EZERELLA COULD NOT explain the events of the following days, weeks, months. When she had brought Link's horse to the stables, she had stripped her of reins and saddle. She told the stableman that the mare had been found galloping from the Field toward Gerudo Valley, and the keeper took her in willingly. Ezerella convinced Link that going out to the bazaar would not be a problem, as long as he acted like he'd always been there. The village, more of a city, was large enough for people to be unfamiliar.
The two of them decided to purchase a common Gerudo delicacy from a marketplace vendor. Ezerella had asked for some pastries, and the vendor replied, "How many dear?"
"Two, please," she replied.
The vendor gave her a look that hinted at judgment, remarking somewhat rudely that she must be rather hungry to spend her money on two pastries. Ezerella and Link walked away, and although the girl was rather confused, Link made no comment on the situation.
The days continued this way, and Ezerella returned to her duty as a sentry. Link kept saying he couldn't stay long, but ended up setting up a small kiosk selling his personal carvings—masks, small statues, tools, anything anyone asked him for. The business was doing so well that he stayed for much longer than he had initially stated.
He also became quite a display for the women. Being one of the only men in the whole city, many of them flocked to his tent merely to pass yearning glances and comment on his interesting clothes. Although he was quite the reserved gentleman, Ezerella caught him showing off on occasion.
Now that Link was becoming well-known to the Gerudo, problems arose when Ezerella felt her heart flutter in his presence. She was of the lowest class in the tribe, thanks to her refusal to become a warrior. Lower class women of the Gerudo were not allowed to choose men that the upper class women found interest in. It was a matter of blood—and the constantly looming possibility of the woman yielding a son. The last Gerudo king lived nearly a century ago, which meant the birth of a son was in the near future. Any other time and Ezerella could have possibly gotten away with courting Link, but with the prospect of a male Gerudo hanging over the tribe's shoulders, she would be sentenced to death if she birthed him.
Koume herself, surrounded by a guard of three warriors, ventured from the confines of the Gerudo Palace one day in search of Link. She found him in his tent carving away at a mask with an interestingly-shaped blade. Ezerella was taking her midday break as a sentry and had come to visit him. As Koume neared them, the surrounding people began bowing their heads respectfully, causing Ezerella and Link to look up. "Stand," Ezerella whispered as she ducked her head. Link did so and bowed deeply at the waist, blue eyes resting on Koume.
The Gerudo princess was undoubtedly beautiful, and Ezerella felt her stomach churn. Her burgundy, wavy hair stopped at her waist, held back by a blue headband that dangled jewels in front of her golden eyes. Her tan-skinned face was partially concealed with a sheened veil of blue that connected to the headband above her slightly pointed ears. Robes of blue and black blanketed her shoulders, protecting her skin from the harsh rays of the sun.
"Link of the North?" she said with a slightly lifted chin, eyes scrutinizing her guest.
Link straightened and nodded at the princess. "Your Highness," he said. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you."
Koume's gold eyes flashed with amusement. "I am at quite a loss," she said, voice like velvet. "Usually visitors come to me before setting up shop and making a life amongst my people." Her eyes flitted toward Ezerella for the briefest of moments.
"It is my fault, Princess," Link said. "I should have come to you sooner."
Koume tilted her head to the side slightly, eyeing Link carefully. "I must say, normally my patience would be quite tested and I would dispose of you immediately." She smirked. "But your presence seems to delight my people." The women around them giggled girlishly and Ezerella felt her jaw set against the tension. "I must ask that you take to learning the etiquette of the Gerudo before furthering your stay."
Link nodded. "I have already learned much from my dear friend, Ezerella."
Ezerella felt her stomach lurch. It wasn't as if she'd done anything wrong, but now that Koume knew of their friendship she would stop at nothing to end it, even if it meant exiling the Gerudo.
Koume's cold eyes didn't leave Link's handsome face. "I assure you that you can learn much more from our more learned women."
Ezerella felt the warmth seep from her body, even in the intense desert heat. All eyes were between her and Link, and she wanted nothing more than to run and hide from their scrutinizing glares.
Link simply bowed his head in response, and Koume nodded satisfactorily. "I formally welcome you, Link of the North, into the Gerudo tribe," she announced. "Please make yourself at home." With that, the princess turned on her heel and returned to the palace.
The women slowly dispersed, still giggling and chattering about the occurrence. Link merely sat back down on the roll beneath the tent and returned to his carving.
"I should get back," Ezerella said, fastening her veil.
"She did not seem all that interested in you," Link said suddenly, examining an indentation on his mask.
Ezerella paused, looking down at him. "I'm not very significant in the eyes of the court."
"You are significant in the eyes of me," Link said softly, looking up at her with smiling eyes. Ezerella said nothing and left the bazaar toward her sentry tower.
Days passed and many women had professed their interest in Link. He always expressed how flattered he was but kindly turned them down, explaining that he was not there for such purposes. He was given his own quarters on the other side of the city in the upper class region, but he would often spend time with Ezerella in her small room by the hearth. Eventually she asked him a question she had been dreading and anticipating for weeks. She asked him where he'd come from.
"The north," said Link as if it was the only possible explanation.
"But where in the north?" Ezerella insisted. "The only further north you can be in Hyrule is the City of Stone, and you don't look like a Goron to me."
Link smiled, tucking a lock of fiery red hair behind her ear. "I wish I could tell you," he said quietly. "I am not from Hyrule, but I am Hylian."
Ezerella was not content with his answer, but smiled. "Clearly you are not from Hyrule since you seemed to know nothing about the Gerudo before you arrived."
"But I know now," Link said, face inches from hers. "And I know that no matter what happens, no matter what the Gerudo princess does, I will always be yours."
Ezerella wasn't entirely caught off guard by the words, but she did feel her heart leap at his proximity.
The tension of wrongness hanging over their heads like a palpable viscosity, the two of them pressed onto Ezerella's bedroll. The Gerudo exclaimed many times that they shouldn't be together followed by a stream of kisses down Link's bare chest, but the strange Hylian paid no attention. He pressed against her hungrily, sweat rolling off their bodies and onto the matted floor. He tasted the salt on her skin and felt her lips on his, crying out to each other in pleasure. In that beautiful, frozen moment, Ezerella couldn't possibly begin to regret her actions. However the moment ended and reality swarmed her senses, and everything began to dawn on her. Suddenly regret ebbed the wonderful sensations until her heart was pounding from anxiety, not excitement.