Chapter 84 - It All Went Wrong
Her head jerked up at the small hiss of a whisper beside her. Merin looked over at Impa who was intently peeping over the wall with rising alarm. Seeing the anxious look in her eyes, Merin quickly evaporated the stupor from her muddled senses. She was unsure of how long she had slept. The dew on the grass had seemingly also collected on her clothes and was starting to make her shiver.
“What is it?” She asked tensely before looking over the low demolished wall, she didn’t have to wait long for the answer. Ganondorf and Apolloni were already standing and facing the climbing ascent to Death Mountain. A lone figure was calmly strolling down the slope towards them. “What does he think he is doing? Where is everyone else? Why is it just him?”
Impa shook her head curtly, “I have no idea. The original plan was for all of them to meet up with us here. I don’t know what went wrong or why that’s changed.”
“He doesn’t know Ganondorf betrayed us, does he?” Merin asked.
“No, he doesn’t. With only him here, I can either hope he suspects something or it went seriously wrong with acquiring the Goron Ruby.” Impa clarified tersely.
Link was sporting his fully refurbished Kokiri garb, complete with matching cloak. His wings were not visible, she could only assume he had them still tied behind his back so as to not draw undue attention to himself. He had a belt scabbard casually buckled to his waist with his sword in plain view. It did not appear he had either the emerald or the ruby in his possession. Impa’s heart constricted as she watched him pace down the path. What was he doing?
Apolloni smirked at his return, Ganondorf merely grunted. Arms crossed, he stepped up to the young man. “Where are the others? I believe I sent far more with you on this mission.”
Link shrugged as he gazed around the devastated hamlet. The pain in his eyes at seeing Kakariko in ruins was clear but he did not let it cloud his mind. “We had several accidents while securing the ruby. I left them to recover back with the Gorons.”
Ganondorf’s eyes narrowed, “Where are the stones? Do not tell me I have been wasting my time sitting here for you to only have you tell me that you failed.”
“After seven cycles, I would think you’d know I can get a job d-” His words were cut off as Ganondorf assaulted his mind, trying to see the truth of the matter. Link wasn’t completely unprepared for the attack, having experienced it several times during his stay with the Gerudo but it was still unnerving to have the Gerudo king worming his way through his thoughts.
Like the many times before, Ganondorf could only get glimpses and glimmers of the events that had transpired in the Xaagar Mountains. It infuriated him that he could not easily see what lay within Link’s mind. He had half a notion to implant a ruby on him as well just so he could have complete control over the youth. His eyes sprung wider as his telepathic communications branched out to discover another entity further east just within the village graveyard.
“So you are not alone after all.” He simpered.
Link’s pupils dilated, had he given them away? Impossible! He tried his best to redirect his thoughts away from them. “Look, let’s just agree to the original plan. I’m already here and willing to go through with being captured. I’ve come up with several ideas of how to steal the sapphire from right under Naar’s nose. And…” With dawning realization, he looked from Ganondorf, who had already started towards the graveyard, to Apolloni. “Where are the others? Talon, Impa, and Merin?”
Apolloni gleefully filled in the information for him in a way that made his blood run cold, “We had some ill-fated accidents traveling here through the army. Most unfortunate…” The tone of her voice was deceived by the look in her eyes. Link flashed a glare over at Ganondorf, the Gerudo king didn’t bother to grace him with a glance but continued walking.
“What happened to them Ganondorf?” Link demanded harshly.
“It is of no concern to you anymore.” He growled. “Focus on the task at hand. If you want to save Hyrule, we must proceed forward with what we agreed upon.” Several glints of light flashed through the ruby emblazoned on his forehead. “And I see they have the remaining sacred stones as well. It does not do well to lie to your allies Link. As a representative of Princess Zelda, future queen of Hyrule, you should do better to exemplify her interests and thus cement strong alliances with fellow nation leaders.”
He winced at Ganondorf’s indictments. Apolloni must have revealed to him everything that had transpired since they left the desert. “A safety precaution is all.” Link stalled. “We wanted to make sure neither of the remaining two stones fell into the hands of Naar by bringing them here. We would have them meet us at the Temple of Time instead with them.”
His mind was reeling out of control. This was not how they had expected this meeting to go. He had anticipated that Ganondorf would secure the deal with Naar utilizing his position and power so that there would be no question as to why he would be bringing Link in as prisoner. They didn’t trust any of Naar’s men to capture him. They didn’t want to speculate how he would be treated or if he would even make it to Naar. With the sure possibility of Ganondorf having betrayed them all, the disappearance of his friends that accompanied him, and his now unwillingness to bring him straight away to Naar, Link wondered what exactly the Gerudo king had up his sleeve.
“Something’s wrong, we have to go help them.” Merin shrilled, trying to keep her voice down.
Impa shook her head, “Not yet. We do not want to blow our cover unless we are positive Link is being attacked. We have no idea if Ganondorf is still going to honor his word and take him to Naar.” Her ears perked up at the sound of several leaves crackling. She twisted her torso to look behind them, her eyes searching the shadows. She frowned in vexation, “Looks like we are not alone.” She swiftly brought out the baton from her belt.
Link overheard the rustling from beyond the derelict structure of the former inn but was immediately waylaid by the sight before him, emerging from beyond the graveyard fence. He blinked twice before he could comprehend what he was seeing. Slowly advancing forward was Zelda, with two scimitars held to her neck. Their bearer was Nabooru, who looked completely at ease with the whole situation.
“Nabooru!” He shouted apprehensively. “What are you doing?” Her eyes did not stray to his. She kept them locked onto Ganondorf. It was as if she were sleep-walking.
Ganondorf leered, “She is one of my elders and they are mine to rule.”
Link finally saw the connection, Ganondorf’s ruby was flashing wildly in time with Nabooru’s. He was controlling her through some sort of magick embedded into their rubies! He had suspected some sort of peculiarity to their head adornments but couldn’t quite make the association. Who knew what else the Gerudo were capable of with those stones? Link cursed himself for thinking it would be okay for Nabooru to join them in Kakariko. That lone decision just endangered their entire plan!
“Now Princess Zelda, would you be so kind as to give me the stones?” Ganondorf commanded calmly, his pupils boring holes into her own.
A quick shake of the head was all she could manage before the prick of Nabooru’s blades was felt in her neck. She squeaked at the sudden shock of pain before slowly reaching into the pouch lashed to the belt of her breeches and drew out the emerald and ruby, their shape capturing and dispersing the first rays of the rising sun. Ganondorf coolly walked over and snatched them from her open palm. He inspected them briefly before transferring them to his own pouch.
“Fine, you got what you wanted, now let Zelda go.” Link demanded firmly, his hand at his waist, itching to grasp the hilt of his sword.
The Gerudo king turned his head to regard the brave, yet foolish lad. If it were even possible to have a son, he wouldn’t mind him having the determination and courage that Link possessed. “I would not have had to resort to these measures if you just stated the truth up front. No, I will not kill Zelda. She is far too valuable a prize for that. She might even make a great queen some day, and a lovely mistress!” His laugh was horrid, his eyes intense. Apolloni glowered at being possibly usurped by Zelda as Ganondorf’s favored female.
Link unhooked his cloak letting it fall to the ground as his wings spread out magnificently. He unsheathed his weapon, holding it steady in front of him, its tip pointing towards Ganondorf, “Have Nabooru release Zelda now and discharge her from your control as well.” He inclined his head towards Nabooru, her eyes still vacant.
Ganondorf began to move forward to advance on the youth when a flash bang erupted from the southern hill where the inn once stood. His attention engaged at the ensuing battle occurring, Link flowed headlong towards Ganondorf with his sword low with the intent to disembowel the Gerudo king. Sensing movement from the corner of his eye, he sent a silent command to Nabooru to disentangle from Zelda. Link’s steel clashed loudly against Nabooru’s scimitars as she brought his weapon down into the dirt.
“Apolloni.” Ganondorf growled, “Bring Zelda with you. We have a Sheikah to catch.” He sneered as he stalked up the incline towards the ensuing skirmish.
In a heartbeat, Apolloni was behind Zelda with a dagger to her neck, “If you but move a muscle, I’ll cut your pretty, soft skin. Ganondorf may want you alive, but he said nothing about being fully whole!” She began to cackle at her remark before gasping for air. Zelda had elbowed her in the stomach and quickly pivoted around before slamming a blast of concussive magick into her chest, knocking the Gerudo clear across the clearing. Apolloni smashed into the nearby brick façade.
“It seems to only come out when I have need.” Zelda marveled as she stared at her hands again. Could this be the secret to her powers? She had to learn how to control them!
Impa and Merin were fighting valiantly against several armed assassins, each garbed in black fabric which was beginning to stand out horribly admist the gathering light of dawn. Merin was purely on the defensive, blocking and deflecting multitudes of arrows launched from several men on the high rise overlooking the town. Impa was on the offensive, drawing some of their fire and flitting in and out of their ranks, gutting several while decapitating others. She knew it was a fruitless gesture, knowing they would revive within minutes, but her ultimate goal was to kill enough of them to buy them some time to assist Link.
Argonim stood off to the side, leaning casually up against the crumbling cliff wall that was eroding slowly due to the elements. He was observing intently the battle rhythms of the two women, analyzing their techniques and feints. He glanced off down the path to spot Ganondorf purposefully striding up towards Impa. He seemed fixated on her for an unknown reason. Deducing him not a threat, he continued his viewing of the scuffle.
Link was frantically dodging and parrying blows, attempting to disable Nabooru without outright hurting or killing her. He was not used to combating an opponent without the intent to seriously maim, injure or slay them. He had to keep whacking her in the head with the blunt end of his sword in hopes he could knock her out and rush to Impa’s aid up on the rise. Nabooru was relentless. The flicker of light in her ruby was dancing wildly as she continued to twirl her scimitars through the air, unknowingly determined on killing her friend, Link.
Zelda whistled loudly. Within moments, several Sheikah appeared from the shadows and converged on the melee, quickly removing the heads and body parts of the assassins. Several endeavored to strike out at the Gerudo king himself. The two who managed to get close enough were pulverized into ashes, to be carried away by the morning winds. Apolloni lingered back behind the shattered wall, seemingly overwhelmed with the appearance of dozens of Sheikah. It was clear Link had not been alone and they were all laying in wait around Kakariko until the situation turned dire, past the point of no return.
“Ganondorf!” Zelda yelled right before she let loose a blast of pure energy towards him.
He turned to see the incoming bolt and quickly let loose a barrier before pressing it outwards, knocking her completely off her feet. The beam ricocheted off of the shield and crashed into the windmill overlooking the town. It exploded into dozens of flaming shards, fragments and sharp debris began raining down onto the combatants below.
Several men screamed as debris pierced their arms or faces while others collapsed to the ground, momentarily dead as some of the larger pieces lodged themselves into their brains. Link saw the imminent danger and ducked low under one of Nabooru’s swipes and tackled her to the ground. In a spurt of energy, he rolled them both under the awning of one of the buildings, watching with tense fear at the raining shards of wooden death.
Impa surveyed the swiftly unraveling scene and quailed. With the Gerudo king between her and Link, it would be near impossible to assist him. There was no way she’d be able to confront Ganondorf directly. She focused on the one person whom she could manage to tackle, the overly beefy man leaning smugly up against the rock. She made a swift bee line towards him. Digging the clawed apparatus enclosing her hand into a nearby assassin, she tore his spine out before tossing him aside like trash.
Argonim was no magick user but he was skilled in the art of war and learned to study his opponents to identify weaknesses in their offense. He watched carefully the movements of Impa as she was making her way towards him. Her eyes were locked on his position, but her periphery vision was extraordinary. She dispatched foes with ease, barely even taking the time to look at what she was doing to them. Her eyes were only for him.
Impa reached into a side pocket of her belt and threw several Deku Nuts into the fray just inches from Argonim’s feet. He had been expecting this tactic and closed his eyes promptly as they made contact with the ground, blinding all others around them. He felt the rush of air flow past his right cheek. She was going to strike from the left. Seeing through her ploy, he opened his eyelids as he gripped her by the neck.
The astonishment was evident in her face as he lifted her off the ground, her legs dangling in the air. Without missing a beat, she whipped out her baton, the spikes flicking out with fervor. She brought it quickly down onto his head. Blood spurted as junks of flesh were ripped out when the steel was removed from his skull. He roared but ignored the pain and grabbed her arm with his other hand. He twisted it, breaking her wrist. With a cry, she dropped the baton to the dirt.
“Impa! No!” Merin trilled. She lopped off the head of one assailant before slicing another at the knees, causing him to topple over his own legs. She made a move to assist the incapacitated Impa when she was slammed into the ground by an unseen force. She moaned in agony at the crushing force impressing upon her body.
Several boot steps crunched by her ears, she could barely lift her head to look into Ganondorf’s eyes, “You have a choice Merin. You can either follow your king or you can die like the rest. I am only offering this once.” With genuine concern, he gently lowered a hand for her to accept.
At length, Merin knew they had lost. With tears in her eyes, she clasped her hand in his. He pulled her up onto her feet before regulating her to stand behind him. He raised a menacing hand towards her attackers. Seeing that the situation was under control by the Gerudo king, they moved away down the hill towards Link, Zelda and Nabooru.
Ganondorf called out after them, “Do not harm the boy or the golden haired one. Detain them. I do not care what happens to the other.” Merin opened her mouth wide to say something. She could not conceive that her own king would be so brutal to his elder. It was true that Nabooru wasn’t always in tune with his rule but she never outright betrayed him to her knowledge.
Zelda stepped back hesitantly, keeping her eyes on the looming horde of well trained Nevachrean assassins. They looked quite similar to the men whom Ruto brought with her back in the Negev Marshlands. She wondered if they were of the same regiment. She inclined her head to see Link struggling whole heartedly against Nabooru, rolling across the ground, locked in a battle of strength and wills.
“Zelda! She…is not…herself!” Link gasped inbetween releases of her choking grip. He knew he could easily overpower her if he tried but he was unwilling to hurt his friend. He was coming around to the unfortunate realization that he may have to ultimately kill her to free Nabooru from this madness Ganondorf incited. He winced every turn they made, as his wings were crushed beneath him.
The first arrow whisked through the air towards Zelda’s head. Drawing on the inner divine energies inherent in her soul, she erected a transparent, shimmering barrier. The arrow dissolved into nothing but vapor as it struck the shield. The men slowed their advance as they discussed options on how best to circumvent her defenses. She had established a full dome of protection over the three of them. Nabooru and Link continued to struggle on, oblivious to the magick swirling around them, protecting them.
Flexing her calf muscles in a unique way, Impa released a shard of sharpened iron from the tip of her boot. She swung it deep into Argonim’s groin. He grunted from the searing pain permeating through his loins. Giving him no time to recover, she took her knuckled fist and rammed it into his face crushing the bridge of his nose. The man bellowed in anguish, holding his free hand up to the squirting blood from his nose.
Enraged at the Sheikah getting the better of him, he strengthened his grip on her neck and threw her face first into the ground before stomping onto her back. Several pops were heard up and down her spine, she cried out at the pain flaring up her back. Sensing the approaching attack, she rolled over bringing her baton up to ward off his charging fist. Argonim brought his stinging hand back incensed.
Violently gripping a breast with one hand and her crotch with the other, he lifted Impa high into the air. He knelt on one knee before bringing the doomed Sheikah down onto his raised leg, crushing her spine in half. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes dilated. He flung her to the side like a ragdoll.
A squawk of surprise emanated a few meters away, a Sheikah who looked remarkly similar to the one he had killed was rushing to her aid. Ganondorf stepped up to her and brushed her off with a wave of his hand. She skidded across the ground before knocking her head against the brick wall. She slumped to the ground unconscious.
He knelt down beside the dying Sheikah, placing a hand on her forehead, “You are a worthy opponent, one who deserves respect. It is a shame we are on opposite sides of this war but my goals must be realized. May you rest in peace and the Goddesses bring you home.”
Trying in vain to breathe, Impa coughed up several clots of blood, looking up disbelievingly into his face. He began searching her body until he found the object of his desire, presently he pulled out the ocarina. Things were finally starting to come together for him. All he needed now was the sapphire and that boy. He knew he couldn’t access the Master Sword himself but with Link by his side it could be done.
He rose up quickly and turned to Argonim, “We fall back. We got what we came for. You take the boy with you for now. The golden-haired female is mine.”
Argonim grunted derisively, “Not unless you can stop them from disabling all my men.” He indicated Zelda, who was handily learning her new found powers as she went. She was blasting several men off their feet from beyond the barrier with gaining accuracy.
Ganondorf nodded, “Let me handle her.” He steadily paced down towards their position, standing but a few feet away from the barrier. “Remove the shield Zelda or Nabooru will be forced to kill herself.”
Immediately, Nabooru stood up and aimed a scimitar at her belly, readying it to plunge deep into her soft flesh. Zelda quavered, “Why would you do that to her?”
Link began frantically trying to remove the weapon from her hands but her knuckles were white with the strain of holding it tight. Some abnormal force was keeping it locked into position. “Ganondorf just let her go.” He pleaded.
“I have what I came for: the ruby, emerald and ocarina. I need only you to fulfill the requirements. Without you in my possession, my deal with Naar falls through and we don’t have a chance at accessing the Temple of Time.” Ganondorf drawled.
Link stopped his struggling with Nabooru’s arms, he stared at the Gerudo king flummoxed, “But I was given the ocarina by Impa herself before we left Glaun’rung. How can you have it?”
A wild grin spread across Ganondorf’s features, “That was merely a ploy to separate you all. You needed not to be distracted from your task of securing the ruby, so Malon was left behind. Impa was too much a threat to my plans, so she had to be herded off to be taken care of separately.”
A horrid realization came to Link, “Where’s Talon?”
A small sob emitted from Merin, who was standing dejectedly behind Ganondorf, “He’s dead Link. I saw him die.”
A raging fury started boiling up inside Link. Without even having to hear Ganondorf say it, he knew who had killed Talon. “You will die by my hand Ganondorf!” He shouted virulently.
“I’d like to see you try.” Ganondorf simpered.
A small gasp diverted his attention to Nabooru, who was deliberately sliding the scimitar into her belly. He swung his neck back to Ganondorf, “Please stop! I’ll go! Please, just don’t hurt anyone else!” Nabooru’s movement stopped.
“Then drop the barrier Zelda.” His eyes turned to her, his glare daring her to disobey.
At once, it vanished. The men rampaged in and brought the two of them down to the ground. They quickly lashed harsh twine around their wrists, ensuring they were tightly drawn behind their backs. Link cursed severely into the dirt, hacking as some of it got into his nostrils. The men just pushed them down into the earth harder the more they struggled.
Nabooru was released from his control, her weapons clattering onto the ground. She spun around flustered. She had begun to realize what had occurred and her role in it all. A look of horror splayed across her face as she beheld her king, his expression indifferent. She dropped to her knees and wept.
“Leave her be. Let her wallow in the misery of her failure.” He instructed the men.
“And where will you go?” Argonim questioned, pointing a meaty finger at Zelda as Ganondorf began to escort her away.
Without looking at the imposing man, he swept past him, “I will meet with Naar in my own time on my own terms.” He flicked his chin in the direction of the still struggling Link, buried under a mound of men who strove to keep his wrath in check. “You have your immediate objective right now. You may deliver him directly to Naar. If my suspicions are correct, I feel he’ll be very pleased to meet him again.” He faced the wavering Apolloni, who had just recovered from her battering at the hands of Zelda, “Apolloni, come!”
Like a dog with a tail between its legs, she followed her king sulkily. She knew she had failed him this day. She was effectively useless in that battle. She shot daggers at Zelda but she merely huffed and looked away from the infuriated Gerudo. Merin shadowed behind, looking back several times to catch Link’s attention. Her efforts were futile for he was raging beneath the mob of men.
Clutching Link roughly by the collar, Argonim lifted the youth up into the air and rammed him onto his shoulder, carrying him like a dead animal. “What about the stones Ganondorf? Did you not agree to deliver them to Naar too?”
He turned his gaze onto the peevish brute, “All in good time. Naar is not the only one with ambition.” With a sweep of his hand, he indicated the few remaining Sheikah still fighting the Nevachrean soldiers. “Feel free to clean up the rest, we are leaving.”
Argonim watched the Gerudo king walk down the stairs to the plains with his golden haired prize. He thundered loudly at his irritation with that man, “Come on! Let’s get back to camp!” The call was sounded through the ranks. The assassins fell back and disengaged from the enemy.
Link continued to kick at Argonim’s chest. Annoyed with the youth’s struggles, he gripped both his legs and thumped him onto the ground. Link’s breath left him as he hit the ground hard. He had no time to react when a fist smacked him in the head. He was immediately knocked out cold. Feeling satisfied he would get no further retaliation from Link; Argonim swung him back over his shoulder and strolled down the steps to the encampment.
It had been several minutes before the remainder of the Sheikah returned from chasing down the Nevachreans back to their camp. They ultimately decided it best to regroup and strike out with a different plan. Things had not gone according to what they assumed would happen. One Sheikah ignored everyone else and went straight for Impa. Cayla knelt down beside her sister and placed a hand on her forehead.
Impa’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of her weeping, “Cay…la.” She croaked, her breathing ragged and torn.
Crystalline tears streaming unchecked down her face, Cayla kissed Impa’s forehead gingerly, “Sister, why did you have to leave? We could have protected each other, defended one another.”
Impa’s eyes unfocused briefly before placing themselves back on Cayla, “It was…for Link.” She tried to say more but could not bear the misery of talking. Her spine had been broken in half and the back of her head bashed in from the impact of the final toss. Her life force was swiftly ebbing away.
Cayla cried out her frustration at not knowing the answers to Impa’s actions, “Why Link? I don’t understand! Is our duty not to Zelda first? To Hylia? Why is Link so important?”
Impa was drifting fast, “Link…son of…queen…Hyrule…taken from…Naar.” Her thoughts were as fractured as her speech.
“Please don’t leave me. I love you!” Cayla wailed.
For one brief, torturous moment, clarity entered Impa’s face as she beheld her beloved sister. She smiled. Her eyes then glazed and she was gone. Cayla crumpled on top of Impa’s broken body and sobbed bitterly well into the morning.