Hyrule Castle was reconstructed after the Great Calamity, albeit on a much smaller scale. The country had been a constitutional democracy for more than a century, and the sprawling complex of buildings had long since been converted into government offices.
The original castle had been built on top of a hill in central Hyrule. It was said that, before the Calamity, the structure was large enough to be seen from almost everywhere on the plain spreading out from it. Most of the city had been leveled in order to make way for construction, but the slopes of the hill remained, and the government offices crowned the skyline with towers of glass and steel.
The network of administrative buildings was like a castle in its own way, vast and labyrinthine. The grand scale of the architecture was intended to be imposing, and it was often successful. Zelda had come here with her father many times when she was younger, however, and she did not feel the least bit uncomfortable sitting in his office now.
Rhoam hadn’t hidden the fact that he knew his daughter was working under Purah, so she returned the favor by telling him that she’d met with her mother. He already knew, of course, but his questions regarding Hilda’s well-being were so heartfelt that Zelda was embarrassed. The awkwardness of her father’s lingering affection for the woman who was still legally his wife did little to allay Zelda’s anger. She pressed him on the matter of her mother’s exile, and the regret he expressed was sincere. He would have done things differently if he could, he explained, but he was hindered by the pressures of his position. The higher he rose, the more limited his options became.
“Then why did you run for office?” Zelda asked, interrupting him as soon as he began to go into the details of the story. “Were you really so ambitious that you didn’t stop to think about what would be required of you?”
“Ambition had nothing to do with it. I was idealistic. I thought I had the strength of character to avoid becoming like the politicians I resented. I could do things differently, I thought. I could be different.”
He shook his head. “I was mistaken. I didn’t have the slightest understanding of how power works, or the compromises I would have to make to maintain it. I was a novice at the game, but your mother was a key player. She made everything seem so easy.”
“You resented my mother, then.”
“I respected your mother. I don’t mind admitting that I was afraid of her at times, but I loved her all the same.” He sighed. “I would have done anything for her. For the first few years of our marriage, I did whatever she asked. It took me some time to realize that this wasn’t what she needed from me.”
“What she needed from you? I don’t understand what you mean.”
“Your mother knows a great deal about the legends of the royal family of Hyrule, probably more than anyone else alive. For all her research and study, and for all her access to the diaries and other records left behind by her ancestors, Hilda never believed that any of it was real. I was more than happy to agree with her until we had incontrovertible proof to the contrary.”
“You, of course. You and your marvelous abilities. It was Urbosa who finally convinced me to see reason, but your mother refused to be swayed. That’s when I realized her denial was an attempt to protect herself from the inevitable.”
“The inevitable,” Zelda repeated. She trusted Urbosa even if she didn’t trust her father, but this conversation had taken a strange turn.
“You’ve heard a number of the old legends yourself. Tell me, how many of the mythical princesses had mothers?”
“Surely you can’t mean…”
“That every mother of a ‘true’ Zelda must die, yes. Urbosa arrived at the same conclusion. The only way for your mother’s life to be spared was to remove her from Hyrule. Urbosa finally took matters into her own hands. This almost resulted in an international crisis, unfortunately. I only barely managed to cover up the incident.”
“Why couldn’t you follow her? Or arrange for me to visit her?”
“I wanted to, believe me, but it was impossible. We needed to get you out of the hospital first. The Sheikah were convinced that, with your talents, you could lead them to the source of the Calamity. They said it would take time, but allowing you to become the subject of their experiments was one compromise I wasn’t willing to make. Meanwhile, there was no word from your mother. I decided that I would respect her silence. It was only later that I understood, diplomatically speaking, that it was my responsibility to initiate communication, but so much time had passed that even the most formal contact began to seem impossible.”
Zelda didn’t respond. This was a sorry excuse, and her father knew it. She had no intention of assuaging his guilty conscience.
“Speaking of impossible,” he said, changing the subject, “I should tell you I met that friend of yours. The one you introduced to Urbosa as a tech investor.”
Zelda was dismayed by the speed at which that particular piece of gossip had traveled, but she kept her face neutral. “Yes, I seem to recall that he mentioned meeting you,” she said.
“You’ll have to forgive me if I ask about the nature of your relationship with him.”
“I’m happy to answer, but there’s not much I can tell you. I met him by coincidence, and he’s a friend of Riju’s,” Zelda said, careful not to lie. “He specializes in my field of research, but we don’t have any sort of formal relationship. I haven’t known him that long. Why do you ask?”
“We only spoke briefly, but his reputation preceded him. That man is dangerous, Zelda. His ambition is boundless, and there must be a reason he’s decided to call himself Ganondorf. I don’t know what he’s planning, but he may be involved in something that could result in the next Calamity.”
“That’s absurd.” Zelda had considered the possibility herself, but hearing her father say it out loud made it seem petty and ridiculous.
“Tell me, Zelda. What could a man like that possibly want? He’s satisfied with wealth now, but will that be enough? What will he do if he faces an obstacle in his path? Will he seek power?”
“There’s nothing stopping him from doing that in his own country. I’m given to understand he’s had offers.”
“Then there must be a reason he’s here instead.”
Zelda clenched her fists in her lap in frustration. If she knew why Ganondorf was here, then she wouldn’t be having this ridiculous conversation in the first place. She’d been hoping to get concrete answers grounded in reality, and she was beginning to find her father’s superstitious convictions annoying. And besides, Hyrule isn’t that great, she wanted to tell him. Not everyone is in love with it like you are.
“Let me tell you about the truth about the Calamity,” he said, interrupting her thoughts.
“I already know,” she replied. “Impa gave me the lecture.”
“I doubt she told you everything. Calamity Ganon is worse than anything you can imagine. Hyrule was a thriving kingdom, yet the majority of its population was wiped out in less than a day after Ganon manifested. Those who survived died later from starvation and exposure, or from illnesses that could have easily been prevented before the kingdom’s infrastructure collapsed. This city was built on top of countless ruins at the behest of queens and princesses, and later prime ministers and cabinet officers, who sought to hide a past that could never be memorialized.”
Zelda narrowed her eyes. “They lied to their people, then.”
“I understand your frustration, but you must learn to see the matter from their perspective. Calamity Ganon could not be stopped, only contained. The princess who fought it managed to seal it away, but no one can say how long that seal will hold. It might last for hundreds of years to come, but one day it will fail. Can you imagine what sort of chaos would befall Hyrule if people understood the threat hanging over their heads?”
“I imagine that they would call for a leader who would be able to deal with that threat.”
A wry smile crossed her father’s face. “Let me assure you that this isn’t a matter of keeping incompetent and corrupt politicians in office. Being ‘properly’ able to deal with the threat was how your family remained in power for so long. Your mother had a pet theory that ‘Calamity Ganon’ was little more than a scapegoat to be herded out and beaten every time that power began to wane.”
“Fine, I concede the point. Assuming Ganon is real, and assuming that women born into the bloodline of the former royal family are capable of fighting it, how can you know it hasn’t already been dealt with?”
Zelda’s father nodded. “That’s an excellent question. Your mother has been trying to find the answer for more than a decade. I assume you’re not familiar with her work.”
Zelda grit her teeth and remained silent.
“That’s understandable. I hope that one day you’ll find it in your heart to forgive her – to forgive us, I should say – enough to read her books. She’s quite a skilled writer, a talent I never knew she possessed until… Well, suffice it to say that she was a master of everything she attempted, and this is no exception. Her writing is beautiful, and her research is impeccable. She also has the advantage of being allowed unrestricted access to the Gerudo archives. Do you know what she found?”
“You know that I don’t.”
“It appears that what the Princess Zelda who confronted Calamity Ganon sealed was merely a manifestation of something the Sheikah call ‘malice.’ I have precious little knowledge of magic, or ‘thaumaturgy,’ as they call it, but I’m given to understand that it requires as much practice and focused attention as any other skill.”
“That’s my understanding as well,” Zelda confirmed. “Impa told me that malice is a type of thaumaturgy, but I don’t understand why it was given such a name that’s so… poetic, for want of a better word.”
“According to your mother, malice isn’t thaumaturgy at all, but a pure form of the energy utilized by practitioners of thaumaturgy. If a person is a conduit through which magic flows in the form of thaumaturgy, malice is what happens when the mental floodgates used to regulate this energy are destroyed. The person will become possessed, as it were, by malice.”
Zelda frowned. When she worked magic with Ganondorf, that was exactly how she felt – as if all the barriers in her mind had been lifted. As if she had access to incredible energy and infinite potential, as if anything were possible.
“If practicing thaumaturgy is the same as any other skill, how is this ‘malice’ different from a normal state of flow? Why do the Sheikah consider it to be so hateful?” she asked.
“Based on what your mother found – in old Yiga manuscripts, of all places – mortal minds cannot come into contact with pure magical energy and remain intact. One’s sense of ‘self’ and ‘reality’ are lost, and this mental fracture is exacerbated by the incredible pain a thaumaturgist experiences when they exceed their limits. You are aware that the Yiga were a sect of the Sheikah, of course. It’s said that the ancient Sheikah were once the guard dogs and hunting hounds of the royal family. If they could torture someone to such an extent that their mind was completely destroyed, they could apparently take advantage of the resulting ‘malice’ to work great magic.”
“I’m not sure I trust the propaganda of a radical military splinter group.”
“It should be taken with a grain of salt, certainly. But let’s follow this theory to its logical conclusion. If someone with immense magical ability – someone as powerful as your mother – were to experience intense pain for so long that they would do anything to stop it, their hatred and fury would eventually get the best of them. Their malice would then take on a tangible form.”
Zelda felt as though she were on the verge of understanding something important, but it eluded her.
“So you’re suggesting that Calamity Ganon is a manifestation of malice,” she said, seeking confirmation that she had at least drawn the correct conclusion about this particular aspect of her father’s argument.
“But the princess destroyed this manifestation. She must have, or we wouldn’t be here now.”
“She and her chosen hero destroyed the manifestation. Or rather, the manifestations. There were more than one, apparently. Along with the creature the princess fought and contained within Hyrule Castle, separate manifestations infested the Divine Beasts and had to be dealt with by the princess’s hero.”
“Then why create the Divine Beasts at all, if they could be ‘infested,’ as you put it?”
“At the time of the Calamity, the Sheikah assumed that there would be only one manifestation of Ganon’s malice. They seem to have underestimated how powerful it was, and how protean.”
Something nagged at Zelda’s mind, but she still couldn’t pin it down. She took a breath to calm herself before bringing the conversation back to her original point. “So if the manifestation of malice in Hyrule Castle was destroyed by the princess, and if the offshoot manifestations in the Divine Beasts were destroyed by the hero, what does anyone have to fear?”
“What does anyone have to fear indeed.” Zelda’s father fell silent as he removed two crystal tumblers from an ornamental display to the side of his desk. “Would you care for a glass of brandy?”
Zelda paused before giving a curt nod. If her father were trying to make amends by having a frank conversation with her, she may as well meet him halfway by accepting his olive branch. It disturbed her to see how his hand shook as he poured from a bottle that he removed from a drawer of his desk. He had calmed himself by the time he raised his glass. Zelda wanted to keep her mind clear, so she left her own glass untouched.
“As I said earlier,” Rhoam continued, “what were defeated were manifestations of malice. The source of that malice still lies in wait, somewhere deep underground. It may have been temporarily silenced, but its malice still grows. This is why the Sheikah were so keenly interested in your gift of prophecy, and this is why they were willing to subject you to what was essentially torture. When Ganon’s malice erupts again, everyone in Hyrule will die – everyone you’ve ever known, everyone you’ve never known, the young and the old, the weak and the strong alike. It will be nothing less than another Calamity.”
Zelda took a breath, held it, and released it slowly. She didn’t want to let her annoyance at her father’s superstitious nonsense show, but it was difficult to keep her voice level.
“Do you really think a single person is capable of all that? A single person who has been alive for hundreds, possibly even thousands of years? Someone whose moods can be predicted by the stars, or whatever type of divination the Sheikah use to determine the course of history? The Calamity undeniably happened, and it may have even been magical in nature, but surely you can’t believe this.”
Zelda’s father took another drink. “I’m afraid I can’t say. I leave Sheikah business to the Sheikah, and your family’s business to your family. My concerns are the mundane matters of the world I can see with my own eyes. I wanted to have a hand in the governance of the nation I grew up in, and I never had any intention of becoming a hierophant of the cult of Hylia. Your mother convinced me otherwise. She showed me that magic was real. Can you say that it’s not?”
“If you have so much respect for magic, why seek to restrain mine? Why did you drug me?” Zelda tried and failed to keep her voice from rising. “Why did you lie to me for my entire life?”
Rhoam drained his glass and held it in his hand. He watched the light play across the facets cut into the crystal before he answered. “Your power was of a different magnitude altogether. More than any stars, more than any omens, that’s what convinced us that you are a ‘Zelda,’ perhaps even the true Zelda. The Sheikah thought that, with your powers of dream and prophecy, you might lead them to the source of the Calamity. Your mother couldn’t abide by their methods, however, and neither could I. We decided that the safest course of action was to prevent you from manifesting any magic at all. You see, we were afraid that your magic might call to whatever still lies underground. If the spark of your power were dampened, perhaps that might keep the source of malice from awakening alongside you.”
He sighed. “I only wanted what was best for you. That’s what parents say when they’ve done something cruel, isn’t it? I hope you’ll understand in time, and I pray that you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me.”
Zelda understood the argument her father was trying to make, but that didn’t change the fact that it was absurd. Magic was undoubtedly real, but her mother had the right of it – Ganon was a scapegoat, not to mention a pathetic excuse for the way she’d been treated as a child.
No wonder my mother left you, she wanted to say, but she took a small sip of brandy instead. Her father was so deluded that he couldn’t even see the inconsistencies in his own thinking. She pitied him.
“The Sheikah keep their knowledge close, but I have faith that you’ll find the answers you’re looking for,” Rhoam continued after a brief pause. “I can repeat what I’ve been told, but I’m not an expert. Still, I like to think that I have some small measure of expertise in human character. The Sheikah are frightening, but they abide by the limitations set on them by law. Even the most avaricious and power-hungry politicians and capitalists I’ve done business with during my tenure can be dealt with so long as they respect the conventions of this country and its legal code. They’re ambitious because they can envision a future for themselves here, and they will not act to jeopardize it.”
Zelda’s father looked up from his empty glass and met her eyes. “This is why I must once again warn you about the man you call your friend. I can’t imagine the inner workings of the mind of someone who would willingly take the name Ganondorf, but the future seen by such a man is likely far removed from anything you or I could imagine. His choice of name belies the fact that he’s aware of the old legends, and it’s clear where his sympathies lie.”
“I’ve heard enough about legends to last a lifetime,” Zelda said as she put down her glass and rose from her chair. “I hope you’ll be more reasonable the next time we talk.”
As frustrating as her conversation with her father had been, it had given Zelda a great deal to think over. If the magical energy the Sheikah called malice could not be channeled through a conscious mind, what did that mean regarding her own abilities? As she had told Ganondorf, she no longer heard voices or saw nightmares with the same frequency she did when she was younger, but now – as then – there was no conscious effort involved. Her dreams were about as far as you could get from “conscious.” She wasn’t too terribly satisfied with her life at the moment, but it was offensive to call whatever ability she had “malice,” as if it were some fearful and unspeakable thing that could never be understood.
Sweet Farore, they might as well just say I’m on my period, she thought. A grim smile rose to her face as she imagined Ganon causing the Calamity for no other reason than because it was that time of the month.
Still, her superstitious father was more correct than even he knew. Zelda glanced down at the back of her right hand before squeezing it into a fist. She had indisputable evidence that at least some elements of the old legends were true. Whatever powered devices like the Divine Beasts and the Sheikah Slate could very well be related to malice. As Purah said, the machines were created by people just like herself. Regardless of whether she was a “true” Zelda, it stood to reason that she was in a perfect position to solve the mysteries of the ancient technology that had fascinated her for so long.
Perhaps Ganon was real. Her nightmares were certainly real, and they could very well be prophetic omens. For all she knew, reactivating the ancient Sheikah technology might be a catalyst for breaking whatever “seal” had been placed on the source of the Calamity. Ganondorf’s sudden appearance in Hyrule could be another omen. He might even be the source of the Calamity himself, although Zelda found the idea laughable. Aside from the admittedly unpleasant side effects of his exposure to ancient technology, Ganondorf seemed to be in full possession of his mind, so much so that he had probably never done a single thing in his life unconsciously. As formidable as he was, he was hardly on the level of a natural disaster.
Whatever – or whoever – it was, Zelda decided that it didn’t matter if Calamity Ganon was a force of nature. She remembered how powerful she felt on the night when she and Ganondorf commanded the desert winds to bring rain down onto the dry earth. She was a force of nature, and Ganon should be afraid of her.