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The Princess and the Farmgirl

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             The innermost chamber of an ornate, ruined castle…

             Princess Zelda strained to open her eyes, struggling against the weight and fatigue of her own body. As her eyes started to focus on the outside world, she made out a blonde-haired figure clad in green who held her in their arms. As they set her down however, Zelda blinked in surprise, for she stood at least a head taller than her saviour…

             “Heya Princess!” the figure whispered, their voice cheery and light. The stranger’s accent rang foreign in Zelda’s ears, and the princess screwed up her face as she spoke.

             “Link…?”

             “-le—the name’s Linkle!” the stranger announced, attempting a sloppy curtsy. “Pleased to meet you—uhm…your majesty…ness?”

             Zelda’s eyes finally focused clearly on the owner of the voice in front of her; the young-looking woman stood awkwardly, a hand resting on one of the crossbows dangling at her hips. She brushed one of her side braids over her shoulder as she stared at the princess, hints of pink flushing at her cheeks.

             “I…well, I’m…here to save ya’, Princess,” Linkle continued, stammering as her eyes took in the sight of the Hylian princess. “I messed up the evil magic spirit demons that took ya’ away, and I’ve got a horse waitin’ outside to take ya’ home,” she added, her voice softer now as she fiddled with the clasp on her short, green cloak. Then, with a huff, she straightened up and pointed a thumb over her shoulder, “Come on, the exit’s this-a way!” she announced, pointing towards the large, ornate, stone doors that adorned the entrance to their current chamber.

             “Y-…yes, of course,” Zelda stammered, blinking against the fog that still swirled through her mind. “My…my sincerest gratitudes, Lady Linkle.”

             “Aw, shucks Princess, just Linkle is all it is,” Linkle replied, giggling nervously, “I ain’t got no sort’a title or anything…”

             Linkle looked down at her shuffling feet for a moment, then turned abruptly and made for the door, pulling the hood of her cloak over her bright, red face. Zelda made to follow her, but winced as her legs wobbled beneath her, and she sank to her knees in exhaustion, letting out a soft yelp. Linkle whirled around yet again, and without a moment’s hesitation came bounding over to the princess, extending a hand towards her.

             “I’m sorry Princess, where are my manners? Come on now, take my hand and lean on me until you regain your strength.” Linkle slung one of Zelda’s hands over her neck, and braced herself as the princess heaved herself to her feet once again. “There, that’s better, ain’t it?” Linkle asked, receiving a labored nod in return from the princess.

             The two made their way slowly out of the inner chambers of the ruined castle to the entrance, stopping frequently to allow Zelda time to catch her breath. When they finally emerged from the castle gates, they found Linkle’s horse standing obediently waiting for her. She helped the princess into the saddle, then climbed on in front of her. Her heart leaped as the princess placed her arms around Linkle’s waist, and her face grew hot yet again as the princess then leaned against her for support. As they rode away towards Hyrule Castle, Linkle closed her eyes as she took in the scent of flowers and spice that wafted from the princess who slept soundly against her.

* * *

             It wasn’t until the last rays of sunlight disappeared behind the distant mountains that Linkle decided to stop for the night. She helped the princess out of the saddle, and onto the one bedcloth she possessed. “It’s not exactly fit for a princess, but I figure ‘s better than nothing…” she admitted sheepishly.

             “Where will you be sleeping tonight?”

             “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with sleepin’ on the ground,” Linkle said, shrugging. “I sleep in the barn all the time with the cuccos and ol’ Maple here.”

             “Are you sure you don’t mind?…” Zelda asked sleepily.

             “Go on princess, you need your rest…I promise, I’ll be fine.”

             Linkle sat beside Zelda as she lay down on the bedcloth. Linkle’s eyes wandered, unfocused, among the millions of stars that hung, twinkling in the night sky. She fiddled absentmindedly with the length of twine that hung around her neck, and eventually fished her compass out from within her tunic. The needle pointed north, faithfully as ever.

             Linkle admired the faded paint on its wooden casing, running a finger across the smooth surface. She thought of all the times she had ‘explored’ the forest near her house as a child, her grandmother always packing her a picnic lunch to take with her. She always brought along a map, to document her route, and wasn’t satisfied until she had made a new discovery for the day. A bittersweet smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she thought of all the places she had discovered: the dead oak that had plenty of places to hide her trinkets, the pond with the glowing algae, the numerous rodent and bird nests that she would keep notes on when she passed them…

Linkle finally slipped the compass back into her tunic. Pulling her knees to her chest, she rested her forehead against them and let out a long sigh.

             “Are you unwell, Linkle?”

             Linkle jumped and reached for the crossbow resting beside her, but a delicate, gentle hand took her other hand instead. As Linkle stared at the princess’s calm face, she couldn’t help but notice how the princess’s eyes sparkled bright gold in the moonlight.

             “Sorry princess…you startled me…” Linkle finally admitted, her fingers still trembling with adrenaline. “I hope I didn’t wake you…”

             “I’ve seen many wear the expression you were wearing a minute ago,” Zelda continued, “Something’s troubling you, isn’t it?”

             “It’s nothing your royal…erm, royal-ness should concern herself with,” Linkle sighed, “you have a kingdom to worry about after all.”

             “And yet right now, it’s just the two of us out here for company,” Zelda replied, letting out a soft chuckle.

             “I can’t imagine my company is worth much for the Princess herself…” Linkle mumbled, biting at her lip.

             “But a kingdom is not a kingdom without the people who live in it, is it not?” Zelda replied, squeezing Linkle’s hand. “And as its princess, it is my duty to lend both my voice and my ear to all those whom we watch over them.”

             “I suppose…” Linkle let out another sigh and shifted her position, turning towards the princess. “I guess it’s just…well, until a few months ago, I was just a plain ol’ farmgirl,” she began, “one with dreams of greatness, but a farmgirl all the same. But this adventure, it was something else…” she paused, fiddling absentmindedly with one of her braids.

             “And now you dread returning to your previous life?” Zelda asked.

             Linkle nodded solemnly, “I feel like I should feel more excited about this…I just saved a princess after all! I mean, that’s every adventurer’s dream, ain’t it?…” She trailed off, tracing her free hand in the grass. “But all I can think about is how boring things’ll seem after this…”

             “Don’t you have a family to go back to?” Zelda asked.

             Linkle just shook her head, her golden braids whipping back and forth. “My nana passed away years ago. It’s just been me ‘n’ Maple ‘n’ the cuccos ever since…”

             “Is that who you were thinking about earlier?”

             “I suppose you could say that…” Linkle said, sighing again.

             By now, Zelda had sat up, and took Linkle’s other hand in her own. The farmgirl looked at the princess with sullen, faded-blue eyes.

             “…What would you say to coming back to the castle…with me?”

             “P-…princess?”

             Zelda caressed Linkle’s cheek with a gloved hand and smiled for the first time since the young woman had seen her. Overcome with the princess’s beauty, Linkle just sat with her mouth slightly agape, her heart pounding in her chest.

             “I…quite admire your spirit, Linkle,” Zelda continued, “and I owe you my life, after all.” She paused, looking down as she collected her thoughts, “But…I will admit, I feel more than just gratitude towards you for saving me…there’s something about you that just…sets my heart at ease,” she stammered, blushing slightly in the moonlight. “And since I cannot quite set a finger on it, well…” Zelda scooted closer to Linkle, her fingers intertwining with those of her saviour, and leaning in close, her voice lowering to a whisper, “…if you would permit me to make a selfish request…I should like to take some time to figure out what it is about you that sets my heart aflutter so…”

             And with that, Linkle’s eyes closed, and she felt nothing but the princess’s warm lips against her own, as the scent of cinnamon and roses wafted about her in the cold, night air…