We define a “citadel” as a fortified core of a city or town, and the citadel in Akkala fits this description well. Built into a tall mountain close to the southern border of the region, it’s a foreboding structure that looks ominous as you approach, though at one point I’m sure it was regal. Following the roads, it’s maybe a two-day ride to Hyrule Castle, so its position would allow for a good view of several areas around it, including the sea in case of an incoming attack from the lands beyond. The Sheikah Tower built here could make communications and travel easy for those with Sheikah Slates, and I’m sure the Hyrulean Army used this facility for storage, training, and much more.

But as with the rest of Hyrule, it was decimated in the Calamity, left to waste away as a forgotten monument to what the kingdom once was.

Tingle’s Maps is a series in which we explore the endless lands of Hyrule in search of our favorite places in The Legend of Zelda. We’ll explore everywhere: the beautiful landscapes that make us put down the controller in awe; the deadly terrain that threatens Link with the harshest of elements; the bustling towns that bring the game to life; and the abandoned grounds that evoke peace and sadness. As well as the grand locales, we’ll also discover all the secret caves and hidden crevices that lie between. Let’s adventure!

When you travel to the southern side of the bridge that used to lead to the Citadel, you’ll come across a traveler under assault by a Moblin. Rescue him, and you’ll learn his name is Nell, and he’s come on a pilgrimage of sorts to these ruins as he heard he lost ancestors in the final battle. He tells you he trekked all this way only to find the bridge ruined, saddened as he feels he has to turn back after traveling so far.

It’s easy to empathize with him. Guardian Watchers surround the fortress, circling threateningly overhead with red spotlights searching for any intruders. Along the stairway, you’ll find armed Bokoblins and a few legless Guardian Stalkers that are still lingering long after other comrades had fallen. Not to mention when you reach the top, what was surely an enclosed part of the fortress has been blown apart, the only remnants remaining are some outer walls and a giant pool of Malice that covers the entire structure. Even after you pierce the singular menacing eye, the threat remains and forces Link to navigate carefully around it to climb and activate the tower.

Despite the threats, the Citadel itself is beautiful in a way. It has decorative doorways and window frames carved into the stone, as well as the rustic red rock of the mountain it’s built into. Even the trees that line the battlements, white bark with bright orange leaves, give a splash of color and some softness to something representative of strength and power. Their positioning appears to be a strategic part of the design, both to give color to the area and to perhaps hide some of the citadel’s defenses. On three tree-lined battlements, you find the ruins of cannons waiting to be fired. Perhaps, in an attempt to stop the onslaught of Guardians, the soldiers taking refuge here fired on their own structure to stop them from crossing.

While there are no direct accounts of what happened, what Nell tells us, along with information gleaned from Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion, can give us some insight. After the fall of Castle Town, the remaining soldiers and perhaps some civilians fled to Akkala to the safety of the Citadel, as it was said to be unassailable. Perhaps they held it for a time — the structure certainly looks indestructible — but if you’ve played the game before you know that nothing lasts long once the sights of Guardians have fixated on it.

Nell ends the conversation with Link with a sad and poignant quote, his final statement settling on an image of the Citadel itself. “In a real sense, the kingdom of Hyrule met its doom here,” he says. What he says is true, that many met their end in this fortress, but the building itself is still standing despite all odds, waiting to be saved and brought back to life. Much like Hyrule itself.