Zelda let out a jaw-cracking yawn as she ground the Hyrule herb into dust. It was late, long past sunset, but she needed to get the grinding done while the plant was still fresh. She tapped the side of the mortar against the counter to test. That will do. Satisfied, she poured the contents into the jar beside her before grabbing another handful of herbs.
“Zel?” She smiled as a pair of warm arms wrapped around her waist. “The kids are all out cold. I think it’s our turn now. You coming to bed anytime soon?” Link asked.
“I just have to finish this stack and then I’ll be done,” she said. “Two more handfuls at most, I promise.”
Her husband frowned. “That many for a pile that size?”
“Mmhmm. These go faster than the armoranth, but I need those less often anyway.”
“I’ll carve you a bigger mortar tomorrow,” Link said decisively. “Do you want a bigger pestle to match?”
“Any bigger than this and I wouldn’t be able to hold it.” She set the pestle down and wiggled her fingers. “Tiny hands.”
“Hey, I love those tiny hands,” Link said, and as if to prove his statement, caught her hand in his own and brought it to his mouth for a kiss. “I’ll go after breakfast to find a good chunk of wood. We’ll need more firewood soon, anyway.”
“Take Elliana with you,” Zelda requested, returning to her work. “She’s been on another adventure kick ever since Revali visited.”
“He does tell great stories. Moose can come, too, keep an extra eye on our wiggler.” Link pushed her long braid aside to drop a kiss on her neck before letting out a yawn of his own. “I’m heading to bed. Don’t stay up too late this time, love.”
“Of course,” she said, and off he went.
In truth, she’d hoped to stay up until she couldn’t anymore. On top of the exhaustion that came with newborns and the usual rush of late autumn elixir orders, she’d been having very…odd dreams as of late. They weren’t like the dreams she’d had while she was pregnant or even the prophetic ones she’d had before the Calamity, goddesses forbid. They were unsettling and always left her feeling like she’d missed something.
Zelda sighed as she tipped the last of the Hyrule herb into the jar and screwed the lid tightly shut. That would be plenty for the next day’s work, and if her eldest went with Link to the forest she could ask her to pick some more. If Ellie loved one thing, it was gathering things in her little rucksack. Casting one final look around the counter, she blew out the candle, glanced in at her daughters, and went to bed.
When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was her bookshelf. This was unusual in and of itself, she thought drowsily, as Link had moved their bookshelf downstairs to make room for the cradle. And hadn’t she gone to bed, rather than dozing off on her desk? She hadn’t done that since-
Wait a moment.
Zelda snapped to awareness, sitting up straight and taking a good look at her surroundings. She had known these walls once, a long, long time ago. Before her move to Hateno, before the Calamity – even before Link. This was her old study.
She stood and walked a slow circle around the room. Everything was exactly as she had left it before she made that final trek to the Spring of Wisdom, from the books piled on her desk to the bundles of paper littering the floor. Cautiously, she peered out the window, only to met with impenetrable fog, at odds with the sunlight that illuminated the room. She nodded to herself. A dream, then.
“Why am I here?” she whispered into the nothingness.
A sudden wind blew through the room, pushing open the door with a loud creeeeak.
“…Well. Alright then. I’ll go that way.” She padded towards the door, hissing quietly as her bare feet touched the cold cobblestones. The breeze caught her skirt as she automatically made her way to the center of the bridge, turning to gaze out into the misty nothingness. So absorbed was she in her contemplation of that nothingness that she took no notice of the figure coming to join her.
Zelda jumped, whirling around to look at the intruder. It was a large man, with strong shoulders and a full, bushy beard. He wore a simple brown tunic and trousers, though a red hood concealed most of his face, and he leaned slightly on a wooden staff with a lantern hanging from the end. There was something…familiar about him.
He cleared his throat and she realized she’d been staring. “I’m sorry!” she said. “This is…a rather unusual situation. Can I help you?”
The man looked at her sadly. “Do you not recognize me?” He lifted one broad hand and pulled back the hood. “My dear child.”
Tears sprang to Zelda’s eyes and she stepped back in shock. “Father!”
Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule, the last ruler of the old kingdom, gazed down at his only daughter. “Hello, Zelda.”
“But you – I – how-” she stuttered.
“I have been trying to reach you for several weeks now without success,” he said. “Tonight, the odds were in my favor.”
Zelda smiled tremulously. “It’s a blue moon,” she said.
Rhoam looked out into the mist. “Indeed.”
“How are you here?” Zelda asked, stepping closer to him. “You…died. Long ago.”
“That is true,” he said, “but there was much I still needed to atone for.” For the barest second, deep regret flashed across his face before he schooled his expression. “I failed my people, my lands, my sacred duty…and my own beloved daughter. In my determination to protect you, I harmed you deeply, pushing you beyond your limits, even as a young child. What a fool I was!”
“Father, I-” Zelda began, but the old king held up a hand to silence her.
“For one hundred years my spirit lingered, alone atop the Great Plateau, waiting for the Chosen Hero to wake from his long slumber. I guided him, gave him items to aid him on his long journey, and sent him on his way before returning to my post, watching the great evil that festered in the castle and praying to any who would listen that the young woman inside would live to see the sky again. What a glorious day it was when she did.” He smiled at her, the gentle expression she remembered from her childhood.
“We lived, Father,” she said softly. “Link and I married not long after the fall of the Calamity. We have a home and three beautiful children, and lead a peaceful life. We’re alright.”
“I know,” Rhoam said, his smile growing. “I’ve kept watch over you for ten years, and was by your side for every high and low moment along the way. However, the time has come for me to say goodbye.”
Zelda’s heart dropped. “What?”
“I have lingered long,” he said, and his hand twitched as if he wished to reach out and touch her. “The dead cannot stay forever. I must move on. I just wanted…” Silence reigned for several heartbeats as he fought with his words. “I wanted to apologize.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” she said, but her father shook his head.
“There is much I must atone for! I chose to be a king rather than a father, a force of harm and disdain rather than a force of love and support. I failed to follow your mother’s final request to take care of you, and look what chaos reigned in the aftermath!”
“Stop that!” Zelda snapped, glaring at him as if he was one of her misbehaving children. “How can I fault you for trying to teach what you could not understand? You were afraid – we all were. You cannot blame the fall of the kingdom on yourself. To place that weight on your own shoulders is unfair not only to you, but to every other person who sacrificed their lives fighting an evil they could never comprehend. Father, the only person who you must seek forgiveness from is yourself.”
Rhoam stared at her, shocked, before letting out a rueful chuckle. “You are an image of your mother, my sweet daughter. When did you become so wise?”
“It took a lot of lectures from my Champions,” she said, relaxing her stance, “and many nights of wrestling with guilt and pain, but eventually I realized they were right.”
“Are you not angry with me?” Rhoam asked.
“I was, for a very long time,” Zelda said honestly. “Some things are meant to be, however. If things had been different, I likely wouldn’t have married Link. We wouldn’t have the friends we do now. Most importantly, though, my descendants would still face the ever-looming threat of Ganon, resulting in centuries upon centuries of continued destruction and fear. Also,” she said wryly, “your top-secret diary was quite enlightening.”
“You found it?”
“We took stock of the castle and its contents before the first winter came. Link had actually found it before we took Ganon down, so he led me back to it.” She smiled up at him. “I can’t say that I agree with your actions, but I do understand them.”
Rhoam huffed out another laugh, then looked out over the edge of the bridge. She followed his gaze to find that the mist had cleared, revealing Hyrule as it was now, a growing land full of peaceful and content people, freed of the evil that had restrained them for so many years. The sun peeked over the distant mountains. Link would soon be waking, ever the early bird, and tiny Caelan would follow soon after. The girls would need dressed and fed before they could begin the day’s work.
She had to return.
Zelda turned to her father, tears once again filling her eyes, to find him standing in his full royal splendor. Wisps of teal fire licked at his feet, and his form was surrounded by a faint glow.
“It is time, Zelda,” he said. “I must leave, and go on into forever.”
“But you can’t!” she cried. “I have so much to tell you!”
“We will see each other again,” he reassured her, “and then you can tell me all the stories you desire.”
Before she could realize what she was doing, she leapt forward and threw her arms around his waist, squeezing him as tightly as she could. Dimly, she felt his arms fold around her, and drops of something fell into her hair. “I love you!” she sobbed.
“I love you, too, my dear,” he said, his voice thick. “I will always be with you, no matter what.” He pulled away and reached into his pocket, then pressed something into the palm of her hand. “Goodbye, Zelda.”
She sobbed one last time as the light took them both.
“…da. Zelda!” She woke with a gasp to Link’s concerned face. “Are you alright, love? You were crying.”
Zelda sat up slowly, taking in the comforting familiarity of their bedroom. The Hylian shield hung on the far wall, flanked by photos of themselves, their friends, and their children. The wardrobe took up the space between the windows, and there at the end of the bed was Caelan in his cradle. The early morning sun filtered through the curtains and shone off Link’s hair. Everything was normal again.
She brought up one hand to rub her eyes, but paused when she noticed a string dangling out of her clenched fist. Shakily, she opened it to reveal a small pendant, one she’d seen her mother wear long ago. It was a pretty little thing, a tiny golden flower with a single pearl in the center. Her father had taken it to give to her when she married, as was tradition, but with how things had turned out…
“Where did you get that?” Link asked quietly, and when she burst into tears again, he cradled her close and whispered quiet comforts in her ear.
After Zelda had pulled herself together, the morning went the same as it always did. Caelan woke with a smelly nappy, and Link changed him and blew raspberries into his belly while Zelda dressed and let Moose out. They went downstairs together, each taking charge of dressing one of their daughters before herding them into the kitchen for breakfast.
Zelda sat at the table nursing her baby son, watching her husband expertly flip pancakes with one hand and bouncing Pippa on his hip with the other while Ellie danced around and sang this morning’s version of the pancake song. What she’d told her father was true, she mused. If she’d had a chance to change anything, anything at all, she would refuse. How could she change the path that had led her to the life she so loved, the peace she’d never known she could have?
Link fixed up the girls’ plates, making smiley faces on the pancakes with wildberries, and set them up at the table before bringing over hers and his own. The food was downed with exuberance – enough in Pippa’s case that she was probably going to need a bath – until Ellie let out an oh! and nearly bounced out of her chair.
“Mama, Mama, I gotta tell you!” she said. “I had a really cool dream last night!”
“Did you, now?” Zelda asked, beckoning her over so she could clean off her face. “What was it about?”
“There was a big man with a poofy beard and he came and played with me!” Ellie recounted. “He said he was my grandpa just like Grampy Bolson is my grandpa, and then he said he thought I was just as cool as you and Papa!”
“Me too, Mama! He said it to me too!” Pippa chirped around a mouthful of wildberries.
“Do we really have another grandpa? Can he come visit?” Ellie asked innocently.
Zelda sucked in a breath. “You did, darlings,” she said carefully, “but he had to go away a long time ago.”
Pippa frowned. “Can he come back?”
“No, he can’t,” Link said, rounding the table and scooping her into his arms, “but last night he came to say goodbye to you and your mama. You’ll see him again, but not for a very long time.”
“Oh.” Ellie tilted her head, considering the idea for a moment before nodding, her perpetually messy hair bouncing along. “That’s okay. We’ve already got Grampy Bolson, and I dunno what we’d do if we had two grandpas! That’s a lotta grandpas.”
“Try being Aunt Riju,” Link said, “she had four grandmas!”
Ellie and Pippa let out little woahs, much to Zelda’s amusement. “Come on, girls,” she said. “Time to clean up!”
“I have to go to the forest,” Link said. “We need more wood and Mama needs more herbs. Can you be my helper today, Ellie?”
“Yes!” Ellie yelled, sprinting for the bathroom.
“Whatta ‘bout me?” Pippa asked.
“Caelan needs somebody to watch him while Mama works,” Zelda said. “It would be really helpful if you would stay near him while you played today. Can you do that?”
“Excellent!” she said. She stood and carried the baby over to the play mat, a gift from Paya from when Ellie was tiny. “Go with Papa to wash up first, okay?”
As she watched Caelan look around, his green eyes wide and curious, she finally relaxed. Yes, Rhoam was gone now, beyond where she could reach him, but the weight of his arms, the warmth of his voice…those remained. She would remember the happy times and the sad, the good and the bad, and pass those stories on to her children. She and Link would learn from where Rhoam had not, and they would carry on.
Yes, Zelda thought as Pippa tossed herself into her lap to better chatter at her baby brother, as Link helped Elliana wiggle into her boots, as Moose trotted around the pair of them with his tail wagging wildly. Through all of our tomorrows, we will carry on.