Tears Chapter Twenty-Nine
LINK woke suddenly from a disturbing dream in which he wandered through dark tunnels without direction, hunted always by some nameless black beast which he could hear behind him in the labyrinth. Sitting bolt upright in bed, he raised a hand to his forehead and wiped away cold sweat. His hair fell like a sodden rag over his eyes as he lowered his head and let out a shuddering breath.
It had been three days since he had gone down into Hyrule Town with Dark, and three nights in which he had been tormented by dreams--dreams of being chased, dreams of losing the beautiful sword. He felt as if some devil was on him, poisoning his sleep. With a sigh, he lay back down, the silken sheets cold and slick against his body, and knew that he could sleep no longer this night. His muscles seemed shot through with tiny wires, holding him tense and alert although his soul cried out for rest. He rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, his feet resting on the sheepskin rug that covered the bare stone floor.
"Why do I dream?" he muttered softly, and held his head. After a moment he stood up and padded lightly to the window, his bare feet scuffing softly on the flagstones. He leaned out and looked up at the night sky--by the positions of the stars outside his high castle window, he judged that it was only just past midnight. Only two hours of sleep this night, then. Half an hour less than last night and three hours less than the night before.
Link turned away from the window and snatched up a dark green tunic that had been flung over the back of a chair. He dressed slowly, feeling an ache in his muscles as if he had been exercising strenuously. Once he was clothed he walked over to the tall armoire that stood in the corner of his room, within which he had placed the beautiful sword. He liked to have it there when he slept, to be sure that it was safe. He pulled open the skilfully wrought door.
And the sword was gone!
"No," Link breathed in shock. He fell to his knees and began to rummage frantically through the bottom of the armoire, tossing boots, belts and other items out into the room without any care for their proper placing. In moments he was scrabbling on the wooden bottom of the armoire, and knew that the sword had, without doubt, disappeared. Link sat back and closed his eyes in despair. He needed that sword! Needed! There was no other word for his desire.
In a moment his eyes snapped open again. Who would have taken it? Who could? Someone who could pass like a shadow past the guards who walked the corridors this late at night, someone who would not be stopped by the locked door of his room, who would be able to enter Link's very bedchamber without a sound. There was only one person in North Castle who had those skills.
Link's gaze slid sideways to where his old weapon, the long serpentine dagger, lay discarded on the dressing table, next to such ignominious items as a wooden comb and an empty glass. His fingers closed seemingly of their own accord around the well-remembered hilt of the blade. A cold light glimmered in his green eyes as he unsheathed the dagger and in his free hand took up the key to his door. He unlocked the door without making a sound and stole barefooted along the corridor towards the stairs that led upwards to Dark Link's turret chamber.
He met no guards along the way, and for a moment he wondered if they had all gone away somewhere--that would explain how Dark had gotten to his room so easily. Then he dismissed the thought as unimportant. What was important was getting his sword back, at all costs. Strangely he did not feel nervous at all, even considering who he was about to face, and his palms were dry on the hilt of the dagger. Somewhere ahead, the sword called him with its addictive siren song, telling him that everything would be all right if he could only recover it. He set foot on the stair.
Link whirled to see one of the palace servants coming towards him - one of the night staff, whose job was to tend the torches and keep them lit. The man, dressed in the livery of the Crown, hurried up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Is everything all right?" Then he saw the naked dagger in Link's hands. The servant's eyes widened and he grasped the Hero's arm. "What's going on?"
He couldn't afford this. Faster than he would have thought possible, Link found himself reacting, half-turning as he jerked his arm free and then brought the hilt of the dagger hard onto the crown of the man's head, using both his hands to strengthen the blow. There was some blood, but not much. The servant crumpled to the ground without a murmur of complaint. Link stepped over his outflung arms and ran lightly up the stair. He paused to snatch a torch from a wall bracket, knowing that the top tower was poorly lit at Dark's request.
At the top of the stairs he paused for a moment to catch his breath, and a small voice of sanity within his spirit began to plead with him to go back. Some part of him knew that Dark Link would never do anything without a good reason, especially as he had already asked Link once to give up the sword. Stealing it after that would be foolhardly in the extreme, and if three hundred years of imprisonment in a magical mirror had taught Dark anything, it was not to be foolhardy.
But a stronger part of him knew that Dark must have stolen the sword for himself. For had not Dark Link been a servant of Ganon before they freed him from the mirror? And had he not tried to stop Link from taking it? The shadow was jealous, that was what it was. Jealous.
Link was standing outside Dark's room, holding the guttering torch. He laid his hand on the latch, knowing that the room would not be locked - Dark did not lock doors. Gently Link lifted the latch and, soundless as a murderer, he passed within.
Dark's round room was small but reasonably comfortable, if remote from the rest of the castle. A curtain had been drawn over the window to block out the light of the bright full moon, and Link was glad that he had thought to bring the torch. Dark's sleeping form was apparent in the guttering firelight, rolled in the rumpled bedclothes. The serpentine dagger cast a distorted shadow on the wall as Link silently approached his sleeping friend. He looked upon Dark's face, innocent as a child's in repose as he slept curled on his side, his naked back exposed. The serpentine dagger would slide in without any hesitation. In his mind Link saw himself stab his friend, saw that ebony skin divide as the blade of his own weapon found Dark Link's--whatever passed for his heart, anyway. The dagger gleamed hungrily as he set the torch into a bracket, and laid one hand lightly on Dark's shoulder to brace himself for the blow.
In a blur of movement Dark Link came to life, striking backwards with the flat of his hand even as he rolled off the bed and leaped to his feet on the other side of it. Link almost dropped the dagger in surprise but then he recovered his poise and dropped into a ready stance.
"Link?" Dark asked sleepily, blinking several times in the flickering light. He realised that Dark was still awakening, had reacted to the gentle touch whilst fully asleep, and felt a momentary pang of fear. Determinedly he crushed it.
"Where is it?"
"Where is what?" Dark asked. As he came fully awake the light of understanding dawned in his eyes and he started to back away slowly.
Link sprang up onto the bed, advancing. "Don't toy with me. Where is it?" He passed the dagger from one hand to the other, showing off his skill and making the blade flash fire in the torchlight.
"I haven't taken it," Dark answered. "Listen to me! You have to understand."
"I understand all right," Link said grimly, and dropped off the bed. Now there was nothing between him and his dark twin. "I understand that I have to kill you!"
"Wait--" Dark began, but then Link attacked with a jump-slash. Unarmed, there was nothing that Dark could do to block the blow, and he dived underneath Link's attack and rolled, coming up facing his friend with his empty palms held out. "Stop!" he ordered.
"I don't think so!" Link charged at his friend. Dark feinted left, Link circled right. The shadow backed away and then felt a wall at his back; in that moment he realized he was caught, trapped by the angle of the armoire. Link smiled slowly. "Trying to steal it was stupid, but you had to practically tell me you were going to do it!" he said softly. "Did you think I wouldn't know it was you?"
"Link," Dark said in desperation.
"Enough!" roared Link. Driven by something he could not begin to understand, he surged forward. Dark tried to wrestle him back but he had supernatural strength and easily overcame his friend's feeble defense. Link pinned the other by the throat with one arm, then he looked straight into Dark's strange crimson eyes, filled now with fear, and slammed the dagger forward with all his strength. The tip grated on stone.
He stepped back, smiling, triumphant.
"Link," Dark said once more, the whole world within that sound, and then he went stiffly to his knees. Without another word, the shadow crumpled forward onto the floor, his hands cupped forever around the dagger that had ended his life.
Link looked at his own hands. They were smeared--no, steeped in blood! Dark's blood, his friend's blood! "Oh, no," he said softly, coming fully around to what he had done. "No... no..." And he knew that Dark had never taken the sword and that it was in his room, propped against the bedside table where he had put it last night. He fell to his knees beside his friend.
Something was hot and wet, soaking into the thick wool of his tunic, creeping blackly across the flagstones. Dark's blood. Link's eyes widened in horror as he saw: wherever the gleaming liquid touched, veins of blackness crept out across the polished flagstones, coiling and spreading like cracks or the roots of trees. The air began to thicken with a cloying hot-copper scent. Now the whole room was swimming before his eyes, shifting and changing: the white walls were melting like wax. Oily shadows snatched at his ankles as he stumbled to the window of the room and ripped down the curtain, leaning out to seek a means of escape. Only a blank wall greeted his staring eyes. Wildly he turned from it and struggled towards the door across a floor that now squirmed like a living thing beneath his feet. Shadows gibbered in his ears, whispering fragments of foul and ancient tongues. And suddenly he realised that it was not a door he faced, but a throne. The shadows clustered thick about it, but he could see that it was not empty. A figure, horned and tusked, moved in the deeper darkness.
"Boy... I see you..."
"No," he mumbled through numb lips. "No, no..." His legs were no longer his own, carrying him relentlessly into shadow.
"Come closer. Yes... a little more. Come to me. Bow to me."
He jerked awake in pure terror, every part of him tingling. "A dream," he whispered, feeling himself shaking. "Just... a dream."
Then he blinked and looked around. Naked except for a dark green tunic, he was standing at the top of a winding staircase, facing a wooden door. In horror, Link dropped the glittering dagger. It fell to the floor with a ringing clatter of steel on stone.
"Link, you do not need to be concerned about me," Dark Link said softly. "I would not have let you harm me. You would never have been able to get close enough and, anyway, I do not sleep."
Link sat miserably upon the only chair in the turret room. Dark, who had been awake and sitting up in any case, had been alerted by the sound of the dagger falling and, though surprised to see the Hero at this time of night, let him in and listened quietly, sitting on the edge of his unslept-in bed as Link told his story.
"I don't know what is wrong with me," Link said brokenly. "If I could do all that while I was sleeping..." He looked up and met Dark Link's softly glowing gaze. "What if I went after Zelda next time?"
"Do you think that you would?" Dark sounded quite calm--curious, almost.
"I don't know!" he cried in despair. "I feel like I'm being attacked... I don't know who's doing this to me, or why..."
"That is a lie," Dark said quietly, and his soft voice cut the air like a knife. Link's head snapped up, and he stared at the shadow. "You know very well what is doing this to you," Dark went on in the same calm tone. "I warned you. You would not listen. You have taken something of mine and now you suffer the consequences."
"Something of yours? What do you mean?"
"How long will you persist in this self-deception?" Dark asked, and now his eyes glittered with a cold light. "It is the sword that I mean, and you know that perfectly well."
Link stood up to quell the tremor that threatened to start in his limbs. He walked slowly to the window, the curtain of which was now drawn back, and leaned on the sill gazing out at the dark town far below, and the rolling hills beyond. The moon was low on the other side of the castle and so the only light which entered the room was the cold clear radiance of the stars, shining in the cloudless sky. His fingers knitted together nervously as he leaned on the sill. "I'm afraid," he admitted softly. "I should have listened to you when you told me not to buy the sword!" In sudden anger he slammed a fist down onto the cool and unyielding stone of the sill. "Why didn't I listen?" he snarled, more to himself than to Dark.
"I suppose I am as much to blame as you," came the calm, quiet voice of his dark twin. "If I had had my wits about me, you would never have touched it. But I was imprisoned for too long--I am grown weak, and forgetful. I did not understand until now."
Link turned. "And what, exactly, is it that you understand?" he demanded. "You seemed to recognize it when Sepultura brought it out of the back room."
Dark smiled strangely. "How should I not recognize it?" he said simply. "It was the weapon I used against the Hero of Time!"
"You used it?" Link gasped.
The shadow nodded slowly. "Oh yes. Much of my old power came from that blade, which was wrought by black sorcery in the Seven Dark Years. It is called the Sword of Tears, and it is well named. The one you saw tonight... he wished to pit its power against that of the sacred Sword of Evil's Bane, which was held by Link First... your ancestor. But if it was to have any virtue against such a skilled swordsman, it would have to be wielded by a true master. So he gave life to--"
"You," Link finished.
"Link's shadow," Dark Link agreed.
"Why did you not speak of this before, even before I had taken the sword?"
Dark sighed and looked down at his own hands, folded in his lap. "My mind has been clouded and dull. And it was all so long ago... At first I did not know what it was, but I could feel that it was an ill-omened weapon, and that it somehow recognized me."
Link's face brightened slowly. "But... if you have used it before without harm, then maybe it can be controlled by my own will!" His eyes shone as he sat upright and leaned forward earnestly. "I could use the sword! Just tell me how!"
Dark shook his head from side to side. "Link, do not even think of it. I would not have you caught up in this--the thing is poison, poison to everything it touches. Only I can master it."
For a long time Link stared at the shadow, then a slow scowl spread across his face. "You do want me to give you the sword," he said in disgust.
"Have you even been listening? The last thing I desire is to face such a test of strength." He held himself very still as he went on, as if to move would be to provoke Link into attacking. "But even so, it would be safer in my hands than in yours. I do not believe you or any of the others here can use it, for it would corrupt and finally destroy them. But I myself... the sword and I were made for each other. We are part of the same sorcery--we complete each other." His voice grew strong, and he made as if to rise. "I ask you as a friend--if you cannot give me the Sword of Tears, at least forbear from using it!"
It was as if a shutter came down behind Link's eyes. He stood up abruptly, knocking his chair over. "I am not going to give it to you," he snapped, "no matter how much you plead for it!" Without another word he stormed out of the tower room, slamming the door behind him with a bang. Dark did not move for a long time, but finally he bent his head and sighed softly. Standing, he moved over to the window with unconscious grace and reached his hand up to the thick curtain. He paused before drawing it to, taking that moment to look out onto the night-cloaked world before him. The first faint streaks of dawn could be seen against the dark velvet black of the sky, and now the darker shapes of the far-off hills were silhouetted against the beginning of the dawn. This was the end of Dark Link's world--soon the sun would rise and drive the shadow into hiding, even before everyone else even awoke. He jerked the curtain across with savage force, and turned away from the window.
The sun was high in the cloudless sky, scattering its radiance upon the world of Hyrule as a gift from a higher power. Sofia looked upwards, her eyes always avoiding that one shining lantern which had the power to blind, and remembered the days of her youth in the western deserts, playing with her brother Galdenor and other children of the human race. It was rough play, war-play, a preparation for a rough and warlike adulthood. Once, she remembered, she had looked directly at the sun, wanting to see behind the light and fathom its true nature--she had spent the next two days in bed in her father's dark tent with wet rags over her eyes. But at the time she had wondered, did the same sun shine on the forbidden land beyond the mountains? Now she knew that it did.
Hyrule could not have been more different from the harsh, exotic land of her birth. Sofia's horse ran on soft grass now instead of hard, compacted sand, and she felt strange at not having to cover her mouth and nose when out in the open. It was only recently that she had started to break her almost unconscious habit of pulling her scarf up over her face as she left shade--things learned in the desert did not die easily. Still it felt wasteful to breathe the cool air of Hyrule without a protective covering over the mouth and nose, although there was no danger of losing water to the winds here. Sofia smiled wryly.
She had spent the last few days traveling the land in which she found herself, meeting its people and familiarising herself with its air and customs. Unlike her own people, the elvenkind were always pleased to see one of their old enemies, and even welcomed the human into their houses occasionally. If the positions had been reversed--if she had been of the Ælfan traveling in the desert, she knew full well that the Gerudo would have rejected her and possibly killed her outright. Link and Zelda had been lucky in their venture into the desert--they had probably come into contact with the one truly openminded human in the entire western realms. Sofia.
But perhaps her people's resentment was not entirely unjustified. As far as Sofia had seen, the meanest of Hylian peasants had a better quality of life than any human. Their land was rich and fertile, food plentiful and water easy to come by. Rain fell regularly upon the green hills, and the fury of the sun was softened by the gentle clouds. Sofia had heard the old stories in her childhood: how the elven people had driven her own ancestors into the desert and forced them to live the way they now lived, scraping their meagre existence from the dew on rocks in the early morning and the mossy plants that grew in the shade of the Desert Colossus. If the annual rains came late, they starved. Scorched by the merciless sun, Sofia's fierce and fire-haired folk had a savagery that Zelda's kind did not--their bright-burning lives passed swiftly, and like flames they failed and died.
Sofia's horse breasted the hill, and before her lay her destination, North Castle, white and shining in the sun. The horse snorted eagerly and stretched its pace a little. She patted the animal's dusty gold neck and it lifted its head, mane streaming as it ran beneath her. It was not her own--she had borrowed it. Hylian horses did not have the strength and endurance of the desert breeds, which lived always on the margins of the sand and could run for a week on a few mouthfuls of dry grass, but they were graceful and quick to respond to even the faintest of signals. Riding one was like managing some perfectly designed and well-oiled machine. Sofia guided her horse around and over the slightly rockier ground at the foot of the hill and trotted up to the gates. The guards, recognizing her, grinned and stood aside to let her pass.
It was only a short ride to the castle and Sofia let herself enjoy it. The sights and sounds of Hyrule Town were very different to those she had known, and she still enjoyed the novelty. Instead of scorching winds, cool breezes caressed her cinnamon-colored skin which still bore, and always would bear, the darkening of the deep desert. The scents that came to her were of the marketplace, of animals and of fresh food cooked and uncooked, not of the preservative spices which saturated sun-dried meat or the harsh acidic aroma of powdered dung. Hyrule was, for Sofia, an earthly paradise. She guided her horse between white-marble buildings of stone.
Already she was known to most of the castle servants, and she was allowed to pass unchallenged through the White Dragon Gate. "You'll be looking for the Princess, will you milady?" one of them asked politely.
Sofia reined in her horse halfway through the gate. "Zelda, if she is here," she admitted, "but I also hoped to speak to Link. And the..." She paused. "The dark one," she finished, a hint of reticence creeping into her voice. The golden horse snorted and shook out its silky mane, jingling its bridle.
The guard grimaced. "Wherever Hyrule's Hero goes, there goes his shadow!" he said. Turning his head with a strange neatness of manner, he spat into the dust and scuffed the mark away with the toe of his boot. "They're down at the archery range."
"Thank you," Sofia said by way of reply. With a kick and flick of the reins she got her horse moving again and sent the gentle beast up the dusty path at a smart trot... the guard's words had got her thinking about Dark Link. She could not, would not trust him. Ever. His very eyes were orbs of magic, the color of danger, of blood, and she inherently mistrusted his abilities of illusion and deception in the darkness of the shadow realms. The Gerudo saw life in clear terms, and magic to them was a danger and nothing more--something to be avoided if it was at all possible. Faced with a creature who had been born of magic no Gerudo would feel at home, for the memory was still fresh among them of the evil sorceresses Koume and Kotake who had poisoned the Spirit Temple, even though that time was over a thousand years past.
And of course there was another, greater sorcerer... and that was the point, really, wasn't it?
Her horse breasted the shallow rise between the sanded path and the Royal archery range, and immediately she saw Link and Zelda there, swapping a bow between them as they took turns to shoot. Her lips pressed together tightly as she beheld another lone figure standing several paces away. He wears his solitude like a cloak... does he think he's better than us? Sofia trotted her horse up and dismounted a few feet away from her friends, looping the animal's reins over a post that had been placed there for that reason. "Hallo," she called as she came up to them, slicking back her red hair. A thin film of perspiration streaked her skin from the ride.
"Well met," Link said gravely, lowering his bow. "Where have you been?"
"Everywhere," Sofia said with a smile.
"Do you want to try?" asked Zelda, motioning to the targets set up forty paces away. One had three or four arrows embedded in it, clustered around the red painted center circle. Sofia could not suppress a slight exclamation of surprise at the skill of such shooting.
"I have used a bow before, and met with some success," she said. "I hit my target more often than I miss, that I can say at least. But I don't have this kind of skill."
Link handed her his rosewood bow and an arrow. "Try it," he said with a grin.
The bow was a work of supreme craftsmanship, well cared for and obviously beloved. Sofia ran her fingertips lightly down its polished wooden surface to feel the warm grain of the wood and marvel at its beauty. Never had she touched a weapon of such distinction. Carefully she lifted the bow and set an arrow to the white waxed string. She held it horizontally, Gerudo-style, and sighted along the arrow for a full two seconds before releasing the string. With a soft whirr of feathers the white arrow sped from the bow and hit the outer area of the target with a hard impact that rocked the wooden circle on its supports.
"Not bad," Link said approvingly. "Try drawing it the way we do. Your way makes for greater strength at the release, but less accuracy."
"It's true," Sofia agreed. "Though even so, I should have done better than that! I put my people to shame--we used to be some of the greatest archers in the world. Still, the bow is not my primary weapon, so I think my present level of skill will suffice!"
Zelda took the bow from the Gerudo woman, fitted an arrow to the string and with a thoughtful, almost preoccupied expression on her face, loosed it. The arrow flew straight to the red, hitting the edge of the inner target area. The Princess smiled happily at her success. "Beat that, Link!"
Link laughed. "All right--let me try!" He took back his bow and shot again. His arrow also hit the edge of the red, next to Zelda's, entering the wood to the barb.
Sofia glanced at the cloaked figure who stood in the shade of the silver birch, silently watching their display of archery. "What about him?" she said to Link in an undertone.
Link looked uneasy. "He keeps to himself so much, we never thought to ask him if he wanted a go," he owned. "Hey! Dark!" He waved his arm. "Come over here!" The shadow glided noiselessly over the grass to stand before them. "You try it," Link suggested, holding out his bow and another white-feathered arrow. "Go on," when Dark did not accept the offering.
Dark's blood-red eyes glowed underneath the low cowl of his hood. He reached out and took the bow carefully, examining it as Sofia had done. His skilled fingers ran the length of the wood, tested the taut string, checked the loops at each end of the bow.
"Try it," Link urged.
The shadow lifted the bow in a smooth casual movement. The arrow fitted itself to the string and the string drew back almost as if Dark's slender black hands had nothing to do with it. The string twanged and the arrow hummed.
There was a soft thud as the arrow hit the very center of the target.
Link, Sofia and Zelda gazed open-mouthed.
Dark lowered his head. He pushed the bow back into Link's hands and stepped back from the range without a word, pulling the cowl of his hood down against the sunlight.
"He didn't even bother to sight," Zelda muttered softly, pitching her words so that only Link, who stood beside her, would hear.
Link took a breath to recover his poise, shouldering his bow. "Fluke shot," he said, his tone strangely bitter. The girls looked at him in some surprise; it seemed rather unlike him to act so. Dark turned away from them and would not meet their eyes.
Zelda took Link's arm gently. "Link," she said softly. "the first Link, your ancestor... He could shoot. He shot well enough from horseback to impress the Gerudo. If the legends about the Hero of Time are even halfway true, he could bring down a deer at a hundred paces with a short bow."
Link glared at the slender hooded figure, Link First's shadow--the living embodiment of the fabled Hero of Time. Today he did not feel like being upstaged in anything, especially archery which he thought of as his speciality. Suddenly he was angry at Dark Link, challenged by his presence. Dark Link had stepped out of the very pages of history to walk once more upon Hyrule's soil and Link felt as if he, a product of the modern age, was inferior to this creature of legend. He wasn't good enough. His face darkened as he regarded the arrow which had found its target so accurately, and his fingers moved unconsciously to his belt, seeking the hilt of a sword for reassurance.
A frown crossed Zelda's face. She sensed the sudden enmity between Link and the ancient shadow, had known a strange new coldness in Link ever since meeting with him that morning. Something was wrong between them, and it came from Link.
Sofia caught her gaze. The Princess and the Gerudo shared an unconscious communication of feeling: both sensed the abnormality in the atmosphere and both were uneasy about it. The red-haired woman nudged her Hylian companion surreptitiously, coaxing her off a little way. "Is something wrong?" she whispered to Zelda.
"I don't know," the Princess answered reluctantly. Her blue eyes were worried as she regarded Link, who stood a moment longer looking at the targets, then threw down his bow and stormed off to retrieve the arrows. "It started the same day we went off riding--do you remember? Link took Dark down into the town to look for weapons. But neither of them will talk about it. As far as I can make out from the little they've said, Link found something he liked and Dark did not want him to have it for some reason. And he's been so irritable this morning..."
"Is it jealousy, then?" Sofia asked. "That's easily solved. Just do what my father did when I fought with Galdenor--bang their heads together."
Zelda frowned at the red-haired woman. "Violence is not always the answer, Sofia."
"It's the only thing men understand," Sofia said seriously.
Link pulled the arrows from the targets with a violence that suggested they had themselves done him some grievous wrong. Two, he remembered, had been lost due to stray shots, and he went out beyond the targets to look for them in the long grass. As he searched, he brooded on the problem of Dark Link, and his face grew stony. Why did Dark have to have anything to do with them, anyway? Why did he have to be a Legendary Knight? Or was he? Perhaps Zelda had got the whole thing wrong. Link certainly could not see that the Shadow Knight could be a creation of Ganon: the Legendary Knights were created to destroy him. Anger gnawed at Link's soul, and he touched the dark sword that hung ever-present at his very side.
"Dark Link?" Sofia called softly. The shadow turned his face toward her and she could not repress an involuntary shudder. With his head shadowed by the cloak's hood, Dark's black-skinned face was not visible and only his blank red eyes shone from beneath the cowl. It appeared for a moment as if there was nothing within the cloak's hood. Sofia mastered herself with an effort. "Would you come here for a moment?"
Reaching up to keep the hood of his cloak from blowing back, Dark came soundlessly over the grassy ground to join the two young women. "Yes?" he said quietly.
"Is... something wrong?" Sofia asked.
"With me?" the shadow suggested softly, and laughed. "No."
Zelda picked up on the omission at once. "Do you mean that there is something wrong with Link?"
Dark looked over to where Link stood with back turned to the others and head bowed, kicking through the long grass. "I think that is obvious," he said, his passionless voice carrying a faint hint of reproach.
Sofia sighed, then, "Listen, Dark. I don't like you and I will be the first to admit that fact. But we are all in this together, after all. Now, if there's something you know about Link, you must tell us. We are supposed to be a team. We can only do something about it if we know what is wrong. Have you said anything to him?"
"Only that which I must," Dark said grimly and was silent a long time. Finally, he said, "It is not easy for me to... I am too used to being alone. Forgive me if I have kept things to myself that would be better shared."
"Tell us," Zelda prompted.
For a long moment it seemed as if Dark would not speak. Then, finally, he said, "It is the sword's work. I should not have let him buy it. I could have averted this. But there is no help for it now--we must trust Farore to protect him."
Dark Link turned away then, closing his eyes.
Zelda was astonished to hear the shadow invoke the name of the Goddess of Courage. Dark Link's deity and guiding force was Din, Goddess of Power, as it had been for Ganondorf. Driven by something she could not explain, she came forward and slipped her fingers into Dark's. His skin was cool and smooth. He looked at her in surprise and a little alarm, but did not pull his hand away. "I can see that you know more than you tell us," the Princess said softly. "I wish I had some of the power of my ancestors... then perhaps I would be able to do something to help. As it is, I just do not know what to do about him."
"We have all faded since those times," Dark Link answered. "And I--I am still weak. I have not the power to wrest it from him." He seemed to speak more to himself than to her as he went on, "It has been so long since I last heard his voice, and I think it does not have a hold on me now. But the boy is so young... and headstrong... and I am so tired. I cannot face such a struggle..."
"Dark, what are you talking about?" Zelda demanded. He did not answer and she grasped his shoulder and gave him a slight shake. The shadow blinked and seemed to awaken. "What were you talking about?" Zelda insisted. "What struggle, and what voice?"
"Was I talking?" he said vaguely. "I am sorry, Princess--I do not recall. I was dreaming."
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