Hyrule seemed a pale imitation of its former glory. Worse than that, it was more like a living nightmare. The Kokiri had gone into hiding, fleeing the terrible creatures that now inhabited their forest. Hyrule field was infested with Poes and the nearby ranch taken over by that awful hired hand that no one seemed to care for. That was as close to the old ruins of
as anyone could get. The rest of the area was rendered completely uninhabitable by Hylians. It was overrun with creatures of darkness, serving the new, self proclaimed emperor of Hyrule, Ganondorf Dragmire. North Castle
Up to the north, the mountain range was a total mess. A dark, red cloud encircled the peaks. The Gorons had vanished. They were rumored to be trapped inside of the
, offered up as sacrifices at regular intervals to a dragon. Down south, the waters of Fire Temple were nearly dried up. What remained was stagnant and fetid. Worse yet, the waters of Lake Hylia had been frozen solid leaving the Zora completely isolated and cut off from both Hyrule and the passage of time. Zora Harbor
The Sheikah stronghold was another pale imitation of what it had once been. The Gerudo had burned down the actual buildings several years ago, in a final and desperate attempt to wipe out the Sheikah race once and for all, but the foundations remained. Over them now were canvas tents, easily taken down at a moment’s notice, making a perfectly mobile fortress in which the remaining Sheikah could meet and discuss the state of things in Hyrule.
It was in these depressing ruins that Yonah summoned Impa and her young apprentice, Sheik. When the two of them arrived, Yonah was sitting in the largest tent. Impa recognized the designs drawn on the canvas ceiling. Vaguely, she recalled that she had once taken this tent out on a mission, her very first command. That seemed far away to her now, thrown back into the recesses of her memory, but it had only been seventeen years ago.
“Hello,” Yonah said softly as she looked up at her visitors.
“Hello, Yonah,” Impa replied, drawing a fist up to her chest in the traditional Sheikah salute. “How are you?”
“Well, whatever’s going to kill me hasn’t shown up just yet,” Yonah remarked wryly. She turned to address Sheik, bending her head as much as her old age would permit.
“Please don’t,” the girl said softly, taking Yonah by the shoulders to straighten her out.
“Forgive me,” Yonah sighed. “Old habits.” She shook her head with a smile, examining the young woman before her. Impa had dressed her up in the most traditional Sheikah garb she could manage, but there was still one flaw in this otherwise perfect disguise. Sheik’s eyes were still the deep blue shade of a regular Hylian. No amount of magic could give her red, Sheikah eyes.
“Why have you summoned us?” Impa asked. She didn’t need to add in any sort of comment about the dangers. The Sheikahs, though surviving, were under heavy surveillance. Every wicked thing that went bump in the night knew that Princess Zelda was still alive somewhere and that the Sheikahs were protecting her. They were constantly looking for the slightest chink in the Sheikah armor that would reveal the location of the Princess. It was dangerous for Impa to be seen with the others. She could hide Zelda with greater ease on her own than in the presence of her people.
“I’ve just been contacted by Rauru,” Yonah explained.
Impa furrowed her brow. “Rauru?”
Sheik, however, seemed to recognize the name. “The Sage of Light? I thought he was dead.”
“He’s gone into hiding,” Yonah replied. “Just like you.”
“What does he want?” Impa wondered, half to Yonah, half to Sheik. There was no way of knowing which would have more answers. In the past six years, it seemed that Zelda’s wisdom had increased sevenfold.
“Well, it appears that Zelda’s dreams about Ganondorf were correct,” Yonah told them.
“What do you mean?”
“The boy. The Kokiri. He is the chosen one.”
This surprised Sheik. “Link? But I was certain he was dead!”
“He hasn’t been seen in the last six years,” Impa added.
Yonah merely nodded. “It seems that was Rauru’s doing.”
“What do you mean?”
“The boy is alive,” Yonah muttered. “In a way.”
“In a way?”
“It seems that he’s been sealed in the
.” Templeof Time
Sheik blinked her big blue eyes. “The
?” Templeof Time
The old Sheikah nodded. “Yes.”
“But that would mean that he’s –”
“Frozen. Asleep, if you will.”
Impa looked back and forth between the two of them. She felt miserably out of the loop, lacking all information on this situation and barely understanding a word they were saying. “Asleep?”
“When someone is sealed in the
,” Sheik explained, “they fall into a sort of dreamless sleep until the seal is broken.” Templeof Time
“Which only Rauru can do,” Yonah added.
“If Link is the key to overthrowing Dragmire,” Impa started slowly, trying not to sound impertinent, “then why would Rauru do something like that? Why would he seal off our only hope?”
“That is exactly what I asked him,” Yonah answered.
“What did he say?”
“Rauru said that Link was too weak to face Ganondorf in his present condition. He’s been sealed in the
so his body can mature while his mind remains uncorrupted by the world we have inherited.” Templeof Time
“Won’t that just atrophy his muscles?”
“It’s a magic ritual,” Yonah sighed, waving her hand dismissively.
“I wish he had told us this sooner,” Sheik lamented. “Then we could have had more hope.”
“Believe me,” Yonah assured her, “I properly scolded Rauru for his actions. He feels very bad about not telling us.”
“Well, regardless of that fact,” Impa put in quickly before they could stray further from the subject, “what else did he tell you?”
“He said that he would be breaking the seal soon.”
Excitement filled Sheik’s eyes and she clasped her hands together. “Link will awaken soon?”
Yonah nodded. “Within the next year,” she responded. “Or so Rauru told me. Seven years is pushing it. There may be no Hylians left to save if he keeps Link sealed away much longer.”
“That’s absolutely wonderful!” Sheik cried.
“Yes, that’s fantastic news,” Impa said, somewhat less enthusiastic. “But it changes nothing for the present.”
“It gives us hope,” Yonah corrected her.
“Hope,” Impa repeated dryly.
“You must not underestimate the power of a morale booster,” Yonah said.
“Morale booster? Do you mean to tell me that you’re making this common knowledge?”
Again, the old Sheikah leader nodded. “I’ve already sent some of our warriors out into the village to spread the news that a hero is destined to rise.”
“You haven’t used his name, have you?” Sheik asked.
“No, of course not,” Yonah replied. “We’re calling him the Hero of Time, the chosen one.”
“It has a wonderful mystic quality to it,” Sheik said approvingly.
“I thought you’d like it.”
“Is there anything else?” Impa cut back in.
“No, that’s all. I didn’t want to send the news to you in writing, lest it fall into the wrong hands.”
“Thank you for telling us, Yonah,” Sheik said.
“It was my privilege, your majesty.”
“You mustn’t call me that anymore.”
“Forgive me. I’m old.” Yonah sighed. “Did you two arrive together?”
“Then it’s best that you leave separately, so as not to draw any further attention.” She gestured to Sheik. “You go first. Return to your safe haven. I’ll send Impa along in a few minutes.”
“May the goddesses protect you, Yonah,” Sheik said. Immediately, she turned around and slipped out of the tent.
Impa and Yonah stood motionless, watching her silhouette on the canvas grow smaller and finally fade into the day. “Remarkable girl,” Yonah remarked after a moment. “You’ve done a fantastic job taking care of her, Impa. You should be very proud.”
“I am proud,” Impa replied vaguely. With a sigh, she turned her gaze to look down at her hands. Absently, she twirled a small piece of string tied around her ring finger.
“You lack hope more than most of the villagers,” Yonah commented, watching her.
“Things have been difficult. I hope that this Link will be able to restore peace and harmony.”
“Rauru is positive that if Link works in tandem with Princess Zelda and the other Sages, he can quite literally erase the last six years of misery.”
“Well, I doubt that.” Impa paused for a moment then looked up at Yonah. “Other Sages?”
“Yes. Zelda, it seems is a Sage.”
“I had no idea.”
“Nor did we. Rauru’s only just begun pooling information with us.”
“How many Sages are there?”
“Have any of the others been identified?”
Yonah shook her head. “No. Not yet. And that’s probably for the best. If Dragmire knew about the Sages, he would most likely do everything in his power to keep them away from Link.”
“That’s assuming he doesn’t already know something that we don’t.”
“I try to be an optimist.” Yonah gently reached out to touch Impa on the shoulder. “So should you.”
Impa flinched, quickly pulling away from Yonah. “I can’t afford that luxury.” Before Yonah could reply, Impa turned and started for the flap. “I should go. She can’t be left alone for so long.”
“Go,” Yonah sighed. She watched silently as Impa slipped out of the tent. Her shadow on the wall disappeared much quicker than Sheik’s, but Yonah watched it go nevertheless. She frowned, her thoughts still lingering on this woman, whose presence still lingered in the heat that filled the air. Poor Impa: No one knew how much she had lost in the last six years. Her heartstrings, like the small bit of twine wrapped around her finger, were fraying.
Six years ago, the first of the Hylians relocated to Kakariko. Within a few weeks, another wave came. Soon, the entire population of the town that had once circled
settled down in the Human village. Of course, they couldn’t bear to live in savage huts of mud and wicker. With the Hylians, came stucco and wood and brick. While the Hylians were incredible architects, they couldn’t build very well. Manual labor simply didn’t suit the talents of the noble and enlightened. Fortunately for them, the Human population provided a wellspring of laborers with strong backs and sense enough to know that pride was less important than a full belly. North Castle
Kakariko was transformed into a thriving little town, filled with shops and farms and tiny cafes with big umbrellas shading the tables and little umbrellas in the drinks. Of course, it wasn’t a paradise, but it was enough to call civilized. Any of the less civilized elements were confined to a small alleyway known as the Human Quarter. In the Human Quarter, there was a small jewelry store, built on the land that had once been the meeting hut. Above it was a large empty room. It was inside of this room that all the Humans assembled when they saw the bluish curls of smoke rising into the air one night.
The few remaining elements of their old way of life that had survived the rebuilding of Kakariko were tucked away in this room. There was little, to be certain, only the wicker throne of the Basileaus, a small, stone statue of Joxom, and several ancient bows, but it was enough. What really mattered were the people. And they crept in, cautiously in pairs of two or three, wondering with a sense of giddy delight, what the nature of this, their first meeting in five years, could possibly be.
Leonid picked his way across the room carefully, doing his best to avoid stepping on the small children who sat with their legs folded beneath them on the floor. Practically everyone in the Human Quarter knew who he was. After all, those who elected to remain in the Human Quarter, rather than hire themselves out as domestic servants and live in the Hylian homes, tended to stick together. There was a sense of community, a sense of family. Those who could still remember the old village recognized Leonid as the son of the old champion, Tully.
He looked just like his father, back when his father was seventeen. His long, ebony hair was divided into dozens of dreadlocks, falling over his face at odd angles. He didn’t care much for grooming and in fact reveled in his untidy appearance. Like Tully, he had a severe, square jaw, but he had inherited his mother’s cobalt blue eyes. Leonid’s strikingly handsome, muscular physique made him wildly sought after by the Hylian landlords with large, farm estates, but Leonid remained staunchly by the side of his father and the Basileaus. He could still remember the village; he could remember the way things used to be.
“Leonid!” one of his young friends called from the crowd.
“Yeah?” he asked, turning around to try and locate the source of the disembodied voice.
“What’s this meeting about?”
“Wait and see,” Leonid replied.
“Where’s the Basileaus?”
“The Basileaus didn’t call this meeting,” a firm voice reported from the doorway. Everyone turned and swiveled around, trying to see who had spoken. There wasn’t much doubt, but they still had to see for themselves.
Standing in the doorway was a young woman, a nearly seventeen years old. Like Leonid, she had a wild mane of dreadlocks, but her hair was much longer, going down halfway to her waist. It was a mousy, brown color, contrasted severely by her sharp red eyes. As she walked into the room, the crowd parted around her. Whenever they looked at her, it seemed like they were looking at a phantom.
While she possessed many of the traits of their worst enemies, particularly her long, pointed ears, she was still one of them, the Basileaus’ own daughter. She dressed like a Human, abandoning the gaudy, bright colors preferred by the Hylians. Instead, she wore a deep purple tunic that only covered her right arm and shoulder, leaving the left completely bare. Over her left side was a tight, fishnet fabric. Brown leather sandals climbed halfway up her thighs. Hanging to one side was an old, rusty sword she had obtained, despite the ban on Humans owning weapons.
“What’s the meaning of this, Shayla?” someone from the crowd barked. “You know only the Basileaus can call a meeting.”
“Only the Basileaus can call a mandatory meeting,” she replied blithely. “Anyone who wishes to leave is more than welcome to do so.”
They all mumbled, exchanging weary glances. True, she had given them leave, but now they were all too curious to know what the meaning of this abrupt breech in etiquette was. Leonid smirked. This was something he truly admired about Shayla. She had such a magnificent sense of the dramatic. She could keep almost anyone captivated for awhile; himself included.
Shayla crossed the room to the throne of the Basileaus. She didn’t dare sit in it, but rather stood before it, holding out her arms to address the people. “The crimes of the Hylians have gotten out of hand,” she declared. In the past, someone might have rebuked Shayla, pointing out that she was, in fact, a Hylian herself, but no one dared to try that again. Not after what happened last time. “Their latest transgression cannot be ignored,” she continued.
“What did they do?” someone asked curiously.
From her satchel, Shayla produced a scroll. With great ceremony, she unrolled it, holding it out for everyone to see. “Read this and see for yourself!”
“By order of the mayor of Kakariko,” Leonid read quietly to himself, “all Kludges are hereby ordered to submit to a curfew within the city limits.”
Quickly, indignant gasps erupted from the assembled masses. “You see how they treat us!” Shayla cried. “We’re nothing more than animals to them! Sheep that must be herded in before nighttime! Kludges!”
“They can’t do that!” someone growled angrily.
“They already have,” Shayla replied. She looked around at the crowd. “How many indignations have we suffered at the hands of the Hylians? What have they done to hinder our freedom?”
“They’ve taken our livestock!” a young Human yelled.
“They won’t let us operate businesses outside of the Quarter!”
“We’ve lost the right to own our land!”
“How many more indignations must we suffer?” Shayla roared. “How many? Put a number on it!”
“None!” Leonid shouted.
“None!” many of the others, particularly the young people, agreed. “None! None! None!”
“The time has come to fight back!” Shayla called above the hectic noise, pumping a militant fist into the air. She had a miraculous gift to make herself heard. “We must fight for our freedom! It’s time for us to act! It shall be glorious!”
Instantly, the entire assembly fell silent. All eyes flew to the doorway. The crowd began to part as Basileaus Leafa made her way slowly into the room, accompanied, as always, by her faithful Tully. Leafa looked decidedly worse for wear after the difficulties of the last six years. Her face was worn and tired, the bags under her eyes heavy and purple. She had finally elected to chop off her rust colored curls, leaving her hair short and severe. In addition, the Basileaus had lost a lot of weight, giving her a slightly brittle appearance, though she moved well enough and always with the confidence of Basileaus.
“It will be a slaughter,” Leafa said softly as she came toe to toe with Shayla. “And mindless violence.”
“But Basileaus, the new law is –”
“I’m well aware what the new law is,” Leafa cut her off sharply. She turned to address the room. “It’s unfair, that’s what it is.” She paused for a moment. “But the second we pick up a weapon, we become one of them.”
There were murmurs of assent from all around the room, especially from the village elders. Shayla’s face slackened as she realized that she was loosing her audience. “But what would you have us do? Submit to servitude?”
“There are ways of working through problems without militant strength,” Leafa answered. “In the old days, we used to try talking through our problems.”
“These aren’t the old days,” Shayla shot back.
“No, but I’m working on it.” Leafa scanned the room. “Go home,” she told her people. “Return to your lives and families. This is not he answer.”
With varied grumbles and mumbles, the meeting broke up. Shayla stood there, feeling like a fool, as everyone left. Tully approached Leonid, grabbing him by the arm. “Did you know about this?” Leonid’s silence was answer enough. “I’ll have a word with you.” With that, the two men exited with the crowd. Soon, Leafa and Shayla were the only ones left.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Shayla said sulkily.
Leafa sat down in her wicker throne. “Neither did you.”
“I could have rallied them!” she replied passionately, turning around to face the Basileaus. “I could have made a difference.”
“At what cost?” Leafa asked. “How many lives would have to be lost in order for you to make your difference?”
Shayla knelt down at Leafa’s feet. “Mother, don’t you have confidence in my abilities?”
“I have every confidence in your abilities,” Leafa told her, stroking her hair gently. “What I don’t trust is your anger.”
“It makes me strong, mother.”
“It makes you rash and spontaneous.”
She sighed softly. “I just want to help.”
“I know,” Leafa mumbled softly.
“I hate the Hylians.”
“You cannot forget that you are one of them.” Shayla opened her mouth to protest, but Leafa went on. “Not all of them are bad. And you aren’t bad either. But don’t forget your Sheikah heritage.”
“I try to forget,” Shayla admitted, “but I can’t.”
“From the day I brought you home, I made it clear that if your parents came looking for you, I would return you to them.”
“They never came,” Shayla whispered.
“And so I’ve taken care of you,” Leafa continued. “But I have never asked you to hate your own heritage.”
“But the Hylians –”
“I had friends who were Hylians,” Leafa told her. “Good friends. Some of them were Sheikah.”
“So you’ve said.”
“And I haven’t forgotten the kindnesses they showed me. Some Hylians are bad, but not all of them. The Sheikah are very good. You should be proud to be one of them, Shayla.”
“Who wants to be part of a race that’s dead?” she asked bitterly.
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s the truth.” She looked up at Leafa with her hardened red eyes. “Everything that was Sheikah in me died that day when I saw…”
“Saw what?” This peaked Leafa’s interest. It wasn’t often that she could get Shayla to talk about her past. The truth was that she knew practically nothing about this stranger she called her daughter; nothing about her before the fateful day when she was found in the blazing destruction of
. North Castle
“Nothing,” Shayla said coldly.
Leafa sighed. Another failed attempt. “I beg you, Shayla, check your anger. If you aren’t careful, it’ll explode in the worst possible way and you won’t be the only one who gets hurt.”
Shayla stood up, balling her hands into fists at her sides. “Well, I don’t care anymore.”
“Just, let me be.”
With that, she turned around and stormed out of the room, leaving Leafa alone in her throne. The Basileaus sighed, running a hand through what little remained of her hair. There was a certain quality about Shayla that she just didn’t understand. When the girl left a room, she never really left. There was always a part of her that stayed behind, smoldering like an ember.
The halls of Ganondorf’s glorious palace were bleak and dank and to be perfectly honest, that’s just how he liked it. As he followed his chief lieutenant, Sarjenka, down the corridors to the dungeon, he listened to the haunting echo of water dripping somewhere out of sight. This was a sound he particularly enjoyed, although, for the life of him, he couldn’t really say why.
In reality, he was genuinely annoyed right now. The day had started off on a sour note. A Sheikah had been spotted spying on the castle, but he managed to escape without being caught. Ganondorf loathed incompetence, especially from his own people. He had had the guards on duty executed as an example to the others. Failure would not be tolerated. After all, he had done his utmost to have all the Sheikahs in Hyrule eliminated. He was quite certain there were only a handful left. Unfortunately, the most important of them had managed to elude his grasp for six years now.
As if that weren’t enough of a nuisance, he had also been informed that the pesky Sage of Light, Rauru, was on the move. Ganondorf had no idea what the old fool was plotting, but he knew it would spell trouble for him. He had sent several of his best Gerudo spies to try and find out what the old man was up to, but none of them had returned. Ganondorf felt fairly certain they had been eliminated. He would have to remember to order Sarjenka to begin training some new spies.
It was after all of this that Sarjenka had appeared before him, saying that she had news that would please him immensely. She insisted that he follow her at once. Most of the time, Ganondorf was disinclined to take orders from anyone, least of all his subjects, but Sarjenka was a special case. Time and time again, she had proven a vicious and cunning accomplice. He reserved a special place in his ranks for her. After all, it had been Sarjenka who had engineered the clever plot by which they had disposed of Nabooru, the Alpha of the largest Gerudo pride, who was adamantly opposed to Ganondorf’s reign.
“What’s this all about, Sarjenka?” Ganondorf asked as they made their way through the halls.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” she replied, shoving a servant out of the path, “but it seems that they’ve finally managed to break Prisoner 5013.”
This surprised Ganondorf more than he was willing to admit. All the prisoners in his dungeon were stripped of their identities upon arrival. Instead, they were given numbers instead of their names. Still, Ganondorf remembered 5013. 5013 had been in a thorn in his side for quite some time now. “Really?” he drawled.
“Yes,” Sarjenka said with a nod.
“I was beginning to think that nothing could break him.”
“As was I,” she said quickly.
Ganondorf smiled. Sarjenka knew her place well enough. “What made the difference?” He was genuinely curious about this one. They had attempted every single form of torture they could devise to break 5013, but nothing had ever worked before. The man’s resolve was like steel, even if his body was like jelly.
“I don’t know, precisely.”
“What do you mean?”
Sarjenka shrugged. “He was as stubborn as always. Sapphia was getting bored with her usual methods. She was planning on instituting some water torture next week. But all of a sudden, he just…cracked.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well…” Sarjenka had reached the doorway to the dungeon. Grasping the sturdy iron ring in the middle of the door, she yanked it open, pulling it aside for Ganondorf to step through. “See for yourself,” she finished, making a sweeping gesture with her hand toward the door.
“Hmph,” Ganondorf snorted, walking past Sarjenka and descending into the depths of the dungeon.
It was pleasantly cool and dank down there. Lines of cells ran from one end of the dungeon to the other. At the front of the lines sat Sapphia crossing names off of a scroll. She looked up when Ganondorf and Sarjenka entered. Immediately, she jumped to her feet, drawing the ceremonial blades from her sides and crossing them in front of her chest. “What is your will?” she asked Ganondorf reverently.
“Sarjenka tells me you’ve successfully broken 5013,” he said. “Finally,” he added.
“Well, I’m afraid I can’t take all of the credit for it,” Sapphia replied.
“Where is he?”
Suddenly, from somewhere in the depths of the dungeon, the three Gerudos heard an insane wail rise up. It didn’t really sound like a person, nor did it sound like an animal. It seemed to be somewhere in between. “Just follow the noise,” Sapphia told him with a withered expression.
His curiosity peaked, Ganondorf walked down the line of cells, the prisoners with strength left in them rattling the bars and crying out to him. He ignored their petty shouts, following the sound of the animalistic moaning. “He’s been doing that all morning,” Sarjenka sighed.
At the end of the cellblock, Ganondorf located 5013’s cell. As he peered in through the bars, he saw the quivering mass that had once been a proud Sheikah, huddled in a corner, on a small pile of straw. He cradled his shaved head in his hands, yowling like a wolf. Ganondorf realized, however, that in between screams, he was muttering to himself softly.
“What’s he saying?” Ganondorf asked, glancing sideways at Sarjenka.
“Stand up, prisoner!” Sarjenka barked.
Ganondorf was about to tell her that this was not what he had ordered, but much to his surprise, the prisoner began mumbling a bit louder than before. “There are so few of us left. Everyone else is occupied with royal business. Kaya’s coming with me. Give her some credit. She did help us out of a tight spot during a certain first contact situation.” He paused to scream loudly before continuing in his mad jumble of word salad.
“What’s he talking about?” Ganondorf snapped.
“Listen,” Sarjenka warned him.
“She’s going to have to stay here with you. Impa! You’re watching after one child.”
“Impa? The royal nursemaid?” Suddenly, Ganondorf understood why he had been summoned. “Has he said anything else about her? Does he know where she’s hiding the Princess?”
“We can’t understand most of what he’s saying,” Sarjenka admitted.
The prisoner went right on babbling. “Another shouldn’t be too terrible. And Shayla isn’t high maintenance. She can feed and dress herself. Is it so shameful to say that you’re watching after your own daughter for awhile?”
A sly smile forming on his face, Ganondorf turned to look at Sarjenka. He caught her eyes. They were both thinking the same thing.
To the west of the village, there was an old pass that no one ever went near. It had been carved through a hill centuries ago by some of the original inhabitants of Kakariko. Back then, it was a special trap, designed to keep intruding animals out of the village. Unfortunately, there was one animal it hadn’t entirely been able to shut out. Of course, the trap had long been taken apart. The sharp hemlock spiked stakes were gone, leaving nothing but a deep pit in the ground, flanked by smooth walls, carved with an archaic warning. The Hylians called it the
Sheikah Way, after seven Sheikahs who had perished there.
Since no one would go near the pass, it served as an ideal meeting place. Shayla knew this of course, so when she decided to assemble the militant youths it seemed like the perfect spot. They arrived in twos and threes, looking around nervously for fear of being seen breaking the new Human curfew. Leonid was the first. Of course. He dropped down into the pit, landing in a crouch with one hand on the ground, the other at his side. Shayla was already at the bottom of the pit. She looked up at him with a smirk. “Show off.”
Gradually, the others began to arrive. They had been meeting at the pit for many months now, all of them disgruntled with the state of things in the village. As they arrived, they all seemed to have the same thought on their minds; the disastrous meeting in the Human Quarter.
“Well, that went well,” Jessa said snidely.
“Maybe next time we can do it naked,” her sister Kaylee added.
“Shut up,” Shayla growled at them.
“Leafa really showed you up,” Kaylee continued.
“Stop it!” Leonid called, getting in between the women before Shayla could pummel Kaylee into a fine pulp. “Clearly, the others weren’t ready to listen to what we had to say. We knew that was a possibility.”
Kaylee sniffed indignantly, folding her arms across her chest. “I know,” she mumbled.
“We can’t start fighting amongst ourselves,” he continued diplomatically. “We have too much at stake. That would just be playing into the Hylians’ hands.”
“Right,” Shayla muttered.
“She should know,” Kaylee snorted, “she’s one of them.”
“That’s it!” Shayla started. She launched herself forward, nails poised to gouge out her eyes.
“Stop them!” Leonoid shouted.
Instantly, two boys grabbed Shayla’s arms, pulling her back. Leonid wrapped his arms around Kaylee and pulled her away. When the two were separated, everyone seemed to calm down gradually. By the time all the members of the group had arrived, the quarrel was forgotten and Shayla called them to order with her natural, dramatic authority.
“All right,” she said, looking at each of them. “So we’ve learned that the rest of the villagers aren’t ready to join in our crusade. That doesn’t mean we need to stop working. We want to send the Hylians a message and that’s what we’re going to do. The question is, how?”
“I say we just start writing proclamations dictating their lives,” a young man named Warden sneered.
“They’d just take that as a joke,” Jessa shot back. “We want them to take us seriously.”
“Which means, we have to do something serious,” Leonid noted.
“Absolutely correct,” Shayla said with a nod. “We can’t just fight fire with fire; we have to hit them where it really hurts.”
“We don’t actually want to hurt them though, right?” Jessa asked, suddenly growing timid.
“You heard what Leafa said,” Warden muttered, “they could easily slaughter all of us.”
“What we need,” Shayla said, “is a big symbolic gesture that will require minimal effort.”
“Symbolic gesture?” Leonid repeated.
“A public figure,” Jesse said suddenly.
Everyone turned to look at her. “Huh?” someone grunted from the darkness of the night.
“What we need to do is humiliate a public figure. It means only doing something small to one person, but it would have massive consequences on the population as a whole.”
“Humiliate?” Warden scoffed. “I say we kill.”
“No!” Leonid said quickly. “The second we pick up a weapon, we become one of them.”
Shayla glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Let’s worry less about what we’re going to do and more about who we’re going to do it to,” she told them.
“Who would the people give anything to protect?” Jessa wondered.
“Their Princess,” Shayla snorted. “Unfortunately, she’s dead.”
“That’s not true,” Kaylee suddenly chimed in.
At once, everyone turned to look at her. “What?” asked one of the surprised freedom fighters.
“It’s not true,” Kaylee repeated with a slight shrug.
“How do you know?” Leonid questioned her.
“Well, I was walking through the market yesterday, and I heard some people talking about the Sheikahs.”
“The sworn protectors of the royal family?”
“Yeah. One of them was saying how surprised she was to see that the Princess’s nursemaid was still alive.”
Jessa furrowed her brow with a frown. “Nursemaid?”
“Yeah. Apparently, her name is Impa. Anyway, they think she went into hiding or something, but she got sloppy. Someone saw her out and about in the village.”
Warden folded his big, beefy arms across his chest. “So?”
“So, where there’s a nursemaid, there must be a Princess.”
Leonid raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry. Are you saying that you think the Princess is in hiding?”
“I haven’t finished the story yet,” Kaylee said indignantly.
He sighed. “Go on.”
“Well, they say Impa’s taken a new apprentice.”
Everyone was a bit startled by this. Cautiously, Jessa leaned forward. “So she has an apprentice?”
Kaylee shrugged. “Well, obviously, that’s got to be the Princess. What’s a better way to hide something than in plain sight?”
“She has a point there,” Warden grunted.
“I don’t know…” Jessa countered with a slight frown. “It’s hard to believe a Sheikah could get so sloppy.”
“Anything is possible,” Leonid pointed out. “I mean, I’m not saying I believe it for certain, but anything is possible.” He turned to look at Shayla. “What do you think?” he asked her.
She remained silent for some time, her thoughts clearly jumbled. Finally, she nodded slightly. “I think it’s a good idea,” she told them.
Several of the youths let out excited whispers, filled with the prospect of some decisive action at long last. Leonid seemed a bit disappointed. “Are you sure? It seems far fetched.”
“No, it’s a good plan.” Shayla clapped her hands together. “Listen up, here’s what we’re going to do.” She pointed to Jessa and Kaylee, “I want you two to get into the cheapest Hylian part of the village. Start asking around for two Sheikahs. Don’t identify them by name; we don’t want them to think we’re looking for Impa specifically. Just say…say your mistress told you to find her, but you’re completely lost. Do whatever you have to in order to find their position.”
“Right!” Jessa said firmly.
“Okay,” Kaylee agreed, all thoughts of their earlier quarrel long forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Shayla turned to Warden. “I want you to prepare a strike team. As soon as we manage to locate Impa and the Princess, we’ll close in on them. You take the lead. Bring as many people as you need.”
Warden nodded. “I can do that.”
“Now, this is very important: You must take the Princess alive. No screw ups. You can fight as hard as you want, you can knock her unconscious, you can beat her up if you have to, but do not kill her.”
“No killing. Check.”
Leonid cleared his throat. “What about the Sheikah nursemaid?” he asked carefully.
Without bothering to look at Leonid, Shayla shrugged. “We have no interest in her.”
“I suppose.” Leonid glanced at Warden. “All the same, you really shouldn’t kill her.”
“She’s going to give you trouble though, Warden,” Kaylee warned him. “The Sheikahs are tough.”
“They’re tough,” Shayla agreed, “but even they can’t win against steep odds. Make sure there are a lot more of us than there are of her.”
“Are you sure we should let her live?” Warden wondered.
“Let her live,” Shayla told him darkly. “Let her live with the humiliation of knowing that she failed in her most sacred duty. Bring me the Princess.”
The rock garden was a far cry from the beautiful courtyards of
. Instead of azaleas, the ground merely sprouted stones. Instead of rose bushes, piles of small pebbles slipped and slid from time to time, depending on the temperament of the wind. Still, it was home, the best that Impa could eek out for her charge during their time in hiding. North Castle
Impa sat on a stone, holding a long twig in her fingers. The moon was veiled by the clouds, cloaking the quarry in nearly complete darkness. She absently pushed around a few rocks, listening to the clinking noise they made against the ground and wondering what they looked like. Zelda walked out of the cavern where they had set up their tent, holding a canteen and a lantern. She had removed her mask, making her beautiful face visible. “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Impa said for what was probably the five thousandth time.
“I know,” Zelda answered, handing her the canteen. “But I need to breathe some fresh air. Only for a little while.”
“Who am I to begrudge you air?” Impa mumbled good-naturedly, accepting the canteen.
Zelda sat on a ledge, pulling her knees up to her chest. “You were uneasy with Yonah,” she commented absently.
After unscrewing the canteen, Impa glanced up. “Was I?” With that, she took a long drink.
Zelda wasn’t ready to let the topic drop, however. “You were. You are almost every time we see her.”
“I don’t mean to be,” Impa replied when she could no longer hold her breath to drink. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Of course not,” Zelda added quickly. “I only meant that it’s something I’ve observed about you.”
“You’re getting very good at the art of noticing,” Impa told her with a small smile.
“I had an excellent trainer,” Zelda answered.
Impa laughed. “I don’t know about excellent but –”
“Still, I have noticed how ill at ease Yonah seems to make you,” Zelda interrupted. “Why is that?”
“Well, that’s a complicated question,” Impa sighed.
“Explain it to me.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Well, we’re not going anywhere.” Zelda glanced around them, at the dismal place they called home.
“I’m sorry it’s so rotten here,” Impa said softly.
“Don’t be sorry,” Zelda chided her. “You’ve done your best. I wouldn’t expect anything more than this.”
“You’re a bit too generous to me.”
“And you’re still avoiding the subject,” Zelda sang back.
Zelda leaned forward, looking Impa in the eyes. “I’ve never seen you so clandestine before about anything.”
“I wouldn’t hide anything from you.”
“So tell me what’s wrong.”
She sighed. “It’s just a personal matter.”
“You have personal matters?” Zelda joked.
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Zelda leaned back on her elbows. “You barely ever left my side when I was a child. I had begun to think that you were a part of the castle and that when I went to bed at night, you disappeared into the ether.”
Impa laughed. “Did you really?”
“Well…no, not really. But you were certainly an enormous presence in my life.”
“My duty has always been to you. Even before you were born.”
“Were you there when I was born?”
“Yes,” Impa said with a nod.
“What do you remember about that night?”
She frowned a little, searching her memories for a time, some seventeen years ago. “I remember…I remember feeling rather nervous.”
“About seeing too much.”
Zelda scowled. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m not sure I do either,” Impa admitted.
“You were nervous?”
“And excited too,” Impa said quickly. “Sheikahs…we train our entire lives to serve the royal family. Back then, there were more of us than there were of you. At the time, it was the greatest honor imaginable to be named a personal attendant to a member of the royal family. Most Sheikahs were lucky if they got to meet face to face with one of you once in their lives.”
“How were you named my guardian?” Zelda asked curiously, tilting her head to one side as she used to do when she was little.
“I…well, it was my first command. A total disaster, but Yonah was impressed with the way I handled the situation.”
Impa went on without explaining. “She came to the site of where
was built within the next few months. She congratulated me on a job well done and promoted me to full warrior status. Glas was so happy for me he…” Impa trailed off abruptly, but it was too late. North Castle
Zelda caught the abrupt shift in her nursemaid’s demeanor. “Glas?” she repeated curiously.
“The healer who was assigned to my team,” Impa said briskly, turning her eyes away from the Princess.
“I’ve heard that name before. I think I remember him. Didn’t he come to the castle once to speak with you?”
“Yes,” Impa mumbled absently. “He did. A few hours before the attack of the Gerudo.”
A twig cracked. Immediately, Impa and Zelda both tensed like cats, staring into the air as if it would tell them the answers. “What was that?” Zelda finally whispered breathily.
Impa didn’t reply. Instead, she continued to stay frozen, waiting to hear another sound. Nothing came. “I don’t know…” she finally admitted.
“It was probably just a Deku Baba,” Zelda sighed after another tense moment or two.
“Probably,” Impa consented.
Suddenly, there was a loud cry from somewhere over the rock ridge. Before either Zelda or Impa could react, a stampede of dark figures began racing over the ridge to descend on them. “Definitely not a Deku Baba!” Zelda cried, jumping to her feet and pulling up her mask. Her sudden and abrupt movement caused her lantern to fall over, plunging the quarry into darkness.
By this point, the dark figures had reached the bottom of the ridge. Impa had already drawn a knife. She raced forward to the throng, but there were nearly two dozen of them. All of them fell upon Zelda. Valiantly, Zelda began trying to fend them off, using the fighting techniques Impa had taught her. She whirled around, swinging her left wrist to take out as many of them as possible. Crouching down, she managed to catch several of them off guard, tripping up their ankles. About three of them fell to the ground with yelps of surprise. Another one fell into his comrades, slowing them down just a little bit.
Impa shouted loudly, trying to draw some of them in her direction. Much to her surprise, they didn’t seem interested in taking her down, even though she was the one with a weapon while Zelda was unarmed. “Come here, you Gerudo scum!” Impa roared at them.
“Take the Princess alive!” a voice shouted. Impa’s heart raced into panic. It was a male voice! For a split second, she was certain Ganondorf Dragmire himself was leading this attack, but suddenly, the clouds shifted, allowing a beam of moonlight to fall on the scene. All at once, she realized her error. They weren’t Gerudos who were attacking. They were Humans!
Quickly, Impa threw herself into the throng. She swung her knife expertly at one of the Humans, but much to her surprise, he managed to duck clear of the swipe. Where had these Humans picked up such great fighting skills? A second Human caught Impa’s arm from behind, pulling it as far back as it would go. Impa’s face contorted in pain. The Human squeezed her pressure point. She let out a shout and reluctantly opened her fingers, letting the knife drop.
Zelda was fighting a losing battle. She managed to sock a woman in the jaw, but two more had just dropped from the ridge. They both grabbed her arm while a rather burly man grabbed her other arm. With a grunt, Zelda kicked off from the ground, trying to nail a few of them in the face. Her right left flailed and missed. Her left leg cuffed one of them in the ear, but that didn’t seem to deter him.
“Stop!” Impa shouted, “That’s not the Princess! That’s my apprentice Sheik! Stop it! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
“Shut her up before she draws attention to us!” one of the girls hissed. And they were boys and girls. Impa realized now that the Humans she was fighting against were all Zelda’s age or younger. None of them would remember her from her first contact with Kakariko.
“Listen to me! I know Leafa! Leafa is my –” Impa didn’t get to finish. One of the youngsters knocked her on the side of the head, right where Hylians were most vulnerable to blows. She dropped like a rock, falling unconscious before she hit the ground.
“Do yourself a favor and shut up, Princess,” the leader of the Human attack team said.
“Please don’t hurt me.”
“I said, shut up!” With that, he cuffed her on the back of the head, hitting the same vulnerable target. Like Impa, Zelda crumpled, but she was unable to fall because so many Humans were laying hands on her.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Warden,” someone said.
“If she kept screaming, we’d be spotted,” Warden shot back angrily.
“Come on,” a third voice said, “Let’s get out of here.”
Menteith slithered on his belly, traversing over the support beam, safely engulfed in the shadows of the ceiling. Below him, he saw several Gerudo guards walking down the hall, talking casually about some new game that was popular in Kasuto. He watched them pass underneath him, grateful that they couldn’t hear the frightful pounding of his heart as hit thumped against the inside of his ribcage. One false step and he absolutely knew that he would be wishing for death.
Only a short while ago, he had managed to elude capture by a few sentries. They all thought he had run back to the Sheikah stronghold no doubt. About halfway down the road though, he decided to double back and return to Ganondorf’s palace. His work wasn’t finished and he certainly wasn’t going to return to Yonah without something to show for it. There were so few Sheikahs left in Hyrule, he didn’t want to let her down. No, he simply wouldn’t return until he had collected some information on Ganondorf’s movements.
Unfortunately, the problem with collecting information about movement was that it seemed as though Ganondorf wasn’t going anywhere. For almost two years now, the Gerudo prince had barely stirred from his castle. Of course, there was plenty of hearsay about what he was doing, but nothing concrete. Some people thought he was after the Triforce, though he already had a third of it in his possession. Others suspected that he planned to start an invasion of Holodrum, a Hylian colony that had been settled only a few decades ago. Still others held the firm conviction that Ganondorf’s desires lay in finding the rogue Gerudo Alpha called Nabooru who had completely vanished from sight years ago.
Whatever it was that Ganondorf was planning Menteith had his heart set on finding out. As he crawled across the beam, digging his nails into the sides for balance, he tried his best to follow the sound of Ganondorf’s voice. He could hear the Gerudo approaching, deep in conversation with one of his women. Menteith peered below, watching the deserted hallway for a sign of shade. As the voices grew louder, two long shadows began to form on the floor, getting smaller as two figures approached Menteith’s position.
“I think we should just put him out of his misery,” a voice that Menteith recognized as Sarjenka’s said.
“I didn’t ask what you thought,” Ganondorf snapped.
There was a moment of silence, filled only with footsteps, before Ganondorf spoke again. “He may be of use to us yet.”
“Din only knows what other bits of trivia he has up in that demented head of his. We should collect all we can before dealing with his fate.”
“Correct as usual,” Sarjenka fawned.
The figures finally appeared in Menteith’s sightlines, approaching from behind. His lip curled at the gruesome sight of Dragmire. Every waking nightmare Menteith had was either about Ganondorf or about a woman he had once known named Nuria. Sarjenka was a sharp contrast to her master though. With skin much paler than typical for a Gerudo, her red hair shone brighter, falling a bit past her shoulders in several parts, fastened with ruby barrettes.
Carefully, Menteith began to creep along the beam, following Ganondorf and Sarjenka as best he could as they passed through the corridor. It was a fairly long hallway, but they were approaching the broad double doors to Ganondorf’s throne room and Menteith knew he would only have a short period of time to listen in before they were closed away from him.
“Of course,” Ganondorf was saying, lapping up the flattery like a cat lapped warm milk.
“What do you plan to do now, in light of the new information?” she asked him carefully.
Menteith’s ears perked up. New information? Now he was curious. “I want to assemble an attack squad,” Dragmire said.
“An attack squad?”
“Yes. Go town, Sarjenka. See if you can dig up anything on this mysterious Shayla.”
“I doubt there will be much,” Sarjenka mumbled.
“You’re probably right.”
“After all, if you didn’t know of her existence until just now, it’s likely that she’s been kept a very well guarded secret.”
“True,” Ganondorf replied, “which is why we need to think in unconventional ways.”
“Instead of looking for a birth certificate or family tree, I want you to look up common things.”
“Head to the ranch. See if you can find her name on delivery slips for milk or receipts for horse rentals. Stick to the most mundane places where someone would sign their name.”
“As you wish,” she answered. Menteith was certain he saw Sarjenka frown suddenly. “But why do you want an attack squad?”
Ganondorf chuckled. “Once you’ve pinned down Shayla’s location, I intend to attack it.”
“Do you intend to kill her?”
“No, that would be fun, but nowhere near as useful.”
“This girl has been hidden for a reason. She has an important connection to the royals. Find me that girl and we can find Princess Zelda.”
“Do you really think it’ll work?”
“Never underestimate the maternal instincts of a woman,” Ganondorf alleged wisely.
Menteith scowled. What did that mean? Sarjenka seemed to understand. “We’ll find her,” she promised.
“Good,” Ganondorf mumbled. “Good.”
Sarjenka folded her arms across her chest. “I wonder if she’ll be able to withstand Sapphia’s handiwork as well as her father.”
“It will be an interesting little experiment, won’t it?”
Another little laugh escaped from Ganondorf. “I’ll lay down fifty Rupees saying that she breaks long before he did.”
“And my horse.”
“I’ll take that bet.”
They had reached the door to the throne room. Ganondorf put a hand on the panel, but turned to look at Sarjenka. “Get me Shayla. Shayla’s the key to finding Princess Zelda. And Princess Zelda is the key to completing the Triforce. Don’t fail me.”
“Rather than let you down, I would die,” Sarjenka told him earnestly.
“That’s what I had in mind.”
With that, Ganondorf opened the door and marched into the throne room, letting it slam shut behind him with a fantastic crack. Sarjenka remained motionless in the hallway for a moment longer before turning around and heading back in the opposite direction. Menteith followed her for a few moments, until she turned and started down another hallway. Unable to jump onto the support beam going that way, Menteith remained where he was, allowing himself to rest for a bit.
He had gotten his wish. He had gathered a bit of information about what Ganondorf was up to, but for the life of him, he couldn’t understand it. Shayla? That was clearly a Sheikah name, but Menteith had never met anyone called Shayla. Since there were so few Sheikahs left, he felt fairly certain that he would have at least have known about the existence of this girl. How was she connected to Princess Zelda? Everyone knew that Impa was the only person aware of Zelda’s location. And who was this prisoner they had been speaking about? The one they had broken and set a wager on? Filled with more questions than answers, Menteith resolved to return to the Sheikah stronghold and let them piece it all together.
By the time Shayla arrived back at the meeting place, everyone was already there, buzzing with excitement. A small tent had been erected, made up of the old hides that were once used to shield the village homes from the rains, back before the Hylians moved in. All of the people in Shayla’s militia were standing outside of the tent flap, whispering excitedly.
“Is it done?” she asked, spotting Warden in the throng and immediately crossing over to him.
accomplished,” he told her proudly. Mission
“Well done, my friend,” she congratulated him, clapping him on the back and clasping his wrist for a brisk shake.
“We shouldn’t all stand around here,” Leonid hissed as he spotted Shayla in the crowd.
“Agreed,” Jessa said. “We’ll only draw attention to ourselves.”
“The last thing we want is someone kidnapping the person we just kidnapped,” Kaylee said with a laugh.
“Correct,” Shayla said vaguely.
“So?” Leonid prompted her. “What’s the plan?”
“We’ll take watch in shifts, three people per shift. One in the tent, one flanking, and a third from the top of the hill. Leonid and Kaylee, stay with me for the first shift, the rest of you go home and get some sleep.” Everyone mumbled their assent. “You should all be proud of yourselves,” Shayla called after them as they began to depart. “We’ve accomplished the impossible. Something even Ganondorf Dragmire himself couldn’t do.”
“Now they’ll take us Humans seriously,” Jessa laughed triumphantly.
“Peace and long life to all of you,” Shayla said.
The crowd soon departed, leaving only Leonid, Kaylee, and Shayla behind. “I’ll go up to the hill,” Leonid volunteered.
“Fine,” Shayla agreed. “Keep watch for anyone approaching from the ruins of
.” North Castle
“Right,” he said with a nod before turning around and vanishing into the darkness of the night.
Shayla turned to face Kaylee. “I’ll take the inside of the tent. You flank. Try and keep yourself out of sight.”
“Okay,” she replied, turning around and walking deeper into the shadows of the old pit.
Left alone, Shayla braced herself, taking a deep breath before she slowly turned around and ducked into the hide tent. The inside was surprisingly barren; the tent didn’t even have a bottom, it merely stood over the old, blunted stumps of the hemlock stakes that had once been planted on the cavern floor. A single pole in the middle held up the hides, allowing them to slope down like the sides of a pyramid. It was to this post that Zelda was tied.
Much to Shayla’s disappointment, Zelda was wide awake, watching the entrance as the girl came in. She looked quite the same as Shayla remembered, with her long, corn silk blond hair and those irritatingly beautiful blue eyes. At present, she was sporting a typical Sheikah uniform of gray and purple, with a deep red Sheikah eye sewn into her chest. There were some bandages around her wrists and many more on the floor. Dimly, Shayla recalled that sometimes Sheikahs used white gauze for masks, but Zelda was unmasked now.
“Did Yonah send you?” Zelda asked, spying Shayla’s long pointed ears and her Sheikah eyes.
“You’re mistaken, Princess,” Shayla replied icily. “I’m not here to rescue you. I’m here to stand guard.”
“You’re working with the Humans? Oh. I see. What do they want with me, then?”
“They want nothing with you,” Shayla said.
“Then what’s this all about?”
“This is about justice.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You wouldn’t,” Shayla sniffed indignantly, pacing back and forth in front of Zelda.
“Do you presume to know something about me?” Zelda mumbled, raising an eyebrow.
“I know much about you,” she snapped back.
“And what do you know?”
“You are the great Princess Zelda. People would give up their very lives, nay, the very lives of their children for your sake. You are the figurehead of Hyrule for the Hylians, aren’t you?”
“Some might say that,” Zelda agreed. “Although I doubt anyone would sacrifice their children for my sake.”
“Oh, ignorance is bliss for you, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course not. That would require you to think about someone besides yourself. Someone once told me there were no monsters in
. They never met you.” North Castle
“How dare you accuse me of such selfishness? I’ve given up my life to keep Ganondorf Dragmire from possessing the Triforce.
“I don’t care about the Triforce,” Shayla said bitterly. “I don’t care about the Spiritual Stones or the Moon Pearl or the Sacred Pendants of Virtue. And I don’t care about you.”
“Your hostility seems to prove the contrary.”
Shayla pulled back her hand and slapped Zelda across the face. “Don’t try to read me.”
Zelda turned her face to one side, taking the blow with dignity. “You go against your line,” she said softly.
“I am not a Sheikah,” Shayla answered. “And I do not follow the
Sheikah Way. I care about the lives of my family more than I care about your pathetic existence, Princess Zelda.”
She gestured out the flap of the tent. “The Humans. Or ‘Kludges’ as the Hylians call them. Your people have oppressed them for far too long.”
“Oppressed? Kludges? What do you mean?”
“What do I mean?” Shayla laughed. “Where shall I begin? How about the ten percent tithe? Or the seizure of our lands? Or maybe I should begin with the brand new curfew?”
“Tithe? Seizure? Curfew?”
“That’s what I said, Princess.”
“I have not been made aware of any of this,” Zelda told her softly. There seemed to be genuine surprise and concern in her voice.
“Ignorance is bliss.”
“I did not ask to be kept ignorant of this!” Zelda snapped.
“So there’s some fire in the ice after all,” Shayla remarked, surprised by the sudden outburst.
“You have no idea what I’ve had to endure,” Zelda said thickly.
“You have no idea what I’ve had to endure,” Shayla countered. “And what my people have had to endure, that’s painfully clear to me now.”
“When it’s in my power, I promise you, I will set things right for the Humans of Hyrule again.”
“When it’s in your power. And how long will that be, Princess? Ten years? Twenty? Perhaps a hundred? I’m told you Hylians are very long lived, much more so than the petty Humans, your beasts of burden.”
“You must be patient.”
“We’re tired of waiting.” Shayla wagged a finger in Zelda’s face. “This ends now.”
Zelda shook her head mournfully. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.
“Sorry for what?”
“I’m sorry for whatever’s put this much rage into your heart. You must have suffered something truly awful.”
Shayla backhanded Zelda again, grunting furiously. “Get out of my head,” she barked.
“I don’t need to read you to know the truth,” Zelda explained gently. “I can see the rage smoldering in your eyes.”
“Stay away from my eyes.”
“What happened to you?”
“It was something awful, wasn’t it?”
“How many more times must I strike you?” Shayla growled.
“It doesn’t matter,” the Princess replied.
“Know your place. You’re my prisoner now. And in this world, I control your fate. It’s not the other way around.”
With that, Shayla spun around, her long dreadlocks whipping around her face. She stormed out of the tent, the clumsy old sword thumping against her side. Zelda sat still, watching her go. Her cheek stung, but she knew that would pass. What weighed heavily on her mind was the mystery of this Sheikah girl who was leading a Human revolution. In all her days, Zelda had never once met a Sheikah who wasn’t steadfastly obedient to the royal line. Something truly horrible must have happened to this one, but Zelda could only guess at what it was.
Leafa trailed her fingers along the woven armrest of her wicker throne. She found it completely improbable that the delicate craft had managed to survive all these years, yet, like the Human spirit, it managed to endure. Somehow. Leafa allowed her fingers to fall into the crevices of the weaving, feeling the smooth wicker on her skin. In the past few years, she had come to be very tactile, but she wasn’t sure why.
Tully was sitting at her feet, staring out into space. They both knew that something was happening, but they didn’t know what exactly. The disaffected youth of the Human Quarter had been surprisingly quite tonight. “What are you thinking about, Tully?” she asked quietly, so the ceremonial bodyguards couldn’t hear her. They still stayed staunchly at her side, though the traditions had long faded and Leafa wasn’t legally allowed to have guards.
“Leonid,” Tully replied.
She nodded slightly. This didn’t surprise her. “You know that Leonid and Shayla –”
“Do you approve?”
“You’ll find,” he told her wisely, “that young men rarely care about the approval of their fathers when it comes to –”
“I know.” She closed her eyes, leaning back against the chair. “You’ll find that young women are much the same.” There was a hissing sound. Though her eyes were closed, Leafa saw the back of her eyelids light up with a bright green glow. She opened her eyes to find the dying ethers of a spell, Farore’s Wind, if she remembered correctly. Standing in the center of the room was a figure out of the past, the Sheikah known as Impa.
Immediately, the honor guards standing around the room picked up their bows, nocking arrows and taking aim at Impa. Already, Tully jumped to his feet, standing protectively in front of his Basileaus. “Leafa,” Impa called in a loud, clearly angry voice, “I would speak with you.”
“Kneel before our Basileaus,” one of the guards sneered angrily, indignant at this Hylian breech of etiquette.
“I will do no such thing,” Impa replied angrily.
“You are intruding on the sacred Human meeting house.”
“I’m not the one who committed the first offense.”
“Kneel before the Basileaus!”
Leafa sat up straight then leaned forward to look at Impa. “I once knelt to you as a goddess,” she said quietly.
Their eyes locked for a moment and a certain understanding passed between the two of them. Slowly, making a face of disgust, Impa knelt down on one knee, never once tearing her eyes away from Leafa’s face. “State your business here,” Tully ordered her gruffly.
“Leave us,” Leafa proclaimed, holding up a hand.
Exchanging quizzical looks the bodyguards lowered their weapons, filing out of the room with confused looks. Tully turned to Leafa. “Leafa I really –”
“You too, Tully,” she said softly.
He opened his mouth to object but then closed it. Offering her a curt nod, he marched out of the room, closing the door behind him and leaving the two women alone. At once, Impa sprang up to her feet, eyeing Leafa angrily. “I demand that you return what you’ve taken,” she said.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Leafa answered, leaning back in her chair.
“You know perfectly well,” Impa retorted.
“We can play this game all night.”
“You’ve really crossed the line Leafa.”
“You’re one to talk about crossing the line.”
“And what’s that mean?”
“The offenses committed by your people against me and mine are completely outrageous.”
“I did not have a hand in that. I’ve been in hiding.”
“So I understand. From what I hear, all the Sheikahs are. I once thought of you as gods. I was wrong. And I wish to whatever gods do exist that they had sent someone else to air your grievances.”
“Grievances?” Impa laughed bitterly. “You call that a grievance?”
“I don’t know what to call a grievance.”
“Your people have kidnapped Princess Zelda!”
Leafa blinked in surprise. “What?”
“You heard me. Two dozen of your people descended on my haven and kidnapped the Princess.”
This genuinely surprised Leafa. She raised a hand to her mouth, breathing in sharply. “Oh no.”
Impa blinked. This was not the reaction she had been expecting. “What?” she prompted.
“Oh no…” Leafa repeated, her spine collapsing with despair.
“I didn’t think they’d actually do it.”
“There have been some young people living in the Human Quarter who have been less than impressed by the way the Hylians have treated us. I’ve heard them murmuring thoughts of treason, but I never thought it would get this far. I can’t believe they actually acted on those threats.”
“Then you weren’t responsible for the kidnapping?”
“No. Of course not.”
“Oh.” Impa seemed moderately satisfied by this. “Then you can demand that they release Princess Zelda back to my custody.”
Leafa shook her head. “No. I can’t.”
“What? What do you mean?”
The Basileaus sighed softly. “I can’t control them anymore, Impa. They’re too wild. You remember what it’s like to be that young.”
“Unfortunately.” Impa sighed. “I’ll return to the Sheikah camp and see if they can spare anyone to help me locate your people.”
“Don’t hurt them.”
“Only if they hurt me or the Princess first.”
“I pray they don’t.” She paused for a moment. “Why did you come here, Impa? Before, it was always Kaya who came to meet me, but for the last few years, I haven’t seen or heard from her.” Impa’s face stiffened and she turned away from the Basileaus. Leafa frowned, leaning forward. “What?” she wondered.
Impa cleared her throat carefully. “Kaya and Glas were sent on a diplomatic mission to the Gorons six years ago,” she said in perfect monotone. “A week later, Kaya’s body was found in the forest. She had a Gerudo blade in between her shoulders. Glas was never…”
And then the most unlikely thing Leafa could have imagined happened. Impa’s voice broke. “Impa?” she asked quietly, rising to her feet. Impa didn’t respond. Instead, she merely jerked her broad shoulders up abruptly. Leafa was almost certain that she heard a sob escape.
“Glas was never found,” Impa blurted out in an incredible rush of words, as though she feared that if they lingered any more, she might lose her composure completely.
Leafa crossed the room, reaching out to put her hands on Impa’s jerking shoulders. “Oh, Impa, I’m so so –”
“I’m not crying,” Impa declared, though she clearly was.
“Of course not,” Leafa said soothingly. An invisible force pushed down on Impa and her knees gave out. She dropped to the ground at Leafa’s feet, holding her face in her hands. Leafa looked down at her for a moment before slowly lowering herself to the ground and pulling the Sheikah’s head into her arms. “I’m so sorry,” she said with a soft sincerity.
“Thank you,” Impa replied quietly. She pulled out of the embrace almost immediately, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I’ll do what I can to help you find Zelda,” Leafa promised. “I understand how important she is to you.”
“Thank you, Leafa.”
“Go home. Get yourself some rest. I’ll send my bodyguards out to the field to try and find Shayla and the others before they can –”
Impa started, looking up at Leafa in surprise. “Shayla?” she repeated incredulously.
“My daughter,” Leafa explained. “She’s the ring leader of this faction, I’m afraid. She’s a good girl, but she’s so –”
“Shayla’s living in the Human Quarter?”
Leafa blinked in surprise. “You know her?”
“Quick, tell me; is she a Sheikah?”
For a second, Leafa was at a loss for words. “Well…yes. I adopted her several years ago. Do you know her parents? We never gave up hope that they’d come looking for her.”
Staring into space, Impa nodded numbly. “I knew her father,” she said in a soft, vacant voice.
“Go home,” Leafa said again. “There’s nothing more you can do here right now. I’ll deal with my people and find Zelda for you. Return to the Sheikah stronghold and tell Shayla’s parents that she’s alive. I’m sure that will bring them here and they can collect Zelda as well.”
The rustling of the tall prairie grass caused Leonid’s heart to leap up into his throat. Resisting the urge to run, he picked his way through the grass, moving toward the noise. His heart was thumping in his ears, but he pushed aside the fear, remembering the heroic tales his father had told him about stalking through the grasslands. As he parted the meadow before him, a figure became visible, sitting by the dried up basin that had once been
. Lake Hylia
“Shayla?” he whispered. He was certain it was she, even in the merciless darkness of the early morning. Leonid knew her form perfectly, how she walked, how she moved, and the way she sat. Now, he was absolutely certain he could see Shayla sitting by the water, holding her knees against her chest. “Shayla? What are you doing out here?”
“Go away,” she told him hoarsely.
“No.” He walked to her side and sat down by the stagnant puddle. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You always say that,” he remarked.
She shrugged. “I’m not one for talking.”
“No, you never were.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “I heard you arguing with the Princess.”
“I think half of the Hylian wildlife probably heard you.”
“I didn’t mean to get so loud.”
“You never mean to. You’re just a naturally loud person,” he quipped. “You need to make yourself heard.” He was somewhat upset when she didn’t find this funny. “Sorry.”
“What have you got against her?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Maybe not,” he admitted with a shrug. “But sometimes, it’s just good to say things out loud.”
“I don’t want to.”
Leonid scowled, watching her although she was looking away. “Why do you always do this to me?”
“Shut me out.”
This caused Shayla to look at him for the first time. “I don’t shut you out,” she retorted.
“Yes, you do. You never want to talk about it. Sometimes, Shayla, you have to talk about it. Why not with me?”
She sighed softly. “Do you remember the night we first…?”
“Yes.” He smiled slightly. “How could I forget?”
“But do you remember what happened after?”
“You started crying. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I just wanted to hold you.”
“And I asked you to promise me –”
“That I would never tell anyone,” he finished for her. “I’ve kept my word to you.”
“Why are we talking about this now, though?”
Shayla turned to stare out into the starry sky. “When I was nine years old, my father brought me to the royal palace to meet with my mother,” she said softly. Leonid leaned forward, listening intently. This was the very first time he had ever heard her mention her birth parents. “It was the night that the Gerudo invaded
and killed the King.” North Castle
“The night that Leafa and my father found you. I remember it. I remember how they brought you back to the village.”
“That was the night when I realized that my mother didn’t love me,” Shayla said quietly.
Leonid blinked, trying to wrap his mind around what she had just uttered. “What?”
“When the invasion started, I was in the throne room with my mother and Princess Zelda. We saw the fire and knew that there was something very wrong. My mother picked Zelda up and took my hand. She led us through the halls of the castle to a room were a bunch of knights were equipping themselves for the battle. They actually thought they could make a difference.”
“My mother gave me to one of the knights called Lien and asked him to take me out of the castle. She told me, no matter what, I was to stay with him. And then she went away.”
“Lien? But father told me they found you all alone.”
“A few minutes later, a support beam fell on Lien and killed him.”
“By the gods…”
“And so, I was all alone.”
“And that’s when Leafa found you?”
Shayla shook her head. “No. Not yet.”
“What happened next?”
“I started running,” Shayla said with a dour laugh. “I just ran and ran and ran. I was so afraid. I found myself on the second floor, looking out a window while the castle burned around me. I saw…”
“Saw what?” he prompted her.
She swallowed. “I saw my mother. Riding away from the palace with Princess Zelda on her horse.”
A new awareness suddenly dawned on Leonid. “Then…your mother is…”
“The royal nursemaid,” Shayla muttered.
“Why didn’t you ever tell anyone?”
“Why would I do that?”
“So we could return you to where you belong.”
“I don’t belong with her, Leonid. I belong with you.”
“Well…I’m not denying that but…your mother…”
Again, she shook her head. “No, she’s not my mother. Leafa is my mother. Impa didn’t love me.”
“How can you draw such a conclusion?”
Shayla looked at Leonid. “She didn’t pick me, Leonid. She chose to save Princess Zelda instead of me.”
“It seems like she was trying to protect both of you. She gave you to the knight after all. She didn’t know what was going to happen.”
“I believed that at first,” Shayla admitted. “I convinced myself that she didn’t take me on the horse because she didn’t want me to become another target for the Gerudo.”
“But,” Shayla sighed, “as the seasons passed and she didn’t come looking for me, I realized that her heart lay with Zelda.” She paused before continuing. “I made a pledge in the fires of
. I vowed that I would never cry again.” North Castle
“Which is why you made me swear not to tell anyone,” Leonid concluded easily enough.
He reached out, gently stroking her arm. “Thank you, Shayla.”
“For trusting me with this.”
“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?”
“No,” he sighed. “I wouldn’t do that.”
She frowned a little. “But…?” she prompted him, knowing full well that one was coming.
“But,” he said, “It’s unfair to her.”
“It’s unfair for you to take this out on Zelda the way you are.”
“I thought you were on my side!”
“I am!” he yelped quickly. “I am. By the gods, I love you more than anyone else in the world, but Shayla; remember why we’re doing this. It’s not supposed to be about your personal grudge against your mother, it’s supposed to be about the way the Hylians have treated us. Don’t lose sight of that.”
Her eyes went wide. “You love me?” she asked.
Leonid blinked. “Of course I do,” he answered, as though it were the most obvious fact in the world.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Didn’t I?” He frowned. “I thought I did. Maybe that was just a conversation I practiced in my head. I’ve always known that I loved you, Shayla. Since the night we –” but he couldn’t finish the sentence. Shayla leaned forward suddenly, kissing him passionately. After recovering from his surprise, Leonid wrapped his arms around her, kissing back as he pulled her into a tight embrace. The world dissolved around them and the moon, out of courtesy, hid behind a cloud.
Following her disastrous meeting with Leafa, all Impa wanted to do, so desperately, was to summon a burst of Farore’s Wind to take her to Shayla and Zelda. But Leafa begged her repeatedly not to resort to Hylian magic. She assured Impa again and again that these problems could be worked out with words. Since Impa herself was at a loss for them, she finally acquiesced, instead, using her gust of Farore’s Wind to bring herself back to the Sheikah compound.
She was very grateful when she found it more or less deserted. She supposed Yonah was sitting in her large tent, managing some affair or other, but Impa decided not to go in. Instead, she sat down underneath a Sheikah standard, holding her head in her hands. What was she going to do?
Over and over again, Impa asked herself the same question, but she could not conjure up an answer. The situation had become so twisted and complicated that there wasn’t a clear solution. Gradually, she let her hands drop to her knees. The dawn would be breaking soon. Impa looked to the sky. She wondered, with a grim sadness, if Glas was out there somewhere, looking up at the same sky. Unconsciously, she felt her fingers drift to the little string he had tied around her finger seventeen years ago.
“I don’t know what to do, Glas,” she whispered.
It was almost as though she could hear him answering. “What do you mean?” his phantom voice asked, echoing in the wind.
“Princess Zelda’s been kidnapped,” she explained, knowing full well that she was talking to herself. “By our own daughter.”
“Why would she do a thing like that?”
Impa shrugged. “She’s learned to hate all Hylians. She’s siding with the Humans in a revolution.”
“Now, why would she do that?”
“I don’t know. Why do we do anything?”
“What have you always acted on?”
“My duty,” Impa replied. “What I felt was the most important thing for me to do.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re not all that different from our daughter.”
“What does that mean?” There was no reply. “Glas? Glas?”
It was no use. Impa understood that she was merely conjuring up an echo of the person she once knew and loved. With a sigh, she allowed her head to drop back against the standard. Gradually, it occurred to her that if she was the one conjuring the voice, she was also conjuring the words. What did they mean? Where had they come from? What part of her subconscious?
Impa knew that she was a failure as a mother. She had always known she was just no good. But before, she had always had Glas to catch her when she fell. Now, completely on her own, she finally admitted to herself that Shayla was more of a stranger than a daughter.
“No failure is so terrible that it can’t be repaired,” Glas’ voice whispered in her ear.
“What about death?” she asked.
“And a kidnapper. No. I killed her soul.”
“Stop giving yourself so much credit. There were circumstances beyond our control. All three of us.”
“Four,” she corrected him. “Zelda’s caught up in this mess too.”
“No one is innocent.”
She closed her eyes. All her strength seemed to dissolve and she felt herself go limp. Normally, this would have scared her, but all Impa wanted right now was to be completely numb.
Her eyes popped open. She looked out into the darkness of the woods surrounding the compound. Moving toward her was a dark figure. “Glas?” she whispered.
The figure ran into a shaft of moonlight. Illuminated, she recognized the swift form of Menteith, making his way to the compound. “Impa, is that you?” he asked, drawing closer.
She stood up, wiping away a stray tear from her cheek. “Yeah,” she muttered softly.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he replied, trotting over to her. At once, he drew himself up to his full height and pounded a fist to his chest.
Absently, Impa returned the gesture. “What is it?”
“I’ve been spying on Dragmire’s fortress,” he explained, “I just got back from the
.” Gerudo Valley
“What did you learn?”
“Ganondorf’s finally making plans.”
“For a bad guy, you’d be surprised how stagnant and boring the man can get,” he murmured.
“So you know the plans?” she prompted him, not particularly caring for the first time in her life.
Menteith nodded. “I can’t claim to understand what he’s talking about, but I have the information.”
“What’s he doing?”
“He’s assembling an attack squad to take out someone named Shayla.”
The ground seemed to drop out from beneath Impa. “What?” she questioned neutrally. Why did everyone seem to know her daughter besides her?
“I told you it doesn’t make sense. He seems to think that the key to finding Princess Zelda is someone named Shayla. I’ve never met anyone named Shayla. Do we know anything about her?” Impa seemed to be lost in her own thoughts. “Impa? Impa? Do we know anything about her?”
Blinking, Impa shook off her sudden introspective spell. “Yeah…” she mumbled absently.
“What do we know?”
“She’s…she’s the leader of an underground movement in the Human Quarter,” Impa supplied.
“Human Quarter? How’s that supposed to help Dragmire find the Princess? It doesn’t make sense.”
“They’ve initiated their rebellion by kidnapping the Princess,” Impa admitted hesitantly.
“I was out numbered,” Impa told him in a low voice. “I’m going to take care of it, don’t worry.”
“If Ganondorf is looking for this Shayla person, that means he’s going to find the Princess.”
“I know,” Impa hissed. By this point, several of the Sheikahs in the compound had been drawn out of their tents by the sudden noise of Menteith’s exclamation. They began to converge on the duo, wondering what was going on.
“Menteith!” a slender Sheikah woman with long blond hair exclaimed, “You’re alive!”
“Yeah, I know,” Menteith grinned. “Hard to believe, isn’t it? I must have more lives than a cat.”
The blond Sheikah embraced Menteith. “You have to tell us everything about Dragmire.”
“Well, I know his plans,” Menteith boasted.
“What are they?” a skinny Sheikah boy asked.
“He’s trying to sic an attack squad on a person named Shayla,” Menteith repeated. “I was just telling Impa that –”
“Shayla?” Everyone turned around. Yonah stood at the entrance to her tent. Her long hair was loose and her brittle body was dressed in a nightgown. She had clearly not been expecting visitors.
“Yes, Yonah,” Menteith said, offering her the Sheikah salute.
Yonah seemed far too distracted to return the gesture. She looked intently at Impa. “Is this why you’re here?”
Impa shook her head. “No, Yonah. I had no idea Dragmire was after Shayla until Menteith told me.”
This surprised Menteith a bit. He looked up at Yonah. “You know who this Shayla person is?”
But Yonah didn’t seem to respond. “Why are you here, Impa? Where’s the Princess?”
“The young people of the Human Quarter have staged a revolution against the Hylians. They’ve taken Princess Zelda as a hostage.”
There was a collective gasp from the assembled Sheikahs. They all exchanged bewildered looks, unable to comprehend the fact that Impa had failed in her duties and allowed Zelda to be kidnapped. Yonah, above all the others, seemed immensely disappointed. “You allowed the Princess to be taken?”
“I was knocked unconscious. There was nothing I could do.”
“Do you mean to tell me that we’ve been out smarted and out manned by a group of Humans?”
“No,” Impa said suddenly.
“What do you mean then?”
“We haven’t been out smarted by a bunch of Humans.”
“Make your meaning clear, Impa.”
“The leader of the revolution is a Sheikah.”
“The leader of the revolution is Shayla.” She paused a moment before adding, “My daughter.”
“And she really started crying?” Tully asked again.
Leafa nodded. “Yes.”
They were both sitting on the floor of the meeting room. All of the guards had been dismissed. The sun would rise soon and they would have to get to their horrid jobs, doing manual labor for the Hylians and being severely underpaid for it. Only Leafa and Tully remained, sitting by candlelight and discussing the confrontation Leafa had had with Impa in hushed whispers.
“I can’t believe it,” he declared.
“Neither could I,” she admitted.
“I suppose people are full of surprises.”
“That they are.”
A new, heavy silence fell upon them. Tully looked down, examining his calloused hands for a moment before continuing. “Kaya’s dead?”
“Yes,” Leafa said sadly.
“I was always so fond of her.”
“I know you were.”
“Whenever I was down and out with the troubles caused by the Hylians, I would remind myself that Kaya existed. I knew that, as long as Kaya was around, there were good Hylians out there, as well as the bad.”
“My faith has been severely tampered,” she confessed. “I don’t know what to think.”
“It’s important to believe that there are still good Hylians out there,” he urged her. “We can’t classify an entire race.”
“As they’ve been so kind to do for us?” she muttered with a slight hint of amusement.
“You always told me that the second we pick up a weapon, we become one of them. I also believe that the second we allow ourselves to hate, we become one of them, Leafa.”
“I’m glad you haven’t become cynical in your old age, Tully,” she teased him gently.
“Neither have you.”
Leafa sighed. “I am thirty eight years old, Tully. When did that become old? Tell me.”
“I don’t know,” he responded absently. “Around the time we were able to actually say, ‘I remember when things were different.’”
“I never thought I’d live to see the day I regretted change so much.”
“Well…next time we’ll know better.”
“Right. Next time. Because history so often allows us to go back in time and relive our lives.”
“Not often,” he supposed, “but every one in awhile.”
“There’s one thing I’ve always regretted not telling you, Tully,” she sighed after a moment.
“Oh yeah?” He grinned. “What’s that?”
“I’m not telling you now.”
“Go ahead. Go back in time.”
In spite of herself, she laughed a bit. “All right. I suppose I’ve got nothing else to lose. What I’ve always wanted to tell you is that I –”
There was a loud crack. Instantly, the door broke in half around the middle, the top half and the bottom half falling into the room. Leafa stifled a scream. Both she and Tully leapt to their feet, but they realized that there was absolutely nowhere for them to go. Into the room swarmed about half a dozen red headed women, all of them dressed in pale, pastel silk clothing. Each carried two long blades, both drawn and pointed directly at the Humans in the center of the room. Once the women had completely surrounded Leafa and Tully, the seventh figure, the imposing form of the Gerudo prince, walked into the room.
“Ganondorf Dragmire,” Leafa said quietly.
“Basileaus Leafa,” he responded, dipping his head. “I’m pleased to see you still remember me.”
“You would be difficult to forget.” She planted her hands on her hips. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“I won’t mince words with you,” he said. “I respect you far too much for that. After all, you once did a great favor for me in not warning the King of the attack I was planning.”
This was a sharp blow to Leafa on many accounts. She remembered that day when Ganondorf warned her of what was to come and she had been sorely tempted to leave
without breathing a word of it to anyone. In the end, she had made an attempt to tell the King, but that attempt had failed, leading to the loss of many lives. “What do you want?” she questioned him darkly. North Castle
“I know you’re harboring the royal nursemaid’s brat,” he said evenly.
Panic filled Leafa. How did he know about the kidnapping of Princess Zelda already? “I have no control over that,” she said.
“I cannot be held responsible for the actions of the youth militia of the Human Quarter,” she told him. “They no longer answer to me as Basileaus.”
Ganondorf glanced at Tully. “What does she mean?”
“We are not responsible for the fate of Princess Zelda,” he replied.
Dragmire was clearly caught off guard by this. “Princess Zelda?” he repeated. “I’m talking about Shayla.”
Leafa blinked. “Shayla? What does she have to do with Impa?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. You know very well Shayla is Impa’s child. Now tell me, what were you talking about with Princess Zelda? What do you mean you’re not responsible for her fate? And what youth militia?”
“Impa is Shayla’s mother?” Leafa spat incredulously. “Why didn’t she tell me?”
“I want to know about Princess Zelda!” Ganondorf roared. “She’s here, isn’t she?” he stalked in a circle around the room, like a dog smelling out his prey. “You will answer me.”
“She isn’t here,” Tully said. “We don’t know where she is and we don’t know what you’re talking about regarding Shayla.”
Ganondorf sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to kill anyone today,” he muttered. “Well…that’s a lie. I do enjoy killing people. Sarjenka, let’s inspire the Basileaus to talk.”
“With pleasure,” Sarjenka answered with a nod. She walked forward from her place by the wall, drawing her sword back as she faced Leafa.
“No!” Tully shouted. At once, he threw himself in front of Leafa, just as Sarjenka swung her sword. It made a clean cut. Tully dropped to the floor as blood began to puddle beneath him.
“Tully!” Leafa screamed, falling to her knees beside him.
“Predictable,” Ganondorf muttered. “Thank you, Sarjenka.”
“Of course,” Sarjenka said, backing up to the wall again.
Leafa looked up at Ganondorf with fire in her eyes. “How could you?” she asked him angrily.
“I think you should worry less about his fate and more about your own,” Ganondorf said, reaching over and grabbed Leafa around the arm. He hefted her off the floor, pulling her up close so that he could feel her breath on his cheek. “And the fate of your people,” he added.
She attempted to pull away from him, but he held her fast, tightening his grip. “What do you want?”
“Shayla and Zelda. What’s the connection?”
She seemed to be choosing her words very carefully. “Shayla’s taken Zelda from Impa. She’s still under the protection of the Sheikah. I don’t have custody of either of them, I swear.”
“Shayla grew up in your household, yes?”
Leafa averted her eyes. “Yes.”
“And you really had no idea that she was Impa’s brat?”
“None. I’ve been had, just the same as you.”
“The Hylian people have savagely abused the Humans. We were planning an insurrection against them,” Leafa said, getting faster and faster as she spoke. “I didn’t realize Shayla was planted among us as a spy.”
It was unclear whether Ganondorf believed all of this. “She’s familiar with all your Human haunts, is she not?”
“Then I want you to think really hard, Basileaus. Where should she take Princess Zelda?”
Zelda watched as the flap to the tent opened. In came the angry Sheikah girl from before. Kaylee walked over to her. “Is everything all right?” she asked.
The Sheikah nodded. “Yes. Sorry about that. Why don’t you go home? You look tired.”
Kaylee nodded. “I can send some others to come relieve you and Leonid if you like.”
“Thank you, Kaylee.”
With a nod, Kaylee walked out of the tent, leaving the two younger women alone. “Are you going to strike me some more?” Zelda asked impertinently.
“Shut up,” was the only response she got.
“I don’t like the quiet,” Zelda said. “I’m sick to death of silence.”
“I have nothing to say to you.”
“But you were so talkative earlier.”
“Leave me alone.”
“You’re the one who kidnapped me.”
“That was my mistake.”
The Princess sighed softly, leaning her head back against the post she was tied to. “I rather enjoyed arguing with you, actually. People are always so phony when they’re talking to me. Well, most people. But you’re not. You may not say particularly kind things to me, but at least what you say is completely honest. I like that about you. It’s unique.”
“Are you trying to seduce me? Trying to win me over? It’s not going to work, Princess.”
“No, I’m not trying to have any affect on you. I’m just talking. As I said before, I hate the silence.”
“We all suffer one pain or another.”
“Truer words were never spoken.”
An extraordinary flash of green luminosity flooded the space. In between the two girls, a humanoid form appeared, gradually regaining color as the green light faded. When the spell was done, Impa was standing in the middle of the tent, facing Zelda. She blinked in surprise. “Zelda.” With that, she knelt down by the post and began trying to untie the Princess. Zelda, for her part, said nothing, keeping her eyes fixed over Impa’s shoulder.
“Hello, Impa,” the other woman said with an icy tone.
Impa stood up and whirled around, leaving Zelda where she was. She faced her daughter for the first time in six years and was immediately struck by her extraordinary appearance. Shayla was beautiful, a perfect likeness of Glas, though a bit more slender, perhaps, with harder lines on her face. She stood tall, almost as tall as Impa, one hand resting on the hilt of her blade, the other on her hip.
“Shayla,” was all Impa could manage to say.
Zelda blinked, the name striking a familiar note with her. “Shayla?”
“Glad to see you remember me,” Shayla continued. “I, of course, remember you, mother.”
“You have a daughter?” Zelda marveled with wide, surprised eyes.
“Shayla, what have you done?” Impa asked, her voice dry and choked as she took in the entire scene.
“It seems that I’ve finally managed to get your attention after sixteen years,” Shayla replied evenly.
“All right, you have my attention.”
She shook her head. “No, old woman. This isn’t about you. This is a matter of justice. You’re just a footnote.”
“You must listen to me,” Impa said carefully. “Ganondorf Dragmire knows about you. He’s on his way here and if he finds –”
“You’re worried about him finding your precious Zelda? That’s touching. It’s good to know that your devotion is constant.”
“Sweet Nayru…” Zelda whispered.
“Listen to me, Shayla. If Ganondorf Dragmire –”
“I heard you the first time. That’s why you came. I understand. To keep Zelda from falling into his clutches. Again.”
“Will you listen to me? I came here because I know that Ganondorf will hurt you, Shayla.”
“It’s too late for you to start getting maternal on me,” Shayla snapped.
“He will kill you, Shayla.” She threw a sideways glance at Zelda. “Both of you. We have to leave here, now. Before he arrives.”
“Ah, ah, ah,” Shayla answered, wagging her finger at Impa. “You may come and go as you wish, but she stays.” Impa took a step forward, but quick as lightening, Shayla had her sword drawn. “No.”
“Put that down.”
“You can’t be serious! This is Ganondorf Dragmire! Do you have any idea what he’ll do to you?”
“I suppose I’ll find out,” Shayla said. “Draw your weapon.”
“Draw your weapon.”
“Are you serious?”
“Dead serious, mother.”
“I won’t fight against you.”
Shayla took a swing at Impa with her sword. Impa ducked out of the way, the blade just barely grazing her right arm. She looked down as a thin line of red blood appeared on her skin, then looked up at Shayla in shock. “Wrong. You’ve been fighting against me my entire life.” She took another wide swipe, which Impa managed to dodge completely. “This is no different.”
“Stop this at once.”
From her place by the pole, Zelda closed her eyes. Suddenly, Impa sword jumped telekinetically out of the sheath, directly into Impa’s hand. Impa looked down in surprise. She started to turn to face Zelda questioningly, but Shayla took another thrust. Impa managed to parry it. Shayla had surprising strength and Impa was shocked by the way her blade reverberated, but there wasn’t time to dwell. Another thrust came flying at her left ear. Impa shifted her head out of the way and swung her sword upwards, knocking Shayla’s blade away.
“Stop this foolishness!” Impa implored her daughter.
“Foolishness?” Shayla scoffed, taking another series of quick jabs, all of which Impa was able to deflect. “This is the
“This is not the
Sheikah Way!” Impa cried, withdrawing across the tent. “Don’t you know that?”
“No,” Shayla muttered dryly, thrusting forward, “I never had anyone to teach it to me.”
“Shayla, please listen to me –”
“Why should I?” she asked coldly. “You never listened to me. Or father for that matter. We were just allowed to exist when it was convenient for –”
Impa did the unthinkable then. She took a fast swipe at Shayla’s left side. Shayla just barely managed to defend herself from the blow. “Don’t you dare,” Impa whispered, catching the look of surprise on her daughter’s face, “put my feelings for your father into question. Carry your own grievances, but don’t presume to know his.”
“So you did love someone after all,” Shayla grunted as she grit her teeth and jabbed at Impa’s stomach.
The older woman parried the thrust. “I have loved and lost more than you can possibly understand.”
“Oh, I understand. I lost just as much as you. Probably more. I never had a Zelda to lose.”
“I loved your father more than anything in this world,” Impa whispered. “And yes, I screwed up as a mother, but I love you now.”
“Liar!” Shayla screamed, racing forward with her sword swinging wildly from side to side. In her rage, her blows grew sloppy and Impa easily deflected each of them. “Liar and a coward!” She bashed her sword into Impa’s and Impa managed to catch her wrist. With a quick twist, she forced her daughter to drop the blade. “I hate you!” Shayla roared, struggling to break free. Impa held her tight. “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”
Throwing her sword to the ground, Impa pulled Shayla into a tight embrace. At first, the girl struggled against her, but gradually, tears replaced her wriggling and her resolve dissolved. She fell against Impa’s shoulder, bawling like a child, her shoulders heaving up and down. Tenderly, Impa stroked Shayla’s hair, resting her chin on the top of her head. “I love you, Shayla,” she whispered softly.
“Why didn’t you rescue me?” Shayla sobbed.
“I made a mistake,” Impa told her. “Nothing I can say or do will ever make up for what happened. I know that now.” She pulled back slightly, holding Shayla at arm’s length and looking her in the eyes. “But you have to let me rescue you now. Ganondorf Dragmire is coming for you. Because he knows that you are my child. He knows how much he can hurt me if anything should happen to you. Please, Shayla. I beg you. Let me rescue you now.”
Weakly, Shayla nodded, unable to find any more words. At once, Impa picked up her sword and cut Zelda loose. The Princess stood up, walking over to the two Sheikah women. Impa put a hand on Zelda’s shoulder. She turned to look at Shayla. Gently, she caressed Shayla’s cheek with her palm. As she made contact, the warm green light of Farore’s Wind burst forth from the Sheikah eye on Impa’s chest. It spread out, consuming both Zelda and Shayla. In the next instant, they were all gone.
It was a gloriously beautiful day, the kind that artists dreamed about. The sky was filled with lazy white clouds, swollen and fluffy. They rolled by at a leisurely pace, the wind neither too strong nor too stilled. Outside of the village, nature was still surpassingly beautiful. The willow trees still had the ivy climbing up their trunks. The patches of cattails still waved in the breeze.
Across the emerald green grass strode the mother and daughter. Impa was in the middle of speaking when they came near the grassy knoll where it happened. “And he took the twine out of his pack,” she said, “and tied it around my finger.” She held up her hand for Shayla to see. “I told him, ‘That’s a very specific finger.’ He said that he knew. That was when he asked me to marry him.”
Shayla smiled. “That’s a wonderful story.”
“I’m surprised he never told it to you.”
She shrugged. “Never.”
Impa looked up ahead as they continued their walk. “This is where the tent was,” she said, pointing up ahead. They made their way to the spot and stood there for a moment in silence. “This is how I like to think about your father,” Impa said softly. “In this moment.”
Closing her eyes, Shayla took a deep breath, feeling the various forces of nature fill her. When she opened her eyes, they were watery. “I miss him so much,” she told her mother quietly.
“I miss him too,” Impa said, looking up at the sky.
“What do you think happened to him?”
“I don’t know.”
She frowned. “Do you think he’s dead?”
“Sometimes,” Impa admitted.
“Late at night, when I can’t sleep, I go walking and talk to him. And I realize that if he were really dead, I’d know.” She touched her temple. “In here.” And she touched her heart, “And here.”
“I think I understand that,” Shayla said.
Impa looked at her and smiled wryly. “I thought you might.”
“Will we ever see him again?”
“You sound so sure of that.”
“If it takes me a thousand lifetimes, I will make things right again, Shayla.”
“You don’t have to do it by yourself.”
“I won’t,” Impa replied.
They stood there for awhile. Impa found herself examining her daughter again. As she did, memories she had pushed aside for years came back to her. She had always thought that when the floodgates opened, she would find herself in horror or complete depression, but standing there now, she remembered pleasant things that made her smile. She remembered many happy hours with Glas and the young Shayla, times when they would both look at her with bright smiles, no cares in the world. Impa wasn’t sad at all. If anything, she found herself more determined than ever to make things right again, to regain that innocence.
Shayla turned to face the Kakariko village. “I should…”
“Oh.” Impa frowned, following her gaze. “Are you sure? I mean, you would be welcomed at the Sheikah stronghold.”
“I know, but…I have to back.”
“I’ve got to tell a boy that I love him.”
Impa blinked in surprise. “You have to go then.”
“What’s his name?” Impa asked, brushing some hair off of Shayla’s shoulder.
“Well,” Impa said smiling, “this isn’t goodbye.”
“I’ll be back. I’m not losing you a second time. I’ll see you soon.”
“I promise.” Impa leaned forward, kissing Shayla on the top of her head. “Now go. Don’t say goodbye.”
The girl smiled. She took Impa’s hands and kissed them. Without a word, she whirled around and ran down the hill, heading back to the village. Impa turned around. She didn’t want to watch her go. Looking down the opposite side of the hill, she noticed a distant figure, sitting on a tuft of grass near a mound of dirt covered with the carcasses of old, dried out flowers. To this collection, she added a fresh bouquet of lilies then sat back on her heels.
Silently, Impa made her way to the scene. “Leafa?” she called quietly.
Leafa looked up. “Impa.”
By this point, Impa had arrived. She knelt down on the opposite side of the mound, looking at Leafa. “What are you doing out here?”
“This is the only place I can come to think,” Leafa answered. She gestured up the hill to the vanishing form of Shayla. “You brought her back.”
“She has some important business to return to.”
“I’m glad she’s returning.”
“I have to.” Impa sighed, looking up at the sky. “I need to apologize…and thank you.”
“If you must.”
“I want to apologize for,” she broke off to laugh for a moment, “so, so many things.”
“I apologize for leaving Shayla in your care with such rage. I apologize for never coming to visit you. I apologize for failing to tell you what happened to Kaya. I even apologize for bringing my scouting team here in the first place to build
. We destroyed your way of life.” North Castle
“Are you finished?”
“No. Now I have to thank you.” Impa looked over at Leafa. “Thank you for raising my daughter.”
“Now are you finished?”
Leafa nodded, sitting back slightly. “We can’t dwell on the past, Impa. We have only to look forward to the future.”
“The future will be better,” Impa promised. “A hero will rise to rid the
. Zelda will be put back into power. She will make things right by you and your people.” landof Ganondorf Dragmire
“Maybe.” Leafa frowned. “We once thought you were gods, Impa.” She gestured to the mound. “But now I realize that you’re people. Just like us. We’re not all that different at all.”
“So. Where are you headed?”
She shrugged. “Yonah and Rauru are working in tandem, now. They’ve asked me to go do some work for them in the
.” Shadow Temple
“Will you be gone long?”
“No. As soon as I finish there, I’m coming back to be near my daughter.”
“So tell me about this Leonid. Is he good enough for her?”
Leafa laughed. “He’s Tully’s son,” she replied. “Sojef’s grandson,” she added, gesturing to the mound in between them.
Impa looked down at the grave. “This is…?”
“Sojef. I haven’t thought about him in so long. When did he –”
“Seventeen years ago,” Leafa supplied. “Right after our first contact. He just couldn’t live with the shame.”
“He made a fateful mistake.”
“Do you regret it?”
“No time for regrets. I have a life to live. But if I had to answer…No…I don’t regret it. It gave me Shayla. And brought her back to you. That’s something else our people can share.”
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