The door creaked as it swung open, alerting her to the presence of an intruder into her room, her sanctuary. How she tired of the shadowy invaders constantly infringing upon her own quarters whenever they deemed it convenient for them to do so, as if it had not been simply enough to conquer her kingdom and occupy her castle. No amount of barriers—either physical or magical—could keep them at arm’s length; they could pass through all of them with but the merest thought and desire. This, of course, included the very door separating her tower room from the rest of fallen Hyrule. Their refusal to knock or even seek permission when closed—instead preferring to merely pass through the door—had led her to crack the door as a compromise with herself. Though her haven no longer felt private or secure, she could, at the very least, be alerted by the presence of one who dared to remind her she was a prisoner.
At the first hint of the sound from the door, Zelda set the dusty tome that she had been pouring through upon her lap. It was yet another interruption, and she sighed with displeasure. Yet she was quick to remind herself that their kind seemed to feed off of her negativity, as if they obtained some gruesome pleasure from seeing her cringe or rise to anger. She may be forced to live as a mere puppet in their play, a wild beast caught within a cage, but she would not give them the privilege of seeing her act the part.
“I do believe I was perfectly clear last time,” Zelda said, albeit with strain evident in her voice, “that I have no more relevant information to relate to you about the Triforce of Courage. Its whereabouts were lost ages ago, even to the ever-watchful eye of the Royal Family.”
She had expected him—her new “king”—to speak at that point, to boldly imply that she still had many closely guarded secrets burning within her heart that would aid him on his endeavour. Zant seemed convinced that Zelda had memorised every last minutia of the kingdom and that all one had to do was ask of her the proper question to unlock those dark, hidden secrets. Hours he would spend posing in effect the same question repeatedly—merely with different phrasings or approaches, each time exploring a different avenue of thought, some other aspect of the Triforce’s history that might lead to its present whereabouts. Had Zelda known those details, she would have easily spilled them if only to end the arduous torture.
Zelda cleared her mind, focusing it once anew upon the situation at hand. Her words had not been met with a response, which had consequentially allowed her thoughts to drift away from the present in the first place. “M-my lord?” she stuttered hastily, quelling the acidic feeling in her stomach for calling him by a title of which he was not duly worthy.
Had the creaking of the door been her imagination? Was she going mad from the isolation?
She leaned over the arm of her chair to peer at the ironwood door. Indeed, it had been pushed open enough for an individual to enter her chambers, although barely, much less than usual. Yet despite it all, nary a soul stood in the entryway.
Had the door opened on its own? No matter, she decided; it needed to be closed before—
“Tsk!” came a sudden voice from her other side, and Zelda nearly jumped from her chair in surprise, spilling the book to the ground. “Reading while her kingdom is in shambles!” the voice scoffed. “How utterly irresponsible.”
Zelda spun her head to her right, quickly glancing at someone she wholly did not expect. A little creature hovered in air—though in truth it looked as if she were merely standing comfortably upon a stack of invisible blocks—and leaned casually upon the back of Zelda’s chair. She had all the markings of one of the Twili—skin the colour of slate covered with taut, black garments that followed her every contour, but unlike the rest of her ilk, she was petite and imp-like, as if she were nothing more than a mere child, a child whose curiosity had led her far from her home and into territory quite dangerous. Not that Zelda had yet seen a Twilit child, but imagination decreed that it filled the missing hole of her experience.
“Irresponsible?” Zelda gasped in indignation. “You have no right to—”
“I have every right!” the Twili interrupted in vicious counterattack, yet it trailed off into a devious and almost melodic cackle, more playful than ferocious. She floated toward the floor by the table where Zelda was seated and picked up the book its corner as if it were a hideous object to be kept at length. “After all, unless the twilight overhead is but a figment of my imagination, I do believe that you invited my kind here quite willingly and are therefore accomplice to your new king. And here you sit, reading dusty old books as if nothing at all was the matter. I’d say that easily gives me the right. Irresponsible, I say!”
“You know not of what you speak!” Zelda said strongly, her frustration surging beyond her control. She lunged for the book to secure it from the imp, but the Twili tossed it quickly into the air behind her before diving backwards to catch it between her hands.
“Ah, ah, Princess,” the imp said admonishingly. “I don’t think you’re worthy of the privilege! Spoiled brat! Honestly, just what have you done since your kingdom has been conquered? Have you decided to play little nice princess and not get into trouble? My, he’s given you quite a large bed; have you decided already to cosy up to your new king, hmm?”
“He is not my king!” Zelda said, punctuating every other word of her sentence, now rising to her full height over the imp. “Were I in a disposition to be on speaking terms with your king, I certainly would not be locked within this tower, forbidden to see my realm decay but from this parapet. Or did you not bother to check the lock when you so casually slipped through the wall to rudely enter my quarters?”
“Pfft!” the imp spat, looking offended. “You’re still alive, aren’t you? And still in human form, no less, unlike the rest of your plebeians. Curious how you’re the only one. But ah, it must be your cloak which safeguards you. Did you beg Zant for protection from the darkness? Did you plead with him to spare you from the horrors your masses are going through?” Midna inched closer, growing quiet, her face serious. “Did you cry?”
Zelda made another attempt for the book, but the Twili eluded her grasp once again, a gleeful smile upon her face. Frustrated, and knowing that she will not rid herself of this nuisance quite so easily, Zelda retreated to her bed and sat down inelegantly upon her mattress, trying desperately to keep from flinging her anger at her prattling “guest.” “I am neither beggar nor dictator. If you must know, it was forced upon me by Zant himself. It seems that I am more valuable to him alive and ‘content’ rather than mistreated or worse dead.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” the imp replied. “Your new king isn’t exactly one for mercy. Conscripting slaves and warriors, conquering kingdoms hither and thither, threatening death to any who oppose him. Generosity—including generosity in the form of a free ‘Save me from the darkness’ cloak is far beyond him,” she said singingly while dramatically waving her hands. “Yet still you’re so comfortable and cosy....”
Zelda shrugged casually, finally in control of her emotions again. She folded her arms in front of her chest while raising a dispassionate eyebrow at the Twili. “Then believe what you will. It seems your mind is made up independent of my story, so why bother having a conversation about the matter? This is already becoming drab and quite fruitless.”
“Oh, oh, that is where you’re wrong!” the imp replied, her enthusiasm peaking as her eyes grew wide. “This was hardly pointless, Princess. I actually came here with a purpose in mind, and now I believe that purpose is fulfilled.” With gleeful laughter, she flew towards the princess, coming quite close to her face.
“And that was, dare I ask?”
“Oh, it was nothing much,” the imp answered nonchalantly. “I merely wanted to see if the rumours were true, the rumours saying, oh, you know, that the only reason that Hyrule has been conquered is because, oh, the princess just gave her land away. The way I see it, with you as its head, Hyrule is far better off beneath the blessed Twilight. Good riddance to—”
The imp, however, was unable to get another word out as Zelda then grabbed her by the shoulder, using her other hand to poke a finger into her nose. “Hyrule is more honourable and sacred than whatever kingdom you and your ilk come from,” she said sternly.
“That’s quite easy for little miss prissy to say while she sits in her castle reading books when she could be doing more productive—”
Suddenly the sound of a door unlocking echoed through the tower from below, coming through the cracked open door, and the Twili silenced herself instantly. However, the door’s unlocking proved distracting enough to cause the imp’s fingers to loosen their grasp upon the book, causing it to slip through her fingers. The old leather binding slammed against the stone floor, echoing throughout the room—especially within Zelda’s head. She cringed when the book struck the bare stone, causing her to release the imp herself.
Click, click, came the sound of footsteps coming up the tower stairs.
Seeing her chance, the Twili quickly glided away to the other side of the room, but she soon turned back to the princess, grinning wickedly. “Well,” she said in a hushed whisper, “I would love to stay around and chat, but, as I said, I’ve gotten what I’ve come for. Besides, I have other business to which I must attend. Later, loser!” The imp snapped her fingers, waiting for her magical portal to take her away.
Click, click, click.
The imp looked up to see bare ceiling, only to see no portal forming overhead. “W-what’s wrong?” she said in a panic. “That should have worked!” She snapped her fingers a few more times, each time with greater need, yet nothing happened. Abandoning that plan, she quickly fled to the stone wall of the prison, ramming her shoulder in it in an attempt to escape through it, but the stone would not yield to let her pass through. She then went to the windows, expecting them to either break or budge as she slammed into them, but break they would not. She was trapped.
“Come now, you think I haven’t tried that?” Zelda quietly asked, half-mocking the Twili as she folded her arms as an amused grin spread across her lips. “Do you really think Zant would leave me here completely unattended, no one to keep me from escaping, without extra precautions?”
The Twili’s face was now full of fear, and repeatedly she muttered the words “He mustn’t find me!” to herself. She combed the room for a decent hiding spot, but the tower was quite small and without places large enough for even a petite Twili to remain completely out of view.
With no time to dash down the spiral staircase to the window through which she flew in, Midna nearly gave up hope to find shelter, resigning herself to be captured, but as she took one last look back upon the princess, an idea sprang to mind. “I... hope you won’t mind,” she said, a sly grin plastered on her face. Without another second’s delay, she lowered herself to the princess’ feet and raised her skirts up, slipping herself beneath them for cover.
Nearly thrown off balance half from the imp squeezing herself between the princess’ legs for protection, Zelda grabbed the corner post of her bed to stabilise herself. Her dignity was being violated so disgracefully, yet there was no time to contemplate such matters for she quickly spotted the dropped book upon the ground, resting quite unnaturally with its binding face up. Quickly, though awkwardly, Zelda reached for the book with both hands to lift it up, turning it right-side up to pretend as if she had been reading it all along.
Click, click, squeeeeeeak...
The door, now fully open, revealed one of Zant’s esteemed messengers, who ambled slowly into Zelda’s quarters and turned to stare at her with its glowing, neon eyes. Zelda straightened her posture, looking at the creature with a practised, blank expression, one that would not betray any of her secret thoughts... or secret discomforts. The messenger finally turned from her and silently scanned the room, hobbling further in as if it were looking for something specific, but, as there were so few places to investigate, it did not take long for the messenger to be at a loss. It raised its bony limb to its head, scratching itself for a moment before looking back at the princess, its glowing face coming within inches.
“I heard voices,” it said in something of an accusatory hiss.
“You must have heard me,” Zelda said without inflection, almost matter-of-factly. “I was talking to myself while reading, as I commonly do. I do not think Lord Zant has forbidden me of that pleasure yet.”
The Twilit messenger emitted something that was a mix between a grunt and a hiss, showing its continued agitation and scepticism. “Something was dropped too,” it said slowly but still with disbelief.
Zelda remained unfazed. “I’m afraid that it does not matter how long Lord Zant occupies this castle; try as I might, I am still not used to your kind’s presence here. I guess you could say I’m susceptible to spooks.” She blushed falsely, continuing the farce, as if trying to present the perfect image of a modest princess.
The messenger breathed its raspy groan before finally removing itself from her face. “Very well,” it said almost mindlessly in reply, “but do not forget. We are watching you.” With that veiled threat, the messenger made its way to the door, closing it completely as he left, the muffled clicks of his heels hitting each step on the way down diminishing until finally the tower door was opened, closed, and then locked.
Not closely enough, thought Zelda.
It wasn’t until a few seconds later when, cautiously, a face peeked out from beneath Zelda’s dress. With the coast clear, she crawled out from under the princess, coughing as if she had nearly suffocated beneath the heavy fabrics, though whether the imp was doing so mockingly or genuinely, the princess could not decide.
“It wasn’t pleasant for me either,” Zelda said sternly, yet still she knelt down to place her finger beneath and her thumb upon the Twili’s chin, forcing her to gaze into Zelda’s eyes. “It is abundantly clear to me that you are as opposed to them as I, that you do not proclaim Zant as your king,” she continued, yet both her visage and her hold upon her relaxed slightly after she finished the sentence. Soon thereafter, Zelda finally let her go of the imp, yet her gaze did not leave her eyes. “I am willing to even wager that we share a common interest, and it is precisely that interest that sparked your unauthorised visit to my castle. What is intriguing is that, though while you are but a stranger here while this is my homeland, I am a prisoner whereas you are free. I think we might find greater power working together than individually.”
The Twili looked at her with strong resentment at first, not appreciating her initial tone of voice, but soon her misgivings faded, and her look turned more serious. She stood up then, returning to her hovering position over Zelda. The princess’ eyes followed while she waited patiently.
“Fine,” she answered rather haughtily while crossing her arms. She looked as if she had been roped into doing something she desperately did not wish to do with someone she desperately wanted nothing to do with. “My name is Midna,” she finally volunteered.
“A pleasure,” Zelda said with a sigh, only half-meaning it. She stood up, brushing some invisible dust off of her skirts self-consciously.
“So,” Midna answered, her voice still indicating her displeasure, “do tell what the ‘prisoner’ can contribute to my quest to find the legendary hero that will liberate the Twili?”
“Legendary hero?” Zelda began asking, yet quickly she shrugged off the need to know. “If you’re looking for a Twili to be your hero, Hyrule is certainly a strange place to begin your search.”
Midna paused a moment, clearly unnerved by something Zelda said, but she finally turned to her with as placid a face as she could muster. “I am unable to return there,” she admitted as if the fact did not concern her, yet Midna’s body betrayed her lie. “Therefore, I can only hope that I will find one of your own subjects to do the deed. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind letting me borrow one for a while, would you?”
Zelda gave her a small frown, yet she chose not to let that remark slide. “If that is the case, then that seems that must be our only course of action,” she responded, “but Hyrule is quite a large place, and vast regions of it are already under Zant’s control.” She walked towards one of her tall bookcases and pulled out a thin yet large book with verdant binding and gold trim, holding it close to her chest. Then, along with the book she had been reading before Midna’s intrusion occurred, she carried them to the same seat she was in moments ago. Midna floated slightly behind and ultimately returned to her position upon the back of the chair at Zelda’s right. “Zant’s forces came from the east,” she continued, “so I fear that most of Lanayru Province has already been overrun with twilight.” She carefully opened the thin book to the first page, and upon its delicate parchment was a hand-crafted map of her kingdom’s land drawn using many colours of ink. “Your only options are to search west and south. I would first seek out the Gorons of Eldin,” she said to Midna, pointing at their mountain upon the map.
Zelda waited for an answer, but when she did not hear a reply from the Twili, she looked up to see Midna in awe at the size and colours of the world, nearly mesmerised by it. Zelda quickly brought her fingers near Midna’s face and snapped twice, and Midna nearly fell off of the back of the chair before quickly looking at the princess with some annoyance. “I’m listening!” Midna said dramatically.
“Of course,” Zelda replied in mock-apology. “The Gorons of Eldin. There are many fierce warriors there—very strong, as well. You will probably want to hurry there as Zant has pried their whereabouts from me during his interrogations, and I imagine he will consider them a threat to his ‘kingship.’ You shouldn’t be able to miss them. They live by Death Mountain, the tallest in the range.”
“I remember that mountain,” Midna replied, almost wistfully. “You couldn’t miss it even if you didn’t have glasses! But the mountains seemed so dismal and drab; who in their right mind would want to live there?”
“You’ll understand when you see them. Also, while you’re out that direction, would you mind doing me a favour and checking to see what has happened with Kakariko Village? It’s just south of the mountain, right here.”
Midna looked patently offended by the princess’ request. “What do you think I am, your personal servant? Why should I do you any favours?”
Zelda sighed in defeat, already feeling the onset of a headache forthcoming. “If you would, please just check over the village to see if it’s been taken over by the twilight. It’s practically a ghost town these days, so you won’t find any warriors there, but the chief of that village is a personal friend of mine; I’d like to know any news from there that I can.”
“Ugh, fine!” Midna answered in disgust. “I’ll check up on your crappy town. Is there anything else you want while I’m out? Maybe you’d like some fresh fruit from the market perhaps, or maybe a little trinket or bauble to go with your collection, or how about a new dress to go with your collection? Because that black you’re wearing does not befit you humans.”
“Just... Kakariko,” Zelda answered, her patience wearing quite thin. “But if you cannot get to the Gorons, come back here and let me know before anything else. I’m praying that you’ll have luck there because there’s not much else hope in the rest of Hyrule to be found but for them.” She looked towards the bottom of the map towards the regions of Faron... and finally Ordona. “The south is home to two peoples, but you will not find the Kokiri useful. Or should I say, you likely won’t find them at all given their shyness. But the Ordonans... I do hope we do not have to place our trust in them. They may be loyal people, but they are mere ranchers these days, and those that used to be in the guard have aged quite a bit. Their town would likely not last long beneath Zant’s oppressive weight.”
“Relax, princess! You worry way too much!” Midna said with a sly grin. She yawned almost daintily stretched her arms. “Just leave this to Midna. Who knows?” she continued, now fluttering away from the chair. “Maybe I’ll even let my hero save Hyrule once he’s done cleaning out the Twilight Realm.”
“You had better...” Zelda said somewhat warningly.
Midna only cackled with glee as she gradually floated towards the door, giving her a devious wink. She turned about in air and passed through the closed door of Zelda’s quarters, disappearing from sight.
Noticing that the Midna had, just as the rest of her kind did, passed through her closed door instead of opening it, Zelda placed her books upon the table, stood up, and went to the door, opening it once again with but the slightest of cracks as she had been doing for far too long. Gracefully, she returned to her seat. Pushing the thin atlas off of her original book, she took latter book back into her hands and laid it upon her lap. She took one more glance at the cover and frowned at it, pain clearly etched into her face.
“Of the Twilight Mirror and the Eternal Imprisonment of the Traitors of Hyrule, by K. Gaebora,” she read with distaste. “Looks like I may yet correct your folly after all. At least, I certainly hope so.”
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