AN: Oh, my, whatever. There is an update, and you should be proud of me. Or not proud of me, as I find this to be a particularly short update for how long this has been sitting in my computer files. I've randomly picked it up, then dropped it, then picked it up again. My college major takes a lot of time, and we are working on our senior film... so naturally, my time to spend writing is very short and sparse. Not to mention my fancies tend to switch in between quickly, and I have come up with many more interesting ideas for fan fictions that aren't based on tropes... or not as many, I suppose. You may see them here, you may not. Who knows. But this story is not 100% of my attention. So please bare that in mind when you send me PM's regarding this story or any reviews that might come my way. I know you all are highly invested, and I know what it's like to be on the other end, waiting for an update... but, it will come with time.
Without further ado, please enjoy.
Chapter 12: Uncovered
The early morning dawn began to creep over in the east, highlighting the mist that had settled into the small valley far south of the hustle and bustle of Hyrule Castletown. Though, quite the peaceful scene, given the morning bird calls and the last vestiges of cricket chirps, the young man atop his bulky mare couldn't help but feel rather uninspired from the view. He had seen it countless times with much better company than himself, and the ever dreaded feeling of 'dull' rocked at his mood.
Link let another yawn take him, stretching his jaw to its limits. Letting go of the reins, he stretched his back a little, allowing his body to at least get rid of some of the kinks hidden in his joints.
Being tired wasn't exactly the best way to begin a morning, but Link bore that small burden anyway. It was best that he was finally away from Castletown, and out of reach from the crowds and general noise. He could only take the city life for so long before aching to leave it for sunny hillsides and quiet grottos.
Leaving earlier that morning had been a good idea; Link knew that Auru, Shad, Ashei, and Telma would have objected to him leaving so soon when he had just got back from the short trip to Snow Peak, and leaving in the wee hours was the best option. He had nothing against the now ex-team of rebels, but now that the short trip was over, the older parts of him desired to head home.
The Ordonian couldn't help but wonder if the whole thing was just a waste of time. After reporting their minimal findings to the Princess, even Zelda couldn't determine what had caused such a strange phenomena.
"This will take some time for me to... study," she had said slowly. Her brow was downcast and her eyes brimmed with uncertainty, "Still, if it was really nothing... I must apologize. I didn't want to drag you into this to bring you away from your home. I had to be sure."
The explanation was as good as any, in Link's mind. Out of anyone in Hyrule, Zelda was probably the only person he truly trusted anymore after the whole Twilight ordeal. Something else in him also decided that he had best leave it at that since there really was nothing up there, as far as he was concerned.
What he didn't tell Zelda or the others, however, was that his hand was still burning. Why this was, the Ordonian wasn't sure - but the last thing he wanted to be involved in was yet another adventure. At this point, all he wanted was to just retire for a little more in his home in the forest, and plan his days from there. In his mind, he had decided that adventures and magic with mayhem were well behind him - and whatever cravings he had left was part of the wolf, and not of himself.
And in a sense, he felt closer to Midna - if it wasn't for her, he never would have started on any sort of adventures at all. She was technically the one who showed him the world... and was there the whole way. But for such a short time...
The thought was quickly pushed from his mind when another yawn hit the Hero. He was too tired to dwell on things such as the past. The past was only filled with painful memories - not to mention it was hard to concentrate with the harsh burning in his right hand.
"If this doesn't stop soon..." he growled to himself, reminding him of how he used to sound just after wolf transformations, "I'll ask for help... or I'll just cut you off."
The statement itself was a joke, but there was a part of him that subtly nodded in agreement, and he wasn't sure how to feel about it.
With that terrible thought in mind, Link passed the threshold into Faron Woods.
The early morning fog seemed thicker here than in the open field, the wild life and abundant plant growth covered by the wispy grey mask. The strange shop keeper who lived in the shack to Link's right didn't seem to be awake - far too early to be selling oil out here to any wandering caravans or lone riders. The Hero was subtly grateful. He didn't want to deal with him at the moment. He wasn't in any mood to really socialize.
He wondered if he would really ever want to socialize again.
Has she really affected me that much? Link wondered, his eyes downcast, and not really directing Epona to where they were headed. The mare, sensing her master's restlessness and dour mood kept walking toward the spring, and subsequently, the bridge that crossed over the giant chasm, separating Ordon from Hyrule proper. The quiet echo of Epona's hooves was the only sound that kept Link awake through the whole ride, and it wasn't long until they were already passing Ordona's spring.
The smell of home finally hit Link hard, an unseen weight lifting off of him. The time spent away from his modest house seemed like he had been gone for another year. The familiar scents of dank earth and wilderness was enough to settle Link's nerves, for the time being. For a long stretch of time, he wondered why he had been so eager to leave Ordon in the first place, before all the chaos had started in his life.
But... that was neither here nor there - the point was, he was home. That's what mattered. He prayed to all three Goddesses that the ex-rebels wouldn't come banging down his door anytime soon. He mildly thought, as he got off Epona and began to remove his effects, that the idea wasn't a preposterous one, given that he wasn't going anywhere. Link sighed it off; if Ashei and the others began to pry open his door, he'd deal with it when the time came. Right now was what mattered. And right now, he wanted to go inside and sleep. Sleep well into the afternoon if he could help it.
"Dear Goddesses..." Link muttered, annoyed, "Why aren't you calming down?"
He was talking to his right hand in quiet mumbles, the pain beginning to feel like an ache rather than a burning sensation. It ebbed in and out of intensity - Link was very aware that things happened when it did that, and he had been on his guard the entire way back from the mountains. Rest was rather hard to come by on the short trip back from Snow Peak, and he hid his weariness well from his companions - or at least he thought. Auru probably couldn't be fooled (as was the case with many things with him) but Ashei and Shad had been completely blind. Still... none of them could possibly know the reason for his restlessness.
However, Zelda probably had a good idea right from the start. Just from remembering her inquisitive eyes, Link couldn't help but involuntarily shiver. The Princess was far from frightening, of course, but she was far too intuitive for her own good. Link wasn't so sure he liked that, deep down. He liked his secrets right where they were, regardless of what they were, and the idea of someone somehow instantly knowing you was not a comforting one.
Whether that power was available to Zelda was fairly debatable.
The Hero sighed once more instead of continuing to dwell on any of that, and slung his things over his shoulder to carry it up to his house. The climb was slow and deliberate, and the action caused some restlessness to leave him. He was home, and that was that. He could take these ancient clothes off, probably put the sword back to where it belonged and be on with his merry (and somewhat lonely) life.
Perhaps... now was a good time to just step out and move on. The residence of Ordon were worried about him, he knew. He needed a good talk with Rusl and Uli... they always seemed to understand him best...
He got to the small landing, and pressed a lazy hand to the door handle... but the door wouldn't budge.
It was locked.
If there was anything that Link remembered best, it was that he never locked his door. This was Ordon, for Goddesses' sake. Ordon was hardly a den of unrest, especially if you knew everyone in the village by name, if not by face. Still... perhaps Ilia, Colin, or someone had noticed that he was gone and had locked his door for him. It wasn't an impossible notion... but Ordonians respected one's privacy. Link had basically requested it when he didn't want to interact with anyone. They wouldn't have gone and lock his door, let alone go near or in his house without permission.
Which begged the question of who would lock his door?
Link felt an instinctive sneer coming on, the wolf rearing its head behind the threatening gesture. Either someone had locked his door... or someone was in his house.
He had plenty of reason to believe the latter more.
Despite this minor setback, Link always held a key to his house. Instead of rummaging for it gruffly and muttering to himself, he slipped into his pouch quietly, finding the key without too much noise. Pulling it out, he carefully slipped it into the key hole, his phantom haunches rising in anticipation for attack.
You don't break into my house without consequences...
Before unlocking the door, Link put a careful ear up to the wood and listened in. There were voices steadily coming through, and it sounded like a heated conversation. He couldn't really make out if it was anyone familiar though. The door was too thick.
Still, it wasn't just someone in his house - it was multiple people.
That wasn't good. It was time to shove them out.
Link wasn't the sneaky sort. He took situations head on, and like goats, by the horns. If these people thought that breaking into his house was okay, he was going to make sure that they knew it wasn't alright and plant that thought into the very marrow of their bones.
He let his face set into a deep scowl, and kicked down his door with the force of a bucking war horse. The instant the opening was wide enough to step through, he unsheathed the Master Sword, a metallic ring echoing throughout his home; he pointed it at the first person he saw near the entrance, a blonde haired man who wore a skin tight uniform. Link didn't bother to register other details before the man turned around, hardly looking startled.
Link didn't feel intimidated in the slightest.
"I don't care who you are," Link growled, teeth set and barred. The old wolf was coming out more so than he realized, "But you're getting out of my house. Now."
The other man didn't even flinch, not even at the pointy end of Link's sword. His red irises just stared back at him, mouth covered up by a shawl, seemingly waiting. Not to mention, if he was perceiving this right, the red eyed man seemed pleased at the reaction.
"I think you will care in a minute or two, hero." The man said, voice as tranquil as a still pool.
The sword didn't budge, and the edge didn't leave Link's voice. The fact that this stranger knew his title was startling, but he pressed on. He wasn't in the mood to ask questions. "I'm sure I'll care after I boot you out of my house-"
"Do we have a right to be concerned?" questioned a small voice from behind the red eyed stranger. Link wanted to bend his head to see, but he did not dare take his eyes off the one at the other end of his weapon.
The other man made no move to look away either. "No, Warren. He shouldn't hurt you... he knows your kind."
"I don't suppose I could ask him for a pipe-"
"No. You will not ask him that."
Link's wolfish face calmed a bit, his brow raising a little in question. The voice from behind Sheik didn't seem normal... like it was fading in and out. An Echo of a normal voice... and strangely familiar. He was tempted to move and see who else was there himself, but he didn't have to. The other intruder made himself known by stepping out from behind the red eyed stranger.
His race was immediately recognizable; a Twili.
"Goddesses." Link said, just staring at the timid Twili, eyes growing wide in a realization that he hoped wasn't a dream or a lie.
There was a Twili... an actual Twili standing in his kitchen. His bloody kitchen! Even with the mirror broken!
"How is this possible?" Link breathed, body still poised but spirit more excited than he had ever been before. He could have howled to the moon, "The mirror's shattered... our world's aren't connected anymore...?"
"To those who cannot see." The stranger said. He was looking at Link's eyes, calculating now.
The Twili apparently named 'Warren' didn't seem any less worried that Link would somehow move past the red eyed stranger and go straight for the jugular. He was trying to remain calm, all things considered. With a trained hand, he reached out in a peaceful gesture. "Please... we were out of options for somewhere reasonable to stay. Plus, she wasn't exactly susceptible to other choices we might have had-"
"She?" Link said, eyes wide, "You tell me who you all are first, and then we can talk about the reasons you're in here."
He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Who was this 'she'?
Before any of them could speak up, a sound broke the air like bell chimes.
The unmistakable echoes of a childish laugh, heartening and demeaning at the same time. It was a laugh that Link could identify anywhere and any when. He looked up, his face stuck in an expression of disbelief. There, up in the rafters of his home, he saw her familiar face. The face he saw on the hill during Twilight... the face that shed a tear to crack the mirror. She sat there casually, legs dangling in the air, her posture perfectly impetuous beyond all reason. Even from the floor, Link could just feel the smile she was wearing.
Midna, the Twilight Princess, was in his home.
Her name left his lips in a whisper that was filled with too much; anger, sadness, happiness, confusion, shock. It was enough to make the hero drop his sword with a clatter.
He couldn't stop looking up at her, even when his right hand burned hot. Hot enough that his whole body felt numb.
Why... why is it doing that? What is it ...?
He couldn't even finish the thought before his own body betrayed him, knees buckling to the floor. Even then, he still couldn't look away from her; even as her face dropped the smile, he still thought she was beautiful, infuriating, and an illusion.
The last thing he felt before succumbing to unconsciousness was Midna's hand on his cheek, and her ethereal cloak surrounding him.
"How many naps does a human need to feel rested? I've lost count how often you've nodded off."
Link slowly blinked awake at the annoyed voice, eyes moving toward the glowing fire and the familiar sight of Epona resting in the grass nearby. Midna sat near the flames, holding a stick with a roasting fish and pouting in his general direction. Her yellow eyes looked unimpressed, yet charmed.
It took him a few moments to really come up with a coherent answer. He had just been so tired lately, "I... well, I'm starting to think I'm not going to feel rested in a while. I don't think I've gotten enough sleep since this whole thing started."
She hovered there, idly holding her stick while placing her chin in her other palm. "I think that's a lie. You're just a lazy boy."
"Think what you want, Midna. Think what you want."
The imp snorted, bringing her fish away from the fire and looking at it carefully. Apparently satisfied, she blew on it to take a bite. It had a satisfying crunch to it, and all Link could think about suddenly was how hungry he was. He found himself staring at Midna's meal with a twinge of jealousy, the wolf in him tempted to snag it away from her. Midna caught on quickly, however, and she clutched the fish in her teeth with a bit of a snarl.
"Hold your damn hackles, wolf boy." She said, eyes narrowed in annoyance, "There's some cooking for you too, geeze. Just give it a few minutes."
Link looked surprised, his mouth twisting up in a slight smile. "Midna, did you actually do something not selfish?"
"Can it, flea bag. I just knew you'd be hungry. Besides... we almost have all the fused shadows. You've done a good job, so... might as well give you rewards now and then."
"That's still very nice of you."
"Don't expect it."
Link rolled his eyes, picking himself up to move closer toward the fire. Sure enough, there was another fish sizzling over the flames. "Wouldn't dream of it."
He could feel Midna's eyes on him as he moved to retrieve his dinner. The feeling used to scare him, a young man who was afraid of his own shadow, but now... now it just seemed normal to have the Imp there, spying on whatever she found interesting. Link would never admit it to her, but it was nice to have an extra pair of eyes. Even if those eyes were directed at him.
He tested his fish with a tiny bite before Midna spoke up again.
"Your leg better?" She asked, her mouth still full with food, "You're going to be doing a lot of swimming, you know. Looots of swimming."
"I thought you out of anyone would know that when I changed back, my leg would be just fine. Either way, it feels pretty okay." Link said, digging into his dinner. It wasn't half bad - or he was just so used to this kind of food his taste buds didn't care. He looked back up at Midna, expecting a peeved look, but he was greeted with something else entirely.
She looked concerned about something. And whatever she was concerned about somehow involved him.
"Of course..." Link said after a moment, "You already knew my leg was fine, didn't you?"
Midna said nothing as she finished the last bits of her fish, eyes not leaving him. She seemed wary, if anything - like she was debating whether or not to poke a scorpion with her finger. Link wasn't certain he liked that look on her.
"You have a question, don't you?"
The imp threw what remained of her meal into the flames, her eyes then focusing on the intense light. She floated into the air, lounging while resting her head on a tiny fist.
"What did the Light spirit tell you? What did Lanayru have to say?" She finally said, her gaze no longer captivated by the fire. Her eyes rested on Link's, her stare almost as bright as a full moon.
The question was enough for Link to pause in his eating, the very mention of the Light Spirit sending his poor mind twisting in the wrong direction. It had only been a few days since they had freed the giant serpent from the Twilight, but the tale that Lanayru had weaved in his private pool remained like a burn from a cattle brand. In all honesty, he had expected the question sooner from Midna - she hadn't heard the "conversation" after all, and had remained inconspicuously silent about the whole affair. It confused the Ordonian greatly.
He raised a cool eyebrow, ice blue eyes watching his shadow with suspicion. "Why are you asking that now? Why not before?"
"After we left that grotto, you didn't look particularly... inclined for conversation." Midna replied, examining her fingers. "I figured Lanayru had given you quite the lecture... what I'm curious over is what it was all about. I mean really... you looked so close to puking your guts into the lake after it was all over. Was what he had to show you that harrowing?" Her mouth suddenly split, her grin like a scythe hovering over wheat. "I didn't take the Light Spirits to be cruel... but I guess your appearance changes things up, doesn't it?"
Link looked on with stony silence, his dinner now long forgotten. Her question stung harshly - and being with her this long, the Ordonian knew it wouldn't stop stinging until Midna's curiosity was fulfilled. In the end, she always got what she wanted... but after what Lanayru had shown him, had he expected anything else from her?
"Why do you want to know? You could care less on my wellbeing, we both know that. You don't care what happens to your little pawn. No one does." Link said bitterly, his face setting into a rigid glare that could petrify children.
Midna continued on, not phased. She wasn't a child after all, "I need to know if I can trust you one last time."
"Shouldn't I be asking that question?"
The Imp giggled. "Now you're getting smarter. But the question still stands. I want to know what you heard. What was so desperately important for you to know from Lanayru?"
Link snorted, folding his arms over his knees. The fire suddenly looked more interesting than Midna's horrible smile. He didn't want to tell her. He didn't want to make things more complicated than they already were. But Midna was something like a partner, despite her sometimes vicious nature. No matter the things Lanayru had shown him, it was his own duty that drove the words out of his mouth.
"He showed me your tribe... and what got you banished to somewhere outside the realms. To be honest, I didn't quite understand it all. It was... a lot to take in."
"Our history tends to be hard to understand. But I wouldn't have expected a Light Spirit to know that. From what I can tell, I don't think they understand mortals anymore than mortals understand them, eh?"
Link frowned further. "He told me more about what you were after. About what these Fused Shadows can do. He warned me about them. Tell me, Midna... when you get them all, what are you going to do?"
She looked at him sharply, her body floating to attention. It was then that Link remembered how much power that little frame contained - even though she only wore one piece of the fused shadow on her head like a crown, he was sure that even without it, there was something more there. Something deep and dark and old, the likes of which Link could only guess at. He couldn't stop looking into her, even as she crept through the air towards him.
She stopped a very short distance from his face, her red iris aglow with an emotion Link couldn't grasp. He couldn't help but feel naked.
"Link," Midna whispered, her tone like law, "Do you trust me?"
It was a cool hand that brought him back from his memory, eyes aching and limbs moving through tar. With a sigh, he managed to grab the fingers that held his face - who was next to him? Ilia? Uli? It was still hard to see. His initial reaction was to push them away, attempt to get up, and tell whoever was there that he was fine - it was just a freak accident - but a sniff of the air froze his thoughts.
Even with the wolf gone, Link still had better senses than most, particularly hearing and smell. He grew accustomed to the idea that everyone had their own indentifying scent. Of course, Midna had her own. It was hard to describe such an arbitrary thing, since she had a scent he couldn't portray with the Light World's vocabulary. The only thing he could really put to it was that it was otherwordly. Perhaps it was sweet, perhaps it was feminine, perhaps it was a verity of things... all Link knew or cared about was that it belonged to her and she was easy to identify with it.
The smell was very close. Close enough to taste, he realized.
"I don't believe it." He muttered, eyes adjusting to the light finally, a figure coming into focus, "No... you can't..."
The hand gently slid up, a finger pressing on his lips to silence his bleary statements. Her smell filled his nostrils, and he was tempted to think he really hadn't woken up yet. He was still dreaming or reliving some memory of her.
"We can't have you waking up in a panic, my little wolf. You might faint again, and that wouldn't be any fun, now would it?" Said a voice above him, echoing and melodic, with a slight tone of mischievousness and imperialistic tendency.
His eyes sharpened, one of his other hands grabbing hold of something that had been wrapped around him. He could see her sitting at the edge of his bed, her cloak draped over him like a starry night. Her dark lips were upturned in a calm smile, red and yellow eyes aglow with their secrets that Link could only guess at.
Despite Midna's finger being over his lips, Link spoke with as much shock a tired body would allow. "I'm not dreaming. I know I'm not. I can't be hallucinating. Please tell me I'm not."
She grinned despite the seriousness of the question. "I didn't take you for the... crazy and hysteric type. So I believe it's a safe bet that you aren't dreaming me up somehow."
"Are we alone?"
The question caught her off guard, but Midna didn't waste much time in answering it. "I told my companions to take a stroll in the deep woods for a while. They'll probably come back when night falls."
"Who were they?" He asked, the question instinctual. He couldn't shake the fact that it wasn't just Midna's scent in the room. Others lingered. It wasn't a comforting thought.
"Warren, one of my advisors. He was the Twili you saw. I doubt he could bring much harm to anyone. Sheik was the blonde haired man. I don't blame you if you don't like him. I wouldn't either. He's a secretive sort. Stop with the questions for a moment, you sound mad at me."
Link glared at her. It wasn't threatening, but it was enough to grab her attention. "Do you blame me?"
"The mirror, is it? You're mad I broke it."
"I could care less if you broke some random magical artifact. I'm mad that you didn't want to keep your promise. You promised me, Midna. And you up and left for what I thought would be forever. Why did you come back? And how?"
He was more awake than he originally thought. The edge in his voice returned, an edge that she wanted to avoid. He could see it in her, already trying to deflect the question to a different topic. It wasn't going to work this time.
"You can thank Sheik for finding a different way into the Light World. How he did it would involve a very boring lecture that I know you would hate. As for why I came, that... can wait for later. The point is I'm probably going to be here for quite some time... as far as I know, anyway. Sheik dragged me out here, so here I am."
Link frowned. "He smells like caves. I'm not excited about that."
Midna rolled her eyes, and then it was her turn to frown. "At the time, I was hard pressed to trust anyone else... so he brought me here. And by 'trust' I mean I was out of options. Once again we'll get into that later. What I would like to know is if you're making fainting a habit."
"I am not making-!" Link responded, sitting up out of anger. He bit his lower lip to hold back his annoyance, but his face was the only clue Midna needed. "No... I don't faint on a regular basis, your highness."
"Good to know... thank goodness you're not tall, because you are an absolute bastard to carry. Even without all your silly chainmail."
Link growled, looking underneath the cloak to find he was only in his light undershirt and leggings. His brow furrowed, mouth twisting into an embarrassed expression. "You carried me... you carried me?"
"What? It's not like I carried you over Death Mountain. You're just in your bed, after all... Goddesses, you must be starving if you're this irate."
Link's anger quickly turned into bewilderment, staring at her like she had sprouted wings and suddenly flown to Ordon. Even after spending so much time with her, she always managed to turn the tables in his head, his emotions along with it. He wasn't quite sure if he was fond of the idea, but perhaps it was just twisted self punishment. A frustrated growl was the only answer he could muster.
His frustrations where cut off, however, when Midna's arms wrapped around his shoulders, bringing him in close to the impetuous princess. The tresses of her hair that dangled in front of her tickled his cheek, the dominant sound of her heartbeat now reverberating in his ears. Were she to be standing, Link distinctly remembered his head reached the top of her rib cage. With her sitting down, it even things out by a head length.
Despite his earlier mood, Link found himself wrapping his arms around Midna's torso, eyes closing as he felt the bottom of her chin rest on his head. It was familiar, warm, and satisfying.
"I missed you." Link relented, a part of him still in denial that she was actually sitting there, cradling him against her.
"I missed you too, you stupid goat herder."
He smiled, content with not asking any more questions. For now, he was fine with things as they were; Midna and himself alone, letting time wash over them as a slow moving river over stone.
Somehow, she was here. That was what mattered.