The lanterns could be seen from miles away, tiny werelights bobbing and weaving through the dense wood, carried by hundreds of thieves searching for their leader. One by one, they picked their way carefully through the trees and shrubs, scanning for even the smallest clue to Ganon's whereabouts. Knossous led them through the wood, cursing the slow ones and bullying the quick ones. Ganon was supposed to have come back at the camp hours ago after getting the stone from the Great Deku Tree, but didn't arrive. Knossous feared for his leader's life and organized a search party.
"Blasted forest!" Knossous mumbled as a bat flew by his face. He cursed fiercely and stumbled forward. This jungle was so dense you couldn't see your own feet, much less the ground. Searching for Ganon was futile, but this was the only place they hadn't yet covered. Ganon had to be in here.
"Knossous! I've found him!"
Knossous turned quickly and ran after the thief's voice. He jumped over tree roots and smashed his way through thickets until he came into the clearing where Ganon lay.
Ganon had obviously been in a fight. Blood streaked his face and chest, and his entire body was a mass of scars and bruises. Two teeth lay on the ground next to him, still wet with saliva and blood. Ganon's face was pale as death, and Knossous could hardly hear him breathing. Knossous took all this in in an instant, then turned to the Gerudo thief who'd found his leader.
"Get the others together. We've got to get him back to camp as quickly as we can."
* * *
Ganon slowly and painfully cracked open one blood-encrusted eyelid. He was back in the camp, with Knossous sitting by him. A fire roared beneath a cauldron in one corner. Ganon drew in a shuddering breath.
Knossous leaned forward. "We found you, Mandrag Ganon. You're back in the camp now. You've been sleeping for hours."
"I have...my own way of healing." Ganon took in another breath, and whispered something inaudible. Pinpricks of bright light swirled and danced beneath his skin, shining under his injuries. He whispered another word, and the flecks grew and sprouted from his skin, enveloping him in a cocoon of white light. Ganon shook a moment, and then was still. Knossous stood up.
"Rest well, my lord. Heal your injuries, so that you may lead us all to the stuff of dreams."
* * *
Knossous came back the next morning to find Ganon calmly sipping soup. Though his face was pale and his hands shaking slightly, he looked much recovered. Ganon looked up, his eyes once again the eyes of a Gerudo King.
"Ah, Knossous," Ganon said cheerfully. "What news do you bring me?"
"We've had spies into the Kokiri Forest for days now. The Deku Tree is totally under your spell, and already it withers."
"Ah...then it begins." Ganon smiled.
"Only the Gorons and Zoras await, Mandrag Ganon."
Ganon laughed. "They'll tremble at my presence, stupid country bumpkins. They haven't seen combat in centuries." He took another sip of soup. "I shall attack them all soon."
* * *
Night fell. Stars came out and dusted the velvet sky with beauty unparalleled. The silver moon sent beams of liquid light to spatter the ground with brilliance.
And not far from the camp, a small fire burned, like an answer to the moon's light. The shadows of twenty or so people obscured the firelight from the main camp, and so the other thieves did not notice.
But what was taking place around this fire was of paramount importance.
"Ganon has outlived his usefulness," a slim young Gerudo said, sitting on a log by the fire.
"I agree," said another Gerudo. "Now that we have the location of the entrance to the Golden Land and the means to open it, we no longer need him."
The other Gerudos sitting around the fire nodded. They were all young, some only eighteen, and they all had loyalties to Nabooru, the Gerudo queen. She'd hand-picked these women after Ganon left searching for the Triforce. Nabooru had figured that having some of her people in his group might pay off, and it looked like she was right again. Ganon had no idea that some of his most unwavering patriots were secretly planning to overthrow him.
"But we must do it carefully," one of them said quietly. "Ganon has learned his magic from the Book of Mudora, and a coup will not be easy."
"What is so hard about slipping a drop of poison in his drink?" one Gerudo said hotly. "Why are we waiting so long? Strike while the iron is hot!"
"We won't be striking Ganon for a while," a voice of steel said from the trees. A shadow slipped out of the tree, slowly becoming the form of a Gerudo, easily only twenty or so. She wore a belt of woven gold threads, with various knife sheaths and bags hanging from it. Her red hair was streaked with nearly white strands, a striking effect that made her seem older than she was. This was Marada, leader of this band, appointed by Nabooru herself. She walked to the fire and pulled a handful of blue sand from a pouch at her waist. "As you said, he has magic from the Book. But desert magic is stronger and quieter." She tossed the sand onto the flames, and immediately they slowed their flickering and froze as solid fire. A cerulean color crept up through this sculpture until it was a deep shade of crystal. Marada held out her hands over this cold fire.
"By the river of sand," the group chanted in unison. "By the fire of the desert sun, by the steadfastness of the stone, we call forth our queen."
An image slowly came into view inside the flames, a woman's face with wide eyes and a sharp nose. Nabooru's face.
"Hear us," they chanted. "Hear our call."
Nabooru's face became even more distinct in the fire, and slowly it came alive, becoming the face of the woman they all knew. They had made contact with their leader. Nabooru smiled.
"What news do you have, Marada?" Nabooru's voice, floating across miles of land, buoyed by the magic of the desert, sounded oddly cold, as though her words had frozen in the cold night air.
"Ganon has woken from his sleep, and the Tree withers," Marada said to the face in the flames.
"Ahh...then only the Gorons and the Zoras remain."
"Yes, Nabooru. And they will fall easily."
"No...no. The Gorons will never acquiesce to his demands. Ganon may pressure them all he wants, but they will never give him the stone."
"Perhaps. What of the Zoras?"
"Much the same. They are to strong to give in. And with their magic, they may see through his tricks." Nabooru pondered a moment. "He will steal it from them somehow," she said finally. "Through trickery and chicanery, he will steal it." She looked up, and her eyes burned into Marada. "We must stop him, and soon."
"I believe that if we attack him indirectly, he will fall more easily. If we cause a boulder to fall on Death Mountain, or some such accident..."
"No, he will expect that. We must find a different way." She mused. "I admit that my knowledge of how to deal with him is limited to what you tell me. I cannot think without seeing. I leave you to find a solution, Marada. Consider poison, consider knives, consider everything. We must kill him, and soon." The image in the fire faded, and the fire turned its normal color again. Marada turned and faced the entire group.
"You heard her, sisters," she said clearly. "Ganon will die, and soon."
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