What? FuckYeah!

(Source: aelloth)

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blonde :d hat kirby kirby (series) link lying nintendo pikachu pointed ears pokemon sepia smile super smash bros. the legend of zelda | Sankaku Channel on We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/18100655

Silent Hero


Silent HeroBy Christine E. Schulze


 

Prologue—Creation

 

Before time was set in motion by man—for time is merely an illusion, a way for those not born of the supernatural realm to measure the feeble passing of their days—chaos reigned in the universe. A war of matter, darkness, wind, power. Until three goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore, took all these in their hands and fashioned them into something far more glorious, beautiful, and most of all, peaceful.

Din—her flaming limbs unparalleled in power—crafted the red earth, taming the chaos into something formed, subdued.

Nayru, in her vast wisdom, gave the spirit of law to the earth, building upon its still quiet by setting up order.

Farore, with her vibrant soul, took all these wonders a step further, so that through calm and order, life could be born and thrive, free to explore, discover, and just revel in the happiness of its new world.

Their work completed, the goddesses ascended to the heavens, leaving in their wake the Triforce, a small glimmer of their power meant to keep the new land safe, and to uphold the balance of the elements which formed Hyrule: Power, Wisdom, Courage. The Triforce was represented by the people of Hyrule in three triangles touching points so as to form a greater triangle; should any piece—Power, Wisdom ,or Courage—be removed, a perfect triangle would no longer exist; this truth held firm beyond mere symbolism.

But as ever, with the creation of life comes free will. With free will comes such a one who would desire to disrupt that perfect balance by gaining a part of it to control all him or herself.

And with the presence of such a dangerous threat comes the need for a wise counselor and—most of all—the need for…

A hero.

 

Part 1

 

Chapter 1—The Lost Hero

 

In the vast, deep forest of Hyrule dwelt the Great Deku Tree, towering high in a secret alcove shadowed by tree-lined cliffs. There, the massive tree housed the Forest Spirit who watched over all the Kokiri Wood. In his infinite wisdom—granted by the goddess Nayru—and his deep compassion—granted by the goddess Farore—he fashioned earth, grass, and seed until he could breathe into life that legendary people who would forever be cherished as the race which never grows up—the Kokiri.

Each of these pure, child-like spirits was accompanied by a guardian fairy. All save one, who would become known amongst his people—indeed, all Hylian peoples—as the Great Hero of All Times. The Hero was not Kokiri, but a Hylian. As an infant, his mother fled through a dark, stormy night, prevailing in the midst of war and staving death just long enough to leave her son in the care of the Great Deku Tree. Perhaps she sensed some specialness about his destiny. Perhaps, like all mothers in that time, she simply wished in the hope of a happier, safer life for her son.

Whatever the reason, the Kokiri Wood remained one of the last corners in Hyrule that was untainted, and, in her wisdom, the mother brought the boy there before taking her last breath. The purity of the spirits residing in the wood served as one of the last strongholds against evil. The presence of that new spirit, the Hero, would provide the greatest protection of all.

Many years later, he received his guardian fairy, not because he was Kokiri, but because of a great quest which would require a companion’s aid. Across time and sacred realms he traveled, his quest spanning seven arduous years. At last, the great evil which had befallen Hyrule—Ganondorf, king of Evil—was banished by the Hero’s blade.

Since that time…

“…the Kokiri sing of that Hero whom they cared after, for a time, and whom they loved so well.”

Joller’s quiet but captivating voice hushed. He turned to face the choir of fellow Kokiri. Some beamed with excitement, others furrowed their brows in deep concentration and seriousness, and still others fidgeted and poked one another. With a swift smile at them and a warning glance to quiet all trouble makers, he lifted his baton…

The symphony of Hyrule began.

No flutes were needed. Nor viols, drums, lutes, nor even the popular ocarina. Their voices alone swelled in a sad, sweet wave, like beams of light reaching to embrace their brethren in the stars. Those celestial spheres twinkled just a little more fervently than usual, as if hidden goddesses or fairies sang in return from their blazing abodes.

How Link adored these moments, sitting on his favorite green hill, blanketed by stars above and embraced by trees and the scent of rich earth on all sides. Best of all, how his heart thrilled each time the Kokiri children sang. He recalled legends of a time when Hyrule was split into many islands. Then, the Kokiri truly looked like a people made of wood and leaves, rather than the green-skinned children they had become.

Link studied his bear arm, resting on his knee, and sighed. Truth lingered, marring the beauty of the scene, reflecting the mournful strain of the Kokiri’s song. For him, there was no green skin. He was not Kokiri; he was seventeen, and he both looked and knew it. No guardian fairy would ever come to him. Though the Kokiri admired him, comparing him often to the Hero of old, their compliments could register only as sad insults. He could never be like the Kokiri. Nor like the Hero. Nor could he ever even express his sorrow and frustration at such a fate, for, most of all, he could not sing. He could not create such humbling beauty that stirred the soul to unstoppable tears. He could never join those throngs who, despite their small size, echoed their great hearts through songs shining with angelic luster. He could not sing

He could not even speak.

Quietly, he stole up the hill, slipping into the thick of the woods like an insignificant shadow. Long ago, he’d mastered the art of complete silence. Why not? With no voice, at least that was one talent he could manage to master.

Rushing past the trees, he was careless as their branches scraped his skin, burning with small scratches and tears. He didn’t care; the pain felt good. It allowed the pain of his heart to ease just a little, to be replaced, if but temporarily. The burning of those small scars helped him to blink back fiery tears of scars buried much deeper within himself…

“Link.”

For just a moment, he considered ignoring her call. For just the tiniest fraction of a moment. Even still, he realized he must truly be upset to consider ignoring her call at all—and thus, he probably needed to heed that call now more than ever.

Skidding to a rustling stop on the fallen leaves, he turned towards her with solemn eyes. Eyes which tried to remain hardened but could only soften with sadness as he beheld his best friend in all the world, the one he wished he could speak to more than anyone. She soothed the pain of his silence by always understanding how he felt. Yet, at the same time, she dug the wounds deeper by granting an understanding he longed to feel with others.

An anger welled inside him this time. Never had he wanted to be able to shout so badly in all his life. Save one other time when a band of Hylians visited the wood and he fell in love with one of their young maidens. His inability to express how he truly felt drove him into a tantrum. All he could do then was smash his hand against a tree…

And leave Sarita to tend the wound for him. Though small and childlike as all the other Kokiri, she was one of the eldest. Her eyes stretched as two deep, unfathomable, emerald orbs, two forests that could never fully be explored or charted. The long, feathery, dark green leaves of her hair were knit in a tight braid swept over one shoulder. He smiled just a little. He always thought the braid gave her an extra-motherly look. Or sometimes, when she was saying especially wise things, she looked like a sage.

“Link,” she repeated, tenderly but firmly; he could not escape without at least a small lecture. “What is the matter this time? Aren’t you enjoying the singing?”

He shrugged, glancing away from the eyes brimming with concern, not wanting them to entirely soften his anger.

“I thought they were your favorite though.”

He pursed his lips. Of course the songs were his favorite. And like everything else, that made them also his greatest bane.

“Link, it’s okay. How many times do I have to tell you not to beat yourself up so? You’re an excellent woodsman and craftsman. Very in shape too. I’ve seen you and Gil practicing with those staffs. You know how much we think you look like the ancient Hero. I think you could wield a sword ten times better than he.”

He really tried to stop the half grin but couldn’t quite. She was flattering him now, in her sincere, convincing way. More or less, it was working—if only a wee bit.

“Link…”

Crunching leaves announced Sarita drawing closer. He still hadn’t looked up, but as he felt a small hand on his shoulder, light as a feather and soft as a newborn moon blossom…

He lifted his head enough to gaze into those emerald eyes watching him so intently. Sometimes, he thought she must really be a sage, the way she viewed his heart so accurately. How strange yet beautiful were the child and wise old woman dancing together in her eyes as the stars sang there too.

“You know I am your best friend. I love you as you are. Never doubt that or let it cease to mean something real.”

He nodded, offering her the best smile he could.

She sighed, smiling too and stepping back. She knew her work was as complete as could be for the time.

“Are you coming back, or would you like some time alone?”

He jerked his head towards the depths of the wood.

She nodded. “All right. Just be careful then, and I’ll see you in a little while.”

He gave a short, reassuring nod.

With a final glance, she skipped into the trees and disappeared from view.

Releasing a deep sigh, he just stood for a long while, staring at the wood he loved so much. He placed his hand on one of the massive trees, sensing the stories rippling beneath his fingers in its gnarled twists and patterns. Trees were often considered the simplest creatures, but Link knew otherwise by the tales of old. Trees nowadays were often silent, yet within their branches lay great purpose and deep history.

If only it could be so for him. If only deep and powerful secrets lay hidden in his silence, it might not seem so bad…

Then again, a man was not meant to be born silent.

With another melancholy sigh, he drifted deeper into the wood. How often did he traverse its paths, memorizing each crevice, hiding place, secret creek. Sometimes, instead of wishing for speech, he wished instead for a silent world where the trees could understand him. Maybe he could even become a tree and communicate with them…

A sharp rumble along the ground nearly threw him off his feet. Catching himself against a tree, he braced himself just in time as the earth shook violently. A brilliant flash of light erupted, sending long tendrils of twisting white and blue outward, as if a star had literally crashed into the wood and then exploded.

When all lay still, Link stood gasping against the tree, shaking. Then, fear for his life was overcome with fear for the Kokiri and intense curiosity. Pushing from the tree, he stumbled through the wood towards the light’s source.

After traveling only several yards, a faint glow sifted through the trees, leading his quickened steps. Then, emerging into the small clearing—

He halted, almost toppling over his own feet, and stared. A shallow crater had been created, as if a star really did crash there. Cracks raced away from the crater on all sides. In its midst, hovering just a few inches from the ground, was a perfectly round, silver mirror. Its glass, though cracked in some parts, was otherwise flawless and glowed with white and cerulean hues. Within the mirror, kaleidoscope-like swirls of black and turquoise moved fluidly. Crystal stairs of the same colors rippled down from the mirror, like someone unrolled a carpet to announce the presence of the grandest queen.

Then, that queen stepped from the mirror, and Link could only stare all the more.

 

Chapter 2—Timeless Maiden

 

She stood tall, slender, graceful, her curves not overly defined yet just enough to tempt even the sweetest, most naive gentleman alive. A long black skirt with elegant white swirls stitched with finest silk trailed nearly to the ground; slits on either side revealed her long, lithe legs up to her waist. Her black blouse covered young, round breasts but showed her lean, flat stomach. Every visible inch of her skin—from feet to hips to stomach to face—glistened a faint silver-gray, as if she was made of moondust.

 Her face itself was loveliest of all, long and angular like her nose, signs of deep intelligence and wisdom. The crimson embers of her eyes matched her fiery hair which was parted in half, both pigtails pulled to the front and tied with a golden ribbon against her heart. A dark cloak and hood with elegant turquoise designs and orange ribbons adorned her slender shoulders and pretty head.

She studied him intensely at first. While part of him felt unease, wanting to look away, the other part could only stare spellbound. After a time, her eyes began to soften, dancing playfully.

A smirk lighted her dark, sapphire lips. Eyes sparkling with an impish delight, she lifted her head just a little and said, “What? Am I still so beautiful you’ve nothing left to say?”

He opened his mouth, as if the power of her beauty surely must grant some magic enabling him to speak, to offer some compliment or reverence towards her. He knew her from the legends of old: Midna, princess of the Twilight Realm. But he could not know her as she wished him to…

The longer he stood there, gazing deep into her eyes with apology and longing, the more quickly clouds veiled the crimson flames of her eyes, squelching them with dark frowns, until she said quietly,

“Oh…I forget how swiftly time passes in your world. Shadows are constant, only changing with the light. But light itself is ever changing, growing and bringing about new life…

“You truly are not my Link.”

Even as her face fell, his heart plummeted. He could feel it as poignantly as the spear digging deep inside him. Its sharp edges would have at least grazed him for disappointing so lovely a lady, but now, her words pressed the wound ten times deeper, scarcely missing his heart. He was no Hero, certainly not her own. He knew this too well.

“But…”

In her eyes glistened a sad longing which intensified the wound just a little more yet granted a fraction of hope, accompanied by a small smile.

“…you share a part of his soul. Or perhaps even all of it.”

He glanced away, not quite able to hide a small smirk. An unworthy compliment, but one he could not help but revel in the mere imagining of.

“So…I hope this doesn’t come out entirely rude, but…can you really not speak? Not a word?”

Glancing back up, he noted the sincere curiosity glimmering in her eyes. No hint of mockery waited within, though no pity as well. Good. He desired neither. Raising his head a little, he nodded.

“Well,” she smirked. The mischief played again in her eyes. He couldn’t help smiling bigger this time as her grin flashed so white and perfect, like a long-sought-after, perfectly round pearl. “Perhaps that is for the best, as I’ve much to tell you. I shall be needing a quiet listener more than a rambunctious one. The old Link, he always was a good listener. Of course, he was also a hairy, flea-bitten mutt most of the time I knew him, at least when in the confines of my shadowy Twilight Realm…”

Her smirk increased, though the glimmer in her eyes promised love in the insult. He listened raptly as she continued,

“We’ve a long journey ahead of us. I hate to have to explain it all as we walk, but time is of great essence. But before we head out, well…I was hoping you, of all people, might be able to help us out with that. The first stop we should make is in a land which is considered an alternate world of Hyrule, called ‘Termina’.

“I’ve read the entrance to Termina lies near an ancient carving of some sort of significance…You wouldn’t happen to know the place, would you?”

Nodding towards the wood, she started walking. Link quickly rushed to her side, leading the way.

As they started walking, Link nodded and couldn’t help smiling. He knew the exact place she spoke of. That “carving”, made on the stump of a tree, looked like a child’s drawing of a happy, young boy and imp with two fairies, one white, the other red and bright purple. It was a portrait of the original Hero of old and the friends he made on a very special and personal journey, often called the “Legend of Link and Majora’s Mask”. The stump became a favorite landmark for young Kokiri to play and win mock battles.

How often Link sat in that clearing, watching the Kokiri battle on their request, studying the picture from time to time. Despite its simplicity, it held a certain allure. It somehow survived even between Hyrule splitting into islands many years ago, then reforming into one giant continent many years later. Its long-lasting echoed the important message of friendship and forgiveness the picture contained that much more loudly. Twas a friendship between boy and imp that had come at great risk. Link admired the Hero in that, as such a young child, he maintained such reserve and willingness to forgive no matter the cost, to press on and—

“Um, hello? You do know where we’re going, not just making that up, I hope?”

Link had stopped, Midna several feet ahead of him. With a more fervent nod, he broke from his reverie raced to catch up.

Midna shook her head. “Just like the other Link. Head lost in the clouds. Without me, it would be lost and floating around up there with the Oocca forever…”

Link wished he could have laughed. He grinned widely, but the grin faded as he glanced back and realized they’d already left the mirror behind. He had so much he wanted to ask about that mirror; how could he express..?

“Now, for my part,” Midna said solemnly. “If you will lead the way to Termina’s portal, I will lead the way to the path that our lives must now intertwine upon.”

She looked at him questioningly. He nodded, ascertaining his readiness. Slowing their pace just a little, Midna took a deep breath and began her tale.

 

Chapter 3—Neverending Story

 

“My father used to say that the battle of Good and Evil is a constant. Like two living, breathing gods, neither can be entirely destroyed. Evil will keep resurfacing, and Good shall have to arise to conquer once more…”

Midna sighed deeply. A faint smile glimmered within her eyes as well, a smile burdened with great sorrow and longing. In that moment, though her youthful beauty lingered, a deep age and wisdom veiled her face with mystery, as if she was some reverential sage. Sort of like Sarita, only more poignantly. Link continued to watch her closely, eyes softening; an instant respect washed over him towards Midna.

“It is said,” she continued quietly, “that the battle between Good and Evil shall endure until the end of time. And as long as there are more good, pure hearts existing in all worlds than there are evil, time shall continue, and the battle shall recycle. Only when the amount of Evil trumps the amount of Good shall all worlds be destroyed and evil vanquished for all eternity; and only those pure hearts who remain shall ascend to the heavens to reign forever with those who’ve passed before…”

A truly sobering thought. At least, to those on the side of Evil. To the Good, hope remained beyond all the suffering, war, and destruction.

“Evil stirs again,” Midna said. “When I returned to my realm, Twilight—the Realm of Shadow—from your world, Hyrule—the Realm of Light—I took my place as the queen of Twilight, its sole ruler. I sought then to abandon my childish ways and gain all the wisdom I could to become the best leader possible. It’s what my people deserved, especially after all the hardships they faced. And Link would have surely expected no less…

“But as I studied ancient languages and legends of both my realm and others, I came across several prophecies. Prophecies which spoke of the rise of evil again, again binding together our two realms—yours and mine—plus another— called ‘Termina’, as I would later know.

“The prophecies spoke of three enemies who would rise from these three realms.  They would wield the Triforce of Power, stolen from the great goddesses so many years ago by the great king of evil, Ganondorf. Whether or not he was one of these wicked three, the prophecy did not say—perhaps because it did not need to…

“This evil, being threefold, would be greater than any Hyrule ever faced; not only was Hyrule itself threatened, but the two other realms so intimately tied to it. And, of course, there would be three great enemies to contend with instead of one, and they would seek to annihilate those realms as we know them—past, present, and future.

“It was said that the way to defeating these great evils would lie in the Master Sword, that which the original Hero of old wielded, the first Link. And the Link I knew after him. And each of his heirs, right down to the one who would wield it again.

“I now believe that is you, Link. You didn’t need to even tell me your name. I just knew. His spirit rests with you. Please forgive me for being disappointed at first. Somehow, I expected to be greeted by that same Link I knew so well. But you truly must be his heir…”

The first time she even implied he was the Hero’s heir, Link inwardly scoffed. The second time, he realized how serious she was, and a million wonderments began zooming inside his head. He? The heir of the first Link? Heir to a hero’s blood? But shouldn’t that mean…

Glancing down at his hand, he stared. A Triforce crest. Three triangles connected at the points to form a bigger triangle. When in all Kokiri did that appear? When Midna arrived and he was distracted? But why? Unless she too bore part of the Triforce and its closeness brought his to light…

Struggling to set his buzzing thoughts aside, he focused as much as he could as she continued,

“…Dark and light must converge once more to wield the weapon of shadow, lest a greater Shadow consume all worlds…forever.

“The only way this can be done is for the Hero to collect three melodies which shall, in turn, form a song. This song shall be able to again bring to life the Master Blade, infusing it with powers of both Light and Shadow. The evil we face will require both these elements to be vanquished this time.

“Now though, for what you’re probably most wondering: Why am I here? You’re the chosen Hero, after all…”

The words again jarred him. He glanced up to ascertain he wasn’t leading them in mindless, endless circles. No, they were yet on the right track—miraculously, considering how helplessly distracted he felt. Probably more due to his feet having memorized the path than any small coherency his mind might yet possess. Certainly, she was far more knowledgeable than himself; why then should he wonder at her presence?

“…I was led here, to the Light, by two things: the prophecy, as well as the Triforce mark on my hand…”

He couldn’t help staring in surprise this time. Calmly, she held up her hand, and he studied the Triforce crest—with a small frown. Each of the three triangles was also divided into three smaller triangles, and one of these smaller was colored in solid gold. One piece out of nine solid, the rest empty. Glancing at the crest on the back of his hand, he now noticed his was the same way.

“Mm…I can’t say why the Triforce appears broken into nine—rather than three—this time. Prophecies don’t speak all, you know. They do leave some things to be wondered about…

“The crest appeared shortly before the arrival of a newcomer in our world. With its appearance, I knew the time of evil—and a need to counter it—drew nigh for my world and others.

“There was a man, Zaruman, who claimed to hail from your world. Twilight blood ran through him though, that much I was certain of…

“For a while, he claimed allegiance. He even offered his hand in marriage. I was so certain of his sincerity, and in all my years, I would like to think I was not so easily fooled. But perhaps the longing for a companion blinded me. Or maybe he really was that good at deceiving. Whatever the case, I believed him, and I was wrong…

“He disappeared, but with a promise to return to Twilight and take all he wanted by force. I had seen displays of his magic and power and feared he could. There was only one thing to do after his parting. I must reassemble the mirror and seek outside aid. Something I would have forever thought impossible many, many years ago. However, in my long years of study, I learned how to put the mirror back together again. I never did so before then, for I held only selfish reasons for desiring such a thing. Until my kingdom—and, I knew, the realm of Light—was threatened.

“So, with Zaruman’s departure and his promise to fulfill his threat, I reassembled the mirror and…

“Here I am.”

Here they were indeed. A young boy and an imp smiled up at them from the tree stump as if beckoning them forward, to come and play in the world of their memories inside Termina.

“This is it,” Midna gasped.

Yes, this was it. Link had hardly absorbed everything Midna told him and didn’t know if he would be able too, namely because a few, choice, amazing thoughts drowned out all else:

Hyrule was in grave danger, as were Twilight and Termina, two realms closely tied to his.

He was the heir of the first Link and the newly chosen Hero by the goddesses to save these three realms.

The most amazing, wise, and beautiful lady would accompany him on his quest.

That was all he knew, and maybe all that mattered for now, except…

Nodding towards the stump, he gave her a questioning look.

She frowned curiously. Then, understanding steadily masked her face.

“Ah, you want to know why we head for Termina?

“Well, beyond it being one of the three realms in danger, I have become a bit of a prophetess myself, I suppose. After pleading with your goddesses for a way to help the chosen Hero, they revealed to me in dreams the three places where the bits of melody can be found to create the song which will unleash the Master Blade once more. Two parts of the song are in Termina, the third in Twilight. So, to Termina to fetch the first two.”

Link nodded. Seemed reasonable enough. If “reasonable” was a term which could be considered in all he had learned thus far.

Delving with Midna deep into the woods, the trees grew strangely thick beyond the stump. He led the way up the fallen trees which formed a twisted path leading only one way—up and in.

At the top of a ledge, they entered a small cavern and stopped short, nearly toppling into the bottomless pit before them. Catching each other just in time, they stared down into the abyss.

Link’s heart pounded with excitement as he realized that, in all his years, this was the closest to anything daring, dangerous, or even rebellious that he’d ever come. The Kokiri elders always warned the Kokiri not to stray too far beyond the stump, lest they tumble into the “endless” abyss which, in truth, was not so endless but provided a portal to Termina, Hyrule’s alternate world. Even now, he wondered how they’d ever get back up again once they wanted to leave. Midna must have wondered too, because she cast him a side-ways eye roll that read, “Seriously? You’re absolutely sure this is the right way and we’re not about to plummet to our deaths splat on the floor of some cave?” Link almost grinned but held back, not sure if Midna would feel his amusement…

But then he supposed the Hero had gotten back out some way or other. While he still wasn’t so convinced he was the Hero’s heir, this was no time to show doubt. With a final nod, he gripped Midna’s hand, and together, they leapt over the edge.

It didn’t take long for them to be consumed by blackness.

 

Chapter 4—A True Fairy

 

Link held tight to Midna’s hand, though not so much out of fear. All fear dissipated, quickly replaced by pounding adrenalin and excitement, as they began to fall slower, floating towards their destination. Though nothing could be seen, no evil could be felt either. This was a good sign that they hadn’t stumbled into some random hole. Link found himself feeling, for once, more than a little useful.

Then, gradually, flashes of green began to glisten and fall about them. As they grew more defined, Link stared in awe at the small bushes, flowers, and then whole trees cascading gently with them. Or perhaps Link and Midna fell into a world steadily solidifying about them. It was hard to say.

Link knew only that, at some point, everything sped up again until the world was a blur of greens and browns. Then, so abruptly he didn’t even feel it at first, firm ground rested beneath their feet; he and Midna stood in a wood.

“Well, then,” Midna sighed deeply, seemingly with relief, though she spoke calmly, casually brushing off her dress. “I suppose we’ve found it. Good job, Hero.”

Link grinned, nodding—

At a rustle in the trees, Link froze, glancing about cautiously. Midna did the same, wandering eyes widening.

As the rustlings grew louder and more frequent, Midna slipped her hand from Link’s, whipped out a bow from beneath her cloak, and set an arrow at the ready on her string—

An abrupt cry alarmed her, the arrow whizzed through the air—a loud pop, a flash of bright red, another cry of mingled surprise and terror—

And then, Link and Midna looked down, both intrigued and confused.

He was a middle-aged man, though no taller than four feet. A scruff of a pathetic beard clung to his stubby chin, and traces of wrinkles lined his eyes and mouth. He was clad from head to foot in a tight-fitting green suit which defined features Link wished it rather didn’t and knew, without a doubt, that Midna must feel the same. A large, deflated, crimson balloon trailed behind him, the thing Midna hit with her arrow and which no doubt before held him aloft in the trees. He smiled broadly at them, doing a little jig that was disturbingly childish for one his age. Then—of all unwanted horrors—he attempted to sing,

“Lucky, lucky boy of the fairy forest,

“Lucky is Tingle to meet such a friend,

“To meet such close kin,

“Let our divine friendship start now and not end!

“Tingle, koo-loo limpah!

“Tingle shares these special words only with you!”

Why?” Midna breathed, staring in a horrified sort of way, almost as though his oddness pained her. She was so horrified as to be frozen to the spot, unable to tear away. “Just…why…?”

“So, would you like to buy a map?” Tingle piped.

Midna raised a skeptical brow. “Come again? Buy maps from you?”

“Oh, yes, my lady—indeed, the finest maps in all the land…”

As Tingle prattled, Link leaned over to catch a glimpse of one of the rolled up maps secured to Tingle’s back. 500 rupees for one! A clear rip-off, especially from this incompetent weirdo

Link subtly shook his head at Midna, who raised her head a bit in a sign of understanding. Then, she said, “Look, all we really want to know is who we might talk to in Termina to gain some good advice. You know, like a prophetess or seer or—”

“A fairy?” Tingle wriggled his eyebrows, rubbing his shoulder against Midna who truly looked ready to vomit all over him.

Roughly yanking her cloak aside, she muttered, “Yes, a fairy. Preferably not one of your…breed…”

Tingle shook his head enthusiastically. “Oh, no, indeed. Tingle is too humble to give himself the credit of understanding dreams and quests and such…”

“Thank all the goddesses,” Midna breathed; Link fought hard against a pressing grin.

“…no, no, Tingle leaves such weighty matters for the Great Fairies of Termina. There is one such Fairy in a little cave in the northern part of Clock Town, which is the great city in the midst of Termina Field. It’s just a little ways north through these woods. If you’d like, I’ve the perfect map—”

“And you’re certain this Great Fairy can help?”

“Oh, yes. Just tell them Tingle sends you. My good lady, Tingle has ‘connections’ and… ‘favor’, if you will, with all the Great Fairies…”

With anther wriggle of the eyebrows, he sidled over to rub against her again, but she stepped back just in time for his shoulder to miss the mark, sending him sprawling and maps fluttering everywhere.

“Good-bye, Mr. Tingle. It’s been a pleasure.”

As Midna swept from the small clearing, Link hurried to keep up. Casting a backward glance at Tingle, Link felt a little sorry for him. Until—

“My lady plays hard to get,” Tingle said, sputtering dirt from his mouth as he wobbled to sit up. “But Tingle knows…you will be back, my sweets, whether for one of Tingle’s wonderful maps or a something a little more…special…”

“I am not even expected to respond to that,” Midna muttered. She picked up her pace, as did Link, suppressing another grin which was, by now, truly ready to explode from him.

Once completely out of Tingle’s range of sight, Midna returned her bow to its mysterious perch beneath her cloak. Link again felt himself losing points; what weapons had he thought to bring on such an epic—and epic-ly dangerous—quest? He shook his head. Like the real Link, he would have to wing it and worry about that only once the need arose.

After only a half hour or so, the trees thinned and at last receded altogether into sprawling green hills, known better as Termina Field. The massive wall encircling Clock Town loomed not far in the distance. After only another half hour or so of travel, Link and Midna gave a friendly nod to the guard and slipped through the gate.

If the field and woods reflected utter quiet and peace—save the presence of Tingle—Clock Town proved the utter opposite. They’d entered the Western marketplace which bustled with townsfolk admiring clothes, jewels, freshly baked bread, and a wide array of other trinkets which various merchants sold from carts set up outside the buildings of official stores.

A balding man sniffed in a displeased manner at another man selling turkey legs right outside the window of his Bomb Shop. Then, he slipped in and shut the door with meaning loudness.

As Link stared, tempted by the churning turkey legs. He quickly veered towards the south though, just as Midna tapped him on the shoulder.

“Shouldn’t we…you know…head to the North of Clock Town, where the Fairy’s cave is supposed to be?”

Link shook his head, hoping his eyes revealed his meaning of “Not yet” instead of a simple “No”. He just had a feeling that they should first examine that place where Link himself began his ventures in Termina—the Clock Tower in South Clock Town.

“What—? Do you have another ‘master’ plan? An epiphany I haven’t been let in on yet—?”

“Rogue tomato! Get yer rogue tomato here—makes a great pet for the wife!”

A man sporting a long, curled goatee and wisps of hair which stuck out at incredibly weird angles—weirder still was how those wisps stayed perfectly in place—held out a gargling creature. It was red, shaped like a small tomato, save its vines had formed into reaching arms and legs. A large mouth with sharp teeth smiled wide, impishly nipping at Midna who jumped to the side.

“Um…not to be rude, but is this place some indication that Hyrule has also gone completely psycho since the last time I visited?” Midna mumbled. “It is meant to be an alternate universe, after all…”

Link could not contain another wide grin.

Finally, rounding a tall wall, they entered the Southern portion of Clock Town. Townspeople milled to and fro, several carpenters carrying large beams of wood to some sort of scaffold being erected. In the midst of all the action towered the unmistakable Clock Tower. Midna and Link paused to admire.

Constructed mainly of reddish wood, the face of the clock was its most elegant feature. Intricate designs of clouds, golden wings, and a moon face gleamed brilliantly with freshly polished stain glass. A gold-gilded frame encircled the massive clock. Below that, two, large wooden doors. They were ordinary but legendary. As Link motioned Midna forward, they slipped through the crowds and crept inside…

Upon entering, they paused, stilling their breath to as quiet a tone as possible as the music played, beckoning them to listen. Once they were so quickly drawn into its spell, it soothed all the aches contained in their hearts for so long.

The red-headed man faced away from them and towards the small organ, his fingers rippling effortlessly across the keys, like a dream. A bulky sack and several masks lay on the floor beside him. Link knew at once from the old legends who he was and that he played the Song of Healing.

After repeating the song several times—twas a song which could never become monotonous, no matter if one must hear it played over and over for all eternity—he allowed the notes to fade. Link’s heart fell a little, aching dully, though he knew it would have taken much longer for the song to heal every single one of his past sorrows and regrets, far longer than they could remain to listen.

The man swiveled around on the organ bench to face them with a wide grin. His teeth gleamed perfectly straight and white. The thin slits of his eyes narrowed even more as he grinned wider, so that Link wondered how he even saw anything.

“You’re the Happy Mask salesman,” Midna gasped.

“I am indeed,” he said, jumping up and bowing in a low, dramatic arc. “But I have been waiting for you because I have become more than that, over time. I am a guardian spirit of sorts who travels often between Termina and Hyrule. Knowing your plight, I have sat here, playing the Song of Healing for a long time now. None other has heard me play; indeed, if one of the townsfolk was to enter right now, they would think you spoke to the wind. My song is meant to resonate only in the heart of the Hero and those who aid him. Tis what drew you here in the first place, my boy…

“Now, I have nothing to give you, except a small bit of advice before you delve into your quest:

“In your journey, look often to the tales of the first Link. Even as Termina mirrors Hyrule in many ways, so your journey shall mirror the Hero’s—in many unexpected ways.

“And, as always…

“Believe in your strengths; believe!”

With a bow, he faded then vanished like a wisp of genie’s smoke. Midna and Link looked up with a gasp. The organ had vanished as well. Link wondered if the mask salesman truly departed to another realm or if perhaps he remained right where he was, invisible, playing his song only for the next soul in desperate need of obtaining its healing balm.

“Well,” said Midna. “Shall we make now for North Clock Town?”

Link shook his head.

“What do you mean ‘no’ again?” Midna growled, following after as he sped from the tower, feet intent on a singular location. What the Happy Mask salesman said resonated with him deeply. Certainly, there was some purpose in their meeting the salesman first, and in his wisdom of following the tales of the first Link…

He led Midna up the short ramp, down the alley, and towards the small pool where the townsfolk often came to wash laundry and such. How perfectly the whole place was etched in his mind. Though meant to mirror Hyrule, Termina seemed not to have changed physically at all from the descriptions told many a time in the old legends, though Hyrule had changed much itself. Then again, perhaps Hyrule had come full circle after reforming into one giant island, becoming that much closer to the original.

In the old tales, Link had to find several smaller fairies which would, once joined together, restore the Great Fairy to her original state. One of the first places the first Link found such a piece of the fairy’s soul was in the small laundry pool in South Clock Town. And this, of course, all occurred in conjunction with meeting the mask salesman in the tower.

Sure enough, as Link and Midna entered the laundry pool enclosed by a high wall, a tiny golden fairy floated above. As they neared it, the Triforce emblem glowed brightly on the back of Link’s hand. The fairy floated near, then slipped into his pocket without a sound.

Really?” Midna scoffed. “So, in this ‘version’ of the story, the Hero just uses his Triforce symbol to lure the fairies. I mean, that’s a lot easier than the original Link running around wearing that ridculous Great Fairy’s mask. Because, no offense, but she was a little peculiar looking—especially on Link’s head…”

Link smiled wide and motioned Midna back towards the main part of town. They were nearly knocked over by a girl with bright purple hair sporting a yellow mask.

“They really all do love masks around here…” Midna mused. “Then again, I suppose the land of Termina is known for wearing a ‘Hyrule’ mask; according to my studies, nothing of Termina’s was really ever its own…”

Midna continued to spout random bits of information on Termina, some interesting facts, others just expressions of her annoyance—such as the carpenters’ incompetence to watch where they swung their lumber and actually try not to hit tall people like herself in passing. Link only smirked, bemused at her quiet rantings, leading her into—

“North Clock Town! Finally—ah, my goddess—it’s Tingle…”

Indeed, while a group of children chased each other between the few trees in North Clock Town, laughing and shooting spitballs at one another, Tingle bobbed high above, suspended by his red balloon, a passel of maps strapped to his back. Link waved cordially in passing. Thankfully for Midna, who didn’t even dare make eye contact let alone say “hello”, Tingle only called down, “Hullo, best friend and best friend’s friend—who, of course, is Tingle’s friend too!”

“How comforting a thought,” Midna mumbled as they hurried past. “You know, didn’t Link ever find it a little creepy that he just shows up in whatever new location he travels to? Freaky stalkers…”

Link continued to laugh in his heart as they scaled the long but gently sloping hill, ducking into the small cave at its crest. Sunlight poured onto the glistening pool within, dancing upon the ripples like fallen stars. Hovering over the water were dozens of tiny fairies just like the one in Link’s pocket. As Midna’s and Link’s toes touched the fringes of the pool, the fairy soared from his pocket, rejoining the others. They swirled in an elegant dance, knitting closer and closer until their glow unified like one brilliant sun. Then, in a burst of light, the Great Fairy hovered before them.

Her skin glowed golden like the sun, as did her long, thin, delicate wings. Her hair fell in an ocean of golden waves which matched the softness shining from her eyes. Elegant white silks hugged her body, while tiny vines and rosebuds curled about her arms and legs, mirroring the crown of flowers resting upon her head. Link guessed that the same thought fleeted through Midna’s mind: if the fairies of old were described as garish and unsightly, then either that part of the legend lied, or else the fairies had changed greatly since then.

Smiling down with a warmth which touched their hearts with almost as strong a warmth as the Song of Healing, she said, “Welcome, Heroes. I have been waiting a long time for the Hero’s heir to come—that heir who would know, by the goddesses, to retrieve that broken part of my spirit and make me whole again, as did that first Link. I have changed in many ways over time—as do many—but my spirit remains the same, as does that of the Hero; it resides vividly within you, Link.

“Sadly, our time must be short. You come to me for a specific purpose, that I may grant the tools you need to start your quest. First though, I shall grant you knowledge and speak more of spirits.

“As you may already know, there are three spirits who house parts of the song you seek, as well missing shards of the Triforce. Two of the three spirits dwell here in Termina.

“The spirits of those who carry the sacred Songs of the three Realms…I have felt their presence stirring in Termina for some time now. One is said to dwell East, atop the cliff-tops of Ikana. The other lingered last with the Zorita of the western ocean, though his spirit has wandered abroad for some time now…

“I would first seek the song-holder of Ikana, the great Goddess of Time herself. She resides in a Temple high atop the stony crags. In order to reach her, you will need the aid of this ancient but still applicable tool.”

The Great Fairy stretched her arms wide. In a flare of brilliant, gold-white beams, something flashed silver between her and Link, hovering in mid-air betwixt the two. Link stared, trying to steady the trembling fingers which closed around and held it carefully, while Midna took in her breath.

“The Hero’s hookshot!”

The fairy nodded with a proud smile. “Indeed. One of his most unique and valuable tools. Old Dante proved true in thinking it would come in very handy someday. Ah, how the spirits know so much more profoundly than we…

“It is old but still in excellent condition. Watch over it carefully, and it will aid you in the trials to come.

“I bless you both now with good health, strength, and magic.

“Good night, my children, and the goddesses grant you all speed.”

She arched her wings up and folded them around her body like a bat preparing for slumber. Then, she dissolved in a golden rain back into the pool which glimmered golden a few seconds more until she vanished altogether. All lay dark, cool, and tranquil.

“Well, then,” sighed Midna as Link yet fingered the contraption in awe. Made of wood and metal, it contained springs which, when released, shot forth a grappling hook. That hook would stick firm into many surfaces, making travel between hard to reach places much simpler—or, in some cases, possible at all.

“Well, then, indeed,” she repeated more firmly, drawing herself up confidently. “I suppose it’s off to Ikana then?”

Link gave the hookshot a final, reverential look. Then, securing it to his belt with twine from his satchel, he gave Midna an affirmative nod. Together, they turned and slipped from the fairy’s cave.

 

Chapter 5—Goddess of Time

 

The journey to Ikana began with a long, monotonous stretch of field followed by a long, monotonous stretch of rocky, bumpy path between jutting cliffs. When their travels extended into the fringes of twilight, the sun’s fading rays made yet frailer by the new presence of grey, wispy clouds, Link knew they had definitely graced the borders of Ikana.

No living thing seemed to grow. All was solid rock, and even its constant, reddish tint bored their already-weary minds and bodies. The path wound up and up and was easy to follow, mostly smooth at the first but littered with more and more potholes and craggy snares the further they traversed.

At last, the path grew very steep, and Link and Midna had to grab onto each other, propelling each other along, using one another as walking sticks. Then, stepping up over a final ridge, it loomed before them—the legendary canyon and the high cliff tops rising far beyond it.

From the vast expanse of the canyon, whose depths were hidden by ever-scrolling mists, rose several towering, rocky spires. On top of each lay a flat surface so that they were very skinny plateaus of sorts, with just enough room for two people to stand upon and perhaps pace back and forth a bit. They created precarious stepping stones up to the cliff-tops high above where Link felt certain the Goddess of Time must reside. The one mystery was how to bridge the huge gaps of empty space between the stepping-stone spires—unless he and Midna came across a giant. That seemed unlikely though, as they’d spotted no life in Ikana at all yet.

Their only clue was a wooden post jutting out of the bottom-most spire, a target painted on its surface. If the legends were true, Link knew what that meant. Detaching the hookshot from his belt, he turned its gleaming silver over in his hands.

Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a big or mighty tool, especially next to the looming, unseeable depths of the canyon, and especially comparing its weight with theirs. The stories of the Hero crossing such abysses so effortlessly seemed no longer so exhilarating.

Glancing over at Midna, he saw her staring with the profound horror he felt at the canyon; it glared like a gaping, hungry mouth which is never satisfied. If they were to tumble inside, they would be like two, insignificant leaves fluttering down, down, down…

But what else could be done? The target post was a sign. It was their only sign. Link would need to be the strong one here. Midna already backed slowly away from the cliff’s edge, whether consciously or no. She was a strong young woman, but in the sight of such fear, it might be hard to persuade she who was also a stubborn young woman that this was the best way…

Apologizing fervently to her inside his mind, he swooped her up in his arms. She let out a small squeak of surprise, but before she could realize what he was up to, he aimed the hookshot, pulled the trigger—

The iron chain shot forth, and the iron claws at its end stuck fast in the post. He yanked hard, but there was no pulling them out.

“Link!” Midna cried pitifully, almost making him release her, but as she began to squirm, he knew it was now or never—

He released the trigger; the suspended chain contracted in what seemed the blink of an eye and yet a terrifying minute all at once. Midna hugged Link so tight it hurt, but he tried to focus instead on the target they swiftly flew towards. It really didfeel like flying. That was the most frightening yet exciting part—the weightlessness. Air was the most solid thing surrounding him and Midna as they flew—

Their feet touched down, and they were safe.

Breathing hard, Link tried to set Midna on the spire’s flat summit. At first, she would not let go her tight grip at all, so he kept his arms wrapped around her close, waiting for her to calm; her heart beat wildly against his chest. Gradually, her fingers slipped from about his neck, her arms loosened, her body grew less rigid. She slid carefully from him like a snake steadily slithering from danger.

At last, she stood on her own before him, closing her eyes—or maybe they’d been closed the whole time—and heaving a huge sigh before reopening them, fires blazing lethally at Link.

“You little Imp,” she snapped. “Honestly, if I’d wanted a horrific joyride, I’d have saddled up with Tingle on his hot-air balloon…”

Link grinned.

“All right, all right—no, I wouldn’t have. I suppose, in the end of things, you did do a good job, Hero. Got us this far, at the least…”

She glanced uneasily into the abyss. Link felt it too—too much freedom, too much open air enclosing them. He clutched the hookshot tightly, feeling a little better, though he knew it couldn’t just magically spring forth and save them should one of them accidentally tip over the edge.

“Now what?” Midna asked, gazing up at the next spire.

Link and Midna didn’t have to glance around long before she exclaimed, “Look! There. That tile. It looks different from the rest of the stone…”

Indeed, right next to where they stood, on the other side of the post, lay a square tile, very slightly raised from the rest of the spire’s surface. Its coloring was different too. Holding the edge of the post tight, Link carefully inched his way towards the tile. He had plenty of room to move about but felt more than a little claustrophobic, even a bit wobbly. He smirked at such irony. That he should feel so encased when he’d never been so surrounded by nothingness in all his life.

Stepping on the tile, it lowered and clicked like a switch. A small rumble. Then, looking up, they saw a hookshot post appear atop the next spire up in their path.

“Brilliant!” Midna beamed, starting her way towards Link—

Then, stopping short.

“There’s only enough room for one on your side of the post,” she called, loudly as if they stood far apart. Link couldn’t deny it felt that way; he didn’t feel comfortable at all standing where he was, unable to assist her if something went awry.

“You’ll have to come back on this side so we can both use the hookshot.”

Link carefully stepped off the tile and made his way back over. He cast an apologetic look at Midna who tried to smile, though she looked like she’d rather eat a whole bowl full of wriggling, hopping tektites. Then, scooping her up in his arms, he turned to aim the hookshot—

There was nothing to aim at. The post had vanished from the next highest spire. Link frowned. Midna frowned too, though he thought she looked a bit happier about the delay than she ought.

The next moment though, she was pouting, glancing uncomfortably at all the empty space still surrounding them. Link started back towards the tile, but she gently grabbed his arm.

“No, don’t,” she mumbled.

He stopped and sighed, knowing she was right, though he’d hoped she wasn’t. He’d heard of such puzzles. They would need some way of keeping the switch suppressed so that the post would stay raised and they could hookshot their way across.

“Hmm…” Midna half-sighed, half-growled. Link’s head spun with hopes of conjuring a solution; Midna quickly grew agitated, though she fought hard against it with close-knit brows and clenching fists. He feared too as she paced in such a small space, turning sharply very close to the cliff’s edge. If she grew too upset and absorbed in her rantings, she might just topple off the edge…

He sighed deep relief as she plopped on the stony crag beside him.

“Well, now what?” she clearly growled this time, then mumbled, “What would the Hero do if he was stuck in a tricky situation? A puzzle of sorts? Consider all options, look for the simplest solution not yet tried…”

Link had not heard much of the ancient temples and other trials endured by the Hero on his quest. However, what he had heard told him Midna was thinking along the correct lines. There must be something truly simple they were missing.

Link looked over at Midna and found her critically scanning the cliff-tops. Link began searching as well. Despite his ever-sharp eye, he espied only the rising spires they were supposedly meant to climb to the top; how they should do so remained a mystery.

So, he took up Midna’s other suggestion—to search what they had on their person, considering all options. He couldn’t place any objects they’d received lately which might help. Save the hookshot, which was obvious, if they could figure out how to keep the post raised. Rummaging around in his sack, Link’s fingers tripped over some rope, a small hunting knife, twine, matches, then grazed a handful of rupees, and beside those—

With a grin, he pulled out a late birthday present from Sarita. His ocarina. Sarita had crafted the egg-shaped flute from the golden wood of the Kokiri’s finest Makar trees with her own hands.

As he held it, gleaming with an egg-white sheen even in the faded sun, Midna glanced over and smirked. “Of course. Of all things. If the Hero couldn’t figure something out, play a song. Figures you’d be a weirdo with a musical egg as well. Go ahead, pipe away…”

Placing the ocarina to his lips, he blew the first song which came to mind—Saria’s Song, that of the ancient forest sage whom Sarita was named for.

After playing a couple of rounds, nothing happened. Of course, there was always the off-chance he simply didn’t play the right song, but…

Really? It could take ages for us to figure out what notes we need—if that’s even what we’re supposed to do!”

Despite Midna’s continued growling, Link remained patient. The music at least calmed his nerves, allowing him to think more clearly. Standing up, he began to pace, repeating the song—

And was almost knocked backwards into the abyss as, with a small rumble, something rose from the square tile like a swiftly sprouting stalagmite. Lowering the ocarina, Link steadied himself and stood back with Midna to admire the statue which now stood on the tile, keeping the switch pressed firmly down. An exact replica of Link himself, playing the ocarina. It was strangely eerie how life-like the statue looked, vibrant color and all.

Midna shuddered yet gave a small grin. “Good call, Hero—or maybe just good luck. At any rate, it is a little unnerving looking at that thing, so…let’s get a move on, shall we?”

Link nodded enthusiastically and turned to the hookshot post clearly jutting from the next highest spire. Holding Midna close while she hugged him for all it was worth, he aimed the hookshot and released. The metal talons grabbed the post. As he released the trigger again, the chain shot them over the abyss, Midna shrieking the whole time until they touched upon the next rocky surface.

Midna sighed relief then glanced up disdainfully at the stretch of five more spires before the final cliff-top. Making a nasty sort of face at them, she then turned to Link and said, “All right, Hero. Do your thing.”

Link played the song. And played. And played once more. And played over and over until his fingers grew sore.

This time, Midna’s attempted growl morphed into a weary sigh as she slouched to the ground.

“A good try, Link.” She smiled up at him, but he noted the tired glimmer in her eyes. It was not a physical tiredness but an emotional and mental one. He understood well; Midna was not one to not understand how to do something or else figure it out easily enough. She’d reassembled an entire mirror spanning their two Realms. Now, that something so simple should hold them back when she was just as eager as he to see their mission already completed…

Determination washed some of the weariness from her eyes as she looked up at him again. “Perhaps just a different song?”

He gave a firm nod, set the ocarina to his lips—

“Link…Link…”

“What is that voice?” Midna breathed, rising slowly to stand beside him.

Tremulous, Link’s hand rushed instinctively to his belt—only to realize that no sword hung there. Not that he owned a true blade, but even the wooden ones he practiced with would have served as a better defense than none at all.

“Here,” Midna drew a long, thin, but sharp, silvery rapier. “It is yours until you obtain your own.”

Gripping it tightly, Link moved close to Midna, scanning spires, cliff-tops, skies, and the space on which they rested—which seemed, of a sudden, even more compact in such a small space—for any sign of where the voice and its perhaps-eminent danger might flow from.

“Link…and Midna too…

“Do not fear. You are indeed on the right path. I come to aid you with this riddle:

‘What is done within must be repeated without.’

“Remember, Link…”

The voice faded like a zephyr. All lay still in the twilit night once more.

Midna shivered. “What do you suppose? Did you feel it, Link? Did you feel it too?”

She did not need to define “it” for him because he did feel it. A strange power emanating from that voice, gripping and commanding him to be still, despite its gentility and delicateness. It was that very gentility which made him want to listen, even as its secret power and mysteriousness also made him listen.

“What do you suppose?” Midna repeated. “Surely, only the voice of one like a goddess could hold such power—and, I dare say, pop in at such a perfect time with the wisdom we needed to continue.

“What sense do you make of the riddle, Link? She said we were on the right path—I assume with the ocarina and songs. ‘What is done within must be done without…’”

Link thought hard. He thought hard over everything he’d done to make the first statue appear, trying to break down each step into the tiniest details, not wishing to miss anything which might be important. He played the song atop the tile. Then, he started pacing, yet playing. The statue appeared, along with the hookshot post…

Hadn’t he done all that just now? He played and kept playing and playing and—

Looking down, his eyes trailed to Midna. And the different-colored stone tile peeking from beneath her cloak. He had paced. He had played. But never upon the tile. Gently tapping her and pointing, she studied his gestures with a curious frown before raising her brows in understanding and scrambling from her place atop the tile.

Standing on the tile, Link played Saria’s Song. When nothing happened, he played a few more rounds. When Midna excitedly breathed, “What must be done within must be done without,” literally dragging him off the tile, understanding flooded him as well, and he repeated the song—

The stone statue appeared beside them, the hookshot post on the spire up above.

With an excited laugh, Midna grabbed onto Link, closing her eyes tight this time as they glided across the expanse, eerily weightless for a few moments. She still squealed but, as they landed, urged him excitedly to make the next post appear.

Over and over, he repeated the process, playing Saria’s Song while standing atop the tile, then repeating the song after he’d moved aside so the statue could appear, pressing the switch and causing the next post to appear. Up and up they flew, until the end when Midna cried out with exhilaration, laughing as they reached the very top of the cliffs.

“I think I am actually sad now to see an end to that, now I’ve gotten used to it,” she laughed gaily, and Link grinned.

Then, they looked up, and as the clouds sifted aside, starlight glittered upon the temple of the Goddess of Time.

It was a small structure, strange but magnificent once one’s eyes adjusted. The first thing Link couldn’t help but notice—and saw Midna’s eyes stare curiously s well—was that the Temple was built upon some sort of ruins. As if some ancient tribe or other, having torn down the temple of their enemy’s heathen god, decided to flaunt their victory to the world by just leaving the ruins there and building the new temple for their own goddess atop. The Temple itself, strangely enough, appeared perfectly level atop the ruins, as if the victors had, at least, attempted to rearrange the rubble to make it so. The Temple was an ordinary stone structure, tall but small, with pillars flanking the grand double doors. All was gilded in a simple but impressive, glass-like gold, gleaming like a champagne diamond in the moonlight. Though beautiful, Link thought it seemed a small structure for a deity gifted with so great a title as “Goddess of Time”. Then again, if she truly was master over all time, perhaps she was not as bound by the elements of space, desire for the material, and boredom as humans were. Or perhaps she simply made her home in many temples scattered across time and space.

As Midna and Link crept over the rubble towards the Temple, Link glanced with interest at the bits of shattered past strewn about, wondering about the place’s history, hungry to know more should he ever get the chance to return. Glimpses of paintings and carvings from the once-grand structure—giant, leering eyes and stars and a hideous but powerful, scorpion-like creature—intrigued his curious mind.

Reaching the steps scaling up to the towering double doors, they slipped up and crept inside.

The doors closed without a sound upon a room simple but fair, the floor tiled with marble squares alternating pearly black and glittering white. The magic of their sparkle was all the more enhanced by the moonbeams sifting through the tall arched windows, peeking between the pillars towering on either side of a golden carpet. The carpet flowed up the length of the temple, up the steps of a white marble dais, to rest at the feet of an immense, white marble thrown. Nestled in the throne, sitting tall, straight, but comfortably, as if she’d always belonged there, was the Goddess of Time herself.

Billowing gold and white robes swathed her delicate body, sweeping the floor like moonbeams as the real moonlight set all a glitter—the robes, her silvery-copper skin, her night-ebony curls, her apricot eyes.

“Welcome, dearest descendant of the Hero, and you, Midna, Heroine of Old…”

Her voice flowed as richly as the sun represented in her eyes, literally echoing with a soft but certain power throughout the temple. Its power did not frighten but rather soothed, like a lullaby. This truly was where they were meant to be in that exact moment of time.

“A long time have I waited here to greet you—and to thank you, Link. It is your ancestor, the first Link, who freed me and allowed me to return to my rightful place of dwelling and worship. In all these many, many years, no evil has befallen my Temple again…

“But now, as you know, a greater evil would seek to assail my whole Realm, as well as yours and Midna’s. Thus, I will not prolong your stay. I will grant what you need and send you on your way; time indeed is of the utmost essence, especially now…”

From beneath her flowing folds, she presented a glistening harp made of golden glass. Even the strings shimmered as if strung of the delicate stuff. Fingers long, graceful, and light as feathers touched the strings which vibrated, quietly but with an unexpected sound, like a choir readying itself for a great performance. Link smiled to himself, thinking upon the Kokiri choir.

“Midna. I believe you know what is expected?”

Midna nodded and drew from her own cloak a long, silver flute. She set her lips and fingers in place, and then looked up at the goddess who began to play.

It was not long before a whole chorus of sweet but powerfully resonating voices, as well as the pure strain of the flute, flooded the Temple and swelled Link’s heart. The notes the goddess granted were few, and she and Midna repeated them many times to ascertain Midna mastered them well. Even still, Link’s heart seemed to break a little as the celestial climax waned into an echoing hush.

Midna returned her flute beneath her cloak and gazed up at the goddess with new reverence. Peace glowed upon her face, as well as an eagerness, as if she and the goddess were now connected by some unbreakable bonds Link wished he could be fettered by as well.

Seeming to understand, the goddess smiled warmly.

“Yes, the song is now a part of you, Midna. It is yours, you own it, and you will feel this and know every time you play it.

“I have just granted you the first of three parts of the ancient Song you must reassemble.

“This Song is called ‘Midna’s Requiem.’”

Midna could not suppress a gasp. She studied the goddess with furrowed, curious brow, even a bit of concern.

Link squeezed her hand. A true honor to have the song they sought named after her. Still, its title was frightening, and he hoped it represented a temporary sleep, or—if truly a more permanent one—that it was meant to somehow quell death rather than create it.

Though her eyes remained fixed with concern upon the goddess, Midna squeezed his hand back fervently, a silent thanks for his support.

The goddess only smiled calmly before continuing,

“You may wonder why two parts of the Song lie in Termina, one in Twilight, and none in Hyrule. One part used to lie in each realm, but the holder of the second, the Many-Link, travels across all the realms and currently resides in Termina. Thus, here he is, and here you shall continue until you find him.

“I can grant you also my piece of the Triforce before you go; as a spirit, I have no need of it, nor shall I die in its passing on, as would befall the living. I am already of the Spirit Realm, dead to your own Realm.

“So, please, accept my gift, Princess of the Hero of Time…”

The goddess folded her silvery hands and shielded her eyes with soft lids, as if in reverential prayer. The Triforce glowed with brilliant, glittering ripples but a mere moment upon her hand before vanishing and glowing instead upon Midna’s. Midna gazed down in awe. Two shards, instead of one, now glistened faintly on the back of her hand, the Triforce of Wisdom nearly complete.

“Go now, dear Heroes. The path ahead lies that way…”

She swept one arm out to her right. Link and Midna looked over at a sapphire warp crystal standing vertical several feet off, ready to transport them from the Temple.

Link gave the goddess a solemn look but one he hoped was full of the gratitude and exhilaration washing over him at having obtained their first piece of the song, as well as an unexpected Triforce shard. The same excitement gleamed thoroughly in Midna’s eyes as she bowed her head in a final gesture of thanks.

Then, together, they stepped into the blue light which immediately began to wrap its warm folds around them like comforting sun rays on the coolest autumn evening.

Well done, Heroes…”

“The voice again!” Midna had just enough time to gasp before the crystal’s sunny folds enclosed them completely in azure magnificence.

***

They had landed not on the rocky ridges of Ikana as they expected, but upon the rolling hills of Termina Field, close to the wall surrounding Clock Town. Strangely enough, it was dawn again. They wondered if a whole other day passed so quickly, or whether the goddess simply reset time. It was not theirs to say though; time was her forte, after all. They said nothing of it thus; for Link’s part, he was grateful for a little extra daylight.

“Well,” sighed Midna. “That’s a relief. Perhaps we can even walk to the East Coast and find the Zorita by nightfall…”

She glanced up at the sky swathed in a rainbow array of sunset shades. Then, she glanced with both hope and skepticism at Link. He smiled gently. He was tired, but also, he thought, far too excited to sleep a wink just yet. Though night would stretch late over Termina before they reached the beach, he was willing to at least begin the trek.

With a smile of agreement from Midna, they started off.

The journey did not last nearly as long as they counted on. After a mere two hours or so, cliff-tops rose from the east. Midna half-stifled a groan and gazed up with loathing. Link half wanted to laugh and half really hoped these cliffs did not prove such an awful trial as the last.

After traveling a little ways, they found themselves slipping between the cliffs, then emerging onto a sandy beach beside the stretching ocean. Its small waves frothed like silver fairies dancing in the moonlight. To their left, another path wound between the cliffs. To their right, the cliffs wound down the beach and out of sight.

“Well, then…” sighed Midna, plopping rather ungracefully into the sand. Link grinned then fell down beside her, his body realizing the same, abrupt weariness. To just collapse and not have to move an inch felt incredibly, suddenly amazing.

Neither spoke. It was obvious both were too weary to search for the Zorita that night. Nor could they even begin to know how. At the same time, Link felt too awake still—or else too tired—to fall asleep. Instead, he fiddled inside his sack, and, with a wider grin, pulled out his ocarina.

Link played a slow tune upon the ocarina. Its strains flowed melancholy but hopeful. Like rays of light, it sifted through the sadness of his heart and slowly melted away the cold. Especially, his new chance at heroism and Midna’s presence helped stave the cold as well.

He felt Midna watching him, eyes soft but bright, studying carefully. He did not look over but saw from the corner of his eye as she reached beneath her cloak. A glint of silver in the moonlight, and then, a higher, purer strain joined his. It was then he looked and saw her playing beside him upon the silver flute, long and delicate like the silvery fingers so tenderly and deftly stroking its keys.

Long they played the song, improvising bits here and there, varying pitch, key, and volume so as to instill the song with passion, its notes not mere notes but rather weaving some secret story etched within their hearts.

When the last, long note faded, they each lowered their instruments. Link looked up uncertainly, but Midna smiled wide. A bit of the sadness lingered in her eyes, but most was washed away by the smile brightly glimmering in her eyes as well. Link smiled too, glancing away shyly.

Looking up again, her smile lingered, though softer, and she said quietly, “Long has it been since I’d anyone to play with. And glad am I that you too know the ancient songs of the Hero. The Serenade of Water…it truly is one of my favorites…”

He nodded as fervently as he could without looking too much a fool. How often that song’s passion had flowed through his fingers, down through his veins, to the core of his heart. It truly was a favorite of his too.

As her eyes continued to watch him so carefully, he struggled not to break that gaze. Her eyes, like two rubies or two stars vibrant with life…he’d never beheld such unique or lovely eyes. But it was awful to be thus scrutinized and not know what she thought…

“You know,” she said quietly, “we haven’t really gotten a chance to talk. I haven’t really gotten to know you. If you like…I’d like to do that.”

His eyebrows arched high. This time, he nodded enthusiastically without any care as to how he looked.

Laughing lightly, she said, “Good then. You first…”

Link opened his mouth—forgetting, as ever seemed to happen in her presence, that he could not speak. Mind scrambling for some other way of communication, he reached into his satchel and pulled out a small stick. He grinned. How frail the little stick was, with just a few, tiny leaves hanging on. He kept it though as a memento from Sarita, who so joyed in giving him small gifts on her continuous explorations of the woods. They’d dueled with branches that day, and in her defeat, the edge of hers broke off. She’d granted the little stick as an everlasting symbol of his victory.

His mind was so engrossed in recounting the memory that he hardly noticed, til almost done, that he’d drawn a picture of the scene with his stick in the sand. It wasn’t a half-bad picture either, considering his limited tools and lack of artistic skill.

Laughing a light but true laugh, Midna said, “Not bad, Hero. We should consider making you into an artist of some sort once all this adventuring is through…

“But who’s the girl..?”

Her lips twisted up into an impish half-smirk. Link blushed but smiled, shaking his head.

“Just a friend then?”

He shook his head, quickly scribbling, My best. A Kokiri.

“Oh, I see. Your best friend. You must have many wonderful memories together…”

The sadness glimmered in her eyes, and his heart lurched. He did not wish that sadness to return full-fold. Jumping to his feet, he drew her blade, pointing its shining tip at her.

She stared at it, then up at him, raising a skeptical brow. “Really? You want to teach me to spar? And just what am I to fight with anyways?”

Shrugging, he glanced towards the measly stick.

Midna looked over, then up at him again. Lips twitching with a smile she tried hard to hold back, she said, “Yeah, umm, as they say, ‘I don’t think so.’”

He shrugged again, as if to say, “Suit yourself,” then plopped back down on the sand, granting her another smile and setting to drawing in sand once more.

Many stories he wove in the sands, relating all of his simple ventures with Sarita and other of the Kokiri. At first, he wondered if he might bore her, but that fear soon dissipated. She listened with keen, bright eyes, hanging upon each word as if her life truly depended upon them.

Only when his arm ached and he could think of nothing else to draw did he sigh, slip his hands behind him, lean back lazily, and gaze at her with expectant eye.

“Oh.” She took a deep breath and released it as a long sigh. A bit of the light faded in her eyes, for which he still felt disappointed. But he really couldn’t think of any more narratives to share. His mind was empty and exhausted.

“Well,” Midna said, sitting up. “I suppose it’s really not fair otherwise. So, a bit about myself—”

She gasped, head whipping towards the ocean at the sound of the large splash. Link looked there too and stared in wonder and amazement.

Not far from shore, a half dozen creatures or so leapt from the water and back down again, glinting like silver stars in the moonlight. Suddenly, one of them sprang up from the water and high into the sky where, instead of plunging back down, he hovered as brilliant silver-blue wings burst open wide.

She—for the curved figure showed she was, indeed, a she—hovered there a moment, studying Link and Midna with bright, inquisitive, sapphire eyes. Then, she soared towards them, even as the others frolicked forward through the shallows.

“Well,” Midna breathed. “I believe we shall no longer need to worry about finding the Zorita. As ever on this quest thus far—thank the goddesses—those who we needed to find have very well found us instead…”

 

Chapter 6—The Promise of the Zorita’s Eyes

 

As the winged lady lighted before them gently and noiselessly as a butterfly kissing the snow, and as the others walked up behind her, Link stared with a new sort of awe, respect, and even a bit of the childish curiosity that Sarita so often possessed when studying some new corner of the wood.

When their wings folded, it looked as though long, shallow turtle shells rested upon their backs. Moonlit water droplets glistened like thousands of miniature aquamarines upon their blue-green skin. Their faces, noses, and ears were long, angular, bearing an elven sort of elegance, as did their arms, legs, and the graceful fins arching from both wrists and ankles. Silver hair spilled down the backs of the ladies, while the silver locks of the men were woven in a singular, tight braid down their backs. Their eyes gleamed like sapphires, just as inquisitively as Link felt his must look.

“Welcome,” said the front-most lady, “heroes and friends. I trust by the green garb you bear—” her eyes darted swiftly to Link—“that you are indeed the Hero from my dreams—and thus a descendant of the Hero of old. And you, my lady. Who might you be?”

Her calm, wondering gaze turned to Midna, who bowed her head. “I am Midna of Twilight, my lady. I too have been visited with dreams and now aid the Hero on his quest.”

Link felt himself blushing vividly at such high praise from such lovely ladies; he hoped the moonlight wasn’t bright enough to reveal too much of this.

“I am Ava, princess of the Zorita. My people and I have been patiently yet anxiously awaiting your arrival. Come. There is one of ours, in our valley, who can tell you more about finding the song you seek…”

The Zorita turned and drifted up the sandy slopes towards the cliff-side. As Midna and Link followed, they exchanged glances between each other and the silvery shell-like domes upon the Zorita’s back.

“If I may,” Midna ventured, “about your wings…I would think they’d get wet, and you couldn’t fly, but…”

She paused, as if uncertain how to continue. Ava smiled sweetly, eyes twinkling. “Aye, it is indeed of no hindrance, for we were ingeniously crafted by the goddesses. When we fold our wings, the feathers fold nicely inside. On the outside, a thin but sturdy film of lightweight, waterproof leather keeps everything snug and dry. So, if we are swimming and an emergency arises which needs flight, we can leap from the water, burst our wings wide, and take to the sky the next instant.”

“Ingenious indeed,” breathed Midna, gazing almost jealously at the silvery, folded wings.

“Certainly a great gift from the goddesses,” agreed Ava. “Certainly a very great gift…”

All fell silent then as they wandered up to the cliffs and continued close along them. Ava ran her fingertips casually along their rough surface, as if searching for some very familiar clue. Then, she turned and seemed to disappear straight into the wall.

Link stopped short, stunned at first. Midna paused too, brow furrowed as a confused little frown graced her lips.

Then, Midna felt the wall, and her arm seemed to go right through. She too disappeared. Link found himself stepping up to the wall and feeling for it—only to find open air, a narrow gap between the cliffs so carefully hidden that the naked eye would have great difficulty in detecting it by day, let alone by the dead of night. Slipping beneath the folds of the cliff, Link found himself making a sharp left and sloping downward towards the gaping mouth of a cave which Ava and Midna just disappeared into, though not before Midna glanced over her shoulder and cast him a reassuring grin.

The caves led them to a series of winding chambers lit by soft, sleepy torchlight. Ava paused before two rooms long enough to announce that these were two of the empty guest rooms they were welcome to sleep in for the night. Midna thanked her quietly, then fell into silent curiosity again, gazing at the blank stony walls as Ava led them forward once more, declaring they’d nearly “reached the end”.

Upon emerging from the network of caves, a valley of brilliant green hills stretched before them. The hills were surrounded by high cliffs, except for a gap on the far side where the they ended at a cliff plunging straight down to the ocean. Crystalline waterfalls spilled from high in the cliffs and into lakes. Moonlight glimmered like fairies’ feet dancing across the ripples.

As they walked forward, the grass greeted their feet like old friends embracing them in a tight, comforting hug. How plush the grass felt, soothing like a balm. Link wasn’t used to such soft footfalls in the forest, where brush and bramble and old leaves were ever underfoot. Thus, his feet were toughened, but even they had grown weary in all the walking he and Midna accomplished in so short a time.

Even as he enjoyed the grass’ subtle comfort, another pleasantry drifted to his ears. The music of a guitar, a cheery tune perfect for nighttime dreams.

As their trek turned upward, Link saw they scaled one of the hills, at the top of which sat a male Zorita, posture tall and straight. Still, as he strummed the guitar, he could not look more relaxed, reveling in his craft.

They waited until he finished his song, and then Ava gently cleared her throat.

His round, intelligent eyes snapped up. With a smile, he rose to his feet.

“The Hero and his Lady. Forgive me, sister. I did not see you approach.”

“Nor hear us, I trust,” she added with a smirk. “Though for good cause. Your work is always well worth it…

“Asher, these here are, indeed, Link and Midna. And this, my new friends, is my brother, Asher.”

“An honor,” he said, bowing low, and Link and Midna returned the gesture. His voice flowed like a serene, soothing wave, and Link felt instantly more at ease.

“Please, sit.” He motioned with his arm, and together, the four of them sat upon the velvety hill.

“You come seeking the path to a certain song,” Asher began. “Our people have treasured its secrets for a long time now. We treasured it during the time we were Zora—when we were first created and entirely fish-people, dwellers of the water. We treasured it in the time we evolved into Rito—winged beings who dwelt on land yet stayed close to and loved the seas. And we treasure it now, when we are Zorita, a combination of these ancestors having created what we are. All this time, through all these generations, have we honored the Hero, hailed him, remembered him, and wished for a time when we might aid and bring honor to his name.

“They say that, a long time ago, that Hero—the first Link—dwelt in Termina for many years, until his death. They say he dwelt right along these shores, though perhaps they looked different in that age…

“You see, when Link, as the Hero of Time, traveled back in time after completing his first quest to save Hyrule, two Links were created—a child in the past, and an adult in the future. The child or past Link journeyed on to Termina and ended up completing a great quest here to save this land.

“Along the way, he helped heal troubled spirits who, in turn, granted him masks which allowed him to transform into their race. One such mask allowed him to morph into a Zora, our ancestors. With the transformation, Link looked almost exactly like Mikau, a young Zora in love with the beautiful Zora singer, Lulu. Lulu, of course, thought Link was Mikau, and he never told her the truth. His child’s heart didn’t wish to disappoint her so…

“After saving Termina, and upon returning to Hyrule…it is said he no longer felt ‘part’ of that world. Though a child, when inside Mikau’s body, he began to feel things for Lulu he never had felt for anyone before. He felt a strong bond, a need to be near her. That was one thing he could understand, for he ventured to Termina in the first place in search of a dear, long-lost friend…

“So, Link returned to Termina to live out his days with Lulu. He never took the mask off. She never knew. No one ever knew until he was very old and revealed his tale to a few who would keep the tale sacred and safe for generations to come.

“We Zorita honor the Hero of Time for his love and devotion to one of our own. Truly, he had a Hero’s heart.”

“The spirit of that first Link,” said Ava, “is said to still wander about Termina—and it is he, of course, who holds a part of the song you seek. Some have claimed to see him amongst the forests, while others claim to have heard glimpses there of a merry tune upon his ocarina. It is said too he took the masks with him to the Spirit Realm, so it is hard to say what form one might catch him in…”

“So, we should turn next to the forest?” Midna turned to Link with bright eyes. “We might have passed near to him without knowing. Then again, figures if Tingle just up and scared him off…”

“Oh dear,” Ava shook her head. “Sorry am I you had to endure the likes of one such as Tingle on your first visit to Termina. He means well, of course, he has a good and faithful heart. But he is an oddity, to be sure.”

“Indeed,” muttered Asher before Midna could get to it; instead, she granted an agreeing smirk.

“Well, then,” Asher said. “If you all might excuse me, I shall be getting to bed this evening. Plan on rising extra early and working on a new song of mine. Good night, my friends. Again, it has truly been an honor…”

After exchanging nods of respect and farewell, Asher took up his guitar and drifted down the hill.

“Mm…” Ava sighed long and deep. “Well, shall you two head off to bed as well?”

Midna’s eyes glistened brightly. “I don’t think I could sleep. It’s so beautiful here, the perfect place to rest. But it’s such an exciting place, calm but so breathtaking. I think I shall sit here a spell and enjoy the beauty of the night.”

“Good,” Ava nodded. “I should be glad of the company.”

Her eyes scrolled then to Link. With a shrug, he rose and pointed casually down the hill.

“Going exploring?” Midna asked with a gentle grin.

He nodded, returning the grin as he remembered Sarita and all their explorations which he’d shared with Midna. Already, that conversation seemed a true lifetime ago; they had just learned so much again, and so much new lay before them to accomplish…

But for the present, to enjoy the short reprieve in the Zorita’s Domain as fully as possible.

Link truly did set out to explore every nook and cranny possible. He roamed around the rolling hills, peeking behind the waterfalls, and wound through many of the caves’ passages. A few Zorita milled quietly about, seeming to stroll just like himself—aimlessly yet not without purpose.

Only when his feet began to ache, noticing days of past weariness, did he return to the hills and their star-cast sky. He started towards the hill Midna and Ava still sat upon, but they seemed very involved in their conversation. So, choosing a hill a little ways off, he settled gratefully onto its velvety folds.

He just prepared to lay back, maybe even fall asleep in that spot, when the mention of his name caught his attention. He tried to ignore what he was certain must be a private conversation, yet years of self-training made him unable to block out such clear words:

“Link. What do you think of him?”

“What do you mean ‘what do I think of him’?” Midna tried to snap, but the last words came off as weaker, breathy.

“I have little seen you, yet…Zorita can sense many things. A special connection exists between the two of you.”

A painful pause. Then, with gentle curiosity, “What do you mean?”

“Well, for starters…he reminds you of another.”

A long pause in which Link held his breath, at least until he realized he began to grow light-headed. Exhaling slowly so as to take no risk of making noise, he began gulping long, quiet breaths which did not at all match the rhythm of his trembling heart.

At last,

“He shares the soul of one I once loved. Or at least, I think he does or else want him to. But…we could not be either way. Darkness and Light only create Shadow, don’t they?”

His heart calmed, not with soothing, but with sadness. Surely, she was his superior, ancient princess of the Twilight Realm and far advanced in wisdom and magic as she was. How could she doubt her heart’s worth when measured against an immature, inexperienced, and defective forest rogue as he?

“Perhaps…” said Ava with careful slowness. “Or perhaps, as Dawn proves every morning, Darkness can only be overcome by Light.”

Link’s Kokiri-trained ears were far more steadfast than his Hylian eyes which longed to wander. He wished to know her thoughts, her feelings, everything that she was at this exact moment. He could not know without glimpsing the crimson windows into her soul or at least glancing at the stance of her body—if she revealed any emotion at all. He supposed so many years made her good at hiding such things. Then again, she sounded so much more open with another who understood her…

Two stars suddenly streaked past, spiraling about each other in a magical sort of dance, releasing brilliant white sparkles as they waltzed out of sight. Then, the gentle chorusing of birds in the trees not far from where he sat, and the circling of two Luna moths about his head. One landed softly on his folded hands.

“We Zorita…we believe that Nature, as the foundation for the world the goddesses created for us, contains some of the deepest wisdoms.

“Take all these signs, especially the song of the moon blossom birds. Mates for eternity; the only creatures known to consummate their love within a nest made of moon blossom petals which they consume afterwards. In doing so, they are granted the eternal life of the moon blossoms, and for so long lasts their love…

“I do not know what these things may mean for you. But do not close your heart. Better to love and find out that he is not the one than to never search and find that one. And if the love is true, even if it turns out it is not what the goddesses deem best, there will be sorrow, but no regrets of the time you spend together.”

His heart culminated again into such a swift dance he thought it might explode if he didn’t spare just the smallest glance at her again…

She sat as he did. Hands folded about knees drawn close, eyes scanning the heavens as if imploring the voices of the goddesses to grant the answer. On one of her long, delicate fingers rested the other Luna moth.

Link glanced away, almost reeling. Could such be possible? Could she feel for her what he felt, and could the gods deem it a good thing? Even so, how could he ever express his love for her?

This sole trouble he pondered as he sat for long hours still upon the hill. Midna and Ava spoke little afterwards, and when they did, it was in tones too hushed for even his sensitive ears to make out the words.

Occasionally, he would glance up at Midna, and yet more rarely, study her for several minutes. Her eyes and mind seemed so entwined with the starry heavens that, if she felt his eyes watching, she made no sign of it. In fact, she made little sign of anything. Her face was placid and pensive like a guardian goddess’ might be. Yet what thoughts might stir beyond that sweet mask, he could not tell.

It was late when she and Ava at last arose and began drifting down the hill towards the caves. Only when some time had passed did Link rise and saunter down the hill as well, wandering into the cool caves and finding the guest room Ava had shown them earlier.

As he prepared to slip within, the softest footsteps perked his ears. Looking up, he saw Ava floating down the hall. Quietly passing him, she did not pause—but her eyes did, upon him. A subtle nod mingled with that lingering look granted him some sort of promise and hope. His heart leapt within him, though he couldn’t tell why.

Then, she was gone.

He was left to stand in a strange sort of daze until he realized this, ducked inside his room, and snuggled beneath the cloud-soft sheets of the bed.

The more he thought about everything—the strange, sudden flood of new emotions, the way he’d seen Midna act and possibly react tonight and the way he reacted in turn—the less sense it made, to the point of coming full circle and making sense once again:

He was in love. Or thought he was. At any rate, he’d never felt such strong passion, protectiveness, and a desire for nearness and companionship from anyone else before. And perhaps, just perhaps—if the promise of the Zorita’s eyes spoke truth—perhaps Midna felt a small glimmer of something for him too. Wishing this dream inside his sleepy mind, he drifted into a deep and contented sleep.

***

Link woke with the dawn, meeting Ava with Midna on the cool morning sands of the beach. The sun set everything glistening with a pale golden hue; even the flames of Midna’s eyes seemed subdued, gentler, in that warm gold light.

She smiled at him, sweetly but calmly. It was as though the conversations of last night had never occurred. And yet, it was like the very opposite all at once. Link felt his heart jump towards her as if to draw her into a tight embrace. He refrained from showing any sign of this, of course, but a wall seemed to have been broken beneath them. Perhaps it was that wall which had forbid either of admitting feelings for the other. He couldn’t be certain. Even so, despite the fact that no words were exchanged on the matter, the two of them as a whole were changed.

Ava smiled warmly. Link, trying to clear his head, focused respectfully upon the Zorita as she took Midna’s hand and said, “Well, my friends. Tis to the forest with you, I suppose. I pray the goddesses grant much mercy and wisdom on your travels. May you find that you seek and save us all as did the ancient Hero…

“One, last thing. When you return to Hyrule, remember my sister, Miya. She may aid you on your quest, should you have need of it, if you mention our meeting.”

Link nodded, and Midna gently slipped her hand from Ava’s. “We will.”

Then they turned and descended, leaving the rolling hills of the Zorita’s Domain behind them. As they crossed the land bridge and approached the outskirts of the beach, Link felt an urge to look back. As if sensing this, Midna took his hand and said quietly, “Don’t. It may be the last glimpse of beauty we see for a while. It would only disappoint you…”

Link looked up. He studied her beauty for a moment and then looked away, continuing beside her in solemn silence.

 

Chapter 7—The Voice of the Goddess

 

When night stretched long across the fields of Termina, they stopped beneath a small cluster of trees to sleep for the night. They managed to slip past Tingle several times, much to Midna’s mingled annoyance and then relief, as he seemed to somehow float about in every new region they entered.

At one point in Midna’s ramblings, Link gave her a look which suggested more than one Tingle might exist, explaining his random appearances. This only won him a rather hefty lecture interspersed with cursings and rantings, all of which he secretly chuckled to himself about, especially as her cheeks flushed a nice shade of scarlet at the end.

As they curled against the trees now, soaking up the warmth of the fire, Link began to doze in and out of sleep. His lids opened and closed slowly, and with each opening, he smiled sleepily. The firelight danced like little red fairies across her silvery skin. Her breast rose and fell so gently he could hardly sense the movement. Her black cloak draped elegantly upon her long, slender curves…

“Link…Midna…Link, awaken, Link…”

Link sat up, staring first at Midna, then at the treetops. The chime-like, echoing voice felt familiar, yet his sleepy mind could not place it.

Link…” yet more fervently.

He stared hard at Midna to be sure she did not play some trick on him. He jumped back as her eyes opened wide and she sat up, drawing her cloak close about her.

“Were you really watching me that close while I slept? Gee…”

LinkMidna…”

“The voice!” Midna gasped.

The voice? Of course! The voice from the caves of Ikana. The voice Midna felt certain could only be from someone great, like a goddess…

“We’re listening!” she addressed the twinkling heavens.

“Good, my children. Then listen well. I have much to tell you. I have been following you to ascertain you are indeed the prophesied heroes. Truly, the Hero of Time of this age sits beside you, Midna.”

Midna nodded in agreement.

“You are not the only ones I have followed in secret,” the voice continued. “I now know many things regarding the enemy and the evil threatening the Light Realm, Twilight Realm, and Termina. Listen carefully, and I will reveal all I have learned.

“Majora, Ganondorf, and Zaruman—a traitor within the Twilight Realm—are the three evil ones. All desire the Triforce, Ganon having promised the other two a piece of the Triforce of Power if they help him obtain that shard.

“To do so, they must seek to destroy those who hold the two remaining shards, Wisdom and Courage. Ganon has broken Power to give a little to Majora and Zaruman already, knowing more than they, including that with their defeat—which he hopes you two will perhaps enact for him—the pieces will return to him. In the meantime, Ganon uses their power to help him obtain Courage and Wisdom…

“You say even the Triforce symbol on your hands is not as it should be. That is true, for something is amiss. It appears that this time, the Triforce has been sundered into nine pieces instead of three. Three of Power in Ganon’s, Majora’s, and Zaruman’s hands. Two of Wisdom in Midna and Zelda. One of Courage in Link.

“Where are the other three? The one of Wisdom remaining and the two of Courage?

“You see, this time, the evil is so catastrophic, spanning more than one realm, that you as heroes must call upon the Twilight and Spirit Realms for aid. When Ganon split Power in three, Wisdom and Courage split as well, landing in the hands of protectors from three realms: Shadow, Spirit, and Light.

“The Heroes of the Light Realm—or Hyrule—must seek out the other three bearers to obtain the ancient, long-lost notes of Midna’s Requiem and Zelda’s Lullaby, two songs which hold a vital part in completing your quest. Together, these songs can resurrect the Master Sword, said to vanquish evil countless times. At the same time, these songs will infuse the blade with the powers of light and shadow needed to defeat all the evils of the three realms.

“However, even with the blade, sacrifices may need to be made. With the loss of the life of someone holding one of the Triforce pieces, one of the three Hylian wielders—Link, Zelda, or Ganondorf—shall become stronger.  Those already of the Spirit Realm can gladly impart their Triforce shards, as the Goddess of Time has given her piece of Wisdom already. But for the other\bearers, the Triforce shard can only be relinquished by the loss of their life. For example, Link, if you wished to obtain the full Triforce of Courage, the wielders of the other two shards must fall—unless they too are already part of the Spirit Realm. I know not…

“I do know, as I think I have made clear, that the way will be hard. Know also though that while the goddesses watch over you, I shall as well, following and helping where I may.

“Take heart, dearest Heroes and friends. The goddesses bless until we meet again…”

With a dying echo, the voice vanished, leaving Midna and Link to stare into the starry night.

“Good night,” Midna whispered too late, with a hushed sort of awe.

Then, turning to Link, she took a deep breath and released it slowly.

“Who do you think she is?”

Link shrugged, then smirked. All the amazing, pivotal things just revealed to them concerning their mission, and Midna focused on the voice itself and what it might be. Though, he couldn’t deny his own curiosity…

His teasing grin must have lingered though, for Midna gave an annoyed little frown. “What? Don’t tell me you don’t want to know too. I mean, it’s freaky, actually. Random voices telling us all sorts of inside info on the Triforce and whatnot. Could be a spy of Ganondorf’s leading us to our most untimely dooms, or else making us go crazy for a bit of sport and then leading us to our untimely dooms…”

Even as she curled upon the grass, wrapping herself in the generous folds of her cloak, Link continued to smile. She didn’t think it was freaky. Or that either of them were going crazy—certainly not her own, sharp-witted self. Nor even did she believe the voice random. She believed in its providential destiny as much as he wanted to. Link considered himself a bit of a skeptic but admired her steadfast faith. He supposed that was the mark of the bearers of Wisdom—utter faith in the goddesses who granted that wisdom…

Even as these thoughts skipped through his sleepy mind and he looked up to grant Midna a softer smile, he found her fast asleep already. Laying his head on his satchel, he granted that softer smile anyways, hoping that—by the goddesses—it might find her in her dreams.

 

Chapter 8—The House of Many Links

 

After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the forests on Termina’s southern borders.

When they journeyed hardly a day before the forest’s fringes loomed in sight, Link realized how small a world Termina must be. Hyrule itself was not huge though diverse, but in comparison, Termina seemed like a little doll house replica.

Link and Midna combed the forest in silence, listening carefully for any hint of an ocarina. Midna voiced that it might be easier to hear than see the spirit of the first Link because they didn’t know what form he would appear in or how well he might blend in with his surroundings. Music, however, was not so easily hidden.

After a long search, nearing a time when they were ready for a much-needed break, Link’s ears perked at the sound of something. At first, he excused it on a bird’s call and a delirious desire for it to be more. But then, the call solidified into a complex melody with tones Link was far too familiar with to call them anything but that of an ocarina. The next moment, Midna was tugging on his shoulder and whispering, “Look.”

The two stopped short, and Link peered through the thick branches of the trees. Between the green, a tall figure could be seen. The foliage and its shadows concealed much of his image, but Link caught sight of the old green tunic and hat, as well as a glimmer of blue eyes. Meeting Link’s gaze to ascertain he’d be seen, the Spirit Link turned and danced away into the trees, leading Midna and Link on like unwary children entirely trusting the pied piper.

The spirit moved quickly, and Midna and Link tried to hurry through the tangled wood, keeping the music in check and catching a glimpse of the moving figure every now and then.

After a while, the music began to fade. Midna and Link picked up the pace, but regardless, the music waned until settling into a complete hush—

Just as they stumbled into a little clearing where the mouth of a cave loomed.

Link glanced at Midna with question. She shrugged. What else was there to do? Together, they started forth into the cave.

For a while, their path lay completely swathed in darkness. Link felt carefully along with his feet, gripping Midna’s hand tight in case she suddenly lost her footing.

Gradually, a faint orangish light glimmered in the distance. Emerging from the wide corridor, Midna released a small cry, and Link felt more than thankful he held her hand as she teetered on the edge of the abyss. Pulling her back, he gazed solemnly into the black, depthless expanse which nearly swallowed her whole. Then, he looked up.

Beyond the abyss, which truly was huge, another ledge awaited them, jutting from the cave’s opposite wall far beyond. The ledge led to a small door. On the walls, a few torches flickered, granting little light, but enough to see by.

“Well, how do you suppose we’re to get across that?”

Link’s eyes already roamed though, and with them, his mind. Gaze resting upon something hanging between two of the torches, he knew at once the riddle of this cave. The thing on the wall was a mask. Round, wooden, sporting a green hat. It represented one of the Deku, the tree people of old. It also represented one of the forms which the first Link shape-shifted into during his Termina quest.

“The mask!” Midna breathed, spotting it too. “Link—your hookshot!”

With a nod, Link unlatched it, aimed, and soon, the mask flew into his hands. He held it admiringly; it felt nearly weightless, insignificant as air. Yet he knew the strong power it had wielded over the Hero, and soon, over him…

“Link, wait—are you sure that’s—?”

Midna’s question was drowned in a loud cry as Link donned the mask and instantly felt his body begin to change. For a brief but horrifying moment, he burned all over as if engulfed in unending flame. Then, his limbs began to shrink; this wasn’t painful, though uncomfortable because of the intense pressure. Finally, he stood before her as a dwarfish creature, body no longer clad with skin but soft bark, a tuft of golden hair peeking beneath the green cap.

“Awe,” Midna crooned, smirking impishly, eyes gleaming half with delight and half with mischief. “Aren’t you adorable? We should keep you this way the rest of the quest, don’t you think?”

Link furrowed his eyebrows—or hoped he did; he felt stiff and unlearned in this temporary body. He quickly shook it aside though. This was no time for silly squabbles. The next matter of business was figuring out why he was in this body to begin with. He scanned the room again…

And, so low to the ground, his eyes quickly espied a large, pale pink blossom he didn’t notice before. Knowing again what to do from the legends of old, he hopped on the flower which sucked him in like a Venus fly trap—though painlessly—then released him.

Up into the air he soared and did not fall back down. In his hands, a broad petal which acted as a glider of sorts. As if pushed by a nonexistent draft, or else one he could not feel, he soared across the gap, dropping the petal to land safely on the ledge beyond.

“I think this may be one part of the quest you have to do on your own!” Midna called across. “That’s okay though—I can wait right here!”

Link frowned—or felt like it at least—and pondered. Indeed, even if he took off the mask, how to send it over to Midna?

Then, his eyes strayed to a small, square tile slightly raised—a switch. Smiling—or however Deku express happiness—he hopped on, pressed the switch—

He and Midna both jumped back as something large fell from the ceiling, landing with a heavy BOOM! A land bridge connected both sides of the room. With a proud grin at Link, Midna rushed across.

“Really,” she said, “we should keep you this way. You’re quite useful…”

Link shook his head. Yet, in trying to pull the mask off, he found it wouldn’t budge. Nor could he even tell where its edges began so that he could pull it off.

“It’s okay,” Midna said, placing a hand on his shoulder, all signs of playfulness vanished from her eyes and replaced by sincere kindness. “Maybe we’ll need it for the next room. Let’s see…”

As they stepped through the door, they were indeed met with a very similar room. Two ledges, a wide expanse between them, a door beyond, torches on the walls. The one difference was that, on the ledge on which they stood, a ramp of sorts jutted out of the edge. Eyes swooping to the mask on the wall, Link began hopping and pointing enthusiastically.

Midna granted him a sweet smile, mischief creeping back into her eyes, just a little, as if truly contemplating keeping him like that. But then she nodded, and Link soon had aimed the hookshot and brought the mask flying to him.

Donning the brown face, he transformed into a creature representing a much bigger race of people—the rock-eating Gorons. After some uncomfortable swelling and stretching, he stood nearly Midna’s height, broad-shouldered, intensely muscular. Dark eyes twinkled from a round, bald head. Protective plates covered certain parts of his dusty-colored skin.

Almost like the instincts an animal might possess, Link jumped to the ground, curling into a tight ball, armadillo-like. Then, he began rolling across the floor, practicing only for a bit before surging towards the ramp, rebounding off its edge, and somersaulting through the air at an amazing height and speed.

He landed beyond atop a switch which sent another land bridge crashing down. As he straightened into standing position, heart pumping with adrenaline, Midna rushed across, grabbed his hand, and shouted, “That was pretty amazing! C’mon—let’s see what’s in the next room!”

He ambled after her only to find a much different sort of room. A small lake, crystal clear so that they could see it was only a few feet deep. Set into one wall below the surface was a tunnel which all the water rushed rapidly into. On the wall above hung the torches and mask. Link aimed, shot, and drew the mask to him, placing it carefully upon his face, only to transform into—

“Mikau,” Midna breathed in awe, the story flashing in her eyes as it replayed instantly in her mind. The story of Mikau and Lulu. A love story which, as a woman studying ancient Hyrule and Termina tales, Midna certainly knew well, even before Asher shared what he knew.

Link examined with awe the fins curving so gracefully from his arms. They were beautiful but sharp; he could feel it as he sliced the air. He looked much like the Zorita with his aqua skin, blue eyes, angular facial features, and tall lithe body. The greatest difference was that, as a Zora, he bore no wings or hair.

Looking over at Midna, he found her examining the water in confusion and concern.

“Okay, how am I to get across that? Because I can’t just hold my breath forever if you get lost down there, you know…”

Link nodded slowly, only half-hearing her. He knew how it worked in the legends. If they got sucked down the wrong passage, they should be returned to this room, where she could get air. He supposed Midna could go back and wait for him, provided the land bridges remained. Glancing over his shoulder though, he found the door they’d passed through did notremain and subtly turned away, wanting to give her no reason to panic.

Then again, he felt panic was the only way forward. They would just have to chance it and hope the goddesses remained on their side.

Link swooped Midna tightly in one arm, then dove beneath the rapidly rushing water, her screams stifled as she took a deep breath before plunging under.

The current carried them with unparallel swiftness, bumping them against the walls and floor of the tunnel. How they could even see down there was a mystery; a soft, blue-white light seemed to illuminate everything yet shone from nowhere.

It seemed ridiculous that anyone should be expected to navigate such currents. But then he remembered he wasn’t just anyone. He was a Zora. Holding Midna tight in one arm, he began to kick his legs and maneuver his long body to make it more easily stream-lined. Soon, he glided with the currents instead of being controlled by them. As the tunnel branched to the left and right, he chose right. Several more branches cropped up, all of his choices random as he hoped for the journey to last soon, for Midna’s sake—

It all stopped. So abruptly, that Link hovered in the water, stunned for a moment. Then, realizing, he kicked swiftly to the surface, jumping up with all the skill of a dolphin and landing on the ledge above the water.

Midna gasped a huge breath, coughing and sputtering, “Oh, this had so better be a different ledge than the one we just left behind…”

Glancing up, Link noted the door which meant it was—thank the goddesses—indeed a different ledge. Midna didn’t know this though, so helping her to her feet, they scrambled into the next room—

And were met immediately with a wide, friendly, endless abyss.

Midna sighed. “At least I can understand this one. No risk of you nearly drowning me here…”

Link wasted no time in drawing the new mask to him. A large, plain, ugly, grey thing. As he donned it, he felt his body stretching into its new form. Even as the slight pain and discomfort faded, he continued to grow and grow and grow…

Until his head nearly touched the ceiling. Studying arms and legs, he surmised he was back to his old self, save much, much huger.

Link bent down, gently scooped Midna in one hand, and effortlessly bridged the abyss in one step.

“Okay, because that would have been really helpful back at Ikana; why are these things always done out of order..?”

Link smiled softly as he set Midna down. Then, making certain both feet stood on one side, he removed the mask and gradually shrunk back to his rightful size.

It was only after this that he realized his amazement at being able to take it off—and then, poof! With this thought, it vanished from his hands.

He and Midna shared a curious look, then faced their final door.

Passing through, they appeared to have entered a perfectly ordinary square room. Not very large, a dusty stone color, with torches illuminating three of the walls, and on the fourth, a mask. A mask which looked like Link’s face drawn into a fierce, determined stare. Those intense brows lingered beneath the white tufts of hair protruding from a silver-black cap. Red and blue paint streaked his cheeks and forehead.

When Link placed this final mask upon his face, not only did he begin to grow in height, but muscles pulsed vibrantly in his every limb. A new power surged through him, and with it, a before unknown adrenalin. When he at last stood in his new form, a head above Midna and wielding a massive blade constructed of two flat, sharp, iron beams twisted together, forming a lethal point at the end, Midna gazed up with awe and reverence, as if beholding a demi-god.

Clad in silver-black tunic, silver-blue gauntlets and tights, and thick leather boots, Link hardly knew how to contain the energy flowing through his veins. He turned away from Midna so she would be safe as he swung the blade in a much-needed release—

Metal sang as the blow was blocked by another individual who fell swiftly and silently from the ceiling, which seemed suddenly not to exist save in an endless black expanse. Link looked up in surprise at the person mirroring his exact image. Then, as they both drew back their swords, the fight was on.

Both Links maintained a feisty, challenging grin, but no malice existed in either. Instead, they almost seemed to play rather than fight—the play was fierce, but Link reveled in leaping, twirling, spinning his blade to artfully block another of his rival’s blows. When they battled for a good ten minutes or so, keeping Midna on the edge, the other Link leapt back, held up a hand, and shouted, “Halt!”

Link stopped. The other Link threw something which exploded in a flash of blinding light. Then, the light fading, he left Link to stand back in his original form. The other Link created the same brilliant light next to himself—

The Spirit Link stood before Link, almost his twin, save in height, clothes, and the fact he wore the long, green cap which served as his trademark amongst legends and the paintings accompanying them. And, of course, he was semi-transparent, being a spirit.

He grinned wide, bowing at them, and they returned the gesture.

“Forgive me. Time has enabled me to master many skills, including that of illusion. In truth, the cave is really my house; all this elaboration I made up just for the test. If you walk out that door there, you’ll be back in the woods, right where you started.”

As he pointed, a door materialized in one wall, and the walls themselves morphed into simple wooden slabs. A fireplace roared in another wall, while a comfy, squashy chair cropped up from the floor like a new tree. Though sparsely decorated, it seemed a homey enough dwelling for the spirit of an ancient Hero.

“No forgiveness is needed,” Midna assured. “We are truly most honored to meet you, great Hero of old.”

“Mm…and honored am I to meet my successor and his princess. For only the true heir could have obtained the tool which allowed him to obtain the masks. The masks would have correctly fit only the one who bears my blood in his veins. And, I dare say, only a descendant of mine could match my Fierce Deity with such art, skill, yet grace as well.”

Link grinned broadly, bowing in thanks.

“Well,” Spirit Link said, “I would bid you stay longer and share much with you, save I know the importance of timely quests—and all quests are timely, if some more than others…”

He smirked in amusement, as if recalling how his Hylian ventures spanned seven years, while he was forced to save Termina in three days.

“Thus, without further ado…”

He revealed a cloud-blue ocarina, its smooth surface still gleaming like new. Midna took out her flute, Link his ocarina. Together, they played until all mastered the song. Even as his fingers rippled over the notes, Link felt a warmth on the back of his hand. A new Triforce shard solidified on the symbol on his hand. He looked up in awe at the Spirit Link who gave him a playful wink. Then, Link remembered: just like the Goddess of Time, this Link was also a spirit; he could easily pass his bit of the Triforce onto the living, without suffering harm.

When they ceased playing and put away their instruments, Spirit Link nodded to the fireplace. The fire within morphed into a brilliant blue, and Link soon realized it was no longer fire but a warping crystal.

“This will take you back to your own world,” Spirit Link said. “And I must return to mine…”

In his hands, the Zora mask rested. He cradled it gently, stroking its smooth, worn, but much-loved and cared-for surface.

“How I do miss the Zora. But now, my part here is over, and I can return to my place amongst the Zorita. Do you think they will find room for a bass guitarist in their new band?”

Midna laughed lightly, “I think they will,” while Link gave a strong, enthusiastic nod and wink.

Then, the two of them backed into the warp crystal whose sapphire rays immediately began knitting close around them. Before the light entirely blocked their view, Link caught a glimpse of the Spirit, transformed already into a Zora and plucking a few, proud notes on a skeleton guitar.

The blue light enclosed them, and when it faded a few moments later, they stood in the Kokiri Wood. The portal by which Midna entered Hyrule stood nearby.

“Come on,” Midna said, eyes gleaming with a new wakefulness and excitement. “I’m having far too much fun exploring different worlds with you to stop now. Let’s make for Twilight straight away!”

She danced up the steps leading to the Mirror, and he followed. Pausing before the portal, she cast him a radiant smile and held out one of her long, delicate hands.

Link took the outstretched hand. With a playful whoop and laugh, Midna danced into the swirling black and aqua designs of the portal, pulling Link along with her.

 

Chapter 9—A Link to Twilight

 

Soon, the kaleidoscope tunnel encircled them on all sides. As far as eyes could see, endless swirls and symbols which Link thought must be a beautiful language of sorts danced all around him and Midna. Midna’s eyes danced with the same vibrancy as the bright turquoise hues, her laughter echoing like sunrays piercing through darkest clouds. Link couldn’t help but smile and wished more than ever he could laugh too, for her desire to do so was certainly contagious. As she skipped along, and he after her, he felt almost weightless, floating like a cloud through the portal.

“Welcome to my world; this is Twilight!” Midna said proudly, drawing him along. Then, in a chime-like, echoing tongue, she spoke something else, eyes sparkling. He did not understand a word she uttered and knew she must be speaking her own language, that of the Twili. Or rather, singing it. The words captivated him, drawing him like a child to a music box. Indeed, the pitch of her voice rose and fell like music, her voice itself morphing into a soft, high, sing-song tone.

At last, a golden-grey light appeared beyond the black and turquoise, and Link knew they neared the end of their journey. He even felt a little sad, wishing he could revel in the magic of her world a little longer. Then again, perhaps he would be able to as they stepped from the portal into the actual Realm of Twilight.

Emerging from the portal with a final laugh, Midna pulled him onto the topmost step of a wide staircase much like that they’d entered by. He grabbed her other hand, twirling her about playfully, and she released a cry of delight—

Then stumbled to a halt, all glitter vanishing from her eyes as though someone pierced an arrow through the shimmering candle’s flame of her heart.

Link glanced at her with concern, then looked up at what Midna stared at with such horror—terror even—unblinking, her breath quickly culminating into sporadic gasps.

They must have stood in the throne room of the Twilight palace. Beside them, a stone dais with an elegant throne of muted silver. The room was vast, simple, yet not without splendor. Pillars carved with the same turquoise designs as within the portal supported an immense ceiling. Many tall, arched windows allowed the ever-grey, serene light of Twilight to filter in, granting the grey walls, floor, and ceiling a dreamy, silvery sheen. Black and turquoise curtains hung freely beside the windows, stretching to the floor.

Beside one of those windows, clutching the curtain, was a tall, cloaked figure. Certainly, he must have heard their rowdy entrance. But he made no sign of recognition until Midna gasped,

“Zaruman!”

His body tensed. Then, he spun. Midna’s hand grew rigid in Link’s. He squeezed it firmly, hoping to soften it with the life flowing so vibrantly through her entire body only moments ago.

She did not relax an ounce though. Rather, a series of shudders waved through her body. Link gazed at her with intense concern at first, then turned angry eyes upon the individual who could instill such a reaction within her.

Clad in dark armor, cloak, and hood, it was impossible to make out any of his features—save the eyes. They gleamed a dark but vibrant blue, like two storm-tossed oceans. They loathed, desired, and reveled in Midna’s fear.

“Thank you, little love,” he crooned, strolling forward with an entirely confident—even cocky, Link would venture—gait, “for revealing the portal to me. I had forgotten where you placed it. But now, with your appearance, it is no longer invisible to me…”

“Liar,” she hissed, keeping her voice low, perhaps to keep it from shaking as her body did with steady, uncontrollable tremors. “You left this world and returned to it by your own means. You don’t need the portal. Nor had I even resurrected it when you left.”

“No…but the magic I used to get here has now failed me.”

He paused at the foot of the stairs, tilting his head, eyes gleaming with a bemusement Link wanted to gauge right out of them. He knew he probably gripped Midna’s hand too tightly, but he didn’t care. She needed to know he was still right there for her, and he could hardly contain his rage.

“Why are you here, Zaruman?” Midna asked, a little louder, perhaps encouraged by Link’s presence.

“Mm…just reclaiming a few things of mine I’d left behind from, you know, our little past…”

Midna shivered again. Glancing over, Link found more hurt than fear in her eyes, as if her sole fear stemmed from her fear of falling apart in his presence.

“Liar,” she hissed again. “You came here to torment me, though in what way, I know you won’t say…”

“Midna, my dear,” he shook his head, “for shame, always the dramaticist. You know, that’s really no way to speak to your old lover…”

Link’s eyes snapped at Midna’s who closed for a moment, as if in not seeing Zaruman, neither would she see the painful memories his existence had created.

“I see you’ve a new lover. A much more…silent and compliant one? It should please you to be granted that extra bit of control…”

Midna’s eyes remained closed a moment more. Then, they reopened with a new hardness. “Link and I are equals. He treats me as such, and I him. Don’t you dare lay another word against him, or I’ll…”

As Zaruman scaled the steps, her voice faded. Link’s free hand hovered over the hilt of his sword. As though Link didn’t even exist, Zaruman waltzed right up to Midna, towering over her, forcing her to look up.

“Little love, for all your wisdom and subtlety, you do not possess an ounce of the power needed to destroy me, tether me or even stand against me. You couldn’t even run away now if I allowed it. But…

“Have I not always been merciful enough towards you?

“Thus, until next time, my sweet…”

He gently lifted her hand to his shadowed lips. Link couldn’t help but shudder, contort his face in disgust, and conjure very nasty things he would like to do to that gloved hand and those concealed lips.

But then Zaruman straightened, stepped back into the portal, and, with a final grin, vanished into the swirling black and turquoise.

Link glanced over at Midna with question, wondering if it was possible that the bizarre meeting they just witnessed was true. How could it be, and why did Zaruman not attack? Was it really..?

“No,” Midna gasped, struggling to control her breath as if breathing was suddenly, literally painful. “No, that was really him. That was Zaruman…”

Link’s eyes flashed anger, disgust, spite; how he wanted her to know his loathing for such a foul beast who dared call himself a man. But his eyes softened as, with a final tremor, she collapsed to her knees, sobbing.

“Why?” she breathed as Link dropped beside her. “Why must he yet torment me? He knew how I loved him and how I thought he loved me. What, even now, is the point of him troubling me still?”

Link hesitated, then slid an arm gently around her shoulder, leaning her head against his chest. Long she cried, and when at last her sobs quieted, she looked up at him with a small smile, whispering, “Thank you, Link. You are a good man, and a good friend…”

He returned the soft smile, wanting so much to tell her everything would be okay—

A noise, like a whoosh of air.

Link’s and Midna’s heads snapped up.

A dark figure stood across from them, several yards away in the midst of the room. New anger rippled inside Link as he thought perhaps Zaruman had returned…

Anger steadily merged into confusion and a fear of his own as the figure grew more and more eerily familiar. He was entirely black, even partly transparent as if made of shadow. But beyond that, he was an exact replica of Link.

“Dark Link,” Midna gasped, fear quenching her tears from flowing.

Link knew what he was. A figure representing all the evil potential of his own heart. However, in more recent legends, Dark Link had become Shadow Link, no longer an evil entity but just a shadow representing all the former Links who passed onto the Spirit Realm.

Perhaps that was what he was. Link crept slowly down the stairs, Midna following behind. Their footsteps echoed across the stone floor as they approached the other Link.

As Dark Link made a sudden gesture with his hand, Link stopped short, Midna behind him.

Link squinted into the grey light which seemed suddenly darker. A golden light shimmered faintly on the back of Dark Link’s hand. Link gasped as he recognized the Triforce. A grin spread across Dark Link’s face, a wicked, gleeful grin. Link’s heart pounded; Dark Link’s docile nature was one legend which fast proved untrue. Darkness gathered until Dark Link could barely be seen, a shadow amongst shadows—

Link jumped and Midna shrieked as Dark Link’s eyes flashed a solid, glowing crimson. His smile vanished, and with a cry, he surged forward with incredible speed, sword raised high as he leapt into the air—

Link stumbled back, hardly blocking the blow as Dark Link landed artfully on all fours, turning and snarling like a cat. Link’s eyes urgently bid Midna to flee. She turned and rushed behind a pillar, watching from the shadows.

Wherever Link and Dark Link battled, the shadows followed, clustering in a stifling mass which made fighting difficult for Link. Also, Dark Link’s speed was hard to match, his agility and skill with the sword unlike any Link had ever come up against. Link’s only sign of where he stood and moved were the unblinking ruby eyes; thankfully, Dark Link seemed to always face him.

After what seemed an entire age, Link began to grow weary; Dark Link blocked all of his blows, making it nigh impossible to strike, and dodging the enemy’s attacks proved just as taxing. Link soon lost count of close calls and extremely near misses…

Amidst the mad battling, another part of the legends swirled in the back of his mind, trying to push its way forward. If only he’d the time and energy to figure out what it was, perhaps it would aid him—

Dark Link stumbled back with a snarl as something silvery-white pierced the dark like lightning, sticking fast in his arm. One of Midna’s arrows. Link glanced over at her in wonder and thanks, but she didn’t notice, intent on lining up another shot—

Then, it came to him. The one time the first Link confronted Dark Link in battle. Dark Link not only embodied all Link’s evil potential but mirrored him in other ways as well. Dark Link anticipated his every move; that’s why he could block all his blows and attack whenever the true Link did…

But Dark Link could neither know nor guess Midna’s moves. Incapable of focusing on anyone but Link, he continued to circle as Link circled, parrying one of Link’s blows with an exact replica of his own. Link’s heart raced, the test proved. He need only bide his time, keep Dark Link distracted.

Arrow after arrow flew, sticking fast in their victim. Even then, Dark Link seemed not to slow, not even when the blood matching his crimson eyes began to flow from many wounds. The only change were his eyes which narrowed to determined, enraged slits…

Then, of a sudden, as the seventh arrow pierced him, he stopped, released a shout of fury at his defeat, and vanished in a wisp of black smoke.

The shadows cleared, and the room lightened once more, flooded only by the peaceful, sleepy grey pallor.

As Midna rushed over, Link looked up, breathing hard, but granting her a small, grateful grin. He wished he had strength to do more, but she understood, smiling and placing a hand on his shoulder—

Her face blanched and she gasped. Link’s eyes snapped to the dark form hovering before them, and he inwardly groaned.

But Shadow Link held up his hand in sign of peace. His face calm, his eyes their normal, shadowy selves, he spoke in a solemn, quiet tone, “Forgive me for frightening you so. I had meant to meet you here on peaceful terms to grant both the song and Triforce shard. However, Zaruman overran me and cursed me so that I returned to my old, evil state. It was like being brainwashed into being his puppet, though but a short time…

“But now, let me impart that which is more than due you, my Hero and Princess…”

He took out an ocarina which gleamed like a black diamond. Midna revealed her flute, Link his ocarina.

With a nod, Shadow Link played the last notes of Midna’s Requiem, and Link and Midna copied, several times over until the song was carved fervently upon their hearts.

When everyone lowered their instruments, Shadow Link smiled. “Good. Now you own the whole song. Return now to your world and wait for instructions on the next steps in your quest…

“Ah, but not without this…”

He held up his hand. This time, his Triforce shard glowed brightly—until it did so on the back of Link’s hand. Link stared in amazement once more; now, three small triangles filled in one of the larger triangles comprising the Triforce on his hand…

“You now own the whole piece of the Triforce Courage,” Midna gasped the same wonder he marveled at.

“Indeed,” said Shadow Link proudly. “And much courage shall be needed in the trials ahead—but do not forget wisdom too. Power is strong and needs Courage and Wisdom to be overcome…

“Now go, dear friends. Return to your Realm, and rest. The first part of your quest is done, but I trust the next part will be just as arduous, if not more so…”

Midna and Link bowed their heads at Shadow Link, who did the same before backing away and disappearing into the shadows of the pillars.

Then, they turned back to the portal, Link with a sigh. How he wished he’d explored more of her world with her, but they never even so much as stepped outside her throne room.

As if reading his heart, Midna took his hand and said, “Perhaps we’ll return someday, after all this mess is over with.”

They shared a hopeful smile. Then, Midna led him up the steps and into the portal.

 


absolutely everyone animal ears bowser bulbasaur captain falcon charizard cloud diddy kong donkey kong everyone falco lombardi fire emblem flower fox mccloud f-zero game and watch ganondorf gun hano hanokage high res ice climber ice climbers ike ivysaur j on We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/18104387

absolutely everyone animal ears bowser bulbasaur captain falcon charizard cloud diddy kong donkey kong everyone falco lombardi fire emblem flower fox mccloud f-zero game and watch ganondorf gun hano hanokage high res ice climber ice climbers ike ivysaur j on We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/18104387

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU on We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/18184166

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU on We Heart It. http://weheartit.com/entry/18184166

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