Sin of Sheikari: Chapter 24

A Terrible Fate

Link…

He had come to her thinking he was a Kokiri, the only one of his kind, destined to be an outcast without a guardian fairy. The other children of the forest had teased him. He didn’t say so, but Zelda could see it in his spirit, how he yearned to find a place where he belonged. His was a gentle soul the moment she’d first seen it in her dreams, the light that rose from the forest and pierced the dark sky.

It was never her place to tell him he was a Hylian, though he must have known by the time he rushed into her courtyard, somehow avoiding the guards. He told her all that she had suspected, that Ganondorf would one day lay siege to Hyrule Castle and attempt to claim the Triforce. She had hoped her father would come to his senses, but alas it was not meant to be. He merely exiled the mad sorcerer, feeling that would be sufficient.

Until it wasn’t.

Yet, Zelda wanted Link to have a childhood, an actual childhood, so she hadn’t enlisted his help in protecting Hyrule. Perhaps Ganondorf would remain exiled and accept the king’s decision. In her heart, though she knew what would come to pass, she still held onto the hope that he would remain banished.

Link told her of his wish to find a dear friend of his, something a child would want. The least she could do was offer him the protection of the Goddess of Time, and so she’d given him the Ocarina of Time to take with him. Without it, no one could open the Door of Time, and the Triforce would remain nigh impossible to reach.

Why hadn’t he used it?

Zelda could feel the harsh wind against her back, the first thing she’d felt in what seemed like an eternity. It was followed by heat, washing over her like a furnace along with sheets of sand. She could feel her hair billowing in the wind, the desert sun beating down mercilessly on her skin. She was no longer in the Chamber of Sages but somewhere else entirely, though it mattered little, and soon enough nothing would matter at all.

“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?”

Zelda’s eyes snapped open at the sound of a voice, though her vision was still blurry. When it finally cleared she saw a young man with short brown hair standing before her wearing a simple purple tunic underneath a matching purple jacket, further enhanced by a golden collar and arm bangles. His odd desert attire didn’t disturb Zelda as much as the unsettling grin permanently frozen on his face.

“Who are you?” she croaked, though she had a feeling she’d seen him before. Yes, he was the mask salesman who owned the Happy Mask Shop. She’d always thought he was odd, but he was said to have a noble upbringing, though his family most likely didn’t take to him running a shop in town.

“I believe you’re already beginning to work that out,” he said in a sing-song voice. “And what a shame it is, too. You were one of the few people to ever show me kindness.”

“I don’t understand,” Zelda tried to stand but realized she couldn’t. She looked down to find the lower half of her body buried in the sand.

“You’ve been lying there for quite some time,” the mask salesman explained. “I must say, I’m quite impressed you’ve lasted as long as you have. Most people wouldn’t have been able to withstand the heat.”

“I…I deserve much worse,” Zelda’s head fell in shame. “For my failure.”

“Perhaps you do,” the mask salesman’s grin grew wider, and Zelda felt a cold chill run down her spine.

“So you have come to mock me then,” she spat.

“And yet perhaps you don’t,” the mask salesman continued, turning to look at the horizon. “I would get up soon if I were you. We have much to see. Much to discuss, you and I.”

“I won’t be going anywhere with you!” Zelda began wriggling herself free from the sand, finally managing to pull her legs out of it, though she was still unsteady on her feet. The mask salesman caught her before she could fall over, but she snatched her hand away before tumbling back into the sand.

“No, I don’t suppose you will in that condition,” the mask salesman chuckled, seemingly ignoring Zelda’s outburst. “Though I suspect you wouldn’t want all the energy you used to climb out of the sand to go to waste. They will have reached the Triforce by now, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

He then turned and began walking away, not looking back to see if Zelda was following. She considered standing there, waiting to be overcome by the approaching flames of darkness, but she realized he was right. There was nothing left for her now except to follow him, however bizarre and disquieting he was.

Zelda looked all around them, searching for a landmark to help her orient herself, but found only dunes as far as the eye could see. The mask salesman’s remark about the Triforce triggered the memory she had already tried to bury, and it all came flooding back.

Just as Adelora was about to swing his sword, she’d seen it, the faint wisp of green energy called by the dreg of magic she had left. She’d closed her eyes one final time, certain it wasn’t enough magic to make any difference.

She expected to die in that chamber. Instead, she had run.

She wanted to cry, to mourn all who she had abandoned, but no more tears would come. She didn’t deserve to weep, to feel anything other than guilt, shame, and despair. She thought of Impa and the others, how they’d soon realize their fight was meaningless. The Sheikari ruled the Sacred Realm now. Nothing would come to their aid.

“I’m sure you would have wanted to know eventually,” the mask salesman said, not looking back at her. “Where we’re going, that is.”

Zelda realized they had stopped in front of a large dune. The mask salesman began to climb it, and she followed, though her legs felt like lead. When they reached the top, she looked down and gasped.

A colossal sandstorm raged before them, swallowing everything in its path. However, it seemed to be contained to a certain area, as the raging winds that catapulted the sand into the air stopped after a certain point, creating a strange and unsettling border.

“It will stop soon,” the mask salesman explained, still not turning to face her. “Now that I’ve brought you here.”

Zelda thought she heard a faint chime before she returned her attention to the sandstorm, which was indeed beginning to die down. The winds subsided, and the sand slowly fell back to the ground. As it settled, a massive circular colosseum seemed to materialize in front of them. Six giant pillars ringed the colosseum, each bearing a golden, winged Triforce symbol. A long set of stone steps led up to the entrance of the colosseum, where she could see streams of sand gently falling in front of the passage that led inside.

“Well?” the mask salesman’s grin hadn’t faltered in the slightest.

“What is this place?” Zelda asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“I believe you know exactly what this place is,” the mask salesman replied. “In fact, I’m certain this is precisely where you need to be.”

Without another word, he turned and began descending the dune. Zelda hesitated for a moment before following. When she reached the bottom, she looked back up at the colosseum and felt a chill run down her spine.

This was it. The Arbiter’s Grounds.

“We must hurry,” the mask salesman said, his voice taking on a more urgent tone. “They will be starting soon.”

Zelda scrunched up her face in confusion but didn’t bother asking him what he meant. Instead, she quickly raced to catch up with him as he ran up the steps towards the entrance proper. He then stopped abruptly, holding out his arm to bar Zelda from entering.

“I know a shortcut,” he explained. “Walk in just after I do.”

Without waiting for a response, the mask salesman stepped through the passage and vanished. Zelda paused for a fraction of a second before following him. She expected to emerge into a dark chamber but found herself in the middle of the arena, still outside. There were more pillars surrounding them both, each with the symbols of the six Sages.

Across from them was a large stone pillar, half-buried in the sand. Yet, Zelda’s attention was only on the round, circular object nestled on top of a pedestal just a few feet in front of it. Anyone else who gazed upon it might have thought it was nothing more than a simple mirror, but Zelda knew better. It was the mirror that had haunted her mother’s visions, the relic that was used to banish the Sheikari from Hyrule forever.

The mask salesman was standing in the very center of the arena, and as Zelda approached him, she saw that his grin had turned into a wide, maniacal smile.

“And now,” he said, his voice echoing in the still air. “We go back in time.”