Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old by LadyNorbert
Chapter Ten: My Crown Is Called Content
Though we both would have liked to linger in that moment, it was over in a heartbeat and we were again standing on Hyrule Field. Ganondorf's ghostly companions had vanished in the light of the four spirits, but he himself was still charging around on his nightmare horse. It was not immediately clear how we were going to overtake him.
I did the only thing I could think to do. From my pouch, I drew the horse call Ilia had given me, and put it to my lips to summon Epona. She must have been closer than I realized, or perhaps we were receiving a bit more help from the forces of light; in any case, the song had scarcely died on the wind when she came pelting across the field to us. I hauled myself into the saddle and pulled Zelda up behind me.
"Keep Ganondorf within your sights," she said, "and I'll try to slow him down. Between my arrows and your sword, we should be able to weaken him."
We then began to race Ganondorf across the field. He was in an awkward position; he was trying to draw near enough to us that he could strike me with his monstrous blade, and at the same time he was trying to ride in such an erratic fashion that Zelda could not get a clear shot. He would turn at abrupt angles, jerking his horse's reins and making it shriek, attempting at all costs to throw us off balance. Twice his blade struck home, though connecting with only my shield, and I was sent flying from the saddle.
His greatest efforts were for naught in the end, however, for one of Zelda's arrows caught him squarely between the shoulder blades in a small explosion of energy. It slowed him down enough that we could overtake him, and the Master Sword sent him hurtling to the ground even as his mount collapsed. He tumbled several feet and lay still for a few seconds, but we both knew it wouldn't be as easy as that. Slowly, Ganondorf got to his feet, using his sheathed blade to support himself, and laughed. I kept a firm grip on the Blade of Evil's Bane, pointing it in his direction, waiting for him to make a move.
"An impressive blade," he drawled. "But nothing more." He slowly drew from its scabbard his glowing sword; the wound in his chest, where the sages had attempted to execute him, seemed to glow more brightly as well. "Would you hear my desire? It is to take this foul blade and use it to blot out the light forever!"
I dismounted at a distance and moved toward him, my sword drawn. Suddenly, he and I were ringed by the same impenetrable, translucent wall which had blockaded me during my duel with Zelda's body. She and Epona were trapped beyond it, where she could not aid me and I could not protect her. I had no time to fear for her, however, and only allowed myself the comfort of knowing she was still astride the horse; if things went badly for me, she had a chance of escaping.
We circled each other, neither quite daring to make the first move. At length, however, he apparently grew tired of waiting, and launched himself at me. Whirling in circles, I heard the repeated clang of two indestructible blades making contact with brute force. Ganondorf's cape whipped in the wind generated by the duel as he went into a series of heavy overhand blows that I could only dodge. I dropped into a forward roll, then leapt up into a spin attack which caught him somewhat off guard.
What happened next I can't begin to explain. I shifted the shield on my right arm, and my free hand for some reason closed on the fishing rod Colin had made for me. I hadn't meant to pull it out, I could imagine no purpose that it might serve in this battle, but out it came.
Ganondorf stopped his assault. The fishing rod, that simple gift of love, had the lord of darkness mesmerized. Baffled, I moved it around a little, and he followed it with his eyes. It seemed rather unfair to take advantage of such a strange and glaring weakness, and I tossed the fishing rod aside. The second it reached the ground, Ganondorf's eyes were back on my face. By that time, however, it was too late; I was on the offensive now, making the most of his incomprehensible distraction, and with a number of fierce slashes I drove him backwards until he toppled onto his back. Calling the lessons of my spirit mentor to mind, I sprang into the air and, with a banshee wail, flung myself onto him in the ending blow.
He lay on his back, pinned to the ground by the sword, his mouth open and gagging and his eyes rolled upward in pain. An inhuman roar of agony tore from his throat. Finally, when he had stopped twitching, I moved backwards, away from his body. The wall around us disappeared, and I heard the steps as Zelda dismounted and ran to stand behind me. As we watched, our enemy once again forced himself to his feet. He was weak, but not yet gone. Nearby, the horse he had ridden in the earlier part of the battle clambered up from the ground on two legs, and shifted forms. It was Zant.
"You think this is the end?" he rasped. It was a little odd, listening to someone who had a sword buried in his midsection. "The history of light and shadow will be written in blood!"
He gave a small, pained cry, and I understood why. The birthmark on my hand, the emblem of the Triforce, was burning; Zelda stripped off her glove to show that hers was burning too. As we watched, the matching emblem on Ganondorf's hand flared...and then extinguished. The Triforce of Power had abandoned him at last. The pale figure of Zant watched us blankly for a moment; then, with a sickening crack, his head rent to the side, his neck broken. Ganondorf groaned, and the light died in his eyes; without the Triforce, he had been unable to resist death's claim on him. Still his body remained upright, uncertain just how to fall after so many centuries.
I took a step nearer, not entirely daring to believe. Behind me, Zelda -- ever merciful -- was praying. She prayed to the goddesses for the long-lost soul of Ganondorf, asking them to grant him some measure of pardon for centuries of corruption.
Light began to emanate from the east, and we turned toward it almost involuntarily. There, outlined in the sky, bright as suns, we saw the Light Spirits -- Ordona, Faron, Lanayru, and Eldin. They regarded us placidly, even proudly, if such celestial beings may feel something like pride. As they started to fade from view, they all turned their gazes down to where a small figure hunkered against the horizon.
"Midna," I breathed. Could it be true? Could our funny little friend really have survived her ordeal?
"Go to her," Zelda urged me, and I ran. Maybe she was only injured, and we could still save her as she had saved us. As I crested the hill, however, I slowed my pace, for the figure before me was not at all impish. I drew as close as I dared and then stopped, waiting.
The figure gave a small shudder, then seemed to grow upward and turn, its Twilight markings sliding down on its body to form a cloak held in place with an ornate headdress. Vivid orange hair cascaded around her slender neck, and a pale torso was framed by elegant dark garments of foreign style. Her high, proud forehead bore a silver knotwork coronet, and catlike red eyes regarded me impudently. She was altogether lovely, in an exotic fashion, and it brought a fresh measure of joy to my heart to know that Midna's curse had been broken at last.
"Well? Say something!" she demanded, though her eyes danced as she watched a smile break across my features. With an almost coquettish tilt of her head, she asked, "Am I so beautiful you've no words left?"
"Come and meet Zelda," I told her.
We walked back to where Zelda waited near the fallen body of our mutal enemy. They exchanged no words, the Princess of Light and the Princess of Twilight, but looked at one another with profound understanding. Suddenly, Midna gasped, and I felt again the mark burn on my hand. She lifted her own hand, staring at it in shock as the Triforce emblem seared itself onto her skin.
"What is it?" she cried.
Before either of us could answer, there was a great cracking sound, and we looked up to see the heavens peeling apart. No Twilight portal appeared this time, however, but rather a shaft of pure white light rained down on the ground near us. A wizened figure was emerging from it, smiling beatifically. He seemed very familiar, though I could not place him at once.
Zelda, however, could. "Rauru?" she asked in a tone of astonishment. "Can it be you?" Of course -- Rauru the sage, he who speaks for the goddesses. It was he who had charged us with our destinies many lifetimes ago, when my heart and Zelda's had first turned toward one another.
"You have done it, my children," he said, moving forward. "The goddesses have sent me; they are well pleased with you. The struggle of centuries has ended, and the Triforce of Power has at last chosen a new bearer."
"Me?" Midna was incredulous. "But..."
"You've nothing to fear," he assured her. "You were the bearer of the Triforce of Wisdom for a time, to keep it safely hidden from Ganondorf. It has returned to its true carrier, but you will forever have some protection because you carried it within you. Yours will not be the fate of Ganondorf; you will not know power without wisdom. Had he prized all three elements equally, the Triforce would have yielded to him entirely; but had this been possible, there would have been no need for a wise princess or a courageous hero. Now there is the powerful Princess of Twilight, champion of the goddess Din, and you are assured of her favor in this world as well as your own." He looked from Midna to Zelda and myself. "The days of waiting are over."
I helped the princesses to mount Epona, and together we returned to the ruins of Hyrule Castle, where the people were emerging from their homes to survey the situation. The Triforce of Wisdom seemed to be imparting understanding among them, and our arrival in Castle Town was hailed with great excitement. By some incomprehensible generosity of fate, the town and its people had been spared the devastation which had destroyed the castle.
With Zelda on my left and Midna on my right, I entered what had once been the front gate. We stood there for a long moment, staring at the smoldering cinders that would take several lifetimes to rebuild.
Rauru, however, had followed us. "Join hands, the three of you," he said. "You are the united Triforce."
Dimly understanding what he meant, I extended a hand to my counterparts; they likewise joined their free hands. As we watched, what little smoke remained vanished on the wind, and the broken foundations became engulfed in a golden glow; when this light faded, it left the palace restored to its former glory.
Before the day was out, nearly everyone who lived within sight of the castle had wedged themselves into the Chapel of the Triple Goddess. Midna stood to one side of the altar, bearing witness as Rauru took Zelda's hand and placed it, at long last, in mine. The shining surface of the Triforce statue behind us caught the last rays of the setting sun and framed them around our faces as I kissed my bride.
We left the celebrants, Zelda and I, and went with Midna to the Mirror of Twilight. Though the favor of the goddess enabled her to stand in the light, she insisted that it was time she returned to her people. She had abandoned them too long, she said. The Triforce of Power would follow her; the Twilight Realm was not so detached from Hyrule that the separation would devastate either realm. In fact, Rauru assured us, it would help prevent the rising of another Zant.
"I guess this is farewell, huh?" Midna mused, looking at the Mirror. "Light and shadow can't mix, as we all know. But...never forget that there's another world, bound to this one."
"Light and shadow are two sides of the same coin," Zelda said gently. "One cannot exist without the other. I believe the goddesses left the Mirror here because they intended for us to meet."
Midna inclined her head, apparently thinking that over. "Your words are kind, Zelda, and your heart is true," she said at last. "If all of Hyrule is like you...then maybe you'll do all right. Thank you." She looked at me, and I felt a pang. True, she had been little more than an irritant to me in the beginning, but I had grown very fond of my cheeky little companion. "Well, the princess speaks the truth -- as long as that mirror's around, we could meet again."
A single tear leaked from one of her jewel-bright eyes and solidified, and she brushed it from her face with one hand, batting at it gently. "Link...I..." She hesitated, watching the tear draw nearer and nearer to the Mirror. Abruptly she grinned. "See you later," she said, as she had so many times. She whirled then, and ran up the astral staircase to the swirling vortex. Her airborne tear struck the surface of the Mirror and it splintered into thousands of tiny fragments. I looked at it, and then at her, stunned.
For the rest of my days, I don't think I will understand that action. The legend was true; only the chosen ruler of the Twili could destroy the Mirror of Twilight. But why had she done it? Now we could never see her again, unless there was another jointure between the two worlds. Perhaps it was for our protection -- to keep someone like Zant from ever trying to conquer the world of light again. Perhaps there was another reason. As Zelda and I watched, Midna dissolved and blew into the portal. The Mirror then burst along its endless seams. We stood in silence for several moments, looking at the spot where our friend had been.
"Let's go home," said my wife.
There were many tasks to be done in the months following Zant's Invasion, as the event came to be known. We were spared the expense and exhaustion of restoring Hyrule Castle, thanks to the benevolence of the goddesses, but the kingdom extended well beyond those walls and there were things which simply had to be accomplished. Zelda ordered the temples to be scoured and the forests purged, not wanting to leave the slightest trace of Ganondorf's influence anywhere in her realm; I was awarded the task of rebuilding the Hylian Army to undertake this order.
Meanwhile, I wanted to see with my own eyes that the children of my village had returned home safely, and see for myself how my old friends took the news of recent events. There was more than a little wonder expressed at the report, which reached them ahead of me. Zelda, Princess Regnant of Hyrule, had taken for her Royal Consort the one known as the Hero of Time -- and he was none other than their own ranch hand. Only Rusl seemed entirely unsurprised, coming to greet me with his new daughter in his arms. I offered to make him a captain, but he demurred, saying he'd grown too old for such things. "But," he added, "when Colin's a little bigger, I'll send him to you. He's developing talent with a sword. For now, I'd like you to meet someone." He carefully handed me the infant. "The entire village pretty much insisted on what we'd name her, my son most of all. Say hello to Linka."
I was a little hesitant about meeting Ilia now that I was married, not wishing to hurt her. But the loss of her memory seemed to have done a kindness in this direction, for though she remembered me as her very dear friend, any warmer emotions she had perhaps once felt were wiped from her heart by her weeks of amnesia. She greeted me effusively, offered gracious congratulations on my victory and marriage, and expressed her hope that I would not be a stranger to Ordon just because I was now a Prince.
I journeyed also to Kakariko Village, to pay my respects to Renado and see how Malo's enterprises were faring. I was saluted like a brother by the Gorons, some of whom accepted my invitation to join the army. King Ralis and the Zora likewise gave me a royal welcome. I met up with the Resistance members, and installed Auru and Ashei as captains in the Hylian forces; Shad accepted a post as court historian and linguist. After several weeks of travel, I returned home to Hyrule Castle, and was present in the chamber when my first child was born.
"A girl," I said, admiring the sleeping infant. "Of course, the law states that her name has to be Zelda."
"I have something a little different in mind," said my wife. "The law states that her name has to be Zelda...but it doesn't say that it has to be her only name."
We swathed our baby in vestments bearing the royal emblem, and in the Chapel of the Triple Goddess it was proclaimed that she was the right high, right mighty, and right excellent Princess Midna Zelda, heiress to the throne of Hyrule. The bloodlines of Farore's champion and Nayru's disciple were blended in one who carried the name of Din's chosen. The gold of the Triforce gleamed in her hair, and the breach of time which had resulted from the Great Cataclysm was sewn up in her smile.
Though the chief of our time is spent in the palace, sometimes we visit other parts of the kingdom, to make sure that all is well. Our trips almost always conclude with a stay in Ordon Village, where Zelda and I put aside the trappings of royalty and indulge in the luxury of being ordinary people. Linka teaches Midna how to summon hawks with whistling grass, and to gather bee larvae and pumpkin seeds. I fish with Colin, and take Epona out on the pasture to herd the goats with Fado, and walk with Zelda through the sunlit forest that we once shared only in our dreams.
Both of my princesses were with me when I traveled to Faron Woods, where the Master Sword had to be returned to its resting place amid the ruins of the Temple of Time. I kept it for a few years, as we put the realm in order, but finally we agreed that the time had come to bid it farewell. Zelda stood behind me, our daughter in her arms, as I slid the Blade of Evil's Bane back into its stone. There it sleeps, now and hopefully forever, as the new age of peace and prosperity blankets the kingdom. Our little Midna will take the throne someday, well versed in the history which led to her own birth, and revering in equal part the virtues of wisdom, courage, and power.
For my own part, my lifetimes of battle have begun to wane at last, and the dreams which haunted me for so long have faded in the light of my reality. The promise of ages has been fulfilled; the Hero has his Princess. I ask for nothing greater.
This chronicle is thus set down by Link, Prince Consort of the Hylian Court, in the month of Nayru in the seventh year of the Fourth Age of Hyrule.