July 29, 2013

In the Shadows Beyond This World: Epilogue

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Well. That’s that. Thanks for reading!

This story clocked in at 129,360 words, or at least that’s how many words I wrote on it since July 2, easily making it the longest thing I’ve ever written, certainly the longest thing I’ve written in one month to this date. Although this epilogue could have been longer, but I ran out of ‘feeling like doing dialogue’ halfway through, even though the dialogue at the beginning was okay. : P Maybe I’ll go rewrite that part later.

Now to do some other projects… to list them, I have:

- 6 pianos arrangements

- A collaborative writing project with Rose, Jenna, Yllamse, and Gaby

- Drawing! Especially art for the games I’m making, and learning how to draw humans in proper perspective, and fanart of whatever I feel like (ZELDAZELDAZELDA)

- Using RPG Maker to make a Fire Emblem game

- Possibly working on my two remaining Fire Emblem 7 novels

- NOT making plans to write a story about the Hero who fought the Shadow Tribe and broke the Fused Shadow at the cost of his own life… darnit…

Chapter 21: Triforce of Power

 

Epilogue

 

Link walked into Telma’s bar, Navi at his shoulder, looking around for Shad. The scholar had asked him to come by, as he had a question and a proposition for him. Link wondered if he was finally ready to go on the expeditions he had been talking about for all of twelve months.

Shad wasn’t there yet. But he could see Rauru and Auru off in a corner, arguing about something over their beer. Link stopped by them. “Hello, what’s new?”

“This blasted nuisance won’t admit that there’s more to life than training new knights for the Kingdom,” Rauru complained.

“That’s not what I said!” Auru rejoined. “I said that there’s more to life than meditating all day!”

Navi giggled.

Link smiled. “There’s more to life than either of those things, although they’re both beneficial.”

“You’ve done much meditating?” Rauru asked doubtfully.

“No,” Navi said.

“Maybe not in the traditional sense. My meditation is sparring, really. But to each his own, right?”

“See, he agrees with me,” Auru said triumphantly. “But speaking of sparring, what did you think of the latest batch of recruits?”

“Some of them show definite potential,” Link said. “But mostly it’s showing me that there are corners in Hyrule that I haven’t visited yet. Maybe we should make it part of screening that they have to bring a picture of their hometown.”

“Look at you, the Captain of the Royal Guard, and already abusing your power,” Navi teased.

Auru smiled, and then humphed. “I still don’t think you should make your tunic ensemble into the official uniform.”

Link shrugged. “I have it on good authority that it’s an older Knight’s uniform than Hyrule itself, and it’s comfortable. But maybe once they rank up to full Knight, we can let the soldiers decide if they’d rather wear full armour. I don’t have anything against it.”

“You’re too agreeable,” Rauru told him. “What does Princess Zelda think?”

“She’s… a bit distracted right now,” Link said, and grinned. “Oh, there’s Shad. I’ll talk to you two later.”

Shad had arrived with Ashei. “Ah! Link! Good to see you. Glad you’re here.”

“Shad! Ashei!” Navi cried in greeting, and Ashei waved at her.

“Sorry we’re late,” Ashei said. “He couldn’t find one of his silly papers.”

“It’s not silly! Ah, can we get a table?”

They sat down at one of Telma’s round cafe tables, and Telma came to coo over them and take their drink order. When she had gone, Link turned to them. “So, what did you want to speak to me about?”

“One moment,” Shad said, digging in his satchel. “I need to organize a few things.”

Ashei turned to him, leaning on her elbows. “Well, I can give you my news while he’s getting ready. Although I thought he did this before he came. Anyway, I was up Snowpeak again last week. The mountain is quite mild. The glacier is cold, but not unseasonably so…”

“How are Yeto and Yeta?” Link asked. “Are they ready for Rana and me to visit?”

“They’re good! Yeto’s been pulling down trees in the valley and turning them into planks, ready for you. It’s very nice of you to go up and help repair their house on your summer break from the castle. You could go anywhere in Hyrule.”

“Well, I… felt bad for all the destruction that I wrought there last year, and there hasn’t really been time to go up and put it right until now, what with everything happening all at once.”

“Is Rana excited?”

“She’s very excited. She thinks they’re the most adorable people. Although she does think a lot of people are adorable.” Link leaned forward and told Ashei in a stage whisper: “She even thinks you two are adorable!”

Ashei turned bright red. “W-what? I don’t know anything about that. As if!”

Link laughed as Shad came up from his bag, pushing his glasses up his nose. “What?” asked the scholar. “Did something happen?”

Link was still grinning. “No, nothing. Don’t worry about it. Ashei is just easy to tease, is all.”

Shad frowned. “I don’t find it easy to tease her. I’m not sure what you mean. But anyway… here is what I have. I’ve been looking at the Skycannon for the last six months, as you know, and the cannon experts agree that it’s permanently damaged. There’s no way for us to fix it without further knowledge, probably forgotten magic. So there will be no visits to the Sky’s Loft any time soon.”

“That’s too bad,” Navi said. “It was pretty up there.”

“However, I have decided that an appropriate alternative study at this time is the Temple of Time. You gave me the Dominion Rod, and I am curious about the sealed portion of the Temple. …I was wondering if you would take me there, some weekend?”

“The weekend coming up is the long weekend,” Link said. “How long are you planning to stay there?”

“I’ll be guarding him,” Ashei said. “So you don’t have to stick around when you have work to do. But we’ve never been to that part of the Forest, so we’d need your help to get there.”

“Well… sure. I have to seal the Master Sword, anyway.”

“You’re going to seal it?” Shad asked, his eyes wide. “But what if you need it again?”

“Then I know where it is. But the Temple of Time is a sacred place. Evil can’t come within the actual walls of the temple, no matter how crumbled they may be. At least, that’s what Zelda told me. So it’s safer there than with me, in general. I’ve borne it overly long, this time.”

Ashei’s eyes moved back and forth in incomprehension, but Shad nodded. “If that is the case, I’m happy to provide you with an extra excuse to go back there. So shall we meet at the castle in three days?”

“Sure. Let’s plan our route from there.”

But before he could say anything, a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, and he jumped.

“You jumped?” Nabooru demanded from behind him. “You’re losing your touch, Hero.”

He smirked up at her. “Well excuse me for not watching my back in a bar full of friends.”

“That’s when you have to watch it the most,” Nabooru told him. “How are you?”

“I’m doing well. Everything is going well. Still busy, working hard…”

“Keeping up with your martial skills, I hope?”

Link rolled his eyes. “That’s about all I do these days. After Zelda put me on the recruitment posters, now everyone and their girlfriend…”

“Especially their girlfriend,” Navi put in.

“…wants to join the Hyrule Army. We don’t need that many soldiers, just enough to have a decent corps. So I’ve been evaluating recruits for the last two months, and training the ones who joined up since last year.”

“I saw one of those posters,” Nabooru said. “It captures your hotness very well.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Is that what they call it.”

Navi snickered. “You are on fire, Hero of Time.”

“Anyway, yes, if you’re in town for the next couple of days, come to the castle and challenge me to a duel. It’ll be good for the recruits to see me fight someone other than Auru and Rana all the time.”

“Will do,” Nabooru said. “I’m just popping in to see how my ambassadors are doing.”

“How are your people?”

“It’s not been a terrible summer,” she admitted. “Lost two horses in a sandstorm a week back, but… it could be a lot worse. So there’s that. The girls seem generally content with this lifestyle, and the ones who aren’t… well, they can always go live with a Hyrulean man, so it’s all the same to me. Anyway, I’d better go say hello to Telma, or she’ll kick my butt. See you around, Hero.”

Link raised his glass to her.

 

A couple days later, he walked through the castle gate, nodding cheerfully to the guards there, and heading around back to the barracks, where the recruits would be waiting for him to drill them. It was strange, having students. He wasn’t sure if he was tough enough on them. But then, Auru was there to be tough on them. They had a decent partnership going on. Auru whipped them into some semblance of shape and scolded them for getting it wrong, and he fine-tuned everything and praised them for getting it right. The funny thing was, the recruits seemed to love them both equally.

Except this morning, there was a Zora waiting at the entrance to the parade ground.

“Hey, Shoza!” Navi squeaked.

“What brings you here?” Link asked.

Shoza ducked his head. “I have, uh, a wedding invitation for you. And Rana. And for Zelda, but I came here first ’cause I know you better.”

Link smiled as he took it. “You’re finally getting married?”

“Yup! It’s awesome!”

“Congratulations! Now tell me, who proposed, you or Ruto?”

“Ruto did.”

“Of course.”

“Of course. …That’s why…” He tapped the Zora’s Sapphire, hanging at his throat.

“Oh, I didn’t even notice,” Link said. “I’m blind today.”

“Is that so?” Auru asked. “Then you won’t mind me…”

“No,” Link said, reaching up and grabbing the wooden practice sword that Auru was going to swing at him, without looking. “I’ll just be a minute, Auru.”

“You go on with your friend,” Auru said. “I’ll deal with the soldiers today.”

“Well, I…”

“Go on! Go have lunch with the Princess, or whatever it is you do when a Zora prince comes to visit.”

Shoza’s black eyes widened. “Oh yeah. I’m going to be a prince!”

“You didn’t think about that?” Navi’s wings halted momentarily, incredulously.

“Er… no! No, man! I forgot all about that. Kind of because sometimes I forget Ruto is a princess.”

“She can have that effect,” Link teased, leading them back towards the castle.

“No, dude, I mean, she’s… she’s a woman. A wonderful, strong woman.”

“I know, I’m just teasing. Do you want to go give Zelda’s to her?”

“Yeah, do you know where she’s at?”

“I have a pretty good idea.”

Link led them in one of the side doors of the castle, up two flights of stairs, and ended up in a hall that was mostly curtains and doors. There was only one guard around, and he pointed to one of the rooms. Link nodded to him, took a deep breath, and shouted “Zelda!”

Busy!” he heard from one of the rooms. It sounded strangely muffled

“You’re always busy!” he called back. He beckoned to Shoza. “Come on, let’s surprise her.”

He tiptoed into the room the guard had indicated, and saw something moving behind one of the curtains. He took three quick strides forward and tackled it.

There were two startled noises, and Franz appeared first from behind the curtain, red-faced and dishevelled. Zelda emerged after him, smoothing down her bodice and her hair hurriedly. Navi began giggling, and wouldn’t stop.

Link crossed his arms. “Okay, you two.”

“Oh, shut up,” Zelda said, moving over to the desk by the window. “Like we never caught you and Rana doing that, Captain.”

Link grinned incorrigibly. “Well, in this case, I have an official responsibility.” He waved Shoza forward.

Franz had gone to the door. “Jakob, you’re supposed to warn us when people are coming!”

“Sir Link gets special dispensation,” Jakob said calmly from the hallway. The Prince and his guard had stayed in Hyrule, both as Labrynna’s ambassadors, and also because Franz was completely smitten with Zelda. In the months that followed, she began to return his affections. No official word had come from Labrynna yet, but that was mostly because Franz hadn’t sent any sort of official word. Yet.

Shoza handed Zelda her invitation. “Ruto and I are getting married in two months, and it would be an honour to have you and Prince Franz attend.”

She looked up at him, and then began searching through her paperwork for her personal calendar. “It would be our pleasure! Congratulations! Franz, we’ll be going to Ruto and Shoza’s wedding, all right?”

“Yes, dearest,” said Franz, perching on the edge of the desk. “Um… what should I wear for that?”

“Normal human dress clothes,” Zelda told him. “Zoras are not big on ceremony, and they certainly aren’t going to force humans to wear Zora ceremonial clothing. Although…” She stared at Franz thoughtfully, getting a pink tinge on her cheeks.

Franz blushed. “I’m not going naked!”

“Not naked!” Shoza was quick to say. “I know we are most of the time, by your standards, but we dress up at least to the waist for ceremonies.”

“Oh, oh good.”

There was a tap on the window, and Zelda turned and opened it, letting Rana and Naeri slip inside. “I guess it’s a good thing you interrupted after all, Link.”

“Huh?” Rana looked around at them, confused. “What did I miss?”

“Nothing important with these two,” Link said, jerking his thumb at Franz and Zelda, and putting an arm around Rana. “Shoza’s getting married!”

“No wayyy! Actually, I was expecting that. But hey! Congratulations!” Rana gave Shoza a big hug. “And hey, at least you’ll be able to actually have babies with her.”

Link snorted.

Rana turned to him. “We’re going, right?”

“We are so going,” Navi told her.

“We’re all going,” Link said, taking in the whole group. “Hey, Rana, are you free tomorrow?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Shad wants to go see the Temple of Time, so I’m taking him and Ashei down there tomorrow. Did you want to come with?”

“Sure, we can see Saria on the way. And maybe you can see your Ordon friends after!”

“May we come?” Zelda asked. “We can delegate our duties for one weekend. I’d like to see the Temple, too.”

“Sure,” Link said. “I’m sure Shad will love the opportunity to talk all your ears off.”

“All right. I’ll let Ilia know.”

Ilia had moved to the castle a couple months after all the excitement the previous year, and Zelda had taken it upon herself to train her as Ordon’s representative at court. Bo had been so proud he cried, when he first saw Ilia in her new silk gown. At first she had been extremely shy and out of her depth, but her good sense and her spunk soon won through, and she could hold her own in most debates. A couple of the nobles disliked her, but as she was officially Zelda’s secretary, there wasn’t much they could do about it.

Link didn’t like those nobles either. Sometimes it was very hard to not rub in their powdered faces that he was the Captain of the Royal Knights and the Hero of Time and so he could do whatever he wanted without regard to them.

“Hey, Shoza,” Navi spoke up. “Have you really seen the castle?”

“No…?”

“Link, Rana, you should take him on a tour of the castle. Since Zelda is ‘busy’ and all, and it wouldn’t be proper for the future Prince of the Zoras to be wandering around alone.”

Rana bounced on her toes. “You wanna do that, Shoza?”

 

The next day, eight humans and two fairies set out on horseback from the castle. Link and Shad were in front, followed by Rana and Ashei. Zelda and Franz trailed slightly behind, and Jakob and Impa brought up the rear. Shoza had gone with them part of the way on foot, but then turned east to visit Kakariko. He was inviting Renado and Luda, and Darunia and Goron Link, in gratitude for their help. He had also asked Ilia and Telma while he was in the capital.

Darbus was still chieftain of the Gorons, from the last Link had heard, and Darunia was free to devote his time to raising his son. Link wondered how long it took Gorons to grow to adulthood.

The group made good time across Hyrule Field, and only briefly paused at Lon Lon Ranch to greet Malon and her family. She had a tiny red-headed daughter, only a month old, which meant she couldn’t fuss over the travelers to the extent she normally did. Alan smiled quietly in the background and wished them well. Talon and Ingo were actually working hard, although all Talon wanted to talk about was his perfect little granddaughter, of course.

Evening was drawing on as they came to Ordon Village. Rana went to give Bo greetings from his daughter, and the rest of them managed to find places to sleep around the village.

In the morning, they were swarmed with children – children far taller than before, children even more energetic and playful. Beth was wearing a dress that Ilia had sent her, a properly girly dress of the kind she had always wanted. She worked in her parents’ store, but still scolded Talo for his improprieties whenever she could.

Talo – whenever he wasn’t helping in his mother’s garden – was dressing up in green and waving sticks at Colin, who was not dressing up in green, but actively waving sticks back. But Colin, they were told, also liked fishing, and was a capable baby-sitter for his little sister, who was toddling around everywhere she could.

Malo was managing his store in Kakariko long-distance, and was still entertaining hopes of opening a branch in Hyrule Castle Town. He was almost there, and was properly flabbergasted when Zelda promptly gave him a donation that made it possible.

Rusl was still the town warrior, and Fado was still the goatherd. Uli patiently supported her husband and son, and watched over her daughter with a care that put a strange look in Rana’s eye.

They only stayed an hour to see everyone before they were off, riding to the Kokiri Forest, where Saria joined them. She sat with Rana on Falone, chattering away.

Link considered Epona. Although he could no longer talk to his horse, she still seemed more sympathetic and responsive than before, and he was making more of an effort to listen to her unspoken messages.

Midna had taken the Wolf Stone with her when she left, at least, he thought she did. He hoped it was a good souvenir. He still missed the Twili Princess, and although they never really talked about her, he knew the others did too. He hoped she was doing well.

Saria told them that Demon had been staying with the Kokiri for a while, but he had vanished again, and Tatl and Tael with them. She found him hard to read, and he creeped out the other children, but she thought he wasn’t bad. Which was encouraging. Although Link regretted he hadn’t visited Kokiri Forest more in the last few months, as he might have seen Demon more often.

When they arrived at the Temple, Zelda and Shad expressed shock. They still remembered how it had stood proudly to one side of the Castle Town square, back before the world had been changed. But Shad’s dismay quickly turned to enthusiasm, even more so when Zelda played the Song of Time on the Ocarina of Time and revealed the entrance to the sealed chambers from the past.

Link and the others watched Shad, for a while. Ashei stayed glued to his side, obviously tense and expecting trouble. But Shad, oblivious, gradually won her over by the sheer blind enthusiasm he displayed for every little thing he discovered.

They spent the night at the Temple, and in the morning, the others began to head back.

Link waited until he was alone, the last one left – besides Shad and Ashei, who were deep in the sealed chambers – and took the Master Sword in his hand. He went to the back room of the Temple, looking around at the trees that had grown through the walls, the sunlight filtering down into the room, and stood at the little plinth that the Master Sword rested in. Taking the sword in both hands, he gently placed it back in its slot on the top of the plinth.

There was a gleam, a brief flash of light – and then the Master Sword was back home, exactly where he had taken from it a year before. It was sealed away again, and no evil would touch it, not until some invader threatened all of Hyrule, and some new Hero would venture there and take it in hand to fight for all that was peaceful and right.

The others had made it to the edge of the forest by the time he caught up with them again. He looked out at Hyrule Field, feeling his heart rise. There was something in him that was always restless, always thirsting for adventure. He loved the Castle, he loved the Forest, but his heart was always on the move, and he knew he would be that way for the rest of his life.

He didn’t mind.

“I’ll race you home,” Rana said, and together they sped out across Hyrule Field, the others trailing behind them and their fairies laughing in their wake.

July 27, 2013

In the Shadows Beyond This World: Chapter 21: Triforce of Power

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DONE DONE DONE-ED-Y DONE

In yo’ face, Ganondorf!

Hope you enjoyed. Still an epilogue coming up.

A side note: whenever I clicked on ‘add link’ here in the post creation screen… I giggled. I admit it.

This chapter felt… repetitive. I was so anxious to fit in all the dramatic lines that I think some points were kind of hammered in. And the Franz didn’t get the kick-butt speech that I wanted him to, because I forgot what it was about. It was something about unity, anyway.

Chapter 20: Storming the Castle

 

Chapter 21: Triforce of Power

 

They touched down somewhere in Hyrule Field, possibly to the east of the castle, and looked around wildly.

“She’s not really going to…” Zelda began.

“Oh, yes, she is,” Link answered grimly. “We don’t have any way to get back in there, do we…?”

Even as he finished his sentence, the ground rumbled. Although the sun was beginning to peer through the clouds near the horizon, lightening struck the castle.

The entire castle exploded, obscured in a colossal cloud of stone and dirt. Navi gasped.

Link stared, and he knew Zelda shared his stricken look. He really hoped the others had gotten out in time. But Midna…

Something was trickling down from the sky, something black, which resolved into a dark figure on horseback. A crimson cloak was blowing in the wind, and Ganondorf raised one hand high.

Link choked. In Ganondorf’s grasp was Midna’s empty helmet. Ganondorf clenched his fist, and the helmet crumbled and fell to the ground, broken, useless, meaningless.

Ganondorf drew his glowing white sword, spurred his prancing black horse, and charged them full on. Ghostly figures joined him.

Link gritted his teeth and flung his shield in front of both of them. It wasn’t much against the charge of a warhorse, but at least it would buy Zelda some time…

Zelda stopped him with a hand on his arm, and as he looked at her, confused, she nodded calmly, bowed her head and clasped her hands. “Spirits of the Light!” she prayed. “Wielders of the power that shines far and wide on the lands of this world…”

Ganondorf was almost on them, bare feet away and closing. Navi was making little screaming noises somewhere above his head, trying not to distract him but still terrified out of her wits. Link tensed his whole body in anticipation of the collision, clenching his teeth until they felt like they were sealed together. The thunder of the charge was shaking the ground like an earthquake. But he stood firm.

“In my hour of need, grant me the light to banish evil!”

Ganondorf’s giant horse was inches from them when the world flashed white around them, and they winked out of existence.

He was standing ankle deep in pale golden water under a black, blank sky, in some new spirit world. Briefly, he caught glimpses of the four Light Spirits, but mostly he saw their spheres of Light, swirling around Zelda. She stretched out her hands gently, and received a great golden bow and a quiver full of golden arrows.

He finally allowed himself to relax a bit as Zelda turned to him, her blue eyes apologetic. “Link…”

He gave her his best determined smile, and bowed to her. “I’m here.”

She raised him and smiled back, slipping into high formality. “Chosen Hero! Lend us your strength one last time!” And she bowed her beautiful head to him.

“Zelda…” He stepped towards her and held out his hand. “Don’t bow to me. I may be the Hero, but you are the Princess, and together Wisdom and Courage will stand against Power.”

She smiled and took his hand. “Link… thank you for seeing this through. You are truly the saviour of us all.”

“I couldn’t do otherwise. This is where I belong. This is what I need to do. I’m only sorry it took me so long to get back to doing it.”

“Don’t be sorry. You are here now, and that is all that matters.” She squeezed his hand. “Now let’s kick his butt.”

He grinned, took his hand back, and reached for his sword. “Ready when you are.”

The spirit world winked out of sight, leaving them back on Hyrule Field where they started.

“Link!” Navi screamed, hyperventilating. “You… you… don’t do that again!”

“Sorry, Navi.”

“We need Epona to fight him on his own level,” Zelda said, buckling on the quiver. They could see Ganondorf circling around far ahead of them. “One moment.” She clapped her hands, and with a flash, Epona stood before them, already saddled and looking extremely confused.

Link vaulted up to her back and gave Zelda a hand up behind him. “So, you shoot him, and I get in close and slash him?”

“That’s the plan. And try not to get slashed in return, of course. Just keep him in range!”

“Come on, girl, fly for me!” Link called in a low voice to his horse, and she sprang away, faster than any other horse in Hyrule. His heart was beating hard. This was going to be interesting.

As Ganondorf crossed their path, he raised his arm, and a squadron of ghostly horsemen appeared from the right, charging on an intercept path. Link glanced at them, observing their direction and speed carefully. They seemed to be going in straight lines… if he just steered Epona correctly…

He slotted in between two of the ghosts, Epona’s tail just brushing the one behind them. Zelda was clinging to him with both arms, her bow bouncing on her back. “Just a little closer!” she called in his ear, and he nodded.

Slowly, Ganondorf was falling back to them. He juked left, across their path, and before he could get far, Zelda sat up, clinging to Epona with only her knees, and pulled the great golden bow from her back.

There was a deep ‘twang’, and a small bolt of light arced out at Ganondorf, followed by two more. The first one missed, the second one just grazed his cloak, and the third struck him square in the back. They heard him groan. Then he kicked his horse savagely and galloped away from them again.

Link followed as best he could. “Zelda, why don’t you ride Epona and I’ll catch up later? She’d go faster…”

“No, I need you here so he doesn’t think he can just attack me with his sword. And besides, you’re a better horseman than I am.”

The ghosts appeared, ahead of them this time, and Link broke hard left. Zelda hung on with her left arm, her bow in a vice grip in her right hand.

Ganondorf appeared on their tail, and Zelda twisted to aim at him. He dodged her shots, his white sword ready to swing at them.

“Link…!” Zelda cried breathlessly, and he drew the Master Sword and veered right, in time to block a swing from Ganondorf. Zelda ducked, clinging to his back low and out of the way.

Ganondorf bore down on him. He wasn’t getting enough leverage in this position, and broke right. Ganondorf followed them, laughing at them.

Epona turned an impossibly tight circle, and Link came up beside Ganondorf again, swinging the Master Sword down on him. Ganondorf deflected. They sparred for a few moments, galloping parallel to each other across the gently sloping plain.

“Look out!” Navi screamed, and Link looked up in time to see the ghostly horsemen charging them from the front again. He dodged… left, even closer to Ganondorf. So close that the white sword was too close to easily hit them.

Zelda grabbed an arrow from her quiver and tried to stab Ganondorf with it, but he grabbed her arm.

“Zelda!” Link, past the ghosts, reached out and caught Zelda’s arm too, preventing Ganondorf from dragging her off the horse. They were so close… he could hear Ganondorf’s breathing, hear his throaty chuckle at their struggles. He could feel Zelda’s tension, near panic.

He let go of Epona’s reins and went for the Master Sword, right-handed, and swung it at Ganondorf’s face. Ganondorf let go and moved away, leering at them.

“You okay?” Navi asked Zelda, and she nodded, rubbing her wrist.

“Just keep him in range,” she repeated, and set another arrow to her bow.

Link obediently followed Ganondorf, catching sight as he did so of a small group of people – some of them shining in various colours – approaching. Drat. The Resistance had come to help. But they couldn’t help. “Zelda! We have to finish him quickly, before the others get here!”

The great bow twanged, and Ganondorf jerked. Link slowed Epona to a walk, and they watched as Ganondorf tipped over, both him and his horse skidding on the rocky ground. A cloud of dust obscured their view.

“He’s probably not dead,” Link said. “Wait here. I’ll go finish him.” He dismounted and trotted towards the cloud of dust, Master Sword and shield in hand.

“Link… wait!” Zelda cried, too late. A yellow-orange shield flickered into existence around Link and the dust cloud. Epona neighed as she reared back, though Zelda kept her seat.

“Zelda, don’t touch that!” Navi said. “It’ll hurt you!”

Link stopped and stood, waiting. The dust blew away, and Ganondorf stood there, not looking significantly worse for wear, although his magnificent cloak was tattered now. The black horse lay still, unconscious or dead. The setting sun streamed out from under the clouds, lighting everything with a strange red glow.

“You wield an impressive-looking blade… but nothing more,” Ganondorf told him, drawing his white sword. “While I can kill you with any sword… But I will kill you with this sword, the sword those pathetic Sages tried to execute me with, that I have turned to my will, and my will alone!”

“It’s true I don’t have as much to call on as you do,” Link said. Navi circled around his head and came to rest on his shoulder. “Midna’s Fused Shadow had more power in its little finger than I have in my whole body. But you forget that I cannot rest until you are defeated, and I will not rest until you are defeated, because of this.” He raised his left fist, and the Triforce on it blazed out.

Ganondorf was unimpressed. “Do you forget, boy, that I have my own blessed power? You were only given that through a twist of fate. Through my actions!”

“I understand well enough what happened ten years ago,” Link said. “We tried to stop you by gaining the Master Sword, but you used the same door to touch the Triforce. The Goddesses deemed you were an unworthy holder of the complete Triforce, and so you were left with only the Triforce of Power, while Zelda and I were given Wisdom and Courage so we could stop you.”

“You have a lot of confidence in the most useless aspect of the Triforce, boy. Enough words! I will kill you now and end this farce!”

“Bring it,” Link shouted defiantly, setting himself in a ready crouch. The Master Sword flickered at his cry.

Ganondorf charged him, surprisingly quick, and Link backflipped and darted to the side. He lunged in, and Ganondorf blocked and counter-attacked. He was very big – about eight feet tall, and all bulked out – and very strong. For a few minutes all that could be heard from them was shouts and grunts of exertion.

Link couldn’t stop staring at the glowing white scar that marred Ganondorf’s abdomen and armour. For one thing, it was at about eye-level for him. For another thing, that was what he had attacked to defeat the Gannon form. Perhaps Ganondorf would be as weak to it.

But Ganondorf wasn’t letting down his defences any time soon. Link thanked the Hero from the past over and over in his head, because this was the battle of his life. Every reflex, every drop of skill he had ever used was being called into play here.

Even so, he was smaller than Ganondorf, and couldn’t help constantly being driven back, being forced to run around in circles around the taller man. The white sword and the Master Sword clashed again and again, and neither could find an opening in each other’s defences.

He heard a growing crowd assembling, and the next time he pivoted around Ganondorf, saw that behind him the Resistance had arrived, crowding around Zelda to watch. There wasn’t much else they could do – the shield arched over the duellists like a cage, and not even the spells of the Sages could break through. Link was physically completely on his own. But the support of his friends cheered him.

Ganondorf landed a lucky punch in his face, and he tumbled to the ground and got up again, his nose bleeding. He was getting tired, and it was harder to dance around, to roll and leap, the way he needed to.

They locked swords, and Ganondorf leaned in with all his weight. Link gritted his teeth, dug in his feet, and pushed back. It was like fighting with the Gorons again.

Millimetre by millimetre, the white sword shuddered back. The two swords grated on each other with a horrible noise.

Ganondorf suddenly broke the lock, just when Link thought he might be getting to tipping the balance in his favour, and slashed, sending him reeling back.

The white sword bashed the Master Sword one way, his shield another, and before he could recover, stabbed clear through his chainmail and into his gut.

He let out a whimper and fell to the ground on his back, the white sword releasing a spray of his blood as it withdrew from his body.

Dimly, he could hear screaming. He looked over idly and saw Rana clawing at the shield; her arms were beginning to blister, and Shoza was trying to drag her away. But her screams were for him, not for herself. Saria peered, horrified, from behind Rana’s leg. The rest of the crowd was a blurry mass of agitated movement.

Ganondorf was looming over him, but he couldn’t hear the words, only a deep rumble. It hurt too much. He had failed. It was up to Zelda and Rana now… Ganondorf would let down the shield, and everyone would swarm him… and die… But if they could just get rid of Ganondorf…

No, he had to do it. He couldn’t let Ganondorf kill anyone else! His hand tightened around the Master Sword, and he saw Ganondorf’s eyes widen in scornful disbelief. The white sword raised high.

“What are you doing?” growled another deep voice, and a white and blue and lavender blur appeared in front of him, and was impaled by the white sword. “Get in there, fairies.” Then followed a string of pained curses and swears in a language Link didn’t understand.

“Right!” squeaked a vaguely familiar little voice, and three fairies that were not Navi appeared over him; one yellow, one purple, and one a healing pink. The pink one slammed into his chest, and he felt the massive wound in his stomach closing. That was going to leave a big scar.

Demon was leaning casually on Ganondorf’s sword, grinning dementedly around the pain he was surely feeling. “Sorry, youngling, you can’t kill this boy yet. I still need him.”

“What are you?” Ganondorf hissed, ripping the sword out sideways through Demon’s rib cage. The spirit didn’t even falter, though his massive Helix Blade still hung on his back and not in his hand.

“I am ancient power. I am survival. I am tenacity almost the equal of the Triforce of Courage, joy in destruction, delight in strength. I was there when they made the Fused Shadow. And I escaped from the wrath of the Goddesses, from the vengeance of the Sages. This boy conquered me with his strong heart, and so he has my allegiance.”

Link stumbled to his feet. “Demon!”

“It’s up to you, now, child,” Demon told him, and quivered and shrank into a mask. Ganondorf made to step on it, and Link shoved him backwards before he could.

“You don’t hurt my friends and allies,” he said, cold blue eyes locked with Ganondorf’s.

Ganondorf took another step back and regarded them. “What is the meaning of this!?”

“I’ll tell you what this means,” Franz said unexpectedly from beyond the shield. “It means evil will never triumph. Not all of us can be as brave as Link, but all of us, everyone in Hyrule and in all the lands in all the worlds, we oppose you. You can gather what minions you will, perhaps you will even have the upper hand for a while, but while you are around, we unite to face you. We can be defeated, but we can never be broken.”

“And I can be defeated, but my master and I can never be stopped,” Ganondorf snarled. “This cycle will continue no longer, for I will not be defeated this time!” He flung out a hand and Link, tired and caught by surprise, went flying back into the shield. His scabbard saved him from burning against it, but he stumbled and fell to his knees.

And he got up again, still glaring at Ganondorf. He would always get back up. He wasn’t as strong as Ganondorf, but he wasn’t afraid to keep going, to take more punishment, as long as his opponent was still standing.

Their blades locked again, and Ganondorf felt as heavy as Death Mountain itself. But still he pushed back, and slowly, achingly slowly, he was gaining the upper hand. And as he did, he felt a new rush of hope, of energy, of strength, and sent Ganondorf stumbling backwards with a sweep of the Master Sword. Ganondorf flailed, his defenses wide open.

Link went for it. One, two, three slashes on the glowing white scar, and Ganondorf howled and fell to his knees, and then to his back.

Link backed up a pace, got a running start, and leaped on him, finishing him with a downward stab.

He rolled off, his last strength spent, the Master Sword still embedded to the hilt in Ganondorf’s body.

He heard a strange, crescendoing, gargling noise beside him, and realized that Ganondorf was screaming his death scream.

Or was it?

The shield fell, but smartly, none of the crowd rushed straight to him. He rolled over and unsteadily climbed to his feet.

So did Ganondorf. The evil one’s fist clenched-

And the Triforce of Power faded from the back of his hand.

It began to rain gently.

 

“The cycle will continue,” Zelda said softly. “But for now, we have won.”

Link looked around. Ganondorf was dead, but his body was still standing, Behind Link, all those who had fought with him and for him had gathered a bit closer, Zelda in front of him.

He reached out, gripped the hilt of the Master Sword, and pulled it from Ganondorf’s body, kicked it over as he did. He wiped it and sheathed it, and turned to the others.

Rana was the first to move, sprinting to him and throwing herself into his arms. He had just enough presence of mind to brace for her impact. “You did it!” she said. Someone had healed her arms, although they were still discoloured where she had been burned.

“I did it,” he answered softly, and kissed her hard. She kissed him back, a tiny pained noise in the back of her throat that told him just how much she felt for him.

And she released him and drew him into the crowd, where everyone wanted to hug him, to pat him on the back, to congratulate him.

Someone cleared their throat, and there was Impa, unfolding to her full height. “Well, now I can fight, after the need for fighting has passed. You have no idea how frustrating that is!”

Zelda laughed and hugged her stern bodyguard. “Impa! I’m so glad you’re all right.”

“I am sorry, Princess. I was caught before I could return to your side.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Impa. Zant and Ganondorf together had too much power.”

“Speaking of power…” Link knelt and picked up Demon’s mask. “Does anyone have a spare fairy?”

“Who is that?” Rauru demanded. “He does not sound like a good character. He is a friend of yours?”

Link smiled. “He’s… interesting. He’s better than he appears. Tatl, Tael, how did he behave on your travels?”

“He was actually pretty nice,” Tael said matter-of-factly. “He just watched people for like three years, and then, uh, something almost happened to us, and he started actually being nice to people! He’s still a total grump, and he talks mean, but he’s… changed.”

“I am going to murder you slowly, fairy,” Demon’s voice drifted from the mask. “I am not nice.”

Link laughed. “Good to know, after you saved my life, and possibly all of Hyrule.”

“He was a jumpstart little twerp. He doesn’t deserve to win.”

“In the meantime, we’ll get you fixed up as soon as we get back to base.”

“Link…” Saria said, pulling the hem of his bloody tunic. “Look.”

He turned, and at the top of the nearby hill, backlit in the remaining light from the sun that had just set, there were the four Light Spirits… and a small lump.

Was it a trick of his eyes, or did the lump have… horns…?

He turned away from the others, passing Demon to Rana, and began to jog up the hill, then run faster than he had known he was capable of doing in his level of exhaustion. He came to a stop, panting hard.

It wasn’t Midna. It was a lump, draped in a black cloak…

Which stood, and turned, and he was looking into familiar red eyes in a pale, blue-white-skinned face, framed with orange hair.

But she was seven feet tall, and breathtakingly beautiful.

She smiled, and his mouth fell open.

“What?” she said, and her voice was the same, gently teasing him. “Say something!” Her smile grew. “Or am I so beautiful you’ve no words left?”

“Now I know why you were so disappointed you didn’t get your own body back…” Navi said.

Link fell forward and hugged her. “You’re alive.”

She hugged him back, tightly. “Not something I was expecting.” He wasn’t even angry, anymore, that she had sacrificed herself for them. “Link, you’re getting blood all over my clothes.”

He backed away, embarrassed. “I think I got blood on everyone’s clothes.”

She laughed. “I was teasing. I don’t actually mind.”

“Actually, most of us are covered in blood,” Franz put in. “Princess Zelda seems to have been the only one to escape injury.” Although she, too, had hugged Link, and her beautiful silk dress was ruined now. She didn’t look like she cared, either.

“And Shad’s in one piece,” Ashei reported, tugging on the scholar’s arm.

Midna did something, and the blood disappeared from her skin and clothes. “It’s easy to get rid of, see?”

“Speak for yourself,” Saria grumbled, picking at her tunic.

Link laughed and swung the diminutive Sage through the air, settling her on his shoulders. “Let’s call it a day. I’m exhausted.”

Zelda looked from the city to Kakariko. “I think Kakariko Village is closer from here. Shall we go there?”

Midna snapped her fingers. “Your wish is my command, Princess.”

“We can let the children know that we won,” Rusl said.

“All right,” Link said, moving over to Epona and taking her reins. “Lead on, Midna.”

 

In Kakariko, the inhabitants were startled to see such a huge crowd appear so suddenly. The uninjured ones, especially the Sages, helped Renado to patch up the injured ones. And Link went and restored Demon in the Spirit’s Spring.

That was one of the reasons he believed Demon was a good person now: he reacted to the same healing methods that Link and the others did, and he didn’t flinch from the Master Sword.

To his amusement, the first thing that Demon did was move over to where Midna was talking to Zelda and Franz, and begin hitting on her. “Well hello, beautiful! Come here often?”

She looked flatly down her long nose at him. “Only for the time being. Who are you?”

“He lets me call him Demon,” Link said helpfully.

Demon grinned, one of his slightly unhinged grins that meant he was trying to disturb people. “If you really are descended from the Shadow Tribe, you might know me as Ajarai.”

Midna hurriedly backed up several steps, looked around to make sure that no one was behind her, and backed up again some more. “Ajarai!? The… the Fierce Deity?”

“Who is that?” Zelda asked, confused.

“Zelda, this… being destroyed three villages while wearing the Fused Shadow! We still tell stories about him and his mad lust for destruction! Link, how can you be friends with such a monster!?”

“Well,” Link said mildly. “It’s been a long time since then. Would you know Majora, then?”

“Majora was even worse than Ajarai! He didn’t destroy… he warped and twisted. How do you know these creatures?”

“Well, I’ve saved your precious Link several times over…” Demon scowled. “Though I have to admit he freed me from servitude to Majora.”

“I met Majora a while back,” Link explained, for both Midna and Zelda’s benefit. “He was in the form of a mask, and had taken control of an innocent Skull Kid and was terrorizing the land of Termina. I got involved when he kidnapped Epona and Navi. So Tatl helped me rescue them.” He reached up, and all three fairies – Navi, Tatl, and Tael – came to rest on his hand. “Majora himself gave me Demon’s mask, and I had to convince him that I deserved to wield his strength.”

“He does,” Demon said gruffly. “He has fun with it. I respect people who have fun swinging around massive swords.” He patted the Helix Blade at his back. “And then he got my interest by telling me that using strength for destruction… ruined it. I wanted to see what else you could use strength for.” He nodded at Link. “It’s been an interesting journey. I had forgotten what it was like to have a human form, to interact with normal people.”

“You let him talk to normal people?” Midna said, aghast.

Link frowned at her. “I’ll work with anyone who’s not flat-out evil. By the time we parted ways, I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to blow up a continent or anything.”

Demon smirked. “That still sounds like fun. But then I wouldn’t get the fun of intimidating all the people in it.”

“He still has… odd priorities, but he’s not all that bad to know,” Link said to Midna. “I’m sorry for his flirting, though. I didn’t know he was capable of that.”

Demon glared at Link. “You are an idiot. Have you no eyes?”

“Demon, I have a girlfriend.”

“So?”

Link put his head in his hand as Zelda, Franz, and the fairies laughed.

Demon ignored them all and turned to Midna. “Did we get off on the wrong foot? I am Ajarai. But I’m not the Ajarai you tell tales of. Long years of servitude to a madman wore me out, and this boy civilized me. I’m not going to apologize for what I did. But I would like to be able to converse with you, Your Highness.”

Midna’s expression was wary, but she slowly came forward and offered Demon her hand to shake. “Very well. I am Midna, Princess of Twilight. I have been traveling with Link for the last few weeks, and… I will admit he tamed me as well. I used to hate the Light World for banishing us. But the people here are actually very kind. A lot like my own people.”

Luda came up to Link. “Do you want Daddy to look at your injuries? Are you going to have a bath before dinner?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Link said. “I’d fall asleep there. Maybe afterwards.”

Indeed, it was difficult for him to keep awake during the feast that the others had hastily prepared. Though it was worth it to see Ruto reunited with her little brother, Ralis, and to see Rusl hugging Colin and the other children. Through it all, Zelda floated gracefully, Impa never far behind her, greeting her subjects with a casual cheerfulness that suggested she had left her crown at home for the evening. If she had been dressed as Sheik, she would have fit right in.

Tatl and Tael were excited to meet Saria and Nati, as they hadn’t met many fairies on their travels. She promised them a place to stay in the Kokiri Forest, if ever they parted ways from Demon. But it seemed they were very fond of the grouchy mask, and it didn’t look likely that they would ever leave him. “Too exciting to leave,” Tatl put it.

Goron Link was running around hyperactive with all the excitement, all the strange people from all over Hyrule. Link was sure he had never seen so many humans and almost-humans in one place before. Ilia was walking around in a daze. Impa greeted her, and she squeaked, intimidated by Impa’s usual form. The Sheikah blinked in incomprehension. Rauru and Auru were off to one side, either arguing, or laughing about something.

He smiled sleepily at the gathering, sitting in a corner with Rana beside him. It was good to see Hyrule essentially united in celebration.

Saria came to sit by him. “I guess you’re pretty tired. Is that why you’re all the way over here?”

“Yeah…”

“He’s more tired than I’ve ever seen him,” Navi said. “I bet you’re going to hurt tomorrow.”

“I am.”

“You should have that bath and go to bed.”

“I suppose.” He didn’t feel like moving, even though he felt disgusting and his tunic was practically falling off with all the damage it had taken.

“Come on,” Rana said, getting up and putting his arm over her shoulder. “Wish everyone goodnight, and I’ll help you get to bed.”

“Will you stay with me?” he asked, giving her his best puppy eyes, and she giggled and nodded.

He sank into bed twenty minutes later, clean, bandaged, in fresh clothes, and out like a light.

The next few days were spent in hectic activity, though not for Link. Link, Navi, Midna, Demon, Tatl, Tael, and Darunia stayed in Kakariko, while the others dispersed to their homes to spread the news. Not that anyone had known of Ganondorf’s almost-coup, or heard more than a rumour of Zant, but they would get the whole story now. So Rusl and Ilia and the children went to Ordon, passing through the Forest where they dropped off Saria; Ruto and Ralis and Shoza returned to Zora’s Domain, and the Resistance and Zelda and Franz – and their respective bodyguards – returned to Hyrule Castle to see how much damage had been done. Rana went with them – Zelda valued her company and input.

Link was glad for the rest. It took him a few days just to recover his strength, and he hoped that no world-threatening evils showed up in the meantime because he really didn’t feel like fighting them, at the moment.

On the fourth day, Midna announced to him privately that it was time for her to go home. He was a little sorry for that, because he had very much enjoyed spending some unstressful time with the Twili Princess. But she had her own people to look after, and they had been oppressed worse than Hyrule.

Zelda happened to visit on that day, and so Midna took the two of them only when she teleported to the Mirror of Twilight. The Fused Shadow had been destroyed for good, but restored to her true self, Midna had a great deal of power on her own. When Link asked how they were going to get back, Zelda smiled and told him she would handle it. So he let her. His job for the moment was done, and he was going to take his vacation until tomorrow.

So they arrived at the Mirror quietly, unobtrusively.

Midna was silent for a few minutes. “I guess this is it.”

“Is it?” Link asked, smiling.

She smiled back, but there was something sad in it. “Light and shadow can’t truly mix. But… Just… never forget that there is another world bound to this one.”

“Shadow and Light cannot exist without each other,” Zelda said. “What is easy to forget is that neither are evil. I think I know why the Goddesses left this Mirror with us. It was their design that we should meet. A shame it had to happen under such adverse circumstances. But you are always welcome in Hyrule, you and any of your people who… are able to visit.”

Midna considered that thoughtfully for a while. “Zelda… your words are kind, and your heart is true. If all in Hyrule are like you, and the people I’ve met… then perhaps you’ll do all right.”

She turned to stand in front of the Mirror, on the spot which would activate the stairs to the portal. “Thank you, both of you.” She turned back to Link. “Well, the princess spoke truly: as long as that Mirror’s around, we could meet again…” She bowed her proud head a little, and one tear trickled out of her eye. It sparkled and floated, and she lifted a hand as if to push it away. “Link… I…”

What was wrong?

“See you later…”

The tear floated into the very centre of the Mirror, and it cracked and splintered – in one piece, for now, but it was definitely…

“Midna!” Link cried in shock, and Zelda gasped. He turned to Midna, his eyes pleading.

Midna skipped up the stairs of light to the platform at the top and turned, shoulders set bravely, smiling. She locked eyes with him, and he could feel his own eyes filling with tears. After all they had been through together…

She dissolved into the portal, still smiling sadly, gently, and the Mirror burst into a thousand shards, twinkling as they floated through the air to the sand of the floor.

Link took a deep shuddering breath. “Only the true ruler of the Twili could destroy the Mirror.”

“She did say she would see you later,” Zelda said softly. “I guess she thought the Mirror was too dangerous to leave here, where anyone strong enough could get it.”

“Hyrule and the Twilight Realm are a lot alike,” Link said. “There will be another way. She’s right. We will meet again. For now…” He turned and smiled at Zelda. “Let’s go home.”

She smiled back, and they became spheres of light that shot across the evening sky, back to Hyrule.

 

Epilogue

July 25, 2013

In the Shadows Beyond This World: Chapter 20: Storming the Castle

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Omg dramaaaaaa. Drama llama!

Who else was beginning to find King Bulbin kind of cute after he revealed that he wasn’t just a mindless monster after all? : D

So I wasn’t really feeling these boss fights. I think partly because I want them to be really good, so I wasn’t sure about what to put to make it ‘really good’. After all, we’ve been waiting the whole story for these fights!

Stole some dialogue from Wind Waker. It’s good dialogue.

The music when Midna makes her move is just so heartbreaking… The track is only a few seconds long, but it is such a perfect background for the action. Also I kind of like the weird ‘tribal’ music for Gannon, heehee.

Chapter 19: Twilight Helm

 

Chapter 20: Storming the Castle

 

He ran forward with a shout, his arms outstretched. Midna collapsed into them, and he rolled to soften the impact.

He came up on one knee, with her small form safely cradled in his arms. Her disproportionately large head lolled against his shoulder, the Fused Shadow bumping his face. It didn’t seem to affect him.

Her large red eyes opened, and she smiled shyly up at him, reaching up to touch his face. A few raindrops splashed down on the cobblestones around them.

“You did it!” Navi said, hovering over his other shoulder. “The shield is down. Good job, Midna!”

She stirred, recovering her strength. “Thanks. That really took a lot out of me, though…”

He set her upright. “You just ride with me for a bit. We’ll take care of things until you feel better.”

She clambered onto his head. “Right. Onwards!” It began to rain in earnest.

The others were swiftly filing past them, stealing through the gate that was partially ajar. Auru gave Rauru a handshake. “See you later. Right! Group C, with me!” He led the way to the left, heading to a small door just inside the walls.

Link looked around at the front plaza of the castle. He had never seen it before, not even in the past incarnation of the castle. It was very impressive.

“Go, go, go!” Nabooru hissed, dodging past him. “Save the Princess now, gawk later!”

He came back to himself and followed her lead, sprinting for the main gate of the castle. She was more than right.

The Sages split off from their group, heading to the right, transforming as they went into coloured balls of light. Link and his little group continued straight ahead, down a coloured marble hall, into a huge ballroom lit with golden chandeliers. It was dead silent except for their footsteps.

“Eerie,” Rana said. “There’s usually tons of people in here.”

“At least there are no monsters, not yet,” Link said. “Let’s find a way up. I bet he’s at the top again.”

“Then follow me, and I’ll get you there!” Rana said.

It took them longer than she thought it would. The doors to the upper stairs were locked, and in the interest of time, Link actually tried to bash them down, but was unsuccessful.

And that was when they ran into their first Ironknuckle.

“Stay alert!” Link snapped. “These are very dangerous!”

“Sure,” Rana said, “but you just have to know how to crack them… just… right.” She flipped in the air, impossibly high, and came down on its head. Its helmet popped off. “And now for the back…”

Even as it turned to follow her quick movements, it presented its back to Link, who immediately saw what she was talking about. He cut the laces holding up the rest of its armour, and pieces fell everywhere with a clatter.

It flung its axe at him, and he ducked; the axe wedged in a pillar behind him. He heard Franz gulp, and gave him an encouraging grin.

The Ironknuckle was quicker now, and seemed capable of engaging all four of them in combat at once. But the Master Sword, though it no longer sparkled, still blazed in his hand, and cut through the rest of its light armour. It stumbled, and Jakob’s lance finished it off.

He nodded at them. “Good work. Now, where are we going to find a key for this door?”

Rana shrugged. “This guy doesn’t seem to have it. It’s a fairly large key…”

They began to search, hunting wherever they could. They eventually ended up in the back garden, passing through a vaguely familiar hedge maze, and arriving at a vaguely familiar miniature courtyard.

The chief Moblin was waiting for them. He waved when he saw them. “I have come to play!” His boar grazed peacefully behind him.

“I’ll play,” Rana said.

The Moblin shook his head. “I want to play with him.” And he pointed at Link.

Link shrugged, unsheathing his sword. “You’re challenging me to single combat? Happy to oblige… Especially after all the trouble you’ve given us…”

The Moblin did not answer, and instead swung his giant axe horizontally at Link, who jumped back to dodge it. The Moblin seemed faster than before, although perhaps that was because he was not wearing the heavy armour he had been wearing when they first met.

He jumped over the next sweep of the axe and blurred past the Moblin, cutting a bloody line on his side. The Moblin grunted and swung the axe like a wall at him, knocking him to the ground. He flipped back up, and saw a disturbance.

Shad was running along the top of the wall, pursued by a Bokoblin, who was pursued by Ashei. “This… may have been… a mistaaake!” wailed the scholar, booking it to the nearest tower. There was a small explosion, and the Bokoblin was blown off the wall by a bomb from a small cannon that Auru carried on his shoulder.

“Got you covered,” said the older man. “Come back and relax.”

Both Link and the Moblin laughed, and Link turned back to his battle in some confusion. What was the Moblin laughing about? He stabbed forward, splintering bits of bone from one of the horns on the Moblin’s helmet, and rolled in time to avoid the answering swing.

The Moblin was fast and strong, and he was beginning to wonder whether parrying would be less tiring than dodging.

He saw an opening, and smacked the Moblin in the face with his shield. The Moblin staggered back, dazed, and Link slashed him deeply. He pressed his advantage, a bit too far, as it turned out, because the Moblin shook his head and swung his axe too fast for him to dodge, sending him flying into the far wall.

“Wait,” said the Moblin. He sniffed the air, looked around for a minute, and pulled a key from his pocket. Link slowly got up and came forward cautiously to receive it. But nothing funny happened, and he took the key and put it in his pocket.

The Moblin downed a red potion and wandered over to his boar. He mounted, and headed towards the exit. He paused and turned to Link. “I fight for the strongest. …It is all I have ever known.”

And he spurred his boar and left, thundering to the second gate of the castle.

They all stared after him, but it was Midna who spoke. “…He talked. I didn’t know he could do that.”

“I think you may have just gained Zelda a powerful ally,” Franz said. “If that beast fights for her as well as it did for Ganondorf, the lesser monsters will be cleared out in no time.”

“Well,” Link said, waving the key at them. “Is this the key you were talking about, Rana?”

“Looks like it!” she chirped. “Now we can get higher in the tower!”

They hurried back to the door that had been locked. The key fit, and they found themselves just above the arches that led to the outer walls. A ramp led up to another door, which led them to more halls. “Zelda certainly has enough space in these halls…”

“No kidding,” Rana said. “But at least it helps everyone keep fit. At least, that’s what Zelda says. I’m not sure if she really means it. But the throne room is at the very top of the tower, which is another three very tall stories, so we’d better keep hoofing it.”

“My father’s castle in Labrynna is more wide than tall,” Franz said. “This place is very strange to me.”

They hurried up, defending against attacks from Ironknuckles, finding their rhythm as a team together.

They came out on a wide balcony, high above the town. The gardens looked like they were full of toy trees. Link looked up and saw what looked like a small cathedral still rising above them. The clouds were low and blowing fast above the top of the tower, and black as pitch. At least it wasn’t raining anymore.

“That’s the throne room,” Rana said. “So… I guess you’re going to kill Ganondorf first, and then revive Zelda?”

“I don’t know,” Link said. “But this is where I must go alone.”

“Link…”

“Rana, listen. I wasn’t able to save so many people on this adventure alone. I don’t want to lose anyone else. Especially not you, not after the things we said the last couple days. …Promise me you’ll get to the ground safely. I don’t want this place to collapse on your head again. Last time was enough.”

She sniffed, and nodded. “I promise I’ll get out of the castle alive. And I’ll get the others out, too.” She began to cry. “But promise me you’ll do everything you can to come back, too!”

He reached out and took her in his arms. “That’s easy. Hush. It’s okay. I’ll come back to you, I promise.”

With an effort, she controlled her tears. She had her pride, too, and it served her well. But she still clung to him, this one last time.

Franz and Jakob were looking confused. “So we came all this way, and now you’re going alone?”

“I’ll explain on the way down,” Rana said, not letting go yet.

“If that is your wish,” Franz said, looking unhappy.

Link stroked her hair. “It’s going to be fine. I’ve beat him before. I’m stronger than I was before; I have my sword; I have my courage. Nothing can stop me.” He kissed her as extra reassurance, trying to memorize everything about her in ten seconds. Her shape pressed against him, her scent, her taste, the sound of her breath, her warmth, the feel of her lips pulling gently on his, all these things he tried to fold away in his memory. Just in case.

Reluctantly, she pulled away, and he let her go.

She grinned as widely as she could. “I’ll see you later. Come on, guys, we’ve got to get the others.”

“You’re acting like the castle is going to collapse…” Franz protested as he followed her in bemusement.

Link turned to the double stairs leading further up, and took a step forward.

“Did you forget me?” Midna asked, sounding coy behind him.

“I can’t tell you what to do,” Link said. “I would rather you went with them. But you have even more at stake here than I do. The choice is yours. And Navi, of course, won’t leave me.”

“Never!”

Midna floated up beside him. “I’m staying. I have Zelda’s spirit with me. I don’t care how scary Ganondorf is, or what he does to us. I’m in this to the end.” She glanced down at the town. “Not that the others aren’t. But I want to protect them as much as you do. I’m glad you let me stay.”

They ascended the stairs to the throne room together. Thunder rumbled, and lightening flashed.

“Could the atmosphere get any more cliché,” Navi muttered, sticking close to Link’s shoulder nervously. He raised a hand to comfort her, and then froze as he saw what was at the top of the dais ahead of them.

There was Zelda’s throne, he was sure of it. Above her was a huge marble carving of the Triforce, with the three Goddesses flanking it on its three sides, but they had been vandalized, the heads torn off and thrown on the floor. In the triangular hole in the centre of the Triforce, Zelda’s body hovered, softly illuminated.

Link gasped audibly and began to jog forward, but Midna stopped him with a hand. She had seen what he had not.

“Welcome to my castle,” a deep, rich voice rolled through the hall, followed by a low laugh. Link had hoped never to hear that voice again. A dark figure was sitting in Zelda’s throne, tall and broad and covered in even more ornate black armour than last time. His skin had darkened from a greenish brown to almost pure black, but his eyes were still the same malign brown. His hair was still scarlet, although it was pulled back in an elaborate set of rolls bound in gold.

The figure rose slowly and paced a few steps. “I’ve been waiting for you, Hero. I knew you would make it here eventually. Your ridiculous and annoying stubbornness means that you just don’t know when to roll over and die.”

“That time is when Hyrule is at peace,” Link answered. “When you are gone.”

“Hyrule could be at peace under my rule,” Ganondorf rumbled. “Do you know why I conquered it?”

“I don’t really care,” Link said. “Your definition of ‘peace’ doesn’t match anyone else’s.”

“You yourself know that the Gerudo live in an endless desert. When the sun rises into the sky, a burning wind punishes my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbs into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierces our homes. No matter when it comes, the desert wind carries the same thing… Death. But the winds that blow across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I coveted that wind, I suppose. But what does that matter to you? To one raised in the soft, green, protected confines of the forest?” He made a dismissive, spiteful gesture with his hand.

“I wouldn’t call it soft…” Navi muttered.

“That means nothing!” Link shouted at him. “Living with a wind full of Death does not mean you are allowed to bring Death to your neighbouring country! And you never truly wanted Life. You only wanted the Triforce.”

“I do not need to explain myself to you, Hero! Your people would never accept the Gerudo! And I am no mere vassal, to bow to another king! I am King of the Gerudo… and deserve to be King of Hyrule! All who resist me will be destroyed.”

“That’s not how Hyrule works,” Link said. “You don’t want the love of your people.”

“No. Only their respect and fear.” He tapped the long, glowing white sword at his side.

“That is why Zelda will always be better than you.”

“Her? She is a formidable woman. But she knows nothing of actually ruling a country. Hiding from me all those years will teach her nothing of that.”

“But with the support of her people, she is better able to rule than your iron fist is.”

“Of course you would disagree. You are a fool.”

Midna had been watching the exchange with interest. “So you’re Ganondorf? Oh, I’ve been dying to meet you,” she snarled sarcastically, baring her fangs.

“Your people have long amused me, little Midna,” Ganondorf answered, turning his attention to her with a step forward. “To defy the Goddesses with such petty magic, only to be cast aside… Yet the dregs of their anguish was my nourishment during my three-year exile. Their lasting hatred called to me. I drank of it and became strong once again.” He paced again. “Your people had some skill, to be sure… but they lacked true power.” He looked up at Zelda’s limp body. “The kind of power those chosen by the Goddesses wield. He who wields such power would make a suitable king for the world, don’t you think?” He raised his hand, and his Triforce glowed as he tightened his fist.

“Such conceit!” Midna spat. “But if you are what you claim… I will risk everything to deny you!”

Ganondorf laughed deep in his throat. “Shadow has been moved by Light, it seems… Your love for the Hero will not save you. But you are as amusing as your people. Deny me, then! Yes, deny me, you and your little friend…” He looked up at Zelda, reaching a hand towards her, his form dissolving around the edges into small black squares that floated up towards her. Ganondorf had been learning a few tricks in the Twilight Realm, it seemed.

Midna saw his intent better than Link did, and zoomed forward, getting between Ganondorf and Zelda, spreading her arms to block him. Ganondorf did no more than smile, and then evaporated fully into black squares that shot straight through her into Zelda. Midna cried out in pain, but whatever she was doing had not worked.

She looked around desperately, as if hoping to find Ganondorf hiding in a corner somewhere, and then flew to Zelda’s face. She raised a hand as if to attack, but could not, and drooped in defeat.

Zelda’s eyes snapped open, and even from that great distance, Link could tell they were the wrong colour.

Midna went flying, crying out in pain and shock as she went, and slammed into the carpet hard near the entrance. She did not move.

Link turned to go to her, but a yellow barrier blocked his path. He touched it and jerked his fingers back, burned.

He heard a deep, mocking laugh from behind him, and turned to see Zelda, yellow-eyed and grey-skinned, walking briskly towards him. Her lips moved, but it was Ganondorf’s voice coming from them. “It is not often one gets such sweet revenge as this. You defeated me once… but to take up arms against the King of Light and Shadow again is foolish beyond compare.” Zelda’s body drew a slim, straight sword and pointed it at him. “So I shall take great pleasure in slaying you with the hand of the one you are sworn to protect!” She floated up into the air, sword still pointed at him.

Link drew his own sword. “Ideas, Navi?”

“Watch him, and see what he does,” Navi said. “We don’t want Zelda to get hurt.”

Zelda’s body raised its sword, and the floor began to glow under Link. He jumped to the side, off the glowing part, before it erupted in crackling energy.

“All right, stay tight, stay calm!” Navi cried. “He’s definitely not going to know how to fight with Zelda, he’s going to make mistakes, we can do this.”

Zelda dove at him, her sword the deadly tip of a dart that was her whole body, and he met it head-on with his shield. Perhaps he could tackle her, pin her down…

Zelda’s sword bounced off his shield with a resounding thud, but then as he moved to grab her, she swung quickly, cutting through his thigh. He gasped in pain and limped to one side as she dove again.

“Need a red potion?” Navi asked.

“Not yet… Gaagh!” Link rolled to the side to avoid the ‘glowing floor attack’ again, and agony lanced up his leg and into his gut. “Actually, yes!” He swallowed a gulp and tossed the bottle back to Navi; she caught it in midair and put it away.

He twirled his sword, ready for Ganondorf’s next move.

Evidently deciding that he wasn’t going to injure Link any other way, Ganondorf lifted Zelda’s sword high, and a ball of energy formed at the tip of it.

Oh, really? Link thought to himself, his nerves all firing with adrenaline and familiarity. Of all the things you think will put me down, this is the one you try? The one I know so well?

Zelda flung the ball of light at him, and Link bounced it back with the Master Sword. Their game of hot potato was faster than it had been years before, but he was quicker, his eye was steadier, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of it. He was a little afraid of what it would do to Zelda, but it wouldn’t kill her, not if it was the same spell it was before. With every swing, his breath came faster, his shield arm grew more tense.

Ganondorf slipped, just the tiniest fraction, and the spell shot past Zelda’s sword to impact her in the chest. Her body spasmed, and Ganondorf’s voice echoed through the chamber in a long, guttural, choking growl of pain, as she sank to the floor, incapacitated for the moment.

Something huge and blobby shot past Link, and he turned in time to see Midna’s war form reaching past him with all seven arms. They wrapped around Zelda and squeezed, and black bits flew from the tangle like juice from an orange.

When Midna finally let go, diminishing back into herself, she had laid Zelda’s body on her throne. Zelda’s skin was her own colour again, pure and porcelain. She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her before. And she was safe.

Midna hovered next to him, leaning casually against his shoulder, and they shared a silent grin and nod. She had done it.

A ground-shaking rumble grabbed their attention, turning them away from the unconscious Princess and to where the black flecks were coalescing into a growing shadow. He thought he could make out a shape in it…

The shadow swelled, and swelled again, and gained solidity, and colour, and he was staring at huge beast, like a cross between a black boar and a red-maned lion, with great tusks, tiny eyes, and huge clawed paws, and a massive scar glowing white on its belly. It was like Gannon had returned, but smaller and more animalistic. It roared, and Link brought his shining blade forward. It jumped backwards and pawed the ground, ready to charge at him.

“Bow!” he snapped, and it appeared in his hand. Quick as thought, he drew it to his ear and released, and a Light Arrow zipped out at the beast’s forehead just as it began to charge.

It struck slightly off centre, but still the beast tripped, shaking its head violently. He turned and ran to the side, and it shook off the arrow and followed him.

“I suggest you use the Wolf Stone,” Midna said, hovering beside him.

“Do it.”

With a hiss, he compacted in mid-stride to all fours, and began to run lightly to the other side of the room. They were going to have to stop its mad charge somehow…

“If you find a way to get a little bit ahead of him, I can grab him with my hair and flip him over,” Midna called. “I need space to work in, though.”

The tusks were frighteningly close behind him. He nipped behind a pillar and Gannon crashed right through it, sending stone chunks flying everywhere. One of them struck him on the flank and he hopped, and then Gannon’s head knocked into him, sending him flying sideways. He rolled laterally as he hit the floor, tumbling over and over with Midna still clinging to his back. He hoped she wasn’t too hurt. He was certainly going to show bruises later.

He picked himself up, wondering why he hadn’t been trampled three times already, and found that Gannon had vanished. He trotted out to the centre of the room, all his senses taut. He could smell the monster… but where was it…?

“Here!” Navi cried, and he spun. A red swirl in the air turned purple to his left, and Gannon materialized out if it.

Midna grunted as her hair wrapped around the beast’s tusks and heaved to the right. The monster seemed to have a high centre of gravity or something, and pawed useless at the air with its right paw before she managed to flip it over onto its side, where it lay, stunned for the moment.

It was too big for him to attack with claws and teeth. He looked to Navi, and turned back into a human. The Master Sword was in his hand before he knew it, and he leapt at the monster’s face, where he had killed it before. Blood sprayed over him, like before, but Gannon was recovering, and shook his head, sending him flying into the corner again.

He guessed that was why he shouldn’t try that without Zelda’s help to hold the beast still.

He turned back into a wolf, and waited for the charge, but this time Gannon jumped over his head and disappeared before Midna could get a hold of his tusks. It was learning.

He tried hiding behind a pillar, but that was not so successful. Gannon charged through it, sending shattered stone at him, and he ducked. But still the monster teleported away before they could grab hold of it.

“We’re going to need to try something else,” Navi said. “He’s gotten wise to this plan.”

Link turned back into a human. “I bet I can take him myself.”

“You crazy?” Navi demanded.

“He is,” Midna said. “But maybe I can help him.”

“What about your war form…?”

“It’s recharging, sorry. A few more minutes…”

“In the meantime, I’m trying this.”

“Or you’ll get impaled on a tusk or trampled to death under those ten-ton hooves, and then who’s going to clean up after it?”

“I’m going to try my bow again,” Link said. “I shoot at him, Midna grabs him, and Navi helps me find a weak point.”

“It’s a plan,” Navi said, handing him his bow.

He cautiously trotted out to the middle of the chamber, and saw several red proto-portals around the edges of the room. He turned, half in a crouch, an arrow ready on the string.

“Here!” screamed Navi. “Get him!”

Link whirled and fired, and the Light arrow hit the monster square between the eyes. Midna didn’t even have to knock it over; it fell sideways at Link’s feet, steamrollering into him. Or it would have if Midna hadn’t dragged him backwards just in time. “Look out!”

Link dropped his bow, leaving Navi to pick it up, ran around to the huge white scar on the beast’s side, and slashed at it. The thick hide resisted the sword, but the monster gave a shudder. He took a step back and stabbed with all his might.

Gannon screamed and, finding its back legs, reared high above them. With a final roar and flail, the monster collapsed to the floor and lay still. It began to burn in an otherworldly green flame.

Link climbed, panting, back to Zelda’s dais and watched it burn. When it was gone, there would be nothing left of either Ganondorf or Gannon, nothing left they could use to cause mischief in this age. He poked his injuries and bruises. He would live.

Beside him, Midna began to glow with a beautiful white light. She looked down at herself in confusion, and then back at Zelda on her throne.

The white light drifted over to Zelda in a stream of sparkles, and they followed it, arriving just in front of her as the light faded and her light blue eyes slowly opened.

“Princess!” Midna exclaimed. “I…”

Zelda blinked a few times, and then came to focus on them. “You don’t have to say anything, Midna. I know everything that happened. Such suffering you have endured…” Midna’s lip wobbled, and she turned away.

Zelda turned her clear, if still slightly disoriented, gaze to Link, and nodded in greeting. He knew his mouth was hanging open, but he couldn’t help it. He was just so glad to see her… herself again. “Link…”

A sudden explosion from behind them shook them, and Midna and Link whirled to see the fire had consumed Gannon’s body and had grown into a huge ball of green flame. Ganondorf’s laugh boomed out of it, and Link realized that he could recognize Ganondorf’s face in the fire. No wonder Zant had thought he was dealing with a god. He had long known that Ganondorf was no longer exactly mortal, but he had never imagined this.

Link put out an arm to protect Zelda, but beside him, Midna straightened with a little grunt, and the pieces of the Fused Shadow appeared swirling around her. He turned to her in astonishment, and saw inexorable purpose in her gaze that was fixed, unwavering, on Ganondorf before them.

She was going to fight him with all of her power, although she could not win; she would give even her life for them… for a world not her own, all for the people she had come to call friends…

“Midna… no! Don’t! You can’t fight him, not even like tha-” He reached out to her, crying out desperately, but before he could reach her, stop her from doing this crazy thing, he felt the tug of a portal on his head, and both he and Zelda were drawn up in little black squares.

The last thing he saw was Midna’s grimly satisfied gaze.

 

Chapter 21: Triforce of Power

In the Shadows Beyond This World: Chapter 19: Twilight Helm

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Yeah, things are really picking up! Two more chapters to go, and an epilogue! I’ll be done by tomorrow!

Obviously, it has been spelled out that the Hero from the past is Link from LttP. He also happens to be, in this headcanon, the Link from Four Swords and Minish Cap and the Oracle games. …I haven’t played Minish Cap. But I’ve played Oracle of Ages, and I have both Oracle mangas (whooo Raven is hot whooo), and I don’t think it’s too farfetched to stitch all these together into one boy. One extra note, which I may have mentioned before… That Link married Zelda, so I totally support Zelink here, for you Zelink shippers. : )

Speaking of shipping, I have the idea that Midna and Zant are cousins, and one of the inappropriate things that he did was attempt to court her. : P

I only started using RPG Maker a week ago, and I’ve already logged 60 hours on it. o_O Of course, at least an hour or two of that was just listening to the music, but still! The next longest playtime I have on a Steam game is KotOR II with 50 hours, and that’s because KotOR II is ridiculously long. Wow.

Chapter 18: The Dark World

 

Chapter 19: Twilight Helm

 

The magic circle behind Zant pulsed, and darkness fell around them and lifted to reveal… the cave where Link had fought the giant Diababa.

“Oh, that idiot,” Midna said. “As if we can’t remember how to defeat him in these places!”

“But we have more resources now,” Navi said. “Need your bow?”

“Yes, please. Or… a hookshot, actually.”

Zant, now wearing his helmet again, dodged the hookshot. He was very quick, perhaps as quick as Link. This would be a challenge. A good challenge.

He was not faster than arrows, but although they clearly hurt him, he just ripped them out and healed himself, while throwing balls of dark magic at Link. Link twirled his sword, anticipating another game of dark-magic-tennis, but the balls only bounced slowly off his shield, and dissipated when he struck them with his sword.

He caught Zant a particularly good shot in the eyepiece of his helmet, and his antagonist decided he’d had enough for now. The magic circle blossomed in the air behind him, and darkness fell and rose to reveal they were standing a foot above a circular disk in a volcanic cave.

Link fell and rolled as he hit the disc, and got unsteadily to his feet. The disc was floating, and wobbling like crazy. Zant jumped up and down on the edge, making it sway and tilt wildly, and Link almost fell on his face while trying to get over to him. He fired a blast of purple balls at Link, who knocked them away easily, and as Link got close to him, he teleported away. When Link tried to turn his own strategy back on him and began jumping up and down on the disc, Zant began to hover, immune.

Five minutes of them dodging each other, and Zant got bored; in this location, they were at a stalemate. He changed the arena again.

Link tried to breathe and choked. They were underwater. He tried to call out to Navi, but couldn’t.

She immediately saw his problem and plastered his breathing mask to his face. “Oh, that jerk. Here, let me get the rest of you.” She somehow swapped out his Kokiri tunic for his Zora tunic, and stuck his flippers on his feet, and he could breathe much better.

“Thanks,” he said breathlessly, and darted upwards to avoid a blast of purple balls. There was a giant helmet in the shape of Zant’s helmet, and inside Zant was casting at him.

“Let’s try the hookshot again,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to get close to him, even if I swim very fast.”

“Yeah, that helmet will just slam shut on you, or he’ll teleport again,” Navi agreed. “Go get ‘im!”

He dove down to the bottom of the pool, where he could see Zant, and found that Zant had raised four identical helmets to face him. He spun in the water, trying to watch all of them. They all opened, and there was a Zant casting magic at him in each one. He dodged rapidly; there were a lot of shots to dodge.

“Here!” Midna cried. “This is the real one!” Link flung out his arm and fired the hookshot; it latched around Zant’s robes and yanked him out of the safety of his helmet – and into a swing from the Master Sword.

“No fair!” Zant yelled, breaking free and healing himself.

“You shut up about fair!” Midna hissed.

“No! You cannot do this!” He changed the location again.

Now they were in Yeta’s bedroom, and the floor was covered in slick ice. Now Link did fall on his face, his flippers hindering him from walking normally. “Navi, help!”

Zant trampled him, a twenty-foot tall Zant who felt like he weighed as much as all of Death Mountain, and Link grunted as he felt a rib or two break.

“Gotcha!” she cried, and he felt his encumbrances removed. Without even waiting for her to put his Kokiri tunic or hat back on, he crawled to his feet, biting his lips against the pain. He backed away cautiously as Zant came at him again. The other didn’t seem interested in firing spells at him anymore, but only interested in squashing him like a bug.

Link timed it carefully, and stabbed Zant in the foot. Zant howled and began to hop on one foot about the room, shrinking until he was only four feet tall. Link chased him, but mini-Zant was even faster than regular Zant, and a lot squeakier. And he was hindered by his rib.

Just as he slipped and fell again, Zant came within his range, and he swung – perhaps an overly wide swing, but it was well aimed and would have taken off Zant’s head if not for his helmet, which managed to block even the shining Master Sword.

Zant, shaken, retreated to floating in the air and changed the arena yet again.

“Aren’t you tired of that?” Midna yelled. “We’re just going to keep hurting you until you roll over and die! Stand and fight!”

“I will stand and fight… here!” Zant responded, as Hyrule Castle Town’s square came into view, with its great fountain in the centre. The castle under its shield loomed in the background. There were no civilians around, for it was only a copy.

Link scrambled to his feet, took sword and shield in his hand, and set his face. “You’re going down.”

“No, foolish Hero,” Zant said, drawing two razor sharp curved blades from his voluminous sleeves. “You are the one going down.” And he sprang at Link with inhuman speed.

Link snarled as he brought up his shield to counter, and responded with a blow of his own. Zant hopped away and around in a circle to attack again, but Link stopped him with a kick to the chest. Zant dodged his follow-up swing, but now Link had the upper hand and was chasing him backwards. The other locked swords with him, but wasn’t expecting Link’s combination of a shield-bash and a tumble around him that ended in a twisting attack upwards. It sliced through layers of robes on his back, and Zant screamed and fell forwards.

The usurper caught himself and healed himself. “You are good, Hero! But you will not survive!” He slashed his twin swords on each other, as if he was whetting them, and then launched into a frantic spin attack. It bounced repeatedly off Link’s shield, battering him back.

Link only held out his sword, and one of Zant’s swords was torn from his hands and went flying into the fountain.

“Go get it,” Link said, lowering his sword and breathing heavily.

Zant stared at him for a second, then leapt at him, sword raised high. “Curse you and your accursed ‘mercy’, Hero!”

Link blocked the sword without much trouble. “Zant. I’m better than you at this game. You can pull what tricks you want, I’m injured, but I’m at the top of my form and you are weakening. Making mistakes.”

He glanced to the side. “Besides. It’s not my mercy you should worry about. It’s Midna’s.”

“He gets no mercy from me,” Midna spat. “Finish him.”

“No!” Zant screamed. “No, no no no no!!” He began hurling attacks at Link, a blinding flurry of strikes that Link could barely block. He certainly wasn’t getting an attack in edgewise while Zant kept this up.

Zant managed to hook his sword on the inside of Link’s shield and ripped it from his arm. “What now, Hero? Now that you’re as defended as I am?”

Link took the Master Sword in two hands. “Now I’m only more dangerous, aren’t I?”

“We’ll see about that!” Zant launched into yet another assault, aimed at Link’s throat. Link skipped backwards, blocked a few attacks, stepped backwards again, threw a feint, and had to backflip away from another ridiculous spin attack.

The attack struck the Master Sword and this time sent him stumbling back, falling heavily to the ground on his back. He was getting tired, too, and sweat was pouring down his face and back, and his side hurt.

Zant loomed over him, as intimidating as a clown like Zant could be. “What now, Hero?”

Link gritted his teeth and slashed wildly at Zant’s midsection.

With a poof, they appeared back in the Twilight Palace throne room.

Zant was hunched up on his throne, his helmet askew, his hands clutching the last wound Link had given him.

Midna rose in the air, and the pieces of Fused Shadow Zant had taken from her floated out from him to her, where they swirled around her. She plucked her helmet from the set and placed it on her head. “And now,” she began, and stopped, staring at her hands.

She looked no different than she had before. Link pulled himself wearily to his feet, reading the crushed disappointment on her face. She had hoped her curse would end with Zant’s defeat, of course, had wanted to come out and greet her people in her true form with the promise that he was gone and her rightful and just rule would resume… but with her fear of rejection in her current state, she would never do that.

Zant slowly laughed, a hollow, choking laugh. “You thought that just because you could defeat me, that your curse would end? Oh, no, my dear little princess… I cursed you with the power of my god, and he does things to last! Even now, he will save me, his faithful servant!” He craned his neck to the unseen heavens, his helmet crashing to the floor, and gave a wondering, keening sigh.

“You know why our people rejected you?” Midna said in a low voice. “It was your eyes, Zant. We all saw it, your lust for power, for domination, for control. For things that were not for us to desire! Your parents knew you were dangerous, and so they chose me, because I rule for our people, not over them!”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? They are dead, and I am King, and even if you kill me, my Master will always bring me back and kill you!”

Midna trembled in rage, before great tentacles of her hair shot out to Zant as she screamed, impaling him. He seemed to inflate for a moment before he burst in a shower of blood all over the throne.

“Eww!” Navi shrieked, and Link knew even he looked a bit disgusted.

Midna didn’t even notice. She was staring at her hands again, this time in horrified astonishment. “I… I did that with a fraction of my power… The power of the Fused Shadow…”

“You all right?” Link asked quietly, sheathing his sword and taking the Kokiri Tunic that Navi handed to him. He felt more comfortable in it.

She turned to him with a manic energy. “Link, we can save Zelda now! Let’s go to Hyrule Castle!”

Link laughed, holding up his hands in protest. “Hang on. I’m injured and exhausted. Let’s go back to Kakariko and get some rest, make a plan with the others. I can’t do anything more tonight.”

She hesitated for a moment, and then smiled. “Yes, that’s a good idea. Come on! I’ll get you out of here.” She opened a portal and floated into it. “Come on, let’s go! Let’s go rest so we can save the world!”

Link smiled and followed her.

 

She took them to the portal back to the Mirror of Twilight, and once they were in the Light world, Link found a note from the others.

“Dear Link,” it read in a curving script, most likely Franz’s, “we have decided you wouldn’t want us to wait, and Princess Ruto is taking us all back to Kakariko somehow. Lady Nabooru is joining us. We are glad to see the happy conclusion of Shoza’s quest, and hope to see you soon.”

“Well, that makes things easier for me!” Midna cried, and opened another portal.

They arrived just after sunset in Kakariko; the faint clouds in the sky were tinged pink and purple with the passing sun.

They were mobbed by rejoicing people; the warriors of the Resistance – and Shad – the children, the remaining civilians of Kakariko, and the complete Six Sages.

“Rauru!” Link shouted in astonishment. “Saria!” He picked up Saria and set her on his shoulders. “What are you doing here? I didn’t expect to see you.”

“We felt the Sages were gathering,” Rauru explained. “You will need our power again to oppose Ganondorf and save Zelda. It was time for us to come. And of course I couldn’t let my brother take all the credit.” Auru punched his older brother in the arm, proving to Link that siblings didn’t change, no matter how old they got.

Saria wrinkled her nose. “Link, you stink.” He laughed long.

Ilia appeared in front of him. “We’ve been preparing a feast ever since Princess Ruto brought the others back, and it’s just about ready, so…”

“Shouldn’t I have a wash, first?”

She leaned forward, sniffed, and giggled. “Not if you don’t want to.”

“No, he needs a wash!” Saria argued. “He’s gross. Is that blood?”

“Saria, I’ve been fighting Twilight monsters all day. Yes, it’s blood. It’s not chocolate sauce.”

The Sage on his shoulders gagged. “Eww, put me down and go change.”

He laughed, set her down, and went to do as she said. Renado helped him bind up his side, but the water from the Spirit’s Spring began to heal it right away.

The festivities were joyful, and there was plenty of food and drink and laughter, but they didn’t last long. Everyone knew the next day would be an action-filled day.

 

While the children were being put to bed, the Resistance and the Sages gathered in Renado’s house to plot their course of action. They resolved to travel to Hyrule the next day, leaving their own version of a protective shield – courtesy of the Sages – to protect Kakariko, going in twos and threes to try to avoid Ganondorf’s notice as much as possible, and pack into Telma’s bar for the night. In the morning, Midna would take down the shield surrounding the castle, and then they would all storm it together in groups.

The four original members of the Resistance, Auru, Ashei, Shad, and Rusl were in one group, and the Six Sages were in another. Shoza would be going with the Resistance, as he would not be able to do the same things as the Sages. Impa was even going, although she was still cursed, the same as Midna. As for Link…

“Well, Navi and Midna will be with me,” Link said. “That should be enough…”

“Don’t be silly,” Franz said. “Jakob and I are coming with you.”

“No. I’m quickest on my own.”

“No, you’re not. How many times have we been able to help you get into places, watched your back for you?”

“But you…”

“There are plenty of people in the Resistance group, and… well, my loyalty is to you. I wish to follow you.”

“And I’m following you too,” Rana said. “I’m going to see this through.” He look at her, and her eyes flashed in a defiant way he had rarely seen from her. Her inner strength was shining through her child-like veneer, almost blindingly. “You know you’re not going to get me to not come with you, Link. Don’t even try.”

He hung his head. “All right. Rana can come.”

“And we are too!” Franz insisted. “You can’t make any argument that I can’t counter.”

Link sighed mightily. “It’s not like I can actually stop you. But no one else, all right? We all have our separate assignments.”

“Right,” Auru said. “The Resistance takes the outer walls, the Sages take the inner walls, and the Hero takes the main building, because that’s where Ganondorf is most likely to be, and we can’t stand against him.”

“Which means,” Link said, turning back to Franz and Jakob and Rana, “that when I tell you to leave, you leave. You’re not fighting Ganondorf. I’m the only one who can fight him.”

Rana’s mouth pressed into a line. “Fine. But I’m not happy about that.”

“Your complaint has been logged and will be ignored,” Link said. “If, for whatever reason, I fail, you can have the Master Sword to try again.”

“Don’t even say that,” Franz said. “You won’t fail. Not with all our support.”

He looked around at them all, and they all looked back at him, with the trust in their eyes of an army for its general. “Thanks, all of you. I won’t fail.”

 

Even though he was so tired after everything, he still couldn’t sleep. After an hour of rolling in his bed, he decided to get up and walk a bit and see if that helped. Without waking Navi or Midna, who were sleeping like the dead, he crept downstairs in bare feet and out onto the porch. The stars shone brilliantly in the dry air over Kakariko, and the Mountain glowed in the distance.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” came Rana’s voice from somewhere overhead, and he turned to see her sitting on the roof of the hotel. Naeri was not with her.

“Is this what you do instead of sleeping?” Link teased her, and began looking for a way up to join her. Around the side of the building was a stack of large boxes and a shed that he managed to use to haul himself up.

She was looking mildly affronted when he got up there. “I sleep, now.” She was wearing an oversized shirt, her ‘nightgown’. Her hair was down and her green eyes shone luminously in the light of the moon rising in the east beyond the mountains. “I just can’t right this minute. Apparently you can’t, either.”

“And eat?” He poked gently at her midsection. “You’re a fighter. You have a high metabolism. No one wants to see your body devour itself.”

She smiled a little. “I’m eating.”

“You’re ready for the next couple days?”

She nodded firmly. “I’m ready. I will kick monster butt until my arm falls off.”

“I hope that isn’t necessary.” His smiled faded. “I’m sorry for putting you through all that, Rana. It… really wasn’t fair. I should have articulated things better.”

She shook her head, looking out at the Spirit’s Spring. “No, no… I don’t blame you, not at all. Sometimes these things happen. I’m sorry for letting it ruin other things unrelated to us, and for waffling around like a terrible blob of a person. I know Shoza’s been defensive of me. But you know he just cares about me as his friend, right?”

“I know. And he knows you better than he knows me.” He was quiet a moment. “Rana… I don’t know if we have a relationship in the future… but after Ganondorf is defeated… I want to be your friend again. If you can. I don’t want to force you into anything uncomfortable…”

She looked a little disappointed at that, although he could barely tell in the moonlight. She didn’t say anything, looking off into the distance. Perhaps she couldn’t think of the right thing to say. Perhaps she was trying not to tell him how much she hated him…

They sat in silence for a long time, but although Link wasn’t convinced that she didn’t hate him, it felt… companionable. Comfortable. It was strange.

She took a deep breath at last. “Is… that… all you really want?” He turned to look at her, startled, and saw she was blushing all over her face.

“You… still love me,” he said softly, disbelievingly.

“Always,” she whispered, green eyes flickering to him and away again in complete adorable nervousness.

He scooted closer to her and put an arm around her, then felt how inadequate that gesture was and kissed her on the cheek.

She actually gasped and half pulled away, staring at him in shock. “Wait, wait, wait. Is… is that what you really want? When you could have any woman in Hyrule…”

He laughed. “You’re not just any woman in Hyrule, and you need to start realizing that too, kitten.” He hugged her tightly, pulling her close against him. She smelled nice, and her body was warm and soft, and her heart was racing. “If… we both survive this… we’ll be proper friends, for sure… and… we can try again to be something more. I can’t make any promises. But you are a wonderful, loving, brave person, and that’s exactly the kind of person I want at my side…”

She gave a tiny squeak, and he could tell she was smiling fit to burst, and a tear ran from her eye down her cheek. He kissed it away and failed to resist the temptation to nibble her ear. She squeaked again, and he grinned. She hesitated a bare second more, then whirled in his arms and flung herself at him, kissing him deeply.

He still didn’t understand how she could love him, after only a distant childhood, a few days of meeting in adverse conditions, three years of waiting, and a painful separation… but she did love him, regardless. They had each traveled their own separate paths to find themselves again, and in finding themselves, finding each other only fell into place.

He did love her, her innocence and wonder and courage, her boundless love for Hyrule and everything in it, her laughing eyes and her laughing voice and her awkwardness and her proud strength and her grace, and her incomprehension of normal society, so similar to his own incomprehension.

He wondered what she loved about him.

Unbidden, she began to tell him. “Link, I don’t love you because you’re the Hero, or because you’re ridiculously attractive. I know it seems like it, but it’s not true. It’s just easy to say. I love you because you’re brave, and you’ve always been brave, Triforce or not, and you’re strong, and you are smart – brilliant…”

“Although I’m also extremely dense, to hear Navi and Midna talk…”

“Well, in things that matter, like finding your way to where you want to be, finding your friends again, saving people, stopping the bad guys…”

He laughed. “You have a funny opinion of things that matter.” He stretched out on the roof, and she snuggled in beside him just like she used to.

“My point is that you are smart and unstoppable and funny and tender and… just… breathtaking.”

He pretended to preen. “Why, thank you.” He stopped and looked down at her in confusion. “You really think all that?”

She snorted. “Link, I thought you had self-confidence now. You don’t believe you are all those things?”

He lay back and looked at the stars. “I… guess. I don’t think about it all that much.”

She didn’t say anything, just wrapped her arms around his arm. “Good night, Link.”

“Good night.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

 

He woke when the sun rose, shining in his face with the brilliance of the most malevolent of spells, and he grumbled. Rana was still sleeping soundly beside him, not at all disturbed by his movement or noise. He paused to look down at her, brush some hair out of her face.

“This was a dumb idea,” he said softly. “We should be in bed, getting actual rest.” She didn’t move.

He smiled, scooped her easily up in his arms, and looked for an easy way down off the roof that wouldn’t wake her. There wasn’t one, so he hopped off and landed as softly as he could.

She stirred. “Hmm?”

“Shh,” he told her. “Go back to sleep. I’m just taking you to bed.”

She giggled.

“Stop it,” he said, blushing. “I didn’t mean like that.”

She giggled more. “I know.” She stretched in his arms. “I can get up now, though.”

“The sun just rose…”

“All the more reason to be ready before the others. I mean, really, how much more rest are you going to get?”

“I guess you’re right. I’ll just get lots of rest tonight. You know, it will be nice when this whole thing is over and we can sleep regular hours again.”

“What’s regular hours?” Rana said, sliding to the ground and smiling at him mischievously. “I never sleep regular hours even when it’s peacetime. Just ask Zelda, she doesn’t either. It’s actually really difficult for her to be princess, because either she’s staying up late to work on things, or she goes to bed when the sun goes down, and her internal clock can’t figure out which one it likes better.”

“I would have thought someone like Zelda would love routine and regimen.”

“Oh, sure, she does, in every other part of her life. But…”

“Hey, there you are!” Navi called, fluttering out the window and down to them. “Where’d you go last night?”

“The roof,” Link said, pointing up.

“It shows,” Navi said. “Your hair is sticking everywhere.”

Link looked at Rana. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She reached up and smoothed it down. “Because it looks cute.”

He snorted a laugh. “You have odd taste.”

“She’s right,” Midna said, hanging out the window. “But you better come in and get dressed before anyone else sees you and jumps to conclusions.”

He blushed again. “Fair.”

 

The collected Resistance set out in dribs and drabs after they had eaten breakfast. Link traveled with Rana and Franz and Jakob, riding Epona, enjoying the sunshine. If he died tomorrow, it was a good day to be alive today. Even the morbid thought of death didn’t bother him much.

All traces of sadness had gone from Rana’s eyes. She had changed over the last weeks, and that change wasn’t going to go away in a hurry, but today she was bright and shining in her happiness, and Franz remarked on the change, and then proceeded to tease both of them mercilessly, with Midna and Navi helping him.

They arrived at Telma’s bar in the late afternoon, to find Auru and Rusl had gotten there first. Ashei and Shad arrived shortly after them. The Sages all arrived at once, appearing from a water portal. Telma hadn’t exactly been warned, but by the time Link had arrived, she was closing the bar as Auru informed her of the plan. She was greatly excited and was talking up a storm, commenting on every part of their plan with exclamations and motherly criticisms.

She somehow managed to get dinner for all of them, and they began setting up their bedrolls, although it was going to be a tight fit for all of them.

With his own bedroll set up, Link slipped outside, unnoticed by any except Navi, who came with him quietly. He again climbed on the roof to watch the sunset.

Paws tapped on the roof behind him. “Hello, Hero.”

“Hello, Hero,” Link answered. “Can I guess that your name is also Link?”

“It is,” said the Hero, sitting down next to him in the form of a golden wolf.

Link watched the evening star twinkle. “Why do you take the form of a wolf?”

The wolf showed its teeth in a grin. “Because you take the form of a wolf, and I wanted to be something familiar to you… And also because I don’t like being a bunny.”

“A what?” Link turned to the other in surprise, and saw he had taken the form of an old man.

“When I was young, younger even than you were when you set out on your adventure, I was called to rescue the Princess. But while I was gathering the Pendants of Courage, Power, and Wisdom to unlock the Master Sword to fight Agahnim, she was kidnapped again and I arrived too late to prevent her from being sent to the Dark World.” He glanced at Link. “I think you can draw the connections here.”

“Many,” Link answered. “The Dark World was the Twilight Realm. The Pendants of Courage, Power, and Wisdom… are those now the Kokiri Emerald, the Goron’s Ruby, and the Zora’s Sappire?”

“Very observant,” said the Hero, de-aging in front of his eyes. He was already looking middle aged, rather than old, and gold was beginning to show through the grey in his hair. “But yes, I looked like a bunny when I first entered the Dark World, and it was a lot more threatening than it is today, believe me…” He smiled boyishly, his hair now all gold, his face that of a young man with strong blue eyes. “So I had to go through a whole rigamarole to find the Moon Pearl, because I needed to pass through the Dark World before I found the Master Sword… It was a pain, believe me!” His voice cracked, and a small boy was sitting beside him, grinning cheekily. He held up his left hand, and the Triforce glowed on it. “It was only this that saved me, that turned me into a bunny instead of some hideous monster like I saw there! I wouldn’t have minded being a wolf, though.”

Link smiled and held up his own, shining through his glove. “We’re a lot alike.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure we all share the same soul, or something.”

“All?”

The boy Hero snorted. “You think we’re the only two Heroes in Hyrule’s History? There are Heroes… well, not beyond count, but more than history remembers, for certain.”

“I knew that…”

“The funny thing is, we all end up wearing green.” The Hero poked his Kokiri Tunic, right in his healing rib, and he twitched.

“This is from living in the forest as a kid… I resized it as I grew up.”

“Well, when I was a kid, this was what kids wore. The windsock hat was my grandma’s idea, though. And one of our ancestors, that ensemble was the Knight’s official outfit, none of that fancy ceremonial plate armour! But that was back even before Hyrule was a country.”

“The Heroes predate Hyrule?”

“Yeah, more or less, and so does over-powering evil, and the Princess. The Triforce is older than Hyrule, duh. But that one particular Hero was right-handed, too. Kind of a fluke.”

Link laughed.

“Anyway,” the Hero chirped, sitting back. “I came to wish you luck for tomorrow. I know you’ve faced down world-shattering evil before, monsters bigger than should be physically possible to fight, blah blah blah, and so have I… but I just wanted to talk to you one more time before I left. To thank you for letting me pass on my training and skills.”

“You’re going?”

“I have my sleep to get back to. Gotta go tell your parents how well you’re doing. Like you probably know, ghosts really aren’t supposed to wander around indefinitely.”

“That’s too bad. It would be nice to have you around.”

“That would defeat the purpose of death,” the Hero said patiently, aging up again slowly.

“There’s a purpose to death?”

“We fight with all our strength to stay alive, to protect others, to destroy evil, to make this world as good and just and peaceful as it is humanly possible to manage… And that is what we must do. We must never stop doing that. But yes, there is also a purpose to death. What that is… I can’t tell you yet. You will find out for yourself one day.” He glanced sideways at Link, in his late teens. “Just try not to find out tomorrow.”

“I won’t,” Link said. “Thanks to you and the others, I am the strongest I’ve ever been.”

“You do seemed to have settled your spirit.”

Link blinked. He had forgotten about that. “I guess I did.”

“It fits you. It’s good for you. Try to hold on to that.”

“I will. I will save Zelda and Hyrule, and prevent Ganondorf from coming back in my lifetime.”

“That’s all that can be asked of us,” the Hero said, standing. Link stood, too, and they shared a hug. “I’m going to miss you, some-odd great-grandson.”

Link laughed. “I think I’ll miss you more, great-grandfather. And say hello to my parents for me, would you?”

“Will do. Fight strongly tomorrow.” The Hero faded into the air with a whisper, blowing away towards the sunset.

 

The next day dawned grey and cloudy. Not the most promising of sights, but their plan was ready to go anyway.

In ones and twos, they filtered casually through town, grouping in their assigned groupings beneath pillared overhangs over the sidewalk. It was difficult for their eclectic groups to look inconspicuous, two groups covered in armour, the other group made up of representatives of every race in Hyrule. But there were fewer people out that morning, most choosing to avoid the dark, cold weather.

Link watched Midna, ignoring the others softly chatting behind him, as she skipped swiftly towards the gate that separated them from the shield. The Fused Shadows appeared and began to swirl around her, spinning faster and faster, until they slammed shut around her like a rocky shell with openings for her arms and legs.

She was still a moment, and then seemed to be yanked to the side. She cried out as she collided with a pillar, and then again as she was yanked across the roadway to slam into the top of the wall on the other side. Then she was tossed clean over the top of the wall to the right, out of Link’s sight.

“Midna?” he cried, stepping out of cover, but before he could go anywhere, there was a burbling noise, and a giant, half-glowing green hand that was made out of some indescribable wobbling substance seized the edge of the wall. Link’s mouth fell open as the top horns of the Fused Shadow came into view. Midna had transformed into some kind of seven-armed creature as tall as the watchtowers that framed the castle gate.

He heard the guards and the people in the square shriek and begin to run, dropping their spears and shields and goods with a clatter. Even his companions were struck dumb, frozen in their tracks.

With a low roar, the creature bounded high in the air. It bounced a little as it struck the shield, and scrabbled to find footing. Next to the size of the shield, its giant size looked tiny, as if an overgrown spider had fallen onto a pane of glass.

It raised two of its arms, wrapping them jointlessly around a white spear of light, and stabbed it into the shield.

There was a flash, bright as the sun, and a thunderous crash.

When Link could see again, there was the castle, with no shield around it, and a tiny figure, falling from a great height…

 

Chapter 20: Storming the Castle

July 24, 2013

In the Shadows Beyond This World: Chapter 17: The Sky’s Loft

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So I have no idea what on earth came over Franz at the beginning of this chapter. If it sounds like it was written in a state of still-sleep-deprived insanity, it probably was.

Also Link’s parents just decided they should be important. Although I’m not sure when his mother is showing up. In person, I mean.

I totally support Shad/Ashei. : )

This chapter turned out to be unexpectedly long. Good thing I skipped 95% of the dungeon!

Chapter 16: The Ancients

 

Chapter 17: The Sky’s Loft

 

“Hello,” Link said.

The spirit world faded in around him. “Hello,” said the Hero from the past. “I see you found your parents.”

Link started back in shock. “Wait, what? Really?”

“Yes, really. I know you never knew their names, or anything about them. But you’re blessed by Farore, which may account for your intuition.”

“How do you know they’re my parents? Have you talked to them… in the afterlife?”

“Well, I do like to meet my descendents. I see them now and again. They’re very proud of you, of course. They would tell you so themselves, but they are happy to wait to meet you. They certainly don’t want to rush it.”

“No, I guess not,” Link said. “This is going to take a while to sink in.”

“And your mother wants grandchildren.” The Hero laughed.

Link snorted. “Isn’t that the stereotype for mothers?”

The Hero laughed again, his tail wagging. “I suppose it is. I sure was happy to have grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren, although by that point it’s a little bit strange, because your presence has long ceased to have any real meaning to those people. It’s like reading a very long story, and wanting to find out what happens next. And a lot of my ancestors feel the same about me. It’s disconcerting.”

Link thought about that. “My parents died fighting against Ganondorf, didn’t they? I know my mother made it to Kokiri Forest to hide me there.”

“Yes. Your father fought against Ganondorf himself. He was a brave knight, fighting for the defense of his home, his wife, and his son. When he failed, your mother rode to the forest in a last desperate attempt to save you. If she hadn’t been followed, she would probably have tried to stay with you, but Ganondorf himself followed her. So you have two more reasons to hate him…”

Link shook his head. “I have enough things to hate Ganondorf for. He has enough to answer for. I’m not going to associate him with my parents, or the other way around. I will find him, and I will kill him, and that will be the end of it. At least, until Gannon finds some other outlet into this world.”

“Very true. Now, show me what you have been working on.”

 

In the morning, Link went in search of Shad, and found him talking to Impa in the living room. “Hi. Sorry to interrupt, but I have a question.”

“Oh, yes?”

“Actually, now that I think about it… Impa, perhaps you could answer this better. I visited the graveyard last night…”

“I don’t know anything about graves,” Shad said.

“And you probably haven’t focused on relatively recent history, either. Impa, what do you know about two people named Rin and Kulani?”

“A brave knight, and his beautiful wife. They were in the guard of Kakariko when I was but a child and my mother was the mayor. Sir Rin was a quiet man, honourable, and he used to live in Hyrule Castle Town before he moved to Kakariko to raise his family. His wife was equally devoted to him, and she was brave in her own right; I heard she was a farmhand before they met, but I never asked her on that. It’s not something one asks the wife of a knight! She was gentle as a dove, and kind to all the children. When Ganondorf attacked, he was of course mobilized, but allowed to command the division defending Kakariko. He faced Ganondorf himself, and was slain in the resulting combat. I tried to help, but I was only fourteen, and not very skilful then. My mother was also killed in that battle, though she brought down the chief of Ganondorf’s lieutenants. Kulani disappeared after the battle, and I never knew what happened to her until her body was found near the forest a week later. I never found out what happened to the child they had.”

Link sat down. “Thank you.”

Impa suddenly looked hard at Link. “You think you were the child? That they were your parents?”

“I know so.” But Link didn’t say that his ancestor told him. That would have sounded crazy. “I… kind of want to know about them, now that I’m back in Hyrule. Just to know. As a child, I didn’t think about it, because I thought I was a Kokiri. But…”

“I understand,” Impa said. “I will tell you as much as I can remember. I saw Sir Rin quite often. Kulani I saw less, though perhaps Renado could tell you more about her.”

“This is astonishing,” Shad said. “Perhaps you can find other family members, now that you know who your parents were!”

“Perhaps,” Impa said. “But Rin was an only child, so it might be difficult to find relatives of your father. Perhaps the records in Hyrule Castle will reveal more about your mother. We shall see.”

“We shall,” Link said, smiling. “Thank you so much. I…”

“Look out!” Talo screamed from his watchtower far up the hill. “There’s monsters coming from the north!”

Link jumped up and checked his sword. “Gotta go. Thanks.”

“Fight strongly, Hero,” Impa told him.

He ran out into the street, where Franz, Jakob, and Rusl were gathering. “How many monsters? What kind?” he called up to Talo.

“A lot of goblin thingies on boars!” Talo yelled back. “With a bunch of wolves and giant birds, and… and spiders! Giant spiders, eww!”

“All right,” Link said to the others. “Do any of us have any practical tactical experience?”

“Well…” Jakob began mildly. “I’ve served in the Labrynnan army since I came of age, and being assigned to His Highness doesn’t mean I don’t remember tactics…”

Link turned to him. “Please, guide us.”

Jakob’s eyebrows rose thoughtfully. “I’m not sure how I can plan against… wolves and birds and spiders. But… they have two choke points. One is the natural bridge across the ravine.”

“Let’s go there now,” Link said. “You can tell us more on the way. Should I get Epona?”

Jakob shook his head as they began to run down the street. “You’d be more mobile, yes, but if you were to charge anything you would be outnumbered and surrounded. I have no doubt you could survive it, but I’m sure no one here wants you to take that risk.”

He outlined a simple plan: they had a barricade near the bridge, but it wasn’t really heavy enough to stop a boar’s charge. Still, it would slow them for a while, especially if the other creatures attacked first. Franz and Jakob would shoot at the birds, while Link and Rusl dealt with the other things.

There were more there than he expected. Was this one of Zant’s attempts on his life; on the life of Hyrule?

Everything was going all right, but the barricade was blown away in ten minutes and they retreated to Kakariko Gate, which was a bit sturdier. Link took up his bow and joined the archers, trying to keep the monsters from reaching the gate in the first place.

Everything was fine until Franz took a flaming arrow in the thigh. He growled and ripped it out, throwing down his bow and advancing on the monsters.

“Franz! What are you doing?” Link demanded, running up beside him. Franz was still on fire. “Get that fire out!”

“Fire is no trouble,” Franz said. “My earrings protect me from that. But that hurt! They will pay for that!”

“Or they’ll kill you!”

“Don’t be so sure of that! I know what I’m doing. I can take them. Just watch.” The flames shot up around him, and Link backed away from the heat. “I will kill them!

“Franz! Have you gone crazy?”

“He does this every once in a while,” Jakob shouted from further back. “Try to get him back here, please! Before he hurts himself. Or you.”

“Franz-!”

A wave of fire ripped forward from Franz, igniting the dried bushes around the edge of the road. The monsters in front squealed as they turned crispy. There was a throwing motion from the pillar of fire and fireballs flew towards the enemy.

Link backed away. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Hey!” came a Goron roar from the gate. “What’s going on? Why is that human on fire?” Without waiting for an answer, Darunia and four Gorons strode forward, and Darunia knocked Franz to the ground. “Fire’s not good for humans, silly! Link, help me put him out!”

Link rolled Franz over until the flames went out. His clothes were charred to ruins, but…

“You’re not hurt,” Link said in confusion. “Except for the arrow…”

“Get him back here!” Jakob yelled. “We still have incoming!”

“Not anymore,” Link said, drawing the Master Sword again and holding it wide in a crouch. He gave Franz a push back towards the gate.

“No,” said another voice, and the ground trembled. “Not anymore.”

Before the first monster could even take a swing at Link, a bony claw burst out of the ground at its feet and grabbed it. It screeched and flailed, and a complete skeleton pulled itself from the ground. All around, skeletons were emerging from the dirt or cracks in the stone. Some of them had ghostly faces.

Link stared at them in fascination. They were obviously friendly, but… the only other friendly Stalfos he had ever encountered was the Hero from the past.

The one who had risen next to him drew a ghostly sword. “Hello… Link.”

“…Father…?”

The ghost gave him a cheerful smile. “Good to see you too. Let’s drive back these beasts!”

A grin slowly spread across his face. “It would be an honour.”

They ran forward together, and Link found their fighting styles oddly matched. “It’s an honour for me,” his father said, as he decapitated a spider. “You’re the Hero. You succeeded where I failed. You defeated Ganondorf.”

“I couldn’t have succeeded without you,” Link countered. “Or my mother. Or Navi. Navi, this is my father. Father, this is my fairy partner Navi.”

“Hi!” Navi said.

“Hello,” said his father goodnaturedly.

“And I had to wait seven years.”

“You still did it. Don’t make excuses for your own competence,” his father said.

Link smiled. “Duly noted. I’m still very glad to meet you. Even though I only found out your name last night.”

“But we did meet once.”

“What?”

“You were dreaming…”

“On Koholint?” Link actually stopped fighting and stared at his father. He was young and was light-haired, long enough to be tied back in a small ponytail. He wore an older style of armour, although it was torn in several places. His face was marred by a massive wound that cut through his helmet and his left eye – it was probably the one that killed him. His remaining eye still shone brightly.

Rin casually batted away an arrow and turned to him. “Yes, on Koholint. I became caught in your dream world. I wasn’t really aware of what was going on at the time. I became consumed by a need to find our old house here in Kakariko… and you found it for me. Although it had aged as well as I had…”

“Will you two watch out?” Darunia bellowed, and smashed a spider into pulp just in front of them.

“But you’re doing so well,” Link said, smiling.

“We should join back in,” Rin said. “Your swordplay is excellent, by the way. Who has been training you?”

“One of the previous Heroes. I don’t know who. He says he’s met you in the afterlife. Thank you.”

“I’ll check.”

That meant a lot to him, and the heavy Master Sword felt light as he clove through the enemies.

They began fleeing soon after, except the spiders, which had to be killed one by one.

“Take care,” Rin said, before he and his bones faded away into nothing again.

“Good bye,” Link said softly, and turned back to the gate.

Franz was unconscious, though he still did not appear to hurt in any way besides the arrow wound in his leg. Imp was there, bending over him.

“Impa!” Link cried. “I thought you felt it was too risky to fight.”

“I changed my mind when Darunia returned with reinforcements. Did you have a nice chat?”

“Yes, I did. Thank you for the opportunity.”

“It’s not an ability I can use overly often,” Impa said. “The dead are dead and they must rest. There must be an abundance of restless spirits in an area before I can do that, and it’s very draining.”

“It’s one of your powers as a Sage, isn’t it?” Link asked.

Impa nodded. “I am still not sure of my full powers as the Sage of Shadow, although I have full access to any that I may have.”

“It means a lot to have spoken to my father. Even if he can’t come back.”

Impa bowed. “I am glad to have been of service.”

“We should get His Highness inside,” Jakob said to Rusl. “He’s going to wake up very dehydrated.”

“What was that all about?” Rusl asked, picking up Franz’s feet as Jakob hauled him up under the shoulders. Bits of his clothing were flaking off. At this rate he would be only wearing his scalemail by the time he got back to the hotel.

“I dunno, really. He has these enchanted earrings that protect him from being burned… but the ability to control fire and the psycho personality… those only come out when he’s actually on fire. We never asked him about, and he never told us.”

Talo came running to meet them. “That was awesome! What happened to Mr. Franz? Is he okay?”

“He’ll be okay,” Link told him. “Thanks for warning us about the attack.”

“You can count on me!” Talo said, making a monstrous grin at him and dashing back up the hill to his observation post.

Something bumped into Link from behind, and he staggered, and turned to see Goron Link trying to hug him. “Hey, there, kiddo.”

“Hi! You fought off the nasty bad guys, didn’t you!”

“Yes, we did, all of us, especially your dad.”

“He wouldn’t let me come. I’m not afraid! But he let me come down here to the village.”

“I thought it would be good for him to try something new,” Darunia said. “Meeting new humans is sure to be exciting for him.”

Goron Link looked around. “There are so many humans here! I’ve never seen so many humans in one place before!”

Navi laughed. “Just wait until your dad takes you to Hyrule Castle Town.”

“Let me introduce you to the other kids,” Link said. “I think you’ll get along well with them.”

Franz woke up a few hours later, just after supper. Ilia came to get Link.

The prince was looking very tired; there were dark circles under his eyes. But he still smiled cheerfully and sat up with energy. “Hello, Link. You must be wanting an explanation.”

“I think everyone is,” Navi said. “Including Jakob. He said this has happened before?”

Franz laughed a little and looked away. “I know it must seem really… strange. But yes, it’s happened before. Twice. That’s all! It’s not like I go out of my way to be on fire…”

“So what is it?” Navi asked impatiently.

“I… may have a fire spirit living in me,” Franz explained, looking embarrassed. “I can’t say for sure. It’s not like being possessed. It’s more like a… non-sentient, non-sapient entity that gives me power when I’m on fire. Or maybe it’s my soul. It’s partly why I wear these earrings, just in case I happen to be near open flame and have an accident.”

“All right, so if it’s not like being possessed, then why the sudden rage and intent to cause bodily injury to your attackers, sir?” Jakob demanded.

“I’m still me, it’s just… a different part of me.”

“Well, you hide that part very well the rest of the time,” Link said. “Do you know how this happened?”

“No, not at all… I also don’t know if my brothers have similar issues. They might. They have similarly themed… phobias is not the right word. But it is close.”

“I didn’t notice you have a fire phobia,” Link said.

“I wasn’t on fire before. Imagine how much harder it is with a water spirit?”

“Oh, true,” Navi said. “Or an air spirit. That would suck.”

Link got up from the chair. “Well, Renado told me to make sure you rest. Jakob says you’ll be fine tomorrow, but you don’t look that great this exact moment. So I’ll see you tomorrow. Also… thanks. You really softened them up a lot.”

“You’re welcome!”

 

Rana was expected back that evening, but she didn’t come, and no one else came either. The Goron engineers examined the cannon and argued – rather loudly – over how it worked and how to put it together. The first thing they started doing was taking it even more apart and cleaning it. A lot of the parts look unexpectedly clean, though. They must have been protected inside the body of the thing.

The next day passed slowly in comparison. Link practiced his form, and some of the children, including Talo when he was not on duty, asked to learn a bit. So he showed them some of the footwork he had been learning, explaining that he had learned it was the proper foundation for all sword fighting, and they watched eagerly.

Shad and the Gorons got in a fight over something Link couldn’t understand, something to do with the mechanism that activated the cannon.

The sky was turning pink when Rana was sighted coming in, and she was not alone. There were two people with her: Ashei, and a bizarre little man dressed as a clown in bright, garish colours and make-up. As soon as they arrived, the little man went off to join the Gorons and Shad around the cannon. He spoke slowly, and mumbled, but his words carried authority, so Link assumed he knew what he was doing.

Ashei found Link right away, Midna floating beside her. “I don’t know what you did up on Snowpeak, but it suddenly calmed right down a few days ago. I didn’t see the monster again, and there have been no more sudden storms…”

“The monster is actually a friendly Yeti,” Link told her. “I met him and his wife. They’re very nice. I’ll take you to visit them someday.”

Ashei blinked. “Weird. Oh, hey, there’s Shad. I wondered what the bookworm was up to.” She gave a brief, rare smile to Link. “I’ll see you later.” She wandered over to the cannon casually.

Link heard a familiar squeal he hadn’t heard in a while, and turned to see Rana glomp Shoza. “Finboy! You’re alive!”

“Haha, I am, kittengirl. ‘Sup?”

“Well, stuff. Helping out. What have you been up to? You disappeared without trace or explanation!”

“Eheh. Sorry. I just… Ruto disappeared, and I wanted to find her. Darunia’s been helping me. But then all this crap happened, and I got injured. I’m getting better, though, thanks to the kind folks here.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Rana said. “Wow, it’s Little Link. Hey, buddy! Everyone’s really showing up here, aren’t they?”

“They are,” Link said, leaning against the porch railing at a slight distance. “This is quite the gathering. I’ve never seen so much support in one place for one cause before.”

“It’s a gathering of the best in Hyrule, excepting the other Sages and Auru and Telma,” Rana said. “And Zelda. She would love to be here…”

“You look different,” Navi said. “What happened?”

Rana hesitated, looked at the sky. “We made it to the Castle Town… found Auru… He directed me to this guy at Lake Hylia. I talked with Lanayru… Ashei came with us.”

“I don’t know what they talked about,” Midna whispered in Link’s ear, “but she’s been perky as one of those Kokiri kids ever since, so don’t ruin it.”

He smiled and nodded. “That’s good.”

“Anything exciting happen while we were gone?” Midna demanded.

“We fought off an attack,” Navi told her. “Lots of monsters. I think Zant wants to kill Link, or at least as much of the Resistance as he can. Oh, and also Link met his dad.”

Midna frowned. “I thought you were an orphan. Raised by some talking tree.”

“I am,” Link clarified. “My dad… is a ghost. It was just for a minute during the battle, and it probably won’t happen again anytime soon. But… I was able to meet him, and it’s… a lot.”

“What was he like?” Rana asked.

“A skilful fighter, and proud of my skill in fighting… cheerful, quiet, self-deprecating…”

“Sounds a lot like you,” Midna teased. “You gonna meet your mom too?”

“I have no idea.”

“Did you find out about her family at all?” she asked, pointing at Rana.

“No, I have no idea… I only came across my parents’ grave by accident. The Hero from the past suggested it was my Triforce that led me there. So I don’t know anything about…”

“That’s fine,” Rana said. “The Great Deku Tree was a great dad. I’d rather pretend I’m just a mutant Kokiri anyway.”

Navi laughed. “You sure act like one!” Rana grinned.

“So what’s for supper? We’re starving!”

“Speak for yourself,” Midna said. “Ashei’s totally caught up in her crush, that weird guy is wrapped up in the cannon, and I…”

“You totally eat human food now that you live in the Light World, don’t lie,” Navi said.

Midna glared at her. “Right, but I still don’t have to play by your rules. I’m not hungry. Yet.”

“Come on,” Link said. “Hungry or not, we can all have dinner.”

 

The next few days were spent in preparation while the engineers worked on putting the cannon back together. It was entertaining to watch, and usually accompanied by a lot of frustrated yelling and banging. But slowly, it came together, and after two days it was standing on its two chicken-like legs.

On the third day, Link noticed Oocco had surreptitiously snuck into town and was living in the chicken coop next to Barnes’ house. Barnes had been asked if he wanted to work on the cannon, but he refused, saying that small explosives were all that he was interested in. If Link understood Shad correctly, this cannon didn’t even involve explosives.

But he asked Oocco if she would let Shad interview her, and for the next two days after that, the scholar left the engineers largely alone while he spent every possible waking moment in the chicken coop. Every evening he carried home a stack of notebooks two inches tall. Link wondered where he was getting them. It turned out that Oocco was from the Attic in the Sky, although she called it the Sky’s Loft, and she was looking for the Sky Cannon to take her back, because she and her son had fallen down accidentally. She didn’t know how to fix it, though, or how it worked.

Rana neither avoided him nor sought him out. She seemed to be cheerful again, though whether it was an act he couldn’t tell, and Naeri wouldn’t tell him. She spent a lot of time with Shoza, who was getting his strength back. She would come to watch Link do his exercises, though, and sometimes disappeared from town, only to come back drenched in sweat, so she was also working hard, if in secret.

There were no more major attacks on the town, but monsters were popping up more and more often, and closer to town, especially at night. It was a very good thing there was a plethora of warriors in town.

Finally, the cannon was finished, and stood, gleaming, beside Renado’s house.

“So how does this work?” Link asked. “And please, give me the layman’s version for idiots.”

“That’s redundant,” Navi pointed out, and he shrugged.

“Well,” began one of the Gorons, “it’s activated by magic. We figured out that much. Not sure exactly what will activate it, but once it does… boom! You’re going to be over the moon, possibly literally.”

“But you have to get inside, first,” said one of the other Gorons. “And it appears to be made for humans only.”

“We haven’t actually tested it…” said the strange man. “We can’t test it. So hopefully it actually goes off correctly and doesn’t just splat you inside.”

Link laughed. “I’ll risk it. I have some things I can try. And I need to get up there.”

The first thing he tried was the Dominion Rod, but it didn’t react. Shad made considering noises and scribbled in his notebook.

He tried Farore’s Wind… he even tried Din’s Fire and Light Arrows, which just bounced off.

He tried playing his Ocarina, the Ocarina of Time, which was magical. At a loss for ideas, he played Zelda’s Lullaby… and something clicked. He played it again, and it clicked again.

“That’s it!” Shad said. “You need to play a variation on that tune. Try… backwards, or upside down?”

Link blinked at him. “That’s a bit random.”

“Well, I think we’re finally on the right track. Go on! Try some things!”

Oocco hopped up beside him. “I do think that sounds familiar. Goodness, I haven’t seen one of these in years. But yes, do try it… upside down.”

“I’ll try. I’m not quite sure how to do that…” He raised the Ocarina to his lips again and after a few false starts, managed to produce what he thought were the correct notes. The cannon clicked again, but did nothing new.

Rana had been scribbling something down in a page from Shad’s notebook, and handed it to him. “Here’s the notes for it upside down, and backwards, and upside down and backwards, in case you need something to go on.”

“Thanks, that’s great.” She held it for him to read as he played. He tried playing it backwards.

With a thunderous crash, the cannon went off beside them, and everyone ducked away from it. When it became evident that it was not going to explode, the Gorons cheered, a cheer that the others joined in.

“All right, let’s load you up!” Darunia said, and picked him up with one hand, hoisting him up to the lip of the cannon so he could climb inside. Oocco followed him.

“Wait,” Link said, sticking his head out. “What about… a parachute, or directions, or anything?”

“Pretty sure this thing is self-guiding,” said the strange little man. “Pretty sure.”

“And I’ve got you covered for a non-lethal landing,” Midna said from where she was tucked in beside him.

“I guess no one else can come,” Link said. “Well, take care of yourselves while I’m up in unknown lands.”

“We will,” Rusl said. “You take care of yourself, lad, and bring back that piece of Mirror safely.”

He smiled and gave them a salute, then wriggled down into the cannon, his adrenaline rising as he set the Ocarina to his lips again.

When the last note played, he felt the cannon shift around him; it rose on its two legs, shook itself in a bird-like way, and adjusted its aim.

He braced himself.

He wasn’t sure how it happened, but suddenly there was a crash and he was shooting through the air into the sky. He grabbed hold of Midna, who grabbed hold of him in return, and yelled in terror and excitement. She did too.

It was amazing to see Hyrule spread out below him; he could see everything. There was the forest, the lake, Death Mountain, the city… It looked so different, and his view was changing with every passing second. He was passing clouds, now, and… what was that ahead?

He was slowing, reaching the top of his arc, and he reached it just in time to plop into a small pool on the edge of the Attic in the Sky.

He surfaced a moment later, blowing out the water that had gotten in his mouth and shaking his wet hair out of his eyes. Midna hovered above him, looking smug for whatever reason. Probably because she hadn’t had to use any of her power.

All around them were stately white marble buildings and grassy green walkways. It looked worthy of what a city built by an advanced race living in the sky might look like. The wind was brisk, but not terribly cold, which surprised him. He would have thought the air would be colder the higher you went, like going up a mountain.

Oocco landed next to him and paddled to the stairs leading to a walkway. “My gracious, it’s good to be back, yes! Oh, there is a friend of mine.” She began to gabble in the unintelligible Oocca tongue, and the rapidly approaching creature gabbled back at her. She turned to Link. “Oh my, it seems that we are under attack by a fearsome dragon! We have to get under cover, quickly!”

Link scrambled out of the water and followed the little Oocca down the walkway to a smaller white building. They could certainly run, despite their tiny size. He glanced up and behind them, in time to see a huge red and black winged dragon swooping down on them.

“In here!” Oocco cried, and turned abruptly into a doorway. He dodged inside after her, just in time to avoid a blast of white-hot fire from the dragon. The grass scorched away with a hiss, revealing the stone underneath, which charred black instantly.

Link slammed the heavy stone door shut and turned to the Oocca, panting. “So how long has that thing been here?”

They exchanged warbles, and then Oocco turned to Link. “Over a week. Would it be related to that mirror you’re looking for, do you think?”

“Yes, I’m pretty sure it must be.”

“This place is pretty peaceful normally, isn’t it?” Midna asked. “Or at least you don’t have dragons trying to eat you, right?”

“Oh, yes, normally it’s the most pleasant land in existence! But now, it seems no one dares venture outside, and with good reason! Would you rid us of this monster? It seems that in centuries of peace, we have all forgotten how to fight.”

“It would be a pleasure,” Link told her. “Any directions for where to start?”

“You can take me with you,” Oocco told him. “Just let me sit on your shoulder and I’ll tell you where you are, and where you can go. This is one of our little shops, a… convenience store, if you like.”

“Do you know where the dragon normally hangs out?” Navi asked. “Where he sleeps?”

A quick conversation, and Oocco said: “He seems to come from high up, from a high platform above the highest building. We normally use it for a farm, but he’s taken it over. I can guide you there. Come along!”

She hopped to his shoulder and directed him to another door at the back of the shop.

Going cautiously, they managed to sneak to the largest building in the city, the Grand Hall. Inside, many Oocca were hiding, and when they caught sight of Link, they all converged on him, squawking. He backed away, rather intimidated by their non-human intensity.

Oocco twittered at them authoritatively, and they backed away from him, looking a little abashed, before she gave some kind of order that had them wandering away, back to where they had been before he came in. “My apologies, sir. They were very surprised to see a human here, and now of all times! I explained that you are the legendary Hero arrived again to rid us of this menace, and you don’t speak Oocca. Very few Oocca speak Hyrulian, either!”

“I see. Thank you. You know about the Hero?”

“Why yes! The Hero was originally a Skyloftian! We know all about him, sir! I can tell you the stories, of course. But not now. Now, we must head over to that corridor.”

It was a long and complicated climb for Link. Clearly the Oocca hadn’t had to deal with humans in centuries, if ever, and it was not designed for someone of his build, even if the ceilings were far higher than necessary for an Oocca.

Eventually, he climbed up a gnarled green vine to the platform where Oocco said the dragon lived. It was very quiet, but the clouds were gathering and turning dark around them. The sun was also beginning to go down.

He turned in a slow circle, but he didn’t see anything…

“Get down!” Navi screamed, and without looking or thinking he dove to the side and rolled, in time to avoid a swoop from the dragon. Fire scorched the spot where he had been standing, and heat washed over him…

Darkness and fire, the smell of horse and fear and forest and the sound of running and the sound of fire and the forest was on fire behind him and the woman who carried him. “Stay here and be silent,” she whispered, as she laid him beneath a tree in the darkness, and ran. He watched helplessly as she left, and he heard screams, and all became quiet again. The sky slowly grew light, and the fire slowly grew faint, and he saw the curious, familiar faces of the Kokiri peering down at him…

He came to himself, his own person and age and time, in time to see the dragon shoot past him and begin to bank around to attack him again.

There were four slim towers on the corners of the field with gratings facing the centre. Link wondered what they were. They looked like industrial fans, and more importantly, like something his hookshots could grab.

“Oocco, get to cover!” The little bird woman left his shoulder and scuttled under one of the towers as he hoisted himself up into the sky on it. His plan was to reach the top and then fire arrows at the dragon until it fell to the field, where he could attack it with his sword.

His dual hookshots proved to provide him with unusual manoeuverability, taking him from one side of the field to the other in the blink of an eye, and frustrating the dragon when it tried to hover and breathe fire at him. He reached the top of a tower, and pulled out his bow, but now the dragon was swooping in circles around him, and he couldn’t get a good shot…

“Hey!” Navi yelled, following the dragon. “Try hookshotting this!” She showed him that the dragon’s tail had a hook in it, and it did look like something he could latch on to…

The dragon roared as it felt the weight on its tail. “Navi! Give me the Iron Boots, and maybe we’ll anchor him to the field!” The extra weight was too much for it, and it sank rapidly, wings beating uselessly against the air. When his feet hit the field, it fluttered for a moment more, and then lost its balance and fell on its face. Link sprang on it, exchanging Iron Boots and hookshots for the Master Sword and his shield, and slashed at it. His sword cut through its outermost layer of armour, the black layer.

The dragon was only momentarily stunned, and he didn’t hit anything vital, so in a moment it had torn away from him and was off into the sky. He watched it for a second. It was a monster, but it was also wild and free and beautiful, especially once it shed all that ugly black armour.

Then he was running for the towers again, before it could come around and toast him into ash.

On his next pass, he took off the rest of the dragon’s armour, revealing an odd-looking scar in the middle of its back. That was a target if he ever saw one. He would try to latch directly onto that next time.

The only problem with that was the dragon was always trying to breath fire at him, which meant he never saw its back… But with some canny evasion, he managed to get into a position where he could grab it, a deadly dance through the sky. Now he wished he could fly like the Zoras could swim.

He caught onto its back, and clinging on with the hookshot in his right hand, drew the Master Sword with his left hand and stabbed as deeply as he could.

It screamed, bucking, and fell, clawing at the air with feet and wings. He stabbed again, looking for its spine, and it stopped screaming and fell limply.

They landed with a crash on the field, and Link fell off, slightly stunned. After a moment, he picked himself up, sweaty and bloodstained, and retrieved his sword. The dragon exploded into a shower of small metallic fragments.

The fragments coalesced into another piece of the Mirror, and Midna snatched it out of the air. “Perfect! Now all we need is to get to the Arbiter’s Grounds as fast as possible, and we can take the fight back to Zant, finally!”

“Surely not after a rest,” Link protested. He had used the hookshots more times that day than he had possibly ever, and his arms were aching.

Midna laughed. “No, I’m not going to insist on saving the world today. A tired Hero is one that makes mistakes and gets killed. Instead…” she hooked a tiny arm over his shoulder and leaned against him casually. “I’m going to tell you to hang out here for the night, if they’ll have you, and learn all you can so you can tell Shad. I want to see that egghead pass out again from the tales you bring.”

Link laughed.

Oocco approached them. “That was spectacular! Well done, boy! I’m not sure we can properly show our gratitude, but we can certainly try! Come down to the Great Hall and we shall have a feast, and give you what gifts we can.”

“Thank you,” Link said. “But you don’t have to give me anything. I’ll come for food, though.”

“Ah,” Oocco said, “but this one gift you must have, for it will get you home safely. Come down, come down.” She hopped to the ledge and fluttered down. Link followed more slowly.

 

Chapter 18: The Dark World

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