Chapter 1: Shadow Eyes
In which Link goes crazy. Or does he?
My shadow returned almost immediately after I killed it.
You seldom notice your shadow. But recent events had made me very aware of mine. He'd attacked me only moments before, after all. It felt funny to think of my shadow as "he". Shadows were things, not people. But he'd been something like a person. A twin to myself, but completely black, with burning red eyes.
I'd beaten him, though it hadn't been easy. And he had died as he'd fought, without any expression on his shadowed face. I had wondered for just a moment if I'd done the wrong thing. My own shadow, and I'd killed him. But what else could I have done? I had a quest to complete, and he had barred my way. And my shadow had reappeared beneath my feet almost as soon as I left the room where I'd fought him. So perhaps he hadn't even been my shadow, not really, for there it was, the same as always.
Still, the image of his red eyes lingered with me.
I thought it was only a memory, the first time I glimpsed them again. It was just after I'd left the Water Temple, where I'd slain my shadow. I'd paused for a moment on the shore of Lake Hylia. It was peaceful there. Below, the Water Temple's dark, maze-like halls lay beneath the smooth surface of the lake, but above the sun shone down brightly on a sandy shore, where grass ran down nearly to the water's edge. I was thirsty, after all the work I'd done, and I leaned over the water to drink from my cupped hands. When I looked down at the still surface of the lake I saw my own face there. It still startled me a bit, to see an adult rather than a ten year old boy. I had gotten used to this body, I'd had to in order to fight in it, but it didn't look like me. But for just a moment it looked even less like me, for the eyes in my reflection suddenly flashed red. As soon as I saw the color it was gone, and I dismissed it as some sort of fatigue-induced hallucination. I should rest before heading out to fight again.
I did rest, and felt better for it when I set out for Kakariko village. But I kept seeing those red eyes. Any time I caught a glimpse of my own reflection they would be there. Usually it was just a moment, an instant, easily dismissed. But the more often I saw them the longer they persisted. Seeing those eyes made my skin crawl. My shadow was watching me out of my own eyes.
I put it out of my mind. I had more important things to worry about than my shadow. Ganondorf needed to be defeated.
It's hard to describe what those weeks were like, when I more and more frantically fought and searched and tried to do everything that I needed to do in order to beat the King of Thieves. They were a nightmare, and yet they were intensely, amazingly satisfying. I was doing what I was meant to do. I feel more comfortable with a sword in my hands. Even now I bear it with me everywhere I go. And the Master Sword in particular felt so right! I don't have it any more, of course. It's back in its pedestal in the temple of time.
That surprised me, to tell the truth. I'm not sure what I was expecting, after Ganondorf was defeated. But Zelda sending me back in time wasn't it.
I see her wisdom in doing so, of course. She does bear the Triforce of Wisdom, as I bear the Triforce of Courage. She knew that if I went back to my past, the horrible future she'd experienced could be halted before it ever happened. So she returned me to my childhood, seven years ago, when I was only a child, my adventures just barely begun.
The first thing I did after being returned to the past was to make my way once again to Hyrule Castle and find her. She didn't remember me, time had run straight for her. But I remembered, so I told her all I knew. And it was enough to prevent the future I'd experienced. Ganondorf never gained power, Hyrule Castle was never leveled, Zelda never forced to flee and live a life in hiding. None of it.
I still remember it all though. All that darkness. All that conflict. All that blood...
And the red eyes of my shadow came with me into the past. Did he remember too? Did he remember dying at my hand? I didn't know. But I saw him often. He wasn't just a flash of red now and again any more. He was there, staring out at me through my own eyes every time I looked in a mirror. I could almost believe that my eyes had turned red.
While talking with Zelda one day I asked, hesitantly, "Zelda? What color are my eyes?"
She laughed. "They're blue of course, silly. Haven't you ever looked in a mirror?"
"I have, I just... I dunno. I saw something weird."
"Weird? Like what?"
I found myself reluctant to discuss my shadow with Zelda. "Just like... they didn't look like my eyes."
"Well they look the same as they always have to me."
I smiled, trying to put it out of my mind. "Okay."
There was a hallway in the castle, called the Mirror Hall. Paired mirrors were hung at regular intervals, so you could see your reflection repeated endlessly. It was a little bit creepy. The hall had no windows, it was lit only by a few lanterns, so gloom gathered in the corners, and the infinite reflections were dark and dim. I didn't usually have cause to use it, but one day my path took me there, on my way from one end of the castle to another, playing some childish game with Zelda. I never felt entirely comfortable acting like a child. I had grown up too much. But Zelda was my friend, and she loved all the running, hiding, chasing games of childhood, so I played them with her for her sake.
I glimpsed that flash of red again, and stopped to look. I was repeated infinite times, stretching away in the distance. The sight made me shiver. Suddenly my reflection smiled darkly at me, and my hair in the mirror slowly turned jet black, as though ink had been poured over it. I could see the strands hanging in front of my face, and they were still as gold as ever, but in the mirror all the infinite copies of me had hair as black as night.
I jumped. My reflection jumped too, but his face didn't look surprised. The voice had come from the mirror.
"Link. Do you know who I am?"
"You... you're my shadow."
"What do you want?"
"To live. To be. To exist. But don't fear, Link. I'm not your enemy. I don't hate you for killing me. I am you, after all. If I hated you, I would hate myself."
"I don't understand."
"Don't worry about it. Just promise me, Link. Promise me you'll come back here."
"So that I can live. Come at night. Grant me that much, Link. I can live only if you allow it."
I hesitated. Was my shadow evil? But the expression in the mirror wasn't malevolent, it was beseeching, desperate even. "All right," I said slowly. "I'll come."
"Thank you, Link. You won't regret it."
Then in an instant my reflection reverted to normal, as though it had never changed. Even my eyes were blue again. I stared a moment longer, then ran off in search of Zelda. We played all that afternoon, but she won more often than usual, for my mind was not on our games.
I returned that night. It was easy enough to creep from my room and walk silently down the castle's corridors to the Mirror Hall. It was dark, and when I turned to look at my reflection, the eyes in the mirror were glowing faintly. I shuddered. Was I doing the right thing?
"Link." The voice was my own voice, but somehow subtly different. "Thank you."
"Shadow," I said, and stepped close to the mirror. I don't know why I called him that, but I felt that it was more than just a description, that it was his name.
He lifted his hand, and all the other reflections followed. But my own hand was still by my side. It was eerie and strange. Stranger was that I felt a compulsion to lift my hand as well. My shadow put his hand against the glass from the other side. I touched my hand to the same spot. For one bizarre instant it felt as though I was touching warm flesh.
The next moment I was touching cold glass. My reflection still had his hand against mine, like a reflection should, but something had changed. The first thing that I noticed was that the reflection's clothing had turned black as well. In the dim light the second change was harder to notice, but a cold chill came over me when I finally saw it. The strands of hair I could see from the corner of my eye, that weren't reflections, but were my real self, were also black.
"What's going on?" I said. Or tried to say, but nothing came out. I couldn't speak. I tried to move and couldn't move, I could only stand, touching the mirror. I dropped my hand a moment later, but I hadn't been the one to perform that action, my body had done it without me.
My eyes looked down at my hands without my guidance. My fingers flexed. My lips smiled. "It's good to be alive," I heard myself say, but the voice was not quite mine, it was the voice I'd heard from the mirror.
"Shadow," I tried to say, wanting to ask him what was happening.
"It's all right Link. The mirror just let me borrow you for a while. Or become you. Or you become me, however you want to put it. I want to live for a little while. I want to experience, and act, and not just watch through your eyes."
"You'll give me my body back when you're done though?" I still heard nothing, no matter how I strained to speak the words.
I felt, somehow, that he turned his attention inward, to where I was in the back of my own mind, while he was occupying the front of it. :You don't need to try so hard to speak.: he said silently to me. :I can hear you. And yes I'll give you your body back. I only want a night every now and then. It's your body, I wouldn't steal it.:
I framed my thoughts without trying to say them aloud. :Thank you.:
:No, thank you. I owe you a lot.:
:But didn't I kill you? Why say you owe me?:
He laughed out loud at that. :No. You didn't kill me. Else I wouldn't be here, would I? You don't need to feel guilt, Link. You're a good person, a true hero. You don't need to feel any guilt at all.: He turned and walked down the corridor, moving as silently as I had. :Now let's go have some fun!:
Leaving the castle was easy. I'd already snuck in and out of it several times, and that was before the many games of hide and seek with Zelda that had revealed every nook, cranny, and secret passage it contained. Hyrule Castle looked simple enough on the outside: a classic, clean structure, rising amid the beginnings of Death Mountain's foothills, but whoever had built it had been fond of convoluted halls that went nowhere and hidden passages that connected nearly everything. Shadow obviously knew these secrets too, for he found his way outside without any help from me.
Castle Town lay just outside the Castle's walls, a sprawl of homes and shops that huddled close together, their white-washed, half-timbered walls cheerful by daytime, thronged with travelers from all of Hyrule. The narrow passages between them were shadowed and gloomy at night, and even the market square with its pleasant fountain was a bit eerie. Few people went out here after dark. There wasn't much to do in town in the middle of the night, but Shadow explored every bit of it, with me along for the ride. He ran and jumped, chased stray dogs and climbed buildings, and caused no shortage of small mischiefs. I wanted to object, the first time I realized he was playing a prank on one of the townsfolk, but letting out the wayward dog I'd once chased down did no harm, for Shadow played with him for some time and then returned him, sneaking in and out both ways, so that his owner may not have ever known he was gone. And I had to admit that picturing the expression of puzzlement on the shopkeeper's face when he found every single item in the shop stacked into a ridiculously precarious tower made me laugh.
Or made me feel like laughing, rather. I couldn't actually laugh. That was the strangest thing about all this. I saw through my own eyes, felt with my own hands, heard with my own ears, but I had no control over anything I did.
But when the night sky began to lighten with the coming dawn Shadow returned to my room in the castle. There were no mirrors there, but I could see when my hair suddenly turned gold again. I looked down at myself, and was mildly surprised to find my eyes actually moving to my will. I was wearing my customary green once more. No doubt my eyes were blue as well.
"Shadow?" I said questioningly.
:I'm here, Link,: he said inside my head. :I'll always be here.:
"But... but why? I don't understand any of this."
:You need your shadow.:
I heard him laugh inside my head. :You need me. So I'm here. And thank you, Link. It was good to live for a while.:
"You're welcome, I guess."
:You should talk to me silently, Link. If people hear you talking to yourself, they might think something is wrong with you.:
:They might be right.: It was strange to communicate without speaking, but Shadow did have a point. The idea of telling anyone else that my shadow had come to life and now lived in my head was frightening.
:There's nothing wrong with you, Link. Don't be afraid of me. You don't need to be, I would never hurt you.:
:How do I know I can trust you? Didn't Ganondorf make you to kill me?:
:I'm your shadow. Ganondorf didn't make me, I've always been with you. He just woke me up.:
I didn't know whether I should believe him, but for some reason I did. He felt honest, there in my mind. I wondered if it was possible for him to lie, since we were sharing thoughts and not words. Perhaps not. But possible or not I didn't think he was lying. I didn't want to think he was lying. I wanted him to be telling the truth.
I yawned. I also wanted my bed. It had been a long night.
:Goodnight Link,: said Shadow quietly. :Sleep well:
:Goodnight Shadow,: I said. And somewhat to my surprise I slept deeply, with no nightmares or restless thought to trouble me. Having my own shadow come out of a mirror and possess my body should have been nightmarishly alarming, but it wasn't. I didn't understand any of it, but Shadow seemed like a friend.
He went out again often after that. Mostly just to play in the market town at night, but sometimes on rambles outside the castle's walls entirely. He proved to be just as able with a sword as I, so the wandering stalchildren were no danger to him. Indeed he seemed to enjoy the chance to match blades against the miniature skeletal monsters.
Surprisingly it was the town that nearly got him killed, and myself with him I suppose. He was exploring one of the town's narrow back alleyways when a large, dark form emerged from the shadows and blocked the exit to the alley. For some reason Shadow could see in the dark better than I, so through his eyes I could quite clearly make out a thuggish-looking young man, carrying a very large knife.
"You shouldn't play here after dark, kid," he said. "There are dangerous things about."
"Yes there are," he responded. "I'm one of them." I suspected that his eyes were probably glowing faintly, as they sometimes did in the dark. But the thug didn't seem phased by this.
"You're just a kid. I could splat you like a bug. So hand over your rupees and I'll think about maybe letting you run home to mama."
Shadow's eyes narrowed. "I don't think so. Back off or I'll kill you." He reached back and drew my sword. It was actually not much bigger than the thug's knife.
"Ha! That's rich. Fine kid, I'll do this the fun way." He advanced on us, grinning.
Shadow didn't back down, he jumped forward and met the thug's knife with his blade. There was a flurry of steel on steel, then a yelp as Shadow knocked the thug's knife from his hand. And then he drove forward and thrust his sword straight through the guy's chest.
:Shadow!: I yelped a silent protest. What had he done?
:You just killed him!:
:Yes. I told him I would. He certainly meant to kill me.:
:Link. He needed to be dealt with. He was obviously a murderer. What would you have done?:
:Tried to talk with him? I don't think he wanted to listen. Brought him to the guard? Maybe, but he might have escaped. This way he's taken care of, and he won't hurt anybody ever again.:
Something about that rang true. Even though I didn't really like it. :You're right. I'm sorry.:
:Hey, don't be. You're a hero, you're used to saving the day from obvious monsters. But sometimes it's people who are the monsters. Maybe that's why evil shadows like me exist, to take care of the ones you heroes aren't suited for.:
:Here now, you're not evil!:
:No. Evil doesn't take Mamamu Yan's dog back to her every night.:
:Yeah, well...: He sheathed his sword and stepped over the would-be mugger's body. :Anyway, I guess that makes me dark and not evil.:
:Which is a good thing. I'm supposed to fight evil. I wouldn't want to fight you, Shadow. I like you.:
He chuckled. :I'm glad. I kinda like you too, even if you are a hopeless goody-goody.:
Back in my bed later that night I thought about that. Dark and not evil. It sounded right. He was my shadow, something like my dark side. But I wasn't evil myself, so why should my shadow be? He was just able to deal with the dark things that I couldn't face so easily. That wasn't a bad thing. It meant that with him at my side I could deal with whatever life might bring.
:Together we'll rule the world,: said Shadow, somewhat sleepily.
I laughed. :Yeah right. You couldn't convince me to be a ruler if you gave me a stack of rupees the size of Death Mountain. I'd rather be free to go on adventures. And don't pretend you don't feel the same way, I know you like games even better than I do. You think the ruler of the world gets to play tag?:
:The ruler of the world gets to do whatever he wants. So if I say I'm going to play tag, I'm going to play tag.:
I yawned. :Well, if you try to overthrow the king I'll have to stop you, that's what I do.:
:We'll have an epic battle, light against darkness!:
:I won the last one of those you know.:
:Yeah, yeah, sure. Just means I'm due to win the next one.:
:I am still sorry...:
:Don't be.: He stopped laughing and his tone turned serious. :You did what you had to do. That's all any of us does, really. We do what we have to do.:
:Yeah. You did that tonight, I guess. And thanks. You're right I couldn't have done it, but it was probably the right thing to do.:
:Don't mention it.:
Drifting off to sleep I felt comforted. I'd been right to trust him. He was my friend, and it was good to have a friend by my side.
Chapter 2: The Questing Hero
In which Link meets several people who are even crazier than he is.
As the days slipped by I felt increasingly restless. Several months had passed since I'd returned from the future and prevented it from happening. I'd lived most of that time at Hyrule Castle, the guest of the princess Zelda. She was my friend, and I enjoyed her company, even if I often felt like she was far, far younger than I. Yes we were physically the same age, but my experience made me feel older than I looked. Some days it angered me, being treated like a child. Other days I was glad of it, and glad of the chance to play games without the fate of the world resting on my every move.
Shadow was always glad. He'd told me he wasn't a hero, and didn't want to be one. And he'd also said he liked Zelda, though he never played with her. He went to great lengths to hide that he and I were one. And I did the same. I don't know that I could put the reason into words, but I didn't want people to know. And not just so that I wouldn't get in trouble for his many pranks.
But that wasn't why I was restless. I wasn't completely sure what lay behind it. Loneliness was part of it. Zelda was my friend, but she didn't understand me. She'd had a relatively normal childhood. I'd had anything but. Shadow understood me, but although I found myself thinking of him as a friend we couldn't exactly play together. Though I didn't know if I wanted to play with anyone anymore.
I found myself thinking more and more of my past, near and distant. Of the warrior I'd been. Of the lonely boy I'd been before. Navi had taken me from my lonely childhood and ushered me into my life as a hero. She had been a friend too, although a strange one. I found I missed her. I missed Saria too. Navi was gone, to who knows where, but Saria was still at the Kokiri village, so one day I decided to set out for Kokiri Forest.
With a song I called Epona to me. Seeing her again I realized I'd missed her while I'd been in the castle. She was younger than when I'd ridden her, of course, still practically a filly. But I was small and light enough that she could bear me, though she had no saddle. So we rode together across Hyrule Field. I could hear Shadow whooping in delight whenever Epona leaped. He always liked anything that was exciting or dangerous.
The Kokiri village was the same as I recalled. Nothing there ever changed. But Saria was nowhere to be found. She must be somewhere in the Lost Woods. I knew, or hoped I knew, what spot was the most likely.
As we entered the woods, Shadow asked if he could take over for a while. The creatures of the forest weren't especially dangerous, and he was always eager for experiences, so I agreed. I was getting used to watching while he made use of my body. He seemed to delight in harassing the Deku Scrubs and Skull Kids of the forest. But the Skull Kids in particular gave as good as they got when it came to pranks and games. I could tell that Shadow didn't mind, he seemed to immensely enjoy the trip. It took longer than it would have if I were the one navigating, but we had time to spare.
Finally we were almost there, to the place I thought of first and foremost as Saria's special place, though it was also the entrance to the Forest Temple. Shadow retreated, allowing my hair and clothing to return to normal. I continued forward, climbing the crumbling steps that led up to the Temple entrance itself.
She was there as I had hoped, sitting on a stump and singing softly.
"Saria," I called out.
She turned to me and smiled. "Link. What brings you here?"
"I just wanted to see you," I said, feeling suddenly awkward. She was my childhood friend, and the one who'd practically raised me under the Deku Tree's direction, but I was no longer the Kokiri boy without a fairy, I was Link, a Hylian, and the Hero of Time. Too much had changed.
"I'm glad," she said. "Come sit by me."
I sat on the stump, and looked down at my hands. They were callused, roughened by the hilt of my sword. Should a child's hands be callused?
"You look troubled," said Saria gently.
"Yeah. I guess I am."
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
"I just... I don't know." There's somebody else in my head,T I thought but didn't say it out loud. But that was only one of my problems, and I wasn't ready to talk about Shadow with anyone. Still, perhaps Saria could help me with some of my other troubles. She'd always been able to comfort me when I'd been upset or hurt as a child. But I wasn't a child any more. That in and of itself was much of what currently bothered me. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do, or who I am, anymore. I thought I was a Kokiri, and I'm not. I look like a child, but I don't feel like I am. I had a quest, and the quest is finished, so now I don't have anything. Zelda doesn't understand. I don't know if you will understand either. I feel so alone sometimes." I fought against tears, I didn't want to cry.
"Oh Link. You're not alone. Maybe I don't completely understand, but I'm still your friend."
"I'm sorry Saria. I didn't mean to say you're not my friend. Just... I don't even know." I couldn't find the words to explain how I felt.
"It's all right. You are a very unique person, Link. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. And I'll try my best to understand you if you tell me about it. I know you were meant to be a great hero, I've always known that. And I know you've completed your quest. But obviously there's more to tell."
"Yeah. So much has happened."
"Tell me about it, I'll listen."
So I told her. The whole story. The future, Ganondorf, Sheik, the Sages, the Princess, all of it. Every part except one, for I made no mention of the Water Temple's endless room, or of Shadow. When I was done she turned and hugged me. "You've done so much. You're right, you're not a child any more. People may still see you as one, but that doesn't make it true."
"Then what am I, Saria?"
"But shouldn't heroes be happy? Shouldn't heroes be glad when they've succeeded? I almost want to wind time back again and refuse to warn Zelda this time, so I can just do it over. But I don't really want to fight this battle endlessly, that would be selfish and pointless. It's better this way, I know, with everyone saved, and Hyrule never conquered in the first place. But it makes me feel so useless."
"Then maybe you need to find another quest to go on. Maybe there's somewhere else, outside of Hyrule, that needs saving."
"Outside Hyrule..." I'd never thought of that before. The kingdoms outside were strange, dangerous places. But then I'd seldom flinched at the thought of danger. So why not?
"And there's something else. Navi has left Hyrule."
I blinked at her, surprised. "She has? Why?"
"She told me, before she went, that the Deku Tree had told her to do it, long ago. She also said that it was important. I thought that she had left you because you're a Hylian, and she didn't want the sadness of being around you if she couldn't really be your fairy, but maybe that's not why. Maybe it's because she knew you'd need to go out there, into the wider world, and it would be easier if she went ahead of you."
:She may be right: I tried not to show my surprise at Shadow's interjection. :And I like the idea of leaving Hyrule.:
:I'm not so sure about it,: I replied silently. Out loud I said, "You really think I should leave Hyrule?"
"I think you should consider it. I'll miss you, and I know Zelda will too, but you're a hero. You don't belong in a kingdom at peace. You belong somewhere that needs you. Somewhere where you can help people."
Something about that felt right. Part of the restlessness I had been feeling had been loneliness. But only part. The rest... I was meant to be on a quest. I was meant to be trying to do something. I was meant to have a goal, and a purpose. That was what I was missing in my life, that sense of purpose.
"You're right. Thank you Saria."
I went back to the castle first. I had to say goodbye to Zelda. She surprised me by giving me the Ocarina of Time. I knew how special and powerful that instrument was. It somehow made it harder to say goodbye to her, that she'd given me it to remember her by. I knew she would miss me. But I also knew I had to go. Shadow agreed.
And so we went. Quietly and without fanfare. We said goodbye to Saria when we passed once more through Kokiri Forest. And then we rode into the Lost Woods, bearing only my sword, my shield, and the ocarina.
:This should be great!: said Shadow. :Adventure! New places to see! New games to play!:
I laughed. :Yeah. I'd rather do some real good, not just play games, but I am excited to be going.:
:That's... wait!: Shadow suddenly grabbed control, halting Epona and scanning the forest around us. :Something's not right.:
:We're being watched. We need...: He yelped out loud as Epona reared and dumped us off of her back. We landed hard enough to stun us both. I felt Shadow cry out silently as blackness closed around us. When I shook myself awake I was in control again. A few feet away I saw a Skull Kid, with two glowing forms drifting around him. Fairies! He seemed to be laughing, so we had no doubt been the victims of a Skull Kid prank. It wouldn't be the first time. But I'd never seen one working with a fairy before. He turned to face me. His mask was strange, unlike any I'd seen a Skull Kid wear. It didn't seem to have eye holes, only staring painted eyes. How could he see?
:Something isn't right about him. Be careful Link:
:I will... but he's got my ocarina!: I suddenly noticed him holding it behind his back :I can't let him have that!: I jumped at him, but he leapt impossibly high and came down on Epona's back. She, never willing to tolerate any rider but me, took off at a gallop. I grabbed at them both as she raced past me, but only managed to get the Skull Kid's ankle. The next few moments were a blur of adrenaline as I clung desperately to him, my feet dragging across the rough forest floor, and the Skull Kid tried to shake me off while himself clinging precariously to her mane. Then Epona swerved and I lost my grip.
:Damn it!: Shadow practically growled inside my head.
I agreed with the sentiment. I quickly picked myself up and ran after them. I hoped that Epona would manage to throw the Skull Kid soon, so I could catch up and get my ocarina back. I ran headlong through the woods, but almost immediately came to a seeming dead end. But there was a path forward, through a hollow tree trunk, into darkness ahead. I was too angry, and too determined, to hesitate; I plunged ahead blindly.
And suddenly the world fell out from under my feet. I'd run into empty space, and now I tumbled down into blackness.
In the darkness it seemed as though I dreamed. I was falling endlessly through shape and color. Images, familiar and strange, swirled around me. I sensed magic. Or was I truly dreaming?
With a jolt I woke, or landed, or arrived... somewhere. I was standing on a deku flower. Ahead of me was a large, still pool. Around us were the stone walls of a cave, above the ceiling vanished into blackness. And on the far side of the pool the Skull Kid lounged in midair.
:Skull Kids don't levitate,: said Shadow, sounding worried.
:I know. Something is very wrong here.:
"What's with that stupid horse of yours?" The Skull Kid's voice was darkly sarcastic, nothing like any Skull Kid I'd heard before. They were mischievous, playful, prone to pranks but not to malice. This voice sounded like the very epitome of maliciousness. "It doesn't listen to a word that's said to it."
I had no answer for him. I had the feeling that anything I said would only make whatever was to come worse.
"There's no point in riding a thing like that, so I did you a favor and got rid of it. Hee hee."
I'm sure my face showed my shock. :No! Not Epona,: said Shadow, equally shocked.
"Aww, boo hoo. Why the sad face? I just thought I'd have a little fun with you." The words were words a Skull Kid might have said, but the voice... I shuddered. "Oh come now," he continued. "Do you really think you can beat me as I am now? Fool!" I had no time to think what he might mean by that, for suddenly the world around me began to throb and shake. Or was it only myself that was shaking? Everything was a blur. I doubled over in unexpected pain, clutching my head. Then I was forced to stand up again, as though Shadow had taken over my body, but I could feel him there with me, in the corner of my mind where I sat and watched. Something else was moving me. Alien images passed before my eyes, dark forms with glowing eyes. Things that rustled and swayed around me. I ran from them, or was I running? Was it just my mind that fled, or did my body move too? Everything was confusion and darkness. The things behind me became a single pursuing monster, a gigantic creature that caught me and sucked my tiny self inside.
Then reality returned and I was standing on the deku flower again, as if nothing had happened. Or had reality returned? I looked down, and my reflection wasn't me. Glowing orange eyes stared back. Skin the texture and color of wood. A round snout of a mouth. A Deku Scrub looked back at me from the water.
I shook my head. No! This couldn't be real! This was some kind of dream! :I hope it's a dream,: said Shadow in horror. :Please goddesses, let it be a dream!:
Laughter interrupted my horror and I looked up at the Skull Kid. "Hee hee! Now that's a good look for you! You'll stay here looking that way forever!" He began to float out of the room, still laughing.
:No!: said Shadow. I agreed. I ran after him, but one of the fairies dove at me. It battered me in the face, and my new form was so small that the fairy actually pushed me backwards. I fell. The Skull kid floated out through a large door, still laughing. The laughter enraged me. I had no idea how, but I was going to catch him! But the door slammed and he was gone.
The fairy let out a yelp of alarm. "Woah! Woah! Skull Kid, wait for me! I'm still here! Tael, you can't leave without me!" She beat herself frantically against the door. I got to my feet, still feeling somewhat in shock. She gave up her futile attempt to beat the door down and flew at me. "You! If I wasn't dealing with you I wouldn't have gotten separated from my brother!"
I stared at her. She was angry at me?
"Well don't just sit there, Deku boy! Do something!"
:What the hell does she expect us to do? If I were going to do anything I'd squash her like a bug!: said Shadow.
"Why are you looking at me like that? What, is there something stuck on my face?"
:Is she insane?: said Shadow.
:I think so, yes.:
"Will you stop staring and just open that door for me?! Please! Come on, a helpless little girl is asking you. So hurry up!"
She floated a bit towards the door. I just stared.
"Oh Tael... I wonder if that child will be all right on his own?" The comic outrage in her voice faded. She sounded genuinely worried. I felt a pang of sympathy. Tael must be the other fairy, the brother she'd mentioned. She was concerned for him. I took a step towards the door.
:You're not seriously considering helping her?:
:Link... she is friends with that thing that turned us into a Deku Scrub. There is no way you should be helping her.:
:She wants the door open, Shadow. Helping her or not, I don't want to stay the rest of my life in this room:
:Fine, just be reasonable,: said Shadow grumpily. I laughed silently at him, surprised at how normal we were both being, considering what had just happened, and headed for the door.
The door was fortunately easy to open. I felt hopelessly weak. I was half the size I'd been. I couldn't so much as lift my sword, I was sure. Wait! My sword! It was no longer on my back. My shield was gone too! I had a moment of panic. The sword I'd carried was an ordinary blade, but I didn't want to lose it! :Woah, calm down,: said Shadow. :If you've lost it you can worry about it later. Maybe it'll come back when whatever curse this is gets lifted. I think fixing that is more important right now.:
:Right. Of course. Thanks.: I took a deep, calming breath and started down the corridor beyond the door. I still felt baffled and a little shocked, but I had a goal. A quest, even, albeit a purely selfish one. I would find out how this curse had been cast and I would discover some way to lift it.
"Hey! Wait for me! Don't leave me behind!"
I gave the fairy an incredulous look, or as much of one as a Deku Scrub's mostly immobile face could. She wanted to come with me?
She must have read that look somehow, for she bobbed in the air uncertainly and said, "So, um, that stuff back there... I, um, apologize, so... take me with you! You wanna know about that Skull Kid that ran off, right? Well, I just so happen to have an idea of where he might be going. Take me with you and I'll help you out. Deal?"
I hesitated. :Shadow? What do you think?:
:I think she probably can't be trusted, but then I think that of most people. A fairy can be useful, but I'm not sure it's worth it.:
He had a point. But something in her obvious distress spoke to me. I was a hero, wasn't I? I was supposed to help people, even fairies. And perhaps even the friends of my enemies.
I was about to nod, when she said, "Good! So then it's settled!"
:What?: Shadow's surprise mirrored my own. This fairy was crazy.
"I'll be your partner, at least until we catch that Skull Kid. My name's Tatl. So. Uh. Nice to meet you or whatever." She paused for just an instant, I couldn't have replied even if I'd known what to say, before she continued, "Now that we've got that all straightened out, can we stop messing around and get moving?"
I shook my head, but followed when she darted ahead. She was crazy, but I could use her help, and she could use mine too. So for now at least she was right, we were partners.
A moment later I came to the end of the corridor. A huge chasm gaped in front of me. On the edge of it grew a deku flower. I stood on the bloom. I felt natural beneath my feet. I knew that Deku Scrubs used their flowers, they could do... something with them. But what? And how?
"You're not very used to your Deku Scrub body yet, are you?"
I resisted the urge to shoot her a glare. :Way to state the obvious,: said Shadow sarcastically. I got the feeling that if he'd been the one running things right now he'd have said it out loud too.
"You need to duck inside the flower. Stand there at the center, you can do it. Then jump up, the flower will shoot you into the air and you can float across."
I looked at the fairy. I looked at the flower. I looked at the chasm. I took another deep breath and centered myself in the middle of the odd blossom. I sensed Shadow biting back some comment, no doubt something sarcastic. I appreciated his not interrupting me. I felt nervous, afraid in a way I'd seldom been before. But I wasn't going to back down. I needed to go forward and escape this place, even if the Skull Kid had said I'd be stuck here forever. I was going to prove him wrong.
It felt strange and yet natural at the same time, to crouch and duck into the blossom. And likewise with leaping into the air and floating down. I was a feather, or a seed on the wind. I could soar forever! Shadow laughed in delight, somewhere inside my mind.
And then I was down, solid ground on the far side under my feet. I'd done it.
On the far side of the chasm stood a tiny tree. It had a face, like the Great Deku Tree and its child the Deku Tree Sprout had had. Was it a young Deku tree as well? If so why was it here, underground? How had it grown here? Wouldn't it die without sunlight?
I shrugged off the questions. I didn't have time to stop and consider a strange tree. I needed to get going. I ran down the tunnel on the far side of the little tree. Ahead I saw something, some strange mechanism. Gears turned with steady deliberation, the sound of their slow grinding filling the air. I stepped forward, and a door slammed shut behind me.
Shadow cursed in my mind. I wanted to mutter a curse or two myself. I wasn't happy about any of this. I started forward into the room. Tatl floated with me silently.
"You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?"
I spun around. Standing a little ways away was a man with a stiff, unnatural smile on his face and a strange shape looming over his shoulder. I shivered, and Tatl hid behind me. Though something about the man looked faintly familiar. Where had I seen him before? Somewhere in Hyrule Castle's market town, it seemed.
"I own the Happy Mask Shop," he said, as though he'd read my mind.
:Of course! He's the mask seller,: said Shadow. :The one who vanished not long after you returned from the future.:
He was right. That smiling face was the mask seller. And now that he'd said it I recognized the shapes looming behind him in the darkness as masks, strapped to the pack he wore.
"I travel far and wide in search of masks. During my travels a very important mask was stolen from me by an imp in the woods. So here I am at a loss. And now I've found you." He nodded at me, still smiling.
:I don't like him,: said Shadow.
"I know of a way to return you to your former self."
:Okay, maybe I like him a little. Maybe. If he's telling the truth.:
"If you can get back the precious item that was stolen from you I will return you to normal. In exchange, all I ask is that you also get back my precious mask that the imp stole from me."
:Forget "in exchange," if he can turn us back, we should just make him do it!:
:We can't do that. It wouldn't be right.:
:We could get his "precious mask" a lot easier if we were back to normal, I bet.:
Shadow sighed mentally. :Fine. Stubborn hero.:
"What? Is it not a simple task?" The seller seemed amused, as though he knew of our internal argument. "Why to someone like you it should by no means be a difficult task. Except..." That smile didn't waver. It was starting to really unnerve me. "The one thing is, I'm a very busy fellow. And I must leave this place in three days. How grateful I would be if you could bring it back to me before my time here is up." He nodded again, still smiling. I shivered. "But yes, you'll be fine. I see you are young and have tremendous courage."
His smile was somehow too knowing. Courage. Did he know that I still bore the Triforce of Courage?
"I'm sure you'll find it right away. I am counting on you." He nodded at me, and I felt that somehow I'd been manipulated. I hadn't agreed to anything! But should I say no to him? Could I, when he might be the only way to be Hylian again?
:Damn it, I'm back to not liking him. He can't be trusted, Link.:
:If he can change us back...:
:Yeah, yeah. I guess you wanted a quest. Now you've got one.:
:Not the one I wanted. But yes. Let's go.: I nodded back at the mask seller, and turned to leave.
The door out of the room full of gears was huge, at least compared to my tiny body, but I managed to open it. Outside it was dawn. Early morning light cast long shadows all around me. I stood in a town, and above me towered an enormous clock. That was the reason for the gears. Around me the morning bustle of a town coming to life was beginning. Everyone I saw was a Hylian, there were no Deku Scrubs, nor Gorons nor Zora. I felt afraid and out of place. And tiny. I was hardly knee high on the adult Hylians that strode around me.
Still, I couldn't stand in front of the clock forever, so I took a deep breath and set off into the town.
How can I say what Clock Town was like? I was there for three days. I was there for an eternity... but I'm getting ahead of myself. The first thing I did, at Tatl's direction, was to find a Great Fairy's Fountain. Tatl assured me that the fairy could help me, and that she would be more than a match for the Skull Kid's power.
But when we reached the fountain we found the unexpected. Hovering over the waters were a dozen strange, quasi-humanoid forms. They glowed like fairies, and had wings like fairies, but they were like no fairies I'd ever seen before. They spoke, a single voice chorused from a dozen tiny throats. The Skull Kid, they said, had cursed them. He had shattered the Great Fairy into pieces, and some of those pieces had been lost, trapped outside the fountain. She needed my help to rescue her.
I can't tell you how my heart sunk to hear that. I had hoped for a swift solution. The fairy's magical aid would let me find and catch the Skull Kid. I would retrieve my ocarina and the mask and be returned to myself. It might not even take three days. But now... if the Skull Kid's power was greater than a Great Fairy's power, it might rival Ganondorf's. And I'd had the Seven Sages, light arrows, an adult body, and the Master Sword when I'd faced him. What did I have now? Nothing at all. I was a tiny, helpless creature that couldn't even wield the short Kokiri sword. I wanted to sink to my knees in the fountain's waters and weep. I'd never felt so afraid.
:Link...: Shadow's mental voice was hesitant, and I knew he was afraid too. :Link, don't give up. You're still a hero. You'll find a way. There has to be one. Please Link, don't give up. You can't give up. For my sake, if not for your own, you need to at least try.:
That somehow was heartening. Shadow needed me. And so did Tatl, and the Great Fairy. I couldn't give up, Shadow was right. Even as a Deku Scrub I was still the Hero of Time. I'd beaten Ganondorf. I'd faced every danger I'd passed through, and faced them with courage. I looked down at my hand. It was faint, and strange against the wood texture of the Deku Scrub body I wore, but the Triforce mark was still there. I still had Courage. I couldn't betray that, it would be betraying everything I was.
:You're right. I have to try.:
I could almost see Shadow smile. :That's the hero I know. Let's go explore this town. Maybe we can find the lost pieces and restore the fairy. Maybe somebody else knows something about the Skull Kid. Maybe we'll find some kind of weapon you can use as a Deku Scrub. All sorts of things are possible:
:You're right. Thank you, Shadow.:
I left the fountain filled with determination. I wasn't going to be afraid. Though even as I straightened and gathered my courage, I thought I heard a faint whisper, for a moment, somewhere deep within me. :Still so scared...:
Chapter 3: Only a Matter of Time
In which Link hears voices and goes in circles.
Three days. For three days I searched fruitlessly for the Skull Kid. Three days in which it seemed as though I spoke to every person in Clock Town. The evidence of the Skull Kid's mischief was everywhere. He had upset many of their lives. And even those he left untouched still often had their own problems. So many people needing help, and so little help that I could give! I was still a Deku Scrub, and had little heroism to offer anyone. I did what I could to help the townsfolk, but the night of the third day came and I was little closer to finding the Skull Kid than I had been.
I had managed to find the scattered pieces of the Great Fairy, at least. And she had granted me a gift of magic. It was a small thing. But then I was a small creature now. I could blow bubbles. Magical, yes, and capable of damaging an enemy, so I was not entirely unarmed, but I still felt nearly helpless all the same. I wanted the familiar hilt of my sword in my hand!
But though my quest hadn't moved forward, something else had moved quite a lot over the last few days. As the sun set on the third day the moon loomed unnaturally near. It hadn't taken long for me to notice it hovering over the town. I had thought at first that I was imagining things, but now it was clear that the moon had drawn closer. Though it was not the moon of Hyrule that I knew, this moon bore a clear, malevolent face which stared down at the celebrating town below.
And then, as darkness deepened towards dawn and the bitter taste of failure grew in my mouth, I saw him at last.
Fireworks exploded over the clock tower. It was some sort of festival, one they celebrated here every year. How the people, looking up at the moon, could still seek to celebrate rather than flee I don't know. But their celebration proceeded with manic energy.
As the celebration progressed the clock changed with a ponderous rumbling of gears. It swung its face away from the town, up towards the moon above. And there he was, capering atop it. The Skull Kid.
I ran to the clock tower. I was unprepared, but time had run out. I had to confront him. Terror twisted my stomach. Something within me was whispering panicked protestations, but I had to do it. I just had to. I climbed up to where he danced, half expecting to die. What else could I do?
He floated in midair, as he had before, but now he tossed my ocarina in the air mockingly. I wanted to shout curses at him, but I held my tongue. It would do me no good.
The fairy by his shoulder cried out. "Sis!"
"Tael!" Tatl floated in front of me. "We've been looking for you two! Hey Skull Kid, what if you gave that mask you're wearing back now?" The Skull Kid just looked at us, still tossing the Ocarina of Time casually into the air and catching it again. "Hey, c'mon, are you listening?"
The Skull Kid said nothing.
But Tael darted in front of him. "Swamp, Mountain, Ocean, Canyon. Hurry... The four who are there, bring them here."
The Skull Kid gave a cry of rage and swatted Tael from the air. "Don't speak out of line! Stupid fairy."
"No!" cried Tatl. "What are you doing to my brother? Skull Kid, do you still think you're our friend after that?!"
"Well, whatever," he said dismissively. I winced. The fairies had been his friends. Causing casual harm to strangers I could understand, if not condone. But to abuse his friends and then act like nothing had happened? "Even if they were to come now," he continued, "they wouldn't be able to handle me. Hee hee."
:What is he talking about?: Shadow's confusion mirrored my own.
:I don't know. But... it might be important. He seemed angry. Try to remember what Tael said.:
:Swamp, Mountain, Ocean, and Canyon. I'll remember.:
"Just look above you. If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!" The Skull Kid threw up his arms, and dark power radiated from him. I stepped back, startled. The moon began moving faster, drawing visibly closer. It was going to strike the town, and it might well destroy everything there, including myself. What could I do?
I looked up at him, hovering above me. I had no Master Sword. I had no light arrows. I had no sword at all, nothing but a Deku Scrub's body and a bare thread of courage. I did the only thing I could do.
I blew a bubble.
A feeble attack against a thing that could outmatch a Great Fairy, but it was all I had. It struck his hand, and the ocarina fell from it. I leaped. Maybe I was small, but I wasn't slow! The ocarina was in my hands an instant later. The Ocarina of Time, that I'd used so often in the future that was my past. The Ocarina of Time, that Zelda had used to send me back to the past that was my present. The Ocarina of Time that she had given me to remember her by.
And I did remember. I remembered her, and I remembered a song. She had taught it to me. And she had reminded me of it before I'd left Hyrule. I could remember her words. She had said that if something happened to me I should remember it. Something had definitely happened. I was about to die, killed by the Skull Kid or crushed by his moon. But if I could try again... If time were on my side and not on his...
"Snap out of it!" shouted Tatl. "Get yourself together! Getting that old ocarina back isn't going to help us!" She flitted around frantically, screaming in panic. "Somebody! Anybody! Goddess of Time, help us please! We need more time!"
I knew exactly what to do.
I lifted the ocarina. For a horrible moment I realized that I didn't have lips in this shape, then a strange thing happened. The ocarina twisted in my hands, and I found myself with a set of pipes that seemed almost an extension of my own body. Playing them was natural, even more so than using deku flowers had been. The notes echoed on the evening air. Even as I began to play the Skull Kid shouted something angry, but I didn't hear it. I played the Song of Time, the song that, in Zelda's hands, had sent me seven years into the past.
The world went white. Reality swirled blindingly around me. I felt Shadow, strangely, clinging to me. Somewhere somebody was screaming in terror and confusion.
And then the world settled into place again, and I was standing outside the clock tower, with the sun rising on Clock Town. I was back where I'd been three days ago. Whether I couldn't go back before this quest had begun without solving it somehow, or whether my ability was less than Zelda's I didn't know, but I did know that I had three more days. And I had my ocarina again, the precious object the mask seller had spoken of. Hadn't he said I might return to my own form if I retrieved it? I turned and went inside the clock.
He was there. Even though from his point of view I must have stepped out only moments ago he didn't seem surprised to see me return.
"Were you able to recover your precious item from that imp?"
Suddenly he was grabbing my shoulders, shaking me, an unwholesome expression of manic glee on his face. "Oh! Oh! You got it! You got it! You got it! You got it!" Something in me gibbered in fear and wanted to flee. I pulled away from him. He didn't seem to notice. He only darted across the room to where a shadowy shape stood against the wall. When he sat down before it I saw that it was an organ. "Listen to me. Please play this song that I am about to perform, and remember it well."
His fingers caressed the keys. The song that came forth was eerie and beautiful at the same time. I lifted my strange pipes again and echoed it.
The world spun for an instant.
Then it halted, but it had changed. I was looking at it from nearly twice as high. I looked down at myself and grinned.
:We're back to normal! We're us again!: I almost laughed at that. Normal? I was still a ten year old boy who remembered being seventeen, sharing my body with a shadow with a will of its own. Was that normal? But I suppose that for me it was. And I had my sword and shield back! I vowed to never again be without a weapon. I didn't want to feel that horrible, defenseless feeling ever again.
"This is a melody that heals evil magic and troubled spirits, turning them into masks," said the mask seller. I shivered. I didn't want to think about the implications of that. But looking down I saw that a mask lay at my feet. Its face was the face of the Deku Scrub that I had been. "I am sure it will be of assistance to you in the future. Yes. I give you this mask in commemoration of this day. Fear not, for the magic has been sealed inside the mask. When you wear it you will transform into the shape you just were. When you remove it you will return to normal."
Some part of me was strangely thrilled by this. I had hated being a Deku Scrub. Why should I also be happy at the prospect? But perhaps it would somehow come in handy. Less likely things had proved to be useful before.
"Now, I have fulfilled my promise to you."
My stomach suddenly sank. On no! He had told me to get my ocarina back, yes, but he'd also told me to get the Skull Kid's mask for him! And I hadn't!
"So please, give me that which you promised me..."
:We didn't promise him anything, he just ran right over us and insisted we do it!: Shadow was outraged. But I felt guilty. Maybe I hadn't promised out loud, but I had meant to do it all the same. And he had returned me to normal. I owed him.
He held out his hand, smiling. I swallowed and looked away.
"Don't tell me... My mask? You did get it back... Didn't you?"
I shook my head.
His smile vanished. With rage on his face he picked me up, even though he was hardly bigger than I, and shook me. "If you leave my mask out there, something terrible will happen!" He dropped me, sending me sprawling. I looked up at him, shocked by his sudden anger. He clapped his hands to the side of his head, shaking, looking as though he were having some kind of fit. Words poured out of him. "The mask that was stolen from me, it is called Majora's Mask. It is an accursed item from legend that is said to have been used by an ancient tribe in its hexing rituals. It is said that an evil, wicked power is bestowed upon the one who wears that mask. According to legend, the troubles caused by Majora's Mask were so great the ancient ones, fearing such catastrophe, sealed the mask in shadow forever, preventing its misuse."
:Some forever,: said Shadow. :It's not very sealed right now, is it?:
:Perhaps the shadow it was sealed in is here. This place... I'm starting to wonder if this place is the same world as Hyrule, or whether we've fallen into a different reality altogether.:
"But now that tribe from the legend has vanished, so no one really knows the true nature of the mask's power. But I feel it." I shivered. Talking about the feel of the mask's dark power had made the mask seller smile again. It was still nothing like a wholesome smile. "I went to great lengths to get that legendary mask. When I finally had it I could sense the doom of a dark omen brewing. It was that unwelcome feeling that that makes your hair stand on end." Mine was standing on end right now, I was sure. "And now that imp has it." He started to spasm again, shaking his head frantically. "I am begging you! You must get that mask back quickly or something horrible will happen! I'm begging you! I'm begging you! You must do it!"
"I'll do it!" I said, as much to stop his flailing as for any other reason.
He snapped back to that same soulless smile in an instant. "Really? You'll do it for me?" I just stared at him. What had I gotten myself into? "I was certain you would tell me that." He nodded, and waved his hands at me in some kind of bizarre benediction. "You'll be fine. Surely you can do it. Believe in your strengths... Believe..."
I backed away.
:All right, we've agreed to help the raving madman. Let's get out of here!:
:Right. Yes. Definitely.: I turned and fled, Tatl hovering close behind me as I ran.
Outside the morning sun was still bright, and the people of Clock Town were still going about their day. I ran out into a morning that replicated that first one in nearly every way.
There were differences. I was Hylian again, so some of the strange looks a Deku Scrub had gotten weren't there. But most things were the same. And with a sinking sensation I realized that what little good I'd accomplished as a scrub had just been undone. I could help more people now, but did I have time for their problems? I had three days until the moon fell again. Just three days, and I didn't even know where to start.
:Swamp, Mountain, Ocean, and Canyon, that's where we start.: Shadow reminded me of the clue Tael had given us. I muttered the four words out loud, which prompted Tatl to explain to me that each of them referred to one of the four major regions of Termina.
Termina. That was the land I found myself in. The name seemed to suit this place. It was a place of endings, that might have been gloomy even without a too-large moon looming over it. I felt a pang of homesickness. I missed Hyrule. Things there had been simple compared to what I faced now. The quest had been hard, yes, but I'd had time on my side. Now... now I just didn't know. Three days was so little time. And with four parts of the world to visit, would it be time enough?
:You can do it again, go back from that last night, if three days aren't enough.:
:Very true! Though if everything I do is undone... But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now we need to see what we can do in the time we have. So first we have to get out of this town and explore the four regions. The guards wouldn't let me leave before. Will they now?:
:Let's go find out.:
The guard I spoke to was reluctant at first, but on glimpsing my sword he changed his mind and admitted that I was adult enough to be let out on my own. Thankfully. Some part of me seethed at being considered a child, but I knew I still looked one. It would be a long time before that began to change.
Tatl guided me to the swamp. As I explored it, and spoke with the inhabitants there, I began to pick up scraps of lore that gave me a hint of what might be going on. There was a temple there, somewhere. A formerly sacred place that now had turned dangerous. The swamp itself was being poisoned by it. I knew something of such things. Dark magic could turn a temple's holy power to poison. And dark magic attracted dangerous creatures.
Much of this lore came from the Deku Scrubs. And in order to gain it, and help those who needed me, which I could not help myself from doing, I'd had to take Deku Scrub form again. It was nerve-wracking and yet strangely comfortable, both at the same time.
They spoke not only of the temple but of a giant. Or perhaps a god. A guardian that had protected the swamp, but had now been replaced by a monster. And there was a vanished princess. I knew the shape of that story well.
I didn't reach the temple until late on the second day. I knew already that I would have to play the song again. I couldn't do the other three regions in the time remaining. Just discovering what it was I must find here might take too long.
The temple was designed to be traversed by Deku Scrubs. It was their temple so that shouldn't have surprised me. I was still torn about wearing that form. Something in me was comfortable with it. But I didn't like not having a weapon in my hand. I no longer felt quite so helpless, I was gaining skill with bubbles and deku flowers, but there was a little fear in the back of my mind every time. I didn't like fear. Wasn't I supposed to be the bearer of Courage?
:Being afraid not so bad. You not let fear stop you from doing what needs to be done.:
:If you say so,: I said to Shadow.
:Huh? If I say what?:
:The thing about fear that you just said.:
:I didn't say anything, Link. I was practically asleep. You don't need me to traverse this temple.:
:But... somebody said something.: I stopped running and looked around the room where I stood. Perhaps I'd heard it out loud? But no, the voice had spoken in response to my thoughts, nobody else could have known what I was thinking.
:If somebody said something, and it wasn't me, and it wasn't you...: Shadow sounded thoughtful. :Get somewhere safe, where you can sit for a while and be sure no enemies will bother you.:
:All right.: I was confused, but willing to go along with whatever Shadow had in mind. I backtracked a bit to a small side chamber where I could shut the door. I did so, and double checked the room again for anything, even a skulltula, that might be dangerous. It was empty. :Now what?: I asked.
:Now you come with me,: he said. I had a strange mental image of Shadow reaching out to grab my hand... and then suddenly the image was reality, and we were standing together. I looked around. We seemed to be in the room in the Water Temple where I'd fought Shadow, what seemed like an eternity ago. But the room was darker, fading into blackness around the edges. The only part that was illuminated was the little island, with its dead tree, where we both stood. There was no sign of the doors leading out.
"Welcome," said Shadow. After getting used to sharing my body with Shadow, standing next to him as a separate person was strange. He was taller than I'd ever seen him in a mirror, more like the shadow I'd fought as an adult, though his skin was still normally colored and his eyes weren't solid, glowing red blanks. I noticed I was at eye level with him, and looked down to find myself also an adult, rather than a child. Something very strange was going on.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"Inside your mind."
"That's kind of weird."
Shadow chuckled. "We're kind of weird. I also suspect we're not alone." He looked around the room. I looked too. The darkness was unbroken by any hint of light or movement. "You can come out," called Shadow, his voice gentle and reassuring. "It's all right, we won't hurt you."
For a moment there was still nothing. Then two faintly glowing eyes appeared in the shadows. Footsteps splashed in the water, and slowly something approached us. The eyes were low down, and set close together. And they seemed familiar. When the creature finally emerged into the light and stepped onto the island with us I wasn't surprised to see it was a Deku Scrub. It was also me. Or rather it was the Deku Scrub form that I wore this very moment, as I worked my way deeper into the temple.
"H-hello," it stammered. It's voice was like mine, but pitched higher, and carrying a nervousness that I'd seldom heard in my own voice.
"Hi," said Dark. "Who are you?"
"D-don't know. Don't remember."
"What do you remember?"
"It was dark. There was creature with scary mask. I thought I was dead. Then I was awake, but not awake." He turned to me, his unreadable face turned up at me. "I was watching, but you were me, you were doing things in my body. You so brave. I so afraid. I always afraid. But I help you. I help you know to do things, even though I afraid. That why I say being afraid not so bad. I still help, even if I afraid."
"Thank you," I said, feeling strange. Having my own shadow occupy my mind had been odd enough. Now a Deku Scrub lived there too. And yet if he was the reason why I'd been able to use the deku flowers and bubbles with such ease I owed him a great deal.
"I glad to help. Always, I glad. You can ask me to help, do not worry, I want to help. Just... please not be angry at me for being afraid."
"We're not angry," said Shadow. He ruffled the Deku Scrub's hair-like leaves and smiled. It was very hard to tell if the Deku Scrub was smiling back. But he didn't seem to mind Shadow's touch. "What should we call you?"
The Deku Scrub looked down. "I not remember my name."
"I'll call you Scrub then, at least until we can think of something better. Is that okay?"
"Scrub is good." He looked up at Shadow and bobbed his head in a cheerful gesture.
"You should probably go back out and finish the temple," said Shadow, turning to me.
I nodded. "Yeah."
"I help," said Scrub with another little head bob.
"Thanks." I looked upward, towards the source of the light that shone down on the little island, and a moment later I was opening my eyes in the temple.
The rest of the temple was easier, somehow. I wasn't resisting feeling at home as a Deku Scrub. I felt a peculiar sort of peace. I'd accepted something, and it had somehow changed me. I wasn't sure how, or why.
The strangest thing about it was that I felt that same peace again after I'd defeated the monster that had polluted the temple. Finding that it wasn't truly a monster at all, but a benevolent, god-like being that had put on a mask of evil... something in that spoke to me. The freed giant and I had something in common, somehow. I didn't understand it, but I felt it all the same.
Fighting Ganondorf had changed me. I'd traveled through time, seen dark things, and faced difficult challenges. But being here in Termina was changing me too. I was facing time in a different way, and facing my own identity too.
I wondered if I would recognize myself when all was said and done. Would I wear some strange mask, when this was over? And who would I be beneath it?
Chapter 4: Shelter Behind a Shadow
In which Link probably talks to himself too much.
It never snowed much in Hyrule. It was a fairly temperate sort of land, and even in winter it didn't snow a lot. So I wasn't prepared for what it would be like to spend day after day in calf-deep snow.
It was my third trip through the same three days. I'd worried about returning to the past after freeing the creature, whatever it had been, at the Swamp Temple. But what other choice did I have? I had the disturbing mask it had worn, and the song it had taught me, and those would have to be enough. There simply wasn't enough time to do it any other way. And it looked like I might need more than three days to untangle the mess I found in the mountains. I knew there must be a way to help the Gorons, and to reach the temple that lay somewhere in those peaks, but I didn't know what, and figuring it out was taking far too much time. The thought of spending weeks in the frozen cold was not one I relished. Shadow and Scrub didn't like it much either. But we couldn't simply abandon our quest because it was cold.
The sun had set on the third day when I finally found one piece of the frustrating puzzle. I was half frozen and feeling miserable, but finding the Eye of Truth cheered me a little bit. I'd used one before, and having it in hand I realized that part of my failure to find solutions might well be because I literally hadn't been able to see the answers, but with the Eye I might turn up hidden clues.
But with night falling and the temperature dropping I couldn't bring myself to stay and look. I should have. I should have used every minute, but I didn't. I gave up, and used the ocarina to return to the by-now-familiar morning in front of the clock tower. Then I found an inn where I could rest and slept away most of the day.
I awoke much later feeling physically rested but still mentally drained. And I knew that once again I'd undone all the good I'd done during the days before. I hated that. What kind of hero was I if I couldn't help people?
:Don't beat yourself up about it,: said Shadow inside my head. :When we get the mask back from the skull kid it'll fix some of these problems, and you can stay here for a year and fix the rest if you want.:
:I suppose so. I just feel... everything here is so dark. Nobody is happy. Nothing is right, it's all wrong.:
:The world dark. Is how things always are.: That was Scrub. :Is not your fault. You do lots of good. Today we go fix things for Gorons, and find Mountain Temple. Everything will go well.:
:But what's the point of fixing things for the Gorons if it just gets un-fixed?:
:Because they can help you find the Temple,: said Shadow. :That's the important part right now. Focus on what matters, don't let everything else bog you down.:
I sighed. :Yeah, you're right. Okay, let's go.:
The snow was no warmer, but with the Eye in hand I did finally find something significant. And it wasn't what I'd expected at all. I'd thought I'd find a hidden door, or an invisible path, or some useful object. Instead what I found was a ghost.
He was a Goron, and he hovered above the snow near where I'd found the Eye. He seemed almost pathetically glad that I could see him. I could only picture what it would be like, invisible to everyone, able to see friends and family but unable to interact with them. It was heartbreaking to think about.
He led me to the Goron's hidden graveyard cavern. Hovering over his own grave he told me his story. He said that the winter here was unnatural, it had lasted far too long. His name was Darmani, and he had been a hero of his own people. He had tried to defeat the demon that held the mountains snowbound, but had died in the attempt.
"As I am, I can only watch as Goron Village is slowly buried in ice. I may have died but I cannot rest. I beg you, bring me back to life with your magic!"
I could picture the hell he was in. Seeing people suffer and being able to do nothing would be the worst torture imaginable for a hero. But what could I do? The only magic I had was a handful of songs and a Deku's bubble. What could I do?
"If that is beyond your power, then I beg you to do at least this for me... heal my sorrows."
I looked up at his ghostly figure, his sorrowful face and simple plea making my heart break. I couldn't give him life again, but maybe it would be possible to help him find some kind of peace. I had to try. The song the crazed mask seller had given me was supposed to be a healing song. I lifted my ocarina to my lips and played, hope and sorrow mingled in my heart as I did.
He swayed to the music, and his eyes looked beyond me. I don't know what he saw, but expressions flitted across his face. First confusion, then a peaceful smile, and then at last determination. He seemed to decide something... and then he melted away. Even with the Eye of Truth I couldn't see him any more, he was gone. Had he moved on to the other side? Had my song worked to give him peace?
A clatter made me look down. A mask lay at my feet. I shivered to see it, for its face was Darmani's face.
"I leave my undying spirit with you," a voice whispered. And then there was silence, and I knew I was alone once more.
Or as alone as I ever could be. :That was kind of creepy,: said Shadow.
:Yes. Darmani... I don't know if I can take this mask,: I said. I knew what the Deku Scrub mask did. If this was the same...
:You might need it. Gorons are strong.:
:He wanted to free the temple from evil and save his people.:
I sighed. :Yes. And I want the same. You're right, I should take the mask. Throwing it away would be spitting on his gift. I just... I'm starting to hate this place. So much death. So much darkness. I hope we can get Majora's Mask and leave here soon.:
The mountain temple proved to be built for Gorons just as much as the swamp temple had been built for Deku Scrubs. I needed Darmani's help almost every step of the way. Donning the mask for the first time had been strange. As a Goron I was taller even than I'd been as an adult when fighting Ganondorf. And I was also considerably more bulky, and much stronger. Feats of strength I'd needed magical assistance to perform as a Hylian I could do without a thought as a Goron. And as with the Deku Scrub, I found that a Goron's skills came to me with surprising ease.
I reached the heart of the temple on the second day. The battle there was difficult, and once again I found myself relying on the Goron mask heavily. Darmani's strength and speed were invaluable. But thus far at least I had not heard his voice inside my head, and I wondered if I would. Perhaps not. Perhaps because he'd passed on willingly I would get only his form and not his spirit. It made me a little uneasy, thinking about another person moving into my head. The Deku Scrub had been harmless enough, he was coming to feel like a friend. But a Goron warrior was a more intimidating prospect.
Once again I freed the guardian of the temple, taking its cursed mask. It sang the same song to me that its fellow in the swamp temple had.
I still fretted, though, when I left the mountain temple. I was walking through a newly-dawning spring day, life bursting all around me, but my heart was heavy. I had one more day, and then I would have to travel back yet again. Would the mountain temple remain free? Would the god or giant that dwelt there answer my song when the time came?
:It is worrying,: Shadow agreed. :But what are we going to do about it?:
:I don't know.:
:Gods move through time strangely,: said another voice. It was soft, and deeper than mine or Shadow's. :They agreed to help you. You must trust them.:
I stopped in place, my heart racing. :Darmani?:
:Yes. Or something like him.:
:I do not remember my past, young warrior. If I were Darmani I should know where I was born, recall my childhood, know the exploits that caused me to become a hero, but I do not. I recall your past, child, but not my own. So am I Darmani, if I cannot remember being Darmani?:
:I... I don't know:
:Neither do I.:
:I'm sorry,: I said.
:For what, child?:
:For... I don't know. For making you lose your memories. For using your body.:
:You have nothing to apologize for. I remember enough to know I chose this. And you are trying to save many, including my people. That you have needed my aid is nothing to be ashamed of either.:
:Thank you,: I said, not knowing what else to say.
:Come. You still have much to do.:
:Yes.: I set off again, headed back to Clock Town for a brief rest before I would start over yet again, and go to the ocean to see what I could find there. I felt a little better, having talked to Darmani. The other shoe had dropped and I didn't need to wait in suspense any more. But I still found my heart aching at the thought of his death every time I put on his mask. I once again hoped that I could soon be done with this quest.
Clock Town was not as restful as I might have hoped. There always seemed to be somebody there with a problem. I did manage a full night's sleep, but I had to tear myself away from the needs of the townsfolk in order to warp back to the first day once again. But of course the people I saw then needed me too. It was painful to leave the town and head for the ocean.
Chance led me to take a wrong turn on my way, and I found myself not at the sea but at a place called Romani Ranch. A familiar whinny drew me across the fields like a magnet. There, prancing and tossing her head at the sight of me, was Epona! I had thought she was lost forever, and I found myself almost in tears to see here there, not only unharmed but looking well cared for. It took some effort to prove that I was her owner, but I rode out from the ranch with a smile on my lips. I had missed Epona a great deal.
The wind blew through my hair as we raced down the path that led to the sea, and I felt a little bit of the weight on my heart lifting. The future didn't have to be so dark, did it? Perhaps what lay ahead would be easier. Perhaps I could find what I needed somewhere on the coast without any more death. I was sure another sacred place would hold another cursed god, but I hoped for a simple, straightforward situation that I could solve with my wits and my sword alone.
My hopes were not to be realized.
Epona ran with long, free strides across the packed sand of the beach. I halted her at the edge of the water, with the waves washing around her hooves. From her back I could see a seemingly peaceful bay. The sun was shining down, and all looked well.
Then I noticed the shape floating in the water. I almost didn't see it, it was blue on blue, but when I did I knew instantly what it was. It was a Zora, and something was very wrong. Zora do not hang limply, letting the waves wash them back and forth.
I leapt from Epona's back and dove into the water. I swam out to the Zora, who floated motionless, face down. Zoras have gills, so I couldn't tell if he was alive or dead. Since there was some chance he still lived I pushed him towards shore. When his feet touched the bottom he stirred, and tried to stand. I let him lean on me and together we staggered up onto the beach. He looked terrible, covered in cuts and bruises. I was surprised he could stand at all. I helped him to sit, resting with his back against a palm tree. I started looking through my pack for a potion. He opened his eyes and looked at me, with an expression full of desperation.
"Listen... listen to me..."
"I'm listening," I said, pulling out a bottle.
"Listen!" I put down my pack and looked at him. He was staring at me with unnatural intensity. "I am Mikau... A musician. Our band..." He stopped, a spasm of pain passing over his face. "Our band is playing at the festival. Was. The singer... her voice is gone. And now I am gone too. I will be gone soon. Little dude..." He reached out and grabbed my arm. "Help me. Her eggs were stolen by the pirates. I tried to get them back. I failed. I'm done for."
"No, no you're not. Here." I held the potion out to him. He pushed it aside.
"Listen! I can't rest. I'll die, but I won't rest. Not without helping her. You have to... you have to find a way to help her. Get her eggs back. Then I can rest."
"I'll help her. I promise."
"I can't rest... I... please..." He reached out, not at me but at something else. I followed the line of his arm and saw an instrument, a strange guitar made from the skeleton of a fish, lying washed up on the shore. He reached towards it yearningly. I ran and brought it to him. When I put it into his hands he smiled. Weakly he stroked it, bringing out faint notes. "Heal me," he whispered. I held out the potion again, but he ignored it. Tears were gathering in my eyes. I wanted to help him, why was he refusing my help? I had to save him!
:The song of healing,: said Darmani's voice softly in my head. :Play it for him, child.:
I took out the ocarina. His fingers were weaker on his guitar, the notes barely audible. I started playing, and he smiled up at me. Then his hand fell from the strings and his eyes slid closed. Tears were running down my face as I played.
When the song ended the Zora didn't draw another breath, he lay there still and silent. Sparkles of magic gathered over him, and I hoped... but when they faded his body was still bruised and bloody, his chest still unmoving. By his side lay a mask.
:Another mask! Why? Why couldn't I save him? I don't need his mask! I don't want his mask, I wanted to save him! I can't save anybody. I can't help anybody! I hate this world. I hate masks!: I dropped to my knees in the sand, sobbing.
:Link... it's okay. There's nothing you could have done.: I could almost feel Shadow's comforting hand on my shoulder, but it didn't help.
:There should have been something! I can't do this any more, Shadow. I can't! I can't take it. I'm supposed to help people, not kill them and wear their faces!:
:You have not killed any of us, child,: said Darmani.
:Yes, it not your fault,: Scrub chimed in.
I knew they were right and I hadn't caused any of them to die, but I should have been able to help them. I should have been able to save Mikau. I should have been able to help the Gorons without needing to use Darmani like that. I couldn't even think of putting on the mask that now lay at my feet. I wrapped my arms around my knees, crying uncontrollably. :I can't. I just can't. I'm sorry, I can't do this any more.:
:Then let me do it for you for a little while, Link. Even a hero sometimes needs to rest. I can use your sword, I'll go in search of these pirates and keep your promise to Mikau.:
:No. No, you said you didn't want to be a hero. I can't make you...:
:You wouldn't be making me, I volunteered. And I'm not a hero. If it were up to me we'd be on Epona's back and riding for Hyrule right this second. But I know that would make you unhappy, to run away like that.:
:And how is it not running away to just let you do everything for me? I... I can't...:
:A wise warrior knows when to retreat, child.: Darmani's voice was kind. :There's no shame in growing weary of battle. Let your shadow help you. I shall help too, and Scrub as well.:
:Yes, we all help. We want to help you, you our friend.: I could almost see Scrub bobbing his head.
:I can't ask you to face something I can't face myself,: I replied, tears still trickling down my cheeks.
:I'm a shadow, Link,: said Shadow. :I was made from darkness and darkness suits me. I don't feel death the way you do.: I felt him take hold of my eyes, and he surveyed the Zora that lay, still propped against a tree, before us. I hadn't wanted to look, but he didn't flinch from it. :It's just death, it happens to all of us eventually.:
Shadow held out his hand to me, as he had before, and with a sigh that was part shame but mostly relief, I took it. They were right. I needed to rest. As Shadow's intangible hand closed over mine I once more found myself standing on the little islet at the center of the shallow waters of the Water Temple. I sighed and sat down with my back against the dead tree. I was vaguely aware of my body, and that Shadow was moving, no doubt picking up the Zora mask and stowing it in my pack. But I didn't want to think about that. So I turned my attention away from it, and drifted into a kind of slumber.
I'm not sure how much later it was when I heard Shadow calling to me. :Link. Link, wake up!:
I stirred from the trace-like state and looked around. The island was still empty, so I looked up towards the light that shone on it. I felt Shadow take my hand again, and then I was occupying my own body once more, though Shadow still seemed to be in control, since I could see that my hair and clothing were still black.
I was standing in front of a grave. Mikau's guitar rested on top of a pile of stones that marked the spot. :I thought you might want to, I don't know... pay your respects or something, before we left,: said Shadow gently. He let go of my body, letting me have control again.
:Yeah. Thanks,: I replied. I knelt for a moment in front of the grave and silently prayed that Mikau would find peace. I found myself crying again.
After a moment Shadow gently pushed me aside, and I went willingly back to that inner space where I wouldn't have to deal with any of this. I was probably a coward, but the last few weeks, or however long it had been in this endless loop of three days, had been too much.
Scrub came out of the darkness and sat beside me. "It all right to be afraid. You said you not hate me for being afraid."
"I don't. But I'm supposed to be the hero. I'm not supposed to be afraid of anything."
"Everyone afraid of something. I afraid of much. Am I coward?"
"I... no... of course not."
"Why not? I always afraid."
"But... but you do things anyway, like you said. I'm failing at even that much, I can't do anything. I can't save anyone. I've failed over and over."
"Is hard. Is very hard. But that not make you coward. Failing not running away. Resting not running away either. Shadow a warrior too, you trust him, and he do what he need to do. And when you rested, or when he need you, you can come, and do, and maybe be afraid, but you do anyway."
Scrub leaned against me, and I put my arm around his slender shoulders. "You still a hero," he said.
"Am I? If I fail to save people, if I'm afraid, if I can't deal with doing what has to be done, am I really?"
"Yes. You not perfect. No such thing as perfect, everyone flawed. You do good, you put others first, self last. You are hero. Things you did, they still there. Ganondorf not come back, take Hyrule, because you not save everyone. You save many, will save more. No one can save everyone."
I knew Scrub was right. In fact I'd known everything he had said already. I guess I just needed to hear it. I wanted so badly to be able to help people that being unable to, here on Termina, was hard. And dealing with death on top of that failure had been too much for me. But my weakness now didn't undo everything I'd done in the past, and it wouldn't undo whatever I could do in the future. I smiled at Scrub. "Thanks."
"I help. I want to be hero too, just small hero, because I am small person."
"You help a lot. Thank you."
Chapter 5: Joy and Madness
In which Link learns to stop worrying and love the mask.
I'm not sure how long I stayed in that odd inner space. I was partially aware of what Shadow was doing, but it was like a dream, something distant and unreal. I spoke a little more with Scrub, and with Darmani as well. But mostly I just rested, thinking nothing, doing nothing, and worrying about nothing. The others had been right that I'd needed a break. Normally I hated to be idle, but at that moment I was glad to set my sword aside.
But eventually I started to feel less tired, to have enough energy to think about what came next. I wasn't ready to take back over from Shadow quite yet, and he seemed to be enjoying himself in any case. I did, however, feel like doing something constructive. And Scrub had been talking about how he wished he were better at fighting, so he could help more. So I decided to see if we could spar a little bit. He barely came past my knee in the adult form I wore inside my own mind, but I found that with a little concentration I could return to my child self, and then I was only about twice his size. He was nervous at first, but soon began to see it as a game, which apparently Deku Scrubs enjoyed with great enthusiasm. I wasn't going all out against him, but he was doing quite well, and we were both having fun. When we were done with one particular bout I heard Shadow calling me.
:Link! Hey, wake up!:
:I'm awake, just not paying attention. Do you need me?:
A bubbly sort of laughter filtered down to me from him, and I realized I could sense a wild exhilaration filling him. While I'd been sparring he'd been doing something that left him even more giddy than riding Epona at full gallop. :No, I don't need you, but you should come anyway.:
I clasped his mental hand, and suddenly I was aware of my body again. But it wasn't my body at the moment, it was once again transformed. Not into a Deku Scrub, or into a Goron, but into a Zora. Some part of me tensed at the realization that Shadow must have put on Mikau's mask, but the rest of me was wide-eyed with a different kind of surprise, for we were flying.
We soared through water and air both in a racing series of dolphin-like leaps that took us alternately above and below the waves. Shadow was still in control, or at least I wasn't in control, for I never could have done this. It was a feat of physical skill unlike anything I'd mastered so far, and it was glorious!
I laughed, and Shadow laughed with me, our silent joy echoing in my head. We made an even higher leap, the wind rushing around us, and then sliced through the water as gracefully as any fish. This was wonderful!
:This is what life is, little dude,: said an amused voice. It wasn't exactly the voice I'd heard on the beach, it was more like my own voice than that, but it wasn't me, and it wasn't Shadow, so I knew who it must be. :It's pain sometimes, but that's not what it really is, that's just what happens. Real life is this, when the wind and the waves are just right, when you hit the high note in that perfect jam with the world, and you just fly free.:
:For real, little dude. Or as real as a ghost can be. But don't sweat that. Shadow here's been telling me you got mighty blue over my catching the big one, but you don't need to mourn. Because of you and your little dark buddy here my girl's eggs are saved. You guys helped me do what I failed at by myself. So now I'll help you out in return.:
:We're headed to the ocean temple,: said Shadow.
:The Great Bay Temple is some mondo serious business,: said Mikau. :Though we can't go straight there. We've got a song to play. You want to come along, or do you still need some rest, little dude?:
:I'll come.: I smiled, and I felt the Zora's lips curve too. Maybe everything here wasn't as horrible as I'd thought. Mikau's death still troubled me, but the sheer joy of his leaping, swimming flight through the water made it clear that he himself wasn't letting grief or regret slow him down any.
The Great Bay Temple was fun. It was complicated, and occasionally baffling, but it was also just plain fun. Mikau was with me most of the way, for swimming was an absolute necessity for most of the temple. I might have done it without him had I still had all the equipment I'd brought to Hyrule's Water Temple, but that was lost to time, and even then I'm not sure I could have done it without the speed, grace, and skill of the Zora musician.
Especially the final battle. He showed me how to use a magical attack developed by Zora warriors that stunned the monster in the water, and then it was easy to hit with any number of other weapons. The fight was a joy, the way combat had been for me early on, before battle had begun to wear on me.
And when I stood before the freed giant, I finally felt like I could actually trust these guardians, and trust myself. Darmani was right, I knew their song, I had the masks that had imprisoned them. It would be enough. When I faced the Skull Kid again I would call the giants, and their power would help me defeat him and obtain the mask he wore.
Though I had gained a new puzzle to worry at. This god, or guardian, or whatever it might be had asked me to help their friend. Or so Tatl had said, she seemed to understand them. But who was the friend of a god? Perhaps he'd merely meant that I should go to the fourth temple and help the one still trapped there. Though it seemed strange to ask me to do something that it must surely know I would do in any case.
:What do you guys think?: I tossed the question into the inner space as we stood outside the temple, contemplating our next move.
:I haven't got a clue,: said Shadow.
:Me neither,: was Mikau's response.
:No, I know not,: said Scrub.
:I do not know who a god's friend might be,: said Darmani thoughtfully, :but there are often legends about such things. Perhaps when we return to Clock Town we can ask, and see if there are any there who know. Or we can ask among the other peoples, the Gorons, the Zoras, the Deku, they may have tales of these gods.:
:Thanks,: I said. :That's a good idea.:
:We should go ask the Gerudo pirates too!: That was Shadow, laughing as he said it.
:...what? Didn't they try to kill us?:
:Trying isn't succeeding!: I could nearly see Shadow grinning as he said it.
Mikau chuckled. :Your dark little buddy there likes Gerudo girls. They're not my type, but they are kind of cute.:
Shadow laughed again. :We're not children, Link. And there's nothing wrong with appreciating a fine female form. You can't say you've never thought about the woman that Zelda grows up to be...:
I blushed furiously, I could feel my cheeks heating.
:She's even cuter than the Gerudo, I think. Though they're rather excitingly dangerous.:
:Let's get going,: I snapped, feeling like I was red to my toes. Shadow just laughed some more. Then Mikau took over again and we were flying through the water, swimming back to the shore through a crystal clear sea.
There was time to return to Clock Town and follow up on Darmani's suggestion. There was time for anything we wanted, really. I rode Epona there, with Mikau sharing the experience, he liked riding almost as much as Shadow did. The town still made me anxious. Just asking around for stories about the four gods, giants, or guardians brought several different people to mention their problems to me, and I know I could have helped a few of them. I had, in fact, helped one or two of them already, but they didn't remember. My face, no matter what form I wore, was never familiar to them. Their problems were renewed, they forgot me, and I had to begin over again every three days.
But I was able to shake off my distress to a certain extent. Having the others there helped. Mikau in particular was very relaxed and cheerful about everything, which was a good antidote to my own tendency to fret and worry.
And it didn't take us long to find our way to an old woman who knew some of the gods' stories. She told us a tale about four giants, who befriended an imp. That caught my attention immediately. The mask seller had called the Skull Kid an imp. Could he be the giant's friend? I asked the old woman who the imp was, but she knew no more than the words of her tale. Still, it was something worth knowing.
I rested again at the inn, and traveled back in time once more to give myself another three days. I had no idea at this point how many cycles I'd run through. Time had ceased to have any real meaning. But nevertheless I felt a sense of urgency, so I set off on Epona's back for the canyon without any further delay.
I don't know how to describe what it was like there. It was dry and barren, but not hot. Indeed it was often bitingly cold, though I sometimes thought the cold was in my soul, and not on my skin. I met only two living beings in all its vast expanse. Only two, and I think they were both more than a little mad. The canyon was full of ghosts and poes, redead and gibdos, stalfos and stalchildren, and other things I'd never seen before anywhere. It was a haunted, nightmare land, even by daylight. At night it was indescribable.
Thankfully, mercifully, I obtained no magical masks there. There were a few of the ordinary kind, the people of Termina seemed obsessed with masks, even the dead. But I wore no new faces when I reached the temple within the canyon.
I'd done my best to bring what peace I could to the restless dead of Ikana. Even though I knew it was futile I couldn't help myself. And in helping the soldiers of Ikana Castle find peace I had gained something, for they'd known a song. And with the Ocarina of Time in my hands songs held power.
:No good deed is futile,: said Darmani.
:Even the ones that are wiped away with no trace?: I asked him. I kept coming back to that idea, beating against it like a moth beating against a window. And it seemed to be doing me about as much good, but I couldn't let it go. Having my good deeds undone, and by my own hand, for I was the one that traveled back and started the cycle over, went against everything that I was.
:Even those,: said Darmani firmly. :Somewhere the goddesses watch and listen, and count even those to your ledger, Link.:
:I want to believe that, but sometimes it seems like the only benefit is when I myself gain something. And that's purely selfish, so how much does it count?:
:Is it selfish, when you seek to gain only so that you can complete your quest and thus aid others? Remember, much of the ill you have undone here comes from Majora's evil. When the mask is no longer twisting the Skull Kid's pranks, much harm will be repaired.:
:I know. Though Ikana's soldiers... this evil is older than that. Much older.:
:Perhaps. For now you have done what you can. It's time to go on and seek out the canyon temple.:
The long climb up the tower, the bizarre, changeable reality of the temple, I don't know what I could say about either. At times I thought they might drive me to madness, but Shadow and others steadied me, helping me to continue on through the worst of it.
At last I found what I sought, though that too seemed madness, a vast barren desert plain contained inside the temple's walls. The battle was a challenge, but no worse than many I'd faced in the past. When I had freed this final god I felt strangely sad. Something about the creature was sorrowful. And Tatl once again brought me a cryptic message from it. The god said to forgive our friend. What friend might I have that needed my forgiveness I didn't know. I thought of the story, the four giants and the imp. Was the Skull Kid their friend? Was he mine? He had been Tatl's once. But forgive him? After the evil he'd worked?
:Evil he worked, or evil worked on him by the mask he wears?: asked Darmani.
:I don't know.:
:Neither do I. But if these gods sorrow at the thought of harming him... perhaps he is not evil.:
I rode back to Clock Town one final time. The moon loomed close overhead. It was late on the third day, and this time I would not be playing the Song of Time and going back. This time I would be waiting when the clock struck. I would confront the Skull Kid, call the giants, and defeat the evil of Majora's Mask.
I gathered all my courage as the fireworks began to explode around the clock tower. :We're with you,: said Shadow quietly. I just nodded.
It was eerily familiar. I'd been repeating many events in the town all this time, but it still made my skin crawl to see the Skull Kid dancing above the clock's upturned face once again. I ran up the stairs, they were easier to climb with my longer legs than they'd been as a Deku Scrub. At the top I saw him once more. He didn't have my ocarina this time, but everything else was the same as it had been.
"If it's something that can be stopped, then just try to stop it!" he cried, as he had before, and once more darkness gathered around him and the moon began to fall.
But I was no longer helpless. All I'd done over this endless loop of days prepared me for this moment. I took out my ocarina and played the song that the giants had taught me.
The world shook.
The Skull Kid screamed with rage.
And from the four corners of the world came striding four huge forms. They stood outside the town, but they were so vast that they could reach up over the town and touch the moon. Dark power coruscated around the descending orb, but the giants put their hands beneath it, and its descent halted.
"We did it! It stopped!" Tatl bounced with glee.
:We did!: Shadow laughed. I grinned.
Tael swirled around his sister, the fairies rejoicing together. Then they swooped over to where the Skull Kid now lay prone on the clock face. They were speaking excitedly together, discussing their friend, no doubt. I stepped to join them, to take the mask, when the limp form of the Skull Kid suddenly rose into the air.
:Not good, dude,: said Mikau, expressing pretty much exactly what I felt at the sight. Majora's Mask wove back and forth before me, tugging the lifeless body of the Skull Kid behind it like a puppet with its strings cut.
The mask dropped the Skull Kid's body. "This puppet's role has just ended," said a voice. It was the malevolent voice I had thought of as the Skull Kid's voice, but he lay still, lifeless, where the mask had dropped him.
The moon's bizarre face twisted, its mouth gaping open, and the mask ascended, swallowed by the moon itself.
I felt like reality had fallen out from beneath me. What was going on?
And then it got even stranger, for the moon's eyes snapped open, glowing with the same colors as the eyes of the mask had. The giants shuddered, straining to hold back the orb that now leered down with malevolent life. Somehow the mask had become the moon, and I knew that if I didn't do something it might well break free of the giants' grasp and destroy the world anyway.
The mouth over my head still gaped open and, hoping that I wasn't doing the wrong thing, I followed the mask inside the moon's mouth.
As I leapt into the gaping chasm everything went white. I closed my eyes against the unbearable brightness, and when I opened them again I was standing on a grassy plain. In the distance a single tree rose before me. Above me was a blue sky, dotted with a few fluffy clouds.
Bizarrely it reminded me of my inner world, though the island with its dead tree and this field with its living one weren't really that much alike. But there was something similar about them all the same. Was I inside the moon's mind? Was I inside Majora's?
I ran towards the tree, and there I found five masked children. All five masks were familiar. Majora's I knew, of course, but the other four were the four monsters I had fought. The four giants, imprisoned again somehow. Why were they here? What was going on? They scattered across the grass and I ran after one of them. When I caught up with him, he asked, "Will you play with me?"
Play? I stared at the child, that might be a god. He wanted me to play a game?
"Can I ask a question?" asked the child.
"The right thing... What is it? If you do the right thing, does it really make everybody happy?"
I blinked. What was the right thing? I had tried to do the right thing all my life. That's why I was here now, stopping the evil of Majora's Mask was the right thing. Wasn't it? I would make the townsfolk, and the Goron, Deku, and Zoras happy. That was why I had gone through all I'd suffered here in Termina.
"Hide and seek, let's play!" The child ran off, laughing. I ran after, but he had somehow vanished. I approached another of the children.
"Masks," said the child. "You have a lot. Will you be a mask salesman? I'll play with you."
"Is this all just a game?" I asked. I was feeling confused and frustrated. :Chill, little dude,: said Mikau. I didn't reply. I didn't feel like chilling. And I really didn't like the idea that I was just being played with, like some kind of toy.
"Can I ask you a question? Your true face... What kind of face is it? I wonder... The face under the mask, is that your true face?"
"I'm not wearing a mask," I snapped in reply, but something about the question shook me. What was my real face? Shadow, Scrub, Darmani, Mikau... they were all part of me, so was I really Link at all any more, or had I become someone else? What was my true face, and was Link just another mask?
When I looked up to ask the child what that was supposed to mean, he was gone. I muttered a curse under my breath and ran after another masked child playing beneath the tree's spreading branches.
"Hide and seek! Let's play!" he said.
"I don't want to play."
"Can I ask you a question? Your friends... What kind of people are they? I wonder, do those people think of you as a friend?"
"Do which people?" I tried to not shout. I would either be being rude to a little boy, or shouting at a god, a bad idea either way, but I felt more and more confused. These questions were upsetting beyond all reason. Was he talking about the Skull Kid? About Tatl? About the people of Termina that I'd tried to help? Or about Shadow and the others? And were any of those my friends anyway? I shook off the thought but while I'd been thinking the masked child had vanished. A little ways away I saw the fourth child. I chased after him, frustration bubbling inside me as I did.
"Hey! Wait up!" He didn't stop, but I ran faster and caught up with him.
He turned his masked face to me as I reached his side. "Will you play with me?"
I tried to hold on to my anger. Instead of screaming in frustration, I managed to ask, "What kind of game are you playing?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
I bit back an angry retort and just said nothing. :Be calm child,: said Darmani softly. It was all I could do not to snap at him too. I felt like I was on the edge of sanity.
"You... What makes you happy?" asked the child. "I wonder... What makes you happy, does it make others happy too?"
The world shook under me. Was it the moon drawing closer to the earth? Or was the shaking just in my mind? What makes me happy... I felt like I was on the edge of either revelation or insanity. What was the child saying?
"Hide and seek! Let's play!" shouted the child, and ran off. I looked around. I was near the tree again, but I couldn't see the children anywhere, they all seemed to have vanished. Then I noticed one more, sitting against the tree's trunk. And above him, in the branches, was a treehouse. I ran to him. The child was wearing Majora's Mask. The sight of it made me shiver. But the mask wasn't leering up at me. The child wearing it sat huddled, clearly miserable, masked face turned downward. I cautiously stepped close.
"Everyone has gone away, haven't they?"
I said nothing.
"Will you play with me?"
Games again. I wanted to curse at him. But...
:Playing games makes him happy,: said Darmani's voice in my head, wonderingly.
:Everybody seeks their bliss, little dude,: said Mikau.
:Yes. Games are fun!: That was Scrub, bobbing cheerfully.
:But are they fun if they hurt other people?: I asked.
:Maybe a god doesn't understand about pain,: said Shadow. :Do gods feel pain? A shadow looks at the world a little differently, I know that much. Can we even imagine how a god sees the world?:
:Then what should I do?:
:Try playing the game, perhaps,: said Shadow.
I looked at the child, his masked face still turned away, the image of rejection and sorrow. I remembered the story of the imp and the giants. In the tale they had been friends, but then the giants had rejected the imp and banished him. And I'd called on their power to do the same again, to make them act against their friend. I had been trying to do the right thing. But that didn't mean that I hadn't caused this child's sorrow.
"Yes, I'll play," I said.
"Let's play good guys against bad guys," said the child. "Yes, let's play that." And he held out something to me. I took it and looked down at it wonderingly.
It was a mask.
It was my own face.
Not, however, the face I wore now. This was a face I knew from the past, or rather from the future, for it was my face as an adult. It was set in an expression of fierce determination, and wore strange war paint, but it was still unquestionably my face.
I looked up at the child. He got to his feet. "Are you ready? You're the bad guy. That's fine, right?"
I held the mask. I was to play a bad guy? But then... perhaps this child saw me that way. Perhaps in his own story he was the hero, and all the things I'd done to stop him had been the actions of a villain.
"Well, shall we play?"
I was still angry, but I also felt a rightness to this. He wanted me to be the bad guy, I'd be a bad guy! I nodded.
The child climbed up to the tree house above, and I followed. Though when I stepped into the chamber I saw nothing but an empty room. The mask appeared before me, bodiless once again. It seemed larger now, and a tangle of tentacles, like some sort of strange hair, trailed behind it.
I went to draw my sword, and was reminded of the mask still in my hand. Very well then, it was time to play! I put the mask on.
Something heaved inside me.
All the frustrated anger I'd felt welled up in me, and it fused with the fierceness I'd seen on the mask's face. Fire burned inside me, and I let out a war cry and drew my sword.
The sword was changed, it was now a massive double blade, glowing with power. I was changed too, the room was suddenly smaller, the demonic mask before me no longer hovering above me, but at eye level. I was tall, taller even than I'd been as an adult. I was tall and powerful enough to contain the anger I felt.
The sword sang in my hand with power that echoed the rage singing in my head. It didn't matter now what sort of game Majora wanted to play. It didn't matter if he was the bad guy or I was. I was going to destroy the mask utterly.
I shouted and leaped, sword swinging. It was time to fight at last! No more riddles, no more endless time loop, no more masks, no more games, just the red-hot purity of battle!
I don't remember very much of the fight. I'm not actually sure if I was the one fighting or if I just watched while somebody else fought with my body. I remember a few scattered moments. I remember batting away the mask with my blade like an insect. I remember laughing hard, brutal laughter in the face of its weakness. I remember Majora changing several times, gathering power, becoming more, but it was never enough. It was no match for the power of my anger. I remember shrieks, an alien cry of defeat, and the monster that the mask had become crumbling away before me, and then everything went white once more. The world went away, and I went with it.
Chapter 6: Endings and Beginnings
In which Link lays ghosts to rest.
I awoke lying on my back in the grass, looking up at a blue sky. For a moment I thought I must still be in the bizarre inner world of the moon, but then I sat up and saw that I was outside Clock Town's walls. The sun had just risen, and with a lifting feeling of joy I knew that it was the fourth day, I was free of the endless loop. I had done it! And I was myself again, or as much myself as I could be. My body was once again a ten year old boy's body, golden hair visible from the corner of my eye. My hair when I'd fought Majora had been silver. My memories were vague, but for some reason that detail stuck with me.
I got to my feet and looked around. The moon was gone as if it had never been. The four giants still stood above the town. They were staring down at me. Or no, not at me. A little ways away stood the Skull Kid, and their gaze was fixed on him.
"You hadn't forgotten about me..." The voice was still Majora's voice, but drained of malice. I tried to wrap my mind around what was going on. The giants had been Majora's friend? Or had they been the Skull Kid's? Or were the two somehow one and the same?
:Wearing a mask can do strange things,: said Darmani's voice inside my head, and I had to smile. Perhaps the Skull Kid and Majora were like my inner voices and I, then. It would explain a great deal. So even without the mask on, there might still be some connection between them.
One of the giants sang a short, deep tone.
"You still thought of me as a friend?" said the Skull Kid.
The giant sang again, and then they turned and each began to walk off, going back to the four corners of the world. The Skull Kid started shaking, and the two fairies flew to him, trying to comfort him.
I stayed back. The anger I felt was gone, but I still wasn't sure what to think of him. Was he my enemy, or my friend?
But then he lifted his head and turned to me. "Did you... Did you save me?"
I could only shrug. I didn't know what I'd done.
"I thought they didn't want to be friends with me. But they hadn't forgotten about me. Friends are a nice thing to have." And he laughed suddenly, a carefree giggle. "Could you be my friend too?" he said to me.
Something in that laugh was infectious. I laughed too. Shadow said, :I kind of like him, now that he's not being all creepy.: "I'll be your friend," I said with a smile. Why not? I'd played a game with Majora, and had somehow won. I could be friends with the Skull Kid.
He scurried over to me, and sniffed at me. Then he giggled again. "You smell like the fairy kid who taught me that song in the woods." And he hummed a snatch of a song I knew.
My eyes went wide. He was not just a Skull Kid, he was one I knew very well. I'd played with him as a child. I'd taught him Saria's song. Shadow had traded pranks with him in the forest. He had been our friend all along, and we hadn't known it. That was why the giant had called him our friend. They had known what I had not. And they had asked me to forgive him. I was suddenly very glad that I had.
"So... the evil has left the mask after all." I spun around. The mask seller stood behind me, clutching Majora's Mask in his hands. It looked small, much smaller than I remembered it. He sounded disappointed. But I felt a weight lifted from me. For a moment, in what I suspected was Majora's own inner world, I had seen him as a wounded child. But he was also a mad god, and knowing that his power was gone was a profound relief.
But If Majora had been a mad god, what had I become to defeat him? I pushed the thought away. I didn't want to think about what had happened inside Majora's treehouse. I wasn't ready to face it. Not yet.
The mask seller bid us farewell and walked away. I was just as glad to see him go. Something about him was not quite right.
I bid farewell to the Skull Kid and his fairies too. The world was saved, but I felt strongly that I still had things to do. There were things here that still needed to be resolved. So I jumped on Epona's back and rode off, seeking solitude to do what I knew, somehow, needed to be done before I did anything else.
In a secluded glade in the woods I halted, and slid from Epona's back. I sat next to her, and watched as she started to crop the grass that grew there. She would hopefully wake me if anything disturbed us. Then I closed my eyes and reached for my shadow.
A moment later I stood beside him. The others were there too, and the island had grown to accommodate us all. Even the fierce being I had become in the treehouse was there, though he stood with his back against the dead tree, facing away from the rest of us, and said nothing. I ignored him. He wasn't why I was there.
"You have all helped me so much," I said, looking from Scrub to Darmani to Mikau. Shadow, beside me, nodded. "But I think I'm going to be leaving Termina. And I don't know that it's fair to just drag you all away with me. I thought... I thought, well... spirits stay because they have unfinished business. So before I leave, I want to do whatever it is that you need to do, and let you go."
"That's mondo boss of you, little dude. And I don't know about these guys, but I know there's something I should do, yeah." Mikau looked a little sadder than usual. I suspected I knew why. His next words confirmed it. "The band doesn't know that I caught the big one. I need to tell them, so they can start looking for a new guitarist. And Lulu... she needs to know too, so she doesn't waste any time waiting for me, you know?"
"I'll take you there," I said. I opened my eyes in the little glade. Epona still grazed peacefully beside me. I whistled and she came over. I petted her for a moment, enjoying the warm feel of her hide under my hand. So much had happened, but Epona at least hadn't changed.
I swung up on her back and set off for the ocean.
I will admit I was glad to don Mikau's mask and let him take over when we got there. I wouldn't know how to tell somebody that I was in reality only a ghost, lending my face to another person. And what would you say to one you loved but could never be with?
In fact I ended up stepping entirely into the inner space in order to give him some privacy while he said goodbye to Lulu. Some time later I could hear, faintly, that he and the band were playing. One last jam, no doubt, but I stayed where I was. This was his moment, not mine.
I don't know how much later it was when I woke to find myself standing next to his grave, his mask in my hands. Even as I opened my eyes I saw the mask begin to crumble. It turned to sand that blew away and mingled with the sand of the beach.
"Thank you, Link." I looked over. Lulu was standing next to me, looking down at the grave.
"Don't thank me," I said. "I couldn't save him."
"You did save him. You gave him a chance to be the hero he always wanted to be. He told me about it. He got to save the world. He dreamed all his life of being a real warrior. You gave him his dream." She leaned down and kissed my cheek. Then she turned, dove into the sea, and was gone.
Darmani wanted only to see his people, and make sure that all was well with them now that Majora was gone. I watched as he wandered through the Goron caverns, speaking with few. Eventually he ended his trek by climbing up to the graveyard, and there in front of his grave he removed his mask, and I was myself again.
The mask crumbled to nothing, and I let the dust fall on Darmani's grave. "Thank you," I said to the empty air, and then I turned and left.
Scrub led me to the swamp, as I knew he would. He hadn't said what he needed to do, and I wasn't sure, but there was obviously something.
He sought out the king's butler, who we'd met briefly when last we'd visited the swamp. I remembered, belatedly, that the butler had spoken of a son, that had raced him through the palace halls. Was Scrub the son whose racing he missed?
It seemed he was. I retreated to the inner world once more, letting them have privacy for this brief reunion.
Once again I woke to find myself holding a crumbling mask in my hands. I was in the cave behind the clock tower, next to the small tree I'd seen when I first came here. I finally made the connection between the Deku Scrubs and Deku Trees, and knew what the tree must be. The butler stood beside me. It was hard to read his face, Deku Scrubs show little emotion, but I didn't doubt that he was sad.
"I will re-plant him by the palace, in a spot where the sun shines brightly," he said softly. "And he will be considered among the greatest of the Deku Trees. All will come to hear his wisdom. He was a true hero."
"He was," I agreed. I let fall the handful of dust I held. I would miss Scrub.
"He told me that you taught him how to have courage."
I shook my head. "He's the one who taught me. I had courage because I'd always been strong. That was easy. He showed me I could have courage when I was weak too, which was much harder. I owe him a lot."
I left him by the tree and went back out the clock tower. The familiar bustle of the town moved around me, but it was no longer eerily predictable. I knew the faces, but I didn't know what they would do. Anything at all might happen! I felt light, as though I might float away. Everything was clean, and bright, and beautiful. And though there was a bit of an ache in my chest at the thought of being alone again, I felt a wonderful calm, knowing that the three warriors who had aided me were now at peace.
:You're not alone,: said Shadow with a soft laugh. :I'm here. I'm not that easily gotten rid of.:
I chuckled. But then I finally had to turn my attention to the last mask in my pack. :I'm also not quite alone because of this. But I don't know what to do with it. I don't know anything about it. And I'm not sure I want to put it on again to find out.:
:I haven't got a clue either.:
:The other masks were the souls of people. Is this one? But why does it look like me? It can't possibly be my soul, I'm still alive.:
:Last time we checked anyway. I don't know. I'm not sure there is anything we can do about it. Maybe we should just dump it somewhere?:
:Considering what happened when I put it on, I'm not sure I want to chance anybody else finding it.:
:Good point. So... what now?:
:Home,: I said.
:Yes. I wanted more adventure, to be needed and to help people. I got that, but not the way I'd hoped. I've changed, Shadow. I need time to rest, and think, and figure out what comes next. And Hyrule is a peaceful place. Termina...:
:Termina is full of ghosts.:
Outside of Clock Town I used my ocarina to call Epona. On her back, with the wind blowing through my hair, I tried to let the past few days, that were also an eternity, blow away. She seemed to know where to go, so I didn't guide her, I just let her run, across the field, through the woods, and then through an increasingly familiar forest until I came once more to the Lost Woods outside Kokiri Village. I was home.
The first major plot arc of this story is done! :) Thank you all for reading this far, I really appreciate it. I also appreciate feedback, comments, kudos, and all that stuff, so don't be afraid to leave some. There is much more of this story to come, and I will start posting chapters from the next major plot arc soon!
Chapter 7: Returning Echoes
In which ghosts prove to be restless.
Saria met me in the woods. I was glad, somehow, that it was her I saw first, and not Zelda. Saria understood me better. She was a Kokiri, an eternal child, but she was also older than I, and wiser. She didn't ask me what had happened, though she did answer when I asked how long I had been away.
"A little over a week," she said.
"A week." I shook my head, though when I added it up in my mind it worked out. I rode out one day, then there were the endless three days, then the four days I spent sending off my friends, and one day to ride back. Nine days. I had completely lost count, but I was sure I'd been at least a month, possibly more, in that endless loop. And I'd had enough experiences crammed into that time to age me several years.
Saria didn't pry. I wanted to tell her about it, but not until I was ready. And talking about Termina meant talking about Shadow, about having other people's voices in my head. I wasn't ready to share that with anyone yet, not even her.
I stayed in Kokiri Village for nearly a week. It was restful, an antidote to the darkness I'd endured. I even ventured back into the Lost Woods, and met the Skull Kid again, in the same place where long ago I'd taught him a song. I let Shadow take over, and the two of them played and pranked their way through a long afternoon.
Eventually, however, being among the Kokiri began to wear on me. They were children, and their priorities were children's priorities. They wanted to run and play, not to ponder and think, and they had a hard time leaving me alone. I was still, after all, a boy without a fairy, and they had not lost their taste for teasing. To them it had been only a few months since I'd begun my very first quest. They knew nothing of what I'd gone through, save Saria, and seeing her had begun to make my stomach clench, for I wanted to tell her everything, and yet I didn't quite dare.
But it wasn't my increasing annoyance with the Kokiri's childish nature that drove me from the forest. It was something else that happened one evening. Something that frightened me to the core.
It was late, and most of the Kokiri had retired to their beds. I had come to sit beside a little waterfall and think about what to do next. Hyrule's peace was soothing, it was good to be in a land where danger seldom came, and better to know that was in part because of me. But it didn't actually do anything for my problems. I was still an adult in a child's body. I still shared that body with Shadow, and possibly also with an unknown being who was a match for a mad god. And I still wanted a sense of purpose in my life. None of that had changed. I needed rest now, but the time would have to come when I would do something else with my life. But what? And what was I going to do about the one mask I had left?
I turned ideas over in my head for some time. But eventually I started going around in circles, so I stood, deciding to go for a swim. I dove smoothly into the pool... and came up wearing fins. Without even thinking about, and without a mask, I'd changed into a Zora again.
:What in Din's name?!: Shadow's sentiment matched my own. What had just happened?
:Mikau?: My heart was racing. I felt somewhat literally like I had seen a ghost. Mikau was supposed to be gone, and without his mask this was supposed to be completely impossible! And how was I going to change back again?
:Mikau?!: My call was nearly panicked. :Are you there? What's going on? Help!:
A very faint, sleepy-sounding voice finally answered. :Chill out little dude, I'm here. No need to freak.:
:What's going on?:
:Your guess is as good as mine, buddy.: I got a mental image of him blinking sleepily, slowly waking.
:How do I change back?:
Mikau finally came fully awake, and I could feel him looking through my eyes. He looked down at my hands, his hands, curiously. :I don't know, little dude.:
:If diving in changed you, maybe getting out of the water will change you back?: suggested Shadow.
I looked around, suddenly realizing that I might have been seen. Right now I looked more or less like any Zora, but if somebody had seen my change... but there was no sign of any observer. So no one would see if I changed back, then. Taking Shadow's suggestion I climbed out of the pool, but I still remained a Zora.
:You've changed how you looked in here, in the inner world before,: said Shadow. :And I can change more or less just by willing it. Maybe...?:
It was worth trying. I closed my eyes and willed myself to my normal form, picturing it, demanding that reality conform to my wishes.
When I opened them again I breathed a sigh of relief. It had worked. Although I couldn't imagine how. I was no mage! And I had no mask!
:I've always been able to change your appearance, although just in small ways,: mused Shadow. :Maybe this is related.:
:Maybe.: My heart was still pounding with fear. I couldn't help but think that something had gone horribly wrong. And even without the baffling puzzle of how I could change without a mask's magic, why was Mikau still with me?
:Mikau... I thought you'd gone on? I thought you'd had your last gig.:
:I thought so too, little dude. I felt so completely chill... And for a while there I could remember being me. I remembered meeting Lulu, and all my gigs with the band, and everything. But that's all gone again. I don't know...:
:I'm so sorry. I didn't want to trap you here with me.:
:Hey, don't be sorry. I like you, dude. I don't mind. The peace was nice, but living is nice too.:
:Is it really living?:
:Sure it is. I can swim, I can play, I can sing. Just find me a guitar and I couldn't ask for anything more.:
:I'll look for one,: I promised.
I went to my bed that night still feeling frightened. I didn't know what was going on. As I lay sleeplessly staring up at the ceiling, I heard another familiar voice. :You not need to fear. Is all right. We still here, is not so bad, is it?:
I put my arm over my eyes and sighed. :No it isn't so bad, Scrub. But I just worry. I don't understand why this happened, and if I start changing forms accidentally, people are going to notice.:
:Well, we've managed to control your turning into me,: said Shadow. :Nobody ever saw us do that. Maybe we can keep in control of this, now that we know it can happen.:
:I hope so,: I said. :I just wish I knew why!:
Darmani's voice, slow and a bit sleepy sounding, said, :Is there not some place in this land where one can learn about magics?:
:Hyrule Castle's library has a lot of books about magic,: I said.
:Then we should seek it out, and find if anything there speaks of such transformations.:
:Good idea, bro.: Mikau's voice was calmly cheerful. With all of them there, reassuring me, I felt better. Slowly I relaxed. We'd solved every problem we'd faced thus far. We'd solve this one too. And I had to admit that I'd missed them. It was good to have them with me again. I didn't understand how or why, and I couldn't help but feel selfish and guilty, a bit, but it was good all the same. They were my friends.
Hyrule Castle's library proved to be extensive. Perhaps a little too extensive. Looking at the vast room of books I realized that I had my work cut out for me. And I couldn't just go up to the librarian and ask him for books about how to deal with other people moving into your head. So for the time being I set the library aside to think about while I settled back into life among royalty.
Princess Zelda was happy to see me again. "I thought you were going to be gone for ages and ages! Did you find your fairy?"
"No," I replied ruefully. I'd nearly forgotten that I'd originally set out to find Navi. "I'll probably leave again eventually, but I had another adventure, and I needed to rest for a while after."
"You are always welcome here, Link." She smiled at me. I couldn't help but smile back. I liked Zelda. I liked her quite a lot, and I couldn't help but think, sometimes, that perhaps someday we might be something more than just friends.
:She's quite a catch, loverboy,: said Shadow teasingly.
:Oh shut up,: I replied, trying not to blush. I focused my attention on the princess, I shouldn't let Shadow distract me. "I should return the Ocarina of Time to you."
"No, keep it. It's yours. I'd only have to give it to you again when you go, after all."
I chuckled. "Thank you. It's already saved my life at least once."
"You'll have to tell me all about it, I want to hear."
"I will," I said, mentally making a note to figure out how much of the tale I could tell without getting into areas I wasn't willing to discuss. Should I mention the mask transformations at all? I probably could if I kept it just on the physical changes.
Once my things were stowed in my room at the castle I set off into the market town. I had a promise to keep.
Finding the instrument store was easy. Finding a guitar for Mikau was a little bit harder. I didn't know enough to pick one he would like, so he had to try every guitar in the store himself. Using my hands. Which meant that I couldn't help but fret that I would accidentally turn into a Zora right in front of the shopkeeper. But eventually when nothing happened I managed to calm down a little. Mikau was taking care to use my fingers and not try to change, and apparently that was enough.
"Those are all a little big for you, you know," said the shopkeeper. "I have some child size guitars in the back."
"But I'll grow up," I said, not wanting to explain the real situation. "So it's better to get one I can keep using for years."
"True, true." He smiled at me. "Nice to see a young man like yourself taking music so seriously." He turned back to the flute he was repairing, and I continued to let Mikau try guitars until finally he decided on one he liked.
:It's not as good as my old axe, but it's pretty sweet.:
"You have a good ear," said the shopkeeper when I went to pay. "That one isn't as flashy as some, but it has probably the nicest tone of anything in the shop."
"Thanks," I said with a smile, knowing that my own talent had nothing to do with it. Though I wouldn't mind learning to play, perhaps Mikau could teach me.
On my way back to the castle, guitar in hand, I had a thought.
:Does anybody else want anything?: I asked, directing the thought generally towards the inner space.
:I am mostly interested in seeing the library,: said Darmani, :so my wishes will be granted in the course of pursuing answers for you.:
:I like games. You play hide and seek with Zela again sometime, yes?:
I chuckled at Scrub. :Yes, I probably will, she likes games too.:
:I hide very well!:
:I just want the occasional night,: said Shadow.
I nodded my assent and continued on my way. But then I heard another voice. It was low, deeper even than Darmani's and with a rough, gravelly tone. :I... I should wish... a chance... to fight..:
I halted in the middle of the street, blinking. Somebody walking behind me shouted at me to watch where I was going, and I started walking again, but I was hardly seeing the cobblestones in front of me any more. :Who are you?: I asked.
:My name... hath been... lost.: The voice was halting, as though whoever it was had nearly forgotten how to speak. :I am the Fierce Deity... I know no more.:
I thought of the last mask, still resting in my pack up at the castle. :You're the one who fought Majora?:
:I... I don't know when I'll be able to fight next, I want to get my answers first. But I don't intend to stay here forever. Eventually I'm sure I'll find some new battle to fight.:
:That shall suffice: The sense of presence that had come with the voice faded, so I knew he was done talking to me. I was left wondering what had just happened. Fierce Deity? Did that mean that the mask's spirit really was a god? I had no idea. I resolved to see if the library contained anything about a Fierce Deity.
The next day I returned to the library, and this time I thought I could get away with asking about what I wanted to know. So I approached the librarian with cautious enthusiasm. "Excuse me, do any of the books here mention something called a 'Fierce Deity'?"
"Hmm. I'm not familiar with it, but I shall go check the catalog. Wait here please."
I watched as he went to a shelf filled with huge, identical volumes. He pulled one down and paged through it for some time, then smiled. "Ah yes, of course! Come here lad, I do have a book that mentions such a thing."
I trotted over to his side, and he led me among the towering shelves. He had to climb a ladder to get the book I needed. "There you are. Do you want to check it out, or read it here?"
"I'll just read here," I said. There were plenty of chairs and tables, and I didn't want to wait, I was very curious about what the book might say. As I sat down with it I sensed Darmani and Shadow sharing my eyes, they were apparently also curious about what I might find.
The book was titled "Tales From the Outlands." I paged through it. Obviously not all the stories there would be what I was interested in. But I stopped when I came to one titled, "The Fierce Deity and the Dragon."
:We're in luck,: said Shadow with an invisible grin. :That was easy.:
:Let's see what it says.: I settled back in the chair and started to read. The story began in the "haunted land of Termina." :So the author has been there then,: said Shadow dryly. I chuckled. Long ago, in the haunted land of Termina, the book said, in Ikana Canyon, but before the Ikana people ever settled there, a village stood. This village was being harassed by a powerful dragon. Their crops were destroyed, and all who went from the village to fight the creature never returned. The people of the village promised a great reward to any who could come slay it.
One day a tall hero with a magical sword came to the town. He told the villagers that he was on a quest, and had heard that they held the item he needed to complete it. They promised it to him, if he would only rid them of the dragon. So he lifted his great blade and went forth, and after a long battle the dragon lay dead.
But when he returned to the village, the villagers refused to give him his reward. He became enraged, and lifted his sword again. In madness and rage the hero leveled every house, until not one stone stood upon another, and he slew all that he found within the houses, and every animal also, and uprooted the very trees. The destruction was so great that the tiny handful who fled and survived knew that the hero must be a god.
The dead of that village became the first of the ghosts of Ikana. The living spread the tale of the Fierce Deity far and wide.
The story ended there, but on the next page was more, in a different handwriting. "This tale has been considered by some scholars to be one of the tales of the legendary Hero of Hyrule."
I considered that. The legendary Hero of Hyrule? That sounded familiar for some reason. I went to find the librarian again.
"Who is the legendary Hero of Hyrule this book mentions?"
The librarian looked surprised. "Why... the princess has told me that you are."
I blinked up at him. I was? But... "But the story in the book was hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago. That couldn't be me!"
"Oh well yes. Of course. The Hero is always reborn, you see. There have been many Heroes down through Hyrule's History. Though I don't recall... that is a book of outland stories, you say the Hero is in it too?"
"Yes, see?" I opened it and pointed.
"Ah of course! The Dark Hero of Termina. I'd forgotten about that little theory. I don't support it myself, but some past scholars think that the Hero appears in all lands, not just Hyrule. But that his nature can change, and the version of the Hero from a cursed place like Termina would be a darker one than the version we know. It's nonsense of course, there's only one Hero. But scholars are fond of speculating about such wild theories."
"Oh." The Fierce Deity had had my face... Maybe it wasn't as wild a theory as the librarian thought.
"Would you like to read more on past Heroes? We have an entire section of books on the subject. And perhaps..." He got a bright, hopeful look in his eyes. "Perhaps you could take a little bit of time, and tell me your own deeds? The princess has shared some with me, but if I had the story from you, I could write a book about it myself. To chronicle one of the tales of the Hero first hand would be an honor."
"I... uh..." I had no idea how to reply to that. I wasn't going to argue that I wasn't a hero, but I didn't know about this legendary business. I also didn't know about telling the librarian my story. :You could tell him as much as you've told Saria,: suggested Shadow. :Leave us out of it, but tell about Ganondorf. He might find that of interest.:
:Good idea.: "Yes, I can tell you about it," I said. "But not right now."
"Thank you! I'll do whatever I can to help you in return. Thank you so much! You are wonderful, thank you!"
I handed him back the book, feeling a little bit uncomfortable with his over-generous praise, and headed back to my room.
Mikau wanted to play, and I found his music to be calming, which I felt I needed after the surprises of the day. So back in the room I shut the door and let him take over. Meanwhile I turned my attention inward. On the little islet within my mind I found Shadow, and Darmani, and also the Fierce Deity, who once more leaned against the dead tree and seemed to ignore us.
"That was an interesting little story," said Shadow.
"Indeed. It falls in line with what little we know of him." Darmani gestured at the Fierce Deity. "And if he is Termina's counterpart to yourself, it explains why he has your face."
"Is that story true?" I went over to the Fierce Deity. Even though I wore my adult form here in the inner world, he was still much taller than I. "Did you slay a dragon and destroy a town?"
He turned his head and looked down at me. His eyes, I noticed, were white. Empty blanks that somehow saw. "I... I do not know. I can recall naught of my past deeds."
"None of us do," said Darmani thoughtfully. "That must mean something."
"Yes, but what?" I looked around, then sighed. This mystery was not unraveling easily.
Suddenly I felt a jolt of alarm, and found myself shoved back into my body. The guitar was still in my hands, and I could see sparkles of magic still hovering over me from the change from Mikau's shape to my own. I could also see the door swinging open. Zelda stepped into the room.
"Hi Link. You know you should be careful trying to do magic with a normal instrument like that. The ocarina is made for it, but that isn't." Her tone was gently scolding. My racing heart slowed a bit. She hadn't seen too much, thank the Three.
"I... uh. Yes, I'm sorry."
"What were you trying to do?"
"Oh, nothing really. Just playing around."
"Would you like to play a game?"
I smiled, and I could feel Scrub suddenly perking up inside me. He had been a little bored and very much wanted to play. "Sure," I said. "How about hide and seek?"
Author's note: Here's the first piece of the next plot arc. I had a lot of fun writing this one, I gotta say. I do have to wonder if any of my readers know where this is headed. If you guess right I won't tell you, of course. But all will be revealed in time. Or most, anyway. Not all mysteries are solved, some things will never be known. But why Mikau and company are still hanging around in Link's head will eventually be explained.
Chapter 8: Vengeful God
In which apologies must be made.
Darmani had seen the library, Mikau had his guitar, and Scrub had gotten to play hide and seek. Shadow too had claimed a bit of my time, though he hadn't gotten into too much trouble with it, thankfully. So as I set out from my room after lunch a week or so later I decided that it was time to let the Fierce Deity have what he wanted as well. I had no enemies to fight, but I could at least spar a bit with some of the castle guards. I'd done so a few times before leaving for Termina. And I could stand the exercise myself, it would keep me from letting my skills get rusty.
So I picked up my sword and shield and headed for the practice ground. It was a broad area behind the castle where the guards trained. The ground was dirt rather than flagstones, so that a fall would be less dangerous. A rough rail fence marked out the sparring circle at the center, with various exercise grounds scattered around it. On the far side there was an archery range, and tall pells for mounted practice. At some point I would have to bring Epona along and try my hand at combat on horseback.
Today Captain Matin was there. I knew him vaguely, but I hadn't seen him at the practice grounds before, I'd always sparred with one of the other soldiers. I was considerably better than most of them, so I'll admit I was happy to see the captain there. If he had the time to spar it would be nice to have a challenge.
I could sense the Fierce Deity's presence with me, and he seemed to agree. He didn't say anything, but his eagerness at the idea of combat was obvious. I was eager too. My research was going nowhere, and I was starting to get sick of dusty old books. I'd enjoyed some of the tales of the Hero that I'd read, but my attempts to find out about my problem were going nowhere.
And all that sitting and reading had me more than ready for a little physical action.
"What are you doing here, kid?" Captain Matin had come over to where I was limbering up.
I looked up at him, puzzled. "I'm here to spar." This was the practice ground, what else would I be here for?
"Aren't you a little young for that?"
I felt a flicker of anger. I was getting very sick of that reaction. "I know how to use a sword, sir," I said shortly.
He looked at the obviously well-worn blade that hung on my back, but apparently that was insufficient evidence for him. "Look, we're real soldiers here, kid. This is no place for playing games."
"I'm not here to play games." I was getting more and more angry. "And my sword isn't some kind of toy." I drew the blade and settled my shield into place on my arm.
Captain Matin looked a bit taken aback. With sunlight winking off the steel it was quite obvious that my sword, though a little shorter than the ones he and his guards carried, was quite real. And I knew my stance was real too, if perhaps slightly unorthodox. I'd developed my own fighting style, since I'd had nobody to train me.
"I can prove it to you. Come on."
"All right kid. But don't complain if you get hurt."
I narrowed my eyes. He was the one in danger of getting hurt. I saw several of the soldiers I'd sparred with before standing around, and I knew if he'd bothered to ask them they could have told him I was good. But he would obviously rather just assume things. Well, he was going to be in for a nasty surprise.
He drew his blade and took a defensive stance, obviously worried about hurting me. That was fine by me. I immediately went on the offensive. "Hya!" I drove forward, using my momentum to make up for my lack of reach. He was shocked by the quick, aggressive attack and had to take a step back to get space to block me. I attacked again, driving him back another step. I chased him nearly all the way around the practice ring before he finally got his feet under him and started countering properly. I was grinning broadly, and I could feel the Fierce Deity smiling with me, he obviously approved.
Captain Matin finally took the offensive for a bit, and I smiled more. This might actually be the challenge I'd been looking for. He was good, now that he wasn't underestimating me. I blocked all of his attacks, using sword and shield in turn. As we circled around I noticed that a bit of a crowd was gathering. Mixed in with the soldiers watching the bout were some of the castle servants. I caught a flash of pink and gold and realized that Zelda was watching too. I hadn't wanted to make a spectacle of myself, but there wasn't anything I could do about the audience.
Captain Matin nearly got a strike through my guard, and I turned my full attention back to the fight. I needed to tune out the watchers and concentrate on what I was doing or I might end up hurt. There were fairies and potions on hand, of course, but I still would rather not get injured.
I managed a block and counter combo that gave me the offensive again, and I drove the captain back several steps. He scowled at me, obviously not pleased with being beaten, and tried to drive me back in turn, but I held my ground and once again got off a counter that he just barely blocked. His scowl darkened as I pushed him back again and again. The Fierce Deity laughed inside my head, and I nearly laughed out loud myself. This was a lot of fun.
Then the captain suddenly took two steps back, and threw his shield at me! I deflected the unexpected missile with my own shield, but before I could take advantage of the situation the world went blindingly white. He'd thrown a flash-bang! I shook my head, stars spangling my vision. We hadn't agreed to a no-holds-barred combat, just a normal sparring match! Inside my head the Fierce Deity snarled with anger. This wasn't right.
Half-blind I could see just enough to get my sword up again, for he was still attacking me! Red-hot rage exploded within me. How dare he! How dare he use such a dirty trick! How dare he attack after nearly blinding me! This was supposed to be a practice, not real combat! What did he think he was doing? Something slipped loose inside me, and I let out a shout of rage in a voice that wasn't my own. I flung aside my own shield as the sword in my hand changed, and I changed to match it. Captain Matin, suddenly looking up at me rather than down, yelped in terror and ran, and I went after him, rage still hazing my vision. Around me chaos was erupting, but I didn't care, I had eyes only for the cowardly, base creature before me. I swung my blade, even though he was out of its reach, and a disc of power shot from the tip of it. He tripped, and the energy shot over his head to slam into the castle wall. Some of the crowd started screaming, and they scattered, trying to escape the practice grounds. I ran up to my fallen foe and raised my blade overhead.
"Stop!" A little girl in a pink dress darted in front of me, hands upraised. "Link, don't!"
Somehow I halted the sword's descent, bringing it to a standstill just above the girl's outstretched hands. Somewhere inside the creature of rage that I'd become I recognized the princess Zelda. What had I done? I'd nearly killed her, and I'd nearly killed Captain Matin as well! I dropped the sword, my hands gone nerveless, and then the world faded away.
I awoke in my bed, and for a moment I hoped it had just been a dream. Then I saw that Zelda sat in a chair next to my bed. She turned towards me when I moved and I felt a pang to see her face so lined with worry.
"Link! Are you all right?"
I sighed. "Yeah. I'm fine."
"I don't want to talk about it."
Her worried frown turned to a demanding glare. "There is a hole the size of a horse in the castle wall. Half the servants and guards are hiding in their rooms, convinced they're going to die, we're still trying to find everyone and reassure them. Captain Matin is in the infirmary having a nervous breakdown. My father wants to have you shut up in the dungeon so you can't do any more damage. It was all I could do to talk him out of it. And I just saw you turn into a ten foot tall giant with some kind of ridiculous magic sword that, by the way, changed back into a perfectly ordinary blade as soon as you dropped it. So want to or not you're going to talk about it."
"I'm sorry." I looked away from her. "Maybe your father is right and I should be locked up."
"No. You didn't actually hurt anybody, you just scared a lot of people. You don't need to be locked away. But you do need to tell me what's going on."
"I... I don't know exactly how to explain, but I'll try." So I did. I told her everything, about Shadow, and the masks, and the Fierce Deity too. I left out some of the details, but I told her enough that the sun was beginning to set by the time the telling was done.
"This is very serious," said said when I had finished. "A dark god, your evil shadow, and three cursed souls..."
"Shadow isn't evil! And the others aren't cursed," I protested.
"They've helped me. They're my friends."
"Even this Fierce Deity?"
"Without him I couldn't have beaten Majora and saved Termina."
"But Termina is a dark land, Link. Anything from there is suspect, even its heroes."
"Then I'm suspect too, Zelda. I'm a hero of Termina now, every bit as much as I'm a hero of Hyrule."
"No!" Her response was instant, and firm. "It's not the same. You're the Hero of Time, the Hero from Hyrule's legends. You belong here. I shouldn't have let you go wandering off."
I scowled at her. "I don't belong to you, Zelda."
"You belong to Hyrule," she said. "And I'm Hyrule's princess."
"Well you can start giving me orders when you're the queen," I snapped.
Zelda's eyes flashed. "I'll be the queen someday, and for right now if I need to I can have my father give you some orders. Orders to the dungeon, perhaps, he'd be happy to do that!"
:Hey, chill a bit, little dude. Don't get her riled up. Girls get dangerous when you get 'em riled up.: I tried to relax a bit. Mikau was right. Making Zelda angry would accomplish nothing.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to upset you. I'm just kind of worried."
Zelda looked away, and I could see her let out a sigh, trying to relax as well no doubt. "I'm sorry too. Link... is my father right? Are you dangerous? If you turn into some kind of... of rampaging monster..."
"I think I can control it. I only changed because, well..."
:Because his actions were greatly dishonorable,: said the Fierce Deity within me.
:Maybe they were, but trying to kill him was an over-reaction,: I replied. :And think of all the innocent people you could have hurt! Not to mention the damage to the castle.:
:I am... sorry. Thou art correct, the innocent should not pay for the sins of the guilty.:
"He says he's sorry," I said.
"The Fierce Deity. He says that he's sorry. He took over because he was angry about Captain Matin cheating like that. But he's sorry."
"Oh. Well... uh.... Okay." Zelda looked nonplussed. Apparently she didn't know how to talk to a voice living in my head.
:Although this captain should likewise tender his apologies. Against a child such tactics wert base and vile.:
:Hey now, don't you start that too! I'm not a child!:
:But in his eyes thou art. No doubt that is why he did react so, defeat at thine youthful hands was more than he could bear.:
:The way his dishonor was more than you could?:
:Ah. Indeed so.:
:He's got you there.: That was Shadow, laughing.
"Is he talking again? You look so intent..."
I looked up at Zelda and nodded. "Yes. He says that he thinks Captain Matin should apologize too, that it wasn't an honorable thing to use a flash-bang during sparring."
She smiled a bit. "He has a point. Although the captain isn't in any condition to do so right now, I think."
"I'm sorry too. Would it help if I went and apologized to him?"
"I'll speak with the healers and see. I really don't know if it would make him worse or not."
I nodded. I hoped I hadn't done the captain any permanent harm.
"I'll speak with the healers about your condition as well," said Zelda. I bit back an automatic protest. I didn't want strangers getting involved in this! But half the castle had seen me transform, so it was really pretty pointless to forbid Zelda to talk to others about it. "And if the healers don't know I'll see about consulting with the mages. Something has to be done to exorcise these spirits from you."
I nearly protested again at that, but managed to hold my tongue. I'd been seeking understanding, and control. If the royal mages could help me obtain that I'd be glad. But I didn't need nor want an exorcism! Shadow and the others were my friends, not my enemies. I'd be glad to let them go if they wanted, but we'd tried that already and it hadn't worked. I wasn't going to let some mage cast them out! Not unless I was certain they wanted to go, and that it wouldn't hurt them, at least. But it was obvious that Zelda had made up her mind that they were dangerous. So I just let her go off to consult with her advisers. The time for argument might come later, for now I'd see what else I could learn.
:She might be right, child,: said Darmani softly after she'd gone. :We don't know enough to be sure. Fierce Deity is certainly at least a little bit dangerous. And for all we know we're doing you some harm by sharing your body.:
:I really can't believe that. You've all helped me so much!:
:Darmani speaks well,: said the Fierce Deity. :I may have done thee ill.:
:Well the answer isn't just to try and destroy you all. I won't let that happen.:
:What then?: asked Shadow. :I mean, I appreciate not being destroyed as much as the next person, but this whole thing is a bit of a mess. If getting rid of us isn't the answer, what is?:
:Learning. Gaining control.: I thought about it. :I learned to use your skills once in Termina, with the masks. I need to learn that all over again, without them. I need to know how to change, and that way I should be able to control it, and not let it get away from me. More research is still called for, and I'll take whatever I can learn from healers and mages, but most of all I think I need to stop being afraid of this, and start practicing.:
:Is good,: piped up Scrub cheerfully. :Is very good idea! You have courage, always. Face this with courage, like all things.:
:Exactly. I've been so afraid of being found out that I let it cripple me. You are my friends, and your skills are assets to be used, not things to be feared.:
:Even mine?: was the Fierce Deity's question.
I laughed. :Yes, even yours. Especially yours. I didn't back down from facing Majora, why should I back down from facing you?:
:Majora fell to me, not to thee.:
:But you never would have gotten that far if not for me,: I said firmly. :And you're in my body now. I'm not going to let you just take it over whenever you please. I'm going to face you, and learn to use your skills, and we're going to figure out how to cooperate.:
:So certain thou art, little one.:
:We shall see.:
I wanted to mount up on Epona and ride out to find someplace safe to experiment first thing the next day, but Mikau pointed out that it might look to Zelda like I was running away, and she would probably assume something ridiculous, like that I'd been taken over and taken off against my will. So I didn't start immediately on my goal of gaining control of my ability to change forms. Instead I went back to the library. Since the secret was now out, perhaps I could ask the helpful librarian for the answers I needed.
He looked very nervous when he saw me come in. I didn't recall seeing him at the practice grounds, but even if he hadn't been there no doubt he'd heard about what happened. Actually that might be worse, rumors often grew in the telling.
I decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak. "So now that everybody knows I have a problem, I'll just ask. Do you have any books that are about involuntary magical transformations?"
"Uh. That's what...? Uhm. Yes. Yes of course. Mostly, uh, about the work of evil mages. Which I don't know... Is that...?" He was obviously very flustered. Shadow laughed inside my head, but I just found it annoying. Still, it could be worse.
"No, there were no evil mages involved. It's a long story really. It won't happen again, I can promise you that much." :So you hope,: said the Fierce Deity with a challenging air, and I shot him an internal glare. All right, so it probably wouldn't happen again, but there was some chance it might. The librarian didn't need to hear that, it would only scare him.
"Hmm. Transformations that weren't caused by evil spells. Hmm. Well, there is the Four Sword Hero, that was a very strange one, but it might relate in some way." He flipped through his indexes, and then led me to a spot where he pointed out several books. "These are all about the Four Sword Hero. This one in particular discusses the sword, and what is known of how it worked, so it might be of some use to you." He touched one book's spine. He turned to leave, then turned back. "And... uh... do you think you might have time today to tell me some of your story? The book I want to write... well..."
I knew that yesterday's events must be making him extra curious. And I had promised. Besides, there was no rush, I should probably stay here for at least another week or so, which would give me plenty of time to read all the Four Swords books."Sure," I said. "I'll tell you part of it, at least."
"Thank you! Just let me get a quill! I need to take notes!" He scurried off, and I smiled. That had gotten the last of the nervousness out of him, and he was back to treating me like a normal person, and not a dangerous lunatic that might go off at any moment.
:And just think about all the fun you have to look forward to now,: said Shadow. :Half the castle is going to act like that around you.:
:Ugh. Don't remind me.:
Shadow laughed. :Hey, just warning you so you'll be prepared.:
:Maybe I should make you deal with them.:
:I'd just scare 'em when I took over. They'd be sure you were turning into a demon or something.:
:Well, maybe I can figure out how to keep from changing when you take over. It'd serve you right to have to deal with some of this nonsense yourself.:
:Hey, it's not my fault!:
:Maybe not, but you seemed awfully gleeful about watching me suffer through it. It'd only be fair to let you share the pain.:
I chuckled at him. Then the librarian returned, and I turned my attention back to the outer world. I passed several surprisingly pleasant hours telling him my story. He constantly asked for more detail, and I found myself having to struggle a bit to dredge up memories that felt older than they really should have been. He took copious notes about all of it, and between that and the questions I had actually only gotten as far as obtaining the spiritual stones when we had to call a halt for the evening. Though I had explained to him about the time travel, and that these events hadn't actually happened to anybody but me. He noted that down too, without any sign of hesitation or disbelief, to my relief. It would make telling the story much easier if he wasn't skeptical about such things.
I was somewhat reluctant to leave, but I didn't want to be late to dinner. Zelda, in a fine diplomatic move, had invited me to dine formally with the royal family that evening. Zelda was young still, but she was already shaping up to be the queen she would someday become. I thought about that as I changed into my best tunic. In some ways she was much younger than I, but she hadn't had a normal childhood either, really. She'd been able to run and play, but she hadn't been able to live free of care or responsibility, those things had been part of her life for even longer than being a hero had been part of mine.
I'd been seeing her as a child because she was often childish around me, she obviously liked having me as a playmate. But yesterday I'd seen the princess, not the child. Perhaps she might understand me more than I'd thought.
The dinner would have been hilarious, were it not so aggravating. Everybody at the table except the king and Zelda herself acted as though I might jump up and attack them at any moment. A sudden reach for the salt and nobles flinched back. A turn to my neighbor and everybody on that side of the table recoiled.
Shadow was in stitches over the whole thing. I was just annoyed. I ended up leaning heavily on Mikau, who was better than I at staying calm and cheerful. Though I was glad I didn't have to say much, else my conversation might have been peppered with "dude." Which probably wouldn't have alarmed any of the nobles, but would certainly make Zelda wonder what was going on. And she was smart enough she might figure it out too. I wasn't certain how she'd react, but given how little she trusted the others, it probably wouldn't be good.
But by the end of the dinner the various nobles at the table had stopped jumping every time I moved. So Zelda had been right about that, at least. Now when somebody started talking about me, one of those here might say that they had dinner with me and I seemed completely normal. Given enough time the rumors would fade entirely, provided there were no further incidents. And I swore to myself that there wouldn't be.
Chapter 9: The Magic of Friendship
In which Link makes a welcome discovery, and in which an immovable object meets an irresistible force.
The Four Sword books had proved fascinating, but not necessarily helpful. The Hero they spoke of had been divided, one soul in four bodies. It was if anything the exact opposite of my own situation. Still, I took the tale as a hopeful one. The Four Sword had split the Hero, and yet he'd still been the Hero. Perhaps I too could change and become what I needed to, and yet still be myself.
So, when things had settled a bit at the castle, I took the opportunity to leave and seek someplace where I could practice and gain greater control.
I ended up going to the Zora's Fountain. There was a cave there, difficult to reach and hopefully deserted. I'd gotten there via a series of floating ice chunks once, though there was no ice now. A sheer cliff prevented me from just climbing out of the water. But Mikau could leap from the water just high enough to reach the cave entrance. Another Zora could probably duplicate the feat, but no other creature could, and the Zoras seemed disinclined to visit.
I went all the way through the cave, and found nothing more there than a few keese. And the deep pool of water I recalled still stood in the final chamber. It would provide a mirror for me, so I could see how my changes went.
I'd brought food, so I could stay as long as needed. So with everything now prepared, it was time to practice, and see what I could and couldn't do.
First I looked in the still pool, seeing my reflection, and willed myself to change to Shadow's form. The simplest possible transformation, and it turned out to be just that easy, for no sooner had I wished it than my hair darkened to black and my eyes turned red. I stood, and was mildly surprised to find I was still in control of my body. Always before I'd changed to this form when Shadow took over, but now I looked like Shadow while still being myself.
:Interesting,: said Shadow. :Change back, could you?:
:Sure.: With a thought I reverted to my usual self. Then I felt my feet moving without my having willed it, and the next thing I knew I'd walked back over to the pool and was looking down at my seemingly normal reflection, but now Shadow was the one moving my body.
:Wow. So you really could have made me deal with all those panicky idiots at the Castle.:
I laughed. :Yes. Although I don't know if I can force you to take over if you don't want to. Probably not.:
:We could try testing that.:
:After I finish testing the physical transformations, maybe. Speaking of which, can I have my body back now so I can get on with this?:
Shadow's presence retreated. Next I tried Scrub's form. That too was as easy as a thought. Willpower seemed to be all that was required. I tried blowing a magical bubble, but found it harder than I recalled. I finally managed it, but it had taken several tries. I would have to practice.
Darmani's form also came to me with a thought, but there too I found myself more clumsy that I'd been with the mask. Using his body entirely by myself was awkward, and it took a lot of tries before I could do the rolling trick that all Gorons knew. Though when Darmani himself stepped forward and took over he could do it easily.
Mikau's form proved to be much the same. Though I wasn't quite as clumsy, since he was of a height, and somewhat similar in build, to the adult form I'd grown used to, but I was a poor swimmer on my own.
I spent the first day practicing the changes, and practicing moving and using the skills of the three other forms. I was putting off the fourth one for the time being. I would get to it eventually, but there was no need to rush.
:Afraid?: The Fierce Deity asked.
:Nothing wrong with being afraid,: I said, thinking of Scrub. :And yes, a bit. But that's not going to stop me.:
I heard him laughing, but it wasn't a mocking sort of laughter, it was almost friendly. :Thou hast courage indeed, little one.:
Several days later I felt comfortable with switching back and forth, and was at least vaguely competent in all three forms. Though I shouldn't need to be, since I could ask the others to help me at any time. Still, it was always better to be prepared, just in case.
I'd also ventured an experiment to see if I might force somebody else to take over when they didn't actively step in. We'd discovered that I could do so, and they couldn't force me to switch back, but could easily switch with any of the others. So whenever I tried to keep Shadow pinned at the front of my mind, he slipped away and Scrub found himself the one in control. Which would, unless I acted very quickly, make me change to Scrub's form. Or Mikau's, or Darmani's, if that was who Shadow pushed forward. Shadow hadn't ventured to try and make the Fierce Deity run things, which made me suspect I wasn't the only one afraid of him. But obviously there was little point in my trying to push the others around. Asking them to help worked much better.
I had also ventured a few different experiments, one of which turned out better than I could possibly have hoped.
:If you can turn into any of us with just a thought,: said Shadow one day as I was practicing some more, :does that make you a shape-shifter? Can you turn into anything at all?:
:Good question. Let's find out!:
I decided to see if I could change into an animal. I pictured the great owl, that would be a useful form to have. I'd be able to fly! But no matter how I concentrated, nothing happened.
:So that's obviously a bust. Maybe you can only change into humanoid races?:
I nodded. :Well, let's try a Fairy then.:
:That would be pretty useful! You could sneak amazingly well at that size!:
:Except the glow would give me away. Fairies are actually pretty bad at sneaking. Now hush and let me concentrate:
I focused my will, concentrating on becoming small and winged, but still nothing happened.
:So you can only turn into things you've already used masks to turn into, I guess.:
:I didn't use a mask to become you though.:
:No. I used the mirror... I don't even know how I did it. I think it was just because I am sort of a mirror of you. Something symbolic. I don't know.:
:And you'd already existed too, when I fought you. So I can only turn into things I've already been in some way. I'd been you, sort of. But...: Suddenly my eyes went wide. :If I can turn into what I've been... Oh goddesses! I hope....:
I didn't reply, I just focused my attention. And I didn't even have to look at my reflection to know it had worked, I knew the feel of this body very well indeed. "Yes!" I said out loud. When I did look in the still water I saw what I had hoped to see. I was an adult again. And my sword and shield had changed with me, as my clothing always seemed to do. "Ha! Thank the three!"
Shadow snickered. :You are awfully excited.:
:Of course I am! I don't have to get taken for a child any more! I can be treated as an adult! I can stop having to prove myself over and over and over to idiots like Captain Matin.:
:You can start the rumors up all over again by becoming something else.: That was Darmani, being the voice of reason, as he usually was.
I sighed. :Damn. You're right. If I run around like this and claim to be the same Link, people are going to jump to all kinds of wild conclusions. Even if I don't make any claims some of them might still notice. I'm honestly surprised nobody has ever noticed Shadow.:
:I'm just sneaky,: he said with a grin.
:And don't forget your princess,: said Mikau. :The little dudette might not like you being all grown up when she's still a kid.:
:Yeah. Oh well.:
:But hey, the next time you go out looking for excitement, go like this. Nobody you meet outside Hyrule will bat an eye at it, dude.:
:True!: I perked up again. Maybe I'd have to deal with being a kid in Hyrule, but any further adventures abroad would be much easier without that handicap.
But with that discovery made there was only one more task for me to face. I took a deep breath and tried to mentally prepare myself. My stomach was in knots of anxiety, but I knew it had to be done.
I willed myself to take the Fierce Deity's form.
Every other time thus far I'd simply changed, without calling one of the others to the front of my mind to take over. But this time, called or not, he came. No sooner had the transformation finished than I felt my body begin to move without my command. The Fierce Deity turned, and walked towards the exit. I fought against him, and by an act of sheer will I bought his, my feet to a halt.
:No! I'm not letting you leave!:
:Who art thou to stop me?:
:I'm Link, the hero. I've stopped worse than you before.:
:Thou knowest naught of true power! Stand aside and let me free.:
:No. Just the fact that you need to ask tells me I'm a match for you.:
:Such arrogance thou hast, little one. Thou wouldst match me? Very well!:
Suddenly I found myself pushed back, flung inside myself. But the Fierce Deity hadn't managed to take control from me. Rather he had ejected us both together, for I found myself in the inner space, with him standing before me, sword raised. I had my own sword and shield as well. The sword, I saw with pleasant surprise, was the Master Sword, the one blade that had always felt most right in my hand.
He scowled at me, and swung his blade, but I rolled aside from the disc of energy he shot at me. I came to my feet laughing. If he'd meant to get the upper hand by making this into a physical contest, he had made a mistake. He was stronger, and had more reach, but I was fast and had vast amounts of experience dealing with enemies larger than I. And this was my own mind! I'd be damned if I was going to let somebody beat me inside my own mind!
At first it seemed I might be beaten after all, for although he was large he was very fast, faster than anything his size I'd ever fought. Time and time again he missed me by the thinnest of margins. But when at last his sword did connect and I thought it might be all over, the blade merely flung me across the room to land with a splash in the shallow water. I should have been severely injured, but I was barely even shaken. I got to my feet with a grin and leapt back into battle with renewed determination. Why exactly I hadn't been injured I didn't know, probably just because this was all within my mind, but if I couldn't be hurt I was going to take some risks.
He hit me several more times, but I eventually got more than just a touch on him, I ran my blade straight through him. Though when I pulled it out it was bloodless, and he was no more injured than I had been.
The Fierce Deity scowled at me. "This fight is futile, thou canst not harm me."
"You can't hurt me either. So why not give up?"
"I shall never yield."
"I won't either."
"Then we are at an impasse."
"Indeed." I laughed again and resumed my attack. Our swords clashed again and again. And again and again one of us managed to score on the other. I just smiled and picked myself back up each time it happened, but the Fierce Deity's scowl deepened every time my sword touched him. He obviously wasn't pleased with how this was going. Then abruptly he grinned again, with a new viciousness to it that made me wary.
Suddenly I found myself back out in the real world, still wearing the Fierce Deity's form, but in control this time. I went over to the little pool and smiled at my reflection. "So does this mean I win?" My voice, interestingly, was his voice and not my own, though I knew I was the one who had spoken.
:Thou hast won in this moment. But there shall be other moments.:
:I see. So you're saying that every time I want to use your form, I'll have to fight you for it, is that it?:
:You realize that that's likely to get us both killed?:
:Yes. In case you hadn't noticed, you live in my head now.:
:Nay, my soul is held in the mask.:
:Is it? It reaches over very long distances then. Because I left the mask back at Hyrule Castle.:
There was silence for a long time. When it became clear that he had no answer to that, I continued. :Whatever happens to me, happens to us all. It's in our best interests to work together.:
:I am not a slave. I shall not simply bend to thy will!:
:I never said anything about bending to my will, I said we should work together. I've already done you one favor. And you didn't repay me particularly well for it, I might add. Our interests run side by side here. You like to fight. You're a hero of sorts too. You want justice, to see evil get what it deserves, yes? Well, that's what I do. Cooperate, let me trust you, trust me in turn, and you'll get everything you want. You liked beating Majora, didn't you? There will be other such quests in the future. If I have to constantly fight you, I'll never be able to trust you to help me with them. But if I can consider you a friend...:
:I am not given to friendship,: he said. But he sounded thoughtful, and I knew he hadn't rejected my proposal entirely.
:Think about it. But right now it's late, and I'm tired.: I returned to my adult form, which I found the most comfortable, and set about preparing for sleep. I could still feel the Fierce Deity brooding in my head. Apparently I'd given him a lot to think about. I wondered, as I drifted off, whether the others inside my head still dreamed. Would he dream of me? Would I dream of him? Or maybe my whole life was nothing but a dream, and I would awake tomorrow in my home in the Kokiri Village, still just a boy without a fairy and not a hero at all.
If there were any dreams that night I didn't remember them. I woke, still my adult self, still in the cave where I'd come to practice in solitude. So either this was real or the dream continued a little longer.
I decided there was no reason to wait, so I immediately stood and changed into the Fierce Deity's form. I think I managed to take him by surprise, for I wasn't instantly pushed aside. When he did try to take control, this time I was the one who pulled him with me into the inner space. I can't even say how I did it, exactly, it was mostly just an act of will. Which I suppose makes sense since this was all in my own mind.
We faced each other next to the dead tree, swords in hand. Then he sighed and rested the tip of his on the sand. "Thou art most determined," he said.
I lowered my own sword and nodded at him. "Yes."
"I have pondered upon what thou didst say yesterday. I still am not inclined towards... friendship. But thou art a worthy ally. And it seems that thou wilt continue to fight me until I yield."
"I've never given up on a fight so far," I said.
"Nor have I, yet... thou art correct that we could do much as allies rather than enemies. So I am willing to aid thee for a time, at least."
I smiled. "Thank you," I said. Of course he might be lying, though I wasn't sure if I could be lied to here, it seemed like I would know if somebody lied inside my own mind. Even so, he might change his mind later. He might do any number of things. But the foundation of friendship was trust. I had trusted Shadow when I'd had every reason to believe he was Ganondorf's creature. I would trust the Fierce Deity too. So I sheathed my sword and stepped forward, hand outstretched. He looked at me blankly for a moment, then sheathed his own immense blade. He took my hand, his hand completely engulfing mine. But I shook it firmly, and he smiled at me.
I felt we were off to a good start.
I spent all that day wearing his form, learning how to be comfortable with it, as I had with the others. It was very strange being so tall. My normal sword felt ridiculously tiny in my hand, and I couldn't even use my shield at all. I had to duck to get through doors. Zelda hadn't really been exaggerating when she'd said the Fierce Deity was ten feet tall. Or at least not by much. But once I'd adjusted to the changed scale of things it wasn't actually that different from simply being myself. We were incredibly alike. I wondered again at the idea that he was somehow a counterpart to me, Termina's version of myself from the distant past. Was I really some endlessly reincarnated being? Something in all those stories of past Heroes had resonated with me, but was that just because they'd had the same goals as I, or were we really somehow the same person, down through all those years?
:Some things don't have any answer,: said Darmani. :We will probably never know.:
:I suppose it doesn't really matter. Whatever our connection in the past, we're allies now. And someday perhaps friends as well.:
:Thine insistence upon friendship is amusing,: said the Fierce Deity. :But mayhap e'en such a strange thing may be.:
:Already you've moved from treating me as an enemy to being an ally, and now you admit friendship might be possible. I think it won't be long until we're bosom companions.:
:Nonsense,: he replied, but I could tell he'd said it with a smile.
The next day I returned to Hyrule Castle. I wasn't sure what would happen next. I knew that by now Zelda would certainly have consulted with her healers and mages. I was a bit surprised, honestly, that I hadn't been ambushed by them before I'd left. Perhaps she'd been putting it off for some reason. If that was the case then my absence had prompted her to cease delaying, for no sooner had I returned than I found myself turned over to them by a worried-looking princess.
I was poked and prodded at for quite some time. The chief healer then attempted to take Zelda aside and talk to her away from me, but I was having none of that. Whatever they'd found, I wanted to know about it.
They both stared at me when I followed them, but I just stared back. After a long, uncomfortable silence, I felt Shadow claim my voice. "What's the bad news? Hmm?"
"I don't think..." The healer looked at me, and at the princess, and moved as though to step away from me again.
"I'm the one who has the problem, I'd like to know what it is," I said.
Zelda nodded at me. "You can tell him."
The healer hesitated, then gave in. "Very well. This is a highly unusual case. Ordinarily this sort of thing is very clear cut, either a person is possessed or they are not. Link however... His aura does contain multiple parts, there's no doubt of that. Six of them, in fact." I nodded. That added up. Shadow, Scrub, Darmani, Mikau, the Fierce Deity, and myself. "But they are not completely separate. In a normal case of possession each soul is quite distinct, and of course that makes curing such cases not too difficult, one merely performs the correct ritual and banishes the extra souls. The natural soul resists banishment since it's attached to the body. But all of his souls, or whatever they are, are attached to his body. And in fact they're attached to each other as well. Like some kind of... spiritual conjoined twins."
:Very interesting,: said Darmani.
"So what does this mean?" asked Zelda?
"It means we can't just exorcise him."
"Good," I muttered, then instantly regretted it. Zelda gave me an annoyed look, and the healer looked shocked.
:Well, in for a rupee, in for a fifty,: I heard Shadow say, and I nearly laughed. :Might as well explain it to them.:
:Indeed.: "I don't consider my... condition to be a problem. I did have one troublesome incident, I'll admit that much, but I have things under control now, and without the others I'd never have saved Termina, among other things. I don't want them exorcised or banished or anything like that. They're my friends."
"I... what?" The healer looked incredulous.
"You trust them too much," said Zelda. "They have too much influence on you. Shadow was Ganondorf's creation, this Deity might well be evil, and the others are cursed spirits. Maybe they've helped you so far, but how do you know they're not corrupting you?"
I sighed. "I just know. They're not evil. They've never done anything evil."
Zelda arched her brows in an incredulous look. "Attempting to murder Captain Matin isn't evil?"
"Captain Matin provoked him rather severely, and he's apologized for that, as have I."
"But how can you trust that it won't slip loose and try to kill somebody else the next time it sees some ridiculously minor slip up?"
I frowned. "A captain of the royal guards playing a dirty combat trick in order to keep from being seen losing is not exactly minor, Zelda. You know that."
She pouted, which irritated me more, the childish expression didn't suit her at all. "I still say they can't be trusted."
"And I still say I trust them. I'm the one that would know."
"No, you're the one they have the most influence on." I scowled at her, feeling frustrated. She reached out and took my hand. "Link... please. I know you think of them as friends, and maybe they are. Maybe I'm wrong. But you have to at least consider that I might be right. What then? I don't want to see you get hurt by them. I don't want to see you turn into something evil."
"Zelda..." I sighed. I could sympathize with her point of view. "What do you want me to do? How can I prove that they can be trusted?"
"If there was a way to show they're not evil..." She looked thoughtful. "There have been talismans that evil can't touch."
"The Master Sword, for one."
She shook her head. "But we can't unseal the temple, Ganondorf is still out there somewhere, waiting for just that. And anyway, I'm not sure that would be enough. Just because you could hold it, that would just mean they hadn't corrupted you yet."
"Maybe there's something else that would prove it. I've been doing a lot of research lately, I all ask the librarian about holy talismans and such."
She smiled. "Thank you Link."
I gave her a little bow and smiled back. "Always happy to serve you, princess."
The librarian was glad to see me. He practically tackled me and insisted I finish telling him my story. I'd gotten nearly the end of the quest to find the sages before I'd left, so I obliged him by telling him the rest of it, including my battle with Ganondorf, and how the princess had then sent me back in time to prevent the mistake that had allowed him to gain power.
When he'd finished taking notes, I asked him my question. "Do you know of anything, any holy relic or such, that can prove a person isn't evil?"
"Interesting question. Well, the Master Sword can only be wielded by a true Hero, so there's that."
"But we don't have access to it. And anyway, if somebody couldn't use it, they might still be good, but just not a hero."
"True. Let me think." His brow furrowed, and I could practically see the mental pages turning. Then he smiled. "Ah! Of course. The Soul Mirror."
"It's also called the True Mirror. It's a legendary talisman that shows the true nature of one's soul."
I remembered one of the stories of the Hero I'd read. "Is that the one that helped defeat the Shadow Prince?"
"No, that's the Mirror of Truth. That simply reveals things that are hidden, much like the Eye of Truth. And that's one of the less reliable of the old tales, it may be entirely fictional. I've never found a reference to it that predates Jordanis's version, which was obviously not a scholarly document." He coughed. "In any case, the Soul Mirror is something else entirely. It shows one the nature of one's soul. It would show any taint of evil a person bore."
"What about if a person were... er... possessed?"
"I believe that would be quite evident as well."
"And you could tell if the possession was by something evil?"
"Cases of benign possession are quite rare. But yes, you could tell. It reveals the full truth about any soul seen in it."
"Where could I find it?"
"Well, I can't quite recall..." My disappointment must have been obvious, for he immediately continued, "Don't worry, I know it's in one of these books here somewhere. I'll look it up for you. I've read far more than I can possibly remember lad, especially at my age."
"Thank you, I really appreciate it."
"It may take a moment," he said. I smiled, taking the hint, and went to get one of the volumes on the Hero that I'd been reading. The stories always made me feel strange, since they might well have been about me, but I also always found them enjoyable and interesting.
The librarian scurried around the library, looking up this book and that, and collecting a small pile of assorted volumes. He paged through several of them and put them back, and finally seemed to find something of interest in one. "Ah, here we are. Yes, the legendary Soul Mirror. And this book is a collection of tales from Calatia. So it lies outside Hyrule, but you will not have to go far. Though the road hasn't been maintained in centuries, we have little contact with them these days. But Calatia lies just on the other side of Death Mountain."
I considered that. I hadn't seen any signs of a pass over the mountains when I'd been there. But then I hadn't really been looking. I could ask the Gorons, they would probably know. And whatever might block the road, I was sure I could climb over it or clear it. I had many abilities at my disposal, after all.
"Thank you," I said to the librarian. Then I turned and headed for my room with a lift in my heart. I was headed off on another adventure! And whatever worries Zelda had, I had none. I would find the mirror, prove that my friends weren't evil, and return triumphant. This quest would hold no surprises, for I knew I could trust Shadow and all the others. All I had to do was to convince Zelda to agree.
Chapter 10: Deep Troubles
In which Link discovers he may not be completely grown up after all, and in which Shadow gets into trouble.
Zelda wanted to come with me at first. Then she wanted to send an escort with me, to make sure I got through the pass safely. Then she wanted to organize an expedition to clear the road to Calatia and open trade relations with them. I managed to veto all of those, though opening the pass again wasn't a bad idea, but I wasn't going to wait for months while the job was done, I wanted to be on my way immediately. And I certainly wasn't going to take Zelda with me, even if her father would let her go. I knew she was more capable than her age suggested, but she was still a ten year old girl, and she did still have her duties to the kingdom, she shouldn't just take off to go on an adventure with me. Fortunately she knew that as well as I did, so it didn't take too much arguing.
Though her final point was a valid one. "If I can't see you in the mirror, how will I know that these spirits are friends as you insist?"
"Perhaps I can bring it back with me," I replied. "But I promise, Zelda, if I see that the others are evil, I'll tell you. I wouldn't lie about something like that. I don't think they are, but if it turns out I'm wrong, I'm not going to pretend otherwise."
She sighed, and pouted again. "Very well."
I gathered together my gear, including the Fierce Deity's mask. I wasn't going to leave it behind when I had no idea how long I'd be gone. If somebody else found it and decided to put it on, who knows what might happen?
This time, however, I didn't summon Epona. I was going to be traveling over rough terrain, and I was also going to be traveling as an adult. She was too small to bear me. A few more years would have to pass before I could take her with me adventuring. That parting made me sad, but it was necessary.
Instead I shouldered my pack and set off up the trail to Death Mountain and beyond on foot. I had a map showing where the old trade road lay, I had plenty of supplies, and I had my five companions with me. That should be all I needed.
The road over the mountains was rough indeed. There were places where I could walk across cleared, level ground, but most of it was covered in rock slides, and in some places part of the road itself had slid away, leaving gaping chasms I had to cross. One way or another though I passed all these obstacles. The Fierce Deity in particular was helpful, for his longer stride and great reach was often sufficient to simply leap or climb over things that were impassable to my normal form. Though I learned the hard way that his greater weight made unstable ground more likely to collapse beneath me. But a swift change to Scrub's light for saved me from a deadly fall, and I soon learned to judge which rocks could bear his weight and which couldn't.
At last the road began to descend, and was less and less often blocked, until finally I reached a place where it showed some signs of use. I was among the foothills now, and there were paths that branched from the main road. At the end of one I glimpsed what might have been a house. But for now I didn't want to detour. Every so often up ahead I caught a glimpse of what seemed like a sea of golden yellow. I didn't know what to make of that, but I knew the road led to Calatia, so I continued to follow it.
After another day of travel I reached that golden shore, to find that in front of me stretched a seemingly endless field of wheat. It was high summer now, so the grain was nearly ripe. Ripples of wind danced over it, all the way to the distant horizon. I'd never seen anything like it. At intervals fences broke up the unchanging mass, and there were dirt roads winding among it, and farms dotted here and there, but nearly every bit of ground I could see was covered in wheat.
:How many people must there be in Calatia, if this is what they need to feed them all?: asked Darmani thoughtfully.
:A lot more than in Hyrule,: I replied, still staring. I shook off my amazement and started walking again. I was headed to Calatia City itself, where the royal castle lay. There would, hopefully, be a library there, with a helpful librarian, and I could find out if the Soul Mirror was real, and where I might find it.
I walked for nearly a week through the fields. There was occasionally some other crop, but for the most part there was simply wheat, surrounding me each morning when I woke and each night when I stopped to rest. And each day I thought I must surely be near the end of it, only to find yet more ahead of me during the next day.
There was a village a few days along. I asked there about the city, to be sure I was headed towards it, but I didn't linger.
When I reached the city I had to stop and gawk again. I had caught vague glimpses of it all that day, but I hadn't been able to make sense of what I was seeing until I came to the top of a hill and saw the whole thing spread out in front of me.
The first thing my eye went to was the castle. It perched atop a hill that stood at the center of the city. Around it stood a broad swathe of green, a band of parkland that was surrounded in turn by a high stone wall. Beyond the wall was a jumble of buildings, most of them quite large and elaborate, dotted with more patches of green where gardens and parks stood. That was surrounded by a second, slightly lower wall, and beyond that was a completely chaotic tangle of mostly smaller buildings, from this distance I couldn't tell what they were. The river wound among them, passing beneath a third wall in order to do so. Outside this third wall there were yet more buildings, though these were all small, mostly little thatched houses like those I'd seen in the village I passed through.
I stood for a long time and stared. The castle atop the hill didn't seem to be more than two or three times the size of Hyrule Castle. But the city... That was easily a hundred times as big as any town in Hyrule! I'd never seen, nor imagined, anything like it. You could put the entire population of Hyrule and Termina together into it and not take up a tenth of it!
:Dude,: said Mikau. :Just... just... dude! Look at it!:
:How do we find mirror in all that? How do we even find library?!: Scrub sounded intimidated. I had to admit I was as well.
:We will ask. Those who live here cannot spend all their lives lost. We will be able to get directions.: Darmani was as calm and collected as always.
:And just think of how much trouble I could get up to there!: Shadow laughed.
:I think I'd prefer if you tried to stay out of trouble,: I said.
The rattle of a cart coming up behind me reminded me to get moving again. Soon I had passed inside the first set of gates, along with a trickle of other traffic that shared the road with me. Inside the walls the streets were jammed with people going to and fro. So was the river itself, small boats thronged the stretch within the walls and larger ones sailed up and down outside them, headed for other towns or cities beyond, no doubt. The noise was astounding, I'd never heard such a racket. And the stench was appalling. So many people crammed in together! And all of them seemed to be Hylians, I saw no Deku Scrubs or Gorons, and only a handful of Zoras, all on the river or the docks, none in the city itself.
I wandered the streets for some time, trying to work my way up towards the castle. I figured that the library would probably be there. But none of the streets ran straight, and it seemed as though every time I found one that turned towards the hill it then twisted away from it. Or if it did run towards the hill it simply dead ended in a wall.
Eventually I realized that I was getting nowhere. So I decided to take Darmani's suggestion and ask for directions. A man with a sword by his side, whose uniform vaguely reminded me of the Hyrule Castle Guard, proved thankfully to be friendly and helpful. "The library, you say? No, it's not in the castle, it's in the first circle. Go two blocks over to Octoroc Street and follow that up the hill, that will get you to the second wall gate, and the guards can direct you to the library from there." He pointed, and when I got there the street in question went almost straight to the gate. The guards watching over the traffic that went in and out through it were also helpful, and finally I reached the library itself.
I'm not sure what I expected. Hyrule Castle's library was one large room, lined in books and with more shelves standing free from the walls, and I had thought it held many books, but this... it was a building perhaps half the size of Hyrule Castle itself. I went inside the vast double doors with trepidation. How was I to find anything in this?
"May I help you?"
I turned to see a young man sitting behind a desk just inside the entrance. Behind him the wall was lined with tiny little drawers, each one carefully labeled. I wondered what they held, they were obviously too small to contain books.
"Uh. I hope so. I'm looking for books about something called the Soul Mirror. Do you know anything about it?"
"I'll look it up for you. But first, what township are you from?"
The young man looked me up and down. "Ah. A foreigner, are you?"
"I'm afraid the library is provided for the use of citizens only."
I blinked. "What?"
"I can't help you, sorry."
He picked up a quill and started writing something in a ledger in front of him, rather pointedly ignoring me. I could have just walked on into the library itself, but what good would that do me? I had no idea how to find anything. I could see through the open doors of the entryway where we stood into the main building, and there were bookshelves that reached to the vaulted ceiling above. There had to be hundreds of thousands of books.
Feeling a sinking sense of hopelessness I turned and left the library. I was a speck in this place. Nobody knew my name. Some people might help me, others obviously wouldn't. I sat down on the library steps and watched the people hurrying back and forth in front of me. What was I going to do now?
:It's getting dark,: said Shadow. :And you need rest. We should find someplace to stay.:
:How? Where? I don't know what to do...:
:Let me then.:
:You? You don't know any more about this city than I do.:
:No, but you're tired, and I'm not. Night is my time.:
I stepped aside and let Shadow take over. In the gathering twilight I doubt anybody noticed my hair and clothing slowly fading to black. Shadow got to his feet and started threading his way through the streets. I noticed that he was re-tracing the path we'd taken to come here. He passed beneath the wall, out into the second circle, without stopping to talk to the guards.
A moment later, laughing softly, he had scaled a building and was going from rooftop to rooftop. The skills that had let us navigate ruined temples and magical towers were now employed to cross the city. He went from house to house, only seldom coming down to the ground. When we were almost back to the outermost gate he finally dropped down to the street.
It was fully dark now, though there were still people out and about. But the street was much less crowded than it had been. Still, I recognized an intersection we'd passed through on our way in. He'd been re-tracing our route via the rooftops. "Aha," said Shadow softly. He was looking at a sign. I'd seen that as well, but hadn't thought anything of it. Apparently Shadow, however, had noticed it. I had to laugh silently at him, for the sign bore the painted silhouette of a dancing female form. Below that the sign proclaimed the building to be the "Dancing Maiden Inn."
:We can stay here,: he said.
:I suppose so, we do have some rupees to spare.:
:Want to take back over again?:
:You can stay if you like, I don't care right now.:
:Good. I'll get us a room and see about some dinner too then.:
Inside, the first room proved to be a bar, with stairs leading up to the sleeping chambers above. The bartender gave Shadow a key in exchange for a handful of rupees. Another few rupees bought us a meal, and Shadow ordered ale with it as well. I nearly objected, but in the end said nothing. I'd said Shadow could run things, it would be rude to berate him for his choices. And I had to admit I was a bit curious about ale myself.
Shadow took a sip, and we could both taste it. It was quite possibly the worst thing I'd ever tasted. :Ugh. That's terrible!:
:It's not so bad.: Shadow took another drink.
:Gah. I know you're tasting the same thing I am, and I don't know how you can stand to.:
Shadow laughed silently. :It's really not that awful. I'm sure I'll get used to it eventually.:
:I don't know why you'd want to.:
:If it bothers you that much you can always go into the inner world and not taste it.:
:Maybe I should.: I was reluctant to leave though. Shadow seemed to be in a mood to look for trouble, and I wanted to keep an eye on him.
He finished the mug along with his dinner, then went up to the bar and got a second one, which he immediately swigged from.
:What?: He was grinning, and I already felt a faint touch of something strange from the first drink. I was a little light-headed, and Shadow seemed to be positively giddy.
:I don't think getting drunk is a good idea.:
:Why not? We're at a bar, people go to bars to get drunk. I've always wondered what it's like to get drunk. So now I can find out.:
:I don't know... what if something happens?:
:Then you can take over!:
:I feel kinda... uh...: Shadow took another deep swig of the horrible-tasting stuff. :Kinda odd. I think it's making me drunk too.:
:Then we can both be drunk together!:
:And if we get attacked, or something?:
:Hell, let Deity handle it.:
:Woah. Bad, bad, bad idea. I mean what if he's drunk too? He's bad enough sober!:
:Let's ask! Hey Deity! You drunk?:
:Thou art a ridiculous creature.: The Fierce Deity's voice was darkly amused. :But yes, I do seem to feel the affects.:
:Ale makes your body drunk, not your soul, dude.: Mikau laughed. :So I guess we all are.:
:Great.: That didn't exactly thrill me.
Shadow had made his way back to his seat, and was rapidly finishing off the second mug. :All right, I'll stop at two. We're not actually drunk, I'm not tripping over my feet or anything! Don't worry so much, Link.:
:Sorry. I just am not sure this is a good idea.:
:Link is probably wise to be concerned,: said Darmani. :We are in a strange land. It will be easy enough to make mistakes without adding ale to the problem.:
:Fine, fine, I get the picture.: Shadow sighed melodramatically. :I'll be good now, don't worry. Anyway, this one's all gone.: He set the empty mug on the table.
Shadow looked up. A girl had sat at the table, across from him. She was pretty, though she wore more paint on her face that I was accustomed to seeing. Her dress was long, but her blouse was cut very low, and Shadow's eyes dipped down to it. I could feel his cheeks heating.
"What's a handsome fellow like you doing here alone?"
"Uh..." :What do I say?!:
:Say you could ask her the same thing,: said Mikau. :You'll be saying like she's pretty, girls like that.:
"I could ask you the same thing," said Shadow a little unsteadily.
She smiled charmingly. "You're too kind."
:What are you two doing?: I asked.
:Flirting,: said Mikau laughingly. :Tell her that it's only the truth, she's beautiful.:
"It's only the truth, you're very beautiful." Shadow sounded a bit more confident that time.
"Well, thank you. Could a handsome fellow like you perhaps see your way to buying a pretty girl like me a drink, then? And perhaps, if you have the rupees, you could buy a little bit more." She winked. Shadow swallowed.
:Is she suggesting what I think she's suggesting?:
:I think she is, little dude. I guess there's a girl on the sign here for a reason.: Mikau was still laughing, amused. I had no idea how to feel about this sudden turn.
Shadow apparently decided to keep going despite this new revelation. He grinned at the girl. "I'll get you a drink, certainly."
He got up and headed for the bar. I could feel the world spin just a bit as he rose, but we were still steady enough to walk a straight line to the bar.
:Shadow... what do you think you're doing?:
:Living,: he said with a silent laugh. :Which is all I've ever wanted to do.:
:But she's, uh...:
:A girl for hire, probably, yes.:
:Am going to buy her a drink. And me a drink, I think. And then I may well pay for her services, yes. We're not short on cash or anything.:
:It's not the rupees that I'm worried about:
:You don't need to be involved. Just go inside and don't watch if you don't want to.:
:Watching or not, it's still going to be my body you're doing this with. I'm not sure I like somebody using my body for, uh... That. I've never, I mean, my body's never... er...:
There was a kind of mental throat-clearing from Mikau. :Uh. Actually, little dude...:
:Your body has. When I said goodbye to Lulu, she kinda insisted.:
Shadow had reached the bar, and I didn't say anything when he ordered two more ales. I was still trying to process what Mikau had just told me. I watched as Shadow handed the girl one, and took a drink from the other. It didn't taste as terrible as it had before. Were we getting used to it? The girl put her hand over Shadow's and smiled at him. I could feel his reaction. His heart, my heart, was racing. How was I supposed to feel about this? I'd always given Shadow the freedom to live as he wanted, as long as he didn't do any harm to himself, or me, or anybody else. This wasn't doing harm, was it? But it was still my body. But Mikau had done the same before, even if I hadn't known. How could I have not known? The third ale was starting to go to my head. To our head. Shadow was laughing, probably too much. But the girl kept leaning in close, touching him, complimenting him.
I could feel his reaction to that too.
Should I try to stop Shadow? Should I retreat inside and try to ignore what he was doing? I suspected the answer to both of those was yes, but for some reason I didn't do either. I didn't consciously choose to stay, but I was still sharing Shadow's senses when he took the girl by the hand and led her up the stairs to the room he'd paid for earlier.
:Are you... are you sure we should do this?:
:I'm sure I should do this. You can stay or go as you like.:
:I just... is this right?:
:You keep insisting we're adults, Link. So what could be wrong about it?:
I didn't have any answer to that. Inside the room, with the door shut behind them, they started doing things. The girl kissed him, and I could taste her. Her hands were all over, touching everywhere. My body was reacting to everything she did. I could feel the need that I knew was driving Shadow. But when she pulled him into the bed I finally had to admit: adult or not, I wasn't ready for this. I retreated to the inner world, and sat alone on the little island there, and did my best to ignore everything that Shadow was doing.
I woke up the next morning in charge of my own body again. I was alone in the bed, somewhat to my relief, I don't know what I'd have done if the girl was still there.
:You're not upset... about last night, are you?:
I shrugged. :No. Just... uncertain. I don't know how I should feel about it.:
:Don't worry about it. It was your choice. I'm not going to insist you do everything the way I would, I know we're not the same person. Anyway, we should be worrying about what to do next. Without access to the library, how are we going to find out where the mirror is?:
:We'll just have to try asking people, I guess.:
I got up and gathered my gear. Then I set out into the city in search of some rumor of the Soul Mirror. I asked everyone I could find, the guards, the ordinary citizens, the Zoras and other traders on the river, everyone. But all I got in return were shrugs and blank looks of incomprehension. The people of Calatia seemed to have never heard of the mirror. Perhaps it was only a myth, and not real at all.
Feeling incredibly frustrated, I gave up at sunset and let Shadow take over. He seemed to be better at navigating the city. I'll admit I'd gotten a bit lost while we'd wandered, trying to find somebody to help.
He went largely by rooftop again. It was kind of fun to go from roof to roof through the city. We did have to come down to street level now and then though. And while slipping through a narrow alley, a dark shape moved to block our path. I probably couldn't have made it out, but Shadow's night vision made it quite clear, it was a young man, with a sword in hand.
"Hand over your rupees," said a voice from behind. Shadow turned and saw a second young man, grinning and carrying a long knife. No doubt they thought they had him trapped.
"You have got to be kidding me."
"Come on. Hand 'em over."
Shadow drew his sword. "Look, I've been having a bad day. I'd really rather not finish it off by having to kill you."
"There's two of us, and just one of you."
"Fine, let's just get this over with." Shadow leveled his sword at the knife wielder. The swordsman behind him charged and he spun around, blocking the man's attack. Before the one with the knife could react Shadow had knocked the other's sword wide and had skewered him.
Shadow pulled his sword free of the now-dead swordsman and turned. I knew his eyes were probably glowing again. The knife wielder let out a strangled squeak of terror and ran for it. Shadow laughed. "Well, I guess that was entertaining."
:For a given value of entertaining.:
:Yeah. Let's get back to the inn.:
We made it back without any further incident, and this time Shadow simply bought dinner and then went up to the room.
:No ale this time?:
:I'd rather just sleep.:
I agreed. It had been a long and frustrating day. I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.
I was woken while it was still dark by a pounding on the door. I tumbled out of bed, but before I could get to the door it was kicked in, and guards poured into the room. I had half a dozen swords leveled at me before I could reach my own. I raised my hands in surrender. I had no idea what was going on, but fighting guards was seldom a good idea.
They put manacles on me, and marched me out of the inn. We went through the streets all the way through both the second and first circles, to the castle above.
:Do any of you have any idea what's going on?:
:Not a clue,: said Shadow. Nobody else responded. I would just have to wait and see what happened. I was concerned, but I'd been through enough to not be panicked by this sudden turn of events.
At the castle I was ushered in through a side door, to a large room where several people stood. They all seemed to be well dressed, nobles of some sort. Several older men were there, and one young man who looked vaguely familiar.
:He's the knife man from last night.:
Before I could respond the guard captain leading the group that had arrested me pushed me forward. "Is this him, your lordship?"
The young man frowned at me. "I... no. It isn't." He turned to one of the older men nearby. "I thought you said the magic was infallible!"
"Nothing is infallible," said another of the gathered nobles mildly.
"This spell is, your lordship," said the one so addressed, with a glare aimed towards his fellow. He was dressed in mage's robes, and carried a staff. He walked over and peered at me. "There is some further magic going on here."
"Well dispel it, or something," barked the young man.
"Yes your lordship." He raised his staff and stared at me. Power glowed around it. "Reveal the form we seek," he muttered. "Reveal the one who slays..."
"Ah!" Pain shot through me and I doubled over. I could feel the spell forcing me to change. Something in me resisted it, and the conflict sent pain sparking down every nerve. Thankfully it lasted for only a moment before fading. I straightened again, and was unsurprised to see that my hair and clothing were black once more. I'd turned into Shadow.
"Is that the man, your lordship?"
"Yes, he's the one."
"Take him away then." The guards hauled me off. I didn't put my much resistance. It seemed I was being arrested for killing the swordsman last night, and I had done it, or rather my shadow had. I only hoped I'd be given a chance to explain it had been in self defense.
The mage followed the guards and, once I'd been tossed into a cell, he raised his staff again. Whatever he did this time didn't hurt, thankfully.
"He shouldn't be able to escape," said the mage to the guard captain. "I've placed a seal on his magic."
"Thank you." The captain turned to me. "Your trial will be in the morning. But don't expect to get out of this, the Magister's spells have made it clear that you are guilty, the trial is merely a formality."
Then they left and I was quite alone. I sat down on the bare stone of the featureless cell and sighed. "Great."
:I'm sorry Link.:
:Don't be. What else were you supposed to do?:
:I don't know.:
:What will they do to us?: Scrub sounded afraid. I was a little bit worried myself. I was confident in my abilities, but I didn't have my weapons or gear, and if this business about my magic being sealed meant what I thought it did, then I might well be in big trouble. To test that I tried to change, just a simple shift back to my normal self. I gasped, the attempt sent pain shocking through me. When it faded I was still black haired.
:Damn,: said Shadow.
:Yeah. Well... now what?:
:Now we gotta wait,: said Mikau. :Wish I had my axe. It'd pass the time.:
:I could wish for any number of things,: I said with a sigh. :Including my sword, or my magic.:
:I believe I can break this seal should it prove needful, Link.: said the Fierce Deity.
:That's good...: I considered that. :I think that we'd better wait though. I don't want to become a hunted criminal if I can help it. But if it comes down to it it's good to know we may be able to escape.:
I thought over the path that had led me here as I waited. It had been less than a year ago, by ordinary clocks, when I'd first met Navi and set out on my adventures. Just a boy who wanted nothing more than to have a fairy of his own, so he could fit in. I sighed.
The cell had a tiny barred window, high up. As I stared it slowly lightened. Outside the sun was rising on a new day.
:Isn't today the solstice?:
I blinked and counted up the days since I'd left Hyrule. I counted them twice just to be sure. Shadow was right, it was the solstice. :Yeah.:
:Happy birthday then. I'd get you a present if I hadn't gotten you locked in jail. I'm sorry.:
I laughed. It was a little bit bitter, but I had to laugh all the same. I was, technically speaking, eleven years old today. Counting all the time I'd spent in the future and in the endless loop on Termina though I had no idea what my true age was. Older than that. And with all I'd experienced I felt older still.
I watched the light from the window start to slowly crawl across the room. It seemed I was going to be here for a while. Growing bored with the empty cell I stepped into the inner space, where I passed the time by sparring with Scrub, who was getting fairly good. Finally, when the little square of light had vanished and the patch of sky I could glimpse was turning sunset colors, the guards came for me again.
It was time for my trial.
Chapter 11: Caged God
In which Link meets a friend and finds a loophole.
The courtroom was a grand sort of affair. The judge's podium was a tall, intimidating thing, and the rest of the room was built on a similar scale. There were stands for observers, but they were nearly empty. The only people present were the guards, the judge, a uniformed court official of some kind, the mage, the young man who had accused me, two older, richly dressed men, and myself. I was still manacled, and two guards stood on either side of me as though I were dangerous. I suppose I could be, if I wanted to, but I would rather simply prove myself innocent. Though I wasn't looking forward to any of this.
:Link... I can take over and do this if you want,: said Shadow while the pointless preliminary formalities that such occasions always seemed to require were taking place.
:No, I'll do it.:
:But I was the one who killed that thug.:
:Yes, but...: I tried to figure out how to say it gently. :You're also kind of quick to speak out. Sometimes it's better to hold your tongue and temper.:
:Heh. Yeah, you got me there. All right.:
"His Lordship, Brion of Perlgrim, will now present his case," said the court official.
The young man rose. "Thank you. Last night I was returning from having a simple dinner at a common house in the town of which I'm quite fond," he began. One of the older nobles snorted derisively at that. The other one shot his fellow a glare. There was some history between them, I guessed. The young man cleared his throat. "As I was saying, I was returning from having dinner in town with my good friend Rand when I came across this man." He pointed at me. "He said he had some sort of trouble he needed help with, and could we come and aid him. Being helpful and courteous citizens, of course Rand and I followed him, but he simply led us into a narrow ally, and before I could do anything he had drawn a sword and stabbed Rand. I tried to apprehend him, but he ran off, and I didn't want to leave Rand lying there, I thought I might be able to help him, so I stayed. But Rand was dead, there was nothing I could do. My closest friend, brutally murdered for no reason."
:For no reason!: Shadow was incensed. :How about he tried to mug us, is that enough of a reason?:
:Hush. And listen...:
"That's nonsense and everyone here knows it," said the older man who'd expressed such derision a moment ago. It seemed that Shadow was not the only one who doubted the young man's story.
"No speaking out of turn Lord Pelson, you know that."
He snorted again, but fell quiet.
"Your honor, do you have any questions for the witness?"
The judge shook his head. "No."
"Very well. The esteemed Magister Sharasol shall now take the stand."
The mage got up and began to speak. "Your honor. The young Lord Brion came to me last night very much distraught, saying that his friend had been murdered. The guard was already there, and confirmed that the young man in question had definitely been killed by a sword wound. I cast a spell to trace the sword that had done the deed, and was lead to the accused who stands here, though at the time he was disguised with another spell."
"Evidence, please," called the court official. One of the guards crossed to a chest and from it took a sword. It had a Triforce crest on it, which was something not common in Calatia, so I knew it was mine.
"Magister, is this the weapon in question?"
"It is, yes."
"Thank you. Do you have any further testimony?"
"If the judge has no further questions?" The court official looked at the judge, who shook his head. "Very well. The accused may now take the stand."
The guards on either side of me hauled me to my feet before I could get up myself. I tried to smother an annoyed glare. I needed to stay calm.
"Your name?" asked the official.
"I'm from Hyrule, sir."
"I see. And is this your sword?" said the official.
"And did you, in fact, kill a young man last night with it?"
"In self-defense, sir," I said.
"Out of order!" shouted the other old man, who'd been silent thus far. "He needs to answer the question only!"
"Lord Perlgrim, please do not speak out of turn. The accused does have the right to defend himself." He turned to me. "Speak."
"Yes sir. I was traveling to my room at an inn to rest when somebody blocked my path with a sword in hand. I attempted to simply flee, but the young man there," I pointed at Lord Brion, "came up behind me with a knife and demanded my money."
"Nonsense!" shouted Lord Perlgrim. "My boy would never do such a thing!"
"Your boy does such things every night of the year, and the only reason he's not in jail himself is because you keep getting him out of all the charges," snapped Lord Pelson.
"Out of order!" said the court official irritably. The two old men glared at each other, but fell silent. "Now," he said to me, "please continue."
"Yes sir. The man with the sword, which I presume was this Rand, attacked me. I defended myself, and unfortunately he was killed. The man there ran off. I should have gone for the guard, I know sir, but I was tired and I just wanted to go rest, so I continued to the inn, where I was arrested this morning."
"And that's your whole story?"
"Yes sir, that's all that happened."
"And your change of appearance?" asked the official. "If you are innocent, why hide how you look?"
I sighed. :Damn,: muttered Shadow.
"Sir... it's very complicated. The appearance I wore at the inn is my true appearance. I'd merely reverted to it, I had no thought of hiding. How I look now..." How was I going to explain? "This was in consequence of the business that brought me here, which is nothing criminal, I assure you."
"That can be tested," spoke up the mage.
The court official turned to him. "How so?"
"If his true appearance is how he looked before, there is a specific spell that will return him to it. Forcing a being to take its true form is actually fairly common."
"Please do so then."
I held my breath as the mage lifted his staff. I was suddenly unsure of whether I'd be returned to the form I thought of as my own, or returned to my "true" form of an eleven year old boy. I wasn't sure which would be worse. They might be lenient towards a child, but it would also make me look as though I'd been lying. I didn't want to be forced to be a child again, even if it meant leniency. Perhaps to save my life I might do it, but surely that wouldn't be necessary... Then the magic caught hold of me again. It hurt, as it had before. Why it should be painful to be forced to change I didn't know, and I didn't like it, but I was willing to endure it if it proved I was telling the truth.
When the pain eased and I could straighten again I found that I wasn't any shorter. I was my usual self, seemingly about eighteen. I didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
The official turned back to the mage. "This is how he looked when he was arrested?"
"And do you have anything else to say?" He turned back to me.
With a certain air of reluctance he turned to the old men. "Lord Perlgrim, do you have anything to add to these proceedings?"
"My son is a good, upstanding citizen. This foreigner is obviously dangerous and untrustworthy. He should be executed immediately."
The official sighed. "And Lord Pelson?"
"If we're being honest here we all know that Brion is nothing more than a common criminal. That it's caught up with him and his gang at last is simple justice. I see no reason to punish this young man for defending himself."
"Do any others wish to speak?" There was silence. "Very well then. Your honor, do you have a decision?"
"I do." The judge rose to his feet. My stomach twisted in knots. "I cannot comment on the behavior of young lord Brion in the past, that is beyond the scope of this trial. The simple question at hand here is if the accused killed Rand Anson. By his own admission he did. Therefore I judge him guilty. The penalty for murder is execution. Said penalty shall be carried out tomorrow at dawn."
:Link...: The Fierce Deity stirred. :Let me loose, I shall kill them all and we shall be free.:
:No. Not yet.:
Lord Pelson shot to his feet. "Your honor!"
"I have given my verdict, Lord Pelson," said the judge forbiddingly.
"Yes, but you should know the law better than that, your honor. The execution cannot be carried out until the accused has had a chance to accept or reject his trial of arms."
The judge looked mildly annoyed, and Lord Perlgrim scowled. But the court official smiled and nodded. "Very well," said the judge. He turned to me. "Those condemned to death have the right of a trial of arms. You or your appointed champion will face the appointed champion of your accuser. The winner is judged innocent. The trial will be held tomorrow, and should you lose and survive the execution will be carried out immediately thereafter. You may refuse the trial of arms, in which case the execution will take place as planned." He shot a look at Lord Pelson. "Is that sufficient?"
"Yes it is, your honor. Thank you."
"Well?" The judge looked at me.
"I accept," I said simply.
The judge walked out of the room. The guards on either side of me marched me out as well, and before long I was back in the same cell once again. I flopped to the floor and tried to digest what had just happened. Before I could do much thinking, however, I heard somebody approaching. When I looked up Lord Pelson stood outside the barred door of the cell.
"I want to apologize for the miscarriage of justice that just took place, young man."
I shrugged. "I doubt it's your fault, sir."
"All the same, it's a shame. Brion Perlgrim is a menace to society, and if you had killed him as well you'd be doing this city a favor."
:If I'd known that I would have,: muttered Shadow silently. I just shrugged.
"Are you skilled in combat? The trial of arms..."
I couldn't help myself, I laughed. "I'm quite skilled," I said.
"The Perlgrim family's champion is part of the reason why Brion has never suffered the justice he deserves," said Lord Pelson. "He is one of the best fighters in the city."
I considered that. It was a very large city. It was entirely possible that it contained many fighters better than myself. I'd never yet met anyone who could best me, but Hyrule and Termina were small places. "Is magic allowed in this contest?"
"Casting spells is not, no."
"Not casting spells, just... magic."
He frowned. "What other sort of magic is there?"
"I don't really know what it's called. My ability to change my appearance is what I refer to, though. I know it's magical, but it's not a spell as such."
"I see. I don't really know."
"Could you find out for me? I am very good with my sword, and I may be able to win with that alone, but with my life on the line I'd like to know if I can draw on all my resources."
"How can changing your hair color possibly benefit you in battle?"
"I can change a lot more than that."
"I see. Well, I'll find out what I can. I wish I could do more for you."
:Why does this geezer care?: asked Shadow.
:Good question. Maybe I'll ask it.:
"You've done a fair bit, for a total stranger. Why does it matter to you?"
"Because I have a certain dislike of the Perlgrims, to be honest. But also because... well, because you remind me of my own dreams. When I was your age I thought I would become a great warrior. You are obviously a fighter of some skill. I sometimes wish I had taken that path, rather than the path of scholarship."
:A scholar?: Darmani pushed forward, and I found myself suddenly asking, "Do you know anything about a relic called the Soul Mirror?"
"The Soul Mirror? The True Mirror, you mean?"
"Yes. The mirror that shows a soul's true nature."
"I've read of it, long ago. I remember thinking it would be fascinating to look into it, to understand your own soul fully. But that's all I can recall."
"I'm looking for it. I tried to ask at the library, but the librarian wouldn't help me."
"No, you need to be a citizen. But I would be happy to find whatever there may be in the library on the subject for you. First however..."
I nodded. "Yes. First I need to win tomorrow."
"I'll see to it that you get food," he said. My stomach rumbled at that reminder. I hadn't eaten anything all day. "And that your weapons are in good condition."
"Good luck," he said, and turned and left.
I leaned back against the wall, and thought about all that had happened. How would one of the best fighters in such a huge place measure up to the other opponents I had faced? Ganon had been a mage of immense power, and Majora a god, or something very like one. But then I'd had magic on my side both times, in the form of the Master Sword, or in the form of the Fierce Deity. If magic wasn't permitted...
:If it seemeth that thou must lose, I shall come,: said the Fierce Deity. :I shall not permit thee to be slain.:
:Thanks,: I said.
I woke that morning before dawn. Lord Pelson had been as good as his word, and I'd been fed a good dinner. They also brought me a hearty breakfast just at sunrise. I ate with more appetite than I'd expected. I had no idea how this day was going to go. The best case scenario had me winning easily against somebody who'd never faced a hero, the worst case had me dead. Somewhere in between was the one where the Fierce Deity kept his promise to save my life, and which would probably result in my being a hunted criminal.
I was brought out of the castle and led through the streets of the upper ring of the city. I was completely surrounded by guards, and the little procession picked up a following of citizens, all of who gawked at me curiously.
We eventually reached an immense circular building. Inside it proved to be an arena. It was lined with stepped seats that descended to a sandy floor below. The seats were already filling with people. I was taken down all the way to the circular floor, where Lord Pelson proved to be waiting with my sword and shield. "I have your other gear as well," he said, "which I can return to you at the end of the fight, but only the sword and shield are allowed in the arena."
I nodded. "What about magic?"
He shook his head. "No. I asked, and magic of all kinds, including innate magical abilities and spells cast beforehand, is strictly banned."
I sighed. I'd have to do this the hard way. But it was just as well. I didn't really relish changing forms in front of this crowd anyway.
"Also you can yield, as can he, but in your case yielding means execution, so it won't benefit you much."
I nodded my understanding. I would prefer it if my opponent yielded, of course, but I wasn't going to hold back from killing him if necessary.
I looked across the arena and caught my first glimpse of the man I'd be facing. I recognized the Perlgrims, father and son, as much by the father's elaborate robes as by anything else at this distance. Standing with them was a giant. He was one of the biggest men I'd ever seen. I think the Fierce Deity was taller, but not by all that much. And this man was broad as well as tall, heavily muscled. He was certainly very intimidating. He leaned on a gigantic broadsword. He didn't seem to carry a shield. I settled my own sword and shield in place. They felt familiar and reassuring. The sword wasn't the Master Sword, of course, but it was similar in length and weight, so it felt right in my hand. The shield was a normal Hylian shield, the paint a bit chipped at this point but otherwise in good condition, and also just the right size and weight for me. For a fight like this I much preferred it to the heavier mirror shield.
I wondered idly if they might be considered magical items all the same, since when I'd set out from Hyrule Castle they'd been the smaller set, sized just right for the child I'd been. They'd changed with me when I changed myself to become an adult. I had no idea how that worked. I was just glad it did, otherwise things like clothing would be quite a problem when I went from form to form.
Then there was no more time for such idle pondering. It was time to fight. The crowd roared when my opponent and I moved forward into the arena proper. I tuned them out. I wasn't here for the crowd. I was here simply to gain my freedom, so I could continue my quest and earn the trust of my princess.
At first we circled warily, my opponent and I. He was just as huge up close as he'd looked towering over the thug Brion. I tried a quick, leaping slash. I had hoped that he would be too slow to block it, but he brought the huge blade around with startling speed. He was still a bit slower than I, but he was quick for his size. This wasn't going to be easy. We exchanged several testing blows. I didn't go out of my way to show off, I wasn't trying to impress him. But he seemed to add the occasional unnecessary flourish to his fighting style. He was definitely a good fighter, but I sensed that he used intimidation as a weapon as well. I just smiled. That wouldn't work on me. I'd faced worse than him.
I will admit that the first time I blocked that immense sword rather than dodging it I nearly went to my knees. It had a lot of force behind it. After that I made an extra effort to dodge whenever possible.
The fight moved all over the arena. I spent a lot of time rolling, running, and ducking. I was starting to get a bit out of breath, though he was panting some too. I might be able to wear him down, perhaps. But no matter how I moved I just couldn't get inside his guard. He had a lot of reach on me. If I'd had more of a speed advantage it would have been easy, but he was too fast, he always blocked or countered or moved back to get me back out where his sword was most effective. And I couldn't risk taking a hit from it, even one I blocked, in order to get in close.
A gong sounded and he stepped back, lowering his sword. I lowered mine as well. The fight wasn't over, but apparently this was a break in between rounds. I hadn't paid any attention to the fellow shouting about how it all worked, since he mostly seemed to be addressing the crowd.
I walked back over to where Lord Pelson was waiting. He had water for me, which I was glad of. "I've never seen anybody last a full round against him before," he said admiringly. I just dropped into the chair that stood there and drank.
"He's good," I said when I'd caught my breath a bit. "I'm not sure I've ever fought anybody that good. At least not when it comes to plain sword fighting. I've fought people with great power, but I had magic as well. This... this is a challenge, to say the least."
"Do you think you can beat him?"
"I think I can, but there's some chance he'll beat me. He's very good."
:If thou wouldst let me fight...: The Fierce Deity's voice was yearning, eager.
:No. That way even if we win, we lose. At best we'd have to slaughter dozens of guards to get out of this arena.: I looked up at the guards standing at regular intervals around the arena's edge, letting the Fierce Deity see them too. :I'm sorry. I wish you could, you'd make short work of him, I know. But I can't let you.:
The gong sounded again and I got to my feet. Time to finish this.
But it was not yet over when the gong sounded once more. I was tired, weary as I'd seldom been. Each round was something like a quarter hour long. That was an eternity, when it came to fighting. And I was worse than just weary, for he'd managed to nick me. Just barely, I'd rolled away from the swing but not quite fast enough and it had cut a very thin line across my shoulder. Lord Pelson looked at it when I came back to rest for a moment. It was very shallow, and had stopped bleeding by the time the gong rang, so there was no point in doing anything about it.
The next round was brutal. He was going all out. I hoped it was a last gasp, that he was tiring faster than I and might soon lack the energy to win. But that might just be wishful thinking on my part. He swung his sword faster than ever and time and time again I barely evaded it. Frequently I couldn't dodge and had to block. Meeting it sword to sword nearly numbed my sword hand from the force of the shock, my sword was notched in several places and my shield was dented and dinged.
And then my shield shattered. The scream of tortured metal filled the air, and my opponent stepped back and laughed. "You've lost. Yield."
:Link! Let me, I beg thee!: I could feel the Fierce Deity pushing forward, wanting to end this fight.
:No! If you take over I lose, and if I lose I'll lose Lord Pelson's help, I won't get access to the library, I won't be able to find the Soul Mirror, and I won't be able to earn Zelda's trust! If you take over I fail! If you take over she'll insist that I exorcise you all, do you understand?! And if you do this you'll have to kill innocents in order to get us out of here! You can't!:
:If I do not, thou shalt perish,: he said. He was pushing against my will, trying to step forward and become me, make me become him. I strove against it with everything I had. I was trembling, hardly even aware of the arena around me. Dimly I heard my opponent sneer at me. "I see you've finally found the sense to be afraid."
I managed to lift my head and look at him. I don't know what he saw in my eyes, but it must have been unexpected, for he took another step back, his eyes going wide in shock. "Yield or die," I said, and my voice was strangely doubled, the Fierce Deity and I talking together. I made the demand in desperate hope, but the Fierce Deity made it in earnest. He would kill this man, and however many more it took to save my life.
My opponent was staring at me, his face twisted with terror. I fought harder against the Fierce Deity, trying to get control. The world faded away entirely, I might as well have had my eyes closed, but I didn't care. Everything I had was focused inward. :Don't do this! Please! You're my friend, don't betray me like this!:
I heard a clang and my attention snapped back to the outer world. The other man had dropped his sword. I don't think he was even aware he'd done it. He backed up another step. The Fierce Deity suddenly laughed in my head and stopped trying to take over. It was all I could do not to drop to my knees in relief. But I didn't dare show any sign of weakness now. I calmly unbuckled the ruined shield and dropped it. Then I raised my sword again. "Do you yield?" I said, hoping against all hope that he would.
"I yield. Whatever you are, I don't want to fight you."
The Fierce Deity laughed again. :I defeated thy foe, despite thine opposition,: he said with ferocious glee.
:Yes you did,: I said, and nearly laughed myself.
Chapter 12: Trust
In which Link both gives and gains respect on several occasions.
"You did it!" Lord Pelson was nearly jumping with delight. I didn't have enough energy left to jump, all I could manage was a tired smile.
"I guess I did. I got a little bit lucky though. It was a near thing."
He clapped me on the back. "I've never seen anything like that! You must..." Suddenly he stopped. The gong had rung again, with a different tone than before. "Curse it! Perlgrim is disputing it. His champion yielded, what is there to dispute?" I suspected I knew what there was to dispute and my heart sank.
A guard escorted us across the arena to where an officer with more gold on his uniform than any of the captains I'd seen stood. "General," said the guard, and saluted. The Perlgrims, father and son, stood beside him, both looking sour-faced.
"Lord Pelson, Link," said the General solemnly, "Lord Perlgrim claims that Link used magic in order to win."
:Nobody else here has called you by name,: noted Darmani. :You've always been "the accused," but he is calling you by name like a person, rather than a criminal.:
"Is this charge true?"
I considered. I didn't want to lie, especially not to somebody who I was already inclined to like, but I also didn't want to lose. I suspected that if they thought I had cheated, it meant going straight to executioner's block, and that in turn meant taking the path where the Fierce Deity slaughtered far too many in order to gain my freedom. That path was to be avoided at all costs. "No sir, I used no magic." It wasn't entirely a lie. I hadn't. It had been the Fierce Deity who had attempted a magical transformation, all I had done was to prevent him.
"You did! You used some kind of illusion!" shouted Brion.
I looked at him, having to struggle to keep the contempt out of my voice. He attacked helpless people for money. He paid others to fight his battles. I had no respect for him whatsoever. "I used no illusion."
"Darik said your eyes changed, that they were glowing, or something. He said it looked like he was looking into hell."
The Fierce Deity laughed softly within me, a sound of smug satisfaction. :He was.:
I just shook my head. "No. There was no illusion."
"Then explain why our champion yielded when he had just broken your shield!" snapped Lord Perlgrim.
I shrugged and said nothing.
While we'd been talking another guard arrived, escorting a robed mage. This was not Magister Sharasol, but a middle aged woman, slightly stout but with lively green eyes. She too bore a staff. "General," she said with a polite nod.
"Magister. Was there magic used during the fight?"
"No, no magic was used."
The general smiled and turned back to the Perlgrims. "There you are. No magic was used. The results stand. Link is free to go."
"Thank you sir," I said, giving him a respectful nod.
Lord Perlgrim turned red-faced, and looked as though he wanted to start shouting, but apparently he knew better than to yell at the general. He turned on his heel and stalked off, his son trailing behind him.
When they were gone the mage turned to me. Her eyes were bright and curious. "Now I just have to ask, what did happen out there? No magic was actually used, I didn't lie, but something quite definitely did happen."
"I'm curious as well." The general looked at me, his expression friendly. "I've officiated over dozens of Darik's fights and I have never once seen him yield. Especially not right after gaining a decisive advantage."
I looked between them, and glanced over at Lord Pelson as well, who was also looking at me curiously. "I... am not sure I can explain. I'm not sure I should explain if I could..."
"I'm sure the explanation is quite unique! I sensed... well, I sensed a power gathering that was not quite like anything I've ever sensed before," said the mage, her eyes dancing with eager curiosity. "I think if it had been unleashed it could have quite possibly leveled the stadium! But then it pulled back, vanished again as if it had never been. Spells do not usually allow themselves to be undone when nearly cast."
"It wasn't a spell."
"Not a spell? Hmm. Darik said your eyes looked like he was looking into hell." The mage frowned. "Something demonic then! You're possessed, perhaps?"
I bit back a very vile curse. That again! "No. I am not possessed." Then I sighed. "But I suppose possession is how it would seem to most people. The... power you sensed is not a demon though."
"Let me puzzle this out then. I love a good logic puzzle! Not a demon. But definitely powerful. And you said it would seem like possession, so it's not some spell or artifact or anything like that, it's a being of some kind. I think that only leaves one thing. It's a god, isn't it? You're bearing a god's soul with you somehow."
:She is most perceptive,: said the Fierce Deity, sounding amused.
"I'm not sure if he's a god, exactly. But yes. If not a god, then something very much like one."
"Amazing! I don't suppose you could take some time for a few magical experiments?"
"Magister..." The general frowned, and looked between her and me. "I have to ask if this... being is a danger to Calatia." He turned his glance to me and apologetically added, "It's my duty to protect my kingdom."
"I understand," I said softly. I knew all about duty.
"Oh." The mage looked startled. Obviously her eagerness for knowledge was so great that the potential danger hadn't even crossed her mind. "Well in theory, of course. Gods can be quite dangerous. But it obviously tried to break fee during the battle and this youngster kept it contained. He seems to be in control."
The general's calm, level gaze returned to me. "Are you?"
I nodded. "Yes sir. Although... he'll act to defend my life. That's why he tried to break free, he thought I had lost."
"I see. So... if we had decided your magic had disqualified you, I take it the execution would not have gone very well?"
"Ah. No sir. Probably not."
"That's all moot now though," said Lord Pelson. "He's no danger to the city now that this is over."
The general hesitated. I knew what he had to be thinking. I was a stranger, a foreigner and, despite the outcome of this duel, a convicted criminal. I had just revealed that I could probably level the arena, and by extension I was no doubt capable of doing the same to other parts of the city, such as the castle itself. He had no reason to trust me, and every reason to take measures against me. Any sensible person would have me arrested and banished or imprisoned. I sighed softly, not looking forward to what was to come.
He smiled suddenly. "You're right. He's obviously not dangerous at all."
I blinked at him. "What?"
"Never play cards, lad," he said to me with a wink. "I could tell you were suddenly resigning yourself to a long stay in the dungeons. The fact that you are obviously willing to be locked up again rather than just set this thing loose tells me everything I need to know about you. You have honor."
"I... thank you sir."
The mage would have dragged me off to experiment with. Lord Pelson would have dragged me to the library. But I only wanted to drag myself to bed, maybe after having a bath. I told them both I was going to find an inn, but Lord Pelson insisted that I stay with him, so I found myself being ushered into a ridiculously luxurious suite of rooms in his palatial home. It was larger and more elaborate than the room I had at Hyrule Castle. Lord Pelson was obviously very well off indeed.
Amazingly, blissfully, the suite included a bathing room. I peered curiously at the pipes that led to the claw-footed tub there. Could they be a way to provide water without carrying it in buckets? I'd long since learned that the best way to answer such questions was to try something and see what happened. So I turned one knob, and got a steady flow of water. But there were two. I turned the other, and after a moment discovered that the water was hot!
With delight I filled the tub and settled in for a long, hot soak. The water felt good on my bruised body, though it stung when it reached the cut on my shoulder. My shield arm was already turning very interesting colors, I'd have to see about getting a potion to help it heal faster, otherwise I might not be able to use it tomorrow.
:Link... thanks for bailing us out of that one.:
:Don't thank me, Shadow. Thank the Fierce Deity.:
:Yeah, but you're the one who fought that guy to a standstill first, so good old Deity could scare him off.:
I chuckled. :He scares you, doesn't he?:
:What? No! I'm not afraid of anyone.:
:If you say so.:
Shadow retreated from the conversation with a kind of wordless, irritated muttering, leaving me more or less alone. I lay back in the tub and looked up at the ceiling above. Soon I would have access to the library, which should lead me to the Soul Mirror, and that, at last, would take me back to Hyrule, to where Princess Zelda waited for my return.
And where I would once again have to assume the form of a child, and pretend to be younger than I really was. I sighed. It would be six years before Zelda was grown. What would happen in that time? The Zelda I had met, in the dark version of the future, had been a hardened, capable warrior. She'd spent seven years living as one of the Sheikah, always behind a mask that hid her identity. I knew something about masks now. The Zelda who was also Sheik was a very different person than the Zelda of this time. How would she grow up, in a softer, more peaceful world? How would she grow up, wearing her own face and not a mask?
I remembered my first meeting with Sheik. I had been very impressed. I'd been still a child then, newly woken into an unfamiliar adult's body. Sheik had seemed so capable, so mysterious and knowledgeable. But now it was Zelda who was young and largely untried, and I who was the more experienced. Did I impress her? How did she feel about me? And for that matter, how did I feel about her?
There was a bond of destiny between us. But that destiny had already played out. The future might hold nothing at all between us, save what lay between a ruler and a warrior that served her kingdom. I felt sometimes that I wanted more, but I wasn't sure. Shadow and Mikau might admire women, but on that one subject, at least, I still felt like a child.
Well, perhaps that just meant that Zelda and I could grow up together after all. Six years was more than half my life. But it wasn't really that long, when one considered it in perspective. Darmani had lived decades. The Fierce Deity had lived centuries, even millenia perhaps. On such a scale six years was nothing at all. I could wait six years to see what kind of woman she would become.
Lord Pelson was at my side as I once more walked through the library's huge double doors. The same librarian sat behind his desk, guarding his cabinet of tiny drawers. I hung back and let Lord Pelson approach him.
"Any books you have on the Soul Mirror or True Mirror please," he said.
"Yes your Lordship," said the librarian, and he got up and turned to the little drawers. He pulled out one and flipped through it. It contained little cards, of which he extracted several. Then he got a few more cards from a different drawer. He brought the cards to the desk and laid them out. "Are any of these what you're looking for?"
Lord Pelson read over the cards in turn. I stepped closer and looked at the one nearest me. It held a book title, summary, and a list of topics, which included "soul mirror."
:Ingenious,: said Darmani. :Each book must have a card filed under each of those topics, so that they can be found no matter where one looks. A great deal of work to set up, but much easier to use than an index book when it's finished.:
"I think these two look most promising," said Lord Pelson, picking out a pair of cards. "We'll come back if we don't find what we need."
"Very good." The librarian took the two cards and scribbled something from them down on a scrap of parchment, which he then handed to Lord Pelson. I peered at it and saw a nonsensical string of letters and numbers.
"Come on Link," said Lord Pelson. He set off into the library itself and I trailed behind him, feeling somewhat intimidated by all this amazingly organized knowledge. The main room of the library was even more impressive once I was in it. It was circular, and lined entirely with bookshelves, including a balcony on the second floor, so the books went up all the way to the vaulted ceiling above. More rows of shelves stood free from the walls, and doors led out into further rooms beyond. "To the antiquities room first, the oldest is often the best source to check." I nodded silently and followed Lord Pelson through one of those doors, through another book-lined room, and into a third where the books were all in glass cases and another librarian presided over them watchfully. Lord Pelson handed him the scrap of parchment, and he took it and led us to one of the cases. With a reverence usually given only to sacred objects he removed a large tome from the case and presented it to Lord Pelson. He took it to one of several tables scattered around the room and set it gently down.
"There. We can't take this one home, obviously, since it's an antique, but we can look through it here." I sat beside him and waited while he paged with slow, delicate care through the slightly brittle pages of the book.
It was nearly an hour later, and I was considering letting one of the others watch for a while because I was getting very bored, when Lord Pelson finally said, "Aha."
"You found something?"
"Yes. Listen. 'Thusly when this calamity had ceased, the True Mirror was in due course entrusted to the Order of Light, who keep it in sacred trust to this day.' Admittedly 'this day' was nearly four hundred years ago, but it's still a location."
"The Order of Light?"
"An order of Triforce Worshipers. I suppose in Hyrule that's probably common, though it's rare here." He smiled at me. "They have a monastery in the black hills to the south."
"How far is it?"
"On horseback it takes three or four days."
"I don't have a horse."
"I have a fine selection of horses. The least I could do for you is lend you one! But first I should examine some of the more recent books. If the mirror has been moved it would be pointless to go to where it's been rather than where it is."
We spent the remainder of the day at the library. I ended up letting Darmani take over, because I rather quickly grew bored. I sparred a bit in the inner space with Shadow, and with the Fierce Deity too. But at last we were finished and could return to Lord Pelson's manor. He had found no other information about the location of the mirror, only legends about what it had done in the past.
"I suppose you'll want to go straight to the monastery in the morning then?" asked Lord Pelson as I was headed up the stairs to my room. I turned and looked at him. He had a strangely hopeful expression on his face.
"I had intended to, yes."
"Do you think... do you think I could come with you?"
I considered that. He might slow me down considerably. But was I in any real hurry? And after all he'd done for me, could I possibly say no? "Of course you can," I said, and I smiled.
"Thank you!" He grinned suddenly. "I'll have everything ready for us to go first thing in the morning!"
In the morning I came downstairs to find Lord Pelson waiting for me. He was as bright-eyed and eager as a child. He was also holding a sword and shield, which puzzled me for a moment. Then he held them out to me. "Since your old ones are more or less ruined, I thought you might like these."
I took them. The shield was very similar to my previous one, though the device on it was Pelson's own three quills in green, rather than the royal Hyrulian crest I'd so often born. The sword was slightly different, a little longer and a bit thinner than what I was accustomed to, but not so far off that I'd have trouble using it.
"They used to be mine, when I was young. Though I never used them. I planned, once, on going out and discovering ancient relics, finding the truth behind the old tales. I was going to study all I could, and then take that knowledge and go adventuring, and return from those adventures with more knowledge that would make me the envy of all the other scholars. I never gathered the courage to actually go, there was always just a little more studying to do first, and eventually I put it out of my mind completely. But I could never quite bear to be rid of these. I'm a bit old to learn how to use them now, but I am finally going to go see the real truth behind one of the tales, and I can't thank you enough for that."
I shook my head. "You quite possibly saved my life, there's no need for you to thank me."
He smiled. "I will all the same. But we should be going. We have a long ride ahead of us."
The pace we set was a fairly good one. Lord Pelson was a capable rider, and his horses were excellent. He gave me a beautiful blood bay gelding, and said I could keep him if I liked, though I turned him down. After this I'd be crossing the mountains back to Hyrule, and I couldn't take the horse with me. Plus it seemed a bit like betraying Epona, to own another horse.
We reached the monastery around noon on the fourth day. It was built into the side of a mountain, the building half buried in the living stone. The door at the front was guarded by an alert-looking young monk who wore a sword belt over his robes. We dismounted and approached.
"What business do you have with the Order of Light, strangers?"
"We're seeking the Soul Mirror," said Lord Pelson. He sounded very excited, and I couldn't help but smile.
"And do you honor The Three and their sacred symbol?" asked the monk.
"Well... I've never been particularly religious," replied Lord Pelson, suddenly sounding a bit uncertain.
"This is holy ground. Only those who are worthy can set foot here."
Lord Pelson looked over at me beseechingly. I stepped forward. "I follow The Three. And Lord Pelson is my friend. All we need to do is look at the mirror for a moment. Please, may we enter?"
The monk frowned. "For all I know, you're lying just to get in. In any case your friend won't be allowed. But do you have any proof?"
Before I could respond, the door behind the monk swung inward. A man dressed in somewhat more elaborate robes, with a long stole decorated with embroidered Triforce symbols, stepped out.
"Father Iskan!" The monk guarding the door looked surprised.
"Who are these men?" asked the older monk.
"Strangers, come seeking the True Mirror."
"And do they serve The Three?"
"One does not. The other claims to."
Father Iskan looked between us. His eyes settled on me. "Young man. You serve The Three?"
"And who are you?"
"My name is Link."
"Have you any evidence of your devotion?"
I couldn't help it, I laughed. "Yes." I held up my left hand, with the back turned towards the monks. The Triforce symbol there apparently wanted to be helpful, or perhaps some fate decreed that I would gain access here, for the first triangle, the one symbolizing the Triforce of Courage that I bore, began to glow.
The younger monk gasped. "The Triforce," he said in awe.
Father Iskan smiled. "That is strong evidence indeed. You are welcome here, Link."
"And my friend?"
"If you vouch for his character, he is welcome as well."
"Without him I wouldn't be here," I said. "He's a good man."
"Very well. Come in, both of you."
We lead our horses in through the gate, to a courtyard where another young monk took them. Then we went inside the monastery proper. It reminded me a bit of the Temple of Time; all clean, soaring lines with light filtering down from windows high above. In one room where benches lined the walls Father Iskan stopped. He turned to Lord Pelson. "You must stay here. Only those blessed by the goddesses may go further."
Lord Pelson looked disappointed, but he nodded his agreement.
The monk turned to me. "Leave your weapons here. There is a time to serve with arms, but there is a time to set such things aside, and they are not permitted within the mirror chamber."
I silently shed sword and shield, and took off my pack as well, for some of the other gear I carried might be considered weaponry.
"Thank you," he said. "Now, follow me."
I followed him through the next door and into a literal maze of corridors. It seemed to serve no purpose, but then I'd found stranger things than this within temples. Perhaps it was to assure that those who didn't belong here couldn't find their way through. But Father Iskan knew the way, and led me to the chamber beyond. It was dark there, deep within the mountain with no windows to illuminate the room. He lit a lantern, and I could see a glimmer of light spark to life ahead of us. It moved when the lantern moved. The mirror was there.
"Go," said the monk. "See what you must."
I stepped forward and approached the True Mirror at last.
Chapter 13: Mirror Image
In which Link confronts himself. And in which the author provides the readers with a hearty helping of exposition.
I looked into the True Mirror.
It should have been too dim to see. The single lantern was far behind me. My face should have been in shadow. But I saw myself clearly. I looked exactly as I would have expected, my normal self, with nothing strange at all about me.
Then the mirror cracked.
I gasped in shock and put my hand out, as if I could somehow fix the destruction, but my fingers encountered smooth, undamaged glass. The mirror was not broken, the crack was only an image. Another crack appeared, radiating out from the center, and then another. Soon the mirror seemed to be split into many smaller shards.
My face appeared on each shard. But each shattered reflection was different from its fellows. Here I saw Shadow, with his black hair and red eyes. There I saw my child self, and a fairy hovered at my shoulder in the image. From another shard Mikau's dark eyes looked out at me, and Scrub's faintly glowing eyes watched from yet another. Darmani and the Fierce Deity were there too. They moved when I moved, behaving as though they were my reflections.
Then the cracks between the shards vanished. The other faces blurred together, blended, and became once again my face.
And I knew the truth. It had been there all along, I just hadn't wanted to see it. The explanation for everything that had puzzled me was there before my eyes.
But before I could think through this revelation I heard a commotion in the distance. The sound was faint after traveling through the labyrinth, but it was still recognizable as the clash of steel on steel. Someone was fighting in the chamber we had left.
I ran towards the sound. Father Iskan ran ahead of me, his robes billowing behind him. We dashed through the maze and back into the chamber where we'd left Lord Pelson. There was no sign of him. One of the monks was there, a sword in hand, and facing him was a very familiar being. The Fierce Deity stood in the center of the room, his enormous helix sword raised. His blank white eyes were glowing faintly. He swung the blade and the monk parried the strike. But only just, and the fear on his face told me all I needed to know about how this battle was going.
Against one wall stood my own sword and shield, and I dived for them without a second thought.
Behind me there was a scream, and when I turned, sword in hand, the monk who had been fighting had fallen. The Fierce Deity turned his attention towards Father Iskan. Who was unarmed.
"Hey!" I shouted, and to be sure I got his full attention I changed forms. The Fierce Deity within me joined with me and I assumed his form, my own sword growing to match the one wielded by my opponent. He looked at me with something like shock, then with a low growl he flung himself at me.
Our blades met in a shower of magical sparks.
That battle was like none I'd ever fought before. I had none of my other gear, no magical arrows, no destructive explosives, nothing but my sword and my ability to change forms. I hadn't even managed to grab my shield. And the opponent I faced was as strong as any I'd ever fought. I used every trick I could think of against him. I evaded his attacks by suddenly becoming Scrub, too short to hit. I rolled around him as Darmani, just fast enough that I could sometimes get behind him for an instant, but he was always just fast enough in turn to spin and block me by the time I'd changed and brought my sword to bear. He was strong, and fast, and any time I got outside his reach the deadly beam of power from his sword would shoot at me, so I had to stay close, had to keep him moving, keep him off balance. The others were with me, letting me use their shapes, helping me keep steady and focused despite my constant changes. We worked together as one being, a whole with many parts.
And still it was all I could do to keep a stalemate. Time and time again I returned to the Fierce Deity's form, a mirror of the one I fought, in order to have the strength to fight him. But time and time again we were too evenly matched and I could make no progress that way.
Finally it was Shadow who turned the tide. Taking the form I'd first known, that of a child, agile and small, he dove between our enemy's legs and struck with his sword as he did. The Fierce Deity I fought cried out and fell, and even as Shadow continued his roll we were changing again, coming to our feet in the Fierce Deity's form, and bringing the huge double sword to bear on the fallen foe. I put the tip of that blade against his back, though whether it was I that did it, or the Fierce Deity within me I couldn't be sure, for we moved as one. He, however, was the one who spoke. "Cease this madness! I shall kill thee if thou wilt not yield."
"Kill me then, I shall never yield to evil!" The voice was like my own, but the bitter rage in it twisted it nearly out of recognition.
"There is no evil here but what thou hast brought! Thou art on holy ground. The monk thou didst attempt to slay serves good."
"He drew steel against me!"
"He was afraid of thee, no doubt. But 'tis over. Take off thy mask and end this."
"And have thou destroy the mask, and me with it?"
"Do not be a greater fool than thou hast been. I shall not destroy the mask. I know thou art not evil, merely over-zealous. Thou canst surely see that I know thee very well indeed."
"Who art thou? Thou art not I, thou art some twisted shadow!"
"I am Link," said the Fierce Deity within me, speaking aloud the truth that we had seen in the mirror. "I am the Hero of Hyrule, Ganondorf's bane, he who broke Majora's power."
"Wait... thou didst wear my mask once."
"But that is madness. The soul within the mask may be ascendant, or the wearer may be, and use the soul's power, but mask and wearer do not become one."
"I know that now. I am not thee. I do not know how I wear thy form."
He was silent for a time. Then he said, "Let me rise. I will not harm thee."
"I am no fool. If thou dost yet think me evil, I know thou wilt happily lie to gain thy freedom."
"No, thou art not evil. And I am the one who hath been a fool."
Then he took off his mask, and suddenly I was standing over the prone form of Lord Pelson. The Fierce Deity and I let out a sigh of relief as one,. A moment later he too was gone and I had returned to my normal self. I lifted my sword as Lord Pelson let out a low groan and started to rise.
As I finally had attention to spare for something besides the battle I noticed that Father Iskan had dragged his fallen fellow to the edge of the room and was tending to him. With a feeling of relief I saw that he was still alive.
But I still felt anger coursing through me. It was the Fierce Deity's anger but, as I now knew, it was also my own. And right now much of it was directed at Lord Pelson.
"You put the mask on," I said flatly to him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know what it was." He didn't sound particularly sorry, though he did appear somewhat shaken and uncertain.
I sheathed my sword and dropped down to sit on a bench. "All the more reason why you shouldn't have put it on. For that matter you shouldn't have been looking through my pack at all."
"I was just curious. I didn't mean any harm."
I sighed. "Very well. Magical artifacts can be very dangerous though. In the future, know what something is before you play with it."
He looked around the room, and his eyes widened. The walls were solid stone, here inside the mountain, but there were holes in some of them, and several of the benches were broken.. And of course Fathere Iskan still crouched over his injured fellow monk. "What did I do?"
"No permanent damage," said Father Iskan, rising. The monk he'd been tending sat up slowly, his robes stained with blood but his face free of pain. Father Iskan had apparently been able to heal him. "But that was only due to Link's courage. You came very close to causing a great deal of damage indeed."
"I'm so sorry!" This time real remorse was in his voice. "What... what was that thing? I put it on and I felt this immense rage, and then I blacked out until just now."
"That was the Fierce Deity's mask. I carry it with me mostly because I don't know of anything else to do with it. It's not exactly safe to leave lying around. Whoever puts it on becomes the Fierce Deity. In my case..." I tried to decide how much to say. "In my case I was able to retain control of him. But not everyone can."
"Those who could control that power are very few, I suspect," said Father Iskan. "And if you need a safe place for the mask, we can guard it. There are other dangerous things here that we watch over, of which the mirror you looked into is not the least."
"What could be dangerous about the mirror?" I asked.
"Not all who look are prepared to face the truth. Some go mad from it."
"Oh." I thought about that. I'd been denying the truth for so long. My denial was what had created the situation in the first place, really. But in the end, faced with it directly, I'd finally accepted the truth. But then I was already quite mad, so perhaps I couldn't become any madder.
:Is it madness?: asked Darmani thoughtfully.
:What else would you call it?:
:There may be other words. But I would rather speak of such things when we have privacy.:
I went over and picked up the Fierce Deity's mask. I contemplated it for a moment. Then I shrugged and handed it to Father Iskan. "Here. Keep it safe."
"We shall." He looked down at it, then up at me. I wondered what conclusion he was drawing. He'd seen me change. Even if he hadn't, the mask had my face. I still wasn't sure what that meant, even after all this. But whatever he thought, he said nothing. "Dinner will be served soon, if you'd care to join us. And you may stay the night as well, if you wish."
"I for one would like to stay." Lord Pelson stretched and groaned. "I feel black and blue all over."
I chuckled. "So do I. Thank you for your generosity, Father."
He smiled at that. "The chance to have a piece of the Triforce itself here before me, however briefly, is well worth the price of a meal. Or even the price of repairing the walls."
"A piece of the Triforce?" Lord Pelson looked around curiously. "What do you mean? I would dearly love to see such a relic!"
"Come, I will tell you while you dine. You have much to learn about the power of The Three."
We ate in a common dining hall, with the rest of the order. I learned that Father Iskan was the abbot, which didn't surprise me. He was obviously a wise man. He spent dinner explaining about The Three, the Triforce, and the bearers of the three pieces to Lord Pelson, who seemed alternately impressed and skeptical. I was surprised to learn Father Iskan knew of Zelda and Ganondorf, who bore the other two pieces, though not by name. The order apparently had some means of knowing things that happened far from their monastery.
When dinner was over I was ushered into a room. It was a monk's cell, a tiny, bare chamber containing only a simple cot. It suited me perfectly. I told Father Iskan that I wanted to be alone, and he smiled. "I guessed you might. I'll make certain that no one disturbs you."
When he had left I closed my eyes and sank inward.
The island was still there, surrounded by endless shallow water that faded away into blackness in the distance. But the tree, interestingly, bore a few leaves now. I wondered what that meant.
The others were all there. Shadow, Scrub, Darmani, Mikau, the Fierce Deity, and somebody new as well. My child self stood with the rest, and I nodded at him, finding I was unsurprised to see him there.
"Link," said Darmani. "We should discuss this. Put into words what we know now as truth."
I nodded. "The truth is simple enough. There are no other souls. No possession by other beings. You are all me. And it explains so much." I turned to Shadow. "You told me once that Ganondorf didn't make you, he just woke you. I think you were telling a truth that neither of us really wanted to understand. Ganondorf made a shadow come to life, but that shadow wasn't you. I killed it, and it really did die. But seeing the shadow... it planted the beginnings of something in my mind. As I've gone through my adventures I've encountered things that were hard for me to deal with. I wanted to just be the hero, simple and courageous. But all the evils I saw, I kept dwelling on them. When I started to be haunted by you, it was because on some level I was creating a shadow self to push those things onto, asking you to take them for me, because I wasn't ready to face them."
Shadow nodded. "And when I came to you in the mirror it was just finalizing that, making your shadow real, so I could be another person, somebody to think about such things for you."
"Yes. That's why I always trusted you, deep down I knew you were literally my other half. And it might have stopped there if I hadn't gotten a mask. But then Scrub..."
"You were afraid," said Scrub.
"I was. But I was the bearer of courage. So I pretended that I wasn't afraid. And I know I could sense something from the mask. The original Scrub was fearful a lot of the time. I took that and created a character in my head, somebody who was afraid, and it was all right, because he wasn't the hero. He could be afraid, and I could be strong for him. But it's funny, because instead I learned how to not be ashamed of my fear. So it came out quite differently than I originally intended."
"Am glad I helped." Scrub couldn't smile, but I knew he was pleased.
"And Darmani, you were a little different."
"I wasn't afraid."
"No. You weren't something I was denying, exactly. You were a dream I hoped for someday, but knew wasn't true. Your people admired you so much. They all looked up to you. I wanted that. So the part of me that became you was the part that wanted to be respected and wise. And I think just by wanting I have learned a little, because that part of me began to stop and think, to pay attention to the world instead of just passing through it."
He smiled. "Wisdom comes from many sources."
I turned to the next familiar face. "Mikau... In some ways you are the most complicated. I didn't want your skills, I tried to reject your mask. But the original Mikau's soul shone through so brightly that even though my core self was ignoring you, Shadow became your friend and invited you in. And when I got a glimpse of what you were all about, I wanted it and rejected it at the same time. I was a hero, how could I relax and enjoy the moment? I was about important business. But I was so tired, so very tired all the time. I wanted to have that happiness so badly. And so part of me embraced you, and I became you as well."
"It lines up, little dude. Though I guess that's the little dude over there." He gestured at my child self. "What's the deal with him?"
"I keep saying I'm not a child. But I am, still, in some ways. Since I've stopped repressing him so hard that he doesn't even exist, he's here now."
"The mind is a passing strange thing," said the Fierce Deity softly.
"Yes. And you..."
"A hero hath no anger."
"No. A hero does his duty, and doesn't hate those he must fight. But I did, sometimes. And I was so frustrated in Termina. I'd begun to hate not just Majora but the whole land. I knew it wasn't right, but when I felt the Fierce Deity's rage, I embraced it completely. It was an excuse to let that anger loose. I did lose control, in a way, but it wasn't that the Fierce Deity took over me, it was that my own anger did."
"But it still doesn't jive, dude. If we're not the souls from the masks, how do we have their skills? How can we still take their forms? And why did I remember for a little while? I can remember remembering, even if most of his past slips away from me now. If I'm not him, then how?"
"I think that because I took your identities from the masks you had a special connection to the souls of the masks. The Fierce Deity implied that the wearer can 'use' the soul's power. But I didn't want that either, I didn't want to be a Deku Scrub, I didn't want to take a dead Goron's face, and I certainly didn't want to become the Zora who'd died at my feet. So I never used the power directly, you did. And so you were the ones who learned those skills. And that connection, that you shared their names and their skills, well... I think for a little bit you haunted their souls the way I thought they haunted mine. You were one for a brief time while I was helping them find peace. But when they passed on, you stayed, because you were parts of me."
Mikau nodded. Shadow, however, frowned. "That still doesn't explain how you can take our forms without the masks though. And I'm not sure it explains everything the Fierce Deity can do either. He was a match for the real god out there today."
"I'm not certain, but I can venture a guess." I looked down at my hand. "The Triforce. You all bear it with me, you know." Shadow regarded his own left hand. The Triforce mark was there as well. I'd seen it countless times on him and on all the rest. I'd thought it was just because the body we shared contained the Triforce somehow, but they had the mark here inside my mind as well, where there was no shared body. "And the power of the Triforce is the power of a goddess. What else would be a match for a god? All three pieces together can change the face of an entire world. Just one piece was enough to let Ganondorf do some very remarkable things. Should it be any surprise that the piece I have should grant me some power as well?"
"So I guess we all know how we got to where we are," said Shadow. "But what about where we go from here? Zelda can trust us, since we're all you, but... as you say, to be like this is to be mad. How do we continue, when we're one person shattered in pieces?"
I sighed. "I don't know. I need to think more about this. I need more time. It always seems to come down to time... I don't really know what my goal should be now. But I do know that you all have helped me through all that we've been through. One way or another we'll find a way forward from here."
I looked up, preparing to return to the real world, and saw that the tree bore more more leaves than it had when last I'd looked. I smiled. I didn't completely understand what that meant, but I knew it was a good sign. I'd made some kind of progress. Hopefully I would continue to do so.
In the cell again, alone and yet not alone at all, I stared at the ceiling until sleep came to claim me. For tonight that was all I could do, tomorrow would have to take care of itself.
Well, now that the big reveal is over with, I wanted to have a little chat about it. I always write a bit of myself into my stories. Sometimes it's a very small bit, sometimes it's a large one. In this story it was actually pretty huge, because Link and I have something in common. I too share my head with other people who are also me. :) There are a few differences, of course. For one thing I have no magic, so I can't physically change my shape. (I wish! That would be both useful and awesome.) For another I find it a little bit difficult to retreat completely to the inside and ignore what somebody else is doing with my body, we actually mostly tend to "co-front" which is what it's called when two people use the body together, cooperatively. We do quite definitely share that with Link and his friends, though, we're cooperative rather than competitive. We help each other, and mostly we get along, though I do also have my "Fierce Deity" who doesn't always play nice. If you'd like to know more about real people who share their bodies with others, I suggest checking out healthymultiplicity.com which is a useful portal site. You can also feel free to ask me questions, I'm not shy about it. Being plural varies greatly from group to group, so my experiences of it (and my descriptions of Link's version of it in the story) may not be typical of others, so don't treat this as any kind of Bible, it's just a story. And speaking of stories, one major plot arc is finished, but there is more to come, so I will get back to writing!
Don't forget to leave a comment before you go, remember feedback makes the writer squeeful. :)