[WARNING: Twilight Princess spoilers!]
Experiencing the beauty of the light was perhaps the cruellest fate the goddesses could bestow upon me. I had thought that destroying the mirror would have banished the memories of that world from my mind, severing the remnants of the tenuous link between light and shadow. Such a miracle would have allowed me to redirect my attention toward caring for my broken people, toward rebuilding the war-torn world which I, out of fear and shame, had created when I selfishly abandoned it. Yet I was a fool for believing it to be so simple a wish. Already in my heart the twilight was losing its lustre, the sols never seeming quite bright enough to warm me. In the deepest depths of night, the shadows of my heart were pained with the sharp touch of light that had been embedded within it. It was, I knew, a light that would never dissipate, a light that would course through my veins for eternity and constantly serve as memory and testament to the greatest and worst days of my life.
How nice it would have been to say that my heart reached out to my people’s saviour the moment I had seen his lupine figure, but such a fantastical tale is truly nothing more than a convenient lie. Before me lay the man our legends had foretold, and greedily I took him as my pawn, using him to further my vendetta against Zant. Even though I had aided him within moments of meeting him, boldly risking my aims and goals so that he might serve and abet me, those early days with the beast were spent in a cloud of mistrust as I forced my will upon him. Our paths at first were conveniently one and the same, yet I secretly knew that they could easily diverge at any moment. I was already ill from the flavour of helplessness and vulnerability; Link alleviated that sickly dread, and I, in turn, was desperate to make him follow me, regardless of his own wishes.
How could I have guessed that he would return my favour in kind by saving my very life? That solitary act of selflessness changed my life forever. Instead of lording over the chosen hero as if he were my servant, I began to serve Link as well. He became a partner in my quest, and I willingly became a partner in his. With him at my side, I found myself incapable of shunning the world of light as I had previously done. He showed me things about his world that defied the harsh and scathing stories that the ancient legends of the Twili told about those who imprisoned us in the twilight. Dare I say it? He opened my heart in more ways than I could have imagined; he shared his friendship, and I bathed and immersed myself within the joy it wrought. I continued clinging desperately to him, albeit now for very different reasons.
He could have stopped there, stopped far shorter than I wished. He could have easily turned his back before the bitter end. He could have left Zant to be my problem. He could have simply thrown Ganondorf back into the Twilight Realm as payment in kind for my mistakes, for the injuries I inflicted upon Hyrule. I very nearly convinced myself that he would do so; after all, such a friendship this princess had never shared with another, and so I believed it impossible. Yet he didn’t. He stayed with me to the bitter end, fighting beside me as I fought beside him. His sword and bow sought not only to alleviate Hyrulians’ woes but those of the Twili as well. His blade spilled the blood of both our enemies, his valour brought peace, and his heart dispelled the curse which had created my impish figure. He brought me back. I was as I once was yet with one simple difference: My eyes and heart had been opened.
Ne’er before had I ever seen such a spectacle, such an individual worthy of praise and admiration without bound. Ne’er before had I ever seen such a man who cared so deeply for one such as me. Ne’er before had I ever seen such a man that I desired as much as I did him.
I lingered there in Hyrule, not yet wishing to leave for my native land, not wanting to leave his warming, even comforting presence. Though my realm and his were linked together as one, the opportunities to face one another again unlimited, I did not wish to leave him with so many words left unsaid. I wanted to be with him not as a princess upon some lofty throne but as the friend and partner he had made me, perhaps even a lover. Yea, deep within me, though I would have never dared to be so brazen to admit it at the time, I do believe that I naïvely wished for his hand. I had visions of bathing alternatively in the light and shadow with him, spending countless candlemarks in each other’s company, sharing with one another the fruits of our past journey with and into one another. When I look back to that moment when he looked upon my true figure for the first time after that horrific battle, I could see it in his eyes. I knew that somewhere within him, beneath the exhaustion and the weariness, stirred the very same foolhardy thought.
Yet I had not taken all into account when my daydreams had begun. Link was no stranger to his land anymore. Just as he was also mine, he was their hero, their saviour. Instead of me being able to steal away so many precious moments from him, I remained in his shadow most of the time, watching as his time and attention became divided. Suddenly he had obligations—responsibilities. I was forced to share him with his own people; how I envied them for the very privilege. Zelda, the princess of Hyrule, beckoned him to stay at the castle so that she might honour him for his magnificent deeds, and Link saw no need to deny her the request. After all, he was her hero just the same. But to my horror, I soon found that this was no mere formality that Link was appeasing; a day later as I secretly watched from the balconies of the great hall, I saw the man for whom I had risked my heart adorned in the full regalia of a knight kneeling before the princess, pledging his sword and service for her, promising her with all sincerity that he would defend her and her kingdom for all days thenceforth. He looked up to his princess, his gaze intermingling with hers, before gracefully taking her gloved hand in his, placing upon it a chaste kiss of promise.
Of course, my soul knew that it was simply a gesture embedded in ritual, but my mind could not banish the wild speculations and postulations from my thoughts! Here he was promising his blade and his life to a woman whom he barely knew, a woman with whom he had barely spoken! What had happened in the verdant fields of Hyrule after Ganondorf had struck me down after I had saved them from certain demise at his hands? Had they shared a moment there with one another, some blossoming connexion that I had overlooked? Had he been labouring for her behalf instead of mine?
As my thoughts grew ever more tumultuous, my mind searing with pain with every lingering moment, I stumbled upon an even more agonising notion. The focus of my attention shifted from my hero to the one that had stolen my future with him. In the beginning, I had scoffed at her for being such a coward, forfeiting her rule, even her freedom—the last possession I still then had—for her people. She had created an even worse fate for her people, I had believed, a fate of everlasting fear and misfortune. She was no ruler; she was nothing more than a little girl in fancy clothes, and I had the gall to parade my lupine servant before her as if to prove that I was superior. How wrong that proved to be. Zelda was neither fool nor coward; in that moment alone, she had acted in the interest of her citizenry in far greater capacity than I have ever done through all my reign over the Twili. She was better than I; she is better than I. Thus, she is worthy, too. She is worthy of Link’s attention, Link’s future. Nay, she deserves Link’s future. She deserves it far greater than I.
For me to claim Link would be to commit the same sin that has already brought so much hardship and difficulty upon him already. My greed would be the end of him. No, I could not subject him to such a fate. I would never, not to the one man for whom I cared so greatly. The tears began to flow as I realised the weight of the penance that I would have to carry with me for the remainder of my existence. Yet despite the abject sorrow that filled my shadowy form, my resolve was never firmer. If he wished it so, then so I would abide, and I would do so without tear.
I truly know not whether I should have been scornful or content that Zelda desired to accompany Link and I to the Arbiter’s Grounds, where the Mirror of Twilight shone, during my final hours within the land of light. During our journey into the desert, Link and Zelda remained silent, them showing no outward sign of whatever secret promises beyond the one I had seen they had most certainly granted one another away from my watch. It was quite likely they knew my thoughts and feelings and did so only to placate me, and whether my imagination was correct or no, the thought of it almost seemed to frustrate more than the contrary could have possibly done. I forced patience upon myself, attempting to exude an aura of strength as I faced the final journey home. However, try as I might, I could not grasp this journey in terms of returning home; instead, like it doubtless felt to those who had been thrown across the mirror’s threshold many years ago, it felt much more like an execution—this time an execution of my own devising.
“Well, I guess this is farewell, huh?” I remarked with attempted ambivalence as I stood upon the mirror’s dais. My eyes were directed into the swirling façade of the mirror’s light upon the stone monolith of the Mirror Chamber. This was to be my fate, to be ripped away from the world for which I had given everything and received nothing in return save for the emptiness that awaited me within the twilight. The feeling was almost too much to bear, yet I gritted my teeth, trying to pull back from the dangerous spiral upon which my emotions were verging. “Light and shadow can’t mix, as we all know,” I continued, attempting and failing at humour. “But never forget that there’s another world bound to this one.” If nothing else, Link, never forget me. If at least I have that hope, mayhap I can be content.
It was not Link who spoke then, but instead the princess spoke the words she had hoped Link might venture forth. “Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin; one cannot exist without the other.” I could feel her slight smile as she said those words; her warmth was embodied in those words and that smile. She wanted this parting to not be bittersweet; she wanted them to part on equitable terms. “I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world. They left it because it was their design that we should meet. Yes, that is what I believe.” Yet despite Zelda’s efforts, each of her words was like an icy dagger tearing my insides to ribbons. I could no longer feel warmth from the woman who had soundly defeated me despite the kindness and, yes, love that I still felt for her. Every phrase spoke of that wordless bond she shared with her hero, even if it was not mentioned in so many words. Here Zelda was, tempting her to let the link between shadow and light remain.
Oh how tempting it was... but without Link, such a temptation would inevitably lead to worse sadness than she could fathom.
“Zelda,” I answered, finally steeling myself enough to face her, “your words are kind, and your heart is true. If all in Hyrule are like you, then maybe you’ll do alright.” How much it hurt to say those words, those words of confession that led me to sacrifice my last hope of remaining with Link, of pledging my vow to him. How I wanted to cry there, how I wanted to fall to my knees and cry! Yet such an action would have caused them to spill their kindness upon me, and that definitely would have caused my resolve to shatter the mirror to falter. No, no crying, Midna! I have to do this! If I do not, I will always live in regret! “Thank you,” I managed to utter in what felt like a whisper; however it came out, Zelda managed to have heard it, and she gave a solemn nod of understanding.
And now, I must say farewell to Link. How can I possibly do commit such an atrocity as that?
I turned to face him, my face as hard as stone. It had to be quick; anything longer would cause me to stutter. Simple. Short. Sweet. “Well,” I said, trying to sound as cheerful as I possibly could. This was my friend, after all, the one with whom I had gone through so much. At least he had to have hope, hope of a future meeting, right? “The princess spoke truly; as long as that mirror’s around, we could meet again.”
Link nodded and took a deep breath. “I would like that very much, Midna,” he said, his words heavy with sadness. So this is hard for him as well? Well, at least I still mean something to him still. That’s all that I could ask for. I won’t be forgotten so quickly. That—that’s a relief at least.
My eyes darted downward, facing the sand-swept dais as I prepared to say my last farewell. How my heart yearned to say so much more. How my heart burned to say so much more. How my heart— “Link, I—!” Suddenly I was trapped, trapped in mid-sentence as I gasped to choke the remaining words. How could I have come this close to ruining everything without realising? I couldn’t finish it, not now, not after all the agony I had gone through just to reach this point. Yet there was no verbal escape now. In a panic, I spun and hurried to the mirror, hoping to escape before he could elicit those words from my frame.
I froze, helpless in the wake of his plea. How could I resist hearing those words? I turned around and looked at him with desperate eyes, pleading with him not to beg me further. Absently I started to shake my head, unable to face him with the shame that was welling within me. I wouldn’t cry; I promised I wouldn’t, yet still a single tear fell unasked from my eye, revealing everything. Wiping it from my eye, I faced him again with one final shake of my head. “See you... later.” Turning around with final resolve, I flicked the tear from my hand, casting it into within the mirror as I hurried up the steps to meet my future, my fate, my penance.
The glass cracked.
“No!” he shouted.
I spun in place, looking at Hyrule for one last moment, and the scene before me I knew then would haunt my nightmares forever. The look of sheer horror in Link’s eyes as he realised what I had done has been imprinted upon my eyelids such that nothing could ever remove it. He tried to run toward me, to join me upon the stand, yet Zelda held him back, the princess struggling with him to keep him from entering the beam of the mirror’s light. Link fell into ruin as he tried to cast Zelda from him, but Zelda held firm, her eyes not filled with the jealousy I expected to find. Nay, her eyes were filled with sympathy, sympathy for Link.
Had I misread the signs from the beginning?
Yet before I could cancel my brazen act to sever the link, the world of light was gone, and the realm of twilight stood in its place.
Dear goddesses, what have I done!
I know not what happened to Link and Zelda after that moment; the veil between their world and mine hides all. How I wish I could tear that veil for just a fraction of a moment to see if Link sough solace in her arms, to hope that he found the happiness that I so foolishly discarded. How I wish I could see Link with the one that truly did deserve him, the one to whom I conceded before the contest was decided. Yet at the same time, how I would not be able to bear the sight of Link in the arms of another woman, how I would cringe to see the man that loved me finding bliss in the love of another! Yet so I remain, sitting upon my throne, impotent in fear, impotent in self-hatred, impotent in penance.
I am Midna, Princess of the Twili, the ruler of the Twilight Realm; never before has that title ever weighed so heavily upon me.
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