tried to conjure up some reason why the Gerudo Champion had imparted her final words onto him and not her. It was a guilt he’d carried since clearing the last divine beast, even though she’d tried her best to absolve him of it since. They’d been passing their remorse back and forth for years; trying to carry what the other couldn’t while still holding a piece to mourn over for themselves. In their brokenness they’d only grown more attached and it had become somewhat of a norm for them to rebuild each other when they started to unravel beneath it.
The birth of their child had since given them something to rejoice in together rather than grieve, but as they stood in the middle of what would be Urbosa’s grave, the weight of their combined guilt proved too much for them to carry, even together. So for once, they let it take them. Zelda wept for the woman who had once shown her a maternal love she hadn’t felt since she’d been a child, who had given her patience and grace when her father had nearly driven her into total despair. Link wept for the Champion who had been meant to fight at his side and the warmth he still carried within him that was her blessing he still felt he didn’t deserve. They wept for their kingdom who had put so much trust into them, only to be annihilated by the failure they left behind. They held each other, hands tangled into the others hair and bodies so close they were merely a single entity as they fought the waves of grief together as they always did.
“Look at what she has become,” Zelda cried into him, “She’s been forgotten.”
“But this is how things had to happen,” he closed his eyes as he recalled the words in her voice, “No one need carry blame.”
It only made her cry harder to hear them, though it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d spoken to her. They’d spent their first nights after the calamity in a similar position to what they were in then, wrapped around the other as Link told her of each champion’s spirit passing their blessing into him before finally being freed. He’d spent months mumbling their words to himself before he stormed the castle, repeating them over and over, in fear he’d forget them before he could tell them to her himself. It had been Urbosa’s he’d been most keen to remember, knowing the impact they would leave, and he’d made a promise to her back then that one day he’d take her back to where he’d heard them the first time, if only so that she may allow herself to finally believe them.
“She loved this machine. She was so proud of being its Champion. And now look at what it has become…”
“She was proud of you,” he added, wiping her tears with the swipe of his thumb, “She said that too. I think...she still would be.”
She stilled his hand with her own, pressing it against her cheek in an effort to calm herself. But what little comfort it managed to bring her was halted by a sheer noise that had them stumbling apart.
“What was that?” Link got to his feet first, quickly lifting Zelda beside him whose eyes began to do a panicked scan of the area around them.
“Where is she?!”
Before they could move, they were nearly deafened by the sound of mechanical creaking as the familiar hue of Sheikah blue trailed down the spine of the beast like it hadn’t in years. The beast began to rattle as it started to lower its long lifted leg, letting out a long call across the sands as it did so.
His head whipped to where Zelda was pointing and they both gasped at the sight before them. Their child stood with her hand just touching the bottom of the main terminal that was pulsating a vibrant blue. With the next move of the beast, she tumbled to the ground and rolled dangerously close to falling off the platform she had managed to climb on her own to reach it.
But Link was fast and he reached her just as her foot slid over edge, crushing her to him before letting them both fall to the stone floor in a heap. Zelda reached them only a moment later as the machine settled back into a neutral stance, sending plumes of sand swirling in the hot air at its once stagnant feet.
“That was so dangerous! You could have fallen!” Link scolded, heaving for breath as he swallowed his panic at the thought of her being injured. He had never raised his voice at her. But the thought of her tiny body hitting the hard stone underneath them had him nearly nauseous as he held her to him.
The little one poked out her bottle lip to quiver at his tone as Zelda knelt before them.
“It said it was lonely,” she whimpered, causing both of them to freeze.
Link loosened his grip then, allowing her to sit more comfortably in his lap as Zelda leaned even closer. The little one looked back and forth between them, a pout pulling at all her features as she shrunk under their stares.
“It...spoke to you?” She asked, taking the little one’s hands in her own.
She nodded then, sniffling as looked up at her mother, “It said it wanted to walk again but I needed to turn it on. So I touched it and it got glowy and then I fell down. I’m sorry.”
“But...how…” Zelda’s eye drifted to the console that was still glowing after having been touched by the child’s hand.
“Perhaps...it needs a new champion,” Link’s voice was soft as he let his focus shift to the dot that was Gerudo Town on the horizon, his thoughts now drifting to the young Chieftain who would always quietly idolize the fallen Champion as she worked tirelessly towards earning the title she’d been given at such a young age.
The beast began to creak again as it raised its long neck skyward, letting out an echoing cry across the sands as if it were calling out for someone to answer. When the sound settled, the child sat up with a gentle smile as she cut her eyes back to the glowing console, almost as if in reply.
“It thinks I’m a bird too,” she giggled.
Zelda began to weep once more, though this time her tears came not from sorrow, but from the promise of healing and a new beginning. A new Hyrule, where the great divine beasts would be piloted by Champions once again and guided by a Princess and a Hero who finally understood who they were and where their place was among them.
“She’s not so forgotten after all,” Link assured her yet again, his hand atop hers as their child nestled into the safety that was between them.
This time, she allowed herself to believe it.
another little ditty. apologies for the whump. a small modern ‘wow they are so in love but he’s too busy pining to realize it’
have another: hair | Masterlist
Sometimes, the world can be stressful. Sometimes, Link wants nothing more than to curl up under the sheets of his bed and disappear. Maybe he would’ve, sometime years ago, but if he tries anything of the sort today, his best friend would probably stop at nothing to join him. She’s quite the passionate soul, and he could never bear the thought of her being angry with him–which she most certainly would be if he were to “abandon her to the cold world”.
So, instead of hiding forever, he slips out of his bed, where the existential dread wants him to stay, and tip toes down the hall. Come to think of it, he’s not sure why they have separate rooms in the first place. He supposes everyone needs their privacy, but they end up in each other's beds more often than not anyway. He doesn’t know if she’s awake right now, but instincts say that despite the 1:21 am staring at him from his phone, she’s not asleep. There’s a crack in the door. He nudges it gently and, just as he expects, Zelda’s curled up in her bed with a book. He almost feels bad to interrupt her, but the way she pauses and looks up as soon as he’s in her presence makes him feel more special than guilty, and her smile certainly isn’t helping.
“Well, good morning,” she teases and beckons him closer.
“You should be asleep,” he tells her as he takes a seat on her bed. She raises a brow at him in response. Zelda isn’t dumb by any means. She knows him too well. She knows what he wants. She puts her book aside and leans back against her headboard; when she nods at him, he doesn’t hesitate to lay his head in her lap and close his eyes.
Her hands are on him immediately, brushing his bangs from his forehead, tracing shapes into his face with her fingertips, running the pad of her thumbs over his skin when she cups his face. It’s tender and intimate and he wants to fool himself into thinking she could be as in love with him as he is with her. She’s speaking, too: little whispers of sweet nothings and positive affirmations that were lovely but would’ve meant nothing had they come from anyone else. He loves hearing her voice, whether she’s singing or rambling about something, but he likes it most in times like these, when it feels like she’s talking for and to him and only him. The bad feelings, the anxiety and the stress, wash right off of him and he relaxes under her touch with a quiet sigh.
Her fingers trace gently over his features and he forces his eyes open when her thumb brushes over his lips. There’s something soft in her gaze. He wants, more than anything, for Zelda to lean down and kiss him, but all she does is smile and he can’t find it in him to complain. Her smile does more to warm him than the sun does on the hottest days of the year.
“You should do ASMR,” he murmurs against her finger. It’s almost a kiss but not quite. She laughs, quiet and magical, and he’s smiling, too.
“Then you would just use my videos instead of coming find me,” she accuses lightly and threads her fingers through his hair. It almost puts him to sleep right there, but it’s not fair if he can sleep comfortably and she can’t. So he rolls off her lap but she doesn’t let him get far before she’s curling up behind him, slipping her arms around his waist. He moves one of his hands to cover hers, lacing their fingers together, and her soft humming lulls him back towards the embrace of sleep that was so keen on staying away from him otherwise.
“Goodnight, Zel,” he mumbles, and he’s just conscious enough to leave out the I love you that teeters on the edge of his tongue.
now that i think about it, the zelink-to-beikazu pipeline was only natural considering how similar botw link and kazuha are:
short feminine boys
masters of the blade
sassy little fuckers
intuitive kinship with nature
puts on a silent facade due to anxiety, but very chatty when freed from said anxiety
free-spirited, but governed by their own code of values
would definitely punch a cop
Third Date by John Powell is also the perfect theme for post-Breath of the Wild Link and Zelda traveling through Hyrule and rebuilding their fallen kingdom, all the while slowly coming to re-realize their love for each other. In this essay, I will--
"I wanna be like you, I want to say that I can"
"I wanna be the person that you think that I am"
"But even if I had it all come true like a dream is the person, I came to be, the really real me?"
Some quick doodles i did instead of making dinner woops
Inspired by self inflicted achromatic by Nekobolo
one down, two to go
self-induced injuries to escape | flashback | revenge
how lovely you are - Pretties AU part 3
part 1 | part 2 | part 4 | part 5
warnings: mentions of selling people, forced dieting, forced fasting, hunger, passing out, jealousy mention, blood, self-harm
Her first night in New Hyrule was, in all unfortunate honesty, a fairytale. The streetlights twinkled with some type of candles she’d never seen before and everything looked so clean. Living in Castle Town meant she’d been around the fancier side of the world for most of her life, but it was nothing compared to this. The people around her all seemed so happy and carefree as they chased their children or pets through the street, and there was such a clear view of the sky that she had to wonder whether it was real. Music poured from the pavilion in the center of the square, the type that made her want to kick off her shoes and dance around without a care in the world. The smells of different foods and sweets made their way to her nose, taunting her to come closer.
To top it off, Link seemed nothing short of a gentleman. Somewhere along their stroll, they’d stopped to cut the stem of her flower so he could tuck it behind her ear, his fingers just ghosting over her skin, and Zelda thought she might faint.
“I’ve never seen so many sweets before,” she told him when they passed a stall loaded with delicious treats. The vendor offered them a plate, insisting they pick whatever their stomachs desired, but she politely declined. It wouldn’t be wise to fill up on sweets when she hadn’t eaten any other food yet. “Not even in the bakeries in Castle Town.”
“I don't think I’ve ever been to a bakery,” Link replied, eyeing the sweets almost suspiciously. They must not have had many over in the Kokiri prominence. He looked like he wanted to say more, elaborate on whatever thought he had, but he shook his head instead nodded in the direction of the pavilion. He didn’t seem to be the type to revel in the attention of others, but when she expressed her love of dancing in passing, there was little hesitation before he was pulling her to her feet.
By the time she was returned to her residence quarters just a mere few hours before daybreak, Zelda was under the impression that New Hyrule was indeed everything it was rumored to be and more. It was gorgeous and high spirited, and she’d enjoyed herself enough to wonder if maybe she would grow to be happy here.
The first few weeks were spent rather similarly. She would meet with Link and go out, whether it be on a designated date or a random little stroll in town. The premise was for them to get to know each other and meet other couples who were wandering around, but Zelda noticed that he didn’t talk about himself often. He insisted there was nothing to say, nothing interesting about him, but she always shook her head at him and assured him that she had a genuine interest in getting to know him. She didn’t know if he believed her or not, but she didn’t feel it was her place to try and convince him otherwise.
She liked him. In all brutal honesty, she liked him, and she hated it. It was one thing to like him if he was just a man she met on the streets, but he wasn’t. He was given to her, and her to him, without a say so at all. But this was her life now; there was no way around it.
They were getting to know each other slowly but surely. Their conversations grew longer, because there was no one else to talk to. Words came easy on nights like these, when they were sitting on the edge of a fountain, just a few inches apart for the sake of comfort, illuminated by lamp posts and sparkling stars. Zelda thought to lean on him, but it did not matter whether or not she liked him. To indulge in something their situation forced them into, if he didn’t want it, would do nothing for either of them.
She was nothing if not curious.
“May I ask what the Selection is like in the…” No, she didn’t want to say poor. That was in bad taste. “…in the provinces on the border?”
Something shifted in his expression. Maybe it was a sour memory. She almost regretted bringing it up at all. He inhaled through his nose, a hint of frustration, but then his shoulders dropped for a small shrug.
“Breeders come around every year,” he began, leaning back onto his hands and turning his face to the sky. He was quite a pretty thing to see outlined with light like this. “They… take, like, a consensus of sorts, and then that number tells them how many Selections they can take from that area. They don’t want too many of us, of course. We’re not wealthy and flashy and fancy.”
His voice was steely. Zelda could understand that. She was not so privileged that she couldn’t recognize the advantage she had.
“It was branded as an inclusion opportunity—to diversify,” she told him, shaking her head. “A chance for everyone to experience New Hyrule.”
“It’s a joke.”
She almost smiled at that.
“Don’t let them hear you,” she warned with a gentle nudge to his side. He side-eyed her, a smile forming on the corner of his lips. Then, just when she was feeling warm, his eyes left her and returned to the sky, the smile fading as quickly as it’d come.
“The census also tells them how many children they can keep an eye on. Every year, they check their progress. By the time we reach the ‘Age of Eligibility’, they know who they’re selecting.”
“That’s…unsettling. And they selected you?”
There was that look again, something far away and sad. Maybe a little angry.
“No,” Link said at last, shaking his head. “They selected a farm girl I knew. My best friend. She didn’t want to go, so they tried taking her by force, and I… They needed one person and with me, I mean– Can’t pay dead people. I made it impossible for them to say no. And, well, here I am.”
Zelda reached a hand towards him, but she thought better of making any contact and pulled it back to herself, dropping it into her lap. It was…awful, because she knew several ladies back in Castle Town that would have happily volunteered. There was really no need to resort to force.
“I’m sorry it came to that,” she said. “It was honorable of you.”
“She called me an idiot.”
He looked wistful. Something in her chest tightened considerably, and she scooted just the slightest bit away. It was not her place to pry or even assume, and the idea shouldn’t have bothered her as much as it did because she didn’t own him–yet she asked anyway,
“Do you love her?”
Link did not answer her right away. Maybe he was studying the stars, as if the answer lied there instead of in his heart. The silence was unnerving. She almost took it back, but then he shrugged and said,
“Maybe I could’ve. Doesn’t matter now. I have you.”
His smile was small, but it was there. Zelda just wished it was genuine. He held his hand out to her and she took it, letting him lace their fingers with an ease she thought didn’t fit the conversation.
“Yes,” she replied, forcing a smile, “your Breeder-appointed match.”
He laughed dryly and squeezed her hand in the process.
“They’re the professionals,” he said in exasperation. “They know best.”
“It’s different in Castle Town,” Zelda said, because she didn’t like the territory their conversation was veering towards. “It’s this big, celebrated, life changing event. For us, being Selected is everything. Our social status, our value–all of it hinges on whether or not we fit the standards of New Hyrule. We’re put on display in front of all of the town and chosen publicly, so there’s no hiding it if you’re not picked.”
Link was watching her with a frown and, though she trusted he wouldn’t be judging her in the same way those Breeders did, shifted restlessly under his gaze.
“Still,” she continued, averting her gaze to her skirts, “I can’t deny that it can be beneficial. New Hyrule has the most prestigious university throughout the entire continent, and all I want to do is study.”
“What do you want to study?” Link asked, sitting a little straighter. He almost seemed interested in what she had to say.
“Everything,” she told him with a small shrug. “I want to study all I can. I think Hyrule and its history is fascinating and…” Zelda paused before she could get much further, biting the inside of her cheek as she glanced around. She couldn’t admit to anything out loud. She wasn’t naive enough to think people wouldn’t be listening in, so she leaned closer to his ear, raising a hand to cover her lips. “I want to learn more about this place, and what made everyone so eager to believe our issues and bad luck lie in our images.”
“Clever girl,” he said as he leaned back to look at her with a smile.
It was a few days later that Zelda learned she was not permitted to attend the university. Not yet, at least. She’d asked one of the workers who came to change her sheets every morning whether or not she knew anything about it, and the woman had done little more than laugh. The university is not accepting students, she’d told her with an odd look in her eye. You may only apply after two loyal years of residency within our kingdom. We are prosperous because we take only the best.
“No other university is like that,” she expressed to him at one of their lunches. It was a beautiful day under a clear sky, and the leaves on the trees were just starting to change color. Autumn would be among them soon.
“This place isn’t like any other in Hyrule,” Link reminded her, nudging her arm gently. “They’re stuck up. This is what they do.”
She still wasn’t satisfied.
In the following weeks, Zelda started to notice that her diet was changing. It was so subtle, she almost didn’t realize it–but she was not offered the same types of foods she’d gotten to indulge herself with in Castle Town. Namely, the sweets came less and less and the only reason she’d noticed is because she had quite the sweet tooth. She thought to ask, but figured it was a rotational thing. Maybe they changed the menus to match the seasons, or maybe they were running low on supplies and needed to reserve what little they did have. Either way, she tried not to be too concerned about it, especially since Link had noticed it, too.
Her clothing was different as well. Slowly but surely, the staff who took care of the residential buildings must’ve been swapping her once colorful dresses in favor of pure whites. She assumed it was a bridal sort of thing, because she was not the only lady wandering the town in clothing of the sort. No official wedding announcements had been made, but it was not a secret that matches who got along would be wed in the spring. She liked to think that, though she didn’t need a marriage, she and Link were getting along just fine.
“I promise I’m not this stupid,” he said with a laugh when they were taking a morning stroll, “but all your dresses look the same to me recently.”
Zelda tried not to think too hard about the fact that he’d noticed what she was wearing.
“Well, they’re certainly very similar. I’m quite jealous of you, actually. You’ve twice the color on your person than I have.”
“This is my last shirt that isn’t green.”
She furrowed her brows at that, tilting her head.
“Green? What do you mean, green?”
Why did that sound important? Familiar? It was a feeling in the very back of her head, something she couldn’t quite figure out. Green and white. Or, maybe there was nothing significant about it all, and she was just going mad.
After their morning together, Zelda did not see Link again. Not for a few days, at the very least. She wanted to be worried, but she was not permitted the time to think about it. She and all the other ladies she’d arrived in New Hyrule with were expected to devote themselves to the Goddess. The first day at the missionary was hardly a pleasant one. They were expected to learn scriptures and songs, writing them over and over until her hands were cramping but she had them memorized. She would much prefer writing papers at the university, but these religious studies had something to do with Hyrule, didn’t they? They must’ve bared some sort of significance, so she sat through them. She wrote and recited until there were no other thoughts filling her brain. It was only the Goddess, the Triforce, Din, Nayru, Farore, the Hero, the Sword, the songs–
The women who could not keep up–well, she didn’t know what happened to them. They were escorted out of the missionary to goddesses knew where and never returned, and without the time to wander the streets like she’d had before, Zelda hadn’t the slightest clue if they were still in New Hyrule at all. She was being extreme, though. People learned at different rates and that was hardly a reason to expel someone.
Just when she was getting the hang of the writing and the standing and the kneeling and the exhaustive learning, she found that the worst hadn’t even come yet. With no previous training, no preparation, nothing of the sort, they’d thrown her into a chapel and told her to pray. A prayer that was extensive, from dawn until dusk, and required a fasting that even the most revered of priestesses had to train for. Several of the girls she’d been with had passed out, but no one came to collect them. Even so, it was still hard to concentrate, to put her heart into it as they all demanded she do, when her fellow students were miserable and her head was pounding, her stomach breaking the quiet air with loud rumbling.
We take only the best.
By the time Zelda was released from her prayers, she was on the verge of joining the mass of unconscious bodies left behind in the chapel. There were only a few who made it out, but they were in no better of a condition than her. Waiting for her outside was none other than Link, and after not seeing him for a while, this was certainly not the way she wanted to greet him. She had to fight to keep her balance, and her body screamed with every move she made. She’d never felt so deprived before. She hadn’t known hunger or exhaustion like this. It must’ve showed on her face, or in the broken way she carried herself, because Link felt the need to put an arm around her for support once he was close enough.
“Are you alright?” he asked her. At the very least, his concern was genuine.
“Just– hungry, is all,” Zelda replied, though she was certain the hours upon hours of kneeling didn’t help. “I haven’t eaten all day.”
“What?” Link asked, looking at her with furrowed brows. “Why not?”
Because she wasn’t allowed food. Because she’d spent the day in agonizing prayer with no prior training for the conditions they’d just put her body through.
“I had to fast,” she answered instead. “We were praying. I suppose I’m just not used to that.”
“Let’s get some food in you, then,” he said and before she could say much else, he was steering her in the direction of a little cafe. “Is that what you’ve been doing lately? Praying?”
“Yes. New Hyrule is to be as devoted to the Goddess as possible, and I suppose training priestesses is a part of that.”
“I thought you wanted to be a scholar.” He sounded so confused that it genuinely hurt. He was right; she did want, more than anything, to be a scholar. The truth of it was that she wasn’t given a choice.
“I hope this show of loyalty can lead me into the university sooner. What have you been doing recently?”
“Training,” he replied with a frown. “Weaponry, chivalry, everything of the sort.”
“That sounds far more intriguing than devotions.”
The sun had gone down by now, but the streetlamps were alive and teeming with little moths. It was almost a beautiful night, if it weren’t for the fact that she felt like she was relying far too heavily on Link. Even with his support, her legs were trembling.
It seemed they were trying to build up her endurance, because the ministers insisted she continue her agonizing devotions for as long as she could, and the conditions in which she underwent them were ever changing. When the hours knelt over in a chapel approached the barest tip of tolerance, they escorted her to a spring on the outskirts of the city, where the water was cold and the bugs were starving. And then, the weather turned colder too, and the water in the spring became freezing.
The next time she met up with Link, neither of them made it far before collapsing in the middle of a meadow, losing the last bit of consciousness they’d fought so hard to keep. When they woke up, when the sky was starting to fade to dusk, Link expressed to her how exhaustive the training he’d been put through had become.
“I don’t understand,” Zelda told him, moving closer when he beckoned. “And you’re not the only one doing this?”
“There’s a few others who’ve made it through,” he answered as he shook his head. “But not many.”
She looked to the sky, squinting at the stars starting to twinkle against their backdrop. None of it made any sense—and then it did, and she was almost passing back out at the realization.
“Do you think they’re trying to… to recreate the Goddess and her Hero?” she asked.
Before she could begin to really pull information from her surroundings to justify her hypothesis, the agony began to even out. Her body could tolerate hunger and cold far better than it used to. It was still incredibly hard to stay still for hours on end, thinking of nothing but the Goddess and prayers and pleads to Her that made no sense to Zelda. Link seemed to be doing a lot better, too. He didn’t look as tired, and all of his effort was paying off—though she thought he was already pretty fit when she first met him. Things almost seemed okay, tolerable, and maybe that was just because she was forcing herself. The drive to attend university was too strong for her to think about going against it. New Hyrule, whether she liked it or not, was her best opportunity to make something more of herself than just this priestess.
But New Hyrule did not want that.
Zelda wondered if this was meant to be some kind of fucked up bonding experience. She and Link were certainly growing closer, but this was not the means she wanted to achieve that by.
It was a rare free morning, as the Autumn air started to bite a little colder and a little deeper, when she caught him looking at her a little longer than she thought he usually did. She looked his way, more than just a glance, and his lips only quirked up into a smile.
“What?” she asked, feeling her cheeks flush as her mouth formed its own smile.
“I’m just thinking,” he replied with a shrug.
“Sounds difficult,” she commented absentmindedly, and he laughed.
“You remind me a lot of her, you know. My best friend.”
Zelda bit the inside of her cheek, fighting to keep her smile from slipping. She was probably making up the implication there; there was really no need for her to be jealous.
“Is that why you like me?” she asked, her tone playful as she picked up a flower from the bush they were passing.
“No,” Link said, shaking his head. “I like you because you’re Zelda.”
It was the last peaceful morning before a bout of torment. While the rest of New Hyrule, and all of the Old Hyrule, celebrated the peak of winter with Midwinter festivals that were praise for the Goddess and prosperity, Zelda and Link were expected to attend a special ceremony of their own. It was a pre-wedding sort of thing, at least, that’s what they’d told her, since all weddings were beginning in the spring. The temple they were brought into was dark–so dark that she couldn’t even see her own hands. Without the priestess guiding her, she’d have no idea where she was going. It made her all the more comfortable when they told her to remove her dress, because she had the confidence she wouldn’t be seen by anyone. Not even Link. How the leaders knew where they were going, she didn’t know.
We gather today to baptize you into the faith of New Hyrule, claiming you as one of us. You’ve proven great strength and devotion and tonight, we celebrate you and your accomplishment in making it thus far.
Zelda grasped Link’s hand tight as she stepped down into the shallow pool. A priestess was guiding her, and had she not been, she might’ve scrambled back at the consistency of whatever she was stepping into. It felt far too thick and sticky to just be water. Or maybe it was, and she was just losing her mind. Maybe it was the insane amount of incense filling the air, almost like it was meant to mask another smell. Either way, it certainly wasn’t comfortable. It made her skin crawl and she fought every urge she had to squirm. She couldn’t focus, not even to listen to whatever prayer was being said. It felt wrong, and she didn’t feel very accomplished or celebrated. And when they poured something over her head, there was a stark difference in the liquids. That was water. Probably something blessed. What they were standing in…
Zelda did not breathe again until she was out of that chapel. Until the air was fresh and natural and did not sting her lungs. Her body was clean. They’d drenched them in water and toweled them down, which made her certain the pool had no water at all–but her clothes were clean and there was nothing but tints of red underneath her fingernails.
“Zelda?” Link asked. He looked as unsettled as she. “Are you bleeding?”
She frowned and checked her arms, but there was nothing to indicate an injury, so she shook her head.
“Are you? I can’t imagine a physical injury would fit their description of perfection,” she said, squinting at her nails again. “They pad you for training, don’t they?”
He shook his head. Zelad slowly lowered her hands, averting her eyes, because she didn’t want to think about what Link was implying.
“Do you… do you think it could’ve been paint?” she asked weakly, though she already knew the answer. She didn’t need to see him shake his head again. All was quiet, even the world had stopped spinning as she contemplated. No, they hadn’t just– That pool couldn’t have been– Where would they have even gotten that much blood!? The world fell back into motion, or maybe she was the one falling, but either way, Link grabbed her arm and pulled her close, his lips brushing against her ear as he whispered,
“We need to get out of here.”
She couldn’t agree more.
“But– no one leaves New Hyrule,” she whispered back. “They won’t let us out. I’ve noticed– the security at the walls is impassable and…”
“Well, they want perfection, don’t they? Let’s just…Let’s not be perfect.”
And maybe it was extreme, maybe it was a little overdramatic, but Zelda couldn’t find it in her to disagree. The more she looked around, the more she began to notice New Hyrule was… odd. Those smiles on her first day here seemed forced. Fake. Almost as if there was nothing behind their eyes. The nights were unnaturally quiet, and the skies were unnaturally clear, and Zelda hated it. They’d starved her, they’d pushed her to the point of exhaustion, she wasn’t allowed to be herself, and they’d bathed her in blood. The evidence was under her nails and the remnants made her shudder. What other reason would they have to suffocate her with incense?
“Are you sure about this…?” Zelda asked, gripping a letter opener in shaky hands. The idea had been brilliant upon first suggestion, but now…
They were settled together, tucked into a corner of her room. He wasn’t supposed to be in the girls residential at all, much less in her room, which would’ve made this all the more exciting if it wasn’t for the context it was under.
“I don’t think we have any other option,” Link replied, setting his hands over hers.
“But what are the chances they actually throw us out?”
“I don’t know. But they can’t make us their poster couple if we aren’t picture perfect.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“And I don’t want to hurt you—but I think they’ll hurt us more than we could ever hurt each other if we can’t get out. I don’t— I can’t end up like everyone else. You’ve seen— Zelda, you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed that this place– it isn’t right.”
“I know, but—“
Zelda dropped the letter opener. They’d already ruled out doing it to themselves; she would never have been able to, but maybe she should’ve tried, because this was no easier.
“Me first,” she declared, nudging the makeshift weapon towards Link. He didn’t look so certain anymore, but she held her arms out to him and pulled up her dress skirts anyway.
“I’m sorry,” he told her. She shook her head at him and offered a small smile.
“You’re not the one hurting me,” Zelda replied. Besides, it wasn’t like he was going to kill her—and even if he did, better Link than this cursed place they were trapped in.
She was still shaking though, even as Link scooted closer.
“Don’t think about it,” he told her, raising a hand to cradle her cheek. She wanted nothing more than to melt into his touch, let her eyes close and just sleep. All she could do instead was nod and watch him as he moved closer.
His lips touched hers, gentle and intoxicating all at once, and she almost didn't feel the bite of the blade into her skin.
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