Posted on October 19 2018 by Kat Vadam
Chapter 28: Fall – Part Two
Deya and Avela darted over a collapsing bridge that connected towers of the castle.
“So much for hiding in the shadows!” Avela gasped before nervously laughing. “It’s kinda ironic, really – we’ve been using the darkness to hide from creatures of darkness.”
Deya smirked at the wordplay and shrugged. “I still think that I could probably take them, given the chance.”
“But I’m not going to let you right now. Our current goal is to find Kaden, not give your gear a test run.”
She crossed her wings. “He could be in danger. And what would happen if we were slowed down if your gear didn’t work properly?” He said nothing in response.
Avela took a step further, then held up one of her bright red wings. “Hang on – do you hear that?”
She darted forward without responding, quickly scanning everything with her avian eyes. As her gaze passed a pile of rubble, she noticed a glimmer of green and some subtle movement from behind it.
“Kaden!” Deya ran forward and knelt down in front of him. Without letting go of the green pendant he was clutching, he boy wiped away a few fresh tears that were rapidly replaced. “Are you okay?” Kaden only squirmed in response. Deya sighed. “We’re friends of Link. We came to find you. You want to get out of here, right?” Kaden sniffled and nodded. “Then let’s get you to safety.” He turned his head. “Avela?”
The Rito nodded and turned around. “Climb on my back.” She gave her best attempt to grin, despite the situation. “Ever ridden on a bird before?” Kaden shook his head. “Well, you’ll want to hold on tight!”
The trio charged out onto a nearby bridge that was still standing. Avela prepared to leap off the edge, then turned to Deya and hesitated. “What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. Get Link’s brother to safety, then come back for me. I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?” He nodded. Avela hesitated a moment more, then jokingly said, “Okay, just don’t do anything dumb.”
Deya smirked at his friend as she jumped off the ledge and began to fly away. A noise to his right caught his attention, and he turned to see a being in black armor walking around inside the next tower – a creature just like the one who killed his master. As his face darkened, he set himself and he threw aside his cloak. “Leave this place, creature of darkness!” He pressed a button on his chest, activating the gear that he had equipped, and removed his revised halberd from his back. His gear began to whir as it all came to life, and the sound filled him with confidence.
As Deya realized the creature had missed him, he began to move to enter the tower to take it on. But when he took a step, his gear exploded on him. He felt his skin burning and coughed as smoke from his ruined equipment entered his lungs. A noise from above startled him, and he looked up to see a large lizard-like creature on the roof of the tower. Seeing him, it jumped down and hissed in his face. Painfully, he raised his broken halberd in self-defense, only to be bashed in the side of the head with the blunt end of a spear.
Deya fell backward onto the surface of the bridge, the steady, warm drip of blood pooling against his temple. Above him, he saw a large, ugly, pig-like creature staring down with a lolling tongue. The creature picked him up and sniffed at him for a moment before dropping him over the edge of the bridge.
As he landed, he gasped at the severe pain. He didn’t even want to think about the cracking sound he had heard as he landed, rolled, and his body fell limp. The pain began to be too much for him. I – I failed – again. His mind wandered to Avela. I – I’m sorry, my friend. I failed – you too. Closing his eyes, his mind darkened, and he knew no more.
“Better late than never, I suppose. Your Triforce will be mine, now.”
Link stared deep into her face, and she smiled. His grip on his sword was slack, his shield lowered. He was positively dumbfounded, guard cast aside in confusion. Perfect. That would make this so much easier. He would not attack her, not while he was oathbound; looking into her memories, she knew breaking it would take moving mountains.
She could not have asked for a better opportunity.
Her malice struck out at him. He only just barely managed to raise his shield, and she clenched her fist. The black and crimson tendrils mimicked her action, grabbing his defense and ripping it from his hand. He stumbled forward, and they quickly encircled him, waving and dancing in wait for their next order.
“Oh, don’t play with the poor boy,” Ghirahim chuckled. She turned, narrowing her eyes. The Demon Lord had always been so cocky, so self-assured of his own value, and she could not say she particularly enjoyed him. But, he got the job done. Somehow, he had managed to deliver the Goddess, and now the Hero. He played a long game, and it worked. She let the arrogance go, and he winked.
“Zelda,” Link begged, “Zelda, this isn’t you!”
“An astute observation,” she nodded, approaching the boy. The blackness wound around her like a snake, her loyal familiar tied to her mind. “Zelda is but a mortal vessel, and I am so much more. They call me Hatred Incarnate, they call me Evil Reborn. But, like you, Hero of Time, Hero of Light, none of those names are me. I am a Calamity, the darkness that spreads over this land.”
She twisted her hand in a circle, and malice wrapped around him, over his hands and chest and neck. He choked and sputtered as it tightened to her will. She could feel the air trapped in his lungs, begging to get out. He struggled, an action she stopped with a simple demand.
Hylia, help me…
“Hylia isn’t here anymore.” The wicked smile that spread over her lips, the taste of his pain, she felt more alive than she had in eons.
I can’t stop it…I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry.
“Did I not say I would give you life once more?” Ghirahim asked from behind.
She nodded, tightening pressure, feeling Link’s struggle grow weaker. “You have done well. Take your throne, and take your armies. And together, we can-”
A flash of brilliant blue blinded her, and she stumbled back with a shriek and a curse. Like lightning through her skin, whatever had struck rippled through her tendrils and into her hands. She lost her grasp on the boy, and he fell to his knees, sputtering and gasping for air.
Next to him, glowing in stubborn contrast to her darkness, the sword lie, slowly pulsing and rippling in light. That blasted sword. The Blade of Evil’s Bane, forged by the Goddess and her Hero.
Link stared at it, and she could see the thought form in his head, just as surely as it surfaced in her own. She lunged for him just as he grabbed the blade and jumped up, dodging her.
“Zelda,” he said, desperately holding the blade before him; his grip waivered, and he conspicuously adjusted his hands to hold steady. “Please, don’t do this.”
“Do you even listen?” she spat. “Zelda is a vessel! If you cut me, it’s her blood you spill.” She lashed out, and he jumped back, pulling the sword back. It rippled, little waves of pale blue growing brighter, then dimming in proximity. She struck again, landing her hands around his, and entangled them in shadow. His eyes widened in absolute terror, meeting her own, begging, pleading as she moved the blade to rest against the skin of her neck. “Go ahead. Try it. Do that again.”
His whisper echoed in her head, met by a quiet plea of her own. Please, don’t, Link…
She shook her head angrily. “Do it!”
A ripple of light, and she was thrown back, slamming hard into the floor. She felt her shoulder collide, and she rolled a few times before sliding and coming to a stop on her stomach. Her body positively screamed in agony, and the gently tip, tip, tip of blood drops hitting stone brought a smile to her lips. She reached up to her neck: the wound was not mortal, but it would prove a point. Slowly, she stood, covering the wound with her hand.
Link, too, had been thrown to the ground, and now resided pinned in the twisting grasp of tendrils from the floor. Near him, Ghirahim hovered like a hungry dog waiting to be told he could eat. He stared at the Master Sword and licked his lips.
“Take it,” came her permission, and he pounced. “We will need it in a moment anyway.”
Ghirahim stared at the sword, taking it in for the priceless relic it was. Balanced between his palms, he gaped at its flawless, glowing blade, its winged hilt and crest. He practically drooled. A single, large crack appeared down its length.
“Pity,” he mumbled, and the crack began to spread.
“I said, we will need it,” she snapped.
He sneered, dropping the blade to point down. The crack ceased growing, but the glow had notably dulled. Link saw it and jerked his head to struggle against his bonds. She glided to the boy, raising him to stand with a simple motion of her hand.
“Do it, then,” Link growled, staring defiantly. A tendril slithered once more around his neck and tightened. He gasped, but never once turned his eyes away. She tilted her head, enjoying the show. “Kill me, and be done with it.”
“But I know she is strong enough.”
“She can fight you off.”
I am weak.
“Zelda…please…I know you can.”
She sneered, and the tendril tightened. “The Goddess and her child cannot–”
I have to…
She stopped in her tracks, meeting his eyes once more. “Stop. Just…just die already!” She grabbed his neck and squeezed. His eyes alight, bright, and blue.
Atop the roof of her study, they glittered beneath the stars as he smiled and swore his oath. “Princess of Hyrule, I pledge to you my loyalty, my sword and shield, and, should you need them, an ear and a shoulder.”
I accept this oath…
Ghirahim was speaking to her, but she could not process his words, voice distant. Her hands slackened, and she fought to tighten them once more.
But she couldn’t.
I should have told you that night…
She stumbled back.
I knew it then, and I couldn’t say it.
Her body felt numb, no longer in her control. She shook, in terror, in sorrow, in a struggle for control. A hand on her shoulder, and the touch felt so familiar, so warm. Her lungs burned and spasmed, begging to just let go.
I am weak.
Help me, Hylia.
“I cannot help you, Zelda.”
Zelda opened her eyes to nothing. Nothing she understood, at least. The world as she knew it had disappeared. The castle, the fire, the trees and town and people that she had grown up with had faded into an oblivion she never knew existed. And now, her mind fought to process the split scene that lay before her.
To her left, nothing but light and gold, swirling colors that taunted her with peace. She felt closure, warmth, protection. Like a world of purity beneath the watchful eyes of benevolence incarnate, through which Hylia leaned, kneeling on a cloud that could almost be made out if she focused. On her right, a world of utter devastation, devoid of any and all sense, disorienting and twisted. Hate reborn. Red and black and jagged, sharp enough to slice like a blade. Yet, somehow, so beautifully and enticingly calling, like a soft song on the wind that she chased until it was gone and she was left craving more. From within that world, she could see herself, licked by black flames that felt like home. The darkness embraced her, a mother long forgotten. The light…scared her.
And it made no sense.
“What do you mean?”
“It means just that, my dear,” Hylia said, voice symphonic, a chorus that swelled within her until she wanted to plug her ears. “I cannot help you.”
“Of course, you can’t,” she sneered. “When have you ever helped me?”
Zelda stared. The statement told her nothing she didn’t already know, but to hear it from the goddess herself punched hard and low. A sense of betrayal flared inside her. Her eyes burned as she longed to stare a hole through Hylia. Let it all burn, then. “Why does this not surprise me?”
“It should not surprise you at all.” Hylia looked at her without a hint of being disturbed. You have always been so arrogant, so condescending. I remember that now. Zelda was a mere small girl, begging for guidance. “You have read the annals. You should know I gave that part of myself up long ago.”
“And yet, I see you.”
“You do. Many of my incarnations have heard me, few have actually taken the time to give me a body, though.”
“You don’t even sound like a goddess.”
Hylia chuckled, and Zelda bristled. The flames around her rippled. “I don’t imagine that I do. You have not exactly done wonders for me; it took me some getting used to.”
“Why can’t you be clear to me?!” she scoffed, and wisps of darkness lashed out, like snakes in obedience to her word. Their fangs glistened not with golden light, but a crimson beacon of their own, gnashing threats unspoken, but understood.
Hylia raised her hand, and the snakes halted. She reached to one, pity in her large eyes, and ran her hand down its snout in a soothing manner. Zelda screamed and cursed, feeling the golden light of the goddess burn within her chest.
“Oh, Zelda. Sweet Zelda. How far you have fallen. But I know you can bring yourself back.”
“Because you won’t help me.” It wasn’t a question. Black had begun to seep forward, conquering the light, and Zelda watched as her body tensed and gathered it to spew forward and conquer this worthless hope. Her own eyes glittered, blood in the sun, a warning so loud.
“Because I’m not real.”
“What?” Zelda hesitated; the darkness halted.
“I’m not real, Zelda. I am only here,” and she touched Zelda’s temple with a glowing finger. Zelda cried out once more. “Not as you want me to be, but as you saw me when you first created me. Has it never been clear to you that you only see me when you need me? When your heart yearns for a clarity that will not come?”
“How could I create you?”
“You feared so much when you lost your mother, but you would never let it out.”
“You are not my mother.”
“No, my dear, I am not. I am simply what you made me to be, in hopes of understanding.”
She growled. How worthless, how useless! How utterly insulting that this…this…deity, who was supposed to have given her love and existence for the preservation of her land, would be so flippant to someone so dedicated. “I gave everything to embody you!”
“You already do!” Hylia dropped her hands in exasperation. “Every single princess born into destiny, born beneath my sign, they’re all me! And you! Every time we are born, we are complete! Hylia, Zelda, Goddess and mortal alike! We are all in you!”
“Then why am I so weak?!”
“You remain so unclear and afraid. Your hate is driven in this moment, directed at me, but I am not real. It is your fear that you must hate, and it is your fear that you must conquer.”
“How could I be so afraid when I am supposedly you?”
With this, Hylia slumped. Tired, weak, and so utterly…human. The goddess of ages crumpled beneath her own weight, and Zelda felt her heart shatter. Only a wind could be heard in a cacophony of clashing chaos and sense. A storm. A peace.
“Because I was afraid.” Hylia glanced up into the darkness, and Zelda noted a line of tears that poured in a single stream down her cheek. “The annals never spoke of that, I am sure. No one wants their omnipotent guide to be a coward.”
“You were afraid…” Zelda refused to believe it.
“Terrified. For my land and my people. To give everything away, to place all my trust in one person. To become mortal. To face what has now taken you. It could have taken me, and I knew it. And it scared me, as it scares you now.”
The goddess scooted forward on her knees until she could reach out and take Zelda’s arms with a pain so intense, Zelda gasped. She doubled over, trying to pull her arms away, but found herself in an embrace that consumed her tighter.
“I’ve waited so long to see this side of me in my own incarnation. I never knew how it would come to be, until I saw you. Until you gave me a new form. Your fear is my fault.”
“So, I really am just crazy?” Zelda now saw the telltale drops of her own tears, feeling their warmth pour without restraint.
“No, no,” Hylia soothed. “I mean…maybe a little. But it is not who you are. You have control, you just never knew how to capture it, and instead, manifested me to help you seek the answers you could not find within yourself. Just as I sought clarity. But the difference is, you can conquer what scares you. You must. You cannot give in to this malice.”
“Malice?” The word felt familiar, like a part of her she should remember, but wanted so badly to forget.
“This: the darkness inside you,” Hylia gestured. Somehow, Zelda noticed, that very darkness seemed at bay, even pulling back, still reaching and licking at them, but her vision had become just a bit clearer, and she could almost imagine herself not looking in, but feeling and observing from her own body once more.
“I am an embodiment of your fear?”
“And for that, I am sorry. But that doesn’t make you hopeless. You can overcome it, but, this time, you must do it alone.”
“I don’t need you…”
“You never have, have you?”
Zelda thought, and her mind snapped back into her body. She knelt before Hylia, engulfed in those warm arms, pulling and bringing her out from the cold, jagged, hateful flames into the light. The beckoning song she had before heard as a ballad of comfort now became a shriek, clawing and ripping at her. She recoiled with a whimper of her own, but Hylia released her and pushed her forward.
Suddenly, she was standing, staring into the void, in the blink of an eye. Unsure, unaware of how she got there. But… “But what if I fail?”
“One might argue that I did, too. And yet, each time the Calamity has come, we, I, you have conquered it. One way or another.”
“In the end.”
And with those words, Zelda woke up.
Zelda gasped as her eyes flew open. Pressure all around her, encompassing, warm and gentle: an embrace. His embrace. She sat up quickly, afraid she was wrong, and her eyes met his: bloodshot, scared, and familiar, beautiful, wonderful blue.
“Link!” she cried, and threw herself against him with a fervor she had never before known. He gripped her tight, his ragged breaths shuddering beneath her fingers as she clung to his chest. “I’m so sorry!”
“I know, it’s alright!”
“I let it in!” she cried, hysterical sobs breaking free from her as the full weight of all she had done came crashing down. She saw it all, the tendrils of malice, feeling the Calamity take her hands and twist the darkness to its will. She had bent hatred and fury, commanding it to hold and keep and…
…and kill. “I tried to kill you…”
“We need to go,” Link said, suddenly, but she didn’t process. Her mind went white with horror as the feeling of her hands gripping his neck crashed upon her without mercy.
“I tried to kill you!”
He stood, gripping her fingers. She wanted to recoil, to detach herself from those appendages that had so quickly fallen to evil and had nearly taken the life of her hero. She stared in horror at them, and all else faded. What have I done…?
“Come on!” He jerked, and she was pulled forward before her mind could sink back. Ducking and dodging shadows and hate, they sprinted toward the entrance of Sanctum. Zelda saw the limp form of Rylan and tried to stop, but he kept running, firm grip on her hand unwavering. The man with white hair and black eyes – Ghirahim – screamed at them incoherently, and the grizzled old Hylian soldier sprinted after them.
They burst out the door and kept running, down the cobblestone path that wound around her castle. Rain sprinkled on the ground, and the distant roll of thunder spoke to the storm that would soon come. They ran and ran until her chest screamed for rest and her legs throbbed in protest, and then they ran some more.
They did not stop until they could see a small gathering of soldiers scouting in the rubble and remains of her town ahead of them, including one familiar tall, muscular Sheikah form, who spun at Link’s call.
“Princess!” Impa screamed, and ran to meet them.
“Get her out of here,” Link said to the advisor. “I will hold them off.”
“No!” Zelda protested. “Not without you!”
“I have to hold them off,” he said as she embraced him with all the might she had left. “Go.”
“Run with me now!”
Behind them, the telltale shadow of creeping darkness poured over the castle’s gate. Link looked at it for a moment, then turned back to her. “If I stay and hold them off, it will give you a fighting chance to-”
“Then I will stay with you!”
“You need to run!” The rain had begun to fall harder now. She felt his arms hold her tightly, his heartbeat with her own.
“I need you, Link… Without you, I can’t…I can’t…!”
He sighed and pulled her from him, but did not release her hands, those cursed hands that had nearly taken his life. Already, the bruises from her fingers had begun to pool, black and violet against his pale neck. She nearly sobbed at the sight.
“I will find you,” he insisted.
She wanted to protest again, but his mind was made up. He was the hero, her hero, and she knew he would stay and fight no matter how much she begged him to run. This was his oath, and he was filling it. Then she would ask for another. “Swear it,” she ordered. “Swear to me that you will find me.”
He smiled and gently ran his thumb along her cheek; his Triforce glittered faintly. “I swear it.”
And she kissed him. Without thought, without hesitation, her lips met his in a desperate plea for just one more moment, one more touch, one more memory. She held him against her as the rain fell, and stole one final chance before the darkness came to tear them apart.
“I accept this oath,” she whispered, once they had parted, “and I will hold you to it.”
Link sprinted back down the corridor, grabbing a sword from one of the passing soldiers to arm himself again. His mind raced with a tirade of emotions, mixed together like a stew. Fury. Fear. Anger. Worry. Resolve. He had to brush those aside.
A voice spoke up in his head, one that he recognized as the messenger spirit. “Never take an oath you know you can’t keep.”
“I know. But she needs to be strong for Hyrule, and I have to be for her.” He slid below a collapsing portion of the ceiling.
“…You’re going to die…”
Link slowed down, hesitating in his response. “Maybe… but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, right?” He continued in a sprint, donning his shield once more. He looked ahead, seeing two figures down at the end of the hall, one an old man wielding a dagger and the other the flamboyant man with white hair. Both of them rushed toward him. “Talk later, all right?”
He raised his sword, ready for a counterattack. As the old man met him, he raised his shield to block an overhead stab, only to watch as the man dropped the dagger to catch in his other hand. Link just barely managed to lower his shield in time, mitigating the blow from a stab to his abdomen into a cut on his side. It certainly stung, but time warranted no leeway to consider the pain.
He turned his shield to make sure the old man wasn’t going to follow up with another surprise. However, he heard the snapping of fingers in front of him, and looked ahead as daggers, almost radiating with the same energy Zelda did, flew towards him. He managed to dodge them, hearing them tink against the corridor walls.
And then he saw the Master Sword, held in the white-haired man’s heads. The man had a crooked smile to his face, as though mocking him. Link’s fury got the better of him. He rushed the man, his Triforce glowing bright, rage on his face. “You hurt Zelda… You destroyed our home… and now, I am mad!” He brought his sword to the side, ready for an attack, and entered the Sanctum.
As he swung it to his left, the white-haired man smiled, and Link watched him expertly parry with the Master Sword and take a step back. “You’re supposed to be Hyrule’s savior?” Link swung his sword ferociously again, this time arcing it toward the right. Once again, the man parried his attack and laughed. “You’re the weakest Link of them all, if I had to guess. Certainly weaker than the Sky Child, from oh so long ago.” Link blocked the man’s counterattack before looking behind him, watching the old man throw his dagger. With no choice, Link had to step to the side.
He took another step back to dodge another lethal blow from the white-haired man. “You can’t dodge forever, you insect!” He raised his shield as the old man rushed him again, another dagger strike slipping past the shield and cutting his face. And thus the barrage of attacks continued. With every opening one man provided for Link, the other came in to compensate. He couldn’t get out a single hit. He could only prevent the attacks from reaching home.
One by one, each attack pushed him one step back, slowly chipping away at what little resolve he had left. One second, he turned what would otherwise be a lethal dagger attack into a small cut on his arm. In the next, he parried the Master Sword, watching helplessly as the white-haired man caused the crack to spread further and further through the blade with each strike. One final strike forced him through the backdoor of the Sanctum, which led to a balcony that oversaw the cliffs behind Hyrule Castle. He was quickly running out of options.
He tried to think. Maybe there’s a reversal I can do. Maybe they’ll screw up and I’ll get my opening. Maybe- He cut his thought short as the white-haired man raised up the Master Sword, now full of cracks. Link saw this as his chance. If he could just block the sword and grab it, he could get the weapon back. He raised his shield to block. And then he felt something enter his upper leg, something he could have blocked if he wasn’t focused on the Master Sword. If he hadn’t been overwhelmed. If only. If only…
He fell to his knees, gasping in pain, staring at a small dagger buried deep in his muscle. The white-haired man laughed, bringing the sword down in front of Link. What anger Link had left was replaced purely with fear. He had lost. He closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable. He heard the white-haired man speak out. “Such a pity… this is a fine sword..”
Link opened his eyes and looked up as the white-haired man grabbed the blade with his arm and snapped the Master Sword in two, his head screaming as he heard the voice he first heard speak to him in the Lost Woods cry out in pain before becoming silent.
“No..” Link gritted his teeth. He wanted to stand up, but he couldn’t. Deep down, he prayed all this was merely a bad dream, where he could wake up any moment. But it wasn’t. He looked up in horror as the man, a devilish grin now on his face, brought down the broken blade, the Blade of Evil’s Bane, legend and story forged by the Goddess and her Hero, and stabbed it through the flesh of his shoulder, leaving it in place.
Link cried out in pain once more as the man laughed, tossing the second half of the Master Sword off the balcony into the water below. “This day… it fills my heart with rainbows. Seeing my greatest threat on his knees, perhaps begging for death.”
The man chuckled. “I’m feeling generous today, but I don’t want to see that accursed blade again. Morris, if you will.” Link watched the old man walk up as though nothing had happened, a grim smile on his face as he grabbed Link by the neck and lifted him to the edge. Seconds later, Link found himself falling as the white-haired man laughed.
The world slowed down for him as his life flashed before his eyes. He saw his first training session with Rusl, the first time he saw Kaden, the cheers and faces of the people he grew up with.
And Zelda’s face, a bright smile on her lips.
His vision darkened, his eyelids like weights he could no longer hold.
I wish I could see it again…
He crashed into the water, his mind slipping.
But I must break my oath.
I’m so sorry…
Beyond the Horizon will return for Season Two.
Featured image by MaskedGolem.