Before the War

by Ted Anderson


Chapter 2 - Doublecross


  Ganon walked through the immense archway in the throne room, still pulling on his gloves. Knossous and the others assembled turned and saluted him. "Mandrag Ganon!" they shouted in unison. Ganon held up a hand and walked into the center of the room, a smile on his face.

"Gentlemen and ladies," he said, grinning, "I require twenty men and women skilled on horseback." Thirty or so thieves stepped forward from the ranks. Ganondorf counted off twenty of them. "Wear the armor I have provided you with," he said to the thieves, "and carry your swords."

"Do we expect a fight, sir?" said a Gerudo from the back.

"About as far from a fight as possible. I require you to carry weapons simply to intimidate." He smiled again. "If all goes well, we shall be one step closer to the Triforce."




  Minutes later, Ganon and the thieves rode out on horseback, Ganon in his specially crafted black armor and three-pronged staff. The others rode behind him in custom-fitting steel armor, carrying swords at their hips. Ganon rode into the town again and stepped into the bar. "Barkeep!" he shouted. "Where does Ahrto live?"

The bartender looked up. "In the group of tents on the west side of town. His is the white with blue stripes."

The thieves arrived at the tents moments later. Ganon got off his horse and went to Ahrto's tent. "Ahrto!" he yelled into the dusty air. "I have come to collect!" There was no answer. Ganon reared up to his full height. "Ahrto! Do you think I am joking?" The tent-flap fluttered in the breeze. Ganon groweled and was opening his mouth to shout again when something in the ground caught his eye. A hoof-print. Recently made, in front of the tent. And not just one-four separate sets of tracks, and a set of wheel-prints. Ganon rushed inside the tent. It was absolutely empty. Everything had been taken out in a hurry. Footprints were everywhere, rushing to every corner. Ganon ran back out and leapt on his horse. "Follow me, men!" He spurred his horse, following the tracks at a furious pace. Knossous caught up to him.

"Mandrag Ganon, what is the problem?"

Ganon cursed. "I misjudged Ahrto. I thought he would be too scared to double-cross me. I scared him too much, and he left early this morning." He cursed again. "We can catch him, though. He's in a cart, pulled by four horses. And he's carrying quite a load, too. Those prints were deeply set in the sand."

  Soon, they came upon a junction. Twenty or so different sets of tracks joined together, heading in every direction. Checking them all would take time-time they didn't have. But someone had seen Ahrto. A fodder station with a well was situated by the junction, obviously a thriving business. Ganondorf dismounted and walked into the tent. A small, wiry man with an enormous beard was sitting on a rug, counting his rupees. He looked up and gasped when Ganon came in.

"Have you seen a small man on a cart carried by four horses come by here in the past hour?" he said in a strong tone.

"N-no, sir." The man's eyes darted swiftly around. It was obvious that Ahrto had bribed him.

Ganon's eyes shrank to slivers. He snapped his fingers, and one of his thieves came forward, carrying a massive sword. Ganon went and crouched by the man, staring straight into his eyes.

"Tell me where he went, or your entrails will decorate the sand and your head will ride on my pike." The man gulped, his adam's apple bobbing up and down.

"I ain't seen him." Ganon sighed and pulled out a small, wicked-looking knife. He trailed it lazily up and down the man's torso, and finally rested it at a spot just below the breastbone. The man gulped again. Ganondorf pushed. The man screamed in agony as a thin trickle of blood stained his clothes from the shallow wound Ganon had inflicted. He doubled up in pain and groaned. Ganon shook his head.

"Should've told me, old man. Now I go for the head." He raised his knife until it was level with the man's eye.

"Wait! Th-they went west. D-due west," the man gasped out.

Ganon stood. "Good boy."

  He left and stood outside the tent. He could see the man gathering up his belongings and preparing to leave in a hurry. Ganon got on the horse and headed west. Ten minutes out, they stopped. Ganon turned and pulled out a bow and arrow. Wrapping an oil-soaked cloth around the tip, he notched the arrow to the string. He dipped the arrow in a lit lantern and aimed. He fired. The tent burst into searing flames. Blossoms of vermillion licked over the gaudy fabric, rending it apart. The sand blackened as a cloud of smoke rose from the dead man's tent. Satisfied, Ganon put his bow back in his saddlebag. "Ride," he said.



  They saw Ahrto in minutes, spurring every last ounce of power out of his horses. His wife, heavily pregnant, rode in the back with three young children. Their belongings were heaped alongside them as Ahrto rode in the front. Ganon eagerly spurred his horse on and jumped ahead of Ahrto quickly. The horses shied and reared as Ganon rode in front of the cart. Using his pike, he slashed the ropes to the horses and drove them away. He dismounted and slammed his pike into the wooden cart. Ahrto went white and started to quake. Ganon's eyes bored into the thin man's face. "You have crossed me, Ahrto." His voice was soft yet deadly. "No one crosses me and lives to tell about it." Ahrto's mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. Ganon pulled his pike free and hefted it until it was level with Ahrto's throat. "You will join their ranks." Ahrto finally found his voice.

"Sir Ganon-I have the book r-right here. I-I can give it to you n-now-"

"No, Ahrto." Ganon smiled wanly. "It is far too late for that." There was no warning. The pike flashed in the morning light, and droplets of blood fell like thousands of dead moons, spattering and hissing on the sand. Ahrto's lifeless body slowly tumbled to the ground to the sound of his family's screams. Ganon shifted to look at them and they cowered beneath his gaze, their screams dying on their lips. He considered them a moment, then strode to his horse's saddlebag. He pulled out a large flask of water and a loaf of bread. These he tossed to the woman and her children. "Take these and go. I will not kill you." Slowly, they got up from the cart, then turned and fled into the desert. Ganon watched them for a minute, then pulled up a shapeless burlap sack from the bottom of the cart. He untied the string at the top with deliberate care and calmness. Inside lay the Book of Mudora.


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