The celebration following Zelda's coronation ceremony lasted the rest of the day and would likely go on for most of the night. Banquet tables heaped high with delicacies were spread throughout the city, and noble and commoner alike ate on the Crown's bill, an incredible feast the likes of which the capital hadn't seen since Zelda was born.
Summoned by the Queen, the Hero's Company, Rusl, and Nabooru gathered on the wide balcony below the throne room, looking out over the city and the country they had protected, goblets of the finest wine in their hands, except for Colin, who stood with his father at one end of the balcony with Link.
Finally, Zelda arrived and joined her friends, raising her own goblet in toast. "To absent friends," she said.
The others raised their cups and drank, remembering Erik.
"So," said Midna, looking around at the group, "what are we all going to do now that the war's over?"
Raskys took another drink of his wine. "I'm going to go back to the desert and find the Zuna who helped me after I crashed. The woman who healed me was…" He chuckled shortly, looking over at the others. "Well, let's just say I'd like to see her again."
Arnak nodded, looking over at the Gerudo warrior standing next to him. "I am also going to the desert," he said. "There is… much I can do there."
Nabooru smiled, nodding herself as the two of them gazed out in the direction of the Gerudo Desert, awash with color in the sunset.
Majacen placed his hands on the balcony's railing, looking out at the city. "I will continue my travels. Much work has to be done to recover from the Dark Lord's conquest, and I will do what I can." The old wizard turned to look at Zelda. "Perhaps I will stay in Hyrule for a time, but there are many who will need my aid in the years to come."
Shad nodded. "I know I'll be busy for months getting the account of this war properly recorded, as well as revising the histories based on what I've learned."
Zelda smiled, looking down at the city. The rays of the setting sun caught the gems in her crown, sparkling in the fading light. "My reign will be a busy one," she said. "But, as Majacen said, there is much to be done. We must enjoy our peace while we have it."
Midna smiled as well, looking over at her fellow ruler. "I'll be busy in the Twilight Realm, too, though I don't have anything as grand as what you've said planned. I'm just going to make my home the peaceful place it used to be."
"I'm going to help rebuild my village," Colin said. "I'm not sure what I'll do after that. Maybe I'll join the army like my dad."
Rusl smiled at his son. "Whatever you want to do, Colin. We'll need you in Ordon, but if you want to get out and see the world more than you already have, I can understand that." He turned to Link. "What are you going to do now?"
Midna grinned, nudging his arm with her elbow. "Yeah, what's the mighty warrior going to do with his life now? Go back to herding goats?"
Link chuckled. "Maybe." He set his goblet down on the balcony's railing and stared off into the distance, letting the smile fade from his face. "I'm not sure what I'll do now," he said finally. "I'm sure there are a lot of things I could do. There are a lot of people out there that need help."
The Hero's Company stood in silence for a long time, thinking about the future.
Viserys sat alone in his office aboard Falcon's Pride, looking down at a map of the continent Hyrule occupied. Deserts and mountains surrounded it on all sides but to the south, where a vast forest spread through the mountain range there until it gave way to the temperate climates of the southern part of the continent.
This was the domain of the slavers, and many cities dotted the coast that had grown rich from the slave trade, full of vile men who gained from buying and selling their fellow intelligent beings.
Viserys had contacted Queen Zelda earlier, and the two of them agreed that this was to be where Hyrule first flexed its military might. After building up their forces for a few years, Hyrule and the nation-for-hire would launch a massive invasion of the slavers' domain and free those captive there. Once the slavers had been disposed of, Viserys' people would be given the cities, and the Balacruf would finally have a permanent home.
The Mercenary King began planning his last war.
Several days after the coronation, Link and Midna journeyed deep into Faron Woods alone, bound for the sacred resting place of the Master Sword. They opted to go by foot instead of flight or teleportation, and they talked about their journeys on the way there, enjoying traveling alone together again.
When they finally arrived at the Sacred Grove, they took their time making their way along the path leading to the ruined temple deep in the forest. Autumn had turned the leaves of the trees into an explosion of color, dozens of different hues of red, orange and yellow decorating the boughs above them as they strolled along the dirt path.
Midna laughed suddenly, and Link looked over at her. "What is it?" he asked.
She spread her arms, gesturing at the peaceful, beautiful forest around them. "I can't help thinking of the first two times we came here, chasing that ridiculous little creature that guarded the way to the temple. It was pretty fun trying to catch him, though, wasn't it?"
Link laughed. "Yeah, it was. That flute music about drove me crazy, though I did like the tune."
The two of them kept going until they arrived in the ruined temple, and they paused in the large Triforce marking still visible on the floor through the leaves and dirt covering the ground. Around them stretched the ruins of the ancient temple, pieces of the walls sticking up like the ribs of some enormous long-dead creature. Remembering the magnificent white temple this place had once been, Link wondered what else was hidden in the wilds of Hyrule, and if any other overgrown remnants of the Golden Kingdom's past grandeur still waited to be discovered in this ancient forest. Perhaps he would go looking for them someday.
As the Goddesses had said, he was now free to live his life in any way he chose. Maybe he'd ask Shad to come along. His scholarly friend would undoubtedly be excited to visit some of the places he'd uncovered in his journeys, as well as any new discoveries about Hyrule's past they might find. The possibilities were endless.
Slowly, Link and Midna walked through the short passage and ascended the steps up to where the Master Sword's pedestal waited. Link removed the Master Sword's scabbard from his baldric and replaced it with his Ordon sword, holding the sacred blade by the scabbard as he approached the pedestal.
With his left hand, he drew the Master Sword for the last time, setting the scabbard down next to the pedestal as he gripped the sacred weapon with both hands.
Link fitted the tip into the pedestal and thrust the blade into the channel made for it. The scabbard vanished, and he stepped back to look at the sword, now just the way he had first seen it.
"I hope it's never needed again," Link said. "Though I'm sure it will be."
Midna patted his shoulder. "Evil is one resource the world will never run out of, unfortunately." She smiled, playfully tugging at his cap. "That's what people like you are for."
Link smiled, nodding. "I suppose." He gestured to the Twilight Blade at her side. "Are you going to put that back where you found it?"
Midna looked down at her sword, a twin of the Hero's weapon, and rubbed a thumb over the large blue-green jewel set into the hint. "I don't know. Probably, though I'll have to get rid of that thing that was guarding it first." She grinned and playfully punched his shoulder. "Maybe you can help me with that."
Link laughed. "I think I'm done fighting monsters, thank you."
Midna smiled. "Yeah, you've probably had your fill of excitement for now." She nudged his arm with her hand. "So, 'Lord Fenris', you going to go reclaim your family's mansion? It does belong to you, you know."
Link shook his head. "No, I'm going to leave it alone. I may go back there every once in a while, but I'm going to let the Yetis keep it." He frowned. "I might try to talk to the mountain people, but I'm sure they'd never be willing to listen to a member of my family. It's a lot to forgive, but I hope they eventually learn to put what my ancestors did to theirs in the past."
He looked back down the passage out into the main temple. "What do you want to do now?" he asked his friend.
Midna sighed. "Well, I suppose I ought to go home. We're still trying to put the Twilight Realm back together, and my people need me."
He gestured back down the passage. "We'll go to the desert, then."
Midna spread her arms, and the two of them broke into black squares, leaving the Master Sword behind to begin the patient, silent wait for its next bearer.
Nabooru stood on the cliff over Lake Hylia next to Arnak and the Matriarch, looking down at the crystal blue water far below them. A boat was visible, its white sail billowing out as it lazily drifted with the wind. Nabooru could barely make out a fisherman asleep in the bottom, his line trailing behind him as the boat slowly drifted across the lake.
The Matriarch indicated the old road into the desert, long fallen into disrepair. "The Queen tells me she will have the roads into the desert repaired, so that passage between our domain and hers will be easier. We are to have full access to this lake whenever we wish."
Arnak nodded. "Good. We will need it."
Nabooru hid her smile. He had taken to referring to the Gerudo as 'we', confirming his intent to remain in the desert. She knew he would need time to get over all the tragedies he had endured, but she also knew he would be staying here. She was more than willing to give him the time he needed.
"We should get back to the encampment," the Matriarch said. "The sun will be hot soon."
The three of them turned and left the lake behind, returning to their home.
Link and Midna stood on the stone platform behind the Mirror of Twilight, saying their farewells.
The Twilight Princess tapped the remade Mirror with one hand. "I guess we do have to thank Ganondorf for this." She smiled slightly, turning to Link with a twinkle in her eye. "I won't break this one, I promise."
He smiled back. "See that you don't."
Midna's smile faded. "My reason for shattering the first one still stands, though. Even if we can come and go between the worlds as we please, that doesn't mean they should mix. We don't want a repeat of what happened to make us meet the first time. I'll be keeping careful guard over the portals on my end."
Link nodded. "I'll do the same. I'll work something out with the Gerudo for protection of the building. Zelda says she wants to give the Arbiter's Grounds back to them."
"All right," Midna said. "But make sure they seal it up or something. It's still capable of terrible things."
Link nodded again. "I'll see to it personally."
Midna moved in front of the Mirror, stepping on the place that would activate the glowing white stairs. The Mirror of Twilight flared into activity, projecting a vortex onto the black plinth behind it.
Link stayed where he was as Midna moved to climb the glowing white stairs up to the platform at the top. She stopped and turned to face him.
She smiled. "Well, see you later, Link."
He smiled back. "Goodbye, Midna."
Midna paused, an unreadable expression on her face, and as Link watched, she slowly descended the steps of the platform and walked over to him with a hint of trepidation. Link was puzzled; he met her eyes questioningly as she approached.
"What is it?" he asked. She seemed almost... nervous, and he wondered what was troubling her.
"Link, I..." She paused, and his mind flashed back to the last time they'd parted, when she'd spoken the same words. In his mind, the Mirror of Twilight shattered again, and he feared momentarily that she was going to break it even after she'd said she wouldn't.
Link brought his hands up to gently grasp Midna's shoulders. "What's wrong, Midna? You can tell me."
The Twilight Princess smiled almost sadly, emotions flashing across her face. Link thought he saw a tear glimmering in the corner of her eye. "There's..." She paused again. "There's something I have to tell you, though I'm afraid of what it might mean if I do. I've... I've felt this way for a long time now, but I'm not sure if you..." Midna looked up at Link, and he thought he saw something in her eyes that he'd never noticed before.
He raised his brows questioningly, and Midna suddenly smiled broadly and laughed. "Oh, why not?" she said. "You only live once."
Link furrowed his brow in confusion, not sure what she was talking about. "Midna, what are you-"
And then she showed him.
Gently placing one hand on Link's shoulder and the other on his other arm, Midna leaned in and gently pressed her lips to his. Link was briefly surprised, and did not react for a moment, but as he realized in his mind that he suddenly knew exactly what she meant and felt the same way himself, he wrapped his arms around her and returned the kiss. They stayed that way for a long moment, sharing a love both of them had just realized but at the same time had known all along.
Finally, Midna pulled away slightly, smiling. Link blinked once, looking into her beautiful ruby eyes. "Wow," he said, unable to think of anything else.
She chuckled lightly. "Took you long enough, Mr. Hero."
"Much too long," Link agreed, pulling her close again.
As the Hero and the Twilight Princess embraced again, Link felt a deep sense of peace and completeness. This was what he had been missing, he realized. Now he was truly happy, ready to face the future, whatever it may bring.
Everything was going to be all right.
* * *
The Legend of Zelda
* * *
Final Author's Notes and Acknowledgments: Well, that's it, everybody. Thank you all so much for following the story, and I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it. It's had its ups and downs, some great parts, and some not-so-great parts, but it's been a valuable learning experience for me, and I think I'm definitely a better writer now than I was when I started it.
As you no doubt observed while reading, I went back over the whole story and polished it up a little. Now, 08/31/09, nearly a year after originally posting this epilogue, I declare it completely finished, and I am happy with the story as it exists right now, so there will be no further revisions unless I spot a grammar or spelling error somewhere that managed to elude me even after this many readings. I smoothed out errors(including one in this very chapter that I somehow never noticed until today), reworded a few parts, changed the order of a few scenes, and improved quite a few descriptions, but most of the story stayed exactly the way I first posted it. There were a few things that were genuinely wrong, so there was some minor restructuring, but no major changes to the plot, aside from one:
This epilogue ended a little differently when I first posted it, but after much deliberation, I decided that Link and Midna needed a resolution to the relationship I'd been building for most of the story after all, and I restored what I'd had as the original ending. I cut it before the original post because I thought it was too sappy, but after I asked a couple of the regular readers about it, they said it wasn't that bad and told me to put it back in. I agree with them that it's a much better ending than the original version. You're welcome, LinkXMidna fans. That's the most romance you're going to pry out of me. ;)
Also, as you may have noticed a few plot elements were not completely resolved within the body of this story, rest assured, it's not an oversight. Midway through writing this story, I realized it was much too big, and a lot of stuff would need to be trimmed out to avoid this being at least twice as long as it is now. I'm serious; this quite easily could have gone past seventy chapters if I'd let it. There's a lot of stuff hinted at in the early part of the story that's never completely resolved, and I was almost forced to make a sequel to this story to bring my little saga to a proper conclusion.
So, since as of this revision the story is up and running, I will now direct you to 'The Legend of Zelda: The Secret War,' which you can find in my stories list. It's set twenty-five years after the ending of this story, and primarily concerns the main characters' children, though their parents play a large role. The main character is a young Gerudo warrior who seeks to break the Blood Curse, the reason why only one male Gerudo is born every hundred years. Her quest soon leads her into a larger adventure, spanning Hyrule and beyond.
It'll probably be at least as long as 'The Fourth Piece', though it may be a little shorter, and will, as best I can, properly resolve all the ideas I've come up with. As the note in my profile about the story mentions, 'The Secret War' is part three of a loose 'trilogy' beginning with 'Twilight Princess' and continuing in 'The Fourth Piece,' combining elements of the first two while still being its own adventure.
But, perhaps before you begin reading the sequel, you might be interested in another of my projects set in the Zelda universe, a short story entitled 'The Hero of Lightning,' which tells the adventures of the original bearer of the Staff of Lightning, whom we briefly met in Chapter 42. It's a prequel, of sorts, though it can stand alone as its own adventure. Essentially, the backstory I came up with for the Staff of Lightning's origin was just too interesting to not make into a full-fledged story, so I wrote it out. I hope you enjoy it, since I had fun writing it.
Another project that will be ongoing for as long as I keep getting submissions for it is a oneshot collection entitled 'Missing Pieces,' which aims to fill in some of the backstory for 'The Fourth Piece.' The point of the collection is for anyone who wishes to tell a story set in my story's universe to do so, sort of fan-fiction of a fan-fiction, if you will. The war in 4th Piece spans nearly the entire world, so there are dozens of untold stories out there. I act mostly as the editor of the collection, though I will of course be writing entries myself. If you're interested in writing a story for the collection, drop me a PM and I'll send you any information you need. Authors who wish to participate will have pretty much free rein to write about whatever they want, though I will be making sure everything maintains continuity with 4th Piece and the other stories, and that if my original characters are used, which you are free to do, they stay in character. More information is in the introduction.
Finally, I want to thank the other authors on this site who have provided invaluable assistance to me in not only writing this story, but in improving as a writer:
Seldavia, as I have mentioned in many author's notes, has been extremely helpful over the run of the story in helping me to improve plots, dialogue, and myriad other things. It is not an exaggeration to say that without her input and help, this story would not be half as good as it is. All screw-ups remain solely mine, and there would be a good deal more of them if not for her. I really recommend that you go check out her stories, especially the ones in my Favorites list, since she is one of the better writers on this site, in my totally unbiased opinion. ;)
Silverwolf05, besides being a talented writer herself(I highly recommend her fic, 'The Immortal's Heart', and the art based upon it), is also a very talented artist, and I was lucky enough to have her offer to do some art based on this story. She's done portraits of almost all of my original characters, and they're spot-on with what I had in mind, so if you haven't already, go visit my DeviantArt account and browse through the 'Story-Related' folder in my Favorites. Make sure to show your appreciation by leaving a comment; this is some good art regardless, so tell her how much you like it.
Thanks goes also to Windblown Wanderer for his helpful reviews and later exchange of ideas and jokes. He seems to have left the site, but he did leave his stories up, and I also recommend you go check them out.
Cloudrunner Sparty also deserves special mention, as since he started on the story sort of late into its run, he nevertheless provided valuable assistance in catching errors, as well as advice on the story itself. He graciously agreed to work with me on the revision of the story, and between the two of us, we cleared (hopefully) all the goofy mistakes out to make the story more readable. As with the others, I recommend you go check out his stories.
Desteni left quite a few very insightful reviews, providing inspiration not only for minor revisions to make this story easier to read, but ways for me to improve my overall writing style. Much thanks is owed for that, as well as several pieces of art for the story, which can be found on DA. I recommend you give her stories a read as well.
Major thanks also goes to the regular readers and reviewers. In the interest of preventing myself from forgetting to include someone, which I know I'd do, I'm not going to list everybody who's reviewed the story, but you know who you are, so thank you very much for reading. Your support of the story really means a lot to me, and I really appreciated all your thoughts, too. I'm glad I was able to tell a story you enjoyed, and I hope I continue to do so in the future.