The Jewel of The Sands

The Gerudo Fortress towered above the red earth, the sand swirling about the stone walls in a fierce wind. There was a sandstorm coming soon, and the gate to the desert was being closed. A woman, clothed in an orange-brown dress, paced before an open door. The outfit stopped at her knees, where her muscular, sun-tanned legs ended in bare feet and bracelet garbed ankles. A tightened red strip around her waist glittered with the symbol of the Gerudo moon and star. Her blazing orange hair was held up in a high ponytail, the golden hoops glistening at her ears. Her experienced hands held a sharpened spear. The yellow of her eyes gazed out dangerously from above the purple shawl around her mouth. As her head turned fully away, a small, stooped shadow slipped inside.

Link sank down quickly behind a crate with the Kokiri Sword clutched in his hand against his chest. His breathing was fast and shallow, but from the Kokiri he had learned how to silence his breath when it became labored. A female guard was walking past, her eyes driving through the shadowed hallway like daggers. Navi fluttered anxiously by the boy's shoulder.

"This isn't a good idea, Link!" she whispered, her pink light flickering worriedly. Link, watching the Gerudo woman who was walking past the staircase, chanced a look at his fairy friend.

"This is where Ganondorf comes from, Navi," he whispered. "There could be something here."

"It's much too dangerous, Link!" continued Navi. Link frowned at the fairy's motherly reaction. "The women here are more skilled than you, they're criminals and they have no moral -"

"The Deku Tree said he was from the desert, Navi. I don't care how skilled they are," spoke Link in a slightly annoyed voice. Navi was silent for a moment. Link knew the mention of the Deku Tree stunned her a little; the wound of his death was still fresh in her. As much as Link disliked it when she became overly-motherly like this, he knew he shouldn't have said that. He bit his lip.

"Sorry, Navi..." he started, but the Gerudo guard had turned down another hallway after a moment of lingering in the shadows. Link saw his chance and sped up the stairs, only to find himself in another hallway, and a much longer one at that. He crept past, his back to the wall, getting near to a door that led into a separate chamber - and then he froze.

He heard a pair of voices at the other end of the hall. Two shadows appeared against the stone walls. Desperate with fresh fear, he grabbed the doorhandle, turned, and shut himself inside the room before the two women could catch a glimpse of him.

"Who are you?!"

Link spun, his sword clutched in his hand, his Deku Shield at the ready. The room was almost bare, with a straw matted floor and a single rack of spears lining the far wall. Navi hid quickly behind his shoulder. What he saw in the empty room startled him.

She was a Gerudo, that much he knew for sure. She had taken the low, crouching battle stance that the women of the Fortress often took, her legs spread with one hand pressed to the floor - but she was young, barely as old as himself, her young face drawn into an accusing gaze. The orange of her tunic faded beneath the brilliant light of a silver pendant she wore around her neck - the white moon of the Gerudo. Her fingers were tracing over the edge of a throwing dagger that Link knew might soon be directed at him. Her orange hair was long and strait, with a single lock of golden hair that fell over one of her emerald eyes. Link was entranced by her.

"I said, who are you,?" she spat again, her grip clenching on the dagger. Link felt navi tug his tunic and he shook from his thoughts.

"Look," he said slowly, trying not to sound suspicious, "I'm not here to -"

"Wait," said the girl quietly, cutting him off. She tensed a little in her stance. " did you get past the guards?...are you...a boy?"

This, to say the least, was not the question Link expected to hear. Navi stopped tugging him in surprise. Taken back for a moment, he relaxed slightly.

"Um...uh, yes..."

"And past all the guards? The older women?"

"Yeah..." said Link, getting suspicious. But his misgiving turned to confusion when the girl smiled triumphantly and placed the dagger back in her belt.

"A true thief, then," she said. She grinned at the bemused look on his face ad fell into a more childish babble, suitable for their age. "You can relax, you know, I'm not going to attack you. My name's Aloarn. In the Gerudo tongue, it means 'Stored Wisdom' or something like that. What's your name?"

Link was still having a hard time understanding the girl's sudden friendliness, but she had put away her weapon, so he decided to make peace. He re-sheathed his blade and put away the shield as she waited for him to speak.

"Link. My name is Link."

"Link? Link." repeated the girl. Her face screwed into concentration. "Link...that would mean, I guess, roughly... 'The Defender'. What is that?" She was looking, clearly, at Navi, who had fluttered out from behind the Kokiri boy.

"Oh, this is Navi," said Link. "She's a fairy."

Navi's pink light fluttered in greeting, but Link could tell she did not trust the stranger. Aloarn, however, was gazing at the fairy in wonder.

"I heard stories about fairies. My mother tells a lot of stories. Yesterday she -"

But she stopped abruptly in mid-sentence, listening. Link, nearer to the door, could hear the footsteps of many Gerudo. Aloarn slid silently beside him and pressed her ear to the frame.

"It is Nabooru. She's coming to take me to training - you must get out. Go down the passageway and take a left at the second hall, then climb out the window at the end of the passage. There wall is covered in vines, climb down and you'll be out on the other side of the fortress. You're on your own from there."

Aloarn leapt up suddenly and unclasped the moon necklace from her throat. Before Link could stop her, she leaned in and put it around his neck.

"Here," she whispered. "For a fellow thief -"

She opened the door slightly and peered outside. Seeing the guards talking, she grabbed Link's arm. Link stumbled into the hall but slipped quickly behind a standing vase before anyone noticed. He glanced a last look at Aloarn and felt something pull inside him.

Reaching to his ear, he undid the earring he wore and tossed it to her. She caught it and looked strangely at him. He grinned.

"For a fellow thief," he said. She smiled.

"May we meet in coming years," she whispered.

Link sped down the passageway with Navi fluttering at his shoulder.


After all the years of toil, the time travel, the quests, Link, bruised, cut, and burned, walked up slowly to Ganon's convulsing body. Dark blood was oozing from the monster's sides. Breathing heavily, the teenage hero stopped in the ruins of Hyrule castle and raised his glowing sword. Ganon's lolling, blood streaked head looked up at him. Link ground his teeth as his brow crease with fury.

"For Hyrule" he whispered.

Ganon screeched and spat out blood onto the ground.

The Master Sword fell and the scream halted.

It was over.

Zelda looked at the seventeen-year-old gently. Her eyes were clouded, filled with unspoken words. Link, his feet in the clouds, watched as she held the Ocarina of Time to her chest.

" where you are supposed to be...the are supposed to be..."

He watched as the Hylain Princess raised the Ocarina to her lips. She took in a breathe.

Her eyes opened slightly as she felt Link's gloved hand descend on the instrument, pulling it from her lips. She gazed at him and he shook his head.

"No...I can't."

"But you must..." struggled Zelda. "After all this -"

"After all this," said Link slowly, putting his hand on her face, "I realize...I would rather keep fighting my whole life, than forget all this forever."

Zelda nodded slowly.

The Hero of Hyrule stepped back and disappeared into the clouds, making his way back to earth.

Two years later...

A pair of gloved, leather-wrapped hands pulled lightly on the mare's reins. A cloaked figure astride the horse lifted his head slightly and gazed around at the bustling, sunset-lit village of Kakariko. The town had grown since he had last been here. Merchants, vendors, and market dealers covered the sides of newly-paved streets, calling out to crowds of possible customers. Flowergirls danced down the lanes with baskets of roses and tulips, the fragrance mixing nicely with the fresh bread of pastry carts. Aged women in shawls hung their knitted quilts on the edges of their stands, while potters set out their best displays for the evening crowd. Children chased fleeing chickens through the legs of stern faced tax men. Carpenters carried beams of wood and slabs of stone up the side of the windmill's hill, busy on building the addition beside it. Beggars, roamers, and travelers in heavy cloaks led the lead-ropes of mules and pack-horses. The cloaked stranger nudged his mare lightly in the side. She trotted forward, dodging past a stubborn cow, and made her way to one of the town's tallest buildings. The last red rays of sun glittered off her crimson-brown coat as she tossed her white mane. Link's blond bangs fell across his handsome face from beneath his hood.

The sign above the door dangled in the dying light.

Dragon Fire Inn.

Link dismounted and tied Epona to a nearby post. A groom from the back would soon be around to take her to the Inn's stable. He smiled faintly as he stroked the mare's white mane. The horse looked at him with dark eyes and whinnied.

"We'll stay here tonight, girl. You'll be fine."

Epona shook her head, but complied, standing obediently by her post. Link unstrapped a few of his bags from her back - a shifted beneath the cloak, the Master Sword and Hyalin Shield strapped to him underneath. He pulled his hood on further with his leather-gloved hands and stepped into the Inn.

The heavy smell of alcohol and tobacco smoke spilled through the doorway. It was nearing winter, and the roaring fire that blazed in the grate of the barroom was inviting to all kinds of travelers. Townsmen sat in respected corners with flagons of ale fizzing before them. Carpenters were drowning shots as they grumbled about low pay and hard work; hookers in fishnets, thigh-length skirts and corsets sat on the edges of card tables, inviting customers for thirty Rupees each. Cloaked men like Link were smoking in corners, watching silently as rival townsfolk quarreled about livestock. A pudgy woman in red served a table from a drink-laden platter, ignoring the cat-calling that followed her as she left.

Link took an overview of the room and pushed up to the bar, where a red-faced ma in an apron was sliding a shot down to a thin, shifty eyed man in a dark blue tunic. When he saw the new customer, his face lighted into a smile.

"Welcome to Dragon Fire Inn, sir," he said. "Name's Jobins. How may I help ya?"

"I need a room for the night, and I've got a horse out front," said Link, pulling off his hood. The bartender's smile faded a little as his eyes roamed over the golden hair that fell from his head.

Link tried not to meet the man's gaze. The Hero of Hyrule had not been forgotten in Kakriko, nor in any other part of the realm for that matter; Link had been dodging screaming peasants, fainting women and snobby nobles for the past two years. He was eighteen now, but the teenage appeal of him still lingered, and he had to be careful wherever he went. he prayed silently to Frarore that Jobins wouldn't recognize him - and thankfully, he didn't.

"Well, we've got a nice room on the second floor that's open. Don't mind if the window doesn't close all the way, will ya?"

"I'll be fine. How much?"

"Fifty fer a night."

Link took out a satchel of fifty rupees and dropped it onto the counter with a satisfying thud. The man nodded and grabbed a candle, picking up one of Link's bags, and headed up the stairs.

Link sat in his room beside the open window. Cold air was seeping in, but he didn't notice.

He leaned over his map of Hyrule and crossed off a section of Kakariko. He leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair in exhaustion. He had been patrolling Hyrule undercover for the last year, but he still didn't know quite why. He felt uneasy, he thought. Everything seemed differently lately...ever since -

A vision of Zelda flashed through his mind. He swallowed and gazed, unfocused, out the window.

Don't take it out, he told himself. But against his will he reached into his pocket and withdrew the letter, the one piece of tattered paper that Zelda had sent to him less than a year after the defeat with Ganon. He already knew it by heart, but he couldn't stop his eyes from looking over it again.

Dear Link,

I've been missing you very much. Ter'zai is a much different realm than Hyrule. They do not believe in the Three Goddesses, and I am trying to voice the Hyalin religion to them. Prince Rothak seems to be the only one who is listening.

Link, I must tell you something. Prince Rothak has asked me to marry him. He is a wonderful man, and many are saying that we would be a good match. but if i married him, than I would have to leave Hyrule and become Princess, (and one day Queen) od Ter'zai. I do not want to leave Hyrule, but it is such a good match, and he is a very good man. My cousin Alea has been ruling in my absence, and she is doing quite well. I believe that if i were to marry Rothak, I would leave the kingdom in her hands. I have no yet decided, but I already believe that i am outgrowing Hyrule. It is a small kingdom compared to that of Ter'zai, and Alea can easily watch over it.

In response to your last letter, no. I do not think that I, leaving Hyrule, will affect the Seal or my Triforce piece. You worry overly so about such things, Link. We have defeated Ganon and there is no hope in his returning.

In ending, I miss you, and shall write back as soon as I decide on Rothak. Best of wishes!

Princes Zelda

Link crushed the paper in his fist and threw it across the room.

He had loved her so much. He had hinted it in his letters to her while she dwelled in Ter'zai, flirting with that conceited Prince Rothak. He grabbed a dagger angrily from his belt and slammed it down on the table.

How could she do this? He lost his composure and collapsed into the chair, sliding his fingers over the edge of the dagger. He had loved her so much. He looked at the crumpled ball of paper on the other side of the room, the letter...and then thought of the other letter, the one that had come after it, the one that he had dropped in the river moments after reading it...

The one that tol d him she was to marry Prince Rothak, that theier wedding (which he wasn't invited too) would be glorious, how he had already built her a house on the far islands of the Petheas Kingdom. How she loved her dear, wonderful, puffed-up, vain, ignorant Prince so much...

Link ran his hand through his hair, pulled on his cloak, and walked quickly from the room. The bright lights and noises of the barroom greeted him as he descended the stairs.