Notes and Disclaimer: This has been revised in its entirety as of February 2017. I own nothing.
Summary: An exploration of the origins of Dark Link and his connection to the Twilight Invasion, with a healthy dose of sarcasm and Midna/Link. This closely follows the events of TP. COMPLETE and REVISED as of Feb. 2017; SEQUEL IN PROGRESS: Ad Hoc.
Something was wrong - off.
Midna could see it in his face, the dullness of his eyes, the uncharacteristically sluggish reactions, and it frustrated her to no end, seeing the effects but not the cause. After the last poe battle in the Arbiter's Grounds, Link stared, haunted, at something she couldn't see, and immediately left the temple to wander back into Lanayru. At first she was furious at his refusal to continue through the temple when they were so close to the Mirror, but when he failed to deflect what should have been an easily avoidable thrust from a bokoblin, she started to worry. To make matters worse, if she hadn't found him that fairy, he might have bled out right there in the Field. Even with the fairy's magic it was clear he still needed medical attention before it became infected – except, when she tried to warp, that strange feeling in the pit of her stomach exploded. It wasn't just Link – something was wrong with the portal and the twilight emanating from it, and she quickly interrupted the process. He was peaky and shaken, but at least both feet were firmly in Hyrule – for now. They would have to ride.
Three days later, they were almost to Kakariko to see the shaman. Quiet, almost labored breaths (pants, she thought) rattled in his throat, but nothing to actually help her in a diagnosis. He occasionally muttered something, but his reticence was exacerbated to the point of near-silence. The reins were clasped in white-knuckled fists as he rode unsteadily. Midna kept trying to interrogate Epona, but the loyal mare insisted that her master was probably just sick… nothing out of the ordinary, that he'd been like this before whenever he caught a cold. Am I going crazy? Midna wondered, exasperated. Can no one else see this? Sweat kept breaking out across his forehead and he seemed to be fighting something; her heart was breaking, and goddesses-damn it, but she could feel the tears welling, her throat constricting-
'He needs a healer,' whispered Zelda, but she felt distant – disconnected.
"Where do you think we're going?" Midna snapped in response, suddenly livid. Link stared at her in mild surprise, but his heavy eyes seemed blurred, unseeing. It had been two days since he'd last slept, and she wasn't sure how much longer he could function like this. She bared her fangs, gnashing them together almost painfully. "Look at him. This is Zant; you and I both know it is. Something happened in the Arbiter's Grounds and I missed it and now-!"
'You sense… a trap-'
"Damn right, I sense a trap! What else am I supposed to think? Look at him, Zelda." Howling, Midna tore at her headdress, pivoting in midair to confront a startled Epona. "Can't you go any faster?" But she already knew the answer: No, because Link could barely support himself in the saddle as it was. Midna pressed against him, using her ponytail to gingerly sandwich him between her tiny body and the saddle horn, urging the horse into a reluctant canter.
Link's head lolled slightly, but he managed a small noise of disapproval as he slumped against Epona's neck, finally able to relax his grip on the reins.
But Midna ignored her. They were already almost to Kakariko, and if they really needed to see one of those spirits, there was a spring right outside Renado's house. Right now, she just wanted to see that damn gate into the village before sundown – then she could worry about the next step.
Quietly, helplessly: "Link, we're almost there. Just hang on."
He shook his head and mumbled something incoherent, which Midna also chose to ignore. Instead, she racked her memories for any hint of a problem, any sign of this apparent illness: were the spears poisoned? The swords? What about the moldorms in the sand? It couldn't have been an environmental poison, like a gas… she wasn't affected. But he did keep scratching at his arm, awkwardly itching something beneath his gauntlet-
Link didn't even resist as she tore it from his arm, shoving the sweat-stained fabric of his sleeve up past his elbow; there, clear as day, were clusters of angry, oozing insect bites. What was worse, the flesh around the bites was a terrible mottled blue-violet.
"Oh my goddesses. The mites. Those mites were poisonous."
He snuffled, trying to hum in reassurance despite his dry throat, but Midna felt the frustrated tears welling anyway. "We need to hurry. What if Renado doesn't have the antidote? Oh goddesses. I knew there was something- Link!"
For the first time in days, his eyes were bright – but wide, surprised as he struggled to reach for his sword. The first bird dive-bombed them, nearly knocking him from the saddle. The second one managed to sink its claws into Midna's shoulder, sending her tumbling sideways as she wrestled with it. Somewhere nearby, Epona was shrieking angrily. As her attacker relentlessly clawed at her face, she waited desperately for the shhiiinng of the Master Sword leaving its sheath, but it never came. With a blast of magic, Midna incinerated the bird in time to see Epona rocketing towards the long-awaited gate, her rider slipping gradually from the saddle-
Before she even processed what she was doing, Midna launched herself after them, tugging the horse to a halt and grasping the front of Link's tunic as he finally lost consciousness. Flaming arrows were burying themselves into the ground just ahead of Epona's hooves; with a thrill of terror, Midna realized they wouldn't make it. In an instant his body had gone slack and pitched sideways, dragging her to the ground despite her attempts to direct his fall. Link landed with a bodily thump and cacophonous clanging, a loud crack quickly following as his trapped ankle twisted in the stirrups. She could see the bokoblins hurdling the gate now, barreling towards them-
A sprinkling of pink sparks meant that his last fairy had done all she could for him, but his eyes didn't even twitch. Whatever out-of-place feeling had scared her earlier, it couldn't hold a candle to the terror she felt now. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't die here. Her voice came as a whisper, but the sky had already turned to sanguine dusk. "Link, please. Please don't leave me. Please. Oh goddesses-"
They were gone in a blur of twilit pieces.