Beginnings - 1.4 “First Birth”
And this is the last one for this chapter. The story of Daphnes’ birth! - Zelda
A very happy moment. :) -Link
1.4 First Birth
The sky that day seemed to be unable to decide if it wanted to rain or shine, so it had settled for a combination of the two, with most of the sky shrouded in dark clouds and the occasional ray of sunlight filtering through.
It was fresh and breezy, however, so Link and Zelda decided to take a stroll to the forest to collect some of Zelda’s favorite fruit. Link had originally asked her to stay behind and rest since she had woken up feeling slightly under the weather, but she insisted the walk and fresh air would do her and the baby good.
She was nearly seven and a half months through but her belly was already exhibiting the size of a nine-month pregnancy, though they guessed it simply looked big because of Zelda’s petite form. The baby had been particularly active that morning, and Zelda would occasionally feel a cramping up sensation in her lower abdomen, which she was told would be normal the further she got into her pregnancy. She would also wake up feeling dizzy and uncomfortable, and she’d feel her cheeks warm up and feel short of breath for unknown reasons. But other than that she felt fine, and she decided to accompany Link on his early morning collecting.
She hooked her arm with his as he picked up his usual basket and the dagger with which he would cut down the fruit. After exchanging a good morning kiss, they made their way down the eastern gates towards Faron Woods, right towards the edge of Lake Floria where the juiciest fruit grew.
As they walked, Link noticed Zelda make a face as she put her other hand over her swollen stomach.
“Mmm, someone is lively today…” she commented with a side smile as she felt the baby moving around in the womb. Link couldn’t help but grin.
“Boy or girl, they will be a good knight in the future by the looks of it,” he put a hand on her belly, his smile widening when he felt the little creature respond to his voice in the form of a kick.
“Well, I knew someone who was a real sleepyhead and he turned out to be the best knight of all,” she looked at him from the corner of her eye with a wry smile and Link merely chuckled, scratching the back of his head.
“Well, yeah, I guess… but at least they won’t sleep around as often!”
“For the sake of my sanity I hope they do, or the first months will be pretty difficult.”
They both chuckled as they followed the path. After a few minutes, Zelda expressed tiredness and asked to rest as wooziness had overcome her again. Link nodded, set down his cloak on a patch of grass at the base of a tree, and sat her down. He handed her his canteen, from which she drank thirstily.
“Better?” he asked, stroking her stomach.
“A little,” Zelda said, sighing. “It suddenly got so hot.”
Link felt fine, but he guessed that was yet another symptom of her condition, so he merely offered her the rest of his canteen to stay cool.
“I’m sorry, I just became a burden for you,” Zelda said apologetically, taking another sip from the container.
“Nonsense, the cool air will do you good.” He smiled sweetly and gave her a peck on the lips, “I’ll go fetch the fruit, so get some rest. The tree is just ahead; I won’t be long!”
Zelda reclined against the tree trunk once Link had gone off to collect the yellow fruit and brushed a hand against her temple. Her head felt light and she felt something strange in her midsection, like a dull pressure. She was not due yet, but maybe the prenatal symptoms had begun to show up. Whatever it was, it was turning out to be quite uncomfortable.
Link cut the last fruit from the branch and flung it into the basket hanging from his back. He jumped happily off the tree, content with the haul he had gotten today - of Zelda’s favorite, no less! He made his way back to Zelda, but his smile faltered when he saw the peculiar expression she was making; she looked nauseated. He ran towards her, kneeling at her side.
“Zelda? You okay?”
Zelda moaned softly as she clutched her middle, and worry quickly filled his mind.
“Dizzy,” she murmured.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” Link moved to carry her but Zelda shook her head, placing a hand against his chest.
“I’ll walk,” she said weakly, and slowly stood up with Link’s help.
“What happened?” he asked her as they began to make their way back at a slow pace Zelda felt comfortable with.
“I don’t know, it just got really warm all of a sudden. And it hurts right here.” Zelda gestured towards her midsection and Link furrowed his brows.
“Is that normal?”
“I don’t know. Let’s ask Wryna or Luv, it… really hurts…”
Her voice hitched and the grip around his arm tightened.
“Don’t worry, we’re almost there,” Link tried to sound soothing but he was getting pretty concerned.
He knew close to nothing about childbirth except what the elder men had told him about - which wasn’t much, since it was customary that childbirth be handled solely by the women with the men barely intervening - and needless to say, the things he had overheard from the older women were nothing short of horrifying.
Once Zelda had found out she was expecting, there was much rejoicing from everyone in the village; after all, they were a pretty close community. The women were particularly excited, wondering about everything from gender it’d be or what Zelda and Link would call it right down to the most inane of things like favorite colors… but sometimes they’d touch on grimmer topics, such as complications or deformities that could occur during pregnancy. Link had been left quite agitated by what he had heard, but Groose had continuously reassured him that things would be fine and that women tended to exaggerate things. However, it never left Link’s mind, and he always saw to it that Zelda’s needs were fulfilled and that she received the best care possible; and until now, things had been going without a hitch.
Maybe Zelda was getting close to giving birth?
Link allowed himself the momentary wave of excitement that always rushed through him whenever he thought about their upcoming child. Back when Zelda had told him she was expecting, he was ecstatic, and now he was eagerly anticipating it like a child waiting to meet his loftwing for the first time.
Suddenly, he felt a tug at his arm, and he realized he had unconsciously started walking faster. He paused to allow Zelda to catch up, muttering an apology to her. When no reply came, Link looked back at her, growing worried when he noticed her unfocused eyes and faltering steps. She seemed to be breathing laboriously and beads of sweat had begun to form on her temple.
Abruptly, Zelda’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and her knees gave out beneath her. Link gasped and rushed to stop her fall, holding her in his arms before she touched the ground.
“Zelda!” He knelt and cradled her in his arms while he felt a surge of panic consume him, “Zelda, what’s wrong?!”
But she laid limp in his arms, her face flushed and beads of sweat rolling down her temple.
“Oh Goddess, hold on Zelda!” Link picked her up in his arms and rushed toward the village in search for help, all the while his heart clenching with dread.
Link paced about the room, his arms behind his back and his face constricted in worry.
“You’ll make a hole in your living room if you keep that up.”
Link looked at Groose - sitting on the couch with his arms crossed- then heaved a sigh. Groose had been the first to hear Link as he called for help, so the bulkier knight had rushed to call Luv and Owlan – the resident Healers - to find out what was wrong with Zelda. The two were quick to respond to the call, bringing their supplies and potions with them to diagnose and treat Zelda. It had been an hour since they began, and worry ate at Link’s insides; both Owlan and Luv had deemed that Link was too skittish to remain in the room with Zelda and sent him to wait downstairs.
“Relax, bud,” the redhaired knight said, “she’ll be all right. It must be some pregnant woman stuff.”
“Hope so…” Link said in a low voice, finding a seat beside Groose.
Groose shook his head and gave him a hearty pat on the back before he stood up and made his way outside.
“I need to head back to my shift or I won’t hear the end of it from Pipit; just keep me in the know, okay?”
Link nodded quietly. Groose smiled once and left through the door, leaving Link to tap his boots against the stone floor nervously.
Half an hour later, Link finally heard the sound of footsteps coming from the stairs. He stood up just as Owlan had reached the last step. The white haired man had a pensive expression on his face, and once he caught sight of Link waiting expectantly for him he motioned him to sit at the table. Link obeyed and was promptly joined by the professor, who sat across from him.
“So?” Link asked, his words laced with apprehension. “How is she?”
Owlan stayed silent for a few moments with a hand on his chin, as if pondering his answer before laying it out to Link. He then closed his eyes and opened them again after a few moments.
“Yes. We’ve given her some potions and herbs to help alleviate her symptoms. She is resting right now and Luv is looking after her. I must ask you to give her time to tend to Zelda, all right? She will let you know when it’s fine to see her.”
“Y-Yes sir.” Link said, swallowing nervously.
“Now, I want to ask you a few questions, Link. Zelda is seven and a half months through, correct?”
Link nodded. “Yes, almost eight.”
“Have you noticed her acting strangely before today? What about her health?”
“Uh, well, not strange particularly beyond food cravings,” Link racked his mind to check if he’d noticed something, “The last few weeks she felt a little bit weak and dizzy though, but we thought it was normal since she would feel fine a few hours afterwards…”
“Hmm, I see…” Owlan closed his eyes again, thinking. “Any odd pains or complaints?”
“She would say she’d feel a pressure in her head, like a headache, but a potion would always fix that…” Link thought some more, “And well, before she passed out today she mentioned that her midsection hurt a lot.”
Owlan furrowed his brows, humming momentarily to himself.
“Is she all right?” Link asked, wringing his hands nervously beneath the table.
“Link, you know I’m not the type to sugarcoat things, so I’ll tell it to you straight,” Owlan said.
Link could already feel himself tensing, but he nodded regardless. “All right.”
“Zelda seems to have developed complications.”
“Complications?” Link’s chest constricted painfully.
“While prenatal complications are rare in and of themselves, some kinds of complications are more commonly seen than others. It seems that Zelda has developed one of the most common conditions that can arise during pregnancy.”
“And how bad is it…?” Link asked cautiously, not really wanting to know but at the same time knowing he had to find out.
Link gulped down the lump that had begun to form in his throat.
“Bluntly speaking, if not treated properly… You could lose one, or lose them both.”
The color in Link’s face drained, his eyes widening.
Lose… Zelda? And their… his….
“No…” Link choked out, his eyes stinging.
“Before you let yourself lose your head, please realize that none of it is your fault, Link. Some women are just more prone to developing these kinds of conditions, no matter who the father is.”
But Link was not listening, his mind running rampant with what he had just been told. He shot up from his seat suddenly, slamming his hands on the table and accidentally knocking his chair back.
“What do you need?” Link asked him, his voice desperate, “I’ll do anything! Whatever ingredient or plant you need, I’ll get them!”
“Link, calm down,” Owlan ordered, waving a hand at the distressed youth. “We have all the ingredients we need to treat Zelda and help her through it. We just need time and patience and for Zelda to be in a stress free environment, which she won’t get with you around in the state you are in. I told you this because as her husband I felt it was your right to know, not for you to lose control. I suggest you take a walk around town and cool your head. Zelda is in good hands right now, and the best you can do for her is wait.”
“But…” Link stammered, his eyes shimmering. He lowered his head in defeat.
He felt more than saw Owlan stand up slowly from his seat and round the table to place a reassuring hand on Link’s shoulder.
“I know how you feel, Link,” Owlan said softly, “But there are demons that must be fought not with blades of steel but with patience and care. Do not fear. Zelda is strong; she will make it.”
Link looked up at him with glassy eyes, nodding slowly in understanding.
“It is likely this will trigger her body into going into labor early, so we will be ready if that happens. However, Zelda might find solace in your support, so I ask you to be completely composed by then. Am I clear?”
Link nodded once again. The instructor gave him a comforting smile and a squeeze on the shoulder before he left for the door.
“I will head back and concoct some more medicine for Zelda. I shall also ask Wryna and Miss Kukiel to assist Luv. In the meantime, try to distract yourself.”
The instructor left without another word, leaving Link with his increasingly troubled thoughts and the anxiety that gripped every part of his being.
Link begrudgingly left the house when Wryna and Kukiel arrived claiming they’d let him know about any changes and that he should take a break. Zelda was better off being taken care of by two women, one of whom already had children of her own, than have him, currently a bundle of worry, pacing around nonstop; that much was certain, so he left in spite of his feelings.
After walking around aimlessly and as far away as possible from the bustle of the town, Link finally made up his mind to take up watch on the southern gate wall, which was most of the time unmanned and also had a good view of his home. Link avoided meeting anyone deliberately, finding his mind to be too jumbled to hold decent conversations with anyone, and truth be told, he had begun to feel so plagued by remorse that he didn’t feel like talking to anyone.
He climbed the ladder just beside the main southern gate and walked down the battlement, relieved that no one was currently there. He walked a few paces further until he was directly behind and above his home. While nothing could be seen inside, he could still catch the flicker of lamp light coming from the window directly in his and Zelda’s room in the second floor.
He caught the faint movement of shadows within the room from time to time, but other than that, he was left in the dark, uncertain of how Zelda was feeling right at this moment. A light drizzle began to fall as evening rolled in, but he paid it no attention. His mind drifted off, driven by the chain of negative thoughts that had begun to take a hold of him.
He recalled well the day when he had overheard the women talking about Zelda. Like Link, they had just found out Zelda was three months along in her pregnancy, and they were pretty excited about the prospect of the daughter of the Patriarch and the Academy’s most outstanding knight having their first baby. Link had not intended to eavesdrop on their conversation, but he had just happened to be fixing a lamplight nearby as the women washed their dirty clothes in the village’s laundry pool.
Their cheery conversation had slowly diverged to less pleasant topics, ranging from birth defects to stillborns, and even the probability of death during childbirth. They had not wished any of these on Zelda by any means, but the topic just seemed to spring up to keep the women entertained. Link, however, had been unable to leave, frozen by shock at the myriad of things that could go wrong in a pregnancy. He was left pretty shaken and anxious, even after the women had long left the laundry pool, and that night he had been unable to tell Zelda why he was so jumpy. She soon forgot about it, but Link still mulled it over in his sleep.
That question had plagued his mind ever since. Even when he vented to Groose about it, the red-haired man would only shake his head, telling him that he was over thinking things and that he shouldn’t take female gossip seriously. Groose had calmed him somewhat, but worry still clung to his heart.
Due to this, Link had done his hardest to be the most diligent husband he could be. He made sure all of Zelda’s needs were covered, down to the most ridiculous cravings or the most inane of attentions. He watched over her health like a female loftwing would her fledglings, and it had gotten to the point that Zelda had asked him to tone it down because he was bordering on overbearing.
“Link, you’re fussing over me again.” She would say with a rather amused tone, and Link would bow his head apologetically and mutter a distracted sorry.
And despite all that, despite all his effort to keep her safe and sound and healthy, the very thing he had feared was unfolding right before his very eyes.
“You could lose one or both of them.”
He felt coldness wash over him as Owlan’s words rang in his ears like a deafening curse. Zelda’s illness put her in such a precarious situation that there was a chance that she, their baby, or both, would not make it out of it.
And it was all his fault.
Link gave an involuntary shudder, clenching his eyes shut. Link knew this condition was directly linked to childbirth, and deep down he couldn’t keep himself from taking the blame for bringing this upon Zelda. He had been the idiot who had first suggested having a baby; the one who had convinced Zelda they were ready for the next big step.
If only he had known.
It takes two to create a child, but Zelda had to shoulder most of the burden. As if it wasn’t enough that she alone had to go through morning sickness and other little nuisances for nine months straight, now her life and the life of their child were both in danger, and he could do nothing but watch.
Link slammed a fist against the stone wall in helpless frustration, the drizzle turning into a downpour before long, as if reacting to his grief. His eyes stung and his chest constricted painfully with the surge of emotions that had suddenly assailed him, driving him to his knees. He had hurt the very person he had sworn to protect; led her straight to death’s threshold for the sake of his own careless wish.
“Goddess damn you,” he cursed himself, letting the silent tears fall and mingle with the rain soaking his clothes and skin.
If only he could offer his life to ensure hers and his child’s… had he the choice, he would do it without a second thought.
He was unaware of how much time had passed since he had taken watch over the southern battlement. The sheets of rain were thick, but by the darkness that shrouded the whole village he could tell that night had fallen. He could faintly see the pinpricks of light in the main plaza, and the lamplight still flickered in the window he had taken vigil on.
How was she doing? He wondered. He wanted nothing more but to see her and be assured she would be all right. He knew Zelda was strong, but he couldn’t live with the idea that she was in any kind of pain and that he was helpless to stop it… especially when he had contributed to bringing it upon her.
Guilt continued to tear him apart from the inside. Despite being the one with an unbreakable spirit and bearing the mark of the Triforce, he certainly didn’t feel very powerful, wise, or courageous. He felt helpless, stupid, and very much afraid for the life of the person he loved most, and regret consumed every part of his being.
His thoughts had turned so grim and desperate that he even let himself entertain the idea that if the only way for Zelda to survive would be to… lose the other one… he’d accept that fate. He knew Zelda would’ve chastised him for that thought, scolding him and calling him all the colorful names in the book for being so heartless.
But he couldn’t help it.
It was a thought that killed him on the inside, especially since he had been the most excited of the two of what would’ve been the new addition to the family; but he was beyond distraught now, sick with worry and guilt. He wanted nothing more than for Zelda to be out of harm’s way.
He gave a broken moan and trembled. He was chilled to the bone, having spent time under the rain for far too long, but he didn’t care. He let the rain cover him; it only served him right.
But no sooner had he begun to think that the rain was a divine sign of his foolishness that he felt the drops suddenly stop falling and something warm and heavy fall on his shoulders and head. He looked up, startled, and found himself staring at none other than Zelda’s father.
His heart sank to the pit of his stomach, but the old man simply regarded him calmly, extending a hand out and inviting him to take cover from the rain under his umbrella. Link swallowed nervously before he stood up and walked to his side, wrapping the cloak he had been given tightly around him.
“You will catch your death out here if you don’t watch yourself,” the headmaster commented softly as they began walking down the battlement. Link couldn’t help but flinch at the choice of words he made, shrinking back into his cloak. At the lack of reply, the headmaster simply continued speaking in a low, subdued voice.
“Groose has been looking all over for you. You’ve had everyone worried.”
Link merely looked down in shame.
“I’m sorry…” Link managed in a tired, raspy voice. The headmaster only gave a pleasant laugh.
“Don’t apologize to me, apologize to them.”
“No,” Link corrected, shaking his head, “I’m sorry… for putting your daughter through this.”
Geapora just raised his eyebrows slightly.
“Whatever do you mean, boy?”
It took every ounce of will for him not to break down again in front of his elder.
“It’s my fault. I did that to her, if not for me she wouldn’t be in the condition she is right now!” Link raised his voice without meaning to, his words coming out broken and tight.
Gaepora stopped in his tracks and laid a hand on Link’s shoulder, forcing him to turn around to face him.
“Listen to me, Link,” Gaepora said softly but firmly, “I want you to erase that thought from your mind.”
“This is not your fault. These things just lend themselves; there was no way you could’ve known this would happen to Zelda. You are a Hero, Link, but there will be things you can’t protect people from, including my daughter. ” Gaepora dug his deep, black eyes in Link’s worry-filled blue ones, his voice laced with emotion, “I won’t lie and say I’m not worried. I’m terrified. But I know my daughter is tough, and she’ll make it through. You’ve done so much for her already, Link, but I ask that you keep it together and help her by keeping yourself strong. She needs it now more than ever.”
Link hesitated but nodded silently.
“You remind me so much of your father,” the headmaster started with a soft and melancholic voice, patting Link’s hair gently. “He wouldn’t ever stop blaming himself for your mother’s death.”
Link knew that very well. He hadn’t met his mother as she had died giving birth to him, but what little time he spent with his father as a small child, he recalled him visiting her grave often and sometimes lamenting about how he was sorry he did that to her. Little Link had never understood why he did that until after his father had met his end during duty and Link was left under Gaepora’s wing in the Academy, where he learned everything about his parents.
“Birds of a feather, you two were,” Gaepora finished with an amused smile, “both with thick enough skulls that you can’t learn not to chew more than you can eat. Some burdens are just not yours to carry. Understood?”
Link gave him a half hearted smile in return. “Yes, sir.”
Gaepora clapped a hand on his shoulder comfortingly, giving him a small smile. He then gestured Link toward the ladder of the southern gate.
“Run along now and get yourself dried up before you catch a cold,” Gaepora said, and not shortly after, Link heard Groose’s voice calling him from the bottom of the wall.
“Oi! There you are! Been looking all over for you, what do you think you are doing?” The red-haired man reprimanded him, a hand on his waist and another on the umbrella he was holding to shield himself from the rain. Link looked back at Gaepora and nodded solemnly, bowing his head momentarily in both respect and gratitude.
“Thank you, sir.”
Gaepora smiled warmly at him.
“I do believe Zelda couldn’t have married a finer man. Keep it up, son.”
Link simply smiled a coy smile, feeling warmth seep to his cheeks at his surrogate father’s compliment. And as Link started lowering himself down the stepladder, he heard Gaepora shoot him one last comment.
“And I look forward to meeting that grandchild of mine.” He finished with a wink.
Link managed a half hearted smile and slipped down the rest of the way to where Groose stood waiting for him.
Link blew gingerly on the warm cup of tea he had been given as soon as he got to Groose’s house.
“Thank you, Peatrice.” Link said meekly.
“Don’t mention it,” the blond haired woman smiled warmly at him as she eased a towel over the green clad hero to dry himself.
“If my darling hadn’t found you, though,” Peatrice started with a dreamy voice, “Being wet wouldn’t be the only thing you’d be worried about!”
Link chuckled good-naturedly as she watched Peatrice surround Groose’s waist with her arms since it was the only part she could reach. Link found the difference in heights endearing, with Peatrice’s petite form looking pretty contrasting to Groose’s big, muscular build. Groose blushed slightly as Peatrice rained compliments on him; he looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself, though.
“Yes, well,” Groose started, placing a large hand on her little shoulder, “Someone has to look out for the runt.”
“Wouldn’t have chosen anyone better, Groose,” Link added, taking a sip of his drink as he eased himself into their couch and wrapped the towel around himself.
“Well, I’ll go and fix up dinner!” Peatrice announced happily before she went off to the kitchen. Once she was gone, Groose rounded on him with a scowl.
“What were you trying to do? Get yourself sick? Think that will help Zelda?”
Link’s eyes widened at the sudden accusation, but he just lowered his head, resting his hands on his lap and stroking the edge of the cup with his thumb.
“I lost track of time.” Link replied in a low voice, “I didn’t do it on purpose.”
Groose’s expression softened after seeing how genuinely remorseful his friend looked. Of course he didn’t do it on purpose. Link never tried to do anything that might worry or hurt others, but in his distress about Zelda, he was doing just that and neglecting himself.
“You need to take it easy, Link,” Groose said with a sigh, taking a seat beside him and resting his elbows on his knees. “I asked Owlan to come over to look over you, just to make sure you haven’t caught anything, a’ight? That’s the last thing we need.”
Link nodded silently, muttering a soft thank you under his breath.
“Everything will be fine, you’ll see,” Groose said, patting his head nonchalantly.
“I’m just… so worried,” Link’s hold on the cup tightened. He could feel the onslaught of emotions threatening to take hold of him again, but he did his best to rein it in, “I feel so guilty.”
“Well knock it off, you are not guilty of anything.” Groose flicked the side of Link’s head.
“She wouldn’t be like this if she wasn’t expecting.”
“Oi, don’t start with that again. Gaepora told me everything about you blaming and feeling sorry for yourself. I’ll have none of that.”
In the myriad of feelings he was experiencing at that moment, Link felt one he didn’t feel often start to creep up: irritation. Why wasn’t anyone as concerned as he was about Zelda’s wellbeing? Why did everyone act like Zelda would just magically heal herself as if nothing had happened? It wasn’t that simple, and it tore at Link’s soul to know that it wasn’t. It wasn’t just a matter of sprinkling pink fairy dust on it to make everything better. It didn’t work that way.
Pink fairies did not fix death. They prevented it right at the nick of time, but there were limits to their power. They could not cure illnesses; they could alleviate their painful symptoms, but the end result was inevitable. It was all so grossly inconvenient.
“These things happen, but they will look up, mark my words. You are making a hurricane out of a breeze.”
“Easy for you to say; it’s not your wife dying,” Link blurted out before he could stop himself, but he instantly regretted it as Groose rounded on him with the most ticked off expression he had ever seen him sport.
“What is that even supposed to mean?” the knight asked curtly, “Are you even so much as suggesting I don’t care about what happens to Zelda?”
“I didn’t say that.” Link stood up then, placing the cup on the table, and shrugging the towel off his shoulders as he walked away - he had had enough. “Thanks for your hospitality.”
As soon as Link laid a hand on the doorknob, Groose sprung up from the couch and slammed the door shut again before Link had barely opened it.
“Oh no, you aren’t going anywhere,” Groose said, shoving him back, “Going to go mope and feel sorry for yourself in another corner of the village? Great good that will do. ”
Link stilled his tongue before he said anything else. Anger had started to boil up in the pit of his stomach but he knew it was misplaced and it was just the circumstances all weighing on him. Right?
“You say it’s easy for me to say because it’s not Peatrice in Zelda’s place? I find it more infuriating that you are having so little faith in Zelda! You’re her husband for crying out loud!” Groose scoffed, pointing an accusatory finger at him.
“I’m aware of what I am!” Link spit back in an uncharacteristically angry manner, “I don’t need you to tell me that!”
“Then act like it! Zelda needs you! You are acting like a child! Whatever happened to the Goddesses’ Chosen Hero?”
“Well, much good those powers do now, don’t they?” Link scoffed, his face red in anger as he threw his arms in the air in frustration, “Won’t even help me save her. They’re nothing but a stupid mark on my hand. That’s all they are good for!”
“For goddesses’ sakes Link, you saved her from apocalypse’s harbinger himself and you feel like suddenly it was all for nothing?”
“What use was saving her from that if I was only going to lose her later!”
Groose took Link by surprise by grabbing him by the shoulders and slamming him against the wall.
“Zelda is out there fighting to survive while you are standing here already killing her in your mind.” Groose said in a dangerously dark tone, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. What a Hero you turned out to be.”
Link’s eyes widened as Groose’s words struck something in his mind. What was he doing? Had worry really lowered him into the level of a helpless child? Zelda would be so disappointed. Link felt something prick at the corner of his eyes, but he merely sunk down to the floor, a lonely moan escaping his lips. He let his head lower and clenched his eyes shut in shame.
Groose’s shoulders slacked, and pity occupied the place anger had had in his face.
The door creaked open suddenly, and Groose turned around to see Owlan enter the abode. His white eyebrows rose slightly as he saw Link crumpled on the floor.
“Did I… miss something?”
“Nah, but you have great timing.” Groose cocked his head downwards to Link and Owlan simply muttered a knowledgeable Ah.
“May I use your kitchen, then?”
“Suit yourself; Peatrice can help you.”
“Thank you kindly,” Owlan bowed his head slightly before he made his way to the kitchen, carrying a bag of supplies with him.
“Come on now,” Groose said, helping Link up, “You need a break, bud.”
Link simply shook his head as Groose sat him on the couch again and he rested his elbows on his knees, boring his face into his hands, and groaning loudly.
“I’m sorry, Groose,” Link muttered in shame, “I lost myself, I…”
“Shut it. Don’t worry about it,” Groose said with a grin, “I understand where you are coming from, but someone needs to keep your head on the ground before you get any more crazy thoughts, yeah?”
Link smiled appreciatively, nodding his head at his friend. He still felt mentally exhausted from worry, but Groose’s words had at least made the anger fade.
A little while after, Owlan exited the kitchen carrying a steaming cup of tea on his hand and handed it gingerly to Link.
“Drink this, it will soothe your nerves,” Owlan told him after Link shot him a questioning look. “It might also help extinguish any lingering signs of a cold in case they had started to develop.”
Link muttered a thank you before he sipped on the hot tea, instantly feeling the warmth seep through every fiber of his being. The taste was mildly sweet but pleasant, and before long, Link had emptied the cup.
“Thank you,” he yawned, rubbing his eyes as he gave the cup back, “It does make me… feel better.”
Owlan nodded, “I’m glad. So why don’t you lie down a while?”
“I can’t, I need to stay up in case Zelda-“ another yawn broke his groggy voice, “-needs anythi…”
But before he could finish, Link’s eyes closed heavily and he fell back on the couch, sound asleep.
Link was unaware of how much time had passed when he blinked himself awake again. He stared confusedly around the room as he didn’t even recall falling asleep. He straightened himself and found someone had placed a warm blanket over him.
A snore beside him alerted him of Groose sleeping soundly on the seat besides his on the couch, his arms outstretched across the back and his head pulled back, mouth wide open. Link cocked an eyebrow then turned around as he caught movement from the corner of his eye.
He found Owlan sitting at the dinner table calmly reading a book by the lamplight. Confused, Link stood up and walked over to take a seat across Owlan, dead silent.
“Peatrice left you some food on the counter,” Owlan said without looking away from his book, “She thought you’d still be hungry.”
“Ah, thanks,” Link said meekly, “What time is it?”
“Around four in the morning.”
“Four in the morning!?” Link exclaimed in alarm, but he was silenced as Owlan detached his eyes from his book to shoot him a disapproving glare.
“Keep it down, you’ll wake everyone.”
“Sorry…” he apologized, “But… how could I sleep so long?“
“I’m sorry Link, but you were behaving so irrationally we had to put you to sleep. I hope you don’t hold it against Groose; he meant well.”
Link just stared and he gaped. So that’s why he had fallen asleep right after the tea. Link couldn’t help but elicit a groan of frustration; still, he could not blame Groose for asking Owlan to give him a sleeping potion to chill him out. He was being quite unreasonable.
“Missing sleep is not quite like you, it seems.” Owlan said with an amused half smile. “So Groose had grown concerned.”
“I see.” Link said with a mirthless chuckle. “I do feel a lot calmer, though. Thanks sir.”
“Not a problem.”
Link sighed after a while and quickly jumped to what really interested him. “How is Zelda?”
“She is out of danger,” he said, and his smile widened when he saw Link’s eyes shine with relief. “It was quite the struggle, but she made it through the worst of it. You have an admirable wife, Link.”
Link relaxed on his seat, laying his head back as he gave a sigh. He smiled as Groose’s words only hours ago came back to him.
“She is extraordinary.” Link agreed, feeling a chunk of his burden alleviate. It was like a huge weight had been lifted from him.
“However,” Owlan’s words caught him by surprise and Link had to right himself before he lost his footing on the chair. “Like I told you before, her efforts had a chance of leading her into labor early.”
“And is that… bad?” Link asked as concern returned full force to him.
“It’s not necessarily bad, but it can be risky for the child,” Owlan explained, “It is only 7 and a half months through so it hasn’t reached the utmost state of maturity. However, it possible that everything goes down smoothly with no problems. Try not to worry too much over it.”
Link nodded, but he was not quite convinced.
“But she will be fine… right?” Link asked insecurely and Owlan regarded him with a neutral face.
“As of now Zelda has gone into premature labor two times. She has been left very weakened and exhausted from battling her illness, so it might take a while before you are able to see your child. But, yes, she is fine. I’d suggest heading to your home right now; it’s possible you could be allowed to see her now that the worst of it has passed. It might do Zelda good to see you, too. I’m told she wouldn’t stop asking about you.”
“Thank you for everything!” Link immediately stood up, bowed his head at his elder and headed to the door, “Please say thanks to Groose for me!”
Link left the house and sprinted through the plaza. Due to the time of night, it was completely empty, and other than saluting the occasional patrolling knight Link stopped for nothing. The rain had ceased by now, leaving a fresh breeze blowing through the village as the moon peeked from between the clouds.
Before long, he made it to his home and gingerly opened the door as to not disturb with his noise. Once inside, he found Wryna preparing something in the kitchen and the smell of pumpkin wafted up to Link’s nose. She turned around to find some more ingredients for the broth and she caught sight of Link.
“Oh, Link! There you are!” Wryna said cheerfully, though Link could see dark shadows underneath her eyes from losing sleep. “Why don’t you sit down and have some soup? Zelda is sleeping right now.”
“Ah, sure…” Truthfully Link wanted to rush to Zelda’s side and see her, but if she was resting, he didn’t want to disturb her. He walked to the table and sat down, allowing Wryna to pour some steamy, warm soup in a bowl in front of him.
“I cannot thank you, Luv, and Kukiel enough for looking after Zelda, Wryna,” Link said with a smile, realizing how hungry he had been as his stomach grumbled in response to the smell.
“Not a problem, Link!” Wryna said happily, “She is doing so well! She went into labor about an hour ago, but she is resting right now. You can go see her when you are done with your soup!”
Link thanked her again and proceeded to eat the delicious broth. He and Wryna chatted into the night and it was through her that Link found out the full extent of what Zelda had gone through. It seemed Zelda’s defenses had slowly declined the past few weeks until they plummeted that morning, her body unable to sustain both her and her baby and manifesting in the way it had done before Link found help.
Zelda had been made to drink different kinds of potions to make up for what her body could not do in its current state for the sake of keeping both her and her baby in as best health as possible. After long grueling hours of downing different concoctions and going through all kinds of pains, Zelda’s symptoms seemed to finally diminish and reach a stable ground. However, once her body had felt more strengthened, it had decided it was time to bring the little one to the world, sending a row of taxing contractions assaulting her womb.
Wryna went on to describe more or less how birthing worked, but Link stopped her when she got to explaining what “dilating” meant. It made him feel rather uncomfortable and was not to keen on hearing how Zelda’s body was raging a battle with itself and sinking her in even more pain.
“Well, I think that’s pretty much it.” Wryna said as she picked both their bowls to place them on the sink and gestured Link towards the stairs. “Wouldn’t you like to see her?”
Link nodded silently and stood up swiftly to accompany Wryna up. He felt anticipation build inside him and felt as though he had been separated from Zelda for way too long. Once on the second floor, Wryna knocked softly on the door to let them know Link was there to see Zelda, to which she got Luv’s quiet reply of approval. With a smile, she then opened the door and gestured Link forward.
Link entered the dimly lit room sunken in a deadly silence that was broken only by the soft, slow wheezes coming from Zelda. Luv and Kukiel were close by and looked up as they heard the door creak open. The elder woman nodded her head at Link before she and Kukiel left the room to give them space. Link swallowed back the lump that had formed in his throat at the sound of Zelda’s discomfort and walked towards the bed where she lay.
He grabbed a nearby stool and dragged it to Zelda’s bedside, hesitantly seating himself beside her. She had not yet realized he was there. Her eyes were closed, eyebrows still furrowed from the exertion she had done only an hour prior. Her golden hair was disheveled, clinging to her pasty white skin that was damp with sweat. The light, sickly blush that adorned her cheeks was the only hint of color amongst her pallor, and thick, dark bags lined the bottom of her eyes. Her pale lips were slightly parted as she breathed with great difficulty, her chest slowly rising and falling with every breath she took.
It tugged painfully at his heart to see her in so much pain, and he had to muster all his self control to keep himself from leaving the room and search for something –anything – that might help ease her ache. He ignored the annoying sting in his eyes and vowed to stay strong for her.
He swallowed once again as he dunked a piece of cloth in the water basin on her bedside table, wrung it, and gently dabbed it across her forehead and neck. He watched a shudder flash through her body, and Link could tell it took her great effort to even crack her eyes open. Her usually bright azure eyes were dark and heavy, sickness and fatigue making them devoid of their usual shine.
“Hey,” Link whispered in a broken voice, trying his hardest to give her a small smile, “How are you feeling?”
Her eyes found him right beside her and the corners of her lips pulled up slightly in her attempt at returning the gesture.
“All right,” she breathed. “Your baby is stubborn.”
Link gave a half-hearted chuckle.
“They got it from you,” Link replied, trying to lighten the mood with a joke.
Zelda smiled weakly in response and her fingers found his hand just beside her. Link gently snaked his fingers around hers, rubbing her knuckles reassuringly with his thumb. He leaned towards her and placed a warm kiss on her forehead.
“Do you want me to bring you anything at all?” he asked her.
“I’m fine,” she replied weakly, “Please don’t leave…”
She said the last part in such a helpless way that Link was surprised he didn’t crumble right there and then. He squeezed her hand, and used his other hand to brush some stray strands away from her face, caressing her cheek gently.
“Okay,” he promised, “I won’t go anywhere.”
“Thank you,” she sighed and tried to scoot closer to him. Link immediately moved forward, placing his elbows on the bed and allowing her to lay her head on his shoulder. He squeezed his arm between her head and the pillow and surrounded her, rubbing her shoulder tenderly to keep her warm.
“They told me you’ve been doing great,” he said to her ear in a low voice, “Please hold on a little bit longer, Zel.”
A weak Mhm was her reply. She raised her head slightly and softly kissed the edge of his jaw.
Catching on what she really wanted, Link lowered his head and enveloped her lips with his. She sighed into his mouth, and rested her other hand atop the one he had wrapped around her fingers.
“I love you,” she murmured. Link felt a chill run down his spine. His stress and guilt were still eating him on the inside, and instead of soothing him her declaration had only filled him with dread and sorrow. His mind wouldn’t stop twisting it into sounding like a good bye.
Afraid of his own grim thoughts, he held her closer, trying to push back the dark images springing in his mind.
“I love you, too,” he said in a faltering voice, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “I love you so much.”
They remained in the warm embrace for a few minutes before Zelda started wriggling slightly in discomfort. Her hand left his and she pressed it against her swollen stomach, giving off soft whimpering noises.
“Zelda?” Link asked, concerned. Her face had twisted up in an expression of pain and she bit her lower lip as her other hand wrapped around the bed sheets.
“Again…” Zelda choked, her eyes clenched shut.
“It’s coming again!” Zelda gasped and threw her head back against the pillows as a broken scream left her lips.
Link’s heart began thumping hard in his chest as he fumbled with what to do. Zelda had begun to whine loudly, a hand clutching her stomach and the other yanking on the bed sheets.
“LUV!” Link yelled in panic, standing up and running to the door, “WRYNA!”
Both women entered the room immediately. Wryna ran to Zelda’s side to appease her and Luv to the water basin to clean her hands and ready the blankets.
“All right dear, here comes the third round,” Luv told Zelda as she walked to the front of the bed and prepared the younger woman, “Hopefully this is the good one. Are you ready?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice- AH!” Another scream ripped through Zelda and now both hands balled into fists against the bed sheets.
“Come on, Zelda, breath in and out,” Wryna coaxed her gently. She slipped some drops of stamina potion into Zelda’s medicine and tipped the edge of the cup to Zelda’s lips so she took a sip, “This will help you hold out and alleviate the pain a little bit, all right?”
Zelda nodded her head between gasps, clenching her eyes shut as a particularly strong contraction hit her.
“Link…” she wheezed, her hand fumbling around her to find him, “Link!”
Link snapped out of his shock and promptly moved to her bedside again, taking her fumbling hand and bringing it to his lips.
“I’m here, I’m here,” he said breathlessly as he kept her hair away from her sweating face with his other hand.
Her grasp on his hand tightened and Link had to force his mouth shut to keep himself from gasping in surprise at the strength of her hold. She continued to writhe, conducting the breathing exercises Wryna was instructing her to do, and all Link could do was hold on to her and caress her arm gently.
Every once in a while Wryna would dab the cloth across Zelda’s forehead to remove the excess sweat. Link couldn’t help but feel useless and at a loss; no matter how much potion Wryna gave to Zelda, she still looked very much in pain. He felt helpless, and guilt once again clutched at his heart when his thoughts once again delved into blaming himself for putting Zelda in this situation to begin with.
“All right dear, push!” Luv said in a strong voice, once she had gotten Zelda’s legs positioned. Zelda tensed as she made the effort, her head rising slightly from the pillow as she focused all her strength on her abdomen. After a couple of seconds she fell back on the pillow, breathing heavily, her face deeply flushed.
“One more time, Zelda, come on!” Luv encouraged, lifting the edge of the bed sheet so she could track Zelda’s progress.
Zelda pushed several times. Minutes felt like hours to Link as he found himself eventually pressing his forehead against her shoulder or landing gentle kisses on the side of her head, whispering “you can do it”s to Zelda every once in a while in an attempt to distract himself. But her whimpering and crying kept him tightly rooted to reality, and Link was beginning to feel the familiar sting in his eyes building up again.
“Push!” Luv continued, massaging one of Zelda’s legs to soothe her.
Zelda pushed once again but she barely lasted two seconds before she fell back, completely drained and exhausted, her face still contorted in deep pain. Tears had begun to glisten at the corners of her eyes and her hand trembled in his hold.
Another gut-wrenching yell left her as another contraction hit her and she writhed on the bed, tears finally streaming from her eyes.
Link couldn’t take it anymore.
Wryna and Luv both looked up in surprise at his blurt out.
“Stop it!” Link repeated, looking at both women with pleading eyes, “It’s hurting her!”
“Link, don’t be stupid!” Luv admonished him, “It’s normal to feel pain! It’s part of the process and we can’t halt it!”
“But she’s sick! She… she could…” Link couldn’t bring himself to say it, but the way his eyes had begun to shine alerted Wryna and Luv of Link’s fears; despite that, they couldn’t stop nature from taking its course with Zelda’s body, whatever the outcome may be. They had done all they could to improve her health; however, it seemed that it was linked with the baby, and there wasn’t much that could be done once the time came and contractions began assaulting the younger woman’s body.
“Link, I-“ Luv started but was cut short as Zelda gave a particularly loud yell and her back arched.
“I can see it!” Luv gasped as she turned her attention back to Zelda, “I can see the head!”
“Keep going, Zelda!” Wryna encouraged, patting her shoulder. “You’re doing great!”
Dumbstruck, Link merely waited and let the women do their work. He firmly held Zelda’s shaking hand in his, kissing her cheek as he whispered in her ear how sorry he was and how everything would be over soon. Her eyes still shut and breathing rapidly, her face sought his for comfort and Link complied, leaning over and kissing the tears from her eyes away.
“It’s almost over, Zelda,” Link whispered, though it seemed more a reassurance for him than her, “Hold, on just a little bit longer…”
Finally, with a push that ended with a strangled gasp, Link heard Luv exclaim in glee.
“It’s a boy!”
But for some reason Link didn’t share in that glee. He felt something was off. There hadn’t been a single sound; not a pip nor a cry. Nothing. Only silence.
And it was when Luv looked at the bloodstained bundle - her smile dropping and her eyes widening- that Link had his fears confirmed.
His son was dead.
A few minutes passed, and the two elder women simply moved together to clean the small baby on a table they had set up in a corner, deadly silent, their expressions mostly unreadable but exuding a grim sadness in their eyes.
Link was frozen.
He was shocked to the point he didn’t know what he was feeling anymore. He could feel his heart beating loudly against his chest and coldness shrouding his being, but other than that, he felt nothing; his mind had completely blanked out. It was Zelda’s voice what brought him down to earth again to his cruel reality.
“Link…” Zelda breathed weakly with a smile, exhaustion and fatigue evident in her voice, “Our baby…”
Link turned towards her. Her shining eyes met his, and instead of finding happiness and joy in his blue eyes, Zelda saw shock, sadness, and disappointment brimming in them.
“What is it?” Zelda asked, concerned by his demeanor, “What’s wrong?”
Link couldn’t bring himself to respond, and when he finally felt the moisture gathering at the corners of his eyes, he didn’t try to hold them back. Before long, heavy tears had begun flowing down his cheeks.
Zelda’s eyes widened in realization, and she turned towards the women, holding her arms out.
“My baby,” Zelda said breathlessly, “My baby. Please, let me hold him…”
Both women looked at each other dubiously before Wryna took the newly wrapped bundle in her arms again and took it to the blonde woman, carefully laying it down in her expecting arms.
Link couldn’t watch. He didn’t even want to see what he looked like. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, letting the tears stain the bed sheets.
He felt Zelda shuffle beside him to hold the baby properly in her arms, and heard her sniffle shortly after as her eyes scanned their motionless son. Link felt more than saw her straighten up and begin to rock back and forth slightly, soothingly rubbing the baby’s chest with a hand and pressing ever so slightly on his small ribcage, trying to find a heartbeat that was not there.
She began to sing then; a soft song that was barely a whisper, broken by the occasional sob leaving her lips; a song that would not reach his son’s ears.
Link had never heard that song before. He guessed it was the song Zelda had told him about some months ago; the lullaby she said she’d use to sing their child to sleep every night, a lullaby composed to soothe the senses and drive the scary and sad thoughts away.
A lullaby that felt more like a requiem.
He felt her lay a hand on his head and gesture him to come closer, and even though he complied and moved forward, Link was still unwilling to see the little one he had waited so long for and hid his face in the nape of her neck instead. His body trembling with bottled up emotion and tears rolling down his face, he bit his lip to keep himself from sobbing.
A few moments passed before Zelda finished the lullaby and held both of them close to her. His tears had drenched her nightshirt by now, but Zelda didn’t mind and caressed the top of his head as her own tears ran down her face.
She felt Zelda move her hand away from his head to caress the baby again and he jumped when he suddenly heard her gasp. Shortly after that he heard a soft, almost imperceptible whine and before he could pull back to see what it was, the sound of a weak baby’s cry reached his ears.
The wailing was weak for sure, but it was there.
“Just a little scare,” Zelda sniveled with a wide smile, “It was just a little scare.”
Zelda made a noise that sounded between a laugh and a sob, tears still flowing down her cheeks as she regarded their son, now writhing slightly in his burgundy wrapping. His little hands balled into fists and his face flushed as he cried to the heavens his displeasure at being taken out of his warm and soft womb.
Link simply stared with eyes wide, cheeks still damp as Zelda moved the bundle closer to him. The little baby’s crying diminished into a low pitched whining as he tried to force his tiny eyes open. They opened a crack and Link saw beautiful sky blue eyes – much like his – look up at him. Light golden hair like Zelda’s covered his tiny head, and stubby, pointy ears perked every time the little one heard the sound of his mother’s voice.
“He’s beautiful,” Zelda commented, all exhaustion and fatigue gone from her face as she beamed at their little piece of joy. “He looks so much like you.”
“Y-Yeah,” Link said distractedly as he took in the image of his very much alive son grabbing his larger index finger and squeezing it with his tiny, stubby fingers. He looked a bit under the weather with his white skin only slightly rosy, but he was alive, and that’s all that mattered. He was alive. Their son was alive.
They were both alive.
A staggering surge of uncontainable emotions hit him then. Feelings of extreme relief, happiness, pride, and gratitude flooded his senses and Link broke down sobbing, tears running unchecked as he grinned and embraced the two most precious people in his life closer to him.
Zelda looked up at him and nuzzled against his face and Link leaned down to plant a very wet kiss on her lips. Zelda gave a giggle at the rather sloppy gesture then lowered her head to kiss their son’s forehead, causing the little baby to coo cutely at them.
“Welcome home, little Daphnes.”