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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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