The Garden of Farore: Chapter Seventeen
ARE you sure these steps are safe?" Link questioned as he made his way down the creaking wooden stair, clutching at the rail every time a step shivered underneath him.
Zelda held the burning brand high, cursing the sparks that every so often fell upon her hand and arm, as she moved cautiously down the stair before him. Beneath was the great cellar of North Castle, a giant maze of interconnected storage chambers where things that dated back even to the days of the Hero of Time was squirreled away. The Princess was more than a little uneasy about searching the extensive catacombs beneath the castle, especially as there was a danger of becoming lost--or of being injured by falling objects. Those who worked in the King's service joked that North Castle was supported more by all the junk in its cellars than by its gigantic granite foundations.
"Move slowly," she commanded, placing a foot with care on a stair that threatened to give way. "Few people use these entrances to the lower levels of the castle, and they are not in the best of repair."
"This I can see," Link sighed. The rail cracked in his hand and he hastily let it go.
Zelda rounded the corner of the stair and stepped down thankfully onto cold stone flags. Holding her torch aloft she turned to light Link's way as he reached the bottom of the spiral steps, and then handed him the brand. The young green-eyed warrior accepted the light, lifting it to illuminate their surroundings. They were surrounded by ancient objects from Hyrule's past--moldering furniture, moth-eaten cloth, yellowing and sodden books, rusted plate--and most of it was ruined or worthless. Things did not age well in the moist air underneath the great castle, for the river seeped through part of the foundations and filled the moat outside.
Link looked around intently, wrinkling his nose in distaste at the wetness of the air and the musty smell of damp and mildew. "Do you really think anything is down here, Princess?" he asked, gesturing with the torch.
"It is possible," Zelda told him. "There is so much down here that not even those who look after it know what is there, or how much of it! Some of these things have been here almost since the castle was built."
Holding high the burning torch, Link stepped forward and looked down an endless alleyway formed by stacked books and furniture. "Of course," he murmured dryly, "that may make it rather difficult for us to find any Amulets that may be here."
"I am afraid so," Zelda sighed.
"Well... where do we start?" Link asked, turning to face the Princess. "Do you have any idea?"
"As a matter of fact I do," Zelda replied. "Right at the back. We'll look among the very oldest things. Follow me." She took the torch back from him and set off through the winding corridors, picking her way through and around piles of objects which had remained unmoved since Ganon's last incursion into Hyrule.
Half an hour later, both the Princess and the young warrior were becoming frustrated by the amount of useless trash through which they had to sift. There seemed to be nothing in the vast cellars but damaged furniture, old trunks full of musty clothes and crates and crates of books and papers. Link glanced at each scroll before throwing it aside in disgust... most were ancient military dispatches or tradesmen's bills from a hundred years ago, and none had relevance to the search in hand. Zelda, meanwhile, riffled tentatively through all the boxes they came across, finding more in the way of spiders and silverfish than anything else. She picked the arachnids out gently and set them on the floor where they scuttled quickly off to safety in as yet undisturbed areas of the castle basement.
"Hmm... interesting." Link walked around a flat object approximately as tall as he was, covered with oilcloth which had been tied tightly at the bottom. Bending down he saw a square gilt base like the single claw of a great bird, tapering up to a thick gold stem the thickness of his wrist, carved with scales; this disappeared into the folds of dusty cloth and was presumably attached to the large flat oval hidden by the fabric. "Hey, Zel, take a look." He reached out and rocked the object, finding it to be sturdy on its base--whatever it was.
Zelda glanced over. "What is that, Link? A picture?"
He shrugged. "Let me find out." Kneeling he began to untangle the tightly knotted cord that held the cloth onto the object. It was dirty with age, and the knots which had been pulled very tight even in the beginning had tightened still further over the years--water had gotten into the cord and as it dried had pulled the knots into each other. Link cursed and picked at it with his fingernails.
"Don't swear," Zelda told him absently, then she looked up again. "Is there a problem?"
Link scowled, intent on the task. His curiosity had been awakened and he was frustrated by the resistant twine. "I can't loose these cursed knots!" he snapped. "They're too tight!"
"If you really want to see what that thing is, cut the cord," Zelda suggested. "I do not think that anyone will mind, whatever it is."
He nodded. "Your call, Princess." Inserting the slim tip of his serpentine dagger between the cord and the tightly bound cloth, he sawed carefully until the old braid gave way with a dry snap. Link loosened the cord from around the base of the object and slowly unwound it. It had been tied so tightly that it had left permanent grooves in the oiled cloth. "Zelda? Could you help me here?"
With an impatient sigh the Princess stood up, laying down the manuscript she had been examining, and took hold of the cloth. "Curiosity killed the Deku Scrub, you know," she admonished. "Lift it off together, on three." Link nodded. "One... two... three!"
A pall of dust and dirt arose as they whipped back the heavy cloth, and they both had to stop and clear their lungs as they dropped the thick folds of fabric unceremoniously on the ground. Link wiped his streaming eyes with the back of his hand, leaving a smear of paleness across his begrimed face, and looked at the object beneath the cloth. Now he and Zelda could see just what it was. It appeared to be a mirror, of the type commonly found in ladies' dressing rooms--it was of oval shape and could pivot in its wide golden frame. Clearly it was an expensive antique; it was made of beaten silver, rather than glass as modern mirrors mostly were. The silver was black with tarnish now, and only faint gleams of torchlight could be seen within it. The frame was wrought of entwining dragons' tails that flowed together at the top in a blind and screaming golden head. Furled gold dragon wings hung stiffly down on each side. Link shivered as he looked at it. "What a horrible mirror," he mused.
"I have to agree," Zelda said thoughtfully. "I would never put up with that in my room!"
"I wonder why it was made?" Link asked. "It cannot be for someone's bedchamber; it would give anyone bad dreams."
Zelda stepped in front of the tarnished face and used her sleeve to scrub away some of the accumulated oxide upon the mirror. Its surface felt faintly slick, oily and very cold. "It does not even give a proper reflection!" she said in surprise, laughing nervously. "Look, Link! Doesn't it make me look strange?"
It was true. Zelda had bright blue eyes and deep blonde hair, and the color of her hair shone out even in the twilight world of the castle cellars, where the firelight from the burning torch made it shine like molten gold. Her dark blue tunic emblazoned with a golden Triforce was velvety and still deeply blue in the darkness. The Zelda in the mirror had pale, colorless eyes, and her hair was a lifeless moonlike white. She even seemed to sport a cold sneer, although that had to have been a trick of the light--Zelda was not smiling. As if the mirror could or would not display images of good, the Triforce upon her tunic was a mere faintly lighter splotch upon the deep black of her clothes. Zelda shuddered suddenly, feeling--something. "I hate this mirror," she said firmly, and turned away.
Link stood beside her to see his own reflection. "Ye Gods!" he exclaimed, and laughed. The mirror made him seem thinner--leaner--and his shadowed face was almost invisible in the darkness. "Zelda, see how I appear in this thing!"
The Princess looked back into the mirror. The scene laid out before her seemed to fit perfectly--a dark, evil Zelda and Link behind the mirror complemented the good ones standing before it. Link's reflection frightened her even more than had her own--he was a creature of perfect blackness, face, skin and clothes: a cutout of night. The mirror-Zelda's bone-white hair curled snake-like around her shoulders and faded into the shadows of the mirror world, and a twisted strand of it had crept across the mirror-Link's shoulder as she stood close to him. Zelda flicked her hair back and mirror-Zelda copied her motions exactly.
"Maybe it's just because it's dark down here," Link suggested lamely. "Surely it will show better when it is clean and in sunlight!"
"There is no way," Zelda said, "that I am hauling this vile thing upstairs." She sighed and reached out again to wipe the mirror's face--perhaps the strange reflections were caused by the encrusted dirt which covered the silver surface. But then her eye caught something. She drew back with a start. "Link, look at your eyes!" she whispered in shock.
Link blinked and leaned closer to the mirror. Something extremely strange had happened to his reflection... his eyes he knew were a soft green--his mother had once affectionately compared it to the color of aspen leaves in spring. But the shadow-Link's eyes were dark and gleaming red, lacking either iris or pupil: chill lights the color of new-spilled blood. And his hair was different--falling in fluffy shoulder-length bangs that curled just a little at the bottom.
"What in the name of Nayru?" he murmured, blinking. He reached out slowly, as if in a dream, and the mirror-Link copied him. Their fingers wavered for a moment millimeters from the surface of the mirror, and then they touched. The surface felt like dry ice. He shuddered violently and tore his hand back.
"Link," Zelda began, her voice wavering with panic. "The reflection is changing!"
Stunned, Link watched as the image of Zelda slowly dissolved from the mirror, leaving only the dark silhouette-form and shining blood-red eyes of shadow-Link standing before him. He backed away slowly. And the shadow-Link did not copy his movement!
"What is it?" Link whispered. "Magic?"
"I know not," Zelda hissed back, "but I think we should cover it again and leave!"
He nodded and stooped for the discarded heap of oilcloth, but then a sharp gust of chill air drove him back. A freezing wind was blowing from the mirror into the cool cellar. It quickly grew strong enough to whip his hair about and tug at the hem of Zelda's loose tunic, and then stronger. In moments it had become a veritable gale. Something fell from atop a stack and smashed with a rueful tinkle of glass.
"What's happening?" Zelda screamed, clinging to a great rusted iron bedframe with all her strength. Slighter than Link as she was, she was in danger of being blown right off her feet by the fierce frozen gale.
"You tell me!" Link shouted back. He leaned forward against the arctic blast from the mirror, ice crystals forming now in his hair and brows from the intense cold, and shielded his eyes to look straight at the silvered glass. The mirror-Link had not moved from his position behind the silver glass, but now the glass itself seemed to be bulging out from inside! There was a loud punk! and a long glittering crack spread across the surface of the mirror--the dragon-coils seemed to shiver and warp. Another crack radiated out from the first, and then a spiderweb of burning white lines began to creep across the previously unmarred surface.
Link realised with horror what was going to happen. "Zelda, get down!" he shouted, and ducked behind a heavy wooden armoire that lay on its side behind him. There was no time for him to look to her. He crouched, arms over his head, and squeezed his eyes shut against flying shards.
The mirror shattered asunder, blasted from within. Something whipped like fire across his shoulder, making him cry out in surprise--something slammed into his forearm, a sharp blow. As if a switch had been turned, the wind cut off and all was silence... save for someone's tortured breathing.
Link staggered to his feet, shivering violently. Ice was frozen in his lashes and on the folds of his clothes. "Princess, are you all right?" he said through chattering teeth.
"Link?" came the quavery reply. Zelda clambered out from behind the upturned bed--its presence had probably saved her life, for glassy silver shards were buried deep in the thick mattress. "Nayru's Love," the Princess shivered weakly, "what happened?"
"I don't--agh!" He clutched his forearm, feeling the pain for the first time. A splinter of the mirror, razor-sharp and as long as his middle finger, had embedded itself in the muscle. Link hissed in pain, but grasped the silver splinter between thumb and first finger and determinedly drew it out. Blood gushed from the wound the moment he removed it. Another gash marred his shoulder where his tunic was ripped and already staining red. Turning, he beheld the empty mirror frame somehow lifeless now, the evil gone, the golden dragons dimmed. "The mirror," he said weakly. "We broke a magic on it... or put one on it. Din's Fire, I don't know!"
"Let me bind that wound," Zelda began, reaching down to tear a strip from the sleeve of her chemise. "Whatever happened, your cuts need cleaning, but we will have to go back upstairs to do that."
"No time," Link said impatiently, jerking his arm away from her. "Look. The mirror-Link."
A dark naked form lay sprawled on its front, half in and half out of the mirror's frame--nearly invisible in the poor light afforded them in the castle cellars. It was almost perfectly black, from the ink-dark hair that hung over its face to the velvety black of its bare skin that sparkled with a fine coat of ice. As they watched in shock the shape let out a faint snake-like hiss and its slender fingers clenched.
"Sorcery," Link hissed. "Whatever it is, we must kill it!"
"Wait," Zelda commanded, laying her hand upon his where he had closed his fist around his dagger hilt. "We do not know that it is evil."
"It came out of a mirror by magic and damn near killed us in doing so," Link snapped. "What more proof do you need?"
"Link, wait," Zelda said in a firm tone. "Look at him. He is in no condition to attack us!"
As if to illustrate the Princess's point, the shadow-Link reached out and found a niche in the stone floor. Weakly, its limbs shaking as if it had only limited control of them, it began to pull itself the rest of the way through the mirror frame. Its breathing was as a man's in the last stage of bleeding to death. Ice glittered like diamonds in the ebon hair.
"Poor creature," Link murmured, watching the shadow-Link's tortured struggles. Suddenly responding to an altruistic impulse the green-eyed warrior strode forward and locked his arms about the shadow-Link's slender waist. It lifted its head slightly and glanced at him with gleaming blood-colored eyes, then fell exhausted upon the mirror's empty frame. Link gathered his strength and lifted the shadow-Link up and through the mirror, letting it down gently upon the folded oilcloth they had discarded. Its eyes closed as he did so, and it seemed to fall finally unconscious.
He stood up again and turned to the Princess. "Zelda, what is this thing? How could it have come out of a mirror?"
"If you expect me to know," began Zelda angrily, and then she halted in her tracks and pressed a hand to her mouth. "Gods, it couldn't be!"
"What?" Link insisted.
Zelda bit her lip. "Seek the Hero's Shadow, Link!"
Link's expression showed a complete lack of comprehension. "What?"
"The Book! It never meant your shadow at all! The Hero's Shadow! Who was the Hero when this book was written? The Hero of Time! I've read it in the histories! Ganon gave life to Link First's shadow!"
"This?" he said incredulously, turning.
"Look at him," she said. "Look at him, look at his face, look at his hair. If his colour was different, who would he be?"
"Then..." Link stared. "This? Then this is..." He backed away, grabbing at his serpentine dagger.
"Dark Link," Zelda said softly.
They stared at each other in the darkness, their faces barely illuminated by the flickering light of the discarded torch. It was a miracle that it had not gone out.
"I know this," Link said. "My grandfather told me stories... This thing is evil. True evil. It's everything that the Hero of Time was not." He drew his dagger. "We must kill it now," he said grimly, "before it grows strong enough to flee from us."
"No," Zelda said.
"No. The Book said seek the Hero's shadow. We've found the Hero's shadow, Link." She reached out and gently pushed his sword-arm down. "We've solved the riddle. The Book may be confusing at times, but it would never guide us towards evil. This creature... Dark Link... somehow or other he holds the key to the Forest Temple."
Link stared at her for a long time. Then, he nodded and slipped his arms underneath the shadow-Link. The body was astonishingly light. Link cradled the body in his arms and stepped out over the crunching shards of the mirror.
Zelda picked up the oilcloth. "Wrap him in this," she said. "And try to keep him out of the light!"
...rest a while...
"How is he?" Link asked softly. Several hours had passed since they had freed the shadow-Link in the mirror, several hours which Zelda had mostly spent tending to the creature, and the young warrior grew impatient to know more about their strange discovery.
"I think he is still sleeping..." Zelda said, gently stroking the shadow-Link's forehead. The room she had placed him in was as dark as she could make it, thick curtains having been placed over the window to block out the sunlight by day and any residual luminescence by night. He lay insensible upon the bed, his breathing faint and ragged. His skin was cool and smooth to touch. She could find no pulse, even when she put her ear to his chest; he certainly was alive, because his chest rose and fell; but if there was a heart within that slim dark breast, it did not seem to beat.
He was strange beyond description to look upon, compared to the fair-skinned Hylians who cared for him. Zelda recognised his shape as similar to that of the Hero of Time--or at least, to the pictures they had seen of him, which were few and far between. But his skin and hair were black as night; so too were his thin lips, the palms of his hands and even his delicate oval fingernails. Physically perfect in every way, he seemed as a statue of a man carved from blackest coal.
"Zelda, what is he?" Link demanded.
"I do not know... for sure," the Princess answered. "Little has been written about him. If he is Dark Link, he was created by an ancient evil wizardry, when Ganon tore away Link First's own shadow and brought it into physical form. He was imprisoned somehow in that mirror, and we freed him when we uncovered it--or you released him somehow when you touched it." The shadow-Link stirred slightly, eyelids fluttering and Zelda fell silent to watch him. But he did not awaken, and presently she sighed and did not speak again.
"But what is he?" Link asked, in awe of the strange being. "What manner of creature?"
Zelda's expression was serious. "The legends call him Dark Link, because he was supposed to be the exact opposite of Link First--as you said, everything that the Hero of Time was not. He is mentioned more than once in the histories of Hyrule, but only ever in passing and rarely by his name. We know very little about him in truth... save that light alone can kill him. He was created out of the essence of darkness. He has been slain many times by Heroes, and again and again he has come back to life--like Ganon."
"Like Ganon?" Link repeated. "And of the essence of darkness? Why do I not like the sound of that?" He scowled. "Well, Zelda, I suppose you know best. But in Farore's name, be careful! I do not trust this creature."
"I know, Link," Zelda murmured, "and I don't particularly trust him either, come to that. I will trust you to watch him."
"I will do that," Link said seriously. "Is he going to live long anyway? He breathes as if he is at death's door."
The Princess shrugged. "I know not. There is some strange malady at work here... but he regains strength when kept away from light, even though the healing is slow. I cannot make him eat or drink, but he does not seem to suffer from the lack--with time, I believe he will recover." She gently touched the ebony hair that spread across the pillow beneath shadow-Link's head. "If he wakes, Link, you will be the first to know, so do not fear. Go now. For Nayru's sake, get those cuts treated, and get something to eat. I will be fine here for now."
"All right," Link said softly. Gently he opened the door to the chamber, which stood at the top of the West Tower and was one of the most isolated in North Castle; and slipped out. As yet, nobody else knew of the presence of Dark Link, and they both knew they had to keep it that way if he were to survive to waking.
Greetings from Hyrule, my brother.
I spent the day searching through the King's library in search of information to do with the you-know-whats, but I didn't have much success. There are thousands of books there, and of course they are often written in that ancient script and I can hardly puzzle three words together. I live in hope of finding something useful, but so far I've been unlucky. Zelda's tried and failed before me.
Speaking of Zelda, both she and Link were down in the cellars today, going through all the castle junk. You wouldn't believe how much is down there! They haven't resurfaced yet, so I assume they've found something interesting. I hope they got on better than I have! We think we know where to start looking, but first we have to find that place.
Hyrule's a good land, very green. So far, the people I've spoken to have been very kind and polite and shown me the greatest courtesy as a guest. They've given me a big, comfortable room in the castle, and Zelda's only just down the hall. But it is all very strange to me here and I do miss you, big brother. Hopefully I'll be able to come back soon and visit. How's Daddy? Still as busy as ever?
I hope all's well with you, and I look forward to getting your reply. Well, it's getting late now so I suppose I'd better bring this to a close. I've got to keep it down anyway; I only have one bit of paper! I'm sending this via the King's post, so it should get to you in a few days. Miss you.
It was getting on for night. The sky outside was a deep velvety blue dusted with the first faint ghosts of stars, and the pale moon had not yet risen. The thick curtains in the tower room shut out this light efficiently, and only a single candle burned within the room to give enough radiance to see by.
As she had done several times before, Zelda gently lifted Dark Link's head in the crook of her elbow, and with her other hand placed a cup half-filled with weak doctored wine to his lips. As always, he would not drink; but she could not help trying, if only to feel useful.
Upon the table behind her lay several large books: surviving lore of the Sheikah, those ancient walkers of the shadow realm. She had found little that told of Dark Link, but she knew enough to guess how she might nurse him back to strength. His kind fed upon darkness--were truly nothing more than shadows, animate, intelligent shadows created by powerful and evil magic. Light, if it was strong enough, could kill them. They drew their strength from the night and from the eternal darkness, and separation from this source of their powers weakened them over time. Zelda guessed that within the mirror, Dark Link had been unable to replenish his strength.
Suddenly he turned his head toward the wall, weakly lifting an arm and trying to push her away. Zelda, startled, let him back down onto the soft bed and then she sat and waited, placing the cup softly on the table. In a moment, as she had thought he would, he opened his eyes a little. They were twin crimson gleams in the darkened room: empty orbs of red that shone faintly with an inner light.
"How are you feeling?" she asked gently.
His head turned and the glowing blood-colored eyes seemed to focus on her. She guessed that they did, at any rate; there was neither iris nor pupil to give away the direction of his stare. He blinked once and spoke. "Who are you?"
"My name is Zelda," she answered quietly.
"Zelda?" He whispered it, turning his face away: puzzled, almost. "You are... Zelda?" He closed his eyes and raised one slim and trembling hand to touch his forehead. "But... the mirror..."
"It broke," Zelda informed him. "We freed you. Are you feeling stronger now?"
"You," he hissed, trying weakly to sit up. "You did this..."
"I didn't put you there," Zelda said gently. She reached out and placed her hand on his arm, meeting his eyes with hers. "We found you."
"You lie," Dark Link hissed softly through his teeth. They were very white and sharp, and she barely suppressed a shudder. This creature was a being of evil, that was definitely true. Zelda could not see how he could be anything else. She wished Link was here to back her up; she should never have sent him out of the room, even for a moment.
But she had been accused and she had to respond to the accusation. Drawing herself up, the Princess shook back her golden hair and said stiffly, "I do not lie. I am a member of the Royal Family, daughter to the King himself. We have our honor."
Dark Link's blind red eyes flashed brightly. "You are the one... you must be... but no..." Puzzlement registered briefly upon his face and then he reached up weakly and brushed back her long hair. His cool black fingers brushed her cheek. "So similar," he murmured, "but there are differences... I see..." His hand fell back. "What year is it?" he demanded.
"2704," Zelda answered. "Why?"
She watched him frown as he made mental calculations. "Din's Fire," he whispered softly. "Almost three hundred years..."
"You were imprisoned somehow in that magic mirror," Zelda said thoughtfully. "And when Link touched--"
"Link!" Eyes suddenly blazing, Dark Link found the strength to sit upright. He hissed like an angry cat and clenched his fists, his burning eyes fixed upon her with a fanatical intensity. "Where is he?" he demanded softly, his voice a savage growl.
Zelda was startled by the sudden outburst. "He's the one who set you free," she said quietly, striving to keep her voice calm and level. "He carried you here so that you might recover. You probably owe him your life as much as you owe it to me."
"And what will you do now that you have freed me?" Dark Link asked softly, smiling as he lay back. It was not a friendly smile; it was a baring of teeth, nothing more. His teeth were pointed; his canines, almost fangs.
The Princess sighed. "I don't know," she owned. "I don't understand any of this at all. But the Book said it would be you who would help us. The Book has never been wrong before."
"Book?" He looked at her with a faintly quizzical expression.
Zelda closed her eyes and thought of the quest. It was being held up while she cared for Dark Link, and she knew that Sofia was becoming restless to continue the search. Yet they certainly could not simply go off now and leave Dark Link here in North Castle. Unwittingly, she and Link had let loose a deadly creature, a creation of Ganon from the Age of Legends--a thing that had once fought the Hero of Time himself and, if the histories were true, had nearly won. If they made an enemy of Dark Link now, they would have to watch their backs.
"It was not an accident that we found the mirror," she said softly. "It was not an accident that you were released. You are a part of this as much as Link and I. Perhaps this was meant to happen--we found you, so that you could help us."
"Help you?" he said. "Help you?"
"Yes," Zelda said, gaining strength. "Why not?"
Dark Link laughed, and it was a terrible, lonely, hateful sound.
"Why?" he said. "Why would I help anyone? You of all people, little golden Princess? Don't you know me? Don't you know what I am?" His eyes narrowed to crimson slits. His hand moved weakly, beckoning her to listen close. "When I am stronger," he whispered, almost lovingly, "I will kill you."
The bitter hatred, the despair in that soft voice was terrible to hear in the dark oppressive room. And she was afraid--horribly afraid. It crossed her mind to call for Link, to focus her whole spirit on a telepathic shout for the Hero, but she knew the knife's edge upon which she stood. It would take very little for the shadow to spring.
Keep talking. Keep him off-balance--don't let him see you as aggressor, or prey...
"Why?" Zelda said quietly.
"Yes, why?" She sat back. "Why do you want to kill me?"
Dark Link smiled slowly, disbelievingly, and then his eyes flared with light. The blank crimson orbs stared fiercely into her face. "I hate you," he said in the same soft, sibilant whisper. "I hate every one of you. I would kill you all if I could. Are you stupid, little Princess?"
"No," she said. "I'm not stupid. I see well what you are. And I am afraid. But I feel sorry for you too."
"You? Feel sorry? For me?"
"Why should I not? How long were you shut up in that mirror? How long before that have you walked alone? You have lived a thousand years without a single friend. No wonder you're bitter. If I were you," she said, "I would hate the whole world."
He stared at her through the dark black hair that tumbled over his face.
"You make no answer," Zelda said.
"You make fun of me."
"No. I am in earnest." She reached out and touched his thin black hand, and his whole body flinched away from her. "Don't be afraid of me," Zelda said.
"There is very little that I fear. Least of all do I fear you, little golden Princess."
That cursed book, she thought... its clues were always cryptic to the point of nonsense, yet they always ended up fitting. This had to be the answer, as insane as it was. And there was something else... Dark Link, if he was the shadow of Link First, would have lived when the Forest Temple was intact. Would he know where it was?
Could he lead them to it?
She returned her attention to the dark thing in the bed. He would follow, she knew it--she could see it in his face, the loneliness of walking alone down the ages, a thousand years and more of solitude. She could tame the wolf.
"We would be your friends," she said, "if we knew how."
"You are mad, little Princess," he said.
"Then humour me in my madness."
"What is it you want from me?"
"Show us the way to the Forest Temple," Zelda said. "I know you know the way. You went there once, long ago. Come with us. Guide us. Help us do what we have to do. Let us help you in return."
"What do you want with the Forest Temple?" Dark Link asked softly.
"Are you with us, or are you not?" she said. "I can tell you no more until I know."
"Yes," he said. "I know the way. Perhaps I could even show you. But why should I, little Princess? Why should I do anything for you?"
"Because you never have!" Zelda cried, losing her patience. "The one who made you abandoned you long ago! Why cling to him now? Come with us and make a difference, let us be your friends... or would you rather be alone forever?" She saw her barb sink deep, saw him shiver at the unfamiliar heat of it, and drove it home into his strange dark silent heart. "Do it," she said, "because we offered you the chance to change."
He closed his eyes and turned his face away.
She waited for a long time, sitting silent by the bed. She had almost given up, believing that he would not speak again, when he swallowed, and faintly spoke once more. "I will hear you out," he whispered.
Zelda smiled. "Good," she said softly. "Shall we be friends?"
He turned his head again and looked at her, his eyes glowing bright now, his strength seemingly renewed. "Friends?" he said, tasting the word. He laughed softly, cynical. "Oh, indeed. Friends..."
Zelda met his gaze, her own expression calm. "That must include Link too. Wait-" as he drew in a breath "-I know why Ganon made you. I know about your personal quest against the line of the Hero of Time. How far has your hatred got you in a thousand years? You haven't once succeeded in killing a Hero, have you? Don't answer. I have read the histories. I know what you tried in the Water Temple, and later in Calatia. Forget your quest for revenge, Dark, for we have a more important one to worry about."
"'Dark'?" he echoed suspiciously, sitting up.
The Princess smiled. "Well, I don't think we should fall back on full names, do you? Myself, I would much rather you called me Zelda, or just plain Zel. Link seems to have a problem with nicknames--he insists on calling me Princess, or Milady, or even Your Royal Highness! Please don't start that as well."
"Link," he repeated. "The Hero's heir?"
Zelda nodded firmly. "He comes as part of the agreement. Try and sleep now. You need rest."
Dark Link shook his head. "I do not sleep," he said. "I need no more rest; I am well."
"I see. Well, what would you like to do? Do you think you're strong enough to get up and have a proper meal? We put a few clothes together for you earlier. No black, I am afraid." She turned to the table and sorted through a small pile of folded linen. "A spare tunic of Link's--you're about the same height, but thinner than he is." She held up the soft green and met Dark Link's astonished eyes again. He looked faintly insulted. "Maybe not," Zelda amended, and set the green aside. "How about this?" She handed him a soft dark blue tunic with the crest of the Royal House embroidered in gold upon the breast. He took it without any expression. "I apologise for the Phoenix," she told him with a smile, "but the color might sit better on you than green, at least. It's part of a Royal attendant's uniform. I am afraid that we did not have much to choose from in the way of clothes. It was a matter of what would fit you. What do you fancy?"
Dark Link shrugged wordlessly, confounded. Zelda smiled and laid the blue tunic upon the bed. "I will wait outside while you dress," she said quietly. "There's a good pair of boots under the bed, and hose here, and a shirt. They're white I'm afraid, but they're clean." She stood and headed for the door.
Surprised, she turned and looked at him again, her hand already upon the doorknob and just beginning the act of turning. "What is it?"
Dark Link gazed at her with an unreadable expression, midway between surprise and curiosity. His eyes glowed softly. One hand clutched a fold of the dark blue tunic. "Why have you done this?" he said.
"Done what?" Zelda asked.
"Why free me? Why speak to me? Why give me clothes?"
"Why not?" she said, and slipped out quietly to wait in the small empty space at the top of the stairs.
He did join her a few minutes later, dressed in the white shirt and dark blue tunic she had picked out. Dark Link shivered, and Zelda looked curiously at him. "Cold?"
"The mirror was always cold," he answered quietly.
The Princess considered for a while. "We might be able to find you something warmer to wear later. Come with me and we can go to the kitchens--that's the warmest place in North Castle. And they will have food," she amended with a smile. "Link will almost definitely be there." Dark Link followed without comment as she made her way down the winding stair. There were one hundred and ninety steps leading up to the remote turret room, and whichever way one was going it was a long walk. Zelda was surprised at the grace and utter silence with which Dark Link moved--he reminded her of a great cat somehow, a stalking panther. His boots did not make the slightest sound upon the stone floor--next to him she felt as if she was making a terrible, clumsy noise.
"Let me see if I have this right," Zelda began as they walked. "You were imprisoned in the mirror by one of my predecessors, and presumably one of the previous Heroes. Why?"
Dark Link shrugged and did not answer.
"Listen," the Princess said patiently. "What is in the past is in the past. It doesn't matter to me; I was just curious."
"I killed," he said. "I killed eighteen people. If I had been able to kill one more, I would have wiped out the Hero's line forever." And his tone was quite calm.
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