By the Evident Zelda-hater, Miss Phantwo J Fou, Who Doesn't Hate Zelda. . . . Really . . . in Fact She's One of My Favourite Characters . . . Seriously . . . You've Got to Believe Me. . . .

Author's note: Won't it be fun to watch Sheik treading on forbidden ground speaking of his princess? Great! I know it'll be fun! I'm so excited! And in other news, I beat the Shadow Temple . . . again . . . last night, and I realised the conversation between Link and Impa in the last chapter wasn't as far off as I'd fancied it. Oh well.

Chapter Ten
O Sheik, God of Things Manly and Noble

I awoke to two crimson eyes staring right at me with the most startling and intense gaze I've ever seen from Sheik.

It positively gave me a fright.

I stumbled back off the pedestal—no, off the . . . bed?—and landed on the floor of . . . of . . . of a house.

How odd . . . I hadn't fallen asleep in a house.

"Ah, you're awake!" Sheik said with obvious pleasure. "Feeling any better now?"

I looked around for a few seconds, taking in my surroundings curiously. The cage in the corner caught my attention. There was a cow in it. A cow. In the house. How decidedly odd. Without tearing my eyes from the cow, I replied, "Much."

Sheik, noticing my very pointed glance, looked in that direction as well, releasing a low, throaty laugh as he came to the conclusion that I was gawking at the cow. For some reason that laugh reminded me of the also quite decidedly odd dream I'd had during my little nap in the Shadow Temple. After that dream, and my discussion with Impa, I couldn't help it; I started thinking about Zelda.

Zelda. I couldn't remember what she looked like. How, by Din, had I remembered her voice?

"Sheik," I said, still staring at the cow, "you and Impa are quite close, are you not?"

I saw him nod out of the corner of my eye, raising an eyebrow.

"And she's quite close to Princess Zelda, isn't she?" I looked at him briefly, then turned back to the cage. And the cow. "After all, she is her—caretaker, right?" Sheik nodded again. I tore my eyes from the cow and resolved not to look back at it, and instead I looked at Sheik. "So you must be acquainted with her."

He paled—noticeable beyond the white shawl covering his face—and hesitated for a moment before replying. "Uh . . . yes—yes, I am."

I studied his sudden pallor and raised my eyebrows. How strange.

Sheik stood up abruptly and headed for the door, giving me a gesture to follow. "She's perfectly safe, Link. She's still hiding from Ganondorf—"

"And from me," I interrupted.

He glared at me. "She's not hiding from you, Link. You are so often right in the epicentre of Ganondorf's forces that she, as yet, has had no choice but to evade you."

I tried to ignore his accusing tone of voice.

"Your curiosity surprises me," he said as he opened the door. I hesitated, but he motioned for me to go ahead. "You've—oh, after you, Link—never really taken an interest in Zelda before. Perhaps you might explain your sudden interest in the welfare of the Princess?"

I shrugged. "Inspired by Impa, I suppose."

"Impa?" He shook his head and waved a hand dismissively as we walked down toward the centre of Kakariko Village. "I should have guessed. Of course Impa talks about the Princess . . . Zelda is the closest thing she has to a daughter, after all. What did she tell you?"

"She told me of the princess's circumstances," I said absentmindedly. "That Zelda was hiding from Ganondorf, that her family had fled Hyrule." Pausing to turn around, I directed an unhappy glare towards Sheik. "But that she stayed behind. And she refuses to reveal herself to me! Likely I'll wander off into my death with a heroic flourish of my sword before we ever have another audience. And then what?"

"Then nothing, Link—you're not going to die. But by the goddesses, Link, you never used to worry about Zelda before! Why does it suddenly matter, when yesterday you wouldn't even have cared? You knew she was hiding! You knew—"

"Impa told me I'm her hero," I muttered.

In an instant, Sheik's whole face had turned bright red.

Silence came down upon us for a moment, and I studied Sheik in surprise. He took a few seconds to collect himself, then cleared his throat and choked, "You're—you're everyone's hero, Link."

"I detect jealousy," I said with a grin.

"No! Th-that's not it! I—I'm not j-j-jealous! Of course not!" Aghast, Sheik began to pace, rubbing a hand idly through his bangs. "I'm just—" He let the statement hang unfinished and drew in a shaky breath.

My grin didn't fade. "Oh, calm yourself, Sheik." Then, glancing around idly, I added: "Where's Navi?"

I tried to sound casual, and I believe I had Sheik fooled, but I was really on the verge of panicking at the idea that she had abandoned me again, just like she had in the Shadow Temple. As appalled as I was that the fairy who so often drove me to the brink of insanity could completely shatter me by disappearing, it had happened once and could, if she were to vanish once more, happen again.

I still had no idea where she had been.

"Sleeping under your hat," Sheik replied. I repressed a sigh of relief. "Like she always does. You were not the only one who needed a little rest, apparently."

"Apparently." Trotting down the village stairs towards Hyrule Field, I tried to ignore my overwhelming urge to fall to my knees and kiss the grass. I resisted the impulse and instead put a hand at the level of my eyes* and scanned the field, taking in the familiar surroundings and delighting in them. "So where are we headed, Sheik?"

He walked up beside me and imitated my gesture. "Spirit Temple. Gerudo Desert." He took a step forward and stopped suddenly, whirled to face me and exclaimed, "The Lens of Truth! You—you still have the Lens, don't you, Link?"

There was a silence.

Oh, Goddesses of Hyrule, I beg for your permission to kill him. . . .

Grudgingly I reached into my quiver and retrieved the mystical glass, thrusting it into the Sheikah's hands before I'd have to look at it. He took it and clutched it to his chest with a vicious grip, giving the inanimate—or was it?—object an affectionate hug; then, as if satisfied it was real, he lifted it up to examine it.

His intense study of the Lens made me feel quite ill. But I stood by and waited for him anyway.

"You'll need this," he explained as he handed it back to me. "I am delighted to see it in such good condition—some owners of that treasure have treated it so poorly in the past . . . but of course, you would never damage such a precious object. Perhaps I was silly to even suspect it."

"Hmm," I mumbled neutrally, as many of my conscious thoughts in the Shadow Temple had been regarding how best to damage that so-called 'precious' object. My disgust at the prospect of using it once more knew no bounds.

Sheik threw a glare round the field and let it rest on me. "You might wish to summon the horse, Link."

With a nod I drew the Ocarina of Time from my quiver and put it to my lips. Delicately I placed my fingers over the holes to form the first note, closing my eyes as I blew into the mouthpiece gently.

I played until Epona's familiar whinny broke my concentration, and I looked up to my trusty steed as a grin spread across my face. I bit my lip, caught off guard by the sudden emotional rush that hit me upon seeing her again, and took a stumbling step forward towards the horse, one of the only constants left in my life. I gave Epona a clumsy but grateful hug round her neck and remained there until Sheik began to giggle.


I turned on my heel after releasing my horse, glaring at Sheik with my eyebrow raised. I was having serious doubts about my guide and guardian.

"Forgive me, O Sheik, God of Things that are Manly and Noble," I said disdainfully, turning to face him. "I believe that I am entitled to show affection for my horse. Sans laughter."

"God of things that are manly and noble?" Sheik let loose another giggle. "Is this the title I've earned for myself now?"

"Yes," I retorted. "And be grateful. There are far worse titles I could give you."

Sheik laughed in agreement. "Yes. Yes, there are."

"So are you walking to Gerudo Desert, then?" I asked, changing the subject as I climbed onto Epona's back. "I see no steed for Noble Sheik."

"Noble Sheik needs no steed," he said wickedly.

I opened my mouth to question him, only to close it again, realising there was no need to question.

He simply took the harp from his back and, with an evil glint in his red eyes, played a strange melody that I did not recognise. Soon the Sheikah warrior was enveloped in a bright light, which made me close my eyes—and when I opened them, Sheik was gone.

I sighed. Curse those Sheikah.

At least I knew my destination this time. In the past, after all, Sheik had disappeared without telling me that rather crucial bit of information. At least this time I was not forced under the guidance of my guardian fairy, from whom I guarded myself far more often than she guarded me. I drew in a breath and gave Epona a gentle rap on the rear, directing her towards Gerudo Desert.

For an hour, the steady clop of Epona's hooves on the dead grass and cracking earth was the only sound that dared to penetrate the unearthly silence of the dying Field of Hyrule. This quiet was far different from the quiet that permeated the Shadow Temple. In that temple of darkness, the silence was tense, suffocating, begging to be broken by the ghastly battle cry of an otherworldly being. But the silence here was unnatural—almost as if the land itself were desperately trying to cry out but had been quiet so long that it had forgotten how to speak.

Distantly observing my surroundings and breathing in air that seemed to pulsate with the venom that had murdered the land, I wondered how long the field had been in such a state of disarray. The grass, once a luscious green, now lay in ruin, desolated by a lack of pure water and torn by careless travellers tramping over the fragile stalks. The few trees I encountered were discoloured and bore brown leaves. Some of them also leant heavily to one side, so weakened that their leafy burdens were too hard to bear. Many of the creatures that I had considered a nuisance as a child had disappeared as well . . . which would have made me happy, if it had been seven years earlier. Today their absence made the field feel so vast and so empty. The sole creature that emerged to meet me now was the occasional lonely Poe, who dared to show herself for a few seconds, only to vanish again after a brief, hopeless fight.

Even the Poes had given up hope. Ganondorf's hand was choking even his own minions. How could this complete devastation be of any benefit to him? How could he stand this?

How could he want this?

How could he desire this? What drove him to enjoy watching the world crumble and die?

Eventually even his own forces would die in a world like this. . . . And what was Ganondorf going to gain, when his world had perished completely?

I had always been taught that the answer to my questions was merely that this was the nature of evil. I had always simply accepted that this was the nature of evil. I understood that his evil motivated him to kill. Ganondorf had done this because he, in short, was evil.

But that still didn't tell me why.

I'll never know why.

Neither shall I know how my mentors always described this indescribable thing as simply 'evil.' It was definitely deeper than that. Evil wasn't that simple. It had to be deeper than that!

It had to be. . . .

Reflection was far too depressing. I wished Navi would wake up.

Another hour of eerily silent riding passed. I grit my teeth against the urge to think on the matter, deciding that depression was the very last thing I needed. At the third hour the sky had darkened considerably, and by the fourth all was cloaked in thick darkness.

Not that I considered it dark. Oh, no.

And, since my eyes were now quite capable of seeing perfectly well in the dark, I spotted the canyon leading towards the Gerudo Desert with little difficulty. I whipped Epona gently on the rear and galloped into the narrow passage, through a wider stretch of the canyon and across a small pool of water, and towards a much larger pool, judging by the sound of rapids before the—

"Dear heaven!" I exclaimed, yanking back on the mare's reins violently. "Whoa, Epona! The bridge is out!"

"Perceptive as always," murmured a lazy voice from underneath my hat.

I ripped the floppy garment off my head. "Navi!"

My guardian fairy, apparently still a mite drained even after her hours-long slumber, fluttered away from my head and yawned. "Why so excited, Link? Why such ceremony for the fairy that so often pushes you to the edge of insanity?"

Offering her a bitter smile, I returned my attention to the dismantled walkway ahead of us, assessing how to go about crossing the ravine sans bridge. The crashing of the rapids about fifty feet below us reverberated against the cliffsides loudly, making it hard to think. Blast. "Perhaps I'm mourning the loss of such pleasant silence," I told Navi, dismounting the horse.

Navi scoffed. "Hah! Nonsense. You missed me."

Though I snorted, I made no effort to deny it. Truth was an important ideal for a hero—one of the few ideals I adhered to. Attempting to neither lie nor receive a biting remark from the fairy, I decided it was smarter not to reply and directed my attention to crossing the river.

I turned to Navi and knelt before her, putting my hands together reverently. "Well, then, O Navi the Intelligent who is evidently capable of reading the Hero of Time's mind, I beg thee to apply thy knowledge and wisdom once more and contrive a method of bridging this bridgeless river."

"About time you learned your place," said Navi with mock arrogance. "Now, insignificant mortal, do you see that wooden sign held by those two posts across the ravine?" I nodded. "You might try your hookshot, Link."

"Aha," I mumbled, retrieving the hookshot from my belt. Three seconds later I was flying over the river with Navi at my heels. I landed on solid dirt on the other side with a clunk and fought to keep my balance.

"Graceful," Navi murmured quizzically.

I grunted in agreement and took a step forward—and promptly stepped back as I caught sight of a small encampment only about ten paces in front of me.

What crazy fool would have decided to set up camp here?

Slowly I inched a little closer to the white tent and the fire burning outside. Soft voices drifted towards Navi and me, the sources evidently sitting round the small flame and sharing quiet conversation. Navi zipped under my hat. I squinted. Something about the burly man within my field of vision seemed familiar . . . I'd seen him before. Somewhere.

I took another step forward to get a closer look, just as he lifted his head, allowing the light of the bonfire to illuminate his face. In that brief moment I recognised him: it was the head carpenter of Kakariko Village! Fitting, I supposed, as the bridge was out—and who to fix a bridge but a strong, dedicated carpenter like him?—but I did wonder, in spite of myself, what he was doing stationed in the Gerudo Desert. Obviously, the bridge wasn't out when he'd come here, or the encampment would have been on the other bank. Something else must have drawn him here. Either way, it was good to see another friendly face, even if his visage was contorted with a scowl more often than not.

Or was it friendly? How did I know that he hadn't joined the forces of evil, like Ingo of Lon Lon Ranch?

Silent as a cat, I trod forward, hoping to glimpse his companion's face before I approached him head-on—after all, I wasn't yet certain that his motivations for being here were pure, and somehow the prospect of being snatched away into Ganondorf's clutches lacked a certain appeal. Oddly enough, even after all the racket that Navi and I had made over my crossing, both of the silhouetted figures seemed oblivious to our presence—but then, we did have the roaring of a waterfall to compete with. . . . Still, if I had been the one sitting beside that fire, I would have noticed the ruckus. But then, I am the Hero of Time.

I didn't recognise his companion, but he looked relatively harmless—he was rather gangly and dressed in thin white clothing, with travel-worn sandals on his feet and unkempt brown hair—so I chanced it. I finished my silent approach and said, "Good evening, gentlemen."

Both men jumped, the carpenter letting loose a trail of curses that I shan't bother to record, and glared at me. I repressed my desire to laugh at their fear and instead gave them both a friendly smile. The carpenter recovered and demanded, "Good goddesses, boy, what do you think you're about, frightening old men in the middle of the night? Who, by Din, are you?"

"No one you'd remember, sir," I said, trying to sound as amiable as I could. "Last time you saw me I was but a wee lad."

He accepted this, but remained rigid. "And what do you think you're doing here, then, boy?"

"I'm travelling," I replied. "And I saw your camp and wondered what you were doing here. After all, Gerudo Valley seems like an odd place to visit for a campout."

"Travelling, eh? Where to?"

"I'm . . . not exactly sure." I frowned. "But it's somewhere within this desert, at least."

"You don't know where you're going? Then how do you expect to get there?" he said scornfully. Then his eyes widened. "You crossed the bridge? How'd you do that?"

I smirked. What an observant man. "Magic. And I do have a vague idea of where I'm going. So, then, if you don't mind my asking, now that we've established why I'm here—why are you here?"

His companion, who had finally composed himself, said heatedly, "Carpenter. Broken bridge. You seem like a smart one, boy. Think about it."

"The bridge must not have been out when you arrived," I replied with similar malice. "You'd have been on the other side."

"Bloody smart thing, aren't you? Didn't someone ever teach you to hold your tongue?" the carpenter snapped acidly.

I shrugged mildly and told him, "Not really," deciding not to add that my life's mentor had been a talking tree.

He ignored me and grunted angrily. "The Gerudo thieves broke the bridge not long after we set up camp, and then those—" He stopped suddenly and then exclaimed angrily, "Those lazy fools! Lazy, stubborn, stupid fools! If it weren't for them, I could leave here and avoid questioning young lads like you! You aren't one of those Ganondorfians, are you, lad? That's not why you're here, is it?"

"Farore, no!"

"Good," he muttered, though I sensed that he was still skeptical. "But if you are, don't think me an old, senile fool who can't see through your front. You may look tough with that sword on your back, but you don't scare me." He broke off, relieving my ears of his raspy voice for an entire second before resuming in his tirade. "Stupid boys! Lazy, stupid boys! Curse those stupid boys!"

"And what 'stupid boys' are those, sir?" I asked—desperately hoping he didn't mean me.

His countenance seemed to darken as he chewed on his lip and prepared an answer. When he spoke, his voice was low and hateful. "My boys. My workers. My lazy workers who fled the camp to become thieves instead of helping me with this bridge! Left without so much as a good-bye, merely telling me that woodworking bored them! Oh, fine, then, let them run! Foolish boys, up to no good, letting their lives go to waste while they idle about—they're all fools! Foolish, lazy, stubborn, stupid, stupid fools!"

As I thought about the redundancy of the phrase foolish fools, his companion added, "And they ran straight to the Gerudo Fortress, no less!"

I considered this. "And you can't rebuild the bridge without their assistance." It was a statement, not a question.

He nodded and sighed, putting his hands into his hair and staring into the fire, exasperated. Hopeless. Abandoned.

"Well, sir," I began, with an idea forming in my head, "if they're at the Fortress, and I'm travelling toward the Fortress at present. . . . Perhaps I might stop there, deliver a little missive to a few idle would-be carpenters taking a holiday in the desert?"

The master craftsman's scowl faded. For a moment he was bewildered at the idea of assistance and unsure of how to agree to my offer; then he reached the conclusion that he must act tough in order to accept. He started blubbering in thanks, but quickly gave up when his ego forbade him to go on. "You might—? I, er—of course! If you could . . . just . . . well, I . . . send them home! Find out what those idlers have been poking their noses into!"

I bowed politely and refrained from chuckling at his short, disorganised speech. "Of course, sir. I bid you both good-night." With that statement and a final wave, I spun on my heel and started in the direction of the Fortress.

And didn't get far. Ten steps down the pathway, the carpenter called, "Wait!"

Surprised, I turned back to him. "Yes?"

"What's your name?" he said.


"Link?" he repeated as a wave of confusion washed over his face. I was used to that. "Odd name. Well, then, Link—thank you."

"You're welcome," I replied, raising my eyebrows and turning back to the road.

Once out of sight of their camp (and, therefore, their blessed fire that showed me my path), I walked in silence and in darkness for at least a half-hour, deep into a canyon that lacked the blessing of light. Clouds had gathered overhead, blotting out the moon and leaving it darker than before. It still didn't rival the Shadow Temple, but it was, at least, noteworthy darkness. An honourable mention, perhaps.

Navi drifted out of my hat some time later and yawned. She fluttered in front of my face lethargically, looked around and landed on my shoulder. "And where are we now, Sir Hero?" she mumbled lazily.

I shrugged. "Somewhere in the middle of Gerudo Valley. On our way to the Spirit Temple."

"You know where it is?" she asked.

I shrugged again. "Eh . . . I've a vague idea. But we're taking a slight detour to the Gerudo Fortress to send the Carpenter Brothers from Kakariko back to their master. I imagine the Gerudo would be able to help us locate the temple."

Without warning, Navi burst into mocking laughter. And laughter it was! Intense, miserable laughter, derisive and disdainful, loud and uncontrolled, contemptuous and completely uncalled for. The sound started grating on my nerves within one measly second, and I snapped, "And what, pray tell, is so incredibly amusing?"

"Of course the Gerudo will help you!" she cried, with absolutely no conviction. "Yes, Link, why did I not consider that! The Gerudo! Yes, the Gerudo will help you!" And she laughed harder.

I didn't think anything was funny.

"They shall help me," I said, with force, determination and—hopefully—authority. "Laugh all you want, Navi, but I swear upon the imprisoned princess of Hyrule that the Gerudo shall help me."

Navi continued to laugh. "Upon your sworn oath, then, Link."

I caught sight of a stairway ahead, a sure sign that the Fortress was not far off. I shot Navi a venomous glare and, lowering my voice, muttered, "And here's my chance to prove it."

"Go for it," she replied, still chuckling quietly as she slipped under my hat.

Not daring to make any sounds at all, I tiptoed up the stairs slowly and flattened myself against the wall a few steps from the top. Hastily I glanced round the corner and searched for guards. I scanned the area briefly, but didn't see anyone . . . and then I glimpsed their fortress for the first time.

My breath caught in my throat. I barely stopped myself before gasping out loud as I gawked at the huge stone edifice emerging from the canyon walls. In wonderment, I took a careless step forward and tried to get a better view. Then the shrill sound of a whistle pierced my ears.

I froze, then shot a glance to my right—and promptly jumped back when I found two sharp scimitars just inches from my face.

"Stop right there!" a female voice screamed, evidently coming from the purple-clad girl in front of me waving the blades.

I raised my hands.

"You're coming with me," the woman said sternly.

Nodding feebly, I allowed her to take my hands and drag me roughly towards the enormous structure that served as their fortress—and watched as packs of other women (to my curiosity I could see no men among them), all equipped with dual scimitars, laughed at my misfortune.

Wenches. I'd have their heads.

Only a minute later my captor pitched me headfirst into what I could only perceive to be a pit of some sort, and I fell in darkness, all the while scheming the mass murder of the Gerudo tribe at the hands of the lone Hero of Time. These sweet visions of vengeance were punctuated only too soon when my head collided harshly with a rough floor.

I tried to breathe, but my reeling senses were too dazed by the fall. I decided to stop trying after a few short seconds. Mentally I cursed the Gerudo and vowed to get revenge on the wretched creatures that had imprisoned me, injured me, insulted me—and had unleashed terror on the world by spawning Ganondorf. What a fool I'd been to come here!

Succumbing to the throbbing pain in my head, I released my tenuous hold on consciousness and all melted into blackness.


*Phantom of the Opera fans should catch the significance of that phrase!

I've yet another fic recommendation, for anyone with a strong stomach and good taste: Split Infinitive's The Apprentice and Legend of Zelda: Rebel Assassin (which I'm actually responsible for reviving from the dead!). These fics are most assuredly not for the faint of heart, but both are epic tales with ridiculously good plots—and, unlike me, Split Infinitive updates his fics in a very timely manner! Definitely take the time to read those fics. They're both long, but worth the time.

Oh yes, and one note on the story, which I tried to make evident within the chapter but might not have done so well: Sheik never told Link that he had to stop at the Gerudo Fortress to get to the Spirit Temple, and therefore Link didn't originally intend to stop there. Hence the conversation with the carpenter. I'm sorry for the poor quality of this chapter—and the long wait time—but it effectively progresses the story, and I'm definitely not going to be able to do any better than this, so I'm just going to pray that you're happier with it than I am.

Many thanks for reading! Reviews would be greatly appreciated.