The smell of the pillow lured him out of sleep. It smelled like Zelda’s hair, and the deep breath he pulled in shrugged off the last vestiges of his dream. The bed was warm, but he still felt cold as his hand searched for skin and found none.
Link sat up and blearily took in the room. He was alone. The knight stretched out to wake his limbs, and his leg touched a wet spot. Glad I didn’t sleep in that. It all felt like he’d awoken from a vivid erotic dream.
The fact that he was sore reminded him in no unclear terms that it wasn’t.
All of the events of the previous night assaulted him.
Her moans, the stasis rune, her top ripping, ‘Major Test of Trust, Link,’ her leonine snarl, Zelda staring at him with lips on his head, millions of bees without stingers, ‘That was a dirty trick,’ her stretching around him--
Pangs of dread and arousal stabbed his stomach at the same time.
Link’s heart galloped so hard he felt the hooves kicking his chest. What had he done? How could he have bedded the Princess of Hyrule? Just for some trial? He didn’t think he was intoxicated by the Noble Pursuit. What could possibly have stolen the knight’s self-control from him?
You’re not gonna do a damn thing about it, Hero.
Cute little hearts.
Oh, that’s what. Link dug his fingers into his disheveled hair and leaned back against the headboard. His mouth tasted funny. The bed smelled like stale lovemaking and he didn’t know if he was repulsed or attracted to it. He’s sticky. What is that?
Link realized all at once what his sleep-addled brain was shrieking about.
Don’t you dare. Not yet. I know you can do it.
Oh no. Oh, no, no. Link has royally fucked up in the most literal sense. Why didn’t he even think to object? Why didn’t he push her off? Why didn’t—What an idiot! That isn’t what the trial called for! It’s supposed to be a test of trust, not a test of tryst!
Link was about knee-deep in this panic attack when the door opened.
Zelda paused, sensing the anxiety in the room the way she would sense walking face-first into a door. Link stared at her like she was a bear. She was dressed in a simple Hylian tank top and floral Gerudo pants. She was clean. Her hands were full: A torch, and her best friend.
Their best friend.
Link winced at the topaz glinting back at him and looked everywhere but at Zelda. Maybe the memories and the dread will go away if he just doesn’t see her.
“Um… good morning?” Zelda realized what was in her hand, and demurely held it behind her thigh. She lit the nearest torch with the one she carried, much to Link’s developing displeasure. He’d prefer not to see his wretched state in perfect clarity, thank you. Zelda tentatively set the device on the nightstand.
Zelda didn’t say anything, and Link didn’t say anything about her not saying anything.
Against his better judgement, his eye followed to the refracted firelights on the dresser. The device was pristine.
“You… cleaned it.”
Zelda fidgeted with the soft blankets. “I was just returning the favor.”
“Thanks.” Which translates roughly to, Well, that’s mortifying.
Link cleared his throat and pulled the covers higher. Zelda lingered at the bedside, not sure whether to make herself scarce or… or something that isn’t that.
The silence was suffocating.
Zelda wanted this to be over with, so she sighed and sat on the edge of the bed so she wouldn’t have to see his bare chest and all the muscles attached to it. “You didn’t tell me you liked my new pants,” Zelda scolded.
Link snorted and didn’t stare at the back of her head. Even the knight attendant knew it was a plea for him to say something, anything. “I like your pants.”
She passed him a treaty smile. It was a start.
“I—” They’d both spoken at the same time. Link offered, “Go ahead.”
Zelda shook her hair everywhere. “No, you first.”
Link ground his molars and rubbed the back of his neck. What was he supposed to say?
I bedded the Princess of Hyrule and I’m pretty sure the Goddess is going to smite me?
Do you feel used? Do you hate me?
Did we pass the trial?
Someone should wash these sheets?
Finally, he decided on saying none of those things. Instead, he clenched his fist and forced himself to admit, “I… lost control. I take full responsibility, and I’ll do what it takes to make this right.”
She wanted to break the tension, so she smiled at him ironically, “I was there, too, Link.” Her dry humor fell on stern ears and he cut a glare at her. Zelda softened her approach, “Link… I’m not too proud to admit I had fun. It’s disheartening to see you berate yourself over a good thing.”
Link squinted, confused. Looks like they were talking about two different things.
“What?” He shook his head, as if catching up. “No, no, not that.” Well, also that, but that’s not what he meant. “I, um. At the end…” If there’s a tactful way to put this, he’s grasping at it. “We did something reckless.”
Zelda watched his eyes flick down to her belly, then back up. The way he grit his teeth signaled he was ready to flee or fight— whether from himself or an external threat, she wasn’t sure. Understanding resonated in her eyes.
Don’t you dare. The fireworks on his face. His needy cries.
Zelda cleared her throat and shook off the intrusive images. “Oh. I see.” So, this discussion was going to start there, then. The tension was heavy, but not for the reason Link thought. “I don’t… think that’s something we should worry about.”
Link looked like she’d just killed his horse. What do you mean don’t worry about it?!
The way Link’s face drained of all color indicated he’d grossly misunderstood her implication. Zelda stared back at him dryly, “Link, do you know that the electric current in voltfruit juice stuns virility in Hylian males?” It can also render Zora Voe impotent, but she decided not to include that little fun fact.
Link stared at her dumbly. “What?”
“I suppose I should have led with that.”
“Maybe.” Yeah, no shit.
They broke eye contact when Link finally released the breath that he held. He mouthed a silent prayer of thanks at the stucco ceiling. Okay, so, at least they’d overcome that obstacle. Link snorted and willed his hands to stop shaking, which worked until an off-course thought hit him. It all seems a little too convenient…
Voltfruit juice. The Noble Pursuit.
“Wait… did you plan all of that?”
Zelda stared back, confused, until meaning began to settle in. “Plan? As in…” She was suddenly preoccupied with the ends of her hair. Guilty. She stuttered, “Well, no, not necessarily. I, uhm, well, I was concerned that the trials—It seemed that we were being pushed in that direction. Especially since my theory was correct. And…” you’re staring at me really hard, “And, well, I didn’t know what would happen. I thought it may be a good call, you know, just in case…”
Link’s suspicious face twitched in a way Zelda couldn’t read.
Zelda tentatively met his eye contact. “I… can’t tell what answer you were hoping for.”
Neither does he. Should she really have informed him of the side effects of what he consumed? Or had she really expected him to already know that bit of information? If he'd known, he might have taken the gesture of making the Noble Pursuit to be more suggestive than she'd intended. It seemed that she was just having fun following a recipe. Zelda couldn't fake that, right? Maybe the side effects were just an added bonus.
Link shook his head and placed it in the palm of his hand. She’s right: It doesn’t really matter now. He’s grateful that someone had at least taken a precaution. Link’s never going to hear the end of how stupid he is from himself, but at least the worst of the consequences were abated.
They sat in silence, just processing this moment.
The Hero and Princess had gone above what they thought the trial demanded of them. It was an act of passion committed purely of their own corporeal desires. Zelda had anticipated it getting out of hand was a possibility before Link did. Link had violated his knight’s code. He’d forgotten that he was the Hero of Hyrule, even if this was all supposedly done in the name of fulfilling that destiny.
Zelda broke the silence, “Do you think we passed the trial?”
Only one way to find out.
The throne room was trashed.
No longer were the fine tapestries hung from the ceilings but were torn down and knotted into a nest in the center of the floor. Deep claw marks left scars on the walls in sets of four. Potted cacti lay next to their shattered containers, dirt spread in a wide circle all around them. The intricate woven runner that led to the throne was askew and had fallen partway into the fountains. Stuffing from the throne cushions was littered like confetti.
But neither of them paid attention to any of it.
A massive creature stood on its hind legs and pawed at the shiny bauble of a statue’s necklace. Its ears swiveled upon their approach and it stopped its games in favor of staring at them with wide-blown pupils.
It was huge! The creature made a sound, but far gone was that curious pigeon-meow. It made a low chuffing noise and Link’s mind immediately set off raid sirens: Lynel! The Kittee returned to four paws and turned towards them, long golden tail twitching low behind it. Under the weight of its focused, tigrine stare, both Hylians were made profoundly aware of the fact that they are made of meat and sustenance and prey items. Its giant paws flexed.
Link pushed Zelda behind him and assumed a battle stance.
“Kittee?” says Zelda’s voice. The creature cocked its head. “Link… There’s no evidence that indicates we’re supposed to fight it.” She knew that he’d heard her by the way his ear shifted the slightest bit, but he did not respond. Hylian and creature stared each other down. Even with its head held naturally at its shoulder-height, it still stood as tall as Link. Its golden whiskers twitched.
The words glowed on the throne: A Major Test of Trust.
After a moment of no one moving, Zelda gently set her hand on Link’s shoulder so as not to startle him. Wordlessly, she moved around him and communicated with her eyes: Trust me. Link visibly resisted the urge to push her back behind him while she took a tentative step towards the anxious bulk of muscle and claws.
“I see you’ve kept yourself busy while we were away,” she spoke affectionately. “Are you still as kind-hearted as when I last saw you?”
The Kittee’s chest rumbled a sound neither of them had ever heard, and Zelda wasn’t sure if it was an answer or a threat or both.
“I bet we are making you nervous with our nervousness,” Zelda offered, braving another step towards the creature. She stretched her hand out just as she had in the memory of her castle bedroom. Its eyes narrowed, and Link nearly flung himself into the space between them when it stalked forward. He was glad he restrained himself because the creature sniffed Zelda’s hand, then rubbed its cheek against it.
It wanted chin scratches, and Zelda happily obliged.
Both exhaled a sigh of relief. It’s dangerous, but it isn’t hostile.
“That’s a sweet creature,” Zelda cooed. Its face pressed into her chest affectionately, that chuffing noise rumbling every exhale. It’s too big to purr now, Zelda realized. She scratched behind the creature’s ears as it marked her collarbones; The creature’s face was easily the size of her torso. Link tried not to think about whether it could get its jaws all the way around her head. Zelda looked over her shoulder at him, her stance wide so as to not be knocked over the way she would brace against Epona scratching her nose on her belt. “Link, I think my theory was correct.”
It certainly appears that way.
Cautiously, Link approached the creature, which seemed to increase its anxiety, until he offered the same hand gesture and allowed it to sniff him. “It isn’t quite as big as a horse, but it may be strong enough to carry us to Vah Naboris.”
Zelda appraised the creature while it groomed the side of Link’s head with its tongue (much to Link’s visible discomfort). Its muscles were bunched and compacted, and every movement it made was silent. It seemed far more predatory than a horse, and its ability to leap from platform to platform insinuated more agility than any creature they’ve seen before.
“It may be able to carry one of us up at a time,” Zelda inferred. “However, all of the previous trials have been completed at the same time.” Well, with the exception of one.
Link pressed his open palm to the Kittee’s face, giving it something to lick that wasn’t his now-disheveled hair. Its rough tongue was bigger than his hand. “We completed the last trial when it led us to where we were supposed to go. Maybe we just need to wait for it to ask us to follow.”
“Uh-huh,” hummed Zelda, her face behind the slate. It made a mechanical snapping sound as it captured a picture of the Kittee mid-lick in his palm and Link’s deadpan stare at the camera.
“Sorry,” she giggled. She couldn’t help it. There’s no avoiding that it’s kinda cute. He heard her save the image and then answer him more fully. “There’s not much more that we could… accomplish here,” she said tactfully. “Even still, I can’t figure out why we were able to move on from the last trial when by all appearances, we hadn’t gone through your memories completely. The Kittee shrank, then grew, then led us here. It doesn’t make sense."
Does that mean they have to backtrack somehow? That’s not exactly possible. There’s no un-doing what they’ve done.
Kittee deemed Link thoroughly groomed and flopped on its side to lick its paws. It completely blocked the path to the destroyed throne.
Link wiped his hand on his (fresh) Gerudo pants, unhappy with the non-absorbent silk. They exchanged a glance, then watched the creature happily groom itself, then roll around on the makeshift bed of expensive tapestries. If it could take them to Vah Naboris, it definitely didn’t seem in a rush to do so.
Zelda sighed and sat on a step. “I suppose all we can do at this point is wait.”
Link rubbed the back of his neck and didn’t look at her. Why does that idea sound so deeply unappealing?