Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old by LadyNorbert
Chapter Four: Sacred and Sweet
I shook myself awake and gave a whine. How long had I slept? The sky overhead was still dark; on the other hand, all things considered, that might not mean anything. I let my mind roll back over everything that had happened, lingering only for a moment on the perfect face of my princess. At least now I had seen her in person; the way things stood, it might have to be enough. In my present condition, the most I could ever hope to be to Zelda was her pet.
Forcing myself to my feet, I started to jog out of the spirit spring. Almost at once I heard that peculiarly shrill giggle. The instant I set foot on the path to the village, Midna appeared.
"So what next?" she asked. "Did you think I'd disappeared?" She laughed. "Listen, there's one thing I forgot to tell you. Don't think you can just run off and save your friends, because you can't."
I tilted my head, looking at her curiously. She pointed at the strange black wall, which lay several feet from where we stood. "Last time," she said, "a shadow beast pulled you through there. If you want to go that way again, you'll need the cooperation of someone from the twilight...someone like me." She laughed again; the sound became less grating as I grew accustomed to it. "So," she concluded, "you really have no choice but to do what I say."
Her demand seemed small enough; she wanted a sword and shield. Those could be found in the village, if only I knew where to look. I wasn't keen on striking the bargain, but on the other hand, she had helped me escape from the prison. She had even brought me to Zelda, though I doubted she could possibly know how great a favor that actually had been. I jerked my head up and down in agreement to her terms.
"You do understand me, don't you?" She seemed altogether delighted. "Come on, hurry it up! While you stand here dawdling, the twilight continues to expand."
She did not sit astride my back again, as she had before, but rather concealed herself in my shadow. This was probably for the best, since I shortly discovered that the wolf's form offered a particularly interesting advantage. I could converse with the animals as easily as my normal self could converse with other people. There was no species that could not make itself understood to me, and from them I encountered an astonishing lack of hostility. As one of the tame cuccos explained it, "You stink like the guy from the ranch." They knew my scent, and trusted me.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for my human friends, who had no idea of my identity. Though I endeavored to keep to the shadows, and slink through the village undetected, I was unsuccessful. Hanch was standing atop the pillar near Jaggle's house, wailing over Beth's fate, when he saw me. Thinking I was the creature who had taken his daughter, he uprooted some whistling grass and sent a hawk after me. Midna emerged from my shade long enough to tell me to flee. "You're no match for that hawk!"
I crept close to where Jaggle and Mayor Bo were talking about the situation. Apparently Rusl had attempted to save the children, and gotten himself injured in the process. The shield he had crafted was at Jaggle's house; the sword was at Rusl's. I set about making my way to each of their homes, trying not to be spotted again, sneaking through holes in the floor and absconding with both weapons. Once I had them both, I all but crawled on my belly back to the path that led to my own home.
"Huh." Midna sounded amused. "Looks like you can actually be useful when you concentrate! All right. Nothing more we can do here; let's go back to the woods."
I have left Hyrule. I find it too painful to remain, just now; Zelda and I are denied the privilege of being together, and though my love for her does not and will never wane, it is too difficult for me to stay in her realm at the moment. Instead, I decide to go in search of my fairy friend Navi, who has left me.
Epona and I journey through the Lost Woods and, indeed, get ourselves somewhat lost. We find ourselves in a place called Termina, beyond the borders of our own land. It is a fair realm, or so I think at first. That is before we are ambushed by a spiky-masked creature and a pair of fairies. They strip me of Zelda's Ocarina of Time and also of Epona herself, and flee into a cave. I give chase, but I scarcely get beyond the entrance when I am transformed by unfriendly magic into a small Deku Tree. After a few moments, however, one of the fairies returns to me. She apologizes for what she has done, and promises to help me find the means to release myself from the binding spell.
I have never been a tree before, so this will take quite a lot of adjustment.
"Do you do that a lot?" Midna interrupted. "I've never seen someone dreaming like that. It's very annoying when we have things to do. Come on, let's get to the forest."
The voice was completely unfamiliar, and we both looked around. It called out again. "Come into my spring."
Midna made a funny noise, but offered no objection as I moved into the clearing at the Ordon Spring. The voice seemed to be emanating almost from the water itself. "You have been transformed by the power of shadow," it said, sadly. "Come to me..." Abruptly its tone changed from sorrow to a warning. "Beware! One of the shadow beings approaches!"
I looked up and saw that the hole in the sky, the one which had appeared when I was at the spring with Ilia and Colin, was still there. Another of those foul black beasts dropped through it and began to stalk me. Growling, I hunkered down, then leapt at it and wrestled with it until it shattered into what looked like small pieces of darkness. As if in response to the fight, a shimmer of luminescence began to take shape over the spring. I backed away slightly, and Midna promptly dove into my shadow again; it was too bright for her. The light stretched and expanded and shifted until at last it resembled one of the great horned goats from Fado's ranch, though far larger than any goat I had ever imagined.
"O brave youth," the goat greeted me, "I am one of four light spirits that protect Hyrule at the behest of the gods. I am Ordona. The black beast you slew was a shadow being. It had come to seize the power of light I wield."
Ordona then began to speak of the other light spirits of Hyrule -- Faron, Eldin, and Lanayru, each of whom stood guard over a spring just like the one in Ordon Province. The shadow beasts had already stolen the power of light from those spirits; but perhaps, if I traveled into Faron Woods and restored the light to the spirit there, I could be returned to my own body and find a way to stop the invading twilight. "The blight will not stop with Hyrule," Ordona warned me. "Before long, the entire world of light will fall into the hands of the king who rules the twilight."
I watched the figure until it had disappeared into the night again, then headed back out to the forest path. Midna seated herself on my back again; she had the shield covering her face, and slashed about wildly with the sword. I ducked my head repeatedly to avoid getting hit. "So these are the weapons you use in your world? They won't be of any use against creatures of twilight. I won't use these, so I'll hold them for you." She put them away; where, I had no idea. "All right! Faron Woods, here we come."
We'd scarcely crossed the shadow curtain when I heard the cries for help. I didn't know whose voice it was, but I set off like a shot for the north, Midna clinging to my neck as I ran. Abruptly I skidded to a halt when we crested a low hill; three more of the shadow beasts were there, and they at once fenced us in. While my imp friend ducked out of sight, I began dispatching them as I had the one at the spring. Imagine my horror when I had killed two of the beasts, only to have the third issue a keening wail that brought them back to life.
"What's the holdup?" Midna sounded bored as she came back into view. "Look, you can't leave just one of them alive, because its cry will revive the ones you killed. You have to kill the last two at the same time. You kill one of them, and then lure the other two in close range; I'll set off an energy field that will destroy them both."
I'd had my doubts, but Midna's plan was surprisingly effective, and we were shortly able to make our way into Faron Spring. "Blue-eyed beast," the weak spirit greeted me, "be careful...these woods have changed. Look for my light; retrieve the light stolen by the dark beasts, and keep it in this vessel." Faron presented me with a charm, and explained that the Tears of Light, which were almost like small jewels, could be carried in the vessel. I would need to use my wolf instincts to seek out the creatures -- Faron called them dark insects -- who each held one of the Tears. Once I had assembled them all, the spirit's power would return in full, and the twilight would be banished from Faron Woods.
I found some of them in the home of Coro, a forest-dwelling merchant who had given me a lantern. Poor man; I could see his spirit form crouched against a wall, trying to keep away from the dark insects. Others were tormenting the monkey I had saved from the cage with Talo. Willingly enough I destroyed them. They were easier to kill than the shadow beasts, being smaller and less able to fight back; more than anything they were wily about escaping from me, even going underground and forcing me to dig them up.
"That's the last one!" said Midna, who was carrying Faron's vessel. "I don't see what's so great about a world full of light, but get back to the spring. See you later!" She dove back into my shadow as I made my way to Faron.
Faron's form, which perhaps shouldn't have surprised me, was that of a large monkey like those who lived in its woods. "O brave youth," it said warmly, "in the land covered in twilight, where people roam as spirits, you were transformed into a blue-eyed beast. That was a sign. It was a sign that the powers of the chosen one rest within you...and that they are awakening. Look at your awakened form."
I didn't understand what that meant. I lowered my head to view my reflection in the water, and almost fell backward as I realized I'd been restored to my Hylian body. The clothes were different, however; in place of the simple forest garments I'd been wearing, I now sported a shirt of mail beneath a green tunic, belted at the waist, and long white breeches tucked into knee-high boots. A long green stocking cap sat on my head, and my forearms and hands were laced into leather gauntlets. The sword and shield which Rusl had made were on my back.
I had never seen these clothes before...and yet I had. With a start, I realized that they were the same garments I always wore during my dream-meetings with Zelda.
"The green tunic that is your garb once belonged to the ancient hero chosen by the gods. His power is yours. His is the true power that slept within you. Your name is Link. You are the hero chosen by the gods."
So the stories really are true, I thought, though I kept silent. I offered a silent apology to my mother for ever having doubted her. Faron continued to speak, explaining that in the forest temple could be found a dark and forbidden power. The light spirits had locked it away a long time ago, but I needed to recover it in order to have the strength to fight the king of twilight.
"So you're the chosen hero," Midna yawned, emerging from my shadow as I left the spring. "That explains a lot. You're going to the forest temple, huh? What a coincidence, I was thinking of going there myself." Her oddly-colored eyes twinkled mischievously.
"First, if you don't mind, I'd like to take a little rest," I said. "It's been a very long night."
"I suppose that makes sense."
We made our way back to Coro's establishment. He was surprised when I told him I planned to visit the temple, but gave me the key that would unlock the gate that led there. "If it wouldn't be too great an imposition," I continued, "I'd appreciate it if I could rest here for a little while before I go." I handed him five rupees, and he showed me a place where I could nap undisturbed. It was shady enough that Midna wouldn't be troubled by the invasive light, and it seemed I was asleep the instant my head touched the ground.
The twilight hovers just beyond the forest glade, but has not yet managed to impede the sunlight which still brushes the ground here.
I cannot find her, and a nameless fear claws at my heart. She has never failed to appear before this. Surely she is unharmed?
I turn around and breathe a sigh of relief. She is with me. "I was afraid for you," I tell her.
"As I have been for you. Have you found the means to return to your true form?"
"Midna is still with you?"
"Yes. A useful ally, in her own way."
"She struck me thus as well. Link...I hardly dare to hope, things are so bleak. And yet...I wonder if..."
"If this will be our last battle?"
"It has been so long...so wearying..."
"And you have had to bear so much. I am sorry that I cannot have helped you more."
"You have done all that you could. And you are worth whatever the cost has been."
"I think it's time you were up."
I groaned, and opened one eye. Midna looked mildly concerned; I was extremely annoyed with her for pulling me away from Zelda, and had to remind myself that she hadn't done it on purpose. "Already?"
"You've been asleep for nearly two hours."
"Two hours? How can it have been two hours? I barely got to see her." The words left my mouth before I realized that I was speaking and not merely thinking.
"Oh, is that where you go when you do that? You see Princess Zelda?"
"How did you..."
"It wasn't hard to guess. I saw the way she looked at you." She seemed wholly disinterested in the matter. "We'd better get to the temple."
I thanked Coro for his hospitality; he still expressed doubt about my wanting to go to the temple, but didn't try to stop me. What did stop me, however, was the appearance of a wolf at the beginning of the path to the temple. It was like no wolf I'd ever seen; the very strands of its fur seemed to be made from pure light. I drew my sword, unsure of anything at this point, but I was unprepared for the animal's massive leap and how quickly I was pinned to the ground.
I am in Hyrule in winter, it seems. At first glance I think I am alone; then I turn around and am confronted by a massive warrior skeleton. He is armed and armored, and appears to be spoiling for a fight. Something about his countenance, however, commands respect.
"You may be destined to become the hero of legend...but your current power would disgrace the proud green of the hero's tunic you wear," he mocks me. "You must use your courage to seek power...and find it you must. Only then will you become the hero for whom this world despairs. If you do find true courage, and you wish to save Hyrule from the horrors it now faces... Then you will be worthy to receive the secrets I hold!"
I draw my sword again, and the shade begins to teach me a movement he calls the "ending blow." It is a means of dispatching an enemy who lies on the ground, before they can get back to their feet. He invites me to perform the blow on him, to ensure that I have grasped it. He taunts me when I fail the first time, calling me a coward. The second time, I successfully execute the maneuver.
"I have other skills to teach you," he says as he rises. "They are only for one who carries the blood of the hero...the one whose spirit is that of the sublime beast. Grow powerful. Test your courage. A sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage. Remember those words..."
"Link!" Midna exclaimed. "Where were you?"
"You...the wolf pounced you...and you vanished! I didn't know what to think, I thought you were dead!"
"You mean...I wasn't dreaming?" I'd thought perhaps it was only a vision. "I...I met someone...he taught me...oh, never mind, it's not important. Let's get into the temple." Of course it was important -- I had the feeling it was far more important than I even really could guess -- but it didn't matter in the short term. What mattered was entering that temple and finding the dark power of which Faron had spoken.
Hours later, we emerged triumphant. For my trouble I had received a new weapon, the Gale Boomerang, which was inhabited by the fairy of winds and could be used to perform extraordinary actions. I also had one of the three pieces of the 'dark power,' something Midna called a fused shadow. We returned to Faron, who congratulated us but cautioned us not to think that our tasks were finished. Twilight was still encroaching on the other provinces.
"Head to the west," Faron counseled, "to the land protected by the spirit Eldin. There you will find those you seek." My heart leapt; the children were in Eldin Province!
We crossed Hyrule Field, according to the spirit's dictates, and once again reached the inky curtain of twilight. With Midna's aid I crossed the barrier, though once again I changed into the blue-eyed wolf. "You look much better like that anyway," Midna teased me. I somehow doubted that Zelda would agree.
After a few minor mishaps, including having to recover the bridge that led into Eldin Province, we reached the gates to Kakariko Village. They were locked, but I dug underneath them and stepped into Eldin's spring. The soft warm voice of the spirit welcomed me, as Faron had, with the request that I kill the dark insects who had stolen its power. Again I received a vessel. Again I went in search of the foul beings. "But be careful," Eldin begged me. "The darkness now hunts you."
I came across a handful of shadow people inside one of the Kakariko houses. It took me a second or two to realize who I was seeing -- it was Colin! And Talo and Malo and Beth, as well as a few people who were unfamiliar to my eyes. I bit back a whine when Colin expressed the apparently oft-repeated assertion that "Link is coming to save us!" To my surprise, Midna gave my neck a soft pat of sympathy.
"These kids knew you'd come to save them! What a hero!" she said, and her tone was not entirely mocking. "You are chosen by the gods, and only that keeps you from turning into a spirit or a dark monster when you enter the twilight." I craned my head around to look at her, and she gave me another pat. "Come on, my lonely little hero."
The search for the dark insects took us up to Death Mountain itself. A vision threatened to overtake me again; it had been a few lifetimes since I'd had to visit Death Mountain, but I suddenly and very vividly remembered placing a bomb next to the formation called Spectacle Rock, and blasting open the entrance to a dungeon where my beloved Zelda was a prisoner in shackles. I gave myself a shake. This was a poor time for a dreaming memory; the children were counting on me. Besides, the mountain was riddled with geysers that threatened to knock me off of the path, to say nothing of the fiery rocks that spewed from its depths and had to be avoided. It was a treacherous road to climb under the best of conditions.
What little remained of Eldin's power brought us directly to the spring as soon as the last dark insect was exterminated, and as Eldin assumed the form of a giant eagle, I myself assumd my human form once again. The twilight was banished from Eldin Province. "O great hero chosen by the gods," Eldin greeted me, "the dark power you seek lies in the sacred grounds of the proud mountain dwellers. But already those grounds have been defiled, draped in shadow and seeded with evil. You must go to those sacred grounds and cleanse them."
"Well, we'll just get right on that," said Midna as we left the spring. I ignored her, however, and started walking in the direction of the house where I had seen the children. Colin spotted me from the window, and I couldn't fight a laugh as he came hurtling through the front door, the others in hot pursuit. They flung themselves on me, all talking at once about how it had been a nightmare from which they couldn't wake up but everything seemed all right again.
"Colin -- where's Ilia?" For the first time, I realized she wasn't with the group.
"I don't know." He looked mournful again. "She wasn't with us; those things that grabbed us seemed to take her someplace else."
I choked on a sigh. "Well, we'll find her," I said, more confident than I felt. "I'm just glad you're all safe!"
The tall, proud man with black hair, whose demeanor had been so calm when they were in spirit form, was now gliding toward me. "So you are the one of whom the children spoke," he said. "Welcome. I am Renado, the shaman of this village. This is my daughter, Luda."
"The beasts took us and left us to die," Colin reported, "but Mr. Renado saved us."
Renado and I then had a talk about the Goron tribe, who inhabited the mountain. What he said seemed to confirm Eldin's comment about the grounds being draped in shadow; the normally peaceful Gorons had ceased their friendly relations with Kakariko Village, not allowing any humans on the mountain. He urged me to take the children back to Ordon, but to my surprise, the children were balking at the idea and pleading with me to do something about the Goron situation.
Before I could come to a decision about what to do, I heard a shrill sound and felt the ground shake. We all turned to see Epona -- my Epona! -- galloping into the village at breakneck speed, looking and sounding the very picture of terrified despair. A porcine creature, one of those which are called Bulbins, was astride her, but not for long. She managed to shake him off but continued to run around wildly. I motioned for Renado to keep the children back while I wrestled my poor horse into submission.
Perhaps something about my handling of that situation impressed Renado in some way. He suggested that he keep the children for a little longer, while I returned to Ordon Village on my own. I could take the news of their safety to the worried parents, and meanwhile consult with Mayor Bo. He was the only one who had ever bested a Goron in a fight, and if he could teach me how to do it, maybe I could convince them to let me into their mines and solve the mysterious problem. It was worth a try; I had to enter the mines in order to get the fused shadow.
It all began because it was my birthday.
I live on an island in the Great Sea with my grandmother and Aryll, my sister, and it was my birthday. Aryll allowed me to use her telescope, and I could see the evil bird called the Helmaroc King flying into the forest. He had a girl clutched in his talons. I did not know where he was taking her, but I took my sword and ran to save her. Her name is Tetra, and she is a little pirate queen. The Helmaroc King has now captured Aryll, so Tetra and her pirates are helping me with my search.
But all is jumbled. Tetra is not Tetra at all but Zelda, wearing a piece of the Triforce of Wisdom on a chain around her neck. Our old enemy knows her. The Triforce of Courage lies in fragments at the bottom of the sea and I haul them up into my boat. There are elemental sages who do not know they are sages until I play music for them. Zelda's father is a talking boat called the King of Red Lions. I float on the wind with the leaf of a Deku Tree. Farore's Pearl and the Earth God's Lyric and Triangle Islands and Forbidden Woods and Prince Komali...
Was all of this before I played the Ocarina of Time, or did it come afterward? Or was it in one of the other realities of which Zelda has spoken? Has she split the Triforce of Wisdom into eight pieces that I must recover? When will the mask attempt to force the moon to crash into Termina? Who is Ezlo? I cannot keep it all straight anymore, I cannot, one lifetime is bleeding into another and I am bewildered by the flood.