A/N: Happy 10 year anniversary of What Makes a Hero!
On this day 10 years ago, I uploaded the first chapter of What Makes a Hero. I was almost 20 years old with no idea what a difference clicking "upload" would make in my life. Now I'm almost 30, and I never stopped writing. You guys inspired me to keep going. What follows is not my canon, but it is my gift to you. It is not meant to alter anything you have already read, rather it is simply meant as an enjoyable read that will hopefully make you smile. I hope you like this piece as I really wanted to give you guys something special on this momentous day. More news about anniversary celebrations at the bottom once you've finished reading. Enjoy my anniversary gift to you :)
What Makes a Hero
By: Selphie Kinneas 175
Midna shattered the mirror.
To millions of miniscule pieces it flew and sparkled like diamonds amongst the sand. Rainbows coalesced off the ricocheted fragments and time stood still. The sound of bursting glass rang in their ears and echoed off the empty expanse behind them. The pedestal stood bare, and amongst the scattered particles of the Mirror of Twilight lay the hope of a people now leaderless.
Link looked at her, for she stood before him. In the light world she remained, and with the portal destroyed, would continue to forever. No voices sounded in the space they all occupied, as none could bring words to their lips. The ringing diminished to a distant pang in memory, and the final grains of color floated to the ground like the last leaves of autumn where they would remain.
Midna felt her heart cleave and her stomach turn in on itself. Her throat constricted and her breaths were short, but on the surface she was stone.
Link's jaw stuck ajar and he held his breath without realizing. Was he dreaming? Maybe he never really woke up from his visit with death. Maybe the cloaked man in black whisked him away and his mind manifested what it could to stay sane. His voice found him rather than the other way around.
He tried, but she raised a hand to silence him.
For a moment, the deafening quiet pervaded. Link stared at his companion, his friend, but she could not reciprocate. She looked away and choked down the tears, but she almost forgot about the princess' presence.
"Midna," Zelda's voice was a soft hum. Though she sounded endearing, Midna braced for criticism. It was the princess who had told her to break the mirror, to put her people first and cast aside her selfish notions; surely she planned to scold her and Midna had no interest in hearing it.
"Save your objection," Midna spoke strongly through her tears, "It can't be undone."
Zelda lowered her head in respect and placed a hand to her heart. She brought her gaze back to her friend with a sad smile.
"I meant only to say... that I understand your decision."
Midna bit her tongue in surprise. She made the motion to reply but found nothing suitable.
"I envy your ability to put yourself first," Zelda said with utmost sincerity, her own gloom threatening to swallow her. She knew she had a predetermined king awaiting her return to the castle, a man so benevolent on the outside but one that bubbled the bile in her stomach with his every word. She had no choice but to marry, as his kingdom would help to rebuild her own. As much as she wished her duty could belong to her heart, it belonged to her people.
"Then put yourself first, Zelda! Just for once..." Midna cried, "Don't allow others to dictate your life for you!"
Zelda approached her and stood before her with a smile. Midna stifled her sobs, but not well enough. Zelda grabbed Midna's hands and held them tight; the words that followed were the sweetest lullaby.
"Do not worry for me, my dear friend."
Midna saw such masked pain behind Zelda's eyes, and Zelda saw just the same in Midna's. A sadness lingered between the two princesses, one of mutual understanding, and of a bond that transcended their roles. They pulled one another in for a hug, held firmly enough that the other would not forget it, and released. Zelda smiled as she motioned to their hero.
"You have your own life to live now, with the one whom gives you that desire to live it. Worry not a moment over me. I am no longer needed here, so I will return to where I am."
Midna gave a nod in understanding. She summoned the twilight portal and prepared it to take the Hylian princess far enough from town to be inconspicuous.
Before Zelda could step through, one last smile graced her thin lips, "I did not think I would ever be able to say this to you, but... We will see each other again."
Midna smiled, but she said nothing.
The princess gave her hero only a short glance, but it was enough for him to feel her gratitude, her understanding, her melancholy. The portal whisked her away to where she would do her duty as the soon-to-be queen; she would put all others before herself for the rest of her days.
When the black particles dissipated and the whine of magic faded, only the hero and his companion were left. They stood, and for some grand amount of time that they could not count, no words were spoken. Link wanted to reach out to her, but his confusion weighed him down. Midna wanted to run into his arms, but the thought of her irreversible action suffocated her.
Link's heart pounded harder and harder as he stared at her. Her eyes were bloodshot, her face was soaked, her hands trembled something fierce. In her he saw everything. He saw the person who stood by his side, who believed in him, who saved him. He saw their every argument and he saw their every fit of laughter. He saw their venom-laced hatred and he saw their eagerly-professed love. When he looked at her, he saw his world.
And nothing remained to hold him back.
He ran to her and wrapped his arms around her. He held her close to him, and she reciprocated. Her body shivered with each sob as she buried her face in the crook of his neck. He closed his eyes and simply felt her. For the first time they truly had each other. No greater purpose counted down the seconds they had left. No grand monstrosity threatened their lives should they linger. There was no timer, no circumstance, no duty, no single thing that dared to take them away from the other. They had each other, and in this moment there was nothing else.
Midna's knees buckled and she put her weight onto him, but he was not presently strong enough to hold them both. They sank to the floor together, neither one wanting to let go. She sobbed and he just held her without words. He felt her truest heart and for the first time he could remember, he felt warm.
At last Midna's cries began to soften. She pulled back only far enough to see his face. He looked tired, but still he smiled at her; that stupid, stupid smile.
"It's done," Midna choked out, "I did that. I can't believe I did that."
"Do you regret it?"
In her frenzied panic his calm words soothed her. She froze and stared into his eyes. His eyes that somehow always held brightness, optimism, hope for a future free of pain. His bruised face was still so handsome, still made her heart stop, still made her feel things she never knew existed. In him she saw the person who carried her, who believed in her, who saved her. She saw their every shared smile and their every fit of rage. She saw their premature disdain and she saw their unconventional romance. When she looked at him, she saw her world.
And nothing remained to hold her back.
She placed her hands on his cheeks and pulled him in to her lips. Her heart burst into a thousand fluttering butterflies and her body erupted in tingles from her head to her toes. They fit perfectly together. She felt his heart just as powerful as her own, and his eager reciprocation validated her decision.
She pulled back with a smile, "No... I don't."
He smiled, too, "Then it was the right choice."
She beamed through the tears, "It's all over... Finally it feels like it's really over."
"It is," Link nodded, saying it for himself just as much as for her, "It's really over... You survived, I survived, we're here. It's done and we're both here."
"We're here," Midna repeated, "We're both here..."
Link smiled, but Midna's grin diminished.
"I can never go back..." she whispered.
Link frowned, the heavy realness setting back in, "As much as I selfishly want you with me... I would never have asked you to do that."
Midna sniffled, "I know. I... didn't plan to."
She looked at him with pain in her sunset eyes, like thousands of words lay buried beneath that fire.
"I knew I had to shatter the mirror..." her voice began to shake, "But I planned on stepping through first."
Link remained silent.
"I tried to be selfless, to put my people first. I was meant to be queen; it was what I should have done. But when it came time to do it..." she shook her head, "I couldn't."
"I don't know what I would've done if you left me with no means back to you," Link admitted, a twinge of hurt in his voice at the thought.
Midna looked at him with a new rim of water at her lashes, "I know, I couldn't stomach the idea. I couldn't leave you. I couldn't do it."
Her wordless stare lingered then for a long time, the only sound being that of the breeze whistling through the dunes behind them. Then her voice was that of a frightened child.
"Was it wrong of me?"
Link looked at her with empathy thick in his blue eyes. Those same blue eyes that saw right through her from the beginning, and he saw right through her now.
"Is it what you wanted?"
Midna furrowed her brow, "Well, yeah, but-"
"Then it wasn't wrong."
Midna huffed, "It's not that simple."
Midna dropped her arms in annoyance, "Because I was supposed to be their leader! I was supposed to make sure they were safe and cared for."
Link glanced away and then right back, "Is there no one who will step up? Maybe someone who actually wanted the duty and is sacrificing nothing to assume it?"
Midna thought on it a moment, "Yes... My family's advisor. He was there since I was little," she smiled at the memory, "He helped my parents make all the hard decisions. None of my blood relatives are left, but he's better fit for the throne than any of us."
"Then no harm was done," Link said with a crooked smile.
Midna stared at him then. Her eyes glazed over as her mind ran images in succession from memory. Her world, her people... there was no one left she cared for. They all died in the war or long before it.
Link saw that pain creeping to the surface, "What is it?"
She shook her head, "Nothing, I guess. The fact that there really was... nothing for me there."
Link grabbed her hands as she spoke.
"All my friends and family are gone. Turned to beasts or killed by Zant directly. If I had gone back... there would have been nothing awaiting me but loneliness..." her gaze dropped to their interlaced fingers, "Nothing but empty memories and regrets."
Link lifted her chin with his finger, "But that's not what happened. We're both here, remember? We both did what we had to do; it's all finally done. No more hero, no more princess – we finally get to live for ourselves."
Midna's eyes went wide as she mumbled, "We get to live for ourselves..."
She sounded unsure, as if speaking it aloud was asking the deities for permission.
Link chuckled, "Yeah."
Midna's straight lips began to curl up, "We actually get to live for ourselves..."
"I know," Link nodded, "For a while... I was convinced I'd never get to say that."
"I don't even know how to live for myself," she laughed, "What do we do?"
Link shrugged, "Whatever you want."
"No, uh-uh," Midna spat, shaking her head, "When's the last time you got to make a decision?"
Link paused to genuinely think on it before coming up short.
"I can't remember."
"Exactly," she scoffed, "So... Mr. Big-Important-Hero, tell me, I'm dying to know: what does the Hero of Twilight, Savior of Hyrule, Bearer of the Triforce of Courage-"
"Yeah, yeah, okay, enough of that," Link laughed with a wave of his hands, but Midna didn't stop for a second.
"-Wielder of the Blade of Evil's Bane, the Sacred Beast, the Hero Chosen By The Gods..." she at last paused to breathe, and she lingered on his eyes with a sweet smile as the playfulness dissolved into sincerity, "What does Link want to do?"
Link looked at her, but no words immediately came to him. What did he want to do? He gazed behind her at the stones of the keep that still sent shivers down his spine. He glanced at the broken mirror he had scoured the deepest reaches of the earth to retrieve. Behind his eyes he was never free of the monsters that guarded those fragments, nor the ones that came before. He was burdened with memories he was sure would never go away, scars that would never fade. His hand felt empty without his blade and his heart felt anxious without a set task. His brain felt at ease when his body ached and his knees did not quiver at the sight of gore. He had spent so long fighting, barely surviving, clamoring to keep his existence; he had always needed to do something – go here, retrieve this, save us, defeat evil! – but what did he want to do now that his task was done?
He gazed up at the peaceful sky and then back down at Midna's curious eyes, and his answer came to him.
Midna cocked a brow, "Nothing?"
Link shrugged, "Yeah, nothing."
She nodded as she began to understand. She liked the idea.
"Then let's do nothing."
Suddenly Midna dropped down to the floor. She lay on her back and rest her hands on her stomach. She sighed in relaxation as she stared up at the clouds.
"Come do nothing with me."
Link laughed. For the briefest moment he thought to object. His voice nearly spoke without him that they had no time to waste. Except, they did. They had all the time in the world to waste. And for now, waste it they would.
The rolling clouds changed from shapes of monsters to shapes of flowers. Wounds took ages to heal but they mended faster in the company of those who understood how deep they cut. They did as they pleased and avoided all else, for they no longer needed to entertain prophecies or goddesses. They never wandered too far as Link still had family he adored, but they came and went as they so chose, and all who cared for them understood it was a right they earned.
Their favorite past time was nothing. They often lay where the grass grew wild and the breeze flew freely and the sky was wide open. They chatted about mundane things and reminisced on the suffering that led them to their greatest joy. They comforted each other through the nightmares and provided the brightest light whenever things got dark. They eased each other's traumas and battled their demons. They lived out their days at their whim, no one else's. Time slowly erased the pain, and for the first time in their lives they felt at peace. With Epona they travelled far and wide, but they always came home.
After all, now it was always with them.
To live out your days with the one you love is the greatest gift.
A/N: Thank you for coming back to read this. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. I really wanted to show you guys what a happy ending for these two would look like. Let me know what you thought :)
To further celebrate 10 years of What Makes a Hero, here is what is in the works:
First: Merch! T-shirts and more are available on my Teespring right now. Check my profile for the link! Patrons get a discount. Second: I wanted to do a fully-fledged What Makes a Hero rewrite, but it would be too time-consuming right now. Instead, I am giving it the remaster treatment! Heavy editing and polishing will bring it closer to my current standard while still maintaining that WMaH feel. Third: This is the big one... I am starting a new story called The Hero's Companion that retells the events of What Makes a Hero from Midna's first-person point of view.
With working two jobs, the support of my patrons is what allows me to keep writing. All of the new stories I plan to give you guys would not be possible without them, nor would the frequent, continued updates to When Heroes Fall. I would not have the time to dedicate to writing the content you guys love to see without my patrons' support. If you can, consider supporting my Patron to keep me writing and to keep the content you love to read flowing! Both the What Makes a Hero Remaster and The Hero's Companion will be posted to my Patron. Link on my profile :)
In closing, all of this is my way of trying to say thank you to all of you. My inspiration and passion for writing only truly continued to grow and blossom because you guys nurtured it. Every single one of you helped me and gave me confidence in my ability. From the simple reviews like "I love this!" to the analytical essays deciphering my every literary decision, you guys pushed me to be better and to never stop. I am forever thankful to all of you for that, I truly hope you can feel that in my words. I love every single one of you - active reviewer and silent lurker alike - you all have shown me something that brings me great joy and fulfillment. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
A big thank you to the following for helping me get this special chapter out there!
Big Jake, Cynfall, Jacob Peachey, Lee Glerum, Moonfairy, Anonymouse, Ivalee, Lotus Eater, Owen Reilly, Ethan Carney Fesler, Yami No Nokutan, Brandan Saldaña, Chloe Rose, Emily Zuber, Gabby-J, Jessie, Mandelbrot, Rob Walters, Sabine, Silvia Delgado, Mel
You guys are amazing!