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Chapter Text

“Look at you. You’ve grown.”

Zelda’s mother stood but made no move to greet her. Urbosa squeezed Zelda’s shoulder, but Zelda wasn’t comforted. What could she possibly say in response? That it was good to see her mother again? That she had missed her? Such cheap pleasantries weren’t worth the effort to lie.

“You seem well,” Zelda said. Her mother did appear to be healthy, with not a strand of white in her dark hair. She looked younger than Zelda remembered.

“Life here suits me. My hosts have been kind.”

Zelda’s mother turned her gaze to Urbosa and smiled. It occurred to Zelda that Urbosa was much more than a “host” to her mother.

“I hear you’ve become a writer,” Zelda said, struggling to be polite. She had no interest in what her mother published – translations, mostly – but asking about her work was more politic than demanding what she had spent the past twenty years doing with her life.

“It’s something I always wanted to try,” her mother replied calmly. “I never got the chance before I left.”

Having a child must have been a terrible inconvenience, Zelda almost snapped, but she restrained herself. She had grown used to speaking her mind to Ganondorf, but it wouldn’t do for her to lash out at everyone who irritated her. If he were here, how would he handle the situation? Probably with more charm than she could muster. Zelda wasn’t feeling particularly clever at the moment, however, and she had no interest in ingratiating herself to her own mother.

“Urbosa says you wished to speak to me.”

“I’ve wanted to talk with you for a long time. I doubt you’ll believe me, but it’s true. It’s good to see your face again. Would you care to sit down and have some tea?”

Her mother made the invitation with such grace that Zelda almost found herself accepting it, but she had nothing to say in response. She found her mother’s hospitality offensive.

“Let the girl stand, if she wishes,” Urbosa cut in, squeezing Zelda’s shoulder again to demonstrate that she was only teasing. “I’d love some tea. Did you know,” she said, turning to Zelda, “that Hilda makes the sweetest tea in the entire desert?”

It was odd for Zelda to hear her mother called by her pen name. As with all firstborn daughters in their family, she and her mother shared the same given name. Despite her distaste for this tradition, Zelda never thought of herself as anything other than “Zelda,” which felt more natural than any of the nicknames her cousins and classmates had tried to bestow on her through the years. She wondered if she would ever feel comfortable going by another name.

“I’m sure Zelda has had her fill of Hyrulean tea. I recently bought a lovely sachet of voltfruit tea that I was saving for a special occasion.”

“No, that’s fine,” Zelda said. She had no desire to prolong the conversation. “I know voltfruit flowers are difficult to come by.”

“I’m afraid I only have tea leaves. The flowers are much too precious for a second-rate writer like myself to keep in the house. I’m curious – how would you know that such flowers exist, daughter of mine?”

Zelda shot a glance at Urbosa.

“I let her know you’re studying magic, Zelda. You should have been the one to tell her, but I thought it would spare us all a great deal of awkwardness. Hilda has spent close to two decades in this country, but she still hasn’t learned to say what she’s thinking without circling around the subject.”

That was just as well. Zelda only agreed to this meeting so that she would finally have a chance to obtain concrete information. She might as well get it over with.

“If we’re not going to circle around the matter,” she said to her mother, “then I won’t waste your time by asking how much you know about magic. You must have known enough when I used it as a child. So tell me, mother of mine – what actually happened when I was hospitalized?”

“What happened?” her mother repeated. Her face was placid as she turned away from Zelda and walked into the open kitchen of her apartment, a richly appointed set of rooms on the top floor of a detached building in the northeast corner of the palace complex. “I’m not sure how much you remember, but it was worse than you can possibly imagine. You came close to death on multiple occasions, and not always by accident. I believe your father’s men wanted to dissect you at some point.”

“How considerate of you to stop them.”

“I couldn’t have stopped them if I tried. Where do you think you got your magic from? I was under close observation. One wrong move would have landed me in an institution for the rest of my life. Your nightmares were no secret to anyone in the household, and it would have been the most natural thing in the world to blame your mother for causing them. After all, who’s to say that I wasn’t secretly abusing you? I could easily have suffered a nervous breakdown, if that’s what the Sheikah wanted people to believe. It’s such a shame, there was always something a bit off about her, I hear it runs in their family – is that sort of gossip so difficult to imagine?”

Zelda saw her mother’s point with perfect clarity, but this did nothing to ameliorate her resentment at being left behind.

“You were lucky to escape, then,” Zelda said, careful to maintain a neutral expression.

“I told your father I would leave if he insisted on continuing to subject you to Sheikah experiments, and I meant it,” her mother replied as she set a kettle of water over a flame. “He refused to see reason, so I left, just as I said I would. I assumed this would shock him into reconsidering his priorities.”

“Forgive me for asking, but why did you think that would work?”

“He wouldn’t listen to anything I said, and actions speak louder than words. Your father managed to build a network of political connections far more powerful than mine, and my options were more limited with each passing day. More than anything, I thought he loved me. It turned out that he only loved Hyrule.”

Zelda’s mother paused as she spooned loose tea into a gleaming steel strainer. “That came out as more dramatic than I expected, but the point still stands. When I tried to return to Hyrule with Urbosa, we were detained at the border. I was arrested, and it was only through the immediate intervention of Urbosa’s guards that I was able to make it out alive.”

Zelda frowned. “Urbosa’s guards?”

“There’s no need to hide the truth,” Urbosa said gently. “There were no guards. We were attacked, and I was forced to kill several Hylian soldiers. There was no time to negotiate. If we waited until the Sheikah arrived, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. I hadn’t realized how serious the situation was until police met us at the border. They drew their weapons and wrestled your mother into handcuffs as soon as we got out of the car.”

“But you’ve been to Hyrule since then,” Zelda objected. “How could that be possible if such a skirmish occurred? If Hylian soldiers attacked you, it would have been an international crisis. To cover up something like that…” Zelda stopped speaking as the implications of her words became clear.

“The Sheikah would have had to silence everyone involved,” Urbosa confirmed. “Except myself and your mother. They couldn’t touch us without acknowledging that we had been attacked.”

“I see you’re beginning to understand why I haven’t been able to contact you,” Zelda’s mother continued. “We were afraid that even a letter from me would have resulted in unnecessary tension. It’s no secret that the relationship between Hyrule and Lanayru has been strained for some time.”

“Through no fault of mine,” Urbosa muttered. Zelda was alarmed by the uncharacteristic rancor in her voice. A scowl cut across Urbosa’s face, and her eyes were shadowed. Her resemblance to Ganondorf was uncanny.

Zelda’s mother nodded. “To give your father credit, he’s been able to maintain peace for far longer than anyone expected. You’ll have to believe me when I say that he’s not a bad man, just nearsighted. For years I believed that he drove me out of Hyrule to protect me. That was one of the main reasons why I felt I had to distance myself from you, after all – to keep you safe. I waited for him to send word to me, but no message ever came. I couldn’t risk contacting you. The only way I could hope to reach either of you was through my writing, but I assume you weren’t interested. As for your father, I sometimes used to wonder if he reads at all.”

It was true that Zelda didn’t have the slightest interest in reading anything her mother wrote, but her insult regarding her father was completely unfounded; he read more than anyone she’d ever met. “Why would you say that?” she demanded. “And if you thought he was illiterate and ‘nearsighted,’ why did you marry him in the first place? The way I understand it, his family was practically middle class. What did you have to gain from marrying him?”

Zelda’s mother removed the kettle from the flame before it boiled and poured hot water over the strainer into a glass teapot. It was the same type that Zelda used herself.

“He was different when he was younger,” her mother replied. “I knew he would change as he rose higher in public service, but I thought he would become more true to himself, more like the man I was convinced he was. Instead, he became someone else entirely – a person who would sacrifice his daughter for the benefit of his position. That was probably who he was all along. He wouldn’t have chosen to marry me and become a politician otherwise, not when he had so many other opportunities. Let me give you some advice – never fall in love with the person you hope someone will become.”

Zelda’s mind was still reeling from what she had just learned about the attempt on Urbosa’s life, and the last thing she needed was relationship advice from a mother she hadn’t seen in two decades.

“I’ll keep that in mind, thank you,” she said tersely. “There are many things I’d like to ask you, but I’ll settle for one last question, if you don’t mind.”

“Ask whatever you like.” Zelda’s mother handed a cup of tea to Urbosa, who joined her in the kitchen.

“The ‘Legend of Zelda.’ Any of them, it doesn’t matter which one. Is it real?”

Zelda’s mother didn’t hesitate to answer. “It’s quite real. None of the legends are ‘accurate,’ precisely, at least not in historical terms. Every country tells these legends differently, and none of the accounts add up. No one can say what may have actually happened in the past. The Sheikah know more than they would ever let on, but not even they’re aware of the whole truth. I’m not sure anyone is. That doesn’t mean the events described in the legends didn’t happen, or that the old magic isn’t real. I’m sure you know this yourself by this point. If I had to guess, I might say that you know better than anyone.”

“But I’m not the only person able to use magic, even in Hyrule,” Zelda countered. “And I’m not the only Zelda to be born to our family, obviously. Even if the legends – or something like the legends – actually happened, that doesn’t mean that I’m ‘fated’ to do anything.”

Zelda’s mother smiled, and for the first time she looked her age. “I told you never to fall in love with the person you think someone might become,” she said. “That includes yourself. If you can only accept the best version of the person you hope you’ll become in a crisis, you’ll only break your own heart.”

Zelda’s mother laughed and took a sip of tea. “Sweet Nayru, that’s a second overly dramatic thing I’ve said in the same conversation. Let this be a lesson to you – don’t start drinking until sundown, even here in the desert. The days do seem to last forever here, don’t they? What I meant is that I hope you’ll keep an open mind. Some of the old legends are extremely interesting, especially the ones the Gerudo tell. You may want to ask that ‘colleague’ of yours where he got his name, for instance.”

Where did he get his name, this demon of a man who came from a place she couldn’t begin to imagine? The question was worth asking, but it felt less important now than it had once seemed. As Ganondorf held her in the darkness of the ancient desert ruins and used the power of the Triforce to bring the earth and sky together, his mind was open to her, and what she’d seen inside him was nothing more and nothing less than undiluted joy at the sensation of the warm rain that fell on his face.

Zelda forced herself to relax her clenched fists. She had heard enough. It was time to leave.