The Arbiter’s Grounds, 2 Years in the past…
The Arbiter’s Grounds seemed and felt eerily familiar to Link. He had traversed an ancient structure like it before in the very same Gerudo Desert.
“The Spirit Temple” Link muttered under his breath as he walked alongside Zelda, King Hyrule, Impa, and General Stonard through what seemed like an endless labyrinth of hallways, made of sand colored stone, full with engravings, statues, and markings of a language unknown to Link or anyone else in the party except for one. The group had a tour guide, an old, balding, gray haired, frail looking Hylian named Simpas who acted as a keeper of the grounds.
“Just a little further your Majesty. It is important to traverse these halls carefully.” Simpas said as he carefully steered them towards the heart of the colossal structure. “The lower levels are Haunted…yes…haunted. Much anger, and anguish from the Civil War remains within the walls your Majesty.” Link nodded. The King and the General seemed impervious to it, but Link could feel a heavy presence of malevolence in the chilly desert air. At times he swore he could hear distant screams. Hundreds if not thousands had died, or more likely been executed within the walls. The Arbiter’s Grounds was after all a prison for the most renowned, and feared war criminals to have ever walked the land. Amongst them were powerful sorcerers, well versed in magic, and other dark arts. Having fought the undead before Link knew that the spiritual world could very well have an impact on the physical one.
While Hyrule claimed ownership of the structure, as the constant presence of a 500 strong garrison of Knights around the grounds reminded anyone who would entertain the thought of claiming the place. Link could clearly see that the Arbiter’s Grounds was a Gerudo construction at its core. This was evident in King Hyrule’s indifference towards the magnificence of the structure and his annoyance at Simpas’ constant historic references every time they passed a new room or chamber.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity to Link they reached their destination, the Mirror Chamber. Despite its name it wasn’t a chamber, but a massive, round, coliseum shaped, roofless clearing with towering Ornate Pillars surrounding it. Six crested pillars in total, one for each ancient Sage as Link could make out each individual medallion that represented them. The pillars and the structure were so large that entire complex could be seen for miles away.
It was roofed by the stars on the clear skied, and chilly desert night. All the eyes of the party however were lined up on the one individual at the center of the chamber, bound to a massive ebony stone slab with what seemed like the thickest strongest chains a Hylian Smith could have built. It was none other than the Gerudo King Ganondorf.
From the distance at which they stood, observing from a balcony on the second level of the chamber Ganondorf didn’t appear to be the imposing two, and half meter tall man who had killed a dozen Hylian Knights in the siege that got him captured 5 winters prior. The surprise siege had been thwarted by King Hyrule after being warned of it by Zelda and Impa.
Much to Link’s annoyance; the King and the General were oblivious to his doing in all of this, in fact he wouldn’t have been invited to witness the event had Zelda not exercised much to her father’s dismay her right for a Royal escort of her own choosing, she also argued that Link should be present as a representative of the Kokiri who Ganondorf had greatly harmed when he poisoned the Great Deku Tree.
Links thoughts were quickly disrupted however when Ganondorf spotted them.
“And so the coward King, and his whore Princess make their appearance.” Ganondorf yelled at them from a distance.
The King remained calm as did everyone else, except Link whose spine shivered at the sound of his deep voice. Unlike the rest of the party Link had a personal history with the chained man. They fought to the death, traded curses and blows with each other in what seemed at times to him a lifetime ago.
To Link’s surprise Ganondorf eyed him, and yet seemed to have no recollection of him. It should have been comforting that the anger of such a powerful enemy wasn’t directed at him, but shockingly he found himself annoyed at the fact that his greatest adversary didn’t show a hint of emotion at his presence. After returning from the future, it felt to Link that he was a non factor in any proceeding regarding the well being of Hyrule. Having his archenemy completely oblivious to the fact that he was his archenemy drove that point home resoundingly.
Before Link could ponder any further on how the mighty (himself) had fallen the Ancient Sages as if summoned by some invisible magic appeared in front of their respective medallions. Link was far away to be able to discern much details, but they looked like six scrawny pale ghosts. It was a surreal scene, and for the first time he could see that both King Hyrule, and General Stonard were clearly disturbed, even scared of what was unfolding in front of them. Impa took step forward making clear that if something went wrong the only way to Zelda would be through her.
Link himself clenched his fists, as the ghastly shapes spoke in unison.
“For attempting to enter the sacred realm, the murder of the great Deku Tree, the countless of lives taken and betraying the Royal family by attempting to enter the Sacred Realm. We the Ancient Sages who have watched over Hyrule for centuries untold sentence you Ganondorf King of Thieves to die!” The sound of their voices had been even more chilling than Ganondorf’s own final cry when the Sages pointed a shining blade at him.
“Curse you all!”
Link watched stunned as in the blink of an eye the sword pierced Ganondorf’s mid section. Killing him almost instantaneously.
Both the King and The General broke the silence that followed as they smiled pleased at the turn of events, “See? He was just a man after all. Demon King nonsense.” The General boasted with a new found courage that seemed utterly missing seconds before Ganondorf’s demise.
“Something is wrong!” Link said instinctively. There was no reason to blurt that out, but he felt it even before his left hand, and Zelda’s right hand began to glow.
“The Tri-Force!” Zelda replied in astonishment.
There was a collective gasp coming from the Sages, the gasp was even more chilling that their words had been when passing down their judgements. Ghosts crying out in sheer terror at the sight of a moving, living Ganondorf was a sound that would haunt Link for the remainder of his life how long or short that may be.
“You shouldn’t have sent me back.” Link cursed under his breath as he drew his sword much to the surprise of King Hyrule, and General Stonard who were too stunned to move. ‘Perhaps Ganondorf was right about the King being a coward’ Link thought.
Other than Link, only Impa seemed willing and ready for whatever Ganondorf would do, as the King of Evil seemed to have no trouble breaking his chains.
In what seemed like another blink of an eye Ganondorf shattered one of the sages with a punch, it had been the one that had stabbed him. Judging by the shattering of the water medallion, it had been the end of the Water Sage.
For a moment Ganondorf turned his eyes toward Link, a blinding anger burned within them. He had regained the god like form that Link remembered.
“He remembers.” Link muttered ready to face the nightmare yet again, before the giant opaque mirror behind Ganondorf began to glow.
Ganondorf blinded by hatred for Link didn’t realize he was being sucked into the mirror until it was too late for him to escape it. Once Ganondorf disintegrated into the mirror, the device went back to its opaque self, and the sages disappeared leaving the stunned party alone in the chamber with only the sound of the desert wind left as company for them to digest what had transpired right before their eyes.
“Oh The Sage of Water…” Simpas solemnly lamented. The old man really seemed perturbed.
“What the hell happened?” General Stonard cut in, grabbing the poor decrepit Simpas by the shoulders, and violently shaking him in a futile, and misguided attempt to extract information.
“General! You are embarrassing yourself!” Zelda commanded in clear frustration. “This poor soul knows no more than we do.”
“I-I apologize your Highness.” Stonard said as he loosened his grip on the old man. Link curiously eyed the General. He didn’t seem too bright, or particularly formidable. Both the general and the King looked at each other dumb founded. Simpas seemed to know more than he let on, but Link figured the old man was afraid to say anything that would incite the fiery General to further question him.
To Link however, what had transpired was clear. Just like in the future Ganondorf couldn’t simply be killed. They should count themselves lucky that the Gerudo King didn’t turn into Ganon after receiving the mortal wound. The silence in the chamber continued until Link decided to add his two rupees.
“Ganondorf cannot die…he holds the Tri Force of Power.” Link informed them as-a-matter-of- fact as he sheathed his sword back in its scabbard.
“Foolish forest boy! Ganondorf never made it to the sacred realm, we saw to that!” General Stonard erupted again, this time directing his ire towards Link. Which didn’t surprise the youngster, the entire point of his previous comment had been to out stage the general.
“Not on this time line…” Link replied as he turned to face Zelda “You shouldn’t have sent me back.”
Stonard forcefully grabbed Link’s shoulder. He was a massive tan skinned man with a broad Jaw line and broad powerful chest. He was easily twice Link’s weight and yet Link didn’t flinch as he stared him down.
“Touch me again and you will lose your hand.” Link stoically warned him. Before Stonard could reply the King intervened,
“Impa! Take the Princess and the forest runt back to Hyrule! I will hear no more of this non sense.” Impa nodded at the command. Zelda dutifully followed, and Link simply turned around to follow suit. He too was tired of the non sense himself, and had to ponder hard on what Ganondorf’s survival and the Triforce still being split into three parts meant for Hyrule’s future and his.
As they made their way back to the entrance of the Grounds Impa broke the silence,
“Kid, threatening a knight more so in the case of a general can lead to incarceration, and execution.”
Link shrugged at the warning with a dismissive gesture. He had seen how easily the entire Hyrule Army had fallen to Ganondorf before. He had little respect for them or their pompous leader. He was the one who had saved them all. He wasn’t an arrogant person before, but he was quickly turning into one due to the lack of respect shown towards him.
“I didn’t save this land …twice now, to have a fool like Stonard question me.” Link replied sternly before smiling, “Anyways, I have nothing to worry about. It seems you Hylians do a fine job at
executions. Today couldn’t have gone better-” before he could insert another smart comment Zelda cut him off. “Your behavior is disgraceful, I risked a lot to get you here so that you could witness the end of this story. And what do you do?” Zelda yelled at Link she didn’t seem to appreciate his mocking tone and sarcasm. “I did nothing your Highness, I stated the truth. Ganondorf has the Triforce. What he did in the previous time line has an effect on the Triforce on this time line it seems. We all have it still! This isn’t the end of the story. You sent me back, and you shouldn’t have!” Link responded in an aggressive tone.
Zelda walked in front of him and turned to face him. Her blue eyes glistening full of determination and anger.
“ ‘You shouldn’t have sent me back’ that’s all you have been repeating since you arrived that day to warn me of Ganondorf’s plot. I am not ‘her’ but if she sent you back then she had her reasons. Your duty is to your King and to the Land. Which you accomplished well, and now you get to live the rest of your life in peace for you efforts. But you are not happy with that it seems!” Zelda stated. Link had seldom ever seen her so distressed. She was right though, he had never been able to get over the fact that he was sent back against his will. But how dare her down play his now anonymous sacrifice? He had given everything he had to save Hyrule, to save her.
“You are right. I can’t blame you…or anyone. You have no recollection of anything I did in the future to save the land…from the fiery pits of Death Mountain to the frozen lands of the Zora. No one in the world will ever know. You father never believed me, he had dozens of men killed in Castle town because he didn’t apprehend Ganondorf when I first warned you. I am just a ‘Forest runt’ after all. I assume now after this I shall be dismissed and I will never see you again since I am no longer needed and all.” Link vented out, and he felt good about it.
Zelda stood there frozen, her eyes became shallow pools of water. It seemed to Link like she was trying to find strength to say whatever she was about to say next. It wasn’t going to end well for him that much he knew from the look she gave him.
“We all have our duties…” Zelda motioned for Impa to leave them, “ Go on ahead Impa we know our way out.” Impa nodded and walked away from them.
Zelda clutched her chest with both hands. Link was used to that, she would clutch her chest every time she was under extreme anxiety.
“Do not think for a second that I haven’t missed you. That I didn’t miss you when you left on your Fairy’s search, and that I didn’t miss you when you returned my Ocarina, and left for the ranch. That I will not miss you when I send you away for a final time today. And that it didn’t hurt the other ‘me’ to send you back.” Tears began to stream down Zelda’s cheeks as she took a deep breath looking briefly away from Link in order to avoid a complete breakdown.
Zelda swallowed hard and straightened herself, she would be Queen someday and tough decisions had to be made. Duty hurts sometimes, Impa had taught her that. “My duty as the only heir to the throne is to keep the country unified, and in peace. After what happened today, my duty is to submerge myself in my studies to see if Ganondorf is gone from Hyrule once, and for all, and if he is not
to prepare myself and the ones who follow after me for an eventual return. When I assume the Throne I will reward you with Lands and Lordship. And I will have the scribes write about your deeds, as it seems that is all you care about. And so…” she swallowed her tears and resumed “and so Link, bearer of the Triforce of Courage, and my….the Hero of Time. I release you from your duties to your King, and Country so that you can resume your life in the Forest, or however you see fit. This is good bye.”
Link couldn’t believe what he was hearing, she sent him away again. Silent tears flowed again from the Princess in reaction to Link’s own silent and solemn tears. The wind got a bit chillier but it wasn’t the temperature, it was a stirring inside of him that shook in utter disbelief that after all he had gone through Zelda could just send him away like that. Again.
“I want no lands, not this way. I will leave and never bother you again but first I have to say this.” This time it was Link’s turn to look away for a brief moment in order to gather himself, “You won’t remember because I met you twice at the courtyard. Because I was sent back you will only remember when I came to warn you. But the first time I met you…I felt…something inside me jump in a scare…I haven’t figured out why yet, maybe I never will but my soul remembered something that day.” Link stared into her eyes for a brief moment ‘We were meant to be together’ Link wanted to say but instead he bowed down before the Princess, if she wanted a formal dismissal of his services she would get one.
He stood up looked at her one last time and resumed his walk towards the exit but not before stopping and with his back still turned to the Princess he said his final words.
“My duty…was only to you.” And with that he left.