Chapter 30 – More Than a Press Briefing

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Hours passed. More ships arrived. Some docked in the hanger. Some were too large and were forced to land on the surface of the island. Others were larger still and remained aloft in a close patrol. Skyloft’s camouflage field was extended in order for the fleet to remain hidden. After it was decided that anyone who could reach the hidden island had already arrived, a count was taken. They had amassed just over ten thousand soldiers of varying stations; pilots, infantry, officers, support staff, and even cadets who were fresh out of the military academy. It was something to behold. They had all been promised an announcement regarding the fall of the palace, and Roslin wasn’t going to disappoint them.

As many people as could be spared from their duties were gathered on the surface of the island, standing before the grand temple. Chatter had broken out through the crowd waiting for the announcement. Inside the temple, Roslin stood, quietly waiting for the right moment. She braced herself as best she could for the coming onslaught. It was a battle of a very different sort, one she wasn’t accustomed to fighting. A battle of self.

“Ma’am, it would appear everyone who can be here is waiting outside. It is time.” Impa said as she rest a hand on Roslin’s shoulder, the only thing she could do to comfort and calm the woman.

“Thank you Impa. I’ll be out in a moment. Link, you know what to do when I ask. Before we do this, there’s one more thing I need.” the Minister said.

The Lieutenant nodded, “Just say the word.”

“Would you pick up that chest behind you and hold it up for me for just a minute?” she asked, “There’s something inside it I need.”

It was a simple request, far simpler than Link had expected. Still, he did as he was asked without question. The chest was old and heavy. The wood–carefully polished and stained long ago–was showing its age. The metalwork was a deep grey showing flecks of rust. There was an intricate pattern engraved into the metal bands running across its surface holding it together. It was ancient Hylian in a decorative script he had never seen before.

The Lieutenant marveled at the craftsmanship, wondering what could be inside. Whatever it was, it had to be important. With a bit of a grunt, he hoisted the small thing off the ground and turned to face Roslin. She reached out and rest a hand atop it. She closed her eyes and sighed for a brief moment.

“No one ever told you about the power of the Ancient Language, did they?” Roslin asked.

“What? Ancient Hylian? I’ve heard it was supposedly able to be used in some mystical way. Magic words and all. I never really thought much about it. I didn’t hear very much of it being used like that in the old legends.” Link answered.

“There’s reason for that,” the Minster replied, “The Sheikah still use it. They tattoo themselves with their ‘true names’ to ensure no one can take it from them. It has a great, long forgotten strength. You used it not long ago to open the vault. It’s been so long forgotten and our modern language so drastically mutated from it that no one could possibly recognize it… not without a great deal of study.”

Link frowned lightly, “Forgive me but… what made you suddenly need to discuss it?”

“This chest contains something precious, something that required a similar lock. It’s a part of myself that I had hidden away long ago. Tell me Link, do you know the Ancient Hylian word for ‘wisdom’?”

He blushed softly, feeling slightly foolish, “Never could find much material on how to read most of it. I can get fragments here and there, but for the most part, I just recognize that it’s Hylian. I’m afraid I don’t know.”

She smiled softly, “You do know it, actually. You just don’t know that you know it. It’s Nayru.”

Light seeped out from the seams of the chest as the locks came undone on their own. The lid slowly began to swing open of its own accord, letting the brilliance within pour out. As she opened the chest and reached in, the light began to fade, a strange sense of ease-of-mind passing with it. Whatever it was, it wasn’t just important, it was powerful and even familiar. Link’s left hand began to warm and pulse. He knew what it was.

“I didn’t know it was possible to hide it in a chest like that.” the Lieutenant said.

Roslin nodded, wrapping her fingers around the glowing charm, shivering as it melted away into her hand, unseen by anyone else.

“Like your family did, my predecessors learned how to remove it, only more completely. It was the last step in making sure no one knew who I was, not even you. Your hand would have been a dead giveaway,” Roslin explained, “Now, you can set that down. I’ve got a kingdom to address.”

The chest was returned to the spot on the floor where it had been left. Likely Impa had been charged with hiding it and simply brought it out at her request. It seemed like such a bad idea to leave something so powerful lying in such an open place. The Minister and Link turned and walked towards the main entrance of the temple. Roslin took a deep breath and nodded to the two men on either side of the heavy stone doors. They pushed the entryway open and the Minister emerged into the light of day outside. Link followed closely behind to one side, Impa on the other.

All eyes turned as the Minister and the two behind her emerged. As she walked down the short flight of stairs, a hush fell across the crowd. Quickly and covertly, Roslin scanned the area, finding several cameras pointed at her, already transmitting to any and all loyal subjects that could receive. She told herself she was making sure everything was as it should be. Subconsciously, she was searching for ways to escape should she need to. A lectern had been set up for her to speak from before the crowd. The seal of her office, the office of the First Minister, was projected holographically in front of it, the text animated to slowly rotate around an altered image of the royal family’s crest. She approached it and rest her hands on either side of the flat surface in front of her.

Link and Impa took up their positions on either side. The Lieutenant fought quite hard to mask his tremors. Stage fright was still something of a problem. Even after all the action he had seen, he was still sent quaking by a large audience. It would be terribly embarrassing if the kingdom’s hero could be seen shaking in his boots because he didn’t like being in front of a crowd.

“Loyal subjects and soldiers of the kingdom of Hyrule,” Roslin began, “I regret to inform you that approximately twelve hours ago, a strike force of considerable strength overpowered the Royal Palace’s defenses. General order 16 was given, a complete and total evacuation of the palace as well as an alert to all outlying military installations to secure their respective chains of command. This order is meant to be used in times of war and invasion. The Cult of Ganon has taken over the Royal Palace. As of the time of this broadcast, all military facilities within the central tri-state region have been destroyed. We are still gathering information on the status of their personnel and any equipment that might have escaped the attack as well as outlying facilities.”

She paused, looking out across the audience as whispers of shock and horror spread. She lifted her chin slightly, steeling herself as she delivered more unhappy news.

“During the evacuation of the palace, it was learned that Regent Yates was the mastermind behind the assault. He is now classified as an enemy of the state wanted for high treason and crimes against the crown,” she continued as an image of the Regent was projected on either side of the podium to illustrate who the traitor was, “We have labeled Yates, former Regent of the kingdom, public enemy number one. Our efforts to bring him to justice are among our top priorities. We also understand that he has acquired an ancient, powerful artifact that grants him great strength and abilities. He is not to be underestimated. It is known to us that these abilities include the involuntary coercion of susceptible minds, turning them into his mindless, violent slaves. As of this moment, it is not known if the effect can be reversed. We are pouring great effort into researching a solution to this as we speak.”

Again, whispers spread. She could feel they were beginning to fade. Best to get all the bad out of the way first.

“There have been reports of a related tragedy of monumental scale during the attack. Only minutes after the evacuation order was given, the royal shuttle, Hylia One, was launched and began its run towards the nearest secure facility. Its escort was overwhelmed by the cult’s forces. The pilot bravely fought to keep the craft in the air as long as possible, but ultimately lost the fight. Hylia One was seen going down ten kilometers southwest of the palace before it exploded in midair. All aboard were lost. It is with the most profound sorrow that I report the death of Ilia Talon, who was aboard the craft at the time, acting as a decoy for the Potentate.”

As soon as there was mention of Hylia One being shot down and all aboard killed, the audience began to despair openly and audibly. Their voices turned immediately to confusion as soon as the word ‘decoy’ was used. Roslin turned and nodded to someone ‘off stage’ to provide the audience with an image of the lady in question. What they saw appeared to be Zelda herself, confusing the crowd further.

“Ilia was a dear friend and a brave young woman who used her skillful imitation of the Potentate to ensure her secret was kept and that Zelda remained hidden. She was one of six maidens called upon for this task.” Roslin said as she lifted a hand, waving for someone behind her to approach.

The temple doors opened once again and four young ladies emerged, each one the exact image of the Potentate, down to the same gown they all wore and the way they carried themselves. More murmurs of confusion filled the audience as the ploy was uncovered. Roslin could even hear uttered phrases like ‘Does that mean the Potentate is still alive?’ and ‘If she wasn’t aboard the royal shuttle, then where is she?’. She didn’t let it distract her.

“This was a protocol put in place should something like this come to pass. One had already given her life in service to the crown some time ago. Ilia was the second. It is with the greatest humility and gratitude that I thank and release the remaining four from this burden,” she said as she turned to the ladies standing behind her, bowing her head slightly, “You have all served your kingdom well. The Potentate has decided such measures are no longer required. You no longer need to put your lives in danger for her.”

More whispers filled the audience. If Roslin was still receiving orders from the Potentate, then she had to be alive and secure somewhere. That was cause for an improvement in morale. If only they knew the truth, Roslin thought to herself. The four surviving maidens all tipped their heads, curtsying gracefully to the Minister. Roslin turned back to face forward as the four women moved off to either side.

“I can assure you all that the Potentate herself is quite safe and unharmed. She mourns for the loss of life, and wishes to take back her kingdom from the evil that has crept in,” the Minister said then paused, taking a breath and lowering her gaze for a moment, slipping her glasses off.

She couldn’t keep up with the formality of the announcement any longer. This was it. She wasn’t going to hide it any longer. It had been carefully planned and thought out, this reveal. In all her time as First Minister, Roslin had never allowed doubt to cloud her judgment, but now she was fighting an intense, inescapable fear. The only cure for it was to speak from the heart.

“I’m gonna go off script here for a little bit,” the lady said, “You’ll have to forgive me, it’s… it’s something of an emotional moment for me. You see, I’ve been worried–terrified actually–of how the public will react to all of this. The idea that your ruler has lied to you. Sure it was for the good and security of the nation, but she still lied. Lies have a way of catching up with you. And mine finally have for me.”

She watched, letting people speculate as to what she was going on about. A little theatricality and drawing out of the suspense often made for a good show, and if Yates was watching, she wanted to perform well for him.

“You see, I’ve been lying about who I am. You all believe my name is Terentia Roslin and it’s not. I wasn’t born in the wealthy Kakariko district. I didn’t go to the schools my profile says I went to. I was raised by the Sheikah. Impa is the closest thing to a sister I have and for the last decade, she was one of less than a dozen people who knew who I really am,” Roslin said as she lifted her left hand, the golden triangular mark shining there on the back of her palm revealing exactly who she was, “My name is Zelda Terentia Roslin, crowned Zelda Seres Hyrule.”

Stunned gasps and cries of dismay ripped through the crowd. The two larger holographic projections well above either side of the podium zoomed in on her hand, the Triforce of wisdom gleaming in her grasp. The seal of the First Minister projected in front of the lectern suddenly morphed into the full royal crest of Hyrule as if it knew on its own what to do. Roslin could only imagine the reactions of every citizen watching the broadcast. Yates was no doubt at a loss.

The mental image of the former Regent staring at the screen, his mouth hanging agape, then throwing something in rage and generally losing control made Roslin want to smile derisively into the camera. She let her words hang in the air for a moment, letting them breathe. Eventually, she lowered her hand back down, her gaze on the lecturn in front of her as she waited for the inevitable backlash such a revelation was sure to bring. Instead, the sounds of incredulity faded to silence. She lifted her eyes again to see the audience, in a wave spreading back away from her, moving to kneel. It gave her pause as her breath caught in her throat.

She kicked herself quietly. Link was right.

“Again, I cannot begin to put into words how truly sorry I am for all that I have done, for deceiving and misleading you all, for asking so much of you,” she said as she turned to the Lieutenant, “I can never give back what I have taken in the name of Hyrule. Your kingdom… no, I will forever be in your debt.”

It was Link’s turn to fight against choking up. He pushed the emotion away, not ready to feel it yet, and offered Roslin a subtle nod, gesturing with his chin for her to turn back to the audience, which she did.

“I can promise you this though, I’m done hiding. As much as I consider myself one of the Sheikah, I am not a shadow any longer. And I’m ready for a fight. We’re taking back the palace. To show how serious I am about this, I would like to introduce Lieutenant Link,” the Potentate said and turned to look back at him again, motioning for him to step forward, even though he was quietly shaking in stage fright, but managed to hide it fairly well, “The Lieutenant is a recent recruit to our ranks. He has special skills that make him crucial to maintaining the security of our nation. He is why we will be victorious. He is why evil will run in fear! He is the Hero of Hyrule!

Link reached up over his shoulder, pulling the sword slung across his back as he had been instructed to do when the time was right. The gleaming blade glistened in the light, singing its high pitch tone as it slid free of the sheath, held aloft. The mark on the back of his hand shined just as brightly as Zelda’s. The sight was iconic, evoking awe and inspiring all who saw it. Those who were still kneeling rose to their feet and a tremendous cheer shook the island. As Link held his sword aloft, a pale green light poured down over his arm from a gold band wrapped around his wrist, appearing as if it were a holographic projection. It covered his chest and spread further, enveloping him completely. Shapes began to form in the light, lines of gold forming along his body, becoming joints between plates of armor colored a deep emerald above the waist and along the outside of his legs, a soft tan hue covering the inside.

A hood-like feature curved up to halfway cover his head from behind, no doubt part of a helmet that would close completely on command. His hands weren’t covered in hard plating, but durable brown leather. What the audience couldn’t see was the metal that would cover them should the situation require his hands be fully protected under a pressure seal. Otherwise, he wanted the dexterity. A shield formed over his right forearm, the elongated, offset diamond shape that had been the standard for heroes past sporting the royal crest as the legends always depicted. His bow and quiver from before hung along his back, tucked away neatly to keep from getting in the way, but still visible for effect.

The new suit was far lighter and slimmer than any other he had been given. It moved easier and faster. It fit far better. And of course, in true tradition to those of his line, it had been designed to mimic the uniform of the original knights of Hyrule. He finally, at long last, looked unmistakably the part he had been asked to play. As the armor appeared and slowly finished assembling, the audience was whipped into a frenzy. Roslin knew a thing or two about morale, and this had definitely had the desired effect.

“With his help, we will win. And I have another promise to make. I won’t sit on my throne waiting to hear reports of our soldiers dying following my orders.” she said before extended her left hand, showing an identical golden band on her wrist.

The same holographic light surrounded her, revealing a similar suit of armor forming across her. Zelda’s was similar in shape and design, but it very much leant itself to being the armor of the monarchy. It was mostly an opalescent white, as if it were made of pearl. Highlights of royal purple and gold accented the sleek, durable frame.

She lifted her other arm, positioning both as if she were holding a long assault rifle. The act seemed to call one into existence in a slow, brilliant flash of light. A thin gold band had formed on her head, holding her hair back while creating a look not unlike the tiaras her doubles wore, only far more akin to ‘action wear’. The light faded as the Potentate’s combat suit finished assembling itself around her.

A new rousing roar of applause and war cries shook the walls of the temple, finally falling quiet as the Potentate lifted a hand to silence them.

“I’ll be on the front lines with my men. Be ready to report to your respective chains of command. Your orders will be coming down shortly. Yates, I hope you can hear this. We’re coming for you!” Roslin shouted.

She pulled back on the slide running along the underside of her rifle, priming it to fire. The whining sound of the power cell sending energy to the pre-fire chamber and the heavy clicks of the whole weapon warming up offered a deeply satisfying sense of action. That alone coming from their ruler would have offered enough of a boost in morale. Everything else was just icing on the cake.

Link stepped forward, returning his sword to its sheath as he did so, then turned to face Zelda. A hand moved swiftly to just over his eye, saluting his commanding officer. She hadn’t told him to do that. It caught her quietly off guard.

“Lieutenant Link, reporting for duty.” he said in a loud, clear voice, leading by example.

As if everyone else had forgotten who they were standing in front of–not just the Potentate, but the First Minister as well–the crowd offered their own salutes, every single soldier recognizing her as the commander in chief. The sound of a thousand boots snapping to attention shook the ground. It gave her pause. The troops weren’t the only ones needing a boost in morale, and Link had just given her all she would ever need. Her old, hardened expression as ‘Minister Roslin’ returned, settling in to who she should be, and she shouted as clearly and strongly as she could.

“All units! To your stations!”

The crowd dispersed with frightening efficiency. They were charged. Impa, Shad, and Link congratulated the Potentate on a job well done, the first address she would make with her original title. She was trembling terribly now that she could let her guard down a bit.

“You’ve got all of Hyrule behind you, think it’ll be enough?” Link asked as he smirked a bit.

Zelda grumbled quietly, giving the Lieutenant’s shoulder a firm jab, “You didn’t have to salute you know. It was a little much.”

Impa smiled, “I think it was more than appropriate… Commander.”

The armored woman just rolled her eyes and decided to let it slide. It was better than being treated like a delicate little princess. She turned to Shad and the ever quiet Rauru. They had been instrumental in keeping her secret, as well as protecting Skyloft and all it contained. She silently resolved to ensure they would be properly honored for their hard work. She even began to mentally scroll back through various ‘Orders’ they could be inducted into, trying to recall if there was one that was exempt from paying taxes.

“Thank you both for what you’ve done so far… and for the armor. It fits like a glove. I can’t believe it only took you a few hours after you finished Link’s.” Roslin said as she peered down at the suit.

The older fellow nodded with a grin, “Shad is quite the master craftsman. That was all his doing. I merely taught him how the relics you both carry work. He has far outpaced me.”

The younger fellow blushed and averted his gaze, “You give me too much credit.”

“No he doesn’t,” Roslin said as she rest a hand on his shoulder, “We all owe the both of you a great debt of gratitude. Unfortunately, I can’t repay you right now. I’ve got a war to win. There’s a mission that needs planning, and I’d very much like the two of you to sit in on the development.”

The two caretakers nodded, unsure why she would ask such a thing of them, but they didn’t question it and bowed ever so slightly, “As you wish, ma’am.”

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