Chapter 1: Breaking the Cycle
The unrelenting, ever-turning gears of history had once again come full circle, and the three Triforce bearers had been led together by fate to re-enact a familiar scene yet again. Before a suitable backdrop of a pitch-dark sky and terrible lightning storms, on the top of a high tower overlooking a ruined land, after a long, drawn-out clash that had seemed like hours, the three had just entered the final act of an oft-repeated drama.
Ganon, the self-styled King of Evil, lay bloodied and beaten on the tower floor, his sword broken, his breathing heavy. The Triforce of Power glowed but weakly on his right hand, as though mirroring its owners tenuous connection to life.
Link, the eternally recurring Hero of Hyrule, stood before him, his breathing equally laboured, but the grim satisfaction of victory written over his face. The Blade of Evil's Bane which he had used to strike down Ganon shone brightly, as if in triumph, matched only by the radiance of the Triforce of Courage on his left hand.
Zelda, the Crown Princess of Hyrule, a realm once again devastated by the forces of the evil king, only now approached the two combatants, having supported Link with her impressive array of magic spells from a distance during his fight. A sparkling aura of magical power surrounded her, and the Triforce of Wisdom on her hand shone as bright as Link's.
All of them had been in similar places before, gone through similar motions before, though only Ganon had done so in the flesh; Zelda and Link were but the most recent links in a chain of heroes that inevitably rose up to thwart Ganon's ambition. Link might not even consciously realize this fact, she thought, as his destiny was to be reincarnated without more than vague memories each time evil threatened Hyrule. Zelda, on the other hand, knew her history, and that many of her namesakes throughout the centuries were her witnesses. Surely, Ganon must remember? After all, as far as she could tell, he was still the same Ganon, who more than two-thousand years ago had come from the desert, bearing the name of Ganondorf and the guise of friendship, to bring suffering and ruin to the kingdom of Hyrule for the first time. Since then, he had been killed and resurrected or sealed away and then freed again a score times over, always coming back from the darkest of places to visit again his wrath upon her land, even after that land had sunk to the bottom of the ocean and was risen up again.
Every princess Zelda was prepared – groomed, even – for the task of banishing Ganon back into his prison should he return during her lifetime, and she was no different. She was barely 20 years old, but had known since her early childhood that this day might come, and she was prepared to do what was expected of her.
But before that, she had a once-in-a-lifetime, no, a once-in-a-century opportunity, and she would be a fool to let it go to waste. She approached Ganon, who after his defeat had assumed his original Gerudo form of a dark-skinned, red-haired human of powerful build and regal features. She dropped down to her knees – which seemed to surprise Link, as he let out a wordless gasp – and looked the personification of evil in the face.
"Can you hear me? I have to talk to you," she said, successfully banishing all uncertainty and trembling from her voice.
She was answered by an incredulous stare from the King of Evil. Like Link, he, too, had not anticipated this change in the script. She chose to take that as a yes.
"Why are you doing this? Why do you come back, again and again, when you full well know you cannot succeed? Why do you torment this land so? A thread of blood runs through the tapestry of Hyrule's history, a thread by the name of Ganon."
The former Gerudo king looked at her in defiance and disgust.
"My name is Ganondorf."
Zelda shook her head gravely.
"You forsook your human name the moment you abused the power of the Gods to become a demon, the moment you dedicated your life to sowing destruction and ruin. What is your aim? Should you ever conquer Hyrule for good – what would you do? Sit atop a lonely throne in an empty castle with only the howling wind as your companion, while your monsters ravage the countryside, turning everyone's life into a never-ending nightmare? Is that what you want to be – the king of a dead land, inhabited by corpses and monsters, and, eventually, only by you? A mindless demon empowered by the Gods, surveying the emptiness of your realm that is only matched by the emptiness in your heart?"
"You do not understand."
Ganon used what was left of his strength to pull himself up to one knee, to see eye to eye with the princess. Link, who had watched the scene with growing distrust, immediately leapt in, the Master Sword drawn, but Zelda bade him to stay his hand. In his condition, Ganon was not a danger to her.
"I need not win, not ever," he rasped. "That is not my purpose. Do you not see? I have become an endless nightmare to the Hylians, a demon king whose name is whispered in terror! I am the scourge of Hyrule, the bane of your kingdom, whose inevitable return the people await with the same helpless dread as a flood or an earthquake! That has become my reason to exist. That alone is my purpose."
So he knew. He knew that what he did was futile, that he – as well as them – was merely a puppet dancing to the strings of fate, doomed to repeat the same old performance for the rest of eternity. And he embraced it, for the sake of infamy. How far this king had fallen. She averted her face in disgust.
Zelda let out a sigh, turned back to Ganon and prepared herself to banish him into the Dark Realm that had become his prison so long ago. But before she could do so, the King of Evil looked into her eyes once more, a strangely sentimental cast over his face, and whispered.
"But it wasn't always this way. Once, ages ago... no, it seems like eons... I had a different purpose. A more... noble one, I guess you could call it."
The Princess stalled her spell, her curiosity renewed. Where was the evil one going with this?
"I used to be a king, as no doubt you know. Not a King of Evil, but a steward of people. A king who was, if not beloved, at least trusted and respected by his people. They called themselves the Gerudo."
That much Zelda knew from ancient tomes that recounted the history of her land; unsurpringly, the rise of the Gerudo King was well-documented by scholars, as was the plight of his people.
"But when the Gods set the peoples of Hyrule in their places, they chose to curse the Gerudo by banishing them into a hostile desert, without water, without fertile land, while the Hylians and the other races got their homelands tailor-made for their needs!"
Ganon's whisper grew louder, his failing voice reinforced by his evident anger.
"They lived in hunger and want, an existence that could barely be called life – until I was born. I promised them a better future – and if the only way to this future was to steal and murder, then so be it! The Hylians whose fields we pillaged and whose granaries we robbed called us thieves and worse. They had never known want and starvation, and yet they chose to look down upon us! And you dare ask me why I hate the Hylians, why I wish to see them suffer even today?"
Zelda was not without sympathies, but how could Ganon possibly feel justified in what he did? Why punish the Hylians of today for perceived or real crimes of their ancestors?
"When I first returned from my initial banishment in the Sacred Realm, I rode back into the desert, to lead my people once again. And do you know what I found?"
She could make a reasonable guess.
"None of them had survived. Not one. I rode across the desert for days, visited all the run-down villages, all the secret hiding-places, but all I found were bones picked clean by the vultures and empty homes where only the winds of death dwelt."
"And my people must pay for this?" Zelda had lost her composure and openly shouted at Ganon. „For how long? Do you not think I feel the same pain as you did when I see the death and destruction brought by your monsters? Can you not see that you are doing the very same thing that you just condemned?"
She rose up, unwilling to further lower herself before this self-centred vengeful creature.
"You are blinded by your own self-pity. You are not even fit to be called a demon, you pathetic wretch of a king. You are nothing more than the beast you fight as."
Behind her, Link nodded in agreement and seemed to urge her to finally banish Ganon into the Dark Realm. But the King of Evil would not leave her scathing words unanswered.
"When your people, too, are to be pitied, princess... who, then, shall I blame? Who, then, shall I hate?"
"You said it yourself," she snapped at him. "The Gods placed the Gerudo in the desert. So there you have it. Don't blame the Hylians, blame the Gods."
„I said it... myself?" He paused as if in recollection of his words. „Yes," he finally said. „Yes, I did. The Gods cursed my people! They are the ones to blame!"
Ganon suddenly rose up to his feet, standing taller than Zelda, and she made a surprised step back. Link was at her side immediately, but Ganon did not even heed him. Nor her, for that matter. Something drastic had changed within him, Zelda knew, though she could not possibly foresee the consequences of that change.
"All this time... all these ages, I've punished only the pawns in a greater game... a game played by the Gods! No, the Goddesses! They gave this world shape, they breathed life into it, and so they are responsible for what happened to my people! They must be punished!"
It was as though the King of Evil had never been beaten, so suddenly did life return into him. His Triforce of Power radiated again, and his eyes burned with renewed fury – fury that was not directed at his former enemies. His gaze turned back to Zelda, and in his eyes there was something like... gratitude?
"I salute you, Princess Zelda. It is not by accident that you bear the Triforce of Wisdom. Your words have opened my eyes, and I am blind no longer. In fact, I see more clearly now than ever before in my life. You have..." He cocked his head as though he did not fully believe his own words. "You have my thanks."
This sudden turn of events, while not entirely negative, was more than a little bit unsettling. When she had first decided to speak to Ganon, she had been unsure how he would react, but she had not expected this development.
Ganon spoke further, now with a solemn tone in his voice.
"I swear to you, Princess Zelda, by the one thing that I hold sacred, the memory of the Gerudo tribe, that I shall never again visit harm upon your people. Never again shall I set their lands ablaze with the fires of war, or chill them with the cold touch of death. That I swear, and may the ghosts of my people drag me down into the deepest abyss if I break that oath."
Zelda could not quite believe her ears, but there was a sincerity in his words that could not be denied. She usually knew when someone lied to her – a talent not uncommon in the royal bloodline – and as best as she could tell, Ganon meant what he said.
"I will not insult you by asking for forgiveness. I know that it can never be granted. A day may come when there'll be an opportunity for repentance – but this is not the day. Today, I go again to war – to war with the Gods!"
This is very bad, Zelda thought to herself. Ganons hatred and hunger for vengeance had not ceased to exist, they had simply found a new target. She was unsure what to do, as Ganon had been wholly rejuvenated; she very much doubted that her banishing spell would work on him in an unweakened state. Link, on the other hand, was still very much exhausted, though he did his best not to show it. He had assumed a ready stance halfway between her and Ganon, sword and shield held high, his unlimited courage spurning him to renew the fight, even when there was little hope for victory. But Zelda could not let him do this, and she gently touched his arm and urged him back. Ganon was wholly oblivious to their movements, staring instead up into the night sky with a maniacal fury unmatched by anything he had shown before.
"Can you hear me, Gods," he shouted with a booming voice that surely could be heard all over the kingdom, "up there in your lofty realms, upon your cloudy pillows? Your time is up! I, the Great Ganondorf, will destroy you! I shall rise into the sky and shake the Heavens, and see you plunge down to earth with great delight! I shall blast you to pieces, and scatter the pieces upon the wind, and gather them again to grind them into even smaller pieces, until there is nothing left of you at all! It will be as if you never had existed in the first place, as if this world had never been besmirched by your foul touch!" He lifted up his right fist, and the Triforce mark sent a beam of light into the night sky, piercing the dark clouds. "And I will use your own power to bring you down, the power that you left on this world in your foolish arrogance! It will be your undoing, and the world will be the better for it!"
Zelda half expected the Gods to react to this declaration of war and come down to smite Ganon, but if they had heard his challenge, they did not see fit to heed it with any sign.
Can he really do it? she wondered. Could he truly do such a thing... destroy the Goddesses? And what would be the repercussions for the rest of the world?
Positively exhilarated, Ganon turned his attention back to the two of them.
"I bid you farewell now, my beloved enemies of old. I must prepare for the war against the Gods, for they cannot be taken lightly." He allowed himself a smile, the first time Zelda had ever seen him do that. "And I extend my gratitude to you, Link, the boy – no, the man – whom I could never defeat. Our struggles over the centuries have only made me stronger. If I succeed in the task that lies before me, it will be in no small part thanks to you."
Link did not seem to be particularly pleased with that, nor could he bring himself to say something in return. The righteous hatred he surely held for Ganon – he and all the other Legendary Heroes that hat preceded him – was far too strong to be simply swept aside by a grand promise and a few complimentary words. Zelda, too, stood silent, not out of contempt, but out of disbelief. The King of Evil did not seem to take offence at their silence, though, and performed a slight bow in their direction.
"I would say that we will not meet again – but the three of us are still bound together by the Triforce, and as long as it exists, it will continue to draw us toward each other. When next we meet, may it be under better stars."
Ganon crossed his arms over his chest and was slowly engulfed by an almost tangible darkness. As it covered his face, Zelda saw a look of terrible determination there, and knew without a doubt that he would walk down his path all the way until the end, whatever that might be. Then the darkness dissipated like smoke, and Ganon was gone. The dark clouds up in the sky also withdrew, and light once again shone upon Hyrule, yet Zelda could not feel the joy she ought to have felt.
Link almost immediately dropped to his knees, the exhaustion from his terrible battle against Ganon finally taking its toll. He closed his eyes, took several deep, long breaths, then took a water skin from his belt and emptied it like a man who was about to die of thirst. After that, he simply sat there, saying nothing, merely regaining enough of his strength to be able to stand. Zelda, however, was not so fortunate as to be overcome by physical fatigue. Her mind was focused on Ganon, and the deadly purpose she had seen in his eyes. And the fact that if it had not been for her words, he would by now be imprisoned within the Dark Realm instead of being free, as powerful as ever and set on a path that would surely lead Hyrule and the entire world to ruin.
By the Goddesses, she thought, what have I unleashed? What have I done?