Faithless Path to Roam
by Lady Norbert
A/N: Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the other stories I'm supposed to be finishing. This is actually something I wrote several months ago, and never posted here. I thought it might be interesting to show the darker side of my writing. This is my theory of what happened while Zelda and Ganondorf waited out the weeks in Twilight Princess, between her saving Midna's life and the final confrontation. Italicized lines are Zelda's inner dialogue; bolded lines are Ganondorf's commentary inside her head. Title is from the lyrics to "Numb," by Portishead.
Midna would live.
Midna would live, the Triforce of Wisdom was safe, and the Hero would claim the Master Sword. These three things were each of such vital importance that they overshadowed any regrets Zelda might have had about what she had done.
To save the imp, she had transferred the Triforce into the dying little body. More than the life of the Twilight Princess, this would save the Triforce itself; Zelda was not foolish enough to think she alone could protect it from the might of Ganondorf. The transfer would, if nothing else, keep it from his hands a while longer. With its strength, Midna could go on and guide Link to the sleeping sword in the forest. Then he would save Hyrule, as he was destined to do.
Whether there would be anything left of Hyrule's princess by the time he achieved this, however, remained to be seen.
With the Triforce gone from her, Zelda was bereft of nearly all of her power. It was a noble sacrifice, and one that she'd had no choice but to make, but she'd left herself open to his attacks in the process. She had disappeared before their eyes during the transfer, and could only watch, invisible, from her tower window as they fled the castle. Their escape had come just in time; Ganondorf, perhaps sensing that something had happened concerning the Triforce of Wisdom, had moved swiftly. He'd sent his pawn Zant back to the Twilight Realm and taken up position himself in the castle, barricading it with a magic golden diamond beyond which no creature, mortal or undead, could hope to pass.
She stood at the window of her tower, corporeal again, watching the world. The rain had ceased to fall continuously, with the lifting of Twilight, so at least there was light beyond the barrier. Her people, for the moment, were safe.
Princess Zelda herself, well, that was another matter.
The footsteps on the tower stairs were heavy and harsh, and in spite of herself, she trembled. She had a feeling she knew exactly whose they were. Summoning what courage remained her, she turned to face her captor.
He was impressive to behold; she had to admit that. Far taller than she and broad of shoulder, clad all in leather and armor, his jaw set like iron as he smirked at her.
"Not still hoping for your precious Hero to save you, Princess?" he drawled.
She made no answer, merely looked at him, adopting her most inscrutable expression. His face darkened.
"When your King asks you a question," he said in a deadly quiet voice, "you are expected to answer."
"And if that should come to pass, I will certainly do so," she replied, her own voice misleadingly steady. "But at present, the King my father is still absent from his realm, and has asked no questions."
"Ah, yes. Little regent."
His movements were swift and unexpectedly graceful, for one so large. He crossed the room in four strides and pushed her against the wall, gripping her arms; his gauntlets bit into her flesh. She stared up at him, transfixed by terror.
"It begins," he hissed. Releasing her, he flicked his gaze over her form, still swathed in the black mourning robes she had taken to wearing since the fall of Twilight. "We start with this." Without warning, he seized the folds of the black garment and yanked violently, rending it apart, exposing her courtly dress. "No more hiding -- I will see you." The ruined fabric fluttered lifelessly to the stone floor. Her gloved hands clutched at the wall behind her, as though trying to find an escape.
"Better," he grunted. He snatched one wrist and lifted the arm above her head; it felt like she was manacled. His eyes were on hers, then began to roam slowly downward. Inwardly she recoiled, feeling almost violated simply by the intensity of the stare.
"Small," he mused. "I might break you, when the time comes." His free hand rested almost thoughtfully at her hip, and she twitched involuntarily. "Your beauty is considerable, but your body is not nearly robust enough to fully entice me. No matter; it will do."
Zelda swallowed, heart hammering, and watched him. Was he going to...?
"Stop trembling," he demanded. "I won't take you yet." He released her and took a step back, expression calculating. "I've other plans for the moment, little regent. You'll serve me in ways you can't imagine."
"That I shall never do."
He laughed, harsh. "Oh, my pretty princess...what makes you think you have a choice?" Holding her gaze steadily, he dissolved into Twilight fragments.
At first, she thought he had left, and was preparing to breathe a sigh of relief. Then she felt it -- a prickling sensation in her skin. She touched her face and gasped in horror at the first discovery of a split; she seemed to be cracking along unseen lines. The braids which fell past her face were darkening. Of its own, her hand lowered to her side, and she felt her lips curling into a smile that was not her own.
And here we are, said his voice in her mind, taunting. How cozy this is. What good friends we shall be.
Where is it...where IS it? he demanded, and she knew he was sensing the loss of her Triforce. Why, you deceptive little wench, where have you hidden it? That's more than I expected from you, Princess. I applaud your cleverness...Wisdom's scion, indeed. You are more like me than I ever imagined.
I am nothing like you.
No? Let's see.
She was walking, then, and not under her own power. There was a mirror in one corner, over which she had thrown a spare bedsheet; she had no desire to use it. As she watched, her arm reached out and pulled the sheet away, revealing the glass...and the reflection. Zelda stared.
Her skin was a pale, sickly color, and sliced open along a thousand Twilit crackles, as though she were a porcelain doll breaking into pieces. The eyes that looked back at her were yellow, rather than their usual midnight blue. Her soft brown hair had glossed over black, and even the ornamentations of her gown had changed their color. If Ganondorf and Zelda had conceived a daughter together, this might well be how she would look; she was Zelda still, but corrupted by Twilight and Power mixed.
Not so different now, are we?
The body turned from side to side, gloved hands sliding over her curves in an almost exploratory fashion. Hm. You please me better than I first thought.
Stop it. Stop it.
In the mirror, Zelda's reflection laughed at her; the sound was shrill and cold. Stop me if you can, he challenged. She looked down at her gloved hands; one was beginning to strip the other, peeling back the long ornate bolts of silk to expose tapered fingers. The hand, now bared, drifted to her hip, then glided along the length of her thigh; she could feel the satin skirt rustling.
Suppose we go to bed like this...it would be interesting to see how long you could resist me. She hated to do it, but she reluctantly added, Please.
The laugh was heard again. Well, since you asked so nicely...I'll leave it go. For now.
The days melted together; she lost count of them. He didn't possess her constantly, which made her wonder if it was a drain on his Power. When he did leave her, he enchanted her into stillness, and though she could hear and sense all that happened around her, she was immobile and unable to participate. Even speaking was forbidden by this magic.
It wasn't as if she had anyone to speak to, anyway. Eventually he would come back from wherever he went, and take hold of her again.
Your Hero has accomplished much, he remarked idly. I give him full credit for Courage -- he serves Farore well.Isn't it? I don't mind. It's going to be that much sweeter in the end. Think of it...he will come so close to ultimate victory. He might even defeat Zant, temporarily. So close to winning that he can practically taste it. And then, at the end, it all gets taken away. I've decided that you will watch him die, Princess. He'll survive long enough to be in your presence once more.
High praise from you.
She chose not to respond, but inside her mind as he was, he could see well enough what she thought. He chuckled.
You amuse me, Zelda. You cling to hope as tenaciously as you cling to your precious virtue. I can't decide which one will be the more satisfying to take. Which will bring me greater pleasure, do you think? Breaking your maidenhead, or breaking your heart?I suppose I'll find out before too much longer. He's found one of the Mirror fragments; he'll eventually be entering the Twilight Realm. Then it will be only a matter of time. Oh, he'll come for you, Zelda...never fear.
You'll do neither.
Do you hate me? he asked her once.
What? Why? I merely wondered if you were capable of that much feeling. You're very cold, you know. Much too cold for one so young. It pained her to be this honest to him, but Zelda never was proficient at falsehood.
I don't know what I feel for you.
You probably should, he admitted. Though I imagine you hate yourself more.Think about it, Princess. Everything that's happened is really your own fault. His voice was mockingly sympathetic. You were too weak to defend your kingdom from Zant, and he just walked in and took it from you without a struggle. You practically crowned him with your own hands. You opened yourself to me the very moment you put the Triforce of Wisdom into another vessel -- and I'll find it, you may be sure. Even with the Triforce, you were no match for my minion, but without it? You're nothing at all.It's too easy. You've provided me with no challenge whatsoever; you're not nearly the Zelda your distant grandmother was. But you'll serve a purpose yet, so I want you alive.
What are you...
Kill me then. Why waste time with me?
At times, his tone was menacing, pitched low with bloodlust. In other moments, he was merely conversational.
I think the altar, he mused one afternoon, seating her body in the throne on the dais. Overhead, the dulled Triforce was held aloft in the arms of three broken marble Goddesses. It will please me to see his blood stain this sapphire carpeting. And the throne will be mine; I think I shall take you in it, the first time. Rather symbolic, wouldn't you agree?
She found that if even she didn't answer him, he continued speaking to her as if she had. Well, yes, it is rather lacking in romance. But that's sort of the point.It's one of the reasons. Hardly the most important.I enjoy that little thrill of fear which passes through your loins when I mention it.So eager to have a man in your bed, little regent? Almost lazily he pulled off one of her gloves, lifting the hand and teasing the fingers in her mouth. She cringed, in her mind, as he tongued languidly over her fingertips. Patience, Princess. Your time will come.
Is this the only reason I'm still alive? For you to ravage in the vicinity of the Hero's corpse?
It's the one on which you seem to fixate.
Why wait, then?
He dropped the hand and stood, stretching lightly before running her hands down her sides. You are a paradox.This is pleasurable in ways I never imagined. When I touch you, your body recoils -- and at the same time, it responds. I can feel your conflict, Zelda. Your mind screams that you do not want this, but your body has a different opinion. How very intriguing.
What do you mean?
She thought she might be ill. At least, if he would allow her to be.
"Do you look forward to seeing the Hero, Princess?"
Ganondorf was not possessing her at the moment, but standing before her. He looked through one of the great glass windows, hands clasped behind his back. Her unresponsive body was seated in a nearby chair, listening but unable to answer.
"Oh, you don't have to deny it," he remarked carelessly, as though she had offered some vehement protest. "I can only imagine you're curious. You've never seen him, have you, except in his bestial form? My information tells me he's quite the comely youth. Rugged and strong, with enormous blue eyes. No doubt you'll swoon." His tone was droll. "I wouldn't get any ideas."
Silence reigned for a few seconds. "Why not?" he asked, pretending to repeat a question she had not asked. "Well, he'll be dead before you can succumb to his embrace, for one thing. But you need to remember something -- just in case." He turned around, his eyes hard as he stared a challenge at her. "Heroes are wily; it would be arrogant of me to assume complete victory before I have it. So if by some chance he survives, Princess...he is never going to want you. No one will. Remember that." He swept across the room, one hand tangling into her hair and drawing her head back, forcing her to look up at him. "Because I had you first. You've been consumed by darkness, little regent. No creature of light will want you again."
As abruptly as he had grabbed her, he released her again. "You should be grateful that I do."
Zelda wondered, at moments when she had her mind to herself, how Link was faring. Ganondorf had mentioned the Mirror shards, which meant that he must have regained his human form and acquired the Blade of Evil's Bane. It was an encouraging thought and, at times, the only hope she had.
She rarely responded to Ganondorf anymore, when he spoke inside her head. It didn't seem to matter to him very much whether she talked or not; he knew that she had no way to avoid listening to him, and that was all he really needed.
Corrupted beauty, he remarked one day, forcing her to look in the mirror again. You're almost too vile for even me to touch. Almost, he added, one hand trailing slowly down the front of her gown's velvet bodice.
Why are you doing this? It was her own thought, her own inner voice, but even she was stunned by how tired and defeated it sounded.
Revenge. Do you know how many millennia I was imprisoned beyond that seal? What I do to you is no worse than what the sages did to me, all those lifetimes ago. He paced her around the room, fingers lacing and unlacing almost thoughtfully. Your noble ancestress commanded the other six sages to help her lock me away where I could no longer feel the sun, taste the rain, smell the air. It was worse than the desert. But I told her, even as the seal was brought into place, that the day would come when I would escape, and her descendants would pay for what she had done to me. He stopped in front of the mirror again, glaring at the reflection with her own yellow eyes.
Are you waiting for me to say that I'm sorry, Princess? That I regret making you suffer for your distant grandmother's actions? I don't. One Zelda is as repellent as another, and you are alike enough in face and form that it makes little difference to me.
Zelda felt the fingers of her right hand curl into a slender fist. Without warning, the arm pulled back and launched itself forward, crashing into the reflection of her face. The glass shattered, the pieces dropping to the stone floor in a cascade of silver and blood. Tiny fragments clung to the red-stained glove.
"It never mattered to me which one of you I broke," said her own voice.
To her surprise, he then proceeded to clean and tend the wounds he had inflicted on her hand. I don't want you broken yet. Not completely. You're weary, little regent, I exhaust you. But I want you aware of what happens. Well enough to serve me, not strong enough to fight me.
She was seated on the throne, still and silent, when Ganondorf stormed into the room. His cape swirled behind him, and his jaw was set.
"Your Hero comes," he told her. His tone was peculiar, a mix of triumph and disgust. "The little imp has removed the barrier on the castle; they'll be here shortly. Are you ready for your surprise?"
He reached down and pulled her roughly to her feet, eyes on her face. "You...will kill him." He smirked, reading the horror in her eyes, which alone retained any sort of expression. "I'll inhabit you one last time. If he faces me, he...might kill me. But how could he bring himself to kill the Princess he serves so devotedly? I know much about Heroes and Princesses. They have never once turned against each other, until now. It will be a thing of wonder to behold, Zelda...he kills you or you kill him." He brought his face very close to hers. "Personally, I hope you kill him. You know what will follow. But if he kills you...well...I shan't weep for you, Princess. I'll stand on your grave and laugh. Either way, your failure will be complete."
He released her, only to lift her with his Power. Her body rose far above the floor, levitating inside the ruined statue of the Triforce, as though she were its missing central component. Several feet below, she heard him chuckling as he seated himself.
"Here comes your knight in shining armor, Princess."
The battle was painful. Rapier in hand, Ganondorf forced Zelda to fire balls of pure malevolent magic at Link, who could but counter them by knocking them back at her with his sword. Sometimes they would strike her, and the screams of agony which erupted from her body belonged to both of them.
She didn't care. She hoped she would die rather than be responsible for his death. Forgive me...Link, forgive me... Silence!Your death will not be mine. And remember this, Princess, never forget this -- you can't escape me. There was a pause in his diatribe as they both howled in pain. No matter...what you do! Even if you live...even if he lives...I'll always be there! He'll never look at you without seeing me...you'll never look at yourself without remembering...even if I die, I own you forever!
He's going to kill you. He'll kill me and in so doing, kill you.
Zelda regained consciousness some while later, and found herself seated on the throne with Link and Midna peering at her anxiously. For the first time in weeks, she could move under her own power, and was alone inside her own mind. She smiled at them, and they smiled back, looking relieved. They didn't seem to hate her, didn't seem to find the sight of her disgusting. And there was no time to contemplate such matters; the battle was still far from over, and there was fighting yet to be done.
With her last effort before her own apparent death, Midna transported Link and Zelda to the expanse of Hyrule Field, from which vantage point they witnessed the destruction of Hyrule Castle. There was no time even to weep for those who were undoubtedly slaughtered in the building's collapse; Ganondorf and an army of shadows were bearing down upon them, Midna's headdress crumbled in the monster's hand like a trophy of war.
Desperate to save Link, if not her kingdom outright, she lowered her head and raised her hands in supplication. Even as she begged for aid from the Light Spirits, even as that aid was sent and pulled them from the field of battle, the realization swept over her. It was for this very reason that she was held a prisoner in her own mind for so many weeks; had she been allowed to move and speak during the times she was not possessed, Ganondorf had feared she would reach out to the Goddesses for help. Nayru would not easily abandon her acolyte, and he could not be certain that Din would assist him, so Zelda must be kept silent. Freed of his influence, she rushed to her faith, and found it not unrewarded.
Armed by the divinities with Light Arrows, Zelda rode pillion on Link's mare Epona, racing across Hyrule Field in pursuit of Ganondorf. Her aim was true, even after weeks of being unable to practice with her bow, and little by little she weakened him until Link was able to knock him from his nightmare steed. She and Epona were barred from the final confrontation, the combatants ringed as they were with an impassable barrier of gold, and the air hummed with conflicting magic as the two mighty blades clashed again and again until at last, the Master Sword impaled Ganondorf to the ground.
She left the horse and ran to Link, the wall of enchantment lifting as she approached, and they watched their dying nemesis struggle to his feet. In vain he cursed them; the Triforce emblem faded from his thick fist. Din at last was retracting her blessings. Even in death he stood, and in spite of herself, Zelda lowered her head to offer a prayer. She prayed her thanksgiving, and her regret, and her pleas for forgiveness.
As it turned out, Midna had not only survived her confrontation with Ganondorf, but his death had at last lifted the curse which bound her in an imp's body, and with the restored Mirror of Twilight she returned to her own realm to once again govern as Princess. Zelda's attention turned to Hyrule; there were dead to bury, treaties to restore, ruined landscapes to rebuild. How the castle was ever going to be returned to what it was eluded her, but she supposed that generations of taxpayers would probably curse her name.
She kept as busy as she could, because it kept his voice out of her mind. She dreaded the moments when she was alone, in the temporary royal residence established in Castle Town, and she would hear anew those threats and insinuations. She washed as often as her conscience would allow, but never felt truly clean. She felt tainted, soiled, violated even without his ever having fulfilled the promise of violation. To have been taken by the force of his lust would have been less demeaning than what she had endured at his hands.
You'll never look at yourself without remembering...even if I die, I own you forever!
It was true, in its way; she avoided mirrors and pools of still water, fearful that she would see yellow eyes or Twilit scars. Her mind was her own, but it would never be the same for having glimpsed his. In some small way, she honestly thought she understood Ganondorf as a result of that odd union. They had both been imprisoned, though he was by no means innocent of the crimes for which he was jailed, and she could appreciate the desire he must have felt for vengeance. She envied Link for having been the one to impart the killing blow -- and she was horrified by the realization that she wanted to have done it herself. Before the fall of Twilight, Zelda would never have wanted to be an executioner, but now...
Once only did she attempt to speak of the matter. She called Link to a private meeting, ostensibly to thank him for his service, but in reality to apologize for trying to kill him. He seemed puzzled by the apology.
"It wasn't your fault, Princess. I mean...it wasn't you."
She knew he didn't understand. How could he? For all his travails, Link seemed to be much as he had been before the fighting started; a little older, much stronger, probably at least a touch wiser, and maybe just a shade sadder. But still Link. She, on the other hand, might never be Zelda again. Not when she was part Ganondorf, and she feared that just one time in his life, the King of Lies had spoken the truth -- that she really would never be completely free of him. He had touched her mind and her soul and left her tarnished by the contact.
Why did you leave me alive? she wanted to ask, but she could not. She simply could not do that to the Hero. Instead she thanked him, praised him, adorned him with the royal crest and promised him a knighthood as soon as her surviving councilors could make the arrangements. He knelt in deference to her, swore his fealty, gazed up at her with the devoted eyes of subject looking upon sovereign. He was hale and handsome, and he seemed to represent, at that moment, all that she could never have. Or be.
Consumed by darkness, little regent.
She watched from the shadows as he rode away.