This is your (former) Goron-Z Co. Fi-class fairy speaking. Designation: Navi. I'm the ship's pilot, engineer, and communications specialist.
Why, thank you. You should hold your applause, though. Your hands may begin to hurt.
That, and the fact that I haven't really had that much to do recently.
I'm also the ship's eyes and ears. My job is to make a fresh report each and every day with the proviso to annotate it for a non-specialist audience. Exciting.
Today, I have with me as an able assistant the merchant fairy Honeysuckle Bluebell the Third.
Yes, that is her real name.
I know, right...?
[ Stop that gak. I am not your 'assistant'.]
Yes, you are, sweetie. Now go and make me a cup of tea. There's a good lass.
So, tomorrow is the day of the great ceremony, the day where (former) Princess Midna hands over power to Princess Zelda Harkinian. I love a good party. Wonder what I'll wear.
[Not the little pink number. It makes your wings look fat.]
You got that tea yet? Come on, chop-chop.
So. Ahem. Can you believe it's been one whole year since we brought Midna down in her own palace? Amazing. I would thank Link, Zelda, Gortram, Saria and the tech-pirate crew for all they did, but why bother, hey, since it was all down to me and my sweet Wind Fish powers.
You know it.
Honeysuckle says I'm far too vain, but I'm not catching the drift of her critique. After all, you can't spell 'vain' without the letters 'N', 'A','V' and 'I'.
[I'm still here. I just wanted you to know that.]
Two sugars, sweetie.
So let's check in with (former) Mining Team Beta-Beta-Gamma and their extended crew...
Clouds hazy with red-gold sunlight drifted over the Royal Dockyards of Castle City. The air was awash with the hum of idling engines, the rhythmic clank of metal being moulded under a hammer, and the buzz of scattered sparks. There was the occasional shout, too, bursting forth from dockers dressed smartly in eye-dazzling white. They themselves marched up and down the length of the dockyard, patrolling impeccably clean platforms. Untainted and fresh, there was a reason why the docks had the word 'royal' permanently stitched to them.
Not everyone got a chance to anchor their ship here. Incandescent sunlight flashed off of gold-gilded railings hemming in vessels that were only here by special permission. The Righteous Maximus had hers, and there she sat now, quietly reposed in her designated space.
Gulls flew overhead, their cries piercing the air. Upon the ship's deck a round wooden table had been set up, complete with chairs. The pirate crew of the Maximus sat around it, each holding a hand of playing cards.
They all looked intense. Intensely bored, perhaps, but intense, nonetheless.
Senza had his booted feet propped up on the table as he lounged in his chair. Gonzo managed to look completely impassive in an entirely intense way. Nudge stared with furrowed brow at his cards. Zuko, for some reason, was using a telescope to look at his. Gortram belched. Niko scratched his head.
Only the Sheikah/android/young girl named Saria wasn't paying attention to her cards. Instead, she stared hard at Mako.
The pirate under scrutiny tried to avoid her glare. He was wilting already. Saria's eyes were as hard as the granite expression on her face. Her being so unusually silent didn't help, either.
Mako could take no more.
"I don't trust you," she replied.
He started. "What? What have I done?"
She said nothing for a moment, just stared and sipped on a straw from a glass filled with bubbly, brown liquid. A Gerudo inquisitor had nothing on this girl.
Unnerved, the tech pirate pulled at his collar. "Well?"
"Those goggles," she explained, jabbing a finger his way. "Uh huh. Oh yeah. Don't try to hide it now."
"Seriously. I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I bet you don't." Her voice had all the texture of frost. "You're using those goggles to find out what our cards are. Mmm-hmm, I'm right, aren't I? "
"No!" Mako flushed. "No way!"
Saria's eyes narrowed. Her drink fizzed.
Clearly, someone had to step in at this critical juncture. And it was Senza who took the heroic decision to take that weighty task upon himself.
"You know what I think, mateys?"
Gonzo glanced up. "What?"
The grey-bearded pirate scratched his tanned nose "I reckon we should just haul anchor and go searching for that Triforce thingy."
Saria rolled her eyes. "Not this again..."
Senza pretended he hadn't heard. "Perfect opportunity. Everyone seems to have forgotten about it."
Gortram snorted. "That's because it's buried under rock. Lots of rock. More rock than a Goron tea party. No way we'd get through to it."
"Tsk." The pirate's tanned face wrinkled in distaste. "Where's your sense of adventure, Gort? You haveta try, matey."
The Goron blew out an equally unimpressed breath through pursed lips. He shook his head.
"Besides," Senza went on, "Can't you just...like...eat your way through? Isn't that what you Gorons do to rock?"
"I ain't that hungry," Gortram growled in response. "And, besides, what would you do with the infernal thing? Sell it to the highest bidder?"
Senza shrugged. "Yeah. Sure. Why not? Maybe the museum will want it. We'll throw you in as a freebie, hey Gort?"
"How about I throw you into Fire Mountain to teach you some manners?" Gortram wagged a finger. "You need to be respecting your elders, lad."
"Well, I think it's a good idea," Senza mumbled in reply. "You think it's a good idea, Nudge?"
"See?" said Senza. "Nudge thinks it's a great idea."
Gortram had more to say. "Well, I say my business idea is the best way forward."
Senza's eyes bulged above his tattered purple shirt. "You are joking, right?" he said. "You want tech-pirates like us to stand around all day in a Zora Bliss Beach hauling kids onto...what was it you called it again? The Tickety Booster...?"
"Rickety Coaster," Gortram replied, voice sour. "It'd keep us busy."
"It is a bit boring around here," Saria admitted. Fabric flapped from above as the breeze creased the ship's sails. "It's like we've been anchored here for, what, like a year?"
"It has been a year," said Gonzo, gazing down at his cards. He reached past the red bandana stretched over his hair to have a little scratch behind his ear. "Cap's busy, that's all."
"Ha!" cried Senza, sending the table into a shudder as he banged his boots down upon it. "Well, lookit you. Defending the Cap."
Gonzo growled. "Someone has to, yeah?"
"Oh, come on, guys," said Mako. "It's not been that bad. Remember when we had to dive the ship straight into the Onyx Sea of the Zora just to get back that Despair Pearl from the Living Shadows?"
"Yeah," Gonzo nodded. "At Prince Ralis's request. Got ourselves a nice little earner out of it, didn't we, yeah? And remember when the city's tech all shut down cuz of that what-sit -"
"Trojan Worm," Saria added softly.
"Yeah, that's it. A sentient techno-virus that actually took the physical shape of a worm. Wild, yeah?"
The noise was coming from Niko. All eyes turned his way. He flushed at the sudden attention. Fiddling with his belt, he pulled free the offending item and flipped it open.
"A clam com?" Senza said with a grin. "What are you, twelve?"
"Uh," said Niko. "Yes, actually." He placed the com to his ear. "Uh huh. Yeah. Uh huh." A slow smile spread over his lips. He snapped the com shut and grinned at the others.
Saria tucked a stray lock of her emerald hair behind one ear. "Well?"
"Yes," said Zuko, his dark-rimmed eyes showing a spark of interest. "Iz who?"
Niko grinned some more.
Gonzo eyed the youngster with suspicion. "Spit it out, yeah?"
"The Cap!" Niko replied. "It's the Cap. Said it's time to get ready, man. Uh, men." Saria glowered at him. "Ummm..."
Senza flicked his cards into the air. They fluttered down in a whispery drizzle. "Finally!"
Mako sniffed. "Meh. I would've won, anyway. I had three pairs. The only person who came close tothat was Saria, and she only had two."
Saria sighed. "Yeah," the young girl replied, nodding as she laid her cards flat on the table. "You're right about - hey!" She spat fizzy brown liquid from her mouth in shock. "How did you know that?!"
Mako's eyes sprung open. "Uhhh..."
"You were spying on us! You were! I was right!"
Mako froze for a heartbeat, then bolted from his chair. Saria growled as she leapt over the table. "Come here, you! I'll stuff those goggles right up your -"
Laughter born from the camaraderie of friendship followed the chase.
"I hear congratulations are in order."
Despite all her attempts at keeping a regal bearing, Princess Zelda felt the flush of warmth in her cheeks and allowed herself a smile. The long white skirt of her voluminous dress fluttered in the warm breeze. She stood on a wide balcony high up on the Emerald Palace, Prince Ralis's disembodied head floating before her framed in a sky bruised purplish-red from the setting sun.
Zelda bowed her head. "I am thanking you."
The Zora smiled. "You kept those nuptials secret, didn't you? My, my. Cole spilled the beans, in case you're wondering. Good thing, too, I say. Keeping it so secret. At least you weren't too exhausted when night fell, hmm?"
Despite herself, Zelda blushed furiously. "There will be a public announcement," she replied after quickly clearing her throat. "In good time. Tomorrow is being more important." She paused as another gust of wind picked at her lilac top. A sprinkle of lights flickered to life in the distance - the city soldiering on in the fast-diminishing daylight. "Of course, when we do announce it, I hope you will be attending our celebration?"
"I wouldn't miss it, Your Highness."
His laugh was genuine. Of all the new friends and allies she'd had to make in the past year, she counted Prince Ralis amongst one of her favourites.
Ralis's liquid-black eyes twinkled. "A suggestion. Perhaps you would care to take advantage of, ah, the Zora skill of hospitality and have the party here in the Domain?"
Zelda winced inwardly. The prince had been asking her for months to visit. Despite her newfound fondness of him, she'd just never found the time. "I will be considering it. Let me be asking Link."
"Of course, of course."
He watched her for a moment more in the silence that followed. His face flickered, and it had nothing to do with the strength of their pictovid connection. Genuine grief seemed to line the smooth, grey skin of the prince.
"Oh, nothing, Highness. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. It's just that...it still astonishes me how alike the two of you look."
Sorrow twisted Zelda's heart. "I was never knowing my sister."
Ralis smiled. "Then that's another reason for you to visit. I'll tell you all about her."
Zelda cocked an eyebrow. She still hadn't quite established what exactly the relationship had been between Tetra and the Zora prince. The mystery intrigued her. "I will be looking forward to it."
Ralis changed tack. "And how is Midna? How is she taking it all?"
"Better than I was expecting. She has been very helpful. Been very enthusiastic. She has prepared the people well for the changeover. I am thinking there will be place for her in the new order."
"Well," Ralis replied, a little uncertainty flecking his voice. "I'm sure you know best. Peace, Princess Zelda. It is time for me to attend to less pleasant matters."
Zelda smiled. "Link and I are eager to be meeting you again tomorrow."
"Likewise. Ralis out."
The Zora prince's image vanished. Princess Zelda took in a deep lungful of the twilight city air. Then, with eyes closed, she held out her arms and allowed herself to fall backward. Her heart protested, beating rapidly. She ignored it, let herself instead feel the rush of air rippling through her golden hair.
He caught her. She knew he would. Zelda felt Link's lips brush against her forehead. She smiled.
Opening her eyes, she gazed up. Link, in turn, smiled down at her. "One more day," he said. "One more day, then you officially take the crown."
Zelda groaned. "Do not be reminding me. I am having so much to do, even after I am taking over. The Gorons - ugh! They are being very stubborn. They are still not being fully committed to the Alliance. Not now, anyway. I am almost pulling out all of my hair working on it."
"Oh, I hope not," he replied softly. "I'm fond of your hair."
She allowed Link to gently bring her back to her feet. She looked at him with a piercing gaze. "You are having the Master Sword, Link. You should rule."
He shook his head. "We have discussed this. You're the princess. You've been prepared for this moment all your life."
"I am not wanting it."
"That makes you the best qualified." A smile ghosted over his lips. "Or so I've been told."
There was something else, she realised quickly. Something she wasn't telling him. Her eye twitched. It was so obvious. "You are going to be leaving, aren't you?"
He looked momentarily abashed, like he'd been caught red-handed in the middle of a crime. "Only for a short while."
"And not just yet."
"Soon. After tomorrow, maybe."
Her sparkling blue eyes thinned to slits. "I am thinking you have been planning this behind my back for a long while."
"How could you even consider such a thing?"
He laughed. "Alright, you win. I'll be taking the crew with me; they're getting restless. And the Maximus, too."
Zelda snorted. "That's good. For a moment I had been thinking you would be walking." She blinked. "What is your intention? With the ship, I am meaning."
"The usual." Link ran a hand through his hair. "Naturally."
"Piracy?" she said, amusement tinkling in her voice. "I am not sure I can be allowing that."
"Exploring," he replied with another smile.
Zelda felt her own heart thud in her chest. Their banter was familiar, comfortable and good-natured, fitting like a well-worn glove, but now she felts its effects begin to fade. Cold reality faced her.
Do not be going, she wanted to say. Do not be leaving me again. Instead, she said, "Is this being about the...incident?"
Link winced. "Yes."
Zelda nodded thoughtfully. A few months back, in a brief battle with a few Gerudo survivors who hadn't got the message that the war was over, the Master Sword had temporally depowered, leaving Link to fight his own desperate way out. It had demoralised him.
When she'd asked him what he'd been thinking at the time, Link had eventually admitted that the veils dropping from his heart had made him feel - for a brief moment - somehow better than everyone else.
He hadn't entertained that thought since.
Zelda turned, then leaned her back into Link's chest. His arms locked around her waist. She sighed for a moment, contented, listening to the beat of his heart.
"I am having a theory," she said.
"You went back in time. You were telling me you were changing something in a Zora woman's life. Something important."
"You could have been going back to kill Ganondorf. So that the war would never have happened."
"I know." He let out a meaningful breath. "But you implied that I shouldn't. Though I do sometimes wonder..."
Zelda let the breeze play with the strands of her hair. "Do you think you would have been succeeding if you had tried...?
She sensed him blink in confusion. "You don't think so? Why?"
"You would have been killing him...just to be saving you and me, yes?"
Darkness had almost set in now. Energy driven lamps buzzed to life on the balcony. Ship navigation lights bled into the stars above. Link spoke again. "Yes."
"Then I do not think the Master Sword would have been allowing you to pierce the Gerudo's armour. I am thinking it only did so in our timeline because it was finding you worthy. If you'd gone back in time having such selfish thoughts, I am thinking the Sword would not have worked." She swallowed, then added, "The same thing, I am certain, is what happened with your...incident."
Link lapsed into silence then. Zelda let it linger, watching the ships putter by overhead. An old tugboat with an old, clearly decrepit engine chugged nearby in a cloud of greasy, black smoke. Not too close, of course. The palace's defence grid would've sparked into life otherwise.
Still the silence stretched. Zelda knew that Link was thinking over her words. She also knew that he wouldn't be entirely convinced.
She spoke again. "Where will you be...exploring?"
"Oh," said Link, a wry smile in his voice. "I have some friends who know some...ah...unseen places."
Zelda licked her lips in thought, but decided against questioning him. Whatever power the Master Sword was under, it had used the weapon to show Link things that she guessed were probably beyond her imagination.
Instead Zelda savoured the warmth of their closeness. "Will you be coming back to me after you have had your wondrous adventures?"
"I always do."
"Be saying it."
"I'll come back for you, Zelda." The gravitas in his voice deepened. "I promise."
Zelda smiled. "I love you."
She felt him nuzzle her neck. "And I, you."
Another patch of silence followed. They didn't need to say anything just then. Zelda's swam on tides of contented serenity that tugged at her heart and hoped, hoped that this night wouldn't mark the last time either of them experienced it. There was so much ahead for the both of them, so much that would demand their time...
She heard a soft cough from somewhere far behind. Chancellor Cole, no doubt, come to drag her away for yet another rehearsal of tomorrow's ceremony. Regret nudged her heart.
"Link," she purred softly.
"Do you think we are being safe now?" Her voice was hushed. "Is Hyrule safe?"
He took a few moments to respond. "I feel safe right now," he said. Link tightened his grip around her waist. "Don't you?"
Zelda smiled again. She placed her hand over his and squeezed as she looked out over a city now blanketed in a diamond canopy of lights. "Yes," she breathed. "Yes, I do."
The warehouse sat derelict in a near-abandoned district of Castle City. The buildings here were dark, the windows cracked and caked with grime. Abandoned ships, broken and stripped to the wood, lay strewn across the streets. If you were lucky you might spot a huddled shape sat hunched over the embers of a fire housed in a rusted canister.
There were no lights on in the warehouse. If you looked closely enough, though, and you peered past the torn wires scattered over the dust-covered floor, you might be able to spot a neon glow seeping out from deep within one of the inner chambers.
A man sat in a chair that squeaked with his every movement. The black leather coating had split in many places and the foam within now bulged outward. He sat with steepled fingers in front of a bank of pictovid screens, each one displaying an entirely different image.
It had taken him months to get to this point. Months of tireless tracking, tech-hacking and, of course, months of spilling blood. And now it was here, in his grasp: the codes to the Eye in the Sky. Every inch of Hyrule was his to observe - provided, of course, he had enough pictovid screens to go around.
"I don't," he said out loud to no one in particular. His voice was raspy, like he hadn't had to use it in a long time.
"I haven't," he said, then chuckled.
He tapped some keys on a pad before him. One of the pictovids zoomed in, the image of Link and Zelda now filling the entirety of the screen. He knew who Zelda was now, naturally. Everyone in Hyrule did. So happy they were to get the true heir of the Royal Family to finally return...
"Do you think we are being safe now?" the Zelda on the screen said. "Is Hyrule safe?"
The man's mouth split into a leering grin. "No, no, oh dear no," he giggled. "Safe? Not yet, my pretty. Not while there is breath still in these gallant lungs of mine, no. You can have your tech and your mystical sword, for I have something better. Something older."
The man stood, swaying slightly on his feet. He glanced again at the screen. "Look at you both. So happy. So smug in your happiness. For how long, I wonder...? Well, this I promise: With the magic I now possess, I will sow the seeds for a cataclysm that will bring about the end of the world as you know it."
Despite the apparent lack of any wind, his hair and clothes still managed to billow outward. "Yes." He raised his palm. A carved, curved shape sat there. Dark holes pocked its glowing surface.
An ocarina. It was an ocarina. "Yes, I will. So. Swears. Ghirahim."
01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100101 01101110 01100100 00101110 00101110 00101110 00111111
A/N: This one was a lot of fun to write. I think the change of setting helped - I felt like doing something different rather than write medieval fantasy over and over. I got to shine the spotlight on some of the more minor characters of the franchise (and you don't get any more minor than Gortram), albeit in an AU way, and I got the chance to - hopefully - change people's perceptions on a little fairy named Navi ;).
Thank you for your reviews (especially you regular reviewers!). As ever, they are very much appreciated. I hope you all enjoyed this one.
Thank you all,