Chapter IV: The Castle Sieged
Link awoke the next morning refreshed, yawning widely. When his eyes opened properly, he realized that someone else was in his room. It was a girl with red hair sitting on a stool. She was wearing a nightgown.
“Malon!” Link cried out, pulling the covers up over his long underwear. His tunic and cap lay strewn where he had left them the night before: in the corner behind the door on the opposite side of the room. “Turn around or something…”
“Why, Link, I seen cows give birth; I cert’nly don’t care about long night-britches. ‘Sides, this is my room, proper, and if you don’t like it you can git another room.”
Link decided he would compromise by tucking the bedcovers up to his neck and hoping she would go away. “What are you doing in here anyway?” he asked.
“Poppa said I should kip an eye on you, so here I am.”
“Where is he?”
“Out feedin’ the horses…he says Miss Impa says the king says you kin have one…”
“Oh…yeah.” Then he remembered Epona. “Hey! Do you think I could take Epona with me?”
“I figger it’s up t’Epona, but I don’t reckon she’d mind. She’s awful fond of you, you know…” Malon winked at him.
“…yeah,” said Link, trying to think of a way to get to his clothes. “Um, so what were you doing outside last night? Your dad said you were in bed.”
“Oh, that. I was just talkin’ to Hossel, tellin’ him what a good job he’d done, slippin’ him a few carrots. Poppa says we ain’t got enough carrots as it is, but I figger Hossel done so good he d’served it. Poppa says there’s ghosts out there at night, so he don’t like it when I’m out, but I jes’ wanted to say hi…to Hossel that is.” This sounded like an awful long explanation to Link.
“Okay…” Link said, narrowing his eyes. Malon looked like she had a worm in her nightgown.
“Okay, you finagled it outta me! I heard Epona neigh like that an’ I knew you was comin’. She ain’t neighed like that since you left. I reckon she likes you…”
“Yeah, you said that…” Link said, clenching the bedcovers. “So…” he thought he could get to his tunic if he could distract her…if only he had something to throw.
“So Poppa says you kin git somethin’ t’eat whenever you’re awake, so now that you’re awake you kin git somethin’ t’eat…if you want.”
“Um, okay,” said Link, cursing himself for not asking for a slingshot before he left the castle.
“Or I could git you somethin’ t’eat…” she suggested reluctantly. Link was overjoyed; this was his chance! “…but only if you promise not to run off afore I hear all about where you bin an’ where you’re goin’. It gits awful boring when there ain’t no visitors.”
Link decided it was a fair trade; it was the only way she would leave. “Deal,” he said. Malon smiled, slid off the stool and ran to the door, her red braid whipping behind her. Link was poised, ready to dive for his clothes.
Then Malon stopped at the door. “You stay here, now! You promised.”
“Okay,” he said, settling back under the covers. Satisfied, she left the room. Moments later he heard her footsteps thumping down the stairs.
Link threw the covers back and ran to the door. Swinging it shut, he retrieved his clothes and threw them on, grabbing his belt from where it hung over the chair, and his boots from under the window. He considered leaving his sword and shield by the dresser at the foot of the bed, but decided against it. He never knew when he might be in a hurry to leave.
Talon came in for breakfast. They had bacon, eggs, warm milk (“freshly squeezed this mornin’,” said Talon), and bread with butter. Link had forgotten that in his haste the day before, he had not had anything to eat. He gorged himself like a ravenous wolf.
“Slow down there, youngin’. It’ll still be there in five minutes,” said Talon lowering a platter of sizzling sausages to the table. He sat and helped himself to some eggs. “Mally, you comin’?” he hollered. Link could hear Malon respond from upstairs.
“Yeah.” Her voice got closer. “Poppa, have you seen Li—” she stopped in the dining room doorway with a platter of food in her hands. “Oh.” She looked displeased.
Link paused with a sausage halfway out of his mouth. He tried to swallow it as quickly as possible so he could talk, but when he tried to speak he only succeeded in getting things down the wrong way. He coughed fiercely.
“Mal, I think he needs help!” said Talon with alarm.
Malon slammed the platter on the table. “Let him choke,” she said, grabbing a piece of bread and storming past Link out the back door.
Link gulped down half of his milk. When he recovered, he saw what was on the platter Malon had brought in. The scrambled eggs had been arranged in the shape of a horse and two slices of bacon suggested a road under the horse’s legs. The milk had spilled over the head of a daisy garnishing a slice of buttered bread. Link suddenly felt like sinking into a puddle on the floor. He hurriedly gathered as much food as he could, threw it on his plate, and turned to run out the back door.
“Wait, Link!” hollered Talon. “Take yer milk!” Link returned only long enough to grab the pitcher of milk and run out the door again.
Malon was sitting with her back to the house on the far side of a large metal tub. Next to the chicken coop were a few chickens who she was feeding with little bits of bread. Link could hear her talking.
“…like my breakfast don’t you, little cuckoos. Yeah, that dirty, rotten boy don’t…”
Link cleared his throat. “Do you want something to eat?” he asked meekly.
Malon turned around quickly and then hid her face again. “Link! What? Go away…” Link thought she might have been crying.
“I, uh…I brought you some food,” he said, waving the plate in the air; a sausage fell to the ground. She didn’t look. He stepped a little closer. “Hey, um…I’m sorry I didn’t stay in my room…” he began.
“My room. You promised,” she said, turning away.
“Sorry,” he said, and immediately felt foolish for repeating himself. He put down the plate of sausages and the pitcher of milk and sat on the edge of the metal tub next to her. She pulled her braid around in front of her and began twirling the end in her fingers.
“How did you get to the kitchen?” she asked without taking her attention off her braid. When he didn’t answer she looked up at Link. He tossed his head toward the house. There, hanging from the bedroom window, blowing in the cool morning breeze, were two bed sheets tied together. Malon could not help but laugh. It was clear and honest, and it made Link feel as if she could not hate him. Not really.
Link tried to think of something that would make her happy. “Do you think we could go see Epona?” Link asked.
“I don’t rightly know,” said Malon. “She might be upset with you right now.”
“Maybe you could talk to her for me…”
“Maybe. You’ll have to call her, though.”
Link looked at his boots. “I don’t have an ocarina…” he said disappointedly.
“Neither do I,” said Malon. “How d’you think I call her?”
Link’s face turned hot against the cool air. “Yeah, but…well, you sing good.” When she smiled and looked at her braid again he realized she had taken this as a compliment.
“Maybe you could whistle,” she suggested. Link was beginning to believe that he was the only one in all of Hyrule who couldn’t whistle. When Malon saw Link hesitate she said, “You can whistle, cain’t you? You cain’t!” She was sincerely surprised.
He shrugged. “…maybe you could tell me how, I guess.”
“You just blow,” she said. “Like this.” And she whistled at one of the chickens in the yard. It ruffled its feathers and cocked its head. “You try.” Link was less successful; he just mimicked playing the ocarina.
“No, here,” said Malon, “like this.” She placed a palm on either side of his cheeks and pressed them together. The result was more comical than functional, and when Link tried to blow no sound came out. “Gah, I reckon I oughtta not try that right after breakfast.” Malon made a face, waving a hand in front of her
Link grimaced. “Oh, sorry,” he said. “Sausages.”
“Yeah, well, they smelled better on the plate.” They both laughed. “You got any more over there?”
“Sure,” he said, glad to hear her laugh again. “One fell on the ground, so…” he handed her the plate. “It doesn’t look as nice as yours, but…”
“That’s okay,” she said, reaching for an untouched sausage. “I burn more’n I eat, most times. Poppa does pritty good with flapjacks, but I reckon I give ‘im a fair shake.” She bit into one of the sausages and decided against eating the rest. “Cold anyhow,” she said setting it down. Then she grabbed his hand and pulled him off the metal tub. “C’mon, let’s go see Epona. She might like you now.” Link thought this was the closest thing he would ever get to Malon accepting his apology. Even so, he was glad of it. For once in his life, he started to feel like he belonged somewhere.
* * *
“Something here does not belong,” said Impa as she scanned the crowds in the market with her red Sheikah eyes. “Do not look at them, child,” said Impa, quickening her pace through the streets.
“But why, Impa?” said Zelda, dutifully bowing her head.
“They are Gerudo thieves.”
Zelda turned her head only slightly to look at a figure out of the corner of her eye. It was a redheaded female, shrouded with brightly colored gauze and wearing ballooned pants, shoes with upturned toes and a veil over her face. The Hylian people wore attractive clothing, to be sure, but nothing as colorful or revealing as the desert-woman. She certainly stood out. The Gerudo woman also had round ears, whereas the Sheikahs and the Hylians both had pointed ears. She was talking to a flower merchant, and obviously getting on very well; the man who ran the stall pulled the most delicate and brightly colored of his flowers out of an arrangement and gave it to her. “But there is only one, Impa. What do you mean ‘they’?”
“There are more. She is their decoy. So long as she is the brightest thing in the crowd, the rest cannot be seen for what they are…” Impa guided the princess into an alley and ducked behind two barrels. “There, do you see?” she said, keeping her voice low. “The figure wearing the tattered brown cloth next to the corner stall; she is pretending the beggar with her bowl and picking the people’s pockets as they pass. And there, behind the cloth merchant—one is helping herself to Freya’s silks. A shame,” Impa added, noticing the pattern of the cloth. “I had my eye on that silk.”
Zelda saw the figures Impa had described, but she had not realized they were there until Impa had pointed them out. “But the beggar’s ears are pointed…” she contended.
“The Gerudo thieves are capable of many things, not the least of which is costume deception,” replied Impa. “The ears are fakes.”
Zelda had never thought of trying so hard to be something she was not—and so that she could steal from people, no less. “They should be stopped,” said Zelda, incredulously. “They should be punished.”
“And how would you stop them, young one? They would claim they were about their own business and make you the fool. No, child, there is no time for foolishness, today. Come,” she said, and continued down the alley until she came to the junction of another backstreet. Assuring there were no more thieves about, Impa escorted the princess out into the street. The buildings on either side loomed high over their heads; the shops and apartments intermingled with one another. Rarely a larger edifice would stand on its own, but it would be closely flanked on both sides. There were few places for enemies to hide, but enough to keep Impa from slowing down. The mid-day sun winked through wisps of cloud.
In minutes they reached a humble building with a sign that bore an image of a mortar and pestle, and next to it was the image of a bottle with liquid in it. Standing outside were the Darknaughts; the king’s four bodyguards. They did not hinder Impa or Zelda.
Impa knelt beside the princess outside the door. “The doctor is working, now, so you must not distract him. Only speak to your father, but do not tax him. They still are not certain what manner of sickness this might be.”
Zelda wondered what had happened to her father. He had seemed fine the day before last when she tried to tell him about her dream. She hadn’t really spoken to him since then, except to say goodnight to him when he came to her room, as he did every night.
They entered the doctor’s office; a relatively clean, if sparsely furnished, room. It had four or five divisions with plush mattresses on the floor for the patients and sitting pillows for the visitors. When Impa and Zelda entered the doctor poked his venerable head out from one of the divisions to see who it was. His large glasses made him seem to have eyes that were far too big for his head.
“What now!?” the doctor grumbled. Then he noticed who it was. “Oh, yes, I’ve just finished with him for now. I’ll attend to my other patient…but I must have more time with him. Very difficult, very difficult…” He waggled his head as he shuffled to the other side of the room where he kept his instruments behind one of the partitions. Zelda passed the first division, which was empty. In the second lay her father. He had been stripped of his usual kingly attire, instead wearing a long cotton nightshirt. Three layers of blankets had been pulled up to his belly. He was pale, and his head lolled back and forth. He was mumbling.
“…never should have let him in…”
“Daddy?” said Zelda, sitting on one of the pillows next to her father. Impa stood by. “Daddy, how do you feel?”
“Hmm?” said the king, looking at his daughter with wayward eyes. “How do I…? Here, let me…” The king tried to sit up, but looked to be having difficulty.
“No, Daddy, don’t; you’re sick.” She gently held her father in place. Then she took one of the sitting pillows and propped his head with it. “Are you any better?”
“Yes, my love, thank you,” he said, closing his eyes dully. “I’m just a little sick, that’s all.” Impa could hear the doctor administering to the patient in the next division. She heard the soft clinking of glass bottles and the doctor mumbled something about “…all of it, yes…”
“Daddy, we took Link to the ranch yesterday. I saw Malon.”
“Oh, good…yes, how is the ranch?” His speech was slurred.
Zelda looked at her father with concern. “Malon wants to show me what she can do with Hossel. She said…” Little pools welled in her eyes. “Daddy, are you going to get better?” Impa heard the female patient groan and then say “…fine…” and then “…take it with me…”
“I’ll do my best, darling…” mumbled the king. “I know I didn’t get to say goodnight to you last night…” When Impa heard this, her eyes flew to the king.
“What do you mean, Daddy? You came in and said goodnight. You always do…” Then Impa sprang to the next partition, eyes wide. Laying there on the mattress was a Hylian woman wearing one of the doctor’s nightshirts. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She was arguing with the doctor in a low voice.
“No, I can just take it with me. I’m fine old man, now shush…” But then she noticed Impa watching her. “What do you want? Can’t a person get a little privacy?”
Impa did not look away from the woman as she spoke. “Doctor, how many patients have you seen since the king was admitted?”
The doctor released his grip on the small vial of red liquid in his hand. The woman held it where it was. “Oh, a steady stream, I’d say. There must be something going around…”
“How many of them have been female?”
“Oh, I don’t know…quite a few, I suppose. Here, now, what’s this about? I’m very busy.”
“Doctor, I wonder if there isn’t something you need to attend to in your study…some paperwork, perhaps.” Impa still stared at the woman. The woman calmly met her gaze.
“Not that I know of, young lady. See here, I’m very busy with my patients, I think it’s time that you left, anyhow…” The Hylian woman stretched and placed her hands behind her head.
“Impa, what’s going on?” asked Zelda. She had joined her nursemaid by the partition. Then, just when she thought Impa wasn’t looking, the Hylian woman slipped the vial of red liquid into her hair just behind her ponytail. Impa noticed, but did not let on.
“Finished visiting, have you? Good. I’ll get back to work, then. Difficult, very difficult…” The doctor shambled out of the space and in to the one next to it to see to the king again.
“I think I might be able to lighten your workload, doctor. One of your patients is about to check out.” And without warning Impa leapt upon the Hylian woman—in moments the Hylian woman’s hands were pinned beneath Impa’s knees. Then Impa had her hidden long-knife out of its sheath and at the woman’s neck. Zelda gasped and hid herself behind the partition. “Why was Ganondorf posing as the king of Hyrule last night?” Impa hissed. “Speak!”
The doctor thrust his head out from behind the partition. “See here, what’s this all about?” he said in an agitated squeal. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“You haven’t been treating patients this morning, doctor,” Impa said, never taking her eyes off her captive. “You’ve been entertaining spies…hasn’t he!?” she roared in the Hylian woman’s face.
The woman’s expression was one of loathing and disdain, but she did not speak. The doctor was aghast.
“Your ‘patients’ have been Gerudo thieves. And they have been eavesdropping on your work, maintaining the king’s poor health while your back was turned. Tell me, traitor,” Impa said, addressing the woman, “what poison your Lord Ganondorf administered to the king and I will let you live long enough to tell me why he was in the princess’ room last night impersonating His Majesty.” Her knife indented the flesh of the woman’s neck.
“Now, ladies, let’s just be calm,” the doctor said, shaking with adrenaline. “If my patients were Gerudo thieves, why have they all resembled Hylians?”
“She’s no Hylian,” hissed Impa. “Her deceit disgraces the noble Hylia.” And with her free hand Impa pulled away what looked to Zelda to be two ears made of a flexible wax. As they came off the woman winced and her round ears were exposed. Both Zelda and the doctor gasped.
“Now talk,” said Impa, “or I’ll send you back to the desert without a tongue.” The woman was breathing heavily, but she did not move or speak. Impa pressed her weapon into the woman’s neck, threatening.
Then, the woman’s eyes flickered only marginally to one side. It was enough to warn Impa, however, who lay back, avoiding the swipe of a scimitar as it tore through the partition next to her. The king was still delirious on Impa’s other side. The doctor yelped, running out of his office screaming hysterically.
“Zelda, protect your father!” Impa yelled. Zelda obeyed, kneeling at the side of her father’s mattress, muttering words in an ancient language, and suddenly a prism of blue light surrounded the princess and the king.
Impa brought her head up and back down again on the forehead of her captive, knocking the Gerudo unconscious. The scimitar swiped through the partition at another angle, narrowly missing Impa’s shoulder. She rolled with the swing of the sword and pulled three small objects from her girdle, tossing them over the partition at her attacker. There were three white flashes and a female cry from behind the partition. Impa took advantage of the moment to roll backward and get to her feet. Just then the partition shattered with a final, haphazard swipe of the scimitar, splinters and debris covering the body of the unconscious Gerudo ‘patient.’
For the first time Impa saw the wielder of the curved blade. She was dressed in dark, tight-fitting clothing, her red hair pulled back into a ponytail, a dark veil covering her face. “How did you get past the king’s guard, traitor?” Impa hissed.
“It wasn’t difficult. They are naught but suits of armor. The true ‘Darknaughts’, as the Hylians say, are asleep in the dungeons; drugged. And before you speak of traitors, Sheikah wench, you should know your own.”
Impa was poised, considering her opponent. She knew the thief was stalling until she could regain her full eyesight. “Speak plainly, vagabond! Spit your venom.” Impa challenged. She brandished her long-knife. The king of Hyrule lay still on his mattress. Zelda watched her nursemaid from behind the protective prism.
“We Gerudo may have betrayed the pontificating coward to whom our king swore allegiance,” said the desert-thief, “but your people betrayed their own Master. Poor Mudora; killed by his own servant.”
The words hit Impa like a hammer to an anvil. The woman was trying to catch her off guard. “Lies,” she challenged again. “Who among the Sheikah would betray their own Master?”
“Do you not know, Impa of the Sheikah?” Impa was astonished to find that this thief knew her name. The Gerudo woman stepped slowly and deliberately toward the Sheikah nursemaid, who was poised and tense. “Yes, nursemaid, I know you. I know how you loved Mudora as your own father. I know how you would sneak away glances of his writings, even though you knew you were not allowed. I know how your curiosity got you sent away to be a brat’s nursemaid. I know how you hated your brother for becoming Mudora’s servant. I know how you resented him for being favored more than you. Oh, yes, Impa. It was your brother who killed Mudora. You should be more careful who you call traitor when you have one in the family…” She was standing very close to Impa, now. Her sword was at her side; passive. Impa’s knife came up to the Gerudo’s neck.
Impa knew she was in a very dangerous position, but she wanted the Gerudo woman to keep talking. “How…how do you know this?” she asked, steeling herself, reinforcing her will to not allow this thief to take advantage of her. “My brother has been missing for over ten years.”
The Gerudo woman leaned forward, her eyes meeting Impa’s. She whispered: “because I have known him these past ten years…”
Indignation! The shame she suggested! A furious anger rose inside Impa’s throat, almost breaking her will to control it. Impa would have slit the Gerudo’s neck if a Hylian soldier did not open the door at that very moment. Then there was a flash of white and when Impa turned the Dark Gerudo was gone.
“Mistress Impa!” said the soldier, saluting. “The doctor alerted us. Where is the disturbance?” Other soldiers were filing in behind the first.
Impa ignored him entirely. “Zelda, come. We must leave. Now!”
“But my father…” she protested. The protective prism vanished.
Impa turned to the first soldier. “Detain and gag the woman. You will guard the king at all costs. None are to enter unless you are given orders to the contrary by the Captain of the Royal Guard himself. You are now the ‘castle walls.’ If the king fails, Hyrule fails. You,” said Impa, addressing the last soldier, “find the Captain. Tell him Gerudo thieves are seizing the town and soon they will arrive at the castle. Go. Now!” The soldier bowed, turned and was gone. “Come, child. We’ve no time. Come!” she said, grabbing Zelda by the hand.
* * *
Impa led Zelda through every backstreet she knew, always wending toward the castle. Around them there were sounds of pandemonium. From down the side-streets the merchants of the market could be heard hollering to each other in dismay. Faintly, Zelda could hear the singing of steel on steel and Hylian voices shouting orders. "What's going on, Impa?" Zelda asked her hurried nursemaid, but Impa was steel-faced and resolute, and she did not answer.
In what seemed like moments, they reached the main courtyard of the town. Soldiers were filing out of the north gate in dozens. They jogged toward the southern entrance to the city, their spears in hand. People emerged from the shops in alarm to see what the commotion was about. "Stay calm," Zelda could hear one of the soldiers say. "Just return to your homes. Leave this to us..." Quickly, while everyine else's attention was directed elsewhere, Impa led Zelda in through the north gate of the town.
"He is drawing them away from the castle..." said Impa, as if to herself.
"Who is, Impa?" Zelda asked, still alarmed by her nursemaid's haste and relative silence. Only when they came into view of the main castle gate did she speak.
Impa gasped. "He is leaving us defenseless..." she muttered. Impa took them past the empty post of the gate guard around the extreme perimeter of the castle to one of the castle's few hidden back entrances, near the waterway surrounding the castle. Zelda stopped, out of breath.
“Impa, what are we doing?!” she said, leaning against the stone wall next to the hidden entrance. It was concealed by a mat of vines. Impa scanned the perimeter and drew the vines away from the wall. “Impa, what’s going on!?”
“Do not speak, child. Follow me, now.” Impa ducked inside. Zelda threw up her hands and followed her nursemaid, letting the vines drop behind her.
Impa led her up staircases, inside low horizontal shafts, and through the narrow spaces between walls. Zelda could not tell where they were going, but in moments she recognized the hallway that led to her bedroom through a thin break in the wall. Impa pushed against the wall and it opened like a door. They stepped out into the hallway, Impa always scanning the area ahead.
“What are we doing, Impa…?” Zelda whispered.
Impa silenced the princess with a finger to her lips. She made the signal for intruder using the hand signs the Sheikah had taught none but the Royal Family and the Knights of Hyrule. “There is someone in your bedroom,” Impa explained, still using the hand signs.
Impa’s communication was confirmed when Zelda heard the sounds of shifting furniture coming from her room, two doors away. The candles on the walls were unlit, the only light coming from the windows inside Zelda’s bedroom. A square of dim daylight spilled into the hallway from the open door.
As the two crept toward the door, the sounds coming from the bedroom became louder. There was a poof! as of the sound of pillows being thrown, the clinking of trinkets, the sliding of drawers. Then Impa edged one eye around the corner. There, black against the light from the window, was the figure of a man with round ears. The figure suddenly froze. Impa quickly drew back from the door, and then she saw the shadow of the man lengthen across the floor of the hallway, stopping short of revealing the man from which it was cast.
Impa held Zelda tightly in her arms, pressing her hand over the princess’ mouth. Zelda was wide-eyed and frantic. Seconds seemed like minutes, but the shadow did not move even the least. Then the light coming from the window darkened and the shadow vanished as the world went black. Immediately Impa was around the doorframe with her knife drawn, ready to attack. But there was no one there. The window was open, the open curtains blowing languidly in the breeze. And outside the window was darkness—an unnatural night claiming the sky hours before it was due. Not even the stars could be seen. This was powerful magic.
Zelda's scream came from the hallway. Too late, Impa rushed into the hallway, lighting a small globe of fire before her to shed light where she went…but nothing. The princess was gone. Then Zelda screamed again, the sound quickly diminishing, as if she were falling. Impa ran to catch the sound.
The nursemaid rushed to the staircase leading to the lower floors. Far below she saw the form of the black man as he landed on the marble floor three flights down, apparently unharmed. The princess was in his clutches.
Bypassing the steps entirely, Impa leaped from the railing out to the chandelier. The stairs spiraled down below her in ever tightening circles. Impa acted quickly, pulling her body up into a ball, and then releasing her grip on the chandelier. She fell two stories and then disappeared in a puff of thin gray smoke, reappearing on the ground floor supported by three limbs. When the globe of fire caught up to her she snuffed it out; the way was already illuminated by small green globes of light.
The princess had left her a trail.
* * *
The Sages of Hyrule were gathered in the Inner Sanctum of the Temple. The stained-glass windows glowed dully in the cloudy late-afternoon. “Are we clear, then?” said Zethra.
“Only if Aako can do as he says,” growled Gor Darmon.
“Can,” said Aako confidently.
“Will you have enough time to do as Impa requested, Rauru?” asked Lutai.
“We shall see,” said Rauru, “if the Goddess of Time will smile down on us.”
Just then the Captain burst through the doors of the Inner Sanctum. “Ganondorf has made his move,” he said, nearly out of breath. “The thieves are attacking the town. He could invade the Temple at any moment.” At that moment the windows darkened, overcast with unnatural night.
The Sages stood up from their chairs. “Places, everyone,” said Rauru. “May Din preserve us.”
* * *
Link and Malon looked north over Hyrule field. The sky had become unnaturally dark as they were riding around the borders of the ranch. Link halted Epona, Malon held her foal still.
“What d’you reckon that is?” said Malon, incredulous.
“A storm?” suggested Link, playing dumb. “I may have to go to Zora’s Domain tomorrow, instead.”
“That don’t look like a storm t’me,” she responded. “We best git back inside.”
And they turned their horses around, riding at a full gallop toward the ranch.
* * *
The trail of green light had led Impa to the stables. There was no other exit, which meant that the princess had to be inside. But where was the Gerudo lord?
Suddenly a flash of purple crackled past Impa’s head and exploded somewhere behind her. It came from somewhere in the rafters. A dark voice called out from inside the stable: “Come down, little princess, and I promise I won’t hurt you…just tell me where you hid the instrument.”
“No!” came Zelda voice. A ball of red flame sprang to life before her, illuminating her face and body. She was standing on one of the crossbeams, surrounded by a blue prism. Then Zelda threw the ball of fire toward one of the stalls. Instead of exploding, the fire dissipated, but not before giving Impa a glimpse of the man; it was the Gerudo lord. “You hurt Brynn!” Zelda cried.
“I did nothing, brat,” replied the Gerudo man. “Your horse was too stupid to move out of my way.”
“She was protecting me!”
“She was foolish to test me…much like you. Now tell me where the instrument is hidden!” and he threw another crackling bolt of purple. Like the first it ricocheted off the blue prism and flew away, past Impa. The prism fluctuated, weakening. “Does the protection of your Goddess wane? It seems she does not love you as much as you thought,” sneered the man.
Impa crept to one side of the stables, climbing the edge of the horse’s pens. The horses were spooked, stamping and chomping their teeth nervously. Impa took advantage of the noise to hide her approach. She was close to the Gerudo lord; very close, now. He was sitting on a dark horse, the stall open. In the next stall over was Brynn, obviously dazed, tossing languidly in the hay of her pen. In a moment Impa would have her knife to the Gerudo lord’s his neck, and then…
But the Gerudo lord acted first. A flash of purple hit the beam on which the princess was standing and Impa watched as the beam shattered, Zelda teetered, lost her footing, and fell. In that same moment Impa jumped on the Lord of the Gerudo and planted her feet firmly on his shoulders, pushing herself toward the princess. The Gerudo man was thrown back, off his horse. Impa flew forward, catching Zelda in the air. Then they both disappeared with a puff!
Once the Gerudo lord recovered, he looked around rapidly. Then he froze. “Come out, nursemaid!” he said, mocking. “Show yourself!” When there was no response, he led his dark steed forward a few paces. “Tell me, nursemaid. Do you wish to see your brother again? He is here, you know…in the town. You may see him if you like…if you will join him as my servant. At least you would not be the first traitor in your family…”
And with this a ball of red fire leapt out from the darkness of Asphodel’s pen, striking the Gerudo lord in the face.
“I would never serve you, cursed interloper!” cried Impa. “Return to your false Gods!” The door to Asphodel’s pen flew open, and the white steed galloped out of the stables. In moments, the Gerudo lord recovered and was on his dark horse, pursuing the princess and her nursemaid through the streets.