February 8, 2019
Hyrule Castle, 2 years in the past…
Zelda sat in the Royal Courtyard playing the Ocarina of Time. She played Zelda’s Lullaby mostly with some variations. Playing the Ocarina was one of her most relaxing pastimes, and as always Impa wasn’t far watching over her from the entrance of the courtyard.
Once Zelda was done playing the instrument she carefully placed the Ocarina on a small safe box with golden exterior and motioned for Impa to join her.
“Come Impa. Sit with me. It is a beautiful afternoon isn’t it?” Zelda asked Impa as her care taker sat on the white marble bench with her.
“It is a warm afternoon your highness and a very beautiful one indeed.” Impa replied.
“Impa…there is something I want to let off my chest. But my father was never a good listener. And so, I turn to you!” Zelda said with a wide grin on her face.
Impa returned her smile with one of her own and nodded.
“I am all ears.”
“I have been thinking, well more like I can’t stop thinking about what Link said that day. Before he left.”
“You mean before you sent him away?”
Zelda smiled, she had told Impa about how they parted ways at Arbiter’s Grounds and Impa was right. The only reason Link had left was because she dismissed him.
“Yes…well he said that when he first met me here in this very same courtyard, something jumped in a scare within him.” Zelda paused as if waiting for a reply, but none came so she continued, “I can’t quite explain it, but it is similar to how I felt…how I feel when I look into his eyes.”
“Mutual love at first sight?” Impa added raising a brow.
Zelda took a deep breath and shook her head,
“No it is much more than that…deeper, a yearning. As if there was always something missing, something deep within me, and I didn’t know about it until I met him.” She finalized.
A sudden expression of grief overtook Impa’s crimson eyes. Impa’s reaction didn’t escape Zelda’s curiosity.
“Impa? Is there something wrong?”
“No. I just thought I remembered something.” Impa replied shaking her head, “You still have much to learn Princess about history and duties.”
“Yes I know. Duty above all else. You and my father have taught me well.” Zelda nodded.
“Perhaps too well my Princess and that perhaps was a mistake.” Impa replied prompting Zelda to frown in confusion.
“How it is a mistake to remain true to my duties?” Zelda asked with a hint of displeasure in her voice.
Impa closed her red eyes as if to search for the right words to say,
“When duty gets in the way of doing what is right child.” As she said the words she placed a reassuring hand on Zelda’s shoulder.
“So you think I erred when I sent him away?”
“Time will tell it always does. I do think every word the boy said about what he did in the future was true. Including his resentment at being sent back. It is something that you would do or would have done in the name of duty.” Impa said.
“Yes. It was not fair for him to lose his childhood and for you and my father to die. My duty would have been to restore the kingdom to the way it was before Ganondorf entered the Sacred Realm. So I did the right thing…in the future.” Zelda countered.
“Perhaps. But Ganondorf still holds the Triforce of Power which means the Sacred Realm remains corrupted which leaves the Kingdom in peril.”
“No one has ever escaped the Twilight Realm.” Zelda interrupted. Impa gave her a look as if to say that she wasn’t done before continuing.
“Sending Link back nullified his effort…his sacrifice in defeating Ganondorf. Because your future self remained in the future, you have no recollection or idea of what that poor forest boy went through. He remembers it though, probably daily, and with his Fairy gone he has no one to share and talk to about his experiences because no one will believe or understand him.” Impa explained with a Stern expression.
Zelda didn’t take Impa’s words well. They felt like a reprimand for something she technically didn’t do.
“I must remind you that I didn’t send him back, and that I did believe his story however unfathomable it may seem to us here in this timeline.” Zelda replied.
“My point is…what you did in Arbiter’s Grounds is exactly what you or should I say she did in the future. You sent the boy away without asking him how he felt about it because you didn’t care. It was your duty. Whether it was right or wrong, I am trying to make you see that.” Impa continued pressing the issue but those last few words struck a chord in Zelda.
‘I didn’t care? Is that what she thinks? Is it what he thinks?’ Self doubt began to creep in and ask difficult questions inside her head. She wasn’t heartless. When she dismissed Link that day at Arbiter’s Grounds, she had killed a part of herself in order to do what she felt was right and what was dutiful.
“Like my father, you are the most dutiful person I have ever met. But after all of these years you are trying to convince me that duty does not come first and foremost? Someday I will be Queen. My duty is to protect the people of the land.”
“Does your father look like a happy man? Do you think I am a happy woman?” Impa asked. There was no mocking tone in her voice. It was a serious question which in turn surprised Zelda.
“I, well, you are not happy with me Impa?” Zelda felt like she was about to cry over the sudden revelation that Impa, her best friend and care taker, wasn’t happy with her duty.
“I didn’t mean it like that. You are the daughter that I will never have. It however doesn’t change the fact that I will never have a daughter. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have my own. Your father spends more time in the throne room than he does with his precious daughter. He loves you, but duty has always come first.” Impa replied.
“Well that’s why he is a great King. My father always does what is best for the Kingdom.”
Upon hearing that last statement, Impa rose to her feet, smiled, and looked around the courtyard to make sure no one would over hear what she said next,
“My duty is to raise you to be smart, independent, and wise. As such some truths must be told. Starting with the fact that your father is not a great King.” Impa paused for a moment as Zelda gasped in disbelief, “He unified the country in the civil war but at what price. He started a war over land using the pretext that he was defending the Sacred Realm. Well…while his energy was focused on that war, he completely ignored the Evil Gerudo King on the rise despite constant warnings from his daughter. This led to his death, the deaths of thousands, and the corruption of the Sacred Realm with the Triforce of Power ultimately falling into the worst possible hands.” Impa paused as Zelda clutched her chest.
“This…” Zelda barely whispered.
“A forest boy had to travel in time to fix his mistakes. The boy couldn’t fix the fact that the Triforce was split into 3 pieces and that Ganondorf still lives. All of these terrible events happened during your father’s tenure as king. You can either accept this and learn, or deny it and remain oblivious to how the world works your highness.” Impa finalized.
“This is treason Impa…”
“Under the law it is…and it is your duty to report me to your Father.” Impa said extending her hands in a gesture of surrender.
“They will hang you …and I love you too much to cause you any harm.” Zelda sincerely answered shaking her head with a sigh.
“I am glad. You are wiser than your father. You did the right thing…over the dutiful thing.” Impa replied with an expression of pride on her face. “I broke the law speaking ill of the King. I deserve a trial, and yet you know in your heart that I will never harm him. So you chose to say nothing and spare me. You did what was right.”
Zelda nodded. She had learned a valuable lesson. Still it had been easy to tell right from wrong in that instance. The issue with Link was much more complicated.
“I still don’t know however whether it was right or wrong to dismiss Link.” Zelda said. She wasn’t asking Impa anymore. It was a question she would have to solve for herself.
“First ask yourself this…Why did you sent him away?” Impa advised.
“Well…Link is a free spirit. He doesn’t have a place in the court. The only reason he would stay here in the Castle would be to be near me but to what end? What would be the point?” Zelda explained. She clutched her chest before resuming, “I have been selfish, I am in love with him but we can never be together, so he is a distraction from my duties. If I had kept him around I would have grown more fond of him…enough to falter someday. I was bound to break his heart one day, better now than later.” Zelda finalized wiping a tear from her cheek before forcing a smile at Impa.
Impa embraced her. Impa’s silver hair, crimson eyes, and strong muscular frame bellied her softer side. She was 50 winters old, young for a pure blooded Sheikah, but half a century of life made her wise beyond her youthful appearance.
“Perhaps it was the right decision then.” Impa nodded. “The most important thing is that you also feel the same way. That it was the right thing to do.” Impa finalized.
Zelda stood still for a moment looking into the small artificial creek that surrounded the inner courtyard. ‘We can never be together’ Zelda had long accepted her sad fate. She would marry a Prince or an important Lord. Her marriage would be one that would strengthen the kingdom. Only if she was lucky would she find happiness in such an arrangement. Link was an orphan raised by a Tree. Lordship and more so Royalty was beyond him. Her father and the court would never consent to such a useless marriage.
Perhaps in the future where the world had been destroyed, where she ruled alone, where Link was the Hero of Time. Perhaps there they could have been together. Perhaps ‘You shouldn’t have sent him back’ Zelda lamented not only for herself but for that ‘other’ her from the future.
Hyrule’s Forest, Present…
“Link! Wake up! Link! Link! Link! C’mon! Link!!” Link slowly opened his eyes at the sound of the Fairy’s voice. His vision remained dark, but he had to squint hard as the Fairy’s brightness was too much for his newly opened pupils.
“Navi?” Link blurted out shivering, the bone piercing cold returning to remind him of his current whereabouts.
“That Moblin hit you harder than I feared. It’s me, Aryl! And you are Link…though I guess you know that.” Aryl kept flying frenetically in front of his face before stopping above his snow covered body. “I thought you died on me at first! You were out for a long time and bleeding everywhere…it is still dark though and snowing as hard as ever!”
Link did his best to nod as he rolled from his side onto his back. It hurt to breathe. His ribs were probably broken he figured. His face was numb and he was covered in blood, his and the Moblin’s.
“How bad does it look?” Link asked. His left eye was closed shut and the cheekbone below it felt massively swollen and broken. He figured he wasn’t a pretty sight at the moment.
“The truth?” Aryl questioned.
“Bad. I have never seen a Hylian that bloody and messed up since-” Aryl stopped short of finishing her thought. Link could see that whatever she was about to say after ‘since’ she wasn’t supposed to say. Aryl quickly retook her sentence as if to avoid suspicions, “Since …Never! I have never seen anyone as badly hurt as you.”
Link didn’t make much of Aryl’s near slip of her tongue. He had more pressing matters at that moment. Standing up from the bloody frozen ground being the first and foremost. He stood up grunting and cursing under his breath at the Triforce of Courage’s uselessness in comparison to Ganondorf’s piece of it.
He had seen Ganondorf heal in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds, from devastating mortal wounds. The Triforce of Power granted the evil Gerudo immortality. Link however remained bloody and broken. But such was his luck.
Beside him laid the dead ‘Smartest of Moblins’ with Link’s Goron crafted blade still impaled on his ugly head. The sword had gone through the underside of his jaw and had run all the way through and out of the top of the head.
Link put his right foot on the Moblin’s face, bending at the waist to grab the blade’s hilt and with a grunt of pain managed to pull the sword out.
The blade was too filthy, covered in blood and brains, to sheathe back on its scabbard, so Link ripped a pelt out of the body of another dead Moblin to wipe the filth from his blade.
“Given the severity of your wounds, I strongly suggest that we start marching down towards Lost Woods… like now.” Aryl said with a sense of urgency in her tiny voice.
“We will, but I have to clean this thing before putting it back in the scabbard. The stench of rotten blood isn’t a good one.” Link answered as he cleaned his sword before finally placing it back on its scabbard.
Link took a deep breath or at least tried to before breaking into a coughing fit, clutching his right rib cage in clear agony.
“My ribs are broken Aryl. I need to find a Fairy Fountain. A Great Fairy would be preferable, but I’d settle for anything right now.” Link said worried about the long distance between themselves and the closest known fountain in Lost Woods.
“Hide under my shield. We don’t want to make ourselves visible on the way back. I can’t fight anyone in this condition.” Link said before closing his one good eye and sighing, “By the way, where the hell is my shield?”
“Up the hill. Luckily enough it is actually right next to your bow. That Moblin really did a number on you!” Aryl replied.
Link slowly made his way up the hill. As he walked back to the place where the Moblin had first attacked him, he realized that it had been almost miraculous that he didn’t break an arm or a leg on his previous downhill tumble. The hill was steep and had plenty of rocky surfaces in which to break bones.
Once at the top he gathered his equipment, Aryl hid behind his shield, and he took his first step southwest towards Lost Woods.
“We need to go to the Fairy fountain in Lost Woods, or it will take months before I can ever walk or breathe right ever again.” Link said as he marched in the snow at a slow but steady pace.
As they walked, the falling snow beneath the gray skies began to dissipate. While Link’s one good eye could see farther in the distance, the air got colder, which made Link shiver as he clenched his teeth.
“You know Link…I will miss these walks and adventures and all.” The ever cheerful Aryl broke the silence. Link didn’t mind talking to the fairy. It helped him take his mind away from the cold if only momentarily.
“Why would you miss them? It is not like I am going to die…I hope.” Link replied still gritting his teeth.
“Retirement of course! It is about due time you ride into the sunset, you know, settle in the tree house and enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
“What fruits of my labor?….The only meaningful things that I have done that have stood the test of time have been these Moblin killing runs. King Dodongo…everything else exists only in my memories.” Link sighed, “Besides I am only 15….”
“And already lost your touch.” Aryl stated shaking her tiny head.
“What do you mean?” Link questioned puzzled at her statement.
“Well look at you! Almost killed by a Moblin…a Moblin for the goddesses sake!” Aryl said in a chastising tone.
A good sized Moblin like the one Link had fought had been the death of many a Hylian Knight. In fact, Link might be the first Hylian to have survived a direct punch from such a foe. Aryl might have been spoiled by Link’s previous fighting prowess.
“I was careless…” Link mumbled lowering his head to stare at the snow in the ground which now was knee high.
“Were you? If I hadn’t saved you at the last second…oh boy…” Aryl shook her head again, “You would have been dead, surely dead, completely dead!”
“About that…” Link smiled candidly at the fairy, “Thank you. You saved my hide. Navi would have been proud…or jealous. You are a great fairy Aryl. Saria is blessed to have you.” Link meant every word.
“Right! We make a good team and because I have grown fond you I think you should quit now. The Sprout can protect the Village, you should rest even after those horrible wounds heal.” Aryl finalized, leaving Link to ponder in silence the wisdom in her words.
‘Can I really rest?’ Link thought. There was always something to do. Hyrule was a big place. The surrounding lands perhaps bigger. There were plenty of things to do but Ganondorf was gone, for the time being, and he had been dismissed from Zelda’s service. He had been tempted from time to time to join Hyrule’s Army. With his fighting abilities and mostly intact magic skill he would make a formidable foe for Hyrule’s enemies. Yet the prospect of being ordered around by men like Stonard wasn’t appealing to him. Link was no soldier. He had too much of a free spirit in him for that particular job. Perhaps he could become a Freelancer. A Bounty Hunter of sorts.
Whatever he decided could wait he figured, after all there was no guarantee that he would reach the Fairy Fountain alive. Link’s hope rekindled however as he spotted from what still was a considerable distance the first outline of trees that marked the beginning of the Lost Woods maze. Him and Aryl would get there by first light.
Hyrule’s Castle, Present…
Princess Zelda walked through Hyrule Castle’s stony halls with sleepy eyes and a frowned expression. It was barely first light and she had already been summoned by her father for an all important meeting in the council chamber.
“So…he didn’t say what this was about?” She asked her attendant Impa who shadowed her every step.
“No. He said it was an urgent security matter. I assume it might have to do with some of the strange happenings at the Western Borderlands.” Impa explained, calm and composed as ever.
At times Zelda wondered if Impa ever slept. The Sheikah woman never seemed to run out of energy or even show any traces of tiredness. Her flawless silver hair was always neatly tied into a short pony tail, and she was always impeccable in her appearance.
Once inside the chamber, Zelda quickly spotted her father sitting at the end of a long rectangular table. Once upon a time during the Civil War, generals, chieftains, and princes of every corner in Hyrule sat around the table in her father’s war council.
Naturally the council was dissolved after the war, but most meetings concerning security and political issues took place around that magnificent oak wooden table.
Both Zelda and Impa bowed, and King Hyrule gestured for them to sit.
“The General and Captain Stonard shall join us shortly.” The King said.
Both Zelda and Impa nodded in acknowledgement.
“And so Book Master Ravinus says your studies are going well.” The King exclaimed directing his gaze at Zelda.
“They are father.” Zelda replied.
“Excellent. Any progress on Ganondorf and the Triforce’s debacle?” The king asked with genuine interest.
“My trips to speak to the sages at Arbiter’s Grounds have been productive in producing a new theory…since you will not accept my original one.” Zelda replied with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
The King had never accepted Link’s time traveling stories. Quite bluntly, Link’s account of anything had never been believed. In order for the king to capture Ganondorf, Impa had to stage a show in which she brought evidence from imaginary “informants” that Ganondorf was plotting a rebellion. Had Impa not taken Link’s and Zelda’s quest into her own hands, Hyrule would have long been under Ganondorf’s occupation.
The original theory held water. Ganondorf succeeded in entering the Sacred Realm in a different timeline. The corruption of the Sacred Realm which is unbound by time would have an effect on every timeline in existence. So this was how Zelda believed Ganondorf came to have the Triforce of Power in their timeline, but since her father wouldn’t accept such a preposterous explanation, she had to find another theory that reasonably explained Ganondorf’s acquisition of Din’s power.
“And well?” The King waited for Zelda’s newest theory.
“A divine prank.” It had been the phrase used by the sages, and Zelda liked it.
“Yes. For reasons unbeknownst to us mere mortals, the goddesses favored a vile creature like Ganondorf to posses the Triforce of Power. Basically, he was meant to have it.” Zelda explained.
“I find it hard to fathom that the Goddesses would favor such a man.”
“And yet he has it.”
“What about the other two pieces?” The King surprisingly remained oblivious to Zelda and Link’s fate. Zelda preferred it that way. Her father wouldn’t harm her to remove her Triforce, but Link wouldn’t get such a special treatment. Her father would hunt him to the ends of Hyrule for his piece.
“That remains an unsolved mystery father.” She politely answered.
A knock on the wooden double doors of the chamber announced the arrival of the General and his Son. Both walked into the room and respectfully bowed to the King and to Zelda before taking a seat in their respective places at the table.
The younger Stonard was a mirror albeit younger copy of his father. Broad chested, with cropped dark hair, green eyes, and manly chiseled jaw. Most women got weak at the knees at the sight of Captain Stonard. Zelda wasn’t most women. She found Stonard’s constant glances at her disturbing and she didn’t find the young captain attractive at all.
The one good thing about Young Stonard was his growing and blossoming relationship with the ‘Ranch Girl’. Malon was her name, her most dangerous rival for Link’s affection. She had never met the girl, but had seen her time and time again from the upper windows of the Castle as Malon delivered Milk with her father.
Malon was around her age, beautiful pale skin with a few well placed freckles, deep blue eyes, and a flowing head of red hair. She actually developed faster than Zelda did and was better endowed as far as she could tell.
All of the Castle Knights were, in a way, mesmerized by the Ranch girl’s beauty and contagious charm. While Zelda was moody and in truth, perpetually sad, the red haired girl seemed to live in perpetual joy and happiness, always sporting a wide warming smile. Zelda was jealous of the girl and not necessarily because of her close friendship with Link but jealous of her seemly carefree life and joyful spirit.
“Permission to speak your Majesty.” The Elder Stonard broke the silence.
“Granted.” The King replied.
“I, Cornel Stonard General of the great Army of Hyrule requested this emergency council meeting as my son, Captain Marcilus Stonard brings most disturbing news from the Hebran border.”
“Hebra? But that’s way beyond our reach.” Zelda said.
Stonard gave the King a puzzled looked, and the King shook his head annoyed,
“The Hebran Land will eventually belong to Hyrule. We have been…moving military units to the border in order to ensure a peaceful transition.” The King explained, and Zelda frowned as if about to mount a protest but held her tongue.
“Which is what brings us here your Majesty. There’s been an unexpected development.” The General said.
“There have been rumors of some resistance since your arrival at Castle Town.” The King replied, looking at the younger Stonard.
“I…I am not sure I would call it a resistance as of yet your Majesty. Mainly because we have yet to identify a culprit. We lost two patrols and an entire unit in two days banished except for one of our knights, Sir Arkuny of Castleton. He was left in pieces, more like cut up into pieces. His remains were found a mile west of the fort.” Younger Stonard reported nervously.
“What!?” The King angrily questioned.
“Your Majesty, we lost two patrols and a unit” Young Stonard couldn’t finish the sentence before an angry King of Hyrule cut him off,
“I am not deaf! I heard you the first time. If you have nothing of substance to report then what in blazes are you doing here when you should be investigating the incident.” The King replied in a threatening manner.
Young Stonard nervously looked at his father, who kept his head lowered staring at the ground.
“I…I only have 30 men left at the provisional fort. The fort cannot be left undefended. If twenty men disappeared without a trace, what odds does a smaller party have of making a successful venture into Hebran Land?” Captain Stonard was beginning to lose some of his false sense of composure.
Zelda marveled at how stronger and perhaps fiercer warriors than her own father trembled beneath him. King Ephesna Hyrule III wasn’t a great warrior even in youth. He was capable on the field but no more capable a swordsman than a regular infantry grunt. He had inherited the throne from his father, and as far as Zelda could tell, perhaps Impa was the deadliest person in the room followed by the Stonards. But being a King had it’s perks.
“Seems like a coward’s behavior for someone with such an esteemed position!” King Hyrule accused.
“I am no coward!” Captain Stonard replied agitated which prompted his father to slap him across the face in what was quickly becoming the most awkward situation Zelda had been in her young life. Even Impa’s cheeks reddened which was out of character for her usual stoic self.
“How dare you disrespect your King! Your Majesty, please forgive the foolish boy!” General Stonard implored almost falling to his knees.
“This behavior must not be repeated. I will not tolerate another outburst like that.” The King replied, apparently pleased at the young Captain’s public humiliation.
In a strange occurrence Impa decided to speak.
“The King grows restless. He is a busy man. Perhaps the important thing here is that the issue with the lost men gets solved and swiftly.” Impa injected stating the obvious.
The Stonards nodded. They wanted out of the chamber as soon as possible and the King wasn’t the sharpest mind in the room, so Impa stating the obvious was seen by all parties involved as a gift from the heavens.
“I have been a coward.” The younger Stonard lamented forcedly. “But I will rectify this if the King so kindly allows me to take 15 men to the border. The men lost were my comrades, some since childhood. I intent to find them dead or alive and punish the responsible parties Your Majesty.” Captain Stonard stated in an apologetic yet insincere tone. His eyes still carried the fire ignited by the King’s ‘coward’ remark.
“Impa. What is your counsel on this matter?” The king turned to the Sheikah attendant. If General Stonard was the Kings punishing right hand, Impa was his wisest counselor.
Zelda was used to this. It was no wonder Impa didn’t hold her father in a high esteem. Most of the time The King did as he pleased which often resulted in bad outcomes, but when he did consort with Impa, things ran smoother than they would have otherwise.
“He should take five men.” Impa said pausing as if to wait for an objection that never came though the Younger Stonard did look distressed at the suggestion, “However, five of our best men as it doesn’t seem to me that you are dealing here with a conventional foe.”
“The Special Corps…” The Young Captain said with renewed hope.
“Yes. However, due to your inexperience Captain Stonard, and the strange occurrences in which the men were lost, if the King grants me permission I shall lead this operation. I have a bad feeling about this.” Impa finished.
Zelda clutched her chest upon hearing Impa’s words. For as long as she could recall she had never lived more than a week without the presence of Impa near her.
“This is a dangerous mission Impa. The Royal Family must always have a Sheikah protecting it. I will not lose you in the Hebran Lands.” The King Protested and for once Zelda full heartedly agreed.
“With all of the respect that Your Majesty deserves, I swore an oath to protect the Royal family, and that’s exactly why I need to put an end to this threat personally.” Impa argued.
“I also advise for you to stay. Captain Stonard is more than capable of handling this. If the King were to send more men perhaps you wouldn’t have to go Impa.” Zelda interjected herself in the argument, in an attempt to convince her father to send more men in order to keep Impa at the Castle.
Impa stood up from her chair shaking her head in frustration,
“You can send a thousand men, and the assassins will just stay in the shadows while they pass. A small party will be too enticing for them to not reveal themselves especially if a Sheikah leads them.” Impa said as she scratched her chin in a thoughtful posture, “ We are in all likelihood dealing with the Betrayed.”
The room went silent for what seemed like an eternity to Zelda.
“Impa…you clearly witnessed that we exterminated them during the Civil War. We hung them, and those that weren’t hanged, were sent to the Shadow Realm, to the Twilight.” The King said trying to remain calm.
“Did we? All of them? My people weren’t numerous, but there were many of us. Some did escape.” Impa replied.
“Your people?” Zelda questioned. She had no idea who the Betrayed were and judging by the Younger Stonard’s dumbfounded expression neither did he. Both were too young to recall the Civil War.
“Yes. The Sheikah who broke their oath.” Impa replied. Her eyes didn’t betray any emotion but Zelda could tell something stirred inside of her.
“How can you know the Sheikah are behind this? You know nothing more than we do at this juncture.” The King questioned.
Impa took a deep breath and sat back at her place.
“The corpse chopped into bits was meant to be found. It was a message. A declaration of war.” Impa sighed, “We are assassins and practitioners of Shadow magic after all. This is how the Sheikah do things.” She finalized.
“There will be no talk of war outside of this chamber.” The King paused for a moment making sure everyone had understood the message, “Captain Stonard, you can rest for the next few days. You are dismissed until the operation is planned.”
Stonard nodded, got up from his chair and bowed in front of the King. As he left the king sternly reminded him,
“Remember. No talk of war outside of this Chamber.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Stonard replied before exiting the room.
“He heard more than he should have about the Sheikah issue.” The King lamented.
“He is young and impulsive, but his loyalty cannot be questioned Your Majesty.” General Stonard replied.
“We shall see, but what would the Sheikah gain by attacking us? We no longer have the Triforce, and without that, the Sacred Realm shouldn’t interest anyone.” The King pondered aloud.
“They wouldn’t know that. We didn’t know that until Ganondorf’s failed execution which remains a secret.” Zelda answered.
“What a bigger prize than Hyrule itself?” Impa said.
Impa was right. Zelda thought most wars were started over the ruling of lands and kingdoms, unless of course, some how these “Betrayed” knew the truth. That 2 thirds of the Triforce still remained in Hyrule. Perhaps this was the reason why Impa was so eager to put an end to the threat.
“Impa, are you sure that five men and Stonard will be enough for you to contain the situation at the border?” The King asked in genuine concern.
“Yes. If it is the Betrayed all we would have to do is strike the leader.” Impa replied.
“Let’s not refer to these traitors as the ‘Betrayed’. It makes it sound like we are the ones at fault.” The King exclaimed sharply.
“And are we?” Zelda asked interested in the historical facts.
“Of course not!” The King replied emphatically.
Impa remained silent though. Zelda wasn’t going to press the issue further with the general and her father present. Zelda had learned enough about politics to know that there are always two sides to the story and that history was written by the winners.
“That’s a magnificent thought Lady Impa, but do tell. How will you get to said leader in one piece?” General Stonard interrupted.
“The Sheikah do not send subordinates to do the dirty work. The killings….and yes the men that haven’t appeared are dead, are carried and therefore led by who ever is leading this particular clan of Sheikah.” Impa replied calm as ever. “Whoever did this wanted the news to reach the Castle and wanted me to come after them. One single well trained Sheikah could wipe out the fort at Hebra in a single night.”
The King shook his head in frustration and got up from his seat for the first time since the start of the meeting.
“I consider myself a good King.” The King reflected, causing the rise of a few eyebrows in the chamber. The King didn’t seem to mind as he stared blankly into space before resuming, “No tales will be sung about my bravery or prowess in the battle field. In spite of that however, the average citizen believes I am a great King. I unified the country and put an end to a war that cost thousands of lives. The average citizen goes to sleep knowing there will be a tomorrow with food and security because King Ephesna Hyrule the third with the name rules the land. I would like nothing better than for that to be my legacy.”
The Chamber maintained a deafening silence. Zelda had never seen her father admit weakness before. She wasn’t sure Impa or Stonard, who had known her father since his younger days, had also seen a confession such as this.
“It shall be your legacy my King. Nothing can change that. It is an honor to serve you.” General Stonard said and as much as Zelda disliked the man there was no deceit in any of his words.
Her father was well liked around the Kingdom, and while he was strict, he rarely handed down severe punishments to his men.
“We shouldn’t panic…yet. I believe this situation can be contained at the Hebran border.” Impa replied.
“And if it’s not?” The King answered.
“If there is no news of me and the men for a month after we leave…then you should prepare the kingdom for war, though we don’t know the numbers or capabilities of what we are facing. For now, double the guard in the Castle. We are dealing with assassins after all. I hate to say this but before I leave we should reach out to the Gerudo. Nabooru and her elite guard will make the best bodyguards against a Sheikah assassin.” Impa said.
“Preposterous!” Stonard complained clearly agitated. “We would be sending a message to our enemies that our own valiant honorable knights are somehow incompetent. Do not forget who the Gerudo are.”
“Twenty of our valiant and honorable knights died easily against this threat. Nabooru is trained in the way of the dark arts. As an assassin herself, she knows how the Sheikah would operate. She pledged allegiance after we captured Ganondorf. It is now the time to test that allegiance.” Impa replied.
In truth, Zelda understood Impa’s concern. A capable Sheikah assassin could easily enter the castle to murder the King and the Princess. The King is oblivious and incapable of magic himself, and while Zelda showed the promise of her ancestors in her training sessions, she was still just a young woman that had been cuddled inside of the castle walls for far too long. Nabooru, the self-proclaimed Gerudo Queen though only 30 winters old, had been a veteran of many battles, had taken countless of lives with her blades, and had the defeated the powerful witches Kotake and Koume in battle…though rumors were that she had been aided by a certain Forest Boy.
Apparently, Link had been busy going around Hyrule obtaining relics and artifacts after being relieved of his royal service. But Zelda knew well of Nabooru’s reputation, and in a way Zelda admired the Gerudo woman.
“But Nabooru won’t just abandon the desert expecting nothing in return.” The King interrupted Zelda’s thoughts. “The girl is ambitious.” The King said as he rolled out an ancient looking map on the table.
“She has been making a push towards Nephra Hill, but that’s even beyond Arbiter Grounds which belongs to us. She has avoided engaging my men, but it is a tense situation.” The King explained pointing at the locations on the map with his index finger.
Impa leaned in and rubbed her chin carefully analyzing the map,
“Let her have the Grounds and the entire canyon and desert areas. Draw the border at Mount Hylia.” Impa advised.
“No. That is a lot of ground!” Stonard objected.
“Impa is right father…that land is under Gerudo control anyways. During my trips to the Arbiter’s Grounds, I witnessed as many Gerudo patrols in Nephra Hill as I have seen Hylian patrols near Castle Town.” Zelda chimed in much to Stonard’s distress.
“If a war erupts you will want all of those men back in Central Hyrule. The desert is vast and dangerous. There is no point at all in spreading ourselves thin by keeping our men there. Arbiter’s Grounds hasn’t been used since Ganondorf’s failed execution. Let the Gerudo have it with some conditions such as the sages remaining there. There is a band of rebellious Gerudo still going around. If it comes to a war against the Sheikah, you will want the Gerudo armies on your side rather than on the enemy’s.” Impa advised.
The King didn’t take his eyes away from the map. Zelda knew it would be difficult for her father to hand over the lands. Impa was right. They didn’t need the desert and canyon lands, but her father felt secure in Hyrule’s ability to flex their military muscle in the region. Aside from that, he mistrusted the Gerudo greatly for their past transgressions.
The King’s next command came as shock to her. Apparently, her father was wiser than she thought.
“Send for Nabooru then.”