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The Season of Giving

Chapter Text

It’s an unusually chilly winter in Hyrule. The morning air in Tarrey Town was crisp and cool. White sunlight glittered on the waves of the lake below.

Link yawned, stretched, and shrugged into his warm doublet. He paused. He took a moment to identify the smell wafting through the window, then finished dressing and sped out of the inn, barely stopping to greet Kapson with a nod.

He opened the door and skidded to a halt in front of the table. It was one of the wooden picnic sets that Kapson had installed in the inn’s yard, next to a row of shiny new cooking pots. This one was groaning under the weight of its burden: plates of meat grilled to perfection, pastries laden with fruits like colourful gems, flaky herb-encrusted fish, fluffy omelettes, steamed vegetables, stew-

And, standing over it all, Zelda. Link stopped drooling and bowed to his liege. She giggled and waved a hand to signal the dismissal of such formalities. “Good morning, Link! Ready for breakfast?”

Link had already sat down, knife and fork in hand.

“I see I didn’t have to ask,” Zelda said happily. “Have anything you want! It’s all yours!”

The nervous face of Paya, or Lady Paya the Royal Handmaiden, to use her full title, peeked out from behind a cooking pot. “S-should Master Link really eat all of that by himself?”

Link, his mouth already full, gestured enthusiastically for Paya to join the feast.

“No! You misunderstand me,” Paya said. “I’m busy… washing this pot…”

Zelda laughed. “Don’t worry about him. His appetite was the stuff of legends a hundred years ago.”

Link, a cuccoo leg in each hand, shrugged. Zelda didn’t touch any of the food, although it wasn’t inconceivable that she’d already eaten so her meal wouldn’t have been ruined through watching Link ‘shovel food into his mouth like a Hinox’, as she had once commented. The strange thing was that she was watching him. She had her chin resting on her hands, her eyes fixed on his face, her brow slightly furrowed which meant that she was concentrating.

Link slowed down. Maybe this was some new experiment. Maybe there was a pattern to the food. He didn’t know. Food was food. Link found himself watching Zelda right back, trying to discern if reaching for certain dishes garnered a reaction.

“Is something wrong?” Zelda asked. “You’ve decreased your rate of consumption.”

Link swallowed. “Should I… increase it?”

“No! I mean, go at your own pace, we’re in no rush.”

Link stopped eating entirely. He listened. The scrape of brush against metal had paused. He looked at Paya.

Paya yelped, and resumed scrubbing.

Link looked at Zelda, who was now giving him a wide, falsely innocent smile. All her teeth were showing, which made her look a bit like Sidon, except instead of inspiring confidence it made Link feel suspicious.

Zelda’s smile began to get strained. Speaking through her teeth, she said, “Aren’t you hungry, Link? Why don’t you try the fruitcake?”

Reasoning that Zelda was still his Queen, sudden breakfast feast or no, Link obeyed and tried the fruitcake.

“How is it?” Zelda asked.

Link considered. “It’s good.”

Zelda leaned forward.

“It’s sweet,” Link added. “And fluffy.”

Zelda’s eyes widened and gained a slightly manic light.

“Very fruity?” Link hazarded.

Zelda tilted her head.

“…cakey?” Link said, trying to inch away from her. A sudden thought occurred to him. “Is it frogs? Did you put frogs in this? Are there frogs in everything?”

“What? No! Why would you- Ugh!” Zelda threw up her hands and huffed. Pouting, she muttered, “Of all the times we spent in Faron that was the one thing you had to remember.”

Instinct made Link turn his head, and Paya’s sudden appearance by his elbow made him yell and jump away. This in turn caused the Sheikah girl to squeak and flinch away, before she bowed deeply. “My apologies, Master Link! I just keep forgetting to make noise when I move.”

Link waved her apology away as he tried to stop his heart racing.

Paya exchanged glances with Zelda, who first shook her head, then sighed, and nodded. Paya smiled. “Well, you see, the Queen wants to know what you think of the food because she made it all herself!”

“Not all by myself!” Zelda said hurriedly. “It would have been impossible without Paya’s help, so you should thank her as well.”

M’lady,” scolded Paya.

Zelda blushed. “I… did plan all the dishes and helped buy the ingredients.”

“Why?” Link asked.

“Oh, you know, just as thanks! Since you’ve been such a great help and all…” Zelda said, trailing off into silence.

“For… helping you with Guardian research?” While Link didn’t particularly enjoy escorting Zelda to Torin Wasteland and getting shot at, protecting her was both his duty and something he would have done as her friend. Understanding the Guardians led to better ways of combating them. There wasn’t any need to thank him for his part in helping her.

“No! I mean, yes. But that’s not the only reason!”

Now it was Link’s turn to frown and tilt his head in confusion.

The three of them turned as a newcomer strolled into the inn yard. Link recognised the light blue Zora and waved to her.

Mei smiled and waved back, causing the staminoka bass she held to swing back and forth like scaly, wet pendulums. “Morning Link! Wow, what a spread! It’s like you’re eating breakfast, lunch and dinner all at the same time.”

“What did you come to Tarrey Town for?” Link asked.

Mei laughed. “I forgot!”

Zelda’s expression became alarmed. “What? You can’t remember at all?”

“I’m sure I could if I really try,” Mei answered. “It was… really important, I know that…”

At that moment the inn door opened. Kapson strolled out. He smiled when he saw Mei. “Ah, you’ve arrived earlier than expected. Good morning!”

“So you came here to see Kapson?” Zelda asked.

“Did I?”

I don’t know!” Zelda wailed.

Kapson sighed. “Mei, I believe you came here to search for gifts. For the Winter Solstice celebration, hmm?”

Mei clapped her hands. The bass smacked together like slimy maracas. “Oh! That’s right!”

“Winter Solstice celebration?” Link said.

Kapson seemed surprised. “I know many people have forgotten the Solstice celebrations in the wake of the Calamity, but I never thought to count you among their number, Master Link.”

“Don’t worry, though,” Mei added cheerfully, “I forget nearly every year!”

“That is cause for worry,” Zelda murmured, unheard by the Zora.

“The Solstice celebrations,” Kapson began, “are days on which we express our thanks for Hylia’s blessing. The longest day of the year, the summer solstice, is given to the Goddesses for which we have to thank for our bountiful world. The shortest, the winter solstice, is given to mortals.”

The old Zora lapsed into silence. Link and Mei waited for more, and when none of forthcoming, applauded and thanked the former priest for his explanation. Kapson then went back into the inn, with Mei following him. The door shut.

Link turned to Zelda. “I still don’t understand.”

Zelda bit her lip. “Well, during the Summer Solstice, you go to a temple and give offerings for the life the Goddess gave you. Prayers are said and there’s special rituals. And that’s my birthday. All princesses born on the Summer Solstice are given the name Zelda.”

“So,” Link said, tapping his fingers idly on the table, “do I have to wait half a year for you to explain the Winter Solstice.”

Paya giggled, then quickly tried to muffle it. Zelda sighed. “On the Winter Solstice, the ‘day of mortals’, you give your thanks to the people who’ve made your life special. By giving them gifts.”

It finally clicked. Link gestured to the food. “This is your gift to me. I make you feel special.”

Zelda blushed. “Not just you! That is to say… What I mean is…”

“What m’lady means is that Master Link is a very important person to her, and she’s thankful that you are her friend,” Paya said. “She suspected that you had forgotten the festival and didn’t want you to worry about giving her a gift in return.”

Link opened his mouth to object. Zelda cut him off. “This isn’t a ‘queen and knight’ thing, Link. You mean a lot to me, but I appreciate that I might be… deserving of the same. Your memories are gone. It’s been months, but in a way, I’m still a stranger to you. So please, don’t feel the need to force yourself to be thankful of my existence.”

“There’s no need to force myself.”

Zelda beamed.

Link’s ears drooped slightly. “I still feel bad about not giving you anything…”

“Oh, that’s all right! For this year only, the peace you brought to Hyrule shall be my gift! Being able to see a new town built after the Calamity, with so many different people living together, really, it’s the best gift of all!”

“Okay,” Link said. Then, his eyes narrowed, gaining the steely glint of determination. “But next year…

Zelda scoffed. “I’ll not have you underestimate me, Champion.

Paya groaned. “…oh, no…”

The door creaked open again, dispelling the crackling atmosphere that had built up between the Hylians. Mei said her goodbyes, leaving to browse the stalls in the town square.

“You mentioned that you didn’t get gifts for just me,” Link said, pulling a bowl of carrot stew towards himself.

Zelda nodded. “I’ve picked out some books from the castle library for Impa. And the Guardian research we did a few days ago are my gift to Purah. For Robbie, I’ve gathered some ancient materials left lying around the castle. It’s all a bit homespun, but I hope I’ve chosen things that will be appreciated. What do you think?”

Link shrugged. “Sounds about right.”

“I’m sure they’ll be very happy,” Paya agreed.

“Right, so the plan is to go to Robbie first, since he’s the furthest away-” Zelda stopped when Link thrust out his hand. “Is there something wrong with that?”

Link finished chewing before he said, “Request denied.”

“What? You can’t-”

“You said this isn’t a ‘queen’ thing you’re doing. So, as your friend, I can just refuse.”

Zelda, furious, turning to Paya. Her handmaiden shook her head. “Master Link is correct. I believe you’re saying this because you judge the journey to be too dangerous?”

Link nodded.

“What? This isn’t fair, I’ve already prepared everything!”

“Let me deliver it,” Link suggested.

“It’s not the same!”

“There’s Wolves and Ocotoroks-”

“I’m supposed to hand it over myself!”

“Guardians and Lizalfos-”

“You don’t understand!”

“Hinoxes! And Lynels!”

“ALRIGHT!” Paya shouted. The Hylians flinched. Coughing, Paya said, “Master Link has a point. He can use the Sheikah Slate to transport himself instantly to the Research Lab, but we cannot accompany him. Please, m’lady, isn’t it better to increase the chance of successful delivery than risk everything for the sake of tradition?”

Zelda pouted. “When you put it like that, I have no choice to agree.”

Link smiled triumphantly. “I can bring everything straight to Robbie and Purah, so-”

“So,” Paya interrupted, “you will give them their gifts in the Queen’s stead, while m’lady and I go to Kakariko Village.”

“We will?” Zelda asked.
“She will?” Link asked.

“Then… how will I guard Zelda?” Link said, puzzled.

“You won’t.”

“I don’t understand.”

Paya sighed. “I will guard m’lady. I am part of the Sheikah tribe. That is one of our duties.”

“I think this is a great idea!” Zelda chimed in. “Kakariko isn’t too far from here. We’ll be fine!”

“And,” Paya said, “since today is a special day, maybe m’lady would be kind enough to give him a break?”

“Yes,” Zelda replied. “You’ve been stuck by my side ever since you defeated Calamity Ganon, so you’re long overdue for a holiday, Link! You should just stay here and enjoy your breakfast. I’ll ask Kapson to give you the packages for Purah and Robbie. And you can have the rest of the day to yourself after you’ve delivered them.”

Link had to admit that the idea of being able to visit anywhere he pleased – provided that there was a nearby shrine – was appealing. Which, if Link was being honest with himself, mainly included Zora’s Domain and the surrounding wilderness.

Besides, he couldn’t say no to Zelda, not when she seemed to happy with her decision.

So he agreed to meet the two in Kakariko the next morning, and settled down to enjoy his feast.

 Link, research notes tucked into his shirt and ancient parts stored in the Sheikah Slate, bid Kapson farewell and prepared to leave Tarrey Town. He’d found it best to activate the Slate’s teleportation abilities outside settlements to avoid startling people.

On his way out he passed Mei, who muttered, “Diamond’s the most useful, but it’s too expensive… topaz looks nice, but the shopkeeper said it ‘contained the power of electricity’… I can’t decide…”

“Do you need help?” Link asked.

“Hm? Oh, hi Link!” Mei shook her head. “No, I’m just trying to pick gifts for my family. I forget every single year and end up just giving Fronk and the boys ‘a kiss’, so this time, I want to surprise them with real Solstice gifts! Even though the waiting’s half the fun…”

Link looked around the stalls. Fyson sold a variety of things, but he mostly stocked arrows, and Fronk was an apprentice smith. Mei sounded uncertain about Pelison’s gems. He doubted Rhondson’s clothing would fit a Zora. Granté’s wares were expensive, and exclusive.

“Can you think of anything they need?” Link suggested.

Mei thought for a bit. “It’s really cold in Lanayru right now. I shiver every time a breeze blows in from the southeast!  Maybe I can find something that’ll keep them warm. There doesn’t seem to be anything here, though, so I better widen my hunting area!”

“Good luck!”

“Haha, thanks! Hey, are you getting anyone anything?”

Link shrugged. “I’m not sure. Who should I give gifts to?”

“People you like! People you love! Like family, or a sweetheart. Someone like that.”

Link smiled. That was easy. “Sidon!”

“Ooooooh,” Mei said. “That’s so great! I’ll tell him to expect something great!”

Before Link could say anything the Zora had run to the edge of town and jumped into Akkala Lake. It didn’t matter much, of course. Link already knew what his gift would be.

 After a short detour to Hyrule Castle’s armoury, Link teleported to Akkala Research lab. Robbie was surprised to see him and even more surprised to receive Zelda’s gift.

“This isn’t something she would have done a hundred years ago!” He recoiled from Link’s glare. “Don’t take that the wrong way! She was busy back then. We all were, hm, hmm. I’m afraid I don’t have anything for the Queen in return. I’m tied up trying to give Cherry an upgrade, as thanks for staying by my side all these years.”

Link eyed the ancient oven. “…can it move?”

She is immobile,” Robbie answered, “however, she can move the hearts of men!”

Although Robbie probably meant it metaphorically, Link still stepped away from the machine in case it decided to move his heart the classic Guardian way, which was to remove it from his body entirely with energy beams.

“Hm!” Robbie said. “Hero, I see you’ve forsake the Master Sword for another blade!”


“I only jest! But do my eyes mistake me, or is that one of the famed Great Flameblades forged in the fires of Death Mountain in an age long past? Hm, hmm! Very wise! I assume you’re using the blade’s power to fight off the cold.”

“Something like that,” Link muttered. He hoped Sidon would like it. While the fire magic imbued in the sword would ebb in water, it was waterproof, and always gave off a warm glow like smouldering embers.

 “I envy you, able to carry a furnace around wherever you go. The lab is a bit… exposed-” Robbie gestured to the stairs leading to the roof, “-so it gets a bit chilly in here.”

“I have more flameblades, so if you want one-”

“Hero, didn’t you know?” Robbie jumped back in exaggerated surprise, his goggles jiggling wildly. “Only the chosen of the Hylian royal family can wield those weapons! The ones imbued with fire, frost and lightning. There’s powerful magic locked in them. It’d be unthinkable to have them wielded by monsters… or evil folk who wish to harm others.”

“Other people can’t use them?”

“They can, but only as normal weapons of their respective class. So, the sword on your back would just be a fancy-looking claymore in my hands!” Robbie saw Link’s disappointed expression and misinterpreted it. “Worry not. I have Cherry by my side, to keep my heart topped up to the brim with burning passion!”

Robbie struck a pose. Link and Jerrin exchanged glances.

“Well, goodbye!” Link said. He walked outside, and took the flameblade in hand. So, it wouldn’t benefit Sidon at all. He needed a new plan.

 here was a shop in Hateno. Maybe he'd get an idea there. Thus decided, he headed to Hateno Research Lab.

“Presents? For me!” Purah squealed. “That’s absolutely correct!”

“Uh, isn’t the proper response ‘you shouldn’t have’?” Symin said.

Purah stamped her feet. “Bah! Why say something I don’t mean? Anyway, thanks! Tell the Queen I’m really happy with this! She knew exactly what I wanted!”

Link nodded. “Sure.”

Clapping her hands, Purah spread out the research notes on the table. “I was planning on spending the day in bed with my Rito-feather quilt and a cup of tea, but you know what? Nothing warms you up like doing something you love! Symin! Let’s get on this right away!”

Seeing that the two were preoccupied, Link decided to leave.

After all, he already had an idea of what his gift could be.

Chapter Text

 “It’s not a bit big for you, is it?” Nekk asked. “We have smaller sizes…”

Link shook his head, although to Nekk, there was only the slightest suggestion of his head moving underneath the folds of the scarf. Link, his voice somewhat muffled, said, “It’s not for me.”

“Oh? Is it a Solstice gift?” Nekk hummed. “In that case, a bargain price of forty rupees. The Rito are all very thankful to you for calming Vah Medoh.”

The scarf bobbed up and down as Link nodded. And arm appeared from deep within the pile of cloth and handing Nekk two red gems.

“Nice doing business, Champion descendant!” Nekk said, as Link heading out of the shop.

It took a bit of work to ease the scarf into the Sheikah Slate, which had difficulty scanning its entire length. Link had to fold it up neatly, and the snowquill feather stuffing gave the thing a tendency to unravel. But it was soft as clouds and wonderfully warm, so Link was happy with his choice.

He decided to head down to the stable to check on his horses, since equines counted as ‘mortals’ and he was definitely thankful for their part in helping him stop Ganon. And, he had a few spare apples and endura carrots as gifts.

Just as he’d stepped off the last of the rope bridges leading to Rito Village, the sky darkened. Link looked up. A fat raindrop splashed onto his face.

Link frowned.

There was a distant rumble.

Link’s eyes widened. He started walking quickly towards the stable.

The storm unleashed all its fury, pouring down sheets of rain. The world was reduced to grey walls of water. The road was turned to mud. Lightning left green and purple afterimages after every flash.

Link ran. Hopefully, he’d get to shelter before a lightning strike found his sword. He became aware of a steady sound, masked by the pounding rain. A dark shape was running alongside him.

They reached the stable together, and the warm glow of the lanterns revealed Kass, who wasn’t carrying his iconic accordion but was instead trying to shield something in his wings. When he saw Link, he smiled. “We meet again! Were you caught in the rain as well? What a sudden storm!”

“Hello, Kass.” Link tried to wring the water out of his hair, envying the way it rolled off Kass’ feathers to form a puddle around the Rito. “Wouldn’t it have been faster to fly?”

“It would,” Kass agreed, “but alas, my clothes were already wet. They become quite heavy when soaked.”

“Oh… that’s right.” Link felt his heart grow heavy. Of course. That’s why the Zora didn’t wear clothes; especially not feather-stuffed scarves. It was embarrassing to realise he’d forgotten that small detail in his haste to find a gift.

“But I’ll dry out easily enough, so don’t worry about me,” Kass said. “These, however, are perfectly safe, and that’s what’s important.”

Kass flourished some pieces of paper covered in lines and dots. Link looked at them blankly. “It’s pretty.”

Kass chuckled. “It’s sheet music. It’s what musicians read to learn new songs, or help them remember old ones.”

“Like a recipe?”

“That’s a concise way to put it! I had these made for the Solstice. Forgive me, I’m not boring you with my idle chatter, am I?”

Link shook his head.

“Thank you, friend. You truly are too kind; I’d offer you a song as a Solstice gift, but as you can see, I don’t have my instrument.”

Link pointed at the paper. “You have those songs.”

“These are not songs, but one song,” Kass explained. “One could call it five parts of a six-part arrangement.”

“You broke it!”

“…no, these parts are meant to be sung in harmony. They’re all unique, written to complement one another.”

“Where’s the last part?”

Kass tapped his chest. “Right here.”

Link opened his mouth.

“No, I didn’t eat it. I know it by heart.”

Link nodded knowingly. “Is this a song for the Solstice celebration?”

“Yes. They’re meant to celebrate something – or rather several someones – who are very close to me.”

At that point, Link sneezed.

Kass immediately knelt down. “My apologies! I shouldn’t have kept you listening to my rambling. Are you alright? I’d offer you a warm hug, except I’m a bit chilly myself so I’m not sure how effective it would be-”


“Pardon me?” Kass asked.

“I have some chilli from breakfast to warm me up, so I’ll be fine,” Link said, going to the inventory screen on the Sheikah Slate. The dish itself was a bit on the cold side, but the effect of the sautéed chilli kicked in quickly. A soothing heat spread from Link’s stomach to fill his entire body like a blanket wrapping around him from the inside. He offered the plate to Kass. “Do you want some?”

The Rito shook his head. “I’m fine. A little wet weather is nothing to a travelling musician.”

At that moment there was a commotion outside. Link thought he heard a woman crying out, and the high-pitched voices of children. Kass also turned his attention to the doorway. He stood up, frowning, and took a step towards the stable entrance, trying to peer through the grey curtain of rain-

Five shrieking Rito children barrelled into him in a flurry of colourful plumage. For a moment it was as if they had brought the storm with them; water droplets flew as they excitedly flapped their wings and ran around Kass, all of them talking over each other so none of them could be understood.

Kass stood in the middle, a centre of calm amidst rainbow chaos, smiling. His smile grew even wider when his wife stepped out of the rain. Amali shook her head in an exasperated sort of way, shaking her wings to get rid of some of the water. Her husband shrugged, then laughed. With mock sternness, Kass frowned and asked his children, “Not even the storm could keep you all from trying to get your gift early?”

“No!” Kheel answered. Her sisters giggled. “Mother said you were going to sing with us!”

“That was supposed to be a secret…” Kass said, giving his wife a knowing smile.

“I’m sorry,” Amali replied. “You know how they are when they set their mind to something. After all, they got it from their father.”

“I’ll concede to that.” Kass placed his wings on his hips and, in a more serious tone, said, “Girls, you shouldn’t run off in the storm like that. It’s dangerous.”

“We’re sorry,” they chorused.

“Very well. Don’t do it again.” Kass knelt down. This was apparently the cue his children had been waiting for; they rushed into his wings and hugged him, chirping happily. “I missed you too.”

The people in the stable sighed and cooed at the sight. Link found himself smiling as well.

Hopefully, his own gift to Sidon would be as well received. The spicy tingle of chilli still on his tongue had given him a spark of inspiration.

After handing over the carrots and apples for his horses to the stable owner, Link took the Sheikah Slate from his hip and selected a shrine. There wasn’t any need to change out of his soaked clothes – the fiery air of Death Mountain would dry them out in no time.

Link grabbed the last bottle of goron spice on the tray. The glass felt odd; it was neither hot nor cold, but still smooth and unyielding to the touch due to the fireproof elixir he’d drunk which numbed him to extreme heat. If he hadn’t, his fingers would be burned raw by now.

He placed the ingredient on the counter in front of the shop owner, Tanko, who told him, “That’s been selling like crazy lately. I can’t restock fast enough.”

“Because of the season, right?” Link said.

The Goron looked surprised. “Really? Which season is it right now?”

“Winter.” Not that it seemed to make a difference on Death Mountain, where the temperature was always extremely high. It was actually a pleasant change for Link. To him, the air was only mildly warm, like a spring afternoon.

Tanko seemed to mull the information over. “…is that the one where all the flowers come out?”

“No,” Link replied, carefully keeping his face blank. He reached for the purse and asked, “You’ve never left Death Mountain, have you?”

“Whoa! How did you know? Wait, Yunobo told me you could do telepathy. Wow. I gotta say, brother, I didn’t believe him at first, but that’s amazing.” Tanko leaned back from the counter and adopted a look of intense concentration. “Hey, can you tell what I’m thinking right now?”

Regretting the prank he’d played on Yunobo many months ago, Link looked around wildly and guessed, “That one bottle of goron spice is sixteen rupees?”

Tanko slammed his hands down on the table. “NO. WAY. That’s some super awesome power you have there! No wonder you stopped Vah Rudania! You’re in my head, brother.”

“Haha, yeah, just a… thing I can do,” Link lied, giving the shopkeeper his payment. “Uh, bye!”

Tanko said nothing. He just stared blankly at Link. Link stared back. Tanko kept staring.

Aware that his fireproof elixir was running out, Link gave the Goron a curt nod and left.

After he was certain the Hylian had gone, Tanko whispered, “He even heard my telepathy goodbye.”

Link, meanwhile, was looking for a cooking pot to use to make his spicy seafood curry. He spotted one and walked towards it, ingredients in hand. As he considered how much pepper to use – would Sidon be the type who disliked the fiery kick, or appreciated it? – someone behind him groaned.

“Ugh, you Hylians and your fireproof elixir. I feel ten times hotter just looking at you in those clothes,” Ramella said.

Link turned to her. He was still wearing his doublet, which probably contributed a bit to how stuffy he felt, but he hadn’t seen the need to change seeing as he’d be going to Zora’s Domain soon. “Do you want to take one of my elixirs? They’re third-level.”

The Gerudo shook her head. “There’s no point. First level, third level, it’s all the same for me. The stronger effects only kick in when a Hylian drinks it and I’m clearly not a Hylian. Your concern is touching, anyway. Sarqso.”

“Is that why you’re always talking about how hot it is?”

“That’s right. All I can do is rub elixir on my skin. You probably don’t realise this, but Hylians have pretty unique stomachs. You get special effects from normal food, don’t you? Mushrooms and fruit and things like that. It doesn’t work for the rest of us! It’s times like this I really wish it did, though…”

“Oh…” Link stored the peppers and other ingredients back into the Sheikah Slate; they’d already started to smoke due to exposure to the burning air. It would be best not to waste them, even if there wasn’t a point to making spicy food for Sidon. “I should find something else, then. Thanks for telling me. Sav’orq!”

“Wait, before you go!” Ramella cried out. “Do you have any rubies for sale? I’ll even take five if you have them. They’re in high demand right now because of the cold spell – not it’s any cooler in Goron City…”

“No, sorry,” Link answered as he rushed off. Rubies! The red gems held the power of fire within them, and they were used in both Gerudo and Rito armour. That had to mean that their effects worked for non-Hylians. At least, so Link hoped.

He equipped the flamebreaker armour and opened the Sheikah Slate’s map. He had a new idea of what Sidon’s gift would be, but first, he’d have to pay a rather violent series of visits to the Eldin talus, starting with the one at Darunia Lake.

 Isha giggled. “Eight rubies? Are you sure you’ll be able to fit all that jewellery on you?”

“It’s not for me,” Link said. “It’s a gift for a friend.”

“How adorable!” the jeweller said. The Gerudo seemed to find Link, in his vai disguise, rather cute. It was probably due to the falsetto he adopted, which had the side effect of giving him a lilting, childish voice. Smiling, Isha leaned down and whispered, “Would I be making this for a special voe?”

Was Sidon a voe? The Rito seemed to be, but Gorons could come into Gerudo Town as they pleased, and the Zora wouldn’t be able to cross the desert and make it to the town in the first place. He probably was a voe. He had a voe’s anatomy, that much Link was certain of.

Isha, however, mistook his silence for shyness. “Oh so it is! Lucky you – and lucky him, for having such a thoughtful vai for a partner. These must have cost a fortune. Don’t worry, I’ll make a set that’ll make him fall in love all over again!”

“Sarqso,” Link said, which elicited another bout of giggles from Isha.

After naming the price for her service and taking his rupees, Isha added, “By the way, I’ll need some time to do a big job like this. I don’t mind setting aside some other jobs for you, since you helped me out when I was in a pinch, but you’ll have to wait until sunset to collect. Is that alright?”

Link nodded. It was already late into the afternoon. Luckily, he hadn’t told Mei when he expected to arrive in Zora’s Domain. Hopefully the wait was building Sidon’s anticipation, not his boredom.

He ended up buying some voltfruit and wandered around the town, peeling away the fruit’s red skin, careful to keep its sweet juices from staining his fingers. It was a bit difficult to eat while keeping the veil in place, so he found a secluded corner and lifted it slightly so he could life the fruit to his mouth-

And heavy hand clamped on his shoulder. “No voe allowed.”

Link flinched, squeezing the voltfruit so hard that it shot out of its remaining skin and landed on the floor. He spun around, to find Buliara glaring down at him.

“I know the Chief’s made an exception for you, Champion, but I cannot allow you to flaunt yourself in spite of our laws. If any other guard saw you, you’d be thrown out like any other voe,” she said.

Link nodded sadly. That voltfruit had been ripe and fragrant. He’d been looking forward to it.

Seeing his expression, which she interpreted as guilt, Buliara relented and said, “I think the chief would be happy if you paid her a visit. She’s taking a break in her room right now; the guards don’t patrol there, so you’d have a bit more… leeway.”

Judging it unwise to refuse, Link followed Buliara to the palace. She showed him up the stairs to Riju’s bedroom, where the young chief was sitting on her couch, trying to balance the Thunder Helm on her head. When Buliara announced that she had a visitor she hastily took it off. “Link! I didn’t know that you had returned to Gerudo Town. Do you wish to speak to me?”

Buliara coughed nervously. “It was my idea to bring him, chief.”

Riju laughed. “Is this what you meant when you said that it was a pity I couldn’t leave the town and travel like other Gerudo my age?”

“I have no idea what you mean, chief,” Buliara replied, staring straight ahead, her face blank and unreadable under her mask.

“Bringing a voe into my room is rather scandalous, isn’t it?”

“There are no voe in Gerudo Town, chief.”

Riju nodded. “Of course. That would no doubt be due to Captain Teake’s hard work.”

“She would be glad to hear you say so.” It was rather impressive how Buliara managed to keep her deadpan tone.

“Then I’d like you to pass on my compliments to her,” Riju said. “Which would conveniently leave me alone with Link, in my bedroom.”

With surprising speed Buliara disappeared down the stairs. Riju laughed again. She sighed, and told Link, “I haven’t the heart to tell her about you and the Zora Prince. You’re the only voe close to my age that I’ve spoken to, and you’ve impressed her with your deeds. I hope you don’t mind?”

Link shrugged. “I could tell more people to dress up as vai and come here.”

“That’s not necessary,” Riju quickly replied. “Actually, don’t do that at all.”

She looked so serious that Link decided not to divulge that at least two other voe had already made it into Gerudo Town, one of whom was a Rito musician with five children. Instead, he gestured to the Thunder Helm on the table and asked, “What were you doing with it?”

“Oh, just, you know. Checking it for… wear and tear…” Riju trailed off, blushing slightly.

“From the inside?”

Riju huffed. “You really don’t know how to talk to vai, do you?”

“Is it different from talking to voe?”

“Prince Sidon must have infinite patience.”

Link grimaced. He certainly hoped so; at this rate, he wouldn’t be in Zora’s domain before sundown.

“Don’t take it personally, I was just teasing!” Riju said quickly. “It’s just that, when I wear the Thunder Helm, I really do feel like a proper chief. Not like a child who’s just playing at being one. That time we stopped Vah Naboris together… when I put on the Helm, it’s like a bit of the bravery and purpose I felt back then comes back to me. As if I gain bit of Mother and Lady Urbosa’s strength.”

Riju ran her fingers gently over the golden metal as she said it, a distant look in her eyes.

Quietly, Link said, “Zelda once told me something: courage need not be remembered, for it is never forgotten. Right now, you’re just as brave and full of purpose. The people I speak to say you’re a great chief. Your strength is your own; you don’t need to borrow any from those before you.”

“And when did you become so eloquent?”

When Link looked embarrassed, Riju laughed again. “Thank you, Champion. I take back what I said from before: you have the silver tongue of a poet when the fancy strikes you.”

She placed the helm back on her head again. Turning to Link, Riju asked, “Nevertheless, it makes me look dashing, no?”

She struck a pose. The movement caused the Thunder Helm to wobble and tip forward. Riju pushed it back up. It fell forward again.

“You do, but it’s still a bit too big for you,” Link answered.

“Impossible!” Riju said, her voice somewhat muffled. “And I’m not saying that out of denial. It the Helm didn’t fit me, I wouldn’t have been able to use its power. We’d have both been shocked to death by Naboris.”

“What do you mean?”

Riju took the helm off again before she explained, “Armour with special effects must be made to fit the wearer. Especially things that use the power of gems like topaz to infer elemental resistances. There needs to be a very careful balance of power, achieved only by placing the gems at correct intervals to the ratio of…”

Link didn’t hear the rest of it of the sound of his heart sinking. He suddenly felt very apprehensive about sunset…

Which came all too quickly. He said farewell to Riju, readjusted his veil and went to collect Sidon’s gift.

The necklace and rings Isha had made were beautiful. Unlike the jewellery that Link had bought from Starlight Memories before, these had a distinctly rugged feel – the chains were less delicate, featuring bold isometric shapes and angular patterns. The rubies glittered like fiery eyes, their deep red contrasting nicely with the gold.

It was also much bigger. Big enough for a grown Hylian male, which meant that, although Link was loathe to admit it, it was a couple sizes too large for him.

Unfortunately, Zora males were built on an even larger scale than that. And Sidon exceeded even that.

Link stepped out into the desert. The sun was setting; already the air was growing chilly, ready to swing into the freezing temperatures that punished those who ventured into the dunes at night. Hoping against hope, Link put one of the rings on. The heavy band of gold was so large that he could have fit two through it easily. It dangled off his slender finger, the ruby catching the orange glow of the dying sun so that it shone fiercely with burning light.

But no warmth came from the gem, or at least, none that Link could feel. Riju’s words rang through his head.

Like all his previous ideas, this gift was also unsuitable for Sidon.

And Link was out of time.

Chapter Text

The first thing Link was aware of was the temperature. The cold air hit the bare skin of his face and hands with biting chill. His breath came out as steam. The blue light of the shrine made it feel even colder, as if he’d made the mistake of going to Mount Lanayru instead of Zora’s Domain.

The second thing he noticed were the pots. He’d never seen the ceramic fish-shaped vases in the shrine’s room before, and now a bunch of them were lying around. Not placed carefully in rows, but haphazardly gathered at base of the steps leading to the square. Some still had water in them.

The third thing was smoke. The acrid, eye-watering stench of fire, the black-fumed kind that raged and burned after lightning strikes, the wild kind.

Link ran.

It came from the Coral Reef. Kodah and Kayden held a korok leaf each and were frantically trying to waft away the evil-smelling smoke from the inn. Their daughter was mopping up water that spilled from the inn’s entrance and out into the square; it was grey from soot and bits of floating black debris. Sasan sat off to the side, scraping at the black muck that coated a warped cooking pot. He sighed. “I don’t think there’s a chance of saving this. I know a smith in Hateno- oh, hi Link!”

Link nodded to his fellow Hylian in greeting. “Is something wrong? Was there a fire?”

Sasan shook his head. He seemed more bemused than worried. “It looks worse than it is. See, what happened is that the Prince-”

“Linny! Hello!” Kodah shouted, running over. “Hey, long time no see, right? Anyway, are you here to see Prince Sidon? You should go meet him right now! Don’t worry about all this!”

Without giving Link time to respond to her rapid-fire questions, Kodah gently pushed him towards the steps leading up to the second level. Figuring that the innkeeper didn’t want him bothering her family as they cleaned up whatever it was that had occurred, Link headed upwards.

Halfway up the staircase he saw Trello. The old Zora had a beautifully crafted silver longbow in his hands. It was also the largest bow Link had ever seen; almost too large for even Trello to handle. It would easily outrange the more crudely made weapons of Lynels, while matching – or even surpassing – royal Hylian bows in power. Trello drew back the bowstring, then nodded in satisfaction at the twang as it snapped back.

Link walked up to him. Trello, engrossed in his inspection of the bow, didn’t seem to notice him. In the twilight, the Zora-metal reflected the darkening sky and gained an indigo hue along its graceful curves. Up close, he could see the carvings that adorned the weapon, spotting the triple crescent of the Zora royal emblem along with a design reminiscent of waves.

Link said, “Its very well-made.”

Trello squawked and, before Link could react, threw the bow over the railing. It twinkled briefly as it caught the weak light of the moon, then disappeared into the dark waters below. Link could only gape open-mouthed at him.

“Oh, that old thing?” Trello said. “You don’t want that! Trash! Terrible! Worthless! You definitely didn’t want it.”

 Taking a step back to avoid the Zora’s frenzied, wide-eyed stare, Link mumbled, “…I never said I did?”

“Good! Because you don’t. Good day to you, Champion!”

With that, Trello hobbled down the stairs, leaving Link alone and very confused.

As he reached the top of the staircase he met Ledo. He had a bag of tools in his arms; he seemed to be counting them. “…and that makes eight! That’s all of them.”

“What are those for?” Link asked. He’d rarely seen Ledo wielding anything other than a hammer. These tools, however, were delicate things – spindly tongs and slender needles, clamps and wire and a cutter shaped like a crab’s claw.

“Hello, Link! These? They’re for making jewellery,” Ledo explained. He gestured at the silver bracer on his wrist. “Things like these.”

Link cursed himself for not realising that he could have gone to Ledo. Now it was too late. He comforted himself by reasoning that Ledo must have been busy earlier, and wouldn’t have been able to fashion Sidon’s gift anyway. “What were you making?”

“Me? Nothing. I actually just got these back from the Prince,” Ledo told him. Suddenly, the Zora looked guilty. Glancing around quickly, he said, “And now that I have, I need to go. It’s really late! Pleasedon’tmentionthejewellry.”

Link didn’t quite catch what Ledo had mumbled at the end, but he had already left. Link shrugged, and kept walking.

Sidon wasn’t at his usual place overlooking the square. Link decided to ask one of the Zora where he could find the Prince and spotted Laflat.

“Where’s Sidon?” Link asked. It was an innocent enough question, so he was surprised she jumped in shock.

“He’s… around the back… behind the throne room…” she said, quiet and hesitant.  After another long pause, she added, “Just follow the path. All the way around. You’ll… see him.”

Link glanced down at the things in her arms; jars, bottles, a mortar and pestle. Sprigs of herbs, unfamiliar leaves, a hunk of what seemed to be the odd pale plants that could only be found in the region. Link’s curiosity was piqued, but his experience with the other Zora stopped him from prying. Laflat looked ready to flee at any moment.

So instead, he thanked her, and went to meet Sidon.

Sidon, who had been waiting all day for him.

Sidon, who would be expecting a Solstice gift.

Sidon, who called him things like ‘the greatest of Hylians’, who always thought the best of him, who would be smiling, eyes shining with excitement, tail twitching…

And all he had to offer was a useless sword that would quickly rust, a scarf that would get soaked with water, a bottle of Goron spice and trinkets that wouldn’t fit.

Link rounded the bend. Sidon stood at the very edge of the platform, staring up at the starry sky. Moonlight shimmered on his scales; flashes of silver against red, as if the prince was adorned with gemstones. When he sighed, the light shifted like seafoam on the waves. The sight made Link gasp.

Sidon turned, golden eyes widened in surprise. “Link! You’re here… already.”

“Sorry for being so late,” Link said. “Happy Winter Solstice?”

“Late? No, not at all, you came sooner than expected…” Sidon trailed off into silence, then shook his head and said,” And a happy Solstice to you as well, my love.”

But his voice lacked its usual jubilant energy, and the way his fins twitched told Link that he was nervous. Link locked gazes with him. After a brief contest of wills, Sidon relented and turned away guiltily, biting his lip as he stared at the floor.

Quietly, Sidon asked, “You have a gift for me?”

Link sucked in a breath, trying to discern the cause of his uncharacteristic solemness. Had Sidon been worried about him not showing up? Had he thought that Link wouldn’t have come at all?

Link reached for the Sheikah Slate, his fingers brushing the cold surface of the device, then stopped. His heart was beating a wildly in his chest. Sidon was looking at him, concerned, anxious, expectant. Breathing was suddenly difficult; he felt lightheaded as he tried to draw the cold night air into his lungs, air that carried the scent of fresh water and distant snow and the heavy, familiar smell of Sidon…

Sidon, who had leaned in close, frowning, worried.

The biting chill had left Link’s skin flushed and now as he became more flustered the blood was rushing to his head, adrenaline flooding his system as he frantically tried to come up with a solution, a way out, he had to do something.

And then through the mists of his panicking mind he remembered something… something that Mei had told him… I forget every single year and end up just giving… a kiss…

He kissed Sidon.

It wasn’t their first kiss, and it would be far from their last, but Sidon always reacted the same way. First, shock: a gasp muffled by Link’s lips against his own, soft and warm and pliant. Then, his lips would part, eagerly deepening the kiss. The briefest flick of his long tongue into Link’s mouth – always careful, always gentle. And Link would respond by standing on his toes and moaning encouragingly, reaching up a hand to cup Sidon’s chin and pull him down, pull him close because he wanted more of Sidon’s taste, Sidon’s warmth, Sidon’s love-

They broke apart for breath, the winter chill forgotten. Sidon laughed. “Was that my gift? Not unexpected, but very much appreciated! Thank you so much. As always, you know just want I want!”

Link smiled back at him, wondering just how to tell Sidon of his failure to get his gift. Sharing a kiss with the prince always left his mind a little fuzzy as his thoughts lingered on the feel of Sidon’s lips and the sweet heat of his mouth, and if Sidon had truly enjoyed that ‘gift’ then perhaps it would be best not to bring the matter up at all…

“Oh, Link, I’m so sorry!” Sidon said, suddenly. Link blinked rapidly, caught off-guard by the non-sequitur. Sidon buried his face in his hands and, speaking as if each word caused him immeasurable agony, told him, “I couldn’t get you a gift!”

Link stared at him dumbly in shock, which Sidon seemed to interpret as anger. The prince peeked through a gap in his fingers, flinched away, then hid his face again. His tail and fins twitched. There was a soft scraping sound as he ground his teeth together.

Then, he drew a deep breath, chest expanding like bellows. He straightened up. He balled his fists.

He knelt. With bowed head, one hand upon his knee and the other against the floor, the prince of the Zora knelt before Link. Quietly, he said, “This isn’t an excuse; you must understand that I fully understand how much of an honour it is to have been chosen by you to receive a Solstice gift. And I want you to know that I am thankful with all my heart that I have met you.”

Link wanted to comfort him, to tell him more than ever that he’d been at a loss for a gift as well.

But before he could speak, Sidon said, “Ever since my sister- that is to say, ever since the Calamity struck, I have used the Winter Solstice for training, so that I may become strong enough to succeed my father and protect my people. It was the only gift I felt worthy of them. Because of this, when Mei told me of your intentions, I resolved to find a gift for you myself. Something worthy of you, as lofty a goal as that is. But… I failed, Link. I have nothing for you. I’m so, so sorry-”

Link cut him off by lifting his chin so that he could look Sidon in the face. He instantly regretted it; Sidon’s eyes were wet with tears on the verge of spilling, his lips trembling. Link’s first instinct was to call him an idiot, and then tell Sidon that he had also been an idiot himself, but instead he hugged the Zora tightly.

Sidon returned his embrace – Link could feel his warm breath on the skin of his neck as Sidon told him, “At first, I’d settled on giving you one of my old bows, knowing your skill with archery.”

“That would have been perfect,” Link quickly replied, but Sidon pulled away and gave him a rueful grin.

“So I thought. I took the bow to Dento so that he could fix any damage time had caused to it, and when I explained what I intended, he… well, in my excitement, I quite forgot our difference in size. Even with your strength, that bow would have been too unwieldy for you to use.”

Link recalled the bow Trello had thrown away. It pained him to admit it, but to him, a bow that size would have been as useless as the flameblade was to Sidon.

“Then,” Sidon continued, “I decided to give you some of the ointment I use when I get wounded, knowing that your job guarding Queen Zelda would result in injuries from time to time. It’s a recipe given to me by my mother, although Mipha never had to use it, of course.”

Link, who had begun to wonder whether the gods had decided to play a cruel prank on solstice day, said, “That sounds nice. Why didn’t you use that?”

“Well, while I was preparing it, I remembered that one of its effects was to promote healthy growth of scale. I wasn’t certain which ingredient caused this effect, and what it would do to Hylians, so I couldn’t fix it and had to find you another gift.”

“It could have had no effect! I would have used it anyway!”

“That’s why I couldn’t risk giving it to you,” Sidon chided, tapping Link’s nose. The Champion retaliated by sticking his tongue out. Sidon chuckled. “After that, I thought to fall back on what the Zora consider a reliable Solstice gift: the traditional Zora necklace. Most Zora have several, but I was quite certain you didn’t have one yet and would appreciate the gesture at least.”

“I do appreciate the gesture!” Link said. “It’s okay if you didn’t finish making it.”

“Actually, I did finish it. And then I realised that your neck is much shorter than that of a Zora.”

At that point, Link was absolutely certain that they were being punished by fate for some grave sin. Patting Sidon’s head fins, Link told him, “That’s fine. It’s an… easy mistake…”

Sidon leaned into his touch, turning his head slightly so that Link could stroke the sensitive spot where his fin joined his head. Humming happily, Sidon continued, “At that point, it was getting late. I’m embarrassed to admit that I panicked, thinking that you would appear at the shrine at any moment. And your appetite is no secret, so I thought… to try my hand at Hylian cookery…”

Link winced. He remembered the burning smell and the smoke coming from the Coral Reef.

Seeing his expression, Sidon mumbled, “I’m sorry. The inn is out of commission due to the fumes, but I had a bed prepared in my own quarters in case you wanted to stay the night. It’s the least I can offer you. Which is to say that it’s wholly inadequate as a gift. Please, I’m so-”

Link shushed him by putting a finger to his lips. Solemnly, he said, “Stop apologising. I’ve thought of a gift you can give me in return for the kiss.”

Sidon instantly perked up. “Yes?”

Link leaned in and, whispering, explained to Sidon what he could give him. He leaned back so that he could watch the blush spread across Sidon’s cheeks as Sidon gasped, then grinned.  

“For you, love? I’ll give both.