I didn't know why I was still alive-- I couldn't think of any reason why that bird would fool around. I wasn't one of it's little girls that it went after: I was a prisoner from down below, and that probably mattered. I was almost surprised I didn't feel it's beak vice around me as it flapped. Instead, it grabbed me by the scruff of my collar and beat its wings so hard that I felt the yank away from the ground. I don't remember if I screamed or not. I thought I was going to die, so I probably did.
I didn't know where it was going but up, up, up, probably to the absolute top of the huge fortress. When it stopped I could sort of see a wide wooden balcony and a big figure on it, but the huge bird was shaking me so much I couldn't see what was going on.
The figure waved his hand-or something, but then stopped. I tried to look at him, and he was definitely looking at me, and for some reason he dropped his hand and motioned for it to put me down.
I was plopped unceremoniously on the floor, gasping for air like a dying pig. I remember the giant bird giving what may have been a disappointed coo, if it had been maybe a hundredth of it's size. From a throat that big, it was like a loud, low-pitched angry hiss.
The first thing I saw when I propped up was ihim./i He was big. I had never seen such a big man before. Even Gonzo, that weirdo who steered Tetra's ship was not that big, and he was a pretty big man. I didn't even think people came that big-- and not even 'fat' big. I saw 'fat' big with a lot of the merchants that came to outset a lot. No, the man was a whole new kind of big. He wore a great, billowing black robe around a belly that definitely wasn't soft from being lazy. And he towered way, way over my head. If there were three of me it wouldn't have added up to his bigness.
All the way up there, he was dark-skinned: a sort of deep tan color I had never seen before. And his hair was red-- not just the kind of vegetable-orange you sometimes see, but really, really red. Like the color of the sun red.
And his eyes were yellow. And he lived on top of a nasty fortress full of monsters. This wasn't good.
I drew my sword (yes! I hadn't dropped it again!) and looked up at him. He had to be the big boss of everything. But he just looked down at me and laughed. Not really at me, I don't think, but more like at a joke I didn't get at the time.
"Put it away, boy. You can't hope to win," he said dryly, motioning behind me. "You're outmatched."
Oh, right. The big bird was still behind me, silent, watching me with glassy eyes. And the biggest man in I think the world was in front of me. He was kind of right, but I didn't want to listen to him. So I think my mouth just started working instead because I was too scared.
"Who are you?" I asked really quickly. "What do you want? Why did you take Aryll? What is this place? You--"
"All in good time," he replied just as quickly, looking sharply down at me. The bird cawed, the sound screeching even inside the wood of the balcony. That convinced me to put the sword away. It wasn't going to do anything useful, even if I did have a weapon and he didn't have anything. Something in my gut told me that whatever I had wasn't going to work, and that even if it did I wasn't going to stop the giant bird with a little dinky sword.
"Very good. Now, sit."
"But there's no place to--"
And there was. An iron-wrought chair appeared right out of thin air underneath me and I kind of fell into it. I meant to get up again, but somehow he conjured a big table of a kind that didn't exist on Outset island in front of me, so I had to slide the chair out to get up. But it was too heavy to do that, so I was just stuck, sitting in a chair that was probably too big for me.
So I just kind of stared at the huge man, who sat down as if was nothing. He looked at me very hard, nodded his head and muttered, "Port will do," and then just like that a big bottle of wine was in his hand. There wasn't any wooshing or zotting or glowing or smoke at all. It wasn't there and then it just was there.
"Are you some kind of magician?" I asked him kind of weakly.
He took one look at me and instantly began to laugh again. But it was a different laugh, a less bitter one, more honest. He had one of those scary laughs you always hear the bad guys having in fairy tales, but I guess he made it look good.
"Of a sort," he said with a grin. "How old are you, boy?"
I stumbled but nodded blankly and looked across the table at him. "Thirteen, sir." I paused. "My birthday was yesterday."
"Is that so? Not so much port, then," the huge man said and then filled a goblet maybe a third full which he then pushed over to me. "A fine age. A pity the day was punctuated by such misfortune."
He filled his own cup all the way to the top. I didn't know what to think so I just got angry again.
"Hey, wait a minute? What's going on here?!" I tried to stand up. "Where's Aryll? Who are you and what--?"
"I believe I owe you some answers," he said firmly, "But without yelling and screaming like an idiot."
That shut me up.
"My name is Ganondorf," he said simply. "I used to have many titles, but they are all meaningless now. I rule over this fortress."
"And the bird," I added.
"And the bird." he paused. "Drink your wine, boy. It's a good year, and not poisoned."
I gulped and picked up the heavy goblet. I'd never had spirits before-- it was a commodity that Outset couldn't produce itself and because of that only the adults could get it. It took a longer season and more rain to make grapes, and making beer was a waste of space and good grain on Outset. It smelled okay, in a weird smooth, sharp, tangy kind of way. I crossed my eyes like it was medicine and took a sip just to appease him. I was surprised-- it was sweet, not sour, and tasted pretty good actually.
"What do you think?" he asked casually.
"Um, it's okay," I admitted. "I kind of like it."
That sent that wide grinny smile across his face again. He had a weird smile-- sort of like he was hungry but saw something really delicious that someone else had. But it wasn't too bad right then. "Well, back to business. And you're called...?"
"Link, sir." I hid my face in another sip of wine. "I don't have any titles, and I live with my grandmother on Outset island. You took my sister Aryll and I'm here to save her."
There wasn't any point beating around the bush, not when he was serving me wine and had a giant bird staring at my back. He looked interested in this in a dry way.
"And how do you escape a holding cell and make it all the way up there to her?"
"The sneaky way."
He grunted and said nothing more on that. "A pleasure, Link." he then turned his attention to me fully and his smile faded into a serious look. "I would give you a formal apology, Link. It is my fault that your sister, and the others, were taken mistakenly. I have been combing the sea for a particular person, and sadly, that person has a description that can match any number of beautiful girls. It is difficult to locate the individual one that I must find, and that leads to many mistakes that I cannot easily undo. And sadly, it is difficult to put them back to where they came from once they are here."
"Couldn't you just vanish them back to where they came from, if you're a magician?" I asked, a bit confused about that detail.
The man Ganondorf seemed startled by that one comment, but it didn't make him angry at all. In fact, he nodded his head and gave a wisp of breath as if he was hiding a laugh. "Link, it is one thing to vanish a bottle of port-- you only need be concerned about the wine staying inside the bottle and the cork remaining in place when it gets there." He smiled nastily. "A living, breathing person has somewhat more troublesome insides to worry about: another thing entirely."
Ew. That was a gross thing to think about. I washed the acid down my throat with a little more wine.
"Anyhow, my apologies. Perhaps it is a good thing you came along to take her back. She is not the one I need, nor are any of the others with her. It is a waste of space to keep her in that cage. And perhaps a bit unfair when one doesn't understand the situation."
"My servants are monsters," he explained. "A cage, in these halls, is perhaps the safest and most comfortable place that won't be bothered by them."
I rubbed the bruises on my back. I could sort of understand what he was getting at.
"They're not all miscreants, however," he said casually, motioning to my left in a way that I didn't get until I looked at what he was pointing at.
The giant bird was sitting on the balcony, and it was bowing it's head to me, exposing a swath of feathery neck just above it's big metal helmet. As soon as it noticed me paying attention to it, it gave a loud, impatient groaning sound and blink it's big yellow eyes.
"He wants to be scratched," Ganondorf said, a little tiredly. "Stupid bird."
I don't know what kind of look I gave him. This was just too weird. "What? For real?"
"He probably won't bite you in two if he's asking-- go ahead. The overgrown parrot will pester you all day if you don't indulge him."
Just too, too weird. I reached out and put my hand in the feathers underneath the big metal helmet. It took nearly the whole length of my arm to reach it's neck. I petted it a few times and stopped because it was really, really scary. It just puffed out it's neck feathers like the world's biggest parakeet and closed it's eyes happily.
"Dumb bird," Ganondorf muttered. But then he turned back to me and shook his head. "I find that most things people call as foul are merely either easily persuaded to either side, or like the idiot bird, simply want a scratch from the most inopportune people. Not all the wandering monsters in this world are mine, however. In fact, most of them are not... though the ones in this fortress generally do as I say."
He took a deep drink from his goblet of wine and then set it down carefully. "I am sorry for this misunderstanding. I hope you don't take my error personally."
"So you need this girl for some magicianly thing?"
He nodded vaguely at my question. "Yes. Why?"
"And you'll let my sister go?"
"That remains to be seen," he said. "I am trying to contact the girl I am looking for, and even if it seems barbaric, the taking of girls may somehow communicate to her who I am and what I need her for."
"What do you need her for? Maybe I can help."
Ganondorf the magician genuinely looked startled. I didn't know what I'd said-- I thought I was being nice. I wanted to be angry at him, but looking at him right then I sort of... felt bad. Maybe it was the way he looked. He didn't have gray hair and he looked fit enough for such a big guy, but even though his face wasn't wrinkly he looked... old. I don't know what to say.
"And what would you do?" He looked at me very hard. "You don't know what you're getting into."
"Yeah, but that bothers me," I said. "I've never heard of anything like this: you're a real magician. You're not supposed to exist. You're a fairytale. It's weird."
Maybe he didn't know what I meant. I tried again.
"So you need to find this girl, and you keep going through all these other girls to do it. So if maybe I knew why you needed her, I could find her and then you wouldn't have to do this anymore," I made a face; the words sounded dumb. "I mean, this has got to stop either way. Somebody from a bigger island is going to notice sooner or later, not just me."
He considered this, I think, because he didn't say anything for a long time. He only drank his wine and stared off into the distance, frowning, for a drawn-out sad pause. The bird drew it's head back up on top of the overhang and didn't make a sound. For a while, I could hear the wind up there. It was very lonely.
Then, finally he heaved a tired sigh and looked at me. "Boy, what do you know of history?"
I didn't know what he meant. "Well, my grandparent's parents came to Outset Island to--"
"No, not that!" He looked angry for the first time, not simply disdainful. It was only a suggestion of anger, but on his face it was like the shadow of a demon passed over it. "Not your memory. Your history. Events. People. Places. Cycles. The world. What do you know of that? Can you name anybody from over a hundred years ago who was important?"
I thought about this, a thing I really hadn't ever wondered about before. And I know why now, but for some reason I felt a bit sick. I couldn't really. I could think about the name of my great-grandparents, but were they important? Maybe the island's elders, but they didn't really count because nothing they said mattered outside of Outset. What was important?
And I realized that something was very, very wrong about my world. "No," I said, really bewildered. "I can't."
There's a kind of greediness that I think everybody feels, the want to know a secret, the want to know what happens next or what happened before or what will happen now. Everybody wants to know those things, will bug others about them. And suddenly, stronger than any time I had ever gone to Orca or Sturgeon, I wanted to know. I really wanted to know. I didn't know what it was I wanted to know, but there was something there that I just... wanted.
"You're important," I said, suddenly making some connection that I didn't even know I made until I said it. "You're different from everybody else. You're important."
He nodded. "I am, but that's another part to the story," he said in a quiet voice that was actually loud in a deep, dark way. "Link. Do you really want to know the truth? What I say here can never be said to anyone else, not until they're ready to accept it."
It sounded scary. "Yes," I said.
"Then listen to what I have to say, and you can judge if you still feel that you need to help."
And he began
"Hundreds of years ago, there was no ocean covering the world. There was land, what you know as the bottom of the sea, everywhere. There were forests, and there were fields, there were mountains, and there were rivers and lakes and dry plateaus. If you know what those are-- you must. You still have words for them.
This place was the Kingdom of Hyrule. Its name is lost to time now.
There was also a desert, a great empty place with no water and no plants and too much sun and heat, with winds that didn't push ships but brought withering death. I lived there with my sisters-- we were the proud Gerudo people, children of the desert and we were swordworthy beyond compare.
Our desert bordered the great fields of Hyrule, separated by blocking hills and cliffs. I coveted that land, and after the great war of the time I appealed to the king of Hyrule to ask for the use of a portion of his green lands to support my people, for our lives were difficult and at times we were forced to raiding the fruits of others to survive.
But the King didn't want us to have any-- he angered me and I learned that his kingdom was blessed with a sacred power, a golden artifact that blessed his Hylian people and helped his land to prosper. I wanted that relic for myself, to aid my sisters and to punish the cruel people who mistreated my people so.
I was young, then. I made a plan and I put it into action. I got rid of that evil king and took the power, the Triforce for myself. It grants the wish of the holder, you see, and I was going to use it to it's ultimate ends. But the Triforce didn't like what I was about to do and it split into three pieces, representing the three virtues of the Goddesses: Power, Wisdom, and Courage.
But I had gotten rid of the King and his daughter the Princess had fled the kingdom, and there was nobody left to rule it. So I decided to. But nobody liked me, because the way I had taken things was wrong and soon I was seen as a tyrant, and because of that I had to do some tyrant things because they wouldn't listen any other way. And one thing led to another... the world went insane. And I was so angry I didn't even know that I was ruining everything I wished to gain.
Eventually the princess came to defeat me, championing her chosen hero. We were the three pieces of the relic, you see. Power, Wisdom, and Courage. After a series of events, I was cast down from the throne and sealed into a sacred realm of light, never to return and imprisoned by ancient sages until the end of time.
But I escaped before that-- the seal of the sages did not hold, and I came back into the world. I wasn't in my right mind, still insane with power, and with no hero this time and no princess, the weak and misguided Hylians prayed to their new King and their gods to save themselves from my blind wrath.
Their new King was as bad as the first one-- even worse. Instead of waiting for me to realize what I had done, he decided to destroy Hyrule so I could not have it. With an item of great power, he used Deep Magic from the power of the Gods themselves to drown Hyrule in a torrential rain. He led only his chosen sect of people to the tops of mountains, and let the rest perish in the great flood.
Those chosen people were your ancestors, Link.
My people were not so lucky. With his storm from the depths of hell, he murdered them all. When the clouds cleared, I searched for their bodies for days. I still do not believe I have found and given euologies for them all. I am the last of my people.
But things have a way of repeating, Link. The Princess Zelda has been born again, somewhere. I can sense it. And I am searching for her, because she too has a relic of the Golden Triforce. And only with the Triforce, with the power I abused centuries ago, can I reawaken the world beneath the dark sea and claim it for those who have survived this long.
For this ocean is really just another sort of Desert, Link. It too, is full of salt, is barren, and is void of all life. It's winds bring just as much death with a hurricane as the sandstorm smote my own home. And I have had my fair share of deserts in my long, long lifetime.
And that is the end. Do you still wish you had asked for the truth?"
I didn't want to believe him. My mouth was hanging so wide open I'm sure the giant bird could have flown inside it. It seemed crazy-- it shouldn't have been true. It was even silly. How could it have been true? It was impossible!
But not really, I thought. Maybe it's a weird kind of memory that everybody has-- you know some things are true. In your heart, when you hear them, you also hear 'true' in your head as if you could remember it happening to you. The way he said it made me feel so sad. There weren't any more of his people left, and if what he was saying was right, there were no more of his people because of my people. If I was a Hylian or whatever he said. I felt really, really awful.
"I'm sorry," I said, but I didn't feel it was nearly enough. Another bit of me was telling me not to believe him, was telling me that he was probably evil, and that he had to be stopped and he had taken my sister so he must have been evil because he had made me afraid and scared for her.
But that didn't sound right either. Was he supposed to be evil because I was scared when I didn't understand why he did scary things? It made my head hurt.
"Don't be," he said brusquely. "You weren't the one who murdered my people."
I thought about it for a second and finished my wine, which felt very warm down my throat and in my belly. "Maybe we can make a deal," I said. "If you stop kidnapping girls, I'll help you find this Princess Zelda. And you have to promise to let the ones you have now go."
"That's a lot on my part, Boy. What are you proposing on your end of the bargain."
I got an idea.
"Don't get angry or anything, but I don't think you can walk around the islands easily like that. I don't know if you can change what you look like or something, but it must be hard," I said. "Maybe this Zelda is afraid of you because she was afraid of you in the past and is hiding from you because she doesn't know you're not crazy now. If she's hiding from you, maybe she won't hide from me."
"You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"
"No, sir," I admitted. "I was pretty mad you took my sister, but you're too sad to be crazy."
Ganondorf thought about this for a while but then got a weird look in his eyes and smiled faintly. "You're a smart boy, Link. I don't doubt you'll be able to find her."
"With your help," I even dared to add. "You've been around for a long time. You must know a lot of things-- if we work as a team this should be easy! You're a really tough magician-- you have a whole fortress and everything!"
I looked at him as seriously as I could, but he only laughed a bit. Maybe I wasn't very serious-looking. I couldn't have been in such a silly hat. "But I need to go back to Outset first. I need to tell Grandma that I have a job now, and I have to get Aryll back home. Maybe she would want to meet you..."
"I won't be coming with you, boy," he said warningly.
I didn't even know I had so many ideas. I thought of another one. "Maybe you don't have to. Here, look at this..."
I took the smooth, wrapped stone from around my neck and put it down on the table. It had glowed blue, but it had gone dark and it fell with a dead plop onto the iron-wrought table.
"My friend Tetra used this to help me break in here-- she's a pirate. This must be one of her treasures. She slipped it in my pocket when she shot me out of the catapult, and she talked through it somehow once, but it's been broken ever since. Maybe this will help."
He took it in his hands gingerly-- it was just a pebble to him-- and studied it intently. "Where did she get this?"
"I don't know. She's a pirate, so maybe she dug it up somewhere. What is it?"
"It's some sort of Gossip Stone. The Old Sheikah created them to watch and listen for the Royal Family of Hyrule, and some of them were modified to speak and relay news over long distances. She could have dredged it up anywhere, and perhaps if the magic still was in it, she could use it to speak to you." he turned it over. "Yes, it is broken. It's lost it's magic-- it has to be replenished after being used too many times. Worse, the enchantment it uses to call back to it's master and relay the words is confused-- something nearby has muddled who it listens to. Your pirate friend cannot find this stone with her mind anymore. She's lost you."
"Can you find her through it, Mr. Ganondorf?"
" 'Lord' will do, though only if you wish," he told me, and then began to inspect it further. "No... there is someone else! Someone has erased the image of the last owner of the stone!"
"I don't know," he said, angry again. "Whoever they are, they are off the line and gone now. No matter-- it's a small ocean and I'm sure you can locate your pirate friend again soon."
I kind of doubted that, but I didn't say anything because he had taken the 'gossip stone' and closed it in his brown fist. When he opened it, it glowed a vibrant purple instead of sky blue. He placed it in front of me and I almost didn't want to take it but I did anyway.
"This is my eyes and my ears in your mission," he said seriously. "Don't pester me with it, but at times I will be watching you, and aiding you as I see fit."
He vanished the table and chairs and the goblets and wine. I almost fell on my butt, but he seemed so businesslike I tried not to do it to save a little face.
"I will lend you the bird-- he will take you over the sea wherever you wish to go. Do not forget, however, that he answers to me first and foremost."
"Um, you're giving me a giant... bird... to get around on? Wouldn't it be easier to get a ship or something?"
"Don't be ridiculous," he said acidly. "Boats will be the death of you."