Chapter XXVII - Revelation
The morning after Link's escape, Lord Andruis' castle was in an uproar. None knew how he had escaped but condemned him to guilt, believing the venomous word of Ganondorf concerning Link's intentions. Few listened to me as I assured them he would return, and my heart was stung by how easily their faith was broken.
We left for the castle the next morning, escorted by Commander Virnen and Informant Cedrith and their guard. The entirety of the day was spent on anxious thoughts of Link as I wondered if he safely escaped and where he had hidden away. As we traveled in the confines of the carriage, Ganondorf was wise enough to keep his silence and did not attempt to speak with me.
We arrived in Castleton just before sunset, fortunately without incident. The residents had gathered alongside the road, cheering for our return. I smiled, grateful the people thought well enough of me to be concerned of my absence. My thoughts quickly darkened, however, as I saw Haladin guards in nearly the same numbers as our own.
"You have brought more of your men, I see." I commented without so much as a glance to Ganondorf.
"For your protection, and to ease the minds of the people, of course," he answered matter-of-factly.
"More beast attacks, no doubt," I muttered.
Ganondorf scoffed. "It is under control. Worry not, princess."
I said nothing in return and continued to stare out the window. As we entered the north part of town, the castle came into view up on the hill. The sky seemed to darken as we rode closer and suddenly, a vision of the potential future flashed across my mind.
Homes deserted, lying in ruin, set ablaze by the flames of war.
Dark clouds enshrouding the land, rains flooding the streets.
Countless bodies strewn about, Hylian and Haladian alike, as Hyrule's ripped banners fluttered hauntingly in the wind.
I rubbed my eyes and shook my head. War would come when I severed my engagement to Ganondorf, but I could not fear now; there was much to be done. Most importantly: I must muster the courage to speak to my father.
Arriving at the gates, I gave no thought to stand on ceremony despite the welcome company that waited for us in the courtyard.
"Your Highness, how glad we are of your safe return."
"Are you well, do you need attendance?"
"It is a miracle, how did you escape?"
"Please, good sirs," I interrupted. "I will tend to your questions, but I must see His Majesty at once, excuse me."
"Of course, Your Highness." They bowed and parted the way for me.
"Allow me to escort you," Ganondorf suddenly said. Without another word, he took my arm and nearly dragged me into the castle. I glanced back, finding Impa standing in the shadows and I made a discreet gesture with my hand, signaling her to follow me in secret.
I did not wish to be alone with him.
I instigated no exchange as we made our way to my father's chambers but he insisted on making conversation.
"You are angry with me still," he stated. "Your curt words and avoidance is most untoward."
I removed my arm from his grasp. "Very astute of you," I replied quietly. "I will not apologize."
I saw him smirk out of the corner of my eye. "Your anger blinds you to the truth, princess."
"And what is this truth?"
"That knight revealed himself to be a coward, his escape securing his guiltiness. Had he remained for a trial, perhaps some charges may have been forfeited—"
"You contradict yourself," I said coldly. "Your words will never sway my belief in him."
We came upon my father's chambers and just as Ganondorf was about to continue speaking, I interjected.
"I wish to speak to His Majesty alone; you may escort me no further."
Ganondorf stared at me for a moment, seeming to loom closer. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly and he muttered, "so be it." He turned back down the corridor in anger, the heaviness in the air disappearing alongside him. I looked to my hand, relieved it was barely shaking and I sighed; my fear of him was decreasing.
"Are you alright, Lady Zelda?" Impa asked, stepping out of the shadows.
I nodded. "Let us go to him."
She opened the door for me and I rushed to my father's side. He lay deathly still, and his face was pale, his breathing slow.
"Father?" I called, anxious to hear his voice. He stirred, his eyes fluttering and I grasped his hand, calling to him again; his skin was like ice.
I smiled and nodded, tears forming in my eyes.
"Zelda… is it truly…?"
"I am here."
A weak smile grew upon his face and he slowly lifted a hand to my cheek. "I thought you lost to me forever..."
"And I you."
He grimaced. "I shall live."
I nodded, trying to hold back my sobs.
"What happened to you, Zelda?"
"There is much to tell, father, a grand tale indeed, but there is a pressing matter which must be addressed."
He nodded, waiting for me to continue.
I took an uneven breath. "Link is alive."
His brows furrowed in disbelief. "…Sir Link…?"
"He has returned."
"How… how it is possible?"
"The Dread Pirate Raven has kept him prisoner all these years."
"…I can scarcely believe such twisted mercy."
"But the truth it remains. By all rights Link and I should be dead, yet he rescued me from my captors. It was the will of the Goddesses that we lived."
"He must be thanked for such admirable loyalty… for saving you, my Zelda. I must see him for myself."
I smiled, gladdened my father praised him so. "Prince Ganondorf does not share your praise, father. He imprisoned Link against my orders and threatened to charge him with desertion and my capture." I paused, my eyes falling away. "I forced Link to escape before Ganondorf could do so and now all believe he is guilty."
My father was silent for a moment. "Surely there must be a misunderstanding—"
"Nay father. Impa, Lord Andruis, Commander Virnen, and Sir Cidreth believe me. Few they are, but they are men you trust. Please—"
"Calm yourself, Zelda. Is Sir Link to blame for such hostility?"
I fell silent, doing as he asked. I had to be direct. "His return has opened my eyes. I cannot be with another; my betrothal to Prince Ganondorf must be annulled."
My father opened his mouth to object but I would not have it.
"He is ill fit to be king for he threatened Hyrule with the prospect of war; his lust for power shall never cease. I have seen what lies beneath his mask of lies and flattery; his cruelty is something to be feared."
He stared at me with furrowed brows, speechless.
"Listen to your heart, father, to the whisperings of the Goddesses. I have been foolish for not heeding their warnings but now I must act before it is too late."
My father sighed haggardly, lying back against the pillows as he closed his eyes. "Zelda… my love… truly I desire your happiness, but duty comes before all else. The future of Hyrule depends upon this union, we must have peace-"
"He has deceived us all, father. War will be inevitable no matter which path is taken. Though we would not march against Haladin under his rule, we shall surely go to war with neighboring kingdoms. Hyrule shall be brought to destruction if he becomes king!"
"Take caution daughter, these are dangerous words."
"I love you, and Hyrule with all my heart, but I will not stand by a deceitful warmonger. I will do what is best for our kingdom."
"There is much you do not know, and I am reluctant to divulge in your state but I am your daughter, the only heir to the throne and he a distrustful son of Haladin; will you not heed my word? Will you not trust me?"
My father said nothing for a long while, lost deep in thought. Finally he took my hand and sighed. "I wish to know what you keep from me, but I am weary, Zelda. Allow me to rest and we shall speak on the morrow. I will ponder your words, however be mindful of your actions. Though you are to be queen, my word is final."
I nodded my head. "Thank you, father." I then leaned over and kissed his head. "Rest well."
A quartet was playing from afar. Hushed voices murmured all around me.
And everything was white.
Even my gown.
I looked up, finding Ganondorf beside me, my father behind him, and Priest Rauru in front of us.
We stood at the altar in the Temple of Time.
Dread filled me; this day was not to be for another fortnight. I turned around, hoping to find Link, praying desperately he would save me from this union. But he was nowhere to be found, only unfamiliar eyes of the guests in the pews meet my gaze. I began to tremble. I could not speak nor move.
"If there are any to contest this union, let your voice be heard."
"By the power of the Goddesses, I now deem thee—"
I turned towards the sudden cry of objection to find who my savior was.
Yet it was her, or rather… me.
"No," I whispered. "I have done what you have asked, why do you haunt me so? Leave me be!"
"He returned to you!" the hag screeched. "You have forsaken him!"
"Link would have been killed had he remained with me!"
"He lives, he lives and yet here you stand to be wed to another!" The hag moved forward, her dingy robes slithering behind her. She then turned to the gathered crowd, extending her bone thin arms to address them. "The knight saved her from certain death, risking his life, yet she treats his sacrifice like rubbish."
The people began to whisper to one another, speaking behind their hands.
I could not breathe; her words pierced my heart.
"Behold her true title, the queen of refuse," the hag cackled. "Bow to her, hail your sovereign of filth, your ruler of putrescence!"
There were many who stood and left the temple, others that shook their head with disapproving eyes.
"Traitor!" the hag cried out again. "Off with you, stain upon Hyrule, unworthy of the throne!"
My lips trembled. "I am sorry!" I wept. "I am sorry!" Suddenly my hand began to burn, like nothing I had ever felt before. I looked down, seeing the Triforce glowing upon my skin.
Then a cry of the most chilling nature sounded through the temple, piercing my heart.
The walls of the temple began to quake, rubble trickling down from the ceiling. The crowd fled, screaming as they went, but the hag slunk towards me, her dull gray eyes preventing me from moving.
I fell to my knees as stones collapsed upon us.
I woke with a gasp, nearly falling to the ground in shock.
"Lady Zelda?" Impa asked, coming to my side.
The Triforce mark ceased to burn and the glow faded as if it had never manifested.
I exhaled shakily, clutching my hand to my chest as I looked about, seeing that I was still at my father's bedside.
"Are you well?" She asked, studying my confused expression. "You fell asleep as you tended to His Majesty and I did not wish to disturb you."
"I am fine," I answered. "Just a bad dream." I could feel my racing heart beginning to slow. A Glance to the window revealed it well after twilight.
Impa continued to stare at me with concern as we sat in silence. I tried to shake the remnants of the dreams from my mind, but the urgent feeling that something was terribly wrong would not leave me.
"…Lady Zelda?" she prompted.
"We must gather the council. Tonight."
"But His Majesty warned you—"
"This cannot wait. I must tell the councilmen all that I know before he uses magic to sway them further beneath his control. I must tell them of my intention to severe the engagement."
Impa said nothing, waiting for me to continue.
"Can you not feel darkness, Impa? It has grown stronger since our return. If I do nothing now, I fear something terrible will happen." Looking to my father's bed chamber, I sighed. "There is much I will be responsible for but I will not involve my father until dire need calls for it. His health is still in danger."
Placing a hand upon my arm, Impa whispered. "As you wish."
My heart twinged at those words.
"I will send word for the councilmen to meet in the drawing room in half hour's time."
"Thank you," I replied. "I will be there shortly."
Impa nodded and left without a sound.
I held back my tears and buried my face into my hands. I did not wish for anyone to see me like this again, for despite my determination, my mind and my heart were in utter chaos.
Goddesses… I implore you… I need thy guidance, thy strength. Do not let Hyrule suffer for my mistakes.
I prayed for Link's safety, wondering if he would return in time to aid me.
Leaving my father's chambers, I tried to focus on encouraging thoughts.
My father was recovering before my eyes, he listened to my words with an open mind.
I had men who stood at my side.
My fear of Ganondorf was diminishing.
And Link would come for me.
The east wing was dark and the autumn coldness cut through me as I made my way to my chambers to change my attire. As I ventured further down the halls, the lights from the torches began to dim. The air seemed to taste of darkness and the echo of my footsteps was muffled.
Turning down the south wing towards the throne room, I heard voices coming from inside. Slowly, I moved around the wall to peer around the corner of the great doors.
"The scouts stand at the ready, My Lord, and a legion of men awaits further orders."
"And the ships?"
"The four fastest have been sent."
"Well done, captain. Now all that remains is her demise and I will have secured Hyrule and the people's loyalty. Now send for the Hylian commander, he must be informed of the Calatain rumors."
"Yes, My Lord."
I had just heard the end of their whispered conversation, but it was enough. There was no choice, nor time to waste awaiting my father's decision and that of the council; I would break the engagement tonight.
For I was the one he wished dead.
I knew now the prophecy was indeed about him. How could I have been so blind? Had I too been influenced by his magic?
No… I had been deceived by his crown. I had been so eager to ignore the warnings of my heart to please others, I failed to acknowledge his malevolent nature. All I wished after Link had gone was to do what to do what was required of me, to serve dutifully as queen, but now…
Should a righteous heart and an evil heart join under the crown, chaos will reign across the lands and beasts shall roam in warning.
Ever since the Haladians stepped foot in Hyrule, beasts, nay creatures of the night had begun to roam. The darkness about the land was a warning… against him.
I heard the footsteps of the Haladian soldier disappear to the servants' door and I took a deep breath. I stepped into the throne room and there he sat upon the throne, cloaked in shadow.
But I did not flee. I stood my ground, trembling with fear yet with firm resolve.
His golden eyes opened lazily, glowing in the shroud of darkness. He stared at me in contemplation as the air grew thick, threatening to choke my breath. Neither of us spoke. Then a smirk grew upon his lips. "Does Her Highness wish an audience with me?"
"It comes to this: your ruse is at an end," I began. "I know your true self."
"Oh?" he chuckled. "You heard our words?"
"Enough to condemn. Our betrothal is ended."
He furrowed his brows, his smirk fading ever so slightly. "Such a threat is grounds for war, princess, but I am not your enemy."
"Cease your twisted words, I command you to leave the castle—leave Hyrule this night."
Ganondorf stood from the throne. "That would be unwise; rebel Calatains plan to invade Hyrule, you must be protect—"
"Lies," I scoffed, "that crown you wear is nothing more than a deception, concealing a mad man drunk with power, craving destruction upon everything and everyone!"
He laughed outright and paced slowly before me. "I mean to rule; destruction is requisite for building a kingdom. You are a fool, Princess Zelda; there are none to contest me."
"Yes, I am a fool," I said in a low voice. "For not realizing sooner you are nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear."
Ganondorf stopped and turned, his lip twitching, his eyes narrowing. "I would not say such things if I were you."
"You will never be Hyrule's King, the people will never yield—"
"…to the cruelest of men, a blood lusting beast—"
"The most depraved weakling ever to crawl the earth!"
Ganondorf let out a bellow of anger, and suddenly the flames of the torches flared high, filling the chamber with a fervent heat. Shielding myself with Naryu's Love, the fires simply circled around me.
"Still your tongue!" His voice echoed from all around. "Your new-found bravery is for naught." The flames died away, and I looked up to find him stalking towards me, his eyes gleaming gold. "Here I stand at the throne, with your life in one hand, and the power of the Gods in the other. Hyrule is destined to be mine… as is your power."
He removed the gauntlet from his right hand, revealing the markings upon his skin.
I shook my head; I had seen this in my dreams, yet to see it manifest before me…
Ganondorf had finally revealed himself as the golden eyed man.
"A destiny of war is not deemed by the Goddesses, there is still time —"
"They are nothing to me. I serve only my God, he who was robbed of the Sacred Triad… your books call it the Triforce. The Goddesses were fools to bestow such power to selfish beings. The world is ruled in chaos beneath weakling sovereigns and yet here you Hylians cower behind your mountains and forests, claiming you desire peace but do nothing to quell the anarchy. With the Triforce, I will unite the kingdoms beneath my rule, and order and peace shall be restored."
There would be no reasoning with him; his relentless pursuit for kingship was seared in his blood by his false God. "Your quest has corrupted you."
He growled and easily broke through the barrier of Naryu's Love and snatched my arm.
"Do not touch me!" A bluish glow emanated from me as I pushed him away and he flew back against the wall. I looked at my hands, bewildered. It was just like my encounter with Agahnim upon the Scarlet Crag.
…How did I…?
A fire raged on my right hand and I watched as the marks upon it connected together.
The shape of Triforce was complete.
Ganondorf quickly righted himself and turned back to me, breathing heavily, his teeth bared. He began to mutter an unfamiliar tongue, a black speech that seized my heart in fear. Panicking to defend myself, I extended my hand toward him, crossing my arm to the other. "Ivardu naseshin!"
Ganondorf fell to his knees, attempting to block my attack with his forearm. I moved closer, the white light from my hand beginning to burn brighter. The magic broke through his barrier, circling around him and binding him down.
"Your rein ends here!" Just as I tried to call upon the power of my Triforce, Ganondorf let out a growl and black smoke suddenly surrounded him.
I coughed violently and nearly tripped over my skirts as I backed away. A violet haze encompassed me and my limbs went numb. The room seemed to spin and when I came to a stop, I was at his feet.
Leaning down, Ganondorf grabbed my face and pulled me towards him. "Pity," he muttered through his teeth. "In all your wisdom you still do not realize how greater power is." Again, I pushed him away, but he slapped my face. Laughing once again, he stood and dragged me up by the neck. "I am more powerful than you can imagine. Now that I possess your precious knight's Triforce, you cannot stand against me."
My eyes widened.
"Take comfort, princess; he resisted till the end… and suffered greatly."
"You lie," I choked out.
Ganondorf smirked. "Yet I still taste his blood upon my lips."
"Link… will come—"
"He is dead."
No. He was not lying.
"While courage and wisdom are admirable gifts, they cannot overcome absolute power on their own."
I could feel the darkness waiting to swallow me again. Was I truly nothing against him? Were the essences of the Goddesses Link and I had been given all for naught?
"I will always come for you. Do not lose hope, Zelda. I will never yield, nor shall you."
As I remembered Link's words, the darkness was held at bay. I must believe in him; by my strength and his, I must try to overcome. Even if Ganondorf truly had taken Link's Triforce, I still possessed mine.
I pried Ganondorf's hands from my neck enough to speak. "I doubted once before, but never again."
"Your faith is wasted." Ganondorf said calmly. "Your whelp has shown me your life is tied to your Triforce." Snatching my hand away, he tightened his grip upon my neck, digging his nails into my mark. Blood trailed behind his fingers and he chuckled. "You will be of no more use to me after we wed however… perhaps I shall spare you until I have need of your Triforce; your beauty entertains me greatly."
I spat in his face.
His nostrils flared before tossing me aside as if I were nothing. I flew into the iron floor candles, knocking them to the ground as I slid upon the stone floor. I could feel bruises forming as I rose to my arms. Searching myself for any remaining strength, I again attempted to call upon the power of my Triforce willingly. I stood, seeing the skin beneath my hand glowing blue. Then a strange sensation, as if I stood beneath a waterfall overcame me. My knees nearly gave way, and just before I could gain control, Ganondorf once again uttered that unfamiliar tongue.
Then I could not move, nor speak; my blood sped within me, screaming for me to move, to cry, to flee.
"I can feel your heart; your fear brings me pleasure."
Lights of red and black swirled about and suddenly lunged towards me, like an outstretched hand. I was caught within his magic, feeling it burrow into my body. My cries were drowned by coughing as the magic snaked its way into my heart, deafening my senses. Coursing through my blood, it weighed me down as if shackles had been locked to my ankles and wrists. An invisible hand clenched my heart, and it ceased to beat, the sharp pain it caused in my chest stripping my lungs of air. Closing my eyes, I collapsed upon the ground.
No, I cannot die!
I began to fade, and could faintly hear Ganondorf stalking towards me. I felt his heel dig into my shoulder, rolling me to my back. Then he touched my face, and it felt as if a thousand needles were piercing every part of my skin. And suddenly, my heart frantically came to life. I gasped for air as he pulled me up by the arm, and as light returned to my eyes, I could only see his golden orbs, narrowed at me in triumph.
"You are mine to control now."
I opened my mouth to speak but I made no sound. I tried to move away, but Ganondorf simply tightened his grip upon my arm and the sleeve of my dress hitched up. And upon my arm, strange dark patterns were etched upon my skin. I hung my head; he has used dark magic and cast a manipulation spell upon me.
"You will answer only to me." He lifted my head and moved to kiss me when suddenly the throne doors flew open, Impa, the counselors, and their advisors standing in the threshold. Impa was glaring fiercely, standing as if ready to fight. Counselor Iras and Minister Shad were staring in bewilderment. The others simply looked upon us in confusion.
Ganondorf calmly removed himself from me. "Ah, counselors, I am pleased you have come."
What would he do now? Surely they heard the commotion…? Again, I tried to speak but no words would form. I cursed inwardly.
Counselor Iras stepped forward. "How dare you—"
"Calm yourself, counselor, the princess has gathered you to tell you of the rebel Calatians waiting upon Hyrule's shores."
The counselors looked to one another in disbelief. "We heard loud noises—"
"A heated discussion, I assure you," Ganondorf answered. "My scouts have reported the Calatian plan to attack a fortnight from now, the day of the wedding."
They began to murmur amongst themselves.
Do not believe him!
Impa looked between us, knowing something was amiss.
"Therefore I must insist the Princess Zelda and I to be wed on the morrow, before they can carry out their devious plan. Together, we shall fight the Calatians as a united people!"
"Our scouts have received no such word," Commander Virnen glared. "Where is your proof?"
"I have many spies at my command, counselor; you would do well to remember that." His voice was even, yet none could dispute the threat behind it.
"We must decide this as a counsel, with His Majesty," Minister Shad said. "And Her Highness—"
"His Majesty has delegated the princess and I to speak for him, I have already informed him of these matters. Did he not agree, Your Highness?" He asked.
I could feel a strange force pressing upon my throat. "His Majesty concurred; we shall wed on the morrow." My voice was not my own; I wanted to purge with every movement of my tongue.
Could they not see through his lies?
Counselor Iras and Minister Shad shook their heads, Commander Virnen and Lieutenant Kurion shifting uncomfortably beside them. Impa still would not take her eyes off me.
"Well, if His Majesty has declared it, then we must prepare," Counselor Warnock chimed in.
"Yes, there is much to be done," Counselor Raigen agreed.
"But what of the people?" Counselor Beraniv inquired. "What shall we—"
Ganondorf held up a hand. "Enough, we shall continue this in the drawing room; Her Highness is still weary from her journey."
The councilmen who had been rallied to Ganondorf's side and their advisors nodded and bowed, and turned back into the hall. Counselor Iras, Minister Shad and Commander Virnen whispered something to Impa and followed behind the others.
Impa then walked towards us. She stared at him defiantly, her red eyes giving away her loathing.
"Have you something to say?" Ganondorf snapped, knowing she could not be fooled.
"I am called away to Kakariko to aid a gate guardian, and shall return on the morrow." There was no mistaking her tone and word usage.
She would bring back Link. My heart leapt.
Again the strange force compelled me to answer in that cold voice. "Very well, do as you please."
Impa bowed to me and whispered. "Forgive me, I should not have left your side."
My hand twitched. We both knew she could no longer protect me from him. If she stayed, she would be driven out of the castle or killed.
As she stood, I could see the reflection of myself in her eyes. The dark patterns were upon my neck, camouflaged by the lingering bruises. And my eyes were now the same as Ganondorf's: amber.
My skin crawled. I am tainted.
Impa then smirked at Ganondorf. "You will regret this."
And with that, she was gone.
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