Author: Seldavia PM
The seven-year war has ended, and Zelda lost. After she lays Link to rest, she decides to stay in Hyrule, even if it is now in the hands of another. After all, at the End, she has nothing left to lose...does she?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Zelda & Ganondorf - Chapters: 23 - Words: 54,278 - Reviews: 92 - Favs: 53 - Follows: 72 - Updated: 06-01-13 - Published: 10-16-11 - id: 7470279
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For the next few weeks, Ganondorf showed an uncharacteristic degree of procrastination as he became inundated with more requests. First a team of chefs for visitors, cooks who were familiar with the dietary needs of Gorons and Zora. Then a gardener, who restored the courtyard that the Lady Zelda still haunted. Then servants for the Hylian and Zora nobles who could not cope without such things.
The Gerudo women objected to having so many outsiders in the castle. They wanted to let their children run around free, to be able to speak without wondering who might be listening. Some began wearing their veils again in protest, stating that if falsely accused they could use anonymity to defend themselves. Others took their grievances with them into Ganondorf's bedroom.
After several nights of little sleep, Ganondorf scowled down at the Hylian boy that had prostrated himself before the throne, trying to remember just what it was that the boy had requested. He was not about to ask Zelda for help, as she was the entire reason he was in this foul mood. He had missed half of the boy's platitudes, with their insincere flattery and backhanded compliments, instead focusing on Zelda's maddeningly serene expression.
She doesn't think I can do it, Ganondorf thought angrily to himself. She believes me to be a coward.
And yet, he had to admit that whenever he considered revealing his crime to the rest of the Gerudo, he could not stop thinking of ways he could twist the story to lessen its blow. He had dismissed lying straight off - Zelda had been there, she would make her voice heard if he lied. So he ran the events over and over in his mind, trying to see what he could do if he had to stay so close to the facts.
He had been in the right to order Nabooru put under enchantment. She - and a few of the others - had quite vocally disagreed with him over the affair of the Triforce. There was no way he could keep his ultimate goal from all of his people. Some had supported the idea of using the Hylian's power against them, stating he could never succeed where others had failed without some secret weapon. But Nabooru's group claimed that no good could possibly come from the use of Hylian magics, magics that even he did not fully understand.
The affair should have been settled on his final diplomatic trip to Hyrule Castle, after he attempted to gather the Spiritual Stones. The Council had voted to support his endeavor, and most of the naysayers needed no urging to stay silent. But Nabooru, his second-in-command, his blood sister, refused to follow him. She had said nothing, but he could sense her heart was against him. So he ordered the two witches, who had taught him the dark arts, to keep her under watch and neutralize her if she actively opposed him.
The fact that she had been under enchantment for seven years was also not a crime, though the Council certainly would frown upon it being kept a secret so long. Nabooru had committed treason, yes, but it was not up to the King to determine her punishment alone. As soon as she had been neutralized, he should have brought her to the Council. But he had fallen so quickly under the Triforce of Power's corruption. Shortly after the castle siege, he had received a message from the witches asking what to do with the Spirit Temple guardian. He told them to do nothing - unless she freed herself or someone else freed her from her enchantment. He made it clear that if that happened, she had to die.
That was the order that now had not only his position as King, but his very life in the hands of the Lady Zelda. He cursed himself for giving her such an opening, even though he knew he had been mad when he had given that order. The fact that he had been under the influence of Hylian magic did not matter. He was the one who had proposed stealing it, and he had assured the Council that he knew how to use it. If he had miscalculated, that was his own fault.
But Ganondorf's fears had little to do with his own life. He feared for his people, what would happen to them if he was executed. The Lady Zelda was sympathetic to the Gerudo, but she was only a Hylian female. She would have to take a male Hylian husband, and he would use his position to turn his people against Ganondorf's. What power Zelda had as a member of the Royal Family, and the daughter of the former king, was weakened by the fact that her chosen Hero had lost Hyrule to the Gerudo King.
And yet, in the back of his mind, he could hear his elder sister taunting him. What will you do, Nabooru had asked, if this plan of yours goes wrong? What happens if you make things even worse for our people? Then it would be better that you had never been born.
"My Lord?" one of the guards at his side prompted, jolting him out of his thoughts. The boy still kneeled there, not daring to raise his head. Ganondorf gave Zelda a sidelong look, and he thought he saw the ghost of a mocking smile pass her lips.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that he should not act rashly after kicking himself for doing just that. But then his elder sister had always known that he could not keep his temper. "Your wish is granted," he said, doubting that it could be of any importance. "Now leave."
The boy bobbed up and down in a series of comical bows, then sprinted from the room. Ganondorf called for a recess, asking everyone to leave. As the guards stepped away, he caught one by the shoulder. "What did he want?" he asked in a low voice.
She gave him a surprised look, but answered just as softly, "He merely wanted access to the castle's library, my King."
He let her go. "Ah, so it was of no consequence, just as I thought." He decided not to let the matter bother him any further. There were few books left of any kind, and he had already burned the ones that held any useful information on the Triforce.
"I've always been interested in the origins of Hyrule, haven't you? It's a pity there are so few books on the subject. Do you remember what you were taught as a child? We really should study together sometime, perhaps over lunch."
"Mmm." Zelda tried to concentrate on the book in her hands, but Andrew's words seemed to needle their way through her ears and into her brain. She silently cursed Ganondorf's decision to let him into the castle as a scribe-in-training, even though she knew he could not have done it just to annoy her.
She sat on the other side of the room, with her back to him, but he continued on as if he hadn't noticed. "You know, it's a pity we lost so much in the wars. I imagine that even in the darkest times, there were tales of valor. Do you remember any?"
Zelda looked up from her book and gave him a thin smile. "I beg your pardon, Andrew, but I'm not much of a storyteller."
"Oh, come now. You don't give yourself enough credit. Surely you must know some stories about Hyrule at its zenith."
"I'm sorry, Andrew, it saddens me to think of such things, seeing how low Hyrule has fallen."
He walked over and sat down next to her. She moved over as if to give him more room, but he nudged even closer. Zelda tried to lean away without seeming too rude. "Ah, Milady, I'm so sorry. Forgive me for causing you pain. All of us have suffered so much over these past seven years, though none of us as much as you."
"Yes, well…I prefer to think of the future rather than the past."
"Indeed!" Andrew sprang from his seat, then marched over to the table where he had placed a quill and some blank paper. "I will ensure that our present history is not just a tale of woe. Things can only get better from here, Milady, if we have the strength to see it through."
Despite the overly ambitious speech, Zelda felt the need to give him some support. "Such words warm my heart."
He gave her a wide smile. "Milady, I am at your service. I promise to help you forget the pain of the past few years. As long as I am with you, I will do my best to give you hope." With that, he plunged into a flowery narrative, feeling the need to speak aloud every word he wrote. Zelda attempted to block him out, but it grew increasingly difficult as he went on.
"…the wise Lady Zelda, knowing the King could not possibly understand such matters on his own, sacrificed her position so that she could bravely stand by her people in the face of these untimely events…"
"You know, Andrew," she said at last, "You are treading dangerously close to treason with that attitude toward the King."
He turned toward her, with an expression she did not recognize at first; a pitying look. "Ah, Milady, I know you cannot speak ill of your guardian."
"You are the King's Ward, are you not? But do not fear, Lady Zelda. We men of Hyrule know how you must have suffered. Why, I myself would approach the King, if you were to ask…so that his guardianship of you might transfer to me."
With a shock Zelda remembered what happened to the other ladies of the court once they reached her age; they were transferred from one male guardian (the father) to another (the husband). Even her mother the Queen had limited freedom, but the ladies of the court had even less. They could not even go into the Castle Town without approval. The same applied to the Queen, but that was a matter of national security; the ladies were treated this way because they were merely an extension of their husbands' property Since her father was dead and she had no husband, under Hylian law she was a ward of the State.
"Are you ill, Milady?" Andrew asked.
Zelda put on her best fake smile. "I do feel a bit unwell. I think I shall go outside; too much time behind stone walls is not good for anyone. I think I shall go into the courtyard. Please, do continue your work."
"As you wish!" he said, beaming, and turned back to his desk.
The new gardener had gone overboard, packing every inch of the soil in the courtyard with bright blooms and silvery-green bushes. Only the marble flagstones were free, and those had been scrubbed clean. Zelda appreciated the change, however gaudy it might be. It had once again become a quiet sanctum, instead of the place where she met the boy whom she had sent off to die.
She brought with her the lyre she had carried as Sheik, one of a very few royal heirlooms Impa had managed to grab before their impromptu escape. She had learned to play it at an early age, as custom dictated that royals should be cultured, and the organ was considered too powerful for a girl. She knew several tunes she had never taught to Link, ancient songs whose magic had faded over the years. The rich, harmonic sound of the lyre relaxed her.
Today, however, the lyre was not enough to set her heart at peace. Andrew's inquiry had set her blood racing, both in anger and in fear. It was bad enough that she had to comply with Ganondorf's wishes; at least he was flexible enough that she could worm her way out of the more irritating requests. Andrew would simply expect her to obey. She could not conceal a sneer upon thinking that she had greater freedom under the Gerudo King; but then, she knew, that was merely cultural, not his personality. Surrounded by female warriors, he could not comprehend the idea of women that neither worked nor cared for their own children.
Her body and spirit ached for escape, even though she knew there was no place that she could go. Casting a quick look around, she ran her fingers along the strings, letting loose the spell of transformation. Her hair shortened, her eyes turned crimson, and her dress wavered and shifted into her Shekiah garments. With a smile of satisfaction she unsheathed the dagger belted onto her back, and began a long rundown of practice moves, oiling the rust from her joints.
Ganondorf always made sure he was the first one in the throne room. The Hylian King had always made such a production of it, a whole ceremony dedicated to just walking in the door, and Ganondorf found it to be a waste of time. Besides, what idiot would dare expose his back to the enemy? The throne was not meant to be used as a mere chair.
Movement caught his eye as he walked past one of the windows that looked out onto the courtyard. For a brief second he considered reaching for the dagger in the boot of his armor, then remembered that no true shadow-walker still lived in Hyrule. It had to be the Lady Zelda, dressed in her old disguise. He would have turned and left her to her amusement, but something in her movement stopped him.
She blocked and struck in one fluid motion, revealing knotted muscles that up until now been hidden in delicate silk. He watched in amazement as she actually ran a few steps up one wall, flipped, and landed neatly on her feet. As he stood there, transfixed, he wondered if perhaps one of his own people was playing some kind of trick on him. He had heard his people praise the skill of the mysterious Shekiah that spied on them from the shadows during the Seven Years, but he couldn't imagine the Lady Zelda in that Shekiah's clothing. Even though he had watched her exchange them for royal dress with his own eyes.
He took a moment to reflect on the irony of the situation…he watched through this same window where she had spied on him all those years ago, unnoticed and unseen just as she had been until that fateful day that the would-be Hero arrived. He had found her childish plotting amusing…but he doubted she would be pleased to know he was standing there. He was about to leave when a voice cried out from the other end of the courtyard, "What in the name of the Goddesses!"
Zelda stopped immediately, changing her clothing back to its original appearance. Ganondorf scowled as he saw the owner of the voice enter the courtyard; the fool gardener, probably scared to death as he came to weed the flowerbeds.
"I beg your pardon," said Damien, the gardener. He was another former noble that had found a method to weasel his way back into the castle. Ganondorf had to give him a little credit, though; he hadn't thought the nobles would stoop to getting their hands dirty. "I didn't know it was you, Lady Zelda."
"I apologize for frightening you," Zelda said, breathless. "It's Damien, isn't it? I just…needed a little exercise."
"Ah, of course," Damien replied, though the shock didn't leave his face. He walked over to her and lightly took her arm, patting her on the hand. Her back was turned to Ganondorf, so he couldn't see her expression. "Milady, you have suffered for so long! I can't imagine a lady of your stature being forced to defend herself against the monsters that roamed this land."
"I wasn't forced…" she began to say, but he cut her off.
"Milady, my family has a strong household, and we are on very good terms with the Gorons. You would be much safer in our mountain cottage…ah, but I am getting ahead of myself!" He turned from her toward Ganondorf and kneeled. "Your Majesty, if it pleases you, I would relieve you of your ward."
Zelda had spun around upon hearing 'Your Majesty' and her face tightened upon seeing Ganondorf there. But he didn't notice her expression. "Relieve me of my ward?" he growled, not sure of the source of his anger. "Your Hylian customs dismay me. The Lady Zelda is not mine to keep, nor to give away. She is a free citizen of this country, and is free to make her own decisions." With that he whirled around and stalked back to his throne, out of sight of the two in the courtyard.
Damien stood and took Zelda's hand, nearly crushing it in his excitement. "Did you hear? Speak, Milady, and I will grant you true freedom from the usurper king!"
"Please let go, you're hurting me." She winced more than was necessary, and he immediately dropped her hand, apologizing profusely. "I…your offer is not something I can agree to right away…"
His face darkened in suspicion. "Are there others that would ask for the hand of the Lady?"
"Yes," she said automatically, more to buy time than anything else.
"Ah! I see. But please, Milady, consider my offer. My family will be in touch." He left the courtyard, looking back over his shoulder with a smile as he did so.
Zelda returned the smile with a cheeriness she did not feel. At some point, she knew, she had to make a decision, and none of the choices were to her liking.