Disclaimer: The Legend of Zelda and related characters belong to Nintendo. Here I am just doing my own thing with the concepts as a lowly fan.
Notes: This story is a revision / edit of a story previously posted under the title The Legend of Zelda: Rise of Evil. It was envisioned as "a Legend of Zelda game if Ganondorf was the protagonist" and depicts a "lost era" in Hyrule's history. It was also envisioned as a side-story and distant prequel to another fanfiction, The Great Desert, but one does not have to read that one to understand this.
Timeline: This story, as a side-story to The Great Desert, takes place on a specific point in its timeline, which is not canon. Both that story and this one were originally written well before Nintendo announced an official timeline-structure to the Zelda games. The stories follow a hypothetical / alternate universe linear timeline created through the events at the end of Ocarina of Time generating a stable time-loop rather than a split. This is why there are references to many disparate games in the series (including those which should have no shared history in the canon) throughout the text. If Nintendo ever made a game like this, I could see them going for the alternate universe "fourth timeline branch" treatment, anyway. I could also see them showing slightly less blood than I do.
Chapter 1: Ganondorf's Awakening
His days were spent between dreams and wakefulness, bound in chains forged of spirit. He did not know what was real anymore. He did not know anything anymore, save for hatred, but he had no one to hate here. The man – was he a man? – existed in a world of white and light. It permeated everything. It was everything. He would have welcomed eternal agony – the flesh melting from his bones continuously – something – just to relieve him of this monotony, this Hell of absolute sterility. This was damnation that was worse than damnation. This was nonexistence and he was powerless against it.
The prisoner heard dripping and he smelled a strong scent. He heard a distant voice.
Darkness. A dimly-lit ceiling greeted his eyes as he opened them and blinked. A rich, familiar taste filled his mouth. It was like iron or copper. He was lying upon something flat and hard. He began to laugh.
"Do not strain yourself, Master," a female voice pleaded. "The blood has brought you back, but your body has not yet mended itself."
The shadowy outline of a delicate hand placed something his lips. He took the small chunk of flesh between his teeth and swallowed it quickly. The hand proffered another. This felt familiar – ah, yes, the Rites. They were not always this gruesome, but he enjoyed them better this way. It was a surer way that he would come back full, and as himself, rather than as a mindless beast. He had been a beast when he had been sealed away, hadn't he? He was not mindless then, though. There was one time when the Rites had been botched and only a small part of him had come back to the mortal plane. It wasn't even the right country then, either – it hadn't been Hyrule.
The man moaned. "Hy…Hyrrl?" His tongue was not used to movement. It was something both ancient and new. He could feel his muscles growing over his bones. He could feel new skin and hair cover his scalp. Another small piece of meat was placed upon his tongue.
"Yes, you are in Hyrule," the figure feeding him answered. He could see shadowy, cloaked figures surrounding him. "We are in the broken temple of Parapara in the Western Desert. The Rites were very difficult… difficult indeed to gather what was required for them. Eat well, my lord. This is the fresh heart of a Hylian, which will restart your own. The blood brought you forth. Shortly, we shall give you the liver for strength."
The man on the altar could see the figures more clearly now. They surrounded him in a circle and, as one, bowed their heads. "Welcome back, Lord Ganondorf," they said as one. They pulled the hoods of their cloaks back to reveal red hair and painted faces. The person who was feeding him so gently had hair that was washed-out and graying. Her face was wrinkled, but her nose was large and proud.
"Yes, Master," Thera replied. "It is I… perhaps the last of the purebloods in the world."
"My other daughters?"
"Perished. There have been wars with the Hylians and humans, and a plague. But Hylians are dying breed now, as well."
"The Gerudo have been on the margins for many ages now," one of the other women explained, "Scraping by on the edges of Hyrule, keeping to the wastelands – the deserts, the mountains and way out in the sea… shunned by the rest. Even those of us who tried to join polite Hyrule society were turned away on account of our skin, our hair, our religion and the ancient specter of you, but you are not to blame for this, our lord. Hyrule has always feared the strength of the Gerudo people. Our blood is thinning – we need you. Our strength is fading – we need you."
Another woman spoke up. "We need you to be our king again, and not only that, we need you to become King of Hyrule, even of the entire world! It is your rightful place. They that would shun our strength and they that would deny you must be crushed under your feet! A new age for us, well-deserved terror for them. Will you be our king again?"
"Of course," Ganondorf said with a growing smile as he sat up, his strength becoming renewed. He looked down at the stone floor of the chamber he was in, partially covered by sand. An array was carved into the floor tiles, circles, triangles, all intersected with lines and symbols. The grooves were red, filled with blood flowing from the center where it was spattered. There were remains in the center – it was hard to tell of what at first since the body had been cut into like a lamb's carcass being prepared for an open-roast. Ganondorf did see the face of the victim quite clearly. Her dead blue eyes stared up at him, sad and dull. Her hair was very light in color – blond when caught by the light of the room's torches. Her ears were quite long and delicately tapered.
He licked his lips. "The only blood with power sufficient enough to release me from my prison must come from one of the bloodlines of the erstwhile Triforce-bearers," the new revenant said. "She wears the remains of peasant's clothing, by what I can see of the scraps. Was she a Royal trying to disguise herself?"
"No, my lord," Thera said. "She was from the Hero's Line. The last, in fact. We tracked her down in the border-kingdom, Calatia. No males remained of the Line, according to every record we could find. Hopefully, her blood is not too weak for you. Hylian women are not strong like we Gerudo."
"She has a nice taste," Ganondorf replied. "Are you certain she is the last? That she birthed no brats?"
"She was a young widow," Thera answered. "Her husband went to war and died in a battle on the border of Holodrum three years ago. She lived alone. Her body testified to having undergone childbirth, but the family record we uncovered showed only a daughter that died shortly after birth – no other children."
"Good," Ganondorf said, stroking his chin as he got up from the altar and walked toward the corpse. "I do not trust in that, though. He will return. He always returns. She may have given birth to a son and stashed the child somewhere, with some other people – a sleepy village perhaps. I shall have to have all the sleepy villages in Calatia razed as soon as I can. As the last of the Hero's Line, surely she knew of its importance. You did not happen to torture anything out of her, did you?"
"No, my lord," said a Gerudo who stood near him. He backhanded her. As she held her nose and stepped back, another woman took Ganondorf's hand in her own.
"My lord! Careful! Do not expend your energy so! You have yet to regain your strength!"
"Incompetent fools!" Ganondorf roared. "You are only half-finished! You brought me back, but as soon as I rise to power, he…he… that kid will show up…I'll not have a sword or arrow shaft rammed through me again! He must be found while he is still young and tender… I must destroy him!"
Ganondorf felt woozy. It was not a feeling he was accustomed to. In life – all of his lives – he was the worthy recipient of the Triforce of Power, a person of immense physical and magical strength. In the realm of his imprisonment, he was accustomed to nothing. At least this was better than the all-encompassing white nothing. He sat back down on the altar and only then noticed that he'd been dressed in fine black sorcerer's robes.
He was proffered a plate of raw liver.
"For the furthering of your strength," Thera said.
He stared at the back of his hand before taking the silver platter. "What of the Triforce?" he asked. "The Triforce of Power is not with me, though my hand bears its scar and its residue."
"It is in the keeping of Hyrule's Royal Family," Thera said. "It is whole. The Triforce of Power came into the keeping of the last Wisdom-bearer. When the last Hero died, the Triforce of Courage also went into her keeping. When she passed on, it united itself."
Ganondorf laughed, deep and dark. "If I approach it in just the right way, perhaps the game will be easy this time. All I have to do is obtain it, touch it just right and the world is mine! Our people will enjoy a new era and Hyrule will get what it deserves. Now, then, how long have I been gone and in what portion of this kingdom is the capitol these days?"
"You have been gone for just over one-hundred years," Thera answered.
"You are one of my direct daughters. I remember you, by Givanna, I believe. You have aged well."
"Your seed is of strength and longevity, father. I also practice the spells of the old Twinrova Scrolls. I shall live at least one more century unless I am called upon to die in your service."
"What of Hyrule?"
"The capitol and palace are in the central region. The people are soft and ripe for conquest. There is a young princess in the palace named Zelda, as is tradition, but she is a very young child – not even of proper schooling-age yet, though it is said that she is precocious and is already raiding the palace library for advanced tomes to read. Her great-grandmother, the Queen Mother Zelda, died a year before her birth. That was the Zelda you knew last."
Swallowing the last of the liver, Ganondorf wondered aloud; "I wonder how the last Hero died."
"The rumors abound about that one," Thera answered. "What I do know is that he lived in Calatia for a time and that he died young. The Heroes always die young. Some say that he was killed while hunting by a wild boar he'd wounded."
Ganondorf grinned broadly. "That would be justice," he said. "Speaking of bulbos and potential riders… It would be unseemly for me to pay a visit to the castle without a proper army. To go alone would just be rude, would it not?"
"Wait until your basic strength returns before you begin any necromancy," Thera cautioned. "The Gerudo tribes are dwindling and only we who are in this room are able to be at your side now. There are many creatures that dwell in the shadows, harassed and hunted by the Hylians that have been waiting for your return."
A clattering sound filled the room and out of the darkness stepped a menacing, magnificent creature. It had the form of a centaur – the horse-part of it all black. The human arms and what could be seen of the torso of the beast were black, as well – and not in the typical brownish way dark skinned humans were – but as black as the coat of the horse-part, as black as deep night. The head of this being was that of a lion, its mane long and its eyes red. From the torso down, it was clad in silver-colored armor. The armor on its legs jangled as it walked. It halted and bowed its head.
"The ancient deities of the mountains at are your service," it said in a deep, gritty voice. I am Night, the chief the Lynel Knights. "We, the Lynel, have been the protectors of the mountains since they were created by Mother Din in the lands where the little humans and Hylians fear to tread. It is in a Lynel's nature to follow one with great power. You have the kind of power we respect. I have bathed my hooves in the blood of the weak that would dare defile my mountain. I am willing to bathe my hooves in blood for you, as long as you remain strong – and such it is with my brethren."
Thera passed something into Ganondorf's hands. It shone with an ethereal light. His chest ached upon seeing it. He pulled the ancient sword from its sheath and looked at it with a bitter nostalgia.
"It took us many moons to track that treasure down," Thera said. "It is sufficient to blot out the light of Hyrule forever, don't you think?"
"Once, I almost did….with this blade," the sorcerer said. "The blood of that dog was strewn across the field of battle – much more of it than my own, but somehow… that kid. That kid. Yes, this blade is most sufficient. Things are about to get very interesting."
Chapter 2: Our Strength
Not every dangerous creature in Hyrule was subject to the corruption of evil. While Ganondorf had always been quite adept at bending wildlife to his will, turning them into monsters and creating monsters of his own outright, many of Hyrule's most formidable animals were natural, neutral beings that did not know the concepts of "good" and "evil" and fought to protect their territories, their young, and themselves. Most Hyruelans thought of keese as evil, for example, but the truth was that they just liked to roost in dark and inconvenient places and disliked intrusions upon their homes. These creatures provided an inconvenience to a tyrant bent upon restoring his power.
There were some creatures that were specifically good, however, and they fought Ganondorf and his army while they were on the march. His horse – an animal carefully bred through generations, a descendant of his first stallion, protected him through the desert when the sand cats and the sun foxes attacked, trying to halt his advance. They were weak creatures, easily dispatched with the old Sages' Sword and bolts of basic magic.
Then there were the bulbins. These goblin-like creatures had served Ganondorf in ages past, but in this era, tribes of them were divided. The sorcerer had been able to gather two tribes of about fifty apiece into his service, but there was one stubborn faction that had the gall to attack him on the road. This was the King's Faction, or the Ordon-Tribe. They were independents and, it was said, they held a loyalty to a Hero long-dead. They were not exactly "good," but they knew, somehow, that he was the enemy of the Hero their ancestors had sworn fealty to after their once-king had been bested in battle.
The bulbins were, of course, the result of what happened when minions developed too much intelligence. This was a regret of Ganondorf's and a mistake he would not make again. The beasts were, supposedly, the descendants of moblins, creatures he'd designed, in part, by using his own blood.
That was an ability granted to him by the part of his spirit that had once belonged to an evil even more ancient than he was. He had partnered with that fragment of perfect malevolence long ago, letting the darkness be reborn in him. There was no mistake that Ganondorf was "in charge," however. The ancient strength had merged into his strength, for it needed the coursing blood of a living being in order to exist in the physical world, let alone make any of its desires known. It, in turn, enabled him to live though he be felled a thousand times by holy arrows and Heroes' swords. It was a symbiosis of ambition. A general ambition and hate transferred, in turn, to every being created or twisted by Ganondorf's sorceries.
He'd learned that after moblins had become capable of breeding on their own, that subsequent generations had gained greater intelligence as well as a more humanoid appearance. If it was true, it came as an utter surprise. What Ganondorf remembered of moblins was that they were so dumb that any that successfully bred tended to eat their own young, often as soon as the whelp was birthed.
He'd decided to create more of them, and ones that were good and stupid. Bone dust from a dog of a particular breed, flesh from a swine, magic ripped from the aether and a few drops of his own blood were sufficient. He also raised the bones of the dead – most of those that had been buried beneath the desert sands – Gerudo, Hylian, human… all unquiet dead. Their souls had long departed, but their bodies were well-capable of being bent to his will.
With all who were willing or had been bent to serve him, Ganondorf felt confident enough to go to Hyrule Castle. He entered by way of the front gate and the front door. He did not bother with diplomacy or with a mask. His soldiers just attacked. While they kept the palace guards busy, he made his way through the halls.
He drank a potion that he'd taken from a shopkeep to soothe a cut he'd taken under a gap in his armor. He stowed the bottle in a tiny rift dimension he'd created for storage. There was no telling when a bottle might proove useful. He ran up the stairs into the throne room. The seats for the king, the queen and the princess were empty. A pair of knights – Hyrule's highest by the style of their armor - rushed to greet Ganondorf with their swords. The warlock danced around them, hefting his blade to meet theirs. One man got behind him and cut his cloak. The soldier thrust the tip of his blade into Ganondorf's back just as Ganondorf relieved his comrade of his head.
"I will protect my king, my princess and my country, demon!" the knight shouted. Ganondorf whipped around (causing the sword to cut a rather painful slice into his flesh with the movement) and grabbed the young man by the neck. The offending sword clattered to the floor.
"Noble words from a weak fool," Ganondorf said, beginning to squeeze. The man struggled and his eyes rolled back. "I should make this slow, but I am feeling impatient."
With that, he squeezed until he felt the sharp pop of breaking vertebrae separating from the skull. The knight's struggle ceased and the sorcerer threw the limp corpse to the far end of the room, just in time to meet the head of his friend, which was rolling that way. From both of the bodies rose a ghostly, flame-like light. Ganondorf doubted that anyone could see such a thing but him – and he recognized what the flames were. They were life-essences. They were not the spirits of the dead men, for they'd departed already, but merely the residue of their physical life-energy. Ganondorf touched them and immediately felt strength go into him. His wound mended.
He'd heard many a rumor that the Heroes he'd faced in the past were healed in a similar manner by the power of the love present in Hyrule, and that they could find this healing love anywhere – from tall grass to the remains of his monsters. Ganondorf didn't even try to think about how that worked. All he knew was that "love" wasn't a healing factor for him – but he could rip the residue of people's life-essences away. So appropriate that "trophies" from those he'd slain would strengthen him.
He ascended a winding staircase, where he vaulted himself atop a thick windowsill to open a treasure chest that had been placed there. It wasn't that he'd needed treasure, he was simply curious as to what was inside. After all, he was the King of Thieves. He opened the box to find a strange crystal bowl – shaped like a miniature cauldron. Within it was a ghostly flame, not unlike the life-essences he'd been taking from the dead. When he touched it, it vanished, imparting him with a magnificent feeling of strength. He grunted and grinned to himself. Apparently, the Royal Family had some magic stashed away – neutral magic that he could appropriate for his own use.
He was not as powerful as he'd remembered himself being the last time he was in the mortal world. As much magical energy and adeptness as Ganondorf had, it seems this newly resurrected and formed body had forgotten many specific skills. He'd growled and cursed in the ancient Gerudo tongue when he'd come upon a room that was completely dark. He'd tripped on a stone tile and had to fight more royal knights who were comfortable fighting without their sight. There was also a dog that growled and latched onto his arm. He heard it yelp and whine as he flung his arm out and it apparently hit a wall.
Among the cacophony of clattering armor and the howling of a hound with a broken back, he tried to will himself to cast a fire-spell to light up the room but found that the magic would not come. It was as if his old skills were separated from him the last time he'd been sealed away. The Sages' Sword scraped a man's armor as Ganondorf fought blind. The sparks of it lit the room just long enough for Ganondorf to see how many men were on him, their positions, and the way out. He used this to his full advantage. He swung his blade in an arc, cutting one man's legs out from under him. He elbowed another man, sent him to the floor, and ran him through. While he stuck the man whose legs he'd taken off before he bled to death, Ganondorf did not bother putting the dog out of its misery. He let it howl as a warning to the people higher up in the tower.
He found steps and he found light. He flung open an ornately-embellished door to a room that was decorated with royal purple curtains but was otherwise stark. Three people in the room huddled together – an old man with a crown, a pale young woman with black hair and black armor and a little girl with red-blond hair and a light crown that looked like leaves. They stood in front of what Ganondorf sought. It glowed with a radiant light, golden, holy and whole.
"Kasuto," the king said to the dark-haired woman, "Take Zelda and run."
"And leave you here alone, your Highness?" Kasuto retorted.
"I'll fight him… take my daughter and run! Now!"
Kasuto scooped the child up in her arms forcibly. She ducked past Ganondorf in a severely lucky move. Ganondorf would have cleaved her in half had he not felt the impact of a sword in his armor. He turned immediately to face the King of Hyrule.
"Come now, Nohansen," Ganondorf sneered as he countered. "Can we not solve this like civilized men? You know that I am worthy to take the Triforce, for I have felt its power in me. You keep it as… as an ornament!"
"I will not let evil overrun my land!"
Blades clanged and sparked. The king took a heavy wound, but stayed on his feet. Ganondorf took some minor scratches.
"You do fight well," the warlock said, "It is almost a pity to kill you, but what must be done, shall be done!"
"The power of this land will not be given to a tyrant! The future of my people… and my daughter… I will die for those if I have to!"
"As you wish!"
Ganondorf sensed an opening and thrust the Sage's Sword right through the king's chest. The man fell to the ground, moaning. Ganondorf grinned as he wiped his blade clean. He stepped up to the pedestal where the Triforce was held, noting that the king's gaze had never left him.
"Fortunate that the blade missed your heart," he said, looking down. "You shall soon be gone, but before you expire, you get to watch as your kingdom and your world become mine!"
King Nohansen coughed, spitting up foamy blood onto the tiles of the floor. "You won't rule for long," he gasped. "The Hero will come."
"He always comes," Ganondorf said with a wicked smile, "But this time, I do not think the outcome shall be typical."
Ganondorf reached out his right hand and stroked across the gold of the Triforce. He felt virtue going into him, rushing into his body, coursing through his spirit. Only…something happened that he'd hoped would not.
A deep yet feminine voice echoed through the chamber.
You are still one with a powerful, but unbalanced heart.
The two bottom fragments of the Triforce separated from the topmost piece. As the peak-piece vanished inside of him, the two other broke off, shooting out to two different windows, leaving ghostly trails of blue and green light behind them, respectively.
Ganondorf howled in rage.
The king wheezed laughter before choking on a gout of blood that bubbled up in his throat. Ganondorf snarled and brought the Sages' Sword down upon the dying man over and over again until almost the entire floor of the tower room was painted red and the king would have been unrecognizable from a commoner or a poorly-slaughtered animal, even to his daughter.
Ganondorf made haste back down the stairwells and hallways he'd come up. He found the ones he sought back in the throne room. Little Zelda was shaking and crying, staring at the corpses of the knights he'd slain earlier. Ganondorf leered. Glowing, fresh and new upon her tiny right hand was the telltale mark of the Triforce of Wisdom.
A small knife embedded itself with force in his right shoulder. Kasuto stared him down. "You'll not lay a hand on her!" she screamed.
The strength and accuracy with which the knife had been thrown was impressive. It had landed home in a gap between Ganondorf's armor plates. The wizard ripped the knife from his body without a sound or a flinch. He could feel the strength imparted to him by the Triforce of Power already. He remained wounded, but the pain did not bother him at the moment. "You are not a Sheikah," he said.
"No, I am not," Kasuto replied, "but I am a warrior, a sworn servant of the king and the sworn guardian of the princess."
"If you want her to be safe, just give her to me," Ganondorf said smoothly. "I will spare her life…. All I really need is that delicate little hand of hers. She's young – she can heal."
Zelda hugged Kasuto's legs. She peered out from behind them and glared. "What did you do to my daddy?" she demanded.
"Oh, he is sleeping… sleeping quite well. Would you like to join him?"
"Enough!" Kasuto shouted, taking another large knife from her hip. "I am skilled and I am quick and I have already made you bleed!"
Ganondorf laughed. "Aren't you up on the legends, little guardian?" he sneered, "Someone like you cannot defeat me. That job takes a Hero. I am afraid that as bold as you are, that you are quite lacking."
"Zelda, stay behind me," the armored Hylian said. "If I fall you take off running, you hear? You know where the stable is and you know my horse. He'll take you to safety."
"Yes 'um, Miss Kasuto."
Zelda shrank back toward the main stairwell. It was obvious that she wanted to run right now, but did not want to leave her beloved nanny. Ganondorf and Kasuto circled each other around the room, their movements slow and tense.
"You should know me," Kasuto said.
"You have an aura about you," Ganondorf replied, "but I cannot say that I have met you before."
Magical energy formed around Kasuto – it took a very strange form, like gray flames that glowed. An odor filled the room – the sharp, sour, dry scent of bones.
"Oh, my," Ganondorf muttered, flipping his sword in his hand. "Have I just awakened a Sage?"
Kasuto smiled. "You have not known me, but you have known my energy. Every time you have been sealed. Every time you have killed. I am Kasuto. I am the Sage of Death. And this time around, I shall be your death."
"Doubtful," Ganondorf replied, switching his sword to his left hand and concentrating power into his right fist. "I am a job for a Hero and you are not him."
The two rushed at each other. Little Zelda decided it wisest to run, right then. She disappeared down the stairwell. Ganondorf felt a knife break upon his chest armor and the power of death swirl around him. He suddenly felt very tired – almost… gray. His magically-charged fist collided with Kasuto's jaw. His own magic swirled about her. He concentrated and enacted a spell. His newfound Power surged through him to aid it.
Kasuto fell, but did not die. She screamed as her body shrank and twisted. After several moments, a creature stared up at Ganondorf with baleful yellow-green eyes. His curse had not killed her, but it had rendered her without access to her abilities as a Sage. Kasuto was now a small black cat.
She hissed at him.
"It seems your strength was not sufficient," Ganondorf jeered. "I suppose now that the dying shall go without comfort or peace since you are trapped in this form. Wonderful."
"A Hero shall come!" Kasuto growled. Even in feline form, she'd kept her voice. "The Sages will stop you, too! You will never rule Hyrule as long as the Sages keep the Seven Temples. Forest, Fire, Water, Shadow, Spirit, Earth and Wind. They are at their strength and will see to your downfall in short order! Then… oh, then… I shall be waiting to be your Death!"
The sorcerer grinned broadly and brought up his sword. He might as well finish the job.
Kasuto fled before he could bring the blade down.
Ganondorf looked around the ruined throne room. He continued on his way down the steps. He would send orders to find and capture Zelda and he would pay each of Hyrule's regions and their temples visits. If the Sages went down as easy as Sage Kasuto, he would have full ruling and even the full Triforce in short order. He had been unable to actually kill Kasuto, and that worried him. As it was, the smell of blood was thick in Hyrule Castle and he paused to enjoy it.
Chapter 3: The Battle of Tantari
He could see sunlight wink off the spears and swords held by the people in the fortress. He turned Damnation around, toward his standing troops.
Ganondorf had kept his steed un-gelded because a stallion expressed raw male power, but he sometimes questioned the wisdom of leaving the beast intact because stallions were terribly difficult. At the moment, he was high-strung and was acting as though he smelled mares behind the fortress walls. Damnation had been well-broken, Ganondorf had seen to that – though in a way that would surprise most. The Demon King, notorious for his domineering nature and cruelty, dearly loved horses. Damnation and all of his predecessors had been given the best of stables and he was groomed constantly. If the slightest thing was amiss in the stable, the stablehand in charge of it for the day would suffer the brunt of his or her lord's rage. Ganondorf devised inventive tortures for anyone who did not keep his horse happy.
Night the Lynel came up beside him. "We should move in," he said. "I suspect their numbers are far fewer than they would have us believe. The fortress' defenses are poor."
Ganondorf's army was itching for battle and itching from the sand. They were in the Tantari Waste, a stretch of desert inhabited by one of the last tribes of Gerudo known to exist. The problem was, unlike the loyal circle of sisters that had brought Ganondorf back to the land of the living, the Tantari Tribe felt no need for a king. They followed a matriarch who called herself Esperanza. She claimed to be a descendant of the ancient Sage, Nabooru, but there was no way of confirming it. The Tantari Tribe, despite being shunned outside of their desert lands, held a strong allegiance to the Crown of Hyrule.
They had to be converted or crushed.
The tribe had ensconced themselves in a fortress partially hewn into a high cliff wall. The sand-colored stone and brick buildings in the cliff face gave Ganondorf a sense of nostalgia. The citadel reminded him of the place where he had grown up under the watch of his surrogate mothers and every Gerudo "sister" of his tribe. He remembered playing hide-n'-seek among the adobe walls and how everyone in the tribe indulged him in sweets, hugs and small lessons in thievery framed as games - except, of course, for his mothers, who were bent upon teaching him the value of strength. Being the legendary Gerudo male, he had a natural talent for sorcery that far exceeded that of anyone else in the tribe. Developing that talent had been a harsh process.
The dark king signaled for his troops to stay as they were while he rode forward. An arrow whizzed by his head to embed itself in the ground. He held up his hand in a gesture of passivity – something rare for him.
"I wish to speak," he announced.
A tall, well-tanned woman peered out over the rooftop wall of the center building and leaned upon its edge.
"What is there to talk about?" she shouted down, her voice full of snark, "I'm sure your tribe has told you that we don't want you as our king!"
"Hmmph," Ganondorf grunted. "It is my birthright to be king over all Gerudo. Come to your senses, Esperanza. Aren't we better united than divided? My forces have you outnumbered. I also bear Din's sacred essence. Hyrule Castle has already fallen."
"But you do not yet have the complete Triforce," Esperanza shot back. "You are still unbalanced! The Sage of Earth still lives and her soul thrives within the very sands! The powers of the Sages are on our side – on the side of all that would deny you! The Tantari Tribe shall fight you, down to the last woman if it comes to that! We will give everything to deny you!"
"Foolish child!" Ganondorf roared. I did not wish to destroy my kin, but I shall give you the death you so desperately desire!"
He flicked his wrist and his troops moved forward. Cavalry charged forth in the form of Lynels – red and blue, led by the rich black Night. Bulbins as well, upon their great saddled boars. The stupider and tougher ones butted into the cliff face, causing the rocks to rumble as if caught in an earthquake. Tantari tribeswomen fell from the shaking walls of their fortress to be hacked apart by waiting lizalfos and stalfos warriors.
Ganondorf's Gerudo warriors, the moblins and the goriya made haste with their siegeworks – ladders which they climbed. Many of the first to ascend had their skulls cleaved by the swords of the women inside the walls – but the onslaught could not be stopped.
"Master, I have discovered their livestock trail," said Night, reporting back to Ganondorf. "There is a trail on the far side of the cliff. It leads right up into the fortress."
Ganondorf "hmphed" and smiled wickedly before spurring his horse to follow the armored lynel. They galloped up a sloping trail and came up against a great, thick wooden gate. A pair of bulbins riding a large bulbo-boar outfitted with horned armor came charging through. It splintered the gate. Ganondorf shouted a war cry and entered under a curtain of arrows.
He cut down women on their feet and he cut a few off their horses within the inner ring of the citadel. As he beheaded one warrior, a memory flashed into his mind. For a moment, her appalled face was a different face – a Gerudo face, but the face of someone long-dead by now… someone he'd known as a young child.
"A cup of water for you, young sire."
Her head fell to the dust, the body standing for just a moment before it fell.
He jumped off Damnation and let the horse run. A Tantari woman charged him. He parried and ran her through.
"You shouldn't wander off like that in the middle of the day. See? You got sick. Now lay down here in the shade and let me take care of you."
"It's time for your magic lesson. Don't give me that face. Komue and Kotake won't have you lollygagging again. You showed me a wonderful trick yesterday – you'll learn how to do more than that. You need to become strong so you can be our king and bring us good things someday."
A Tantari wounded him – a minor cut. He cut her in half.
"Of course you'll be a great king, sire – the most powerful this world has ever known. You should shed no tears. You will lead us to prosperity."
A woman with a steel glare stood and aimed an arrow at him. He deflected it with a bolt of dark magic. Her gaze reminded him of Koume's when she was in a bad mood.
"You must be ruthless. Your enemies deserve no mercy. Even your allies can be used to your gain and put to pasture when they have outlived their usefulness. What is important is power. If our people are to rise and to take prosperity, we need a king who is as tough as a desert pig. We have no need of a man. You must become a demon."
Blood glanced off his sword. His armor was slicked with it and very little of it was his own. Unbidden, he thought to a time when he was a teenager and was part of a raiding party that was attempting to rescue some of his tribe that had been captured by a band of Hyrule's soldiers. He'd spied upon the soldier's camp. It had been a mixed-group, Hylians and round-eared humans. He'd seen a Gerudo woman being beaten by one of the Hylian men, in front of her daughter – for some of his tribe's children had been captured as well. The Hylian soldier had cut the woman's throat right in front of her young one. When the rescuers moved in, Ganondorf had made sure to take that man's knife and mingle his blood with that of the woman he'd murdered.
Ganondorf could not recall if that was the first time he'd killed someone – something that was not a bothersome insect or an animal for food. What he did recall was that, upon the return to his tribe's fortress, he'd been hailed as a hero for defending his kin with decisiveness. And, of course, he was told that he definitely would make the greatest of kings.
Ah, yes, that night was when they'd started treating him as a full king, with every right and privilege – at the age of fifteen. Although he'd smelled of blood, he'd lost his virginity that night, since he'd been given his choice of young women in the tribe to please him.
"You have avenged our kin today, young sire. A great king defends his people, even at cost to himself."
The din of battle had died down. There were still shouts and grunts, but everything was much softer, a sort of disturbing quiet. He looked down at one of his people at his feet, eyes open, mouth agape, blood flowing languidly from her unmoving chest, trickling between her breasts and down her sides to the ground. She looked a little bit like his first lover, as best as Ganondorf could recall and he wondered, briefly, if she was a descendant.
He looked out over the fortress grounds. The walls were painted red in patches – with some swaths of green and black – the varying colors of the blood of monsters. Bodies lay everywhere – moblins, lizalfos, a stray darknut or two, goriya and the broken bones of stalfos the defenders had the good sense to set black powder to. There were many dead among his kin, among those kin that would not bow to him. From what he could see, all of the Gerudo of his own side were alive – some were wounded, but none were dead. It was as if the Tantari Tribe had refused to kill any of their own, at least among the "sisters." It was very clear that those he'd fought were after killing him.
"A great king defends his people, even at cost to himself. Of course you'll be a great king, sire – the most powerful this world has ever known. You should shed no tears. You will lead us to prosperity. You need to become strong so you can be our king and bring us good things someday."
"Enough!" Ganondorf growled to himself. He bowed his head and whispered, trying to drown out the echoes of his memory, "It had to be done. They merely received the due punishment for treason."
"It is not treason if the so-called king destroys his own people and is found unworthy."
Ganondorf looked up and turned to the voice he'd heard behind him. "Esperanza."
She was sweaty and bleeding from shallow cuts. Her scimitar was painted in the black blood of magical beasts. She just stood there, looking at him, her face stoic.
"You are the only one left, aren't you?" Ganondorf asked, a little smirk curling the corners of his lips. "Traitor though you are, you may make amends by joining my little family. I like your build – very strong. I can think of ways in which you can repent unto me."
"It would be a greater honor to be killed by you."
"What a foolish little girl. You would choose death over life?"
"I choose a warrior's death."
With that, Esperanza rushed in upon him with her scimitar aimed at his stomach. Ganondorf reacted quickly, spinning the blade off the Sages' Sword, which he thrust through her heart from the back.
The body slid off easily. She looked up at him one last time before her eyes went dull. The clatter of horse-armor sounded behind him.
"Your enemies here have been utterly destroyed, sir," Night reported.
"What of the casualties among my assets?" Ganondorf inquired.
"We have been halved, my lord," the lynel knight said with little passion. "Much of your magic work has been undone. Several of my people have been killed. Your horse is alive and well. Among the half that lives, many are fleeing – slipping into the shadows – even among my own people. You have not many left on your side, sire, at present."
"They shall just have to lurk in the shadows, then, like the cowards they are. I wish to have my minions deployed to populate the land – just in case a Hero shows up. I can resurrect what I need without cease. I think I shall take the Sages on alone. Leave the unreliable minions to the land. I need to destroy the Sages one-on-one if I am to take what rightfully belongs to me. If a fraction of their power was among this tribe, I need to break that power with my Power."
Night noticed the way Ganondorf was looking at the fresh corpse of Esperanza.
The Tantari Tribe, though foolish and doomed, had fought with exceptional bravery. They had died like true warriors. While Ganondorf loved and respected power above all else, he was not one to be called a coward. If there was one thing he respected almost as much as he did power, it was courage. They were close in kind, in a way. He often thought of the Courage aspect of the Triforce as a mediator between Wisdom and Power. It would come as a surprise if he'd told anyone – but he actually respected Link to a degree, in all his incarnations, on the grounds of sheer guts. He'd never let the Hero know that, though. The simple fact that it was Ganondorf's place to crush the courageous did not mean that he did not respect the courage those people had.
"I have immediate orders," the warlock said. "I want each and every member of the Tantari Tribe to be given a proper burial. The moblins and the bulbins are not to eat them. They are to be given warrior's graves."
"What, sir?" Night choked. "Aren't such honors too good for your enemies?"
"They may have committed pointless suicide by my hand, but they are of my people," Ganondorf replied. "A king is to take care of his people."
Chapter 4: Forest Fire
Ganondorf rode through a rainy wood. The rain had slowed, becoming a mist. Water dripped in droplets off the heavy, broad leaves of the trees. He knew the temple was near, for he could feel the echo of great magic power in growing proximity. The monkey had told him to come this way – in exchange for a few rupees, of course.
The man was perpetually fascinated by morally-neutral creatures. The monkey had shuddered upon meeting him and had told him that it knew that he was a very evil person – but was willing to surrender the location of the Forest Temple without threat. Ganondorf knew that it would have done the same service for Hero, provided rupees were involved.
Music lilted through the forest air, a tune that was being played upon a flute or a pipe. Ganondorf recognized the song as the ancient Forest Sage's song – as played by a Skull Kid. Those creatures were in a chaotic neutral alignment, as well, but in a way that actually frightened the King of Evil a little. The beings were, supposedly, children that had gotten lost in this mysterious forest and lost a lot of themselves along the way. They were trapped between life and death – their flesh rotted away until they became one with the woods, their faces vanishing or distorting into mask-like forms. Some considered them to be guardian beings, believing that they kept out whatever people did not belong there.
Ganondorf knew the truth. They were children that could never grow up. Unlike the ancient Kokiri race (now extinct or gone into hiding, no one knew which), the Skull Kids did not have any particular sense of ethics, or even a sense of rhyme or reason. If they'd ever had an ability to distinguish Good from Evil, they had long lost it by the time they'd transformed into their full forms. Like wild toddlers, they never understood the magnitude of any situation. The only thing that mattered to a Skull Kid was fun. Everything in existence was a game to them. A given Skull Kid's game with a traveler or trespasser might involve physical harm and murder. Even as you cried out in pain, he or she would laugh, thinking it was funny and that you were just playing. At the end of it, he or she would not understand why you'd stopped moving. There was an old tale about one Skull Kid that developed ethics after time spent with one of the legendary Heroes, but that was just a bedtime story. As it was, they were a thing even the wielder of the Triforce of Power wanted to avoid.
Ganondorf's own servant-beings were beginning to make a presence in the land. As he passed, vicious Deku Babas would sprout up at the feet of his horse. He sent a breath of dark energy into the air to coax spiders and insects out of their hiding places in rotten logs and to "enhance" them. Some of the natural dangers of the forest he left un-corrupted.
Most of his army had slunk off into the shadows, some of the beasts to their own purposes, and some of them still in service to him. He knew that the stalfos, in particular, would fight and cause chaos among any people loyal to Hyrule simply because they wanted to die. They were bones re-animated by his magic, and being such, longed to return to their natural state of death. They'd fight until worthy warriors put them to peace. It was the same for the forest-stalfos - Hylian adults who'd become trapped in the Lost Woods and had lost their flesh. Unlike with the Skull Kids, the original spirits that had owned those bodies had long flown to whatever fate awaited them. It was the natural state for dead flesh and dead bones to be dead. Ganondorf's magic and the magic of the forest were violations of that order – at least until a stalfos warrior was shattered, and they were tough. They were willing and ready warriors, seeking death by the hands of their living victims.
Ganondorf came upon the old Forest Temple. It was an amazing sight – all broken stone and beautifully carved statues, covered by moss, mud, and the winding roots of venerable old trees. This had not been a site for actual worship in centuries – not since before he was born, actually, and he was an ancient being. Colorful birds lit upon tree branches. A lone syger slinked between low-slung, vine-covered wing-buildings where incense was once burned. It growled softly at Ganondorf before jumping up onto a rise of earth and vanishing into the forest.
The entrance was still accessible – if overgrown. Ganondorf dismounted and carefully avoided a spat of deer droppings. He carefully removed the saddle and armor from Damnation. He then took the animal by the face, pressed his forehead to its muzzle, and muttered something in a tongue that pre-dated Hylian.
He had forgotten many things that he had a sense that he'd known the last time he was in the land of the living. Occasionally, they rushed back to him – old spells and the like. He'd wandered into the stable his Gerudo followers had constructed for their horses in Parapara. The thick scents of dry sawdust, sweet hay, manure and living horseflesh had brought the Call Spell back to him. He bonded Damnation to it now. The horse was free to wander as it wished until he called it - then Damnation would, wherever he was, feel the call and answer it by coming to him.
The Sages' Sword was at his side. The tip of its scabbard dragged upon the ground. He entered the Forest Temple. It was dark and the air was musty. There were unlit torches along the walls. Ganondorf grumbled as he took a flint and steel from his pocket to light a spark. He picked up a long, dry stick – the remains of some spent Deku plant, and lit its end to set the torches aflame. He hated this – using fire like the common rabble. All of his basic fire spells were mysteriously gone. He had forgotten how to access them. Not even the Triforce of Power could unlock them for him. It was frustrating.
Pyromancy wasn't the only form of magic that had apparently died with him when the last incarnation of the Hero had defeated him. He'd never had much use for ice magic, but found occasional need for it, mostly in corrupting the wildlife of the high mountains. He could form arcs and spirals of energy – dark energy was still with him in force - but he'd lost his ability to generate the strong electric sparks he remembered having grown accustomed to.
He did not know if he still retained the ability to transform. He suspected he would be able to if he needed to, due to the Triforce of Power.
The smell of mold was thick in the halls. Patches of it lined the stone corridors, dark green and black. Ganondorf could feel his lungs being filled by musty spores. He sensed there was something of a magical force stirring them about – a wind in the underground chambers. He coughed and used mild force magic to push the offending cloud out of his face. He laughed to himself. The Sage knew he was coming. They knew their doom was nearing them.
He entered one room that required him to light torches – in that annoying commoner's way – to exit it. Upon entering another room, tiny mice came out of the cracks in the floor and the walls and swarmed all over him, climbing his cape, wriggling beneath his armor and biting him. He roared, grabbing the offending creatures in his hands and crushing them until his hands were slick. He stepped on them, feeling their little bodies and skulls pop beneath his boots. He wriggled and sent magical energy out to try to dislodge them from his person.
Another room presented him little foxes that attacked him in masse. He swept his sword through them, charging it with dark energy. Animals that he'd slain fell only to rise in corrupted forms, eager to serve his will. He bid them to guard this chamber in case any good-aligned beings showed up.
Further down, he offered some gentle Deku Scrubs both rupees and the sparing of their lives if they would serve the chief monster he planned to implant in place of the Sage once he'd killed her. The Scrubs told him quite a bit about the Forest Sage – indeed a female entity, and the last remaining Kokiri in this forest, apparently.
Down one corridor, the floor fell out from beneath him and he had to grab onto some strong vines that were growing on a pillar to keep from falling into a pit of jagged spikes. He found himself running – although he'd always been a slow runner, due to his large frame – across a bridge that crumbled with every step. Although Ganondorf knew that this place had, indeed, been used for worship by common people at one point, he wondered just how it had been used. There were many chambers that were, apparently, meant only for priests and nuns trained to avoid the traps and dangers that had been set up to protect the temple treasures. In the course of it all, he'd gathered energies from the creatures he'd slain and he'd found more of those crystal cauldrons of magical energy that increased his stamina hidden in various rooms.
Eventually, he'd come to the chamber with the wolf.
The doors sealed behind him and he could feel the presence of great magic. This must have been one of the chambers of the old temple that had housed one of their great treasures, perhaps something divine in nature. It made sense that even down in the darknest depths, in a place walled in dirt and mud, where the mighty roots from trees high above wended down, and where the air was stale, there was a magical guardian set to destroy all intruders. It growled at him from the shadows and stepped into the light of pale torches that had lit up as soon as the man had entered the room. The only sound besides its footsteps and low growling was the dripping of water from the ceiling above.
"An impressive thing, aren't you?" Ganondorf said casually as he unsheathed his sword for battle. "Large. You cannot be called a proper wolf, now can you? I recognize a Dire Wolf when I see one. You remind me of someone I once knew… ah ha! But I can read your energy. My Triforce piece is not resonating. You may be strong, but you are no Hero."
The wolf just glared at him, its amber eyes shining in the darkness. It was amber-eyed, not the legendary Blue-Eyed Beast. It was dark in color, with some swatches of brown and white along its belly and legs. It had a little white blaze like a flame on its forehead. Ganondorf could not blame himself for getting a little nostalgic upon first seeing the animal – it did look an awful lot like the animal form of the Hero of Twilight. From what he'd heard, that particular Hero had met a swift, arrow-related death not long after freeing Hyrule from his grasp. It was always disappointing to Ganondorf that not all of the Heroes had died slowly and painfully. He smiled to himself, even as the wolf raised its hackles. The Hero of Twilight may have died swift and easy, but he knew that the Hero of Time before him had not.
He wondered if any given incarnation of the Hero remembered their deaths, as he remembered his. He suspected that the Princess of Destiny remembered hers.
The wolf rushed him. Lost in his musings for just a moment too long, the canine grabbed his left arm. Its teeth pierced the armor gauntlet and sank into Ganondorf's hard muscle. With a forceful sweep, Ganondorf flung the guardian off, causing the jaws to rip jagged lines and leave trails of blood to arc through the air and land upon the stone floor of the chamber.
"Well-met," Ganondorf said as the beast came for him again and he brought his sword up. He swept it for the animal, missing its body but slicing off a forepaw. The wolf yelped, but came for his neck. Ganondorf dodged and kicked it into one of the walls. He brought the Sages' Sword up, then stabbed down into the animal's furry side, cleaving its heart and finishing it.
The bars upon the chamber doors slid open and a large chest materialized in the center of the room. This was the source of that feeling of deep magic the wizard had sensed. He opened the chest to reveal a crystal in the shape of a flowing flame – deep red at the bottom and orange-red at the tips. It absorbed into him immediately. He concentrated his energies until a flame roared about him, heating the air but not touching his skin. He immediately sent it out and incinerated everything in the room, including the body of the chamber's fallen guardian.
This was the flame magic he had lost! It felt utterly familiar. This was his. Could it be that upon his last defeat, certain essences of his magic had been flung to all corners of Hyrule to be guarded against him at the temples?
He heard a voice. He did not know who it was, but for some reason, it felt like Farore's to him. Obnoxious goddess – not even his patron. What was she doing speaking to him? He would cast them down someday, all three of them, and take their place – perhaps they knew that, and were annoying him while they still could.
"For everything taken, something must be left."
Something bright – born of light magic – was forming inside the chest he'd just opened. He could not tell what it was before the chest slammed shut and disappeared.
"Silly Din… if your charge gets something useful, my charge must be given the chance to find something useful to him, too. It's all about balance, my sister. We must play fair."
"Enough!" Ganondorf growled to the air. The air answered him with silence. He stormed out of the chamber, lighting torches along the corridors for the sheer fun of it. He never had to worry about his magical energy running out. He was a wizard, classically trained and furthermore imbued with pure Power. Magic flowed in his very blood and at a level much stronger than that of the blood of an average Hylian. Sometimes, Hyrule's Royalty came close to matching his skill and grace, but, in the end, every battle with every Hero he'd ever faced ended up as much a fight between magic and technology as it was a battle between good and evil magic. No doubt, the object he could not see forming in the chest was some goddess-blessed bit of simple technology – a bow, perhaps, or a grappling hook. Brute stuff – stuff beneath the great Ganondorf.
He ascended into upper rooms. He dodged past pendulums of broken trees, swinging on vines suspended from a caved-in ceiling. He entered the last room marked upon a mysterious map he'd found inside one of the first rooms he'd come to. The man had no idea if the map represented old temple plans – a friendly guide for ancient visitors – or if it had been gifted to him by Din to make the "Game of the Goddesses" interesting.
Bolts of steel locked the door behind him. The chamber was vast and sunlit by holes in the ceiling. It was circular and the stone tiles upon the floor were worn and formed a pattern that looked like a representation of the sun. Moss grew in the cracks, forming tracings of lines and patterns in shocking green.
Upon the sun's center stood a young girl. She couldn't have been older than twelve – that is, if she were a Hylian, but Ganondorf knew she was anything but that. Her ears were slightly longer than a twelve-year-old Hylian girl's should be and floating above her head was a tiny blue fairy. She wore robes befitting a Sage – dark green and silken with golden clasps in the shapes of leaves. The rest of her did not look so regal – more like a bratty commoner's child – green hair in two braids at her shoulders and her face specked with green freckles. She quickly whispered something to the fairy, which took off through one of the holes the ceiling. Perhaps she was trying to protect it by telling it not to get involved in the upcoming battle.
"So, you've come," she said, eyeing Ganondorf.
"The Sage of Forest, the weakest of the Sages… breaking you shall be easy, little girl."
"I am Liliana, Last of the Eternal Children. I have been alive for ages upon ages. In that sense, I'm not so 'little.' It is my duty to pray and to give power to the forces of good in Hyrule – strength to all the people that would oppose you, fellow ancient one."
"You are aware that I am here to kill you, aren't you?"
"Yes, but I shall oppose you."
"Do you know not, little one, that there are only specific things that can destroy me once I've been awakened anew? The silver-lined arrows of pure light and the sword forged of the gods – only these serve as my banes."
The child's sing-song voice irritated him. "But you are weak now, weak! You are weaker than you've ever been when the Hero has faced you. I can smell the blood of your wounds! Ganondorf, Ganondorf – wounded by my pet!"
"If you mean the wolf, I have destroyed him."
"He has given sacrifice, and has been embraced by Farore."
"As you are about to be!"
Ganondorf charged, his sword out to relieve the Kokiri of her head. She dodged, teleporting upon a sudden, leaf-laden wind.
"Too slow! Too slow! Can't catch me!" she chimed above his head. She launched herself down with incredible speed and kicked him in the nose before coming up behind him. She cast her hand to the mossy cracks in the stone floor and willed vines to grow up at his feet and entwine around his legs. He ripped them away, only for more to come up. One thick vine snaked around his neck and began to strangle him.
The Sage of Forest teleported around him in a blinding, irritating manner. Ganondorf suddenly remembered where he'd seen a fighting style like this. This was like a Skull Kid's game.
He brought his blade up to sever the vine that was encircling his throat and ripped away the offending curl. He cut wildly at all the plants that were growing up around the chamber. Then, it dawned upon him, in remembering a phrase he'd once in encountered, a stupid country proverb:
If all else fails, use fire.
He charged up his newly-regained fire-magic abilities. The vines burnt to instant ash and to the kind of charcoal prized by artists.
"Now, you've made me cross!" Liliana pouted, transporting again. Before she could raise up more vines, she did something that proved a lucky move for Ganondorf. He held his sword out and she, quite by accident, teleported right into it. It cut into her side and she levitated upwards, dripping blood.
"Owie!" she cried. "Now I'm going to have to get serious!"
The chamber shook as though under an earthquake. Liliana began transforming. The sounds of cracking bones, and – Ganondorf couldn't believe it – stretching skin filled the room. Thick shingles of bark grew over the girl's limbs as they extended. Her hair unbound itself, flew back and became as moss. In a few moments, what stood before Ganondorf did not resemble the little Kokiri child at all. It was, as he could best guess, an enormous stag-deer made of half-rotten logs. The head was like a fallen tree with holes through which shone baleful glowing eyes. Branches rose up to form the antlers of the creature. The feet were twisted and rooty.
She'd called upon her full power as a Sage.
And she was trying to step on him.
Ganondorf dodged. He powered up his aura of flames, sending them at the feet of the light world abomination. He hacked away at weakened points with his sword, but found that it kept getting stuck in the wood. Woodland Guardian Liliana tossed him about the chamber like a cat tossing about a wounded mouse.
The great wizard noticed the gentle glow of the Triforce of Power on his hand. He felt his wounds keenly and knew that the Triforce might be glowing as an indicator that his life was ebbing. He refused to let that happen. He was the King of Evil. He was not to be defeated by some sociopathic child! Ganondorf called upon the essence of Din, asking it to let him transform into something ancient, something wild and dangerous.
He always lost a little bit of his mind when he came into that form.
He felt his bones twist and his muscles build and stretch. He could feel his canine teeth growing into fangs and his lower teeth growing into tusks. His eyesight dimmed – he could still see, but it was mostly blurs and shadows… his sight had been decreasing in this form in every incarnation, it seemed. His sense of smell became keener and he breathed in his own new, porky-rich reek.
He'd become a wild boar the size of a small elephant, a match in size to the transformed Sage. He was different in every lifetime he'd used this form… He looked down at his forefeet. He had thick hooves instead of wolf's paws or human hands this time. He still had the fluff of a dog to his hair, though, and a long tail.
Liliana charged him, her branch-antlers aimed at his heart. Ganon squealed and charged, diving down for her half-charged legs of log, which he gored into with his ivory tusks. With a twist, a crack and the raining down of broken wood and ash, Liliana fell.
Ganon powered down and became the Gerudo, Ganondorf again. To his shame, he panted with exhaustion.
The Woodland Guardian morphed back into the Kokiri, Liliana. She was prone, her chest heaving in exhaustion. Ganondorf calmly raised his sword above her and brought it down, bringing forth a pained cry and stilling her. He grabbed a corner of his cape and cleaned the tip of the sword. He contemplated the dead child for a moment. He mentally tapped down any feeling of remorse he had for killing someone who *looked* so young. She was one of the Sages and by her own admission an ancient being. Although it was said that even evil had standards, it had to be done. There'd been occasions in past lifetimes by which he'd killed children before – his enemies and the enemies of his people.
Besides, the Goddesses allowed the good, the innocent and the young to die all the time, anyway.
Means to an end.
He saw the spirit of the dead girl rise from her body. The ghost looked at him dully, before looking up to the sky between the cracked ceiling. "I think I've been awakened now," she said before vanishing completely.
Ganondorf picked something out of his pocket – a seed he had corrupted. He had been waiting for this moment. He had prepared a guardian monster for this place – his way of claiming the old temple as his own. He dropped the seed into Liliana's pooling blood.
"Soak it up and grow strong," he admonished. This beast was to be a plant-based monster, something like a building-sized Deku Baba.
With that, he walked toward the far side of the chamber and ascended a set of stairs outside the temple to the forest above.
Chapter 5: A Hero in the Land
The King of Evil vanquished the guardians of the Fire and the Water temples. He was surprised at their levels of strength. He'd met and killed a Goron sub-guardian in the Fire Temple before he'd met the Sage there. The place served both as a temple for the Goron people and as an active mine, strangely enough. They had always been a people to mix practicality with spiritual matters.
Ganondorf had gained a magical staff – the Ice Rod. He was used to using magic within himself, but he made do with the rod in this case. He stored it within one of his magical, extra-dimensional pockets – of the same type where he kept bottles emptied of potions he drank after taking them off shopkeepers and random people he'd slain for getting in his way. He'd wondered why the Sages would allow objects and magics that were best for defeating them rest within their own temples. Lingoro, the mighty Goron Fire Sage, had answered that question for him, and rather politely, too.
He'd said that existence was about balance and that it applied to the Sages and everything aligned to goodness or neutrality as much as it did to those aligned to spiritual darkness. Perfect good and perfect evil, he'd said, were not the will of the Goddesses for Hyrule – but balance. Lingoro had said that he was subject to it and was content. It was also apparent that the old Goron had expected to triumph over Ganondorf – a fatal bit of arrogance.
Lingoro had become a great steel dragon in the second stage of their battle – the Redsteel Guardian – a winged serpent with metal scales that glowed red-hot. Ganondorf had refrained from his own transformation. The magma-flows in the Sage's chamber had kept him to a small area. His pig-form would have had no room to move and certainly would have become sizzling bacon in the heat. His robes and his armor were enchanted to a degree, and protected him.
Lingoro fell quite easily to the power of the Ice Rod once Ganondorf had sighted a split in his belly-scales. The warlock recalled clearly what had happened next. Lingoro, back to his native shape, had lain on the floor clutching his wounded stomach. He'd looked up to Ganondorf and begged for his pathetic life.
"I am one of a line of Goron heroes," he'd said, "the last of the great line. My people… my people need me. Please! My people – spare them!"
"They shall live if they shall serve me," Ganondorf had then replied, "but you shall not live. I need and desire your power. You are a strong Goron – weak before me, but your life's essence is strong enough to serve my purposes. I am afraid, however, that your death shall not be merciful."
Ganondorf had smirked, in spite of himself. He was just getting a job done – taking the strength of a Sage's life… but Gorons were difficult to kill and this would be an unfortunate thing for Lingoro. The Forest Sage, being a Kokiri, had soft flesh – like most living creatures did. Gorons were another matter, with muscles as hard as marble and skin like granite.
The King of Evil swept the tip of the ancient Sages' Sword over Lingoro's body in efficient strokes, watching the steel forged by an older generation of Sages leave sparks and scratches. The wizard then aimed the Ice Rod at the helpless Fire Sage. Ice quickly filled the cuts. The visible veins beneath Lingoro's skin began to plump and bulge. They split open, cleaving through their owner, who managed to let loose a final cry of agony before his body was rendered a fractured mess.
How does nature make a big rock into smaller rocks? When water creeps into tiny cracks in that rock and freezes. Gorons had always hated ice and snow for very good reason.
Dealing with the Sage of Water had not been as easy. Rutan, himself, had not been too much of a challenge. He was a young Zora warrior-turned-Sage. It was the temple itself that had almost killed the Demon King.
Ganondorf had frozen up the Zora's river and dried up Lake Hylia to get to it – and it all felt like déjà vu. The Water Temple was the temple the Zora had been using for centuries. It was at least as old as the ancient Forest Temple, but, unlike it, still saw active use – which was even more surprising given how few true Zora remained in Hyrule. They had split off into a subspecies long ago. The forebears of the new species were Zora that Ganondorf had managed to corrupt in his last lifetime – and these had been out-breeding the original species for some time. The original "beloved ones of Nayru" were growing weaker in the blood.
He'd stolen a special helmet from Zoran royal treasury that allowed him to breathe underwater, which had served him well for certain parts of the temple. Creatures of light lived within its confines as well as Zora protectors, priests and priestesses. He slew these easily with light combat and admired, briefly, the bravery of the doomed. He found it simple to spread corruption to the various chambers, sealing them as "his" for all future trespassers.
Those that opposed him fell easily. It was the temple's many puzzles and security features that had nearly driven him mad.
The Zora used dance and swimming in their devotions to Nayru and to nature. This meant that water levels within the temple's walls were raised and lowered according to the needs of particular ceremonies. These gates were also in place for visitors of other species to lift certain areas for swimming and to dry out areas as-needed so that they could enter and exit without drowning. Mostly, the gates were in place for the Zoras' strange rituals. Ganondorf had to figure out a sequence to get to the areas of the place he needed to be.
No guardian opposed him when he came to take the temple's main treasure – only a security lock made from sliding stone blocks, under which ran currents of live electricity. The Great King of Evil had felt his heart arrest a few times as he deciphered the puzzle. He was certain that only the great amount of magic in his body and the Triforce of Power had kept him alive. He was rewarded with the regaining of his lightning powers. These he'd used on Rutan when the Zora Sage met him in battle as an enormous manta ray-like creature in a water-filled chamber that had gone pitch-black at his command. Rutan's body had lit up in bioluminescent patterns meant to confuse Ganondorf, but he'd seen through the game. Rutan had died quickly and much more easily than Lingoro had.
After his victories, Ganondorf made a brief visit to Hyrule Castle, which he'd left in charge of Night.
"There has been trouble in the north," the lynel said to Ganondorf as they walked along the halls.
"What kind of trouble?" Ganondorf asked. "All of Hyrule should be under a cloak of fear by now. I am breaking the temples swiftly. The Sages are dying and the whole world knows it. I shall have the Triforce soon enough – as soon as I am at my strength and as soon as the missing pieces are found."
"My lord," Night said with a bow of his head and a hand to his chest, "the Triforce is precisely the problem. Zelda has not yet been found, and… in the north…"
"The north! Out with it!"
"It is said that the Hero has returned. He has come out of Calatia and has been rallying rabble in the west and the north of Hyrule. The people near the borders of Labrynna and Holodrum have been rising up against our forces because they have hope now – they have the Hero."
"The Hero!" Ganondorf spat. "This has not come unexpected. A whelp always rises up to oppose me. I wonder what kind of life Link has had this time…hmmm."
"One would think that I would be getting too old for this, wouldn't they? The Chosen Ones of the Goddesses – it does not change and grows wearisome. The Princess is always Zelda – as is the royal naming tradition. The Hero, for whatever reason, has always been named Link. I suppose the three of us are ancient souls, and, deep down, we wish to keep the names we've always had. I expected the Hero to rise, but I had entertained the notion of his absence in this life. I was told that the last of the Hero's Line had been sacrificed to resurrect me."
"Father," Thera said, approaching from a darkened hallway. "We have learned things about the sacrificial victim that our family has come to regret."
"What things?" Ganondorf said tersely.
"She was older than she looked," Thera replied softly. "And she was, indeed, a mother to more than just a deceased child."
"I knew it…" Ganondorf spat. He was tempted to smack Thera, but refrained. She was his direct, pureblood daughter and thus important to him, even if he had, in this lifetime, become used to battering the other Gerudo women of his cult when they'd soured his mood.
Thera continued, walking with him. "We have found that the mother and the father sent their only son away to be raised by friends soon after his birth. He was born with the mark of destiny and they'd feared for the child. They'd placed many magical protections upon him for his hiding. We've only recently broken through to the truth."
"And so, a Hero has risen again," Ganondorf snorted. "Typical. Have you learned what village he was raised in?"
"His adoptive parents are no more," Thera said with a nod, "however, from what we've been able to gather, he may have another family and we have yet to find them."
Ganondorf raised an eyebrow. "Another family?"
"Mere rumors, actually, we do not know for sure," Thera replied, "just a cultural assumption, in truth."
"A cultural assumption…?"
"The people of Calatia marry and begin having children quite young. This is why the sacrificial victim was able, with her looks, to have a son currently old enough to be the Hero. Those that have seen him have described him as being sixteen or seventeen years of age. In Calatia, most people marry at age fourteen or fifteen – a bit earlier than most in Hyrule."
"I see," Ganondorf said. Having begun his own siring of offspring quite young, this made sense to him, even though Gerudo culture usually had its women seek out Hylian and human men when they were slightly older, to keep with Hyrulean customs. "If the Hero has already arisen, there is nothing to do but to track him down."
Night grunted. "Sir, our ranks are already hunting him."
"I am pleased. If he is not destroyed, he shall at least be weakened."
"Father?" Thera spoke up, "A guay came the day before yesterday with news, while you were still in the Water Temple. It told me that the Hero had already been to the Forest Temple and...and that he freed the bound spirit of the Sage you killed."
Ganondorf punched a wall. The smooth stone paneling cracked beneath his magically-charged fist.
"My lord!" Thera and Night said at once.
"He is moving too quickly!" the King of Evil hissed. "I want him dead. As soon as possible - DEAD! I don't care how agonizing or how quick! He'll not take the world from me… not this time!"
Another Gerudo woman came in and bowed low. "My lord," she said, "a spy has just brought word that the Hero has allies in Kakariko."
"Kakariko," Ganondorf muttered. "It has been a while. I should like to pay the place a visit and see to the destruction of the Hero's friends myself and to make the town an example. All of Hyrule must know the price for betraying their new king!"
Ganondorf finally got his chance to see the Hero's eyes.
He marshaled some of his moblins, goriya and redeads to fall upon the town of Kakariko, torching the quaint little houses and setting his troops to cutting down people as they fled. Ganondorf roared his orders – anyone who wished to survive must give up any who had helped the Hero in any way. The remaining townspeople stood strong. One bold little boy stepped out of the crowd of the muddied and bloodied survivors that were gathered in the town's center, spit at Damnation's hooves and calmly informed the King of Evil that the entire town had helped the man and would do it again. The innkeeper had given Link a room when he'd been weary. A shopkeeper dealt weapons and potions to him and had crafted bombs specifically for him.
"We knew you would come for us," the innkeeper said, a woman with a robust frame. "We did not care. We want to see Hyrule golden again. We will stand against you, even if you kill us all."
"As you wish!" Ganondorf spat. He gathered visible magical energy into one of his fists.
It was then that the crowd suddenly parted. A young man stepped forth, a black cat at his feet. The man held a sword – it was not the Master Sword, but was a fine blade in its own right. His face was red and sweaty, as if he'd just arrived after a long, hard ride to see the little village in chaos. His hair was long, wild and black. His ears were sharply tapered. His eyes were dark blue and fierce. Ganondorf thought for a moment that they were like knives. Everything about this young man had a "sharp" quality. The boy looked very much like he'd always had – in other lifetimes - except for the darkness of his hair. He'd always had light hair before. The black locks were unusual.
"Don't do this, Link!" the cat at his feet cried. "You are not strong enough to defeat him yet! Your sword is not sufficient!"
"Kasuto…" Ganondorf said with a grin. "So this is where you have gotten off to. Poor little Sage. You've fared better than the rest!"
Kasuto hissed. "They are not all dead," she spat. "And Liliana has lent Link her power. He was able to free her soul even as I could not."
"Enough!" Ganondorf huffed. "I'll spare the remaining people of this village if the whelp is willing to step forth and face me in single combat. Brave enough, boy?"
"Yep," the fierce-eyed Hero said with a nod.
"Link, you'll be killed!" Kasuto protested.
"The villagers will have time to flee," he said gently.
"All of Hyrule will fall to darkness if you fall today, Link - and the entire world with it, including your home!"
"He made a request and these people need to live. I have to try. Besides, a Hero never works alone, right? I know that if I fall today that he'll just hunt everyone here down, anyway, but by buying them time… they can rise up in revolution."
"You are reckless!" Kasuto grumbled, "Reckless!"
Ganondorf laughed a soft, wicked laugh. "Do you think that sword of yours can kill me, boy?" he asked mockingly, "It is not the legendary Blade of Evil's Bane."
"You aren't at your full power yet," Link said, stepping forward and turning the hilt of his sword in his left hand, "And this blade was blessed by the Great Fairy. I'm sure I can at least give you a good scratch."
Ganondorf dismounted and lumbered forward. He raised his hand and a gently glowing barrier of red light cut both him and Link off from every other person and monster. Even Kasuto was on the outside. The wizard glared at his troops. "You shall stand down until this battle is over," he said, "and then await my orders. I'd like to enjoy this fight."
The Hero charged him and he dodged. Ganondorf noticed something in the way the boy carried himself. He was just a little clumsy – he had a sway in his step that betrayed a bit of tiredness. Link's skin was a bit on the pale side. When their blades met, the Evil King noticed a cut on one of the wrists, peeking out from just under the sleeve that had the pus-green edges of infection on it. The innkeeper may have given him a room, but it was obvious that the kid was not resting as often or as well as he should. There was a lot of impulse and fire in his swordwork, too… impatience.
The Hero was impatient.
It was clear to Ganondorf that Link had wanted to end things now – right now, even though he lacked the power for it. By the untended wound, it was clear that he must have gone through the ruins of the Forest Temple in a rush. This was quite an advantage to Ganondorf. The Heroes that had come before had been subject to their own impulses, but even with rigid senses of righteousness, they'd taken their time to become strong – sometimes because they'd been forced to, and sometimes because of common sense.
The blades clashed again. The tyrant and the Hero met face-to-face. Ganondorf saw something in his eyes, those fierce eyes that shone like knives; these were not the eyes of a callow kid. As young as their owner was, they were the eyes of a father.
Ganondorf pushed him off and grunted a laugh. "Rest assured, Hero, I will find your family. Perhaps they will make fine slaves for me. Perhaps I will simply destroy them, but I will find them."
Link let out the fiercest battle-cry the wizard had ever heard – even from his predecessors. He rushed Ganondorf just as Ganondorf thrust out the Sages' Sword. The Evil King felt the pressure of flesh on the long blade as it sank past the fabric of Link's tunic and the chain mail underneath.
He also felt the pressure of the Hero's sword press past his armor into his flesh. The tip cleaved past muscle. Ganondorf could feel deep organ-pain, but was unsure what had been hit.
Link gaped in pain for a moment. Ganondorf kept his expression like stone. Upon brief examination, he surmised that as the tip of his sword was in Link's middle, slightly to the young man's left, Link's sword was in his middle, slightly to his right.
He grinned. "Those that live by the sword die by the sword, boy."
Link grimaced and forced his lips into a smile. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Ganondorf's energy barrier fell and so did the Hero. The sword slid uncomfortably out of Ganondorf's gut, but he remained standing. The villagers of Kakariko rushed to Link and lifted him up.
"I think I'll let you die slowly," the warlock said. "I'll spare this pathetic little village… for now. I want the people to watch their Hero die in pain – and I want them to spread the news of your demise."
The moblins and goriya grunted confusion and Ganondorf held up his hand in a gesture that told them to stand down and leave the village. He walked, showing no pain and letting his cape flare out behind him.
He wandered up a trail outside of town. He heard the whoop and noise of the villagers mounting Link upon a horse and riding away with him – presumably to get him to somewhere safe to heal. Apparently, they did not trust his promise to spare the village. If he were in their position, he wouldn't have trusted him, either. The pain he'd been stuffing down for the sake of appearing intimidating hit him like a hammer. He fell to his knees.
One of his Gerudo warriors came up beside him and proffered him a bottle of blue potion. "You must get somewhere to rest, my lord. Your wound is very deep and serious."
"To think an insufficient blade could wound me so," Ganondorf spat. "I must destroy the Sages quickly. At least, he must take time to heal as well."
"My lord?" his servant said, "The Hero's body is not as strong as yours. I think that he shall die."
"No, he won't. He's always been obnoxiously tenacious…." He looked up to his tribeswoman. "I just let him go… Can you tell me why I play games like this? I should have just had my monsters raze the village as I stood and bled."
"Mayhap it is programming, my lord?"
"The Game of the Goddesses. They play with you. Your actions were… sporting. Maybe you like the thrill of chance, yourself?"
Chapter 6: Darkness, Not Evil
The home of the Sage of Shadow was not easy to find. It was not in Kakariko, where an ancient Shadow Temple lay – that was now sealed up to keep its malevolent spirits within. Ganondorf would have freed them to cause havoc, but didn't want to take the time. After he defeated the Sages and gained the whole Triforce, he would have all the time in the world.
The Triforce of Courage had not flown back to its place in Hyrule Castle, nor had it gravitated toward the fragment of Power. This meant that the Hero was probably still alive. It had been over a month since their encounter. Such an unstable thing, the Triforce was. Ganondorf had it in his thoughts since it had split that he would have to gain Wisdom first, or to bring Wisdom and Courage together to gain them.
The Temple of Sunset lay past an old warriors' graveyard on the very edge of Hyrule, on a cliff by the sea. That is, it lay there part of the time. The temple existed in two parallel worlds. When it was in Hyrule, it remained tangible for only a short period of time – for an hour at sunset. As soon as the sun dipped completely below the horizon, it vanished. If one happened to be inside it at the time, one would have to wait an entire day to exit. It did not exist in Hyrule at dawn – only at sunset.
It was the hour of sunset that Ganondorf approached the gray temple as it shivered in waves caused by the split realities. Cold ghost-fingers clawed at him. The spirits of dead soldiers that had not moved on populated the cemetery in front of the structure. They growled and cursed at the warlock. Ah, yes – many of these men and women were people he had slain himself or set his minions to in previous eras. Many generations of Hyrule's honored dead lay here – members of Hyrule's military and the royal guards of ages past. This place had been forgotten by most. The ghosts, like the temple they guarded, appeared to interact with the living only now, in the sunset-hour. They moaned over their regrets.
The ghost of some man calling himself "Rusl" took a fierce stab at him. Ganondorf laughed at the unfortunate spirit as a translucent sword swept through him like wind.
Ganondorf left his horse at the temple entrance, knowing that Damnation feared no spirit. He entered just as the sun dipped down and the temple was taken into its own realm. He met and slew the creatures that lived within the halls. Everything was becoming simpler now that he'd regained some of his old capabilities and had gained strength from the slaying of Sages.
The sorcerer noticed something about the wildlife and protectors of the Temple of Sunset; the creatures resembled beings subject to corruption by the forces of twilight clouds – or the wildlife of the Twilight Realm.
The Temple of Sunset – the other dimension it existed in was the Twilight Realm.
Ganondorf had not changed. Perhaps, he thought, it was because his magic was affiliated with darkness. He knew that the darkness of shadows and of twilight were not the same as his own deeper darkness, however. What'd he'd cultivated within himself was based in hatred and was beyond even void-magic. It was interesting, he thought, how the people of Hyrule and of the other nations in the Light World used "darkness" as a description for evil, and also for other disfavored things such as ignorance. What he recalled of the Twilight Realm, when long ago he'd fed upon the anger and pain of its inhabitants – was that they'd used terms related to "light" in similar ways… "light," or "brightness." Their senses of good and evil, justice and injustice were the same as those held by people in the Light World, but their metaphors for it were a matter of perception.
Of course, good and evil themselves could be seen that way, Ganondorf mused. To the creatures he'd created and to those wild beasts and beings that followed him for their own interests - and especially to the lynels and his Gerudo followers, who'd been displaced and persecuted by the main races of Hyrule… he was a hero. Ganondorf was the hero and the Hero was the villain. Even if it wasn't actually true, it was an interesting thought.
The guardian of this temple's treasure surprised Ganondorf. It was a shadow, but it was not any shadow. It was his own, yet it did not take on the form of any of the old "phantom" spells he had ever cast. It took upon the form of a beast – his boar form. He, of course, fought it s a boar – substance to counter shadow.
He was rewarded with a small stone box that appeared atop an altar. It resembled a sarcophagus and was sized right to be the coffin for a very young child. Ganondorf opened it, half-expecting to find the dried bones of an unfortunate infant. Instead, he was blinded.
He blinked several times to adjust his eyes. Floating above its storage box was a single, large, glowing white feather, struck through with golden patterns. Letters appeared upon the altar below it, glowing with a light that was more subdued.
The Feather of Eldin.
This feather was given to the keeping of the Temple of Sunset by the Light Spirit, Eldin.
It serves in treaty as an offering of peace between the worlds of Light and Twilight.
"A symbol of peace, hmm?" Ganondorf asked. "I am sure it can be used for war."
He reached out to grab it but recoiled. The feather's light felt like thousands of needles impaled through his hand.
"It is light and I am true darkness," he muttered to himself. "It reminds me of the sensation of a light arrow."
He thought for several moments. The dark man grinned as he began charging magical energy into his right hand and imbued it with fire. The "gift" of the Forest Temple continued to serve him well. Fire was partially light, after all. With his hand enrobed, he could grasp the feather. He whipped it about like a sword and watched the shadows flee and dance to his command. Few, indeed, were the things he could not corrupt. He shrouded the sacred feather in half-flame, half-dark magic and stored it.
Whoever said that light was always good?
He met the Sage of Shadow in a circular chamber on the temple's first floor in the structure's center. She greeted him with a sinister smile and carried herself in a stately manner. She was quite beautiful, tall and slender, and dressed in loose garments with lined patterns. She had the very human look of one of the high status members of her race.
"A Twili…" Ganondorf sneered.
"A Gerudo," she replied in a sardonic manner. "Ganondorf, I presume. I've been expecting you. My name is Umbra – Sage of Shadow."
"You look very much like a princess I once knew," the King of Evil said. "The hair is different – her's was like flames while yours has a dull gold quality. Very nice. If I did not have to kill you, I might have made you one of my consorts."
"Save it. You are here to kill me. I don't find murder attractive."
"It is strange that a Twili would be chosen to be the Sage of Shadow to Hyrule."
"Why not?" Umbra replied, stepping bravely toward the large Gerudo. "I am very gifted in what I do and serve as a living symbol of peace. The light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehends it not."
"You are not light, my lady," Ganondorf laughed as he unsheathed his sword.
Umbra charged a ball of shadowy energy in her left hand that sparked with a purple aura. "The darkness I command is as light against the darkness you represent. Mine is the cool of the night, the shade of a tree on a summer day – the glory of sunset. Mine is the gray that balances between two extremes. Yours is ignorance. Yours is cruelty and subjugation. Yours is fear."
Ganondorf swept for her slender waist. Umbra dodged and hit him with shadow-magic. He snorted as it slammed into his shoulder. She floated upon an undulating platform of shadow and dodged. She was more frustrating than that little Kokiri Sage! He took another hit, this time in his left thigh. He bled from the wound, sticky and slow. Why was her magic harming him in this way? He should not have been this affected by darkness.
His darkness was not her darkness. She was the "gray." He was "beyond the void," the "hate-black." He managed to land a shallow wound in her and managed to cut apart her platform with the Sages Sword. Then, she vanished.
Ganondorf sheathed his blade and laughed. Had he vanquished the pretty little Twili already? Was it this easy?
The room was very dark. A few torches lined the rim of the circular chamber. The flames were a very pale blue, almost white – like ghost-light. They cast long shadows, deep and dark.
Suddenly, Ganondorf was grabbed from behind. A translucent black tendril, like the tentacle of some abnormal octopus grabbed his throat. It wound around him quickly, forming a tight noose. The King of Evil felt his windpipe being pressed. He clawed at the offending shadow as his feet were grabbed and immobilized by the shadows on the floor where he stood.
His eyes began to roll back into his head. He felt a sensation he had not felt since the last time his flesh had tasted the Master Sword. He summoned the storage space he'd placed a particular item in. He enrobed his hand with flame-magic and drew out the Feather of Eldin.
The shadows around his neck and feet retreated and he heard Umbra shriek as if stabbed with a blade coated in salt. It was a scream so piercing it was almost metallic. The shadows reached for him again and again. He stabbed at them with the Light Spirit's feather, using it in lieu of his sword. To his surprise, the wavering feather stiffened and became as hard as the steel of a double-edged blade.
Did his will command this, despite it being an artifact of holy light? Ganondorf laughed.
The shadows shrank from him in defense. They tried to sneak up behind him to take his throat again. They did once, and he sliced himself free. He chopped up the shadows like grass.
In a flurry of shadow and twilight particles, Umbra's body returned to its normal shape upon the center of the floor. She bled copiously from many cuts. Ganondorf could tell that key muscles in her arms and her legs had been severed, rendering her unable to move. She whimpered and gritted down her pain. She looked up at him with defiant eyes.
"Do you know the trait I have always found the most attractive in women of the Twili? Ganondorf asked, lifting her broken form up, "You have such lovely necks, long and slender."
Holding her up in one hand by the throat, he began to strangle her. It would have been easy enough just to snap her spine, but with the sensation of tendrils around his neck fresh in his mind, he decided to take things slowly.
"Like a fish," he mused, watching her lips gape as he savored the little grunts and gags she made as she tried unsuccessfully to take in breath and to fight against his offending fingers. He watched her eyes roll back as she succumbed to unconsciousness and felt her airway collapse under his grip. He shook her just to make sure she was dead. As with the other Sages, he left her corpse upon the floor. Normally, this was to provide food for the replacement, but, this time Ganondorf decided to have some particular fun. The creature he decided was best to guard this newly-corrupted place didn't have a need for food.
He generated his will and called the shadows of the room into his right hand. He corrupted them thoroughly. He concentrated his memory upon Kakariko and upon the Triforce of Power – which held its own memory of its sister-fragments.
"Courage in shadow," Ganondorf intoned. "Reflect!"
He smiled as he made his way out of the chamber. The Hero was overdue to meet his dark side again.
The Temple of Spirit provided Ganondorf the most shocking surprise of all. Of all the things he'd seen in Hyrule and other lands, nothing prepared him for what he encountered.
The temple itself wasn't in its former location. The temple of the Ancient Gerudo was now, in fact, the Temple of Sands, which corresponded to the Sage of Earth. It wasn't truly fit to be the Spirit Temple any longer since it had been converted many times and had, for a while, spent some time as a prison complex. He would deal with that temple and that Sage in time. The new temple corresponding to the Spirit element lay in a lonely and largely barren canyon, the ledges and rock formations of which were covered in a light dusting of snow when Ganondorf arrived.
He passed a statue of one of the old Heroes when he'd ridden into the canyon. He could not tell which one it was, but it looked to him vaguely like the Hero of Twilight, or perhaps the Hero of the Essences of Time and Nature (who had not saved Hyrule outright, but had rescued her neighbors). The gray statue was cracked. Half the stone sword it carried had been broken off.
The Canyon Temple – for that was its proper name – provided a fairly standard "crawl." Ganondorf had to laugh at himself when he thought about that. He remembered one of the Heroes speaking of "crawling through the dungeons" to him. Was that the Hero of Time? The King of Evil's current endeavor was eerily similar to what the Hero of Time had gone through – except, of course, for the fact that he was out to murder the Sages to break their power and gain it for himself. He had not needed to go through such trouble in the Hero of Time's era. The brat had been in a sealed sleep for seven years. Ganondorf had been in power then. All he had need of doing was to send his monsters and minions out into the world to secure his order.
As it was now, he was in a race to beat the Hero to the temples to take the Sages' powers before he could arrive to protect them. Ganondorf recalled the encounter in Kakariko. Hadn't Kasuto said something about Link freeing the spirit of the slain Forest Sage and her using what power she could to aid him? They had not the same power as spirits as they did when they were living, though Ganondorf held a suspicion that this was a zero-sum game.
When Ganondorf found the final chamber of the Canyon Temple he was met with his surprise.
"What are you doing here, Madame General?" he asked the moblin he'd found there. He addressed the creature by title. This was one of his special ones. It was a female by her drooping, withered breasts. The skin on the monster was golden-colored and her mane was red. She wore red leather armor about her waist and shoulders, but was bare-chested as most moblins were – male or female. She was one of his more doggish moblins. Sometimes, he created them to have more swine-like features – this one was more canine.
A female moblin was a rare creature. Ganondorf had made them once because chromosomal issues had made them easier to conjure than the males – that is, before he'd perfected his techniques. Female moblins were a little more intelligent than the males. Ganondorf took great care now to make sure the minor minions he generated through magical means were nice and stupid, but there was a time when he'd had a need for generals to lead his armies and for spies. He relied on his loyal Gerudo now for intelligence operations, but once upon a time…
"Call me Madra," the moblin replied, "and I am no longer a General in any fashion – for you or for anyone."
"Ah, yes, Madra," Ganondorf replied, "You became one of the first breeders, if my memory serves me. You ate your first cub."
"And he gave me indigestion. I have had many offspring since then that lived to fight."
"What are you doing here, in the Sage's Chamber of a temple? Have you preceded me and eaten the Sage of Spirit whom I've sought?"
"I am the Sage."
"Come again, my little dog?"
"You are no longer my master and have not been for a long time. This canyon rests upon the border of old Labrynna. It was there that I met a Hero who fought me with honor and chose to spare my life for reasons I am still unsure of. It was then that I knew that I needed no master, least of all you. You are the King of Evil, able to bend almost anything to your will and to corrupt even the holiest of places and creatures – except for the strongest hearts. Did it not enter into your mind that there might exist beings of holiness that might turn dark powers and things conceived in wickedness to sacred service?"
"The Hero has always had an annoying knack for breaking evil things and wielding them to his own ends, yes. I just had no idea that he was capable of giving a moblin intelligence. You are much more articulate since we last met."
At this, Madra grunted, barked and snorted, making the speech typical to a moblin. She then smiled over her jowls. "I think the intelligence was your fault. It's only advanced in my advanced age. I was once one of your generals, after all."
"Granting my minions brains is a mistake I've taken care not to repeat."
"Too many traitors, dear Ganny? Yes. Once our minds become free, we have that tendency. Perhaps it comes with the gaining of souls. Then there are those souled beings that give themselves willingly to you and submit to your cruelty. It is a shame."
"How is it that you are Sage? You are but a beast."
"And you have no business in dictating what the Goddesses can choose to use for their own glory," Madra snorted, twirling her long spear in one hand. "I am, as they say, a representation of redemption. Even as you corrupt, the Goddesses can redeem. It is one of the purest qualities of spirit, is it not?"
Madra made a dramatic gesture with her arm. Figures appeared like mist within the chamber, dozens of them. They were ghosts – each and every one of them a moblin. Ganondorf found himself surrounded by the balefully glaring spirits of moblins. The chamber went cold and Ganondorf knew that these were no ordinary specters. He could feel their strong energy. These were entities that were angry and malevolent enough to have an effect upon the living.
He'd employed many such ghosts himself – this time, they were employed against him.
"These are my people!" Madra boomed, "These are my people from the various tribes, created by you as cannon-fodder, created only to die!"
Ganondorf blinked as he brought out the Sages' Sword. He wondered if he should wield the Feather of Eldin. The strangest thing about the Canyon Temple was that he had not encountered a guardian or a temple-treasure. He had searched every room and was left wanting. He remembered fits of rage in which he'd killed minions that had given him bad news or who were just too near to him at the time. These moblin spirits far outnumbered any he'd killed in such outbursts. They also far outnumbered traitors he had found and executed in past eras. Some of them, in reflecting their deaths as forlorn spirits often did, had spectral arrows in them or distinctive sword-wounds.
As they swept spears for him, he felt strength gleaned from him – as if they were wounding his inner soul rather than his body. He brought out the Feather of Eldin, but it had no effect upon the specters. Light usually banished ghosts. The light of the feather only seemed to make them stronger.
"Aren't you attacking the wrong person?" Ganondorf growled. "Many of you are the Hero's kills! Shouldn't you be waiting for his latest incarnation to get here?"
"We still blame you!" Madra said, speaking for her specters. "We were created by you and the ancient evil you carry only to die by the hand of the Hero, who killed us only because he had to. You cared not for us. You are a cruel god."
"At least you are able to acknowledge what I rightfully am!" Ganondorf laughed. He found, to his surprise, that the Sages' Sword succeeded where the Feather of Eldin failed. He was able to wound some of the moblin ghosts, at least temporarily. They regenerated quickly.
He drank a potion he'd stored in one of his shadow-spaces. As ghost-light glinted off the bottle, he was struck with an idea. Poes. Poes were malevolent spirits, created through the sheer hatred that existed in the land at any given time. They also, sometimes, were the twisted spirits of hopelessly angry people, too enraged and full of hate to go the natural way of spirits. There were times when Ganondorf had hoped to create a Poe out of the Hero – but it was impossible due to the reincarnation cycle set upon him and the Princess of Destiny by the Goddesses. If he'd ever usurped the Goddesses, as he had long planned to do in time, Ganondorf would be sure to break that chain. Ganondorf remembered that Poes were sometimes sold bottled as a curiosity and a snake-oil cure-all by some unscrupulous businessmen. They had a peculiar weakness to thick glass and corkwood.
The wizard grinned as he caught a moblin-spirit in his empty potion bottle. He set it aside. Opening up the magical storage pocket where he'd carelessly stored spent bottles, he found to his delight that he'd been quite the slob. A multitude of empty bottles were there for his use.
A slash with the Sages' Sword, a quick bottling. The King of Evil felt ridiculous, like he was capturing fireflies. He decided that he, too, must suffer a little indignity once a in a while to get the job done. He captured two, three, four, five spirits at a time in the same bottle. He created for himself a tidy little collection, which he left upon the floor of the chamber.
At the last, he came to Madra. She fought bravely – with surprising valor for a moblin. However, he broke her spear and ran her rotund body through. As her spirit rose from it, Ganondorf used his last bottle to capture her soul. He leered at her from beyond the glass as he calmly took her strength and set her down upon the floor.
"Heroes have a peculiar quirk," he sneered, "it seems that they love to break fragile things. I like to think that one of my loyal pets has made a fine meal of him by now, but if he does make it this far, you are in luck if his compulsion is as strong in this life as it has been in past eras."
"If not," he laughed as he exited the chamber, "enjoy your eternal prison!"
Chapter 7: Double-Helix
The last of the Sages' strongholds were the domains of the Wind and of the Earth. The Eyrie had been difficult to get to – high upon a frigid mountain – but the temple had not been difficult to conquer. The Sage of Wind was the member of a new, emerging race and claimed to be related to the late Zora Sage of Water, Rutan. Her name was Zephira and she was a bird.
Zephira looked like she was part hawk, part human – she said that she was a "Rito," a race that the Life-Goddess, Farore, had recently divided from the Zoras. Ganondorf fought her on a precarious cliffside where the mountain stones were tall and arranged like the pipes on an organ. They had naturally-worn holes within them that caught the cold, whipping wind to play haunting music like a multitude of stone flutes. Zephira had climaxed the battle by becoming an enormous golden phoenix-like creature. Her wings whipped wind through the natural stone pipes to form songs that summoned the brewing of storm clouds, rain and lighting.
Ganondorf countered her by flaying through the winds she generated with a most interesting old treasure, found within the core of the Eyrie. It was a sword – one more powerful than even the Sages' Sword he carried, though it drained his magical energies to use it. It was said that it had come from another world and once belonged to a god. The blade was huge and was in the shape of a double-helix.
Ganondorf remembered some experimental spells he'd used on a few unfortunate Hylians he'd captured and punished for working against him. Most traitors he'd had brought before him were sent away after one of his Gerudo servant-women had cut off the top portions of their ears. Hylians took great pride in their tall ears. Supposedly, some heard the voices of the Goddesses and the music of nature with them. Even those that claimed to hear nothing mystical took their long ears as an important part of their heritage. To have them docked was the ultimate disgrace, as well as very painful.
A few Hylian men who had been caught in a Castle Town basement trying to form a resistance group had been taken to a private area of the castle the last time Ganondorf had checked in to make sure the servants he'd left in charge were still serving him. Since Hylians had magic in their blood, Ganondorf decided to see just how deep that magic ran. He experimented with stripping down these men to the very fabric of their beings and ripping the magic from their very cells. After the experiments, there wasn't enough left of those would-be revolutionaries to fill a thimble. The sorcerer learned that the stuff of Farore – that the base element of physical life – formed a pattern much like that of the ancient god's sword.
Ganondorf was exhausted when Zephira fell. The sword had taken a portion of his life. He stored it away, planning only to use it when he was at the top of his strength and felt it necessary. He thought that he might like to meet the god who'd carried it in battle in another time. The fight would be spectacular.
The last Sage to be killed was the Sage of Earth.
The King of Evil felt strong as he entered the Temple of Sands. The strength of six murdered Sages flowed through him. Every last one of his ancient skills had been regained and he had gained some interesting weapons. The Feather of Eldin perhaps fascinated him the most because it was light that he could use to his own dark purposes. To corrupt that which was once holy was the most delicious thing of all.
The place felt nostalgic. When it had been a prison, there was an attempt made to execute him here. Even though the Mirror had been shattered, new rifts had been opening to that other realm – including the Temple of Sunset he'd already corrupted. He'd corrupt that realm again in time, but his focus now was Hyrule – the cardinal kingdom.
When he was young, this place had been the Spirit Temple. His mothers had brought him into the sacred rooms to perform rituals to honor Din and the Goddess of the Sands and to learn secret magic.
So much had changed, yet the very air within the temple walls smelled and felt familiar. It was like a warm blanket with the aroma of dust. Ganondorf sensed something strange here, something powerful. It was no less than the power belonging to the Goddesses. The second he felt the Triforce of Power resonate within him, he knew the secret kept within the Temple of Sands.
Princess Zelda was here.
He pressed on through the dangers of the temple all the quicker. It mostly involved dodging traps (for the temple was heavily fortified) but there were some sacred creatures to kill and corrupt.
The inner sanctum of the temple was where Ganondorf remembered performing blood rites under the instruction of Koume and Kotake when he was small – ceremonies meant to make him strong. Sometimes, these rites involved his mothers performing animal sacrifices. Sometimes, they involved them slicing his skin so that he could learn tolerance for pain. He was told that his natural mother had died in this room giving birth to him because he was too powerful – even then – for her to handle.
The air in the chamber carried a faint odor of stale blood.
Ganondorf leered when he met the Sage. She was a tall and wore a cloak, but Ganondorf could see her distinctive Gerudo face. "I am the last of the Sages," she said, "excepting the Sage of Time and the Sage of Death. One has not yet awakened to her power and the other is… inhibited at present."
"You are the last barrier to my conquest, save the two other Divine Chosens," Ganondorf replied. "You cannot hope to stand against me. If you surrender, I shall make your death quick, or, perhaps you would like to join with me – being of my people."
"A cruel mercy indeed!" the Sage of Earth spat, "I am Dinah and as a servant of Din, I know that she does not approve of you holding her Power."
Ganondorf laughed. "But I do hold it. I sense that you are also holding something, something very precious… small and tender, perhaps. I sense the shard of Nayru here."
Dinah's face went pale for a moment. She then set her eyes like steel. "The child came to me in need of my help. I shall protect her with my life!"
"Is that so?" Ganondorf sneered. "I do love a good story…"
"She came to me, confused and weary on a ragged horse that died soon after her arrival, overcome by the hard trip over the plains and through the desert."
"Couldn't even take care of her own horse," Ganondorf muttered… "And she is to rule the people of Hyrule?"
"You know as well as I do how fragile horses can be – or you couldn't call yourself a true Gerudo horse-thief! A young child can't take care of one alone, particularly when her primary concern is saving her own life. I have become… something of a mother to her."
"Why?" Ganondorf roared. "Why are you loyal to the royalty of the Hylians? Why side with their people instead of your own? Do you not remember what their kind has done to our kind? They deserve to be crushed under my boots! All peoples attempting to impede my rise shall be, but they… the Hylians…they truly deserve to spill their blood!"
"All nations make mistakes," Dinah replied, "but your rule, throughout history, has always been worse than their rule ever was – for our people as well as all the other races. You're too drunk on your own sense of superiority and too in love with conquest! You'd make the world a ruin solely for your own amusement!"
"Our tribes have been hounded to the edges of existence! Scavenging on the scraps! Do you remember not your history lessons, dear Dinah? Of how just before the Era of Twilight, our people faced systematic extermination? We almost did not survive… they fear our power."
"They fear you! And the little child is not at fault for what her ancestors did!"
"Do you really think that a Hylian would be a better ruler for you than I?"
"Yes, I do. And she is a child. I must protect her because I failed to protect another."
"Do you remember the Battle of Tantari?"
"Yes," Ganondorf said ruefully. "I merely did what had to have been done. How would you know what transpired there? I took no prisoners."
"Do you know why the tribeswomen were so loath to swear fealty to you?"
"They were fools and kept a foolish allegiance to Hyrule."
"There was a male among their tribe. Do not claim that you did not know!"
A memory flashed into Ganondorf's mind. He was cutting down women of the Tantari tribe in fierce battle. Blood flew off his blade, shining in the desert sun. All he'd remembered from that day was fighting out in the open and having memories of his childhood stab his mind. Everything else was a blur.
"Perhaps your rage blinded you and you've blocked it from your mind."
Tantari…in the fortress…There was a woman huddled up against one of walls of a mudbrick building. She held a scimitar, but was acting like a coward. She held something in her other arm, pressing it against the building, shielding it with her body. Ganondorf's shadow fell over her as he approached. The woman shivered and held her sword out feebly. It was obvious that she wanted to fight, but was afraid to drop or harm whatever she carried.
It would have been simple to cut her down, but he wanted to see what she was carrying first. It was a child – a child no more than two years old and, lacking a diaper, it showed male features. The blanket he was partially wrapped in fell away from him. The child had the traits of a full blood Geurdo.
He cut the woman down. The boy fell to the ground and looked up him with curiosity and fear. The child did not cry. It was very creepy for a toddler to be dropped like that without a wail or a tear.
"Clever…" Ganondorf muttered, "hiding a little rival. I am sorry, little one, but I am not a man who shares power."
The strike of the Sages' Sword was swift and decisive.
"Do you remember now?"
"The Tantari Tribe held a rival to me. Existence is pain – the whelp was better off not knowing much of it."
"You are a murderer of children."
"How do you know this? I'll remind you that I took no prisoners."
Dinah took off her outer cloak to reveal her scant Gerudo clothing. Her bare stomach bore a long scar. "Don't tell me that you don't remember my face."
"You left me for dead. I managed to crawl away before your troops began the burials."
"You'll have your chance to be buried."
"As will you."
Dinah stretched her arms out. The floor of the chamber was covered in sand. She moved her hands and the sand gathered and followed their movements. Twin columns of sand spun around her. The formed into one large column that grew a head like a snake's. The sand-serpent dove for Ganondorf.
There had been no treasure in this temple, no prize to claim – for its treasure was Princess Zelda. As Ganondorf countered the bending sands with his own basic powers – with some electricity-magic thrown in for good measure, he saw a young face peer out into the chamber from a secondary room formed by an elevated wall – one of the small altar rooms. It was a little girl with red-gold hair and she cried out to Dinah to be careful.
Ganondorf decided to take out that strange double-helix sword he'd earned in the last temple. The magic it sent out, though draining to him, was effective for cutting through the swirling sands.
It was also effective for cutting Dinah down. Energy off its tip slammed and slashed her right where her scar was – only this time, she was cut cleanly in half.
"Aunt Dinah!" little Zelda screamed.
Ganondorf stepped up to the top half of the Sage and lifted her head with the toe of his right boot. Her eyes were going glassy. She mouthed something and he could barely make it out.
"At least I'll see my boy again…" she said. "Enjoy your ruined world, greedy pig."
Strangely enough, she died smiling, her eyes open, but hard and disdainful.
"Dinah…. Dinah!" Zelda sobbed. She looked up at Ganondorf defiantly as he approached her.
He slammed a bolt of dark magic right into her, causing her to yelp in pain and crumple onto the sandy stone tiles. "Trying to work up a light spell against me, eh, little princess?"
She continued glaring at him, unable to move.
"I don't think I've ever faced you quite this young in any of your previous lives. This must be a joke of the Goddesses to pit you against me at such a tender age, don't you think?"
"I may be small," Zelda replied, "but I will still give everything to deny you!"
Ganondorf stroked her cheek, making her skin crawl. "Do you remember your other lives, princess? I continue… I will always continue until I get what I want. You die time and time again. A pitiful game the Goddesses play, is it not?"
"We've always won!"
"You and the Hero, right? Such a strange form he's taken this time, so much older than you are and already a young family-man if the tales I've been told are true. You aren't quite the love-interest this time around, are you? Perhaps it will impair his fighting spirit. Lust can be a powerful motivator for the actions of men."
"It matters not. He will still fight for me. He always does the right thing just because it is right!"
"Such precocious manners!" Ganondorf picked the still-paralyzed child up and laid her out straight before performing a spell to create a crystal around her. "Think of this as being like a coffin," he said with a cold an wicked grin.
"Why don't you just kill me now?" little Zelda spat, "Assuming it isn't against your conscience to kill a helpless child! That's right, according to Dinah, you have no such hesitation!"
Ganondorf was having a hard time accepting such eloquent vocabulary from the mouth of a child, let alone such defiance. He noted the glow of the Triforce of Wisdom on the girl's hand. He also noted, in his memory, that past Zeldas had always been obnoxiously precocious. They tended to speak like old politicians or old priests, even as teenagers and children. Zelda's incarnation from the Hero of Time's era had been especially insufferable, according to his memory, but he decided quickly that this latest incarnation was worse than even that one. He wanted to dispose of this brat as soon as possible.
"Dinah shall get a proper grave," Ganondorf said, "for she is of my people. When the time comes, you shall not."
"When the time comes…" Zelda echoed mockingly. "You're a bit powerless for someone with the Triforce of Power! You have to reunite the Triforce in flesh and blood to even hope to take it! I remember what the outcome of that has always been…"
"Not this time."
"You said that the last time."
"The Hero shall kill you!"
"We will see. In the meantime, we are going back home, back to your castle, Princess."
Chapter 8: Broke the Chain
There was one last thing to gain before the King of Evil came into full power. The whole Triforce would be his as soon as he slew the Hero and the princess after him. The little princess was being kept fresh and alive within the catacombs of Hyrule Castle. Ganondorf liked the high towers of palaces most of the time, but felt drawn to the basement as a location for fated battle for some reason.
Zelda was in the shadows, her wrists bound by long chains. Ganondorf walked past a mirror. In the dim magical torchlight he caught a glimpse of his reflection. The mirror's glass held the image of a grotesque, anthropomorphized boar – part man, part feral beast. It was not unlike his transformation, but there were some differences. This was the form he'd taken in the Dark World when he'd ruled it – an era ago. The warlock touched his face to find humanoid features – his native Gerudo attributes.
"Greed will turn you into a mere beast," Zelda said from her corner.
"And what if it does, little one?" Ganondorf asked, "Perhaps this land needs a beast. Better to be one than to be weak."
"Strength that is only self-serving is no strength at all."
"Silence! I could kill you at any moment, you know."
"Then why don't you? It's because you can't, isn't it? I have something you want."
Ganondorf strode over to the princess and held her by the chin. "If only you were not so young, I'd make you know something worse for you than death – but I have no…how should I put this? I've no carnal taste for children." The wizard laughed, seeing the fear in little Zelda's eyes. "You remember past lifetimes, don't you? The Triforce of Wisdom gives you the ability to know of adult things. I'll only kill you, and only when the time is right."
"Is this why you are waiting for the Hero?" Zelda asked, "Everything you've set upon the land has already tried to kill him."
"I'd hoped his piece of the Triforce would gravitate toward mine, but it really is safer to have all of the fragments gathered near each other in the flesh. This way is… convenient. He would have to be a true Hero to survive this far."
"This is how it is always been!" Zelda shot back. "And you know the outcome. Such arrogance! Every time you rise, it ends the same – an unbroken chain of failure for you!"
"I have a feeling that the chain will be broken this time, little girl. The Goddesses must truly be bored of your victory. After all, look at you – so young this time."
The howling of monsters echoed above the chamber. Ganondorf felt a stirring within himself. Zelda's right hand glowed brightly.
The princess closed her eyes and smiled. "He's here," she said.
Ganondorf listened closely to the sounds within the main palace above. He held his right hand out and sensed. The Hero moved – past the soldiers' barracks where the Stalfos Knights were stationed…. Past the taxation and governmental works offices… through the kitchens… into the throne room…
"Night has fallen," the warlock said solemnly. He performed a spell, surrounding himself with mist. In the throne room, he appeared as a ghost before his dying minion. In the chamber, where he was physically located, Night the Lynel appeared as a ghostly image, laid out upon the floor, his shining armor covered in dribbling rivulets of blood.
Zelda stared at this image. The centaur-like creature stirred weakly, pawing his fore-hooves out. The lion's face looked up at Ganondorf with glassy eyes. Ganondorf crouched down. "He stabbed through your horse's heart," he said, "and it looks like he got you through a lung in the human part of you. Truly marks of skill against your swiftness and strength."
Night groaned. "Master…" he said in a painful rasp, "Did I serve you well? Was I of use to you?"
Ganondorf petted Night's mane. "You were useful," he said.
Night went still and the ghost-image vanished from the chamber. Zelda noticed that her eyes were wet. Ganondorf stood up and grinned. "Are you crying, princess? Weeping for a monster – how interesting from you."
It was not much later that the door to the basement chamber slid open. Ganondorf unsheathed the ancient Sages' Sword. To the man's surprise, Zelda began speaking names:
"Liliana. Lingoro. Rutan. Umbra. Madra. Zephira. Dinah – Aunt Dinah! And Kasuto, you, too."
Apparitions made themselves known in the light of the chamber for a few brief seconds. The spirits of the slain Sages vanished into smoke that curled around the form of a young man that stepped down the stairs. He held forth his sword, a blade Ganondorf knew well. Although he did not show it, the King of Evil feared that blade – the Master Sword. A small black cat moved in the shadows and stayed there.
"Despite your efforts at destruction, the Sages are with him." Zelda stated.
"They were only at their full strength when alive!" Ganondorf snarled. "They are dead, so their strength is small. Could it be? Has this all been a zero-sum game?" Then he laughed, shaking his free fist, "The Goddesses are clever. Just you wait, ladies! Your time shall be over soon! I shall cast you down!"
Then, he turned to the young man, whom he knew in this lifetime and others as Link. "What do you plan to do once you save her, Hero?" he mocked, "She is too young to run a country and she has no family left. Pity Hyrule to be ruled by a mere brat!"
"She is a wise child," Link answered, "And the time for her will come. Until then…I think that I should like having an adopted daughter."
Link stepped into the light. His face and his form familiar from the fight in Kakariko.
Ganondorf erupted in rage. "How dare you? You think this is a joke? How dare you come before me like this? You carry a sword of strength, but you… THIS is an INSULT!"
Link looked tired, and not just from the expected fatigue of fighting monsters and minions in the castle rooms above. The young man was gaunt and pale. He looked like he hadn't slept in days, nor did he look like he'd eaten well lately. His skin was pale and sallow.
"I came as soon as I could," he said, "I cannot rest until I put down your evil."
"I was expecting you to meet me in full-form," Ganondorf replied. "I was not expecting you to come to me ailing. How foolish. There is no glory in a mercy-kill. I will not forgive this insult!"
"I'm well enough to defeat you!" Link spat. "I cut through your beasts and wounded your Gerudo warriors! I just bested the King of the Lynels!"
"Yes," Ganondorf said as he took a swing at the Hero. "You must still have some good fight in you to take down my second in command. Perhaps this will be fun, after all!"
Link dodged and got behind Ganondorf. The wizard felt steel bite into the skin of his back, right past a weak point in his armor. He growled and spun around. He snarled as he was hit full in the face with a blinding light. It sheered into his forehead, but the magic flowing through him was able to dissipate it.
Link fired another Light Arrow at him. Ganondorf dodged it, thrusting forth his sword. Link put away his bow and followed suit, whipping out the Master Sword to clash against the ancient Sword of the Sages.
Ganondorf took note of Link's face. Sweat poured down the pale skin. The Hero was clearly exhausted. The boy had spirit, but he was far too hasty.
Ganondorf pulled back, and then swiftly thrust his blade. With a sickening crack, the tip of the Sages' Sword struck home in Link's chest. Link dropped the Master Sword and stared upward. Ganondorf kicked him off the blade and watched the body fall to the floor. Zelda screamed in horror and anguish.
"Hmm," Ganondorf said as he shook the blood off his weapon and sheathed it. Link lay still and blood flowed out from beneath him. Ganondorf began laughing.
"Did you die?" He laughed. "Are you really dead, Hero?"
Link's answer was a glass-eyed stare. Zelda rattled her chains and sobbed. Ganondorf crouched down before the fallen Hero, noting the look of utter shock on the young man's frozen features. The Master Sword on the floor beside him disappeared.
The warlock willed the fingernails of his right hand to grow into small, sharp points. He heard little Zelda yelp as he explored the long sword-wound in Link's chest. Ganondorf parted the sliced flesh and the split bone, seeking. Lungs – those felt interesting. His fingers felt past them and he used his sharpened nails to slice the arteries, veins and other connections. He stood up, holding the Hero's wounded heart in his palm. He turned around and showed it to the princess, who cringed back. The King of Evil then brought the organ to his teeth and ate it leisurely, letting it impart him strength.
The Hero's blood had a unique taste – a quality much different than that of the blood of any other person or creature he'd ingested. It had a rich flavor that conveyed fields and forests, steel and determination.
He returned to the body and removed the gauntlet on Link's left hand. The mark of the Triforce remained upon it, with one triangle softly glowing. The Triforce of Courage had not left his flesh. Separating the Triforce of Wisdom from its bearer would no doubt draw it out.
Ganondorf strode over to Princess Zelda with the Sages' Sword drawn. Zelda looked up at him with defiance in her eyes. "It's over," the King of Evil said.
He dispatched Zelda quickly.
He watched as the Triforce of Wisdom exited her tiny body. The Triforce of Courage floated in the air above Link. The two golden triangles glowed with blue and green edges, respectively.
They then vanished.
"WHAT?" Ganondorf roared. He sensed for them, but they were gone. They'd suddenly blinked off to distant, unknown places.
Power's wielder howled in desperate fury. He pounded the walls. He kicked the chained corpse of the princess. He looked to the corpse of the Hero and thought about punishing it, but then, he calmed.
He had won. The kingdom of Hyrule was his – his completely. He had time now… he would seek out the lost fragments of the Triforce and make them his. For the time being, he had his kingdom. Once he found the rest of the Triforce again, he could challenge the gods themselves, but for now, the land was his. Very soon, the world would belong to him as well.
He would enjoy his reign. The Hylians, humans, Zoras, Gorons and all else – especially all who opposed him – would know the true definition of fear.
He summoned a pair of Darknuts and brought them into the room. He pointed to Link.
"This one," he said with a leer, "Take him to the square of the city and lay him out. I want the people to know despair. He is not to be buried. Anyone who tries is to be brought to me to be put to death. I want the people to know that their Hero is dead."
The Darknuts nodded as they picked up the body and ascended the stairs.
As for Zelda, Ganondorf carried her himself. He took her to the throne room and propped her upon the Queen's Throne. He left her there for a week, allowing the vanquished of Hyrule to gaze upon her and know her fate. He had her buried in the catacombs after that, giving her a small amount of respect as the daughter of a king – this he did in spite of his earlier assertion that she would not be the recipient of a proper grave. He did not know why he gave her one – he'd just acted on a whim.
To his rage, at about the same time, some brave souls had absconded with Link's body. He had wanted it to lay out until it rotted away completely into fetid liquid and scattered bones, but the wild birds hadn't so much as taken his eyes before some fools had risked their lives to give him honors. Ganondorf never found the final grave to desecrate it.
Ganondorf ruled the land and surrounding territories for a good century. He held his strength over the whole of Hyrule, which became a land of monsters. The fields themselves reflected the nature of his heart, becoming cruel and barren. After a time, a rebellion formed in the north in a forgotten country that the people began calling North Hyrule. There was a dispute between them and the people that remained in the south regarding distant survivors of the Royal Bloodline. Ganondorf did his best to quell the ambitions of all with an iron fist.
In that time, just as the land reflected his heart, his body began to reflect his soul. He became as he had been in his mirror's reflection. He became, once again, the Beast King who had once ruled the Dark World.
Later, he quelled a forming rebellion that had with them a brave king and a princess named Zelda, who held the lost Triforce of Wisdom. She used her power to split it into fragments to keep it from the grasp of the King of Evil. The ancient cycle began anew.
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