World of Light > His Divine Imperial Highness
His Divine Imperial Highness
"What's taking them so bloody long?" Link groused. "We're gonna be late if they don't hurry."
"Quit that, you're making me nervous," Gan muttered as he leaned against the tree. "Your mother's probably just fussing with her hair or something."
"You should be nervous," Link balked. "We're going to the Castle for Din's sake. The Castle." He suddenly froze in his steps, his big blue eyes widening in horror. "Do I look fancy enough? I don't want to go and look like a hick in front of the Prince."
"I wouldn't worry about it. It's not like you can change your face," Gan snickered. Link scowled at him and resumed his pacing again.
"Keep it up and you'll be back herding goats today for Old Lonnie," Link threatened ominously. "Your invitation is at, uh, my whim and stuff."
"Uh huh." Gan didn't sound terribly convinced.
"You all set boys?" A tall man with long blond hair only lightly touched by gray emerged from the treehouse and shouted down to them. He was wearing a regal-looking gold and blue uniform with a couple of colorful ribbons and patches on it. Link blinked, scarcely able to believe his eyes. He'd never actually seen his father in his old uniform before.
"Yes, Master Darbinian," Gan replied politely. The smith started down the ladder, but was stopped by a startled cry.
"Oh, Alain! I can't find it at all!"
"Just leave it, Verena. We're late enough as it is."
"Oh, but that ribbon is the whole point of wearing this dress. I have to change now!"
"Women," Alain sighed. He shook his head, and continued climbing down to the grass below. He gave Link a knowing stare. "She's been through four dresses so far."
"That's Mother for you," Link laughed. The three of them waited expectantly for five more minutes, and Link's mother finally emerged from their home. She was radiant as always, her raven-black hair braided into a complicated looking series of plaits, and she wore a gown of sapphire blue. Alain beamed with pride, as she stepped nonchalantly off the platform and floated gently to the ground.
"You look wonderful," the smith said with a smile, kissing his wife on the cheek. Verena blushed girlishly, then giggled.
"I know," she tittered. She looked at Link and Gan, smiling wide. "Oh, you boys look marvelous," she cooed. She skittered over to Gan, kissing his cheeks, and fussing with his traditional Gerudo garments of billowing black satin. Much to Link's amusement, she managed to make him turn bright red--no small feat considering the rich mahogany tone of his skin. "Ganondorf, you look so handsome! I might ask you to escort me instead!"
"Thank you, ma'am," Gan spluttered in embarrassment. Alain gave the horses a look over, then stared pointedly at his son.
"Forgetting something, kid?"
Link looked around, then spotted the long, narrow wooden crate still perched on the anvil in the forging yard. He scrambled over and hefted beneath his arm. "My fault," he apologized. Alain chuckled in exasperation, but didn't press the point any further.
"Let's not keep the Prince waiting any longer. He can hardly get married without his new sword, hmm?" the smith said, and everyone took to their horses.
They took off at a slight cantor, and Link's heart was pounding in the excitement of it all. He'd never been to the capital before--in point of fact, the farthest from home he'd ever been was Lake Hylia. Now, not only was he going to Kasuto--but to the castle itself! To meet the Crown Prince, of all things. He chewed on his lip nervously, and kept glancing at the box tied to the back of his horse. No matter how many times his father told him the blade was beautiful, well-balanced, and that it was by far his best work, Link couldn't help but feel apprehensive. What if the Prince hated it? What in the world was his father thinking letting him take on a commission of such monumental importance, anyway? Link no longer doubted his own skill at the forge, but making horseshoes and simple blades for the town militia was something entirely different than forging the blade the Crown Prince would wear on his wedding day.
"You look worried," Gan observed as he trotted beside him. Link frowned.
"I just hope the Prince likes it. I've never had to do anything like that before," Link confessed with a sigh.
"I'm sure he will. You do good work," Gan said with a shrug.
"But is it really fit for royalty?"
"Stop selling yourself short. Anyone would be proud to carry that weapon," Gan replied. "So relax, and enjoy the day."
Link smiled, feeling a lot better about everything. As intimidating--and blunt--as he could be at times, Link appreciated his best friend dearly. As silly and flighty as Link could be, Gan had both feet planted firmly on the ground, and was often the voice of reason.
The small party followed the imperial road north, past rolling hills, and sweeping vistas of green and colorful flowers. Hyrule was in full bloom, and Link was convinced there was no place in the world more beautiful than his homeland at that time of year. Eagles and hawks soared through the clear blue skies, gliding effortlessly on the gentle breeze. It was so tranquil, so alive. As they crossed the long bridge on Lake Hylia, with its stately arches and statues, he looked down at the crystal clear water far below at the Zora children at play, and the fishermen at the docks. He sighed a bit wistfully, and hoped they would have far better luck than he and Gan did the day before.
It was some three hours later, shortly before high noon, that Link and his family reached the soaring gates of Kasuto. He gasped a bit at the scene--it was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Colorful flags and pennants snapped in the breeze, representing all the kingdoms and peoples of the Empire. It was so enormous.
"Welcome to Kasuto," the guards greeted them with broad smiles as they passed through. Link bowed his head politely and followed his father as they wound their way through the broad avenue into the central bazaar. Link had never seen so many people in his life, much less gathered in one place. He was convinced someone could fit a dozen Arendals just in the marketplace. The lamp posts were all draped with twisting ribbons of violet and gold, and there was a decidedly festive atmosphere in the air. Gerudo girls danced about the fountain, and merchants were hocking all sorts of cheesy memorabilia.
"I could get used to this," Gan remarked, staring a bit wistfully at the dancing girls as they rode past them.
"It looks like the whole of Hyrule has gathered here today," Verena observed in amazement. Alain laughed.
"It does seem a bit more crowded than usual, eh?"
Link frowned, looking at the scores of people making their way to the observation stands that had been erected along the streets. "I hope we'll be able to get good seats for the procession."
"Don't worry," Alain assured him. "The Prince has made arrangements for us. Let's get a move on."
They hurried past the crowds, and finally made it to Hyrule Castle. If the gates of the city seemed huge to Link, they were dwarfed by the size of the castle's. Indeed, the whole structure seemed like something out of a fairy tale. It was enormous, with soaring, twisting spires and circling parapets, and it seemed like everything was covered in silk bunting.
"...wow..." was all he could say, his mouth agape.
"Close your mouth, Link," Verena chided him in obvious embarrassment.
Everything happened so quickly all of a sudden, and Link's head was spinning. Guards in great, plumed helmets saw to their horses, and they were whisked from hallway to hallway to a small side chamber, covered from floor to ceiling in ornately designed carpets and tapestries, statuary and candelabra from near and far. An older gentleman with ruddy skin and crimson eyes in a distinguished uniform was rapidly giving them instructions on imperial protocol: do not speak unless the Prince speaks first, walk three steps forward then bow, and for the Goddesses' sakes do not touch him, or anything in the room. They all sort of became a blur to Link, as all he could do was stare in amazement at the splendor around them. And to think, people lived like this, all the time. It was mindboggling to him.
"...and you will address him as 'your Highness', always," the man finished. He looked up to the silent guardians near the door, and at some pre-arranged signal, they vanished into the next room. Link clung to the box for dear life, and he could hear the case rattling inside, so badly was he shaking. He lined up with Gan and his parents.
"Deep breath," Gan muttered to him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. Link did what he was told, but it didn't seem to help, though.
A moment or two later, the door opened, and it was all Link could do not to let his jaw hit the floor again. Crown Prince Raphael entered--no, glided into the room, the epitome of grace and elegance. He wore a magnificent silk mantle of white, gold and violet with long, tapered sleeves, trimmed with white fur; a heavy golden chain hung from his waist. His hair was long--about waist-length, and was golden and perfectly combed, crowned by a golden diadem studded with sapphires. His every movement was perfectly telegraphed.
"He looks like a girl," Gan snorted derisively in a hushed tone, decidedly unimpressed. Link stifled a laugh, and felt a lot less nervous all of a sudden. His father glared at both of them, and Link stood up a little straighter. At the cue, the four of them took three steps forward, then bowed.
"Welcome, friends," the Prince greeted them warmly, with a polite nod in return. With a swirl of his white cape, he strode forward towards them. "Commandant, I am so pleased to see you again," he said to Alain.
"I was honored by the invitation, your Highness," Alain replied, bowing his head. Commandant? Link was staring at his father a bit wild-eyed, at that. He had no idea his father was a commandant, only that he'd served in the...
"I have heard many tales of your bravery while fighting the Melanese barbarians," Raphael said with a smile. "The Imperial Rangers lost a good man when you decided to retire."
"You flatter me, Highness," Alain said with a little embarrassment. "I just wanted to spend some quiet time with my family, though."
Raphael nodded knowingly, then turned to look at the rest of them. "And what a beautiful family it is, Alain." He gallantly kissed Verena's hand, and she immediately turned bright red. "Mistress Verena, you are a beauty beyond compare. This occasion will be all the brighter for your lovely presence."
"Oh, your Highness," Verena giggled, much like a schoolgirl. Link inwardly groaned.
"He's laying it on awfully thick, huh?" Gan muttered under his breath, seemingly in agreement.
"...and this must be your son. Link, was it?" Raphael said, stopping in front of him. He suddenly felt terribly small--the Prince was standing a full head taller than Gan. The most striking feature about him, however, was his eyes--bluer than the waters of Lake Hylia, large and clear. They shone with confidence, and utter surety.
"Link?" Verena nudged him, and the young Hylian realized he'd been holding his breath.
"Y-yeah, I'm Link," he stammered, bowing awkwardly, and accidentally nudged Raphael with the box. His parents stared at him in wide-eyed horror, and even Gan was looking at him abut. "Oh, dang, I'm sorry, your...Princeliness?"
Raphael laughed heartily, even as the assuredly-heavily armed Sheikah guards were shooting daggers at the boy with their unsettling crimson eyes. "It is of no moment." He finally moved in front of Gan, his expression full of curiosity. "And who might you be, friend Gerudo? There was no mention of another son, and, well..." Raphael said, rather delicately.
"I'm adopted," Gan deadpanned. Raphael laughed again, and gave Alain a sideways glance.
"These children are delightful."
"I am no child, Highness," Gan said defiantly, drawing his shoulders back. "I am Ganondorf Dragmire, son of Dorthala, son of Kemer, of the Clan Blackwind." Link blinked at him. Gan was acting so weird all of a sudden.
Even the Prince seemed to be taken aback by Gan's harshness, though his momentary confusion passed as quickly as it came. "He's a friend of the family, your Highness," Alain explained, trying as best he could to smooth over the sudden tension in the room. "An assistant in the forge."
"Ah," Raphael said. The Prince gave Gan a rather enigmatic look, then made a fist with a gloved hand and crossed his chest with it. He then spoke a long and complex phrase that Link did not recognize, in perfectly accented Gerudo. Gan appeared startled, but returned the gesture, and nodded respectfully.
The Prince turned to Link once more, and smiled at him again. "I believe you have something for me, Link."
"Oh--yes!" Link answered. He sat the crate on the carpet and opened it, carefully removing the glimmering rapier inside. It truly was his best work; forged of the finest silver-blue Dwarven steel, in the technique his father passed to him from the Elven smiths in Ticondera. It featured a golden, swept hilt and was perfectly balanced. Link knelt down, raising the blade above his head, and Raphael took it into his hands.
"My word," he breathed, unsheathing it to examine it more closely. Beneath the crosspiece, on the surface of the blade, was the crest of House Valentine worked in gold, and trailing beneath it were shimmering Hylian runes, an old prayer to the Goddesses for good fortune dating back from the time of Nohansen the God-King himself. "This is magnificent. Truly a work of art. You've outdone yourself, Alain."
"Thank you, your Highness. Link did most of the work on it, though."
Raphael raised an eyebrow, and looked at the lad in astonishment. Link flushed
"It's...well, I tried?"
"Talent such as yours should be cherished and nurtured. The work of men twice your age cannot compare to this," Raphael said, returning the blade to its scabbard. To everyone's astonishment, he warmly tapped Link's cheek with a gloved hand, covered in priceless rings. " Yours is a rare and remarkable gift. I shall treasure it, always."
Link turned a deep shade of red, and grinned rather stupidly.
"I thank you, all of you," Raphael said by way of wrapping things up. "But if you will excuse me, I must complete my preparations."
Again, they bowed, and Raphael swept out of the room, trailed by his guards. Link was unbelievably giddy, filled with adrenaline. He'd done himself, and his family proud. The way the Prince smiled at him, he knew he wasn't just showering with false praise--he really did like the sword. He'd manage to impress the Crown Prince himself, someone who lived in such opulence.
"Good work, son!" Alain cried, hugging him tightly, and his mother joined in.
"Oh, I'm so proud of you!" Verena dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief. "I can't believe he was so taken by it!" Link grinned, but when he turned to look at Gan, the light faded from his eyes.
Gan was bright red, his hands curled into fists, his lip curled into an ugly sneer. Link had never seen a look of such abject fury on his friend's face, and he found it rather frightening.