Peace had at last descended on Hyrule with Vaati's demise. I stood once again in the restored castle courtyards, looking for all the word as if nothing had ever happened. What could be seen of the interior of Hyrule Castle also showed signs that it too had been restored, the royal blues and reds that had been there before once again adorning the marble walls.
Only one thing bothered me though. Ezlo had leapt off my head when we'd finished off Vaati, and now there was no sign of him. Had whatever I'd done to Vaati affected him too?
As if in response to that, a familiar voice murmured, "Go to the Sanctuary. Take the Princess too."
"I might be a while," I warned under my breath, already spotting the guards taking their positions as the King descended the steps outside. Minister Potho stood to one side, Princess Zelda the other. I had a feeling I knew what was coming next. And I had a feeling that I was, after all, going to do it the right way. You'll see what I mean.
Since it's not really polite to have a sword in your hand when before a King, unless you're defending him of course, I put away my sword, noticing in the process that my various belongings had been returned to me when the others had vanished – a convenient thing I wished I'd known before, not that I could figure any time I'd actually have found it useful.
"Hero Manic," Daltus began formally, and I knew I'd figured right. A speech, of all things. Still, it gave me the time to recover from the battle. I had three sets of memories to handle, and an adrenaline rush to come down from, after all.
"Today you have done us all a great service and brought honour on the legendary green garb of the Hero," Daltus said. Potho, I noticed, was scribbling furiously, writing all this down for the records. "The Wind Mage Vaati is defeated, my fair princess and castle restored, and all Hyrule us indebted to you for the peace you have returned to us."
I thought that was nice of him – especially the indebted part, naturally. I hadn't completely abandoned my usual ways.
"But we know that as the Hero you are, you are as selfless as all other Heroes, past and future, have been and would not be so immodest as to ask for any reward for your actions – though richly deserved. Nevertheless, we grant you the highest honour the King of Hyrule can."
And there it was, I was going to do the right thing. Heroes almost never get rewards, have you noticed that? Daltus was up to something though, and I was intrigued.
"Approach, Manic and kneel," he told me. Potho nodded to a guard that had remained out of sight, who now came into view carrying one of those plush-looking indigo cushions royal stuff gets carried on. They're not as comfy as they look, you know. I stole one once just to find out.
Daltus took the blade, and held it competently too, then rested it on one of my shoulders, then the other as he said, "We name you Sir Manic, Hero and Knight of Hyrule, guardian of the peace. Your deeds shall live on in legend for all time in the royal library, and your name never forgotten. Rise now, Manic – Knight of Hyrule!"
"Oh great," Tails laughed. "First Sonic gets named Knight of the Wind and then King Arthur, now you're a knight too. How come we never got knighthoods?"
"'cause you never met the King of Hyrule," Manic said smugly.
"Oh dear," Link sighed. "Maybe I should have let you have some reward instead. I didn't think you'd be this insufferable about it."
"Are you kidding me? And take away all my fun? You must be kidding! I don't even know any other thieves who're knights too!"
"I was afraid you'd say that. Why don't you tell him, Knuckles?"
"Tell him what?" Knuckles asked, trying to look innocent.
"You know exactly what."
"But I haven't even had the chance to tell my story yet. Look at how surprised everyone is at Manic's knighthood." He paused. "Oops. I guess I gave it away there. And I outrank you too," he added to Manic.
"Think that bothers me? I'm not done yet anyhow, so just go on and wait for your turn."
Potho, I learned, had been taking down what had happened because naturally as soon as the formalities were concluded – which included a very nice golden amulet in the shape of the Triforce – he went into town (Under guard, just in case there were monsters still around) and had the town criers and newspapers announce it to the world. My career as a thief here was effectively ended with that – no one would be able to ignore Hyrule's newest knight, which I think was what Link really intended with the whole thing.
Once Daltus had headed back to his throne room to try and assess what damage – if any – had been done and return to the tedious affairs of a head of state, I found Zelda and asked her if she'd come with me to the garden, and the Elemental Sanctuary – which she already knew about.
"I used to visit there every year after the festival," she told me. "I knew there was something special about it, but no one else knew anything. I looked into legends and such, and found out it was the place where the Minish world overlaps with ours. That's why I could do what I did for you, the Elemental Sanctuary, the overlap and my Light force all let you change size wherever you wanted."
"It came in useful in that last fight, I can tell you," I said.
"I know. We were watching. Father said he thinks you should stop by next year and take part in the swordsman's tourney. He used to win it himself sometimes, before he got a bit fat to take part, so he makes a good judge of skill."
We entered the restored gardens, which looked identical to they way they should have, but with one addition. A diminutive figure stood in the doorway of the Elemental Sanctuary, a figure in a familiar looking green robe and with a luxurious looking long beard. His hair was tied up in a knot behind his head, and the one visible hand held a tall staff that reached past him, and up to my height.
"Well it's about time," he said in Ezlo's familiar voice. "I'm not getting any younger here."
"Ezlo? Does this mean-"
"Yes my boy, it does mean you broke the curse on me. Vaati's not exactly gone for good, but he's gone enough that my curse was broken."
"What do you mean by that, Ezlo?" Zelda asked. "Should we make preparations for his return?"
"You can if you want Princess, but it's not necessary. Manic is the one who'll be the first to know if Vaati escapes his confinement. Look at the end of your sword, boy – where the Elements are."
I did so, pulling it out to look. There, nestled in between all four gems was a smaller, darker one.
"He's in my sword?"
"You wanted to seal him away, didn't you? Of course, this means you can drag him out in a limited form – he has power only if you let him, and... well, you'll see if you make him put in an appearance. The same way you do your others. But before you do..." he trailed off and looked at me, then sighed and chuckled. "You know, I never actually saw you with a cap on. Heroes of Hyrule always have one. So I suppose..." he trailed off again and created one out of the air, using his own magic to set it in place.
"Much better," Zelda said approvingly. "Now you really look like a Hero."
"He does rather, doesn't he?" Ezlo agreed. "A Hero with a lot of bad habits maybe, but I think you're right Manic. In the end they did us more good than I thought."
"Told you so," I grinned.
"Yes, yes, I know," he sighed. "And I have just one last gift before this doorway between our worlds closes and I must be on my way before then. Princess... the cap that I made, the one that Vaati stole... the Minish Cap. When he was sealed away, it returned to its original form too. Vaati tried to make it work only for him, but now he is powerless such effects are gone. I would like you to take the cap Princess, and combine it with your power. Drive out the monsters that plague Hyrule, then bid it be gone."
"But the power of it-"
"Could tempt any. It must be destroyed, and if you use it so for good, to bring about a golden age in Hyrule, it will be for the best."
Again Ezlo raised his staff and caused the Minish Cap to appear, a plain looking red cap much like my own. Ezlo set it in place on Zelda's head and she closed her eyes and wished, the cap turning into golden light that radiated out as it faded away. It would ensure it'd be a long time before monsters naturally returned to Hyrule, time enough for them to bring about Hyrule to the way Silver and Tails would eventually see it.
When it was done, Ezlo gave a graceful bow to each of us, then shrunk himself down to Minish size and entered the Elemental Sanctuary. The walls of the garden that glowed around it faded back to plain marble, and the doorway closed – perhaps for good.
"I ought to go," Zelda told me. "There's probably going to be ceremonies and celebrations and everything, and Father isn't the best organizer of those. Potho and I have to help him every time. If I don't get the chance to see you again Manic... make sure you come by and visit sometime."
"I'll make a special point of it next time I see Link," I replied. "I'll make sure he gives me a way."
That of course, wasn't necessary. Silver can handle that.
Before I went off in search of Link though, I stood alone in thought in the garden for a time, then took the Four Sword in hand and willed only Vaati to show himself. Just as he'd disappeared, he appeared with a grey-streaked light – but was very different. Instead of any known form of him, stood before me was another duplicate of me, but resemblant of Dark.
Vaati blinked, spotting me, looking around, then pausing, frowning. He looked down at himself and started back in shock.
"What have you done to me?" he exclaimed "I'm- I- I look like you!"
"Well what did you expect, being sealed in the Four Sword?" I replied, holding it up. "You get to share it with the others now. Oh, and I'm told one other thing – you only get your power back if I let you. Kinda means you're forced to work for me now."
Vaati's face was absolutely priceless.
"And that's why when Scourge tried it out for himself, Vaati appeared on the end," Manic explained. "He's dreadfully embarrassed to be seen looking like me, so whenever I make him show himself, first thing he does is try to reach my sword to hide back in there again. Sometimes I make it hard for him on purpose, making him help me out a bit before I give him the chance. It's cruel in a way, but it's also perfect 'cause it's making him pay off for all the stuff he was trying to do."
"There's a kind of morality in that," Auru agreed. "And as you say, it was better than killing him."
"I wish I'd known about that," Tails said. "I'd have taken a leaf from you. Imagine, Ganondorf looking like me!"
"There was some justification for you though," Link said. "We'd tried sealing him away once before, and he managed to find his way out into the Twilight Realm. I got yelled at for that by several others, which is sort of why I had to bring you in. Fate in particular was a bit upset with me and told me not to give Ganondorf the opportunity again."
"Politics of the gods are fascinating," Rusl chuckled. "Maybe once Shad's caught up and made his notes presentable, you can tell us why you picked on Knuckles next."
"Oh, I know why he picked on me," Knuckles said. "I even agreed to it. I didn't know he was Link at the time of course, I learned that with the rest of us here."
"Let me just finish up," Shad urged distractedly. "I'll rewrite these better later, I just gotta get the last details down."
"You haven't got time for another story tonight boys," Telma told them. "It's getting pretty late out, and I let you stay after closing time because you're better than most who drink in here. Someone pays for rooms for the night and you can all stay." She paused and looked to Link with a wicked look. "With a discount if you care to come join me."
"Ah – thanks Telma, but I think there might just be another time and place I have to check on – can't go letting a place go without a Hero if it's my business, can I?"
Link didn't give her a chance to respond, disappearing.
"He'll be back," Telma predicted. "I'll have him wrapped round my finger before he knows it."
A/N: And here we are, one more epic tale down, two left to go - Sonic's adventures on the Great Sea, and Knuckles' up in Skyloft and beyond. Give me a little time before I start the next epic, especially given the time of year I've finished this one. Will it be Knuckles' or Sonic's I do? I haven't even decided yet. But rest assured, they're on the way.
Hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, and see you next time!