Whoever coined the phrase, ‘ignorance is bliss’ must have known something about the Red Dragon. In those final years, you were lucky if you didn’t know what was going on. Most people in Hyrule didn’t know what was going on. Oh sure, they had speculation that something was amiss, but whatever it was, they didn’t care to know. It was easier that way.
Zelda was forced to shoulder the burden of knowledge. Everything the Red Dragon did that was ignored by the people of Hyrule came crashing down on her and those of us who saw what was happening would have given anything to carry her load. But that’s the thing about Zelda; she would never let anyone suffer her pain. In some ways, I would almost call her a martyr, but that’s not the right word. She was more than that, she was a hero. And Hyrule desperately needed heroes.
For me, watching from the sidelines of history was never enough. I had to act, I had to be involved. Most people fought the Red Dragon, when the time came, out of morals or principles or even blind loyalty. For me, though, it was personal. In my own small way, I liked to pretend that I was saving Zelda, but the fact of the matter was, in the end, that she couldn’t be saved. None of us could be saved. We were ignorant.
The Lost Testimony of
The night was one of those nights where the dew began to speckle the blades of grass long before the moon had finished rising. It was a harvest moon, blood red against the velvet sky. Looking at it, the crevices and craters were distinct and it seemed, to anyone who chanced to gaze skyward, that the curved surface was closer to the ground than ever before. But that was just silly. Such things didn’t happen.
Breaking the stillness of the night was the rustling of grass, trod upon by two separate sets of feet. It was the statuesque Sheikah who took the lead, her slate gray costume blending into the darkness so that only her glowing red eyes could be seen with any clarity, reflecting the flickering light of her lantern. Following fast behind was her charge, now grown into the blossom of womanhood, the lovely Zelda. She probably shouldn’t have been out that late and her father, ailing though he was, would still likely give her a scolding for it. Nevertheless, when her Sheikah nursemaid, Impa, called on her, she found that she had no choice but to follow.
On this midsummer night, the air was anything but cold, yet Zelda felt shivers run up and down her spine. She had no idea why Impa came, what the urgency was. Impa had never given her reason to doubt before, yet she wasn’t usually this detached. Now, as the two of them walked across the field, Zelda yearned to hear something, anything that would explain this exodus.
It was strange to see Hyrule so dormant. In the last ten years, Zelda had certainly grown into her looks. Now, she was accustomed to eyes falling on her wherever she went, but the field was lonesome at this hour. In the distance, she could spot the vaguest outlines of the village in the horizon, curling billows of smoke rising up from the chimneys and dancing into the heavens.
“Impa,” Zelda called breathily. “Where are we going?”
“We’re almost there,” Impa replied in a whisper, dismissing the question with a gruff tone.
Zelda scowled, pulling the navy cape she wore a bit tighter around her throat. She hated the way Impa did that. No matter what, Impa would always see and treat her like a little girl. Though it annoyed her to no end, however, Zelda would hardly consider correcting her. Any other courtier who treated Zelda like a child would be reprimanded, but not Impa. She was different.
“Almost where?” Zelda asked, realizing suddenly how childlike her voice sounded.
“Some of my contacts from outside of the castle delivered some disturbing news,” Impa explained.
“What is it?”
“Have you heard of a kingdom called Terabithia?”
“It sounds vaguely familiar,” Zelda answered, tripping over the upraised root of a gnarled old tree.
In a flash, half instinctively, Impa whirled around, catching Zelda around her middle before she could fall over. Righting the girl again, Impa continued walking as if nothing had happened. Had great concern not taken hold of her, Zelda would have smiled at this. Typical Impa.
“It’s been destroyed,” Impa hissed.
“I had a friend who returned from the area this evening. She told me. Nothing’s left of Terabithia but a smoldering pile of ashes.”
“Who could do such a thing?”
“You know who,” Impa replied bitterly.
“But you don’t really think –”
“I don’t think. I know.”
“Why would he destroy a kingdom?”
“I think our worst fears have been realized,” Impa said softly. “He has become the very thing he fought against.”
“Worse,” Impa corrected the girl. “A conqueror.”
“It’s not much a claim, conquering a pile of ash.”
“It’s not the ash, it’s the people.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s taken them.”
Zelda’s eyes nearly bugged out. She came to a half, frozen fast in her tracks. “What?”
Impa turned around, sensing the halt. “All of them. Every citizen who survived the attack has been taken away in irons.”
“How could someone enslave an entire population?”
“More like half,” Impa muttered. “His men had a gay old time slaughtering anyone who put up a resistance.”
“Nayru had nothing to do with it.”
“Were there any survivors?”
Impa slowed to a stop. “Just one.”
As Zelda came to Impa’s shoulder, she followed her beloved nursemaid’s gaze out into the field. A few paces away was a patch of clover, glimmering with a silvery luster under the crimson moon. Curled up into a ball, directly in the middle of the clover, Zelda could see the outlines of a small figure, a child.
“She’s been lying there for nearly twelve hours,” Impa explained in a hushed tone, surprisingly gentle for the warrior.
“Just lying there?”
“We haven’t been able to get a word out of her. My friend who told me she was here said her name was Ariadne.”
“The poor thing,” Zelda whispered. “She must be frightened out of her wits.” Zelda took a few steps forward, toward the huddling child, but Impa caught her arm, pulling her back a few paces.
“Be careful,” Impa warned her.
“She’s a child.”
“That’s no ordinary child.”
Gently, but with firm resolve, Zelda freed herself from Impa’s grasp. She walked to the clover, dripping with dew, and knelt down beside the girl. “Ariadne?” Zelda asked softly. Leaning forward, she placed her hand on the child’s arm. With a pitiful, noise, half whimper and half snarl, she lifted her head to look up at Zelda. Instantly, Zelda felt her insides melt as she looked into the child’s sharp gray eyes. The girl had a beautiful, round face, crinkled up a bit in savage fear, her lower lip trembling. A long, thin cut ran across her forehead, down one eyebrow. “It’s okay,” Zelda whispered.
“She can’t understand you,” Impa said, folding her powerful arms across her chest.
“She understands…” Zelda drew Ariadne up, into her arms. She was shivering, breathing sharply. “She understands,” Zelda muttered with certainty, reaching up to unclasp the broach holding her cape together at her throat. The cape fluttered in the air, wrapping around Ariadne’s tiny shoulders. Gratefully, the child burrowed deep into the folds of fabric.
“My friend says she’s the only survivor to get out,” Impa repeated needlessly.
“Where is this friend of yours?”
“Gone to Beigor to alert the Sheikah leader there.”
“And she just left the girl?”
“She’s been put in my charge. I’m responsible for her.”
“And what do you intend to do?”
Impa scowled. “I don’t know. We can’t send her to the orphanage; she won’t last a day there.”
“Certainly not,” Zelda agreed. She looked down at the child’s face, brushing away a hot tear from her cheek with her thumb. “I’ll take responsibility for her,” she declared.
“Don’t be so quick to volunteer,” Impa warned.
“I’ve made up my mind,” Zelda answered. She pulled Ariadne into a tight embrace, stroking her hair. The child had the softest, lightest hair Zelda had ever touched.
“What will we tell your father?”
“He needn’t know.”
“Someone will see her, eventually.”
“It’ll be taken care of,” Zelda assured her nursemaid. “Trust in me.”
“Always,” Impa promised.
Zelda rocked back and forth slightly, looking down at the top of Ariadne’s head. “The girl has been wronged grievously; I won’t leave her out here to suffer any further.”
“Are those maternal instincts of yours finally kicking in?” Impa teased.
“Don’t say things like that. You make me feel old.”
“You are old.”
“I’m not old. I’m twenty eight.”
“For a girl your age to be unmarried and a maiden, that’s old.”
“And what about you?”
Impa shrugged. “I haven’t time to take a permanent mate.” She scowled, looking up at the harvest moon. “I fear time is something we’re rapidly running out of.”
“All of us.” She jerked her head in Ariadne’s direction. “What happened to this girl’s homeland is just the beginning. I’m afraid the sufferings are just commencing for our realm.”
“By Din, I hope not.”
“He’s capable of it, you know.”
“Capable of what?”
“Complete and total domination.”
Zelda closed her eyes, kissing the top of Ariadne’s head. “Not if I have something to say about it.”
The sun rose, eight years later, on an impossibly beautiful autumn day. For the birds above, Hyrule looked gilded, shining in glossy hues of orange and gold, speckled with bright red spots, rubies, it seemed. The village, clustered around the imperial walls of
, bustled with early morning activity, all of it fairly routine and ordinary. Inside the upper room of the Boar’s Head tavern, the village seemed vague and remote. Little sunlight managed to filter in through the slats of the old wooden window, but there was enough of it to wake Philip. North Castle
He groaned softly, running his hand over his eyes and down the sharp angles of his chin, covered in fresh stubble. Last night’s debauchery flickered in his mind, fading in and out of focus. It didn’t overly concern him that he couldn’t remember half of the things he had done; this was a fairly regular occurrence. Philip tried to sit up, but found that his right arm was hampered down. Turning his head to one side, he saw the source of his troubles. Lying beside him, still fast asleep, was a redheaded woman. Now he remembered. She was a beautiful bar wench, though dumb as a post. What was her name again? June? April?
Swiftly, with practiced grace, Philip yanked his arm out from under her. She rolled over, flopping sleepily onto her other side with a few incomprehensible moans. Thankful that she didn’t wake, Philip crawled out of the bed, slipping into his trousers and tying a sash around his waist. On the far end of the room was a water basin, resting on a dresser near a mirror. He dangled his hands in the water for a moment before running his fingers through his hair. The man in the mirror, looking back at him, did likewise, regarding him with aloof, pale blue eyes.
“Shirt,” he muttered to himself, turning around to face the explosion of garments strewn across the wooden floor. He picked through the articles, discarding over his shoulders the ones he clearly knew to belong to June (or April). Finally, at long last, he came upon his own tunic and slipped it on. It took him several tries as he initially tried to force his head through one of the sleeves. He got it eventually, as always, but didn’t bother tying the laces on his chest.
From the twisted sheets, he heard June (or April) moan softly, rolling over onto her stomach, her face buried in a pillow. Now was the time. Swiftly, he snatched up his boots, resting against the foot of the bed and swept out of the room, taking pains to close the door softly behind him.
Once he heard the click from the knob, he pulled his boots on, trotting down the creaky steps into the main room of the tavern. It wasn’t terribly busy at this hour, of course. A few of the overnight patrons sat at a long, rectangular table, sipping their morning tea and munching on biscuits as they mumbled pleasantries to one another about the weather.
Behind the bar was Hermes, the ancient barkeep. Philip was certain Hermes had been tending the Boar’s Head for longer than anyone he knew had been alive. This was one old man that just out and out refused to die. “Good morning,” Philip called to him as he rounded the staircase and headed for the door.
“Save your good mornings,” Hermes grunted.
“So down? Why’s that? It’s a beautiful day.”
“It’ll be a beautiful day the day I don’t have to remind you to pay your bill,” Hermes replied.
“Put it on my sister’s tab,” Philip answered.
“You know she’s good for it.” Philip started to make his way out of the tavern, into the blinding daylight.
“I’ve got bad news for you,” Hermes called after him.
Philip stopped, turning around to look back at the elderly barkeeper. “Bad news?”
“Your sister came by, not three nights ago. She told me not to let you put any more charges on her tab.”
“That’s so typical,” Philip muttered bitterly.
“Typical or not, you pay.”
“Can’t you put it on just this one more time? You can tell her it was before she stopped by.”
“She paid that tab three days ago.”
He scowled. “Annoying thing.”
“Pay up, Philip.”
“I haven’t got the money.”
“Then you’ll be washing dishes tonight.”
“Can’t you put it on my mother’s tab?”
“Your mother hasn’t been by here in years.”
“Please? This is the last time.”
“Aye,” Hermes grunted in defeat. “This will be the last time, if I keep falling for your promises.”
“Thanks, Hermes,” Philip said.
In response, the old man merely waved his hand, dismissively. Deciding to get while the getting was good, Philip ducked out of the tavern and into the busy alleyway. It was a bit like stepping into a new world entirely, out of the dimly lit recesses of the Boar’s Head and into the harsh reality of the sunlit marketplace.
It was certainly an eventful morning. Philip made his way through the stalls, constantly being knocked into by the hectic merchants, going about their business. Luckily, Philip was a large individual, not easily pushed around. He stood, after all, nearly six feet high, quite tall for a Hylian by any standards. Raking his fingers through his blood red hair, he watched with a bemused smile as the marketers seemingly bounced off of him, like rubber.
“Good morning, Phil,” a wispy voice called. Philip glanced to one side, catching sight of a gaggle of courtesans on the balcony of a nearby building. Decked out in their garish attire, they looked down at him, giggling hysterically. The one who called out to him was Drusilla, his favorite. She leaned back against the wall, one leg draped over the railing around the balcony. When she caught his gaze, she winked, the gaudy blue paint over her eyelid sparkling in the sunlight.
“Ladies,” Philip called up to them with a grand bow.
As they dissolved into peels of laughter, Philip continued on his way. He was fast approaching the very heart of the marketplace. Already, he could see the glimmering marble statue of the goddess Kallista, catching the first rays of light. In days past, there had been gypsy dancers that would perform around the fountain, but they were all gone now. There did seem to be a crowd gathering around, however. Something was happening.
Curious, Philip made his way to the center. He passed a fruit stand, picking up an apple as he went without bothering to pay for it. The seller was too busy anyway, distracted by the scene at the fountain, right outside of the double doors of the
. It had once been a Templeof Farore , but the temple had been burned down ages ago and rebuilt to honor the patron goddess of Hyrule. Without too much thought to politeness, Philip shoved aside people in his way until he finally got to a place where he could see. Taking a big bite out of his apple, he leaned against one of the stalls. templeof Kallista
Standing on the ledge of the pool around the statue of Kallista was a short, funny looking Risan boy. His features didn’t seem at all Risan; he had fair hair and shining green eyes. He spoke Common without the slightest hint of an accent, but his voice was hoarse. Clearly, he had been talking for hours.
“None of you know the great danger that’s coming for you!” he shouted out into the crowd. “The end is near. Soon the Dragon will be upon you.”
Philip chuckled softly, taking another juicy bite out of his apple. He remembered now. This was the loon Ana had been going on and on about, the crazy boy who came to the marketplace to preach doom and gloom and apocalypse regarding some shadowy figure that no one had ever heard about.
“The Red Dragon will turn his sights on Hyrule,” the boy insisted. “You may turn a blind eye to him now, while he’s out devouring the other lands of the realm, but once he starts attacking you, you’ll wish you hadn’t given so little thought to those who are suffering now.”
“Oh shut up!” someone yelled from the crowd. This individual, whoever she was, received quite a spattering of applause.
“What I speak is truth!” the boy declared, glowering down.
“What you speak is nonsense!” the angry woman shouted. “No one will ever conquer Hyrule.”
“That’s right,” another bystander echoed.
“And what of those who are suffering now?” he asked. “Why should you forget about their plight?”
“Hyrule can defend herself!” the woman screamed.
“How will you do that when the time comes? You’ll have no allies left to turn to, no champion to stand up for you. The Hero of Time is gone.”
At that comment, a great chorus of boos began arising. Most of the people assembled turned their backs on the boy, others giving him dirty looks. With an aloof sigh, Philip took one last bite from his apple then lobbed the core up at the boy, hitting him in the head. This caused great laughter to erupt. Soon, everyone who had been jeering at him began to throw fresh produce in his direction. The miserable boy tried to duck out of the way of the tomatoes and lettuce, but he was struck on the head with an onion and lost his balance, falling backwards into the fountain with a terrific splash of water and Rupees.
Philip chuckled. What a fine display! He was only sorry it had to end so abruptly, he would have liked very much to have seen the Risan dodge a few more carrots and pears. That’s what you got for standing up on a soapbox, metaphorically speaking. As he began to walk away, Philip threw one final glance over his shoulder, watching as a kindly young girl leaned over to pull the Risan out of the fountain, dripping wet. The miserable pout on the boy’s face only made Philip laugh a little harder.
Zelda sat on a plush red pillow, resting on top of a stone bench. Her bench was in one of the side chambers of the castle, just below a stained glass window depicting a beautiful representation of the goddess Farore in green and yellow glass. A pile of papers rested on her lap and she slowly shuffled through them, reading the fine print. She had been at it for many hours now and her eyes had grown tired. Zelda wasn’t ready, yet, to own up to the fact that she needed glasses. In her opinion, glasses belonged to mature men, not to women of her age. Despite the fact that she was constantly teased, sometimes a bit too harshly, about being aged, she just didn’t feel old.
Tucking her hair behind her ears, Zelda decided to give her tired eyes a bit of a rest. She looked up at the gray wall across from her. The chamber was shaped like a hexagon, three walls hosting brilliant stained glass images of the goddesses, three walls completely bare, boasting nothing other than torches in iron rings. The torches were dormant now, as red, blue, and green light streamed in through the windows.
It was such a beautiful day. Zelda longed to be outside in the rose garden, enjoying the splendor of a Hylian autumn, but duty constrained her. With her father long gone, Zelda could hardly get away with the freedom she formerly enjoyed in the days when she was a princess. Queen Zelda. It just sounded so strange. Matronly. And Zelda longed to do was lope through the clover, barefoot, reveling in the beauty of the sun.
What didn’t help her inner turmoil was the business at hand. As she flipped through the papers, it seemed as though the black ink was actually blood. Death littered the pages, correspondences, all of them, from outside of Hyrule. Labrynna had fallen. The word was official now. Sprawled across the pages before her were the final testimonies that had managed to escape before the kingdom’s borders were sealed to the rest of the realm. What horrors! Queen Jocasta publicly beheaded. Millions of citizens clapped in irons. Militia slaughtered, alongside their families. The bodies of children lying in the streets, filling the air with the foul stench of death. It was almost too terrible to endure, and yet Zelda read on.
“I don’t suppose anything I say will convince you to eat something.”
Zelda looked up. Impa stood in the doorway, resting her shoulder against the wall. Her face looked sallow and sunken in, heavy bags underneath her eyes. The skin around her temples was thinner and more delicate than before, but she carried her wrinkles as a badge of courage. ‘Impa, my friend,’ Zelda thought silently, ‘you’re getting old.’ All she said aloud was, “No.”
“The Red Dragon’s been having a field day,” Impa muttered, gesturing to the papers in Zelda’s hands.
“It’s horrible,” Zelda muttered. “Not that there was a doubt.”
“He’s running out of lands to conquer.”
“Which means he’ll soon come for us.”
Impa nodded, walking into the room. She had developed a slight limp, but was trying has hard as she could to hide it. Zelda, of course, had pretended, for years now, not to notice, but it was becoming increasingly evident. “It’s time we start preparing for the worst.”
“The people don’t want to believe the Red Dragon exists,” Zelda sighed, putting the papers down on the floor and sliding over to give Impa room to sit.
“What the people want is ignorance, a luxury they can no longer afford to give them.”
“I agree. But what would you suggest we do? Force them into conscription? What good is a militia if no one believes in the cause?”
“A militia will have to wait,” Impa replied. “The knights will do for now. What I had in mind was something a little less conventional.”
“Less conventional? What do you mean?”
Impa sat down heavily, resting her hands on splayed knees. “We have something, in Hyrule, which no other kingdom has.”
“We have many things. To what were you referring?”
Zelda lofted her eyebrows. “What are you suggesting?”
Impa continued on, ignoring Zelda’s question. “And, in the past, we’ve had people nearly capable of seizing the Triforce.”
Zelda scowled. “Ganondorf?” she muttered. “He’s been gone for many years. And if he were still around, I do doubt he’d be willing to help us now.”
“But if he were around, he’d have a vast amount of power, wouldn’t he? Perhaps enough power to start a defense.”
“True…” Zelda admitted. “What are you getting at?”
“Something has come to my attention, something I think you’ll find very interesting.”
“Did you know that Ganondorf had a son?”
Zelda’s eyebrows shot up, virtually disappearing underneath her neatly trimmed bangs. “A son? I’ve known him to have many daughters, but never a son.”
Impa reached into the mouth of the pack on her hip. From it, she withdrew a rolled up sheet of parchment and handed it to Zelda. “Rauru set me on the trail a few months ago.”
Carefully, Zelda unfurled the scroll. “Philip Summer,” she read aloud.
“He’s twenty one years old,” Impa recited. “Lives only about a mile away from the town.”
“Son of Kallista,” Zelda continued to read. She looked up at Impa with wide eyes. “The goddess?”
“That’s what I’m told.”
“The son of Ganondorf Dragmire and a minor goddess.”
“Quite the combination, don’t you think?”
“He’s bound to be a very powerful individual,” Impa said with a small, wiry smirk on her thin lips.
“What are you thinking?” Zelda asked.
“I’m thinking that we may be able to use him.”
“Use him? That sounds so sinister.”
“I meant nothing sinister by it,” Impa amended.
“What did you mean?”
Impa sighed. “The people need a leader, a champion, a figurehead to rally around when the time comes.”
“A hero,” Zelda said quietly.
“This boy might be the perfect candidate to –”
“Replace Link,” Zelda cut her off.
Impa frowned, considering it for a moment. “There is a certain poetic irony to it, I suppose.”
“It feels wrong, somehow.”
“We have no choice. The Red Dragon is coming.”
“Yes, you’re right. But how do we know this boy can even fight?”
“Look at the bottom of the page.”
Zelda’s eyes traveled down. “Bar brawls? Domestic disturbances? Street fights? This is hardly the handiwork of a hero.”
“Oh, I’ll whip him into shape, believe me.”
She looked up, a small smile threatening to break her lips. Impa may have been getting on in years, but there was still no doubt in Zelda’s mind that the Sheikah could easily teach the son of Dragmire a serious lesson. Limp or none. “Do you really think there’s a chance?”
“It’s a chance we have to take,” Impa replied sincerely.
Sighing heavily, Zelda nodded. “All right, I suppose it’s worth a shot. Send one of the kids to get him.”
“Which one? Ariadne?”
“No, send Mia.” Zelda glanced down at the scroll. “It says here that he has a half sister. Adriana Summer.”
“Do you want Mia to summon her too?”
“No, that doesn’t seem necessary.”
“The sister might be helpful in persuading him.”
“Why? What have you heard about her?”
“A socialite,” Impa explained. “She’s spent some time in court. She tends to move in high society circles.”
“We’ll have to keep her in reserve.”
“I’m sure it would thrill her to have a brother working for the monarchy,” Impa said with a twinkle in her eye.
“A very distinct possibility. But let’s save that plan in reserve.”
Slowly, favoring her foot slightly, Impa rose to her feet. Zelda wound up the scroll again and handed it to her nursemaid, though she was not far too old to have a nursemaid. “Here.”
Impa accepted the scroll, tucking it away into her pack. She started to make for the door, but paused to face Zelda. “No one can replace him, you know.”
“Link. No one will ever be able to replace him.”
“I know,” Zelda answered quietly.
Impa slowly made her way out of the room, her heavy footfall lingering long after she was out of sight. In her mind’s eye, Zelda involuntarily found herself traveling back through the passages of Time to the endless summers she spent with Link,
, and their other friends, mindless and careless to the future and to the horrors that would befall them all. Horrors far worse than anything Ganondorf Dragmire could ever have done to them. Tulsa
Everything about the architecture of the palace was designed to instill a sense of terror. High, vaulted ceilings, painted scarlet met at vanishing points, studded with long iron spikes. There were no windows in the throne room, keeping out all natural light so that the occupant had complete control over how much anyone saw. This morning, only five weak torches were lit, their flames dancing enough to cast sinister shadows on the crimson woodwork. Everything pointed toward the end of the room, far from the sinister double doors, where a high dais of obsidian hosted the throne.
The throne itself was a horrifying work of art. Wrought out of iron and varnished deep , the high back of the chair climbed up nearly five feet into the air, the top of it twisting and turning in the most unnatural manner for such metal. Two high spindles crowned the back of the chair, each one ending in a razor sharp point. Adhered to the seat and the arm rests were plump red plum cushions, gentle velvet, contrasting with the cold metal.
In the chair was, perhaps, the most horrifying spectacle of all, the Red Dragon himself. Calling him a dragon was a bit misleading. He was no such thing, but a man, as other men were; two arms, two legs, and, in theory, a face. No one ever saw the Red Dragon’s face; he kept it hidden underneath the dark visor of his helmet. The helmet was made of the same black iron as the throne, with two metal horns coming out of the sides of his head. These were red and were the source of his name. The only part of his face that could be seen was his sharp chin, jutting out from beneath the ornate visor. As for the rest of the Red Dragon’s body, it too was covered in metal, dark armor forged for him out of the fires of
. Normally, all of his body was covered, but now, he seemed a little naked, without the shining metal boots on his feet. Dark green fabric gave way to the pale color of flesh of his feet, exposed to the room and resting in a silver basin, decorated with etchings of battle. Death Mountain
Coset, the Red Dragon’s favorite concubine, sat on the floor by the basin, washing his feet with a loofa sponge. His feet were calloused and hard, his toe nails a sickly yellow shade. Disgusted though she was, Coset didn’t dare to show it and continued about her work quietly, hoping to the gods that she wouldn’t be called upon to say a word.
The doors to the throne room opened with a loud rumble. In marched a fleet of soldiers, the honor guard, judging from how clean their armor was. Behind them entered the Red Dragon’s lieutenant, a man known only to the inhabitants of the castle, by the name of War. As much as the Red Dragon’s features were a mystery, War’s were even more so. Like his master, he was forever clad in armor, purple instead of black, with a gold helmet completely covering his face.
At this entrance, the Red Dragon sat up at bit in his chair, propping his elbow on the armrest. He watched as War entered. His minion never walked when he could levitate, and so War’s approach was silent until he reached the foot of the dais. There, he lowered himself to the ground, bowing respectfully.
“You summoned me?” War asked.
War straightened out again, pausing only briefly to spare Coset a sideways glance. “What is your will?”
“I have a little assignment for you,” the Red Dragon said.
“It involves your return to Hyrule.”
“I’ve decided it’s time we sent them a message.”
“You’re just suggesting that we –”
“Silence,” the Red Dragon said. He didn’t need to growl or raise his voice to instill enough fear into War’s heart. “I want Zelda,” he told War very, very calmly.
“She’s queen now.”
“I want you to bring her to me.”
War glanced around in extreme agitation. “Permission to speak freely, my lord?” he asked.
The Red Dragon sighed. He waved his hand, looking about the room. “Everyone is dismissed.” Immediately, the honor guard fell back into formation, marching out of the room. The various servants loitering along the walls, going about their business quickly gathered their possessions and scampered away. Coset started to rise when the Red Dragon turned to her. “Not you,” he said quietly, gesturing for her to return to the floor. Obediently, Coset dropped to her knees again, resuming her work. Once the room was cleared, the Red Dragon leaned forward slightly, resting his exposed chin in his hand. “What is it, War?”
“I would not dare question your orders in front of the men,” War said tersely, “but to kidnap Zelda is a bit excessive.”
“The people talk…”
War seemed agitated to express what was on his mind. “And,” he started, “the people in our lands know about your…”
“Shall we say, your obsession with the princess.”
Slowly, dangerously, the Red Dragon leaned back in his seat. “I am not,” he told War crisply, “obsessed with Queen Zelda.”
“No, of course not, but what the people say…”
“The people don’t matter. As long as they obey the soldiers and the sovereign, they are, and their gossip is, insignificant.”
“Of course it’s insignificant,” War agreed quickly.
“I want Zelda; therefore, you will bring her to me.”
“It will be difficult,” War muttered.
“I have every faith in you and your power.”
is protected by many spells. It’ll take all the best mages in the empire to break through.” North Castle
“They’re at your disposal, of course.”
“She may be heavily guarded. Do I have your permission to kill?”
“You have, not only my permission, but my encouragement to do so.”
“And what sort of demands am I going to leave behind?”
“What?” the Red Dragon asked sharply.
War cleared his throat. “When I take the princess…”
“When I take the queen, what demands am I to leave?”
Clearly taken aback, War repeated. “None?”
“I want nothing for her.”
“You just want Zelda?”
“I intend to keep her here on a more permanent basis.”
“The Hylians won’t take kindly to that.”
“No, I don’t expect they will.”
“They’ll send someone to rescue her.”
“I hope so,” the Red Dragon declared. “Let my men kill their champions now before the invasion begins.”
“And what do you intend to do with Zelda? If you kill her, you’ll only make her a martyr.”
“I don’t plan on killing her.”
War seemed visibly relieved by this. “Then what will you do with her?”
The Red Dragon spared Coset a passing glance. “I’ll make her part of the harem,” he said.
“Don’t lecture me about the Hylians will react to it. I don’t rightly care,” the Red Dragon snapped.
“You know Zelda won’t yield to you.”
“I have ways of convincing people.”
“This is no ordinary person.”
“Your conversation is becoming tiresome.”
“May I say one thing more, or shall I just leave and carry out this business?”
“It had better be important.”
“My spies have just returned from
.” Maze Island
“There is a rebellion building up there. It’s liable to break at any moment. I have reason to believe Zelda is behind it.”
“All the better reason for bringing her here,” the Red Dragon reasoned. “I’ll question her personally about it.”
“Assuming it can be done.”
“It will be done.”
“Aye, my lord.”
“You are dismissed, War.”
War bowed humbly. Backing up as he remained stooped over, he floated back to the door, drifting out and disappearing down the hall silently. Coset watched him leave with a burning feeling in the pit of her stomach. A new terror seized a hold of her, but she knew better than to show it. The Red Dragon was watching her.
It was nearly when Philip returned home. His mother’s estate was a mile from the town, in a quiet neighborhood called
Garden Place. Beautiful, ancient villas lined the cobblestone avenues, arranged in circles around artificial lakes filled with fresh water. The Summer residence was called Azalea Manor, resting in between the Rosemary Manor and the Zinnia Villa. It was one of the newer estates, build of pale blue stucco with an orange, tiled roof. Philip made his way up to the door and opened it quietly, creeping in to the entry hall.
He was greeted with the familiar sight of a white marble floor and a long, winding staircase, going up to the second floor landing, lined with maple columns and a banister. Beyond the entry hall, he could see the salon, a room carpeted with an exotic Risan rug. In the very center of the room was a grand piano, bone white, surrounded by pale blue sofas with navy throw pillows. The décor of the house was not to his liking. Frankly, he felt it was a bit too feminine. The one thing he liked about the salon, however, was the large coat of arms for the Summer family, plastered into the wall.
Carefully, Philip started to make his way to the salon. “Philip Summer,” a shrill voice said sharply from above. Looking up, Philip caught a pair of angry blue eyes glaring down at him.
He flashed his most charming smile. “Ana,” Philip said pleasantly, “good morning.”
“Afternoon,” she told him crisply, making her way down the stairs. “Where have you been?” Adriana Summer could hardly be classified as a beautiful woman. Frankly, her features were a bit plain, though she certainly knew how to make the best of what she had. Her long red hair was twisted up on top of her head in an elaborate style, three long corkscrew curls falling over the left side of her face. Today, she was dressed in a long, straight dress of cyan silk, a robin’s egg blue scarf wrapped around her throat. Lavender diamonds ran along her bodice and the hemline, detracting from her severe lack of curves.
“Out,” Philip replied, noncommittally.
“Don’t tell me you waited up again.”
“Of course I did,” she replied angrily. “Not for you. I was waiting for the constable to come around telling me you’d been thrown out of the Boar’s Head for brawling. Again.”
“Would I disappoint you?” he asked, spreading his arms out as if to demonstrate the lack of bruises.
“Chronically,” she answered.
“A thousand pardons, mother.”
Adriana narrowed her eyes, a deep wrinkle forming on her forehead, just above her nose. “Don’t you dare –”
“Call you that,” he finished for her.
“You’re going to end up in a ditch,” she said bitterly, shaking her head.
“As long as there’s a pretty girl there,” he quipped.
She planted her hands on her hips. “Oh, mother would be so proud of you if she could see you now.”
“I’m sure she would.”
“Daddy’s little boy. Dragmire.”
Philip’s ears turned pink as rage boiled up into his head. “Don’t call me that!” he roared.
“And why not?” she questioned him coldly. “You certainly live up to the reputation.”
“I don’t have time for this,” he growled, pushing Ana out of his way to head for the salon.
“Big man!” she shouted after him. “Pushing around a girl!”
“You’re not a girl!” he shouted back. “You’re a stick!”
Ana glared after him with seething anger. “Drunken lout!”
“Dragmire!” she screamed.
That stopped him dead in his tracks. He turned around to face her, blue eyes blazing. “Moblin,” he hissed.
Adriana’s mouth worked open and shut for a moment. She was unable to produce words and stared at him, fishlike. Finally, with a frustrated grunt, she lifted her hands, pounding her fists together twice. It seemed like he was about to reply, but suddenly a chime rang, signaling someone at the door. “That’ll be Dagmar,” she said softly. “I expect you to be on your best behavior.”
For a second time, Philip spread his arms wide. “Would I let you down?”
Without answering, Ana turned around and walked to the door. When she opened it, to her surprise, it was not Dagmar Hagen, heiress to the extraordinarily wealthy Hagen Family, standing on the other side. Instead, she saw a young girl that she didn’t recognize, wearing a pink cape over a humble blue shift. “I’m sorry,” Adriana said bluntly, “I’m already happy with my gods.” She started to shut the door with that.
“I’m not a missionary,” the girl said, catching the door and pushing it back open with surprising strength.
“Oh. What do you want then?”
“May I come in?”
Gently, the girl pushed the door open a little further, stepping over the threshold and into the entrance hall. “My name is Mia, I’m an emissary from Queen Zelda,” she explained, lowering her hood to reveal long brown hair and Hylian ears.
Instantly, Adriana’s eyes lit up. “The royal family? Oh please, come in, come in.” She ushered Mia in toward the salon. “I am, of course, Adriana Summer. Please, feel free to call me Ana.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Mia replied.
“What can I do for you…what’s your name again?”
“What can I do for you, Mia?”
Mia delicately cleared her throat, pulling herself out of Adriana’s reach. “Actually,” she said gently, “I’ve been sent here for Philip Summer.”
Philip blinked in surprise. “Me?”
“Him?” Adriana spat incredulously.
“Yes…” Mia responded slowly.
“There must be some mistake,” Ana insisted. “He’s nobody.”
“I have my orders,” Mia said apologetically.
“What do you want with me?” Philip asked, walking back toward the entrance hall and toward the two women.
Mia turned to look at him. Immediately, her stoic outside wavered as she was struck with the rugged handsomeness of the man before her. “Queen Zelda has asked that you attend a private audience with her today,” she explained.
“I don’t know.”
“You’re not much of a page,” Ana scoffed.
“I’m not a page at all,” Mia corrected her. “I’m a ward of the state. I serve as top apprentice to the royal mages.”
“You’re a wizard in training?”
“More or less.”
“Then why did the Queen send you?”
“Zelda felt it would be more polite to send a personal messenger.”
“Well, forget it,” Philip declared. He started to walk back to the salon.
“Wait!” Ana shouted, catching his arm. She turned to Mia with a sugary smile. “One minute.” With that, she pulled Philip against the wall. “What are you doing to me?” she hissed.
“What am I doing to you?” he repeated disbelievingly.
“You cannot turn down a royal summons.”
“Phil, she just called the queen by her first name. This is clearly an important person.”
“So?! If you don’t go, do you have any notion of what that’ll do to our family’s social standing?”
“You say that like I care.”
“Don’t do this to me!”
“Um…excuse me?” Mia called from her place, watching the two of them. “I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s rather important that we get going now. It’ll take an hour or so to get there with all the security.”
“Just a minute,” Ana sang sweetly to the girl before turning back to Philip. “You are going. Do this for me, Phil. Please.”
“What’s in it for me?” Philip asked.
“I’ll buy you a whole new wardrobe.”
“I like the one I have.”
“I’ll personally guarantee that the cats never enter your room again.”
“They’re fun to kick.”
“What do you want?” Ana begged, desperately.
“Pick up my tab at the Boar’s Head.”
“I’m not going!” Philip said loudly.
“All right!” Ana conceded.
“Change of plans,” Philip told Mia. “I’ll go with you.”
“We’d better hurry,” Mia said. “Zelda said this was a very important summons. No time to delay.”
“Surely you can afford him a few minutes to change,” Adriana pled.
“And what’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” Philip scoffed.
Adriana looked at him and just started laughing. Again, Mia cleared her throat. “There’s really no time for that,” she said. “Anyway, he’s fine the way he is.”
“You hear that, Ana?” Philip said smugly. “I’m fine the way I am.”
“This way, please,” Mia told them anxiously, gesturing to the door.
Ana prodded Philip forward, nearly throwing him into poor Mia. “Right,” Philip muttered, throwing a bitter glance back at his sister. Gesturing grandly to Mia, he allowed her to take the lead, following after.
“Don’t stare at the queen’s chest!” Adriana shouted after him.
“All right, Ana.”
“And don’t slouch when you’re standing in the throne room.”
“And, whatever you do, don’t start drinking!”
The door slammed shut. Adriana stared after it, mouth hanging open ever so slightly. “I didn’t get what I wanted,” she muttered to herself, in shock. “What just happened?”
In the keep of the castle, the young girl waited, continuously folding and unfolding her arms across her chest. She couldn’t seem to find a proper stance. First, she leaned against the wall, then she sat on the table, next the chair, then she returned to face the wall. Frustrated, she paced, working her fingers back and forth to hear the knuckles crack and pop. She ran her tongue along her lips, wetting them for the thousandth time in this endless wait.
Any second now, she knew she would be in the presence of the woman who terrified her more than any mortal, living or deceased. Horror gripped her throat, squeezing it shut so that swallowing was a difficult labor. All at once, she felt both nervous and excited. The wait was endless and she had tried nearly everything to pass the time. Now, she sat again, running her fingers through her brown hair, newly cut in an attractive pixie bob.
Footsteps began approaching her from down the hall. Amorette sprang to her feet, drawing herself stiffly to attention, ramrod straight. She faced the direction of the steps, squaring her shoulders just a little more. Her chin rose to an absurd angle, jutting out into the dark air. Quickly, she became aware of how silly she looked and loosened her stance ever so slightly, smoothing down the front of her lavender tunic with trembling hands.
“Amorette,” a voice hissed from around the corner.
“Here,” Amorette called.
Instantly, Impa turned the corner, coming face to face with the girl. They both drew to a straightened stance, each bringing a fist over her heart in the traditional Sheikah greeting. “Are we alone?” Impa asked as they dropped the pose.
“I think so,” Amorette answered.
“Don’t think,” Impa told her sternly. “Know.”
Amorette narrowed her eyes, glancing around the room with a sweep of auspex. “We’re alone,” she whispered after a moment.
“Good,” Impa said, audibly exhaling with relief. She clapped a hand on Amorette’s back, directing her back to the table. “Do you know why I’ve called you here?”
Amorette took a seat. “No,” she responded truthfully, folding her hands on top of the table. “Nor do I understand all the secrecy.”
“The things we’re about to discuss,” Impa said, sitting down across the table from the younger woman, “are not to be discussed outside of this room.”
“I think I understand,” Amorette told her solemnly.
“For your sake, I hope so.”
“Why have you summoned me?”
“I’ve just had a lengthy conversation with Queen Zelda,” Impa began. “We were discussing the Red Dragon, do you know who he is?”
Amorette nodded. “I’ve heard a lot of stories. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction.”
“You have a discerning mind. That’s good.”
“Tell me the truth about the Red Dragon.”
“The truth is a messy thing.”
“Tell me what you know.”
Impa leaned back slightly in her seat. “For a good eighteen years now, the Red Dragon has been plundering the realm, destroying everything and everyone, friend or foe.”
“Madness,” Impa shrugged. “It doesn’t matter why. What matters is that he’s doing it and thousands upon thousands of people are suffering because of it.”
“I see,” Amorette said with a nod.
“He’s just conquered Labrynna. We suspect that the next conquest he’s aiming for is a Hylian outpost.”
.” Maze Island
“What do you intend to do about it?”
“There is little we can do for
. It’s a small territory and not very well supplied. What is more pressing is what will happen after Maze Island .” Maze Island
“After he conquers
, it’s a forgone conclusion that Hyrule will be the Red Dragon’s next target.” Maze Island
“How can you be so sure?”
“There’s little left to conquer.” Impa leaned forward. “I’m not sure you understand the degree to which the Red Dragon has taken his empire building in the realm.”
“Hyrule is virtually the only territory which remains to be assimilated into his empire.”
“How is that possible?” Amorette scoffed. “There’s so little report of his actions.”
“That is because he seals off his dominated territories to prevent stories from spreading. He keeps his prospective colonies ignorant until it’s too late. That’s why most Hylians don’t believe he exists.”
“Isolation is a deadly foe. Our folly is our own for not investigating or showing any concern.”
“But Zelda’s put effort into it.”
“Yes. Which is why I’ve summoned you here.” Impa leveled herself, looking directly into Amorette’s eyes, into her soul, it seemed. “While my better nature tells me that Hyrule’s forces can match those of the Red Dragon, the pragmatist in me doubts it severely. We need to form second and third lines of defense against his invasion of Hyrule.”
“What do you need me to do?”
“Zelda and I have begun to form a plan, a sort of last ditch effort, if you will, should our soldiers fail. You must understand, if Hyrule falls, the entire realm will become the Red Dragon’s empire and thousands of lives will be lost. Without a question, he will put all the Sheikah to death, including you.”
“We’re assembling a league of elite warriors to function as a reserve force, though through more mystical means.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ll explain it to you, should you choose to accept the position.”
“Of course I’ll accept. Tell me what you’re going to do.”
“The time to act is now, Amorette.”
“You’re scaring me, Impa.”
“What I’m about to say is very frightening, I want you to be prepared for what you must do.”
“I understand,” Amorette mumbled nervously.
“We are forming a group to be the…Guardians, if you will.”
“A group which, I pray to Din, we will never need to deploy.”
“Tell me more.”
Philip lifted his hands, allowing the knights, for what seemed like the tenth time, to frisk him over, checking for concealed weapons, magical implements, or poisons. Mia stood off to one side, watching with a slightly bemused smile playing on her lips. All the guards knew her well and forwent the formality of checking her person. She lived in the castle after all, ward of the queen herself.
When they were finally satisfied that Philip was going empty handed, they offered him brisk, insincere smiles, waving him onward. “Where are we going?” he asked Mia gruffly.
“The throne room,” she replied. “Zelda is holding court this afternoon.” She led him through the wide, bright hallways, underneath arched doorways, passing courtiers in ridiculous outfits that rivaled Adriana’s wardrobe for absurdity.
“Am I going to have to bow or salute or have honor or something?” he grumbled, taking in the scenery.
Mia pursed her lips. “I don’t think you need to worry too much about formalities.”
“Good,” he muttered.
With that, they arrived in the throne room. The room was enormous, probably large enough to fit the Boar’s Head in its entirety. High columns ran in two rows down the middle of the room, flanking a bright purple and gold carpet that stretched from the entrance to the throne platform on the opposite side. Sitting in the right hand throne (the left hand throne was empty) was Zelda herself, dressed in her regal finery, a virginal white gown with a crimson peplum and gold accents. She stood up, looking down at the entrance was Mia and Philip slowly made their way along the carpet.
Whispers immediately filled the room. The courtiers stared at Philip in a mixture of horror and fascination. He was clearly Gerudo; there was no question about it. Yet the courtiers had never seen such a handsome specimen before, stubbly and untidy though he was. Zelda herself regarded him with a respectful nod of her head, the glimmering jewels in her gold crown catching the sunlight as it streamed in through the stained glass windows on either side of the room.
As they arrived at the base of the platform, Mia dropped into a respectful curtsy. Philip glanced at her for a moment, wondering if he was expected to do the same. He looked up at Zelda, but she seemed to have no expectations. Remembering what he had promised Ana, Philip settled for bowing his head politely. “Your highness,” he muttered to her.
“Philip Summer,” she said, dipping her head in turn.
“As promised,” Mia chirped.
At that, Zelda’s frozen exterior finally cracked, breaking into a wide, glowing smile. Her face was illuminated and she looked at Mia with a warm gaze. “Thank you, Mia,” she said with a quavering laugh in her voice.
“Not to sound rude,” Philip cut in, meaning entirely to sound rude, “but I’d like to know the meaning of all this.”
“Of course, I suppose it’s not every day you receive a royal summons.”
“You could say that,” Philip put it bluntly.
“Your appearance in court is just a formality,” Zelda explained. “Our true business here will go behind closed doors.”
“And why is that?”
“I have an important proposition to make you.” Zelda glanced around the room at the gossiping courtiers. “One that will be better served in the privacy of my study, if you don’t mind.”
“Well, I do mind,” Philip shot back. “Whatever you have to say to me, you can say it here.”
“What I wish to discuss is a matter of internal security,” Zelda answered.
Suddenly, a blood curdling scream came from the other side of the throne room. Zelda, Philip, and Mia all turned in unison to look down the carpet. Right where Mia and Philip had stood only a moment ago, a pillar of green light had formed, in the center of it, a humanoid form solidifying.
“Farore’s Wind,” Mia said.
“How is that possible?” Zelda gasped.
“What do you mean?” Philip asked, looking back and forth between the two of them.
“We have spells up to protect the castle and prevent anyone from teleporting in here,” Mia cried, indignantly.
By this point, the spell was nearly complete and standing where the light had once been was a larger than life being, clad in heavy purple armor and a gold helmet. The courtiers, panicking at the rare and frightening sight, began racing through the columns, screaming and trampling over one another to get away from the figure. If the being noticed their plight, however, he didn’t show it. Aloof, he began drifting down the carpet, his feet an inch or so above the ground.
“Hello, Zelda,” a voice from the depths of the helmet chuckled.
Zelda’s eyes widened, but she found herself frozen to where she stood. Mia, however, found her gait and quickly ran out in front of Zelda and Philip, holding her palms out toward the creature and whispering to herself. Energy gathered around her fingertips, swirling in the form of a blue ball of light. Moving her arm in a throwing motion, Mia launched the sphere at the intruder. As though swatting a fly, he knocked her attack away, sending it into one of the columns which cracked on impact.
“Stay back, War,” Zelda said icily. “I’m warning you.”
“You’re in no position to be doing much warning,” War replied. With a wave of his hand, an invisible wall slammed into Mia, knocking her against one of the columns. At the same moment, an identical force threw Philip off his feet and onto his back, knocking the wind out of him.
Zelda held her hands in front of her chest, gathering white energy into an amorphous mass. She pressed her palm outward, sending the orb at War. It impacted his armor, throwing him back, but he managed to stay upright, still levitating. “Stay back,” she warned a second time.
“Oh,” he said in mock horror. “Do it again.”
As Zelda began to gather the energy for a second time, War gestured to the ceiling. With a loud groan, rocks began to grind against one another. A stone dropped from the roof, landing on Zelda’s head and sending her to the ground in a crumpled mass of fabric. Mia let out a scream, frantically trying to get to her feet. War watched her, and as he did, her cape seemed to come to life, tangling around her and fighting her, like a wrestler, back to the floor.
Telekinetically, War lifted Zelda off the ground, her head and arms dangling beneath her. She floated across the room, falling directly into War’s outstretched arms. Her crown fell to the floor. With a chuckle, he began to perform Farore’s Wind a second time, the column of green light expanding to enfold both him and the unconscious Zelda. Just before his molecules began to dissipate, War turned to look at Philip with a chuckle. “See you around, kid,” he scoffed. And then they vanished in a bright flash of light, accompanied by the soft blowing of the wind.
“No!” Mia screamed as her cape’s wild rebellion died.
There was the clanking of armor and a regimen of knights charged into the room, led by Impa, wielding a sword. “What is it?” she demanded, turning to Mia. “What’s happened?”
“A man teleported into the throne room,” Mia explained, rising to her feet. “He took Zelda.”
Impa’s eyes widened. “Do you know who it was?”
“Zelda seemed to. She called him War.”
Anger slowly clouded over Impa’s face. “He’s taken her.”
Impa gestured for the guards to stand down. She made her way to Mia, checking the girl over for injuries. “Then we’re in an awful lot of trouble.”
“Who is he?”
“He’s the Red Dragon’s second in command.”
“Red Dragon?” Philip asked, getting to his feet. “He’s real? I thought the guy was a myth.”
“No, he’s real,” Impa said crisply.
“And now he has Zelda,” Mia moaned.
“The odds are she’s been taken to his palace in Calatia.”
Mia looked at Impa, her eyes glazing over tearfully. “What are we going to do, Impa?”
Impa crossed the room silently. She leaned over and picked up Zelda’s crown, clutching it tightly to her chest for a moment. Finally, she turned back to address them. “You two are going to have to go after her.”
“Us two?” Philip repeated. “Now wait a second, I didn’t sign on to be one of your cronies.”
“It’s our duty as citizens,” Mia cried passionately.
“You go ahead,” Philip told her. “I’m going home.”
“Would you really turn your back on your monarch?” Impa questioned him darkly.
“I feel bad about what happened,” he answered, “really I do. But there’s no way that I’m going to go charging after her. I see no profit in it for me.”
“Profit,” Mia repeated thickly.
“If profit’s what you’re looking for, there’s plenty to be had,” Impa grumbled.
“Oh yeah?” Philip turned on her. “You have my attention.”
“I can reward you very handsomely for undertaking this.”
“Give me a number.”
“One chance for a clean record,” Impa said. “I’ve seen your charges. You’ve been in enough bar brawls and street fights to be committed to the stocks for an extended period of time.”
“You’re blackmailing me?”
“So it would seem.”
“Listen, lady, I’ve had just enough –”
“It would not be wise,” Impa interrupted him, “for the son of Ganondorf Dragmire to get caught up in a nasty episode involving the kidnapping of a member of the royal family.
Philip opened his mouth then shut it, suddenly looking very much like his sister. “Fine,” he finally said, sulkily.
Impa handed him the sword she was carrying. “You’ll need this.”
Coset was escorted through the corridors, carrying a bundle of fabric in her arms. The guards on either side of her walked along without a word, staring straight ahead, as always. The Red Dragon hated it when his guards looked at the women of his harem, especially his favorite concubine, yet he wouldn’t allow her to go unescorted today. The trio made their way through the horrifying palace, down a winding iron staircase to the dungeon. An overwhelming stench of death and decay hit them as they passed the torture chamber. Some poor sap, one of the last remnants of Labrynna’s resistance, was being stretched on the rack. His screams filled the dungeon, echoing off of the walls and drowning out the persistent drip of water leaking in from the gutter.
Next they passed through a long line of hold cells, each of them containing a cot, a chamber pot, and a prisoner. Most of these prisoners were domestics of the Red Dragon who had managed to anger him, but not enough to warrant death. Coset knew many of these and gave them pitying glances as she was paraded down the cellblock. Most of them were too tired or weak to respond to her, but those that could, managed a small smile, careful not to wave or make any more sign of acknowledgement in the presence of the guards.
Finally, they arrived at their destination, the cells of solitary confinement. Unlike the regular cells which boasted walls made entirely of iron bars, these cells were built of stone, each with a wooden door hosting a single barred window. The sound of screaming grew fainter in this area, hidden away from most of the dungeon. One of the guards removed a ring of keys from his pocket and rifled through before finding the proper key to the farther cell.
He unlocked the door, holding it open for Coset. “We’ll be right outside,” he told her, careful to avoid eye contact. “Call us when you’re done.”
“Yes,” Coset said with a nod. Carefully, she ducked into the cell. The guard swung it shut behind her, locking the door. She stood silently, listening as the two of them moved away to a set of table and chairs on the opposite end of the hall where a deck of playing cards awaited them.
Secure in the knowledge that she was more or less abandoned, Coset now turned her attention to the occupant of the cell. She would have known it was Zelda, even without being told beforehand. There was absolutely no mistaking that figure, even after eighteen years of separation. To Coset, she seemed as regal as ever, unconscious on the floor though she was. Setting aside the fabric in her hands, Coset knelt beside Zelda, gathering her head in her arms. She pulled a handkerchief from Zelda’s sleeve and dipped it into a drinking cup, wetting it just a little bit. Gently, she pressed the hanky to Zelda’s forehead.
A soft moan escaped Zelda’s lips. Her head began to turn slowly as consciousness returned to her. “Easy,” Coset told her.
Zelda’s eyes flickered open. For a moment, her gaze was unfocused, half blind. Slowly, she honed in on the face staring down at her. “Coset?”
“It’s me,” Coset told her. Zelda began to sit up at once. “Easy, you’ve had a nasty blow to the head.”
“Where am I?” she asked in a hushed whisper. “Am I dead?”
“I’m afraid not,” Coset replied. “You’re in Calatia. In the palace of the Red Dragon. Easy.”
Zelda turned to face Coset. The two women regarded each other for a moment. With low, animal-like moans, they surged forward, pulling each other into a tight embrace. “I thought I would never see you again,” Zelda said softly.
“I’m not surprised,” Coset answered.
They pulled apart. “Have you been here this whole time?”
“Yes.” Coset wetted her lips, brushing her long brown hair behind her ears. “My sister?”
A scowl set upon Zelda’s face. “She’s dead, Coset.”
“Oh,” Coset mumbled a trembling hand pressing over her lips.
“I’m so sorry.”
“And her children?”
“I’ve taken care of them,” Zelda promised. “Mia, Jesse, and Sito are all wards of Hyrule. They live in my protection.”
Coset nodded absently. “Good. Good.”
By this point, Coset’s costume had caught Zelda’s attention. It might have been more accurate to call it Coset’s lack of costume however. There was little covering up the woman. Three long strips of muslin, dyed red, were wrapped around the upper half of her body, offering little protection from the elements and even less protection from exposure. The bottom half of her outfit consisted of a gauzy pair of red trousers, puffy, ending somewhere just below her knees. “Coset…” Zelda muttered.
Absently, Coset glanced down at her attire. “Oh.”
“My body belongs to the Red Dragon, now,” she said dully.
“As does yours.”
Coset leaned over, picking up the bundle of fabric. “I was sent to prepare you,” she explained, unrolling the fabric. The outfit she had brought to Zelda was only somewhat more concealing than what Coset wore. It consisted of a bright blue crop top, with glittery silver fringe hanging from the hem, and a matching pair of pants, half see through.
Zelda looked down incredulously at the clothing. “I’m not getting into that,” she declared.
“This isn’t a matter of choice,” Coset told her.
“I refuse to take part in this.”
“If you don’t wear it, those guards will strip you naked and drag you like that to the Red Dragon’s chambers.”
She looked down at the clothing then looked up at Coset’s face, filled with earnest. A reluctant sigh escaping her lips, she picked up the skimpy ensemble and walked into a dark corner of the room. “This is humiliating.”
Coset turned her back to Zelda to give her some privacy. “This is nothing. The worst is yet to come.”
“You offer little comfort.”
“I wish I could offer more,” Coset told her genuinely.
“It’s not your fault,” Zelda sighed.
“It was a blessing that he chose me out to come prepare you. I was grateful.” A moment of uncomfortable silence followed. “He’s been waiting for you,” Coset finally said softly.
“The Red Dragon. He’s been waiting for you, for this, for a very long time. From the first day, I think.”
“I cannot say the same, for my point of view.”
“Of course not.”
“I have no desire to see your master.” Softly, almost to herself, she added, “Not like this.”
“No one has any choice in the matter, Zelda. No one except for the Red Dragon himself.”
“I never expected I would end my day like this.”
“Surely you must have known you’d have to face him sooner or later,” Coset said absently.
“I did,” Zelda agreed. Dourly, she sighed, adding, “I just hoped it would be later, I guess.”
“So you would have time to prepare?”
“Yes, something like that. You can turn around now.”
Coset turned around. There stood Zelda, the glorious queen, dressed in a ridiculous harem get up. Coset had to admit, she was quite impressed. Zelda did not look a day over seventeen. Her body was as slender and as perfect as it had always been, if not more regal. “Would you absolutely kill me if I said you looked beautiful?” Coset asked.
“Yes,” Zelda replied, smiling despite herself. “Well, maybe I’ll let it slide, for old time’s sake. Besides, I can’t seem to use my powers anyway.”
“I know,” Coset sighed. “You’ve been injected with magical inhibitors. Shall I call the guards?”
“They’re waiting to take you to the Red Dragon.”
“So soon? I’m not ready yet.”
“Will you ever be ready, Zelda?”
She frowned, considering this. “No, I suppose not.”
“Best to get it over with quickly.”
“Like a bandage.”
Zelda sighed. “I’m not ready.”
“I know,” Coset told her quietly. “Guards,” she called over her shoulder. From the other side of the door, the two women heard the guards rise from their seats, clanking their way over. The cell door was unlocked and they were motioned to come out, Coset first, followed by Zelda. Together, they were marched back through the dungeon, to the sound of the screaming of the poor Labrynna rebel. As they walked side by side, Zelda reached out to clutch Coset’s arm, her knuckles white with fear.
Although he had only tried it once before, Philip became fairly certain, fairly quickly, that he didn’t like Farore’s Wind. He hated the tingling sensation racing over his arms. His stomach did somersaults with the feeling of weightlessness. Luckily, the entire ordeal only lasted a few moments. Soon, he and Mia materialized on the rocky plains of Calatia. It turned out Mia was humble when she claimed to be a wizard in training. In truth, she was a full out mage, capable of some of the most difficult spells a Hylian could attempt, including Farore’s Wind.
The plain was deserted, allowing the travelers to breathe a sigh of relief. They had hoped against hope to arrive unnoticed by the populace. “Which way to the castle?” Philip asked with an air of boredom.
“That way,” Mia answered, pointing in a northern direction. Squinting his eyes slightly, Philip had to admit he could see the outlines of a tower on the horizon.
They began walking over the plain. Not only was it deserted, it seemed virtually dead. There were hardly any plants growing, just a few scrappy weeds and dry brushes. No apparent settlements could be seen, but Philip had a feeling that just beyond the ridge ahead of them, there would be civilization. He could see plumes of smoke rising up into the sky.
He felt rather ridiculous. Impa had outfitted him with a suit of leather armor, coal black, and a blue cape. Against his thigh, the sword she had given him thumped, feeling quite foreign. Oh, he knew how to use a sword all right. He had learned at a very young age, his mother afraid of what might befall him in life. Still, he hadn’t employed the skill in a very long time for anything other than the occasional spar. It had never been for real before.
“What do you suppose the Red Dragon wants with Zelda?” Mia asked, glancing from side to side at the decay.
Philip shrugged, not particularly caring. “Political hostage? Ransom? A fascinating conversation piece?”
“I think it must be more personal than that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t Impa tell you? The Red Dragon was once a member of the royal court of Hyrule.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“They knew each other for many years.”
“So what made him go psycho?”
“No one is entirely certain,” Mia replied.
Philip shoved his hands deep into his pockets, walking along with his eyes on the ground. “Go figure.”
Mia frowned. “He killed my mother, when I was three. Sometimes, I remember little bits and pieces from what happened that night.”
She nodded. “I remember that he came to our house with his flunkies. There was lots of screaming. They carried off my aunt. We were up in the nursery when it –”
“Me and my brother Jesse.”
“Didn’t know you had a brother.”
“I have two. The other one was living with his father in
Garden Placewhen it happened.”
Philip turned to look at her sharply. “
Again, Mia nodded. “Ivy Villa. He lived there until he was ten when his father died.”
“His name isn’t Sito, is it?”
Mia’s eyes lit up with delighted surprise. “Yes!”
“I remember him. He lived across the lake from my mother’s estate. Sort of a funny kid. Lived with this drunk guy…”
“With his father. He died when Sito was ten, so Sito came to live with us in the castle.”
“You live in the castle?”
“Yeah. Zelda took us in as wards after our mother died.”
“A pretty nice deal for you, I guess.”
“Zelda’s been more than sympathetic to the youngest victims of the Red Dragon’s crimes,” Mia said passionately. “She’s taken in a lot of orphans as wards of the state. She even adopted one or two.”
“Sounds like a lot of work.”
“Well, she doesn’t do it on her own. I help to watch after the younger children now.” Mia eyed him critically. “What about you?”
“You must have an awfully interesting life story. Is it true that you’re the son of a goddess?”
“Everyone always feels the need to identify me in relation to my parents,” Philip grumbled.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“They never do.”
“Stop apologizing already.”
Philip glared down at the ground. “Yeah, it’s true.”
“How wonderfully fascinating that must be.”
“Oh yeah. It’s fun, fun, fun. Just ask my sister. She’ll tell you all about the wondrous joys of being the child of the goddess of beauty.”
“Striking a nerve?”
“With Ana? Yeah.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, she’s not beautiful. My sister is not a beautiful girl. And she knows it. And it’s really tough on her, living in the shadow of our mother.”
“Just like it’s tough on you, living in the shadow of your father?”
Philip was struck silent for a moment, with the pure and unadulterated clarity of that statement. Instantly, he felt a bit foolish. Why was it that he had never thought of it that way before? Suddenly, his sister seemed to make a bit more sense to him. “I guess so,” was all he said.
By this point they had arrived at the ridge. Out in the lead, Mia was the first to step up to the edge. She took one look down and let out an audible gasp, stumbling back a few paces into Philip, who caught her with some surprise. Once he was certain she had recovered her balance, Philip let go of her, walking up to the ominous ledge to look over it himself. Mia had had good reason to be so startled.
The village below was not exactly a village. Not anymore. The ground was black, charred by fires from years ago to the point where nothing could grow. Where once there had doubtlessly been cozy little cottages with curling plumes of fire coming from the chimneys, now there were makeshift tents, strung up on poles and the dead carcasses of gnarled trees on which no leaves grew. Arranged with no order or organization, the tents were everywhere, most of the fabric threadbare and patched sloppily.
What truly had managed to take Mia’s breath away, however, wasn’t the appearance of the settlement. No, it was the people. They weren’t inhabitants or even settlers. No, they were refugees in their own kingdom. There were no men to be seen. Sitting outside of the tents were women and children, war widows and their poor offspring, left over from when the Red Dragon first devastated Calatia. The clothes on their backs were no better than the threadbare tents. Many of the children, in fact, were running about naked in front of their little homes. Everyone was dirty and there was no sign of water. Mud and dirt streaked everyone’s faces, save for several of the older women who had two streaks clean on their faces, doubtlessly from the tears they had shed.
Looking closer, Philip saw even more terrors come to his eyes. As he watched the skeletal children run across the charred plain, he realized that all of them, every last one down to the youngest babe, were missing their right arms. Burned stubs remained as testimony to the fact that these children had been mutilated and not born this way.
“By Din,” Mia whispered, her eyes growing wide as she dared to take a second look.
Philip swallowed hard, finding the sight more sickening than anything he had ever seen before. “Yeah,” he agreed softly.
“This is the work of the Red Dragon,” she muttered. “It must be.”
“Rules of combat. Don’t leave anyone around to avenge what you’ve done to their fathers.”
“How could he do something so awful?”
“I don’t know,” Philip said, shaking his head mournfully.
“I wish there was something we could do for these people.”
“I think it’s too late for that.”
Mia looked at him. She turned back to the view. “We have to get Zelda back. Come on.”
Mia started walking down the hill, steadying herself to face the villagers below. Philip remained on the ridge for a moment longer though. His eyes roamed across the expanse, drinking in the wretched sight. There was a strange feeling, lurking in the pit of his stomach and creeping up into his chest. It was alien, something he had never felt before, or at least, not since the day when his mother told him the truth about who is father was.
“Mia,” he called after her.
She turned around. “What?”
“How exactly were you planning on getting us into the castle?”
“I have an idea.”
“This way, Lady Adriana,” the knight said, holding a door open for Ana to pass through.
She found herself side of a small, private chapel, the door closed behind her abruptly. Ana wasn’t entirely sure what had happened. She had been at home, discussing the latest fashion trends with Dagmar Hagen when the messenger arrived. He said it was urgent that Adriana report to the palace immediately. Stopping only to change her dress and gloat a bit in Dagmar Hagen’s face, Adriana rushed off to the castle where she was greeted by a knight who whiskered her off, down unfamiliar hallways and into the very back and most private part of the castle.
Now she stood there alone, confused, looking around the lovely, two storey chamber dedicated to Nayru. She paused to examine her reflection in the mirror, smoothing down the front of her remarkable scarlet gown. Satisfied that she looked acceptable, she started pacing the room, wondering what Phil had done this time. After awhile, she started to head for the stairwell leading up to the next floor when there was a knock on the door.
“Come in?” Ana called uncertainly, walking over to the entrance and patting down her hair.
Immediately, the door swung open, revealing an impossibly tall Sheikah woman on the other side. Briskly, the woman stepped in through the doorway, causing Adriana to involuntarily pace back. The Sheikah kicked the door shut behind her. “Do you know who I am?” she asked.
Ana nodded nervously. “Yes, you’re Lady Impa.”
“You don’t know me,” Impa commanded gruffly, waving her hand commandingly for emphasis.
“Never even heard of a Lady Impa in my entire life,” Adriana agreed very quickly.
Obediently, Ana sat down on the bottom step of the stairwell. She watched as Impa took a stroll about the perimeter of the room, glancing into the alcoves and searching for other people. Of course, she knew exactly who Impa was. Who didn’t? Being affiliated so closely with Hylian religion, Adriana knew all of the Sages on sight. Adding to that, Ana had been to court many times with her friends and so, easily recognized the queen’s top advisor.
The silence grew a little too uncomfortable for Ana’s tastes. “Are you the one who summoned me here?”
“Yes,” Impa answered, still busy scanning the room.
“I want to talk to you, privately.
“About your brother.”
“Phil,” Ana sighed, dejectedly.
“Listen,” Ana started standing up.
Immediately, she dropped back down onto the stair. “Sitting. Listen, whatever Phil did…”
“That is exactly what I’m interested in talking about.”
“About what he did. About his past.”
“Oh…you mean he’s not in trouble?”
Impa finally spared her a look. “No.”
Ana lofted her eyebrows, leaning back against the steps. “Well, what do you know? First time for everything.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I’m usually the one stuck cleaning up Phil’s messes.”
“He leaves many of them?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe!” Ana exclaimed. “His bar tabs alone are enough to scandalize you.”
This caused Impa to scowl. “Oh.”
“And sticky situations! There was this one time a blacksmith came home to find Phil in bed with both his wife and his sister!”
Impa’s face clouded over. “Oh.”
“We were pulling buckshot out of his trousers for weeks.”
“Is this his typical behavior?”
“More or less.”
“This is discouraging,” Impa muttered softly.
Ana blinked. “Discouraging?”
“What was I supposed to be…encouraging?”
“What I’m about to say to you cannot leave this room. Do you understand me, Miss Adriana?”
Adriana sat up straight, licking her lips. “Yes,” she replied, becoming very serious. “Of course.”
Impa crouched down in front of Adriana, her knees popping loudly. She draped her wrists over her thighs, looking directly into Ana’s eyes with a frightful stare. “The queen is missing.”
Immediately, Impa surged forward, clapping a hand over Adriana’s mouth. “Keep quiet,” she hissed.
“Sorry,” Ana mumbled into the hand.
Slowly, Impa removed her hand. “There was an incident in court this morning. The courtiers have all been silenced.”
“Are you familiar with the personage known as the Red Dragon?”
Ana nodded. “Vaguely. I’ve heard that Risan boy talking about him in the marketplace.”
“Well, he’s real.”
“The Red Dragon!”
“His left hand man broke in through the magical barrier around the throne room today and kidnapped the queen.”
“We have a small team traveling to Calatia to try to retrieve her.”
“Your brother is on that team.”
Ana stared at her for a moment. “Please tell me that’s a very bad joke.” Impa shook her head. “It’s not a joke,” Ana sighed. “Oh gods. Why would you do something like that?”
“I wanted to see what he’s capable of,” Impa explained. “I sent him with one of our mages.”
“What he’s capable of is heavy property damage.”
“That’s fine. As long as it’s the Red Dragon’s property and not mine,” Impa answered dourly.
“He’s very good at wrecking things,” Ana said, trying to put a positive twist in her words.
“I have no doubt about it,” Impa replied. “But is he trustworthy? Can I count on him to bring back my queen alive and in one piece?” She looked to Adriana, an expectant expression on her face.
“I wish I could give you an answer.”
“You can’t tell one way or the other.”
Adriana shook her head. “I’m sorry.”
Impa dropped down, sitting on the floor with her back resting against the stairs. “Can you guess?”
“I’d like to think that my brother is trustworthy, but the fact of the matter is that his record isn’t clean.”
“I feared as much.”
“He’s never done anything…unforgivable. Oh, he’s lied, cheated, indulged in a few nasty habits…”
“But.” Ana scowled. “He’s never done anything that you would call redeemable either.”
“You said it yourself, there’s a first time for everything.”
“One can hope,” she said quietly.
“There is a lot more riding on the line than the queen’s life,” Impa told her.
“The hope for the entire realm rests on Hyrule right now. Without Zelda, we’re doomed.”
“The whole hope of the realm rests in the hands of a mage and my drunken lout of a brother? Not comforting.”
“Not supposed to be.”
“State your business in the court of the Red Dragon,” the stodgy herald demanded, eyeing Philip with a very unfriendly glare.
“I come representing a very powerful individual. My…employer wishes to make alliance with your master.”
The herald scoffed loudly. “The Red Dragon doesn’t need to make alliances with peons.”
“Of course not,” Philip replied casually. “I would hardly suggest it. He doesn’t need to make alliances at all. But sometimes, it’s a matter of desire. I may be able to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“You’ll be wasting your breath,” the herald said.
“That well may be,” Philip shrugged. “But it’s my breath to waste.”
“Suit yourself. And who may I introduce to the Red Dragon? What’s your name?”
“Philip,” he answered.
The herald was clearly thrown for a loop by this. “Dragmire, huh?” he asked, giving Philip another once over.
“Don’t make me repeat myself. You’ll just prove yourself both stubborn and foolish.”
“Very well,” the herald muttered. Throwing open the double doors of the throne room, he marched in.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Mia hissed out of the corner of her mouth as she watched.
“No,” Philip admitted.
The herald cleared his throat, standing up to stiffest attention, nose high in the air. “My lord,” he announced formally, “you have a visiting envoy.”
From his throne, the Red Dragon sat up glaring down at his minion from behind his visor. “Announce them.”
“I present Philip Dragmire,” the herald said grandly, sweeping his arm out in the direction of the doors.
Taking that as his cue, Philip marched into the throne room, along the red carpet leading up to the black dais. Mia scuttled in, a pace behind him and making no attempts whatsoever to mask her fear. The Red Dragon didn’t bother to rise from his seat. He rested his chin in his palm, examining the newcomers. “Dragmire,” he muttered with a slight hint of bitterness in his voice.
“My lord,” Philip said, bowing. Behind him, Mia did likewise. “I come to you as an envoy on behalf of my father.”
“Your father is dead,” the Red Dragon snapped.
“A common misconception, my lord.”
“Really? I have it on excellent authority that the Hero of Time disposed of him many, many years ago.”
“Not entirely, my lord.”
“I needn’t waste your time with the tedious technicalities of the situation, I’ll say only this: My father is alive and has been taking great interest in your work.”
“Is that supposed to flatter me?”
“Not at all. I’m merely expressing his admiration. I admire it myself.”
“Is that so?”
“One cannot help but be impressed,” Philip fawned.
“Yes, I do a fine job, don’t I?”
“It is because of your work that my father sent me.”
“And what does your father want?”
Philip clasped his hands behind his back. He began to wander the throne room, rather aimlessly, as a tourist taking in the sights. “My father is rather interested in forming an alliance with you. You intend to invade Hyrule, do you not?”
“Of course I do. I’ve already begun preparations against an outpost called
. Once that falls, Hyrule will bow.” Maze Island
“Despite the so called, common knowledge, my father is still a tremendously influential force in Hyrule.”
“And he’s offering to help me out of the evilness of his heart, I suppose,” the Red Dragon quipped.
“I’d be lying if I said as much.”
“And what are the terms of this proposed alliance?”
By this point, Philip had wandered over to a standing suit of armor, shining in black. He ran his finger along the visor of the helmet. “The first would be that he is named sole commander of the Gerudo, yielding the finest women and a large percent of plunder over to you.”
“He wants to be governor of the
?” Gerudo Valley
“Something like that.”
“And the next term?”
Philip rapped his knuckles against the metal of the helmet, listening to the hollow clank. “He wishes to remain in the capacity of a silent partner.”
“Partner?” the Red Dragon repeated incredulously.
“Just a figure of speech,” Philip amended.
“He doesn’t want knowledge of his presence to be widespread. He’ll be content to have sovereignty over the Gerudo.”
“Well,” the Red Dragon mumbled, leaning back in his throne. “You’ve given me much to consider, young Dragmire.”
“There is one more thing my father wishes you to take into account as you consider the offer.”
“He sends you a gift.”
“What is this gift?”
Philip walked back to the center of the room. Roughly, he seized Mia’s arm, twisting it behind her back and pushing her down to her knees in front of the dais. “He sends this little token.”
The Red Dragon rose to his feet. “Indeed?”
“She’s a favorite of my father’s harem. He gives her to you as a sign of his eagerness to create discourse.”
“Pretty thing,” the Red Dragon muttered, slowly walking down the steps of the dais.
“She’s a gift, and belongs to you, regardless of your final decision on my father’s offer.”
“Release her,” the Red Dragon commanded Philip.
“Aye.” Obediently, Philip let go of Mia’s arm, taking a step back.
“Stand up.” Reluctantly, eyes downcast on the floor, Mia rose to her feet. The Red Dragon reached out, taking her chin in his hand. He lifted her face, forcing her eyes into his view. “What’s your name?”
She worked her mouth up and down for a moment, trying to conjure up an answer. “M-Mia.”
“Mia?” The Red Dragon seemed a bit taken aback by her answer.
“Turn around, Mia,” he demanded, dropping her chin. Nervously, Mia obeyed, turning in a slow circle before him. He reached out his hand, touching her hair absently. “She pleases me,” he finally declared. “Guards.” Immediately, two guards snapped to attention and approached. “Take Mia to the dressing room.”
“Aye, my lord,” one of the guards said. The other reached out and gently took Mia’s arm, guiding her out of the room. She didn’t struggle as she was led away, but all the same, she looked over her shoulder, staring at Philip with an unreadable expression on her face.
“I’m sure you’ll find her more than adequate,” Philip muttered, watching them cart her off.
“She’ll do, though she’ll hardly be the star attraction of my harem. I assure you, it will dwarf your father’s by far.”
“I have no doubt.”
“I will take some time to consider your father’s offer,” the Red Dragon said sternly, turning around and marching back up the stairs.
“Take as much time as you need.”
“In the meanwhile, you will remain here as my guest.”
Philip bowed again. “Thank you.”
“Tonight, you will sit at my dinner table.”
“As you command.”
“And after our supper, you will attend the evening court, if you have no objections.”
“Good.” The Red Dragon sat down in his throne again. “Guards!” he barked loudly.
Two more guards snapped to attention before approaching. “My lord?” one of them asked.
“Escort young Dragmire to guest quarters.”
“Aye, my lord,” the guard replied. He turned to Philip, gesturing to the door. “This way, please.”
“You will not be able to hold audience with me before dinner,” the Red Dragon called as Philip followed his escorts from the room. “I have a guest that I must attend to until then.”
“I’ll await your summons,” Philip responded. As he allowed himself to be led away, he wondered what the Red Dragon meant by that.
As second in command to the Red Dragon, War was entitled to certain luxuries that most of the other underlings were denied. In the very castle of the Red Dragon, War had what he supposed was a throne room of his own, though it was hidden from most of the rest of the castle. Unlike his master, however, War had no interest in harems or pleasure palaces. The only kinds of servants he had ever requested were the Andorian Demons that attended him now.
The Andorians were a unique breed, trembling dangerously close to extinction in the realm nowadays. To War, they were a beautiful, remarkable people. Andorians, though some could change their appearances through magical training, boasted light green skin and cold gray eyes. Each creature was endowed with remarkable hair, of any imaginable pastel hue. Sadly, they were easy prey for hunters, who collected the hair for the black market. All the Andorians had to defend themselves were long, retractable talons, not very good against ranged attacks.
“Ersina,” he called to one of his favorite servants. She approached him slowly, hatred seething out of her eyes. That was another thing War loved about Andorians, aside from their natural beauty: They never took kindly to enslavement. Even after eight years of servitude, Ersina’s spirit had not been broken. She still loathed him with a fiery passion. The only thing that kept her in servitude was the fact that War held her mother’s life in his hands. After she approached, War lingered a long moment, waiting for her to answer his summons verbally. Of course, she didn’t. “Bring me my books,” he commanded her.
Silently, exuding raw anger, Ersina stalked away to carry out his instructions. War chuckled softly. He loved the way she did that. Settling back against his seat, War reached up, removing his helmet. Lief, another servant approached him and took the helmet. He was a bit tamer than Ersina, though no less resentful as War well knew by this point.
The sound of footsteps approaching made War sit up straight. As he turned his gaze to the arched entrance, he saw a third servant, Galen enter the room. “You have a visitor,” he said to War. The Andorians refused to call anyone master.
“Who is it?” War asked.
“I don’t know,” Galen replied obstinately.
“And I suppose it was too much trouble for you to lift up the hood. A man or a woman?”
“Send her in.” Without response, Galen disappeared down the hallway again. A few moments passed before the footsteps sounded again. The hooded woman entered alone, no sign of Galen escorting her. “Is that you?” War questioned her, rising to his feet.
“Maybe,” she replied coyly.
A broad smile broke out across War’s face. He stepped down from his own mini throne platform and crossed to her, pulling away the hood. “Amorette,” he gushed merrily. “You’re back sooner than expected.”
“I was presented with the opportune moment to get away,” she replied, running a hand through her hair.
“Sit down, sit down,” War insisted, gesturing for Lief to bring a chair. Just at this point, Ersina had returned with a stack of books. “Not now, Ersina,” War said, gruffly dismissing her with a wave of his hand, “can’t you see I have a visitor?”
Amorette sat down in the chair Lief brought, ignoring Ersina’s loud grumblings as she walked away. “I’m sorry I didn’t send word, Master.”
“It’s best that you didn’t. We don’t want your movements falling into the hands of the enemy. Best to keep it off paper entirely.”
“I have wonderful news for you, news that may change our plans entirely,” he told her.
“We have Princess Zelda in our custody.”
Amorette blinked her wide, red eyes in surprise. “You kidnapped the queen?” she sputtered.
“Indeed we did.”
“To what end?”
War rolled his eyes at this. “You know how the Red Dragon is.”
“Of course, Master.”
“In any case, we’ll soon be marching on Hyrule, you know.”
“That’s what everyone keeps saying.”
“You were born in Hyrule as I recall. Your mother lived right outside of
. Do you remember much?” North Castle
“Well, you’re going to have to become an expert on Hyrule.” He turned over his shoulder. “Ersina!” After a moment, she appeared in the doorway. “Fetch some books about Hylian history.”
“And where shall I get those?” Ersina snapped.
“In the library. You know, the big room where we keep all the other books,” he replied calmly.
Immediately, Ersina disappeared again. Amorette watched her go. “Why do you let her talk to you like that, Master?”
“It amuses me,” he answered briefly. “We should begin with Sheikah history. It’s very important to know the history of your own people. The first monarch of the Hylian people, according to written history, was Queen Dasha Harkin. Her line has been reigning for as long as anyone can remember.”
“Up until now.”
“Up until soon. Though Princess Zel –”
“I will call her Princess.”
“Now, where was I?”
“Right.” War stroked his chin thoughtfully, lapsing into a moment of complete silence. “Now, the Sheikah. At one point, there were hundreds of Sheikah littering Hyrule. Now, that is not the case. There are so few remaining, many people believe us to be a myth.”
“Except for Impa.”
“Impa.” War chuckled. “Impa is the rare exception to almost every rule, you’ll find.”
“She’s known to be a Sheikah, isn’t she?”
“Indeed she is. I will amend my statement. There are so few remaining, many people believe us to be a myth. Impa is considered the sole survivor of the Sheikah race.”
“What caused the disappearance of so many of our people?”
“A great war wiped most of them out. The Shadow War. Which is why our people are called the Shadow People sometimes.”
“The Shadow War?
“That is what we call it. Other people call it by different names. Regardless, we are the Shadow People.”
“Which is why Impa is the Sage of Shadows?”
War smile approvingly. “Yes.”
“And why the
is our primary place of worship?” Templeof Shadows
“You learn quickly.”
“Thank you, Master.”
Ersina returned, carrying a new stack of books. “Yes, bring those here, Ersina,” War commanded. She set the books down at his feet and stood up straight, spitting directly into War’s face. As she turned to walk away, War reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her back fiercely. “You’d be wise to remember your place,” he said in a very dangerous, very calm voice. With that, he released her, roughly pushing her away from him. “Now,” he turned back to Amorette, “you are going to become an expert in all things Hyrule before the invasion begins. I want you to know exactly what we’re going to be fighting against.”
“As you wish, Master.”
“There are more where these came from,” he told her, patting the stack of books by his feet.
“This will be sufficient to begin.”
“Then get to it.” War rose to his feet, lifting off the ground an inch or so, and started for the hall.
“Master,” Amorette stopped him.
“Yes?” He turned around to face her. “What is it, Amor?”
“I have some information, collected from channels.”
“Yes?” he muttered, drifting back to her.
“It could be important.”
“What is it?”
“Apparently, before being kidnapped, Zelda and Impa were working on a new project. A group of…Guardians.”
“Tell me more.”
Coset ran a hand through her silky brown hair. She couldn’t believe she was being sent to outfit yet another addition to the harem! As if having to hobble Zelda hadn’t been bad enough! But there was another unfortunate girl to add to the ever increasing collection. When she arrived to the dressing room, she paused outside of the door, resting a hand on the handle. She didn’t need escort to go to this part of the castle, so for the first time all day, she was alone.
Her thoughts drifted back to Zelda. They had been separated halfway back to the dressing room, the guards taking Zelda off to the Red Dragon’s private apartments. Over and over again, a single image kept flashing through her mind, playing on the enormous stage of memory. She could very clearly see the look in Zelda’s eyes, although there was no way to name it. It was not fear. But it most certainly wasn’t pleasure or any form of desire. Coset wished she were an empath, even if only just for that one moment, so she could have understood what Zelda was feeling.
With this rushing through her head, she turned the handle, walking into the dressing room. It was a bit like walking into an enormous closet. Dozens of racks ran down the middle of the room, hung with the ridiculous costumes the Red Dragon insisted on dressing his girls in. The back wall was lined with nothing but mirrors, probably two way, if Coset knew the Red Dragon, which she did. On the sides were several vanities, laden with vials of rich Risan perfumes and expensive bottles of rogue.
Hovering close to the entrance was the girl. “You there,” Coset said briskly, getting to business. “We have little time to…” She turned around and Coset was struck mute. Her eyes widened, taking in the image of the girl, her long brown hair and soft blue eyes. She had a round, heart shaped face, slightly flushed, but very pretty all the same. “Kara?” she whispered.
Mia frowned. “No…”
Coset blinked, quickly composing herself. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled hoarsely. “You look just like…”
“My mother’s name was Kara.”
Slowly, Coset took a step forward, taking Mia’s face in her hands. “Mia?” she asked carefully.
“That’s my name.”
“By the gods.” Coset started tearing up visibly, still clutching Mia’s face. “You look just like the spitting image of your mother.”
“Thank you…I think.” Mia pulled back politely, stepping out of reach of Coset’s hands.
“By the gods…”
“You knew my mother?”
Coset had to put a hand over her mouth for a moment to compose herself. “My…” she cleared her throat. “My sister.”
This time, Mia’s eyes went wide. “Aunt Coset?”
“You remember me.”
“Of course I do!” Mia cried passionately. With that, she flung herself forward into Coset’s arms. The women embraced, both of them laughing for fear that they should cry.
“I never thought I’d see you again!”
Abruptly, Coset drew back, holding Mia out at arm’s length. “Let me look at you,” she declared in a motherly tone of voice. “You’re all grown up. You look so pretty.”
“Thank you,” Mia responded, ducking her head.
“How old are you now?”
Positively beaming, Coset swept some hair out of Mia’s face, staring at the strange temporal reflection of her sister. Suddenly, it hit her. “What are you doing here?”
Mia frowned a little. “I came from Hyrule,” she explained.
“Yes, I heard you were living in the royal palace.”
“Queen Zelda’s been kidnapped.”
Coset nodded. “I know.”
“I saw her myself. It’s my duty to prepare the new girls for…”
“For the Red Dragon.”
Mia shifted her weight uncomfortably. “Oh.”
“She’s with him right now.”
“But why are you here?”
“I was sent to rescue her,” Mia said.
“I’m a mage now.”
This caused Coset to smile again. “Your mother had always hoped you would grow up to do something important.”
“But you were captured?”
“What do you mean?”
“I was presented to the Red Dragon as a gift.”
“The boy I came with to rescue the princess.”
“No!” Mia said quickly. She then turned, looking from side to side; afraid her outburst might have drawn attention. “No,” she said in a softer tone. “It was all part of the plan.”
“Well, that’s a relief. What is the plan exactly?”
“Philip’s going to distract the Red Dragon as much as possible while I try to locate Zelda.”
“She’s to be kept in the dungeon.”
“Then I’ll have to go there.”
“She won’t be back for awhile. And getting into the dungeon is no easy task. The doors are always locked.”
“Where do they keep the keys?”
“What do you intend to do?”
“I have to rescue the queen,” Mia said. “At any cost.”
“At any risk, you mean.”
Coset shook her head. “You’ll never get to the keys. They’re kept hidden away by War. At the end of the night, all the guards give them to him.”
Mia sighed heavily. “I wish there were some sort of magical skeleton key I could conjure,” she muttered.
“You know…” Coset said softly, her mind racing, “there may be something to that.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the prisoners in the dungeon are put under a magic inhibition by the royal mages before they regain consciousness.”
“And normally, the concubines of the Red Dragon are outfitted with inhibitors as well.” She walked briskly over to the vanity and picked up a gaudy gold bracelet, bejeweled with bright red rhinestones. “It’s my job to outfit the new girls with them,” she explained.
“Suppose I accidentally forget to give you one.”
Mia’s eyes lit up as she suddenly grasped what Coset was saying. “Then I could use Farore’s Wind to teleport down to the dungeon.”
“Right into Zelda’s cell, if need be.”
“Shhh…” Coset glanced at the door. “Stay in here,” she said firmly. “I’ll go back to the harem and wait until I know that the Red Dragon is dining. Then I’ll come to you and we can go down to the dungeon.”
“It’s a big risk, aunt.”
“One that I’m willing to take for Zelda. It was for my sake that she took care of you and your brothers. I want to return the favor.”
“But I want you to promise me one thing, Mia.”
“When we go to rescue Zelda, you’ll do exactly as I tell you to, understand?”
“No, not entirely.”
“I want you to do as I say.”
“I promise you.”
“Swear on the name of your mother.”
Coset leaned forward and kissed Mia on the forehead. Without another word, she turned around, swiftly ducking out of the room and disappearing down the hall. Mia stood there, stunned, watching as the door closed behind her. Uneasily, she pulled her pink hood up, over her head. She wondered how long it would be before Coset came to fetch her. Waiting was not something Mia enjoyed and she had a feeling that she was in store for a whole lot of it.
The Red Dragon seemed to be in an impossibly good mood at dinner. Gone was his aloof, detached air from the throne room. As he sat at the head of the table, he chattered incessantly, indulging in wine and food to an excessive degree. Philip was more than surprised at the transformation. He sat in his seat, trying to say as little as possible, keeping his head low and his hands to the good feast set in front of him. The Red Dragon, however, was not inclined to allow him a low profile.
And so the meal wore on, growing increasingly difficult for Philip to bear. Again and again, the Red Dragon would boast of the size of his army or the number of women in his harem. He would throw food at the hapless servants lining the room, chuckling in bemusement as they scrambled out of the way, or worse, suffered to let him humiliate them. After the meal had ended, the Red Dragon insisted that Philip join him for an after supper salon with a few of his closest advisors. Philip breathed a sigh of relief that War was not in attendance.
“I tell you,” the Red Dragon declared, lifting a goblet of wine into the air, “that life goes by so quickly. We must enjoy the rich rewards that come to us while we still have breath in our bones. We must evolve and mature and create a better form of life for ourselves.”
“Here, here,” several of the officials and their wives chorused, lifting their own chalices. Philip copied them, only a second or two behind.
They all raised their goblets to their lips to drink, but the Red Dragon stopped them abruptly. “They say we all forget about the simple pleasures of life. From time to time we lose track of what really matters.”
“Well, here’s what I say to people who remind me of this…actually, I don’t say anything to them, I just kill them, but if I stopped to talk, I’d say…there is nothing simple about life.”
“Here, he –”
“No. Life is a series of twists and turns and how you begin it is most certainly not how it’s going to end. Not for you, not for the people you know.”
“And so,” he barreled on, “I wish to make a toast tonight. Though life has thrown us all a lot of surprises, pleasant or otherwise, we have managed to climb to the top of the heap, the dung heap of civilization. We are the ones that all envy belongs to. We weren’t given our riches; we earned them by outlasting those who would have stolen them away from us. We are the very images of the gods. To us, I say. A toast to the invincible ones. To the survivors. To the strong.”
A great, heavy moment of silence hung in the air, all of the guests of the Red Dragon staring at him, waiting for him to speak on. When he didn’t, they began to exchange nervous glances among themselves. It was Philip, finally, who rose to his feet, raising his glass high in the air. “To the strong,” he declared.
“To the strong,” everybody echoed.
Relief filled the room immediately. They all began to down their drinks, except for the Red Dragon, who glanced intently at Philip over the bespangled lip of his wine goblet. “Come sit over here, Dragmire,” he said as the usual after dinner chatter began to rise.
Philip rose to his feet slowly, crossing the room to take a seat by the Red Dragon himself. “My lord?”
“I have been considering your father’s offer,” he said, lifting his visor just enough so that his mouth could be seen. With that, he took a deep, long drink from his goblet, nearly draining it entirely.
Forcing a cruel smile, Philip gestured to one of the courtesans standing against the wall with a pitcher of wine. “And what do you think?” he asked. He noticed, with some morbid fascination, that the lower half of the Red Dragon’s face, which he could now see clearly, seemed heavily scarred. His chin was sharp and surprisingly small for all the showmanship of the helmet. Long, red scars never completely healed ran up either side from the sharp point.
The Red Dragon held out his goblet to be refilled. “I think there’s great promise in such an alliance. And a sense of irony as well.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind. It’s my own personal amusement, nothing more.” The Red Dragon dismissed the girl who had refilled his cup.
Philip raised his goblet. “To irony, then.”
“To irony,” the Red Dragon agreed, toasting Philip before downing the entire contents of wine.
Again, Philip signaled for the girl to come refill the Red Dragon’s chalice. “I’m glad to hear you’re mulling over the possibility.”
“I would only name a governor for the area anyway,” the Red Dragon replied, letting the girl approach again. “In my opinion, your father would be as good a selection as any from my own men. He knows the area, he’s familiar with the customs of the people, and I certainly won’t have to worry about him being a loyalist to the Hylian throne now, will I?”
Chuckling, Philip agreed. “Of course.”
“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” the Red Dragon cautioned him.
“There’s certainly no hurry. I do admit, I rather enjoy staying here as your guest. Your palace is…impressive.” He raised his goblet. “May you enjoy it for many years to come.”
“Thank you,” the Red Dragon answered, lifting his own goblet and again draining the contents.
“The story of your rise to power has become…something of legend,” Philip told him, leaning back in his seat and running his finger along the edge of his chalice. “More than a legend. A myth.”
“A myth? Myth implies something untrue.”
“Many people in Hyrule don’t believe you exist.”
“And how did you and your father catch wind of my little campaign?”
It was in that moment that Philip’s mind went completely blank. The fact of the matter was that he didn’t even know how to fake his way out of this one. Not only did he have no idea what sort of channels Ganondorf used, but the fact of the matter was that despite all his angst and anger, he had never actually met the man. “Well…he has certain, shall we say, allies with their ears in royal business. And of course, our gracious queen knows all about you.”
“I would hope so,” the Red Dragon said proudly.
Relief washing over him, Philip beckoned the concubine to refill the Red Dragon’s wine, again. “I am a little curious about your most noteworthy accomplice however. This War fellow, where did you pick him up?”
“That,” the Red Dragon said, enunciating every single consonant in the word, “is something you will have to wonder at.”
“Is he entirely trustworthy, I wonder?” It certainly didn’t help to raise a little trouble in the ranks, if he could, Philip decided.
“I trust War with my life,” the Red Dragon declared proudly. “Which,” he added, raising his voice so that the entire room could hear him, “is more than I can say for anyone else in this room. You’re all a bunch of worthless parasites, sponging off of my hard work. Useless, all of you. All of you get out!” The guests all turned to stare at him in confusion. “That’s right, all of you! This isn’t a drill. Everyone, get out! Not you, Dragmire. I want all of you out of my sight!” Some of them fearful, others disgruntled, and still others almost indignant, the courtiers all began to clear out. The servants too began to exit. “Leave the wine!” the Red Dragon bellowed. Obediently, the serving girls placed their respective pitchers of wine down on the floor before scuttling out of the room.
“Are you sure that was wise?” Philip asked, watching as the Red Dragon rose, staggering over to the wall to pick up a pitcher.
“What do I care? They won’t do anything about it. They’re all just riding on my coattails.” The Red Dragon glanced over his shoulder. “Which is metaphorical, since I don’t wear any coattails.” He chuckled loudly, forcing Philip to join in. A good laugh accomplished, the Red Dragon lifted the pitcher in the air. “To metaphor,” he declared before pouring the pitcher on his face.
“To metaphor,” Philip mumbled, pretending to drink his wine.
“I’ll drink to that.”
“You made the toast.”
“Oh.” The Red Dragon began to make his way to the next pitcher. “Double the reason, then.”
“Reason as little to do with this,” Philip said, more to himself than the Red Dragon who didn’t hear him anyway.
“I have had such a wonderful day, today,” the Red Dragon proclaimed very loudly.
“So naturally, you’re drinking yourself into a stupor,” Philip whispered under his breath.
“This is a day I will never forget,” he babbled on before pouring the second pitcher on himself.
“That’s debatable,” Philip said, trying to calculate how much the Red Dragon had consumed. He didn’t need to add for very long. Finished with the second pitcher, the Red Dragon stumbled forward a little bit then froze, holding his hand up as if he were about to declare something else. No words came out of his mouth. Instead, he slowly fell, face first, to the ground with the loud clattered of armor falling around him. Philip cringed at the noise. He turned to look at the door, wondering if perhaps some guards would come rushing in. To his surprise, none came.
Slowly, he rose to his feet, setting his own goblet down on the floor. He made his way to the Red Dragon, standing over him and looking down. There was no doubt about it, the tyrant was down for the count and would most certainly wake up with a horrid headache. Philip may not have had powerful armies or large harems, but at least he could hold his wine better. Without sparing the Red Dragon a second glance, he made his way out of the room, briefly wondering why it was that the Red Dragon was having such a wonderful day.
When the green light from Farore’s Wind faded, Coset had to blink several times to clear the afterimage from her eyes. Mia, however, wouldn’t afford herself that luxury until she looked around to be certain that there was no one in the dungeon to witness their spectacular entrance. “That was…surreal,” Coset muttered, rubbing her hands along her arms to rid herself of the strange tingle.
“You get used to it,” Mia answered, relaxing a bit when she saw there were no guards.
“Zelda?” Coset whispered crossing over to the cell’s simple cot. On top of it was a big fleece blanket and at one end, Zelda’s hair could just be seen falling out in long, tangled locks.
“Zelda!” Mia hissed, coming to her aunt’s side and gently prodding the prone from under the blanket.
With a soft groan, Zelda rolled over, pulling the blanket away from her face. She opened her eyes, though one of them was now circled with a bright purple ring, swelling slightly by this point. “Mia?”
“We came to rescue you,” Mia told her, reaching underneath the covers to pull Zelda up by the arm.
“We?” Zelda mumbled.
“Me and Philip.”
“Impa talked him into it.”
“You’ve got to get up,” Coset urged Zelda, taking her other arm.
Together, both Mia and Coset pulled Zelda off of the bed. The blanket fell away and Mia had to avert her eyes. Zelda’s body was battered beyond recognition. Large, red welts popped out from her waist, as if she had been struck repeatedly with a whip. There were several small bruises, about the size of fingertips, running in a ring around her neck. A good chunk of hair had been pulled out of her head, leaving behind patches of red scalp, some of them bloody. Her legs were covered with dry blood, a lot of it absorbed into the rich fabric of her pants.
“Oh, Zelda…” Mia gasped.
“I’m fine,” Zelda told her firmly.
“We have to get you out of here,” Coset said.
“Excellent idea,” Zelda agreed.
Mia pulled the blanket up from the cot, draping it over Zelda’s shoulders. “I’ll Farore us out of here.”
There was a scratching noise from the other side of the door. “Someone’s coming in!” Coset whispered fiercely.
“No,” Zelda moaned. “No more.”
“Get her out of here, Mia,” Coset commanded, taking a step back away from Zelda.
Mia blinked. “What? What about you?”
“I’ll stall them.”
“I’m not leaving you behind.”
“If you don’t, they’ll only follow you. The foot soldiers have powers too, now go!”
“You promised me,” Coset told her. “You swore on your mother, you gave me your word, now do as I say.”
Stepping closer to Zelda, her eyes wide, Mia nodded. Whispering words only she could hear she began to summon Farore’s Wind. The customary green light of the teleportation spell filled up the entire cell, radiating out through the bars of the tiny window in the door. “What?” someone from the outside grunted, “What’s going on in there?”
As they began to vanish, dread filled Zelda’s heart. “That’s War,” she groaned, recognizing the voice.
“No!” Mia screamed, but it was too late. Her voice dissipated into nothingness as she and Zelda disappeared.
“Who’s using magic in there?” War demanded angrily, fumbling audibly with his keys.
“Goodbye,” Coset said softly, holding her hand up for a moment to the place where she saw Zelda and Mia last.
A key turned and the door swung open. Instantly, five soldiers rushed into the room, fanning out to race to the very corners of the cell. War floated in after them, sword drawn, looking from side to side. “Search the cell, find the princess!”
“She’s not here, sir,” one of the guards replied.
War’s gaze fell on Coset. “You,” he boomed.
“Me,” Coset said proudly.
“Where is she?”
“On your knees.”
“Long live Hyrule,” she whispered fiercely.
“Guards.” Instantly, the five guards descended on Coset, throwing her down to her knees. War lifted his sword, resting it on Coset’s shoulder, right next to her neck. “You should know better than to be so stubborn. Where is the princess?”
“Fan out,” War barked to his officers. “Find the princess.”
“Queen,” one of the guards corrected him.
“Whatever. Just find her!”
The guards began trooping out. “One last chance, Coset,” War muttered very quietly.
“You know I cannot.”
“Then you know what I must do.”
War pulled his sword back. “It didn’t have to be this way, Coset.”
“May the gods for –”
There was no time to lament the loss of Coset. Mia and Zelda rematerialized as planned, in the royal gardens just outside of the palace. It was curious that the Red Dragon even had gardens, but when they appeared, Mia quickly realized why they were in place. These gardens were not the blooming, thriving celebrations of life she was accustomed to back home. No, this was a memorial to what had once been. Everything was dead; gray, cold, and dead. Brittle and dry ivy wound its way up the high spikes of the iron gate. Frozen black earth, tightly packed and exposed was beneath their feet. The air reeked with the smell of dead earth.
“Come on,” Mia mumbled softly, putting her arms around Zelda to provide some support.
They cut a path through the dormant flower beds, careful to avoid the watchful eyes of the handful of soldiers patrolling the area. Night had fallen, mercifully shadowing their escape but Zelda was limping badly which slowed them considerably. “Where are we going?”
“We have to find Philip,” Mia replied.
“Where is he?”
“He was distracting the Red Dragon.”
“I don’t know,” Mia answered earnestly. “He said he’d find a way. So far so good.”
For a moment, they paused by a dead, leafless tree, Zelda clutching the bark as she caught her breath. Mia moved away somewhat, looking from side to side to take note of where the guards stood. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice the one behind her. “Mia! Look out!” Zelda cried.
Too late. The burly knight made a grab for her, wrapping his thick arms around her waist and lifting her clean off of the ground. She struggled against him, her legs wheeling about in the air. He began to squeeze her ribcage, forcing the air out of her lungs. “I whisper Enjolras, when I decree,” Mia wheezed, her face turning pink, “by his power, set me free.” Instantly, a flash of light burst from the middle of Mia’s body, sending a shockwave out which seemed to physically strike the guard. He let go of her, flying back into the gate. Merely angered, but not hobbled, the soldier grunted, racing back at Mia, arms wide to sweep her up. “Enemies, curse, and fall, Nayru’s arms raise a wall.” The poor guard suddenly fell backward, crashing into an invisible wall formed by Mia’s incantation.
By this point, the scuffle had caught the attention of a few more guards. They began racing in the direction of the tree, shouting out to the castle for reinforcements. As Zelda looked around the trunk of the tree she was leaning against, she caught sight of them approaching. “Mia!”
Mia whirled around, her hair wrapping around her body. “Spirit of Impa now appear, hissing, coiling, striking fear.” With that, Mia’s eyes turned completely white. An orb formed in her hands which she threw out in the direction of the minions. Instantly, as it hit the first one, it expanded, flying out to encircle all of them in a dark, tangible shadow. From inside the writhing mass, shouts could be heard, but the words were muffled.
“You!” the guard behind the invisible wall shouted, pounding his meaty fists against it.
“Me,” Mia said, turning around, her eyes still ablaze.
Visibly thrown, the soldier stepped back a pace and gulped. “Stop that,” he told her weakly.
“Philomel with melody, set the sacred –”
A fist lurched forward, punching the soldier in the jaw. He dropped like a rock and Philip appeared, setting his foot down on the prone form. “Are you all right?” he asked Mia.
“We’ll live,” Mia replied, indicating Zelda with her head.
Philip took a step in Zelda’s direction. He immediately crashed into the invisible wall with a loud thunk. “Mia.”
“Oh, sorry.” She held her hands up. “Hear my plea, circling arms enfolding me. Discharge.”
He waited for a moment. “That’s it?”
Tentatively, Philip stepped forward. He did not, once more, crash into the barrier. Instead, he mad his way over to Zelda. “Shall we?”
Zelda nodded. “Let’s go home.”
Philip picked up Zelda gently, hooking his arm under her knees. Mia joined them, putting a hand on each of their shoulders. As she began the spell for Farore’s Wind, Philip looked to one side, noticing the writhing black mass of soldiers. “What happened to them?” he asked.
“They got on my nerves,” Mia answered. With that, the three of them vanished, swept away in the halo of a bright green light.
When the sun rose the next morning, the soldiers were both skittish and sleep deprived. They moved like zombies, trudging up and down the corridors with vacant expressions on their faces. War floated among them, silently making his way to the salon. At the door, he turned to his honor guard and dismissed them with a wave of his hand. “I’ll go in alone.”
Once they were gone, he opened the door and drifted into the salon. There were surprisingly few items out of place. True, there was an enormous puddle of wine on the floor, in which the Red Dragon was sleeping, but other than that, War had to admit that things looked fairly neat. He made his way to the Red Dragon’s side, dropping down to allow his feet to touch the floor. Kneeling down with as much respect and care as he could muster, he touched his master’s back, shaking him slightly. The Red Dragon let out a low groan, rolling over onto his back. From the inside of his helmet came the clang of his skull hitting metal. “I could have you killed for waking me,” he moaned hoarsely to War.
“That would be counter productive,” War replied.
“What do you want?”
“I have news to report to you.”
“Couldn’t it wait?”
“It could not.”
Slowly, the Red Dragon sat up. The back of his armor was sticky, dripping with the remaining wine that had somehow failed to pass his lips. He pulled down his visor over his twisted mouth, glaring out at War from behind the narrow eye slits. “Yes? What is it?”
“Amorette has returned with some valuable information regarding Impa’s plans for Hyrule’s defense.”
“What’s the information?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment. One thing first.”
“Zelda has escaped.”
This got the Red Dragon to his feet. “What? How?”
“Coset was found in her cell, last night,” War explained very calmly, without backing up.
“Coset! How could she?”
“What’s more, several knights spotted her in the garden.”
“And they didn’t stop her?”
“She was accompanied by help.”
“Dragmire and the girl he brought as a gift.”
The Red Dragon stalked to one end of the room then back, his body moving in swift, sharp motions. “They betrayed me. They betrayed me!”
“Betrayal by a Dragmire. Unheard of.”
“Don’t talk back to me!”
“What happened in the garden?”
“Our men were stopped by several spells.”
“They weren’t in place.”
“Zelda, Dragmire, and the girl teleported away with Farore’s Wind after a brief scuffle. No fatalities among the guards.”
“They must be back to Hyrule by now,” the Red Dragon grumbled.
He folded his hands behind his back. “No matter,” the Red Dragon sighed after a long moment.
“We have to turn our attention to the capture of
for now,” he decided. Maze Island
“The army will be ready to depart within four months time,” War told him proudly.
“Good. Good. We’ll take them first, Hyrule can wait.”
“As you wish.”
“Now. Tell me about the secret plans Amorette uncovered.”
No one in Hyrule would ever know that Zelda had gone missing. Back before sunrise, Zelda was cleaned up and dressed to attend court the following morning with only the slightest traces of a limp detectable to anyone who knew to look. She dressed in black mourning, out of remembrance for Coset, her hair pulled back into a loose bun at the base of her neck. When she entered the throne room, heralded by trumpets, she insisted that Mia and Philip walk in beside her, out of respect for the debt Hyrule owed them, but would never know about.
“That’s my brother,” Adriana whispered proudly to the gaggle of young girls crowded around her.
As the normal court activity resumed, Mia and Philip followed Zelda up to her throne platform. That part of the room was relatively deserted, except for two young boys, the first with long brown hair, the second with untidy titian locks. Mia positively beamed. “Jesse! Sito!” she called, running over to them to pull her brother into a tight embrace.
Zelda and Philip drifted away, allowing the siblings their reunion in private. “You’ve had a busy day,” Zelda said absently, glancing around the room.
“I guess so,” Philip replied.
“Lend me your thoughts, Philip.”
“I think…” he started lowly, choosing his words with great care, “that there is much work to be done.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.” She looked at him. “I won’t force it on you, but I want you to be a part of it. You showed your true colors when you came to Calatia.”
“It’s more like the Red Dragon showed me his.”
She glanced at him. “Perhaps.”
“His madness showed me what I don’t want to be.”
“You know, blood isn’t destiny. Your father was Ganondorf Dragmire, true, but that doesn’t mean you have to be.”
“How do I avoid it?”
“By doing the right thing.” Zelda clasped her hands behind her back, looking out at the courtiers. “These people, here, they have no idea, they don’t know what you know, Philip.” She frowned. “When the time comes to test their mettle against the Red Dragon, and it will come, they’re going to be helpless.”
“But not everyone is helpless. There are members of my court who know what’s going on. I have spies, the League of the Triforce. They keep me well informed about what’s happening.”
“You want me to be a spy?”
Zelda shook her head. “No. What I have in mind for you is something more…secretive.”
“More secret than a spy?” Philip asked a slight hint of bemusement in his tone of voice.
“You are going to be a leader of a new league, one I’m forming now, even as we speak.”
“What sort of league?”
“The last spark of hope in Hyrule, should the worst happen. Our final chance at salvation. You and your people will be…Guardians…of some sort.”
“Guardians of what?”
“Of tomorrow.” She turned to look at him. “I won’t thrust this upon you. Leadership is a difficult charge. But if you’re willing…”
“I can think of no one better suited for the task.”
“I’ve spent my life among a great many fools,” Philip told her, “maybe it’s time for something different.”
“Is that a yes?”
Philip nodded. “It is.”
“Who will I be leading into this battle?”
“Mia, for a start. And her brothers.”
“I want my sister to be with us.”
“Which one is she?”
He pointed out into the crowd at Ana, dressed in her finest gown, a pink taffeta overlaid with a sheer white veil. “That one. She’s excellent with magic.”
“Then we’ll have her.” Zelda folded her arms across her chest. “We have the makings of a fine group.”
“Then the great work begins.” With great ceremony, she held her hands out in front of her, touching her index fingers and thumbs together to form the shape of a triangle. The Triforce.
The adventure continues in “The Guardians of Today.”
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