Story: The Lost Years (chapter 16)
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Title: Year 4: In the Lion's Den
[Author's notes: Why did this chapter take so long? Simple. I had no idea how to write this. I do know where I need to go from here though, considering how much time is left in-story....]
Two dull wooden swords clashed under the setting summer sun at the Lon Lon Ranch. Lina took a deep breath as she charged at her foe, both her hands grasping the smoothed handle of the blade. She sidestepped a vertical swing and knocked the wood out of her attacker’s hands. “You lose.”
“I can tell.” Malon and Lina both laughed as the two continued to sweat in the scorching heat. “How hard were you gunning for me that time?”
Lina thought for a moment before conceding, “Kinda hard. Not all out though.”
“Yeah, I would’ve fallen flat on my butt in a flash!” The two women laughed once more as Lina helped Malon back on her feet. After the events of the Hylian Milk Festival, Lina had determined that Malon needed to learn how to defend herself, and so the Hero of Time had been teaching the ranch hand after all the chores were done for the day.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” Lina replied. “You’re better at this than you give yourself credit for.”
Today had been an especially grueling training session, and Malon had actually almost gotten the better of Link a few hours ago. Both women had changed since the Festival, and not just mentally. Puberty was well underway for the both of them; both had grown in height, hormones were now coursing through the veins of them both, and both had continued to develop curves where there had been none before.
These facts and more played with Lina’s mind as she found herself staring at Malon. Memories of their dance at the Festival had been playing ad nauseum since that fateful day. How good it felt to have Malon wrapped around her as closely as she had been... Lina shook her head in an attempt to bring herself back to reality.
“I’m gonna go freshen up,” Malon said as she wiped some sweat off her brow. “It’s just getting hotter and hotter.”
Lina agreed as she watched her friend walk away, her eyes unconsciously watching Malon’s rear before shaking herself back to reality for the second time in just as many minutes. The hormones had repeatedly played havoc with her brain. Even when she had been a grown adult as a boy, she had never had the time or the focus to figure out why she felt... unusual around Zelda and Malon. She still didn’t understand just why she felt both at peace and uneasy around Malon.
She sighed as she put away the training weapons in a safe spot. It had taken her a bit of thought before she decided to go through with teaching Malon for fear of distorting the future her male self would wake up in. Lina had learnt from experience that some parts of the future could be altered, like planting a Magic Bean in soft soils.
But she feared that changing the timeline too much would have horrible consequences. If the future that her male counterpart would wake up to was conceptually immutable, then were all her actions merely means to that end? The people who had fled to Kakariko Village, Hyrule Castle Town facing Ganondorf’s wrath; were these events her doing?
What Lina feared was a duplication of what she had caused or stumbled upon when she was trying to find the Lens of Truth. She had been reminded of that episode the previous week during a rainstorm. To find the instrument, she had to learn the Song of Storms and play the melody as a child to drain the Kakariko Well. She had learnt the song from a man who worked at the windmill, Guru-Guru.
But the fact that Guru-Guru claimed that he had learnt the song from Lina presented a paradox. How, after all, could he have learnt the song from Lina if she had learnt the song from him? It was a minor paradox, but the thought of creating another one, a larger one, combined with the warning from Zelda that it was best to lie low, made her hesitate to do anything major from now on.
Lina took a deep breath of the fresh ranch air. She was thinking too hard. Things had never been this complex back in the day. Or was it in the future day?
Later on, both women had showered and were lying in their beds, trying to go to sleep. But Lina could not rest. There was a feeling on the edge of her soul, as if she was at the edge of some great event. It was a feeling she had come to know all too well during her adventures. It was a feeling that had never led her astray.
Outside, she could hear the sound of hooves against the dry ground. Lina knew that Malon had already put the horses back in their stalls for the night. She got up out of her bed and decided to look out the window. What she saw was startling.
There, riding on horseback, were several Gerudo warriors. Several younger women were also riding, all of them chained to the horses. The Gerudo were as scantily clad as Lina remembered, but she felt her cheeks heat up for some reason as she stared at them. Her daze was broken by the sight of Talon, who was rushing outside to meet them. Lina cracked open the window to listen to their conversation as she began to gather her belongings.
“– very late, can’t you all come in the morning?”
“I think not,” the Gerudo leader told him. “We are looking for an additional horse. We were thinking you would give us one.”
“First off,” Talon said, “we’re closed until the morning. And furthermore, we don’t just ‘give’ horses away.”
Two of the Gerudo women drew their scimitars and pointed the blades at the stout mustachioed man. “I don’t believe we’ll take too long,” the leader told them. “Ladies, look at the horses. I’ll haggle with the fat man.”
Malon began to wake up as Lina finished putting her kimono on. “Lemme see here... no Golden Gauntlets... hm... no Hover Boots either.”
“Lina?” The Heroine of Time turned to watch Malon climb out of her bed. “What’s going on?”
“The Gerudo are robbing the ranch.” Malon’s eyes widened as Lina continued, “Stay hidden, don’t talk too loudly.”
“Can you stop them?”
Lina grimaced as she recalled, “Even when I was at my best, I could only take on one of ‘em at a time.” She wracked her brains as she tried to find a way out of the situation.
“Hey boss! This horse looks pretty healthy!” It took three Gerudo women to remove the steed, but Malon and Lina found themselves stunned to find they had chosen Epona. “A feisty one, though.”
“We’ll break her in eventually,” the boss claimed.
Lina went back to look through her things, trying to find a simpler way out of the situation when she heard the door outside open and close. “Let her go!” Malon had run outside and was shouting at the Gerudo, seemingly unafraid of them. “Let her go!”
On an unspoken command, Epona seemed to rear up and resist the Gerudo’s attempts to subdue her once more. As the Gerudo warriors tried to calm the horse down, their leader staring at Malon for a moment. “Hello, there.”
Malon stared at the leader and commanded, “Put Epona back. She doesn’t trust you.”
The leader continued to stare at Malon, realizing she had red hair before finally coming back to her senses. “By the goddesses.” She silently gestured at Malon to her lackeys, who stared at their fearless leader for a moment before throwing Malon onto one of their horses.
“Hey! What do you think I am, some kind of princess?!” Malon was furious as the women began to tie her to the horse. “My dad’s not a king! We can’t pay a big ransom or anything!”
“We know,” the Gerudo leader stated. “You’ll just be coming with us for a while.”
“Please,” Talon pleaded, “don’t take my only daughter.”
“Don’t even talk,” the leader commanded him. “Are you hiding any others here?”
“Other what?” Talon appeared confused. “I don’t understand!”
“Not my problem.” She gestured at two of her men to take Malon away, and their horses began to trot away. “Consider this your payment to Ganondork – I mean Ganondorf! Goddesses damn, even I can’t say the name right!”
“Stop!” Talon and the Gerudo leader turned to see Lina running outside; the two other Gerudo and Malon were too far away to hear her cry. “Don’t take her away from here!”
“You’re a little late on that front,” the leader growled. “You’re of no concern to me, girl, unless you’d like to be my slave.”
“Talon,” Lina said, “leave this to me.”
Talon seemed visibly distraught at the combined events of the previous few minutes. “But –”
“I’ll be fine.” Talon took a deep breath and shakily walked back inside. “Now then,” Lina told the leader as she pulled out a piece of paper, “look at this.”
The leader snatched the paper from her hand before reading it in disbelief. “Impossible. This...”
“It’s a Gerudo Membership Card,” Lina finished. It had taken her a long time to find the thing; she’d forgotten all about it after rescuing Nabooru and killing Kotake and Koume. “As a member of the Gerudo tribe, I’m asking you to let Malon go.”
There was an awkward pause before the leader spoke. “I’m afraid I cannot do that.”
“There’s a good reason for it,” the leader claimed. “If you want to know why, you can come to the valley.”
Lina watched the Gerudo ride away, and then went inside with the Cuccos. “Talon?”
Talon got up off the floor, looking devastated. “Lina... they took my pride... my joy...”
“I’m going to get her back,” Lina promised. She went to the stables, slumping against to the wall until she was sitting on the floor. Things were beginning to roughly resemble the ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ that she had awakened to after pulling the Master Sword from its pedestal. Hyrule Castle Town was now inhabited by shambling Redead. Construction at Kakariko Village was now accelerating to accommodate survivors of the Castle Town, and those who could not stay rode towards Lake Hylia.
Even in her own life, things were changing. Romani, Cremia, Anju, and Shandra had all joined the survivors of Hyrule Castle Town who had fled south; they reasoned that with the difference in how time passed, there was nothing left for them back in Termina.
And now Malon had gone missing. In the back on Lina’s mind, she tried to figure out if this was supposed to happen. Regardless, it had happened, and Lina now had to ride out once more, saving the damsel in distress and righting wrongs.
Silently, Lina tried to remember what happened to the hero after he saved the damsel. She’d never gotten to hear the ending to that story.
The following morning, Lina went into the stables and brought out Epona. She’d already gotten all her things, and had already put on the kimono when Talon and Ingo both went outside to meet her.
“This is madness,” Ingo remarked. “You’re letting her leave?!”
“She says she can get Malon back,” Talon gravely stated. “And there’s something about her that makes me believe she can do it.” He kept quiet about the finer points of the previous night, including Lina’s Membership Card.
“But then you’re just leaving me with all the hard work,” Ingo shouted. “You’ll just go to sleep like you always do!”
Talon ignored the ranch hand as he begged, “Please, please bring Malon back.”
“Of course,” Lina said. And with that, Lina and Epona began to gallop forth from the ranch. She could not but help enjoying the feeling of the wind running through her hair as she rode past the Peahats and Poes, noticing that the fields had not changed much since the last time she had rode through shortly before her misadventure in Termina.
She remembered crossing the fields many times as a child, to find the three Spiritual Stones, fighting monsters when caught in the darkness. When she was an adult, she rode across the land in search of the Sages.
Now she was riding into the belly of the beast once more, to the Gerudo Valley.
Gentlemen, begin riffing on the Spanish guitar.
As much as Lina could remember, the Gerudo Valley had not changed much from her stealthy escapades in however long one decided to measure the time between now and her once and future escape. The bridge was still standing however, meaning that it had yet to be destroyed.
The women who called the place home still guarded it with their lives, though Lina could easily see that they were more relaxed than they had been (and one day, would be). She knew that the Gerudo mostly followed Ganondork – sorry, Ganondorf (you’d think people would get that by now) out of fear and obligation of his being the only male member of the Gerudo tribe. Regardless, she knew she had to tread lightly. She did not want a repeat of her last trip here.
As she rode into the hideout, she was greeted by three Gerudo, their spears pointed at Epona. Upon revealing her Membership Card however, the women apologized and directed her to a nearby stable. “We will take care of the horse,” the men at the stables promised. Apparently, the women who normally tended the horses were busy training today. Lina remembered that the Gerudo often took Hylian men from their homes as husbands; could they be doing the same with Malon? The concept seemed alien yet frighteningly possible to her.
She walked through the stronghold with surprising ease, remembering the layout of the hideout far too well. However, as she came across the training grounds, groups of Gerudo were standing in a circle, shouting and hollering. From the sounds of swords crashing together, Lina could only assume they were watching some of their own fight. As Lina made her way into the circle, she could confirm that two women were fighting.
The two women appeared to be practicing their swordsmanship, and their fight appeared to be ending. One of the redheaded women was knocked to the dirt courtesy a strong kick to the stomach. The winner had her swords at the other woman’s throat for a brief moment before helping her vanquished sparring partner off the ground. “You’re better than I expected. I thought you’d have your work cut out for you.”
The second woman nodded meekly as she replied, “Thanks.”
Lina couldn’t believe that the second woman was actually Malon, dressed in Gerudo attire. Her eyes tended to linger a little too long before snapping back to her senses and being snapped back out of them by seeing Malon in Gerudo clothes.
Lina had been allowed to rest in the training quarters for the night, though she had no time to sleep. She needed to figure out why Malon was among the Gerudo. Sneaking out of her room was shockingly easy thanks to her experience in sneaking around Gerudo strongholds. Even with a Membership Card, Lina was fairly sure that the Gerudo would not take kindly to her ‘kidnapping’ Malon.
She managed to get out into the cold night air as the winds blew in her face, chilling her to the bone. ‘Must be a nightmare trying to sleep through this wind.’ Lina looked up at the top of one of the buildings, recognizing the building that she had once been imprisoned in. Old instincts kicked in as she took out the Longshot and aimed it at part of a wooden board that hung out over one of the windows.
She felt herself being pulled into the air, quietly enough to avoid attracting attention. Lina could not believe that the same method she had used last time she was here to escape was still a good idea now.
As Lina finally reeled to the end of the Longshot, she reached out her arms and grabbed onto the window itself, climbing into the cell.
Much to Lina’s surprise, Malon was sleeping in the very cell that Lina would one day be thrown into as the Hero of Time. Apparently, Malon had not been sleeping soundly, because she immediately sat up. “L-Lina?”
Malon rubbed her eyes, not quite believing what she was seeing. “How’d you get here?”
“I’ve been here before,” Lina reminded her. “I had to break out some carpenters one time.” She held out her hand as she told Malon, “Now come on. Let’s get you out of here.”
Malon stared at Lina before shaking her head. “I’m not going back, Lina.”
That was a great shock to Lina, and a great cause of concern. “Why?”
“Because this is where I belong.”
Her comment made no sense to Lina, who promptly said so. “Malon, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Didn’t you ever wonder,” Malon asked, “why I had red hair? Why almost no one else in Hyrule Castle Town or Kakariko Village did?”
Lina shrugged. “I didn’t think anything of it. You were always just Malon to me.”
That caused Malon to blush slightly. “It’s because my mom was Gerudo.” Lina’s eyes bulged as she continued, “They said they’d been looking for my mother ever since she got separated from them after a raid. Kept saying that Dad was a thief.”
The differing set of facts that now ran through Lina’s mind were butting heads against each other. Malon had told her that Talon had a more sinister side to him; but Lina’s experience with Talon in the past, future, and present told her that he was a lazy, possibly narcoleptic rancher who enjoyed sleeping with Cuccos (and not in that way, you sick freaks).
“Talon’s a good man, Malon. He’s not that kind of person.”
“This is where I belong.” Malon looked out the window as she continued, “I’m supposed to be here.”
Lina had had enough. “No, you’re not. Have you forgotten what I’ve had to go through to get here? I told you the first time we talked after Talon let me stay with you. I meet you at Lon Lon Ranch as the real me, the adult me, and you’ve been there the whole time. You don’t stay here, you have to go home.”
“Well, maybe here is home,” Malon remarked.
“It’s not,” Lina argued. “If you don’t go back, I’ll never be able to kick out Ingo, I’ll never get back Epona, I’ll never be able to jump the bridge when it goes out, and I’ll never beat Ganondork... dork! My saving the world all depends on you being at Lon Lon Ranch, happy.” Malon could not look at Lina, who continued, “The one thing that kept me going in the early days was that you were there with me. I don’t know what I’ll do if you go away now.”
Malon finally regained eye contact. “What about you? Where are you supposed to be when the ‘real’ you comes to free the ranch?”
“Can’t tell you,” Lina told her. In truth, Lina didn’t know. But Malon couldn’t know that, not now. “Please, come home. We can talk to Talon and get his side of the story.” Malon remained silent. “This sounds impossible, but the world needs you, Malon. I need you. Come home.”
Of course Malon didn’t want to believe her, even though she knew that Lina wouldn’t lie to her. It was her turn to try and reconcile her conflicting views. Her heritage or her best friend?
It seemed that the latter had won after a few moments thought. “Fine. But Dad better have a good explanation for this.”
Lina smiled as she took Malon by the hand and aimed her Longshot. “Knowing Talon, I’m sure it involves a lot of sleep.”
While being lifted into the air by a metal hook was nothing new to Lina, it was an unforgettable experience for Malon. She had to suppress the urge to yell with surprise as they were removed from the cell and fell to the ground below.
Lina remained hunched for a moment as she recovered the feeling in her legs; she had rolled to avoid hurting herself in the past... or the relative time. ‘And I thought time travel was confusing before,’ she thought to herself. ‘Even in Termina, I could figure it out after a couple do-overs. This is just crazy.’
The old maneuvers continued to work perfectly for Lina, who managed to avoid the Gerudo guardswomen by hiding behind wooden crates. A more astute man would ask why there were so many crates, but Lina did not concern herself with the abundance of crates conveniently placed in just the right way so she could get to the stables unseen.
As the two crossed the bridge on Epona, the horse came to a stop. Lina got off for a moment before rummaging through her equipment, looking for a certain item. Malon looked at Lina, confused. She was even more confused when Lina pulled out her Bombs.
Lina walked onto the bridge and looked at the explosives for a moment. Was she messing up what was supposed to occur here by blowing the bridge? Or was she supposed to do it here and now? The latter possibility scared her just as much as the former, but she lit the bombs regardless and ran like the dickens back towards the steed.
As the two women rode off into the night, a large explosion echoed throughout the valley, with broken planks of wood flying into the air and dropping into the river. The bridge serving as the gateway into the Gerudo Valley had been destroyed. Only those with the fastest of horses could now enter.
In Hyrule Castle, which was now being redecorated into something darker, edgier, and just flat creepy, an argument that had been brewing for some time was just beginning to explode. “You spend too much time with that kid,” Onox told the King of Evil. “So what if he’s gotten a little stronger? Big deal.”
“It’s of interest to me,” Ganondork- DORF- replied. “His powers are growing at quite the speed. Perhaps my new power has something to do with it.” He looked at his hand, focusing on the mark of the Triforce that had appeared after entering the Sacred Realm.
“The boy was a novel distraction at first,” Onox continued, “But you could do so much more with your time. Stretch forth your hand! Strike down the people of Kakariko! Burn the forest! Freeze the Zora in their waters! Smite the Gorons!”
“Enough,” Ganondorf commanded. “I’ll admit those are creative ideas. But I’m biding my time.”
“For what,” Onox scoffed. “You’ve all the power you need!”
“But not the timing,” the King explained. “My mentors warned me of a little boy in green clothes who would be my destruction. But they also told me that they could give me an ace up my sleeve. I’m waiting for that ace.”
“I grow impatient,” Onox complained. “If you do not act soon, then I will return to Holodrum. That Subrosian snot and that witch have already retrieved both the Rod and the Oracle of Seasons, so my time is short.”
“Then go,” Ganondorf dismissed. “And take your Darknuts with you.”
As the sun rose once more on the Lon Lon Ranch, Talon bear-hugged Lina. “Oh, I didn’t think it was possible, and yet here you are!” He released the Heroine, looking at his daughter. “I owe you an explanation.”
Malon looked at her father, a bit angered but interested. “Go on.”
Talon played with his mustache a bit before conceding, “You may have already suspected this, but your mother... was Gerudo.”
“I know,” Malon claimed. “My hair color should’ve told me... They said that you were a thief, that you stole me.”
“Stole?” Talon looked incredulous. “I’ve never been in very good shape, Malon. How could I have outwitted the Gerudo?” Malon couldn’t come up with an answer. “No, I found your mother lying in a river. Perhaps she had gotten separated from her kin, but that’s neither here nor there. I brought her back here and nursed her back to health.”
Lina saw that the two fell silent. “So... what happened to the mother?”
Malon looked at Lina with scorn, but Talon calmed her down. “She didn’t know, it’s fine to ask.” Talon took another deep breath before telling Lina, “She died in childbirth. A very bittersweet day. I lost a wife, only to gain a daughter.”
The mood was solemn, and Lina left Malon and Talon to patch things up. For now at least, things were back to normal.
[End notes: End of Year 4]
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