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My Dearest Enemy
by Archone

My eyes adjusted slowly to the gloom of the dungeon room. Though I could have illuminated the darkness with a single casting of my magic candle, I did not bother. I knew what I would find. The statues that spat balls of deadly magic. The tiled floor in the semblance of a Hylian skull. And the master of it all. He loomed up out of the darkness, his hideous visage contorted in an angry sneer, his tusks glinting with the prospect of imminent bloodshed.

"Go away, Ganon," I said. "You're dead. You can't hurt me."

His laughter boomed, a disgusting, snorting chuckle emanating from the depths of his mammoth chest. "Maybe so, Link," he leered, "but I will return anon. In the meantime, I shall amuse myself in my shadowy existance by tormenting thy dreams. Bid a fond greetings to an era of sleepless nights."

My own sneer matched his for contemptousness. "Go ahead, hambone," I smirked, "there's nothing you can do that's worse than my waking hours."

Ganon blinked his beady eyes, then cooed. "Oooh... thou art in pain?" A chair materialized underneath me. "Sit thee down and tell Papa Ganon all the details." I sighed and relaxed into the chair, composing my dictation in my head.

I debated where to start. The beginning seemed like the best place. "You remember Princess Zelda, don't you?"

"Oh yes... a most, er, forceful... maiden."

"Yeah, well, after I made a silver shish-kebab out of your heart-"


"-I went in to brave your unholy fires of imprisonment, and rescue the princess."


"She was... grateful..."


"She was expecting Impa to send her a champion, a warrior of unparalleled courage and skill, with sword and sorcery at his command..."

"And her every desire was fulfilled. I would not be, um, shall we say, living impaired, if thou were not all that she had expected."

"Yes... but she was expecting me to look more like the guy on the cover of the romance novel she was reading at the time. Phlavio or something like that."

"Ph-Phla-thou dost mean the muscle bound pirate king from the books I did grant her in her boredom? Tooled like a stallion, and with tresses unto a golden shower?"

"That's the one." I waited for Ganon's laughter to die down. And waited. Finally, I continued. "She was... polite about it, and everything. She wasn't too obvious about her dissapointment."

"How old wast thee?"

"15, at the time."

"What did she expect?"

"Uh huh. Anyway, I lived at the palace. My right, as "champion." I helped out whenever I could, routing your forces. Didn't get much help from her standing army, though. I was "the runt," her Highness' little pet, not deserving to fight at the side of real warriors."

"Nor should thou desire such paltry aid. I once used possessed Hylian soldiers as my forces. I did not repeat that choice."

"Yeah. Well, when I turned 16, I had a mark appear on my hand. Impa told me that it meant that I was the one meant to reclaim the third Triforce, the Triforce of Courage, and become the new King."

"I searched for that accursed Gold, to no avail."

"In the Great Palace, on the other continent."

"Behind impenetrable magic shields. Of course."

"And when I recovered the third Triforce, Princess Zelda awoke."

"Was she napping?"

"Zelda II. When the Triforce was hidden in the first place, events took place that resulted in her being placed under an endless sleep, until someone reclaimed the Triforce and awoke her."

"Zelda II... and Zelda XVII. How did she take the news?"

"She hit the roof, and came down screaming. I don't know whether she was more pissed that I was her new King, or that Zelda II decided that I was her one true love. SHE follows me around like a puppy. And now Zelda XVII is fighting her over me. This despite the fact that she didn't want me in the first place."

"So the maidens doth be battling over thee... and who doth be winning?"

"I can't get any peace. One will try to court me, then the other. Then the catfights start."

His laughter boomed. "But surely, thou art the King. Canst thou not claim whatever maiden thou wish, do as thee please?"

I laughed this time. A wryly bitter laugh. "The King does whatever is best for the country. His advisors decide what that is."

"By the Gold, hast thou no power of thy own?"

"I don't even dress myself."

"Thou...?" I shimmered a moment, then appeared in my royal raiments. And Ganon took one look at the silk, lace, and ruffles, and collapsed on his tiled skull floor, shaking helplessly with laughter.

"Ah... ah... ah... thou hast the right of it, Link. There is not a thing I can do that would best the fate thou hast unleashed upon thyself. I shall embark upon a new path-giving thee restful slumber. Thou shalt need it..."

"Wake up!"


"Wake up, Your Majesty." The young man continued to shake my shoulder, until I groaned and waved him away. "Here, my King. I have chosen a fitting garb for the day's work." I opened one bloodshot eye, and gazed disgustedly at the apparel.

Where is it written that a King must look like a velveteen doll with the cotton coming out at the seams?

I submitted to the inevitable, and wrapped myself in velvet, lace, and silk, then went out in search of a matter of true importance. I went to get breakfast.

"Greetings, milord." Zelda II was first to greet me as I entered the hall. As usual. She was dressed in a pale gown of fine cloth, looking like a delicate figurine. As usual. She curtseyed gracefully, then held out her slim hand for me to take. I offered my arm, which she happily accepted.

"Good morning, my champion." Zelda XVII was next. She chose to accentuate her figure, the result of constant exercise with bow and horse, with well tailored shirt, pants, and vest. Why can't I wear something simple like that?

I took her hand as well, and we sat down to breakfast. One thing about being royalty, we eat well enough. Four eggs, cooked through, went from my plate to my stomach with a sigh of contentment. Sticky buns, fruited pastries, and cornbread muffins, all fresh from the oven. Freshly squeezed juice. Warm milk straight from the cow. I ate my fill, while Zelda XVII contented herself with somewhat less and Zelda II still less. That was a relief. At one time, they had competed to see who could be the most "dainty," as in, who could eat the least amount at mealtime, then gorge on sweets when no one was looking. That finally stopped when I went searching for a midnight snack and came across each of them, in their own little alcove, with heaping bowlfulls of iced cream in their hands.

Soon enough, the food disappeared, into my gullet, Zelda and Zelda's, Impa's, my chief advisor, a pretentious little man named Stefan who obviously enjoyed wearing HIS silk and lace, and the notables who had been invited to sup with the King. Without the King being apprised of his dining companions beforehand, of course.

That is how I came to be splitting a danish with a Moblin. He was nice about it, though. He let me have the bigger piece.


After breakfast, I was able to steal away for exercises, an item in my schedule that Impa had had to fight long and hard to cram in with the meetings, briefings, speeches, and public appearances. Nevertheless, 3 hours a day were spent in blissful physical exertion.

Today was swordsmanship day. The finest instructors and swordsmen in the land were available to work on my technique. Another perk of being King. If you call them, they will come.

By the time practice ended, I was stripped to the waist, covered in sweat. A sword fully ten times the weight of the real thing, a good 15 lbs, was resting in my left hand, a shield of solid lead gripped in my right. We'd worked on drills to work on technique, sparring to improve technique. Now it was endurance and strength training, merely holding the heavy arms and swinging in basic, simple patterns. Over and over, while my arms screamed.

From the balcony high above, Zelda II was watching me with a contented sigh. I had filled out considerably, and my frame, wiry rather than bulky, was corded with sinewy bands of steel, rippling with every movement. From the stables, Zelda XVII watched me with an inscrutable expression, as she rubbed down her horse.

"That's enough." My instructor, a veteran knight whose original pink skin was now completely hidden behind wrinkles and scars, giving him the appearance of old rawhide, took the practice arms away, and I stumbled over to the bucket. Heaving the thing up with my exhausted arms, I dumped the cold water over my head. I dipped the bucket into the well again, and repeated. And again, until I was cold and clean. Then I Stumbled off to where Thomas, my faithful little valet, waited to again dress me up like a peacock.

I quickly scarfed down a couple of meatrolls in lieu of an elaborate lunch. It was high noon. The start of my labors.

At 12:15 I was appraised of the current political situation, as of that morning. So that's why a Moblin was eating half of my danish. He's the ambassador, looking to establish peace. My advisors "advised" me to sieze the chance.

At 1:00 I appeared on the throne and listened to visiting V.I.P.s extoll my virtues, praising me to the skies, before being routed to Stefan to engage in real business.

At 2:00 I read a proclamation saying that bread was good. The millers-who had given a sizable "gift" to Stefan- were very happy.

At 2:30 I stated that chicken was a very tasty meat, good for any occasion. The chicken farmers were very happy. I would be having chicken that night, courtesy of same.

At 3:00 I supported education. I showed up at a school and gave a windy speech, telling the kids to study hard and listen to their parents.

At 4:00 I healed the sick. I showed up at a hospital and dispensed potions to the sick, while people watched.

At 5:00 I received an ambassador from a nation called Sade, to the east, with whom we'd been looking to obtain a trade agreement that would give us access to their precious silver mines. Only the King of Hyrule possessed that mineral known as Gold, but silver was only slightly more abundant-and incredibly useful when it came to things arcane. The ambassador insulted me to my face, commented on the revealing garments (face and arms exposed) worn by the princesses, then went on about the might of Sade's warriors.

At 6:00 I finally sat myself at the banquet table, to see how the chickens had been cut into boneless fillets and cooked with an incredibly rich sauce of honey and exotic fruits, served on a rice pilaf. I enjoyed the chicken, and savored the glass of white wine, an incredible vintage, very rare. The Sade ambassador drained the bottle, ate with his hands, then expressed his admiration for the meal by belching so powerfully that the candelabra was extinguished.

At 7:00 I went to bed.


"And thou canst slay him not, lest thee lose the silver trade?" Ganon snickered. I nodded glumly and glanced around at the decor. The stone altar was a nice touch.

"Who is the young lady, anyway?" I jerked my head at the naked young woman, chained to the altar, who stared up at nothing while her lips moved soundlessly.

"One of my wizzrobes. She lies there of her own free will, if that doth ease thy worries."

"What's she saying?"

"Prayers beseeching my favor. Anon, she'll be ravaged by Lionels."

"Of her own free will?"

"No mortal serves me, lest they be already corrupt." Ganon's eyes gleamed. "I could command her to assume the visage of one of her hignesses, if you liked."

I didn't even consider it. For more than a few seconds, anyway. "That's ok."

"By the bye... what dost thou with the Power of Gold?"

"The Triforce? It's in my study, with all my books on magic. None of which I get to read. Not enough time, you see. Tomorrow I'm going to plough the first row of the spring planting. Have to show everyone I'm still in touch with the common people, you know."

"Wear not the lace."


Again, I woke far too early for my taste. Thomas again dressed me, and I went out to breakfast. The Moblin ate all the bacon before I'd finished my toast. The Sade complained about the pork being served, then compensated by eating twice as much toast with too much marmalade. Both of them watched when I went to practice archery. I was masterful. As usual. I had used a bow for food and war since I was old enough to hold the silly thing. The Sade boasted about the prowess of their Dervish cavalry, with their bows. The Moblin provided some unexpected support when he explained that the bow I was using had slain the Master of Darkness himself, to say nothing of the many Moblin warriors who'd fallen at my hands. I would probably have made more of an impression if I hadn't been wearing the damn silk.

That day was spent in hammering out negotiations with the two. This consisted of me sitting on my throne and looking impressive while Stefan did the actual negotiation. Occasionally, I'd voice an objection. Stefan would always look quietly offended, then somehow manage to seamlessly blend my suggestion into his propositions without altering the fundamental nature of the agreements in any way. The agreements seemed to be mostly consisting of accepting whatever we could get. The Moblin was eager enough to get peace. It seemed he used to have three brothers, but was now an only child. He suggested that I had done it personally, somehow managing to imply that he was honored rather than outraged that the great Link had killed his kin.

The Sade demanded money, wine, land... I finally stood up and walked out when he demanded Zelda XVII as a concubine. Seems that strong women were something of a novelty for him. Stefan followed me out, even his quietly arrogant demeanor ruffled by the Sade. "Your Majesty, I understand you're offended by his request-"

"Stefan," I hissed, "I know you're eager to get this deal. That's why he's still alive. I may not be lugging a sword everywhere I go these days, but I still know how to work magic. You go back in there. Make it very clear. He insults Zelda again, I'll kill him." Stefan's lips twisted into a grimace.

"I... trust I need not quote you verbatim?"

"Garble it however you like. Zelda gets insulted, he dies. Simple." Stefan smiled faintly, and went back in to kiss a very offensive butt. I sighed, and went looking for one of the Zeldas.

I found Zelda II in the garden. She was wearing another of her fine garments, a dress of pale green, of ordinary cotten, yet of incredibly fine weave. "I don't know why you need to put on decorations," I greeted her, "when you're already a work of art."

She dimpled. "I thought you would like some flowers, milord." She waved her hand at a vase, filled with fresh cut stems.

"I keep telling you, just call me Link." I smiled. She blushed faintly, and her eyes lowered beneath their lashes.

"Link, I...would you walk with me?" She held out one hand tentatively, and I wrapped my own callaused fingers around it. We walked down the garden path, admiring the flowers and the fragrant fruit trees. I plucked an apple from a low branch, and after rubbing it on my sleeve, I offered it to her. She smiled and accepted it, took a dainty bite, then offered it back to me. I greatly enlarged the gouge in the fruit with my own mouth, then handed it back. We traded the apple back and forth like that, until only the core remained. I tossed it into a bush to become fertilizer, and we moved on.

After we'd been walking for some time, Zelda suddenly tripped and stumbled. I caught her before she fell, and found myself with a double armful of very pretty girl. "I... Link... my thanks," she said, her eyes staring into mine. Suddenly, my mouth was very dry. I held her there for a moment, then started to pull her back up. She began to feel much heavier, and I found myself being pulled down rather than the reverse. Her face came nearer, her lips reached for mine...

"Am I interrupting something?" We broke apart to see Zelda XVII appraising us both with arched eyebrow, hands on hips. Suddenly Zelda II was much lighter, and we both came to upright position quite rapidly.

"We-we were just taking a walk," I stammered, flushing. "She, ah, tripped."

"Indeed," Zelda XVII murmured. "Well, when you're done... helping her, Stefan requests your appearance in the negotiation room again." I nodded curtly, straightened my outfit, then walked away hastily. As I passed Zelda XVII, whose face suddenly revealed an expression of white hot rage, I glanced back at the expression on Zelda II's face.

It was an expression of triumph.


"I just couldn't understand it," I said, as I watched Gannon practice his dark magicks. Blasts of pure energy cascaded from his fingers into a stone gargoyle, shattering it to dust. "Zelda II has always been so... I don't know... gentle. What could she have done to make Zelda XVII so mad?"

"Be it not obvious?" Gannon created a whirling vortex, and another target spun away into oblivion. "She near came to kiss thee. She doth win a point." He snorted his awful laughter. "In fact, she made thee almost kiss her. That be a double point."

"Points? What do you mean?"

Gannon hurled an icy blast of cold, turning a haystack into a brittle pile of needles. "They do fight over thee." He sent forth a wave of pure force, and the frozen hay shattered. "Zelda came a little closer to a final victory, making thee choose her over thine previous damsel." He summoned forth another of the hideous beasts that had lurked in Spectacle Rock. He paused to leer at me. "As you can see, I have gained in strength, since my death."

A lightning bolt seared forth, slammed into the giant insect, and charred it to a crisp. Gannon recoiled, then stared at me with blinking eyes. "I haven't had much chance to practice since my second quest," I shrugged, giving him a bland expression. "But I haven't lost my touch completely."

Gannon's laughter boomed forth. "Such power. And yet he be brought to bay by two mere females, with nary a fraction the might he doth possess. And now he must... wake up!"


"Wake up, your majesty. Time to get dressed." Thomas stood by, with another outfit ready. This one, though still of the "peacock strutting his stuff" variety, was toned down a bit, the sort of thing a nobleman would wear while riding. I groaned, rolled out of bed, and submitted to my fate.

Breakfast was rather sparse, it being felt that hunger made a hunter's wits keener. I polished off a sandwich as attendants readied my bow, quiver of arrows, and minor hunting apparel-knife, archer's braciers, sounding horn, etc. Stefan, in his usual sanctimonious tone, described the salient features of the bow I was using, the power inherant in the supple wood used, the enchantment laid upon it by fairy queens from long ago, some of the many legends attributed to it in my hands- the moblins and goriyas, that Gohma creature that had been one of Gannon's elite guards of the Triforce-tasted great boiled with butter, as I remembered it- and Gannon himself. The Moblin, who was being allowed to join us-under heavy "supervision" at all times- bowed his head in remembrance for his fallen kin, then made a sign of religious grief at the mention of his Dread, Dead, Lord. Ganon was a nightmare to my own people, but to the moblins, he was their savior, their father figure, to be loved and feared.

The Sade listened to the whole dialog with curled lips. Was the man born with a sneer?

Today I was to combine exercise with diplomacy, by taking part in this very public hunt. My practice would be not only with archery-but with horsemanship as well. I was not a born cavalryman. Zelda XVII herself had tutored me in riding, desperate for an edge over her rival. Thus, I knew enough to keep from falling off the horse and disgracing myself.

My horse was a compromise, between practicality and diplomacy. The King must ride a powerful, impressive steed. But the King would much rather ride a calm, sedate gelding. Thus, instead of a stallion, I rode a mare-but a powerful one. Glossy brown coat and mane, with white patches and "socks." Very intelligent, a delicate mouth. Zelda rode her favorite steed, a black stallion built something like a equine bull. Stefan rode a mare, gentle and quiet-and I could have killed with jealousy. The Sade rode his own mount, a sturdy little pony, small, squat, and indestructable. The Moblin politely spurned a steed, claiming that he could keep up just as well on foot. Instead of a bow, he carried a pair of light throwing spears, of the sort that I was well acquainted with. I complimented him on the quality of his weapons of choice. I have learned a few things about diplomacy, in my reign.

And we were off, along with a handful of other V.I.P.s in all their finery, a company of soldiers to protect us, and a small army of helpers, helpful little men with quivers of arrows to replenish our stock, and paddles for beating game from the bush. We rode like the wind, and I began to almost enjoy the feeling of riding a galloping horse, the surge of sheer power between my legs. Then I thought about that feeling, and began to see what Zelda saw in horses...

It was the Sade who screwed things up. Catching sight of a deer flushed from hiding, he nocked an arrow and let loose. The powerful recurve bow of his propelled the arrow straight into the deer, only slightly off target. Wounded in the hindquarters, the deer ducked back into the forest to flee. The Sade chased after with a roar of triumph, and our own horses instinctively moved to follow. Soon, our party was broken up, divided into small groups among the trees.

I reigned the mare in with a light tug. Zelda had stressed the importance of not pulling too hard on a horse's mouth, and I remembered even in the midst of my growing anxiety. I took stock. I was armed, mounted, and lost. I had my personal retainer, three guardsmen-and Zelda, who had matched my horse stride for stride during the entire chase. "Well, this was a total screw up," I muttered to her. "Oh, well. Let's do this the proper way. We'll find sign of game and track it."

Zelda smiled faintly. "Sure thing, Link."

We kicked our horses into a walk, alert for prints, scents, salt licks, anything that might lead us to mobile meat. After a few minutes, I finally caught a scent. I sniffed cautiously, then inhaled deeply, trying to puzzle out the strange scent. I had never come across such a scent before. Not deer urine. Not bear scent. "Zelda, can you figure out what that scent is? It's getting really powerful, all of a sudden."

Zelda nodded, and sniffed delicately. Then her brows furrowed, and she sniffed again. As she did so, her stallion began to fidget, and she fought him for control. All at once, her eyes widened. "That fool!" she screamed, then shouted out at me, "Link, jump! Jump NOW!"

"Huh?" I responded intelligently, as my own mare began to fight me for control.

"That idiot Stefan gave you the wrong horse! That mare is going into heat! For Gold's sake, JUMP!" And she suited action to words, expertly falling from her saddle as the stallion reared up on his hind legs. I took one look at his underbelly and fell out of my saddle, somewhat less skillfully. I rolled as best I could, and came up to my knees, a few feet away from Zelda. We knelt there, staring with wide eyes at the show that ensued.

Slowly, I turned from the main attraction, to look at Zelda. Her face was flushed, and she was breathing heavily, her hand pressed to her chest. She swallowed hard, then turned to look at me. Her eyes gleamed with desire... and fateful decision. "Link," she murmured. She reached out for me.

I caught her hand in my own, and gently forced her hand back to her side. Standing up, with a dead heart, I walked away. Noticing the servant and guards, who had watched the entire debacle, I raised one hand threateningly.

"Not... one... word... to anyone..." I intoned. They nodded and saluted, their faces quivering with the effort of maintaining a poker face.


"I just couldn't do it." I said bitterly. "I just couldn't accept her."

Gannon drew his arm back, then thrust forward. The stick in his hand slammed into the white orb, and sent it barreling into the mass of balls on the table. This game, called pool, was a ancient concept, that Ganon had been a fond afficionado of during his days, long, long ago, as a master thief. "Thou couldst have simply ordered thy retainers to grant thee privacy or a moment's tryst."

I considered my shot morosely. "It wasn't that. I didn't even consider them, when I spurned her. It was..." I took my shot with an angry motion, that landed a solid ball in the corner pocket. "I just looked at her... and all I could think of, was all the times when I was her champion... and she spurned me."

I took another shot, landing a ball in the side pocket. "It really hurt, the way she used to treat me. I looked at her, and she was so beautiful, and I wanted her so much..." I took a shot and missed. "But the memory of her casual dismissals, when I was running around trying to impress her, kept flashing in my mind."

Ganon sank a striped ball. "That doth be the joy and consolation of the Dark path, Link. Power, that no one might hurt thee again. And Vengeance upon those who have."

I stared at him. "Who hurt you?"

He missed his next shot, and fixed me with a bemused look, his beady eyes narrowed. "The world, belike. A thief doth feel the world oweth him a living. I never took responsibility as a thief. As a warlord, I didst learn to accept consequences, not blame others for my mistakes. But," and he grinned, as he stood back to let me shoot, "I still enjoyed wreaking my vengeance..."

I shot, missed. Ganon sank another three balls in quick succession. "What became of the hunt?" He missed his next shot.

"That blasted Sade finally ran his deer down, and dressed it himself. The Moblin spitted a couple of rabbits. I took a deer. Some of the other guests caught rabbits or fowl. We had the small game for dinner."

"And Zelda failed to catch her own quarry..."

I sank another ball. "What quarry?"

"The one taking his next shot."


After a breakfast of fresh pastries and fruits, I trained in swordplay. The Moblin and Sade were there, of course. And both Zeldas watched as well. Of course. Zelda had a slightly hurt expression, from my rejection of the previous day.

After practicing a few sets of drills with specially chosen partners, I noticed the Moblin, staring intently. His eyes were aglow, a combination of awe, reverence, and bitterness. Awe and reverence for my prowess, bitterness for his dead brothers and fallen Lord. I waved to him. "Come here," I called, then ordered for a training spear. Zelda II and XVII jerked up in alarm. The guards were cautious. My instructor stepped up and whispered in my ear.

"My lord, this is... most dangerous..."

"I survived Moblins with real spears. I think I can handle one armed with a blunt." His expression closed, and he stepped back. The Moblin hefted the spear with one hand, testing the balance, noting the head, of the same wood as the shaft, with softly rounded edges. We traded salutes, then fell into our stances.

The Moblin, like his kin, fought with a percussive, strength intensive style, complimenting his natural abilities. No twirls, no spinning. Just simple, direct movements. With both hands on the shaft, he thrust out. I deflected with my shield, sidestepped, and chopped. He leaned away, letting the wooden blade pass over his face harmlessly, then stabbed again. I blocked, backed away. He shifted to one hand, stepped forward with his rear foot, and thrust forward, gaining an astonishing amount of reach, as he aimed low. I leapt over him and stabbed downard. A hit.

He backed away, resumed his guard, and charged in. His spear thrust, cut, and reversed itself in a butt strike. I backed away, ducked under the butt strike, and chopped at his legs. Another hit. And so it went. He'd attack, pure aggression, all offense. I'd defend, discover an opening, and strike. Finally, I stepped back, saluted, signifying the end of the match. The Moblin ambassador handed the training spear to an aid, flushed with pride. To face the mighty Link, and survive! Better yet, to train with him!

After a bath and quick lunch, I received reports. This meant that I sat in my chair, while Stefan and Impa read from long lists and devised courses of action. I listened to their plans. Then I fiddled with my silks, and thought about supper. Finally, I stood up. "Stefan and Impa shall act in Our stead, for the remainder of this counsel," I informed the assembled advisors, retainers, and messengers. Then I hurriedly retreated to my room.

I stepped out to my balcony, staring out at the scenery. I looked out at two other balconies, almost close enough to jump to. Then I smiled to myself. A quick spell, and I was aloft, leaping high into the air. I lit on the balcony of the chambers of Zelda II. Stepping in past the curtains, I caught sight of her, wearing a simple dressing gown, reading a novel. She looked up, gave a small shriek, then caught herself, and smiled, blushing delicately. "My lord...Link. This was... unexpected."

"Yeah, well, I got tired of playing King, so I decided to play hooky." I stepped into the room, looked at the book in her hands. "Good book?"

She glanced down. "Um... yes, actually." I nodded, waited expectantly. "It's..." a smile lit her face. "it's about a princess, who is kidnapped by a forest bandit."

I returned her smile. "And when does the King save her?"

She grinned openly. "He doesn't. She falls in love, with the brazen, daring rogue." Her eyes narrowed mischeviously. "The rogue came in through the window."

"Rogues usually do." We both chuckled. Then came an awkward moment of silence. "Zelda... are you happy?"

She blinked. "My lord?"

"I mean your life, here. Are you satisfied with your life? Do you enjoy your days, here?"

She lowered her eyes, puzzled. "I have no cause to complain..." I arched an eyebrow. "...Even if my destiny remains unfulfilled."


She she stood and looked up at me, her eyes open and vulnerable. "I was awakened by the great hero, after his perilous quest. I am his, mind, body, and soul. Yet he does not take what belongs to him." Her expression became faintly reproachful.

"Zelda... it's not that simple." Somehow, the distance between us seemed to have narrowed, without either of having consciously moved.

"Isn't it?" Her eyes began to shimmer. The distance between us had gone from half a room to a few feet. "Am I so unsightly, then?" Her lips parted, her face turned upward slightly.

I started to reach for her. Then I remembered the gleam of triumph, in the gardens, the day before. Her shifting balance, like a master wrestler, to make herself seem heavy in my arms, pull me in to a kiss while seeming to submit to me. Her stumbling at just the right moment. And why was she turning her face upwards just now, when she ordinarily stood as tall as I did?

Zelda II might not be a warrior, but she was a master of her own path. Manipulating men.

And she was using her art on me.

"I'll see you at dinner, then," I said, as I backed away, slowly. Her lips closed as she began to protest. I swept her a bow and pivoted, turning away before she could counter my retreat. I stepped to the balcony and leapt again, my magic easily carrying me to the other balcony. To the chambers of Zelda XVII.

My mind was awhirl. Zelda II had never rejected me-indeed, she considered me the ultimate prize!- but then again, Zelda XVII had never deceived me. She had always been forthright, honest. Her rejections were honest, and so were her advances. After my disillusionment, my gut realization that Zelda II was no innocent, but a master player in the arts of court intrigue, I needed Zelda XVII's brisk truth.

She was also in a nightgown, as fine-and as revealing-as the one I'd just been staring at. She sat at a table, brushing her hair. I stepped forward, let her see me in her mirror. She spun around. "Link!" she gasped. "What are you doing?"

"I just... thought I'd drop in, have a little chat." I sat down on her bed. She looked at me, the bed, then me. She swallowed.

"Is this about yesterday?" she asked, her eyes suddenly calculating, debating, trying to guess my intentions.

"Yes, this is about yesterday... and yesteryear." I stared her straight in the eyes.


I swallowed. "Zelda, I have to know...." I swallowed again. "How do you feel about me?"

She blinked.

"When I was just your champion, I used to throw myself at you like a lovesick puppy. You always turned me down flat." I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply. "Then yesterday..."

"When you... were just... my champion," Zelda slowly answered, "I was an idiot." She sighed. "I saw a dumb kid, not the young hero who'd just killed Gannon, or the man he would become." She got up, and sat down next to me on the bed. The air between us felt charged. "It took... that aunt of mine..." Zelda II was in fact the several dozen times great aunt of Zelda XVII, "to make me realize what you mean, to me..." She reached out, took my hand.

"Zelda..." I felt hot and cold, dry in the mouth and sweaty on the brow, all at once.

"Link..." her mouth moved towards mine.

"Princess?" a knock at the door was punctuated by Impa's voice. Zelda leapt up. And fell into her old habits without even thinking about it.

"Oh, my! Link... you have to get out of here... we can't be seen together like this..."

I stood up, my face revealing the hurt. "Of course not," I spat. "People might think we were in love or something." And as I worked my spell, my eyes devoured her stricken face, even as I shrank to a miniscule size, my body born aloft on the gossamer wings of a fairy.

Tears slid silently down my tiny cheeks as I flew back to my rooms.


"Sometimes I just hate them so much." I sighed, as I watched Gannon take his shot. "How can you love someone and hate them at the same time?" I watched the cue ball fail to sink it's target, and stood to take my own shot.

"Ask that of my followers. Not a one of them but bears malice for me in their hearts, not a one of them but adores me as their Lord and purpose in life. And death." He smiled grimly, as I took my shot, failed to even connect with a ball. A scratch.

I sighed. "What am I doing wrong?" Gannon studied me with beady eyes. He rubbed his snout with one paw, as he considered. Then his lips twisted into a sneer.

"I grow weary of this." He stood, rising to his full height, towering above me. "Thou twerp. Thou pathetic little excuse for a hero. Babbling, sentimental, insecure fool."

My eyes flashed. "Shut up."

"Make me."

"Don't tempt me, Gannon! I'll not take this from you!"

His tusks bared in a mocking grin. "If that be so... then why do you take this from others?"

I blinked. "Excuse me?"

Gannon waved his hand, and my garb changed, became the hated silks. "Thou whimper. Thou whine. Thou let others make thine choices. Thou hast become a figurehead, a puppet. Even thy garb is not of thine own choosing." He waved his hand again, and I once again wore my raiments of old, green cottons and tanned leathers, plain, simple, comfortable.

He looked me up and down. "The Link I remember did not founder. He did not let himself be a ball on the table, nay, not even the cue ball, pushing the others according to the whims of players. Nay. He was a player. He strode through life. And he let nothing, not my hordes, not my magics, not hunger nor pain nor fear, stand in his way." He snorted. "What has happened to that warrior, that conquerer?"

I stared at him. Then I began to tremble. "I don't know." I thought about it. "I haven't even touched the triforce in so long." My trembling became fiercer, more uncontrollable. Not shivers of fear, but of rage. Then I took a deep breath, and when I let it out, the tremors stopped.

I stood taller, my shoulders squaring, my eyes flashing. My jaw set firmly, my teeth grinding together. Ganon smiled.

"No... more. No MORE!" I glared at Gannon. "No more, will I let others make my choices. I rule. I am KING! I will do as I DAMN well please!" I glared at him a moment longer, until the rage finished crystalizing into iron determination. And then I returned Gannons smile.

A smile of friendship.

"Gannon, my dearest enemy. You'll be returning to the land of the living soon enough. And when you do, all past crimes shall be pardoned."

He blinked. Then he grinned. "Lovely. More pillage, rapine, and violence."

"Past crimes, you overgrown piece of bacon, not future ones. You want to keep your new lease on life, you'll behave."

He pondered my words. "A life of peace.... law abiding Gannon..."

"That or the pit."

He considered. "Gannon the peaceful ruler of Death Mountain. I can live with that, methinks." He smiled and nodded. And we shook hands.


"Your Majesty? Your Majesty, it's time to wake up..."

I opened my eyes, looked upon the earnest face of Thomas. My faithful retainer, Thomas, who had dressed me every day for the past two years. I smiled at him. And grabbed him by his tunic collar.

Yanking him close, I snarled, giving him a good whiff of my morning breath and a good look at my bloodshot eyes. "From now on, I shall wake at 9:30, and not a moment before." Thomas blinked, began to struggle in my unyielding grip.

"But my lord... the schedule..."

"I... spend my time, as I see fit. Now go." I released him, and he fell backwards in his haste to escape.

"But my lord... my duty... your raiments..."

"I'll dress myself, Thomas." I smiled, with no humor in it. "Now GO!"

He fled.

I got out of my bed liesurely, feeling better than I had felt first thing in the morning, in over two years. In nothing but a loincloth, I opened the door to my study, and looked at all the books I hadn't had a chance to read, in over two years. Books that I would be enjoying at length, henceforth. And one thing more, I looked at.

And smiled.

Impa was the first to see me when I finally emerged from my chambers. She gasped, then covered her face with her hands, concealing a smile. I returned the cheery expression, gazing affectionately at the old woman who'd been my dearest friend since I first came to the palace. Stefan was next. He sputtered incoherently, and stared at me, before stammering out, "My lord, this is... highly unseemly..."

"Get used to it, Stefan." I grinned at him, teeth bared.

Zelda II and XVII both caught sight of me first, as I entered the banquet hall. Their eyes widened in shock. For Zelda II it was another glimpse of her dearest, most treasured vision, that she'd only seen once before. For Zelda XVII it was a reminder of what I'd been, what I now was once again.

To the Moblin ambassador, it was his darkest nightmare in the flesh. He fell to his knees in utter terror, clenching his massive jaw to keep from babbling pleas of mercy, determined to die with some grace.

And to the Sade, it was simply inconceivable.

I stood before them, dressed in the green cotton and leathers of old. A red ring glowed on my right hand, a metal glove on my left, the Master Sword on my hip. And hovering above all, circling about my head, the true crown of Hyrule, three chunks of gold, three pyramids of glittering power, magic beyond compare.

The Triforce.

I stepped right up to the Sade. I looked down at him, as though he were some sort of repugnant bug that I had found crawling on my kitchen floor. "I'm tired of you, Sade," I intoned, in a quiet, calm voice, that filled the whole chamber with it's intensity. He opened his mouth to protest, and I sent him sprawling with a single backhand of my gloved fist. "I'm tired of your arrogance. I'm tired of your insults towards the members of my household. I'm tired of your outrageous demands. Leave here now, or I'll kill you."

He backed up on his hands and feet, staring at me with frightened eyes and bloody mouth. "But... Your Majesty... breakfast..."

"You'll not eat at my table again, Sade," I said, in that same quietly intense voice. "You have three choices. Leave here at once, go home, and tell your King of your failures. Have your head sent home in a sack, along with a formal declaration of war.

"Or, you can beg my forgiveness, and I'll let you stay long enough to hammer out a treaty. But you'll eat in the kitchen, with the servants. You don't rate treatment as a guest."

The Sade's eyes glanced about frantically. "My people won't stand... we have silver!"

"Big fat hairy deal. I have Gold. Make your decision. Now."

He chose. And after I'd had enough of his fawning and elaborate apologies, I turned to the Moblin. Reaching into my pocket, I withdrew a scarf. And drew my sword.

The Moblin stood, controlled his tremors. Determined to die with honor.

No such luck.

I slashed open my own hand, and let the blood drench the scarf. When it was dripping good and true, I tossed it to the Moblin, healed myself with a thought. "After breakfast, you'll return to your people. I'll expect Gannon's arrival to swear allegiance within the month."

The Moblin's jaw dropped. He stared at the scarf. "Gannon... will live? And... swear...?"

"Your Master and I have already made our arrangements. You want the details, ask him." He shook his head frantically, and dropped the bloody scarf into a pouch reverently. As I sheathed my sword, he bowed deeply, eyes closed in relief and joy.

With the Triforce of Wisdom circling about my head, I knew the princesses would approach before they did.

And I knew what they would say.

"That was magnificient," Zelda II shone with her desire and feelings.

"Now that's the Link that killed Gannon," Zelda XVII murmured. She glowed, and her smile promised all. If I snuck into her chambers again, she'd not worry about discovery.

I smiled at them both.

And turned away.

"Stefan. Impa." I drew them both in with beckoning gestures. "We need to discuss the new schedule."

"Yes... Your Majesty?" Stefan's eyes were all whites. He'd known I was a warrior and mage, but he hadn't really known. Not until today.

"You guys will make all the day to day decisions. Just like before. Long as I know what's going on, and I get final say, no problem. But," and I clapped my arm over his shoulder as I beamed down at him. "No more speeches, and no more public appearances. I go where I please. I say what I please."

"Of... course, my Lord." I withdrew my arm, smiled at Impa again. She returned it, her wrinkled face shining like the sun. As both Zeldas stared at my back, I moved towards the table, for some breakfast.

Let them do the chasing, from now on.

I've got a kingdom to run. Magic to study.

And a pool table to build.

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