Chapter 89 - The Gambit
Nabooru was sprinting fast down the hill, skipping every third step as she dashed across the crumbling stairs leading to Kakariko. She had been placed up on the high rise to overlook the battle. They had feared that her coming with them and getting within distance to Ganondorf would cause her to go crazy again. For her own safety and theirs, they elected to keep Nabooru behind and assign two Gorons to keep tabs on her to ensure she would not escape to help.
The Gorons grumbled and complained about having to stay behind while their brothers claimed all the glory and fun of the battle. They gazed longingly at the raging fires dotting the war torn landscape, staring in awe at the dragons spreading their conflagrations amongst the Nevachreans. After an hour of restless vigil, they grew tired and plopped down into boulder-like humps and began snoring profusely, completely forgetting their charge.
It wasn’t until Nabooru spotted a rather large batch of men and women surface from the waters leading to the original Zora Domain that she stood up with a start. Many Zoras were assisting this group out of the water as multitudes of weapons and horses were materialized out of thin air. Two riders from the south came to join the gathering crowd. From the corner of her eye, she spotted Darunia running towards the river with a package on each arm. Something had changed in the conflict and she wanted to know what it was.
She recognized Epona as she was coming down off the knoll past the bridge over the river. Ashley was riding the striking mare into battle while the rest of the Nevachreans followed suit. Darunia whooped a war cry, swinging his hammer in the air, before charging forward with them. Nabooru swore an oath as they increased the distance from her, she was worn out from the run but she had to catch up.
They annihilated anything in their path. It seemed multitudes of Zoras and Nevachreans had access to Cyn’Taak tipped weapons, for every enemy they struck out against splattered in a mess of blood and boils. With the dragons above, the Gerudo from the south and the combined might of Gorons, Zoras and even their own countrymen, the army stood no chance at surviving the night. Nabooru marveled at the strength of their numbers. Why had it taken this long to gather together and defeat them? Was it all because of Link’s influence?
At length, she managed to catch up to Darunia who was swinging his hammer in a wide arc, knocking back multitudes of bodies like ragdolls. He was laughing manically at the destruction being wrought around him. He spun around and smashed a hapless soldier into mush just yards from Nabooru. He noticed the vibrant color of her leggings and looked up into her eyes.
“What are you doing here?” He roared. “You were supposed to hang back at the village and remain safe!”
“I can’t! Where is Link?” Nabooru probed excitedly, the chaos around her ramping up the internal urge to destroy.
“He is already at the temple with Malon, Xavier and the others.” Darunia’s eyes widened as he realized what he had just uttered. “Never you mind!” He jabbed a finger in her direction. “Get back to Kakariko.”
“No!” She yelled back. “If Malon and Giana are still alive and with Link, then I must be with them. They are all that matter to me anymore! I can’t afford to lose them too!” Without another word, she turned on her heel and began running towards the town walls.
“Blast it to Din’s forge woman!” Darunia bellowed. He began to chase after her. The last thing he wanted was for her to be within lethal distance of Link and the others while Ganondorf was controlling her. Several demons whisked bolts of lightning in his direction. He flung the hammer spinning into the nearest Hunger before punching a rather mean looking sickle-bladed demon in the face. Ripping the hammer out of the Hunger’s torso with a shluck, he tried to search where she had gone off to.
Stamping his foot into the Hunger’s maw as it tried to rise back up, Darunia spotted Ashley nearby on Epona. He beckoned him over heatedly. The boy complied, his eyes on the demons around them. He quickly loosed an arrow which struck the sickled demon in the cheek, caused it to carbuncle heavily. He lazily had the bow strewn across his lap with an arrow on the string, awaiting his next target.
“Find Nabooru! She is heading north towards the temple! We can’t let Ganondorf take hold of her again! Please find her!” Darunia ordered before backhanding an approaching Defiler as it leaped through the air to try and latch onto his head.
Ashley nodded his understanding before stirring Epona into a gallop. She whickered at the sudden burst of speed but enjoyed every minute of the battle. She was trained for this and was quite excited to be in the thick of it again. Ashley had no concept of what Darunia was referring to about Nabooru being controlled by Ganondorf but he might as well go check and see what it was all about.
She spiraled downward, the world spinning out of control. Giana felt deathly sick as the sky and the ground somersaulted within her vision. She screeched at the top of her lungs. The last image was of Saria being tackled above her by another naked Kokiri, its spinning blades thrusting forward to bore a hole in Saria’s chest. She cried out Link’s name, then Malon’s, then Saria’s. She didn’t want to die.
Saria winced at the horrible shrieking below as she saw Giana getting further away. She utilized the momentum of the girl’s tackle to flip over and kick out with her foot. She dislodged the Kokiri’s hold on her and smacked her away, causing the Kokiri to drop the blades to the ground below. Exploiting the opening, she dove sharply towards the screaming Giana, her arms outstretched to grab onto the spinning girl.
She had just grasped her ankle and was proceeding to bring the bawling tyke into her arms when the Kokiri rammed into her, overturning her vector of movement. Saria released Giana yelling back into the air, tossing her above them both as she plummeted to the ground with the giggling Kokiri atop her. She looked into the demonic girl’s eyes and recognized her.
“Josclyn!” One of her best friends, apart from Link, was above her, speeding them both to an untimely death.
Josclyn increased the pace of her wings, rampaging them faster toward the surface. She sniggered, placing one finger across her lips, “Shhh, it’s our little secret! We mustn’t let Naar know!”
Josclyn began to strangle Saria, placing her two thumbs firmly on her larynx. Struggling to breath, Saria coughed as she tried to shout. Josclyn’s stomach was splitting open as a disgusting insect was clawing its way out of her belly. Saria looked up into Josclyn’s eyes with horror.
“I’ve actually grown rather fond of Kokiri flesh. There are just so few of your kind left, it’s a shame. We may die in the next few seconds but at least I’ll have a small taste before your end!” The little girl cackled with glee as the creature began to slush out of her innards onto Saria.
Saria brought her hand down to her waist. She gripped the hilt of the dagger Link had given her back in the Xaagar Mountains. With one fluid motion, she unsheathed the weapon and sliced it up the belly of Josclyn, ensuring that it struck the creature too. She followed through with the motion and cut right through her face, slicing the nose in half. The shock of the injury caused Josclyn to release Saria long enough to flip them over before kicking her feet to Josclyn’s shins, causing her to corkscrew away, flinging the disgusting demon into the winds.
She looked around frantically to see a flash of red hair several meters below her. She brought her wings in close and made herself as slim as possible, hastening her free fall descent. Zooming ahead of the falling girl, she twirled around to catch her. The breath was knocked out of her as Giana crashed into her. Holding on tightly to the wriggling girl, she strained her wings and shot out her legs to stabilize herself to slow their descent.
“Please don’t leave me!” Giana cried.
“I won’t!” Saria shouted back.
“You won’t get rid of me that easily! I will consume every last Kokiri alive!” Josclyn cackled before plowing into them both.
Another wail burst forth from Giana as she was flung out of Saria’s grip once more. Saria lashed out with her dagger drawing a sliver of red across Josclyn’s arm before kneeing her in the chin. At their current downward velocity, the force of the blow snapped the Kokiri’s neck. She hurtled to the cobblestone streets of the city lifeless. Saria knew that wouldn’t last. She refound Giana and made a dash towards her position.
Giana was getting pale, she had lost a lot of blood and it was still streaming from her stub of a leg. Saria clasped her hand and with a heave, swung Giana around to fling her higher into the air so she could catch her on the way down. She was exhausted but she knew they still had to land safely. Holding her breath to ensure proper breathing, she caught Giana.
She heard a rumble beneath her and saw the wicked aura surrounding the temple quiver before exploding in a flash of blinding light. Slivers of dark magick flung outwards from the epicenter of the detonation. Saria bobbed and weaved as multiple shards careened towards them. A rotten laugh from her right alerted her to Josclyn approaching, ever relentless.
Sora called out an incoming fragment of magick blazing towards them. Recognizing the opportunity, she rolled through the air towards Josclyn, speeding ever faster to the earth. At the last moment, Saria halted her roll before jutting out her foot to catch the Kokiri in the chest. The combined force of their impact pitched them both back across the sky. The shard of magick ripped through Josclyn as she was flung away from Saria. Josclyn’s arms flailed out uselessly as she tumbled down.
The ground was approaching fast. Keeping ahold of Giana tightly, Saria sprained a few muscles in her back as she flapped her wings furiously, yelling at the effort, in an attempt to slow their descent. She swooped low over the ground, mere feet away from their faces, as a nearby splat indicated Josclyn’s impact. Her focus was on the open temple doors ahead. Ganondorf and Apolloni were swiftly closing them to shut out the remaining murderous Kokiri.
“No!” She barked wretchedly, her foot had caught one of the doors as it closed firmly in place. She toppled through the air, unintentionally releasing Giana yet again. The screaming girl flipped over and crashed into Merin who was just turning around to observe the commotion. Saria made the last futile efforts at staying aloft before dropping swiftly to the ground with a thud, snapping her arm by the force of her fall. Her cry rang throughout the vestibule of the temple.
“Saria!” Zelda exclaimed. She rushed over to the wailing Kokiri. She had cuts and bruises all over her. Her tunic had been tarnished with Giana’s blood. “What happened?” Zelda asked anxiously.
“We were attacked,” She took in a short breath, “by one of those…things.” She couldn’t bear to call them her own kin anymore. Whatever they were, it wasn’t natural.
The accompanying howls from Giana redirected Zelda’s attention on the more pressing crisis. She placed a hand to her heart and gasped at the sight of Giana’s missing leg. In her worst nightmares, she couldn’t imagine something like this happening to the little girl. Malon had finally noticed the tumult and laid eyes on her little sister. With a moan, she promptly left Link in the sufficient care of Xavier and rushed over to Giana, still lying atop Merin.
The girl’s breathing was shallow. She seemed weak from both the abject terror she had just experienced and the blood loss. Malon looked up at Zelda imploringly, “Will you heal her?” A slight tremor creeping into her voice.
Zelda glanced over at Ganondorf, who seemed preoccupied with securing the door alongside Apolloni and Kotake. They could hear several bangs against the door, the Kokiri were not content to allow them time to rest. Seeing no confirmation from the Gerudo king, or any sign of the mysterious man Ballos, she looked back to Malon.
“Of course.” Zelda soothed. She sat down next to the adorable girl, her heart breaking that if they all survived the night, she would be forever scared as a result of this war. She placed one palm over Giana’s forehead and another on the bleeding stump. A soft glow permeated the girl’s body as Zelda began to perspire at the effort. Presently, the remnant of her leg was sealed with a flaming red scar, the flow of blood having fully stopped.
Malon began weeping for joy as Giana’s eyes fluttered open to behold her sister. Even Merin began to cry alongside them, happy to see some good done in the world. Seeing that Giana was at least stable, Zelda rose up and paced back over to Saria. She bent down to inspect the Kokiri’s arm. It was bent at an awkward angle and it appeared the bone was slightly protruding past the side of the elbow but had not exactly punctured the skin yet.
“Is it bad?” Saria asked fearfully. Zelda pursed her lips slightly as she examined the arm, she didn’t want to alarm her. She wasn’t exactly sure how to utilize her powers to reset bone, she wasn’t sure if she could. Saria started looking around at their group and noticed Cayla and two unknown Sheikah standing beside her. Her mouth dropped open, “How did they get here?”
Hearing the question, Cayla strode over and smiled down warmly at the Kokiri, “We had finally broken the line and caught up with you just as you were being attacked by those…demons out there.” She ignored the incessant banging against the sturdy, wooden doors. “You had already flown off by the time we arrived. We assisted Link and the others to this temple so Ganondorf could dispel the barrier. There were originally ten of us when we started.” Her voice was downcast. Saria looked at the remaining Sheikah and felt her heart get heavier. Out of ten, only three survived the race to the temple.
Taking stock of their situation, Saria began to stare at her surroundings. She had never been inside the Temple of Time before. It had high arched ceilings that rose to a point where the roof was shadowed in darkness. Marble pillars broke up the walls at intervals and served as structural supports for the building. Inbetween each major opening between columns were intricate stain glass windows, each depicting a prominent scene from the creation of their world. Below her was a carpet of scarlet, dressed over black and white tiles. It looked pristine, immaculate, beautiful and ancient.
The current crisis averted, Zelda relaxed her shoulders and walked over to her pack that she had dropped the moment they entered the temple. She knelt down and inspected the contents, quickly sifting through to find the two masks still intact within. She stared at them for a time. What purpose would they serve? Why must they keep holding onto the vile one? Link assured her that she would know who the final bearer of Majora would be but she didn’t have a single clue whom it could be. It seemed hopeless. Link entrusted a task for which she was ill prepared for. Clearly she wasn’t the one to wear the abhorrent thing.
Grunting in approval of the magickal barrier they had erected, Ganondorf turned and stalked straight up to Cayla. He extended his hand, palm facing up. “I will be taking that sapphire now.” His eyes were intense.
Seeing no alternative but death, she brusquely dropped the stone into his hand. He clutched it tight and motioned for Apolloni to secure Link. Xavier growled harshly at the Gerudo, “What do ‘ou think ‘ou are ‘oing?” She bellowed, her tail twitching violently above her, ready to strike the insolent woman in the head. She got down on all fours, hovering inches above Link’s body in an effort to better protect him.
“It’s okay Xavier. I have to go.” Link murmured quietly. Reluctantly, she complied and sat back on her haunches, her eyes ever glaring at Apolloni.
Struggling to get off the tile, he gratefully accepted the outstretched hand of Apolloni. She brashly pulled him onto his feet, making him stagger somewhat. He was still frail from losing his wings. All eyes were on Link and Ganondorf. No one made a move to intervene, for doing so would most likely result in the death of them. Kotake was smirking on her broom as she watched Apolloni escort Link to Ganondorf.
“How do you feel?” He mocked Link.
“Terrible.” Link admitted, not caring what Ganondorf thought of him.
Transferring hands, Link accepted the Gerudo king’s arm as they walked forward towards the dais with three individual depressions. Ahead of them on the opposing wall beyond the platform was a monumental marble slab emblazoned with the Triforce emblem. Link knew it was beyond there that the Master Sword rested, where the way to the Sacred Realm could be reached. He knew all his friend’s hopes rested on him and what would happen next. He couldn’t let them down.
As they walked, Ganondorf calmly brought out the three stones he had collected along with the ocarina, holding them firmly in his free hand. Staring at them for a moment, Link spoke up, “You do know that the Triforce will split the moment it senses your true intent. One must be balanced in power, wisdom and courage to attain it all. This is pointless.”
The Gerudo king nodded his head leisurely, “I recall our conversation seven cycles ago. I remember the failsafes that the Goddesses placed on the Triforce; very clever of them.” He smirked. He continued to face forward but his eyes wandered to Link as they were walking forward to the podium. “What you don’t realize is that I have contemplated my goals and the reasoning behind them these past seven cycles.”
Link turned to look up skeptically at the imposing king. Heedless of his nonverbal response, Ganondorf continued, “Because of you imprisoning me back at the castle and then later living with my tribe, I have rethought my purpose in acquiring the Triforce. Why did I want it? What was I to do with its power?” He clinched his fist around the stones and ocarina, “Then I realized that my ambitions were selfish and greedy. I was not caring one whit about my people, the very ones I had sworn an oath to protect as a youth.”
Link shivered as if a bucket of cold water had been splashed onto his soul, he maintained his heeding of Ganondorf’s words, “Because of you Link, you have taught me the wisdom needed to see the error of my ways and to seek better avenues of securing a prosperous future for my people beyond pure, unadulterated power. To secure ties with fellow nations to better the standing of my own. Because of you, I have the courage to trust others in accomplishing my goals when I would have normally done so myself. I put a lot of faith in you and your friend’s abilities to secure the pieces necessary to achieve my objectives. Finally, I still have the power to secure what I want to see my intentions met. So you see Link, my purpose and attitude towards the Triforce have changed. I know now that I will succeed today where I would have failed in the past.”
The hammering on the arched doors had ceased and was replaced with an altogether different sound. A thundering of power rocked the foundations of the temple, sending dust down from above the rafters. Multiple tappings and thumpings could be heard from the stain glass windows. The Kokiri were attempting to force their way in from the sides while allowing a greater threat to break down the door. Some whimpers emerged from Giana as the group turned towards the double doors. Cayla and the remaining Sheikah gathered around them in a protective stance to ward off the coming danger.
Turning his regard away from them, Link looked ahead towards the dais. They were mere feet from it now. “How did you know it would all work out like this?” Link blurted vacantly. He was trying to stall for time but his mind did not seem to want to obey him. He could not think of the words to come that would delay the inevitable.
Ganondorf huffed, “I didn’t. I just trusted that they would. I may not have known the future course of events but I am smart enough to gauge the probabilities that they’d occur in the way that they did.” He paused as they stood next to the three depressions, looking down onto the solid, agate plinth. He did little to hide the smile that spread across his face, “With my interventions at key junctures along the way.”
Ganondorf reverently placed the emerald, ruby and sapphire in their respective slots and handed the ocarina directly to Link. He fumbled with it briefly before looking down at the familiar blue hue of the instrument. Link massaged its smooth surface and frowned, something about it seemed a bit off. He faced Ganondorf directly, “What do you want me to do? Aren’t you the one with all the cards?”
Ganondorf ignored the flippant comment and gestured to the ocarina, “You are the one who knows the melody to open these doors.” Their attention was diverted briefly at another rumbling from the primary entrance of the temple. Several splinters of wood bursted forth from the oaken frames, it wouldn’t be long now before whatever was on the other side busted through. Ganondorf refocused on Link, growling, “And we don’t have the time for me to learn it. Play the song!”
Kotake skimmed over to see Merin rising to stand and advancing a few steps towards Link. Thinking nothing of it, she resumed her vigil on the events occurring before her. She was figuring out the best course of action she could take the moment those slabs opened, revealing the sword beyond. She knew that it would be Link who would have to be the one to pull the sword out, revealing the doorway to the Sacred Realm. She was quite unsure of how it would transpire but she knew she would have to be ready when it did.
All sound went silent as the calming melody reverberated through the atrium. Every one was staring at the two unmoveable slabs of marble. The Triforce emblem did not budge. The tapping grew fiercer on the windows. Ganondorf blinked as he gawked at the stone. Was there some element that he missed? Something he had forgotten? His ire twisted to Link as he tore the ocarina away from his hands.
“What is the meaning of this? Is this not the Royal Family treasure?” He roared, stomping over to Zelda, her face an impassionate fascia. She calmly rose to meet his wrath as he shook the instrument before her eyes. “Is there something I did not foresee?” He snarled.
Without a word, she serenely pulled out a similar looking ocarina from the folds of her breeches. Ganondorf’s pupils locked onto the dull, blue object. “That is no more the royal family treasure than this ocarina you gave Link back in Glaun’rung.” She smugly affirmed. She had found the instrument in his pack shortly after Link had given the masks over to her. She knew it was a fake the moment she saw it and put the pieces of Ganondorf’s treachery together.
With a cry, he cuffed Zelda across the head causing her to crumple to the ground. Cayla surged forward only to be blocked by Apolloni and Kotake, her freezing magick shimmering in the air before her, ready to surge forth. Xavier growled, her tail arcing high and her taloned hands flexing in anticipation of the skirmish. Malon huddled closer to her sister, while she motioned for Saria to come nearer to them.
“If this is not the ocarina of the Royal Family, then where is it?” Ganondorf bellowed, his eyes piercing everyone around him. His plans were falling apart with each passing second and it infuriated him.
“Right here!” Merin shouted, holding up a startlingly azure blue instrument. With a sneer on her lips, she taunted, “Looks like you aren’t the only one who can create false copies of the real thing!” With a lurch, she threw the ocarina high. Link saw it was coming straight at him and prepped himself to grab it as it fell. “Link! It’s up to you now!” She yelled.
The moment the ocarina hit his hands, the entire temple erupted with motion. Apolloni flew at Merin with her scimitars bared, clashing up against Merin’s retaliatory riposte. Kotake hurled flames and ice at Xavier as Zelda erected a barrier repelling the lethal magick. Bolts of ice splintered off and shattered several of the windows as the five Kokiri broke the others and zoomed into the temple. Xavier bounded after the witch, who was ineffectually casting bolt after bolt at the rampaging Cyn’Taak. Malon shrieked as several Kokiri made a bee line for them.
Realizing that running back to help them would be fruitless Link gyrated around and put the ocarina to his lips. The Song of Time flowing back into his memory, he played it peacefully. At once, the two heavy slabs of stone began grinding and crunching apart with a deafening rumble. Ganondorf was already enroute, running headlong towards the curved stairs leading up to the inner chamber. Link dropped the ocarina and scrambled for the opening, almost tripping on the first step.
A huge explosion rocked the temple as the two heavy set doors imploded inwards. Kotake had just enough time to establish an aura that dulled the full impact of the blow, but she was knocked clear across the foyer with the force of the door. Naar burst in with Argonim by his side. They had a sword in each hand and were whooping a rabid battlecry as they poured into the entryway.
A clatter of rubble and debris exploded next to Link’s head as he passed by the archway leading to the chamber of the Master Sword. It was ahead of him, sitting patiently in its pedestal, awaiting his touch. Ganondorf thundered after him, letting loose another malignant blast of magick at his head. Link was within paces of the glimmering blade, the first rays of moonlight filtering down through the beautiful stain glass window high above, giving the whole room a soft glow.
He pitched forward as his mind reeled. Vision in one eye went completely dark, disorienting him. He stumbled forward and fell face first onto the cold tile. Ganondorf’s magick had hit its mark and bored a hole straight through his head, blasting out his right eye. Hearing the clopping of Ganondorf’s boots getting closer, Link shakily crawled over to the Master Sword, ignoring the excruciating pain from his right eye and head. He reached up placing one hand over the hilt and pulled upwards. The world around him went white.