The Looming Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter I - Council of the Sages

1374 HR

The infant seemed to sleep soundly, folded tightly in the bundle of clothes nestled in its mother’s arms. The rhythmic undulation of her torso counterpoint to the gallop of the horse did no more to wake the child than the commotion from which they had just escaped. The cold night air soothed her troubled face, her neck still warmed by the fires that billowed behind them. At her side, a pool of sticky red soaked her white nightgown, plastering the cloth to her thigh.

The woman swooned for only a moment, then recovered. Her taut form, lit by the churning blaze, leaned forward as her mount guided them further from danger, further from the whip of bowstrings, the musk of battle. Bars of shadow flickered over them as they passed behind trees, hastily forging into their only avenue of escape, their only hope of refuge. Into the forest they fled, and the child slept on. Only when the woman could no longer hear the roar of the flames did she halt the horse in its wild path. She turned her green eyes skyward, as if to ask the moon for guidance, but found nothing. Then, as she looked down, she saw a sight only heard of—there, next to the root of a large tree, stood a small green-clad child. The woman swooned.

* * *

Miles away, above a vast desert, the soldier seemed to sleep soundly, his body limp against his pole. A dry breeze drew up clouds of dust over the barren waste which stretched out in every direction from his post. His perch was a tower of wood scaffolding, lashed together with knots, simple but strong. So great had been his fatigue in the heat of the desert sun that night had fallen heavily on his eyes. It was his fatigue that betrayed him that night.

From somewhere out of the darkness an arrow tipped with fire streaked through the air and struck his chest, just below the heart. His eyes shot open, flickering like wet stones in the light of the flame as he fell against the railing, the fire catching on the wooden crossbars, then the rope knots. In moments, the tower became a glowing beacon in the night, and from somewhere beneath the glare of the blood-moon, the hidden archer advanced, unseen on the waste.

* * *

High in an upper bedchamber of the castle, the young queen seemed to sleep soundly under a thick quilt, her golden head resting serenely on a down pillow. The angle of her neck suggested dignity, and the shape of her brow displayed wisdom. Her pointed ears indicated that she was of the Hylian race—those favored of the Gods. Vigilant guards stood by, white men wrapped in white cloth, wearing solemn faces. Not asleep, but meditative, their stillness shamed the silence in the room. One might perhaps have heard the curtains whisper.

In moments, however, the queen’s wise brows tightened, her muscles tensing, her thin body curling. She moaned as one wounded, then suddenly screamed, violating the sacred silence. In response her dutiful guards suddenly animated, acting as if in well-rehearsed concert—one was immediately at her side, another lit the black wicks of a candelabrum on the bed-table, and a third arrived with a cool wet cloth. As they comforted her with soothing voices, the young woman pushed herself upright in her bed panting and heaving. After a moment, she leaned back against the headboard and pressed the wet cloth to her forehead, staring into the candlelight. When she spoke it was thin, but certain: “Din is angry.”

* * *

The bleeding woman swooned again, her grip on the bundle of clothes in her arms loosening. The touch of a small hand on her foot restored her to attention. She drew her sleeping son closer, blinking dully, her head nodding.

The green-clad child laughed. “Mother, you must stay awake. Our father bids you come.” Something about the child’s laugh—the woman thought she had heard it before. It was merry, sweet and innocent, as if the child thought the woman were pretending to sleep. She knew the laugh from a dream, perhaps—if she was not in a dream now. The child, a little girl, walked further into the forest, the horse following. From somewhere among the weak moonlit shadows, eerie notes floated, guiding her, it seemed—keeping her awake, yet calm. The song was like the child’s laugh—innocent, and full of happiness.

It must have been her fatigue, she decided—loss of blood. The stories in her head were coming to life as she was nearing death. There certainly could not have been a lone child guiding her through the forest. As they wandered through the bracken, the woman thought she noticed the same gnarled stump at least twice. She was dreaming, she thought. It must be. After some time, she could not say how long, the music had stopped, and so had they. The green-clad child was some distance ahead, standing in the opening of a large stone grotto. The little girl smiled sweetly and laughed again. “Do not be afraid, Mother, it is safe here. Our father wishes to see you. Come.”

Within her arms, the woman’s son finally began to stir, but quickly fell still again.

The horse again walked after the child, between the stones, down a slope of earth thickly carpeted with grass. Passing through a short tunnel, they emerged at the edge of a large clearing; a bowl of earth covered in the same thick carpet of grass at the opening. The place was bordered by a tall wall of natural rock upon which grew a tightly set fence of trees of every variety. From the trees hung a thick net of vines with large leaves which reached down even to the forest floor. The whole floor was dappled with stirring shadows as the morning light filtered through the boughs of an enormous tree growing in the center of the clearing which must have been at least half a mile high at its peak. The trunk itself filled almost a third of the clearing. And the most curious was a sight to outweigh it all, finally convincing the woman of either her dream-state or insanity—stretched across the near half of the tree was the rough face of a gnarled old man.

“Father,” the girl child said, addressing the enormous tree-face, “I have brought you the child and its mother.”

* * *

“My queen,” said one of the white men, “what have you seen?”

The young queen stared into the flickering light of the candelabrum. She lowered the cloth from her head, threw back her bedcovers, and crossed the room to her wardrobe. “Take me to my husband,” she said, “and summon the Sages…what is left of them.”

* * *

The morning sun streamed through the arched windows of the library casting dusty shafts of light on a long table layered with paper—large sheets of unrolled parchment scrawled with names of neighboring areas, marked with colors representing political borders; scrolls bearing hastily written notes or information regarding the positions of soldiers. Just outside the pool of light the young king’s head lay upon the table, a quill still resting in the loose grip of his work-hardened hands, the crimson ink long since dried. Embers glowed in the fireplace on one end of the hall, while presently a knock came from the door on the other. The king raised his head in time for the Captain of the Royal Guard to open the door. The captain stepped inside.

“My Liege,” he said, bowing with one hand to his breast.

The king cleared his throat. “Report.”

“Sire, the Arbiter’s Grounds was attacked last night during the second watch. The outermost tower was burned to the ground. Our scouts have still found no sign of the attackers.”

As the captain spoke, the king’s eyes focused on a map directly in front of him marked with numerous red dots, all surrounding the maze of lines that represented the Arbiter’s Grounds. His eyes flickered over a spot representing the Arbiter’s central chamber. Without looking up, the king spoke. “And the prisoner?”

“Still in custody, Sire.”

The king released a long breath and rested against the back of his chair. He wiped the sleep from one eye with a thumb. “Has there been any news regarding the skirmishes on the Town?”

“No word yet, Sire. The attackers continue to remain unknown. They are gone before any reinforcements can arrive, and they have still eluded our trackers. The townspeople are being evacuated to Kakariko village as you directed.”

“Good.” After a short pause the king added, “Who was the guard on that tower, Captain?”

“Hansen, son of Rannon, Sire.”

The king’s eyes widened, “And he was caught in the fire?”

“Yes, Sire,” the captain looked at his boots.

The king lowered his voice. “Din keep him, poor soul.” After a moment’s consideration, the king dipped his quill in a bottle of crimson ink and let a drop fall on a small square representing the outmost tower. The king rested the quill in the bottle and then turned in his seat to face the captain directly. The captain raised his head, inhaling shortly. “I expect to hear from you as soon as two towers have been constructed to replace our lost one, Captain. Be certain that each has two men; one above, one below.”

“They have already begun, Sire. It shall be as you say.” The captain bowed again, one hand to his breast.

“Very well.” The captain turned to leave. “Colin?” said the king. The captain paused. “I’m so sorry. Please tell your uncle Rannon that he has my condolences.”

It was a moment before the captain responded. “Thank you, Daphnes,” he said. “You have always been good to us. You are like a brother to me…”

The king looked at Colin kindly, but the captain did not meet his eyes. “Colin please, sit,” he said.

The captain did not sit, but cleared his throat. Without turning he said, “I will be sending my wife ahead to Kakariko, Daphnes. I promise you I will not fail you or Zethra.”

The king rose from his seat and approached the captain. “I know Colin.” The king placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I trust you with the lives of all my loved ones, most of all my wife. Colin, I would ask you…” the king’s voice faltered.

The captain looked up, searching his friend’s face. “What is it Daphnes? Is Zethra well?”

The king’s eyes glittered with wetness and he offered a half-hearted smile. “She has been dreaming things of late, Colin, terrible nightmares, and…and I do not know whether they will cease. It may be the Goddesses’ doing…or it may be something sinister. The prophecies of the Queen of Hyrule always prove true. What if…I fear that she will come to harm or that…” His eyes dashed around as if he were watching scenes play out in his mind. The king looked the captain in the eye as he pressed his palm across his mouth and brought it down over his young beard. He opened his mouth but no words came out.

The captain clasped the king’s hands in both of his. “Daphnes, I swear to you no harm will come to Zethra so long as I breathe.”

The king nodded. “Thank you, Colin. May the Goddesses protect Karin as well.” The king’s eyes smiled through the wetness. “Assign a unit of your best men to escort her to Kakariko, will you?”

“I will,” the captain nodded, grinning. “Thank you, brother.” And he closed the door gently behind him as he left.

* * *

Barely audible at first, then increasing in volume and intensity, a deep throated hum filled the clearing. The sound rattled the fittings on the horse’s bridle, but it did not whinny or turn. It was as if the horse regarded the sound as the most natural and expected thing to happen at that moment. The woman suddenly realized the sound was coming from below the clearing, deep within the earth. All at once the eyes of the tree-face opened, and it spoke. Its voice was breathy and hollow, but deep as the earth, and the wind which came from its mouth smelled of rich brown soil, and suddenly the woman felt strength flow into her.

“Mother, I greet thee with sorrow for thine afflictions. I have naught to give thee that thou mayst be whole, nor do my children know the arts of healing, as they can never come to harm within this forest, but while here my magic can prolong your life, even if it be so short, and thou shalt not feel thy pain. Yet, know that I have aught to speak to thee, and then thy body must lie down to the earth.”

The woman knew of the Sheikah tribes which practiced magic and the shadow arts, and she reasoned that if she had truly seen all she had, and she was not dreaming, she could not deny that it was as the great tree had said. Surely she felt no pain, and so did not question that she would live long enough to speak for herself. Nevertheless she could feel her body passing, and so it did not matter now what she thought was possible. “Then I thank you, Master,” she said, respectfully. “With whom do I speak, that I may know my benefactor?”

The earth hummed again, as before, but only briefly, and then the tree responded. “I am the Father Dekku, and the Koroki are my children.” The girl child turned to the woman, smiling, reminding her again of some dream she must have had, somehow more near now. The great tree continued, “But know, Mother, that thy time is short, and soon thou shalt know me well. I must speak to thee of thy son, that which thou bearest next to thy breast. Knowest thou of his fate?”

“He is my son, sir, and I pray than Din be in him, for might; and Faroe, for valiance; and Nayru, for justice.” The woman looked at her sleeping child, her cheeks wetting with love, knowing she would not see him grown. “But I do not know of his fate.”

“A blessing well spoken, Mother,” said the tree.

She touched her son’s face, and held him close to her. “Please, sir, I see that thou must be an oracle. What may I know of him from thee? Is he to be great among his fellows?”

“He is, Mother. His name shall be had in the legends of thy people for countless generations. And I ask that my children may keep him until Faroe be in him, for valiance, and he is prepared for his destiny.”

The young mother cradled her son in her arms, and he stirred, but did not wake. “Why does he yet sleep, sir? And do we dream these things?”

“From the moment thy child was within my wood, I kept him, and he slept. For he shall see evils which are not yet created, and do them battle, and why should he be plagued with more? And though thou dreamest not, yet others have dreamed, and shall tell of thee.”

And as the woman gazed at her son, her sleeping joy, she began to feel very thin, and knew that her time was spent. “Yes, Master Dekku, Father of the Koroki, it is as you have said. I go. And take my child. Will you raise him in the ways of the Goddesses?”

“Yes, Mother. All shall be as would please Them. Come, now, and sleep next to me. It is time for the earth to catch you.”

The young mother lowered her son into the arms of the attending girl child, who cradled him, smiling at him sweetly. “Goodbye, my son,” said the young mother, “Nayru keep you until I see you again. Goodbye.” And the horse carried her to one side of the great tree, where she alighted, and laid her down, and died.

* * *

The Inner Sanctum of the temple was a large circular room, made of white marble and capped by a high dome. The terrace which circumvented the room on the second level was flanked on all sides by stained glass windows and supported from below by an arcade made of columns bearing peaked arches. In the center of the room was a circular stone dais upon which rested nine high-backed chairs, facing inward, all wooden with lush upholstery. On this occasion, the chairs were occupied by the king and queen; the Captain of the Royal Guard to the king’s right; and to the queen’s left sat the Sages of Hyrule. The chair immediately to the captain’s right sat empty. Its emptiness did not go unnoticed, however, and the air was stifled by a sense of loss.

Presently, the queen stood. A jeweled circlet graced her golden head. From under her long purple vest flowed a white gown. From her golden belt hung the apron of her station, bearing the crest of the royal family—a bird with wings outstretched, bearing above it, in place of its head, a triangle made of three smaller triangles each embroidered of gold thread.

She spoke: “Since the days of the Hero King, the daughters of the royal family of Hyrule have always been gifted with the Light of the Goddesses,” she began. “It is had in the legends of our people that they are given dreams, which shortly are proven true. This you know.” The sages and captain waited quietly. The queen stood erect, her gloved hands folded before her. “I have had such a dream.” The next moment the air changed, suddenly charged with tension; none in audience moved.

“My dream was thus,” the queen continued, quietly but clearly. “I was in a field, near a wood, where blue soldiers fought red demons. The soldiers fought bravely, but the demons spat fire, and the field became an inferno.” As she spoke her eyes followed invisible warriors as they raced after their enemies—she squinted faintly as they were halted by sudden gouts of imaginary flame. “And out from among the blue fled a mother, with her green child. Faroe took them, and within her arms she hid them, though the mother perished in her embrace.

“Then I was on a high tower, in a waste of darkness, watching Din’s shrine. For she was imprisoned within her own shrine, and became angry, and summoned her children to free her from captivity. Then the moon turned to blood, and her fury shot out of the dark waste and I was consumed.” The queen’s voice caught in her throat and she looked at her folded hands. Her husband reached forward and grasped one of her hands as a tear slid out of each of her eyes. “I could do nothing,” she finally said. “It was done,” and she eased herself into her wooden seat.

The first sage to the queen’s left watched the queen as she sat. He was a balding man with pointed ears and thick hair on his cheeks, peppered with age. He wore an orange hooded robe with a red mantle and apron. On his lap lay a green book. His expression was of concern, primarily for the queen who seemed preoccupied with thoughts far from their current surroundings. “This has been the first dream given to a Hylian queen since your grandmother,” he said. “I was young then, but I remember what it meant for our people.”

“I know, Rauru,” the queen responded. “It does not bode well for us.”

“Hero,” said the small boy seated to the right of Rauru. He had a pleasant grin and intelligent eyes that were such a deep green as to be almost black. He wore green clothes that appeared as if they had been made of very large leaves. His feet dangled over the edge of his wooden chair and did not touch the floor. His childish playfulness made it seem as if he, among all the Sages, might not know that one of their number had been murdered and another was still missing. Or perhaps he knew but did not see why it should be a matter of concern.

“I think Aako is right,” said the next Sage, Gor Darmon of the Goron tribe. Like all Gorons, his brown body was bulky and dense, and upon his back had grown large deposits of minerals from the diet of rocks that served their people as a food source. “The child in Zethra’s dream may be the hero that was spoken of in Mudora’s prophecy.”

“Nayru keep him,” said Lutai, the Zora sage. She turned her finned head to look at the empty seat to her left. Like all Zoras her skin was a tint of slightly translucent blue and protruding from her arms and legs were fins like those of a fish.

The captain spoke. “May it please your Majesties, esteemed ones…”

“Speak,” said the king, not unkindly.

“We have questioned the prisoner, Mudora’s murderer,” the captain continued, “and we believe her to be…to be…” The captain shifted in his seat; that which would otherwise have been occupied by the Sage of the Gerudo people, who had not been accounted for.

“Itzah,” Zethra finished, comprehending.

“She was in disguise,” said Gor Darmon staring through the center of the dais. “Must have been. I did not recognize her when I came in and found…” he, too, looked over at the empty seat.

“But why would she have done this?” asked Lutai, “Did she not agree to the counsels we held? Were not her loyalties…”

“Pig,” said Aako.

“Yes, I believe you are right, Aako,” said Rauru. “She had never ceased being her master’s servant. It is as Mudora said in his final words—blessed are the Goddesses that we have them.” He lifted the green book from his lap to look at the spine. There in the very center of the spine was a glyph. Translated from the Hylian it read Mudora, Sage of Shadow, secret keeper.

“Forgive me, master,” the captain said, “but what is the significance of the book?”

Rauru’s attention was pulled from the glyph. He looked at the captain and knotted his bushy eyebrows together. “The book was stolen from Mudora the same night that he was murdered, not three days hence. Mudora himself predicted this in his writings and accordingly he wrote a message to Lord Ganondorf knowing he would read it. He also must have suspected we would come into possession of it, as he left the Sages a message as well. I found Mudora’s book last night in the nave of the temple between the altar and the Door of Time. His Majesty commanded the Door closed and locked as soon as we heard that Mudora had…” Rauru saw Lutai bow her finned head and he faltered. “…as soon as we heard what had happened,” he continued, “and knew that his secrets were jeopardized. Since then I have not let the book leave my possession—it is the only evidence we have as to who had entered the temple.” The captain seemed to assimilate this information.

“Has the lock held thus far?” the king asked.

“Yes,” replied Rauru. Then he spoke to his fellow Sages. “We have sealed the Door with three stones which can only be activated if they are brought together on the altar of the temple. The enchantment has been bound to this,” Rauru now pulled out a small flute-like instrument from somewhere beneath his robes. It was a hollow lump of blue clay the size of a large potato. On its protruding neck it bore three triangles arranged to form a larger triangle. “Masters Sharp and Flat have already enchanted the Ocarina, and I have asked Orda to bless it, and we have faith that she will preserve the enchantments through the dusts of time. The final element necessary to open the Door is the melody of the Hylian Royal Family which must be played on this ocarina while standing before the altar.”

“Show them the Stones, Rauru,” said the queen.

Rauru produced three medium-sized gems; a ruby, a sapphire, and an emerald. Each was set in gold edging and all glittered brightly in the light filtering through the stained-glass above them. “I thought it best to entrust them to the peoples away from this land, the Gorons, Zora, and Koroki.”

The king spoke. “I agree. It is proposed that the stones which lock the Door of Time be placed in the care of the peoples of Hyrule; the Gorons, Zora, and Koroki by name. Your favors?”
“Aye,” said the queen.

“Aye,” said Rauru.

Aako nodded vigorously.

“Aye,” Gor Darmon growled.

“Aye,” said Lutai.

“Master Captain,” said the king, “would you cast a favor in absence of our beloved Mudora?”

The captain looked sincerely flattered. “It is an honor, Majesty, Nayru keep him,” he said, bowing with one hand to his chest. Then, after pausing to give the question consideration he said, “The entrance to the portal should remain secure. It is a good thing. Aye, then.”

“Then we have six to affirm; it is agreed,” said the king. And Rauru stood and entrusted the emerald to Aako, the ruby to Gor Darmon, and the sapphire to Lutai. As Rauru sat, the king spoke again. “It is crucial that these stones be handled with the utmost of secrecy and protection. Speak of them to no one. If they are discovered, it may mean the invasion of the Golden Realm by that Great Evil spoken of in the prophecies.” Each of the Sages nodded their assent. Aako looked through the green gem he had been given as if it were a monocle.

“And what of the Ocarina?” said the captain, addressing Rauru. “Will you keep it, Master Sage? You are the oldest and wisest of the Sages.”

“Old I am. But I am not the oldest, Master Captain. And may my wisdom be proven. The Ocarina is the most essential part of the enchantment holding the Door of Time in place. My monks and I continue to maintain a constant vigilance in the temple. I would not keep a key in the same building as the lock if I did not wish it to be opened,” said Rauru looking at the captain directly. The captain looked down at the arm of the chair in which he sat. He seemed to become vaguely interested in the grain of the wood. “I had hoped,” Rauru continued, offering the Ocarina to the queen, “that her Majesty would oblige me…”

She looked at the instrument in Rauru’s hands, pondering it. “I know it is only more to be concerned for,” he said, “but I can think of none more wise, with greater good in her heart; with greater resistance to evil.” For a moment Rauru thought he saw a look of weariness pass over her young face, but as soon as he saw it, it was gone.

“It is now my turn to be honored,” Zethra said demurely. “I would not deny this great gift,” and she extended a hand to take the Ocarina.

Rauru reached out and placed his other hand on the queen’s before she took the instrument. Their eyes met. Rauru spoke quietly so only she could hear. “If ever you feel more burdened than you can bear, my dear child…”

“I know I can rely on you, uncle,” she replied, a weak smile crossing her lips. Rauru removed his hand and Zethra took the instrument, holding it against her breast.

“Oh, and that reminds me, Your Majesty,” said Rauru, addressing the king, “Master Flat bid me return this to you.” Rauru drew an ivory conductor’s baton from within his sleeve. It was carved with complex curled forms. “It has been enchanted as you directed. He wishes to consult with you another time regarding its possible use with a pipe organ.”

The king regarded the baton with wonder. “Thank you, Rauru.”

“With that matter settled,” growled Gor Darmon, “we would know the interpretation of the vision which Queen Zethra of the Hylians has seen.”

“Hero,” Aako repeated.

“Yes,” said Lutai, addressing the queen, “do you suppose the child to be the Hero of the prophecy, as Aako suggests?”

The queen’s eyes stared unseeing through the center of the stone dais. “If he is the Hero, Faroe shall not be in him yet for many years. Nevertheless, the evil is present now. Din is certainly angry. If it is her servant, Itzah, who has been imprisoned, Din will surely wish to answer her servant’s prayers with deliverance. Let us hope she has continued to be lax in her sincerity. A judgment will need to be made, and a sentence wrought. Let us pray Nayru grant us wisdom. We must convene at the Arbiter’s Grounds and pass judgment on our prisoner, whether she is Sage or no.”

Those in audience assented. Then the king turned to the captain. “Colin, do you think this may be connected with…Hansen?” The captain shared a significant glance with the king. The Sages looked on with perplexed faces; all but Aako, who looked like he was the only one who knew a very good secret.

“What is it, Daphnes?” said Zethra, finally. The king nodded to his friend.

“My queen,” said the captain, “I would tell you of one of our finest men, a cousin of mine, whose fate I suspect you have somehow shared. If my thought is not amiss, her Majesty saw his end as it occurred; Hansen was upon the outmost tower guarding the Arbiter’s Grounds. By granting you this dream, the Goddesses may have given us a clue as to how my cousin’s life ended.” The captain paused, then stared at his knees. His fingers wrapped around the knob on the arm of his chair, the knuckles of his thick, rough hands paling with the tension. The king turned to his wife and placed his hand on hers. She gripped it immediately. Then the king laid his other hand on the captain’s clenched fist. The captain’s head shook only slightly, and then he looked up again and cleared his throat.

“Please, Colin, continue,” Zethra said. She had turned to face him directly, across her husband. The eyes of all the Sages were on him.

“May it please my esteemed audience,” he began, more composed, “the queen said that Din had called up her children to free her. If Din stands in the place of…” here again he shifted in his chair, very aware to whom it had belonged, “…of the prisoner, Itzah of the Gerudo, then who would be her children but those of her tribe, the Gerudo themselves. They are all of them skilled in the arts of stealth, and our men were never able to find signs of the attackers. The Gerudo also built the Arbiter’s Grounds as a temple to Din before the Hylia occupied it in the days of the Queen Zanna. This suggests to me that the Gerudo are behind the attacks of the Grounds. They may wish to reclaim it, but hesitate to show themselves until they can ensure that they are able to take it completely.”

Rauru was the first to speak, and when he did it seemed to bring the others out of a trance of pensiveness. “That is an accusation of war, Master Captain. The Gerudo would not defy their king’s vow of truce. You are not old enough to remember the delicate balance that was accomplished between the Gerudo tribes and our own people.”

“I know enough,” the captain rebutted tersely. “The Lord of the Gerudo was a power-monger!”

“He was a madman!” Rauru bellowed, standing erect and imposing, “bent on entering the Golden Land to seize the Power of Gold—that artifact that grants the desires of any who touch it. If he had, like so many others maddened by the prospect of limitless power, he never would have come back. If he had entered he would have doomed their whole race to disappear.”

“Then good riddance!” yelled the captain, meeting the Sage in the middle of the dais with murderous eyes. It was to the captain as if he challenged not a Sage but the Gerudo king himself; the one he held responsible for Hansen’s death.

Almost immediately the king stood up. “Captain,” he said loudly. Then, more quietly, but with no less concern, “Colin, please, I know you’re grieving…” The captain acquiesced. He straightened his tunic and turned to sit. Rauru waited, nonplussed, until the captain was once again in his seat. Then the Sage sat as well.

“Why does the venerable Rauru receive no reprimand?” the captain said quietly, as if to no one in particular.

“Captain,” said Zethra firmly, “your presence here is welcome, and your views invited, but do not add insolence to impertinence. In the council we all are equal, as the matters that pertain to us pertain to all. Rauru represents our people in council. Do not give the other peoples of Hyrule a mistaken impression.” The captain glanced at Aako, whose tongue protruded from his mouth as he folded his arms. The captain did not know at that moment whether to laugh or follow suit, so he compromised and folded his arms. “Now, captain, if you are finished,” said Zethra, “then remain still and hear wisdom.”

Lutai spoke, carefully, so as not to condescend. “As you know, captain, the Gerudo are all women, save for the one male born to them once in a hundred years. It is their only saving grace that their king remains young in body into his old age. The man had no consideration for his people. They would have no king, and no means of perpetuating their race. To lose him would be to lose their way of life. It was therefore incumbent upon the Hylians to care for the Gerudo more than their own king. The man had to be stopped, but not killed, if they were to continue as a race.” The captain’s hands leapt to the rests of his seat. Reacting to the incredulous look on the captain’s face, Lutai pressed forward. “For,” she said, “the Goddesses created the races as a balance—a means of keeping each other in check.” This last word was put a little more forcefully, and coupled with the warning glare of the queen it served to subdue the captain.

“This is why,” concluded Gor Darmon, “the king of the Gerudo had to be threatened with his own life when he invaded. He had to be forced to agree to a truce. It is difficult enough trying to convince the Gerudo that we mean them no harm when their king is threatened, much less if they were accused of acting contrary to the word of their king to make war. We must be interdependent if we are to keep peace. To turn on each other is to commit the same crime you seem so anxious to punish. There are others grieving here, Master Captain.”

The captain looked as if he had just swallowed a particularly dry piece of bread. “So be it,” he said, looking at the floor. “Who then, esteemed ones, do you suppose is perpetrating the attacks?”

“If I may, my queen…” said Rauru, holding the green volume up with a finger in one of the pages.

“Please, Rauru.”

He opened the volume and reviewed what he read there. “In Mudora’s last words he spoke of his servant betraying him for the sake of ‘power and feigned love.’ It may be that his servant, Abrum by name, was seduced. It would be less likely that the Gerudo would disobey their king than that they obtained an insider, a traitor, to do the work for them. They are bound by their own honor not to act against us, but to have it done would not be beyond them.”

The king sat forward. “But who would have seduced Abrum? It would not have been Itzah. Abrum was Mudora’s closest assistant. He knew Itzah as well as any of us. And she was in disguise when she confronted Mudora. She must have had an accomplice.”

“Dancer,” said Aako, looking at the Goron Sage beside him.

“Yes, perhaps…” said Gor Darmon.

“What is it?” asked Lutai.

Gor Darmon’s wide brown face furrowed, making it appear like a large leather raisin. “There were attendants that accompanied Itzah when she would stay in the village. I would see them there sometimes when I came down from the mountain to visit. Abrum would show me the books he was binding for Kakariko’s library and I would teach him how to wrestle like a Goron. After our spars we would relax in the hot springs and Itzah’s attendants would dance for us. They were very good,” he added.

“But if Itzah’s attendants seduced Mudora’s servant, is that not the same as the Gerudo…” the captain began.

“No, Master Captain. It isn’t,” said Lutai, now becoming impatient. “Once Itzah became a Sage, she became a representative to her race not her tribe. It is for the same reason that Rauru can sit in council with the king and queen of his people and be on equal terms. It is a spiritual position, not a political one. For one of the attendants of the Gerudo Sage to induce a Sheikah servant to commit an act of treachery would neither involve the Gerudo as a tribe nor be directly against the Hylians, as were the terms of the truce. If you will consider the matter, you will find it is really quite a cunning move.”

Gor Darmon continued. “Whoever attempted to enter the Temple, it was not Itzah. She was caught, and then…someone took Mudora’s book. And if Mudora’s prediction be proven, it was the Lord Ganondorf who attempted to enter the Sanctuary of the Temple. It is obvious that the taint of the Golden Land still infects the minds of some.”

“That is to be determined, Darmon,” said the king. “Nevertheless, the stain is on the race, if not the tribe. If we make it clear that Itzah has been dealt with, whoever is behind these intrigues will give pause before they try again.” Then the king gazed at his wife with a look that resembled a lion’s fierceness as he is protecting his pride. “And the judgment must be swift, and decisive. I propose that Itzah’s trial be held this very night.”

Then the queen followed her husband’s statement like an echo. “I agree. It is proposed that Itzah’s trial be held this night. Your favors?”

“Aye,” said Rauru.

Aako’s face was set as he gave one strong nod.

“Aye,” growled Gor Darmon.

“Aye,” said Lutai.

“Aye,” said the captain emphatically, pounding his fist on the arm of Itzah’s chair.

The king’s eyes rested on his friend’s zealous face before he cast his favor. “Aye,” he said finally, and exhaled wearily.

“Then it is agreed,” said the queen. “The council will reconvene on the Arbiter’s Grounds at dusk.” And when it was decided that there was nothing further to discuss, the council was dismissed.

After the Sages had risen and begun to leave, Colin leaned in to the king and whispered, “Daphnes, there is something I do not understand.”

“Speak, friend,” said the king kindly.

“Master Rauru said that he was not the oldest among the Sages. Is he still…does he speak of Master Mudora?”

“You allow your eyes to deceive you. There is a Sage among them who is older and no less wise than even Mudora, Nayru keep him.”

“But, who…?”

“Master Aako,” replied the king.

* * *

When the sun set on the Arbiter’s Grounds a struggling prisoner breathed her last, impaled against a stone of obsidian by a sword of hardened light. It was said by those who saw the moon that night that it had turned to blood. In years to come the memory of that moon and cries of pain on the wind would haunt many to their graves. A legacy of treachery and punishment had begun.


Back to Story Menu