The Lengthening Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter V: Trap in the Temple

Within the Temple of Time, things appeared exactly as they had before. The Door of Time was sealed, the altar before it bore three vacant hollows, and the deep-throated chanting of solemn monks wafted from the cloisters like incense. The common pilgrim would never know the difference, but one who happened to ponder a little longer than usual on the paintings in the side-chapels would have noticed the addition of five new portraits. Such a parishioner might wonder why the Captain of the Royal Guard and four of the Sages had been added to the icons of the Goddesses.

Due to a clever enchantment performed by Aako, the paintings had temporarily accepted their new occupants as readily as new paint. Gor Darmon was rolled up next to a dynamic likeness of Din, who was sculpting the mountains with bare, slender arms. Aako was perched on one of the lower branches of a great tree before which Faroe stood with arms stretched upward. Lutai now reclined on the fore-step of a throne upon which Nayru sat, straight and beautiful, her gown flowing from her knees like water. Zethra and the captain bowed like attendants on either side of a gray-draped figure holding a white sphere. Rauru held his position in the cloisters, prepared to give the signal at the proper moment; Link’s other self had to be sealed away in the Sacred Realm before the trap could be sprung.

The unnatural night had fallen thick on Castle Town. Most denizens of the town, perplexed by the premature twilight, quickly finished their business and shuffled away from the markets. More curious souls lurked in the alleys near the town’s central courtyard to see if the dark Gerudo man might appear; a sight which was as rare to them as seeing the Goddesses themselves. When it seemed nothing was going to happen, even those few who remained began to disperse; until the air suddenly charged like the onset of a fierce thunderstorm. Dogs began to howl at invisible enemies; cats haunting the streets jumped as the clack of distant hooves startled them, interrupting their nocturnal prowling. The night’s events had begun.

The report of horseshoes on cobblestones echoed past the Temple. Then, moments later, another set of hooves followed. It would not be long now. Link’s other self would be just outside the town walls. The portraits of the Sages waited quietly, anxiety brooding in the dimness of the side-chapels as they watched the nave intently for the boy to enter. Then, the clank of the bolt, the creak of the great hinges as the door swung open. And there, wearing damp green clothes and standing in a pool of water, was the Hero.

The boy moved quickly. He crossed the circular seal of the Sage of Light set into the floor, his boots falling quietly on the thick plush red carpet leading to the altar. Once he reached the altar he scooped from the leather bag at his side three medium-sized gems, placing them carefully in each of the stone hollows. The boy waited only moments for each gem to settle into its steady rotation, levitating inches above the surface of the altar. The Spiritual Stones flickered in the gloomy candlelight. Then, standing precisely on the crest of the royal family embroidered on the carpet beneath his feet, the boy drew the Ocarina of Time from his bag.

The breathy alto notes of the instrument echoed across the nave and into the side-chapels as Link played the melody that would unlock the Door of Time. The ghostly bass of monastic voices repeated the solemn strain from behind the cloisters. Rauru listened as the giant stone slab lifted from its resting position, grinding grayly as it opened what he had closed over ten years ago. This was necessary, he told himself. They could not capture the man who would become the King of Evil with no bait. Still, if something should go wrong…he could not bear to think of what it might mean. Were they letting the Gerudo Lord in without cause, handing the kingdom over while the Sages of Hyrule hid in the shadows, while he, Rauru, stood by and let him do it? But he convinced himself there would be time to consider these questions.

Link returned the Ocarina to his bag, and circumvented the altar. Zethra watched from her hiding-place until the Door of Time was high enough and Link crept into the darkness of the stairway.

“Captain,” whispered Zethra from within the painting, “I do not know whether we shall survive this. Our fates may yet be sealed.”

“I shall protect you until the last, my queen,” the captain murmured. “If one of us is to die, I pray Din take me. If both, Nayru keep us, but I shall go first.”

“Yes, but if Din should take me alone, I would tell you that…”

The captain cut her off sharply, “I would fall upon my sword, for dishonor. Din forbid!”

“Captain, stay your duty for one moment! The boy is…”

But she did not finish, for the sound of the temple doors opening further silenced her. In moments, the figure of a tall man in black leather armor came into sight. From his shoulders hung a tattered cloth cape. This was the King of Evil, Colin thought, and within him there rose contempt for the man. Colin knew what the man had done, the crimes he had caused to be committed, but he had never before seen him. If he had ever thought about it previously, it was nothing like the actuality of the sinister black figure before him. Now that he could see the Lord Ganondorf he could put a half-lit face to the crimes, and almost more than anything he wanted to punish the man.

Ganondorf paused, peering around him in the dark. All was silence; the monks had even ceased their evening prayers. Then Ganondorf raised one black fist. What was he doing? Huddling close to one another, two more black figures passed the chapels to join their master; one masculine, one feminine. They had reached the bottom of the staircase as silent as breath and crossed the nave without so much as brushing a toe against the carpet. For all Colin knew they might have been ghosts.

Colin addressed his queen, daring speech as mutedly as he could manage. “Majesty there should not be three, the boy told us one...”

“Captain, hush!” Zethra cautioned. But it was too late; the female figure turned to look their direction. Like the others she was darkly garbed, but at her waist hung a scimitar. Zethra and Colin froze in place. The thieves were so still, their bodies poised to react; it seemed to Colin that they could have been statues. Statues staring at paintings, he mused, each daring the other to blink. But then the female stepped forward on silent toes, peering into the side chapel, past the hazy smoke of the candelabrum. In a moment Colin and Zethra would be discovered. All was lost, their trap ruined. The muscles of Colin’s arm tensed as his mind reached out to his sword hilt, ready to draw it in a moment. But then the Gerudo Lord hissed almost inaudibly to his thieves and signed something. Quickly, Ganondorf bounded to the entrance of the Sanctuary and the other two took up positions on either side of the archway that, minutes before, had been the sealed Door of Time.

Once the thieves were past the side-chapels, silent sighs of relief came from the paintings within. The Sages and the captain crept from their hiding places, silently pushing out of the paintings as from pools of thickened water. They emerged clean and unruffled; as if they had not been composed of pigment on canvas moments before. From where Zethra stood, behind the column adjoining the chapel, she could see the Dark Lord enter the stairwell leading up to the Sanctuary.

After a moment, a spitting and crackling of large amounts of energy could be heard throughout the temple. Golden light poured from the Sanctuary increasing the brightness of the nave ten times over. For a moment a sting of fear ran through the Sages; the thieves would see them in this much light! But then a horrific red laugh was heard over the crackling. Immediately following it was the clang of metal on stone. Far above the nave, in the high tower cresting the Temple of Time, Rauru sounded the bells of the carillon in their tremulous announcement: the Sanctuary had been penetrated by evil. The thieves responded immediately, abandoning their posts and bounding up the staircase.

The Sages animated, reacting to the clang of the bells, the signal that Link had been transported to the Sacred Realm. Throwing stealth to the wind, Gor Darmon bent over and, in a moment, had rolled across the nave, spitting chips of marble from under his hard, stony Goron back. He was up the stairway in another moment. Lutai dropped to one knee and let Aako throw his green-clad arms around her finned shoulders before she bounded towards the staircase on flippered feet, Aako’s small child form swaying lightly on her back. Zethra was the last to climb the staircase, preceded by her dutiful guard.

* * *

Past the ranch and halfway across the fields of Hyrule, Impa heard the peal of the warning bells, halted the horse in its flight, turned, and sped back from where they had come; back toward Hyrule’s Castle Town; back to the Temple of Time.

From within the cradle of Impa’s toned white arms, Zelda gazed at the city she loved and was duty-bound to serve. Far in the distance it should have twinkled like a cluster of stars, if it were not overshadowed by a cloud just blacker than the velvet night. She wondered in her child’s heart whether she might ever see it whole again, as she did now; the pristine castle with her noble ramparts, proud towers and graceful buttresses; the town spread out below, full of honest, good people who served the Goddesses. The scene blurred as a fog of tears welled in her eyes. Now there was, within the most sacred of places, an evil that would mercilessly extinguish all of those lives. And she had given it admittance. By delivering the Ocarina of Time to Link, she had given her people over to that evil. As Asphodel galloped under the thick, unnatural night, a sick feeling rooted itself in Zelda’s stomach. She had betrayed her people. What selfish acts, she thought, might yet defame the house of Hyrule?

Impa and Zelda arrived at Lon Lon Ranch a short time after hearing the bells toll from above the temple. Malon opened the gate for them. Impa addressed Malon directly:

“A fresh horse,” Impa said as she dismounted, nearly out of breath. She was much better off than Asphodel, whose mouth was flecked with foam. “And food and a bed for Zelda. It has been a hard journey for her. You will be paid handsomely for your trouble when I return for the horse and collect the princess.”

Talon removed his tasseled night-cap, exposing his shiny head brimmed with thin dark hair. “You know that girl’s been like part of our family since she was a young’in, ma’am. ‘Tain’t no trouble mindin’ her till you git back.”

“I thank you,” Impa replied. “I simply did not want to expect.”

Zelda’s head was resting on the horse’s damp neck. She blinked the dryness from her eyes and stretched, yawning. Seeing Malon she waved dazedly with one outstretched hand. Hey, Mal,” she said through her yawn.

Malon smiled. “Hey, Zelly,” she replied.

Then Zelda realized Link was not with them. “Where’s Link?” she asked. Impa stared at her intently, willing her not to say more.

Malon looked at her friend with confusion, then fear. “He said he was going to make sure you were alright…did he…did you see him?”

Zelda berated herself for almost giving away the ruse. “Yes,” she said, honestly, turning to her nursemaid. “Yes, we saw him…”

Talon sniffed, brushing a finger across his bulbous nose and smoothing out his bushy black mustache. “Go on, now, Mal. Brush up Dezzi—she’s our faster,” he said, shooing his daughter along. Malon glanced at her friend apologetically before she ran toward the stables still wearing her long night-shirt, her ginger braid swinging behind her.

Talon bobbed on the balls of his feet, rocking to his heels. “I, uh, don’t suppose y’all know what’s happ’nin’ up at town? I been hearin’ gossip o’ things right fierce, what about a dark man goin’ ‘round cursin’ folk and such. I jes didn’t wanna scare Mal, see.” Though it was clear he was more than a little frightened himself, Impa did not press him.

“The rumors of a dark man are true, Master Rancher, and the man is dangerous, though it is no use imagining more to fear than what one knows for certain. In brevity I cannot tell you enough to quell your fears nor assure your heart. If you see him, avoid him. If all goes well tonight, for certain we shall all have less to fear.”

Malon returned, leading a grayish-blue mare with white hair. The horse was saddled and ready, gnawing on the bit between her teeth.

“Thank you, child,” said Impa. “Now I will take my leave. If something should happen and you do not hear from me this time tomorrow night, you must flee to the south and take Zelda with you. Asphodel is strong, and can run swiftly at need after he is rested. Take nothing you will not need for a long journey. Otherwise I shall return for the princess tomorrow before the sun reaches its height in the sky.” All of this she said while she transferred some small items from Asphodel’s pack to Dezzi’s, and then she mounted.

Suddenly, Zelda realized what her nursemaid had said and why Impa had not offered to help her into Dezzi’s saddle. “I’m not to come with you?” she said, looking as if her nursemaid had suggested they surrender the castle.

“No, child, it is a threat too great for you. You would be helpless.”

“Helpless!?” Zelda said, incredulous. “Have I not mastered all of the magic you have taught me? Did I not prove myself against…”

Impa cut her off tersely. “I have no time to counsel with you on the matter, Majesty,” she said, pulling Dezzi around to face north. “You are my charge, and where I go I may not be able to protect you. If I do not return, go with the rancher. It is decided. I must away.” Without further argument, Impa urged the blue horse into a quick gallop and was off, heading northward.

“What about ‘you must never separate yourself…’” Zelda cried after her, but Impa paid her no heed and in moments she was far away. “Impa!” Zelda shrieked. She set her jaw as she wrung Asphodel’s reins in her hands, watching her nursemaid ride away without her. Talon shifted his glance between the fuming princess and the diminishing rider, unsure as to what might be appropriate to say. Malon’s eyes showed her concern for Zelda. Asphodel nickered, shifting his hooves in the dirt.

Talon twisted his hat like a dishcloth as he did his best impression of a bartender. “Well, lil’ missy, I’m supposin’ you’d like a bed,” he began, “but firs’ let’s gitcha a little what fer t’eat.”

Zelda cut across him brusquely. “Get me a horse,” she said.

Talon looked like he had been frozen in the middle of recommending the apple pie. His bushy black eyebrows knitted together, looking very much like a second mustache. “But, your Majesty,” he said, unsure of how much deference to show at the moment, “it’s been…”

“Am I the daughter of your queen?” she asked, looking him in the eyes, stern, but not unkind.

“Yes, Majesty,” he said, his resistance straining between propriety and what he might do if it was his daughter.

“Then I need a horse,” she said simply, “and a fast one. Mal, get me Hossel. It’s time you showed me what he can do.”

“And how!” Malon nodded, becoming animated. “He’s even faster now!” And her red braid whipped as she ran to the stables.

* * *

Ganondorf’s cold black eyes sparkled like gluttonous obsidian as he stared into the open gateway to the Golden Realm. The walls of the large hexagonal room were infused with the burning, penetrating light of the gate; a mass of churning energy, spinning and looping in and out of itself. The mass occupied the space where stained-glass should have been, framed by the huge peaked window in the rear wall of the Sanctuary. The window’s sill was higher than a man’s reach, but for three skilled thieves it was an achievable goal. The thieves stood mesmerized.

A twitch of pleasure passed over Ganondorf’s grimace of a face. The Triforce was just beyond that mass of churning light. His objective was nearly achieved. Just beyond that window was the source of all power. He imagined taking the Golden Triangle in his hands, and then…Power, he would wish for; dominion over all of Hyrule. Yet, in his reverie he was not without prudence.

“Asera, you will go first, then Abrum. I will follow,” Ganondorf said, his words pulling his thieves from their trance.

His female thief blinked. “Yes, Lord,” she said compliantly, gripping the handle of the scimitar at her waist a little more tightly. She glanced furtively at her male cohort. “Shall we?” she said, turning toward the gate.

“I follow,” said Abrum. His blond-white brows knitted together with suspicion, his red eyes always on his thief master. The lobes of his pointed ears bore small metal hoops. Like his female counterpart, he was dressed in black but he was also equipped with studded fighting gloves. Ganondorf stood with his boots planted, watching until he was obeyed.

Then, almost inaudible in the crackling of the open gateway, there began a rumbling like a minor earthquake. Ganondorf glanced at the sword lying at his feet, now at an angle to the pedestal that had held it upright only minutes before. The blade began to jump angrily on the stone floor of the sanctuary. Ganondorf marveled. Could the boy have…? But his thought did not mature, for the earthquake arrived in the stairway. Ganondorf turned like a startled cat, sweeping his cape to the side. There he saw what resembled a medium-sized boulder rolling the wrong way, up the stairs and into the Sanctuary. The boulder unfolded and became Gor Darmon.

“Stop!” Gor Darmon growled in his gravelly voice.

Ganondorf and his two thieves reacted simultaneously, throwing bolts of magic from their hands, but none of them struck; Gor Darmon had already bent over again and rolled around the room with the proficiency of a well-practiced racer. He unfolded again on the opposite side, in front of the gate.

Bolts of magic flew through the Sanctuary like electric bats, swerving toward their target, but never fast enough to catch the Goron champion. Gor Darmon bent over again and in moments was rebounding from one wall to another, passing the trio once, twice, three times; each time coming closer to bowling them down like skittles. Finally, Ganondorf pounded the floor with his fist, and a purple flash threw Gor Darmon into the air. As the Goron unfolded mid-flight, a coil of purple electricity leaped out of Abrum’s hand and struck Gor Darmon’s soft underbelly. There was another purple flash and the Goron was thrust against a column, offsetting three of its cylindrical blocks. Darmon fell to the ground, his left leg turning at an unnatural angle and snapping with a resounding crack. Ganondorf, Asera and Abrum advanced on him, his head and torso tilting weakly to one side.

“Too tired to fight back?” Abrum taunted. “Or should we keep playing?”

“You were never like this,” said Gor Darmon, still tilting. “Come back, brother…don’t…”

But Abrum didn’t wait for him to finish. Instead he turned to one side and planted his shoulder into Gor Darmon’s dazed face. The Goron’s head smacked the wall with a crunch and he slumped over, motionless. “I am no brother of yours,” said Abrum.

From the top of the staircase came a strong female voice: “Leave him be!”

Ganondorf turned for the second time, cat-like, his cape sweeping. Leaving the rock-like heap of Gor Darmon to his thieves, he faced his new challenger. There, under the archway of the staircase stood Lutai, poised to fight, brandishing a pair of blade-like arm fins.

“What is this?” Ganondorf sneered. “More who would interrupt fate? Do you pretend to control the Gods because you have not control of your own people?” He circled her slowly, like a stalking lion. She circled with him, keeping her distance, never flinching. “Do you set up yourselves as stewards of the Golden Land because you have conceded the rule of your own lands to the sniveling Hylian king? Do you, who are so weak, who pretend to control the waters of Hyrule, also seek the Power of Gold; that which is greater than you? Do you intend to keep one who is worthy from claiming the Golden Power, as it was meant to be?”

“Do you intend to take possession of that which was never yours?” Lutai rebutted. “The Gods never gave the Triforce to you, Ganondorf Dragmire, King of the Enchanted Thieves. The Golden Power is too great for any of the mortal races to bear. It is a gift to us all, though given to none.”

“Petty words from one too weak to take what the Gods have given!” he challenged.

“We accept the gifts given to us; we do not take for ourselves what was never ours. We give of what we have that all may drink of the water of the Gods.”

“Water cannot be squeezed from stones! Ignorant hypocrite!” Ganondorf bellowed, halting, the veins of his forehead protruding, the muscles of his thick neck pulsing in the churning golden light. “The Gods deal my people thirst, and we suffer; do you give them to drink? They deal my people impotence, and we suffer; do you give them sons to bear? They deal my people death on the wind: heat by day, cold by night! But you know nothing of thirst, or barrenness, or death, do you? Do you?!”

Lutai stopped, her voice becoming quieter. “I know how my sister perished at the hands of a band of female thieves. I know how your thieves sought to have her betray the secrets of the Sapphire’s hiding place, though she would not yield them. I know how you murdered her before me and swore you would return for the rest of my house if I ever spoke of it to anyone. You played on my love, and I have been silent too long! Yes, Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo, I know of death.”

“Not enough,” he said. And the next moment Lutai’s left hand was pulled behind her head and a short blade was pressed to her gilled neck, forcing her to her toes.

From behind Lutai a female voice spoke. “Loosen up, lovely, or you’ll be breathing blood.” Lutai’s fins relaxed and hung loose from her elbows. “Shall I dispatch her, Lord?” the voice said.

“No, Asera,” Ganondorf responded. “But wound her, and let her watch as the other dies first, that she may be properly instructed.”

But then something whizzed past Lutai’s head and Asera’s grip loosened enough for Lutai to struggle free. Lutai seized her chance and twirled in place, catching Asera’s wrist and spinning her around so that they faced each other. Lutai had Asera’s hand clamped against the small of the theif’s back while Asera’s other arm was pinned at her side. The dark woman inhaled through her teeth as Lutai’s blade-like fin pressed against her throat dangerously.

The Captain emerged at the top of the stairs, nocking another arrow to his bow and aiming it at Ganondorf’s heart. Next to the Captain was Aako, arms crossed in defiance, and behind him was Zethra, standing regally on the stairs. The captain drew back his bow, still aimed at the Gerudo King.

Zethra spoke clearly, and with authority. “You are in violation of your oath of allegiance, Ganondorf of the Enchanted Thieves. Stand down and call off your siege.”

Ganondorf laughed his red laugh and sneered. “Or what? What will you do to me; a naïve weakling of a woman? Any of my thieves could kill you before you detected them…”

“None but you will die here except I die before them,” barked the captian.

“Foolish boy,” Ganondorf said, mocking. “Your wishes are so selfless. Perhaps I should grant them to you.” And reaching out with one hand toward the captain, Ganondorf squeezed the air. The captain’s eyes grew wide and his mouth opened, though no air escaped. Colin let his arrow fly, but Ganondorf batted it away like an annoying insect.

“Stop!” Zethra cried. She turned to her guard. “Colin,” she murmured as his eyes watered helplessly, his bow falling from his languid hands. “Colin, no!”

“No!” Lutai repeated. For a moment, her grip loosened. And in that moment, many things happened. Asera bent backward and to the side, rolling out of Lutai’s arms and flashing her short blade across Lutai’s abdomen. Abrum was thrown through the air to the other side of the hexagonal room, slamming into the wall, a recovered Gor Darmon rolling after him. Aako ran at Ganondorf furiously, raking at his legs with his hands, but was easily rebuffed when Ganondorf planted a powerful kick to his face. Aako was lifted from his small feet and thrown against the floor, just next to the stairs. Zethra fell to her knees beside Aako, wet trails on her cheeks. “Gods, save us!” she cried.

It happened quickly, but it was all the captain needed. With Ganondorf distracted by Aako, air rushed into the captain’s lungs. He pulled his shield to his right arm and drew his longsword. The queen looked up from Aako into the captain’s stern face, relieved. “Colin,” she whispered. Then Ganondorf turned and gripped in the air at the queen. Instantly, the queen was silenced. She grasped at her neck, the picture of what the captain had experienced only moments before.

To the captain, the world seemed to stop. Sounds blended around him like a flurry of so many autumn leaves. He did not see, in plain view, the forms of Gor Darmon on one leg exchanging blows with Abrum, nor Lutai and Asera on his other side grappling each other. In his mind there was only his queen, the life being squeezed from her, and the black half-man who was doing it.

“Demon!” the captain cried, and charged the Gerudo King, tears blurring the thief-lord’s face into a mask of blackness against the golden light of the open gateway.

Asera pulled herself from the flurry of combat with Lutai. “My love!” she cried. In that same instant Abrum looked up with shock and alarm. Lutai and Gor Darmon paused to watch a bolt of magic spring from Asera’s fingers and strike the captain’s shield arm. The captain feinted to one side, his shield thrust to the ground. But it was not enough to stop him.

Ganondorf narrowly dodged the captain’s blade and brought his massive elbow down on the captain’s head. Colin’s sword fell at Ganondorf’s feet. The captain crumpled to the floor beside the pedestal that once held the Blade of Evil’s Bane. Reeling from the blow to his head he saw it; the Master Sword, just out of his reach.

“Address your master properly, fool,” Ganondorf glowered, pinning the captain’s sword arm with one soft leather boot. “I am Ganondorf, Lord of Demons.” The Evil King picked up Colin’s longsword. “An impressive looking blade,” he said. “But nothing more.” He bent over the captain, raking the edge of the blade along Colin’s chin. “Would you hear my desire? To take this foul blade…and use it to blot out the light forever.” Ganondorf raised the sword over his head.

Then Colin pulled a short blade from somewhere at his waist and slashed at Ganondorf’s hamstring. The Gerudo king faltered, releasing Colin’s sword arm, and fell to one knee. The eyes of all were on the pair. The fate of the rest now relied on the triumph of either the Captain of the Royal Guard, or the King of the Enchanted Thieves.

Colin seized the moment and reached for the Master Sword; the Blade of Evil’s Bane. He brought it up just in time to parry a high attack. Ganondorf stood slowly, holding Colin’s longsword, favoring his injured leg. Colin matched his opponent, raising himself to his full height, holding the Master Sword in his hand. Then, when they met each other’s gaze, some invisible force pulled them together and it was as if they had no choice but to fall on each other with their swords.

Colin withstood the Evil King’s strength, but he could not hold his position. Ganondorf thrust him backward, causing his boots to inch nearer to the Master Sword’s pedestal. When Colin’s feet were halted by the pedestal, he started to feel his strength waning; Ganondorf was pushing him off balance. Then Ganondorf locked hilts with the Master Sword and thrust the sword away, to the ground. In that moment, Ganondorf acted.

Gripping Colin’s tunic and chain shirt in one massive leathery hand, he hauled the captain into the air. Defiant to the last, a harsh cry rattled from the captain’s lungs as he raised a fist to strike his captor. Then all at once Ganondorf barked a red laugh and the Captain of the Royal Guard burst into nothing. The laugh and harsh cry echoed off the walls like distant specters. Lutai watched as Ganondorf bore his teeth at her in a wicked grin.

Zethra’s could hardly credit what her eyes had witnessed. Changing scenarios flew through her head like winter birds, each less credible than the last, and finally her head swam with them, the captain’s cry still echoing in her ears. He must have been sent somewhere—he would be recovered, and waiting. At that moment, she had rather be mad than accept it; he was gone.

“Colin! No!!” Zethra screamed, and a golden light surrounded her body that shamed the golden gate for brightness. For a brief moment, Zethra was the picture of a Goddess herself; face wrought with righteous indignation. Ganondorf turned, blinking at this new divine body. And then the queen moved as if to topple a pillar. “By the Goddesses, you will not prevail!” she shrieked, tears streaking down her face. Then the light condensed into a column that shot from the queen’s hands and the light struck the blinded Gerudo lord, flattening him against the wall below the golden gate like a child’s doll.

Ganondorf lay still; a crumpled dark form. The whole room was charged with shock.

But then, suddenly, the light in the room changed; not gold, but white. Against this new blinding light the gate to the Golden Land seemed dim and unworthy. Materializing from out of the light were three large spheres, hovering in the air above each of the Gerudo thieves, pulsating and looping like the energy of the gateway. The spheres throbbed in unison, and around them appeared giant animals which filled the room with their ethereal presence. Each Light-Being was an impossible conjoining of two vaguely related creatures. One was an ape, but had the head and tail of a lemur; one was an owl, but had the antennae and wings of an enormous moth. One was a serpent, but had the snout of a crocodile.

Each of the thieves fell under the weight of the white lights above them, convulsing on the floor of the Sanctuary. Lutai staggered backward from the crocodile-serpent that had caught Asera in its coils. Gor Darmon curled up before the great owl-moth that had perched on Abrum, and Zethra looked on in reverent fear as the ape-lemur crushed the King of Evil in its paw. Ganondorf writhed and bellowed like a crazed lunatic.

Zethra watched as a sphere of darkness condensed in the center of the room. In moments she realized it was coming from the King of Thieves and his accomplices. It was being drawn…no, squeezed from them. Slowly, then all at once, the darkness took the shape of a wicked looking helm with one cocked eye and bent horns. Then as quickly as they had come, the Light-Beings were gone, dispersing into nothingness, leaving the golden light of the gate to fill the void of their passing. The shadow-helm fell to the ground with a crunch, breaking into four pieces, and then all was still.

Zethra walked toward the fallen King of Evil. Faster and more frenzied she moved, face toward the crackling golden light of the gate. She stood over him, glowering at his prone black-armored form. No more than a man, she thought. One man and his greed had done all this. Then the Master Sword was in her hand and she would have stabbed him through, deprived him of his cursed head, or opened his belly and spread his entrails. But the blade would not allow it. Despite her attempts, she could not bring it to bear on his prone body. The queen’s arm went limp, the tip of the blade grinding the floor as it shifted sadly. Zethra clenched her fist to her brow and wept, her tears trailing down to her elbow, flashing gold as they fell.

Then, as if it belonged to someone else, her arm brought the blade into its resting place in the pedestal and the gate vanished as quickly as the Light-Beings had, replaced by ordinary, solid stained-glass. All was still, but for Zethra’s choked weeping. The dark pressed in on her, intensified by the sudden extinguishing of the light; her heart sick, her eyes, like her mind, fighting to adjust. Her hand paused on the hilt of the sword and she leaned on it like a cane, lowering herself to her knees.

Lutai’s voice finally stirred the dark stillness. “Queen? Mourn we must, but away from the battlefield, I think. Come, let us away. The knights will bury the traitors…”

“The knights will bury none but their own,” said a man’s voice, harsh and near. Gor Darmon grunted in surprise, and Lutai gasped shortly. Then there was a heavy, muscular hand over Zethra’s mouth and a thick arm coiled around her torso like a snake. She could not speak; all she could do was struggle. She twisted and kicked, pulling and heaving, then something cold and sharp was pressed to her throat. All at once she was revisited by the sight of the captain bursting into nothing and she inhaled sharply through her nose and was still. Tears poured from her helpless, unseeing eyes, and her chest heaved in silent, uneven sobs.

Ganondorf spoke again: “I will leave this place, and you will not stop me.” Another moment and there was the sound of feet; sure steps accompanied by another set, shifting uncertainly on the floor—Ganondorf was dragging Zethra toward the top of the stairway.

Lutai froze, listening. So long as she could hear the moving of feet, she knew the queen was still alive. Frantically wondering in the dark how to help the queen, her stance shifted. The sound of the feet stopped. “Do not follow!” Ganondorf barked. “Or she dies.” Gor Darmon struggled to keep himself still with his damaged leg. There was a peculiar pressure in the air, silence, and then the sound of moving feet assured her that Ganondorf was dragging the queen again. Lutai finally exhaled.

And near the stairs, inches from where Ganondorf stood, holding the queen at the edge of a knife, Aako finally came to. He opened his green eyes to blackness. “Win?” he murmured, sitting up. Everyone seemed to have lost their voices.

Then a small red flame flickered into being, casting aside the darkness. The flame belonged to a lantern held by Rauru, who stood in the center of the room, directly in front of the sword-bearing pedestal. Aako turned and saw Ganondorf beside him with the Queen of Hyrule, a knife to her neck, her eyes frantically shifting from one face to the next. Zethra watched as understanding flickered over Aako’s face. The child glared at the black thief, but did not move. Asera and Abrum’s forms lay still.

Rauru spoke. His voice was calm and steady. “You don’t want to kill her, son. It won’t get you what you want. Just let her go.”

Ganondorf blinked, unmoving. “You call me son? You, a son-less father, and I…I am a father-less son. You see the irony.” Ganondorf’s voice hardened. “I’m leaving this unholy place and you’ll not hinder me or she will die.” Ganondorf pressed the knife more firmly into Zethra’s bare neck. Zethra inhaled through her nose.

Rauru appeared unruffled. “I have sons enough,” he replied. And the flames of two-score lanterns puffed into life, each borne by a monk of the temple. They formed two masses, one on each side of the thief—the closest of them, Tobias, was only a yard away. Their presence having gone unnoticed in the light of one lantern, they were now an imposing sight by the lights of forty-one.

“You’ll not kill her,” Rauru continued, “or you’d have done it already. Why haven’t you flown? Have your wings been clipped?” Aako scowled at the dark man. Gor Darmon concentrated on remaining still. Lutai could only stare at the three broken shards of the wicked horned helm that had been extracted from the thieves only minutes before. Weren’t there four? she thought. But then Ganondorf’s eyes narrowed and he spoke.

“What? Will you sing me to death?” Ganondorf mocked. “I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Rauru spoke again. “Behind you wait scores of trained soldiers; sons of Hyrule; sons who have also lost their fathers to greed—the same greed that consumes you—the same greed that consumed your father.”

Ganondorf stood motionless, his jaw clenching, his hold on the queen like iron.

“Isn’t that right, Ganondorf?” said the Sage. “You lost your father to obsession. But he didn’t kill himself out of longing for an impossible goal like the fathers of these sons. Your father simply never saw you past his obsession. To him you were never anything more than a usurper—one who would one day take his throne from him. He had always been right there in front of you, yet impossible to reach, and then one day he left, never to return. And you resented him for it; wanted to make him pay. He deserved to be hurt, deserved to suffer as you had. And now his obsession is yours. And you are no better than he.”

A scowl grew on Ganondorf’s face. Tension brooded in the room as Rauru’s words waited for the silence to prove them true. But then Ganondorf spoke.

“You ought not to speak so boldly concerning a subject you know nothing about, infidel. I never knew my father. And I will never rest until I have killed every last one of you. Curse the gods you worship!” he said, and spat on the floor of the Sanctuary. “I grow tired of this,” he said, then pulled his knife across Zethra’s neck and cast her aside like a rag doll. In another moment, he had thrown something to the ground, there was a flash of light, and he was gone. Then two more flashes burst in the dim light. Gor Darmon responded like thunder after the flash. He bent over and rolled down the stairs, a minor earthquake fading behind him. But none heard it.

* * *

The blue mare was swift indeed. From outside the town walls Impa could the see golden light that poured from the tall peaked windows of the Sanctuary and surrounded the temple. The sight was as beautiful a thing as ever she had seen. Were it not for haste and a sense of present danger, she may have wanted to linger. Presently, however, it would not have made a difference as the light suddenly went out, and the unnatural darkness gathered around her as completely as it ever had.

Judging by sound and practiced memory, Impa traversed the dense black, lit only by the dimmed torches of the night-watch. She entered the town by the south gate and began to weave through the streets. They were clear of people, which made the distance pass more quickly as she raced toward the town’s central courtyard. The temple was just to the east of that, and then fate would tell what had been decided.

As she rode she removed some of the small items she had stowed away in Dezzi’s bags and placed them snugly in her girdle. They were dekku seeds, the dried heads of a flytrap-like plant that would flash brightly when struck. Their use was common among thieves of all races, especially among the Sheikah, for whom it had become a signature item.

Minutes later she came to the temple’s outer garden. The high wrought iron gate was closed and locked, Impa knew, which forced her to leave the horse behind. Standing in the saddle as she approached, she leapt from the horse’s back, folding in the air as she cleared the iron fence. Dezzi did not move from where she halted, but stamped the cobbles under her hooves. Impa made no effort to restrain the horse; Malon had trained it well.

Pausing to listen and gain her bearings, Impa faintly heard the clink of mail armor and the brushing of leaves against tempered metal—the Knights of Hyrule were laying in wait just outside the main doors of the temple, no more than thirty feet away. The steps up to the main doors of the temple were unoccupied and one of the doors was half ajar. Nothing else was out of the ordinary.

So as not to expose the knights, she slid as covertly as possible to the nearest place of hiding. From there she crept, out of sight, behind the manicured block of bushes flanking the walkway which led to the temple. Closer to the temple she could see the post of the knight next to the main entrance. He was hiding behind a large cylindrical stone planter within which a thick fern was growing. It provided excellent cover while still allowing the hunter to see his prey through the leaves—a well chosen post.

The knight hiding there spotted her, but contained his alarm when he saw who had joined him. It was Afton. He was one of the knights equipped for stealth, wearing a blue cotton shirt and tan breeches over which was buckled a set of hardened leather armor punched with steel studs. His armor consisted of bracers, greaves, and a small breastplate cut to allow for mobility. Over all of this was cinched his long white tunic bearing the crest of the royal family. He carried his repaired and sharpened rapier in his hand and his Hylian shield on his back. Sheathing his weapon, he gave her the signal for friend using the hand signs the Sheikah had taught none but the Royal Family and the Knights of Hyrule. “Greetings, Impa of the Sheikah,” he signed.

“Well met,” she signed in reply. “Where is your captain, Afton?”

“With the queen, inside,” he responded.

“What are your orders?”

“Wait for the thieves, capture, kill only if necessary.”

Impa understood the significance of this. It would mean war with the Gerudo nation if their king was killed by Hylian forces, but if what Link said was true then not to kill Ganondorf, if he could not be captured, would mean something far worse.

“Positions?” Impa asked the knight, still using hand signs.

“Every exit is watched: main entrance, rear, another on roof, two secret entrances on sides. Archers standing by on surrounding rooftops.”

Impa could spot several archers now that she looked carefully. Each had his bow half drawn, waiting. “Good,” she signed. “It is well prepared. I wait with you.” He assented and drew his rapier again.

It did not take long for something to happen. Less than a minute later, Impa could hear rumbling from inside the temple. Soon both of the front doors flew open and out rolled Gor Darmon at great speed, stopping just short of the gate, hopping on one short leg as he unfolded. The blue mare reared, turned and fled. Dezzi was well trained, thought Impa, but Gorons are imposing enough to cause even the most stalwart soldier to forget they are anything but running away. Once Gor Darmon realized Ganondorf was not on the horse he looked up into the darkness and bellowed: “Come back, King of Cowards, curse you!” His challenge rumbled like a landslide through the still air. When the echo subsided, he lowered himself to the ground, his breath grating harshly as he curled up and sobbed. He looked like a small hiccupping mountain.

Impa signed to the knight that she was going out to speak to the Goron. Coming out of hiding the way she had gone in, she approached the small twitching mountain cautiously.

“Darmon?” she said aloud.

Immediately his head shot up, flinging wetness in all directions. After he cleared his eyes of their excess moisture he could see her clearly.

“Impa? Impa did you see him? Did you see where he went?” He reached for her shoulders, shaking a little harder than was prudent.

Impa remained calm despite being jarred. “When, Darmon? How long?”

“Seconds,” he said, and made a peculiar noise like water engulfing a large stone. Gor Darmon looked at her intently, as if she had the answer to his question hidden somewhere on her person.

“He has not escaped through the main doors, Darmon, and no sign has been given of his escape elsewhere…” her voice trailed. Suddenly his eyes widened; he comprehended what she did. “He is still inside.” She turned to dash into the wide open doors of the temple, but a heavy hand stopped her.

“Impa. The queen,” he said.

Understanding crossed her face and she became livid. “What has he done?!”

Gor Darmon went limp, his great stone hands smacking the cobbles. He sobbed again. “He…she is…wounded,” he finally said.

“Darmon,” she said, grasping his large, stony face in her hands, “Darmon, do not let him leave. Swear it!”

He bowed, smearing the wetness from his eyes again. When he raised his head he was resolute. “If he finds escape, it shall not be through me,” he swore, and she turned and ran toward the temple.

* * *

The queen lay sprawled, motionless. For the second time since evil had invaded the Sanctuary, all was still. Even the lantern-light seemed to dim, reverent. Rauru sank to his knees, his lantern clanking on the marble floor and tipping out of his hands, its light extinguishing. It felt as if all warmth went out with it. A sharp silence spread through the Sanctuary that seemed to Lutai like an entire lake being frozen over all at once.

Aako raised himself to the full of his childish height and stepped lightly over to the fallen queen. He seemed to take no notice of the red gash in her neck, nor the pool of crimson spreading below her golden head, her face and arms now white; so white. He pulled her body straight, smoothing out her gown, folding a pale hand to her chest. He knelt beside her, holding her other hand and stroking it as he hummed a melody, bobbing his head in time. It was merry, then forlorn, but the tune was pure, and innocent. The song searched out each of the room’s other occupants and followed the air into their breath, catching in their throats. The lump of a tune that caught in Lutai’s breath made her wish she had known the song, to sing it, though something in her said she had known it once, in the long-distant past.

When the tune repeated, the monks chanted the strain; reverently, then fervent. Then Aako sang, his boyish soprano flowing over the monk’s deep-throated bass like clear water over smooth stones. Lanterns were raised, flickering flames snuffed out, the faces of the monks bearing them suddenly muted by shadow; like stars fleeing from the dawn the flames vanished, one by one, until only two were left, one on either side of the white queen and her green attendant, his song lingering in the air like smoke.

Impa suddenly burst up the stairs and into the room, her chest heaving. Her eyes caught the sight of Zethra lying in her own blood and she was at her side, shouting something her queen could not hear, raising Zethra’s hand from her chest and kissing it, her tears falling on her queen like new wine.

* * *

The procession from the Sanctuary was grave. They had wrapped Zethra in Rauru’s over-gown, the captain’s sword and shield lying on the queen’s lifeless body. Twelve monks bore the queen on their arms, her form resting lightly on the human bier. Exiting the stairway to the Sanctuary they passed the altar, the Spiritual Stones still spinning serenely, glinting in the ghostly candlelight of the nave. Leading was Rauru, and following was the queen on her bier, then Impa, Lutai, cradling the gash in her abdomen, and Aako, clutching Lutai’s free hand. Behind Aako were the remaining monks, heads bowed, hoods covering their faces for respect. As Aako passed the altar he reached out with one small hand and plucked the emerald from over its hollow. The Door of Time ground grayly as it slid closed behind the last of the monks. Looking through the gem like a monocle, Aako saw something glinting in Din’s portrait, deep in the black of the side-chapel. He lowered the gem from his eye, his tongue protruding from his mouth pointed at Din’s chapel.

The procession marched up the broad staircase, pausing at the open doors. Rauru addressed Gor Darmon, sitting like a stone totem, facing into the temple, his expression fierce.

“Darmon, he is gone. He must be.”

“No. He will not escape me. I will sit here forever.”

“Please, Darmon,” Rauru said, placing a hand on Gor Darmon’s stony shoulder. “We must permit the queen to pass.”

Tears welled in Gor Darmon’s eyes.

“Yes, I see,” said Rauru, not unkindly. “Surely water can be squeezed from stones.” The Goron shifted so the procession could continue, favoring his damaged leg, his chest convulsing as the queen’s body passed.

Then the Knights of Hyrule emerged, one by one, from their places of hiding. Like doves to their perches, they assembled solemnly along the sides of the cobblestone path leading away from the temple, standing at attention with rapiers under their chins. To her right, Impa noticed that Afton had hung back, standing reverently beside the stone planter. He signed to her as she emerged from the temple.

“The Goron will stay with us. We will not rest until the Black Man is found. We will watch, all of us. Waiting.”

Impa nodded, her eyes sore, her cheeks wet. But when she turned the procession had stopped. From the top step of the temple she could see the whole scene; Lutai and Aako now before her, the monks bearing the queen’s body, the Knights of Hyrule at attention on either side, and Rauru in front of them all. But beyond the locked iron gate were two horses; one blue, one brown.

And there, just inside the gate was the girl Zelda, ashen-faced and worn from swift travel. She put one foot forward.

“Who…” she began.

Rauru reached for Zelda’s cheek. “I am sorry child,” he said.

Zelda’s eyes darted from one face to another, searching frantically for the one she could not find. Impa’s eyes again flooded with wetness and she found herself moving toward Zelda, quicker and quicker, until she was between Zelda and her mother’s body, and then the child was in her arms, and Zelda was shouting something her mother could not hear. And the clouds moved and the sky opened, and for the first time that evening the moon shone down from the heavens; a thin silver sickle—a beacon among the stars; and its light caressed Zelda’s small, tired body, now curled up in the cradle of Impa’s toned white arms, shaking with every sob.

Then Rauru opened the iron gate and Impa rose, still cradling the child Zelda.

“Is it safe, Rauru,” asked Impa in a low voice as she passed him. “Did you…?”

“The Ocarina is safe,” he replied. And as the procession left the grounds, three new monks joined the rest, unnoticed.

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