You may all thank J.A., now. If it wasn't for his incessant 'urging'...*cough*nagging*cough*... I wouldn't have finished this chapter until May. Graduate school sucks by the way...
So, as an apology for my tardy and 'infinitely-delayed' chapter, you get a double-length chapter! Trust me, it's worth the wait and read!
Chapter 26 – Fire from the Heavens
Like a comet foretelling the destruction to come, my single, flaming arrow descended along with the rain until it hit the barrels containing explosives. If the Bulblins were not aware of an attack, the plumes of ash, smoke, and fire from their former outposts were an obvious alert. However, I think the barrier collapsing was warning enough that there was at least one intruder.
Taking cover quickly on the far side of the roof edge, I watched the scene carefully. Bulblins were everywhere, looking for the one who destroyed their fortifications but not even thinking of looking upward. Over at the south entrance to the castle, small squads of Bulblins charged at someone only to be sent flying back by a whirl of steel with a resounding screech.
I checked to ensure no other archers were on the walls near him before I smashed through a nearby window and went into the castle hallway. While I wouldn't be able to face Ganondorf on my own, I could thin the ranks of Ganondorf's minions for the Hero. The first step to complete that was to find the main forces within the castle, and the best place to start would be the castle foyer, which was only a doorway away from where I had entered.
If I claimed that the main foyer to the castle was small, I would undoubtedly be a liar. In fact, if I were to compare the foyer of Avidus' castle to that of Hyrule Castle, it would be like comparing a cottage to a mansion. The foyer itself was as big as Avidus' great hall and I didn't even want to start comparing the rest. Gold chandeliers hung from the high, arched ceiling, spreading a golden light through the white and gold colored room below with the few lit candles on their ornate branches. The floor was tiled with dark and light marble, giving the effect that the darker ones were made of gold. Torches revealed balconies of varied heights, supported by Doric flute columns, above the foyer floor with doors leading to the hallways behind the meticulously carved and decorated walls, seemingly made of the finest golden marble.
The whole atmosphere of the room reeked of lavish wastes of money common among egotistical nobles. Even the small steps leading to a raised platform, where the herald would announce proclamations or call out to a noble to lead them through the large doors at the opposite end of the room and up the long, winding path up at least ten flights of stairs to the throne room, were extravagantly carved. Five empty suits of armor stood like ghostly sentries around the room to give an appearance that the castle still held life when the air was musty and still, except for the small puffs of dust stirred by my boots along the floor of the balcony I had come to after my trip through the window and down a hall.
After a brief scan of the room for enemies, I deactivated the spell concealing my Sheikah eyes and scanned the room below again. Over the main door and the two side doors on either side of the room, both leading to auxiliary hallways where the kitchens or the quarters for visiting lesser nobles were located, were red magical barriers. The runes on the barriers were foreign to me, but it seemed the intent of the spells were to allow no one to pass unless a certain requirement had been met.
As I pondered over what the requirement could be, I slid down a wall (using Arachnae to control my descent) and alighted on the floor. After pausing to make sure I hadn't sprung a trap, I approached the main door, an arrow on my bowstring. It wasn't until I was a pace away from the main door that I heard it; the sound of metal shuddering and shifting into motion. Whirling around, I was met with the five suits of armor along the sides of the room coming to life, glowing red eyes appearing behind the eye sockets of their ornate helmets.
Darknuts were said to be the spirits of knights coming back to haunt the living once again when the King of Evil returned. Their armor was incredibly thick, such that no normal weapon could do anything but bounce off it. Only master swordsmen had ever faced one and lived, but here I was facing five. However, through use of my eyes, I saw seals drawn inside the armor, animating the suits.
"Thanks for appearing," I said, smiling as I glared at the five enemies moving to encircle me. "It saves me the trouble of trying to find you. Now, let me show you why knights should always fear archers…"
A normal archer would be running to out the door and back to the relative safety of Castle Town or atop the walls to try and pick off some of the enemy forces which were no doubt gaining steadily closer to Hyrule Castle. But as whoever reads this may know already, I was not a normal archer.
Magic flowed along the arrow on my bowstring, as I spoke the words to a spell that doomed the Darknuts before me.
Pass through flesh
Pierce through bone
Break through the void
And make death known
The shadows in the room lengthened as I hesitated, wincing from pain, before my arrow shot through the air, shadows swirling around it as the attached Shadowlance spell took physical form.
The reason a normal archer would have a tough time is because the magical seal animating the Darknuts was located on the back inside part of their chestplate, which, unless the archer made it a point to carry the heavy, expensive, and short-ranged armor-piercing arrows, was nearly impossible to deactivate by hitting the seal. However, the Shadowlance spell would allow me to bypass this deficiency, since the arrow itself would pierce the target through any armor even if they were out of the physical plane (the magical shadows then taking effect).
With two Shadowlance arrows, two Darknuts fell, and the remaining three raised their shields and slowly approached, their maces held in the air. I aimed another Shadowlance arrow at the closer of the three Darknuts and loosed. The Darknut barely managed to dodge it and instead of piercing its seal, it got lodged into its shoulder guard.
By this point in the battle, the Darknuts were getting too close for comfort and my advantage of range would soon be lost. Since the one Darknut seemed to get the timing on my arrows, I grabbed two from my quiver, placed a Shadowlance spell on both of them, and fired the two in quick succession. It was a risky gamble using my last stores of magical energy, but the Darknut was too slow to dodge the second of my two arrows and joined its brethren in a heap on the floor.
The two remaining Darknuts stopped and in a burst of energy ejected their heavy outer armor revealing their second set of armor, which was a combination of plate and steel. The heavy iron or steel pieces of armor clattered to the floor, sending up an echoing din of non-harmonic tones. As one, the Darknuts jumped back and tossed aside their shields.
My heart racing, I grasped at a sudden idea and I knelt down to grasp the dagger I had stored in my boot before dashing along the wall, away from the Darknuts. Thanking Hylia and the three goddesses for whatever had caused the Darknuts to pause for more than a few seconds, I focused a small spark of the miniscule amount of my remaining magic into the dagger.
"Icefang… To my aid!"
In a whirl of snow and ice, Icefang appeared with a haunting howl. The Darknuts hesitated for a mere second before throwing their maces at the two of us. Icefang growled, jumping off to the side to dodge one of the maces before lowering himself into a crouch while still facing the enemies. "Shadowed One, are these suits of hard stone your prey?"
No, but they guard my prey.
"Ah… I see. What will you have me do then? Shall I go for their throats?"
I need you to distract them while I prepare my spells.
With a howl, Icefang sprang at the nearest Darknut. The Darknut swung down to hit Icefang, but the Wolfos landed paws first on the machination's chest plate and launched himself out of the Darknut's reach. A Shadowlance spell would have ended that Darknut before it could make a counterattack, but the other Darknut seized this chance to rapidly cross the room and slash at me with a small one-handed sword.
I jumped backwards, away from the Darknut's slash, and hit my shoulders into two walls. I had backed myself into the corner of the room. I reached behind me, using Arachnae to try and grip the wall in preparation to climb it, but my hand slipped off it. I could feel the magic lining the walls, a slippery barrier cast over them to stop would-be climbers.
The Darknut lunged and I contorted myself out of the way by shoving my body towards one of the two walls. As the Darknut pulled back its sword for another strike, I grabbed a Deku nut, forced what little remained of my magic into it and flicked it at the Darknut's helmet. As if it had been frozen, the Darknut stopped all motion, stunned. I grabbed a green potion from my side pouch and drank it as fast as I could manage, watching the stunned Darknut slowly work its way back into motion.
I finished the potion just as the Darknut shook off the Deku nut's effects and tossed the bottle to the side before reaching into my quiver for an arrow. Icefang came at the perfect moment before the Darknut began another strike and rammed himself into the back of the Darknut's legs, sending it falling backwards over him and towards the floor.
As the Darknut fell, I pulled myself up onto the Darknut's shoulder guard and launched myself up and over it before it fell to the ground. An arrow already on my bowstring, I cast Shadowlance on it and fired at the Darknut Icefang had been distracting. That Darknut fell, defeated to the ground, as I rolled from my jump and whirled around to fire yet another arrow at the fallen Darknut in the corner, ending the battle.
After collecting my bottle and arrows and stowing them in their respective places, both Icefang and I headed towards the doors leading deeper into the castle. Another arrow on my bow, I opened one door and let Icefang slip through before following him. Five Lizalfos and ten Bulblins waited for us at the other end of the narrow hallway.
"I always wanted new challenges," I thought to myself. "Now I wish I could've just settled for a boring life…"
(The gorge leading from Lake Hylia to East Hyrule Field, approximately one and a quarter hours before the arrival of the Gerudo-Bulblin invasion forces, as reported to me by Roxa at a later date)
It was like trying to stop the wind from blowing, nothing would stop the advance of the enemy Gerudo and Bulblin forces. For every hundred we managed to down with traps, bombs, and spells, there was always another thousand ready to take their place. Squad Leader Ko tried putting a brave face for us, the young trainees, but I could tell the situation was hopeless.
We had arrived too late to blow up the Great Hylia Bridge, which had been my suggestion to force the army to take the alternate route to South Hyrule Field with multiple natural choke points along the route. The Gerudo-Bulblin army had sent an advance party to scout out the bridge and would alert the enemy if they suspected that it was booby-trapped. So Squad Leader Ko ordered us to set up traps in the fields north of the bridge and into the canyons leading to East Hyrule Field.
We only had one chance. It was when they reached the entrance of the gorge, where most of our traps were laid, that the best opportunity to stop the forces would appear. We had to succeed to buy Impa Shea and the Hero more time.
While everyone was preparing for the next phase of traps – Adin having just arrived with another load of bombs from the Sheikah storehouse in the nearby canyons - I watched the expanse of army to find their leaders as Hanso taught me. I could feel myself slipping back into a state of mind my grandmother had hoped I had forgotten or forcibly kept at bay, yet I felt as if I had no choice. If the only way for the Sheikah and everyone else in Hyrule to survive was for me to resort to my assassin training, then I would do so without hesitation.
As was and is typical of Bulblins, their commander was in the middle of the large army, protected on four sides by mounted Bullbos archers. The Gerudo commander was harder to find, but she was located near the back of the forces, surrounded by a contingent of glaive-wielding Gerudo warriors. Both were in strategically strong positions, such that one commander would still be able to lead if the other fell in battle. The set-up was not a favorable one, but with the element of surprise and their forces in disarray…
There is a saying among the Sheikah: 'Strike when the enemy is at their weakest, and if there is no weakness you can find through observing your opponent, then make one.' So when the first bomb traps exploded at the entrance, I made my move to strike at the weakness I found in order to create another one.
The whole army was too distracted to detect me as I dashed through the crowd underneath the Shroud of Shadows. I didn't need to get too close to my target, I just needed a clear shot, and when the Bulblin commander's Bullblos reared, I gained that chance. The Bulbin commander fell from the saddle, a senbon (poisoned throwing needle) in the side of its neck.
Panic and pandemonium reigned supreme amidst the ranks of the remaining Bulblins with the passing of their leader. I was able to slip through their ranks and hide behind a now-motionless cart, but my attack had not created the effect I desired among the Gerudo, who were more alert than panicked. Alert guards meant that the Shroud would be useless unless I could get all of them distracted. That's when I spotted it.
Barrels of explosive Chu jelly.
They were sitting on a cart about ten rows ahead of the Gerudo forces and within easy distance of a throwing needle. Magic had never been my forte, but I was able to use the simple spells. I called upon one of those abilities now, creating a small coating of fire along the length of a senbon. Hiding the flames with the standard trainee half-cloak, I waited until the few guards in front of the commander were conversing with their leader and amongst themselves before I made my move.
Just like with the earlier bomb traps, the chu jelly explosion distracted all those around it, causing the already terrified Bulblins to scatter to the four winds. However, the Gerudo didn't even blink. Why didn't they react?
"Roxa! Get out of there!" Squad Leader Ko shouted to me through a Telepathy spell.
It wasn't until I saw the flash of a glaive swinging down at me that I knew the answer. They weren't surprised because they already knew I was there. I threw a Deku nut into the ground and ran for all I was worth through the chaos, to the gorge wall, and up the face using Arachnae. Halfway up the wall face, a nearly blinding pain shot through my left arm, halting my progress as I nearly slipped off the rocks.
Bombs flew down into the ranks of the Bulblins and Gerudo from atop the canyon walls, distracting the enemy long enough so I could get up the rest of the cliff without becoming a pincushion. No sooner than I got up the cliff, Ko ordered all of us to fall back to the final defensive lines created by Vizen, giving me no time to allow the pain of the arrow to register completely in my mind.
It was when we reached the exit of the canyon that Ko had us hide among the trees at the top of the ridge and he turned pointedly at me. "Why in the all the Dark Realms would you run off like that? And without backup? And… Dark One's fang! You've been shot! Hugh, Loka, see to her!
Both the two male trainees began tending to the arrow sticking out of my left shoulder while Ko sternly looked down at me. "Explain yourself."
Wincing as I noticed Hugh gingerly pulled the arrow out of my left shoulder, I responded as best as I could. "I thought that if I took out the leaders… It would buy us a bit more time as they tried to regroup."
"A sound plan, except it's not the one we all agreed on! You could have been killed! This is a team mission, not a solo one! You need to follow my orders and work with the rest of us!"
I didn't respond, not only because I had nothing to say, but because Hugh and Loka had started to clean the wound after getting the arrow out. It was a struggle to hold back a scream as they poured red Chu jelly into the open wounds to prevent infection from setting in, though a few tears managed to break through my emotionless mask.
Ko sighed, most likely annoyed and wondering what to do with me, as he turned to the rest of the trainees. "Alright, everyone, as soon as Roxa's been patched up, we'll continue with the plan. Adin, set up a few bombs out in the field while we use whatever is left to harass the army. Once we're out of supplies we head back to the Hideout. Now move!"
(Inner Hyrule Castle, approximately 45 minutes before the invasion forces arrive)
I was exhausted.
I had already used up my magical stores once again to clear out the foes along our path, and had drained another green potion, leaving only one left in my side pouch. After clearing out the pests in the main stairway, Icefang stopped me from continuing up the stairway and nudged me in the direction to the more residential wings of the castle.
What are you doing? The quickest way to the throne room is up this way!
"I see the spirits of those who guarded this house directing us to go in the other direction."
And you can see them how? I asked as I scanned the area with my Sheikah eyes.
"Because they left this world with unfinished business or sense the presence of an avenger, they wander these halls to guide the living into avoiding their fate."
I decided to take Icefang's word on it, since I couldn't seem to see them.
It took a long time passing through the twists and turns of the corridors, following Icefang as he followed the path the soldier's spirits led us on. Eventually, we ended up in Princess Zelda's old room.
Icefang was nosing around the dead embers of the fire while I searched the bed and desk. I don't know what I was looking for, but I knew there was something I needed to find here. The only reason those dead spirits would lead us here was if there was something within the room, magical or substantial, that I was supposed to obtain or acquire.
I slammed the pillow on the bed in frustration. The room was exactly how it was the last time I had come here; nothing had changed. I sighed and sat on the bed, contemplating. I couldn't waste time here if there was nothing. The Hero needed help to defeat Ganondorf.
I looked around to see who could have spoken the words and noticed the magic within the room looked odd in the corner closest to the window. Focusing hard with my eyes, I saw the outline of a fairy.
"Little fairy," I said, while moving closer to it. "What do you mean when you say 'the window'?"
The fairy turned pink as it giggled and fluttered onto my shoulder, pointing at the center of the window. "What you're looking for. It's on the window! The sad lady in the cloak was working on it for a while before she disappeared."
I nodded and reached in my side pouch for one of the empty bottles I brought along. "Would you like to ride along with me for a little bit? I might need your help later."
Another giggle that sounded like bell chimes graced my ears before the fairy pushed itself off my shoulder and onto the rim of the open bottle. "Sounds like fun, Fairy friend! Will you take me to the big place at the top of the castle? There's a lot of magical energy there! I tried to get in, but the big door wouldn't let me through!"
I couldn't help but chuckle a little bit as I responded. "Well, I'll get you though. Hurry and get in, if you're coming."
The fairy tilted its head mischievously then slid into the bottle and settle back with its hands behind its head. I placed the jar back into my bag and then approached the window, focusing hard on the center.
The fairy was right. Glowing blue in the center of the window were two runes, visible only to those visually sensitive to magic. "It reads: 'I shall open the way'… What way were you trying to open, Zelda?"
Cautiously, I placed a hand on the runes and followed the trails of magic. It was hard, not only because there were so many paths the magic took, but within the rune itself there was not very much magic to follow. Runes are primarily used when the caster wants to use as little magic as possible to set up a spell and achieve sometimes complex results in an instant, if the runes are written and prepared correctly. Understanding what a particular rune set can do relies on the observer's knowledge of the caster and also the primary paths the magic will take, once magic is thrust into the runes.
"I shall open the way…"
An idea suddenly appeared as I pondered the meaning of the runes. If I was correct, then Zelda was truly one of the wisest and most clever people I'd ever met. Facing the runes and placing my hand on them once again, I thrust a portion of my power into the runes and watched the 'magic' happen.
Every door, window, and entryway that was blocked by Ganondorf's or Zant's barrier spells had their respective barriers shattered and all the traps hidden on the outer walls leading to the throne room were disabled. If the doors were locked, then the key would still be necessary, but no longer would the barriers restrict the movement through the castle. Yes, if it had been used earlier it might have saved the Hero some trouble, but at least now the Resistance could move about the castle to weed out any stragglers from Ganondorf's forces.
The dedication, courage, and patience Zelda had to risk creating a rune set that did all of this… Needless to say I was impressed. Before I had thought she was just a spoiled princess that had given herself into despair, but now I saw that she hadn't been complacent while she was trapped here.
Icefang, go help the Resistance for a little while and then head back to the Hideout to update Vizen on the state of the battle. The tunnels underneath the Castle should take you straight to the Hideout if you keep to the main ones.
"And what will you do while I fight and report?"
I'm going to finish this fight with the Hero.
"Good luck then, Shadowed One."
Icefang bounded down the stairway and back into the interior of Hyrule Castle's keep while I went through the window in the stairwell and made my way along the rooftops and walls up to the throne room. According to Vizen's map of Hyrule Castle, there were a few windows behind the dais that I could use to sneak into the room, hopefully without alerting Ganondorf to my presence.
A few Kargaroks swooped down to attack me, but a few well-placed arrows felled the beasts. Once their brethren had fallen, more Kargaroks noticed me and began circling around, drawing closer to me on the dark zephyrs flowing in the air around the castle. I ignored the pests and proceeded to activate Arachnae, in order to climb up the side of the castle keep.
I placed my hand on the wall and stopped. I looked out away from the castle toward East Hyrule Field. On the southeastern horizon, I could faintly make out the smoke doubtlessly coming from the explosions caused by the traps being laid by Ko and the others. I wondered if they were ok. I wondered if he was ok.
At this point, part of me sent out a simple telepathic message. "Ko, can you hear me?"
Another part of me compelled me to speak aloud. "Of course he can't hear me. There's no way my Telepathy spell could reach across miles of terrain without a conduit."
I looked back up at the top of the keep. Sage Impa had told me I wouldn't be able to defeat Ganondorf, only aid the Hero in doing so. I had already cleared out a large number of enemies and brought down all the magical barriers and traps in the castle; the latter admittedly with Zelda's help. In many ways, I had already done my job here. If I wanted to, I could just go and help Ko…
I removed my hand from the wall and shook my head, facing away from East Hyrule Field. "Agh! What am I thinking?! Why am I making excuses?! I can't leave until I've done everything I can do!"
I turned back towards Hyrule Field with a worried expression. "But haven't I done everything I can do?"
Suddenly, I felt a change in the air. Ganondorf's power output had just shoot the roof. The battle had started.
The overwhelming hunger for complete domination over his foes drove Ganondorf into a rage when his dark magic fueled by the Triforce of Power hammered against Link's Triforce of Courage only to result in a stalemate of magical power. Ganondorf's dark and oppressive magic filled the air, sending a shiver down my spine. And I thought his phantom was bad. The best way I can describe the feeling is to say it felt like the air had become thicker, like the air at the bottom of a valley as opposed to the thin air at the top of a mountain. But because Ganondorf was evil, it didn't feel like the air was richer but rather simply filled with a strong, offensive odor, like smoke or sewer water.
I leaned up against the wall of the keep and slowly slid down to a sitting position. For some odd reason, I started laughing. Here I was, potentially on the last day of my life, on the threshold of the battle for the fate of all Hyrule, paralyzed from within by an ongoing debate between my multiple personalities. I knew that my indecision was the result of Shea and Diane fighting in my head for dominance.
"Who am I?"
On the one hand, I was Shea. I now remembered my mother, growing up in the old Sheikah village, my occasional run-ins with Ko, even the few times I saw my father. On the other hand, I was Diane, the parentless and rugged bodyguard with no past. Raised by who I thought was a passing stranger that took pity on me, I was free spirited, though sometimes lonely. I was a simple person who never wanted anything to do with magic and certainly never wanted things to spin out of control like this.
Shea and Diane each wanted to take different courses of action and the only thing my two halves seemed to agree on was that I would be useless to whoever I decided to aid if I wasn't completely committed and focused. Which meant I needed to make a decision. Very soon.
I could go help the others and almost certainly be of help, but that was assuming that I would make it to them before the battle ended. Then again, given the strength of Ganondorf's magic and the Sage's words, chances are I wouldn't be of any help to Link. Or was I just being a coward and making an excuse to give up without even trying? No side seemed any less reasonable than the other and both courses of action could be interpreted as means of fulfilling my promise to Zelda and my duty as Impa.
My mind racing, I desperately searched my brain for anything to help me make a firm decision. Something that would help me decide once and for all whether I was Shea or Diane. My search stopped at the memory of two bright red eyes and a handsome face marred by a long scar.
Before I had regained my memories, I had already begun to grow fond of Ko, and after their return, those feelings only grew more so. No matter who I was, it seemed that I was in love with Ko. I smirked and sighed, hoping that I would not have come to that conclusion but knowing it was inevitable. "So, I really am in love with him. At least that's one decision I've made."
As I spoke those words, a thought dawned on me. "Who I was…"
Shea and Diane are people I used to be. When I was Shea, I didn't know about my future experiences as Diane. And when I was Diane I didn't remember my past experiences as Shea. Now I had the experiences of both. Who I am now is a combination of those two people and their experiences, a completely new person!
I rose to my feet. I knew I had a lot to sort out still, a lot of choices to make about this new person I was becoming. But for right now, Ko, the most important person common to both Shea and Diane, had brought unity to me. As I focused my thoughts on him, other things became clear as well. Jara and the other Sheikah, Zelda, Link, and all the other people I didn't want to lose or disappoint, even that miserable imp! As Impa, it was my duty to protect them, but I didn't care about duty. I desired to protect them.
I had been overcomplicating the situation. The source of the threat was Ganondorf. As much as I wanted to see Ko and be sure he was all right, if Ganondorf remained, he would never be safe. And as for whether or not I was strong enough to be of any help…
Gritting my teeth, I gazed up at the top of the castle. "I may just be an ant to you Ganondorf, but even a giant will fall if he's bitten enough times!"
I leapt up onto the wall and began the long climb to the top.
As I think back on that moment now, I feel sad and slightly ashamed that it was my fledgling feelings towards Ko and the fact that I would lose him if I failed that made me ultimately make the climb up the wall. Even being the Impa of the Sheikah and having a duty to protect Hyrule and the Princess was trumped by him. I was his 'Diane'; not the bodyguard, not a Sheikah, not the Impa, but his friend, family, and love. He had never told me about the last one outright, but I knew by gazing into his eyes and by listening to his words that he had fallen head-over-heels in love with his 'blood cousin' and so had I.
I had found my reason to fight and I would need all the strength of that conviction once I looked through the window in the back of the throne room. However, before I looked through the portal that led to the collision of two indomitable forces, I pulled out an arrow and steadied myself between a corner between the tower and a section of the wall. After making sure Arachnae held me in place (using my legs as my anchors to the walls), I activated Farore's Wind and placed the spell on the arrow before firing it towards the east ramparts. Now I had a way of escape if matters became too out of hand.
Steeling myself for the worst, since I'd heard plenty of things about Ganondorf and his power in the legends told to me by Vizen, I slid down from my perch above the window until I was able to look inside. As was expected, even though I was still shocked and frightened at the sight, a beast of nightmares and legends was rushing around the throne room, popping in and out of purple portals and confusing the lone archer in green standing in the center of the room. The golden-eyed beast had the body and build of a Bullbos, a fiery red 'mane' like that of a Wolfos, and thick, sharp black claws instead of hooves. Its tusks were as thick as a tree trunk and the jewel embedded in the center of its forehead glowed with an unnatural orange energy. Truly, this 'Beast Ganon' was similar in appearance to the one during the Era of the Hero of Time and just as frightening.
I didn't get the chance to reminisce about legends and tales of the past as the lone archer, Link, transformed into a wolf before my startled eyes. I had had an inkling that it was Link who was the wolf I encountered long ago in the Zora's Domain, but I hadn't known for certain until now. My hands grew slick with sweat, forcing me to shift positions to maintain a constant hold on the wall.
Beast Ganon charged out a portal and Link faced him, Midna using magic to grow and extend her hair into the shape of a hand. With each stride towards Link, it felt as if my heart skipped a beat and lodge up in my throat. As the beast and hand collided, I swung my shaking body outward and smashed through the window with both feet, rolling across the threshold to soften my landing.
The beasts were too distracted in their struggle to overpower each other to notice me sneaking behind the throne. Thankfully, there were no guards, but a magical barrier full of runes like those I had seen across the doorways in the Castle foyer blocked anyone from entering the battlefield. I had no interest in joining Link with his battle, since my first action was to find Princess Zelda. Taking a risk, I peeked around the throne and found what I was looking for.
Sitting as gracefully and poised as if she had merely been patiently listening to a diplomat or a concerned citizen, Princess Zelda looked alive and well if not for her closed eyes and slightly drooped head. Ignoring the protests within my mind to pay closer attention to Link's battle, I gently shook the Princess' shoulder, intending to wake her.
When that did nothing, I anxiously spoke. "Princess? Princess Zelda? You need to wake up!"
Her eyelids didn't even flutter in response. Careful not to disturb her if she slumbered, I drew out an arrow and placed the iron arrowhead beneath her nose. No fog appeared on the surface of the arrow; Zelda was not breathing.
I ignored my eyes' complaints as I focused more on the vast quantities of magic around me and slowly drew my gaze back towards Zelda. Dark magic twisted within her, fighting to overcome a small light, the precious remnants of her soul Zelda had forcefully kept to keep her body alive while Midna, whom she had implanted the rest of her soul and Triforce powers, acted in her stead.
I was unfamiliar with any magic that involved the soul, but for Zelda's sake I would try and help her overcome the darkness. As Impa, I now had a deeper connection to the world of shadows around me, but I had a feeling these shadows within Zelda's heart were not the kind easily ordered away by an Impa. Hesitantly, I placed a hand on her shoulder and carefully delved deep into the magic power within me.
Pain shot through the hand I had placed on Zelda and I could feel the shadows within her lash out at me before I was sent flying across the dais and into the gold barrier encasing the battlefield. Lightning shot through my body causing the tips of my fingers and toes to tingle from the shock of both erratic energies. I could feel my heart jump and hesitate slightly before its next beat, as if debating whether or not to continue to provide me with anymore blood to the rest of my body.
I shook my head, desperate to scatter the shifting white and black spots floating across my eyes. The only result I got was a dizzy spell and an increase in nausea from both my stomach and head, which was not helped any with the periodic castle-trembling leaps from Beast Ganon as he fought Link. I blinked multiple times, trying and failing to clear my hazy vision from the white spots floating around my eyes, as if a snowstorm had begun inside the confines of the castle.
It was possible. I had seen weirder things in the past month and a half, the Great Fairy being only one of them. Nevertheless, however possible it may be, I still would have to see it without the room spinning every other second and in a less stressful setting than a battleground.
Eventually, and with many complaints coming from my sore and injured body, I was able to get back onto my feet and walk up the dais to Zelda's side. Even with my poor efforts, Zelda hadn't even twitched, the spells and enchantments that she was underneath greater than my own meager power could break. Cursing under my breath for my lack of knowledge, I returned my gaze back to the rest of the room, searching for something I could do to aid in Link and Zelda's fight.
The magic was so faint in comparison to the clashing waves of power produced by Link and Ganon that I nearly didn't find it, but after finally clearing my head long enough to focus hard I found something interesting. Behind the throne and on the floor, was a rune set. It took a matter of seconds after I found it to see what it was for, causing my sweat- and dirt-streaked face to curl up in a smile.
It was the spell that held most of the Sheikah captive within their own warp portals.
Eyes narrowed on the runes before me, I drew up all my memories from when I was Shea to start decoding the layout of the spell. It was a five layered spell, utilizing the natural magic flowing within the castle and a small amount of Ganondorf's magic to hold it all in place, powered by a piece of the Triforce – whose power had been forcibly warped from its original intention as a blessing.
"There's precious little I can do unless I cut off the Triforce's power to this spell," I mused aloud. "The power's wavering since Ganondorf has to draw on it to maintain his beast form, but I don't think it's enough to cause this spell to decay…"
I went through the spells I knew and began scratching out a few counter rune formations with a bit of steel, but none of them would have to power or ability to sever the connection from the spell to the Triforce of Power unless Ganondorf was killed or another blessed with Din's power appeared to nullify the effects. That's when the words spoken to me by Phantom Ganon back in the Great Fairy's cave came to me.
He raised his left hand where an outline of the Tri-force glowed, the top-most triangle filled with light. "You are not the only one blessed by Din, wretch…"
I looked down at the back of my right hand, where the seal holding Din's Fire was placed. Compared to the true power of the Goddess Din, this flame was paltry, but it was all I had. If I waited until Ganondorf had to draw in more power to maintain his form, perhaps I would have a slim chance of breaking the runes' power source while its energy was being diverged.
I peeked behind the throne to check Link's progress. He had finally started wearing the larger Ganondorf down and even dashed underneath Ganondorf to bite and slash at a large scar on his chest. I could feel Ganondorf begin to call more power from his Triforce and thrust my right hand down atop the runes, activating Din's Fire while praying to the Great Goddess and Hylia for aid and protection. If this failed, Din's Fire would most likely blow up in my face, killing me or grievously injuring me in the process.
Ganondorf roared, Link growled, and I cried out as the room began to glow with magical power.
(As recorded by Shad, official recorder and historian of the Resistance, told to me at a later date)
Even though we had managed to gather around 200 fighters, our forces were rapidly thinning as Lizalfos, Moblins, and even two Darknuts met us on the field of battle within the castle grounds. None of the other Resistance members had wanted me along for the battle, Ashei complaining the loudest that my skills were better suited as a spy than a warrior, however I stubbornly reminded them that I was their official recorder and needed to get a firsthand perspective of the battle, not just bits and pieces. Thus, when a bright light shone out from the throne room far above us, I was able to witness two things.
The first was the enemy forces suddenly halt in their tracks and stare up at the light. Our forces were too absorbed in the fight to notice the light shining for the space of a few minutes and quickly overcame half of the enemy before the second of the two events occurred.
Shadows lengthened across the castle courtyard and doorways of darkness appeared along the walls. Sheikah warriors charged out from the doorways, making short work of the enemy with their speed, weapons, and magic. After the enemy was subdued, most of the Sheikah disappeared again, but a squad of ten led by a familiar face approached the Resistance leaders, her red eyes filled with an inner fire.
"Friends," Jara began, "I apologize for the delay. We were otherwise occupied. Would one of you mind explaining the situation here at the Castle for me?"
After explaining as much as I knew, Jara's eyes narrowed. "I see. Zehra?"
A woman dressed in blue and black robes, bearing the Sheikah crest upon the back, turned to Jara and whispered something in her ear. At this news, Jara's hand started twitching.
"If I may inquire, Jara, is something amiss?"
Jara sighed and explained. "According to Zehra, the warp portals may be open, but something is blocking all the ones within the castle. Essentially, anyone heading to the throne room will have to head the long way around."
"It's probably for the best, Lady Jara. None of us mere mortals would be able to stand up against the Hero's foe."
"True. Let's set about clearing the castle and town of these lesser monsters then."
(Throne Room, after the defeat of Beast Ganon)
The air within the throne room was filled with a smell like rotten eggs and smoke combined. Thankfully, a small breeze made its way into the throne room to carry the pungent odor outdoors. It was this same breeze that ruffled Link's sweat-soaked hair as he made his way towards Princess Zelda.
Concern etched his face when he saw the Princess, though a small smile lit up his face when he saw me emerge from behind the throne. He was about to ask me something when a familiar voice rudely interrupted.
"Who's there?! Oh…it's you…" Midna said with a loathing stare. "What took you so long, you filthy peasant? Did you take the scenic route or something?"
I sighed, somewhat grateful to engage in 'playful' banter with Midna after all the stress this day brought. "Well we archers do like scenery. We like to pick out important details, like targets, for example. Gerodos, Bulblins, big-mouthed Imps…stuff like that."
Link grinned as he listened to us carry on. At some point he turned to gaze at the fallen body of Ganondorf, which prompted us to look as well. Smoke and what seemed to be yellow-green flames plumed from the fallen beast, its golden eyes glazed over, no long able to reveal the plots and machinations that no doubt filled the King of Evil's mind.
"Think he's dead?" I asked, hoping the battle was over but feeling that it was far from it in my mind.
"Let's hope," Midna replied. "I don't think Link, here, has much left in him."
I rolled my eyes. "You're ever the cynic, Midna. Sometimes I wonder how the world ever continues to move without you're wry input…"
Before Midna could come up with a smart response, her body began to glow. Sparks of light raced from her and shot across the room to rest in Princess Zelda's still, yet serene, form. As if waking from a long sleep, Zelda's eyes fluttered open.
Relief flooded through me and, before I realized it, a small smile lit up my face. Link's face was similar to mine, but Midna was another matter entirely. She seemed awkward, nervous, and (dare I say it) fearful of what Zelda would say. I was curious as to why the imp would be nervous and fearful of Zelda but listened intently as Midna began.
"Pr-Princess… I… I…"
"Say nothing, Midna… Your heart and mine were as one, however briefly… Such suffering you have endured…"
Midna? Suffering? I nearly wanted to laugh! However, one look at the mournful faces of Midna and Princess Zelda made me hold back my laughter. As I reflect on this, I'm glad I stayed quiet, since that would have not given a very good impression of me to the Princess.
A rush of magical power exploded behind us, halting the conversation instantly. Cold sweat dripped down my back as I slowly turned back to here Ganondorf had once lain in defeat. The flames, which had been pouring of his body, had reformed into the shaped of Ganondorf's head, his body nowhere to be seen.
Both Link and Zelda took a step backwards as I stepped back into the shadows of the throne, stopping far back to leave myself a clear view to observe what would happen next. Midna stilled, then three parts of her that weird mask of hers started to swirl around her.
I blinked and stared at her. Was she really going to attempt to face down that overwhelming magical power? Even Din's Fire seemed like a puny spark in comparison to the fiery fury of Ganondorf's power!
Link reached out towards Midna, intent on stopping her from using the mask's power yet again, but both he and Zelda were whisked away by Midna, who had teleported them elsewhere via her magic. I glared half-heartedly at her, after I stepped out alongside her. "You forgot about me, imp! I'm no match for Ganondorf even with your strange magic to support me!"
"Are you still here? I thought you fled like a coward."
"And leave you here by yourself?"
"Oh, were you worried about me? How sweet."
"I just like to live by the motto, 'keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. Who knows what trouble you might cause if I leave you unattended."
I looked back toward Ganondorf. "And speaking of nearby enemies, got a plan?"
Minda's lips widened into an evil smirk which she directed at Ganondorf.
"Watch and learn, cretin. Watch and learn." She said as the floating pieces of her mask began to converge.
I took the few steps back until I was in my hiding place again. Ganondorf roared, the sheer power knocking me off my feet and nearly sent me flying off the dais. Midna, who had now changed into her multi-limbed demon-like form, wavered slightly but recovered quickly and brought out the spear she had used to destroy Ganondorf's barrier around the castle. She charged, the spear held over her head point down, but Ganondorf roared yet again.
This time, Midna flew backwards and hit the large throne, her head barely missing the broken, carved statues of the three goddesses around the Triforce. I had managed to duck behind the throne before Ganondorf roared and only had my ears ringing instead of my rear stinging. My whole trembling body might as well have gotten tossed out a window for all the good I was doing in this fight. Why had I stayed here instead of using Farore's Wind to escape?
I was half-tempted to use it now, but the reminder that I would be leaving Midna to fight alone prompted me to stay. Instead, I focused, thinking over what I could do in this fight.
I could use Din's Fire as a distraction to give Midna an opening… No, Din's Fire wouldn't cause enough damage to properly work as a distraction. Ganondorf had Din's blessing and a magical affinity for fire and lightning. It would be pointless to use a fire-based spell in this fight unless it was against one of his phantoms. Something stronger would be needed for this…
Almost as if Hylia and the three goddesses had answered my question themselves, one of the arrows in my quiver grew warm and began to glow. I fingered through the arrows until my hand brushed the warm, metal shaft of the strange arrow Zelda gave me. A Light arrow…
Zelda had told me I would know when to use it; Now was the time to use it.
As Midna pulled herself up, I pulled out the light arrow and tested its weight. Surprisingly, it wasn't that heavy at all, barely lighter than one of my standard arrows. Nevertheless, the shape of the arrow itself was awkward and didn't look like it should fly at all. "Guess I'll just have to make do…"
Midna had just started to pull herself into another charge, when I stepped out from behind the throne and drew back on my bow, the light arrow already nocked to my bowstring. I saw the Ganondorf 'head' rear back, readying to roar once more, and I loosed.
If I tried to replicate the shot I made that day, I doubt I would get it more than once out of a hundred times, master archer I may be. However, the reason behind the difficulty was not the shot itself, but the timing of it. Had I not loosed when I did, Midna would have been sent flying again and lose the chance to strike Ganondorf. A second earlier, and Ganondorf would have noticed me and I'd have lost the element of surprise.
That eventful shot seemed to go in slow motion as I watched the scene unfold before me. The light arrow hit Ganondorf's 'head' right under its left eye, sending shockwaves of light through him and effectively stunning him. Midna's spear slammed into Ganondorf's 'forehead' and this is where events begin to speed up.
Midna had twisted the spear a few times, just to spite Ganondorf, but it hadn't seemed to have any effect. I could see clearly where the spear had hit him and even how far it went, but as for how much damage the attack actually did, there was no sign. I was growing anxious. If there was no damage, then Ganondorf no doubt was readying a counterattack, but when and would Midna and I be able to survive it?
Ganondorf's 'head' grinned maliciously and something began to form within it. Ganondorf's Gerudo form appeared, his left hand easily gripping the spearhead while dark magic blazed around his right fist. With a furious growl, Ganondorf threw a punch into the air and the dark magic around his hand shot out and crashed into Midna, shattering her mask back into its four respective pieces and scattering them, the spear, and Midna across the room. Midna landed with an audible 'whump' on the steps to the dais and I knelt by her, checking to make sure she was still breathing while keeping an eye on Ganondorf.
Ganondorf arrogantly walked over to where the part of the mask Midna had originally worn fell and picked it up. He was glancing it over as he again walked through the room, this time to where Midna's spear had fallen. He hefted the spear, shifting his right hand along the shaft to find the balance point, and spoke.
"Did you really think that would enough to take me down? Unsightly maggots! I shall finish you with your own weapon!"
I looked up just as Ganondorf leaned back, the spear poised to throw, and launched the huge spear towards me and Midna, our doom written upon it. I had other plans, rather than dying today.
I grabbed one of the dazed Midna's small arms and pulled her close to my chest as ran down the stairs on the left side of the dais.
"Hold on, imp," I whispered, as I activated Din's Fire, blew open a hole in the throne room's wall leading to open air, and jumped. I activated Farore's Wind and disappeared mere seconds before the great spear impacted the floor where I had been before I jumped, sending up a great cloud of rock, smoke, and ash.
Farore's Wind dropped us on the middle of Castle Town's eastern wall top, my forward momentum sending my back straight into the battlement wall while I curled protectively around my small passenger. Pain shot through my left side, most likely from a fractured or broken rib, but the adrenaline still coursing through me after my near brush with death helped me ignore it, for the time being.
With a sigh and a groan, I looked down at the pathetic, limp form of Midna in my arms. As much as I reviled the treacherous imp, even I wouldn't leave her to die to a cruel, power-hungry mad man like Ganondorf. And anyway, I still owed her for saving me back in Kakariko Village and also for showing me the spell I needed to protect Telma's wagon on the way to Kakariko. Now, my debt was paid.
After leaning the imp against the parapet, I pulled out the jar containing the fairy and quickly opened it. The fairy flew out, giving a little mid-air twirl before it landed on my shoulder.
"Thanks for the meal!" it said, a wide grin on its face as it rubbed its stomach. "So do you need me to heal you and replenish your magical energy?"
I shook my head and motioned down at Midna. "She needs it more than I do."
"Alright!" the fairy chimed, before leaping off my shoulder and proceeding to flitter around the unconscious Midna. It didn't take long for the fairy's magic to take effect and Midna's eyes slowly and drowsily opened. She blinked for a moment, casually regarding the fairy flying around her, and gradually picked herself up.
"You still with us, shorty?" I said dryly.
"Try not to sound too excited, plebeian," she replied with a sarcastic smile. "Although, I am surprised you came to my rescue…"
I turned and smiled at her over my shoulder as she raised herself back into the air. "I wouldn't be able to call Link my friend if I were to let you die."
To my surprise, Midna returned my smile. "Hmm, seems you're not so bad after all. For a street urchin."
I raised an eyebrow. "You're welcome, twerp. So what will you do now?"
Midna gazed off towards the west. "I'm going over to where I sent Link and Zelda. With Ganondorf still alive, I have a bad feeling."
I had been distracted by my concern for Midna. My eyes widened as I remembered the truth of her statement. "Take me with you. I can still fi-"
I made only one subtle move, but it was enough to cause my injured side to send a shockwave of pain through my body. I bent over slightly, gripping my side in pain.
Midna starred down at me coldly. "Sorry, peasant, but in your condition you would just get in the way."
I hated it when she was right. I sighed in resignation. "Fine. Good luck, Midna."
I had used her real name by accident, but later I was glad I did. For a split second, a look of surprise crossed her face. I turned to the east overlooking the moat and Midna turned to the west.
I quickly glanced over my shoulder in surprise, but all I saw was a few fading black specks, the residue of her teleportation spell. I'm not sure why I was surprised, I should have known she would never have said that to my face.
After Midna teleported away and the fairy left to return to the Great Fairy or to absorb more magic, I leaned up against the battlement wall and brought out a green potion. As I was sipping it, I gazed out over Castle Town and towards the west, where the sun was just about to set.
Twilight. I had saved Ilia at twilight a little over a couple months ago and now, at twilight, this battle would end.
As I looked at the sky, I couldn't help but think I was forgetting something. You would think I couldn't forget something as big as an army…
It was the loud battle cries as the army began its charge that reminded me why I had specifically targeted the eastern Castle Town battlements. I turned around and was met with the sight of around five hundred Gerudo, curiously without very many Bulblins in the ranks, charging towards the eastern gate. Without delay, I grabbed three arrows from my quiver and started gathering magic for Din's Fire.
I waited, after drawing back on the bow, and began calming my breathing. There was a natural choke point at the small drawbridge leading to the east gate only wide enough to let four people cross abreast at a time. The army was nearly to that point when I began the familiar stanzas to the spell.
"Show me the path
Grant me the power
Reveal thy Wrath
In my Darkest Hour!
Eye of Destruction!"
It was said long after that day, that the Goddess Din unleashed her wrath upon her chosen race for following Ganondorf by sending fire from the heavens. In reality, it was three Din's Fires that crippled the Gerudo Army sending them into a panicked frenzy trying to reorganize. I pulled out another arrow, even though I didn't have the strength to fire it. I had yet to finish them off and if even a hundred made it into Castle Town…
Thankfully Jara and the Sheikah, along with the Resistance, arrived before that happened. Their timing was impeccable. Making their way across the bridge, they started to make quick work of our now disorganized foes.
Gasping for air, I tried to watch the battle as long as I could, but black dots kept getting in the way. I heard my bow drop to the stone blocks of the battlement, then my knees gave out. I grabbed the side of the parapet, struggling to maintain some semblance of balance, but my grip slipped as well. I managed to twist around so I slid down with my back to the wall, but after that I couldn't move anymore.
As my eyelids grew heavy, I briefly wondered if Link had been successful. I would find out soon enough, seeing as how I might never wake up if he hadn't been. I fought hard to keep my eyes open, but it was a hopeless struggle. The last sight I remembered was Ko running up from the south battlements, yelling my name and shaking me as I closed my eyes and allowed myself to fall into the deep black abyss of unconsciousness.
Well, I hope you enjoyed The Bow and the Blade's second-to-last chapter! I have the next chapter a little over halfway done, but I'm not going to touch it for a few days.
If you enjoyed this chapter, please let me know! I always like getting feedback from you, my faithful and patient readers!
Until next update, my faithful reader,