Til the Sun Grows Cold and the Stars Grow Old by LadyNorbert

Chapter Eight: In Me Thou Seest the Twilight

I reached Lake Hylia and entered the establishment known as -- and I can't even write it, let alone say it, with a straight face -- Fyer and Falbi's Watertop Land of Fantastication. As Auru had described, it was basically a sort of amusement ride on the lake.

"Auru, eh?" Fyer squinted at the message when I handed it to him. "Hrm. Well, guess I oughta do what the old coot says. Oasis flight's not available to the general population, but you get a one-time free ride."

I was not overly enthused (to put it mildly) about this mode of transporation, which largely amounted to my being shot out of a large cannon. However, it was impossible to deny the effectiveness of it, for once I had landed, I found myself at the entrance to the Gerudo Desert. It probably would have been impossible to reach without Fyer's "bit of fantastication," as he called it. I started to search for the path that would lead to the prison.

"Wait, Link."

Midna emerged from my shadow. Her expression was downcast. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Before we go on...there's something I want to tell you." She sighed. "Do you remember what the spirits said about the fused shadow?"


"Well, what do you think happened to the ones who tried to conquer the Sacred Realm?"

"According to the legends, they were banished into another realm by the goddesses."

"Right. Another world entirely -- the antithesis of Hyrule, where the sun shines bright. came to be known as the Twilight Realm, and from it, no one could ever return to the world of light. They were doomed to live in the twilight, mere shadows of Hyrule. This is the history of the Twili as it has been handed down through generations." She finally looked at me. "Do you understand, now, what I am?"

"You''re from that other world?"

"Yes. I'm a descendant of the tribe that was banished to the Twilight Realm! It was a peaceful place...until Zant took control of the Twilight Realm and transformed all of the Twili into shadow beasts."

"Oh, goddesses...those monsters I've been destroying were your people."

"You didn't have a choice. It's clear to me now that Zant somehow gained a great evil power previously unknown to our tribe. Anyway, I was sent from there; I'm trapped here in Hyrule, I can't go back to the Twilight Realm without his power. But there's another story, Link."

"Another story?"

"It's said that while the goddesses forbade my people to return to the light, they did leave behind one link between the light and the darkness. It's called the Mirror of Twilight. It was given to the protectors of Hyrule, and it's the only way we can reach the Twilight Realm. We have to get there, Link!" Hovering in front of me, she lifted one delicate little hand to my face. "Will...will you come with me?"

I felt such a surge of pity for her then that, even if I hadn't already come to regard her as a friend, even if she were not under my protection, I could never have refused her. "Yes, of course. Whatever we have to do, Midna."

She smiled, reassured, and darted back into my shadow. "Well, then, let's go. If what that guy at the lake said is correct, the Mirror of Twilight must be in this desert prison."

It would be a while before we could investigate this matter, however. It took hours of desert travel, to say nothing of another encounter with King Bulblin and his riders, before we were even within sight of the prison.

"This place gives me the creeps," Midna admitted. "Where are we?"

"They call it the Arbiter's Grounds. It's where prisoners were sentenced to their fates." Grimly, with a firm hold on the Blade of Evil's Bane, I entered the fortress and began to descend.

Many of the enemies I encountered in those depths were familiar from my bygone lives, particularly the animated skeleton warriors called Stalfos. Many of the rooms were filled with quicksand. I was approaching a state of exhaustion by the time we reached the lowest level. The floor was littered with the bones of some gigantic creature, which I was grateful I would not have to battle. With fervent relief I leaned against the doorframe, trying to regain my breath and strength.

"You still live?" asked a chilling voice. Midna and I turned slowly as Zant emerged from the shadows. "How astonishing," he admitted. "No wonder some call you 'hero.' But this is a truly bittersweet reunion, for I have no doubt that it will be the last time I see you alive!"

From thin air he caused a sword to materialize. With a strangled sort of chuckle, he plunged the blade into the skull which lay on the floor. The bones began to animate.

"It's a Stallord!" Midna yelled over the commotion. "Look out!"

I feel almost as if I have been tricked, somehow. Rauru has explained that, though they favor the union, the goddesses will not permit me to wed Zelda. Not until our foe is vanquished for good and all.

"I fail to see the connection," I tell him. We sit alone in the Temple of Time, he and I. Light streams through one of the stained glass windows and makes a multicolored halo around his aged head.

"You mean to say," he replies with a gentle smile, "that you feel as if you are being punished."

"To be truthful, yes, I do."

He nods, and looks thoughtful, as though part of his mind is asking the goddesses how to justify their position. "You love Princess Zelda. She loves you. This will never change."

"Then why keep us apart?"

"Because your time in this world, young Link, will come to an end, as it does for all mortal beings. But when your time ends, it also will begin; you and Zelda will be reborn, and reborn again. Your enemy is immortal now, you understand this? He will not be reborn again; he will exist for all time, until the Triforce of Power elects to take his life." His eyes are sympathetic. "For this reason, you and Zelda must be sent back to Hyrule as many times as it takes to see that this happens. He will escape; that is surely foreseeable. When he does, he will hunt the pair of you wherever you are, for he knows that only you and Zelda have the power to stop him for good."

"I still do not understand, Rauru." Am I dense? Or is he too cryptic for my mind? "Who knows how many millennia may pass before he breaks the seal and escapes? Must we be apart for all time?"

"It may feel so, but I do not think you will have to wait as long as that. But you and Zelda cannot wed until then. Do you still not see? Your soul will be bound to her soul, irretrievably, and when you die, you will depart the world together. You will no longer be reborn, because your souls will no longer be separated. Then, if the King of Evil still lives, he will seize his opportunity. Only you and Zelda can defeat him, Link. That is why the goddesses decree you must be kept apart -- otherwise, the world is doomed."

And I understand, now. "Then...then it must be," I say, with a sigh.

"Take heart, champion of the goddess Farore." He puts a hand on my shoulder. "Some love lasts a lifetime. True love lasts forever. I have no doubt which you share with Zelda."

I don't know how long I battled the Stallord. It felt like a few years. To the best of my memory, I had never in any of my prior lifetimes fought against a resurrected demon, and more than once I was sure I was not going to survive the encounter. But finally the animated skeleton was again lying still and silent on the floor. My whole body felt like rubber, and I leaned against a wall for support.

"You did it!" Midna crowed. "All right, Link, let's go! We're close to the Mirror of Twilight!"

Stifling a groan, I sheathed the Master Sword and ambled after her. She led me up the stairs and into the circular execution grounds; it looked like a great stadium, suitable for horse races or other events. There was no ceiling; a thousand stars glistened overhead, oblivious to Hyrule's plight, and centered directly over the chamber was another Twilight portal. Great stone eagles with outstretched wings, the emblem of the realm, were mounted to the apexes of the great pillars which adorned the wall; from these, giant chains descended to the ground. I wondered at their purpose. In the center of it all was a massive statue of the goddess Nayru, giver of the law; she was crowned with a massive platform on which the Mirror of Twilight resided. A spiral staircase surrounded the statue, leading up to the crown. For Midna's sake, at least, I was glad that we had found it, and with as much strength as I still had remaining, I followed her up the stairs. I had just cleared the top step when she gave a strangled sort of cry, darting forward to the Mirror's pedestal.

The Mirror was destroyed.

She stared at the place where the relic should have been; only the pedestal stood there on its platform, a few shards of the Mirror proper still clinging to the frame. She hovered around in circles, mouth open, eyes wide with shock as she tried to make sense out of it. Then, with a heartsick wail, she flung herself down onto the platform, hammering the surface with her tiny fists. "No no no no no!"

"Midna..." I began, and stopped. Something was happening. Slowly, we both raised our eyes to the pinnacles of the columns, where bright lights were beginning to take shape. Unnerved, Midna picked herself up and moved back to my side. The lights took on an almost human form.

"A dark entity lurks in the twilight," they chorused. "It houses an evil power."

"Who are they, Link?" Midna whispered.

"The sages...the sages." I'd all but forgotten. "They were the ones who would hand down judgment in this place, and determine who would die for their crimes or be banished to your world."

"You who are guided by fate, you who possess the crest of the goddesses...hear us," said one. As if it knew it was being mentioned, the birthmark on my left hand throbbed briefly.

"At the command of the goddesses," said another sage, "we sages have guarded the Mirror of Twilight since ancient times."

"You seek it, but the Mirror has been fragmented by mighty magic. A dark power that only he possesses."

"His name is...Ganondorf."

This time, the visions came at me so rapidly that I actually dropped to my knees. A piglike creature, invisible until I struck him with my sword, then brought him down with a silver arrow...encased in crystalline ice and shattered by a blow...his foster mothers tried to resurrect him using Zelda's pure heart...sealed within the Sacred Realm...the Triforce of Power adhered to his soul...Ganondorf.

My ancient enemy. The name I could not remember...until that moment. Ganondorf, or simply Ganon.

"Link, please get up..." Midna tugged at my arm until I got back to my feet. The sages were explaining Ganondorf's past -- leader of the band of thieves who tried to conquer Hyrule and the Sacred Realm, the evil wielder of magic who was blinded by his own thirst for power. It was he, lifetimes ago, who tricked Zelda and myself into gathering the keys which allowed the Sacred Realm to be opened. He had touched the Triforce and caused it to break, the three essences binding themselves to the three of us. He had been condemned to death there at the Arbiter's Grounds. The sages had impaled him with a massive, magic blade, almost equal in strength to the Master Sword. Then they had sent what remained of him into the Twilight Realm. Of course he was still alive; he couldn't be truly killed so long as the Triforce of Power acknowledged him as Din's acolyte. My own continued existence was proof of his.

"By some divine prank, he, too, had been blessed with the chosen power of the gods. His abiding hatred and lust for power turned to purest malice. Perhaps that evil power has been passed on to Zant."

"You mean you're just now figuring out where Zant got his power?" sassed Midna. "It's a little late for that."

The sages ignored her. "Only the true leader of the Twili can utterly destroy the Mirror of Zant could merely break it into pieces. Once broken by magic, the Mirror became fragments, which even now lie hidden across the land of Hyrule." They counseled us as to where we might find these scattered shards -- one was in the snowy mountain heights, one in an ancient grove, and one in the heavens. "You who have been sent by the goddesses should be able to gather the three pieces," they told me. "But you must be prepared, for a dangerous power resides in those fragments."

The light of the sages' spirits faded into nothingness on this final admonition. Midna and I looked at one another in some perplexity. "We don't really have a choice, do we?" I asked.

"I'm afraid we don't."

I still cannot find her, although this fact does not torment me quite as much as it did previously. Something of my lady's essence pervades my understanding; her gift of wisdom reaches out to me, faintly, as though to assure me that when the time is right we will find one another again.

I am in our grove, which is and is not the same as when last I left it. She is not here, and yet I find strength here to renew me. She is not missing; she has merely gone ahead of me to wherever it is we will meet. Perhaps she cannot hear me, but I am compelled to speak nonetheless.

"I love you," I tell the empty air. "I will find you."

Back in Castle Town, I again consulted with my friends at Telma's tavern. Auru was heartily pleased to see me return safely from the desert, and inquired after my experiences. When I told him about the sages, half expecting him to call me a lunatic, he simply nodded. "Those sages were the ones who first told me of the accursed mirror," he confided. "They used to serve the royal family, actually; they were the tutors of the young Princess Zelda." I swallowed the lump which came to my throat unexpectedly, trying to appear nonchalant as he continued, "Have you seen the sad state of our poor Hyrule Castle? Our little group is trying to restore peace to the kingdom as quickly as possible."

Ashei, I noticed, was missing from the company. According to Telma, she had left a few days earlier to travel to Snowpeak, to investigate problems developing there. Rusl, meanwhile, had returned to Faron Woods. I needed to confer with each of them in turn, but since I knew for certain that there was a Mirror shard in the snowy mountain heights, I decided to look for Ashei first.

What I found was unsettling. Snowpeak bordered on the Zoras' domain, and they were complaining of invasions by a beast. Ashei showed me the sketch she had made of the creature; it was, in her picture, carrying a reekfish, a kind of fish that, according to the guards, only Prince Ralis had ever managed to catch. To learn more about this matter, I traveled to Kakariko, where the prince was making a splendid recovery.

"My mother came to me in a dream," he informed me, "and showed me your image. She told me of the one named Link who would save our domain and steer my fate." He was healthy, but sad. "I am so unlike unfit to rule."

I showed him Ashei's drawing, and he nodded. "Here, take this. It's a coral earring; reekfish don't respond to regular bait." He looked at me thoughtfully. "I get a sense, now, of what my mother would want. I will return to my village. Meanwhile, you can find the reekfish near the Mother and Child Rocks, in the waterfall basin."

"If we can catch one of these reekfish, maybe it will give us a clue," Midna commented.

The Snowpeak adventure, for I have no better name for it, was one of the most tedious portions of my entire quest. Once I caught a reekfish of my own, I headed back to the wintry heights, where I encountered the shaggy snow-beast from Ashei's sketch; Yeto was his name. He spoke to me quite cheerfully of the "pretty mirror" he had found, and invited me back to his home to see it for myself. His wife had fallen ill, and he was using the reekfish to make soup to heal her. The hunt for the Mirror shard throughout the mansion was a regular scavenger hunt, and ended with my being attacked by the sickly wife.

"She looked into the shard," Midna explained afterward. "It transformed her into a Twilight beast. I'm so glad you didn't have to kill her...I feel so sorry for what she's had to endure." Yeto was cradling his wife in his arms; with the shard no longer in her possession, her sickness was fading and she had no memory of being a monster. Midna looked at the fragment. "Let's hurry and find the other two pieces...I don't want anyone else to have to go through what she did."

In Faron Woods we found Rusl, who seemed to have been expecting me. "Do you know about the far side of this gorge?" he asked. "Some say there is an ancient temple deep in the woods that guards a sacred power."

"Been there, done that," Midna muttered from the depths of my shadow.

She was right, in a way. The temple to which Rusl was referring was, of course, the Temple of Time. But it was different this visit, as we discovered once we finally reached the place. A pedestal stood in front of the ruins, much like the one from which I had drawn the Master Sword. Curious, I inserted the blade into the opening, then removed it again. The guardian at the door of the temple vanished.

"Careful," Midna told me. "Something feels a little off about this place."

We moved to enter the structure, and I was reminded why it was called the Temple of Time. There was another pedestal inside, and I repeated my earlier action; it was much like using a giant key to unlock the building. No longer in ruins, the Temple of Time now towered eight stories overhead, and goddesses only knew how many years into the past we had traveled. It was all very familiar; I saw the stained glass window beneath which I had once discussed my fate with Rauru.

"Goodness! Just a moment, young man!"

I looked around, bewildered. A golden...thing had followed us into the past and was watching us keenly. "Could it be...could you be the hero?" it asked me. "I thought so! Just as I suspected! I am Ooccoo." She was oddly birdlike, with a somewhat disturbing humanoid face that bore a perpetually blank expression. "I have to tell you, my son and I have been looking for something. We can't return home until we find that thing."

What Ooccoo needed was a piece of ancient technology created by her people, something called the Dominion Rod. I found it, but neither she nor I could make sense out of it; it seemed to be useless. Still, I tucked it away in my pack, for something told me it would serve a purpose later. Bow and arrows in hand, I faced down the Armogohma, which to an extent I found vaguely amusing; I remembered battling Gohmas in prior lives. With only one piece of Mirror yet to be recovered, Midna and I left the Temple of Time, emerging to find ourselves back in the time from whence we had come.

" saw how nasty that monster was, right?" Midna seemed subdued. "The evil within the shards is more powerful than you can imagine. You know we could be assembling something truly terrible here. It could be something that we'll ultimately have to destroy."

I paused mid-stride, and looked at her. "I thought the sages said that only the true ruler of the Twili could actually destroy it."

"Well, yes, but anyway. Let's hurry and collect that last shard! We have to find a way to get to the sky!"


"I do not appear to you quite as I once did, do I, young Link?" He smiles.

"Not entirely, no."

"I am sent by Farore." He bows his head briefly in respect at the mention of her name. "It is her desire that her champion be assured of her continued favor. He has served her faithfully and well, and he shall yet be rewarded."

"I am on the right path, then?"

"There was never any doubt that you would find your way, Hero of Ages."

My next destination was Kakariko Village. This was not my own decision, but rather the result of so much encouragement to go there that it would have been impossible to ignore. A letter reached me from Renado, advising me of Ilia's unchanged condition. Back in Telma's tavern, both she and Rusl commented that Shad had gone to Kakariko, to continue his studies of the ancient Sky Writing, and none too subtly suggested that I should go and speak with him.

I did find Shad in the village, but I was more concerned with Renado's report on my friend. "I have learned this much," he said. "When she was rescued from those who kidnapped her from your village, Ilia heard someone talking about the rod of the heavens, or something of that sort. The Goron elder Darbus has come into the village to lend his aid, and he believes we must piece together the fragments of her memory by working backward. Please, take this message to Telma at her bar; since she was the last one to tend Ilia before you brought her here, she may know something."

"Rod of the heavens?" came the comment from my shadow. "Now why does that sound familiar?"

Before I left, I went in to visit with Ilia for a few minutes. Her luminous eyes were deeply apologetic. "I regret that a total stranger like yourself got caught up in all of this because of me. I'm so sorry." It pained me not to correct her on the subject, to tell her how very far from being a stranger I was, but I held back. Shocking her would do her no good; she needed to remember me in her own time.

If I thought I was on a scavenger hunt in the Yetis' Snowpeak mansion, it was nothing to what I was about to do. Telma said that a Doctor Borville had been the one to bring Ilia to the tavern, and sent me to see him with what turned out to be his staggering bar tab. He was deeply flustered, and angry because he thought I had been sent to strong-arm him into paying his bill. In his agitation he mentioned a wooden statue which had been in Ilia's possession when she was found. He had intended to sell it, to get the money to cover his tab, but had spilled a foul-smelling medicine on it; when he put it outside to dry, someone stole it.

Midna turned me into the wolf, so that I might find the statue by scent. Telma's cat Louise came to lend a hand, confessing that she was the one who had taken the statue with the intent of returning it to Ilia. "But then," she said, "I was attacked by some sort of skeletal dog beasts who took it from me. I don't know why these beasts were after her statue. I thought it likely that she was in a dangerous spot, though." She told me I could find the creatures by the south gate after nightfall.

They were Stalhounds, according to Midna, but she was as much at a loss to explain why they would want the statue as either Louise or myself. Back in my normal form, I returned to Kakariko to show the statue to Ilia. She looked at it thoughtfully, then brightened.

"I remember something!" she cried. "I was confined somewhere, and I was saved by whoever was confined with me. And when that person set me free, they gave me this statue. Yes, yes, I remember that much! But that means...that person is still in trouble!"

Gor Coron, who had come into the village with Darbus, was able to shed more light on the matter. "I recognize this!" he exclaimed, peering at the statue. "This belonged to the tribe that once protected the royal family of Hyrule. They lived in secret, in a lonely, forgotten place."

"If Ilia's recollection is correct, then we need to find that person in the hidden village," said Renado. "Perhaps that person holds the key to unlocking her memory."

With the Gorons' assistance, I was able to pass the rockslide which had blocked the path into the hidden village for so many years. Darbus grunted, sniffing. "This scent that has been burning in my nostrils is the scent of evil," he told me. "There is one powerful creature I have seen, but under that beast are many minions who attack and plunder like a pack of hyenas. At most, 20 of them are ahead, probably just a small band of survivors. If that is all there are, little human, then you alone are more than enough for them. Before you go, I will tell you the secret to besting them: destroy them all before they spot you!"

Darbus was right; the creatures were very much like hyenas. They were thin and wasted with hunger, and it might have been some sort of mercy killing as I dispatched them with comparitive ease. Only when the final howl had faded into nothingness did a door open. The woman who emerged was almost certainly one of the Sheikah tribe, whom I had first encountered in the time before the Great Cataclysm. Fleetingly I remembered "Sheik," the warrior who had turned out to be my own Zelda in a carefully crafted disguise. As I looked upon the last of the Sheikah, she stared at me in a kind of wonder.

"The savior," she said, slowly. "It's -- it's you, the savior! Oh, please forgive me for not opening the door." She introduced herself as Impaz, the last resident of the hidden village. "Is your name Link?" she asked, and I nodded. "I knew it. So you saved that girl, did you? When she was here, she would cheer me up by saying that you would come. Sweet girl; she wanted me to escape with her. By royal order, I can't leave this place until a certain person arrives, no matter what." She shook her head. "I have a favor to ask -- would you help me return this to her?"

She held out a curiously carved wooden charm. It vaguely reminded me of my old ocarina, for some reason. "That dear girl deserves her charm back," said Impaz, "and please tell her that this old biddy was very gratef--oh!" As I opened my pack to tuck the charm inside, Impaz caught sight of the other contents. "Is that...oh my heaven, is that the Dominion Rod?"

"You know it?"

"You are the messenger to the heavens! Among the legends of my clan, there is a story from the time when the Oocca still maintained contact with the royal family. It is said that a mysterious rod, the Dominion Rod, was handed down from the people of the sky. It was only to be carried by the messenger to the heavens when the royal family needed to communicate with the Oocca."

"I...suppose I am." It amused me, in an offhand fashion, to add 'messenger to the heavens' to my string of titles.

"From generation to generation, my ancestors have guarded the book that, by royal decree, was to be given to the messenger to the heavens." She hastened into her house and returned with a tome. "This is that book. Please, take it. This book is written in the ancient language of Sky Writing."

Back in Kakariko, Ilia identified the wooden charm as a horse call.

"I...I think I'm starting to remember," she said. "This feels familiar. You feel familiar. You were always there...Link...this was for you. I meant to give it to you before you left for Hyrule Castle. It works just like the horse grass; you can play Epona's song on it."

"You made it for me?"

"Yes." She smiled, then; the first clouds were lifting from her mind. "You don't need to worry about me any longer, Link. Whenever you return, I'll be waiting for you." I felt a twinge of guilt, then, for I wasn't entirely sure that I would return.

Downstairs, Shad was in the basement, examining a statue which looked more or less like an owl. "What's this?" he asked as I handed him the book from Impaz. His bespectacled eyes widened. "Where in blazes did you get this? It's Sky Writing!" Excitedly, he turned to the statue and uttered the ancient incantation as inscribed in the book...but nothing happened. He was far from discouraged, however. "Thank you, Link -- you have brought me one step closer to solving this puzzle. Here, take the book; I will go and try that word on the other statues." He chuckled. "I've visited them so many times, I know their locations by heart! Give me your map, I'll mark them for you in case you ever get curious."

As Shad walked up the stairs, looking pleased with himself, I heard a strange sort of humming from my waist. Midna darted out of my shadow, and from my pack I drew the Dominion Rod. It was glowing with an eerie, unearthly light.

"The writing in the book was a spell that imbued the staff with magic!" she said, peering at it. "Hmm...maybe we should pay a visit to those other statues he mentioned."

Using the Twilight portals, she moved us through the kingdom, and at each of the owl statues I found a new piece of writing. It turned out that the book was incomplete, but by the time we returned to Kakariko, I was fairly certain all of the missing characters had been restored. I was looking forward to Shad's reaction to the new lettering.

"What? There's more writing in here?" He took the book from me, bewildered. "Link, this is amazing! This must be the word we need -- let's try it immediately!" He rushed back to the statue in the basement and uttered the new spell. As we watched, the statue changed form somewhat. "Look at it looks just like the other statues! Blast it, this has me thoroughly confounded."

He wandered upstairs, muttering that he needed to cool off. I pulled out the Dominion Rod; I was pretty certain I knew what to do with it. Sure enough, the statue came away from the wall, revealing a hidden alcove. Midna was halfway to examining the contents when we heard footsteps running down the stairs, and she dived back into my shadow just in time to avoid being spotted.

"How did you move the statue?" Shad demanded, coming to join me. "What's this...amazing. This must be the Sky Cannon I read about in my father's journals! Just think -- if we could get it to work, we could reach the City in the Sky! What...what do you plan to do with it, Link?"

"What else? Take it to a cannon expert," I said.

It cost me three hundred Rupees, but Fyer was able to repair my "bit of fantastication." I'm not sure how she found me, but just before the cannon fired me skyward, Ooccoo joined me in the barrel.

"We made it back! Welcome, adventurer -- this is the Sky City of the Oocca!" she cried, breathing deeply as we landed.

"We've got company," said the voice from my shadow. A horrible flapping noise sounded overhead, and I ducked sideways out of sight. "That's the Twilit dragon, Argorok," Midna informed me. "Far, far more disastrous than any regular dragon has the right to be. I think you know what that means."

"He has the shard?"

"He must."

"We'll get it."

It was easily the worst battle I'd had up to that point. An ordinary dragon would have been bad enough; I'd faced down Gleeok, and Aquamentus. But this...this was a living nightmare, undoubtedly sent by Zant -- or Ganondorf -- to destroy the city of the Oocca. Its appearance was more than slightly demonic, and its scream was deathless. At long last, with a final shriek, it crashed to the ground and moved no more.

"Link, you did it! It's the last shard!" Midna seized upon our prize. "That's all of them; we've got to get back to the Mirror Chamber. Do you remember what the sages said, about how only the true ruler of the Twili could destroy the Mirror? Zant couldn't -- this is proof of his false kingship." She seemed happier than she'd been in days. "Let's hurry. After all, a fake is a fake, and no matter how you dress it up, the real thing always wins!"

Her cheery demeanor lasted all the way back to the Arbiter's Grounds, but started to fade as I watched her reassemble the Mirror. The relic seemed to come alive instantly, opening a strange portal into the darkness beyond my sight. Subdued again, Midna glanced at me.

"Some call our realm a world of shadows, but that makes it sound unpleasant," she said. "The twilight there holds a serene beauty. You have seen it yourself as the sun sets on this world. Bathed in that light, all people were pure and gentle. But things changed once that foul power pervaded the world."

"It was all our doing."

We turned at the sound of multiple voices. The shades of the sages were among us again -- not atop the pillars as before, but on the crown of the statue with us. They half ignored me, casting their sorrowful gazes fully on Midna.

"We overestimated our abilities as sages and attempted to put an end to Ganondorf's evil magic," intoned one. "I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive our carelessness... O Twilight Princess."

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