Chapter 1: Ganondorf: At First Sight
They traveled by moonlight from the cool fields to the cooler desert, so Ganondorf noticed the second the moon went dark. It was just a moment and could have been mistaken for a cloud passing by, if the night sky itself did not shine clear. For that moment, the moon was gone, swallowed by shadow, and Ganondorf’s chest tightened.
“My king,” Nabooru called behind him. He raised a hand, and she quieted. Magic, perhaps, but if so, his mothers or the Hylians? No guarantee his mothers would have provided warning. Their magic and mischief entertained them too much sometimes.
Perhaps it was something more. That ember of hope in his heart flickered, but Ganondorf forced himself to ignore it. The moon was back and even as he looked around, focused his senses, he noted nothing else amiss.
Then the wolves howled. One called out, its howl echoing through the canyon. Soon others followed in a chilling chorus. Keeping his expression calm, Ganondorf urged his horse on. From the echoes, something within the canyon attracted them. The wolves and the Gerudo enjoyed a rough peace: the wolves stayed high and the Gerudo remained low. Yet they had grown more restless as of late…
The war dragged on, and the Hylians grew more ruthless by the day in their attempts to breach their neighbors’ lands. There were whispers of dark magic in the Hylians’ bloody history. Ganondorf looked up again, and the moon remained still, white and deceivingly tranquil.
Now Ganondorf felt it. A strange spark in the air. That wasn’t Gerudo magic, not even his mothers’ strange blend.
An uneasy feeling grew in his heart. He saw the bridge ahead. On the bridge and right before it, he saw familiar dark silhouettes. Their howls quieted, and even as the Gerudo charged forward, the beasts scattered, back to their hiding spots in the canyon. Had the wolves been heading for the fortress? What caused such boldness from the beasts?
Perhaps it was only because he looked for more wolves that Ganondorf saw him huddled by the bridge. It was only by happenstance that Ganondorf caught the stranger’s gaze first, almost colorless in the moonlight.
A Hylian. On his side of the bridge.
Wrath rose like fire in his chest, and he called a halt. His warriors did not question. Silent shadows themselves, they spread out around them as Ganondorf halted his horse before the Hylian. They blocked the Hylian in. No escape. In response, the Hylian only stared at Ganondorf. A sword on his hip, a bow and quiver, and odd bags at his waist: more armed than Ganondorf originally guessed. Yet the Hylian made no motion to reach for a weapon, sitting on the ground like he had collapsed there. The Hylian looked at him with those moon-bleached eyes, too bold, as if asking for Ganondorf to pluck them out. Then his head fell, shoulders slumping. In that position, it would be so easy, one swipe of Ganondorf’s blade, and then that head would roll.
A spy? A scout? The garb didn’t match, the green odd and the clothes odder, and the assortment of weapons belonged to a warrior. Perhaps simply an unusual spy or assassin. Who knew how that warmongering king thought.
It didn’t matter. He would be dead soon enough. Yet…
The wolves claimed the canyon heights, but the Gerudo claimed paths through the canyons themselves, keeping an eye on the fields for those foolhardy enough to trespass. How had this tiny Hylian slipped through?
“You must be brave, Hylian, to travel this far.” Ganondorf paused for a reply. Let the Hylian glare and boast of his feat before his end. If he was clever enough to make it this far, then he was clever enough to know the fate of a spy in Gerudo lands. Ganondorf waited, yet the Hylian remained silent. Ganondorf’s scowl deepened. Perhaps he was simply stupid and lucky.
Well, unlucky, in this case.
The Hylian raised his head just as Ganondorf pulled out his glaive. He didn’t flinch when Ganondorf put the metal blade under his chin, giving argument for both brave and stupid. He remained silent as Ganondorf raised his head, letting Ganondorf look his fill. Perhaps too pale, even for a Hylian, but that could be the moonlight. His features were fair, almost elegant, and Ganondorf wondered if the Hylian was from noble stock. Perhaps related to one of the knights Ganondorf had recently slaughtered.
“Are you a spy for the Hylian King then? You have made it farther than any of his others.”
Ganondorf didn’t expect confirmation, but he expected some speech. Instead, the Hylian looked… confused? Yes, certainly confused. His face was as expressive as his mouth wasn’t. Ganondorf frowned. Confusion but no denial of anything. Something wasn’t right.
Nabooru shuffled beside him. He spared her a quick glance to see a frown darkening her face. Nothing was going right here.
That decided him. He pulled back his glaive and studied that face again. The Hylian didn’t lower his chin. If anything, the odd Hylian seemed to be studying him back. No, it wasn’t the moonlight. The Hylian looked white, and Ganondorf saw sweat glisten on his forehead. Perhaps not a spy then, but a sick fool who wandered the wrong way. But how had he made it this far?
Ganondorf jumped from his saddle, and as one, the Gerudo pulled out their weapons and aimed it at the Hylian. Ganondorf remembered the moon before, the breath of sorcery, and strode forward. Perhaps not sick but enchanted. With the Hylian King somehow still commanding the suicidal Sheikah, anything was possible.
Confusion but no fear on that pale face. Disoriented at most, and Ganondorf watched the Hylian close his eyes, as if steadying himself. When the Hylian opened his eyes again, Ganondorf knelt before him. Around him, his Gerudo remained tense and ready. If it was an enchantment, they would kill the Hylian at the first sudden movement.
Up close, Ganondorf realized the Hylian’s eyes were blue. “Can you speak, Hylian?”
To his annoyance, instead of answering, the Hylian nodded. Immediately, he looked more disoriented, lending credence to the possibility of him being ill. Ganondorf scowled. Surely an illness would not rob him of his tongue.
“Can you speak this tongue, Hylian?” he asked, question pointed. To his shock and growing rage, the Hylian scowled back and then nodded . Again. Did he not realize that death surrounded him? That he lived now only by Ganondorf’s will?
Haughty, arrogant Hylians, proud enough to act like another’s kingship meant nothing . He knew how the Hylian people viewed his kind. He heard the rumors, the laughter. They thought the Gerudo little more than animals, nothing but filthy thieves .
He would show them soon enough. His mothers whispered promises to him, promises of power and revenge. Perhaps Ganondorf would start with this runt.
“He might be fever-addled,” Nabooru offered, voice scornful.
“Fever-addled or no,” and there was Kali, the voice of reason, “we need to know how he passed the guards. No one does it by pure luck.”
“Interrogate him and have some fun with him. He looks like passable breeding stock.”
“Passable! He looks like he would break at the first ride!”
Ganondorf ignored them, watching as the Hylian closed his eyes and panted for breath. Ill or enchanted, it didn’t matter. His Hylian arrogance had sealed his fate. When he opened his blue eyes again, there was still no fear. Rage burned in Ganondorf’s heart. “Hylian,” he snarled and grabbed the Hylian’s skinny arm.
Or, at least, what he expected to be a skinny arm. He wrapped his hand around pure, hard muscle. Ganondorf had a split second to register that before the back of the Hylian’s hand flared. The Gerudo shouted but no one moved forward. Ganondorf couldn’t move at all.
On the back of the Hylian’s hand, the Triforce, the symbol of the Triad, shone with holy light. That light warmed Ganondorf, stole the breath from his lungs.
“The Mark of the Goddesses,” Kali whispered. Ganondorf couldn’t look away.
The entire Triforce, but the bottom right corner shone the brightest. Farore. The Goddess of Courage. The Hylian’s green garb…
Stunned, he looked away to meet the Hylian’s gaze. That was all the warning he had before those blue eyes closed and the Hylian slumped into his arms. The light dimmed and faded away, leaving them in darkness.
At last, Nabooru spoke. “So I suppose this means we aren’t killing him.”
Ganondorf laughed, harsh and breathless, and wrapped his arms tight around the Hylian. At last, at last , the Goddesses showed the Gerudo people they were not abandoned. His mothers were right. They were chosen .
It helped that their sign came with so fair a face, too.
“I am telling you, Kali: his hand glowed .”
Kali finished lining her eyes with kohl and studied her reflection. Beautiful and vicious: just what a Gerudo warrior should be… if one ignored the dark circles around her eyes. Too late a night followed by too early of a day. Nabooru’s reflection behind her somehow looked better, brighter and more vivacious, despite her having kept the same hours. The sight of Nabooru’s grin, fierce with teeth bared, drew a reluctant smile from Kali’s own lips. “I am aware of this. I was there.I saw it. More to the point, the Elders discussed it for hours , long into the night. That glowing mark is all that is keeping him alive.”
For hours and hours the Gerudo discussed the mark and the possible Hylian spy, and Kali reflected on the possibility that was the Hylian’s true mission: not to spy but to distract. It worked well. Elders who were normally lively were silent and thoughtful. Others lost themselves in heated debate, for the temptation of the Triforce’s power seemed ever present, as did the legends accompanying it. Perhaps most disturbing was King Ganondorf’s reaction to the mark, but that was a fear Kali would keep close to her for now. As relaxed as Ganondorf could be, it was still not wise to speak such words. She thought it possible his mothers feared the same. It was rare for them to be so quiet during a meeting.
The hunger in her king’s words lingered in Kali’s mind as she turned to Nabooru. Nabooru stood with her fist hard against her hip, body a cocky curve. Fresh gloss decorated her smirking lips, and the jewels on her head and in her hair shone like Din herself blessed them. Kali could not help but lick her own lips. This was Nabooru at her best, expecting battle.
Rumors surrounded Nabooru and the king, but Kali knew no one but she would see the small smirk on Nabooru’s mouth. When Kali extended her hands, Nabooru came with the ease of a snake over the sands. Heat flared in Kali’s blood.
Speaking of distractions...
“The king believes Din sent us something at last,” Nabooru said, even as Kali traced Nabooru’s hard muscles with her fingers. There was no give under her hands: Nabooru was truly one of the finest swords to come from the desert. “It is possible that the Hylian is key to finally finding the Triforce.”
Kali let her hands fall lower, brushing over Nabooru’s trim, bared waist. The heat of the sun lingered on her skin. “Indeed.” A key or a trick, something requiring all of Kali’s focus when all she wanted to do was pull Nabooru to the ground. Yet her service to her people and her king came first. The power offered by the Triforce was truly a grand prize, one equal to the task of conquering the Hylians and showing them their place. It fell to Kali to prove or disprove and then handle the matter as necessary.
Before Kali went to bed the night before, she peeked on him, unconscious in his cell. He passed as pretty enough. A tempting little package. There was no glow, though, or aura of power. There was just a Hylian, still and silent, clad in his odd green clothes.
His mystery and Nabooru’s warmth distracted her, and belatedly, Kali caught something in Nabooru’s tone. “Do you believe?” Kali asked. She stilled her hands and raised an eyebrow at Nabooru. It had been weeks since they had last been together. Nabooru was too distracting.
Especially when Nabooru placed her palms on Kali’s waist. She hummed and tilted her head back, palms heavy and nails scraping Kali’s skin. Kali shivered pleasantly. Perhaps they would have time for --
No. Even as Nabooru’s hands slid up and down naked skin, teasing her, Nabooru’s gaze was far away. Kali studied the curve of Nabooru’s painted lips, the small furrow of her brow.
“It is funny,” Nabooru mused, “but I think there is something about him. Even in the dirt as he was, there was something about him. Then when his hand began to glow, the mark…” She shook her head and laughed, red hair whipping around her face. “How childish I must sound.”
It did sound like a tale to tell children, truly. Kali could not help but wish it was true. Whispers spread among the people, fears that the Goddesses had forsaken them. Kali could not help but wonder if the Goddesses had forsaken all of the lands. Water shortage threatened their people. With the war, few children had been born in the last decade, and several Gerudo had vanished despite no indication of them leaving the desert. She heard tales of the Gorons in the mountains and the Zora, of those who had never even seen battle falling ill and perishing. There was too much death, even when counting the expected losses of war. Ganondorf blamed the Hylians but Kali could not help but wonder.
Nabooru leaned forward and rested her head against Kali’s. Kali closed her eyes and inhaled the soothing scent of sage and incense. “The Healers say he will awaken soon. I am to accompany the King and see what the Hylian has to say for himself.”
Kali smiled. “Enjoy yourself.” She had her own investigations to do. How had the Hylian made it so far without being seen? He was dressed as a warrior, not a spy. It made little sense.
None of this made sense. The only thing that made sense leaned against her now, and Kali needed to let her go.
Nabooru rubbed her nose against Kali’s cheekbone. “If he is a liar, well, the king will rejoice in cutting off his head and sending it back to his kin.”
Nabooru’s breath tasted like cinnamon tea against Kali’s mouth. Kali smirked and leaned forward an inch more.
They both needed to go. Duty called. Yet Kali thought they could allow themselves just this moment, just for a bit. Who knew what further strangeness would come to impede them?
Nabooru was no longer so clean and shining when she left to meet with the king, but she didn’t mind. Kali’s lips pinker than before, Kali left the Fortress to investigate what secret path the Hylian used.
It was odd. When she went outside, she swore she heard a lone wolf howling but no matter how hard she looked, she saw nothing.
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Even blindfolded, the Hylian strode into the arena with an eerie grace and assurance. Ganondorf crossed his arms across his chest and watched his Gerudo guide the Hylian into the light. It was the first time Ganondorf got a good look at him, away from the dungeons and the shadows of night.
The Hylian was filthy. Dirt darkened his fair hair and face and crimson spots of dried blood stained his clothes. Yet all the earth in Din’s kingdom could not hide how the Hylian jerked and cocked his head, then turned to stare, through the blindfold, at the altar.
Beside him, Nabooru startled. Ganondorf heard the rustle of clothes as the Elders shifted. Ganondorf smirked and watched his little Hylian. Only this small group accompanied him to watch the trial. Beaten down by the war, the pride of the Gerudo growing more lifeless by the day, seeing shadows when Din sent them fire…
Come, little one. Ganondorf watched as the Gerudo removed the blindcloth. The Hylian blinked, adjusting to the light, but otherwise appeared unperturbed. Show them that you are what we’ve waited for .
There was an empty spot beside Ganondorf where he expected his mothers to stand. He gritted his teeth and clenched his fists at the lack. True, the Hylian wasn’t much to look at, but the mark on his hand… The first sign in Ganondorf’s lifetime that the Goddesses hadn’t abandoned them. For all their words of power and greatness, his mothers were quick to look away when a chance at last presented itself.
Of course, it was odd that their symbol came in such a form, so maybe that was why they doubted. They doubted the Hylian , not Ganondorf.
Ganondorf flexed his fingers and watched his people leave the Hylian to face his trial. Skinny, pale, and dirty, based on physical appearance alone, he didn’t look like much. Yet he moved with confidence and grace, fearless in his assessment of the room and in his stride toward the Pearl.
Go, little one .
The first test: actually activating the trial. Ganondorf never saw anyone take the trial, but as King, he knew what to expect.
Or so he thought.
With a shout and what looked like a punch to the earth, the Hylian called upon a circle of flame. Nabooru jerked and cursed under her breath. The guard Teryn shouted in alarm but her sister Talia stopped her before she grabbed her weapon. Hearing the Elders mutter between themselves, Ganondorf felt a smile stretch across his face. Good. Good, little one.
Even as everyone reacted, the second part of the trial began. The doors slammed shut, locking the Hylian in, and the statues came to life. Nabooru leaned forward, eyes wide, Ganondorf watched on, lips curling to bare his teeth.
Go, little one.
And the little one did.
Ganondorf watched, anticipation and excitement heating his blood, as the Hylian tested and fought and all but danced around the arena. Determined and fearless, he moved as smoothly as the snakes he fought. No hesitation, just movement, and Ganondorf’s breath caught when the first snake crashed into the wall.
One down. Ganondorf exhaled, the sound almost a purr. Defeated with no visible effort.
His mothers promised him greatness and here was a tool from the Goddesses themselves, graciously given to him. No, it wasn’t odd at all that it came in the form of a Hylian. It was only fitting, a perfect prize to throw in the Hylian King’s face.
Two left. Ganondorf watched the Hylian run away but not far. Heart pounding and warmth pooling in his gut, Ganondorf watched the serpents charge the still figure.
Mere meters away and still he stood. Close enough for their shadows to blanket him and still nothing. Close enough for Ganondorf to feel an inkling of dismay and then the Hylian leaped backwards, an actual backflip, out of the way, and the serpents slammed into each other, leaving broken stone behind.
Nabooru began to cheer and Taryn and Talia applauded, and the Hylian looked up at them. This far, Ganondorf couldn’t make out his expression. Without a sound, the Hylian turned to claim his prize.
Ganondorf knew he already had his. His champion, his gift from the Goddesses. His mothers were wrong. He --
Fire shot up around the altar. The Hylian yelped and leaped back.
“Hey,” Nabooru murmured. “I thought the trial was over.”
It was , and yet before Ganondorf’s eyes, the crumbled stone drew together.
“This is not part of the trial.” Ganondorf leaned forward, the fire in his blood turning to ice, as the stone transformed into a massive, three-headed snake. Its screech echoed through the room.
No , Ganondorf thought as the battle began. He had just -- after all this time -- discovered his destiny. He refused to let anyone, even the Goddesses themselves, take it from him.
When the Hylian hit the dirt, Ganondorf knew what he had to do.
If some mysterious enemy wanted to tear Ganondorf’s destiny from him, they would have to fight Ganondorf first.
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The Hylian was a mass of contradictions, and Kali watched and catalogued all of them. She took note of his odd flinches from the king, his nightmare, the differences in his responses to his nightmare and to the king, his strange accent. She had her theories, none of which she shared with anyone, even King Ganondorf and Nabooru. Not until there was more meat to them.
Link wasn’t raised by Hylians. Kali had little doubt of that. It explained his accent, his unfamiliar clothes, and his dismissal of the Hylians when Kali told him that the king planned on killing them. The where confused her, but in time, she would have more pieces to that particular puzzle.
She miscalculated his response to the sand snakes. By a great deal. Link’s fearlessness and glee birthed a new wariness: something else to not share with King Ganondorf and Nabooru, but for an entirely different reason. Let them discover it the hard way, like she did. It would be good for them.
Despite the mark on his hand and his battle following Din’s Trial, Link exhibited nothing extraordinary. Confusing, yes. Baffling, really. Intriguing, certainly. It wasn’t until Kali watched Link enter the temple’s entrance that she began to truly believe in her king’s words.
“Isn’t this off-limits?”
“Shush, Kali. There is no rule against it. Besides, other Gerudo have traveled here before.”
“And were never seen again.”
“What about the Elders? Elder Koume and Elder Kotake visit here regularly with no ill -- Watch out!”
Out of habit, Kali raised her blade to deal with the annoying magical pots, but Link was already there, destroying both with his shield. Slowly, Kali lowered her blade and stared at Link. He walked through the temple as if he had journeyed here a hundred times before. His gaze swept over the room with an eerie ease. Then he closed his eyes and tilted his head back.
“Can’t you feel it, Kali?”
“Feel your insanity? Yes.”
“No, no. There’s something here.”
Standing in the soft light of the temple, despite his pallor, despite gold hair instead of crimson, Link looked like Nabooru. It was insane: a Hylian fitting in so well in a Gerudo temple.
Perhaps. Perhaps King Ganondorf was right. Perhaps the Goddesses’ favor had at last returned to the Gerudo.
Link’s attention away from her, Kali allowed her own gaze to rove. To her complete lack of surprise, her eyes settled on the floor at the top of the stairs. A smile teased her mouth.
“It’s like there is music in the air. Can’t you feel it?”
“I… No. There is nothing here, Nabooru.”
“Come here. I will help you feel it.”
“In the temple ?!”
“What better place for worship?”
When Link looked at her again, Kali’s mouth curved into a fond smile. For King Ganondorf and his prophecy, for the insane little Hylian he found on the road…
For all the fond memories of this temple, even if she would never feel what Link and Nabooru seemed to feel.
“No. The Elders are wrong. You have been sent here by the Goddesses. I can see that now, sa’ven .”
“When this war is over and you finally seduce that stupid guard into giving you a child, I’m sending her into that hole over there. I’m positive that is the way to get us further into the temple.”
“Are you discussing this now , Nabooru?”
“If you don’t like it, perhaps you should distract me.”
Perhaps there was reason for hope, after all.
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