Manzyl had been riding for two days and nearly two nights, without rest. His trek had begun in Castle Town with the order of delivering a letter written by Impa herself directly into the hands of the highest ranking officer at Hyrule’s small stone fort located at the Hebran border.
Manzyl considered himself a talented soldier, not top of his class, but certainly better deserving of some of the positions his other peers had achieved in the Hyrule’s military.
Being an errand boy wasn’t all that bad, he still got to wear the full uniform minus the heavy set of armor, a sword, and he was given one of the fastest horses in the land. But his pay was miserable in comparison to the infantry men whose pay was already dismal.
He also disliked traveling in the cold, and snowy weather. Hebra wasn’t the place to stick around for long if you preferred warmer climates, he was hoping to deliver the message, rest for a night or two, and then to be sent back on his way to civilization in warmer Hyrule.
Manzyl felt a tinge of relief when he finally saw a walled stone structure from a distance. As he approached the gates of the fort, he slowed his horse to a soft gallop awaiting for the guards to command him to stop. To his surprise he galloped past the gates, and into the stables, unhindered.
“Lazy bums! Stonard leaves for a few days and the night shift is either asleep or playing games inside the Fortress.” Manzyl said to no one in particular as he dismounted from his horse.
Gambling and drinking were Hyrule’s soldiers favorite past time, especially when left with out superiors to control their vices for any given amount of time.
What got Manzyl’s attention in the midst of his silent rant was the absolute silence that reigned supreme outside of the fortress. He would usually hear the men shouting and cursing well before reaching the stables.
He wasn’t told the details of the mission; in fact he was told not to open the letter containing the message before it was handed to the highest ranking officer at the fort. However, he was authorized to read the message, and to burn the letter afterwards if he felt threatened, or that the situation merited doing so. He had learned about the possibility of assassins perpetrating attacks against Hyrule’s forces stationed in Hebra.
Manzyl pulled the letter out, broke the royal seal and read it:
“Reinforcements will arrive soon, notify to messenger of any changes in the situation.” The letter read.
Manzyl wasn’t about to start a fire, instead he shredded the letter into small unreadable bits.
His gut feeling told him to get back on the horse and to bolt out of the place as fast as his steed could carry him. However, what was he going to report to Impa and General Stonard upon his return? That the fort was silent, so he got cold feet, destroyed the message, and tucked tail? He would surely be put in a dungeon shortly afterwards. He had no choice but to investigate the matter further.
As he entered the main structure of the fort he noticed that apart from the uncharacteristic absolute silence, the building was cold and dark. No fires had been lit recently, which was a bad sign; Hebra during the winter was deadly chilly, a place without fire was a place without people.
Manzyl unsheathed his sword, expecting an attacker to come at him from the shadows, but silence reigned supreme, and no one attacked.
He explored the first and second floors of the fort, finding turned tables, broken pottery and a few weapons laying around.
“A struggle took place here.” Manzyl reflected.
He stopped his search when he spotted huge frozen blood puddles on the ground and remnants of blood splattered on the walls. There was no point in investigating further, the soldiers had disappeared, and in their place, blood remained. That explanation would have to suffice for Impa.
Manzyl rushed out of the fort and into the stables. He kept looking over his shoulder, and was very attentive to his surroundings, but it was too dark to see much beyond a few meters. Once on his horse, he galloped as fast as he could away from what had become a cold Hylian tomb.
“Once my serving term is over I am quitting this crap. Become a smith or a farmer…anything is better than this.” Manzyl barely finished talking to himself when he heard a whistling noise in the wind almost in unison with a sharp stinging stab on his chest that knocked him off the horse, and into the ground.
The fall knocked the wind out of his lungs, but the arrow that pierced him was his main concern, as he pulled it out of his chest in agonizing pain.
The shooter was out there probably taking aim at him for the kill shot. He rolled around trying to search for cover, but the nearest tree was about 20 meters away and he was too hurt to make a sprint for it.
It came as a shock to him when no arrows came, and a tall lean figure distinguished itself from the darkness making a calm approach towards him.
“You! What do you want from me?” Manzyl asked recognizing that the man approaching him was no Hylian soldier. He couldn’t recognize the man’s uniform.
The man also had a strange set of red eyes, and a smirk that made Manzyl’s spine shiver.
“From you I want nothing. For you are nothing to me. I will not give you the pleasure of dying by my hand.” The mysterious man said in a deep voice.
Manzyl felt relieved at hearing the man say that he wouldn’t kill him. He was almost afraid to ask if he could just go on his way, as he feared a negative answer, but he asked anyway:
“So…am I free to go?”
The man didn’t flinch at the question, he just turned away from Manzyl and walked back towards the direction he had come from.
“You are free to go. To the next life.” The man said signaling with his hand towards someone hidden in the darkness.
An arrow pierced Manzyl’s neck, causing him to drop his sword and he frantically tried to reach for it making gurgling noises, as he collapsed on the ground choking on his own blood. Manzyl couldn’t have imagined a worse, and more anti-climatic ending to his life.
The last words he would hear would be the red eyed man’s chilling command to a person he assumed was his killer.
“Cut off his head, and set it on a spike right at the gates. I want them to see.”
Hyrule’s Field (present)
“So? What did you see?” Link asked Aryl who had just arrived from flying over the ranch peering at a bon fire near the ranch gates.
“Two Hylian Soldiers are sitting around the fire chatting and drinking. I sincerely doubt they will notice us until we are at the gates.” Aryl replied.
Link frowned and rubbed his chin. This had been an unexpected development, there had never been guards at the gate of the ranch before. He wondered if something bad had happened.
“Did you see if they had bows?” Link asked.
“I didn’t fly that close. I thought you said ‘Fly high Aryl, don’t let them spot you’ you know the usual drill.” Aryl replied.
“See, the problem is that if they spot us, they might shoot first, without asking questions. Hylian Soldiers aren’t the brightest, and it is dark.” Link warned Aryl, and resumed his walk towards the ranch with the fairy tucked under his shield.
“Well the fire is bright and they are talking. They won’t see us until we are up close, and they will know you are no thief or something.” Aryl reaffirmed.
“I don’t know Aryl. I am armed to the teeth, dressed in a Forest tunic, I truly believe that I am the definition of a suspicious looking individual.” Link jokingly replied.
While Link’s comment might have been a bit humorous there was truth in what he had said. It would be prudent if he marched down stealthily towards the Ranch gates.
As they approached the gates and the bon fire got closer, Link began to discern the soldiers voices as they rambled about while drinking mead. It didn’t take long for one of them to spot him. The soldier quickly tapped the other on the shoulder while pointing at his direction. Link could see them scrambling for their spears and shields.
“Halt! This land is private property!” One of the soldiers menacingly shouted.
“Hey take it easy! I am friends with Malon and Talon. I just want to pass through.” Link replied raising his arms, and stopping a few feet away from the two Hylian Soldiers.
The Soldiers looked at him with probing eyes, then they looked at each other, and then back at him.
“Turn around boy, go back to the hole where you crawled out from. Talon and Malon don’t engage in business with ruffians like you.” The soldier that had commanded to him to halt earlier exclaimed as he approached him to get a closer look.
“I am no ruffian you stuck up prick.” Link replied eyeing him closely.
“You will regret your insolence boy. You hear that Talnus?” The one soldier called back to his partner.
“Yeah?” Talnus replied.
“This ruffian called me a prick.”
Talnus who stood closest to the gate laughed mockingly.
“Be careful Janz, the kid has some spunk it seems.”
Janz kept circling Link as if searching for something. Link kept his cool, he had been in deeper troubles before.
“My, my, that looks like a Goron hilt. I am a decorated Sargent in the army and I can’t afford one of those. I wonder if he stole it. Talnus?”
“Yeah?” Talnus replied.
“What do you think?” Janz questioned as he stopped a few feet away from Link’s front.
“Probably! Look at his garbs, this fellow is dirt poor.” Talnus replied.
Link was beginning to lose his patience. He could see that Janz had taken a liking to his sword and considering that they outnumbered him two to one, it wouldn’t be long before he would ask for him to hand it over.
“Gentlemen, you will save yourselves a lot of trouble if one of you goes into the ranch, and tells Malon that Link has arrived and is asking for permission to come in.” Link replied, trying to hide his annoyance at the two soldiers, but he figured he was doing a poor job at concealing his anger.
On cue, Janz stretched his arm out while smirking, and asked the question that Link had foreseen coming,
“Why don’t you hand that Goron sword over, and maybe I will think about sending Talnus to disrupt Captain Stonard and the Ranch girl in your stead. How about it?” Janz grinned.
“Stonard?” Link asked genuinely puzzled, “What’s that old geezer doing at the ranch?”
Link watched as Janz and Talnus looked at each other dumbfounded.
“What old man? Captain Stonard is in his early 20s. Now about the sword?” Janz replied.
Link’s face reddened, as he pondered over what he had heard. He figured Captain Stonard must be the old Stonard’s son. But what would his son want at the ranch with Malon?
‘Oh…no way, no way.’ Link thought to himself as he shook his head. The younger Stonard was dating Malon? Thoughts of anger and jealousy poured into his head before he was interrupted by the growingly impatient soldier.
“I don’t have all night runt, hand over the sword or I will take it from you!” Janz yelled.
“You will try, but you aren’t taking anything from meand I am going into that ranch.” Link replied sternly.
A shocked expression flashed across Janz’s face upon hearing Link’s reply. Link figured the soldier expected a softer reaction to his demands.
“Talnus?” Janz called back to the other soldier again.
“Yeah?” Talnus replied his mocking smirk perpetually stuck on his visage.
“The ruffian just challenged me to a duel!” Janz exclaimed bursting into an incredulous laughter.
“I heard that. It seems we will have ourselves some fun tonight.” Talnus added as he stepped forward to join Janz.
“So? Will it be two against one?” Link asked with a bored look on his face.
Janz laughed in a dismissive tone. As he motioned Talnus to step back.
“No, no, no. Let no one say that the great Janz Rogani needed help to beat a ruffian like you!” Janz finished.
Janz squared up with his spear on hand waiting for Link to unsheathe his blade. A minute went by and Link stood motionless with his arms by his side. Link’s inaction prompted Janz to break the silence.
“What the hell? Got cold feet already?”
“No. I just don’t feel like I need my sword to take you down.” Link confidently replied.
Janz’s eyes flared in anger and he took a step to deliver a spear strike at Link who deftly side stepped out for the way, grabbing part of the shaft of the spear while simultaneously throwing and landing a smashing round house kick on Janz’s jaw knocking the Hylian soldier down and out in a bloody heap.
Talnus’ jaw dropped in astonishment as he readied his own Spear.
“Talnus is your name isn’t it?” Link asked.
Talnus nodded swallowing hard, his face taking a pale hue.
“I will find Stonard, and tell him his man needs medical attention, maybe Malon can tend to his jaw before you take him back into Market town.” Link said as he walked past the soldier into the ranch.
“You will be hanged for this boy!” Talnus managed to say before he ran to his fallen comrade.
Link shook his head and waved his hand in dismissal.
“Maybe. But Hyrule owes me much more than it could ever owe your friend.” Link exclaimed as he passed the gates and walked through the ranch’s long winding road.
“You can come out now.” Link said to Aryl.
“That was intense.” Aryl said as she flew out of the cover of his shield and sat on Link’s shoulder, “Your social skills never cease to amaze me, you truly have a gift. I wonder how things will playout now with this Stonard fellow. Can’t wait!” Aryl stated sarcastically.
Link shook his head, in reality he had no idea as to how he was going to deal with Stonard who probably was as hard headed as his idiotic father. Most likely he would have to fight again, there was only one reason why some one like Stonard would be at the ranch; the courting of Malon.
“I will admit that I am not sure how I am going to go through this.” Link conceded.
“Well that’s a first, maybe that Moblin DID scramble your head a bit there.” Aryl questioned.
“I see you are back to your fairy unfunny self.”
“Well, if I were you, I would let things play out.”
“What do you mean play out?” Link asked puzzled.
“Our new friends back at the gate are probably going to walk over to your precious Malon’s house anyways. Well …how about letting them arrive first?” Aryl stated proudly in her cleverness.
“But I told them that I would do other wise.”
“How does this benefit my case in any event? They would get to tell their side of the story first if I do as you suggest.” Link interjected.
Aryl flew out of his shoulder and got in front of his face. The glare of her sudden brightness made him squint.
“Well think about this: If they get there first, this Stonard character will get angry, and will probably lead them on a search throughout the farm grounds for the dangerous ruffian who nearly killed one of his men.” Aryl said in excitement.
Link rubbed his chin finding himself slowly nodding his head in approval of Aryl’s plan. If Stonard left on a wild goose chase, he could sneak into the house and have a word with Malon himself. Hopefully Malon wouldn’t be angry at him for abandoning her, and for this newest guard incident.
“Okay! I know where to hide so that we can get a good view of the farm house. Let’s go!” Link said as he broke into a stealthy Sprint to a few bushes that allowed for cover, and a good view at the farm house.
Stonard was likely to start his search at the stables, which would give Link ample time to sneak into Malon’s room, provided that his Hookshot hadn’t gotten rusty over the last few months, it would be an easy feat.
The minutes flew by and Link could feel Aryl stirring behind him,
“Be patient…they shouldn’t be long now.” Link said in a hushed tone.
“Patience isn’t a fairy virtue. You hit that soldier too hard, maybe he is dead.” Aryl complained.
“Well if he is dead then Talmac should have arrived quicker in order to tell Stonard.”
“Talnus.” Aryl corrected.
“His name is Talnus! Your memory is failing you I see.” Aryl said mockingly.
“Whatever…” Link sighed before spotting the two men approaching from the gates direction, “There they are.”
Link had hidden behind some rather thick bushes that were covered in snow. It wouldn’t be hard for any one to track him because his footprints on the Virgin snow were easy to spot. He had to hope that the soldiers and Stonard wouldn’t notice the footprints swiftly. He needed time and a distraction in order to hook shot onto the roof of Talon’s farm house.
Janz sat on a bench, in a bloody pulp Link could see that the man was in terrible pain. Talnus however softly knocked on the door that led into the farmhouse a few times. The door opened and another soldier walked out shutting it behind him.
“What is this about?” The unknown soldier questioned Talnus in a hushed tone.
“We were attacked by a ruffian who snuck into the ranch.” Talnus replied.
“I must inform Stonard!” The Unknown Soldier exclaimed this time not minding the volume of his voice as he went back into the house.
A few minutes went by as Link and Aryl remained hidden and Talnus remained standing like statue in from of the door before it opened again revealing the short and stocky figure of the younger Stonard, who had his blade in hand.
“Talnus! You fool! Where is Janz?” Stonard questioned anger filling his voice.
“S-Sir he is there.” Talnus pointed at the bench, “We were caught unawares!”
“What the hell happened to you? Your face is a mess!” Stonard said as he eyed Janz.
“He was attacked sire!” Talnus stated.
“I am not blind Talnus, but how?” Stonard replied.
“A ruffian…he caught us unawares. Smacked him silly with an oaken pole!” Talnus explained.
“You idiots were drinking again. There will be sanctions for this when we get called back to the castle.” Stonard warned.
“Yes sire…” Talnus said as he lowered his head in shame.
“Jessy! You and Talnus will find and eliminate this ruffian before he gets to steal anything from the ranch. I shall remain here.” Stonard commanded.
“But sire! Surely you can’t let us go after him alone, look what he did to Janz.” Talnus complained.
“Which is precisely why I will stay here at the farm house. He could be an assassin, I will protect Talon and Malon while they tend to Janz’s wounds.”
“No buts. He caught you unawares you said. In a straight fight he shouldn’t pose a problem for you two.” Stonard said before he assisted Janz into the farmhouse and shut the door firmly behind him.
“Very well” Jessy said as he drew his sword, “I will go search the stables, you go search the barn by the track. Provisions for the winter are kept there.”
“No!” Talnus gasped.
“Why?” Jessy replied with a confused look painted on his face.
“Because I lied to save our hides. This ruffian dueled with Janz and crushed him with a single kick to the head. He is very dangerous, it would take the both of us to bring him down.” Talnus exclaimed.
Jessy nodded, and gestured Talnus to follow him into the stables. Link could no longer hear their conversation as they walked further away from him.
“Well…aren’t you going to Hookshot into the roof?” Aryl broke the silence.
“That might not be a good idea now.” Link replied.
Link rubbed his chin as he pondered his next move. He was counting on Malon being in her room, but that was no longer the case if she was tending to Janz’s wounds.
“The idea was to knock on her window. But she is probably on the first floor. The window has bolts, so it can only be opened from the inside unless I break it. I don’t want to break her window.” Link said as he looked for a solution for their current predicament.
“I hate to break it to you, but those two idiots will finish searching the stables soon, and once they make way for the track they will spot your foot prints.” Aryl stated.
Link gave her an annoyed look, and wanted to protest but thought better of it as Aryl was right. When was she not? He thought .
“Alright…I am just going to walk over there and knock on the door. Stonard will open and Malon will be right there. She will recognize me and everything is going to be all right.” Link stated.
“You assaulted one of them, do you honestly think they will let you walk away from this?” Aryl countered.
“So what do you want me to do? I don’t want to kill any of those men…I just want to go inside the house and hang with Malon like I used to do.”
“That man Stonard seems to have taken residence in the house. One of you will be staying in that house for the night but not both.” Aryl said.
“Well …I am here for Malon…let her decide.” Link finished as he rose from the bushes and walked, as quietly as he could, to the front door of Malon’s house.
He sharply knocked on the door, and took look behind him to make sure the other two soldiers hadn’t spotted him.
The door opened revealing the stocky figure of Stonard. He had strong green eyes that immediately frowned upon seeing Link’s visage.
“You must be the ruffian! Stand back Malon!” Stonard yelled as he drew his sword.
“Malon!” Link yelled as he watched the red haired girl run towards the door way.
“Fairy boy!” Malon excitedly replied.
Stonard blocked the doorway peeking back and forth with an incredulous look.
“Malon? You know this ruffian?” It was all Stonard could utter.
“Of course he… he is my dearest of friends.” Malon replied.
Stonard proceeded to exit the house. He still held his sword in a menacing manner and the remaining two soldiers were making their way from the stables towards the house as they heard the commotion.
“Sire! He is the one! The one that almost killed Janz!” Talnus said frightened as he arrived at the scene.
“I am afraid I will have to arrest you. You attacked a man in uniform. A man of Hyrule. You will be judged by the general himself for this.” Stonard warned.
Link shook his head and let out a sigh of frustration.
“It’s true, I kicked Talnus into the next realm, but for good reason. He tried to stop me from entering the ranch and also challenged me to a duel.” Link explained.
Stonard looked confused and angry at the same time.
“That maybe so…but it is your word against the men of the King’s word.” Stonard replied sternly.
“Marcilus! Please! Let’s forgive this incident. Link can go and come as he pleases on this ranch. Your men were out of line.” Malon intervened.
“Janz needs to be treated for his wounds in market town…he will be asked to write a report of what transpired here. He followed my orders of watching the Ranch gates. If I do not bring this ruffian to justice, I will be sanctioned.” Stonard replied turning his attention back to Link.
“Well…it is clear then that I cannot escape my fate…” Link said tossing his shield to the side and drawing his sword as Aryl flew to Malon’s shoulder. “With Lady Malon and Lord Talon as the witnesses, I challenge you to a duel Stonard.”
Link heard Malon gasp as she nervously switched glances between Stonard and himself
“Listen boy, I have no intention of harming you in front of the lady here, don’t resist the arrest and no one will get hurt.” Stonard advised.
Link’s eyes flared in anger, he could see in Stonard’s own that he didn’t fear him in the least. He saw Link as a scrawny 15 year old boy. Link had to hold back his desire to grin and the prospect of humbling the captain of the guard.
“I challenged you to a duel, do you accept or yield? I hope you can fight better than that Janz fool.” Link mocked.
Stonard’s face reddened in a mix of anger and embarrassment.
“Malon, my love, I warned him and he wouldn’t listen. I hope you can forgive me for putting your dear friend out of his misery!” Stonard drew his sword and also tossed his shield aside.
“Marcilus please!” Malon yelped in one last futile plea.
“Stand aside my love, I, Marcilus of the House of Stonard, son of the Great General of Hyrule, Captain of the Royal guard, trained by Haldritch the first Sword of Hyrule accept your challenge.” Stonard said excitedly.
“Someday you are going to look back on this moment….and feel very stupid, because it was the moment were you got beat by Link of the House on top of a tree, son of nobody, Hero of nothing, trained by the first annoying mouth of Hyrule Navi…the fairy.” Link replied mocking Stonard.
Stonards confident smile disappeared as he took a hard swing at Link’s head. Link docked in time, but clearly, Stonard was trying to kill him. After all, Link had made a mockery out of him. He wasn’t going to let him walk away from the ranch.
Stonard thrust his sword a few times with Link sliding and flipping away from his deadly strikes.
“Clown! Stop running away!” Stonard yelled in frustration as he was missing wildly and falling off balance with every missed strike.
Fighting Stonard was a bit more difficult than fighting a Moblin. Stonard had pristine technique and good instilled habits. He would quickly raise his guard after a missed strike unlike most Moblins. The young Captain of the guard was also quicker than any Moblin he had ever met, however his speed paled in comparison to a Lizalfo’s.
Link could feel out the small gaps that he could time in between Stonard’s strikes, and thus, he did just that when Stonard angrily missed a high slashing strike. Link countered with a right back hook kick that smashed the Knight’s right eye sending him on a violent tumble into the ground.
“Lord Stonard! You must watch out for the kicks …he is good with the kicks!” Talnus yelled from afar.
Stonard stood up holding his right eye which was rapidly swelling grotesquely.
“I really have idiots for subordinates!” Stonard exclaimed in frustration.
“I think this is borderline ridiculous, you are both in my property and I won’t have you kill each other in it!” Talon angrily yelled at both combatants.
Link nodded, and lowered his sword but Stonard growled he wanted payback for his eye.
“Talon stay out of this. This bastard attacked my men and challenged me to a duel. He will be brought to justice! Your property is inside of the Kingdom of Hyrule and I am one of the highest authorities in it!” Stonard replied commandingly.
Link raised his sword again, Stonard was too proud to let the grudge go.
“You must be proud of yourself forest boy, you got a shot on the great Marcilus Stonard…but it is a small victory that you will come to regret in the next few seconds.” Stonard threatened wiping blood out of his injured eye.
“Nah.” Link shook his head, “I have fought much better before.”
Upon hearing those words Stonard’s remaining eye flared up in hatred as he charged towards Link with a primal growl.
Link wasn’t playing this time, and as Stonard launched an over head strike, Link went inside his range and into his chest faster than Stonard could deliver his own blow, and smashed the hilt of his Goron Sword into Stonard’s mouth. Stonard’s formerly perfect white teeth, were no longer perfect, as multiple teeth fell into the snow, covered in red crimson blood. The stunned dazed knight tried to regain his balance.
Link stabbed Stonard on his leg, and then ran Stonard through his right shoulder with his blade which automatically prompted Stonard to drop his sword in a shriek of agony. Stonard fell to his knees, in pain and bleeding profusely from both leg and shoulder wounds.
“Link! Please don’t kill him!” Malon’s face had turned pale at the bloody sight.
“I will return with 20 men and you will be hanged for this! Curse-” Stonard could not finalize his threats because Link back kicked him into unconsciousness crushing his nose in the process.
Stonard laid motionless in a heap of blood on the snow. Talnus and Jessy looked at each other in terror.
“He is not dead.” Link reassured the soldiers, which understandably were in no mood to avenge their captain. “If you hurry and apply pressure on his wounds you can make it to a fairy fountain that is near here. By tomorrow, he will be good as new…without a few teeth and a few new scars to remember me by, of course.”
“W-where?” Talnus broke the silence.
“Ride northwest from the gates of the ranch, you will see a pine tree line maybe 20 minutes into the ride. Go into the trees and near the only water fall in that Creek you will find a grotto. The fountain is there.” Link advised.
Talnus and Jessy immediately went to aid their captain. As they applied pressure and bandaged his wounds with rags Link approached them with the intention of warning them not to comeback.
“When he wakes up, remind him of my mercy. Next time, I will show none.” Link finalized.
Lon Lon Ranch (present)
Malon stood stunned beside her equally perplexed father as she watched the three Hylian Soldiers depart with a moribund Stonard.
Malon approached Stonard’s unconscious body as he passed by, his body was stowed on the rear of Talnus’ horse.
“I am truly sorry Marcilus…” Malon whispered in his ear.
She stood in place watching until the men disappeared from view. She had a lot of mixed emotions. She felt excitement, as her fairy boy had finally returned. There was also a sense of relief as she doubted that Stonard would ask for her hand anytime soon.
She also felt a tinge of anger at the spectacle that both men had performed at the ranch, and anxiety crept in as she wasn’t sure Stonard would live.
She turned around and approached Link who was sitting on a crate seemly lost in his thoughts, with his new fairy sitting on his shoulder.
“Papa!” Malon said startled as her father grabbed her arm, “ what is it?”
“Whether young Stonard lives or dies, we are going to have an army of soldiers at this very spot in a day or two. Link sealed his fate.” Talon said clearly worried about the implications of Link’s duel with Stonard.
“It was a duel. We are witnesses, Link even forgave his life, and told them of a fairy fountain.”
“You are young ….you don’t understand. The power these men have. We could lose our heads as accomplices.” Talon said.
Malon shook her head. They had done nothing after all.
“We are an innocent third party in all of this. Besides Marcilus wouldn’t hurt me.” Malon replied.
“Did you not hear how he boasted about our Ranch being the property of the King?” Talon asserted sighing before patting her head and entering the house.
Her Father was right, she thought. She had never seen Stonard that angry, then again she had never seen anyone in a fight before. Perhaps sheltering Link on the ranch would be seen as enough of a crime to make them accomplices.
“Malon…I am sorry.” A voice broke the silence, it was Link’s voice. His voice had changed, it had become raspier, and deeper. He still looked two years younger than most men of 17 winters did, but that was to be expected.
“I am sorry too.” Malon replied as she sat beside him on the crate. The fairy on his shoulder flew away. Malon figured the fairy didn’t want to meddle in their conversation.
“For what? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“For trying to move on…I guess…why did you leave like that?” Malon asked genuinely hurt, she would have never entertained Stonard, if Link had stayed with her.
“I was…well I am an idiot. That’s what idiots do, they make the wrong decisions. I wanted to feel important, I guess…go on adventures, save Hyrule…” Link replied clearly saddened by how things turned out.
“I waited for you …every night by the window. Mar-… Stonard, he began courting me about a year after you left. I was very cold with him, because I always waited for you.” Though it was freezing cold outside, Malon’s cheeks reddened upon her confession.
“I always thought of you while I was away…” Link replied.
Malon turned to face him and ran her hand through Link’s cold, pale cheek. She noticed the scar on the left cheek bone, and ran her fingers through it.
“A Moblin almost killed me, I thought I was going to die then, and I really felt sorry about everything. I should have never left.” Link said with a sad expression.
“Promise me something.” Malon asked staring directly into Link’s blue eyes.
“Promise me that you will never leave again. At least not without taking me with you.” Malon asked.
Link looked down on the floor, after a what seemed like an eternity to Malon he smiled at her nodding,
“I will never leave you again.” Link replied.
“You two love birds, are going to turn into ice statues if we don’t go inside the house soon.” Aryl finally interrupted flying in between them.
“We haven’t been introduced yet…I am Malon.” Malon said with a wide grin.
“I am Aryl…I am Navi’s replacement since this knuckle head never managed to find her.” Aryl mocked.
“Shut it Aryl! You are right though, it is getting colder and I am all sweaty from the fight.” Link replied.
Malon nodded, it had been strange to see Link with a different fairy, at first she had thought it had been Navi, but it seemed like she was gone for good. It saddened her greatly; Navi had been a friend to her during her childhood.
Malon stood up and led Link and Aryl into the farm house. She suspected there wouldn’t be much sleep tonight after all that had happened.
Impa stood out side of the Royal Chambers. She awaited for the King to awake from his slumber to report that Nabooru had accepted the terms, and that Zelda had overstepped her boundaries granting the Gerudo woman a sizable chunk of men.
“The King shall receive you now, Lady Impa.” An old man of sixty winters who served as one of the King’s butlers said.
Impa walked into the room as the king sat beside a large table zipping hot brewed coffee from a golden mug. His night robes were worth more than an entire Hylian village. Impa always saw the luxuries of the royal family as unnecessary comforts, especially when market town itself had a growing homeless population that starved on a daily basis.
“The Butler says you have news from the negotiations.” King Hyrule asked.
“Yes, Your majesty. The girl has accepted all of the terms …except that she asked for a thousand soldiers.” Impa replied.
“Well, that is preposterous. We are preparing to fight a potential war.” King Hyrule replied grinning.
“Zelda gave her 1,500 soldiers instead.”
“What!?” The king nearly fell over his chair spilling some of his coffee on previously pristine floor. “What has gotten into that girl’s head! I assume you intervened.” The King asked, he was no longer grinning, but sweating profusely instead.
“Impossible, she signed a Royal Parchment. I must add that Nabooru was quite pleased.” Impa calmly replied.
“Of Course she was. I want Zelda summoned to my Chambers first thing in the morning…that girl!” King Hyrule stated, as pounded his fist into the table.
“It is not all bad…what she did. Nabooru is not loyal to your Majesty, or Hyrule. Ridiculous as it might sound her only loyalty is to Link, our forest boy.” Impa said eyeing the King’s reaction carefully.
The king shook his head in disbelief before replying,
“That lying boy with the big imagination?”
“The very same.” Impa replied.
“Why would a thieving vixen be loyal to that brat?” the King asked in genuine bewilderment.
“Koume the Flame Witch and Kotake the Ice Witch…they ruled the Gerudo for a time before Link joined forces with Nabooru and hunted the duo down. It seems it was a bloody battle and the boy saved her life…or so the rumors say.” Impa replied.
“You had informed me of these events years ago, right after the Ganondorf incident at the grounds. I didn’t take the part in which the boy helped seriously.” The King replied.
“Perhaps it is time that you should.”
“What?” the King asked.
“Take the forest boy into consideration. Nabooru asked for him, if the boy had been at the castle, it is possible she wouldn’t have demanded so much from our side.” Impa replied.
The King shook his head in frustration. Impa decided that it had been enough for the night, and turned to exit the chambers, but not before saying,
“Zelda overstepped her bounds, but by doing so is gaining the trust, and in a sense, some loyalty from the Gerudo queen. Nabooru is young and has a folkloric sense of loyalty. It might prove beneficial to us in the future.” She bowed, “This concludes my report, if I may take my leave.”
“You may take your leave… and also, forget about summoning Zelda. I will have a chat with her, eventually, but I will let things remain as they are.” The King finalized.
Gerudo Fortress (2 years into the past)
Link’s feet throbbed in pain, as he laid on a soft hammock in the room that Nabooru had provided for him. He had walked all the way from the ranch into the Fortress. It had taken him days, he missed Epona dearly, but wasn’t sure if he would return to the ranch anytime soon, and he had already taken Epona on a two year quest to Termina. Malon had missed both of them dearly, he couldn’t just take the horse away from her like that. At least not so soon.
He had been received by Nabooru’s warriors and had been promptly escorted into his room. They promised him Nabooru would come to visit him later. He had come to Gerudo’s fortress to tie up some lose ends, mainly Koume and Kotake. As long as the twin sisters lived, Nabooru’s hold over the Gerudo, and her life remained in grave danger.
Link’s eye lids suddenly got heavy as he rested in the gentle sway of his hammock. When he awoke some time later he was greeted by a familiar face.
“Good Morning Handsome! Well…it is really sundown, but still, you catch my drift.” Nabooru said, excitedly, as she playfully winked at him.
Link smiled, Nabooru’s eyes were golden, they reminded him of a beautiful warm sunset, and it was difficult for him not to be embellished by them.
“Nabooru! I am glad you are still doing fine!” Link replied.
“Me too. But not all is fine and dandy around here. Koume and Kotake, as you might have heard, are still up to their mischief. Especially after Ganondorf was executed. They are spending too much time near the arbiter’s grounds. Which I find quite strange, considering Ganondorf is dead.”
“That’s because he isn’t.” Link stated.
“What do you mean?” Nabooru’s eyes widened.
“It must be kept a secret…but the execution failed. As long as he has the Tri Force of Power, he is immortal. The best the sages could do was to confine him to someplace known was the Twilight realm.” Link answered.
Nabooru rubbed her chin thoughtfully. Pacing back and forth in the room.
“So they are trying to …free him?” She broke the silence.
“I see no other reason why they would roam the area.” Link agreed.
“The witches remain a powerful foe. I don’t want to send any of my girls after them. Kotake and Koume still hold a large contingent of Gerudos at their command. Perhaps, truly, I fear they see themselves as the rightful Gerudo rulers at this point. ” Nabooru stated.
“I think we should kill them.” Link said coldly.
Nabooru stood still for a moment gazing at the horizon through one of the room’s windows.
“If we don’t, you will never be safe. Back in the future that I saved…they killed you.” Link replied with a saddened expression.
“So you came to save me…how romantic…if you were but a little older…well you will be someday…” Nabooru stopped when she saw that Link’s face reddened at her words.
“I was told you came on foot,” Nabooru continued as she gestured Link to follow her, “ We will ride in my horse then, the witches are holed up in cave system in northern Gerudo desert. It is a night’s ride there. We will ride all night and meet our foe there by daylight…I rather face those witches during the day…wouldn’t you agree?”
Link nodded, he felt rested and everything did feel safer during daylight than it did during the darkness of the night when it came to fighting monsters.
“So, it seems you were going to go yourself even without me?” Link asked as he exited the room.
“I had no way of knowing your were coming. The witches made two attempts on my life the last few months. Killing them also crossed my mind…more than once.” Nabooru replied.
They went to the stables to fetch Nabooru’s horse which was a beautiful white specimen. For once, Link would have to ride, as the passenger, which he didn’t mind, as he felt comfortable and pleased to hold Nabooru’s waist. He could feel and smell her soft silky red hair as it brushed against his skin. Her scent was enchanting, he had to admit.
“So tell me Link? Why did you wait 5 years to return to me?” Nabooru probed.
“I left on an unintended 2 year search for Navi, my fairy friend. Then after a wondrous tale, in a parallel world where I kept repeating the same 3 days over and over, in order to save said world from a falling moon, I spent my days at the Lon Lon Ranch…doing ranch stuff. Then came the failed execution and I just felt I had to check on you and your people.” Link said.
“Boy, you need to tell me that story about the wondrous world in detail. Sounds like some crazy adventure. I gather you never found your fairy.” Nabooru replied as they galloped through narrow and increasingly cold cliff passages.
“Unfortunately, no. I never found Navi. I don’t think you want to hear my story of the wondrous parallel world. It is long.” Link replied.
“We have all night Link, I am all ears!” Nabooru finalized.
Link proceeded to narrate his adventure on Termina to the Gerudo girl as they delved deeper into the northern desert.
It was a chilly, and clear skied early morning. It was so cold that Link held Nabooru tighter than he had ever held a woman before. It was the only way to get some heat into his increasingly freezing body.
“We are almost there my handsome prince. My scouts have a hidden camp overseeing the witches hideout.” Nabooru said gritting her teeth as the cold made it difficult to speak.
Sunrise remained a few hours away as they arrived at a hidden encampment with three young Gerudo women guarding it.
“Nabooru! We weren’t expecting you. Katya spotted your horse as you made your way up the slopes a few hours ago. We were surprised to say the least.” A tall Gerudo said as she motioned them to a small tent.
“Well, I have brought with me a handsome warrior that will help us get rid of the Witch plague once and for all Mareaya.” Nabooru excitedly exclaimed as they entered the Tent.
“Koume and Kotake arrived at the cave 6 hours ago. Based on their habitual routine we expect them to remain there for a few days still.” Mareaya informed, as she handed a hot mug of freshly brewed coffee to both Link and Nabooru.
“Very well, at first light Link and I will make our way to the cave.” Nabooru stated in fierce determination.
Mareaya wasn’t as cheerful as the beautiful young Gerudo Queen to be.
“It won’t be as simple as just going up the side of the cliff and into the cave, Nabooru.”
“What’s the problem?” Nabooru asked.
“Two problems: Arleen and Safira. They guard the entrance. As soon as they spot you, they will either fight you, or alert the witches, and then fight you. Either way the ruckus of the fight will alert them. If they escape, it will take us years to find them again.” Mareaya finalized.
Nabooru’s confident visage saddened at the news.
“Arleen, and Safira…Two of our greatest, most loyal warriors. I do not wish to kill them.” Nabooru lamented.
“And yet we must.” Mareaya assured.
“How can I start my rule over our people by killing two of our most respected members? That doesn’t make me any better than Ganondorf, or the witches for that matter. Besides, they are formidable. It is no certainty we would win in open combat.” Nabooru explained.
“Arrows…Katya has a good sniping spot, and she is a hellishly good shot.”
“As is Link, but are we really going to assassinate them?” Nabooru questioned incredulously.
“We are thieves and Assassins …it is our way.” Mareaya replied.
“Not anymore…not moving forwards.” Nabooru interjected.
“Your rule will not start until Koume and Kotake are out of the picture. Unless we quietly dispose of Arleen and Safira the witches will escape. I have spent 8 months entrenched in this frozen hell hole, we are not going to botch this.” Mareaya reposted with a Stern tone.
“What about sleeping potions? The ones used in darts?” Link finally broke his silence.
“It is too windy ….and too great a distance from the snipping spot for the darts to hit the targets.” Mareaya countered.
“The tip of the arrows …we will soak them in it….like poisoned arrows. We will try to hit the guards in non mortal areas.” Link said.
Nabooru nodded, she seemed convinced by Link’s idea,
“We will do that…once they are down, Link and I, will enter the cave, while you and Katya tend to the wounds of our comrades. Marlene will stay at the camp preparing the salves for the wounds.” Nabooru stated.
They spent an hour mixing herbs in order to craft the sleeping potion. Once they had prepared the arrows, Link left with Katya for the snipping spot.
Link followed the young Gerudo, who was a little bit more slender than Nabooru, and almost as pretty, up a rocky cliff in absolute silence. Only the wind hitting the cliff wall, and their equipment, could be heard by the two young warriors.
Once at the spot, Katya finally broke the silence,
“I hope you are as good a shot as Nabooru thinks you are. There they are, it is a tough shot, you have to take the wind into account.” Katya said as she pointed across the huge chasm. Link could make out the two small distant figures of the Gerudo guards.
The shot was difficult indeed. Link wasn’t sure he had ever attempted such a long distance shot, especially with the added difficulty of not hitting his target in a vital area.
“I might end up killing my target…” Link lamented.
“As long as you don’t miss…all is well that ends well. Nabooru is too sentimental.” Katya said with a smirk.
“So, what are you aiming for?” Link asked.
“The wind is blowing west…so I am aiming for the left shoulder blade…that way if I miss I will still land a kill shot, and the mission won’t be compromised.” Katya answered coldly before continuing, “Enough chatter forest boy, on my count…on three … I will take the one on the right, and you the one on the left…obviously.”
“Got it.” Link replied.
At Katya’s count they released their arrows. Katya’s arrow landed exactly on one of the guard’s shoulder blades. Link had to admit the girl was a better shot than him at that distance, and under those conditions. Link’s target also went down…but his arrow strayed lower and seemingly hit the Gerudo woman on the stomach. Link feared the worst.
“Dammit!” Link cursed under his breath.
Katya kissed him on the cheek, and smiled.
“Hell of a shot, I honestly expected you to miss. If she dies, she dies…she should have chosen our side when Ganondorf was apprehended.” Katya said with a real lack of concern as she motioned Link to follow her into the trail that led to the cave.
As they made their way down, Link could see both Mareaya and Nabooru making their way into the cave entrance themselves. Katya’s reassurance wasn’t enough to alleviate the sting in Link’s stomach. This was the first woman he had ever killed. He had killed the witches in the future, but they were witches and they had been evil. This felt different.
They swiftly caught up with their Gerudo comrades halfway up the trail that led to the cave’s entrance.
“We must hurry…I hit the one in the stomach. If she is not dead, she will be unless she is tended to quickly.” Link said with a worrisome tone of voice.
He wasn’t sure if Nabooru didn’t listen or she was just plain angry at him, but she didn’t reply. Once they arrived they found both Gerudo women laying on the ground in bloody heaps.
“Arleen will live. Safira might not. Just stop the bleeding and take them down to the camp. If Link, and I, do not make it out of the cave …it is up to you Mareaya to guide our people.” Nabooru commanded.
Mareaya nodded and quickly turned her attention to the wounded Gerudo. Nabooru motioned Link to follow her into the cave. Once inside, Link grabbed a hold of her arm, and pulled her towards him so that he could whisper in her ear.
“Once they find themselves in trouble, they will fuse together into a powerful younger woman capable of both magic and incredible melee skill.” Link whispered.
“The Twinrova….so the legends are true!” Nabooru replied with wide amazement in her golden eyes.
“What legends?” Link asked.
“Koume and Kotake are two different versions of the same person. Twinrova. Twinrova ruled the Gerudo prior to Ganondorf becoming king. She had split personality issues oddly tied to her ability to control fire and ice. She would split herself into two different persons in order to avoid going bonkers. Anyways, rumors were that not only were they surrogate mothers to Ganondorf as they trained and raised him, but also that Twinrova was his lover….which in theory would explain their hatred towards me…as Ganondorf groomed me to marry him.” Nabooru explained.
Link shook his head not quite knowing what to make of these revelations.
“Those are not legends, that didn’t happened that long ago.” Link replied.
“They are… Because no Gerudo has ever seen Twinrova…we have only heard tales…until you confirmed her existence to me now. This is certainly exciting.” Nabooru whispered drawing her blades.
“She is very dangerous, I was 17 years of age maybe older when I faced her, and she was still quite a match for my stronger self.” Link cautioned.
They kept their slow march deeper into the cave until they overheard voices talking in the distance.
Nabooru slowly turned towards Link, he leaned forward thinking she was about to whisper something to him, but instead received a full fledged kiss on the lips.
“Just in case we don’t survive this…you can at least rest easy knowing you had your first kiss.” Nabooru winked.
Nabooru wasn’t exactly right, he had kissed Malon before…but there was nothing innocent about Nabooru’s kiss.
Link drew his bow, if he could get one of the witches early it would make everything easier. As they entered the chamber where the voices were coming from they came to the startling realization that it was empty.
“A trap!” Nabooru said as she lined up to stand back to back with Link.
Both of them scouted their surroundings as a laughter full of malice filled the cold air.
“My, my! What do we have here sister…hmm?” Koume said appearing at some distance in front of Nabooru as she rode her flying broom.
“Intruders it seems…seeking their deaths, they have come, my dear Koume.” Kotake replied appearing on the opposite side of the natural chamber.
“I am Naboo-” Nabooru was cut off by Koume.
“Quiet you! We know who you are…oh yes we know…the would be queen of the Gerudo!” Koume replied.
“And her forest Boyfriend…Ah yes! The one responsible for our beloved Master’s fate.” Kotake added.
Link looked surprised at the fact that the Witches knew about him.
“Don’t look so surprised…we smell the Triforce of Courage within you. So, you have come to stop us from bringing our Ganondorf back?”
“Quiet Kotake! They don’t have to know!” Koume cautioned.
Link didn’t wait for their ranting to be over and shot an arrow at Kotake which stroke her on the right arm causing the witch to shriek in pain.
“Bastards!” Koume yelled out as she fired a fire ball.
Both Link and Nabooru were quick on their feet, and the witches were struggling to keep up with them. They were missing their ice and fire projectiles and Link was ever inching closer with his arrows.
He could feel the magic use was draining them of their power. It was then, that both Kotake and Koume joined in a magic blast that momentarily blinded him and his Gerudo companion.
“What a privilege it must be for you to see our true and most beautiful form!” Twinrova said as she settled down on her long muscular legs drawing a blade made of fire in one hand and one of ice in the other.
She was taller than Link and Nabooru. The old wrinkled appearance of the twin witches was gone, and the new younger form was beautiful and terrifying indeed.
Twinrova was a mesmerizing sight to behold. Even Impa’s legendary size for a female warrior paled in comparison to the former Gerudo queen.
“The real fight starts now Nabooru!” Link warned.
“As it should be! A queen faces a queen!” Nabooru shouted as she charged forwards.
Twinrova moved with Grace parrying each attack Nabooru could muster. Nabooru was attacking frantically, and thus, Link was forced to watch from a distance trying to get an arrow in between Nabooru’s strikes. He didn’t have enough room to get a shot before Twinrova kicked Nabooru off her feet. The girl fell hard on her back, and as Twinrova raised her blade for a death blow Link jumped in front of her to block the shot from the ice blade, smashing his shield on Twinrova’s nose in the same motion.
Twinrova back flipped in anger and launched a series of strikes each with killing intent. Out of the corner of his left eye Link could see Nabooru getting up from the ground, struggling to regain her bearings.
“You will regret coming this far forest boy!” Twinrova exclaimed in anger.
Twinrova threw her ice weapon as a spear at Link. He managed to twist out of the way just in time.
“Missed!” Link mocked.
“Did I?” Twinrova got the last laugh as the spear had struck Nabooru on the left side of her stomach.
Link paused for a moment, as his eyes flared in anger and terror, he threw his own sword at Twinrova cutting the Witch’s laughter short as it impaled her face causing the once beautifully stunning foe to collapse as lifeless heap into the hard cold stone floor. Twinrova was no more.
Link ran to Nabooru’s side, as the young woman pulled the ice blade out of her mid section.
“Nabooru!” Link yelled helplessly.
“My handsome prince…I think we might not be meant for each other after all.” Nabooru said.
“Don’t talk. Save your strength I will carry you to a fairy fountain and everything will be as it was.” Link said as he lifted Nabooru on his arms.
The slender girl was heavier than she looked…or maybe he just wasn’t as strong in a 13 year old body as he had been in an adult one. He still made good time out of the cave and the adrenaline kept him energized. His plan was solid, a fairy fountain would save his friend, but the key piece missing was the fact that he didn’t know about any fountain in the nearby area.
The closest one he knew about was about a day’s ride from their location. Nabooru would be lucky if she survived the next hour.
“You need to stop the bleeding…” Nabooru barely whispered before fainting.
Link quickly but softly put her down, took his shirt off and applied a bandage that put pressure on both her entry and exit wound. He picked her up again, and made his way down the trail, he needed to get back to Nabooru’s horse which was at the encampment.
Katya made her way down to meet them.
“What happened to her!”
“We killed the witches, but she was badly injured. She won’t survive unless we get her to a fairy fountain.” Link replied in a hopeless tone of voice.
“There is one a few miles south from here, an oasis near some old stone ruins. Quickly make haste! I will go back to fetch her horse and I’ll catch up to you.” Katya left breaking into a Sprint.
Link started hastily towards the south, and Nabooru opened her eyes again,
“Handsome…you haven’t given up on me…” She said in faint voice.
“Never.” Link replied with a smile.
It seemed like an eternity to Link, but his heart leapt in hope as he heard horse hooves approaching them from behind. It was Katya riding Nabooru’s White horse.
She quickly dismounted, and helped Link up the horse with Nabooru clutched in his arms.
“It only fits two…make haste….straight south, you can’t miss it. On horse it should be less than an hour.” Katya yelled.
The last words of Katya’s sentence were a distant echo as Link had broken into a frantic Gallop the moment Katya had helped them up the horse.
“I was so careless …I should have just blocked the spear …should have just…” Link could only replay the scene on his mind thinking in what he should and shouldn’t have done.
“You did your best…without you I would have died, and Twinrova would be marching down with her army to Gerudo Valley as we speak.” Nabooru said caressing Link’s cheek.
“I am sorry…I should have waited until I was older…” Link lamented.
Nabooru closed her eyes and a stream of tears rolled down her face. The proud and unshakable Nabooru…crying. Link never imagined he would see her in such a vulnerable state. Then again, at death’s door, even the bravest of men crumble in thoughts of regrets and dreams that would never be achieved.
“Link…I know who you are…if I survive this…I wish to be your …” Nabooru’s voice trialed off as she began to sweat profusely and tremble.
Link could make out the outline of the ruins and could see the small Oasis under the palm trees that oversaw the fountain. Link quickly rode the horse into the water and fell along side Nabooru’s body into the pool. The fairies enveloped them with a blinding light, he watched as Nabooru’s belly healed and her breathing stabilized.
He let out a sigh of relief, held her head on his chest and slowly drifted asleep in the warm waters himself.
It had been a hard, hard day but,
“All is well that ends well…” Link whispered, remembering Katya’s phrase which now seemed like a distant memory from long ago.
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