Of course, they were monsters…But it didn’t change the fact that, all this time, he’d been killing her people…
The young man felt the sweat beneath his clothes as he panted and heaved. He grabbed his right side, knotted in a painful stitch from exertion. Maybe he’d been hit there? He didn’t know. Everything had happened so fast. He spit on the sand, leaving a dark patch, and ran his tongue over his teeth, desperate to get the strong iron taste out of his mouth.
He knew that his shadow was watching him and he assured her. “Not mine,” he said between heavy breaths as he sat down. “Don’t worry about me. The blood’s not mine.”
Link was in his native Hylian form now, but he’d been a wolf only moments before. He’d been attacked by three Shadow Beasts. He could have dispatched them with his sword, but he found it easier to deal with that breed of creature in his lupine form, with the help of Midna. Her dark magic had swiftly guided his fangs to the throats of his assailants without fail.
Midna was floating about out in the open now, contemplating the huge chunk of brickwork sticking inexplicably out of the sands. “Don’t you think we should do something with this?” she asked.
“It looks like the missing part of the
,” Link replied, “We can warp there, but first I need to rest… please.” Bridgeof Eldin
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“I told you the blood wasn’t mine.”
“Then let’s get going.”
“I told you I need to rest!”
Midna retreated into his shadow. So much for obedience. She worried about him. It was not like Link to take on such an angry tone. He had a tendency to be level-headed all the time. She’d seen him display fear, surprise, even a righteous anger when he’d been informed of some injustice he was called upon to correct, but he’d never sniped at her like this. The most he’d ever done was when she’d first met him. When a wolf under the Twilight Curtain, he used to try to buck her off his back as he ran. He did that less as their journey wore on, and even then, she could tell it had become a playful game rather than an attempt to “free himself” of her.
From his shadow cast by the moon, Midna did her best to examine him for injury. She brought a hand up to his right side, the side she’d seen him clutching earlier. The imp did her best to keep herself as a shadow, to feel there without giving her hand form. Link was a proud beast in every sense of the term and wouldn’t appreciate her checking him over like this. Hopefully he wouldn’t turn around and notice what she was doing.
Link winced as he felt a sudden, sharp pain. He grunted and resumed looking out over the desert. He’d never been to a place like this before. He’d heard stories about the “end of the world.” This place certainly felt like it – an end-land that could swallow a traveler up in its sheer vastness. This place was the antithesis of a forest. Where he called home, he couldn’t see the next hill over for the thickness of the trees. In the desert, he could see everything. The towers of the Arbiter’s Grounds were in the distance and he could not tell how many miles away they were. From this mesa, they looked like toys, like some strange little model.
The wind echoed off the spires and buttes. Other than that and his own breathing, everything was silence. Link looked up at the stars. They were bright here, and numerous. The sky was ink speckled in constellations and distant galaxies – the place where the Goddesses lived and came from. The moon was impossibly bright. It hung in the sky in a sickle, yet it still made the sands glow like silver. The shadows of the rock formations were black and stark. The forest was a dark place at night, and full of sound – the chirping and squeaking of frogs, the hum of insects. The desert was silent and bright.
The desert made him feel like nothing. He wondered how many people had been swallowed up by the sands, their fates unknown and unknowable. Link couldn’t help but feel that this land represented raw nature. It was warm here, but the temperature was significantly cooler than it had been during the day. The young man shivered as a breeze whipped over him, cooling his sweat. The clouds in the sky were wispy, mere mare’s-tails. He looked south and could see the clouds over the lake below the plateau. Strange land this was…
The desert was named after the people who used to live in it. What, exactly, had happened to them had been lost to history. Some said that they were a tribe of nothing but murderous thieves and they had all been executed at the Arbiter’s Grounds by the kings of the past. Some said they’d moved on to other lands. It was thought by many that they had integrated themselves into Hylian society and that their blood had run so thin there were no “pure Gerudo” left. Link briefly wondered what a Gerudo from ages past might think of his home, his forest. Would they have felt claustrophobic there just as he was overwhelmed here?
He was feeling a little bit better now. He looked over the place where the Shadow Beasts had assailed him. There were dark spatters of blood upon the sand. Midna hadn’t missed a beat. Link shuddered at that thought.
He thought about when he’d been hunting the dark insects in
. He’d listened in upon the children, the shaman and Barnes speaking – they, spirits unaware that they were spirits, and unaware of the wolf in their midst. Barnes had frightened the children with a story about the Shadow Beasts attacking the village. He’d spoken of the lady who’d run the general store being captured by them and turned into a dark creature, herself. That had never left Link. He had been unaware of that woman and her fate when he’d entered Kakariko and had, by necessity, killed the Shadow Beasts guarding the village. She had to have been one of those that he’d destroyed. He’d tried not to think about it much. It was in the past and he had to do it, right? Still, he hated the idea that he’d killed an innocent – even if they had not been in an innocent form at the time. Kakariko Village
What had Rusl called that kind of thing? Collateral damage. When property was damaged and innocent people hurt and killed in the course of a war, that was collateral damage. Link was quite young when he’d requested that Rusl teach him the way of the sword. It wasn’t just that the man had always looked magnificent when he practiced, young Link wanted very badly to be able to protect the village. Ever since he could remember, Link felt this inexplicable and strong desire to protect others. Maybe it was that his parents – his own source of protection – had died when he was very small and he did not want anyone else to feel the way that he did. Rusl was always cautioning him that the skills he offered were no lighthearted matter.
There hadn’t been war in Hyrule for many decades, but Rusl had given Link numerous books on history and war to read. There were tales of young soldiers breaking down the first time they’d killed someone. There were tales where killing only fueled a thirst for more. There were tales of races of people who never killed their own kind, considering it the greatest of sins, and tales of a “wearing down of the soul” among people that did. Rusl had said that every warrior had to be utterly convinced that they were doing “the right thing,” serving the greater good, and that one had to be cool-headed. In battle, emotions were one’s enemy.
That was the price of being a protector.
All this time, Link had only been killing monsters. At least, it is what he had thought he’d been doing.
The Bulbins and Bokoblins seemed to have a degree of sapience, with their camp organization and complex use of weapons, but they truly were monsters – possessed of evil magic and only vicious intent. What was more was that, whenever Link dispatched one and left the area, inevitably, it would be back when he’d returned to that area. There were several that he’d come to recognize – the one with the scar on his arm, the one with the runny eye, the one with chinks in his chain mail… When he’d killed them, he was never entirely sure that he really had, in fact, killed them. Clearly, there was something supernatural going on with them, and with most monsters. In their case, it wasn’t a moral dilemma – it was just frustrating.
The Shadow Beasts… They were different. How many of them had been unfortunate people who’d been attacked? Moreover, what Midna had told him once they’d entered this desert chilled Link to the core.
“Zant….turned all the Twili into Shadow Beasts.”
Midna had not told him. From the beginning of their journey together, she’d helped him to kill them. Was she cold-hearted, or was this for the greater good? He had not known until tonight what he’d been destroying, whom he’d been murdering. If they were people – or had once been people – who were like Midna, his was a soul that was drenched in blood. Some hero he was.
Midna drifted out of the young man’s shadow upon hearing muffled sounds. She floated up and looked down at Link. He was gazing out over the desert. Tears were running down his face and he sniffed.
“Hey, what are you crying about?” she asked condescendingly. “You aren’t badly hurt… I..uh… checked. You aren’t afraid, are you? I hope not, because we need to get the Twilight Mirror-”
“I’m not scared, Midna,” Link replied dully. “Maybe you can… tell me more about your people?”
“My people?” Midna asked, floating close to him.
“Midna, I’m sorry. I am so sorry…”
“What do you have to be sorry about?”
“I’ve been killing them, haven’t I?” Link asked, waving to the spot of disturbed sand and blood spats. “You said that they’d been turned into those… things. All this time, I’ve been killing them.”
Midna floated over to the spot and regarded it with a sigh. “These three were… a childhood friend, the mayor of one of the outlying regions, and… my little brother.”
Link bit back a sob.
Midna floated back over to him. She placed a hand on his wet cheek. “Link… Link, look up now. Listen to me, Link… We did what we had to do. There was no other way. Despite how I look, I would rather sacrifice myself than my people but….what Zant has done…”
Midna shuddered with rage, then regained herself for her charge’s sake. “Link…. They were lost. They might as well already have been dead. They weren’t themselves and they could never hope to be again. I don’t think what’s happened to them can be reversed, that far gone. You did not kill them – Zant did. I believe, Link, look up at me… I believe that somewhere within those corrupted forms, their souls are still there, waiting to be freed. Death is the only thing that can free them.”
Link gave her a half-hearted nod.
“We haven’t been killing them. We’ve been freeing them. So don’t feel bad, okay? We’re doing the right thing.”
To his surprise, Midna threw her tiny arms around his neck. She sobbed into his shoulder. Link held her and rocked back and forth. He rubbed her back and felt her warmth against him. They held each other and wept on that mesa until they both fell asleep in the sand.
In the morning glare and rising heat, a swordsman and his shadow strode across the sands, both with a renewed sense of purpose.
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