Author's Note: Forgiveness, please!
I know I promised "no pairings" in my profile, and I know this pairing isn't a big favorite, but…well, let's chalk it up to trying something new, ok? I know I'm gonna get a million "Why were you writing this when you could have updated insert unfinished fic here" messages, so I'll just apologize now.
Also, both are closer in age than they are in the games, otherwise I wouldn't be able to stomach this pairing, either. The first chapter is from Zelda's POV and the second one is the same thing from Ganondorf's, 'cuz I never see that in a fic where he's not being predatory.
Cursed are those who are fated to suffer for their ancestors' mistakes.
I had been named for my great-grandmother, a woman I had never met because she died long before I was born. We Hylians have long lifetimes, especially those of us in the Royal Family; but my great-grandmother Zelda had seen trying times that shortened her life. A king from a bordering province tried to take over our country. She and another defeated him, but did not kill him; instead they banished him to another realm.
They didn't finish their task. So I was left with the remnants of her actions, as well as my grandfather's, which only made things worse.
The assault came out of nowhere. This other realm, which we had used as a dumping-ground for our worst criminals, vomited up the twisted results in the form of great shadow beasts. My tiny army was hopelessly outclassed. When its leader approached my throne, the last part of his conquest, he uttered an edict; submit and live, or fight and die. Not just me, but all the people of Hyrule.
What could I do? Surrender was the only option. I let my sword fall in a gesture of defeat, its metal ring echoing throughout the hall.
Our situation deteriorated further. At first I thought the leader, whose name was Zant, merely wanted to pay us back in a fit of pique, for filling his realm with our unwanteds. Their former leader, Midna, gave me a venomous greeting upon meeting me in secret, for she was the descendant of one of those that had been banished for attempting to steal my country's treasures. Now she didn't even have her pitiful kingdom of shadows.
But the worst part was finally finding out who was behind the coup.
I had never suspected him until he revealed himself to me, just a few days after our castle fell to them. Save for a few brave souls, it had been a bloodless coup, my people and I recognizing the enemy's superior force. So I never expected to see the face of the man who had nearly destroyed this country, who had broken our sacred treasure and still kept one piece for himself.
He could not be mistaken for anyone else. Why? His people were gone, though he did not know it at the time. My grandfather had seen to that.
To this day I can't remember what Ganondorf said to me, sitting casually on my throne as if he were talking about the weather. Something about either staying here or living outside the castle as an exile…and still under his watch. I could not leave my people. I was the only thing they had left.
I ended up moving to a castle tower usually reserved for nobility that has committed a crime against the crown. It sounds foolish, but people are shut up in towers for a very good reason. There's no way down save the stairs, and those were well guarded. I had some skill with a sword, but the guards had both that and thick metal armor. Unless I fancied a suicide mission, I was better off in my little room.
I spent the first few weeks cursing my great-grandmother, and my grandfather. I knew once Ganondorf discovered the defaced Spirit Temple once so revered by his people, he would take out his rage on me, the symbol of the Hylians. In his time, the Arbiter's Grounds had stood in a rocky alcove behind the palace.
But my grandfather – who morphed from a kindly old man to a genocidal maniac as he told me his tale – had declared my great-grandmother's peace deal with the Gerudo as insufferable. The people of the Mad King did not deserve to live, he said, even if one of them had been a Sage that sealed him away. So one day out of the blue, he sent his army to the Gerudo Desert to take as many prisoners as possible, and kill those who refused to come. Once at the Arbiter's Grounds – now standing where the Spirit Temple used to be – they were put through kangaroo courts and sentenced to death. In their last moments, they watched as their Goddess from their homeland sank into the ground, to be replaced by a wall of stone. The army chained them against this and ran them all through – women, children, even babies. In the dank, musty halls of that place, I could hear the echoes of their ghosts, tortured cries that haunted my dreams for many years.
Nothing happened for the first few weeks. But one day, a growing rumble like an oncoming storm rolled up the stairway toward my room. I braced myself for the inevitable.
He burst into my room so forcefully that he knocked the door off its hinges. He ran forward and with a sweep of his hand, struck the side of my head so hard that I stumbled across the room into the opposite wall. Still not finished, he grasped the collar of my dress and thrust me against the wall, shock and pain in his eyes. "What have you done? My people…all of them…they're all gone! I found their bones scattered throughout our sacred temple, defiled beyond recognition! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
I didn't move, keeping my eyes on the fist grinding my throat into the wall. "My grandfather…he did it. He broke my great-grandmother's treaty."
"Great-grandmother?" Ganondorf let go and I slid down the wall to the floor. "Of course…" he muttered to himself. "You look just like her, I thought she had merely grown older…how long have I been gone?"
I spoke to the floor. "A hundred years."
He stayed silent for several minutes. Then, "I see…one loses track of time in the Shadow Realm…"
Tears filled my eyes and ran down my face, as the screams of children forced to watch their mothers murdered before my eyes rang in my ears once more. "I am sorry…I know my words mean nothing, but…I bore witness to their suffering, even though I was not there…"
The edge in his voice softened, with even a little embarrassment creeping in. "It is not your fault," Ganondorf said slowly. "You did not commit this atrocity. You were not even born…" He shuffled uneasily. "Do not blame yourself." He seemed anxious to say more, but swept out of the room without another word.
Perhaps a week later, after the bruises around my neck had faded a bit, I heard a polite knock at my (new) door in the early evening. To my surprise the insane fool, Zant, stood there. "Hello," he said with a beaming expression totally out of place. "I've come to ask if you would join us for dinner."
I didn't know where to begin with this statement. "Who is 'us'?"
He grinned as if it were obvious. "Why, myself and the Great Master, of course."
Looking back, I assumed Ganondorf had sent this idiot because he felt I would find him less threatening. Unfortunately I did not relish the idea of being in the same room as both of them. I wasn't sure I wanted to find out what happened if I declined, though. "Are you sure?" A stupid question, but I wanted to buy time to think.
"Of course. He said, come as you are. No need to worry."
I considered this. I had been in that room for weeks now, and desperately wanted to get out. I doubted 'come as you are' included my cloak, so I left that in the room and followed him down the stairs.
I had hoped that this whole event would take place in one of the main dining halls, the ones with the giant tables where you have to shout to the person on the other end to make yourself heard. No such luck. The crazy King's lap-dog led me out onto a verandah, where a small table had been set for three. Ganondorf already sat there, waiting for us. I took the nearest chair and stared at my plate. Now, the only thing that needs to go wrong is for some kid to show up, asking me for advice on a quest to ruin his life…
"I am happy to see you decided to join us," Ganondorf said stiffly in a voice desperately trying to be friendly. Is this some kind of apology for what he did a week ago?
Zant, for his part, contributed by being Zant. "The Great Master and I were talking the other day," he said, as if anyone else in the country would take the time to speak with either of them. Then he launched into a long narrative of what would have been a very boring conversation, if told by anyone else. But with his spastic voice and verbal gyrations, it wound up being rather funny. Zant didn't seem to notice that Ganondorf was laughing at him, not with him; but maybe he did it just for that purpose. If his Great Master had ordered him to jump off the tower dressed in nothing but a tutu for his amusement, he would have done it.
After the first decent meal in weeks and a bit of humor, I felt slightly better. But then when Zant stood to walk with me back to the tower, Ganondorf waved him away. "I'll escort her."
This I didn't like. I followed slightly behind, keeping as far away from him as I could without making it obvious. Thankfully he didn't press me at all, only uttering one sentence: "Starting tomorrow, you can have free run of the castle."
Two thoughts immediately popped into my head. The first was a sarcastic, "thanks for allowing me to move about my home". The second was ESCAPE.
I don't know why he said, "starting tomorrow". Maybe he assumed I'd immediately go to sleep? In any case, I waited perhaps an hour to make sure he was gone, then opened the door and walked as casually as I could down the steps. None of the dark knights that patrolled the tower gave me more than a glance.
Emboldened, I strode through the hallways toward the far eastern end, carefully listening for Ganondorf's easily recognizable gait. It took every ounce of self-control I had to keep my pace at a leisurely walk, as if I fancied a stroll under the stars in a fit of insomnia.
Nobody confronted me in the courtyard. Not going anywhere, just taking a midnight stroll. Nobody said anything as I walked along the hedges near the far eastern wall. Just wanted to have a look at the night-blooming cereus. In a few minutes I hoped to be just like that flower, completely gone by morning.
I hid in the shadows and watched the guards make their rounds. I squeezed my way through cracks and crannies I'd explored as a child. Finally, finally, I stood on the other end of the eastern wall. Giddy with freedom, I bolted off into the night.
I had not run more than thirty paces when I slammed into something so hard my nose bled. Wiping my face with one hand, I pressed the other against the empty air. Some kind of magical shield, keeping me in and intruders out.
Uttering a sulfurous oath, I walked with my hand against the wall, hoping for a hole or a gate. As far as I could tell it circled the palace. I banged on it a few times out of sheer temper, then ran back to the courtyard with a sudden brainstorm.
He found me up to my shoulders in a hole in the ground, sometime around four in the morning, still trying to find the bottom of the barrier. By this time I was so frustrated all he had to do was follow the swearing. "This is a strange time to be gardening."
I brandished the pickax I had been wielding and told him what he could do with it.
Ganondorf didn't seem angry; in fact he looked slightly amused. Likely he had been watching and laughing at me this entire time. I would have buried the pickax in his head if I had not known very well that it would never find its destination. He invited me to breakfast and I declined, putting more holes in the turf until he left. I skulked back to my room with my tail between my legs and washed up.
Normally, one sort of dark servant or other would bring me food, but I was ravenous after digging holes all night. I stole down to the kitchens and raided the pantries. Chewing in the corner, I reflected on my current situation. I still had no contact with anyone would could possibly be the Third. I wondered what was taking him, and hoped Ganondorf hadn't already taken care of it.
What now? I decided to visit the main library. We had many books on old wars and negotiations. There had to be one in there somewhere about escaping house arrest. I found a thick volume called Nontraditional Warfare, and deciding that it looked promising, sat down to read. Soon I became completely engrossed.
"Is that one any good?" I slammed the book shut in fright and lost my place.
"Don't you have something else to do?" I demanded of Ganondorf, who stood so close to me I couldn't understand why I hadn't heard him come in.
"Not at this moment." He stared at the shelves for a while, selected a thin volume, and sat down in a chair across the room.
I did not want him there. I considered leaving, then decided I might as well watch him so that he couldn't sneak up on me again. For his part, he ignored me completely, not looking up as he flipped the pages. This irritated me for some reason. I turned back to my book, but found it hard to concentrate.
I kept flicking my gaze back toward him, making sure he didn't move. My mind easily got bored of this intense surveillance and started wandering. It settled on the strange hairstyle he had, a thorny crown woven into it even from the beginning, as if he determined himself to be King whether others thought so or not. It was a very severe look, and usually matched his facial expressions quite well, though now he looked relaxed and benign. One would never have guessed he was the bane of my great-grandmother's existence. In fact, he could even be considered handsome…
No. What am I thinking?
I turned back to the book, staring at one word on one page for a good five minutes. I've got to get out of here, I'm starting to go a little crazy. I flipped to a chapter entitled Great Escapes, and didn't notice that I was staring at him again until he raised his head. "Well? Any good?"
Flustered, I shut it and shelved it. "No, boring." I turned to leave.
"There are actually fairly accurate accounts of Gerudo history here. I'm surprised." There was nobody else in the room, so he must have been talking to me. Is he that desperate for a conversation? Well, if the only person he has to talk to is Zant…
"Contrary to what you know about my grandfather, we actually did have good relations with the Gerudo for many years," I ventured. "They were good until my great-great grandfather attempted to unify Hyrule in the Great War."
He nodded. "Your ancestral namesake was a wise woman. Her father, not so much."
The conversation was so wooden, I could have pounded nails into it. But then I didn't see the point. I decided to kill it before it suffered any longer. "Well, I'm going to…leave now."
When I turned to leave, I heard him get up and walk toward me. I froze as he placed his hand on my shoulder. "Will you join us for dinner again? It's rather difficult to have an intelligent conversation with…the usual company."
It was so close to my own sentiment that I smiled ever so briefly. "Maybe…I'm not sure." I wiggled free and left.
Once back in my room, I pulled at my hair. Why didn't I do the obvious and refuse? I didn't really want to stay in here forever, but I didn't feel like another dinner and a show.
Zant knocked at the door and asked if I would be joining them. I still hadn't decided, so I told him I wasn't feeling well. Ten minutes later I heard another knock at the door. What is wrong with this idiot? I didn't feel like seeing his insane face again, so I yelled at the door, "I said I wasn't feeling well!"
The door opened, and Ganondorf entered. "You are ill?"
Not until two seconds ago, I wasn't. "Yes. Would you mind leaving me alone?"
"Do you need anything?"
"No, thank you." Go away.
He nodded once, then left. For some reason I felt bad, then kicked myself for feeling that way. I got into bed and tried to sleep, even though it was early.
I managed to get maybe an hour of sleep. I felt paranoid, constantly on the watch. What is he doing? Does he think that if I spend enough time around him, I'll get used to him? I sneaked down to the kitchens again for breakfast, and spent the rest of the day skulking about the castle. I did not stay in any one place too long, fearful of being caught off guard like I was in the library.
Wondering if I would feel better if I had some kind of weapon on me, I sneaked down to the courtyard where the guards used to practice drills. Obviously anything I found would be taken away, but maybe I could get my hands on a dagger or something I could easily hide. Peeking around the entryway, I saw someone standing between the weapons cache and me. Figures.
Ganondorf stood in the courtyard with a broadsword nearly as tall as I was, practicing his swings and stances. Deciding I could ransack the place once he left without worry of him stumbling upon me – what were the chances he would come back to the same place he had just been? – I stood hidden in the alcove and watched.
Whether practicing or just showing off to nobody in particular, I couldn't tell. The giant metal blade probably weighed more than I did, and he made wide graceful slices through the air with no effort at all. Each stance was perfect, making the guards in their drills look like a crowd of children playing soldier. One swipe of that sword meant instant death…and yet I could not help but be enthralled by his beauty of movement, such raw power artfully controlled and displayed.
Abruptly he stopped, shouldering his giant weapon, and walked toward the entryway to the right of me. I ducked into the shadows and hid behind one of the pillars until he passed by. Once sure he was gone, I bolted for the weapons cache.
Digging through chests, I found just what I was looking for; a very small, thin dagger, large enough to kill but small enough to hide just about anywhere. I hid it – well, let's just say I hid it where nobody had any business putting their hands.
In the courtyard stood straw men, used for practice. Looking around and seeing no one, I picked out a thin one-handed sword and stepped in front of one of them. Doubtless my skills looked pathetic in front of his, but holding some form of protection in my hands made me feel bolder. I practiced a few swings and stances, then made a swipe at the straw man that went wide. Rusty, I thought to myself with a grimace.
I lost all track of time, channeling my nervous adrenaline into practicing my swordsmanship, and gradually working out the kinks in my muscles. Sweat-stained and breathing hard, I continued my assault on the training dummies. After several direct hits, I whirled round with a flourish and stood stunned to see him standing there, watching me.
Too hyper to consider the implications of doing so, I gave him a very direct look, then made a broad swipe across the wooden "head" of the straw man, splitting it in two.
My blood boiled as he gave me a smile usually reserved for children showing off their crayon drawings. "You are using too much energy," he informed me, taking no notice of my scowl.
I turned my back to him as if to ignore him, then froze in place as I felt one hand on my wrist and the other on my hip. "If you lean back further," he said calmly as he gently but firmly guided my hand, "you can build up more force, and release it more naturally. You're wasting a lot of your energy just moving back into place." I moved slowly in a puppet's dance, trying very hard to concentrate on the lesson and not the fact that he stood much, much too close. "Now you try it."
Eager to see if this would actually work, I stepped back and did exactly as he showed me. To my surprise, my sword cut cleanly through the entire straw man and its wooden skeleton.
"A good ruler should always know how to defend him or herself, and not leave that to others," he said genially. "Otherwise, your enemies could do this."
Suddenly broad arms wrapped around me like a constricting snake. I swore like a sailor and struggled, both my arms pinned to my sides and my legs unable to connect to anything. Everything within reach of biting was covered in armor.
"I could break you like a stick," he hissed in my ear, and an involuntary tremor swept through me. "I could crush you to death, take you by force. And there is nothing you can do to prevent it."
Abruptly he let go and I fell to my knees, completely demoralized. "But I won't," he said in his genial voice once more. "I have no interest in doing that…to you, anyway."
I watched as he exited the courtyard. So much for boldness.
I heard a knock at my door when my room was still dark. "Muh?"
The door opened, and Ganondorf stepped in as if entering a daily meeting. "I need you to help me with something."
Wondering if I was dreaming, I sat up clutching the bedsheets and yelled, "It's not even dawn yet! What on earth do you want my help with?"
He set a blank scroll on the little table by my bed. "The Zora Queen has threatened to shut off the water supply to the lake. I need you to talk her out of it."
"Pffft." I must be dreaming. "Having trouble ruling the world, huh? Figure it out yourself."
"But she won't listen to me, and if she doesn't change her mind, the harvest will be even worse than it was last year."
"Yeah, well, you can go ahead and…wait, what?" My eyes narrowed. "Why do you care?"
He just pointed to the scroll. "Last time I didn't take them seriously, and it made a huge mess…do you really want your people to suffer further?"
"Stop acting like it makes any difference to you. I know you attacked the first time because you were angry at my great-great grandfather, and didn't feel he was worthy of ruling…"
"Of course I didn't!" He shouted back. "He was an idiot on a fool's mission! Of course I wanted your country…it was much better than mine! Every day was a struggle for us! Your land was greener, richer…" He abruptly cut off, then tapped the scroll. "Write her and tell her to call it off."
Mystified, I sat down at the chair and inked my quill, scrawling a few words that basically said "go along with him now, we'll come up with a better plan later." He took it almost before I could finish signing my name, and with a nod of thanks, left the room.
I crawled back into the bed and decided to sleep through the day. And sleep I did, though I had the most horrible dreams. Frightening dreams, involving him. And me. I won't explain here what they were about, but I awoke knowing for certain that they did not come from my subconscious. No, that was impossible.
He must have planted them there, somehow, through some dark trick of sorcery. I pondered this as I wandered the halls. He's been working me all this time…attempting to get my guard down, and then…does he think this will earn him acceptance at the throne? I think not…
Everything made sense now. The fact that I couldn't take my eyes off him in the library. Being entranced by his skills in the courtyard. Feeling I had done something wrong when I declined his invitations. Obviously, my mind was being tampered with. And obviously, there was only one way to solve that problem.
I had to kill him.
I pondered over this the entire day. It had to be something subtle; I could not match him in a fight. I doubted he would drink poisoned wine I offered him; I had never offered him so much as a biscuit, and he would be suspicious. That limited my options.
I fingered the dagger I had filched from the weapons cache, and made my decision. I would do it tonight.
Once again I crept through the halls as if for a midnight stroll, but this time with murder on my mind. I gleefully anticipated freeing myself from his grasp, letting the impure thoughts drain from my head as the blood left his body. I knew just where I would strike, on the side of his neck. My entire body tingled at the thought.
The guards at his door did not stop me as I carefully opened his bedroom door. Likely they thought I was there for some other purpose. I wanted to laugh out loud. The room was very dark, even with all the windows open, doubtless a throwback from his years in the desert. There was no moon that night, so I picked my way slowly, carefully toward the bed I could barely see outlined in the night.
He lay there, completely relaxed, completely vulnerable. I raised the dagger with an insane grin, pressing it ever so gently against the vein.
I stood there for several minutes, neither of us moving. I commanded my hand to move, but it would not. Something told me what I was doing was wrong. The images of the ghost children flashed before me. My country had not suffered so much after the bloodless coup…perhaps he honestly wished to care for it? But why? Are these his thoughts or mine?
Slowly, ever so slowly, I moved my hand away from him and set the dagger on the night table. Then I stood for a few minutes more, wondering what I should do next. It's not his country, it's mine. He has no business taking it.
What is his purpose? Those who wronged him are dead and gone.
What should I do?
Here, now, in this brief moment in time, he was no threat to me. I could watch him without any fear of being watched. I could look at him without him staring back, daring me to express my interest. I felt a sudden flush as I reached my hand toward his face, along his hairline. He made no movement as I ran my fingers along his hair, across his cheek, along his jaw. The strange thought that he might be dead struck abruptly, and I leaned down toward his face. I felt a strange sense of relief upon hearing his breathing.
An insane thought cried out in the back of my mind, begging to be heard. My body responded while the logical part of my brain refused, tried to pull back. I bowed my head and pressed my lips against his.
"Mm?" He responded in like kind, and I felt a strange thrill sweep through me. I buried my hands in his hair and kissed him more deeply, unable to pull away.
He rolled over, taking me with him. I tried to protest but could not. When his lips finally left mine I opened my mouth to speak against him, but the words died in my throat when he murmured my name close to my ear. Was this his plan all along? I attempted to move aside, but felt his arms circle me.
"Oh?" A startled expression changed to a moan of pleasure as I felt his face brush against the back of my ear, touching off a wave of strong emotions I didn't know I had. As the last string of my resistance snapped, I wrapped my own arms around him, a shudder of excitement running through me as I felt no armor, no fabric. There is no option but surrender…not to him, but to your own desires…
But just as I had given myself up completely, he abruptly stood, a small flash of light in his hand. "I apologize," he said in a confused, bleary voice. "I was half-asleep, I thought I was dreaming…" He put out his hand to steady himself, bumping up against the dagger. He looked at it, and then at me.
I sat up, one hand thrown up protectively in front of me, averting my eyes. "Go ahead and kill me if you must," I snapped in a strangled voice. "I know all about the thoughts that you put in my head, that brought me here. Do me a favor and end it."
He stared for a moment, completely nonplussed, then burst into laughter. "Thoughts I put in your head? Oh really! I should have thought of that a long time ago!"
"Don't deny it! Do you really think I would have come here on my own?"
He doused the light for a moment, and when it flared up again he wore a night robe. "Come," he said calmly. "Let us go outside for a few minutes and talk."
I had no idea where this was leading, but I didn't want to spend another second in that bedroom. I followed him out.
He stood on one of the verandahs, surveying the country. Motioning toward it with his hand, he said, "I'm really not very good at this…my first attempt ended in failure, and all those who conspired against me are gone. I have no people, and nowhere to go. I came intending to pay back those who had wronged me, but found a very different world in its place."
It was an obvious question, but it had to be asked. "You do not wish to destroy it?"
"No. I never did. I could not control the power that I had taken for myself, and ended up destroying what I cherished in fits of paranoia." He looked at me. "Do you want the Third to take me away?"
I voiced the thought that I had hidden for a long time. "I don't think there is a Third…this time."
"Then…as the rightful ruler of this realm…will you allow me to stay?"
I hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
I stared at him, not sure what to make of this question. "What?"
For once in his life, he seemed uncertain. "I'm not sure how to put this…you're nearly thirty, and you've taken no husband…not that it's any of my business…" he added hastily.
I stood dumbfounded. I thought he already had what he wanted. He didn't need me to get it. "I…I'm not sure…"
"You don't need to decide now."
"I can call back the Twilight…give Midna back her kingdom…I never wanted it anyway. I just wanted to return here."
I smiled in spite of myself. "Zant won't be happy."
"Who cares if he's happy?"
For some reason I found this funnier than it was. He looked pleased, finally happy that he'd gotten me to laugh on his own this time.
He put his hand on my shoulder and bent his head down toward me, and I raised mine to meet him.