Aryll gazed up at the seagulls circling from the tiny barred window in her wooden cage, which held two other girls as well as herself. Despite her fear, she felt a small sense of security in the fact that the birds could visit her even in a place like this, the dark fortress where she had been confined for days.
A few days previous, she had sworn she'd heard her brother's voice, but as of yet he had not materialized. Aryll kept faith in her brother. Though he spent most of his time sleeping, as he had been when she found him on his birthday, he had pulled her out of a number of tight spaces before. Nearly as frightening as her current predicament was the night she'd spent adrift on somebody's porch after a hurricane, unable to see where she was amidst the rolling waves. Luckily she'd not gone far; Link had been able to pluck her from the sea's jaws just from one of their canoes.
"And I say they're going to eat us!" Aryll turned her head wearily to see the other two making the same arguments over the same subject they'd raised since coming here. "That's why those monsters have been giving you extra food, you nit. They want to fatten you up! Not that you need it," the well-dressed girl in pink snapped.
"If they were going to do that, they would have eaten one of us already," the pig-nosed girl retorted. "I still say they're going to sell us. That must be how they get all the stuff they have…and for your information, he gave me that necklace and food because he likes me!"
"Well, if that's so, it's because you're ugly enough to be half-goblin yourself," the pink girl sneered. "I bet your mother was a goblin."
"Take it back!" With a screech, the pig-nosed girl launched herself on her tormentor, and the two engaged in a hair-pulling death match. Aryll sighed and turned back to the window.
A shadow from up the stairway outside caught her eye. "Somebody's coming!" she hissed at the other two, who halted in mid-tussle and immediately stood, brushing themselves off. They froze at the sound of heavy footsteps and trembled as a large, dark figure brushed past the window. The three huddled together as the doorknob rattled, shaking in trepidation at what new horror awaited them.
The door opened, and a very strange-looking person stepped in. He did not resemble anyone Aryll had ever seen either living or visiting her small island. He was huge; both in height and in girth, and had olive-tinged skin and flaming red hair, both on the top of his head and in a short beard. He wore dark robes with hanging sleeves, with an odd batik pattern on the back. At first Aryll did not feel him to be very threatening – he looked like a dark knight in a story-book gone to seed – until he turned his eyes toward her. His piercing gaze went right through her, and she felt herself go numb from her head to her toes.
It was the pig-faced girl who spoke first. "Please, sir, don't sell us or eat us. We don't taste very good, and we wouldn't be worth much money." The well-dressed girl looked nervous at this last statement, as if she'd be called upon to prove it wasn't true.
The fat man gave them all a little smirk as he unlocked the door to their little prison and stepped in, the girls skittering to the opposite end like mice. "You won't be sold or eaten…in fact, if none of you are what I'm looking for, you can all go home…"
His hand shot out and grabbed Aryll's wrist tight. She couldn't help but make a little squeak of fear and pain, but all he did was examine the back of the hand holding her. Apparently he expected something to happen, for when nothing did, he grunted in disappointment and let go. Aryll rubbed her wrist as he continued his strange examination with the other two.
"Who are you?" she demanded. "What are you looking for?"
"Me? Nobody important," he said with a thin smile, as if hiding some secret joke. "On the other hand, I am looking for someone important, though she probably doesn't know she is."
The three girls stared at each other, simultaneously deciding that this man was insane. The person he searched for was not here; he sighed in frustration and shook his head.
He turned to go, then stopped and faced Aryll. Stepping over to the window, he motioned toward her to come near him. She did so, reluctantly, fearing what would happen if she didn't. She stiffened as he lifted her roughly and held her facing out the window, swatting at the seagulls. "Away with you, rats with wings!"
"Don't you hurt them!" Aryll felt a surge of confidence upon realizing she would not be harmed. "They're my friends!"
She winced as his incredulous stare bored into her. "Friends?" He laughed, a rich, bitter, mocking laugh. "Fair-weather friends, I suppose. A seagull eats anything it can find, girl. I've seen them feast on the bloated, floating bodies of the drowned."
Aryll couldn't even fathom a mental picture of this. The other two girls looked as if they would be sick.
"Girl, do you recognize that boy down there?" He turned Aryll's attention back to the window.
She couldn't concentrate at first, her mind focusing on recoiling at his touch. But she glanced down at the mishmash of guard lights and platforms, and spotted someone sprinting through one of the open hallways. Waving her hands, she exclaimed, "Link, Link! I'm up here, Link!"
"He's too far away to hear you. Is he a friend of yours?" the fat man asked. "Why is he wearing those clothes?"
"He's my brother! He's wearing the Hero's clothes because he's big now! He's gonna pound you if he finds out you're the one that kidnapped me!"
"Heh!" The mysterious stranger made no move to set the girl down. "Yes, I remember, the inhabitants of one of the islands dress their boys in that outfit when they come of age." He gestured toward a tiny canoe at the very bottom of the enclosure. "Do you recognize that boat?"
She squinted at the little thing in the water. She had never seen anything like it; painted red, with an intricate dragon's head at the bow. "No, it's not Link's boat. I don't think it belongs to anyone back home."
The fat man's eyes sparkled and he gave the girl a malicious little smile. "Well, girl, you think your brother is a Hero, do you? Why don't we see if that's true? If he is, then he can rescue you himself and I won't need to go through the trouble of sending you all back." He set Aryll down and opened the prison door, then locked it behind him, and left the room without a word.
Ganondorf walked a short distance up towards his cabin, then looked back at the tiny boat. From what he had heard from his spies, the boy had somehow found the boat in the middle of the sea, after being flung several hundred yards. Some reported that they had seen the boat talking to the boy. As insane as a conversation with an inanimate object seemed, the possibilities unnerved Ganondorf. The more he progressed in his plans, the more he got an eerie feeling that someone – or something – was watching him, waiting for the right time to make a reverse strike.
He paused and watched the boy make his way up one of the many ladders. Something about the boy's sword seemed strange. He could tell it was different from the previous one. It looked familiar, and yet not the same as the one that burned in his memory.
Entering his cabin, Ganondorf watched from the window, mulling over the strange events of the past few days. Somehow the boy had managed to raise the Tower of the Gods. This was not an easy feat. Three pearls of the Goddesses, set in three statues, could bring up the testing grounds created to identify the new Hero. Several people had managed to raise the Tower over the past several hundred years, but none had succeeded. Until now.
But something was not right. The boy had a guide – Ganondorf felt sure of this. He even had a guess at who that guide might be. But if his guess was correct…why had such a knowledgeable person allowed the boy to continue unprepared?
The jolt of power, which came when the boy had taken the Master Sword and broken the seal, had rushed over him, and he felt the thrill of freedom upon finally being released from his bonds. It was like breathing fresh air after being slowly suffocated in a small, dark room. He could feel the presence of the fabled weapon as it moved throughout the fortress. And yet he could sense that the teeth of the blade were still missing. He and his opposite had played a game of give-and-take over the past several hundred years, and he had found a way to dilute the sword's power. Strangely, though, he was sure that his longtime enemy also knew this. So why send the boy on a fool's mission with a broken sword?
Ganondorf could not understand his adversary's strategy. The boy intended to rescue his sister, but Ganondorf had just proved that the girl was not Zelda. So why in such a hurry to confront him? He couldn't remember ever hearing that the boy had dug up any of the fragments of the Triforce of Courage, either. If his adversary wanted to give the boy an advantage, it seemed that should be the first thing to acquire.
So perhaps the boy was not the next Hero? Then why go through the trouble of raising the Tower of the Gods?
Ganondorf watched the boy fight, a strange feeling of foreboding creeping over him. Some other force was at work, something other than Good and Evil…
Link leaned against the wall, panting, out of breath. Fear more than anything kept him moving. Fear that his sister would not be there when he finally arrived. Fear that she would be somewhere else, or worse, dead. He could not face his grandmother if he returned without her. He could not face any of his friends if he returned only with her body.
He took out his anger on the monsters that attempted to block him from his quest. The sword he now held bit into them much more easily, and it seemed strangely fitted to his hand, as if it were made for him. Yet he wondered what horror awaited him, which required a special sword hidden in the depths of a forgotten castle to defeat it.
Such a strange place, that castle. Stepping into it, he seemed to enter a parallel world of old legends and dreamlands. The same three-triangle seal that his people painted on their doors to ward off evil spirits. The giant statue of the mighty Hero, clad in the same garments he wore now. The intricate room where the sword stood alone, the magnificent stained-glass windows depicting weird and wonderful people he had never seen; but who beckoned to him, claiming he knew them, perhaps from another life. And yet the possibility…the possibility that he had somehow stepped into the forgotten kingdom of old…seemed just too fantastic to be believed…
Slowly, slowly, he made his way up the tower. He silently thanked his guide, the King of Red Lions, for helping him get this far. He wondered if the King's words were really true, that the shadowy man he had glimpsed before being flung into the water really was connected to the legendary evil menace. It didn't seem possible. And in any case, what did Ganon want with his sister?
He opened a door and stumbled into a huge room. Steadying himself after nearly falling on his face, his heart leaped as he heard a familiar squeal of joy.
"Link!" Aryll called from the far side of the room, locked in a wooden prison with two other girls. "Link, I knew you'd come!"
He ran to the door, and hugged his little sister as well as he could through the bars, then turned his attention to the lock. He had a feeling he didn't want to confront the keeper of the keys. Maybe he could hack at the wooden bars with his sword?
"Hey there!" another familiar voice made him spin around, to see Tetra and her pirates behind him.
"How did you get here?" Link demanded. "I just went through hell knocking down every monster in the place!"
She grinned. "Yeah, so we didn't have to. Thanks." Link fumed as she laughed at his face. "Hey, to pay you back, we'll help you bring your sister home at no charge."
Suddenly her eyes widened as she caught sight of the sword on Link's back. She recognized it immediately. How could this boy…could it be…?
"What?" Link demanded, countering her stare.
Just as she began to reply, they all heard a resounding shriek outside. The three girls cowered, and Tetra shook out of her trance. "Link, we can't get them out if that bird's attacking us. I know you've done a lot already…but can you take care of it, at least distract it until we get them safely aboard the ship?"
"Link, be careful!" Aryll shouted as one of the pirates picked her up.
"I will!" Link drew his sword and started up the stairway.
His face and back scored from the bird's claws, Link collapsed in exhaustion after finally defeating the mammoth creature. Strangely, the pathway to the cabin at the top of the fortress opened up, whereas the path back down to Tetra and the ship stayed blocked.
Losing patience, Link wiped blood and sweat out of his eyes and stood, then walked deliberately up the pathway. Evil menace or not, the owner of this crazy place would get a piece of his mind. The madman had thrown him into one mess after another, and the one thing Link wanted now in the world was to just get back home and sleep for a week.
He opened the door to the cabin and stepped inside, sword held at the ready. Someone stood at the opposite end, gazing out the window. The shadowy stranger turned around, revealing a pointed, sinister face…and a rather large gut. "I have been waiting for you, boy," said the stranger. "I am Ganondorf."
Link wondered briefly what this man had to do with Ganon, and why he had the same name with a silly bit at the end. But the tubby man didn't look like much of a threat, so he decided to charge first and ask questions later. He launched himself forward with a yell, and brought the sword down with all his might.
It didn't even scratch him.
As he stood gaping in shock, Ganondorf brought his fist around in an arc and caught Link on the side of the head. Link went sprawling several feet away. "Fool," Ganondorf chided him. "You cannot hurt me with that thing. Don't you see that sword is missing its power? What on earth brought you to face me without it?"
Pain lancing through his body, Link struggled to rise. He frowned at the sword, not understanding. But the King told me this was what I needed…he didn't say anything about missing power…
Ganondorf sighed. "I don't know how you managed to get this far, but it is clear you are not the True Hero." He started forward, reaching toward the fallen boy.
Just as he was about to pick up the child, a whirlwind struck him in the face. Startled, he turned to see a girl dressed in pirates' attire standing protectively in front of the boy. "Keep your dirty hands off him!" she snapped. Turning to the boy, she said, "Link, hurry, get up and run!"
"Stupid girl." Ganondorf snatched up the intruder, who struggled weakly as he held her around the neck. "Do you want to take his place?"
Abruptly he felt a familiar tingling sensation, something he had not felt in many years. He glanced down in consternation to see his Triforce mark glowing faintly. A rush of excitement shot through him as he switched her to the other hand; it burst into light. "At last, I've finally found you!" He shouted in triumph. "Princess Zelda!"
The girl dragged her nails over his wrists. "I…don't know any…Zelda…" she spluttered. "I'm not…any kind…of Princess…"
"No?" He pulled a gold necklace from under her blouse. A small A-shaped pendant hung there, and he could feel the power of the gods emanating from it. "Then why do you have this fragment of the Triforce of Wisdom?"
And why only a fragment? Ganondorf tried to keep the bewilderment out of his voice. Who besides Zelda would have a piece of this relic?
"Don't…know…any…Triforce…" Tetra's face began to turn blue.
"Liar." Ganondorf said smoothly. "Where is the rest of it?"
Before she could answer, a raucous commotion behind him made him whirl round. Two Ruto swept through the windows, picking up the boy and ripping the girl from his hands. Incensed, he turned to follow, but came face-to-face with a flying dragon, preparing to breathe fire.
Just before the flames burst into the cabin, he ripped open a trapdoor in the floor and jumped through. The roar of fire echoed throughout the small passageway as he stumbled down the narrow stairs in the dark.
Finally, once at the bottom of the stairs, he looked out at his smoldering cabin, a feeling of trepidation crawling over him. Somewhere, someone or something is attempting to battle fate, to cheat the very gods. But who, and why…?