The scent of fallen leaves hung heavy in the air, as the cool breezes of autumn swept through the castle town. The annual harvest festival was in full swing, and a bumper crop had produced pumpkins the size of pigs as well as enough grain to feed the entire town for three winters worth of snowstorms. Children wove between booths offering fresh buttered corn, cider, and the chance to take home a little prize to that special someone. Hawkers from the far corners of the country bartered with their customers and called out their wares, inviting everyone to see what surely was the best deal in Hyrule.
But a pall had been cast over the prosperity and festivities, and old people who had seen darker times now nearly out of memory spoke of troubles to come. Many looked anxiously up at the castle gates, praying they would not see the inevitable black banners.
The Queen of Hyrule was dying.
She had been ill for several months, but recently the Queen Zelda's health had taken a turn for the worse. She lay on her deathbed, long white hair spread neatly around her shoulders, and looked with failing eyes upon her two grown sons and daughter, the eldest with his wife and small son. The children were loath to leave their mother alone, ever since two years ago, when the Queen's grandson claimed a strange blue lady had entered the ailing King's bedchamber and given him a kiss of death.
The Queen turned to her eldest, a thin man with soft features and a calm demeanor. "Faroi, it is my wish that you take my place upon the throne once I depart this world. You have shown yourself to be a fair and honest person, and I have no doubt that you will lead Hyrule wisely and well."
Faroi nodded solemly, his young wife squeezing his hand.
"Rinku," she said to her second son, who was the spitting image of Link, right down to the piercing blue eyes, "You have retained your father's gift for fighting and adventure. Doubtless you have learned many things in your wanderings over the lands. I leave it up to you to pass on the skills and knowledge of the Hero."
"I will, Mother," Rinku assured her, his voice trembling but full of resolve.
The Queen turned to her only daughter, a wide-eyed girl with long blonde hair. "Saia, you have been blessed with the Sages' second sight. I leave you with the responsibility of warning your brothers of dark times ahead, which will surely come in your lifetime…as you yourself have seen."
Saia wiped her eyes, speaking softly and gravely. "Of course."
Zelda extended her hand to her grandson Gera, small for his age but with a shock of blonde hair and a strong spirit. He took it, sniffing and wiping his tearing eyes. "Little one, always remember that life holds joy as well as sadness. Even in the darkest of times, light will shine through."
He tugged at her hand. "I will, Grandma."
Zelda nodded at them all. "I wish to try to sleep. Please leave my chambers for now."
They all exchanged anxious glancesr, none of them wanting to leave the Queen alone.
She gestured fretfully toward the door. "Please, leave me. I have not slept well in days."
Reluctantly, they left the room.
Zelda dozed off and slept fitfully, often waking up to adjust her bedcovers or reach for a glass of water on the table by the bed. Finally, she hovered in a light doze, the orange light of the setting sun filtering in through the window.
A gruff voice jarred her back into wakefulness. "By the gods, you've aged terribly."
Zelda looked up to see the semitransparent face of Ganondorf frowning down at her. She smiled wanly. "What a thing to say to a lady on her deathbed."
"Yeah? Here's another. Hurry up and die." His face constricted in frustration. "Do you have any idea what it's like to continually say you're going to die of boredom, only to remember that you're already dead?"
"That bad, was it?"
Ganondorf shrugged and seated himself on a nearby chair. "I'm not sure what was worse, the first years being constantly shadowed by Midna, or the last two when she was preoccupied with Link and wouldn't let me fight with him. I'd been waiting for him to drop dead so I could have something to do, but she hogged him the whole time." He gave Zelda a wicked grin. "She fancies him, you know that, right?"
The room was filled with a blue light and Link's semitransparent ghost appeared. "Putting ideas in Zelda's head, are we?" He crossed the room to her bedside.
"Yes, yes, you love all your friends in different ways," Ganondorf grunted, leaning his chin on his fist. "I hate you both. Can we go now?"
"We have to wait for Midna to guide Zelda back."
Ganondorf rolled his eyes. "I don't know how you can stand that woman, she's such a nag. 'Ganondorf, stop scaring the children. Ganondorf, don't touch that. Ganondorf, if you break this, I'm going to throw you into a nightmare world from which there is no waking.'"
Zelda laughed, then coughed.
The blue light appeared again, and Midna stepped through. She smiled in greeting to Zelda. "It's time to restart the cycle," she said. "Are you ready?"
Zelda nodded. "I am."
"Take my hand."
Zelda raised her shaking arm and grasped Midna's hand. Midna stepped back, and pulled Zelda's soul from its vessel. The body of the late Queen fell back on the pillow, expelling its last breath. Zelda looked back at the lifeless shell. "I did age terribly, didn't I?"
Link put his arm around her. "Are you ready to go? Have you finished everything here? I saw you talking to the children, I think you made good choices…not to mention a great farewell speech."
"Yes, yes, one life ends and another begins." Ganondorf looked eagerly out the window. "Good old boring Hyrule. Past due for a little shakeup, don't you think?"
Zelda walked to the window and looked wistfully outside. "Midna…could I talk a last look outside…just for a few minutes?"
Ganondorf groaned, but Midna nodded "I'll pick you up when you're finished," she said, and disappeared through the blue light.
The three ghosts drifted through the walls down into the courtyard, unnoticed by the celebrating people; Ganondorf snorted indignantly as a small Goron ran right through him. Zelda watched with an imperceptible expression, then turned to Link. "Do you remember, in the Tapestry Room, we tried to break this cycle?"
He nodded. "Having second thoughts?"
"No." Shaking her head, she said, "It's heartrending to watch people be born and die, over and over again, to make friends and then lose them again. But…I want to keep my memories, because I will take the ones which cause me pain if that is the trade-off to keep the ones that bring me joy."
Link sighed, his gaze resting over the landscape beyond the castle walls. "Yes…I was thinking that this was the best life that I lived…because I was aware of who I was, where I had been. It's a blessing, not a curse…now that I can control my memories, and choose how much to remember in the next life. I feel lucky to have been chosen as a Vessel of the Triforce."
Yawning, Ganondorf said, "I just like being immortal. If I can't take over Hyrule in one life, I'll try in the next. Nice to know the universe depends on me to break stuff for its own good."
Link and Zelda both laughed. "You're going to ride that horse into the ground, aren't you?" Link asked.
"Absolutely. Din told me that I could have some real fun in the next life, so she'd better own up to that."
More laughter. "And what will you do if Din doesn't deliver what she promised?" Zelda asked.
He shrugged. "Well, we defeated one god, but I don't think I could count on your help for this one."
Before they could speak, a mournful cry spread like dense fog over the town courtyard. They looked up to see black banners unfurling over the castle walls.
"I think that's our cue to go." Midna appeared suddenly beside them. "A ghost should only wander so long."
They turned away from the castle and the growing knot of mourning people. "On to the next life," said Ganonodorf. "I've got one hundred and seventy-four scenarios to choose from."
Link stared at him. "That many?"
Ganondorf regarded him gravely. "I've had a long time to consider this."
With the crowd turned away from them, Midna extended her hand and a bright blue light blossomed from her palm. It spread in segments, glowing vividly. Without looking back, Midna and the Chosen Three entered the Door to Yomi.
Well, that's the end of the story. Not bad considering it started out as a ZeLink romance and I had to come up with the idea of the cyclical Triforce to get Ganondorf to cooperate with the others.
I'd like to continue the concept of the Chosen Three, since it seems to fit pretty well as an explanation in regards to the series. Now I just have to think of some new adventures...