Sin of Sheikari: Chapter 12

Zelda gazed up at the Desert Colossus, her hood sweeping against her face. The sandstorm was a mild annoyance, but it offered adequate cover from the potential sentries watching for intruders. She’d heard this was Ganondorf’s original hideout, so she was counting on the fact that there would be numerous guards patrolling.

As she watched for signs of enemies, Mison’s words kept echoing in her mind. The Dark Interlopers had once been here in this desert, having been banished to a place called the Twilight Realm. There’d never been any mention of these people, none of it was taught in Zelda’s history lessons, and most of the Haunted Wasteland was still uncharted. As far as most people knew, nothing except the Desert Colossus existed within or beyond it.

Even so, Zelda intended to learn where the cursed mirror was, fully aware of its significance in her mother’s disappearance. Beyond that mirror, the Dark Interlopers waited. Were they the ones her mother had seen in her horrifying visions, humans whose hearts were so tainted they turned to the dark arts and tried to seize the Triforce for themselves?

Zelda recalled a memory from her childhood as she braced herself from another wave of sand washing over her. She had slinked away from her quarters to explore the castle on her own. She’d been reprimanded before for wandering off, but she’d grown bored with her studies and wanted to find a new secret passageway in the castle.

She was certain she wouldn’t be caught when she heard harsh whispers coming from the library, her mother’s favorite hideout. Curiosity getting the better of her, she hid in a corner to eavesdrop. Were the guards arguing with each other again? They got into such silly squabbles sometimes over who was the strongest or who could take down a Dodongo with their bare hands.

“Where was she last seen?”

“The sentries said they spotted her horse heading west.”

“West? The only thing to the west is Gerudo Valley. Surely she wouldn’t go there!”

“Her handmaiden said she’s been mentioning a strange place. The Arbiter’s Grounds or some sort.”

“Is it on the map?”

“Nope, never even heard of it, but who knows what’s hiding in the Haunted Wasteland. Only the Gerudo would know anything about it if such a place exists there.”

Zelda’s brow furrowed. Someone was missing, but who could it be? That was when a chill quickly ran down her spine. The guard had mentioned a handmaiden. Besides herself, only one other person in the castle had a handmaiden: her mother.

She ran as fast as she could down the corridor, not caring if anyone heard her. She reached her mother’s chambers, barging through the door. The queen’s handmaidens, Romani and Cremia, stood inside whispering animatedly about something. They froze in place the moment Zelda crashed into the room.

“Princess!” They both bowed in unison, but Zelda held up her hand, quickly putting an end to unnecessary formalities.

“Where is my mother?” she demanded.

Romani started to visibly tremble, while Cremia’s eyes darted between the two. Apparently, the argument was over whether or not one of them should say something.

“A-a note, Your Highness,” Cremia pointed to a nearby desk, where the queen’s official scroll lay on top of a pile of books. Zelda ran to it, unfurling it immediately.

She froze. The letter said her mother had left and wasn’t returning. She would explain everything in due time, but for now, she needed to leave. And Zelda was not to follow her.

“When?” Zelda asked, her voice trembling.

“Last night, Your Highness,” Cremia replied. “She said she had to take care of something important and not to worry.”

“Where did she say she was going?”

“She went west. She had been mentioning a place called the Arbiter’s Grounds, but no one has ever heard of such a place.”

Just like the guard had said. Zelda’s mother had left for Gerudo Valley, but she never came back. Zelda would check the library and her mother’s study every single day, but there was never any mention of the place her mother went. Try as she might, Zelda never could find a way out of the castle or someone brave enough to venture that deep into the desert.

So, she waited, and she prayed. She waited for her mother to come back or to at least send her a letter, but there was nothing, not even a single whisper of her whereabouts. When her father called her into his study, she knew that something terrible had happened. She remembered how he towered over her, his face pale and his eyes red and puffy. She’d never seen him this way before. As far as she knew, her father never displayed any emotion other than disappointment.

“Your mother,” the king’s voice was grave. “I am sorry, darling, but she has passed away.”

“What?” Zelda drew back, covering her mouth. Surely, she hadn’t heard correctly. “No, she can’t be!”

“I…do not wish to give you the details,” the king said as he tried to comfort his daughter. “It is too soon after her death, and I do not want to upset you.”

But Zelda was beyond upset. She was furious.

“You must tell me what happened!” she demanded. “I have a right to know!”

“Zelda, you must give it time…”

“You didn’t go after her! Nobody did! None of you cared where she went! You were too scared to go into the desert to find her and –“

“You will watch your tongue!” the king snapped, his face growing red with anger. “You are the Princess of Destiny! I am the King of Hyrule! I will not be addressed in such a way!”

Zelda remembered her vision blurring as the room began to spin. Her father reached out to her, trying to apologize, but she ran from him. She kept running until she found herself in the courtyard by her mother’s favorite garden. There, she collapsed to the ground and wept.

It was there that Impa found her.

“Your mother loved you very much, Zelda,” she said as she knelt down beside the princess. “She would not want you to grieve like this.”

“Then where is she?” Zelda asked, her voice broken. “If she loved me so much, why did she leave?”

Impa paused as if searching carefully for what to say next. “Your mother, like so many mothers before her, wanted to protect you at all costs. You must always remember that.”

Zelda did all she could to hold onto those words, but they didn’t make the pain go away. They didn’t answer any of the questions that plagued her, and they didn’t bring her mother back. All they did was give her a tiny bit of comfort in knowing that her mother’s last act was one of love.

Eventually, the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months. Zelda tried to go on with her life, but the pain was always there, lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce when she least expected it. She threw herself into her studies and her duties as a princess, but it was all a facade. She was going through the motions, but she felt like she was barely living some days.

Then, one day, a man named Ganondorf appeared at the castle.

All in Hyrule knew the Gerudo to be a tribe of women, known for their thievery and mischief. They were dangerous, and they did not accept outsiders into their domain. However, once every hundred years, a male was born into the tribe.

Ganondorf had requested an audience with the king, and he had arrived alone, which Zelda found odd. Anyone who visited the castle normally arrived with an escort or small entourage, even the townsfolk. Who was this man, and why was he here?

When Ganondorf stepped into the throne room, Zelda was overcome with a sense of foreboding. Something about him made her skin crawl, and she could not shake the feeling that he was here for something other than a friendly visit.

“Your Majesty,” he bowed deeply, his eyes never leaving the king’s. “I am Ganondorf, chieftain of the Gerudo tribe. I have come to offer my condolences on the death of the queen.”

“Thank you, Ganondorf,” the king said, his voice tight. “That is very kind of you.”

“I am sorry for your loss,” Ganondorf continued. “The queen was known throughout the land for her great beauty and wisdom. Though in the end she and our tribe’s relationship had grown strained, she was still considered a Gerudo by many, myself included.”

Zelda gasped, and Ganondorf looked at her, those piercing golden eyes seeming to see right through her. She felt as if she had been frozen in place, and she could not look away.

And he smiled.

“She was not one of you,” the king spat, finally breaking the spell Ganondorf seemed to have put on Zelda. “She was a Hylian.”

Ganondorf bowed again. “Apologies, Your Majesty. I did not mean to offend.”

He looked up once again, placing a hand over his heart. “The war is over now, my king. The Gorons, Zoras, and even the Kokiri swear allegiance to you and your family. I come as a representative of the Gerudo, offering to swear the same fealty if you would have it.”

The king was silent for a long moment, and Zelda could see the gears turning in his head. He was clearly torn, and she didn’t blame him. The Gerudo weren’t known to swear allegiance to anyone, most of them never leaving the harsh wastelands. If they were to break tradition and offer their loyalty, it would be a show of good faith. It could mean the beginning of a new era of peace.

Except Zelda knew, even back then, that Ganondorf intended nothing but harm for all except himself.

The sandstorm was beginning to reach its climax by her estimation. If she didn’t move soon, she’d lose her chance to sneak into the temple. It would be there, the place her mother no doubt spent the majority of her life, where she would have a chance at finding the answers she needed along with the Sage of Spirit. She only needed to find out the location of the cursed mirror that terrified her mother, confident that one of the evil wizard’s minions would know exactly where it was.

Because she knew it was Ganondorf who had killed her.