Nabooru paced nervously, back and forth along the expanse of the plateau, her long, plum cloak swirling around her feet as she turned. It was dark out, all except for the orange glow emanating from a nearby crater which led to a lava flow. She rather resented being kept waiting in general, but it was even worse in the dark. Normally, she would not have obeyed such an abrupt summons, calling for her to appear alone, without her armed escort, in the dead of night, but for once she was forced to comply. It wasn’t that she was meeting with someone more important or powerful than she, no it was her own conscience that forced her to come to this wretched plane in the middle of the night.
The day had been one of the worst she could remember in the history of the Gerudo. All day long, reports came in of men and women from the Hylian villages calling out for the death of all Gerudo everywhere. A few of the bolder individuals went so far as to approach the Gerudo Valley, armed with rudimentary weapons, pitch forks, and torches, ready to take on the entire Gerudo nation alone. Nabooru admired such gall, but at the same time, she resented the accusations against her people. After all, it had not been the Dragon Pride, her Pride, which had committed the atrocities in Kasuto.
Yes, the day had been filled with reports about that too. Nabooru was told of the ashes where once a proud village stood, of the mountain piles of the dead, their faces burned and scarred beyond recognition. Immediately, she knew of course that this had to be the work of the Kodiak Pride. If any Gerudo Pride had the nerve to attack a village of mere farmers, it would be the Kodiak. For years, rumors had flown carelessly that a boy had been born into their ranks. Now it seemed the stories were true. No less than a dozen survivors of Kasuto had reported the presence of a man amidst the Gerudo raiding party.
Nabooru shivered involuntarily, despite the heat coming from the crater. She did not like to think of what this meant for the future of the
. For years, the Prides had been able to coexist in an uneasy peace, but having a man in their ranks would change things. Men brought with them ambition and greed. Nabooru did not particularly fancy the idea of another Gerudo civil war. Not after everything her people had managed to survive. Gerudo Valley
Off in the distance, below Nabooru’s plateau, she spotted a horse making a fast approach for her. For a moment, she felt her hands drift to the twin blades resting on either side of her hips, but she quickly decided against it. There had already been enough trouble between the inhabitants of the
and the villagers of Hyrule. She would not be the one to cause more. She was pleased to see, at the very least, that the figure on horseback seemed to be traveling alone. Then again, the Sheikah had always been known to keep their promises. Gerudo Valley
Relaxing slightly, Nabooru allowed herself to wonder why Impa, the royal nursemaid and one of the most powerful Sheikah in the realm had summoned her of all people. Of course, Impa must have known that Nabooru’s Pride was not responsible for the attack. The Dragons were many things, great thieves, powerful seductresses, and yes, fantastic archers, but they certainly were not arsonists, nor did they have any interest in the destruction of Kasuto.
Nabooru felt a knot form in her stomach as she thought of the mindless violence again. It wasn’t that she had any love for the Hylians, but life was life and she couldn’t fathom ever ordering her warriors to fight unprovoked. Then again, she supposed wearily, if the rumors were true and the Kodiak had a man in their ranks, war might be inevitable. Still, she would not make the first move. She would wait.
By now, the horse was climbing steadily up the slope of the plateau, its powerful legs propelling it forward and muscles clenched and unclenched. Nabooru admired the beast a moment before turning to regard the rider. There was Impa, the proud warrior Nabooru had come to respect many years ago when the two of them first met. Back then, Nabooru had been far more ambitious, organizing a heist on the castle treasury itself. This had been the only time Nabooru had ever been caught, and it was by the great Sheikah warrior. Their battle had been fierce, finally ending only when Nabooru’s girls came to her rescue. She so admired Impa for holding her own, she had allowed the woman to be spared and left the castle without incident.
Over the years, Nabooru had heard great things about her favored opponent, but she had been shocked to receive a letter from her that morning, requesting a solitary meeting in between their respective territories. Even after all that time since their encounter, Nabooru was still impressed by Impa’s stature and poise.
Riding in front of her, hugging the neck of the mare, was a Hylian girl, no more than three. She stared at the Gerudo matron as the horse approached, her blue eyes wide in apprehension. This was an unexpected detail. Nabooru found herself amazed, as she examined the frail girl, that Hylian women were capable of surviving the hazards of life. Certainly a Gerudo would never be so fair and so brittle.
The horse came to a stop with an impressive little bow, snorting at Nabooru as it flung its snout to one side. Impa dismounted easily, then turned, taking the girl by the waist and lowering her to the ground. She trembled horribly, hiding behind Impa’s legs. Impa stood there, patting her horse’s rump and making it perfectly clear that Nabooru was to approach. So be it.
“I have done as you asked,” Nabooru said, strolling over. As an afterthought, she drew her twin blades, crossing them in front of her as a salutation.
“You came alone?” Impa asked, eyeing the blades warily.
She waited a moment before returning the swords to her belt. “What’s this all about?”
Impa continued absently stroking the horse, but her full gaze was turned on Nabooru now. “I trust you’ve heard about the raid on Kasuto?”
“I have,” Nabooru replied icily. “And I’ll have you know that the Dragon Pride had absolutely –”
“Nothing to do with it?” Impa interrupted. A tense moment of silence followed. “I know.”
“So what’s this about then?”
“Do you know why the Kodiak Pride burned Kasuto to the ground?”
Nabooru shook her head. “The Dragon relations with the Kodiak are tenuous at best. Alpha Sarjenka has –”
“Stepped down,” Impa cut her off.
She couldn’t help it. Nabooru’s eyes widened like those of the little girl hiding behind Impa. “What?”
“The Kodiak have a male Alpha now. He’s called Ganondorf Dragmire. He led the raid last night.”
“So it’s true. They have a man born into their number.”
Impa nodded gravely. “And last night’s attack was not for treasure or slaves. It was mere destruction.”
“Why would they do that?” Nabooru asked.
“They were after a child,” Impa said.
“A child?” Nabooru’s eyes drifted to the little girl. “This one?”
“No,” Impa said quickly.
“Her younger brother, we suspect.”
“Why? What’s so special about him?”
The Sheikah woman sighed. “We don’t really know. If I had to guess, I suppose I’d guess some sort of cryptic prophecy drove them to destroy the children of the town.”
Impa shrugged. “They’re your people.”
Nabooru shook her head. “They are not my people. The Kodiak are a race unto themselves, whether they call themselves Gerudo or not. They have no honor.”
“I will certainly agree with that. They killed the girl’s mother.”
“I see,” Nabooru said. She had to admit, she admired the fact that Impa wasn’t coddling the child. “And her brother?”
“He’s safe,” Impa replied. “My sources inform me that he’s with the Kokiri. I’m content to let him stay there for now. If there is a prophecy, it’s best if he’s left to his own devices to fulfill it.”
“And the girl?”
“I’ve brought her to you with a request.”
Nabooru’s eyebrows rose sharply. “What?”
“She needs to be kept safe. Secreted away so she’s not a liability to him.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Nabooru asked.
“The Gerudo destroyed her home. Killed her mother. Presumably killed her brother as far as we’re concerned. It would be the last place anyone would think to check for her.”
“True,” Nabooru admitted slowly.
“And,” Impa said, “it would certainly separate you from the Kodiak if you had it in your heart to take care of this girl.”
A fierce smile tugged at the corners of Nabooru’s lips. Her admiration for Impa only grew at this sly wordplay. She knew only too well that Nabooru wanted to disassociate herself from the carnage of the Kodiak. “I’m friendly with the Alpha of the Orca Pride,” Nabooru said. “They live in isolation, more so than any other Pride. I’m sure I could arrange for the girl to be delivered to them.”
“Why the Orca? Why not the Dragon Pride?”
“I fear civil war may be at hand for the Gerudo. If so, the Orca Pride will be the last to get involved. They live on undesirable territory and they’re on friendlier terms with the Kodiak than the other Prides.”
Impa seemed to find this acceptable. “Fair enough.”
Nabooru knelt down, coming to eye level with the girl. “Hello,” she said. The girl hid behind Impa as far as possible. Nabooru laughed. “Come now. If you’re going to be a great Gerudo warrior, we can’t have you hiding. Come forward and face me.”
The girl looked up at Impa for guidance. “Go on,” Impa told her gently, stepping away.
Left with no choice, the little girl moved toward Nabooru, her lower lip trembling though she did not cry. “That’s better,” Nabooru said gently. “Let me see your arm. Can you make a muscle for me?” Feebly, the girl flexed her arm. Nabooru reached out and squeezed her bicep gently. “Yes, you’ll make a fine warrior.” She was about to withdraw when she noticed something: An intricate array of blue lines on the girl’s wrist. Nabooru brushed her thumb against the lines and felt nothing but flesh. Whatever the lines were, they were tattooed underneath the skin. “What’s this?” she asked.
Impa knelt down, taking the girl’s arm and carefully examining the strange lines. “Looks like half of a Hylian glyph,” she mumbled. She looked at the girl. “Can you tell me what this is?”
“M-my momma put them on me and my b-brother,” she said in a faint, girlish voice.
“Why did she do that?” Nabooru asked.
“So we c-could find each other again,” the child whispered.
It was a bright and sunny day. Glorious really; warm, but with a gentle breeze that kept the village from completely baking. Link leaned against the fence post outside of the Lon Lon Ranch, lifting his face to greet the morning sun. The wind kissed his cheeks and smiled. Days like this always reminded him of how much he loved Hyrule. With his eyes closed, he listened to the peaceful sound of the world that he himself had saved not too long ago. In the field beyond the ranch, he could hear school children playing, laughing and shrieking as they chased after a leather ball, throwing it back and forth.
Perhaps it was trite, and he would certainly never share this with another living soul, lest he be laughed out the door, but sounds like that always made Link feel as if he had really accomplished something with his life. His whole ordeal with Ganondorf had left a bitter taste in his mouth that Link had never quite been able to shake. No one knew about the nightmares that haunted him still, though nearly a year had passed since that final, epic battle. Most of the time, when people asked him to recount the events as they had happened, he would feign a certain measure of memory loss, owing it to the adrenaline of the moment. The reality, however, was that he remembered everything perfectly and rather wished he could forget. After all, he had killed. And nearly been killed himself.
He opened his eyes, hoping to evade the phantom shadows that loomed on the back of his eyelids, and looked to the corn fields arrayed before him. The stalks were high, bright green – his favorite color – with little hidden specks of yellow just beginning to appear. His mouth watered as he imagined sinking his teeth into the tender kernels, dripping with butter and just a hint of salt. Suddenly, he found himself hoping that Talon would invite him to stay for dinner tonight. Thoughts of his heroic escapades soon faded with hunger at the thought of a home cooked meal at the ranch.
Although he visited the ranch often enough, usually to idle away the time with Malon and the horses, this was the first time he had ever been summoned. Perhaps that was too strong a word. He hadn’t been summoned the way that Zelda sometimes called him to court. But there had always been an unspoken rule that Link was always welcome at the ranch without invitation. That was why it had come as such a surprise when he received one.
He had been spending a pleasant afternoon fishing with a friend of his, a Human from one of the local schools, when suddenly Malon appeared, flustered and pink. Breathlessly, she told him that Talon wanted to see him as soon as possible and disappeared, teetering under the weight of the milk pails, balanced meticulously over her shoulders.
Link was quick to obey the summons, immediately concerned. When he arrived at the ranch, however, he found it completely deserted, the door locked. Maybe he hadn’t been expected to arrive so quickly. With a shrug, he resigned himself to lean against the fence post near the road and wait, enjoying the splendors of a perfect summer day in Hyrule.
Before long, Link spotted Talon ambling up the road. He was much relieved to see that his friend looked in no way injured or ill. At least that concern could be steadied. But now, his mind wondered at what could possibly be wrong. Frowning, he plopped his cap back on top of his head and pulled on his gauntlets, covering the ugly blue lines that had been tattooed under his skin long ago by a mother he never knew. Pushing away from the fence, he moved down the road to meet Talon.
Talon spotted him at once and raised his hand in salutation. “Link,” he called. His normally cheerful voice seemed a bit strained.
“Hello, Talon,” Link replied.
“How long have you been waiting there?”
Link shrugged. “Only a few minutes,” he lied.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect you so soon.”
“That’s all right.”
“Glad you could stop by.”
“Of course,” Link said.
Talon clapped him on the back with a pudgy hand. “Good, good.” He frowned, licking his lips. “Malon tells me you’ve been enjoying your retirement.”
“It’s nice not having to chase after monsters any more,” Link admitted. “Although I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself come winter.”
“You don’t miss the excitement?”
Link shook his head. “No, not really.”
He glanced sideways at Talon. The older man seemed a bit distracted, wringing his hands and watched them as if somehow his stubby fingers were about to perform the miraculous. “Talon?”
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
Talon sighed. He leaned against the fence, running his palm along the rough wood. He had built that fence himself, Link knew. With his own two hands. He took such pride in it. No one had ever dared to climb over it to cause mischief in the dead of night. “You know,” he started slowly, “I had a brother named Elwood.”
Link scowled. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“He died a few months back. Pneumonia.”
“I’m so sorry,” Link said uncertainly.
“It happens, unfortunately,” Talon mumbled nervously.
“I suppose so.”
“He lived a full, long life. Older brother.”
“I see.” Link folded his arms. Where was this going?
“He had a boy, about your age.”
“My nephew, Tyro.” Talon shook his head with a nervous laugh. “Impetuous boy. Always getting into trouble in town. A real ladies man, they say. Rather like yourself.”
“Well, I wouldn’t call myself –”
“He’s a good kid though. Also like you. Tyro’s smart. Sharp as a whip. Probably got that from his mother.”
A heavy moment of silence fell. “You know, I’m the only family he’s got now,” Talon said. “His parents are gone. He hasn’t got any brothers or sisters. Only me and Malon now.”
As Link examined Talon, he detected a hint of something new in the older man’s blue eyes. He looked afraid, and not in the way he did when Malon stayed out too late or when Ingo caused trouble. This was a real fear. Mortal? “Talon, what’s going on?” he asked gently.
“A few weeks back,” Talon said slowly, “Tyro disappeared.”
Absently, Talon waved his hand. “He just…disappeared. Not literally, of course. Not like a teleportation.”
“He left and no one’s seen him?”
“It might be.”
“And you have no idea where he went?”
“Well, that’s the thing of it,” Talon replied.
“Before he disappeared completely, there were some witnesses who saw him leaving town.”
“That means he left of his own free will, doesn’t it?” Link shrugged. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
“They say he was heading in the direction of the
.” Gerudo Valley
Immediately, Link deflated. “Oh,” he said softly.
“I don’t know what insanity could have driven him to go there,” Talon muttered, looking out at the crops.
“Well, you said he liked girls…”
“He’s not that stupid,” Talon said, shaking his head.
“You’re really worried about him?”
“Someone has to be. I’m the only family he’s got left. He’s been like a son to me, Link. If something happened to him, I don’t know what I’d do. Only…”
“Only?” Link prompted him.
Talon sighed. “I can’t go after him. I’m old and slow and have crops to harvest and cows to care for.”
And suddenly, like a flash of lightning, Link understood exactly why Talon had called on him. “You want me to go after him?”
But Link knew it was true. It took all of his considerable strength not to scowl. The last thing he ever wanted to do was return to the
. Even thinking about the Gerudo left him with a sour belly. They had caused so much heartache for him. Well, not all of them, but certainly a particularly nasty Gerudo warlord who kidnapped his friends and tortured them for seven years while he was unable to do anything about it. He looked forward to the rest of his life being positively Gerudo free. They would always be there, a constant reminder of the things he had done. They had been for the greater good, but they still haunted him. Gerudo Valley
He wanted desperately to say no, to tell Talon that he was worrying too much, but as he looked at Talon, he saw that fear again, the desperation. How could he refuse? “Talon,” he said gently, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Talon said. “You’ve done your share for Hyrule. You’ve rescued our people. And I know you deserve to spend the rest of your days in relative ease. You earned your retirement.”
“But you’re asking.”
Talon nodded. “I’m asking.”
Link couldn’t help but feel a swell of respect for Talon. “I’ll go,” he promised.
“It’s the least I can do for you. You’ve been so good to me. You and Malon. Treating me like one of your own.”
“Farore bless you for this, Link.” He squeezed Link’s hand with both of his. “Thank you.”
Link nodded, forcing a smile. Inside, his stomach was twisting and turning. He really didn’t fancy returning to the Valley. He only hoped that he’d still have a few friends to call on. There was no way he would be able to do this on his own. Hero that he was, there were certain demons he had never been able to slay, the ones nestled securely in his memory.
The breeze became a wind. The wind became a gale. The gale flew across Hyrule, knocking over dust bins and sails. It brushed the entire kingdom before finally swirling over the sands of the
. The sands rose, forming a funnel that spun faster and faster, uncovering the floor hidden below. The building was gone now, destroyed by the Dragons, but the floor lingered on, covered with sand until the breeze revealed the rich, red tones of the marble to the nighttime sky. Gerudo Valley
As the sand of the funnel flew off into the darkness, light rose from the ruins as two sets of glyphs began to glow, the first bright yellow, the second icy blue. The stone rippled like as a haggard form rose from the depths of the yellow light. She stared, unblinking at the blue until a second form emerged, equally worn and sagging. Her sister stared at the desert around them, once hidden from view by dark red walls, engraved with their four hundred year history.
“Kotake?” she asked, the blue light slowly fading from her face to reveal the gray, puckered skin. “What’s happened? Where are the walls? The rest of the castle? Why are we like this?”
For a moment, Kotake was silent, Koume’s questions echoing in her ears. It was as if a haze had settled over her mind. The harder she concentrated, the more she was able to focus on a single thought. Revenge. “The boy,” she said slowly, feeling the singular thought pulse in her brain.
“The boy?” Koume repeated, clearly just as confused.
“What do you remember?” Kotake asked quickly.
“I remember…” she paused, her mouth hanging open.
“There was a battle,” Kotake said.
“Yes! Yes, a battle, I remember.”
“The boy was trying to…”
“To stop Ganondorf,” Koume supplied.
“We fought him.”
Kotake nodded. “He was braver than we expected.”
Koume scowled. “We died?”
At once, Kotake knew this was true and nodded slightly, unable to suppress a shiver. “He defeated us.”
“Does that mean…” Koume trailed off. “Oh sister, does that mean he’s defeated Ganondorf?”
Instead of answering, Kotake turned, looking away into the distance where she knew Hyrule stood. Even this far away, her superior eyes could make out the faint silhouette of
. “I fear it is so,” she said. North Castle
They were silent for a moment, feeling the heaviness of this loss. “But,” Koume blurted out abruptly, startling her sister.
“What?” Kotake snapped.
“If he’s dead, how come we’re here?”
She frowned. “You’re right.”
“He’s the one who would bring us back, isn’t he?”
Kotake ran her gnarled fingers through the withering remains of her hair. “We swore revenge.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“That is our purpose here.”
“Din has granted us the chance to seek it against the boy?”
“Do you really think so?”
Koume wrinkled her already worn out face. “No.”
“Perhaps it was the Kodiak. They have always served us well.”
“The Kodiak brought us back?”
“That’s my guess.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I can think of only one reason, sister.”
“They want us to restore Ganondorf,” Kotake said.
Koume cleaned some sand out of her ear with her little finger. “Why would they want that?”
“Well, he brought their Pride greater glory than it deserved.”
“Honorless wretches. In our time, no Gerudo would have dreamed of advancing in rank by –”
“Our time is over, sister,” Kotake cut her off. “We have a singular purpose now. To bring him back.”
“But how can we do that?” Koume asked.
“There are ways. Ancient ways that the Kodiak do not know.”
“I hope you’re not suggesting a resurrection. Those never work!”
“No. If we want Ganondorf Dragmire to be as he once was, he will need to be created as he once was.”
Kotake nodded. “Born of flesh and blood.”
“But we can’t do that!” Koume insisted. “Not precisely. Not the way we arranged for his birth the first time.”
“Fear not, sister. We have something we didn’t have the first time.”
“The one who defeated him.”
“Yes,” Kotake hissed. “The boy who killed him will be cause of his return.”
Koume grew unnaturally silent, staring at her sister. Kotake could feel the question burning in her sister’s belly and waited patiently, giving her time to process it. “Surely we can kill him another way,” she finally said.
“We can kill him many ways,” Kotake said. “But we must use his death to our advantage.”
“But how will killing him with the Topaz restore Ganondorf?”
Kotake smiled. Her memory had always been far superior to Koume’s. “Ganondorf shall be reborn when a Gerudo with child by an Alpha’s son kills the enemy in a painless death,” she said patiently. “We created the prophecy ourselves, don’t you remember? We needed a failsafe.”
“So if a Gerudo with child by an Alpha’s son kills Link with the Topaz, her child will be Ganondorf reborn?”
“Do you remember?”
Furrowing her brow, Koume was silent. “Yes.”
“But why would we make such an absurd set of circumstances?” she asked impatiently.
“An Alpha’s son? That’s not possible. A son is only born to the Gerudo every hundred years. And how many Alphas are there in comparison to the rest of the Gerudo population?”
“We’ll worry about that later,” Kotake said, waving her hand.
“It could be thousands of years before an Alpha births a son,” Koume insisted.
“Our first priority will be reassembling the Topaz,” Kotake snapped, her eyes blazing red with fire.
“All right,” Koume grumbled meekly. “But Kotake…”
“Well…” She shifted, her ancient joints creaking. “We’re old. We haven’t the power…”
“We can’t stay hidden for long. What happens if the boy finds out that we’re alive again?”
“Then I suppose it won’t be long before he realizes what we’re doing,” Kotake admitted.
“What should we do?”
“We’ll have to employ some help.”
“Someone to assemble the Topaz for us while the boy is chasing after us. Someone to do our bidding while we restore our power.”
Koume nodded. “I understand. But where are we going to find help?”
“I have an idea,” Kotake said. She held out her hand and with a flash of fire, her broom appeared. She held it over the ground a moment then let go, the wood hovering of its own free will. Mounting the broom, she turned impatiently to her sister. “Come on,” she barked.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Koume mumbled. “I’m coming.” An instant later, with the crackle of ice, Koume’s broom appeared to perform the same trick. Once Koume was mounted, the sisters took off together, shooting straight up into the shy with sparks of fire and ice trailing behind them. They crisscrossed each other, then leveled off, soaring away, deeper into the heart of the
. Gerudo Valley
“Oh, come on, please?” Link pled, standing under the shade of a Gerudo cabana that cast purple light down as the sunlight hit the delicate fabric. He watched as two Gerudo women battled before him.
“I don’t know, Link,” said the taller of the two. She was Nebekah, the first Beta of the Jaguar Pride. At the moment, she stood on a log, stretched out over a pit, holding a pair of long chobos in her hands. Standing on another log, facing her, was a young warrior that Link did not know. She was gripping her sticks tightly, taking wide swings at Nebekah, who easily dodged each attack by merely swiveling her hips.
“I need your help,” Link told her. He had already explained Talon’s situation to her twice, but Nebekah was reluctant to have anything to do with the matter.
“Things still aren’t very stable around here,” Nebekah said, taking a step backward onto another log, over the pit. Her sparring partner stepped forward, taking another swing at Nebekah and missing by a mile. She easily dodged, her long, blood red dreadlocks bouncing behind her like a thousand snakes, thrown suddenly into the air. Swiftly, she crossed the chobos in front of her chest and sliced them up through the air, catching the other woman’s sticks in the V. She thrust her arms up and her partner was unable to maintain her balance any longer. With a help, she fell off the log and into the pit below. Dust rose up into the air.
“Since when are you so timid?” Link scoffed, folding his arms. “That’s hardly befitting of a Gerudo.”
“Listen to you. You’re made an honorary member of the Dragon Pride and suddenly you know what it means to be Gerudo?”
“Hey, has there every been an honorary male Gerudo before?” he asked, knowing full well that he was the first.
Nebekah leaned over, extending an arm into the pit. The other girl grabbed Nebekah’s wrist, allowing herself to be heaved back to ground level. She perched on the edge of the pit, covered in dark black soot. During more serious battles, the pit was said to be filled with fire and the loser was promised an almost certain demise. “Keep working on your form, Sandya,” Nebekah said.
“Yes, Beta,” Sandya said meekly, bowing her head.
Smiling, Nebekah clapped her on the shoulder. “You’re doing very well,” she told her gently.
“Thank you, Beta.”
“Go run along and clean up.”
Sandya nodded and scampered away. Nebekah brushed the soot off of her hand, absently sprinkling a bit onto her loose fitting, silk pants. “Come with me, Nebekah,” Link begged, walking out from under the comfort of the shade and into the harsh sunlight.
“I don’t’ know, Link,” she said.
“I’m sure the Alpha will give you permission,” Link said. “She likes me a lot, you know.”
“All the Jaguars like you,” Nebekah pointed out. “You killed Ganondorf Dragmire.”
“Exactly,” Link said, feeling a tense knot form in his throat for a moment. He swallowed it down. “I think you owe me one.”
Nebekah smiled. Like most Gerudos, she was singularly attractive, but her natural beauty only radiated when she afforded someone a rare smile. “We owe you one, do we?”
“Because you wouldn’t have killed him if you didn’t think you could get a favor from the Jaguar Pride?”
“Nice try, blondie.”
“I can’t do this without you, Nebekah.”
“I don’t know where to begin. I have no idea where a man would disappear to in the
.” Gerudo Valley
She sighed. “He’s probably dead.”
“I’d rather find him alive.”
“He’s been gone how long?”
“A few months, I think.”
Nebekah twirled a dreadlock in her fingers. “Well, if he’s still alive, he’s probably with the Orca.”
“They’re the only Pride that takes male prisoners.”
“Will you show me where they are?”
“I don’t know, Link…”
Link glanced around. He spotted Sandya’s chobos sticks, resting beside the fire pit. At once, he crossed over to them, picking them up. With great care, he stepped up onto one of the numerous logs stretched out over the soot. “I beat you, you help me track down Tyro.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Nebekah said.
“Link, have you ever attempted the fire pit before?”
“No,” he admitted. “But I learn quickly.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“Come on. Fight me. A fair match. If you beat me, I’ll go away and I won’t bother you any more.”
Rolling her eyes, Nebekah carefully stepped back out onto another log. “All right,” she said. At once, Link took a very precise swing at her left flank. Nebekah just barely managed to block the blow. “I thought you said you’d never done this before,” she cried.
“I haven’t,” Link replied.
“Not bad,” she muttered. With that, she took two identical swings, aiming for either side of Link’s knees.
He shot his sticks out, blocking the blows. “Beginners luck,” he said, a fierce grin on his face.
She swung her right stick at his head, but Link managed to duck. “You’d make a fair dueler.”
“Tell me something though,” he said, retaliating with a jab.
Nebekah parried it. “What?”
“Do you really have duels to the death over fire?”
“No,” she admitted, thrusting to his right shoulder.
Link blocked it. “I didn’t think so.”
“Of all the Gerudo Prides, I’d say that the Jaguar have become the most peaceful. Otherwise, do you really think we would have let you just waltz into camp?”
“Well, if you’re so peaceful, why do you keep teaching the girls this barbaric ritual fighting?” Link swung both of his chobos in opposite directions, aiming for her head.
Skillfully, she ducked under the attack. “Because we’re peaceful, not weak. Ready to fight at a moment’s notice if necessary.” She snarled angrily. “And we haven’t forgotten about that little coup attempted by the Kodiak last year. I lost my mother in that fight.”
Sensing dangerous territory, Link avoided the sudden, passionate outburst. “If you’re so ready to fight, why won’t you come with me to the Orca?”
“Because,” she said, choking up her hold on one of the sticks, “I don’t like crossing the Valley. And your friend’s nephew is probably dead.”
“Maybe,” Link admitted. “But I need to look.”
“You’re a good friend, Link.”
Nebekah attempted to ram one of her sticks into his middle, but Link caught it with both of his sticks crossed, in the V just as she had earlier caught Sandya. “But just waltzing into the territory of the Orca isn’t an option.”
“Which is why I don’t want to do it,” he said. “Alone!” With a grunt, he pushed back on her attacking arm, sending her shoulder back and throwing her off balance. She stepped back, trying to gain her footing on another log, but Link used that moment to knock a stick into her knee. Nebekah slipped, falling in between the logs and onto the soot. Link leaned over to look at her and only too late realized his error, as a cloud of dust blew into his face. Still, he coughed and smiled triumphantly. “I win.”
“You cheated,” she replied.
But of course, he hadn’t and Nebekah knew that perfectly well. “Help me out of here.”
“You’ll go with me to find the Orca?” he asked.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I’ll go with you.”
“Great.” Link offered her a hand. Immediately, Nebekah took it and pulled hard, sending him face first down into the black dirt. “Gah!” he exclaimed, spitting soot out of his mouth.
“Oh, come on,” Nebekah laughed mercilessly. “How could you not see that one coming?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” he said with a pout. Secretly, his heart lightened a bit. He was grateful to have Nebekah agree to come with him on the journey. She had been a good friend to him since he first ventured into Gerudo territory when they were both children. Even back then, she had always been surprisingly playful for a Gerudo. Her smile always comforted him and assured him that even in the direst of situations, there would be hope. She would help him now. With any luck, she would be able to keep the demons at bay.
The target was shaped like a man. Naturally. They were best when they served as targets, unfortunately, the Alpha wouldn’t permit her warriors in training to use an actual man for practice. She considered it unseemly. As a measure of tracking progress, each young warrior was given a quiver with arrows of a specific color. It allowed the elders to determine whose aim was best and whose still needed improvement during training sessions. This afternoon was not a training session, but still, the target was covered in blue arrows, most of them centered around the chest. Not a single green arrow had managed to hit the dummy.
Mika watched her companion Alcia as she struggled to nock another green arrow into the bow. So far, she had managed to break three brow strings, but had not yet succeeded in firing an arrow more than three yards. Mika herself had run out of arrows some time ago and now stood, offering her friend encouragement. It was still hopeless. Alcia was terrible.
“Oh,” she moaned as yet another arrow curved down in its fight, hitting the ground. “I’m a lost cause.”
“Don’t say that,” Mika told her, brushing her hair away from her shoulders. Mika wore it wrapped tightly in blue threads, in part to keep it out of her face and in part to make certain that everyone knew the blue arrows belonged to her. She had the best aim in the entire camp.
“It’s true,” Alcia said with a pout.
“You just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet,” Mika responded. “You’ll get it. Just keep practicing.”
“I’m always practicing,” Alcia grumbled.
“I know,” Mika told her, trying to sound encouraging.
“I’m just not improving.” Alcia set down her bow, letting the quiver with its remaining green arrows spill out. She sank to the ground, hanging her head so that her light blond hair fell over her face.
Mika couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s strange impersonation of a weeping willow. “Come now, Alcia,” she said, squatting down in front of her.
“Just leave me alone.”
Mika brushed back Alcia’s hair, attempting to catch her eye. “It’s not all bad. Besides, the initiation doesn’t involve using bows anyway.”
“No,” Alcia said sulkily. “It involves the sword. And I’m worse with that than I am with bows!”
“You just have to –”
“Keep practicing,” Alcia finished for her.
“I know.” She brushed her hair out of her face. “It’s just that…”
Alcia sighed. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m not meant for this.”
“Not meant to be a Gerudo warrior.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mika told her sternly.
“I’m not being ridiculous,” she insisted.
“Of course you’re meant to be a Gerudo warrior. Just like me. The two of us are going to lead this Pride someday.”
She scoffed. “No, you’ll lead the Pride. You do everything so much better than I do.”
“That’s not true,” Mika insisted.
“The only thing I was ever any good at was cooking.” She shook her head. “I’ll never be a real Gerudo.”
“Alcia, just because you weren’t born a Gerudo doesn’t mean you can’t become one. This has been your home. Medea has been your mother. That’s a bond deeper than blood.” She clutched her friend’s hand. “You were a Gerudo the minute you came to the camp. No one cares if you’re a Thin Blood.”
“I guess so.”
“You know so.”
“I am a Gerudo,” Alcia said glumly.
“That’s right.” Mika smiled tightly. “Besides, the Gerudo need to eat.”
Alcia smiled a bit at this. “I guess so.”
“Come on, let’s try again. I know you can do it.”
As Mika pulled Alcia up to her feet, they both heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Of course, they had no real need to fear. The camp was so isolated it had, quite literally, never been attacked by outside forces. Still, as young trainees, both of them had been instilled with sharp senses that immediately put them on edge at the sound of someone approaching. Instantly, two pairs of blue eyes snapped in the direction of the sound. For a breathless moment, they waited.
Into the arena came the serene figure of the Orca Alpha, Medea. She regarded her two young wards with a thoughtful expression. She seldom smiled, but her eyes immediately betrayed a certain pleasure at seeing the two of them hard at work. From within the folds of her blue robes, she withdrew two long, curved blades, crossing them in front of her chest. “Good afternoon,” she said lightly.
Both Mika and Alcia pulled up erect, crossing their wrists in front of their chests. Since they had not yet attempted initiation, neither was permitted to carry blades. This was an Orca rule. Medea knew that many of the larger clans had done away with it long ago, but she clung to tradition, as her mother before her and her mother before her, all the way back down the line. She hoped that Alcia and Mika would do the same, after she was gone, but there was much reason to doubt that.
“Good afternoon, Alpha,” Mika barked obediently.
“Good afternoon, Alpha,” Alcia said in her typical, timid whisper.
“At ease,” Medea told them. Immediately, both girls relaxed. “I came looking for you,” Medea said, surveying them lovingly.
“Why?” Alcia asked, inching in front of her quiver in the vain hopes that Medea would not see her pathetic green arrows.
“I have made a very important decision regarding your futures,” Medea explained.
“What’s that, mother?” Mika wondered.
Medea paused a moment, watching the girls. Her face was neutral as ever, but her eyes betrayed a sense of hesitation. This had not been an easy decision. “The time has come for your initiations,” she said finally.
Mika looked about ready to explode with joy. As hard as she tried, she could not perfectly emulate Medea’s abilities to hide her emotions. Alcia, on the other hand, made not attempt to hide what she was feeling. Her jaw went slack and her gaunt, fair face displayed pure horror. “Already?” she squeaked.
“You’ve both turned twenty,” Medea said. “I think it’s time. Din has given me a sign.”
Alcia gulped. “She has?”
“A man was caught loitering around camp,” Medea explained. “It’s time to put him to use.”
“Oh, what’s he like?” Mika questioned.
“Thoroughly unimpressive,” Medea said. “Just a man.”
“When are we going to begin?” Alcia asked nervously.
“This afternoon, in two hours time, our sisters will assemble and he’ll be led in. Alcia, you will face him.”
“Her?” Mika snapped impatiently.
“Yes,” Medea replied.
Alcia steeled herself, trying to appear braver than she doubtlessly felt. “Very well,” she told the Alpha.
Medea walked over to Alcia, taking her head in her hands. She kissed the girl’s forehead. “I know you will make me proud,” she whispered gently.
“I w-will try,” Alcia said.
“You are strong and brave,” Medea told her. “Now, go prepare yourself.”
“Y-yes.” Alcia nodded. Stumbling over the quiver, she walked out of the arena, barely hiding the trembling of her legs.
Mika folded her arms, a pout threatening to break her lips. “Why does she get to go first?”
“Because,” Medea said, “this man is unimpressive. I don’t think he’ll hurt her. You’ll receive a more formidable opponent in time. I’ll go out and capture one myself. It wouldn’t do for you to fight just an idiot who happened to wander too close to our territory.”
Mika seemed to accept the explanation. “All right.”
“You will make me so proud, Mika,” Medea gushed softly.
“I live to do so,” Mika replied.
After changing out of her dirty clothing and into pale, pink desert wear, Nebekah parted with the blessing of her Alpha, a contemporary named Miral, and together with Link, headed out to cross the Valley. It had been a long time since she last visited the Orca Pride. Their relations with the Jaguar were tenuous at best. “They don’t stage raids like the Kodiak,” she explained, “but they still hold some barbaric practices.”
“Like what?” Link asked, accepting her helping hand as they scrambled over some loose shale.
“They’re the only Pride to keep male prisoners.”
“You told me that.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t tell you why.”
“Okay,” Link said. “Why?”
“Two reasons. Some of the male prisoners they use for reproductive purposes, to keep their bloodlines going.”
Link made a face. “What about the others?”
“Well, the Orca have an initiation rite.”
“Something tells me this isn’t going to end happily.”
“You see, when Orca warriors are trained,” she said, “they fight only against women. Their final test, to prove themselves worthy, is to fight a man.”
“And they prove themselves worthy if they…?”
Nebekah nodded. “If they manage to kill him.”
“No offense, Nebekah,” Link grumbled, “but your people are really a bit frightening.”
“They’re not my people,” she said.
“They’re still Gerudo.”
“Not all Gerudo are the same,” she insisted. “There was a time, hundreds of years ago, when the Gerudo were all one people.”
She shrugged. “Well, it’s a little clouded in myth now.”
“What’s the story?”
“Well, the story is that there were five sisters. They were great warriors, but they fought amongst themselves. And each garnered their own following.”
“Naturally,” he snorted.
“And in the end, the Gerudo people were splintered into five separate groups. The five Prides today.”
“And each developed their own set of rules to live by?”
“Sort of,” she replied. “Based on the edicts of the founding sister. We may all be Gerudo, but each Pride is a unique culture. The Orca and the Jaguar are as different as the Saber Tooth and the Dragon.”
“And they’re all different from Ganondorf’s girlfriends?”
“The Kodiak,” she growled.
“But they all have the same titles,” Link pointed out quickly, eager to keep her from getting too upset.
“The leader of each Pride is called the Alpha. The second in command is the Beta.”
“Like me. Third is the Gamma. And each Pride has a priestess and an elder healing woman.”
“It’s only proof of a common heritage.”
They walked on for a ways in silence. Link thought about the Gerudo and their splintering, finding it oddly similar to the way the Hylian race divided into subspecies. The Zora were distinct from the Goron. It was history repeating itself, really, when the Gerudo divided into their Prides. This was discouraging. Did that mean that people who were different – either in ethics of the number of fingers they possessed – simply couldn’t coexist? Yet the Sages had represented every Hylian race. Did that mean there was hope yet?
The sun was beating down now, causing the back of Link’s tunic to stick to his skin with sweat. He pulled off his gauntlets, thrusting them unceremoniously into his satchel and wiping the back of his hand across his forehead. Nebekah, more accustomed to the desert travel, graciously slowed down, allowing him to walk in her shadow and offering him sips from her canteen at regular intervals.
“We really should have gotten you more appropriate clothing,” she muttered. “That fabric doesn’t breathe.”
Link sincerely doubted that the Jaguar had desert garb for men, peaceful though they were, living so close to the border of Hylian territory. Still, he appreciated Nebekah’s concern. To keep himself from getting too down trod, he reminded himself that it could certainly be worse. He could be back in the volcanic caverns of the Goron. Somehow, this did not work as intended. Instead of being grateful for the relative cool of the desert in comparison, he merely felt a pang in his throat, reminding himself of that which he longed to forget.
There was some comfort in traveling with Nebekah. She has shared in some of the terrors that haunted Link. During his mad quest to rescue Nabooru, it had been Nebekah who had tended his wounds when the perils of the desert nearly claimed his life. He had found her in a cavern with several Gerudo sisters, resisting the iron will of Ganondorf and the Kodiak who had claimed most of the desert. He remembered all too well the pain and anguish on her face when she told him of the fierce battle, the fight the Jaguar put up, costing them both their Alpha and Nebekah’s mother. In the end, it was only the young, those with legs strong enough to flee, that survived the devastation. Link imagined that like him, Nebekah too wanted nothing more than to forget about Ganondorf and his horrors.
After some time, Nebekah stopped, holding a hand up to shield her vision from the sun. “There,” she said.
Nebekah pointed off to one side, raising her chin. “There’s something in the sand. Come on.”
With that, the two of them cut away from their path, trotting through the windswept plane. It was awhile before Link saw what she could see, a black speck in the flawless yellow sand. The speck grew and grew until finally they were standing over it. Link knelt down, touching the black dirt. “Soot,” he said, rolling it between his bare fingers.
“It seems your friend’s nephew made it this far,” she said.
“How do you know this was Tyro’s fire?” he asked.
She knelt down across from him. “This fire was put out by water,” she explained in a matter of fact tone.
“When a Gerudo puts out a campfire, she uses the sand.” For emphasis, Nebekah picked up a handful of sand and slowly poured it over the soot. “It saves water for drinking and it has the added bonus of covering up the soot.”
“So no one can track you?”
Link nodded slowly. “I see.”
“It seems your friend most likely did wander into Orca territory.”
“That’s good, right?”
She frowned. “It depends on two things.”
“It depends on how long ago this was.”
“And what purpose the Orca have in mind for him?”
“If he was captured.”
Link ran his fingers through the soot. Suddenly, Nebekah frowned. “What’s that?” she asked.
Nebekah reached out and grabbed his arm, lifting it up to her eye level. “What’s that?” she repeated, pointing to the intricate array of blue lines tattooed on the Hero’s wrist
Quickly, Link pulled his arm back. “Nothing,” he said.
She gave him an incredulous look. “Nothing?”
He sighed. “I’ve had it since I was a baby, I think.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know exactly. Impa says it looks like half of a Hylian glyph.”
“What’s it mean?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve never seen the other half.”
“There’s another half?”
“I really don’t want to talk about this,” Link insisted.
She persisted. “Why?”
“Look,” he said sharply, “I was raised by the Kokiri, but I was never one of them. I’m just a Hylian. I obviously had Hylian parents at some point.”
“Why would they mark you?”
“I was a baby,” he said. “I didn’t really think to ask.”
He frowned. “Impa says that I had a sister. She thinks that our parents marked us each with half of the symbol so that we could locate each other if anything happened to us.”
“Well, that’s certainly planning ahead.”
“I’ll say. Like they knew something was going to come between us or that Kasuto was going to be attacked.”
“So what happened to your sister?”
Link shrugged. “I don’t know. She went into hiding like me, I guess.”
“You never tried to find her?”
“I don’t even know what her name is.” He pulled out his gauntlets, putting them on again, signaling that the conversation was over. “Let’s keep going,” he said.
Tyro generally prided himself on a unique ability to keep a level head no matter what the situation was. He could talk his way out of a tab at the tavern better than anyone else in town. If he happened to forget the name of the girl he had spent an evening with, he was always cool and calm, dismissing it with an easy going smile. Even as a child, he had managed to explain away the missing cookies from the kitchen without implicating himself at all. But this time, he had to admit, he was at a loss.
These girls weren’t like the town courtesans. He had figured that much when they clubbed him over the head and dragged him across the desert. It wasn’t his fault he had been camping out in their territory. He had no idea how these blasted Gerudo clans operated. All he knew was that one moment, he was perfectly content, minding his own business, and the next he had been thrown into a musty iron cage that he suspected was generally used to hold Moblins. Typical Gerudo behavior, of course. They were always harming the innocent.
Unlike so many sticky situations before, Tyro’s good looks were useless against these women. Not that he would smile at his captors, flashing his brilliant teeth, batting his magically long of lash blue eyes only to receive scowls, curses, and the occasional spit in his face. All things told he had to admit he was in over his head. And things only seemed to be getting much worse. Well, it was his own fault. No, he couldn’t believe that. It was their fault. None of this would have happened if the Gerudo nation hadn’t minded its own business.
In the morning, he was informed that he would be participating in the initiation ritual of someone called Alcia. For a moment, he allowed his mind to fool him into believing that this would be a pleasant ordeal, but now, no amount of pretending would protect him from reality. His wrists were bound by surprisingly strong linen and he was dragged out of the cage, one Orca holding his arm, the other firmly tugging on his long, auburn ponytail. They led him through the hallways of the Orca fortress, lined on either side by insanely angry women who occasionally threw things at him. Usually curses. Occasionally rocks. Tyro wished he could move his head to glare at them and make his contempt well known.
At last, his pale skin was seared by the sun once more as they led him into a stone arena. In the stands, the warriors of the Orca pride had gathered, beating on drums and waving torches into the already insufferably hot air. Tyro was dragged to the center of the arena floor, thrown to the sand at the feet of a woman. He had seen her several times before during his captivity. They called her Alpha Medea. She was a striking woman with slender fingers and long red hair, pulled back with a blue snood, all but a few tendrils that framed her face. For a Gerudo, she had a softer, prettier look, favoring blue robes to the leather battle gear of the majority of the Orca. Still, Tyro had the distinct impression that she could do him a nasty bit of injury.
“Untie him,” she commanded the lackeys that had dragged him through the hall. Tyro was grateful to feel the bounds fall away from his wrists. Gingerly, he rubbed his aching scalp.
As he looked up, he noticed a ring of younger girls standing around the edge of the arena. Each one wore a distinct color and carried a quiver with arrows of the matching color: All except one, a frail, frightened looking blond girl in green who stood opposite of Tyro, clutching a pair of swords with trembling hands. She seemed to be taking in the crowd as one observed a massacre, her eyes wide, her skin completely blanched. Immediately, Tyro felt his heart lift considerably. Whoever she was, however she came to be here, she wasn’t like the others. She wasn’t a Gerudo. She was a Hylian just like him.
The drum music finally died down. Medea held up her hands in one majestic sweep and all fell silent, watching her intently. “Today, my sisters,” she declared, “Alcia joins our ranks as a Gerudo warrior.” There was cheering in the crowd, but Tyro was almost positive that he heard some murmurs of trepidation too. “She will today become a Delta warrior. The sacrifice has been brought forward.”
Sacrifice? That didn’t sound good. As the women in the stands cheered, one of Tyro’s ever so annoying guards kicked him in the side. “On your feet,” she hissed. Frankly, Tyro didn’t feel much like getting up, but it was probably best to obey for the time being. Still, he gave her a nasty glare.
Medea made another graceful gesture and Tyro’s guards backed up to the sidelines. She made her way over to him. “Your death brings honor to my daughter,” she said quietly.
“She doesn’t look much like you,” he said feebly.
“Din provides us with children in more than one way,” she replied. With that, she drew a sword from the confines of her robe. Tyro flinched, certain she was about to cut his throat, but much to his surprise, she flipped the sword in her hand, catching it by the blade, and offered him the hilt.
“Uh…” He wasn’t really sure what to do. She stood there, watching him expectantly. “Right,” he muttered, taking the hilt.
“May you die quickly,” she told him, stepping back. In a louder voice, she turned to address the crowd. “Alcia!” she called. Quivering, the little blond girl stepped forward. She raised her swords, crossing them in front of her chest. “Are you ready to serve the Gerudo nation?”
“I am r-ready,” Alcia recited. No! Tyro did not want to duel her! She wasn’t one of them. She didn’t deserve to die.
“Until this point, you have fought only women. Now you will defeat the true enemy.” Medea clapped her hands together. And again. And again. Everyone in the crowd began clapping, beating out a steady rhythm as the Alpha backed away to the sidelines, leaving Tyro alone to face Alcia. “Begin,” Medea called in time with the sturdy clapping.
At once, Alcia advanced, nervously, on Tyro. He held up the sword with both hands. In truth, he had never had much talent with the sword. He had always found polearms much easier. They traveled better, weighed less, and were readily available for nasty tavern brawls. Not that he particularly wanted to fight this girl at all. But he had been given very little choice in the matter.
With a labored effort, Alcia took the first swing, her swords wildly cutting down at Tyro. He easily dodged the sloppy blow. “We don’t have to do this,” he said, resorting to his old failsafe approach to any hazardous situation.
“Yes,” she grunted, taking a second swing with her left hand at his head. “We do.”
Tyro narrowly jumped out of the way, still clutching his sword in front of him. “Really, I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
Alcia thrust both of her swords forward, missing Tyro completely though he was standing stationary. “I have to become a woman today.”
“Aren’t there other ways of doing that?” he asked.
“No,” she insisted, with another sloppy strike which Tyro avoided. “This is the only way.”
“That’s really unfortunate,” he said, taking a few steps back. “Come on, you’re one of my kind, not one of them.”
“Don’t run away from me, coward,” she shouted. “Fight me.”
“All things told, I think I’d rather run away. It’s safer that way.”
“Safe? I’ll show you safe!” Gathering up all her strength, Alcia bellowed, holding her swords forward and charging at Tyro. The move was so sudden and unexpected, that he didn’t have time to dodge. He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut, and desperately hoped that the pain would be brief. There was a sickening slicing sound, rather like a cabbage being chopped in half with a cleaver. Well, that didn’t hurt at all. Tyro slowly opened his eyes and he realized why.
Alcia stood in front of him, a look of shock on her face which was even paler than before. As his eyes traveled down her tiny frame, he saw his own sword firmly planted in her stomach. She dropped her curved blades. There was a collective gasp from the crowd and the clapping stopped abruptly. “Alcia!” a girl in blue called from the sidelines.
Tyro stepped back, letting go of the sword. It remained firmly embedded in Alcia’s skin. Her breathing was sharp and uneven, her stomach pumping up and down as blood gushed from the wound, down her leg. It was only a minute, but it felt like a lifetime. Only when that passed did Alcia fall, hitting the already bloodstained sand with a soft thud. “Alcia!” Medea shouted, running forward and dropping to her daughter’s side. “Get Tiama!” she barked to one of the shocked bystanders. Medea pulled Alcia’s head into her lap, holding her gently and brushing her hair away from her sweat drenched face. “Breathe easy,” she whispered gently.
“I…” Tyro was too shocked for words. He certainly hadn’t intended on hurting the girl. He wouldn’t have minded running through a Gerudo or two, but she was different. “I…”
There was a sudden roar from the side. The girl in blue charged forward at Tyro, so fast that again, he didn’t have time to dodge. She knocked him flat onto his back and planted a knee into his chest, grabbing one of Alcia’s fallen blades. She pulled it back, ready to plunge it into Tyro’s throat, but a hand caught her wrist, stopping her, and not a moment too soon.
“No,” Medea said firmly, prying the sword out of her hand.
“He impaled Alcia!” the girl in blue shouted.
“Leave him, Mika,” Medea barked.
“You know the law,” Medea said firmly. “If she lives, Alcia must fight him again. She and she alone may kill him.”
“And if she dies?” Mika asked urgently.
“Then he has defeated a Gerudo warrior and proved his genes worthy of continuing,” Medea said. Tyro wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that, but it sounded infinitely more pleasant than fighting poor Alcia again. Mika looked ready to argue, but Medea would have none of it. “Let him go,” she ordered. Reluctantly, Mika removed her kneecap from Tyro’s chest. “Take him back to the cage,” Medea instructed her lackeys who had returned to the fold.
Tyro was hefted back to his feet. Right before one of the guards grabbed his ponytail again, he caught a glimpse of Alcia. She was lying on her back, staring up at the sky with a frighteningly glossy look in her eyes. Blood continued to gush from the wound made by Tyro’s unintentional sword. Beside her stood the girl in blue, called Mika. She was glaring at Tyro with a look of pure rage. Somehow, he doubted very much that he would be allowed to live if Alcia died.
The sun was beginning to sink. Link was grateful for the drop in temperature, but Nebekah was concerned. The desert got very cold at night. “It can freeze water,” she warned him. “Even in the summer.” They should have made it to Orca camp by now. Nebekah was too polite to point out that Link’s difficulties with desert travel had slowed them down considerably. “We can still make it,” she said, only somewhat convincingly. “Just a little way more. We’re already in their territory.”
Of course, neither of them were certain what kind of reception they would receive. Link, as a male, was trapped in a dangerous, sticky situation in the
, and for her own part, Nebekah was afraid that the Orca wouldn’t be too keen on a visit from the Jaguar Beta. The Orca and the Jaguar certainly weren’t at war. But they weren’t exactly friends either. Gerudo Valley
It didn’t help that the trek was getting more difficult. The smooth desert sands with occasional piles of shale had given way to a rocky terrain. Link and Nebekah found themselves relying more and more on their hands to clamber over the difficult landscape. The Orca, she had explained, were stone dwellers. Link was more and more convinced that there were profound cultural differences between each of the Gerudo Prides. Compared with the relatively mild backdrop and light materials of the Jaguar, he imagined that the Orca were positively prehistoric.
Nebekah scrambled over the rocks, the arrows in her quiver rattling surprisingly loudly. He followed after her, gritting his teeth and sand and dust fell from the rocks in her wake and into his face. A particularly nasty little pebble caught him in the eye. Instinctively, he clapped a hand over his face only to realize too late that he had lost his grip completely. Just as his stomach sank out from under him, however Nebekah turned around, grabbing his wrist and hoisting him up again.
“Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Careful,” she called. Tugging his arm, she pulled him up onto a relatively flat plateau.
Link collapsed onto his knees. “I need a moment,” he said apologetically, looking up at her.
“All right,” she consented.
“I’ll go see if there’s a stream nearby. The canteens could use a refill.” She jerked her thumb in the direction of a tall, gray rock formation. “That area looks promising.”
“Okay,” he said.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Yeah,” he muttered.
Nebekah hurried off, her arrows clattering. Link remained on the ground, catching his breath and rubbing his sore eye. Part of him was grateful that Nebekah was polite enough to turn away while he was having difficulty, but another part desperately wished she wouldn’t leave him alone. Every moment in this desert was a little bit too much like his confrontation with Ganondorf all over again. He couldn’t help it! The memories wouldn’t leave him alone. He wondered if there was enough magic in the world to erase it. Perhaps Zelda would know of a cure. He would have to ask her when he returned to the village.
In the meanwhile, to distract himself, Link hummed absently, pulling himself to his feet. The song reminded him of Saria and she always managed to lift his spirits. Even the very thought of her. In fact –
But before Link could finish the verse, he heard a loud grunt from above. Turning sharply, he just barely managed to make out an enormous red and black blur coming right at him. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground, a weight on top of him, pressing the side of his face into the rock. “Man scum!” an angry, female voice shouted.
Just out of the corner of his eye, Link made out the figure pinning him to the ground. It was a Gerudo, one he had never seen before. She was young, her dark red hair cropped close around her face, long fringe falling over her fierce blue eyes. With one hand, she pressed Link’s face down. With the other, she held a knife at his throat, a bit too close for comfort. She wore black and red desert garb, a bit more militaristic than what Link was accustomed to seeing on the Jaguar.
“You’ve just made a big mistake,” she hissed at him. “This is Gerudo territory, scum.”
“No mistake,” Link winced. She pressed him harder into the ground and Link decided now was not the time for levity. “I’m here on a mission,” he croaked, his eye aching. “I’m an honorary member of the Dr –”
“A mission,” she scoffed, cutting him off. “A mission to destroy the Gerudo nation!”
“No. I’m here to speak with the Orca Pride.”
“On behalf of who?” she asked.
“The Jaguar Pride,” a third voice said. In his peripheral vision, Link could just barely see a pink blur appear.
His attacker’s grip relaxed and Link lifted his head to see Nebekah standing there, her bowstring taut, an arrow aimed at the strange woman. “What she said,” he muttered softly, unable to resist a barb.
“Who are you?” the attacker demanded.
“Nebekah, daughter of Elena, first Beta of the Jaguar Pride,” Nebekah told her proudly. “Kindly get off of him.”
“Link, the Hero of Time. Under the protection of the Jaguar Pride. I suggest you cooperate.”
Slowly, clearly with great reluctance, the woman climbed off of Link’s chest. Dizzily, he drew himself to his feet. “I thought he was a spy,” the woman explained without a hint of apology.
“He’s with me,” Nebekah said.
Rather quickly, Link made his way over to Nebekah’s side. “Who are you?” he asked the woman.
She paused a moment, clearly debating any number of things. Finally, she folded her arms across her chest, looking smugly defiant. “Sapphia,” she said. “Daughter of Alondra.”
Link folded his arms, trying to look equally defiant. “And what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to deliver a message to the Alpha of the Orca Pride,” she told him importantly.
“On behalf of who?”
This game was tiresome. “What Pride do you belong to?”
Again, she was silent for an extended period. “I am a daughter of the Kodiak Pride,” she finally admitted.
Nebekah narrowed her eyes. “Kodiak,” she growled, taking a step forward. Link quickly put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “Dishonorable wretch!” she hissed, spitting at Sapphia.
Sapphia rolled her eyes. “Still living in the past, I see. The Jaguar are so reactionary.”
“You served under the rule of a man!” Nebekah spat.
“Not just any man,” Link mumbled. “Ganondorf Dragmire.”
“That is in the past,” Sapphia said.
“Is it?” Link asked.
“Ganondorf Dragmire has been overthrown. Rightfully so. Our Alpha has been reinstated.”
“Sarjenka does not deserve the title of Alpha,” Nebekah roared. “Submitting to the will of that man to perform an honorless task.”
“Sarjenka earned the title of Alpha,” Sapphia snapped, “consistent with the laws of our Pride.”
“Your Pride has no laws!”
“And yours has no spine,” Sapphia sneered.
“Ladies!” Link cried before the spat could escalate any further. “I think this is counterproductive. The sun will be setting soon and as I understand it, it’s going to get really, really cold out here. I suggest that we put aside this little dispute in favor of survival.”
“What are you suggesting?” Sapphia questioned.
“We’re all heading in the same direction. I suggest that we travel together.” Nebekah opened her mouth to object, but Link quickly cut her off. “Leave the past in the past. The war is over and the Kodiak have retreated to their own territory. There’s no sense in continuing this.”
She looked reluctant, but Nebekah nodded. “Agreed.” She glanced at Sapphia bitterly.
Sapphia smirked. “Agreed.”
“Wonderful!” Link said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s get going.” With a grand gesture, he allowed Nebekah to take the lead. He followed after her, determined to keep the two women apart until they had cooled down somewhat.
“I’m curious,” Sapphia said. “Why do they call you the Hero of Time?”
“It’s a long story,” Link muttered, hoping that Sapphia would not ask him to tell it. He had enough on his mind now. He didn’t want to bring back the memories.
Following the disaster in the arena, Alcia was transported to Tiama’s chamber. Tiama was the healing woman and kept clean house. Her stone room was filled with soft, straw filled mattresses, cover in silk sheets. From the ceiling hung dozens of gourds, each filled with a unique salve or potion, dedicating to the healing art that she had practiced for nearly half a century.
There was no door to the chamber, but Mika was kept out of it for a good long while by Medea, who insisted that Tiama be left to work on Alcia without anyone peering nervously over her shoulder. Mika busied herself, pacing along the stone corridor, angrily praying to Din to curse that dreadful man with a thousand different horrible things. She could still see the coward’s face. More importantly, his throat which she had been so close to cutting. How dare he harm her sister? He was supposed to be the one bleeding!
Finally, Tiama came out of the chamber. Her worried, weathered face did little to comfort Mika. Tiama pulled Medea aside and the two of them whispered, huddling far from Mika. She strained her ears, trying to hear what they said, but she couldn’t. She clasped her hands together and began to chew on the strings of her gauntlet, an old habit from her childhood. Medea’s face began to slacken as she listened to Tiama. No. No, Mika couldn’t bear it. Alcia had to get better, she simply had to. The two of them had been the closest of companions, ever since they were children. Mika could not fathom going on without her, clumsy though she was, they were still sisters in the deepest sense of the word.
“Mika,” said Tiama’s calm voice, scaring Mika out of her worries.
“What?” she asked urgently.
“You can go in if you like. Alcia’s awake.”
“Is she going to be all right?” Mika asked. The two older women exchanged a worried look. “Is she?”
“Go inside,” Medea urged her gently.
Swallowing a hot lump in her throat, Mika walked past the other two and into the chamber. She ducked under the gourds and made her way over to one of the mattresses against the far wall. Alcia was lying in the silvery blue sheets, her raspy breathing causing the silk to pulse up and down. An ugly brown stain had formed directly over her stomach. Mika could only be gratified that it wasn’t red. At least the bleeding had stopped.
“Alcia?” she whispered.
Alcia turned her head slightly, her glossy blue eyes looking through Mika. “Mika?” she called. “Is that you?”
“I’m here,” Mika told her, kneeling beside the mattress.
Gingerly, Alcia raised an arm, groping out for Mika. Mika took her hand in both of hers, squeezing it tightly. “I guess I was right,” Alcia muttered.
“I’m never going to be a Gerudo.”
“Don’t say that. You’ll get another chance. After you get better, I’ll train with you myself. Every night. And then you’ll kill him.”
“You’ll train with me?”
“Just like before.”
“You know,” Alcia said, wetting her lips, “the only reason I liked training with you so much is because it meant spending time with you. I could never fool myself. I wasn’t cut out to be a warrior.”
“You have a Gerudo’s heart,” Mika told her. “Even if you don’t have Gerudo blood.” She brushed a few stray locks of blond hair away from Alcia’s sweaty forehead. “You’re just like me.”
“No,” Alcia whispered. “Not just like you.”
“Close enough. You’re my sister.”
“Always,” Alcia promised.
“You have to get better, okay? You have to pull through this.”
“I’m not sure I can.”
Mika chocked back a sob. “You have to be strong, Alcia.”
“You were always the strong one, Mika.”
“Only because of you.”
“I thank you for saying that.” Alcia turned away from her, staring up at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression.
“I wonder,” she drawled hoarsely.
“Do you think it hurts?”
“Dying? Do you think it’s painful?”
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough.”
“Don’t say that!”
“I’ll tell you one thing though, being stabbed doesn’t hurt at all. I don’t feel a thing anymore.”
Mika couldn’t hold back a tear which rolled down her sun kissed cheek. “Stay with me, Alcia.”
“Surprisingly numb,” Alcia said.
“No,” Mika said, squeezing her hand tighter.
“Only a little cold now.” Alcia licked her lips again. “Hey, Mika?”
“Do you think that maybe…” she trailed off.
“Maybe what?” Mika asked urgently.
“Do you think that maybe my parents will be waiting for me on the other side? My real parents?”
Her lower lip trembled. “We’re your family, Alcia.”
“I know,” Alcia told her gently. “I’ve just always wondered.”
“What they were like.”
“Do you think they loved me?”
“You’re loved here, Alcia.”
“Do you? Do you think they loved me?”
“I don’t…I don’t know.”
Alcia nodded, seeming to accept that answer. “I think they did.”
“They gave you away.”
“I like to think that…that they did it for a reason. A really good reason. You know?”
Mika didn’t, but she nodded nevertheless. “You’re right. I’m sure they had a really good reason.”
She smiled weakly. “I’ll get to ask them myself.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “I know it’s going to be okay.”
“You can’t let a man have defeated you.”
“He can’t be allowed to live. We have to get him for this. The two of us, together. He has to die.”
“Soon enough.” And with a contented sigh, Alcia’s head lolled to one side, her eyes staring blankly into oblivion.
“Alcia!” Mika shouted. She grabbed hold of her sister’s shoulders and shook them, watching helplessly as her head limply swayed. Horror filled her throat. She had seen death before, certainly, at countless initiations, but this was different. This time, it was someone she knew. Someone she cared for. Someone she loved. “No…” she whispered, lowering her forehead onto Alcia’s shoulder. Already, the body was becoming cold. “No!” she roared, throwing her head back and shouting at the ceiling. “No!”
She could hear Medea and Tiama rush in, calling out in confusion and sadness as they realized what had happened. Mika did not see them. They were nothing but shadows on the wall. Her mind was elsewhere, longing for her sister. A new passion flared up in her suddenly. Her sister had been killed by a man. A man still very much alive and sitting pretty in a cage within the confines of the compound. Such an evil could not be permitted to continue. Fire flared in Mika’s eyes. She would avenge this wrong. She would kill him. To blazes with tradition.
Numbly, she rose, letting go of Alcia’s hand for the last time. Ignoring Medea and Tiama as they offered her some cold comfort, she turned and made her way out of the chamber, barely noticing as the scene changed about her. She moved through the corridors of her home, letting her feet instinctively guide her. He would pay dearly for her loss. Alcia’s soul would have company on its journey. Perhaps she would finally find her parents, but frankly, Mika felt it didn’t matter. The Gerudo were the only family a woman needed. To blazes with Alcia’s parents for abandoning her. And for that matter, to blazes with Mika’s too.
The night had just fallen when Link, Nebekah, and Sapphia reached the top of an enormous, but shallow, ravine. Staring down over they edge, they saw, arrayed before them, the entire Orca compound, an impressive village of stone dwellings, circling a large fortress and arena. Torches ambled back and forth along the narrow avenues as sentries moved about, but the vast majority of the shadowy people seemed to be milling about in the arena.
Protocol stated that the Gerudo messengers had to appear before the Alpha, but from the looks of things, that might prove difficult. Something was going on. Uncertain of how else to proceed, the trio made their way down the steep of the ravine and headed to the compound. By the time they arrived, a harvest moon had risen. More hauntingly though, the streets had been abandoned.
“Something’s happening,” Nebekah murmured.
“What was your first giveaway?” Sapphia retorted.
“Shut up,” Nebekah snapped.
“Ladies,” Link interrupted them. “I think we need to find the Alpha.” He was a bit hesitant about it really. While Sapphia’s duties as a messenger were more or less on the up, he very much doubted protocol allowed him to waltz up to the Alpha and demand that she release a prisoner to his custody. Perhaps it was just best to go along with Sapphia and rescue Tyro in an off hand sort of way. Vaguely, he wondered if the Orca were willing to buy and sell male prisoners. Doubtful. And even if they did, he realized, he didn’t have much money and certainly nothing worth bartering, except maybe his sword, and he wasn’t about to part with it.
“Her greeting chamber is in the middle of the fortress,” Sapphia said. “Follow me.”
Sapphia headed off in the direction of the fortress, Link right behind her, and Nebekah reluctantly bringing up the rear. Link was certain that he could hear her grumbling behind him, doubtlessly complaining about the indignities of having to follow a Kodiak. He supposed on some level, he couldn’t blame her. After all, the Kodiak had killed her mother. Still, it wasn’t Sapphia’s fault.
When they reached the fortress, Link was thoroughly confused. No guards were posted in front of the entrance and they were able to just waltz right in. The hallways were eerily deserted as well. “Do you think they’re waiting to ambush us?” Link mused softly.
“No,” Sapphia said. “If so, they would have done it already.”
“So where is everyone?”
“The arena,” Nebekah said. “You saw for yourself.”
“What are they doing there?”
“Could be any number of things,” Sapphia replied. “An initiation, a ceremony, a funeral, even an important birth. The Orca are quite public about such things.”
Link wrinkled his nose. “Ew.”
They wound their way through the twisting hallways, sparsely decorated, but for occasional silk hangings of blue and green. “Orca colors,” Sapphia supplied.
Eventually, they entered into a small chamber, apparently Medea’s hall for receiving guests. Although small, it was not unlike the throne room of
, with several graceful alcoves, flanked with high stone arches. A throne resting on a dais stood directly before them, the back carved with ornate images of Gerudo design that Link could only guess at. North Castle
“She’s not here,” Link said, looking around at the obviously empty room. “No one’s here.”
“Not even a guard,” Nebekah muttered. “Something terribly important must be taking place.”
“Her Shard is gone,” Sapphia said softly.
Link turned around. “What?” Sapphia was standing in front of one of the arched alcoves. Resting in the middle was a tall marble pedestal, suspiciously empty. Link supposed that the Shard, whatever it was, was supposed to be resting comfortably there on the marble.
Nebekah frowned, walking over to see for herself. “That’s strange,” she said, momentarily forgetting to be angry at Sapphia.
“Shard?” Link repeated.
“Perhaps the Orca use it in some ceremony?” Sapphia guessed.
“Or she doesn’t keep it in her chamber?” Nebekah said. “I know our old Alpha used to keep hers in a private den.” She scowled, the mention of her defeated Alpha reminding her just who Sapphia represented.
Sapphia seemed oblivious. “No, I know she keeps it in here. I’ve seen it before. I’m sure of it.”
“What’s a Shard?” Link asked quickly, hoping to again head off another verbal spar.
“Another part of the Gerudo legend, as old as the Prides themselves,” Nebekah told him, walking back over to his side. “An artifact that ties us to the other Hylian races.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the goddesses created all the races of Hyrule and the three of them agreed to endow the Kokiri, the Zora, and the Goron each with a magical, spiritual stone,” she said. Link chose to remain silent, keeping his own secret knowledge of the spiritual stones to himself. “Nayru and Farore didn’t want to give the Gerudo a stone, but Din disagreed. She traveled to the highest star in the heavens and forged there a stone for the Gerudo.”
“A fourth spiritual stone?” Link wondered. No one had ever bothered to tell him this.
“The Gerudo Topaz,” Nebekah said.
“It was given to the first Gerudo Alpha, back when all of the Prides were united under a single leader.”
“But then the Prides split?”
“And I’ll bet the Topaz became a point of high contention.”
“Absolutely,” she said with a nod. “Each Pride considered itself worthy of bearing the Gerudo Topaz, but they all knew better than to fight for the right. Instead, a compromise was reached.”
“The Topaz was divided into five equal pieces and the Alpha of each Pride was given one of the –”
“Shards,” Link finished for her.
“Precisely. And each Shard is passed on from mother to daughter, throughout the ages.”
“Does it do something?”
“Does a Shard do something?”
Nebekah shrugged. “Not that the Jaguar are aware of. Although, the legends tell that if the five Shards are united back into the Topaz again, it has a great and terrible power.”
“A great and terrible one,” she repeated. “I have absolutely no idea. It’s never been done.”
Link walked over to the pedestal. As he peered down at the dizzying designs, he recognized writing all of a sudden. “Hey,” he called, beckoning Nebekah. “Look at this.”
“What?” she asked.
“There’s writing on here.”
“Right there,” he pointed to the intricate letters.
“You can read that?” she asked.
“It’s ancient Hylian,” he said with a nod.
“What does it say?”
Link squinted, concentrating as hard as he could. “It says…‘One thing stands between the stone and the grave…’”
“Yes?” she urged him.
“That’s all it says. One thing stands between the stone and the grave.” He shrugged.
“Well, that’s not very helpful,” she murmured.
“Sure it is.”
“If nothing else, it tells us what the Topaz is.”
“What do you mean?”
“Generally, when the word grave is involved, that means death. I think it must be some kind of weapon.”
“Well, that’s upsetting.”
“Just as well the pieces have never been put together, I suppose.
Nebekah nodded. “Yeah.”
Suddenly, Link sensed something out of place. Things were just a little too quiet. “Hey, Sapphia,” he asked. “If there’s a ceremony going on –”
“She’s gone,” Nebekah interrupted.
Link spun around in a full circle. Nebekah, it appeared, was right. Sapphia had disappeared. “Where did she go?”
“I think we better leave.”
She shook her head. “First rule of combat, if your enemy knows where you are, don’t be there.”
“But we’re not a war.”
“That is never a certainty in the
.” Gerudo Valley
Mika wound her way automatically through the corridors, going against the tide of people who began to return to the arena. News spread fast through the Orca Pride, doubtlessly because it was so small and closely kept. Everyone knew that Alcia was dead. They were making their way to the funeral. Things were lever kept waiting around here. It seemed only the natural course of things that revenge shouldn’t wait either. Mika certainly wouldn’t give the man a single extra moment of life. She would wring it from him.
The cages were kept in the remotest quarter of the compound, far from the living quarters of the Alpha and other important members of the hierarchy. Frankly, men weren’t often kept in them. They were generally reserved for Moblins who stupidly wandered into Orca territory or the occasional tiger. Mika thought it unkind that the animals should have to share the same quarters as a man, but then again, she wasn’t the Alpha. Not yet anyway.
All too abruptly, she found herself facing the cage with that dreadful prisoner. He was lounging on the ground, his back against the side of the cage, cleaning his fingernails with a piece of straw. Immediately, Mika was seized with the urge to grab his annoying little ponytail and yank his scalp off. He heard her coming and glanced up, his aloof eyes clearly forced.
“So?” he asked.
Her eyebrows leapt up into her hairline. “So?” she repeated incredulously.
“Is she going to make it?”
Mika couldn’t believe the impudence of this fool. “She’s dead,” Mika told him flatly.
For a moment, a flicker of remorse seemed to cloud his eyes, but he quickly blinked it away. “Well,” he said quietly, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Sorry?” she spat. “You’re sorry?”
“You killed her.”
At this, he stood up, charging to the bars of his cage nearest to her. “No,” he said coldly. “You killed her. You and your Gerudo kind. You forced her into that arena the same way you forced me.”
“How dare you,” she sputtered.
“I can only hope she’s in a better place now,” he said. “A happier, Gerudo free place.”
“Far from the likes of you.”
“You will join her shortly,” Mika promised.
“Typical,” he muttered.
“Of the Gerudo. A violent, savage race.”
“No more savage than mankind.”
“Keep telling yourself that. I hope it makes you feel better.”
She blinked. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Men are savages? It isn’t men who raid innocent villages and burn them to the ground. Men don’t kidnap peasants and remove them from their families. And men don’t hold stupid initiation ceremonies that involve killing just to prove your worth to others.” He shook his head. “It’s the Gerudos who are the animals. They belong in cages.”
“That’s funny coming from you.”
“Well…so be it.”
She folded her arms across her chest. “What do you mean by kidnapping peasants and removing them from their families?”
“As if you didn’t know.”
“Tell me!” she demanded.
“And what? You’ll spare my life?”
“I thought so.” He scowled grumpily. “What’s your name?”
“Your name. You have one, I presume?”
“Mika,” she said bitterly.
“Mika. My name is Tyro.”
“I don’t care what your name is.”
“Well, I still enjoy pleasantries, even if you don’t, Mika.”
“Stop saying my name.”
He rolled his eyes. “You’re a piece of work, aren’t you?” She was silent. “Well, Mika,” he resumed, “When I was a baby, my mother was taken by the Gerudo.”
“They kidnapped her and my father never saw her again.”
“I found this little tidbit written in my father’s diaries after he died. Now why would he lie in his diary?”
“The Gerudo don’t kidnap women.”
“Just men, then?”
“Well, that’s so much better,” he drawled.
“Men in our territory!”
“I don’t understand how you can be so haughty when you’re in this position,” Mika said.
“What position is that?” he asked.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“Then I haven’t got a lot to lose by being haughty, have I?”
She spat in his face. “Scum.” With that, she reached in between the bars of the cage, taking his throat in her hand.
Tyro grabbed her wrist, straining to remove it from his neck, but she had a vice-like grip. “I’m sure killing me will make it much better,” he wheezed. “As soon as I’m dead, I’m sure your sister will be alive again.”
“Shut up!” she shouted, squeezing with hall of her might.
“That’s right,” he choked, pulling with all of his might on her wrist. He snapped the strings of her gauntlet and it fell off, but Mika maintained her grip, slowly squeezing the life out of him.
“Mika!” Suddenly, a hand clamped onto Mika’s shoulder. A powerful grip pulled her away, forcing her to let go of Tyro’s throat, though she banged his head against the bars and sent him to the ground, sputtering for breath. Mika looked up to see Medea standing over her with a very stern look on her face.
“Alpha,” Mika gasped.
“What do you think you were doing?” Medea snapped angrily.
“You were going to kill him,” she said.
Swallowing, Mika nodded. “Yes, Alpha. I was.”
“Against my orders.”
Medea sighed wearily, rubbing her eyes. “I knew you were going to do this, I just knew.”
“He killed Alcia!”
“Just because it’s personal, you do not have an excuse to go against my word,” Medea said.
“I didn’t kill her,” Tyro insisted.
“Be quiet!” Mika yelled at him.
“You almost saw to that, didn’t you?”
“You had it coming!”
“Not according to your precious leader.”
“Don’t talk of her that way, you loathsome toad!”
“Enough!” Medea roared, causing both Tyro and Mika to fall into an eerie silence. “Mika, you will come with me and attend your sister’s funeral.”
“He will be dealt with later, in accordance with our laws.” Medea pulled Mika up to her feet with considerable strength. “Come.”
Without further argument, Medea steered Mika out of the room. Mika turned back over her shoulder, throwing a final, contemptible glare at Tyro. He smiled blithely. “Maybe next time,” he called after her. It was then he realized that he was still holding her gauntlet. He threw it through the bars of the cell, only an instant before realizing how feeble an attempt it was. Well, at least it made him feel better.
“We should have known better than to trust a Kodiak,” Nebekah groaned as she and Link raced through the abandon hallways, searching for their missing traveling companion, the only one with any standing amongst the Orca.
“Give it a rest,” Link muttered, careful to make sure she didn’t actually hear the retort.
The compound had become a giant maze, as neither of them knew exactly where to go. Distantly, they could hear music and decided that it was probably coming from the arena where they had viewed a large assembly from above on the ridge. Link’s instincts were torn, half of him thinking it safest to avoid the large crowds of women who didn’t particularly care for men, while the other half reminded him that he had made a promise to Talon. He had to find Tyro, or at the very least, find out what had become of him. In they end, they decided to follow the sound. Assuming the worst, that Sapphia was going to turn them in, they knew she’d probably do the same.
Before long, the noise began to swell. Either they were getting louder, or Link and Nebekah were closer. “The Orca are certainly confident that no one is going to raid their fortress.”
“You would be too,” Nebekah said, “assuming you had their history.”
“And here you said that the Jaguar were the most peaceful.”
“We are,” she said. “We don’t kidnap and sacrifice men.”
Suddenly, they spotted a figure in black and red, turning into the hallway before them. “Kodiak,” Nebekah hissed.
“Sapphia!” Link called to her, trying to keep his voice from attracting any unwanted attention.
She was on the other end of the hall, peering through a doorway that was glowing with orange, presumably from a fire. The noise had risen to levels that made it absolutely clear that a large assembly of Orca were gathered on the other side of that door, presumably in the arena. She turned around. “Decided to move, did you?” she asked coldly.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Nebekah demanded.
“Why did you abandon us?” Link added.
“I don’t have time to waste with story telling. I already know the story of the Gerudo Topaz,” she replied haughtily.
“You shouldn’t have left,” Link said.
“I have important business,” she insisted.
“The message to deliver to the Alpha from my Alpha.”
Nebekah rolled her eyes. “It can’t have been so important that you decided to abandon us without telling us.”
“It’s quite important,” Sapphia answered. “It concerns the future of the entire Gerudo nation. Possibly Hyrule itself.”
“What is it?”
“I’ve been instructed to tell Medea, not you.”
“Look,” Link said hastily. “Why don’t we skip the argument and just go find her, okay?”
Both women seemed to find this acceptable. Vaguely, Sapphia pointed through the doorway. Together, the three of them tip toed their way forward, peeking out into the arena. It looked much larger on ground level, the tiered stands rising up what Link imagined was no less than three stories. They were filled with Gerudo women of varying ages and in varying degrees of dress. The long, sand-covered floor stretched far. He could well imagine that all of Lon Lon Ranch could fit snugly within the confines of the wide circle.
In the very center of the arena was a tall pyre. Around it stood a ring of young girls, each wearing a different color, each holding a dancing torch up above their heads. Between the circle and the pyre was a woman in blue robes, holding her arms up and chanting in a language that Link could not identify. “That’s Alpha Medea,” Sapphia hissed, pointing to her.
“What are they doing?” Link asked Nebekah.
She frowned. “I don’t know. I’m not entirely up to date on all of the Orca traditions,” she admitted.
“When the Kodiak prepare for battle, they spend the night dancing around the fire and attack just before dawn,” Sapphia supplied.
“You would,” Nebekah muttered. “But the Orca couldn’t possibly reach anyone to attack them by daybreak.”
Ceremoniously, the young girls all lowered their torches to the pyre, setting it alight. There was a loud, collective wail that came from the stands. “I don’t think they’re happy,” Link whispered.
“Look,” Nebekah said abruptly, pointing up to the top of the pyre.
Link strained his eyes and just barely made out a form, wrapped in bandages or linen of some kind. “A body?” he guessed.
“It’s a funeral,” Nebekah decided. “Judging from the torchbearers, I’d guess whoever it was that died was someone young. Those are Orca trainees. You can tell by the way they dress.”
He was about to ask what about their unique clothing marked them as trainees, but Link suddenly felt his heart leap up into his throat as one of the girls, with her hair wrapped in blue thread, suddenly made direct eye contact with him. “Uh oh,” he murmured.
“Intruders!” the girl in blue shouted, pointing an accusing finger directly at the spying trio.
Before anyone knew what was happening, a volley of arrows rained down from the stands. Link pulled Nebekah and Sapphia back into the relative safety of the doorway, but that move cost him precious seconds. As he dared to look up and see if the flying fatalities had stopped, he found that several more women, brandishing curved swords, had appeared on the ground level, pointing them directly at the trespassers. “Now what?” he wondered.
“Leave it to me,” Sapphia told him, calmly stepping forward and holding her hands up in front of her.
Alpha Medea made her way over, flanked closely by the girl in blue who had spotted them. “You have interrupted a sacred event,” Medea said softly. Link was surprised at how absolutely frightening someone could sound without shouting like a maniac.
“We apologize, Alpha,” Sapphia said, crossing her wrists in front of her chest deferentially.
“Who are you?” Medea demanded.
“I am Sapphia, daughter of Alondra, the new first Beta of the Kodiak Pride,” she said proudly.
“And who are you?” Medea asked Nebekah.
“Nebekah,” she answered quickly. “Daughter of Elena, first Beta of the Jaguar Pride.”
“A Jaguar and a Kodiak traveling together,” Medea said. “That is highly suspect.”
Sapphia cut off Nebekah, who clearly had a retort on the tip of her tongue. “Due to extenuating circumstances, an alliance has been formed. All the Gerudo Prides must band together. I have an urgent message from my Alpha, it regards the future of the entire –”
“What about him?” Medea interrupted, gesturing to Link.
“A man,” the girl in blue hissed.
Medea held up a hand to silence her. “Mika. Hold your tongue.”
Link piped up. “I’m an honorary –”
“An honor,” Sapphia cut him off. “He is…” Her eyes raced. “A gift,” she decided at last.
“A gift?” Medea muttered.
“A gift?” Link too snapped.
“A gesture of goodwill,” Sapphia continued, gaining confidence steadily. “To honor you.”
“Let me have him,” the one called Mika said passionately, stepping forward and leering at Link. “He looks strong, let me kill him.”
“Now wait just a second!” Link declared angrily. “I’ll have you know that I am an honorary member of the –”
“Hold your tongue, man,” Mika said, pulling back and slapping him across the face.
Medea sighed in a long suffering manner. “Mika,” she mumbled, shaking her head. “Refrain yourself.”
“Please,” Link added. “Refrain yourself.”
“Don’t talk back to me!” Mika shouted at him.
She pulled back to slap him again, but this time, Link was ready for it. He caught her hand in his. Her fingers were slender for a Gerudo and Link imagined that he could probably break them with relative ease, should he be so inclined. Nevertheless, he knew that was a bad way to start off diplomatic relations. He was about to let go of her when he noticed that her unprotected wrist had a series of blue lines tattooed under the skin. It took him a beat to completely register what he was seeing. “Hey…” he said slowly, his brow wrinkling.
“Take him to the cages,” Medea said with an air of boredom. “Keep him with the other man.”
Two Gerudo guards began to close in on Link. “Wait a second!” he cried, backing away from them. From behind, he felt a powerful hand on his shoulder, yanking his sword out of the sheath.
The Alpha glanced at Mika. “If you want him, he’s yours.”
“Thank you, Alpha,” Mika said humbly.
“Wait!” Link shouted as the guards grabbed him under the arms and began to drag him away.
“You may fight him for your initiation in the morning,” Medea said.
“Stop!” Link implored. He struggled against his captors, but they were surprisingly strong. As they began to drag him away, he flailed desperately. He made a momentary eye contact with Nebekah. “Her wrist!” he called to Nebekah. “Look at her wrist!”
“What’s he going on about?” Sapphia asked.
Mika hid her wrist behind her back, clearly looking embarrassed. “Nothing. He’s just a stupid man.”
“Her wrist, Nebekah!” Link’s voice echoed as he was pulled out of sight. “She’s the one!”
Medea turned her attention uneasily to the young trainees. “Take our Jaguar and Kodiak sisters to the bath house. They shall be tended to and fed. I shall entertain them in the greeting chamber after. No one shall sleep tonight.” And how true her words were.
Koume gracefully lifted her arm. Well, graceful was a relative term, she supposed. With her arthritis, it was a wonder she could move as well as she did. There was little worse than old age. Sighing softly as a wall of ice rose by her command, she thought hungrily of the days of her youth, back when she had been renowned for her beauty. Then again, back in her youth, King Gustav had been renowned for his extraordinary physical strength.
She turned stiffly in a circle, enclosing the old, marble floor in a wall of ice. It wasn’t nearly as good as the great stone wall that had once encircled their lair, but it would do for now. She only hoped she had the strength to maintain the wall in the desert heat long enough. The abrupt resurrection, whoever was responsible for it, had left not only her mind addled more than she liked, but her powers as well. She only hoped Kotake had been able to successfully secure the servant they needed. Things had not gone well with the Kodiak Alpha. Sarjenka was quite content to be returned to her post and did not fancy the idea of bringing Ganondorf back. In fact, the younger woman had been quite forceful, forcefully removing the Twinrova sisters from her hallway and sending messengers at once to warn the other Prides.
Still, Kotake had not lost heart. She had a plan. Then again, Koume thought ruefully, her sister always had a plan. She had brilliantly orchestrated Ganondorf’s rise to greatness. If only it hadn’t been for that fresh kid who managed to become the one flaw in the plan. Koume had not seen that coming, but then, Kotake had. Otherwise, she would not have installed the failsafe. Despite her confidence in her sister’s scheming abilities, Koume still found that part a bit difficult. The son of an Alpha? As far as she could tell, one had never existed. She would have to rely on Kotake’s ability to think one step ahead for this one.
Glancing up in the sky, she caught sight of a bright orange streak amidst the stars, heading directly for the ice castle she was creating. “Oh good,” Koume muttered, taking a welcome break to catch her breath. As she watched, Kotake’s broom came soaring down through the open ceiling of the new ice tower and her sister landed easily on the marble floor. “You’re back sooner than I expected,” Koume said.
“Things went far easier than expected,” Kotake replied, dismounting as her ancient joints creaked, a painful reminder that the two of them would soon have to take steps to restore themselves. They could never help Ganondorf unless they helped themselves as well.
“So you’ve done it, then? You’ve secured us a servant to do the deed?” she asked urgently.
“I have,” Kotake said proudly.
“She’s eager to restore Ganondorf, in fact.”
“And,” Kotake added slowly, with a theatrical air, “she’s the one responsible for our revival.”
Koume blinked, wondering if her hearing was going as well. “What? A single entity is responsible?”
Kotake nodded. “Yes.”
“Not only will she serve us well, my sister, but she will make a fine vessel for Ganondorf reborn.”
“Indeed,” Koume agreed.
“It will be all too easy.”
She wanted to agree, but Koume was hesitant. “What about the messengers?” she asked.
“The one the Kodiak Alpha sent to warn the other Prides of our return,” she explained.
“What of them?”
“Shouldn’t we do something about them?”
“Well, if word gets around, it won’t be long before the boy finds out, will it?” she muttered.
“Oh,” Kotake said with a laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“I imagine the boy will find out very shortly,” she smirked, “that is, if he hasn’t already.”
“He’s in the
. I’ve seen him myself.” Gerudo Valley
Kotake nodded. “Yes.”
“That can’t be good.”
“On the contrary, sister, I think it is a wonderful turn of events,” Kotake told her smugly.
“I see no reason why we can’t use it to our advantage.”
Koume scowled. “Advantage?”
“When he learns that we’re trying to assemble the Topaz, no doubt, he’ll try to beat us to it.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Koume said slowly. Dimly, she seemed to recall that the so called Hero was fond of collecting things.
“I see no reason why we shouldn’t simply let him do all the hard work,” Kotake said with a shrug of her brittle shoulders. “In the meanwhile, we can turn our attention to restoring our power.”
“But we’ll need the pieces eventually.”
Kotake shook her head. “We need not so much as touch the Topaz, sister,” she insisted.
“It’s the vessel who will have to use the Topaz to kill the Hero,” Kotake reminded her.
“So all the vessel needs to do is…”
“Follow the boy,” she finished.
“And collect the pieces once they’re all together.”
“And then use the Topaz to kill him.”
“Assuming she’s with child by an Alpha’s son,” Koume found herself muttering. “I still don’t understand that part.”
“Don’t waste your limited capacity for thought over it.”
“It’s a good plan,” Koume said.
“Still, I’d feel safer if our vessel go a hold of at least one of the Shards. Just in case she can’t wrest the whole Topaz from the Hero.”
“Because that way, he can’t use it against us.”
For a moment, Kotake was silent and Koume feared she was about to laugh at her foolishness. Kotake, however, did nothing of the sort. “You’re right,” she said finally. “We should take a few measures.”
“What can we do?” Koume asked.
“The boy is with the Orca now,” she said slowly. “I suppose once he begins trying to collect the Shards, he’ll head to each of the other Prides.”
“Where do you think he’ll go first?”
“The Saber Tooth, most likely,” Kotake decided without a doubt. “They’re closest to the Orca.”
“You’re probably right.”
“Perhaps we should arrange for a little trouble to meet him there. While he’s sorting that out, our vessel will have a chance at finding the Shard for herself.”
“Oh, I like the sound of that,” Koume said, grinning. “What did you have in mind?”
“In mind, you say?” Kotake said with a grin. The sisters shared a wicked, secretive smile.
“I think we can come up with something,” Koume cackled.
“Fancy a flight over to the Saber Tooth?”
Koume smiled. “I can think of nothing finer,” she repeated. She held out her hand and her broom appeared. Both sisters mounted their rides, which hovered over the marble floor. “Once Ganondorf is reborn, do you think he’ll build us a bigger palace?” she wondered.
“Once Ganondorf is restored, he’ll give us
. Or anything else we desire. After all, he must reward his most faithful servants.” North Castle
“I only wish I could bear him myself,” Koume sighed.
“You? Don’t be silly, you old bat.” And with that, she took off back into the sky, orange streaks fading behind her. Kotake was one to talk, Koume thought bitterly as she kicked off from the ground. She was the older one, even if only by a matter of minutes. Old bat indeed!
Link was dragged a long way through the compound. It was only about halfway through the trek that he finally stopped raving like a madman. Neither of the guards was paying him any attention and he was fairly certain that he was now out of Nebekah’s hearing range. He wondered if she had understood what he said. Then again, Link wasn’t entirely sure he understood what had just happened.
That young girl in blue, Mika, had the exact same sort of tattoo that he had sported on his wrist for as long as he could remember. As crazy as it seemed, she had to be his sister. He couldn’t quite wrap his mind around that. After a lifetime of being the singled out loner, he had suddenly discovered a sister he never thought to know. Or was his mind playing tricks on him? He had seen the blue lines under her skin, he was certain. Was there any other explanation? It was so utterly bizarre that it simply had to be true.
How had she ended up living among the Gerudo of all people? That part didn’t make sense. Was she aware that she wasn’t one of them? He supposed she had to be, but it seemed of little consequence to any of the other women he had seen her interacting with. If she was a Gerudo trainee, she had to be somewhere around twenty, a few years older than Link himself.
A sudden, unexpected thought occurred to him that filled his heart with an overwhelming sense of possibility. If she was older than him, it was possible that maybe, just maybe, she had some memory of their parents. Link had always been desperate to know about where he had come from, to find some hint of his own origins. Now, finding the answers seemed not only likely and within reach, but he was overwhelmed with the joy of knowing that he’d have someone, finally, to share that history with. He had a sister!
His joy was short lived though, as he remembered the way she had looked at him. She had carried such contempt in her eyes, such hatred, merely due to the fact that he happened to be a boy. She had asked to kill him off hand, for no reason other than the fact that he was male. This wasn’t going to be easy. Did she even know what the blue lines meant? Would he be able to explain it to her? Suddenly, everything seemed a lot more daunting.
Fortunately, Link was distracted when he suddenly realized that one of the guards and let go of his arm. He looked to see her unlocking an iron animal cage. Sitting on the floor of the cage was a handsome young man with a long auburn ponytail, watching the scene with a detached boredom. “Oh, you’ve brought me a cellmate,” he said dryly. “I hope he’s housebroken.”
“Shut up,” one of the guards grunted as Link was thrust into the cage. “Do not speak to us.”
“Gladly,” he replied.
The cage was locked and with two disdainful glares, the guards left, their footsteps fading away in the darkness of the compound. Link turned to look at his cellmate. “Tyro?” he asked tentatively.
The other man frowned. “Have we met?”
“Are you Tyro?”
“That’s my name,” he replied. “Unless you happen to be a courtesan named Darla in which case my name is –”
“This is wonderful!” Link cried.
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“Looking for me?”
“Your uncle, Talon, he sent me to find you.”
Tyro raised his eyebrows. “Did he?”
“And here I thought no one would notice I was gone. Except for Darla, of course.”
“He’s been worried sick about you.”
“Well, that’s awfully nice of him.” Tyro paused, examining Link. “And…who are you?”
“My name is Link.”
“As in…the Hero of Time?”
Link hid a scowl. “Yeah. That’s me.”
“Huh. And here I thought old Talon was only lying when he said he knew you personally.”
“Well, you could say that.”
Tyro narrowed his eyes slightly. “You’re not courting my cousin Malon, are you?”
“Uh…” Link suddenly felt some heat rise in his cheeks.
“Wow,” Tyro went on, not bothering to wait for an answer. “The Hero of Time sent to rescue lowly little me. I’m flattered.” He paused, “Although…you don’t seem to be doing a very good job of it. Unless this is part of your plan, being captured by the Gerudo and tossed into the cage with me.”
“Not exactly,” Link admitted stiffly. “Things got a bit out of hand.”
“What are you doing out here in the
, Tyro? It’s dangerous.” Gerudo Valley
Tyro shrugged. “After my father died, I went through some of his old diaries. I read that my mother had been taken by the Gerudo when I was a baby. I thought I would try to find her.”
Link frowned. “Looks like we have something in common,” he muttered, more to himself than to Tyro.
“What do you mean by that? Aside from the obvious dashing good looks we’ve both been endowed with.”
There was certainly no reason to hide it. Link shrugged. “I just found out that my sister is one of the Orca.”
He scowled. “I hope it’s not a little blond named Alcia,” he said softly.
“Which one then?”
“I think they called her Mika.”
He blinked. “Pretty girl with her hair wrapped in blue?”
“That’s the one.”
Tyro patted his shoulder. “I’m so sorry for you, mate.”
“You know her?”
“We’ve met,” Tyro replied.
“Well,” Tyro drawled, “she’s pretty far gone.”
“Far gone? What do you mean?”
“The whole Gerudo philosophy of ‘men bad, women good’ seems pretty engrained in her.”
“Not all Gerudo are like that,” Link said. “My friend Nebekah –”
“Well, these Gerudo are like that, I’m afraid,” Tyro cut him off. “Mika really hates men.”
“I noticed that,” Link muttered. “She asked permission to kill me.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Now, I’m supposed to fight her in some kind of initiation.”
“Oh,” Tyro said, “that’s bad.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“It means she has to kill you to join the ranks of her man hating companions. And she’ll be eager to do it.”
“Is there any way around it?”
He shrugged. “Only killing her.”
“That’s not an option.”
“I figured as much.”
“What am I going to do?”
“Wish I had an answer for you,” Tyro said sincerely.
“I have to tell her,” Link sighed.
“Tell her what?”
“That she’s my sister. She doesn’t know.”
“I guess I won’t get a chance until this initiation.”
“They’re not great conversationalists while they’re trying to kill you,” Tyro mumbled.
“I’ll figure out something,” Link vowed.
“Well, of all the Gerudo here, I’m sorry it had to be her.”
“She’s really that bad?”
Tyro shrugged. “She tried to kill me. Clearly, the woman has no taste. No offense.”
“None taken,” Link answered automatically. “I’ll figure something out.”
“I just hope it will involve getting us the hell out of here.”
So did Link. Absently, he wondered, if worse came to worse, which mission he would pursue if he had to choose between them. He had promised Talon to retrieve Tyro, after all. And as a Hero, reluctant a hero as he might be, he was bound to serve others before himself. But for the first time, he stood to gain something. Given the choice between Tyro and Mika, Link felt completely torn as his head and his heart pulled him in opposite directions. Some hero, he thought glumly.
Nebekah raced through her bath as quickly as hospitality would allow her. She passed on several tempting morsels that were offered to her, though the smell tingled her nostrils and reminded her belly just how long it had been since she last ate. Quickly, she pulled back on her pale pink desert gear, wrapping a scarf around her long dreadlocks, and raced back to Medea’s receiving chamber with all haste.
She had seen the blue lines on Mika’s wrist, right before she put on a gauntlet. They were the last thing Nebekah ever thought to find when they came to the Orca to rescue Tyro. Nevertheless, she was certain that those meticulous blue lines were the ones she had accidentally seen on Link’s wrist earlier in the day. She certainly owed it to him to investigate.
She was none too pleased, as it was, with his current predicament. Sapphia’s improvisation was completely unnecessary and careless. And it might very well cost Link his life at the hands of a woman who might be his own sister. Stupid Kodiak. At the very least, Nebekah took comfort in the fact that she had managed to retrieve Link’s sword, which was nestled safely, along with her arrows, inside of her quiver.
Arriving in Medea’s chamber, Nebekah was gratified to see that she had beaten Sapphia. Medea was resting in her throne, being tended to by several lower ranking Gerudo girls who pampered her. Nebekah crossed her wrists in front of her chest and bowed deeply to her. “Alpha,” she said respectfully.
Medea gave a gesture of greeting, signaling for Nebekah to rise. “I trust our hospitality has been to your liking,” she said.
Inwardly, Nebekah kicked herself. She had gone through it far too quickly. “Everything has been perfect, Alpha,” she murmured carefully.
“Good,” Medea sighed.
“We apologize for the breach in protocol, arriving as we did,” Nebekah told her. “We, of course, came here first to seek you.”
“Mistakes will happen,” Medea said. “And your gift is certainly timely in its arrival.”
Nebekah felt her throat clench. “Is it?” she asked.
“I had been hoping to offer my daughter a chance at initiation,” Medea explained. “The boy seems a good match to her talents.”
How ironically true. “Your daughter is called Mika?” she questioned carefully, approaching the throne.
“She’s a Thin Blood, is she not?” Nebekah knew this was a dangerous question to ask. Every Pride had a different stance on Thin Bloods, after all.
If Medea took offense however, she didn’t show it. “Din did not see fit to grant me with daughters of my own.”
“A divine mistake, I’m sure.”
“I adopted two abandoned Hylian girls many years ago.”
“Two?” Nebekah asked, her eyebrows rising.
“Mika and Alcia.” Medea broke off for a moment.
“How did you come by them?” It was a legitimate question, Nebekah told herself. Occasionally, fully grown women would join up with the Gerudo, but Thin Blood children were rare, except among the Kodiak who were known to raid villages and kidnap young girls on occasion.
“Mika was a gift,” Medea said, clearly choosing her words carefully, which only sparked Nebekah’s interest further. Before she could ask any additional questions, however, Medea continued. “Alcia was abandoned by her parents. Doubtlessly because she was firstborn and female. It happens from time to time. There is a ridge between Hyrule and Orca territory where many abandon their unwanted children. My Deltas travel there once a month to investigate.”
“I see,” Nebekah said. The thought of it turned her stomach.
“I raised them together,” Medea sighed sadly. “Mika always had great promise. She tried so hard to help Alcia but…”
“But?” Nebekah prompted gently.
“You arrived at an inopportune moment,” Medea muttered. “As I was laying my child to rest.”
“You mean Alcia…?”
Medea nodded. “It is a terrible thing to outlive one’s children.” She glanced at Nebekah curiously. “Do you have any children, Nebekah?”
“No, Alpha,” Nebekah replied. “Not yet.”
“You never believe it possible to love anything so much,” Medea told her wistfully. “I loved Alcia for the moment I looked into her eyes to the moment that man closed them.”
“She died during her initiation.” Medea shook her head. “I wish I could blame it on that man, I do. But I can’t. What happened was an accident really. She ran headlong onto a blade. He’s innocent.”
“What do you intend to do with this man?” Nebekah asked. She found it rather likely that this was Link’s friend Tyro.
“I hope never to lay eyes on him again,” Medea admitted.
“I can take him off your hands for you,” Nebekah said. “My Pride lives close to Hylian territory. I’ll be more than happy to return him there.”
“I give him to you,” Medea replied with a wave of her hand.
Nebekah bowed. “Thank you, Alpha.”
“Do with him as you please.”
Footsteps quickly heralded the arrival of Sapphia. She had clearly taken full advantage of the Orca hospitality, looking much cleaner and restful than before. She crossed her wrists before her chest and bowed deeply to Medea. “Alpha.”
“Sapphia, welcome. You look rested.”
“I am,” Sapphia answered, standing up again.
“Well, as the rites of hospitality have now been observed, I must know what has brought about this sudden alliance between the Jaguar and the Kodiak.”
“It is,” Sapphia said slowly, “a matter of grave importance.”
“Tell me,” Medea insisted.
“My Alpha, most illustrious, Sarjenka,” Sapphia started. Nebekah snorted. Illustrious Sarjenka had stepped down from her position at Ganondorf’s first whim, obeying him as he swept horror across the
and beyond. Sapphia continued, doing her best to ignore the look on Nebekah’s face, “My Alpha was recently visited.” Gerudo Valley
“By whom?” Medea asked.
“The Twinrova sisters,” Sapphia replied.
Medea blinked in surprise. “Koume and Kotake?”
“But I thought they were dead.”
“So did I,” Nebekah couldn’t help but add.
“So did we all,” Sapphia said with a shrug. “My Alpha included. It was certainly a surprise.”
Medea leaned forward in her throne, resting her hands on the armrests. “What did they have to say?”
“They want to reassemble the Topaz.”
There was a collective gasp from everyone in the room. “The Topaz,” Medea repeated.
“To what end?”
“They did not say. The Alpha promptly had them, say we say, escorted from her chambers.”
A fierce smile spread across Medea’s lips. “A wise decision on her part,” she muttered.
“She promptly sent messengers to each of the other Prides to warn them of what had happened. I was sent to you, as Beta, I was deemed most appropriate messenger to our primary Gerudo allies.”
“The message and the messenger are well received,” Medea told her.
Sapphia turned, looking at the empty pedestal. “I can’t help but notice that your Shard is absent.”
“It has been for some time. When news reached us of the trouble in Hyrule last year, I moved it to a more secure location. I could not trust it to be left in the open and unguarded.”
“A wise precaution, Alpha.”
Medea bridged her fingers. “This is most distressing news.”
“What do you think the sisters have in mind?” Nebekah chimed in.
“I can’t say for certain,” Medea admitted. “But doubtless it’s something base. After all, they were quite instrumental in the near inversion of the Gerudo way.” Nebekah noted that Medea’s eyes flickered in Sapphia’s direction. Doubtless, she too held certain reservations about the Kodiak’s role in Ganondorf’s rise, though as Alpha she would not say so. “I must say, I find it very upsetting to learn that the sisters are alive once again.”
“It takes ancient magic to raise anything from the dead,” Nebekah said.
“Which means it will probably take ancient magic to send them back where they belong,” Medea concluded.
“What do you think can do that?” Sapphia asked.
Medea did not answer, but Nebekah noticed her eyes travel in the direction of the empty pedestal with its cryptic message. As much as Nebekah admired Medea, she hated to think that Medea had the Topaz in mind. No one Gerudo could be trusted with it, not while the Prides were in such hostility. Even Nebekah herself, she had to admit, would be tempted to use its great power against the Kodiak, out of revenge. But if the Topaz and its ancient magic was required to defeat Twinrova again, she had to admit, she knew the one person who could be trusted with such power. She only hoped he would live long enough to start a second quest.
Link could only assume it was sunrise when the guards returned to get him. With a wry smile and a less than comforting “Don’t die” from Tyro, he was led back through the maze of the Orca compound, all the way to the floor of the arena where he saw that it was indeed sunrise. And hopefully, not his last.
Around him, up high in the stands, the entire Orca pride had assembled, beating steadily on hide drums and dancing, singing wildly in a language that Link couldn’t recognize. Some party. He supposed that initiations didn’t happen all too often, given the lack of men in the area.
Standing around the sides of the arena were the young girls he had seen around the pyre last night, each one dressed in a different color. They seemed very solemn and serious for people so young. Link guessed that not one of them was older than twenty. He wondered how old someone had to be before the initiation. Clearly, around Mika’s age. As he scanned the arena, he caught sight of her, opposite of him, holding two curved blades, one in each hand. On seeing her again, he found the resemblance striking. She really did look a lot like him with her heart-shaped face and her all too delicate eyebrows. What color was her hair under those wraps?
Unfortunately, now was not the time to wonder about such things. Medea appeared, flanked on either side by Sapphia and Nebekah. The music stopped at the sight of Medea, lifting her arms. “Though we mourn for the loss of Alcia,” she said thickly, “life goes on.” Link wondered if she genuinely believed that. “Today, my sisters,” she declared, “Mika joins our ranks as a Gerudo warrior.” An overwhelming swell of applause rose from the stands. Mika was apparently quite popular among the Orca Pride, Link realized. “She will today become a Delta warrior. The sacrifice has been brought forward.”
Link sighed. He was the sacrifice, of course. “Not if I can help it,” he muttered to himself.
Medea made her way over to Link, accompanied by Sapphia and Nebekah, both of whom had the good grace to appear deeply concerned for his well being. “I am told that you are quite capable with a sword,” she said in sotto.
“I guess so,” Link replied, not wanting to hurt her feelings. After all, she had raised his sister as her own. She couldn’t really be the monster that she paraded as for the benefit of the Pride.
She nodded to Nebekah. Swift, Nebekah reached over her shoulder and produced Link’s own sword from her quiver. “You may fight with your own weapon,” Medea said as Nebekah held it out to him.
“I don’t want to fight,” Link said, although he accepted his sword gratefully, giving Nebekah a nod.
“My daughter must earn her place among our people,” Medea said.
“Your daughter is my sister,” Link insisted, but Medea had already turned away from him to face the opposite end of the arena.
“Mika,” she called, obviously not hearing Link, who moaned desperately, looking to Nebekah for help. “Are you ready to serve the Gerudo nation?”
She stepped forward, crossing her blades in front of her chest. “I am ready,” she told Medea in a cold voice.
“Until this point, you have fought only women. Now you will defeat the true enemy.” Medea clapped her hands together. And again. And again. Everyone in the crowd began clapping, beating out a steady rhythm as the Alpha and the two Betas backed away to the sidelines, leaving Link and Mika face to identical face. “Begin,” Medea called in time with the sturdy clapping.
At once, Mika bounded toward Link with surprising agility. Deftly, she threw two thrusts, one with each blade, forward at his neck. Link parried the blows with relative ease. He was more than capable with a sword. “Listen,” he said, stepping back and out of range, “I need to say something.”
“No talking,” Mika declared, matching his steps and taking another offensive attack that Link dodged.
“This is important, hear me out, Mika.”
“You have nothing important to tell me.”
“I do,” he said, blocking another attack.
“You’re a man. Men are only good for two things.”
“Mating and dying, I get that.” Link backed away again, trying to get out of range, but Mika followed him stubbornly. “What harm can it do if you hear what I have to say?”
“Fight me!” Mika insisted.
“Will you calm down?” he asked.
She advanced, slicing her blades in opposite directions like scissors. “Don’t talk to me like that!”
“Okay, okay!” Link cried, narrowly escaping the sharp swords. “I’m sorry. Listen, I just –”
“Stop talking and fight me!”
“Those lines on your wrist,” Link said, noticing much to his chagrin that she had covered them up with a gauntlet. “Where did they come from?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she shouted.
So that was the game. “I saw them, Mika. The tattoo. Blue. Those were given to you when you were a child.”
“Shut up!” He had clearly struck a nerve with this, because her swings got a bit sloppy, as though she desperately wanted to shut him up before some emotions could boil over inside of her.
“Your parents marked you,” he insisted.
“I have no parents but Medea!” she declared.
“That’s not true,” Link said. “You had a mother and a father. And they were Hylian. Like you. Like me.”
“I am Gerudo!”
“Now, maybe, but you weren’t born that way.”
“Silence!” she roared. She swung her right blade at him. Link caught it with his, swinging it up so both of their hands were in the air.
“I know it’s true,” he said fiercely.
“Stop saying that,” she cried, attempting to hack into him with her left handed blade.
Link caught her wrist, holding it away from his body. “I know it’s true,” he repeated, “because they did the same thing to me.”
“Liar!” she screamed.
“It’s the truth,” he said.
Mika delivered a fierce head butt to Link’s forehead. It was so abrupt, he did not have time to defend himself. Dizzily, he dropped her wrist and stumbled back, cradling his cranium in his hands. Mika took advantage of his weakness to surge forward, brandishing her swords like scissors again. Link did the only thing he could think of; he dropped to the ground. It was so unexpected that Mika was unable to stop herself. Powered by momentum, she continued to run, tripping over Link’s prone form and performing a fantastic belly flop into the sand.
He rolled over and sat up, holding his temple with one hand. His head was aching severely now, tiny stars of pain shooting up in front of his eyes. Mika had taken a mouthful of sand and was now trying to get it out of her face. Link grabbed hold of his gauntlet with his teeth and ripped it off, spitting it to one side. He thrust his arm forward, the incriminating blue lines standing out sharply in contrast to his pale Hylian skin. “Look,” he said.
Mika looked ready to grab a sword and slice his hand off, but even she couldn’t help but notice the strange tattoo. Her throat caught in her chest as she stared down at it. Meanwhile, the onlookers in the stands grew restless, unable to see or hear what was going on. “Where did you get that?” Mika asked him hesitantly.
“My parents gave it to me when I was a baby,” he said quietly. “It’s just like yours.”
She looked torn, some of the ferocity ebbing away from her eyes. Almost absently, she touched her wrist. “What does it mean?”
“I don’t know,” he answered with a slight shrug. “It’s a glyph. You have the other half.”
Hesitantly, Mika took off her gauntlet. She thrust forward her wrist, holding it up next to his. As Link had predicted, the lines seem to connect, completing the glyph. “What does it say?”
Link examined it with a wry smile. “It’s the Hylian symbol for peace,” he told her.
With a gasp, Mika pulled her arm back, slowly getting to her feet. She backed away from Link as if he were some kind of parasite she was afraid of touching. “No,” she whispered, “this can’t be.”
“What’s going on here?” a voice asked. Medea had moved to the center of the arena, followed by Nebekah and Sapphia, both looking curiously concerned.
“How is this possible?” Mika demanded, holding up her wrist and then pointing to Link on the ground.
Medea looked from Mika to Link, her eyes growing wide as saucers. “The Hero of Time,” she hissed softly.
“On your feet,” Medea told Link. “You two come with me.”
Medea led Link and Mika down a long, twisting hallway. Nebekah and Sapphia followed with furrow brows, their similar expressions leading them to forget their differences. All along the way, Mika continued to toss glances at Link that varied from furious to startled, leaning more and more toward the latter as they went. For his own part, he didn’t know what to say. He bit his lips together, occasionally looking behind to make certain Nebekah hadn’t abandoned him.
They arrived in what appeared to be a private bedchamber, flanked only by a solitary guard, the first they had seen along the trek. The rest of the Orca remained in the packed arena, doubtlessly confused. “Inside,” Medea instructed the four of them. “Remain at your post, Lynxana,” she told the guard before following them in and closing the door.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Mika demanded passionately. “He can’t possibly be my brother.”
Sighing softly, Medea walked over to Mika, putting her hands on the girl’s shoulders. She didn’t answer, but instead turned to Link. “Why are you here?” she asked. “Did you come to take her?”
“No,” Link replied. “I only came to find Tyro.”
Nebekah cleared her throat. “The man you gave me.”
Medea nodded slightly. She walked over to the door and opened it a crack. “Lynxana, bring me the other prisoner.” And without waiting for a reply, she closed the door again.
“My parents abandoned me!” Mika shouted. “They didn’t mark me because they wanted me to be found. They didn’t want me at all.”
“That isn’t true,” Medea said sharply. “You didn’t come from the abandoned ridge, you came to me for safe keeping.”
This time, Mika’s eyes went wide. “What?”
Suddenly, Medea looked much older than she was. She sank down onto a soft pile of pillows, rubbing her forehead. “You were brought to me after your parents were killed during a Kodiak raid,” she said, casting a sideways glance to an indignant Sapphia. “The raid was conducted because they were seeking a child.” She gestured to Link. “This young man, when he was nothing more than a baby. After your parents were killed and it became clear that he would play an instrumental role in the future, you were brought to me to be protected. In time, prophecy proved true. The boy with the other half of the tattoo became the Hero of Time.”
“Why haven’t you told me this?” Mika asked softly.
“It wasn’t important. It was safer if no one knew your connection to the Hero of Time. Lest Dragmire come after you.”
“Then it’s true,” Mika muttered. “He’s my brother.”
“It’s true,” Medea sighed. “And you cannot kill him.”
“Then I can’t be initiated into the Pride,” Mika whispered.
The door to the room swung open and Tyro was pushed, none too gently, inside. “Thank you, Lynxana,” Medea called to the guard. “Wait outside.” The door was closed again.
Tyro glanced at Mika. “We meet again.”
“Shut up,” she spat.
Medea addressed Link. “This is what you came for?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Do with him what you will. I’ve given him to Nebekah. You four are free to leave.”
Sapphia cleared her throat delicately. “Alpha, I’m afraid that what I told you about Twinrova is true. That’s the reason why I was sent here, not to rescue the boy.”
“Twinrova?” both Link and Mika said at the same time.
“The sisters are alive,” Sapphia said. “And in search of the Topaz Shards. They want to assemble it again.”
Medea folded her arms. “Mika, you will be initiated into Orca Pride.”
Mika glanced sideways at Tyro. “Shall I kill him?”
“Hey!” Tyro cried in protest.
“No,” Medea said. “I have a far greater challenge to assign to you.”
“What?” she asked curiously.
“The Twinrova sisters are alive, and seeking the Gerudo Topaz. I’m sure their intentions are hardly benign. They must be stopped.” She paused before going on. “It took great magic to bring them back from the dead. It will take great magic to destroy them again. The Gerudo Topaz is great magic.”
Link frowned. “What are you saying?”
“Mika, I charge you with a serious task. You will travel to the other Prides and assemble the pieces of the Topaz before the sisters can.”
Her face blanching, Mika blinked in shock. “Me? Stop the Twinrova sisters and assemble the Topaz?”
“It must be done,” Medea said sadly. She stood up and crossed the room, going around to the far side of her bed, plump with goose feather pillows. She picked up one of the pillows, a deep shade of blue, and took out a sword, at once slicing it open. Feathers went flying. She forced her hand into the depths of the pillow and from it, produced a small sliver of dark amber glass, glowing slightly of its own volition. That had to be her Shard. Holding it close to her chest, she returned, gently placing it in Mika’s hand. “And you are the most capable warrior of Orca Pride. I believe you can do it. No one else can.”
“But I’ve never left our territory. I don’t know anything about the other Prides and their lands.”
“I can help,” Nebekah offered suddenly. “I’ve been to all of the other Pride territories.”
“Will you guide my daughter?” Medea asked her.
Nebekah crossed her arms in front of her chest and bowed. “I will.”
“I’ll go with them,” Sapphia said. “I’m the one who saw the Twinrova sisters. I’m the one who can attest to their intentions.”
Aside from a small sneer from Nebekah, there were no objections. “Well, I’m going too,” Link said. Although the demons of his memory laughed and snickered at him, somehow, he knew this was another adventure he had to take. After all, he had just found a sister.
“What about him?” Nebekah wondered, jerking her thumb in the direction of Tyro.
“He belongs to you now,” Medea shrugged. “Do with him as you please. Or leave him.”
“I think I’ll tag along,” Tyro said quickly. “Better than staying here,” he added, mumbling under his breath.
“We’ll need supplies,” Nebekah said. “Water and blankets.”
“Follow me,” Medea said, heading to the door.
Tyro glanced at Nebekah. “So, I belong to you now?”
“Pretty much,” she replied.
“What does that mean, exactly?”
“That means,” she said, following Medea, “that you get to carry my stuff.”
“Wonderful,” Tyro muttered. He followed Nebekah and Medea as they made their way out and into the dark hallway.
Sapphia glanced at Link. “Coming?”
“I’ll be right there,” he told her. “Go ahead.” With a curious shrug, Sapphia followed the others out of the room, leaving Link and Mika alone.
They regarded each other with a guarded thoughtfulness for a time. “What now?” she asked finally, breaking the eye contact to place the Shard carefully into the inside of her boot.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
“I’ve had a hundred sisters my entire life,” she told him. “I’ve never had a brother.”
“Me too. Well, not the hundred sisters part. Or the brother part. I mean…” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “This is really unexpected. I knew you existed but I never thought that…”
“This doesn’t mean that we’re automatically friends,” she said testily.
“Oh no, of course not.”
Mika nodded. “Good.”
She scowled. “Maybe.”
“I guess that’s something.”
Again, they fell silent for a moment. “Can I ask you a question?”
“I guess so.”
Link frowned. He didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt awkwardly embarrassed. “Do you…”
“Do you remember our parents?”
“Well, I…” Mika trailed off.
“I don’t know exactly.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes, especially when I was younger. I used to get these…I don’t know what to call them. Flashes? Dreams? Something like that?”
“What did you see?”
“A pretty blond woman. She wasn’t doing anything. Just sort of staring down at me. I never really knew who she was.”
“Well,” he said, “That’s something too.” He rubbed his head absently. It still hurt from where she had delivered a powerful blow. The girl had a lot of strength. “Listen, Mika…”
“I want you to know, I don’t expect anything from you. I mean, just because you’re my sister. You don’t have to like me, not if you don’t want to. But I hope that maybe you’ll give me the chance to show you I’m a decent fellow. It’s totally up to you if you chose to like me or not.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Yeah, I do.”
Mika smiled ever so slightly. It was the first time Link had seen her do so and he had to admit that it made her look like an entirely different person. “All right, I’ll give you that chance,” she said.
Link held out his arm. “Deal?”
“Deal,” she said. She reached out and clasped him around the wrist, giving him a strong, sturdy shake. Each held a tattoo in their palm. Peace was between them.
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