"Absolutely not!"

"I'm not asking your permission," Zelda snapped as she wrapped the new white cloths around her hands, the Shekiah dagger already tied to her back. With Hylia's Lyre long gone, she had to make her transformation the hard way. "I'm just giving you notice."

"Are you mad?" Ganondorf demanded, his voice echoing off the walls. "Go to the Training Ground? When we say that every Gerudo living has completed the trials, we mean that the ones who did not are dead!"

"I had seven years of training hiding in plain sight from a despot intent on hunting me down. I'll be fine."

Ganondorf ignored that. "Your place is here, dealing with these infernal court matters. I forbid you to leave!"

Her head snapped upward and she stared him down surprisingly well for someone a good few feet shorter. "So, is this what it is going to be like? You command, and I obey? I could have simply handed myself over to one of my father's suitors if that is what I wanted."

He sputtered, flustered, angry that she would choose THAT particular argument. "This is not a simple task! We would spend weeks memorizing the layout of the grounds and the threats within – you would be going in unprepared! Why in the name of the gods do you insist on doing this, anyway?"

Zelda turned away from him, making a last check of the healing potions in the small pack on the bed. "All of the old reasons for doing what I did, for being who I was, have been overturned in the past several months. I need to define my own path, one that doesn't follow Hylia's."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yes you do." She spun back to face him, her eyes traveling from Groose's necklace on his wrist back up to him. "You had your turn, forsaking your original role by going off to beg Link's forgiveness."

He blinked, stunned. "I didn't…"

"You cannot hide from Wisdom." She shouldered her pack.

"A hypocritical statement, given you just got done stating that you had no more ties to your past role. Do you have any idea how irresponsible this is?" He demanded, his voice pattering behind her as she stalked down the hall. "The sole heir of the throne going off to certain death, because of some personal vendetta against her past life?"

Her head jerked back and her eyes cut through him. "You don't believe I have the ability to do it. Even after all this time."

"I am saying it is not worth the risk," he insisted, trying to calm both her and himself down. "The upheaval of Hyrule has hardly ended. You cannot just go wandering off like…like…"

"Like you did?"

He stared down at her, his jaw set, she doing the same. They stood like that, neither one wavering, for several moments, waiting for the other to back down.

Finally, Ganondorf exhaled loudly, stepping back slightly but not breaking his gaze. "You should at least bring Antiada and Grandmother Mitari along. No, don't argue!" He raised his hand when she opened her mouth to protest. "You need someone waiting outside. Just because we all survived, doesn't mean we all came through without a scratch. It happened to the best of us."

He bent slightly, showing her a long, thin scar on the side of his neck.

Her expression softened ever so slightly. "Understood," she said, and turned to go.

"One last thing," he added. "What am I supposed to tell them?"

She gave him a look he couldn't translate, then made a grim smile. "Oh, I'm sure they'll come up with a reason they'll stick to even if you give them one. While I'm gone, they'll likely think that I'm just being hidden away because I'm pregnant."


"And then once I've returned to the court, it will be because I lost the baby."

His face twisted in disbelief. "Is that really the only-"

She sighed and gave him a pitying look. "How long now have you been King? How long were you at court before you overthrew the last one?"

"Must you always bring that up!" he demanded, indignant. "I will always owe you debts that I can never repay. If there was something, anything at all, that I could do about your father-"

"Enough," she said so sharply that he glared at her, then realized that her ire wasn't directed at him. "You did nothing to my father. What you did was against the King of Hyrule, and rightly so." Seeing his puzzled look, she added, "My father loved me and listened to me. The King of Hyrule did not. And it is because of him that I lost my father."

They were both quiet for several moments. "Is that how you…see it?" he asked at last. "That they were…two different people?"

"How could I not?" she said bitterly, with a hint of sadness. "My father loved to hear my voice. He would ask me to sing, in the gardens, in the few moments that he was able to spend with me. But the King of Hyrule wouldn't listen, even when I told him it could cost him his life."

Silence. For several moments, the only sound was the faint laughter of Gerudo children from one of the far rooms down the hall. Finally, Ganondorf said, "I hope that you can find what you seek."

"Thank you," she said, and looked as if she wanted to say more; instead, she simply turned and walked away.

He didn't answer, but watched her leave, hands clenched until she was gone.

"Sire, an ambassador from Holodrum has arrived, requesting to speak with you."

Ganondorf's head jerked up from the tome he had been reading in the relative solitude of the King's Study. Who? Ambassador to what? "Someone requests an audience with the King?"

The young Hylian page wrung his hands as he stuttered. Zelda had insisted that they employ more of her people, and he had agreed even though he found them exasperating. "Actually, sire, he wished to speak with the Queen, but I told him that, er, he could have an audience with the King…"

"Enough blathering. This ambassador, he has travelled far?"

"Oh yes, through the mountain pass, he looks a terrible fright and his horse seems lame…"

"Then get him and his horse some food and a place to rest. Unless it's an emergency, we might as well let him recover, it'll be a long way back for him once his business is finished."

"Oh – oh of course!" the page smiled wide as if he were the one being given a holiday. Obviously he'd assumed the Gerudo King would refuse to see the visitor entirely. "Right away, your Highness!"

That should buy me some time, Ganondorf thought as the page scampered down the hall. Fretfully he began hunting for a map of the outer borders. Ganondorf had never paid much attention to Hyrule's neighbors; the special blessings of the Goddesses had been the only thing that concerned him. Of the four countries – Hyrule, Labrynna, Ordon, and Holodrum - Hyrule was by far the most powerful. Ambassadors usually only came to the Hyrulean court when they wanted to ask favors. In addition, the high mountains, dangerous forest and impassable desert made it nearly impossible to visit at all. They certainly would not have come calling seven years ago, when he was busy tearing the place apart.

He found Holodrum on the map. It was a long, skinny country that sat wedged between the Goron Mountains and a large sea. He stared at it for a few moments, then realized that the outline of its borders wasn't going to tell him much. He left the map on the desk and stomped down to the library, Hylian servants scattering in his wake.

He stared around the library, absently taking down a book and putting it back in place. Where to start? The books that survived the Seven Years' War in his memory would likely only mention the foreign countries in passing. Going through every book, even the piteously small collection that remained, would take months or even years.

"You there!" he snapped at a passing scribe, who nearly dropped his books in surprise and fear. "Have you been studying the relations of Hyrule with its neighbors?"

"Oh – oh yes, sire!" he stammered, standing at attention as if being called upon in school; believing the King was testing him, not desperate for information.

"You will meet me in five minutes in the King's Study. You will not breathe a word to anyone where you are going and what you are doing. Is that clear?"

"Y-yes, your Highness!"

"Good." Ganondorf turned back on his heel and stomped back to his study, leaving the terrified scribe to pick up his papers off the floor.