Chapter 1—The Voice Speaks Again
Link and Midna sat on either side of the blazing bonfire beneath Link’s tree house in the Kokiri Wood. Upon returning to the Light Realm of Hyrule, both realized two things: they had no clue what their next step was meant to be, now they’d obtained the song. And, for present, the weight of many days’ journeying rested heavily upon their shoulders, and with it, a tremendous tiredness which demanded sleep.
Yet, even as they sipped the last of their water and Link swallowed the last of the berries Midna had picked, something stirred on the wind. Something called to both their names.
At the first, they both scanned the heavens, half-asleep, as if expecting the stars to rain down and speak to them in person. But then, as it called louder, more clearly, Midna gasped, “My goddess!” and she and Link perked up, suddenly awake enough to heed whatever wisdom the voice might grant.
“Yes, my Heroes, it is I once again. And again, I apologize for not yet revealing myself to you. That shall come, in time, as do all good things to those who wait...
“But now, my time is limited. I know your adventures thus far have proved pressing and you would seek rest. But please, listen long enough to what I would tell you. The next part of your quest depends upon it, and I do not know if I could return to tell you these things again...
“Din, Nayru, and Farore, the three great Creators and Protectors of Hyrule...they preserved small bits of the ancient, original Hyrule, sealing these bits in both secret time and space. These parts serve to house and guard the three Spiritual Stones which once granted access to the Sacred Realm, where the sages protecting the Triforce dwelt. The goddesses hoped that, in saving these stones, Hyrule would be granted a final chance in its hour of greatest darkness and need. They hoped too that Hyrule might become what it once was in the beginning...
“Hyrule, as it is now, is much vaster than it was at the start. The remains of the first Hyrule lie hidden within, in places only the Hero can access. If played in the right places—places each guarded by a sage in this Realm—Midna’s Requiem can also transport you to those ancient glimpses of Hyrule’s past. From there, you can collect the Spiritual Stones.
“One lies hidden in the Empress of the Wind.
“One rides the Spirit of the Seas.
“One is buried within the Goddess of the Sands.
“Ganondorf would seek to find and destroy these last strongholds. If Hyrule’s past falls, so does its future. You must find the sages guarding the stones, harness the stones’ power, and thus resurrect that entrance into the Sacred Realm.
“This is all I can share with you for now, save this: if you would hope to find the first goddess, travel to that place where your journey began. Truly, it shall become more sacred than either of you can yet imagine...
“One, last thing. As the height of your quest draws nigh, so does my desire to reveal my full identity to you. This I cannot yet, but I do grant you my name: Pami...”
This last, poignant word echoed like a fading zephyr, then stilled into an absolute hush.
Link and Midna stared at the heavens a little while longer, truly hoping to see the face of the one who had so wisely guided them thus far. At least they had a name now: Pami. But Link thought the presence of that name only made him desire a face to attach to it all the more...
Slipping from their reverie, they gazed at each other through the flickering flames, and Midna said, “Well, then, I suppose that answers what we are to do with the next leg of our journey. Back to the Mirror, it is. First though, let us sleep—I feel we will majorly need it and won’t get half a wink until this next part is through, once we start out.”
Link nodded, curling on the ground as Midna did so beyond the fire. Link knew they should both be in such incredible awe at the idea of traveling back in time and space to the original Hyrule that sleep was made impossible. But perhaps the idea was immediately too surreal. Or perhaps their exhaustion really did stretch that vastly.
Link’s last vision was of the firelight sparkling upon Midna’s silver cheeks and lips like a million dancing rubies. He smiled faintly and did not have the strength to blink back the few tears trickling down his cheeks. Her eyes studied him with careful gentility, and though he studied hers, they were unsearchable as ever, their serenity hiding so much more, he knew. Then, as her eyes gently closed, veiling the windows to her soul for another night, he closed his too and allowed sleep to come.
Chapter 2—The Stone Princess
Rising with the dawn, Link had hoped to bid farewell to Sarita before departing with Midna into the Kokiri Wood. Yet, search as he might, he could find her no where. None of the other Kokiri had spied her since yesterday afternoon, and none could tell where she might have vanished to since then. Link could not tell either, as Sarita was known for evasiveness and clever hiding. Overturn every stick and stone in the forest, and one still might not stumble across her...
Link’s heart fell into solemn silence. He felt reserved as he led Midna along, suddenly weary despite his deep sleep. He realized how much he missed his dear friend and wished that, regardless of the late hour upon which they returned last night, he’d popped in to see her. The last time they parted, he feared it would be the final time he ever beheld her freshly flushed face and beaming smile. Now, he feared that same again, only more poignantly the second time around.
Midna said nothing, though she glanced with concern at him from time to time. She kept a respectful distance away, giving him the space he needed to try and collect himself. Yet, upon entering the small clearing containing the Mirror, Midna breathed quietly, “Look...”
Link had been entirely absorbed in his thoughts, eyes staring fervently down at the ground. But he looked up at the gentle command and took in a wondering breath.
Before the mirror sat a small girl, green skin and hair revealing she was a Kokiri. Two crowns of small white blossoms already weaved themselves skillfully in her hair. Having exhausted her immediate supply, she instead plucked blades of grass, crafting a third crown.
Link stepped purposely on a branch. Her head snapped up. Then, with a cry of delight, she flew into his arms.
They hugged close, and then he knelt down to gaze straight into her shimmering eyes.
“I was making the crowns for you,” she whispered. “I was told I would meet you and another here, to lead you to the Gorons’ City. I was told you would arrive this morning, but I waited here since last night, just in case...”
She removed one of the flower crowns and handed it to Link who donned it with a proud grin.
As he stood, Sarita peered shyly but curiously around him. Then, creeping up to Midna, she extended the other crown.
Midna tenderly took it, fingering it with a soft, admiring smile before setting it atop her head.
“Hello,” she said quietly, “I am Midna. You must be Sarita. Link has told me much of his dearest friend. It is truly an honor to meet you.”
With a warm smile that Link fancied was even motherly, Midna reached down her hand while Sarita extended hers up with a shy but bright grin. The tiny hand of the small child hugged the delicate fingers of the tall woman. Both were his graceful princesses in their own rites. He loved them both, and joy and peace glimmered with hope in his heart in that brief but lovely moment; lazy streamers of sun illuminated their happy faces.
“Come on then,” Sarita said as their hands released, drawing herself up all business-like. “We’ve a mission to complete—an important one at that. I shall lead you to the caves, and from there, to the Goron’s City.”
She cast a smile and wink at Link before slipping with effortless dexterity into the tangle of the woods. Midna floated after, seemingly unhindered by all the bramble, leaping skillfully across fallen logs and slipping about gnarled bushes. Link took up the rear, casting a final glance at the mirror and wondering when it might bring their two worlds together again.
“So...” Midna ventured slowly, “if you know the way, are you then the Sage of Wind, Sarita?”
“No,” she shook her head. “At least, not that I know. And I should hope that if some great deity bestowed such a title as ‘Sage’ upon me that I would know about it.”
She shared a smile with Link, eyes twinkling with old friendship and fresh joy.
“No, as Link will have told you, I am a curious thing. I discovered the entrance to the Gorons’ city in one of my explorations of the Kokiri Wood. Then, I thought it was just a cave. But with a vision from a strange, cloaked woman, I know now it is something more...”
Midna’s and Link’s eyes flashed to each other with wonder and a singular question: Pami? What other strange voice floated between realms, granting random advice? Strange though, and interesting, if Sarita actually saw her physical form...
They remained silent on the matter though, as if quietly agreeing it was not terribly important to figure out at the present moment. Especially as Sarita stopped them before what appeared an entirely ordinary tree; no different in size, its gnarled branches twisting up in the same, odd patterns as all the other trees. She knocked a short but specific pattern on its bark, then stepped back to watch as a door scrolled aside to reveal an arched opening. Midna and Link watched in awe, Link shaking his head. If no one else could detect a difference in each and every tree of the Kokiri Wood, Sarita could. And if not her, then probably no one at all.
Sarita walked right inside the tree, disappearing into its dark shadows. Link and Midna had to duck under, almost doubling to fit, and then, inching forward a little—
Midna shrieked and Link would have as the ground vanished beneath them, like someone tugging a rug from beneath their feet. The next moment, they landed hard and slid downward at a fast spiral, and Link realized they’d fallen into some secret hole and sped along a chute of sorts.
After a very long, bumpy, and not altogether comfortable ride, they found themselves shooting onto a firm, flat surface, rolling roughly before coming to a halt. Coughing at the dust swirling about, Link sat up. He smiled as Midna sat up looking stunned, wide-eyed, and disheveled for perhaps the first time in her life. A little frown crossed her face as if suddenly made aware of this, and she scrambled to adjust her cloak and fix her hair.
On his other side, Sarita hopped up and brushed the dust from her tunic, smiling up at Link. “That was fun. I should have brought you here to try it ages ago...”
“So,” Midna said, still fussing with her hair which apparently didn’t cooperate how she thought it should. She frowned viciously, eyes rolled up as if she could scold the strands of hair she frantically combed her fingers through. With a snarl, she at last dropped her hands, giving up. “So, how are we to get out of this place anyways?”
Sarita nodded, and Midna and Link looked up at a small stone door.
“That will take you to the surface. And that—”
She pointed to an archway which led to a small corridor lit by torches.
“—I assume leads into the Gorons’ City. I was never brave enough to explore it. I just like to ride the slide now and again...”
Link cast her a mock-hurt look, as she betrayed him in never sharing such a wonderfully curvy slide. She smiled sheepishly and blushed, and he would have laughed; like a child, sometimes she discovered some things just too good to share, at least at the first.
Link then rose to his feet, walked over to Midna, and extended his hand. As Midna took it and helped herself up, she said, “Well, then. I suppose the only thing to do is to go through that doorway and see for ourselves...”
That they did. The corridor led to another lit by torches, and that led to another and another, and that led to a branch of hallways which they had to choose between. Sometimes their path wound up, sometimes down, sometimes twisting. In the end though, it was all mundane, solid stone and an uncanny lack of life or any sign thereof, as far as they could hear or see.
“Where is everyone?” Midna breathed as they wound along.
“It’s emptier than the Kokiri Wood during a thunderstorm,” marveled Sarita, slipping her hand absent-mindedly into Link’s; he smiled to himself, reveling in the snatches of warm memories that gentle touch induced. “Very much quieter too...especially minus the thunderstorm...”
After some time, they emerged into a huge, oval-shaped room. Stone doors ran about its perimeter, but otherwise, it appeared fairly plain. Until they looked up and Midna breathed, “Ah, my goddess...”
The room stretched up and up several stories; they could see balconies of the upper levels extending from the walls, and way up, they managed to make out the ceiling.
Midna heaved a huge sigh reflecting the vastness of the place. They could comb it for hours and still never locate anyone or anything.
“Well then,” she said, marching forward with determination. “Let’s keep looking...”
Passing through one of the open doorways, that’s exactly what they did.
When they had wound through the cave so long that everything began to merge into a solid blur of indecipherable brown stone, they turned a corner and stopped short. At last, a break in the continuity. Another stone door, yet before the door, a cluster of several dozen, huge, perfectly round, dark grey stones.
“Good,” said Midna, “maybe this is a sign of sorts...”
No sooner did the three start forward though then they stopped short, startled, as the round stones jumped up and limbs sprang forth. After a mad explosion of arms and legs like a strange fireworks display, the Gorons stood before them. Broad-shoulders, round, squat heads with large, bright black eyes and flat noses. Muscular arms and legs. Stony plates covering those limbs, as well as their backs. It was then Link recalled their ability to curl into a ball and travel with extreme speed and skill, while, as they were now, they could only amble along awkwardly and slowly. Still, Link, Midna, and Sarita stood perfectly still, knowing their strength to be unmatched—and certainly not the kind they wanted to try and match.
“Welcome,” greeted the front-most Goron, throwing his arms out wide in a welcoming gesture. “Welcome, dear Brotha, Sista, and Little Sista too...”
He smiled warmly, eyes darting at each of them, and Sarita released a small giggle when the intense but kindly eyes rested upon her.
“Are we to assume you are the chosen Hero and his helpers?”
Midna nodded. “We are.”
“Good. Our princess has long awaited your arrival. Come. If you pass her test, she will know you are indeed the Hero and will be most honored to speak with you in regards to how you might obtain that Stone you seek...”
As he turned towards the door, the other Gorons cleared aside. Link, Midna, and Sarita followed the Goron down that narrow path. Link tried to smile at the Gorons as he passed but felt slightly uncomfortable. Their own grins were warm and inviting to be sure, but they watched him so closely, as if trying to read his soul and judge whether it was pure or false.
“Yesterday,” continued the Goron who led them, “we were visited by a voice from the gods who told us that only the true Hero would be able to tell who the real princess is. So, we have set up a test for you in the room beyond...”
With a stomp of the Goron’s foot, a stone door raised, and Midna, Link, and Sarita stepped within—
And stared in amazement and intimidation.
The room was vast, with hundreds of torches running along its circular wall. Covering every inch of the floor was a maze of statues, all of them the same—a Goron whose skin was as black as midnight, eyes gleaming like black diamonds. White diamonds adorned her neck and head in two simple but brilliantly gleaming circlets. Arms crossed, she stood tall, muscles as firm and formed as her male counterparts’, if not more so. Determination and a command for respect lingered in her eyes, posture, and confident smile. Link, Midna, and Sarita all knew that, somewhere amongst these hundreds, the real Goron princess waited to be found by the Hero.
“Okay, but how—?”
Midna barely had time to turn before the door slammed shut, leaving no hope for guidance or escape.
“Well, that was slightly rude,” she mumbled, turning back to the statuesque maze. “Just slightly...I mean, a clue would have been nice, at least...”
“Do we start looking then?” Sarita piped, still sounding cheery as ever, eyes gleaming with excitement at the thought of such a challenge. Link tried to smile too but knew this would not be so simple as one of her forest explorations—especially as they’d no hope of just quitting whenever they wanted.
But, with a nod that was more confident than he truly felt, he, Midna, and Sarita glided into the maze. They branched off, though not straying too far from one another, carefully inspecting the statues for any signs of a break in their pattern.
After searching what seemed an age but was surely only a few minutes, Link, Midna, and Sarita joined up again in the midst of the maze. Midna sighed and tapped her long fingers against one arm. Link scrunched his face in hard thought. Sarita gazed about with wide, inquisitive eyes which glittered undaunted.
Link began rummaging around in his satchel, half absent-mindedly. By the time Midna gave him a side-ways, knowing prompt, he already held the ocarina in his hand.
Midna smirked. “A step ahead of me, Hero. Good call, especially seeing as you are supposed to be the brawn and I the brains...”
Link flashed her a mock-pout, and she laughed lightly. “All right, all right, so perhaps even the bearer of courage may find a little wisdom at times; and I suppose I could have used a bit of courage when first using the hookshot and the like...”
Sarita nodded. “A perfect balance indeed. But I believe wisdom shall be most needed to decipher what kind of song might show us the true Goron princess...”
All drew solemn and quiet again. Link placed the ocarina to his lips, fiddling around with different notes, pitches, snatches of ancient songs. He tried the melodies of the first sages, the Six who helped that first Link span time and space with their music. He even ventured Midna’s Requiem. When no other significant tunes assailed him, he resorted again to playing random bits, his blank mind all the while racing to be filled with some idea. He caught Midna rolling her eyes at one point and almost laughed; he’d always been terrible at pretending to know what he was doing...
After a time though, frustration etched itself firmly within Midna’s creased brow and set lips. Again, as a thinker, to be incapable of such a simple act overwhelmed her. Link struggled too, knowing the way must be easier than he thought...
A small tug on the elbow of his sleeve. He looked down. Sarita beamed up at him, widely, proudly, even a bit mischievously. A bright sparkle radiated from her eyes, like that of a child who has just deciphered a very difficult problem all on her own.
He studied those eyes quizzically, intensely. She granted a prompting smirk and giggle, laughing even more when he continued to stare dumbfounded.
At last, she ended his torture by humming three, simple notes.
He smiled broadly.
The beginning of Saria’s song.
Sarita laughed more vibrantly still, loud and unbridled, and he wished he could laugh too. How could he have forgotten? A simple, silly song, and yet, it tied into one of their favorite tales of the ancient Hero. How often Sarita would spin the tale as they sat around a blazing bonfire eluding to the torches of the Gorons’ cavernous chambers—just like those blazing from the walls surrounding them now. As soon as Sarita reached the right part in the narrative, Link would play her song, and the two of them would dance and laugh long into the night, unable to resist just like Darunia, that great Goron king of old. The rest of the story would be history; they could always pick up where they left off the next night, and often did.
With a wink at Sarita who granted a final giggle, Link placed the ocarina to his lips once more and began to play Saria’s Song.
His feet began to itch. Midna began to sway. Sarita started hopping lightly about. Soon, like a trio of pied pipers, they danced lightly and gaily to the sprightly melody, weaving in and out of the maze of statues, until—
“Oh, baby! Keep up that beat, that hot, hot, HOT beat!”
Glancing up, Link saw Midna spinning, her cape twirling about her elegantly, giving her the appearance of a night-time goddess dancing for the stars. Sarita bounced about like a waltzing flower. And beyond, several yards away, one of the statues moved, surprisingly lithely considering the Goron’s size and weight and stony scales.
Yet as the three danced closer and closer, Link playing with more spirit, varying the melody here and there with clever trills and changes in pitch, adding heightened emotion to the already-freeing song, the Goron princess came clearly into focus.
Finally, they stood before her. She leapt, bound, and twirled wildly, releasing loud cries, howls, and high-pitched calls of exhilaration. When at last Link sped to that final note and brought the song to a swift end, everyone’s feet lay still. The princess looked at them with eyes brighter and far more intense than any the fake statues held. A wide grin spread across her face as she exclaimed, “Man, Brotha! Surely, you are a descendant of the chosen Hero! Our ancestor Darunia wrote much of that song, preserving it for many generations to come. As you see, we choose to live close to the Lost Wood, every now and then catching a wisp of its enchanting melody and dancing into a tizzy. But never, never, NEVER have I heard it played so hot, hot, HOT! Welcome, my Brotha and his friends!”
She clapped Link on the back, heartily but with such force that he stumbled a little and smiled up at her sheepishly. She seemed not to notice but rather drew herself up proudly, declaring,
“I am Onyx, Sage of Wind. Strange, it seems perhaps, yet I am called this because the songs I sing control the winds of the mountain, bringing the rain needed to harvest the Gorons’ special crop of bomb flowers.
“My people and I have eagerly awaited the arrival of the Silent Hero. Yes, that is how you are quickly becoming known all across Hyrule. News always travels fast in these big-type quest situations...
“And, you, the lovely lady of Twilight. How may I address you?”
“Midna, my lady.” She bowed her head then motioned to Sarita. “And this is Sarita, a dear friend of Link’s, one of the Kokiri children of the wood.”
Sarita stared up at the towering princess with huge, round, gleaming emerald eyes, then dipped into a little curtsy.
“We-ell!” Onyx laughed deeply. “Ain’t you just cuter than a whole bottle o’ buttons? I’m afraid you’ll have to stay behind with us though. Where Link and Midna are going—it’s no place for one so small. Possibly the most carefully guarded of all three Stones, I’d wager.”
“Where is it?” Midna asked, mirroring Link’s curious frown.
“Well, in ancient Hyrule, but you know that. Next to the original caves of the Gorons was a volcano. A long line of dragons dwelt there. The last one known living was called ‘Codiya’. Somehow or other, you got to go in there, tame Codiya, and, well, who knows the rest? Only the Hero, I’m sure—once you get in there and figure it out! Come, I’ll show you the place to play the song so you can get a move on—”
“Laaaaady Onyx! Woot!”
A motley crew of Gorons rolled into the room, creating a cacophony of whoops and cheers, streaming in from all sides and popping upright as they clustered around.
“Ye-eah!” One waved his muscular arms in the air, dancing a little jog. “Did you hear that beat?! Man, how could you not wake up—even from the deadest dead—”
“Man, that beat was hot!”
“Gentlemen!” Onyx thundered, certainly commanding, but her wide grin lingered all the while. Though their eyes still shone eagerly and several swayed or bounced a bit, the song yet lingering in their limbs, all hushed and focused with full attention upon their princess.
“All right then. Now, I’m sure Master Link, Lady Midna, and Miss Sarita here would love to return sometime and entertain us until we just up and die happily dancin’ all our limbs clean off. But—we all know they have a very important quest to fulfill first.
“So, Gorons, lead the wa-aay!”
With a chorus of whoops of agreement, the Gorons leapt up, and before they touched the ground, had curled into tight balls again. Zooming from the maze, Link, Midna, Sarita, and Onyx hurried to keep up.
Exiting the room, they bore left and wound up and up a narrow passage and then down, down, down another they thought might never end. When panting hard, nearly out of their last breath and ready to collapse, they turned a corner to see all the Gorons had stopped, standing upright before a door. A faded painting of a gold-gilded ruby could just be made out on the door’s surface.
“Within,” Onyx breathed dramatically, eyes vivid with emotion, and all the Gorons leaned in close as if they hadn’t surely heard the tale a thousand times before, “lies the remains of the throne room of the great Darunia, true and most-hailed king of our people in the early days of Hyrule’s birth. In here can the song be played which will return you to that ancient land...”
As she strode forward, the Gorons parted like a wave, gazing admiringly at her and the three Heroes who followed.
Slipping inside the door, they stood in a small room. Its stones were faded, cracked, their glory stripped away. But the two torches in the room glowed up a singular structure which, though just as old, made Link stare in wonderment. This was the throne of Darunia, one he’d heard such magnificent tales about. Glancing down at Sarita, he smiled at her expression, mouth agape, eyes even wider than they had been during the other surprising moments of her small but significant part in the quest.
“Look, Link,” Midna breathed.
Link’s eyes roamed to where she pointed. Before the throne, on the floor, a Triforce symbol. The paint still gleamed with a pale, golden sheen. Link knew what that meant. Here, he and Midna must play her Requiem.
As they started forward, Onyx placed a gentle hand on Sarita’s shoulder to hold her back.
“No, little one. Here is where your part of the quest must end...”
Link turned to them and smiled. Onyx’s gentle but huge hand all but swallowed Sarita’s delicate shoulder. Walking forward, he knelt and took her tiny hand in his.
“We’ll have to come back here, Link,” Sarita sniffed stubbornly, blinking back tears. “You and me and Midna too...and we can all dance with the Gorons again. Together...”
The smile easily found Link’s lips. He would like that. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Midna smile and nod. She would like that too. In those few moments, he had felt the freeness of a child, the freeness which he had always treasured about Sarita’s heart and which kept him ever-young along beside her. How old he felt during their quest, though he didn’t really realize it until they all danced together...
Rising, he felt in his heart they would feel that freeness again, together, he and Sarita. And he and Midna...
Then, he stepped onto the Triforce symbol beside Midna who already held her silver flute. Drawing out his ocarina, he and Midna shared an affirmative look. Then, they played her Requiem. The brilliant blue light of a warping crystal—something Link also knew well from legends told—began to envelop them. As Link’s heart began to race, his fingers played on, and his eyes smiled at Sarita between the rays of sapphire light which quickly knit together.
When only bright blue surrounded him and Midna, he lowered the ocarina, and she her flute. She took his hand and squeezed tightly, and they waited for the light to fade and reveal a different place and time.
Chapter 3—Beyond the Throne
At the very first, they thought they had made a mistake; Midna went on gripping his hand with painful tightness.
Once their eyes adjusted to the soft torchlight though, they saw that, though still standing in the throne room, its paint was fresh, its walls smooth and flawless. The sconces housing the torches gleamed with new gold. Beneath their feet lay a rug, the Triforce knit with brilliant gold threads into its dark fibers.
“Wow,” Midna said, still holding his hand tight. A shiver rippled from her body and into his. “So...this is really it? The Hyrule of old, where it all began...”
Link nodded, almost mechanically. It truly seemed bizarre, surreal even. Did they really stand so far back in time, in a place so perfectly preserved..?
“So, Hero, about that volcano, eh?” Midna piped, trying to sound her normal, quippish, all-important-business self, though the awe lingered on the fringes of her voice.
Link didn’t need to wonder about that detail. He and Sarita had retold that part of the tale often enough for its every re-telling to be etched perfectly in his memory. With a smile, he led Midna over to one side of the throne and began pushing.
After gazing at him curiously a brief moment, she understood and helped push. Soon, the throne began to budge, gradually at first—after all, it had been stuck that way a long, long time...or had it? Traveling through time certainly baffled the mind...
At any rate, the throne soon inched along a bit more easily until, at the last, they’d scrolled it aside to reveal a doorway big enough for them to squeeze through. A blast of heat stifled them, nearly knocking their breath away. As Link looked down though, he noticed something else—time had preserved the red tunic which protected the first Link from intense heat, and now, he wore it himself! Glancing over, he noted Midna fingering a ruby necklace, certainly meant to protect in the same way.
“Well,” she smiled, eyes gleaming up at him, “if this is the compensation for a few hours of time-traveling, I’ll have to make a hobby of it once we’re done with this whole quest!”
Link smirked, shaking his head. He slipped through the doorway, and she followed along.
They had entered a dark tunnel of sorts, very dimly lit by a reddish tint shining from beyond its exit.
The tunnel widened, and the reddish light increased. Then, they emerged into the remains of what Link recognized as the ancient Fire Temple.
They stood inside a great volcano, atop a cliff overlooking its boiling depths below. Cliffs ringed the whole area, and before them, a stone bridge spanned to a stone dome structure with a door, the only way forward. Midna and Link looked at each other and took a deep breath before venturing forward, Link now truly grateful that Sarita did not follow them to such a place. She would have been terrified upon catching the first whiff of smoke, let alone witnessing so much flaming lava below.
Passing across the bridge and through the door, they were met with a solitary square opening in the floor and a ladder reaching down into immeasurable depths. Again, the only way forward. Link had a fleeting desire to motion Midna to go first as the lady, but that kind of chivalry was not warranted in such a dangerous place. Taking the plunge, he placed his feet and hands on the ladder and began the descent, Midna following not far behind.
The climb lasted for a good several minutes, and the further they descended, the more ardently Link’s heart pounded, for he knew they delved right into the very heart of the volcano. Indeed, when they finally stepped down onto solid ground and passed through another small door, they had entered the volcano’s innermost chambers, a moat of boiling lava surrounding them almost entirely.
Steep cliffs littered with sharp precipices encased the lava moat; there was no escaping this place or time until their mission was completed—or until death met them, which was not at all a happy sort of thought.
Their eyes scaled up the towering cliffs encircling them. The cliffs were littered with jutting crags as well as a strange sort of plant; it was black and bulbous like bombs with little green leaves, and Link remembered the bomb flowers of which the Gorons spoke, their “special crop”. They could barely make out a round, black shape beyond the curling smoke—the sky, their one chance for freedom, save the doors running about the perimeter of the room, including that they’d just entered. Small bridges arched from the doorways to the centermost platform which was flat, if cracked in a few places from old age and wearing.
Link and Midna took a few steps forward—
And jumped at the chorus of booms, Midna grabbing Link’s arm tightly. Only when Link’s heart, having jumped clear out of his chest, returned to its proper place did he realize—all the doors had just slammed shut, with no way of reopening. The noise echoed faintly, taunting their fear.
Link and Midna stood close together, examining the cavern half in curiosity, a greater half in fear and caution. Link’s heart pounded, and he almost imagined hearing Midna’s pound in a steady rhythm matching the constant boil, pop, pop of the lava pits. Up and up the cliffs towered, seeming to grow even as they stood watching.
The heat felt abruptly stifling, despite the protective tunics. Though unharmed, they were still forced to gulp down great gusts of the hot stuff, and that mingled with new fear made Link’s vision blur unsteadily; his head reeled dizzily.
The next moment though, it was forced back into full focus as, with an intense boom, something erupted from the lava moat. Midna ducked under her cloak as bits of fiery rock and lava sprayed in a glowing shower. Link side-stepped then tumbled from harm’s way. Then, looking up, he quickly scrambled to his feet to face the creature now snaking through the sky.
A long, serpent-like creature, scales glistening the same, alternating, red and yellow iridescent hues as the pools of lava from which it emerged. Though bearing no wings, it glided through the air, the tip of its tail glowing a vivid crimson. It was a dragon, the Codiya of which the Gorons spoke.
The dragon slinked down to the ground to rest on four, squat arms, releasing a mighty shriek and a stream of fire which Midna managed to just dive under. Link grabbed her, roughly throwing her behind the shield of a boulder. He looked back to make sure she was okay, briefly apologizing with his eyes for being so harsh. Then, he turned his attention back to his new rival.
For a while, theirs was a game of artful shooting streams of flame and dodging them, on the dragon’s and Link’s parts respectively. Midna drew her small bow and shot arrows at the creature, possibly aiming for the eyes or any other spot she might consider a weak point. However, after several grazed Link’s sleeves, narrowly missing flesh, she ceased fire. He moved around too much for her to safely shoot, and he was too focused dodging embers, claws, teeth, and tail without worrying about arrows too.
While scrambling about, Link tried to surmise a plan, though thinking was difficult when constantly tumbling, diving, and leaping from certain death’s way, bumping along, grazing skin, twisting a muscle here and there, however slightly. All these things slowed him down in ways he really couldn’t afford, however briefly; as time passed, he escaped more and more narrowly...
His one coherent thought was that, according to the Gorons, he was meant to tame Codiya. Which seemed to imply, more or less, that he was not to kill the creature. That was no problem—he didn’t even know how to stun it. But then, how even to stun it? How to control such a massive, powerful creature—?
“Link!” shrieked Midna. “The tail!”
Link had to think fast—up or down. Figuring that to jump up was too far-fetched a skill, he dove down, flattening himself as the tail swept in a low arc at him. Then, glancing up, he thought:
Its tip glowed much more faintly than at the first. Still, it might be a clue. In the stories of old, the Hero always focused mainly on discovering his foe’s weak point, then the tool needed to conquer. After that, the rest fell to skill and speed.
Link made a quick mental inventory. He could try his sword, of course, but the sharp way the dragon constantly flicked his tail made catching it impossible. How else could he bring the tail to him or bring himself to the tail—?
Scrambling to unlatch the hookshot from his belt, he rolled as the dragon’s vicious claws swiped down at him. Then, sprawled on his back, he aimed at the tail. It flicked back and forth in a steady motion, but if he could just time it right...
The coil sprang, the hook released, grabbing hold of the tail. The chain retracted, and Link along with it. He hung to the dragon’s tail by the hookshot. Before he could imagine what next to do, the dragon began flailing its tail wildly, screeching in rage.
Link looked at the bit of tail the hookshot clung to while clinging on for dear life himself. He frowned; the tail was entirely protected by steely plates. The hookshot clung fast but didn’t seem to do any damage—
With a jerk, the dragon flung him and hookshot through the air. He landed with a hard thud, skidding across the rough rocks and off the edge of the precipice—
Midna caught his hand, yanking him and hookshot up before both plunged into boiling lava.
Though stunned, a sticky wetness clinging to the side of his head which he could only guess was blood. Link stumbled towards the dragon, hookshot gripped firmly, shaking his head in an attempt to clear his wavering vision and mind.
“Link!” Midna raced after, grabbing his arm to hold him back. “You can’t—you’ll be killed—come here, you fool!”
Link blinked, washing away the blur, and looked up into her eyes. For the first time, real, unbridled, unhidden fear shone there vividly, leaping sporadically with the flames within. His heart melted for a moment. Then, he hardened it, necessarily, granting her a solemn look. If he did nothing, they would both die as well. Though her heart shattered in her eyes’ reflection, she nodded understanding.
All the same, as he rushed after the Codiya, she followed. He would have to figure things out quickly—he had neither strength nor foresight left to both take down a dragon and keep Midna from harm.
Leaping to the side as one of the dragon’s hooked claws swung at him, Midna doing the same, Link lined the hookshot up once more with the creature’s tail, a ridiculous new plan surging through his head. Perhaps it was truly crazy, perhaps he was just delirious by now. There was no time to wonder though. Pulling the trigger, the hooked claw of the hookshot sped forth.
The hookshot latched onto the Codiya’s tail, and as the spring retracted, Link swung himself through the air in an arc, landing hard, uncomfortably, but amazingly astride the beast’s scaly back. Codiya released a loud screech of disdain and defeat but then fell silent and still. The next moment, he began retching, back arching as he coughed. Link was forced to dig his legs into the rough scales to keep hold. He feared he somehow managed to kill the poor creature; perhaps his tale contained some important life force.
But then, something bright and green and shimmering spewed from the creature’s mouth, landing in the hands of Midna who stared in surprise, then grimaced.
“Okay, so that’s just nasty and not at all as epic as they make it out in the legends...”
All the same, Midna held the gold-gilded emerald, the Spiritual Stone of the Forest, in her hands. After admiring its sparkling beauty, she carefully slipped it into the folds of her cloak.
With a grin, Link extended a hand, bidding her join him atop the Codiya. The only way out now was surely up, as none of the doors had reopened. Midna reached for his hand—
And was knocked off her feet by an abrupt jerk. She glanced about the volcano, then at Link in concern—
The quake began again and did not stop. The whole place began shaking frantically, bits of fiery rock crumbling from above, creating a blinding, choking ashy cloud. Lava in the surrounding pools began to bubble ominously.
“The volcano is collapsing!” Midna shouted, voice quavering with panic as flaming stones rained down on all sides. They landed with exploding booms, spraying dust, searing shards, and embers everywhere. Link winced as they charred his skin but didn’t move from his position atop Codiya. Midna made no move to hop on, not even when Link cast her an imploring look.
“What for?” she cried. “How does climbing atop a mutant, flightless lizard help me? Of all the dragons, you would have to tame the wingless kind—”
In a moment that was swifter than a flash of lightning yet pierced his heart just as starkly, he watched the fiery boulder rush at her; he stretched forth a hand as if by some magic he could catch her or cast her aside with the flick of his wrist, and then closed his eyes—
Midna snapped her head up and barely released half a scream before her world blackened.
Chapter 4—Zora of Old
Midna opened her eyes. Blackness consumed her, but not the sort of fearful blackness she would have expected. A calm, cool peace wrapped around her, snuggling her securely as the folds of her cloak. Perhaps this was death. She thought if it was, she ought to feel worse about leaving Link behind to fend for himself or else just perish alone. Yet, perhaps such a lack of despair was why this was death.
Then, a bluish-white light descended. From how high, she could not be certain, as the blackness spanned unending on all sides. There was nothing else to do save to watch the blue light. No sense of a need to rush or worry met her mind. Instead, she focused on the light, watching curiously.
The thin column of light widened just a bit then paused to form a ring, like a circle of sapphire flame, on what might have been the floor, if such concepts as floors existed in death. Indeed, while Midna felt secure, she felt weightless enough to move in any direction in the blank space she so chose.
Gradually, something silvery began to sparkle in the midst of the blue ring. Its glistening intensified then solidified into some shape Midna could not quite make out. Stepping forward, she floated towards it until she held it clearly enough in her sight. Then, with a small gasp, she halted. A stone pedestal, the Triforce carved unmistakably within its side. She knew enough lore of the world so closely intertwined with her own to know the Master Sword once resided in that pedestal.
The silver spread out from the pedestal, creating a wide, round, marble slab which stopped to rest at her feet. Stepping up and studying its glittering smoothness by the dreamy blue glow of the light column, Midna again gasped. Not so much out of surprise—she already knew where she stood—but out of awe that, of all places, Death should lead her to such a Sacred Realm before she took that final passage and eternal slumber...
Movement caused her eyes to snap up. And then, to stare for a third and most captivating time.
A figure, half concealed by the shadows, half illuminated by the sapphire glow. Then, as the figure stepped forward, Midna saw its skin truly radiated an ocean blue hue of its own. A dark cloak and hood concealed everything except those bluish arms, feet, and eyes as brilliant a cerulean as at Hyrule’s first Creation, when all was entirely pure and new.
“I’ve been waiting for you, Princess of Many Times and Realms.”
A woman’s voice. Soft, young yet old with many experiences and much knowledge. Her eyes glistened with a certain sharpness demanding Midna’s full attention.
“Welcome,” the woman continued. “Welcome to the Sacred Realm of old...In a different time, a different Hyrule...yet, its memory is preserved for those who know the old tales and would seek its refuge in times of trouble. But the true Sacred Realm, as you shall someday have need of it...”
She waved one side of her cloak in a great arc. For just a few moments, visions of a vividly green wood blurred by Midna in all directions. She didn’t even try to stifle yet another gasp as she recognized the glen where her Mirror lay. So that place would hold more than one key in hers and Link’s mission. That place would become the new Sacred Realm...
“Link,” she breathed. “So...if I am not dead, I must get back to him. I don’t know how I may aid him, yet I can’t abandon him in such danger.”
The woman gave a solitary but firm nod. “I know. Tis why I come to you, though I can do so only in visions. The Codiya holds the key. It is wingless, yet not without wings. Remember the Goron’s sacred crop. It holds more than one key, just like the Sacred Grove of the Kokiri.”
Midna stared. Did this wise creature read her mind?
No time to wonder about such thoughts. Link. She must get back to him at all costs...
“You will see me again,” the woman said, starting to recede back into the shadows. “I will grant you further aid on your quest. But for now, it is Link who needs the true aid.”
“But I still don’t understand—”
Midna held out a hand to stop her, but the woman had already gone. The blue light enveloped Midna, and she began to float up and up, heart racing as she hoped the help the woman offered would not be squandered. How could knowing of the bomb flowers help?
Gradually, the light faded, then darkened, and then, at the last...
Midna opened her eyes, sitting up with a start, coughing terribly as she inhaled a sharp burst of fiery dust and ash. Link knelt beside her, eyes closed yet face raised towards the heavens, brows furrowed deeply as if he implored the goddesses with all the might he could muster for her safety.
Midna reached out a hand to touch him when her eye caught on a glimpse of red. She should not have noticed this red with the myriad of crimson embers raining all around, yet perhaps the vision granted her some special gift. Leaning over, she cleared aside the debris to reveal a small patch of bomb flowers, their brilliant velvet petals somewhat crumpled yet still vibrant crimson and violet hues.
“Link!” she cried.
He already looked at her with awe and relief and tried to mask his face with seriousness as she said,
“These flowers—look, don’t look at me like I’m crazy, I don’t have time to explain—but these flowers can help. Help me feed them to the Codiya!”
With a fervent nod, he scrambled over to help her start uprooting the blossoms. It was tough work as they were lodged securely in the earth, and having to dodge a more than occasional razor-sharp boulder didn’t help matters. The Codiya had taken to stomping about in fear, adding needless tremors beneath their feet. But with a final tug, they hefted one of the flowers and waved it in front of the Codiya. He ceased his frightened thrashings long enough to lock eyes on the flower, sniff it with hungry eyes, and then devour it, nearly taking Midna’s hands with it.
Midna scowled at the beast, preparing a sassy retort when he lifted his face to the sky, released a mighty screech, and pushed off from the ground. Hovering only a few inches above the quaking earth, his blazing eyes encouraged them towards adventure. Sharing a look and nod, Link and Midna scrambled onto the back of the Codiya.
The Codiya swerved with lightning precision as a lethal shard catapulted towards them. Then, he shot up in the air, zooming towards the volcano’s exit far above.
Link nudged Midna and glanced back with a wide grin.
“Great timing, I know!” shouted Midna, thinking upon not only the Codiya’s dodge but the mysterious knowledge of the woman in the vision as well.
“You can compliment my excellency later though; steer the Codiya and make sure you grab enough bomb flowers on the way up!”
With a firm nod, Link latched onto the dragon’s long whiskers which waved behind his massive head like the streamers of a celebratory, life-sized puppet. Gently tugging them, he veered the Codiya up and to the right, avoiding a massive rain-fall of spewing fire and bits of lava.
Their upward climb proved rocky at first; Midna gripped Link’s shoulders hard as they crashed into the walls to avoid the flaming boulders splintering from above. Soon though, Link and the Codiya worked together to weave a sort of swerving pattern, steadily climbing while zigg-zagging from one side of the volcano to another, pausing only to let the dragon gulp down a bomb flower or two and keep the flames of his tail illuminated.
“We’re almost there!” cried Midna as the circular opening above morphed from smoky grey to sky blue. The outside world drew closer and closer. The Codiya protested with a weary snarl, but Link tugged the whiskers hard, spurring him on with a kick in the side—
He realized it right as she screamed it—too late.
The Codiya screeched in fear and pain as it banged against the wall. Sinking its claws into the stone, it struggled to keep hold but was fast slipping, the rock too hard for him to dig deep. The constant rumbling shook them steadily towards the bottom; already, bubbles of lava erupted between the stony crags and climbed steadily up to meet them in the middle.
Link glanced around frantically, all the while trying not to feel or look frantic. Midna had done a wonderful job of bringing them this far, of figuring out about the bomb flowers, but now, none lay in sight—
Across the room. There was no way the Codiya could crawl all that way in time—not to mention he would probably have slipped too far down by then anyways. What would the ancient Hero have done? Probably whipped out his boomerang and nonchalantly drawn the bomb flower to himself. Figured they had received not so much as a few rupees and some songs on their quest so far—
The hookshot, of course. How fear blinded the mind, almost lethally so.
He tried to aim the laser. His hand shook, the Codiya shook, the volcano shook, making it difficult to both focus on the bomb flower and even catch sight of the laser. He couldn’t afford to try too many shots though. It would take too long for the chain to spring forth and retract several times, despite its speed. The Codiya already slipped slightly below the bomb flower, forcing Link to aim up a bit—
As the pain ripped through his arm like fire, he dropped the hookshot. If he could have cursed he would have; pain stabbed more poignantly through him as something pounded against his aching flesh. As his blurring vision cleared for a moment, he saw Midna beating the flames leaping on his arm, extinguishing them.
Shaking his head and holding his arm, he tried not to look at the sharp stony shard protruding from seared flesh. The sight made him want to vomit almost as much as the pain, so he looked down—
Only to find the hookshot wedged between the Codiya’s claws and the wall he yet clung too, sliding more steadily now. Looking up at Midna with mingled torment, hope, and urgency, she granted him a glance which read both, “Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” and, “I really hope I can pull this off or we’re both doomed—thanks a lot,” before stretching down and, after a bit of a struggle, prying the hookshot free.
Midna looked up. So did Link. She’d have to hurry before they slid beyond the hookshot’s range of reaching the bomb flower. Holding the hookshot tightly in both hands, she aimed up and released. Link remembered thinking with annoyance how, after all these years, someone should have utilized technology to create a homing device for the hookshot, as well as the fact that, between his arm nearly falling off and being assaulted by Gorons earlier, this truly was proving the worst day of their journey—
Then, the world disappeared into solid black.
He heard a victorious roar from the Codiya.
Then, a deafening explosion.
Wind and heat rushed past as their speed accelerated. Whether they moved up or down at such a speed, he couldn’t tell, nor whether Midna’s cry was one of distress or victory.
Then, his mind and memory darkened as well.
“I will need to set the bone first, before he awakens...then, after soothing the pain, I can bring him back into the conscious realm...”
A gentle hand upon his forehead. Midna’s fingers curling tight around his unbroken hand. Another pair of hands, gentle but strong, grasping the arm still radiating with pain—
The hands pulled sharply, there was a loud snap, and he faded away.
Link opened his mind, freshly awakened once more.
At first, only darkness and peace. He wondered if he had just up and died. Last he remembered, a pain strong enough to kill any man seized his entire body.
Gradually though, as his mind cleared, he realized that while the pain had truly vanished, the blackness persisted only because he had not yet opened his eyes.
Doing so, blackness still met him. Twas a blackness dotted by twinkling white eyes though, and he soon knew he stared at the night-time sky.
Sitting up slowly, he observed several things. He sat once more on the plush fields of Hyrule. Midna knelt before him, smiling with instant relief, sighing, and closing her eyes to mouth a prayer of thanks before turning her eyes back upon him; they gleamed vividly with their keen fires, trying not to look exhilarated but failing entirely.
Next to Midna knelt another being, and it was she which baffled him so entirely that he thought one of two things: perhaps he really was dead, and Midna too, and they’d both found their way into the Spirit Realm. Or else he was still asleep and woke up into a truly miraculous dream of sorts.
Link frowned, not in a sad or disapproving way, but in confusion, even disbelief. She was not one of the winged Zorita of his world. She bore no wings, only the elegant flippers streaming like gentle falls from her arms, the brilliant sapphire eyes, and the delicate, fin-shaped ears, thin and soft as silk. Beyond that, she had no hair to speak of, her nose was long, slender, and ended with an intelligent point, and her skin glistened a lovely cerulean hue. In short, she looked nothing like a Zorita because she looked everything like one of the Zora of old. That people which dwelt entirely on land and water, who over time morphed into the Rito of the Sky, and finally into the lovers of sky and water they esteemed in Hyrule today, the Zorita. She was a Zora. Of that, there was no mistake...
But there was much mystery.
Midna’s warbled voice finally broke through clearly to his yet somewhat foggy mind. Looking up, he saw concern glittering fervently in her eyes. Stretching forth a delicate hand to rest upon his, she asked quietly, “Are you okay?”
He nodded, perhaps so ardently as to look a fool, but that didn’t matter. He cared only for the worry which dissipated gradually from her eyes, and even then, he nodded.
“The pain was intense; he might yet be recovering.”
Link’s eyes snapped with full alertness now to that other which spoke. Her voice flowed with a smooth, quiet, but clear and commanding wisdom such as when Midna spoke of something very. Her eyes were just as intense as Midna’s—and just as concealing as hers were at the first and often were still. Beyond their gentility, he could not be certain what she felt.
“Forgive me, young Hero, for coming to you only as a voice until this moment. Even now, it is a risk for me to aid you here, and in person...
“But now, I owe what explanation I can give to appease your curiosity, even if only in part.
“I am indeed, as baffles you, a Zora of old, from the ancient Hyrule. This is the form I take as I travel between the Realms, guiding and watching over you as I may. I regret I cannot show my true form nor even share its identity with you; to do such would cause detriment to you, Midna, the Princess Zelda herself, and any others involved with your quest—thus, I would harm all of Hyrule, Termina, and Twilight; in the end, all are affected for the future by how we spend every waking moment in the present.
“I must depart from you; already, I tarry longer than I feel comfortable with. Yet my heart could not leave you unhealed without regret, and the time wasted in your healing would have proven a greater bane on your quest.
“Travel now to the falls of the Zorita of Hyrule. There, your path will prove a little easier, as before. After that, the final and truest tests...”
She rose to her feet with utmost fluidity. Then, stepping back, she floated into the shadows of the night, merging with them like a wave rejoining its fellow ripples.
“Good night, dear Heroes. Rest in peace and greet the dawn with new vigilance. The goddesses continue to bless thee...”
The night consumed her delicate form even as distance drowned her last, fading syllables.
Link stared at that space a long time before realizing that, with her departure, he’d stood to his feet at some point. He couldn’t say when. He could say only that her leaving tore a deeper pain within him than his wounds from the volcano. The pain was brief but intense, leaving him stunned a moment, and then, to wonder. Why should her separation be anything to him? And even more so, why should he feel, suddenly for that she was so much a stranger, that he belonged by her side?
Though its wonder lingered, the feeling passed quickly enough. Glancing down, he saw Midna watching him intently, eyes aglow with confusion and concern. He smiled softly and lay on the ground, eyes beckoning her to do the same. Returning the smile, her eyes trusting, she did so. Their hands touched, fingertips kissing ever so slightly.
It was that smallest connection which soothed Link’s heart, telling him everything would be all right. At least until morning, at least so long as they could own these few, precious moments to just touch and sleep and be in the wide, open fields of Hyrule. As though no harm had ever befallen those fields and none ever would. He knew such a thought was a mere dream. He knew what was and that such imaginings were not. All the same, until dawn called to a new day and a new danger, to dream was possible. To dream was real. To dream was enough, as long as the dream could endure.
To the Spirit of the Seas it was, which could only mean a trip to the Zorita, and then, the dwelling of their ancestors, the Zora.
Midna and Link spoke little during that trek, though their silence was peaceful and pensive, not laced with fear. Pami had said they might find rest with the Zorita as before, which lightened Link’s heart and returned his memory to when he shared many of his best memories with Midna. The thought of seeing the Zorita again only served to make him feel that much closer to her, a strange new bond he hadn’t thought upon for some time but was certainly forged in those memories.
Perhaps Midna felt it too, for she would cast him soft smiles or take his hand casually from time to time, more often as forest thinned and finally morphed into a wide expanse of sandy beach, cliffs rising to their left.
As night drew close, moonlight shimmered majestically upon the waves breaking against the shore. The shallows kissed their feet, warming their toes. But there was no time to stop and play in them or admire their beauty. Holding Midna’s hand firmly, he led her ever on towards the cliffs.
Between the cliffs, a series of land-bridges twisted in a confusing sort of knot over a lake. From high above, a waterfall thundered, pooling into that lake. Link and Midna helped each other along the steep inclines of the bridges, climbing and winding their way up until, at the last, they stood face to face with the roaring fall.
Link looked at his feet. Beneath them, a square stone tile, old, weathered, its sheen long ago faded. Still, the Triforce crest faintly lingered. He knew this place. One of his favorite places from the ancient legend, one he visited often inside his mind as he retold the tales. Taking out his ocarina, he knew exactly what to do.
In surprise, his fingers flowed across the ocarina, his lips singing out the notes of Zelda’s Lullaby with the same ease and grace as did those of the Hero so often when visiting this secret place.
He did not cease playing but did so in confused wonder. He could not have remembered the song before; how often did he try to get the lullaby just right by Sarita’s request? He only heard it once from a passing stranger, and even then, who could be sure the notes he played were true? Zelda’s Lullaby was a sacred song, long-forgotten by most, and least remembered by a mere, common minstrel.
Now though, the song flowed as naturally from Link’s fingertips and lips as touching Midna’s hand with his seemed last night. As Zelda’s Lullaby echoed like a nymph’s loveliest singing from the ocarina, the falls calmed and parted like a curtain; the cave’s opening loomed dark and beckoning.
Taking a small, head-start run, Link leapt over the short gap onto the ledge. The waterfall’s thin spray doused him like a light shower, refreshing against his weary, dirt-stained skin. Turning, he held out his hand, granting Midna an encouraging grin.
Returning the smile, she too took a flying leap, gliding like a butterfly queen through the air and beyond the fall. The waters closed in again, forming a solid barrier between them and the outside world. Even still, Link knew that when the time came to leave, they could still pass through as easily as when the veil was parted.
Holding Midna’s hand loosely, he led the way down the dark corridor which soon wound down and brightened, blue-white rays playing across the walls. Emerging from the cave’s wide mouth, they paused to stare in wonder at the original Zora’s Domain.
Stone paths wound up and around and out of sight into various rooms niched high above. They stood at the bank of a huge lake, a gigantous waterfall tumbling into its depths. Somewhere, music like steel drums and an angelic choir echoed soothing, tropical melodies. Torches lined the towering walls in elegant arcs, bouncing off the water and showering the cave with prismatic lights. What amazed them most of all though was the presence of so many Zorita—not Zora, as expected, but the Zorita themselves, flying, diving, swimming, laughing, playing as if there was their home and no evils existed outside its realm.
Link nodded towards a path spiraling steadily up to a ledge above and gently drew Midna along, smiling as she gazed all about, Sarita’s child-like wonderment glistening fervently in round, wide eyes.
The Zorita cast smiles or nods of greeting in passing. Many stared with the same curiosity as Link and Midna stared at them with. A peace glittered calmly in the Zoritas’ eyes, illuminating Link’s heart with a new sort of hope and, he guessed by the light in Midna’s eyes, her heart as well.
As their path stretched high above the lake, their path twisted towards a stair rising steadily between two walls. Link’s heart pounded; again, he knew exactly where they were, what goal they pressed towards.
At the summit, they stepped into the room which felt like stepping into a dream or ancient memory. A pool of cool water refreshed their feet. On a raised dais, a stone throne. To their left, a cavernous mouth leading to some other passage in the cave. On the walls, torchlight glistened with the same gentility found in the Zoritas’ eyes...
“The most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, isn’t it?”
Link and Midna looked up as the Zorita graced the ledge above, from the corridor behind the throne. Her soft aqua skin, long curving fins, elegantly flexing wings, ocean eyes—she was the exact replica of Ava, save perhaps being a little taller and thinner, her voice a little deeper and lined with an aged wisdom.
Her smile was just as soft and sweet though as she hopped down from the ledge to stand in the shallows before them. “I am Miya, also the Sage of Water—though you could have probably guessed that first bit already.”
Link nodded while Midna returned the gentle grin.
“This,” Miya spread her hands wide, indicating the throne room, “is truly that room where the first Zora kings and queens ruled...
“Zora’s Domain is one of the few parts of ancient Hyrule not assailed by Ganondorf’s forces. Even he could not get in without breaking through the powerful magic guarding our domain—or else without knowing the song passed down only to the Royal Family and their closest allies. Which you and Midna clearly have become, while Ganondorf remains entirely the traitor. Thank the goddesses he never knew the song in his short time serving the king...
“We Zorita have dwelled here some time, protecting this place and preserving its ancient beauty. Sometimes, we dwell in our time as well. Sometimes, in both, though we’ve put an end to travel between the two until all evil is safely brought to an end...”
“Yes,” said Midna slowly, “your sister, Ava—she promised we would meet you here. Although I didn’t know she quite meant here, in the ancient domain...”
Miya nodded. “Ah, indeed. Ava. Your connection to her is yet another, unneeded sign of proof. Here—you pass all tests...”
She pulled from her cloak the shimmering sapphire, the Stone of Water. Midna gingerly took it into her hands, staring with the same bafflement coating her face as Link thoroughly felt.
“But...how?” Midna frowned. “How have we so easily obtained the Stone?”
“You already played the song to gain entrance here,” Miya smiled softly. “In doing so, you prove the test as our Hero. Besides, I think Ruto would have wanted to make the way easy for you—even if she did hold that seven year engagement over your head...”
“Engagement?” Midna tilted her head, eyes playfully demanding answers of Link. He smirked but blushed terribly, knowing the exact tale which Miya eluded to.
Miya laughed a high, lilting laugh which sparkled kindly like the lights in her eyes. “It is an ancient but very true tale much cherished by our people...
“The first Link, the original Hero, met Ruto—one of our great princesses of old who would later become the Sage of Water—when both were children, about ten years old. She was a headstrong thing, proud, even obnoxious, one could say. In a series of misadventures inside the belly of a fish, Link kindly helped her regain her lost treasure—the spiritual Stone of Water. Not only was this Stone vital to his quest and to him gaining access to the Master Sword, but it was also a sacred item of tradition, an engagement stone of sorts. Ruto’s mother told her only to give it to the one who would be her husband someday...
“Seven years later, when it was Ruto’s turn to aid Link, she reminded him how terrible he was to keep her waiting ‘these seven, long years.’ Whether joking or not, it is said Ruto never forgot her love for Link, even after becoming a guardian sage. Near the end of her life, she entrusted the Stone to the Zora, commanding them to guard it well and allow no hands to touch it save the Hero’s when he returned—as he surely would, she promised. Then, once in his possession, she would return to sweep him off his feet—or else haunt him, if that was the best she could do.
“I highly doubt Ruto will really trouble you, especially in such troubling times. But,” she added with a playful smile and a twinkle in her eyes, “you never know. Even in the midst of peril, Ruto was no stranger to taking a moment to scold Link for unrequited love...
“Go now though, my children. To the desert, to the last Stone. I would bid you rest, but since time is of the essence, use this short refreshment to journey forth and make all haste to the final chapter in your venture.”
“We will.” Midna gave a firm nod. “And we thank you, my lady, for making our test so easy as to be called ‘refreshment.’”
“You are indeed most welcome, my children. Now go, and serve Hyrule well—past, present, and future...”
She swept a long, finned arm in a graceful arc to their left where the gaping mouth of a corridor loomed. They started curiously towards it through the shallows, and Miya followed behind.
Their path stopped short as the shallows morphed into a waterfall rushing gently over the edge of the cliff and down into the lake below where many Zorita swam, talked, and laughed without a care in the world. And right below Link and Midna, at the foot of the waterfall, the sapphire rays of the warp crystal gleamed up between frothing white foam.
Link took Midna’s hand and cast a glance and solemn, thankful nod back at Miya; she granted a gentle nod and smile.
Then, he looked at Midna, whose eyes remained steadfast upon the crystal.
With a squeeze of her hand, the two leapt off the edge, soaring towards water and light in an amazing moment of excitement, joy, true freedom.
Crashing into the warm depths of the lake, water and light enclosed them in brilliant blue waves; they swirled, waltzing beneath the waves for a glorious moment—
Then they sat, completely dry and still holding hands, on the floor of the Kokiri Forest once more.
Chapter 6—Prince of Shadow
Their next journey took them West, across the fields of Hyrule, though their path this time proved much longer than when searching for the domain of the Zorita. Still, though the trek lasted more than two whole days, they enjoyed its serenity. Despite all the continuous walking, it was good to not worry yet about the trials to face them. Though such trials fast approached, while walking, those trials seemed miles and miles away, almost like a bad dream not capable of coming true.
At some point, they glimpsed Hyrule Castle town in the distance and paused to gaze at it. So much grander and vaster than that of the original, it looked entirely peaceful, blue skies sheltering it from above. Still, they knew all that could change in the twinkling of an eye. Stepping over a ridge, they departed with that peaceful vision in their memory.
Towards the late afternoon of the third day, towering cliffs loomed. Up they wound between the stony precipices until something else loomed into sight—the Gerudo Fortress. This was the place from whence Ganondorf, the oldest enemy of Hyrule, hailed. The place housing the race of all women, save a male born every hundred years or so. The home of thieves rumored to be skilled and ruthless, though tales of the Hero told they were not nearly as heartless as Ganondorf himself; indeed, after proving himself in skill and stealth, the women made the first Link one of their own, a regular Gerudo.
If Link knew one thing held true since the ancient tales though, it was the Gerudo’s distrust of outsiders—especially men. Ganondorf had not treated the women well over time. At first, he sought only for a better life for them, his people. But this quest soon corrupted into an unhealthy lust for power. He abandoned them ever since, his search for the Triforce and absolute domination becoming his sole ambition.
So, as they approached the fortress, Link’s heart pounded; his mind remained void of any ideas how to sneak past the thieves—if that’s what they were meant to do. Sneak where? And do what?
Once they crept an uncomfortably close distance to the large, square stone fortresses built into the cliff-sides, Link tugged on Midna’s arm, and the two ducked behind a ridge to observe.
The Gerudo paced back and forth before the several entrances of the fortress. Tanned skin, vibrant red curls, purple puffed pants with sleeveless blouses revealing firm midriffs. All as Link imagined them from the preserved tales. Including the sharp spears they carried upright while pacing. To the left, a huge gate stood open; what lay beyond, they could not tell, though Link guessed it was the desert.
“Now what?” Midna whispered. “Do you think I should try talking to them? Perhaps, as a woman, they might trust me better?”
“Or perhaps, as a woman, we would see through your schemes and discover they were the pitiful set-up of a weak, back-stabbing man.”
Link and Midna whirled and jumped up, Link shielding Midna as the four thieves gathered around, trapping them.
“Oh yes,” the one sneered, rolling her eyes. “As if the lady was so utterly helpless...”
Link narrowed his eyes. Of course, he knew she was capable. But he cared more for her safety than her expressing her capabilities…
“What?” the Gerudo scoffed, hands lighting haughtily upon her hips. “Can you not speak?”
Link shook his head, hand twitching over the hilt of his blade.
The Gerudo’s eyes glanced to that hand casually, almost as if bored, then back up to meet the challenge in Link’s eyes.
“I see. Well then, I suppose your sword will have to speak for you!”
Without further warning, all four ladies drew curved blades and spun through the air at Link. He blocked one, two, three—
The fourth landed a blow to his head. Blunt, as if the flat part of the sword mercifully made contact, but hard. Even as Midna shrieked his name, his vision faded and then turned black with his mind.
Link slowly opened his eyes. Then, they burst open as Midna’s face hovered over his. Closing her own eyes, she sighed huge relief, then helped him to sit up. He rather wished he’d stayed down though, as the sight meeting him provided no means of cheering up.
Four walls enclosed them in a small space, rising high, high up to the ceiling. A single, solitary window let moonlight in far above...Moonlight! How long was he unconscious? Pain still throbbed in his head, dully but doing nothing to improve his mood.
At last, it dawned on them exactly where they were. The Gerudo’s prison.
He looked over at Midna questioningly.
“I knew I couldn’t take them all on,” Midna said. “And I was insistent upon staying with you, though they offered for me to talk with their leader. I thought you should be there for that though, so here we are...”
Yes, here they were. But not for long. In all his frustration, his mind was not blinded to one memory of the first Link: he too sat in the Gerudo’s prison, but he escaped using a tool which had proved so useful already it seemed almost too good to be true.
As Link drew out the hookshot and Midna gave a little cry of delight, he stood and swooped her close in one arm. Aiming the hookshot, he released the chain and claw which stuck fast into the wood framing the small window. Up they zoomed, landing on the window sill. From there, they leapt to a ledge a couple feet below then gazed down.
As Link watched the guards’ patterns, he knew the way would not be easy. One or the other would see them in turning, so they’d have to leap and make a break for it. Link was in no mood for games, so they’d just have to go ahead and risk it and hope not to be caught again.
After waiting for the moment when all the Gerudo turned away, he and Midna leapt the few, remaining feet from the ledge onto the soft sand below. They scurried towards a ridge. If they could hide behind that and wait to judge the guards’ patterns again—
“The prisoner! Escape! Catch them!”
Link and Midna bolted madly towards the ridge as the soft thuds of Gerudo footfall pursued. They didn’t make it far though before a half-dozen, purple-clad females with fiery eyes encircled them, spear tips pointed dangerously close.
Link cursed inwardly while Midna stood close against him, body rigid, when—
“Stop, and lower your weapons—I said ‘stop’, you fools! Do you not stop when your leader rules it?”
The harsh command caused the Gerudo to lower their spears and bow humbly back, widening their circle to allow the authoritative figure to stroll up and pause before Midna and Link.
Her hair wisped about in curls the color of the sand. Her skin reflected the rich, warm tones of the soil of Hyrule Field, along the borders right before reaching the Gerudo Valley, yet it looked smooth and soft as the fine ebony and violet velvet sash securing the long, billowing, white pants about her thin waist. A sleeveless blouse matched, and delicate golden bangles jingled from her wrists, anklets, and even her dainty, pointed ears. Her eyes shone like two desert storms, imminently changing. Right now, they promised calm yet warned defense the moment it should become necessary. A long curved sword hung in a scabbard at her side. Her arms remained crossed, but Link felt she could disarm him and Midna both in less time than it took them to draw their weapons.
Instead, a broad grin curled across her lips. A triumphant, mischievous, but definitely pleased gleam illuminated her golden eyes.
“Welcome, Hero, and Midna as well. I am Aniya, Sage of the Sands. Most proud I am—and impressed—at how quickly you solved the riddle. For, indeed, you have passed the first test.
“Only the true Hero would wield that tool which the first Link used to escape this very same sort of prison during his ‘welcome’ to the Gerudo Fortress...”
“Thank you, my lady,” Midna said, bowing her head, as did Link. “But if I may...how do you know my name? None of the others we’ve met thus far have called me by my proper name.”
The smile vanished from the lady’s eyes and lips, like a candle snuffed before given the chance to fully shine. Solemnly, she said, “Come. There are tales even you do not know which I must share. They shall help answer that question and more; but first, we must find a place where lesser ears cannot know their secrets...”
She turned and slipped noiselessly into the nearest doorway. Midna cast Link a wondering frown. He took her hand and led her after the Gerudo lady.
After twisting through several stony passages, they entered a small room lit by torchlight. The only items were several huge, satin pillows strewn on the floor. As the lady sat on one, Midna and Link chose cushions across from her. Looking at her intently, they waited.
A kind though sad smile crossed her lips; her youthful face appeared suddenly weary, strewn with a few lines of suffering and worry that hadn’t seemed to rest there before. Such is the power of memories though...
“I know your name,” Aniya began, “because it was spoken often to me by another who revered it dearly—Ebony.”
“Ebony!” Midna gasped. Link tried to read her features—surprised, perhaps even troubled, certainly in a state of utter wonderment. Beyond that, it was difficult for him to tell if the wonder tied to any fear or worry. Her hand stiffened a bit in his, and he squeezed gently, hoping to ease whatever unpleasant feeling assailed her.
“Ebony,” Midna breathed. “I knew her. Not well—but I knew her, as I did each of my people. Her disappearance was a great bereavement to her family. What...may I ask what became of her?”
Midna seemed to gasp the last words, face contorting painfully in a sign that she wasn’t sure she really wanted to know. Yet, as queen, knowing was her dutiful compassion.
Aniya paused, taking a deep breath. Then, slowly releasing it, she at last opened her eyes, as if she could not bear to envision Ebony’s silvery face shimmering like a lost star in the thick blackness behind her closed lids.
“Ebony certainly never returned to Twilight. I would have sent her myself if only I possessed the magic and wisdom needed, but...in the end, she died of loneliness and a broken heart.
“Ganondorf, his manly ‘duty’ completed with the chosen Ebony, traveled abroad again, making plans, mustering power and allies—who-knows-what—to prepare to take Hyrule, as ever. We Gerudo always knew what he was up to. We expected it. We didn’t approve, to put it lightly. But nor could we stop it...
“Ebony’s child was placed in my care, as I was Head Thief in Ganondorf’s absence. I strived to raise him the best I could. His father’s genes flowed in him, and he was a stubborn, arrogant, even dominating child. But his mother’s gentility and care for all living things rested in his heart, and it was those qualities I sought to nurture while steering those of his father in the right direction. If Ganondorf had used such traits for good, great things he could have done. Great things could his son have done as well...
“When the boy was around ten or so, Ganondorf returned, declaring in his quiet but final, authoritative way he would take the boy with him on his journey. I argued in every subtle way I could, saying he needed motherly care, a proper education, stability, all the normal arguments a mother might make.
“But Ganondorf would have none of it. Without explanation or even a farewell, he and the boy stole into the night.
“That was the last I saw or heard from either of them...
“Til recently. When rumors of Ganondorf’s new rise to power began to float aloft, then news of his allies, one from Termina, another from Twilight. Majora...much was already known of her evil through the ancient tales of the first Hero. But this...Prince of Shadow...his title was new even amongst our circles.
“Yet, there was a time he came to Gerudo Valley. Ganondorf held one of his council meetings here. Many of us snuck down to catch a glimpse of the Prince. He was certainly handsome, with his silvery skin shining as if moon beams illuminated his every sharp feature. Eyes bluer than the stormiest sea and bright with passion, ambition, and so much potential and life. And his hair, redder than a tall campfire ablaze in the middle of a starry night.
“Few caught wind of his name. I was one of those few, but even before knowing his name, I knew his face. He was Ganondorf’s son. He was my son, and Ebony’s...
“He was Zaruman.”
Midna gasped, bracing one hand against the floor to keep from swaying and falling over. She fought hard to control the swift, rasping breaths. She blinked back tears as her eyes swelled like the pools of Codiya’s volcano, needing very much to release an overwhelming pressure too long held onto.
Again, the anger raged inside Link, but this time, he allowed the compassion to quickly overflow it. Scuttling close, he hugged an arm tight around her shoulders as if maybe, just maybe, he could hold together those pieces of her heart which yet lay cracked, tattered, some even shattered in Zaruman’s hands. If only Link could stitch those fragments back into a glorious, pure whole. Perhaps, after all was said and done and he could focus on that one thing he would have desired to focus on this entire journey, had he allowed himself to...
He allowed himself to feel just a bit of that desire now, though not too poignantly. He must care enough to protect and comfort her, but until all was said and done, stronger emotions would only hinder their quest—and thus her safety. No, for present, though he could not deny their existence, neither could he yet embrace them either. He rhythmically rubbed her shoulder until her breathing calmed at last into a steady, quiet pace.
Then, gently slipping his arm from around her, he looked up at Aniya whose eyes shone with both solemnity and great pain. A few tears trickled down her cheeks as she whispered, “I know. Too well. I loved him too...”
As she granted a small smile, Link understood where the weariness and age reflected in her eyes emanated from. He wished his heart could break just a little for both of them, so he could truly understand. Then again, perhaps in this case, he was needed as the stronger one...
“Well,” Aniya rose to her feet, trying to wash all sadness from her eyes and replace it with new determination and a focus on what was important at hand. “Let me take you to the place where Midna’s Requiem will return you to that original sacred Temple of our people...”
Exiting the room, they wound along the stony passages once more. Link still held Midna’s hand, glancing continuously at her in concern. The panic had faded from her eyes, but they did not look at him. Instead, they were fraught with deep pensiveness which did not allow her to truly see him.
Aniya led them outside, past the fortress, and through a tall gate which led into a wide expanse of desert sand. Not far in the distance, storms raged, kicking up blinding hurricanes of sand and dust.
“The Hero used other means in the days of old,” Aniya said. “Now, only the right song can breach such borders, and even then, the trials beyond are said to be some of the hardest. But I have faith in you; so should you have in yourselves.”
Link smiled a bit as Aniya’s words echoed those of the happy mask salesman. This time, when he looked at Midna, she’d already dug out her flute with her free hand and smiled faintly at him in readiness. She gently slipped her hand from his, and he fished out his ocarina. Then, together, they played her Requiem and allowed the warp crystal to consume them one more time...
Chapter 7—Goddess of the Sands
Endless sands swirled on all sides, nearly blocking the sky and anything else which might exist from their view—though nothing else did seem to exist. For the first time in their quest, Link truly began to feel as though they’d signed their death warrant. Midna began to cough and sputter horribly, shielding her face with her long cloak; the sand began to kick up into his eyes, making him squint almost to the point of blindness—
Then, a flash of blue. Perhaps a mirage, yet their only sign of possible hope. Taking Midna’s hand, he led her forward.
They trudged through the sand storm until, as if passing some invisible barrier, the madness just ceased to be.
Glancing behind, Link and Midna saw the hurricane of sand blustering wildly, though even its call had been silenced on this side of the border. Looking before them, Midna gasped while Link squeezed her hand in shock and awe.
A massive glass structure, adorned with golden filigree, stretched miles high against a sky as brilliant a blue as the rarest sapphires. It was a huge hourglass, the strangest yet most awing structure they’d ever beheld. An arched doorway was etched in the bottom dome of the hourglass, leading to the temple nestled within. The temple’s walls stretched high, glistening like gold, though upon studying it carefully, they noted it was really made of sand itself. Grains steadily trickled from the doorway cut in the hourglass, slowly wheedling away the temple’s glory.
With merely a glance at each other, they knew there was only one way—forward. Though frightening to envision entering such a place where time was clearly of the essence—perhaps more so than with the other two Spiritual Stones—there was no other way.
It was Midna who squeezed his hand this time—perhaps involuntarily, though he half hoped not—as she whispered so softly, “I wonder if we truly only have an hour to find the Stone before the whole thing collapses on our heads, burying us unknown to anyone for eternity...”
This seemed neither the time nor place for her poetic but morbid speeches. Yet, Link wondered the same, even as he understood the intense hush of her voice. Never did he hear such utter silence in all his life. Her voice, smaller than a butterfly’s rushing wings, pierced the quiet like knives scraped on an iron door. Perhaps it was more than the presence of noise amidst silence. Perhaps it was also the presence of life amidst death. For the silence reflected death. Twas a silence of peace past, but now, only imminent death lingered. They would be the last two living souls to ever grace this Temple’s shadows.
Gliding like two wisps of cloud so easily washed away, they made their way across the expanse of sand and under the glass archway, crossing what they knew was truly the most irrevocable threshold they had yet passed. Then, scaling the wide, majestic steps, they entered the Temple...
And gazed about in wonder. It was a simple structure though vast, the ceiling countless feet high, the walls nearly as wide, as if they entered the abode of an extremely large giant. The room was devoid save supporting pillars. A glass dome ceiling let in plenty of light. Three staircases ran perfectly parallel to each other up to a wide balcony above, the only semblance of a second floor, as far as they could tell. Etched into the wall above the balcony, they could just make out the Triforce carving.
“Well then,” Midna said, a bit cheerily though wary. “At least we know our path ahead. Come, let’s each take a different staircase. If there are traps, perhaps we won’t be assailed all at once...”
Nodding and still glancing about in wonder, Link started up the middle staircase while Midna chose the leftmost.
It seemed a more tiring journey than scaling the caves of the Gorons, perhaps because their path was so continuous, always up with no break or change. Several times they paused to sink to the steps, catch their breath, and retrieve their strength. They dare not linger long, not knowing how much time the hourglass really permitted.
About half-way up, Midna called out, “Look, Link! Isn’t it breathtaking?”
He looked over. Midna pointed at a little alcove set in the wall to the left of her staircase. Nestled within was a large painting of seven pyramids. The golden-brown paint constructing their mighty stones literally glistened, as if bits of diamond had been mixed in the paint.
As their trek progressed, they came across two other such magnificent paintings, one of a glittering, truly intricate spider web, the other of a butterfly formed entirely of brilliant crimson flames. No other touches of decoration existed.
Upon reaching the balcony at last, Link and Midna took out their instruments, played the Requiem, and—
Were immediately swept up in a pillar of blue light. Its warmth caressed their skin and set their weary hearts at ease. Before them floated a woman whose hair, skin, and garb glistened blue. Her smile was sweet, and her sapphire locks curled about her face like the velvety tendrils of a young child’s hair. Hair, skin, eyes—all shone the purest blue, like young brides wore on their wedding day, only its purity was magnified ten-fold. Link shuddered, feeling it almost too pure to look upon...
Then, she spoke, in a voice so rich and warm it nearly sang, melting even the tracest possibility of uncomfortableness from his heart,
“Welcome, Hero of Light and Princess of Shadow. And, no, do not think I judge either of your hearts. For Shadows always prove the Light; there can be good or evil in either, not just Shadow, while in Shadow, can much good exist.
"I am Nayru, goddess of mercy. I apologize that my sisters could not meet you in your quest, but their power and courage has been needed to fight the forces of evil inasmuch as they can; I alone could spare reprieve.
“I grant you now that which you so ardently and humbly seek...”
The gold-gilded sapphire hovered before them a few, humbling moments before vanishing. Midna felt the extra weight in her pocket and placed a hand over her heart, savoring the stone’s warmth.
“Now,” Nayru said. “Let me grant you a few, last words of wisdom before you make the final stretches of your quest.
“Remember that there is a natural order to all things. Our world of Hyrule was founded upon certain laws and perfect order. When that order is disrupted, chaos will ensue. However, when order is maintained, there is peace. There may be trials before the peace—some life cannot be spawned without death—but even still, order with challenge is healthier than a lack of order altogether.
“Follow the order always, and you will find your way...”
Then, the sapphire brilliance engulfed her, and in a blinding flash, vanished, leaving them to stare at the sandy stone wall.
“Well,” Midna sighed, “that was surprisingly, pleasantly, and suspiciously simple—”
As soon as they turned, both stopped short. They stared first in unbelief, then, as the reality spanning before them really dawned, with horror.
“Of course,” Midna muttered, “definitely suspiciously...”
The three long staircases no longer sloped down in three, easy paths to the exit of the Temple. No, instead, they’d twisted themselves into a confusing maze which looked like a spaghetti heap of endless stairs with no beginning, middle, or end.
With a deep sigh, Midna said, “Well, come on then. Let’s figure this out...”
Of course, there was nothing else to do. Still, Link glanced skeptically at the glass domed ceiling. He could see the pillar of sand hitting gently upon its surface from where it poured from the hourglass. The waves slid gently off its surface, so lightly and innocently, yet they carried that same sense of false peace as the rest of the place...
After wandering about the endless twists and turns of the stair for a while, Midna and Link found themselves scaling the steps back up to the balcony.
Midna fidgeted as if uncomfortable. Link knew she was, though not in the physical sense. This was the most dangerous puzzle they’d encountered. It wasn’t straightforward, for one thing. For another thing, time was of the essence—and neither could tell how much time.
Link began doing the only sensible thing. Taking in his surroundings. Some clue, however small, always existed that could trigger in one of them what they were to do or where to go—
Midna must have been doing the same, for she pointed across the room. Link looked too and saw the painting of the pyramids nestled in a small alcove several feet down.
“If we can figure out the path there, maybe it’s some sort of clue.”
Link nodded. He didn’t remember seeing anything else of importance in the room before, though the fact he remembered the paintings was as good a sign as could be hoped for.
Carefully deciphering the path they should take, they wound along until stopping to rest not upon the balcony again, but inside the alcove with the painting.
Side by side, they stared at it.
“Hm...” Midna mumbled, her fiery eyes burning intensely at the painting. “Seven pyramids...seven could be a hint of some sort. Or maybe...I don't know...”
Even as Link’s mind remained completely blank, his body felt an urge to reach out and examine the painting more closely...
As soon as his fingertips graced the golden frame, the ground rumbled violently beneath them. Midna cried out, falling against Link who caught her while falling against the wall for support.
Just as violently as the quake began, it stopped, nearly lurching them off their feet.
“Well, that was productive,” Midna muttered. “But let’s go see if it opened a secret door or something...”
Link followed her from the alcove onto the staircase. Their feet echoed with an innocent thud, thud, thud, as though they were two tardy students calmly gracing the hallways of their university, hoping to make it to their destination without being noticed.
Glass shattered with all the deafening force of a supernova as a thick, black mass of cloud plummeted from above, bursting open the domed ceiling. The cloud swarmed then dispersed into thousands of shrieking keese. Link and Midna barely dodged a thick pillar of sand which dropped fast and hard like a boulder, raining steadily into the temple without ceasing.
“Come on!” shouted Midna. “Come on, before the sand piles up and we’re trapped in here!”
Grasping Link’s hand so tight it pinched, she dragged him along down the stairs. Thankfully, between her long legs and his swift ones, their pace was matched. There was no time for faltering, and the slightest stumble could lead them plunging to their deaths...
“Gah!” Midna hissed as they skidded to a stop before the pyramid painting, coming full circle once more.
Link cast her what he hoped was a hopeful look, and she sighed, “Yes, I know, at least we didn’t end up back at the very top...There must be something else we’ve missed, some sort of pattern...”
As Midna prattled on, pacing and sweeping her cloak about as if trying to swipe away all anxiously, Link craned his neck, peering about her to make sure he’d really caught a glimpse of—
Leaping forward, he grabbed her hand and pulled her along.
Her eyes followed his eagerly pointing finger to the painting nestled in another alcove below, so cleverly hidden it was nearly completely concealed save to eyes searching for its presence.
Turning a sharp bend, they skidded to a stop and looked up.
This time, the painting of the glistening web met their eyes.
After a brief but certainly skeptical glance at one another, they silently agreed that touching another painting was not on their agenda. At least they’d reached another landmark. Zooming down the stairs, they headed for the door—
And ended up right back at the painting of the looming web.
Link and Midna glanced at each other again, then down below. Much time had been wasted already, and an uncomfortable amount of sand layered on the floor below, creeping towards their only means of escape. Regardless of what they wanted, there was no time to mess around with fears and doubts. If this was the puzzle, they must initiate the next piece or never move forward.
Link darted forward, touched the painting, then grabbed Midna’s hand and rushed her down the stairs. Gigantic skulltullas swung down from the ceiling on thick ropes of silk, landing with thunderous rumbles upon the staircases all around. Link pulled Midna along so that they just dodged the huge spiders' pinchers and the long-reaching curl of their legs. There was no time for a long, noble battle. This was not the time to practice sword skills, but to annihilate. And to do that...
When almost all the beasts surrounded him and Midna so that they could not safely move without being jabbed by a massive pincher or leg, Link drew his blade. He grabbed Midna’s arm and pulled her towards the floor. Understanding, she ducked down, and then he swung the blade in a mighty, wide-reaching arc. Flame blazed from its tips, creating a wide circle of red and blue embers whose reach extended half-way across the room, consuming any spider in its path. One chilling crescendo of their dying screeches assailed Link’s and Midna’s ears before the cry died, leaving them only with the rushing sand.
Leaping down the steps and dispatching a straggling skulltulla, Link led her along a winding path until his eye caught on the final painting. Not even wanting to fathom what the butterfly composed purely of flames could mean, Link again touched the picture’s frame and rushed with Midna from the alcove and along the final stretch towards the exit.
Nothing seeming to happen, and for a moment, Link feared he’d done something wrong. Maybe they missed a hidden painting, off-setting the pattern, and now they wouldn’t be able to reach the exit but would keep going in mindless circles again...
The final stair soon came in sight. Then, they were zipping down, eyes focused on the doors—
As soon as the tips of their toes graced the sandy floor, the wall of flame burst between them and the doors. From the ground rose a string of six skeletons armed with helmet, gauntlets, breastplate, sword, and shield, looking plenty strong and capable, despite their deadness.
“Stalfos,” Midna growled.
Link felt her shudder beside him. Drawing his blade, he suppressed a shiver himself as the Stalfos slowly but steadily advanced. One of the fiercest and most skilled types of warriors in the legends of the ancient Hero, Link knew they were one enemy not to be trifled with.
As the Stalfos slowly drug the long, bony toes of their feet across the sand towards Link and Midna, Link stepped forward, gently pushing Midna back. She tried to step forth, but he grabbed her wrist more firmly, turning long enough to give her a sharply forbidding look. He had this. Nor would he desire any harm to come to her by this battle. With a nod, she stood still.
His heart rushed not so much with fear but with adrenalin as the Stalfos closed in tighter and tighter. It seemed ages ago since his last, intense battle. Of course, that had been mere days ago, but all the lines of time seemed blurred beyond recognition these days...
He focused on the spell. He had just enough strength left in him if he focused hard and released at just the right second.
The Stalfos surrounded him, so close he could hear the rattling bones created by their sharp, wheezy intakes of breath. Awkwardly raising their swords high, they prepared to bring them down in a fatal swoop—
With a triumphant cry, Link spun three-sixty, slicing the blazing blade through all six foes. Shrieking, the Stalfos burst apart, their bones scattered and motionless, save the skulls which hopped about, teeth snapping at Link’s heels. Midna stumbled back, eyes wide with disgust as one chattered after her. Link quickly speared and it dissolved into dust.
The next bits of work were the most challenging. His strength already spent, he had to push himself to race after the bouncing heads, destroying one by one. When the last one lay silent then withering away into sand before his eyes, he looked up at the fire, waiting—
Then frowning. The flames did not cease. Why..?
“Link, look!” Midna shrieked, pointing.
He followed her fervent gaze to the far wall where one of the skulls hopped towards the remains of its body. Link could have sworn he got them all; swearing beneath his breath for his sloppiness, he raced towards the Stalfos, breathless and stumbling—
But there was no way he could reach it in time. Head joined shoulders which reassembled with torso, arms, legs—and shield and blade.
Link halted before the foe, slicing slowly but purposely through the sand towards him. Looking down, Link noted the sand crawling above his ankles. Then, looking up, he ducked from harm’s way just in time, nearly toppling over from the force. He couldn’t fall now though; he’d be blinded by the sand then speared by the Stalfos before he had the chance to rise again.
Maybe he could use that tactic to his advantage. His body shook weakly; strength could not be his only ally.
Slowly, the Stalfos and Hero circled. Link sloshed carefully through the sand, all the while forcing himself to keep his eyes locked on his enemy’s. Those mere hollows and the expression in his eyebrows gave signals of his slightest jumps, lurches, and sword swipes.
As the Stalfos furrowed his brow low, Link stepped aside. The Stalfos leapt clumsily and crashed into the sand. As piles of sand rolled on top of him, Link speared the sword into his ribs, shattering them. The other limbs fell apart, but Link cared only for the head. Spotting it, he stabbed it hard.
The head disintegrated, but Link fell, flailing and sputtering sand. A firm hand grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet. Even as he stumbled against Midna who stood him up, the flames vanished. He and Midna waded towards the door where piles of sand already nestled.
Link grabbed the handle and pulled. Not the tiniest budge. Panting hard, he nodded towards Midna, certain she possessed far more strength than he for the moment.
Midna yanked hard on the door. It budged half an inch or so—or perhaps Link’s panicked, hopeful mind just imagined it did—but after that, nothing. Still, Midna kept pulling until finally stumbling back in defeat.
“It’s jammed,” she huffed. “Too much weight from the sand, too much pressure. Now what..?”
Her eyes trailed to the swirls of sand already pooling high above their calves. Mounds of it sloped gently up, consuming the first third or so of the stairs and quickly crawling up the rest like a plague creeping upon an unwary and helpless victim.
Link breathed deep, trying to calm his mind. He felt Midna’s eyes staring at him. She was out of ideas and the heart to conjure any. He’d seen the real fear illuminated like consuming flames in her crimson eyes. It was up to him to save them both. He had to push past the exhaustion which longed for her to take the lead and find the will to take it himself...
His eyes scanned the whole of the place, looking for any small key or tool they could use. His gaze lingered upon the strands of spider silk strung high up on the topmost steps and up towards the shattered ceiling. Though not very thick, they would be as thick as small ropes because of the spiders' size, not to mention sturdier than any rope. If only they could get up that far, maybe they could climb the silk the rest of the way...
His eyes trailed next to something glinting in the distance. It stopped, and as he strained to see what it was, the glitter started again. Looking down at his sword, he realized the light glinting off its edges reflected upon the mysterious object. He tilted his sword until his eyes locked on the object's location. Wading forward into knee-deep sand, he discovered a shard of glass, fairly thick and large enough for one to stand upon.
After struggling and sinking several times, he managed to pull himself atop. Kneeling down, he scooped his hands through the sand, slowly pushing himself. It was like gliding across freshly-fallen snow using a giant snow-shoe. Now, if only he could find one for Midna...
He located several shards, all too small to hold human weight. But then, against the wall, two pieces smaller than his own but which should accommodate if she could place one under each foot and walk across that way.
Grabbing them, he made the long trek back to Midna, and none too soon. Her back pressed close against the door, eyes wide with a terror she tried to contain but could not quite squelch; the sand crawled up towards her knees.
Gently laying the pieces of glass before her, he glanced from them to her, and she nodded understanding. It was too much of a struggle to get her to stand on them right away; they were so small they tipped right over when she tried to grab hold. So, he hefted her onto his giant shard, and from there, helped her slip her delicate feet onto the smaller shards, helping her avoid the jagged edges.
With that, they turned towards the steps and, taking a deep breath, began the long shuffle across.
It was hard work, especially as the sand kept piling up, spilling down in little waves which almost swamped their vessels several times. They had to stop to scoop the sand out before continuing. Even then, as they neared the steps, their work became more difficult as their upward slope steepened. As they stood nearly before the stair, a huge wave of fresh sand rippled towards them. Midna cried out as the sand knocked her off her feet, but Link leapt to the bottom step, whirled, and caught her hand just in time. After pulling her from the thick sand, they grabbed up their glass shards and raced for the top steps.
Reaching the balcony, Midna glanced at Link with question. Though still visibly scared, the fire in her eyes had calmed some. He had gotten them this far, and she held faith in him seeing them the rest of the way.
He held out his hand, and she gave him her glass shards. He stuffed them in his leather satchel as best he could, then scanned the ceiling for what he sought...
The closest silk strand fell a couple feet from the balcony, running from the shattered ceiling, to the wall. Walking over, he leaned forward, grabbed it, then took a leap of faith—
Midna shrieked, and Link’s heart lurched as he felt only free air beneath his feet. But then, his feet touched against the wall, and, still gripping the silk rope which held firm, he pulled himself up a bit. Casting Midna an encouraging though urgent glance, he began his ascent.
Link felt the rope sag as Midna’s weight swung out upon it, but it held. With painful slowness, they scaled the rope, pressuring their feet against the walls for support—or trying to. The walls themselves began to crumble. At times, their feet would fall right through the sand, leaving them to fall back a little ways. By the time they reached the ceiling and helped pull each other onto what remained of the glass roof, the sand had nearly joined them there.
“Now what?” Midna asked, still with a bit of doubt, but also sounding relieved, if only until the sands consumed them. Overhead, the glass dome of the hourglass still stood, and a steady stream of sand trickled from its opening, landing right at the edge of the crumpling roof. Not much sand lingered above. Link looked up and understood: when the sand ran out, the whole structure would likely collapse...
Peering off in the distance, his eyes caught a glimmer of blue. He pointed, and Midna gasped, “The warp crystal...”
Yes. The warp crystal. If only they could survive that long. He felt like someone lingering on a sinking ship until the last moment, hoping to make a break for it when the ship went completely under and that he would not be sucked under by its pressure...
The glass shards. The smaller ones would be useless now, but maybe he and Midna could squeeze onto the larger one.
Taking it out, he climbed aboard, then motioned to Midna. She looked at him skeptically, but he pointed behind him. After another questioning look, she clambered onto his back. It was one of few ways they might fit and that he might actually be able to steer them.
Midna held so tight it hurt, only adding to the agony of the minutes ticking by with painful slowness, despite how fast the sand rushed with a steady whoosh from the hourglass.
But then, abruptly, the sand stopped pouring from above. All lay silent for a few moments, so quiet that Link marveled if Midna could not literally hear his heart pound. Then, the Temple shook beneath them, more and more violently so that Link had to grip the glass hard, its sharp edges scraping against his hand—
The walls fell inward and the ceiling tumbled after, creating a great, rushing slope which sucked the glass shard forward with all the force of a giant mudslide sweeping along a tiny tree. Midna squeezed his shoulders painfully as they slid downward, rocketing faster and faster towards the archway in the hourglass.
As they sped forward with the mounds of sand, Link’s heart lurched again. Would they even clear the archway, or would all the sand pile up so high they could not escape? Yet, as they reached it, he and Midna ducked, just passing under.
The sand careened them faster and faster until the glass began to spin out of control. Midna and Link were swept off the glass, becoming two of the tiny grains swirling madly out of control. Still, they tumbled towards the warp crystal...
“Link!” Midna cried. “Don’t let go!”
One of her hands slipped from his, but he grasped the other firmly. His palm was sweaty and slick, and the rolling waves rushed them bumpily along. Sand swirled up, creating clouds of blinding dust. But he could not let go. Not when he’d led her this far, and now she depended entirely upon him to make things okay—
Link’s heart lurched towards Midna as he felt her hand slip so swiftly from his, but his body was helpless to leap towards her. In a swirl of choking sand that blinded him from all else, he catapulted towards the warp crystal. Then, enveloped a brief moment in sapphire blue and walls of sandy brown, he inhaled, coughed, and spluttered, suffocated by the sand’s mercilessly throttling hands until they made his world turn black.
Chapter 8—Time Undone
Even as black turned again to rich blue and then faded, the rich blue of the sky through the Kokiri Forest’s branches greeted them. Dazed as ever after such a brilliant experience, Link lay on the soft grass, breathing deeply and wondering again if he didn’t just wake from some incredible dream...
Then, three stars whisked by above him, one red, one blue, one green. With a glisten and echoing chime they circled above, drawing closer and closer to each other in their spiral dance.
Red. Blue. Green—
Link bolted up, glancing over just long enough to see Midna sitting up and staring at the hovering Spiritual Stones as well before turning his eyes back upon them.
The stones finally converged, fitting intricately like a jigsaw whose pieces have gone missing far too long. They locked together in a symphony of smooth gold and bright glittering facets. Then, their chiming notes merged too, into a melody yet more ancient than they, a song which existed at Hyrule’s Creation.
Midna grasped his hand. He didn’t need to look at her. Anyone who knew the smallest sliver of Hyrule’s history would recognize its solemn yet majestic, commanding strands.
The Song of Time.
Louder it played, the chords progressing into something as passionate and intricate as two lovers defying all odds to save themselves and all they hold dear from the greatest evil.
Even as the symphony flooded all the wood, holding their eyes captive to the stones radiating with a power which promised the goddesses yet were, the ground began to rumble. It rumbled, shook, swayed, jolted. Still, Midna and Link could not remove their eyes from the stone. Link knew they should both fall over, but some force seemed to freeze them in time even as the boundaries of time were utterly defied. From his peripheral vision, he could see the ground splitting as something huge erupted from the earth, building its way up and up until it surrounded them...
And until all stopped.
The silence felt deafening. But when he finally thought to look around, Link stared with a wonder that, were he able to talk, would have made him speechless.
“Ah...my goddess...” Midna breathed.
They sat in the midst of Hyrule Castle Town. Not as it stood now, miles away, but as it stood countless years ago. Over the rafters, they glimpsed the highest cliffs of Death Mountain. Through the gate, swung open wide, Hyrule Field stretched. Just beyond a far ridge, they could make out the edges of Lon Lon Ranch. Behind them loomed the Temple of Time.
The First Hyrule had been resurrected and stood now in the midst of the new Hyrule’s realm.
Link could hardly tear his eyes away until his fingers crept upon something smooth and cool. Glancing down, he noted the stones, lifeless at his fingertips, no longer glowing by their own power but merely by the shine of the sun. Still, with awe he picked them up, knowing what powers yet pulsed within them. The goddesses had made their mark. They meant to fight for Hyrule, and they would, just as Nayru promised.
Link looked up at the Temple, then at Midna whose single nod signaled her agreement. Scrambling up, they hurried towards the wide, sprawling steps of the Temple.
They slowed upon entering the tall arched doors. So strange to literally step into a part of Hyrule’s past. How many times had he heard the tales, the descriptions of Old Hyrule? True, some details had been exaggerated, as legends often will be, yet, for the most part...
I know this place. It was as he’d always imagined.
He and Midna stepped forward. The only sound came from the gentle sweep of the breeze beneath Midna’s cloak and the soft thud of Link’s footfalls. High arched windows allowed sunlight to stream down and dance upon the stone altar set before the stone doors marked with the winged Triforce, the royal crest of Hyrule.
No sooner did they rest before the altar than the Spiritual Stones suddenly hovered above the three hollows meant for them. Even as they glistened faintly, Link’s heart raced. This was it. The final key which, upon its turning, would gain them access at last into the Sacred Realm, and the Master Sword...
“Link...” Midna barely whispered.
He glanced over at her. She frowned, worry knitting her brow.
“The words above the altar. I do not know how to read all your tongue. Please...”
He nodded then turned his eyes to the words carved neatly into the stone:
The Song of Time has already been completed many years ago. The Song of Darkness and Light must converge in this time and place.
Link also wanted to frown but tried not to. He understood they must play Midna’s Requiem...or he thought they must. Yet what did it mean by a song of Darkness and Light, and especially a single song being able to converge...with what?
Angst edged her voice. It didn’t seem like Midna to panic, but doubt began to cloud even his mind. They stood at the brink, at the end of the last chapter. If they had failed now...
Calmly, he removed his ocarina. With a hopeful nod, Midna took out her flute. Together, they played her Requiem.
And over til their fingers grew sore of desperately pressing the notes. At last, their hands dropped, and Link could only stare at the stones whose shimmer did not seem so vibrant now.
“Why? What could we have done wrong now?”
“You did nothing wrong,” echoed a chorus of voices from within the Stones which turned gently, glinting in the sun. “But the song of Light and Darkness must converge. If the worlds of Light and Darkness are to combine their powers in this time of need, their weapon must be of Shadow as well. Both worlds are needed to save the other. So, both songs are needed as well.
“The song of Darkness and Light must converge here...”
The last words echoed then failed like a dying zephyr until only silence met their ears.
But how quickly that silence morphed from something peaceful and reverential into something sounding the approach of Hyrule’s imminent death.
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