Princess Alter Ego Visions Sitely Main

Grace DoubleNegative

Wagon Parts

The tavern, whose kitchen was of considerable size, paled in comparison to that of the castle's, whose cupboards alone were beyond anything Link deemed reasonably measurable. Cups of the purest glass, plates of the finest silver, wood carved from the rarest oak--each a finery proportionate to that of the palace's most prestigious resident.

It was laughable, really, that such extremes were taken to accommodate to the "needs" of one such King Harkinian and Princess Zelda of Hyrule. It was almost as if royalty needed audacity and superfluousness to maintain the illusion of importance.

Indeed, it was not a life for the faint of heart.

As such, Link was content to sit quietly and drink milk, amazed but unperturbed by the busyness of the servants.

Zelda, as he recalled, despised milk, opting instead to dine on fine wines, some of which were used as cooking sherries for seafood or game. She had offered Link wine in the past, slightly amused at the thought of his consuming alcohol. But Link had refused, insisting that men were "morally questionable" when intoxicated.

Zelda had laughed, proclaiming that "one sip" was hardly a sin. But when Link spoke of "bad things" in the tavern--a term used only to describe actions which escaped Link's avenue of comprehension--Zelda had ushered the wine away quickly, seemingly guilt-stricken for causing him upset.

There were things Link simply couldn't, or perhaps wouldn't, understand.

Incidentally, Link had never understood the concept behind keeping servants. Why did man, a creature blessed with two arms and two legs, need the arms and legs of another man to do his work? The word "counterproductive" came to mind, considering most tasks were just as easily, if not more so, accomplished by oneself.

When asked, "Would you like a glass of milk?", Link had assumed he himself would milk the cow--provided by the castle, of course--and pour his own drink, as he had countless times before in the forest. The woman had erupted into fits of laughter at the idea, wondering how it was he could arrive at such a conclusion, knowing full well the palace received their milk via delivery of Lon Lon Ranch. But before he could answer, she'd shrugged the question away saying, "I see why she likes you."

Having lived a self-sufficient life, Link knew no better. Every day was a means of survival--find food, prepare food, avoid prey, protect kin--and his instincts, though basic, sharpened his senses, providing him an alternative mindset from those who'd lived their lives in towns and villages of the civilized world.

Not to say that Link was "uncivilized," nor was Kokiri Forest altogether ignorant to the concept of manners and propriety--they were an organized society themselves--but he could never wholly shake his upbringing in the wild, where animals roamed freely and the sun rose and set with the twinkling of the fairies.

Nor was there a more "self-sufficient" atmosphere than the kitchen, whose workers cooked and cleaned and strained tirelessly hours upon end to feed the overwhelming masses of the palace. As such, there were no chairs or stools, only tables with the occasional bare spot, one of which Link occupied, his slender legs swinging over the counter's edge. Normally, an empty spot was freed when a dish or plate was served and put away, only to be replaced with another dish or plate in an endless cycle of madness that provided the kitchen its purpose.

A nameless servant passed, stopping only to marvel at Link's ears and eyes, muttering things such as "pretty child," and the absent similarities between snow and the color of his skin. Having lived under the protection of the forest canopy, Link had yet to adjust himself to the harsh and obnoxious rays of Hyrule's seemingly ever-present, ever-watchful, ever-consuming sunlight. And with his blonde hair and ivory complexion, there was no such thing as "tans" or "browns"--only reds, whites, and offensive burns.

The worker offered cheeses and cookies to accompany the milk, but Link politely declined, offering instead his assistance. She shook her head and laughed, petting his ears--not everyone in Hyrule was of elfin descent--before continuing on with her chores.

With the kitchen help piddling away, Link turned his attention to the woman servant, whose immaculate hands folded napkins in preparation for the evening dinner. She had stopped, twice, to straighten his shirt, brushing an imaginary dust mite and smoothing the creases in his sleeve.

"You're surprisingly well-kempt for a boy."

Link inwardly smiled.

"You're scheduled for an audience with the Princess. She's asked that I escort you to the courtyard."

And so, with the kisses and pinches of the kitchen, Link followed the woman servant back through the castle corridors, amazed still by the ease with which he navigated the halls and passageways. Men and women, none of whom Link recognized, traveled with similar ease, as though Hyrule itself were given open invitation to tour the palace as an extracurricular activity.

It was no wonder, really, why Zelda was so easily kidnapped.

As they neared the courtyard entry, Link was struck with the realization--or perhaps, horror--that he'd yet to visit the Central Tower, as instructed. He ran his fingers along the antiquated key, its metal tapping lightly against his chest as his feet kept pace with the woman servant's strides. In his hurriedness to the kitchen, Link had neglected to complete his duties, an oversight which reflected poorly on his performance. He prided himself in both accuracy and efficiency, especially in matters pertaining to the Royal Family.

"Servants work with speed and diligence…," as he recalled, "…and without question or hesitation." Those were her exact words.

Would she be upset?

Amidst his worries, they arrived--far sooner than Link would have liked--at the courtyard. Link was asked to wait at the entrance until summoned, while the woman servant continued ahead to inform Zelda of their arrival. He watched, curiously, from his position, noting the woman servant's gestures and motions, and Zelda's corresponding nods and smiles. It was an odd, not to mention lengthy interaction for the delivery of a simple message.

After what Link felt was a deliberate delay to triple his anxiety, the woman servant returned, kneeling to the ground and leveling her gaze with his own. He noted the brief fascination in her eyes, a distracted sadness he'd missed in their previous exchange, overwhelmed by an emptiness he could neither name nor place, only sympathize with in an effort to pinpoint an emotion so often manifested in his nightmares and dreams.

She smiled, erasing the mystery of her eyes, straightening his shirt once more before kissing his cheek.

"The Princess will see you now." She paused. "Practice your folding for when it is we meet again. I will expect improvement."

And without another word, she stood and left.

With an uneasy feeling settling in his stomach, Link approached the Princess, her dress as thin and silken as the tunes of his ocarina. But the colors of the setting sun caught something he'd failed to notice earlier in the day--an angle or shape captured by the trick of the light. He blinked, torn between his unexplainable sorrow for the woman, and his insuppressible appetence for the Princess.

He stood quietly, awaiting her direction, perplexed by the stoicism in her face.

"She is barren."

Link flinched.

Zelda's emotions were unknown, her voice and countenance forthright and matter-of-fact. She seemed neither moved nor effected by the curtness of her words, which Link found simultaneously cold and powerful.

Should he express his condolences, or remain silent?

He opted for silence.

Zelda continued. "The palace is innocuous, no? Hundreds of people, countless activities, and yet, as lifeless as the frozen sea."

She stepped forward, and with the slightest flick, retrieved the bronzed key at his chest. The chain, however, she tucked beneath his shirt, patting it lightly to accentuate its ownership.

"I was a bit concerned sending you alone, but as always, you managed." She smiled, her chin tilted upward. "Though I'm sure my handmaiden was of considerable help."

Link lowered his gaze, ashamed of accepting praise for a job only half-finished. He opened his mouth to explain, but his apologies were cut short.

"I changed my mind."

Link flinched, again, startled by her abrupt interruption.

"It was an ambitious plan--ill-conceived and poorly executed." She turned, her profile facing the wall. "It isn't the first time I've allowed my aggression to take control of my better judgment…" There was a long pause. "…And I promised never to make that mistake twice."

Link thought of years before, flashes of the past and future, and the consequences of their actions. He remembered the silence, the isolation, and the desperation of two worlds--the struggle for power, wisdom, courage, and a balance of the very essence, the very pull which fabricated their destinies. Most of all he envisioned Zelda, both victim and instigator, the naiveté of a child combined with the will of a leader, and nothing in between to make sense of the madness.

He stepped forward to touch her arm, his mind screaming with the urge to comfort, to console, to relieve. But the Princess turned, sharply, her back once again facing the wall, and her eyes stern with composure and control.

"A queen has no weaknesses, Link. Nor does her king."

He pondered her words for but a moment, before withdrawing his hand and kneeling low, his vision fixated on a lock of grass brushing against the leather of his boots. She stepped forward, in turn, her waistline brushing the edges of his hair, and her fingers lightly--but barely--grazing the sides of his face.

"It's best you return to town before nightfall. My handmaiden will see fit to inform me of today's findings."

Link straightened, posturing himself to mimic Zelda's formality. As he stood, his mind struggled with what was right, what was proper, what was mad, and whether there was any real difference between the three. He wondered, briefly, if men had thought of her, looked at her, dreamt of her as he had, or if the power of the Triforce weren't somehow manipulating his senses into a realm of impossible possibles only the Devil himself rejoiced. And if the Devil rejoiced, what of his own conscience?

He stole one last glance before bowing low--his gaze trailing her dress--and making the return trip to Hyrule Market.

Zelda shivered, slightly, as she watched, irritated by a sudden chill permeating the air. Night was definitely upon her, and she hoped, for what little it was worth, Link's return to Market was a wary one. The town was relatively safe, the occasional riffraff notwithstanding, and Link was more than capable of protecting himself. Even still, she worried, having never wholly shaken her memories of the future, and the caution that came with its immortality. Nor could she shake the prophetic brisk tingling her spine, warning her of an impending, inevitable misfortune she'd neither knowledge nor understanding of.

But this was hardly the time for timidity--there was work to be done.

Like clockwork, the woman servant reappeared, just as Link's image was lost to the weakening rays of the sun. She stood before Zelda, her hands folded and her eyes low, to emphasize respect.

The Princess folded her arms, inquisitively. "Well?"

"He was… hesitant at first, but with assistance, his confidence grew. The palace intimidates him--its size, its structure, its movements," she warned. "He found his way well enough, but the palace is more than crimson doors and winding halls. He will not adapt overnight."

Zelda nodded. "As I expected. And the workers?"

"He is well-received by our staff," she beamed. "He is… identifiable--someone the workers can relate to."

"An important consideration, indeed."

"A characteristic on which his exceptionalism is based," the woman added.

Zelda ruffled her dress, thoughtfully.

"Shall I make the necessary arrangements, then?"

The Princess shook her head. "No. We will wait. As it stands, we've more pressing matters to attend to."


"What did I tell ya'?"

"Hey! HEY! Leave the tip and shut your lip, will ya'?"

"I TOLD you that guy was no good, didn't I? DIDN'T I?"

"Ah, here it comes…"

"I TOLD you he was gonna' run outta' here the SECOND he got a better opportunity. And whadya know? …No, wait! Wait! Do YOU see him hangin' around anywhere? Huh? HUH?"

"Go home, Clarice. You're drunk."

"Look at ya'! Yer draggin' children off the streets!"

"Nobody's draggin' nothin' from nowhere! He's a hired employee, paid more than what he's worth!"

"You keep treatin' yer help that way, and you won't have nothin' left!"

Clarice, a regular, was drunk as usual.

Link watched as she and the Boniface went back and forth, arguing over a hired hand who'd quit prior to the evening shift. He'd been offered a job at one of the developing businesses nearby--a pottery shop just outside the castle gates. Link had never known the man intimately--in truth, he knew neither his name nor the color of his hair. But no man was foolish enough to reject better pay, friendlier working conditions, and reasonable hours, a concept which had cost the Boniface his second bartender in the past three months.

As such, Link was thrown into the forefront of the evening rush, pouring drinks and waiting tables, despite Clarice's robust objections. But the Boniface was desperate, and it wasn't often soldiers "dropped in" for a drink.

The tavern was rough at night, the grittier crowd pouring in by the dozens for booze, women, booze, and a "night out with the guys." But as colorful as the men were, the women were worse. He'd noticed a few wayward eyes tossed in his direction more than twice that night, and the trailing, smiling, and winking were unnerving to say the least. He recalled one of Zelda's frightful gazes--a look that screamed "get out or be circumcised"--which had, more than once, silenced a crowd. He wished, in that moment, he were capable of such a face.

"Don't tell me how to manage my employees!" The Boniface was louder now. "A woman's got no head for business!"

"You ass!" she squawked. "Who does the books 'round here, huh? HUH? Who oversees inventory at the end of the month, huh? HUH?" Clarice took another swig. "And to think--I do all that for free."

Link mentally sighed, all too accustomed to Clarice's temper-tantrums, and the tears, slaps, and eruptions that would inevitably follow. They were predictable, not to mention obvious, and Link only hoped that the Boniface survived long enough to attend the wedding--that is, if he ever built up the balls to ask.

As they argued, Link felt the leer of an attractive woman, a strange perfume drifting through the air, emanating from the adjoining table. She sat, legs crossed, her voice dripping with sensualism and the connotations of something carnal.

"Colorful atmosphere, hmm? "

Link "mmhmmed" in response, nodding slightly and focusing his attention on serving drinks and taking orders.

Unfazed--and annoyingly persistent--the woman continued. "You're… out of place, you know. With you here, I might as well live at the Royal Palace."

Link turned, for the first time that night, his brow thoughtful, and attentive.

She stared in return, and as she smiled, he noticed the silken fabric of her clothes, the suggestiveness of its placement, and though it breathed of the same openness as Zelda's dress, he felt, for an instant, overtly offended.

"Is something wrong?" she smirked.

Before Link could answer, a drink flew across the bar, bits of glass scattering along the floor and the Boniface nervously protecting himself a serving tray. Clarice was on the opposing end, her face flushed with intoxication, and her eyes filled with fire.

Whatever he'd said or done, it was obviously the wrong thing.

"Any half-wit can OPEN a bar! People'll drink booze if it pours out a Goron's ass!" she screamed. "The point is KEEPIN' it open!"

"Clarice!" The Boniface peeked out from behind his "shield," his fingers trembling with uncertainty. "Go to my room and lie down! You're drunk!"

Clarice seemed to cease her ranting, pausing a moment, as though struck with a sudden realization. Almost immediately she grabbed a drink from a nearby table, hurling the glass across the bar.

"I see how it is! I get it!" She grabbed her satchel and flung, wildly, missing a customer by mere inches. "Give her a drink and she'll sleep with you anywhere!"


But she was gone, the silence emphasized by the swish of swinging doors.

The Boniface stood, numb and bewildered, his emotions reflected in the face of every customer, every chair, every broken glass. Whatever might he held was gone, vanished, dissipated into a collective nothingness seeping through the planks of the tavern floor.

The customers, silent for once, eyed the entrance, half-expecting--or perhaps, half-hoping--for Clarice's lithe form to burst through, embracing her lover with forgiveness, a forgiveness of unrestrained passion only women could achieve. But there was no such Clarice, and the Boniface shivered, hard, torn between swallowing his pride, and chasing Clarice into the night.

He chose the next best thing.


Link jumped, his tray tilting forward from the shock. He steadied himself, annoyed by the smirks of the attractive woman, and grateful he'd leveled the tray without flopping cold liquor over the table.

Clarice had made enough messes for one night.


Link sighed, dreading the Boniface's wrath, but pleased just the same to escape the woman, whose eyes followed his form from across the bar. He approached the Boniface, nervous, but attentive.


The Boniface paused, noting the glances and stares of his customers, few of which had leaned their chairs closer in hopes of reeling in a stray bit of gossip. He narrowed his eyes at the unwanted attention, nudging Link towards the door, his voice low.

"Eh..." He stuttered, running a hand through his bangs. "Ya' know, the tavern gets pretty crazy at night..."

Link nodded.

"Yer just a kid, ya' know, so I can't leave ya' alone to watch the place. Wouldn't be right, ya' know?"

Link nodded, again.

"But I... Eh... Can't have that half-minded woman roamin' the streets scarin' people…"

Link mentally sighed.

"So I, er, want you to bring her back... Bring her back to the bar, ya' know? Uh…" He paused a moment, unsure of himself. "...Make sure she's alright."

A few snickers surfaced, the tavern as quiet as it had ever been, and Link struggling to maintain against the teases and giggles of the bar. The Boniface growled, irritated, eyeing Link warningly, as if to say, "Laugh and die." Link had no intention of being fired, so he remained silent, the Boniface slinging swears all the way back to the bar. He glanced behind him, towards Link, motioning wildly with his hands.

"Link!" the Boniface screamed. "Get goin', will ya!"

And so, Link retired to Market, roaming the streets by torch, his face cool and free against the gentle breeze of the evening wind. The colors of the night were crisp and passionate, the stars clearly visible, despite the luminance of the city's lights. He wished, in that moment, he were sitting amongst the plains of Hyrule Field, Epona at his side, and the soothing sounds of a crackling fire fading into the void of violent, forgotten mystery.

He stole one moment, glancing towards the palace, wondering if Zelda had retired for the night. The gates leading to the service road were marked with guards, their forms stiff and unresponsive against the wilds of the twilight hour. He imagined their eyes, heavy and half-closed, hidden beneath the steel of their helmets, oblivious to the shadows and whispers lurking from within the Temple of Time.

But Link pushed his musings aside, reminding himself of the task at hand and rounding the nearest corner, in hopes of locating the elusive Clarice. It didn't take long--Link could hear her sobs a block away, Clarice huddled against a stacking crate near the Bazaar. He approached, softly, the torch light forming an ethereal glow in the darkness of the alleyway.

She sniffled, hard, aware but unalarmed of Link's presence. He bent down, leveling his gaze with her own. She glanced at him in return, her face stricken with tears and her eyes glorified by the flickering flames.

"It... It isn't the bar, ya' know?" She sniffled, pulling her legs closer. "It's just, men have ambitions. And ambitious men come in pieces, because they invest themselves--like a wagon disassembled for parts."

There was silence between them, a brisk wind rushing past, ruffling the edges of his hair. He held out a hand, imploring the woman with his eyes to follow him back to the tavern--to safety, to warmth, to reassurance. She considered the offer, but snorted instead, running a hand against the nape of her neck.

"Stupid ass," she fumed. "Figures he'd send the serving boy out to fetch me."

Though visibly annoyed, Clarice was secretly relieved, and eventually--after a bit of prodding on Link's part--took his hand, allowing him to pull her into the safety of the open streets. She smiled, her tall form towering over Link's, her walk wobbly and uneven from the alcohol.

"Yer pretty cute, ya' know?" She steadied herself against his arm. "I see why the Boniface likes you."

Link said nothing, wondering what it was the Boniface would say in the seclusion of his quarters--his deepest, most private thoughts, and Clarice his only confidant. Clarice, he noted, knew more of the Boniface's dreams, hopes, and fears than anyone, and most likely, more than anyone else ever would. He imagined it brought the Boniface a strange sense of relief, despite the arguing, the misunderstandings, and the cruel words.

And it was in that moment Link was struck with an almost ironic realization:

Men would always have weaknesses, so long as women roamed the earth.

But before Link could revel in his realization, Clarice tugged at his shirt, pointing in the direction of the bar.

"Link! What's goin' on? What's all the commotion?"

Link turned his attention towards the direction of the tavern, a murderous glow emanating from across the way. People he recognized as customers were filing into the streets, an unfamiliar roar brewing against the silence of the sky.

"Ah..." Clarice's voice caught in her throat, her hands tightening.

Link stared, dumbstruck, his arm growing numb under the force of Clarice's grip.

They both knew.

The tavern had caught fire.