Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ What's Done In The Dark. . . Pt. 10: Gerudo Origins ( Chapter 42 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Chapter Forty-two

"I've got a question for you, Grand-" Junior faltered as Ganondorf quirked his head.

"Go on. Say it," he prodded the boy.

"Okay, Grandpa," Junior said without the odd hiccup. "Why'd you do the things you did?"

"Which things?" Ganondorf asked, his deeds too numerous to just spout from the top of his head.

"The murdering, the raping, the torture-pick one, you sick fuck!" the old Gerudo queen shouted down the table at him, enraged by his pseudo-ignorance as to what the boy could be talking about.

"To be perfectly honest, I don't know," Junior shrugged, both to Ganondorf's question and his sister's grandmother's outburst. "They," he nodded to the Gerudo, "just tell me to ask Dad when I ask about you. Zelda knows, `cause he did something to her when she was still a baby, but she won't tell me anything. Dad doesn't talk in detail about himself much before the god thing, and, from what I hear, you're a pretty big part of his history. So, what's the story? Every reference to my father in the Castle Town Library mentions your name, but it's always `unknown this' or `unknown that.' So, what did you do that made everyone so afraid to mention anything about you? Heck, what made you `you,' Grandpa?"

Ganondorf remained motionless for a long time afterwards. He chuckled eventually, smiling as he sighed through his nose. He clasped his right fist over his left, bridging his hands under his nose, before he let them drop listlessly to the table-a thud made louder by the heavy gauntlets around his forearms.

"You hear that, boy? Your son thinks you're afraid of me!" Ganondorf laughed from his gut, but Link continued to throw pebbles into the lake, completely unfazed by the open mockery. Garnering no response from that, the former Gerudo king paused to gather his wits. "Perhaps he was afraid of me, at first."

"What changed?" Junior was quick to ask.

"Him, me, us-we all changed," Ganondorf replied, closing his eyes and sighing through his large, flared nostrils before continuing. "The first time we met, he was a complete joke to me. This was the `great' hero of prophecy that the princess had turned loose on me-a little boy with a carving knife for a sword and a piece of tree bark as his shield." Again, he laughed-each `ha' thoroughly accented in his nasally bass voice. His mood turned somber on the edge of the last ha, a hot-and-cold contrast he unwittingly shared with his greatest antithesis. "I underestimate him; the sages seal me in the Sacred Realm (the first time, anyway); and the cycle begins all over again. There was but one change, though: I couldn't remember the resets in time, but he could. I just always had this feeling of déjà vu-like I'd done it all before and needed to beware of something.

"We met again at that crossroad fate had designated for us, the drawbridge into Castle Town, and I was overcome with this sense of anger and dread every time I saw him. I'd never met the boy before in my life, I'd think, but I hated him. And, in some small way, I knew the feeling was mutual. For whatever reason, as time marched on, I started exhausting my will … using my wizardry to make life a living hell for him or whoever else that was foolish enough to follow my trail. Once I got the Triforce of Power, or, rather, awakened it within me since it was still there from the first time, I could keep visual sight on him at all times.

"I couldn't understand why I felt the need to do so much to stop one little boy, but I kept scaling up the difficulty of the dungeons and caves and monsters to keep him as far away from me as possible, which was counterproductive since I needed his third of the Triforce, along with the girl's, to live. Of course," he chuckled to himself again, "none of that helped. He lived. I died. End of story. The moral, however, lies within him. I can only speculate about what toll the challenges I laid before him did, but I know he's not altogether there anymore." He tapped his temple and smirked as he said that.

"You make it sound like he's insane," Esmerelda said, arching an eyebrow in response to Ganondorf's assessment.

"Maybe not on the surface, but it's there … it's always been there, lingering down deep," Ganondorf replied, smiling as Link continued to throw stones. "You there-he killed you, too, right? So, you must've seen it." He leaned back to see around Esmerelda and snapped for Link Sr.'s attention. The elder god nodded, rolling his eyes as if to ask why everyone saw fit to keep reminding him of that fact. "There, now, you see?"

Junior sat there as blank as a button, because he didn't "see" anything.

"Not exactly," he replied. "Is he afraid of you or are you afraid of him?"

Sepaaru, Zelda, Link-everyone essentially-sat there in wait, watching as the whimsical smirk faded from Ganondorf's face. It was a difficult question to answer for a man so proud, which made the female Gerudo contingent so hell-bent on hearing him say it. He was supposedly the fearless leader, and, no matter how much they wished not to believe it, they still saw Ganondorf as such. However, this open falter placed heavy cracks in that belief. His bridged fists came back up to his mouth, almost to guard the movement of his lips from the view of the world when he decided to speak.

"I was driven mad by the Triforce of Power," Ganondorf hissed, talking his way away from the question. "He was born that way."

"Wait just a minute, now!" Sepaaru interjected with vocal thunder, the unmitigated urge to protect any and everything involved with Link surfacing in a hot instant. "After everything you put him through, how the hell can you sit there and pretend he was born like that?"

"Don't be naïve, Sepaaru," her father replied, curbing his haunting tone for her automatically. "His sole reason to exist is to destroy-man, monster, woman, or child, it doesn't matter which. The traps in those temples, the beasts I awakened, frightened most men, yet this `well-adjusted' little boy struts in and annihilates them! Do you hear me? He doesn't escape on a technicality through a hidden door. He goes straight ahead and obliterates them. What `normal' child possesses the will and skill to do that?"

"He couldn't let everyone die because of you," Zelda added in lieu of Sepaaru's sudden pause, neglecting the question's directness.

"Maybe, but it takes more than puppy love and a desire to do right by the world to save it. It takes a desire to kill, an inborn bloodlust, a-"

"No, it takes someone willing to kill for what they believe is right!" interrupted Sepaaru, a small urge to smash her father's head in steadily rising as he talked.

"He looked me in the eye and cut me into pieces the second time we fought, Sepaaru," Ganondorf whispered, his brow wrinkling as he recalled the pain. "It's not that I expect pity, because I don't. It's just the fact that I couldn't defend myself or hurt anyone, and he just swung his sword over and over and over again until he cut the Triforce from my body and left me in a pile of mush-and he's somehow looked upon as the hero for being as ruthless and self-serving as I was. But, I forget, that's Hyrule. They ignore us until they need a scapegoat to blame the ails of the world on, and then that's all they can talk about-the big, bad Gerudo." On that note, the former Gerudo Queen voiced no disagreement, as all the Gerudo seemed to silently agree with their sadistic ex-king.

"That's different, though," Sepaaru added, churning up an excuse for Link no sooner than her father's lips stopped moving. "He thought time would reset as long as you lived."

"He had to cut into me for all that time-knowing that I was fully aware of what was going on-to kill me? Next excuse, please," he replied, hands never leaving his mouth.

As Sepaaru prepared to do just that, Junior interjected more reason into the proceeding before a serious argument erupted.

"What do you mean Hyrule ignores us? I always thought the Gerudo were liked," Junior's speech slowed to a halt as Ganondorf erupted with laughter.

"Like us?" Ganondorf repeated incredulously, falling into hysterical laughter a moment later before quieting to a methodical calm. "If anything, they like their great savior over there, and we-I mean you all-are tolerated by association. In all honesty, things could've changed since my passing. But, for the near two centuries that I lived, we were simply `those thieves.' No one bothered to ask why or how we turned to thievery as a means of survival. No, they just saw a race of scantily clad women with a green king, and figured us to be nothing more than whorish bandits.

"They ignore the time when Res was queen, and she humbled herself to that idiot King Renthro-the first one, I mean-to get a well dug for the Gerudo during that drought of the Golden Era. Always false promises, smoke, and mirrors-I took a great deal of pleasure from slitting his throat. Hell, I took even more pleasure in slitting his son's throat when I was after the Triforce. I should've come for the girl in the shadows as I did to her grandfather and father, but I figured what with all the slaughtering of those pathetic little knights in the broad daylight that I might as well come for her the same way and get rid of Renthro's whole stinking bloodline!" Ganondorf cracked his neck stiffly, shivering with a whimsical glee as he recalled slitting two generations of Hylian kings' throats.

"Was Res your mother?" Junior asked, once again exuding his ability to quell his grandfather's sadistic joy.

"I had many mothers," Ganondorf replied, his large nostrils flaring as he sighed. His face seemed cast in shadow no matter how his grandson viewed him, a trait that made Ganondorf seem automatically deceitful even when he spoke the truth. Nevertheless, the boy allowed him to continue without interruption. "She did take a more active role in my upbringing. Res groomed me to take her place as leader-taught me how to fight, how to steal, how to survive-" He grew quiet as the emotion in his voice became … warmer. Ganondorf cleared his throat and seemed to shrug off his cynical tone, because, whoever this woman was, she occupied space in the monster's heart so great that he couldn't address anything involving her with emotional fronts of any real consistency. "I remember she used to walk around on that stick of hers and say, `Boy, call me crazy, but I think you were born to steal the world.' See, she was old-230, 250, somewhere in there. She took me down in the training grounds when I was five, and back then we had the bell test. You had to take as many bells as you could in thirty ticks without making a sound.

"I took ten on my first try, and she was proud. From that day forward, I trained to take my role as king. But that wasn't enough for her; she wanted me to be the King of Thieves. `Boy, you'll be the greatest one day,' she'd tell me daily. I believed her, so I worked harder, and not so much to rule as to appease the old woman. Heh, for thirty years, I trained-my body and my mind-under her to lead the Gerudo from the desert to the pinnacle of Hyrule. She gave me these gauntlets-her gauntlets-and died right on me." Ganondorf shook his head and rubbed the metal enshrouding his arms, never elaborating on how she died or perhaps why. It went without saying, but Res was obviously a very large woman, considering the gauntlets didn't look modified to fit his massive forearms. Shaking off that stutter of weakness, Ganondorf resumed speaking: "You can't imagine the shock of being made king of a hundred women in a day, when you considered yourself an apprentice to the throne. But I did like Res always said, I faced my fears and picked up where she left off.

"Ah, a Gerudo on their knee before that lying halfwit of a king-it was so familiar and, oddly enough, right where she left off. Well, Renthro had learned to lie even better in the twenty years between when I first-and last-saw him at fifteen with Res kneeled before him. I played my part for years, kneeling and kissing his feet for crumbs, all of which he took back in taxes. Then I decided to change that. I snuck into the castle one night, found him in his study half asleep, and put the dagger on his throat and-" He pulled his thumb across his neck, as a smile crossed his face in the same haunting arc. "Of course, then Renthro number two ascended the throne, and the stupid little game began all over again. Still, I'd broken her code once to kill the first one. But this time, I tried to live by Res' code no matter what Renthro the Second said. I kept faith in the Sand Goddess. `Because if the king doesn't care, she always will,' Res told me. So, I went to the temple daily and prayed and prayed and prayed for one thing or another, which usually came to pass right when I was about to lose faith.

"You asked before what made me `me.' This is what made me who I am: swallowing my pride as a person for years and fighting for men who didn't care whether or not me or my people lived or died. And, on top of that, my goddess abandoned me to the sands of this wasteland, just like him! The last thing I asked of her was power to help my people. And what did she say?" He glared at his grandson with genuine expectation, as the teen raised his eyebrows and looked to someone else for a response. "She said-"

"Go northwest and seek a man named Magi," Esmerelda's voice flowed seamlessly into Ganondorf's, causing his heart to pause for several beats as the group turned toward her. Even Link's cover of skipping stones sharply halted, as he threw one pebble so hard it sent a column of water soaring into the sky.

"Oh, right, I forgot I'm in the presence of gods and goddesses. I suppose you read my mind to move things along," Ganondorf flippantly responded, before refocusing on his grandson. Esmerelda just smirked up at the female Gerudo contingent, but offered no formal explanation. "Anyway, I met this mage, and resumed my role as an apprentice. He promised to give me power enough to crush my enemies and bring endless life to my people. See, unlike Res, Magi taught contradiction. Power should suit whatever purpose the wielder wanted, but he shouldn't be mean. Forcing your will on others was bad, but it was okay if the wizard thought the circumstances called for it.

"Essentially, I learned nothing from him morally other than my will was just if I was stronger. I was all set to study under his tutelage, but it turns out I had a certain gift when it came to the mystic arts, too. In mere months, I could change the weather, raise the dead, and so on. It was taxing on the will, but Magi said I would grow stronger with time-and I did. Of course, by the time the first year ended, I was already challenging his skill and performing spells he couldn't. I had enough of being the boy on the side then, so I left for home against his wishes.

"I had all the power now. Gerudo Valley would become the center of all Hyrule when I was done, and Renthro's boy would bow before us all. Heh, see that's what Magi never told me-a wizard's state of mind directly affects his power. So, imagine with my newfound skills and lust for respect how things ended up. They're too young to recall," he nodded to the idle Gerudo standing around behind the boy, "but a sandstorm didn't always cover the Haunted Wasteland. I foolishly thought summoning a breeze would help cool things off, but because of my impurity, the breeze became an unyielding storm. `Okay,' I thought, `I'll make us a lake ten times the size of Lake Hylia!' The lake became a gigantic vat of quicksand. Matter of fact, I tried to make a well right around here somewhere, and it became a pit of quicksand, too.

"My bitterness grew because I couldn't understand why it wasn't working. I had the power for once, and the Gerudo were still nothing! My bitterness fueled the storm and pits for so many years that they became permanent. That's when I became `me,' officially." He opened his arms as if presenting the present that was himself. "Gerudo weren't permitted to leave the valley for years after that, because I foolishly hoped they wouldn't have to see how screwed we really were. I burned all of their books, and only hid the most valuable ones in my study. I even went so far as to outlaw them from teaching their children how to read. We'd never have trees, or grass, or seasons, so I figured making them and future generations ignorant to the rest of the world would be better than letting them end up like me. I relented on the rule of never leaving after awhile, though, mainly when they started running off."

"And the stuff she said," Junior added, nodding toward the Gerudo Queen Zelda.

"Yes, oh, great king, tell your grandson the truth!" she shouted, having sat in silence through Ganondorf's facetious bullshit long enough.

"Oh, will you shut up, woman!" Vestia screamed back down the table.

Ganondorf shook his head, but kept his calm, surprisingly.

"Ah, the meat of it all-okay, I am a rapist. I raped her once," he rolled his eyes as the old queen began to bark. Apparently, her adamant disagreement was all his resolve could handle, because Ganondorf leapt from his seat and almost frothed with rage. "That's what eats you up most of all, isn't it, woman? One time I used my abilities to make you a lifeless sex puppet-"

"You lying son of a bitch-" the former Gerudo queen interjected, before Ganondorf did likewise to her.

"You fucked me because you wanted to! The truth is that, before the Triforce of Power, I didn't have the power to totally control a person's will and fuck all at the same time! And guess what, woman? I didn't get that thing until long after you were in the quicksand!"

With that admission, Daia recoiled and looked at his wife.

"What? No, it's a lie! You're lying!" Her denial only made Ganondorf laugh at her.

"Think about it, Queenie," he chuckled in that deep, dark voice. "In all of our encounters, which one lasted the shortest amount of time? Which time did I seem to be absolutely exhausted afterward? Hmm?" She remained silent as doubt replaced a very large portion of her anger. "Drawing a blank? Recall the very first time. Controlling a creature that is aware of its will is like an invisible battle, one that I couldn't even fully win once I got the Triforce of Power in my possession. I realized during our first time that, no matter how much I wished to believe it, my power wasn't absolute. Thus, I created the head jewels for you all and the illusion that I had control. Honestly, how did you and the others manage to leave the fortress grounds of your own free will if I controlled you? How could you marry him?" Again, the old Gerudo queen said nothing. Ganondorf looked at his grandson and then said, "The reality is that I pulled off an illusion of absolute control, and they fell for it. That's the greatest power that anyone could ever hope to achieve-the power to sell horseshit as gold!"

"But why rape anyone? It doesn't make sense," Junior said, disgust with his grandfather coming across his face for the first time.

"It doesn't, but after her, I'd lost my mind to that damnable triangle. Her rape was the only one I did when I had full control of myself," Ganondorf admitted, taking a deep breath and returning to his seat. "Res was a historian, though. What I mean is that I found all the texts she had from the Ancient Gerudo. Ordinarily, I don't think I would've raped her without those texts, because I was too devoted to the cause and thought sex was a waste of time. But when I found those scrolls and they said that the offspring from a Gerudo king and a true Gerudo queen-the one with raven's hair-would produce a son that was both magically and physically powerful enough to lead us from the sands, my focus … shifted. I all but forced the women out to find mates to produce a true queen. Year after year, pregnancy after pregnancy, none of them yielded a queen. In most cases, the women wandered from Hyrule, thus weakening us as a whole.

"Ah, but after biding my time for years, one of those children-that one down there-grew into a set of long, dark hair. At first, I thought she dyed it to openly mock me, but when I found out the raven's hair came not from birth but maturity, I knew it was real. Naturally, Zelda there didn't share my overzealous desire to make the Hylians bow, so I figured magic would persuade her. Either way, we were going to have this Gerudo savior and crush the Hylians or die trying. We know how that went, though. And, after all the effort I put into conceiving this Gerudo savior, I was convinced that one of us was as barren as the desert around us. So, I let her go attempt conception elsewhere, while I turned my attentions to her." He tilted his head to Vestia, who smirked and waved. "She conceived Varia and Zelda conceived Nabooru, proving that the woman and I weren't barren. The kids were born, and we resumed our quest for the ultimate Gerudo. Needless to say, it never worked. And by the end, I had found texts pertaining to this Triforce thing. It was an artifact of myth with the ability to grant whoever touched it a wish. Years down the line, I exploited your father's simplicity, and followed him into the realm to get the thing. However, my being a corrupted vessel of hatred and anger caused the damned thing to shatter into three pieces-the Triforce of Power, Triforce of Wisdom, and Triforce of Courage-and wedge into me, the Hylian princess, and your father. Oh, and if you want a clearer example of your free will, Queenie, recall that you attacked me the day that I killed you."

"Fuck you," she said through a clenched jaw.

"For years, you did," he quipped, chuckling to himself. "In conclusion, grandson, I am as bad as my overall omission from history would suggest, but know two things: It's all circumstantial and history is written by the victors."

Junior didn't mean to, but he smirked and shook his head, saying, "Circumstances-it's the same thing dad always said." Ganondorf raised his eyebrows in sincere surprise before his grandson asked a new question. "There's one thing-well, two things really-that I don't understand, though, Grandmas. If he admits he was so bad, why are you the only one that stands by him? And, for Grandma Number Two, how'd you know what the Sand Goddess told him?" Esmerelda and Vestia both took a pause to consider their grandson's query, even though their respective questions weren't that difficult.

"Well, he wasn't that bad to me," Vestia said of Ganondorf. "He yelled a lot, but it wasn't like he threatened me or anything." She reconsidered that for a moment and laughed. "Well, he did that first night, but it was hard to take him seriously considering I taught him how to fight. Furthermore, some people overstate the Gerudo hatred for him. He had ten willing wives, after all."

Link's eyebrows rose in a mild surprise, but he remained at the shore throwing small stones across the lake.

"So, did you two end up together in the underworld?" Sepaaru asked, ending her longstanding silence. It was still surprising to learn that Varia turned out to be born of the same father, but it seemed a miniscule revelation at this point in her life.

"Nah," Vestia replied shaking her head. "After everything he's done? He'll be lucky if he ever gets a whiff of anything outside the hell dimensions." She laughed haughtily. "Anyhow, after Nabooru led that little assault on the wives when he died-"

Both Zeldas turned their heads sharply. "Are you saying my mother killed you?"

"No, of course not; by `wives,' I meant the assault on the other wives," Vestia clarified for the young woman. "I let him try to use his sorcery to speed up my pregnancy with Sepaaru. But, yeah, that pretty much sucked the life right out of me. Everything after my death is what I heard from the other wives when we met in death. They, and a few loyalists to the Gerudo cause, were waiting for him back at the Desert Colossus when Nabooru came with word of his defeat. The way I heard it: She proclaimed herself queen by birthright and then said they could either join up or die. Apparently, there was a fight, and I'll let you imagine how an outnumbered and mostly unarmed group of women faired against a group of armed young women."

Zelda snapped her head back over her shoulder, appalled by her sisters at arms, as they all suddenly stared at their feet. The Gerudo princess seemed to fall onto her bench. She was numb to her surroundings, as her mother seemed to grow more despicable by the minute.

"Zelda," Link whispered into his eldest child's mind, "don't just accept what you're hearing as the truth without giving your mother a chance to give her side of the story."

"She had twenty-six years to say otherwise, so why bother?" she nearly shouted out loud while managing to confine her response to her head.

"You can't just walk through life believing every shred of disputable information because one person told their side first," Link replied, still calm despite his daughter's irrationality. "I thought that I at least taught you that much."

"Fine," she replied. "But tell me something first. How much of this stuff have you heard before?"

"It's all been new to me since Ganondorf started talking," he told her, turning the surface of the lake into a picture of himself with a wayward thought. "Odder than that, he's actually told the truth."

"I meant about Mom," she clarified, ruffling her brow as her father's voice laughed inside of her head.

"I know, but I'm not making it that easy. You're going to have to decide whether or not you can trust her," Link said before severing mental communication with his daughter, as he caused the surface of the lake to rise into the air and change into various shapes for no apparent reason.

"I fucking hate it when he does that!" Zelda openly shouted, breaking the lingering silence. In that moment, she came to realize that no one knew what she was talking about, and a sudden wave of embarrassment swept over her. "I meant Dad … he talks to us … in our heads … and then he just shuts up. It's annoying is all that I'm saying."

"So, about this god thing," Daia spoke suddenly. "What makes you so sure this guy isn't some nut that's out to fool you all again? I mean, the green bastard never even had the stones to claim he was a god, and you knew he was mad. Now, this guy playing in the water says he's a god and everyone's behind him?"

As every living Gerudo, Junior, Zelda, Sepaaru, Link Sr., and Esmerelda's heads all turned simultaneously toward the would-be knight, he felt as though he'd picked the wrong moment to open his mouth, especially when three sets of those eyes flickered with an inborn light.

"I'm going to say this one time: Do not compare our king to the old one. He's been through too much as of late to have to deal with idiots that don't know him," Sepaaru spouted in a tone that was nothing short of an open threat, which was supported by a unified front of nodding women in green and purple.

"So, is there any particular reason that your father chooses not to socialize with us?" the old Gerudo queen asked, making a subtle change in subjects on behalf of her husband. "For that matter, where is my daughter?"

"And Varia, where is she?" Vestia added.

"The fortress," Zelda replied, "they're not exactly keen on digging up the past."

"And Dad drifts in and out," Junior told the dejected mothers. "We asked him to bring you all here as a kind of test, I guess. We always knew he was different, with the shrinking and stuff, but to find out that your dad knows the gods that everyone else prays to is kind of weird." The boy's sincerity struck the non-believers, but they still couldn't quite comprehend the magnitude of what they were hearing.

Esmerelda soon added, "You know, Ganondorf, I never abandoned the Gerudo. It's just that this barbarian here killed me."

He laughed. "Oh, right, you're the Sand Goddess?"

"As a matter of fact, I am," she replied to a consensus of stunned Gerudo.

Ganondorf opened his mouth to voice an even louder form of laughter, but quieted as the breeze picked up through the Gerudo Forest. Between the green canopies, he could see the face of the Desert Colossus-a monument that was supposedly the Sand Goddess' true form-and paused. Patches of moss had grown on the statue from the years of rain, giving it a slightly green shade, but the resemblance between the statue and Esmerelda left him silently deliberating fact and fiction.

"Snake, where's t-the snake?" he stammered, his faith slowly being reborn in the physical right before him.

"I never had one," she replied innocently enough. "At the time, I had my hair in this big braid, and one of the builders noted it looked like a snake. I thought the statue was so plain looking that I let her improvise. Besides leaving my son, letting you all waste away out here is one of my biggest regrets. I created you for a better purpose than this, but that's Fate and his little … rules."

"What purpose?" Ganondorf asked, careful not to demand anything and suddenly very demure with his speaking voice, but somehow easily buying into this woman as his goddess. Faith in her, after all, had been Ganondorf's last crutch.

"And what rules?" Zelda asked, having only heard reference to Fate as a god once.

"To be honest, I have no idea what the big purpose was going to be," Esmerelda admitted, deflating Ganondorf in the process. "But when my sisters created this world, I wanted to tinker with it. As gods, we have mortals on so many planes, worlds, and dimensions, but there are always three constants: (1) They have to remain limited in one physical or mental form or another; (2) they must remain mortal; (3) they never must reach so-called `perfection.' So, let's say that I created the old Hylians. While they were all smarter than a thousand men, they were physically weak as warriors. Beyond their capacity for magic, they were defenseless. Their limitation was physical strength to keep them balanced among the other mortals of this world. It's the same with all mortal societies and civilizations-strong here, but weak there. I guess I wanted to change that with the Gerudo.

"I wanted to see the perfect mortal race of strength, intelligence, and magic. So, while my sisters went to work on the other races of Hyrule, I took up this area and began to cultivate the first of the Gerudo. Fate found out about my plan years later, naturally, and started slapping all kinds of restrictions on my creations. Gerudo couldn't be as physically superior as I wanted, because it threw off the mortal balance on this world and would allow them to annex all others. They could be great wizards and witches, but he turned all of those with inborn magical abilities or the ability to produce heirs that were into a separate shadow race-the Sheikah-and exiled them to the caves to the east. And to prevent a dramatic overpopulating scenario, he limited the male births to a level so low that it was ridiculous, and set up the race under an ant-like hierarchy-one head of house, just a male at lead instead of a female.

"I circumvented most of it through loopholes, though. Since females outnumbered the males, I allowed them to retain their physical prowess to defend the kingdom, but only after they achieved a certain sexual state, so as to stay in line with his directives about balancing overall strength between the races. I tweaked their mystical abilities by allowing them a superior strength of spirit, which meant they'd be better sorcerers than most. Lastly, I got around the population thing via … feminine modifications. Certain females could produce all males, but only if their partner met the requirements-"

"Namely, he has to be hung," Link Sr. replied, never one to mince words when he could kick in the door.

"It's not all dick size, you know," Esmerelda clarified, as the women all raised their eyes towards her. "It's just that I had to do a lot of physical adjustments to the design on some of these people. If every dick could spit out seed enough for a son, Fate would've caught on to the tweaks and probably destroyed them all. I had to cover myself well enough to make it look like I wasn't disobeying him outright. So, I set the male producing females' clockwork just a little bit deeper, and gave it a lid. Want to have a son? Well, if lover-boy can, he'll use the big guy to knock on the lid, and, if she's aroused enough, the lid opens and in goes baby. If she's not enjoying herself, and he can't knock, well, you know … no go. Think of it as a second virginity. And, I should mention that the wall comes down over time, but when that happens, she can only produce females. But that's just half of it. The rest would probably bore you."

"I shouldn't be hearing this," Junior muttered, his eyes slightly popping before he rested his face between his palms.

"That's it, folks-minus a few minor details that mortal history in this era isn't ready for," Esmerelda concluded, smiling at the beleaguered Gerudo standing around her.

"Is the fact that I'm-" Ganondorf found pause again, unsure of how to address his own skin color.

"You're a smart man, Ganondorf, so tell me-what does green represent in the middle of a desert full of brown sand?" Esmerelda laughed, watching him deliberately pause to think of a worthy answer.

"Life!" he shouted as though he'd found the beginning of time. "Green is grass and grass means there's water and where there's water, there's life."

"Yes, besides being an obvious throwback to me," Esmerelda smirked, unknowingly going back into her explanation. "The women were supposed to represent the sands of the desert with their skin. You, and every king before you, were the givers of life, of children, to the people. Until your reign, Ganondorf, almost all Gerudo were born of the king's blood. Now, it's all looked down upon for a man to father a child with his daughter, but it was the norm here to keep the race strong. Fate mixed in a little Hylian blood to spite me for finding the loopholes in his directives, which is why you're all so small now."

The goddess shrugged as the Gerudo themselves looked among themselves for this supposed smallness. Esmerelda caught the looks and decided to elaborate, seeing as how she'd never discussed her creations with … well, her creations.

"Gerudo were originally eight feet tall on average-and that was before the change went into effect," she explained gleefully. "I think Fate resented the fact that I'd made mortals-men and women, specifically-taller than the average god. So, like I said, he scaled people down. Of course, Fate said that I couldn't have a race `full' of superior beings. He never said I couldn't have one member that was superior to all. The savior, as you called the child, would be a male or female Gerudo in the form that I wanted-a mortal of unyielding spirit, strength, and intelligence. In other words, the birth of this savior would, in fact, be mortal perfection as I envisioned it."

"Then why didn't it work for us?" Ganondorf demanded of the goddess, wincing as his voice leapt from his throat. "Excuse my tone," he quickly added, "I just need to know."

"I had to make it an extremely rare occurrence," Esmerelda replied, "lest we all incur the wrath of Fate. So, females that are born queens possess a certain control over their pregnancies. They can produce females that are extremely strong in one area-mind, body, or soul-with any man they care for. However, to have a male child, for a queen specifically, she requires a man that's as strong as she is on one of the three levels I just named-"

"And to produce this Perfect Gerudo-I meant-what's needed to do that?" Ganondorf asked, unintentionally interrupting.

"Oh, I had to bury the prerequisites for that one deep," Esmerelda replied, a tad bit enthralled as someone took interest in her work. "First, she has to love the guy. Second, he has to be as strong as she is mentally, physically, and spiritually, or stronger. Third, as the hubby said, he needed the right equipment. If those rarities all occurred, this Perfect Gerudo would be born-complete with a fifty-fifty chance of being a male or female. Adversely, the queens tend not to produce life with anyone that they don't care for. So, you should be able to tell where you went wrong with your plan, Ganondorf."

He didn't speak, but simply nodded.

"What of the strength, then?" Sepaaru asked quietly, drawing the goddess's attention. "Some of Dad's old scrolls spoke of a Gerudo queen with-"

"Incredible strength-a strength of iron, to be exact," Esmerelda interjected, having grabbed the answer from her mind. "Call it my last act of defiance, but I decided that, with all of the odds and ends, the Gerudo would be wiped out before any of the physio- No, that's a word this time has not yet seen." She thought for a moment before continuing: "I can't be specific, as that would throw the scale too far off. However, I will say that with all of the physical effects, the aggressive earlier Gorons, and general Fate-appeasing bullshit, the Gerudo would've died off before they ever saw any of the positive effects of my work. So, with that in mind, I thought enough to scale up particular areas of each queen (and her subsequent heirs and heiresses) to compensate. Some Gerudo queens would be muscularly powerful, others great witches, and others would possess great minds-they would have all of this on top of everything I mentioned before. I imagine someone mistranslated the texts along the way and forgot that they should've included minds and spirits of iron as possible traits.

"It was like I said earlier about queens and having kids: The queen's superior trait, be it strength, intelligence, spirit, or whatever, usually passed on to their children-daughters, more often than not-because they were to be protectors of the race. So, for example, while Nabooru herself isn't a true Gerudo queen, she does possess a superior spirit to those around her, much like her mother during her time. And, while your mother isn't a true queen, there has to be a queen somewhere in either her or your father's bloodline for your strength to be as it is."

"What do we get from the Gerudo kings, then?" Sepaaru asked, still trying to wrap her mind around all of this, but failing to really capture the magnitude and intricacies of it.

"Good sex, I'd imagine," Link Sr. said, causing his wife to slap him across the back of the neck.

"Ignoring him," she said in an elevated tone, rolling her eyes, "the kings, through mystic meddling, attune to whatever a queen's dominate strength is and produces a seed that will mix best with it-"

"In other words, the green guy's strength plus your mother's equals yours. Basically, Gerudo kings just amplify their children's mothers' dominate traits by scaling the matching trait or traits within themselves up to compensate and create a `superior' child, as though there were anything in mortal design that was superior. Good lord, woman-you still can't find the point of a subject without skating around the border for three days!" Link Sr. grumbled.

Esmerelda finished with a sigh of indifference toward her husband, never minding that she'd just explained a race's entire being as though it were a simple cake that needed heat to come to life. It was mind altering for some. For others, the simplicity in which she explained the tale was whisked away under the guise of "making people is easy for gods." Still, these Gerudo now possessed their origins-no matter how unspecific-and that was more than any other race before or since could say with certainty. While they lingered in silence, absorbing this new information, Esmerelda couldn't help but notice the three unusual Gerudo staring transfixed at her. Each of them were "blessed" with an odd eye color-bright red, tranquil blue, and a variant of green not unlike her own skin-and all of their eyes flickered ever so slightly, almost like a minute signaling.

Ah, she thought, my siblings are here.

She smirked, but excused herself from the table as the silent exchange of knowledge also indicated that they should move to a more secure area. Obviously, her sisters still liked to guide their subjects from the shadows.

"Z … Zelda," the former Gerudo queen said, stammering on calling another by her name, "can I see my daughter?"

"You have to ask my father about that, Grandma," she replied in kind. Zelda watched her grandmother frown, an unintentional reaction to her nerves, because she was unsure of how to approach the supposed deity.

"Come on, Daia," she commanded of her husband, but he shook his head no to reply.

"I've been dead for most of her life," he said with a calm bluntness. "This is something you need to do alone first," he replied, hiding his agenda to observe the giant man at the lakefront.

"Oh," the queen replied, obviously dragging her feet to all involved at this point.

It was in that moment of hesitation that Link appeared before her, startling her beyond reason as she violently screamed. In her eyes, Link loomed like a frightening shadow. He was huge, bigger than even Ganondorf, and scarier for some reason-possibly because he seemed to bring Ganondorf such pause. Nonsense, she thought, this is just Ganondorf's stupid story messing with my mind! But try as she might to fully believe that, there was that unmistakable air of danger around him that made her nerves a little more sensitive.

"I'll take you to her," Link said genially, despite his mother-in-law's wide-eyed staring. He turned his back and began to walk away from the table before stopping. "This only works if you walk, too."

"Oh, right," the queen mumbled before jogging to catch up with him.

She walked along behind him in silence, trying to figure out her thoughts about Link versus those born of Ganondorf's meddling. It was one of the effects of living under his thumb all those years. For all of the resistance she preached against him, this Zelda had become the most easily confused and swayed by Ganondorf's wordiness. What's worse was that she knew it, but was powerless to change it. So, like the confused woman that he killed, she didn't bother to ask for clarification on any of her thoughts.

"Can I ask you something?"

"You may," Link replied without missing a step.

"Are you certain that it's safe to leave Ganondorf alone with your children?" The question seemed sound enough, but Link merely laughed at the insinuation that his children were in danger.

"If you only knew how strong they were, you wouldn't ask such things," he told her. "Besides," Link replied after a second to reconsider, "Sepaaru is there, and she's far more dangerous than I was when I killed him."

"You place a lot of faith in his child," the old Gerudo queen noticed.

"She's done nothing to make me doubt her," Link said in partial defense, walking through the gate back into the fortress main ground. "I also trained her to the utmost of my abilities."

"Why would you help that monster's child?" she asked, her ire rising at the mere thought before Link abruptly stopped.

"Because of silly shit like that," he said in such a way that the phrase seemed to be a singular word. "When I came here, she was a bony little girl trying to make up for her father by running headlong into battles to prove herself to her `sisters.' I couldn't just let her keep doing that to prove a point that wasn't hers to make. So, yeah, I taught the girl how to fight-better that than letting her fight some halfwit who made no bones about killing children."

"I-I-I apologize, sir," she went so far as to say, her outward projection of fear turning real as he seemed to project his anger.

"Don't take it there; I get enough of the `sir' thing with the Sermonian crowd," Link sighed. "Look, I don't mean to be hostile. It's just that Sepaaru's worked hard to step out of that … man's shadow. So, it kind of rattles my chains when people just judge her based on who her father was."

She made a note to never pull that lever again.

With that sore spot firmly in mind, the queen asked a different breed of question. "Why didn't you use your powers to make my daughter stay faithful? My granddaughter didn't paint a good picture of her mother for the brief time we talked about the subject." Of course, it was another question that seemed sound until it had a voice. Zelda cringed until Link laughed, once again walking on without slowing for her shorter legs.

"Here's a question for you: Why would you want me to treat her like Ganondorf treated you?" Link smirked as he heard her audible grunt. "Exactly-no one deserves that. And, besides, if I wanted a piece of meat that did what I want because I wanted it, I'd make it."

"But why go through all the heartbreak … if you even have a heart, I mean. Do gods have hearts?" Her question brought Link to another stopping point, this time in the threshold of the lower entrance to the fortress. She gasped as Link turned on his heel and began to unlace his tunic. Gasping turned into a deeply blushed set of cheeks as he took her limp hand and slipped it inside his tunic over his chest.

"I used to have a heart, but I can't say for certain whether or not the rest of them have hearts or not," he told her, watching as she realized that there was no beat, no warmth, and no movement within his skin. "As for the why, it's complicated, I suppose. I never wanted this god thing to affect my day to day life with her. Nabooru said that she loved me, and I believed her. From the outside looking in, it probably does look extremely weak on my part for not forcing her to love me. In my eyes, I don't want her affection if I have to force her to give to me. And, unfortunately, since I choose to live like that, I'm bound to have what happened with Nabooru happen over and over again with every woman I meet in this world. God or not, that seems to be an inescapable facet in my life."

To hear anyone else speak those words would've been a lesson in self-pity, perhaps. From Link's mouth, it came out as a life lesson from a jaded old man. In some ways, that would be a correct assessment. He let her hand go, redid his strings, and continued on down the hall toward the stairs to the tower. Zelda continued to follow him, pondering his words, and trying to imagine herself in his shoes. Everyone that knew of his godhood did similar at one point or another, but none of them could ever reach a neutral coexistence with even the thought of it. There was always a desire to make someone do something or some such nonsense. This Gerudo proved no different.

"Heh, leave it to that girl to chase off a god," the queen sighed, taking in the scenery of the updated fortress for the first time as he opened the door to the stairwell. "This place is bigger, isn't it?"

"Yep," Link replied, his large boots thudding up the marble steps. "Making this place over was one of the first things I did when I got the whole god thing back the first time."

"You do good work," she noted, the solid gold torch holders gleaming in her eyes.

"I tried," Link told her as they ascended. Eventually, they reached the top of the stairs and stood before his old bedroom door. "She's through there." He prepared to go back down the stairs before Nabooru's mother grabbed his arm, as her tendency to cling presented itself again. "Yes?"

"I … I don't know what to say to her," she confessed. "Could you come in for a minute-at least until I calm down, I mean?"

Link looked at her and made a small indication that he sighed, though, lacked any breath to make such a noise. It had been years since he'd seen such a mentally crippled Gerudo-or one that acted so poorly. Without Ganondorf there to physically hate, it would seem the woman became a fragile shell, afraid to even live without someone to lean her emotions on. The reality of the matter was that she was attempting to play him on some levels-trying to covertly learn about him on some, exhibiting genuine fear and sadness on others, and trying not to let him ask her anything personal on the later ones-he'd found from his initial mind sweep of the woman. Link simply smiled, though, as he twisted the doorknob and entered the room before Nabooru's "shaken" mother.