Before The War

By Ted Anderson

Chapter 4

Ganon made his way back to the grove he'd picked out as camp, a grin on his face. Most of the thieves were grouped around a fire, over which a wild pig was roasting. Their tents were pitched nearby, painted to blend in with the forest. Knossous, who was warming his hands against the bitter Hyrulian nights, looked up and stood at attention instantly. "Were you successful, milord?" he said.

Ganon smiled at Knossous. "Quite." He sat by the fire and took a leg of the pig, gnawing hungrily. He let the juice drip down his chin as his sharp teeth tore at the pink flesh. When he was done, he tossed the bone into the woods. He sighed contentedly.

"The door is indeed in the Temple of Time, but it can only be unlocked with three stones and the Ocarina of Time—none of which can be had easily." He wiped his fingers on his tunic and picked up the Book of Mudora. "The three spiritual stones were given to three of the nearby races, while the Ocarina was kept with the royal family. The stones are with the Kokiris, the Zoras, and the Gorons. We'll need the king's trust to get the Ocarina."

Ganon put away the book and pulled out a map. He traced his finger slowly over the parchment, then stabbed his finger at a place Knossous couldn't see. "There," he said, "the closest ones are the Kokiris. It will be a simple matter to destroy the Deku Tree. Then, I can bully Darunia and Zora for the others." Ganon chuckled. "It's almost too easy."

* * *

The dawn came and left three times before Ganon had finished his preparations. Then, he waited for darkness to flood the world, and the giant silver disk of the moon to rise before he went to the Deku Tree.

Stealthily he crept through the Kokiri Wood. Had anyone woke, his illusionary aura would have made him seem like part of the ground. But no one woke, although someone groaned in one of the houses. When Ganon heard this, he stopped abruptly. He let three minutes pass by, his breathing the only sound. A nightmare, he thought, and started off.

Ganon rounded the bend in the path, and the Deku Tree loomed over him, its eyes open and watching Ganon. Realizing that the Tree knew he was there, Ganon straightened up and laughed loudly.

"Why is it that all you Hyrulians like such looming spectacles? All your buildings seem to be stretching to reach the sky, and even Nature does the same."

The Tree exhaled slowly, a rumbling groan. "Thou art the evil man of the desert."

Ganon bowed mockingly. "You've got me pegged."

The Tree's eyes narrowed. "You seek my stone."

"And you don't seek small talk. So we'll get right to the point then, hmm? I want the Kokiri Emerald, and if you don't give it to me, I'll chop you down and use you for a bonfire."

"Thy threats are as nothing to me, for any harm you do seek against me would be ludicrous. I would crush thee like a fly, if I did not know of the harm that would do."

Ganon grinned. "I don't think you know who you're dealing with." He raised his arms, and a glowing light appeared between his hands. It growed even larger, until he slammed it into the ground. Its power rippled the grass, and where the ground broke, a huge snapping weed-beast sprouted up, until the tree was surrounded.

"And I think that thou dost not know who thou dost threaten." The tree hummed and glowed, and all of the weeds shrieked as they crumbled into dust. The Tree rumbled again. "Leave and I will not harm thee."

"Give me the stone, or you'll be roasting my food."

"Then it seems that force is the only way to sway thee." The Great Deku Tree rumbled again, deeper and more sustained. A brilliant light shone forth from its eyes, growing unbearably bright. Huge cracks appeared in its sides, spilling forth light. All this light suddenly shone with an intensity beyond mortal comprehension, and a pillar of light stabbed at the sky, flowing from the Tree's branches. The light swirled and sparkled, and then cracked like a whip at Ganon.

It was beyond pain, beyond fear, that which Ganon felt. The light slammed into his body, knocking him backwards into the wall that surrounded the Tree. Ganon yelled, and he heard a series of snaps that he realized were his ribs breaking as the whip ground him deeper into the wall. The light was in his mind as well, stabbing ferociously into his thoughts and torturing him from within. The power stung him like a billion knives, ripping into his flesh and burning with a heat not of this world.

And then it was gone, the light faded, making the clearing seem black as pitch. Ganon sank to his knees, bleeding in a dozen places, bones broken, and his soul screaming from the heat of the light. Ganon took a deep, shuddering breath and looked up.

"So be it," he said.

Ganon chanted slowly, the syllables filling with power and ripping out at the Tree. The words could almost be seen, black blades burying in the wood of the Tree and twisting from within. The Tree cried out in anguish, and Ganon stopped.

"There," he growled. "I have cursed you with a plague that will slowly kill you from within, rotting your flesh and filling you with the stuff of monsters. Since you would not give me the stone, I take something else in return—your life, and the life of this wood with it." So saying, Ganon stumbled to his feet and limped out of the clearing, leaving the Tree with his curse.

* * *

Ganon walked slowly, watching his feet to see where they fell, for he could feel nothing below his waist. Though he did not show it, the spell had taken much of his power. The Tree would die, yes, but what would become of him?

Well, he didn't plan to die in this cursed wood! Ganon took another laboring breath and another agonizing step. The darkness obscured his sight when he needed it most, and Ganon dared not cast a light spell for fear of draining his power permenantly. Somewhere an owl hooted in the night. The moon delicately touched the horizon and sank ever so slowly beneath it. Ganon saw the sun coming, and hurried to try for the camp. But his foot hit a fallen branch, and Ganon fell on his side. There he lay, unable to move.

"Cursed...tree..." Ganon sank to the ground.

* * *

Back at the camp, the thieves saw the sun coming and prepared to greet their leader. But the minutes passed, and they saw nothing of Ganon. They started to talk among them of other thieves, of monsters, of zombies and ghouls. But the only voice which could be heard was Knossous's.

"Where is Ganon?"

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