The Legend of Zelda: The Return
Author's notes at the end…
"Six months," I tell her.
"It's been six months since the fight at the Temple of Time in Castletown. Six months since I defeated Ganondorf (with considerable help from the others of course). Six months since I freed my father from the curse laid on him by Ganondorf. Six months since Zelda admitted that maybe she felt a bit more for me than she had at first admitted and maybe me dying had put things into perspective for her and maybe, just maybe, she could make an exception to her duty as a princess and ignore what everyone else at court would say and just do what she wanted for once, and what she wanted was me. Even if I wasn't royalty. Even if it meant our relationship could never officially go anywhere. Even if it was terribly selfish of her. She honestly didn't believe me when I told her I was King of the Gerudo." I smirk up at her.
"You should have seen the look on her face when all those Gerudo started bowing to me. It was priceless! I laughed so hard it took three days to get her to talk to me again. You would have been ashamed at all the sucking up I had to do. But it was worth it.
"Best six months of my life. Ever."
She grins down at me and I smirk back up at her. "I know she's not Gerudo, but I think you'd like her anyway. Not that you'd admit it. I'm sure you'd pretend to hate her until the day you died. But you'd like her just the same. Now if only I could convince the rest of the Gerudo . . ." I fold my arms behind my head and lean back against the wall, and continuing my reflections on the last few months.
"So much has happened since Ganondorf died – well . . . as dead as he ever gets anyway." I roll my eyes. "Stupid bastard.
"We took back all of Castletown that same night. The Moblins all knew when Ganondorf went back to the Dark World, and you know what they're like. Moblin's aren't courageous on the best of days, and when we came pouring back out at them from the palace, screaming and cheering and laughing like maniacs, they bolted for all they were worth, trampling each other in their hurry to just get the Hell out. Likewise at Kakariko. The slaves who were freed thanks to Thomas, Bel, Mel, Goron Link and all the others left behind when we went to war didn't take long to recuperate from their daring escape and throw themselves back at their former captors, armed to the teeth and raring to go. By the time we got there to back them up they didn't need us. The Moblins had been ousted and they had already set about rebuilding their homes, same as the Hylians had back at Castletown." I shake my head and grin ruefully. "The next two or three months are a crazy blur of parties, clean-up, celebrations and just general good times, so forgive me if my recollection's a bit fuzzy.
"The first thing we did once the Sheikah Caverns were back in order was have a huge celebration over the return of one Sheikah in particular that they'd all thought long dead (Bruiser cried like a baby, just so you know, and nearly crushed Dad who wasn't exactly trying to be tough about it either. It was too embarrassing to watch. Hunter and I both had to leave. I'm sure you understand). From there we moved up the mountains to Goron City, but by the time we got there they were already knee-deep in festivities, and right at the heart of it all, was Ruto and Acqul, believe it or not. Ruto, having been terribly impressed with Acqul's rescue and other heroics during the war, and under pressure from other political and personal sources, bullied Acqul into marrying her (not that he was hard to talk into it. Poor guy looked kind of dazed through the whole thing, like he couldn't believe it. I don't think he said two words during the whole ceremony). They decided – at Karun's insistence (as was his right as Acqul's best man. I'm pretty sure the move was more political than personal, but I really don't think either of them minded it too much) – to have the reception at Goron City. A gesture of peace and friendship, they said (Acqul told me afterwards that it had been more because the Gorons know how to throw a party. A reception hosted by Zoras would have been more like a tea party than the all-out bash that Karun turned it into. He likes propriety as much as the next Zora, but every now and then an excuse to cut loose is appreciated – by all of us).
"Karun, obviously, survived Dark Link's attack, but only just barely. He's got a nasty limp now that he'll have for the rest of his life, but he just smiles when its pointed out and says that all it is, is an excuse for him to retire from the military and take up life as a teacher. Said he did so well with his first student he really couldn't resist teaching some more. Hunter had grinned from ear to ear, unable to disguise how pleased he was. Neesha and I made so much fun of him for it, it wasn't even funny . . .
"Except that it was."
I pause in my recap and think back. So much happened its hard to keep it all straight.
"Dune has replaced Hunter, now, as the official Sheikan Ambassador to the Gerudo. Hunter, happily offered up the position. Nothing personal about the Gerudo, he assured me and Neesha, he just doesn't like sand. Hates it with a passion. Told me he will officially not be visiting me when I'm at the Fortress, and I'm just going to have to take one for the team and come visit him instead." I grin at her. "I bet you I can get him to come though. Anyway, Rue (who insisted loudly and adamantly upon returning to the desert that she was retired and if anyone came to her again with anything even remotely resembling a job she was going to feed them her scimitars, though it wasn't quite as polite as that) has been appointed (by me. There was no official ceremony or anything like the Sheikah had. I just kind of sprang it on her when she was eating breakfast and then bolted before she could get hold of me to make good on her threats) to the position of Gerudo ambassador to the Sheikah. The job means that she and Dune spend time talking about nothing, fighting over their beliefs (everything from the proper stance to open a battle to the proper method of raising children), and sparring with each other – in much the same way Jinni and Ketari used to. It's close enough to retirement to keep Rue from feeding me her scimitars, and active enough to keep Dune busy and focused, instead of dwelling on Ketari's death. Between Rue's tough love and Thomas's unconditional love, she's recovering quickly and everyone's happy to see it.
"Rue told me personally that she never wanted to see my disobedient, defiant, stubborn backside ever again. She was done with me and my attitude. I was all Nabooru's now and if she caught me sniffing around her door she'd take her sword and put it somewhere very unpleasant. So I've made a point of visiting her every day when I'm at the desert. I missed her only once – once Mum! – and she came ripping after me, dragged me out in the practice yard and beat my ass soundly for my transgressions. I laughed the whole time. It's nice to know you're loved . . . even if it's Gerudo love." I shake my head. "And just so you know, Nabooru's taken it upon herself to oversee my training." I make a face. "Said you'd kill her if you knew how far she'd let me slip and now she's working over time to get me 'up to code.'" I shift my position on the ground so I'm looking up at her from an upside down perspective.
"She feels really, really bad about what happened, back then. About betraying you – though I think that's kind of harsh. Turning her into a proper Gerudo is her way of making up for it, I guess. I know you don't approve of what she did, but wherever you are, I hope you understand why she did it. I've given her official pardon for lying about it, and it would be nice if you could give her an unofficial one." I shrug. "I don't know if you can do that from wherever you are, but I know it would mean a lot to her." I roll my eyes. "And it might make her ease up a bit on my training." I shake my head and bring my thoughts back around to their original subject.
"Thomas took the news of his sister's death as hard as his mother did, but he threw himself into the rebuilding of Kakariko to keep himself from dwelling on it. The stupid Moblins tore down the fence that Sheik, Neesha, Hunter and I built for Anju and he took it upon himself to rebuild it for her – with Bel and Mel's help of course. The twins haven't left his side, apparently, since the escape at Kakariko. They're there to taunt him and irritate him and otherwise comfort him in their own special way. They've also decided to take a liking to Malon and are working overtime trying to corrupt her – a situation that has Hunter working overtime trying to prevent it.
"The Sages have all returned to life as normal (as normal as it ever was for them). Darunia and his son (and his people in general) had a very happy (very loud) reunion. Ruto and Acqul, as I've said, got married. There's talk that King Zora will abdicate now that his daughter's married and is ready for the responsibility of running the kingdom. Everyone rolls their eyes but humors him anyway because, useless as he may be, he's still the King, and Ruto's daddy, and she'd likely throw a fit if anyone did anything else. Impa returned to the Sheikah Caverns and is currently busy trying to get the Sheikah back in order after Detsu's treachery and the war and everything else. There's a backlog of kids who need to take their Quisros, and other little things that need tending to as well. I took Saria back to Kokiri's Forest personally, much to Mido's delight. I've never seen the stupid little squirt that happy. The Kokiri had a party of their own which, while nowhere near as big or exciting as the other parties I'd been to, was cool in its own right. Saria, Navi and I told stories of what had happened and the Kokiri oohed and ahhed and gasped at all the right parts. I even told them the one you told me about the Gerudo and the Sheikah and the Goron – even though I still don't believe she did." I frown at her to emphasize my point. "The whole thing was over by about 9:00 because they're just not used to staying up that late, but it was pretty impressive for a group of perpetual eleven year olds.
"Hunter, Neesha, and I were all named Knights of Hyrule in a huge, elaborate ceremony that involved me having to dress up. AND they wouldn't let me wear my hat. They tried to put Neesha in a dress but not even the combined cajoling, threatening and bullying of Zelda and Malon would make her put on a skirt, and it's not like I was about to tell her too, so they had to settle with her just wearing her ceremonial desert gear and leave it at that. She's not too happy about being called "Lady Neesha" by everyone (or about Hunter and I calling her that all the time just to piss her off) but the way she figures it, we only spend a few weeks at a time in Castletown anyway, so she can deal with it for that long.
"Speaking of which, there was a big battle at first over where, exactly, I was going to live now that this was all over. Bruiser immediately set to work on rebuilding the Archery Shop (bigger and better this time), and he told me if I wanted it my old room was still available. Impa told me I could live in the Sheikan Caverns if I'd like to, since I was, after all, a Sheikah, and that's where Sheikah belonged. Said the rooms that Dad and you and I had lived in way back when hadn't been touched and we could have them back. Darunia offered me a room in Goron City, Mido begged me to come back to the Forest (Saria didn't help), Acqul told me Zora's Domain was open if I ever needed it, and the Gerudo just assumed that I'd be moving back to the desert with them." I look up at her.
"It basically came down to, like it or not, I'm still the King of the Gerudo. More so now, than ever. Of the Gerudo who had chosen Ganondorf, most of them switched over once they realized that he'd been defeated. That meant, to them, that I was the stronger King. Those who remained stubbornly under his name, were executed for treason before I could say anything on the subject. I think they were afraid that I'd forgive them like I had Jinni, so they stepped in and did it, and somehow managed to 'forget' to tell me about it until after the fact." I offer her a pointed look.
"The Gerudo can be as underhanded as the Sheikah sometimes.
"A lot of people were severely unhappy with my choice to take up permanent residence in the desert, until I pointed out that with the Ocarina I can travel to just about anywhere in Hyrule on a whim, so it's not like I'd be shutting myself away in here and never talking to anyone ever. And besides, would they rather me leave the Gerudo to their own devices?" I laugh. "They all looked over at Neesha, who, at the time, was perched on Hunter's chest and pummeling him with her fists because he'd called her 'Lady Neesha' again. They all abruptly decided that perhaps the desert was a good place for me. The last six months haven't exactly been stable, as I've been all over the place for a variety of reasons, but things are starting to settle down into a general routine.
"Bruiser finished rebuilding the Archery shop (with Hunter, me, Neesha and Dad) helping him out. He added an extra room upstairs for Dad – who said he'd help Bruiser out with the shop now that I've more or less moved out – and put bunk beds into my old room for Hunter and I if we're ever there at the same time. Neesha sleeps on the floor because she threw a temper tantrum when Dad tried to make her understand that beds don't mean you're weak and he just gave up trying to make her sleep in one. He's pretty sure he can get her to sleep in one if he keeps at her – said if he could convince you to sleep in a feather bed he could convince anyone, but I think Neesha's a bit more stubborn than he's ready for. He and Bruiser set up a fold-away wall in my room so we'd be at least kind of separated and she could have her own space – not to mention privacy. Not that she cares. She doesn't, and I've been spending too much time at Gerudo fortress lately to notice, so half the time it's Hunter who gets up to shut the wall. Hunter spends half of his time in Castletown helping Bruiser run the shop, and spending time with Malon and Zelda, and Neesha and I if we're in town, and half of his time at the Sheikah Caverns helping out there when he's needed. He just finished up his training actually. He took his Quisros yesterday as a matter of fact. In a gesture of the utmost loyalty, and the utmost defiance, I snuck into the Quisrol before anyone knew I was missing and before he took the test. The way I figured it, he went with me on mine, so tradition be hanged, I was going with him on his. He broke the rules for me, I saw no reason not to return the favor. He was immensely amused to see me waiting by the pedestal for him. Our dads weren't so amused when we came out together – I'm sure you wouldn't have been either. I thought they were going to kill us for sure. But it was worth every shout and threat of bodily harm. We're both considered Sheikan men now, so what are they going to do about it, right?
"I've also heard an unconfirmed rumor from very reliable sources that they're thinking of stationing Hunter at Lon Lon Ranch now that he's a full-fledged member of society. They say it's a well-situated location and he'll be able to keep an eye on all the traffic that passes through Hyrule field. Said they've been meaning to put someone there for a while now. I'm pretty sure it's all bullshit, and more of a reward for his help during the war, but I'm not saying so, and Hunter's not going to complain.
"Malon returned to Lon Lon Ranch with her Dad and Ingo, and enlisted the help of Thomas, Bel, Mel and Hunter when they were done with their own rebuilding projects to help them out rebuilding the ranch. Neesha and I chipped in as well and it didn't take us long to have it looking like new. Ingo spent most of his time telling me how much better for Malon Hunter is than I was, and how much harder a worker he is and how much of a loser I am. I told Ingo bad jokes and doused him in paint by 'accident' and was just generally having a good time. Talon thought it was awesome and that's all that really counts.
"He likes Hunter too, but he says he's not very funny. I tried to explain to him the difference between Hunter's subtle irony, and my own blatant corniness but it was beyond him, so I told him I'd work on Hunter for him and he was happy with that.
"Neesha, of course, has been stuck to me like glue – she's even starting to get used to traveling with my by Ocarina. Dad's taken to calling her Shadow and tells her that if she's going to hang around so much he's just going to have adopt her and start calling her daughter and take her into the ranks of the Sheikah. She just makes faces at him and ignores him. She hasn't quite gotten over her old image of him – as an enemy to her people and the one who made you betray them all, and all the other things that are generally only half-true – but she's trying and I know Dad appreciates it. I think she reminds him of you and that's important to him. He's splitting up his time between a few places as well. He rotates between the desert with me, Castletown with Bruiser, and Kakariko with the other Sheikah – most of his time, of course, is spent with Bruiser and me. Mostly me. At this point anyway. I'm sure at some point we'll get bored of each other, but right now I'm way too caught up in the idea of having a Dad and he's been stuck in the same body as a psychotic demon shade from the Dark World that was trying to kill me for the last fifteen years. You can't really blame either of us.
"Which isn't to say that we get along," I add quickly. "Hardly. Not a day passes when we haven't, at least once, got into a shouting match over something inane which generally degenerates into a fist-fight or wrestling match or something equally stupid. We both accuse each other of being stubborn, pig-headed, and temperamental, and then Navi will rip out of the room screaming for Bruiser (if he's around), who will come running in and tell us we're both stubborn, pig-headed and temperamental, and Hunter will grab me by the neck and drag me out before I can keep going and Neesha will crumple in the corner laughing her ass off." I frown up at her. "I don't know why you liked him. He's a mule-headed, obstinate, old-fashioned (or just old if you prefer) man, with a worse temper than what I've got and we both spend way too much time pushing each other's buttons . . ." A grin flickers across my face.
"And we're loving every minute of it. Even when we fight it's great. Why?
"Because I'm fighting with my dad. It's normal, right? That just what fathers and sons do. Bruiser and Hunter do it all the time, why shouldn't we?
"The way I figure it, I've got a whole adolescence worth of angst and attitude and problems that he wasn't there for, so I'll just dump them all on him now. He knows exactly what I'm doing and reacts accordingly. We've got a lot of lost time to make up for and we're doing our best.
"Best. Dad. Ever.
"He and Hunter sat down and had a talk the other day that they'd been putting off for a while. Neesha and I hovered at the kitchen door eavesdropping. It had come down to Dad apologizing to Hunter for Jinni and Ketari. He said he knew what they'd meant to him and how much that must have hurt and explained that had he been able to do anything to stop it, he would have. Hunter told him he knew that, and he knew that Dad wasn't Dark Link, and that what happened to Jinni and Ketari wasn't his fault. Then he'd apologized for giving up on Dad and thinking he couldn't be saved, but he said he wouldn't take back telling me to kill him, or his own attempts to kill him. He said given the circumstances he'd done the right thing and he was just really, really happy that he hadn't succeeded and everything had worked out anyway. Dad told him not to worry about it, and that he had done the right thing, and that I was a stupid moron who sometimes needed to be reigned in before I run off half-cocked. Then he asked Hunter to tell him about Jinni and Hunter, haltingly, obliged. They traded Gerudo stories for a while, finding common ground in their lack of understanding of the people who call me King and their conversation quickly picked up and became more animated than it had been. Neesha and I had rolled our eyes at that point and walked away." I grin up at her and shake my head. "I don't think they'll ever adjust to the Gerudo.
"Zelda's getting better at her telepathic stuff," I add almost as an afterthought. "Now that I know about it she can stop trying to hide it and just get down to practicing it. Her range is getting farther and if we're close enough I can tell what she's feeling, whether or not she wants me to." I add with a grin. "Which can come in very hand, believe you me. She's ten times as complicated as Malon ever was, but I'm way too happy at this point to care. It's worth every screaming fit. I've gone through Hell and back for this and I fully intend to enjoy it. Besides," I add, "she needs someone who'll fight with her instead of just agreeing all the time, otherwise she starts to think she's cool.
"It's not all happy though. We lost a lot of people to the war – at Kakariko and at Castletown. Everyone lost someone and it's going to take us a long time to get over it, but we're getting there. One of the first things we did as a united Hyrule was create a monument for them in the courtyard at the Temple of Time. We carved the names of everyone who died onto it. Hunter carved Jinni's and Thomas carved Ketari's, right up at the top. Zelda said it will stand as a reminder of the sacrifices that were made for Hyrule, should we ever forget again."
My reverie is interrupted suddenly by shouting from out in the hallway. Someone's calling my name. I shake my head and pull myself to my feet, crossing my arms and regarding the statue of my mother carefully.
"They're going to think I'm crazy if they catch me in here talking to you," I say with a crooked grin. "I'd better take off before they find me." I offer her a wave and turn towards the door, slipping out into the hallway and walking back towards the voices calling for me.
Maybe I am crazy for talking to a statue like that, but . . . a lot has happened in the last few months and that's the first chance I've had to sit down and recap it for myself. To try and straighten it all out in my head.
Just ahead and down the hallway I can see Neesha jogging towards me, my Dad following along at a slower pace in her wake. Despite the melancholy note my monologue ended on, I can't help but smile.
We sacrificed so much to achieve the hard-earned peace we've had for the last six months, and we're all prepared to sacrifice it again to keep it if we have too, simply because it was worth it.
However long it lasts, it was worth it.
A happy end always is.
Legend of Zelda: The Return – Author's Notes
Sweet merciful crap. Three years and four months later, The Legend of Zelda: The Return has finally reached it's end. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. :-)
I want (naturally) to thank everyone who reviewed and/or e-mailed me with your thoughts and comments on this story, as well as everyone who read it. You guys have a lot of patience to have put up with me for this long, despite often sporadic updates, occasional typos, and cliffhanger after cliffhanger after cliffhanger. I really do appreciate it and I'm happy I hope I've written something that was worth it for you. :-)
Specific thanks go out to:
Ookami and Silka – for their help and the occasional beta-read.
Erin and The Pilot – for their pictures
And probably about a million other people. xSighx I had a longer list but I've left it at work and you guys have waited long enough for this. If I find it again I'll update the chapter. :-)
On the subject of the sequel, yes, I will be writing one and I've decided to go with the LttP rewrite. If you're interested you can keep an eye out for that. :-)
I know there's about a million other things I wanted to say, but it's been a long week, and it's late, and my brain is so out of it right now it's not even funny (well . . . maybe a little funny).
I hope you've all enjoyed this story, and I look forward to writing the next. Thanks again, guys!
UPDATE (March 1, 2004): The Sequel to The Return (The Legend of Zelda: Reconciliation) is now available. The addy is:
Thanks again guys!