Damsel in Redress
Ngan Nguyen




The name rings in my ears. It begins harshly–Zel–the “z” thrumming against the teeth, and ends with a punctuation–da–the tongue slamming on the “d.”


It is an old name, one fraught with history and even… power.

Zelda, Princess of Hyrule.

Zelda, bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom.

Girl. Woman. Damsel in distress.


It seems like such an insignificant thing, a name. I could be Jazlyn, Leah, or Aithne and still remain me.

But I am Zelda and that changes everything.

History weighs heavily on me. My name carries the fates and deeds of all my ancestors before me. The name has lived through adventures, turmoil, and peace alike–in fact, more peace than chaos, which may or may not be surprising. Regardless, the responsibilities are always the same, our duty pressed upon us without consideration or concern.

It marked me, right here, on the back of my hand, bright and vivid: the Triforce of Wisdom. It is as if it knew the heart’s secret desire to ignore what must be done and ensured that it could not be overlooked.

It did not bother me, however. I do not want to forget. In fact, I want nothing more than to see. It spoke to me, as odd as that may sound, in soft whispers and images. It remembered everything, or maybe it simply could not forget. I did not understand at first what it was I saw behind my closed eyelids. Who were these faces? What were these places? What were these events? Were they my own dreams and nightmares?

But they were too vivid–too alien–to be my own.

Then I saw them.

The Hero.

The Villain.

And all the pieces fell together.

Why did the Triforce show me these things? Was it the same for my ancestors? I do not know. I asked and received no answers. I could only watch. Times of peace. Times of chaos. An ugly cycle.

Back then it made me burn with restlessness. That beautiful cage–my home, the tranquility of my times–pressed upon me from all sides. Trapped and bound with chains forged and fortified by my ancestors, I could only wait. And so I waited. I waited and I prayed in the deepest, blackest parts of my soul for some type of salvation.

I prayed for disaster.


When the darkness came, it offered no warning. The day dawned beautiful, the sky blindingly blue and the brilliant sun ascending its throne along its lazy arc. That was why she noticed the storm cloud. She knew that dark smudge against the sky had no place up there; she knew by the twist of anxiety in her gut. Perhaps Impa knew it too or saw it on her face. Perhaps that was why she fussed more than usual and urged her back into the castle.

She should have resisted. It wouldn’t have been terribly hard to convince her nursemaid to let her go riding; not a single drop of rain had fallen yet and the winds had not picked up. Maybe if she had gone, ridden fast and far, she could have outraced her own misgivings.

But Impa looked tired, too old to be dealing with petulant princesses, and so she had relented. Back inside where the familiar taunted her, where the quiet bustle of the castle nagged incessantly into her ear like an old friend sharing old gossip and outdated news.

And outside the darkness closed in.

When the darkness came, it swept in swiftly.

Her heart leapt into her throat at the first crack of thunder.

The second sent it galloping in a frantic race.

The third found her shakily moving towards the door.

By the fourth, it was no longer thunder assaulting her ears.

It was screams.

The alarms jangled her mind as she flew down the halls. Terror–shock–confusion–despair–disbelief–faces everywhere, blurring to her sides, frozen before her. Faces from her childhood–others barely recognizable–Father? Mother?–Impa–

Impa clutched at her arm as she ran past, but she harshly wrenched herself free.

She had to get there.

To where the laughter was.

Before it was too late.

He was there. Tall. Terrible.



He smiled at her.

… no…

Lips stretched wide.

… too late…

She never stood a chance.

When the darkness came, it came without mercy.


A cruel voice had whispered in my ear at the time: Is this not what you wished for?

And my heart wept because it was true. This was the answer to my prayers.


It was everywhere–the darkness–drowning her, devouring her–so hungry, insatiable, relentless. First her feet, a slow feast through her toes, sliding over her legs, icy numbness up her torso, over the planes of her stomach, seizing her lungs–oh goddess, so hard to breathe, no breath to scream–slithering across her shoulders, sinuously entwining along the length of her arms right down to her fingers. It lingered upon her breast, an oppressive weight, a thing that stretched tentacles up her neck–arched her neck back in vain, hoping to deter its advance–where it found a grip on her chin, pulled itself up–she could feel it dragging along her, towards her mouth, her nose–oh goddess–

Teeth clenched tightly against the invasion, the scream rent from the very depths of her soul, a sensation rising from the pit of her stomach, stretching her vocal cords taut, a fire of fear and revulsion warming her from within, but the darkness so inexorable, unstoppable, a monster–make the nightmare end, oh goddess!–

She came to gasping, inhaling sharply and greedily, eyes opened wide and unseeing. Tears spilled lazily down her cheeks. Heart slowing, breathing still ragged but controlled, she blinked to clear her vision. A dark face hovered over her, richly bronze, topped with a head of flaming hair and below it a pair of disbelieving eyes.


No more than a gasp, a whisper, really, but as the name echoed in her ears–falling from her own lips–the truth of it shook her.

“Princess, ” he acknowledged her in kind. Something lurked within in his eyes, something as menacing and as cold as the darkness that had almost claimed her. His smile was not kind. “This is a surprise.”

Her senses returned slowly: the bed soft beneath her, a chill in the air that spread over her from head to toe (or was that simply the sweat cooling upon her skin?), her respiration and heartbeat loud in the heavy silence, and, of course, him, leaning over her, hands still outstretched uncertainly over her form.

Her eyes fixed on his hands.

“Why do you bother, milord?” the question left her without a second’s thought. At the sound of her own voice–composed, indignant–a flutter of dread whisked down her spine.

He blinked. “What did you say?”

“You intend to place me under an enchantment. What good will it do?” Her lips and tongue conspired against her, working of their own accord. “Has it ever worked? It will not stop him coming for me or finding me.”

There was the slightest twitch in his features, around his eyebrows. A small furrow appeared between his eyes for the barest moment. His gaze regarded her as if she were deranged. A spark of pride–goddess, what was she doing?–brought her chin up defiantly.

At last, he scowled darkly. “I have no time to babysit princesses.”

Every muscle in her body felt weak and gelatinous but she pushed herself up into a sitting position and replied evenly, “Then don’t.” She listened to herself with disbelief, at the note of anger, defiance, and imperiousness in her voice. Again her eyes came up to meet his unnaturally glowing ones. “I am more than old enough to care for myself.”

His eyes traveled the length of her and she suppressed a shudder. Like this they were very close, no more than a hand’s span apart. Was that a slight breeze or the touch of his breath on her skin?

She held his gaze unblinkingly. “If you are concerned that I might do something, milord, then keep me by your side. But surely, a man like you has nothing to fear from a girl like me.”


I was face-to-face with my greatest enemy–the enemy of my kingdom, the Enemy of my ancestors–completely vulnerable and powerless before him. So what possessed me to speak to him like that? Excuses tumble through my mind: that after my struggle I had no energy left to think clearly much less for niceties; that that same struggle awakened and stretched every sense and sensation in me, leaving me taxed beyond my capacities; that I had not yet fully comprehended my situation; that I had simply forgotten myself.

But I cannot deny that in the end it was one thing: exciting.

It was exciting.

I knew him even then, in my own way. I had watched him, by means of the Triforce, had followed his machinations and ultimately his downfalls. Always he raged with a passion I found incomprehensible. He was blindly ambitious and ambitiously blind.

A part of me pitied him. He was destined to lose. It was only a matter of time.

And I think he knew this.

Maybe that was why he listened to me–or humored me–for, yes, he let me be. He did not, I think, know what to make of me. Never before, if what I have seen is true, had a Zelda confront him as I did, as less a despicable, crazed beast and more a powerful, but still open to reason individual.

The moment he realized he had no idea what to do with me, he must have regretted his decision. At that point he probably desired very strongly to whisk me back to that bed and put me to sleep after all.

But he never did. It was an odd stroke of fortune and circumstance and it was far from easy for either of us. It could never be easy for us.


Her hand trailed behind her listlessly, an afterthought. Stone scraped against her fingertips, a contrast to her steps swallowed by the lush carpet beneath her feet, silent. He meandered at her side in slow, long strides, completely at his leisure, as if the darkness gave him no discomfort, as if he knew all the secrets in these halls.

The end of his grand tour neared; she could sense it, as if she had traced their path along a map and could see them hurtling towards the X. It was unreal. This was a dream. But she could feel the abrasive kiss of the walls, could feel the chilling draft upon her cheek, could taste the heaviness in the air, breathed in the dust with every breath. And there was him, that cold, silent presence by her side. Was he even there? Yes, walking in measured steps, matching his pace to hers.

So cold. Inside and out. Numb. Senseless. Her teeth chattered. Goosebumps dotted her flesh. One foot in front of the other. An effort for every step. She stumbled once, caught herself against the wall, and righted herself shakily. He stopped and waited.

But he made no move to help her.

How long had they been walking? How long since he had led her out of that room?

An eternity. From her birth to her present. All the time she’d ever known.

They appeared in the darkness like a beacon, a false hope lit to guide her astray. They loomed before her, the large double doors, ornate, breathtaking, cold, and unforgiving. The burning began in her gut and worked its way up, into her heart, into her eyes.

He watched her without expression, one hand resting on the polished wood. A minute, two. No words. No movement.

Then he pushed against the door–no strain or effort, just a slight push, amazing how it just swung open beneath his merest touch–and she watched him, eyes glued to his form, trying to find something–something–that could explain this, that could excuse it, that could tell her that she was wrong, oh so very wrong–

But he looked back her. Impassive on the surface. Sadistic in his eyes, his slight smile, his eagerness.

And finally she averted her eyes and looked.

Right into the throne room.

How could you? she wanted to ask. Why?

But she could only bite her lip. To stop its trembling. To stop the tears.

She would not cry. She would not give him that satisfaction.

She took her first step into the room and left eternity behind.


Sometimes I think he killed them all, but then reason tells me that some of them must have fled. It is a small consolation. Father and Mother were dead. I knew with terrible certainty that he would not have let them live. If he did not kill them first, he killed them last, forcing them to watch him murder all those who served them. This was their punishment, just as mine was to know that I may have been the only survivor.

Sometimes I can remember all the faces. Sometimes I let myself remember. Mother–so gentle and graceful, the lady I tried so hard to become–Father–gruff but loving, expectant but forgiving–Aaron–the gardener’s son who courted mischief with me in my youth–Clarice–my young childhood confidant–Seth–the baker who always slipped me sweets when no one was looking, especially Impa… and Impa….

Oh, Impa, did you get away? It amazes me that I can believe and hope that you did, that you did not chase after me, that for once you placed your own welfare before mine. Such silly thoughts, you would tell me, such wishful thinking.

I fancied a lot of wishful thinking then–it helped keep me sane when the sadness or anger or impatience threatened to swallow me whole–but reality was too difficult to escape.

I was home.

But I wasn’t.

He had destroyed it, along with everything I had ever known and believed, twisted it, perverted it into something dark and sinister. It was a shadow of the place I knew, yet it ached at every sight and touch with the promise of sweet memories lurking just below the surface, which were in reality buried so far beneath the façade that they might not have existed at all.

Why did it surprise me? Why did I think him above or below such acts?

I do not know. Too often I did not know when it came to him.

A part of me died as I wandered the empty halls with him, again and again with every new turn, every new old room.

I think it was my childhood and my innocence.


The dais stopped her. She stood paralyzed before the first step but he never hesitated; he took the steps easily and purposefully. Only a momentary pause before the throne, a tight spin on a heel, and he draped himself across the seat, eying her from his perch.

“Well, Princess, ” he began with a slight gesture of his hands to encompass everything around them, “what do you think?”

He spilled over the throne, too small for him, sinuous like shadow, fluid like darkness. Mesmerizing and beautiful, ugly and terrible.

She wet her lips and forced out, “Do you keep no servants, milord?”

Was that a slight tremor in her voice? Had he heard it too? Or had it been only in her mind?

He lifted one mocking eyebrow, lips jerking into a cutting smile. “What need do I have of servants, aside from sport?”

“Do you not eat, ” she asked reflexively, ignoring his jibe, “or bathe or…?” For the life of her, she could not think of what else to add. The room, once so pridefully immaculate, lay in a shambles, burned, gouged, stained, littered with the remnants of her past, so close that she could almost reach out and resurrect it. But she took one look at his face with its wide smile, eyes aglow with amusement, cruelty etched in every line, and embraced her nightmare, this present, and the future. “Or desire company.”

His face went very blank. But between that breath and the next, a snarl twisted his features and his eyes lit up like dark flames in his skull.

Company?” he hissed. A rough laugh tore from his throat. “Company?” He threw his arms out to embrace their solitary existence. “Look around you, Princess! What company do you see?”

Her chin came up, jaw clenched tightly.

“Here, milord.” Her smile froze across her lips. “Me.”


There is something quiescent within, I believe, something instinctual that surfaces when the mind can no longer comprehend reality and every irrational thought appears to be a reasonable solution. That something seizes control of you and its only concern is self-preservation. That other side touched me that day. It transformed me into something cold, controlled, and dignified.

It was sheer stupidity, Impa would have told me.

She would have been right.

There was nothing feigned in his anger and he directed every ounce of it at me. Did he know how scared I was? How horrified and lost? Would it have mattered if he had decided to kill me then?

I sometimes think he was a very calculating man. Truly, there was something in him that restrained him, a piece of him that clung to a higher dream, a goal so great that not even his impulse could undermine it.

I had the Triforce of Wisdom. He wanted it. And we both knew it.

Why did he not kill me? For that, maybe. Why did he tolerate me?

For that, I have no answer.

He was a beast, I tell myself; he needed no reason. It was easier–and safer–to see him as such, safer to know him as my enemy… and even wiser to know my place.

I was at his mercy. He held my life in his hands and had the power to decide how I would live it. He must have known how I existed before; he must have known I knew very little outside of luxury, ease, and comfort.

He must have understood I could not survive on my own.

Did he realize I did not intend to be patronizing? Did he know that it had begun, in my way, as an admission of weakness and deficiency?

So often it seemed he understood me as little as I understood him. But we could not misunderstand each other all the time. That was simply impossible.


He was there.

Sleep did not come the night before. In the darkness they visited her, half-remembered voices and already fading faces. Or had she slept and dreamt those images–fact and fantasy whirling together to weave her heart’s desires? Was he, too, a dream–or a nightmare, a silent stalking terror?

She lay with her back to him, keeping very still, trying to affect sleep, but knew that her breathing was too heavy, too fast, and her heartbeat too loud. He must have known she was awake. What was he doing? Simply watching her? Prickles rippled over her skin.

“Get up.”

The sound of his gruff voice shocked her. Impatient and commanding, it held none of the suavity she had heard in him the day before. Yet she could not move, despite hearing his harshness. None of the previous day’s brashness remained; only an aching emptiness filled the hollow of her being.

A low growl filled the room and then his voice barked sharply at her side, “You wake her.”

At his words, every muscle tensed and every sense strained. It was too soft to hear at first, but the sounds slowly resolved themselves. Footsteps. Light and careful–crossing the room to her bedside–silence–then a soft rustle of clothing and–a weight on her shoulder–

She whirled and reached out, clutching blindly–warm flesh, a very slim arm, one she easily wrapped her fingers around–and brought herself nose-to-nose with one very young, very shocked face. Bright blue eyes and trembling lips made her release her hold. Wonder bubbled within her as she beheld this new apparition.

“Introduce yourself, girl, ” he said flatly when the silence had stretched out too long and she suddenly noticed he stood behind the girl.

“I-I” was the stammered response. The princess watched the fear and bewilderment war in those amazing blue eyes before the girl dropped into a quick curtsy. “Trezelle, your highness.”

“She is yours, Princess, ” he said when she did not respond. “Unless… she does not meet your approval?”

He smiled, surprisingly unthreatening, but his eyes held the promise of Trezelle’s unspoken fate. Pure lust–bloodlust–destructive, hungry–dwelt in them. Words died in her throat. She glimpsed the beast in him, beating at the cage of his self-control.

A breath. Inhale. Exhale.

His smile turned smug. “Enjoy her, Princess.” He inclined his head towards her slightly, a mocking gesture, before he left them. When she was sure he was gone she turned to the girl. They gazed at each at each other speechlessly, unsure what to say, unsure how to say it.

At last she said, “I’m sorry, ” and Trezelle burst into tears.


Every part of my soul, every part of me that pitied this girl yearned to say “Don’t be afraid, ” but I could not force myself to lie. Fear lived in my own heart, uncertainty and misgivings plagued me daily–how much worse for this girl, younger than I, who knew nothing of what was going on, what was expected of her, and, most importantly, what would happen to her?

I could guarantee her nothing, not even her life. Especially not her life. I only had the truth… and neither of us wanted to hear it.

I laugh at myself when I think of those first moments when I had no idea what to do with her. I never expected that he might actually understand me. Why did he not say something if he knew exactly what I needed? Why could he not have given me a hint or clue?

And why, for the goddess’s sake, did he just pluck some unwitting soul from the streets?

I did not think–yes, exactly, I did not think. I thought he would spare some underling for me–a man like him is supposed to have a whole army at his disposal.

But I knew. I must have known. I could not have not known. I could not have expected more of him.

And he chose so well.

Trezelle was from the city, the daughter of an innkeeper–and despite my greatest efforts, she never told me more. She obeyed unquestioningly. No task seemed too small, too simple, too big, or too complicated for her. She brightened my life with conversation, laughter, and her company–but it masked her fear and I knew it. She rarely showed anxiety or stress, though I saw it in the little things she did, how her hand sometimes trembled, how she gazed out a window wistfully.

But she never complained. Guilt wracked me every time I saw that sunny smile. My heart bled every time I heard her soft giggles.

She made my welfare her responsibility–and I made her mine. I felt I owed this girl more, she who had lost so much for me, but I could only give my meager protection. Nothing would harm her, I vowed, and it was a vow I meant to keep.

Fate was not so cruel to test me.

No, it is we that are cruel.


She missed blue skies, white, fluffy clouds, and bright sunlight. She missed warmth on her skin and refreshing breezes. She missed hearing the chirping choir of birds and the constant murmuring bustle of the castle. She missed her father, her mother, Impa–

She missed many things these days.

Already it felt like years had passed. In some places it looked it.

Neglect held sway over the gardens. The grass stretched high and tall, grown overlong. Weeds choked the flowerbeds and jutted from every crack and fissure. Toppled statues and pillars showed signs of erosion and unsightly stains. Already an ancient ruinous aura hung in the deathly solitude. Like her memories it felt slightly unreal and mythical.

This was how it would be then. This was how she would lose herself: in bits and pieces, through lies and detachment.

“Where is your little servant?”

It surprised her more that she wasn’t surprised that she had known he was there and that she was not afraid. She resisted the instinct to turn towards his voice and instead told him in a voice strong and clear, “She is resting.”

“I didn’t know servants rested, ” he commented spuriously, appearing at the edge of her vision.

“They’re only human, milord, ” she responded coolly.

“What does that make me then?” he asked. His complacent smile spilled into his voice. She didn’t answer. Partly because she didn’t have one, partly because she didn’t know how to.

“You’re satisfied then?” She detected a note of challenge.

“Yes, ” she said simply and finally turned to face him. “Thank you.”

For a second she caught a strange expression on his face, one that she had no way to describe, something almost like surprise or disgust or uncertainty, yet none of these, before the familiar hauteur resettled in his features.

“I am so very glad to hear, ” he said softly, “that she is fit to replace all your lost servants.”

Their eyes met in a silent stare. Ice clutched at her heart even as fire ignited in the pit of her stomach, threatening to bloom and rage and overtake her.

But he abruptly turned and stalked back inside.

It was only then she felt the sting in her palm. She uncurled her fingers and discovered small, fingernail-shaped cuts dotting her palm. Blood blossomed bright and fast, like small death grins written in her flesh.


He enjoyed directing gibes at me. And in my own way, I in turn made gibes at his expense. Only, he always cut deeper.

Or I was more susceptible to insult.

Or a bit of both.

He must have been sure in the knowledge that I hated him. And I did, in many ways. He had destroyed everything I had known, murdered every person I had ever loved, threatened and terrorized the kingdom I cherished and felt it was my duty to protect. He relished reminding me of all these things and I could neither ignore him nor forget.

There were times, however, when I did not hate him, when I saw him simply as a man. It was in those confused moments when emotions struggled and warred across his face that I momentarily lost myself… and, I fancy, so did he.

I will be the first to say that he was not an unhandsome man. His severe features leapt out, chiseled in his chin, sharpened in his nose, lined in his cheeks. His hair flamed fiery red, scarcely unnoticeable, and his eyes spilled over with such hunger and life.

His entire being screamed of power–all of it barely contained–and sometimes not restrained at all. He preferred it that way, I think. He preferred the insanity of his boundless power.

It was his madness that made him frightening.

But sometimes there was no madness, only cruelty.

And sometimes there was no cruelty, only… I do not know what.

I only know that I sought it.


The silence that day differed. Hushed and heavy, it shackled her with paranoia and chafed mercilessly at her nerves. Every breath sounded too loud. Every creak and footstep sent her pulse galloping hard in her veins. Even Trezelle moved with especial care and spoke only when necessary in clipped, whispery tones.

Outside her window the sky sagged beneath its own weight, choked with dark, bloated clouds. The day appeared as dusky as night–the sun had ceased to exist and it had taken with it hope and beauty.

She suddenly felt very young and very scared.

Was this her future? An endless string of dismal days?

The thought disturbed her. She distracted herself with a book of fairytales, read by flickering candlelight, huddled warm and protected beneath the blankets. She locked the world out of her mind. In turn it tried hard to break in, windows rattling in her bedroom and the wind whistling high and piercingly through the cracks.

For a time it worked. The din grew louder, unnoticed by her. It built until at last she looked up from her book in exasperation.

Just as the windows burst open.

The panes shattered as they hit the frame, raining tinkling glass shards onto the floor. Anything loose suddenly took flight as wind and rain swept into the room. She leapt off the bed, ice stabbing into the soles of her feet, eyes frantically trying to locate Trezelle.

“Tre–!” she began to shout and then flinched as a deafening roar of thunder shook the room. Lightning blazed outside, momentarily blinding her, so close to the thunder she wasn’t sure which came first.

A dull ring echoed in her ears and spots danced wildly before her eyes. She groped around the bed, wincing as her foot found a sliver of glass. Suddenly hands grabbed at her, arms snaked around her, and she sighed with relief as she hugged Trezelle back.

She stood still for a moment to blink her vision clear. The rain buffeted them with sharp stings, drenching both of them to the bone, and turned their hair into merciless whips that flogged them at the wind’s bidding. She squinted against the rain and located the door.

“We have to get out of here!” she shouted and began to half-drag, half-lead Trezelle. The door resisted her efforts to open it, held tightly shut by the intense winds. She found leverage against the wall, heaved with all her strength, and managed to crack it wide enough to push Trezelle through. She stumbled after her and into the far wall, barely avoiding being slammed by the closing door.

Droplets dripped into her eyes and into the puddle forming at her feet. Tremors seized her limbs. Too little air, her lungs couldn’t get enough.

What had just happened?

Soft sniffling broke her trance. She raised her head and turned to see Trezelle slumped against the opposite wall, silent tears running down her cheeks. Heart heavy, she joined the girl, took her in her arms, and whispered sweet nothings into her ear.

Around them the castle groaned and shivered and the air shuddered with the force of the storm outside.

And in her thoughts the question nagged her.

She held Trezelle until the tears had stopped. Pulling back, she offered a smile.

“Feeling better?” Trezelle nodded. “Good.” She was silent for a breath then added, “Trezelle, will you be alright alone?”

“Why, your highness?”

“There is something I must check.”

Fear sparked in those blue eyes but after a moment’s hesitation Trezelle nodded.

“Thank you, ” she whispered. She pressed a kiss on the girl’s forehead, feeling all the unspoken sorrow and gratitude crowding in her throat.

Something gripped her, a certainty that could not be explained. Her destination lay clear in her mind, so much so she almost doubted herself.

The double doors of the throne room loomed before her.

She laid a hand on each, shivering at the wood’s chill, and pushed. The door resisted then relented.

A scream–his scream–rent the air. She stood paralyzed, staring wide-eyed through the crack between the doors. He was a heap of shadows, fluttering clothing, dark skin, and fiery hair, haggard, drawn, unruly–he stumbled drunkenly about the room, clutching at an arm, roaring, a shadow of the storm, the storm an echo of him. He lashed out at the empty air, bared his teeth like a rabid beast, struggling against an invisible foe–and losing.

She watched in fearful fascination. How long did it last? How long did he struggle? How long before he collapsed and sprawled onto the marble floor?

How long after that did she stay, watching him, listening to his ragged breathing, wondering how it matched her heartbeats? How long before she noticed the quiet, weary calm in the castle?

How long before he seemed so human?


I suppose I always thought that, despite everything he was, despite everything he did, there must have been a part of him that was human, that surely he could not be all monster. Seeing him so–bestial, powerful, and completely mad–scared me more than ever. Yet afterward, exhausted in his defeat–hurt and angry–he appeared almost human, almost fragile.

This was a side of him I was not supposed to see. Not like this, not weak and utterly crushed. What led me to him? A feeling in my gut, like dancing butterflies with razor-edged wings, like a deeply buried knife given a sharp twist.

It was not the first time I had felt it and it would not be the last. Often I ignored it but the times I dared acknowledge it and follow it, I could always find him.

Why did he have this effect over me? I do not know. The Triforce perhaps, his piece calling to mine, mine calling to his. Did he experience the same thing with me or the Hero?

The Hero. I do not know how he fought the Hero or how many encounters they had. I did not know his plans or how he implemented them, only that his presence became rarer and rarer in the castle. His existence brought something into the world, as if chaos followed in his wake, as if he were some sort of god ushering in the end of the world.

A fallen god, terrible in his might, yet so very helpless to stop his fall.

Such a very long fall.

When I saw him like that, beaten, a part of me wanted to go to him, hold him and ease his suffering as I had for Trezelle. Another part of me wanted to kick him, to make him feel all the pain, horror, and terror that he inflicted on others so thoughtlessly.

Do not think me a saint for wanting to heal his wounds and erase his scars despite what he was. Do not think me an avenger for letting him hurt and wanting to hurt him.

But I cannot deny being a coward by doing nothing.

I am, after all, only human.

And, as I began to believe, so was a part of him.


The spoon rose, poised tentatively in the air between the bowl and her lips, and then sank down to dip back into the soup.

“Trezelle, please, ” she said, turning to the girl standing at her side, “this is ridiculous. Sit, eat with me.”

The maid looked stricken. “Your highness, I couldn’t–”

“Trezelle, ” she cut her off gently. The girl abruptly closed her mouth. She smiled wearily, but genuinely. “In normal circumstances, perhaps, you would not eat with me, but these are not normal circumstances. Sit down and eat with me as my friend.”

Trezelle hesitated, obviously caught between obeying her princess and respecting propriety. Her smile turned encouraging when the doors suddenly burst open. He entered without word, crossed the room, and took the seat opposite hers at the table.

In the following interminable minute, she and Trezelle could only stare. His expression hinted at nothing; no smile upon his lips or maniacal glow in his eye.

Trezelle composed herself first. She quickly bustled off and then returned with another bowl of soup and set of silverware, which she arranged before him. His eyes never left her, though, even as Trezelle made sure to set everything correctly. When she was finished, the maid backed away from him slowly and resumed her place by her princess’s side.

Their gazes warred down the length of the table. Neither he nor she moved.

His hand slid towards the spoon with agonizing slowness, never blinking, never looking away. He picked up his spoon and she did the same. Dip. Raise. Sip.

He set his spoon down slowly and sat still for a few tense moments.

No reaction. No expression.

Still studiously blank, he hefted the bowl in one large hand–

–and flung it against the wall.

She fought her horror and shock, fought the urge to gape and stare, and remained icily seated.

Just as he came, he left, without a word, without a warning.


Even with Trezelle–perhaps especially with Trezelle–meals were a lonely affair. In time, she would overcome what it was that held her back–or perhaps she simply grew tired of my insistence–and at last joined me at the table. Conversation did not improve, but that was how it was between us and, despite efforts on my part, it would remain that way. I cannot complain; it was far better than having her hover at my shoulder.

And we both preferred anything to his presence at dinner.

He invited himself at his discretion. I do not know why, but he usually came with a pretense of indifference. However, it quickly became clear that he never came in good humor.

If table conversation with Trezelle was scarce, conversation with him was nonexistent. Those times were less times to eat than endurance trials beneath his gaze.

I hated and relished the silence. I had no obligation to speak to him; nor did he ever feel compelled to speak to me. There was no fencing, no veiled words. But it was unbearable waiting and watching him, expecting him to explode and having the full knowledge that it would come.

I must have made an easy target to vent his anger on. After all, I was available to him at any place, at any time. His methods always baffled me, but I understood why he did it. I knew the one he truly wanted to hurt and rage at was not there and that I was.

I knew who he yearned for.

I felt the same.

The Hero.

The unseen player on our stage of shadows.


It lasted a week. One week. Seven days. Seven nights.

One week without him.

The first few days passed without notice. He always came and went in short periods: a day, two, rarely four, once even five. She expected his return on the fourth day, her nerves jangling in anticipation, the dull blade of dread, anxiety, and nervousness flaying her composure with brutal, blunt hacks, assaults that came when she least expected it.

The day ended. Without the slightest hint of him.

Surely he would come the next day.

But he didn’t.

By the sixth day, what was she to think? What was she to feel?

What should she do?

It stole through her muscles, subtle and foreign. Tension bled away. Breaths stretched long and deep. Eyelids grew heavy, closed.

Completely at ease. Completely vulnerable. It was wonderful. It was sublime. She knew again what it meant to relax.

Then, on the seventh day, she slowly went mad.

The castle so quiet.

The castle so calm.

Was this not what she wanted? Was this not perfect?

Oh, yes.

The castle so dead.

The castle so confining.

Eating at her. Eating her.

The scream started in the pit of her stomach, wormed its way up, twisted through her lungs, and lodged itself in her throat. This beast was an old friend; it had hidden in the shadows, underneath her bed, loomed over her shoulder, and gazed at her from the eyes in the mirror.

She took to the halls aimlessly, revisited old paths and made new detours, plagued and hounded by this beast, this restlessness. And then she made a discovery, at the top of the tallest standing tower, waiting for her. Had he brought her here that day? No. Had she come here before? N–yes. Yes, she had.

The city dead before her. No, not dead. Only the lights extinguished. The streets and rooftops sighed with quiet life. The sky so dark. Not a single cloud or–no, wait, there! A star. The first star. She should make a wish, but what to wish for? There was only one thing that she–


No. Maybe she had never come here before.

She reached out, shrugging thoughts and memories away, and barely brushed her fingertips against the wood. It yielded beneath her touch like a light curtain, swinging inward soundlessly.

The darkness greeted her–windows boarded–and a light–a ball of it, a small glowing sun at the heart of this empty universe. Her eyes fell immediately upon it and she could not look away. It drew her in, gravitating closer–or was she the one moving? Breathless now, heart pounding.

A swirling fog in the depths. No. More. Images. Sharpening. Forming.



Long, elegant, pointed ears.

Lips, slim, thinned in grim determination.

A sword.


The Sword.

A boy.


A man.

A hero.

The Hero.

Her hero.


Is it the same for every Zelda when she beholds the Hero? Does her heart skip a beat, flutter, and promptly choke her with its frantic pounding? Does her mouth go dry, words die in her throat, or thoughts stillborn in her mind? Does she expire in that moment and rise again in those eyes?

He was, in a word…




Hope and salvation embodied.

The sight of him abolished all time and place–even the self, even me.

Only he mattered.

In that moment, I truly understood. And only in that moment would I ever completely understand my place in this world. Outside of that moment, none of it existed.


Such a young face. He must have been of an age with her. Perhaps younger. Too young.

Too young to be ready. Even through the haze of her rapturous fascination, she sensed his inexperience. But there was time–too little, too much.

This was her time. This was their time. A time for dreams. A time to believe.

And so she watched him.

And her keeper did not return that night.

Neither did she.

It was the next day she drifted dazedly back to her room. It was the next day the mask went back on. It was the next day they saw each other in the halls–she coming from his chamber, he heading towards it. It was the next day they exchanged one passing glance.

It was the next day, studying her eyes reflected in his, that she saw how everything had changed.


Everything was suddenly–starkly–real. Before, despite my daily situation, the stories, my history, the destiny thrust before me–it all seemed fairytale-like, a dream my mind feebly grasped at, wafting through my fingers like vapor.

Oh, the Villain was real enough. But now He was real, too. The Hero. He was fighting and coming–for me. No, that is vain of me. He did not even know me. He fought for the world, not me.

I only happened to share the stage with him and my part was too small for him to notice. I served to put events into motion. After that, I was to fade slowly into the background while the Hero and the Villain battled each other, only to reappear again during the final act. At that point the Hero–sometimes with the help of the Damsel in Distress, sometimes not, it rarely matters–smites the Villain and Hyrule lives happily ever after.

I saw it all unfolding in my mind’s eye. There was no escape from it. For any of us.


He drifted in as silent–and almost as ethereal–as a ghost. He took his seat across from her, slowly, deliberately, and eased back into the harsh angles and corners of the rigid furniture.

Trezelle hastened to serve him, as always. And as always, they held a staring match as everything found its proper place. Tension slowly seeped into her being–odd how she’d never noticed it before though it had always been with her.

Frozen into the likeness of statues, they sat silent and impassive.

She waited for him, as a host accommodates a guest or a vassal defers to his lord. What would it be tonight? Nothing in his face hinted at his mood and she did her best to match his indifference. He reached out–for the spoon, she thought, but no–and lifted the plate until it hovered at eye level. She could still make out his eyes, just beginning to smolder, locked onto her as he swept the plate out to his side, released it, and let it crash to the floor.

It shattered loudly–too loud–but she didn’t glance at it. Her chin dipped imperceptibly in a nod. There was an answering light in his eyes and he rose. No rush. No concern. Biding his time.

Biding change.


He knew, too, I think, that time was winding down. The finale fast approached us and we still needed to memorize our lines. But we wanted to savor them, to take them in word-by-word, and read between and outside the text.

He knew.

He was angry still–there was never a time he wasn’t–but he was more often subdued. Can you believe it? You would think he would have whipped himself into a frenzy–and I’m sure he did when he battled the Hero–but often he simmered just below the surface of a horrible, terrible silence.

He was always ready to explode. Then more than ever, but he strained to hide it, repress it, strangle it.

It hung over both our heads.

The End.


She kept turning the pages although she had stopped reading the words long ago. The pages felt brittle beneath her fingers and some pictures were cracked and faded. She knew this particular story by heart, though; it had been one of her favorite fairytales when she was a child.

Once upon a time, a dark wizard menaced the land. He kidnapped the descendents of the sages, one of which was the princess, and locked them away in another realm. Darkness descended and chaos ruled but there was hope. The princess had contacted a boy using her secret powers. The boy became a great hero, defeated the wizard, and saved the princess. And they both lived happily ever after.

A faint smile crossed her lips as she dwelt on it. How much was fact? How much legend?

The faint click of the doors interrupted her thoughts. She raised her head from the book and saw him. He stood just inside the room for a moment, taking in the vast library, and then finally her, curled in one of the overstuffed chairs.

Neutrality suffused him. He studied her for a second longer before looking away, as if she did not exist. He walked past her wordlessly and disappeared into the shelves.

Her eyes stared sightlessly at the open pages before her while she listened to his movements. The soft rustling and scraping of the books was loud in the quiet. It seemed he searched the entire library, wandering around from corner to corner, his search punctuated now and again by the wheels of the ladder loud as it moved on its coaster–strange, but she never heard his boots on the steps.

When she saw him again, he held one large volume clasped in his hands. He settled in a chair similar to hers, opened the book, flipped through the pages, and began to read. She studied him surreptitiously over the top of her book.

He read with intense concentration, eyebrows furrowing a bit as time passed. He shifted in his seat. Hummed lowly to himself. Licked his lips. Turned the page with a sharp flick of his wrist.

She watched him openly and unabashedly now.

Between them, in that quiet library, a strange peace settled. She could almost think that they were just two people passing the time. But eventually she returned to her book and realized that nothing was further from the truth.


If he had seemed human before to me in defeat, he seemed awfully human now with a book in his hand. I did not want to look. I did not want to see.

I could not help myself.

This being before me had the face of my enemy, but he lacked the fire in his eyes. Calm sat upon his shoulders, poise in his spine. And it had taken no more than literature to bring him to this.

He frightened me. Intrigued me. And excited me.

But it would not last long. Within days a transformation overtook him. He raved and raged throughout the castle–completely out of control–volatile and destructive.

And afterwards he became deceptively quiet and peaceable.

Then I truly knew fear.

It was a cycle of extremes. When he was passive, I could not help but watch him. When he was not, I avoided him at all costs.

Things had changed and this was the way of our existence now.

Always now, thoughts of the Hero plagued me. Where was he? Was he fighting? How did he fare? Was he hurt? When would he come? Did he have the Triforce? The questions were endless, varying on themselves, and I had all the time in the world to contemplate unattainable answers–considering how very little there was to occupy me in the castle.

The library was my retreat. There I went and read every fairytale I had ever heard or dabbled in history books I never knew existed. Plans and daydreams filled those empty times. From the first days my memories had eluded me but, when I could no longer read or agonize over the unknowable, I strove to make the pieces fit. Sometimes I did not know what to believe at all. The visions in the Triforce began to seem like my own history–I was the sleeping princess, the banished one, the disguised companion, or countless others.

This was how time passed, but how much is difficult to gauge. Those days run together, dismal days, almost every one unchanging, measurable only by my level of anxiety or his current mood. Days and nights began to lose meaning as the clouds overhead grew ever darker and always the city tantalized like a far off paradise.

Poor Trezelle. In my selfishness, I neglected her. Our conversations, meager to begin with, just about died. Even little trivialities seemed beyond us. My outward silence grew as my inner voices whispered louder. How did she handle those days? A wonder neither she nor I went completely mad.

But, in a way, we all did. We lost more and more of ourselves. We did what we could to stave it off, but it was far too little, far too late. Inevitability caught us up and spiraled us towards the breaking point.


The city gleamed on the horizon. Hyrule. The brightest jewel she had ever beheld, the only one close to her heart. She ached to look at it, filled with longing and distress. Little forms moved through the streets, sparse in numbers–too sparse. Hard times had come for Hyrule and she could do nothing to assuage her pain.

Did they glance at the castle? With fear? With trepidation? Could they see her standing here atop the battlements? Was she only an indiscernible speck atop the walls? Their princess. Their helpless princess.

The wind blew harder and she hugged herself tighter. But nothing could diminish the cold from within.


Fear seized her limbs but she forced herself to relax as he joined her. She glanced at his profile, noting the smooth lines of his face, the easy set of his shoulders, and let the tension run out of her. She was not surprised but neither did she welcome his presence. She turned back to her beloved city and the sight of it comforted her.

“Do you ever miss the sun, milord?” she asked on a sudden impulse.

“Why? I am never cold and the dark doesn’t scare me, Princess.” He spoke evenly, as if his words needed time.

“You never miss the light or the blue of the sky?” she continued, tilting her head marginally to study him. He wore a slight smile that became strained as he pressed his lips together. His cape snapped sharply in the high winds like cracks of the whip.

“Did you ever watch the clouds, milord?” she asked softly. “Large, fluffy white clouds? Did you ever try to find the shapes hidden within them?” His eyebrows drew together marginally. Fear reared its head again, but vindictiveness beat it down. “Or how about the stars? Did you ever spend nights trying to draw the constellations?”

The line of his jaw stood out starkly, a tense line she traced up his face.

“Did you ever play in a summer storm? Run through a field of flowers until you collapsed?”

His eyes narrowed but he remained silent.

“Did you ever–?”

He snarled, whirled on her, and grabbed a fistful of her dress. He yanked harshly and she stumbled closer unresistingly. He leaned in so that they were nose-to-nose and she saw the storm on the horizon of his eyes. His sight never seemed to focus on her–he stared into her and right beyond her, vision darting about in a wild search.

His breath was hot on her face and neck as he inhaled and exhaled heavily. She felt her own breathing shortening, the wait infinitely worse than knowing what might come.

He released her suddenly and backed away slowly. Eyes still unseeing, he turned away and staggered back into the castle.

Alone again, she straightened her dress in stunned silence. Her hands stilled halfway through the task and wrapped around herself tightly. Gazing upon the city, she tried to recall it with blue skies, white clouds, and innocent dreams, but she could only see his eyes–and the storm.

It was coming.


I had no intention of provoking him that day on the battlements. It merely happened. Once I had begun and once I saw the chink in his armor, I could not stop. The past was too fresh that day, summoned by the sweet sight of the city, and I longed for all of it as it had been, as it should have been. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted to hurt him.

That scared me as much as he did.

He could not have been a monster all his life. He must have had a childhood. Odd how adamantly I came back to these conclusions. Did he miss his youth? Or could he not remember it at all? Or maybe he did remember and did not want to?

Amazing, how it was the smallest things that could penetrate his madness and obsession. But it was always a game, had been so from the very beginning, and he always had me at a disadvantage. Push too far and I knew I would take the fall.


He came as he always did: unannounced. In vain she scrutinized him for any hint of discomfort. He moved with ease and confidence, each step effortlessly graceful and unconscious, and a face as clear as slate. He slipped into his seat and turned shockingly limpid eyes on her.

Anxiety buzzed through her muscles and crackled along her skull. Every breath suddenly sounded loud in her ears. Time dragged to a crawl; every sound warped, disconnected with the actions they were associated with; every movement leapt out at her with painful clarity.

She watched, paralyzed, as Trezelle went to ladle soup into his bowl, wafts of vapor trailing lazily into the air, saw how those graceful, long fingers slipped, the descent of the steaming liquid–

–right onto his lap.


I knew, at that exact moment, that our time had come.


She leapt out of her seat even as he burst forward with a snarl, reaching for the frightened maid who recoiled from him frantically. Chairs crashed, silverware and china rattled, Trezelle screamed, and she heard a shout that sounded suspiciously like her own voice.

Time sped up dizzily, leaving her choking on her own breath.

Trezelle danced away from him, managing a small amount of distance, but he pounced at her with long, powerful strides. He reached out with one large hand–and suddenly she was there, too, reaching out for him. She lashed out blindly, desperately, fingers finding his flesh, closing around his wrist–how large it was, she thought disconnectedly, compared to Trezelle’s. The power came easily, magic flaring in her veins–hot and alive–down her arm, through her fingertips, and right into him.

He threw his head back and roared, a sound that reverberated through her bones. Every vein in his neck bulged and he nearly ripped her arm out wrenching out of her grasp. He stumbled back, panting and growling, cradling his arm. The room stood absolutely still.

And then he raised his eyes. Liquid fire. Molten hatred.

His lips drew back from his teeth and he growled lowly, “Little minx! I’ll flay you alive!”

“Do not lay a hand on her, ” she intoned softly, voice ridiculously calm for the trembling she felt in her muscles.

The mark of the Triforce flared brightly on the back of his hand–the very one she had burned–and she could feel the response in her own body to his power, could feel the heat in her own hand and the undeniable draw he exuded. They stared at each other, his mark always burning in the corner of her vision. Their breathing filled the silence between them and like the tide ushering out, some of the blind rage receded from his eyes.

But what remained left her rubbery with fear. His lips curled into a hungry snarl.

“Little Princess, ” he said through his teeth. “Who will protect the little princess? Where is the great hero now?”

“You forget who I am, ” she replied evenly, swallowing her heart. The aftertaste of magic lingered on her tongue and at the back of her mouth. She took comfort in its familiarity, the divine sensation of it simmering in her blood.

His eyes narrowed and his smile stretched wider. “Is this a challenge?”

She met his eyes unblinkingly.

“I will not let you hurt her.”


Beneath that bravado, smothered by the intensity and suddenness of the moment, my mind asked: Is this how it ends?

Logic told me: Surely not.

His eyes told me: Maybe so.


He moved with an inhuman speed. She never saw him close the distance, only knew the moment his fingers closed around her neck. Her hand darted out blindly and slammed against his chest. Power coursed through her and light exploded as she fed it into him.

She was suddenly sailing across the room, hit the ground on a shoulder, bounced, rolled, and came to a stop, gasping. Through the curtain of her hair she saw him: tall, godlike, light crawling across his chest in arcs. His laugh echoed throughout the room; his eyes glowed in delight.

“Is that all, Princess?”

She lay on her side, propped up on an arm, greedily drinking the air. Parts of her screamed in painful protest and brought tears to her eyes. Gritting her teeth, she pushed herself up.

He blurred and she felt and heard the resounding smack of his fist against her cheek. She went sprawling to her hands and knees. Coppery blood filled her mouth and dribbled down her chin. The world spun and lurched beneath her, spots filled her vision, and nausea made her gag before she swallowed it. Wracked by shuddering breaths, she waited for her vision to clear.

She struggled to her feet now, spitting the blood out of her mouth.

He smiled at her before he moved. His satisfaction stoked a small flame within her.

This time she embraced him.

He clutched a handful of her dress before she knew he was in front of her, but she splayed her hands out before her, feeling his warm flesh beneath her palms. His hair, surprisingly soft, tickled her fingers; his eyelids were smooth beneath her thumbs.

She pressed against his eyes and released the energy within her.

He screamed, rattling her mind, body, her very soul, and she screamed back, feeling all the hate, adrenaline, fear, and anger bubbling up within her. He flung her away and wrenched his sword free of its scabbard, screaming, screaming, screaming, and then the ground rushed up to meet her, hard, forcing her breath out of her and she lay tired, exposed, drained, warm tears sliding down her cheeks, her weakness bitterer than all of her aches.

Then there were frantic, but gentle hands clutching at her and despair welled up fast and terrible.

“Trezelle, NO!” she shouted, almost a sob, desperately grabbing the girl and rolling so that she would take the blow.

But nothing happened.

She lay very still. Trezelle clung to her so tightly that it was hard to breathe. Wrenching sobs rocked the girl, a counterpoint to her own silent tears.

“Oh, Princess! Oh, your highness! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” Trezelle babbled brokenly into her shoulder.

“Sh… sh…” she crooned through her cracked lips.

They held each other, lonely survivors of a terrible storm, and reassured themselves they were still alive.


I do not know what frightened me more: him or me. Never once in my life had I lifted a hand against another. Never once had I used my gifts to hurt someone. But that day, hurting him–knowing that I had hurt him–it felt good. It felt good to touch on my power like that… to stand up to him… to be in control…

To hear him scream.

I had forgotten what it was like to take action. I had forgotten what it was like to let all the restraints fall away. I had forgotten what Impa always called the fey in me–a taste of wild recklessness.

Did he see it, I wonder. Did he know how close to the edge he had driven me? Maybe he could not recognize it; he lived on the edge or even in the abyss itself. Perhaps his battle was not to keep from falling into the darkness of his heart but to climb out of it, hand over hand, up the steep face his madness.

What is it like, I wonder, letting the beast devour you? How does it feel to submit?

A part of me wanted to embrace death–mine, his, it did not matter. How many times did I skirt death with him? Many times I wanted to ask him outright: Why not just kill me?

But I could never voice it. Maybe I was afraid what the answer might be. Maybe I feared I might agree.


Sleep eluded her. Aches and twinges emanated from seemingly everywhere. Every slight movement drove thorns and spikes into her skull. She felt warm and smothered but couldn’t find the energy to remove the blankets piled atop her.

The night was deathly still. No birds or crickets chirped outside her window. A slight breeze ruffled the curtains. With eyes closed, she listened to the silence around her and the steady beating of her heart, but nothing could distract her from the constant ache. She never thought she’d ever be too tired to sleep.

In that stillness, the sound of the door opening was unmistakable. It closed with a heavy thud, followed by slow, measured footsteps.


No, the girl was resting, probably just as exhausted as she was.

A slight throb in her head, a buzzing in her thoughts, and she knew who it was.

She traced his path by sound, how he skirted the small table and sidled up to her bedside. She lay wound tight with tension, trying to intimate sleep, afraid her breathing sounded too fast and too feigned.

For a long time she heard nothing more. Had she fallen asleep?

Then a rustle.


He and I were alone, nothing between us and with no one to interpose. Was I frightened? Out of my mind. But then, if that were true, why had my heart not raced with the might of a thousand drums? How could I just lie there? Why did I say nothing?

How could I stand the wait?


A sensation.

On her cheek.

So slight, it might not have been real.

His touch.

Trailing down her cheek.

Across the bruise, so butterfly light she felt no pain.

Then it was gone.

And back.

Rougher, bonier, ridges.

The brush of his knuckles.

Then nothing.

The sound of footsteps, the creaking of the door, a dull thud as it closed.


It was impossible to sleep after that. I was afraid what would come to me in the night. I was afraid what visions I might see.

Would they be nightmares? Or, worse, dreams?

I did not want to find out.


Eating had never seemed like such an insurmountable task. Her jaw ached abominably; every spoonful was a test of her will. It would be some time before she finished this meal, but finish it she would.

Trezelle cast worried glances at her as she ate, trying to be furtive and failing miserably. Her mind whirled for a topic of conversation, anything to ease them both, and just as she was about to speak, the door opened.

Both she and Trezelle froze.

His gait seemed almost hesitant as he approached the table. Somehow his steps lacked his usual confidence. He lowered himself into his chair, meeting her eyes as he sank down.

For a second, no one moved.

Then Trezelle very carefully, very slowly got up and served him. He did not harass the maid as she set down a bowl for him. Trezelle might not have existed to him the way his eyes seemed to only see her.

And suddenly she felt very tired. Too tired for this game.

But it was he who looked away.

She stared at him wide-eyed as he dropped his eyes to the bowl before him, picked up his spoon, and quietly began to eat. She watched in blatant shocked as he chewed, swallowed, and took another spoonful.

Her own aches even relented as she joined him in a quiet meal.


That was our most civil meal.

Why did he come? Why did he act so? An apology, maybe? I should not let myself, but can you blame me for wanting to read into it? Is it so wrong to want to believe in someone?

Or is it just naivety?

Or maybe it is a hand in the dark, upon my cheek, a touch filled with surprising gentleness.


She felt giddy with health, free of aches and pain and bruises. The bed sat forlorn and inviting, but she was far too restless for sleep. She wandered over to the window to enjoy the cool night air, parted the curtains, and gasped at the sight that greeted her.

Stars! The clouds were… gone. The clear night sky revealed a heaven of constellations. She opened the windows–or rather, the wood frames–in a daze and leaned out, inhaling sharply. The air tasted sweet.

An impulse seized her. She swept out of her room and into the halls. Her brisk walk turned into a light jog and then an outright sprint. She gathered her inhibiting skirts in her hands, flying past closed doors and guttered candles.

She stopped breathlessly before the open throne room doors and there he was. The moonlight fell across his immobile form. A slight wind picked up his cape and then released it so that it fluttered back along his tall and proud form.

She drifted to his side on light feet, slowing her breathing, and stood wordlessly by his side. Through the grand arches the city spread out before them, dark and quiet, and above it the glorious twilight sky floated serene and beautiful.

It was a very long time before he turned to her.

“Tell me, Princess, ” he murmured as he held a hand out to her, “have you ever danced with the devil?”

His hand hovered between them as she gazed at it expressionlessly.

Of course it would be tonight, she thought deprecatingly.

“No, ” she answered him, placing her hand into his. How small it looked there. How small she felt beside him.

He wrapped his fingers gently around hers and swung her about, his other hand finding a place on her hip, but he made no other move.

“Is something wrong, milord?” she asked softly.

He smiled and some of his characteristic madness shadowed his eyes. “What shall we dance to?”

She exhaled sharply and realized that she had held her breath. She dropped her eyes, focusing on a point beyond his shoulder, and finally smiled. She began to hum, slow and soft and long–a lullaby… her lullaby.

He began haltingly and she followed. At first, it was not difficult to match him. Then his pace quickened and he swept her in a long arc around the room. He stepped unpredictably and she struggled to follow, biting back gasps as he whirled her around with unexpected turns and dips or sudden twirls that caught her in mid-step.

At some point she stopped humming and they followed the music only he could hear.

Abruptly, he spun her out and caught her about the waist when he pulled her in so that he held her from behind.

“You truly are a princess, ” he whispered into her ear and when she turned her head, she caught a glimpse of a grin, one less caustic than she had ever seen, yet mocking all the same.

She could only shake her head as he twirled her back out, brought her back in and slowed their pace. Relief and breathlessness trickled through her being. Cool sweat trickled down her brow and her heart rate returned to something approaching normal.

He led her in small circles with easy confidence, fluid and sure, eyes studying her in the twilight. She followed thoughtlessly, amazed at his transformation and newfound skill.

“Yes, ” he repeated in the hush, “truly a princess.”

Suddenly they were pressed against each other, his arm holding her fast against him. She leaned back to stare into his burning eyes as he softly hissed, “But you are not worth my dreams.”

“And you are not worth mine, ” she whispered back.

He released her and stalked away. She did not call out. He did not look back.


Did I love him?


Could I have loved him?

Perhaps. A side of him undoubtedly, but not all of him and certainly not then or there. In another life maybe.

So where did that leave us?

Right where we began, with hatred.

And maybe bitterness.

And maybe regret.

And, maybe, with newfound respect.


Sleep held her captive late into the morning. Shadowy figures filled her dreams. A man whose face lay hidden in darkness strung her along in a dance that left her dizzy and lost as voices whispered all around them, accompanied by pointing fingers and gasps hidden by hands. Among them she thought she saw Father and Mother watching with disappointment-filled eyes matched with bloody grins etched across their throats.

Then her partner began to shake her and she woke with a start, heart racing. The shaking didn’t stop and she sat up groggily, lifting one hand to rub her eyes, only to stop when she noticed the blue eyes watching her.

They were unfamiliar and unmistakable.

“Are you alright?” he asked and his voice washed over her. It suddenly became very hard to think. He had asked her a question, but she wasn’t sure what he had said. She nodded dazedly.

“Are you Princess Zelda?” She nodded again, mind clearing slightly. A smile spread across his lips and for a moment she felt dangerously faint. “I’m–”

“Link, ” she finished in a near whisper.

“Yes, ” he said slowly. “How did you–never mind. I’m here to save you.”

She nodded in agreement, noticing that his hand rested on her shoulder, its warmth–its realness–scalding. She managed to feebly murmur, “I know.”

“Let’s get you out of here, ” he said.

She blinked and stared at him. His words replayed in her mind and then she reached up and covered his hand with her own. His eyes were clear and bright in her vision and she gazed into them intently.

“No.” At his startled look, she added, “Please. Let me come with you.”

He shook his head emphatically. “It’ll be dangerous. I have to fight–”

“I know, ” she interrupted him gently. “Maybe I can help you.”

Conflict filled his face, pinched his eyes and furrowed his brows. He was so easy to read. She smiled kindly, curled her fingers around his hand, and lifted it gently from her shoulder. She turned it so that he could see the Triforce’s mark upon him. With deliberate care, she set her other hand atop his, her own symbol radiating softly.

“You see, ” she said in muted, reasonable tones, “I must go with you.”


Was I really necessary?

I doubt it. I see no reason why the Hero could not defeat him alone. It had been done before and, judging by his looks, it could be done again.

It was not that I needed to go, but that I had to go.

I had to play out my part until the final curtain. I had to see it for myself.


The ascent was not as she remembered it. Somehow it was more difficult to find footing on the steps, the space narrower and confining. And at the summit they found the top of the tower completely gone, the walls obliterated, the charred ruins of their memory deformed crenellations. Above their heads the storm clouds gathered in angry, roiling clusters.


The single word was layered in textures, booming across the platform although he never raised his voice. Thirsty, darkly promising eyes blazed in his skull. Lips stretched back tightly to reveal a toothy smile. And power, such power, filled his being.

A monster.

The Villain raised a fisted hand bearing the scar of the Triforce of Power.

The Hero drew his sword with the hand that burned with the Triforce of Courage.

And she cradled her hand in the other, covering the sign of the Triforce of Wisdom.

The pieces called to each other, thrumming along the same note, resonating and building. It was like an orchestra playing in her head, strings and percussion trilling along her nerves, exhilarating and breathtaking.

It was beautiful.

It was powerful.

“Those are mine, ” the Villain said and the battle was met.


That battle was the most beautiful and magnificent thing I have seen. It was also the most terrible and haunting.

They were gods, possessed of skills mortal men can never hope for, extraordinarily powerful and inordinately adept. And well matched; if the Hero had speed and dexterity then the Villain had raw power and strength.

And what did I do?

I watched.

I watched it all.


They faced each other, battered, beaten, but with determination bright in their eyes. They were a study in contrasts: the slim, elfin boy-man and the towering, hulking giant. Sweat beaded upon their brows and upper lips, dangled on chins and plummeted to the floor.

They never seemed to blink. They never seemed to waver.

They fought in an arena caged by lightning, barred in by the long forking strikes that reflected in their blades. They charged as one, mouths open in screams that were drowned by the thunder. Sparks flew as steel met steel and the dance continued, furious and earnest. They struggled with their entire beings, but neither gained an advantage over the other.

Until one booted foot slipped.

The Villain raised his sword high–


I would not have guessed that he might have won after all. That he might have beaten fate. That he might have beaten us.

Not until I saw it with my own eyes.

Not until that very moment.


–and went sprawling through the air as a ball of light hit him squarely in the chest, picked him up and flung him like a rag doll.


It was only an instant, but I saw everything in that heartbeat our eyes met.




His accusation did not surprise me. In a moment of weakness, I can even admit that it hurt.


The Hero quickly regained his feet and scrambled forward, stabbing for that vulnerable heart. But a bright beam slammed into the Master Sword, diverting it from its true path, and the blade sank home deep into the Villain’s shoulder. The Master Sword blazed and the Villain screamed loud and long.

The Hero turned back to her in surprise–


We all make decisions that we cannot take back.

We all make decisions we regret.

And in the end, we can tell ourselves the ends justify the means.


–just in time to bear the full brunt of the fireball.

He staggered back, managed to remain standing on shaky legs for a few gut-wrenching moments, and then finally collapsed to his knees. He raised eyes clouded by confusion and pain and stared at her uncomprehendingly.


His eyes were beautiful.

So young, so innocent, so filled with hope.

He was a true hero. Nobility and honor infused every fiber of his being.

It was no wonder he could not understand. It was no wonder to see the plain accusation in them.

I’m sorry, I wanted to say. But it was already too late.

And I might not have meant it.


Her pulse raged in her veins. Her hands trembled with residual power.

“Princess, ” the Villain hissed, clutching weakly at the Master Sword protruding from his shoulder. “What are you–?”

She ignored him and headed towards the Hero. Exhaustion blurred his weak gaze; his eyes focused and unfocused. Blood stained his clothing where he had sustained injuries and in other places where it wasn’t his at all. She knelt before him and gently clasped his hand in hers. He did not resist as she raised it to her lips and gently kissed the mark emblazoned there.

With a sad smile she released his hand and for a moment it remained suspended before him. Then it dropped limply back to his side.

She rose serenely and turned to her enemy. He struggled weakly to an elbow, defiance and anger emanating from his every pore. She stopped within a safe distance, met his eyes, and bound him with the strongest magics she knew. He writhed, hissed, and growled, but he never looked away.

She approached cautiously, aware that he was probably more dangerous than ever: a wounded animal backed into a corner. She lowered herself carefully by his side and laid a hand–gently–atop his. The weight of his eyes bore on her, unforgiving–and hurt.

Suddenly the heavens parted and sunlight stabbed down in a shower. He flinched at the brightness; she raised her head to watch the descending Triforce.

She pushed herself to her feet and took her first step towards the edge.


Every fairytale I had ever read ran through my mind.

Once upon a time, they said, an evil wizard menaced the land. He kidnapped the princess, for she possessed a piece of the Triforce like him. He then commenced plunging the realm into chaos and bringing darkness upon the land.

But a Hero rose up against him. He underwent many trials and accomplished many death-defying and noble feats. He gained the Master Sword and proved himself worthy to carry the Triforce of Courage. He grew strong and one day faced the dark wizard and defeated him.

Afterwards he took the Triforce in his hands and made a wish.

And the Triforce, sensing his purity, granted his wish and brought peace and prosperity to the land.


The Triforce was taller than her. The sun played along its golden edges and slid along the surfaces like liquid. Nothing reflected in his three faces, but she sensed that everything lurked within it.

This was the Triforce. The Beginning and the End.

She did not hesitate.

She laid one hand on one of its smooth faces, warm and cold beneath her palm, and closed her eyes.


And I did what I had always longed to do.

I wished. I wished with all my heart.


An ear-piercing whine filled the air. It grew in pitch and intensity until the Triforce shattered into a million lights, a billion motes, which hung around them like small, dying stars drifting to earth, fading into nothing. She gazed up at the wondrously clear skies and then closed her eyes to soak in the sun’s warmth.

She smiled.

When she opened her eyes, the sky was still there. It was still blue and still clear. She turned to the men who in turn stared at her. Neither said a word.

She went first to the young man. He sat dazedly on the ground, clutching a wound that bled freely and fiercely. She laid a hand on it and concentrated. The bleeding slowed and stopped.

“We are free, ” she told him softly, raising her eyes to meet his. “You and I and our descendents are free to choose our own paths now.” She smiled sadly. “You can live however you wish, Link, my hero. Live freely… and may you be happy.”

He had no reply for her. Distrust plainly shone in his eyes and she accepted it and its validity. She left him sitting there and stepped slowly to the other’s side. Her magic had faded and, although no longer bound, he did not move.

She reached out and cupped his face between her hands. He did not resist. He did not pull away. They gazed into each other’s eyes. His were not gentle or kind; the fires that had blazed in them earlier had died to embers. She leaned forward then and brushed a delicate kiss upon his brow.

“It is over, Ganon, ” she whispered. “Forevermore. You are free.”

She pulled back and released him. For the first time she saw fear and uncertainty in his eyes. Gone was the confidence. Gone was the power. Sadness dragged briefly at her lips as she got to her feet.

She cast one last lingering gaze about the destruction and aftermath; desolation greeted her, but her spirits lifted and soared. She headed towards the stairs, leaving the two men behind.

“Zelda!” Ganon called after her as her foot touched the first step. “Zelda, what did you do?! What did you wish for?!”

Never once did she look back. Never once did she reply.



It is an old name, one fraught with history and even… power.

Zelda, Princess of Hyrule.

Zelda, bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom.

Girl. Woman. Damsel in distress.

Traitor. Dreamer. Wisher.

I am Zelda, Queen of Hyrule, and I am the last of my name.

I am Zelda and I am free.




Notes: A very special thank you to end-the-third who read and offered insightful input as I wrote this story, thus encouraging me to keep going (mucho amor). Also to Robin Miller for looking at drafts and to Javi and The RPGenius for pre-reading and offering comments.

C&C welcome at tiger1621@hotmail.com
Completed: August 9, 2004
Homepage: http://www.dragonsfolly.com/