It was windy atop Hyrule Castle, a chilling breeze that made Link shiver. Though, he thought, he couldn't tell if it was the wind or the darkness that lay within the castle's highest tower that chilled him.
The sky surrounding the structure was a hazy yellow-orange-a perpetual, unnatural twilight. There was lightning and thunder with no rain. Monsters roamed around and in the castle itself.
And it would only end when Ganondorf was destroyed.
Link's shadow twitched suddenly, rising up from the ground. It formed into the Princess of the Twili, Midna. Orange eyes gazed at him.
"Well? Are you going to stand here all day, or go in," she sighed, gesturing at the darkness through the open doorway.
"We have to find Princess Zelda," she whispered, her tone softer.
"I know…I was just making sure I had everything ready. I don't know what we'll face," he said carefully.
Link unsheathed the Master Sword with his left hand, and raised his Hylian Shield with his right.
Midna smiled, and Link strode into the darkness, the Master Sword raised.
The darkness receded, then vanished as Link stepped forward, recoiling from the sword in his hand.
The first thing that caught their eyes when they walked in was the head of a statue. It had been severed at the neck, and if it were alive, the eyes would have rolled back long ago.
"A statue of a Goddess, perhaps," Link thought with a slight shudder.
Link's gaze turned from the statue to the red carpet beneath his feet; he followed the fabric upward with his eyes, up some stairs, to a throne-
He gasped. Above the throne was a Triforce symbol-three golden triangles that formed a larger one; one on top and two on the bottom.
In the middle of the Triforce was Princess Zelda. Her eyes were closed.
She did not stir as Link and Midna approached; she didn't even breathe. All that moved was her hair, in conjunction with the wind that gusted through the room.
"Is she-" Link began, then stopped. He didn't want to say it.
"No, she's not. I can feel it… Her body is lifeless, but her soul is in me," Midna sighed, remembering how Hyrule's Princess had saved Midna's life by giving up her light-filled soul. Now Zelda was just an empty shell.
Midna floated in front of Link suddenly, putting a protective arm across his chest. Link followed her gaze down, to the throne.
A man was sitting on it where previously nothing was there, a man who could only be Ganondorf. He was holding a sheathed sword, but its glow pierced through the metal surrounding it. A similar glow radiated from his chest-a mark of failure for those that had once tried to kill him.
He gazed at the two beings before him, considering whether to kill them now and be done with it. But Ganondorf decided against it. It wouldn't do for their lives to be ended so soon…
No. He would kill them only when they were begging for mercy, pleading for him to end it all. And then they'd die slowly and painfully, as he relished their screams.
Ah, but first…introductions needed to be made.
"Welcome to my castle," he chuckled, his gaze piercing them both.
Midna was unfazed, or at least she appeared to be. Her orange eyes turned red. Link's grip on the Master Sword tightened, and he beckoned the man forward.
"So, you're... Ganondorf," Midna hissed.
Ganondorf merely nodded, then stood up from the throne, gesturing for either of them to speak.
Midna flashed him a toothy, wicked grin. "We've been dying to meet you," she said with an air of a cackle.
Ganondorf let out a chuckle at the irony, for she and the boy would soon be dead. He'd see to that.
"Your people have long amused me, Midna," he said, walking down the steps to face her.
"To defy the Goddesses themselves with such petty magic, only to be thrown aside… how very pathetic," Ganondorf continued, then laughed again.
Midna growled in anger but said nothing.
"If they were so pathetic, then why didn't you kill them," Link bit out. "I think they're stronger than you say."
Ganondorf turned to face them both now.
"I was once a mere shadow of what I am now…sealed away in a prison of burning light. It sapped my will, and I didn't even have the strength to move."
He turned again to face Midna, laughter in his eyes.
"But your people, my dear Princess, served a far greater purpose than giving you something to rule. Their fear, their agony, their hatred…it bled from the world of darkness to my prison of light…and awakened me."
The Twilight Princess was trembling with rage; Link put an arm on her shoulder to calm her.
"And I fed off these emotions, drawing strength from them…and soon, I became what you see before you…the bearer of power."
He clenched his right hand into a fist; the Triforce symbol burned across the back of his hand. The topmost triangle-Power-was lit.
Ganondorf turned away from them, and gestured to Princess Zelda; her right hand was emblazoned with the Triforce as well. The bottom left triangle was lit on her hand-Wisdom.
"The kind of power that those chosen by the Goddesses wield…"
He turned away from Zelda, then, brandishing the Triforce of Power once again.
"And mine is absolute, surpassing the Princess's by far… One who wields such power is destined to rule both light and shadow…don't you agree?"
"Hah! Such conceit," she spat.
Ganondorf frowned; his eyes now burned with rage, as if daring Midna to speak again.
"But…if you are one of the chosen wielders of power, as you claim," she hissed, fists clenched.
"Yes," Ganondorf asked, his eyes mocking them both.
"Then I will risk everything to deny you," Midna screamed; it was all Link could do to stop her from charging. He knew better than to attack recklessly.
"And you, boy? Will you stay and die with her," Ganondorf taunted.
Link brandished the Master Sword; all traces of doubt faded from his body.
"No. I'm going to stay and destroy you."
Ganondorf chuckled, then raised a hand. Patches of darkness swirled around him, rising into the air. The cold made Link and Midna shudder.
"Very well…deny and destroy me, then," he laughed.
He looked around; his gaze stopped on Princess Zelda.
"Yes…both of you… try to deny me…"
Ganondorf raised a hand towards the prone Princess, smirking.
Midna flew forward, away from Link; she stopped in front of Zelda, arms outstretched.
That didn't stop Ganondorf. He disintegrated into a large patch of darkness; it broke into smaller sections and hovered in front of the two Princesses. Midna braced herself.
The darkness shot forward, flowing neatly around Midna and into Zelda. The Princess's body shuddered with the impact, then was still.
Midna blinked, checking herself for injuries. Then she remembered Zelda; whipping around, she gazed at the Princess intently. Her skin was pale as death.
Odd, black markings had appeared on Zelda's arms, neck, and the sides of her face. A gleaming sword materialized in her right hand.
"No," Midna moaned, stroking the Princess's cheek, desperate for signs of life.
Zelda's eyes snapped open, then. They were a burning red.
An invisible wave of energy caught Midna full force, sending her flying. She hit the ground hard, then bounced through the doorway.
She moaned in pain, then was motionless.
"Midna," Link gasped, running towards her, "Are you oka-"
He was cut off as a searing wall of energy appeared, separating the two. It stretched from the floor to the top of the doorway; if Midna revived, she couldn't fly over it.
Link swung the Master Sword against it, but it didn't budge. Glancing behind him, he saw that a similar wall had formed in front of the throne.
There was no way out.
Link turned fully at the sound of footsteps. Zelda was right behind him, a smile on her face. Her skin was a sickly blue, now, and her blonde hair had taken on a greenish tint.
And when she finally spoke, it was in Ganondorf's voice.
"Both of you, faithless fools who would dare take up arms against the king of light and shadow…"
Then Zelda floated far above the floor, far beyond the reach of the Master Sword. Her arms hung loosely at her sides; it was like she was nothing more than a puppet.
She then snapped to life, brandishing her sword; Link readied his own sword. Again, the Princess spoke in Ganon's voice.
"So you choose… And so you shall feel my wrath."
The possessed Zelda flew backwards, raising her sword to the ceiling. An orb of light formed at the blade's end; it grew larger and brighter every second. When it was twice the size of Link's head, she flicked the sword forward and the energy was released, heading straight for Link.
Link instinctively raised his shield in defense. The orb flew into it, knocking him back with the impact, but he was unhurt. In the same instant, the energy rebounded off the shield and hit the floor, where it fizzled into nothingness.
Zelda was unfazed; she merely raised her sword again. Link braced himself for another energy orb.
But it didn't come, and he realized too late that the floor underneath and around him was glowing with light. Zelda swung her sword, and the light shot up, hitting Link and sending him flying at least five feet.
"Aaagh," Link moaned. A burning sensation coursed through his veins, his whole body. After a moment it subsided somewhat, but he ached as he picked himself up.
Link glanced at the energy wall; Midna still lay face down. He couldn't tell if she was breathing or not…
Ganondorf's mocking laughter rang in his ears; Link looked up and saw Zelda, sword raised once again.
This time, the Princess seemed as if she were going to fire energy again. Link lowered his shield a bit and waited for the orb to form.
But Zelda suddenly swooped down, aimed at Link, sword outstretched to impale him. Link managed to recover from his surprise and avoided what would have been a fatal hit, but the sword neatly cut his side. He clutched at the wound instinctively with his shield hand.
The wound was hot to the touch, and streaks of red came back with his hand. Link readied his shield again.
"What's the matter, boy?" Ganon taunted. "Afraid to hurt your Princess?"
The floor glowed beneath him again, but this time Link was ready. He rolled out of the light, and when Zelda gestured it hit nothing.
As the Princess paused for a moment after her attack, Link took out his bow. He notched an arrow, aimed at Zelda carefully-he didn't want to hit any vital organs-and let it fly.
The Princess simply floated out of the way and raised her sword again. Link fired another arrow; again, Zelda dodged. She raised her sword once more; it glowed with the burning orb of light.
She threw the energy at Link; he raised his shield again. Like before, it merely bounced off the metal, causing no damage to either of them. Zelda seemed tireless, while Link was becoming exhausted.
"Does she have any weaknesses," Link thought, desperate.
"No, she doesn't. But you do. Swords, darkness, light," Ganondorf mocked. Zelda raised her sword and swooped down to impale Link again.
Link ran to the side, away from the Princess. But to his chagrin, Zelda made a sharp turn in midair, again catching Link in his side.
He clutched at the wound; more blood flowed than before, and his side seemed to be on fire. It was all right, though. What Ganon said gave him an idea.
Link gazed at the possessed Zelda, Master Sword ready.
The Princess raised her sword; the energy orb formed with a crackle. She smirked, then cast it at Link.
But this time, Link swung the Master Sword at the ball of light; it crackled, then bounced off. This time, however, it was headed straight for Zelda.
Zelda seemed prepared for this. Still smirking, she swung her sword; the energy ball rebounded off it and was headed for Link again.
Link hit the energy orb again. This time, Zelda didn't block in time; it hit her squarely. She blazed with light, and screamed in Ganondorf's voice. Then she went limp.
But in a second, the Princess snapped to life once more, raised her sword, and again fired an energy orb at Link.
Link hit the light with his sword; again it headed towards Zelda. This time she blocked it twice. Still, the light seared into her, Ganondorf's screams were louder and more pained, and the Princess was limp for a longer amount of time before recovering.
"No…more…" she hissed in Ganon's voice.
Zelda flew down, sword outstretched, determined to cut Link down for good. Link dodged her attack completely this time, readying the Master Sword. Enraged, the Princess raised her sword. The floor gleamed with light. Link rolled out of the way just in time; the light flew up and hit thin air.
Utterly frustrated, Zelda again formed the orb of light; she flung it at Link with Ganondorf's strength added to hers. Again, the Master Sword connected with it.
Zelda didn't block it at all this time. The light burned into her and stayed in her; Ganon's screams were longer and drawn out. She seemed to waver in the air; the gleaming sword slipped from her fingers.
The Princess of Hyrule slowly dropped to the ground; the energy walls surrounding the throne room vanished.
Outside, Midna stood up, panting heavily. She took one look at Zelda and realized what to do…she'd have to force the darkness out.
"Link," she cried, floating back inside.
Link instinctively turned at the sound of her voice, a look of joy written on his face.
"Midna-" he began.
She silenced him with a hard stare.
"Stand back," she hissed, "I'm going to use the Fused Shadows."
Link ran to the side as Midna focused on her helmet; it flew apart, then pieced together, forming a faceguard as well. Her body began to quiver and grow.
In seconds, Midna became a large, spider creature-a curious blend of light and shadow. She reached out with her many arms, and before Zelda could react, she pinned her against a wall and clamped her hands together.
The darkness that was Ganondorf shot out of the Princess's body; when Midna released her, her skin, hair, and being were back to normal. She gently set Zelda down on the throne.
"…She needs rest. Once we're done here I'll restore her soul," the Twilight Princess sighed.
Link smiled in relief at her words. Midna then removed the Fused Shadows-it was a quite draining form of magic, and she didn't want to use all of her energy yet. As it turned out, she was quite wise to do so.
They didn't notice the darkness congealing behind them until the silence was shattered by an animal's groans. Link and Midna whipped around, to see the darkness shape itself into, for lack of a better term, a beast.
It was on four legs, with a red, flaming mane and tail. Razor-sharp claws extended from its front and hind legs. Two large tusks protruded out of the sides of its mouth, curling back near its head. It had the snout of a wild boar.
But the eyes were unmistakably Ganondorf's.
The monster reared back, exposing a large, gleaming scar on its stomach. It roared at Link and Midna, and through the roar came Ganon's voice.
"…Very well…I'll kill you both at once instead."
Searing energy walls blocked off the doorway and the throne where Zelda lay; again, there was no escape.
The beast roared, then jumped backwards; the force of its landing made the room shudder. It then charged crazily around the room, demolishing most of the pillars that supported the structure. For a moment Link wondered if the room was going to collapse.
He turned to Midna, a nervous expression on his face.
Ganon stopped circling them suddenly, reared back, and stampeded towards them at full speed. Link turned at the sound of claws on stone; he then noticed something about the beast he hadn't before. There was a white, glowing gem on Ganon's head.
But there was no time to act on that realization; he was coming close, much too close--
"For starters," Midna cried as she dove in Link's shadow, "you could get out of the way!"
Link ran, then rolled to the side as Ganon drew near. He avoided being trampled by the beast's feet, which would have been certain death, but the monster's sharp tail caught him as it ran past.
Link hit the ground with a thud, the wind knocked out of him. Midna flowed out of his shadow, panicked.
"Get up," Midna cried, yanking at his arm; slowly Link rose to his feet. To the Twilight Princess's surprise, he was smirking.
"It's okay… I have an idea."
Ganon turned around, leapt back, and charged at the two of them again. Link drew out his bow and arrows. Midna grinned wickedly; she realized what he was going to do.
Link fired an arrow at the jewel on the beast's forehead; it growled in pain and skidded to a stop, lying on its side. The gleaming scar was exposed.
Link thrust the Master Sword into the scar, cutting deep into the beast's skin; Ganon howled in pain. The monster heaved itself up, and charged for a bit; Link readied his bow once more--
And Ganon broke into patches of darkness and disappeared. Glancing around him, Link saw a pinkish portal appear on his left side; he readied his arrows, but the portal vanished almost instantly. Another one appeared right next to it, but that too vanished.
"Link, behind you," Midna cried; another portal had appeared. She then slipped into his shadow for safety.
Link turned to face it and found that the portal stayed; on top of that, it turned blue. He grinned, notched an arrow, and waited.
Ganon came barreling out, snarling; again Link fired an arrow at the jewel. It glowed white, the monster roared in pain, and the scar was exposed once more.
Link thrust the Master Sword into the beast's scar; the cuts were deeper this time, and longer. Shiny white blood dripped from Ganon's wound. Link almost laughed to himself.
"This is too easy," he thought. That struck a nerve.
When Ganon got up, it slammed into Link with its head; the beast's tusks grazed his shoulders. Link screamed and was sent flying again; he hit the ground hard enough to let go of the Master Sword. Dazed, Link closed his eyes and passed out.
"Link," Midna cried, flowing out of his shadow, "Wake up! Get up! He's going to-"
She blinked, puzzled. She heard nothing to indicate that the beast was going to attack. Midna turned around and gasped.
Ganon was clawing at the gem on its forehead. Apparently it did have a brain.
"Link! In the Goddesses' names, wake up," she moaned, putting his hand on the Master Sword where he had let go. The Sword glowed with light, dazzling Midna.
Link opened his eyes just in time to see the white gem fall from Ganon's head and land, cracked, on the floor. Hurriedly he stood up; the beast rushed at them both.
Link fired an arrow where the gem had been, but Ganon merely shrugged it off and continued stampeding towards them. Link and Midna dove out of the way; Ganon circled them, then faded into particles and disappeared once more.
Something about Ganon's charging sparked a memory in Link…it was distant and blurred, though it had happened for many years of his life. Ordon Village…a runaway goat…grabbing the animal by its horns, tossing it aside…with minor changes, this could save them!
"Midna. Change me into a wolf," Link said, his eyes narrowing.
The Twilight Princess nodded and thrust a red, spear-like gem into Link's head; he moaned once in pain before dropping on all fours. Skin became fur, fingers became paws, and sword and shield vanished. Midna settled comfortably onto his back.
Link honed the senses of a wolf; his ears perked up, his sense of smell grew stronger…He couldn't see where Ganon would come out, but he could smell the beast. It was waiting close to the throne's energy wall, waiting to come out...
Pink portals played around the room, but Link ignored it, concentrating on where he smelled Ganon. He faced the spot, growling. A portal appeared there; it shone blue. Ganon thundered out.
"Midna," he barked-being of the shadows, she could understand animals-"Get ready to grab him!"
"I'm way ahead of you," the Twilight Princess smirked; calling upon the Fused Shadows, her orange hair became a gigantic hand. She extended the appendage as the monster was almost on top of them; Ganon skidded to a stop.
Growling, the beast pushed against Midna; she strained to hold it. Then it tossed its head forward, sending the hand careening back and Midna flying. Link was unhurt.
"I don't think just stopping him will work, Link," Midna cried, landing on the wolf's head.
"Of course not," Link growled, "you have to throw him so he's off balance, like the goats back home! Then I can attack!"
"Well excuuuuse me, farm boy! I wasn't raised in a ranch town," Midna snapped, then turned to Ganon.
The monster leapt backward, then rushed forward; Midna again grabbed it with the Fused Shadows. This time, as Ganon struggled in her grasp, Midna heaved to the right. Mustering up all of her natural strength, she tossed Ganon to the ground; he lay on his side, dazed.
Drawing his sword, Link thrust it into the open wound; white blood gushed out. Ganon reared back with a scream, then fell forward, mouth open. The energy walls disappeared.
And the Dark Beast Ganon was still.
Ganon lay there for a few seconds before something odd began to happen. Thick yellow smoke swirled around the monster's body, and he began to glow faintly. Link turned and readied his sword, but after a few seconds, nothing else seemed to happen, so he turned back around.
Midna was floating nearby, smiling.
"We did it, Link! We-"
She suddenly stopped and shuddered. Midna began to glow with a harsh, pink light; the light flowed from her to Princess Zelda, who still lay on the throne. Midna felt something leave her, then, something pure and bright, and for a moment she felt sad to have lost it.
Light flooded the Princess's body, and Midna had to shield herself from the glare. When she reopened them, Zelda was breathing.
"Are you doing this," Link asked, gazing at Hyrule's Princess in wonder.
Midna seemed puzzled herself.
"No…I guess she's calling her soul back herself…"
Zelda opened her eyes, then. They were a pale blue, just as they had been before her sacrifice and possession by Ganondorf.
Midna floated up to her, eyes welling up with tears.
Zelda quieted her with a gentle smile.
"Say nothing, Midna…when I shared my soul with you, we shared our memories and hearts…you have endured so much to save the realms of light and shadow…and for that I am eternally grateful."
Midna nodded sadly.
"I know it's not true, but… I feel like it was my fault that the realms were endangered in the first place."
Zelda shook her head.
"No. It was Ganondorf's fault. He corrupted Zant and used him and your people to further his power…you mustn't blame yourself."
Midna nodded, then gave a carefree smile.
"You're right. Besides, it's over! Ganon's dead…"
Zelda then turned to Link, smiling peacefully. Link met her gaze, a blissful smile on his face as well.
"And you, hero…you have done so much for both of us…I-"
She was cut off by a cracking burst of energy; all three of them whipped around.
Ganon's beast form had amassed itself into what seemed like living fire. It rose up from the floor, sizzling with energy and hatred. Through the flames and light, they saw Ganondorf's face.
"Did…you honestly…think I'd die that easily," he rasped, a grin on his face. Ganondorf saw their astonished faces and began to laugh.
Link readied the Master Sword, but he wasn't sure it would be much use against pure energy. Zelda, too, seemed worried.
"Zelda! Midna! You stay back! I'll have to-"
He blinked, and gazed at Midna. The Fused Shadows twirled around her; she was harnessing their powers once more.
"No, Link. You and Zelda get out, now! I have to end this," she screamed, channeling all of her strength into the ancient weapons.
Link and Zelda both ran towards the Twilight Princess, reaching out in a last attempt to stop her.
"Midna," they cried at once, "don't-"
And the Princess of Hyrule and Hero of Light were swept up into particles of darkness and floated through the roof. Their last recollection was Midna, again the spider creature, brandishing a spear of light, and driving it into the being known as Ganondorf.
They reformed in Hyrule Field, a good 50 meters away from the castle. They looked around for a bit to get their bearings; then both sets of eyes turned towards Hyrule Castle.
"Do you think she'll be alright," Link asked.
"I don't know…all we can do is wait," Zelda said. Her eyes seemed troubled.
A rumbling noise startled them both. At first Link thought it was an earthquake, but the ground wasn't shaking. Looking around some more, the noise seemed to be coming from-
Hyrule Castle exploded in a cloud of dust and debris. Link and Zelda just stared.
"My castle," the Princess whispered.
Looking closer, they saw a hazy shape appear in the cloud of smoke. It seemed tall; perhaps it was Midna in her spider form…
The figure grew closer, and Link and Zelda both cried out at the same time.
It was Ganondorf, human again, cape flowing behind him. He rode a demonic, black horse with glowing red eyes. The Sage's Sword was in his left hand, unsheathed. And what he held in his right hand made Link and Zelda's blood run cold.
It was Midna's helmet…the Fused Shadows.
Laughing, Ganondorf crumbled it into pieces and dropped them to the ground contemptuously.
"You see…she couldn't defeat me. Nothing can," he sneered. Spurring his horse, Ganondorf charged at them both. Ghostly versions of himself flanked him on both sides; Ganon's horse trampled the remains of Midna's helmet.
Link readied the Master Sword and put it in front of Zelda's body to protect her. She silently shook her head no. Slowly, the Princess of Hyrule put her hands together and prayed.
Time seemed to slow down; seconds became minutes and minutes became hours.
Ganondorf spurred the horse even faster, sword outstretched to run them through and trample them at the same time. His ghostly entourage sped up as he did, determined to run through what was left of them.
Link faced them all down, sword outstretched, prepared to give up his life in battle. For Hyrule, for the Twilight Realm…for Midna and Zelda.
Zelda lifted up her hands in prayer.
"Oh, spirits of the light…Servants of the Three Goddesses…Wielders of the power that shines upon all regions of the world…"
Ganondorf drew closer, ready to hear their death screams. They were long overdue.
Link braced himself for the impact of hooves and sword.
The Princess finished her prayer.
"In our hour of need…grant us light to banish evil!"
An instant before he reached the Princess and her hero, Ganondorf was blinded by what seemed like an earthborn sun. When his eyes cleared and the horse stopped moving, Link and Zelda were gone.
Hyrule's Spirits of Light floated over a gleaming sea of gold; orbs of light-pure light, unlike the tainted form used by Ganondorf-radiated from their bodies. The light swirled around Zelda; she seemed to be floating above the golden waters.
She clasped her hands together, then released them. The orbs converged into one large light sphere; it then formed into gleaming Arrows of Light.
When Zelda opened her eyes, she found Link in front of her, astonished at what had happened.
"Zelda," he began, "where are we?"
"We are in the place where the light spirits dwell…some say it is close to the Golden Land of legends… We'll stay here until Ganondorf breaks the connection…I can feel his eagerness to destroy us…"
The Princess trembled; Link put an arm on her shoulder as comfort.
"The spirits have called your horse Epona to our aid. She waits for us, too…"
She smiled at him, though it was a bit sad.
"Link…chosen hero…lend me the last of your power…your courage…"
Hand across her heart, the Princess of Hyrule bowed before Link. Straightening, she extended a trembling hand.
Link took it, and the two found themselves in Hyrule Field once more, riding atop Epona. The reddish brown horse reared up in surprise; Link grabbed the reins to avoid being thrown off; Zelda grabbed Link.
Zelda now wielded Link's bow and the Light Arrows.
"For Midna," Zelda asked, her blue eyes steeled with courage.
"For Midna," Link replied through gritted teeth.
"Ah, there you are," Ganondorf chuckled, "I'd been wondering where you'd ran off to, cowards," he taunted. Ganon's horse stayed where it was and pawed at the ground derisively.
Link and Zelda were unfazed; Zelda leant to Link's ear and whispered.
"I'll fire the Light Arrows at Ganon to slow him down…you keep him in range!"
Link nodded and spurred Epona forward; Zelda continued speaking.
"But the Light Arrows alone won't hurt him…only the Master Sword can pierce his armor," Zelda cried, lurching forward with Epona, unused to riding a horse.
Link nodded and unsheathed the Master Sword. Zelda readied a Light Arrow; it glowed piercingly. Epona galloped towards Ganondorf; curiously, he made no move to get away. When Epona got within twelve feet of him Ganon sprang to life, spurring the horse to the side.
Before Link knew what was happening Ganondorf had made a circle around him and slashed at him with the sword. The cut wasn't deep, but there was enough power behind the blow to knock him off of Epona.
The brown horse whinnied in fear, and Zelda gasped, losing control of the Light Arrow. The Arrow fizzled out, and Zelda quickly readied a new one.
Epona cantered over to Link, who picked himself up. Blood seeped from an arm wound into the grass.
"I'll be fine," he muttered, mounting Epona once more. Ganondorf's horse had slowed to a stop; again he was waiting for them to get close. Link spurred Epona towards Ganon, but at the last second veered left. Ganondorf went right by him, but realized his mistake and also turned left, spurring his horse. In seconds the two horses were neck and neck.
Zelda then fired a Light Arrow straight at Ganon; it hit him in the chest and he groaned in pain. Link slashed at him with the Master Sword; his cries were piercing. Ganon slumped over, but only for a moment. Soon he spurred the horse and turned away from Link, galloping over the hills.
"Who's the coward now," Link cried, and spurred Epona; she gave chase immediately. Zelda readied a Light Arrow and waited. Link spurred his horse once more. When Ganondorf was about 10 feet in front of them Zelda let the bowstring go. It missed this time, but Ganon was still on the run and Epona was keeping pace with his horse.
It wouldn't take long for the Princess to fire one again…and Ganon was aware of this.
Ganondorf suddenly waved his sword around in the air; orbs of light shot out of it and hit the ground. The phantom versions of Ganon that they had seen before appeared where the orbs dissipated, charging in a straight line. Link recovered from his surprise in time to dodge, but Epona didn't. The phantoms flowed at her; curiously enough, they didn't harm Epona at all.
What they did do was throw Link off his horse, sending him sprawling into the grass. Again, Epona whinnied and trotted over to her fallen master; Zelda helped Link remount.
"Are you alright," she asked with concern. Link smiled.
"I'll be fine. You worry about those arrows," he said, spurring Epona forward to chase Ganondorf again. Ganon, seeing he was pursued again, sent more of the phantoms to knock them down.
But this time Link rode Epona right through them, and Zelda shot a Light Arrow straight at him. The arrow struck, and Ganondorf's horse slowed to a crawl. Epona galloped alongside it, and Link slashed at Ganondorf again; he cried out in pain. The horse panted; it galloped slower, now, and before they could get away Zelda fired another arrow.
Link rode alongside Ganondorf, thrusting the Master Sword into his chest. Ganon screamed. Demonic horse and dark rider galloped a few seconds, teetered, and fell over in a cloud of dust.
"Is he dead," Link began, hoping it was true. Slowly, he got off Epona and approached the dust cloud. Zelda stayed behind, Light Arrows ready just in case.
"No. I am not."
The cloud dissipated; Ganondorf was on one knee, staring blankly at the remains of his horse. He raised a hand with a trace of regret. The animal's body twitched, then broke into dark particles and flowed into Ganon. It seemed to renew his strength.
Slowly, Ganondorf planted the Sage's Sword into the ground to steady himself and got up, wheezing and clutching his chest. His scar pulsed and burned with light.
Ganon gazed at Link, then at Zelda and Epona, then at the remains of Hyrule Castle. He glanced at himself, at his gleaming scar, at his stolen sword. Finally he looked at the hazy twilit sky.
Ganondorf started to laugh, a low chuckle at first. Then a snicker. It soon escalated into an insane cackle, as he lowered his gaze to Link. He drew the Sage's Sword and dropped the sheath, kicking it aside.
He gestured to the sword in his hand, and spoke in a tone laced with irony.
"An impressive-looking blade…but nothing more. It failed to kill me, though it burned with light…"
He smirked, beckoning Link forward.
"And now…one goal remains for me…to take this foul sword and drive it through your heart!"
Before Link knew what was happening, blinding energy walls in the shape of a circle formed around him and Ganondorf, reaching up to the heavens.
Epona reared up in surprise; Zelda was nearly thrown off. She fired a Light Arrow at the nearest wall, but it fizzled and absorbed the energy. All of the walls grew even higher till they towered over all four of them. There was no way Epona could jump over them.
"Link-" she began, but Link had seen what had happened. He smiled at her and the horse.
"It's alright, Zelda," Link called over his shoulder. "I wasn't planning on running anyway."
Link turned to face Ganondorf. The Master Sword glistened with pure light; the Hylian Shield was strong and sturdy, reliable. Ganon's cape swayed in the wind, tattered and twisted; the Sage's Sword gleamed with tainted light.
Nothing needed to be said between them.
It was to the death.
Ganondorf charged at Link suddenly, sword raised to the heavens. Link waited for him to come; as Ganon brought the sword down on his head he raised the Master Sword up. The swords clashed together; sparks of pure energy flowed from both blades.
Link and Ganon strained, trying to overpower the other. It seemed Ganondorf would win, as he had both leverage and weight on his side. A smirk crossed Ganondorf's face as he slowly lowered his own blade. Soon Link was practically kneeling from the strain as Ganon continued to lower the Sage's Sword dangerously close to his neck.
But Link remembered all he was fighting for now. The fate of Hyrule and the Twilight Realm rested on his shoulders. It wouldn't end like this, at least not so quickly! Courage flooded through Link; groaning with effort, he raised himself up and pushed Ganondorf and his tainted blade backward.
Ganon was caught off guard by the boy's power; he took a few seconds to compose himself and ready his sword again. It was a few seconds too long, as Link raced at him and slashed his gleaming scar with the Master Sword; Ganondorf groaned in pain and clutched his chest. Finally he leapt backwards, away from Link.
Ganondorf beckoned him forward, a smirk returning to his face. Link cautiously approached him, then sprang to life, swinging the Master Sword at his glowing scar.
But Ganondorf blocked each blow easily, then countered with a circular sweep that sliced Link's chest and sent him reeling backward in pain. Link clutched at the wound instinctively; it was a long cut, and deeper than the ones Zelda had given him. His tunic, curiously, was unharmed…
It seemed that the Sage's Sword ignored clothing and armor, instead piercing straight through to the skin.
Well, Link vowed, I won't take Ganondorf's advice again.
But instead of putting distance between him and Ganon, Link did the unexpected. He charged forward; as he was about to collide with Ganondorf he jumped to the side, rolling around him to strike at his back.
Ganondorf whipped around just in time to see the Master Sword slice deep into his scar three times; he groaned in pain, eyes narrowing. Ganon stumbled backward, then leapt at Link, sword raised high once more.
Link was caught off guard, having only a second to react. He raised the Hylian Shield. But Ganondorf didn't swing at the piece of metal.
Instead he brought the flat end of his sword crashing down on Link's head. It wasn't as hard a blow as Link expected, but he reeled back in pain; his vision was blurred for a few seconds before righting itself.
It's like he's holding back on purpose, Link thought numbly, steadying himself.
Ganondorf smirked and again beckoned Link forward, Sage's Sword raised and eyes burning with hatred. Link stepped backwards instead, glancing behind him to make sure an energy wall wasn't where he was walking.
When Link was approximately 12 feet away from Ganon, the man suddenly charged at him with amazing speed; Link had no time to block. Ganon's arm lashed out at an angle, striking Link's head with the hilt of his sword.
Ganondorf then swung the sword in a wide, circular arc that would have cleaved Link's head from his shoulders if he weren't reeling back in pain. Instead the sword merely made a thin red streak across Link's neck.
Link gasped in pain and clutched at his neck; blood seeped around his hand and down onto his tunic. He drew the Master Sword and sliced at Ganondorf, but the man again blocked every swipe, countering with one of his own. Link managed to dodge the attack, but he knew he couldn't keep this up much longer. He had been wounded a lot already, and if things continued the way they were he'd be dead.
Link shakily stepped backwards, again putting distance between him and Ganon…he needed time to think. Just slashing at Ganondorf wasn't going to work; he needed to break his guard again…
He found his chance as Ganon charged at him once more, sword raised high above his head. Link blocked the blow with the Master Sword; again their swords radiated energy as they clashed together.
Pure power flowed through Ganondorf, coming to rest in the Sage's Sword. He grinned. It didn't matter if Link had won three times so far; if he died now his earlier victories would be for nothing. The thought made his strength increase.
Link, however, was becoming exhausted. The battles he had fought and the wounds he had suffered were catching up with him at the worst possible time. It took all his strength to keep the Master Sword connected with the Sage's Sword.
And slowly, the Master Sword gave way. Ganon seized his chance. Ganondorf pushed Link back and drew back his blade. Link might have sidestepped, but both his brain and muscles were drained.
By the time he'd thought of dodging Ganon had already impaled him straight through the chest.
Zelda, who had sat transfixed watching the swordfight, let out a scream of disbelief and despair. She shot Light Arrow after Light Arrow at the walls, but they absorbed them and grew higher. Finally she dropped the bow, trembling with grief and rage.
Epona whinnied and ran at an energy wall, but it zapped her with light and she backed off. The horse looked at Link, looked at Zelda on her back, and lowered her head. She blinked once, and her eyes welled up with tears.
Ganondorf carefully drew back the Sage's Sword; Link toppled to the ground. The blade was covered in blood, for he had run the entire thing through Link. The boy was certainly almost dead--if not already dead. He walked over and kicked him to be sure; Link wasn't breathing. Ganon let out a long, roaring laugh, his eyes burning with victory.
Link remembered his childhood in the village of Ordon…he was with Ilia and Rusl, playing and laughing with them. A fairy flitted past his nose…Now he was older, riding Epona for the first time. A fairy flew in front of her and startled her; he grabbed the reins to keep from falling…
He was now in Hyrule Castle's dungeon as a wolf, meeting Midna for the first time. She shied away from a fairy's light…He was at a fairy spring. Fairies swarmed around him, their wings tickling him and their glows dazzling him…
Link felt a sudden pressure on his chest, as if the skin was being forced together. A strange light made his eyes, though closed, hurt. Puzzled, Link opened them. The world seemed blurred and distorted; a hazy pink light floated around him.
He coughed suddenly; warm liquid flew up from his throat and onto the ground. Link glanced at it. It was blood. He looked around, his vision clearing, and saw a fairy's glow fade into darkness. Ganondorf stood near him, eyes widened in disbelief. The Sage's Sword was caked in red. He saw Zelda and Epona, on the other side of the energy wall, trembling. He caught a smile on the Princess's face; his horse neighed in joy.
Did I just die, he thought in wonder, gazing at himself. It appeared he had, for there was a great red stain around his chest, where his heart was. He couldn't have survived it…The fairy had saved him. Link made a mental note to be kinder to fairies from then on.
He continued inspecting himself, still amazed at what had happened. His neck stung, and his sides ached, so apparently the fairy hadn't healed all his wounds. But she had healed his spirit and given him strength…
Link picked the Master Sword up from where he had dropped it, and readied the Hylian Shield. He got up and turned to Ganondorf, who readied the Sage's Sword. Ganon broke the silence that had pervaded the battle; he spoke in a dreadfully calm manner.
"…I suppose I'll have to kill you again."
Ganondorf beckoned Link forward; his face was deadly serious this time. Link stepped backwards and waited. Ganon sighed and leapt into the air; Link rolled to the side as the man came down. When he landed, Ganondorf swung his sword and hit thin air.
In the instant that Ganon's guard was down, Link thrust the Master Sword forward and into his gleaming scar. Ganondorf moaned in pain and leapt back; Link raced up to him and slashed his scar again. If looks could kill, Ganon's gaze would have slain hundreds.
Ganondorf lashed out at Link with a leather boot; the kick sent Link sprawling onto the ground. Ganon then charged at Link, Sage's Sword raised, but the boy rolled to the side at the last second and the sword connected with the ground.
As Ganondorf recovered, Link stood up and sliced at his glowing scar. The man screamed in pain, leapt backwards, and charged at Link, sword raised to cut him down once and for all.
Link blocked the blow with the Master Sword; for a third time the blades of light clashed. Ganon's blade inched forward ever so slowly. Link gritted his teeth and thrust the Master Sword forward, but Ganondorf still pressed forward. Soon the Sage's Sword was at his neck, like before…
Memories flooded Link suddenly. Ilia, his childhood friend, the horse lover. Rusl, the devoted husband, his father figure. The village cats, mewing and fighting over fish. Princess Zelda, Hyrule's Princess…she who saved Midna, Link, and held the Triforce of Wisdom. Midna, the Twilight Princess…the one who sacrificed herself to try and stop Ganondorf.
He wouldn't let them down.
Pure courage flooded through Link, coming to rest in the Master Sword. The thought of the battle finally being over, of Hyrule being saved, of his friends waiting for him, enhanced his strength tremendously.
Link pushed Ganondorf back and sliced his scar in a vicious uppercut; Ganondorf fell to the ground, on his back. He wheezed and clutched at his scar; the Sage's Sword still rested in his hand.
Given time, he could rise to fight again…but this battle would end now.
Link jumped into the air, Master Sword extended and gleaming, and plunged the pure blade into Ganondorf's chest.
Ganon let out a long, hoarse scream that ended in a death rattle. Amazingly, he stood up, the Master Sword still deep in his chest. He looked at Link with a sigh of resignation and a gaze of fire.
"This does not end here, boy…The history… of light, shadow, and darkness…will be written in blood, across ages…"
Ganondorf's eyes rolled back into his head; there, he saw Zant. The miserable ex-ruler of the Twili…once Ganon's puppet.
"A puppet that can no longer be used…is cast aside," Ganon whispered, a faint smile crossing his face.
Ganondorf used the last of his fading power to snap Zant's neck; it made a satisfying crack.
The Triforce of Power shone brightly, then faded from Ganon's hand. The Sage's Sword slipped from his grasp. Ganondorf wheezed once, then breathed no more.
"It's over…finally," Link whispered, sheathing the Master Sword and discarding the Hylian Shield at last.
The energy walls surrounding the two vanished; Epona galloped over to Link and nuzzled him. Zelda dismounted the horse and walked over to Link. Her right hand was glowing.
"Princess…your hand is shining," Link said, puzzled.
"I know. Look," she said happily.
Smiling, the Princess of Hyrule raised the back of her right hand. Emblazoned on it were the Triforces of Power and Wisdom.
"How did you-" Link began. Zelda quieted him with a gentle smile.
"When a wielder of the Triforce dies, their power goes to another chosen one. Since I had the piece of Wisdom in the first place, when Ganondorf died I gained his Power…but with the wisdom to use it properly."
"So this proves that Ganon's dead…" Link said, the relief in his voice evident.
He paused, pondering the Princess's words more carefully.
"What sort of power has it given you," Link asked, curious.
Zelda bit her lip thoughtfully.
"I suppose one of them would be to communicate over far distances…Ganondorf must have had a way of contacting his minions. The others I'm sure I'll figure out sooner or later."
She turned and looked at the sky; it was twilight still, but a natural one, for the sun was setting. Zelda turned back to Link, pausing to pat Epona. Her blue eyes sparkled with light.
The Princess froze suddenly, her eyes glazed over. Zelda blinked once, then nodded.
"I see…Link, the Light Spirits have told me that Midna has been restored to her proper form!"
"Where is she? Is she alive," he asked breathlessly.
Zelda looked around, then pointed; Link saw a faint black shape on the horizon. The two of them raced over and stopped. Link and Zelda gasped.
Lying prone upon the ground was a beautiful, blue skinned woman, a far cry from the imp Link had known. She was about as tall as Zelda; her clothes were black and more revealing. Her hair was reddish orange and flowed in front of her gracefully. A long robe covered her back; upon her head was a thin crown.
Midna's eyes were closed, and she didn't appear to be breathing. Link felt for a pulse, worried suddenly. There was none. He looked at Zelda and shook his head bitterly.
Zelda's eyes filled up with tears as she looked to the sky and its setting sun.
"It's the light…when my soul was restored she must have lost--Oh, Midna…."
What seemed to be four miniature suns made them both gasp and shield their eyes. Hyrule's Light Spirits floated above them softly; the one named Lanayru spoke.
"Princess Zelda…Link…Midna is not lost yet. If you would combine the might of the Triforce of Power with our light, and transfer them into Midna…we feel she may yet dwell in the light."
Link and Zelda glanced at each other and nodded; Zelda then gazed at the Light Spirits and raised her right hand.
"I am ready, spirits…"
Link spared a glance at the two Princesses, shielded his eyes, and waited.
The Spirits of Light nodded and began to shine with the same brilliance as when they made the Light Arrows; Zelda's hand gleamed with red light. The light orbs in the Spirits' hands converged with each other to form a single orb; it seemed a star had landed on earth. Zelda raised her hand higher; a red, blazing orb was released from her palm.
Red merged with gold, then, and the sphere of power and light drifted into Midna's body. The light faded; Link opened his eyes. Zelda was standing next to him. The Light Spirits had vanished.
In front of him was Midna, her orange-red eyes shining with happiness. She gazed at Link for a moment longer, then turned to Zelda.
"Thank you, Princess…"
"You're welcome," Zelda whispered.
Both Princesses turned to Link, smiling. His mouth was agape, his eyes aimed at Midna. Link didn't say a word; a grin crept across his face.
"What? Say something," Midna said, giggling a bit. Link continued to stare.
Midna blinked and looked at Link again. Still nothing. She smirked.
"Am I so beautiful you've no words left?"
At this Zelda was annoyed slightly, but she continued to smile at Link.
"Link," she asked. No response.
Zelda gently poked him; he snapped back to life with an apologetic smile.
"Sorry…I was daydreaming…"
"Of me," Midna asked, an impish grin on her face.
"No, me, right," Zelda asked in a playful tone.
Link gazed at her, then at Zelda; he now had an impish grin and spoke playfully.
All three of them laughed, Link especially. It felt good to relax after all they'd been through…
"Link, Zelda," Midna said, her tone growing serious, "I'd appreciate it if you came to the Mirror of Twilight with me…to see me home. My people need their Princess…"
"I will," Link said assuredly. "What about you, Zelda?"
Zelda nodded. "I'll go as well…rebuilding my kingdom can wait."
Midna smiled at her words.
"Thank you…both of you…Shall we be off?"
The Hero of Light and Princess of Hyrule nodded, taking Midna's hand.
The Twilight Princess clicked her fingers; the three of them dissolved in particles of blackness and shot up into the sky.
They reformed in the western desert, in front of the Twilight Mirror. The shining, black gold portal to Midna's realm glowed expectantly. Midna's smile faded as she looked at the doorway home.
"I guess this is goodbye, isn't it…"
She swallowed hard, eyes watering as they rested on Link.
"Light and shadow can't mix…we all know that…"
Link and Zelda were about to protest, but she cut them off with a hard stare that asked for her to continue.
Midna stepped back and gazed at both of them, eyes pleading.
"Please…never forget that there's another world bound to yours."
Link walked up to the Princess of Twilight and put an arm on her shoulder; he seemed to be thinking.
"Midna…our world of light has shadow and your realm of shadow has light. They can coexist…"
Midna shook her head; Zelda stepped forward, a gentle smile on her face.
"Midna," she sighed, "shadow and light are two sides of the same coin. One can't exist without the other…"
Zelda stood next to Link. She looked at herself, at Link, and at Midna. Her eyes lit up.
"I know now why the Goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in Hyrule…"
Midna gazed at her with a slight smirk.
"And why is that, Twilight Princess? …Oops," she giggled.
Link chuckled; Zelda laughed as well. Then the Princess of Hyrule spoke once more.
"Because they arranged for us to meet, and to better both worlds…That's what I believe."
Midna nodded, stepping in front of the Twilight Portal, a sad smile on her face. She gazed at Hyrule's Princess and spoke softly.
"Zelda…Your heart is true, and your words warm my heart."
She continued addressing the Princess, but her gaze shifted to Link.
"If all in Hyrule are like you…you'll get along just fine. Thank you for what you've done…"
The wind began to blow; it rustled Link and Zelda's hair. Midna turned to the portal; gleaming, transparent steps appeared. She had just started up them when Link's voice stopped her.
"Midna…will we see each other again?"
Midna let out a small gasp; her eyes squeezed shut.
"Well…the Princess is right. We were destined to meet…and as long as the mirror's around, we could meet again…"
A gleaming, crystalline tear rolled down the Twilight Princess's cheek; she cupped it protectively in her hand.
Slowly, Midna released the tear; it floated gently towards the Twilight Mirror.
"See you later," she breathed.
The shining tear settled in the very center of the Mirror; to Link and Zelda's horror, spider-like cracks appeared on the mirror's surface. They grew until its entire structure seemed ready to fall away.
A memory surfaced in Link's mind. It was of Midna, an imp still, floating in front of the broken-not shattered-Mirror of Twilight…
"Only the true ruler of Twilight can utterly destroy the mirror…Zant could only break it, but the rightful heir can make it so it can never be restored…"
Never. Never. Never…
Link's eyes welled up with tears; he reached out to Midna, at a loss for words. She ignored him. Zelda started to speak, but found herself at a loss for words. She, too, started to cry.
Midna strode to the portal, pausing to look at them one last time. She committed their features to memory…Link's sandy blonde hair…his forest green tunic…his odd, floppy hat…Zelda's calm demeanor…her flowing blonde hair…her trusting, wise face…
Then she turned and stepped completely through, a sad smile on her face. In what seemed to be a shower of stardust, Midna was swept away into the Twilight Realm. The portal closed.
The Mirror of Twilight shuddered, then shattered into a thousand pieces. The frame was still complete.
The pieces of the mirror seemed to fade and vanish, and Link and Zelda knew that there was no way of finding them again.
"…I don't think she would have wanted you to find them anyway, Link," Zelda whispered, putting an arm on his shoulder.
"I know, Zelda…but still," he moaned.
Zelda took Link's hand; together, they turned and gazed at the desert sky. The sun had set, and the twilight had given way to the moon and stars.
As they turned to leave, Link glanced back at the mirror one last time.
Half of the frame was shadows, and the other half shining with light.
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