They don’t speak much. Everything they have to say to each other feels too massive, as if Zelda will never find a handhold to get started. They should start planning for what to do next, but she, again, doesn’t know where to start.
And they’re both too tired to speak.
And they both deserve some rest before she throws them both into another scheme.
And they don’t really know each other that well.
And she’s too horrified by the state of Castletown to think straight.
“It’s kind of nice now,” Link says. “Without guardians everywhere.”
He hops over a low wall—no, the ruins of a building—and kicks a depowered guardian a few times before ducking under one of its legs and digging through its innards. He pops back up with a gear and holds it up to her with the most exhausted smile she’s ever seen.
She stares at him. Then she stares at what was once the skyline of the capital city.
He takes her elbow and guides her out of town, through fields and over hills that feel much steeper than they actually are. She wonders if she could do a study: actual gradient versus perceived gradient, where she asks people to estimate the angle of incline. She has to stop at the top with her hands on her knees, gasping for breath.
She hasn’t had much exercise lately.
Link pats her shoulder once, and goes on ahead, and when she’s caught her breath enough to look up, she sees him crouched in the tall grass below her, sneaking up behind a horse.
It seems like a very bad idea.
Her lips part to shout something, to warn him he’s too tired, too slow, that he’s going to get kicked in the face and then where will they be? But he runs and leaps and the herd scatters around him as the horse he’s on bucks and rears, trying to throw him. He’s low to its back, fists tight in its mane, shouting “Whoa, whoa!”
The horse settles, snorts, shakes its head. Its shoulders are tense, but it’s no longer trying to kill Link. He pats the horse’s shoulder and coos at it, then leads it haltingly up the hill towards her. He dismounts to offer her a hand, groaning unconsciously as he hoists her onto the creature’s back, then he hauls himself up behind her, far less nimble than he was a minute ago, when he practically vaulted onto a wild animal.
She’s never rode bareback before. She hasn’t ridden with someone else since she was a little girl. She doesn’t know what to do with her hands.
Link aims them toward Dueling Peaks, and the whole way there they cycle through dozing off under the monotony and jerking back awake.
They get to the stable just after sunset. He practically topples off the horse and pulls some rupees from his pocket—way too many rupees—and pushes them into her hands. “Get us two beds. Soft beds. And food.” His voice is like a sigh. “I think I’m going to keep the horse, so I’ll get her registered.”
The horse calmed as they traveled, and now it nuzzles Link’s elbow, shoving at his back.
“Is it a good horse?” she asks. It feels like a stupid question.
“She’s a good girl,” he says, which isn’t quite the answer she expected.
It feels like way too many rupees, and she wonders at first if, in his exhaustion, he handed her the wrong amount. But if so, that’s an easy fix, as she will just return the unused rupees to him. She then worries that perhaps he’s brought her somewhere very nice out of concern for what he would consider her aristocratic tastes. Maybe he thinks her a snob, which she certainly is not, and she will have to have words with him about how she's perfectly content to rough it, as it were. She couldn’t possibly spend his hard-earned money on frivolities.
As it turns out, renting a bed is…well…renting a bed, of which there are six in the main room. Also in that same room is a rowdy group of travelers gathered around a table, a young man tuning a lute in the corner, and a perilously thin salesman sitting cross-legged on the floor with an enormous bag on his back and a table folded out in front of him. One of the beds is already taken, its occupant dead to the world despite the din.
Maybe she is a snob. Just a bit.
She squares her shoulders and approaches the counter, purchasing two beds for the night and “specials,” which turn out to be salt-grilled fish, a couple bread rolls, and a glass of goat milk.
This uses up the money. Exactly.
Link looks pleased with the dinner. She can’t tell if he’s so tired that it looks like he has deep, purple bruises under his eyes, or if he actually has bruises on his face. The warm light makes it hard to tell. He sits on his bed with his food, and she follows suit, facing him from her own bed, balancing her plate on her knees. It’s a bit too hot to hold for more than a few seconds at a time and she pulls a few more layers of her dress between her plate and her knees. She has nowhere to place her milk and ends up setting it on the floor.
“I named her Horsey Porsey,” he says.
“You what? Who?”
“The horse.” He gestures towards the register, his mouth suddenly full of dinner roll.
He swallows. It looks as though it hurts to do so.
She leans forward, lowering her voice. “This is a very expensive inn.”
He frowns. Chews.
“We just spent a farm worker’s average monthly income on beds for one night and two meals! How can this—” She freezes.
Link stares at her. His chewing has slowed, as if he thinks she might turn hysterical and violent and he fears he might need to restrain her.
Her face heats, and she lowers her eyes to her plate only to meet the dead-eyed stare of her fish. “My figures are a bit out of date, I suppose.” Her hands shake, and she tears up her dinner roll to hide it. “Inflation is not an uncommon phenomenon. I really should have anticipated it.”
She hears Link swallow, then place his plate on the floor. For a moment, she thinks he might bridge the space between them, kneel before her to force her to look him in the eyes, take her hands in his own, tell her that she is actually doing quite well for a time displaced young woman who has just finished a century-long battle with demon, and whose admittedly-few friends are all long dead, and who hasn’t used her vocal chords or seen the sun in a hundred years. It’s a perfectly reasonable mistake to make. They are both tired and should really get some sleep.
Instead, he picks up his glass of milk with a clink, downs it in three, noisy gulps, and places it on the floor beside his plate. He then falls back on his bed with a sigh. He’s just done with his meal. That’s all.
“I might sleep for three days,” he says. She looks up and his eyes are already closed.
She takes a breath and takes a bite of fish. It’s really quite good. Not that her palate is very discerning at the moment.
She looks up. Link’s eyes are open again. He offers her a smile.
She swallows. Why does she feel like crying?
“Yes,” she says. “I suppose we did.”
He yawns. Then he’s dead to the world.