Chapter 28

Darkness blotted out the sun. The wind howled its fury, whipping the stone façade of Hyrule Castle in rage. A knot of grey clouds swirled overhead and, just below, stood Sorrow Link in the eye of the storm, impassive as a block of glacial ice. Weaponless and alone, the Sorrow did not seem in the least bit perturbed.

The Hero of Time grit his teeth. His billowing coat was as dark as the storm clouds above. Buffeted this way and that, he only had one goal in mind: Princess Zelda.

Woe betide any who stand in my way.

The castle's wooden drawbridge shook as Link thundered across. The Sorrow watched, motionless, then made a sharp gesture with his hand. A ribbon of shadow coiled around him, shrouding Sorrow Link whole. When nothing remained except a shimmering inky cocoon, it collapsed in on itself, leaving behind only a cloud of sparkling black dust. The Sorrow had vanished.

Link had no time to even register the fact. With the wind still shrieking in his ears, he watched with widened eyes as the Sorrow's Gerudo-Hylian army spilled out of the castle. Snarling faces with bloodshot eyes bore down on the Hero. Weaponry and armour clinked in metallic harmony.

The tide of men swept the Hero away instantly, fists and blades cracking and slicing his skin. Panic swallowed his mind – he would drown here, bones shattered and flesh skewered. A memory, bright as the noonday sun, stung his inner eye. He recalled his last stand, remembered Skellow's mercenary army. He'd defeated them, yes, but only so by the briefest margin of victory. It had left his battered and blood-ridden body easy prey.

No!

Determination surged through his phantom veins like cold, liquid mercury. He wasn't going to fail the princess again. He simply wasn't.

Link turned inward, unhooking his mind from its familiar patterns, the unconscious habits of the living. Instantly his body shimmered, turning transparent as his spirit shone through. Swords and fists flew through him harmlessly. The Master Sword still held its weight, though. Grounding his heel into the drawbridge below, he set himself into a spin, the Master Sword curving with him, trailing light. An arc of severed heads flew from the fray. Link ploughed through the throng, completely untouchable, thrusting, stabbing, sending the soldiers back to their hated master.

A film of black goop hung from his blade after all was done. Link stood in the castle's empty inner hallway, a huge chamber lined with stained-glass windows and held firm by a row of intricately carved marble pillars. Governed by an unseen hand, the drawbridge behind him slowly made its trundling way upward, shutting out the wind and faint light. Link paid it no heed. He couldn't. The sound that sliced the air just then cut his heart in two.

Somewhere in the castle, Princess Zelda was screaming. Shrieks and sobs, begging and pleading, all bubbling over with terror and pain. Link felt his chest contract so much he thought it would burst. Tears, amazingly, came to his eyes.

"No," he breathed. "Please."

A heavy weight fell upon his soul.

Disappointment.

Everything in his life had been a miserable disappointment.

Would this end the same way, too? Just when he thought he'd found a home in her heart, would the princess be taken away from him as well?

The air in the castle suddenly turned crimson, bathing the walls in a blood-soaked hue. Stone chips shot up from the floor as huge cracks yawned open therein. Jets of steam plumed out of the new openings. Link looked around in bewildered panic. A sudden mournful howl reverberated all around him, animalistic in origin.

Silence followed for a heartbeat. Link found his eyes drawn to the wide cracks in the floor. Something dark stirred within. A low growl followed. Link's eyes narrowed, his grip on the Master Sword firm.

A pair of wolfos somersaulted out of the opening, saliva streaming from their respective maws. One landed just in front of the Hero. It threw back its head, howling, then slashed at Link's chest with a snarl.

The Hero of Time staggered back, pain exploding just above his breastbone, shock stinging his mind.

How…?

A deep throaty chuckle echoed around the chamber. The Sorrow spoke: "Do you not know, Storm Star? The only place I could harm you was here, in this place, this castle, that is wholly mine. Spirit or flesh, it does not matter – I can still make you hurt."

The words rumbled heavily in the air, framed in a chorus of Princess Zelda's screams. Link's heart lurched at the sound.

The two wolfos bared their teeth, sharp and yellow, as they rounded on the Hero. Their tongues hung out from under the crazed glow of their large eyes. Link brandished his sword, waving it wildly from side to side in warning. He'd fought these beasts before, long, long ago. What had Navi told him about their weakness? If only he'd listened when she'd said!

One wolfos took a step forward. Its snout twitched as it snorted. Link began to back away. Somehow, instinctively, he knew that was exactly what he had to do. He felt a muscle pinch in his cheek as he eyed the wolfos flexing his claws. Its fellow hung back, as though intrigued by the idea that the meat wanted to play. With another howl the first beast leapt at him, desperate to rake his flesh again.

Link whirled aside, letting the wolfos dive straight past. He watched the snarling creature pass – and then the realisation hit him. The tail! Navi said to hit the tail!

Link vaulted ahead, Master Sword outstretched, and pierced the beast straight in the tail. It howled one last time, then exploded in a cloud of purple smoke. Its fellow dived in wildly, swinging its claws. Link ducked, and set his blade sliding across the floor. He rolled under another attack, then sprung upright just behind the wolfos. He caught the Master Sword up from the ground and stabbed it home.

Link turned away from the dissipating violet smoke just in time to see the far wall begin to tremble. He swallowed, wiping his brow. Somehow the Sorrow was allowing him to suffer the physical discomforts of the living. He was tiring now, his muscles aching – just like he'd been when he'd battled through Skellow's horde. Fatigue weighed down upon his sweat-stinging eyes. Dark blood dripped from the wound in his chest, splattering onto the ground below.

A low moan ghosted through the scarlet-drenched chamber. Zelda's screams suddenly increased in pitch. Link, teeth bared, found himself instantly galvanised.

He watched, and waited. Chunks of masonry began to drizzle down from the shuddering wall ahead.

Link stood his ground, jaw set and sword at the ready. Another violent tremor rumbled, then the wall collapsed. His eye twitched as the dust settled. His lips formed a tight, thin line. Somehow he just wasn't surprised at the new figure that blocked his way.

Floating in the air before him with huge cape billowing hung the King of Thieves himself. Black Sorrow-light streamed from Ganondorf's eyes. Link still remained impassive. This ghost wasn't the real thing. It was merely the Sorrow's puppet.

A shockwave of magical energy erupted outward from the Gerudo in shimmering concentric circles of obsidian light. Link flew off his feet from the impact, hung in the air for an instant, then crashed face-first into the hard, stone ground.

Head spinning, the Hero of Time dragged himself to his feet. He spat a wad of blood from his mouth. A tooth quickly followed. Link raised his eyes to meet the puppet's.

He may not be the real thing, but he's just as dangerous.

Dark light began to swirl above the Gerudo's head. Link recognised the action instantly. Soon the light would form an orb and with it, Ganondorf would have a weapon. Link wasn't about to let it get that far.

With the King of Thieves set firmly in his sights, the Hero of Time ran. Jagged streams of lightning began to thread their way into the slowly forming sphere hovering above. Still running, Link drew back his sword arm, snarled, then hurled the Master Sword spinning into the air. It collided into the orb, splitting the magic apart in a shower of dark sparks.

Link somersaulted, caught the blade as it tumbled down, then landed in a crouch behind the Gerudo. The Hero's long black frock-coat streamed behind him as he leapt forward and drove the Blade of Evil's Bane into the back of the phantom Ganondorf's neck. The King of Thieves stiffened instantly. Then, slowly, his body began to sag, as though all the air was rushing out of his wound. He collapsed into a swirling cloud of pure darkness.

Still Link had no moment to pause. A low, grinding rumble echoed from behind him. He was exhausted now, his muscles stretched and sore, his skin slicked with grimy sweat. With weary deliberation he turned around.

Sorrow Link stood there, face blank. Above, hanging from the ceiling in a golden cage, was the screaming Princess Zelda.

Link's heart tightened. He took a step forward, eyes wide, and gazed up through the shimmering scarlet-dyed air.

Zelda stood frozen in the cage, her body rigid and stiff. Her eyes were wide and unfocused. She was clad in her familiar royal dress, pale pink and white, though the fabric was now streaked with blood. Muscles in her face spasmed and her mouth stretched opened in a rictus of pain as unseen torturers worked on her body. She hadn't even noticed Link. She probably had no awareness of anything other than the pain.

Link had seen enough. The Master Sword cut the air once before he drove it in toward the Sorrow. It never hit home. Sorrow Link neatly sidestepped the attack, then cracked the Hero's face with a fist. He followed through with a knee to Link's chest wound. The Hero of Time doubled over, Zelda's shrieks ringing in his ears.

"You know why you lose, don't you?" the Sorrow whispered. He began to rain blows down on Link's head. The Hero couldn't focus, couldn't understand why he was unable to lift his blade. "You lose because deep down you know the truth. The truth that, not only are you an outcast, but you fully deserve to be one, too."

The words burrowed down into Link's deepest soul, pulling aside all of his defences, reminding him suddenly of all the times people had shunned him because he hadn't ever been able to make himself understood, hadn't ever been able to make others see. Kicked, spat on – even when he'd done the right thing, people had taken it wrong.

An image of a girl formed in his mind. He recognised her. Mya. The girl he'd saved from the bullies while he'd worked as a Scrollcopier, trying to raise the money he had Vela had needed.

Mya. Remember the hate in Mya's eyes.

And despite that memory, there was more. The insults and the rejection wasn't the worst of it, no. What really galled him was his own self.

"Yes," said the Sorrow, splitting Link's cheek with another punch. The Master Sword clattered to the ground. Link was on his knees now. "Yes. How stupid you are. Stupid to have that pathetic thing called hope in your heart. Hope that things would turn out different. That the next time, people would accept you. Respect you. Love you. They never did, did they? It was all so…disappointing."

Link's face swelled with every punch to the face. He reeled – and it wasn't just from the physical blows. The Sorrow's words had a ring of truth to them. The pain of it shocked him. So much so that the next tears that came to his eyes were not for the princess – but for himself. He couldn't even hear Zelda's cries anymore.

"That's right." The Sorrow gave Link a shove. He toppled over easily. Kicks came next, cracking ribs and sending air flying from his lungs. "You don't need to worry about her anymore. Just think of yourself. You. Poor, misunderstood outcast."

Link's eyelids had ballooned so much that he could hardly see. He clawed forward with his arms, sliding across the floor as his breath wheezed out of his lips. The Sorrow brought a boot down on the back of his knee. Link's spine arched as he cried out in pain.

His eyes met Zelda's in the cage. She was gasping for breath, but somehow her face had a touch of colour to it - she'd managed to gain a little of herself again. Her eyes focused momentarily. Blood seeping into them made her blink. Her bruised, trembling lips opened.

"H-Help…me."

"Princess."

Link's left hand curled around something cold and metallic. He glanced down.

The Master Sword.

With a gargled yell, he swung up from the floor, setting the blade hurtling into a circular arc. Sorrow Link roared as the Master Sword cut through his face, sending black liquid spraying into the air. The creature snarled, then pounced, fist flying.

Link's arm flew up, blocking the punch. He flung his head forward, cracking the Sorrow's brow. Bone shattered and the Sorrow staggered back. An uppercut sent the Sorrow Link further back; a second sent him reeling. The dark creature stumbled for a moment, looked up, his face curling into a mask of pure hatred, then leapt at the Hero.

Link let the Master Sword drop as he caught the Sorrow by the wrists. His heart sped. Zelda's screaming began to undulate, warping from any semblance of anything human and morphing into a guttural, never-ending wail. Link, bloodied teeth bared yet again, pushed hard against the Sorrow, tightening his grip so much that he heard the other's wrists snap.

Sorrow Link howled in incomprehensible pain. The Hero of Time forced the creature to his knees. Link couldn't stop the tears flowing now. Zelda's screech had reached a single heart-rending note that went on and on and…

Link looked down. The Sorrow raised his head.

Link gazed into the eyes of the Sorrow, and saw the depths within. He couldn't let go, as though, somehow, he had plunged into the soul of darkness itself. The world faded from Link's awareness.

Desolation overwhelmed him. The Sorrow was so empty, so cold, hollow and so very, very hungry. It was searching, longing for something it couldn't quite name.

And, suddenly, Link saw himself. Not just in the physical form that the Sorrow had adopted, but in his own being. He saw himself, saw how he nursed old hurts, how his ambitions of nobility hadn't prevented him from seeing the bad in everything around him, how even the vision he'd seen of the universe in its reflected beauty hadn't really convinced him, despite his words, of how the world was still just disappointment, sadness and pain.

Link saw himself, and knew exactly what he had to do.

The Storm Star focused. He recalled everything that he'd ever known about love (Zelda's gentle touch), about friendship (Saria's smiling face), about goodness, righteousness and nobility (fighting the good fight, tempered by compassion, driven by selflessness – the Old Ways; the true path of the Vor Shahal).

The Storm Star shone, growing ever brighter and brighter. He recalled all of this in sharp, crystal clarity, and honed in on it all until nothing remained except those memories. Then he pushed with the entirety of his being, and poured it all into the emptiness that was the Sorrow.

Light flooded the world. All sound ceased. Time and space folded in on itself. A deep longing stood satisfied, a tempest finally calm and content. The Shadowspace dissolved, taking everyone and everything within it.

All that remained was light.

Princess Zelda awoke in a sea of green mist. It seemed to stretch away in all directions, enshrouding the whole world. Her eyes could see nothing else. She smiled. The mist curled delightful patterns for her, winding and weaving in front of her very eyes.

She felt like dancing. Seeing no reason why she shouldn't, she started skipping as she walked, a delightful little jaunt that made her heart sing. And why shouldn't it sing? There was no reason for it not to. She tried to probe her memories, but found little there. It mattered not. This is the way life always had been. This is the way it always would be.

Honey-cool bliss, serene and sweet, tingled her from tip to toe, satisfying her so completely that she thought she might float. After a moment, she realised she was floating, swimming through the emerald sky. This made her laugh. Laughing was good.

She wasn't the only one in the air. A tiny fairy woman floated past, wings a-blur, and waved cheerily. "Hey," the fairy said, grinning. "Listen!"

Zelda thought that she may have recognised the little winged woman. She wondered what she was supposed to listen to, but when the fairy simply hovered away without elaboration she dismissed it.

As Zelda flew she began to spy tall spires in the distance. She frowned, her brow creasing. There was something she couldn't quite grasp about the shapes up ahead, as though her mind had no frame of reference with which it could help her comprehend.

What she did understand was the man waiting there in the air, arms outstretched and grinning wildly. A memory resurfaced. Zelda grinned in return, love surging in her heart.

"Link!"

He laughed as she floated into his arms. They spun around and around and around, content to be in the other's presence. How long they stayed like that Zelda couldn't tell – maybe it was an hour; maybe a century, or maybe even more. It didn't matter, anyway.

The buildings she spied earlier – or so long ago – seemed to resolve into a word in her head: palaces. But they were unlike any palaces she'd ever seen before. She heard voices there: happy laughter, delightful to the ear. She recognised some of the voices.

Ben. Malon.

"Yes," said Link. "They made it. They made it on their own. Remember you said you saw Malon and Tayer disappear in a green light? That was them. Ben did it somehow. Appears he has – had - a knack for such things."

She didn't remember, but she was eager to see Malon and Ben again, and meet this Tayer. Sal, too, though she couldn't quite recall why that name was so familiar to her. A dam seemed to break in her mind and other names poured through: Impa. Saria. Nabooru.

"Who else is here?" she asked.

"Come and see," Link replied, his smiling voice gentle.

He made to move away, but she caught his hand. "Link," she said. "Is this the end?"

Link pulled her close to him, his touch tender. He pushed a lock of her hair from her brow. His eyes gazed into hers. Zelda's own eyes closed as he leaned in toward her. The kiss was just as sweet as everything else in this emerald and jade world.

"No," he replied, taking her by the hand and leading her away. "It's just the beginning."

And then, finally, the Hero of Time – the Storm Star – and the Chosen Princess of Hyrule died happily ever after.

Finis.

A/N: A big thank you to everyone who reviewed, especially my regular reviewers (seriously, it amazes me that you always find something new to say!).

Well, hmm…this story was a bit different, no? I like the fandom, the genre and the characters, but it's always a bit of a challenge to keep new stories fresh. I hope I succeeded.

I do have some ideas for another LoZ story (an AU one). If they do come to fruition, it'll probably start sometime in the New Year.

Oh, yes. It's good form to put in a disclaimer, isn't it? (Not that it'd ever stop the mighty corporations suing you out of house, home and hamster cage if they wanted to). Here goes:

"Everything belongs to me, except those parts that don't, such as the Legend of Zelda and the Super Mario Bros., which both belong to Nintendo; and also Final Fantasy VII which belongs to Square Enix."

(See? I could never have put that at the beginning without ruining everything).

Thanks again for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. :)

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