Posted on October 30 2018 by Kat Vadam
Where is he? I thought angrily to myself. My footsteps pounded hard against the floor, matched in intensity by my heartbeat. I did not want to confront the Gerudo king. Nothing about the man relaxed me, and, to be completely honest, knowing he had some sort of relationship with Ruto — political, personal, or even both — sickened me.
And I especially did not want to confront him after last night, with whatever that monster was in his closet still fresh in my memory. I don’t think my adrenaline had quite settled from the brief battle, and though it ended victorious for me, I got lucky. The goddesses had been on my side. The red candle still flickered ominously in my head, haunting as my mind replayed the event.
Why is that thing even here?!
My stomach lurched, and I pressed forward.
Maybe I won’t find him. Maybe I’ll get lucky again.
Immediately, that hope was shot down. A door ahead of me opened, and into the hall stepped the tall, broad, menacing form of Ganondorf Dragmire. His wild mass of hair hung loose today, making him appear somehow even more imposing, like a prowling lion. Behind him, smaller in build but not in personality, Nabooru followed, cold eyes staring dead ahead. Slung at her hip, her scimitar caught the light cast by the morning sun through the hall windows and glittered flawlessly.
Oh, boy, I thought. The man caught sight of me and his face split into a devilish grin. I felt my posture stiffen. And there goes my hope of luck.
“If it isn’t the princess’s own personal private eye?” His voice boomed, and it took all my willpower to not flinch. “I hear your case has been making waves in town.”
“It’s going fine, thank you,” I said, coming to a stop to stand in front of him. I gave Nabooru a short nod of greeting, which she returned with a quiet glare.
“Yes, yes. I hear that stable hand has been exonerated of guilt. What was his name?”
“Ah, right,” Ganondorf raised his head at the name. “Shame. I had my money on him.”
I did not know what to make of that. I did not even think Ingo would register in Ganondorf’s realm; had he-?
Oh, wait. I think he’s making a joke. I grunted noncommittally, trying to conceal my moment of confusion. I don’t think he noticed, but Nabooru certainly caught on. The slightest motion of her head acted as my only tell, but I still knew. I shrugged.
“Speaking of the case, I would like to sit down with you — both of you — at some point in the next couple of days to ask some questions.”
Ganondorf nodded. “Of course. Anything to help you, child. I will seek you this evening, after dinner.”
Child. Well, that needed no interpretation. In my head, I scowled. Outside, though, I rolled with the man’s punches. “Shall I meet you in your quarters?”
“No,” he said smoothly, brushing out his cloak and beckoning Nabooru to follow. She gave an obedient nod, and the two of them went to step past me. “I will find you. It shouldn’t be difficult.”
I let them go forward, but I wasn’t done. Not just yet. “Why, what’s wrong with your quarters?” I pushed.
“That is not appropriate, now is it?”
“Only if you’re hiding something.”
Ganondorf froze, his back fully to me. He positively filled the hall, and I considered for a split second the possibility that I may have just made a mistake. So, what did I do?
I pulled out my shovel and kept digging. “You’re not… hiding anything, are you, Lord Ganondorf?”
He looked over his shoulder, not even bothering to turn around. All I got was the side-eye, a bright golden glare to encompass my entire being and make me feel like I was standing off with both man and beast. Oh, yeah. He knows. “Trust can be broken, Link,” he said slowly, “even by those you think you know. Always be prepared for it, and you can never be caught off guard.” He started once more down the hall. “I must insist that you refrain from intruding upon me again.”
I watched him saunter down the hallway in that self-assured way, making a mental note to get back to whatever that was when he, apparently, found me after dinner.
And, Nabooru said nothing. He gaze stuck out to me somehow, like it had some kind of story to tell. I’ll try and catch her later, too. Hopefully without him.
If I’m lucky.
Midmorning found me once more in Kakariko Village, standing outside a rundown shack. The dark blue paint peeled from the panelling, revealing old, warped wood beneath, and the porch tilted at an ever so slight angle down. Considering who lived within the walls, this little house saddened me. The man truly had lost it all, even, apparently, his passion for what he once did best; for a moment, I did not blame him one bit for his anger.
Mutoh stood on his crooked porch, awaiting my arrival. He barely looked like he had tried this morning, standing in the same untied blue robe, his pot belly hanging out. He’d lost weight, I thought. I tried to smile brightly at him, but the man looked as run down as his house. He shook his head wordlessly and beckoned me to follow inside. I did so, quickly, as the boards beneath my boots creaked with every step I took. I worried I’d fall right through if I lingered too long.
Once inside, I could see the remnants of a hurried tidy-job: plates piled in the sink, a couple of dust bunnies swept beneath the counter, and cabinets stuffed so full, their doors wouldn’t shut. The kitchen table stood pristine, though, and something told me that’s where Mutoh and I would be landing to talk.
Sure enough, Mutoh offered me a chair at the table; it looked stable enough, so I thanked him and accepted, removing my cap as I did so. He sat opposite me, and blinked at me.
I guess I am starting first.
“Nice place,” I said. Why? Why…? To his credit, he did not honor my stupid — and false — observation with a response. “There are a couple things I wanted to ask you about. A couple things I think you can clear up.” My throat felt dry, but I continued.
“The first thing I wanted to ask you about was your disagreement with King Hyrule. Can you tell me what happened?”
He sighed, his shoulders rising and falling. “His Majesty contracted me to expand and solidify this village as a stronghold in the kingdom. My men and I worked tirelessly for years, constructing a place worthy of the goddesses. It was to be a cornerstone of the kingdom, and for years, the king supported from afar. Sure, there were setbacks. Sure, my men were knuckleheads from time to time. But, in the end, we did everything according to the king’s instructions.
“And then came the day he showed up, unannounced, demanding to see my progress. We were so proud of what we had made, of what bore the name Mutoh Carpentry and Partners. But the king was not satisfied, and demanded more. More expansion, more shops and houses to encourage migration and trade. More than I thought we could give in the amount of time demanded, at first, but I agreed. He increased our budget, and we went double-time. There were nights we didn’t sleep…”
He barely took a breath as he spoke, his words flowing like rapid waters from his mouth. How long had the poor man been waiting to talk to someone? His eyes were focused on the past, so I took a moment to look around at the little shack. No signs of company existed anywhere; I knew Mutoh had largely been aloof since falling out of grace with the king, but I didn’t realize just how bad it had gotten. He had a family once, sons, I thought, and Granny the potions master, too. But this home spoke of a man who had no one. And I wondered if, once this was all over, if I could clear his name, I should make it a point to visit more often. I may not have known him well, but no person deserved this.
Then again, I told myself very pointedly, who better to commit a crime than someone who has nothing left to lose?
I refocused back on the carpenter; he had not even noticed his loss of my attention, words still spewing forth, unfiltered.
“…I should have told him I needed more hands. Maybe even hired a few myself. But the carpentry business, you see, is competitive, and Mutoh Carpentry stood on top with our royal contracts. I couldn’t just ask anyone, and I certainly couldn’t take the time to train a fresh face. No, I needed experience, I needed history, someone who could handle the pressure with ease, and who knew what they were doing. Not someone that would go gallivanting around town wasting time. Someone who could hold up not just to the standards of Mutoh Carpentry, but to the standards of the throne.”
“Must have been difficult,” I said.
He sighed. “Not at all, actually. Many masters offered to leave their practices. Some even offered mergers with me. Everyone wanted to be a part of the business backed by the king of Hyrule.”
“Then what happened?”
“I did not want them,” he said, so forlorn it almost hurt. “None of them were good enough, I thought. Looking back, though, I see how wrong I was, but my arrogance at the time… would eventually cost me everything. Eventually, we would fall so far behind, our long nights leading to stupid, costly mistakes, and the king revoked his contracts. And I got stuck with the bill.”
His Majesty was not perfect in all this, either, I thought to myself. I noted, though, that Mutoh suddenly did not seem like the angry man who wrote the scathing letter to the king that Zelda had found for me. I pulled it from my tunic and set it on the table. He glanced at it, chewing his lip, and eventually nodded.
“I was in a rage when I wrote that. I still did not see my own faults in all this.”
“And you do, now?”
Mutoh rocked his head sadly. “Look around, Link. I don’t have anything left going for me. So many carpenters from across the entire kingdom asked to join me. I could have accepted, even just one of them. Kakariko could have been the grand city center His Majesty had asked for, and it would have had my name all over it. This would have been my city. But I did not think any of them were good enough-”
“Were they, though?”
“Not all of them, of course. But a couple of them were, yes. A couple of them, I reason, could have been better than me, and maybe even carried on my name in the future. Instead, Mutoh Carpentry and Partners is dissolved, my team scattered to who-knows-where, and I went bankrupt. And it’s my fault.”
This didn’t seem like a man that continued to put the blame on others for his misfortunes. This was a man so steeped in regret, he could now only blame himself.
“That’s actually why I was at the banquet,” he said, as though reading my thoughts, “to say all this to the king. To apologize. And to prove to him that I had changed.”
Mutoh stood, plodded over to one over-stuffed cabinet, and pulled out a stack of parchment. He brought it back and set it before me, right on top of his note. I looked at them. “A loan?”
“Made out to Mutoh Carpentry and Partners,” he said.
I read the paperwork over. It was, in fact, a very hefty loan, the kind that only desperate men would fathom taking out, at terms that only men with nothing would accept. Men like Mutoh. I flipped to the last page and found the date, just days before the banquet.
“It took awhile for the bank to accept my application, but they have, and in the time before the banquet, I had begun to try and locate my old crew. I had even reached back out to some of the old masters that once approached me, and who could possibly want to join an old has-been. I knew that if I could get back into the king’s good graces, maybe they’d agree to join me. Maybe I could rebuild my business. Then, maybe, just maybe, my family would return to me.”
“If the king turned you down-”
It was Mutoh’s turn to interrupt me. “I never got the chance to talk to him in detail. Just as I opened up the subject, Her Highness came to inform her father that dinner was ready, and that he should address his gathering. He said we’d continue the conversation after dinner, but…”
Hmm… I flipped through the loan agreement again, scanning over it. The terms of the agreement seemed aggressively binding, the type that would carry on for generations if left unpaid. Children, and children’s children would be bound by this debt. Why would he risk all of that, if his intention was to exact some petty revenge? “May I take this with me?” I asked, lifting the parchment.
“Then, I just have one more question. You purchased a vial of the poison that was found to be the cause of the king’s death. Why?”
He considered me for a moment, then drooped. “Come with me, lad.”
We crossed the kitchen to a door jammed shut by a gerryrigged lock that appeared to be fashioned out of scrap metal and splintered wood. A nearby broken broom explained the latter part. He pulled the wood from the metal, and the door creaked open, revealing a single torch on the wall, faintly, and rather ominously, illuminating a descending staircase.
I gulped, an unreasonable thought and fear crossing my mind for a split second. Funny, sometimes, that I should bear the Triforce of Courage. In that moment, I felt far from courageous, imagining all the horrors that could possibly be kept in the basement of a man with nothing left.
My mind screamed at me, Nope, nope, nope, but reason pushed me forward, and I followed him down.
We entered a basement that my eyes could barely make out, until Mutoh crossed the room and lit a second, much larger torce.
Nothing down here was the least bit frightening. Old tools in the corner, a couple piles of wood planks stacked neatly against the wall. An old work bench, still holding a half-sawed plank and hand saw. Against another wall, several half-sanded cabinet doors stood, waiting patiently to be finished and gathering dust.
The sad remnants of who Mutoh used to be. An old work room that hadn’t seen any love or attention in seasons.
If these walls could talk, I pondered.
And then, a realization hit me like a stone.
They… they are talking. Tuning my ears, I honed in on what I had just heard. A squeak, a sigh, the scratchings and skitterings of tiny clawed feet. An infestation.
“Rats?” I asked.
“Oh…” Well, I guess that explains the poison. I had not even begun to consider that my suspects could have purchased the poison for its intended purpose.
“It’s useful, and the rats drink it up like crazy, but… I’ve let the problem go so long, I think I might need more. The empty vial is right there, if you want it. Be careful.”
He pointed to the saw table, where a bowl and a small glass vial sat empty. I picked up the vial, raising it to the torchlight, noting the pale golden stain of what had been Seven Year Sleep. I thanked the man.
“I don’t know what I am going to do now, Link,” he said, looking around the room, at the tidy remains of his past, “but I will figure it out. Somehow.” These were not the words of a killer. They were the words of a contrite man grasping at a way to mend his own broken life.
I thanked Mutoh for his time and took my leave.
A single room existed in the Castle where I knew I would not be interrupted. A place where no one else dared go, for it was sacred, a room for prayer and quiet reflection for the royal family alone. A shrine to the Goddess Nayru, from whom generations of monarchs and descendants had sought clarity. Not even Impa would enter here. And, seeing as Zelda was gearing up for coronation, I knew she’d be in meetings all day with the council.
She’d told me in the past that I could go in, if I wanted, but until that point, I never really saw any use.
I certainly did now, with a meeting with Ganondorf now imminent. I could use the help.
Or, if nothing else, the peace.
The shrine itself was fairly simple, a strange thing inside the castle. Where normally any tribute to the sacred Trinity or the White Goddess would be festooned with gold or jewels or elaborate detail, it only contained a richly-colored glass figurine, all a shade of blue reserved for the royal family alone, save a small golden Triangle suspended between its open hands. It stood on a pearl-white pedestal, atop a pearl-white step, just high enough that, when one knelt before it, the eyes looked down upon the subject, protective and loving as the Goddess herself. At the base of the pedestal, a few bundles of flowers in different stages of age and wilt had been offered as gifts; Zelda had been here a few times in the past few days. I was not in the least bit surprised.
I stood from paying my own respects and thanked Nayru for her guidance to come. Then, I turned, returned to the small table and chair I had set up, and sat down.
My notes lay before me, every thought I had, every discovery made, and every piece of evidence I had painstakingly tracked down and gathered. When all collected, I fretted at just how little I had actually done. Reducing every moment since the death of His Royal Highness to mere ink on parchment had effectively made my time seem wasted. I felt no closer to solving this case than I had that first day, when I stood staring down at the king’s body with Impa, pondering his cause of death.
“Rat poison: Seven Year Sleep, a mix by potion master Granny of Kakariko.” That line alone had taken me days to fill out. Days, all for thirteen words.
I tried to keep the overwhelming nature of my task at bay, plunging on to review all I had written down.
Six suspects initially. Ganondorf, Nabooru, Ingo, Ruto, Darunia, and Mutoh. I have eliminated Ingo, Mutoh, and Darunia. I have added… added Zelda.
That part still bothered me a great deal. My friend. My very dear friend. I shook my head and continued.
Ganondorf and Nabooru I have yet to speak with. I suspect Ruto and Ganondorf to have forged both a political and personal relationship, and a letter from Ruto to Ganondorf to prove this. Ganondorf has been approaching the leaders of other races in search of support for…
My stomach growled.
Wow, I am hungry.
…In search of support for a coup, in exchange for aid in dealing with their problems…
I wonder what’s for dinner.
I shook my head sharply, realizing I had been glass-eye staring at the statue of Nayru. It was quite lovely, but held no answers for me. The goddess was still and silent.
The flowers Zelda brought to the shrine were gorgeous; I wasn’t too familiar with the flowers she kept in her courtyard, but I did not recall seeing these there. Broad petaled, pale blue and white, with little golden pistils splayed like tiny, thin fingers.
Zelda only wanted to stop Ganondorf.
She’s always been so scared of him.
Can’t say I blame her, though.
And then, something within one of the bouquets glittered faintly in the candlelit room. I squinted. A fairy? Trapped in the ribbon-bound stems. It danced and fluttered, calling to me, but…
But it was an offering to Nayru. Who was I to desecrate the holy family’s shrine? The shrine of my very dear friend.
I stared at it. It blinked at me.
I have to know…
As I stood, a knock echoed through the room, and I froze in my place like a caught child. I think the expression, “Nothing!” even escaped my lips. I chuckled lightly to myself, making my way to the door and sticking my head into the hall.
I came face to face with Impa, sullen and dark. She blinked several times at me, opening and closing her mouth without sound.
“What is it?” I asked, coming into the hall and closing the door to the shrine room behind me. Something told me I was about to be taken somewhere else.
“It’s Lord Ganondorf,” the Sheikah muttered. “He’s been murdered.”