This is a very important chapter to me so I really appreciate all reviews, especially if you comment on something that affected you (if anything did). Please look for Chapter 25, it will be posted very soon. Thanks.
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I found myself once again in the Chamber of Sages, facing Nayru, and as before all of my desires were crystal clear to me. In the presence of the goddess of wisdom, all truths were revealed.
"So, Zelda, you have decided to return." The goddess's everywhere-voice was at once beautiful and horrible. "This pleases me."
"What became of Link?" I demanded.
Nayru smiled, plainly amused. "Mortals. You only think one way." She gestured to my right, and I looked. A few feet from me Link knelt, eyes closed, bound head to foot in chains. I understood the significance of his bindings- they represented his spirit's imprisonment within the Sacred Realm.
"He is soon to wake," Nayru said, "yet he will remember nothing except the events that happened before he opened the door to the Sacred Realm. It is your responsibility to guide him, just as he once guided you."
"I will do whatever is necessary to save Hyrule," I said with determination.
"Good. Then you surely will not mind accepting my gift."
I blinked. "Gift?"
"You know, Zelda, we goddesses rarely make mistakes," Nayru said thoughtfully. "When we do, the results can be catastrophic. We made a mistake the day Ganondorf took the Triforce of Power. We let him take it." Nayru smiled, and in that smile were tens of thousands of years of knowledge, the wisdom of the entire world. "Now we shall reconcile that mistake. For seven years we have been preparing two mortal vessels capable of keeping the remaining pieces of the Triforce safe. And now, at last, these vessels are of age."
"You mean Link and I," I said quietly.
"Indeed," the goddess replied. "You, Zelda, have been chosen to house the Triforce of Wisdom, while Link shall contain within him the Triforce of Courage."
"Is this why you alone have chosen to speak with me?" I asked.
Nayru smiled. "You are clever, Zelda of Hyrule. But there is so much you do not know. We the goddesses are all one. The Triforce is all one. And you and Link, and yes, even Ganondorf, shall all be one. It is all the same."
"I...don't understand," I said, confused.
"Of course not. Clever or not, you are only a mortal. But someday you will have all of the wisdom in the world." The goddess extended her hands to me, and when she spoke again it was in a great, bellowing voice that shook the heavens, like a thousand voices crying out in exaltation.
"I, Nayru, goddess of wisdom, goddess of the Triforce, sister to the Three-Who-Are-One, hereby declare the destiny of Zelda, Princess of Hyrule, Sage of Time, and Keeper of the Triforce of Wisdom! Children of the covenant of Hyrule, hear my Truth!"
Her words swirled around me, and before my unblinking eyes I saw a series of dazzling images, darting by so quickly that they were all a blur, yet each was crystal clear and burned into my memory. I saw each and every one of the infinite futures that could come to me and to Hyrule. I saw myself at the head of the sages, I the greatest of them all, armed with the wisdom of time and the patronage of Nayru. I saw Link in the arms of a golden woman, the great Farore, her courage carrying him beyond countless hardships and to the ultimate destiny that awaited him at the top of Ganondorf's tower. I saw Ganondorf himself surrounded by a red halo of power, shadowed by the terrible figure of Din, to whom he was forever bound.
It was all One. As the goddess-sisters were bound to each other, so were we, Ganondorf and Link and I. Together we created a balance of Courage and Wisdom and Power, of light and darkness and the unknown gray in between. We three would never die. Though our bodies might pass, our souls would endure on and on. For as long as there was Hyrule, we, Ganondorf and Link and I, would be there to balance it.
The light of Truth burned into my mind, never to be forgotten. And from that day forward, through all the years I lived, through all the hardships I faced, I never knew fear again.
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When it was over at last, I found myself lying on the floor in the Temple of Time, wearing the costume of a Sheikah I knew so well. The sound of sobbing reached my ears. I slowly sat up, feeling no pain or vertigo, only the ecstatic feeling of one dazzled by Truth. I would see Truth for quite a long time. And what I saw now, in the mirror that lay propped against the wall of the temple, was Sheik.
He was crying. Knees drawn to his chest, face hidden, he wept. I crawled to the mirror and touched the smooth surface of glass, wishing that for just once in my life I could touch Sheik himself. Hold him as a mother should.
"Why are you weeping?" I asked him.
His shoulders were wracked with sobs. "Mother," he cried. "Why did you forsake me?"
"It is destiny," I told him. "You were never meant to be born. I was wrong to create you." I fell silent for several minutes, listening to him cry. "I'm sorry," I added softly at last.
"Weep, shadows. Weep for our people," he said just as softly, rocking back and forth. "Forgive me, shadows. I could not do it. I could not hold on."
I understood it then. Shadow had conceived him within me for the sole purpose of recreating the Sheikah race in Hyrule. I had birthed him, given my body over to him. And he in his turn had given it back.
"Because you love me," I said, feeling my heart break for him.
"You are my mother," he said, and began to weep again in earnest. "Am I a good son?" he cried between pain-wracked sobs. "Am I your beloved child?"
I closed my eyes to hold back tears of my own. "Of course you are," I whispered. "Don't weep, my dear one."
"I think I will have to go away now," he said softly.
"It was never meant to be," I said, and a few burning tears slipped from my eyes to course down my cheeks.
"Will you forget me, Mother?"
"Never. I promise you that." I waited until he looked up at me, meeting my eyes with his scarlet ones, eyes I had created. "See the way I look now? Like a reflection of your own self? I'll keep this disguise. I need it. And I won't ever forget."
A ghost of a smile seemed to cross his face. "I'm glad of that, my sweet mother."
I smiled shakily at him. "Be at peace, my son."
He closed his eyes and faded slowly away, until I was sure that it was my own self reflected in the mirror. I let my hands rise to the linen around my head; I unbound my hair, let it fall upon my shoulders, and changed my eye-color back to its dark blue. I was myself once more.
I looked at my hands. Twin gashes sliced across them, still angry and red. It was going to take them a long time to heal, and I doubted the scars would ever fade completely.
It didn't matter. They were the markings of my own child. I would carry them with pride.
A wave of dizziness hit me suddenly, and I almost swooned where I stood. I was exhausted, mentally and physically, but there was one last thing I had to do before I slept. I teetered to the center of the temple's circular hall, nearly stumbling several times, and halted at Link's side.
I looked at him sadly. Here he slept so peacefully, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing. He wouldn't remember, but I would never forget.
"Never, Link," I whispered, kneeling at his side. "I was lost, but you helped me find myself again. I'll never forget what you've done for me."
For a moment I imagined he smiled at me, and perhaps he really did. It was enough to content me. I lay down at his side, pressing against his warmth, and fell into the sleep of a lifetime.
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Continued in Chapter 25.