Chapter 7: The Evil
Zelda awoke the next morning feeling curiously empty. There was something wrong, something she should be afraid of…
And then she remembered everything. It all crashed down on her like an avalanche: the monster. The battle. Today was her last chance.
She staggered up out of bed and vomited into the chamberpot.
"Eat something bad?"
Zelda looked up. Julietta was sitting on Zelda's stool, watching the youngest princess with an unreadable expression. The second princess had faint bluish circles under her eyes and her coif wasn't as perfect as normal. Zelda wondered if she'd slept at all— she certainly didn't look like it.
"Uh…" replied Zelda, wiping the back of her hand against her mouth. She frowned at the taste of vomit. "Adverse effects of using too much magic. Have you been in here for long?"
"About an hour," said Julietta, shrugging one pale shoulder and looking in the direction of the tent flap. "Tetra and Ashei had been sitting with you for ages, and they both seemed exhausted. So I offered to take over."
That was very un-Julietta. "Thanks," said Zelda, a little confused. "That was really generous of you."
Julietta bit her lip and looked down into her lap, wringing her hands. "Not really."
Zelda's brows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
Zelda sat down on her cot and began unwrapping the bandages from around her feet. The makeshift poultice of red potions she'd put on her wounds had worked— the soles of her feet were completely healed.
"I wanted to ask you something," Julietta responded, straightening and lifting her head.
"Is it about the fight you had with Romio last night?"
Julietta paled. "You heard that?"
Zelda nodded. "We heard you shouting and breaking things."
Julietta exhaled, shoulders slumping. "It's connected to the fight I had with Romio. I wanted to ask you about Pacts."
"Pacts?" Zelda jerked her head up, recalling the conversation they'd had nearly a week ago. "What about them?"
Julietta's hands were clenched in her lap, but her eyes were steady on Zelda.
"Well, I actually wanted to ask you about one Pact specifically," Julietta said. She nodded at Zelda's left hand. "Yours. What did you promise him?"
Zelda's blood ran cold.
"Romio has a similar scar," Julietta said, voice wavering the tiniest bit. "It isn't quite exactly the same— yours was obviously made by claws— but it's in the same place. And I saw your Pact last night when he carried you back, and I figured, you must have made a deal. But why? What haven't you been telling us?"
"It was the drain," Zelda said quietly. "I had to, to protect our family and our people."
Julietta nodded once. She took a deep breath. "Did it hurt?"
"A little," Zelda responded, thinking of the flash of agony. "Why?"
"What happens if you break a Pact?" Julietta asked, twisting her skirt between her hands.
"You unravel," Zelda responded. "Pacts are magically binding. We all have magic in us, whether or not we can access it; if you make a Pact, and then break it, the magic that holds you together unravels, and you just… come apart."
"So it's like death then?"
"It's worse than death," Zelda said. "Because the soul unravels, too. You just cease to exist. Completely."
Julietta nodded again, as though that settled something for her. "I see," she said. She exhaled once shakily. When she spoke, her voice wobbled. "Then I suppose I don't have a choice."
She pulled an amulet out from under the scooped neckline of her pink seventh-day dress. It had a visible aura of nasty Dark Magic. Zelda's heart skipped a beat. She recognized what it was immediately; it had a very unpleasant teleportation spell attached.
"Julietta, what's going on?" Zelda asked. Julietta turned her eyes on Zelda, and the seventh princess saw remorse in them, and anguished resolve.
"Romio's Pact has been called in, for a great harvest of magic," said Julietta. Her voice was shaking. "It was actually called in a while ago. But he's got to finish holding up his end of the deal, and that means that… well, it's not going to be very pleasant for either of us."
"He was contacted by… his Master, we'll call it, back when the augur was making predictions for where the Carrus Din ought to be held. Romio was given a set of enchanted Thoth bones to switch out with the ones kept in the Temple of Time… and it wasn't easy, but he did it.
"And then he was told to take your magic from you by any means necessary. First he tried using the Chancellor, one of his Master's servants, to distract you. He pushed the energy siphoning spell through Cole, and the idiot didn't even notice. When you made the Pact with him, though, the energy spell backfired… and you saw the results.
"After that, Romio tried to pull the energy necessary through your bonds with Saria and Ashei… but you caught onto that too quickly, and warded them. So he had to call down the Bongo Bongo." Julietta shivered, looking green. "And you know how that ended. So this is his last option. We have to kidnap you, and take you to his Master, or I'll lose my Romio."
Zelda's heart was hammering in her throat.
"How could you?" she whispered, echoing Julietta's screamed words of last night. "How could Romio?"
Julietta cracked a wan smile. Her eyes were bright. Her hands were trembling.
"He didn't like it," she responded. "And I only found out last night. That was the fight you heard. I was so upset." Julietta's voice shook. She took a deep breath and composed herself. "But Romio made a Pact for love. He said he'd do anything for me, and he followed through on that promise. I can't let him die. I love you, and you're my sister, and nobody will ever replace you, but if Romio ceased to exist, so would I. I have to do this."
Zelda exhaled and nodded. She didn't understand it. She didn't want to understand it. But she could deal with it.
"May I get dressed first? Put on some shoes before you take me to die?" Zelda asked. Julietta thought about it for a moment, then nodded.
"It won't make much difference," she said finally, voice cracking.
Zelda tried not to sigh in relief. She quickly removed her chemise and put on her dress, careful not to disturb any of the protective amulets or potions she'd loaded into the pockets the night before. She sat down on her cot to pull on her boots, and as she bent over, her Triforce necklace fell out. Julietta's eyes focused on it immediately.
"Is that new?" Julietta asked, curious, clearly thankful for a distraction. "I've never seen it before."
"This old thing?" Zelda turned it in her palm, heart beating a mile a minute, hoping Julietta wouldn't realize what it was. And why should she? She couldn't see magic. "No, I've had it for ages."
"It's lovely," Julietta said quietly. "Are…. Are you ready?"
Zelda took a deep breath. In, then out. She took another. Relief and terror warred within her. She nodded her head.
Julietta grabbed the amulet with fumbling fingers. She looked at it for a moment, and then let out a laugh that sounded a little more like a sob.
"Romio didn't tell me how to work it," she said.
"You break it in half," Zelda responded. "That will activate the spell."
"This won't fry me, will it?" Julietta asked, eyes going to Zelda. "Breaking it won't hurt me?"
"No," Zelda said, an acrid taste in her mouth. "You have my word."
"I'm so sorry, Zelda," said Julietta. Two perfect tears made their way down her beautiful face. In that moment, Zelda hated her.
"Just break the pendant," Zelda bit out. Julietta looked even more miserable, but nodded. She snapped the pendant between her two hands. Darkness flowed out of the pendant, oozing like blood, dripping and wiggling and writhing in thick black tentacles until it wrapped around Zelda. Zelda kept her eyes steady on Julietta as she was dragged down and under, into the darkness.
She could feel the tentacles wrapping around her, squeezing and pulling and tearing. This particular spell had been designed to be unpleasant— to weaken her even before she arrived. Zelda choked back a silent scream as the magic ripped and writhed, burning and freezing her at once. She struggled as a few of the questing fingers tried to dip into her magical core, which she wrapped in Light, holding it within her skin; she came away a little weaker, but was able to beat them few away.
She surfaced, panting and shivering and sweating, in a massive underground anteroom; tree roots as thick as Zelda's waist curled in through the massive, arched windows… but there was something strange. Something not quite right. With a stomach-plunging shock of vertigo, Zelda realized that the whole room was upside down. Cobweb-covered chandeliers were crumpled on the long lines of the arched ceiling— or was it the floor?- before her, glowing with orange and purple magical flames. The room was empty except for a single man clad in black. She recognized him from the dance. Two purple crescent moons glinted at her briefly from below his eyes. Zelda had a sudden recollection of those moons shining briefly out at her from the darkness behind the Bongo Bongo.
She didn't like the way that his deceptively soft voice dragged her name out into a caress; she didn't like the way his brilliantly blue eyes looked her over with both greed and disdain; she didn't like the way his mouth curved into a thin smile. There was something so familiar about him— about his face— but she could't put her finger on it; perhaps it was that she could only see parts of him at a time. Whenever she tried to focus on his face as a whole, the image blurred, like water rushing out between her cupped hands. And he was still so unsettling, so nearly transparent, that it bothered Zelda, though she couldn't be sure why.
Zelda tried to push her discomfort from her mind and instead work on the more important task she had at hand: she had to disarm the wards. Fast.
"Welcome," the man in black was saying. "Did you enjoy my little joke?"
"Joke?" asked Zelda as the first feelers of a siphoning spell wrapped themselves around her. She shot them back with a small shockwave of Light magic. The man didn't seem to notice.
"Yes, Princess," said the man. "My joke. I thought it was terribly funny— turning one Princess against another, but alas. So few appreciate true humor these days."
Another tiny, carefully controlled shockwave beat back more feelers. Zelda used the opportunity to subtly send out her own seeking spell, plunging it down into the ground below, to go out and find the anchors for the wards.
"Though I'll admit," said the man in black with a frown, his slashed chestnut eyebrows furrowing downward, "It was not ideal, waiting this long. You were able to get to my brother, and though I'd anticipated it, it still displeased me that you allowed yourself to be soul bonded to him. But, I suppose, old dogs never do learn new tricks," said the man with a long-suffering sigh.
"What?" Zelda asked, confused; between the feelers, the seeking spell, and the carefully controlled blasts, she wasn't fully paying attention. "What do you mean?"
"My dear," said the man in black, looking at her with an expression of exasperation, "inattentiveness is insulting in such a valued guest."
"Prisoner, you mean," she responded. The man gave an elegant shrug that spoke volumes. Zelda tried not to grind her teeth.
"You see, Princess, you're not the first female of royal blood who my brother has soul bonded himself to," the man said calmly, inspecting one gauntleted hand. "It hardly went over well the first time, so I'm stunned that he would try it again."
"You're not making any sense," Zelda hedged, mostly to buy herself time.
"The Wolf, Princess," said the man with long-suffering patience. "My brother. He- or I should say, We- bonded once to another royal woman, a long time ago. He did so to steal her powers, you foolish girl… but when she discovered his duplicity, she sealed him here." The man's face split into an evil-looking smile. "With me."
"That's a convenient lie," noted Zelda, even as she recalled the swirls of familiar pink magic surrounding Link as he transformed.
"It's the truth, Princess." The man's eyes focused on her as she beat back another wave of darkness. He tsked.
"Silly things, always grabbing," he murmured. With a wave of his hand the feelers of the spell completely vanished. Zelda stared.
"Why did you do that?" she asked, curious despite herself.
"Originally," said the man, and he sounded bored, "I was going to suck all your magic away and kill you to revive myself fully and break the curse that binds me here. But you've got a soul-bond to my mangy brother, which means that you can access his power. So you're going to stay here, and I'm going to slowly drain every last drop of magic from you, and from him. I'll eat both your powers, and become invincible. But now, Princess, none of that," he added, voice a caress. She felt her seeking spell killed abruptly in the earth and shuddered. He'd known she was running it the whole time? And played with her anyway?
"Why do you keep calling him your brother?"
"Because he is," said the man in black. "Or, well, he isn't. But the real story is too complicated. You may call me Link, by the way."
Zelda recoiled, even as the man began to laugh. And she suddenly knew why he looked so familiar. Except for the brown hair, and the cruelty in his eyes, he looked exactly like Link. Or, at least, he was the same height, and had the same mouth and chin and jaw, and eyes, and eyebrows, and a similar voice— though her Link's voice was a bit deeper.
Zelda began to panic.
"Where's Impa?" Zelda demanded.
"Oh," the man sing songed, "here and there. Take her away, guards— but be sure she's put in one of the rooms far from the seal. I'd hate for her to go wandering too close to it and die early."
At the mention of the seal, Zelda felt the pendant heat very slightly against her collar bone. She made up her mind to find her way to the seal by any means necessary, and hoped that she wasn't going to get herself drained in the process.
"If you've been sealed here," said Zelda as two menacing bokoblin guards lumbered forward, "then how were you at the Carrus Din?"
"The sudden surge of energy from that foolish Chancellor Cole allowed me to manifest briefly," said the man. "I had to see his spectacular failure with my own eyes. Move along now, Princess."
The guards seized Zelda's arms, but she wrenched them away and held her head high.
"I won't run away," she bit. The man in black laughed in delight as the guards led Zelda away, out of the upside-down anteroom.
Zelda swayed under uncomfortable vertigo as the guards escorted her continuously downwards… or upwards. Zelda wasn't fully certain which way she was going. Tree roots twined in through the windows, tapestries hung perfectly smooth upside down, and furniture was stuck to the ceiling. Or floor. Down a row of spiral stairs that led into an upside-down tower, Zelda found herself in a small, sparse room. A few blankets and a bucket had been set out on the floor alongside a single flickering candle.
The thick door shut behind her with a loud slam as she tripped over the top of the upside-down doorjamb into the room. The lock slammed into place. Zelda spun around, claustrophobia suddenly overwhelming her as she became very aware of just how small and dark the underground room was.
Zelda slumped to the ground. She felt no spells pulling at her, though the Token burned faintly and steadily against her skin. She pressed a palm over it, breathing out steadily. She felt the tiny trickle of magic floating from the Token into the world around her… so the Token was protecting her. Feeding magic in her place.
Curious, Zelda summoned a tiny droplet of Water. It trembled on the tip of her finger, then slowly rolled down to her palm. She turned her hand over, and the Water fell to the stone floor. The siphon did not appear to have any effect on it. Breathing deeply again, she made a small circle of Light around herself.
"Sheik," she murmured. The Sheikah appeared instantly, pacing around the tiny tower room.
"The Token you possess holds its own magical core," Sheik said without preamble. "Though nowhere near as substantial as your own, it appears to have been built up over time to possess a core comparable to one of a low-level magician. It should be able to buy you some time."
"Can you sense Impa?"
"Yes," said Sheik. "She is near, though I can't pinpoint where. It doesn't seem as though she is being held captive in any one location, though I'm having difficulties communicating with her. I advise caution, Princess."
Zelda nodded, chewing on her lip.
"And what about the Seal that the man was talking about? Do you think we ought to investigate it?"
"I don't know," said Sheik as Zelda spread her skirts around her. "It's too convenient, Princess."
But her attention wasn't on Sheik. The Gohma's Dark Orb— the one Zelda had taken from Impa's tent— had just toppled out of her pocket and begun rolling on the stones below Zelda with a loud plinging noise.
"Curious," murmured Zelda, reaching for the orb as it rolled away. "I don't remember putting this in my pocket."
Sheik crouched down beside Zelda, eyes solemn.
"I didn't pack that, Princess," Sheik said. "Did you?"
"I don't think so." The light caught the orb in the most beautiful way. "I don't recall." Mesmerized, she stretched out her fingers and brushed the orb's inky surface.
Everything went black.
It was night. Impa was standing on the edge of the woods, arms folded as she waited patiently. There were no nighttime sounds, save for the wind in the trees. This didn't seem to disturb the serene Sheikah. Under the moon, she waited.
Stars spun slowly overhead. It was a long time before the man appeared from within the shadows. The teeth of the wolf's mask on his face glinted in the darkness.
"So you've returned to undo the damage your mistress wrought so many lifetimes ago," he said.
"The damage was by your own hand, Majesty," Impa responded. "And now it has come to this."
"Yes," Link said solemnly. He raised a graceful hand. "It is most… inconvenient for me to be bound in this cursed half-form."
Impa did not deign to respond. "I see you playing games with the heart of my charge."
"I need her power," Link said, voice bland. "And I require her trust. You can hardly blame me for wishing to reclaim that which is mine."
Impa pursed her lips, but didn't respond. At last, she spoke. "Tell me what has happened in the four hundred years since I have seen you last," Impa instructed. "Tell me why there are no children of magic in the area, and why power is drawn away from those who possess it."
"It is a side effect of your Queen's Seal," Link responded. "An unforeseen side effect, but a consequence nonetheless. The Seal has weakened. The Beast King has been able to leech power from the surrounding lands, to strengthen himself over this age. He is about to break free." His voice was low, foreboding. Impa nodded, her face solemn.
"You know the evil that resides in the Beast King's body well, Sire. You have been under the same Seal for many years," she said. It was the first time Zelda had heard Impa speak with such respect to anyone— not even her own father. "If you share your knowledge with me, it will make it that much easier for me to aid the Princess, and in turn free you from your curse."
Link sighed. He ran a single long finger against the seam where mask met skin in a self-conscious movement.
"Your Queen was very clever, binding the two of us together so and using the magic of my Debt to hold us here. It kept me from unraveling, and forced me to do what I could to keep the dark powers at bay. But the Seal has weakened, slowly, over these many years, and the evil that has laid dormant in the Beast King's body has begun to stir. It has begun to suck magical energy into its' corrupted form, to build itself up and become stronger; just as the evil sucks magical energy, so does the seal draw mortal energy from the land and the people. Thus the barrenness of the region. As one who is bound to the seal, this too strengthens me, much as I despise it." Link stopped and took a deep breath. Then he shook his head once before continuing.
"Because of the nature of my relationship with the Beast King, I am unable to enter his territory, just as his body is unable to enter into mine. This means that, of all the magical creatures in this area, I and the Guardian Spirit alone have remained exempt from the drain. When I saw what was happening, I lulled the creatures of the woods into hibernation— turned them into trees and stones. And so the Beast King is a master without a kingdom.
"But I have had time to watch the evil within his body gain strength, just as I'm sure it has watched me. It has lately attracted other Dark Creatures to the area, and the Beast King has been able to ensnare some of them so that they might do its' bidding. I am uncertain of what lies in wait within the King's wards, but I am certain that, at the center of the ward— and possibly even the anchor of the ward— is the Seal."
"So to kill the evil," Impa said calmly, "we must first unleash it, Goddess help us."
Link nodded. "I don't know what will happen to me if the seal is broken, though I am mostly certain it will release me from this cursed form and allow me to better use my own powers," he added. "Though the magical core of this body is substantial, it alone is not enough to defeat the Darkness; I must discover a way to hold my form long enough to assist the Princess in the purification of the Beast King so that we may restore all things to their proper state."
"You will not make the same error as last time?" Impa asked, blinking her red eyes for the first time since the conversation had begun.
"I have learned that the magic of mortals is unavailable to me," Link responded. He sounded bitter. "I believed that taking the shape of a mortal might allow me to use mortal magic, but I understand now that I can no more use the Light magic of your Princess to slay evil than she could use the might of my own Wild magic to make tea leaves."
The two were silent for a long while. Finally, Impa spoke again.
"What must I do?" she asked. "How can I weaken it from the inside?"
"The evil within the Beast King is weakest against Light magic, and barring that, Holy magic," Link said. "The Sheikah have some sacred powers, I am certain. You must allow the evil to capture you. Once this has happened, it will begin to drain you, though if you expend a small and steady stream of magic, it will likely feed upon that instead of your core. If you weaken it enough, the Princess ought to be able to be able to break the Seal with little enough difficulty, and I will be able to assist from there."
"I will go tonight," Impa said. "I am putting my faith in you, Majesty, that you will not mislead my charge. You have tasted the wrath of a Queen; a second betrayal would have far more dire consequences."
Link stilled, but nodded once. Impa sighed into the night.
"Forgive me, my Princess," she said.
The darkness melted.
Zelda surfaced from the vision to find herself still kneeling on the floor of the tower room, arm outstretched, fingers just barely touching the Dark Orb. She yanked her hand back as though she'd been burned.
"Princess?" Sheik asked, red eyes concerned.
"Impa left me a memory," she said, still reeling. "She's here, somewhere. Trying to weaken the… whatever it is that's trapped in here. She and… and Link think that the wards are keyed to the seal that the man in black was talking about…" Zelda gulped. She felt shaky and sick. What had Impa and Link been talking about? Bonding? Had he been using her all along? Had the man in white been right?
Now wasn't the time to worry about that.
With some difficulty, she pushed her fears from her mind, taking a few deep breaths. She looked over at Sheik.
"I guess what we need to do is find the seal," Zelda said. "Before the magical core on this necklace is depleted and the drain starts in on me. The first step will be getting out of this room, though…"
Zelda lapsed into silence, staring pensively at the door. She could hear the bokoblin guards shifting just beyond it. How would she get out of the room?
Trying to ignore the claustrophobia that squeezed at her lungs as she looked around the tiny room, Zelda approached the windows, through which massive tree roots clawed their ways in, crumbling the stone and mortar below them. Zelda touched a snaking tree root the size of her forearm, ruefully remembering the way that Link had summoned tree roots from the ground to do his bidding. She wished that she had that ability. She wished the tree root would peel away.
In a moment of curiosity, she pulled on the power that rested within the thick, spiny vine wrapped around her core, and she pushed at the tree root.
Zelda resisted the urge to stomp her foot in frustration. She looked around the room. There had to be a way to get out. She would not die here.
Zelda's eyes shot to Sheik. He still crouched in the center of the floor, surrounded by Zelda's Light shield.
"Mistress, there is a way," Sheik said quietly. "But it is dangerous. It could like as not destroy us both."
"What is it?" Zelda asked, kneeling down next to Sheik, heart in her throat.
"We can walk in the shadows," Sheik said. "I can tread the Sheikah path and take you with me. But the shadows are a dangerous place, and many temptations will call out to you. They will try to corrupt you. You must not let them."
"What happens if I fail?" Zelda asked, voice a breath.
Sheik's lips thinned.
"The least that will happen is that you'll strengthen the evils that lie within these wards," Sheik finally said. "The worst… would be cataclysmic. I would not even suggest it, Princess, except that I see no other way."
She didn't have a choice. She didn't like it. She really didn't like it, but she forced herself to straighten. "Very well, then," said Zelda with a nod, voice shaking only slightly. "Let us go."
"A last warning," Sheik said to Zelda, taking her hands. "The Silent Realm is treacherous. You will be tested. Are you prepared?"
"I am," whispered Zelda.
"You will lose your form, and I can not carry you," Sheik whispered. "Follow the sound of my voice. It will be easiest if you keep your eyes shut, I think. Only open them if I say so— can you do this?"
"Yes," said Zelda. Resignation warred with pride on the Sheikah's face as he pressed two fingers to her forehead. Zelda closed her eyes.
She felt her body dissolving as everything grew cold. She wanted to look around, but she resisted; she heard Sheik's quiet murmur.
"This way, Princess."
She followed, willing herself forward.
It was a strange thing, moving without a body— she felt as though she was water flowing through water. Something massive and cold brushed against her. Fear pounded through her consciousness. Sheik began to hum under his breath, his mellow tenor tracing the familiar notes of the royal lullaby. Zelda felt herself calm, and continued to will herself forward, following the comforting tune.
Sheik's humming grew slightly louder as Zelda heard the first hissing whispers, and felt cold, snaking tendrils touch her formless being. Zelda pushed her fear to the back of her mind and followed the sound of Sheik's voice, willing herself not to scatter as something cold and jagged passed harmlessly though her. It was an unsettling sensation— for a moment, Zelda was startled enough that she stopped moving, but began to immediately feel sluggish, and willed herself on, after Sheik.
Perhaps this is what it is like to be a cloud, Zelda thought to herself, randomly and whimsically as she continued to follow the sound of Sheik's voice. She could touch nothing, had no shape, and yet was acutely aware of the space that she occupied— or didn't occupy. It was difficult to fully fathom her current state of existence. She was acutely aware of every sensation; every eddy of air, every sudden plunge in temperature, every hissing whisper passed straight through her, burning itself into her brain. She willed herself again towards Sheik's humming.
She began to feel hazy and strange. Unfamiliar thoughts began to uncoil in her consciousness. And yet…
Sheik stopped humming at the same moment that an unpleasant shock of nothingness hit her in a nauseating wave. She felt her formless body tipped as though she was a small boat on a stormy sea.
"Imagine a shape for yourself, Princess," came Sheik's voice. "Will yourself into a body. Impa is near."
Zelda went slamming back into her own form, wobbling as one of her toes failed to materialize. She opened her eyes and looked around at the hazy world, then down at herself. She looked as though she was made of smoke. She tried to speak, but found she had no tongue or teeth; as soon as she imagined them being there, she felt them pop into existence. She wondered what other body parts or organs she was missing, but decided it would be best not to worry about it.
"Impa?" Zelda asked, looking around. Sheik was beside Zelda, and the Princess took a moment to eye her protector in his native realm. His body had become a hybrid of human and animal; golden feathers were mingled with his hair and in his long braid. His traditional kusari mail had become coated in thick, metallic-looking feathers. His tenugui was wrapped around his face, covering his mouth and nose. Only his red eyes shone out, bright and angry looking.
"Impa has been corrupted," Sheik said quietly. "Dark powers have seized her and transformed her. Likely this is a test the Goddesses have set for you, Princess, as remittance for entering into their realm."
"What do I do?" Zelda asked. "How do I fight in this realm?"
"The same way you fight in your own," Sheik responded. "However, magic moves much quicker here because this is not a physical place."
"Wait, what does that mean?" Fluttering wings of panic were beating at Zelda's chest and throat.
"It means that Impa is going to be very, very fast," Sheik said gravely. "And you must be faster. Purify the Darkness in her. I will protect you as best as I am able."
Zelda set her teeth, calling upon the purifying Light within her. It answered her faster than she expected; instead of the normal build and rise, it was simply there the second Zelda reached for it.
A Gohma lumbered out of the nothingness. While the Gohma that Zelda and Impa had battled nearly a week ago had been a bulbous, hairy thing, this spider was long and lithe. Its' legs were slender, almost graceful, and glossy, shining in the weird half-light that permeated the silent realm. What Zelda could see of the Gohma's abdomen was that it was longer and slimmer than the other's had been; the spider moved, and Zelda saw the massive stinger attached. She raised her eyes to look for the Gohma's weak point, remembering the eye, and was suddenly incredibly grateful that she wasn't in her real physical form, otherwise she would have lost the contents of her stomach; instead of a golden eye, Impa's blank face looked back out at Zelda.
"Sheik," Zelda whispered. "Goddesses, is that…."
"She has been twisted by Dark powers, Princess," Sheik responded, stepping forward. He held a kodachi blade in either hand. "You must purify her."
Impa caught sight of them then, and her glowing red eyes rolled once in her head, back and all the way around until all Zelda could see was white, and then the red irises appeared again from underneath Impa's lower lid like the rising sun. She smiled, revealing jagged teeth; as Zelda watched in horror, Impa's canines elongated until they were two massive mandibles, dripping reeking ichor. Zelda swallowed once thickly.
"She is not the Impa you know, Princess," Sheik called to her, shaking her from her horrified trance as the Gohma rapidly advanced, body skittering. Zelda steeled herself, nodding once, and reached again for the Light powers. She shot a dart directly at Impa's face. The Gohma let out a horrible scream, and a blast of Shadow mingled with Dark magic flew at Zelda before she could even think to summon a shield. A quick movement from Sheik negated the Shadow, but the Dark magic still slammed into Zelda, flipping her over. Zelda coughed, winded, as she landed on the hard floor. Something cold and clammy wrapped around her ankle. Zelda vaporized it with a lightning move of Light, and moved back into the fray, occupied with figuring out how to purify Impa without hurting her.
Sheik was batting aside blasts of Shadow that Impa threw his way, wrapping them back together in a great tornado that was building taller and taller beside him. Zelda said a Word of Power and turned her hands, feeling the magic flow through and out of her as she threw a wide blast of Wind at the Gohma, trying to knock it off balance. It teetered, and Zelda made a raising motion with her hands. The earth underneath the Gohma shook, and Zelda used the distraction as an opportunity to throw a bolt of Light at Impa's face. It connected, and the monster screamed, then clambered to its feet and shot venomous webbing at Zelda. A burst of Fire dissolved it, though a splash of the burning fluid landed on Zelda's arm and she hissed as it ate through her skin, conjuring a massive net of Light all the same.
Sheik had finished building his tornado. With a smooth, underhand slice, he sent it flying towards the Gohma. The Light web caught in the tornado, and wrapped around the monster. Impa's face screamed in agony and Zelda called the ends of the net to her hands. They flew to her and she willed them to pass through the Gohma, to purify, but not to hurt.
The Gohma shrieked again as the light passed through it and it began to writhe. Dark magic consumed it in a black cloud. Zelda reshaped the net into a whip and swung it around the darkness, which screamed again and reshaped itself into the horrible Bongo Bongo. Zelda felt nauseated and weak. Where the big red eye had been seated in the stump of the neck before, now Impa's bloody face looked out at Zelda, framed by strips of rotting flesh.
"Her hands and her face are her weak points, Princess," Sheik called over to Zelda. She was feeling a drain on her magic, but couldn't stop yet; once she was out of the silent realm, she'd drink a green potion. She had to focus on purifying Impa as quickly as possible.
Zelda went to zap one of the Bongo Bongo's hands with Light, but found herself thrown aside like a ragdoll by one meaty, rotting fist. Zelda rolled a couple of times on the ground, gasping for air, and pushed herself up just in time to see a second massive hand descending on her, to smash her. With a cry, Zelda threw herself to one side, and felt the hem of her dress slammed to the ground, jerking her back. She pulled forward and it ripped away. She stumbled at the sudden loss of tension and caught herself just as the Bongo Bongo made another swipe at her. She jumped to the side, even as Sheik wrapped a chain of Shadow around one of the massive hands, pinning it to the ground. Zelda used the opportunity to flood it with Light. The flesh withered and rotted away, even as Impa's face let out a horrible scream. Zelda choked down a rise of bile and jumped out of the way a wild punch thrown by the second fist. She gasped for air, and promised herself that if she lived through this, she would train with Ashei every day. Her muscles were already burning.
Remembering how Impa had fought the Gohma in the woods, Zelda pulled on the powerful Shadow magic that was all around her, harnessing it in a complicated hand motion. Sheik, seeing what Zelda was doing, threw up a shield and immediately transformed into his falcon form, swooping and diving at the Bongo Bongo. Impa's glowing eyes immediately fixed on Sheik, buying Zelda the time that she needed to pull the Shadow into a number of lumbering, mindless forms. She wrapped a small circle of Light around each of them and propelled them at the Bongo Bongo.
Impa was instantly distracted. She hissed, baring her jagged teeth, as the zombies shuffled forwards. Zelda used the opportunity to summon a javelin of Light and fling it into Impa's face. She screamed, and Zelda vaporized the second massive hand. She cast out another blanket of Light and wove it around the Bongo Bongo, and again willed it to purify the Dark magic that had taken hold of the Sheikah.
As with the first time, Impa shrieked and began to writhe as she vanished into a black cloud. Zelda shot beams of purifying Light into the cloud, but to no avail; it passed through the Darkness harmlessly, and Zelda cursed the waste in magic. She took a deep breath, readying her stance, as Sheik materialized again next to her, knitting his body out of the surrounding shadows.
What came out of the black cloud was a massive wolf, larger than a horse, with empty eye sockets. It opened its' mouth, exposing long, pointed teeth dripping with venom, and deep within the maw Zelda could see Impa's battered face. She pushed aside the guilt and watched helplessly as the wolf closed her mouth, growling.
"Sheik," Zelda gasped, "what do we do?"
"Disable her somehow," responded Sheik. He and Zelda dove away from each other as a blast of pure Dark magic sliced between the two.
"I don't know," said Sheik. "None of us know. You're a sorceress. Think of something!"
The comment smarted, but Zelda shoved it aside. Sheik was right. She was a sorceress, and had earned it on her own, and she could do this even if Sheik didn't know how to proceed.
Wolf, Zelda thought, calling up all the magical knowledge she could as she dodged the snapping maw. Possibly a warg. Weak points could include neck, chest, stomach. All of which were protected. There was no chance of sneaking around behind the creature— it was too massive and too fast. On an experiment, Zelda shot a blast of flame, singeing the wolf's nose. It yelped, briefly exposing Impa's face deep within.
"Sheik, hurt it," Zelda shouted. "Make it yelp and I'll blast Light down her throat."
Sheik wasted no time in sending a dart of Shadow at the wolf's ear. It yelped, and Zelda aimed a dart of Light into the maw, but missed; cursing under her breath, she leaned back, arching as she made a throwing motion with both hands. Sheik blasted the wolf again, and on the heels of that blast, Zelda sent a massive wave of Light and Water at the wolf. It splashed up against the wolf's fur and into it's mouth. The wolf spluttered and then yelped as the purification hit Impa's face, deep within the gullet.
Zelda felt the sudden drain of expending so much magic. A moment of panic overtook her. She was being wasteful. She might expend all her magic purifying Impa, and then have nothing left for breaking the seal.
That couldn't happen.
If Zelda had had the time, which she didn't, she would have sat down in a corner somewhere and stared at a wall, puzzling out the situation. However, she didn't have that luxury. So as she sent little splashes of Light and Water at the wolf, she thought furiously and fast.
She was in the silent realm. She hadn't had a body until she visualized one. That meant that, for all intents and purposes, all that she was perceiving was (probably) pure magic that she, Impa, and Sheik had constructed to appear as they wished it to.
A blast of burning Dark caught her in the arm. She hissed and jumped aside as Sheik began firing fast darts of Shadow magic at the wolf, trying to stun it.
If none of their shapes were real, and were only manifestations of their willpower, then that meant that the wolf didn't exist. So if the wolf didn't exist, then where the wolf was was actually just a cloud of Dark magic intertwined in the essence that was Impa, right? And assuming Zelda's supposition was correct, she ought to be able to burn away the Darkness if she could will herself to see beyond the projected shapes, to the reality of the silent realm. But was that even possible? Or would she be torn apart my magical forces if she tried?
She suddenly furiously wished she'd paid more attention to the endless philosophizing of the magicians at the Academy.
"Sheik," Zelda cried, "distract it. I'm going to try something."
Sheik nodded, springing forward so that his body blocked the path to Zelda as he began to furiously engage the wolf. Zelda slipped into herself, into a meditative trance, willing herself to see beyond the illusions of the silent realm.
It wasn't easy work, and Zelda warred within herself. Her eyes screamed that what she was seeing was real; it was no easy task to overcome that. Zelda began by focusing her sight on the weave of magic around her. She could see the flowing power that was Sheik, and the oily cloud that formed Impa. But she willed herself to look past even that, past shapes; all the wanted to see was magic. That was all there was.
The shift happened suddenly. In one moment, it was like looking at the world through water; in the next, her sense of sound and touch and smell were gone, and all she saw was bunches of power, the ebb and flow of magic around her. And she could see, clearly, the mass of Dark, and deep at its center, a bit of thrashing Shadow.
Zelda pulled on the Light that was her, and she began to burn away at the Dark surrounding the tiny, thrashing Shadow that was Impa. She felt it the moment she began to dissolve into the world around her, her body gone, her soul and powers spreading out, being absorbed into the world. Zelda willed her power to stay together, much as she had willed her formless being into wholeness, as she kept burning away at the power. Still, she was spreading, separating, getting weaker; she had made a dent. Just a little longer, she thought dazedly, even as her consciousness began to trickle away.
She was a beam of Light. Her only purpose was to blast away the Darkness. She would do it. She would.
She was chipping away at it. More than chipping away at it. The Darkness was receding, thrashing, even as she burned it into helplessness and immobility. She was nameless. She was nothing, nothing but power and magic. The Darkness was almost gone, almost harmless. So close. So very close. A last burst of power would kill it, and her task would be completed.
The last of the Darkness vanished. The Shadow slumped. She wanted to keep burning. To keep purifying. No, the last fragment of Zelda's consciousness screamed. Don't!
The power pulled back. And suddenly, everything returned, sucking inward as though Zelda was the drain at the bottom of a basin. She felt her powers, her consciousness, her spirit all pulling back in… and more. She was sucking the world into herself, expanding and filling. The agony consumed her. And then, quite suddenly, everything went white.
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