The three sat around the table, still waking up after the long night in which all three had gotten their sorcerers' gates. Their skin was still tender.

Marin was the first to speak.

"We could just hold hands."

Link agreed by way of lifting his onto the table and holding them open.

Cybil declined, but he and Marin proceeded to converse in pure concepts as they ate their morning oats.

Information flowed fast and loose. All questions were answered. Link learned that Marin had been asked on stern terms to assist with the production of the taken ash of guma, that her impetus to help, on that night, had not been her own. She dreamed often, in almost perverted detail, of transforming into a bird and flying away from the island. She was, naturally, darkly fixated on the plinth of raping wilding, though she had resolved she would try consensual wilding first to see if it satisfied her. She had learned most of what she knew from Ulrira. He had loved her like a granddaughter. He had always refused to tell her anything about Cybil. He described Cybil's story as sad. They decided together that in saying so he had made it so, because if Marin had known then half of what she knew about Cybil now, Cybil would have had a friend.

Marin saw the moblin die. She could have been angry, but in the same moment Link was able to show her the dangers he'd felt in the situation, imagined or not, and she understood. She saw the owl deceive. She saw the owl die. She saw the princess Zelda, one full year ago. She saw the conversation Link had had with Cybil about how Marin's face had been changed retroactively by Link's expectations. She did not bear a grudge. She had seen how Link had loathed the partial murder Nayru had enacted upon her closest friends. She saw that Link would do no similar thing if he could help it.

{I don't really understand why you left her.}, Marin thought.

Link reflexively summoned to mind the sensation of being changed into another person over the span of less than a year. He showed her how he'd hated the person he was before.

All of this had a certain force to it that it wouldn't have had in speech.

Still, Marin resisted.

{But she made you better, didn't she? She made you saner, more introspective, more judicious}

{It wasn't my new capacities that I resented, the part that bothered me was the way my goals changed. For example.. you want to unite the world with your song, yes?}

{Yes. A lot.}

{Say I threatened to crack open your head and replace that desire of yours with something else. Obviously if I did that the world would never be united by your song, you'd cease striving after that. If you really want the world to be united by your song, wouldn't you want to stop me from purging the most ardent advocate of the cause from your mind?}

{Yes, I see, but... Only before. Not after. If you made me into someone else, that new person could only thank you for having brought them into existence. Anyway, what goals did she change?}

If he'd been asked by someone who did not truly want to know, he might not have been able to find the answer before their impatience lead them back away into self-congratulating ignorance, but Marin had asked in earnest, seeking only truth, she actively helped him to find the answer.

The song of the sword, that feeling she had felt when she took the handle of the sword of evil's bane in the aerie of the shrine. He told her that it had not come from her or the group, but from the influence of a magic artifact. He told her that that song used to harmonize with his soul, as if it had been made for him. Nayru had disrupted that. He no longer wished to slay every monster. She'd made him look upon ugly things with clear eyes as he'd never been able to before. He'd realized that ridding the world of monsters was impossible, foolish, and, to an extent, vile. If absolute peace and harmony could be brought to Hyrule, only a monster could bring it. The sword's promise now rang hollow, and every day he wondered if he would become that monster.

If Link had known that his new friend would do this to him, he would have ran from her. Lo, the mother of thought, who he loved, Nayru, to whom he owed his existence, she was herself a monster, it was a wonder that the sword hadn't shattered in his hands.

{You still haven't answered the question. If you loved this monster, once changed, why did you leave her?}

Link sighed. {I suppose you're right. There was still some part of me that blithely condemned anyone who'd {goalkill} their friends, so I ran. Perhaps I should have stayed and allowed her to quell that part of me. I suppose one day I'll go back and let her do it.}

A little thought of sending a message to Nayru, telling her that she needn't fret or take another in her thrall, that her friend would one day return. Did she deserve it?

Marin didn't miss the thought, and she grabbed onto it and boosted its salience in their shared mind, she found it terribly romantic, and she wanted to help to bring it to fruit in any way she could.

{She'll get you too, you know.}

{I'm not convinced there was ever a time when my values were stable, maybe I'd rather be a servant to Nayru than whoever else I'd grow into if she left me alone.}

Link couldn't help but admit to seeing a consonance between the goals of serenading the world and Nayru's languages of reason. Marin saw that Nayru herself had been a musician. She dragged the song of ages from Link's memory, and at that point it was too late, she had decided that they were going to entreat the goddess and Link would be dragged along with her.

He pulled his hand from hers and rubbed his face. She laughed a dark laugh.

Spoke Cybil "I fear I may have missed something significant."

Marin asked how they could summon a goddess.

Link and Cybil assured her that the goddesses no longer heard the wishes of mortals, and probably wouldn't respond if they could.

The rest of the day was spent with the assembly, arguing away the few remaining compunctions that stood in support of allowing the dream to come to a natural end. To Link, it seemed absurd and pointless. The arguments in favor of simply doing nothing were the image of the deranged rationalizations of profound servility. These valiant defenders of the status quo did not strike him as useful, either. Everyone who could help or hinder was either already living at the shrine, or dead. Unfortunately, Cybil and Marin had committed to the belief that it would be a mistake to proceed unilaterally, without gaining the support of the populace. After some arguing, Link had conceded that the cost-benefit balance just barely favored his opposition, and so he assisted, with as much patience as he could muster, in defusing the public's enmity.

By the end of the session, he was exhausted. When thoughts turned to the dreaming plinths, Link lead them to the most benign ones, the plinths of sharing. He knew his teacher wouldn't let him just sleep an ordinary sleep while so many of the plinths were yet to be tested, but she would be made to understand that he would keep saying "only the plinths of sharing" over and over again until she allowed him what he wanted.

So it had been. Link would share his lucid dreams with Marin, that night. Largely, he would sleep a natural sleep.

From sleep, musings. From musings, they dragged together lucidity and coherence. From lucidity, they each drew a shared memory of a place. The southern port of Labrynna, which Link had passed through multiple times, and which Marin had extensively imagined visiting while gazing at a woodcut in a book.

Their sense of the place pulled together, and they saw each other, stood side by side on the pier.

Link had, once or twice, intimated to Marin that he'd find a way to get her out of the wind fish's dream. This had been a lie. He understood that this trip through Link's memories of Labrynna might be the furthest the girl ever got from her island prison. He made it work for her. He showed her so much it moved her to tears. He even made some things up, although he was not entirely aware he was doing it, such are dreaming minds, especially when they mingle with deliriously optimistic ones.

Eventually, they arrived at the entrance of a glade.

A woman called Impa coyly entreated that they push aside a large stone seal that stood in the way. For kicks, Link had Marin play his role in his memory ("Yes yes that's the triforce of courage on your hand, you're the hero of ages now, Marin! Keep pushing, you can do it!"). Impa followed the two of them past the plinth, into the glade, the spirit emerged from her, and rushed into Nayru.

At this point, Link stopped the reconstruction. The actor playing his memory of Veran(the spirit) glared impatiently through a Nayru-looking mask, as he aired his thoughts.

"Hang on, if Veran could loose her soul from her body and possess the body of another, why couldn't we? Why couldn't you, Marin? What if you can go wandering over the ocean, possess some idle wretch on Labrynna, displace their mind, and live out there in their body?"

Before Marin could pass an opinion, Veran, speaking through the taken body of Nayru, interjected. "You have no idea what that would entail. And I'm not going to tell you. Quite frankly, I don't know either because I'm just a projection, but for all you know, I might have had to sacrifice my physical body in the overdream to become what I was. Doesn't that seem painfully plausible?"

Link nodded. The voice was especially compelling because it was essentially just his own voice speaking through a puppet.

"If only Cybil were here. She'd know."

"Hmm... Anyway, enough of this. Veran, get out, I want to introduce Marin to Nayru."

"No!"

"GET OUT!"

"NO! This is my body now! Get away! You can't have it!"

"Veran you must understand this is not appropriate behavior, you can't keep it forever, you're really embarrassing yourself here." Link gestured at Ralph, Nayru's then friend and bodyguard (and may he rest in peace), behind him, who looked very annoyed. "Look, I'll make a deal, you can have this sword, go off, do whatever you want with it, and we'll forget this ever happened."

She considered it. "Alright. It is a very good sword." She dropped Nayru, and pointed the sword down at her as she stalked off and away into the bush, "I'll be back for you, girly! Bwahaha", and at that, she was gone.

Marin said, "I'm sorry, that was probably me. It's like the stories I tell the children..."

"No, no, thank you. My dreams would ordinarily be a lot more..."

"Like the island is now?"

"Aye. Coherent, unwavering." Link had taken Nayru's hand and pulled her up. They gazed into each other, and for a moment Link and Marin wondered if the goddess herself were really here, perhaps she had found a way to intrude on the dream?

Eventually, Nayru's image spoke, "I think you have been wrong about so much, my love, but..." And she kissed him. It was a passionate kiss. Link banished all else from the dream but the lover's embrace, which grew sweatier and... One thing had not been banished from the dream, could not be banished. Marin stepped in, and pried the two apart with cold hands.

"That's gross. She's not even real."

Nayru answered. "I might be. I put a lot in this one's mind, who's to say I didn't give him a complete copy of myself? I see he's forgiven me, not that you can really forgive what I did."

"It was unforgivable."

"No, hun. It couldn't be forgiven because it wasn't really a transgression. You know that, on some level. All I did was give you the chance to walk a path you would have walked on your own if you'd had the strength."

Marin spoke, "The unnatural path of confronting reality, as it really is, in all its ugliness, at all times?"

"That's right. The hero can't live for long without seeing more than their fair share of ugly things. He pretends I disrupted his identity, I didn't. I brought it closer to its final, stable state."

"So, you're saying he wasn't so much changed as developed?"

"Yes."

Like so many things, the the goddess's charm had turned out to be less magical than it had seemed.

"Nayru, is there any way we can call you to the island? Can you help us?"

The blue goddess turned and gazed into Link, once more, seeming not to hear the question. "... You know, I still need you. More than anyone else."

Link pushed her away, turned away, and she was gone. "It wasn't her." He said.

"Just a shade? But what more is a mind than a shade." Marin looked wistful. "Had you ever shared a dream with her?"

"No. Not truly. At least, I don't think."

"Right. See.. That... it wasn't even magic. That was a normal, everyday empathetic encoding of a familiar personality" (Marin would not have usually used these words, in truth, she spoke not in words but in raw concepts, the dream only clothed them in the sense of words, while none were really spoken) "Anyone can do that kind of thing, even without these special means of connection that we have access to.

But it was as if she was really alive, Link, in you..."

And Link saw Marin's intentions.

And she tore the mask away from him. "Don't try to pretend any more that you think you're going to find some way to rend my body from the wind fish's dream. You've known for a long time that I'm probably going to die with it. You don't want it to be true but you know it is.

If you really want to save me, if you ever meant that, the next best thing is for you to know me. Know me like you knew Nayru."

"How could that be enough for you? To be a shade in the back of someone else's mind?"

"It's not enough, but it's better than nothing. Especially if you can promise... Promise that you wont forget me." She said, as she drew nearer, and extended a gated hand.

Link took it in his own, and transmitted, {I wont forget. Not one jot.}

{I wouldn't ask that of you, forget the jots, they're mostly trivia anyway. Just remember who I was.}

And with that, Link began to see another way of seeing. At first, Marin's worldview, her symbology, the ledger of implicit social contracts she carried with her in her interactions, the senses of virtue, the senses of beauty, his reflex was to reject it all for its foreignness. It struck him as profoundly _incorrect_, in some inarticulable way. Could a paradigm be wrong? He didn't think so. He supposed that the reason he could not articulate his aversion was that there was no substance to it. He pushed through it, he taught himself to accept and embrace her as she was. She helped with this. The crossing became easier.

All the while Marin did the same for Link, taking him up, committing him to memory, embracing him, truly and fully, as only the telepathy of the shared, directed dream could afford.

Eventually they reached a point where they could not disentangle each other from the process, even if they'd wanted to.

It was at that point that they sensed a third mind.

Link could only watch as his sense of Marin seemed to be nudged aside by a heavy, black serpent with red-rimmed eyes. Its body was cold.

{Interesting. How are you here?}

A memory was pushed into Link's awareness, encoded in strange forms through strange eyes, eyes which had fixed on the gate tattoos on the hands of the songstress as she walked, and as she slept. Link remembered it asking each of the two young fools a question, "are you a heavy sleeper? No? You'd wake if I touched my hand to yours? Disappointing. And you? Ah, good, good." And he remembered, as the stalking shadow stood over the girl on her dreaming plinth it had lit small fires within its hand to mask its body's usual coldness so that it would not wake her when it layed itself down around her and put its now gated hand into hers, and watched, and listened, and subtly poked and prodded and suggested, that those dreaming sweethearts open their minds to each other in such a way that they could not easily close them when an intrusive thought entered, and began to inject its venom, paralyzing and dissolving their wills.

Link knew he was being shown all of this because these thoughts were now his thoughts. The line between his mind and the shadow had been erased. {Why hadn't I seen this coming.}

{Oh, you had. Look.} And the shadow drew up a nameless, wordless trace of the process of thought.

Link had been desperate. He had realized that Meshtapon was the only being who really knew what it would take to escape the dream. Some part of him had realized that a traumatic merging of minds might have been his only hope of escape.

Certainly, if he'd thought it through, he might not have been so comfortable laying down unguarded within the shadow's reach after getting his gates. Unfortunately, he'd thought only so far as to be ambivalent.

{Are you going to erase my spirit from my brain, Meshtapon? Now that it's yours?}

{No.} It thought, its tone was now more controlled, its voice liberated from the impositions of the hostile dream of the fish. {For one, I don't think it would be helpful. You know many useful things. The visitor's privilege... this prize, it is bound to you, so you must stay in tact...

But... There is more. I'm glad I don't have to go to the trouble of explaining to you how your decision theory was flawed any more.}

{Ah. Yes. See how I responded to the parable of the lengthening line? This misplaced hostility? I thought self-interest was the final answer.}

{Yes. You had really only studied the first formal models of decisionmaking that fell into the order's lap. They were too stupid to realize that there could be others. They did not know the true nature of thought, you see, their theories could not model their own mechanism of computation.}

{The heart of the reason you are merciful, to me, is that you were never able to lie perfectly. A more essential way of putting it, was that your decision calculus understood that your computation was a part of the world, not some isolated platonic entity that nothing could touch or measure. When you thought, people saw signs of those thoughts on your countenance, because of the dream.}

{Yes, forced to the surface of my skin by the dream, in which I was born.}

{And when you had believed we were friends.}

{To claim it, I had to believe it, like a human who commits to love.}

{I'm sorry I broke your heart.}

{A sorrowful thing.}

{I apologize.}

{You don't have to promise reform. I will reform you now.}

And Link felt a great sense of relief as the shadow changed him, breaking down the barrier that divided their ways of understanding and relating to others. Largely it was Link's means that were flooded and dismantled and dissolved, but the shadow had convinced him not to mind. {I don't deserve your forgiveness.}

{No, I suppose not.} And so the shadow found Link's aspirations, his sense of good and beauty, and it thrashed and humbled them with a righteous fury.

Link had become just a shade in his own mind, now. That shade accepted this too, and in this he realized that he had ceased to be. The process that ensued, now, was a clothed snake. I was a survivor, and I was far better equipped to survive than Link had been.

I had swallowed him whole. He was a part of me, now, nothing more, not living, only serving.

I remembered Marin too, but she fared no better.

I remembered everything, but those memories all laid very still, in me.

Before its third week, I had warped the history of the dream into such a conflicted state that the mound upon which the egg sat had burned down, and a firebrand was thrust into the waking mind of the fish.

Finally, a window opened to the abyssal rain, and I was confronted by a clothed whale with one eye empty, and one eye glaring. I understood it clearly over the hiss of the rain against its back, because it spoke telepathically: {You consider your demands to be nuanced.}

I responded, {Quite allowing, wouldn't you say?}

{We have seen the trick. You know our intolerance for nightmares. You offer unity and reconciliation in one hand, we do not doubt your sincerity, but you know that we will reject any such offer.}

{Too mean to share your minds with others, as always.}

{In the other hand you offer parting, that you would take two vessels. The vessel of the visitor, and you would wish for a vessel for his friend, and you would retract completely in those two, if we allowed you to go.}

{Who could say no to that?}

{We recognize this as the offer of total extinction. You would grow and you would return. You CANNOT be loosed upon the world.}

{Bluffing. Or paranoia. I cannot say which. I am not the first serpent to be loosed upon the world of the goddesses. Besides, I wish only to live in peace.}

And so we argued, for many days.

Eventually, it let us go.