The glittering walls of Din’s chambers were hurting Link’s eyes. It wasn’t so much the glare of the many candles off of the gold designs so much as the fact that he had been staring at them for so long. Days, it seemed. Well, probably something like that. In fact, he and Nebekah had scarcely left the chamber, except for a few trips to the mess and to bed, and then only at Mika’s insistence. They could solve no mysteries half asleep. Ironically, Link thought, they couldn’t seem to solve any mysteries while fully awake. The fact of the matter was, for all their staring and examining of the walls, they hadn’t solved anything.
Link could hear a sort of clock ticking, a time bomb that was slowly building up to what he knew was some sort of elaborate plot on his life. He had been warned as much back when he first faced the Twinrova threat. They had something planned for him, something big and doubtlessly fatal. It hadn’t truly worried him. At first, he had been a lost in a malaise as far as life was concerned. Now, however, that he had recaptured his hold on life, their threats worried him far more. That, and the fact that they now had an incredible weapon at their disposal.
It had been almost a week since the Twinrova sisters had captured the Gerudo Topaz with the help of Sapphia. It was clear to Link and all the members of the fellowship that the Topaz, which had been their goal from the beginning, was some sort of weapon. The trouble was, they could only guess at the nature of such a weapon, given the fact that so little was known about the Topaz. All they had been left with was a cryptic riddle that, so far, no one had been able to crack. Time was running out. Link didn’t know what was keeping the sisters from making their move, but whatever it was, it couldn’t last forever.
“Look at this one,” Nebekah said, pointing to a glyph the two of them had already scrutinized a dozen times. This particular image displayed the creation of the Gerudo race. Specifically, it showed Din, forming the prehistoric warrior women out of the sands of the
, mixing it with water for life, honey for beauty, and wine for great fortitude. The primordial mixing bowl gleamed with embedded rubies, carved to precise triangular shapes. From it, etched into the walls, poured a fountain of the mythological mixture. Gerudo Valley
“What about it?” Link asked wearily, looking at the all too familiar image and seeing nothing new.
“The shape of the mixture as it hits the ground,” Nebekah said feebly, pointing to the point on the wall. “It kind of looks like an upside down tree.”
“So what? The Gerudo are actually Kokiri?”
She sighed. “I guess not.”
He felt guilty almost immediately for snapping at her like that. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay, blondie,” she said.
“Stressed,” she finished for him. “I understand. I would be too if the Twinrova sisters were gunning for me.”
“I just wish we knew more about the Topaz,” Link sighed. “It might make solving the riddle easier.”
“Which might make staying alive easier.”
“You don’t have to keep reminding me they’re after my head,” he told her a bit crisply.
“Yeah, I do.”
“I don’t need any.”
“It’s for me.”
Nebekah turned her attention back to the glyphs, running her flingers over the delicate tracery. “I don’t want them touching you,” she told him quietly.
“I’m not planning on dying.”
“Who knows what tricks they have up their sleeves?”
Link shrugged. “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” she said, “this seems like an entirely too elaborate plot for a simple act of revenge.”
“I know,” he admitted.
“They don’t just want to kill you, they want more than that. The question becomes what do they want?”
“The Topaz, obviously.”
“Of course,” she said. “Still, they want to kill you specifically with the Topaz. Why? It would be much easier to impale you with a sickle.”
“Light you on fire.”
“Drop you off the roof of a building.”
“I get it, Nebekah,” he barked.
Again, he felt considerably guilty. “There’s something special about the Topaz itself.” He moved along the wall, coming to a scene depicting Din’s presentation of the Topaz to the Gerudo, back when they were a single, unified people. The shape was precise, exactly as it had been when Link had gotten his all too brief glimpse of the fully assembled stone. Din held it before her, floating above her hands. Below her were small people, barely reaching up to her knees. They bowed and prostrated themselves, holding their hands out to receive the gift. Behind them, Link noticed, was a strange pyramid, that seemed to be missing one side. “Nebekah?”
“What’s this?” he pointed to the pyramid.
She glanced at it briefly. “That’s the
.” templeof Din
?” templeof Din
“Well, it’s a symbol for it.” She paused. “The actual building is shaped like a pyramid though.”
“Where is it?”
“Not far from here, actually. It’s the most remote place in the entire Valley, for good reason.”
“Have you ever been there?”
“Once, a long time ago.” She chewed the heel of her palm. “My mother took me as a child.”
“The picture shows Din giving the Topaz to the Gerudo there,” Link said, indicating the image. “Do you suppose it was housed there before the Gerudo divided it up among the Prides?”
“Maybe that should be our next stop,” Link supposed.
?” templeof Din
Nebekah shrugged. “They seem to be without a high priestess.” Despite himself, Link couldn’t help but smirk. Jadis, the high priestess of Din who had attempted to completely enslave the Kodiak, was being kept in the dungeon where she had brainwashed so many of them, drugging them with lotus blossoms and attempting to hypnotize them, all for her own personal agenda. “We could probably take her necklace and gain easy access.”
Link nodded vaguely, still examining the engraving. “I think that may be our best bet. Short of having the actual Topaz, finding out where it was kept might be a good place to start.”
“I know the way. We can probably get supplies from Alpha Sarjenka and be on our way by sunrise.”
For a moment, they were silent, contemplating the image. “I should have listened to you,” Link said quietly, after that moment.
Nebekah glanced sideways at him. “What do you mean?”
“You warned me not to trust Sapphia. I should have listened. I should have realized she was working with the Twinrova sisters the entire time.”
“First of all,” Nebekah said, “I told you not to trust her because she was a Kodiak. I figured all the Kodiak to be worthless. But I was wrong. They’ve been nothing but honorable to us.”
“What’s second of all?” he asked.
“Second of all,” she said, “Sapphia had us all fooled. Not just you. We thought she was a friend.”
“She played us all very cleverly.”
He shook his head. “I suppose there’s no point in trying to convince you not to come with me, that it’s dangerous for anyone to be around me when the Twinrova sisters are after me?”
“Completely pointless,” she confirmed with a fierce nod of her head.
“I figured you’d say that.”
“I’m with you to the end, blondie.” She folded her arms. “Anyway, Kotake needs to pay for killing Miral. I’m not letting you have all the glory. I want my crack at her too.”
“And I can promise you that Mika and Tyro aren’t about to leave your side. We’re in this together.”
“We were in this together with Sapphia,” Link pointed out. “See how well that ended?”
“Well, there’s a difference between Sapphia and the rest of us following after you.”
She shrugged. “We’re not sociopathic liars.”
Link laughed at that. “I’m not entirely convinced.”
“Well, whatever you believe, we’re a team, blondie. We’re not going to let you face this evil alone.”
He glanced sideways at her with a slight smile. “A team? I think I like that. A lot.”
“So, what do you say?”
“I say,” he said slowly, “that we make some arrangements to visit Jadis’
.” templeof Din
“Then that’s what we’ll do.”
The fact of the matter was that Link was exhausted, nervous, and irritable. But at the same time, he felt a pleasant warmth in his chest. Everything he had gone through with Ganondorf Dragmire and the Ocarina of Time had been just as arduous and difficult as this new quest. But something had changed. For once, Link had friends. And somehow, knowing that Nebekah, Mika, and Tyro were on his side made everything feel a lot easier. He chided himself for getting too confident. After all, there was still a long way to go before he could consider himself truly safe. Still, somehow, what Nebekah had said had given him just a drop of confidence, a precious, rare gift he knew he had to hold onto in the hard times to come.
In the past week, a lot had changed about the Kodiak stronghold. Gone were the flowers and scarves that denoted the warriors as passive followers of Yakut. The statues of Din which had been removed were all properly restored with sacrifices lining the bases. The fire ravaged food storage area had been repaired. All of the messes cleaned up. The one thing, however, that hadn’t changed, was the tension that Mika felt every time she came within view of Tyro. That, it seemed, would remain between them indefinitely.
Her feelings about him were so confused, she rather enjoyed using the tension as an excuse to get away. She was caught in a web of emotions, pulling her in opposite directions. On the one hand, she admitted to her mother, if not to Tyro, that she was really in love with him. When she asked herself if this was true, she was forced to answer in the affirmative. On the other hand, Tyro had slept with another woman while he claimed to be in love with her. And yet on another hand, though there were none left, this woman had turned out to be evil, leaving Mika to question the meaning behind their affair. All this built up into a delightfully palpable tension that Mika hid behind. Unfortunately, there could be no hiding for the moment. She was, unfortunately, in the position of having to find Tyro.
She found him, predictably, in the courtyard. This seemed to be his favorite part of the stronghold. It was hot, roofed with a glass pane that trapped the dying remains of sunlight long after the sun had set. She found him sitting on the ground under the fronds of a palm tree, looking up at the brilliant starlight which shone through the glass. No one bothered Link or Tyro, knowing full well what their purposes were and despite the fact that they were men. Still, Tyro had continuously expressed discomfort with being within the confines of the Kodiak fortress. He claimed that he felt trapped, caged in, so it was no surprise that he wanted to see the sky.
As she approached, he turned away from the stars to look at her. Her chest tightened as she felt his eyes upon her. The many hands of her feelings pulled her heart in opposite directions, making it beat all the more faster. “We’re leaving in the morning,” she told him, the strain evident in her throat.
“Where are we going?” he asked, standing up, but maintaining a good distance between them.
.” templeof Din
“How far away is that?”
“Not far. Nebekah says we can get there in a few hours by foot. Alpha Sarjenka might even give us some horses.”
A silence that could be classified as nothing short of awkward followed. “Do you know how to ride?” Tyro finally blurted.
Mika shook her head. “No. The Orca live in rocky territory. Horses are no good to us.”
She shifted her weight. “Do you?”
“Know how to ride?”
“Well, I spent part of my childhood on a ranch, racing my cousin. She always beat me but…yeah. I’m decent.”
They regarded each other cautiously for a moment. “You could…ride with me,” he said.
“Tyro, I don’t know if –”
“Mika,” he interrupted, “listen. I know that you’re upset with me, but would you allow me to explain?”
“What’s there to explain?” she asked. “You slept with Sapphia. And I know she’s secretly evil, but unless you are –”
“There’s more to what happened than that. I thought it was you, Mika. I really did.”
“You said that before.”
“It’s the truth.”
“How can you think it was me? I don’t understand that.”
“Well, if you’d let me explain…”
She folded her arms across her chest, taking up a defensive posture. “All right, explain.”
He clapped his hands together in front of his face. Clearly, he had not been expecting her to acquiesce. For a moment, he rested his lips against his fingernails. “We were staying with the Dragon Pride,” he said.
“You were wandering off somewhere. I was speaking with Princess Zelda.”
“Yes,” Mika said, not bothering to mention the emotional flashbacks she had been experiencing at the time.
“Zelda said…something that upset me, so I went to a guest room to lie down for a little while. Someone came to the door. I thought it was you. Looked just like you, Mika, dead on. She started kissing me and I remembered our earlier encounters and thought that…”
“That you had changed your mind.”
“You should have known better.”
He smiled tightly. “You don’t change your mind.”
Tyro sighed. “Well, it happened. And in the morning, when I woke up, it was Sapphia and not you. I was horrified.”
“Horrified?” she asked.
“Fell off the bed,” he told her, taking a few steps forward in her direction. “Absolutely furious too.”
“But how could you mistake Sapphia for me?”
“That’s the very thing I asked her. And she told me that she had used Heart’s Desire to trick me.”
“The herb that makes men think they’re seeing the person that they…love. Which, in my case, would be you, Mika.”
“Why would she do that?”
“She said she was in love with me. Now, I’m not sure. Maybe it was to break us up. She’s evil, who knows?”
“Who knows,” she echoed softly.
“The point is that I love you, Mika. I’ve never loved anyone else, and even if you hate me forever for what happened with Sapphia, I will still love you.”
And she knew it was true. Somehow, some way, the earnest shined from his eyes, reaching into her soul and filling her chest with a new feeling, a warm, forgiving energy that wanted to shine out. She felt it rise up into her throat, forming the words on her lips. “Tyro, I –”
“Mika?” someone interrupted. “Tyro?” Both of them turned instantly to see Alpha Sarjenka approaching them, her long red hair swaying behind her back as she hurried over to them. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Sarjenka,” Tyro sighed quietly, feeling the loss of Mika’s words himself, though he didn’t know for certain what they were.
“What can we do for you, Alpha?” Mika asked politely, crossing her wrists before her chest in salute.
“I’ve already told your other friends, I’m leaving. I’ve received a summons from Alpha Nabooru, of all people. Din only knows what kind of trap I’ll be walking into. I wanted to let you know that the stables are fully at your disposal for your trip tomorrow. Take any mares you wish.”
“Thank you, Alpha,” Mika said.
“I’ll be leaving my Gamma, Nala in charge.” She paused, a small frown forming on her lips. “Assuming, that is, I can find her. You haven’t seen her around here, have you?”
“No, Alpha,” Mika replied.
Sarjenka planted her hands on her hips, looking annoyed. “She’s been missing all day.” She shook her head. “Anyway, once I find her, I’ll tell her that I’ve given you every freedom. You have access to anything you need. We’re anxious to help you on your quest.”
“Thanks,” Tyro muttered.
“Din be with you,” Sarjenka said. And with that, she turned around, hurrying away in her typical Kodiak march.
Tyro turned to look at Mika. “What were you going to say?” he asked.
Mika shook her head. “Nothing.” She didn’t know why she said it, every instinct in her body was screaming to express her feelings to Tyro. She did love him, why couldn’t she tell him? There was something holding her back, some small fear, some remnant of her Gerudo past, perhaps, or else a certain doubt about his own faithfulness, though she believed his story. Whatever it was, it caused her heart to ache and forced her to turn away. Looking at him only made it worse.
“You summoned me?” Sapphia asked Koume as she entered the central chamber of the ice palace, directly over the marble floor from which the Twinrova sisters had been resurrected.
Koume looked up from the telepathy tile she had been examining, trying to make the edges meld better into the walls. “Kotake wants to see you,” she said. “She’ll be here in a moment. She just had to run an errand.”
“Very well,” Sapphia replied.
“Sit down and wait,” Koume told her, gesturing a chair, one of the few pieces not made of ice, they had procured for Sapphia.
“Thank you,” Sapphia said gratefully.
She watched as Sapphia lumbered over to take a seat. Kotake’s spell had already taken firm hold of the Kodiak. In the hopes of accelerating their plans to revive Ganondorf, Kotake had sped up the pregnancy to an unnatural rate. Sapphia’s belly bulged hugely, nearly two seasons ahead of schedule for any Gerudo. Frankly, this concerned Koume a good deal. She feared that Sapphia would deliver before killing the Hero with the Topaz, meaning the birth of one more Gerudo girl, not the return of the great alpha male. All those arrangements would go to waste and Koume severely doubted that the process could be duplicated. Too many changes had taken place, too many bridges had been burned.
Sapphia had been in the ice palace nearly a week now. Koume felt unnaturally uncomfortable around her, especially when they were alone, as they so often were while Kotake was meddling with life in the
. She was burning with questions, particularly about how Kotake had managed to procure this fine vessel without a single dose of brainwashing magic. Sapphia had sought them out, had played a hand in their return, and had willingly agreed to carry the new Ganondorf to term. For each of these, Koume yearned to know why, but somehow, she lacked the courage to conjure up the questions. Kotake had always been the brave one, the assertive one, and therefore, the one who knew the answers. Gerudo Valley
“So…” Koume murmured, at a loss for anything to say, but hating the silence far more, “are you comfortable?” Immediately, she cursed herself for asking such a stupid question.
“No,” Sapphia admitted.
“I suppose not,” Koume said, eyeing the tight skin of her swollen stomach, stretching faster and sooner than expected.
Noting her gaze, Sapphia patted her belly. “I can feel him kicking already,” she said proudly.
“Her,” Koume corrected her. “Until the Topaz is used to destroy the Hero, that child does not have Ganondorf’s soul. It’s a very complicated, delicate situation. Kotake can explain it better than I.”
Mercifully, at that moment, Kotake appeared in the middle of the room, arriving with a flash of fire and a bright smile on her thin, twisted lips. “Ah,” she said, taking note of the room. “Sapphia, you’re here. Good.”
“As you asked,” Koume muttered.
“How may I serve you?” Sapphia asked.
“Have you brought the Topaz?”
Sapphia held up the amber triangle with a flattened top point. “I carry it with me always.”
“Good,” Kotake said. “Because I expect you’ll need to use it very soon. I have it on excellent authority that the Hero will be on his way to us in good time.”
“Excellent,” Sapphia replied.
“In the meanwhile, it is time for you to learn how to use it.”
Koume glanced at her sister. “Use it?”
“I think a trial run is called for,” Kotake responded. “That way, when the Hero arrives, we can simply let him enter and find Sapphia himself. We never have to see that wretched boy again.” She turned to Sapphia. “Shall we give it a go?”
“Good.” Kotake clapped her hands. In a flash of fire, a second figure appeared in the middle of the room. This was a young Gerudo girl, her arms and legs bound by Din Silver, her mouth stuffed with a linen gag. She wore Kodiak colors and appeared on her side, struggling as any good Gerudo, to free herself of the unbreakable bonds that held her. It took her a moment to realize that she had somehow transported to a new location. Wildly, she looked up, perhaps hoping that some sort of salvation was at hand. Her blue eyes flashed, taking in the scene with bitter disappointment.
Struggling, Sapphia pulled herself to her feet. “Nala?” she asked, recognizing her sister in arms.
“You will practice on her,” Kotake said.
“Kotake!” Koume cried. “Really, I must object.”
“Be quiet, you old bat,” Kotake answered.
“You want her to kill another Gerudo? That wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was to bring the Gerudo together.”
“You’re thinking small,” Kotake sighed. “Remember the bigger picture. If a few Gerudo are lost as collateral damage, just remember that they’re giving their lives for the greater good.” She glanced at Sapphia. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes…” she said, but Koume immediately detected a hint of doubt, too subtle for Kotake to recognize.
“Wonderful,” Kotake exclaimed, clapping her hands together with a crack. “Let’s begin then.”
“But I’m supposed to kill Link with the Topaz in order to transform my baby into Ganondorf. Won’t it disrupt the spell if I kill someone else?”
“No, of course not,” Kotake assured her. “It’s more of a prophecy than a spell. You needn’t worry about the details, I know exactly what’s going on. All you need to worry about is practicing. Let’s begin.”
“How?” asked Sapphia.
“The use of the Topaz is frightfully simple,” Kotake told her, stepping over Nala and walking to the vessel. “The first thing you need to do is hold it out, pointing the blunt tip in the direction of the person you wish to destroy. Go ahead, hold it up.”
Carefully, Sapphia took the Topaz in both hands and raised it to her eye level, pointing it slightly away from Nala. “Like this?”
“Directly at her,” Kotake snapped, grabbing Sapphia’s wrists and directing the Topaz straight at the struggling Nala. “There. Now, do not do this next step yet. Wait until I tell you. What you must do is clear your mind and focus on one specific objective. You must will your mind to see your opponent as dead. I don’t mean picturing yourself running her through with a knife or riddling her with arrows. What you must focus on are the eyes. You’ve seen death before. Recall that image. Remember the moment when you saw that little light go off in someone’s eyes, the moment you knew that they were no longer there.”
Sapphia nodded slightly. “Okay…”
“That’s all. Simple as that, really.”
“Well, let’s try it out.” Kotake glanced at Koume. “Untie her. We’ll let her die on her feet.”
Hesitantly, Koume turned to look at Nala, still fighting against her bonds. She narrowed her eyes on the Din Silver. Instantly, it froze completely. With a great tug, Nala managed to shatter the metal, freeing herself. In the next second, she was up on her feet, pulling a small dagger out of her boot. “Traitor!” she shouted, pointing it at Sapphia.
“I’m no such thing,” Sapphia replied, her hands trembling as she clutched the Topaz. “I’m returning the Gerudo nation to its glory.”
“You’re returning the Gerudo nation to its slavery under Ganondorf Dragmire and these two crones.”
“You don’t understand,” Sapphia told her.
“I know what I must do. That parasite inside of you must die.” With a snarl, she rushed forward, screaming, “Ya!” at the top of her lungs and ready to plunge the knife directly into Sapphia.
“Now!” Kotake yelled.
For a moment, Koume was absolutely certain that Nala would stab Sapphia in the belly, but in the next instant, all thoughts vanished and a new horror played out. Half a pace away, Nala froze, suspended. The air around her seemed to be rippling, like the surface of a lake that had once been smooth, only to be disturbed by a sudden splash as a boulder fell in. At first, the ripples were wide, encompassing all of the space around Nala, but they began to close in, surrounding her in a tighter and tighter confine, though her body did not move. The ripples turned amber, the same color as the Topaz, and with that, no further ceremony, Nala dropped down to the ground, the dagger tumbling out of her hand.
The three survivors didn’t move for a good while. Sapphia’s face seemed to be frozen in a look that combined terror with fascination. For her own part, Koume was disgusted by the entire display. One Gerudo killing another! It was Kotake, with a look of glee stretched over her wrinkled face, who finally broke the stillness. She walked over to the lifeless body of Nala on the floor, bending over with the popping of her knees, to touch two of her gnarled fingers to the pulse point under her chin. “Dead,” she said simply.
In days gone by, Link would sometimes gaze to the northern most part of the
. If the sun was high, he would sometimes see the phantom outline of a pyramid in the distance, farther than he dared to go. Generally, he dismissed it for a mere trick of the light, or dehydration, both of which had often played horrendous games with him in the past. Now he knew. This wasn’t some mirage or hallucination, this was the Gerudo Valley , the holiest shrine of the Gerudo nation, until now, nothing more than a name to him. templeof Din
The temple was beautiful, build of onyx which allowed the sun to gleam off, making the black stone look pure white. At each point of the compass, a good fifty paces from the slanted walls, tall obelisks stood sentry, casting shadows to a sharp angle with the sunlight. These were engraved with the many facets of Din, sixteen of them in total, about which, Link knew absolutely nothing. He looked down. Resting in the palm of his glove was Jadis’ pendant, engraved with similar, but impossibly smaller icons that matched these. “Well,” he said, scanning the surroundings, “I guess we go in now and find out how much they like Jadis.”
He dismounted his horse, a horrid, old nag that the Kodiak had given to him for the ride. He supposed they assumed he would not be returning, and felt it best not to give him a horse they wanted back. Vaguely, he wondered if they expected him not to return because he would forget, or not to return because he would be dead. Either way, he found himself rather wishing he had Epona with him now, instead.
Beside him, Nebekah dismounted her equally dilapidated horse. Beyond her, Mika and Tyro struggled off of the ride they had shared, owing to Mika’s extreme inexperience with horses. The uneasy tension that had persisted between the two of them all week seemed to have eased. Link still didn’t feel bold enough to ask what it had been about, but he was glad to see they were on good terms again, whatever those good terms meant.
“This way,” Nebekah told them, gesturing to one of the sides of the pyramid that was turned away.
“Lay on,” Link said, gesturing for her to take the lead.
The four of them tied their rides to a nearby palm tree and began to follow around the side of the building. “What Pride runs this temple?” Tyro asked, readjusting the pole on his back.
“No Pride,” Nebekah replied. “These are Gerudo who don’t believe in those kind of allegiances. They dedicate everything to Din. Their ancestors date back to the time of unity. When the Prides split, a select few didn’t want to choose sides, so they became the first priestesses of the temple.”
“So you don’t call them the Priestess Pride?” he mumbled.
“They don’t belong to any Pride,” she repeated. “Anyone is welcome to come here. The
is neutral territory.” territoryof Din
By now, the entrance to the temple had appeared. The doorway was empty and unassuming. Standing before it was a Gerudo girl, probably no more than fifteen or sixteen, wearing vestal robes of deep crimson. Her hair was divided into dozens of braids, making her seem, to Link, like a missionary from New Kasuto. She raised her hand, shielding her eyes from the sun, to examine these new arrivals. “Who are you?” she demanded in a voice too powerful for her tiny frame.
“Emissaries,” Link told her. He held up the necklace, dangling it in her view and hoping that it was worth the journey.
The girl examined the amulet for a moment from where she was. Deciding it was worth further investigation, she stepped forward, taking it from Link’s hand. “Jadis has sent you?” she finally asked.
“We’re here on behalf of the entire Gerudo nation,” Link said, hoping to avoid lying if he could. “Each of the Alphas of each of the Prides has given us their blessing. We come to try and save the people from a second servitude to Ganondorf Dragmire and the Twinrova sisters.”
For a moment, she eyed Tyro and Link. “Normally, men are not permitted to enter our sacred temple, but since you come bearing Jadis’ talisman, we shall make an exception for you.” With that, she turned around, walking into the unassuming doorframe.
The others exchanged nervous glances. “I guess we go in now,” Nebekah said.
“Guess?” Tyro repeated. “Guess? You’re supposed to be our primary source of exposition.”
“Well, I’ve never brought men to the
before,” she replied. templeof Din
They entered, silently, with a sense of deep respect. After following a narrow tunnel, they arrived in the entryway. Somehow, the chamber looked much bigger than the outside of the temple itself. It was grand, everything made of silver, spouting dozens of hallways and staircases, leading to places Link could only imagine. In the very center of the hall was a pedestal, empty. At once, Link knew that had once been the resting place of the Gerudo Topaz.
The girl was waiting for them inside. “Why have you come?” she asked again.
“To learn about the Gerudo Topaz,” Link said.
She nodded. “Our historical archives will tell you everything you want to know. But you may not enter the other chambers of the temple, dressed as you are. You must put on the robes of Din and leave your weapons behind.” She walked to a wooden chest, resting beside a door. Opening it, she removed a pile of neatly folded, bright scarlet robes. She handed one set to each of them before turning to Link and Tyro. “You two may change in here. Leave your clothing and your weapons by the door.” She turned next to Nebekah and Mika. “You two will change in the bath. Follow me.” And without ceremony, she headed down a hallway.
Link glanced at the girls. “We’ll meet up after,” he told them.
“All right,” Nebekah said. She put a hand on Mika’s shoulder. Mika seemed a bit distracted, watching Tyro, but at the touch of Nebekah’s palm, she snapped out of her daze, nodded, and together, the two of them followed after the novice who had let them into the temple.
Feeling incredibly self conscious, Link slowly began to undress, folding his green tunic on the floor and placing his gauntlets on top. For a moment, he stood there, shirtless, examining the blue tattoo on his wrist, the one that had led him to Mika in the first place. Shaking the cobwebs from his mind, he pulled on the red robes and started to unbuckle his belt. “Do you think we’ll learn anything important?” he asked Tyro in a lame attempt at small talk.
“What?” Tyro murmured vaguely.
“Important, do you think we’ll…” he turned around, realizing that Tyro had not moved. He stood, rooted to his spot, watching the hall where Mika and Nebekah had vanished a moment earlier. “Tyro?”
The sound of his own name did the trick. Tyro blinked, turning to look at Link. “Sorry, I…”
“It’s fine,” Link told him. “Just start changing.”
Tyro obeyed. “Link,” he said, pulling his tunic up over his head and tossing it unceremoniously to one side. “I guess you already know that I feel…deeply…for your sister.”
“I kind of noticed,” Link told him, shimmying out of his leggings and picking them up.
“I…well…I love her.”
Link paused a moment, examining him. “You do?”
“I do.” He held up his hands. “I know what kind of reputation I have. And it’s well earned, but this is different. The way I feel about her, it’s not like how I used to be. I don’t think I’m that person anymore.”
“And so…before it goes too far, I want to get your blessing.”
“To be with your sister,” he said. “To court her in a proper way. As a gentleman.”
Sighing softly, Link began to fold up his leggings. “Tyro, I’m not sure I can give you that.”
“I know I’ve been a cad! But it’s different now, I swear.”
“No,” Link said quickly. “You don’t understand.”
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t give you any kind of blessing, because I don’t have the right. Yes, Mika is my sister, but she’s only been my sister for a few weeks. I don’t really have the right to meddle in her life, let alone give someone else permission or deny it.”
“Oh. I guess I understand.”
“I think she needs to be the one to decide if you’re worthy or not.”
“What would make me worthy?” he asked.
“I don’t know, really,” Link said. “I guess, you’d have to be someone that Mika could like. I mean, love is all very well, but I don’t think it’s worth much unless you like the other person too.”
“What does Mika like?”
Link laughed softly. “I’m still trying to figure that part out.”
“She’s lived among the Gerudo her whole life,” Link said. “My guess is that had very much defined how she thinks.”
“I think,” he said, “she likes people who embody the spirit of the Gerudo.”
“What does that mean?”
He shrugged slightly. “What are the Gerudo values? Bravery? Honor? Great fortitude?”
“She wants a Hero,” Tyro sighed.
“I don’t know.”
Tyro shook his head. “The values she appreciates, they aren’t me, are they? I’m not a Hero.”
“I don’t know,” Link said again. “I can only guess at what she’s thinking. I haven’t known her long enough yet.”
“Neither have I,” Tyro said.
“But you love her?”
“But not enough.”
Nabooru clasped her hands behind her back, staring at the tall statue of Din out in the middle of the courtyard. How serene the goddess looked, how calm and tranquil. She reigned over the décor without a single care, smiling blithely in spite of the growing danger around her. Perhaps it was rude to turn her back on a guest, but Nabooru’s nerves were steadily building to a frantic pulse that forced her, momentarily, to direct her attention elsewhere. Nassan would arrive at any moment. Fortunately, Alpha Petaleen didn’t seem to mind. She continued to speak, despite the fact that Nabooru’s attention was torn.
“It wasn’t easy,” Petaleen was saying, “but eventually, we managed to drive them back, slaughtering the whole lot that were foolish enough to remain behind and challenge us.” She had been going on and on about the Jaguar resistance against the invading Kodiak for some length. Hearing about the Dark Times always pained Nabooru, reminding her of the way she had failed her people in becoming a pawn of Twinrova, but somehow, that was nowhere near as nerve wracking as what was awaiting her. She didn’t tell Petaleen however, just let her continue. “We made certain that no one would ever forget the name Jaguar.”
“Mmhmm…” Nabooru muttered.
“Our strength of arms may have paled, but our spirit could not be broken. No one beats us.”
“May you maintain that strength for all time,” Nabooru said. “Especially in the trials to come.”
“I still want to know the meaning of this summons,” Petaleen said, planting her hands on her hips.
“In a moment,” Nabooru told her. She had heard it. At first, part of her wished it to be nothing but a phantom echo in the back of her mind, but she knew it was there now. Footsteps approaching the greeting chamber. With all her strength, she forced herself to look away from the window into the courtyard, turning to the door. It lingered there, ominously empty. Any minute now, that would change.
Petaleen seemed oblivious to Nabooru’s internal distress. “I wouldn’t normally obey so blandly, but I’m only acting on behalf of Beta Nebekah. I suppose she’s the true Alpha now and my actions should reflect what her will would be. She’s always spoken highly of you.”
“I appreciate your coming,” Nabooru said absently, the waiting slowly closing a vice around her throat.
“Well, I do it on her behalf,” she reiterated.
But Nabooru on longer paid her much attention. In the doorway, three figures had appeared. The first was Liandra, her Beta, looking stoic as ever. Behind Liandra entered two foreigners, representatives of the Saber Tooth Pride. The first, Nabooru took to be the Saber Tooth Beta, whose name she honestly didn’t remember. The second, she knew immediately to be Nassan. How different she looked from the last time they had met. Nassan had grown so much since then, become a striking woman, an Alpha in every way from her stature to her skeptical eyes that now scanned the room before at last falling on Nabooru.
“Alpha,” Liandra announced importantly, “I present Beta Kae’lee, daughter of Chava, and Alpha Nassan, daughter of –”
“Yes,” Nabooru cut her off. “Thank you, Liandra.”
Flustered, Liandra turned to the Saber Tooth guests. “Nabooru, daughter of Nyala, first Alpha of the Dragon Pride. As an afterthought, she added, “And Alpha Petaleen of the Jaguar Pride.”
Both Nabooru and Petaleen crossed their wrists in salute. Nassan and Kae’lee did the same. “Liandra,” Nabooru said. “Please assign Beta Kae’lee to guest accommodations for me.”
“Yes, Alpha,” Liandra replied. To Kae’lee, she said, “This way please,” and led her out.
The three Alphas silently listened until the footsteps fell silent. Nabooru cleared her throat. “You’re looking well,” she said to Nassan.
Nassan nodded, clearly feeling just as uncomfortable. “Thank you.”
“Look at you, the Saber Tooth Alpha. I would never have thought it.”
“The turnaround for an Alpha in our Pride is rapid,” Nassan responded with a slight shrug.
“Now that we’ve dispensed with the pleasantries,” Nassan continued, “I would like to know the meaning of this command summons.”
“It was not a command,” Nabooru said tightly.
“Forgive me. It’s difficult to tell on occasion.”
Brushing aside the comment, Nabooru turned, addressing both Nassan and Petaleen. “I have called all the Gerudo Alphas together due to a single, shared experience we have all dealt with in the past few weeks.”
“Shared experience?” Nassan repeated.
“What’s that?” Petaleen asked.
“A visit from the Hero of Time, and his band of warriors.”
Petaleen scowled. “How did you know about that?”
“He’s been to see every Pride,” Nabooru said.
“Asking for the Shards,” Nassan supplied.
Nabooru held another look with Nassan for a moment before continuing. “They’re on a quest to defeat the Twinrova sisters a second time,” she said. “And they can’t do it alone. They need help.”
“Help?” Petaleen said.
“Our help. The help of the Gerudo.”
The Jaguar Alpha rolled her eyes. “What can we do? The Twinrova sisters easily took over last time. I don’t see how we can stop them this time.”
“They took over because they had the Kodiak on their side and because alliances and feuds drove the rest of us apart.” Nabooru sighed. “It must end if we’re going to survive. The Gerudo Prides must band together to help Link defeat this evil. The entire world could be at stake.”
“Are you suggesting we wage war on them?” Petaleen snorted.
“The war has already begun,” Nabooru said. “There have been casualties already, as I’m sure you can well attest. But we can keep it from getting worse. We can see to it that no family is ever torn apart again.”
“Yes,” Nassan said dryly, “we wouldn’t want that.”
Instantly, Nabooru locked eyes with Nassan again. They stood there like two dogs, waiting to see which one would surrender first. Neither blinked, neither dared, but soon, it was Nassan who looked away. “My goal will benefit the entire Gerudo nation,” Nabooru said tightly. “Every Pride, every Gerudo.”
“I see,” Nassan replied shortly.
Nabooru looked from one to the other. “But in order for this to work, I will need the cooperation of every Pride. I realize there are rivalries, there is great bitterness, and there are problems to be dealt with, but nothing worth doing is every easy. I’m asking you to try.”
Nassan glanced at Petaleen. “I have no quarrels with the Jaguar Pride. I will call you sister.”
“And I have none with the Saber Tooth,” Petaleen replied. “Nor with the Dragon,” she added to Nabooru.
For a third time, Nassan and Nabooru locked eyes. There was a seething glare coming from Nassan, one that cut Nabooru to the quick. Softly, she lowered her own eyes, allowing Nassan to be the dominant one. “Do not let personal grudges stand in the way of your entire Pride’s future,” she said softly.
Nassan nodded slightly. “Very well, I will march alongside the Dragon Pride,” she said.
“But I will not endure the company of their Alpha.” She nodded to Petaleen. “Excuse me.” And with that, she left, marching out of the yawning doorway, doubtlessly in search of her companion and safety far from the room.
“What was that about?” Petaleen murmured after a brief moment.
“Hmm?” Nabooru grunted.
“I couldn’t help but notice a bit of tension between the two of you,” Petaleen said. “What was it?”
Nabooru sighed, shaking her head. “It’s complicated.”
She shrugged. “Nassan is my daughter.”
“I sent her away,” Nabooru explained, “back when Ganondorf first became a threat. I knew he would come after me. I thought she would be safer living among the Saber Tooth. I had every intention of fetching her again. I didn’t count on the Dark Times lasting as long as they did. When it was over, Nassan was happy to be where she was and I couldn’t remove her from the life she knew.”
“Unfortunately, she had also grown to resent me for leaving her.” Nabooru shook her head. There is nothing more painful than being hated by your own child.” She glanced at Petaleen. “Do you have any children?”
“No,” Petaleen said. Her answer was immediate, clipped, with no amount of uncertainty. But looking into her eyes, Nabooru was fairly certain she saw a flicker of hesitation.
The novice who had greeted them at the door, whose name turned out to be Siri, was quite accommodating once she seemed secure that they had not come with ill intentions. After the members of Link’s fellowship changed into the robes, they were brought into an enormous crypt beneath the main sanctuary. Link had just barely been able to glance into the temple as they were brought down the creaking wooden stairs. From what little he saw of it, he got a clear sense of the reverence the Gerudo people held for the goddess.
Din’s primary sanctuary was taller than
, gleaming with bright silver walls, all encrusted with rubies and engravings that told the many stories the Gerudo believed about their creation. In the center of the chamber, he made out a marble altar, stained red from the sacrifice of generations of animals dedicated to Din. The room was lined with small alcoves, nearly every five paces, and in each alcove lived a stunning representation of the goddess, dressed in silks and finery that outshone even the most extravagant of palaces. North Castle
The passing glance was over before it began and the ground rose as Link descended into the crypt. Siri led them expertly through the catacombs, so quickly that Link feared he’d lose the way. Finally, she brought them to a small burial chamber. It was hewn out of the stone foundation of the temple itself. Compared to the sanctuary above, it was oddly devoid of trappings. The stone walls were still carved with Gerudo runes, telling a story that Link could not read, but there was no gold, no silver, no precious gems. The room was humble and bare. In the very center of the chamber was a marble sarcophagus, engraved with a tranquil woman’s face, though the rest of her body, if it had been carved at all, had been worn away by time.
“Wait here,” Siri told them.
“For what?” Mika asked.
“Aurelia,” Siri answered. And with that, she swept out of the chamber again, vanishing from sight.
Mika blinked. “Who’s Aurelia?”
“She must be the keeper of the crypt,” Nebekah supposed, scanning the runes etched into the walls.
Link walked over to her side. “Can you read them?”
Nebekah shook her head. “These are old. Older than my Pride.”
“Older than any Pride,” Mika pointed out. “Doesn’t the temple date back to the time of unity?”
“What is that anyway?” Tyro murmured. “How long?”
“About four hundred years,” Nebekah said.
Something sparked in Link’s mind, but before he could fully think it through, they heard footsteps approaching. Into the chamber came a Gerudo woman. She had dark skin, stretched tight over her withered face. From her snowy white hair, it was clear that she was very old, but she wasn’t wrinkled. She wore her age with a certain dignity from the way she carried the cane before her to the height to which she tilted her chin. As he examined her face, Link noticed an odd, milky look to her eyes. It hit him almost a second later. She was blind.
“Aurelia?” Link said tentatively. “Are you Aurelia.”
Sharply, Aurelia turned her face in his direction. Though it was obvious she could not see, Link could still feel her gaze upon him in a most unnatural sort of way. “I answer to that name,” she replied. Her voice was deep and rich. It had an odd soothing effect.
“Thank you for seeing us,” Link said. Immediately, he realized his error. Beside him, Nebekah clapped a hand over her mouth. Tyro looked like he was trying to suppress a grin. Mika rolled her eyes. “Er…I mean…not seeing us…you probably can’t really…that is.”
She smiled slightly. “It’s all right,” she told him. “I am somewhat aware of the fact that I’m blind.”
“Siri tells me you’ve come with questions about the Topaz?”
“That’s right,” Nebekah said.
Aurelia turned her unseeing eyes toward Nebekah. “Well, you’ve come to the right place.”
“I thought we were supposed to go to the historical archives,” Mika said. “Not a graveyard.”
“The crypt contains the entire history of this temple,” Aurelia said. “Back to the unwritten time. The Gerudo Topaz was kept within the confines of this building until the separation of the Prides. Is that sufficient history for you?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Mika said meekly.
“Good.” Aurelia smiled. “Now, would you like to learn a little bit about this room we’re in?”
“Yes, please,” Link said. He felt fairly certain it was best not to try this woman. This was her domain and he would play by her rules.
“This is the final resting place of a high priestess of the
from nearly four hundred years ago. She was called Circe.” Aurelia touched the sarcophagus. “She led the congregation during the time of the great separation.” templeof Din
“She welcomed those who did not want to choose a Pride, didn’t she?” Nebekah asked cautiously.
Aurelia nodded, pleased that someone knew the story. “That is correct,” she affirmed.
“She had the Topaz when it was last assembled then, didn’t she?”
“I saw her image,” Nebekah said. “On the wall of the Kodiak chamber of Din. She divided the Topaz into Shards, didn’t she?”
“Again, you are dead on,” Aurelia praised her.
Tyro frowned. “How did she divide up the Topaz into Shards?”
“She used a spell,” Aurelia said. “She had no choice.”
“No choice?” Link repeated.
“It was not Din’s will that the Gerudo should separate into Prides. And so it was not her will for the Topaz to be divided.” Aurelia walked over to one of the walls with expert steps. She placed a withered hand on the carvings, running her fingertips over them with a delicate touch. “Circe was forced to divide the Topaz, or risk the Prides endlessly contending for the right to possess it.” Link realized that she seemed to be reading the runes with her fingers. “She summoned the power of lightening and fire and divided the Topaz into five Shards, presenting each to an Alpha of one of the brand new Prides.”
“Not to be rude,” Mika said, “but we already know that part. Our problem is that the Topaz has been reassembled. It’s some kind of weapon.”
“But Din was displeased with this turn of events,” Aurelia continued, ignoring Mika’s interruption. “And sought to punish the priestess for her actions.”
“Punish her?” Nebekah said.
“Mmhmm…” Aurelia murmured. “Din decided that since Circe had divided the Topaz, she would divide something of Circe’s in return.”
Link shifted uneasily. “What did she divide?”
“She divided Circe’s daughter.”
“Din cut up a little girl?!” Tyro cried.
“Nothing like that,” Aurelia replied. “Din divided the child into two living parts, separating each virtue and attribute between them so that one could not possess what the other had.”
“Okay,” Link said, folding his arms. Already, he had a sinking feeling in his stomach about where this was going. “What was the little girl’s name?”
Aurelia smiled, somehow sensing his foresight. “She was called Rova.”
“Sweet Nayru!” Tyro exclaimed.
“Rova?” Mika said. “Twinrova?”
“Precisely,” Aurelia said.
“Separated their virtues,” Nebekah muttered. “So that one could not possess what the other one had? You mean, like fire and ice?”
“Fire and ice, wisdom and foolishness, power and weakness, passive and aggressive,” Aurelia listed them off. “Each had one half of the combination that every person ought to possess. Each was incomplete without the other and each was vulnerable to the other’s power.”
“Which is how blondie was able to defeat them the first time,” Nebekah said. “He used each of their powers against the other.”
“The first time?” Aurelia said.
“They’ve returned,” Mika chimed in. “And they’ve assembled the Topaz once again.”
“Of course they did,” Aurelia said knowingly.
“Why do you say that?”
Aurelia walked along the wall, running her fingers across the runes until she came to whatever it was she was seeking. “The sisters, Kotake and Koume, hoped to reunite the Gerudo Prides, perhaps hoping that they would be made whole again. And so, they set about their life’s work of finding a leader to bring together the Prides.”
“That’s Ganondorf,” Link groaned. “They created him to unite the Gerudo?”
“Bad plan,” Nebekah deadpanned.
“Anything they do,” Aurelia said, “any plan they attempt, is taking them one step closer to being truly reunited. And not as Twinrova, but as Rova, a complete person. Whether it is trying to bring together the Shards or trying to reunite the Gerudo Prides, their ultimate end is to restore themselves.”
“Seems to me that Kotake’s more interested in power and domination,” Mika pointed out.
“She must be that half of Rova,” Nebekah said. “The half with ambition. The half that wants power. And Koume must be the one who…doesn’t? I’m not sure, it’s a little confusing.”
“Would reassembling the Topaz somehow bring them together?” Link asked Aurelia.
“No,” she replied, “but it could very well be a part of their plan to reunite the Prides under one leader.”
“What do you mean?”
Again, Aurelia moved along the wall, finding a new set of runes. “There is a prophecy.”
Link groaned. “There’s always a prophecy!”
“About a boy who was destined to defeat their great king.”
“That’s you, blondie,” Nebekah murmured.
“The Kodiak learned of the prophecy,” Aurelia said. “Many years ago. And told it to the Twinrova sisters.”
“That explains why the Kodiak burned Kasuto,” Tyro said. “They knew to look for you.”
“Which explains…” Link trailed off, looking at the tattoo on his wrist. He glanced over at Mika. “Somehow, our parents knew…”
“The Twinrova sisters were aware that they most likely would be unable to defeat this prophecy,” Aurelia continued, “and so they implemented a failsafe. Which probably explains their fixation on the Topaz.”
“What’s the failsafe?” Nebekah asked.
“A way to restore their king, Ganondorf. A spell, one of extraordinary circumstances. Those are the most difficult to prevent from being cast.”
Mika leaned closer. “Do you know what it is?”
“I do,” Aurelia admitted. “The spell would enable them to revive Ganondorf’s soul in a new being.”
“How?” Link asked.
“But killing the one who first killed him.”
“What are the circumstances they would need to do this?”
“The new being would have to be on the verge of being born. A child in the womb. A child possessing some part of Ganondorf. He was the Alpha of Kodiak Pride, so the child’s father would have to be descended from an Alpha. And in order to implant the soul of the murdered, the murderer’s soul would have to be painlessly removed. And that is what the Topaz does.”
Link rubbed his eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“The Topaz is a weapon,” Aurelia said. “It destroys a soul by pulling it out of the person it kills.”
“That makes sense,” Link told her. “But I don’t understand the circumstances of the prophecy. It’s a little complicated. I’m just a dumb warrior.”
“In short,” Aurelia sighed irritably, “Ganondorf Dragmire will be reborn if a Gerudo with child by an Alpha’s son kills the enemy who defeated Ganondorf in a painless death.”
“That is so confusing,” Nebekah groaned.
“I know,” Aurelia laughed. “That’s why it’s such a brilliant failsafe. The most complicated and confusing spells are always the most difficult to prevent from being cast.”
“So how do we prevent Ganondorf from being reborn?” Link sighed.
Nebekah shrugged. “Seems simple to me. You don’t die.”
“Thanks,” he grumbled. “I need more than that.”
“Well, the Twinrova sisters are probably expecting you to come after them, blondie. Which means they’ll probably give you free access to their fortress. You waltz right in to try and retrieve the Topaz and bam! They get you.”
“Where would they be waiting for me?”
Again, Nebekah shrugged. “Probably in the most obvious place you could think of. You tell me.”
He thought about it a moment. “Probably where I defeated them. Their old palace.”
“Makes sense. You show up there and the next thing you know, the Topaz is sucking out your soul and making Ganondorf junior.”
“Indeed,” Aurelia affirmed. “The Topaz is a powerful weapon.”
“There’s a riddle,” Link said. “Some kind of poem that’s supposed to prevent the Topaz from killing, but I can’t solve it.” He glanced at Aurelia hopefully. “Maybe you can help. It starts with ‘One thing stands between the stone and the grave…’”
“‘…it cannot be held, yet it can fill the air…’” Nebekah continued.
“‘…everyone who wants it can find it…’”
“‘…though it cannot be seen, it can be felt…’”
“And ‘…it has many homes and will constantly find others,’” Link concluded. “Do you know what it means?”
Aurelia shook her head. “I am sorry,” she said genuinely. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what that means. I’ve never heard it before.”
“It was written in ancient Hylian,” Link admitted.
“Perhaps,” Aurelia mused, “it was penned by the very hand of Din. A way to protect the innocent.”
“Guys,” Mika said suddenly.
Nebekah glanced at her. “What is it?”
As they looked around, however, they realized that there was no sign of him anywhere. “He’s gone,” Link said.
“I hate it when he does that,” Nebekah muttered.
Nabooru arrived at the doorway to the fortress just as it closed. There, standing in front of the gate, she saw Medea, looking around curiously, her robes rustling gently in the breeze. Doubtlessly, things had changed in the seventeen years since she had last visited the Dragon stronghold, but nothing had changed more than the weathered Alpha Nabooru herself. “Medea,” she called, striding out to meet her, crossing her wrists in the customary salute.
Medea turned to look at her. “Nabooru.” She returned the gesture, the dazed look slowly siphoning away from her eyes. If Nabooru never met with her again, she knew that she would always remember Medea’s eyes. They held such focus, such concentration, betraying everything that was constantly going on beneath her placid surface.
“Thank you for coming.”
She frowned. “You act as though you were expecting me.”
A small frown formed on Nabooru’s lips. “I sent summons to you a few days ago.”
“Where did you send it?”
“The Orca compound.”
“Oh.” Medea laughed. It was strange sound, somewhat rusty as though she did not use it often enough. “I haven’t been there for two weeks. I was staying with the Kodiak.”
“The Kodiak?” Nabooru repeated, raising an eyebrow. “You went traveling? How very unlike you.”
She dipped her head in acknowledgement. “Much has changed,” Medea replied simply.
They regarded each other for a moment. Nabooru could feel the delicacy of the situation. It was precisely the same way it had felt seventeen years ago when they first met face to face, what should have been their last meeting ever. “Why have you come here?”
At the same time, Medea asked, “Why did you summon me?”
Both women laughed nervously for a moment. The laughter died quickly, returning Nabooru to the stark reality of what she was about to do. Well, she had been brave all her life, she could do this now. “I know I told you I would never ask another favor of you, but I’m afraid I must,” Nabooru started.
“I see.” Medea nodded, her eyes whirling with tempests and thunderstorms of thought.
“And I think you know why. Your daughter, the Hero of Time, all of Hyrule is in great danger now.”
“I know what’s going on,” Medea said. “I met up with the fellowship back with the Kodiak. They were betrayed by one of their number, the Kodiak Beta called Sapphia.”
“What they’re about to face will determine the fate of our people,” Nabooru said. “All people.”
“Twinrova, I know.”
“And I believe that they are going to need help.”
“What kind of help?”
“A unified Gerudo army, ready to face any dangers the sisters decide to throw at them.”
“A unified army?” Medea asked.
Nabooru nodded. “I told you once I would never ask another favor of you, but I must break this promise. I must ask for you, for your Pride, to join forces with the rest of us. We must march together against the dangers to come.”
Medea was silent a moment, a thoughtful look in her eyes. “Nabooru, when you first asked me to take in Mika, I was reluctant to do so.”
“I was afraid of what it meant for my Pride and our relations to you.” She paused, glancing around at the Dragon compound. Delta warriors passed by, regarding them with respectful curiosity, maintaining their distance. “But I never thought of it in terms of what it meant for me.”
“I love Mika,” Medea said. “I have loved her from the moment I saw her open her eyes and I will love her even if the Twinrova sisters decide to close them. When we made the bargain, you were giving me something and I was giving you something. But I’ve come to realize that it was an unfair deal.”
“I got more out of it than you. I got my peace from any Dragon aggression. But I also got a daughter, a child that has made my life complete. And you got nothing in return, Nabooru. Nothing that can compare to that.”
“I see,” she said with a nod.
“And as I look at it in that light, I realize that I owe you a great favor. I have lived in your debt for seventeen years.”
“So what are you saying?” Nabooru asked.
Medea sighed. “I’m saying that I will march with you.”
Nabooru smiled. Somehow, in her heart of hearts, she had known that she could count on Medea.
Link, Nebekah, and Mika raced through the catacombs at a dizzying pace, trying to find their wayward companion. Frantically, Link and Nebekah called out to him, looking from one side to the other, peeking into the various crypts and tombs, disturbing not only the dead, but the other priestesses, going about their daily business in the
. There was no sign of Tyro anywhere, a fact that Link found impossible to believe, given the labyrinthine nature of underground passageways. Did Tyro have a better sense of direction? Perhaps, but then again, why would he take off in the first place? templeof Din
“Tyro!” Nebekah screamed, cupping her hands around her mouth.
“Tyro!” Link shouted.
They took the turns at incredibly speed, dodging from side to side to avoid running into any of the frazzled sisters whose prayers were disrupted by this appalling racket. It was only by coincidence that they happened upon the creaky old wooden stairs leading back up to the main level. If fortunate had allowed them to find the way, perhaps it had done the same for Tyro and without feeling the need to consult one another, the trio ascended, still crying his name.
Racing past the central sanctuary, certain that there was no sign of him from the doorway, they wound their way back to the main entry hall where they had changed into their matching robes only a short while before. From there, dozens of hallways and staircases led to other wings and chambers. There had to be hundred of possible places for Tyro to disappear to and an overwhelming sense of defeat washed over the three of them, causing them to stop there and catch their collective breath.
“Where could he have gone?” Nebekah panted, voicing the most obvious of questions.
“I don’t know,” Link wheezed, leaning over and resting his hands on his knees. “I kinda figured his disappearing acts were done with. That’s what? Twice now he’s taken off?”
“If you count his first trek into the Valley, yeah,” Nebekah said.
Link stood up, turning in a circle to take in the enormity of the task at hand. Finding Tyro would be more than finding a needle in a haystack. It would be akin to finding a needle in the entire barn. “We don’t have time for this,” he murmured. “There’s a spell and a prophecy and some very crazy ladies who seem to want me dead. It’s too much.”
“That’s probably why he left,” Mika said quietly.
Both Link and Nebekah turned to look at her. She had been eerily silent throughout the hunt to find Tyro, quietly following along whichever hallway Link or Nebekah happened to take. Given what Link had figured about her relationship to Tyro, he found it a bit strange that she wasn’t as panicked as the others and that up until now she had not said a word. “What do you mean?”
“Look,” she said, pointing to the entrance.
Looking at the doorway, Link spotted a small, messy pile of clothing. “That’s Tyro’s clothes,” he said. He walked over to look at them and was at once struck with a blinding realization. “Hey, where are my clothes?”
“Gone,” Mika said.
“Who would have taken Link’s clothes?” Nebekah wondered.
“I think it was Tyro,” Mika said.
Link looked back at her. “Why would he do that?”
“You said that the Twinrova sisters would allow you free access to their fortress,” Mika whispered.
“That’s where Tyro’s going,” she said.
“Why would he do something stupid like that?”
Mika was silent for a full minute. She paced away from the two of them, the hem of her robes rustling around her feet. “Sapphia,” she muttered softly.
“Sapphia?” Nebekah repeated.
“Tyro slept with Sapphia. She tricked him. He didn’t know what he was doing. If she’s with the Twinrova sisters now, like we think, then he’s going there to find her,” Mika sighed.
Link shook his head. All this new information was a bit much for him. Somehow, Tyro having an affair with Sapphia didn’t seem to mesh with everything else. “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t you see?” Mika snapped. “She’s the vessel! She’s pregnant and she’s the one who’s supposed to kill you and restore Ganondorf.”
Nebekah tilted her head from side to side. “That makes sense,” she told Mika gently, as one speaking to a very young child, “but I’m afraid there’s a bit of a flaw in your reasoning.”
“What?” Mika barked.
“Ganondorf’s father would have to be the son of an Alpha. That’s what Aurelia said.”
“Tyro is the son of an Alpha!” Mika shouted. Her voice echoed off of the silver walls loudly. It seemed to strike her, almost physically, because she stumbled, putting a hand over her mouth.
Link’s eyes shifted from side to side. “What do you mean, Mika?”
“I wasn’t supposed to tell you,” she sighed. “I think he wanted to keep it to himself.”
“Keep what to himself?” Nebekah asked.
Mika took a deep breath before continuing, clearly gathering her reserves for something upsetting. “Tyro’s mother,” she explained gently, “is Alpha Petaleen. Tyro learned that when he took off in Jaguar territory. I went after him and we were captured. We saw her. There’s no question in my mind about it. Tyro is the son of the Jaguar Alpha.”
“So…” Nebekah trailed off, chewing on the heel of her palm for a moment. “Sapphia, under the direction of the Twinrova sisters, seduced Tyro to get pregnant. And she’s now supposed to kill Link so that, instead of bearing a daughter, she gives birth to the new Ganondorf?”
“I think so,” Mika said with a weak nod.
“If that’s the case, I still don’t understand why he’s going after them himself, dressed up as Link.”
“I do,” Link said quietly.
Nebekah looked at him. “Why?”
“To be a Hero,” he murmured.
“A Hero? What are you talking about, blondie?”
But Link didn’t answer. He thought back to his earlier conversation with Tyro, to their talk about what Mika would find appealing in him. At the time, it had all seemed so innocent, so banal. But now, each word in Link’s memory was laced with poison. It was a death sentence he had created for Tyro without meaning to. Angry at not recognizing his error sooner, Link leaned over, picking up Tyro’s trousers and pulling them onto his own legs. “We have to rescue him,” he said. “They’ll kill him when they realize who he is.”
“They’ll kill him regardless,” Mika hissed.
“Not if I can help it,” Link declared. He tried to put himself into Tyro’s shoes, both literally and figuratively. If what Mika said was true, Tyro was doubtlessly wracked with guilt. Not only had he been unfaithful to the woman he loved, the woman he wanted to be a Hero for, but he had also unwittingly been a pawn in the massive gave that the Twinrova sisters had constructed to lure Link to his own demise and to enslave the Gerudo people again. These facts combined made it quite clear what Tyro’s next move would be. He would try to clean up his own mess. And without a doubt, he would get himself killed.
In a lifetime of screw ups and mistakes, Tyro congratulated himself on the one intelligent plan he had ever come up with. Wearing Link’s clothing had been the perfect ploy for getting himself closer to the mess he had made. He couldn’t explain what instinct in him drove his feet, but without even trying, he found himself approaching an enormous palace built of glimmering blue eyes. It was opaque, hiding the terrors that lay within, but for the first time in his life, Tyro wasn’t afraid of the unknown. With determination, he continued forward, passing through the chilly doorway without the slightest sign of resistance. Doubtlessly, this is what the sisters had planned for Link, they would let him get closer, they would make it as easy as possible for him to come upon the ultimate goal.
Knowing this, Tyro had no trouble taking the easiest path that lay before him. He followed the hallways, always taking the first open door that appeared before him. The only regret that he felt was a sense of loss. It was very likely that he would never see Mika again and he had left her without saying goodbye. In his head, he composed a fanciful letter, telling her all the things that he felt when he so much as looked into her eyes or smelled her skin’s touch. It probably would have sounded ridiculous if he had said the words aloud, but in his mind, they were the truest, most beautiful phrases he had ever come up with.
Link’s sword patted gently against his back. This was his one last hope to redeem an empty life. He wondered how much of a chance he stood. Certainly, he would die, the question was, would he be able to prevent the coming catastrophe he had had a hand in creating? His skills with a sword had not improved during his exodus through the
. But what about luck? For some reason, it had been on his side throughout. Or was that a lie? Had there been no luck at all? Had it merely been the Twinrova sisters protecting him, waiting for their chance to use him? How long had they known? Long before he had learned the truth? That burned him more than being used. How could anyone know more about his own origins than he? That was beyond unfair. That was wrong. Gerudo Valley
The trap the Twinrova sisters had laid for Link led Tyro around the palace, bringing him to a room that was different from the others. The floor was made of marble, not ice, and in the middle was a small chair. There were no more doors leading in or out, only the one he had taken. Endgame. Thinking of how Link might respond to the circumstances, Tyro reached over his shoulder and clumsily drew the sword, careful to pull it in front of him without slicing an ear off.
“Oh really, Link, you’re not serious, are you?” The voice came from one side. Tyro turned around and saw Sapphia standing there. He gasped, nearly dropping the sword. In the one small week since she had revealed her true allegiances, she had changed so drastically it was frightening. It wasn’t just her bulging belly, which Tyro had half expected to find, it was her entire manner. She seemed calmer than she had ever appeared before, a bit vague, her attentions distracted and loose. Her gaze was a mild sneer, as if she didn’t see Link worthy of receiving a full on glare. “You know that’s really not going to work.”
But Tyro didn’t care. He had one shot. It was a long one, but he had to take it. Pulling his arm back, he took a few running steps forward, throwing the sword, point first, directly at Sapphia. The blade dropped to the floor with a clatter, skidding across the room and coming to a rest at Sapphia’s feet. She looked down at the sword, then looked back up with a condescending smiled. “Well,” she muttered. “That was pathetic.” It was then that Tyro noticed the stone she held in her hands. She raised them, pointing the blunt end of a triangle directly at him. “So long, Link,” she said. “It was fun while it lasted.”
“Fun?” Tyro said. “Is that all?”
Sapphia wrinkled her forehead, frowning as her aim wavered. “Tyro?” she said. “Is that you?”
Rather ceremoniously, Tyro reached up and removed Link’s cap from his head, letting his long auburn hair fall around his shoulders. “Sorry for the deception,” he said. “Then again, I think you owe me one.”
She leaned her head to one side. “The Heart’s Desire. Yes, I suppose I do owe you one.”
He bowed graciously. “Thank you so very much.”
“No,” she responded. “Thank you.” She rubbed her stomach lightly. “None of this would be possible without you.”
“So I’ve learned,” he said.
“Is that why you tried to kill me?”
“More or less.”
“There’s no stopping this now, Tyro. The destiny of the Gerudo nation is at hand. Soon, it will rise out of the ashes. The vindictive, pathetic attempt on my life on the part of a pathetic lay about is hardly going to change that now.”
“Pathetic lay about?” He had to admit, up until now, that is how he had thought of himself. “And here, I thought you were in love with me.”
“Oh, please. I lied about being Mika, don’t be surprised that I’d lie about something else.”
“I’m not surprised,” he told her quietly.
She planted her hands on her hips. “So why are you here? Trying to change the course of destiny?”
“I guess that’s not much of an option for me.”
“No, not really.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Why are you doing this Sapphia? Why are you helping them?”
“Well, it makes sense, really,” she said. “I was the one who brought them back from the dead.”
“Again, I ask you, why?”
“Why did I bring them back? It was a simple matter of honor.”
“They are going to restore the honor of the Gerudo.”
“How? By bringing back Ganondorf Dragmire?”
“Exactly. One the Gerudo are unified under one leader, things will be as they were meant to be.”
Tyro rolled his eyes. “Because he really made the Gerudo popular the first time.”
“This time will be different.”
“We’ll learn from the mistakes of the first time,” she said.
“History will just repeat itself.”
“Last time, I wasn’t in command.”
He laughed. “You’re in command, are you?”
She seemed a bit annoyed. “Yes, I am.”
“Don’t be stupid, Sapphia, it doesn’t become you.”
“What are you thinking? You think that as the mother of Ganondorf, you’ll be able to control him and manipulate the way he brings the Gerudo back into unity? Not going to happen.”
“Yes, it is!”
“Sapphia, once that baby is born, there is one word to describe how the Twinrova sisters will view you.”
“And what’s that?”
“That’s not true!” she cried.
“You’re in over your head, Sapphia.” He paused, examining her face. “And I think you know it. I think you know exactly how deep you’ve gotten yourself. I’ll bet you thought that you could control the sisters. You didn’t count on them being so powerful so quickly. It’s no wonder you were so anxious to stop the Jaguar civil war. You knew that the Jaguar blood would make them more powerful.”
A flicker of doubt seemed to light up in Sapphia’s eyes. She opened her mouth then closed it. “It won’t be that way.”
“You had good intentions,” Tyro said. “But you had lousy judgment when it came to them.”
“Why isn’t he dead yet?” Tyro turned around to see Kotake enter the chamber. She was as disgusting and decayed as he remembered, although now she was decked out in thousands of glittering jewels that in no way detracted from her hideousness. It took her a moment or two to focus in on Tyro’s face. “You!” she cried in disgust. “You’re not the Hero!”
“No,” he admitted. “Not really.”
“What would you like me to do with him?” Sapphia asked.
Kotake regarded Tyro for a moment or two. “Keep him. He’s just been promoted to bait.”
“Bait?” Sapphia repeated.
“Oh, without a doubt, the Hero will come to rescue him,” Kotake said.
Tyro shook his head. “He doesn’t know I’m here. No one knows. You might as well just kill me.”
“I don’t think I believe you,” Kotake said. She glanced at Sapphia. “You keep him company. And wait for my signal. When the Hero arrives, you’ll kill him in front of this one.” And with that, she turned around, walking out of the room.
Sapphia glanced at Tyro. “You’d better behave yourself,” she told him, holding up the Topaz and training it on his chest.
“If you keep talking, I might just kill Mika in front of you.” She shrugged. “If you’re nice to me, I’ll kill you first.”
“You know I’m telling the truth,” he said. And he knew he was telling the truth as well.
“She’ll be here any second,” Liandra said, putting down the gold decanter and walking over to Nabooru in her throne with a cup of purple wine. “Are you really sure that you want this?”
“I need it,” Nabooru said, taking the cup from her Beta’s hands. She touched the brim to her lips and let the sweet nectar slide down her throat.
“I don’t want her catching you at a disadvantage,” Liandra mumbled, putting her hands on her hips.
“I doubt very much that one cup is going to slow me down,” Nabooru told her with a chide.
Liandra sighed heavily. “I wish you’d let me bring more guards into the room,” she went on.
“You will be sufficient protection, Liandra,” Nabooru laughed. She had always been fond of Liandra, but her affection for the girl always started to overflow exactly when she began to behave just as Nabooru had once done in the days of her youth, her carefree times free of the burden of motherhood, the Alpha title, and the memories of Dragmire. Back then she, like Liandra, had always been certain she could hold off an entire army for the sake of her Alpha. She had been equally overprotective and zealous for her duties.
“I’m honored you think so,” Liandra muttered, still none too pleased with the situation.
“Have the other Alphas started back on their way?” Nabooru asked, hoping to change the subject.
She nodded. “All three. I’ve assigned our best riders to take Alpha Medea personally.”
“I will never understand how the Orca manage to survive without horses,” Nabooru mused.
“Well, it works for them.”
Liandra paused a moment. “Alpha Nassan seemed quite anxious to leave,” she said carefully.
Nabooru glanced at Liandra. She had never told her the truth, but she was fairly certain that Liandra knew. How could she not? She had always been most intuitive when it came to her Alpha. “She must rally her army,” Nabooru said. “I imagine it will be difficult for her. The Saber Tooth have not fought in ranks since the last century, I believe.”
“Nor have the Jaguar,” Liandra added. “Technically.”
“Do you…” She pursed her lips. “Do you really think there’s a chance that we can defeat this evil?”
“I think there’s a chance, though I hesitate to estimate our odds.”
“Are the Kodiak really necessary?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” Nabooru said at once. “If we’re going to do this, we must work together as a nation.”
“But they’re so…”
“So what, Liandra?”
“They have been, but we must not let the past prevent our continued future.”
“I know that, Mistress, I do. But how can we forget the atrocities they committed under the reign of Dragmire?”
“We can’t,” Nabooru said. “And I would never ask anyone to forget. What matters now is that we forgive. For everyone’s sake.”
At that moment, one of Nabooru’s finest Deltas, a brash and hot headed Thin Blood, appeared in the doorway. “Alpha Sarjenka,” she growled in announcement, “of the Kodiak Pride.”
Into the room walked Sarjenka. She looked quite as Nabooru remembered her, tall and thin, a but too pale to be completely Gerudo. With the same dignity and pride as ever, she marched past the Delta, feeling the glares of all the Dragons upon her face and not caring one bit. She made her way over to Nabooru’s throne. Nabooru stood, facing her, and stepped down onto the floor so that they might look upon each other as equals. There was a tense moment where protocol wavered. Which one would salute the other first? This would determine the entire tenure of the discourse to come. And then it happened. Sarjenka crossed her wrists, bowing deeply to Nabooru. “Alpha Nabooru,” she whispered respectfully, a voice full of humility.
Nabooru raised her chin a moment then crossed her own wrists, returning the salute. “Thank you for coming, Sarjenka,” she said.
“It is…strange…to be here.”
“I assure you,” Nabooru said, “I have no doubt that it is strange for us to have you here.”
“At least on these terms.”
Sarjenka nodded. “I am fully aware of the sins of my people.”
“As are we,” Nabooru told her, gesturing around the room to the few Dragons still present.
“Which is why we needn’t waste time reciting them,” she went on. “There’s such little time left as it is.”
“Why have you summoned me here?” Sarjenka asked.
“To undo the damage of so many years of hatred,” Nabooru said. “And to ask of you a single boon.”
“What is it?”
“March with us.”
“What do you mean?”
“The other Gerudo Alphas are preparing for war,” Nabooru explained. “Only this time, it isn’t against each other.”
“Against Twinrova,” Sarjenka assumed.
“The sisters came to us,” Sarjenka said. “As soon as they had been resurrected, they came to the Kodiak, expecting us to welcome them with open arms as we did before.”
“And I turned them away,” Sarjenka replied passionately. “I told them they had no place among my people.”
“Why did you do that?”
“In retrospect, I think it was blindingly apparent that allowing Dragmire to gather so much power was a bad idea. We soiled the name of all Gerudo everywhere, starting the day that we raided Kasuto.”
“Then you don’t wish to see him rise again?”
“Certainly not,” Sarjenka responded proudly with no nonsense in her voice whatsoever.
“We will march with you, Nabooru.”
“And I shall spend the rest of my life trying to undo some of the damage that we’ve done.”
“Such work will take a hundred lifetimes,” Nabooru warned.
Sarjenka shrugged. “I only have one to give.
“That will be enough,” Nabooru assured her.
“So what am I to do?”
“Return to your stronghold at once. I’ll have a rested horse available if you like, anything to give you as much speed as possible.”
“And what happens once I’m there?”
“Call your Deltas to arms,” Nabooru said. “We’re going to war.”
“Where shall I lead them?”
“I’ve instructed all of the Alphas to begin the march. We should meet up right outside of the Twinrova stronghold.”
“You know where this is?”
Nabooru nodded. “I’ve been there before. It’s a place I hoped never to return. The gods have their ways.”
“So we’ll march together on the Twinrova sisters? Do you really think it’ll come to that?’
“I wouldn’t put it past Link to find a clever way to defeat them on his own,” she admitted, “but I want to be ready, just in case.”
“In case they defeat him?”
“No,” she said. “Just in case he needs us.” She would never allow herself, not for one moment, to believe that Link could be defeated.
Mika had seen ice before. In some of the caverns of the Orca compound, the temperatures dropped at night to well below freezing. It was in such caverns that they stored butter and meat and other assorted perishable goods. Frankly, she had always been under the impression that the Orca were a bit more knowledgeable about ice than most of the other Gerudo Prides. Despite her confidence, Mika’s breath was still taken away when she saw the palace. Never before had she seen so much ice. Never before had she realized how malleable it must have been.
The palace was enormous, shaped by the opaque ice to look like a castle, the kind that the Hylian villagers build centuries ago. Four high towers rose at each corner of the square building, capped in snowy hills that remained blissfully untouched by the scorching heat of the sun as it blazed down. A widow’s walk ran along the top of the roof, looking completely solid and stable enough to be tread upon. There was even a spiked gate, drawn up by chains of ice, before the main entrance to the castle. The door stood wide open, the spokes of the gate looming ominously above like a set of sharp, viper’s teeth. They walked through silently, fearlessly. There was no need to fear, not yet. If all that Aurelia said was true, the sisters would let Link and all who accompanied him just waltz into the unknown depths of the fortress. They wanted him to come, they wanted him to die. And Tyro, too, must have willingly walked into the same, blindingly obvious trap.
Her breath came out as cold clouds before her face. Each one danced for an ephemeral time, taking the shapes of Tyro’s eyes, his mouth, his nose. Mika’s heart ached, beating in time to her steps and forever asking the same question over and over again. Was Tyro still alive? She wanted to see him again; to strangle him for his foolishness, to kiss him and tell him what she had so long been afraid to say. She loved him. Where the goddesses so unkind? Would Din rob her of this opportunity to be with him? Mika didn’t know the answers and was too afraid to ask the questions.
Link must have been sensing her internal struggle. He continuously cast glances back at her, a worried look in his eyes. “Are you all right?” he asked at one point, his voice cracking the unnatural silence around them. Even their footsteps seemed muted, at least to Mika.
“I’m fine,” she lied.
“Okay,” he nodded, understanding her lie and understanding perfectly well why she told it.
“Thanks,” she said.
The sisters had set a clear path for Link to follow, leaving some doors open and others shut. Willingly, they walked along, on their way into the trap. Mika wondered if Tyro had taken the same path of doom. She wondered if she would find him at the end, one way or another. Even as she drew closer to where he was, she felt him drifting farther away. His foolish heroism, his misguided need to clean up the mess he had made, pulled them apart more than a thousand miles, more than her Gerudo upbringing, more, even than the threat of death. He wasn’t just somewhere else physically, but emotionally too.
“What are you thinking?” Link asked her.
Mika shook her head. “Nothing,” she told him gently. Again, this wasn’t true. As she walked on to face whatever destiny was in store for her, her mind returned to the past. She remembered the cavern in the Din Silver mines where she and Tyro had been trapped. It felt like years ago. Cramped into the dark, caved in chamber, the two of them had been forced to interact, forced to talk and learn about one another. She recalled all the things he had said to her, about his father and mother, about his life and how empty it seemed, and how he had no desire to be a Hero. All of that had melted away. Tyro wore the shoes of a Hero now, whether he knew it or not. Mika just desperately hoped that he would not face the consequences that claimed so many young Heroes.
“About time you showed up!” someone declared loudly from above. Instantly, Link, Nebekah, and Mika all turned their eyes to the roof. High above in the chamber, the Twinrova sisters floated in midair, spinning in circles around each other as they rode their brooms of fire and ice, respectively. Mika immediately recognized Kotake, who had visited her in the Jaguar dungeon cell. The old hag swooped down, cutting dangerously close to them and laughing maniacally. “The more the merrier, I say,” she cackled.
Nebekah drew an arrow from her quiver, nocking it into her bow. “Where’s Tyro?” she demanded.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Kotake hissed. She sliced through the air, snatching Nebekah’s bow out of her hands with unnatural speed, owing, Mika supposed, to the powerful blood she had collected. Nebekah gasped, taking a step back, closer to Link and Mika. “Which one should we kill first, Koume?” Kotake continued, tightening her orbit around the three of them.
“I don’t know,” Koume replied, still riding high.
“I say we start with the Jaguar,” Kotake declared. “She’s been a bit troublesome, hasn’t she?”
“I suppose you’re right,” Koume said.
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Link cried, holding Tyro’s pole with both hands. “Your quarrel is with me! Leave them out of this.”
“Do you even know how to use that thing?” Kotake taunted him. “Really, it’s a stick, I’m trembling with fear.”
“He’s so noble,” Koume murmured.
“A gentleman,” Kotake agreed. “An endangered species in Hyrule. Soon to be extinct.”
“If you want to fight someone, fight me,” Link called.
“Nice try, Hero,” Kotake said, “but your fate has been sealed.”
“There’s no such thing as fate,” Link told her.
Kotake ignored this, instead turning to Koume. “What do you say? The Jaguar?”
“Whatever you say, Kotake,” Koume answered.
Abruptly, Link stepped forward, thrusting out the pole. The move was so sudden and surprising that Kotake was unable to slow her broom. The pole caught her directly in the middle, sending her flying into a wall. Meanwhile, the broom charged on, unaware that it had lost its rider. With a tremendous crack, it smashed into a pillar of ice, sending enormous chunks flying in all directions. “The stick picks up a spare,” Link murmured. He grabbed hold of Mika’s arm. “Time to run!”
No one needed to be told twice. Immediately, Link, Nebekah, and Mika began to run, still on the path, they knew, which was intended to lead to their destruction. Three clouds of icy breath followed behind them, mingling with the outraged screams of Kotake as she attempted to collect herself again. “Do you have a plan, blondie?” Nebekah called as she ran.
“No,” Link confessed.
“I thought you were supposed to be the great Hero.”
“I’m just making this up as I go.”
“So what do we do next?”
“I’m working on it!”
“Get them!” Kotake screamed from behind.
“Link, we need to get away from you,” Mika cried. “They’re going to kill you alive until the proper time, Nebekah and I are expendable. We’ll only slow you down or be used against you.”
“No!” Link declared firmly.
“She’s right, blondie. These girls already have at least one hostage, assuming Tyro is –”
“Don’t say it,” Mika interrupted, unable to bear so much as hearing the words, let alone facing the possibility that Tyro had died before she had taken the chance to tell him how she felt.
“We’re not separating,” Link insisted.
“Duck!” Nebekah shouted. At that same instant, she grabbed Mika and Link by their collars and pulled them down to the ground. It wasn’t a moment too soon. Whooshing overhead flew Koume on her broom, careening slightly out of control at such speeds. “Divide and conquer,” Nebekah hissed to Link. “It’s the only way.”
“No!” Link yelled.
“Don’t die!” Nebekah called to him, and with that, she took off, rushing down a hallway to one side. Koume slowed her broom, wheeling around. She caught sight of Nebekah slipping past her and instantly accelerated again, following after her without a glance back at Link and Mika.
“Nebekah!” Link screamed after her, but it was too late.
Mika grabbed his shoulder. “We have to keep moving,” she told him firmly. “We have to find the Topaz and destroy it or use it against them.”
“She’ll be fine,” Mika promised, uncertain if she could believe her own words, but aware that Link had to. The two of them clambered to their feet, Link clutching Mika’s hand in a way that lined up their tattoos. “Listen to me, Link,” Mika said. “Whatever you do, you cannot let Sapphia kill you with the Topaz. If you have to, kill yourself before you allow it. And whatever happens, if it’s a choice between my life and yours, you have to let me die.”
“I can’t do that,” Link told her.
“You have to. This is bigger than us. It’s bigger than Hyrule. Ganondorf Dragmire cannot be permitted to return.”
“Well, listen to you,” came Kotake’s sneer. She had appeared in the doorway, holding her broom like a sword before her. “You’re awfully noble for someone who’s shunned the Gerudo way.”
“You’re the one who shunned it,” Mika replied. “Wickedness was never a part of the heroic code.”
“Sacrifices must be made,” Kotake answered. “And believe me, I will enjoy sacrificing you.”
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Link sneered, stepping in front of Mika with the pole before him.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Kotake replied. With that, she lifted her broom over her head. A burning ball of fire shot out of the bristles, striking the ceiling. At once, boulders of ice came raining down on the two of them. A smaller piece struck Mika on the side of the head, directly over her temple. She dropped down to her knees, the world slowly starting to get cloudy around her.
“Mika!” Link cried, falling on his knees beside her and pulling her into his arms. His voice sounded distant.
Kotake spoke through the fog, but she seemed just as far away as Link, now. “Her fate is up for grabs, Hero. Yours has already been decided. The only question is whether or not you’re conscious for it. I assume that the spell will work regardless of which way you die.”
“What do you want?” Link asked.
“Pick her up,” Kotake said, “and follow me.”
Mika felt consciousness slowly slipping away. She struggled to hold onto it, but she soon felt herself tossing and turning on a sea of white light. In reality, it was Link picking her up and pulling her close to his chest, adjusting her weight to better carry her, but Mika was now blissfully unaware of that. A gentle calm settled over her body and she surrendered to the tranquility, allowing her limbs to go limp and her head to loll against Link’s shoulder.
Perhaps this wasn’t the most well thought out plan that Nebekah had ever come up with. She had never been especially hot headed, at least, she didn’t believe it, but even she had to admit that this particular ploy had not been much more than a sudden surge of unexplained instinct. Tearing through the halls of the palace, she could hear the whiz of a broom following behind her. It had to be Koume, meaning that she had left Link and Mika behind to deal with Kotake, by far the more aggressive. Still, Koume wasn’t exactly a pushover. She raced behind Nebekah, clearly gaining on her from the sound of things, ready to do her some serious mischief.
Almost as if to prove Nebekah’s unspoken thoughts, a blast of icy cold came flying through the air. The ground before Nebekah became slippery and clear as a fresh patch of ice formed underneath her feet. She slipped, her legs flying up into the air as she crashed down on her back. For a moment, little white stars of pain flared up before her eyes, but they faded slowly, leaving Nebekah facing the ceiling and a severe limitation to her options. Koume’s broom whooshed once more and she heard the old hag step off, her old feet padding over to the downed Jaguar.
“Very valiant,” Koume told her quietly, appearing within Nebekah’s field of vision as she peered down at her.
“Thanks,” Nebekah muttered.
“But futile,” Koume added.
Slowly, Nebekah sat up. Before her, Koume pointed the handle of her broom directly at her neck, like some kind of weapon. There was no doubt in Nebekah’s mind that the broom could do her serious damage, but at the same time, it just looked so absurd like that. “I figured you’d say that,” she sighed.
“May you die honorably,” Koume told her, pulling the broom back.
“Wait!” Nebekah cried, holding her hands forward as if to ward off some kind of blow.
Koume sighed in annoyance. “I really don’t have a lot of time.”
“Please,” Nebekah said, her mind racing. She didn’t have a plan; she didn’t have any explanations or expertise to draw on. For once, she was operating strictly on her instincts.
“I really have things to do,” Koume whined.
“I know, I know,” Nebekah said. “And you’ve beaten me fair and square, I acknowledge that.”
“It was impressive, wasn’t it?”
“Certainly,” Nebekah agreed, somehow doubting that stroking the old woman’s ego would earn her a reprieve. “Listen, I have a question I want to ask. Please, don’t let me die unfulfilled.”
“What is it?” Koume asked impatiently.
“I’ve been to the
,” Nebekah said. “I’ve seen the walls that tell your story.” templeof Din
“What about them?”
“I just don’t understand the duality. How can you only have half of what a person should have?”
“Don’t ask such stupid questions,” Koume barked. “Din is capable of doing anything.”
“You’re right, of course,” Nebekah said, digging through her mind for another stall.
“Gerudos…every Hylian really, has a nature that is divided into dualities. It’s just the way we were made.”
“I suppose you’re right. Everyone does foolish things sometimes and wise things other times.”
“Precisely,” Koume said.
“Fire and ice,” Nebekah recited. “Passive and aggressive. Good and…” she frowned.
“What?” Koume snapped.
“Evil,” Nebekah finished. It had occurred to her that it was very odd she should still be alive. Nebekah knew exactly how expendable she was, in the greater scheme of things. She had never taken a second to think of why it was Koume had not already killed her, why Koume had granted her a momentary reprieve to ask a completely inane question. Yet, as she sat there, thinking of the nature of duality, she wondered why she hadn’t considered good and evil before. If the baby called Rova had been fully split down the middle into these two women now, was it not logical that one should be good and the other be evil?
“What?” Koume said. “What are you talking about?”
“Good and evil, that’s a duality too, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose so. What’s your point?”
“Well,” she murmured, dragging out the syllable as long as she could. In truth, she was still trying to put it all together herself. If she was right, if good had been granted to one sister while evil had been granted to another, why was it that both had always been known only for evil deeds? That certainly didn’t make sense. If they were so evenly split, wouldn’t logic dictate that they balance each other out? If that were the case, the sister should have been mortal enemies, not the closest of allies. Unless, of course, another duality came into play. “Do you think it the greater good that the Gerudo Prides be united?” she asked carefully.
Koume looked thrown off, as if no one had ever asked her a question before. “Of course, I do,” she said.
“That’s been one of your purposes for a long time, hasn’t it?”
“Was it your idea that the best way to unite the Prides was under a single warrior king?”
“No, that was Kotake.”
Well, this was certainly proving Nebekah’s theory. “Did you like the idea?” she persisted.
“No,” Koume muttered, “not really.”
“But you went along with it?”
“Because Kotake said it would work. She’s gifted with foresight.”
“Or dishonesty,” Nebekah mumbled. “That’s another duality, isn’t it? True and false?”
“What are you suggesting?”
“If you two were split down the middle, one of you would always be honest, the other always false.” And, she supposed silently, if one was good and the other evil, it would be quite the misfortune for the evil one to also be the dishonest one. She would deceive not only the world, but her metaphorical – or literal? – better half. “That makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“Tell me something,” Nebekah pressed. “You told me once that Miral died because someone slipped poison into her drink.”
“Yes, so? What of it?”
“Was that true?”
“Of course. Kotake did it herself.”
A flash of triumph flickered in Nebekah’s chest. Somehow, she had managed to determine two important aspects of Koume’s persona. The first was that somehow, she had inherited a gift of honesty, meaning Kotake was the liar. The second was that, dominated though she was, somehow, she was the good one of the two. It was only a matter of luck or divine intervention that Kotake had somehow managed to completely control whatever good impulses Koume had.
“Koume,” she said urgently. “You don’t want to do this. You don’t want to carry through with Kotake’s plan. It spells disaster for you and for the Gerudo nation. Maybe even the world.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The plan is going to work. Kotake knows exactly what she’s doing, she told me so.”
“She lied to you,” Nebekah cried. “Tricked you. This isn’t a great salvation, this is profit. Profit for Kotake.”
“I’ve heard quite enough out of you,” Koume said. “I’m not going to listen anymore.”
“Please, you must listen to me.”
“Get up,” Koume insisted. “Come with me.” Without waiting for Nebekah to rise of her own volition, Koume reached out and latched onto her arm, pulling her to her feet. She began to drag her down the hall.
“Where are we going?” Nebekah asked.
“To the roof.”
“I’m going to throw you off.”
Link was gratified to see that Mika had begun to come to by the time Kotake instructed him to put her down. They had come to a large central chamber on a marble flood that looked eerily familiar to Link. He tried his best to put the memories from his mind for the time being, instead focusing on the more urgent problem. Much to his dismay, waiting for him in the room was Sapphia. It seemed that Mika’s instincts had been correct when she assumed that Sapphia was the chosen vessel for Ganondorf’s return. As if her bloated, pregnant form were not indication enough, she carried the Topaz in her hand and seemed to be eyeing Link as a lioness preparing to shred her prey, ripping it limb from limb.
“Hello Link,” she said coldly. “Hello Mika.”
“Mika!” From behind Sapphia, Tyro appeared, looking urgently at the new arrivals. “What happened to her?”
“She’s all right,” Link told him. He paused, examining Tyro. “Nice tunic,” he muttered. It was truly unfair. Tyro looked far more dashing in Link’s clothing than Link did.
Mika moaned softly, her eyes fluttering open, but unable to adjust somehow, as though she were still half asleep. “Tyro?” she asked feebly.
“As you can see,” Kotake said, entering the chamber from behind Link. “Your girlfriend is fine. For now.”
“What did you do to her?” Tyro shouted, moving forward toward Kotake, though Sapphia grabbed his arm, stopping him.
“Just a little accident,” Kotake replied, smiling blandly. “Sit down before she has another accident.”
“Who writes your material?” Mika muttered, blinking away the fogginess from her eyes.
“I really don’t have time for banter,” Kotake sighed. She glanced at Link. “Stand up, now. If you please.”
Slowly, Link rose to his feet, careful to hold his hands within Kotake’s sights. He realized that Tyro and Mika’s lives depended on his cooperation. Mika had begged him not to fall under the mercy of Kotake, but somehow, he had managed to blunder into it all the same. “Okay,” he said quietly.
“It’s time to be done with this,” Kotake said.
Suddenly, Mika was on her feet. She jumped in front of Link. “Leave him alone, ugly,” she snapped at Kotake.
“Mika!” Link cried. He tried to push her away, but she stood firmly rooted in place.
“Ugly?” Kotake repeated, a cruel smile spreading over her, admittedly, hideous face.
“I’m talking to you,” Mika declared.
“My dear, dear girl,” Kotake clucked. “I don’t think you fully appreciate the position that you’re in right now.”
“And what position is that?” Mika hissed.
Link grabbed her arm, pulling on her. “Stop it, Mika,” he warned.
Tyro looked over at them. His eyes drifted up and down, settling, for a moment, on their hands. “Sweet Nayru…” he whispered.
Kotake went on, ignoring Tyro’s exclamation. “You’re in the position to demand nothing. I am in the position to grant. And right now, I think I need to grant you a little lesson in respecting your elders.”
“I know the answer…” Tyro said softly.
“I’m through with my schooling,” Mika said.
“Oh no,” Kotake replied, shaking her head. “You have yet to learn the hardest lesson there is to know.”
“What is it?”
“The true meaning of pain,” Kotake said. Suddenly, she turned to Sapphia. “Sapphia.”
“Yes?” Sapphia asked.
“Kill her lover.”
A wavering smile appeared on Sapphia’s lips. “With pleasure,” she said, turning and pointing the Topaz at Tyro’s chest.
“Tyro!” both Link and Mika shouted.
Holding his hands up, Tyro looked carefully at the Topaz. “Don’t worry,” he said softly. “She can’t kill me.”
“Do you want to bet?” Sapphia sneered.
“I know the answer,” Tyro said. “The solution is at hand, Link.”
“You know what I’m not going to miss?” Sapphia taunted. “I’m not going to miss how much you talk.”
Tyro froze, suspended, his features locked in a calm expression of serenity. The air around him began rippling. At first, the ripples were wide, encompassing all of the space around Tyro, but they began to close in, surrounding him in a tighter and tighter confine, though his body did not move, did not crush. The ripples turned amber, the same color as the Topaz. There was a sound like a blast, like a firecracker being set off. The amber ripples died as suddenly as they had appeared. Tyro fell to the ground, landing on his side, turned away from Sapphia, his long hair falling over his face.
“No!” Mika screamed.
“Here endeth the lesson,” Kotake whispered fiercely.
Mika took off, attempting to run to Tyro’s side, but Link caught her by the wrist, pulling her back protectively. He clung to her for dear life, afraid of what Kotake and Sapphia would do to her if she managed to get away. “Tyro!” she screamed, fighting against him.
“Enough of this nonsense.” Kotake glanced at Sapphia. “Kill them both and let’s be done with it.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Sapphia said. She turned the Topaz on the two of them.
Link’s heart began to race. Tyro’s final words echoed in his mind. What did it mean? The answer is at hand? Feeling like a complete fool, he found his eyes drift down to his hands. There, he saw his tattoo joined up to Mika’s forming the old Hylian rune. Tyro had looked there just before…
It was like a flash of lightening. As the air began to ripple around the two of them, causing Link’s windpipe to feel thick and clogged, he pulled Mika closer. Fiercely, he leaned over, whispering into her ear, “Clear your mind,” he told her, “remove all thoughts of violence or harm.”
“What?” she cried.
Perhaps it was a miracle or perhaps it was the urgency in his voice, but either way, Mika nodded. “Okay.”
The ripples had begun to close in on them, but the tightness in Link’s throat had lessened. He cleared his own mind, banishing thoughts of fighting. Instead, he allowed himself to think only pleasant thoughts. He remembered lazy afternoons, whiling away the time on the Lon Lon Ranch with Malon, a stalk of straw between his teeth, making funny faces and imitating the chickens for her amusement. He thought of gamboling through the Hylian field with Zelda on the rare occasions when she managed to free herself of responsibility for an evening. He thought of Kae’lee, her beautiful face and the way she glowered and how her nostrils flared when she was comparing him to a pig. All these thoughts danced in his mind.
Link wasn’t entirely aware of when it happened or how really, but the next thing he knew, the ripples had vanished. There was not a trace of amber in the air, just a soft popping, like a firecracker. He found himself as he had always been, still holding onto Mika for dear life. Looking up, he saw that Kotake and Sapphia had noticed as well. Kotake’s mouth worked up and down a few times, but words did not seem to want to come to her. “How?” she croaked.
“I understand now,” Link said, letting go of Mika. “I know the answer to the riddle.”
“What are you talking about?” Sapphia snapped.
“The riddle,” Link said. “‘One thing stands between the stone and the grave, it cannot be held, yet it can fill the air, everyone who wants it can find it, though it cannot be seen, it can be felt, it has many homes and will constantly find others.’ The answer’s been at hand the entire time.”
Mika blinked, looking down at the tattoos on her wrist and Link’s. “Peace,” she said quietly. “The answer is peace.”
“Exactly!” Link exclaimed triumphantly. “The answer is peace. As long as we feel peace, not aggression, you can’t kill is with that thing.”
“Nonsense,” Kotake snapped. “Sapphia, do it again.”
Obediently, Sapphia raised the Topaz, causing the air around Link to ripple. He kept his mind clear of all aggression, even going so far as to drop the pole in his hands. Slowly, he walked forward, feeling surprisingly light and unburdened. Sapphia’s hands began shaking as he approached her. She seemed to screw up all of her concentration, all of her energy, focusing every fiber of her being into destroying him. Without feeling a thing, Link reached forward and took the Topaz in his hand. Effortlessly, he pried it free of Sapphia’s grip. She fell back a few paces, looking completely shocked. Link turned his back on her, holding up the Topaz for Kotake to see. With that, he threw it down onto the ground. It shattered this time, not into five Shards, but into dozens upon dozens, all of which went skittering away in a thousand different directions.
A wind that Nebekah was almost certain hadn’t been there before now whipped her face as Koume pulled her bodily out of the palace. There had never been a building in the
so high, all other places went down into the earth rather than up into the sky. “Let me go!” she cried as her arm was tugged by the old woman with a surprisingly firm grip. Gerudo Valley
“No,” Koume said simply.
She grabbed the side of the doorframe, attempting to use it was leverage to pull herself free. As she tugged, her fingers slipped, icy with cold, and she was forced to let go, falling to the ground. Koume pulled her along the ground, bringing her out onto the widow’s walk. “You’re only doing this because you know I’m right,” Nebekah declared passionately.
“No, you’re not,” Koume said.
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you’re not. You can’t possibly be right. My sister wouldn’t lie to me. Sisters don’t do that.”
“Of course they do, all the time when their soul has received the evil portion of what was meant for a complete person!”
“Don’t begin to try and understand us, you foolish mortal.”
“I may be a mortal,” Nebekah said, “but I am no fool.”
“May they say that when they burn your funeral pyre,” Koume told her with a touch of irony.
“Well…so be it,” Nebekah said softly. “It seems that my mourners will be at hand.”
“What are you talking about?”
Nebekah didn’t answer. Instead, she gestured with her free arm, out over the side of the widow’s walk and down to the Valley below. Without loosening her grip, Koume turned to look. Below, tiny figures were moving toward the ice palace, so many of them that they turned the yellow Valley ground red as a thousand redheads marched in neatly organized ranks. They flew no identifying flags, each could only be identified by the color of their garments and beneath the layer of red, all the colors of the Gerudo rainbow appeared. Leading the pack were five figures on horseback, their eyes set forward, their destinies determined.
“Who are they?” Koume hissed. “Which Pride dares to march against my ice palace?”
“I think you’re asking the wrong question,” Nebekah said, staring down at the cavalry in wonderment.
She titled her head back, letting out the loudest, most echoic cry of “Ya!” that her lungs could conjure.
Clearly, it was enough because the central horseback rider rose her arm, and immediately, the ranks halted, looking around for the source of the cry. The rider lifted her gaze and Nabooru’s eyes fell upon the scene on the widow’s walk. “Nebekah, daughter of Elena!” she shouted, raising her arm. There were gasps from a good fifth of the marchers, followed by murmurs of uneasy remarks.
“Soon to be former,” Nebekah called. This disrupted the ranks more. Nebekah began to pick out Jaguar faces from the crowd, all of them horrified at the thought of her demise.
“What is this?” Koume barked.
“What’s it look like?” Nebekah asked her dryly.
Koume ignored the remark. “Go home,” she ordered the ranks below. “This does not concern you. Your Alpha chose her own demise. Let it be on her head. No one else needs to die down here.”
“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” Nabooru replied.
“Who are you?” Koume muttered, narrowing her eyes as she gazed down. “You are not Jaguar.”
“We are the Gerudo nation,” Nabooru answered. “Every last one of us is willing to die now to defend the Jaguar Alpha.”
“Ya!” Petaleen, the second rider, cried, raising her sword. Behind her, not only the Jaguar, but the entire army roared, waving their arms and letting the syllable echo across the Valley.
“The Gerudo nation?” Koume repeated incredulously.
“Look at the riders below,” Nebekah told her. “Five Alphas from five separate Prides, leading the march together.
Koume seemed to take this literally. She paused, scanning each and every face down below. “All five Prides? Marching together?”
“Dragon,” Nabooru declared.
“Ya!” some of the warriors yelled.
“Orca,” Medea called, gripping her reins tightly.
“Saber Tooth,” barked Nassan.
“Kodiak!” Sarjenka roared.
Petaleen’s eyes met with Nebekah’s. At the same time, to the two of them called out, “Jaguar!”
“Ya!” the Jaguar yelled.
“Gerudo!” Nabooru screamed.
And a thousand voices of a thousand different Prides all let loose the battle cry together. “Ya!”
“The entire Gerudo nation stands before you now!” Nabooru called as her horse shifted uneasily from all the noise.
“Unified,” Nebekah pointed out to Koume.
“Without the unwanted leadership of Ganondorf Dragmire! We are strong without him and we will defeat you.”
“Wait!” Nebekah cried, holding out her free hand, lest Nabooru sound the call the charge. She turned to look at Koume. “Look below,” she told her. “Do you see what’s happened down there?”
Koume seemed to be in awe. “The entire Gerudo nation.”
“Unified,” Nebekah said. “And without the help of anyone.”
“It’s not possible.”
“You see it with your own eyes,” she said. “Look at them. They’re all here together, ready to fight, ready to die, all for the same cause.”
“It hasn’t been like this in four hundred years.”
“But it is now,” Nebekah said. “Don’t you see? The Gerudo don’t need help. They can do it.”
“I never thought it possible…”
“Seeing is believing.”
“The daughter of Elena speaks the truth,” Nabooru called.
“Your goal has been achieved. There’s no need now to restore Ganondorf Dragmire,” Nebekah hissed.
A heavy silence pervaded the air. Everyone watched Koume, wondering what she would do. Slowly, the old woman nodded, still unable to take her eyes off of the joyous sight below, a sight she had longed to see for an eternity, Nebekah was certain. “Yes,” she mumbled slowly.
“Do not let an evil man destroy the Gerudo nation again,” Nebekah pled. “You have the power to stop it.”
Koume looked at her in surprise. “Stop it?”
“Yes!” Nebekah said. “You have the ability to stop Kotake. And you’re the only one.”
“So it has been prophesized. Only you can do it.”
Nabooru looked puzzled, watching the scene from below. “Will she help us?” she asked, just over the murmurs of confusion from the other Gerudo warriors in the ranks behind her.
Nebekah looked at Koume. “The fate of the Gerudo nation and of Hyrule is in your hands now, Koume. You have the power to decide if the Gerudo will become the hated foe once more, or if the Gerudo will have a chance to solve all their problems. Don’t you see what these women are capable of?”
“Yes…” Koume whispered.
“They did this all by themselves. Evolution is a slow process, but look at the results. If left to their own devices, the Gerudo are capable of just about anything. It’s only outside influences that can destroy us.”
“You’re right,” Koume said.
“So will you help us?” she asked. “Will you stop Kotake from bringing back this evil before it’s too late?”
It seemed that everyone below leaned forward just an inch or so in order to hear what Koume would say. “Yes,” she told them, her confidence steadily growing as her voice was raised. “I will stop Kotake from bringing back Ganondorf Dragmire.”
“Ya!” the ranks cried below, raising their weapons in approval and sisterhood.
An ugly smile appeared on Koume’s face. It wasn’t cruel, just twisted from old age. Her confidence grew and she raised her arm, saluting them and returning their call of “Ya!”
“So,” Kotake hissed as the final bits of the Topaz stopped tinkling across the floor.
“So what?” Link challenged her, lifting his chin to overly defiant angle. “No more Topaz for you.”
“How dare you!” she growled, stepping forward toward him.
Mika felt her heart pounding against her chest. She didn’t like the look in Kotake’s eyes one bit. “We found the answer,” Link continued, either not noticing or not caring about the anger Kotake was exhibiting. “The answer is peace. You can’t destroy us.”
“Oh no,” Kotake clucked. “You’re wrong about that.”
“I can’t destroy you with the Topaz. But I can still destroy you!” she screamed. At once, she cast her hand forward, sending a line of fire across the room, directly at Link’s chest.
“Look out!” Mika shouted.
Fortunately, Link’s reaction times had not been compromised by his haughty triumph. He jumped out of the way, rolling across the floor. Kotake’s rage was relentless now. She cast fire ball after fire ball at Link, laughing angrily as he managed to duck and dodge each blow. There were no signs of slowing, which concerned Mika. It took far less energy to shoot a ball of fire than to dodge it and spry though Link was, how long could this go on?
“You!” an angry voice shouted. Mika turned to see Sapphia approaching her, shaking an angry finger at her face. “You’ve ruined everything!”
“Me?” Mika squawked indignantly. “You’re the one trying to enslave our entire race!”
“The Prides must be unified!” Sapphia declared.
“There’s a big difference between slavery and unification, even if they look the same on the outside.”
“Ganondorf Dragmire must lead our people!”
“You’re wrong,” Mika told her. “Dead wrong.”
“Well, now we’ll never know. Now, the people will remain in the dark chaos they’ve always been in for the last four hundred years! Now there isn’t even a chance of them coming together!”
“Still better than the alternative,” Mika said.
“You’ve ruined everything!” Sapphia shouted. From her belt, she removed a long, serrated knife, brandishing it in front of her.
“You can’t be serious,” Mika sighed.
But apparently, Sapphia was serious. In the next instant, she was upon Mika, attempting to slash her throat with the knife. Mika caught Sapphia’s wrists, attempting to point the knife safely up in the air, but she was caught off guard by how strong the Kodiak really was. The two of them ended up swaying back and forth, each trying to force their hands in the opposite direction. Trembling, the knife loomed closer and closer to Mika’s face, reflecting her blue eye back at her. She could feel the chill of the cold metal on her cheek and found herself wondering how much it would really hurt. She had been injured before, but never by someone as adamant about her demise as the crazed Sapphia.
Behind her, Link and Kotake continued to do battle, Kotake throwing everything she had at him. Link was completely unaware of his sister’s plight and certainly in no position to do anything about it. Mika gritted her teeth as the knife got closer and closer to her. It seemed a bit unfair, after all the trouble they had gone through to gather the Topaz, now she was going to die by the touch of an ordinary knife and at the hands of a foe was as mortal as she. She had considered the possibility of dying, but in her imaginings, it hadn’t been quite so mundane.
“Why…won’t…you…die?” Sapphia grunted, inching the knife closer with each syllable.
“Time out!” Suddenly, there was a cracking noise and Sapphia dropped the knife, crumpling to the ground and landing unconscious on her side. Mika blinked, looking up. Behind where Sapphia had stood was Tyro, gripping his pole tightly in his white knuckles, looking half horrified by what he had just done.
Mika cover her mouth. “Tyro!” she whispered.
“Are you all right?” he asked her
“You’re alive!” was all she could manage this time.
He blinked, looking at her in surprise. “Of course, I’m alive.”
“But I thought that –”
“You thought I was gone? Are you kidding me? I was facing you the whole time, didn’t you see me swallow? You don’t swallow when you’re dead. Any novice warrior will tell you that.”
“How did you survive?”
He shrugged slightly. “I thought of you.”
At once, she surged forward, throwing her arms around his shoulders and kissing him. Tyro stumbled back a few paces in surprise, but Mika soon felt his arms wrap around her waist and felt his lips return her kiss. She pulled back, knowing that there wasn’t a worse moment to say it. “I love you.”
“Argh!!!” Both Mika and Tyro turned to look. One of Kotake’s blasts had caught Link in the leg. He dropped to the ground, patting out the flames on his trousers, but the damage had been done. Mika could easily tell that he wouldn’t be able to support himself with that leg. And unfortunately, Kotake seemed to realize the same thing because she slowly advanced, laughing hysterically.
“Time’s up for the Hero of Time,” Kotake chanted in a sing song voice. “Give my regards to Ganondorf. I’m sure he’s eager to see you.”
“After you,” Link hissed, holding his leg in obvious pain.
“Goodbye, kid.” Kotake raised her arms over her head, forming a terrific ball of fire.
“Wait!” Koume came lumbering into the room hoisting her skirts up to keep from tripping over them. “Stop, stop, stop!” she cried, waving her free hand back and forth to get Kotake’s attention.
“Not now, Koume,” Kotake snapped.
Still, Koume persisted, placing herself in front of Link. “You don’t have to kill him any more, sister,” she shouted with a strange smile on her face that Mika didn’t understand.
“The Gerudo Prides have unified, Kotake. On their own! They’re marching as one now!”
“So?” Kotake barked.
“So? Isn’t this what we wanted the whole time? At last, our people are unified. There’s no more need for killing!”
“Koume,” Kotake groaned. “He killed Ganondorf.”
“It’s all right,” Koume insisted. “We don’t need to bring back Ganondorf anymore. Our end has been achieved.”
“Maybe yours has,” Kotake said, “but mine is still drawing near.” She cast the fireball forward, sending it whizzing in circles around the room.
“Link!” Mika cried, attempting to get to him, but Tyro held her back.
“No!” Koume shouted. She cast an icy blast which hit the fire, making it dissolve. “It’s over, Kotake. No more killing.”
“Over?! Over!?” Kotake roared. “It’s never over!!” Kotake conjured up a rapid fire succession of blasts, each one careening uncontrollably fast toward Link. Somehow, Koume managed to counteract each one, cooling it with the touch of frost that she had mastered. “Stop doing that, Koume!”
“No,” Koume insisted.
“You’re either with me or against me, sister.”
“Then I’m against you,” Koume said.
“You can’t stop me!” Kotake screamed.
“I have to,” Koume told her in a surprisingly calm voice. She held her arms out to either side. At once, the entire palace started shaking.
“What’s happening?” Mika hissed.
“Take your friends,” Koume told her. “And get them out of here now.”
Kotake’s eyes went wide in horror. “No!” she yelled. “No, you can’t do this, Koume!”
“Get out!” Koume instructed Mika again.
Mika broke away from Tyro, rushing over to Link. “Come on,” she told him, slipping her hands under his arm.
Link draped his arm around Mika’s shoulders. “I don’t understand what’s happening,” he said.
“Me neither, but I don’t want to be around to find out.”
“Agreed,” he said, forcing himself up to his feet. “Gah!” he cried out in pain, clasping a hand to his leg.
“Come on, Hero,” she said, hoisting most of his weight into her arms. “Now is not the time to be feint of heart.”
“Tyro’s the one that fainted,” Link replied.
“Oh shut up,” Tyro groaned.
It took Nebekah a good long while to find her way back to the ground from the roof. By the time she reached the waiting Gerudo ranks outside of the ice palace, she knew that it wasn’t a moment too soon. Flashes of red orange fire and the hiss of ice rocked the entire building. It began to shake, quivering like a gelatin mold, each of the towers swaying more than natural for any structure, regardless of the composition. She ran to the other Gerudo, putting as much distance between herself and the rattling building. It was clear to her that the walls were no longer sound.
“What’s happening in there?” Petaleen asked, extending a hand to Nebekah and grabbing her wrist to pull her in one sweeping motion up onto the back of the horse. “What’s going on?”
“No idea,” Nebekah replied, planting her hands on Petaleen’s waist.
“Is Link still alive?” Nabooru called.
“I’m sure he is,” Nebekah answered, hoping to put as much conviction into the words as she could. Certainly, there was more in them than in her own, doubting mind right now. “Kotake needs him alive to complete the spell to revive Ganondorf. At least, for a little while.”
“And Mika?” Medea cried urgently. “Where is she?”
“She’s with him,” Nebekah said. “They were both alive when I left them a little while ago.”
“What about Sapphia?” Sarjenka added. “And that other boy, Tyro? Where are they?”
“Inside, I think,” Nebekah explained.
“Tyro?” Petaleen said sharply.
Someone from the thousands assembled in the ranks behind suddenly pointed ahead. “Look!”
There was an enormous crack that went tearing up the middle of the roof like an earthquake fault line. Giant chunks of ice began to break off, falling into the middle of the structure. “It’s going to collapse!” Nassan cried.
Nabooru turned to address the troops behind her. “Move to higher ground!” she instructed them. The three Betas marching among the warriors began to organize the retreat, directing the Deltas to a ridge behind where they now stood.
A low moan came from the palace. The towers gave one last sway outward, one last ditch effort to maintain their shape, but it was too much. Slowly, they bowed inward, the pointed turrets snapping off of the bases and crashing down in the middle of the roof. This collapsed the fault completely, sending storms of ice down into the center of the palace. Water sprayed up in an enormous geyser, going nearly fifty feet into the air before raining back down on the shrinking castle. Horror gripped Nebekah’s heart as she realized what was happening. The ice palace was melting.
Medea let out a scream of agony. All five of the horses neighed and whinnied, bucking up slightly on their front hooves to express their displeasure with the close proximity to what would soon be a lake in the middle of the Valley. After the towers collapsed, the rest seemed to follow in a chain reaction, inside to out. The inner part of the roof was the first to go, chasing the tops of the towers into the hole that continually spat out water. The hole slowly widened. Water was beginning to leak out of the cracks forming in the walls, flooding the entire area. The ice chain that had held up the gate melted quickly, sending the pointed spokes crashing down to the ground where they shattered like glass and began to merge with the new moat.
Suddenly, from the doorway, Nebekah saw a flash of green. “Look!” she shouted, pointing in the direction of the wobbly entrance.
From the watery depths of the palace, Tyro emerged, still in Link’s clothing, carrying a distended and unconscious Sapphia in his arms. Sarjenka sat up in her saddle, waving her arms at him. “Over here!” she called.
Tyro saw this and immediately began to splosh through the water, up to his ankles, and over to the riders. “Where are the others?” Medea asked him urgently. “Link and Mika?”
“They were right behind me,” Tyro told her. “Link’s injured. I don’t know what happened.”
“Din be merciful,” Medea whispered.
Sarjenka gestured to Sapphia. “Give that to me.”
Carefully, Tyro helped Sarjenka to pull Sapphia up onto the front of the horse, slumped over against its neck. “Don’t hurt her,” he said.
“She must be punished for her crimes.”
“She was misguided,” Tyro replied. “Her intentions were good.”
“We’ll deal with her later,” Nabooru interrupted them.
“What’s going on in there?” Nassan demanded.
“Koume is standing up to Kotake,” Tyro explained. “I don’t know how it happened, but they’ve turned completely against each other. Koume told us to get out.”
Another crash came from the palace. The water was rushing out of every tiny crack faster and faster now, spraying into the air. “Mika!” both Medea and Tyro shouted in pain.
“Quick,” Nassan told Tyro, “get on the back of my horse!”
“I’m going back for her,” Tyro insisted.
“No, you’re not,” Nabooru said. Tyro opened his mouth to argue, but he chanced to look in the direction she was facing. So did Nebekah. Splashing through the water, they saw Mika pulling Link, with a lame leg, behind her. Both of them were shivering and soaked. Link’s face was distorted in ample amounts of pain, Mika’s set in a firm look of determination. If Nebekah knew Link, and she was pretty sure that she did, he had probably told Mika to leave him behind. Evidently, that was not a part of Mika’s plans for escape.
“Mika!” Medea cried again, this time in unabashed joy.
The walls of the ice palace had become completely clear, like a giant fishbowl. In the midst of the sea, flashes of blue and red could just barely be made out, but there was no possible way to tell what was going on inside. Behind Link and Mika, as they struggled to make their way clear of the water, the structure vibrated. It wasn’t shaking like it had been before, swaying loosely. This was a tense movement, a movement that clearly hinted at something more than a collapse. More like a massive explosion.
“Move your butt, Hero!” Nabooru called.
Tyro raced over, to them, pounding through the water. “Tyro!” Nebekah yelled angrily, but she knew there was no stopping him.
He arrived and grabbed Link’s other arm, helping Mika to move him through the water. “He loves her, doesn’t he?” Medea murmured.
“I think so,” Nebekah replied.
Mika and Tyro carried Link away, over to where the riders waited, the horses growing impatient. “Load him up on my horse,” Nabooru instructed them. Together, Mika, Tyro, and Nabooru managed to pull Link onto the horse, in front of Nabooru, slumped on his stomach, his arms dangling over the ground.
“This is humiliating,” Link grumbled.
“Better humiliating than dead,” Nabooru told him wisely.
“We have to get out of here,” Petaleen barked. “Now.”
“Someone get up on my horse!” Nassan called.
Tyro put a hand on Mika’s shoulder. “Ride with her,” he instructed. “I’ll go with your mother.”
“All right,” she nodded.
Mika mounted up behind Nassan, but as Tyro approached Medea’s horse, she slid back in the saddle. “You take the lead,” she implored him. “I’m a terrible rider.”
“Yes, Alpha,” he said, mounting up in front of her and taking over the reins.
“Move to higher ground!” Nabooru shouted. At once, the five grateful horses wheeled around, carrying the riders in a fast retreat up along the path that the Delta warriors had already taken. It wasn’t a moment too soon. Behind them, the ice palace gave one last moan. At once, the melting was complete and it exploded into a blast of water that knew no mercy, flying in every direction and utterly destroying any shape that the castle had once taken.
The water chased the hooves of the horses as they ran, speeding up the ridge where the waiting ranks looked on in terror. Nebekah turned back over her shoulder and saw the new lake. In time, the hot sun of the Valley would probably evaporate most of the water, but all the same, it was a most impressive sight, almost placid, had she not known the cost of it, had she not known what she potentially might have lost to see this lake now.
Only at the top of the ridge did the horses slow. The rides must have been exhausted from such a race, each carrying two riders. Nebekah quickly slipped off of Petaleen’s horse, moving to the edge of the ridge to watch as the lake slowly calmed down, becoming still. Mika and Tyro dismounted easily enough and quickly ran to each other, embracing quite passionately and with no embarrassment, before the entire Gerudo nation. Eager to get off the horse, Medea rushed over to help Nabooru lower Link to the ground. Tiama, the real Tiama, had already moved forward, along with the Dragon healer, to tend to his leg.
The ride had jarred Sapphia: As she was lowered from Sarjenka’s horse, several Kodiak warriors, their weapons drawn, formed a tight circle around her. Her eyes were fixed, however, on the same sight as Nebekah. “Well,” she sniffed, “I hope you’re satisfied. You’ve destroyed any chance of the Gerudo nation being one.”
“Open your eyes, Sapphia,” Nebekah told her softly. “The Gerudo nation is one.” She frowned. “In a way, I suppose we have you to thank for that. If you had not brought the Twinrova sisters down on our heads, we would never have had cause to unify in the first place.”
“She should be punished, nevertheless,” Sarjenka insisted. “I hereby strip you of your title as Beta of the Kodiak Pride.”
“You can’t do that,” Sapphia snapped.
“Watch me,” Sarjenka replied.
Nebekah would have given nearly anything to see the look on Sapphia’s face, but something pulled her attention to the lake again. The middle of the water was rippling, bubbles coming up faster and faster to the otherwise glossy surface. “Now what?” she heard Tyro groan from behind.
Suddenly, the surface of the water exploded as a single figure shot up from the depths. It took Nebekah a few moments to recognize that this ragged, disheveled entity was Koume. She appeared to beholding a limp armload of rags in her arms. The moment she shot into view, she slowly lowered herself again, hovering just above the surface of the water. As she made her way toward the edge of the lake, Nebekah realized with alarm that she wasn’t carrying rags, she was carrying Kotake. Unconscious or alive, she couldn’t tell.
Nabooru stepped forward, speaking on behalf of the Gerudo nation. “Will Ganondorf Dragmire return?” she asked.
Koume shook her head. “Not today.”
“Din is not to thank for this,” Koume said. “The Gerudo nation saved itself for a change.”
“With the help of two brave men,” Mika said, wrapping her arms around Tyro’s shoulders.
“What happens now?” Link wondered, looking up at the scene to the best of his ability.
“I am finished,” Koume said. “I cannot survive as I am without my sister.”
“You mean she’s…?”
There was no answer to the question, but somehow, everyone knew just the same. “For once, my powers have done something good,” Koume whispered.
“That’s the end?” Nebekah blurted. “It seems so unfair.”
“Every end is a new beginning,” Koume told her.
With that, she hugged Kotake’s remains to her chest. The bodies blurred, becoming bright lights of red and blue which merged into a purple beam, devoid of features. The beam condensed, becoming a single ball of light which hovered over the lake as some sort of final tribute. All at once, the ball shot forward, sailing through the air toward the assembled Gerudo. It jumped and dived, curving around people and horses, flying directly at Sapphia. The guards around her jumped out of the way in surprise. Sapphia held her hands up, shielding her face and bracing for some kind of impact, but there didn’t appear to really be one. Instead, the ball of light enveloped her pregnant belly, glowing brighter and brighter until Nebekah was forced to look away, shielding her eyes with a hand. When she felt it safe to look again, the light was gone and Sapphia was standing there looking deeply confused.
Tyro voiced the confusion of all the others. “What just happened?”
“I’m not sure,” Link answered.
Nabooru folded her arms, examining Sapphia. “If I had to guess…I’d guess that the child called Rova has just been given a second chance.”
Mika blinked. “What do you mean?”
“A chance to be reborn, whole this time, complete, not shattered and fragmented by the curse of the Topaz.” She glanced around suddenly. “Where is the Topaz?”
“Gone,” Link said simply.
“Just as well,” Nabooru sighed. “For four hundred years, it’s stood as a symbol of our division. Things are going to be different now.”
Things didn’t really change, at least, in Link’s opinion. For a whole week he rested among the Jaguar, recovering from his injury and being feasted as a great Hero for a second time. The Jaguar were as they had always been. Nothing about them had changed. After the triumphant return, Nebekah was named the Alpha of the Pride and made the same vow that every Alpha before her had made, to protect the Jaguar and to always pursue peace. Each of the other Prides returned to their respective lands, each following their own Alphas and their distinct creeds. If things were going to change, it was going to be a slow process, one unfolding over a good decade or more, but Link was patient. There was plenty of time.
Once he was able to stand on his leg again, once the wine had run dry and the ticker tape supply had been exhausted, once the elation of their triumph and quieted down to a mellow memory, Link knew it was time, time to go home. Solemnly, Link, Nebekah, Mika, and Tyro mounted their horses, Mika riding behind Tyro, and they made the slow trek to the border of the
and the rest of Hyrule. Nothing much was said on the journey. In fact, they barely looked at one another. It was only once they reached the border that Link turned his horse around to face the others. Gerudo Valley
“Well, Nebekah,” he said, “it looks like you’re going to have your hands full for awhile.”
“Yeah,” Tyro agreed, “the new Alpha. Pretty darn important.”
Nebekah smiled shyly. “I’ll always make time for the three of you,” she promised them. “I swear it.”
“You’d better,” Tyro teased her.
“And you’d better be back here before the season ends,” she told him. “Sapphia is due any day.”
Tyro nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be around.”
“Are you sure you feel safe keeping her among the Jaguar?” Link asked. “Not that I’m trying to question your judgment, I just…”
“Relax, blondie,” Nebekah laughed. “I know what I’m doing.”
“I’ll bet you never thought that a Kodiak would become a Jaguar,” Mika murmured.
“Well, things have changed. At least they’re starting to. And every big change begins with a small one.”
“That’s catchy,” Tyro quipped.
Nebekah bowed her head. “Thanks.”
She glanced at the three of them. “So where are you off to?”
“First the ranch,” Tyro explained. “Just so my uncle knows that I’m still alive and such.”
“And then on to New Kasuto,” Link added.
“New Kasuto?” Nebekah repeated. “Why are you going there?”
Link and Mika exchanged a glance. “To pay homage to our mother,” Link said softly.
Mika nodded. “Natalya Evenn.”
“And then we might head for Calatia to see the Oracle there,” Link continued. “Apparently, that’s where our father died.”
“That sounds like quite the adventure,” Nebekah said. “What happens after that?”
“I don’t know,” Link said with a shrug. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves back in the
.” Gerudo Valley
“I look forward to seeing you, blondie.” She glanced at the other two. “And you. Good luck.”
“See you soon, Nebekah,” Link said, “daughter of Elena, first Alpha of the Jaguar Pride.”
She didn’t reply. Instead, with a delighted grin, Nebekah spurred her horse around and rode off, heading back into the Valley with a cry of “Ya!”
For a time, Link watched her go until Nebekah became nothing more than a speck on the horizon. He turned to look at Mika. “Are you ready?” he asked her.
Mika’s only answer was a small smile, the beautiful go sign that filled Link with excitement. He had seen her world, lived in it, fought and nearly died in it. Now, it was his turn, his turn to show the world he knew to Mika, his sister. Maybe she would detest it, maybe she would long to return to the isolation of the Orca Pride, but somehow, Link doubted it. Watching the way that Tyro gazed at her, somehow, he knew that Mika had made peace with her former life as was ready to for a new one to begin.
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