Zelda had failed.
She kneeled beside the corpse of the boy whose life she had ruined, as the man who killed him bellowed and shrieked in rage. Ganondorf had torn the Triforce both from her and from Link's body, yet once reunited, it disappeared. And so the three of them remained in that room, all that they had worked for now gone. "How is this possible?" Ganondorf demanded over and over again. "How can it be?"
Something snapped in Zelda's mind, irritation taking hold now that she had passed the end of everything. "Don't be a fool. You're not worthy of it. You never were. You should have known that the first time."
He turned on her, gathered magic on one hand to finish her. But it fizzled and died, and he fell to one knee. Zelda ignored him and turned back to the corpse. The least she could do, she decided, was give him a proper burial. Using what little magic she had left, she draped the body over her shoulder and struggled to her feet. The little fairy that had been following him all this time rose slightly, then settled back into his hair, as if unable to leave him.
"Where are you going?" Ganondorf demanded. He hauled himself to his feet, blood dripping in his eyes. It had been a close fight. But then, Zelda thought to herself, close is the same as failure in this case.
"I am going to lay him to rest," she replied, and turned back with a challenge in her eyes. "Or will you take that from us as well?"
"You-" He stumbled, then straightened, blinking in the dim light. Despite her best efforts, Zelda's heart grasped at an ounce of hope. Where madness had filled his eyes before, there was now only confusion and a little fear. He looked at the corpse and then at her, his brow furrowing with suspicion.
She read the look in his eyes and shook her head. "I would not dishonor his memory with such a fate," she snapped. "I don't know why my ancestors created those ReDeads to guard their tomb. It's over; you've won. You know there is no magic to bring back the dead."
She could say no more after that. Not just Link's soul was lost; the Sages would dissipate in the Sacred Realm as well, their task unfinished. Darunia, Rito, Link's friend Saria, and her own dear Impa; all of them gone.
"Nabooru." Zelda stopped and turned, startled to hear Ganondorf speak her name. He stared into space, then fixed his gaze on her. "She's gone, isn't she?"
"Of course she is," Zelda snapped, mockery creeping into her voice. "Thanks to you."
He said nothing, merely staring forward with a confused expression on his face. Zelda left him.
She entered the Forest Temple as Sheik, as it was the only way she could get anywhere. She brought Link's body to the innermost room, the same place where Saria had met her death. Zelda placed the body on the Triforce mark in the center, placed his hands over his chest.
The little fairy rose into the air. "I'm sorry, Princess," it said. "We tried…we really did."
"I know…" Her eyes blurred with tears. "It's not your fault. It's mine."
"What will happen now?"
"I don't know." Zelda wiped her eyes. "There's nothing more I can do."
Floating back up into the air, the fairy asked, "You should leave, before he finds you again. You should go to one of the neighboring kingdoms. They'll take you in."
"No." Zelda's resolve hardened, and she stood. "Hyrule has fallen, but I am still its Princess. Regardless of what comes, I will not leave my country."
"You came back."
Zelda glanced up from where she sat, at the ruins of the former Hyrule Castle. Ganondorf frowned down at her, his eyes muddled with confusion. "Of course I have. This is my country. There is nowhere else I will go…unless you cast me out."
"Hyrule is now mine, by right of conquest," he stated, folding his arms.
"What is left of it," Zelda muttered.
"I will not send you away. But I will not tolerate any further treason, either."
"Very well." Zelda stared out over the rubble of the castle. "And what will you do now, with your shattered kingdom?"
"The Hero of Time is dead," Ganondorf answered with finality. "All threats to me are now gone. I will take this kingdom and rebuild it, and I will have the leaders of the other races swear fealty to me."
"Indeed?" Zelda turned to the ridiculous fortress hanging in the air. "And do you expect them to fly up to the door, or will you just receive them here?"
"Wh- no. Don't be a fool." He stepped over to the pile of rubble, picking up a block of stone. "I will restore the old castle. My power is enough to keep any threats at bay." He made a slight gesture, and two of the piglike monsters appeared, dressed in dark armor. He handed each one a scroll, with instructions: "Go and spread the word to the people of Hyrule."
As they left, he turned back to Zelda. "Milady, I can speed this along with magic, but it will still take a few days. Take my horse and go to the Gerudo Fortress. My people will give you food and shelter in the interm."
Zelda eyed the demon horse with trepidation, but did as he bade. She took off as soon as he turned away, through the ruined city and over the fields.
She slept fitfully in the small but clean cell where the guard had brought her, trying to blot out the sounds of wild celebration below. She deserved it, Zelda reasoned. She had failed her country and now was more or less a prisoner of war. And why shouldn't the winners celebrate?
Zelda kept her back turned as she heard one of the guards come to the door. To her surprise, the Gerudo woman spoke to her. "Begging your pardon, Miss, I know you're not in a festive mood, but I thought I would bring you a little wine and meat." Zelda turned to see one of the Gerudo beaming down at her, carrying a small tray with an iron cup and bowl. She set it down on the floor, then locked the bars again as she left. "Please, miss, the great Ganondorf will be a fair king, you'll see."
Zelda fought the urge to roll her eyes. All of the Gerudo had been brainwashed; she didn't expect them to talk any kind of sense. Still, his people treated her with respect, and that was something. She found a small roll of bread, along with a meaty stew that smelled surprisingly delicious. Zelda sniffed the wine, then frowned and poured it down the little drain in the corner. It reminded her all too well of the grand dinners spread upon her father's table. Likely it had been stolen soon after the fall of the castle. She didn't want any remnants of what she had lost.