Vio set his mortar and pestle onto the alchemy table in front of him with a sigh, running his fingers through his hair and tugging on it with a quiet groan as he rested his forehead onto the edge as well. Above him furniture thudded against the wall again, small dust particles shaking themselves free of the walls and dancing in the bright lantern light. Below him Shadow gesticulated wildly, no doubt teasing him once more about his choice to stay inside and not participate in the festivities currently occurring. It was the first afternoon of the Midsummer Solstice- a Hyrule-wide three day festival celebrating the peak of the year and the harvests and fertility to come.
Of course, some people chose to begin their… celebrations earlier than others. Vio muttered deep in his throat and pushed the tools farther from the edge of the table, standing up to stretch. It was a particularly rowdy time of year, and if he had his choice he would currently be sequestered in Hyrule Castle's much more serene halls. Since Princess Zelda's yearly public prayer to the Goddesses was an integral part of the Solstice and drew visitors from far and wide it would be just as impossible to get any work done there, however, and so Vio was stuck in his small rented apothecary tucked into the side streets of Castle Town.
It had been near a year and a half since Green had fought and defeated the so-called Shadow King, and since then nothing out of the ordinary had been reported. The four Heroes- five if they counted Shadow, which of course Vio did- had returned to Zelda to inform her of what happened, and had stayed at the castle to protect her in the case that the Shadow King's minions- or worse, its master-would want to take revenge.
Blue and Red's relationship had been the talk of the town for quite a while- the Four Sword Heroes were quite popular, and they had received nothing but an outpouring of congratulations and encouragement until even Red had stayed inside for a few days out of embarrassment. The attention had lessened over the year, and Blue had mellowed accordingly, until the sight of he and Red walking hand-in-hand around the town was nothing out of the ordinary.
Vio had, frustratingly, made no progress on a method to restore Shadow to a full-time being of the Light World, and Shadow had begun to grow bored of days spent sitting in the same dark room as Vio buried himself in books and alchemy. Surprisingly, Shadow and Red had struck up quite a rapport between them, and he spent almost as much time in Red's company as he did Vio's. He spent quite a bit of time travelling with Blue and Red nowadays, as the two seemed to get into quite a bit of mischief wherever they went, be it Blue training with Green and the castle guards or Red quite unintentionally winning hearts as he worked part-time in a large pastry shop down the road.
Vio's progress with Green, however, had progressed to the point where he was not sure how to extricate himself. Green continued to woo him, content with simple flirting and stolen kisses, small heated looks across a table and touches slightly too long to be casual. Vio's guilt grew at each, for he simply didn't have the heart to brush Green off after this long.
He refused to admit to himself that he didn't brush Green off because he enjoyed the attention.
A hand gripped Vio's shoulder and he jumped, startled out of his musings.
"Easy, Vio," Shadow's voice rumbled in his ear, chuckling. "Just me." His hand slid down Vio's arm, tugging at the sleeve. "You've been in here way too long! Let's go out for a night on the town- it's Solstice!"
Vio turned and frowned, shaking his head. "I really should continue working, I feel as though I may be on the verge of a breakthrough," he argued. "And besides-"
"Vio, Vio, Vio," Shadow said seriously, interrupting him with a finger pressed to his lips. "You keep talking, but all I hear is 'blah blah get me out of here before I turn into some cranky wrinkled old man who waves his cane at people and demands that kids get off his lawn', so drop the disagreement and let me take you dancing!"
They both looked up at that- it had been blessedly silent for a few minutes but it appeared that the upstairs neighbors had regained enough energy to resume their prior activities. When Vio looked back down he found Shadow's gaze locked directly on him, a grin that was nothing less than wicked slowly spreading across his face.
"Or," Shadow purred, stepping forward in a swift movement that had Vio instinctually backing away until his back hit the edge of the alchemy table. Shadow was quick to trap him there, arms to either side of him, smirk widening as he leaned even closer. "We could perform a different kind of dance right here."
Vio snorted, unable to help a laugh from escaping him or a blush from rising to his face. "I'm sorry, was that supposed to be seductive?" he teased, pressing his palms to Shadow's cheeks and mushing them in slightly.
"Is it working?" Shadow waggled his eyebrows, looking fairly ridiculous, which caused Vio to laugh again. "Come on Vi, we can do the tabletop tango!"
"With all these ingredients around?" Vio countered, leaning forward enough to place a small affectionate peck on Shadow's cheek. "That sounds uncomfortable, potentially dangerous, and bound to end in disaster. You may take me dancing in the town square, however," he conceded with a sigh, and Shadow cheered and tugged him out the door with no further ado.
They had danced nearly all night, and Vio was quite surprised upon waking to realize that he had quite enjoyed himself. The pleasant soreness from slightly overtaxed muscles was easily worked away with stretching, and he dressed himself before grabbing a bite to eat and returning to his mock laboratory and immersing himself in his work.
It was midday before he leaned back, a phial of oddly-colored liquid resting on the desk in front of him and satisfaction in every line of his body. "I told you I was near to making a breakthrough," he said to Shadow, who made a rude gesture back at him. "None of your sass, now. I'll have to test it on something before we try it on you, but I really think this could be it."
Vio picked up the glass bottle, turning to bring it to the other end of the small room when he noticed Shadow had gone completely still. "Is there something the matter?" he asked, frowning slightly-
The floor heaved under him and the world tore itself apart.
The next thing Vio was aware of was cool hands on his face, a voice calling his name through what sounded like ten layers of wool, and a splitting pain along his palms. He groaned, opening his eyes with an effort. Green's face hovered blurrily above him, slowly coming into focus. It was surprisingly dark- the only light in the small room radiated from a small lantern beside his head.
"Thank the Three, you're finally awake," Green said in relief, brushing Vio's bangs back away from his forehead. "Are you alright?"
Vio mumbled something noncommittal, pushing himself upright with a wince. Green immediately put a hand on his chest to stop him from moving further. "Be careful- there's broken glass all around you. Were you carrying bottles or something when the earthquake hit?"
"Earthquake?" Vio asked numbly, staring at the floor. There were glass shards, yes, but there should have been at least spots of dampness where the potion had fallen… His gaze fell on Shadow, who waved back and shrugged at him. Vio risked a glance at his hands then, unemotionally cataloging the chemical burns from where the potion had managed to splash onto him. They were minor, fortunately, and would be fine after he washed his hands.
An incongruity struck him then, and he looked up and frowned. "Green, it's the middle of the day. Why are you carrying a lantern?" When Green held out a hand to help Vio up he took it, nudging the scattered glass into a pile with his foot.
"Come outside and see for yourself, Vio," Green said in a low voice. "You won't believe me if I tell you."
Vio crossed the room to the door, apprehension slowly coiling in his gut, and when he stepped outside he froze in shock.
It was midday, he knew it was midday, but the sky was completely black.
Scattered points of light dotted the street- people had hung lanterns outside their houses, and the cobblestone street was coated in a light layer of rubble. A light layer of dust floated in the air, as if some great disturbance had shaken it free. Vio could see broken glass gleaming- buildings up and down the way had lost windows, it appeared, and some had their doorways hanging from broken hinges as well. He heard voices raised in confusion and fear, but none calling for help or screaming in pain.
Thank the Three for small favors.
He felt Green brush past him as the latter stepped outside as well, stopping next to him for solidarity. "Zel was performing the Solstice Prayer at high noon, just like usual," Green began in a low voice. "The moment she finished, everything just…" He gestured at the surrounding houses and the road below them. "The earth shook, and there was this loud roar, and then the sky blanked out. Zelda's fine," he added almost as an aside. "She sent me to get you, and I passed Red and Blue on the way."
Vio took one last look around and nodded, stepping out into the road. "Let us be on our way, then."
They found Zelda still in her ceremonial finery deep in the castle's vast library, heavy books and yellowing scrolls scattered on a table in front of her. Blue and Red were seated on the other side of the table, solemnly listening as she talked at a breakneck pace that only slowed when she noticed Vio and Green approaching. "Excellent timing," she told them crisply, leaning back away from the table with a grimace. "How does it look out there?"
"Still black as night," Green said as he pulled a couple of chairs over. "The streets are a bit messy, but it doesn't look like there were any serious damages or injuries."
"Excellent!" Zelda repeated, clapping her hands twice and causing the lanterns around the room to flare up brighter. "That'll be the infrastructure spell I laid down this past winter in case anything like this happened." She gestured impatiently for them to sit down, and when they did she shoved the largest of the scrolls in front of them. "I've been waiting for something like this to happen for months now, honestly- I was surprised when it didn't happen at Midwinter."
"And what, exactly, is 'it'?" Blue asked, leaning forward to place his elbows on the table.
"Ganon," Zelda said simply, and grabbed the scroll back from where she'd shoved it. "Look at this." With a deft flick of the wrist she'd unrolled it, smoothing it flat on the table so all could see. "I've been researching the methods used for imprisoning him over the years. The Hero of Time was the first to go up against him, followed by the Hero of Twilight, 100 years later- you all know the basics, right?"
Each of them nodded- the tales of the Heroes of Time and Twilight were as common as fairy tales, if taken quite a bit more seriously.
"Well," Zelda continued. "The Hero of Time tried to seal him into the Sacred Realm, and that worked for a while, but he still had the Triforce of Power- he was able to begin corrupting the space he was trapped in until he was able to escape. Somehow he met and struck a deal with one of the Rulers of Twilight, and in exchange for helping him overthrow the throne Ganon was granted amnesty there. When he had regained enough strength, he and the Twilight Usurper combined their powers and managed to overshadow the land far enough that Ganon was able to use beasts of Twilight in his attempt to take over Hyrule again. This is the first record we have of the skies blacking out."
She paused, fiddling with the edge of the scroll and then said, "No, I'm not finished!" as Red opened his mouth. "When the Hero of Twilight sealed him back into the other world with the help of the Land Sages, they made sure that he wouldn't be able to do that again as long as the Land Wards held out. That's partly why we perform the Midsummer Blessing every year- it reaffirms that seal and tightens the bonds between the Land Wards and the Goddess Crystals that gain power from them. I've sent messages out to check on each Ward, and they're all holding steady, so we're in no danger of the Twilight for now." She sighed and scrubbed a gloved hand across her hair.
Red tentatively raised a hand, and when Zelda nodded at him he asked, "Why now? Why not at Midwinter, like you thought would happen?"
"As far as I can tell, it's a combination of two things. First, though Midsummer is the brightest day of the year, it's also when the hours of daylight begin to wane. I believe Ganon may be able to draw power from the lessening of the light. Secondly-" Zelda rested her hand on her palm and gave the four of them a steady look. "The Sword of Sealing was never returned to its pedestal. I estimate that, given the rate he's managed to free himself before, we have until Midwinter before the Twilight Seal breaks and Ganon is loose again."
Silence gripped the room as each of them looked down at the hilts of their swords.
Zelda was the one to break it. "That being said," she said briskly, "it doesn't mean that we're all doomed. I need a little more time to research things- and honestly, boys," she smiled at them suddenly, fond affection in her voice as she looked from Blue to Red, and then from Green to Vio. "I much prefer the four of you as you are now- you're four times more effective than just one silly old Link!"
Red got up to hug her at that, and Zelda laughed as she hugged him back. "Stay the night in the castle with me?" she asked over his shoulder. "If I find something I want to be able to tell you as soon as I can."
"Of course!" Green answered immediately, Blue nodding half a second after. "Just let us know if we can do anything to help."
"Perhaps two sets of eyes would be better than one?" Vio snagged the book nearest to him with a smile.
"That would be perfect, Vio!" Zelda beamed at him, releasing Red and pulling the wrinkles out of the shoulders of his tunic. "The rest of you should find food, and maybe see if there's anything any of the locals need help with?"
They nodded in agreement, and turned to get to work.
It was hours later that Vio set his book down, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. "I do not understand how you managed to read through all of these by yourself," he admitted, and Zelda let out a soft laugh. He heard her close her own book and set it down, jumping a bit as the smooth silk of her gloved fingers wrapped around his wrists.
"Don't rub your eyes, it's bad for you," Zelda chided, making a 'tsk'ing noise with a grin on her face. "Were the letters starting to blur for you too?"
"Your endurance is admirable," Vio admitted a little sheepishly. "They were swimming at least twenty minutes ago."
Zelda laughed again, tugging him up from his seat. "Come on, let's go find the others and get some food, I haven't eaten since breakfast and you have to be hungry too!"
Vio acquiesced easily enough, trailing after her but coming to a halt as soon as he reached the stairs. The torchlight coming from behind him was enough to cast his shadow in front of him, and he frowned at the motionless blob. "Zelda, would you say it's roughly nightfall?" He asked, beginning to follow her.
"It feels like it should be, yes," she called back over her shoulder, and Vio's frown deepened. They ascended in silence after that, weaving through the corridors until they reached Zelda's personal wing of rooms. Green, Blue, and Red were already sitting in the foyer, steadily eating their way through a rather large platter of sandwiches and not looking any the worse for wear.
Green's shadow suddenly elongated and twisted towards them, and Vio barely stopped himself from increasing his pace towards it. Why hadn't Shadow turned solid yet? He refrained from mentioning anything through dinner, merely stretching out a leg far enough so that his personal shadow merged with Green's, allowing Shadow to easily transfer between the two. Through silent hand signs that the two had worked out years before, Shadow was able to convey that he had indeed been trying to turn solid since nightfall, but it felt like something had been weighing him down, keeping him pinned and unable to.
Rather than interrupt Zelda in the midst of whatever she was talking about now, Vio opted for silence- he would speak with her in the morning, away from the others, and see if she knew of anything that might be able to reverse this mess he'd created. He could see her beginning to sway in her seat- she'd been awake longer than all of them, and busier by far.
Green noticed as well, it appeared, for when she went to branch out on an entirely separate topic he leaned forward and poked a sandwich half between her lips. "Zel, you gotta eat and get some sleep," he said over her miffed and muffled protests. "We all do, really- it's been a long day."
She chewed and swallowed grumpily, and when her mouth was empty once more she reluctantly agreed. "Take these two rooms off the corridor here," she directed them, raising her empty hand to cover a yawn. "I'll see you in the morning, then?"
"Yeah!" Red chirped, rising to hug her again, and started subtly steering her towards the doorway. "Get some rest, Zelda!"
They didn't linger for very long after she disappeared down the hall, divvying up the sandwiches between them, and Blue was the first to rise. "I'm out," he yawned, gripping Red's shoulder briefly. "We'll take this room over here. Y'coming, Red?"
"Igna sekkun," came the garbled response as Red tried to answer through a mouthful of sandwich. He swallowed and tried again. "In a second, Blue!" He waved the half-eaten sandwich over his head in explanation, and Blue snorted as he left.
Red watched him leave, a silly smile on his face that faded as he turned back to face the other two. "Where's Shadow?" He asked Vio, a slight furrow between his brows.
Vio winced a bit as Shadow waved from the floor. "We had an incident this afternoon, when all the commotion started. I believe he may be trapped. I am sorry," he added in a softer voice, looking down at Shadow. "This was never meant to happen."
Shadow shrugged, as if to say "it is what it is," and slithered across the divide into Red's shadow. Vio drew back at that, surprised- and although he would never admit it, quite hurt as well.
"Sure you can stay with us tonight, Shadow!" Red told him happily as he got up, unaware of the sudden tension between Vio's shoulders. "I won't tell Blue, he'll just complain all night- what? Nooo, I won't tell him, I don't care how funny it'd be!" The one-sided conversation carried the two of them out of the room, and Vio held back a sigh as he rubbed his temples.
He jumped a bit at the touch of a hand against the back of his neck, cool and welcoming. "You should get some rest too, Vi," Green murmured into his ear. "You look exhausted, and I'd bet anything that Zel's gonna put you straight to work in the library again tomorrow morning."
Vio couldn't help but snort at that. "I fear you may be correct on all counts," he said as he rose. "Flip a rupee for first rights to the bath?"
"Nah," Green chuckled, thumb rubbing back and forth at the nape of Vio's neck, and Vio let out a quietly undignified noise as Green tugged him a little closer, guiding him into the room they would be sharing for the night. "You can have it first-for a fee."
"A fee," Vio repeated with the best 'unaffected' tone he could muster. "What are you, the troll living under the bathroom?"
"Yep!" Green waggled his eyebrows, causing Vio to laugh reluctantly. "Fee fum fo fi- I smell the blood of an innocent Vi," he added, pitching his voice much lower and adding a rumbling undertone.
Vio scoffed at that and pulled free, unable to help the snickers escaping from him. "That was terrible," he managed to get out, batting Green away as the latter came after him. "Poetry is clearly not your forte."
Green was undeterred, however, and between Vio's stifled laughter and attempts to shove the other away he managed to corner Vio right before the door leading into the bathroom. "Be he alive or be he asleep," Green rumbled, blocking one of Vio's forearms and immediately digging his fingers into Vio's exposed side. "I'll… hm. The only rhyme here I can come up with is weep," he admitted, a little abashed as Vio smacked him in the shoulder, laughing helplessly. "And I would hate to make you cry, Vio! So I guess I'll have to come up with a different toll."
Thankfully, he pulled his hand away from Vio's ribs. Before Vio could react to that other than taking a huge breath of much-needed oxygen Green was kissing him, slowly, sweetly. He pulled away after a few moments, smug with triumph, and let Vio out from the cage his arms had made. "Fee paid!"
"Paid indeed," Vio grumbled, out of breath, and fled.
When they regrouped the next morning the sky was clear and blue once more, and it was immediately obvious that Zelda had barely rested- the dark circles under her eyes accentuating the determination in her face. "I couldn't sleep," she told them, hands on her hips. "So instead of lying there in bed not doing anything useful I went back down to the library. It only helped confirm what I'd been thinking—we don't have nearly enough information here at the Castle." She papped Red's hand away when he went to touch her face.
Blue frowned and leaned forward at that. "Then what are we supposed to do? Sit around and wait for the world to end?"
"Of course not!" Zelda scoffed, waving a hand at him. "You'll have to travel to the Old Library." When that garnered a host of blank stares in response her eyebrows furrowed. "You know, the one south of Kakariko? It's the biggest repository of knowledge in all of Hyrule- a very old Sheikah outpost."
Vio nodded in sudden recognition- he'd heard the name somewhere before but hadn't been able to find anything else about it.
"I have a map you can borrow to find it," Zelda continued as she paced back and forth in front of them. "It's very old, so things might have changed, but you'll need it- the Old Library is right at the edge of the forest, before it turns into the Lost Woods. It's not much more than a day's travel south, so if you leave within the hour you should be able to get there before nightfall."
"Why so quickly?" Red asked, startled, and Vio echoed the sentiment.
Zelda slowed in her pacing and came to a stop in front of them. "I know I said we'd probably be fine until midwinter," she said hesitantly, "but I'm getting a bad feeling about all of this. I feel that the quicker we move, the sooner we'll know what actions to take, and that means you four- pardon me, Shadow, you five- should get to the Library as soon as possible!" With renewed zeal, she began pacing again, skirts flaring out around her ankles as she turned sharply to look at them. "I'll keep researching while you're gone- I'm sure there are archives that I haven't managed to dig into yet, but if the knowledge is ianywhere/i the Old Library is where you'd find it!"
Green held up his hands in surrender, laughing softly. "Alright, alright!" he yielded. "We'll head out as soon as we can get our things together."
"Excellent!" Zelda beamed at that, and moved to give him a fond peck on the cheek. "I don't know iwhat/i I'd do without you," she told them all, repeating the process with Red, then Blue, then Vio. The latter she grabbed by the forearms and tugged from his seat, to his confusion. "You come with me, Vio," she told him imperiously. "I need to teach you some Sheikah words to get into the Library with."
Blue rose at that, crossing his arms. "Why him?" he complained.
Vio snorted and rolled his eyes. "Blue, do you really want to spend the next half hour studying a foreign language and practicing the correct way to pronounce glottal stops?" He asked with a raised eyebrow. "You can barely speak fluent Hylian as it is."
"Why, you little-!" Blue lunged at him before Red quickly caught his arm, Green grabbing the other one moments later.
Zelda laughed at that, turning slightly to flick Vio lightly in the head with an index finger. "Don't lie, Vio," she grinned. "There aren't any glottal stops in the Sheikah language." As she pulled him behind her she called to Blue over her shoulder, "It's all rolling 'r's and elongated uvular trilling!"
True to her prediction, within the hour the five of them were on their way.