The next day was unbearably hot. The Gerudo under Jocasta's power fortunately brought water to all the prisoners about mid-afternoon, but no food. Link desperately wanted that loaf of bread and the other apple in his backpack.
Link also finally got a good look at Nabooru. She had a black eye, her lip was swollen up, and she was covered in bruises and cuts on her arms and stomach. She claimed she felt fine, although she also mentioned how she was sure several of her ribs were cracked.
The day passed slow. Link watched the sunlight shift on the floor of his cell and eventually begin to change colors in the later evening, while making small talk with Nabooru.
"Hey, Hero, you have a plan yet?" she demanded, interrupting Link's casual chatter.
"You going to let me in on it?"
"Nope." He grinned.
They both fell silent for awhile as the sunlight diminished outside.
"Tell me," she said.
"Tell you what?" Link asked.
"Who it is."
He laughed. "No."
"C'mon Link, we're practically sitting here waiting for our funerals; what a better time to get an earth-shattering secret like that off your chest?"
Link stood up and wrapped his fingers around the bars of the window, staring down at the Gerudo woman. "Nobody's going to die tonight," he declared. "No one who doesn't deserve it."
Nabooru shook her head. "You've lost your mind, Hero. The desert heat's cooked your brains."
The sound of footsteps silenced them both. There was a jingle of keys outside Nabooru's cell, and her cell door squealed open. Six Gerudo guards filed into the space, spears and scimitars drawn.
"Get up," one of them sneered.
Nabooru chuckled. "I can't."
"Then you'll be dragged."
The guards advanced on her, slapping manacles on both of her wrists connected with a thick iron chain. They yanked her to her feet, Nabooru crying out in pain as she staggered forward, and they filed out of the cell.
"Nabooru!" Link shouted. "Nabooru!"
"Don't worry about me!" she screamed. One of the guards backhanded her across the face as she was half-dragged off.
Link sank down to the floor again, his eyes wide. He glanced down at his hands and saw how they trembled in the dim moonlight.
He moved into the shaft of pale white light that gleamed from above. He stared up into it, but couldn't see the moon it.
An eternity later, he heard more footsteps stop just outside his door. The bolt unlocked and the cell door swung open.
Jocasta stood on the other side.
She wore a typical Gerudo costume, short top, baggy pants, but all were black and trimmed in blood red. She also wore a sheer black robe that came down to her ankles and had puffed sleeves gathered at the wrists.
"It is nearly time," she said. "We will venture to the edge of the desert and wait until midnight."
The guards moved around her into the room, pointing their weapons at him.
"You will come with me, or your friends die."
Link clenched his jaw and walked forward, the guards falling in behind him. Jocasta led the group through the corridors of the prison to the outside. They marched down the hill to the gate which separated Gerudo Valley from the Haunted Wasteland, where more guards awaited them. The sound of the wind from the desert howled beyond the walls of the fortress.
Nabooru and Zelda were also there.
"Zelda!" Link shouted. "Nabooru! You two all right?"
Princess Zelda looked extremely pale and shaky on her feet. Link noticed the patch of bandage on her throat, probably from where Jocasta cut her with her dagger. Nabooru wasn't standing up straight, and most likely couldn't from the way she clutched her ribcage. The Gerudo nodded, but Link saw no response from the Princess whatsoever.
Jocasta gestured to one of the guards on the watchtower, who opened the gate.
"We have but a few hours left before Hyrule's demise," she mumbled, turning to face the prisoners. "Strange, how you all shall participate, one way or the other." She glared at Link. "All three of you were involved in Ganondorf's demise; this is your punishment - from his bride."
Jocasta turned to the Haunted Wasteland. "The sands shall stop. The demon shall emerge. I shall see to that."
With that, she marched straight into the sandstorm, immediately out of sight from the amount of sand in the air.
Link glanced at the moon, shining brilliant silver and white in the sky. He then caught a glimpse of Zelda, who watched him intently with wide eyes and a face that kept getting paler.
"Princess," he said. "We'll get out of this."
She bit her lip.
"I promise you."
It was then that another sound came from the very desert itself, a strange ghastly howling that nearly drowned out the noise of the wind. In the desert, a dome of brilliant purple light grew in size, devouring the ground as it spread out from the center. There was a bright flash, and a ear-splitting tearing sound as though the very ground threatened to rip apart, and the guards and prisoners were nearly toppled by the shockwave of the spell.
Once everyone staggered back to their feet, their eyes fixated upon the desert.
It was silent. The Haunted Wasteland was silent.
From their place at the gate, they could see the stretches of golden dunes for miles, even catch a glimpse of the Spirit Temple so far away in the distance. The red marker flags stood like unmoving soldiers in the desert.
"By the goddess," Nabooru whispered. "This is the most unholy thing I've ever seen."
Jocasta swaggered back in their direction, a wicked smile on her face. She seemed very proud of herself.
"Now," she purred, stepping up to Link, "comes your part in this." The Gerudo on the watchtower clambered down the ladder with a long, silver spear in one hand. She touched the ground and strode over to Jocasta, who took the spear in both hands.
The spear was nearly six feet long and completely metallic. Although mostly silver, it glowed with some inner power that cast it in blue. "This," Jocasta explained, "is something my precious Ganondorf created before he left the valley." She turned it in her hands. "It's energy is designed to draw the demon to a specific target. Once that target is designated, the real show will begin."
Jocasta grinned, her eyes narrowed. "For you, Hero."
Link held out his hands and she gave him the spear.
The ground beneath them suddenly trembled, like something growling far below.
"It's waiting for you, Link."
Link glanced at Nabooru and Zelda once more, and stepped around Jocasta. The Gerudo sorceress followed him, and she gestured to her guards that the prisoners should come as well. Princess Zelda stumbled into the wasteland and Nabooru limped behind her. The chains on their manacles rattled.
Link gripped the spear, twisting it in his hands. His eyes focused on the horizon, where he saw a good sized sand dune suddenly sink. His heart sank with it. As he moved closer, he spotted the crater forming in the sand, swallowing the desert around it.
Jocasta laughed maniacally. She stepped up just behind Link and gestured for the guards to keep moving. They edged Nabooru and the Princess up to the crater itself.
"What are you waiting for, Hero?" the Gerudo demanded. She grimaced for just a second, and hissed between her teeth as she tried to hold off the spell more powerful than her own. She could feel it snapping like static electricity around her body. "Hurry up! Cast the spear into the sand!"
Link stepped back. His boots were sinking into the sand of the crater. He twisted the spear in his hands again.
Jocasta narrowed her eyes. One final gesture of her hand, and the guards standing behind the other two prisoners pushed them off the edge. Nabooru and Zelda screamed, tumbling down the edge towards the center, which grew even larger.
"What are you doing?!" Link screamed at the sorceress.
"Don't you know, Link? Every demon loves a little live bait!"
Nabooru and Zelda began to sink rapidly in the moving sand, their eyes focused up on Link as they struggled. Their efforts were futile.
With a mighty cry, Link spun around and dashed towards Jocasta, the spear still gripped in his hands. The Gerudo's eyes widened in shock as he raised the spear. The other guards raced towards their leader, but Link thrust the spear into the sand at her feet.
Jocasta cried out and blasted him backwards with a flash of light from her fingertips; he tumbled back to the edge of the crater.
It was then that the entire desert shook. A deafening rumble came from below, and Link's legs and feet were swept into the sliding sand. He struggled to keep from falling, but the sand around him was falling down into the crater too.
Jocasta's eyes widened as the sound grew louder, and suddenly, a gargantuan black fist shot up from the desert with a horrific crunching sound, just beneath the sorceress' feet. The hand was about fourty feet tall and about thirty feet wide and oozed with brilliant red and orange lava as it tensed its fingers. Jocasta screamed as she soared up into the sky. The demon's hand and part of a heavily-muscled forearm launched upward, catching the Gerudo and squeezing her in its fist. Jocasta screeched hideously for a couple of seconds, and then the hand crunched back down through the desert, knocking sand sixty feet in the air in a ring around it. The Gerudo guards, staggering to their feet and mumbling curses about a headache, all raced over to the crater's edge.
"Hang on, Zelda!" Link screamed. The crater itself stopped moving down inward, but she was buried in sand up to her chin and still falling through.
"Help me!" she cried. "I'm slipping!"
Nabooru managed to climb up on the side of the crater opposite Link and grabbed Zelda's hand. Link held onto the other.
The Gerudo stumbled down into the pit, helping Nabooru and Link pull the Princess out. Slowly, they raised her out and up onto the side where the sand no longer moved. She fell into Link's arms, nearly bawling. The Gerudo started pulling each other out of the crater, when the ground beneath their feet quaked again, and the tearing noise they heard when Jocasta first stopped the sands resonated through the desert.
The winds of the Haunted Wasteland suddenly bore down at full force onto them, hurling sand against them at impossible speeds.
"We've got to get back to the fortress!" Nabooru hollered over the howl of the wind. The sand pounded against their bodies, knocking them over at times as the rest of them stumbled out of the pit.
"Which way is it?!" Link screamed, huddling the Princess close to him to act as a wind and sand block for her.
"This way!" Nabooru set off in one direction, a couple of the guards following her. The rest stayed back to help Link and Zelda along.
Link never remembered the desert being this nasty. Plus, it was in the middle of the night and in the middle of the wasteland. Zelda clung to him as best as she could with the manacles still on her wrists, and she buried her face into his side, trying to escape the stinging sand.
They struggled for hours it seemed, following the red flags the Gerudo placed in the sand for direction, until Nabooru shouted something at them. It was lost in the wind.
As they caught up to her, they could see what she was shouting about. The fortress wall was in the distance; they wandered past the gate somewhere, but all they had to do was follow the wall to the entrance to the Gerudo fortress. The group hurried along the wall where the wind wasn't as bad and finally reached the open gate.
"All right!" Nabooru cheered. The rest of the Gerudo hollered a bit when everyone stumbled back into the valley. She walked back to Link and the Princess, still holding her ribcage. "Excellent work, Link. What a genius! Turn the demon on the psycho sorceress so it kills her, but by killing her the sands start moving again and it can't escape! You've never ceased to amaze me, Hero."
"Thanks," he muttered, blushing a little. He hugged Zelda closer to him and one of the guards came to unlock the manacles on her wrists. She did the same for Nabooru.
"And your Highness," Nabooru continued, "you have my utmost apologies for everything that's occured."
Princess Zelda shook her head. "No, Nabooru, this is not your doing. Your people were forced against their will to serve that...creature. I do not hold you or them responsible for any of this. If anyone is to be blamed, it is I, for believing the lies she fed to me in order to trap Link and myself. I...jumped to conclusions."
Nabooru bowed. "The Gerudo shall always hold you in the highest respect, your Highness. Now, if you both will excuse me, I have a few of my people to break out of prison." She turned and marched off.
Link coaxed the Princess to sit down for a little while as he followed Nabooru a little way back to the fortress. "Hey Nabooru!" he called.
The Gerudo stopped and turned around.
"Thanks for your help."
She shrugged. "No problem. Working with you is never a dull moment. Hey, why don't you and the Princess stay here for the rest of the night with us? We could celebrate..."
"I've...had enough with celebration for awhile, Nabooru," he replied. "But thank you. Besides, the rest of the kingdom will all sleep better knowing she's safe."
"And...celebrate," Link sighed.
"Right." Nabooru grinned.
"What? What is it?"
She glanced at the Princess, then back at Link, winking. "Good choice, Hero." Nabooru continued up to the fortress.
Link smiled to himself.
A few minutes later, the entire Gerudo clan gathered in the valley to wish Link and the Princess good-bye. Epona was brought out to them, along with Link's weapons and equipment, and Link helped Zelda into the saddle.
"Thanks again for your help," he said, shaking Nabooru's hand.
"Hey, thanks for preventing the entire kingdom from, well, dying," she retorted. "I think I'm going to stick around the fortress for awhile until things start getting back to normal." She rubbed her chin. "I'm going to be needing a new leader soon."
"Don't look at me," Link said.
Link stuck his foot in the stirrup and climbed up behind Zelda. "So, I'll be seeing you all again, I imagine."
Nabooru grinned. "Get out of here, kids. Go home. It's way past curfew now as it is."
Link clenched his teeth and shot Nabooru a death glare, but Zelda just snuggled into his chest, nearly dozing.
"See you guys," he said, reining Epona around.
The Gerudo all cheered as they rode out of the fortress.
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