Chapter 23 - Truth or Dare
Link awoke with a jolt as a hand clamped down over his mouth. With a yelp of surprise he quickly rolled off the wooden bench that doubled as bed and landed in a half push-up on the brick floor. He flipped up onto one knee as he looked at the person who awoke him. Standing mere feet away from him was Impa. His shoulders visibly sagged at relief for he thought it was someone or something far more heinous. It was then he realized he had been sleeping on the bench rather than the floor. He peeked over to the bed and saw Zelda still sleeping soundly with her back to the room. He blushed furiously as Impa eyed his reaction.
“H…how did you get in here?” Link rasped trying to find his voice after having been shocked out of deep sleep.
Impa gave a little huff as she folded her arms, “I am Sheikah. I go where I please. It appears to me that you like getting close to girls Link.”
A small grin spread across one side of her mouth, but she tried her best to hide it as Link stuttered, “She said she was cold, so I started a fire.” He indicated the smoldering logs, the initial flames having long since gone out. “After a while the chill started to settle in, so she asked me to keep her warm. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just laid next to her to make sure she was warm. I wasn’t-”
Impa laughed softly, “I knew what you had done Link.” She waved a hand to dismiss his fears, “I was simply teasing you. I understand this is an interesting time for children as they start to grow into the adults they will become. You must be carefully guided through that or you will make poor choices.”
Link stood slightly dazed, still unsure of what she was referring to, “So I’m okay?”
“You’re okay.” She smiled warmly.
Link ran into her arms and gave her a joyous hug as she gratefully accepted the embrace. She placed one hand on his hair and gently smoothed it down. Impa was the closest thing he had to a mother, especially since she was there when his true mother died in the Lost Woods. Impa had buried her body near one of the roots of the great Deku Tree and after having made sure he was safe with the other Kokiri in the village, left him to his fate. It was what his mother wanted.
Link unrelenting in his hug looked up into Impa’s eyes, “Where is Epona? Did she make it here safely?”
Impa tickled the back of Link’s ear as he giggled at her touch, “Yes little one. She is currently resting in the stables as we speak. I dare say the stable girl will get quite the surprise this morning when she sees a new tenant.” Impa smiled at this thought.
Link looked around the room but did not see any portholes opening out into the night sky, “What time is it Impa?”
“It is just past the zenith of the moon, it will be a few more hours before dawn breaks.” Impa answered.
They released each other and stepped back a few paces before Link went over and squatted next to the fireplace to tend to the logs hopefully promoting further heat. “Did you find out what they are going to do with us?” Link was hoping for some good news.
“I’m afraid not.” Impa said with some discomfort, “I had hoped the meeting with the Gerudo had gone better. I miscalculated and for that I am sorry. Placing you in these prison rooms was not my intent. My knowledge of how Gerudo do business is somewhat limited.”
Satisfied that more heat was generated from the fire hearth, he got up and paced back over to Zelda. “They placed her in here with me; they thought she was a boy. Could they not see she wasn’t?” He looked up to Impa for answers.
Impa breathed a sigh of relief, “I was not sure if my stealth haze was sufficient enough to throw off the Gerudo. The Sheikah have many abilities, one of them being able to modify our appearance just enough to look like someone else. There are limits to this, such as being unable to change our hair color.” She ruffled the top of her gray hair, “I don’t think I could pass off as anyone but an old lady now.”
Link laughed at the comment, “Yeah, I can see that!”
Impa shot him a dirty look, “You dirty scrub. You watch your manners!” More laughter from Link, Impa simply shook her head and let the matter drop. “Anyway, I had placed the stealth haze on Princess Zelda in hopes they would mistake her for a boy.”
Link beheld Zelda still lying on the bench, her chest slowly rising and falling with each breath. “What purpose did that serve?” Link was baffled.
“I had hopes that if things didn’t go according to plan and they considered you prisoners, I wanted her thrown in here with you.” Impa explained. “I knew you could protect her until such time I was available to be by her side.”
Link clasped his hands behind his back as he looked at the ground, “You had that faith in me Impa?”
“Yes, I did.” Impa warmly spoke. “Enough talk, I imagine tomorrow is going to be a long day. Go lie down next to Zelda and keep her warm. I will remain in the corner. I will wake you as the sun rises.”
Link watched as Impa leaned up against the wall at the opposite end of the room and slowly meld into the shadows. Satisfied they were being watched over, he lay down next to Zelda and rolled over. He observed the back of her golden hair and marveled at how Impa could deceive everyone into thinking Zelda was a boy. He closed his eyes and within minutes was gone.
A sharp hiss forced him to spring his eyes open. He rolled over to see Impa placing a finger to her lips as she merged with the shadows. Clanking of keys were heard outside the door as a key was forced into the lock and turned. Zelda was startled awake as the chamber door opened wide letting light from the outer hall seep into the room. Standing in the door frame was a Gerudo elder, marked with the Ruby engraved on her forehead. She quickly motioned for both of them to follow her.
Link quickly looked back but saw nothing but an empty corridor but he knew that Impa was somewhere behind them slowly trailing their group. Slightly blinded as they passed by some recessed windows in the brick. Link looked out and saw the morning sun slowly cresting the peaks of the canyon that the fortress lay in.
The brown haired Gerudo stopped abruptly at a door and susurrated a command to have them enter; still unsure if they were in danger, they quickly entered the room. Directly ahead of them in the center of the circular room was a fire pit recessed into the floor, crackling flames shot upwards as the heat from the room washed over them as they arrived.
Beyond the pit was a throne of wood and metal; crowning the seat like a halo of thorns was the lower jaw bone of some large beast, teeth still intact. Various furs draped over the cathedra while various fabrics were hung off the sides like vile decorations. Lounging in all his supposed magnanimous glory was Ganondorf, one leg slung over one of the arm rests as he leaned back against the seat of the throne. A servant girl was slowly feeding him grapes, a rarity in the desert. He was adorned in the full regalia armor of his tribe; a lightweight suit of mail with intricate designs of blacks, browns, reds and oranges.
To his left were five elders of the Gerudo tribe, with Nabooru sitting closest to Ganondorf. With a look from him, Apolloni excused herself from Link and Zelda and proceeded to the right hand side of the throne. She sat cross-legged next to Ganondorf, his heel aligned with the height of her head. Nabooru’s stare was not lost on Link as she tracked Apolloni across the room. Only once the brown haired Gerudo elder had taken her position did Nabooru turn back to the two boys.
Off to Link’s left were Malon and Talon, they were seated off to the side on some cushions, clearly not in a position to interfere with the council meeting. Link’s fingers were briefly squeezed by Impa before her hand disappeared; his rising fear quelled slightly knowing that she was near. With a jerk of his head, Ganondorf indicated they were to take their positions on the provided cushions just in front of Talon. It was obvious that based on the seating arrangement, Link was the sole focus of the gathering.
Link shifted uncomfortably in silence as the apprentice poured several cups of steaming tea. She offered one first to Ganondorf before turning to each of the elders. They each graciously accepted a cup of the brew, each holding the little cup in both hands as they waited for the girl to serve the guests. Link set the example by taking a proffered cup; waiting for his friends to take one as well, all he could think about was how it was burning his hands.
With a casual wave of dismissal from Ganondorf, the apprentice bowed low and exited the room, securing the door behind her. Lowering his foot off the armrest and sitting tall, Ganondorf raised his cup high into the air.
“To our honored guests.” He drawled.
All eyes were on them as they tentatively lifted their cups. With a gulp Ganondorf downed his tea as each of his elders followed suit after him. Feeling it prudent to wait until they had finished, Link swallowed his. He almost hacked as the scalding fluid seared his throat. Although he managed to drink without incident, Malon was not so lucky, several frowns were shot her way as she spluttered up some of the tea.
“To business then.” Ganondorf decreed. “You are the boy they call Link, am I correct?”
His manner demanded an answer, Link merely nodded. Here he was sitting mere feet away from the greatest foe he had ever faced, drinking tea with him as if they were friends. His mind reeled. Just how much of the future did I really change? He wondered.
Accepting this nonverbal answer, Ganondorf continued, “You have had extensive experience with these Nevachreans as I’m told. Can you please tell me more about them?”
Link took a moment before his courage caught up with his voice, “I have fought them several times, yes.” Ganondorf leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs as he clasped his hands under his chin, he grunted to have Link proceed, “Nothing seems to kill them. I have sliced them apart, cut open their bellies, sawed off their heads, and I even blew one up with a bomb! They just keep coming back.”
Ganondorf showed no sign of emotion, he sat quietly absorbing it all in. Unsure of what else to do, Link continued, “They have a general that leads them, his name is Naar. He has three men working close with him, Talamir, Timner and Thanan. They can bring weapons into their hands from nothing. They can make horses appear out of thin air. I don’t know what else they can do.”
“What were you looking for in the east?” Ganondorf interjected.
Link froze at the question, how did he know he was traveling in the east? After a pause, he could see Ganondorf growing restless from the wait. He surged on, “I was tasked to find the three stones of power. I-”
A squeak emitted from Zelda as she tried to warn him from revealing too much of their plan. One glower from Ganondorf put Zelda in her place. She wilted back onto the cushion as she dejectedly looked at the ground. Link was revealing their hand and there was nothing she could do to stop him!
“Proceed.” Ganondorf said with a low growl in his throat.
Link swallowed hard, he was quite unsure of how much he should say now. Just how much did Ganondorf know? How much would Link be losing if he told him everything? Ganondorf’s eyes burned into his own, the sheer intensity of his gaze sent chills down his spine. He was searching the truth in Link’s eyes as he spoke. Unbeknownst to the group, Ganondorf was in perpetual communication with the elder Gerudo as he listened to Link speak.
“Uh…I was tasked to find three stones of power.” Link began again, a slight tremor in his voice. “One we already have, the Kokiri Emerald with Saria.” Link blinked twice, he was unsure if he saw a flicker of light play across the ruby on Ganondorf’s brow. “We had the Zora Sapphire before I was captured. Now it is in Naar’s possession. The Gorons traveled further west with the Goron Ruby towards the Xaagar Mountains. They are far from our reach on the other side of the army.”
Link briefly looked back to Zelda as she returned his weak smile, thinking he was done expounding his story he leaned back slightly in relief. He was slightly unnerved when Ganon brought him back into the discussion.
“And these three stones of power, do you have any idea what they do?” A wry look was all it took for Link to assess that Ganondorf knew the answer to what he asked.
Link’s mind scrambled as he tried to find some way to cover up the truth. How much had Ganondorf known of the Master Sword and Triforce before they stopped him? Without any other recourse, Link plainly stated, “Yes.”
“I find that highly intriguing that you know as much as I do on this matter. May I go so far as to say you know a great deal more, Link?” Ganondorf paused just before saying the name with purpose.
Link gulped. The entire situation was unreal. “I don’t believe I do…sir.” Link hastily tacked the respectful title at the end.
An uncomfortable pall descended on the room as the only sound heard was the snapping of the fire. Silence screamed throughout the room as the two leaders of the discussion stared each other down. Link’s will was placed to the test as a strange force emanated from Ganondorf, worming its way through his body, seeking the inner secrets of his mind. Link’s teeth began slowly grinding together. It was all Link could do to keep from gasping from the mental intrusion.
Ganondorf was irritated he could only get brief shattered images. Nothing coherent would surface from the boy’s mind. His telepathy only truly worked with others of the stone, he could get a clear picture of what a person was thinking or seeing if they were connected to him through the rubies. His attempt to pry into the boy’s mind was met with little success. He did know that Link was keeping something back from him, but it was unclear as to what.
Changing his tactic, Ganondorf shifted the conversation to one of plans, “Well it seems simple enough. It is evident that these stones of power have what we need to combat this foe. We will send riders northwards around the army and secure the ruby from the Gorons. Then we have several regiments of Gerudo to sneak into the army encampment and reacquire the sapphire. With the emerald already in our grasp, we should have all three in our possession. What happens next?”
Link saw through the ploy, Ganondorf was rephrasing the question in such a way that any answer he gave would either be seen as a lie or the actual truth. He gritted his teeth for he knew he was losing the trial of wills, “We bring them together at the Temple of Time.” He hoped he didn’t have to reveal that the Royal Family ocarina was needed to complete the ritual.
“Why would we go there?” Ganondorf probed.
Damn him! Link fumed. Ganondorf was leading Link right into giving everything away! He was sent back in time to stop this from ever occurring and here he was giving away the very secrets that would bring him back into power again! If he lied or tried to leave the meeting, he knew it would end badly for him and his friends. He was trapped like a rat in a cage and he saw no way out.
“It is the only way to access the Master Sword.” Link admitted.
“Who would wield such a holy relic?” Ganondorf relentlessly pressed.
Link turned briefly to look helplessly at the others. Talon and Malon merely shrugged their shoulders for they hadn’t the foggiest what the real answer was to the question. Malon didn’t even know what the Master Sword even was! Zelda subtly shook her head and mouthed a silent ‘no’. She knew it was Link who could wield the Master Sword, the hero that the sword had chosen. A curt rumble from Ganondorf drew him back to the conversation at hand.
Link sighed despondently at revealing the truth, “Me.”
Malon let out a gasp, as Talon grunted in surprise.
Ganondorf’s eyes widened slightly at this, “You.” He said flatly.
Link nodded, “Yes. I pulled out the Master Sword.”
Ganondorf rose from his throne and slowly walked over to Link. Looking down on his miniscule form, Zelda was worried Ganondorf would crush Link with his bare hands.
“Yet it lies dormant in the Temple of Time still, sealed from entry. You did not pull it out yet did you?” Ganondorf led with the question, prompting an expected response.
Link thought he saw a way out of this, “Yes, I’m sorry. I thought I pulled it out, but I didn’t. I was mistaken.”
“Liar!” Ganondorf bellowed as he snatched the collar of Link’s tunic and dragged him into the air inches from his face. Talon rose to attack Ganondorf when a raised hand from the Gerudo king slammed him down into the cushion with malevolent energies. Malon whimpered as her father cried out in agonizing pain. Zelda rose with a start but was thrust onto the floor with two blades at her neck. Apolloni grinned down on Zelda eager for her master to give the word.
“You already pulled the sword out before. You came back from the future didn’t you?” He shook Link roughly, tossing his dangling legs to and fro, “Didn’t you?!”
Link could only wheeze at Ganondorf’s grip; he tried to claw his fist off his tunic, but his efforts were fruitless. Ganondorf continued his tirade, “Do not think you can lie to me boy! I know more than you think! So that is how you knew when and where to stop me, it had already happened before! So what occurred then? Did I manage to claim the Triforce as my own and you were sent back to stop me from succeeding? Answer me!”
Ganondorf violently shook Link as his head wobbled brutally from the shaking. He felt a massive headache creeping up the back of his skull. “You succeeded, yet…you failed.” Link managed to utter.
Ganondorf dropped Link onto the cushion as he released Talon from his magical shackles. Malon rushed to her father’s aid and pushed him back up against the wall to relax. With a snap, Ganondorf ordered Apolloni to resume her former position, she grimaced at the lack of blood spilled that day and skulked back to the other elders. As she sat down she sheathed her scimitars into their scabbards behind her back as she eyed Zelda with malice.
Ganondorf merely stared at Link, with a monotonous tone, “Explain.”
Gently rubbing his sore neck, Link defiantly spoke, “You are not balanced Ganondorf. True, you succeeded and touched the Triforce…but you still failed. For you to have the full power of the Triforce, you need to have stable balance of power, wisdom and courage. You lacked that and so it split leaving you with only one piece of the whole!”
Ganondorf seethed at Link’s insolence but he couldn’t deny the information being yielded, this was invaluable and it explained a lot he didn’t know about the Triforce. With a roar of rage, Ganondorf swirled around and raked his hands through the fire. Flames shot up to the very ceiling of the chamber marking its passage with a black spot of soot. He was so close to figuring out his claim to the Triforce only to be stopped by something he couldn’t control! Something he hadn’t even considered in his most complex plans, the fact that the Triforce had a failsafe.
“Leave me.” His voice was hushed but his intention was clear.
Zelda quickly braced one of Link’s arms over her shoulder as she guided him out of the room; his legs wobbling with each step. Talon and Malon quickly followed suit, eager to be away from that awful man and his harem of cohorts. No sooner had they got outside the chamber that two guards rushed up to them.
“You are to follow us to your new accommodations.” One of the females directed.
Link’s mind was a bowl of mush. There was nothing left to give. The encounter with Ganondorf took all the mental fortitude Link had in him. He was exhausted from the meeting. Zelda stumbled as his legs gave out and he fell to the floor unconscious.