Princess Zelda was bored. She slumped over in her throne, setting her elbow on the armrest so she could cup her chin with her palm. She sighed, gazing out the window to her left, and wished she was outside enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and warm air instead of sitting in a boring throne room listening to matters of her kingdom.
Everything in Hyrule was well after Ganon's defeat, so news was less than exhilarating. The most shocking decision she had to make all afternoon was whether or not the kingdom should celebrate Seven Sages day on the day they sealed Ganon in another realm. Zelda told the courier who brought the idea that he should speak with the other Six Sages before any conclusion could be reached.
She sighed again. Not only was the kingdom boring, it was downright dull. A day ago she sent messengers out to the far reaches of Hyrule in search of Link, who had mysteriously up and vanished for a time. It wasn't that the kingdom was in any danger, it was just that Zelda was alone now that Impa returned to Kakariko Village to watch over the Shadow Temple and she longed for someone besides servants and the other nobility to talk to.
"Your Highness," a voice called.
Startled, her elbow slipped off the armrest and she nearly bashed her chin on the side of the throne. Zelda struggled to regain her composure by straightening her back against the throne and folding her hands in her lap.
"Yes?" she asked.
Darryn, one of the head guardsmen, peeked his head into the door at the other end of the room. "There are some women here to see you, your Highness."
"Some women?" Zelda asked. "Anything descriptive about them, Darryn?"
The guard was nearly 30 feet from her throne, but she could see a flush of pink rise to his face. "No, I mean, yes your Highness." He fumbled at words and Zelda sighed. "They're Gerudo, your Highness."
Zelda leaned forward in her throne. "Gerudo? Here? In the castle?" She stood up, allowing her hands to fall to her sides. "What are they doing here, Darryn?"
"They wish to speak with you specifically, your Highness. One of them claims she is the ruler of the Gerudo now and demands your audience."
The princess stifled a chuckle. To think, a Gerudo demanding her audience. However, the entire thing seemed very strange. "Send them in, Darryn."
"Yes, your Highness." He disappeared.
Zelda sank back into her throne, biting at her lip. What would the Gerudo be doing here in the castle, she thought. Not a breath later, the double doors to the throne room swung open, and a group of five tan-skinned Gerudo women marched in, their eyes narrowed and their jaws set. Zelda wrung her hands in her lap.
The first of the Gerudo women appeared taller and a bit older than the rest. Her brilliant red hair was pulled into a high ponytail on the top of her head and then separated into dozens of small braids that cascaded down her back and shoulders. Her eyes were a fierce gold that suddenly reminded Zelda of Ganondorf. She shifted uncomfortably.
Zelda glanced over at the rest of the group. The two standing in back wore veils over the bottom halves of their faces and carried long wooden poles with a blade protruding from the top. The next two were unveiled, had short, chin-length hair and their hands rested on the scimitars at their sides.
The four that appeared to be guards bowed to the princess.
The one in front did not.
"How can I help you?" Zelda asked, shifting her gaze from the gleaming scimitars to the eyes of the apparent leader.
"Princess Zelda," the Gerudo addressed, "it is a pleasure to
finally see you in person. I have heard many stories about your bravery while venturing across the kingdom to seek you out." She pursed her lips. "My name is Jocasta."
"A pleasure to meet you, Jocasta," Zelda replied. She smiled, but the smile was not returned.
Jocasta waved her hand in the air. "Let me be brief, your Highness. I know you are a busy woman." The Gerudo sneered. "I do not know how much you know about the legends of the Gerudo, so allow me to explain. Every one-hundred years, our clan is blessed with a male child within our ranks, who in turn, is to become king."
Zelda clenched her jaw.
"The last male child to be born within our society was a man by the name of Ganondorf, who I know you are familiar with. He ruled as king before leaving the desert to come here to the castle."
"What do you ask of me?" Princess Zelda demanded, narrowing her eyes.
"Our problem will not be easily solved," Jocasta continued, glaring at the princess. "I am ruling the Gerudo in Nabooru's absence, since she has decided to remain at the Spirit Temple in case her powers as Sage are needed once more. However, the Gerudo are now without a king, and another will not be born for several decades. Since you are responsible for the loss of our king and since you are ruler of this kingdom, I demand that you find us a replacement."
Princess Zelda glanced at the floor and raised her gaze to Jocasta. "The Gerudo appear to function well enough without a king," she retorted. "What do you all do between those years without a king?"
"Do you mock me, child?!" Jocasta screeched. The guards outside the door rushed inside, and the two Gerudo guards in the back of the group lowered into fighting stances.
"Darryn," Zelda called. He glanced at her and she shook her head. The guards did not advance on the Gerudo warriors.
"I do not mock you, Jocasta," the princess continued, "but I do not see why it is necessary to find a replacement king."
"The Gerudo have rituals, Princess," Jocasta snarled, lowering her voice, "rituals that must be performed by a Gerudo king at certain times to appease our goddess. Failing to complete the rites results in a ten year duration where no children will be born in our clan. No sons or daughters! Without the new blood to replace the old our clan will become weak. I cannot allow that to happen. Surely the Princess of the great Hylian people can understand that."
"And just what needs to be done to complete the ritual?"
Princess Zelda snapped.
"That I will tell you if you find a replacement for our lost king. And the consequences I spoke of are among the lesser punishments of our goddess."
Princess Zelda stood up, clenching her fists at her sides.
"Find a king yourself and leave my castle immediately. Your former king was corrupt and evil and deserved the fate he received. I apologize if that has somehow altered your society but I can and will not be responsible for what happened to that monster."
Jocasta's eyes only narrowed further. "You dare to threaten the Gerudo?"
"You've entered my castle to seek my help," Zelda explained, "but I cannot help you unless I know exactly what it is you ask of me and what you would ask of a replacement king." Jocasta opened her mouth, but Zelda continued. "It's understandable that you wish to keep your rituals and your society apart, but since you traveled across Hyrule to my castle, then it is now Hylian business as well, especially if I do in fact decide to find you a king." She glared at the Gerudo leader. "Do I make myself clear?"
Jocasta nodded, folding her arms across her chest.
"If we wish to discuss this as civilized people, I will listen to what you have to say. But I will not be threatened again. We can reach an agreement if we discuss the options we have and listen to each other's suggestions."
"Very well then, Princess," Jocasta remarked. "We shall do things your way, the...civilized way."
Zelda nodded to her guards, who hesitantly left the room. The two veiled Gerudo guards turned to face the princess.
"Now," Zelda sighed, feeling a little more in control of the situation, "I expect that you're searching for a man of certain qualities or expectations. Perhaps that's a good place to start."
Jocasta paced in front of the throne. "Yes. I suppose it is." She glanced at her guards and then back at the princess. "As King of the Gerudo, our replacement must be fearless, able to face any challenge without doubting himself. He must be strong and also a true warrior. If a king cannot fight for his people, then he is of no use to them, correct?"
Zelda nodded. "So, you're looking for someone courageous and powerful," she ascertained. "Any other qualities needed?"
"Intelligience," one of the guards spoke up.
"Yes," Jocasta agreed. "Our king must be able to make decisions on his own for the good of his people. He must be able to judge things well, in a timely fashion, of course."
Princess Zelda clasped her hands and lowered herself into her throne. "So we're looking for a courageous, powerful, and intelligient warrior." Her thoughts drifted to Link for a second.
"Naturally, Princess," Jocasta interrupted, "it isn't that I wouldn't trust your judgement of such a one...if you do in fact agree to help us, but I would like to judge the candidate myself. You, after all, are not Gerudo, and your ways of thinking are different here. Hylians are not all warrior people."
"I understand completely, Jocasta," Zelda replied. "Now, I must ask again what ritual needs to be completed in order to appease your gods. You must understand I only ask for the benefit of my people."
Jocasta glanced around the room. "You must tell no one."
"I will not."
Jocasta stepped closer to the throne. "This is one of our most important ceremonies we have," she told the princess, lowering her voice to little more than a whisper. "Buried beneath the shifting sands of the Haunted Wasteland lies an ancient city. Centuries ago, it was a beautiful place, until the Wasteland and the demon swallowed it whole."
"Demon?" Zelda asked. "What demon?"
"It was a creature from the depths of the underworld, made of stone and fire, impervious to any mortal weapons. A magician in the city raised it so he could seize power there, but it was too strong even for him. Instead of allowing the demon to roam the land destroying everything in its path, he cast another spell to make the sands of the desert collapse in upon the city, trapping the creature there. The demon, it seemed, was not impervious to sand, so it could not escape. Except on one night..."
Zelda's eyes widened. "One night?"
"Our goddess grew angry with their people for meddling with powers beyond their comprehension, so there is one night every hundred years that always falls on a full moon, that the forever moving sands of the Haunted Wasteland cease. The entire desert grows calm for three full hours. On this very night, our king ventures into the Wasteland alone with a spear forged of silver and steel. If the demon is in fact trying to escape, the king shall find a crater in the sand, nearly a mile wide, that is slowly sinking down. He must race down into the crater and thrust the spear into the very center, where the demon's eye will be, and escape before he is consumed by the sand. The weapon will be lost, but there are a few among the Gerudo who can create another. This distracts the demon long enough for the sands to start shifing again. Then he is trapped for another hundred years."
Princess Zelda leaned back in her chair, pondering over her words.
"This is the final ritual that a Gerudo king must complete, and it is also the most important," Jocasta explained. "Failure would mean the end of the world, not just Gerudo society. Now you understand why I have come to you for help."
Zelda nodded, her face pale. "Yes," she muttered. She glanced up at the Gerudo. "How much time do we have?"
"Three days, I'm afraid. I would have come sooner, but I was having some trouble convincing the others that this was a better idea than watching the desert and praying the demon wouldn't escape. But time is now of the essence, your Highness, and the sooner we find a king the sooner we can stop the creature from emerging."
"I assure you, Jocasta, the search will begin immediately for candidates."
Jocasta smiled, but her eyes did not. "Actually, the Gerudo sent me with a good idea of who was worthy enough for this honor."
Princess Zelda raised an eyebrow, silently praying that the Gerudo weren't thinking about who she was thinking about. "Who?" she asked.
"Why, no other than your Hero of Time," Jocasta replied.
Zelda felt her chest tighten, and breathing suddenly became a bit difficult. "Link?" she gasped.
"Why not?" the Gerudo asked. "He saved this land from a powerful evil force without ever doubting himself. I've not ever had the pleasure of meeting him, but the others speak of nothing else."
"And he's a Gerudo warrior now," one of the guards piped up. "We accepted him into our society for his strength, intelligience, and his warrior skills."
"Link?" Zelda choked.
"Are you well, Highness?" one of the veiled guards asked.
Zelda coughed for a minute or two and then tried to calm herself down. Her heart raced at the very thought of Link fighting a power beyond this world that couldn't be stopped if something went wrong.
"Where is Link, anyway?" the first guard demanded.
Princess Zelda shook her head, still coughing a bit. "I haven't seen him in days. I've sent messengers out all over the kingdom to find him and nothing's turned up yet."
"I'm sure he must be near," Jocasta said in a low voice. "He has a responsibility now."
Zelda suddenly glanced out the window, noticing that the colors outside began to grow dimmer as the sun started to sink in the west. "You are welcome to stay here for supper and overnight as my guests, if you choose," she offered. "It's growing late in the day."
Jocasta shook her head. "We thank you for your hospitality, but we are women of the wild and must return to the fortress this evening. We shall return the day after tomorrow to see if Link has returned or you have found valid candidates for our task. The Gerudo are deeply grateful for all your cooperation." Jocasta bowed to the Princess as well as the guards before they turned and started marching out of the throne room.
"Safe journey," Zelda called after them.
The Gerudo left the room and the guards scurried in. Zelda rose to her feet and the entire floor beneath her seemed to spin. She stumbled a bit.
"Highness?" Darryn asked. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "Yes Darryn. I think I just...stood up too quickly is all." She shuffled past the guards who followed her out of the throne room and down into the lower rooms of the castle.
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