The chains clinked gently in time to the movements of the princess as she traversed the length of the hallway, flanked by four iron knuckles and a few darknuts. She twisted her hands tighter together in front of her, ignoring the reprimanding glare from the iron knuckle that was beside her.
Damn. It was unladylike to curse, she knew, but the chains were pulled tight, and cut into her wrists as they were fastened to her waist by a heavy chain belt. With each step, the large gilded doors at the end of the hall drew closer, and her heart beat slightly faster. There was every possibility she would meet her death behind those doors, or at the very least she'd hear the order. She'd be taken outside and buried unceremoniously by the Dark Lord's minions, a fate hardly befitting a princess of her status. She supposed her mother the Queen had been killed, though she wasn't sure. She wondered briefly if they'd place her by her mother's grave.
Whatever her fate, at least she'd be able to meet it with her head held high. She wasn't broken. Even if she was gagged. She frowned, and tried once more to work the thickly bunched fabric from her mouth. An unknown warlock– she hadn't seen his face – had attacked her when the first wave of the invasion came, who had cast some sort of spell on her that had rendered her unconscious, and she had woken an undetermined time later locked in the damp and dark dungeon, gagged and shackled to the wall. She frowned for the umpteenth time, and rotated the hand that bore the Triforce to peer at the underside of her wrist, wondering again where her gloves had gone. She had felt a presence there, but had been unable to see properly in the darkness to determine what exactly it was. Now, in the daylight, she could see that an intricate sigil adorned her once unblemished skin, spanning the inside of her wrist and coming to rest on her pulse point. She scowled at it. She had thought her magic had been dampened, and now she was sure. She could barely feel it, let alone manipulate it in anyway that would be useful to her. The Triforce too was dull on her skin; no doubt due to this cursed sigil, though she could still feel wisdom's influence in her mind. She gritted her teeth in irritation. How dare he.
Preoccupied with her thoughts, she hadn't noticed the golden doors grow ever closer, and so was somewhat startled when the iron knuckles stopped abruptly, and one of them knocked. Heart in her throat, the princess listened with all her might. After what seemed like an eternity, a deep, curiously accented voice issued from inside.
The two iron knuckles slowly pushed the large doors open, and the throne room opened up before her eyes. Her gaze immediately travelled to the far end of the room, where a massive and imposing figure lounged on the throne. Bastard. She wished she could shout the word, to insult him viciously before her death, but she was gagged, and so she would have to make do with partially obscured death glares.
The doors swung shut behind her as her stomach dropped down to her toes. This was it. He'd take one look at her, maybe gloat a little, and give the order for her execution. She struggled to regulate her breathing. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing she was afraid. She lifted her chin higher as her escorts nudged her forwards. Of course he wouldn't stand to meet her. He'd make her come to him, to walk towards her own doom. Although, she reflected, he could make her crawl. She supposed she must be thankful for small mercies, miniscule as they were.
After a long, humiliating walk, during which she endured his speculative gaze roaming the length of her body, she reached the dais on which the throne perched. At a look from the man, one of the iron knuckles placed a heavy hand on her shoulder, forcing her to her knees. She knew its intent before her face met the carpet and levelled the most ferocious glare she could muster at it, hating the Dark Lord as she bowed before him. Finally, finally, the hand released, and she straightened as fast as humanly possible, her lips twisted into a scowl under her gag.
The Demon King examined the princess carefully; this was the first time he'd seen this incarnation of her in this lifetime. She differed greatly in physical appearance from her predecessor, he noted idly, though he could see the same spirit in her eyes. The first thing that struck him about her appearance was her delicacy; she was slight, blonde, and unerringly feminine, in Hylian eyes, at least. A remarkable change, considering the last bearer of wisdom had been bold and brash, a tall, striking woman with a head of bright red hair, a similarity to him that had irked her to no end. He'd enjoyed sparring with her, before her hero had gotten lucky. No matter. He put her and her miserable hero out of his head and focused on the Wisdom that stood before him now; the old bearer had been dead these last seventy years at least.
This princess's shoulders were moving as she twisted her hands together furiously, and he almost grinned at the expression on her face. Even bound and gagged, coated in a layer of grime, with tangled hair and ripped gown, she exuded haughty disdain and blatant hostility. With her slight form and delicate appearance, she resembled an angry kitten, claws out. He took that moment to stand, watching her swallow, enjoying the flicker of fear that appeared in her eyes. He had to look down to see her properly, of course, he had to look down on everyone, but the added height of the dais certainly was not helping the inequality in size. He snickered under his breath; even if she were to stand on the throne itself, he would still tower over her. Were Hylian's typically this elfin and slender? He knew they weren't, yet she looked as though a gust of wind would blow her away. Maybe he was just biased, coming from a society of strong, well-rounded and muscular women.
He stepped down from the dais very slowly, watching her pull her shoulders back; clearly, she wanted to step backwards, but her pride would not allow it. She was very brave; he'd expected tears at the very least, judging from the stories he'd heard of her. She didn't fight, she couldn't defend herself; she'd spent her entire life in peacetimes, and he'd expected a shrinking violet. Maybe she'd surprise him after all.
"Well. Zelda. The Princess of Hyrule herself." He pronounced her title slowly, watching her knit her brows. "How are you enduring? I hope your dungeons aren't too uncomfortable?"
Her eyes widened then narrowed, and she forcefully exhaled, and he smirked. She didn't like that; her eyes narrowed further, till he was distantly surprised she could still see. He turned then, and walked behind the princess. By that time, the iron knuckles had retreated silently to the walls, ready to act should the need arise. He prowled around her, surprised. She would not look at him, but rather stared straight ahead. He'd expected her to follow his every movement, particularly when he moved behind her.
Zelda struggled to remain facing forwards as the Gerudo King Ganondorf Dragmire skulked around her. She refused to lower herself to eye contact. She was Hyrule's Princess. If Ganondorf wanted to speak, he would look to her. She might have failed her people, but in the moments before her death, she would not lose her dignity.
However, she could not supress a shiver when Ganondorf stopped directly behind her, drawing another dark chuckle. He was entirely too close; she wanted nothing more than to run, maybe jump out a window. Anything to be away from this man.
"Nothing to say?"
She snorted loudly again, letting him know just how much she'd say if she could. His snicker stained her skin, and gooseflesh rose upon the surface. She grimaced, as he chuckled louder. He'd noticed. "Nervous, are we, Princess?"
Ganondorf had completed his rotation at last and stood in front of her, and Zelda had to crane her neck to keep him in view. He was simply enormous, clad in dark and imposing armour that radiated pure power along with a sizable amount of brutality. Suddenly, his hand snaked up and roughly pulled the gag from her mouth. The movement caused an inelegant sound to issue from her throat, and Zelda glared harder, as if the sheer force of her emotion could melt Ganondorf into a puddle.
The corner of his mouth twitched, and she itched to slap the smug grin right off his face, even if she'd practically have to stand on a chair to reach. The thought only soured her mood further, if that was possible. So certain was she that she was to be executed, Zelda decided she wouldn't bother to censer her thoughts.
Ganondorf watched the emotions play over her face. Fear had been replaced with annoyance, which was followed by the bitterest expression he'd ever seen on a Hylian woman. He couldn't help but ask. "And what was that, Princess? Your thoughts show quite plainly on your face; do you care to share them?"
Her eyes narrowed again. "I was just thinking how I'd should dearly like to slap you, but unfortunately, you're too tall." She gave a practised sigh, as he froze, anger coursing through his system; he imagined backhanding her, but he refrained.
"That is very bold of you, Princess." Indeed, he was rather reluctantly impressed with her audacity; to speak in such a manner to his face…
Zelda shrugged, rekindling his ire.
He narrowed his eyes. "I presume… you have good reason to speak so." Ganondorf turned away, as if in thought. "Surely you don't imagine I'd have you executed, which would no doubt allow you to speak your mind free from consequence. Now that would be foolish, wouldn't it, Princess?" With this last word spoken, he turned back to face her, an evil grin covering his features. He was glad he did, for the look on her face was priceless.
Zelda's whole world rotated suddenly, releasing her from the bonds of approaching death, and she gasped. Fear washed through her, icy and strong. If he hadn't been intending to execute her, what was his intention? That thought was banished to the back of her mind, as she replayed her words to him. Maybe she wasn't going to die today, but surely she would be punished for such insolence. She realised he was enjoying the fear on her face, and struggled to compose herself.
"I… I'm not going to be executed?" Her voice was very faint, and she felt as though she was going to pass out as images of torture danced through her mind in a sick parade.
Ganondorf grinned cruelly. "No. You'll live yet, Princess. Though with that attitude, your fingers won't." She gulped, and knew the Dark Lord had noticed when his grin widened.
"Well? Aren't you going to say something?" He prompted. Zelda frowned. What did he want? She cleared her throat.
"What do you want me to say?" she asked, as demurely as she could.
Ganondorf was enjoying himself immensely, though he was careful to present only his anger to her. She was clearly terrified, carefully measuring each word before she spoke. Her whole demeanour had changed. Whereas before Zelda had undoubtedly been ready to tell him to go jump in a lake, though quite possibly with stronger language, the promise of violence and pain with no end in sight had her presenting herself in a entirely submissive fashion. He wasn't quite sure which version of her he preferred. "Apologise for this insult." He growled. Her eyes widened, and her mouth twisted for a moment, as if her own body couldn't quite believe what she was about to do.
She bowed her head lightly, and after another moment, she spoke. "My apologies. I… I didn't realise."
Zelda squirmed in discomfort. She didn't know what was worse, that she had actually apologised to Ganondorf Dragmire, of all people, or the fact that he had threatened to cut off her fingers. He'd do it too, she knew that much. Fear had well and truly taken hold of her by now. Her discussions with herself while locked in the dungeons had prepared her for death, not captivity. She squared her shoulders, mentally informing herself to stiffen up. It wouldn't do to fall to pieces now. She was the bearer of Wisdom, was she not? There had to be someway she could get out of this, alive and unharmed. She frowned slightly, considering. Perhaps… if she bowed and scraped, submitting to Ganondorf's every whim, no matter how much she loathed the thought, she could possibly manoeuvre herself into a position where she could escape.
Ganondorf's own smile faded as he watched the princess's face go blank; Zelda now wore a perfectly serene mask as she looked him directly in the eyes, a touch too confident for his tastes. If he didn't know better, and he did, thank the Goddess, he'd have said she was a scared, weak little pampered princess who was trying to be brave. However, that flash of knowledge he'd seen dampened his good mood. Her mother the Queen had been easy to deal with, even if he hadn't intended the woman to be killed immediately, but the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom was another matter entirely. His eyes narrowed; better to banish her to the dungeons now, he decided, in case he let anything further slip. He needed time to himself to evaluate the conversation. The look on her face had left him slightly off balance. He'd thought he was in complete control of proceedings, but now he wasn't entirely sure. That realisation only increased his displeasure; he had a strong urge to shake the girl until she revealed her intentions.
A sudden thought occurred to him, and he smirked cruelly. "I hope you won't prove as troublesome as your mother did…"
He trailed off, savouring the pain and outrage in her eyes. "What have you done with mother?" She asked, her voice trembling.
He snickered to himself. The fear on her face was delicious. "Dead. She fought back when she ought to have surrendered. It was her own fault, really."
He almost chuckled, as Zelda's face went paper white, and her knees buckled slightly, before she wrenched herself forwards, stiffening her shoulders and stumbling forwards a step, her chin raised and jaw set even as tears glimmered in her eyes. No, Zelda was plainly not without courage… well, without her hero, she would surely need it.
He took a deep breath, studying her form. The princess's eyes were firmly glued to his, as if she was trying to cover up her moment of weakness. He felt pleasure in the knowledge that the longer he stood in silence, the more uncomfortable she became; he let the quiet fill the cavernous throne room until he was sure she was about to burst, and then he made a gesture with his hand.
Zelda jerked her head around to stare as the iron knuckles advanced into the centre of the room; her heart leaped back into her throat. What had Ganondorf decided? She didn't dare speak; she waited until he did.
"You'll be escorted back to the dungeons, Princess." Ganondorf was frowning - almost unconsciously, she thought. "You'll be unchained, but be warned: If you try to escape, well, let's just say you won't enjoy it."
She nodded quickly, as slight relief warred with anger. She would be unshackled, but… the dungeons? "So I'm to be a prisoner?" She snapped, glaring. "To rot in the dungeons for the rest of my life?"
He gave the most peculiar grin, smug and almost… pleased. "Not quite, Princess. Not quite."
Zelda blinked in confusion. Not quite? That implied he had some other plan for her, but if she wasn't to be executed… She swallowed nervously; sure her discomfort was plain on her face.
Ganondorf grinned, just barely, golden eyes roving over her form. "Go now." He was already turning away when she squared her shoulders and stepped forwards.
"May I ask you something?"
He quirked a fiery brow. "Continue." What on earth was she going to ask? He was looking forwards to finding out.
"What happened to the castle staff? I passed not a single one on my way here. Just your…" She paused here, clearly trying to find a diplomatic term. "Um, forces."
He stared at her impassively, trying to make her uncomfortable again. "Those that weren't killed have fled, if they've any brains at all." He stated as brusquely as possible, waving a casual hand at the iron knuckles. "Take her away."
He only smiled wider as the iron knuckles turned her away.
"Wait!" Zelda cried, and cringed slightly as Ganondorf turned to stare at her incredulously, as if he couldn't believe she was daring to speak to him. She almost couldn't believe it either.
"What exactly is this?" She asked somewhat timidly, holding out the wrist that bore the unfamiliar sigil as far as she could in her chains. The moment the Demon King's gaze landed on it, his lips twisted into a cruel smile.
"That, my dear Princess, is a very interesting little piece of magic." He paused for dramatic effect, and Zelda narrowed her eyes at him. "You can feel it, can you not? It blocks your own magic. I won't run the risk of having you escape."
Well. She stared at the sigil. It would have to be an incredibly obscure piece of magic; where on earth had he found it? She knew of spells and sigils that blocked the light from one's body, but this… this was far more complete and concrete a spell than she had ever seen. The sigil, too, was unfamiliar – Zelda was well versed in the magic arts, and this was unlike anything she'd ever seen before. It angered her. He'd found a way to bend her to his will, easy as breathing.
She frowned at him, ignoring those thoughts for the moment. "My magic is only of healing and light." She lied through her teeth. "How would that aid my escape?"
The Dark Lord studied her thoughtfully. "You say that now, but who knows what schemes wisdom can come up with? After all, you'll have plenty of time to think."
Zelda scowled as he flicked his fingers dismissively, and the iron knuckles herded her towards the door. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and put both Ganondorf and her mother away in a compartment for later. Oh, mamma. If her mother truly was dead, there was nothing she could do but mourn. For the moment, her people were more important. Those that weren't killed. Zelda's gut twisted in fear. How many of her people had died? In the week or so since the initial attack had happened, she had not laid eyes on a single Hylian, and she was terrified for them.
She was lost in thought as she traced the route back to the dungeons, her spirits lowering with each step, the hulking iron knuckles casting shadows in the dull candle light. Only just this morning, she had thought her guards terrifying. Having met their master, she dully compared them to bumbling puppies. They were intimidating to look at, sure, but they lacked the cruel intellect of the Gerudo King.
Having reached her cell, the iron knuckles watched silently as one of them unlocked her chains, two of them already standing in their posts besides the door. Zelda rubbed her wrists absentmindedly as she threw herself onto her patch of mouldy straw, lying on her back to stare at the dank stones, trying to make out their joins in the dim gloom. The only illumination was provided by a grate open to the daylight set far down the corridor, which barely gave enough light for Zelda to see her own hand in front of her face. So. She was stuck here, in her own dungeon. Fate, it seemed, was cruel.