AN: Hello everybody! I am finally back from my extended leave of absence. Sorry for the long wait I just got suddenly swamped with school, school prep, entrance exams and the like (very not fun) So this is the sequel to The Empress and if you haven't read it don't worry this story can be easily read without reading the first one, everything alluded to my first book is explained so there should not be inexplicable themes, characters ideas or confusion. Both in Twilight Princess and my own previous work Zelda was slightly downplayed due to her less than desirable circumstances. She also had to make some not so great choices, so here is the chance for our awesome Zelda to get some redemption. I hope you all enjoy and I would like to thank you for reading!
OH! I almost forgot Aira of Hyrule has drawn an epic piece of fanart for the last chapter of my other story- The Empress! You should check it out! Here's the link (take out the spaces): www . deviant art art/ What-Happened-to-His-Hat-389203564
Full Summary- Zelda had often wished for the chance to prove she was more than just the damsel in distress, more than a failure who could not even protect her own kingdom. By a cruel twist of fate the opportunity thrusts itself upon her, but it is nothing like how she imagined. With the return of an old and deadly enemy, the stakes have never been higher. Now the fate of two kingdoms and the lives of her friends are in her hands. Meanwhile, Link finds himself caught in the middle of a horrifying situation. He is tasked with slowing down the enemy from his entirely new and unexpected position. The fate of the kingdom rests just as much on his shoulders as it does on Zelda's.
"Could that really amend what she had done before? Was there really actually such a thing as redemption? Could a right ever truly nullify a wrong?"
Disclaimer: MWAHAHAHAHAHA! I am a billionaire! I bought Nintendo even though I have no idea how to run a business! That is why I am sitting by my computer in my sad little world, writing sorry excuses for stories, for my minuscule contributions to Fanfiction...
The wind from the west was harsh and hot and it burned down Link's throat as he breathed in the dry desert air. The disappointment of losing the trail he was following was almost as stifling as the heat that pressed in on him from all sides. It had been a long hard trek up the narrow zigzagging track that had recently been carved into the steep cliff face that led to the top of this plateau- the start of Gerudo desert. Behind him, Lake Hylia was situated in its basin. In front of him, the massive sea of sand spread out for miles.
The sands of the dunes, mesas and arroyos around him shifted in stinging sparkling flurries as they eddied in the wind. The desert was a place that was different from anywhere else in Hyrule. It had a beauty, but that beauty was one of harshness. In a place such as this, it was the elements that were the masters and those who walked through held hardly any more precedence than the grains of dust that were flung at the mercy of the wind. That was what he had thought the last time he had visited here and his opinion had not changed much. He lowered the hand that shaded his eyes from the overly bright reflected rays of the setting sun and turned his attention to the young Hyrule captain at his side. The grim lines settled upon the soldier's rugged face, showed that he had come to the same conclusion that Link had: they had lost the trail.
The young commander ran a hand thoughtfully through his cropped brown hair as he spoke, "Well," he sighed, "I don't see any way we could possibly track them now, the wind has blown away all traces of them."
Although the young knight's face was impassive, his hazel eyes could not hide the disappointment and shame he felt in the knowledge of this truth. Kasran was young for a captain, but he had recently been promoted for his heroism in a battle for the kingdom hardly a month ago. This was his first actual mission with men under his command and Link knew that he desperately wanted to succeed, more than succeed actually.
Princess Zelda had sent out this small troop of soldiers a week ago to quell an insurgency of bulblins- the goblin like creatures that had invaded Hyrule in great numbers when Ganondorf had overrun the kingdom. They had been laying siege to a small outlying province of Hyrule. She had sent Link with the troop to advise her rather inexperienced captain tactically. This was because Link knew more, than he actually ever really cared to, about the many monsters of their land.
Perhaps, he thought suddenly, her choice in sending him along was not just strategic but also political. They had both been caught in a massive mess of unpleasantness not more than a month ago and the princess's move not only served to save her people from distress but also firmly establish her standing as princess over all her previously divided subjects. It also served to cement his own position as a trusted warrior of the court. He was grateful for that gesture.
Though the town had been saved and the bulblins defeated, the goblins' leader, a huge ogre of a bulblin, and about ten of his minions had managed to slip through their initial attack and escape. Kasran, Link, and their troop had followed the monster's trail across Hyrule field down to Lake Hylia, and finally to the entrance of Gerudo desert. Now they were at a dead end for the trail that the beasts had left in the soft sand had been scattered into oblivion by the wind. He shook his head free of his thoughts as he realized he had been staring almost blankly at Kasran who was waiting for a reply.
He gave the soldier a small wry smile and nodded his agreement. For a moment Link considered using his twilight shard to transform into a wolf and track the beasts by their scent, but there was almost no way he would be able to slip away from a troop of soldiers without his absence being noticed. His ability to shapeshift was a well-guarded secret that he had no desire to let out. So he decided on the next best course of action.
"There is an old watchtower that looks out over the lake and the desert," he said over the near shrieking wind, "you could post a couple sentries to act as lookouts to guard the entrance back to Lake Hylia, since that is the only way for them to re-enter Hyrule."
"I agree that this is probably the best course of action, though I do not look forward to informing the princess that the fiend had eluded us."
"Well I'm glad you're the one who will be breaking the news instead of me," Link jested though he was just as apprehensive and disappointed in their recent failure as he suspected the young captain was. If Kasran had been one of Zelda's high ranking generals Link probably would have refrained from teasing him, but he saw absolutely nothing wrong with poking fun at a friend.
"Perhaps I should let you have the honors, since you are the Hero of Twilight." The captain shot back, his serious mannerism cracking slightly.
"Me? But, you're the commander; I'm just a simple woodsman who happens to be your advisor."
"A simple woodsman who just so happened to save our kingdom twice and lead our army to victory."
"Maybe," Link said flushing slightly. It was a childish response he knew, but people talking of him like that always made him uncomfortable. Still, he decided, it was a better than what the soldiers had been referring to him as only a few weeks prior, he thought with only a slight hint of bitterness. "Technically though, you outrank me, so the honors fall to you good sir," Link said with a flourishing mocking bow.
"I'll have you know I can have you court-martialed for that blatant disrespect."
"Ah, but I'm still a simple woodsman. You can't court-martial a peasant, you know," Link said with a smirk before he sobered. "We should probably get back to the rest of the troop."
Kasran rolled his eyes before he nodded. The two of them turned their backs upon the light of the dying sun that, despite its diminishing power, still burned with a fervent unyielding heat.
Without the burning sun scorching them overhead, the way down the narrow path down to the basin lake was much less tiring. When they reached the camp the soldiers had made near the lake's shore, Link made his way to two familiar figures by the campfire. Kasran went to confer with the veteran soldier who had volunteered to come with the troop and set some of his men with the watch.
As Link walked, he could not help but give a last glance back at the desert. The sight of it at twilight filled his mind with a swirling whirlwind of emotion, with as much turmoil and lack of meaningful direction as the sand that now blew there in an endless cycle. It was there, amidst the golden sand, that the mirror of twilight had stood. It was there that he had said goodbye to one of the greatest friends he had ever known, Midna the Twilight Princess who had fought by his side. The one with whom he had forged a mutual bond of survival so they could save both their kingdoms from destruction.
Whenever his mind was turned towards the thought of her, he was filled with the joy of the memories they shared, the happiness of an alliance born of desperation that grew to something more. But the happiness was always shadowed, like the realm she hailed from, by the sadness of the knowledge that he knew he would never see her again. The worlds of light and shadow, she had said, were two sides of the same coin in perfect balance. And he knew that it was impossible for one face of the coin to be joined with the other for they would always be back to back; supporting each other but never held in an embrace. He wondered if she were well, and what she would be doing at that moment. Probably attacking some hapless twili with her sarcasm, he thought with a smile. He wondered then if she ever thought of him as he did her… if she ever looked in the direction where the mirror had stood and wished she could see through the empty air as he did sometimes. As his eyes searched the twilight, he felt them heat up with an unwelcome sting born of loss. He tried to shake his head free of those thoughts and smiled wryly.
"Two halves of the same coin that will never again see eye to eye, isn't that just convenient," he muttered to himself as he began to turn away. Perhaps her mordant cynicism had rubbed off on him. He could just picture her sarcastic smile and that strangely brought him comfort.
He had not turned all the way away, his mind still on the expanse of sand to his side, before he was hit by another sense. He had a feeling that something was off; he doubted it had anything to do with the memory of the redeads and others dark creatures that stalked the ruins of the Arbiter's Grounds that he knew was nestled somewhere in the dark desert. Those creatures still made him shudder to think of their rotting corpse like visage, they still plagued his nightmares. But, no, the sense he had felt was something different. Other than his intuition, he had no other reason to suspect what he did, and there was no denying the thought once it sprang into his head.
It was true that bulblins were not known for their brains but, even still, he could not find a suitable motive for the monster to have in heading to the desert. There was absolutely nothing for it and its followers there. As far as he knew, that desert went on for hundreds of miles and water and food was less than scarce. It could hardly be a ploy and the beasts had laid a false trail though, he thought with a frown, for he had hardly known a bulblin that had any desire to strategize. The fleeting sense he had felt vanished with the last light of the sun. But his suspicions refused to fade with the light.
Shrugging it off, he headed towards the fire and stopped beside an auburn haired figure, who was, not surprisingly, trying to read a book by the faint shifting light and another trying to practice the flourishing move of her latest sword technique, her red tunic, shiny black hair and rapier glowing gold in the shimmering flames. Ashei and Shad were some of his closest friends and members of the Resistance that had helped to bring down Ganon. They had officially been reinstated as working members of Zelda's court, along with Telma, Auru, and Link's old sword master Rusl. The princess had need of people with their talent. Though they still held those positions Ashei and Shad had opted to go with Link and Kasran to help defeat the Bulblins.
"What? No ecstatic caring greetings of polite inquiry from my supposed friends?" he asked with a grin.
"Have you located the monster?" Ashei turned around, sheathing her blade, duty on the forefront of her mind as usual.
Link feigned disappointment, "Why do I even try?" he asked himself aloud.
"Greetings, most esteemed friend, how fare you this evening? Is that better?" Shad halfway glanced up from his book and fixed him with an all too innocent look.
"Now I just think you are mocking me," he said with a pout that was spoiled by his smile. "We followed it all the way to the desert," he said in answer, "but the wind has wiped out any possible trace. Even you two could probably throw any pursuit in such conditions."
"That's not good,"Ashei said completely ignoring his jape, aside from giving him an annoyed punch on his arm, her usual response to his teasing insults. Shad looked just as upset at the news.
"Kasran and I were thinking of setting a watch to make sure he stays in the desert, since there is no other way out. That is, if the bulblin leader and his troops are still in there."
"You think his trial was a ploy?" she asked.
"I know that bulblins are not known for their brilliant tactics, but I see no reason why he would want to go to the desert. There is nothing there but miles and miles of sand and monsters, there is hardly any food or water. To all other sides, Gerudo desert is surrounded by steep cliff-like mountains, part of the range of the mountains of Snowpeak. Also, as far as I know, no one has ever been able to go over them. And surely, even though he is a bulblin he would know that we would put up a blockade and trap them there. Something just seems off." He mused to himself.
"There used to be more than one way out," Shad spoke up, pointing to his book. "There used to be an entrance like a canyon that led inside. It was a pass called Gerudo valley back in the days of the Hero of Time. Perhaps the path is still open somewhere."
"Really?" Link leaned in and looked at the old map inside the book Shad was reading and saw the mark of a gorge carving its way through to the main body of the desert.
Link glanced at the old chart and then closed his eyes as he visualized the mental map he had of Hyrule. After a moment he shook his head as he opened his eyes.
"There might have been a gorge there once, where the map says the old path would have let out into Hyrule, but I think the path is either blocked by an old landslide or the entrance collapsed. I have traveled there and there is nothing but an impassable cliff. Also if this map is accurate I think I have seen the remnants of that gorge in the desert. I had to cross it by going around. If I am correct, now there is only a deep jagged chasm left that is closed off on either side by a wall of sand and only this and a few arroyos remain as a testament."
Shad's face fell slightly, as Link indicated the spot on the map were the last remnant of the gorge would be.
"That means that the old Gerudo fortress will have been buried as well."
"Gerudo?" Link asked.
Though he had heard a little of them before, he did not know much about them. Despite that however, it sounded oddly familiar to him, like the slipping memory of a forgotten dream.
"They were a fierce tribe of female thieves and warriors that lived in the desert. Ganondorf was actually one of their race. It was said that a male was born to them only once every hundred years and when that happened he would be declared king. Since they were thieves, I thought that they would have tons of artifacts and treasures in the ruins of their fortress. Think of all the historical knowledge that could be there, just lying forgotten under the sand. But I guess I should get excavating if I want to find it." He said, disappointed.
"I like the sound of the Gerudo," Ashei said wistfully. "I got to admit that a whole tribe of female warriors sounds very appealing."
"What happened to them?" Link asked, his curiosity aroused. "I know for a fact that there is no one living in that desert anymore."
"The records of that are very unclear," Shad said dejectedly. That's why I wanted to find their fortress. Some accounts say that there was a war, others political turmoil or a plague of some kind. I do know for sure that there was a terrible earthquake here that altered the landscape, evidenced by several accounts in our historical records and what you yourself have told me, Link, about the collapsed gorge. One historian says that the Gerudo left with a small group of hylains during a period of political unrest after Ganondorf was put to death by the sages during the lifetime of the Hero of Time, and afterwards the earthquake destroyed what was left."
There was a moment of silence as they took in this information before Link pointed at something on the ancient map.
"What was that?"
"That used to be the Spirit temple of the Gerudos, but it is now what Auru says is the Arbiter's Grounds."
Link knew it well. It was the meeting place of the sages that doubled as an arena and prison, the place where the mirror of twilight had once stood. The ruins were still magnificent but by no means pleasant. The first time he had visited there he had to fight through redeads, skeleton warriors revived by dark magic and the old guardian who had long since perished, a massive dragon, also revived by dark magic for him to face, courtesy of the usurper king Zant.
"Some historians say that the temple was changed into the Arbiter's Ground during and after Ganondorf's thieving reign of terror in the last part of the hero of Time's era. That might have spurred some of the unrest, but again, no one knows for certain. A lot of our history is missing concerning the Gerudo, Ganondorf and the Hero of Time. And what we do have is filled with gaps and is sometimes contradictory."
"Am I interrupting?" the trio turned to see Kasran walk up to them.
"Not at all," Ashei said with a smile, "We were just discussing the Gerudo and ancient history."
Kasran smiled back, his stiff pose relaxing slightly in their company. He turned to Link, "I have posted some sentries for tonight and asked for volunteers to stay at the watchtower until I have a council with my commanding officers and see what has to be done. I still am not looking forward to telling her majesty that I failed when we reach the Castle tomorrow."
Link nodded as he looked distrustfully towards the desert, something was off, of this he was almost certain. But, without proof, it would be a waste of time to voice his thoughts. The four of them talked idly with each other for a while longer until everyone but the watch decided to turn in for the night. Link fell asleep to the gentle lapping sound of Lake Hylia against its banks and the sight of a night full of stars. That beauty, however, did nothing to calm his mind, which was occupied with more than one distracting concern. It was filled not only the suspicions and worries about the escaped bulblins, or his muddled feelings about Midna, but also with thoughts of Princess Zelda and his home village of Ordon, and what in the three goddesses' names he was going to do with himself about it all.
about three weeks later Link urged his mount forward, riding south to Ordon. In a couple more weeks summer would reach its end. And, as if to mark the passing of the season, some of the leaves on the early trees were getting ready to change colors. Soon the woods would be lit with bursts of gold, yellow, orange and red.
He patted his horse Epona lightly on her neck before turning around to check that the heavy bundles attached to her saddle were still tightly secured. It had been a poor growing year for Ordon village because of a severe lack of workers. He felt a sudden twinge of guilt as he looked at the bundles of food he carried. Much to his shame, he had been one of the workers who had not shown when he was needed. This could not have been helped though, he had been off on a crazy adventure at the time and what was done was done. He knew that no amount of wishful thinking could ever change the past. Zelda had been kind enough to give him some supplies for the villagers of Ordon and he had temporarily demoted himself from warrior to delivery boy in order to get the supplies safely to his village.
He had begged an audience with her the day before, embarrassed to have to ask a boon, but before he had even opened his mouth to speak she presented him with the supplies, as if she had known in advance what he had wanted. Perhaps it was because she was wise, or perhaps it was because of the strange ability that friends have to know what's on the others mind just by looking at them.
It was a bit surprising that she had time to even consider his wishes and the needs of his small village because she had a lot on her mind lately due to the recent attempted takeover by a sadistic megalomaniac. Hyrule was still recovering from the whole messy affair; as if Ganondorf's attack of Twilight the year before hadn't been enough.
Low crop production was only one of many problems. Hyrule had almost been caught in a civil war this summer and because the people were so busy fighting each other the Bulblin population had swelled to a massive size and they were amusing themselves by raiding and pillaging. As he thought it, he felt a sense of irritation at having lost that giant Bulblin's trail a week previous.
He lightly pulled on Epona's reins to stop her as he drew nearer to his village, knowing instinctively that something was wrong. Epona twitched her ears back and forth nervously and he held still and listened himself. As he listened, he felt a growing sense of alarm and he lightly dug his heels into his horse's flanks to urge her into a faster pace.
His sharp ears had picked up a most unwelcome sound: screaming and shrieking, coming from the direction of his home. He brought Epona from a gallop to an all-out run, worry rising in his chest like a dark omen. As he passed the Spirit spring, on the outskirts of the village, he could discern the sounds of battle. The scent of smoke hung heavy in the air, He charged through the woods heedless of the branches that whipped across his face. These sounds and scents were all too familiar. It meant only one thing, a monster raid.
He drew his sword as Epona dashed through the open fence that led to the hollow where the Village of Ordon was built. Bulblins were everywhere fighting and setting fire to the houses. The score of marauders were led by a massive Bulblin who, at a glance, appeared to be even larger than King Bulbo, who had been one of the largest bulbins Link had ever seen. It was the very one that had eluded him and the soldiers. Sentries were still posted where he had supposedly fled to, so Link's suspicion of a false trail had indeed been correct, small comfort that knowledge brought now.
Nearly the whole village was trying to fend off the invaders. Mayor Bo was grappling with several of the creatures displaying his skill as a fist fighter and a wrestler. Talo's father and mother and Link's friend Fado were fighting with whatever they could find. Rusl the blacksmith, his old sword master, and Rusl's young son Colin stood in the center of the melee, back to back, their swords flashing in the sun. Uli, Rusl's wife and his friend Ilia were trying desperately to put out the fires.
Link smashed into the hoard of monsters, his horse trampling some. He slashed down at the foe on either side of his steed and many fell to his sudden attack. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the goblin like creatures run, hooked sword held high, towards Uli's turned back. There was no way he could get to her in time to help her. He was about to lose the closest thing he had to a mother, desperation made him yell a frantic warning at top of his lungs. Uli turned at the sound of his yell but before she could even do anything a well-aimed throw from Ilia's kitchen knife took out the offending monster.
"You're not the only warrior in Ordon," she said grimly as he fought his way towards her.
All he could do was gape at his friend for a moment. Soon there were only five Bulblins left including the gigantic leader. When they saw that they were greatly outmatched, they ran for it. Rusl and Bo made a pretense of chasing after the villains to drive them away.
"When did you learn to do that? Link asked his usually peaceful friend Ilia as he dismounted. Growing up, she had shown hardly interest in weapons skills aside from what was needed to cook and the various other bucolic tasks needed to survive in a small village. But, then again, their worlds had changed quite a lot since those simple days.
"I have learned that people are can't always be relied upon to be around to protect you."
Link was surprised to hear a twang of accusing anger and hurt buried deep in her words. He had known her all his life and could tell when something was bothering her. He had spent many of his dark nights alone a couple months ago thinking about what it would be like to see the girl who was like a sister to him again, and through all his joyful imaginings, this had definitely not been one of them. When he stepped towards her, he saw that she was trembling terribly.
"That was absolutely terrifying," she gasped as she sank to the ground. "Shows what you can do when you have to, I suppose. I do not see how you can even think adventuring is fun. What in seasons name took you so long to get here? She asked her pretty face temporarily marred by a pout the anger no longer evidenced in her voice. When she got control of her trembling she stood and wrapped her arms around him.
"I missed you, Link," she said softly before she pulled back.
"I'm not the only warrior indeed," he said grinning, "I am greatly humbled by your skill Sir Ilia knight of Ordon."
Ilia looked at his face, thinking he was teasing her; but the smile he gave her was one of admiration not mockery and his deep blue eyes were serious. It was a joke but he seemed to mean it as a compliment.
She smiled at him but it was not filled with her usual warmth.
"Ilia," he began hesitantly about to ask her if she was alright, "What-"
Several shouts interrupted both he and his thoughts, claiming his attention. The bulblins may have been defeated but the village was still in a state of crisis. Smoke wafted in clouds through the air and the fires were spreading. Without another word, Link ran to help. For months he had been wishing and longing for the chance to return home and see the people whom he considered his family. This was nothing at all like how he had hoped it would be. He grabbed a heavy empty sack, soaked it in the stream, and then went to help the others smother the remaining flames.
Short, I know, but the good news is that I already have the next chapters written out and now I just have to edit them! Yay *sarcasm*!
Out of the four Links (Red, Vio, Blue and Green), which one is your favorite and why?