The Legend of Zelda: The Silent Kingdom

By: Freedan the Eternal

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Right. I should say first that the actual concept for this fic, I've had in mind for some time. I just couldn't figure out what setting or group of characters would best suit it. About a third of the way into Twilight Princess, I realized that these were the ones I wanted. Unfortunately, after I saw the ending, I realized that it would be impossible to write this while staying true to the game's story. That's something I hold in high importance when writing my fanfiction, unless it's supposed to be off the wall and crazy, like my other Zelda fic, "Travesty of Adventure", which really has very little to do with Zelda anymore. But, one small change to the outcome of the plot is all it takes to make this story viable. So, I decided to call it a "What-if" and re-wrote the ending to Twilight Princess, featured here as the prologue. While I stayed true to the game for the most part, this is not word for word, and there are embellishments that have a bit of foreshadowing of the actual plot of the fic attached. Enjoy!

Prologue: A New Ending

It was finally over.

That thought echoed across Link's mind as his fur withdrew into his skin, as he felt his snout receding into his face. The transformation only lasted a second, but he could still feel every change that occurred within his body, from the shifting of his bones, to the startling change of his heart rate. Now, maybe, he'd never have to change again.

The massive bulk of the dark beast, Ganon, lay before him, glowing white fluid dripping from the scar tissue across its gut, splashing onto the floor of the throne room in drops as large as a human head. The fluid formed into a puddle, the glow dying away, turning into a black, oozing ichor.

Then the beast's body began to dissolve, dissipating in black smoke, which dispersed through the air, fading to nothing. It took several minutes for the gigantic beast to disappear completely, and in a moment, all that was left was the black stain of blood on the floor.

Link turned to smile at Midna, the imp princess of the Twilight Realm, who had been his constant companion since this journey began. She turned her head, returning a small smile. No words needed to be said. Their quest was finally over. The Twilight Realm, and Hyrule, were safe at last.

Then Link saw it. Infinitesimal flecks of golden light, floating off Midna's body. His expression must have shown his surprise, because her smile vanished, and her eyes darted across herself. As they watched, the lights, hundreds of them, floated through the air to the still form of the Princess Zelda, who lay limply in the throne. The lights poured onto her body, and color returned to her face, the corpse grey pallor fading into a much healthier tone. The moment the last small light touched her, her eyes flickered open.

She rose slowly from her seat, her gaze quickly scanning the scene, her gaze drifting across the small tears in Link's tunic, and the red strips through the cut chain mail beneath. She noted the large black stain on the floor, and her eyes finally came to rest upon Midna.

"I..." Midna began, but Zelda raised on hand for silence.

"No words are necessary, Midna, Princess of Twilight," Zelda's voice was soft, and in the large, empty throne room, had an otherworldly echo about it, as though it were a goddess speaking, "If only for a short time, our hearts were as one. I saw the events through your eyes, and I know that you have suffered more than any other for this victory."

She stepped toward the imp, her footsteps echoing loudly in the empty hall. Midna's gaze fell to the floor, as though she were afraid to meet the princess' gaze. Zelda reached out one hand, and gently lifted Minda's chin. A single tear rolled down Zelda's left cheek, "I am afraid the curse upon you is beyond my power to break. But I owe you a great debt. I will do everything in my power to find a way to help you."

"No, I didn't do all that much," Midna said, "Link did most of it himself. I was just along for the ride."

Zelda turned her gaze to Link. "And you, hero and wielder of the sword of evil's bane, I owe you a great debt as well. Name your desire, and if it is within my power, I shall grant it."

Link shook his head, "I just want it to end. I don't want anymore bloodshed."

"Then know that it shall never come to be!" boomed a massive voice within the hall. Link felt as though his eardrums were about to burst.

The three turned, and in the very air before them, fire burst into life. Flames floating on nothing grew, swirling in a mesmerizing spiral, finally coalescing into a fifteen foot image of a face. The face of Ganondorf.

Link's sword was in his hand in a flash. "Dammit," he said, "What does it take to make you stay down?"

The great mouth moved, laughter echoing through the hall. "You truly do not know what you are up against, do you?" the face said, laughing again, "Yes, you do not even know what that in your hand truly is, or what it stands for! You've just stumbled forward blindly, believing you were the chosen of some deity and their blessing gave you the power needed to smite evil from this world!"

Ganondorf's voice was practically dripping with sarcasm, "And now here you stand. Evil is before you. No one can come to help you now. What are you going to do?"

"Well, for starters," Link said, gripping the Master Sword tight enough to turn his knuckles white, "I'm going to kill the windy jerk, then I'm going to go take a nap."

No, Midna thought, terror gripping her heart, This has gone too far. He's too strong for you, Link! He'll kill you!

The three fused shadows in her possession appeared as she summoned her power. I know what I have to do now. I won't allow anyone else to die. I won't allow it!

Link saw it coming. He knew why she had summoned the fused shadows. Realizing instantly what Midna planned to do, he leaped for her. Screaming for her to stop, he tried to reach her, tried to disrupt her concentration, so that the spell would fail. He was only a few feet away. He should have reached her.

His feet had left the floor. He was flying through the air. Everything seemed to be moving in slow-motion. He saw her turn to him. He saw her smile. A sad, lonely smile that made Link feel as though his heart would tear itself from his chest in sorrow. Then his body broke apart.

His arms shattered into small black squares, spiraling upward into the air. His shoulders and chest were the next to go, then he was blinded as his head shattered into pieces.

Link found himself lying on grass. He stood up, scanning the horizon to find his location quickly. If she hadn't sent him far, he might still be able to get back...

The castle stood silhouetted against the sun, about halfway down the western sky. Damn, it was nearly a full day's walk back from here! He'd never make it! He jumped when a hand touched his shoulder, grabbing for his sword. It was Zelda who had touched him. She gave his shoulder a soft squeeze, shaking her head sadly.

Link turned back to the castle, just in time to see an eruption of flame all about it. The great fires spiraled upward, mixed with dust and brick. A moment later, the ground began to shake, and the castle slowly collapsed upon itself.

Then Link saw him. Before the rumbling had even subsided, Link saw the midnight black horse across the field from him. Seated in the saddle was the man who had caused all the suffered he'd borne witness to. Ganondorf had resumed his human form, his jet black breast-plate, split in the center, a soft white glow emanating from within, and fully interlocked plates over both his arms and legs.

The stallion reared onto its hind legs, letting out a cry that sounded more like a demon than a horse, and Ganondorf held one hand high, and Link could see the dark shape against the sun. It was Midna's mask.

"No," Link breathed, his heart aching. It couldn't have been more painful if he'd been stabbed. He had never seen Midna without the mask, but he understood it was one of the four fused shadows. When combined, the shadows made a helmet that transformed Midna into a mighty creature of nigh-unstoppable power. And this man had taken her.

Ganondorf dropped the mask to the ground, it broke apart and crumbled into pieces as it fell. Link's eyes followed it to the ground, where the pieces rolled down the grassy hill, then stopped still.

Ganondorf waved his arm, and four images appeared about him. They seemed to be ghosts of some obscure creature, mounted on beasts that defied the imagination. With a cry of victory, Ganondorf drew his sword and charged.

Link was still watching the broken mask as it shook and bounced as the thundering hoof beats passed it by. He turned to face Ganondorf, bearing rapidly down on him, his face contorted in maniacal glee.

And Link's pain was suddenly replaced by rage. This man. He had just taken the life of a dear friend, and now intended to take yet more. He remembered what he had said to the princess. I just want it to end. I don't want anymore bloodshed.

This man lived for blood. For death. It would never be over until he was dead. Link reached to the Master Sword, gripping the hilt tightly. One more time, he thought, I won't let your death be in vain. I'm going to bury that son of a bitch.

The Master Sword made a unique metallic ring when it was drawn. No other sword Link had seen even came close. Rather than the familiar metal-upon-metal slide, it sounded more like a hiss. Now, it was a comforting sound. The sword flared into blue light.

The ghost riders arrived first. With a massive underhanded swing, Link caught the first on his left, the blade piercing its necroflesh easily, and the spirit dissipated into the air. Link spun the other direction, catching the second with a full backhand swing. Carrying through the swing, he caught the third across the back and then the forth head-on.

He turned to face Ganondorf. The dark man was near, his blade raised high for a blow that would cleave Link's head from his shoulders.

Then, everything seemed to slow down. The scant feet that separated them seemed to take forever for Ganondorf to cross. Link could see Ganondorf's mouth, open wide in a hideous laugh, his eyes filled with burning hatred, and the sword in his hand, glowing with white light as the forward swing of it began.

Then all truly was still. Link realized that Ganondorf wasn't moving any closer. The man's face was fixed in the terrifying laugh and glare.

A soft hand took Link's shoulder. "Come with me."

Link turned to Zelda, who gestured into the distance. Epona, Link's great Clydesdale mare stood waiting. "You cannot hope to match him at such a disadvantage," Zelda said.

"Why don't I just cut him up right now, while he can't fight back?" Link asked, glaring at the evil man atop the black stallion.

"Touch him and my spell will break, and we'll both be at his mercy," Zelda said, "We much match him on fair ground."

Link realized she was holding a short-bow in her hand. It was carved from scorched black wood, and overlaid with golden designs and spirals. "Where did you...?"

"I am not of his calabur as a magician," Zelda said, "But I am not powerless, either. Mount your steed. We will defeat him together."

She leaned closer to him and whispered, "Lend me your strength for just a little longer."

Link grabbed the saddlehorn in his free hand, lifted his foot into the stirrup, and hoisted himself onto the large horse. "Don't misunderstand," Link said, offering Zelda his hand, "For me, this isn't about Hyrule, or its people, or even you. It began about the children who were taken from their homes. Once they were safe, I continued on only for Midna's sake. Now, she died to save us, princess. For me, this isn't about saving Hyrule. It's about putting that murdering bastard in the ground."

Zelda took Link's hand, and he lifted her onto Epona's back, seating her behind him. "You're a hard man, Link," Zelda said, "But though our motives are different, our goal is the same. You truly are like a feral beast."

"I'm no beast," Link said, taking Epona's reigns in his free hand, "I'm a demon."

With a whoop, Link spurred Epona, urging her toward Ganondorf. At that moment, he saw the golden glow on the back of Ganondorf's right hand. "He's breaking my spell," Zelda said, "I knew it would have soon."

"Wait," Link said, "He was conscious?"

"Yes," she replied, "He heard every word we said."

A golden flash erupted from Ganondorf. The world seemed to move as molasses, slow and oozing, then returned to speed, and Ganondorf was already turning his horse, trying to get his blade around. Link was upon him. "Take this!" Link cried, swinging from left to right, aiming at Ganondorf's neck.

Ganondorf got his blade around in time, sparks flew in a small explosion where the Master Sword collided with the white blade, and Link felt as though a charge of electricity shot up his arm. Then he was past, already guiding Epona into a wide left turn, craning his neck to get Ganondorf back into view.

He heard Zelda draw back her bow, and with a sharp twang and loud hissing, a streak of light shot from the bow. Suddenly, Link saw Ganondorf, circling his steed around to the right. Zelda's missile hit the ground just behind Ganondorf, with a small explosion of light, sent rocks and dirt clods flying.

Ganondorf steered his steed back toward Link. They were galloping toward each other, head on. "Watch out," Link said to Zelda, holding his blade aloft behind him. Ganondorf held his blade out to his side. This was one advantage Link had. Ganondorf was on his left side, so his blade was between himself and the evil man. Ganondorf, being right handed, and with this position, would have to swing across his horse to reach Link. Small though the advantage was, it was there.

They came together, and two massive swings connected, the swords collided, sending a shower of sparks all around, and Link was nearly lifted from his seat from the sheer force of the impact. Then they were past, and Link was reigning Epona about for another pass.

Ganondorf savagely pulled his stallion about, his maniacal frenzy from earlier gone, now he smiled softly. "No hesitation whatsoever," he said to himself, "Hard as an anvil. Very good, boy."

For a moment, Link's sword arm had gone numb, and he dreaded dropping his blade at a time like this. A moment later, though, the feeling returned, and he steadied his grip. "Damn, he hits like a battering ram kisses. Amazing."

"Link, can you get us behind him?" Zelda asked, "I'm sure I'll be able to hit him from there."

"I'll try, princess," Link said, and urged Epona forward again. This trading blows certainly wasn't going to do the job. Link had never liked sword fighting on horseback. There was no art to it, no skill involved. It was simply two men hammering at each other until one managed to knock the other from the saddle. There was no room for fancy moves or actual skill, or you'd likely cleave your own horse. Plus, a horse wasn't too capable of the same defensive maneuvers that Link was quite adept at.

Ganondorf was once again in front of him, spurring his horse for another charge. Then Link saw it. Beyond Ganondorf, a drop-off in the direction of the rocky pass leading to Kakariko. If his memory served, it was a good ways down. There was a chance that Epona would break a leg going down, but it would have to be risked. "Come on, girl," Link said, urging her forward, "If it does happen, I'll get you back together, and never again. I promise."

Nearly upon Ganondorf once more, this time, the dark man cave with an overhead swing. Such a swing was relatively useless from horseback, and Link easily deflected the blow. Ganondorf was testing him, he knew. They passed him, and Link kept going. Ganondorf steered his horse about, and gave chase.

"Link, go left!" Zelda cried out.

Link pulled the reigns left, Epona turning quickly. A white bolt of electricity struck the ground where they had been just a second ago, dirt flying into the air from the impact. "Go right!" Zelda called.

Link quickly steered right, narrowly missing another bolt. Almost there, come on.

Then they were. Epona dropped down the wall, a good fifteen feet down. A bolt of electricity shot over their heads as they fell. The drop-off was extremely sharp, nearly straight down. But then they hit the ground, Epona snorting sharply, but she kept her feet. The landing had hurt her, but apparently nothing was broken.

"Well, that wasn't so bad," Zelda remarked as Epona came to a stop.

Speak for yourself, Link thought, realizing rapidly that he shouldn't have been leaning forward on the landing.

A second later, with a loud whinny, Ganondorf's stallion leaped over the drop-off, sailing over their heads. Zelda drew her bow back, following them down.

Ganondorf landed, and Zelda's missile was away. But Ganondorf's stallion collapsed beneath him, its right front leg twisting beneath it, and they went down in a rolling heap, Zelda's missile flying harmlessly over their heads to slam into a nearby rock face, raining sharp edge shrapnel rock down on the nearby area.

Link dismounted. Ganondorf wasn't going to be getting back on that horse. He pulled his shield from his back onto his right arm as he walked. Ganondorf pulled his leg out from under his collapsed steed. "Very good," he said, turning to face Link, "Very good, indeed. You might be one of the best I've ever seen. Very clever idea, by the way. I didn't expect it to be quite that far down."

Ganondorf held his sword low, almost casually, "Of course, I guess such is to be expected from a hero like yourself. Your kind never cease to amaze me. Every one of you pulls remarkable feats I'd thought beyond you."

Ganondorf smiled at Link, pure malice radiating from him, "But you are different from the others. You do not need justice on your side, you do not need the belief that you are in the right, that the world needs what you would do for it, you do not need honor. All you need is a reason."

"No two people ever agree on what justice is," Link said, holding his shield before him and sword ready, just in case Ganondorf tried to strike, "I'm in no position to judge what's right for the world. All I know is what is right for myself and my friends. As for honor... Feh! I'm not about to fight honorably against someone who'd stab me in the back at the first chance. I can fight just as dirty as you, old man."

Thunder boomed overhead. The clouds were building rapidly. The sun was already sinking below the horizon. Very soon, it would be completely dark.

"Ah, twilight," Ganondorf said, gazing at the last bit of sun poking above the horizon, "A fitting time to end this, wouldn't you say, boy? Before we get started, though, tell me one thing."

Raindrops pattered down onto the brown stone beneath their feet. Link felt drops hit his face, then it really started, the rain pouring down in almost a torrent. Link could feel it soaking through is tunic and chain mail. The rain rolled of Ganondorf's plates in small streams.

"If not for any of these reasons," Ganondorf said, "What is it you fight for?"

"What do I fight for?" Link said, a growl coming into his voice, "I fight for me. I fight for the children you kidnaped. I fight for my friends, who are depending on me."

Zelda pulled up the reigns on Epona, who was trying to move closer to Link, "Easy, girl. He has to do this on his own."

Link's voice suddenly rose to a shout, "I fight for a precious friend of mine, whom you murdered in cold blood!"

A smile crept across Ganondorf's face, "I've murdered many people in cold blood. You should have seen my first rise to power. Oh, the mountains of bodies! The streets running red in fresh blood. In the end, what's one more?"

"You son a bitch," Link growled, "After all this, you don't even feel regret? You don't feel shame for these crimes against humanity?"

"You want to talk ethics now? I grew up in a world plagued by war," Ganondorf said, his smile evaporating, "I grew up starving in the desert. I grew up watching everyone I cared about, everything that was good in my life, I watched them all die so that I may live."

Ganondorf's voice turned to a growl, "Then I claimed the Triforce. I claimed the power of the gods. Then, in a sadistic trick by their hand, most of it was taken from me. I was left with but one piece of the three parts of the whole. This did not deter me, however. Many lives were sacrificed to keep me alive to reach that point. What reason could there be for such acts? The answer is simple. This is my destiny. To rule the world as a god!

"Yes... Destiny..." Ganondorf said, the growl dying away as he smiled at Link again, "Something you understand precious little of. Regardless of your reasons for being here, or why you think you're here, you've been destined to do battle with me since before you were born! That mark on your left hand is a Triforce, boy! You don't even have the faintest idea what that means, do you?"

Link glanced at his left hand, where the golden triangle mark was glowing faintly in the dim light. Ganondorf went on, "It's not a simple mark of the gods to show the hero, or a blessing of power from them as you believe. It is a fragment of the power that was stolen when I claimed the Triforce so long ago! It is rightfully mine! You have no right to possess it!"

Ganondorf stopped to take a deep breath. It seemed to have a calming effect, "It seems the Triforce is passed down through bloodlines. You see, the first one to possess yours, the Hero of Time, disappeared from Hyrule shortly after our conflict. That Triforce disappeared along with him. Now it has turned up in your grasp. My only conclusion is that you must be descended from the Hero of Time."

"I don't give a damn how it works," Link said, "It doesn't change what's going to happen next."

"No, indeed it does not," Ganondorf said, lifting his sword a bit higher, "But I still find it interesting. Perhaps a cruel prank on the part of the goddesses. You look and sound exactly like him. I've met many heroes through the years, and frankly, the similarities between them were startling. But you bear a resemblance to the Hero of Time that's not just uncanny, but identical. Killing Midna was nothing to me. Just removing an obstacle. But if you insist on seeing this through, I must warn you that I'm going to take a great deal of pleasure from your death. So much that I want it to linger on as much as possible. If you give me the Triforce now, I'll spare your life. You'll be able to go home, live out your life as you want. You won't see any interference from me. I want to rule this world, but not until I've amassed such power I'll truly be invincible. There are other great powers in the world besides the Triforce. I intend to claime them as well. You'll likely be dead of age long before then. So, what do you say? Don't throw away your last chance."

Link stared for a long moment at the glowing symbol on his hand. He considered. He and his friends would be able to live out their lives in peace. Everything he'd strived for would at last be at hand. But...

But it wouldn't bring back Mida, a dear friend who had saved his life on many occasions, and at last made the ultimate sacrifice for him.

"You want this?" Link said, holding his left hand out so Ganondorf could see the glow, "Come and take it."

Ganondorf's smile vanished. "So be it."

He lunged. It was so sudden that Link almost didn't react in time. Their swords clashed together, sparks lighting the darkness around them. The rain was making the rock beneath them slippery.

Link took several steps back, trying to keep his shield up for the next attack. Lightning flashed, casting an eerie over the area, and in the light, Link realized that they were next to a cliff. About six feet to Link's right was the eastern gorge that separated Kakariko village and Death Mountain from the rest of Hyrule. It was a sudden drop for hundreds of feet.

Okay, he's stronger than me, that I know, Link thought rapidly, But with his sheer bulk, and that armor, he can't be nearly as fast. My speed is my advantage. Just hope he doesn't use that magic of his...

Ganondorf came at him again, swinging horizontally at Link's neck level. Link spun to his left, getting his shield up. The blade scraped upward and off the shield, over Link's head. Link spun back to the right, swinging hard. Ganondorf leaped back, avoiding most of the blow, but the tip of the Master Sword hit the notch below Ganondorf's breastplate and above his tasset, cutting through the chain mail beneath, giving him just a small cut to the skin.

And he was on the offensive again, leaping back forward with an overhead cleave. Link dove to the side, rolling across the rock, rising with an upward swing. The blow glanced off Ganondorf's right arm plating, who spun with his left hand out, and slammed a mailed fist across Link's face.

Link managed to keep his feet, but the small chains had cut into his cheek, and he now had a criss-crossing pattern of cuts on his right side. And when he looked back, there were three of his foe moving toward him, sword swinging wide and low.

Link leaped back, flipping through the air, barely keeping his balance upon landing. He glanced down for just a moment, and with a shock realized that the edge of the cliff was just inches behind him. Ganondorf ran for him, sword held high.

Link met his charge, locking blades with Ganondorf, fighting for his footing. "Goodbye, Link," Ganondorf said, "You are not the first, but you are the last!"

Link rammed his knee into Ganondorf's groin.

Ganondorf hissed sharply, his push against Link easing just slightly. That was all Link needed. With a mighty shove, Link forced Ganondorf back, then slammed his shield across the warrior's face, stunning him. Link pulled back his sword, and then rammed it straight into Ganondorf's stomach, into the white scar that glowed through the breastplate. Link then released the hilt of his blade and leaped to the side, getting clear of the dark one.

Did that do it? Link asked himself.

Ganondorf took two steps forward, trying to keep his balance, Link noting that he was closer to the cliff. He grunted in pain. "Damn," he muttered, "And just like that..."

He turned, looking at Link. The rain was slowing. In a very short time, it had completely stopped. The sun had set. In the dark, Link couldn't make out Ganondorf's face, but his words came clearly. "Know that this isn't over, Link. The history of Hyrule is written in blood. So shall its future be."

"You seem to be frustratingly hard to kill," Link said, seeing a chance, "Why don't you just take all the time you want to die!"

He lunged forward, ramming his shoulder into the big man, sending him over the cliff.

No screams came. Only an echoing voice, "The Trifoce of Power is still mine. As long as it is in my possession, you will never win!"

Then, a sudden, clanging impact, echoing throughout the gorge, and all was quiet.

Link sat on his knees at the edge of the gorge, gazing into the blackness.

Midna, he thought, I've done it. I hope you were watching.

Morning came some time later. Link sat with his back to the rock face of the drop-off they'd ridden the horses off, chewing on a stalk of grass. Zelda stood at the edge of the gorge, gazing down into the depths. Finally, she walked to Link. "I sense no evil energies. It seems he truly is dead. I thank you, Link, for all you've done."

Link glanced up at her. "I've traveled all over this country, killing creatures of all shapes and sizes, and plundering ancient holy grounds, and that's what you're thankful for?"

"Link, you've done nothing wrong..." Zelda began.

Link stood up, holding up one hand for silence. "That's called a joke, princess. You might want to get your sense of humor tuned up."

Link walked over to Epona, who was occupied with grazing. "I'm going back to where we started this mess. If you want to tag along, princess, you're welcome to. I'm going to gather up the pieces to Midna's mask and..."

Link fell silent. The pain stabbing into his chest again more sharply than a dagger. He gently stroked Epona's neck with one hand, sighing quietly. Zelda gently took his other hand. "I understand, Link."

Link shook her hand off. "No, you don't understand, princess, and that's the whole point. I know you watched your people die when Zant attacked. I know the suffering you went through when agreed to the surrender. I know it must have been terrible to think that you were condemning them forever just to save their lives. But in the end, right now, you must be feeling relief that your surrender actually bought time for help to arrive. Me."

Link turned to look her in the eye, "But right now, you do not understand. Princess, I would trade my life, in an instant, if it would give Midna back hers."

He took Epona's reigns and began leading her, at a walk, back to where the battle had occurred the previous evening. Zelda watched him go for a moment. "I do understand, Link," Zelda said, "I understand all too well. Because I would, too."

She began walking after them.

When they arrived, Link immediately cast about, looking for the fragments of the mask. "What? Where did it go?"

Zelda stood behind him. He muttered to himself, "I'm sure the bastard dropped it right around here..."

Zelda looked up the hill, toward the horizon. Then she saw it. "Link, look up."

"What?" Link looked up the hill. At the top were two small horns visible over the crest of the hill. "It's... It's not possible..."

He broke into a run. Up the hill, not even slowing. At the top, he nearly fell over her. Just over the other side sat the small imp, holding the mask before her, placing the last fragment to it and welding it into place with a small spark of magic. Link realized this was the first time he'd seen her without the mask. Above her ears, she had strikingly red hair, previously hidden by the mask.

She slipped the mask onto her head before turning around and seeing him. "Link!"

Link opened his mouth to speak, but suddenly couldn't find any words. He reached out one hand, slowly, and gripped her shoulder. "This... This is real?"

"Link..." Midna began, but Link suddenly pulled her to him, pressing her against his chest.

"Don't you ever," he said softly, "do that to me again."

Midna suddenly found herself the one unable to speak, but she relaxed in his arms.

He released her as Zelda reached the top of the hill to join them. Midna turned to her, "Princess..."

Zelda smiled sadly, "It seems the death of Ganondorf was not enough to free you of his curse. I am sorry, Midna. I promise you that I will devote every second I can to finding a way to reverse it. It may take some time, though, as I also have a kingdom to rebuild."

"Oh, um... I don't mind, princess," Midna said, "There's just one thing I need to do soon. And I have a small favor to ask."

A few hours later found the Link and Zelda in the Mirror Chamber in the desert prison, where death-sentenced criminals used to be sent to the Twilight Realm, in order to free Hyrule from them.

The Mirror of Twilight sat on the great pedestal in the center of the chamber, facing a great obsidian slab before it that acted as a portal to the Twilight Realm. When Midna had been cast from the Twilight Realm by Zant, they had been forced to use it to reenter the realm to track him down.

When the obsidian slab began to glow, the pair turned to face the opening portal. Midna emerged a moment later, and floated down to them. "My advisors agree with me about an imp suddenly appearing as the kingdom's ruler," Midna said, "The people wouldn't react too well. Things aren't in such a terrible shape as they first appeared, and I've left it in capable, and trustworthy, hands. So I'm free to hunt for a cure for myself."

"Then but one thing remains," Zelda said, "What shall we do with this?"

She gestured to the mirror of twilight. "A gateway like this cannot be left unprotected. I do believe in the power of the sages guarding this place, but I feel precautions are in order."

Link smiled, "Split it. We'll break it into pieces again. Zelda and I will each take one. When we're ready to open the portal again, we'll bring them here."

Midna shook her head, "And what about the corruption that occurred to each of the creatures who possessed a fragment? Have you forgotten what happened to poor Yeta?"

"No, I haven't," Link said, "That's why we wrap them in cloth for the trip, and lock them away in the darkest, most out of the way place we can find. Each of the corrupted creatures had access to the mirror at all times. So, we simply put it away and pretend it's not there until we need it. And with only half the mirror here, it's quite useless, so anyone looking for trouble won't find it."

"I can't say I'm comfortable with this," Midna said, "But I guess there's no better solutions. I could destroy it, but I certainly don't want to yet."

"Then we shall follow Link's plan," Zelda said, "If you would be so kind, Midna?"

"Right," Midna gestured to the mirror, and fractures appeared in the perfect surface, two pieces the size of dinner plates falling to the floor.

Link pulled off his tunic, and slipped one piece inside it, the folded the edges around the piece. His chain mail, worn beneath his tunic, was now clearly showing the numerous rips it had accumulated throughout the adventure. It was rusted a fair bit as well. "Oh, damn," he muttered, "We don't have anything for the other..."

He was cut off by the sound of tearing cloth. Turning, he saw that Zelda ripped her gown at the knee, circling around for a long strip of the cloth. She wrapped the second piece within it. "Well then," she said, "Shall we go back to the castle? I've certainly got a lot to do. And you, Link, you should go see that your friends get safely back home."

Link smiled, "Yes, your majesty. Let's go, Midna. I just want a nice bed to lie down right now."

Two stares greeted him. "I was serious earlier when I said I was going to take nap," Link said, "I haven't slept in four days. See what that does to you."

With a command word, Midna dissolved the trio into small black flecks that vanished into the sky, flying back toward Hyrule.