I know this one is short, but it's important.
Next chapter will be Monday.
PART 3: FIGHTING GRAVITY
CHAPTER 19: THE VICTOR
6th of Hexember, Year 3378, Third Age
In front of the Citadel
Morning was rising over Castleton.
Link didn't quite understand how Zelda and her armies had managed to stave off such a massive Guardian force for so long. He had seen huge trees broken on the battlefield, and enemy airships covered in vines, or burning, or surrounded by soldiers who had blown their brains out. There was unseasonable snow on the ground, and it melted in the heat of the fires, quick rivulets of ice water running down the streets.
And Goht was still rising.
Something burned inside of Link, and he realized it was rage. Castleton had been his city for a long time now. It was Kidd's home, it was Zelda's and Shad's, it was the seat of Hyrule. The centre of the empire.
No one could deface it like this and go on unpunished.
Still, at least Zelda was safe. He still couldn't believe he'd made it on time. They'd flown north from the Tower of the Gods as fast as Gohdan's added weight allowed. It had been a shock to see the devastation of Castleton, and even more of a shock to see Celestia engaging in open air warfare.
Celestia! He'd truly lived to see the impossible.
As soon as they'd been within range, Shad had hailed him. Link hadn't expected that. They had still been debating how to best help the Hylian Alliance. So when Shad promised a good power source for Gohdan, Link had felt the urgency not to question an actual Sol pulled from Celestia's power core.
How Shad's father had managed to keep a Sol hidden for so long was a mystery.
It didn't matter now. Link wasn't the kind to count teeth on a gift horse.
The City in the Sky had powered down, to run only on emergency fuel reserves, and Link had left Sheik, Malon and Colin and even Damon in Shad's care. He was sure Damon would find a Flit to fight with any minute now.
Gohdan was alive again, and not a moment too soon. If Zelda's courage was admirable, it had also been reckless. Link hadn't even questioned body-slamming Goht away from her.
There was a savage instinct inside of him now, like being in Gohdan made him into something more than just a soldier. He grit his teeth. He would keep her safe.
'Where did you find that toy, boy?' Ganondorf Dragmire asked. Gohdan whirred under Link in mild annoyance, and Goht found its footing, its hind leg limp.
Good. Now for the rest―
Overhead, an explosion rocked deep into his gut. An airship crashed, one street over, with a thick fireball. Zelda and her Citadel garrison would push the enemy away. Link only had one task.
"Surrender, Admiral," he said. "Order your troops to pull back."
Ganondorf Dragmire laughed. Goht was resilient, that was true, and made for ramming, but Gohdan was strength incarnate. Perhaps against Goht's raw stamina, he would have failed, but something had already damaged Dragmire's golem quite soundly, and Gohdan would have no trouble finding a way to strike surely and powerfully.
Admiral Dragmire was trying to limp away. It would not do.
Rushing forward, Link extended Gohdan's right hand and closed it around Goht's front left leg. With a single squeeze, he heard Goht's metal leg groaning in complaint. Soon, something snapped, and Goht tilted, too damaged to move anymore.
Gohdan had done its job. Goht was defeated.
Link heard Ganondorf breathing as hard as Goht would have. With Gohdan's other hand, he grabbed Goht's horned head and pried it off, revealing Ganondorf Dragmire inside.
He locked Gohdan in place, and slid his own cockpit open, jumping over to reach for Ganondorf.
He'd never been this close to an enemy. Flits never let you see the whites of their eyes. The Admiral wasn't even scared, but his expression was changing. Rage fuelled Link's strength as he reached for the Admiral's decorated, medalled collar. He fisted the material, and brought his face close.
"You." Something flickered in Ganondorf Dragmire's eyes, something that spoke of old recognition. Link stared back, feeling something odd that screamed of familiarity.
He'd never met the Guardian Admiral in person, but somewhere, deep down, they knew each other as well as two adversary souls could.
"Ganon," Link breathed out with hatred, despite himself, the sound guttural and ancient, and Admiral Ganondorf Dragmire opened his mouth, to speak Link's name, but he stopped himself. Fury filled them both.
Ganondorf shifted. A flash of metal in his hand. Link's fist connected with Ganondorf Dragmire's jaw with a satisfying crack.
"For Outset," he spat.
Something tore at his side, but he couldn't make sense of it. Something warm was dripping down his flank. Pain registered, but barely.
"It was my pleasure," the Admiral grunted, rubbing his jaw. Something sick shone in his golden eyes, a sadistic light that made bile rise in Link's throat. Before he could reply, the taste of blood gurgled into his mouth.
Link looked down, his hands caught in Ganondorf Dragmire's clothes, and saw the knife protruding from his flank.
As through a haze, the voices began to register. They were surrounded, and bright projectors shone over them blindingly.
"Step down, captain!"
Link looked down at the Admiral's smug smile. It clearly spoke of Link's oncoming death.
"I win. At last." There was no describing the victory in the Admiral's eyes. It was bright and manic.
The Hylian Alliance captain spat blood out, and choked, "Tell your troops to retreat."
Ganondorf Dragmire simply smiled at him with a small smirk, his defiance contained entirely in his silence.
"Captain, step away from him!"
Link held on tighter to the Admiral's collar. "SURRENDER." He shouted it, and drops of blood splattered on the Guardian uniform, all over Ganondorf's tan face. The pain was growing out of his side, pulling at his arms and legs until he felt himself weakening.
Before Link could make sense of what was happening, Ganondorf Dragmire's eyes grew wide. Link turned, the pain excruciating.
On the Citadel, Zelda was glowing a blinding white, edges of gentle, warm pink and blues soothing the sight only enough that they could look on her without shutting their eyes in fear. Through the haze in Link's mind, she looked like a goddess reborn, like the empress she had been born to become.
She was standing on a high ledge, surrounded by allies that glowed as brightly as she did in an array of colours so pure they hurt, looking down at them, glorious and silent, as though she had all the time in the world to dispense judgement.
She wasn't looking at him, though. Behind him, Ganondorf Dragmire whimpered. When Link looked back down at him, he saw that the Gerudo admiral was weeping.
The hate was gone. The rage. The determination. All gone.
He whispered something Link couldn't make out.
Then, before Link could react, the knife that had, until then, been planted in his side was ripped out. The pain was blinding hot, enough to make him scream, and before Link could gather what few wits he still had, Ganondorf Dragmire slashed at his own stomach, repeatedly, pulling at the fabric of his decorated uniform, opening a gaping wound in his gut. The innards spilled out, putrid, and the Admiral cried out in agony.
It was more than Link had expected. The blood gushed in a steady stream, soiling their uniforms. The flesh, the guts, everything was jarring. Link didn't fear the fire, the smoke or even the rock. When a Flit went down it just… went. This, though. This was so unexpectedly human, so basically visceral, it made Link sick to see it.
As Ganondorf moaned his agony, Link buckled over, his muscles giving out, and crumpled down. He was vaguely aware of falling out of Goht's head and onto the pavement at the base of Gohdan. His head hit the road with a painful crack.
And then, everything went dark.
Except for Zelda, because Zelda was luminous, and no greater source of light had ever existed, or ever would. And she wasn't covered in blood and guts. She could claim him now, if she wanted.
… In his torpor, she was smiling.
What the heck, I'm killing everyone. What's up with that? HAS AGE MADE ME SADISTIC?
I thought I'd never reach this point in the narrative where the fight was actually over. Do you see that shit? Look at that. I've been working on this for, like, four years, guys. What am I doing with my life?
Anyway, next chapter is the beginning of the end. I've got this whole infirmary of characters who are still hanging between life and death, and it would be harsh to not let you know how that turns out for them.
Ooh, ooh, do that thing where you review! It's my favourite trick! Smiley face!
P.S. Also we hit the 300 reviews last chapter. I like those round numbers. Thanks a bunch, people. Y'all are totes my fave.