What follows is Pinkie Pie's attempt to create a more serious take on The Legend of Zelda without resorting to "dark" storytelling. It began some time ago, but Pinkie Pie is choosing to post it here for the first time.
Enjoy. All comments and criticisms are welcome, but it is preferred that you leave a response detailing some of your thoughts of the story, along with things you think could use improvement.
In the grand scheme of things, Orren did not matter. It was a small fishing village dangling precariously across Hylium's west border into the neighboring country of Catalia. It, along with seven other providers, would send shipments of fish to Capitol City and then be forgotten amidst the chaos as merchants traveling to larger settlements fought over the product. At the end of the day, the people of Orren were content to be pushed aside.
Not on this day.
On this day, soldiers marched on Orren—soldiers bearing the coat of arms worn by the soldiers of Hylium: a thunderbird rising above three golden, equilateral triangles. They marched in fifty strong, some drawing blades, other crossbows. One shouted orders to his men before turning to the mere twenty-three inhabitants of Orren who had gathered and saying, "The settlement is under the personal supervision of her highness, the Princess Zelda, for the harboring of an agent of the enemy."
He tilted his head in the direction of the villagers.
A dozen crossbowmen trained their sights on the mass of people, who began to panic. First there were mutters, then came frenzies shouts. The villagers were herded into a tight circle in the village square—a small thing consisting of two buildings a modest fountain spewing water from a stone spout near the top.
"Captain Stiles, sir!" said one soldier who came to a stop before the speaker of before, pounding a steel gauntlet against his chest in salute while a sword wobbled at his side. His voice warbled through the plate of the armor. "Orren is secure, sir. …what is it we're looking for."
"A boy with the Mark on his left hand." Stiles crossed his arms and tilted his head as much as his armor would allow. "The princess is confident he's here."
The soldier saluted again. "Sir." The soldier turned to leave.
"One more thing."
The soldier stopped.
"Kill anyone who tries to leave."
The soldier hesitated. "Sir?"
"I failed the princess once and I will not do so again. Anyone attempting to leave is a traitor and works against our cause." Beneath his armor, Stiles stretched the lashed flesh of his back.
After a moment, the soldier saluted. "Sir," he said, before walking away, taking a stand alongside the other crossbowmen who currently held the settlement's population in the middle of town. They were a mixture of men, women, and children, all turned ragged in the presence of death. Stiles lifted the visor of his helmet and considered each. None exhibited any signs of fear beyond the natural reaction to death.
Stiles approached the crowd, drawing at once his broadsword from its scabbard. He pounded the pommel against the metal of his shield four times. The vibrations wound up his arm. At the third, the jostles of the crowd came to an end. A hundred sets of eyes turned to him, some scared, others angry.
"People of Orren!" His voice boomed. "This is an inspection on behalf of the Lady-Princess Zelda of Hylium. You have been brought from your homes so we may finish our business quickly and leave you to your own. Cooperate and no harm shall come to you. Resist—and may the Goddesses have mercy on your soul."
Stiles gestured to three of his men.
They approached and saluted.
"Search them. The Hero was said to have had a distinctive triangular mark on the back of one of his hands. Find them and bring them out. I don't care how young or how old they are."
All three saluted and departed. They began at the edge of the crowd, forcing their way through a mob of fear. They pulled out hands, young, middled, and aged, and brushed back sleeves. Each time their search bore unmarked flesh, they moved on. The moved around the outside—and it was while they did so that the crowd gradually calmed. They quieted themselves completely, even sat on the cold hard of the ground as they were searched.
Those three soldiers Stiles assigned the task worked slowly, but diligently. They moved across the crowd, hiding themselves behind armor. Whatever their emotions might have been as they worked, they were contained. But as they worked towards the back, there was a commotion.
A woman broke from the crowd and ran, carrying in her arms a young child with bleach blond hair.
Captain Stiles lifted a hand.
A single crossbow loosed. The air hissed and a scream echoed. Before the woman could put twenty feet between herself and the crowd, she was ground, a splatter of crimson blood staining the grass beneath her and a bolt ripped through the calf of her right leg. The child slipped from her arms and stumbled several steps before falling, righting himself and running back to his mother.
Stiles lifted his hand again.
Another crossbowman leveled his weapon at the woman.
A harsh voice halted both actions. Shivers slipped down Stiles' spine. He knew who spoke. Though the voice itself was softer than most, the tone with which it spoke was vicious. He could find no empathy in it, no matter how many times he searched. Without thinking, he fell to one knee, bowed his head, and placed his left hand across his chest.
Stiles chanced a turn of his head to the voice's source.
She rode up on a warhorse, a gray thing with a vicious build and white hair dangling around its hooves. Her dismount carried with it little weight, but the captain flinched as greaves crashed against the ground. She wore no helmet, allowing her face freedom to face the wind. Her features were harsh, sharp, and of a dark brown. Hair of a mild red hung down to the base of her neck.
"Captain Stiles," she said. It lacked hostility, but Stiles could not help but shift away from the speaker. "You and your men may stand down."
The captain bowed his head further, if that was possible. "Yes, Lady-Princess."
As she passed him, she brushed a hand across his shoulder. Stiles rose, but continued to bow his head.
Zelda's steps were not grateful, but neither were they mannish. She ignored the soldiers who lowered their weapons and knelt before her as Captain Stiles did. She ignored the mixture of fear and awe that permeated the air surrounding the village's inhabitants and focused on the fallen woman, whose continued attempts to stumble away from the scene with her child in tow only caused the blood to leak from her body at an alarming rate.
Zelda's approach cast a long shadow over her, as though blocking out the sun. "Why do you run?"
The woman opened her mouth to speak, but at the sight of Zelda's eyes, seemed to lose her words. Instead, she turned to her son, who remained on the ground, his expression a mixture of fear and incurable shock, and shouted, "Go!"
The boy scrambled backwards some ways, but not before Zelda turned her attention to him. He froze as his mother had as he was captured in Zelda's field of vision. He remained still until she approached, casting a long shadow that left him in darkness. His eyes widened as she knelt to his level, her expression unreadable.
"May I see your left hand?" she said, in a tone neither cruel nor unwelcoming.
As though compelled, he offered his left hand.
From somewhere, his mother cried, "Aiden! No!"
Another of the crossbows unhinged. The mother was silenced.
Zelda took the offered hand; on the back of the palm, three golden equilateral triangles, one a solid gold. Again, Zelda's expression was mixed. She released the boy's hand and considered him for a moment. Eventually, she said, "What is your name?"
The boy's expression turned pained. At first, the words were nonsense. He spoke fractures of coherence, his eyes flickering about until they settled on Zelda. He managed, "I am—"
The boy slammed his eyes shut.
He pressed both hands against his forehead and ground his teeth together.
"—the… Link." His voice disappeared immediately following, replaced instead by an expression of realization at what he had just admitted.
Zelda stood. She brushed her left forearm with her right hand, though the action was little more than a stall. Without a word, she turned and walked away from the boy. Orren's settlers watched her with the same mixture of fear and shock the boy himself had displayed. The soldiers, whose weapons had been lowered a moment before, raised them in sudden awareness, pointing all bolts again at their captives.
As Zelda passed by Captain Stiles on the return path to her mount, she said, "Kill them all. Raze the village. No survivors."
Zelda paused. She did not grant the captain her gaze, but rather a sideways glance through the corner of her eye. "Was any of that unclear, captain?"
Beneath heavy platemail, Captain Stiles stiffened. "…no, princess—but these people are loyal subjects. They should not be punished for the crimes of the few."
Zelda faced him. Her eyes spoke anger, but her lips contained it. She stepped closer, till her face was near enough to the captain's that she could glimpse the whites of his eyes through the two horizontal slits in the face of his helmet. "Are you questioning me, captain?"
Stiles swallowed. "…I…" Beneath his armor, Captain Stiles began to sweat, "…am. I will not condone murder, princess."
Zelda tilted her head to the side. “Kneel, Stiles.”
As though compelled to do so by an outside force, Captain Stiles fell to his knees. Beneath his helmet, fresh tears. “Please, Princess,” he said, his voice wavering.
From a square metal compartment on her right calf, Zelda drew a thin silver knife, hardly long enough to cause serious injury. “I thought you would last longer, captain.” She wiped the flat of the blade across the palm of her opposite hand. “I do not tolerate insubordination.
She thrust the dagger forward. It chewed through his armor like paper before Zelda withdrew it and pushed the captain away with a halfhearted nudge of the hand. He stumbled forwards, then back, clutching as his throat before falling to his knees. Beneath his helmet, foam erupted from his mouth.
Zelda pushed back several locks of red hair that had fallen over her eyes and pushed the dagger back into its compartment without cleaning the blade.
Of all the soldiers gathered, only two were attentive enough to approach her. Neither did so with a weapon drawn. "Princess?" one said, his voice muffled by metal.
Zelda turned away and went to mount her horse. "Your orders still stand," she said. "Kill them all. Raze this place to the ground. Return to your posts in Kakariko afterwards and send me message by hawk when the deed is done." She narrowed her eyes. "Was any of that unclear?"
Both soldiers brought an arm over their chest in brisk salute and said, one after the other, "No, princess."
Zelda pulled on the reins and twisted her mount around till she was facing away from the village. "We were never here. Orren never existed. After today, all record of it will disappear from history."
Both soldiers saluted.
"Word of this must not reach my father. Do whatever is necessary to keep your men silent."
The other soldier spoke, "Princess, we have no control over—"
"You're promoted. Welcome to seniority. Collect the nibs from Stiles and do your duty." Zelda kicked her horse's sides. The beast rode off as though Hell itself were chasing it.
Finally. A fanfiction that knows how to do a mature, dark story. Props to you, good sir. The plot is easy to understand, the characters have some amount of depth from what I've seen so far, and overall the tone is dark. I definitely like this.
Finally. A fanfiction that knows how to do a mature, dark story. Props to you, good sir. The plot is easy to understand, the characters have some amount of depth from what I've seen so far, and overall the tone is dark. I definitely like this.
Zelda rode alone across a barren landscape at a leisurely trot, her back held straight despite the growing fatigue festering in the shadows beneath her eyes. Grassless hills passed beneath the hooves of her warhorse. Light shone down from above, bringing false hope that foliage might someday find a way back to the land.
It was a clear day. A solitary cloud lingered beneath a mild orange sun, casting a glow across an otherwise gray sky.
Beneath the armor, Zelda's skin felt filthy, her hair grimy.
She smiled, leaning in her saddle as she tugged on the reins. Her mount increased his pace, moving instead at a brisk jog.
The Grand Keep of Duke Hyrule came into view many miles later, a rectangular fortress of terrifying magnitude built into the side of a mountain. A moat as large and as raging as a river separated it from the rest of the landscape. All across the battlements, crossbowmen monitored Zelda's approach, watching through narrow slits in the stone as she approached the raised drawbridge.
After several moments of waiting, during which Zelda knew she was being scrutinized in every possible way from every possible angle, the ground shifted. The great bridge of steel and wood lowered. At long last, one soldier signaled her from the battlements. Nodding, Zelda entered, maintaining no more than a child's pace as she did so.
The inside the Grand Keep was no more alive than the world it isolated itself from. The earth still stunk of death. The plants still refused to grow. Only people gave it atmosphere. Along each side of the inner border, a trio of motionless soldiers watched with eagle eyes. Across the chest of their platemail was branded the symbol of Hylium: a thunderbird. Zelda's gaze flickered to each group in turn, but as a whole, she paid them little mind.
As she dismounted, a stableboy with sandy blonde hair and poor clothes approached and offered to house her horse. With a flick of the hand, Zelda dismissed both boy and beast, taking fresh steps onto the dry land that was home base. She stretched, twisting and cracking all twenty digits while shifting her neck.
"Princess!" called a young woman rapidly approaching from the opposite side of the keep, having emerged from a side passage masked by an ill-placed shadow. Her dress was little better than that of the stableboy—but cleaner. Her hair was done up in a bun that revealed the tall points of her ears. Midstride, she tugged at the bodice of her dress in an effort to cover exposed cleavage.
When at last she met Zelda, she fell into a kneeling position before her. "Lady-Princess," she gasped, resting one hand on her knee, "forgive me, I did not know you would arrive so early. I only just received notice moments ago, and—"
Zelda began to walk away, toward the ironclad doors on the far wall that rested beneath a grand carving of three equilateral triangles.
The woman stood and rushed to keep pace with Zelda.
"Lady-Princess, I do not wish to sound impertinent, but your father demanded to see you the moment you arrived."
Zelda offered a lazy wave of the hand. "Then let him demand. I did not ride back so I could attend another of his suppers. There remains work for me to do."
"Arielle." Zelda spoke calmly, without hostility of any sort. Coming to a sudden halt, she paused to face the woman opposite of her. "I do not have time for my father's antics. Interfere as he might with his suitors, he will not hinder my work." She continued onward.
Arielle remained back, one arm brought up across her chest, the other hanging limply at her side. "Princess, your father was insistent. He said I was to make sure you attend. Duke Pathos of Catalia and his son will be in attendance.
Zelda paused. She twisted her head to the side, glancing at Arielle out of the corner of her eye. "His son?"
Zelda considered the invitation. "I will attend," she said after only a split-second's pause. "But I will do so when I feel is appropriate."
Zelda moved to leave. "Is there anything else?"
Arielle lowered her head and cast her gaze to the side. "Yes, princess," she said in a far softer tone. "I brought the inscription tool to your study and secured it, just as you asked."
Zelda continued her departure.
Arielle tagged close behind.
"Good," said Zelda. "Then the pieces fall into place." She lifted a hand as though to dismiss Arielle, then reconsidered. "Has a message arrived for me recently?"
"None that I know of, princess."
"Then you are dismissed."
Arielle bowered her head a second time and scurried away.
No longer detained, Zelda proceeded past the ironclad doors marked by three equilateral triangles carved into the stone above them. At the doors sides, guards pounded their chests in salute, but spoke no words. As Zelda passed through the doors, two more inside offered the same wordless tribute.
Inside, the air was musty. Zelda passed down an empty hallway isolated from the light of the outside world and illuminated by blue fire contained in glass cylinders and dangled from the ceiling. All around, the world grew blue and the shadows deep. Zelda wound through several such hallways, occasionally passing by servants who acknowledged her with a nod of the head and an uttered, "Princess," before hurrying along.
Zelda remained silent.
Her armored twisted and groaned, echoing even the slightest noise many yards ahead.
At last, Zelda arrived at her destination: a slight discoloration in the gray stone brick of the wall barely visible in keep's blue light, a great distance from any who would seek her out.
She pressed her thumb to the spot and spoke an archaic language of clicks and whistles. Immediately upon doing so, the wall shifted. Dust fell to the ground as a section the stone slid away several feet above the ground to reveal a hidden passageway, unlit and barely large enough to crawl through.
As Zelda pulled herself into the side-passage, the walled sealed itself behind her.
Darkness consumed her vision. She felt her way through a dank passage, her every movement matched by the scraping of stone against metal. It was a path retraced time enough that Zelda no longer required sight to navigate it. She traveled some distance, relying on touch alone, only her thoughts to keep her sane.
After many long minutes had passed, she met light.
Zelda cleared the tunnel and emerged in a dimly lit chamber, standing and breathing in stale air. It was crude, unrefined, but circular in some fashion. The diameter of the chamber was some twenty yards long and the circumference many more. All across its floor sat tables, benches, books, and half-finished experiments. Along the outer edge, bookshelves overflowing to such a point that they could no longer maintain stability without allowing some of the material to fall to the floor.
But the center piece, placed at the exact opposite point of the room from which Zelda had emerged, was the centerpiece: a massive, circular mirror inscribed in a forgotten language, held above the ground by two angelic statues upon which the test of time was most evident. Fragments fell away from all sections of their figures, to the point where they alone could not support the mirror's mass. Metal supports assisted them by supporting the mirror from beneath.
All illuminated by a dozen gas powered lanterns, hung from various points around the chamber.
Zelda wiped the dust from her cheeks before working the leather straps that held her gauntlets to her hands. When they were at last undone, she allowed both gauntlets to fall to the floor. Though not the true burden of the armor she carried, the shed weight loosened her.
She approached one of the many tables, upon which rested a large optical microscope—a large, brass tube, beneath which rested a platform to hold specimens, even further beneath which was a smaller gas lamp with which to light them from beneath.
From the same table, Zelda selected a rectangular piece of transparent glass, upon which she prepared a single drop of the Link's blood from the tip of her syringe. When it was dyed and secured, she placed it on the stage of her microscope, lit the gas flame behind it, and peered through the single ocular lens.
The cells contained within the blood sample were still alive, despite being cut off from their natural environment and continued their cycle of reproduction unabated. Yet each cell flickered as it moved about, shifting in and out of existence several times a second. Each time, they returned imperfect—altered.
Zelda pulled away from the microscope and doused the gas flame. She pulled a leather-bound booklet and ink pen from across the table. Several pages in were a series of illegible markings most closely resembling tally marks. Zelda made several further marks, then closed the book and pushed it and the pen aside.
Among other things on her table, there sat a triangular package wrapping in brown paper and held shut by twine. Unwrapping the packaging revealed a jagged piece of black stone, seemingly innocuous in its appearance. Its tip was minute and thin, but held strong when Zelda pressed her hand against it. When held up to the light, runes appeared all across its surface; old Hylian, a language forgotten by all but a few.
Zelda approached the grand mirror, the jagged black stone in hand, and knelt before her, her palms sticky with grime and dirt.
She brought the tip the glass of the mirror and touched the black stone to the surface. A sliver of glass fell away without so much as a push. Following a slight twinge at the edges of her mouth, Zelda continued. She carved out characters of Old Hylian, taking minutes with each inscription, scratching out imperfections until no blemishes existed.
Hours passed, but so little seemed accomplished. She completed a single rotation of the letters before being interrupted by a timid, "Princess."
Zelda stood, looked over her handiwork, and, without looking, said, "Yes, Arielle, my father's supper nears. I'm well aware." She placed the inscription tool on one of the many tables scattered about the room before turning to Arielle, who hung her head in subservience. "Tell me, Arielle: What prompted you to be so careless as to come here without my safeguard?"
Arielle's head hung further. Strands of short blonde hair fell over her eyes, slipping from the braid in which they were held. "…forgive me, princess. I only wished to ask if you truly planned to attend. Duke Pathos' son is… eager to speak to you."
"I know he is—" Zelda twisted her right hand. Roughened skin stretched across muscle and bone. "—and I will see him. But you should know better than to intrude here without my guidance."
"Yes, princess. Forgive me, I-I meant no harm."
"And yet harm often follows careless action."
Arielle fell to one knee.
"Take care when you enter again," said Zelda, working away at the clasps that held her steel cuirass to her chest, undoing restraints till the armor was open enough to lift off and over her head, before doing the same with her greaves and leggings. Zelda was left standing in a mixture of padding and clothes, both of which were flayed and wrinkled from having been worn for so long.
Arielle rose, lifting her head just enough to see Zelda through the roof of her vision. "…do you wish to bathe, princess?"
"But… won't your father object, princess?"
"No, he won't."
* * *
Zelda entered the dining chamber in the same garb in which she had returned to the Grand Keep of Hyrule in: dark brown pants and a tan shirt dirtied from so many hours spent in armor and dirt. She entered with as much power as she cared to muster, pushing open both massive metal doors with trained strength.
The dining chamber was no more remarkable than the exterior, tending to a more practical purpose. Two windows built into the ceiling allowed sunlight to cascade in from above, both of which could be shuttered and reinforced at a moment's notice. Resting in direct path of both streams of sunlight was a table stretching some twenty feet in length, upon which there was prepared a feast of several roasted animals, fresh fruits, and vegetables.
At its head was the King of Hylium and its surrounding provinces. He dressed in long robes of black laced at its edges with a subtle gold embroidery. Standing, he towered above other men. Neatly trimmed red hair fell back in a mullet behind his neck, covering brown flesh.
At Zelda's entrance, he and the other men at the table stood. Both sat on his right, Duke Pathos and his son. The elder, though domineering in his appearance and greater in size than his son, was beginning to show his age through the paunch in his belly and the gray hairs in his beard. The son was the slighter of the two. His hair was a light brown and his face chiseled. Stubble crept around the chin of what have otherwise been a clean shaven face. Both wore matching crimson jerkins.
Zelda approached the fourth chair, left for her across from Duke Pathos and his son, and directly to the left of the king. As she sat, the son of Duke Pathos offered a polite bow and said, "Princess Zelda, thank you for humbling my father and me with your presence."
The King smiled, but his eyes never ventured from the silver platter before him, filled with a politely exorbitant helping of meats—and little else. After a moment's consideration, he chose a fork and knife from either side of his plate, cut a portion of roast, and moved it to his mouth. All were silent as he did so.
The Duke Pathos shared a morbid glance with his son.
"My daughter joins us at last," said the King, not once looking to his daughter. Then, as an aside to the Duke Pathos: "There are days when I wonder if she'll emerge from her studies alive."
Both the Duke Pathos and his son offered a polite laugh.
The King's cheeks spread into a toothy grin, where the blood of rare meat left red all across the white of his teeth. "Tell me, daughter: what is it you do when you hide yourself away for hours at a time?"
Zelda began the process of moving food from the serving trays to her silver a plate—a process she completed as slowly as possible. "I see to it that the areas of this kingdom you choose to neglect remain lively, father."
The king's grin intensified, if that were possible. "Then I must work to neglect as little as possible." He cut away another portion of the roast, consumed it without chewing, and flickered his gaze to Duke Pathos. "Duke, you've met my daughter before, have you not."
The Duke Pathos bowed his head, lowering a portion of steamed broccoli back to his plate to do so. "Until today, I did not have the honor, King Ganondorf." He bowed his head to Zelda. "You honor me with your presence, Princess Zelda. I wish the best of health upon you." He motioned to his son. "My son, Geoffrey, speaks sometimes of his intention to court you."
To this, his son—Geoffrey—did not respond. He continued poking at his meal, the blood gone from his face.
Again, the king—Ganondorf—smiled. "Your son is brave. My daughter has never accepted a man in bed, let alone in marriage."
Zelda said nothing, nor did Geoffrey, the Duke Pathos' son.
Duke Pathos himself maintained his composure in the face the King's crudity. "...my lord, Ganondorf, if our children were to wed, it might bring greater stability to Catalia. There has been... unrest among the lord of the east and western provinces. I fear they may be organizing some sort of rebellion."
Ganondorf smiled, but it did not reach his eyes as it had before. "A rebellion." He leaned back in his chair—the most elaborately carved of those seated around the table. "Amusing."
"My King, Ganondorf, the death toll would be catastrophic. Economies would collapse. Those of us who stand loyal to you cannot afford war." At this, the Duke Pathos became especially nervous. His hands began to quake, to a point where he could no longer maintain good hold of his dinnerware. "...but, My King, Ganondorf, with war such a possibility, I have... come together with the others who remain loyal to you to ask for a reduction in tariffs."
Sweat ran from the Duke Pathos' head, but he dared not wipe it away.
"What we save could be used to enforce the necessity of your rule and restore faith among the disbelievers."
Ganondorf no longer smiled as he leaned back in his chair. With his hands at his chin, the sleeves of his robes fell away to reveal a gray undershirt that more defined the muscular build of his arms. "To war or not to war," he said at last. "It would be... exciting. A war could purge the kingdom of the few remaining who doubt my right to the throne."
The Duke Pathos swallowed, unable to object.
A twitch of a smile again crossed Ganondorf's face. "But you are correct, Duke. It would take years to recover from such a blow. Hylium depends on Catalia for the production of produce." There was a cruel emphasis on, "depend." Ganondorf then said, "Where would your loyalties lie, Duke—if such a war were to erupt?"
The Duke Pathos maintained stoicism as best he could, but the neck of his. Beneath the gaze of Ganondorf, his confidence crumbled. "I would stand with you, of course, My King, Ganondorf."
"And what of your province?"
"...if it came to war, My King, I would relocate myself and all members of my estate to Hylium—so they might better serve you."
At this, Ganondorf seemed satisfied. In silence, all were allowed a chance at their plates. Zelda herself consumed little, preferring to sip from the wine glass at her left, into which had been poured a portion of one of her father's preferred vintages.
At last, the silence was interrupted by the Duke Pathos' son, who looked up from his meal and said, "Would you have me yet, Princess Zelda?"
Though the glass was close enough to her mouth that Zelda smelled the bitter mixture of berries that flavored it, she paused, narrowing her eyes. The subtle gesture caused the son some hesitation, but did not deter him entirely. But before he could continue, Zelda said, in a hard tone of voice, "Nothing has changed between us, Lord Geoffrey. You have nothing that interests me."
Her response seemed to encourage Geoffrey. Though his gaze moved to Ganondorf before flickering back to the Princess, he said, "I have lessened my ignorance, Princess Zelda. I have better familiarized myself with the old world—and I have bettered myself in the way of the sword."
Ganondorf observed the exchange, amused.
Zelda leered at him from across the rim of her wine glass. Her free hand rested against the stone of the table, and the index finger of that hand tapped three times—a nondescript act. "That does not increase my empathy for you, Lord Geoffrey. I do not care for you now, nor will I ever. The sooner you cease this pointless chase, the happier you will be."
A long silence permeated the room, disrupted only by the sound of nimble footsteps as servants clad in dark clothing scuffled out to replace the food consumed. Lord Geoffrey numbly ate, staring at his fork more than anything.
At last, the Duke Pathos said, "The meal is excellent, my king."
Ganondorf smiled and lifted his glass in salute of the statement. "I never accept any less from my staff."
The Duke Pathos nodded, still unable to steady either hand enough to further chip away at his meal. "My king, Ganondorf, it would… greatly please the other provinces if you would provide an… answer, regarding the reduction in tariffs. At this point, they are… debilitating, my king."
Ganondorf rested his chin on both hands. "The answer is no, Duke Pathos."
"I do not need war, but neither do I need to coddle. If the dukes of Catalia continue to promote unrest, I will see them replaced. If I see sign of rebellion, I will crush it. And if I hear further whispers of disloyalty, I will see cities burn."
Lord Geoffrey paused his nibbling, but neither elder took notice.
At last, Zelda stood. "Father, I am finished."
Ganondorf again smiled, but there was no laughter in it. Flames of the previous exchange welled up within his eyes. "And you ask my permission to leave?"
"I am telling you."
A smile—or a sneer. "Of course," said Ganondorf, and diverted his attentions from her.
Zelda departed in the same manner she entered: through the ironclad doors and into the barren courtyard. A pair of soldiers saluted her as she went. She offered them nothing in return. After a minute a lingering, she moved back to her corridor, winding through side-passages and servants till she found herself outside her chamber.
Zelda waited, counting down from sixty. When she reached zero, a figure moved through the blue light of the halls to accompany her.
Zelda nodded. "Lord Geoffrey."
Geoffrey's breathing was bated. He nodded in acknowledgment of the greeting, but hesitated before returning it. "Princess. I'm sorry, your father—"
"The effect is similar on all his guests," said Zelda as she pressed her thumb to the discolored spot on the stone wall and muttered in a forgotten language. "You risk a great deal appearing before him.I should hope the risk was justified."
Geoffrey nodded, but offered nothing more till they were both inside the revealed tunnel, the wall closed behind them. Zelda led, Geoffrey followed along. Even in darkness, he navigated with the same ease as the princess.
The two emerged in Zelda's study, amidst books. The grand mirror remained the centerpiece, even incomplete. Lord Geoffrey's eyes moved to the mirror, his mouth half-open for several seconds before finding the ability to speak. "You've completed it?"
"No." Zelda slapped dust from her shoulder, though it did not help her present state of dress. "I began inscribing the necessary runes today. Within several days, I will be finished."
Geoffrey's eyes lingered on the glassy surface several moments longer.
"Lord Geoffrey," Zelda said.
The lord blinked, coming to his senses. "Yes—sorry. Duke Elmar of eastern Catlalia has begun the stockpiling of arms, but he can't openly produce them. Even those who transport them don't know where they end up."
"The deception will save more lives than my father will take, as long as proof remains absent."
"And the list of names grows. Amassed together, our army will number in the ten-thousands, assuming the numbers put forth are reliable."
"Then assume they are exaggerated."
Geoffrey glanced again at the mirror. "…yes, Princess."
"But neither of those is important enough reason to risk speaking with me directly." Zelda narrowed her eyes, though the manner was not hostile. "Why are you here?"
"A… discovery. It is related to your mirror." Geoffrey shuffled his feet for a moment, as though unsure how to continue. "Several of our historians believe it to be a temple of some sort in the west, near the coast, but we have been... unable to confirm their suspicions—and only you have the resources to make use of it."
At this, Zelda seemed intrigued. She began to pace the length of one of her tables. "Then your discovery may be useless. What sort of imagery was discovered? Carvings? Remains?"
Very slowly, Geoffrey shook his head. "I know nothing more than my father's workers—and even they haven't dared breach the temple's perimeter. They claim they're awaiting permission to dig further, but I believe it to be little more than superstition."
"And you wish me to examine what your father's workers are too incompetent to?"
"Not immediately," said Geoffrey. "I need to empty the worksite of anyone who might report to my father—or yours. I have arranged for transportation a four days from now. They'll meet you three miles north of Mount Pyre. You'll know the meeting place by—"
"I'll know it."
Geoffrey bowed his head, "Yes, Princess Zelda." The expression he wore was torn.
Zelda crossed her arms and lowered her gaze. "Your father remains ignorant to this?"
Geoffrey looked away. "I have taken... great care to keep him uninvolved. At this point, he believes you and me to be secret lovers. It has become my cover."
At this, Zelda smirked. "If your departure from the dinner table had the intended effect, my father now believes the same." She looked to her right, the smirk undying. "When you leave, respond to those who question you by acting both flustered and agitated—and ruffle your hair."
Geoffrey nodded in subservience, though he owed none.
"Then leave. This place cannot be perceived by any but those I have chosen. Your departure prompt no investigations."
Geoffrey hesitated, then departed.
Zelda, her workshop at last returned to the mirror, and began the arduous task of inscribing her great mirror with letters of old.
Zelda moved to her true quarters early into a yet lightless morning. Few remained awake at such an hour, but those who did and spotted the Princess Zelda slipping through the stone hallways of the fortress said nothing, for they had seen such things before.
The quarters provided by her father were, in the plainest language, exorbitant. Stretching along the walls and ceiling was painted a legend even her father accepted: that of three goddesses creating the world through a combination of their abilities, before departing, leaving behind the celestial power her father referred to only as, "The Mark."
Zelda disbelieved such tales.
The bed, built on a separate layer of wood flooring to give it rise from the floor, was less for comfort than for display. Impractically large for a single person, intricately carved wooden columns stretched high into the air, ending in a canopy that served no purpose in a lightless room. A crimson cover kept the mattress from coming to any harm, but on its surface was a thin layer of dust.
The rest was typical. On another wall, the mahogany wardrobe built to construct outfits her father knew she would never wear, yet insisted on gifting upon her. To its side, an elaborate nightstand suffering from disuse.
Zelda leaned on it, her touch leaving noticeable amounts of dirt on its surface. Through its mirror, a haggard face looked back at her—one in need of sleep. Shadows crept up to her eyes, visible even in the minimal light provided by the room's unnatural white glow. Clumps of hair clung together and fell in front of her eyes.
She wiped at her eyes, accomplishing little beyond agitating them.
Two curt knocks at the door.
"Enter," said Zelda, her gaze never moving from her reflection.
"Princess," said the voice of Arielle, followed by the soft closing of the door. "A message arrived, addressed to you. I... intercepted it before it could be read by one of the servants."
Zelda curled her hands into fists and continued to stare at her reflection. "Open it."
A moment of silence, interrupted only by the brief breaking of a wax sealed envelope.
"It's... blank," said Arielle.
Zelda placed a hand on the back of her neck.
"Princess... have you changed your garb?"
"No." Indeed, her apparel was the same as it had been for some time. The tan of her loose shirt and pants was darkened by the dirt of travel and the grime of unwash.
"Would you like me to fetch something from the wardrobe?"
"No." After a moment's pause: "I need you to see to it that the former settlement of Orren ceases to exist—as we have done before."
A long silence. Footsteps furthered Arielle's approach into the room. "...again, princess?"
"Again. The Hero's attempts to reincarnate follow a pattern that coincides with his previous lives." Zelda began a slow walk around her room, all the while maintaining a stony expression. "Each time he has appeared, his origins have been, 'humble.' Always the noble orphan, always hailing from some small village. Stoic. Hardworking. Humble. Each time, he is placed in a scenario that prepares him for his whatever evil he has been called forth to fight."
Next to the bed, Zelda stopped. She wrapped her fingers around one of the wooden columns.
"His appearances of late are focused in the outskirts of Hylium. Until he reincarnates properly, we must dance his dance." Zelda tightened her grip. Though the wood was strong, even it seemed liable to snap beneath her fingers. "We do not have the time, nor the resources to emulate that origin. And if my father were to discover him in such a vulnerable state, there would be no hope for rebellion."
Zelda stepped down from the rise on which her bed sat, back towards Arielle.
"Until then," she said, "we will continue as we are—and you will see to it that Orren is forgotten."
"...yes, princess." Several steps, then a pause. Zelda knew without looking that the girl gathered her thoughts. "...princess, the letter did not bear the seal of Captain Stiles. ...isn't still your military liason."
Arielle shuffled her feet, eventually bowing and moving towards the exit. "Yes, princess; my apologies, princess," she said, her words drowned out as she hurried through the door, pulling it shut behind her.
"And Arielle," said Zelda, just before the door could close entirely.
The girl peeked her head through the frame.
"Fetch the tub and some water when you've finished."
The girl nodded and disappeared, this time shutting the door tight behind her.
No more than a minute later, another knock at Zelda's door, this one enough to rattle the door at its frame. After no more than three raps, the door opened. A massive figure entered, cloaked in a black robe—Ganondorf.
"Hello, daughter," he said.
Zelda met the curt of his tone. "Father."
He moved about the room, examining anything he found intriguing, treating the area as his own. "You are unchanged. Was the stress of socializing so overwhelming that you'd not the sense to change?"
Zelda was silent, but followed his movements with her gaze.
Ganondorf ran a hand across her wardrobe, briefly admiring the texture. His chin was lifted and his eyes lax. He lingered there for several minutes before saying, "Why?"
Without emotion: "I was working."
Ganondorf's smile was coy—coy and contained. "On what, might I ask?"
In a stiff motion, Zelda swept her arm towards her night stand, across the counter of which were scattered several aged pieces of parchment. On each was a series of speculative sketches, some accompanied by coded instructions and explanation scribbled to the sides.
Ganondorf did not look. He continued his flight around the room, part of his robe billowing behind him like a cape. "Why do you fear me, daughter? I remember a time when I would ease you to sleep and read you one of the old tales."
Zelda was silent.
Ganondorf paused. "Is it the boy? He disappeared shortly after you, and one cannot help but wonder."
"Why are you here?"
At the objection, Ganondorf's attitude seemed to shift. His chin was no longer lifted, his shoulders no longer risen. Within a moment, he became a dictator. He approached Zelda like a slow moving buzzard, his expression one of contained rage. "You will travel with me to the Kokiri," he said. "Today. I am not content to leave you alone here."
Even on the rise, Zelda came up no higher than her father chest. Even so, her gaze remained locked forward. "The Kokiri have paid their tribute."
"They are paying another." The words required no force. In that way which Ganondorf uttered them, they were acid. "Their last was... unsatisfying."
Zelda's eyes twinged, narrowing slightly.
He moved to the door, crushing the knob within a muscled hand. "My caravan leaves in two hours. If you are late—even in the slightest—I will take your... handmaiden."
The uppermost two fingers of Zelda's left hand twitched, but her expression remained unchanged, as did the rigidity of her stance.
"I expect you to bathe—and dress appropriately. I will not present a daughter to the Kokiri who insists on dressing like a common whore." He spat the final word. An untouched anger slipped briefly into his words. Ganondorf flew out the room, though his presence was felt one final time in the sudden clatter of heavy metal hitting floor and a high pitched squeal.
"Stupid girl!" Zelda heard Ganondorf say.
And then contact—the distinct sound of flesh meting flesh in impact and the thud as a body hit the floor.
Zelda moved to the hallway, but arrived in time only to see her father's cape slip out of sight around a dark corner further down. Arielle sat propped against the well, her right cheek bruised and swollen, forcing her right eyes closed. Before her, a wooden bucket on its side, its contents spilled across the floor.
"Princess—" Arielle pushed herself up, though not without effort. "...your father came as I was leaving. I didn't think it was safe to..."
She trailed off.
Zelda gaze lingered at the spot near the end of the hallway, where her father had disappeared from view. "Are you alright?" she said without looking to the girl.
Arielle brought a hand up to her cheek and gingerly prodded it. "...yes, princess."
"Then I need you to fetch water again. It seems I'll be leaving soon."
* * *
It was late afternoon before the caravan left.
With the preparation for departure at its climax, the Grand Keep's courtyard was at last displaying signs of life. A legion of three dozen soldiers shuffled about, awaiting their master's arrival. By the design of their armor, they were the King's Hand. Expressionless warriors wearing smooth, form-fitting metal suits of silver that provided no joints to target or weaknesses to exploit. Even the helm was little more than form fit metal, offering only thin slits and holes to see and breathe through.
They surrounded their master's coach, each keeping a hand on their sword. Even Zelda's approach increased their wariness. Members who were previously melancholy became astute soldiers at the princess' appearance.
Zelda neared wearing her suit of black-steel, using reins to guide a dark brown warhorse beside her. As her father requested, she was bathed. Her brown skin was at last free of dirt and her red hair in the final stages of drying. At her approach, the members of The Hand offered Zelda no recognition beyond a cool gaze and the occasional nod.
"Princess," said the one closest to her, still resting a hand on his blade. "You're father wished us to remind you that multiple pairs of clothes are necessary on trips lasting more than a day."
Zelda narrowed her eyes, but said nothing. Instead, she hoisted herself onto the seat of her mount's saddle. From above, The Hand's numbers seemed smaller.
Zelda's gaze moved to the approaching Ganondorf, already mounted atop his black steed—an unnatural beast with blood red eyes. It made no noise and required no commands. At the merest turn of her father's head, it moved as though commanded by his thoughts.
But less impressive than the steed was Ganondorf himself. No longer was he clad in the robes of royalty, but rather, the armor of a warlord. Black platemail laced at its edges with gold embroidery covered his form, leaving only his head exposed. A smile crept across the dark of his flesh, a smile that only complemented the power of his being. "I worried that attending to my orders would be too much for you."
At his appearance, the soldiers fell into rows of three that trailed Ganondorf as he trotted towards the Grand Keeps' portcullis. Several unarmored men directed mules to take their places at the rear, saddles overflowing with clothes and supplies.
Zelda fell in line beside her father.
"And how is your handmaiden? I hope her injuries were not severe." His features momentarily hardened. "I have been known to break jaws on accident."
Zelda maintained her silence as the drawbridge was lowered.
"Speak to me, daughter, or your handmaiden's injuries will not heal."
They passed through the gate of the Grand Keep, setting foot at last on Hylium's barren landscape. A cool white sun hovered overhead. A hundred steps echoed them, providing a cacophony of noise against the wood of the drawbridge over which they passed.
Zelda's gaze remained neutral. "What is it you wish me to speak of?"
Ganondorf smiled and turned his gaze back to the path ahead—satisfied. "What is it the boy came to you for?"
Neutrally: "After his show at your dinner, he came to my room—"
"—and asked me to make the trip to Catalia."
Ganondorf lifted an eyebrow. "Did he? And you would consent to such a trip?"
He leaned forward in his saddle, pulling his reins to the left as he did so. The caravan moved in a tight arch, shifting direction to the east. Even so, the land ahead of them seemed identical to the land beneath their feet. "I believe you should."
"I will not accept suitors, father."
A humorless grin. "And why not? Pathos' boy is weak—malleable."
"He would anchor me."
"To what, exactly? What 'duties' have you partaken that could not be relocated to Catalia?"
Zelda was silent. She spared a moment to push aside several strands of hair fallen across her eyes.
"If you do not choose a mate, I will choose one for you." Ganondorf's expression turned an odd mixture of cruel antagonism and melancholy. "Grant me a grandchild. I do not care what you do with the father after birth. Kill him if it pleases you."
At last, Zelda spoke truly: "You do not, father—" The final word was strained. "—have need for grandchildren."
"There is no true immortality, daughter. Surely your experiments have taught you that."
"I have not broached the task of eternal life."
A broad grin spread across her father's face. "Not yet? What possibilities exceed the power granted by immortality? What is it you work on behind closed doors, daughter? Self-propelled flight? Mechanical automatons? Time travel?" Ganondorf followed the final suggestion with a grand laugh; one so powerful he threw back his head to release it.
Her expression stoic, Zelda said, "Yes, father. Time travel."
For a moment, Ganondorf seemed ready to reach over and rest a hand on his daughter's back. Before the motion could begin, however, it ended. Both fists remained tight around the reins of his horse. And at that, the conversation ended.
Just finished reading this again and couldn't really find anything to pull you up on yet. A fantastic peice of writing and a very interesting way to write it. Looking forwards to the next part and if you want I will critique each part as you post it. Let me know if you do.
They passed through a large town some hours on. By then, the sun had begun its premature retreat over the horizon, casting a dusky glow across the land. When Ganondorf adjusted his path to pass through the town, the caravan followed. Like a disobedient pet compelled by hunger, Zelda followed her father.
The town was small. Orren, but denser. Though it was kept alive by the importation of all resources, the people crowded out to meet their ruler. Some stared, their eyes wide with some concoction of powerful emotions even Zelda could not pinpoint. Others lifted their arms into the air and cheered. Others chanted.
Their pace slowed for a moment. Ganondorf's mount moved at a trot as he lifted his arm in polite recognition. At this, the gathered crowd's cheers intensified. On either side stood walls of people. At one point, Ganondorf cast Zelda a glance she perceived as an order to imitate him. She ignored it. Her father continued to wave, though the closer they moved to the edge of the town, the less effort he put into it. At last, the crowd dissipated.
Their caravan passed through quickly enough, moving back to the barren roads of Hylium. There were no fringe settlements, nor were there farmers, as would have been found in Catalia's lush landscape.
For a moment, Ganondorf moved closer to his daughter. He threw his head back as though to laugh, but instead grinned at the sky. The dark brown of his skin radiated in the sunlight. "Always give them something, daughter," he said without lowering his gaze. "No matter how much you take from them, a people on the edge of death will forgive you in exchange for a blanket in the midst of winter."
To this, Zelda said nothing. She did not acknowledge her father's resumed proximity, nor did she acknowledge his words.
When the sun at last set, the caravan stopped to set camp. Though her father could best any soldier in combat, he seemed to take pleasure in watching the others prepare his tent for him. At the sight, he smirked, though never in such a way that his men could see. When his tent was erected and his belongings moved inside, Ganondorf disappeared, dismissing the offer of supper.
Zelda removed her own bedroll from the side of her stallion, choosing to sleep beneath the stars. With darkness in the air, the temperature fell till she could see her breath, but even so, she laid beneath the stars. Zelda did not sleep that night; rather, she simmered. Taking into account all she knew and all her father knew, she plotted.
Barely five hours later, the caravan moved. It was practiced procedure. The moment her father left his tent, fully armored in his black maille, a group of soldiers dismantled the structure and divided it amongst the three mules that made up the rear of the procession.
Zelda moved her sleeping mat to her horse and was prepared to leave some time before her father. Her mount paced sideways, fidgeting as it was moved back into position aside her father's. Minutes later, they were off.
Some hours passed. At last, they came into sight of the forest—a massive green blotch on the horizon, stretching for miles around. Zelda recalled her father once commissioned a cartographer to provide an exact measurement. He had been unable to do so, claiming that the forest itself expanded and compacted whenever someone tried to attach numbers to it.
At the memory, Zelda did not smile. But it amused her.
From the outside, it was an impregnable mass of vegetation. Trees stretched hundreds of feet into the air, barricaded by a dense layer of foliage that seemed thick enough to halt even the most intrepid adventurers.
Ganondorf lifted a hand.
The caravan shuffled to a halt behind him, some feet from the forest.
The underbrush came alive, moving aside as half a dozen elfin figures emerged. They were aged, yet childlike. Their skin held an unnatural green pigment, while their hair varied only between shades of blonde and pale green. For clothes, they wore plain brown fabrics, none of which provided actual sleeves or trousers. None looked to be older than fourteen.
One—a girl with white-blonde hair and a dagger strapped to her left leg—stepped closer to Ganondorf and knelt before him. The other Kokiri followed suit.
Ganondorf dismounted, but it did not diminish his presence. Against Zelda, he seemed giant. To the Kokiri, he must have seemed a monolith.
"Your Majesty," the assumed leader of the Kokiri said, never lifting her eyes from the ground. "We... did not expect you so soon." She spoke Hylian as though a newcomer to the language, her words thick with accent.
Before speaking, Ganondorf observed. His eyes moved to each of the Kokiri in turn, analyzing each. He held his hands together behind his back and lifted his chin. "I have returned because your debt is unpaid, Lauranna."
The Kokiri—Lauranna—twisted her head to the right, but otherwise did not move. "I apologize, Your Majesty."
The subservience sated Ganondorf. He began to pace, his steps careful and deliberate. With each movement, Lauranna's eyes followed him, if underhandedly. "Your last tribute was unsatisfactory. I have come to collect a second."
Lauranna silence was practiced. Physically, she did not react to the words. "...forgive me, Lord Ganondorf. I chose poorly."
"You did." Ganondorf gestured with his hand. "Rise."
The girl did, though her gaze remained low.
"You will take me to your village—" The final word carried concealed venom. "And then I will choose which of your kind to take."
Lauranna bowed, as did the other Kokiri. "Yes, Lord Ganondorf, Your Majesty," she said.
Satisfied, Ganondorf lifted his hand and gestured to the procession that followed him. "My followers will wait here—"
A glance at Zelda.
"—except for my daughter."
Accepting the cue, Zelda dismounted. The Kokiri watched her with the same suspicion offered to Ganondorf, though they offered it to her more openly. Narrowed eyes and uneasy hands followed the few steps she took from her horse to stand at her father's side.
Lauranna turned and reentered her forest. As she did, the underbrush moved aside to allow Zelda and her father through. While plant-life still tangled its way around Zelda's limbs, her father remained unimpeded. The forest itself seemed to shift away whenever he ventured too near
The rest of the Kokiri disappeared noiselessly into the forest, leaving the one identified as Lauranna to guide them. Even so, Ganondorf's gait never hinted at even the slightest lack of control. His expression remained dominant, the slightest hint of a smirk tugging at the edges of his mouth.
They arrived at last in a clearing; an area of the forest where the canopy thickened enough to block out the sun. Only the dimmest light forced its way through the canopy, lacing the forest with a hint of twilight.
The Kokiri settlement was not formal. It was a collection of a dozen rickety structures built from many layers of harvested tree branches, softened and woven tightly enough that they made for a solid, domelike structure. Several of the more childlike Kokiri rested beneath them, the green of their skin somehow more visible in the light starved forest.
Once in the middle of the clearing, Ganondorf stopped.
A vein in his forehead throbbed in anger and his hands twisted into steel-plated fists, though nothing had occurred to provoke him.
For her apparent age, Lauranna was calm and collected. Her reaction to Ganondorf's appearance had been mild, has had her willingness to bring him into the forest. She stopped as Ganondorf did, though she remained in place away from him. The other Kokiri looked to her as she returned, some appearing from amidst the forest, others from their homes. The collection of expressions that met her was mixed.
"Bring them to me," said Ganondorf.
Though only Lauranna was close enough to hear, the whole of the Kokiri seemed to react to Ganondorf's words. The Kokiri emerged from the forest and from their homes. They were adolescents—and those that answered Ganondorf's call were female.
They lined up and knelt, never lifting their gazes higher than Ganondorf's boots. In all, they were twelve in number.
Only one of the Kokiri did not come willingly: a green haired girl dragged by her arm from the forest by Lauranna and made to kneel. The girl's body was thin, almost malnourished. Her hands were bound and the fabric of her clothes burnt. Zelda noted a lack of hair on the girl's forearms. Of those present, she seemed the oldest, even more so than Lauranna. Her physical age seemed to test the boundaries of the Kokiri youth.
But Zelda said nothing. She remained still, her hands tucked behind her back.
Ganondorf paced alongside the line of Kokiri, spending much time considering each. Occasionally, he would reach down and adjust the angle of one's face to provide him with a more detailed view. None seemed to impress him, for he reacted to each with cold disinterest. It was not until he moved further along that Ganondorf gave pause. He loomed over one of the smaller Kokiri, a blonde.
He grabbed the girl by the arm and hoisted her to eye level. Her feet dangled beneath her. Fear filled her eyes.
"This one," said Ganondorf, pulling her from the line. He then continued on, picking out three of the girls, judging them as he had the first, and pulling them aside. Eventually, his journey brought him back to the girl with green hair, whom he considered a second time.
For a moment, the girl's eyes venture beyond Ganondorf's boots.
He smiled. "And this one."
Ganondorf grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to her feet. Her initial resistance to being forced into the line receded. She complied with the movement, lowering her gaze as she fell in beside Ganondorf.
"Father," Zelda said at last.
A slight twist of the head was his only acknowledgement of her words.
"I would like the girl with the green hair."
The green haired girl shifted in place, but was ignored by Ganondorf.
Ganondorf turned to face his daughter, his presence imposing and demonic. With his left hand, he continued to hold the arm of the green hair girl. "Do you, daughter? And why would I let you have what is rightfully mine?" A challenge. Ganondorf's free hand curled into a fist.
"I require additional servants."
Her father's eyes narrowed. "No, you do not."
"If I am to command an estate in Catalia, I will."
A smile spread across Ganondorf's features. "And why would you be commanding an estate in Catalia?"
The girl with the green hair was still. Though Ganondorf seemed to ignore her, Zelda knew she listened to every word. "If you give the girl to me, I will give you a grandchild."
Ganondorf's smile remained static, but his eyes hardened, considering her. She knew he searched for deceit, some way a girl of the Kokiri could be used against him. When he found none, the eyes softened, while the smile became genuine. "And why this one?"
"She is different."
A slight shift of the girl's head, though her expression remained the same.
The smile on Ganondorf's face twitched. "'Different.' She is a child like the others." He rested a hand across the girl's back. "If you do not honor your word, I will take everything from you—this girl included."
Zelda remained stoic before the threat.
Ganondorf released the green haired girl and pushed her towards Zelda. At only a nudge, the girl moved on her own, keeping her head down till she was at Zelda's side. The other Kokiri under Ganondorf's wing remained subservient, their postures slackened, their youthful faces deadened of emotion.
Zelda lifted her chin. "Are we leaving?"
Ganondorf approached Lauranna, who until then had remained silent. It was only through her eyes that anger was hinted at. Like the other Kokiri, her gaze fell to her boots—but she did not kneel. "You look older, Lauranna."
"Yes, Lord Ganondorf." An automatic response.
"If these Kokiri break as easily as the others, I will burn your forest to the ground. Do you understand?"
The prepared response caught in Lauranna's throat, leaving her mouth slightly agape.
Ganondorf repeated, his tone darker: "Do you understand."
"…yes, Lord Ganondorf."
Ganondorf turned from her, his grin unchanged, but the expression did not match his eyes. "Tell your Guardian to be wary. If you attempt to usurp any more land for your forest, I will see to it that the Kokiri people receive the privilege of immortality."
"Yes, Lord Ganondorf."
He allowed single, powerful laugh before gesturing with a lazy flick of the hand to his daughter.
Zelda placed a hand on the shoulder of the green haired girl and directed her to the somewhat flattened area of brush through which they had entered the Kokiri settlement. The girl moved without conviction. Zelda's father remained in front. At his presence, the forest seemed to recoil. With each step, the earth beneath his boots died.
The girl hesitated once, closer to the edge of the forest; a hesitation she passed off as a misstep. Zelda tightened her hold. The girl exhibited no other tells, but the intention remained obvious: a brief consideration of escape.
Their small troupe emerged onto the barren landscape that was Hylium. The girl with the green hair twisted her head to hide her eyes from the sudden intensity of the sunlight.
Ganondorf's Hand stood at the ready the moment Ganondorf emerged, realigning themselves into a military formation, the mounts of the royals at their head.
"Bind and leash them," said Ganondorf, dragging all four Kokiri forward and leaving them in the hands of his soldiers. They attended to the task quickly. From somewhere, more than a dozen lengths of ropes were produced and wrapped around the necks and wrists of the Kokiri. None of the children resisted. At last, they were moved in line with the caravan and pushed into place near the front. By then, Ganondorf was mounted, his black stallion shaking its head before moving to the head of the group.
Following an inspection of the girl's bounds, Zelda directed her to the front, eschewing the leash. She moved to her horse, tended to by one of the servants brought along by Ganondorf, and mounted, taking her place at Ganondorf's side. Just behind her, the girl with the green hair stared at the ground, offering no resistance, despite lacking Ganondorf's precautions.
* * *
It was later when Zelda was granted the opportunity to speak to the green haired girl alone, when Ganondorf and The Hand were less attentive of her. After night fell and camp was set, Zelda positioned her own sleepmat some ways from Ganondorf's tent. Wordlessly, the girl with the green hair followed, always keeping her head down.
She stood eight inches shorter than Zelda. Her skin was a shade closer to the Hylian complexion than the other Kokiri. Her bounds continued to grind against her flesh, wearing it away until the dark green tendrils that made up her true interior shown clearly, even beneath starlight.
Despite the rotation being kept by The Hand, Zelda remained comfortable. She slipped her hands together behind her back. "You may sit," she said.
The girl hesitated, but did so. Even rested against the ground, her body appeared unsteady.
Zelda detected a sigh of relief marred by heavy breathing.
"I will establish something up front: I saved your life." Zelda paced before her, all the while keeping the girl in the corner of her eye. "Your leader, Lauranna, refuses to speak of the fates of the Kokiri given to my father, but I will. They fulfill a carnal desire of his. He breaks and discards them."
The girl with the green hair was silent.
"You are indebted to me." Zelda knelt before the girl, her expression neutral. "And you will begin repayment of that debt by answering my questions. First: your name."
The girl lifted her chin as though she meant to answer, but hesitated, falling back into a lowered gaze. Her hands trembled.
Zelda repeated the request in a darker tone: "Your name."
The girl did not answer.
"Then I will return you to my father. I'm sure he'll find a use for you."
The shaking of the girl's hands grew erratic.
Zelda noted it. "Fine. Another question."
The shaking of the girl's hands gradually ceased.
Zelda reached out and lifted the girl's bound hands. "Lack of hair on fore-arms. Bound hands. Burnt sleeves. You are a fire mage." It was a statement.
Regardless, the girl with the green hair nodded.
"The Kokiri fear fire, but they would not oust one of their own for controlling it." Zelda lifted the girl's arm, bending down to examine the flesh more closely. "You've not eaten for at least ten days. I suspect it's only your connection to the earth keeping you from starving to death. That, of course, begs the question: why would Lauranna imprison you?"
The girl said nothing.
"Unless, of course, you lost control. Fire is a delicate element. It would take a great amount of emotional stability to contain it." Zelda paused, watching the girl's face from the corner of her eye.
Eyes moved, avoiding Zelda's gaze.
Zelda stood, returning her hands to their place behind her back, before resuming her pacing, slow this time. "Now: what was your trigger?"
"Do not doubt that I will hand you back to my father. He is always in search of more playthings."
The girl's lips parted. Hesitation. She lifted her eyes beyond Zelda's boots, at last meeting the other woman's gaze. Her tone was cautious: "I have… memories." The voice was weak—raspy.
At the words, Zelda's expression was unchanged. "Memories."
"That's a blanket term." Zelda brought a hand to her chin. "Expand."
A long hesitation. The girl with the green hair lowered her gaze. "…no."
"Reconsider that answer." She knelt before the girl. "Now."
The girl's squirmed. "Lauranna talks… about a great burning—when our first home was lost." The words were disjointed, but grew in clarity as the girl continued. "No one remembers it, but there are times when—"
Her hands began to shake.
"—it feels like the fire is in me."
Zelda stood. "The Burning—you have memories of the Old World?"
A twist of the girl's head, though it wasn't a denial. "I… don't know."
Zelda brought a hand back to her chin. Her expression was pensive. "The Burning—that was seventeen hundred years ago. 'The Age of Hylian Imperialism'. And how much do you remember, exactly? Names? Events?"
Following a moment's hesitation, the girl shook her head. Strands of green hair tumbled over her eyes. "Fire and screams."
"More dreams than memories."
"And it was these memories that caused you to lose control of your magic?"
Zelda considered the girl. "Tell me about this trigger."
At this, the girl was silent.
Zelda's eyes were unreadable.
"Fine. I have no more questions for the moment—save one," she said at last, her expression changed to something softer. "Tell me your name and I will cut your bonds."
The girl with the green hair stared at the ground. Something dark flickered across her features, but it appeared only momentarily.
This is seriously one of the best FanFics I have ever had he pleasure to read- the amazing character development, the slow realization that everything is completely wrong... WRITE ME MORE!
If I can make any criticisms, it would be that you are slowly but surely veering into the 'dark' area (Orren gets razed, Stiles gets killed, Ganon is a rapist etc) that you said you were avoiding. However, "dark" fiction is my favourite kind, so you can keep going this way for me.
In fact, please carry on writing like this.
Zelda was prompt in her messaging of the Pathos' estate. Upon her return to the Grand Keep, letter was sent to Lord Geoffrey. The writing was concise, stating only that the situation had changed and that the trip was to occur as originally scheduled, it was to be made public—and begin in such a way that her father's suspicions would remain minimal.
Then Zelda brought the girl to her quarters, sealing the door behind her.
Arielle followed, though maintained her distance from the green haired girl, her expression torn between curiosity and resentment. The handmaiden's eyes seemed unblinking, never wandering far from the green haired girl.
The green haired girl—Saria—bowed her head, docile as she was before the initial interrogation. Even removed from her home as she was, the scent of the forest remained with her. After but a moment, the aroma of dew and pine needles permeated the room.
Zelda crossed her arms and smiled.
Arielle crossed her palms over her waist and looked prepared to speak, but said nothing, all the while directing a passive anger towards the girl with the green hair.
"Sa-rai-uh," said Zelda. On her tongue, the name sounded foreign. It was with a newfound light in her eyes that she appraised the girl with the green hair. "Named for the third Guardian, I assume?" A ghost of a smirk. "Or are you she?"
Saria said nothing. Though her bonds were removed, her hands hung limp at her sides.
Zelda considered her. "I suppose stranger things have occurred."
"Princess—" It was Arielle who spoke. Her voice was a battle between two tones, dissenting and courteous. "You can—you cannot trust her so soon."
Zelda lifted a hand.
Anything Arielle had prepared to say fell away.
"I did not say I trusted her," Zelda said. From the corner of her eye, she watched the girl with the green hair.
Saria did not react.
"But if she is connected to the third Guardian in more than just name, I will make use of her." Zelda's attention returned to Saria. "You will be staying here. You will not approach my father. Formally, you are one of my servants."
At that, there was a simultaneous reaction from both Saria and Arielle.
Saria head twisted slightly to the left, her eyes flickering about as Zelda's quarters were analyzed a second time, observed with an alternate set of circumstances.
Arielle's chin lifted—a small gesture. The hard of her eyes did not change.
Zelda clasped her hands together. "Today, I ask nothing of you, but you will serve me. Catalia will provide an opportunity for you to connect your memories to reality."
Arielle's eyes widened and moved to Zelda. "Princess! I—"
She stopped herself, letting her chin fall to her chest.
"I beg your pardon, princess."
A slight turn of the head and lazy gesture of the hand from Zelda.
Arielle nodded, saying nothing.
To Saria, Zelda said, "I will have the kitchen prepare a meal for you and a tailor shortly after. Expect them to be ready before we are required to leave again. To Duke Pathos, you must appear in every way the servant. When you speak to me, you will address me as 'Your Highness'."
Saria was silent.
A momentary quake in the girl's hands, but it passed. She lifted her gaze, though it did not rise above Zelda's chest, and said, "Yes, Your Highness."
Zelda nodded and moved to the door of her quarters. Arielle followed, albeit slowly. "Then you know all that you need to. The rest must be learned through doing?"
Zelda exited back into the dark, sunless corridors of the Grand Keep, locking the door to her quarters from the outside. She looked to Arielle and said, "Follow."
They walked in silence for some minutes, no destination chosen. It was while doing so that she monitored her handmaiden. Even behind her, she noted the loss of rhythm in the young woman's footsteps, the uncouth manner in which she breathed.
Arielle said nothing.
So Zelda said nothing.
Eventually, they crossed the courtyard. It was there, amidst the patrols of armed soldiers, that Arielle paused, and said, "Princess, I believe it is unwise the trust this girl."
Zelda stopped mid-step. "It's brash of you to attack someone's age when you yourself are so young."
Arielle bowed once. "Forgive me, princess, but I do not believe she will—" She bit her lip. "Your father may use her against you."
"He will try. My safeguard is already in place. Betrayal is now impossible." Zelda looked to the sky, where the white sun was at its peak. "But that isn't what you're failing to speak of."
"Lying does not suit you, Arielle."
The tension in the shoulders of the handmaiden began to slip—but she said nothing.
Arielle averted her gaze and tightened her lips.
Several of the guards about the courtyard took an interest in the exchange. From a distance, they watched in silence, peering through the slits of their full-helmets.
Zelda slipped her hands behind her waist. She continued to face away from her handmaiden. "You will need to come with me to Catalia. Block out your jealousy, for the girl will come as well. The time will soon be upon us to provoke my father, and I will not have you here to be the subject of his wrath."
Hesitation from Arielle, followed by: "…yes, princess."
Zelda's tone fell when she next spoke. Ice lingered in her words. "I have given you safe harbor, but if your actions begin to affect your performance or add risk to the situation, you will no longer have protection from the consequences of my actions."
She faced Arielle.
"I will see to it that a tailor is sent to my quarters." A slight turn of the head. Zelda's eyes passed over Arielle. "You will notify the kitchen of her presence and have them prepare a meal to revitalize her. And you are to take it to her, allow her to finish, and then return the dishware to the kitchen staff.
"Should you allow your emotions to cloud your judgment, all privileges granted to you will be rescinded." She turned to face Arielle. "Do I make myself clear?"
Hesitation. Subservience. Arielle knelt, her head hung. "Yes, princess," she said.
* * *
The caravan bearing the Lord Geoffrey arrived three days later. Unlike the transports of King Ganondorf, Lord Geoffrey's coach was unmarked. Though pulled by four powerful stallions, its outside was an inconspicuous combination of brown paint and gold edgings. No symbol marked it as the transport of nobility—and the same went for its twin following some meters behind. To the side of each, mounted soldiers road, their bodies masked by varnished steel plate armor.
The caravan was called to a halt outside the gate of the Grand Keep, held off from crossing the moat. After several minutes, the gate was lowered, but even then, the group was kept from entering. Instead, Zelda exited, flanked on either side by Arielle and Saria, each of whom hefted large brown sacks of clothes. Zelda herself carried very little and left unarmored, clothed instead in more casual garb: a red jerkin accentuated by gold lacing.
The mounted soldiers moved aside to allow her group to pass.
The door of the first coach opened, revealing the face of Lord Geoffrey. Since his previous visit, he had shaved, but still seemed the worse for wear. His expression was sleepless, his eyes heavy. "Princess Zelda," he said, "I must ask that your servants travel in the other coach."
Without a word, Saria moved, throwing her pack onto the rear of the second coach.
Arielle hesitated. She looked to Saria as the younger was accepted into the rear coach, then back to Lord Geoffrey. Out of the corner of her eye, she looked to Zelda.
The princess rejected her without a word.
Arielle did not slunk, but there was weakness in her gait. She dispensed her luggage onto the back of the second transport, as Saria had done, before disappearing into the coach, pausing a moment before entering.
"Princess," Geoffrey said before leaning back to allow her in.
The coach was cramped and dark. A small window behind Zelda's head granted Geoffrey access to the driver, whom he ordered off when Zelda was settled.
They traveled some ways in silence before speaking. The barren landscape made for a mixed roadway; at times smooth, at others rough. When reasonable distance had been placed between the caravan and the Grand Keep, Geoffrey spoke. The weariness of his appearance found its way into his voice. "Your servants, are they experiencing problems?"
Zelda rested her chin on the knuckle of her left index finger, staring out the window to her left. "Arielle is unwilling to accept that my endeavor requires more than a handmaiden."
Silence. The sound of hooves beating against ground seemed louder than normal.
"Your father consented to your leaving?"
"My father believes I am taking a long leave to Catalia so as to better contemplate my eventual courtship. It was the cost I paid to steal one of the Kokiri from his clutches." Her voice was toneless, but her eyes flickered once to Geoffrey.
"The other girl?"
Zelda leaned back in her seat. "The girl's name is Saria."
"Is there a connection?"
"Too early to determine. The name is more likely an heirloom the Kokiri have been passing down. She bears none of the traits the original Saria possessed. It is quite likely that she is nothing more than an analog."
Zelda grinned. "But in an age where the King of Darkness reigns, we do not have the luxury of proof. For the moment, I will assume she bears some connection to the Guardian of the Kokiri. If so, we have gained the advantage."
Geoffrey nodded—a slight nod, listening only with the ends of his thoughts. He brought his hands together across his waist and leaned forward, though there was little room for such things. "Princess, about this—I parted with my father after we left. I remained in Hylium with the intention of meeting you. I did send word ahead in order to begin clearing the dig site, but I couldn't do so without allowing my father a hint of what may lay inside."
Zelda twisted her gaze, staring back out the window. "He is under the same impression as my father."
"And what of the site itself?"
It was Geoffrey's turn to smile. "He believes a tour of the ruins is part of my elaborate attempt to court you. He finds the idea of sealing off the temple until your arrival… romantic."
Zelda too smiled. For a moment, they shared a quiet laugh.
A moment later, she said, "Have your incompetents uncovered anything more in their observation of the outer layer?"
The smile lingered. "Little more than before. Based on the decay and the architecture, they believe it predates the Third Era."
"Anything more specific?"
A shake of the head. "No, princess. There is little else they can surmise from the outside—and you wished the site left alone until your arrival."
"I did." Pause. "How deep did you excavate?"
"Several hundred feet."
"And there were no other remnants nearby?"
Zelda pondered. Outside the coach, the call of several crows circling above.
"Do you know something?" said Geoffrey.
"Perhaps, but the possibilities remain great. My conclusions will wait until I've viewed the site itself."
Geoffrey nodded, but did not continue the subject. Shifting his legs and staring at the ceiling of the, he said, "My father will expect a formal greeting prior to our entering the temple."
"Then he will have one."
Geoffrey fiddled with his hands.
"I will play along, Geoffrey; do not worry."
Relaxation. Lord Geoffrey leaned back and sighed.
* * *
It was a long journey.
The sharp contrast of Hylian and Catalian landscapes was separated by only one constant: the Zoran River. Neither land shared a similarity. On one side, the barren landscape. Lifeless and gray, bringing joy only in the form of rain, which is allowed only to cool those captured in its heat.
On the opposite side: Catalia. From any single point in Catalia, great tracts of land were visible. Endless prairies encompassed the entire landscape, broken up only by the occasional tree. Flowers of all sorts blossomed, despite the Hylian season shifting into autumn. Even the temperature in Catalia was mild, despite its proximity to Hylium.
Lord Geoffrey's entourage crossed the Catalian border after three days spent in Hylium. Some four days later, they arrived at the estate of Duke Pathos, one of three nobles who swore fealty to Ganondorf. Its resemblance to the Grand Keep of Hylium was only passing. It lacked such size and dominance. It consisted of only a single compound, four stories in height. The castle itself was circular. A double door ten feet in height allowed entrance, where commoners moved in and out without reprimand from the guard. From the outside, it did not seem to possess the necessary defenses to withstand siege.
The market fell silent at the return of Lord Geoffrey's caravan. Peddlers of wares watched as the young lord exited his coach, then turned to offer his hand to a young woman who stepped out a moment later. She accepted, but her steps were powerful and lively. Her skin was a dark brown; her hair was a dark red. Exotic.
Geoffrey moved to the castle without a thought for the servants, who had yet to begin unloading the luggage added by Zelda.
As Arielle shifted the many cases to the ground, struggling at times to find a grip on their leathery surfaces, she looked to Zelda.
Zelda did not look back.
Six guards emerged through the castle's double doors, all more heavily armed than the casual military men patrolling the estate proper. Behind them, an older man dressed in formal wear dabbed his forehead with an embroidered handkerchief.
Geoffrey fell to one knee and lowered his gaze. "Father," he said, relief evident in his voice.
The soldiers parted, allowing Duke Pathos through. He seemed older, the wrinkles on his face more evident. His movements lacked energy. With a weary smile on his face, Duke Pathos placed by hands on his son's shoulders and said, "Welcome back, Geoffrey."
Formalities past, Lord Geoffrey stood and embraced his father, who returned the gesture.
Several moments later, Duke Pathos remembered himself. He broke away from his son, falling to one knee before Zelda. "F-Forgive me, Your Highness. I meant no disrespect."
"And I perceived none."
Duke Pathos nodded, though the words of the princess seemed to go unacknowledged. Following many seconds of silence, he said, "It is an honor to host you in my house, Your Highness."
Zelda made a small display of observing the estate and inhabitants, moving her head about as though meaning to observe the merchants. "I must admit, I have only ever traveled to Catalia twice—once as an infant and once at the age of twelve."
Comfort eased Duke Pathos' sweating brow. "I hope you will find your stay enjoyable. My home cannot compare to Your Highness's domain of Hylium, but I beg you allow it a chance to surprise you."
Zelda crossed her arms. "We will see."
Duke Pathos rose. "It would honor me if you were to join my son and me for a meal. Your journey has no doubt been long."
Out of the corner of Zelda's eye, Geoffrey shifted.
"Of course," she said, though her tone revealed nothing.
Duke Pathos bowed, rose, and beckoned to his son, who moved to walk alongside his father. Zelda followed. They passed through double doors opened for them by two guards waiting inside the manor. The entryway was plain. A limestone archway passed over their heads. The walls were a dark gray. Portraits of lined the walls, all bearing physical similarity to Duke Pathos and his son.
"I apologize for my words to your father," Duke Pathos said as he guided them through the manor's halls. Their construction was simple, nowhere as elaborate as the inner workings of Hylium's Grand Keep. "I forgot my place."
"My father is unreasonable. It is not a trait we share."
"I… wish only the best for the people of Catalia."
"My father does not."
Duke Pathos said nothing more. In silence, they found the dining room, where an intricately carved a table meant for many more than three stretched across the room, silver dinnerware already placed in preparation for multiple courses. Servants seated each of them; Zelda on one side of the table, Lord Geoffrey and his father on the other.
Geoffrey's eyes found Zelda's for a moment before they sat down.
She said nothing.
Moments later, they were served. A dozen servants carrying large silver platters entered from an inconspicuous door to the side. When opened, the sound of a kindling flame and the suppressed demands of a chef eked out. In the lead was a younger girl, who brought thin stemmed glasses to each of those dining. She then took from another servant a dusted vintage of wine and poured a small amount in each before bowing, uttering, "Your Highness," to Zelda, and retreating from the room.
Each servant repeated the process in turn, each with a different dish. At last, a meal was gathered before them. A roast pig, skinned, gutted and cooked through, surrounded by an assortment of steamed vegetables. Loaves of fresh wheat bread and a grand variety of cheeses. Soups and Nothing as elaborate as the meals hosted by Ganondorf.
Zelda lifted the knife from the right side of her plate and peeled away a layer flesh from the roast pig and moved it to her plate, ignoring the other foods offered. Lord Geoffrey chose an assortment. Duke Pathos moved foods to his plate, but did not eat. Instead, he placed his elbows on the table, rested his chin on both hands, and leaned forward in his high-backed seat wooden seat.
"I… understand that you have come to see this temple my workers have discovered, Your Highness," said Duke Pathos.
Zelda sipped a portion of her wine. "I am."
"…Geoffrey was adamant that excavations be halted until you had been given a chance to examine the site."
"That was my request."
She sipped her wine.
"I am the only one who possesses enough familiarity with the previous Eras to identify this 'temple'. If it is a relic from our past, then I will gleam whatever secrets it may hold, and protect them from the careless hands of the ignorant."
Duke Pathos picked up his glass and stared at its contents. "…Your Highness, I was—"
"I am also—" Zelda smirked. "—here to consider your son."
At this, Geoffrey paused, the barbs of his fork half driven into a section of cubed potato.
Duke Pathos continued to stare at his glass. He seemed older that moment—the gray in his beard more defined, his paunch more evident. "He is strong," he said, weakness in his voice. "I am not… as strong as I once was." Duke Pathos replaced his glass on the table and stood. "Forgive me, Your Highness. I must take… my leave. If you desire, one of the servants can show you to the quarters set aside for you."
With that, he left through the door he had entered.
Geoffrey ceased all interaction with his food, leaned back in his chair, and sighed. "Will—do you wish to see your quarters?"
Another great peice of work. Since I am having trouble finding things to improve I will say what I like instead.
I really like the character you have put Zelda in. It keeps me guessing, and I like that. Ganondorf is a dark character, just like he shoud be. The other lords obviously fear him.
But what is in those ruins they have discovered? And what exactly is going on with Link? It is a deep and mysterious story, almost dark but not quite. A magnificent peice of creative writing. Keep up the very good work Pinkie Pie.
The dig site foreman was a Goron—a swollen, boulder-like people indigenous to areas of the world uninhabitable by most. With skin as tough as granite and as tan as sandstone, they towered a time and a half over the other races of the world. Across the chest, the stone took on the form of more humanoid muscle, providing the build of a titan. This particular Goron was older, his skin cracked with age, and overseeing the final preparations for inspection.
When Lord Geoffrey and Princess Zelda arrived, it was the foreman who greeted them. Though he mustered a bow as they exited their coach, the slight impact it had on his height was unnoticeable.
“Foreman Korn,” Geoffrey said, gesturing to the Goron. “The tribe to the north was kind enough to lend him to me for a short period of time.”
Zelda nodded. She by two; a young Human woman with an air of defiance about her, and a pale Kokiri girl whose head never moved above the feet of the others present.
“We’ve prepared your entrance, Lord Geoffrey—Goro.” The final word seemed compulsive.
“Thank you, Korn.” Geoffrey stepped aside. “This is Her Highness, Princess Zelda. She is the only living expert on the old world. I’ve requested that she inspect the temple.”
The Goron bowed again, an act that shifted his entire body.
Zelda was silent, so Geoffrey beckoned onward. They traversed scaffolding that groaned beneath the immense weight of the Goron, descending lower into a crude ovular pit. Several layers of rocks could be observed as they went. At ground level, some four hundred feet down, a motley gathering of workers worked to reinforce walls and chip away at stone, some human, others of the same species as the foreman—Goron. They seemed at ease in the long shadow cast by the setting sun.
Korn clapped his hands together, a slight gesture that sent a thunderclap of noise throughout the dig site.
All were silent and attentive, turning their gazes to the foreman, then to Princess Zelda.
“This is Her Highness,” Korn said. “She’s beyond my authority here—Goro. She’s here to examine the temple. Her word is law—Goro.”
There was no formal acknowledgement, but the air of the words changed.
Zelda held her hands together behind her back and moved through the site. Large fragments of stone were cut away to serve as tables and stools. Half a dozen cots were set up to treat those wounded by cave-ins. One man writhed in agony, suffering through the aftermath of an amputated arm.
Korn took the lead again, followed by Geoffrey, and led the way to a smaller tunnel sealed off by a makeshift door cut away from a larger piece of steel. Even sealed against the rockface as it was, the Goron pulled it away without effort, bending the metal in half and slumped it against the ground. The way inside was completely black, defying even the minimal lighting provided by the setting sun.
Zelda’s expression was unchanged. “Saria,” she said.
The girl with the green hair lifted her gaze.
“You will lead. I need your abilities.”
A twisted glance from Arielle.
Saria hesitated. She pressed her hand against the wall, peered inside, and entered. For a moment, she was lost to the world. Then a flame appeared in the darkness, hovering before Saria.
Zelda approved, though she did not exhibit it. She followed, stepping into the glow of Saria’s flame. Geoffrey followed. It was a silent procession. Neither Korn nor the rest of the workers uttered a word as nobility and royalty alike disappeared into the darkness of the underground.
The path within suffered only a minor descent, but outside light seemed to vanish after only ten feet of travel.
“A Goron,” Zelda said, at last striking up an exchange.
Geoffrey shrugged. “Part of a trade agreement. They grant my family two dozen Goron workers in exchange for a twenty percent share of refined mineral production.”
Zelda nodded. Ahead of her, the girl with the green hair was silent. Out of the sun, Zelda noticed a depression in the girl’s shoulders and a wilting of her hair. Even her movements slowed, though the decrease was hardly noticeable.
The inner layer of the tunnel was wet—a sharp contrast to the dryer stone of the exterior. With each breath, Zelda felt she inhaled water. In between footsteps, the occasional drop of liquid running down the cave walls was the only noise to disrupt their thoughts. Many minutes passed before anything more occurred.
The tunnel eventually expanded, growing in size till it was massive enough to allow for the height of Hylium’s Grand Keep. The flame light offered by Saria’s magic did not stretch far enough to illuminate the cave’s chamber, but it revealed the beginnings of a poignant silhouette, one that stretched through the ceiling covering the cave—a building.
Zelda stepped forward, treading across muddied ground. “Expand the flame.”
Saria did so, though the resulting flame flickered, less stable its smaller self.
The expanded flame granted an expanded view. Ruined stonework, shattered clay flowerpots. Before them, a crumbling staircase giving into to the callings of age.
Zelda moved forward, passing Saria. The girl was quick to follow.
They reached a wall—a door. It was small, unassuming, unbefitting of anything notable. Above, a roof adorned by three pointed spires, two smaller to each side, the tallest in the center.
Zelda ran a hand across the material of the door. A small layer of grime coated her fingers. “Material predating the Third Era,” she said. “The stonework lacks the refinement seen after the Age of Imperialism.”
The others were silent.
Zelda’s hand moved to the knob, a large piece of brass that had survived time itself. When she pulled, the entire door unhinged, tumbling inward. Securing herself on the archaic doorframe, Zelda stepped over the decrepit entryway and into darkness. Saria’s light came soon after, illuminating the floor before Zelda completed the first step.
Something soft crumbled beneath her feet. Carpet--red. Even in the orange light of fire, Zelda recognized the color. Red carpet leading down a central aisle, frayed and torn, its edges eaten away by whatever creatures thrived in darkness. On either side, pews lined up as though for worship. Half were missing, the other half rotten with age.
“Amazing,” breathed Geoffrey, though it was the only description he offered.
Zelda looked to the girl with the green hair, who maintained her flame a safe distance from the others, her eyes lost in thought.
“Do you recognize anything, Saria?”
A halfhearted shake of the head.
Zelda said nothing else and continued onward. Ahead: a stone alter angled to face whatever crowd might once have assembled. A brush of Zelda’s hand revealed the inscriptions beneath to be intact, albeit it weathered. The words were Ancient Hylian. “Can you read it, Arielle?”
The younger woman stood next to Zelda and leaned down for a closer look at the inscription. “‘Ye who owns three Spiritual Stones / Stand with the Ocarina of Time / And play the Song of Time’,” Arielle said.
Zelda smiled. “Do you recognize the words, Geoffrey?”
The younger man seemed surprised at the question. “Only from what you’ve told me.”
“And what did I tell you?”
A moment’s realization, then Geoffrey fell into awe. “The Temple of Time,” he said, unable to keep the astonishment out of his voice. “Spiritual Stones, an Ocarina—the tools used by—”
“The Hero of Time, yes; in the time that never was.”
She looked for further inscriptions, but there were none to be found. The three stones mentioned by the altar were also absent. The edges of Zelda’s mouth tightened, but she said nothing, choosing instead to move forward. Not many steps along, she came across a barrier: a massive pair of stone double doors, across which was carved the symbol of Hylium: the Mark of the Three elevated from beneath by a rising thunderbird.
“The Temple of Time,” Zelda said, as though she herself could not believe it. She crossed her arms and stared at the door.
Soft steps. Geoffrey approached her in the darkness. “You knew it was the Temple of Time all along.”
“I did. Through my own findings, I uncovered five of the other seven temples of the First Era. The sixth no longer exists. As such, this was the only conclusion.” She tilted her head to the side. “This door is in my way. Your foreman was responsible for breaking through the blockages leading to the temple?”
“…I believe so.”
“I have need of him.”
* * *
Korn was led down by Geoffrey, the Goron’s expression changing little as he was guided up the crumbling steps and into the Temple of Time. His massive form struggled to stay low enough to navigate the tunnels, erected without much thought of accommodating a Goron. When he was led into the temple proper, he said only, “Yes—Goro,” when he was told of Zelda’s dilemma and presented with the great stone door blocking her way.
In the light of Saria’s flame, Korn made a brief show of cracking the stone of his knuckles before slamming his left hand into the door.
The temple quaked.
He punched with his right.
Two large craters appeared in the door, spider web cracks stretching from each. Korn repeated the blows, alternating his left and right hands. Each impact, the temple shook and the cracks grew, stretching until they encompassed the lower half of the great stone barrier
The final blow rocked the ground beneath his feet and tore the door down. It collapsed inward, stone fragments falling into the next room. The upper half of the stone remained intact, shattered along the middle.
Zelda clapped once. “Thank you, Korn. Your services are no longer required.”
The Goron turned to face her, bowed, and departed, saying not a word.
The room before Zelda’s party seemed impervious to the fire provided by Saria. No matter the size of the flame, the light never stretched into the next room.
“Geoffrey,” Zelda said. “Your sword.”
Geoffrey reached for the long sword sheathed against his waist, but hesitated.
“I am more capable of handling myself than you.” She reached out her hand. “Give me your sword.”
Geoffrey hesitated again, but relented.
The others were silent, moving back into the darkness.
Zelda with a slight twist of the hand gestured for Saria to enter through the hole left by Korn. She did, a flame burning perpetually before her. Despite the light, the chamber they entered remained black, refusing to be illuminated. Saria increased the intensity of the flame, but it was for naught. The flame granted light only to a small perimeter around the two.
Several steps in, all sight of their entryway faded.
The floor was marble-like in its sheen.
A section of the stone further into the chamber jutted upward, creating a small rise. Seated upon it was a rectangular pedestal, smaller at top than it was at bottom. On top, a slit where a blade might once have been inserted.
Zelda knelt before it. “Saria,” she said.
The girl adjusted her flame, allowing for Zelda to peer into the pedestal.
Inside and near the bottom, a pressure panel in the pedestal that would compress if ever a long-blade was inserted. Zelda drew Geoffrey’s sword forth and slid it into the pedestal, an imperfect fit that nonetheless put it in contact with the switch. A soft click.
She tautened, listening for even the slightest change.
Saria’s flame vanished.
Zelda twisted her gaze around. She no longer felt the girl’s presence.
“You violate this place.” The words were uttered without tone and without gender. They came from all around.
Even in darkness, Zelda smiled. She cracked her neck and twisted her arms. “A guardian, I suppose? What are you? One of the Dark Link constructs? Sheikah? It’s been some time since I experienced a challenge.”
The intruder did not respond to the goad.
“How many of the Ancient Sages remain? That is why you’re here, isn’t it? To guard the dogs that fled, tails between their legs?”
An unexpected blow against Zelda’s cheek. Closed fist. Had she not turned her head at the last minute, it would have fractured her jaw. But the attacker disappeared the moment it was cast, leaving Zelda again in total darkness.
“Sheikah,” Zelda said. “And I’ve suppose you’ve taken the others? That was very good.”
A rapid series of blows from the darkness, aimed at Zelda’s midsection. She twisted and countered, grabbing hold of the attacker’s arm while sending her opposite hand into the figure’s stomach. Contact, but the attacker retreated, vanishing from Zelda’s grasp as quickly as they had arrived.
The make of the intruder’s clothing was skintight, but thick. The size of the arm and the shape of the hand suggested female.
Three blows from the intruder.
Three parries from Zelda. She twisted, wrapping the attacker’s arm around her shoulder and flipped them against the ground. The attacker fell, but not before recovering. They planted their feet against the ground and propelled themselves upward, back into the darkness.
Zelda widened her stance, lifted her hands into ready position, and smirked. “A Sheikah then. I’ve never fought one of your kind before.”
The attacker moved from behind Zelda, their movements no louder than the wing beat of a moth—but they were loud enough. Zelda allowed the fist to move between her chest and her arm before grabbing it. In a single movement, she wrenched. A crack followed. Dislocation.
The attacker uttered no word of pain, but slipped again into the darkness.
A brief disturbance among the shadows. The next attack was clumsy. The intruder suppressed pain, but could not eliminate it. A rapid series of blows, each of which Zelda deflected. She reached out, wrapping a hand around the attacker’s neck. It was flesh, trained and empowered over time, but flesh nonetheless. In her grasp, a cripple.
But then a searing pain arose in her arm, pain enough that Zelda was forced to release.
The shadow disappeared again.
Zelda retracted her hand, finding half a dozen blades as narrow as needles driven into her forearm. She drew them out all at once. Blood flowed freely from the wounds, darkening the fabric of her jerkin. It was with a wistful smile that she shifted them between the knuckles of her opposite hand.
A booming voice that echoed throughout the chamber: “Enough.”
The area came alight, but it was not the stone chamber of the Temple of Time. Instead, Zelda found herself on a large circular platform suspended in darkness, its surface alight with the blue glow of perpetually flowing water.
Before her, a man garbed in long tan robes. He was hunched over, his skin wrinkled and aged, the few white hairs remaining on his crown barely clinging to his head. No matter the way he looked at Zelda, his eyes seemed distant.
“Enough,” he said again, his voice no longer powerful. It was the voice of a man, shriveled and weak. “Why have you come?”
Again, Zelda smiled. “You will return the others to me. Then we will speak.”
“Sheik,” he said at last.
At last illuminated, the woman addressed as Sheik was of a slender frame. A skintight blue garb clung to most of her body; itself covered a pale gray cloth hanging over the woman’s chest and back. On it was a large red eye. Though her form was feminine, her chest was clearly flattened by some artificial means. From the base of her neck to the mid of her nose, her face was covered by a white cloth. Bright blonde hair settled against tanned skin.
“I asked for the others.”
“This place is not for them.”
The woman—Sheik—vanished in a puff of smoke, reappearing several moments later with Saria held in one hand. Against her chest, she nursed the broken arm, but showed no signs of pain.
“Sheik,” Zelda said, as though testing out the name. “You name yourself with a fragment of your species?”
“Sheik is the last of her people,” said the old man. “The name is her birthright.” He walked a circle around Zelda, his hands brought together across his waist. He stepped above the perpetually flowing water of the stone platform, rather than through it.
Zelda lifted her chin. On her face, a hint of a smile. Her eyes followed the old man’s movements.
“Why have you violated this place?”
“I think a better question is why you did.”
“Sage Rauru Oranna, born in the year one-hundred-and-seventy of the First Era. Founder and overseer of the Temple of Time—and the original Sage of Light. Confidant to four generations of the Harkinnian royal bloodline and personal friend of both Princess Zelda Harkinnian VII and Link Second, later performing the Hero’s wedding ceremony. Died at the age of three-hundred-and-forty-two, the second longest Hylian lifespan in recorded history.”
Zelda slipped her hands behind her back.
At her knowledge, the old man displayed only the barest twinges of shock.
“I saw to it that every document concerning you was burned and every story of your existence quelled—but not before I memorized each. It was only a matter of time before we met face to face.” She smiled. “Or rather, flesh to ethereal matter.”
The wrinkled flesh around Rauru’s eyes tightened as he stopped in front of Zelda and narrowed his gaze.
“And you know who I am.” Zelda lifted her chin. “I would be disappointed if you did not.”
“Zelda Dragmire, spawn of King of Darkness.”
A stiff chuckle. “Archaic. Yes, I am of his seed. Everything that is my father was inherited by me—but I am still Zelda.”
“You are not the Princess of Destiny.”
“There is no longer a ‘Princess of Destiny’, just as there is no longer a Hero of Time. Only my father possesses a fragment of the golden power—the other two are lost.” Zelda shifted her stance. “I am the last remaining link to the original Hero. The Master Sword will accept me and it will strike down the King of Darkness.”
“The blade is not here.”
“Was the Sage of Light always a terrible liar?”
Sheik released Saria, who fell the ground unconscious, and began to step forward. Rauru held up a hand to warn her off. “The sacred blade is not yours.”
“Then I will tear down your temple.”
There was no verbal response from Rauru, but his hands began to twitch.
“If you know me, Sage of Light, then you know that I have accomplished far worse. You are a ghost and a lapdog. The world knows nothing of you and would know nothing of your passing.”
“No matter your power, the sword is not yours to take. Only the Link is capable of drawing it.”
Zelda’s smirk grew. She turned and moved towards the unconscious Saria, laid at the Sheikah’s feet. “We will see.”
“Your father placed his own guardian in the sword chamber.”
Zelda paused. “What sort of guardian?”
Rauru cocked his head to the side and lifted his arms as though to demonstrate a point. “A monster from the Second Era. Even defeated by the Hero, it did not die.”
“Then I have something to kill.”
“It will rip you apart.”
“The same way your Sheikah did.” Zelda adjusted her grip on Saria. “When the girl awakes, place her, myself, and Arielle in the sword chamber. We will see how strong this ‘guardian’ is.”
I think you should have put the word 'like' into this sentence.
Originally Posted by Pinkie Pie
The expanded flame granted an expanded view.
Maybe another word should have been here the second time instead of expanded. Also you use Zelda's name alot. This in itself is not a bad thing but try and vary it a little with a few other descriptions of her like 'young woman' or something like that.
Other than those few things a great peice of work.