Part One: The Lady
A land found on a peninsula, separated from the rest of the world by a range of mountains and a mighty ocean encircling it. A land made of forests, plains, deserts, croplands, villages, and isolated homes. A land chosen to be the focus for the magic of an entire world. A land where a kingdom was created by the creatures of that magic. A land where a legend was born and heroes challenged evil. A land called... Hyrule.
The cheerful whistling reverberated through the silent, majestic forest. Zoe pulled her gelding to a stop. "Lin, where are you going?" She tugged on the one thin brown braids of hair that framed her face until she realized what she was doing and grabbed the reins with the offending hand. "You know we're not allowed to go into the woods unless on a trail or road."
Lin stopped his whistling and turned his stallion, Niklar, so he could face her. "What's wrong, Stick? You've been listening to too many of Dad's stories."
"Aunt Lissa backs them up." Zoe's brown eyes darted about the trees, expecting monsters to jump down immediately.
"Then go." The young man turned his horse to continue deeper into the forest. "Crown Prince or not, I'm going to find excitement even if I have to drag it out by the tail." He started to maneuver through the monstrous trees as old as Hyrule itself.
With a heavy sigh of regret, Zoe snapped the reins of her bay gelding.
Lin's grin split his tanned face. Zoe would follow; she always did. They were almost as inseparable as the twins, Kevin and Kelamane. Zoe was only two years younger, and they had learned everything together: school work, archery, horsemanship. They had even learned swordplay, but no one knew about that one. Their father, Link, argued long and hard with their mother to teach Lin and somehow Aunt Lissa convinced Zelda it was for the best, but she wouldn't hear of Zoe learning. So Lin privately trained his sister as he practiced.
Zoe rode beside Lin now that the trees allowed it. "Does it mean so much to you to prove Mom wrong?"
"You, of all people, are going to ask me that?" His green eyes stared at his sister in amazement.
She sighed, "Yes, Mom is a pain. But think about how much worse it would be if she didn't love us."
"If she would just back off."
"She overprotects you because Ganon tried to kill you as a baby."
"So what's her excuse for always jumping down your throat?" Jumping down your throat was one of Uncle Josh's expressions; one Lin always felt described Zelda's nagging.
"I don't know." Zoe continued to look straight ahead. "I guess I'm just not good enough."
"Cheer up, I'm not good at being glamorized either."
"You're not supposed to be."
"If Mom had her way, I might as well be a girl. All those lessons and examples and hypothetical situations. The proper way to act when addressed, when speech-making, when at a party."
"As Crown Prince, you have responsibilities to the throne."
Lin choked back a growl as Zoe repeated that oft-heard phrase. "Dad had hundreds of adventures by the time he was my age! All I want is a few. A chance to rely on my own wits and sword. Something to keep me from growing old and grey before my time. Then if I must take the throne, I will. But," he glanced down at his right hand and at the four triangles within a larger triangle birthmark on it. "Sometimes I doubt I will be the king Mom wants me to be."
Zoe fell back and Lin ride ahead through the narrow pass between the trees. "What do you think you will be?"
"I don't know. Do you know what you want to be?"
"You won't laugh?"
"Not unless it's very funny."
"I want to be like the Hyrulian."
"I think godhood is a little out of your reach."
"No! Like the Hyrulian. When she disguised herself as a mortal and taught people how to be chivalrous knights and ed those first knights into battle with the witches."
The myths about the Hyrulian had always been Zoe's favorites, Lin remembered. "I don't think Mom would let you be a knight, even if there were some still in the kingdom."
"I know. But wouldn't the expression on her face be great when I show up to some fancy party in armor?"
"It would be funny," Lin admitted.
"Yeah, and no chance of it happening. Don't you have any ideas of what you want to be?"
"What's the point? I'll never get the chance to act on them."
Zoe pulled her horse to a stop. "Lin, you could...." A black spider about two feet long jumped out of the bushes straight for her gelding's head. The horse reared up on its back legs. Zoe grabbed his mane and squeezed her knees to the saddle. "Lin, a deeler!" The spider creature crouched to leap again and the horse bolted with Zoe clinging to his back.
Lin galloped after her. The trees pressed in closer, blocking any attempts to try to ride beside Zoe and grab her horse's head. A dwarf-sized creature with dark-grey skin and a vaguely doggish face shot up out of the underbrush. The moblin extended a five-foot long pole axe in front of itself. Lin's stallion veered away sharply to keep from getting skewered.
Lin brought Niklar to a stop and dismounted. Four more moblins joined the first. Lin pulled out his sword and faced his attackers. "Okay you little monsters, what did you do with my sister?"
Pole-axes and spears lowered, eyes maddened, lined in a row, the five moblins charged. Lin yawned and pointed his sword at two moblins standing close together. The blue bolt of magic leaped from the blade and enveloped the moblins. They vanished in a blue flash of light. He threw himself around a tree, rolling back to his feet behind the still-charging moblins. He repeated the procedure, zapping the remaining three before they turned around. He shook his head, "And I thought Dad was exaggerating when he said how stupid they are."
The whistling scream of the stallion woke Lin from his chuckles. "Niklar!" He ran toward the sound.
The moblin tried to rush through to reach the fallen Princess, but the driving forelegs of the blood bay stallion forced him to retreat. Niklar whistled the distress call again.
Lin zapped the moblin and sheathed his sword. The horse snorted and shook his head as he moved from in front of the girl. Lin knelt beside his sister as Niklar guarded them both. "Zoe? Zoe, are you all right?"
Zoe's hand flew to her forehead and gingerly touched the bluish mound as she sat up. "Stupid horse. I tried to grab the reins and he runs me into a tree limb."
Lin glanced around. The gelding's path through the forest was clear. "Looks like it's headed back to the North Palace."
"We better hurry if we want to catch it."
"Yeah," Lin helped Zoe to her feet and into Niklar's saddle. As he did, a flashing deeper in the forest caught his attention. It stopped and Lin swung on behind Zoe. "The sooner we find your horse, the sooner Aunt Lissa can fix you."
Lissa sat down beside her oldest niece on the couch in the tower laboratory. Zoe and Lin had ran up a few minutes ago, both panicked that someone might see the purple bump on Zoe's forehead and report it to their mother. A sure sign they had doing something that they were not supposed to.
She pressed her fingers gently against Zoe's injury. The knot shrunk and the bruise faded away. "Unless you tell, no one will know that you were ever hurt. Go find Josh and Lyle for me." Zoe nodded and scampered away. Lissa turned to Lin who squirmed under the scrutinizing gaze. "What happened?"
"It was my fault."
Lissa sighed tiredly. Lin had probably berated himself the entire ride back to the North Palace. "I realize you wouldn't purposely lead Zoe into danger. So what happened?"
"I wanted to find some excitement. Zoe came with me. I should have made her stay behind."
Lissa smiled at his distressed face. "She's fine and you found your excitement."
"But Mom's going to kill us if she finds out!"
Lissa picked up a golden feather and twirled it in her fingers. Kilare would have broken into their conversation about now with a sarcastic comment only she could understand. She missed those comments. Did Lin remember Nalga the fox, his first companion? Niklar was a good replacement, and had been with them on this little adventure. So they were never in as much danger as they could have been. But Zelda wouldn't see that. Lissa set down the feather. "You've heard Link's stories?"
"Know them by heart."
"Your mother has had more than her fair share of excitement and danger. She wants to shield you, your brother, and your sisters from that danger as long as possible. It's been easy to do in these days of peace and prosperity. People have lulled themselves into believing that Ganon doesn't exist anymore." Her mismatched blue and silver eyes bored into Lin's green ones. "We're about due for a rude awakening."
Lin stared at his aunt. What does he see? Lissa wondered. An old witch disguised as a middle-aged matron? Or can he see the tomboy forest-child underneath this bun of brown hair and simple dress? Or just another adult, but one that can be trusted? "It was moblins." The rest came out of him in a rush. "Not too many. I took care of the ones who attacked. They couldn't have meant to kill me or Ganon wouldn't have sent only six. I think they were protecting something." He took a deep breath, "I guess I should tell Dad."
"But Dad's always complaining about how old he is. I don't think he's old, but he wouldn't trust himself to stop Ganon. And Mom would never let me try if she knew. Perhaps, I should...." Lin stopped, realizing that he had an audience.
Lissa smiled a quick, secretive smile. "I'm not going to advise you about this problem, because you just made up your mind. Now, go," she shooed with her hands. "I have work to do." Lin grinned and clattered down the stairs leading down from the laboratory to the door of the tower.
"Hallo, Lin! Watch where you're going!" Lin grabbed Josh's arms and pulled him and the toddler he carried back onto the step. The black-haired three-year-old laughed at the near fall he and his father almost took. Then Lyle stopped laughing and his mismatched blue and silver eyes bored into Lin's. "What's on fire?" Josh asked.
Lin gave a short, uneasy laugh. "Nothing that I know of; I'm just in a hurry. I'm sorry. You are okay, aren't you, Uncle Josh?"
"We're fine. Does Lissa still want us?"
"I think so." Lin shook his head to clear it without success. "Go on up."
Josh, smiling and shaking his head slightly, entered the top floor lab of their tower home. "What did you tell Lin?"
Lissa picked Lyle out of his father's arms by grabbing hold of him under his outstretched arms. "The boy is only confusing himself. Isn't he, Precious?" Lyle nodded solemnly.
Josh shook his head in mock amazement as he replaced a volume of charts on a shelf. "Who would have dreamed sixteen years ago that I would come to a magic world, marry an immortal, and have an immortal son? Not quite the life I thought I had planned."
Lyle squirmed down out of Lissa's arms and ran to his father. Cocking his head, he peered up, "Daddy happy?"
Josh tousled the boy's curly, black locks. "Daddy is very happy, Lyle."
The Palace was not quite asleep, but its inhabitants had settled into their separate rooms for the night. All except one. Lin, strapping on his sword belt, quickly stuck his head in the throne room. No one would be there at the late hour, but he took no chances. Softly, he crept in and confronted the three Triforces floating above the throne. "Tell me something, anything."
"Love is the purest motive."
Lin raised his eyebrows. "Could you be a little more specific?"
"Only the purest motive can stop the rise of Evil."
"So, Evil is rising. Anything else?" But the Power of Gold remained silent.
Niklar raised his head and recognized the scent of his master as the human entered the stable. Lin placed his hand on his muzzle. "Quiet, Niklar. We're going to have another adventure."
A full moon, large with a golden tint, rose over the dark forest. Link turned from the window to watch his wife enter their bedroom. Zelda sat down, then laid back in the soft recess of the bed with an exasperated exhale. Link sat beside her and squeezed her knee. "You only have that look when diplomats are here. But unless some have sneaked in unannounced that can't be the problem."
Zelda's smile was closer to a grimace. "I'll give you two guesses and they have to begin with K's."
Link leaned over her, a mischievous gleam in his brown eyes. "They didn't drive you too crazy?"
"No more than I deserve for letting you talk me into that second honeymoon."
Link started twirling her dark gold hair. "I think you're about due another one. You worry too much."
"It comes with the job, Link. I am the ruler of an entire kingdom."
"I meant about the kids."
"I don't want them to grow up like me. I loved my father, but I never knew him."
"The kids know and love you, Zelda. You don't have to worry about that."
Her gaze shifted from his face. "They're so young. If Ganon...."
"Stop it, Zelda!" Link grabbed her shoulders sharply. "You can't protect them forever! But since you brought it up," he released her, "I want you to let Lin leave."
"Lin leave?" Zelda sat up. "But his duties lie here, he's the Crown Prince!"
"Don't you think the Crown Prince should know something of the kingdom he's going to inherit? Zelda," Link touched her softly as she turned away. "He wants to go so badly. It's better if he learns how to deal with Ganon now, while he's young."
Zelda turned to him with fear in her eyes. "But Ganon wants to kill him still!"
"Why do you think Lissa and me insisted on him learning how to defend himself? He's got my talent and your intelligence, Lin can take care of himself."
Zelda looked down then searched Link's face. "Do you really think it's for the best?"
"Yes, I do."
"What do you think we'll find, Niklar?" Lin broke off a bit of the hard bread rations he had packed. "Nothing good, probably. But then it could be good, and Ganon hides it away to protect himself. Trouble is, Ganon's so devious, he can't have a straight out, easy-to-follow plan. It really doesn't matter." He popped the piece into his mouth.
Niklar snorted, burying his muzzle deep into the rich grass. Lin stood to his feet and started brushing the glossy red coat. "A few more minutes, Niklar, then we have to go." He turned and repacked the saddlebags.
Breaking up a one-person camp was simple and quick. He and Niklar had stopped in the meadow outside of the old forest for a few hours rest in the pre-dawn night. Now it was time to go, before any search parties from the Palace could get here. Hopefully, Zoe wouldn't say anything about being here yesterday.
Niklar stopped grazing and moved to Lin's side. The young man put the saddle on the horse's back. "I have the feeling something's going to happen today." He finally said as he mounted. Niklar snorted again as they entered the forest.
The forest hadn't changed since yesterday. The massive trees still towered and the underbrush scattered among them hid rustling creatures. But the air here hadn't been so expectant yesterday.
Lin tried to whistle to still the rising excitement inside himself. Air passed through his dry lips without making a sound. Niklar snorted and stopped. Lin dismounted warily, hearing the muffled sounds of the enemy.
Something thudded on the soft woodland turf and a moblin roared in pain. "Foot! Foot!"
"What foot?" one of his companions asked.
"My foot! Get it off!"
"Careful. Master get our heads if we fail."
Lin stepped into the clearing. "Good afternoon." Four shocked moblin faces turned to face him. They dropped the long box they were holding and the moblin who had just smashed his foot jumped away from it. "What's in the package? New tusk polish?"
The moblins turned to each other. "Human seen us. Human must die!" They rushed forward, picking up their long pole-axes and lowering them to skewer.
Lin ran to them, sword raised. Then leaping, flipping over their heads, he turned and zapped the moblin farthermost away. A moblin who lagged behind the group, now ran for Lin, pole-ax extended and totally oblivious of the other moblin charging from the opposite direction. Lin yawned and stepped out of their way. "If anyone gave you intelligence, you might become a problem."
The last moblin backed into a tree. "Look like Link, fight like Link. But not Link!"
"Very good. And since you got that far I'll let you figure out the rest." Lin zapped him and sheathed his sword. "Now let's see what Ganon's up to." Only now, did Lin notice that the long box was constructed out of an opaque crystal and the bottom was shaped like a boat's keel.
If curiosity enabled Lin to grasp the lid and pull it off the box, then utter fascination riveted his gaze to the contents. The occupant was a fair-skinned girl--close to his age. Her straight black hair fell away from her peaceful face and cascaded down to her shoulders. Her dress, silver and of an old-fashioned style, clung and dipped and gave full advantage to her shapely body.
Her blue-grey eyes opened and stared straight into his green ones. Lin muttered the first words that surfaced in his befuddled mind. "You're beautiful."
Her full red lips, evenly placed on the fair face, parted with a smile. "No, I am Elaine. Who are you, sir?"
Lin offered his hand as she sat up. "I'm just the chap who rescued you from the clutches of Ganon, that's all." Elaine took his hand and stepped out of the box. "My name is Prince Lin. Of Hyrule."
"Prince Lin?" Elaine's eyes unconsciously dropped from his face to his clothes and back to his face. Lin's face flamed with shame for the green and brown outfit--styled after what his father wore on his adventures. "Has fashion changed that much?"
"In Hyrule, we save our good clothes for a dressy occasion. Marching in the woods and fighting moblins doesn't qualify." Lin surveyed the situation, "We better go, before Ganon sends more." He took her hand, and felt a pit drop into his stomach and a chill run up his spine. Ignoring it, he led Elaine to where he left Niklar.
Niklar raised his head and questioned his master silently. Elaine gave a gasp of delight. "Is that your steed? What a fine animal! But light to be a charger."
Lin led her to Niklar's side. "Can you ride?" Elaine nodded and placed a shoed foot into his hands. She settled into the saddle sidesaddle and Niklar snorted. "Easy Niklar," Lin took the reins. "This is a lady." He placed his foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle behind Elaine. Clucking, he set Niklar on a smooth trot. "I don't suppose you have any ideas why Ganon would want you?"
"None, my lord. Who is this Ganon?"
"Prince of Darkness, Master of the Dark Realm, King of Lies, et cetera, et cetera. He probably has half-a-dozen different titles that all mean the same thing. But you get the idea."
Elaine's deep eyes fell. "Why would anyone like that want me?"
"I don't know, but don't worry. I'll take you back to the North Palace, where you'll be safe."
"Thank you, Prince Lin. I only hope I can find my husband."
"Your husband?" Lin saw the band of gold on her ring finger.
"Yes. You will help me, won't you, sire?"
"But I thought... of course I'll help you, Elaine."
"Thank you, Prince Lin!" She flung her arms around his neck.
Lin couldn't help feeling guilty. "Call me Lin. I try to drop the formality whenever I can."
"Of course, Pr... Lin."
Niklar snorted and stopped. "What's wrong?" Lin dismounted. "Stay with Niklar, Elaine." Creeping forward with his sword drawn, Lin soon heard the sounds of moblin voices. Had they managed to cut them off?
No, another voice joined the moblins--a pleading voice. Lin crept closer to hear. "We have done nothing to offend your master. Please let us pass in peace." No, the voice didn't plead, it had a silent authority that you could not deny.
"We want the magic you carry. You give to Master."
Lin gripped the sword tightly and burst through the underbrush, taking two moblins by surprise. Three more rushed forward; one knocked against a tree by Lin's kick, one zapped by his sword as one flew past--launched by Niklar's hoofs. Lin zapped the two that guarded the group of people and turned to Elaine. "I told you to stay behind."
"No, you didn't." Elaine placed her hands on his shoulders as he swung her down. "You said to stay with Niklar and I did. He's the one who moved."
The man who spoke to the moblins now strode forward. Long grey hair flowed with his long grey beard and sprayed over the shoulders of his brown robe. Underneath his black eyebrows, silver eyes glittered knowingly. Lin started, but bowed cordially. "Who are you, sir? For I know you are not one of this company."
"These people are refugees from a foreign land traveling to a port on the eastern side of Hyrule. They chose me for their guide. But how did you know I am not what I seem?"
Lin shrugged. "My aunt is the Lady Lissa."
The man turned suddenly. "Friends, a most able hero has rescued us, the son of the hero Link and Queen Zelda, Prince Lin!"
Another man, with a portly figure and a handlebar moustache, stepped forward out of the group. "Can you travel with us?"
"No, I cannot. I have to get back to the North Palace before my mother worries herself to death."
"Then you will stay the night and feast with us!" The rest of the group cheered heartily and bustled to their tents. The sun fell lower as the bonfire's flames rose higher.
"I must warn you, these people will take anything as an excuse to have a party." The Gensiarian led Lin and Elaine to a log beside the bonfire. Women and children twirled around it in a quick stepping dance. The men brought out piles of food, handed the guest some, put the rest on tables, and joined the dance.
"I'm not a hero yet," Lin admitted. "So far, the only thing I've done is rescue Elaine and this group."
The Gensiarian turned to Elaine. "So you are the Lady Elaine." He kissed her hand reverently. "It is a pleasure to meet you." Elaine's ivory skin blushed. Lin cursed the yearning of his soul and looked away. Why did she have to be married? "And I wouldn't worry about not being a hero. Your name will be remembered long after your father's exploits are forgotten."
Zoe sat on the battlements of the North Palace, dropping pebbles into the moat. If Lin was here, they would have found something more constructive to do. But he was missing; had been since night before yesterday. And he didn't even tell her he was going.
By chance, she looked over the road that led up to the Palace. She rolled of the stone ledge and scrambled down the stairs into the courtyard. She grabbed Niklar's bridle and Lin began to dismount. "Well, if you wanted to see if Mom's head could explode, you are on the right track."
"Elaine, this is my sister, Princess Zoe. Zoe, this is Lady Elaine." He helped the black- haired girl down off the stallion.
"Hello. Look Lin, I just want the story before Mom kills you."
"Mom's not going to kill me."
"I'm not so sure. Dad's angry too, and it's always bad when both of them are mad over the same thing." A groom took hold of Niklar and led him to the stable. Zoe stared at her brother waiting for his response.
Lin grabbed hold of bother her shoulders and gave her a little shake. "I made a decision, Stick, and I acted on it. I'm not sorry I did, and neither Mom nor Dad is going to make me feel sorry." He let go of Zoe and offered his arm to Elaine. Elaine took hold of it, puzzled, but did not ask any questions--even about Zoe's stupid nickname--as he led her into the Palace.
"Great, he's gone macho and stupid to impress a girl." Zoe muttered to herself as she ran into the tower across the yard. "Aunt Lissa! Aunt Lissa!"
Lissa came down the stairs rapidly. "Quiet, Zoe; Lyle's napping. What's wrong?"
"Lin's come home with a strange girl and I don't think he understands just how mad Mom and Dad are about him running off and you have to make sure they don't kill him!"
"Calm down. They're not going to kill Lin. They're just upset over the way he decided to assert his independence." A wailing vibrating down the stairs. "Now, you can put Lyle back to sleep." Zoe grudgingly headed up the stairs, and Lissa quickly moved across the courtyard and entered the main portion of the North Palace.
The courier entered the throne room with a pinched, worried expression. "Prince Lin has returned, your Majesties. Accompanied by a strange young woman." He waited by the door for a reply.
Zelda, we agreed that he could go. Link told her telepathically as laid a hand on her arm.
That was before we knew he had left. Her lips were pressed together so tight, the part between them could barely be seen.
Let me handle this.
Because you always overreact to situations when Lin's involved. And when you overreact, you come down harder on him.
You're always too easy on him! And Zoe as well. As long as they mimic your impulsive, irresponsible behavior, you couldn't be happier.
And that's what this is?
Of course it is. He runs off without telling anyone, comes back with a strange girl; what do you think it is?
I don't know. Link removed his hand from her arm. I want to hear Lin's side.
Fine. You handle it.
Link sighed. Zelda had that tone in her mind that she was just waiting for him to screw up. He turned to the courier. "Show them in."
Lin escorted the black-haired girl in a silver dress into the throne room. Lissa stole in quietly behind them. Zoe was right. Lissa had never seen Zelda so tense before. Link didn't look happy either, but at least he was calm.
Lin took a deep breath and steeled himself. "Mom, Dad, this Elaine, Lady Elaine. I... I rescued her. Elaine, these are my parents, Queen Zelda and Prince Link."
Elaine curtseyed deeply and her dark head bobbed down. "Your Majesties," she said quietly.
Lissa stepped forward. "I'll show the Lady to a room. I know you don't want to be disturbed."
Lin looked slightly relieved. No, he probably didn't want a huge family squabble in front of the woman he just rescued. "This is my aunt, Lady Lissa."
Elaine curtseyed again with a puzzled air. She followed Lissa out a side door into a hall. "Forgive me, your ladyship, but I feel that I have met you before."
Lissa smiled, "It's all right, Lady Elaine. Many people have that feeling about me."
"Is Lin in some type of trouble? His sister seemed to think he was."
"I'm sure it won't be that bad once he explains his actions. But what about you? I suppose you'll want to find your husband."
Elaine twisted the wedding band on her finger. "I suppose I should. But how did you know?"
"There is very little I don't know. But concern yourself with the present and not the past. Your husband is in the past."
Elaine gave a small relieved sigh. "Then he is dead. I knew it--deep in my heart. Something felt different when I awoke." She twisted the wedding band off her finger. "It's better this way. One should be free when awakened by a handsome prince."
"One should be free, regardless," Lissa replied. "Marriage isn't a trap."
"Only in the best circumstances. My marriage never gave me or my husband any happiness." Elaine looked out an open hall window. The battlement walkway was below and just beyond the battlement wall was the moat. She flung her hand out the window. The golden circle spun out into the air, visible for only a brief second. "Best thing to do is to let go and start anew."
Lissa opened the door to a bedroom. "A servant will be here shortly, just ask her for whatever you need." Elaine nodded. Lissa smiled as she left, shutting the door behind her.
Link sat down on the dais beside Zelda's throne. "Start from the beginning, Junior, and don't skip anything."
Lin gulped. Dad only called him Junior when he was angry. "When Zoe and I were going to the archery range, I didn't go. Zoe covered for me and I went exploring. Don't blame Zoe, she had no idea what happened. There were six moblins in one part of the woods. I zapped them all." Even his caution to keep Zoe out of trouble couldn't keep the pride out of his voice. "I thought I saw something in the woods, but I came back home. It bothered me though, and I left the next night to see what it was. When I reached the area again, these four moblins were carrying a box. Elaine was in the box. So I zapped the moblins and brought her here."
"Lin, you know better." Zelda said not as angrily as Lin had feared. "You're not supposed to go into the forests alone. What is it had been a trap? What is there had been more moblins?"
"I would have zapped them too. Or outrun them on Niklar. I know I disobeyed, but if I hadn't Elaine would be in Ganon's grasp."
"And you think that makes up for your disobeying?" Zelda demanded.
"I'm eighteen years old. How long am I going to have to follow them same rules as the twins?"
"As long as you keep acting irresponsibly and impulsively!"
Lin took a deep breath. That was the only way he acted in his mother's eyes. "Acting irresponsibly would have been to not tell you and to not go back to see what the moblins were up to. Maybe I should have told someone where I was going, but if I had told you, you wouldn't have sent me to see. And I came in here and asked the Triforce what was going on. It said evil is rising." He held up his right hand and pointed to his birthmark. "This means I'm a warrior and I have to fight evil. And as Crown Prince I have the responsibility to protect this kingdom. But I'm going to do it the way I think is best."
Zelda opened her mouth, then shut it tightly without responding.
"Your aunt isn't a warrior," Link said quietly.
"Aunt Lissa is something else entirely."
"You're the Crown Prince, not a warrior," Zelda insisted.
"Why can't I be both? Because Ganon wants to kill me? How is being the Crown Prince going to keep me safe? It's no protection. That's why you trained me to fight. When are you going to trust me to use what I've been taught?"
"Never," Link answered. Zelda and Lin both stared at him. "Isn't that true, Zelda?"
"It's not true," she protested. "But fighting Ganon isn't something to take lightly."
"I'm not taking it lightly, Mom. I call him Pig-face for the same reason Dad does; he hates it."
"That's true. He does hate being called that."
"Can't you take this seriously?" Zelda cried at her husband.
"I am," he answered softly. "Seriously and honestly. Lin isn't a child and he deserves a say in his own future. And we should tell him why he can't do what he wants to do."
"I want to fight Ganon. Someone has too. Why do you have such a problem with that?" Lin held his breath.
Link looked up at Zelda. "I just don't want to see you get hurt," she answered. "Any of you children. You don't understand how evil he is."
"I'm fighting. With or without your approval."
"And our opinion doesn't matter?" Link asked.
"It matters, but it can't control my life." Lin looked up at his mother. "I'm not going to be stupid about that. I'm not going to knock on Ganon's door and tell him to come out and fight. But when he causes trouble for Hyrule, I'm going to cause trouble for him."
Zelda sighed. "All I want for my children is for them to be safe. But I do know that sometimes you have to fight for safety." She bowed her head and closed her green eyes. "I won't stop you from being what you want to be."
Lin grinned, "Thank you, Mom! Thank you!"
"Wait," Link said. "There's still the problem with your disobeying the rules. You did break them and you should be punished."
Lin felt his forehead wrinkle with worry. Mom was the one you couldn't convince; Dad had always been on their side. Had he shifted because she had?
"So I think your punishment should be a tour of Hyrule on your own. It'll have to start after we figure out what Ganon wants with Lady Elaine." He looked into Lin's shining green eyes and winked. "No good saying you're going to protect a kingdom you've never really seen."
"Yes, sir," Lin answered softly. "I'll do my best."
Elaine sat down on the bed and looked down at her bare hands. "What do I do now that I'm free? Follow my heart? But how can I trust it again?" A quick knocking on the door filled the room. Elaine took a deep breath. "Come in."
The brown-eyed and brown-haired girl wearing trousers and boots that had greeted her and Lin in the courtyard of the Palace entered carrying some dresses draped over her arm. "Hi, I'm Princess Zoe, Lin's sister. Sorry about earlier, but I was worried about Lin."
"Why would his parents be upset with him?"
Zoe sighed. "Mom has a problem believing that me and Lin can take care of ourselves. Lin isn't supposed to do anything that can get him killed. And I'm not supposed to do anything that isn't ladylike."
Elaine smiled. "Neither of you listen very well, do you?"
"I'm no good at being ladylike. I can't dance or sing. I trip on the hems of dresses when I have to wear them. Not to mention I'm the most masculine looking girl ever born. I say the wrong them at the wrong time. Mom gets mad when I make a fool out of myself and she gets mad when I don't try to be a perfect lady. So I can't win."
"He was very brave to rescue me. He shouldn't be punished."
Zoe shrugged. "Aunt Lissa didn't think he would be punished too badly. She also thought you might want to change." She laid the dresses on the bed. "Take your pick or keep them all. I don't wear them at all if I can help it."
"Thank you." Elaine picked up the top dress on the pile. "I think fashion has changed while I slept."
"What happened to you?"
"I do not know. I must have been under a spell for years. Long enough for my husband to die."
"How long were you married?"
"I married when I was thirteen and the last birthday I can remember was my seventeenth."
"You're only a year older than me!"
"We married young. Now do you see why I say that this is a different time?"
Zoe frowned as sat down in a nearby chair."You don't seem very upset that he's dead."
"It was an arranged marriage. I was infatuated with him, the greatest knight of the king's knights, but it wore off quickly as I realized his heart belonged to another. It does not matter now. Not while I have some evil creature after me."
"Ganon, huh? What does he want with you?"
"I have no idea," Elaine responded bewilderedly.
Zoe stood. "I have to get ready for dinner. Don't worry, you're safe her in the North Palace. And I'm sure Lin will be trying as hard as he can to figure out what Ganon's up to."
The maid entered the bedroom as Zoe left. "I've drawn your bath, your ladyship. Princess Zoe gave you some dresses? They'll probably need altering a bit; her Highness isn't as shapely as you are." The maid pulled a sky-blue dress from the pile. "This is a perfect shade for you. And it won't be too much work to get ready for dinner. It was always big on the Princess."
After her bath, Elaine put on the dress. Fitting perfectly, the color brought out the blue in her eyes. The maid helped her brush and style the black hair that cascaded to the middle of her back.
A double knock hit the door. The maid crossed the room and admitted two children, a boy and a girl. They looked about ten-years-old and had the same blonde hair and brown eyes. A raven perched on the boy's shoulder and a mountain lion sauntered into the room at the girl's side. "Hello," they said at the same time.
"I'm Kevin," the boy announced. "I'm studying magic."
"I'm Kelamane," the girl announced. "I'm studying monsters. I have a book on all the monsters in the kingdom--their strong and weak points."
Kevin came closer and said in a conspiring whisper. "We can help you whenever you need it. Remember that."
They left the room. Kelamane turned at the door and waved, "Bye."
"M'lady, that was a miracle," the maid gaped. "Them twins don't try to do anything for any guests of the Palace! You're someone special in their eyes!"
Lin knocked on the opened door. "I'm not interrupting?"
Elaine stood, "Not at all. You look much more like a prince now."
Lin touched the thin gold crown that kept his long brown hair pulled away from his forehead. "It's this thing, that's all. I decided to dress up to please Mom." He ran his hand down the front of his silken jerkin, then crocked his arm toward Elaine.
Elaine silently disagreed, his manner and bearing had changed. He seemed more comfortable and less worried. She took his offered arm and walked out of the room by his side.
"Zelda's worried." Josh announced as he climbed the final steps outside his wife's laboratory and entered the tower-wide room. Lissa had been spending most of her free time here since Lin brought Elaine to the Palace about a week ago.
"Zelda stays worried." Lissa did not look up from the parchment she was writing on. "She worries about what she can control and what she can't control. She should take a few lessons from her father and Link and learn to relax."
"Well, now she's worried about the time Lin and Elaine are spending together. The whole Palace is gossiping about them." He sat down on the couch set against the same wall and right beside the writing desk and watched Lissa's face.
"I think it's sweet. We were young once. Don't you remember?"
"But Elaine is the first girl Lin has ever considered romantically. You shouldn't get serious with your first."
"You were my first." Lissa looked up briefly. "You don't understand how hard it is to find someone who isn't intimidated by your differences. Zelda's made that even harder being so paranoid Ganon might touch the kids."
"'Fess up, Lissa. You've been playing matchmaker!"
"Someone has to."
"I can't believe you."
Lissa thrust her quill into the ink well. "Don't take that tone. You know perfectly well that I am the Guardian of what has happened, must happen, and shall happen. That means I have to set things in motion. Besides, ordinary people do it too. Zelda's father used to tell me stories of how he helped Link woo Zelda. And apparently Link needed a lot of help."
"Stop getting so defensive. I know what you have to do. So where does Elaine come from?"
"Another universe. I traveled to the kingdom where Elaine spent most of her life. I made friends with the king's advisor--business relations, he was a Gensiarian. While I was there, Elaine fell deathly ill. My friend was reluctant to heal her for her part in their drama was over. So I healed her in Hyrule. She's dead in that kingdom, but her husband placed her in Hyrule with a sleeping spell on her coffin. She would sleep forever if it was closed."
"Why?" Josh asked.
"Because she was miserable. She had to marry her husband and have his son, but he didn't love her. He was kind and apologetic but his heart belong to another woman and he didn't bother to hide it from his wife. I thought she deserved a chance to find someone who would love her for who she is."
"So why does Ganon want her?"
"I don't know, Josh. And because of Lin, it worries me."
"Let's go down to Castle-town," Lin suggested.
Elaine frowned slightly. "Are you sure it is safe?"
"You've been here at the Palace for two weeks and we haven't heard anything from Ganon. Maybe he's waiting for you to come out. Besides, it's Market Day and you shouldn't miss it."
"But if Ganon is waiting for me to leave?"
"I'll be with you. And if he does send monsters after you, they won't get very far."
He was completely serious, but she smiled. "All right, let's go."
Lin felt his heart pound. He realized that he would do anything to see her smile, even look like the biggest fool there ever was.
They walked down the main road from the Palace to the town nestled beneath its hill. Castle-town was one of the larger towns in Hyrule. Market Day usually took place once a month and merchants from the entire kingdom invaded the town with the faint hope of impressing the Royal Family with their wares. Vendors lined the streets in every spot that did not block a door. They yelled at the passersby, each trying to be louder than the neighboring booths and carts.
Lin laughed. "Poor Dad." He pointed out the group to Elaine's wide blue-grey eyes. Kevin and Kelamane had a hold of both Link's hands and were dragging him into a bookstore. "He hates bookstores."
"But he is such a good storyteller."
"He believes that writing it down ruins the story. He'll buy Kev and Kela whatever they want just to get out of there as fast as possible. And the twins know it."
A passer-by jostled Elaine and Lin. She stumbled and Lin grabbed her hand. She blushed as she straightened but did not let go. Lin swallowed hard and led her down the street.
"Some jewelry for the pretty lady?" A woman crooned from her cart. "A ring, a bracelet, a necklace?" She held up some samples.
Lin paused. "Do you see anything you like?"
Elaine bent her head over the cart to view the merchandise better, and hesitantly untwined her hand from Lin's. He let it go and glanced at the jewelry in the cart.
"Leave me alone!"
Lin quickly turned his head. Zoe was across the street, struggling with a bulky package and with two young men who had decided to help her.
"I said I was going to help the Princess." The red-haired young man jerked the package.
"I said I would." The black-haired young man jerked the package back.
"Just go away!" Zoe jerked her package back. They both let go and she stumbled back into the booth behind her. The flimsy shelves gave way, and the glass figurines they held crashed against the unyielding ground.
Zoe stumbled away. "I'm so sorry!" Her hand pounced inside a pouch on her belt. The young men vanished in the crowd that was starting to gather.
"My wares!" the old woman wailed. "You clumsy child! Do you realize how long my husband worked on those? Why can't you be more like your mother? She would never crash into someone one's booth. But then she was a true lady and knew how to behave like one. Too bad she didn't stop your father from letting you run wild. Stop that gaping. By the Triforce, it makes you look even more unattractive. Don't you have anything to say for yourself?"
The entire section of the street was watching the scene. The vendors stopped yelling and their customers turned from their shopping to watch. Lin could see Zoe knew she was the center of this attention. Her shoulders shook slightly and her jaw clenched as she closed her mouth. He started to trot across the street.
Zoe never saw her brother. "You horrible old woman!" exploded from her mouth. Her fist jumped out of her pouch and threw three rupees at the shattered remains of the shelves and glass. The red gems sparkled brighter than the glass fragments they laid with. Zoe hugged the long, bulky package--it was taller than she was--and ran through the crowd.
"Zoe!" Lin cried. But she continued running. He strode up to the glass figurine vendor. "You had no right saying those things!"
"But my wares!" she protested.
"It was an accident and she was trying to apologize and pay for them. You had no right to call her ugly and wild."
"But Prince Lin, look at the way she reacted. The Queen would never behave in such a manner," a passer-by commented.
"My sister is not my mother!"
Elaine grabbed his hand. "Come, Lin. Let's go." He let her pull him away from the crowd and down another street. It was not one of the main roads through Castle-town and was empty of vendors and shoppers. "Does that happen often?"
"What, me losing my temper?"
"No, Zoe being compared to your mother."
Lin sighed and laced his fingers together with Elaine's. "Too often. She takes more after Dad, but it seems that everyone in the kingdom thinks that is a defect. They're so busy comparing her to Mom, they can't see her true talents." They reached the outskirts of Castle-town and Lin turned their direction back to the Palace as they continued walking. "She's got a knack for fighting. She has no problems learning how to use whatever weapon she picks up. She's a better swordsman that I am, but don't tell Mom."
"I take it that's one of things Zoe's not supposed to do because it is unladylike."
"Pretty much. I'm sorry I ruined Market Day for you."
Elaine's blue-grey eyes stared up into his green ones. "I don't think it was ruined at all."
Zelda rubbed her left temple as she walked through the corridor. Market Day had corresponded with this month's council meeting, so the Palace had been twice as busy as normal. Both ended around sunset and now she was free but nothing about the day had been enjoyable, at least not for her.
She rounded a corner and stopped. A man and a woman were standing in a shadowy alcove, locked together in a passionate embrace. His fingers combed through the young lady's black hair, pulling it free from its loose braid. Zelda smiled, remembering how Link would ambush her for kisses at this spot when they were newlywed. She almost coughed discreetly, but stopped. The couple was Lin and Elaine. She retreated back round the corner.
Lin and Elaine? She could understand the attraction. Link had rescued her so many years ago, and look where that had ended. But Link had proved himself over and over again as they battled Ganon. No one knew anything about Elaine, except perhaps Lissa and Lissa wasn't telling.
You had to make your own mistakes with love. And ultimately you had to listen to your own heart. Advice would be useless. But she still felt uneasy, as if something unseen was lurking in the shadows to attack her son. By the Triforce, she hated this feeling!
Zelda retreated further down the corridor. Zoe was heading toward her, and reminded her of another unpleasant task still waiting. "Zoe, about what happened in Castle-town today?"
Her daughter grimaced. "You heard."
"Did you think that just because I have been locked up in a council meeting all day I wouldn't hear? The whole Palace is talking about how you broke that poor woman's wares and yelled at her. Whatever possessed you to behave so?"
"It was an accident," she muttered. "I lost my temper."
"Another accident. Do you go looking for them on purpose? Every time you set foot outside the Palace something always happens and you show your worst possible side. Don't you ever stop and think about what others are going to think?"
"That's all I ever do!" Zoe yelled. "Nothing I do is ever good enough for them or for you! And maybe my accidents aren't accidents! Maybe they're just what happens to normal people who aren't perfect!" She stormed around her mother.
Lin came around the corner of the corridor. His green eyes narrowed in concern. Zoe stopped in front of him. "Lin, can you...." Elaine stepped up behind him. Zoe grimaced again. "Never mind." She continued storming down the corridor.
"If that's how she acted, no wonder everyone is talking," Zelda observed.
Lin sighed. "Mom, it was an accident. Zoe was trying to apologize but the woman started harping on her and she lost her temper. She did pay for the wares she broke."
"And it wasn't all her fault. The two young men that were fighting over who should carry her package ran off before they could be humiliated," Elaine added.
"It was really those creeps fault. Zoe kept telling them to leave her alone."
Elaine smiled at Lin. "They were competing for her attention. Of course, they were not paying attention to her."
"That doesn't change the fact that Zoe needs to learn to control that temper and how to behave like the people expect a princess to behave." Zelda took a deep breath. "She's sixteen-years-old; she should know better." She started to walk down the corridor.
She could hear Lin's exasperated sigh. "Let's go to the library. At least it will be quiet there."
Elaine wouldn't look at Lin, focusing instead on the spines of books. "I don't think I can do this again."
"Do what?" Lin sat down on a settee.
"Fall in love."
"You were in love with your husband?"
"I thought I was. But I was wrong. How do I know I'm not wrong now?" She bowed her head.
Lin stood up and gently took hold of her shoulders. He turned her around. "Because I feel the same way. Scared, excited, happy. I want to be with you. I want to make you smile. And I want to ring your husband's neck for making you frightened of your own feelings."
She smiled. "Good for him that he is dead. Probably a good thing for you too."
"Avoiding the fighting in front of you instead of listening to you stage."
"Yes," she laughed slightly.
"Elaine, how do you feel about me?"
"I've wanted to kiss you ever since you rescued me. And the longer I know you, the more I want to be with you. But you are a prince."
"My father wasn't born a prince. And my parents can't tell me who I can marry. Not as long as I love her with all my heart and soul."
"You haven't known me long enough to love me that much."
Lin pulled her closer. "Yes, I have."
There was a knock at the door. "Everyone in the Palace has lousy timing," he growled. Elaine pulled away and sat down in one of the easy chairs. "Come in, blast it!" Lin turned to the door with a scowl.
A tall blond-haired man wearing the uniform of the Palace guards entered the library. "I beg your pardon, Prince Lin. But I have a dilemma that I thought best not to bring to their Majesties' attention."
"You always know how to phrase things to make people curious, Captain Krin." Lin's face lost its scowl and he sat back down on the settee. "What's wrong?"
"Princess Zoe came to me a while ago wanting to practice with swords. We did, and she fought more expertly that I would have expected. The only reason I won is because she was very angry over something and was not concentrating as hard as she should."
"Well, I taught her swordplay behind Mom's back. If that's what you're asking," Lin admitted.
"No, your Highness. I already knew you practiced with the Princess. It was the only explanation for the improvement you showed with the amount of practice you did around the Palace. However the Queen has forbidden the Princess from learning swordplay. And it is my duty to obey the Queen."
"Keep practicing with her." Elaine folded her hands in her lap. "Zoe needs it to work out her anger, and practicing with someone else will aid her skills. With such dangerous monsters around, she will probably have to use them one day. But the Queen should not be told until she is ready to accept that her daughter is talented in other areas than herself."
Lin blinked his green eyes twice. "That's brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. If Mom came around about me, surely she will about Zoe some day. Absolutely brilliant. Marry me."
"What?" Elaine's mouth fell open as Lin dropped down to one knee in front of her chair.
"Thank you for the advice, Lady Elaine. I'll leave you two alone." Captain Krin left the library and shut the door behind himself.
Elaine stared down at Lin. "You have to be kidding."
"No, I'm not. I love you and I want to marry you. What's the problem?"
"You are a prince. You have to marry someone who will make a good queen."
"You are kind, gentle, beautiful, with heaps of common sense. I haven't met anyone more qualified than you, Elaine. And if you say I have to marry a princess because I'm a prince, my mother already broke that rule."
"I do not think your parents approve of me."
"Their approval isn't required." Lin took a deep breath. "All that matters is I love you and you love me."
"I love you, Lin. But this is so sudden." Elaine reached down and touched his cheek. Lin caught her hand and kept it pressed there. "Let me think about it."
"Of course!" He released her hand. "Take all the time you want. No pressure. I'm positive about you and this. Dad was the same way about Mom. I want you to be just as sure." He stood up and hooked his thumbs into his belt. "We should probably head to bed now. I'll walk you back to your room, unless you'd rather me not."
"I do not mind."
Elaine felt a violent shake on her shoulder. "Wake up, Elaine! It's urgent!" She opened her eyes to see Lady Lissa's worried face floating above her.
"What's wrong?" She asked, her voice still thick with sleep.
"I can't explain, but dress. I'm going to wake up Lin." Elaine obeyed. Lin and his aunt met her in the corridor outside her room. Lin was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. "Couldn't this wait, Aunt Lissa?"
"No, it couldn't. Someone called a council of the Immortals about Elaine. Come on, we don't have all night." Lissa led them out of the main Palace, across the courtyard and into her tower.
"About me? Why?"
"I don't know." Lissa admitted as she led them up the stairs past the door that led the parlor, past the closed-off floor of their bedrooms, up to her laboratory. "But I believe Ganon is instigating it."
Lin offered his hand. Elaine took hold of it, and held it tightly. "We knew Ganon was up to something. But why is dragging the Gensiarians into it?" He asked.
"You want me to give Ganon's motivation? Sorry Lin,. I don't go around randomly peering into heads. The only way I could tell you what Ganon is planning is if he makes it blatant."
Lyle climbed up the stairs outside the door and tottered into the room. "Mommy. Me go."
Lissa caught him up in her arms and planted a hurried kiss on his cheek. "No, darling, not yet. Stay with Daddy." She took him back down the stairs and quickly came back up. "Let's go."
Elaine gripped Lin's hand harder. "What shall happen?"
"I don't know, but don't worry. Aunt Lissa will get us out of this."
The familiar surroundings of Aunt Lissa's laboratory faded into black. There was no sudden flash of light or loud explosion. Suddenly, they stood inside an infinite black space and were surrounded by scores of men and women in grey robes.
"The whelp comes armed?"
They turned to meet the sneering voice. The speaker towered a foot over everyone else, and wore a richly embroidered navy-blue robe. His pig's snout grinned around his tusks.
Elaine's grip on Lin's hand tightened. "Is that?" she whispered.
"Yeah, that's Ganon."
"Guardian, why have you brought a mortal to this meeting?" A woman with silver eyes standing near Lissa asked.
"And why does he wear a sword?" A man with silver eyes asked.
"This meeting concerns the fate of the woman he loves. He deserves to be here." Lissa glared at Ganon. "and the rest of us are armed in some fashion, except for Elaine. She needs a protector."
"The mortal may remain." A clear voice rang out across the empty space milling with people. "The deliberations will begin. Present your case, Ganon."
Lin was slowly losing feeling in his hand.
Ganon slowly and with pseudo-majesty, stepped to the middle of the crowd. Smiling and nodding, he tried to greet everyone silently. "I asked that the Immortal Council review this case, so that my motives will not seem evil. Even though you find the Realm of the Dead in my Dark Realm, I have no jurisdiction there. But it has been brought to my attention that one of the dead is acting as a living human." Ganon dramatically threw his arm. "The Lady Elaine, whose natural life ended centuries ago!"
Lin jumped forward. Elaine released his hand. "That's a bloody lie!" He shouted vehemently, hand on his sword hilt.
Lissa pulled him back. "Behave yourself," she whispered angrily. She turned to the larger group. "I'm not going to deny any of this. You knew of my actions when they began, why didn't you stop them then?" The Council didn't answer. "This girl died in her world, but she isn't dead in Hyrule. Let her live her life."
"Once dead, always dead," Ganon hissed.
"What are you doing, Ganon?" Lissa murmured too low for anyone but the Prince of Evil to hear. "Are you tired of your rule?"
The voice rang out again. "The Lady Elaine shall go to the Realm of the Dead."
Elaine's face, stone-white, shone out against the midnight background. Lissa grabbed her swaying form.
"No!" Lin screamed, drawing his sword. But he was back in the laboratory, hacking away at the couch.
Josh ran in, his robe flapping about him like giant wings. His arm sprayed out and a golden dust flew from his fingers. Lin swayed and dropped his sword, then himself beside it.