Forever - Part 24

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The roaring finally subsided and the door seemed to relax with a sigh, as did the hero and princess. “Is…is it over?” The young woman's voice was muffled as she hid within the folds of Link's tunic, shaken.
“I think so.” He slowly lifted his head from her golden locks as he spoke, the princess slowly revealing her face as well. They were silent for a moment, in a state of shock. “…Do you…” the soldier broke the silence after a minute or two, “do you want to get out of here?”
She nodded, and the two slowly worked themselves to their feet. Link gulped just slightly in the darkness, curious about the fate of world that awaited them outside. He made sure his head was turned, though, and tried not to show any obvious concern. “Ok…let's go.” He started walking, Zelda following tentatively behind. It was silent as the grave. The only sounds audible to the human ear were the clicking of their shoes on the cold, stone floor, and their nervous, heavy breathing. As Link mounted the first stair, he felt Zelda reach from behind him, her shaky palm brushing against his fingertips. He took her hand gently, motioning her to walk beside him.
The stairs seemed to go on forever, but it was fine with them. Part of them, perhaps, didn't want to leave their little shelter, not wanting to see what kind of world awaited them outside. Finally, though, as fate would have it, they reached the door. They exchanged quick glances before Link slowly reached for the latch. “Are you alright, resplendent? He stopped for a moment, taking another swift look at the young woman next to him.
“Y…yes, I'm alright…” Her fingers shuffled in his hand as she spoke. He could tell that she was terrified.
He gave her hand a slight squeeze and slowly creaked open the door.
A shock ran through them, and they froze. The land their eyes had set upon was not at all the one that they had come to call home. Entire trees had been snapped like twigs, and homes of those they had come to call friends had become virtually unrecognizable. It was still raining, but other than that it seemed that the sky had calmed.
The girl turned to Link, a blank and horrified look on her face. Her face and hair were still sopping, and the fresh raindrops were beginning to mix with her tears. Her golden locks were blowing in the breeze, and her teary, light blue eyes were piercing him. They were scared, asking him for answers that he did not have. Why us? What do we do now?  All he could do was gaze back wordlessly, for the first time feeling utter hopelessness. It was a frightening emotion, one that sent a worse shiver down his spine than all of the ice in the world could. Take me now, you damned goddesses, if you want my soul so badly. But don't you dare touch my Zelda, and don't you dare leave her all alone out here. He gazed into the coal black sky, the cold rain running down his face like a river, an angry fire in his eyes that none had seen before.
Zelda still held tightly onto his hand, sobbing quietly. She examined him, the raindrops snaking down his defeated body like beads of blood. He was as still as stone, and if she looked hard enough, she could see into the corner of his eye. What she saw frightened her. Where was the warmth and sanguinity…? Where was his hope…? Had he given up? There were vicious flames in those sapphire eyes...not of passionate love, but of passionate hatred the likes of which she had never seen before.
“Link…?” She continued to look upon him as she spoke. “Where is…everyone?” He was silent and she felt his fingers slip from her grasp, making Zelda bite her lip. “Are you…are you angry with me…?”
He ran his hands over his face and through his hair. “No,” he shook his head and took a deep breath. “Why would you think that…?” His mind was hit with a sickening thought, but shook it away and forced himself to smile. “…Come on,” Zelda jumped slightly when she felt his fingers close about hers once more. “…let's see if we can find the others…”
They walked for what seemed hours, plundering over fallen trees and rubble. “Ah!” Zelda tripped suddenly over a branch, and immediately felt Link's sopping arms fling themselves around her, stopping her fall. It was not enough, however, to stop a large hunk of metal from slicing a large gash from her ankle to nearly her knee. She gasped in pain.
“Zelda…!” The soldier's reaction was quick, noticing the blood being washed down her calve by the rain. “Zelda, are you alright?” He quickly kicked a space for them to sit amongst the debris, and ushered her to the forest floor before she had a chance to reply.
“I'm fine, Link…really.” She spoke with her teeth grit in pain, moving her leg toward her and covering it with her hands so that Link couldn't see it as he knelt to the ground next to her.
“Please let me see, I've dealt with these kinds of things before. We need to stop the bleeding…” Indeed, this was true. He was a soldier, a warrior. He had been in the midst of battle for years at a time, and had seen first hand the effects of war, famine, and disease. Zelda had almost forgotten this, because he didn't like to talk much about his adventures, as they brought back memories of some of the horrible things he had seen, and there was pain in his eyes…caused by bearing witness to things that no man should ever have to lay eyes on. He was just excellent at hiding his pain from her. An injury like this was surely nothing for him, she thought.

“I…ok…” She slowly slid her calve forward for him to see, and flinched when she felt his slick and frigid fingers touch to it.       
“I'm sorry, it'll be alright…” He felt his heart go out to her as her blood washed over his hand in the rain. God, he hated seeing her in pain. If there was one thing that he couldn't stand, it was watching his beautiful princess suffer. He took a deep breath, “Ok…we need something to wrap this up in…” He looked around for a moment. “We're probably going to need more cloth than we have at the moment…it'd be nice if we could find some around here somewhere…there's enough rubble, there has to be some.” He spoke as he ripped a bit of his tunic. “This will probably hurt a bit…I need to make sure that it's tight.”
He looked her in the eyes for a moment, waiting for her to reply. “I'll be alright…I don't mean to rush you, but please hurry…we need to go find the others…”
“Hey…let's worry about you right now, winsome.” He smiled at her as best he could, “We'll find them.” He then gingerly maneuvered the cloth around her wound, taking care to grace her with a few soft caresses along the way. He wanted horribly to lessen the pain for her, and so liked to watch her cheeks redden as his fingers unnecessarily slipped a bit higher than they should have, taking her mind off of the situation. “Ok…I'll try to do this quick.” She nodded as Link thought for a moment. “Here, just squeeze my arm.”
“Ok…” She nodded once more, moving to hug the young soldier's shoulder.
Her breath seethed with pain as Link quickly pulled the cloth tight, her face pressed firmly to his shoulder, her teeth clenched, and her arms squeezing him tightly. “There,” He quickly tied it into place and took a deep breath. “But yes, we will probably need a bit more …that wound was bleeding fairly bad…” He glanced at her for a moment, and saw that her face was ghostly white. “Stay here for a minute until you're feeling a bit better; I think the rain is letting up, anyway. I'm going to see if I can find anymore cloth.
The young soldier was kicking aside rubble…when he thought he saw what looked like a piece of light green fabric under a pile of wood. He reached down to pick it up, but noticed that it was stuck. He knelt to his knees and sighed, beginning to move away the debris. It was then that he spotted what he thought was some matted dark green hair coming from beneath one of the planks. A doll maybe? Perhaps it was just thread of some kind. He inhaled slowly, lifting the wood away curiously. “Oh my God!” He heard himself shout. The sight was repulsive, and the soldier quickly turned his head, vomiting onto the forest floor. Her body was bloody and beaten, and maggots had already begun to tear into her. Flies had covered every inch of any orifice they could find, and the smell of death was ripe in the air now that the remains were exposed.

…There lied…the mutilated body of their friend, Hara.      
Zelda had heard his shout and quickly found her way there, fighting the pain in her leg. She froze when she saw the young soldier. His skin was a pale white, his breathing heavy, and his stomach continuing to lurch violently. His mouth tasted of fresh vomit, and he desperately tried to spit it out before speaking. “Don't come… any closer! She's gone! She's really gone…! Hara…!”

Zelda stood silently for a moment, in shock. There was an incredible anger beginning to flare up inside her.

“What is wrong with us being together!” Zelda stood straight as a pin, her face toward the heavens and her arms held wide, almost daring the goddesses to answer her. Her voice was as loud as anyone had ever heard it, and as furious as a thousand raging flames. “What!?” The rain was pelting her entire body like bullets, and the gusty winds seemed to be threatening to nearly blow her over, her soaked gown and golden hair whipping at her. Link was crouched to the ground a few yards away, breathing heavy and sick to the very depths of his soul at the sight of the mutilated body of their friend. He could not stop himself from vomiting, and couldn't find the strength to even stand.

“Do you think I enjoy this!? Do you think I enjoy watching the man I love on the ground, sick from the sight of our only friend in the world's dead body!” She could feel hot tears falling from her eyes amidst the cold rain, and her voice was breaking. “Why did you take the only person who ever cared to help us! She was just a child!” She could barely find it in herself to speak now. “What did you want me to do!? Just marry some vain prince who doesn't care about anything more than sex, just for the benefit of everyone else!? Just let me be unhappy for the rest of my life!? Is it because I'm royalty…? A princess can't choose for herself who she loves? Is it because he's not royalty…? Is there a law against falling in love with someone across the boundary of something as insignificant as time!?”

She took a deep, shaky breath. “Well…I…” Her breath seethed, and she looked down for a moment before turning back to the sky. “I'm in love with the Hero of Time and he loves me back! And no one, no matter how powerful, will ever be able to change that!!” She sobbed, falling to her knees from both sorrow and the pain from her calve, unable to do anything but cry.

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