Though I was happy to have Hyrule back to the prosperous kingdom that it was, it was difficult learning to be a kid again.
The forest, my home, was both shockingly similar and sadly different. Milo was no different nor were any of the Kokiri children. The homes were all the same as well as the dust motes drifting lazily in the breeze, dispersed whenever something more solid came along.
Out of the corner of my eye tall shadows would quiver, dark Deku Babas rising from the ground and crouching for a lunge. The moment I spun to face my foe it would be gone and only the confused expression of my friend’s faces would remain. They did not see the forest overrun with monsters nor would they ever, protected by me though they would never know of it.
It was worse at night, in the hours between dusk and dawn. There the shadows would shiver and dance in the moonlight, the hiss and howl of enemies echoing within my ears. Even so, that did not compare to the dreams.
Though it varied at times each was so similar that they all blended together. I was an adult, or at least as grown as I had been traveling forward in time, in the room with the reflective, water-coated ground and lone tree. I ran forward as I had when I had actually been in the temple, steps echoing eerily in the room.
As I passed the tree and made my way to the door barred on the other side a sound caused me to spin around, sword drawn. The vision was almost always the same but I was shocked every time, so strongly that it shook my core; my shadow, the Dark Link, hovered where the tree had once stood, his arms and legs tethered with rope that was somehow connected to the ceiling and the ground. His teeth were set in a grimace of pain and as I tried to move towards him I found myself trapped in a diamond-shaped prison similar to that which Ganondorf had captured the Princess in.
“You have failed me.”
The deep, booming voice of the desert man would always send goosebumps breaking out across my skin, a chill running up my spine. He would materialize then before my shadow clone, looking as regal and menacing as he always had. Both Dark and Gannon would not react as I struck at my glass prison, as if they were unaware of my being there.
“I set you with a simple task, creature. Kill the Hero of Time.” The tall man paced, a lion toying with an injured lamb. “I not only granted you the ability to mirror and know his attacks but that to best him, as well. Is this how you repay your Master?”
The monster created from my shadow would try to speak then, voice pained and rougher than that of my own but strangely alike. “Master, please, he was too strong-”
The force of the word would send ripples through the water, wave after wave ebbing and flowing around Ganondorf’s ankles. Dark, held suspended by at least a foot from the bonds stretching his limbs, cringed.
Ganondorf, apparently calmed by the outburst of anger, would nod. “I see. You were given his strength plus abilities that he could only wish for in his wildest dreams, yet the Hero was ‘too strong.’” The great man would pause and I could see his expression turn to one of sick pleasure, even without seeing his face. But I was seeing his face because I was Dark, my arms and legs pulled taunt and muscles quivering from the strain. “Well then, you know what they say. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”
As the words left his lips the hold suddenly became an insistent pulling, the joints in my arms and legs protesting as they were pulled to their limit. With a scream ripping from my throat as my limbs were torn from their sockets my waning vision would fall on the figure trapped behind shimmering crystal, dark gloves pressed to the bent surface while red eyes bore into my own.
Then I would jerk awake, throat raw from screaming and coated in sweat.
I knew that I could not stay in the forest forever. Though the Kokiri took me to be one of their own I knew that soon I would begin to grow and they would not recognize me any longer, even if I stayed among them. I packed my things and in the quiet of the night slipped out of the forest and into the world I had grown to know better than my own home.
While being on the road was rough (made easier after ‘borrowing’ Epona from the ranch) it was what I was used to. My body was stronger than it had been when I first took on the quest but much weaker than I was used to, ending up with my spending many an hour searching for stray fairies or nursing my own injuries. I had seemed to of developed a sixth sense when it came to true danger; countless times when roaming there would be a flicker of shadow, something drawing my attention from the corner of my eye that would make me turn, or pause, or duck. Each time I would narrowly miss being struck with a flaming arrow, or swatted at with a spiked club, or knocked into a gully by an angry raven. Between my weapons, Epona and this foresight I had all I needed.
Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, months to years. It seemed to take forever yet just a blink of the eye before I was once again returning to Hyrule, skin bronzed from hours under the sun and muscled from riding, running and fighting. Part of me was expecting to see the sky darkened with evil and volcanic ash, the drawbridge to the castle broken and splintered and the malicious cackle of Poes roaming the fields. The quiet, peaceful darkness was both a relief as well as a disappointment.
Though I had intended to visit the castle to seek out Zelda (for she was the only one, aside from the other sages, who knew what had really happened) I paused, gaze turning in the direction of the lake. The temple was likely open, as that of the forest and desert and all others would be; they were meant for people to enter and give their praise to the Goddesses, after all. Making a quick decision I turned Epona towards the rolling hills and coaxed her into a gallop. The castle bridge would not be dropped until dawn, after all.
By the time I made it to Lake Hylia the first glimpses of light were starting to touch the horizon. I walked across the bridges and to the island that sat in the middle of the lake, as full and clear as ever.
Jerking I looked around, expecting to see someone nearby. After a moment and seeing no one my eyes traveled down to the rippling surface of the water-
Then I was staring into red eyes set in a face so much like my own.
I reeled backwards in surprise, falling hard onto a sharp pebble on my rear. Cringing at the bite of pain I moved forward again only to have a Zora staring up at me, its head and shoulders only just out of the water.
“Visitor from the land? May I help you in some way?”
/It cannot be just coincidence./ Licking my lips I nodded, resolve hardening. “I would like to visit your Temple.”
The room, when I returned to it, looked nothing like that of my dreams.
It was like a physical blow seeing the cold stone walls and ground, its four walls much smaller without the illusion. There was no endless white sky or lone corpse of a tree standing in the room’s center; it was just a passage into another part of the temple, no more spectacular than the others of its kind.
Stopping midway between the door I entered and the one I was meant to leave from I closed my eyes. /Of course./ Of course there would be no tree or sky reflected both above and below; that had been Ganondorf’s magic that had allowed it to be. Dark should not even exist, not with-
Because of you.
It was the echo again, the voice that I thought I heard after coming to the lake. Opening my eyes the room had not changed, still the disappointing sight of nothing around me.
Slowly, carefully, I closed my eyes once again. I stood encased in darkness for some long moments before images begun to play and dance behind my closed eyelids. I could see the room that I stood in but it was changing even as it came to me, the walls and ceiling stretching back and opening up into endless white. I was standing on the little island with the tree, at the edge of the water though when I looked down there was no reflection of myself or Dark in there; only endless white.
Spinning around I stood in shock. Dark was there, not the menacing figure holding a dark and deadly blade but a teen clothed in shaded clothing, sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees with his back pressed against the tree. His red eyes made it hard to tell if he were glaring or simply staring, all that was visible as the rest of his face was covered by the bent limbs.
I licked my lips, heart stuttering in my chest. /Is this real or another trick of my mind?/ “It is no trick,” the voice that sounded like my own said. “Though we are in your mind. I have always been here, Link.”
It was then that the world seemed to click into place. The dreams, the flickers of shadow that warned me of oncoming danger, the dark thoughts that I shoved at fiercely whenever they tried to arise. “It was you,” I heard myself say. “All this time, you have been the one.”
“What choice did I have?” The head dropped and hid his eyes from view, voice coming to my ears muffled but still understandable. “I’m trapped. I’ve always been trapped here, in your mind. I hate you so much that I could just-” Rage built swiftly both through and around me and the force of it nearly knocked the breath from my lungs. Then it was gone just as quickly, a echo of despair following. “But I could not let harm come to you as it would mean the end of me, as well. It is my punishment.”
“You mean to tell me all this time-”
“Yesss,” my voice hissed though it was not me. It was from the huddled figure, who had looked up to glare at me. “I have been awake, trapped within you, since you first entered my wards. I have been pulled back and forth through time, bound and gagged, unable to do much more than tease at your senses when danger was most prominent. Only now have I been able to contact you this way and not-”
Link didn’t need to hear it in order to know what the other meant. And not while being tortured in your dreams.
Dark unwrapped his arms from around himself then, rising slowly to his feet. I watched warily as he moved forward, stopping only when there was just an arm span between us. “Now that you’re here, we can be done with this.” His arms rose from his sides then, until they made a ‘T’ with his body, palms turned upward. “Finish this, Hero. Let me have my peace.” Glaring red eyes slid closed then, waiting for the kiss of my blade.
The weight of the sword at my back (not the Master Sword, still safely locked away within the Temple of Time) pressed heavily between my shoulder blades as I stood before him. Dark didn’t move, didn’t seem to breathe as he waited. It was then that I realized that there was a choice to be made, for as much as I had loathed and hated Dark I felt for him, as well. The darker side of me who had been revived only to be suppressed.
I took a step back, then another. “No,” I said softly and I could feel the small, sad smile on my lips that Dark could see when his eyes popped open. “I have hurt you enough.”
I only had a moment to see the shock etched into Dark’s features before the ground disappeared underneath me.
When my eyes opened again it was not because I had opened them. Dark was in control, with my hair and skin and clothes, having his own physical body for the first time in years.
He left the temple and set out like a man gone mad, riding Epona hard and fast to the castle. He drank and ate and indulged in things that I had never allowed myself to and could only feel as if through cotton, my own limbs both non-existent and unformed. I had taken on his punishment to being just a shadow of a thought, a creature hidden in the deepest depths of the mind with not much of a will to call my own.
It has been several years since that day and since then, the dream has changed.
It is Dark who enters the room of endless sky, my own form bound in its middle. Ganondorf is not there to torment me but Dark is, unhindered as I had been by the crystal prison. Red eyes laughing he kicks and punches and strokes and caresses me, groans of pain mixing with that of pleasure as he alternated between hate and love. As much as I want to hate him I cannot because he has suffered - is still suffering - because of me.
This is my penance for Darkness within me.
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