“This was a wonderful idea, Zelda.”
Zelda was lying on her back on the grass. “I know. Daddy and Impa think I’ve gone to spend the night in the Kokiri Forest. It’s so perfect.”
“And Saria thinks I’m staying at the castle,” Link added. He also lay back on the cool grass and gazed up at the stars above. It was a perfect, clear night.
Saria didn’t have any authority over Link the way King Harkinian and Impa did over Zelda, however she was certain to have had the same reaction as them if Link or Zelda had told her their real plans for the night. All three would have been dead against their idea.
“Nobody knows we’re here,” Zelda spoke the words just as Link was thinking them. She let out a small giggle. Link suddenly felt a little awkward. He couldn’t understand why, so he sat up and threw some more wood on the nearby fire. Zelda sat up too, and she looked as though she was about to say something, but she suddenly stopped. Link followed her gaze, and was captivated by the still beauty of Lake Hylia at night. The dark water was smooth like a sheet of glass, and occasionally a slight breeze would create tiny ripples that expanded out across the lake and lapped at the shore.
A few hours earlier, Link and Zelda had set up a small tent on the grass about thirty feet away from the water. It was positioned near a clump of bushes, so that it was hidden from the fishing pond, the lakeside laboratory, and the main entrance to the lake. Zelda had wanted to camp on the small island in the middle of the lake, but Link thought it was too visible a spot.
Link turned his gaze back to Zelda. She was still staring out at the lake, looking deep in thought. The firelight was reflected in her golden hair, making it sparkle, and shadows danced across her face. She had abandoned her traditional royal garments in favour of a plain dress that she had made Link buy her from the market many months ago. Zelda often complained about how heavy and uncomfortable her royal clothes were, and she loved that dress. Link knew that she was enjoying being free, even if it was just for one night, from being the Princess of Hyrule. She could always be herself when she was alone with Link, without having to put on manners and phony graces. And Link knew he could always be himself around Zelda. He could talk to her about anything.
Zelda saw Link staring at her, and she looked at him. Their eyes met for a second, and Link looked away. When he looked back, Zelda was still staring at him.
“Link, I’m so happy. I wish we could stay here forever.”
A cool breeze blew across the lake. Zelda shivered, and drew her knees up to her chest.
“Maybe it’s time we went to bed,” Link suggested.
Zelda looked as though she was about to protest, but she agreed. Link sat and kept himself warm near the fire while inside the tent Zelda changed into a nightgown. He piled on some extra wood to ensure that it would burn through the night. If it was cold now, it would be freezing without the fire.
When Zelda re-emerged in the doorway of the tent, Link suddenly felt uncomfortable again. Whenever he stayed at the castle, he had always slept in a guest bedroom. And if Zelda stayed in the Kokiri Forest, Link always let her have his bed, while he slept on the floor. A couple of times she had stayed with Saria. This tent was awfully small.
“Are you going to sit by the fire all night?” Zelda asked. “I thought you wanted to go to sleep. Come on, I’m tired too.”
Link stood up and entered the tent. He spread his bedding on the right side of the tent, and Zelda did the same with hers on the left. While Zelda snuggled under her thick blankets, Link removed his boots, cap, sheath and belt and piled them in a corner. He then climbed under his blankets.
All of a sudden Link didn’t feel so tired. He moved around, trying to find a comfortable position, and ended up lying on his back. Next to him, Zelda was also trying to get to sleep. Despite her thick blankets, she was beginning to feel cold again.
“Link?” Zelda whispered, “Are you asleep?”
“No,” Link replied immediately.
“I’m freezing,” Zelda said.
Link was used to sleeping in the cold, but he agreed with her. “Yeah, it is a bit cold tonight.”
“I heard that body heat helps you to stay warm. Move closer and lie against me; let’s see if it works.”
Again, Link felt awkward.
“Come on, I don’t bite!” Zelda said, “I’m just cold.”
Link shuffled over until he was lying right against her. Zelda rolled over so that she was facing him, and he did the same. Almost at once he began to feel warm, especially in the places where he could feel her through their blankets.
“I’m feeling warmer already,” Zelda whispered, and she smiled at Link. Their faces were very close. In the soft light that the fire and moon filtered through the tent walls, Link could easily make out her delicate features. A warm, happy feeling spread through his body and he relaxed and dozed off. In his half conscious state, he couldn’t work out if he was dreaming or not that Zelda put her arm around him as they lay there.
The next think Link knew, he was being shaken awake by Zelda. It was still dark, so he knew he hadn’t been asleep for very long.
“Link!” Zelda said urgently.
“What?” he asked.
“Did you hear it?”
“Noises! Outside the tent!” Zelda looked pale.
Link lay still and listened hard. “I don’t hear anything,” he said after a few moments.
“Shhh!” Zelda hissed. “Listen!”
Link listened again, and was about to roll over and go back to sleep in frustration when he heard it. The sound of bushes rustling, and then something that Link was almost certain sounded like footsteps.
“I’ll check it out,” Link whispered. Taking care not to move around too much and make a noise, he pulled on his boots and picked up his sword. He crawled to the front of the tent, crouched for a moment, muscles tensed, and then leapt out of the tent brandishing his sword.
Something long and hard knocked the sword out of Link’s hand. The blow was so fierce the pain reverberated all the way up his arm to his shoulder. At the same time, he felt a sharp pain in his back. He turned around to see three women standing in front of him. They were Gerudo. One held a bloody dagger. Link felt a warm liquid begin to flow down his back, and he dropped onto his knees. The shock of the sudden attack had weakened him, and all he could do was watch as Zelda stuck her head out of the tent.
She was grabbed by two of the Gerudo, who dragged her out of the tent and flung her onto the ground. Her wrists and ankles were bound, and then she was hoisted up onto a nearby horse. One of the Gerudo mounted the same horse, while the other two stood above Link.
“What about this one?”
“Filthy man! Shall I cut off his head?”
“Leave him. His wound is fatal,” the horsewoman said. She stared down at Link, but Link was having trouble focusing on her. Black spots danced across his eyes. He could make out the Gerudo talking as they mounted their horses and rode away and he could see Zelda screaming, but all he could hear was a buzzing in his ears. He could feel the back of his tunic clinging to him, warm and soaked with blood. Then dizziness hit, and he fell forwards and landed face down in the grass. Darkness brought relief from the pain.
“Nooooooo!” screamed Zelda, as she watched Link collapse. “You killed Link! You killed him!” Tears streamed down her face.
“Oh, shut up and get over it,” said the Gerudo riding the horse with her.
“No! Let me go. Take me back to him! Link!”
They rode into the nearby Gerudo Valley. From her awkward position flung over the horse, Zelda could see down into the massive drop to the river below as they went over the narrow bridge across the ravine. This ravine created a natural barrier around the Gerudo Fortress for a tribe that fiercely valued and guarded its isolation. The horses stopped in front of a doorway, and Zelda was dragged down from the horse, screaming the whole time. Around them, spear-carrying guards dressed in purple watched the goings on curiously. Zelda was carried down a corridor and into a large room. Along one wall of this room a series of cells had been built. Zelda was placed in the corner of one of these cells. One of her captors used a dagger – the same dagger that had stabbed Link – to cut through her binding ropes. As soon as her arms and legs were free, Zelda tried to push past her and run, but the Gerudo was expecting her to do just that. She shoved Zelda to the floor and pointed the dagger at her throat. The princess landed hard and had the wind knocked out of her. The Gerudo woman noticed that Zelda was wearing a gold Triforce necklace and ripped it from around her neck. She then exited the cell, locking it behind her. Without a word, the Gerudo women turned and left Zelda by herself, although guards were positioned at the doorway leading down into the room.
When she had caught her breath, Zelda looked around her cell. It was tiny and completely bare, without even stool to sit on. Zelda pushed against the door and walls, but they were all solid.
“Help!” she screamed, beginning to panic as her pushing proved fruitless, “Get me out of here! Someone!”
“Shut up!” a call from outside carried down into the cell.
“Help me!” Zelda continued, “Help, help!”
One of the guards marched down and stood in front of the cell. She was carrying a large spear, and she thrust it in between the cell bars, pointing it at Zelda.
“Nobody outside of here can hear you. If you don’t stop this whining at once I will skewer you up on this,” the guard waved her spear around, “And leave you in the Haunted Wasteland for the vultures.”
Zelda was silenced.
When the guard went back outside, Zelda finally realized that she was a prisoner and there was nothing she could do. She fell down on the floor and started to cry. This whole thing had been a mistake. It was meant to be a night of fun, but it was a mistake. Link was the only one who would know where she was, but how could he save her if he was dead?
* * *
The following morning at noon, King Harkinian of Hyrule was pacing around his sitting room. He cut an imposing figure, his large frame dressed in his best purple robes, and an exquisitely bejewelled gold crown atop his curly white hair. Impa, attendant to Princess Zelda and trusted friend of Harkinian, sat nearby in one of the cushioned chairs. She was also dressed in her best. In fact, Impa was wearing a dress, which was an extreme rarity for her. However it was not every day in Hyrule that a soldier was knighted, and today would be the first time in three years.
“She should be here by now,” Harkinian said, for the fifteenth time in ten minutes.
“She’s probably been having too much fun with Link and they lost track of the time,” Impa calmly replied. “You know what they’re like together.”
“I made it absolutely clear that she was required to attend this ceremony,” Harkinian said angrily. “I have been reminding her all week. If she isn’t here in the next ten minutes, she is grounded for a month. Especially from seeing Link.”
“She will be here,” Impa said, although inside she had some doubts. She knew all too well that Zelda hated attending official functions, and had often tried to get out of them many times in the past. Now that she was a little older, Impa hoped that she had outgrown this.
“She won’t have time to get changed! I saw what she was wearing when she left last night. She certainly cannot attend dressed as a commoner.”
“I have already left a change of clothes on her bed,” Impa said. “The ceremony is not for another half hour. She’ll have time.”
The minutes ticked on. As each minute passed, Impa watched Harkinian’s face turn a deeper shade of red. After a little while, he began tapping his fingers on the table at an increasingly rapid rate. The way he was going, Impa feared that the king might have a heart attack. Finally, there were only five minutes left before the ceremony began.
“Well, I have to go down now,” Harkinian said slowly, drawing in a deep breath and trying to calm himself down for the sake of his imminent public appearance. “Impa, I want you go to the Kokiri Forest and fetch my daughter immediately. She is in serious trouble. I will deal with her after the ceremony.”
“Very well, your Highness.”
Impa sighed upon leaving the room. She returned to her own quarters and changed out of the fine dress she was wearing. When she had her regular attire on, she headed to the stables and left in a carriage driven by one of the Royal Family’s official drivers. Impa sat back in the carriage as they travelled across Hyrule Field and hoped that Zelda’s punishment wouldn’t be too harsh. She knew that the king had a terrible temper, and Zelda would bear the brunt of it when she returned home. Impa wished that Zelda wouldn’t be so silly sometimes about attending royal functions.
“Kokiri Forest,” announced the driver when they reached their destination.
“Thank you,” Impa stepped out of the carriage. “I won’t be very long.” She went through the first entrance into the woods, across the wooden suspension bridge, and entered the Kokiri Forest itself. When Zelda was younger, Impa would always escort her here whenever she visited Link. However, it had been almost two years since she had last visited. It was such a quaint little place, and she could see why Link and Zelda loved it so much.
“I am here to see Link,” Impa said to the Kokiri boy on guard duty at the forest entrance. “Can you please tell him that Impa is here to see him, and ask him to bring Zelda with him.”
The little boy nodded and sped off. Impa watched him climb up a ladder to the tree house she knew was Link’s. A moment later, he climbed down, unaccompanied, and ran back to Impa.
“Link’s not home,” he said. “He might’ve gone into the woods. Ooh, hold on, there’s Saria. She’ll probably know where he is.” He called out to Saria, whom he had spotted talking nearby with two of the Know-It-All brothers. She excused herself, and walked over to them.
Saria was surprised to see Impa. She knew that Impa used to always escort Link and Zelda between the forest and the castle, but that was before Link had been deemed old and strong enough to be Zelda’s escort alone.
“Hello, Impa,” Saria said. She looked around for Link. “Where’s Link?”
“Actually,” Impa replied, “I was about to ask you the same question. Zelda was meant to be back at the castle much earlier to attend a Knighting Ceremony. The king is not at all happy with her, and sent me to collect her. So do you know where she and Link are?”
“Uh,” Saria stalled. Link had left last night, telling her that he was going to stay overnight at the castle. Saria knew that he hadn’t returned yet. So why was Impa here at the forest asking for him? Now that Saria thought about it, Link had been carrying a lot more stuff than he usually did when he went to the castle. All of a sudden she realized that Link had not been to the castle last night. And obviously, Zelda had told Impa that she was staying here at the forest. Instead, they must have gone off somewhere by themselves. Saria didn’t want Zelda to get into any more trouble than she already was, but she hated having to lie. “I don’t know,” she finally said, feeling uncomfortable.
“Did you see them go off anywhere this morning?” Impa asked.
“No.” That was the truth.
“Then I suppose I’ll just have to wait here for them to return,” Impa said.
“Uh, what if they’re not in the forest?”
“What do you mean?”
“For all I know they could have gone somewhere outside. If they have, I’m sure that Link will return Zelda to the castle before coming back here. I’d say that if Zelda didn’t return when she was meant to, they probably lost track of the time.”
“That’s what I thought might have happened,” said Impa, sighing again.
“Look, you should probably go back to the castle. If they do come back here, I’ll tell them you came over and what you said, and I’ll try and get Link to take Zelda home immediately,” said Saria. “But I’m quite sure he will drop her there first.”
“That’s a good idea,” replied Impa. “Thank you, Saria.”
When Impa had gone, Saria felt angry. “I can’t believe he lied to me!” she said out loud, “Don’t they realize how dangerous it might be for them out on their own at night?” She tried to think of someone they might have stayed with. Malon? But she was sure they would tell her that. Why would Link lie about staying at the ranch? He’d been there many times before. Saria was certain that Link and Zelda had come up with some little scheme to camp away on their own, and she was not at all happy.
“You know what, I hope they do get in trouble at the castle!”
* * *
Zelda had spent several hours the night before crying for Link and full of regret for lying to Impa and her father, and for staying out by themselves. If only someone knew where she was, then they would be able to rescue her. Why had it seemed like such an exciting idea to spend the night out at the lake anyway? As Zelda pictured their little tent, the image of Link collapsing in front of it played over and over in her mind. Her vision blurred with fresh tears as she imagined him lying cold, stiff and alone out there. She finally regained her composure, and became angry when two Gerudo came to give her some bread and water late in the morning.
“Just you wait,” she said to them through the bars of her cell. “Every soldier in Hyrule will be looking for me when they realize what you have done. Don’t you know who I am?”
“Oh yes, we know exactly who you are, Princess,” one of the Gerudo spoke.
“It won’t be necessary to find us,” the other woman added. “When he finds out that we have you, the king will have no choice but listen to our demands. I’m sure that he will do anything we want to get you back.”
“He will have your heads when he sees what you have done,” Zelda snarled. “Especially for killing Link.”
“You see, that’s the beauty of this whole plan. If the king doesn’t do what we say, you’ll join Link. He doesn’t have a choice.”
As Impa was sitting in the carriage on the way back to the castle, she spotted two horses approaching from the west. As they neared, Impa saw that the riders were red-haired women. She leaned out of the front window and addressed the driver, “Gerudos are coming! Quickly, back to town!”
Knowing that the royal carriages were an easy target for Gerudo robbers, the driver sped the horses up and they galloped across Hyrule field. They rode into Hyrule Castle Town with the Gerudo following close behind. Impa spoke to the guard on duty at the drawbridge, “There are Gerudos headed this way! Be on your guard in case this is a raid.”
The Gerudo rode into the town moments later. When the townspeople saw them, they began to panic and run for their houses. A few of the men armed themselves with sticks and anything they could find nearby, desperate to protect their homes and families from being plundered. However, unlike a regular raid, the Gerudo ignored everyone and rode straight through the center of town, towards the castle.
The castle guards had just closed the gate after granting Impa’s carriage passage through. When the guard outside the gate turned around and saw the Gerudo ride up, he almost jumped out of his skin.
“Halt!” he shouted, trying to sound as brave as possible. Usually Gerudo raiders left the castle alone, but this particular guard had been on duty in the town during some of their past raids and he knew how fierce they could be. “You thieves, leave now!”
One of the women leaned over on her horse and, with a swift movement of her curved sword, killed him.
“We are here to see the king,” announced the other woman. “We have the princess and we will kill her like this foolish guard if he does not see us at once.”
Impa had just exited her carriage and was walking up the path towards the castle when she heard these words. Her heart leapt into her throat as she heard the mention of possible harm to Zelda. She jogged back to the gate. All of the nearby guards followed her.
“Back to your posts!” she ordered them. “This may just be a distraction.”
The guards scrambled back to their positions.
“What do you want?” Impa asked the Gerudo from the other side of the gate.
“We demand to see the king right now,” one of them spoke. “Do not take us lightly. We have kidnapped the princess and we will kill her if he does not agree to see us.”
The other woman dismounted off her horse and stepped towards the gate. “We are serious,” she said quietly. She stretched out her arm through the bars of the gate and dangled something from her hand. Impa leaned forwards and her eyes widened when she recognized a golden Triforce pendant given to Zelda by her mother when she was just a baby. It was something that Zelda refused to take off. The woman started swinging it from side to side as if to taunt Impa, but the Sheikah kept her composure.
Oh Nayru, please say she found that necklace in the field, Impa prayed. Zelda, please be somewhere safe with Link!
“My name is Impa. I am Princess Zelda’s attendant,” Impa said at last. “I will go and pass your request to His Highness the King of Hyrule now, but you must wait there.”
“Do not take,” the Gerudo ordered. “If you try anything foolish against us Princess Zelda will die.”
The Knighting Ceremony had just concluded, and Impa found the king heading towards Zelda’s room at a hurried pace.
“Your Majesty,” she called out.
Harkinian turned around. “Ah Impa, where is my daughter? I must have some words with her.” He suddenly noticed how flustered Impa looked. “Impa, is something wrong?”
“There are Gerudo outside the castle. They say they have kidnapped Zelda and are demanding to see you now.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” the king asked, turning pale.
“I do not know,” Impa said. “But I gravely fear it may be true. This might explain why she never showed up for the ceremony.”
Harkinian felt sick. “I think we should take them seriously. I don’t want to risk anything happening to my precious girl, my baby Zelda. How many Gerudo are out there?”
“Only two that I could see,” Impa replied.
“Arrange extra guards to escort them in. Make sure that only two enter in case there are more, and watch them closely. I will meet with them in the throne room.”
“Yes sir,” Impa did as he ordered. She assembled a group of the best guards currently on duty, and a couple of the knights who had attended the earlier ceremony. She quickly outlined the situation, and when they heard, the guards were more than prepared to help. Impa almost had to warn them to refrain from attacking the Gerudo. Ten minutes later, the Gerudo women were escorted into the throne room.
“What is the meaning of this? You dare to enter the castle and say you have kidnapped my daughter? Is this true?” Harkinian roared. His face had turned bright red.
“Yes,” one of the women stepped forwards. She was wearing white pants, red shoes, and a white jacket over a cropped, sleeveless red top. Her red hair was cut short and styled into several spikes. Around her waist was a wide purple sash that held two cutlass swords. “I am Zanei, leader of the Gerudo tribe.”
Harkinian paused for a moment. “Nabooru is leader of the Gerudo. Has something happened to her?”
“Nabooru is busy,” Zanei replied. “I am acting in her place.”
“Then you will respect the work she has done to create a treaty of peace between your people and the other citizens of Hyrule.”
Zanei frowned. “Treaty? Ha! Nabooru is weak. This treaty is a pathetic attempt by her to suck up to you, Darunia and the King of the Zoras. All the while throwing away the Gerudo way of life! We have survived this way for hundreds of years. Who is she to change it now? If only our great king, Ganondorf Dragmire, were still in charge.”
“Well I am your king,” Harkinian said, “And I demand that you free the Princess Zelda immediately.”
“That will only be possible if you grant our request.”
“You have no right to do this!” Harkinian shouted, his blood beginning to boil. “I should have you executed on the spot. I was told that you have already killed one of my guards on the way in here. You should be arrested for murder.”
“Hear them out,” hissed Impa in Harkinian’s ear, fearing that he might anger the Gerudo and cause them to harm Zelda. She laid her hand on his shoulder in the hope it would help him calm down a little. It worked.
“If you are not willing to co-operate it will be the princess who is executed.”
“Fine,” Harkinian said. “Tell me this request.”
“Our request is simple. Money. Three million rupees.”
Impa drew in a sharp breath. Three million rupees was a lot of money.
“You have until noon tomorrow. At that time, we will be waiting at the drawbridge. If we get our money, you get your pathetic princess. If you don’t have the money, we will kill her. And if you even think about attacking us or pulling any other tricks, we will also kill her. Remember, noon tomorrow.”
Zanei and her partner left. They were closely followed by the soldiers, all of whom had white-knuckled grips on their drawn weapons.
“Three million rupees!” Harkinian exclaimed. “Zelda’s life for three million rupees? She is worth more than all the money in the world.”
“I know,” Impa replied.
“How dare she do this? How dare they hurt Zelda!” Filled with anger, the king rose out of his throne. Next to it was a small stand that contained a pitcher filled with water and a glass. Harkinian pushed the stand with all of his might, and it toppled over, sending the vessels flying to the floor. They smashed into a thousand pieces and water seeped into the richly woven carpet, creating an expanding dark patch. A footman appeared out of the shadows and set to work cleaning up the mess.
Zelda almost felt like doing the same thing. She controlled her rage, focusing it into a single ball and burying it deep inside. It would emerge some other time. “Now is not the time to get angry,” she said, “For Zelda’s sake.”
“You’re right,” Harkinian replied. “We need to get her out of this situation. But if anything happens to my little girl…” The king did not finish his sentence.
Link could smell fish.
Where am I? he thought. Fishing. I’m sitting by the stream in the Lost Woods, catching fish to eat for dinner. Maybe I will ride to the castle and invite Zelda for dinner. She seems to like my fish. She says she likes it better than the fancy seafood the castle chef sometimes prepares but that’s can’t be true… Zelda?!
All at once, Link remembered what had happened outside the tent at Lake Hylia. He recalled strange noises and then Zelda being captured and tied up. And pain. Awful pain.
Am I dead?
Link struggled to open his eyes. His vision was clouded and he blinked furiously until it cleared. He gasped when he saw that he was staring into the most hideous face he had ever seen. It looked almost like a skull. There were a few rotten, stained teeth sticking out at varying angles from the gums. Two slits for nostrils where a nose should have been. The eyes were round and sunken, and frizzy white hair stuck out either side of a blue cap placed on top of the head. The face suddenly came to life and spoke.
“Ooooh you’re finally awake!”
Link tried to say something but his throat felt too thick and his mouth was extremely dry. He was lying on his back in a soft bed, yet his entire body felt stiff and tired. He realized that he was shirtless.
“Don’t speak, drink.” A glass beaker was pressed against Link’s mouth. The dark liquid inside had a strong, fishy odour. Link eyed it suspiciously.
“It is good, very good for you.”
Link looked away from the beaker and back at the man in front of him, and then gazed at his surroundings. He suddenly realised where he was. This was the Lakeside Laboratory, and standing before him was the man Link had jokingly dubbed the Mad Scientist a long time ago. Link again tried to say something to the man, but found he still couldn’t talk.
“I made it myself. Full of very good things, yes! Drink.”
Link sniffed the concoction and almost gagged at the overpowering fish stench. Whenever Link had caught fish in the forest, Saria always made him clean and fillet them far away from the house because she hated the smell. But this smell was a hundred times worse than fish guts. Link held his breath and gulped down a couple of mouthfuls. It was thick and lumpy and the taste was so disgusting that it made him dry-retch and cough violently several times. Each time he coughed, he felt a sharp pain in his back.
“Yaaargh!” Link finally found his voice. “That’s revolting!”
“That may be so, but it is doing good things to you inside.”
“What’s going on?” Link asked.
“You poor boy, you were not in a good state when I found you.”
“Yes, you were not too far from here at all. It was by chance that I did see you. I went out onto the lake’s little island as I do every morning to catch some nice little fishies for my hungry shar… er, my experiment. When I turned around to head back, I saw something in the bushes that wasn’t there last time I looked. At least that is what I thought. Sometimes my mind can play tricks, yes. Upon further investigation, I discovered a tent. And you boy, were lying outside, half dead and stone cold, not good at all. So I brought you back here and dressed your wounds. You must be a strong boy, because I didn’t think you would pull through.”
“Zelda!” Link tried to sit up. “Did you see anyone else?”
“Relax, boy,” said the scientist, “You are in no state to get out of bed. You have lost a lot of blood. Drink some more, it will replenish you.”
“I need to find Zelda!” Link said urgently, “I need to know she’s okay!”
Link took a deep breath and downed the rest of the beaker.
“I have plenty more,” said the scientist.
“Really, I’m okay,” said Link, his voice hoarse as he tried to stop gagging. “I’m feeling much better.” In truth, Link’s body was telling him he needed sleep, but his mind was fraught with worry about Zelda.
“Ah, I knew my drink would work! Now you should just lie here and rest. Your healing will take time, even though I have used my own special ointments. I do not know how fast they will act on an injury as big as yours. But they worked well on me when I was once bitten by the shar… I mean, they work well on bites.”
A large splashing sound came from the other side of the room.
“Oh yes, yes, I almost forgot,” the scientist said. He walked away from Link, and a few moments later Link could hear several plops, the sound of something being thrown into water. There was more thrashing of the water, and then the noise subsided. Link took this moment to gaze at the table next to his bed. It contained Link’s empty beaker, along with several more filled with what had to be the same repulsive, fish-smelling concoction. Behind them were more bottles, including one that held a familiar-looking red liquid. Link wanted to reach out and grab it, but he found that didn’t have enough energy. For someone usually very strong, Link could not remember the last time he felt so weak and helpless. He didn’t like this feeling at all. Using every ounce of willpower he could muster, he focused what little strength he had into his right arm. Slowly, he reached out towards the bottle. Just a little further, he told himself, gritting his teeth. His fingers clamped around the neck of the bottle, and as he drew his arm back he clumsily knocked a few of the beakers. They rocked in place for a few moments, before falling to the ground, smashing into hundreds of pieces with a loud crashing sound. Link was not sad to see his drinks go to waste. The scientist yelped, clearly startled by the noise, and rushed over to Link’s bedside.
“What are you doing, boy? You should put that bottle back. I have not yet tested it. It may be very dangerous, yes!”
“What does it contain?” asked Link. He was certain that he already knew.
“A mixture known only as red potion. A woman from Kakariko Village that I dated last week makes it. She said that it had powers to restore health. I am going to investigate it to see if it does contain healing properties, for then I might add it to my own special medicine that I gave you.”
“You didn’t think to just try the potion instead?”
“My mixture is far superior, of course. That woman was a little crazy if you ask me. I don’t think she could be skilled at all in the medicinal area, no.”
Link wanted to smirk at the scientist’s comment about the crazy woman when he was clearly just as mad. However, the expression didn’t make it to his face. “Well, why don’t I demonstrate this to you? I’ll be your guinea pig,” Link unscrewed the cap, thankful that the bottle wasn’t sealed with a tight cork. He gulped down the potion. It had been a long time since Link had last used red potion. He recalled that it didn’t taste very good, but after the fish mixture it tasted like strawberries and chocolate. At once, Link’s body started to tingle, and he felt strength seeping into all of his muscles, a sensation similar to a surge of adrenaline. “That’s better,” he said, sitting up and stretching.
“Amazing!” the scientist gasped. “Can you turn away from me?”
Link sat so that his back was facing the scientist. The old man delicately began to peel away the dressings that he had carefully prepared hours earlier. The inner bandages were soaked with blood, however to his shock the wound had completely vanished. There was no trace of there ever being an injury, not ever a scar. “What a miracle. She must use magic!”
“Yeah,” Link said.
“Yeah,” Link said.
The scientist stood gaping in awe, and Link turned his mind to more pressing matters. Zelda. He recalled that it was Gerudos who had attacked him, and they had tied Zelda up. Where else could they have taken her but the Gerudo Fortress?
“Listen,” Link addressed the scientist, “Thank you for saving my life. I know I will never be able to fully repay you or thank you enough. But I have to leave now. The same people who attacked me kidnapped a friend I was with. I must go and find her.”
The scientist looked curious. “Attack? Kidnap? Who attacked you?”
“I wish I had time to explain,” Link said urgently, “But I really must leave immediately. She could be in grave danger. Uh, can I have my clothes?” He was wearing only a pair of white shorts.
The scientist passed Link his tunic. It was almost completely soaked with blood, which had dried and turned brown. The fabric was crumpled and the dried blood gave it a strange crusty texture. There was also a large gash in it from the weapon that had stabbed Link.
“I’m not sure if I can wear this,” Link said, turning up his nose.
“While you were asleep I went back and packed up your tent and belongings,” the scientist said, “Yes, there may be something else you can wear.” He rifled through a pile of things. Link saw his boots standing up nearby, and he recognized the tent and bedding.
“Ah, we have something!” the scientist exclaimed. He proudly held up the dress that Zelda had been wearing the previous night.
Link did a double take. “I am not wearing a dress!” he exclaimed. He shuddered as he had a vision of himself running to the castle and standing before the king and Impa in a dress. The skirt would playfully fly around in the breeze. He imagined the looks on their faces. “I think I’ll just wear my tunic.” Link pulled it over his head. He stood up for the first time, stretching his legs, and then strode over to his boots and pulled them on. He buckled his leather belt around his waist, using it to try and smooth out the crumpled tunic a little. “You didn’t see a sword lying around at all did you?” Link turned to the scientist.
“This?” The scientist was already holding it in his hands.
“Thanks.” Link buckled on his sheath, and then replaced the sword into it. “I will return for the rest of this later,” he added, gesturing towards the tent and bedding. He reminded himself to bring a reward for the scientist when he returned. He had no idea what that might be, but he decided to worry about that later. He caught sight of his reflection in a mirror on the back of the door, and shook his head at his dishevelled appearance as he opened it and left.
* * *
Harkinian had called an urgent meeting with his most trusted advisors. They sat around a small table with grim faces as he and Impa explained their situation.
“Nabooru would not stand for this behaviour!” Harkinian exclaimed. “I don’t imagine she could be involved, but I don’t understand how she would let this happen. And most of the Gerudo were in agreement with Nabooru and they supported the treaty.”
“It is possible that Nabooru may be away and does not know what is going on,” Impa pointed out.
“You said that this woman called Nabooru weak,” another advisor stepped in. He was an older man named Jasuf. “Are you even sure that she really is the second-in-command?”
“Yes, it may be that these women are rebels,” added another advisor.
“If this is the work of a minority, then it may be possible they are not even holding Zelda at the Gerudo Fortress,” Harkinian thought out loud. “We may be able to discuss this with Nabooru.”
“I do not think it wise to risk a trip to the fortress,” Impa said, “For if Zelda is indeed being held there, these women may see our visit as a threat and…” She did not need to finish the sentence. Everyone knew what she was thinking, and tried to block the thought from their minds.
Harkinian thought this over for a minute. “If only there was a way to send word to Nabooru or the real second-in-command,” he said, before his face suddenly lit up, “Ah ha! We may not be able to get into the Gerudo Fortress, but what if we had someone that could?”
“What do you mean your highness?”
“There is a Gerudo woman living in this town. Her name is Lorah if I recall. She married a Hylian man a few years ago. She is not popular with the rest of her tribe, who view her as an outcast for becoming involved with a man, but I am sure they would let her in to visit her family. As long as her husband was not around.”
“I think I know who you are talking about,” Impa replied. “The wedding caused a great deal of controversy. But I see what you mean. If Lorah is able to get into the fortress, we could get her to talk to Nabooru and send her a message. I am certain that as soon as she finds out about all of this, Nabooru will do her best to put a stop to it.”
“That is exactly my thought,” Harkinian replied. “Please summon Lorah the Gerudo!”
Link charged across Hyrule Field and headed for the Gerudo Valley. At first he had not been sure whether or not to go to Hyrule Castle and alert the king. However, fearing that he may not have much time, he had decided to find Zelda on his own. He had no idea what they could be doing with Zelda, and he kept his hopes up with the thought that they must want her alive, or they would have killed her when they tried to kill him. The nearer he got to the desert, the warmer the air around him became. When he stepped onto the bridge that provided the only path to the fortress, he was confronted by the Gerudo guard on duty at the gate.
“You cannot go past here,” she said. “Turn back now.”
Link drew his sword. He was in no mood to be messed with. “Let me in,” he said, “And take me to Princess Zelda. You will let her go immediately.”
The Gerudo let out a laugh. “What a foolish man you are,” she said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but do you think that you will really be able to force your way in like that?”
“Yes.” Link charged at the guard. As fast as lightning, she picked up a spear leaning against the gate and blocked his blow. The angry Link delivered several more heavy swings, each blocked skilfully by the woman. She then reversed roles and stared attacking Link. Impulsively he raised his right arm, before remembering that he did not have his shield, and managed to block her attack awkwardly with his sword at the last second.
The guard was a skilled fighter, and the battle went on for some time. Link was fuelled by aggression over the attack on himself and Zelda, and the guard was fiercely protecting her territory. Link swung his sword wide and cut horizontally through the air. The guard jumped to one side to avoid his sword. She did not realize that she was already close to the edge of the bridge, and after her jump only one foot landed back onto the solid wood. She teetered at the edge for a moment with arms flailing, before losing her balance and plunging down towards the river below. Link watched her fall through the air, and heard a faint splash as she hit the water. A moment later her head bobbed up as a little red dot, and Link watched as it was carried downstream in the current in the direction of Lake Hylia. He then looked around to see if anyone had seen their encounter. There was no one in sight.
Link moved towards the gate and looked for a switch or a means to open it. He found nothing, at least nothing that seemed to work. Little did he know that the key to the gate had fallen down into the river with the guard. Link decided to just climb over it. He sheathed his sword and then hoisted himself up onto the framework. The gate was not particularly high, and Link easily hoisted himself over it. He then dropped onto the ground on the other side. In front of him was a small open space containing a few patches of rocks and boulders, and two unlit torches on either side of the gate. Directly in front of him, the cliff walls narrowed in, creating a path that Link knew led to the fortress. He headed down it. The sheer cliff face kept him out of view, until he reached a staircase that had been cut into the hard rock. Link stood to the side and peered up, to make sure that no-one was looking to walk down it, and when he was satisfied there wasn’t, he crept past. He followed the wall, which began to get smaller and smaller until it ended. A bunch of crates lay nearby, and Link scurried to hide behind one. He slowly raised his head and peered over the top, assessing his surroundings.
Several Gerudo guards dressed in purple patrolled the open area in front of the fortress buildings. He noticed that one of the entrances to the building had two of these guards positioned in front of it, on either side of the doorway. As he watched, a third Gerudo, dressed mostly in white walked over to them, and they spoke briefly. Link wondered if Zelda could be inside that building. The Gerudo wearing white then went inside the same building.
* * *
“Don’t you think this is a little strange?” Leelyn, one of the Gerudo guards Link was watching, asked her partner who was standing on the opposite side of the doorway. “I mean, usually we only have one guard over prisoners, and she stays just outside the cells. Why such heavy security? Why can’t we even go down there? And when was the last time we took a female prisoner, anyway? I can’t even remember.”
“Oh, there is a good reason,” replied Zanei, walking back up from the cells. She exchanged glances with the other guard. “Leelyn, can you keep a little secret?”
Leelyn nodded, wondering what this was all about.
“The prisoner down there is Princess Zelda.”
Leelyn didn’t believe what she heard. “You’re joking, right?”
“I’m not. The silly girl actually likes to leave her castle, and hang around outdoors with one dumb boy. I have seen them together several times. The opportunity was too good to refuse.”
The other guard smiled. She was one of the Gerudo who had helped Zanei capture Zelda.
“What if Nabooru finds out? She won’t be happy with this.”
“Nabooru,” Zanei spat out the name, “Would fail to see the advantage of kidnapping a princess. She wastes all her time making treaties and alliances with everyone.” She raised the tone of her voice, “Oh no dear king, we won’t raid your town anymore. We won’t raid the ranch or the village. We will just sit back while our way of life is destroyed. Ha! Do you know what the king of Hyrule is doing right now? He is putting together a large sum of money together for the safe return of the princess. But I will not stop there. As long we have his precious Zelda, I have the king wrapped around my little finger. Daddy will do anything to keep his baby safe! Nabooru would have never taken control like this. It is only a matter of time before everyone realizes that I am the better leader of this tribe.”
“We could have anything we wanted,” Leelyn said, dreaming of things that the king would hand over. “Beautiful jewellery, and the finest garments.”
“Exactly! So, Leelyn, are you willing to fight for the true way of the Gerudo and say no to Nabooru’s treaty?”
Zanei was happy to have another supporter. Although her numbers will still small, she was convinced that one day she would have enough to outnumber Nabooru. But at this delicate stage in her plans, she had to be very careful as to who she let in on her secret. The last thing she needed now was for her tribe to rebel against her. The previous morning, she and Nabooru had travelled to the Spirit Temple. This was not an uncommon occurrence. When Nabooru had her back turned, Zanei had picked up a pot lying on the floor and broken it over her head. She then tied up the unconscious woman and left her in the middle of the floor. She wouldn’t be able to escape in a hurry. When she had returned to her tribe, Zanei explained that Nabooru had some things to attend to for a few days, and that she had asked Zanei, her second-in-command, to act in her place. This position of leadership meant that she could order guards to stand watch over Zelda’s room, and also order them not to go inside. When questioned by a few of her more curious tribe-mates, she became angry at them for challenging her authority. She also told a few that their prisoner was a peasant girl who was foolish enough to steal from the Gerudo, and she was being held in wait of a punishment to teach her a lesson about messing with the Gerudo. Her story was bought, and slowly this rumor began to circulate.
* * *
The Gerudo Lorah stood nervously before King Harkinian. She could not imagine why she, of all people, had been summoned to see him. After all of the attention given to her when she got married, Lorah wanted to live as quiet a life as possible, and had succeeded in doing this with her husband so far. He worked as a baker, with his own little cart set up in Hyrule Market. He was at work now, and Lorah had been at home dusting the furniture when there was a knock at the door.
At Impa’s suggestion, Harkinian had organized this meeting in one of the castle’s smaller lounge areas. Standing before the royal throne may have proven intimidating for Lorah, and the king wanted to do everything he could to try and persuade her to help him. He and Impa both sat in armchairs, before a small table. The room was decorated in rich reds, browns and gold. A fireplace at one end held the remnants of blazes past. The day was too warm to warrant its use now. The overall effect of the decor was very warm and inviting. It was the kind of room to curl up in on rainy day. The two soldiers that had escorted Lorah into the castle stood on either side of the doorway.
“Please, have a seat,” Harkinian indicated. Lorah sat in a third chair that had been positioned opposite Impa and the king. Her upright posture indicated that she did not feel completely at ease. One of the servants offered her tea, which she declined.
“I want to thank you for agreeing to this meeting at such short notice,” Harkinian began, “I am about to make a request of you. Please do not feel pressure in any way to accept my proposal, and if you do not want to agree, that is fine. We will return you to your home with apologies for interrupting your day. That said, are you willing to listen to what I am about to tell you?”
“Yes, sure, uh, your majesty,” Lorah said quietly, feeling unsure as to how to act around him. What on earth would the king want of her?
Harkinian smiled, “Please, do not worry about formalities now. I understand that you have been living in this town for a couple of years, is that correct?”
“Your marriage to a Hylian man caused you to be excluded from the rest of your people, did it not?”
“I chose to leave them,” Lorah replied, “From the moment I began seeing my husband, I was bullied and abused. Every day they told me that I was not a real Gerudo. By letting a man into my life, I went against everything the Gerudo teach. I was forced to choose love over my people. By the time of my wedding, I was glad to leave.”
“Did you leave any family behind?”
“I did. My mother, and two sisters.”
“How did they react when you decided to get married?”
Lorah wondered why the king was taking such an interest in her personal life. “My sisters were angry. They told me I was a disgrace to the family, and the entire Gerudo race. My mother was more saddened by the whole affair. She wished it had happened to another family. Yet she seemed sad to see me go.”
“Have you been back to visit since you left?”
“Yes, once. I wanted to see my family. Despite whatever they felt for me, I still cared about them and I missed them. I did not stay long because I was spat at and abused by many of the women.”
Harkinian paused for a moment. “Thank you for sharing that,” he said. Lorah glanced at Impa, who smiled at her.
“Now, I have something to tell you.” Harkinian proceeded to describe the earlier visit by the two Gerudo.
“That’s impossible!” Lorah exclaimed. “Kidnap the Princess? I cannot even imagine such a thing. The Gerudo may not be the most civilized tribe in Hyrule, but Nabooru was a loyal supporter of the Royal Family, and I don’t see how she would let this happen.”
“Nor do I,” replied Harkinian. “We suspect that Nabooru may not be aware of this. We were visited by a woman who called herself Zanei and said that she was acting in place of Nabooru.”
“She is the second-in-command,” Lorah said.
“Yes. Now this is where you come in. Zanei said that if we go near the Gerudo’s fortress and try and attack them, or attempt to rescue Zelda, that she will be killed. We would like you to return to the fortress and gain entry in the guise of visiting your family. When inside, I want you to find Nabooru and alert her to what has happened. I have written a letter explaining everything,” Harkinian gestured to a sealed envelope lying on the table. “You just need to give this to Nabooru. If you feel that you, or Zelda, are in danger at any time, please get out at once. So, Lorah, will you help me?”
Lorah thought for a moment. For the past few years, she had been made to feel unworthy by her own people. She had been told many times that she was weak, and unworthy to call herself Gerudo. Although she had a happy life with her husband, part of her deep down had started to believe this. The thought that the king considered her worthy enough to help him lifted her spirits and gave her a new-found sense of purpose. And how hard could it be to deliver a letter? “Of course I will help you.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” Harkinian exclaimed. “I have arranged a team of soldiers who will take you there on horseback immediately. They will take you as far as the entrance to the Gerudo valley. From there, you will have to proceed on your own. If the Gerudo were to catch sight of my soldiers, well, there would be dire consequences.”
“I understand,” said Lorah, “I will simply say that I am there to visit my mother.”
* * *
Link watched the Gerudo guards for some time, wondering how on earth he would be able to get past them. He had no weapons other than his sword, and no means of creating a distraction. He watched two more Gerudo guards approach the two at the door. They exchanged a few brief words, and then the first two left their posts. The new guards were about to take up their new posts, when the woman Link had seen go into the room earlier rushed over to them. She made a quiet sign with her finger over her lips, and called the four guards close to her. They huddled a few metres away from the doorway entrance. The guards seemed to be listening intently to the women dressed in white, and Link started to wonder if they were even paying attention to the door. He spied another crate lying closer to the doorway and, remaining in a crouched position, dashed over to it. He paused and waited, but there were no cries of intruder and no-one came running over to him. He slowly lifted his head. The women were still in their huddle. Link decided to make a run for it. He still stayed crouched, and ran into the doorway.
Link found himself in a short corridor. At the end, it took a right turn and a ramp led down into an open room. He crept down slowly, around the corner to check for any sign of more guards. The room seemed empty enough. He stepped down into the room and surveyed it. Along one wall were a couple of cells, and in one of them, still wearing her nightshirt, was Zelda. She sat in one corner, hugging her knees that were drawn close to her chest. She was staring downwards, with stands of messy blonde hair falling into her face. Link rushed over to the bars.
“What do you want now?” Zelda asked angrily, not looking up.
“Zelda, it’s me, Link!” Link could not begin to describe the relief he felt at finding Zelda unharmed.
Zelda looked up and her mouth dropped open. “Link? Link!” She stood up and ran over to the bars where Link stood. Tears were streaming down her face. “Link, it really is you! I thought… I thought you…” she trailed off.
“Shhh,” Link whispered, scared that one of the guards outside might hear her excited voice. He put his hand through the bars, which Zelda clasped with both of hers. “It’s all right now,” he said, “I’m fine. And I’m going to get you out of here.” He removed his hand from Zelda’s grasp and went to the cell door. He tried the handle, and then tugged with all of his might.
“It’s locked,” Zelda said hopelessly.
“Who has the key?” he asked.
“I don’t know, maybe Zanei, or one of the guards,” she replied. “Oh Link, please don’t leave me here.”
“I’m not leaving without you,” he promised.
Zelda smiled, but all of a sudden the smile dropped from her face and her eyes went wide. Link turned around and found himself facing two spears.
“Who have we here?” a Gerudo guard said. “An intruder!”
“I know him!” spoke up one of the other guards, “But how could you be alive?”
“You must have guts to think you could sneak in here unseen,” added the first. “Or maybe you’re just stupid. Now raise your arms in the air!”
Link slowly did so. Two more guards walked around behind him, and each grabbed one of his arms. Their grip was tight. Link could feel the nails of the woman holding his right arm digging into his skin.
“Now,” the guard who recognized Link said, “Let us take him to Zanei. She will be happy to have a little reunion.”
“You let him go now!” Zelda demanded, scared for what might happen to Link.
The guards laughed, “Silly girl. Don’t you realize that this boy’s actions will have cost him his life… and maybe yours.” They hauled Link up the ramp at spear point, and back outside. One guard disappeared for a moment, and soon returned with the Gerudo who must be Zanei. Link recognized her from the previous night.
“Well,” she said, eyeing Link up and down, “I certainly give you credit just for being alive. Alas, by returning here now you have merely prolonged your inevitable death.”
“Wait,” one of the guards said, “What if he was sent by the king? Maybe we should just dispose of them both before it’s too late.”
“He was not sent by the king,” Zanei replied. “Judging by his pathetic appearance, it looks as though he came here as soon as he regained consciousness at Lake Hylia. No, I will trust that the king is doing as I ordered. You two, take him outside of the fortress and kill him. I do not want him to attract any more attention. Already, too many people are curious about our prisoner and this boy may blow my cover story. And you two return to your posting.”
Link was dragged to the outside of the fortress to the Gerudo Valley. The guards pressed him up against the cliff face. One of them drew her sword and prepared to deliver a fatal strike. The moment she was only holding onto him with one hand, Link used all of his strength to spin around, the force of which knocked her onto the ground. The other guard was caught by surprise, but she managed to keep a grip on Link’s tunic. He drew his sword and slashed at the woman still holding onto him. She jumped back from the attack. As soon as Link was free, he turned and ran. The Gerudo on the ground was a talented sprinter, and she was on her feet in a flash, chasing after him. Link had a head start, but she was faster and she caught up with him just as he was almost out of the Gerudo Valley. She launched herself off the ground into a flying tackle that caught Link around his waist. They both crashed to the ground and struggled with each other. Link was heavier than the Gerudo, and he managed to pin her to the ground underneath his body weight. He pointed his sword at her throat.
“Don’t make me do this,” he growled. “Go back!”
The woman stood up and glared at him. Link also rose to his feet, keeping his sword pointed towards her. She then turned and ran back towards the valley. As soon as she was out of sight, Link sheathed his sword.
His first impulse was to run to the castle, but Zanei’s words began to play over and over in his head, “The king is doing as I ordered.” Link imagined that the Gerudo were probably holding Zelda for ransom and had already contacted the king with some sort of demand. Link was a little surprised that they would do that. He could imagine the Gerudo kidnapping Zelda when they were under Ganondorf’s command, but he was a little shocked that Nabooru would allow such a thing. Link wondered if he should go and offer his assistance to the king, or if he should try and find another way to sneak back into the fortress and rescue Zelda. His mind wandered back to the mad scientist of the Lakeside Laboratory. A crazy idea entered his head, and Link changed direction and headed for Lake Hylia.
Soon after Link had escaped from the Gerudo guards, a group of horses thundered across Hyrule Field and stopped just before the area that the woman had tackled Link. Several Hylian soldiers and a Gerudo woman dismounted.
“Good luck,” one of the soldiers tipped his visor at Lorah.
“Thank you,” Lorah subconsciously felt the envelope that she had hidden under her clothes. She walked slowly towards the entrance to the fortress, trying to control the hundreds of butterflies that danced in her stomach. To her complete amazement, there was no-one on duty guarding the gate into the fortress. The guard Link had fought with earlier was still making her way back from Lake Hylia. No sooner had Lorah had time to wonder what was going on, the replacement guard was sent out.
“If it isn’t our little man-lover,” her mocking voice called from behind the gate. Lorah recognized her as Chalira, one of the girls she had trained with when they were young.
“Hi Chalira,” Lorah decided to take a friendly approach, “I’m here to visit my mother.”
“You should not come here,” Chalira said, “You do not deserve to enter this place anymore. In my eyes you are no Gerudo.”
“Look,” Lorah said, “I do not plan to stay long. I just wish to see my mother. You can’t deny me that.”
Chalira opened the gate reluctantly. “I’ll be glad to shut this behind you as you leave.”
“Thank you,” said Lorah. She did not get, nor expect, a reply.
Lorah made her way towards the Gerudo fortress. As the guards on duty recognized her, they began to jeer at her. The sounds of the jeering attracted other Gerudo who came outside to see what the commotion was about, and when they saw Lorah they added their own shouts and insults to the mix. Lorah tried to ignore them and kept her gaze fixed ahead on the doorway that led to her mother’s quarters; her own former home. She found her mother preparing dinner.
“Mother,” Lorah said, standing in the doorway.
“Lorah!” her mother exclaimed when she saw the identity of her visitor. “It is good to see you. You are very brave to come back here. How are you? How is your life?”
“It is good to see you too, mother,” Lorah began.
“Please, stay for dinner. I am cooking soup,” Lorah’s mother resumed chopping up vegetables. “Your sisters will not be home, they are on duty tonight.”
“I just might,” Lorah said. “But first, I would like to see Nabooru for a moment. Do you know where I can find her?”
“I believe she is at the spirit temple for a few days. Zanei is acting in her place while she is away. She will not be hard to find.”
“I can’t speak to her,” Lorah said, “She despises me. Nabooru was the only person here who showed me any real support over my marriage.”
“Well, you could go to the Spirit Temple and find Nabooru yourself if it is urgent,” her mother said, “But I don’t think it would be a good idea. It will be dark soon, and you won’t be able to see your way across the Haunted Wasteland. Nabooru should be back soon. She has already been gone for a number of days.”
Lorah felt as though all of the air had been squeezed out of her. Nabooru was the only person who could help Princess Zelda. Lorah did not want to return to the king as a failure. She decided to go the Spirit Temple and find Nabooru.
“I really must speak to Nabooru,” Lorah said. “I will take a lantern.”
“Well,” her mother sighed. She could not understand why her daughter wanted to see Nabooru so badly, but the one thing she had learned about Lorah was that it was pointless to argue with her once she had made up her mind. “If you insist on going now. I have a jacket I will lend you. You know it gets awfully cold out there at night.”
“Thank you,” Lorah replied. She put on and buttoned up the thick jacket that was designed to withstand the freezing desert nights. She then took a lantern and made sure its oil supply was full so that it wouldn’t burn out. She gave her mother a quick hug and then headed out of the fortress and into the desert.
* * *
Link rapped on the door of the Lakeside Laboratory several times without receiving a response. He wondered if the scientist was in or not, and he tried the door. Finding it unlocked, he slowly pushed it open.
“Hello?” he called, “Anybody home?”
Link spotted the scientist huddled over a bench that held beakers, tubes and bottles that contained many different liquids of varying colours. Some of the liquids bubbled, and some had steam rising from the top. The scientist held a measuring cylinder in one hand, and into it he was slowly pouring a dark amber liquid from a beaker. He was mumbling something incomprehensible to himself.
“Uh,” Link tapped him on the shoulder, “Excuse me.”
“Yeeeargh!” the scientist jumped in fright. The cylinder slipped out of his hand and shattered into a thousand pieces, splattering the amber liquid everywhere. The scientist looked at Link. “Oh, it’s you, boy. You startled me, yes you did!”
“Sorry,” Link apologized. “Do you want me to clean this up?”
“No, leave it! This is a highly toxic substance.”
Link subconsciously took a step away from the spillage.
“Now, what can I do for you? Would you like some more of my special, healthy medicine?”
“NO!” Link insisted, a little too loudly, “Thank you. Actually, I am here…”
The scientist cut him off. “Oh. I suppose you are here to collect your belongings. Did you have any luck finding your friend?”
“I found her,” Link said, “But she is being held as a prisoner. Actually, that is why I came to see you. I was hoping that you could help me rescue her.”
“M- me?” the scientist stammered, “Rescue?”
“Yes,” Link answered. “I need you to help me create a distraction so I can sneak in and rescue her. Do you have any chemicals that could create some kind of explosion? I don’t want to do any damage, but I would like lots of smoke and noise.”
“Of course,” the scientist replied, “I am a master in all things science! I have many chemicals that just love to explode, sometimes even doing so when I don’t want them to. Now, tell me, where do you want this explosion?”
“It will have to be as close as possible to the entrance to the Gerudo’s Fortress.”
The scientist turned pale. “The Gerudo’s Fortress? You mean your friend is being held by the Gerudo? Well boy, you have no hope of getting inside there. That place is more heavily guarded than Hyrule Castle itself.”
“I already got in once,” Link said calmly, “And now they will be on the lookout for me, and this is why I need a distraction. I know exactly where Zelda is being held. If I can distract most of the guards with the explosion, I should be able to fight my way past the rest of them.”
“Zelda? Hmm, that name sounds somewhat familiar to me.”
Link wondered if he should tell the man who Zelda was. He decided that he would, as it might give the old man an extra incentive to help him rescue her. “I am talking about Princess Zelda, daughter of King Harkinian of Hyrule.”
“Oh yes!” the scientist’s face lit up with recognition. “Goodness me. Why would the Gerudo have the princess?”
“I have no idea,” Link said, “I heard them say something about the king and I’m scared they may be holding her for some sort of ransom. But I am scared for her safety”
“Oh dear, this is not good, no.”
It was well after dark when Link and the scientist left the Lakeside Laboratory and headed for Gerudo Valley. Link had collected his shield and a long length of rope, and the scientist was carrying a couple of sealed containers made out of a plastic-like substance. Instead of travelling via Hyrule Field, the scientist led Link on a shortcut that took them parallel to the river and up quite a steep hill.
“Ok,” Link said when they arrived, “The guard at the bridge will not consider you a threat. If you pretend that you want to be let in, you can distract her long enough for me to swing across to the other side.”
“Yes,” said the scientist, recalling what they had planned earlier, “Then when I turn to leave, I will place one of these behind the closest rock and set it on fire. In several minutes, the container will burn away. Inside it are some highly volatile chemicals that will react with the oxygen in the air. They will combust, and one chemical will give you the loud noises, while another will produce a lot of smoke. I will set another one off further away to provide an extra distraction for you.”
“Thank you,” Link said. “Now, are you ready to do this?”
“One more thing,” the scientist said, “I know you are planning to fight your way in, but I have heard that the Gerudo are skilled warriors, yes they are. If you find yourself in trouble, throw this powder into their eyes,” he pulled out a small pouch from his pocket and passed it to Link. “It is not a harmful substance, but it will burn and cause them much discomfort. It should be enough to disable them temporarily.”
“Thanks,” Link said, putting the pouch in his tunic pocket.
“Just be sure you check which way the wind is blowing before you throw it,” the scientist warned.
“Ok. Now let’s get going. I don’t want Zelda in there a minute longer.”
Link gave the scientist a head start. When he saw him talking to the bridge guard, he crept to the edge of the ravine that was as far from the bridge as possible. On the opposite side was a cluster of rocks. Link tied his rope into a lasso, and after several attempts he managed to latch it firmly around one of the smaller ones. “Here goes,” he said, taking a deep breath and then swinging across.
“My pet bird escaped and flew in here,” said the scientist to the Gerudo guard on duty at the bridge, Chalira.
“Silly old fool,” Chalira replied. “You don’t seem to understand. No-one passes through here. Especially a man.”
“If I could only go in for just a second and get her out,” the scientist persisted. “I brought a container to put her in.”
Chalira laughed, “I will personally keep a lookout for your bird. If I see her, I’ll be sure to tell her to fly away home.”
Out of the corner of his eye, the scientist saw a flash of green swing across the ravine. The green figure clambered up the rope, and disappeared behind a group of boulders.
“Ok,” said the scientist. “I will go and wait for her at home. Please tell her to eat lots of good grubs first in preparation for her flight home.” He turned and walked away. Chalira watched him leave, an amused grin on her face. A few feet after he left the bridge, the old man tripped over and crashed into a rock, dropping the things he was holding. Chalira doubled over in laughter. Bridge duty was usually so boring. Most of Hyrule had long since figured out to stay away from the Gerudo, but there was the occasional loony like this one. She laughed heartily for several minutes, until an enormous BANG caused her to almost jump out of her skin. The opposite side of the bridge became covered in smoke, and there were several smaller bangs. She ran forward to see what had happened, but the smoke was thick and caused her to choke. She went back to the gate.
“Chalira, what is going on?” asked a guard, who had rushed over from the fortress to see what was the cause of all the noise. Several more followed her.
Link watched in delight as many guards filed out to the bridge to investigate the explosion. They stood watching the smoke clear for a moment, when a second explosion came from a little further away. With the Gerudo fixated on it, Link saw this as his chance to sneak in. He sprinted from his hiding place behind some boulders and towards the fortress. Knowing that most of the guards would be at the bridge, he took the stairs up that led towards the buildings. To his surprise, there were no guards at all patrolling this area. There were, however, two guards standing outside of the doorway that led down into Zelda’s room. They would not leave their post, but they were just as curious as to the source of the loud noises. Their heads were turned in the general direction of the noise, and they looked directly at Link as he climbed up the stairs. He headed right for them, and they braced, ready for a fight.
“You really don’t know when to give up, do you?” one of the guards said to him.
“That’s because I won’t give up,” said Link through gritted teeth. He had his sword at the ready as one of the guards charged at Link with her spear. She attacked him several times, each of which Link held off with his sword or shield. Link started attacking her back, and with a hard blow from his sword he managed to knock the spear out of her hand. The second it hit the ground, the other guard rushed at Link. While he fought her, the first guard retrieved her spear.
The guards fought hard and viciously, and Link was having a hard time keeping them both at bay. He suddenly remembered the powder given to him by the scientist. He sheathed his sword, warding off the Gerudo blows with his shield. He slipped his hand into his pocked and fiddled with the little pouch until it was open. He gathered a handful of the powder and waited until both women were in front of him. As fast as lightning, he threw about half into the face of one guard, and half into the face of the other, quickly turning away in case any of it blew back into his own.
Both guards let out sharp cries as the powder burned their eyes, nose and throats. They dropped their spears and clutched at their eyes. One fell to her knees and then rolled over into a foetal position. Link noticed a thin leather belt around her waist. Clipped to the belt was a large, circular key ring. Link leant over her and lifted the keys from her. He headed inside and down towards Zelda’s room, calling, “Zelda!”
“Link!” Zelda exclaimed. She had been waiting anxiously for hours, hoping that he would return.
“I found some keys,” Link said, holding them up to show her. While he went to work, trying each in the lock, Zelda spoke to him.
“Did you hear those loud bangs? I was so scared. But then I thought that maybe Daddy had sent his soldiers to blast me out of here. I’m so glad you’re here, Link. I was scared they were going to kill you.”
Link had tried every key on the key ring with no success. Frustrated, he began to try them all again.
“Hurry, Link,” Zelda said, doing nothing to alleviate Link’s growing tension. His hands began to sweat and the key ring slipped from his grasp. Link bent down and picked it off the ground. Now he had lost track of the keys he had tried. He began angrily jamming keys into the lock at random. One, then another, then another. Link could not believe it when he felt the lock click. He pulled at the door and it swung open. Zelda stepped out and fell into his arms. Feeling a huge sense of relief, his legs buckled and he nearly lost his balance. He hugged Zelda for a moment.
“It’s not over yet,” Link said. “We still have to get out of here.” He wondered how he was going to be able to get past all of the guards on their way out.
King Harkinian and Impa sat with grim faces as their carriage flew across Hyrule Field as fast as the horses drawing it could gallop. Leading the carriage on horseback was the soldier who had reported to them not long ago of loud explosions coming from the Gerudo Valley. Lorah had not returned after entering the fortress several hours ago. Fearing the worst, but no wanting to endanger their princess, the soldiers had decided to alert the king. Without hesitating for a moment, Harkinian had decided to go to the Gerudo’s Fortress. The diplomat inside him had taken the three million rupees as a means of bargaining in case Zelda was still all right and Zanei saw this visit as a threat to her. Ahead, the entrance to Gerudo Valley and the desert loomed.
* * *
Link was holding his sword in his left hand as he ran towards the bridge, and his right hand was firmly joined to Zelda’s left as he pulled her along behind him.
“STOP THIS INSTANT!” a voice from behind them screamed.
“Don’t stop,” Link urged Zelda, increasing their pace.
An arrow whistled through the air, passing so close to Link’s ear that he felt it fly past. He stopped and turned, positioning himself in front of Zelda as a kind of human shield. He saw Zanei loading a new arrow into her bow as she ran towards them. She stopped, took aim and fired, rapidly fast. Her aim was good but not accurate. The arrow flew about a foot too high over Link’s head.
“Link?” Zelda tapped him on the shoulder.
Link turned to face her and saw several Gerudo guards approaching from the direction of the bridge behind them. Zanei readied a new arrow as she neared. With sheer rock walls to their right and left, Link and Zelda were trapped.
“Grab them!” Zanei ordered, almost hysterically “Don’t let them ruin our plans!” Several guards rushed forwards and grabbed Link and Zelda, while most of them stood back and wondered what Zanei meant. Zanei walked closer until she was standing only a few feet away from them. “For a future leader of this country, you certainly are foolish,” she said to Zelda, and then turned to Link, “I expected that from you. You men are all the same. Always acting and never thinking of the consequences. This would have been a perfect plan, but you ruined it. And now it is too late for you both. Let me show you, silly man, what the consequences of your actions shall be. Then you will get to experience them for yourself.” Zanei raised her loaded bow and aimed it directly at Zelda’s heart. She released the arrow.
“ZANEI YOU TRAITOR, LOWER YOUR BOW IMMEDIATELY!” came a loud shout from behind them. Link and Zelda looked up to see Nabooru approaching from the direction of the desert, followed by another Gerudo woman. “Zanei, I order you to stop this instant! Let those two go.”
Nabooru’s cry had startled Zanei, and her arrow flew into the sky. She turned around, and when she saw Lorah, her expression darkened. “You!” she yelled, “I heard rumors that you were here at the fortress. You chose to deny your people, but how dare you have the nerve to come here and work against me, the leader!”
“I am the true Gerudo leader,” Nabooru announced. “Lorah certainly did not work against me. In fact, she found me tied up in the Spirit Temple and set me free. It was you, Zanei, who defied me by knocking me unconscious and leaving me tied up that way. If not for Lorah, I probably would have died of dehydration.”
The Gerudo holding onto Link and Zelda, Zanei’s supporters, stepped forward, weapons drawn, preparing to attack Nabooru on Zanei’s order. There were about ten in total. The rest of the Gerudo population had their mouths open in shock after hearing what Zanei had done to their leader.
“How dare you, filthy man-lover,” Zanei spat at Lorah. “How could you even know what I was doing?”
“She was sent by me!” a loud voice announced. Several horses charged into the crowd, sending Gerudo scrambling to get out of the way. Hylian soldiers dismounted, each carrying swords and shields. They ran for Link and Zelda, or more specifically, Zelda, and drove the guards away from them. A carriage followed the horses, and King Harkinian and Impa alighted from it.
“Daddy!” Zelda cried. Impa rushed to her, as Harkinian addressed Zanei. “Drop your weapon. All of you! My men have orders to kill anyone who endangers the princess or Nabooru for a moment longer.”
“The princess?!” murmured several Gerudo in surprised. So this was their prisoner! Not only had Zanei rebelled against their leader, she had kidnapped the princess of their country.
“”Take them now! Kill the ones who are trying to destroy the Gerudo way of life by marrying men or aligning themselves with them,” cried Zanei in desperation. “Help me!” Her rebels rushed towards Nabooru and Lorah. They were vastly outnumbered by the Hylian soldiers and the rest of the Gerudo, who rushed in to fight for their leader. The battle was over quickly. Several of the rebels had been killed, and those surviving were rounded up by the soldiers and tied up. Zanei was screaming and swearing, cursing Nabooru and Lorah, and raving about foolish men.
“Take these traitors away,” Harkinian ordered his soldiers. “If I have to look at them for a moment longer I might kill them myself.” In much the same way that Zanei had captured Zelda the night before, the soldiers hoisted the rebels onto their horses and rode off in the direction of Hyrule Castle.
“Lorah, I want to thank you,” began King Harkinian, “If it were not for you, my daughter may not be safe as she is now. Nor would Nabooru.”
“Yes,” Nabooru added, “I know that most of my people have not given you a fair go, Lorah, but tonight the Gerudo thank you. I knew that there were a few who did not support my idea of a treaty between the Gerudo and the rest of Hyrule, but I never imagined that Zanei was one of them, or that she would do such a thing against not only me, but her country. I trusted her.”
Link remembered how Ganondorf had appointed Nabooru as his own second-in-command. In much the same way that Ganondorf had trusted Nabooru not to turn good against him, Nabooru had not expected Zanei to break her own trust.
Harkinian turned to look at Zelda, for the first time noticing Link. “Link? What are you doing here? Were you held prisoner too?” Earlier he had been wondering what had happened to Link, after recalling that Zelda had left the castle with him.
“Link rescued me!” Zelda said, giving Link a big smile. “He broke in twice and the second time he got him out of my cell.”
Harkinian noted Link’s dishevelled appearance, although he said nothing about it. “Well many thanks to you also,” he said.
A Gerudo woman pushed through the crowd. It was Chalira. “I have something to say,” she said, “And I would like to say it in public. Your majesty and Nabooru, may I have permission to speak now?”
“Certainly,” Harkinian replied. Nabooru nodded.
Chalira turned to Lorah. “I was to apologize to you,” she said. “I feel terrible about slagging you off earlier. I said that you weren’t Gerudo. But after witnessing all of this I see that you have proven yourself to still be loyal to this tribe. Zanei is the one who has shown that she is no Gerudo by rebelling against Nabooru. And that is far worse than getting married to a man.”
To her surprise, Lorah saw most of the Gerudo nodding their heads in agreement.
“Three cheers to Lorah for rescuing Nabooru,” said Harkinian. “And three cheers also to Link for rescuing Zelda.”
King Harkinian waited several days before putting Zanei and her supporters to trial. He wanted to ensure that they had a fair trial, and he did not want his anger to impede this. Zelda, meanwhile, was a little bruised but otherwise fine. Her mental healing would take much longer, but Link’s presence brought her great comfort and had spent the past few days in the castle with her, after returning to the Kokiri Forest to get a new tunic and tell Saria that he was all right. Saria was relieved to hear this, because when Link had not returned hours after Impa’s visit she had forgotten her anger and had begun to worry.
Zanei and her supporters were convicted of kidnapping, treason, murder, and the attempted murder of Link. Harkinian did not put them to death as he had originally planned. He decided that death would be too good for them. Instead, they were sentenced to life imprisonment. Harkinian himself chose the darkest, dankest, most rat-infested cells in the dungeon for them. Nabooru attended the trial, and afterwards declared that she would push for the treaty to be signed as soon as possible.
The night after the trial, Harkinian sat down to a quiet dinner with Zelda, Impa and Link.
“I am glad it’s all over,” he said.
“Me too,” said Impa.
“I’m just glad that Zelda is safe,” Link smiled at the princess, who smiled back.
“I am forever in your debt, Link,” Harkinian said. “I will never be able to thank you enough for being brave enough to sneak into the fortress on your own.”
“Actually,” Link said, “About that. There is someone else that you should thank.”
* * *
The following day, the lake scientist was investigating the red potion. He had travelled to Kakariko Village the day before to visit the old woman. He returned with the potion and a date for Friday night. Still convinced that his own medicine was superior, he added the potion to it. The potion gave the mixture an even worse smell than the one Link had experienced, but the scientist’s nose was immune to all things fish.
All of a sudden, there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” the scientist said. The door opened, and Link entered the room, followed by Zelda, Harkinian and Impa. All four turned up their noses at the smell of rotting fish that was strong inside the house.
“Hi,” Link greeted the scientist, whose face lit up in recognition. “Why don’t you come outside for a moment?”
They went back outside and gasped for fresh air. The scientist followed them.
“How did it go with the princess?” he asked, noting four soldiers standing nearby.
Zelda stepped up to him. “I am Princess Zelda,” she said, “And I want to extend to you my thanks. Link told me of everything you have done, not only to rescue him, but to help him rescue me.”
“Yes,” Harkinian chimed in, “On behalf of Hyrule I thank you for saving my daughter. As a token of my thanks, I have an offer for you. I will provide you with lifetime funding for your work and a professorship at the Royal Academy of Hyrule so that you can educate others about your discoveries.”
The scientist’s eyes went wide. He, a professor? Lifetime funding? It was too good to be true. “Thank you,” he replied, whisper quiet.
“No,” everyone said, “Thanks to you!”
The scientist returned to his laboratory, and the others climbed into their carriage. All of a sudden the laboratory door was flung open, and the scientist rushed out, his arms full.
“Wait!” he cried, running over to Link. “Here is your tent and the stuff you left at Lake Hylia. He passed it to Link. An item fell off the pile and landed on the ground. The scientist bent down and retrieved it. “And your dress,” he said, winking at Link as he remembered Link’s horror at the idea of wearing it. Link took the dress and put it with the rest of the stuff.
“Wait a minute,” Impa said as the carriage headed back to Hyrule Castle, “Tent? And isn’t that Zelda’s dress? How did Zelda’s dress end up at Lake Hylia?
Link and Zelda looked at each other.
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