Disclaimer: Ganondorf, Nabooru, places/locations © Nintendo. Usiku, Vaho, Umtoh, Osayer, Filfil, Sadik, Farasi © Usiku. All other characters © me. Storyline is mostly my own, parts overlapping with Usiku's stories and Nintendo's storyline for Ocarina of Time.
- PART ONE -
The Gift of Life
Chapter One – The Child
The bright sun slowly began its climb into the vast sky. The rays shone down through the thin line of clouds dotting the heavens. Over the desert, the rainy season had come to an end and provided for the scorching sun to rule once again. As the light became brighter, the shape of stone walls could be made out in the side of a rock settlement. Windows and doors became visible and soon the entire Gerudo Fortress was doused in the familiar rays of the desert sun. Shadows were cast upon the sand and the rock face. From a balcony in the rock side, a single figure stood surveying the Fortress. Long red hair dangled from a pony-tail on her head and bright golden eyes glanced about. The gems across her forehead glimmered in the growing light and her white clothes became bright and almost blinding. Nabooru was well known among the Gerudo as second in command to the Great Ganondorf. Her piercing eyes and rough attitude won her the respect of others and her no-nonsense personality made her a leader in the eyes of her people. One must not only look the part, but play the part. And Nabooru did her job well.
As she surveyed the ground below, she could see the usual bustling movements as the fortress came alive. Everyone was setting to work. Gerudo guards came out bearing their polearms, relieving the previous night's sentinels. A worker was on her way to the stables, preparing to feed and water the horses. To Nabooru's right she could see two Gerudo in cloaks on their way—perhaps—to Hyrule Market for thieving, as was their trade. Some others exited the fortress at the central entrance and began making their way up the slope of the settlement to the Training Grounds.
Everything was going as usual.
Nabooru had turned to go indoors when the sound of hoofbeats in the distance caught her ear. The gate to the Haunted Wasteland was barely visible from her viewpoint in the balcony, but she could tell that the sounds came from that direction. It sounded like a caravan. Quickly, she walked into the fortress and made her way past others and down the hallways to get to the northern entrance. Once she reached it, she pushed past the leather tarp that served as a door and proceeded to the gate. Along the way outside she was joined by her sister, Uganguzi.
Uganguzi was almost identical to her sister in appearance except that her hair was significantly longer and she lacked the amount of jewelry and gems. Of course their personalities differed, yet they were able to get along with each other easily. As they walked towards the gate, Uganguzi spoke. "Who do you think it could be, sister?"
"I haven't a clue," she replied. "Most likely some from the deep desert tribes. Can't imagine why they'd be here though." They had reached the gate as it was lifting for the caravan to enter. Nabooru saw that there were many horses and all the Gerudo mounted wore heavy cloaks. She stepped forward and raised a gloved hand. "In the name of our king, Ganondorf, I bid you welcome, sisters."
The cloaked figure at the lead nodded respectfully and dismounted. She stood before Nabooru and motioned behind her to the others. "We have traveled from a camp deep in the Haunted Wasteland for many long days."
"And what is the purpose for such a long journey?" Nabooru inquired.
"M'lady," the Gerudo said, "We bring a child. She was charged to us as an infant. She is now of five years and ready to be brought back."
The woman nodded. Her facial features reflected long age, yet there was a simple feminine beauty. "Years ago I was commanded to care for this girl and I have done so. She now is in need of your training and your lifestyle."
"What is your name?" Uganguzi asked.
"Your servant is called Shuara. I am but a nurse: one who cares only for the youth of the tribe."
Nabooru spoke up. "And where is this child?"
Shuara turned and motioned. One of the horses walked into view, and mounted atop was a Gerudo and a small child. "She is there. I named her Ashekha and she is quite a darling."
Both Nabooru and Uganguzi's gaze fell upon the girl. Her ears were long and pointed, signifying a Hylian background. Occasionally, the children of the Gerudo would have pointed ears since the race was comprised of females and only one male was born every hundred years. Since the fathers of most Gerudo children were Hylian, the offspring would lack the pointed ears. It was not impossible, but just very rare for a Gerudo child to bear the Hylian ears. Something in Nabooru made her uneasy about that fact. Knitting her brow, she asked, "Who commanded this?"
Shuara looked at Uganguzi then back to Nabooru, her lips wanting to reply but hesitant to do so. Just then, Uganguzi spoke up. "I did. It was a long time ago…" Then she spoke no more, giving her sister the hint that there was more to be said on the matter at a later time.
Nodding, Nabooru turned to look at the little girl. "Very well. We'll take her. She should fit in well enough."
Uganguzi watched intently as the cloaked Gerudo helped the child down from the horse. As she walked forward, she carried with her a small bag. It was probably just clothes and perhaps a few toys. The girl's face seemed bright and fresh in spite of the current situation of deciding her fate. Uganguzi could see now that her little bangs were bleached blonde in contrast to her reddish-brown hair. The girl's gait was a bit clumsy, but that was to be expected for a five-year-old. What caught her attention most and slightly alarmed her was that the child's eyes were a bright sea-green hue. All Gerudo had golden, amber, or brown eyes. Gerudo children had blue eyes as infants, but they changed within the first two years. Something about this girl was different.
"Farewell, sisters," said Shuara. She bent over and lightly kissed Ashekha on the forehead. "And goodbye to you too, my darling." With a final smile to the child, she turned and remounted her horse. "May the goddesses be with you!" she called as she led her horse back towards the gate. In a few moments, the caravan was past the gate and back in the desert. The cranking noises of the wheels could be heard as the gate was lowered back down. The sound of hoofbeats began to die away.
The little girl, Ashekha, looked up at Uganguzi and said, "So where are we going?"
Nabooru answered the question instead. "We're going to get you a room and then introduce you to the king." Then she turned and headed back towards the fortress, signaling the two to follow. They did so and Uganguzi spoke in a hushed voice as they walked.
"Sister, you mustn't tell Ganondorf of my doing."
"Why is that?"
"He's the one who sent for me to kill her!" Her voice was insistent. "I couldn't let that happen. There's no need to kill an infant; you know this!"
Continuing on, Nabooru glanced at her sister and said in a cold tone, "You went against the king's command?"
"Damn right, I did!" Uganguzi paused and fell silent as a worker walked past. Once gone, she continued in a hushed voice so as Ashekha couldn't hear her. "It didn't feel right and I went with my gut instinct."
They came to Uganguzi's room and stopped outside the door. Nabooru faced her sister and sighed quietly. "Alright. I trust you. You're my sister and I know you." She glanced down at Ashekha—who peeked into the room—then back at her sister. "I won't mention it to him. He doesn't take note of the young ones often and we'll say that she is an orphan with potential. He never challenges us on that."
Uganguzi smiled some, relieved.
"But," Nabooru said sternly, "This girl is your responsibility. You saved her, so you raise her. Is that clear?"
"Alright then." She then gave the customary kiss on the cheek in departure and turned a corner at the end of the hallway.
Uganguzi and Ashekha were alone.
Looking down, Uganguzi saw the little girl still peeking into the room. Apparently she didn't see or hear Nabooru leave. Gently, Uganguzi nudged her. "It's okay, kid. Go on in." Ashekha walked inside the room and paused a few paces away from the door. She saw that the room was spacious and nicely decorated. There were tapestries on the walls, a large bed that held many pillows and a fur blanket with a window right above, a small wooden table with a chair, and a little mirror hanging above a large chest. Leaning against the far wall by the bed was a sword. "This is my room," Uganguzi said as she walked over to the chair and sat. "You'll be staying in here with me for awhile until we can get you situated in a room with the girls your age."
Ashekha, seeming not to have heard a single word uttered, set her bag down and walked up to the Gerudo woman. "Are you my mother now?"
Uganguzi blinked, taken by surprise. "Well… yes. In a way… Well, if you want me to be."
"What do you want me to call you?"
Uganguzi was amazed at how the girl was responding to the situation. It was like she wasn't frightened. "Er… Just call me Uganguzi."
"Okay, Uganguzi," Ashekha smiled a little bit and fiddled with the cloak that was still around her.
Feeling comfortable around the child now, Uganguzi smiled also. "And what should I call you?" Her hands gently reached out as she asked the question and they began to unhook the cloak from around the girl's neck. As she pulled the cloak away, the girl replied.
"My name's Ashekha. You can just call me that." Her grin had widened some, proud to be able to announce her own name. With the cloak now gone, Uganguzi could see that Ashekha wore the normal two-piece Gerudo outfit. She also glimpsed pale soft skin and long straight hair. Something about the child made her uneasy. She was supposedly Gerudo, but her ears were pointed, her hair more brown than red, her eyes green, and her skin pale. From all these features, Uganguzi felt that Ashekha was really Hylian. But then why would she be at the fortress? Ganondorf had told her five years ago to take the child away and kill her. Perhaps he knew that she wasn't Gerudo…
"Uganguzi?" Ashekha's voice sounded once again.
"Hmm?" She shoved her thoughts aside and focused once again on the girl.
"Is this my home now?"
"It is indeed, Ashekha."
"And everyone here is my family?"
Uganguzi nodded. "The same way Shuara and her group cared for you is the same way that we will care for you now."
"Okay. So when is breakfast?"
Uganguzi had to chuckle at the sudden topic change. "They should be about ready to serve it now. Let me take you to the dining hall." She rose up out of the chair. Ashekha quickly grabbed hold of her foster mother's hand. The action surprised Uganguzi, but she smiled warmly and held the child's hand in return. Together, they left the room and traveled down many hallways. Along the way they passed other Gerudo and even some of the children. As they came closer to their destination, the smell of food drifted through the air. It was most likely porridge with cinnamon, fruits, and honey rolls. Though the Gerudo resided in the desert, there always seemed to be an abundance of food for them. Little to nothing was able to grow within their homeland, so they would tend to hidden gardens near the edge of their borders to grow some foods. The rest was usually stolen on their weekly raids of the market in Hyrule Castle Town. But that was the Gerudo lifestyle. They were thieves and they did their job well.
As Uganguzi and Ashekha came into the dining hall, they could see that many of the girls were already sitting among the tables with plates of food. The dining hall was large with a high roof. Many of the wooden tables were in the center of the room while a door on the far side led into the kitchen. Ashekha saw that along that same wall where the kitchen was behind, there was a large opening in the wall where you could see into the kitchen. Several Gerudo stood in a line along that part. A woman behind the opening would hand plates and bowls through and the ones in line would take them. Uganguzi led Ashekha that way. Some of the girls and women already sitting down to eat glanced at them as they walked by. Ashekha sensed it and tried to hide somewhat behind Uganguzi. She didn't look quite normal to them and they were curious. But she didn't stay frightened for long. The smell of the food made her feel immensely hungry. Licking her lips, she bounced a little bit with excitement. Uganguzi glanced down at her and grinned. She then looked back up and asked for two plates of porridge and some rolls. Once she took the food, she led Ashekha to a table off to the side. No one was sitting there.
For awhile they remained there, eating. Ashekha ate hungrily, leaving no part of her plate with any trace of food leftover. Uganguzi was just simply amazed at her adopted daughter. Ashekha was unlike any child she'd dealt with before. If she was always this open and fearless, she should do quite well among the Gerudo. It brought a little smile to Uganguzi's lips. For a moment, she just watched the little girl across from her.
"Greetings, sister!" a familiar voice called above the commotion of the dining hall. Uganguzi looked up and saw her sister striding up to her table. "How are you guys settling in so far?"
"So far, so good. She definitely likes the food anyway," Uganguzi chuckled softly.
Nabooru grinned as well, glancing down at Ashekha who was munching quickly on a honey roll. "Well that's always a good sign. Anyway, I came to ask you what you plan to do today as far as the child's concerned. If you're going to be busy, then I need to find someone who can help fill in the gap, you know."
Uganguzi nodded. "Well, I suppose I'll spend the day with Ashekha and get to know her a little better and show her around. Then this evening I'll have a talk with the teachers and see if I can arrange a schedule for her to begin classes."
"Okay, that sounds like a good idea." Nabooru shifted her weight. "Well, there's going to be a major raid today since the new supply comes in for Hyrule Market. I'll find someone to take your place."
"Very well. Inform me of how it turns out." Uganguzi began to stack the plates and cups into one pile.
"You can bet on that, sister." Nabooru winked and then turned to go, waving.
Ashekha hopped up after Uganguzi as she carried the dishes back to the wall opening, giving them to a woman. After that, they both began walking out of the dining hall—which had mostly emptied already. There had been a lot of girls, but not really as many as it seemed. The Gerudo maintained an entire fortress and comprised their own army, but there wasn't really all that many. On average there were about fifty middle-aged women, twenty elders, only about thirty children, and only one male. Out of all the Gerudo, there were around one hundred. As for the tribes that lived out in the desert, there were only small handfuls of them scattered abroad. They rarely ever came to the fortress. For most of the Gerudo women, only one child was born. With a race consisting of females who had to be constantly active, it was very unlikely that a mother would go through the childbearing process a second time. Uganguzi had always wanted her own child but never had the opportunity. For awhile she'd thought that her time would never come. Being among her race's top leaders, she couldn't bother herself with such a task as motherhood. But now—it appeared—her time had indeed come. Walking through the halls with little Ashekha beside her gave her a great feeling of purpose and delight. She knew nothing about the child, but already she felt that she would not be able to give her up again.
That first time had been a nightmare. For a moment, she remembered back to when Ganondorf had given her the infant girl. Hearing him say that she had to kill her was almost inhuman. He'd commanded her to kill before, but a child? It was madness! She had traveled into the desert as commanded, but she couldn't bring herself to follow through with her task. She had reasoned with herself that if she killed the child, there was no way she could ever live with the guilt of it. It was that fateful night that she disobeyed orders and sent the infant with a traveling tribe of the desert. It was the only thing she could do.
Looking down at the small form beside her, Uganguzi vowed to never let anything happen to her daughter. This was most likely her only chance to be a mother and she wasn't going to let it slip away without a fight.
"Where are we going now, Uganguzi?" the little voice sounded.
"I'm going to show you around the fortress. We might go for a ride later too."
The excitement in Ashekha's voice was unmistakable. "On a horse?"
"Yes." Uganguzi had to grin.
"Wow! That'll be fun."
"Yes, it sure will be."
The two continued along the hallway until they came outside. The blazing sun overhead was intense as they first came out. The light reflecting off of the sand caused them to squint. A guard by the door nodded to them in greeting. Uganguzi nodded back and continued on. As they walked along across the grounds, they began to talk. "So what did you do when you were with the desert tribe?"
"I got to play a lot and sleep and eat and we sang a lot too. I even got to help make some of the food too!"
"Well it sure sounds like you did a lot."
"You're going to get to do a lot of stuff here too, you know."
"What kind of stuff, Uganguzi?"
"Well here you'll be taking different classes with the girls your age. Some classes will be about us, the Gerudo. Some classes will be about cooking, and some will be for music."
"I like music!"
"Do you now."
"Uh-huh! I got to sing a lot of songs before. They were fun."
Uganguzi nodded some. They were coming upon the stables. "So you like singing then?"
"Well, we sure do a lot of that here, so you'll have plenty of fun with that."
"Yay!" Ashekha hopped a few times.
Uganguzi laughed quietly. "Well, we're at the stables now, Ashekha."
The little girl looked up as she heard the snort from ahead. She saw a large opening that was well shaded. Inside she could see many horses in their pens. They all snorted and shook their heads, causing their manes to wave in the air. Ashekha grinned widely and ran forward to the entrance where she stopped and just looked around in amazement. "Wow! There's a lot of them!"
Uganguzi came up behind her. "Yes, there sure are. We need a lot of them."
"Horses are so pretty."
"Are we gonna ride one now?"
"Probably not now. There's a raid going on in a few minutes, so we'd better leave as many horses as we can for our sisters. We'll take a ride once they get back, okay?"
"Okay! But what're we gonna do now?" Ashekha turned back and glanced out across the grounds to some guards who paced back and forth along their guard-points with their spears.
"I can take you up to the Training Grounds and show you some of the girls in their weapons class."
"Ooh, that sounds like fun."
"Well let's go then!" Uganguzi took hold of Ashekha's hand and began to walk past the stables to the slope. Ashekha eagerly grasped her foster mother's hand in return and she hopped along beside her, eager to see around the fortress. So far, the day had gone well for the two. It seemed they were getting along and Uganguzi felt quite satisfied to have her own child now. She was eager to learn more about her and was feeling a bond form already. Only time would tell now.