"Sire!" Balthagar burst into his master's chambers, breathing heavily as though he had run a great distance. "The boy has done it, sire. He has purged the parasite from the Zora's deity."
Ganondorf looked up from the scrolls he was studying on his desk. The sky outside the window was growing dark, which had forced him to use candles to see by. "Then he has the Spiritual Stone of Water?"
"I did not witness it, but the Zoras were celebrating and it's doubtless they will hand him the Stone sooner or later. By my guess, the boy will arrive here with all three Spiritual Stones tomorrow at midday at the latest."
"Hmm…" The dark thief tapped the desk thoughtfully. Then he began rolling up the scrolls. As he did, he spoke, "The boy has made impressive progress in such a short time. Fortunately, I have prepared my time well. The moblins are in position, I presume?"
"They are, my lord. They are positioned as you have commanded them: as the king's guard, in every corner of the castle, and even around the town, and they all await your command."
Ganondorf stood and nodded at his servant. "Very good. At dawn, we shall commence our takeover of this castle. If all goes well, there should be little resistance and we will be in position when the boy arrives with those Spiritual Stones. Then the Triforce shall be mine." He clenched his fist.
"But what of the final key that Princess Zelda guards… that Ocarina?"
Ganondorf turned his yellow eyes on his servant and his mouth turned up to reveal his teeth. "I believe now is the time to liberate it. While the princess sleeps, you will enter her chamber and search for it."
"What if the princess wakes and discovers me?"
The King of Thieves chuckled darkly. "You will already have taken care of her, Balthagar."
They heard a gasp outside the door that immediately drew their attention. Balthagar ran to the door and turned down the hallway just in time to see the princess running as fast as she could.
"She's escaping, my lord!" Balthagar exclaimed in alarm. "She knows our plan!"
Ganondorf pushed past him. He narrowed his eyes as the train of Zelda's cap disappeared around the corner. He rounded on Balthagar, his eyes flashing. "Seize her! Do not let her escape! And sound the alarm. Rouse the moblins. Our attack on this castle begins now. See to it!"
His servant bowed hurriedly, "Yes, my lord," and then sprinted down the corridor where the princess had disappeared. He drew a horn at his hip and sounded it. When he disappeared around the corner, Ganondorf turned the other direction and walked swiftly down it. As he proceeded, a fine, ornate door burst open and the short king of Hyrule was carried out struggling between two moblins, tall, muscular creatures with pig-like faces and two tusks jutting from their lower lips.
"Ganondorf! What is the meaning of this? There was a horn blast and all of the sudden your soldiers seize me! Tell me what is going on!"
"Of course, Your Majesty," Ganondorf replied with a curl of his lips. "That answer is this: I am taking control of Hyrule Castle. Then I will wait for the boy to deliver me the Spiritual Stones. Once I have them and the Ocarina that your daughter protects, I will enter the Temple of Time where I will then enter the Sacred Realm and take control of the Triforce."
The king had stopped struggling and was giving him an astonished look. His crown was askew and his thin, white mustaches drooped over his open mouth, giving him a comical appearance that almost made the King of Thieves laugh. Finally, he spluttered, "But we signed a treaty! You pledged your allegiance to me!"
This time Ganondorf did laugh - a low, menacing chuckle. He replied, "I'm only returning the favor for the betrayal of your ancestors to mine hundreds of years ago. It is true, I suppose, what they say: history really does repeat itself. Only this time…" he leaned in close to the king's face so that he could growl, "it is your family who will suffer."
Link emerged from the water and climbed onto the platform in front of Lord Jabu-Jabu. He reached into his pack and pulled out the emerald and ruby and placed them next to the sapphire.
"All three Spiritual Stones," said Link in quiet awe. "I can't believe we've got them all."
"The Great Deku Tree would be proud of you," Navi told him. "I'm proud of you. And I'm certain Saria would be too."
Link brightened. "Hey! I should tell her!" He stuck the Stones in his pack and then dug around for his ocarina. After searching for a minute, he frowned. He searched for another minute and then removed the pack from his belt and peered into it.
"Is something wrong?"
"I can't find my ocarina," Link said. "It's not in here." He rummaged through it, getting more frantic with each second.
"Do you suppose it's back in the Great Fairy's grotto?" Navi asked.
"It must have fallen out," Link said, scanning the lake, and his heart began pounding hard. "It could have fallen out anywhere! While we were in Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly, while we were in that tunnel all the way to Lake Hylia - the fish could have dropped it when it stole my pack… it… it…" Link gripped his hair, breathing rapidly.
"Calm down, Link. Think. When did you last have it?"
"I…I…I pulled it out to play it to slow down that waterfall, after that it was in my pack, which I kept on my side at all times, except when that fish stole it… and when I dived to get those silver scales for…" He stood upright with a gasp. "That peddler!
Navi reacted in alarm. "You think he stole it?"
Link clenched his fist angrily. "It's got to be him! He wanted me to sell it to him but I wouldn't do it. But when I gave him those scales, he acted pretty eager to leave like he was in a hurry. He wanted to get away before I found out he had stolen my ocarina!"
His fairy waved her hands in a gesture of pacification. "Let's not jump to conclusions. After all, if he had stolen your ocarina, why didn't he steal the Spiritual Stones? Weren't they also in your pack with your instrument?"
Link sighed. "It doesn't matter anyways. I lost Saria's ocarina. It's gone for good. How am I going to face her?"
Navi drifted down and touched his cheek. He looked up to see her giving him a consoling look.
"She will understand," his fairy answered.
A weight lifted from Link's shoulders. He sighed and then said, "Thanks, Navi." He clipped his pack back on his belt. Feeling much better, he grinned and said, "It'll be better to tell her in person, anyways. But if we find that peddler…"
"Then he'll find out exactly what it means to cross a fairy," Navi finished.
The castle was in pandemonium. Chambermaids and servants ran down the corridors and screamed as moblins charged after them with their spears lowered. Doors were thrown open, furniture was turned over, paintings were slashed. Princess Zelda caught glimpses of the chaos between her dashes through the secret passages, plunging through cobwebs and stumbling over crumbled bits of stone. She was acutely aware of the way her feet pounded the ground and the blood surging through her body with every beat of her heart. She was certain she was pursued by the dark man with the evil eyes so she didn't dare stop. She had, at first, intended to tell Impa of what she had overheard so her attendant could tell her father, but now that they were under attack, this was pointless. Now she ran in order to find safety.
She had been unsure of where she was running to, so her feet were automatically taking her to her room. But before she reached it, she slammed into her attendant, who immediately grabbed her and looked anxiously into her face.
"Are you all right?" Impa asked her, eyeing her swiftly up and down. Zelda's dress was torn and dirty from her flight through the castle passages, but the princess paid no heed to these as she was breathlessly trying to explain what she had heard.
"Ganondorf's attacking the castle! He's setting a trap for Link! He's going to take the Spiritual Stones and use them to get to the Triforce! And he's coming after me to get the Ocarina!"
Impa was barely listening. After checking the princess for any cuts and bruises, she immediately stood up. She took up Princess Zelda's hand, turned, and began running down the corridor, towing her along.
"Where are we going?" Zelda cried.
"To get you to safety," Impa replied. She brought the princess in a wide swing as she turned the corner and then continued the mad dash.
"But we have to stay! We have to warn Link! We have to warn him about Ganondorf's trap for him!"
"He is a smart, brave lad. He'll do fine. My job is to serve and protect you and that is what I am doing right now." Impa told her curtly. They approached a flight of stairs that led down. Before they reached it, Impa swung her charge into the air and then caught her in her arms. Cradling her like a newborn, Impa sprinted down the steps. At the bottom, she decided against setting Zelda down and instead continued her sprint down the corridor with the princess still in her arms.
She hadn't gone far though when three moblins appeared around the corner. One spotted the princess and pointed with a grunt of alarm. Then the three of them together charged toward them with a deep-throated battle cry and their spears lowered.
Impa reacted immediately. She quickly but gently set the princess on the ground. Then she rushed toward the charging moblins, drawing her dagger as she did. She spun around the first moblin's spear and plunged her dagger into his gut. Before he could react, she spun under his arm and twirled around behind the next moblin, bringing her dagger upward, slashing him across the back of his neck. As the moblin sank to his knees, clutching his throat and gurgling, Impa turned to the last one who was swinging his thick arm around to catch her in the head. She ducked and then thrust her dagger through his ribs, straight into the heart.
With all three down, Impa rushed back to Princess Zelda, who stared at the slain creatures in horror. Without a word of explanation or consolation, she snatched up the princess in her arms again and hurried down the corridor again, leaping over the piled bodies of the moblins.
Impa traveled quickly through the castle, taking shortcuts and leaping down steps six at a time. She avoided confronting moblins whenever she could, unable to forget her care's look of horror.
They reached the gardens and it seemed they might get away without pursuit. But as she turned toward the stables, she spotted the dark man bursting out of the castle, looking wildly for them before he spotted them. She ran faster as he shouted, "Stop them! Seize the princess! Don't let them get away!" She ducked into the stable.
Zelda screamed in fright as Impa dodged the hooves of a screaming black stallion tethered in the first stall - a privilege the king had granted to Ganondorf as a show of goodwill. Impa ran to the final stall where a white horse was already saddled and packed. It whinnied nervously as the Sheikah swung the princess onto its back. Then she swung herself on behind her. She grabbed the reins, drawing them tight, and then looked back at the princess. "Hold on tight."
Zelda obeyed, gripping her waist as though clinging to her own life. Impa flicked the reins with a cry. The white horse immediately galloped down the stable toward the exit. They burst out of the stable, nearly trampling Ganondorf, who had reached the stalls. He dodged out of the way just in time, glaring at them as they passed. Then he lunged inside the stable, disappearing from view.
Thunder rumbled in the dark sky as they galloped down the path leading down to Hyrule Castle Market Town. They passed guards, who were running up to the castle, yelling in alarm and waving their spears threateningly at them until they realized who they were. The two women also passed moblins, some of which were engaged in combat with the soldiers of Hyrule castle, but most of which charged at them with roars of rage. With flicks of the reins, Impa prompted her horse to leap over them though there were a few that forced her to use her dagger to parry the spears.
Rain was now falling. They passed the gate where they saw the armory smashed open and the weapons thrown everywhere. After galloping down the path, they entered Hyrule Castle Market. Princess Zelda gasped at the sight.
The town was in panic. People ran screaming in all directions while the brutish moblins chased after them. They were thrown out of their homes, their possessions following behind. Moblins with torches smashed in their windows and then tossed the torches inside. An old woman begged for mercy but in vain as the grim-faced moblin wrenched her off the ground, tossed her onto his back, and began carrying her away like a limp sack of flour.
"Impa!" Zelda gasped through tears. "The people! The moblins are…"
"There's nothing you can do," Impa told her. "I need to get you as far as possible to safety."
But as they passed a moblin who had raised his spear to plunge it into an old man's heart, Impa whipped out her dagger and slashed the back of the brute's neck. He reeled violently backwards, dropping his spear as he slashed at the rain and howled with pain.
Impa and her charge managed to cross the market square and reach the gatehouse. They reached the guard just as he was pulling the drawbridge into place.
"What's going on?" he cried when he spotted the two of them. "I can hear a commotion in the town square. Are we under attack?"
"Lower the bridge!" Impa commanded. "It is urgent that we leave! I must take the princess to safety!"
Princess Zelda turned back. Then she screamed, grasping Impa's mail armor in her hands, "He's coming!" She had spotted his fiery red hair above the panicked crowd of people and the moblins. He was dressed in black armor that was darker than the night. He raised his hand and roared as he pulled the reins on his horse - the one that had tried to kick them when they had entered the stable. Then he glanced up, locking his yellow eyes on her, and he smiled malevolently.
Impa drew her reins sharply, causing her steed to rear, screaming and kicking his legs viciously. "The drawbridge! Now!"
"Immediately, madam!" the soldier agreed and heaved on the crank that lowered the bridge. With a mighty creak of timber, the bridge began to lower.
Zelda watched Ganondorf steering his horse around the chaos as he made his way toward them. "Impa!"
"Faster!" the Sheikah urged the soldier.
"I'm going as fast as I can!" he gasped, cranking all the harder.
Zelda's voice rose hysterically, "Impa!"
Impa turned the horse sharply and pulled out her dagger. She shook her head to rid it of the rain and narrowed her eyes at the man who was getting closer.
"It's down!" the guard gasped. "Quickly, madam, Your Majesty! Go!"
Impa wheeled her horse around again. She nodded to the soldier. "Thank you. I'll see to it that you are rewarded… if we ever return."
"Now's not the time! He's coming! Make haste! Go!" The soldier gestured to the bridge in agitation.
Impa nodded again and then kicked her horse. The horse reared and whinnied and then shot off through the gateway. The soldier immediately began to pull up the drawbridge again.
Ganondorf, seeing the two women escaping, roared and kicked his horse fiercely. It gave a high-pitched scream - an unnatural sound for a horse to make - and then charged toward the gatehouse, trampling everyone in its path, townsfolk and moblins alike.
Seeing he wouldn't be able to pull the bridge up in time, the soldier released the crank with a gasp and then grabbed a spear and ran to the center of the gateway. He stood with the spear pointed out in front of him and set his expression determinedly. Ganondorf's horse skidded to a stop in front of him, reared, and screamed angrily. The thief's eyes flashed.
"Out of the way, fool!" he growled.
"I will not stand aside. You will not lay your hands on the princess! I defy you!" the soldier responded bravely.
Ganondorf's eyes flashed again and his mouth twisted unpleasantly. "You will pay miserably for your insolence. You think you can stop me?" He raised his hand and curled his fingers as though grasping an invisible ball. Light flared to life in his palm and grew, growing brighter until it was like the sun. Fear flashed in the guard's eyes but he stood bravely before it.
Then, with a blast of light, the soldier was thrown against the wall. He was thrown so hard his armor was mangled, making it impossible to remove from his body. He lay face down, sprawled against the cobblestones in front of the armory. He didn't move.
"Hmph!" Ganondorf grunted with satisfaction. Then with a cry he kicked his horse, which reared, screamed, and then charged through the gateway with a deadly clatter of hooves.
Link emerged from the river, dripping wet and shivering from the chill. He wrung out his cap and shook his head of the water. He glanced up at the sky where dark clouds were beginning to gather.
"It appears you were right," his fairy said, looking over at the castle. "The bridge hasn't been drawn up yet. You may make it to Princess Zelda tonight after all."
"See, didn't I tell you?" Link gloated as his teeth chattered. "I told you the river would get us here fast. Now come on, let's get these Spiritual Stones back to the princess!"
They started jogging toward the castle. They had only gone a few paces though when they saw a soldier stepping out with a long pole that was lit on the end. He was lighting the torches.
Navi gasped, "Oh no, we better hurry!"
Link picked up the pace. He called out feebly, "Wait for me! Don't shut it yet!"
The guard didn't seem to hear him. He first lit the torch on one side of the archway and then lit the one on the other side. Then he lowered his pole, blew the tip out, and walked back inside.
"Hey, wait!" Link cried in alarm. "Don't pull the bridge up yet! Wait, sir!"
But they heard the chains clanking as the drawbridge slowly began to pull up.
"Run, Link! They're going to shut the gate on us!"
He put on a burst of speed but then tripped. His pack burst open and the many items he had collected - Deku sticks, slingshot, pellets, and the three Spiritual Stones to name a few - scattered on the ground.
"Oh no!" Link jumped to his feet and began scooping up the spilled items. His fairy glanced back and noted with alarm that her Kokiri had fallen behind. She zipped back and gestured in agitation. "What's going on?"
"I tripped," Link explained as he hurriedly snatched up the Spiritual Stones. He proceeded to collect the sticks.
"Leave them!" Navi snapped, darting forward. "Let's just get inside before it's too late!"
Link felt a drop of rain hit his nose, making him flinch. After a grunt of a moment's indecision, he finally scrambled after his fairy, following her light, which flickered in the increasing rain.
But when they reached it, the drawbridge drew shut with a final thud. Even when Link yelled, the bridge wouldn't come down. The rain drowned out his voice. Navi beat futilely against the bridge with her tiny fists and then sank down in despair.
"We were too late," she groaned, shaking her head. She turned to Link and then froze at the look on his face.
Her charge backed away from the castle with a look of dawning recognition on his face. He gaped up at its façade. "I've seen this before."
Lightning flashed across the dark sky. Large drops of rain pelted down hard, making the torches on either side of the drawbridge sputter. The water in the moat began lapping at the bridge. A few moments later, there was a thunderous boom that shook the ground at his feet.
"I've seen this before!" Link yelled above the downpour. "In a dream!"
"I think we should find shelter and wait this storm out!" Navi replied. "It is fortunate though. With this much rain, the beasts won't be coming out tonight."
But Link didn't move. His blood ran cold when he heard clanking. The drawbridge was coming down!
Navi turned in surprise. "It seems they realized we're out here."
Still Link didn't move. He stared into the dark depths of the opening as it grew wider and wider until it was like the mouth of a great monster intent on swallowing him whole. He was waiting. Waiting for what had come out before in his dream. Waiting for…
He heard the furious clatter of horseshoes. Something white emerged from the dark entryway. He was rooted to the spot as a horse came into sight, bearing two familiar figures… just as he had dreamed!
Navi tried to bring him back to his senses. She struck his head and yelled, "Move, Link!"
Just in time, Link dove to the side. The horse's hooves missed him by mere inches, sending up sparks on the gravel. The boy turned and spotted Princess Zelda, who gasped when she spotted him and thrust her arm out to him.
Impa grabbed her arm and thrust it back down. She hunched over her charge, using her body as a shield for the young princess. But Zelda wasn't finished. She forced her other arm out. Link noticed something clutched in it. With all her might, the princess tossed it. Link and Navi watched as the object spun through the air with a strange wavering whistle. Link caught a glint of pearl white light from it as it arced through the air and then came down with a splash into the moat.
Impa thrust the other arm down as well. Zelda yelled something to Link, which was muffled by the growing distance between them. They were soon lost from sight over the hills of Hyrule Field.
Navi watched them flee, with a perplexed look on her face. "Where are they going? Why are they in such a hurry?"
Link knew. Even before the cold feeling crept up behind him.
A clatter of hooves behind them caused them both to wheel around and gasp in fright. A black horse leaped out of the shadows, its red eyes blazing angrily. The dark man sitting astride it yanked sharply on the reins, bringing it to a halt. The horse reared with an unnatural scream.
Ganondorf's eyes were pure fire. He breathed heavily through gritted teeth. He jerked his head left and right and then let out an angry roar.
"Curse that fool for getting in the way! Now they've vanished!"
Sensing his frustration, his mount screamed again. Ganondorf's eyes darted again until they fell on Link. The Kokiri felt his legs trembling as though the dark man's eyes were shooting poison through him, but he dared himself to look him in the eyes and did so with a determined frown.
Ganondorf barked, jabbing his finger at Link. "You, boy! The princess and her caretaker rode through here on a white horse just now! Tell me which way they went! Now!"
Link's trembling grew worse but he bravely managed to shake his head. Navi drew herself up and said in a brave voice, "No! We will not answer you! We will not betray the princess to you! The Great Deku Tree sent us to help her stop from obtaining the Triforce and we will do so at any cost. If you must kill us, so be it! But you will not find Princess Zelda!"
"Hmph!" Ganondorf pursed his lips. His eyes darted to Link. "Your little fairy has a sharp tongue there. If I were you, I'd teach her to know her place. Now I ask again: which way did the brat go? You will answer me or face my wrath!"
"Your wrath then," Link replied, drawing himself up to full height. "But you won't get a word out of me!"
Ganondorf seemed a little surprised. His horse shifted impatiently beneath him.
"So," he said in a dangerously soft voice, "you would gamble your life for theirs…" His mouth turned up in an amused smile. "I'll admit, I'm impressed… such pluck from a mere child…" He laughed softly.
"If you want to get to them," Link said as he pulled out his sword and slipped his wooden shield onto his right hand, "you're going to have to get through me!"
This time, Ganondorf threw back his head and laughed. He turned back to Link and said, still laughing, "You dare to challenge me? Very well then! Let us see what this little swordsman can do!" He brought up his hand and a light sparked to life in his palm. Link's eyes widened when he saw the light beginning to gather inside.
It's happening again like it did in my dream! He thought with alarm. He stood immobile as the light grew brighter in the evil man's palm. It was as though the spell was holding him still while it built power.
"Move, Link! He's going to kill you! Do something!"
He blinked in surprise. The words were familiar but it sounded like it was coming from outside his head. He reacted in surprise when his fairy smacked into his head hard.
"Don't just stand there!" Navi yelled at him, now tugging on his ear. "Move! Protect yourself! Do something!"
The light grew into a miniature sun in Ganondorf's palm. His mouth turned up into a smile just before he released it. It shot straight for Link, filling up his vision with heat and brightness…
The boy reacted just in time. He whipped his shield in front of him. The deadly ball of light struck it with an incredible crack. Light flared from the point of impact and the wooden shield split straight up the center. The impact was so great the young Kokiri was picked off his feet and flung backwards. He lost his shield and sword when he hit the ground. He also lost his breath - it had been knocked straight out of his gut. He rolled to his stomach, gasping and coughing. Navi darted to his side, her face twisted with worry.
"Pathetic!" Ganondorf growled at him. "This is the great hero who slayed my beasts? And yet a mere trickle of my power knocks him down! You've only wasted my time."
Link couldn't reply. He shakily tried to get to his feet but collapsed. Navi grabbed his finger and tried to help him up but he hadn't quite recovered.
The man in his black armor continued with fury, "You will not stop me. I am destined to wield the Triforce and become the king of this world. All will be subject to me!" And with this dire prediction, he kicked his stallion's flanks. It reared with a scream and then pounded off toward Hyrule Field, barely missing Link with its sharp hooves. He watched Ganondorf's dark figure retreating until he was swallowed up by the night. The heavy thuds of hooves quickly faded until it was just Link and his fairy, Navi, left alone in the rain.