The next chapter is the last one, which ends over a year's worth of writing. I am going to say it next chapter anyway, but thanks to everyone who supported this story.
The previous chapter was a gamble in the story, because killing off characters is one thing, but to kill a major character who was the main character at one point in the story, that's hard. To make Rhoam's death significant enough to not just you guys and gals, but to Zelda and Link themselves, I think I succeeded. I see it was well received. Also, Groose's inclusion (the knight who speaks to Link), though a minor plot point, was to show just how far Link had progressed in the eyes of other characters besides the main and major ones. Groose was the reason Link officially became a knight, it was Groose who Zelda met early in the story at the training grounds (and Link got a chuckle off his misfortune), and to have Groose motivate the person he bullied is just a small take on the character's actual growth in Skyward Sword.
This chapter is called "After Despair and Hope," partly because of the memory that takes place in the chapter, but also is named after a song from Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and that this chapter will have some despair and some (pointless) hope from our dear Princess Zelda.
Now next chapter... I thought the last one was hard...I want to say it will be out next week, but I'm aiming for the week after next. See you guys later!
Two hours later, Applean Forest
"C'mon Zelda...Get up...Zelda!"
"Gah!" Zelda abruptly sat up and began coughing, spitting up water from her lungs as the organs begged for fresh oxygen. Her body felt sluggish, her clothes heavy...why was she wet? Where was she and how… The castle! Zelda jumped to her feet, panicking as she looked around. She was at a riverside, the weather was rainy, and...Link was here too. Of course he was. But how did they get here, and when?
Link stood up, placing his hands on her shoulders. "Hey. We're alright. We're safe, for now."
Safe? Safe from what? "Link, what happened? We were just at the castle, ready to fight Ganon and-" It all hit Zelda at once.
"Father!" Zelda raced to her father's side, removing his ornate cloak to inspect his wound. She placed a hand over it, using her power to tend the wound. "Hold on, Father. I can heal you!"
"So this is how the gods will punish me, for all I have done against you. I cursed you at your birth, cursed you for ten years of labor...how coincidental I am cursed on this day. So my Zelda, it is not you who is the disappointment. It is I. I may deserve to be your king, but I am wholly unworthy to be your father. Forgive me for my sins."
"...Ah, but child… After the Calamity, this will not be my Hyrule….It will be your Hyrule..."
Link faced where Zelda pointed and saw the ghostly form of Calamity Ganon encircle the Castle. At one point it stopped, and if Link placed a bet, he would wager the golden eyes of the beast was drawn upon the hero and the princess.
"Is it just me or…"
"No, he's looking at us. It… It is like he knows us."
"Urbosa, Revali, Daruk, and Mipha. It is time to...NO!" Link stopped and turned to Zelda, who began to shake as she kneeled on the stone walkway. "No no no no!"
"I can't… I can't feel their presence… I can't feel their presence… What does that… They can't be-"
"No, everything is going wrong! How could..." Zelda closed her mouth as a Guardian stepped up to Link and Zelda, its red targeting beam locking on to them before it fired.
"Zelda!" Link grabbed the Princess, in time to save from the laser but not from the force of it. They fell from the path, plummeting into the dark waters below.
"No…" Zelda dropped to her bottom, gasping in shock as her memories caught up with her. "No no no no. Link...did we…" As she looked to her hero for an answer, all Link was able to give her was his silence. Spoke volumes, as she recalled Urbosa saying, Link's silence did. She bowed her head, trying not to cry but...it was too much for her. Going to the castle, fighting Ganon, that was the last hope in awakening her power, and...she had failed. Her father was wrong, oh so very wrong.
"Zelda." The princess, if she is even worthy to be called such a title, looked up to Link, who either was not worried about the current circumstances or had deemed it necessary he doesn't show what he is feeling, looked back down on her, hand lowered to her. "Is there a contingency plan? I'm sure you planned for something like this, haven't you."
In fact, she did. Zelda took Link's hand and began to look towards the southeast. "Yes. I sent Impa back to the Necluda region for the sole purpose of meeting me should I not have my power at the castle. Of course… I thought Ganon would be weakened significantly, so we would have more time to fight back, but without the Divine Beasts, it would be suicide for you to face the Calamity now."
"Indeed. So to Fort Hateno we go?"
"Yes...but first let me see it. Let me see Castle Town." Link paled at the suggestion, breaking his natural calmness as Zelda stepped forward. He didn't stop her for reasons she couldn't muster, so she made the short walk from the riverbank to the forest's edge. Once she was up, she cast her sight towards her hometown.
In the darkness, she could see the orange glare that shrouded her city. Despite the distance, the drum of incoming thunder and the symphony of the accompanied rain, Zelda could hear her people's cry as the Guardians fire their destructive lasers. She could feel their confusion, their sadness, their fear, their deaths. She wondered if those who had left the capital hours before knew of what had happened hours ago, what was happening now, and what is to come. She looked to the northeast, where Vah Rudania stalked Hyrule from Death Mountain's peak; Daruk, the mighty Goron Chief who was ready to help at a moment's notice, was unable to be called upon. She faced the northwest, where Vah Medoh was perched; Revali, who could always be found boasting about his abilities, was missing. To the southwest, Vah Naboris towered the desert; Urbosa, the mother that was present for her when the queen died and Impa had her duties, was absent. To the direct west, Vah Ruta stood proudly; Mipha, the soft-spoken princess who Zelda had trusted to save Link's life, couldn't be trusted to aid Zelda at this moment. They were gone...and it was all Zelda's fault.
The distant but powerful roar of Ganon gathered her attention, and once more it seemed the beast was looking back at her. No, it was looking back at her, just as it did at the castle. Though she couldn't see it, she figured the Calamity was smiling at his success. She tightened his fists, a fire as hot and bright as the one in Castle Town burned in her eyes, her teeth gritting and grinding like the collapsing buildings against each other, her breath hard and heavy like each beam the Guardians fire. But all Ganon did was stare back and smile. Her anger meant nothing to him, because she had failed and he had won.
Run, Princess Zelda, that's what he was telling her, run as fast and as far as you can. I will catch you, and on that path, your dear Hyrule will burn. You could've prevented everything, but you are a failure. You killed your father. You killed your friends. You killed the Champions. You killed your subjects. You killed your knights. You killed the Sheikah, the Zoras, the Gorons, the Gerudo, the Rito, the Koroks. You killed your beloved Link. You killed the world. But before I let you join them, I will make you and the hero witness their destruction. Then, and only then, will I have my revenge on blood and spirit, wisdom and courage, princess and hero, Zelda and Link.
Zelda found her hand slipping from Link's, her body falling and landing on muddy ground. Rain showered her as the sky wept for the land beneath, weighing her down in her own sorrows. Footsteps ahead of her stopped and started to come her way, the sword of steel sliding against steel as a sword was sheathed. Yet she couldn't look up to face the swordsman who was risking his own life for her. He would never say it, but she had failed him. Their fates were tied to each other, more than they could ever know, but in the now she had failed him. The legends always spoke of the hero saving the world and the princess, and now Zelda knew why. The one time the princess is to save it...the world is going to end.
"How… How did it come to this?" She gripped the wet grass, yanking some of them from their roots, because what's another casualty to her name? She could hear Link kneeling in front of her, but he said nothing to her. They just stayed in their positions for a few moments, rain, thunder, and breath the only noise the trees around them could hear. "The Divine Beasts...The Guardians...They've all turned against us. It was...Calamity Ganon...It turned them all against is."
"And everyone-Mipha, Urbosa, Revali, and Daruk-they're all trapped inside those things." Tears or rain, possible both, formed rivets down Zelda's face as she looked to Link's sympathetic gaze. He wouldn't say the reason why their friends were trapped in the beast. He was many things, but she knew he didn't have the courage to say those words. His silence spoke for him anyway. She hid her face from him again. "I know you think it."
"You know I don't"
"Say it, Link."
"It is not your-"
"It's all my fault!" She buried her head in her hands. "Our only hope for defeating Ganon is lost all because I couldn't harness this cursed power! Everything-Everything I've done up to now, it was all for nothing." She launched her head out her hands, staring hard at Link. "So I really am just a failure! All my friends, the entire kingdom...my father, most of all...I tried, and i failed them all...I've left them...including you, Link...all to die." Zelda finally let her composure fall, throwing her body unto Link.
The hero continued his silence, and Zelda knew why. It wasn't that he didn't know what to say, but that he knew that him being with her argued against her claims. For over a year he had been with her, whether as an aspiring knight chosen by the king to protect her as she made way to the Great Deku Tree. He had been there when her frustrations with her destiny regretfully made him her appointed knight, when she lashed out at him outside a shrine in Hebra, when Death Mountain was besieged by powerful monsters, when she slept on Urbosa's lap in the Gerudo Desert, when she visited the three springs, when he planned that today, the day that went wrong, could have been the best day of her life in Hateno.
As she calmed, Zelda realized one thing, that she was not a total failure whenever she was with Link. Ever since he came into her life, she always wanted to be a success more than ever. Initially, it was because he was ahead of her, in their destiny, in their abilities, and in the people's eyes. He, the praised Hero of Hyrule; she, the dismissed Princess. But not once did he let his praise overshadow hers. Never once did he boast of his skills, never once did he belittle her for not having her power, never once did he scold her for researching (just for leaving him behind). At the darkest hour, when he could running to his family in Hateno, hoping to see to it they're safe, he is right here, offering his shoulder for her to cry on.
"That's...what I want to ask of you. When you beat Ganon, Hyrule will need to rebuild. Zelda will need allies to help her through the times. Watch over her, protect her, guide her, then when the time comes, join her in my seat."
Zelda pushed back her head to look at Link, their faces in close proximity. Her father was right about him. He didn't say the exact words, but the hero...Link could be her king. He's nobility by birth and by title, he was knighted by King Rhoam himself, and he holds the king's ring, a sign of his blessing. But most of all...she loves him. "Link…"
"Don't. Don't say those words until after we beat Ganon. That way, we'll have one thing to smile about in the aftermath."
"...we need to go."
"To Fort Hateno."
"To Fort Hateno."
Fort Hateno, four hours later
"There's the signal." Zelda lowered the Sheikah Slate, previously using it as a monocular of sorts to spot a light signal at the higher of the Dueling Peaks. Around her, Knights of Hyrule and Sheikah warriors lined the walls of Fort Hateno, staring at the Blatchery Plains before them all. It was a beautiful, peaceful plain; today, however, it will function as the Necluda Region's stand against the Calamity. It was all of Hyrule's last stand; if they failed here, or anywhere, the fight would be over in just a matter of hours.
"Princess," Impa, to Zelda's left, inquisitively spoke, "you know the risk of being at the fort when you could hide in Kakariko?"
"You know what you are doing is dangerous, not just for those who care for you, but for Hyrule as well?"
"Can I demand that you think of that, and cease your desire to fight?"
"No. Every knight in the land has and will fight against Ganon. If this is our final hour, then I must be here with them.I must atone for the deaths I have already caused. I would rather die igniting the spark that lights their spirit to win than live with the fact that I sent more people-my people-to their deaths."
Impa nodded. "Well said, Princess. Any objections Link?"
The Hero of Hyrule, standing to the Princess' left, shook his head. "None. As long as she stands by me, we'll be fine."
"Then let's get started." Zelda took a deep breath, then connected herself to every corner of Hyrule. She could sense the knights in Akkala, Faron, Lanayru and Hebra, the Gorons on Death Mountain, the Rito also in Hebra, the Zora also in Lanayru, and the Gerudo in the desert. She could feel their every fear, but in them was a will to survive. It was either to fight or die for the Hyruleans...and they had never known a time when they haven't fought.
"All people of Hyrule, this is Princess Zelda Hyrule. In case you haven't heard, the castle has fallen, Castle Town burns...and the king is dead. Calamity Ganon has turned the Guardians and the Divine Beasts against us, which is why the Hero and I haven't faced our enemy and seized victory. At this very moment, I am at Fort Hateno, and the Calamity's forces approaches. Very soon, the fight will come to your part of the world. I say this to warn you...and to empower you. Hyrule will not lose to a entity that resorts to underhanded tactics such as Calamity Ganon. For seventeen years we awaited this day, and we will endure for more. Whether it is another day, another week, another month, another year, or a century from now, we will beat this menace." She turned to Impa, holding on to her shoulder. "If you don't fight for your survival, fight for your family and friends. Fight for the mothers and fathers who cannot fight, for the sisters and brothers too young to give their lives." She then turned to Link, slyly slipping her left hand into his right. "Fight for the one you love, whether they stand beside you now or are at home, scared not just for themselves but for you as well. Fight so that you may return to them and tell the story, to say that it was I, when Hyrule was shrouded in the shadow of twilight, when it felt like the moon itself would crash on our world, when a dream would turn into an everlasting nightmare, when seasons and ages would be altered, that we turned our despair into hope. But if this is indeed our final hour, let those who come after remember us, that Hyrule, the land crafted by DIn, ordered by Nayru, breathed upon by Farore, and protected by Hylia, it fell gloriously."
A blue laser zipped over the fort, signaling that the Guardians were in shooting range. Zelda took her bow in hand, she heard the steel of swords slide from their sheaths, the clanking of shields as they were strapped to the offhand arm, and the stretching of strings as arrows were placed upon bows. "Fight Hyrule, and may they remember us." She raised her bow first, firing the first fire arrow. The other archers, Sheikah and Hylian, fired their arrows afterwards, setting the ground around the approaching Stalkers, and some landing on them. However, Zelda knew the machines weren't going to be stopped that simply. But if they could distract the Guardians before the infantry could get to them, then it would be a great aid. She turned to infantry below her. "Go for their legs first. Our weapons can cut through them. Then go for the head itself, preferably the eye. Our shields can also reflect the beams, so use them when in trouble. They have a targeting window before they actually fire, use that to time your attacks. With all that said...attack."