Mirror, Mirror

By The Missing Link

[WARNING:  Contains Twilight Princess spoilers!]

Note: This story is the sequal to Two Sides of the Same Coin'. You may find it helpful to read that story first if you haven't already done so.

     The glass cracked.
     “No!” Link shouted.
     I looked with surprise up at the Twilit princess, my jaw dropping silently after I realised what she had done, nay, what she had intended to do all this time.  Yet instead of resolute determination upon her face in that last moment, as she stood bathed in the light of the mirror, I saw shock.  Panic.  Fear.  Regret.  Pain.  Suffering.  The sudden shift in personality literally left me speechless, struggling to understand what had transpired in that moment.  Just how–?
     From the corner of my eye, Link darted forward, insanity flickering in his expression.  He stumbled briefly, almost as if his mind, so resolute in pursuing Midna into her kingdom, had forgotten how to do all else.  He struggled once again to his feet, yearning to join the woman upon the dais, but I knew he would not make it, nor could he truly go.  I threw myself upon the boy, pulling him, tugging him, anything really to keep him from touching the perilous beam coming from the Mirror of Twilight.  I didn’t understand; I couldn’t have known!
     And yet, deep down, I knew.
     Though a moment too late, I knew.  I understood what it was going through their conjoined minds in that moment.  There had been a connection.  A connection that was now in the process of breaking.  Severing apart forever.  It was as she had said:  so long as the mirror was there, they could meet again.  But it wasn’t.  And soon she wouldn’t.  I looked upon the fallen hero in pity, unfathomable pity.  I could feel within him emptiness so immense that nothing could fill the wound of his heart.  I knew nothing I could do would ever repair the damage wrought to him this day.
     She disappeared.  Link collapsed under my weight—no, under the weight of his loss.  His spirit no longer capable of holding him up, I found myself toppling toward the ground, falling half upon him, half upon the shards of glass scattered all across the steps leading up to the mirror.  I pushed myself up off of him, and, as I did, I felt a sliver of sharp glass beneath my hands pierce the skin between my thumb and forefinger; a slow trickle of blood oozed from the puncture.  I cringed in pain as I shifted my weight to my other hand in order to stand.  I pulled the sliver out, and the blood flowed more freely then.  Trying to stem its flow, I pressed my thumb over the wound, the pain intensifying from the pressure.
     Yet then I reflected upon the scene that I had just witnessed.  Already, I missed Midna.  I had enjoyed her smarmy personality during my imprisonment; I had always received an unspoken, unuttered encouragement whenever she visited.  And yet her visits would be no more.  Her unexpected action had pierced my heart ever so slightly, just as the glass had pierced my hand.
     But I looked to Link and realised that what damage had been done to me had been done to him ten thousandfold.  It must have been as if every other shard that had not pricked me had stabbed and mortally wounded him.  I turned to him to see him weep, his body heaving almost uncontrollably.  His left fist pounded the clay ground, each pound sending splinters of glass chaotically through the air.  Though most of his hand was covered by a leather glove, his exposed fingers were not immune to the same crimson stain mine had already experienced.  “Why?” he called into the desert.  “Why?”
     I knelt to his side, placing my unbloodied hand upon his back between his shoulder blades, hoping that my presence might soothe him.  And while the reminder stayed his fist and his cries, he would not move from his position for the better part of a quarter candlemark.  I could only speculate on the feelings running through his mind.  Solitude?  Loss?  Brokenness?  Betrayal?  Only he could know.
     “Can we rebuild it, Zelda?” he asked, finally acknowledging my presence with words.
     “The mirror?” I prompted, not quite certain precisely what line of questioning he was pursuing.
     “I– I don’t know.”
     He paused for a moment, resorting to silence.  For a moment, I thought I had inadvertently crushed his last hope, cut the last thread upon which he was holding.
     “You– you’ve got books.  At the monastery, you– you said you had books.  Could you–?”
     I nodded.  I wouldn’t have been able to say no to that.  It’d have been inhuman.

     The next weeks were almost torturous.  Life and normalcy had gradually begun to blossom once again in Castle Town, and with it came the stresses and strains of duty and responsibility.  Even I could not neglect its call.  I was quickly busied with restoring relations with Hyrule’s neighbours (it had been months since any diplomats had heard from our nation, and some had actually been trapped for weeks beneath the Twilight), overseeing the slow rebuilding of Hyrule (the castle wall as well as some of the nearby dwellings had been practically demolished by the fallen stone turrets), and attending to the needs and pleas of my people (which could never be avoided no matter the circumstances, not to mention all the more necessary after such a stretch of ill tidings).  My presence was needed hither and thither, the demands for my attention constantly increasing.  My opportunity to visit the monastery, like the Twilight Princess had done herself, practically vanished before my very eyes.  My guilt for not aiding Link could not have been greater.
     Only during the rare off days was my schedule sufficiently free to allow for a journey to the foothills of Peak Province where the monastery was located.  Even by carriage, it took a two-hour or more to make the journey in both directions.  Yet despite my wishes to quickly be ushered to the library to begin my research, this quaint dwelling was not so far removed from the happenings of Hyrule to allow me immediate solitude.  Pleasantries needed to be exchanged, news and reports needed to be given, needs had to be heard, and prayers needed to be spoken before I could in good conscience detach myself from the faithful wardens therein.
     I would then spend the greater part of the day searching through row upon row of shelves searching for the oldest and most arcane of the dusty tomes.  (After all, the knowledge of the Twili had been forgotten centuries prior, their earliest traces practically erased by time.)  I would gather several and carry them to a desk and begin scanning their pages, translating the words by candlelight.  Much of the legends and yore I ruminated through was utterly fascinating, telling me of men both great and evil and tales both noble and treacherous.  Yet little of it dealt with the subject of the Twili or the mirror which had banished them to their twisted distortion of our reality.  Had it not been for the guilt, the frustration of near failure might not have afflicted me quite so harshly; even by my fifth and sixth visits, my lofty hopes had already started to wane.
     Yet the most tragic and disheartening fact was that, despite my efforts, Link’s world seemed to be caving in upon himself quite rapidly.  It had taken some convincing to finally convince him to leave the Arbiter’s Ground after Midna had departed.  It was only with my promise that I would do all I could to try and unite the two again that he would do so, and even then I could see through his false smiles, dismissals of my worries, and promises that he was perfectly fine.  The journey from the Gerudo wastes had been almost completely devoid of conversation, and even since, he for the most part politely refused my proffered company.  The life and magic in his eyes that had been omnipresent every time I had first seen him as our lupine saviour had been extinguished and replaced with a pallor that did not suit him.
     Though he understood quite devoutly my inability to retreat to the monastery immediately and, once there, remain for days upon end, I truly think he had secretly hoped that it would have been feasible.  During the day, Link would roam the streets as a Poe might have, engaging none and seeing nothing.  Day after day this repeated until finally he told me—in a brief and hastily scrawled note, no less—that he was returning to the Arbiter’s Grounds, alone, in search of his own answers.  Precisely what answers he was hoping to find there, I could not tell; his heart had been closed to me and all else since, and only his actions gave the briefest sign of what lay within.
     Link would come and go as he pleased, only communicating his journeys to me via hasty notes, perhaps in a fear that I would try to prevent him from travelling.  He would always return though in a day or two, always asking me if I had discovered anything, if I had made any progress.  Sometimes it would be no; sometimes I could say confidently that I had discovered a tenuous lead that might pose promising in time.  Neither answer ever sufficed despite that he pledged his faith in my ability and devotion.  Faith in me.  Faith in the future.  Faith of a reunion.  I often doubted that any of the three had honestly existed.
     One evening, a full four months after Midna had departed, I was curled in bed, using the last bits of my dwindling awareness to work through one of the books the monastery had graciously allowed me to borrow, a book that had actually shown quite a bit of promise.  Link, again at the Arbiter’s Ground according to his last message, had been gone longer than usual, already a week without sign that he had returned and left again.  With each passing day, my worry for him had deepened, and finally I realised that I could not concentrate upon the parchment any longer, my mind perpetually distracted by his prolonged absence and worried that he had met some ill fate.  With my stomach in knots, half-fearing that he had possibly taken his own life, I decided resolutely to break a vow I had promised to myself long ago.  I opened a small wooden case and took out a rather large, turquoise gem set within a gold fitting; a thin chain was tied to it, and I placed it around my neck, allowing the charm to dangle upon my bosom.  I closed my eyes and tapped the gem with my forefinger, whispering the words, “Link, if he be alive, reveal him to me.”
     When my eyes opened again, I was gazing upon the roof of the Arbiter’s Grounds.  I couldn’t mistake the place.  There I saw him, Link, kneeling upon the ground, reaching over and picking up objects, perhaps three or four at a time.  I honestly couldn’t see what they were; they were small, whatever they were.  Needing to know—desperate to know—I forced my ethereal body to move closer to find out the mystery, but when I realised what it was he was collecting, I gasped in shock.  Horror.  Sadness.  I was so distressed by what I had seen that it completely disrupted my concentration, breaking me away from the vision I had seen.
     He was picking up—no, collecting—glass slivers.
     From the shattered mirror.
     With already bloodied hands.
     I didn’t sleep.  I couldn’t.
     I read all night long.

     It was, strangely enough, the most productive night I had ever spent.

     “Father Algren.”
     “Yes?  What is it, child?”
     “Does this mean what I think it means?”
     “Let’s see here.”
     “You– you can’t be serious.”
     “I can’t?”
     “This is– this is—”
     “Why can’t I, Father?”
     “That artefact is a dangerous relic from times long past.”
     “Dangerous?  According to this, it is nigh powerless on this side of the veil.”
     “In the wrong hands, it could spell tragedy!  You have no idea what foul deeds it could perform!  We cannot simply let that into the open, especially for so frivolous a purpose.”
     “Yes.  Frivolous.”
     “He selflessly purged Hyrule from the Twilight curse, and you call the task of rewarding him frivolous?”
     “As I see it, you are merely bargaining for his happiness, are you not?”
     “I am bargaining for the eventual release of the Twili from their imprisonment.”
     “Heh, this will not accomplish that, Princess.”
     “Hyrule Castle will not be built in a day.  Nor can their release be realised similarly.”
     “Father Algren, I doubt I need to remind you know how complex magics are created.  One small step at a time.”
     “For the good of Hyrule and—”
     “Fine.  But I accept no responsibility for it once it leaves this monastery.”
     “That, I believe, is already quite understood.  You have my thanks, Father.”

     Link finally returned to Hyrule a few days after I had descried him.  His return found him in no better a humour than that from when he had departed.  He feigned a smile and contentment when I came to visit, but I could tell that he was just as dejected as he had been since Midna’s departure.
     The difficulty in not bringing up what I had seen through the power of the jewel was almost stifling.  Every time we attempted at small conversation, my mind was forced into carefully stepping around words, as if a deep chasm was below me and only an old, narrow footbridge without any balustrade was keeping me from falling.  The only topics about which I could fathom to speak regarded his village, his friends and “family” back in Ordon.  Yet I knew that he did not often return to them these days, so the endeavour to converse would inevitably prove fruitless.
     It was perhaps for the best that this was so, really.  He seemed not to be in the mood for company, and in truth I had not come to seek the same from him.  Instead I decided to make good on my true purpose for calling upon Link.  As he busied himself with the retrieval of my cloak, I removed from a silken cloth a mirror framed in blue along with a handwritten message that I had composed before coming.  Without his noticing, I left it upon a small table by his own packs—still lying out from his last adventure, as if ready to go at a moment’s notice—that he took along whenever he left Castle Town.  I was certain he would find it.
     In fact, I knew he’d find it almost immediately.  Just as I always had felt since Midna’s departure, I had felt his restlessness.  I knew he would be leaving once again, not content to stay in Hyrule any length of time; in truth, I think he only returned to Hyrule half to query about the progress I was making and half out of guilt for the selfless study I was performing on his behalf.
     However at long last, now, I hoped, he would finally find freedom.  Freedom from the pain.  Freedom from the sorrow.  Freedom from his own shattered dreams.
     Perhaps even freedom to live.

     Dearest friend,
     You will forgive me if I do not give you this in person, but I do not think I could bear to see your face once you realise precisely what it is the artefact accompanying this message will provide.  The past months have been practically torturous for me to see your downward spiral into discontent and desolation, which was why I agreed to endeavour to find answers for you, to find a way for you to pick up the pieces of your shattered life and make it whole, just as you would seek to do with the remnants of the mirror.
     You will find here the only solid clue that I have unearthed that will aid you in re-establishing your ties with Princess Midna.  It is written that those who have gazed into this mirror have always felt their souls pulled in a strange way, as if the mirror were a link to another world.  Yet the light of Hyrule is much too bright to allow the link through the dark void between Light and Twilight to take form in any meaningful way.
     Yet even the light of Hyrule is not constant; it can falter and fade, just as we have seen with Zant and Ganondorf.  You might remember, however, that two days and a fortnight from now is Remembrance Day, signified of course by its coinciding solar eclipse.  It is during this special day when the light is pulled away from Hyrule, leaving us in absolute darkness, reminding us of the dark tidings Hyrule has weathered over the centuries, a day all the more meaningful this year.
     It is in this darkness when the barrier between our separate realms will be at its weakest, and the power of your mirror, this Magic Mirror, will finally take shape.  A link will be established between our realm and that of the Twili.  Upon that day, should you go to the Arbiter’s Grounds, where you last saw Princess Midna, perhaps you might connect with her once again.
     Unfortunately, I do not think the eclipse will dim Hyrule sufficiently to allow you to fully immerse yourself into the Twilight Realm.  The light of this kingdom is reflected by all things per the goddesses’ design, and this will sadly thwart your desire to fully reunite our separate realms.  However, I trust that, for now, until I can find a more potent means of recreating what was broken, this shall do its part to mend your shattered spirit and make you anew once more.
     Prayers of the goddesses be with you, Link, my friend.

     Upon that day, at noon, I retired to my chamber under the guise of whispering prayers to the goddesses in order to use my descrying charm once again.  In the midst of the darkness, my eyes were privileged to see the glorious sight of Link’s fingers intertwined with those of a Twilit hand extending through the silver of the mirror.  And finally, at long last, a smile could be found upon the hero’s lips.  I smiled, relieved, finally content.
     Every year, upon Remembrance Day, he would return to the Arbiter’s Ground to seek her.  And always there he would find.  Kindred spirits, forever separated, yet at the same time forever intertwined.

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