Chapter 59 - By Dawn's Early Light
Link looked at the two masks in his hands. One was filled with malice and deceit, staring at him with its bloodshot eyes. The other was filled with nothing but sorrow, yet it seemed no spirit or energy resided within. He placed the mask of Ballos over his face once more, after a moment he brought it down with discontent.
Nothing happened when placing it on, he was almost positive it had something to do with it not being completely whole. He sighed despairingly. How could they possibly put the mask back together again when so many pieces of it were missing, with no hope of finding them? His eyes falling back onto Majora, he shivered uncontrollably. The other he dare not put on, despite its incessant whispers of power and glory.
“And now you have two.” A melodious voice crooned.
Link dropped the masks onto the bed sheet. Bounding out of the bed, he swiftly apparated a broadsword aiming it at the smiling man’s face. The curious visitor simply sat in the chair completely relaxed at Link’s outward display of hostility. Beside him was a rather large sack, bulging abnormally in places with its unusual contents inside.
“You.” Link fumbled, trying to recall memories of this man. “I’ve met you once before.”
“I should think you did.” The man confirmed gaily, his grin never leaving his face.
Lowering his sword, Link snorted in disdain, “Are you here to give me another mask that haunts me with its lies?”
“No. I am here to ensure you follow the right path.” He said enigmatically.
Link turned to the mask of Ballos, “Does it have something to do with this mask we found here? Did you come to take it?”
“I think not.” The man spoke firmly. “You seem quite adept at handling it all by yourself.”
Vaporizing the sword to mist he flopped back down onto the bed, tired of these mind games the man was playing. “Then why are you here? And don’t give me any cryptic nonsense!” Link shot him a glare that would have withered any other man.
The grin never wavering, the man bowed his ginger head in supplication. “Very well, I will plant the seed of destiny into your mind.” Link was taken aback as the smile left the man’s face. “You must kill Zelda.”
“What?” Link faltered. He blinked his eyes, wondering if he had only imagined the sudden shift in the man’s demeanor. Nothing remained except the grinning expression on that smug face. “What did you say?” He asked again.
“It is the only way to restore balance to this world.” Pressing onward, ignoring the rising confusion in Link’s face, “There will come a time when Zelda will ask you to do the unthinkable. I am here to implore you to listen to her. It is the only way.” He hummed, absently picking an errant string from his breeches and flicking it off.
“What is your game?” Link interrogated lethally. “Don’t you dare come in here and tell me that I have to hurt my friends.” Violence flashed in his eyes, daring the man to continue in this direction.
The man casually shrugged as he leaned back in the chair, undaunted by Link’s bravado. “It needn’t matter, what was required to be said is done. The rest shall lie on you.” He pointed a slender finger in Link’s direction. Shifting his pointing towards the mask of Majora, he chimed, “Might I suggest you keep that mask secret until you are further north with your companions.”
Link’s eyes squinted mistrustfully, “How do you know where we are going?” He didn’t remember the man being a part of their previous discussions regarding their future plans.
“Would it matter if I answered that?” The man smiled infuriatingly. “Your vow of silence is about to end. You must place trust in the friends you have around you if you want them to survive.”
Link shook his head violently, “You are speaking in riddles again, old man!”
A look of shock danced across the visitor’s face, “Do I really look that old?” Tilting his head to the side unnervingly, he tapped a finger to his chin. “I guess you could call me old of a sort.” Presently standing, he brushed his clothes down before facing Link with a smirk, “You should really learn to be more pleasant to those who are trying to help you.”
Link barked a harsh laugh, “Says the person who gave me one of the most dangerous masks I’ve ever known!”
Link gripped Majora in his hands and made to hurl it across the room when the man raised an arm in protest, “I suggest you think real hard on tossing your responsibility aside.” The grin had evaporated from the man’s face, replaced with firm resolve. “Carry both with you. In time you will discover their proper owners.”
Link was tired of these mysteries and talk of destiny. He made his own choices, not bound to some fate he couldn’t escape. “Leave.” He spoke dangerously. “I don’t want to see you again.”
The smile returned as the man straightened back up. “Trust me Link. You won’t.” Grunting as he heaved the heavy sack back onto his back, he turned to Link one last time. “Now it’s time for you to leave.”
“What? Leave?” Link asked befuddled.
The grin never leaving his face, the man merely pointed to Link’s wings. “Time for you to wake up.”
Link jerked his head to inspect his wings, his eyes popped at the rivulets of crimson seeping through the feathers. Within seconds, gore began flowing out between the white plumes trailing down to the floor with gravity. Horrified at his bleeding limbs, he swiveled his head to discern that the man had disappeared. He slammed his hands to his face to cover the torrential deluge of blood spurting from his screaming eyes.
He floundered himself awake, only to realize he had fallen out of bed in a heap. Malon was still asleep above him, snoring softly. Groaning in aching pain from the fall, he meant to get up when he saw a pair of feet by his nose. He looked up into the searching face of Impa.
She writhed under his terrifying glare. Multitudes of black wings were descending from the sky. A grinning visage of evil unveiled itself on the moon as it began plummeting down to the earth. A sword of purest white slashed through the air, severing her torso from the legs and decimating those around her. Lying on the ground with her life force streaming out from her body, she turned her head to see the glazed eyes of her daughter, Giana; her petite body ripped to shreds.
Nabooru thrashed wildly off the bed shrieking hysterically. With a thud on the hard wooden boards, she twisted across the floor trying to erase the mental images still dancing behind her eyelids. Talon was on her in a heartbeat, struggling to keep her still and calm, “Darlin’!” He cried. “Wake up! It is only a dream!” He gripped her face as he forced her to look into his eyes.
“Daddy? Is mommy okay?” Giana asked fearfully; looking over the side of the bed, sleep still in her eyes from being awoken so suddenly.
“Shh, baby!” Talon quelled Giana before turning his focus back on his wife. “Nabooru, it was a dream, come back ta me!” His voice was firm and commanding.
Her eyes finally locked onto his with recognition, she began crying irrepressibly. “It was awful Talon.” She gulped in handfuls of air, trying to calm herself down. “I had the most frightening vision. I fear something terrible is going to happen to Link and it will mean the death of us all!” She recalled the memory so long ago of Saria talking as if possessed, of detailing the prophetic mural on the wall they had found in the Gerudo Fortress. The dread in her pounding heart inherently knew that the prophecy was close at hand.
“Is it about the quest he is bein’ sent on?” Talon prodded earnestly. “Is it a mistake that we are sendin’ him?”
Nabooru shook her head ardently. “I…I don’t know!”
She jerked slightly under his grip as a slight knock on the door sounded, “Is everything all right in there?” It was Impa.
“Please, let me go.” Nabooru pleaded with Talon. “I must speak with her.”
Unsure of her mental state, he reluctantly honored her request. He sat down on the bed next to Giana, assuring that mommy was simply going to take a short walk to clear her head and that she would be back in the bed with her soon. Pacified with his answer she snuggled back up under the covers next to him, her eyes watching Nabooru intently as she left the room with Impa.
Without waiting for Impa to initiate the conversation, Nabooru dove right into the forefront of her thoughts, “I think I should go with Link on his journey north to acquire the ruby.”
Impa was inwardly surprised at this statement but showed no outward sign of it, “That would put our group slightly larger than is warranted or advisable when traveling north into enemy territory.” Their established traveling group to the Xaagar Mountains was large enough as it was if you didn’t include the Cyn’Taak as part of it.
“I believe I had a vision Impa, one that recalls a prophecy I once heard recounted by Saria many cycles ago. I can’t explain why, but I feel it in my heart that I need to be there for him on this task.” Her voice was low, but the tone exposed her determination.
Impa cocked her head slightly as she considered the proposal, “That would change a few things to the overall plan.” She turned her head to look back at her shared room with Zelda. “My place is by her side.” Her eyes flicked over to the shut door of Ganondorf’s dwelling. “I do not yet know Merin well enough to consider her reliable. We need a Gerudo tagging along who is loyal to us.”
“I know, and you trusted me with that.” Nabooru acknowledged the original pitch of her traveling with Ganondorf back to Hyrule.
Impa turned back to her, “I am confident in your allegiances Nabooru.” She gestured to her family just beyond the opened door. “You have a husband and a little daughter to take care of. You are different than any Gerudo I have ever known.”
“Then you have to trust me on this. I can’t shake this feeling that something is about to befall all our best laid plans.” Nabooru spoke with conviction.
After regarding the unwavering Gerudo, Impa relented with a crooked smile, “Very well. Then I shall relay instructions to Zelda regarding my absence. You must go tell Ganondorf that we are swapping positions and that you are going with Link instead.”
As the ruling authority amongst the group, it had been Ganondorf who submitted the new plan to everyone. Since Link was still unable to apparate holy swords on a whim as was expected, their original plan of retrieving the remaining sacred stones to unlock the Master Sword was still their primary objective. They were to take a small group of which Zelda, Impa and Malon were apart of to head north to find the Gorons and secure the ruby.
Ganondorf, Apolloni, Nabooru and Talon were to head northwest to secure a viable way to access the Temple of Time and lay the groundwork for the final stages of Link’s mission to retrieve the Sapphire from Naar himself. Once acquired, they were to meet up at the temple and have Link claim the Master Sword. Ingo opted to stay behind to look after Saria, Giana and Ashley while they were away, promising them a safe haven.
“Thank you.” Nabooru whispered gratefully to Impa before setting off down the hall towards Ganondorf’s room.
The door swung wide suddenly as she stepped up to it. Apolloni leaned up against the frame looking at her nastily, “What did you want?” She sneered.
Nabooru ignored the woman’s naked form, “Change of plans. Impa will be accompanying you; I will be assisting Link in his endeavor for the ruby. If you want the details-”
“That will not be necessary.” Ganondorf rumbled from the bed, the bed sheets lying loosely over his muscular form. “Do as you wish Nabooru. I care not for your presence or your reasons for the amendment to the plan. As far as I’m concerned, you no longer have a home among the Gerudo.”
His words hit her in the chest like a sledgehammer. He could not have wounded her any graver than if he had tried to hurt her family. Despite her personal grievances against the methods with which he ruled over the Gerudo, she still considered him their figurehead and part of her kinfolk. The absolute dismissal from her king struck such a blow to her mind that she was at a loss for words.
Ganondorf grunted, “You may leave now Nabooru.” He commanded firmly.
With a leering smile, Apolloni closed the door in her face. Nabooru stood numbly in the hallway unaware of her surroundings for several minutes. She jumped slightly as Impa laid a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Link, Zelda and Saria suited up for the journey. Link had several thin ropes tight across his chest, securing his wings close to his body with a green cloak clasped at his neck covering them.
“Where is Malon?” She inquired curiously.
“She is to stay here…on Talon’s request.” Link said hesitantly. “We didn’t wake her.”
“Why are we leaving so early?” Nabooru probed, as she looked through her door out the window. The night sky had just begun to brighten with the coming sun.
“For Malon’s sake.” Link said flatly.
Nabooru, getting the picture, nodded swiftly. “I will meet you out by the stables.” She murmured; she paced into the room as the three of them swept past her. Talon and Giana had already fallen back asleep. She breathed a sigh of relief, it was better this way. She was not good at goodbyes. It wasn’t until she began packing her bag that she realized that Saria had inserted herself into their group.
Rapidly bounding down the stairs and out of the pub, she rounded the bend hopping over the fence enclosing the now flourishing garden. She noted the two burial mounds and sidestepped past them, preferring not to disturb the dead. Impa was leading Epona out by the reins with Link and Saria sitting astride her. Zelda trotted out with Fado who seemed eager to blaze across the plains, the saddle still able to accommodate another person.
“’ello!” Xavier growled cheerfully. Nabooru leaped back in surprise, completely abandoning her attempt to spring into the saddle with Zelda. She had completely forgotten the Cyn’Taak could talk now.
“Hi…” Nabooru stammered. “I had overlooked that you were coming with us Xavier.” She felt quite awkward talking to a beast.
“Wher’ver mom n’ dad go, I go.” She barked proudly, absentmindedly scratching her belly with her claw.
“Your…oh.” Nabooru looked up at Link and Zelda and made the connection. She recalled them relating their encounter with the Cyn’Taak and how they were the first people Xavier ever saw. “That’s…nice.” She muttered, unsure of how best to address the creature. Keeping a wary eye on its wavering tail, she leaped up onto Fado and situated herself behind Zelda comfortably.
Content to stay behind now, Impa released the reins to Link before placing a gentle hand on Epona’s neck. “Keep Zelda safe Link. I put my trust in you on this matter.” He curtly nodded. “Keep your wings hidden and tied close to your body. We do not want the enemy to know who you are by sight alone.”
Link shifted uncomfortably in his saddle at her words of caution. “It feels stifling Impa. Is this really necessary?” He asked hopefully. After so many moons training with Impa and utilizing his wings, it felt confining to suddenly hide them like he was a freak. He felt embarrassed at all the special accommodations they had to make for him because of his new limbs. He never asked for any of this.
“Until such time we are ready to reveal ourselves to Naar, we must remain concealed from his spies. We have to assume they are out there, roaming the countryside. Your wings would be a dead giveaway from afar.” She explained calmly.
“I understand Impa.” Link agreed sullenly.
“One last thing,” Impa held up a finger as she riffled through her clothes. She pulled out a blue ocarina and placed it firmly into his hand. “I was intending to hold onto this since I was originally planning on traveling with you. Now that things have changed, it would be far more advantageous for you to keep ahold of it.”
“Is this what I think it is?” Link said, the shadowy recesses of his memory beginning to clear as he recalled the object’s function.
Impa smiled warmly, “I knew if your stories of the future ring true, you would remember this ocarina. If you have forgotten the melodies, Zelda knows them well and will teach you again.” Link turned atop Epona to gaze at Zelda, who merely bowed her head in acceptance of Impa’s statement.
Impa patted his thigh briefly before turning to Saria, “Be near Link and keep that emerald safe.”
Saria beamed, “I will.” She held a hand to the dimly glowing emerald chained around her neck. Impa had made the command decision to include Saria into their traveling group for several reasons. One was her natural, inherent ability to make herself trivial in the eyes of their enemies, which would mean their group wasn’t exactly any larger with her added to it. Furthermore, keeping the emerald close to Link would make gathering all the necessary elements easier than scattering them.
Lastly, Impa stepped over to Fado and passed a knowing look to Zelda, “Who will assist me in reawakening if you aren’t with us?” Zelda whispered.
Impa blinked quizzically at her question; quickly recovering, she reaffirmed Zelda, “Link seems to be the only viable option here. I have a bad feeling about this plan of Ganondorf’s. I’m staying behind to keep an eye on the two of them.” Zelda bobbed her head in comprehension. She knew whom Impa was referring to.
“Be safe Impa.” Zelda mumbled sadly.
“May the Goddesses protect you child.” Impa smiled as she reached up to caress her cheek.
Blinking back tears, she slapped the rump of Fado roughly, instigating the anxious horse into a trot. Saria waved back at her enthusiastically, Impa chuckled softly to herself as she returned the gesture. She stood there watching the four of them gallop off into the distance with Xavier lumbering behind for what seemed like hours. Exhaling softly at their absence Impa strolled into the pub, ascending the stairs confidently as she made her way back to her room.
Silently opening the door, she slipped into the dark gloom as Ganondorf eyed her from the bed. With a flick of his hand, her image began to waver and distort; unashamedly naked, the spell dissipated off her body. Coyly making her way to his side, Apolloni leaped up on top of him and began grinding her hips against his.
“Did I do well, my lord?” She serenaded sensually.
“You were magnificent.” He commended gruffly. “Did they fall for the ocarina?”
Apolloni licked her lips alluringly, “Yes. I made sure to give it to Link; Zelda would have recognized its falsehood.”
“Wonderful.” Ganondorf purred; placing his nose against her neck, breathing in her scent. “You have served your king well.” She gasped eagerly at his firm grip on her rump, his fingers digging into the soft flesh. “Come serve your king some more and enjoy the rest of the morning with me.”
“Anything.” She hummed, lost in strength of his passion.
“Let us shape the battlefield to our advantage.” Ganondorf growled as he took her.