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Blood, Soul, Malice

Chapter Text

A deer crashes through the brush, stumbling from the arrow in its flank and disturbing the peace of the Western Hylian Forest.

Zelda sighs and lowers her bow, stepping out from her hiding spot. "Damn it... Okay."

The deer, being injured, leaves an easy enough trail to follow - blood and trampled plants aren't hard to miss. She can hear its keening cries as she gets closer, and eventually pushes aside a low-hanging branch and catches sight of it. It's collapsed on the ground, weak, and an easy kill, not to mention it would feed her family for weeks.

But... Mist swirls around her feet, and she can hear the giggles of the childlike forest spirits watching her. She's dangerously close to the Lost Woods.

The deer cries out again, and she hesitates, bouncing in place as she tries to decide what to do.

"Damn it," she sighs, slinging her bow on her back and pulling out her dagger instead. "Sorry, mom... If the Skull Kids get me, you can say 'I told you so'."

Taking the last few steps over the border into the Lost Woods makes a shiver run down her spine. The air is unnaturally still and silent, even as the thick fog swirls in the air. No birdsong, no scuffling of little forest creatures going about their business... The weak braying of the deer and musical rattling of the Koroks, hidden just out of sight, are the only sounds.

The deer has obviously been thrashing around, because the grass it lays on is ruffled every which way and streaked with blood, not to mention the shaft of the arrow still in its flank is snapped nearly in two. It doesn't have the energy to struggle anymore, just laying on the ground and letting out sad, low noises.

"It's okay," Zelda murmurs as she kneels next to it and strokes its neck comfortingly, "it'll be over soon, I promise. I'm sorry I put you through this."

She plunges her dagger into its chest and it lets out one last cry before falling limp, leaving her in silence.

Silence, she knows, is bad. It means something has scared off the ever-curious Koroks.

The back of her neck tingles and she snaps her head up, blood running cold at the sight of a Skull Kid watching her from behind a tree.

This is not a situation where panic will help her. She takes a deep breath, swallows her fear, ignores every instinct telling her to turn and run, and smiles.

"Hey there," she says, in the same tone she'd use to talk to a regular child. The Skull Kid startles and flinches, and she raises her hands. "Not gonna hurt you! I promise. The knife is just for hunting."

The Skull Kid still watches her warily, but she no longer feels like she's one wrong move away from getting dragged into the woods.

"Hey, I know something fun," she says as she lowers her hand to the deer's front legs and feels around for the joint connecting the hooves to the legs, starting to cut through the skin and meager meat when she finds it. "Did you know... If you tap... A deer's hooves together... It sounds like you're riding a horse?"

One down.

"I think that's pretty cool, don't you? You could pretend to ride a horse around. That sounds fun. You could be a knight!"

And the other one.

She holds the hooves up and demonstrates what she means, then holds them out to the Skull Kid. "You want them?"

It nods.

"Okay, here you go!" Zelda says, and throws the hooves as hard as she can.

The Skull Kid scrambles after them, and Zelda grabs the deer by the antlers and pulls it as fast as she can in the other direction.

A knock on the door to his chambers pulls Link from sleep, and he frowns at the weight on his chest. Shaking awake the man clinging to him in his sleep, he jerks his head at the door, where someone is knocking again.

"Mm... Come in!" Ghirahim calls out, voice rough from having just woken up. He blinks sleepily, but smiles when Link curls an arm around his waist and pulls him close as he sits up.

The door opens to reveal a maid with a breakfast tray, respectfully averting her eyes from the two men's state of undress. "Will you be wanting tea or coffee, Ser?"

"He'll be fine with water for now," Ghirahim says, stroking his fingers against Link's bare chest, "but... Hmm... I wouldn't mind a pot of tea. I rather enjoyed that blend served after supper last night, with the citrus? Some of that, please."

"Of course, your lordship," the maid says with a bow before leaving the room.

Once she's fully gone, Link smirks at Ghirahim and says mockingly, voice raspy from disuse, "Your lordship."

"They hardly need to know what I'm the lord of," Ghirahim chuckles before vanishing in a burst of white and red diamonds and reappearing fully dressed with his makeup applied by the breakfast tray. He picks up a slice of toast and spreads wildberry jam on it before taking a bite, smearing his lipstick and sighing happily. "You know, it is nice, serving nobility. If I'm not careful, I'll let myself get spoiled."

'Already spoiled', Link signs.

Ghirahim hums out a laugh and sets his toast down, crossing back over to the bed to straddle Link and drape his arms over his shoulders. "And who's fault might that be, master? Who might be responsible for spoiling his dear, faithful servant?"

'Just bring me my food', Link signs with a roll of his eyes, Ghirahim laughing and pressing a quick kiss to his lips before getting up.

"As you say, master," he says, bowing low.

When the maid returns with the tea tray, Ghirahim is curled up next to Link, feeding him chunks of hydromelon off a tiny fork, white lipstick marks peppered across the knight's jaw and at the corners of his mouth.

"You can leave that on the table," Ghirahim says, not even looking away from Link. The maid murmurs an acknowledgement as he presses another kiss to Link's jaw, just by his ear, and the door clicks shut when she leaves.

"Go get your tea," Link whispers. Ghirahim hums and presses one last kiss to the corner of his mouth before vanishing and reappearing again, picking up the silver teapot and pouring himself a cup of dark, fragrant tea.

"How goes your efforts with the prince?" He asks, taking a sip.

Link groans and rubs at his eyes before signing, 'Doesn't trust me no matter what I do'.

Ghirahim frowns. "Forgive my impertinence, master, but should you not perhaps think of changing your strategy? He'll be of age in a year's time, everything hinges on the throne needing a steward-"

"I know," Link snaps, falling into a coughing fit when the harsh words irritate his throat. Ghirahim hurriedly goes to his side and hands him a glass of water, helps him sit up to drink.

"I know you know, master," Ghirahim murmurs. "Still... The court trusts you well enough. I've seen more than a few jealous glances aimed at me when I accompany you. Perhaps the prince's trust... Isn't needed. You could claim stewardship and his highness would either have to accept it, or go against his people. And that would hardly endear himself to them."

Link sighs and leans back against the headboard, letting Ghirahim set the glass of water on the bedside table. 'Perhaps you're right', he signs.

"Of course I'm right," Ghirahim says with a smile. "You know... I'm feeling rather under the weather. I'm afraid I won't be able to attend tonight's celebrations with you."

'A shame', Link signs. 'You'll miss all the excitement'.

Ganondorf takes a deep breath and focuses, calling on the magic flowing through his veins. There's a spark in his palm, that quickly grows into a ball of fire so large and hot he turns his face away to shield it, and he sends it flying with a flick of his wrist.

It careens in a spiraling line through the air, veering wide of the target he'd meant to hit, and collides with the wall a good ten feet to the left and four feet up.

He winces.

"Head forward and chin up, godling," Karavi says, repositioning his head according to her instructions. "Stop fearing the heat. You cannot hit a target you can't see."

Ganondorf sighs and shakes the tension out of his shoulders, cracking his neck and grimacing. "I can't hit a target I can see, either."

"You aim perfectly well when you train with the Sheikah bitch," Karavi snaps, waving a hand dismissively at the prince's shocked expression. "I'm sure she's said much worse about me. Now. Try again. This time, aim in a way that perhaps you could be able to hit the broad side of a barn."

Ganondorf takes a deep breath and gets back into the casting stance; feet shoulder width apart, shoulders squared, head forward and chin up. He holds an arm in front of him, palm out, and a fire flickers to life in his hand. It grows bigger and hotter, and he grits his teeth as he starts to sweat, refusing to turn his head away this time. The fireball is sent flying with a flick of his fingers, streaking across the room and colliding with a training dummy to set the straw alight.

"Good," Karavi says. "Now do that every time."

"You're not a very kind teacher," Ganondorf huffs, and she laughs.

"Are you bullying my son, Koumakevai?" Nabinai asks as she strides into the training chamber, lifting her skirts to avoid stepping on them or dragging them in the sand.

Karavi bows low in the Gerudo fashion. "I would never disrespect the blessing of Din, your majesty."

"I'm sure you wouldn't," Nabinai says. "I'll be stealing him away anyway, he needs to prepare for tonight."

Karavi bows again and leaves the room, leaving Ganondorf with his mother, who looks at him with her hands on her hips.

"Fire magic again?" She asks, and he nods, pushing back the strands of hair stuck to his face with sweat.

"I should bathe, shouldn't I," he mutters, frowning at the state of himself. Soot covers his fingertips and palms, he's sweating in his training robes, and he starts shivering slightly with the warmth of the fire spell gone and the chill of the room setting in.

"That would probably be best, yes," Nabinai says, smiling. "Unless you'd like to attend your father's name day ball smelling like a sand seal?"

Ganondorf gives an exaggerated hum and pretends to think hard. "That is tempting..."

"Ah! I pray to The Wildfire for a son with wits, and she curses me with one who thinks he's witty!" His mother scoffs playfully, giving him a gentle smack on the shoulder as he laughs. "Go. Your clothes have been set out already."

"Yes, mama," he chuckles. He gives her a parting wave as he leaves the room, heading up to his chambers to bathe and dress.

His mind wanders as he walks, thinking about the evening's upcoming celebrations. Something feels... Uneasy. Like a cup so full of water it curves up over the rim, and one little nudge will send it all spilling over. He's had this feeling for weeks now, getting worse whenever that knight talks to him in a misguided attempt to win him over - he'd swear he was fishing for a betrothal if he wasn't eight years his senior and fucking that lord from another kingdom - but he just doesn't know what it means.

He reaches his chambers and sighs, pushing open the door and heading for the bathing room. Whatever it is, perhaps it won't be too serious. Yes, he's sure it won't be too serious. There's probably just going to be a duel or something, inspired by some imagined slight.

Whatever happens, he thinks as he peels off his sweat-soaked training clothes, it's sure to be resolved quickly.

Chapter Text

"Can I go to the market with you today?" Zelda asks as she helps her mother butcher the deer. They both wear thick aprons to avoid getting blood on their clothes, but a few flecks have gotten on the cuffs of Zelda's sleeves anyway.

"You absolutely may not!" Bonnie huffs, angrily twisting a joint out of the socket to remove a leg. "Not after that stunt you pulled while you were hunting."

"I got us the deer, didn't I?" Zelda asks. "Besides, I made that promise when I was six. I'm eighteen now, I think I'm a little more capable."

Bonnie sighs and sets her knife down, almost rubbing her eyes before she remembers she has blood all over her hands. "Zelda... I know you think that. And in a lot of ways, you're very much right. I have to remind myself sometimes that you're not my little girl who wanders off after butterflies anymore. But the Lost Woods are dangerous, whether you're six or sixty. I don't know what your father and I would do if we lost you, especially after..."

She trails off, and guilt settles heavy in Zelda's stomach. They go back to butchering the deer in silence, the air filled with the soft wet sounds of raw meat being moved around.

"I'm sorry," Zelda says eventually. "I miss her too... But at least it's not like she's dead?"

"That's true," Bonnie says with a smile. "I see her sometimes, in Castle Town on market days. Sitting with her friends from the mage academy at one of those fancy cafes."

"Do you ever talk to her?"

"And embarrass her? What sort of mother do you think I am?"

"So that's a yes," Zelda teases, laughing when Bonnie bumps their shoulders together. "Can we ask dad-"

"Ask dad what?"

Zelda grins at the sound of her father's voice and spins around, almost running to hug him before remembering her bloody hands and apron. "You're back!"

Jonathan returns her sunny grin and walks over to ruffle her hair with his free hand, the other holding several lines with fish hanging from them and a leather drawstring bag stuffed to the brim with herbs. The earthy smell of mushrooms and root vegetables drifts from the large basket strapped to his back, and Zelda cranes her neck to see if she can get a look at what he gathered.

"Your daughter," Bonnie says, "wants to go to the market."

"My daughter?" Jonathan frowns at Zelda and puts a hand on his hip. "What did you do this time?"

"I went into the Lost Woods," she grumbles, adding, "But! I was going after a deer I shot, and don't you always say not to let an animal suffer needlessly?"

Jonathan sighs and and rubs a palm over his cheek like he always does when he's thinking, glancing between his daughter and his wife. "Why do you want to go to the market so badly?"

"I just want a change of scenery," Zelda says with a shrug. "I always have to watch the cottage when you guys go to the market, I can count on one hand the number of times you've actually let me go with you. And... Mom was just saying that she sees Hilda there sometimes. I... I miss her. I wanna see her."

Her parents glance at each other, having one of their we've-been-married-so-long-we-can-have-silent-conversations conversations, and then Bonnie sighs and throws her hands up.

"Fine! Fine, I can see when I'm outvoted!" She says, though there's no genuine anger in her voice. She turns to Zelda and points a finger at her. “This isn't a 'Zelda has fun in Castle Town' trip, though. You have to help us out."

"She can deliver the deepwoods honey to the meadery. One less stop for us to make," Jonathan says, and Bonnie nods decisively.

Zelda grins and once again has to stop herself from hugging either of them. "Yes! Thank you! Oh, I can't wait!"

Ganondorf always feels terribly awkward at social events. Whether it's regular teenage awkwardness or the stifling need to live up to the mark on his hand, showing off for everyone to see that he carries Nayru's Wisdom, that he's Hylia Incarnate, he'll never know. He just knows that once again, he's sequestered himself at the edge of the room, perfectly content to simply watch the gossiping nobility.

Normally he wouldn't be quite so alone, would be able to gossip just as much with his oldest friends, but they're both on duty tonight, watching from the shadows.

He spots his father, the Hylian King, wading through the crowd and graciously accepting any well-wishes he's given, and downs the rest of the glass of sparkling wine he'd snuck before he can be caught.

"Not dancing with anyone tonight?" Volar asks when he reaches his son.

"I'm taller than everyone here," Ganondorf says. "Even you."

"You've been taller than me since you were thirteen," Volar laughs, reaching up to clap his son on the back. “Why don't you go ask Mariko to dance? Or Taiten? You know nobody will judge-"

"Father," Ganondorf groans.

Volar raises his hands defensively. "Alright, alright. I'm just saying, you could do worse than the Sheikah master's grandchildren.'

"Maybe so. But they're still my bodyguards. You might accept that, but I doubt the court would."

Volar sighs, dropping his hands to his sides and looking up at his son. "I just worry. You'll be of age next year, you'll be expected to start courting someone... I don't want you to end up with someone you aren't happy with because you feel pressured to be with someone."

"Then stop pressuring me," Ganondorf says, glancing at his father from the corner of his and smirking to let him know he's not truly angry. "I understand your worry, father, I do. I worry about the same thing sometimes. But-"

"Your majesty! Oh, and your highness!"

He's cut off when a blur of white and electric blue appears out of the crowd; Lana, the current royal seer and eternal Guardian of Time. She pulls a figure along with her, a young woman in violet and lilac with pin-straight dark hair.

"I've finally found an apprentice," Lana says with a grin, and the woman she's brought with her curtseys delicately.

"Your majesty," she murmurs, then to Ganondorf, "your highness."

"It's wonderful to meet you," Volar says, bowing gently. "May I know your name?"

"Hilda," she says. "Hilda Rath. Y-your majesty."

"Graduated from the mage academy with top marks in divination!" Lana chirps, and Ganondorf already feels a headache coming on from her inextinguishable cheer. "She should be ready to go within the year!"

"Wonderful. I'm sure you must be eager to return to your official duties," Volar says with a soft smile. While neither woman is looking, he elbows Ganondorf and nods his head at Hilda, frowning and repeating the action insistently when Ganondorf shakes his head.

"Lady Rath," Ganondorf says with a sigh, "might I steal you for a dance?"

"Oh, I'm not a lady, your highness," Hilda says, a blush colouring her cheeks. "Just a woodsman's daughter. But... I would be honoured to dance with you."

Volar, without subtlety, pushes Ganondorf towards her and bids a quiet goodbye to Lana before wandering off to find his wife.

"I'm sorry about my father," Ganondorf murmurs as he leads Hilda to the dance floor. "He's... Anxious about finding me someone to court."

"It's alright," Hilda says with a soft little smile. Ganondorf returns the expression, and they join the crowd spinning in a delicate waltz on the dance floor. It's... Almost nice. She smiles at him, ducks her head bashfully on a turn, and he can feel the faintest blush heat his cheeks.

Then Hilda stumbles, and Ganondorf catches her. "Are you alright?"

Her hand clutches at his sleeve and she looks up at him with eyes covered by a haze of rich purple magic. "You need to leave."


"You need to... Go, get out of the room, find your bodyguards," she mutters, clinging to him and dragging him off the dance floor and into the crowd.

The music dies down between pieces, and a horrible, cruel laugh fills the ballroom.

A figure leaps down from the chandelier, flipping in the air and landing in the middle of the dance floor, scattering the gathered nobility. They're dressed in a red and gold perversion of the Sheikah garb, complete with the inverted eye symbol.

A Yiga assassin.

"So terribly sorry to cut the evening's festivities short," they call out as they pull a throwing dagger from who knows where, "but I have good reason."

Everything after that happens in such a blur, Ganondorf can barely keep up with it. The assassin launches themself across the room so fast they seem to vanish, reappearing behind Nabinai and slicing her throat. She staggers back, blood pouring down the front of her gown, and the assassin stands to the side to let her fall to the floor. Volar falls next, daggers piercing his eye, throat, and chest faster than he can react. At some point during that, Ganondorf has backed himself up against the wall and crouched down in a futile attempt to hide, and he inwardly berates himself for such cowardice, even though he knows fear responses are involuntary.

"Where," the assassin calls out, prowling around the perimeter of the now-empty dance floor and seeming to take great delight in taunting the terrified nobles, "is the little princeling?"

Something about that twigs with familiarity. Someone's called Ganondorf 'princeling' before, but he's too panicked to place where.

"He's there!"

He doesn't know who says it, but he can hear the fear in their voice and while he wishes they'd kept silent, he understands why they said it. The crowd parts, and the assassin stalks toward him, laughing and spinning a throwing dagger around their finger.

"Don't worry, princeling," they purr. "You'll see your parents again soon."

They draw their arm back to strike, and Ganondorf, frozen with fear, closes his eyes and feels a tear slip down his cheek.

There's a gasp, the clang of metal on metal rings out through the ballroom, echoing up to the vaulted ceiling, and the assassin cries out.

Ganondorf opens his eyes to see that knight that keeps trying to talk to him - Link, that's his name - standing in front of him, the sword from one of the decorative suits of armour lining the ballroom in his hand, the blade pointing at the Yiga assassin as they sprawl on the ground.

"Run," Link rasps, a murmur going through the crowd at the rare use of his voice. Ganondorf makes to follow the direction and Link glances back at him, hissing, "Not you. Them."

"Ah!" The assassin cries out, pressing the back of a hand to their forehead as they push themself across the floor away from Link. “Defeated! Our plans, thwarted, by such a brave and mighty knight! Truly, your kingdom is lucky to have one as powerful as you defending it!"

"Run!" Link repeats as he takes a threatening step forward, the word rough and clearly louder than he's used to speaking. The assassin scrambles to their feet, taking off at a sprint and vanishing into the crowd.

Chapter Text

Castle Town is unlike anything Zelda had ever imagined.

The streets are at once wider and narrower than she remembers, the last time she was here having been when she and Hilda were too young to stay at the cottage by themselves, and the people. Even before they get to the market square, she counts three Goron, seven Gerudo, five Zora, and four Rito, and then when they do reach the market... Bonnie reaches over and pushes her chin up to get her to close her mouth.

Everyone's shouting over one another, hawking their wares. Zora and Rito compete to sell fish, Gorons offer spring water and their skill as stonemasons, a Sheikah man has a stall full of fat brown cucco eggs and little speckled quail eggs, in the shade by the wall a Twili calls out to passersby that they can read anyone's future in the shifts of their shadows, Gerudo jewelsmiths display delicate and intricate jewelry that glitters in the sunlight, Hylian farmers' animals only add to the cacophony with their various noises. The commotion all surrounds a grand fountain at the center of the square, water pouring from amphorae held by statues of the four goddesses - The Triumvirate and the Mother.

Zelda says a quick, silent prayer to the Mistral when she sees that, asking for just a bit of extra courage today.

"Alright," Jonathan says, the three of them stopping by the side of the road, out of the way of foot traffic. "First order of business - Zelda. I know this can be overwhelming. Are you okay?"

She nods, a grin stretching across her face. "More than okay! This is exciting!"

She shifts her grip on the earthenware pot in her arms when she feels it start to slip. It's full of honeycombs, which in turn are full of deepwoods honey, from the part of the forest that borders the Lost Woods. Why the meadery wants it, she doesn't understand; she'd eaten some when she was younger and left unattended, and the colours it had made her see had given her a headache for hours.

"Good," Bonnie says. "You're sure you don't need me to come with you to the meadery?"

"Mom, I'll be fine," Zelda groans. "You made me repeat the directions all the way here, I think I could go in my sleep."

"Well, then, you can repeat them again now."

Zelda sighs, but smiles and dutifully repeats the directions. "Follow the main thoroughfare to the eastern gate. Outside the gate, follow the cart tracks north and they'll lead me right to the meadery. If I reach the river, I've gone too far."

"Good girl," Bonnie says with a little smile of her own.

"Come back and wait for us here when you're done," Jonathan says. "Promise me you won't go exploring. I don't... Want you to get lost."

"I won't, dad," Zelda sighs.

"Won't go exploring, or won't get lost?"

She purses her lips and looks away with wide eyes, brows raising slightly. "Well, if you're giving me the option..."


Jonathan's voice is stern, offering no room for argument, and she slumps and hangs her head.

"I won't go explore the city," she says. "I swear on the Triumvirate and Mother both, I'll come right here once I've delivered the honey."

"I'm not asking you to bear the Blade," Jonathan says softly, a comforting hand going to her shoulder. "Just that you stay safe."

"I know," Zelda sighs, then straightens up and adjusts her grip on the honey again. "This isn't going to deliver itself, though! Can I go now?"

Her parents glance at each other and shake their heads, though each of them wears a fond smile.

"Yes, you can go now," Bonnie says. "Mind you don't bump into someone and drop that, though."

"I'll be the most careful," Zelda promises. She lets her parents hug her as best they can with the jar in the way, and then sets off toward the other side of the city.

Her progress across the market square is largely unimpeded, except for having to step out of the way of marketgoers who clearly aren't looking where they're going, until she passes the Twili seer.

They call something in their echoing, musical language as she walks by, and then in Hylian, say to her, "Your future will shine, honey girl! Do you wish to know it?"

And that gives her pause.


But her promise.

She sighs. "I have to deliver this. Will you be here when I get back?"

"Depends when you get back," they say with a grin that reveals needle thin sharp teeth. "But, I leave at sunset."

"I'll be back before then," Zelda says with a decisive nod. "Definitely."

The Twili waves - barely more than raising a hand and curling their long, thin fingers - and Zelda sets off again.

The rest of her journey to the meadery is without incident, though it does take a bit longer than she thought it would, and she's glad to see the building when it comes in sight. The plot of land it's situated on is dotted with flowers and little white apiary boxes, the hum of the bees audible even from a distance. A black rabbit stands up on its hind legs in the grass as she approaches the building, staring at her before scurrying off to a hutch around the side.

Zelda frowns when she reaches the door and shifts the jar in her arms again before sighing and kicking the door a couple times to knock. After a moment, it's flung open by a woman perhaps a touch younger than Zelda's mother, her pin-straight black hair pulled back in a low ponytail, and she adopts an expression of offended incredulousness when she sees Zelda.

"Did you just kick my door?"

"Um, my hands are full," Zelda says sheepishly, tipping the jar forward slightly.

The woman glances down at the jar. "What-"

"Deepwoods honey."

"Oh! Come on in, then."

Inside, among the scent of yeast and honey and fermentation, Zelda notices three things in quick succession; the woman wears a simple pewter bracelet with a purple gem set into it, there's a Triforce shrine with the symbol arranged so the tip points down, and on the far wall is a bricked up doorframe with a swirling vortex painted inside.

"You're Lorulian," she blurts out.

The woman raises a brow. "And you're great at pointing out the obvious. You want a medal?"

"No, no," Zelda says. "I'm... Well, my mother is Lorulian!"

"Ah, then... You must be Bonnie's youngest."

Zelda nods and sets the honey jar down on an unoccupied table. "She always told us, we're technically related to the royal family because of some old king's bastards."

The woman snorts. "If you're talking about King Cawrodd, just about half of Lorule can make that claim. I can make that claim. That man fucked everything except his wife, it's a miracle they had an heir at all."

"I guess that makes us related, huh?" Zelda jokes nervously, half expecting another sharp reply.

But the woman gives a gentle smile.

"I guess so. Don't think this gets you a family discount on my products, though. Now, let's get that payment sorted!"

She ducks behind a counter and comes up with a lockbox, opening it by tracing a swirling pattern on the lid with her fingertip.

"And before you ask," she says as she counts out rupees, clearly having glanced up to see Zelda's wide eyes, "I'm not an enchanter. Family heirloom."

Zelda nods silently and takes the money when it's handed to her in a small leather pouch, blinking in confusion when an extra yellow rupee is passed along with it. "Um...?"

The woman winks at her. "That's for you. You don't seem like you get out much, get yourself something strange and fascinating at the market."

"Oh! Wow, thank you, so much, may the... The..."


"That's the one! Them! May they smile on you!"

The smile the woman gives this time is a bit strained, but she waves Zelda on anyway, and Zelda practically runs the whole way back to the market after stuffing the purse somewhere safe.

The Twili is still there, thankfully.

"Excuse me?" Zelda says as she approaches from the side, startling the poor thing and making them drop the bread they'd been in the middle of taking a bite of into their lap.

"Yes! Yes?" They say, looking up at her with overlarge flat white eyes and affecting a tone of magical detachment, as though they do not, in fact, have a half-eaten piece of bread and some sort of fruit preserve in their lap. "Do you wish to know your future?"

Zelda smiles and nods eagerly. "Please!"

"Extend your arm, then."

She does as she's told, and they mirror the action, the shadow of their arm intersecting with hers as they mutter in their own language.

Their eyes glow and they tense, gaze fixed on the intersection of shadows, whole body trembling and a thin, weak whine leaving them, a scream that can't be given true voice. Zelda notices their lips moving and realized they're speaking, but as much as she strains to hear it, she can only pick up snippets over the bustle of the marketplace.

"Soul... Prey... Awakens once more..."

A shuddering gasp leaves them and they wrench their arm back with a grunt of effort, then lean over to throw up, a passing woman shrieking in disgust and shock.

"Get away from me!" They choke out as they wipe their mouth on their gauzy shawl. "I don't want anything to do with... Whatever you've got going on!"

Zelda blinks, taken aback, then kneels down to try to help them once she gets her bearings. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"I said, get away!" They snap. "Keep your money, I want nothing to do with destiny!"

With that harsh brushoff, they start to gather up their things, pointedly turning their back.

Zelda huffs and pouts a bit as she stands, but when she notices the way the shadows are getting long, she turns on her heel to hurry back to the spot she agreed to meet her parents. As she moves through the market square, she faintly registers a commotion from the direction of the palace, but pays it no mind.

Until someone collides with her, knocking her to the ground and stumbling to keep their balance. She yelps as she hits the cobblestones, and freezes when she looks up to see a Yiga assassin staring curiously at her.

"Hm," they say, "there you are. I was wondering when you'd turn up."

"Y-you've got the wrong person," Zelda manages to squeak out, but they're gone halfway through the sentence, as if they just vanished into thin air. All that's left behind is a little slip of paper, folded in half to make a triangle, which she quickly snatches up before other marketgoers crowd around her and help her to her feet. She assures them that yes, she's fine, just a little shaken, and heads on her way back to the meeting spot.

Leaning against the wall, letting the noise of the market fade into meaningless background humming, she pulls the paper from her pocket and unfolds it, revealing a diamond shape. Written on it in elegant, looping script, is a sentence that both terrifies and confuses her.

'I expect to see a lot more of you'.

Chapter Text

Every sound seems far away, as if Ganondorf has water in his ears. As soon as the commotion died down, he'd been bundled off by his bodyguards, guided to a saferoom quickly and quietly before being given the promise that while they were going to help the search for the assassin, he'd be safe there even without them.

(Mariko, despite the stony set of her face, had looked at him with eyes full of guilt and shame, and he wanted to tell her it wasn't her fault, but he couldn't make his voice come out and then she was gone.)

Ganondorf is almost thankful for the state he's in, given the argument currently happening between Lana and Link, the latter having barged into the saferoom followed by the former trying to stop him.

And then Link's hands forming the sign for 'steward' pulls Ganondorf out of his trance.

"There's no need for a steward," he croaks, getting the others to look at him.

"Thank you, I've been trying to tell him that!" Lana groans, even as Link shakes his head.

'You're not of age', he signs, 'and you're in distress not a fit state choose a steward take a rest'.

"Oh, and I suppose you'd just happen to throw your hat into the ring?" Lana snaps.

Link shrugs and bows humbly, earning himself scoffing laughter from the sorceress. He rolls his eyes in response and turns to face Ganondorf, bowing low before raising his hands to sign again.

'I know the pain of losing your parents'-

"Yes," Lana says. "We all know the story of you murdering your parents in their bed because you'd found out they were Malice cultists conspiring against the king. Strange, how there was never any evidence found."

'This is the evidence', Link signs, gesturing at his throat and the thick puckered scar across it. 'The sacrificial cut that took my voice and nearly took my life'.

Lana groans and rubs at her eyes, muttering in some long forgotten language. Link seems to flinch away from the sound of her voice, but returns to speaking to Ganondorf.

"Your highness," he rasps quietly before continuing in sign, 'you need rest you have been through an ordeal perhaps the winter palace', then clears his throat and continues again, speaking once more, "You could leave tomorrow if you knew the throne was in good hands."

"Are you asking me to appoint you steward?" Ganondorf says with a frown.

All Link responds with is, 'Is there another candidate you can think of'.

And Ganondorf frowns because... Well. Yes, there is, but also no, there isn't. He could appoint Lana, but she has more important duties to attend to. The Sheikah master would likely gladly take the position... But she's old, and doesn't leave Kakariko much anymore. Appointing Karavi would be a political nightmare, as would asking any of his aunts or cousins to take the position. Link, on the other hand, is Hylian, from an old family that can trace their lineage all the way back to the sky knights - which won't cause too many ripples from the members of the court who still turn up their noses at Ganondorf - and he's popular with the people as well, practically a perfect picture of what a knight should be.

"Your highness," Lana says, "I say this not as one of the Guardians of Time, but as your friend.'

Ganondorf's face twists into a skeptical expression and Lana tilts her head in acquiescence.

"As your family's friend," she corrects, then continues. "You don't have to choose a steward immediately. Take some time to think on it-"

"Some time?" Ganondorf snaps as the stress of the evening finally catches up to him and anger and frustration roil in his chest. "Take some time to decide on a steward? My parents just died in front of me! I should be taking time to grieve!"

"Of course, I understand-"

"You're not even supposed to be here. You're supposed to be watching over the strands of time, impartial," Ganondorf says icily, and Lana flinches back. "Stop trying to influence me. I... I am not yet old enough to take the throne, and if appointing a steward gets you both to leave me alone... Link is the best candidate I can think of, and he's willing, so... So he's steward now."

A flicker of something unidentifiable crosses Lana's face before she schools it into an impassive mask.

"Very well, your highness," she says, bowing and taking a step back. She bows to Link with a muttered, "I will be in my chambers if I'm needed, Lord Steward," and vanishes from the room in a burst of sparkles and a faint chime.

Link turns to Ganondorf with a smile and puts a hand on shoulder, rasping out, "You've made the right choice."

"Sure," Ganondorf mutters, slumping back in his chair, suddenly exhausted. "Whatever."


"I believe congratulations are in order, master," Ghirahim purrs when Link returns to the manor. "You did wonderfully. I myself may have gone a touch overboard on my performance, but I suppose it doesn't matter n-"

He's cut off when Link grabs him and pulls him into a hungry kiss, backing him up against the wall and coaxing his mouth open to slip his tongue in.

"Go to the Yiga," Link whispers when he breaks the kiss. "Bring their master back with you. I need to talk to him."

Ghirahim nods, breathless and speechless. "Do I have to go... Right now?"

"Go," Link hisses, and Ghirahim nods and vanishes.

Minutes pass, during which Link heads to his study and sits at his desk. Ghirahim returns in a flash of red and white diamonds, clutching the master of the Yiga by the back of his shirt, and shoves the man at Link. He stumbles a moment before picking himself up and straightening his robe, shooting a glare at Ghirahim before bowing to Link.

"Tehga, master of the Yiga clan, at your service, O Bearer of Malice," he murmurs. “Your... Pet needs to be trained better."

'Ghirahim acts as he wishes so long as he follows orders', Link signs as the Yiga master straightens up. 'I have work for your people'.

"And we shall carry out your will, my lord."

Link smiles. 'The crown prince travels to the winter palace', he signs. 'Alone'.

A grin creeps across Tehga's face. "Unwise, for a boy as important as him. When?"

"Tomorrow," Link rasps.

Silence, as Tehga blinks disbelievingly.

"This gives us barely any time to prepare!" he finally protests, and Ghirahim stands up with a snarl.

"You are lucky to get this much warning!" He snaps. "You should be grateful for this opportunity. A chance to do my master's bidding. You worship the Malice, do you not?"

"My clan does," Tehga says with a sneer, "but I imagine you spend more time on your knees for it."

"How dare you! You're nothing but a lowly soldier! I am his-"

"You're his whore." Tehga spits on the rug he's standing on. "The mighty blade of the Demon King, reduced to nothing but a couple of holes to fuck."

"I should cut you down where you stand for such disrespect-"

"Enough," Link rasps, getting the attention of both of them and switching to sign. 'Tehga will ready his clan to pursue the prince'.

The Yiga master bows, and Link turns to Ghirahim and signs, 'You will stop responding to his barbs'.

Ghirahim grumbles out a, "Yes, master," and leans against the wall again, arms crossed and sulking.

The rest of the meeting passes without incident, Ghirahim continuing to sulk through most of it. Link pays this no mind, assuming the demon is nursing his wounded pride as rebukes tend to make him do, until the Yiga master leaves and the two remaining head to Link's bedchambers.

"Master... A word, if I may?" Ghirahim murmurs as the door closes with a click, and Link gives him a confused look.

'Something wrong', he signs, the demon pursing his lips and furrowing his brow as he thinks on what to say.

"I just... Wonder about what he said," Ghirahim sighs eventually. "You know I love you, master, with every fibre of my being, I am yours in body and soul, but... Sometimes it does seem that you only see me as a pretty face and a hole to fuck. I wouldn't blame you, of course, I am physically perfect and I'm sure my cunt feels wonderful, but I am first and foremost a sword. And so far I have been treated as... As arm candy, and a body to warm your bed."

Link reaches up to cup his cheek and wipe away a tear that had crept down his face, taking some eyeliner with it. 'I'm sorry for giving that impression', he signs. 'Now everything is in motion you should have more opportunities to fulfill your true role'.

"Good," Ghirahim says, a little smile on his face that Link matches. "Hm... Especially since I've found my little sister's wielder."

Link freezes, and rasps, "What?"