Once upon a time, there was a desert king who they called Mandrag Ganon, or Ganondorf Dragmire, King of Thieves. He was the searing heat and wind-whipped sand of Gerudo Valley shaped as a man, for he rode like the hot dry storms that prowl, shrieking, across the dunes; and he fought with the fury of lightning and thunder. His love was like the pounding wave, that rises from the ocean and swallows those who tremble at its foot.
This Mandrag too was beautiful, tall and straight, with skin the colour of jade and burnt umber, and eyes the colour of sweet wine. He was the first male child born to his people, the Gerudo, in a hundred years, and for this, they made him king.
But Ganondorf Dragmire was not satisfied with the fate bestowed upon him by the goddesses. He hungered for something more.
And how this Mandrag hungered.
He could not be content to be king of the Gerudo, for he had come into kingship through no effort of his own. As a male child, the kingship was his birthright. But he did not understand "birthright", either his own or another's; he understood only that birthright did not satisfy the hunger that pounded through him, hunger to seize and possess by the strength of his own arm.
Neither could he be content to be king of the desert, for the desert is too vast a thing to seize. He thrust his armies into the desert's heart, and made it bleed black, but of what significance were his victories? The desert itself was still untamed, for all that that he had conquered its people. No man could conquer the hot winds that flung before their rage clouds of killing sand, that would as soon strip the skin from the Mandrag himself as any other man.
The Mandrag knew this. Rage consumed him.
But the Mandrag's campaigns wore at his rage as much as at his youth. With age came subtlety, if not greater wisdom: he did not rage and hunger so transparently, that any who saw him said, "There is a man governed by his lust, a man who lives by rapine." But he hungered still; his rage became his hunger, deep-seeded and alive. He turned his face from his desert triumphs—for they were are as empty and stagnant as the desert air—and looked upon the world beyond his desert—a world of seasons, of colour, of fresh, cool winds that filled the lungs with life. This land belonged the Hylians, who many said had the blessing of the goddesses' favour. The Mandrag heard these whispers, and envy smote him in his heart.
There, he thought, in that Hylian blessing, and in that world of seasons, colour, and wind, was a land he could possess wholly.
But age had taught him subtlety. And so the Mandrag waited.
Word of his power had reached Hylian ears. The Hylians trembled at the rumour of the Mandrag's exploits, and they sent forth dignitaries to beguile him. They offered peace, in return for his homage. But Dragmire did not mean to become a Hylian vassal.
The dignitaries felt they had descended from positions of superiority, in coming to treat with the Mandrag, but with the passing of the months, and their welcome growing every more unstable beneath them, they began to understand the inescapable necessity of compromise. They saw the failure of their venture with the clarity of men who begin to despair, and they were afraid.
They sent, at last, an appeal back to the Hylian court. The Mandrag hungers, their message went, and only the most delicate of our treasures will feed him. Beg the king for his blessing. Or we are lost.
King Harkinian, Lord Sovereign of the Hylian Kingdom, was pacing.
The great hall echoed with the stomp of his boots on the flagstone. His advisors, twelve noblemen whose family connections and inherited wealth qualified them to think their king's thoughts for him, sat watching the king from the bench that had been assembled for the meeting. They sat beneath the shadow of the throne, which loomed upon a dais a full foot above their heads. Harkinian would have presided from that noble seat in other circumstances. But the king had damned all tradition with a single glance: he had, upon storming into the hall some moments earlier, snorted at the throne and snarled at his advisors, and pointedly refused to take his seat. He had chosen, instead, to pace, with his thick arms folded tight across his thicker chest, and his mouth set on an edge as unyielding as stone. He was dressed for hunting, and wore his sword conspicuously at his hip. It knocked against his muscular thigh with each step he took.
The noblemen were rattled by his fierce display. The king's entrance had not been unexpected—they had, after all, summoned him from his sport, just as he was riding out among the bristling spears and long-limbed hounds of his courtiers, off to hunt a band of bublins that had been lately sighted a league west of the castle. But they had not expected the violence of his entry, nor the fury with which he met them. It was not for frivolous reasons that the councilors had summoned him. They had made that quite clear in their message. They had hoped, at the very least, for his tolerance.
"Well?" said the king now. He halted in his pacing and swung, teeth bared, at the company. The words burst from him like a fire too long cooped up, and suddenly exposed to the air. "May I request the honour of knowing what you want from me?"
"Sire," began one of the advisors; he stood. "Our council has recently had word from our dignitaries in Gerudo Valley. They have begged us to broach the subject of the Gerudo nation with you—with all apologies—for they—we—have realized that the Gerudo nation is not a matter that can be satisfactorily solved by ourselves… alone." He paused, and what he did not say filled the silence. "Sire, my fellow barons and I unanimously decided that something… final must be done regarding our relations with the Gerudo."
"Really?" Harkinian's eyebrows rose. "And not about the bublins that are loose in the land? Really!"
"Sire—" The advisor flinched away from the blue-eyed savagery of Harkinian's gaze. "Bublins… they can be hunted at leisure, surely. But with the Gerudo—"
"And can they not be hunted as well?" Harkinian's tone lifted; he sounded almost jovial. "Have the Gerudo been bothering you? Whoever knew the wretches ever ventured so far from their desert! Well, but I would be happy to hunt them for you, gentlemen. If you have all turned as weak-willed as women and cannot bear the thought of battle, then by all means I will be your champion."
"My lord—" The first advisor looked appalled.
Haarkinian shrugged one shoulder. "I kid, good sir. Nothing more."
"My lord." Another advisor rose, abruptly. "This is not a question of present marauding. The Gerudo have made no move to attack us. But they are growing strong, stronger than we care to contemplate. They are breaking loose from their barbarous roots. They have escalated in power and wealth. Their army numbers five thousand strong. And—"
"And they are made up entirely of women!" The king gave a barking laugh. "What do you fear from women, sir?"
"Women they may be, my lord. But they are ruled by a man, Lord Ganondorf Dragmire. He has lately assumed the throne once tended by the Lady Nabooru. It was, you recall, upon the account of this change that we sent forth another envoy to join the first already established there?"
The king ignored the advisor's insinuations. "I did not know the old hag had died," he said.
"She hasn't." The advisor paused. "The king has been away on campaign. The Gerudo way is exactly like our own, my lord: when the rightful king is absent, his throne is tended by a regent."
"I did not ask you for a lesson in governance, good sir," said Harkinian. His face grew dark.
"Forgive me, my lord." There was a distinct lack of humility in the advisor's tone. "I did not presume to instruct you, only to lay before this council the facts."
"But my lord," a third advisor interrupted, "think now upon Lord Dragmire, rather than his regent. For is he not the most important figure in our deliberations? How to win him—a man who men say cannot be won?"
"Precisely!" another advisor cried, leaping upright. "My lord, our envoys have sent us nothing but word of Lord Dragmire's feats—how he drove his armies straight into the hearts of the Subrosians, how he subdued the Twili, how he made those people his own."
"He excels not only upon the battlefield, but in diplomacy as well," the second advisor interrupted. "My lord, we requested your presence this day because our dignitaries have sent us startling intelligence, and it is this: that the Gerudo have allied themselves with the Zuna this past fortnight, and not with war but with sweet words. It is not simply the Gerudo force of which we must be wary, now. Dragmire commands the forces of two conquered tribes and one ally—sire, I venture to say that this is more than we command."
"That may be so." The king shrugged one great, solid shoulder. "But Dragmire has won his battles against Subrosians and Twili, in the end—numerous they may be, but men of virtue and spirit they are, ultimately, not. Neither Twili nor Subrosian can bear the honest sunshine; they scorch like shadow beasts in the light. And the Twili are to a man criminals of the worst kind—dare to tell me, gentlemen, that these are men worth fearing! Why have we come to fear them and the horde of half-naked land pirates to whom they are allied—a horde of women, gentlemen?"
"Because these women jump upon the order of a man who has utterly annihilated the ruling families of both Twili and Subrosian. My lord." The second advisor's eyes narrowed; his mouth was tight and tense. "We have dismissed them as barbarians for too long, and they may soon become a problem too large to contain. We must act while we still can!"
"Sire!" This was the third advisor. He held up a hand to silence the second, and bobbed his head toward his liege. "We noblemen have long believed that it would be an intelligent move on your part to secure an alliance with the Dragmire family. But as matters stand—Dragmire strengthening his arm by the friendship of the Zuna, while our own envoys have suffered only defeat thus far—we believe the time has come to approach this matter with greater attention. We need not fear that Dragmire will spurn our olive branch if we offer it to him on his terms; what is the friendship of the Zuna, ultimately, to friendship with a people such as ourselves? We need only fear that we do not offer that olive branch to him quickly enough."
"On his terms? Gentlemen." The king's voice was cold. "I have not founded my kingdom upon fear. I do not fear this Gerudo lord, even if you do. I will not tremble before him."
"There is no talk of fear, my lord," the second advisor broke in. "Only of wisdom. Nayru is our patron goddess. Surely we must do all we can to glorify Her."
"Glorify? You speak, sir, as if you were in the midst of worship, and not of council."
"I speak, my lord, as a man who loves his country, and wishes only for its advancement."
The second advisor seated himself with stiff dignity. Those who stood followed his example, haltingly, and looked, all the while, askance at the king.
The councilors felt like men newly awakened to a world falling to pieces. They had never expected much from their sovereign: Harkinian was the result of a life lived too comfortably for a man who thirsted for too much, and he had never been truly cut out to be king. He lived only to pleasure himself, to imitate the idle bloodthirstiness of his sires: a life lived for the hunt, upon an edge of danger contrived by the restlessness that the tedium of peacetime had filled him with. He had ascended to the throne no wiser than birth had left him, impatient with the peacekeeping schemes of his advisors. He did not concern himself with the ruling of his kingdom, as a rule. And his council did not concern themselves with him.
But the question of the Gerudo made this impossible.
Beg the king for his blessing, the dignitaries' message had read. Or we are lost.
The third advisor was the last to sit. He spoke gently into the silence. "Please, my lord. Hear us. With Nayru as our holy witness, we will suffer no shame to come to you from this affair. Only… hear us. We beg you."
Harkinian looked at him. His mouth twitched, so slightly that the advisors could not tell if he scowled… or perhaps smiled.
"Well then." He tilted his head. "What do you mean to do?"
A sigh drifted down the bench.
"My lord—" A fifth advisor faltered to his feet. "All our attempts to win this Gerudo lord have been met with failure—except, of course, one that we have not tried. You have a beautiful daughter. She's quite eligible to be married, now that she is become fourteen, I believe. She has a lovely face, and she is demure. The Zuna have made their alliance with Dragmire in ink and word only. We may do better than they have managed to do—marriage and dowries bind allies more securely than even writing can. And we believe, my lord, that Dragmire will accede to that." He bowed and sat.
"But what of my own throne? Who shall succeed to it, if not her son by one of you?" The king eyed them. "That is how it has always been done."
"Her son will still inherit it," said the second advisor, slowly. "And he will inherit the Gerudo throne as well. They love their princes, the Gerudo. Some say only one is born every one hundred years. Our Hylian women are far more fertile than that."
"Ah…" said the king, and for the first time that day, his smile was not checked by irony, but unfolded full across his face. He appraised the faces turned toward him. "This seems a viable proposition, gentlemen. If this will solve your quandary, then let us by all means pursue it. Summon a scribe. And do not delay." He turned on his heel and began to stride toward the door. He called over his shoulder, "I believe you are satisfied, gentlemen? I will leave you now."
"Sire," said the second advisor, bowing to his back. "Your wish is our command."
They wrote Lord Ganondorf Dragmire, and sealed the letter with the insignia of the king. They accompanied this dispatch with an answer to their Hylian envoys, scrawled upon plain paper, sealed with unmarked wax.
Let the Mandrag hunger no more, the letter went. Our lord has given us both the treasure of his loins and the blessing of his seal. Rejoice, friends. We are saved.