“Well, doctor, what’s going on? Is Lord Jabu-Jabu going to make it?”
The doctor didn’t answer King Zora’s question right away; instead he continued to feel and touch Lord Jabu-Jabu’s facial “sensitive spots,” just to make sure his analysis of the deity wasn’t incorrect. Ever since the god’s strange fit of discomfort, he wasn’t even sure what to think anymore.
Behind him, practically the entire Zora nation awaited the answer to King Zora’s question. Almost two-thirds of the platform was filled completely with standing, anxious Zoras, and the unlucky ones were shoved together in the tunnel, only able to hear the news through word-of-mouth. King Zora himself was seated upon the edge of the platform, his tiny feet dangling in the water and his head straining to turn around to face the silent Zora examining Lord Jabu-Jabu.
Every available pair of eyes was on the doctor as he made his final examinations of the fish god. Every breath was held when the doctor climbed down Lord Jabu-Jabu’s face and quietly found a place upon the platform where he could face the anxious Zoras. All ears strained to hear as the doctor finally answered King Zora’s question.
“My friends, ladies, and gentlemen, before I begin, I have to say this first. When Lord Jabu-Jabu was first stricken with his unknown ailment, there was nothing I could do to help him. His condition deteriorated every day, and it was an almost certainty he would die. In fact, I sadly anticipated his departure from this world sometime within the next several hours.
“With this in mind, I can now give my diagnosis. I ran as many tests as I could and as accurately as possible. The results I got were so astonishing I had to perform some of them again to make sure I hadn’t done anything wrong. But all tests gave me the same results. And the final conclusion is…nothing short of a miracle.
“My fellow Zoras, I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that Lord Jabu-Jabu…is going to live.”
When the doctor proudly proclaimed these words, the Zoras didn’t give him time for a breather before they burst into wild applause and cheering. As the news spread down the tunnel and through the entire population of Zora’s Domain, the explosion of joyous cheer only grew louder and louder until it echoed like a distant thunder across the nearby land.
As if joining in his people in celebration, Lord Jabu-Jabu grunted a familiar and satisfied groan and also served the purpose of letting the Zoras know he was all right…
As he lay there in darkness, Link was forced to relive what he had just done. He watched everything clearly, from the moment he started to enjoy harming the Barinade to when he fainted from exhaustion and disbelief. He could even feel the heat of his sword when he used Din’s Fire to ignite its blade like a tongue of fire.
By the Three Goddesses, what was wrong with him? After the first time, he swore he would never become that dark, sinister person again. But despite his decision and his own self, he had still become an uncaring, uncontrolled, sadistic…he didn’t even know what he had become! It was too horrifying to describe with words.
There was only one question on his mind: why? Why had he become that terrifying being again? What was the connection between the first time and this time? Besides the fact he faced some kind of horrific creatures, he couldn’t find any relationship. Why couldn’t he be the Link who had fought Gohma, the Link who had apologized to the monster before he killed it?
Then again, there was nothing telling him to become that Link. He felt no urge, no desire, and no yearning to be that Link again. But why? Could it be…he became insane because he wanted to? Was he becoming someone who wanted to kill? And was he merely hiding from his true self?
If this was the reward for helping Princess Zelda, he wanted no part of it!
“I want to go home! Please, Saria, help me! I want to go home! I want to end this madness! I just want to go home and return to what I was! Please, Saria, if you can hear me, if you can hear me without the ocarina, please! Help me! I beg of you, help me! Help me, Saria, help me…!”
The screams in his mind bounced back and forth until they faded slowly like a distant echo. As they dwindled, Link could hear another voice replacing it…no, it was more than one voice. He was sure he could hear at least two voices speaking. One was vaguely familiar, and the other was very familiar. He could still see nothing but darkness, but he tried to open his eyes, which proved to be quite a feat.
When he finally managed to open them, he found himself staring at two other pair of eyes. The first pair was too small to really see, but he knew Navi was looking at him. What else would she be looking at right now? The second pair was attached to the Zora princess, who was crouched on her hands and knees so her face was level with his. And despite a bit of blur in his vision, Link could make out a mixture of worry and relief within Ruto’s eyes.
“Link…” the Zora muttered softly. “You’re awake. Thank the Three Goddesses.”
“How are you feeling?” Navi asked. “Are you…all right?”
Link was sure Navi wanted to ask, “Are you sane?” But he kept that to himself as he forced himself into a sitting position so he could massage the headache he was feeling in the back of his neck. As he rubbed the sensitive on in his head, he looked around the room to see what had happened during his blackout.
The room was a mess; there was no better description. Around the chamber lay familiar green ooze mixed with puddles of other assorted bodily juices. Mixed in with these fluids were pieces and scraps of pink flesh that lay like dead leaves on the forest floor. Link suspected what these were the remains of, but his suspicions were confirmed when his eyes found a purple tentacle stretched out like a dead snake within arm’s length of him.
The Barinade was dead, all right, and it didn’t take him long to recall how it had died. It must’ve exploded after he had pumped Din’s Fire throughout its fleshy body. As if in response to the memory, his mind triggered another headache…
“Link, what’s wrong?” Ruto suddenly asked. “Are you hurt? Is it bleeding there? Do you need a medicine fish?”
“No, no, I’m fine, thanks,” answered Link, but he knew he was far from fine.
“Well, I’m not sure about that,” Navi said, as if reading the Kokiri’s mind. “You look pale right now, and judging by the way you acted before you fell unconscious, that fit was a lot worse than what you did the first time to those Lizalfos.”
“Yes, yes, I know, Navi. I…” Link stopped. His eyes widened in shock. When did Navi know about that? When did she learn about his first fit of insanity? He didn’t remember telling her before. “Navi…you know?”
Navi sighed deeply yet softly. “Of course I know. Malatite told me while you were out cold after defeating King Dodongo. I knew something had killed those two Lizalfos, but never did I think it would be you. Sure, you killed Gohma, but Gohma wasn’t a trained killer like those beasts. I’m pretty sure Kaepora Gaebora knows as well. Malatite and I decided not to tell you I knew so as not to let you remember it. We figured if you remembered, you might return to that state again. But I guess you don’t have to remember to become…well, unstable.”
“You mean insane, don’t you?” Link corrected.
“I don’t like that word. If you really were insane, you’d be out of control for a much longer period of time. You’ve only experienced this explosive nature twice, and I’m sure there’s an explanation behind it. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, Link, but maybe after we take the Spiritual Stones to Princess Zelda, she can help us. It’s the least she can do for sending us on this crazy journey.”
Link had to hand it to Navi; she might be a little irritable at times, but when things turned serious she knew what to say. Still, did he really want Princess Zelda’s help? With all the resources at her disposal, she might find a way to help him, but did he really want the help of the person who had sent him on this senseless quest in the first place…?
“Um…excuse me.” It was Princess Ruto. “I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but I’d still like to know if you’re okay, Link. That stunt you pulled practically scared me half-to-death. What exactly did you do to that Barinade…and how did you manage to do those strange things?”
Link exchanged a worried glance with Navi. “Navi…should I…?”
“I don’t know,” the fairy answered. “It won’t do any harm, I guess, but then again, she might not like what you have to say. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not to tell her.”
“Gee, thanks,” Link muttered under his breath, but inside he knew the decision of telling Ruto – or, for that matter, anyone – about his…instability, as Navi called it. He had to decide; should he or should he not tell the Zora princess? Should he or shouldn’t he reveal to her his volatility?
It took him less than a few minutes to decide. “Princess Ruto, there’s something I need to tell you…”
With those words starting his confession, Link poured out his heart to the Zora princess. He didn’t spend a great deal about the trials and tribulations of his quest, but he mentioned the bits that dealt with his admission. He told her how he had entered the Dodongo’s Cavern to help the Gorons but then ended up slaying two Lizalfos in sadistic ways. He mentioned how the mysterious power had awoken within him when he faced King Dodongo and how he didn’t know what it was. He then finally informed her that he had lost it again during his battle with Barinade, and that even though he had somehow learned to control those bizarre abilities, he didn’t know how he was able to perform or even why he was able to learn them. During his confession, he emphasized his instability and made sure Ruto understood just how…terrifying he was when he was in one of those fits.
As he neared the end of his speech, Link wondered why he was telling it to Princess Ruto, of all people. He didn’t even mention any of this to Malon, and yet he was revealing his horrible secret to a Zora he hardly knew. He didn’t even know if he liked Ruto, after the way she had acted towards him….
Come to think of it, what had happened to that Ruto? The Ruto who was listening to his story was a kind, caring Ruto, a Ruto who actually seemed to care about him and his troubles. Was this even the same Ruto he had met back at Lord Jabu-Jabu’s stomach? He didn’t even know anymore…
“That’s…awful,” Ruto said when Link finished his confession. “I had no idea you had those kinds of problems. If there were anything I could do…I’d help. And I won’t hold what you did against you. That Barinade would’ve died anyway. I feel sorry for you, Link. I really do.”
For some strange reason, Link believed her.
“Now,” Ruto continued as she made herself comfortable, “I’d like to present…my own confession, if I may.”
Link blinked in surprise. “Your own confession? What do you have to confess?”
“Just this,” Ruto uttered before lowering her eyes. “I’m…I’m…sorry for how I acted earlier. The way I acted…I acted like that because I felt that was the right way to act.”
“The right way to act?” Navi inquired. “What in the name of the Three Goddesses are you talking about?”
“When I was young,” Ruto answered, “much younger than I am right now, my mother passed away. She left me the sacred Zora’s Sapphire, but unfortunately she didn’t leave me the ways of how to be a princess. I had no one to teach me how to act or anything, and my father never seemed to have the time to help me. When I reached a certain age, an idea suddenly occurred to me that to be a member of a royal family meant you had to be all-powerful and imposing. To this day, I still don’t know how that idea came to me, but for some reason I followed that idea from then on.
“It didn’t take me long to get used to being proud and overconfident. Everyone seemed to think it was a ‘phase’ or something, but I believed it was how a princess was supposed to act. I did what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it, and if someone tried to stop me I simply used my title as princess to get away with it. Eventually, I couldn’t help myself; I had become, at least partially, that person I believed what a princess was supposed to be.”
Ruto snickered softly. “Funny thing is, despite how I acted, there was always a small part of me that told me it wasn’t right. There was a part of me that kept telling me not to act like that, to just be myself. But I always resisted; I wanted to maintain the facade I had built up, wanted to keep the personality that I thought was the correct one. On occasion I did leave that proud and arrogant behavior behind, but it would always return.
“And then I met you.”
Link rubbed his eyes; they must’ve been seeing things. Was that a tear that just slid down her face?
“Believe it or not, you were the first person to actually tell me you didn’t like how I acted. I knew the Zoras didn’t like it, but they didn’t say anything about it. They just accepted it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. My people can be so gullible sometimes.”
“Tell me about it,” Link thought with a wince as he remembered his own experiences with the oddball Zoras.
“When you knocked me to the ground back at the heart,” Ruto continued, “something snapped inside of me, as if something said to me, ‘I told you so.’ The fact that I didn’t have to keep up that awful charade slapped me in the face harder than you did. The person I wanted to be…I didn’t want to be her anymore. I wanted that person gone. All I wanted to be…was myself.”
Ruto then raised her eyes again. “And I have you to thank for that. It’ll take me a while to truly get rid of that horrible person, but you’ve…shown me that person isn’t who I’m meant to be. Thank you, Link. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome…I suppose,” Link said with an uneasy smile before he thought, “Well, at least that explains your behavior. Just a pity my case isn’t as easy as yours…”
“I also have another confession to make,” Ruto said suddenly.
“Oh, and what’s that?” Link asked.
Ruto suddenly flashed a smile and tilted her head. Almost immediately Link felt his stomach lurch into an uncomfortable feeling. Where had he seen this behavior before…?
“When you jumped in front of me to save me from that electrical blast, you…kind of impressed me.”
Oh, no! Now he remembered! This was what girls did when they wanted to get a boy’s attention! It was slightly different from the way Saria and Malon had done it, but all the signs were there. But why, of all people, was Princess Ruto pulling that act on him?
Link’s face grew red with uneasiness, and all he could do was repeat Ruto’s words. “K…k…kind of imp…p…press…ss…ed you?”
Unforunately for Link, Ruto took the Kokiri’s words another way. She rolled her eyes in a “girl-like” way and uttered, “Well, okay. You really impressed me. Is that better?”
“I…wouldn’t kn...kn…know,” Link thought. He couldn’t even think without stuttering!
“I mean,” Ruto resumed as she cocked her head to the side and widened her smile on one side of her mouth, “it wasn’t just you saving my life. It was everything about your fight with that Barinade. You saving my life, using those awesome powers of yours…I mean, I can easily forget about whatever you said about being unstable. You just flat-out impressed me with your courage and resolve…”
“Please…R…R…Ruto…you’re sc…sc…scaring…me…” Link thought as he started to shiver.
As if suspecting Link’s vulnerability, Ruto’s smile widened. “Did I ever tell you how handsome you were…?”
“Princess Ruto, we need something from you.”
Navi’s interruption of that uncomfortable moment made Ruto turn to face the fairy in frustration and Link sigh in endless relief. So much sweat had trickled down Link’s shirt he could feel it stick to his skin as if the air were muggy.
“Need something from me?” Ruto asked Navi in puzzlement. “What do you mean by that?”
“Exactly what I said,” Navi replied. “We came to Zora’s Domain to fetch something, and we heard that you had it…”
“Oh, yes, now I remember,” Ruto interrupted as she stood up. “Link mentioned that he had come for something. I guess now’s a good a time as any. Tell me, Link, what is it you need from me? For the brave deed you’ve done today, I’ll grant you anything in my power. Tell me and I’ll give it to you.”
As Link stood up and flapped the collar of his shirt to allow against his skin, Link told the princess what he had come for.
The response was probably what Link had expected, but he still couldn’t bear watching it. Ruto’s happy and cheerful face fell into a surprised and confused facade. “You…you want the Zora’s Sapphire? You came here to get…my mother’s last gift to me?”
Ruto held the stunned look on her face for a moment longer before she finally muttered, “I see.”
Link quickly spoke up. “Princess Ruto, I’m sure that that stone is very precious to you. You searching for it inside Lord Jabu-Jabu just proves it. But you have no idea how important it is that I get that stone. If I don’t get it, something really bad could happen sometime soon. I’d tell you about it, but I don’t know myself. All I know is that it’s very important that I get that stone. I promise I’ll return it once…”
Ruto suddenly held up a hand and Link stopped talking instantly. Ruto then reached into her satchel with her other hand and pulled out the Spiritual Stone. The gem glistened as brightly as ever in the light of the room – Link guessed that with the Barinade gone, the blood nutrients could give off light again in the chamber.
“You…didn’t take the stone from me, did you?” Ruto asked.
“Well, no,” Link answered. “I wanted you to give it to me first. I wouldn’t have been right to just take it from you.”
Ruto fingered the stone in her hands for a moment before saying, “Link…I’ll think about your request. I’ll give you my answer sometime after we’ve left Lord Jabu-Jabu. If it’s really that important, I must give this some serious thought. Can you wait until then?”
“I guess I can.”
“Then it’s settled. Let’s go.” With those words, Ruto returned the stone to her satchel. “If we hurry we can get out of here before Lord Jabu-Jabu’s digestive system becomes fully operational.”
“Fine by me,” Link started when he realized something. “But what about pieces of the Barinade? Are we just going to leave them here?”
“Of course. They’ll be carried away when digested food comes down this way. It might feel a little uncomfortable, but Lord Jabu-Jabu will be fine. And with the Barinade gone, our god can finally get the nutrients he needed.”
“I still don’t know what a Barinade is. Can you tell me what it that thing really was?”
“Sure, but I’ll tell you on the way out.”
“Okay, okay. By the way, how are we getting out of here? Through the nose…?”
“No, that’s too far away. There’s an even closer exit through the digestive system.”
“What, the mouth?”
“Nope. The other exit.”
“What other exit…oh. That other exit.”
As he started to follow Ruto towards the second valve door he had seen earlier, Link started to feel sick. He couldn’t believe what he was about to do…
Dusk. This was the time of day that most people feared, but Ganondorf loved the night. He always felt at home in its cloaking shadows and dark shades, probably because it reflected what was inside his cold heart. The darkness also gave him time to reflect, reflect upon his kingdom, his desires, his plans, and himself. Most of the time he though about himself: what he had once been, what he was, and what he will become.
He knew what he was; he wasn’t stupid. He knew what people thought about his kind of behavior and why they didn’t like it. He also knew why he acted the way he did and why he could never revert to that person he had once been. That person he once admired, but one day realized was pathetic, weak-minded and unfit to lead the Gerudo.
That person was gone; all that was left was the person he was now: the King of Thieves, Ganondorf.
Of course, he preferred the nights back at the Gerudo Valley, where there weren’t any house lights of a city to brighten anything. As he rode his mighty steed Darkstorm down the lighted streets of Hyrule Castle New City, Ganondorf made a mental note to enforce strict blackout rules once he ruled this pitiful kingdom. He needed his time to think; even men with hearts as black as his own needed time to think.
The King of the Gerudo journeyed as fast as he could, pushing the horse as far as its limits would carry it; he wanted to get this meeting over and done with as soon as possible. The invasion of Hyrule was in three days, and he had to make sure everything was ready. If everything weren’t ready, then he would show some unlucky Gerudo girl just how angry he could get.
Just like he did with Nabooru…
Ganondorf pulled Darkstorm’s reigns to bring the horse to a halt when they reached the outer city wall. By now, the drawbridge was closed to ward off thieves and nighttime creatures, and guards were patrolling the walls high above him. But Ganondorf knew how easy it was to get past the city walls; he had found countless flaws in the outer wall protection and he would use those flaws to his advantage in three days time.
Right now, he just had to find the contact he had sent earlier today…
“My king Ganondorf, over here.”
The King of Thieves turned around in answer of the whisper and saw something move in an alley between two buildings. It had to be his contact. After using the reigns to turn Darkstorm around, Ganondorf trotted over to the alley and stopped just shy of arm’s length from the buildings.
“Who’s there?” Ganondorf called out softly. “Tell me correctly or I’ll slit your throat.”
“I am but a lowly servant of the soon-to-be glorious King of Hyrule, who will take what is rightfully his and rule this world as he sees fit.”
Ganondorf smirked. The Gerudo girl had said everything perfectly, right down to emphases and accents. “Come out here and report what you have to say,” Ganondorf ordered.
“My king, I think it will be better if you step into this alley with me. The outer wall patrols have been bolstered for some reason, and it’s possible you could be seen.”
When the woman said that, Ganondorf wanted to lash out at her for disobeying him and ordering him around, but he didn’t want to raise any ruckus and alert any nearby patrols. Despite how badly he wanted to slap the woman in the face, Ganondorf muttered through his teeth, “If I must.” He then stepped into the shadowy alleyway to join his contact.
Although it was dark, Ganondorf could faintly make out the Gerudo woman by the light of the moon. She was about Ganondorf’s height and dressed in an ugly, brown tunic. A bulky hood covered her head and her hands were hidden within the tunic’s large sleeves. Ganondorf couldn’t make out her face but he didn’t really care about seeing the face of his contact.
“Are we alone? Are we safe from prying eyes and ears?”
“Yes, my king.”
“Well, then, what have you to report? Did that wench I sent earlier get the message through?” the King of Thieves demanded.
“Yes, my king. She has done what she was told. Every available solider is preparing for the attack, and preparations will be complete within two days at most. When you go to lead the attack, they will be ready for your command.”
Ganondorf nodded in satisfaction but refused to smile. “Excellent. Just as I had planned. And what of the wench? Why did she not return after giving the message?”
“She told me you hadn’t given her orders to return after giving the message to the soldiers, so she stayed at the camp to help prepare for the coming invasion.”
“She did, eh?” Ganondorf snarled. “Well, that wench will have to be punished when this is all over. She should know better.”
What Ganondorf didn’t say was that his fears were relieved. When the servant hadn’t returned, he had grown worried, worried not about the servant’s safety but worried about the information he had given her. So just a few hours ago he had sent a second servant to check up on things and had given her strict instructions when and where to meet him later on – he needed privacy from possible spies, after all.
Luckily for him, he had nothing to worry about now. Everything was in place; Hyrule would soon be his for the taking.
“Very well, then. I have another task for you to complete. I want you to return to the camp and see to it that that wench is severely punished. Give her ten lashings with the foxtails whip and isolate her until I arrive…and make sure she is starved but doesn’t die. I shall be the one to give her the final piece of torture.”
What Ganondorf didn’t say was what that final piece of torture was: a single night as his personal harlot. He had threatened the servant with the warning before, and now he was going to carry it out. Ganondorf knew just how to make people suffer; after bleeding from the whip lashings and weakening from the isolation, the girl would have no strength to endure what he had planned for her. She would survive only one night with him, but one night was enough. He wanted to hear her screams of pain and watch the life drain from her eyes as she died.
If he let her live, she wouldn’t ever make him worry like this again. If she died…well, what did he care if she died?
“And when you return, I want you to…”
“My king,” the woman suddenly interrupted, “I think it would be best if I remain at the camp. With all the preparations going on for the invasion, it might be possible for that Gerudo to die unattended. Since I’m sure you’d like as many soldiers as possible for the invasion, I can watch her and make sure she remains alive for when you are ready to deal with her.”
Ganondorf snapped his teeth together. This was the second time this Gerudo had disobeyed him; she even had the nerve to interrupt him! But as much as he wanted to slap her for her waywardness, he couldn’t help but see the truth behind her words. Besides, he might create unwanted attention…
“Very well,” he managed through his clenched teeth. “You may return to the campsite and oversee that wench. But if you fail, I swear I will give you exactly what I plan to give her.”
“I will not fail you, my king,” the woman stated with a formal bow.
Ganondorf didn’t reply to that statement but instead turned around and stormed out of the alleyway. He stomped his way towards Darkstorm – the horse wouldn’t dare run away from him – and grabbed the beast’s reigns. The King of Thieves then leaped onto the horse’s back, turned around, and began his journey back to Hyrule Castle…
Impa waited until the sound of Ganondorf’s horse’s hooves against the cobbled streets were nothing more than distant echoes before she finally removed the hood from her face and breathed a sigh of relief. She then waited a moment longer before she turned to the other side of the alley and softly called out, “Okay, princess, you can come out now.”
An instant later, the delicate figure of Princess Zelda, dressed in a smaller yet similar coarse tunic as Impa’s, stepped out from behind a pile of crates sitting a stone’s throw from where Impa had just spoken with the evil Gerudo king. Even though it was dark, Impa could tell Zelda wasn’t pleased with what she had heard.
“He’s a cruel man, isn’t he?” was all Zelda could say as she shuffled her way to her guardian.
“He’s a crow among doves, princess,” Impa replied. “Thankfully, you’ll never have the chance to know of what I learned during my interrogation of his servants. It would make your blood run cold.”
Zelda sighed heavily, both in relief and satisfaction. It was only half a day since her vow to help Link any way she could and already she was keeping her promise. After making that promise, she had gone to Impa to find out what she could do, only to learn Impa was already a step ahead of her. Apparently, after Zelda’s encounter with Ganondorf at the Temple of Time, Impa had kept a close and watchful eye on the King of Thieves, waiting for him to make some kind of move.
She made her own move when Ganondorf had sent one of his servants out of the palace; she waited for the servant to return from whatever errand Ganondorf had sent her on and then promptly seized her. Unfortunately, Impa hadn’t anticipated the resolve and doggedness of the Gerudo woman, and it took a lot of coaxing and a bit of mild torture to finally get her to talk. The Gerudo had told Impa everything Ganondorf had told her, only to break down at the end in fear of her life. No amount of assurance could’ve calmed the servant down; she truly believed the King of Thieves was going to kill her.
Then Zelda had showed up, and Impa told the princess all she knew. Zelda had demanded to help her guardian when Impa had learned of Ganondorf sending yet another servant woman out on an errand. Deciding not to wait this time, Impa had jumped the woman before she left the city walls, and luckily it didn’t take long for this servant to talk. Of course, they too late realized their mistake; who was going to meet with Ganondorf later that night? Impa had come up with the idea of dressing up at the last minute; thank the Three Goddesses, it worked beautifully.
“So now what are we going to do?” Zelda asked. “We know of his plans now, and we have two witnesses to testify against him. I say we tell my father and arrest that brute immediately…”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple, princess,” Impa interrupted.
“What? Why not?”
“The first servant girl told me she had informed the Gerudo camped outside of the invasion Ganondorf is planning. Those Gerudo are what’s holding us back. If we arrest Ganondorf, one of his servants will most likely head out and inform the invasion force of his capture. That could prompt the entire Gerudo nation attacking Hyrule Castle to get their king back, which could result in needless bloodshed.”
“But then why don’t we search for and capture that invasion force before we arrest…?”
Imap shook her head. “Ganondorf would notice; he’s not stupid. Who knows what he’d do if he suspected the king of Hyrule knew of his plans?”
“Then what can we do?”
“I don’t know, but we must think of something. We only have three days to figure out what to do. Thankfully, we know what Ganondorf is planning, so it’ll be easier to stop him. I only wish your father were here to listen to the King of Thieves’ words with his own ears.”
“Same here,” Zelda admitted.
But Zelda wasn’t going to let that become any kind of a problem. Now that she knew of Ganondorf’s plans, the King of the Gerudo was vulnerable to his own pride and arrogance. With this information, she will figure out a way to use this information against Ganondorf, and she will figure out a way to convince her father of Ganondorf’s lies. She will figure out a way to save Hyrule from the evil King of Thieves’ rule. Somehow, she will.
She will do it for Hyrule, for her family, for her people, for herself, and for Link…
Link never thought he’d be crawling through the…well, end of a creature’s digestive tract. If he had heard of such a thing before this moment, he would’ve thought it ridiculous and absolutely sickening. Well, now he was about to go through with it, and while he didn’t think of it as ridiculous he did think of it as…
Link, are you ready for this?” Ruto suddenly interrupted.
Cringing his mouth, Link nodded his head in acknowledgement…and then shook it in uncertainty.
“That’s understandable,” Ruto uttered. “But don’t worry, I’ve done this many times. Once we enter this valve, all we have to do is irritate the muscles enough for Lord Jabu-Jabu to open his…well, you know, digestive cavity. Then we get jump into the water and swim to the surface of the lake. That’s all there is to it.”
“Easy for you to say,” Link thought uneasily. “You’ve done this before.”
“I can hold your hand if you’re nervous,” Ruto offered as she outstretched her left hand.
Without thinking, Link reached out with his right arm and grabbed the princess’ hand. “That would be great, thank you.”
Raising her eyebrows in confusion, Ruto muttered, “Okay, then. We’ll go inside on my mark. Ready?”
“Just a minute. Navi, are you sure you’ll be okay under there?”
“I’ll be all right,” a frail voice echoed from underneath his hat. “A little water won’t hurt me. Just make sure your hat doesn’t come off.”
“Great,” Link replied back before turning his attention back to Ruto. “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
“Okay, on my mark,” Ruto said. She then started to pump her body up and down in rhythm with her counting. “One…two…three! Go!”
On the count of three, Ruto touched the valve door with her right hand and the door flew open into the final chamber of the fish god’s digestive system. She then ran in like the wind, jumping up and down upon the soft floor to irritate the muscles, with Link in close tow behind her.
It was a lot darker in the chamber than in the rest of the deity’s body, but Link didn’t know that. He was spending too much time thanking the Three Goddesses that his eyes were closed as Ruto continued to aggravate the muscles of the last part of the digestive system…
“My, this is peculiar.”
Most of the Zoras didn’t hear the doctor say those words; they were too busy celebrating the curing of their god to really care. Lizel, however, overheard the doctor speak and immediately stopped his own private gala. “What, doctor? What’s peculiar? Is something wrong?”
“No, not really,” the doctor replied as he faced the fish god. “It’s just that something is going on with Lord Jabu-Jabu, as if he’s doing something against his will. By the looks of things, I’d say he is relieving himself right now, but he doesn’t appear to feel very comfortable about it.”
As if to confirm the doctor’s analysis, the deity released a soft yet scratchy groan. A few Zoras did halt their celebration when they heard the moan, but they continued rejoicing immediately afterwards.
“Maybe it’s a side-effect of his illness,” Lizel offered as an explanation. “Maybe his illness had to do with his digestive system and he’s simply getting rid of…well, you know…”
“That’s possible,” the doctor admitted, “but this seems a little different. I’ll have to go and examine the right areas to make sure. I might as well do it now, when it’s affecting him and he’s feeling. I’ll be back shortly…”
“Wait, doctor, I’ll come with you.”
“Just don’t think about it! Don’t think about it! You don’t have to think about it…what’s that I’m stepping on…? No, don’t think about it! It’s not worth thinking about…oh, man, it feels so soft…no, don’t! Just let Ruto do the work for you! She’ll lead you…yes; let her lead you…she’s seen this before. You don’t have to. You don’t! You don’t…great, I almost slipped! Jus be glad you didn’t…wait; I think something’s happening.
“What’s going on? What’s that sound? Where’s it coming from…? Whoa! That’s cold! And wet! Hey, it must be the water! The…opening must have opened! Yes, we’re nearly out of here! Almost out of this place…man, what’s that? Is it what I think it is…? No! Don’t even think about it! It’s not worth losing what’s left in your stomach! Come on, Ruto; get us out of here! Please, just get us out of here…”
“Oh, the water’s nearly up to my neck! I might have to open my eyes so I can know where I’m going…or not! I don’t want to look at where I am…something just brushed my leg! Ack, get me out of here!
“Okay, it’s about to go over my head! I’ll have to hold my breath! Here we go! One, two, three…there! Man, this water’s cold! Am I moving? I can’t tell. At least I’m still holding onto Ruto’s hand…wait, I’m not! Oh, great! Now I don’t know where I am! Am I still in that place or outside? I’ll have to open my eyes…no…yes…no…yes…no…yes! No! Yes! No! Yes! No, you’re not going to lose your lunch! Yes, or your going to die!
“Aw, great! I have no choice! Here we go…!”
Expecting to see the most nauseating thing he had ever seen in his life, Link opened his eyes. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the blurry vision with the water pushing against his eyes, but when they did adjust he saw to his relief that he wasn’t inside the chamber he refused to see. He was swimming in a large collection of water, right next to the familiar gray hide of Lord Jabu-Jabu.
He was outside!
He would’ve sighed with relief, but he didn’t want to lose his held breath. Deciding to get to the surface quickly, Link looked around for the direction to go. To his utter horror, he couldn’t find it. He realized with shock that it was nighttime; there was only enough light from the surface for him to see everything around him. There was not enough light for him to find the direction of the surface!
“No! No! No!”
Link wanted to scream those words, but he tried to keep his breath from escaping. But already he could feel pain in his chest and his lungs burning. His muscles started to sting, as if thousands of swords were piercing his skin, and the water was trying to force itself into his lungs through his nose. If he didn’t find the surface quickly, he was going to die. He had to do something…anything…
No choice. He was going to drown anyway…
He had no idea if screams could be heard in water, but he sure did hope so. But he had not time to pray on that; right now he had to concentrate on trying not to breathe in the water. He couldn’t help notice how different the pains were between holding a breath and keeping a breath from being drawn. Instead of a fire burning within his chest, now it felt like a fierce wind trying to push his lungs outward against the water pressure.
Any minute now, he was going to give in and inhale nothing but cold, stinging liquid, which will bring his life to an end…
Suddenly he felt something cold and clammy grab his arm. In a panic he nearly gasped, but he managed to prevent himself from doing so and turned to whatever was touching him. To his complete relief, it was Ruto. The Zora princess wasted no time in yanking Link in her direction and carrying him away with her, presumably toward the surface.
With each kick Link made to keep up with the nimble Ruto, his airless lungs were getting more and more difficult to keep under control. If he didn’t take in air soon, he would explode from the pain. And the pressure of the water against his eyes due to his speed left him unable to make anything out except a hazy silhouette of Ruto.
“Hurry, Ruto…” Link pleaded. “Hurry…please…”
The surface! He had broken it! Without a second thought, Link breathed in so heavily he felt he took in enough air to fill his lungs three times over. And when he exhaled the stale air from his lungs, he breathed in more air. It took him an instant to start a cycle of rapid yet powerful gasps to nourish his poor lungs. He occasionally had to cough to get some water out of his w\indpipe, but he hardly noticed when he did.
When he finally managed to get his breathing under control, he looked around with his eyes that felt like they had been through hot air laced with grains of sand.
Just as he had thought, it was nighttime, and just as he had thought, there was barely enough light from the sun and partially complete moon to let him see. It was a miracle he had been able to see at all in that murky water. The giant gray body of Lord Jabu-Jabu floated right next to him, and every else there was nothing but water stretching as far as he could see; he couldn’t even see land in the inky darkness.
Swimming to his right was Ruto, who had an expression of relief and worry on her face. “Link, are you all right? I thought you were right behind me after I let go of your hand, but when I heard your scream, I…I’m so sorry if I caused…”
“No, no, it’s not your fault,” Link admitted as he coughed the last few droplets from his throat. “My eyes were closed, so I couldn’t have seen you if I wanted to.”
Ruto’s eyes squinted. “Oh, is that it, huh? Well, you’ll have to be a little more considerate from now on, because I’m certainly not going to do all the work for you.”
That sounded more like the Ruto that Link had first met, but not as unpleasant. She did say it would take a while to get rid of that charade, but he could already see the changes take shape. Who knows, she might even grow into Princess Zelda or even Saria…
“In any case, I’m just glad to be back in the water,” Ruto stated with a smile before she threw her body back into the lake with a loud splash. “It’s been a while since I’ve felt it cool my skin, and it really feels good right now…”
“By Nayru’s Love, is that you, Princess Ruto?”
Both Link and Ruto turned to find two adult Zoras swimming just a stone’s throw from them, and Link thought he recognized one of them. His suspicions were confirmed when that Zora gaped in amazement and cried,
“I don’t believe it…Link, is that really you?”
Link was being put on trial, of all things.
The tribunal was being held in King Zora’s throne room, with King Zora as the judge, of course. Link was standing upon the speaking podium with several guards positioned around him, backs facing inward. Zoras filled every available space against the walls of the chamber, and yet there was stony silence everywhere. But there was still a deafening ringing in Link’s ears that seemed to act like a foreboding bell of death…or whatever punishment he would be given.
Seated upon his throne was King Zora, and standing to his right was his daughter, Princess Ruto. Like every other Zora, the royal family was very quiet, but Ruto seemed to betray more emotion in her eyes. Link couldn’t tell what she was feeling, but he could almost guess what every other Zora was feeling.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, King Zora finally spoke up. “We are gathered here today to execute the trial of the young Kokiri known as Link, who has violated one of our most sacred laws: bearing witness to the sacred shrine of Lord Jabu-Jabu as an outsider. The punishment for such a crime is a grave one, and to administer it is not something I particularly wish to do. However, our laws forbid us from doing otherwise.”
The king then moved his enormous eyes to make eye contact with Link. “That is, unless you, the defendant, can find at least two Zoras to come forward and present testimony in your favor. If I find these testimonies favorable, you shall be cleared of all charges. However, since you are an outsider, you will not be allowed to choose those to testify. They must come forward under their own decision.”
With that, King Zora raised his eyes again. “Now, is there anyone who wishes to testify in favor of this young boy?”
Dead silence. Deciding not to move anything but his head, Link glanced around the room. He would be lucky if there were even one Zora to testify in his favor. All he could see, however, were blank faces and disinterested expressions on Zoras who would rather drown than say anything supportive for him…
“I will testify, my king,” a familiar voice suddenly uttered. An instant later, Lizel emerged from the surrounding Zora crowd and made his way to the area between the speaking podium and King Zora’s throne. The Zora cleared his throat before continuing, “My fellow Zoras, when I first met this young boy, I knew not what to think of him. He claimed to be an emissary from the King of Hyrule, and yet he defied our sacred laws by bearing witness to our sacred deity, Lord Jabu-Jabu. Such a crime is almost unspeakable and deserves nothing more than the horrifying punishment that comes with the crime.”
“Gee, you’re a big help, Lizel,” Link thought.
“However, when he made his case for his actions just moments before being swallowed by Lord Jabu-Jabu, I felt something in my heart go out to this poor young boy. He did what he did so he could help us Zoras – a people to whom he is an outsider – find our beloved princess. And behold, he has kept his word. Princess Ruto has returned to us, and I believe it is thanks to the efforts of this young boy. To punish him for such an act would be ludicrous. We must thank the boy named Link for doing what we may’ve never done. I believe in him, and I urge you all to as well. That is all I have to say. Thank you.”
As he ended, Lizel gave a formal bow to the king and princess before returning to his place in the crowd. There wasn’t even so much as a clap, let alone any kind of applause. The king waited for Lizel to return before he spoke again.
“Thank you for your words. That is one testimony in defense of the one called Link. Is there another who wishes to speak in favor of the outsider?”
Again, dead silence, this time even stiller than the last one. Link looked around again, feeling slightly more hopeful. But to his dismay, he saw something else in all the Zoras’ eyes: resolve not to give the outsider the satisfaction of another favorable testimony. The more he looked, the more his hopes sank. He wasn’t going to win this one. With any luck, the punishment would be a quick one…
The second speaker was quite a surprise for the Zoras, so surprising that they actually started to talk amongst themselves in whispers of disbelief. The speaker was none other than Princess Ruto, who seemed to stand taller than usual from atop her father’s waterfall throne.
Even King Zora was surprised. “You wish to speak in favor of this boy, Ruto?”
“Yes, father,” Ruto announced without looking the king in the eye.
“Well, if you wish. Here, let me help you get down so you may stand in the right spot…”
“No, I will give my testimony where I stand.”
Those words caused an even greater stir amidst the crowd. The king, surprised by his daughter’s attitude, uttered, “Ruto, what are you doing? You can’t…”
“I can and I will!” Ruto proclaimed. “And here’s why! Link doesn’t deserve to be stooped to your level!”
A unanimous gasp of shock rang through the chamber. King Zora quickly tried to calm Ruto down. “Ruto, what are you saying? Please, settle down and…”
“I won’t settle down!” Ruto screamed. “Link doesn’t deserve to bend to your rules! If he had, I wouldn’t be standing here right now! I’d probably be dead, eaten by the Barinade that was inside Lord Jabu-Jabu!”
The mention of the Barinade nearly sent the crowd into an uproar. As the king tried to calm everyone down, Link started to remember the conversation he had had with Ruto about the Barinade:
“So, what exactly is a Barinade?”
“It’s nothing more than a parasite, actually. Barinade are usually small creatures, about the size of a large fish. They tend to live off trees and very large water animals and don’t grow quite big. However, if they have access to a large amount of nutrients, they can grow to incredible sizes, just like the one you saw. And at that size, they can also spawn Bari, as you saw. They can be very dangerous creatures; even small, they can give off quite powerful electrical shocks.
“We have to be careful about Barinades, especially in our god’s pool. We try to make sure Lord Jabu-Jabu’s lake is completely free of them so one doesn’t get into his system. I’m still amazed that one managed to slip past the catchers.”
“Maybe it had a little help…”
“What was that?”
“Oh, nothing. Nothing.”
“…but how care there have been a Barinade inside Lord Jabu-Jabu?” King Zora asked Ruto, bringing Link’s attention back to the trial.
“You heard me! There was a Barinade inside our god! I don’t know how it got there, but it was there! And it would’ve killed me if it hadn’t been for Link. He saved my life back there. And if he had followed your stupid rules, he wouldn’t have been there to rescue me from those…I don’t even want to think about it anymore. All I know is that Link doesn’t deserve this. He should not be tried for something as noble and as brave as saving my life.”
The crowd started to murmur again, but Ruto didn’t give them a chance to say much.
“All I ask…no, I demand that you not give Link the punishment for the crime he committed. The life of a Zora is far more important than a wrongdoing against our god…that, by the way, Link saved! If Link hadn’t killed that Barinade, Lord Jabu-Jabu would not be with us today. And I’m sure the doctor would testify to that! So if you convict Link of this crime, that itself would be the crime!”
As she finished her rousing speech, the entire Zora nation leapt into applause. It didn’t take long for a chant of “Free Link! Free Link!” to start, and a few Zoras even tried to make it past the guards to get to Link. But Link was flabbergasted; did he just see what thought he saw? Did Ruto actually do something…like a princess?
It was hard to believe, but Ruto had undergone an amazing transformation. She had changed from a spoiled brat to a princess that almost equaled Princess Zelda. It was almost as if she had grown up within the span of a single day! But as much as he felt that was a good thing, he couldn’t help feel a little uneasy. He had seen this kind of thing before. Not necessarily the behavior, but the transformation, but where…?
Wait…wasn’t it Malon? Hadn’t she also done this kind of thing rather quickly?
Hadn’t she also…grown up…?
Finally, he was leaving. After a long, tiring quest, he was finally going back to Hyrule Castle New City, back to Princess Zelda and the end of his journey. Soon he would be back in the Lost Woods with his house, his friends, and best of all, with Saria. He had found it hard to believe it at first, but now he couldn’t stop thinking of anything else.
It was midday of the very next day after his mission to find Princess Ruto inside Lord Jabu-Jabu. Din’s Eye was high enough to be seen inside the long, narrow canyon through which the Zora’s River ran, and the faint sounds of birds could be heard echoing along the valley walls. Even the air smelled fresh, or at least it was a far cry from the blood-filled aromas of Lord Jabu-Jabu’s insides.
Link was just happy to feel the warm rays of the sun again as he readied the log raft he was prepared to use in traveling back to Hyrule Castle. It was in remarkably good condition, considering the Zoras claim they had only built it last night. The wooden craft, which was actually large enough to seat up to seven people comfortably, was already stocked with provisions and supplies for the long journey across the river. Thankfully, the Zoras recognized his dislike of raw fish and had spent some time collecting things that Hylians ate, including berries and shoots.
But despite all the supplies, Link still had one thing missing: the final Spiritual Stone.
He could still hear the gentle yet commanding voice of King Zora as he gave out the verdict at Link’s trial: “With both testimonies having been under my consideration, I have decided they are both favorable for the defendant’s case. Therefore, hereby decree that the Kokiri known as Link shall be acquitted of all charges pertaining to his crime. My dear boy, you are free.”
Link could also still remember the roar of applause that the crowd gave. It had been so loud that Link feared he went deaf after it had stopped. Thankfully, King Zora’s words after the ovation cleared that fear up:
“And now that you are cleared of all charges, you must perform the Rite of Thanks. Because you are an outsider, I will explain. The Rite of Thanks is where you must grant one favor to the ones who spoke in your favor. Whether the favor is big or small, it must be carried out. If you do not accept, you shall be given the punishment for your acquitted crimes.”
Lizel had been the first to approach Link. “Don’t worry, I don’t want anything big. All I want is for you to accept my thanks for saving Princess Ruto. In fact, it should be you asking for something from me. I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”
Then Ruto had approaching him. Even though he had had no idea what she would ask for, he still couldn’t believe what her request was. “I’d…like your bottle, please. That’s all I want.”
She had returned it to him an hour later through a servant, and there had been a message inside it. He could still remember, word for word, what she had wrote:
I’ll agree, but on one condition.
I will meet you at the end of the canyon after you’ve departed.
So now here he was, ready to set off for Hyrule Castle, not knowing whether or not he’ll get the third Spiritual Stone. But if he didn’t get it, at least he knew where it was; so then Princess Zelda might be able to convince Ruto of handing it over. Still, it would be better if he got a hold of it now. Time was of the essence, after all…
Link’s departure from Zora’s domain wasn’t anything too special. All he could remember was a large group of Zoras standing around him as he said his goodbyes to them all. King Zora couldn’t be there because of his inability to get through the tunnel, but he did send his gratitude for rescuing his daughter. Lizel was there, of course, and again he thanked Link for everything he had done.
Lizel also mentioned that Link was the best emissary he had ever seen, but this time Link didn’t cringe at that word; maybe he was too relieved to really care about something as stupid as that.
With all the goodbyes given, Link jumped onto his raft and allowed several Zoras the “honor” of pushing his raft into the river. Link continued to wave goodbye to the Zoras until they were hidden from view by the canyon walls.
And now here he was, waiting to reach the end of the gully so he could find out what Ruto meant by “on one condition.”
“Are you sure she’ll show?” Navi asked Link from his shoulder. “She saved you from that trial, but is she really that loyal…?”
“She’ll show, Navi,” Link assured. “I’m sure of it.”
The journey to the end of the gorge seemed to take forever, and when they finally reached it Link held his breath. He waited for some sign of the Zora princess to betray her presence, but he couldn’t see anything except a crystal clear river. He wondered if he should stop the raft and wait for her…or had she forgotten or couldn’t made it on time?
“Hmmm,” the fairy crooned. “I don’t see her, Link. Where is she…?”
“Don’t fret, I’m here.”
That familiar voice made Link and Navi turned around just in time to watch the graceful figure of Ruto climb from the lake and onto the raft. As she stood up to meet Link’s eye level, the water dripped from her slender body as if her skin were a kind of special coating. But it was her eyes that caught Link’s attention; they were so round, so wide, and so full of emotion that he couldn’t help but tell she was thinking about something important.
The two stared at each other for a moment before Link finally spoke. “So, Ruto…I assume you’re note was referring to the Spiritual Stone…”
“Yes, it was,” Ruto said before she held out her left hand and opened it, revealing the beautiful glisten of the Zora’s Sapphire in the midday sun. “But I’m sure you read my note, and you’ll remember it said I’ll give it to you on one condition.”
“I remember,” Link assured. “If that condition is to return it to you when I’m finished with it, I assure you I’ll do just that…”
“No, that’s not it,” Ruto interrupted as she lowered her eyes to look at the gemstone.
“Oh, then what is it?”
“Right before my mother died, she left me this stone to protect and keep. But she also told me this: I should only give this stone to the man who will become my future husband. By now, I could tell why she said that. The Zora’s Sapphire is a relic of beauty and honor, something that a marriage between two people should forever be. Giving this stone to the man who will become my husband will signify the purity we will seek upon wedlock, and it will be a bind that will never separate our love. Ever.”
Ruto then looked back up to face Link, who was by now starting to realize what Ruto was getting at. He didn’t need to look into her eyes to understand what she was asking.
“So Link, what I’m saying is…I will only give you this stone if you’ll be my future husband.”
Link started to feel the sweat cling to his shirt again. “Ruto…” he said, this time managing to control his stutter. “What are you talking about? How can I be your future husband? I’m not even a Zora! I…”
“I know you aren’t a Zora, Link, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I felt the differences between our races isn’t a hindrance.”
“But you hardly even know me! How can you ask me to be your husband when we barely even know each other?”
“I’ve only known you for a day, but already I feel like you’ve been a part of my life longer than that. You’ve truly changed me, and that’s enough for me. To me, you are the only one worthy of this honor. I know this is sudden, but please consider this, Link. All I ask is that you take this stone and keep it with you, and then return to Zora’s Domain some time in the near future. Upon your return, I’ll truly see if you are my future husband. If you aren’t, I’ll take the stone back and you’ll never have to worry about it again. But you are…”
A single tear trickled down Ruto’s cheek. “Please, Link, take the stone and accept the what comes with it. That’s all I ask.”
Link was unable to say anything, so Navi stepped in for him. “Is this your real request in that Rite of Thanks?”
“No,” Ruto answered. “I want Link to make this decision without being forced to. Please, Link, take it.”
What was Link to do? He had a chance to take the Spiritual Stone now, but taking it meant being engaged to Princess Ruto! He admitted she had changed a lot since they had first met, but that wasn’t enough for them to make wedding plans this early in their lives! Well, in her life, at least. He was a Kokiri; he didn’t age. He wondered if she knew that?
Maybe…yes, that’s it! He could take the stone now, and then later return it and tell her about his Kokiri heritage. She would have to call off this silly engagement then!
Finally cracking a smile, Link nodded. “Princess Ruto…I accept your proposal.”
Ruto smiled as well. “Thank you, Link. Thank you.”
Link then reached for the stone and gently grabbed in Ruto’s hand. As he did, he felt the soft caress of Ruto’s skin against his. Was she trying to tell him not to forget his promise? Unable to answer, Link simply took the stone out of Ruto’s palm and drew it close to him. Ruto seemed to be a little sad to see her mother’s stone leave her, but the princess still maintained her smile.
“Remember, Link. Return to Zora’s Domain and keep the promise you’ve accepted. Farewell.”
With that, Ruto gave Link one more glance with her wide eyes, turned around and leapt into the Zora’s River, disappearing beneath the glassy waves. All Link could do was turn his attention back to the split mountain that housed the vast Zora’s Domain and mighty Lord Jabu-Jabu and watch it fade on the horizon.
Far away, out of earshot, the rumbles of storm clouds echoed across Hyrule, heading in Link’s direction and his intended destination…