When I returned to this world I had desire only for vengeance.
I had been banished to a realm of eternal twilight, a prison crudely fashioned by people who had never lived there. The Twili resented the criminals of Hyrule and their descendants, who had come to rule the country. It did not take me long to find one who had been cast from the throne in favor of an outsider. Truth be told, she was a better ruler, but a wise leader does not listen to promises from suspicious strangers.
I loaned my power to Zant, the comic fool, who wielded it like one who has never had any. With the cursed relic feeding on his brain instead of mine, I could finally plan my return to the land I desired, cherished, and nearly destroyed. I ordered him to invade the home of my executioners while I created a host for my wandering spirit, forcefully torn from my body when sent to that land of half-light.
I did not notice at first how much the land had changed. My mind had been tainted by madness, which blurred the images of the past. But the face of the woman whom I dethroned was all too familiar, though much older than what I remembered. I searched for her partner, the boy hero, but for some reason could find no sign of him.
After securing the castle and main provinces, I started off toward the land where I was raised. I was not at all prepared for the terrible shock I would endure in the desert. For a great distance I came across no sign of my people. I thought perhaps they were hiding, waiting for my return. Then I spotted the temple.
Or what was left of it. In the place of the Spirit Temple, the Gerudo's holiest shrine, stood a brutal building of unquestionably Hylian architecture. As I walked its halls I could see the bones of hapless prisoners, some still bound to their chains, the bright colors of my peoples' clothing faded and tattered over the corpses.
I ran through those desolate hallways, the dry smell of forgotten death stifling the air, searching for some sign of life. When at last I came to the top of the tower, I recoiled in revulsion as I saw our guardian Goddess surrounded by not only the signs of the accursed Sages who sealed me away, but also the ring of an arena.
It took me a while to find the switch. When I did I wished I had not. The Goddess of the Sands sank down into the earth as if buried alive, and a huge stone slab fell in her place.
The stone where I had been chained when the cursed Sages attempted to defy the gods and slay one of their Chosen Ones. The stone where the rest of my people had been herded like cattle, every last one, to follow me in death.
I rushed back to the castle like a raging thunderstorm, blasting everything in my path, heading at once to the room where the Seventh Sage stayed in exile. The woman who found the accursed boy that cut my life short. The woman who had promised to keep the races represented by the Sages – yes, even mine – in favor and in safety.
With sheer force of will I blasted open the door to her chamber and brought my fist hard against her terrified face, sending her flying against the far wall. "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?!"
She made no move to resist, my hand around her neck holding her up against the wall, but spoke a handful of words that did not register at first. "My grandfather…he did it. He broke my great-grandmother's treaty."
"Great-grandmother?" I let her fall, as the realization crept over me. "Of course…You look just like her, I thought she had merely grown older…how long have I been gone?"
She did not look at me. "A hundred years."
Stunned, I could say nothing more than, "I see…one loses track of time in the Shadow Realm…"
To my astonishment, tears ran down her face, and I could tell they had nothing to do with the marks I had made around her throat. "I am sorry…I know my words mean nothing, but…I bore witness to their suffering, even though I was not there…"
I felt myself flush ever so slightly. She doubtless possessed the same Wisdom as her ancestor, which allowed her to see the horrors I could only imagine. "It is not your fault," I told her. "You did not commit this atrocity. You were not even born…" How could I be so stupid? How could I have not noticed how much time had passed? I had nearly killed quite likely the only person who gave a damn about my people. "Do not blame yourself." I wanted to say more, but felt so disgraced that I could only turn around and leave.
For a week I could not bring myself to enter her room, even to apologize. We Gerudo may be fierce fighters, but we are loath to injure anyone who has not committed any wrong against us, if for no other reason than it creates more enemies. I myself had never directly attacked anyone who did not pose a threat or hide something from me. For even then the friends of the wronged with seek out vengeance; the boy hero first learned of my presence when I cursed his guardian spirit.
Finally I hit upon a solution; I would invite her to dinner, a conciliatory gesture by any means, and send the insane fool up to get her. He was doubtless much less threatening than I.
Still, I was surprised when she actually came down. When she refused to speak, I nudged Zant and he went on a roll. He really is too easy to manipulate. I don't even remember his topic of conversation, but his bizarre way of speaking left both Zelda and me in stitches.
Finally, she seemed a little more relaxed, and I offered to bring her back to her room. She immediately reverted to silence, perhaps thinking I would attempt something unsavory. I had no quarrel with her, but doubted she would believe me if I told her. After a long, uncomfortable silence, I offered, "Starting tomorrow, you have free run of the castle." I took a great risk with this, as it would make things easier for the Third, should he attempt to contact her.
I must admit I didn't see the signs early on. There was a deeper reason for my kindness toward her, but I didn't recognize it for what it was. When I found her up to her neck in a hole she had dug with a pickaxe, trying to escape her prison, the first inklings came to me. So much fire in this woman's spirit, so much like her ancestor, who had learned the ways of the Shekiah to keep her identity secret. Not at all like most Hylian women, who reminded me of cows chewing their cud. It made me wonder if she had any Gerudo blood in her, even though I knew this must be impossible. The fierce glint in her eyes awakened my interest. What a shame the Hylians shut away their strongest female behind locked doors, like a chained tigress.
I fell into a short depression after meeting her this way, for it only reminded me of the people I had lost. I spent the rest of the day drifting off into old memories, letting my mind linger on the lost ones when they had been living warriors.
That night the ghosts of the lost ones invaded my dreams, calling to me from the great beyond. Their faces and voices appeared clearer even than in life. They joked with me, reminisced over old battles, and made requests for food, counsel, and children. You can imagine my surprise when, upon granting a request, the face of the woman changed to Zelda's! I awakened feeling very awkward indeed.
Perhaps I should explain something first, regarding the differences between the two societies. Hylians mate for life and have many, many rules regarding the choice of their mate. They may choose or refuse based on looks, wealth, social status, and other useless criteria. The Gerudo did not have this luxury, and must take whomever they can to ensure that the race does not die out.
Gerudo are very open about their needs in this department, though they tone it down a little when searching among the Hylians for companionship, pleasure, or children. It was every Gerudo woman's right to request any of these things from her King, same as food or counsel, with no embarrassment whatsoever. It was also her right to refuse her King should he make a request, except in special circumstances. A man raised in a race of women learns quickly that some will choose death over being taken by force.
Hylians, on the other hand, did not bring up the subject unless they had found and confirmed their lifelong mate. After that, they could take no other mate unless one of them died. To even suggest it in the presence of a Hylian woman without going through all the proper channels was the rudest of gestures. If I respected Zelda – and I did – I could make no mention of the dream I had.
Wondering if I merely missed female companionship, I disguised myself as a Hylian man and wandered through the town. I met several young women who seemed interested in me, but they either did not know anything about the Gerudo, or described them as useless savages. I felt no desire for them and returned to the castle, even though several invited me home.
I wondered if Zelda sensed my thoughts anyway, for she made herself scarce. Finally, I came across her in one of the libraries, engrossed in a book. It must have been interesting reading, for she did not look up when I entered the room. I simply watched her a while, finally realizing I needed to snap back to attention when my gaze traveled to the bosom of her dress.
Oh, you think I am a pervert, do you? Well, answer me this: How many soft, warm things are hardened men allowed to crave? If you saw a battle-scarred warrior cuddling a fluffy puppy, what would you do? Nearly wet yourself laughing, that's what. Besides, few things inspire pure bliss like the valley of a woman's chest.
"Is that one any good?" She jumped a foot in the air at the sound of my voice. Not wanting to scare her any further, but also unwilling to leave, I picked a book at random and sat on the other side of the library. I forced myself not to pay any attention to her, in the hopes that she would relax. But when I finally looked up again, I found her staring at me. "Well? Is the book any good?"
"No, boring." She snapped it shut and stood to leave.
Unsure when I would catch sight of her again, I stood and placed my hand on her shoulder before she could leave. She stiffened. I asked if she would dine with us again, since she seemed to enjoy that, and mentioned that I had become tired of my present company. That at least was not a lie. She gave some vaguely positive answer and left.
I prepared everything far ahead of time, suddenly disinterested in all else. But after sending Zant up again (I figured she was more comfortable with him than with me), he came down alone and stated that she felt unwell. Concerned, I decided to go up myself.
My knock on the door was met with "I told you I wasn't feeling well!" It sounded far too irate for her to be truly sick. Maybe she didn't feel calmer with Zant?
I opened the door. "You are ill?"
She stared at me like I was a bug she had found in the bathroom. "Yes. Would you mind leaving me alone?"
Taken aback, I asked, "Do you need anything?"
"No." With that note of finality, I turned and left.
The dreams returned again that night, and if anything, were even worse! I cursed my mind for always wanting what it couldn't have. Every time I fell back into sleep, such torture! After the third bucket of cold water over my head, I decided to give up on sleeping and stomped down to the courtyard for weapons practice.
The Third is going to come along and take her eventually, I thought to myself. No sense in getting attached. You had best prepare yourself for when that happens, or things will end badly once again.
I took out my frustration on the empty air, for I had no one to spar with. After a couple of hours I felt tired enough that I could continue my business without wasting energy on this obsession. I shouldered my weapon and left the courtyard, but had only gone about halfway down the hall when I heard someone else in there, rifling through the weapons cache.
I crept back very carefully (and slowly…it is hard to be quiet in full metal armor) to find Zelda engaged in her own self-training. The sight of it angered me. Obviously this woman had a lot of potential, but she had only been given the most basic training. If she had been Gerudo, then I would have a sparring partner. Right now she wasted her raw talent on huge sweeps of her sword, expending energy she could use to decimate the simple training dummies in front of her.
With a very silly flourish, she spun around and faced me. I could tell from her expression that she had no idea I was there. As I opened my mouth to greet her, she gave me a look of pure venom and chopped off the dummy's little head.
My blood boiled at this insult. Was this supposed to be a threat? Did she really think she could act so boldly in my presence? Did she know what would happen to her if I considered her an enemy? I kept a lid on my anger and stepped forward. "You are using too much energy," I told her in what I hoped was a friendly voice.
She turned her back on me. A mischievous little idea popped into my head. I placed one hand on her shoulder, the other on her hip, and began instructing as if I were her trainer, nothing more. I could feel her trembling slightly beneath my hands, even though I had made no indication of my irritation. This calmed my ire slightly, but it awakened other things.
After she successfully cleaved the dummy in two, I said, "A good ruler should always know how to defend him or herself, and not leave that to others." Then the pleading voice in the back of my mind overtook common sense. "Otherwise, your enemies could do this."
I wrapped my arms around her, pinning both her arms to her sides. She struggled, kicked and yelled, but there was nothing she could do. I could feel her strain against me, the intoxicating smell of her body clouding my vision. My body temperature rose, along with…well, we'll just say women are lucky in that they have no obvious outward signs of their desires. Not that she could tell from the way I was holding her.
The civilized part of me was still in control, however, so it let that other side give one last cutting remark before I shut it up for good. "I could break you like a stick…I could crush you to death, take you by force. And there is nothing you can do to prevent it." Then I let her fall. "But I won't."
I turned and left before that feral side of me attempted anything else. It took me a couple of hours to calm down afterward. I fell into melancholy once more, for I knew now that as much as I wanted her, it made no difference. She loathed me, despised me, and to even think about approaching her would cause my sisters to rise from their graves in disgust. I resolved to stay away from her.
That resolution lasted perhaps five hours. The Zora Queen sent a messenger stating that she would shut off the water supply if I did not vacate the castle in two days' time. My blood turned to ice; my descent into madness had started the same way. The Zora had threatened me, so I froze them all. And that caused the green country I coveted to turn brown.
I paced the floor of my study, unsure what to do. I was not about to leave; where would I go? My people were gone and I had nothing else. But the Queen would not bargain with me. Nothing I said would make any difference. The only person she would listen to was…
I breezed into Zelda's room in the middle of the night, hoping that the late hour would muddle her wits. No such luck. In fact, she seemed quite amused by my predicament. But when I attempted to explain why I needed her help, her expression changed. "Why do you care?"
"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!" I 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…" I swallowed my words, realizing I had gone much too far. Tapping the scroll, I insisted, "Write her and tell her to call it off."
She gave me one puzzled look before doing as I asked. I took the scroll and left before she could ask any further questions.
I sent the letter off. Exhausted, I tumbled into bed half dressed. Right after I shut my eyes, it seemed, the dreams returned again! Even more realistic this time, I could feel her lips against mine, her hands in my hair. Resigned – for how could a dream hurt me? – I decided to take it wherever it wanted to go. I pulled her under me, murmured her name, and nuzzled the back of her ear. She responded with a VERY LOUD moan in my ear, and with a shock I realized I was awake, with someone else in the room.
"I apologize," I muttered, though I knew not yet what for, conjuring a small light so I could see what was going on. "I was half-asleep, I thought I was dreaming…" Perhaps still dreaming, for there she sat on my bed!
My hand hit something sharp and I flinched slightly. A dagger lay on the nightstand, and I knew it had not been there before. It was not a type I would use, certainly.
She turned her head and raised her arm as if she could not stand the sight of me. . "Go ahead and kill me if you must," she 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."
I don't know how long I stood there stupidly with my mouth open, before I realized that she must be having the same thoughts I did! Such ridiculous irony, I had to laugh. "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?"
I doused the light, and covered myself a little more before re-ignighting it. "Come," I said calmly. "Let us go outside for a few minutes and talk."
I stood on one of the verandahs, surveying the country, hoping I could make my thoughts clear to her, as they still weren't all that clear to me. Motioning toward it with my hand, I 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."
Her question didn't surprise me. I knew the Hylians thought it to be my motive all along. "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." I paused, unsure where to proceed with this. I decided to ask the second hardest question first. "Do you want the Third to take me away?"
"I don't think there is a Third…this time." My heart leaped at her answer.
"Then…as the rightful ruler of this realm…will you allow me to stay?"
She hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
Now for the hardest question. "With you?" Well, perhaps not all of it.
She stared at me, the little fragment not doing either of us any good. "What?"
For the first time in my life, I felt a little frightened. I had no idea how to word this, or how she would take it. She was not waiting for the Third, but that didn't mean she saw me as a suitable mate. "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…" I added hastily. Such a stupid way of putting it!
At least she didn't say no. "I…I'm not sure…"
"You don't need to decide now." I had no need to rush her.
"I can call back the Twilight…give Midna back her kingdom…I never wanted it anyway. I just wanted to return here."
She gave me a genuine smile. "Zant won't be happy."
"Who cares if he's happy?"
She laughed heartily at this. I felt emboldened, finally able to put her at ease on my own.
I placed my hand on her shoulder and bent my head down toward her. To my delight, she did not look away, but rose to meet me.