Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda and related characters belong to Nintendo, not to me. I am making no money from this, and only seek fleeting Internets-fame.
Notes: This story is meant to be AU or “Any given Zelda” universe. I am imagining the Hero and the Princess as teens here, but you can fit it into any game-set you wish to imagine. I know that the premise deviates from general canon, but I wanted to play with “Courage,” “Wisdom” and “Power” as concepts, and I wondered what would really happen if the three were brought together into one wielder. Also, for the purposes of this story (and perhaps this story only), the Triforce pieces are physically manifest in the flesh/blood of their Bearer’s hands. I know the natures of the Triforces are up for interpretation – this particular story hinges on that theory. Warning: The following story contains some graphic, gory violence; it may be wise not to proceed if you are sensitive regarding such.
Chapter 1: The Courage of Cowards
Courage is something that everyone has in some measure. Even known cowards occasionally perform brave acts. Life takes courage. In a world that does not care whether one lives or dies, least of all if one is happy, or has a purpose, it does, indeed, take at least a small measure of courage to live every day. Even those who are not brave have the potential for it. Courage, after all, is not an absence of fear, but facing what one is afraid of.
Ganondorf looked down upon the boy from the throne. As he rose from his seat, he briefly wondered if the Bearer affected the Triforce or if the Triforce affected the Bearer. The young man’s face was determined, his eyes as hard as steel. In his left hand, he carried the great Master Sword. The princess called his name. Ganondorf had her imprisoned against the far wall, held in place by devastatingly powerful magic. Her formidable magical skills could not break the barrier. He would deal with her in due time.
“Link” – such a name. It wasn’t that Ganondorf had not heard it before today, he just never thought that the boy would make it this far. It was an ageless name, implying connectivity, binding. A thought came to Ganondorf’s mind, clear, simple and strange; “Sever the link and break the tie that binds you all.”
Ganondorf stepped down from the throne and its dais, pulling his own sword from his belt. It was a long blade, more than serviceable, forged dark and strong. He’d considered taking up his trident, but he felt that he wanted to have fun, to enjoy the battle. He was no animal, at least not yet. He would not become a beast yet. For a victim that came to him with such a determined gaze, he owed him a fight with some finesse and class – for a little while, anyway. He’d crush the boy when he got bored.
Oh, but Link fought well! The sparks flew off the swords in such brilliant light! This did not bore the King of Evil at all! He even found himself dodging. He snarled as he felt the string of a cut on the upper part of his right arm. Quick thing, this kid was. He was obviously no match for Ganondorf’s raw power, but he was agile, and a very intelligent fighter. The young Hero was magnificent, truly splendid! Ganondorf almost thought it a shame that he must die so young, but that boy had something he wanted.
Ganondorf found his gaze focusing on the young man’s left hand. The Triforce was glowing so brightly, it shone through the leather of the gauntlet. Ganondorf did not know if this meant that Link was fearless, or if it meant that he was truly afraid. The princess called for him again, to Ganondorf’s immense annoyance. He’d shut her up shortly.
Wait! The boy was looking toward her! Oh, to think that princess possessed the Triforce of Wisdom – but, just as cowards can have rare moments of courage, and the brave moments of cowardice, even the wise can make a poor judgment. Ganondorf took advantage of the distraction. His strike was swift and precise.
Link screamed in surprise and an agony that most people can scarcely imagine. He flew one way. His left arm flew another. Zelda was crying and screaming incoherently. What happened next impressed Ganondorf so much that he almost lost his grip on his blood-spackled blade.
Link got to his feet. He swayed, almost falling over, but he managed to catch himself. He clutched the area just above the stump with his right hand tightly. Dark blood ran down and coated nearly the whole of his left side and drip-dripped onto the marble floor. Ganondorf knew that the boy had to be in horrifying pain and had to be getting weaker by the second. The King of Evil smiled. He wouldn’t finish him yet; he was going to watch him suffer. After all, he was being fascinating. He rather enjoyed Princess Zelda’s screams now, too.
The young man wandered to the place where his left arm lay, still holding the Master Sword. Gently, and without fear, he stepped upon it, reached down with his right hand, and pried the sword from its fingers. Ganondorf watched him. He was pale and would likely collapse soon. Even with the Triforce of Courage in his left hand and no longer in his body, the boy was incredibly brave. He had more than the standard share of courage in his own heart - that much was clear.
Heedless of pain and rushing blood, Link held the Master Sword high and straight in his right hand and rushed straight for Ganondorf. Caught by surprise, Ganondorf shielded his middle with his own sword, played the Master Sword off the blade, and brought it around with a great surge of power.
Link fell, neatly halved in the middle. Ganondorf looked down. The cut was clean and precise - through the flesh, internal organs and spine, like a roast or ham sliced with a clean saw at a butcher’s shop. Ganondorf was proud of his work, and of how cleanly his sword had worked. Link moved slightly, or his front half did anyway, shivering. The young man looked up at the trapped and sobbing princess before his breath finally ran out.
Ganondorf walked over to the young man’s left hand. He picked up and stroked it fondly, as if it were a pet cat, perhaps. He had something in mind before he took off the gauntlet and ripped the Triforce of Courage out from beneath the cooling, pale skin.
He had severed the Link and broke the tie that bound them all.
Since then, Ganondorf was surprised at what he used to lack. Very often, while sitting on the throne, in idle moments, he would examine the backs of his hands. His right hand would often glow gently with the symbol of the three Triforce pieces, arranged in their complete triangle. Most of the time, all three fragments glowed with equal force, but now and again, one of the little fragments would migrate, glowing on the back of his left hand.
It had been years since he’d taken it, and since then, Ganondorf had learned that he used to be a coward. He was mainly concerned with gaining power then, physical strength, magical strength, and especially political power. He feared the slightest threat, and often perceived threats where there were none.
During the beginning of his rise, all he wanted was equity for his people. For as “close to the Goddesses” as the Hylians were claimed to be, the race could be just as flawed and vicious as they claimed their enemies to be. For generations, Hyrule had its on-and-off wars between the varied races. Hylians always had their stuck-up sense of superiority, and that was why the Gerudo scraped out a hard living in the desert. The flowing rivers, the lush valleys and the green forests were too special for them, and Ganondorf knew they had to be his.
And he would do anything to get them.
He was afraid of losing anything he’d gained, for his people, and especially for himself. It wasn’t long before he started using his people simply to gain more power. “It is for their own good,” he would tell himself, but after a while, he’d stopped kidding himself.
He was merely being selfish.
Now, he was not afraid to give up a little bit of power if it would serve the greater good of the people – of all the races. Peace served the Gerudo in the end. Oh, he would still send hordes of magic beings and monster allies to quell the small rebellions that would crop up, and to keep the rule of law. His armies were swift and brutal; however, it was only logic that the people of the land should trade together and live with a sense of relative safety. Logic told him that if he did not fear the loss of power to such a degree as not to give up a little, he would be less likely to be assassinated.
For the most part, the people were calm. Not all of them were happy, but they were calm. He learned that to be feared was not the greatest power. He could give a little freedom without losing his hold.
Every once in a while, Ganondorf would spare a thought for the boy who was brave enough to give up everything for what he’d believed in. For his part, Ganondorf didn’t really believe in anything but himself, but now he had the courage to face his fears.
He had found the courage of cowards.
Chapter 2: The Wisdom of Fools
Sometimes, a foolish person has a spark of wisdom. Likewise, sometimes a wise person does something foolish. The princess was inconsolable. She was crying uncontrollably and very loudly. She kept shouting his name, over and over again; “Link! Link! LINK!”
Ganondorf smiled broadly. He walked over to the place he held her, carrying the late Hero’s left arm. “Oh, wise princess,” he said casually, “why were you so foolish? If you had not called out, I might be the one laying there. You distracted him, my dear. He is dead because of you.”
Zelda’s response was to spit in the dark king’s face. He used Link’s hand to wipe it off. The fingers were still slightly warm.
“I’m sure the pain he felt was immense, more than you can ever possibly imagine,” Ganondorf taunted. “Perhaps you’d like me to change that, hmm?”
Her struggling was priceless. Zelda had such fire in her eyes. In spite of himself, Ganondorf admired it. He edged closer to the princess, and then he took Link’s hand and stroked her right cheek with it. She closed her eyes and rocked her head back and forth.
“Still warm, isn’t it?” he said slowly. “Though the life has left. I bet you longed for his hand to stroke your cheek. Did you dream of this, Princess? Did you?”
Zelda screamed. Ganondorf thought he heard her mind snap.
Ganondorf leaned over her, pinning her arms to the wall, over his magical pinning. “The Triforce of Power,” he hissed, “And the Triforce of Courage… I have an incomplete set. Your only hope is gone.”
He smiled, deep and dark, “Perhaps I do not have to kill you,” he said, “Perhaps there is another way of completing my set.”
He ground his fully clothed pelvis against hers, through her dress. He pressed his lips to hers and thrust his tongue into her mouth. He screamed and recoiled back as she bit it. He’d expected this. He merely wished to intensify her fear. Victims were more fun when you played with them.
“Very well,” he said decisively, “No pleasure before death. Join your weak fool.”
With that, he thrust a long dagger beneath her ribcage.
He’d been a fool. For all those years, he’d been a fool. His people had expected him to be a wise leader, chosen by his sex. Surely, the destined leader of the Gerudos had to be wise. He’d thought he was.
When he began gaining power, he began abusing those weaker than he was. He’d thought it was the wise thing to do. It was the way of the world for the powerful to lord it over the powerless, for the strong to crush the weak.
After all, in many cases, it was for their own good, wasn’t it? The world was filled with dumb, filthy beasts. The people of all the races really did not know how to govern themselves. Inequity was everywhere. If all needed to be united under fear, that was the way it had to be. It was wisdom to bring equity to the world, was it not?
Foolishness. Freedom was what people craved, no matter the race. Most were weak, sniveling, cowardly beings – waiting for their Hero, perhaps. Maybe they’d hoped for his resurrection or reincarnation in their lifetimes. Most did not seek knowledge and were content not knowing and not caring about history, or the wonders of the world around them. Still, Ganondorf learned that it was not wise to deny people freedom.
It was the virtue that people were most willing to die for, and that was a dangerous thing. When people had a measure of freedom, they were relatively happy. When they were relatively happy, they were more productive. At least, in Hyrule, people were more productive – agriculturally, creatively, and in every other way with a measure of freedom and happiness than they were living in constant fear. His native people prospered from tribute. He prospered from wealth and from the general population’s tolerance.
Though his power was tempered now with that rarest of virtues - wisdom, the denizens of Hyrule were still wary of him. They lived for a very long time during his rule under fear, as sniveling beasts, and only slowly were they beginning to accept that he had found balance.
He was as brutal as ever toward those that violated the law, and strong in negotiating with other lands, but he ruled with policies that were beneficial to most, because he knew now that such benevolence benefited him in the end. There was no compassion in it, only logic. He did wise things now merely because they made sense – he could see the gears in the clockwork and how they fit together.
Every once in a while, he would spare a thought for the princess, who would have ruled the kingdom with wisdom, but lacked the power.
Chapter 3: The Power of the Weak
It has been said that the power of death is intoxicating. With the blood of the two people who had a chance of ending him on his hands, Ganondorf was positively drunk. He laughed and enjoyed the echo of the laughter off the cavernous throne room. The scent of blood filled his nostrils, everywhere in the air. The room was like an abattoir. Ganondorf had turned
’s throne room, once a somewhat sacred spot, into a place to slaughter poor dumb beasts. Hyrule Castle
He looked down at the halves of Link. Ganondorf had killed many Hylians, but he never took the time to notice them in death. He had no idea they had so much blood in their bodies. He’d force Zelda’s castle servants to clean the floor. He looked forward to watching the agony on their faces over cleaning up the fluids of their friends. It was always interesting when people died with their eyes open. It made them look unreal, like dolls.
“Some Hero,” he laughed, kicking over Link’s torso. The young man’s eyes rolled to affix their dead gaze onto the place where the corpse of the princess lay.
Ganondorf would call in some of his hungrier beasts to feast on the remains later. Moblins liked Hylian flesh and bones. The King of Evil liked the thought that he had the power to deny his fellow Bearers even a grave. Ganondorf reached down to grab the Master Sword from the floor. He recoiled when an arc of energy swirled around the blade and the hilt and shocked him. So the legend was true – he was unable to touch it.
It did not matter. He was now unchallenged and unstoppable. No one would dare stand against his power.
Or so he’d thought.
The Hylians, the Zoras, the Gorons… even the Fairies… he’d thought of them as weak peoples. He’d thought of them as dumb, sniveling beasts that would cower unconditionally before him. He’d underestimated the power of the weak.
There were many uprisings. It seems that the people of Hyrule did not need their Hero to inspire them to bravery – or perhaps they’d just been inspired by his ultimate sacrifice. Many gave their lives for freedom before Ganondorf decided that granting the land a measure of freedom was what gave him true power.
Courage and Wisdom had balanced him out and made him whole. He was unafraid to give away a little power to get what he wished to be done accomplished. He was wise enough now to know how the gears of politics and the social psychology of Hyrule worked. If he gave a little bit, he could take a lot. If he just took, those revolutions were sparked and he constantly had to beat them back to assert his power.
Ganondorf decided that Bearers were as much an influence on the Triforce as the Triforce was an influence on them. He’d always been a man of raw, wild power. He took great pride in his strength and in the power of his abilities. Also, in the end, he was a politician at heart. Still, with the Balance, he had a small measure of the boy’s courage and of the princess’ wisdom. It was just enough.
It was enough to show him how weak he’d truly been before that battle, before he’d severed the Link that bound them all, and took all into one. He’d gained the Power of a god, yet his heart was too weak to carry it. He could wield that power in its raw form, but without temperance, it had taken over his heart. He’d had all the power that Din had chosen to leave the world, yet he’d lusted for more. It was never enough.
If it had gone on like that, there would be no one left in the world but him. He would have destroyed everything, including his own Gerudo people, and he would have been left alone. Once he’d held the power of control, he would have lusted for the power of death. He did not know if that, even, was the ultimate expression of power. Ganondorf had no idea if this lust was born from his own heart, or if it was born from the unbalanced Triforce piece.
He’d heard that all three pieces together could grant wishes. Ganondorf had wanted power. Perhaps it was the granting of his wish that gave him the courage and the wisdom of a balanced heart. He was strong now, no longer enslaved by that all-consuming drive. He now had the power to be “weak.”
He had been strong, but his heart had been weak. It was that way no longer. Ganondorf’s name was still spoken in whispers among Hyrule’s peoples. They all knew perfectly well what he was capable of. He was formidable, and just as powerful as he ever was, if not more so. However, he was ruling the kingdom with balance now.
The land was far from a paradise, but there was a special kind of harmony present in it now. Perhaps now, there was no need for a Princess, or for a Hero, but only for a King with a precariously balanced heart. The smallest thing could tip the balance, but for now, Ganondorf was what the people had. Many wondered what would have happened had the Princess or the Hero gained the entirety of the Triforce and was made able to fill the land with their good wishes. For now, they had a dark king who did the “good” things only for the sake of maintaining the clockworks, rather than out of compassion. Perhaps this was no better than they could have asked for.
Endnotes: This idea came to me while reading bits and pieces of the licensed Ocarina of Time manga online. I’m not yet quite done playing through the game for the first time as of this writing (I’m at the
). However, this was meant to fit into “any generic Zeldaverse.” I’ve taken my own liberties with this story, as can be seen… think of it as a Zelda Alternate Universe. I tried to make Ganondorf introspective without making him a “woobie.” I’d hoped for him to come across as a dark/evil man who just happens to be running his newly-gained country with policies that are mostly favorable to the people because it’s simply the logical thing to do for someone who wants to maintain his political position. Thanks to the Balance, he can finally see that. I’m hoping that he comes across just as formidable and as a being of “raw power” as he is in the various games, even though I’ve given his archetype a twist. Spirit Temple