The Great Desert

By Shadsie & Sailor Lilith-chan

Chapter 9: Masters and Servants



Rhiannon streaked across the Tantari Waste, her passenger digging his heels into her sides.  Link ducked as another arrow whizzed above his head.  He squint his eyes and looked ahead.  There were no rock formations, dry forests, canyon valleys or anything in which she might lose his pursuers. 


Navi hugged the front of his hat, her wings pressed firmly against her back.  “I told you not to go this way! You said yourself that it was Gerudo country. Don’t you ever think?”


“It’s the easiest way to Mido and it is big, open country!” Link countered, “I didn’t think anyone would find us crossing it and how was I to know they’d know who I was?”


“Link…” Navi whined, “your image is everywhere on wanted posters!  Cecelia and Ganondorf have soldiers out looking for you.  The Gerudo are opportunistic scavengers – they always have been and always will be! What did you think was going to happen?”


“Just find a way for us to lose them, okay?”


Link’s sensitive ears detected the hoofbeats of other horses coming closer.  He coaxed Rhiannon onward and patted her neck.  She whinnied brokenly, nearly out of breath.  “Come on, girl,” he encouraged, “Just a little bit more.  Come on, Rhia… they’re gonna kill me!” 


He heard whooping and hollering, then a sharp sound.  A net enveloped him and he fell to the ground, rolling.  He caught sight of Rhiannon’s hooves jumping away and booted human feet clopping onto the ground in front of him.  “Got him!” he heard somebody say before one of those boots collided hard with his head. 


The next thing he knew, he was being yanked up by his hair and rough ropes bound his feet together and his hands behind his back.  The net was gone.  His vision was full of bursts of light.  Someone was yelling at him, but he couldn’t make out their words in his foggy state.  His head was pounding.  It was a man’s voice. 


“Hey, kid, you wanna tell us why this sword of yours won’t come out of its scabbard, eh? Just stuck in there – rusted old piece o’ junk!” 


Link watched the man kick the Master Sword across the sand.  A tall, thin, dark-skinned woman reverently picked it up.  “Now, Benson, just because you cannot draw it doesn’t mean it’s a piece of junk!” she protested, “I’m sure it just needs a little oil and a little love.  Hmm. I can’t draw it, either…”


“Gun’ll fetch a nice price… and that other sword he had on him. Collectors go nuts fer stuff like that,” the man, apparently named “Benson,” said.  “And o’ course, the boy ‘imself.”   


Benson was a largely-built man; light skinned and mildly sunburned, with bristly black facial hair.  His ears were short and rounded in the fashion of standard humans. His form was quite a contrast to his company.   He reached a meaty hand down and grabbed Link by the chin.  “Tell me, son, what did you do with that pretty little princess? Ya kill ‘er an’ bury ‘er out in the desert somewhere?” 


Link narrowed his eyes and spit in Benson’s leering face. 


“That’s no way to get a confession out of somebody,” another darkly tanned woman said.  “Lord Ganondorf will pay double if we can get the princess… alive, or a body, whichever state she is in, but we’ll not get her location out of him if you treat him like that.” 


The woman crouched down beside Link and put her hands upon his shoulders.  He winced and fidgeted as she put her lips to his ear.  “Come on,” she said, rubbing his shoulders lightly, “If you tell us where she is, we’ll give you anything you want… anything.”


“How about my fairy?” Link asked with a glare.  


Benson tossed a clear glass bottle at him.  Inside it was Navi, trapped by a stiff cork.  She batted about the inside, her little body glowing red with fury. 


“Come on,” said the woman holding the sheathed Master Sword, “Let’s get him to the fortress.  We can ask him more questions there, torture him if necessary.” 


Link was surprised when the other woman, who looked quite petite to him, lifted him up and slapped him over Rhiannon’s saddle. The girl that held his sword reached down and picked up the bottle with Navi. They mounted their steeds and Benson mounted his.  He grabbed Rhiannon’s reins and led her beside his own shabby-looking mare.  The wind began to pick up a little and from his unusual vantage point, Link could see the tell-tale brown “wall” of an approaching dust storm.  Before it hit, the group was inside a sheltered little cove, of sorts, built into a hollow of rock.  Mudbrick and adobe buildings populated this hollow, built side-by-side and over each other as pueblos. 


Milling about this area, each one upon her own business, were dark-skinned women with varying shades of red hair.  Most of them were dressed in purple or cream-white clothing of a particular style that had come to be known throughout Hyrule as “Gerudo-style.” Their shoes were pointed, their pants were billowy and their tops barely covered anything.  A few of the women dressed more sensibly, in jeans and in light buckskin jackets with leather-fringe.  The women dressed in the more traditional Gerudo-style carried spears or scimitars, while many clothed in more modern dress had gun belts around their slender waists. 


“No escape here,” one of the women who’d caught Link said as she cut the ropes on his feet free with a large hunting knife.  She helped him off his horse, holding him by his wrists, which remained bound.   


A little girl stood outside the corral where the horses were being kept.  “Outta my way, brat!” Benson groused as he pushed her on his way to leading the horses inside.  The girl cried and ran to hug the legs of the woman holding Link. 


“She is my daughter if you’ll remember!” The woman said, “AND the daughter of your boss!”


“She was in my way. Brat ought to listen better.” 


“She’s deaf, you idiot!”


“Forgot ‘bout that. Still oughta teach her to stay outta the way when important company comes through.  Don’t you forget, I’m here to supervise all y’all, make sure the land management an’ tribute is all in order, accordin’ to Ganondorf’s orders. His people or not, I’m your boss right now.  Take the prisoner inside, Givanna. I’ll have Xera deal with his weapons.”


The woman named Givanna shoved Link ahead of her.  Her little girl followed behind.  Givanna ushered him into a simple adobe-walled building and forced him down into a heavy, cast-iron chair.  Link struggled, but she made efficient work of holding him down and tying him into the chair.  The little girl watched and made simple hand signs.  Link decided that the child couldn’t have been more than three years old. 


Givanna signed back, speaking and nodding as she did. “Yes, honey,” she said, “some water would be a good idea.  Go to the well and mind your aunts.”  Her hands flew through multiple signs deftly. Link couldn’t help but be fascinated.  Givanna sat down in a chair opposite him, her legs splayed over the sides and her arms resting on the back – sitting casually the “wrong way.” 


“She’s a smart girl,” Givanna said with pride, “much smarter than that reject her father drafted to take inventory on us.”


“She’s…Ganondorf’s daughter?” Link choked. 


“Um, hmm.” Givanna answered.  “I can’t say we are really enthusiastic about following ol’ Ganny, but he is the king of our people by birthright – as well as the king of yours now, it would seem.  We respect the birthright, the pure blood, and Shana’s a sweet girl.”


“Shouldn’t you and she be living in Hyrule Castle?” Link asked sheepishly, “I mean, if she’s his daughter and you’re his wife.”


“Wife?” Givanna laughed, “Wife?  Oh, you poor sweet boy!  You Hylians…The Gerudo don’t have such things.” 


She got up, stood behind Link’s chair and trailed her index finger down his chest.  He winced and writhed.  “We take on willing men when it pleases us… regular humans and Hylians, but when the king of the Gerudo has risen, he can take any one of us that he pleases. It isn’t always a choice.” 


“I’m sorry,” Link said, relieved when Givanna removed her hands from his person. 


“Don’t be,” Givanna said, “There is a reason why we call him ‘The Stallion.’ In any case, we respect the royal lineage, even when we lack full respect for the king.”


Shana returned with a bowl of water.  Givanna took it and put it to Link’s lips.  He gulped it, gratefully.  Link smiled down at Shana and Shana looked up to him, fear in her golden-colored eyes. Givanna hugged her and signed something to her.  Shana ran off outside.


“I told her to go play,” Givanna said. “I wouldn’t want her to watch a torture-session.”


“TORTURE?” Link gagged.  “But, we were talking all nice and all… do we really need to resort to that?”


“That is entirely up to you,” Givanna said, walking about the room.  “In case you haven’t guessed, I’m the Matriarch around here, descended straight from the Sage, Nabooru, I am. That’s almost as good as being a pureblooded Gerudo.  You know, a town was named after her.  All we want is a little information.  That tan skin of yours would make lovely leather, taken straight from a living body…”


Link’s face blanched.  “Information? Like… like what?” 


“The whereabouts of Princess Zelda, of course, silly,” Givanna replied.  “I’m sure President Ganondorf and Queen Cecelia will have you executed, anyway, but they’ll do it quickly – for the public eye, you see.  You can choose your death – quick or slow.  You are a dead or alive bounty, so we can do what we want.  You have such handsome blue eyes… it would be a shame if I had to gouge them out with my hunting knife.”


“Do what you want with me, I’m not telling you where she is!” Link shouted. 


“Brave,” the Gerudo warrioress mused. “News that’s been passed around says that you’re deranged, killed your uncle and all that.  I really don’t think you are… you look much too innocent.  Tell me, did you murder the princess and dump her somewhere? All we need to please those who hold us is a body.  Where did you bury her?”


“I didn’t bury her!” Link yelped, “I would never hurt Zelda, ever!”


Givanna sat back down in her chair.  “You’re in love, aren’t you, boy?  I can see it plain on your face.  She is hiding somewhere. You are protecting her.  Beautiful, really, but it changes nothing.  Are you willing to give your life for her, boy? Slowly and painfully?”


“Yes,” Link said with a straight, determined gaze.  “Like I said; do what you will with me.  I won’t let anyone hurt her.” 


Givanna shook her head and sighed.  “I don’t want to do anything to you.  You seem like a good kid.  They’ll find her.  They won’t stop searching until they find her.  We’re packing up and heading out to Castle Town in the morning. It’s going to be a long trip. The bounty that will be paid out on you will be tremendous.  Take comfort in this – your life is going to feed this entire tribe for a long time.”





The entire village was out to see the small escort off.  Givanna led a sleepless and exhausted Link out to the center of the plaza while the large human, Benson, packed up the horses with supplies and with Link’s weapons, which he’d planned to sell in the Castle Town market.  Little Shana ran around excitedly, looking for ways to help the adults.  Benson backed into her and fell down on his rear.  He got up, roaring, and grabbed the child by the arm. 


“You little insect!” he said before hitting her. 


Before Givanna could do anything, Link wriggled out of her grasp, his hands still bound, growling.  “You leave her alone!” he yelled as he butted headfirst into Benson, knocking him down again. 


Benson got up and pointed his gun at Link’s chest.  “I’ll shoot ya down right here!” he exclaimed. 


The gathered Gerudo were gasping.  Givanna hugged little Shana. 


“Where do you get off hitting a defenseless little girl?” Link demanded.  “Why don’t you fight a man, like me?”


Benson cocked his gun.  “Hope you’ve made yer peace with the Goddesses, horse-ears.”


Givanna stepped over to Link, her hunting knife out.  She cut the ropes binding his wrists.  Then she stood in front of him, between Benson and his gun.  “You really are thick, aren’t you?” she said to Benson.  “You’ve been challenged.” 


Benson lowered his piece.  Link did not make a move to run or fight, after all, the tribe still had Navi somewhere.  “Challenged?” Benson asked.


“Our captive has challenged you to defend the honor of my daughter.  According to our culture’s laws, you two must fight one-on-one with equally-matched weapons.  Since you do not have a sword, sir, I suppose guns will have to do.” 


A tall woman walked up to the horse carrying Link’s weapons and grabbed his belt and holster.  She loaded fresh bullets into his gun and tossed it to Givanna.  Givanna, in turn, handed the gun belt to Link.  “You win this and we’ll let you free,” she promised. 


Link gave her a brisk, confused nod.


So, Link found himself back to back with Benson, the Gerudo tribe watching him and the other man in a semi-circle.  The one he’s learned was named Xera was holding Navi’s bottle in her hands.  It was his reflexes and his uncle’s gun against Benson’s cruel sneer and his expensive-looking ivory-handled pistol.  They’d each walked several paces, listened for the “whoop!” one of the tribeswomen gave, and fired. 


Link jumped as a bullet whizzed past his ear.  His own shot failed to land.  Benson fired again and Link lunged and rolled.  Link hit his feet, squinted and fired again.  Benson dropped his gun and fell to his knees, clutching his right shoulder.  Blood quickly drenched his shirt sleeve.  Before he could grab it, a young Gerudo kicked the ivory-handled pistol out of the way and stepped on the man’s hand hard as he released his shoulder to reach for it. 


She glared at Link.  “Finish it,” she said. 


Link stepped forward shakily.  


“You won,” the Gerudo said again.  “He is yours to finish.”


An image of the dying lynel he’d faced before flashed through Link’s mind.  He shook his head and holstered his gun.  “Is it okay…” he began, “if I chose to give this man’s life back to him? That’s what I’d like to do.” 


“As you wish, gracious warrior,” the woman said with a light bow. 


“Do you have any doctors here?” Link asked, “I’d like this man treated.  Imprison him if you’d like, but treat him first.”  Then, he added, with a little sneer – for the sake of impressing the tribe – “I want him to live with his shame.”   


The referee nodded and three women came and gathered Benson, leading him, yelping and grousing, inside one of the buildings. 


To his surprise, Shana ran up to Link and hugged his legs.  He smiled and knelt down to her.  “Hey, there,” he said, though he knew he wasn’t heard. 


“Thank you for standing up for my daughter,” Givanna said, approaching him. 


Little Shana signed something to him. 


“She said you’re a good man,” Givanna explained. 


Link cautiously tried a sign of his own, not knowing if it was known among the Gerudoes.


Shana laughed aloud. 


“All clear,” Givanna said.  “Where did you learn that?”


“Rancher’s shorthand,” Link explained, “It’s what I was back home.  So, are you going to make good on your promise?  Am I free to go?” 


“Of course,” Givanna said.  “Despite our king’s policies, we Gerudo really are a people of honor.  You were willing to fight for one of us.  That is respect. You… really would have fed us for a long time, though.” 


Link looked down, his eyes sad.  “I really do enjoy living,” he said, “and I have people to protect.  If I can help it…in the future… I’ll make sure you’re fed, okay?  I’ll do…something.” 


Navi came barreling toward him.  “Oh, Link! Oh, Link!” she cried.  She ran right into his lips and gave them a fluttering little fairy kiss before spinning around his head and hovering in front of his nose.  “That was so cool!”


Link laughed.  “Are you alright, Navi?”


“You could have died, you know!” the fairy scolded. 


Link walked over to Rhiannon. The horse was carrying all his things.  He reached into a saddlebag.  It was still there.  “It’s a little stiff… it hasn’t been cured yet,” he said,  “I kept this in hopes of making some new boots, but your tribe can have it.  I don’t have much I can give you in return for giving me my life back, but I hope this can help you.” 


He unrolled the aquamentus skin.  Givanna gasped and ran her hands along it.  “This is… is this genuine aquamentus?”


“Yep!” Navi said with pride, “Link slew it and skinned it himself!” 


“This is very rare, Link,” Givanna said, “Are you aware of how valuable this is?” 


“Half my bounty?” Link guessed.


“Closer to twice your bounty,” Givanna said.  She rolled up the skin and took it into her arms. She bowed gratefully.  “Thank you, young warrior, thank you.” 


“I had no idea,” Link said, scratching the back of his neck. 


“You may stable your horse here any time you like.” 


“Thank you,” Link replied.  “Ready to head on out?” he asked Navi.  





Link entered the cove covered in brush.  He parted bushes out of his way as he led Rhiannon behind him.  The rock formations above him formed a cool and shady nook.  He walked onward and upward until he found himself entering a shelf, then a cave.  He could have sworn he’d smelled water and heard dripping. 


“Just a little bit more, girl,” he said to his horse, “With all this plant life, there’s gotta be some water near here.” 


A cool breeze lifted his hair and almost took his hat off. The shade felt wonderful.  Suddenly, he felt pain in both his ankles.  He looked down.  Nothing was there but he was bleeding through his pants just above the boots.  He tested his legs and he could still walk.


“Navi, did you see what just happened?”


Navi flit around, close to the ground, trying to find the assailant.  “I can’t see anything!” she said.  


“Maybe I just walked into a thorny bush.” 


Link scratched his head and then took a few steps, then, unable to stand it any longer, crouched down to examine his wounds.  As he rolled up his right jeans leg, a horde of tiny skeletons came at him from all sides, swarming over him.  They carried little spears, with which they jabbed and stabbed him. 


“Augh!” the young man yelped.  He reached for the Master Sword and swung it, turning several of the tiny creatures into chalky dust.  “What are these things, Navi? Stalkin?” 


Stalkin were creatures that Link had heard about along the way.  Navi’s answer surprised him.


“I don’t know!” Navi yelped.  “I think they’re too small even to be Stalkin.  And stop hurting them!”


“Stop hurting them? They’re hurting me!”  He shook several of the little creatures off his body. 


“They’re fairies!” Navi gasped in resolute horror, “Or, at least, they used to be!” 




The tiny skeletons suddenly stopped their attack.  Within an alcove, a golden creature rose.  The skeletons, making strange little noises, all shuffled towards it.  Link looked up, rubbing a wounded shin, mouth agape.  The golden figure danced.  It looked like a woman, tall, slender and at least three times his size.  Streamers wavered all around her and a serpent coiled around her body.  Its head was at her shoulder and it appeared to be eating its own tail, even as it undulated over her.


“Greetings, Chosen Hero” she said in a voice like water. “I apologize for how my companions have treated you.” 


As one, the little skeletons faced him and respectfully bowed.  Link stood up, continuing to stare at the golden woman. 


“They mean well,” she continued, “They only wish to protect me, which is why they cannot be at peace and move beyond.  I am the spirit Lanayru.” 


For a moment, the woman shifted.  The head of her snake moved and melded into her face until the animal and the woman became one.  The resulting glowing serpent held a ball of light in her mouth.  She then shifted back into the woman. 


Rhiannon paid no attention to this scene.  She dug into the ground with a hoof, bringing forth a paltry gout of muddy water, which she nosed and drank. 


“You… you saved us… Zelda and me, from Cecelia,” Link said shakily. 


The glowing golden dancer nodded.  The Triforce of Wisdom summoned me in a time of great need.  The guardian spirits belonging to Courage and to you, however, have always been divided. The spirit bound to Power is currently overwhelmed by it and does not like its wielder.  Through every age, we have chosen sacred springs to which we are bound.  My spring has dried up and my power is waning.  My poor fairies could not survive in their conventional forms, but they live on in their own way.  They know I am waning, so they make an extra effort to protect me… to buy me more time.”


Link looked to the ground.  “We came here seeking water,” he said humbly.  I am sorry to disturb, you, my lady.” 


“On the contrary, Hero,” Lanayru said gently.  “I have been hoping you would come this way in a timely manner.  I have been waiting for you.  I will live – we will live… if we are united.  There are three other spirits throughout Hyrule.  If they can be transported to this spot – us all four united together, we can begin to bring the springs back.  I cannot leave here any longer, even at the call of the Triforce of Wisdom.”


“So,” Navi said, “if you are united, the springs will start returning?”


“Yes,” Lanayru answered.


“What if they, too, cannot leave their springs?” Link asked. 


“That is my fear,” Lanaryu replied.  “If you know powerful transportation magic, or someone who practices it – find someone who practices powerful transportation magic.”


Link immediately thought to the streets of Kakariko, just before he’d left it again.  He’d watched Midna practice her magic.  She could destroy objects with precisely aimed bursts of shadowy magic.  She also teleported large objects from one part of town to another.  She seemed to get a kick out of transporting stray cats and cuckoos to the rooftops… Midna!


“Yes!” Link said enthusiastically.  “I know just such a mage and she said that she was supposed to help me in anything I needed.  I will help you.” 


“Thank you, Hero,” Lanayru said before fading away. 


“Look!” Navi said, pointing to the splatters of chalk Link had left in destroying some of the tiny skeletons.  The dust knit itself together into more skeletons – the same as he had “killed.”  They bowed to him, as if in apology. 


Link smiled and laughed before leaving the dry spring.



As Link exited the mountainside, he drew the Master Sword.  He did not know why he went for it rather than for his gun – perhaps it was the fact that it felt like an old friend, or maybe, it was just because he knew the caliber of his bullets just wouldn’t work. 


He had not expected to see a gigantic grizzly bear come barreling down the mountain outside the spring toward him.  It bawled and grunted.  What Link had expected even less was that he’d ever see a bear with gray-blue fur – or wings.  The wings were small, given the proportion of the bear’s body. 


“What kind of monster is this, Navi?” Link demanded, ready to fight. 


“It’s not a monster!” Navi replied, “I don’t know what it is!” 


The bear came to a halt in front of him and sat on its copious rear.  It lifted a paw up and motioned to the Master Sword.  “I wouldn’t try using that on me.  That is my sword.”  The bear then bawled in such a loud manner that the stones around the little group shook.  A wind kicked up, blowing dust and grit that Link could not see through.  It passed quickly.  Navi and Rhiannon had disappeared.  Perched upon rocks on the dry mountain slope, sitting cross-legged, was a boy of thirteen to fourteen years of age.  He was dressed in green and had honey-blond, wild hair.  He looked as if he was meditating.  His smile was gentle and his eyes were serene. 


“Another Hero of the past?” Link ventured. 


“You are catching on quickly,” the boy said with a broader smile.  “Pleased to meet cha.”


“I take it you have something to teach me.” 


“Of course.” 


“You’re obviously the Bear, but… you’re rather small…” 


The younger-looking Hero laughed.  He balled his left hand into a fist and put it to his chest.  “I had the heart of a bear,” he said.  “Strong.  Also, the bear-form is taken in honor of one of my dear friends.  He was a bit slow-witted, but a very kind and powerful ally.” 


Link considered the boy for several minutes. Silence passed between them.  “You look… contemplative,” he observed.  “I never knew any of my ancestors… or I was… however this thing works…. Never knew there was a Hero who was a Sage.”


“I’m not a Sage,” the boy answered.  “I didn’t even save Hyrule.”


“Huh?” Link asked.


“I was called many things – the Hero of Time and Nature, the Hero of the Essences of Time and Nature… the Hero of the Essences… I prefer the Hero of Nature, myself.  We already held the title of ‘Hero of Time’ – and ‘Hero of Nature’ is more apt for me.  Time is a part of nature, after all. As for the question you are about to ask – it is correct. I did not save Hyrule, at least not directly.  I took care of two important neighboring kingdoms.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Holodrum and Labrynna.  During my era, if they had fallen, Hyrule would have followed.”


“So,” Link began, sitting cross-legged on the ground in front of the Hero of Nature, “The Hero of Twilight taught me how to use my sword.  The Hero of Time taught me how to dodge.  What do you have to teach me?” 


The boy held up his hand, index finger extended.  “Ah-ah,” he corrected, “All of us are merely reminding you of skills you’ve forgotten.  You were us all.  Now that you have accepted that, things will go a lot more smoothly.” 


“Whatever happened to Bippin and Blossom’s son?” Link blurted out.  He caught what he’d said and put a hand over his mouth. 


The Hero of Nature laughed heartily.  “Oh, he grew up strong and took over the family farm.  He lived quite well.  He outlived me.”


“I’m sorry.”


“Don’t be. I’m alive now – in you.  I guess I am speaking with you now to help you not to be afraid of that.”


“Afraid of what? Death?”


The young Hero nodded, “Well, of all aspects of nature.  It truly is only natural to be afraid of death, even for someone who is constantly reborn.  Nature has a rhythm – the seasons, the ages, life and death.  We have a special connection to it all.  Take some time and feel the wind.  Center yourself on the magic flowing through you.” 


“I’m becoming more used to magic every day.”


“That is good, Hero of Tides, that is good.”


“Hero of Tides?  Medli called me that…I think.”


“It is your destiny.”


“The Hero of Twilight kept calling me ‘coyote.”


“Also your destiny, cunning one.  Do not fear your destiny.  Nature can be brutal, but do not fear it.  You are a part of it.  It must be respected as it is above us all.  I am…limited… but I am a part of you and in touch with the Essences of the Ages.  I sense that you are soon to lose someone close to you… one…or more than one… I cannot tell.”


“What?” Link asked, suddenly panicked. He stood up and approached the Hero of Nature, reaching out to grab him by the shoulders. 


The younger-looking Hero simply sat, just as he had the whole time, cross-legged and serene.  “Be brave,” he said. “Nature can be brutal.”  Then he vanished, leaving Link to stand dumbfounded in the desert, staring at an empty grouping of rocks, Navi flitting about his head, asking him what was wrong.   





End Chapter 9.


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