Posted on July 24 2020 by David Nystrom
|| Part Twenty-Four || Part Twenty-Six ||
Ruto waved her staff and everything around Osmond went dark. Slowly, images of the Zora Throne reappeared with Ruto seated on it. The staff was propped against her shoulder and her eyes were heavy with stress.
“Your Majesty!” a Zora, dressed in light armor and wielding a long pike, raced into the room.
Ruto sat up and gathered herself as the soldier dropped to his knees.
“Your Majesty, there has been a terrible accident! It seems some wild wolfos attacked a caravan headed toward Castletown. A Zora family, including a child, was among them.”
“Did they survive? How are the Hylians?”
“It seems there were some casualties among the Hylians and the Zora… Some soldiers arrived from the city, but four Hylians lost their lives, along with all but one of the Zora.”
Ruto placed her face in her hands, “Is the child harmed?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
Ruto let out a sigh of relief.
“She is only an infant, and will likely bear no memory of this occasion.”
“Does she have any family left?”
The soldier looked up uneasily, “Not that we have been able to locate.”
“I would advise checking with the newly awakened Sage of Shadow, Lord Sagesse. He hails from Kakariko, and there are many Zora who remain there.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“In the meantime, I shall take her under my care. If no family can be found, I will formally adopt her as a daughter. Perhaps it is a boon of Nayru’s divine wisdom that this tragedy befell her.”
The image faded away, and was replaced by one of Ruto accepting a Zora child into her arms from a group of Zora soldiers. The child was wrapped in a large green leaf, and she slept silently as the Queen of the Zora cradled her softly. A tender and loving stare was met by the infant’s curious and unknowing gaze.
“Three weeks passed,” Ruto narrated as visions of her caring for the child faded by, “and no surviving family members could be found.”
The scene returned to the Throne room.
“I will make it official at the coming holy ceremony,” Ruto said to another Zora whose face was hidden.
“Your Majesty?” the veiled Zora responded.
“The child. I’m going to formally announce her as my heir and daughter. She has no family, and the line of Royalty should not be broken on my account. Though she is not of blood descent, she will be my daughter and in the eyes of our forefathers, she will be true to the throne.”
The attendant seemed to stiffen.
“What is it?” Ruto asked.
“Nothing, Your Majesty.”
“I have known you all your life, my dear niece. You are not one to hold your tongue when you have an issue. Please, you are as much advisor to me as family. Speak.”
“It’s just… Is it wise to name this child your heir? What if some family does come forward? Would you change your mind?”
“Not likely,” Ruto shook her head. “I have made my decision, and I believe it is the design of the Goddesses that she assumes the throne after my days run out.”
A soldier entered and cut her off. He began speaking with Ruto, and Osmond watched as the veiled Zora stormed out. The scene followed her.
She traveled down into Zora’s Domain. She pushed past people, a fury driving her to her destination. She passed through a long hall and to a set of double doors that resembled seashells. She pushed in, and the servants in there took their obedient leave at her command. Osmond felt a pit in his stomach as the room came into view.
Flowing watery walls of blue were adorned with pink shells and green foliage around the base. In one corner of the room, a large round clamshell rested just under the water with a Zora Crest hung above it from columns on either side. Opposite the royal bed though, was an infant’s crib made of coral.
The Zora woman stood over the child as it innocently reached her hand up.
Osmond tried to reach out and stop the scene, but could only watch as the attendant reached down and lifted the baby up. She held it out in front of her. A fell wind began to flow around the room, and it was then Osmond saw the small shapes of frost flowing from the hands of the assailant.
Ruto burst into the room and the infant fell from the Zora’s grasp, safely landing in the crib.
“You would give this child a title, a future, while relegating your own family indentured servitude…”
“You claim to hold me in high regard. You credit me as advisor, yet do not listen when I speak. You question not your own judgement, but of those who are bound by blood to you.”
“I am Queen. I have served the Zora people from the time I was a child and ventured into the belly of our holy deity. Though you are indeed within the Royal bloodline, I see that I was right to question you. The heir the throne lays in that crib. It is my crown to pass on.”
“Which is why you are unworthy of that crown,” the niece spat.
“Face me and show me your worth,” Ruto readied her staff.
Osmond watched then as the face of the villain came into view. In a moment that was as cold as the magic she used, Rutela’s identity and deception played out.
With the flick of her wrist, an icicle launched from her palm and Ruto reacted by batting it away. She dove ahead with a powerful thrust of her staff to which Rutela summoned her own staff of translucent red ice as a counter.
The duo clashed their rods with a tremendous force that shook the room. Cracks suddenly began forming around the chamber and their destruction only grew with each blow. The baby began crying loudly, drawing Ruto’s attention for a moment. It allowed an opening for Rutela to slam her palm into Ruto’s gut, leaving a frosty handprint that caused Ruto to bellow in agony. Ruto retaliated with a firm headbutt and a swing of her staff at Rutela’s legs, that sent the Sage of Ice to the ground.
“Guards!” Ruto called out.
A shard of ice struck Ruto’s shoulder and sent her tumbling, landing with her back against the crib.
Rutela, now hovering in the air with her eyes encircled by black and blue flames, waved her hand to slam the doors to the bedroom shut.
Ruto threw her hand forward and sent a jet of water up at her attacker, but Rutela simply held out her other hand and turned the attack into a thousand shards of ice. She flicked her fingers forward and sent the deadly shards back. Ruto raised up a shield of water and the icy daggers floated down to the ground.
Rutela snarled and looked around the room for another way of attacking the Queen. In her moment of distraction, Ruto got to her feet and scooped the child up. She turned to run to toward the door, but suddenly her feet were encased in ice and couldn’t run. She focused a surge of water up from the center of the room and it knocked Rutela off balance and crashing onto the floor.
With a less powerful surge, Ruto broke the ice at the door and several soldiers rushed in with spears at the ready. Rutela though, was equally ready, and blasted them with a rush of ice. They froze in their place, faces twisted with pain and shock. The ice crackled and grew harder and harder before shattering and erasing their existence.
“You’re a monster!” Ruto shouted, as she stared at the shards of ice that were once her people.
“You want a monster? So be it.”
Rutela turned and pushed her hands toward the back wall. She focused hard and manipulated her hands in strange and unnatural motions. The wall began to shudder and crack.
Ruto, horrified as she was, broke her gaze and struggled against the ice around her feet. The child in her arms she felt her time running short. In her head, she prayed for strength to save the baby.
Then, as if on command, the ground shook with tremendous force, splitting the earth with a wide fissure.
“Do you see?” Ruto’s narration asked.
Osmond looked at the baby in Ruto’s arms. Her eyes were glowing a golden light at the moment of the fissure. It was as if she had been the cause of the break in the earth.
The newly opened crag had shattered the icy restraints on Ruto’s feet, and she scrambled out of the room. Just before the image faded away, a long and skinny hair covered leg shot out of the wall with a bone-chilling twitch.
Osmond then found himself looking at an overhead view of Zora’s Domain as hundreds of Zora were racing toward the entrance, desperate for escape. Panicked shouts and cries echoed off the walls as soldiers brought up the rear, doing their best to defend against whatever terror was now rampaging through the depths of the cavern city.
A deafening voice shouted out, “Citizens of Zora’s Domain!”
Many stopped and turned to the top of the singular waterfall where Ruto now stood, her staff in one hand and the baby in the other.
“We are under attack. Time is short, I must ask that you all work together and flee to Kakariko City. The Sage from there is wise and will know how to help. I will join you all shortly. Now go!”
The Zora resumed their evacuation, but in a far calmer manner. Ruto vanished into the tunnel and another attendant appeared. This one was a much older Zora woman.
“I cannot fight with a child on my hip. I must save our future. Take her, and if I do not return–”
“You must, Your Majesty. Our people will be lost without you!”
Ruto handed the infant over to her elder and gave her a confident stare, “So long as there is a future, our people will survive.”
She hesitated only a moment, holding her hand on the chest of the child. She leaned in and kissed her head, then whispered something inaudible.
The moment slowed.
Osmond strained to read her lips.
He recognized it, but not enough.
Before he could ask, the scene shifted back to the throne room. He watched as the elderly Zora pulled a shawl over the child and herself, and race down the long stairway. Just about halfway, he saw Rutela floating her way up the stairs, and held his breath.
The older Zora and Rutela passed each other without a moment’s pause. Rutela was focused on Ruto, who now stood at the top of the stairs, battle ready.
Rutela threw her arms back and charged up the stairs. Ruto countered by stepping out of the way, and slamming the shaft of her staff into Rutela’s side. Rutela, barely phased by the attack, spun around and attacked Ruto with a savage scream and her hands like claws. Ruto turned her staff sideways and gripped it with two hands before thrusting it into Rutela’s hands.
They clashed, both gripping the staff, until Ruto slammed her head into Rutela’s. Ruto followed it up with a quick jab of the staff’s tip and bringing it up into Rutela’s chin. The traitor stumbled back, blood filling her mouth, and rampaged ahead again.
Ruto leapt into the air and sent a magic burst of light downward from the base of her staff. Rutela screamed and covered her eyes, as she skidded to a stop. Ruto then came down with a powerful punch across Rutela’s face, followed by an upper cut with her staff.
Rutela fell hard into a pool of water.
“You are defeated,” Ruto said, holding the tip of the Zora Crest staff to the side of Rutela’s face. “I hereby banish you and will see to it that you are locked in the lowest of the dungeons in all Hyule.”
Rutela began to laugh. Slowly and quietly at first, then as she rolled over and revealed her mangled face, her laughter grew.
Ruto stepped back slightly.
“I cannot be defeated,” she said amid her maniacal laughter, “I am a Goddess. Reborn by a sacred flame gifted unto me by a truly powerful Lord. You will weep under his heel once again!”
“I will suffer no such reality.”
Ruto began to pull back the staff. Just as it began to move forward, Rutela’s hands shot forward and long icicles shot forward. One plunged deep into Ruto’s arm, another her shoulder, and the others wrapped around the staff.
The wound forced Ruto’s hand from the staff, and she stumbled backward in agony. Holding her wounded arm, she turned and raced up the stairs behind the throne and out into the fountain.
Osmond watched as the icicles receded into Rutela and she lifted the staff into her possession. The flames around her eyes vanished and she slowly began to follow after Ruto.
The scene shifted back to the top of the Sleepless Waterfall, where Ruto stood. She looked down on the river valley below. A single tear rolled down her face before Rutela appeared with the staff. She tossed it to the ground and Ruto lifted it up, seeming to accept the finality of this moment.
The water in the fountain then erupted in a tremendous rush of water. A great arachnid, its abdomen encased in ice, and blue frost floating out of its mouth. Towering hair covered legs positioned itself on parts of the frozen lake and it slowly made its way towards the two Zora women.
“Has the city been evacuated?” Ruto asked, shouting over the roar of the waterfall and the approaching monster.
“Yes, Your Majesty!” Rutela responded, the condescending tone now more apparent than the first time Osmond had heard it.
“Then I will handle this monster!”
“Can you?” Rutela’s mouth curled upward and her eyes darkened with the blue flames again.
Ruto swung her staff at Rutela and it clashed with the icy and red staff that Rutela conjured immediately. The two delivered blow after blow as the monstrous spider roared and began to freeze the fountain.
With each heave of her staff, Ruto began to wear out and Rutela soon was on the advantage. She struck the Sage of Water on the side of her head with her icy staff and Ruto collapsed. With heavy breathing she climbed to her hands and knees, paying the price of a hard kick in her side. As she reached for her staff, Rutela spat at her.
“You are weak. To think that you stood against the Dark Lord and lived is preposterous.”
Ruto’s fingers desperately curled onto her staff only to have it kicked away.
“You would still raise your staff to me? To what end?”
“I have endured much in my life,” Ruto said weakly, her mouth filling with that viscous liquid of life. “Much that would have broken me had I not learned strength long ago. Much that would have destroyed our people had I not stood up and fought. You call me weak, yet you hide your true colors behind a veil of purity.”
Rutela kicked Ruto’s face, sending her rolling towards the edge of the cliff.
“You call me weak, yet you press your power even now as the life is leaving my body.”
Another kick struck Ruto’s stomach, violently pushing her closer to the edge again.
“You call me weak,” Ruto said with a painful gasp, “yet I will endure this.”
Rutela gave her one final kick. She watched with fury in her eyes, as Ruto’s body disappeared into the mist at the bottom of the waterfall. Rutela looked up to the sky, raised her icy spear towards it, and finally plunged it down after the body.
When the spear struck the frothing waters below, it exploded in a rage of icicles and snow that flowed up the falls and covered the area in the wintery state it was known for.
She turned to the monstrous arachnid and dismissed it with a wave of her hand. Silently and maliciously it crept into the cavern behind the fountain, disappearing in the darkness.
The memory faded away, and Osmond found himself back in control of his vision, sitting on the very spot that Ruto had met her demise. Her spirit sat next to him, holding a small harp and with a smile on her face.
“It took me many years now for my will to thaw the waterfall and give my people hope. However, that changed when a new darkness arose and seems to be breaking the ties I have left to this world.”
Osmond sat silently, struggling for words.
“There is no future for me, nor hope of bringing me back to the world in which you live,” Ruto said, placing a hand on Osmond’s shoulder. “I am at peace with this though. My daughter, the one from the memory you’ve seen, has grown into a powerful and beautiful Zora. One who will make a great Queen to my people, even if she doesn’t know it.”
“Your daughter… lives?”
Ruto smiled, “yes, and it is because of this that Rutela has done what she has. The truth has been revealed to her, and she is doing all she can to prevent the truth from spreading.”
“Who is it? How do I find her and protect her?”
Ruto handed the harp over, and Osmond examined it. It had a golden base that resembled the face of a dragon that he recognized from one of Aldwin’s many history books. The eyes were narrowed, and two large horns grew from the top of the golden face to form the remainder of the harp.
“Take this,” Ruto continued as Osmond continued looking at the instrument. “It will reveal this piece of the great mystery.”
“What about the spider? And Rutela?”
“Her monster lives in the cave, or Ice Temple as it has come to be known. However, she can conjure it whenever she needs only as long as it’s flame burns. Dowse the flame, and you will extinguish her ability to call it.”
Osmond looked over his shoulder at the looming grotto across the fountain. When he turned back, Ruto was floating out over the falls, beyond his reach and eclipsing the now setting sun.
“As for Rutela… There is nothing that can be done for her. She has sealed her fate. Either by the blades of Hylians or the magic that rules the darkness, she will be held accountable for her sins.” A shadow fell over her face, “Your return to Castletown will be met with much pain, young Osmond. I am sorry…”
Osmond stood, “What do you mean?”
“Farewell, brave hero. May you find light in the darkest days…”
Her figure began to dissolve as she turned back to the setting sun and began walking towards it.
Osmond called after her in vein. She floated outward and soon vanished from the world entirely.
David Wayne Nystrom is a Staff Writer for Zelda Dungeon. This story is an imagining of the final days in Hyrule prior to the Great Flood talked about in the opening cinematic of The Wind Waker. The first six chapters are available in audio podcast form and there’s a complete soundtrack for the first volume here. Head over to erawithoutahero.wordpress.com or follow the story account on twitter @ZeldaTEWAH where you can keep up on information regarding the future of the podcast, soundtrack, and other TEWAH news that will be coming soon! David’s top three Zelda games are Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Link’s Awakening. He’s also an avid Smash Bros. fan. Every Era Has Heroes…