((A/N: Yes, this is really the final chapter. For some reason, these last three seriously kicked my butt when I was writing them, and I don't know why. It felt so awkward with some of the dialogue and actions near the end of this one, and I hope I did it okay. I was just all "Blah, how do I do this right…?" And then family came over, and I wanted to finish this before even MORE family came… I really hope I didn't make the ending terrible. And yet again I changed the chapter title… XD It's kinda sad though… I only have two active commenters right now on this here on . Do a lot of people not read this after all the effort I put into it…?
Ten: Eh… when I use it later, I'll let you know :P And really? You've never finished a multi-chapter one? I have a few incompletes, but the ones I REALLY like I drive myself to finish.
Jenn: I just hope I made the scene realistic, though. I'm no expert on severe injuries and stuff, so I don't really know how a person would respond with such an injury. Heh… I hope I didn't disappoint with this one.))
Chapter 30: A Legend Ends
The golden sunset seemed a fitting setting as they stood in the mirror chamber of the Arbiter's Grounds. It wasn't too hot thanks to the setting sun, but the heat was a bit unsettling for Danielle, who had never been in the desert before. Her gaze drifted to the Mirror of Twilight, the object that linked the worlds of light and shadow together. Its shards had caused so much trouble around the land, trouble that Link had been forced to remedy during his journey of collecting those fragments. And now, it was about to be used for Midna to return to her own world, the Realm of Twilight.
Danielle stood between the princess and the hero, Midna near the mirror as she glanced back at them. "Well… I guess this is farewell, huh? Light and shadow can't mix, as we all know. But… never forget that there's another world bound to this one."
Princess Zelda closed her eyes, speaking in a soft tone loud enough for them to hear. "Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin… One cannot exist without the other." As she opened her eyes once more, she turned her gaze now to that strange mirror. "I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world… They left it because it was their design that we should meet. Yes… that is what I believe."
"Heh." Midna allowed a slight smile. "Zelda… your words are kind and your heart is true. If all in Hyrule are like you… then maybe you'll do all right." She glanced now at Danielle, the shortest out of all of them there. Still favoring her shoulder, the scarred flesh seen beneath her bloodstained clothing was an unusual blend of lightly colored scar tissue and dark flash that was the same color as Midna's. "And you, Danielle… your bravery was unmatched. You may not have slain monsters like Link, but you are also a hero. Heh, I was wrong to judge you when I first saw you… I'm impressed. Don't let anyone think less of you because you're young, Danielle. You did what others would consider an impossible task."
"Yeah, but…" Danielle lowered her head, heaving out a heavy sigh. She still felt guilty over her uncle's death, even though she hadn't revealed what had happened to any of them. "I wasn't always successful. Sometimes, I failed pretty bad. I mean, I couldn't stop Blaine from getting hurt so badly, and I needed help to even free them. I couldn't do it myself."
Midna laid a hand on the young Hylian's shoulder, Danielle looking up to see Midna pretty much towering over her right now. "We're not always completely successful in all we do. And there's nothing wrong with having a little help from friends. You should be proud of what you've managed to accomplish. Besides, you were able to beat the odds by freeing them, and you even cheated death twice. Don't beat yourself up, and walk with your head held high." Pulling her hand away, she turned and approached the platform of strange white light that the mirror created, pausing somewhat. "Well, the princess spoke truly: as long as that mirror's around, we could meet again…" The Twilight Princess stepped onto the platform, turning to look back at them with a sad smile on her face. A single glittering tear trickled down. "Link… I…" She paused, searching for the words to speak as she took the tear in hand and sent it flying towards the mirror. "See you later…"
A loud cracking sound came from the mirror, Danielle looking sideways in shock as a spider web of cracks appeared across the entire surface. "Ah… Midna!" she shouted, going to take a step forward, but her sister held her back. With one last glance towards them, Midna smiled sadly before the mirror finished activating. Her whole body dissolved slowly into notes of white light that drifted back into the portal. When the very last bit of light was gone, the mirror shattered completely into sparkling pieces.
Danielle lowered her head now, sorrow wrenching at her heart. Now Midna was gone forever with the only link between the two worlds severed. Zelda's hand resting upon her back made her look up, the princess also having a sad glint in her eyes. "Let's go home, Danielle."
As Link and Zelda turned to leave, Danielle crouched to pick up one of the many tiny shards of the mirror that had once sat there. Staring at the tiny fragment in her palm, she reflected on the wise princess's words. Light and shadow were two sides of the same coin, as she had stated. The two worlds would always exist together… but would they ever be connected again? Perhaps there was a chance… somewhere in the future.
Closing her hand around the shard, she slipped it into her pocket and followed after Link and her sister as they began their journey home.
As they entered into town, night had fallen, and so only a few people were out and about with torches on the stone walls lighting the main thoroughfares. Those who were outside were often glancing towards the now-empty skyline, probably wondering if their liege had survived the castle's destruction and speculating about just what happened to the castle.
She lifted her head as the familiar voice of Shad shouted her name, the scholar pushing past a few bystanders on the western thoroughfare who ended up giving him nasty looks. He was immensely relieved to see her safe and sound, coming to a stop just in front of them. "Ah, you… look quite different now. Might I ask what happened?"
"It's a long story to tell, one I don't have time for just yet… but let's just say Link saved my life."
Shad was about to turn to the green-clad hero when he noticed Princess Zelda there, his eyes widening behind his spectacles. "Princess Zelda! You're safe!" He bowed quickly in respect, his words causing a stir among the people who were there as they realized that their ruler was safe and within the town. The townspeople quickly began to gather around, drawing curious citizens from the central plaza to come and investigate. They were all asking questions about what happened in the castle and where the princess had been all this time.
"Hey now!" a gruff voice called out. "Give the princess some room to breathe!"
Rurik's bulky form pushed through the crowds as the people parted to allow Cale, Rurik, Blaine, and Ashei through. Blaine was walking with Ashei's help, the human warrior supporting him as he limped heavily along, and his white flannel shirt hid the bandages that covered his chest from sight. Upon reaching the princess, Cale and Rurik knelt while Blaine just bowed his head. "Your highness," Cale spoke, his head down. "It is a relief to see you here safely."
"Thank you, Cale. You all may rise." As the two uninjured knights rose, Danielle noticed the glances that they gave her. She didn't doubt that they had found out about Greil's death, guilt and sorrow once more tearing at her heart. She couldn't face them now, not after what she had done… Did they despise her for taking his life? "What is the state of the town?" Zelda questioned, either not noticing the looks or not asking what happened. "Was anyone injured?"
Cale nodded slightly, turning his gaze towards the empty skyline. "A few, but we've been tending to the wounded. Thankfully, none were injured too badly by the falling debris. Apparently most of the castle was destroyed completely in the initial explosion except for a bit of the first level…"
As he continued on, Danielle took a few steps back and slipped off into the southwestern alley, passing by a trio of girls who gawked at Link. The hero himself glanced towards her, their gazes meeting, but he didn't try to stop her. Apparently the regret in her eyes and the fact that Greil was nowhere in sight explained things to Link. Lowering her head now, Danielle made her way towards Telma's bar. But instead of entering, she merely remained in the small alcove where the door to the bar resided. Leaning back against the cool stone, she rested her head against the wall and thought back on the whole day. It had been a hectic one, full of turbulent events and a whirlwind of emotions. In one day, she had lost her uncle, stared into the face of an evil tyrant, been manipulated to fight against her friends and sister, was nearly killed, and had to say goodbye to a friend forever.
She didn't fight the sudden sting of tears in her eyes that the thought of her uncle brought on. Finally, she was able to grieve, something she barely had time to during this whole ordeal. Ganondorf's capture of her and his arrival had cut short the process, but now she just wanted to let the sorrow burst forth. It hurt too much to hold it in any longer, and she hadn't wanted to break down crying in front of her family and everyone in the town. "I… I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" she whispered as if Greil could possibly hear her. "I had… no other choice. I couldn't let you kill Ashei." Danielle closed her eyes, letting the tears fall and heaving out a sigh as Ganondorf's taunting words echoed in her mind. "But… even with it being to protect someone… am I really a murderer?"
"Now who gave you such a silly idea?" Shad's voice questioned from nearby, startling Danielle. He was walking silently down the steps and towards the alcove, his face barely visible under the soft moonlight. "A murderer? Preposterous!"
"Uh, Shad…" Danielle tried to quickly wipe away the tears that stained her face, hoping he couldn't really see them while she took a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry, I guess… I'm just really upset still. I hate myself for killing him and breaking the promise I made to my brothers."
"Understandable, and I suppose you also worry if they are upset at you for doing so?" Danielle hesitated, and this was enough to affirm Shad's theory. "I won't lie and say they weren't upset, but it was not at you. If anything, they regretted not doing something to help. They were glad that you at least managed to keep more people than just Greil from dying…" He approached now, book tucked under his arm as he leaned against the wall beside her. "But what you did does not make you a murderer. You did what you could, Danielle. That's all anyone could ask for."
"I know, I know…" Sighing once more, Danielle just shook her head. "I just… I don't know. I feel weird, like… I don't even know what I'm feeling. It's one whole jumbled mess inside of me. And I wonder… if maybe I'm not as sad as I'm supposed to be. I just mostly feel kind of numb inside…" She stared down at her right hand, recalling the sight of Greil's lifeblood staining her palm. "I killed him with my own hands… and yet I'm not even a sobbing mess on the floor. I'm afraid… that maybe I hated him for what he did to Ashei's family… and for trying to kill all of you."
Much to her surprise, Shad's warm hand took her own, fingers gently intertwining. Danielle stared dumbfounded at their hands for a second before looking up at him. "Perhaps you aren't ready to grieve just yet. We all deal with loss in our own ways. But I do not believe you hated him. You were just doing what you could to protect your friends, and for that I am infinitely grateful."
Danielle paused, taking in his words. Maybe he wasn't the best at motivational speaking sometimes, but he was sincere and caring. Closing her eyes now, she wondered if he was right, that maybe she just wasn't ready to fully grieve yet. She had shed a few tears, yes… but she had been so focused on what had went on with Ganondorf and Midna leaving that it had been pushed to the back of her mind. Maybe in a few days…
She felt him gently squeeze her hand encouragingly, and she found her thoughts wandering once more, this time to the eccentric scholar who stood beside her. The simple act he had performed had cut through the sorrow, bringing hope and comfort. Perhaps the goddesses weren't playing some cruel prank on her after all with everything that happened… for they had allowed her to have joy after heartbreak.
Someone was descending the steps now, interrupting her thoughts as Shad's hand quickly slipped from hers. The person who approached was none other than Princess Zelda accompanied by her three closest royal knights and Ashei. Link had apparently already left. There was a rather humored glint in her eyes, the faintest traces of a smirk on her face. Had she noticed the two of them as they had stood there with hands intertwined?
"How fortunate that I found you here," Zelda spoke, smiling faintly. "We decided to discuss our next steps in this small tavern that your brothers frequent. Shad, Danielle, would you care to join us?"
"W-We would be honored, milady!" Shad responded with a hasty bow, Danielle quickly following suit and trying to fight back the embarrassment that crept into her. As the princess passed by, Danielle straightened up and followed her in, Shad directly behind her.
The darkness had been vanquished, and although the grand Hyrule Castle had been destroyed, it would be rebuilt anew, a testament of the will of the people. Time heals all wounds, even those that seemed deepest.
Perhaps everything would turn out all right after all.
((Closing notes: This is really it, the end of the first of three fanfics in this saga I have planned. I'm not sure WHEN I'll be able to get the first chapter of the sequel up, as it's a bit slower writing it, but I hope to sometime in the near future. Thanks to all who were reading this and commenting ^^ It really made my day to know there were people deeply interested in this and willing to comment on just about every chapter.))