Posted on August 31 2018 by Kat Vadam
Chapter 21: The Path to Action
Princess Zelda narrowed her vivid green eyes at him, disbelieving. “The sword of legend, that seals the darkness. Said to have cut the land in the time of the Goddess Hylia, and granted to the Hero, her protector.”
Ganondorf nodded, wiping his hand down his face. I don’t want to go back there, he thought to himself with a groan. I did not even mean to find it in the first place. But what he wanted played no role, not anymore. All the mattered was what needed done, and Link needed his sword. The sooner, the better. “You are well versed in the legends, Your Highness.”
“Of course, I am,” she laughed humorlessly. “Why would I be anything but when it came to my own past?”
“So then, you are aware the sword rests in a grove untouched by evil, protected by the children of the forest?”
“The home of the Koroks, yes. So they say.”
“In the Great Hyrule Forest.”
She rolled her eyes. “North of the Castle. A place we leave be, for we respect the spirits.”
You mean your exploratory parties kept getting lost and finding themselves mysteriously back at the beginning. “Of course you do.”
“Are you saying you can get us through to the sword?”
Ganondorf sighed; the Princess was nothing like her mother. She lacked patience, and instead, seeped his own from him. But he had to carry on, if he expected her to help. He needed to play her game. Perhaps, she would be different if he gained her trust. He had heard she acted as night and day with those who saw past her crown.
It’s like she would rather be a peasant.
No. She’d rather be seen as human. Suddenly, Ganondorf knew exactly how to reach her.
“Zelda,” he said, even and true, refusing to look away as her eyes blazed with fire, “the Sword resides within the Korok Forest. I have seen it with my own eyes. The Koroks lead me to it. Keep my weapons. Keep me in your sights, if that is what it takes. You don’t even have to trust me. But would you trust them?”
“How dare you…” she whispered.
“Please…” he pleaded in return. He caught Link’s gaze and slowly blinked. The knight nodded and leaned forward.
Ganondorf waited patiently, averting his eyes as the two conversed in hushed tones. He tried not to listen, but words like, “betray,” “history,” and a very punctuated “I don’t care,” pierced the air. He glanced out of the corner of his eye. Link hung his head back. Zelda stood, arms crossed, staring a hole into the wall across the room.
And then Link did something that caught Ganondorf off guard. He had noticed they were close, but he wouldn’t have guessed that close: the knight actually cupped her face, running his thumbs along her cheekbones as he locked their eyes again.
“Please trust me,” he said. She sighed, but did not move from his touch. In fact, she seemed rather relieved by it. Well, then…
After another moment, she sighed again and turned around, too quickly for Ganondorf to even pretend he hadn’t been staring. But if she noticed or cared, she did not say, and instead looked at him, not as a member of the royal family, Goddess incarnate, but as a young woman, exhausted and thrown in over her head, unsure of what to do.
And, blessed be, in agreeance with him; he could see it before she even opened her mouth to speak.
“Very well,” she said with a short nod. “Take us to the forest.”
Zelda reached forward and patted Nightshade’s neck, encouraging her to carry on, but truth told, she felt just as wiped of energy. Apparently, only getting an hour or so worth of sleep really was bad for a person – and her attitude – but she’d never admit that out loud, lest Link hear and know he’d been right. She knew she was too stubborn for her own good sometimes, and really, there was no excuse for it, but she liked to think, for the moment at least, that a lack of rest held blame.
Could she have been more pleasant down in the ruins? Probably. Certainly, when it came to how she acted toward Deya: snapping at him wasn’t exactly her proudest moment. He had been nothing but kind, and all he had wanted to do was help, but something about meeting the man responsible for the fall of her kingdom on numerous occasions had put her on edge. She had lost her cool, no apology would erase that. Still, she had tried as Deya prepared his strange teleportation…thing, making sure everyone and the horses could get safely to Rito Village on the magic of his bright avian friend.
“I understand, Your Highness,” he had said in response, but he had not met her eye. She felt ashamed, even now.
And then there was Ganondorf. Were he anyone but the incarnation of the Demon King, she probably could have maintained her patience a little better, but he was who he was, and she felt no guilt for her words to him. Only that Link saw her do it.
Link… Her knight and friend, who had seen her raw emotions and eased them. Her tears had stained his shoulder, her rage calmed by the touch of his hand. She glanced ahead to where he rode atop Epona and could not help but smile. Where would I be without you?
She doubted she would have made it long after Ordon.
He glanced over his shoulder and gave her a thumbs up. Zelda snorted softly.
“You two seem to be getting along,” Ganondorf observed as he plodded along beside Nightshade. His weapons resided in a satchel carried by Epona, and his hands were bound behind him, neither which seemed to bother him. He either played a long game, or had found himself in a situation out of his control and was now silently and stoically considering a way out. She had been keeping an eye on him, waiting to find out which.
“He is my appointed knight. It is his duty to ensure my safety.” Normally, she wouldn’t have responded, but her mind was too tired, and she knew it needed the stimulation. Not too long to the Great Hyrule Forest now. They had already passed Castle Town, and she could see the drop off into the waters around the woods. Most of their trip had been offroad, but, according to the map, they had saved themselves at least half a day.
He’s still talking, her brain registered, and she focused back on the Gerudo.
“What did you say?”
Ganondorf nodded ahead. “I asked if he knows of his own past lives.”
Zelda chewed her lip. “He does now.”
The man seemed pleased, mumbling, “Good, good. That will help.”
“Lord Ganondorf, I need to know. We have seen a rise in attacks by monsters once under your control, and with the appearance of the Triforce of Courage, I believe that we are soon to fall. What is coming, if not your own evil?”
The man considered her for a moment, head tilted. “Are you saying you trust me?”
“Not at all, but I am tired, so I find myself willing to entertain the conversation.”
He chuckled. “I suppose that is an improvement.” She scoffed, instantly regretting speaking with him. “Forgive me, Your Highness. I do not mean to insult you. I honestly do not know. I have seen as you have; less, perhaps, if Hylia speaks to you.”
That got Zelda’s attention; it was not terribly surprising that he would know of Hylia speaking to her, between their interactions in history and their current cross in social circles. What surprised her was that he seemed so calm about it, without signs of anger or fear. In fact, he seemed completely casual, human, and relatable. And she hated it.
“Why are you doing this?”
Ganondorf turned ahead, taking a couple broad steps, and stopped. Against her better judgement, Zelda guided Nightshade to do the same. He didn’t say anything for a bit, watching as Link and Epona trotted ahead. Her black mare grunted and jerked her head to follow, but Zelda patted her calmly, waiting, and waiting, and waiting…
“My sister used to tell me that I could make my own destiny. I did not need fate nor history to shape me into what I am to become. She named me after a man of great power, who guided our people to persevere, but… She wanted me to be more than him, better. To lead us to the light through my own power, not the legacy of my past. For years after her death, I struggled to find how I could. I was groomed to be king, and all my instincts, all my will, drove me to the brink of insanity. My hate for those who had taken her life, and the lives of my mother and people grew inside me. My Triforce called, reminding me in dreams and visions of what I was meant to be.”
Zelda dismounted from Nightshade and stood, silent, before the Gerudo as he continued. He turned his eyes on her, so gold and sad, burdened by the years.
“One night, I ran. Took her cloak, her scimitar, and her memory, and I ran. And I kept running, until I stood at a precipice, looking down into the water stained red as the desert sands with the dying sun. And beyond the water, there were trees. From the trees, voices, hateful, spiteful things, taunting me, reminding me of who I was and the darkness I had wrought.
“But within those trees, another spoke. A voice of legend, calling me with words of comfort. And I followed, guided by the children of the forest, to their home. They kept me, protected me from myself, and their guardian helped me be strong, taking from me upon my request that dark piece, to hold and watch it as he had watched over the heroes of long past.
“That is where we go now, Zelda. To those trees, with their mocking voices and protective children. To the place where my power resides, so that Link may reclaim his. I tell you this so you know what you walk into, what I face, and the temptations I will encounter. Believe me or don’t, that is ultimately up to you, but I do not seek to be the man I have always been. I seek to be better.”
“Your Highness?” Link called from the drop off, having just noticed the two had lagged behind. Zelda turned to face him, nodded, then turned back to Ganondorf. She took his gaze into her own and held it.
A snake in the grass, she reminded herself, careful not to let his words sink too far in. Still, he seemed to be subdued at the moment, and as long as she kept her guard up, he might just stay that way.
She mounted Nightshade, and the two carried on to meet Link at the drop off, looking out into the trees of the Great Hyrule Forest.
Patience was a virtue. Dealing with constantly bickering beasts like the Bokoblins, Lizalfos, and Moblins, and their many rungs of hierarchy had taught Yoro a great deal about this lesson. But even his patience could wear thin, and there was no denying that’s exactly what had happened. He hated sitting around, waiting for the word of a man who “did not need him,” yet was quick and happy to utilize his troops without regard to their lives. Morris demanded loyalty, and Yoro could give that, if the trust was there; yet, it wasn’t, and it had no reason to be until certain answers were provided. And until they were provided, Yoro knew the two Generals were at an impasse, with no patience left to buffer.
He wanted to act. He was going to act, even if Morris did not give permission. I should not need permission to lead my own damn troops from a man meant to be my equal. If the man had earned more stars in service, maybe Yoro would have been inclined to defer, but they had left with the same rank and fairly similar records. In fact, the only real difference between them lie in their specialties: Morris had been an intelligence officer, and Yoro had been a front-line man. So, why couldn’t they both be useful for the same end? Morris could have his takedown from the inside, and Yoro could make sure His Royal Highness was spread too thin.
One more massive hit to a major population center should do just the trick before the final blow. He knew exactly where to go, and how to go about it, too.
Now all he needed was help.
Luckily, he had quite the collection of bored troops itching for action. And Morris was away for a few days, somewhere… Whatever. Who cared? It meant Yoro had time to act, but he had to do it quickly and quietly.
“Permission to speak freely, Sir?”
“Granted,” Yoro nodded, sitting across from three of his most trusted. Darknuts, all of them, powerful in blade and shadow, and all pledged to his word. He said, “Jump,” they said nothing in return, and jumped from the tallest of towers into the bloodbath below.
Except for now, apparently. He tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, assuming they, too, were just off their game.
“With word of our efforts so far spreading, and the warnings of the Princess to both the Zora and the Rito, won’t the troops of Hyrule be on standby, waiting for something like this?”
“Absolutely,” Yoro agreed, sitting back in his chair to take in the one who spoke – or perhaps it was one of the ones next to him? It was hard to tell, when they hid their faces behind onyx helmets. Gesturing to a nearby map, he continued, “In fact, as I have already said, we know they are, here, here, and here,” he pointed to Hyrule Castle, Rito Village, and Zora’s Domain. “The Gerudo have now requested additional troops as well, to prepare alongside their own for an ‘unknown threat.’ We have already sent a party to give them reason to stay there.”
“Like insects to a corpse,” another one said.
Yoro squinted, still unsure which was talking. “Sure…” he said, though the analogy was a bit out there. “More like a group of small predators to bigger prey, nipping and biting, constantly pestering, until they weaken their capture enough to take it down. The prey cannot keep its eyes everywhere. They cannot protect everything at once, and can be overwhelmed.”
“So we find the blind spot,” the third said. The left one. Yeah. Yeah…
“And tell me, gentlemen,” Are they men? “Where is that?”
The three looked at each other, back to him, to each other once more, and then, in unison, nodded their black metal heads.
“But what of the Sheikah?” the first asked.
“Many of them have come to the aid of the crown, leaving their homes untouched. Those that remain, I have faith you can deal with. Do we have an understanding, then?”
They nodded again.
“Then ready your best men. Gather only the fewest necessary to get the job done, and speak to no one else about this. Once I hear word of your success, we will all make for the Castle, and execute our final blow.”
The darknuts stood, banged the tips of their blades against the ground in a sign of respect, and left.
Perfect, Yoro thought. Soon, we will see an end to this ridiculous monarchy. Then Morris can have his fun.
Featured image by MaskedGolem.