Hyrule’s Castle Present…
Princess Zelda walked through Hyrule Castle’s stony halls with sleepy eyes and a frowned expression. It was barely first light and she had already been summoned by her father for an all important meeting in the council chamber.
“So…he didn’t say what this was about?” She asked her attendant Impa who shadowed her every step.
“No. He said it was an urgent security matter. I assume it might have to do with some of the strange happenings at the Western Borderlands.” Impa explained, calm and composed as ever.
At times Zelda wondered if Impa ever slept. The Sheikah woman never seemed to run out of energy or even show any traces of tiredness. Her flawless silver hair was always neatly tied into a short pony tail, and she was always impeccable in her appearance.
Once inside the chamber Zelda quickly spotted her father sitting at the end of a long rectangular table. Once upon a time during the Civil War, generals, chieftains, and princes of every corner in Hyrule sat around the table in her father’s war council.
Naturally the council was dissolved after the war. But most meetings concerning security and political issues took place around that magnificent oak wooden table.
Both Zelda and Impa bowed, and King Hyrule gestured for them to sit.
“The General and Captain Stonard shall join us shortly.” The King said.
Both Zelda and Impa nodded in acknowledgement.
“And so Book Master Ravinus says your studies are going well.” The King exclaimed directing his gaze at Zelda.
“They are father.” Zelda replied.
“Excellent. Any progress on Ganondorf and the Triforce issue?” The king asked with genuine interest. “My trips to speak to the sages at Arbiter’s Grounds have been productive in producing a new theory…since you will not accept my original one.” Zelda replied with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
The King had never accepted Link’s time traveling stories. Quite bluntly Link’s account of anything had never been believed. In order for the king to capture Ganondorf, Impa had to stage a show in which she brought evidence from imaginary “informants” that Ganondorf was plotting a rebellion. Had Impa not taken Link’s and Zelda’s quest into her own hands, Hyrule would have long been under Ganondorf’s occupation.
The Original theory held water, Ganondorf succeeded in entering the Sacred Realm in a different time line. The corruption of the Sacred Realm which is unbound by time would have an effect on every timeline in existence. So this was how Zelda believed Ganondorf came to have the Triforce of power in their timeline. But since her father wouldn’t accept such a preposterous explanation, she had find another theory that reasonably explained Ganondorf’s acquisition of Din’s power.
“And well?” The King waited for Zelda’s newest theory.
“A Divine prank.” It had been the phrase used by the sages, and Zelda liked it.
“Yes. For reasons unbeknownst to us mere mortals, the goddesses favored a vile creature like Ganondorf to posses the Triforce of power. Basically he was meant to have it.” Zelda explained.
“I find it hard to fathom that the Goddesses would favor such a man.”
“And yet he has it.”
“What about the other two pieces?” The King surprisingly remained oblivious to Zelda and Link’s fate. Zelda preferred it that way. Her father wouldn’t harm her to remove her Triforce, but Link wouldn’t get such a special treatment. Her father would hunt him to the ends of Hyrule for his piece.
“That remains an unsolved mystery father.” She politely answered.
A knock on the wooden double doors of the chamber announced the arrival of the General and his Son. Both walked into the room and respectfully bowed to the King and to Zelda before taking a sit in their respective places at the table.
The younger Stonard was a mirror albeit younger copy of his father. Broad chested, with cropped dark hair, green eyes, and manly chiseled jaw. Most women got weak at the knees at the sight of Captain Stonard. Zelda wasn’t most women. She found Stonard’s constant glances at her disturbing and she didn’t find the young captain attractive at all.
The one good thing about Young Stonard was his growing and blossoming relationship with the ‘Ranch Girl’. Malon was her name, her most dangerous rival for Link’s affection. She had never met the girl, but had seen her time and time again from the upper windows of the Castle as Malon delivered Milk with her father.
Malon was around her age, beautiful pale skin with a few well placed freckles, deep blue eyes, and a flowing head of red hair. She actually developed faster than Zelda did, and was better endowed as far as she could tell.
All of the Castle Knights were, in a way, mesmerized by the Ranch girl’s beauty and contagious charm. While Zelda was moody and in truth, perpetually sad, the red haired girl seemed to live in perpetual joy and happiness, always sporting a wide warming smile. Zelda was jealous of the girl and not necessarily because of her close friendship with Link, but jealous of her seemly carefree life and joyful spirit.
“Permission to speak your Majesty.” The Elder Stonard broke the silence.
“Granted.” The King replied.
“I, Cornel Stonard General of the great Army of Hyrule requested this emergency council meeting as my son, Captain Marcilus Stonard brings most disturbing news from the Hebran border.”
“Hebra? But that’s way beyond our reach.” Zelda said.
Stonard gave the King a puzzled looked, and the King shook his head annoyed,
“The Hebran Land will eventually belong to Hyrule, we have been…moving military units to the border in order to ensure a peaceful transition.” The King explained, and Zelda frowned as if about to mount a protest but held her tongue.
“Which is what brings us here your Majesty there’s been an unexpected development.” The General said.
“There have been rumors of some resistance since your arrival at Castle Town.” The King replied, looking at the younger Stonard.
“I…I am not sure I would call it a resistance as of yet your Majesty. Mainly because we have yet to identify a culprit. We lost two Patrols and an entire unit in two days….banished. Except for one of our knights Sir Arkuny of Castletown…he was left in pieces, more like cut up in to pieces his remains were found a mile west of the fort.” Younger Stonard reported nervously.
“What!?” The King angrily questioned.
“Your Majesty we lost two patrols and a Unit” Young Stonard couldn’t finish the sentence before an angry King Hyrule cut him off,
“I am not deaf! I heard you the first time. If you have nothing of substance to report then what in blazes are you doing here, when you should be investigating the incident.” The King replied in a threatening manner.
Young Stonard nervously looked at his father, who kept his head lowered staring at the ground.
“I…I only have 30 men left at the provisional fort. The fort cannot be left undefended. If twenty men disappeared without a trace. What odds does a smaller party have of making a successful venture into Hebran Land?” Captain Stonard was beginning to lose some of his false sense of composure.
Zelda marveled at how stronger and perhaps fiercer warriors than her own father trembled beneath him. King Ephesna Hyrule III wasn’t a great warrior even in youth, he was capable on the Field but no more capable a swordsman than a regular infantry grunt. He had inherited the throne from his father, and as far as Zelda could tell perhaps Impa was the deadliest person in the room followed by the Stonards. But being a King had it’s perks.
“Seems like a coward’s behavior for someone with such a esteemed position!”King Hyrule accused. “I am no coward!” Captain Stonard replied agitated which prompted his father to slap him across the face in what was quickly becoming the most awkward situation Zelda had been in her young life. Even Impa’s cheeks reddened which was out of character for her usual stoic self.
“How dare you disrespect your King! Your Majesty please forgive the foolish boy!” General Stonard implored almost falling to his knees.
“This behavior must not be repeated I will not tolerate another outburst like that.” The King replied apparently pleased at the young Captain’s public humiliation.
In a strange occurrence Impa decided to speak.
“The King grows restless, he is a busy man. Perhaps the important thing here is that the issue with the lost men gets solved and swiftly.” Impa injected stating the obvious.
The Stonards nodded, they wanted out of the chamber as soon as possible and the King wasn’t the sharpest mind in the room so Impa stating the obvious was seen by all parties involved as a gift from the heavens.
“I have been a coward.” The younger Stonard lamented forcedly. “But I will rectify this if the King so kindly allows me to take 15 men to the border. The men lost were my comrades, some since childhood. I intent to find them dead or alive and punish the responsible parties Your Majesty.” Captain Stonard stated in an apologetic yet insincere tone. His eyes still carried the fire ignited by the King’s ‘coward’ remark.
“Impa. What is your counsel on this matter?” The king turned to the Sheikah attendant, if General Stonard was the Kings punishing right hand, Impa was his wisest counselor.
Zelda was used to this, it was no wonder Impa didn’t hold her father in a high esteem. Most of the time The King did as he pleased which often resulted in bad outcomes, but when he did consort with Impa things ran smoother than they would have other wise.
“He should take five men.” Impa said pausing as if to wait for an objection that never came though the Younger Stonard did look distressed at the suggestion, “However five of our best men as it doesn’t seem to me that you are dealing here with a conventional foe.”
“The Special Corps…” The Young Captain said with renewed hope.
“Yes. However due to your inexperience Captain Stonard, and the strange occurrences in which the men were lost, if the King grants me permission I shall lead this operation. I have a bad feeling about this.” Impa finished.
Zelda clutched her chest upon hearing Impa’s words. For as long as she could recall she had never lived more than a week without the presence of Impa near her.
“This is a dangerous mission Impa, the Royal Family must always have a Sheikah protecting it. I will not lose you in the Hebran Lands.” The King Protested and for once Zelda full heartedly agreed.
“With all of the respect that Your Majesty deserves. I swore an oath to protect the Royal family, and that’s exactly why I need to put an end to this threat personally.” Impa argued.
“I also advise for you to stay. Captain Stonard is more than capable of handling this. If the King were to send more men perhaps you wouldn’t have to go Impa.” Zelda interjected herself in the argument, in an attempt to convince her father to send more men in order to keep Impa at the Castle.
Impa stood up from her chair shaking her head in frustration,
“You can send a thousand men, and the assassins will just stay in the shadows while they pass. A small party will be too enticing for them to not reveal themselves, especially if a Sheikah leads them.” Impa said as she scratched her chin in a thoughtful posture, “ We are in all likelihood dealing with the Betrayed.” The room went silent for what seemed like an eternity to Zelda.
“Impa…you clearly witnessed that we exterminated them during the Civil War. We hung them, and those that weren’t hanged, were sent to the Shadow Realm, to the Twilight.” The King said trying to remain calm.
“Did we? All of them? My people weren’t numerous but there were many of us. Some did escape.” Impa replied.
“Your people?” Zelda questioned. She had no idea who the Betrayed were and judging by the Younger Stonard’s dumbfounded expression neither did he. Both were too young to recall the Civil War.
“Yes. The Sheikah who broke their oath.” Impa replied, her eyes didn’t betray any emotion but Zelda could tell something stirred inside of her.
“How can you know the Sheikah are behind this? You know nothing more than we do at this juncture.” The King questioned.
Impa took a deep breath and sat back at her place.
“The corpse chopped into bits, was meant to be found, it was a message, a declaration of war.” Impa sighed, “We are assassins and practitioners of Shadow magic after all. This is how the Sheikah do things.” She finalized.
“There will be no talk of war out side of this chamber.” The King paused for a moment making sure everyone had understood the message, “Captain Stonard you can rest for the next few days. You are dissmised until the operation is planned.”
Stonard nodded, got up from his chair and bowed in front of the King. As he left the king sternly reminded him,
“Remember. No talk of war outside of this Chamber.”
“Yes, your Majesty.” Stonard replied before exiting the room.
“He heard more than he should have about the Sheikah issue.” The King lamented.
“ He is young and impulsive but his loyalty cannot be questioned your Majesty.” General Stonard replied.
“We shall see. But what would the Sheikah gain by attacking us? We no longer have the Triforce, and without that the Sacred Realm shouldn’t interest anyone.” The King pondered aloud.
“They wouldn’t know that. We didn’t know that until Ganondorf’s failed execution, which remains a secret.” Zelda answered.
“What a bigger prize than Hyrule itself?” Impa said.
Impa was right Zelda thought most wars were started over the ruling of lands and kingdoms, unless of course some how these “Betrayed” knew the truth. That 2 thirds of the Triforce still remained in Hyrule. Perhaps this was the reason why Impa was so eager to put an end to the threat.
“Impa, are you sure that five men and Stonard will be enough for you to contain the situation at the border?” The King asked in genuine concern.
“Yes. If it is the Betrayed all we would have to do is strike the leader.” Impa replied.
“Let’s not refer to these traitors as the ‘Betrayed’ it makes it sound like we are the ones at fault.” The King exclaimed sharply.
“And are we?” Zelda asked interested in the historical facts.
“Of course not!” The King replied emphatically.
Impa remained silent though, Zelda wasn’t going to press the issue further with the general and her father present. Zelda had learned enough about politics to know that there are always two sides to the story, and that history was written by the winners.
“That’s a magnificent thought Lady Impa, but do tell. How will you get to said leader in one piece?” General Stonard interrupted.
“The Sheikah do not send subordinates to do the dirty work. The killings….and yes the men that haven’t appeared are dead, are carried and therefore led by who ever is leading this particular clan of Sheikah.” Impa replied calm as ever. “Who ever did this wanted the news to reach the Castle. And wanted me to come after them. One single well trained Sheikah could wipe out the fort at Hebra in a single night.”
The King shook his head, in frustration and got up from his seat for the first time since the start of the meeting.
“I consider myself a good King.” The King reflected causing the rise of a few eyebrows in the chamber. The King didn’t seem to mind as he stared blankly into space before resuming, “No tales will be sung about my bravery or prowess in the battle field. In spite of that however, the average citizen believes I am a great King. I unified the country, and put an end to a War that cost thousands of lives. The average citizen goes to sleep knowing there will be a tomorrow with food and security because King Ephesna Hyrule the third with the name rules the land. I would like nothing better than for that to be my legacy.” The chamber maintained a deafening silence. Zelda had never seen her father admit weakness before. She wasn’t sure Impa or Stonard who had known her father since his younger days had also seen a confession such as this.
“It shall be your legacy my King. Nothing can change that, it is an honor to serve you.” General Stonard said, and as much as Zelda disliked the man there was no deceit in any of his words.
Her father was well liked around the Kingdom, and while he was strict he rarely handed down severe punishments to his men.
“We shouldn’t panic…yet. I believe this situation can be contained at the Hebran border.” Impa replied. “And if it’s not?” The King answered.
“If there are no news of me and the men a month after we leave…then you should prepare the kingdom for War. Though we don’t know the numbers or capabilities of what we are facing. For now double the guard in the Castle, we are dealing with assassins after all. I hate to say this but before I leave we should reach out to the Gerudo. Nabooru and her elite guard will make the best bodyguards against a Sheikah assassin.” Impa said.
“Preposterous!” Stonard complained clearly agitated. “We would be sending a message to our enemies that our own valiant honorable Knights are somehow incompetent. Do not forget who the Gerudo are.”
“Twenty of our Valiant and Honorable knights died easily against this threat. Nabooru is trained in the way of the dark arts, as an assassin herself she knows how the Sheikah would operate, she pledged allegiance after we captured Ganondorf. It is now the time to test that allegiance.” Impa replied. In truth Zelda understood Impa’s concern. A capable Sheikah assassin could easily enter the Castle to murder the King and the Princess. The King is oblivious and incapable of magic himself, and
while Zelda showed the promise of her ancestors in her training sessions, she was still just a young woman that had been cuddled inside of the Castle Walls for far too long. Nabooru the self proclaimed Gerudo Queen though only 30 winters old had been a veteran of many battles, had taken countless of lives with her blades and had the defeated the powerful witches Kotake and Koume in battle…though rumors were that she had been aided by a certain Forest Boy.
Apparently Link had been busy going around Hyrule obtaining relics and artifacts after being relieved of his Royal service. But Zelda knew well of Nabooru’s reputation, and in a way Zelda admired the Gerudo woman.
“But Nabooru won’t just abandon the desert expecting nothing in return.” The King interrupted Zelda’s thoughts. “The girl is ambitious.” The King said as he rolled out an ancient looking map on the table.
“She has been making a push towards Nephra Hill. But that’s even beyond Arbiter Grounds which belongs to us. She has avoided engaging my men, but it is a tense situation.” The King explained pointing at the locations on the map with his index finger.
Impa leaned in and rubbed her chin carefully analyzing the map,
“Let her have the Grounds and the entire Canyon and Desert Areas. Draw the Border at Mount Hylia.” Impa advised.
“No. That is a lot of ground!” Stonard objected.
“Impa is right father…that land is under Gerudo control anyways. During my trips to the Arbiter’s Grounds I witnessed as many Gerudo patrols in Nephra Hill as I have seen Hylian Patrols near Castle Town.” Zelda chimed in much to Stonard’s distress.
“If a war erupts you will want all of those men back in Central Hyrule. The desert is vast and dangerous. There is no point at all in spreading ourselves thin by keeping our men there. Arbiter’s Grounds hasn’t been used since Ganondorf’s failed execution. Let the Gerudo have it, with some conditions such as the sages remaining there. There is a band of rebellious Gerudo still going around, if it comes to a war against the Sheikah you will want the Gerudo armies on your side rather than on the enemy’s.” Impa advised.
The King didn’t take his eyes away from the map. Zelda knew it would be difficult for her father to hand over the lands. Impa was right they didn’t need the desert and canyon lands, but her father felt secure in Hyrule’s ability to flex their military muscle in the region. Aside from that he mistrusted the Gerudo greatly for their past transgressions.
The King’s next command came as shock to her, apparently her father was wiser than she thought. “Send for Nabooru then.”