Chapter 60 - Abandoned
She stretched out yawning under the sheets. The morning rays filtering in through the window woke Malon from her slumber. She flipped over trying to discern where Link was, she didn’t see him anywhere in the room. She frowned slightly at what transpired the previous night. She didn’t mean to disrupt the mood. Feeling terrible about denying him, she swung her legs around and gasped slightly at the cool temperature of the floor. The cool nights of fall were wafting in and embedding themselves into the wood.
Shivering slightly from the chill, dawn air, she skipped quickly across the room to put her clothes on. Throwing on the pretty blue dress Ingo gave her an orbit ago she looked at herself in the mirror, detangling the kinks in her hair with the provided brush on the vanity. Finishing up buttoning the top portion of the flowing dress, she admired her reflection. Beaming at her appearance, she vowed herself today to make it up to Link for the mishap the night prior.
As if on cue, the nausea started to build in the pit of her stomach. Her countenance sagged knowing there would be no point in leaving the room until it played itself out. Plodding over slowly to the bucket she had used countless times in the past week, she flopped herself down on the nearby chair hovering over it. Malon had no idea where she caught this flu bug, but no one else seemed to be catching it. For that she was thankful at least, she would have felt terrible if Link had contracted what she had. She was disappointed that she couldn’t join the others this past week during training, she was just starting to enjoy herself.
Feeling the rising bile inside, she gripped the bucket and emptied herself into it. Wiping her mouth shakily, she cursed her condition and wished it would go away. Regarding the contents of the pail with disgust, she figured she should finally dump it out this morning. Shuddering with aversion towards the abhorrent task, she hefted it by the handle and walked out of the room.
Cruising down the stairs, she noted that it was strangely quiet in the inn, by this time of morning there were at least a few of them already downstairs eating breakfast. Stepping outside, she relished the soft breeze blowing in across the plains, quite different than the sweltering morning gusts that would sometimes billow through the Gerudo valley. Walking around the building to the back, she dumped the contents of the bucket into the prescribed refuse pile. Scrunching her nose in revulsion, she wished the people of Nevachrea could find a better way of dealing with their waste.
Hiking the pail underneath her arm, Malon decided to pay a visit to Epona and perhaps brush her down. Entering the stables, she noticed that its tenants had diminished; she paced down the row of stalls and noticed only Appa and Tellah still in attendance. She stood there curious as to where they went. Did they all head out to train this early? That was unusual. She yipped at the unexpected clatter of hoes and rakes. She twirled around to see Ashley motioning an apology as he stooped to pick up the mess.
“Oh, it’s just you Ashley.” She breathed with a sigh of relief, “How are you doing this morning?”
The boy merely smiled at her in response. Malon figured it was his form of a yes. She came over to assist him with the clean-up. He put out a hand warding her off as he pointed to himself.
“Did you not want my help?” She asked. Ashley shook his head and pointed to himself again. “I get it. It is your mess, so you’re cleaning it up.” The boy smiled as he nodded his head.
Malon surveyed the stables again and detected several fresh hoof prints leading out of the structure. It appeared that Epona and Fado were taken early this morning, maybe they were just training without her. She certainly missed sparring with Link and Zelda but after having to stop several times to retch, they decided it was best she stay in Glaun’rung until she recovered.
“Do you know where they took the horses?” Malon inquired of Ashley, calmly setting down the bucket on a crate realizing the moment it left her lips that his answer would most likely be insufficient.
As expected, he shrugged his shoulders. Putting the final rake to rights, he smiled at her and turned to leave the stables. She tapped his shoulder to recall him back, “What were you doing just now before I came in?”
Grinning, Ashley walked over to Tellah and patted her on the neck, Malon quickly deciphering his meaning spoke for him, “You were brushing her down?” He nodded. She exhaled frustrated, “I really wish you could talk to me.”
Ashley gave her a pensive look before leaving the building. Figuring their conversation had come to an end, Malon followed him out. The sounds of the awakening city were beginning to filter in from the nearby streets, she noticed several men already out on ladders refurbishing their homes and painting the freshly nailed boards. It truly was amazing what the citizens of Nevachrea could accomplish if they had a solid vision laid before them without any outside influences. Many wagons were being brought in, no longer for the war effort, but for the restoration of the capital. She chuckled softly to herself, to imagine what Naar would think if he could see this positive influence.
Malon’s heart gave a flutter as she heard the cackling of two old hags. Her eyes darting around for the source of the sound, she hastily brushed up against the wall of the nearest building. She had heard the laughter coming from a nearby alley. One she could still smell the stench from, it clearly had not been cleared out of the previous days’ refuse. Not knowing why she felt the need to be surreptitious about her movements, she craned her neck to look down the narrow street to see Ganondorf talking to the two witches, Kotake and Koume.
“Although your assistance was warranted here, I cannot trust your loyalty to your king.” Ganondorf growled at them.
“You mustn’t be mad at your servants!” Kotake pleaded, although Malon could tell it was all an act.
“We were merely nudging you forward with the next phase of our plan.” Koume explained briskly.
“Nearly a full orbit early!” Ganondorf snarled. “The only reason I am not killing you now is because of your usefulness to my cause.” Grinding his teeth as he added, “Even still.”
“How merciful of you.” Kotake bowed low, doing her best to keep the mocking tone from her voice.
“Very gracious of our king to spare our lives.” Koume bowed with her sister.
“Do not shut me out again. I want to know where you’ve been these past few weeks.” Ganondorf rumbled.
Kotake and Koume looked at each other with their bulbous eyes, unsure of how best to describe their exploits. They knew that lying to him outright could turn ugly, they also knew that inviting him into their minds would reveal the bigger picture; something they also did not want. Transporting their thoughts in-between their rubies, they agreed that allowing Ganondorf access to their minds from this point onward wouldn’t be detrimental to their goals.
At length, the witches faced Ganondorf once more, “Agreed. We will not hide anything from our king. If you wish to know something about what we are doing, you may ask us.” Kotake offered.
“As for where we have been, we have been traveling the Nevachrean countryside in search of additional sources and books on magick to further our own knowledge.” Koume spoke with a smug tone.
Within seconds the two witches felt Ganondorf’s presence slam into their brains, their knees buckled under the strain of his probing. The two witches quivered as the feelers of his mind searched through the recesses of their memories and thoughts. Utilizing each other as support, they were able to erect an internal barrier that barred him from acquiring the most critical pieces of information locked within those memories.
Releasing them from the bondage of his mental assault, the two crones collapsed to their knees breathing heavily. “You need to drop this vain crusade with the Twili. Their powers pale in comparison to our ultimate objective. You need to concentrate on setting the stage for Link. He should be the sole focus of our mission. If the books, scriptures and lore are to be believed, he is the only one who is capable of being chosen by the Master Sword. We have to trust to that and proceed as planned.”
Unsteadily standing on her crooked legs, Kotake trilled, “What of the remainder of his friends, especially the ones who will accompany us?”
Readjusting her turban, Koume shrilled, “Are they necessary too? Do we need to string them along with what we hope to accomplish for the Gerudo?”
Ganondorf pondered on that thought for a moment before brusquely responding, “There are too many uncontrollable pieces. The more we get rid of, the better. We can then focus better on manipulating the few pawns under our control. Let’s concentrate our efforts on Link, anyone else is extraneous. Deal with those we leave behind…after we depart Glaun’rung.”
Malon let out a little gasp. She knew it was a mistake as soon as their eyes darted in her direction. Without hesitating, she began running back towards the inn as fast as her feet could carry her. She felt the icy hot mix of magick blast down the alley, destroying anything caught in its wake. She slammed into the shutter doors of the pub and bowled right into Impa, knocking them both to the ground in a heap.
“By Din, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost Malon!” Impa said smiling, gently rolling Malon off of her.
“They are planning to kill us Impa!” Malon shrieked madly, gripping Impa’s blouse forcefully.
Her mirth faded instantly at Malon’s allegation, “Tell me everything.” She demanded urgently, helping Malon to sit next to her by the nearest table in the pub.
It was still quite early in the day and the place had not officially opened to the public, regardless Malon kept her voice to a whisper to avoid untoward ears from listening. “…and I think they are going to try something as soon as Ganondorf leaves.” She huffed slightly trying to catch her breath, her heart was still racing.
Impa’s gaze flickered back up the stairs to the bedrooms, “That explains their early absence.”
Malon’s eyes bulged, “What are you talking about?” A knot in the pit of her stomach began rising as anxiety kicked in, making her contemplate horrible scenarios.
“I am normally a light sleeper but this morning I could not wake up easily. Given what you have just told me, I think I was bewitched.” Her tone turned dark.
“I saw Epona and Fado missing too from the stables. Xavier isn’t there anymore.” Malon informed her apprehensively.
“So, Link, Zelda and Saria traveled northward on their own. Why?” Impa was flummoxed at the strange occurrences happening this morning and began to suspect that it wasn’t just coincidence.
Giana bounded down the stairs happily as Talon leaned heavily on the bannister, seemingly waking up from a deep sleep himself. “Hi! Hi! Hi everyone!” Giana chippered. The little tyke leaped into Malon’s arms before snuggling her face into her dress. “Hey big sis!”
Malon warmly embraced the little girl, giving her an emphatic kiss on the head. “Good morning, you little rascal.” She smiled in spite of herself at her sister’s bubbling personality, it wilted the moment she shared a look with Impa as she beheld her father struggling to awaken from his torpor.
Talon practically stumbling down the stairs, Impa rose and quickly closed the distance to him. She gripped an arm and tossed it over her shoulders before assisting the strapping man toward his daughters, setting him down beside them on a bench. He blearily slurred his speech, “Wheresh Nabooru? I didn’ shee her thish mornin’”
Impa’s eyes looked alarmingly at Malon, “Dear Goddesses, what is going on? Why would she leave with them?”
Talon shook his head elaborately several times, as if to clear his head. “She’s gone? When did she go?” His words were slowly recovering.
“Mommy’s gone again?” Giana asked cheerfully, not registering the seriousness of those around her.
Ignoring her sister’s question, Malon pressed fearfully, “Should we all leave now and escape? Before Ganondorf comes back?”
Impa vehemently shook her head, “No, it would do us no good. With Kotake and Koume as well as Apolloni, he has all of us outmatched. We would not survive more than a few minutes.”
Giana seemed to cue in on the overall mood of her family, “Daddy? Is something wrong?” A look of worry crossed her face.
“I’m not entirely sure honey.” Talon said honestly, the murkiness of his mind finally clearing.
Impa smiled, threading Giana’s hair with her fingers affectionately. “Nothing for you to be concerned with yet Giana. When the time comes, will you be willing to follow all instructions that we give you?” She spoke softly, but firmly to the child.
“Yes, ma’am!” She responded dutifully, a small crook of a smile reforming on her face.
“Hey everyone!” A cheerful voice burst from the pub entry. All eyes turned to see a hot, sweaty and sticky Merin standing with her hands on her hips. She wore a baggy pair of faded mahogany pants loosely tied at the waist with a belt, her breasts were covered with a small bandana tied tightly behind her back. It appeared she was up early this morning assisting the reconstruction efforts of the town. “Looks like everyone is finally up! When’s breakfast?” She asked jauntily.
Impa’s eyes creased with relief, “Good timing Merin! Breakfast is not ready yet, but would you be willing to play with Giana a bit while we prepare it?” She lifted up the wiggling Gerudo kid and set her down beside Merin.
“Would I?” Merin exclaimed in mock excitement, the girl giggled at her silliness. “I would love to accompany the most awesome girl in the world! Come on Giana! Let’s see if we can go chase some rats!” After a stern look from Talon, Merin merely smiled imperturbably, “Well there is little else to chase in this town!”
With a unified cry they went rampaging down the streets hooting the whole way. Impa eyed a dark figure heading their way and immediately turned to Talon and Malon, hissing in hushed tones. “Ganondorf is approaching. We will continue as if nothing is wrong, we will proceed forward as planned. Be alert and be vigilant.” Without another word, Impa disappeared up the stairs and was gone.
Ganondorf burst through the shutters, a deep scowl splayed across his face. His eyes settled on them with contempt. “Talon, we leave tomorrow at dawn’s first light. The sooner we get to Hyrule castle, the better.” His commanding tone warranted no rebuke. The man merely nodded at the Gerudo king’s order.
Interested in observing his reaction, Malon piped up with an acted exuberance, “Is there any way I can join you guys on this-”
“No.” Ganondorf roared, startling Malon into silence. He had grown very volatile of late and was no longer appealing to be near. She couldn’t quite place when his personality changed but it couldn’t have been all that long ago. What was the trigger? Giving her one final glare, he clomped up the steps in his heavy laden boots. She winced as they heard a door slam upstairs.
Puffing out a breath of reprieve, “I am gonna be honest with ya Malon. I am not lookin’ forward ta traveling with that man.” Talon shook his head miserably.
“Does sticking with the original plan mean I’m staying here?” Talon shot her a look. “Well?” She pouted, crossing her arms across her chest. “It’s not like I can easily follow Link at this point!” She vented.
Hiding his true feelings on the matter, Talon simply smiled at her. “I’m glad that ya are actually. To tell ya the truth, I wouldn’t trust either of my daughters with him.” He jerked his chin in the direction of Ganondorf’s room.
“What?” Malon burped lightly, trying to hold down the queasiness that was briefly scared away by Ganondorf’s entrance. “You don’t believe I can…” another belch, “…can take care of myself?”
Talon’s brow furrowed as he saw the inevitable coming, “Is something wrong Malon? Do you need me to-?”
Covering her mouth rapidly, she dashed out of the pub sprinting as fast as she could towards the stables. She had realized she left the bucket back in the stall with Tellah. She didn’t quite make it.