Link slowly became aware of the world around him, trying to sift through the fog of muffled, echoing sounds and blurred shapes. His blue eyes blinked slowly and he reached up to rub them. A pain in his left arm made him bite his lip and hiss his breath out. What had happened?
He lay still, letting his mind fully wake up. His eyes roved across the ceiling above him which was soft white in color, with arched beams stretching up to the top of the peaked, arch shaped ceiling. The pattern painted onto the plaster between the beams was slight, but it reminded him of the billowing clouds that rolled across the skies above Hyrule Field.
The healing hall was rather quiet; the only sounds Link could hear were the soft footsteps and occasional swish of the healer’s skirts and aprons as they made their rounds in the halls outside his room. It was very peaceful, and Link indulged into the serenity of it for just a bit longer. He faded into a light doze despite his efforts to stay up, feeble though they were. He hadn’t had such a restful sleep in a long time.
Fading back into consciousness again, Link became aware of another presence in the room, and slowly turned his head, his vision blurring a little at the dizziness that came over him. A small smile crept over his face. Zelda was sitting in the armchair near the window, her pale blue ball gown almost swallowing up the chair in the luscious silks. She was asleep, leaning sideways onto a small pillow.
Zelda stirred with a slight “Oh,” like she hadn’t realized she had fallen asleep. She sat up and stretched lightly, rolling her shoulders and looking around the room. Her eyes came to rest on Link and she smiled when she saw he was awake. “Good morning,” she bade him, standing slowly with a hand on the armrest.
Link’s smile widened a bit and he nodded in acknowledgement, which made his head spin again. Zelda stepped towards the bed and knelt beside it with a rustle of silk. “How are you feeling?” she asked him.
“You’re beautiful,” he mumbled, his voice slightly slurred from sleep and the lingering effects of the pain potion the healers had given him the night before.
Zelda’s cheeks turned pink and she hid a small laugh behind her hand at his blunt, and admittedly drug fueled admission.
Link grinned crookedly, then his eyes widened. “Zelda! Hafta warn-” he reached out to her.
“It is alright,” she quickly soothed him, gently clasping his hand. “We know about the moblins. We saw the map, and the General has been preparing the defenses all night.”
Link relaxed, and nodded enough to show he understood, but not enough to make his head spin again. Then his brow furrowed. “My arm hurts.”
“I suspect it would,” Zelda shook her head slightly, standing up to pour a glass of water from the bedside pitcher. “Your left arm has a slight fracture. And with the wound on your leg and various other scratches, you are to stay in bed until the healers clear you.”
Link didn’t look too happy about that. “Water?” he asked, licking his dry lips.
“Yes,” Zelda set the glass down on the table and grabbed a couple pillows. “Let me help you sit up.” Carefully she helped him lean up enough so she could stuff pillows behind him until he was in a more upright position, then she held onto the glass while he took a drink.
“Better,” he sighed, closing his eyes as he felt his head start to clear. He opened one eye and noticed Zelda’s concerned look. “Do I really look that bad?”
“Well,” Zelda opened the drawer to the nightstand and pulled out a serviceable hand mirror. Wordlessly she held it up so he could see himself in it.
Link grimaced as he took in the image. His left brow was swollen and his eye turning purple. There was a dark gash on his chin that had needed a stitch, but seemed to be on the mend. He was pretty scruffy looking overall, and the short nights he’d slept the past week or so showed clearly on his face.
“Well… I’ve had worse,” he attempted a joke, grinning crookedly, which kind of hurt from the swollen half of his face.
Zelda chuckled, placing the mirror back into the drawer. “Let me get a healer, they will want to know that you are awake,” she stood and smoothed her skirt. A healer approached her as she went into the hallway and showed her to another room where a servant had brought her breakfast and a change of clothes. Two more healers went in to take care of Link, to change his bandages and clean him up some more.
After changing and eating, Zelda waited outside of Link’s door, trying not to pace. It felt like it always ended up this way, when Link went out for some mission or quest or anything where he was gone for an undetermined amount of time. He would come back pretty banged up, and she would be here in this hall, trying unsuccessfully to keep from wearing the pale green carpet to threads. She didn’t even bother looking at the painting that hung on the opposite wall from his door, for she had already memorized every brush stroke years ago and could probably repaint it from memory alone.
The door handle clicked, causing Zelda to jump slightly from the sound, and the two healers quietly exited from his room, gently shutting the door behind them. Zelda started forward quickly, but the one girl put a finger to her lips and motioned further down the hall.
“He is resting, Your Highness,” the healer spoke quietly once they were far enough from the door. “Sir Link’s leg is healing rather well, and all that and his arm needs is some time. Mother Superior deemed it minor enough to let it heal naturally. The rest are his usual scrapes and bruises,” she shook her head with a small sigh. “Mother Superior says to let him sleep as long as he will, and only when he can walk without falling over is when he is allowed to leave. When that time comes she insists that someone be with him at all times so that he does not hurt himself before he is fully healed.”
“Yes,” Zelda nodded, and the two women shared a knowing look. They knew all too well of Link’s stubbornness. “Thank you, Sister...?”
“Caylin, Your Highness,” she replied with a curtsy.
“Thank you, Sister Caylin,” Zelda nodded to her. “Please send someone to inform me when Sir Link wakes.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” Caylin curtsied again.
Zelda acknowledged her with a nod and left the healing hall, at ease now that she knew Link was recovering well and in good hands.
General Fortin stood on the second set of outer walls of Hyrule Castle with his hands clasped behind his back as he took in the scenery before him. The moblins Link had warned them about were here alright, and by the looks of it, they had joined up with a couple more friends. They had set up a camp in the fields, just out of reach of the trebuchets and ballista that sat on the walls surrounding Castle Town. In all of his two plus decades of service in the Royal Hylian Army, he had never seen a group of moblins of this size before.
As to why they hadn’t attacked yet, Fortin could only guess. It was already mid-morning, so what were they waiting for? Goddesses help them if the enemy was waiting for more reinforcements, for already they were up against a sizeable army.
A wind picked up, stirring the flags along the walls. Fortin brushed his blonde bangs back and looked into the wind. His soldiers along the length of the wall were positioning the trebuchets into their places on the bastions in preparation for the upcoming battle. On the ground below, there was an almost steady line of workmen and a couple of Gorons to the walls carrying large rocks for the trebuchets’ ammunition.
“Sir,” a soldier approached him from behind and stood at attention with a final clink of his armor. “Her Royal Highness Princess Zelda is coming out to meet with you. We tried to persuade her against it, with our current situation, but-”
“That is fine,” Fortin held up his hand. “I will go and meet her.” He dismissed the soldier, who clinked away to his previous duties. He sighed and looked over the inner wall to the grounds, searching for her amidst the activity on the ground. Surrounded by four soldiers, Zelda strode regally across the grounds, her purple velvet dress standing out against the steel armor-clad figures.
General Fortin made his way across the wall to the stairs, hastily at-easing all of the salutes thrown his way. He made it to the landing as she crested the stairs, the hem of her dress held in her hand lest she trip. “General Fortin,” she greeted the taller man with a smile.
“Princess,” Fortin bowed his head.
“I know you are not too happy about my presence here,” Zelda clasped her hands in front of her. “But you know that I prefer to see the situation with my own eyes.”
“Yes, both are true.”
“I also bring news of Sir Link. He is recovering well.”
“Ah, that’s good,” Fortin smiled, “But not well enough to join us for this fight?”
Zelda shook her head.
“He’s probably not too happy about that,” he huffed in a quiet chuckle. “Ah, well,” Fortin took the spyglass from his belt and handed it to the Princess. “As you can see, the moblins set up camp right outside of our range. Whether that’s by luck or their design, only the Goddesses know.”
He paused as Zelda looked over the encampment with the spyglass. “How many are there?” she asked.
“Thousands, and growing,” Fortin said quietly. “We are now at five times past Link’s initial count.”
Zelda’s eyes widened but she made no sound. “And how many do we have?”
“Roughly half of their current count, but because of our defensive position, we could be outnumbered four to one and it would still be an even match. Well, that would be if they were trained men, not moblins.”
“General, far be it from me to tell you how to do your job, but given the circumstances I would assume that these moblins are just as skilled as our own. Moblins have no singular leader or a concept of working together aside from their own small bands. The fact that there are thousands on our doorstep in alarming agreement on their target worries me.”
“Yes, it worries me too,” Fortin took a step forward and leaned against his hands on the battlements. “The outer wall of Castle Town is ready and waiting. They have orders to fire the moment they are within our range. The trebuchets on this wall are almost complete, and will be ready to fire should the moblins reach the outer moat.”
Zelda nodded in understanding. “These moblins came from the north, correct? Why did they come the long way around to the south to set up their camp?”
General Fortin straightened up and gestured to the fortified guardhouse that stood at the top of the stairs. Zelda followed him inside while the soldiers took up positions by the door.
The guardhouse room was very practical in size and decor. Against the right wall was a brick fireplace, the Royal Family’s crest emblazoned above it. One other door on the far back wall led to a weapons room. A wooden rectangular table stood in the center with chairs surrounding it. On the table were various papers and drinks that were long left abandoned.
Fortin cleared an area on the table and rolled out a map depicting the immediate area. “I have archers stationed behind the outer walls to provide supporting fire here and here,” he tapped the parchment. “These are the points where we believe they will try and attack first. If we are to assume that there is a leader with intelligence behind this attack, then there is a great possibility of another force, lying in wait to flank us.”
“Hm,” Zelda nodded, looking over the map.
“As a precaution, I sent scouts to the west, north and east to look for any possible flank from the enemy. We are still waiting on their initial reports.”
“What of the civilians of Castle Town?”
“Standard procedure. Ordered to stay inside.”
“Yes, that’s good,” Zelda nodded. “Was my father already given a briefing on the situation?”
“Yes, and my First Officer is making sure that he is kept informed. To be honest, I do wish that you would let my First Officer keep you informed as well…”
“Not a chance, not when I can see it with my own eyes,” Zelda smiled with a bit of a glint in her eye.
Shouts went up from outside and the guardhouse door burst open unceremoniously. “Sir! The moblins have started advancing!” the soldier reported quickly.
The General nodded. “Escort her Royal Highness back to the Castle, then report back to your post,” he ordered him.
“I can get back to the Castle by myself,” Zelda interjected.
“Princess-” Fortin shifted his weight, not wanting to linger anymore in the guardhouse when he was needed outside.
“I promise I will go straight there. There is no reason to detain this man from his post to escort me, I am in no danger,” Zelda finished.
General Fortin bowed his head to her and left the room quickly to take command. Princess Zelda was true to her word and returned to the Castle, despite wanting to remain close to the action to see what was going on. This was her city, her people, and she did not like to find things out second hand.
Zelda’s steps echoed through the castle as she walked towards the main council chambers where her father was sure to be with his councilors and General Fortin’s First Officer, Temel. There was a sense of urgency about the castle that was impossible to miss. Servants and guards hurried to their duties, pausing only for a quick curtsy or salute to the Princess as she passed.
Muffled voices echoed through the hall, becoming sharper as Zelda rounded a corner and proceeded down a staircase. King Harkinian stood on the landing below, First Officer Temel and a couple other advisors around him. The doors to the council chambers behind them were open, most of the members already dispersed.
“Ah, my dear Zelda,” the King said when he noticed Zelda coming down the stairs. The advisors parted to let him greet her.
“Good morning, father,” Zelda smiled as she took his hands.
“Good morning,” he smiled back and patted her hand. “I trust you have been updated on the situation?”
“Yes, I just got back from the walls, and-” she paused when they heard loud footsteps. A messenger was hurrying towards them, taking the wide staircase up to the landing two steps at a time.
“Your Majesty!” he bowed, out of breath. “Your Royal Highness, First Officer Temel, ma’am,” he greeted them all in quick succession. “I come to report that the moblins have started their advance.”
King Harkinian nodded, his brow set. “Tell General Fortin to not let even one of those monsters anywhere near the city’s walls.”
The messenger saluted and then hurried back out to the walls. The King sighed and shook his head. “What a turn of events. I hope that this incident did not spoil the celebration of your birthday,” he said as Zelda took his arm to walk with him down the stairs.
“Not at all, father,” Zelda shook her head.
He nodded; pleased at least that it had not upset her. “It is rather fortunate that Sir Link was able to make it in time to warn us. Have you seen him this morning? How is he faring?”
“He is recovering, and should be back on his feet soon.”
“That is good news,” he nodded. “If you would excuse me, Zelda,” he turned to her as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“Of course, father,” Zelda let go of his arm and he walked away with his advisors to take care of some official business. A kingdom didn’t run itself, you know. Zelda headed back to the healing hall, anxious to see how Link was faring. On the way there, she almost bumped straight into Sister Caylin.
“Oh Goddesses! Princess,” a horrified Caylin curtsied deeply. “I am so sorry, I was not looking where I was going.”
“No harm done, Sister,” Zelda brushed her long hair back behind her shoulders and motioned for the other girl to stand. “I was just on my way to the healing hall.”
“I was on my way to find yourself, your Highness,” Caylin straightened up. “Sir Link has woken up.”
Zelda followed Caylin back to the healing hall. The hall was even quieter than before, most of the healers out on the walls taking care of any wounded soldiers. Link sat despondently in his bed, wishing he wasn’t stuck inside this room. He could hear the sounds of the far off battle through the window, and longed to be out there, doing his part to protect Castle Town and its citizens. He looked up as the door opened. Zelda entered the room with a smile, to which he returned.
“You look marginally better, this afternoon,” she said as she walked around the bed to sit in the wooden chair beside him. His left eye was only a slight shade purple now and the redness around the stitch on his chin had gone down. He had been able to get a bath, a shave, and a good amount of sleep.
“Thank you,” Link nodded to her with a slight chuckle. “Are you here to order me to listen to the healers and stay in bed?”
“No, actually,” she laughed. “I am here to break you out. Mother Superior’s orders were that as long as you can keep your balance upright, you can leave, but you must have someone with you.”
“Ah,” Link nodded.
A muffled boom caused both of them to jump. Zelda exchanged a worried look with him as she got up to look out the window.”I can’t see much from here,” she pursed her lips in worry.
Link gingerly swung his legs out of bed. “Let’s go somewhere to where we can, then,” he pulled on each of his boots and buckled his belt. Zelda helped him upright and he took a little bit to find his balance and pace so that he would not hurt his leg.
Zelda held onto Link’s good arm as they made their way through the castle as fast as Link could manage with his injured leg. The last set of stairs up to the wall surrounding Hyrule Castle was narrow and steep, which made it hard for Link. As they slowly climbed to the top they could hear more muffled explosions which grew more frequent. Zelda bit her lip, worried about what they might mean.
They graced the last landing and quickly looked out beyond the walls, their eyes widening in horror. The moblins now had catapults and were launching bombs and flaming rocks into the city. Zelda cried out and covered her face in her hands. Link let out a frustrated growl, reached into the small pouch on his belt and found the small spyglass he kept there.
Link flicked open the spyglass with a click and focused it in on Castle Town. Most of the outer city was in flames and there was quite a lot of panic in the streets. There weren’t enough soldiers in the streets to help the citizens, as most were on the wall. Link relayed what he saw to Zelda, telling her all that was happening.
“How… how do they have catapults?” she asked him in disbelief. “General Fortin… when I... when I was on the walls before we did not see any…”
Link moved the spyglass up to focus on the attacking moblins and the catapults in question. They were of crude construction, and looked pretty rickety. “I think they constructed them in their camp, before they attacked,” he replied. “Judging by the construction, they were made to be disassembled to aid transport. They probably won’t last very long.”
Just as Link was speaking, he saw one of the catapults support beams collapse, flinging a lit bomb back into the moblin army. It exploding, knocking another catapult and a bunch of moblins out of commission, but Link knew it was only a drop in the pond.
Link wordlessly handed the spyglass over to her, his face grim. Zelda held it up and looked through the glass, focusing on the outer wall surrounding the city. All of the Hylian soldiers were doing their best to keep their own ballista and trebuchets working efficiently to repel the attackers. They were loading whatever they could, rocks, bombs, broken pieces of the wall, anything they could launch. There was some activity by the main gate, and she focused the spyglass closer. “I think they’re preparing to charge across the field,” she told Link, moving the spyglass back up to scan the walls.
She glanced over a trebuchet just as it was directly hit by a moblin bomb, utterly destroying it, the part of the wall it stood on, and the brave men operating it. She gasped and looked away quickly, almost dropping the spyglass. Link carefully put his good hand on her shoulder and she reached up to grip his hand tightly, flinching as she heard another explosion.
Carefully Link took the spyglass from her, wincing as his bad arm twinged. Ignoring it, he raised it up to look at the gates. All available soldiers were massing at the gates, preparing to meet the moblins head on.
The gates were opened and the Hylian soldiers poured out, charging straight towards the moblins. The moblins kept firing their catapults, either oblivious to the soldiers or just simply ignoring them. Link scanned the spyglass across the town again, noting that the while the moblin’s catapults did some heavy damage to the city, it was mostly to the outer edge, leaving from the center towards the castle virtually untouched except for a stray shot here and there.
The city was in total disarray, people massing in the streets as flames licked at the buildings. It had been fortunate that it had stormed last night, and the damp roofs did not let the fire spread as quickly as it normally would have. The citizens of Castle Town were running in panic, most of them headed towards the general direction of the southern gate of the middle wall surrounding the castle.
Link’s eyes narrowed and he focused the spyglass in towards the gate. The gate was being guarded by a scant two soldiers, who looked rather uneasy. Link couldn’t hear from his position on the castle wall, but he could gather from the huge crowd around the gate and the guards’ worried looks that the citizens were banging on the gate, demanding to be let in.
“Zelda,” Link gently turned her back to face the battle and gave her the spyglass, pointing the southern gate out to her. Zelda hesitantly peered into the spyglass to see what Link was pointing out to her. “Why aren’t they opening the gate?” she asked after a moment of observing.
“Those soldiers are only privates, and they were probably ordered to keep it closed no matter what,” Link reasoned. “Those people could hurt themselves; we need to get down there.”
“Mm,” Zelda agreed, snapping the spyglass shut and handing it back to him. Link took it and put it back in his pouch. “Come on,” Zelda put her arm in his to head back down the stairs.
Link started to follow with her but hissed in pain as his leg froze up and collapsed on his good knee. He had been moving too much, too quick. “Link!” Zelda gasped at his sudden collapse and strained to keep him up before sinking to her knees beside him.
“I’m sorry, I guess those healers were right,” Link sat heavily down on the parapet and leaned back against the inner wall. “Leave me here, I’ll be fine.”
Zelda looked him over, worried, then met his insisting gaze. She held it for a moment then nodded. Spinning on her heel as she stood, Zelda called up her magic to teleport herself. It was a difficult spell, one she only saved for emergencies like this. She came out of her teleport right on target, on the wall right above the gate and in between both soldiers, who jumped in fright and brandished their weapons. The noise of the crowd and the battle caught Zelda off guard, not helping her already spinning head.
“P-p-princess!” One of the guards stuttered, recognizing her and almost dropping his weapon. “You… you shouldn’t be-”
“The gates,” Zelda gasped, leaning forward to steady herself against the wall. “Why haven’t you opened the gates?”
“We, ah… had orders…” She could barely hear the guard’s feeble reply over the panicked commotion in front of the gate.
“Open them now!” she stood straighter as her head cleared, turning to give a commanding glare to the one who spoke.
“Ah, yes sir, ma’am, I mean, I-”
Zelda grabbed the arm of the babbling guard, yanking him after her towards the gatehouse stairs. He shut up and followed her as all three of them hurried down the stairs. The other man ducked into the lockhouse to release the locking mechanism.
The yells and pounding from the crowd outside made the gates shake and rattle, making Zelda’s heart beat faster. She grabbed one of the handles and pulled with all her might, trying to get them open. “Wait!’ the first guard told her. “We have to release the catch first after Darrell unlocks it.”
“It’s unlocked!” Darrell yelled to the other guard as he dashed out of the lockhouse. They each grabbed the catch on each door and there was a loud clanking noise from inside the gates. “Pull!” he yelled. Zelda grabbed the handle beside him and pulled with everything she had. The gates were heavy, and under normal circumstances needed much more than three people to open. The people pushing outside, however, more than made up for the missing required manpower. When they noticed the gates inch inwards they surged forward with a triumphant yell, forcing them open.
Zelda slipped backwards and fell into the mud with a grunt, and only Darrell’s quick reflexes saved her from being hit by the gate. He grabbed her and backed up flat against the wall as the gates swung open all the way and hit against the lockhouse wall, trapping them in a small triangular area.
“Ah! I’m sorry, Your Highness,” he quickly released her. Zelda barely heard his apology, just relieved that Castle Town’s citizens were heading through the gate into a safer area.
She nodded to him, her heart pounding hard from the adrenaline. “Keep this gate open, soldier, let any citizen pass,” she ordered him, and before he could reply she spun on her heel to teleport with a flash of blue light.
In her haste she had misjudged the height of the castle wall, appearing a couple feet higher. She crashed down to the wooden floor, catching herself with her hands to keep from falling face first onto the floor.
“Zelda!” Link yelled, several yards from where she had landed. The guard who was standing near him ran over to her.
“I… I’m fine…” Zelda said in a shaky voice, sitting up straighter. Her legs felt like jelly. The guard helped her up and almost half carried her over to where Link sat against the wall.
“I’ll grab another blanket,” he said hastily before hurrying off.
“Are you alright?” Link asked, worry for her clear in his face and voice.
“Yes, yes, I-” she laughed nervously and shivered.
“Here,” Link shrugged off the blanket that was around his shoulders.
“Keep it,” Zelda shook her head, unable to stop shivering.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Link leaned forward to drape it around her shoulders and to help her sit back against the wall. He looked her over as she shivered and clutched the blanket closer. Her hair was in disarray and mud was spattered all over her once pristine velvet dress.
“I… I opened the gate,” she turned to smile at him. “Oh why c-can’t I stop shaking!” she laughed nervously.
“Deep breaths, Zelda,” Link gently told her and handed her a canteen of water. She nodded and took a couple of deep breaths before taking a sip of water and leaning back against the wall next to him.
“I… it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything like that…” she took another deep breath and let it out. The guard came back with another blanket for Link and a large warm lantern which he set before them.
“Soldier, what is happening out there?” Zelda asked him. “The people that came through the gate, have they calmed down?”
The guard nodded and walked over to the wall, looking out across the grounds to the southern gate for a moment, then he came back to report. “The people have settled down, Your Highness. They are fanned out on the grounds, mostly sitting or praying.”
“Oh, good,” Zelda took another sip of water from the canteen, slumping a little more back against the wall. “Please… keep us informed of what is happening.” The guard nodded and took his place back at the wall, watching the battle.
“I’m fine,” Zelda told Link he opened his mouth to speak to her. He smiled wryly and leaned forward to warm his hands by the lantern, Zelda soon following suit. The afternoon had turned rather cold, the winds continuing to whip around above their heads.
The guard came back to them and saluted. Zelda motioned him to go on. “Our army is upon the moblins, and they have stopped firing the catapults on the town,” he reported. “So far the battle seems to be going rather well.”
“Thank you,” Zelda nodded to him.
“Your Highness,” the man began with a little bit of trepidation. “If you insist on staying out here to watch the battle, I must insist that you at least go the guardhouse where it is warm. I will still continue to report the turn of the battle to you.”
“I agree,” Link leaned back against the wall to help himself stand. He wordlessly held out his good arm to her, a serious look in his eyes. Zelda nodded and took his hand, using the wall to help herself stand so she would not upset Link’s balance.
“This way, Your Highness,” the guard led them the distance to the guardhouse. A warm fire already roared in the hearth and Zelda sank gratefully onto the high-backed bench that sat in front of it, drinking up the warmth.
Link soon joined her, handing her a metal plate with some provincial bread and cheese on it. “I’m sorry, this is all they have here,” he said as he sat beside her with his own plate.
“It’s good,” she smiled and took a bite, only now feeling her hunger. She was grateful for the food, and eating seemed to fill up her energy void left by the adrenaline crash. They ate quietly, their minds both on the battle outside. The guard came in every so often to keep them up to date on the battle.
As it grew dark, both sides began to fall back, unable to see very clearly who was their enemy and who was their friend. Guards paced the walls and the edges of the moblin camp, warily eyeing each other throughout the night, each one wondering what the next day of fighting would bring.