No kingdom built upon the suffering of others was eternal. Wars could lead to new territory and new subjects, but history could be repeated even if it was erased. There was no force, in Hyrule or beyond, powerful enough to defeat destiny itself. Yes, Zelda knew that all too well.
She had hoped to preserve as many memories of her kingdom as possible, reflecting on how she intended to incorporate the Sheikari into Hyrule’s history as she gazed upon the castle’s ruins. She thought of when she and her father stood in the library so long ago, how they both seemed to enter it at the exact same time that day.
“This was mother’s favorite place,” she had said quietly, as if speaking too loud would disturb the moment. Her father stood still for a while, his eyes slowly working their way around the room, taking in all of its contents. To most people, there were more books here than could possibly be read, but Zelda was certain that she, like her mother, had gone through them all at least once.
“Your mother…” he began, taking in a deep breath. “You know that your mother was once a member of the Gerudo tribe? We never spoke of it, but you must know the truth.”
Zelda scrunched her face up in confusion. “Why of course, father! I get my blue eyes from her, after all!”
The king had sighed, shaking his head. “She had always wanted me to establish an alliance with the Gerudo, yet I always refused.”
“Because…” the king turned to her, his expression hard and pointed. “Because…well my darling…because they would forsake our way of life, and we cannot allow that.”
“Your Highness, have you decided?”
Zelda blinked, returning from the memory. Impa addressed her so formally now, even though they had been through so much together. The sky above them was adorned with golden clouds that would soon be purple as nighttime quickly advanced upon them. The crows had already begun their evening concerts, and the breeze had picked up just enough to scatter the leaves into the air. It was a beautiful day, even if she couldn’t truly see it.
Zelda turned to look at Impa, then down at the other Hyrulean knights who’d gathered to serve as her escort towards the castle ruins. The townspeople had started to congregate near the gates, a mixture of humans, Gorons, Zora, and even the Kokiri, who many thought incapable of venturing outside of the forest.
Some of those forest children were playing with the adults, while others were exploring the nearby moat. Saria sat close by, entertaining a small flock of townspeople with the songs that danced out of her ocarina. Zelda wondered if they would remain outside of the forest or eventually return. She wondered if that was even possible now.
“I believe the Gerudo truly have departed from the desert and left Hyrule,” she shook her head. “We can delay no longer, Impa. The people are waiting.”
Impa nodded as she took out a large box covered in a velvet cloth, lifting it up for Zelda to see. Impa then uncovered it, though Zelda knew what it was the moment she’d laid eyes on it.
“Your father’s crown,” Impa bowed as she held the box in her outstretched hands. “We managed to find it amongst the rubble.”
Zelda nodded slowly, her hand shaking as she took it from Impa. It was almost too much to bear, seeing the symbol of her father’s authority reduced to this. And yet, she could not help but feel a sense of resolve as she cradled it in her hands. She had to be strong for her people, now more than ever.
“We must meet them now,” she said, and with that, they set off towards the castle gates.
The knights of Hyrule, seeing her approach, knelt before her in respect, as they began to flank her on either side. Zelda could feel the eyes of the people upon her as she began to walk, the weight of their expectations pressing down upon her. She would be who they turned to in order to see them through this dark time. They deserved to know what the future held, and they also deserved to know the dark past her father had tried to bury.
She would not fault the Gerudo for departing Hyrule, for deciding they did not belong under the watchful gaze of the Golden Goddesses. There had been moments where Zelda herself wasn’t sure she still belonged here, the first being when she held Link’s funeral in Kakariko Village, the second when she’d received news of Ganondorf’s banishment into the Twilight Realm. It had been decided he would be executed, but he had withstood the might of the divine sword, coming back to life as a glowing Triforce symbol appeared on his hand.
The goddesses had chosen him after all.
Zelda froze in her tracks, her escort following suit with confused murmurs as they waited for her to move. Yet, she could have sworn she heard a faint whistle in the distance. No, a song of some sort. Perhaps it was a melody used to call horses back to their owners.
“What is it, Your Highness?” a nearby knight asked.
Zelda turned to face the direction of Kokiri Forest, noticing how the approaching dusk made it seem darker than usual. Yet, there was one patch of grass where a sunbeam shone down as if the light was filtering through the trees for that particular spot. Standing in the beam’s glow was a figure, faint and hard to make out from her position. His golden armor gleamed in the sunlight, its red markings almost seeming to glow. He clutched a longsword in his left hand and a round, golden shield in the other. Zelda could just make out his face when a glare from the setting sun obscured her vision.
When she looked again, the figure was gone, but in his place was a massive golden wolf, its one red eye burning into her. It stood much too calmly for an animal, as if it were sizing her up. And then, without warning, it turned and sprinted off into the woods, vanishing from sight in an instant.
Zelda stared after it for a moment before turning to face the castle ruins once again.
“Your Highness, what was it?” Impa asked, her voice filled with concern.
Zelda hesitated as a breeze ruffled her hair and caused the trees to rustle once more.
“Perhaps one day I will know,” she said. “Yes, perhaps one day I will know once and for all.”