Chapter 73 - Meeting of the Minds
General Naar angrily wiped away the tears that began to form at the creases of his eyes. Such weakness was unbecoming of the greatest military leader of the known world. He was furious at the news that had been delivered to him earlier that evening. He had brutally mutilated the messenger who conveyed the unfortunate news. Naar crumpled up the paper and threw it across the room where it feebly smacked one of the empty fairy cages hanging on the tent beams.
With a cry of wrath, he expelled a swath of energy that blew the tent canvas outward before resettling back into position. Several campfires near the general’s tent blew out completely. The soldiers huddling next to them for warmth grew quiet at the ire of their leader. They all knew better than to disrupt his episodes of anger lest they end up like the mangled piece of meat that he tossed out of his tent, moaning and slithering away futilely across the mud soaked ground.
His passion had subsided enough that he stalked over to the piece of paper to read it again. Ripping open the wrinkled papyrus, his eyes skimmed down the missive once more. The capital had been taken. The Nevachreans had reclaimed it under their own direction and power. The Zoras were helping the reconstruction efforts and what was worse, that blasted boy and his friends were at large somewhere east in the mountains. The final blow from the communiqué was that his two nephews, the very ones he swore to their mother he would protect, had died a horrible, dishonorable death.
Naar was brooding on his throne of furs, awaiting word from his distant commanders and captains, he had only sent out a dispatch a fortnight ago before learning of his nephew’s deaths. It was finally time to mobilize his grand army and set forth to eradicate the remainder of the resistance in Hyrule. He would send half of his army towards the eastern mountains to obliterate the infuriating Gorons and their Sheikah witches. The other half would be sent to bolster the siege with the Gerudo and stamp out the remainder of their nation, his contract with Kotake and Koume be damned.
He was tired of waiting around for some miniscule chance that those witches would pull through and assist in helping Link gather all the sacred stones at the Temple of Time. It was clear they weren’t going to honor it. The patience of his troops was wearing thin and it would only be a matter of time before a full scale mutiny occurred and his position usurped. He needed results and they were not happening fast enough. The salvation of one nation was not fully hinged on a deal he made with two backstabbing hags. He only made the deal hoping it would bring him one step closer to achieving his goal of acquiring the Triforce and finally exacting his revenge upon Hyrule and its despotic leaders.
His experiments with the Kokiri were a success. They were now off with his highly trained assassins learning the ways of warfare and subterfuge. Each female was progressing nicely and had her own style of combat which was demonstrated quite viscerally with several volunteers from the pool of eager men intent on violating the young girls. The results were most satisfying to Naar, much to the agony and despair of the unsuspecting brutes who tried to rape them.
He was perusing his notes on them when a flutter of the tent flap redirected his attention. A guard fell forward with a thud, a sword splitting his breast bone apart. Through the entrance swept in two figures; one of them tall and imposing, the other supple and feminine. Without having ever met the man, Naar immediately recognized the Gerudo leader, Ganondorf. He was quite ignorant of the woman at his side but she was of little consequence, his focus was solely on the striking Gerudo king standing just inside his tent.
Naar stood up with a start, quickly apparating a bastard sword into his right hand. He boomed threateningly at the intruders, “You have seconds to explain what you are doing here in my camp or I will kill you where you stand.”
Ganondorf snorted at the intimidation, “I would like to see you try.” Without waiting for a response, he walked over to the nearest bench and sat himself astride it. He leaned back against the table strewn with maps and gazed back at Naar leisurely. “It seems we both have some problems and I am here to help us both make them go away.”
His face contorting in offense at the blatant display of superiority, Naar dashed forward at a speed abnormal to most men, his sword leveled at Ganondorf’s heart, intent on impaling him into the table. Sensing the threat, Ganondorf erected a protective aura of energy that expanded outward from his position knocking Naar back a few paces. Swiftly recovering, Naar spun around and unleashed a piercing shockwave that was dispelled swiftly by his opponent. The woman had to dive for cover as several surges of energy swelled over her head, slicing the corner of the table clean off.
Ganondorf held out a palm to the indignant Apolloni, “Do not interfere, this is something we men have to see through.” He grinned at the impending battle.
Not waiting for his foe to finish speaking, Naar lunged forward quickly changing his sword to a pike which elongated his range considerably. Ganondorf deftly evaded the thrust and parried with a downward swipe of his hand. Recognizing the danger, Naar brought the pike vertical to parry the blow and gathered magickal energy into the tip which exploded as he made contact with the Gerudo king’s arm, blowing them both back with the force of the concussion.
Rolling off to the side, Ganondorf heaved the table, sending charts and maps flying. Naar slammed his fist into the oncoming projectile shattering it into deadly shards which went flying back toward his assailants. The Gerudo woman had to duck down behind her king as he swiped away the slivers of sharpened wood like feathers in the wind. In an instant, Ganondorf had unsheathed a sword that was strapped to his belt and pressed forward to strike Naar down.
“You are quite the formidable opponent.” Naar admitted, this man was on another level entirely compared to those two witches he had fought earlier.
“I aim to please.” Ganondorf grunted before striking downwards in an obvious tell. Switching it up at the last second, he shifted his weight and brought the sword in from a downward side angle.
Lightning quick reflexes saved Naar from certain evisceration. Holding the sword hilt aloft while tilting the pike downward, he stifled the blow from connecting with his body. He shoved the speared weapon into Ganondorf’s strength of motion forcing him slightly off balance with his weight. Taking the brief moment of advantage, Naar apparated a long rapier and thrust it towards the man’s midsection.
Utilizing the air around him, Ganondorf swirled the air and flipped backwards kicking his foot out to dislodge the weapon from Naar’s grip. The rapier went soaring before spiraling downwards and digging itself deep into the dirt next to Apolloni. Neither man bothered to notice that the guard that had been pierced through was slowly getting back up to his feet. The guard appraised the situation quickly and decided his best course of action was to leave the two men engaged in combat and remove the female.
Apolloni sensed the presence before she saw it, expeditiously twirling and striking out hard at the guard brought him to his knees due to the force of her blow. The man had her other scimitar pulled clean from his chest and was skillfully blocking her attacks with it. With a flick of his wrist, the man surged upwards letting her momentum carry her down with the weapon he had just released. He punched her savagely in the gut causing her to crumple to the floor in pain. The guard was upon her, pinning her arms and legs to the floor with his own. He briefly laid low on top of Apolloni as a fairy cage went hurtling above his head before crashing into a support pillar with a clatter.
The man looked down at her with a disturbing glean in his eyes. He licked his lips before commenting lecherously, “You will make a fine addition to my brood. Your skills and talents will be a most useful asset to me.”
Apolloni struggled against the inhuman grip the man had, she stared up in disgust as he began laughing. The most notable feature was the twin scars that traveled up his cheeks from the creases of his mouth. “What are you talking about?” She spat angrily.
Noticing her keen interest on his wounds, he pried one hand loose and began nonchalantly scratching them. “You are interested in these? Would you like to know how I got these scars? Well, let me show you!”
Replacing his hand back on top of her wrist, he arched backward on top of her at an awkward angle. A sickly tearing sound began to emerge from his torso as a single line of red began to flow downward from his breast bone to his lower abdomen. Two sharp, hook claws erupted from his stomach, it ripped the small slit into a gaping hole as it pulled through a writhing mass of grey platelets and dozens of legs. A gush of hot, steaming blood poured out onto Apolloni’s clothes. The creature looked at her with its multitude of eyes, taking in every facet of her being. It clicked mandibles with anticipation, its long forked tongue slithering in and out of its circular maw.
Ganondorf went sailing past them before recovering and bounding back with a deadly bolt of malevolent energy that crackled through the air only to be dispersed by a tower shield that Naar summoned at the last second. Neither Apolloni nor the guard paid any heed to the commotion around them. Her attention was rapt on the disgusting creature that was slowly forcing itself out of the man’s stomach.
What was worse, she spied a similar creature further up the torn laceration, implanted into the guard’s life system. It had taken residence in the center of his ribcage where the man’s heart and lungs should be. Each of its multitudes of legs was attached to various veins, arteries and nervous system threads. It was utilizing itself as the central life node of its host, gorging on the man’s blood with every pump through its own hideous body. Both abominations glared at Apolloni with their beady, bulbous eyes.
The guard slumped his head down at an unnatural angle, his eyes slightly off kilter, staring at her unsettlingly. “What a delicious snack you will make! And when I’m finished with you, your body will make a perfect host for another of my brood.” The man cackled as the pulsing creature inside chittered.
A dawning horror settled on Apolloni as she realized what this creature did. The scar trailing up the commandeered husk’s cheeks was the entry point for the monster. It appeared that it got into his body through there and wiggled its way down into his chest before eating his heart and lungs, once finished, it proceeded to embed itself into the man’s system and control him. The secondary creature was probably a result of some egg it implanted into the host body; to gestate, mature and in time, find a new host and propagate its species without anyone being the wiser.
In a flash, the insect-like demon flung itself from the gaping wound and skewered its twin talons deep into Apolloni’s mouth, one on each side. She shrieked at the pain of it which caused a slight interruption to the battle raging just meters from them. Ganondorf slammed a fist into Naar’s chest causing the man to fly backwards from the force of the blow. Naar blasted a gust of wind out to cushion the impact on a nearby structure beam as he crashed into it, splitting it crudely in half, causing some of the tent canvas above to cave in.
Ganondorf was determining just what it was he was seeing. The seemingly dead man they had killed earlier was hovering over Apolloni with his chest cavity open with an attached abomination clicking in delight at its prey. A second creature was already at her mouth, splitting its two sharp talons into four as it slowly spread her lips wider; big enough for it to shove itself inside. Small beads of red began to form around the creases of her mouth as the creature continued to stretch her mouth wider. It was only a matter of seconds before it snapped her neck from the extension and it would be all over and it would have free reign to slither down her throat.
Lunging forward with a precise discharge of malicious energy, Ganondorf splattered the bug across the dirt. Its internal viscera writhing on the ground as bloody clumps of flesh and legs went spiraling through the air. Taking the opening, Apolloni kneed the man in the groin forcing a release of pressure on her wrists. She promptly brought her legs in through his and wrapped them around his waist. Both the creature and its host looked down at what she was doing with blank stares. Pressing her hands into the ground above her head, she spun in a circle flinging the body towards Ganondorf.
The Gerudo king smacked the disgusting demon aside, the body rolled on the ground several times before resting by the feet of Naar. The general looked down at the clattering monster, watching it swiftly detach itself from the severed arteries and nervous cords. It skittered away, attempting to quickly find another host. Naar apparated a piece of jagged steel before plunging it down into the center of the creature’s mass. Channeling inner energy and letting it flow down the metal, it exploded within the vile creature causing it to spray guts and fresh blood everywhere.
The battle had gone relatively unnoticed among the other members of the camp due to the cacophony permeating around them. Naar was panting from the exertion of battle. Never had he faced another opponent worthy of him. However, this…thing had spoiled his mood for combat. Without withdrawing the sword from the corpse lying at his feet, he looked up at Ganondorf, “Did you have anything to do with this?”
Helping the stunned Apolloni up to her feet, Ganondorf briefly examined the wounds on either side of her mouth before turning to Naar. “Unfortunately I cannot take credit for this aberration.” He smirked. Naar scowled at the humor. “You really should be choosing better friends with you on your campaign. It is clear to me that you have been compromised from the start.”
Vaporizing the steel into black mist, Naar walked over to his throne (one of the few things left unscathed) and plopped himself unceremoniously into it. Raising one leg over the armrest, he leaned back before appraising his visitors. “What do you mean?”
Leisurely sitting back down on the bench, now fractured in half, Ganondorf began casually wiping the flesh and entrails off his armor and clothes. “You have no doubt heard about the insurrection down south in your capital? I’d be a fool if I did not believe you had messengers who could have given this information to you by now.”
Naar steeled his eyes against the Gerudo king’s. There was no trace of bluffing. “Let me guess, you had a hand in that?” He knew better than to get angry, keeping his temper in check was the smartest choice in this situation.
“Indeed.” Ganondorf drawled. “Your high priest Barrachas was a demon from the old world.”
Naar stared blankly at the two of them, churning the news over in his mind. “What?”
Ganondorf scoffed, “You seriously were not aware of his true nature? It became quite apparent when he transformed your two imbecilic commanders into a monstrosity that I had to put down.”
Naar’s eyes flashed, “Do not insult my nephews! They may be stupid and sometimes worthless, but they were still kin. Explain yourself, why kill them?”
“Please, stop the bluster.” Ganondorf sneered, “If I had wanted to fight you, I would have killed you long before now. Blowing you to tiny pieces of atoms is child’s play.”
“Then why keep me, if you are so powerful?” Naar smirked, there was clearly more at play here than what appeared on the surface.
Crossing one leg over the other, Ganondorf leaned forward with a grin. Apolloni, at a cue, melded in with the shadows of the tent, “Well, let me first answer your question. Barrachas had turned your two nephews into a combined demon that wouldn’t die easily nor could be controlled. There was no choice but to put them out of their misery.”
Naar simply nodded his head, “Understandable. So why come here to ‘warn’ me? Are you not the very Gerudo king who put in place that infernal barrier between our two countries? The very same barrier that has blocked our way into the Temple of Time for the past seven cycles? Am I not your enemy?”
Ganondorf chortled before responding, “All valid questions. Yes, it was I, in pledging Gerudo allegiance to the Hylian king, I offered up my services in protecting their nation from further attacks from Nevachrea.”
“Something tells me you were not fully self-sacrificing with this bargain.” Naar smirked, resting his hand on his fist.
Ganondorf smiled, “Indeed, it was merely a way to get access to their vaults, their treasuries and ultimately into the Temple of Time. What better way to secure what I want than to be a friend to those who have it?”
“It seems we are seeking a common goal after all.” Naar commented deliberately, “However, as I suspect you’ve already learned, that goal cannot be shared amongst two people.”
“The Triforce. It not only is sought after by Link and his ragtag band of rebels, but also by demons of the ancient world.” Ganondorf confirmed with a glint in his eye, he could tell he was reaching through to Naar’s reasoning.
“And also sought after by you and me.” Naar added.
“Undeniably.” Ganondorf stated flatly, never taking his eyes off Naar’s.
“So why come to me? To strike another deal? Your faithful witches have made it quite clear they want the Triforce as well, even betraying their own king to get to it. What kind of king are you that you cannot control your own subjects?” Naar simpered as the intended reaction revealed itself on the Gerudo king’s face.
“They are troublesome meddlers, have been for centuries now. They will get their coming due soon enough.” Ganondorf growled.
“So both of us know only one can claim the Triforce, the question remains: why come to me? Why did you let Nevachrea gain a foothold into Hyrule?” Naar’s dark eyes stared intently at them. Apolloni shivered under his gaze, Ganondorf merely shrugged it off.
He clenched a fist involuntarily, “It was that blasted boy, Link. The two witches claimed he came from the future and I’m inclined to believe them. He knew exactly what my plan was that day and foiled everything. I was thrown into jail and left to rot. There was no way I was going to claim prosperity for my people in there.”
“So you deliberately lowered the barrier, thus setting the stage for our invasion.” Naar clapped his hands mockingly. “Brilliant. Just brilliant. You let the entire country of Hyrule fall just for the sake of possibly gaining access through the turmoil this war would cause?”
“Yes!” Ganondorf boomed. “I would do anything for my people, even if it meant the death of everyone else!” His eyes flashing dangerously.
Naar cocked his head, amused at this turn of events, “And what’s in it for me? My overall goal is also the Triforce. You would still be my enemy by going after it.”
Regaining his composure, Ganondorf placed both feet on the ground and leaned forward once more. “Why? What overall goal are you trying to accomplish? My goal is for the benefit of my people, to relieve them of the trappings of the desert and into a better life. What do you fight for?”
Naar ruminated in silence for a time before raising his eyes to meet Ganondorf’s, “I fight for the family I had lost, for my sister who was stolen from me by Hyrule’s king.”
“Admirable. Was this the king I pledged allegiance to? Harkinian?” Ganondorf queried slyly.
Naar shook his head slightly, “No, the father. He was the one who took my sister to be his stolen wife after splitting our country asunder and bankrupting it from the inside. Hyrule had taken everything away from us, including our slaves. I never knew what happened to her child.”
Ganondorf’s ears perked up at this morsel of information, “Child? Your sister brought a Nevachrean born child into Hyrule?”
“No, she was still pregnant at the time. We were set to attack almost five orbits later. That was when Barrachas finally convinced me of his plan and gave us our abilities.” Naar explained. He forcefully shook his head to eradicate his brooding thoughts, “What does it matter? So, you staged an entire invasion just so you could have an opportunity to acquire the Triforce.”
“Call it…” Ganondorf mused for a moment, “removing game pieces off the board before they become a nuisance. You help me and I help you.”
“How can I trust you won’t betray me?” Naar clucked sarcastically.
“You can’t.” Ganondorf stated matter-of-factly. “You can always trust those who betray others to betray you. It’s the ones that are seemingly truthful that you have to watch out for, for they can do some incredibly stupid things.”
“Agreed.” Naar smiled. “So let’s say we work together in narrowing the playing field. Do we then fight to the death for the chance at the Triforce?”
“It seems the fairest thing to do.” The Gerudo king laughed.
After a time of thought, Naar proposed the idea, “The original deal with the witches had us allowing Link to acquire the Kokiri Emerald and the Goron Ruby. Do we do anything different?” Naar knew better than to show his hand right away, best to let his opponent reveal everything first and react to that.
“I believe nothing should change the existing deal, but rather we make adjustments to the endgame of it.” At Naar’s inquisitive look, Ganondorf continued, “I have lived with them for a time and I know what their ultimate plans are for stealing the Zora Sapphire from you and entering the Temple of Time. Let’s talk about how we can turn their plans to our favor. When it’s down to just you and me, we can officially call our deal off. Agreed?”
“You are very cunning, I will give you that.” The imposing general guffawed.
The two men talked late into the night. Apolloni had fallen asleep on her feet when Ganondorf woke her. They left silently into the dark, surreptitiously avoiding contact with the rest of the army. After they had gone, Naar couldn’t stop grinning.