The Legend of Zelda: Empire of Darkness by Shrub
Summary: Link returns home seven years later after he defeated Majora. Link wasn't expecting anything wrong about his old home, but he was brought to a rude awakening. Link is now handed his most overwhelming challenge he has ever faced. Link and his friends begin their struggle against the Drow Empire and themselves. New enemies and friends await our hero, but as he fights the dark empire his sanity slowly begins to slip through his fingers.
Warning: May contain some violence, adult language, and sexual situations.
Categories: Fan Fiction Characters: Darunia, Impa, Link (OoT & MM), Malon, Nabooru, Princess Zelda, Ruto, Saria
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: No Word count: 21145 Read: 42136 Published: Sep 10, 2004 Updated: May 23, 2009
Story Notes:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media ... in other words, I don't own Zelda.

Hey everyone, it’s here--finally. The first few chapters of my revision of Empire of Darkness. I know most of you just wanted to know what happens next, but too bad, it’s gonna be a while. I’m just not satisfied with my old writing. So trust me, this EoD is going to be a lot kooler.

For the newbies reading, a little summary is in order. Empire of Darkness takes place after Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. After the events of Majora’s Mask he got lost in the gap between dimensions, that forest in other words, for seven years. However, I added a little pre-story before this one in which Link had traveled to another world called Sekin. There he met the original characters Rontu, Kira, and Tila. After his adventure there he managed to find his way back to Hyrule.

Oh, and for the Zelda characters I like to have them use Japanese suffixes, since the Zelda games are created in Japan, and I like to make it part of the Zelda world culture.


1. Dark Events by Shrub

2. The Letter to No One by Shrub

3. Desert Rose by Shrub

Dark Events by Shrub
Chapter One:
Dark Omens

Rain sprinkled over him in light harmless drops. Link raised his head to gaze over the field he had been searching for. Seven years it’s been since he’s seen it. The familiar plain brought lightness to his heart that has been mostly heavy on his journey back. Part of him wanted to forget all that had happened in Sekin: forget Rontu, Kira, Tila, Rai ... and Tarrowco. The sight of his home land made him forget”but only for a moment.

The field of Hyrule was mostly large rolling hills covered with short mossy grass, often balding in some places. Dark storm clouds covered the deep blue sky he remembered from his childhood. The thick gray clouds cast shadows all over the fields, rumbling like a beast growling a warning. They reminded him of something he thought he had long forgotten. It was something Zelda had said once. Clouds covering Hyrule … Storms always made him uncomfortable ever since. They always seemed to him as a bad omen. Warning him of a perilous and difficult journey ahead that he could never fully understand until it was upon him.

It wasn’t pouring yet, but Link knew it wouldn’t be long. The smell of rain was strong in the air.

It took him a moment to notice that Epona had stopped as well. He gave her white mane a pat, letting her take in the sights and smells of their old home. He pulled the gray hood of his wool cloak over his head, however, remaining still for a moment longer. Now that he was home, he wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. It wasn’t really a new feeling. Link couldn’t say that he ever had a solid home to come back to. He had sometimes wondered if he should come back to Hyrule at all, since there was no place he felt he could settle down comfortably in. The only thing that kept him searching for it was the lingering memories of old friends.

Malon would let him stay at the ranch for a few days while he figured out what to do with himself. Link’s sapphire eyes stared out at the dark shadow of Hyrule Castle in the distance. His blonde eyebrows furrowed thoughtfully. Would he really stay in Hyrule for long? After visiting with old friends, what else would there be for him here? Could he ever see himself settling down somewhere in Hyrule or anywhere for that matter? One day he will be old and weak and unable to travel any longer. Would he come back here someday to retire?

Link let a breath pass quietly through his nose, staring at his home with a gentle melancholy. Any lightness it had brought him had vanished once more and heaviness crawled back in again. He didn’t know why it was so hard for him to hold still. He moved Epona into a quick gallop, heading in the direction that he knew her ranch would be in.

The rain continued to sprinkle but only softly. Half an hour or so passed before Lon Lon Ranch came into view but still only a large shadow. However, the sight of the ranch made him slow Epona to a stop. Link stared baffled by the large figure of the place. It was much larger than it should have been. Was it because he had been away for so long? No”the ranch was never that size. The walls were never so tall and long. Had everything changed so much in seven years? Who was he to doubt that, when he had seen such changes before?

Everything could change in seven years.

Change did not necessarily mean a bad thing, but it didn’t mean anything good either. He didn’t like it. The last time he had seen Hyrule change after seven years it had not been for the good. Maybe it was just the rumbling storm, but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go galloping up just yet. Of course, he had to figure out why it had changed so dramatically. Why would Talon expand the ranch? It looked big enough to be a small town guarded by high walls. The only way would be to go and check it out, but he wouldn’t be taking the front entrance …

Okay, maybe he was being a bit paranoid. Malon would be laughing at him later.

He urged Epona back into a gallop toward the large figure. It started out fast, but as he approached the proximity of the walls, he slowed it down into a quiet trot. Eventually, he brought her to a halt at the foot of the wall. Dismounting, he turned his hooded head upward. It was about fifty feet high. Still gazing upward, studying the wall, he reached with a steady hand into his pack that his horse carried. He pulled out his longshot and aimed with his left hand. He held down a button on its handle and a little red dot appeared on the dark wall. The tiny red speck was half way up the wall. He aimed farther up, testing if it could reach. The scarlet light could only reach as far as the chain could go. It didn’t quite make it to the top, only a little above halfway.

Link lowered the device and continued to gaze up, frowning and furrowing his eyebrows, letting light drops hit his cheeks and forehead. Maybe he was being stupid. He should just go through the front. There was no need to put so much effort into climbing the wall.

The heavens groaned once more after a flash lighted the wall only for a second. He turned around to search his pack for his hookshot. He could make it up with the help of both.

Once had, he held it in his right hand. He aimed as far as he could with the longshot in his left hand, stepping back so that the hook would catch at the right angle. His hand squeezed the trigger and the hook shot out. With a clunk it embedded itself into the dark wooden walls. Link had already been bracing himself to let the contraption yank him upward, pulling him to the wall. He gripped the handle hard as the force jerked on his wrist and shoulder as it pulled him up. Link grinded his teeth together in his mouth as his wrist throbbed. When he came to a wobbly stop, the hook locked, he swung his legs up and pressed the bottoms of his feet against the thick logs of the wall. He then pointed the hookshot with his right hand and shot, while pressing the release on the lock of the longshot. He was jerked upward again, letting his right wrist feel the pain. After lots of experience using the hookshots, the pain had become bearable and lessened as his wrists and shoulders adjusted to it over time. He came to a stop again, holding the lock and repeating the process; he was a little more than five feet away from the top. He lifted his right hand and shot. It pulled him to the edge of the wall. Once there, he pulled himself up onto the edge, crouched down on the balls of his feet.

It had gotten dark very quickly; the sun must be nearly set behind the dark clouds. For this, Link was glad, for he would only be a small dark shape on the wall if anyone noticed. Of course, what would that matter? He was thinking stealth terms without even realizing it.

Had the storm and appearance of the ranch disturbed him that much?

He gazed out over the dark town. For it was a town. The circle of wall was filled with buildings, perhaps houses, none reaching two stories, except for one. They all varied in shape and size, but they were simple buildings. The look of something created as quickly as possible without heeding the need for quality, for they had flat roofs and no proper slopes. Some did, but it looked as if they were in the middle of being constructed.

The houses created a maze of alley ways. There were only a couple of main streets carving a path through the houses. Light glowed out of many windows, making certain parts of the streets glitter in the wet settling darkness. The only second story building was one Link recognized right away. It was Malon’s house, to his right.

The Hylian clipped his hookshot to his belt and then aimed at a nearby house with the longshot. He waited for another flash and then when thunder shook the air he shot it. The thunk of the hook biting into the wood was lost in the rumble of the clouds. Rain started filling the air more thickly as Link made his landing on the edge of a roof top. He paused for a moment, keeping the longshot in hand and crouched on the roof. There he took a moment to wonder why he was being so paranoid before crawling over to leap softly onto the next house. They were built rather close to each other, enough for him to jump instead of risking the noise of his hook. Link landed softly on each one with well practiced feet. He raced along them in the shadows, making sure to shy from any light glowing from windows.

He reached a building just behind his old friend’s house. Link heard a door opening and immediately froze, hunched over in the shadows. The door that opened was a back door to Malon’s house. A young Hylian woman with scarlet red hair stepped out.

He inhaled sharply, but he managed to stifle the gasp.

Malon took some paces from the door, wrapping her arms around herself to guard from the cold. The thing that he found alarming was his old friend’s appearance. She had a ragged gray tunic on that was tied to her waist with an old brown rope. It was worn through with small holes, torn edges, and smudged with dirt and grime everywhere. It looked as if she had been wearing the same tunic for months. Her leggings weren’t any better. They were dark-gray and just as ragged and dirty as her shirt. The ends of them looked as if they had been torn away, leaving much of her ankles and calves exposed. Her long red hair was greasy and matted, coming close to dread locks. Her face and arms were nearly as dirty as her clothing.

This haggard exterior did not perturb him as much as the look in her eyes. They were tired blue eyes. He had seen similar eyes on her only once before. It had been back in the alternate time, and her father had been kicked out of the ranch and she was forced to become Ingo’s slave. But these eyes were in a far worse state. They had deep dark circles around them. They were so haunted, pained by something. And yet …

How was it that she still seemed so much stronger than that time?

She stood out there in the cold, dirty hair being wiped around her equally filthy face, arms wrapped around her in such solitude. But she did not cower against the rain or wind. The Hylian girl stood with such confidence in those painful eyes, a strength he had never seen in Malon before. In that moment he was both shocked and awed, nearly inspired by her defiant image.

By the Three, what has happened here?

Before he had a chance to think of anything else, the door opened again and sound of loud crude voices undulated out into the dark with the light from inside. A man stood in the doorway. Link pressed his lips together to stop another gasp, sapphire eyes widening and eyebrows rising. Malon turned to face him, light glittering across her face from the rain.

The man was a dark elf. A drow. Link’s stomach tightened sickeningly. Why were they here? How could they possibly be in Hyrule? Of course, he could cross to their world. What could stop them from coming here? He thought he was the only one who knew how to travel between worlds. Dread swam in his organs as he realized how mistaken he had been. One thought stood out the most in his mind as he huddled in the shadows of the ranch he had once known:

How long have they been here?

The man stood, muscular with long snow-white hair and faded black skin. He was a far older man, perhaps in his mid-fifties. Malon stared at him for a moment. Link couldn’t see the look on her face. It was silent for a time. Link watched the man, and he realized the elf was scanning his surroundings. The Hylian felt his heart skip a beat when his eyes passed over his hiding spot on the roof of what seemed to be a shed. The man’s gaze stopped there, and Link felt his stomach drop.

Dark elves could see body heat.

However, the drow’s stare eventually went back to Malon without seeming to notice anything in those shadows. Link’s insides relaxed a little. Of course, the elf probably wasn’t utilizing that vision at the moment. Otherwise, he would have been seen.

“What is it, Jaek-san?” she asked, seeming to ignore or not notice the elf’s inspection of the surrounding area. “I just wanted some fresh air. I’m sick of those bastards already.”

Link watched Jaek’s lips twitch an amused smirk that took it time to fade away.

“It’s dangerous to be out here alone. You know that.”

The Hylian woman didn’t answer for a moment, but he saw the drow’s mouth twitch again, seeing an expression that he couldn’t.

“If you knew that I know then why state the obvious?” Her voice sounded irritated, curt in tone, but then quickly softened again. “… ‘Just for a few minutes, ‘kay? I might even get a little clean if I stay out here.”

The dark elf let a gentle sigh pass through his nose, but his lips gave a small curve at her sarcasm. He reached for something on his belt. Steel glinted in the light from the open door, he held out a long and wickedly curved blade to her, the handle outward. Malon uncoiled an arm to take the knife.

Nothing more needed to be said; it seemed. For Jaek turned and walked back into the house, shutting the door behind him. It took some of the light away, but windows still provided Malon with some glow.

Realizing that now was his chance; he started to move but then paused as the thought finally occurred to him.

Most likely, Malon wouldn’t remember him. It would startle her to appear too suddenly. He always forgot that not everyone had the memories he did. Her only memories of him were when they were children. Link left Hyrule when he was eleven this time. Not only that, but she hadn’t remembered him at first in that other time either.

Though, it didn’t really change anything. He would just have to convince her that he meant no harm and try to make her remember. So quietly, he slipped off the back of the roof; dropping onto the ground with cat-like grace. Crouching again, he moved around the corner, hugging the wall of the shed.

Malon had turned around again by then, still clutching the blade in her right hand which hung limply at her side. She sighed through her nose and stared at the ground. Link stood up straight in the shadows, pulling the hood from his head and walked out from the darkness. She lifted her head immediately to see him, her eyes wide and cautious. The young woman’s stance widened, her knife arm tensed, gripping the handle.

“Please, it’s okay …” he began, raising both hands out for her to see that they were empty and harmless. She stared at him uncertainly, yet the look in her eyes didn’t soften. They were the eyes of a survivor. Hard and cold. It made him feel uneasy seeing Malon’s eyes like that. There was no trust in them for him or anyone.

He remembered Malon to be a care-free and cheerful girl, daughter of the ranch owner who smiled easily and trusted just as willingly. She had an undying love for animals, especially horses. That was the Malon he knew. And he realized as he stood there, hands up, staring at her, that this Malon was a stranger to him. So different now, he didn’t know anything about her anymore. He felt the weight on his heart grow heavier, as if to crush it.

None of this feels real.

His feelings must have shown on his face, because a startled expression fluttered across the girl’s stern face. Her eyes softened a bit and he watched as her body relaxed and her guard started decreasing slowly.

“Who are you …?” Her voice was surprisingly softer than he thought it would be, compared to her previous expression. It made him feel a little better. Link felt a soft smile shape his lips.

“A childhood friend … Romani Malon,” he said as gently as possible.

Malon’s eyes widened immediately, and all her guards dropped to zero. Slowly, her fighter’s stance loosened. She stood, still holding the knife in her hand, but limply.

She stared at him for a moment.

“… Link-kun?” she whispered, there was a slow and disbelieving tone in her voice. “… What are you doing here? How did you get in? The only way in and out is through the front gates.”

Relief washed over him. She remembered him faster than he thought she would. However, his smile faded at her questions. He lowered his hands at last.

“I climbed.”

Malon raised an eyebrow and lowered the other. “The walls are fifty feet high.”

“I know.”

His shoulders, arms, and wrists were still aching.

She kept the same expression on her face, staring at him in disbelief. Link shifted uncomfortably under her stare and his sapphire eyes wandered downward. He thought he should be used to these kinds of stares by now. He realized often lately how strange he seemed to others. Link found he actually preferred laughter to the silent stare, though neither was particularly pleasant for him.

“Malon-chan … what’s happened?” He finally looked up at her, changing the subject was best. Besides, there were more important things at hand than gawking at his whimsical ways. The Hylian girl’s eyebrows finally shifted back down, but now her gaze drifted away from his. Her blue eyes almost seemed to ache.

“It’s … kind of a long story …”

“Then we should invite him in. It’s rude to keep a guest outside in the rain.”

Link looked up and Malon twisted around to see Jaek standing in front of the closed door. Link’s hand flew to the hilt of his sword.

He hadn’t even heard the drow open the door--No, he would have heard and seen more light if he had. That meant the dark elf hadn’t used the door. The old elf smiled warmly, and Link found himself oddly reminded of Rontu; though his friend never smiled as easily as this man seemed to.

Malon quickly turned her head to Link. “It’s okay. He’s a friend. Jaek-san has been protecting me for a long time.”

He was still a little hesitant. The Drow were not a peaceful race. They led a large empire that focused on the violent conquest of smaller nations. He just came back from their home world were they had attempted to conquer the larger and more powerful land of Ranelu. They had failed.

And now they were here.

In his land. His home.

However, the Drow were not wholly evil. It was simply difficult to find one with good intentions, a good heart. Sure, Rontu had never been very peaceful by nature, but he meant no harm. So if Malon said this man was the same, then it was probably true. Link let his hand drift away from his sword slowly.

Jaek didn’t seem bothered by his caution either. The tranquil smile on his face didn’t falter as he opened the back door to the house. The loud voices of drunken males filtered through again with the orange glow from the fire place inside.

“Put your hood up, young man, and come inside.”

The drow turned and went in. Link pulled his hood up again and followed Malon through the doorway.

Once inside, he found the main open living space that had once held only one table near the fireplace where Malon, her father, and their employee, Ingo, used to have their meals. The ceiling had always been high and still was. But now, it was filled with more tables and chairs, like the inside of a pub. Sitting at these tables were a couple dozen dark elves. They wore imperial uniforms of black, and depending on ranking, blue, green, and purple. He knew this, because he had seen those uniforms before. It was definitely the Drow Empire.

They paid no attention to the three coming in through the door. Jaek continued to lead them over to the stairs on their left, and up to the landing and door. Link followed Malon and the drow through this door as well. Once inside, it was closed behind them, shutting out the noise of the soldiers.

Link pulled the hood from his head as he gazed around the up-stairs room he knew from childhood. It had hardly changed. It still had two beds in the corners farthest back, a table in the center, a night stand between the beds against the wall, and a dresser in the lower corner to his left. It was dark inside, and no one moved to light any lamps.

“Have a seat, Link-kun. You must be tired … I never thought I would see you again,” said Malon, who remained standing next to the larger drow.

Jaek had his arms folded across his chest. His face was relaxed as his eyes remained on Link. He was finally close enough to see the dark elf’s eyes. They were a gentle light brown that reminded him of the Deku Tree’s strong bark.

Link took a seat at the table in the center, but turned his chair so that he could face the two. He stared back at the drow, and then to Malon again. It was silent for a moment, in which more thunder rumbled from outside.

“What happened?” he asked again.

The ranch girl exhaled softly through her nose, baggy eyes looking down.

“Well … about a month after you left Hyrule, they came. They’re known as the Drow Empire. They invaded …” She shrugged half-heartedly, still not looking him in the face. She kept her eyes away from his. “What more can I say?”

She turned and walked over to the window, staring outside, placing her hands on the window sill. Her voice was flat with a strange numbness to it. “Simple words like that explain it and yet leave all the meaning of what it is out … They took over almost everything. Hyrule Castle Town is occupied by them and so is Kakariko. They went up into Death Mountain, but it seemed the Gorons fled before they got there. They must have seen them attacking Kakariko and ran for it. No one knows where really. Maybe over the mountains and into the neighboring kingdoms.”

Link stared down at his lap numbly as he felt his insides turn cold from the shock. He had already known. He knew when he first saw Jaek and when they passed by the soldiers in the imperial uniforms down stairs. What else would the Drow be doing here? He had to hear it though. Link needed to hear it from her to really believe it, to allow himself to accept that what he feared was true.

He finally found his voice after he listened to her.

“W-what about Zelda-sama? The Zoras? And the Gerudos?” Linked looked up at her back with his eyebrows tensed and sapphire eyes pleading even though she could not see them.

“The king is dead, and Princess Zelda is still at the castle. Their leader keeps her alive for some reason. Maybe as his personal concubine, but he’s kept her for so long it’s too strange … Especially since he’s rumored to have no soul.” Malon folded her arms over her chest as she continued to stare out the window.

“No soul?” Link furrowed his eyebrows in befuddlement this time. He had never heard of such a possibility.

“Aye,” said Jaek, nodding calmly despite the distress of the matter. “Lord Nottuu governs over the army sent here. He’s not a drow. He’s a dragon actually. A white dragon from our world. They can take the form of elves and the like. I’ve seen him myself, and even I would say it sounds convincing that he may, indeed, have no soul to speak of. Or at least, not much of one left.”

Link looks down again, not thinking much more of the soulless man. His thoughts, were, instead, of his other childhood companion. Zelda was still alive, despite the circumstances. It eased the grip of dread upon his heart to know it. It gave him hope. She was imprisoned, but that never stopped them before, and so it wouldn’t now.

Though, he didn’t know what “concubine” meant. Perhaps it was a slave of some kind.

“The Zoras remain in hiding. The empire doesn’t even know of their existence here,” Malon continued on in the same distant voice. “They didn’t attack the Gerudos … at least not yet. It seems they admire their feminine strength and invited them to join the empire.”

Link inhaled sharply, flicking his head up. “But Nabooru-san would never--”

“It appears they have not accepted the invitation,” Jaek interrupted, lifting a hand from his folded arms to ease Link. His white eyebrows lifted up at him. “But they continue to trade goods with the empire.”

Link stared at him for a moment, taking this information in before looking down again. What was Nabooru doing? Why wasn’t she helping the Hylians? What about Zelda? How could she abandon her like this? His fists tightened on his lap, staring down at it hard.

It was all so unbearable to take in. He finally came home to find Hyrule like this? It was just like before. It was almost like time was repeating itself. Last time, he woke up after seven years of sleep to a world that was no longer his. He was nothing but a stranger to it. It was the same now as it was then.

Everything had changed.

Link looked up at Malon again; eyebrows furrowed in question once more.

“Malon-chan … where is Talon-san?”

She stayed quiet for a long time at the window. Jaek’s brown eyes looked over at her, his face blank and serene as he stared at her. Link felt it creeping up on him. Another fear that he did not want to accept without her saying it first. He already knew, but his sapphire eyes were locked on her head. Waiting as the eerie feeling grew. Waiting.

Just say it.

Yet it was so cruel to force such a thing on her.

Jaek leaned in and placed a large black hand on her slender shoulder, squeezing gently.

She turned her head to look up at him after he touched her shoulder. The ranch girl smirked with eyes that held no humor and turned her head back to the window, shaking her red dreads. She spoke again with that same plain voice.

“Tou-san was killed in the raid.”

Link stared and felt his insides vaporize, even though he had already known. The reality of it hit hard and fast.



He couldn’t let that in. He didn’t want to. And yet …

Talon wasn’t there. He simply was not there anymore. As if he had vanished. Disappeared. Gone. There was no other explanation for it. It was the hardest thing for him to hear out of all the bad news, out of all the details of what had happened in seven years, and the invasion. It was too close to him. Too real. He could see that Talon was not there anymore.

They had killed him.

Gone--Like Tarrowco.

Link put his face in his hands and his elbows on his thighs.

How had this happened? He felt like such a fool. To think Hyrule would always be safe after he saved it once. What had it all been for? All his efforts, sacrifices, pain, and struggle had been for nothing. All he ever did was fight. That was all he ever knew in his life. And now, he just felt too tired for it. He was so young but already so exhausted by this. Was this what the Goddesses had planed for him? To fight for Hyrule, for them, forever?

“So what are you going to do?” The drow’s voice broke into his thoughts.

Link looked up at him. The old elf smiled kindly as he took a seat next to him at the table. He stared at him for a moment, at those light brown eyes. Jaek waited patiently, allowing him the time to find his answer.

While he had been wallowing in his own uncertainty, he had forgotten about that. None of that really helped him or anyone. Now that he knew what had happened, what was his next move? What should be done next? Link looked down at his lap smiling with narrowed eyes.

In the end, it would always be this way.

Link looked over at Jaek and said, “I’m going to the castle, to take back Zelda-sama.”

The dark elf’s weathered face broadened with a proud smile, eyes narrowed in gentle affection. There were many wrinkles on his strong face, from many years of smiles and tears. His white hair was thinning on his head.

Link stared for a moment at this man. Who was he? He was different, like Rontu. Just from these first impressions, there was an aura of warmth and kindness pulsing off him. He never though he’d ever see a drow that felt so honest in every action he did. Jaek was so tranquil, even through the chaos they talked about. Even when he sat down, he did it with such grace and patience. He took his time with sitting, standing, walking. Like there was no rush to do these things. As if there was joy and peace to be found in every action.

He liked this man so much already. Even his calm presence was all he needed to relax and think rationally about what needed to be done. It kept his thoughts away from the past and things he could not change. Instead, he was focused on the things he could do.

“You’ve been … protecting Malon-chan all this time?” Link asked him.

Jaek’s shoulders twitched up with a quick half smile at this mouth. “I came with the soldiers. Found her here. I took as many slaves as was reasonable.”

“Slaves?” Link’s voice jumped.

Jaek nodded patiently, his half smile gone, but no more despondent than before. He folded his hands together in his lap. Malon walked over to the table, finally turning away from the window and the rain outside. She faced Link, who looked up at her when she approached them. She lifted her arm and turned her right wrist up for him to see. There was a smooth pink scar in the distinct shape of an hourglass. Link recognized the symbol. It was the sigil of the Drow Empire.

“This place is now nothing more than another base and a slave trading center. They move a lot supplies through here anyway,” said Malon, her voice soft and calm. Link hated the way she sounded, her dead and empty voice. It was starting to haunt him. He stared at the brand until she let her arm drop to her side. He didn’t dare look up at her face to see her eyes. They were like open wounds.

“Jaek-san came, turned my house into a pub, and took as many slaves as he could without looking suspicious or odd … But he treats us like real people, protects us from the rest of the soldiers, gives us plenty of food and care … but in front of the rest we must put on the roles of slave and master.” She gestured at herself and the condition of her hygiene.

Link stayed quiet after this, still not looking directly at her. After a silent moment Jaek spoke up again.

“If you’re leaving for the castle, then I have a favor to ask.”

Link looked up at the old drow again and nodded. He would do anything this man asked of him. Jaek’s gaze met steadily with his, his placid and honest presence the same as always.

“Take Malon with you.”

Before he could respond Malon whipped her head to face Jaek in surprise, inhaling sharply through her mouth.

“But Jaek-san! I can’t leave you and the rest--”

“But you can,” said the dark elf, smiling at her, seated so calmly in his chair. He was like a rock in a storm, ever still even as wind and rain howled and whipped around him. “I can’t get the others out with you ... yet, but you can and I’m certain you’ll be able to help your old friend.” He stood up and took her pale hands in his dark ones. “I trust that you’ll come back for us, no?”

Malon’s eyes watered, turning pink at the threat of tears as she stared up at him. She opened her mouth but couldn’t get words out, so she nodded instead and flung herself into his arms. The drow only smiled at this and held her back. Link watched for only a second and then turned his gaze down to give them privacy.

They must have finally parted because then Jaek spoke again to Link.

“I can help you past the gates and with most any supplies you may need. I hear there is a group of rebels hiding out in the forest. Perhaps once you have accomplished your task you can find refuge there.”

Link nodded and stood up facing Jaek and Malon. He had to push back all the feelings of guilt, shame, and despair. They would only get in the way of what he knew he had to do. Right now all he should think about is going to the castle and finding Zelda. A rebel group in the forest? Now that he thought about it, the forest would be a perfect hide out, especially with the aid of the Kokiri. Most likely the empire hadn’t been able to get through without losing several men to mystical woods.

His eyes drifted from the dark room over to the window where rain drizzled down heavily outside. He wished he had been wrong. That his instincts had been off, but it seemed that all the omens had pointed to only one thing.
The Letter to No One by Shrub
Author's Notes:
Now for this chapter I have two songs I listened to while I wrote it. The main theme song is Eternal, by Evanescence. And the song for Zelda and Link in this chapter is Bring Me to Life, by Evanescence. This chapter is rather long, just to warn everyone. It’s 14 pages. Usually I only do 10 pages per chapter. So here it is. Enjoy.
Chapter Two:
The Letter to No One

Jaek packed them up into a wagon to get them out of the ranch. It was not uncommon for drow to be up and active during the night. From what Link knew they were a nocturnal people by nature. Rontu always said it felt strange to him to start sleeping during the night instead of the day. They had vision for both times, so Rontu could adjust easily enough. Which brought Link to wondering about earlier, as Jaek grunted a greeting to the guards at the gates to the ranch, when he had been hiding on the shed and Jaek had scanned the area, and then when he had appeared out of the shadows and invited Link inside …

He was sure that Jaek had seen him in the dark with his heat vision. He must have known he would not show himself until he left. Jaek must have not gone far, not wanting to risk Malon’s safety with a stranger in the shadows. Of course, Jaek then knew he was a friend after hearing them talk and then could be trusted. Link just wondered how he had managed to get back outside so quickly to hear his conversation with Malon to then know that he was no danger to them.

The curiosity kept him from sinking down into the grief and guilt in the back of his mind that threatened to sweep over him in a great and overwhelming wave.

Yes, it was best to keep himself busy.

The wagon gently rocked him as it rolled outside the ranch walls. Rain pelted down, which made the rocking annoying instead of soothing as the wind howled at them. Jaek brought it to a stop next to the walls, out of sight from the entrance. Link uncurled himself from the wagon floor and leapt over the side. He stood straight and then stuck his fingers in his mouth and whistled her song.

In the early days he would have once feared that the whistle of her tune would not reach her ears in such weather. By now he knew there was something much more than sounds to this song and the horse. A few seconds went and he soon spotted the mare galloping over to him.

Malon rushed up to Epona before Link could even reach her muzzle. She eagerly touched her velvety nose and stroked her white mane. The horse did not finch away. She would always know the ranch girl that had raised her. In fact, he was sure that once Epona had seen Malon that it was not him she had been rushing toward anymore. The ragged ranch girl wrapped her arms around the horse in the howling wind and rain, like an embrace with a long lost friend that she was.

Link let them have their moment together in peace. He turned back to the wagon to find Jaek leaning against it. He was at such ease that you would have thought it a nice warm afternoon instead of a cold and stormy night. The old drow was watching the reunion with a warm glow in his brown eyes and a soft smile shaping his lips. The chaos of the wind whipped the white hair across his face but he made no motion to pull the hood of his cloak up over his head.

Jaek turned his head to Link and his smile increased, pulling at more of the wrinkles on his aging face. One could not help but be drawn in by him. The one steady and solid thing around them. He walked over to Jaek, taking the moment to give into the curiosity and the need of a distraction.

The drow waited patiently, as if he already knew what was coming next.

“Jaek-san … I was wondering…”

The warm brown eyes stared receptively, the hint of a smile still hanging on his mouth and wrinkles.

“You saw me on the shed.”

It was not a question, but Jaek nodded, confirming.

“You knew I wouldn’t come out until you left … I was just wondering how you got outside fast enough to hear …”

The smile came into full bloom again. There was a hint of amusement in it. Link felt like as if he had suddenly missed something very obvious. Something Jaek found amusing that he had over looked.

“Link … I never thought you meant Malon any harm. My boy, your eyes give you away. No one could conceive you to have ill intent; no matter how suspicious it may be to lurk on roof tops.” His voice was gentle yet firm enough to be heard over the wind.

He didn’t know what to say in response. He wasn’t even sure exactly what he meant by it--what this drow saw in his eyes that confirmed friendliness. Though, he supposed others have said similar things to him about his eyes and being.

He was sure, though, that this man was very wise and saw more with those brown eyes than most see in a life time. Jaek was a leader, but not an aggressive one. He was passive and content to protect the young like Malon. Jaek was like the Great Deku Tree. Link wondered how old he really was. Jaek felt almost as ancient as the guardian of the forest.

After the brief stop to collect Epona, they headed out again toward the castle. He rode in the back of the wagon again while Malon mounted Epona. He had been riding her for seven years, while Malon had been a slave and without her usual childhood companion. She told Link that she was very grateful. Epona was in great shape and she had managed to avoid getting sucked into the empire by going with him. She was certain that the drow soldiers would have bought and traded Epona amongst themselves otherwise.

He didn’t have much to say about this either. Talk of the seven years in Hyrule made him flinch inside. He had to force his concentration back upon his task.

Jaek took them to the gates of the castle town, where they left Epona to wait for them. The old drow stayed with them, taking them into the city in the cover of his wagon. As far as he could see from his crouched position in the wagon, the city hadn’t changed much, unlike when Ganondorf had taken over. It was mostly as dark as the fields outside, lacking candle light in windows often, and filled with white hair and imperial uniforms. Hylians were seen, but most seemed in a condition similar to Malon’s or worse. They were so pale in comparison that they seemed as ghosts.

It had become a ghost town.

He shied away from these Hylians when he saw them. He couldn’t bear the sight of their haunted faces and haggard forms. The guilt prickled at him, but he forced himself away from it. There would be plenty of time for that later.

Jaek eventually stopped in the mouth of an alley close to the gates of the royal castle. He seemed confident that the rescue mission would go well for he said he felt no need to stay longer to help them out of the city as well.

Malon was against this anyway. She didn’t want him to risk being exposed as the gentle and kind man he truly was. The others back at the ranch needed him still. So they left him in the alley, pulling their hoods up and their cloaks around their bodies. Malon kindly had kept any questions about Link knowing his way into the castle so well to herself. Perhaps she did not want to risk the sound of her voice. Any sound at all was risky, for the drow had sharp hearing, like the Hylians, with their pointed though smaller ears. Their heat vision made them even more impossible to sneak around. However, Malon said there had been no revolt from the Hylians for years so they were sure to be more relaxed with security.

Link wondered a little if he would ever see Jaek again as he turned his back to him in the alley way. It seemed a shame to leave him so quickly after only having just met. There was no helping the situation. He had to save Zelda. So they continued on until Link reached the familiar road that led straight to the castle. Malon and he crept slowly along the cliff wall that lined the side of the dirt rode. Rain was still pouring down on them, lightning flashed, and the heavens sounded like boulders falling and crashing down into each other.

Link found his way just like he did when he was young. The same vine and nooks in the wall as before. Malon followed him like his own shadow, a silent mimic as she climbed up the wall after him. They scuttled past the gate and the drow guards there, slipped down the other side of the cliff face, and darted across the dirt rode to the sanctuary of the grassy fields it carved through just before the castle.

He stared up at it in the rain, for just a moment. Like the city, it had not changed much either. It was dark and very few lights shined out its various windows and towers. Except for a dim orange that illuminated a gaping balcony, whoever was in it had left their drapes open despite the storm and chill wind. It glowed out to him like a beacon, a light house, calling, beckoning him forward. To where he was needed.

Link ran to meet it.

This part of sneaking in was always the easiest. The hard part was when they get inside. He guided Malon to the old familiar moat after scaling another gate. He gestured to the little stone river. All he heard of a complaint was very soft sigh that was then lost in the wind. Otherwise, she showed no sign of distaste for getting wet. The ranch girl swept forward and lowered herself quietly into the moat. She made no sound despite the ice cold temperature. He lowered himself shortly after her.

They drifted down it, following the current and hugging the stone side as to not be seen. Link made no movements to swim, which would have caused too much noise for the drow guards to ignore. Malon, his new shadow, did not either. Once they reached the end, where the flow met with iron bars that strained the moat of such intruders, Link grabbed the stone edge and pulled himself up and out of the water onto the walkway. On his knees, he reached down and helped Malon out as well.

He gestured to the door on his right and very quietly he whispered, “I’ll pick the lock but once we pass through that door it will not be so easy from here on out. Sneaking past the drow is no ordinary task. Not one extra sound or action can be allowed. They see much better in the dark than we. Their sight is different, as you know. So to get by them we must avoid the line of their sight as much as physically possible.”

Malon stared at him with absolute attention to every single word he uttered. Her worn and blue eyes were very determined and her jaw was set tightly, probably to keep her teeth from chattering.

“If we do make a mistake, I will do my best to silence them, and then we must hide them as to not sound any alarms. I wish for our presence to be left unnoticed until we least reach Princess Zelda. It will make leaving the castle with her a much easier task.”

Malon nodded afterward, confirming silently that she was ready and understood everything. She knew exactly how serious this was, for she still had not spoken a single word since they left Jaek.

When they slipped through the door, he found himself in the same familiar gardens as before. However, the drow were not concerned for its health so it had been left to grow and thrive on its own. Ungroomed for seven years, it now had a more wild and bushy look to all the green hedges. He found this comforting though. It would make sneaking around a little easier.

It wasn’t a dead garden at least.

It was still surviving.

Link led the way, as usual. They had slipped into an easy pattern with each other. Link the leader, Malon his shadow. The first area they passed was completely empty. Like Malon had said before, security was relaxed. It was the same for the next section, but upon reaching the third they found a group of three soldiers. These were easy to get past for they were seated in a circle and rolling dice, barking jokes, insults, and laughs.

So far it was going extremely well, which was what bothered him the most. It was oddly comforting when they came upon their first challenge. It was at the very end of the gardens, at the stone arch that paved the way to the area that Link had first set eyes on Zelda in eight years ago. In this arch, there were two doors on each side. They need to get to one of the doors to get in. Yet standing under this arch was a group of four, trying to avoid the rain together as they stood watch. They stood by the right wall, one of them leaning against it. A few feet away was the door.

Link surveyed this from their leafy coverage, peering through the gaps of branches and felt his brow furrow. He had wanted to avoid contact as much as possible, but he knew he was going to have to knock them out. He didn’t like this--so many bodies they would have to hide. It was unavoidable though. He turned back to Malon and pressed one finger against his lips. He gazed at her blue eyes very intently, meaning for her to make no sound no matter what. He then gestured to the ground for her to stay put. She nodded slowly, not taking her eyes from his until the last moment. They flickered over to the group of drow curiously.

Link turned his back on her and swept through the hedges to a hidden location closer to the soldiers. He crept over cautiously, with light and slow movements, not wanting any of his equipment to clatter as he moved. Once in his desired position, he reached into a pouch on his belt. He grasped one Deku nut, large enough to fit in his fist and force his fingers to spread over its smooth but lumpy surface.

It was true that the drow were gifted in the dark. None can sneak past their heat vision gaze. However, they do not fair as well in the light.

Near the hedge’s edge, he twirled around it with lithe movement, standing as he turned. With the spin, he threw the nut down toward the ground at the drow guards’ feet. Upon striking, the nut cracked open, emitting a single blinding flash. Link was familiar enough with it that the flash did not startle him. He blinked at just the right time as he rushed forward. He had started charging in the moment the nut left his fingers. So when it flashed and the men were startled and stunned by the light, he was already upon them before they could even understand what was happening.

It was quick work, which was always needed when it came to drow. It was best not to give them any chance to react. Once they were all unconscious at his feet, he turned and waved Malon over. She sprung from the hiding spot and darted over to him. Her eyes were wide with shock. He hadn’t had the chance to tell her what he was going to do.

“Quick, help me carry them over--” he had started to say.

It was then he saw that behind Malon and among the hedges was another group of drow. They must have been the next shift coming to replace the ones he had just knocked out. He almost felt it rather then saw it when they were spotted. They normally should have shouted sooner, but Link thought they must have paused out of utter disbelief. Seven years without any trouble, and now Hylians stood over the bodies of drow. They must have been too stunned to speak.

He didn’t give them time to react either. He yanked Malon close as he grasped another Deku nut and slammed it to the ground at their feet. Again, he had been moving just before the nut struck. Pulling Malon along, he rushed to the door nearest them and burst through. He didn’t know if there would be another group on the other side.

It could have been worse as well. They were lucky enough that the next shift came then instead of sooner. They would have been sandwiched between the both of them, and even Link didn’t know how he would have managed to get of it alive.

Lucky for them, the hall he charged into was empty. He was very grateful that Malon had had enough sense not to stumble or resist his pull. It would have been even more of a disaster if she had fallen. Now that she was running along with him, he felt it safe to release her arm. They twisted and turned down random corridors the first few times, just to make sure that they had lost the men that would have surely followed them.

Then Link stopped and pressed an ear to a random door. Thanks to his long pointy ears, he would be able to hear it if any drow were inside. All was silent on the other side, except for bubbling noises and the crackle of fire. He pulled it open and went in, trusting in Malon to follow. He just needed a place to stop and tell Malon the next plan from here on out. Now that the castle was aware of their presence, they would have to take a different approach.

The room they rushed into turned out to be a laundry room. It was filled with great big steel pots, some held over a fire or two to heat the water. Baskets of clothes--drow uniforms--and sheets sat against the walls with the long stirring sticks, waiting to be washed. Malon shut the door quietly after herself and walked forward to stand next to Link as he surveyed their hiding place.

It hadn’t even been a minute when the door burst open again and people came stumbling through. He almost thought it was another case of bad luck, but when he whirled around to face them, he saw that these two people that had rushed in were not drow. They were Hylians. The one that came in front was a young man about Link’s age. Behind him was a small young woman, perhaps just a year or so younger than them.

They all stopped immediately to stare at each other in shock. The man had raven black hair. It was short and seemed to grow up and out at odd messy angles. His skin was a pale ivory, though not unhealthy looking, and his eyes were wide in his shock and an extremely dark blue. The girl behind him stayed behind him, but peeked out at Link and Malon with emerald green eyes. Her hair was long, to her elbows, straight, and a beautiful silver sheen. From what he could see of her face, it was sweet and lovely, though scared.

Their clothing and appearance was not that of a slave’s. There were no obvious bruises, ragged tunics and leggings, or neglected hygiene like with Malon. They looked perfectly healthy and alert. The man wore a blue short-sleeved tunic almost as dark as his eyes with a white undershirt reaching down his biceps and black leggings. His hands were covered with black leather gauntlets that reached up just below his elbows. There was a faded black cloak draped over his shoulders. He was a fighter, for on the belt around his tunic were two short katana sheaths on each side of his hips.

The girl wore a few different shades of gray. Her tunic was a light gray with no sleeves and a black belt. The leggings were a medium gray and the cloak over her delicate shoulders was a dark gray. She had a black little duffle back slung over one shoulder. Other than that, he couldn’t see any visible weapons on her.

Link was the first one to come to his senses. He jabbed a finger at the open door mutely. The girl behind the dark haired man made a soft and strange squeaking sound and whirled around to shut the door. She turned back to hide behind him again. They all stood in silence a moment longer, partly out of the shock still, but also because all were listening very carefully to the noises outside. When they were sure they heard no one coming, they all relaxed and focused on each other.

“Who are you?” Both Malon and the other male Hylian asked at the same time. They both paused afterward, unsure of who should speak first. The dark haired one smiled awkwardly at her. He was also staring rather intently, almost distracted. Malon gazed back folding her arms across her chest, showing that she wanted him to go first. He got her cue and spoke first.

“My name is Serwen Khaz … and this is my sister, Leita.”

He smiled awkwardly again. His grin lasted too long and his eyes were flickering at the both of them, gauging their reactions. Malon had her eyebrows narrowed at him. She was guarded again, like when Link first saw her. Her worn eyes gained a colder gleam about them.

“Romani Malon … and this is Link.” Her tone was a hesitant one.

Khaz seemed encouraged despite her expression and tone of voice. He peered curiously at Link.

“Just Link …?”

He was about to explain, but Malon did first. Others often did this with him, speak for him. He never really understood why they always felt the need to. Perhaps it was because he was so quiet most of the time. They might feel as if they needed to fill in the facts for others who did not know him, as if they weren’t sure he would.

“He doesn’t have a surname.” She interceded curtly.

He watched Khaz take a step back mentally, feeling the way Malon seemed to block him with her tones. He did the awkward smile, eyes flickering from Malon to Link. He wasn’t even sure why she was behaving this way. It wasn’t really needed. They weren’t enemies.

“What are you doing here?” she shot at him next. But Khaz seemed distracted again. His dark blue eyes stared up and down her, eyebrows furrowing with something that could have been either confusion or concern. Malon’s jaw tightened with her irritation at this. She took a step forward and bowed her head lower to catch Khaz’s eye. He looked up, smiled again, eyebrows still furrowed.

“Uh … sorry, it’s just … well, you’re …” He gestured vaguely at her.

Link had already gotten a little accustomed to Malon’s appearance at the moment. To others it would be a shocking sight. She still had the same clothing on as before, ragged and dirty, wet now from the rain and moat they traveled through. The only new thing she had on was a dark cloak that Jaek had given her for the journey. Her face was very pale and gaunt, her eyes sunken in bruised shadows. Her hair was close to dreads, twisted and tangled and a murky red. Along with her guarded expression and tight jaw, she looked rather grim and worn.

Malon looked down at herself and then back up at Khaz. She arched a cold brow at him.

“I just escaped enslavement at Lon Lon Ranch--How would you be?”

His eyes widened. “No--I wasn’t criticizing. I was just concer--”

“It’s not important. What’s important is what you’re doing here.”

Khaz’s eyes flickered downward and then up again before speaking. “We’re … on a mission.”

Malon considered this, piercing at him critically with her eyes.

“You’re with the Forest Rebellion,” she assumed.

“Well … kind of, but not …” This time he looked almost coy as he smiled secretively. Malon wasn’t impressed though. She arched and lowered her brows at him again, frowning on one side.

“What’s that mean?”

Khaz pursed his lips, looking unsure of explaining it farther to her. After a patient moment, he said, “This isn’t really the best place to talk about it … What are you guys doing here? Maybe we can help each other, and then later--when we’re out of here--I’ll tell you all about it.”

Malon’s face had hardly changed. She still looked so critical.

“Your answer was kind of vague. What’s your mission here?”

“Ah. Right. We’re here to rescue Princess Zelda.” Khaz smiled confidently and folded his arms across his chest.

Malon’s eyes widened, finally breaking her carefully set expression. She turned her head to exchange a glance with Link. He was surprised himself. What were the odds really? No revolt for seven years, and then on the same night two separate groups of Hylians came to do the very same thing. It was meant to be. They would save her tonight. He knew it was true. This was a sign.

It was fated to be.

“… What are you here for?” Khaz asked curiously, taking note of the obvious shocked glances both he and Malon were giving each other. She gazed at him and then let her eyes flicker toward the other Hylian. Link nodded, agreeing with her. Malon faced Khaz’s way again, not as guarded as before. It seemed this odd sign comforted her as well.

“Same as you. To save Princess Zelda.”

Khaz’s eyes grew large too with his awe.

“No kidding …?! We definitely should team up then. We’ve got the same goal.”

Malon nodded. “Hai … though, Link and I have made this a little more difficult for everyone …”

Khaz grinned boyishly. It seemed he had a natural glowing charm that prompted him to smile a lot. Chuckling, he said, “So that was you? Yeah, you guys have got this place on red alert now.”

She furrowed her eyebrows skeptically at him. “Gee, you sure look worried.”

His boyish grin turned to a knowing smirk. He raised his brows and said,

“I don’t have to worry. ‘Cause I’ve got her.” He jabbed a thumb backwards at Leita behind him. She had been slowly exposing herself more and more from behind his body, but when he called attention to her again, she instantly ducked back, hiding herself completely, which wasn’t difficult due to her petite stature. Link had seen her face turn a soft pink at this mention of herself before quickly bowing her head, silver hair falling in front of her face like a closing drape.

Malon witnessed this strange behavior as well and arched a concerned brow. Khaz looked over his shoulder, seeing the two of them stare at her. He smiled, and Link watched his eyes turn soft and praising. His adoration for his sibling was noticeably obvious. It was a fact that this brother found the girl’s ways to be absolutely endearing. Yet there was something about the softness of his eyes that seemed almost sad about it as well.

“Leita-chan,” he coaxed, trying to turn around so that she could not hide behind him anymore. “It’s okay. You don’t have to be so nervous. Say hello, ne?”

Leita tried to side step to keep behind her brother, but he caught her shoulders and pulled her to stand in front of him. She kept her head bowed so that her silver hair veiled her blushing face. The girl mumbled something, but it was so quiet that Link didn’t hear it. Neither did Malon, for she leaned forward and said, “Eh …?”

Khaz rubbed his sister’s shoulders gently to soothe her and softly said, “A little louder for them, hm?”

Link saw her face turn a deeper color through the gaps of silver.

“S-s-s …” she started but seemed to be stuttering so badly that she had to pause for a moment. Her voice was still very soft but beautiful. “So sorry … um … hello …”

Link smiled softly, wishing to pacify her nervousness in some small way as well. So he spoke for the first time himself.

“Hello …”

The hardness in Malon’s being seemed to melt like wax before a flame. She smiled warmly, which was the first time Link had seen such a gentle and bright expression on her face since he had found her. She waved a little with a hand.

“Hi …”

Khaz beamed at their kindness and then leaned his head gently against the top of his sister’s. Leita peeked out from her hair, pulling the veil open just a little. She smiled back very carefully. Malon seemed a little distracted, still smiling softly back at her, but asked, “So we don’t have to worry …?”

“That’s right.”

It is a late and dark hour, and my mind in a dark and hopeless place. Full of ache. Hyrule’s pain. My pain. We are one. As my father had always said it would be. The river and fall run dry as his veins do. Even this down pour will not fill it again. I have stopped forming plans for escape. I have stopped sending for Impa. I have stopped hoping for rescue.

There is no hope.

The Goddesses cannot save me now as they have before. There is no danger to the purity of the Sacred Realm. It is safe and yet my kingdom is ravaged. And I still do not know why I am kept here. Why does he keep me here?


That is the only thought that comes to my mind these days. These days I have submitted to my grim apathy. I have abandoned the garden that keeps my hands busy. I have not left my room for a week. Why bother? Why get up in the morning? Why keep sucking in that next breath?


I have no reason anymore.

So I have decided that tonight is my last. I have prepared my bath. My blade is ready. Now all that is left is this note. This letter to no one. Why do I write it? I am unsure even now. But I know the certainty of my future. I have seen myself writing it before I started. It was then I knew I had already chosen my only other option. This is the only way out. I am powerless to save Hyrule or even myself from him.

My few comforts are that at least this time it was not my fault. This time I was not playing with the power of the Goddesses with my young arrogance. This comfort is small and meaningless. The next brings me a little more satisfaction. I am comforted that Link left before all this madness fell upon us. His life has already been difficult enough for him. I pray that he never comes back. I pray for his ignorance of what has happened here. I pray for his happiness. He has sacrificed enough for Hyrule. I dare not ask anymore of him.

This letter must be my last prayer. My last spell. My last wish.

I pray for Ren and Tasuki to find their way. I could not keep them from choosing that bloody path. I hope that if any should find this letter that it should be Ren. So that he may know that I forgive him.

It was not your fault. There was nothing you could have done. I never blamed you once. I love you.

I forgive him and Tasuki. I never really hated them for what they did, despite how much it hurt me. I pray for them to know how much I love them. They have been the brothers I had never been blessed with. Please, let them find their way out of the darkness. Please let there be hope for them.

There must be hope for someone.

~Zelda Nayru Nohansen

She set her quill down, staring at the page, watching the letters blur in her now clouding vision. She felt the ache in her throat as she swallowed. She sat with her foot up on her chair, thigh close to her body, draping her left arm over it. Zelda slouched in the chair, her blue silk robe slipping off a bare shoulder. She wore a white cotton gown underneath it. The wind blew in from her open balcony and touched chillingly to her exposed flesh, leaking in through her thin clothing.

She had left it open because she didn’t even have the energy to care anymore. It was cold but that wouldn’t matter in a few minutes. In a few minutes, Zora’s River will never have a chance to flow again. If the empire ever did fall somehow, in the future, her people would elect someone to rule them. But it would not be a Nohansen. The line of royal blood would end with her. It will be as dry as the river now. For this was the way, they were linked to the kingdom in a way that was more than just social formalities. They were one with this land. Just as all the Zeldas before her were and all the kings that married--united--with them.

They were Nayru’s chosen ones. Chosen to guard the secret of the Triforce, the legends, and the keys to the Sacred Realm. Some said that they were her blood daughters. Males are sometimes born to the queens of Hyrule, but they never became kings. The queens would birth another child and it was always a girl. That baby would always be named Zelda, the future queen. She would grow up and then search for her soul mate, the man that would share the throne with her. Any brother of a Zelda would often become a captain of the royal guard, but history showed every single one to be infertile. They could never continue on the blood line. So they could never be king.

It could not be anything less than love for the daughters of Nayru. The river would only flow for the man she loves. It would only flow once she had united with him and he took the throne with her. It was Nayru’s sign for them, that this man would be connected to the land just as much as the queen was. It was said that the daughters could only find love in a just and kind man. A kind of man meant to rule them rightly. A man that would protect the land and the Sacred Realm.

This was why her father never talked of arranged marriages.

It was not their way.

It shamed her that she was choosing this way. She was not only killing herself, but the ancient blood that runs in her veins. She knew she was shaming her father and Impa as well. But she knew the secrets she was meant to keep, would be kept and die with her.

She was supposed to be the wisest. That was why she bore the Triforce on her hand. Yet her wisdom told her that even the wisest were just people. People with their own flaws. Their own pains and trials. Even the best of them could fall. She had not the courage Link had. It was in this that she understood the incompleteness of a lone Triforce. Alone it had many flaws. Ganondorf had proven this just as well as she was proving it now.

It was only her shame and sense of responsibility that made her hesitate. She would have done it much sooner if it hadn’t been for these things. But when she saw herself writing the letter, she had not the strength or courage to fight against this future. She had learned that some futures could be changed, but others couldn’t. It depended on several factors. Like when she had seen Ganondorf taking over Hyrule, it was too deep into paths of destiny for her to stop it. In fact, her very action only led to ensuring that future because her path was one of destiny. So the best that could be done was to act anyway and trust in fate. Or simply rise to meet it as she was now.

She had submitted to her future.

She folded the roll of parchment up, picked up her quill one last time, and wrote Ren on it like a last hopeful thought. She set it back down and wiped the tears from her face and eyes with the sleeve of her robe. Lightning flashed outside her open balcony. The thunder shook the air in its great crash.

She was ready now.

Before she could stand or make another move, the door across the room swung open. Zelda froze, staring at her letter still. She would feel his eyes before she saw him. She had paused, waiting for it but the eerie, skin prickling sensation never came. So she finally turned to look. Her room was dimly lit by a few lamps. She could have lit more of them but she lacked the energy to. It was a large room as expected for royalty and filled with the usual extravagant things. Though she’d say hers lacked in that area. She could have filled it with many more things. It gave her room a more empty feeling. Lots of space left unfilled.

It seemed even emptier now for there was no one standing in the doorway. The door gaped openly at her, and then it swung shut all of its own accord. Zelda’s heart leapt up at the sight. She kept frozen in her chair, staring out at the mysterious door. And then suddenly there were people in her room, instantly blinking into existence. There were four of them, all Hylians. There were two women and two men. Only one of which she knew. She would know his face anywhere. She thought her heart would stop.

It should have stopped.

It must have skipped and then jumped into a racing beat that filled her entire being. It was the only thing she could hear. It couldn’t be true. This had to be a dream. It felt too surreal. How many times had she dreamed of him? How many times had she dreamed of his face, his sapphire eyes, his golden blonde hair? He was even wearing his green like he always did.

She must have stopped breathing because the room swam in her vision, becoming dizzy. She felt herself starting to slip from her chair. Everything went black for a moment, and when it all returned and she started breathing again, she was in his arms. He was wet and cold, but she didn’t care. He was also strong and stable and cradled her so firm but gently in his arms. Link stared down at her with panicked blue eyes, his gold brows furrowed deeply.

“Zelda-sama …!” he called to her urgently.

She watched his face blur in her tears as her eyes burned. She reached up and touched his face. His cheek was damp and chilled like the rest of him. It was really him. He was really holding her now. If it was a dream, she prayed she’d never wake. She sat up and wrapped her arms around his neck, grasping him tightly as she wished to grasp onto this reality.

Never let go.

Her fingers sank into the hair at the back of his neck. It was long now. He had a ponytail. Her other arm wrapped around his shoulder; almost clawing at his back. His arms responded instantly, holding her close and tightly. So much that it was impossible to hold back the sobs. These were violent gasps of air being sucked into her mouth, but then the rest was just silent trembles into his shoulder. He held her like this for a while, letting her cry, pressing her tightly to him. After a time, he spoke in her ear.

“Zelda-sama, we came to get you. We must leave quickly now. The rest of the castle already knows we’re here.”

His whispers seemed to whisper sense back into her again. She felt her mind clearing. Energy unlike anything she had felt for a very long time surged into her, forcing her heart to pump. He was breathing life back into her again. Her tears and sobs and trembling stopped immediately. She let go of him and looked up into his beautiful eyes. He touched her face, trying to brush away her tears, but his damp hand didn’t help a lot. His eyes were narrowed intensely for her, staring deeply into her. His beautiful blue eyes ached with her ache.

“Let’s leave this place.”

She nodded slowly. He helped her stand up. When she looked around she felt as if she could truly see again. All the colors and everything seemed so much clearer. As if she was waking to reality again. As if she had just been caught in a horrible nightmare. She had entirely forgotten that Link had other people with them. They stood back and were looking anywhere but at them, to give them privacy it seemed. They noticed when they were done with their intimate moment and now brought their eyes back.

Instantly, all three bowed to a knee and there was a hushed murmur in unison of,


It had been a long time since anyone had bowed to her. It wasn’t that she missed it or anything. It was just startling. She had forgotten how she used to handle these formalities.

“Oh …!” was all she managed at first, but after a moment’s pause, she said, “Um, please stand. What are your names?”

They were all a little wet at least, but Link and one of the women looked the most drenched. The soaked woman was an awful sight. Her clothes were rags and absolutely filthy. She looked pale, as if she had not seen the sun for years, and her eyes were surround in deep and dark circles, almost like purple bruises. Her hair was a muddy red color, nearly as twisted and tangled as dread locks.

“Romani Malon, Your Grace,” said this woman.

Zelda lost her breath for a moment.

“Romani? Of Lon Lon Ranch?”

Malon nodded for Zelda, confirming this.

The Romanis were famous, known throughout Hyrule for their production of milk, eggs, cattle, and horses. She had met with Romani Talon before. This woman was his daughter. She had seen her once before as well. When they were children, their fathers were busy talking trade and business and they played together once. Link later told her that he was very good friends with the Romanis.

She hadn’t even recognized her. Yet her appearance now made sense. Lon Lon Ranch was now turned into a different kind of trade. The slave trade.

Next the black haired Hylian spoke.

“Serwen Khaz … and this is my sister, Leita.”


Serwen. How was that name so familiar? It was something from her past too. Something about her father, but she couldn’t seem to summon it to mind at the moment. It wasn’t really that important anyway. There were a lot more pressing matters at hand. Her eyes wandered over to the small girl next to Khaz. She bore no weapons, but now Zelda remembered the door to her room opening and closing on its own again.

“You’re a mage, aren’t you?”

The girl suddenly ducked her head and let her hair fall in her face. She nodded. Zelda smiled gently for her.

“That was very impressive; I didn’t even notice. You focus your mana perfectly. Not even one particle was leaked. That was a cloaking spell, was it not?”

Leita shook her head, still hiding behind her silver hair. She heard the girl mumble another response but it was too quiet. Zelda arched a brow. Khaz touched a hand to her shoulder and the girl spoke again, louder this time but not by much.

“Artifice … Insipid Artifice.”

Ah, now she understood. A cloaking and an artifice could be very similar, especially with the type of spell this girl used. Technically, she could make things invisible, but it was really that it made them so unnoticeable to everyone that it was as if they were not there. In reality, Zelda had been staring straight at them when they opened the door but simply could not notice them standing there due to the artifice’s affects. It made sense that they were able to make it to her room even when the whole castle was aware of their presence. The guards would walk right past them without noticing anything. An artifice was often an illusion spell or charm of some kind.

She nodded after Leita explained. She then brought her hands together and signed a prayer. Her gown and robes suddenly writhed and melted together, fading into different clothes and molding to the shape of her body, growing if more material was needed for the design she wanted. Her clothes formed into an outfit almost identical to the one she would use when posing as her male counter part, Sheik. However, this outfit was made for a womanly figure. The faded white hood wrapped around her head and scooped up her long hair as it formed and sat at the back of her neck. The rest bunched below her chin and neck, waiting to be pulled around her mouth and nose.

She moved over to her dressing wardrobe and pulled a belt with a long and curved knife and a set of a hundred needle-like darts that hung from it. She would leave everything else. She did not value anything else in her room, except for …

Zelda moved back over to her desk and quickly snatched up her letter. She tucked it away in a pouch that hung from the belt. After this she turned back to face Link and the others.

She was ready now.

She almost, still, could hardly believe this was happening. Just a few minutes before, she had resigned to complete and utter hopelessness. Before, she had almost been dead, and now she stood with her unexpected rescuers, full of hope and life and ready to make her escape.

Unexpected …

That must be why they had succeeded. Nottuu was always prepared for Impa to come for her. He must have become very well accustomed to the feel of her presence. He must have been checking to see if Zelda had been sending to her with her mind. He couldn’t be prepared for this, and that was why it worked. She didn’t even care to know where they were going. Anywhere was fine really. It wouldn’t be here and that was enough for her. It would be with Link and with hope that Hyrule could survive this.

Hope that someday that river might flow again.

Link took her hand, but instead of leading her to the door he gestured to the balcony. Zelda saw Leita nod to him and they all followed to the open balcony. She understood quickly, for it brought back an old memory. It was when Ganondorf had been after the Ocarina of Time. She and Impa had made their escape from the very same balcony with the use of a floating spell. The only one who seemed a little wary about this method was Malon, who approached the railing last, staring down with furrowed brows. Zelda pulled her hood up and wrapped the scarf part tightly around her face. Rain sprinkled down on her, and the wind breezed right through her thin outfit.

“Ready?” called Khaz.

“Hai …!” everyone uttered, even Malon. They stepped up onto the railing.

“On the count of three … one … two … three!”

And they all jumped. Zelda gripped Link’s hand as the ground rushed toward them. However, they started slowing noticeably until they were smoothly gliding to the grass below. They had managed to avoid the moat on their descent by drifting on the wind. It was almost like flying. Like she was no longer so heavy or earth-bound. Zelda hoped no lightning struck them. It didn’t, so they made it back to the earth safely. Leita then cast Insipid Artifice again and they were able to walk right past the drow guards as if taking a stroll on a sunny day. It was the same for their walk through town. They made it out the gates without any trouble at all.

Despite all this, Zelda’s heart still thundered in her chest as they passed through the gates. Some part of her was still expecting him to show, to take her back again. To take all hope of escape and rescue from her once more. She squeezed Link’s hand as they made it past.

He never showed.

So Link, Khaz, and Leita called their horses. Malon rode on Khaz’s with him, apologizing with bitter sarcasm if her stench was overpowering. Zelda rode with Link on the back of Epona. She had missed this horse. This was the horse she had seen him ride away on seven years ago. Now they rode away together on it.
Desert Rose by Shrub
Chapter Three:
Desert Rose

It was Khaz who led the way, as they left Hyrule Castle Town far behind them. Once it seemed he was satisfied with the distance they had placed between themselves and the castle, he slowed down to a trot so that he could explain what he had promised Malon earlier.

His dark blue eyes were bright with his excitement at the escape and victory as he looked to Link to gain his attention.

“I might as well explain on the way, so that you aren’t confused when we get there---You are coming with us, aren’t you?”

Another frozen gust breezed through Malon’s eyes as she replied, “Tell us exactly where ‘there’ is and we’ll decide.”

Despite her cold voice, Khaz grinned and responded cheerily. “Oh, right, that would be a better way to start, huh?”

Link was only half listening to this. His thoughts were clouded. He couldn’t keep it from his mind---how Zelda had tired worn eyes, numb deadened eyes like Malon. Eyes that had stared down at the folded parchment in front of her without seeing. Without being, it seemed. Like she had ceased, for that moment, to exist. And then the way she fainted, slipped from her chair as if her heart were too weak to handle the fright of their sudden appearance. It troubled him, the thing that could make Zelda’s heart so weak. The thing that made her cling so desperately to him and weep so uncontrollably.

She held onto him now, from behind on his horse. Her grip neither too strong nor too weak as her arms and hands wrapped around his sides. Yet she seemed so oddly still. It was unsettling. If he could only see her face …

“The Gerudos?!”

Malon’s sudden choke of disbelief jarred him back from his concerns quickly. The mention of the Gerudos was something he wanted to hear.

“What of the Gerudos?” he asked, looking to Khaz and Malon.

Khaz raised a brow. “Didn’t you hear what I just said? The Gerudo have been forming a rebellion from the start. That’s where we’re going---to Gerudo Valley and the Fortress.”

“So they’ve been tricking the empire all this time?” said Malon.

Khaz shrugged yet held his head high and smirked. “More or less. They started combing Hyrule for Hylian survivors since the first attacks. Nabooru-sama knew that the Gerudo couldn’t defeat the empire alone. So she turned her focus onto the Hylians and the Gorons. She also wants to eventually gain the alliance of the Zoras too.”

Link looked down to the reins in his hands.

He had doubted Nabooru’s intentions. He felt a little ashamed of that. Of course, she would come up with a clever plan. She wouldn’t abandon Zelda or the rest of Hyrule. It made this dark and stormy evening a little brighter. Perhaps … they truly had a chance. Maybe it wasn’t so hopeless after all.

Khaz had also mentioned the Gorons. Link hadn’t really believed that the Gorons fled Hyrule like Malon said they had. Darunia and his people were far too proud and loyal. The only thing the Gorons really feared was dragons. Of course, it was said, Nottuu, the leader, was a dragon. He had never really heard of dragons being intelligent creatures before. His only experiences with them had been heated battles with these vicious and immense beasts. The way Khaz spoke it sounded like Nabooru had already enlisted the aid of the Gorons, so they hadn’t ran even if Nottuu was a dragon. There had to be more details about this. He would save the rest of his questions for later when he could speak to her.

The storm had been calming down as they rode and talked. The heavens only rumbled occasionally now and no longer roared its might. The large and heavy drops of rain had thinned into a drizzle. It was dark and Link’s fingers were going numb from the constant wet and cold. He was completely soaked ever since swimming through the moat. Now that all the action and talk had simmered down, he was looking forward to the warmth and dryness of the desert.

Zelda stayed quiet all the time and his unease only grew and stayed constantly at the edges of his attention. Once it was all settled that they were going to the Gerudo’s Fortress, everyone had quickly become silent. They rode on with some comfort and ease, for Leita’s spell was still in place so they need not worry of gathering the attention of drow patrol units. They rode on into the night without stopping to rest. The fields were too dangerous these days. All agreed it was best just to reach the valley as soon as possible.

By the time they reached the rocky and dry terrain, the sky had started to clear and the morning light was beginning to brighten the dark blue heavens. The air became drier and the path sandy rather than stones and dirt and mud. Patches of surviving green grass surrounded by the dead yellow like the petals of a flower were scattered about as they approached the red cliffs of the valley. They passed the familiar over hang just before the right turn into the road that carved into the rocks, bearing only weeds and dried crunchy remains. The road led them between the cliffs, almost carving its narrow way through them. This they followed for a few more hours. The sun fully rose, already heating the air, his wet and numb body eternally thankful for it.

Eventually the roar of the waterfall and raging river met their ears and they soon found themselves at the bridge and cliffs of the river valley. Khaz led them up to the bridge but stopped before crossing it. He nodded to Leita, whom then held her hand high into the air. Bright gold light filled her hand just as Link felt the power of her energy vibrate through his core. She summoned it only for a moment and then it shrank back out of sight. However, she called upon this gold light again and this continued in a pattern he couldn’t make sense of.

Khaz smiled to Link, seeming to notice his curiosity. “It’s a password, or should I say a code of a kind. We’re all taught it. It spells out ‘desert rose’. Ah---there---they’re opening the gate now.”

It seemed the Gerudos had built a large wooden gate, much like the one that barred the Wasteland from the Fortress with great wooden spiked pillars pointing toward the earth. Once Leita had finished the signal, the gate had started to groan and creak as they were pulled up far enough to let them pass. After clearing the gate there were about three Gerudos with their scarlet hair, mocha skin, and in deep purple uniforms waiting for them.

Khaz smiled and flayed an arm in the air at them in an enthusiastic wave, but as Link approached them these women were not smiling back. They all had furrowed brows directed at the Hylian. Besides their eyes and brows, the rest of their faces remained hidden under purple clothes.

“We’re back!” he piped jauntily.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?! No one is allowed outside the gate without Shahoma-sama’s permission---How did you get beyond the gate with two horses, Serwen?!” demanded the one in the middle.

Khaz responded by smiling almost coyly at them, as if they were flattering him. He rubbed the back of his neck, pretending to blush as he said,

“Now, now ladies, don’t you like a good mystery? It wouldn’t be fun if I just told you. Besides, I have more important news. You should tell Nabooru-sama that I’ve brought back Princess Zelda.”

“Baka! Not even Anei-san could achieve such a thing. What makes you think I’d ever believe such a failure and coward as you could ever do it?! If you think a prank like that’s funny, you’re completely mistaken. Why must you always be such a burden to the Desert Rebellion and Shahoma-sama?!”

Link was alarmed at the venom in her words. Yet Khaz just smiled at the three ladies like usual. He had to wonder if Khaz’s face ever got stiff from smiling so much. So far he had not seen this Hylian get angry though he had many opportunities to be. His reactions to most things seemed to be just to smile and move on. Link wasn’t sure whether he should admire that about Khaz or wonder why.

Zelda finally moved behind him, she leaned to the side to expose herself to the Gerudo guards. Her face was impassive as she spoke.

“I assure you, ladies, that Serwen-kun speaks nothing but the truth. I am Nohansen Zelda. If you need proof, you need only bring us to Nabooru-san and she will confirm my identity. Soonest would be best. My backside is rather sore from the ride and I wish to rest. It has been a long night for us.”

The middle guard paused after hearing this. Her brows stayed furrowed, bronze eyes wide, confused just as much as outraged. She opened her mouth again to speak, but then Zelda interrupted her.

“The identities of the two other riders are not of importance other than that they are your fellow rebels. So please, take us to Nabooru-san.”

The guard continued to gawk mutely now that Zelda had already known what she was about to say. Link had seen her do this a few times before. Her clairvoyance only got stronger with age. Or perhaps it wasn’t the clairvoyance. Maybe she predicted the Gerudo’s next attack by intellect. She did that often as well.

After recovering from shock, anger flashed narrowly into the Gerudo’s brows and eyes again. And she snarled, “That’s Shahoma-sama to you, Nohansen-san!”

She then whipped around, long ponytail of red hair swishing in the air like a whip, and began to lead them into the Fortress. The two others waved at gate keepers high up on the cliff side and the gates began to creak and groan shut behind them. It was quiet otherwise, and it wasn’t until they rounded the corner that Link realized how much the Fortress had grown over the past seven years.

It seemed they had carved their way into the cliff faces even farther back to create more homes for the Hylian survivors they had collected. It had expanded in nearly all directions with the exception of the waste lands. Both Hylians and Gerudos were seen all over the dwellings. Now that he thought about it, it was the first time he had seen so many Gerudos and Hylians near each other. There still seemed to be construction going on. The place was busy even for so early in the morning, perhaps to avoid the heat of mid day. It was so immense he could only stare for a few minutes as the Gerudo led them farther to a stables area. There she curtly told them to dismount and wait.

They all dismounted after she left. Khaz was helping Malon down. As he did she said, “Well, it seems you’re rather unpopular here.”

Khaz responded with a grin and said, “Heh, well, that depends on who you talk to. I did manage to make a deal with the night crew to let me out the night before.”

Malon slid off the horse and then turned to him to ask, “What deal did you make?”

The Hylian’s grin grew to a smirk and quirked his eyebrows for a moment before saying, “Why, to let them tie me up and have their wicked ways with me … if they’d only let me pass just that one time.”

Malon stared with a blank gaze for a long and quiet moment at Khaz.

“… Ha, funny.”

Khaz patted his horse still wearing the same smirk and said nothing more, which made her take a quick step away from him over to where Link and Zelda were dismounting.

It was quiet for a time until Khaz had finished tying his horse up and walked over as well. Zelda was stretching her legs and back after the long ride, but she did these things absent-mindedly. With that heavy-lidded gaze that told him she was deep in thought and distracted. Link studied her closely, as if hoping to find some knowledge in her actions.

“Are … are all of these your weapons?”

Link turned to Khaz who was examining all that Epona carried with her. His pale fingers traced over the smooth leather and gleaming metal grip of his hammer. He could hardly carry all of his items on his person at all times. In fact, the one Khaz was inspecting was the Megaton Hammer. Though it always felt light to him, it was still big and awkward to carry at times.

“It’s rude to touch other people’s things without asking,” Malon quipped at Khaz. His fingers twitched away and he grinned in response like usual.

“No, it’s okay …” and he removed the hammer from Epona’s side to better show Khaz. It felt like holding a light axe.

He leaned forward curiously and then looked up at him with bright and eager eyes.

“Can I hold it?”

“Sure …” and Link held the handle out toward him.

Khaz reached forward and gripped the handle tightly. When Link let go Khaz’s arms and hands were immediately jerked downward.

“Whoa!” cried Khaz. Link quickly jumped forward and caught the hammer before it could smack against the ground. That would have been bad. He really wanted to avoid scaring the horses. He took the hammer from Khaz’s hands and frowned at it. Was it really so heavy? Perhaps it was just the silver gauntlets he was wearing … However, Epona never seemed bothered by its weight either. Was Khaz just that much weaker?

Khaz stared at him with wide eyes, watching how he held the giant weapon with such ease. He saw him study his body as well, measuring him up, trying to make sense of how it was possible for him to be that much stronger. After a moment, his eyes narrowed more seriously than he had seen Khaz make them before.

“Who are you …?” he asked.

Zelda looked up at this. Link could feel her eyes on him along with Malon’s and Leita’s. Zelda knew the truth … but they didn’t. Not even Malon. He avoided their gazes and secured the hammer back into its place. His insides tingled with the discomfort. There wasn’t really any way he could answer that.

“Link! Zelda!”

He turned, thankful for a distraction from such a question.

He found Nabooru herself charging right up to them, nearly running. She was middle aged, again, but as beautiful and exotic as ever. She was tall compared to Hylian women, but average for a Gerudo, just an inch or two shorter than himself. Her figure was the slender and toned one of the disciplined warrior that she was. One could see her muscles move under her skin with the movement that was of a lioness. Nabooru’s bronze eyes were naturally heavy-lidded, which held both an intelligent and sensual quality behind them. One could feel the force and power of her personality around her. She radiated her authority in an undeniable aura.

She seemed to be wearing her casual clothes today. Casual for Nabooru was her revealing Gerudo clothing of light pink with red and blue Gerudo embroidery, showing the majority of her torso. Most Hylians think the Gerudo’s garb was meant to be provocative, but Link knew it was also partly out of necessity. With this hot desert less clothing was much more comfortable and practical.

Her outfit was always completed with a large amount of gold and bronze jewelry, which he thought was meant to be a symbol of status and power among the Gerudo. Especially the amber-orange gem placed upon her forehead. It was cast in gleaming steel, stuck to her skin like a floating tiara. Her red hair was held up in a high ponytail, secured with more gold chains and braces. An intricate choker with gold and bronze threads weaving about each other and around more amber stones of various shapes and sizes adorned her throat. More gold and bronze decorated her arms, some tight to her skin on her biceps and some loose around her wrists. Large and thin hoops hung from her ears.

It seemed a part of their culture to also paint their lips and eyelids. Even their guards wore it. Nabooru seemed to favor the color pink the most. Her lips were colored this but her eyelids were powered white and the edges were lined with gold.

Behind her followed four others, all Gerudo. One was the guard from before, the second was an adult close to Nabooru’s age, and the third was a younger girl. Link had thought they were all Gerudo and the last certainly looked the part except for the overwhelming evidence that he was clearly a man. He had been told that the Gerudo only gave birth to a male once every hundred years. Dragmire Ganondorf had been that male.

The man that followed Nabooru was young, but looked a summer or two older than both him and Khaz. He was tall, perhaps a couple inches taller than Link. His skin was the same rich mocha, his eyes the same golden bronze, and his hair the same scarlet as the rest of the Gerudo. Even his nose remained prominent yet handsomely set on his face; just as the females seemed to wear theirs beautifully. His shoulders were broad and strong, and Link couldn’t help but be reminded of Ganondorf as he looked at him. Even his face looked as if it could have been more attractive version of the Gerudo King. The harsh features of the evil king softened and smoothed out on this face.

His demeanor seemed at much ease despite Nabooru’s hurried pace. His short red hair fluttered in his face with the wind. His eyes looked forward with calm curiosity. Despite how much this man reminded him of an old enemy, he could see a lot of kindness and warmth, as well as a spark of humor and mischievousness in his eyes.

Link’s eyes stayed on him until Nabooru stopped dead in front of them. Her eyes went quickly to both Link and Zelda. Her hands stayed at her hips. Her gaze calculating. It was silent for a moment until she finally spoke.

“Of course, I should have known Zelda being here was your doing,” she said, her eyes relaxing with proud heaviness and lips melting into a smirk at him.

“You give me too much credit,” Link replied, his voice soft even to his own ears. “I’m not sure I would have done so well without the aid of the Serwens.”

Nabooru’s eyes flicked over to Khaz and narrowed. The smirk seemed to shrink back as her lips became a thin line.

“You!” She stepped sharply over to him. The Hylian grinned but raised his brows in a nervous gesture, taking a step back and holding his hands up in front of himself as if to keep her back.

“Now, now Nabby-chan---”

“Serwen Khaz Ira, do not use that sweet tone with me after what you’ve done!” Her mouth spewed out these words so quickly that Link had a hard time following until she slowed marginally. “How dare you run off like that! And taking your sister with you?!” She took another heated step closer. Bronze eyes turning into smoldering metal.

Khaz took another meek step back. “Nabooru-san, I told her to stay behind but she insisted. She said she’d go and tell you what I was up to, and I couldn’t have that. And then I realized I really needed her help anyway---”

“Of course, she did all the work,” interceded the gate guard before Nabooru could have another word in. “Never could a bumbling fool such as you rescue the princess without the aide of your little sister! Could you be more utterly useless?”

Khaz frowned but it was hardly angry. He folded his arms across his chest and said firmly, “I’m her morale support, so I’m not useless.”

The guard pulled her lips into a sneer and rolled her eyes. “Of course, the Fortress’s proclaimed child prodigy. Too bad she’s such a spineless coward that she can’t take a simple mission without holding her big brother’s hand.”

It was then Link first saw true anger shiver down from Khaz’s brows to the base of his spine. His arms dropped out of their fold, tensing his hands into tight fists. Khaz’s jaw stiffened instantly and his dark eyes flared up with a cold loathing. He saw the Hylian’s body grow rigid as if readying to pounce. He only got to take one step toward the gate guard.

Nabooru got to her first. She lashed out at the guard with a quick slap of the back of her hand that sent the unsuspecting Gerudo sprawling to the ground. She stood over the guard with cool bronze eyes and hands placed back on her hips.

“Your purpose was to alert me of Princess Zelda’s presence, not to demean both of the Serwens who helped rescue and bring her back to us. Khaz-kun’s attempt was both brave and stupid and yet yielded fruit. You are in no place to shame him and Leita-chan or to even be present. Now, return to your station at once!”

The guard stared up at her lady with wide outraged eyes and a reddening cheek. Despite the anger and confusion in her gaze, she pushed herself up to her knees, bowed so low that her nose almost touched the ground, and then stood up, walking away quickly. Link’s eyes followed her as she went. What made that guard so vicious toward Khaz?

This young man who smiled at everyone.

Khaz had relaxed by the time she left and then turned to Nabooru, all good nature instantly returned to his expression. He grinned at the Gerudo, whom turned and narrowed her eyes at him, taking a step forward again. He flinched back, hands up again.

“Do not be mistaken, Khaz. This does not let you off the hook for leaving the Fortress without my permission and for stealing my maps of Hyrule Castle! You’re just lucky Link-kun was there to help you! Have you any idea how I worried out of my mind for an entire day and night?!”

The way she was acting … Link had seen this before. With Hylian parents and children in the market place. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say that Nabooru was behaving rather motherly. It was in a parent’s nature to scold their children when they did something risky and dangerous, wasn’t it?

Khaz pouted as he folded his arms again. “Me lucky? How about he was lucky? I’ll have you know they were in a pretty tight spot when me and Leita found ‘em … How do you know this guy anyway? I’ve never seen him in the Fortress before. He didn’t even know the Rebellion was here.”

“That is none of your concern. You should be more concerned about yourself. Faely and I will decide together what your punishment will be.” It seemed Nabooru was better at handling these difficult questions than Link was.

“That goes for you as well, young lady,” said the curly haired Gerudo, sternly to Leita, whom bowed her head, silver drapes closing again in shame. He assumed this was Faely.

Nabooru turned her attention back to Zelda and Link. She exhaled and folded her arms as she said, “Sorry about that … It’s been ages and I wish this reunion could have happened in a more peaceful time. Zelda …” she stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder. Her tone softening like warmed gold. “It’s wonderful to have you back”finally, after so many failed attempts. You must tell us how this was accomplished … Impa will be very relieved to have you at her side once more.”

So Impa was here. Of course, the guard before had mentioned Anei, Impa’s surname. He often forgot; he wasn’t really accustomed to surnames---the Kokiri didn’t have them---but how was it possible to separate the caretaker from her charge without death? Impa’s resolve was all but breakable. Had she tried over and over, for seven years to retrieve Zelda? So how was it that such a skilled warrior as she was unable to do it while Link had succeeded? Impa had been his mentor in the alternant time. They fought side by side against the Shadow Temple guardian together. He knew what she was capable of, and that was almost just as much as himself.

Why had she failed so many times?

Zelda stayed silent for a long moment, staring at Nabooru. She looked down for a moment as she began to speak, her expression a quiet and solemn one. A heavy thoughtfulness weighed on her white gold brows.

“I’m sorry … This has all happened so fast … Link-kun returning and the escape …” Her controlled calm voice rubbed disconcertingly at the edges of his mind.

A deep quiet descended on the three of them. Their eyes all met for a moment at least, but Link looked away quickly. In the silence a knowing was shared between only them for they were bound together in a different way than the rest. They had shared the struggles, the blood, and the sacrifices of another time, for Hyrule, for the Sacred Realm, for the people, and for the three goddesses. They were the chosen ones. It was set deeper than their bones and blood. This calling.

Once again, their world was in chaos.

It was then in the presence of the Spirit sage and their chosen leader that the piercing painful truth of it pushed in even deeper. To that depth that went farther than his innards. To his soul. It chipped into the solid and numb wall he had built against the wave of guilt and despair that he had carefully placed to keep his composure.

He closed his eyes and inhaled slowly against the tremble of his core.

Not right now.

He couldn’t lose it right now.

Later. He promised himself. Later.

“It’s a good omen to see you, Link. I always know relief is on the way when you appear. Welcome back.”

He opened his eyes and looked to Nabooru but couldn’t find anything to say to this. She was smiling at him with soft lips but warm and fierce proud eyes. If the Gerudo chief was worn from these difficult years, she did not show it. There was no worry or doubt in her gaze upon him. She was completely confident that everything would be fine. Her bronze eyes were bright, alive, and full of rebellious energy.

He wished he could share that with her, but he didn’t feel worthy of that proud gaze. Not when there was pain in Zelda’s and Malon’s. No one seemed to speak ill of his long absence during their time of need. Neither Zelda nor Nabooru appeared angry or bitter about this. Somehow, it made him feel worse than if they did. When he had first arrived he had only been thinking about himself and his own discomfort at returning home.

All this time they had needed him. All this time they had been suffering.

And what had he been doing? Wandering. Lost in that forest, a place he had come to know as the gap between worlds, dimensions. For seven years. Worse than being sealed in the Sacred Realm. All he did there was sleep until he was deemed ready. In the forest he had been awake and alone. Isolated for seven years with just Epona. No one, not even Navi to talk to anymore. It would have been worse without Epona. He was always thankful to have her with him.

That was after his adventure in Termina. He had really only spent about three days there. Of course, it had been much longer for him, since he had to repeat those days over and over, as much as he needed to free the giant guardians and stop Majora. Then, years later, when he finally found his way out of the forest again, it was not his home world he found. Sekin, another place on the brink of chaos, of war. Yes, he helped save those lands, but all along his had needed him.

Yes, a good omen, but one that came too late or too soon.

And no one had asked yet why he had not come back sooner. Why he had not been there to help them in the first place. Nabooru and Zelda were almost behaving as if it were normal, perfectly fine for him to not return until now. She just welcomed him back and called it a good omen. Nothing else.

“Ahem---Nab---you gonna introduce us already?” The young man standing at Nabooru’s side leaned close to speak impatiently to her. Though he spoke to her, his gold bronze eyes stayed on Link and his lips quirked with an impish smirk. The male Gerudo spoke familiarly with her, and his eyes held a similar flavor of warmth, pride, and sensuality that Nabooru’s did.

Now that he thought about it … he had never asked whether Nabooru had children or not. He hadn’t realized it until then, but she was old enough to be his mother.

She turned her head and narrowed her gaze blandly at the male Gerudo, seeming almost annoyed by this. Nabooru then rewarded his impatience with turning away from him, and facing the younger girl and other adult Gerudo. The young man raised his brows at this but then relaxed into a smirk and folded his arms again with renewed patience.

“Right---Link, Zelda, this is my daughter, Trisa.” She placed a hand on the young Gerudo’s shoulder.

She stood between Nabooru and the male. Trisa beamed up at him and Zelda and fluttered her hand in a cheery wave. She was a much younger girl who wore a white Gerudo top that showed her belly and shoulders with a red sleeveless vest and short flowing skirt fluttering around her narrow thighs, but she wore less jewelry than both Nabooru and the other woman. All she had were the gold in her ears, several in both, some were thicker and more complicated in design as they traveled up the rims of them, and two bracelets and few rings. He noticed a glimmer from a small stud of gold on her nose. There was also a flicker of amber from a tiny jewel in the stud. Her hair was straight and layered around her face, never reaching past her shoulders. She was a slim and toned girl, but not as much as the older women; she was certainly leaner. Her features suggested about fourteen or so summers. She reminded him of a beautiful and young desert pixy.

“And this is Taewin Faely Omvola,” she said, turning to her left and gesturing to the other adult woman at her side. “Personal friend, highest ranked Weapons Master of the Fortress, works directly under the Fire Crone herself, and is the parental guardian of the Serwens.”

Faely was an older woman in redish orange Gerudo clothing. She was even taller than Nabooru, perhaps as tall as himself, give or take an inch. This Gerudo was also wrapped with hardened muscle in a slender and curvy body. She wore much gold and bronze, though not as much as Nabooru, and a ruby red stone on her forehead. Her hair had large and natural curls and waves sweeping beautifully through it and cascading down around her strong shoulders.

Link turned his gaze curiously from Faely, who smiled with strong eyes narrowed with gentle affection, to Khaz, who was absent-mindedly cleaning an ear with a finger not seeming to notice his stare, and Leita, who barely peeked out of sliver-like gaps in her hair. Parental guardian … that meant the Serwen siblings were orphaned just like Malon. It must have been because of the empire’s rein as well…

His curiosity was quickly captured once more by Nabooru as she almost lazily turned her attention back to the male Gerudo to her right. It didn’t seem to Link that she did this because she wished to avoid introducing this man, but just to tease and annoy him for his uncontrolled impatience earlier, for the corner of her mouth twitched with a persistent smirk as she took her time sweeping her narrow bronze eyes to him. She inhaled slowly through her nose, nearly a sigh as she spoke.

“And this is Dragmire Blaze O’rae, Prince of the Gerudo, and my son.”

Dragmire Blaze O’rae wore black and white together. This was odd for black attracted the desert heat rather than repel it like white did. Yet he seemed at perfect ease in this color. His clothing was different from the rest of the Gerudo in a way, but it did remind Link of something Ganondorf might have worn at a younger age. His pants were black and close fitting rather than puffing out. They were tucked into brown leather boots and held up by a leather belt with a gold buckle. His shirt was black, sleeveless, and hugged him more tightly than his pants, outlining his muscular features perfectly. Over this he wore a loose white vest that looked like it was made of silk. The edges were embroidered with gold designs in a Gerudo styled pattern. His ears were pierced, and he wore gold hoops, but they were much smaller than Nabooru’s. Like the younger girl’s, he had more, smaller but thicker rings of gold and bronze along the edges of his ears. On his forearms were gold bracers with bronze designs.

Dragmire Blaze stepped forward quickly, all signs of previous patience vanishing as he stuck out his hand to Link. His bronze eyes peered insistently at his with bright eagerness. He couldn’t help but pause hesitantly. His suspicions had been true. This was Ganondorf’s son. It wasn’t precisely this fact that made him hesitant. He could already see that the only thing that made Blaze O’rae a Dragmire was his blood. Link already knew this man was more Nabooru’s son than Ganondorf’s. It was simply that he didn’t understand how it was possible for him to be a male. Also his eagerness had surprised him. It seemed it was only Link he had eyes for. He had offered his hand to him first instead of Zelda, who was royalty just like him. There was only one thing that could make this Gerudo more eager to meet him in the stead of the princess … but how could he know?

He was also trying to understand the pairing … Nabooru and Ganondorf? He had always been under the impression that she loathed him, yet she was telling him now that she had produced a child with the man she helped seal away. But then he had the surname of Dragmire instead of Shahoma. Link had been under the impression that children took the surname of the mother, not the father. It was that way with Hylians, and the Gerudos never married any of their male Hylian partners. Of course, there could be a different tradition when it came to the Gerudo King’s children that he did not know of.

Link slowly raised his hand to Blaze O’rae, still pondering these things. The male Gerudo impatiently reached forward when he failed to meet his speed and grasped his hand firmly. Blaze smirked happily at him, his bronze stare never swaying from their target.

“A real pleasure to finally meet you at last, I’m sure you remember having the---er---pleasure of meeting my father.”

He smiled some more after stressing the irony, mischievous eyes studying his reaction intently. He seemed extremely pleased when Link froze, suddenly staring as carefully as he stared at him. The way Blaze O’rae spoke … it was as if … he knew … everything.

Words had always been often difficult for him to find, especially when others expected them from him. Now with his brain stunted, he could only open his mouth mutely, nothing seeming to manage its way from his brain to his vocal cords. Blaze was looking more and more pleased as his silence continued on. His smirking grin grew so strong he finally showed his white teeth, somewhat stunning against the tan of his lips.

During the blankness of his mind, he vaguely noticed how Khaz didn’t seem interested, as he picked at his nails, until the mention of Blaze’s father. Out of the corner of his sight, he spotted the Hylian looking up from his hand at them. He didn’t manage to catch the expression on his face.

Grasping for understanding, he turned his head to Zelda for help. She was watching them with placid interest yet not confused as he was. Her sky blue eyes catching his, she only smiled gently back at him not yet yielding her mysterious knowledge. Link turned his head back to Blaze, who had not yet let go of his hand. Words finally found him.

“I … um, yes---but … I thought---Gerudos only had males every---”

“Hundred years,” Blaze finished for him, still smiling, but it had eased somewhat. “I’m a strange little loophole, or fluke as some might say, seeing as my mother was a Hylian. So this seems to prove that females are more dominant when the mothers are Gerudos. The Gerudo kings of the past had never attempted it before. It wasn’t even intentional when it happened anyway.”

Again he was struck dumb by his words. He wordlessly turned his eyes to Nabooru, and Blaze finally let go of his hand and stepped back. She smirked softly back him.

“Blaze is my adopted son. His mother died birthing him,” she said, answering his mute question.

This all made more sense now. Of course, Blaze wasn’t Nabooru’s real son. There was no way with her vehement attitude toward Ganondorf. The only way it seemed possible was … But now that he thought more deeply on Blaze’s words, the only way King Dragmire would ever mate with a Hylian woman would be forcefully and with hurtful intent in mind. The idea of rape made him feel extremely uncomfortable. It was just as confusing. He didn’t understand how people could do such cruel things to each other. He knew that he should know better by now. That people could be monsters too. Despite all that he had experienced, it never failed to startle him.

But he knew it would be rude to show it too much in front of Blaze, rather insensitive, and it was, of course, not his fault he came into being that way. The male Gerudo seemed a rather charming person, in fact. His mischievousness reminded him of someone else he knew and he found comfort in it. Nabooru and Blaze seemed to avoid saying it directly anyway. It was not meant to be a matter of discussion.

Blaze was lifting his hand again to offer it, it seemed, to Zelda, when the gate guard from before came running up to them. Nabooru looked only vaguely annoyed as she turned her attention to the Gerudo. Her expression was more than irritated; she was alert but confused at the guard’s second appearance. Her eyes stayed carefully narrowed as she approached.

“Shahoma-sama!” called the guard, coming to a halt a foot or two from Blaze and Link. “We’ve caught a drow and two Hylians! The Hylians are not of the Rebellion, they don’t even know the code and they seem to be comrades of the drow. They tried to protect him.”

Her words seemed to strike and strange sneaking suspicion in him. He froze, thinking … but it couldn’t be, could it? A drow and two seemingly Hylians…

Nabooru’s expression hardened with a slow frown.

“Bring them to me at once.”
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