AUTHOR'S NOTE: Almost there, folks! Please read and PLEASE review. Reviews are like my mana. I'm also already thinking about what to write for my next story. Let me know if you have any suggestions/what kind of stories you'd like to read. Also, I changed the rating from K+ to T based off of some sensuality earlier in the story and some violence in this chapter.
Ai Star: That's a great point that I tried to make clear in the last chapter. Zelda said, "He's here to steal the Triforce that Link and I hold," meaning that Ganondorf wants to kill Link and Zelda and take their Triforces from them. He also wanted to keep Link from retrieving the Master Sword, since they wouldn't be able to stop him without it.
Anony Mouse: Thanks so much! I'm glad you found this story too. Hopefully this chapter will better explain how Ganondorf got into their timeline. The explanation is still a little wishy-washy, but it's not as if Legend of Zelda has ever had a very consistent, rules-based approach to magic :p
Sidus Alatus: Thanks! Also thanks for sticking with me and reviewing regularly. I really appreciate it!
Continued from previous chapter…
"Your Highness," said Link, bowing low, "Princess Zelda and I will stop Ganondorf. I swear it."
The king dipped his head in Link's direction, clearly not sure what to say. He didn't seem to have much choice in whether or not Link and Zelda left the temple.
"Link," said Zelda, grimacing in concentration, "Go out to meet Ganondorf. I can make a shield around the two of you so no one else is harmed. Once you've weakened him, I will hold him, and you finish him."
Link nodded. "I remember."
They both walked to the exit of the temple, Zelda taking small, careful steps so as to maintain the barrier as she moved. The king also walked up to the door, his remaining soldiers following after him. Zelda stopped him.
"Father, you should stay in the temple. You are the ruler of Hyrule—what would happen if you were injured?"
"No, Zelda. I have doubted and impeded you at every turn. I must see for myself."
"Very well," she said evenly. "Link, I will remove the barrier once we leave the temple. When that happens, rush to meet Ganondorf and I will put up another barrier around the two of you to contain the battle."
"Zelda lowered one of her hands, face screwed up in concentration, and found Link's hand beside her. She squeezed it tightly in her own, and Link felt his chest tighten. He'd been through this battle before, but somehow knowing that Zelda cared for him made the stakes even higher. He wasn't afraid to die, but he really wanted to make it out of this fight alive.
Zelda let go of his hand and motioned forward with her head. She and Link walked slowly out of the temple, followed by King Daphnes and his guard.
The first thing Link noticed was the sound. Somehow the Temple of Time seemed to have blocked out most of the noise of battle, but now that they had exited, he could hear the shouts, the screams, and the clash of metal striking metal as Hyrule's soldiers attempted to keep Ganondorf's army from overrunning Castle Town. Link also noticed the loud booming of magic on magic as Ganondorf, who floated in the air over the steps to the Temple of Time, threw magical balls of energy at Zelda's barrier one after another. Link could practically feel the fear emanating from the royal guard behind him as they caught sight of the desert prince, and he noticed too the piles of soldiers who lay, scattered and limp, around the courtyard at Ganondorf's feet.
Link felt his own resolve strengthen. Those men had been his fellows-in-arms, and they had been courageous enough to throw themselves at the bearer of the Triforce of Power to protect their kingdom. He would honor them with this battle.
Noticing their procession, Ganondorf stopped battering Zelda's shield and let out a low, malicious laugh, looking down on him from his perch in the air.
"So, Hero of Time. You've finally showed up."
Link's grip tightened on his sword.
"Yes. And I have the Master Sword along with the blessing of the goddesses. We will defeat you, just like last time."
"Ah yes, last time. You know, I should really be thanking you two. If the princess here hadn't sent you back in time I'd never have this second chance. You'd think that the Triforce of Wisdom would be enough for her to see that you can't simply undo your mistakes. The consequences will always follow you."
Link wasn't particularly interested in hearing any more from Ganondorf. He wanted to dispense with the chitchat and attack, but he thought Zelda would probably want to know how Ganondorf had entered their time stream. As he suspected, Zelda spoke up.
"How is it that you came to this time, Ganondorf?" she asked from beside Link. Link sighed a little, thinking that no good could come of speaking with the evil king. However, he supposed Zelda had a right to know.
"After you sent your little green slave back in time, I found I had also been sent back. But since you sealed me away, I could not fully reenter your time stream. I was stuck in limbo, living in an in-between land that was the same time as here, but not the same space. I tried to come back to Hyrule, but all I could manage was a vague shadow of my former self."
"What changed?" she asked, and Link felt concern grow within him that she would look for ways to blame Ganondorf's return on herself. Ganondorf laughed again.
"That's the best part. If your precious hero hadn't been too selfish to keep his mouth shut, I would never have been able to acquire a solid form in Hyrule. Once you regained your memories, I found that my power was greatly enhanced. The more you and he spoke of me, the more solid I became. I discovered other people began to mention me too. I discovered I was supposed to be a Gerudo prince, just as I had been before. Eventually, my existence in this timestream became undeniable, and I could permanently regain my solid form. And so, here I am. Thanks to you two."
Link could see how Ganondorf's words were affecting Zelda. She almost shrunk before his mocking words. He didn't see any reason to allow Ganondorf to continue speaking.
"It doesn't matter how or why you're here, Ganondorf. You have never won, and you won't win this time," Link said.
Link could feel Ganondorf's barbs hitting him in sensitive spots: You're selfish. It's your fault. If it weren't for your vanity… But he didn't have time right now for insecurity. Regardless of his own personal faults, he needed to defeat Ganondorf, and he wouldn't let his own weaknesses get in the way. He and Zelda would have to deal with whatever personal issues Ganondorf's words inspired later.
He looked towards Zelda, and the pain on her face evidence of the blow she had suffered to her confidence. He sent her a small smile, then inclined his head.
"Don't listen to him. He's just scared because he knows we can stop him. It's time to act. I'm ready."
Zelda smiled back at him, her watery eyes hardening with determination. She nodded her head as well. Link motioned for the king and his guard to stand back, then braced himself to sprint towards the evil sorcerer.
"One, two, three, go!" Zelda said, and the barrier fell just as Link sprinted forward, leaping at Ganondorf with sword held high. Ganondorf blocked Link's attack just as Zelda's shield came up again, this time trapping Link and Ganondorf inside of the courtyard.
As Link was pushed backwards by Ganondorf's block, he felt the thrill of battle invigorating his muscles and making him feel alive the way nothing else did. He prepared his sword to hit back any lightning Ganondorf sent at him, but it seemed Ganondorf remembered their first battle and decided to change strategies. The evil king instead raised a hand to the sky, and Link felt dread build within him as he tried to discern what Ganondorf was doing.
"Link, look up!" Link heard Zelda shout, and he looked above him just in time to see the molten rocks raining from the sky and roll out of the way.
Recovering his footing as quickly as possible, Link tried to keep moving to avoid getting caught by another volley of rocks. Ganondorf was able to summon the rocks at a frightening pace, and each time Link tried to prepare a ranged attack he found himself needing to jump out of the way of another round of rocks.
"This isn't working," he thought to himself. "I need to think of another way to deal with this attack. It's not like I can just hold my shield over my head all the time like I'm on Death Mountain."
Just then, he had an idea. Link dashed forward until he was directly underneath Ganondorf, using the sorcerer himself as a shield against celestial attacks. Ganondorf let out a huff of anger as Link struggled to stay beneath him and draw an arrow at the same time. Ganondorf eventually shook Link off, leaving him exposed to Ganondorf's magical attacks, and raised his hand again to summon the molten rocks. He took too long, however, and Link's maneuvering had bought him enough time to ready his bow and shoot Ganondorf right in the chest with a light arrow. The arrow sunk deep into the Gerudo's chest and he sunk to the ground with an ungodly shriek.
Link rushed forward to attack, and he could see Zelda's barrier fall in his peripheral vision. Suddenly, all her power was focused on Ganondorf, the distinctive golden glow of her energy pushing down the desert prince, holding him in place.
As he finally reached the man, Link thrust the sword that seals evil mercilessly right into Ganondorf's chest, where his heart would be if he indeed had one at all.
Ganondorf arched his back violently and Link barely managed to pull the Master Sword back in time to prevent it from being jerked from his hands by the motion. Ganondorf screamed again, ghastly face looking up at the sky with wide eyes, then froze as still as a statue, and the courtyard was completely silent.
Link backed up slowly, wary of Ganondorf's tendency to appear dead only to come back stronger and more terrifying than before. He looked back towards Zelda, and saw that she had dropped the shield on Ganondorf and was leaned over, hands resting on her knees, looking completely exhausted. He guessed she probably would have liked to hold Ganondorf down longer for safety's sake, but her energy was clearly spent from maintaining such a strong barrier for so long. Link felt a rush of pride in her as he turned back towards Ganondorf, whose whole form was turning a sickly grey color as they looked on.
One soldier in Daphnes' guard took a couple of steps towards Ganondorf, features triumphant. Then, several things happened at once.
The soldier shouted, "We did it! He's dea—!"
Link shouted, "Stay back!"
And Ganondorf's grey form burst into a smoky pillar of fire, knocking both Link and the soldier from their feet.
When Link managed to sit up again, he saw a depressingly familiar, giant, pig-like incarnation of Ganon stomping around the courtyard, large knives in hand. He also noticed the broken body of the unfortunate soldier at Ganon's feet, and felt a sharp pain in his leg. He tried desperately to stand, but the red seeping through his leggings suggested that some debris had been blown into his leg, and it was making it difficult to move.
Link could hear the sounds of fear and alarm coming from the onlookers at the temple steps, but he focused on scrambling backwards as Ganon tromped menacingly towards him. His hands searched desperately in the bag strapped to his back. Ganon got closer and closer, but still Link didn't find what he was looking for. This disgusting form of Ganondorf was thankfully significantly slower than his Gerudo form, but injured as he was, Link still couldn't drag himself away fast enough. Link heard a pair of different, smaller feet running towards him, and fear spiked within him.
"No Zelda, stay back! You need to keep him from hurting anyone else!"
Link then saw Zelda run right past him and off to Ganon's right, where the Master Sword lay stuck in the ground. Link hadn't even realized he didn't have it any more.
"Don't be stupid. If you die, do you think any of us will survive?" Zelda shouted back at him,
Ganon had just turned his lumbering form towards Zelda, who looked even more small and delicate than usual next to his monstrous form. He let out a roar of rage and started to charge her, but he was too late. Zelda lifted the sword and with a great heave hurled it towards Link's prone form. She then shielded herself just as Ganon smashed one of his giant knives uselessly against the magical barrier. He shrieked again, then slashed sideways at the barrier, knocking Zelda, still encased in the shield, over to the side of the courtyard.
The beast then turned his attention back to Link, who was unfortunately still a few excruciating feet from the Master Sword. Ganon was now frighteningly close, and for one heart-stopping moment, Link thought that he was probably about to face his end. When Ganon was mere feet from Link's crippled form, Link's fumbling fingers finally found what he had been searching for in his bag. He pulled out the glass bottle and immediately smashed it on the cobblestone ground, releasing the fairy inside.
As the fairy swirled around him, Link felt the pain in his leg subside and a new vigor fill his veins. He leapt to his feet and dashed for the Master Sword just as Ganon came within striking distance of him, leaping for the sword and picking it up as he rolled away from a vicious slice of one of Ganon's giant knives.
He wanted to run further out of range of the beast, then shoot him from afar, but unfortunately the courtyard was too small, and Link wanted to keep the battle contained to the courtyard to avoid collateral damage.
With few other options, he turned to face Ganon, sword and shield at the ready. Ganon stretched his arms back, ready to swipe at Link with his massive knives, but Link rolled towards him, ducking under the lethal slash. As he came up out of his roll, he slashed at Ganon's right arm, and the beast dropped one of his blades. Unfortunately, Ganon's other arm was still perfectly usable and he sliced back at Link in hasty retribution. Link raised his shield in time to avoid evisceration, but the sheer weight of the blow tossed him across the courtyard like a rag doll.
Link could hear Ganon's heavy footsteps drawing nearer as he attempted to lift himself off the ground. Across the courtyard from himself, he saw Zelda lying in a similar position, unprotected by Nayru's Love. She must have been knocked out inside of her shield, and was unable to maintain the shield while unconscious.
The sight of her injured, helpless form filled Link with anger. How dare Ganon do this? How dare he destroy good, peaceful lives all for the sake of meaningless power? Link shut his eyes and offered up a brief but fervent prayer to Farore, then opened his eyes and forced his tired muscles to lift himself from the ground.
Ganon was stumbling around the courtyard, the pain from his lacerated arm incapacitating him temporarily. Link took the opportunity to draw another light arrow and send it flying right at Ganon's head. The arrow glanced off of his thick skin, but the impact still seemed to disturb the creature. Seeing Ganon swipe at his face, as if he could somehow rub away the light in his eyes, Link got an idea. He pulled out another light arrow and aimed it at Ganon, but Ganon had already recovered from the last arrow and threw his head towards Link, breathing out a pillar of white hot fire that Link only mostly managed to dodge.
Link looked down at his right arm, which had been caught in the flames, and winced. He could already see the skin blistering from the searing heat. With his arm injured, he probably wouldn't be able to aim well enough to blind Ganon again. Instead, Link pulled out another light arrow and held the arrow up against his shield, grimacing against the pain of using his burned arm. The fierce light of the arrow reflected off of his shield, and he shone it right into Ganon's eyes. Ganon once again rubbed at his beady eyeballs, and Link seized his chance. He dropped the light arrow and threw his shield on the ground in front of him, jumping on top of it and, half falling, half sliding, rode its momentum towards Ganon and between the beast's legs. As he reached Ganon's soft underbelly, he thanked the goddesses that his left arm was still good and thrust upwards into Ganon's stomach with the Master Sword.
Ganon bellowed in pain and frustration. Link thought Ganon probably knew he had lost. He scrambled quickly out from underneath the creature, concerned that he might get crushed by its weight, and as he managed to get to his feet, he saw that Zelda, too, was now standing. She looked unsteady on her feet, and more than a little worse for wear, but she was alive. Link felt relief flood him, but turned back towards Ganon, wary that the creature may not be dead yet.
"Link, I think I can hold him one more time. Then, you finish him off," Zelda yelled, struggling to be hard over Ganon's wailing.
Link nodded, and ran back towards Ganon's front while Zelda once more held him down with her divine power. Link hesitated a moment as he looked at the now pathetic creature in front of him. Like this, utterly defeated and debased, he almost felt bad for Ganon. Almost. He raised the Master Sword, and cut cleanly through the beast's throat.
As soon as Link's sword found Ganon's throat, Zelda felt Ganon's oppressive, dark presence disappear from their world. She immediately dropped her repressing spell and fell to her knees in exhaustion, feeling completely drained. She hovered her hands over her knees, not wanting them to touch anything. When she'd held the Master Sword, the sword had burned her hands mercilessly, not recognizing her as its master. As excruciating as it had been, she had managed to hold on long enough to throw the sword to Link, and for that she was grateful. Still, she would be feeling the effects of her sacrifice for a while to come. Zelda also noticed her vision fuzzing around the edges, probably the result of getting knocked around inside of her shield earlier.
Breathing hard and feeling somewhat overwhelmed, she still gave herself a moment to feel satisfaction at their victory. She had been so scared that she would not be able to contribute as her counterpart from the other timestream had. Zelda had led an unfairly charmed life. She had had things easy, and she had been terrified that that would reduce her usefulness and ultimately lead to their downfall. But she had managed it. She smiled a little through her exhaustion. She had been useful.
There was a lot more to consider. How much had Castle Town been damaged by Ganondorf's assault? What would this mean for her and Link? What would this mean for her relationship with her father? These questions floated around in her head, but she found that she lacked the energy to think clearly about them.
She wanted to go to Link, to make sure he was all right, and to celebrate their victory together, but try as she might she couldn't get herself to stand up. Zelda let out a sigh, and allowed herself to accept that she was about to pass out.
"It's OK, she told herself has her vision faded. "We made it. Everyone is safe. The world will still be here when I wake up." Then she let herself rest.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Whew! We've almost made it! Only one more chapter to go! Thanks for sticking with me :D