• Welcome to ZD Forums! You must create an account and log in to see and participate in the Shoutbox chat on this main index page.

Legend of Zelda Fan Fiction: "SPECULUM"

Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Location
Earth
Gender
Female
SPECULUM
Chapter Twenty-Eight: "The Rest Is History"
Rating: PG-13
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


39830

Origin:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I reanimated in the bazaar, landing near the fountain and accidentally causing a dancing couple to fall into it from shock after the female counterpart had jumped at my sudden appearance, inevitably causing her boyfriend to fall in with her. The action occurred so suddenly I just stared at them, perplexed at what had occurred. A multitude of people were looking at me for a while, however they seemed to lose interest after recognizing me and went back to what they were doing. Looking around, I noticed that the bazaar had a few changes to it: tall poles being set up around the outskirts of the fountain with ribbons coiling down them, and decorations of all sorts of color were being hung on the balconies and buildings. What the...is there some sort of parade or something going on? I decided to put it in the back of my mind and secured Uli's cloak around my torso before I headed for Telma's bar.

Upon reaching it, I found the door ajar. I welcomed myself in and found Telma looking in my direction. "Jacqueline! Come on over, honey! I've got some exciting news for you!"

I smiled and walked over to the counter. "Does it have anything to do with those ribbons and stuff being set up?" I asked. The older woman grinned and nodded, "Yes! I presume you haven't heard the news yet, with you being busy saving Hyrule and all, but the Goddess Festival is going to start here in a few days!" I arched an eyebrow in obvious confusion. "The...'Goddess Festival'?" I repeated, "What exactly does that celebrate?"

Telma smiled, "During this time, all denizens from all over the land come to our town and celebrate the world that was created by the goddesses Din, Nayru and Farore! We celebrate early in the morning and long into the night as well, in commemoration to the Goddess of Time, which is symbolic for how we spend each second giving thanks and celebrating. We also celebrate the unity of the mystical power known as the 'Triforce', which was left in the care of the races of Hyrule by the goddess Hylia. We celebrate the memory of Hylia by upholding the three virtues that the Golden Goddesses--Din, Farore, and Nayru--gave to these realms." I blinked, finally understanding Hylia's role in reference to the other gods. She seemed to be the only deity that was celebrated in Skyloft...maybe there were more gods identified as soon as the people reached the Surface.

"It's not just our gods that are celebrated," Telma continued, "but another goddess that is welcomed into the festival: the Sand Goddess, worshiped by the Gerudo tribe. They come to the festival as well, seeking companions but also offering exotic goods, music and dance. It really is a marvel to see them when they arrive!" I liked the sound of the festival, being one for parties myself. "When does the festival start?" I asked. Telma smiled, "It should be starting in a few days, at the beginning of next week. Were you thinking of attending?"

I smiled, "I was considering it! It sounds like a lot of fun!" The woman nodded, "It's certainly a way to get everyone's minds off of the dangers that have been popping up everywhere. Speaking of which, I was wondering if I could talk to you and Link about some disturbing events that have been occurring up in the northern mountain range. Ashei was going to head out shortly to perform some fieldwork there; she isn't one for festivals and prefers to keep to herself."

"Link had to go check up on the kids at Kakariko," I explained, "and he has some errands he has to take care of. I didn't ask what they were, exactly, but if you like, I can pass the message on to him." Telma shook her head with a smile, "No need to do that, Jacqueline. I'm sure he'll be by when he passes through, eventually. Maybe he'll be in time for the festival and you two can go together?"

I gave a small smile, "I don't see that happening; I wouldn't know if Link likes celebrations or parties, and I wouldn't want to drag him into something he wouldn't like." Telma frowned in confusion, "So you were thinking of attending by yourself? That's...odd."

"What's odd about it?" I shared in the moment of confusion, crossing my arms. "The festival is celebratory for the union of the goddesses, and so it's tradition to go with someone you have a strong bond with." It took a few moments to catch on before I blinked rapidly a few times, feeling heat rush to my face. "O-Oh! No, not like that, no."

Telma blinked, "Oh, I'm sorry, honey. I assumed..."

I shook my head, "It's fine, Telma, don't worry about it. I could find someone else to go with, I suppose." Telma smirked, "Like the red-haired boy? Shad might take interest in going to the festival, especially with you; he's been pacing without end for you to come back, theorizing as he usually does. I've never seen him this excited in a very long time." I felt pride brimming to burst in my heart, and I timidly smiled. "I was actually here looking for him; is he around?"

"He'll be by in a bit. Until then, go say hello to the rest of the Resistance! Well, at least the only one present, so it seems." Telma smiled and nodded to the mysterious figure, who nodded back with a pleasant smile and a raised hand. I nodded to Telma and walked over to the table, taking a seat and sitting quietly next to the figure. Ever so now and then I would take a moment to glance at the attire of the mysterious fighter, feeling a case of déjà vécu. Haven't I been in this situation before? The figure said nothing, but if he said anything, I bet it probably would have been 'It's rude to stare', so I looked away and tried to busy myself with the map. My thoughts drifted back to the events of Arbiter's Grounds, with Link nearly dying and the Twilight Realm, and my revelations of being a fake individual. I sighed and looked down at my knees.

A deep voice suddenly sounded. "You do not seem well at all these days, Miss Jacqueline," the voice said, and I snapped my head up to look at the figure. He was smiling, and it took me a few moments to place the voice. "No way...Rusl, is that you?" The villager grinned and took off his helmet, confirming my suspicions. "Yes," he confirmed, "and from your expression, you were not expecting me under that mask!"

"No!" I exclaimed, "I didn't think you'd travel beyond the village, after what happened to it!" The villager smiled warmly, and I felt confused as to the change of attitude he had towards me, especially in contrast to how we had first come across one another. "Link's heroic deeds and your actions in turn spurred my old soul into aiding the land beyond our village," he said, "and Uli is especially worried over you two. She hasn't seen or heard from you in a while and was quite disappointed when she got the letter from Colin without you in sight."

"Uli...asked for me?"

"She's quite fond of you, my dear," Rusl explained, "and I can see now that I was very wrong to judge you from before. I hope you can forgive an old fool for his mistakes." I felt warm to the tips of my toes, and I couldn't conceal the grin on my face. "Of course I forgive you, Rusl," I replied, bringing a smile to his face. "How is the rest of the village doing?" I asked.

Rusl leaned back in his chair, "We are all doing much better ever since we learned that our children were being taken care of. I had hoped to make a trip to Kakariko and see to it that they get home safely, but I suppose they are in good hands with the shaman there already. As long as they're safe, their trip can wait. Ever since you arrived, my dear, things have been changing for the better."

"What do you mean? I mean, I've been doing what I can to fix things up and return the kids home, but one problem pops up as soon as I solve another." My frustrations at what the quest had cost me, not to mention the baffling truth of my current state, became apparent in my confusion to Rusl's reactions towards me. "If I hadn't come," I said, "those monsters may not have appeared; I feel like ever since I came here, things have been going wrong."

Rusl looked a little surprised at the new information, but he took it in stride. "Regardless of what has crossed our paths, and what you feel you're responsible for," he said, "just remember that you've continued to fight for the right cause. I've heard about your deeds, Miss Jacqueline, and they are tasks that no novice could handle on their own. From what I hear, you and young Link have been mastering these challenges by yourselves, with little to no aid from anyone else. I would say that's something you should take responsibility for with pride." I took a moment to reflect on his words, realizing the error in my heart. I completely forgot what it meant to be a hero...I thought I was nothing but a victim, and I'm still able to help others and be recognized for it... Gratitude swelled inside of me, and my features relaxed considerably with a smile.

The smile was still there as the far door opened, and in came the red-haired young man, carrying scrolls and books in his arms. Our eyes met, and he adjusted his spectacles, dropping some papers in the process. "Oh dear," he said, and I immediately rushed to his aid. My enhanced speed allowed me to be at his side in an instant, already crouching to help retrieve his fallen possessions. "Remarkable," he breathed, his eyes wide behind the glasses. I smiled and carried his things for him back to the table, rejoining Rusl. "Young Shad was waiting for you to return," Rusl said, earning a grin from the redhead. "I was hoping you would come back soon," Shad said, "since things appear to have settled down a bit! I was wondering if you weren't busy with anything, especially if Link needs you to--"

"Link had to take care of some things," I politely interrupted him with a gentle hand up in the air, a smile on my face, "and it's left me with some free time. I decided to upkeep my promise to you and wanted to come back and help you in whatever way I could! I don't have anywhere to be, so we could hang out now, if you like!" Shad's eyes sparkled, and I felt myself breathe in sharply at how they shone behind the glasses. They're Thomas' color... "T-That's fantastic! We'll get started right away!" He dropped his things and shuffled out the door. Telma chuckled in unison with Rusl, both of them shaking their heads at the display of the young man. I looked in the direction he had gone and smiled warmly, waiting for him to return.

For the first time in a long time, I felt like things would finally go my way.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

As soon as Shad returned, he had packed up his research and wanted to explore the lands with me on foot. "There are so many questions I'd like to ask you, I don't know where to begin!" Shad asked, and I grinned, "Maybe we can hold off on the questions until we find a more convenient spot? Where would you like to go first?"

The young man blinked, perplexed at my question. His quizzical look made me giggle, earning a smile from him. "Well, I've never seen Link's home village! I was wondering what it was like, if that's okay," he requested, and I nodded. "Hold on," I said and took his hand, teleporting ourselves to Ordana's spring.

As soon as we landed, Shad erupted into a series of questions that I couldn't even keep up with. There were a lot of "How" questions in there, and I had to keep myself from laughing at his response. "It's one of my abilities," I said with a wink, and I watched with glee as his eyeballs grew huge. "That's spectacular," he said in awe and fumbled for a book and a pen, scribbling inside of it. I smiled and nodded to the entrance, "Shall we get going? The village isn't far from here," I said, and Shad eagerly nodded and lowered his book to his side. "Lead the way," he replied, allowing me to take his hand and lead him from the spring towards the village, taking the familiar woodland route that I had taken with Link before we had even conquered our first temple together.

My thoughts drifted to Link for a moment, but I shook them out of my head and focused on leading Shad. We stopped just before Link's house, and I released Shad's hand to allow him to hold onto his books more securely. "This is his house," I said, and the young man adjusted his glasses. "A tree house? I suppose it's appropriate, and quite well-crafted! Are all of Ordon Village's houses built like this?"

"Only a few," I admitted and looked over to where the pumpkin dummies were. I faintly recalled my previous experience with them and frowned a little, my ferocious outburst surfacing from the past. Shad crossed my vision, moving closer to the tree house to investigate. "Do you think he is home?"

I shrugged, "We could knock, I suppose, but I doubt he's home; he mentioned he'd be going to Kakariko."

"I see," Shad replied and turned back to me expectantly with a smile. "May we see more of the village before we head out? I promise it will not take long." His curiosity made me smile, and I nodded. "Sure! Some of the villagers might be out and about, too! I could introduce you to Uli, if she's home." Shad said nothing but wore a broad grin on his face, allowing me to lead the way into the village. As we entered, I became self-conscious about the state of Uli's cloak, and I quickly glanced over it to make sure it hadn't been torn too badly. It was showing a sign or two of wear-and-tear, but it was still in very good condition. I hope she doesn't notice! We passed the store and headed into the center of the village, stopping to allow Shad to get his bearings. "What do you think?"

Shad looked up and around, keeping his curious little book close to his side. "It's rugged, different, and quite homely! It would make sense for Link to come from a place like this!" He turned to me, "Did he have any parents?" I blinked; it had never occurred for me to ask if Link had any family or relatives. I pursed my lips in thought, crossing my arms. "I actually don't know," I admitted, "but maybe we can ask around? I'm sure the mayor would probably know a thing or two." The young man shook his head with a smile, "I was merely curious, Miss Jacqueline; it isn't one of the questions I meant to ask you, but it does tell me a few things."

"What would one of those things be?"

Shad adjusted his spectacles. "How much you know about him, is all. It's been a part of the town gossip that gets spread, but there was a notion here and there that you two were in each other's company for another reason other than to save Hyrule from imminent peril; your appearance was spontaneous in and of itself, and unexplained."

I arched an eyebrow, "Wait, what notion about me and Link? That we're...oh, no! No, nothing like that! We're friends." Shad blinked, confused. "Truly? I never would have guessed that, Miss Jacqueline, all things considered."

"Which would be...?" I asked him. I was shocked to see a smooth, warm smile cross Shad's features, a sparkle gleaming in his eyes. "You are a rare individual, Miss Jacqueline, and it is surprising that, for all of your traits, your hand has not been claimed yet. Any man should be the first to acknowledge you." If I had had my normal pigment of color, I would have been blushing red; I could feel the heat on my face. Was it because Shad looked so much like Thomas, or was it because this guy was genuinely likeable? Such a gentleman... I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear bashfully and attempted to shrug it off in a nonchalant manner. "I dunno," I replied in a steady voice, "I'm sure people already have their loved ones in mind, or have their eyes set on something else."

"They are fools, then," Shad smoothly replied and walked past me up towards the goat ranch, leaving me to wear a ridiculous, foolish smile on my face. I suddenly heard yelling from up the hill and saw Shad running back as fast as he could, alarm on his face. I sharply looked up to see what was chasing him and saw a rampaging herd of goats thundering down the slope towards us, someone trailing after them. "Watch out!" they called, and Shad was still running, however the herd was gaining on him. Without a second thought I flung myself forwards, teleporting behind Shad as he ran past and bracing myself with my hands outstretched. There was no time to think, and so I did what first came to mind:

HALT! Almost immediately the herd came to a halt with the exception of a lone goat stumbling in confusion towards us. I caught the horns easily and felt myself slide backwards a few inches before I brought the goat to a stop, flinging it onto its side. I felt my mind straining, a massive headache building as I kept the herd of goats under my control. Go back, I instructed them, and they turned around and bleated to each other, carrying themselves back up towards the ranch calmly. The one I had knocked over got up and cantered back up the hill, catching up to the herd. The figure that had warned us watched in wonder as the herd headed back up the slope, eventually jogging down to meet me. "Wow, Link was a good wrangler, but you're somethin' else!" he said.

"I assume you're Fado?" Link had mentioned before that he had worked with a man named 'Fado' on the ranch, and the older man nodded. "That's correct, and you must be Jacqueline! Link told me a lot about you last he was here! You match the description perfectly!"

I smirked, crossing my arms, "Oh really? And how did he describe me this time?" Fado smiled warmly, "He said he was traveling with an outsider that had more skill in battle than he had ever seen. He also mentioned that you had blue eyes, a short temper, and carried yourself like no other woman has." I felt taken aback, expecting that my skin color would have been the first factor mentioned, but there was nothing in that statement that was derogatory, nor pointed out my flaws.

With the exception of one thing that Fado followed up with. "He also said that you couldn't fish, and had a problem...dodging hawks?" I grinned in spite of myself, enjoying to hear the playful side of the story. "I guess you'd have to see for yourself, but you can take his word for it," I said. Fado nodded and looked back up to the ranch. "I've taken up enough of your time, but thanks a bunch for getting the goats to go back! Sorry for the trouble," he said and I waved him off, watching as he headed back up to the ranch.

Shad came up from behind me, adjusting his spectacles, which were considerably smaller than the whites of his eyes at this time. "How did you get them to do that? I've never seen anything like it! It's like an invisible wall or fence came up and stopped them in their tracks!" I nursed my head as the headache began to subside, and I smiled at him. "I have this ability to be able to...control tamed animals, or wild ones. The wild ones are more difficult." The young man gazed at me, admiration in his eyes. "How were you able to do that, though? It must have taken a lot of power!"

"Well, I couldn't let you get trampled, right? I had to do something," I responded, and the young man looked past me to the ranch before meeting my gaze again. My heart skipped a beat, and I felt awkward under the hold his eyes had on me. "You are extraordinary, Miss Jacqueline," he said. He paused and looked left and right before facing me again. "Is there a place where we can talk alone? I have so many questions about you, I don't know where to begin!" I had the sudden desire to continue to impress him, seeing as he was eager to please, and in turn, that pleased me considerably. "I can think of a few places to go," I said with a grin. "Where would you like to go?"

Shad blinked, as if just grasping that I had a multitude of places I could instantly transport him to. "O-Oh! Well, I suppose I would like to see the ruins in the grove! The last time Link had visited the town I noticed the Master Sword upon his back! To be in a relic such as that...it would be breathtaking in addition to your company, Miss Jacqueline."

"Please," I said with a grin and held out my hand, "call me 'Jacqueline'." Shad looked at my hand and took it, gripping it experimentally and feeling my skin with his thumb. It was smooth and soft and gave me goosebumps. "'Jacqueline'," he practiced in a lower tone, and I felt myself grow warmer. I turned away and tried to think of the sacred grove, my thoughts muddled. I didn't know what was wrong with me, but it was harder to focus on where I wanted to go. I pulled myself together in a few short moments and took us away from the village, landing in the ruins of the Temple. I took him to the portion of the grove where I had stumbled into the new age, and my new adventure. I left Shad to his devices, scrambling over the rocks and marveling at the architecture.

I sighed involuntarily as I observed him, my thoughts drifting to my childhood with Thomas. I hope he's doing okay...I hope my real-self is taking care of him. I truly wondered what the real Jacqueline was doing back on Earth; did she remember any of this? Did she still have a connection to me? And was she living a better life? My adventures around Skyloft had changed my heart and my views on life, and the bonds I had made in that time had been strong enough to overcome death. I wonder if he could see me through his eyes...what would he think of me now? Whether I was talking about Thomas or Link, either one held an important place in my heart, and in my mind. I walked up to the sealed slab of stone that I had stumbled out of and placed a hand on it, wondering if there would be a chance for me to return to the time I had fallen asleep in. Would he still be there...? Are they waiting for me in the past, at this very moment? I took my hand away and sat down with my back to the stone, crossing my legs and waiting for Shad to come back.

When he did, his arms were full of scrolls and books. "This is a place untouched by travelers, and yet crafted by time! Such a mystery, and yet I am one of the first to experience it! I've made so many notes based on the ruins here, and I must say, it is astounding at what I could learn from here!" I grinned at his enthusiasm, almost snorting at his starting statement as I found irony in the mentioning of 'time'. "I was hoping you would like it," I said hopefully, "I like it too! I feel more at home here than I do out there, actually."

Shad looked to me with a grin on his face, "Me too! Being amongst old legends and timeless artifacts is my passion!" He sat down before me, crossing his legs in turn and opening up a large tome. "This is my father's research," he said, "and ever since he was a little boy he had always believed that the people of this land came from the sky, just as the gods had. His entire life was dedicated to researching about a possible city that floats above the clouds." He looked down fondly at the large, enormous book, his gaze warm and soft, yet drawn with a measure of sadness. "It is my hope that I can fulfill his wish and complete his research in his stead. I just hope I'm worthy enough for the challenge; I am sure that my actions will give his spirit some peace."

I placed a hand on the large book, overlapping his own hand and forcing him to meet my gaze. I smiled warmly, feeling more useful than I had ever been before. "You will complete your father's work," I said, "and I'll help you do it." Shad's eyes shimmered with gratitude, and he chuckled as he looked away from me. He shook his head, "You're far too kind, Jacqueline, but this is knowledge far beyond either of our lifespans; my father spent most of his existence trying to find any underlying clues to prove his case."

"Who was he trying to prove his beliefs to?"

Shad held up the hefty tome, holding it out before him for me to see. "The world, the historians, everyone! The Royal Library wouldn't take his research, no matter how much evidence he attempted to collect. With the amount gathered now, the most they'd give is a few moment's pause to even consider that what he says was true." As I listened I began to see the passion in his eyes, however it wasn't mere passion buried there; there were hints of anger littered amongst the glittering globes behind the spectacles. I felt that I could understand his fury, and that most of his research was for the sake of 'avenging' his father's fallen dreams. Perhaps it was my connection to the spirits, but I could feel Eldin's presence near me. I almost thought I saw a reflection of the spirit in Shad's glasses, its voice whispering in my head: "You mustn't allow your heart to be clouded with duty. There is more to life than reaching straight for the goal." I looked away for a moment, biting my lip in thought; had I been blinded by my own ambitious needs to complete the mission? And what was the mission, exactly? It kept changing over the span of time, from freeing the realm from twilight all the way to trying to collect the Mirror Shards, see what was wrong with the Twilight Realm, and find a way to resurrect Zelda. When one problem was solved, a few more would rise to take its place. It was exhausting work, and as I looked back into Shad's face I could see what I possibly looked like to the people around me.

Does Link see me that way? I began to see myself in a new light and connected to the Hylian people, understanding at least a little why they were intimidated by me. I scratched the back of my head and sighed, hoping that the newfound information would help improve my status that the people had about me, as well as my own. I focused on the young man sitting before me, hoping that I could at least achieve one of the goals between us; it was doubtful my desires would be answered, but perhaps Shad was the key to them. I almost smiled at the thought of it. "I know how much it means to you," I told him, "and that's why I'm positively certain that, if you give me the chance, I can tell you something. Something very important."

Shad blinked, some of the skepticism in his eyes evaporating. "What would that be, Jacqueline?"

I slyly smirked at him, "That what your father was researching...was most certainly real."​
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Location
Earth
Gender
Female
SPECULUM
Chapter Twenty-Nine: "Dance of the Eggshells"
Rating: PG-13
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


39831

Origin:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Over the course of the next few days Shad interviewed me extensively. His nose was always in his giant tome, however he would occasionally go to his curious little book-slash-journal, taking more care to carefully etch writing or illustrations inside of it. I would ask him about the smaller book, but he would simply smile and say that it was a 'surprise'. We would go to different locations of the region at his request, sitting in the sunshine or out in the fields, or overlooking Eldin's Province by settling on a plateau of rock. I didn't understand why Shad would request such obscure locations, but I wouldn't ask after he'd make a request; he had become happy--no--exceedingly joyful after I had revealed that I knew about a place called "Skyloft", and that in the days we spent together I was helping to complete his father's work, which had become his work.

"Finally," Shad said, "I can finally fulfill his dream and bring this chapter to a close. I owe it all to you, Jacqueline." I had grown fond of the young man, seeing more of Thomas in him and feeling a hole in my heart beginning to heal up. I figured that if I could succeed in ending the journey that Shad had placed himself upon then I could free him from his spell of duty towards his father, and perhaps open up an avenue of a future for him. I had seen how his father's research, and the loyalty that Shad felt towards him, had consumed up the chances to be free, and to be a man to pursue whatever he desired. I was already stuck on a journey that required my every being to sacrifice; the world didn't need to claim another young man, too.

I owed that much to Thomas, at least.

Shad went back to writing in his book, and I sighed happily at the sky. I began to imagine what kind of future I would have and considered if it could be dedicated to a single person. Thinking of Shad's behavior when I had been formally introduced to him, I turned towards him with a soft smile. "Shad," I asked, "would you mind telling me exactly what about me you find fascinating?"

"Mm?" The bookworm looked up and I giggled at his perplexed gaze; I had caught him by surprise once again. The redhead shook his head bashfully, flustered that he hadn't been paying attention. "Oh! Sorry," he said, "I was trying to write more about the Knight's Academy that you were describing and got carried away; didn't even hear you. Would you mind repeating what you said?" I did as I was asked, and the young man nodded. "Well, for starters you are extraordinary," he said, "and your abilities are unrivaled by any other being in the kingdom--no--the world. I've traveled a bit for a scholar, but there have been no records of a being such as yourself in any of the texts. You are a one of a kind!" I took out my claw and inspected it, looking at where my nails were supposed to be. "Do you think that's enough for someone to like me?" I asked, feeling insecure as I said it.

Shad paused and smiled gently, "Miss Jacqueline, of course it's enough! Why, your deeds and your abilities have gone far beyond what our modern science reaches, not to mention it expands the possibility of other life-forms spread throughout the realms, just waiting to be uncovered."

"Do you like me, Shad?" I looked at him, seeing Thomas in his gaze once more. Shad closed his tome and smiled gently. "You are kind, Jacqueline, and you have almost succeeded in helping me bring my father's dreams to a close; that's a debt that has earned more than my appreciation of you." I blushed under the praise and looked away with a smile. "Why do you ask?" Shad said, and I shook my head. "It's nothing," I replied with a grin and stood up to look over the fields, seeing the castle as nothing more than a mere speck from where we were sitting. I pursed my lips in thought. "Shad, when is the Goddess Festival supposed to start? Telma was telling me about it just the other day."

The redhead got to his feet and adjusted his glasses. "If I am correct," he said, "the Festival should begin tomorrow morning; all denizens of Hyrule, including the Gerudo representatives, will be in the town by now."

"When is the dance?" I asked. "It starts when the sun goes down tomorrow," Shad said, "and will end at midnight. I don't know why it ends at midnight, but it is supposedly symbolic of our communion with the heavens; in ancient times, it was believed that the moon was kept from crashing into the planet's surface when the celebration was at its peak, the outstretched hands aimed to the sky in praise to the gods. I don't recall if we still keep to that belief, but tradition has always been a virtue of the Hylians." I smiled at his wisdom and intelligence and then crossed my arms. I recalled the significance of the dance, and considering the opinion I had gotten from Telma, I wanted to bring someone with me. I was certain Link wouldn't have gone if he knew the meaning behind the dance; he would have gone with Ilia if he did. I was fairly certain that he had heard about it by now and was likely going to be there in town when the festivities started.

"Will you be going to the dance, Shad?" I asked the young man quietly, and the scholar looked up at me. He blinked a few times, looking confused. "I have never attended the dance before, and I am not good with steps. Are you asking because you would like to go, Jacqueline?" I glanced to him, hopeful at his response. He smiled and closed his book, standing up and placing himself beside me to look out into the fields. "Well, I suppose if you'd like to go, I will accompany you to the dance." My heart swelled up and I felt blood rush to my head; I felt as giddy and stupid as a school girl. Thomas had gotten sick when prom came around, and so I hadn't had the chance to go. Maybe this is the universe's way of making it up to me! I had connected with Shad and had grown accustomed to his fascination with my abilities and myself, and I had hoped he would ask me to the dance, however he was more on the timid side; I figured it was nerves or he was too focused on his father's work to have fun. "Thank you," I said finally and earned a smile from the young man. "By the time the dance is about to begin," he said, "I'll have finished my research and my father's work will have been completed. I will meet you at the festivities when that happens."

"Deal!" I said with a grin and looked at him expectantly, watching as he packed up his things. "If you could bring me over to Telma's bar," he said, "I would appreciate it! I'm going to check in with the Resistance before I head to my quarters and finish my writing. I hope you don't mind." I smiled fondly; his dedication to his father truly was admirable, and I had no choice but to nod happily for his sake. "Of course I don't," I said, "just take as much time as you need." Shad's eyes lit up and I felt my heart flutter. I took his hand tenderly and waited for my thoughts to clear before I focused on the portal near the town and teleported us away.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

I escorted Shad to Telma's bar and moved inside to greet the bartender as Shad broke away and headed for the table where the Resistance would meet. Auru was sitting with a map drawn across the table, as Ashei was garbed up in her usual attire, however she seemed to be carrying extra furs on her back. "She's going to be heading out to the mountains before the party begins," Telma explained to me with a smile, "since she doesn't want to be around when it starts; last season she was asked by seven different men to attend the dance with them, but she turned them all down flat and got out of the town rather quickly."

"Seven different men? No way," I breathed gently as I watched Shad hustle out the door with his supplies, disappearing to whatever man-cave he had prepared for himself. I looked back forwards and found Telma smirking slyly at me. "What?" I asked. "Did he ask you?" she said. It took me a few moments to realize what Telma was implying and my face broke out into a goofy smile. I adjusted my sitting position, unable to contain my excitement. "He didn't exactly ask, but he said he'd take me to the dance." Telma's eyes bulged out and she had an "O"-shaped mouth that revealed her surprise. "Well whaddya know! I didn't know the boy had it in him! How were you able to confine him in the town long enough to get him to agree to going to the Festival?"

I smiled, "He said that he'd meet me for the dance, once he finished his father's research." My smile faded somewhat in confusion as Telma's gaze looked concerned. "Really? I heard about the rate of progression his research took him, however he's never been good with keeping track of time, especially when he's working; sometimes he forgets what day it is, or even to eat!" I waved it off, smiling, "He'll come through, I'm sure of it! I've been helping him study, and I'm pretty sure there isn't a lot left to go! He'll be there." Telma got rid of her expression and smiled warmly, "I hope so, Jacqueline." The older woman turned around, cleaning out some glasses and fetching some milk for the patrols that began to walk in. "What does the dress look like?" Telma asked.

"Dress?" I asked, and Telma blinked at me before she realized what I had said. "Oh! Sorry, dear; I forgot that you're foreign. I presume not a lot of women wear dresses to formal gatherings?" I nodded to her in turn, "No, we do wear dresses, but I just haven't found one. I don't think I'm cut out for one."

Telma grinned winningly, "Not cut out for it? Dear Jacqueline, what you say may be strange, but certainly there's a dress for any woman in Hyrule! It's a woman's right to look beautiful for her chosen, and you, my dear, need to have a dress that makes you stand out."

"I don't seem to have a problem doing that without a dress," I said, and Telma chuckled. "You know, it's funny we should be talking about dresses! I was about to go get one myse--" The door opened and Telma broke away from her thoughts and waved to whomever was behind me. "Ah, Link! Excellent timing, as usual! I'm glad you got my message!" I turned around to see Link walking in, his eyes warm and a smile on his face. I caught his gaze and nodded to him, "How was your visit to Kakariko?" Link stood next to me, smiling, "It went rather well; the children are adapting to the village, and the Gorons have successfully helped in rebuilding most of the village to what it used to be. I also had the opportunity to admire your handiwork with the roof on the sanctuary building."

I laughed, "I certainly need to work on where I'm putting the hammer down; I hit my thumb at least five times before I got the nail in the roof." We both looked to Telma, who was eying the two of us with a smooth look on her face. I arched an eyebrow at her behavior before she turned a blind eye and got out a cup of water for me and a cup of milk for Link. "So, Link! Ashei is going to be heading into the mountains for a little bit of fieldwork, so after you're done making your visit to Ordon with the lass, you should head up there and check things out." I looked up at Link, surprised at the new information. "You're going to Ordon?" Link met my gaze and nodded, "I believed that showing Ilia her home would help her regain some memories; her father's been worried over her, and she's been wanting to meet him. I haven't had much time to spend with her these days, and I wanted to make it up to her." I nodded, looking away and taking a long swig out of my cup, forcing myself to swallow the water and bear a smile. "That's good! I'm sure that she'll be happy to see him, even if she doesn't remember everything," I replied gently. Telma looked to Link, "You should consider coming to the festival while it goes on through the week, Link! After all, young Jacqueline here is going, and she still has to pick out a dress!"

"Dress?" Link's response caused Telma to laugh. "Sorry, honey," she said, "but I suppose even village folk need to know what a 'dress' is." Link answered the playful jibe, insisting that he did know what a dress was, but he hadn't been expecting the festivities. "We have our summer solstice celebration," he said, "but it sounds like the festival would be much bigger."

"And more fun," Telma added, and I went back to drinking my water. Link took a drink of his milk and looked down at me; I could feel his eyes on my back. "Who will you be going with?" he asked. I had a feeling he already knew the answer, but I looked back up at him. "Shad said he'd be going with me," I said, and the air around me suddenly felt chilled. The smile didn't leave Link's face, however; he merely nodded with a pleasant expression and drank the rest of his milk before returning the glass to Telma. "I need to head out, Telma, so I apologize if I must be brief. I need to head back to the village and make sure it's taken care of before I set out for Ordon." Link turned to me and nodded, "I hope you enjoy the festival, Jacqueline." He turned and left through the door without another word, and I felt badly for not getting up and saying goodbye to him. I drank the rest of my water and looked back to Telma helplessly. "What did I do wrong?" I asked.

Telma was wearing a gentle smile, her eyes glittering as she looked down at me. I couldn't fathom why she found any type of mirth in this, but there she was, smiling and looking hopeful. "Oh, nothing, Jacqueline. You didn't do anything wrong." She was still smiling when she turned away, and I felt clueless as to why and decided not to go in depth with it. "Where should I even get a dress? I mean, look at me, Telma! Would a girl have these with a dress?" I asked, tugging at my neck-flaps. The woman looked thoughtfully to me with a smile. "It isn't hard to find a dress that is appropriate with every woman," she replied, "so I would imagine wearing something that covers the neck might be a start. Look around the bazaar when you get the chance today! Many traders that have gathered to sell their goods before the festival begins, so chances are you'll find something that speaks to you before it begins! In fact, here: take this." She handed me a pouch of Rupees, and before I could refuse her, she planted her hands on the counter. "I've been wanting to see you have some fun for once, honey," she declared, "and you had better be having more fun than I am by the time you're done shopping!"

"Have you been asked to the dance by someone?" Telma smirked, "Well, just the one; he's a regular customer, and he's shown that he has a soft side underneath all of that armor." My thoughts drifted to the captain and my hopes soared up through my chest for him. "Did you say yes?" I asked.

"Wait and see at the dance," Telma winked at me and sent me on my way.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

The bazaar was teeming with life; exotic smells were now filling where baked goods would be, smothering the area in a confusing aroma. I was convinced that if I had asked Link in his wolf form to find something for me, he'd be on his back twitching and convulsing before he got within ten feet of the intended target. Needless to say, the area was open-aired, which helped quite a bit at venting some of the smells.

I searched for tailoring and clothing spots, and each vendor was pleasant and happy to try to coerce me into parting with my money, but it became increasingly difficult for me to find a dress that I liked. Some were either too much, or didn't cover the parts of me that would crush my dreams at looking good for Shad. My thoughts were still plagued by Link's abrupt exit from Telma's bar, including his private visit with Ilia to Ordon, but I did what I could to block them out. There were shoes, which didn't do anything for me; I didn't feel I needed any shoes, however I knew showing up to the festival barefooted would get attention that I didn't really want.

On top of that, I had no idea how to dance! I had never taken lessons, and even though I loved to free-style in front of a mirror, it was often much too silly to be considered adequate for dancing. I didn't even know how the natives danced here! I'm doomed. I sighed irritably and walked down a road, moving one street too far and winding up in the back alleys. I looked around, adjusting Uli's cloak and moving down the unknown path. I had never seen this portion of the town before, and I didn't know what to expect, so I kept Crow close to me and my eyes peeled for anything that threatened to jump out at me.

I heard something like a tambourine, and arched an eyebrow; that was an instrument I had not expected to hear in Hyrule! I went further into the back, stepping towards the music and hearing more instruments join in. The theme reminded me a little bit of typical Arabian-slash-Egyptian music, but there was some sort of stringed instrument added to the mix that sounded a lot like a guitar, or a lute. There was the jingling of bells, and the sounds of secluded, joyous women celebrating in each others' company. I came in closer and poked my head around the corner to see what the source of the noise was. The voices and music penetrated beyond a wall of warm-colored fabric, which had been hung to create a makeshift tent from the surrounding structures. My curiosity won over my caution, and I gently took hold of the fabric and pulled it to the side, looking in on the celebration.

What I discovered was both amazing and mesmerizing; there were dark, olive-skinned women with flaming red hair gathered around a single dancer, who had her nose and mouth covered by a veil and two shimmering scimitars in her hands. She guided them around in the air, the light from above glinting off the metal rims. She stepped expertly on her toes, her bare feet gliding across the jagged stone floor as if it was flat as paper, and her body, garbed in fine salmon-stained silk, twisted and moved similar to belly-dancing. The other women around her were cheering her on, giving her the space she deserved so that she could perform for them. As she pirouetted, she locked her golden eyes with mine before smoothly continuing the dance as if she hadn't seen anything unnatural. It was as if she had known I was there the entire time and had expected me to be there.

When she finally stopped dancing, she lowered the blades to the ground and stood slowly up, smooth as the fabric she wore. "It would appear," she said gently, "that we have a guest in our midst." All eyes turned to me, and I felt the need to duck and run for cover. She held out a hand and smiled underneath the veil. "Come, my dear," she beckoned, and I was eased out of my timidity to move among the other exotic women, reaching her. She looked me over and then up to me. "You have beautiful eyes," she said silkily, and the women around her approved. "T-Thank you," I stammered, unsure of the crowd and feeling my pulse racing beneath my chest. She walked around me, sizing me up and down. "Tell me, outsider," she said, "what has brought you to our humble sanctum? It is not often that another would venture so close to us."

"Why not?" I asked. "Our goddess, the Goddess of the Sand, is not welcomed as readily as the Golden Goddesses of legend," the woman responded, "but we do not begrudge the people who feel uneasy about our culture; it is honor enough that the ruler has allowed us of the exiled tribes to be here today. It is not a reward so easily given, and it is a sign that circumstances are changing for our people." The other women nodded in agreement, and I watched as the speaker stopped circling me, standing before me with an air of regality. "I am Nadika, handmaiden chosen by our sheikha; I am in charge of caring for our tribal caravan while we are guests here within Hyrule."

"I am Jacqueline," I replied, and the surrounding women seemed to nod in return. "We know who you are," Nadika replied smoothly, "and we know why you've come to this town; the Festival is held in high regard for all, and thus draws in unique characters from around the realm. However..." She moved around me and placed a hand on my shoulder, gently sliding it over the neck flaps and dragging her nails gently across the back of my neck before bringing it to the other shoulder, "we know why you, especially, have visited our tent here today."

"What is that?" I squeaked gently, clearing my throat to get rid of it. Nadika didn't seem phased by my error and smiled underneath the gossamer veil. "You have felt the power of our dancing and our music; you have a power of celebration within yourself, waiting to be unleashed. It is a talent that only a few possess, and only those sensitive to it are drawn to us." She took her hand away from my shoulder and sauntered with her sash into the crowd of women, adjusting her long flaming hair. I was stunned and surprised at her response, not to mention how overpowering the atmosphere was; I could barely keep my thoughts together! Something about the Gerudos gave off the impression that they were masters of infatuation, and could likely trap whatever prey they wanted with their prestige and charisma. It was like stepping a foot into a torrential sea of raw power, such as the like I hadn't experienced before.

Nadika finished fussing with her hair, drawing her nails through the strands in long, deliberate strokes and placing it over her shoulder to coil naturally downward. "You have come because you wish to join in the dance, no?" she asked, and I blinked. The music had been pleasant, and the beat was powerful enough to make me want to move, but I was also aware of my self-conscious opinions about my dancing, and the lack of practice I had had with it alerted me to keep myself from giving into the desire to get crazy with my feet. "I'm not a good dancer," I admitted, and the other women looked to each other, their golden eyes twinkling with laughter at an unspoken joke. Nadika smiled at me, her teeth a glistening hue of white underneath the veil. "You are a dancer, or else you would not have been drawn to us; our magic is an unorthodox one, but a gift that only our tribe possesses by natural heritage." I arched an eyebrow, puzzled at her words, and she looked to the other women to explain and give a voice of their own.

One of the women sitting on a pillow and wearing similar clothing with an orange-coloration to it addressed me. "We come to the city in the hopes of finding boyfriends, and men to take home and help us bring children into the world," she explained, and I felt my head fire up with heat, blood rushing to it at how naturally and casually she stated their intentions. "With our dancing and natural magic," a purple-garbed Gerudo explained, "we lure in potential customers and take them with us into the night before releasing them the next day."

"Our entire tribe consists of women," Nadika explained and drew my attention back to her, "and there is only the existence of one male, who is to be our king when he comes of age. We have not had a king since many a century ago, and so we come to the Festival in hopes of being the chosen maiden to give birth to our sovereign. It has been this way in our tribe for countless ages." My head reeled slightly at the outright statements of sex that the women seemed to flaunt about like caviar on a platter, and I placed my hands up in a flustered fashion. "I'm not really into that sort of thing," I began to explain, and the women all giggled with one another, making me blush even more. Nadika placed a hand on her hip and smiled at me warmly. "Do not worry, for we did not expect to lure you and bed you; there would be no gain for us," she assured me. "We are more intrigued that you were drawn to our music and dance, suggesting that you have an open mind to us, and we wish to explore that."

"Beg pardon?" I asked, and Nadika nodded to the other women. A Gerudo in green satin rose, her body position lax and her hips positioned to an angle. "We perform a dance for the Festival every year, and tomorrow we will be executing a traditional dance to connect more with the Hylian people." The Gerudo women seemed a bit distasteful towards the other races, but didn't seem to voice their opinions openly and instead bore with the differences. "As blasphemous as their cultures seem to us," Nadika said, "we wish to assure them that we do not mean harm, but rather wish to join in the celebration, and so we dance tomorrow and gain the most reward from the onlookers that we lure back to the tent. The dance is sacred, but easy to learn by those that are sensitive to the powerful magic it possesses." Nadika came to me and took my hands, holding them up in front of me. "We believe that, if the people see one of their own heroes dancing with us," she said, "that the realm would benefit all the more from our appearance, and we would likely achieve our own goals all the better."

I looked bashfully down, unsure of what to do; I had promised Shad to go to the festival with him, and I wasn't sure if the customs would dictate that I preferred the Gerudos over the scholar if I chose to dance with them instead. Still, as I looked into the golden eyes of the handmaiden, I saw nothing but acceptance there; they didn't care what I looked like, nor would look at me funny if I did try to dance. If I had some sort of 'magic' inside of me that reacted to their power and set me apart from the others, why wouldn't I give it a try? Maybe I can dance with Shad afterwards, so it won't look like I'm taking sides or starting a war or anything. I smiled timidly and nodded to the Gerudo.

She smiled; that was all she needed to see. "Excellent," she breathed and released my hands, moving into the back of the tent while passing through the cluster of women. When she returned she was carrying a thin shawl of silk, which was of simple color and less-exotic than the clothing they wore. "This will be your practice tool while you dance with us," Nadika informed me and handed it gently into my possession. I felt the fabric, feeling that it was slightly more coarse than the fine silk that hung, but comfortable all the same. "What if I mess up?" I asked, remembering my awkward dancing skills.

The Gerudo handmaiden merely smiled at me. "When we dance, it is of one mind and one body; we are synonymous with one another, connected by a bond that goes deeper than family. We are all sisters here, and you are a sister to us. You will enter the weave and be of the same mind as we are without flaw." She took my hand, and I numbly followed her into the depths of the tent and into a larger room, which was barren of cushions and furniture. She guided me into the center and turned to face me, the other women having followed in and placing themselves strategically throughout the tent.

"Now," Nadika said, "let us begin."​
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Location
Earth
Gender
Female
SPECULUM
Chapter Thirty: "Enough For One Day"
Rating: PG-13
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


39832

Origin:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Over the course of the next couple of days we practiced long and hard, barely giving pause under the strain and demand of the oncoming performance. Sweat was dripping all over me and I was exhausted, but the Gerudos believed I was improving with each attempt. Their statements of a "weave" and network of how their bonds work with one another were spot-on, and I found myself getting better at anticipating their moves, however I wasn't without my faults; I would clumsily step on a toe or accidentally trip over my own feet, sprawling to the ground and sliding in my own sweat. The women were patient with me and never made me feel ashamed of my mistakes, and Nadika was especially supportive of my efforts.

"You are doing much better than any foreigner we've invited," she assured me, however I wasn't fully confident of myself; could I perform for hundreds of people with the full assurance that my reputation wouldn't be destroyed if I messed up in front of them? I was fairly certain that I didn't have a huge fan club army behind me to keep me feeling secure about myself, and Telma's comments about finding a dress that suited me only made me feel even worse. I tentatively felt my neck flaps before I took Nadika's hand for the umpteenth time and rose to my feet. "It's not good enough," I told her, and she smiled, "You will get it, I am sure. Tonight is the dance, and at the pace we are going, you will undoubtedly shine with perfection."

I snorted, "There's no such thing as perfection; I can barely keep up with you all." The other women were breaking, gently dabbing themselves with absorbent cloth (which was a funny name for "towel") to keep themselves dry. Nadika nodded to me, "You were not born into our tribe, but your affinity to the magic is very strong, so you must have faith in yourself. We will continue to practice later, but you must take a break for now." I wanted to object, but my body was already agreeing with her as the bruises and aches and pains forced me to concede. I nodded and left the tent, making my way back into the town in search of something to eat and drink.

There were all sorts of goods being procured in the bazaar, the aroma of mixed spices and yeast wafting through the air. My stomach growled, but the smells were disorienting and I was already feeling overheated from the dance routines. I decided to turn down one of the more barren alleys of the town to take a breather before I'd go looking for a bite to eat, passing by the rows of stores and boutiques that lined it.

One building caught my eye, which was ironic considering that the banner over this building was plastered with a gigantic eyeball, the iris peering down at the local townsfolk that would pass by it. I took an experimental step backwards and forwards to see if the iris would follow me, but found it didn't and looked at the words. A fortune-telling house? The owner's slip that hung on the outside of the building had a name plastered on it: "Fanadi". I looked at the building quizzically, wondering what a building like this would be doing here. The other stores were potion shops, a bug store, or even a pet shop down the road. Even though the people here had displayed they had been superstitious, there was little to convince me that they gave a fortune-teller a lot of attention. My stomach growled, reminding me of my original goal, and I began to walk past it.

"Come in, child," a voice said, and I stopped and turned around automatically, expecting the voice to be addressing me. I looked to the entrance of the building, expecting to see someone standing there, but I didn't see anyone. I looked around, my eyes peeled for anyone else trying to prank me, but nobody was there. I was beginning to continue on my way when I saw a mixture of colors begin to come into my view. "...Zelda." The ghost had appeared before me, her eyes locking with mine as a means to communicate. I glanced at her, and then gave the building a second opinion. "...Do you want me to go in there?" The spirit looked to me, held my gaze for an instant, and then turned away from me with a small frown on her face. I sighed and approached the fortune-telling house again, knocking on the door and letting myself in.

Inside it was dark and smelled sharply of a cinnamon-like incense. The potency of it was so strong that I swallowed, my throat scratching slightly as it burned. "Come in, come in, child!" a voice beckoned, and I wandered further in until I came across the owner of the voice.

Fanadi was larger than Telma, having her body adorned in jewelry and her thick fingers outstretched over a crystal ball, glistening in rings. She had a fold to her neck, giving her a double-chin appearance, and her blond hair was anointed over her skull and fastened in place by a golden hair ornament. Her eyes were a light lavender, and as I approached she smiled. "Come, sit with Fanadi, for you have entered her Palace under the favor of the spirits!"

I looked at her sharply, my thoughts immediately sifting to Zelda. "How did you know?" I asked, alarmed. Fanadi sat back, smirking at me. "Fanadi knows that any who wish to glimpse into their future is warded by the spirits! They are all around, guiding us and teaching us about the realms that we cannot see!" As she continued to talk about the spirits and then deviating into her accomplishments, I began to realize that she hadn't seen the princess' spirit and relaxed. If she had, she likely would have been the first one to run--or waddle--into the streets, crying out about the kingdom's monarch.

Still, it gave me pause for thought; why had Zelda's spirit taken me here if Fanadi clearly hadn't seen her? Was I supposed to glimpse into my future? I sighed inwardly and rolled my eyes, sitting down before Fanadi and crossing my legs, looking at her expectantly. "I would like to see my future," I requested. Fanadi smiled, "I have a price for my services, child; ten Rupees should do!"

Of course there's a fee. I took out my money bag and looked at the Rupee that Telma had given me for clothing. As guilty as I felt for paying with her gift-money, I knew I wouldn't be wearing a frilly dress like the ones I had seen dotting the bazaar, some with bright obnoxious colors and others with too much fabric. I handed over the Rupee and received four green ones in return, watching as the fortune-teller pocketed the money and held her hands out around the crystal ball. She closed her eyes and began to hum to herself like some sort of echolocation for the supernatural.

Yeah, this was definitely fake.

She began to speak. "Hmm...mmm...I see....oh, I see...!" I waited dully for her to get to her point, irritated that I had given up money for a hoax. Why had Zelda shown me this place? It was a waste of my ****ing time. My stomach growled, and I felt the urge to get up and walk out. Before I could make a move, however, Fanadi seemingly 'startled' awake, her eyes wide open and her mouth open in shock. "It is all clear to me! Your goal! It is of great importance!" I waited for her to elaborate, crossing my arms slowly and trying to keep my face passive. I nodded to her, and she squinted into the crystal ball. "You have many," she explained, "but there is one that takes precedence at this time! The interpretation is...abstract." She looked puzzled, and I blinked, seeing her confusion; did her naïvety actually confirm that she could see things? If it were just a performance, she'd be able to get it right every time. I chanced looking at the crystal ball, seeing nothing but swirling smoke inside of it. "What did you see?" I asked, my interest beginning to rise.

Fanadi placed her hands on the ball, her eyes squinting. "It is unclear, suggesting there is...'hesitation' in the future of it. I see...blue stones, littered in a steady plain of green and yellow grass, a blade of sorts laying within it." She stopped for a moment, reassessing her words, and I began to search my memory for what the image could mean. I knew they were symbolic, but as to how they linked together was something of a mystery to me. "Next, there is a mixture of black and white storm clouds that come to the fields, streaking with blue lightning; I can only assume that this is a representation of inner turmoil, my dear," Fanadi continued, and I could feel my face twisting into an expression of confusion; this image was even more complex than before, and I was getting an uneasy feeling about how unclear it was. Fanadi leaned back, addressing me with a stoic look. "As the clouds rolled in, the fields darkened and the stones overturned to a gray surface; the lightning in the clouds struck the weapon in the center of the field, however the blade reflected it and struck back at the clouds, forcing them to scatter into several pieces. All that remained of the storm were peaceful segments of clouds bathed in white." Fanadi looked back at her ball, and then looked to me, "I'm afraid that's all there is to the image, my dear; I am not sure what your goal is, but it must be paved with great turmoil and danger. I would be careful on what you pursue."

"What was that exactly supposed to show me, Fanadi?" I asked, uneasy about how violently the image had been portrayed. The woman took out a cloth and wiped down the ball, gazing at it as she thought. "I was attempting to search what you desired, my dear; it can come in many forms, and usually if there is a clear-cut objective it will be shown to me. Yours, apart from many other customers I see, is severely-misguided and could not be relayed to me in its full context, even though all of the answers are there. Perhaps you can discover what the symbolism behind the green-and-yellow field, the blue stones, and the clouds mean to you."

I glanced at the ball, unsure of what to make of the situation, and then back to the woman. "What do you think it means?" Fanadi smiled at me, "I can only see what is within your mind's eye, my dear; that means I cannot see into your deepest emotions, but the cosmos makes it clear to me what is revealed. The abstract of your future must be buried to give me hesitation as to its interpretation." She stopped stroking the crystal ball and clasped her hands together on the table, fingers like the teeth of a cog, thick and impenetrable. "What remains clear to me is that the clouds and fields are representative of two individual entities. Whether these are places, people, or things, that remains unclear to me; your intentions were buried so deeply that it was unclear, but the one thing that remains clear to me was the blade in the middle. That was the one thing that remained clear throughout the image."

"What did the blade look like?" I asked, feeling a sense of dread beginning to overtake me as we talked more about the images. The woman smiled, "It was an ordinary weapon, my dear. The blade itself isn't of importance, but rather what it did to the clouds in the image; it fought back. I can only conclude that it is a ward that kept the clouds from settling over the fields. The light of day only penetrated the fields once again after the clouds dispersed." I closed my eyes, remembering my first nightmares; I could still feel the cruel, cold steel piercing me as my past friend had run me through, betraying me. I still had trouble being around the Master Sword, seeing as that its previous form had been run through me to keep me from killing everyone as Demise had controlled me long ago.

Fanadi coughed slightly, getting my attention. "Is there anything else you would like me to seek, my dear? What about your love life, or what you are meant to do next?" I was hesitant on asking about the love life details, wary about the answer considering the first image had been so abstract and was leading me to assume things. "I'd...rather know what I'm meant to do next, actually," I said and handed her back one of the green Rupees. Fanadi smiled broadly, "I can do that, my dear! This time it should be clear to Fanadi, and clear to you!" She placed her hands on the ball and then took her hands away slightly, rubbing them around on some sort of invisible barrier. Her eyes closed and she hummed, and I felt the room get slightly colder. I looked for an open window to shut, but there was no breeze blowing.

I heard a strange noise come from Fanadi, and I turned and felt a scream lodge in my throat as I saw the woman's eyes flutter open, her eyes opaque and her mouth ajar. "YOUR FUTURE...IS ALL TOO CLEAR, JACQUELINE. WHY DO YOU FIGHT IT?" Her voice had contorted to a much deeper pitch, guttural and raspy. I sat, petrified and cemented in place; I couldn't even move. I tried to move, but something was keeping me there, and Fanadi's fingers arched around the crystal ball like spider limbs. The air around me chilled, and I saw the light around us extinguish, revealing a massive figure looming behind the possessed woman. Tears were already pouring down my cheeks as I stared in utter terror up at the Imprisoned. The light of a ravaging fire illuminated Its features, and It opened Its jaws to grin at me. "YOU CANNOT FIGHT FATE, CHILD OF DARKNESS, FOR YOU BELONG TO ME. YOU ALWAYS HAVE."

I quivered. "Why won't you just leave me alone?" I whimpered and shook terribly as the Imprisoned towered over Fanadi and nodded to the crystal ball. "WHY NOT TAKE A LOOK AND SEE WHAT YOU ARE FATED FOR THIS WORLD?" Even if I didn't want to, my head was forced to lower to angle towards the crystal ball, my eyelids kept open by Demise's will. How was this even possible? He had said He couldn't do anything within this timeline, and yet He was able to control my body movements all the same. Even still, that didn't mean He could control my mind, and so I was still able to mentally take charge of my situation. The smoke in the crystal ball cleared, and an image began to play out before me.

There were glimpses of snow, a ruined castle of sorts, and then there was flashes of green and gold, and a brief glimpse of the door that I had tumbled out of. Last, there was a rush of blue and white, wisps of cloud speeding past me as a rock formation with buildings on top of it came into view. The image sped downward until it settled before the now-whole Mirror of Twilight, a stream of light carrying from it and hitting the giant stone slab. An inner-dimensional portal opened up, and I was sucked in until I could see the wailing Twili staring at me with their accusing glares. "YOU'VE BEEN SELFISH, HOLDING ON FOR SO LONG," Demise chastised me, and the images flickered out, the smoke engulfing them until nothing remained. I stared up, shocked and saddened at the sight of Zelda's ghost being suspended in the air next to the Imprisoned, her broken body so small in comparison to Its massive frame. "IT'S TIME TO LET GO AND GIVE BACK WHAT WAS STOLEN," Demise said, chuckling through Fanadi's frame. I wanted to cry for help, but my voice was frozen, leaving me to stare as He came closer and closer to my face. My forehead was beginning to burn, the pain increasing, and I doubled over to hold my head. "It's...not my fault..." I looked up, watching for the danger as the Imprisoned opened Its huge jaws and swallowed me whole before I could utter another word.

The darkness lifted, and the chill in the air began to disappear. I was aware of my ragged breathing, my body dripping with sweat. Fanadi had been knocked out cold, her unseeing eyes staring up at the ceiling and her hands clutching the crystal ball as an anchor to keep herself from falling. The ball itself was hissing with steam from the force behind the possession, and I felt myself regaining control over my body. I shakily got to my feet, half-throwing myself across the floor to clumsily work the handle on the door and tumble back out into the streets. I picked myself up and fled away from Fanadi's Palace, overtaxed by what I had seen and witnessed, the hunger that I had once felt disappearing from the stress.

I wouldn't come out of the Gerudo tent until later into the evening before the performance would be about to begin, and sadly to say, the experience at Fanadi's Palace wouldn't be the only thing to dampen my spirits about the festival.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Link

The sun was beginning to move past its peak and was declining towards the horizon, casting the village in a golden light. Kakariko had become more fortified than ever, the Gorons contributing vast amounts of stone to assist in setting up efficient reinforcements to some of the weakened structures of the buildings. The children had been told to go play near the springs to keep out of the way of the Gorons so they wouldn't get injured, however little Malo had taken it upon himself to become the official scout for the village and give a shout if a monster was going to enter the streets from either entrance.

Link smiled; everything seemed so serene and peaceful. If he had been any other traveler passing through, he may not have had the faintest idea that this place had been ravaged by a Moblin assault almost two full moons ago. He turned back to look at Epona's flank, brushing her quarters with long, exact strokes and splashing water onto her hide. The mare rolled her eyes with pleasure and lazily craned a hind leg inward, obviously enjoying the bath. If he was going to take off for Ordon Village, he was going to make sure that his horse was ready for the journey, especially when in the presence of his childhood friend Ilia. He wasn't sure how much she remembered, but he did know that her affinity for animals hadn't left her and that she would regularly check in on Epona. He smiled fondly and cleaned off the brush, taking a thinner comb lined with finer teeth and stroking the flanks to make sure he'd get any burs or tangle clumps of fur out. Epona leaned heavily towards his side, enthralled with the brushing, and Link stopped and gently placed his hand on her shoulder. "Whoa, girl," he gently said, and the mare corrected her placement and stood upright, looking at him. He grinned and gave her a reassuring hug before finishing his brushing and splashing water to finish her bath.

A figure stood on the outskirts of the springs where he had been washing Epona, and he looked up to address them. He smiled as Ilia waved to him and waded into the water, approaching Epona and patting the neck down gently. "She looks gorgeous," Ilia complimented, and Link nodded, "I'm sure she appreciates your words." The young girl smiled warmly, and Link felt more relaxed at the sight of it, though that didn't dispel the small nagging sense of sadness he felt for her lost memories. "When will we be heading out?" Ilia asked.

"Not long from now," Link said and looked towards the eastern entrance. "If we leave in the next few hours, we'll be able to get to the village before sundown; I'm sure your father would love it if he had you over for dinner."

Ilia smiled, "I would love to have the chance to meet him! I certainly wouldn't want to keep him worrying about me." Link nodded and packed up his cleaning supplies, carrying them back to the shoreline. Ilia patted down Epona and glanced left and right. "Where is Jacqueline? When you came back to town, I thought she was going to be with you." Link set down his supplies with ease and worked on brushing Epona's saddle. "She's in Castle Town at the moment, getting ready for the festival," he said without turning to speak to the girl. Ilia pursed her lips in thought, "A festival? Telma had been talking about it, but I haven't seen her in ages, so I'm not familiar with it. Was she going with anyone?"

"Yes," Link replied as he focused on the saddle, "a young man named Shad. He should be able to look after her without a problem." Ilia glanced in Link's direction, sensing that something was awry but guessed it was merely her own perception. "Oh...that's too bad," Ilia said as Link grunted in reply and continued to clean off the saddle. The young man continued to work with Epona's equipment before it was thoroughly-cleaned and prepped much later. When they were about ready to start their trip Link had saddled up the mare and Ilia had made sure that she wasn't leaving anything out of sorts before she'd take off for Ordon. The green-clad hero carried out supplies for the journey, taking into account for anything that he was missing. When Ilia had moved off, Link looked to his shadow. "Midna, do you think we can borrow Jacqueline's camping supplies, just in case we need to stop on the way to the village?" The imp came out and crossed her arms, shaking her head. "Sorry, buddy," she replied, "but that's in Jacqueline's personal inventory. Just because we share a twilight dimension where our items can be stored in doesn't mean we don't have metaphorical-chests where we keep our possessions in."

"Do you think you can go ask her and see if she'd be willing to let us borrow it?" Link asked, and again the imp touched her bottom lip with an index finger, glancing up in thought. "I suppose I could, but something tells me you may not need it in the long run."

"Why is that?" Link asked, confused. The imp looked at him and smirked slightly, "Because there's somewhere else you need to be. For instance, what about the festival? Are you really going to blow it off to the side? You know that this sudden inspiration to visit your home village is an excuse to blow off the festival. Why is that?" The young man scowled at her. "It is not an excuse; I intend to take Ilia back home so that she can be with her family and out of harm's way," Link insisted and continued to fasten Epona's bridle. "Yeah, but even the girl can see there's no rush in visiting, so why the rush? It just seems like a way to escape from something. Maybe you're angry at Jacqueline after all?"

The young man tightened the saddle briskly. "I'm not escaping from anything, and I'm not angry with her," he said firmly, avoiding looking at the imp and becoming preoccupied in getting Epona ready. Once he was on the road, he'd be able to dispel any thoughts of changing his mind about remaining in the village or going to the town. Midna's silly notions were irritating, and the more she spoke the more vexed he became, but he fought to keep it under control with short, deliberate phrases. This only seemed to encourage the Twili further, earning a toothy grin from her as they glanced at one another. "Admit it," Midna said, "you're jealous."

Link got up and stared down the imp. "If you cannot get the tent, then I'll make sure Ilia uses mine and I'll sleep under the stars. Thank you," he said, attempting to dismiss the imp. Midna sighed and shrugged helplessly, dropping the subject and remaining quiet as the young man finished up. He guided Epona away from the springs and out onto the road, signaling to Ilia that it was time to leave. The girl jogged over, forcing Midna to disappear into Link's shadow to keep herself hidden. "Is everything ready?" Ilia asked. Link nodded, and the young girl smiled. Link offered a knee for her to step off and get on Epona, but the girl hesitated and glanced behind her. "You said that Jacqueline would be attending the festival with Shad, correct?"

The young man stood up straight, confused. "I did, but why does that matter?" Ilia looked worried and uncertain, facing Link. "If that is true, then who was the young man who came into the village earlier? He looked just like Shad! That, or my memory is failing me again." The young girl looked bashful about her possible-mistake, but her comment was enough to force Link away from Epona and tell the girl to stay put next to the mare. "Where did you see him go?" he asked. "He headed into the sanctuary and wanted to get into the cellar," Ilia explained, and Link nodded, heading swiftly into the building and lowering himself down the wire mesh, hitting the ground of the cellar and making his way through the narrow passage. Once he came into the broader space of the tunnel he saw a red-haired young man in a purple scholar's jacket standing with his back to him, a large tome out. "Fascinating," he breathed. Link was shocked to see Shad here, of all places, and made his presence known so as not to startle the young man. "What are you doing here, Shad?" Link asked. The young man turned around and adjusted his spectacles, grinning, "Link! Just the hero I need! I was actually needing your help with this conspicuous statue; it's too heavy for me to move, but I was wondering if you had a tool that could move it? I think there are secrets to Skyloft hidden here, according to the information I gathered!"

Link had no idea what 'Skyloft' was, though admittedly it rang a thin thread of familiarity in him. He dispelled his scattered thoughts and he looked at the young scholar. "If the statue is too heavy, then I can't move it," Link said, and Shad looked disappointed but his spirits weren't dampened. "I suppose I can find another way around it while I'm here; who knows when I'll have the time to make another trip?" Shad replied and turned around, enthralled with the book. Link looked at the scholar's back before addressing him with a little more forwardly. "I thought you were going to be going to the festival with Jacqueline," he said. Shad turned around to face Link, the book still open to a section. "Oh yes! I will be, just as soon as I am done here! I should have enough time to get back to her."

The green-clad hero blinked, "How did you get here in the first place?" Shad smiled, "I walked, actually! I left around noon and came here not long ago; should have plenty of daylight to light the way so I can get back and finish up my research."

Link looked skeptical and crossed his arms, "The sun will be setting soon, Shad." The young red-head gaped in disbelief, and Link realized what had occurred; the scholar had spent so much time engrossed in his research that he had lost track of time and wouldn't make it back in time for the festival. Shad realized this notion as well and looked down at his feet, guilt spread across his features. "Oh dear...I didn't realize how much time had passed...I thought I'd have enough time to finish this up and entertain Miss Jacqueline, but it seems I've messed up again." Link unfolded his arms, sensing what the outcome would be for the girl if Shad never showed up. "I can still take you to the festival so she won't have to know you messed up," Link offered, however the scholar shook his head. "No, it was only a matter of time before something like this would happen."

"What do you mean?" Link asked. Shad sighed heavily and looked up, regret in his eyes. "I couldn't help myself; she was such a rare individual! She's talented, skilled, and has a unique sense of humor that I haven't found commonly in women. Her abilities are unparalleled, and everything about her was just so new that I wanted to study everything there is to know about her. She wanted to go to the dance, and I agreed to it, but I shouldn't have made a promise I couldn't keep; my research is far too valuable for the kingdom for me to stop now, especially with all that she has given me. The knowledge I have now, because of her, is something I would never have been able to repay. What she wanted in return was also something I couldn't give, and can't give." Link narrowed his eyes and approached the scholar, looking into his eyes. "She's going to be upset that you didn't show up," Link said, his voice low, and the scholar nodded. "I calculated as much," Shad said sadly, and Link felt an anger building in him that almost bubbled over his tolerance. He kept his face straight and looked at the scholar, assessing him. Shad was a young man and probably had been consumed so much by his research that he never gave a second's pause to step back and relax. Jacqueline had probably been one out of few women that had gotten as far as they had with Shad, since the boy was oblivious enough to what women expected of him, but not enough to understand what they desired. He had probably sensed Jacqueline's growing affection for him, and to keep her under his eyes for inspection and further observation, he had consented to going to the dance with her, all the while intending to keep the promise but ultimately failing to do so.

He may not have intended it, but in the broad spectrum of things, Link knew that it had been a trick, and he began to worry about what Jacqueline's response would be. "We need to get you to the dance, or she's going to wonder where you are," Link attempted to urge the scholar again, but the red-head shook his head. "If I went, it would be a lie; I do care a great deal for Miss Jacqueline and admire her, but I cannot be seen at that dance. The customs of that dance are symbolic for unity and tranquility with one's chosen, and while I can honestly say that I have taken a shine to Miss Jacqueline, my emotions for her may not be as driven as hers' are for me." Silence stretched between the both of them, and Link finally understood the truth. He narrowed his eyes, his voice low, "Was that all she was to you? A specimen to be documented?"

Shad shook his head, "No, not at all; she is a charming young woman with a great depth of knowledge of ancient history, far more than I initially thought she had. She has done more for me than anyone has done for me before, and once my father's research is finished, I'll be able to move onto research topics of my own. She is selfless, caring, and has a wonderful heart. I wasn't lying when I said that any man would be lucky to have her hand, but I spared the fact that the hand wouldn't be mine. I'm afraid that Miss Jacqueline got the impression that I was interested romantically in her, and I neglected to keep her from dreaming too deeply." Link stared at the scholar, unsure of what to make of the member of the Resistance.

He may have been the smartest and most calculated member of the group, but it was painfully-clear what he had done. Shad was standing, shamefaced and not looking at Link, uncomfortable. Link was aware he had been staring at the young man and then drew a hand over his face, sighing. "You can't just give up on her," Link accused Shad, and the young man faced the hero. "I refuse to lie any further to her, and this is the only way I know how to deal with these situations. She will heal, in time, but that doesn't mean I don't regret for what has occurred. I am not a monster." Link looked up sharply, the word 'monster' riveting through his brain.

"No," he finally replied, "but this act is going to cause her to believe that she is a monster." Although he didn't like having to postpone the journey to Ordon, Link knew what he had to do to keep a close friend from caving into her own emotions. He turned around immediately and began to head for the ladder. "Wait," Shad said, and Link stopped and turned back to the scholar. As angry as he was, he knew that Shad was an inexperienced young man and had made a poor choice in how to be forward and truthful with his feelings; it was certainly hard to be truthful to Jacqueline sometimes, Link knew this for a fact. Considering what he had witnessed and the fears he had for her sake, he didn't know what would break her down or build her up in dire circumstances. Shad was holding out a curious small book, encouraging Link to take it. "I won't be needing this anymore," Shad explained.

"What is it?" Link asked. Shad nodded to the book, "It's the research I conducted for Miss Jacqueline on her abilities, her history, and the aspects of the magic that has taken affect on her. She told me much, and I meant to give it as a gift for her to keep with her, after the festival." The green-clad hero looked up at Shad, holding the book in his hand. "It isn't too late to become brave yourself and make things right with her," Link tried to coax the scholar, "since I know that opting for the path of a coward isn't what defines you, Shad."

The scholar smiled without mirth, sadness in his eyes. "I will go to the ends of the earth to uncover a secret unknown to Hyrule, but when it comes to women, all I will bring them is pain. I resigned myself to this a long time ago, and I shouldn't have led her on. Please tell her that I am sorry that I am a coward, and that I hope she will forgive me in time, mayhaps even forget me."

"She doted on you," Link argued, and Shad shook his head with a grin, "She thought she doted on me, but someone else was actually on her mind. I'm someone that can't hope to bring her happiness, but perhaps you can fill in for my stead." Link frowned but took the book and pocketed it, rushing out of the sanctuary and heading back into the open air of Kakariko. Ilia looked worried, watching as Link approached quickly. "Is everything all right? You were gone for a while," she said, and Link shook his head with disappointment and anger at the cowardice of the scholar. "I need to borrow Epona and head to the town to make sure Jacqueline doesn't find out what happened," he replied steadily and mounted the horse. Ilia jumped up behind him, getting into the saddle. "I need to be there for her, too," Ilia insisted, "since we're friends! Maybe I can help in some way!" Link felt uncertain, but nodded and looked for the position of the sun. The sun was already on the horizon, and twilight had cast the world in a dim, hidden light. He shook his head and kicked Epona's sides, taking off at a gallop out of the village.

Link only prayed they would make it to the cursed girl in time.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Jacqueline

I peeked through of the curtains, hearing the buzzing commotion coming from the bazaar. There were only thirty minutes to the performance, and the butterflies in my stomach wouldn't go away. ****, now's a bad time to get stage fright! I had second thoughts about performing in front of the crowd, but I knew it was too late to back out; I had made a promise, and I was going to keep it, even if it was going to be utterly humiliating. "Do not worry, sister! You will be alright!" One of the Gerudo maidens had been watching me and took my hands, gently guided me away from the doorway and bringing me back into the safe recesses of the tent. "I'm not sure about this," I said, and the Gerudo smiled underneath her orange veil before taking me back to Nadika. Nadika was gorgeous, wearing honey-gold garments and holding her sash in her hand. "You've come so far, and you've gotten the performance perfect for the past three attempts in a row, sister! You will have no problem performing here tonight for the people you represent!" I looked around me to the other women, seeing their approval in Nadika's words.

I held the practice shawl in my hands, looking down at it. "But what will I wear? All of you look so glamorous and so pretty that I doubt anybody would want to see me like this out there. I wasn't able to find a dress or anything to wear to the dance," I said softly, and the women beamed at each other at my compliment, but also at an underlying secret they had. Nadika nodded to two women, signaling them to perform some sort of action. The two women went into the back, leaving the handmaiden to turn to me. "We had one prepared for you, and I believe you'll find that you will have no worries in its design," she explained as the two women returned, and I inhaled sharply at the magnificent sight I saw:

The design was beautiful. It consisted of a decorative bra of pure white satin with golden trimming, and large, slack white pants in the same design to the other Gerudo womens' clothing. In addition, there was a shoulder-shawl cut down to hang just over my elbow that had a similar design to a matador's in bullfighting, which I was instructed to hang over one of my shoulders. Attached to the shawl was an extension of cloth that was supposed to wrap around my neck loosely to cover up my neck flaps and reduce my insecurities. In addition, accessories were provided; an anklet fixed with tiny bells, a head-piece of small jewelry to be draped over my crown, and a bracelet to loosely hang on the opposite wrist as the shoulder bearing the shawl. I stood staring at it, trying to imagine what I would look like in it. The other women saw my obvious admiration and beamed proudly at my acceptance of the garment, Nadika especially. "We had it commissioned for you while we took breaks; we are all connected, so the resting parties could work on the garment while the others practiced. The jewelry is from my personal cache," Nadika explained, and I looked up at her. "I don't know what to say..."

"Say that you will dance in it for us," Nadika uttered gently with a wink, and I nodded eagerly. "I will," I said, and the Gerudos assisted me in dressing, gently anointing me in a light perfume and helping me to slip on the jewelry. Three other Gerudo sat me down gently in front of a mirror and began to play with my hair, brushing it with ease and attempting to coil it. Over the course of my adventures I hadn't taken note until now of how the hair had grown, and while it wasn't much, it was enough to suit their desires. They took the hair securely and began to coil it in a cylinder to sit vertically at the back of my head, holding it in place by a jeweled hair-clasp, and then taking the long strand of hair that was too short and pinning it to the side of my head with a jeweled pin. Lastly, they fastened a veil over my nose and mouth, leaving the loop to gently crane over my ear and hide the bottom portion of my face. The addition of the veil emphasized my blue eyes, and as I looked into the mirror, I almost wanted to cry.

"I actually look..." I hesitated to say it, but the other Gerudo looked pleased with themselves and helped me rise to my feet, presenting me to Nadika. She blinked and gaped, wordless for a few moments before her features broke out into a broad smile behind her veil. "You look exactly as you are meant to look," she said smoothly, and the other Gerudo praised me for my appearance. Seeing as I looked like the others and would do the performance barefoot, as they would, I felt more at home and more certain that I could dance for the people. I just hope Shad doesn't get upset with me if he sees me dancing. I hope he's out there in the crowd somewhere! Excitement began to bubble within me, and I waited anxiously for the performance to start. Nadika turned to address the troupe, smiling warmly. "The crowd is waiting for us to grace them with our presence! At the end of the night, we shall be rewarded with a multitude of men to continue our traditions!" Alarm riveted through me, and I looked worriedly to Nadika; did that mean that whatever 'magic' I gave off would attract a lot of men? I voiced this after Nadika finished her motivational speech, and she smiled at me. "The magic we cast is for men in general, considering we do not have a single man selected out of the others. You, on the other hand, likely only have one or two men in mind. If your magic is strong enough, and it is fated to be, you will attract the man you are destined to be with; he will be unable to resist your pull. That is how the story goes, anyway." Nadika smiles, "It is certain for the Gerudos that this is fated, but who is to say what the outcome will be of your dancing, sister Jacqueline? I look forward to seeing your performance!"

The man I'm fated to be with... Considering I wasn't a Gerudo, I doubted that I had the same magic as the women, but I still intended to dance for the pleasure of the crowd. If that was the case, then if it was meant to be, Shad would be in the crowd. I smiled in anticipation and waited as the minutes counted down, the Gerudo women beginning to get their shawls for dancing. One of the women came to me with a pure white shawl, wishing me luck and favor in the eyes of the Goddess of the Sand. I thanked her and bowed in response to her out of respect and held the fabric between my fingers, anxious for the performance to start.

"Psst!" I blinked and looked around sharply, hearing a familiar voice. "Midna? Is that you?" The voice sounded again, and I moved off to the perimeter of the tent near the back, seeing Midna's silhouette through the thin fabric. "Midna, what are you doing here? I thought you were with Link!"

The imp sighed, "There's no time to explain that, Jackie; I actually came here to tell you something very important."

"And what's that?" I asked, perplexed at the urgency in the imp's voice. Midna hesitated and then spoke gently. "Shad...won't be showing up to the dance; I just got word before Link left Kakariko that the boy had lost track of time and wouldn't make it back here on time to dance with you. He wanted to say that he was sorry, and that he hoped you would understand and find someone worthier than him to invest in." My gut turned cold and I stared at the imp's shadow as the information sank into place. All of my hopes had been riding on the dance with Shad, and if what Midna was saying was true, then I would be alone at the dance, and Telma had already weighed upon me what sort of impression that would make. It looked like nobody would come, even if I had some sort of 'magic' to allure them to me.

I kept my voice low. "Thank you for telling me, Midna...I appreciate it." The imp hesitated again and then turned her head to the side. "I figured you should know now, before you got your hopes up during the dance," she replied and disappeared into fragments, leaving me to my churning thoughts. A part of me wished that I had asked Fanadi to tell me the future of my love-life, so that the disappointment would have hit me sooner, but it was too late to wish for that. My experiences with the scholar had been a waste, and more importantly, had done exactly what he had wished for; research. I knew now that Shad had chosen his research over me, and really, who could I blame but myself for getting myself into this mess? I had gotten my hopes up, and Link had warned me many times not to go forwards with my plans, to keep myself from giving into my petty desires. He had told me about my fragile emotions and my desires that had been blinding me, but I had told him off. Even still, I wished I could rewind time, or forget I had known Shad.

If he truly was Thomas' other form, I wonder if that means the original Jacqueline is destined to remain friends with him. The emotion I had was so crushing I wanted to cry, but if I did then the perfume would wash out off my face, and the tears would ruin the fine satin of the veil, so I forced my emotions inward and channeled them into my energy. "It is almost time," a dancer called, and I nodded and moved away from the tent fold. I was going to dance with the Gerudos, and my dancing partner would be myself.

Nadika waited at the entrance of the tent, the other dancers lining up. A different music began to play, sending me back to the sands of the east and queuing us for the dance. She nodded and three Gerudo went forwards to keep the crowd occupied while Nadika looked to me. "You will exit after I do," she said, and as dazed as I was from the recent news I blinked in confusion; we had practiced that I went before the handmaiden, as she was the representative of the troupe. "But I thought that you--" Nadika rushed outside with a grin on her face, exiting the tent and launching herself into the routine. The people were cheering and clapping, and gasping and mumbling to one another at the entrancing dance of the women, and I felt the need to run, however my resolve hardened as my thoughts darted to Shad's broken promise, weighing it against my steadfast promise. I'm going to dance, I told myself, and I heard the music begin to change, signaling for me to head out there. I took in a deep breath and moved as I had been drilled to so many times before this night.

I went to the center as smoothly and swiftly as I could, fixating myself into a pose with my shawl arched over my head while the other Gerudo women circled around me with ease as if they were all clued into the last-minute change that Nadika had made. I assessed the crowd, seeing them all staring at me with perplexity, and some of them with disapproval. I felt fear and looked warily from one to the next, unsure if I was capable of going through with the dance, even though it was too late to flee now. The women continued to repeat their dance moves around me, waiting for me to signal for the next phase. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out, trying to clear my thoughts. Connect to them...connect to their minds... It was hard to focus, my thoughts drifting to the anger I had towards the scholar but also to the pain and sorrow that the unsung devotion I had to Link would never be heard. Would there be someone out there to give me a reason to carry on? I had to try, at least, for myself and for this world. I closed my eyes and reached out with my magic, fastening onto one of the maidens' minds and sinking into the weave. Instantly I felt my confidence rise as I felt the synced-web include me, placing me in the center. As I felt their connection, they took the queue from mine as I arched my hands over my head and slowly drew them down, keeping them level with my shoulders.

We halted in place, taking purposeful poses, and then I began to dance.

The feeling was exhilarating; I could feel their energy merging with mine, and it seemed like I had a bountiful pool of power that I could draw up from and expel from my moves. It was overwhelming at first, but I didn't lose a single step, my mind syncing with Nadika's and matching her movements as I had been instructed to before. She was the queen bee, and we were her drones; the dance routine she had mastered perfectly was laid out before us, clear as a cloudless sky. My practices had been close in copying, but nothing came close to the perfection that I exhibited during the performance. I twirled, sensing Nadika's desire to perform the tribal-war dance, and I moved in close to feign-kick and twirl with her, the bells of my outfit jingling along with the music the other Gerudo females were playing on the side. The crowd hushed, listening to the music and watching the dance without a faintest desire to look away. Feeling inspired, one of the members from the crowd began to clap to the beat of the music, and soon the entire crowd was clapping. I sensed the Gerudos getting excited; their magic was working. I felt their hands scooping out small portions of the powerful magic that they made together, taking it and expelling it to attract the men on the outskirts. I could see some of the men near the center almost stepping into the circles, sweat on their brows. The magic didn't seem to work on the married men, but that didn't keep them from staring either. I didn't care about them, though; all I could think of what how sorry I felt for not heeding Link's warnings, and making him angry back in the desert. I'm so sorry...I hope you can forgive me, I prayed, delving further into the powerful magic and sending it out in sync with the other women without needing to even think about it. Shad was pushed slowly from my mind as my past experiences with Link filtered in, and I began to wonder what his future with Ilia would be like; would he be happy? At this point, I could only hope that he would be, and the best I could do was at least be there for him. Amidst my acceptance, so shortly after being ripped apart by Shad's unintentional-rejection, I felt sorrow and disappointment that I wouldn't be spending the future with Link, and that I was destined to go forwards with the quest as if nothing had happened. If nothing had solidified my position as an individual before, the past occurrences of this single day certainly did. I reinforced my status as a solo hero within my mind, and I danced with more purpose and smoothly deflected one of Nadika's feigned attacks as she parried with me. She was smiling and glistening with sweat, and I could feel droplets sliding down my face, but I didn't care; the dance distracted me from most of the pain I felt, and in a sense, it was therapeutic. We back-flipped, spun, and twirled through the dance, and the Gerudos' moods changed as we sensed the final chords coming up to end the dance. Nadika swept herself out of the way, giving me a solo performance as the other Gerudo women angled themselves around the circle of the area. Nadika sent specific dance routines through the mental mesh that we had, causing me to follow them with exact precision and sway my hips, angling them out and taking smooth, elongated sweeps with my feet while waving the shawl in the air and bringing it close to my body. I shook my ankle, emphasizing the anklet and shaking the bells wrapped around it, and I teased the contours of my form with the shawl, withdrawing it and then wrapping it loosely around me to hide it again. I gave into Nadika's charisma, allowing her to guide me unconsciously as I followed her instructions, moving my arms in sway with my hips and performing twirls that I would have otherwise failed to execute. The music began to come to a close, and the Gerudo women closed in and danced in close proximity to one another. As the final note rang out, we froze and looked in whatever direction we were facing.

My eyes locked with his, and I felt anguish tearing through my heart. I screamed silently at Demise as I saw Link had almost breached the front of the crowd and suddenly turned and fled into the recesses of the streets, disappearing from my sight and being lost in the sea of people. Right then and there I wanted to scream, I was so angry and sad, but the calm mesh of the Gerudos kept me in check, and I almost thought I detected a hint of earnest from them as they held their composure and kept me grounded. The people broke out into an uproar of applause, whistling and tossing coin and flowers to us. The Gerudo women and I returned to the tent, however as they were refreshing themselves I fled out of the back folds and into the dark alleys, unable to contain my tears any longer. I ran from the city and across the bridge, my tears blinding me as I cried and ran up a hill to an overlook that had a clear view of the Hylia Bridge. I sank to my knees and huddled next to a section of broken stone that came from a fallen column, breaking into soft sobs. Of all the things that I thought Demise was capable of, it had never occurred to me that He could manipulate my emotions in such a way that it would crush me.

My head pounded and I sighed, my chest feeling empty and my body shivering gently from the dried sweat freezing to my skin in the cool night air. I took off the veil, holding it around my neck and placing a hand to my forehead to try to soothe it. Light came from above, and I looked up to see Zelda's ghost floating over me, the same sad expression on her face. I got to my feet and looked up at her, reflecting her sadness. "You're right...what should I be crying for? You're the one who's dead," I said gently, and the spirit looking on at me, her eyes somber and gentle. She turned to look towards the bridge, however her head was up and looking beyond that. "What is it?" I asked, wiping my tear-streaked cheeks. The princess raised her hand and pointed silently in the distance, and I could barely make out the snow-tipped peaks of the mountains under the moonlight.

"That's where I need to go next," I told her, and the ghost looked back to me silently. I nodded; I knew what she was trying to tell me. "Guess I'd better get started looking for those shards," I told her, "since I'm wasting time here. I'm sorry, I should be stronger than this." The presence of the ghost seemed to soothe my grief and calmed me enough to get a grip on my emotions, strengthening my resolve. There would be a time to feel sorry for myself later, but right now the princess needed me to restore her, and although Demise had been His usual, manipulative self, He had also confirmed that the mountains were where I needed to look. The spirits had also implied that one of the shards was hidden in the mountains, along with Telma's warnings of suspicious activity spiking up there. Ashei should be there, so I'll go check on her. With a purpose and a goal, I felt renewed albeit still hurting inside from what I had experienced. I took off the jewelry and placed it in my inventory for safekeeping, removing the dancing outfit and bundling it up securely so it wouldn't get ruined. I took out Uli's cloak and wrapped it around myself, but kept my hair up; I felt attached to the style and didn't want to get rid of it so quickly, and it also kept it from blowing in my face when a breeze would pick up. I took out the map with a heavy, but determined heart and looked for the closest mark that would take me to the mountains.

Zora's Domain was covered in ice the last I visited, so that's a start. Zelda's spirit hovered over my shoulder, looking at the map locations. She saw where I had marked and nodded, confirming my choice. I put the map away and closed my eyes, teleporting away from the outlook and leaving the festival behind.​
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Location
Earth
Gender
Female
SPECULUM
Chapter Thirty-One: "Beating Around The Bush"
Rating: PG-13
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


39888

Origin:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Midna

The imp watched from afar on a roof, watching with interest as Link approached the tent of the Gerudo troupe. She narrowed her eyes, recalling the events of the previous night:

After she had broken the news to Jacqueline she had headed back to Link without telling him of what she had done, or why she had notified Jacqueline against his wishes. She knew his intentions had been to preserve the girl's emotions, but rather it was doing her a disservice by keeping her in the dark about the truth. Why wait? She was a strong young woman that could take a hit and deal out more than a punch, despite what she had endured. It was possible that what had happened in the grove had unsettled the young man, forcing him to lose confidence in his companion and to try to rescue her beyond what was necessary. Link had ridden Epona almost to exhaustion, and Ilia had told him to go into the town and find Jacqueline before things escalated, offering to take the mare somewhere where it could rest. Link had agreed to the terms and had run into the town at a sprint, but the imp had known that it was moot to rush things. Still, she had let things develop on their own from there, following him and hiding in the shadows of the buildings to where the celebration had been held in the center.

Midna wanted to see the performance on the side to see if Jacqueline had gone through with the dance after all and had settled on the top of the guard house to watch in safety. She suspected that there had been magic at work since she had felt a very strong pull from the dancing Gerudo women, however they had known how to channel themselves without going overboard. Jacqueline, on the other hand, was untrained in using magic as it seemed, for the pull coming from her had been so strong that Midna had almost come out of hiding to join in the dance herself. It had alarmed her enough to check on Link, who wasn't as knowledgeable of the magic, and she had noticed that he had been pulled through the crowd, trying to get to her. If he interrupted the dance, things would likely go south for the people. The princess of twilight could think of no other way to knock him out of the allure, and so she had hit him with a rather-potent ball of magic in the head to clear his mind. At that moment the dance had finished, and Link had backtracked and fled from the crowd in a blinding panic, his face pale and his eyes wide with fear. It had been obvious he hadn't understood what had happened and was scared, and the imp could understand why; primal magic was dangerous when untamed, and Jacqueline was a wild flower of magic and power, her affinity to it becoming obvious. Midna had watched the girl go into the tent and was convinced that she would be there when the imp returned, so Midna had left to calm Link and get him to come to his senses before he'd run himself halfway across the field in the dark. She had stopped him halfway across the bridge, gently reminding him that Ilia was still in the town, and coaxed him into returning to the inner walls. The festival had progressed from there with all sorts of celebration, and the people had raised their hands to the heavens to give thanks to the gods, however Midna had seen no sign of Jacqueline since the dance. Even when whispering for her on the outside of the tent a second time, she had alarmed one of the Gerudo women to coming in her direction and disappeared, remaining undetected. She searched the rest of the city for the girl, but she was nowhere to be found. As worried as Midna had been for Jacqueline, she couldn't leave Link in his stricken state, and so she tended to what she could find, soothing the young man's mind and calming him.


Midna opened her eyes and looked down, curious as to what was taking the boy so long. Cautiously she looked left and right, jumping down and floating to her same spot along the tent and listening in to a discussion that was taking place.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Link

The Gerudo women had stopped moving as soon as he entered the tent. Link looked left and right for any sign of Jacqueline, but the girl was nowhere to be found in this section of the tent. He began to move forwards, however one of the women stood up, scimitar at the ready. "You were not announced by the Handmaiden, and so you are not permitted to enter, Hylian," she growled. Link looked steadily at her, his cool eyes glancing off her golden ones. "I have no quarrel with you," he said, "and I am looking for a friend. I am told she came here last." The flaps leading further into the tent parted, and another olive-skinned woman came out, whispering into the ear of the Gerudo that had threatened him. She blinked in reply to the hushed words and lowered her blades, sheathing them. "The Handmaiden wishes to see you," she said, however her tone gave the underlying note of disapproval. As Link was escorted through, the women lining the entrance followed him with their gazes. He had the impression that he was in a den of wolves, ready to tear him to shreds, and he felt slightly on edge. He moved deeper into the tent and came into the inner chamber, seeing bodies of women and various Hylian men strewn about, entangled with one another. Link averted his gaze and continued heading onward.

At the head of the sanctum was a Gerudo adorned in a decorative bra with a simple cream-colored kilt of silk, the slice on the side of the hem reaching up to her hip and revealing a long stretch of leg. The woman turned to him, and her golden eyes flashed towards his. Link narrowed his eyes and brushed off the look of judgment. "What brings you to our abode, young man?" she asked and swayed her hips, sauntering forwards and moving around him to assess him up and down. "I am looking for someone," he replied, and the young woman stopped, cupping his chin with her hand and raising it slightly to meet her gaze. "Perhaps you are looking for some thing instead? Something I can give you?" Her playful eyes hinted at the innuendo, and Link carefully chose his words, although he couldn't keep his glare from slicing through her charms. "She is a friend, and she...danced with you last night. Is she still here?"

The woman blinked, taking her hand away for a moment. She stared at him for a few short moments before amusement crossed her features. "Interesting...I believe you're talking about sister Jacqueline?" Link felt a measure of relief that the Gerudo knew who he was talking about and hoped that she would easily be able to locate the girl. The woman retreated a few steps slowly, turning around to wash her hands in a thin dish of water, fitting her fingers between the webbing of each digit. "I'm afraid that sister Jacqueline disappeared shortly after the performance ended," she replied, "and as to her whereabouts, we do not know. We have concern for our sister, however it goes beyond where she is, but rather what her condition is." Link sighed heavily, worried that this would have been the case. She could have run anywhere by now. He looked up to address the woman. "What happened to her? Is she all right? Please tell me what you know."

"Before we continue," the woman said, "allow me to introduce myself. I am Nadika, sister Jacqueline's personal dance tutor, and the chosen Handmaiden for those of us invited to the celebration." Link introduced himself, and the young woman looked him up and down with a glance. She was silent for a few moments before a sly smirk crossed her features and she nodded, holding a private joke to herself. "As we were discussing," she continued, "sister Jacqueline exhibited some rather alarming traits last night; as we danced, we sensed her passion building, although it also gave off hints of other emotions that were...'leaking out', so to speak. My sisters reported that there was a spike of 'alarm' as soon as she locked her eyes with yours, and you disappeared from the crowd into the night, leaving her alone. I can only assume that she had no knowledge that you would be there beforehand, and that leaves some rather...curious notions for us to invent." She turned to look at him, her eyes narrowing with a small measure of revealed anger. "If your intentions with her are of ill-intent," she growled, "I can assure you that none leave this tent alive if they intend to harm one of our sisters. She is under my protection."

Link shook his head, "That's not why I'm here."

"Then what are you here for?" Nadika said, crossing her arms. Link sighed, "I...I don't know. All I know is that she's gone, and it worries me." Nadika raised an eyebrow and walked forwards, coming in close contact with him and looking into his eyes. She blinked and her face broke into a broad smile. "I think I understand," she said, and the young man silently puzzled over the Gerudo's behavior. "The effects will wear off after a while of being apart," she said, "since I can only assume that you were drawn here by an 'unknown cause'? Your memories must be hazy, if that is the case." Link blinked in surprise; she had managed to describe some of the traits that he had been experiencing for the past several hours. The Gerudo woman went to her makeshift throne of cushions and settled down on them comfortably, exposing a leg out of habit. "Describe to me," Nadika commanded, "what you remember of last night."

Link looked to the side, looking at the water dish for no reason as he recalled the past events. "Someone had made her a promise to take her to the dance, and after they didn't show, I went in their stead to warn her of what had happened, so that she would be spared the disappointment. I came into the town and heard the celebration, but I have a much harder time remembering anything from that point on until this morning." Nadika nodded deeply to him, "I thought as much. You were drawn, like so many other men, under our spell. Do not worry, as you will regain control over your composure in a short while; just carry on your daily business, and the effects should fade. As for sister Jacqueline, she seemed in a bit of distress last night, and so her pull had been amplified due to the powerful emotions she gave off. She may not have intended to, but her magic was fixated on you solely; this is probably because she is not a Gerudo and has a preference to who she wishes to be with." Nadika looked at him, sadness in her eyes. "Whatever she is dealing with, it is volatile; even the women around her were beginning to feel her sorrow and her desire. The magic was not her own, and so we are to blame for what transpired against you. If I had known of her sadness, I would not have sent her into the dance."

Link narrowed his eyes and looked down at the floor, concerned about Jacqueline's pattern of behavior; why had she been thinking of him instead of Shad, the one who had made her despair to begin with? While he was brooding a Gerudo maiden came in and whispered into Nadika's ear, and the troupe-leader nodded. She dismissed Link from the tent, but she didn't let him leave before she had a final word. "When you find her, please do what you can to tend to her. If you fail, you will have my entire troupe nipping at your heels," Nadika stated, and the young man left the tent without another word.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Jacqueline

Zora's Domain was just as beautiful as ever, teeming with the natives and decorations of their own as they hosted their own celebration and party to give thanks for the season. The people were relieved to hear the news of the prince's improving health from me, taking more care to celebrate and tend to anything that I needed. I stood before one sentry, who was standing on the edge of the pool and overlooking the scenery. "Have you seen a young woman with black hair come through here?" I asked. The Zora nodded and looked towards a path leading up and out of the area. "A Hylian matching that description headed through there a day ago. If you hurry, she might still be there."

"Thank you," I replied. "May the currents be in your favor," the Zora replied and dipped their head with respect, leaving me to carry on my way. I could feel the air getting slightly colder, however my cursed state staved off temperatures that would usually be very cold for me as a normal person. I readjusted Uli's shawl just in case, pressing on through the frost-rimmed tunnel. Snow began to pile on the ground as I progressed, and soon there were icicles overhead and underfoot forming around me. A howling wind blew from beyond, and I shuddered involuntarily as I broke through the tunnel and was met by a blinding gale of snow. Ahead stood a figure wrapped in fur, and as I approached they turned to me. I yelled in surprise, but felt my shock simmer down as the figure removed their strange helmet to reveal a familiar face underneath. "Ashei! Man, I'm glad you aren't what I thought you were!"

The young woman nodded, "It is good to see you are well and in good spirits, Jacqueline. The world could do with more ambitious women taking charge of the danger instead of leaving it up to the men alone." She turned and looked back to the wind, the amount of snow falling keeping the environment ahead obscured. "Have you found anything unusual happening here?" I asked. The girl nodded, "Yes, but it isn't your typical mischief. The Zoras have reported that a large creature has been coming into their Domain and taking the reekfish that dwell there as their spawning ground. It doesn't attack them, but they are concerned with its presence."

"What does it look like?" I asked. Ashei opened up a small book, reading the notes she had etched within it. "It is large, white, covered with fur, bipedal, and it has an enormous tail used for stunning its prey. With these descriptions, I can only conclude that they're referring to a yeti."

"Yetis exist out here? Just tell me to call the camera crew, and we'll be able to cancel a television show," I said, and Ashei smirked with amusement. "As much as I would join in your obscure joke, Jacqueline, the fact remains that yetis are quite real, although they are rumored to be mostly docile. There were only a few tribes of yeti that were notably aggressive, and they declined shortly after infighting tore them apart."

"And this yeti? Have you seen it?" I asked, but Ashei shook her head and nodded in the direction of the winds. "No, but I have tracked it and watched its movements; it will take handfuls of fish and disappear into the lands beyond this point. I admit that my map is uncharted, since it is too dangerous to continue on foot, and so I have been waiting for the others to send me climbing supplies so I may take the journey myself." I looked at the girl, "What if I do it for you? I've dealt with snow before, and I can easily move from place to place with little effort. Besides, the cold doesn't bother me, and I have supplies safely stashed away." Ashei looked at me approvingly, however her expression remained stoic. "If you would undertake this for me, I would be appreciative of it. I will, however, remain behind and let anyone else know that you've come this way."

I nodded, "Thanks, but I doubt anyone's going to come here for a while, much less ask to look for me." The look in her eyes portrayed that she was skeptical of my statement, but nonetheless Ashei wished me well and watched me as I lowered myself from the small overlook, touching the snow-covered ice and making my way forwards into the blizzard.

The pace was slow-going; the winds were only getting harsher, and I hadn't started my trek for more than a few minutes before the path behind me was obscured due to the heavy weather. I wistfully looked for a sign of Ashei, but for all my abilities of perception, I still couldn't see her. Maybe I should have asked if she knew the directions up the mountain. I started to head back, knowing that I had walked straight forward when I had come this way, but as I continued to walk I noticed the weather hadn't lightened up. I fearfully looked left and right, waiting to see the familiar sight of the stoic sentry appear on the ridge, but she never came into view. Maybe I walked at an angle? This wind is a little disorienting... I tried to rationalize the situation, forcing myself to keep calm and keep my head steady. I turned to the side and began to head as straight as I could with the same hopes of finding a less-dense environment, but nothing appeared; rather, the snow seemed to get even heavier and I came to a rather obvious conclusion:

I was lost.

I considered calling for help, but I knew my voice wouldn't carry far enough for anyone to hear it; the howling wind was too harsh and loud, and there was no sign of the storm letting up. I held Uli's cloak to keep it from flying off my shoulders and turned back in the direction I had originally been heading, or so I hoped. With a deep breath and exhale, I headed into the storm.

The snow on the ground began to lessen a bit, and I felt a resurgence of hope, but it quickly extinguished as I saw ice forming on the ground, water chopping at the edges and knocking flat-faced icebergs against each other, spiraling around aimlessly. I looked up and tried to narrow my eyes to see, barely making out the other edge of the pool. All of the warning signs of hypothermia were blasting in my brain, causing me to hesitate in making my way forwards. I looked behind me, feeling the increasing desire to go back, but knowing that I'd probably make my situation worse and remained where I was. I turned around and blinked, startled as Zelda's spirit materialized before me. Zelda...! I craned forwards, clutching the shawl in fear and in hope. "Can you help me?!" I called, looking to the apparition for an answer. The princess looked down at the water, and then turned to look into the storm. She looked back to me and drifted across the water, waiting for me on the other side. Fueled with a new purpose, I reassessed the pool more carefully. The chunks of ice floating about were within range of each other, despite how many times they were being knocked about. Each one looked relatively stable and heavy in the water, suggesting that they could probably support my weight. I kept myself in check and edged towards the pool, looking over it anxiously. If I wanted to keep myself from danger, the first thing to do was to stay out of the water; it was likely colder than the wind itself, and already I was feeling that chill was going to sink into my body sooner or later. With that in mind I looked up, focused on Zelda, and jumped as far as I could.

Thankfully I didn't slip, and I ended up landing on the other side steadily. Beyond the pool was more snow, and I looked to the ghost for answers as she floated forwards, always keeping within range and looking to me to follow. Eagerly I got up, using the princess as a beacon to track through the dizzying blizzard. The snow piled higher as I went, coming up to my knees as I fought my way to follow the princess, trying to ignore the weather and press onward. It was difficult to move north as I fought against the wind, Uli's shawl snapping in the wind and forcing me to clutch it close to my chest. The protection against temperature changes that my condition usually gave me was waning, and I could feel the cold seeping into my body. If I was going to survive, I would need to find shelter quickly and get out of the wind. Howls sounded from around me, and I froze in place to listen, my eyes darting to and fro to see where the sources were coming from. ...Link? I looked around, seeing nothing in the sheets of falling snow. I saw movement coming towards me, and I narrowed my eyes in the hopes of identifying the moving shape.

A white wolf covered in snow lunged at me, its growl menacing and its intent bloodthirsty. I yelped, narrowly dodging it by tripping and falling on my butt in the snow. I watched it as it landed in the snow, burrowing under it and disappearing. I picked myself up and saw the snow nearby begin to move, and I turned around, leaping with my strength away from the snow. Energy was leaving me quickly as I bounded across the snow, but at least this was helping me to stay ahead of the pack of snow wolves that had appeared out of nowhere. Zelda's spirit sped ahead of me, inclining her head upward as she did so. I followed her gaze, leaping forwards and crashing into a wall of stone and ice. I picked myself up, fear fueling me as the howling continued, and scrambled to catch the ghost as she led me up a steep incline of snow. I kept going, blinded by the weather and unaware that the wolf pack had stopped following. Eventually I saw Zelda's spirit stop before a dark section of rock, and as I dragged myself closer I made out the yawning mouth of a cave. Oh thank God...! I laughed tiredly with relief, making my way into the mouth of the cave and promptly falling down at the entrance. I moved further into the back of the cave and huddled behind a giant stone that shielded me from the wind outside.

I laid my back against the rock, breathing hard and shivering from a combination of the exhaustion, sweat, and chill of the weather. As I began to fall asleep, I faintly began to wonder why I hadn't teleported back to the Domain and gotten directions from Ashei there. Sleep consumed me, and the one spark of intelligence I had had for that entire experience left my mind as I took refuge in the cave.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

I lay in the same position I had passed out in, coming to on the watery floor of my twilight prison. Bewildered, I got up and looked around. Dread filled me, and I had a feeling that I was going to have a nasty revelation that had something to do with Demise.

Off to the side I saw a figure standing, and I recognized Shad. I frowned, anger sparking in my heart as the pain redoubled at the memory of the scholar, but seeing as he was the only familiar-looking figure (if not the only figure in here with me) that I knew I could speak with, I decided to head over to him anyway. The redhead had his back to me, his giant book open with his attention solely fixed on it, and I waited quietly behind him. "What are you doing here?" I asked, and he said nothing nor did anything to indicate he had heard me.

I sighed, "Look, I know your father's work is important to you, and you love research. I can respect that; I know what it's like, to be consumed by work and things you're supposed to do." Still he said nothing, and the pain began to bring out my truer words and coaxing me into continuing to vent. I blinked rapidly, trying to keep tears from coming. "Just...please, tell me why you didn't come? Why did you tell me you were going to take me to the dance, and then not show up? Why did you lie?" Shad never once turned around to listen to me, and my sadness and pain flared up into anger. "For ****'s sake," I yelled, "tell me what was so important that you had to use me like a tool instead of telling me the truth at the start!" I pulled on his shoulder and whipped him around to face me.

As I did so, he finally looked up to meet my gaze. "You had all the answers," he said gently, "and you gave them so freely. You left yourself unguarded and made it so easy to get under your skin. You made yourself a tool." I gaped as his body disintegrated into twilight particles and flowed away from my touch, leaving me to be stricken by his statement. It was possible that Demise was only voicing what He wanted me to hear by using Shad's form in the dream, but I didn't know Shad well enough to not consider that this is what he truly would have said to my face in the waking world. "It's not fair," I muttered, feeling the tears coming back. I sat down in the water and sighed, looking down at my reflection and observing my features once more. I looked at my clawed hands, and then at my strange hair and my skin. The void around me darkened, and I felt the familiar presence of the Imprisoned enter into my dream. WHY DO YOU ENDLESSLY WONDER IF YOU WILL BELONG? YOU ALREADY UNDERSTAND YOU ARE NOTHING MORE THAN A MEMORY.

My anger at Shad took away most of my willpower to argue with the Imprisoned, and so I spoke deliberately with It, however I didn't turn around to face It. "Even if I'm fake, I still want to find a reason to exist...why else would I still be able to feel pain and walk among these people as if I were the real thing?"

OH, BUT YOU HAVE A REASON TO EXIST, the Imprisoned argued. DO YOU NOT RECALL WHO ORIGINALLY CREATED YOU AND YOUR ACCURSED FORM? WHO YOU ARE BOUND TO BECAUSE OF THE POINTLESS SACRIFICE YOU MADE TO SAVE THAT BOY? YOU DIED AND FELL PREY TO ME BEFORE YOU COULD ESCAPE, AND I ULTIMATELY MADE YOU MINE. THERE IS NO "OTHER" PURPOSE FOR YOU, OTHER THAN TO EVENTUALLY RETURN TO ME. The area around me changed, and I looked up, seeing the actual realm of the Twili stretching out before me. The suns were still missing, and the people were suffering. I didn't want to admit it, but I had a feeling that I was tied to them in some way. It would have given me an explainable notion as to why I could use their magic and look almost like them, though that didn't answer my questions entirely. Was the reason I kept seeing this place due to my responsibility towards it, or was I responsible for their suffering to begin with? What had my interference with the timeline caused this world?

I looked at Midna's palace and then looked back down at the water I knelt in, placing my hands on the ground. "Just get it over with so I can wake up, Demise," I uttered gently. The Imprisoned laughed, and I felt the ground tremor slightly as It raised a giant foot up into the air and suspend it over me.

I didn't even feel anything as the foot came down on top of me, crushing me and sending me back to the world of the living.


◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Midna

Midna's lips pursed with disapproval as she witnessed the Chosen hero saddling up Epona with the village girl at his side. "This is ridiculous," she muttered, and in hindsight it was; the young man had decided to take Ilia to Ordon with his original plan instead of taking the time to find Jacqueline. In part, the imp was frustrated with him because she herself was scared that she couldn't find the girl; she didn't have the slightest inkling of where to start! She had always been able to pinpoint Jacqueline if she knew the general area of where she was, but because the girl had disappeared so suddenly she couldn't get a fixate on where she was to even start looking.

On top of all of that concern she had, she was still puzzling why the young man was wasting his time entertaining a village girl who suffered from amnesia; surely he could see to her needs as soon as they found Jacqueline? Having all of her Cuckoos out of order made her irritated, and everything seemed to be going out of control ever since the notion of the stupid festival. Midna knew she hadn't been mistaken in telling the two heroes to spend time from one another, but now she blamed herself for suggesting it. "Why did I suggest they be apart? Why didn't I just suggest they do something relaxing, like fishing or taking a nice walk?" Midna crossed her arms, leaning the tree she was perched in. When Link had gotten Epona trotting, the imp followed in the mare's shadow, adding her silhouette to the back of Ilia. They took it slower through the fields to allow Epona to get her legs stretching but not enough to strain her as she had been on the night of the dance. The imp allowed Link to eat his meals in peace with Ilia, both of them talking back and forth and enjoying each other's company. In hindsight it was harmless, but Midna knew Link a little more than the oblivious village girl. She narrowed her eye as she came out of the shadow for a moment, standing off the side of the road behind them as they moved forwards. The girl was plain and ordinary and clearly couldn't defend herself, however her curiosity of strange beasts and regular creatures piqued Midna's interest. She grinned and waited for the group to travel further before she settled back into the shadows.

As the sun began to lower, Link began to pitch the tents near the edge of the forest. "How far is the village?" Ilia wanted to know. "Not far now," Link replied, "but I would rather not risk traveling in the woods in the dark. I haven't visited our home in a while, and so I do not know how safe the roads are right now." The girl nodded and waited near the campsite while Link went to collect firewood, insisting she stay where it was safest. Midna rolled her eye and came out of hiding, appearing right next to the girl. "He seems really committed to taking you to that village," she said as if talking to a casual friend, causing Ilia to almost cry out in terror. "Oh shut up," Midna snapped and crossed her arms, "I'm not going to eat you or anything! Seriously, do I look like a threat? Or do I have something on my face?" Her questions caught the girl off-guard, and Ilia immediately forgot her fears. "What are you?" she asked.

The imp chuckled, "Wow, you're even worse than Jackie is when it comes to introductions! I'm a friend of Link's, and his personal navigator! How do you think he gets from place to place so easily?" Ilia seemed to look thoughtful, and Midna smugly noted at how easy it was to manipulate the human. "Look," Midna commanded Ilia's attention once again, "I'm just here to let you know that the kid's probably not taking you to Ordon on the sole purpose of helping you regain your memories."

Ilia cocked her head, "Why else would he be going back?" Midna winked, "Haven't you noticed his strange behavior? After what he's gone through, he just magically seems to be all right? Like nothing's wrong?" Ilia glanced off to the side, her face riddled with puzzlement. "Now that you mention it, he has seemed a little...driven to getting me to Ordon."

"Do you want to go to Ordon?" Midna asked, and the girl smiled gently. "I've been interested in seeing my home, but I could wait longer. I was wondering why Link wasn't going to get Jacqueline from the town and bring her with us."

"Well, Jacqueline isn't in the town. Link heard it from the Gerudos that they don't even know where she went, but it turns out she's vanished ever since that night at the dance. She learned about Shad's real intentions for staying back in Kakariko, and I guess she...well...." The imp trailed off, watching carefully for Ilia's response. If her manipulation worked, then the girl would play right into her hands and be guided to persuading Link to get off the silly notion of taking her to Ordon. Ilia looked worried, much to Midna's favor, and looked off into the darkness where Link had gone. "She could have gone to Kakariko, where the children are; I know she loves the children," Ilia offered, but the imp shook her head. "That's where Shad is, and if I know Jackie, she's not going to get her hand burned twice after what happened," she replied. Seeing no other viable option, Ilia was silent, leaving Midna to fill in the pause. "Jackie's the sort of person that will try to deal with her issues on her own," she said, "no matter how painful they can be. She obviously can't go through it alone, but she doesn't know who to turn to for help. If Link's intentions are fixed on you, then Jackie won't linger around to distract him, but rather find some way to cope. Considering what she's already got on her plate, I'd say she'd going to end up hurting herself."

"But that's terrible," Ilia said, and Midna nodded in agreement. "I can't help her if I can't find her, and I can't find her without that idiot's help," the imp said and looked hopefully at the village girl. Ilia folded her hands, rubbing her thumbs against them as she thought. "He looked so scared," she said, and Midna nodded. "The Gerudos have a strange magic about them that can ensnare any that get caught in their dance, and Jacqueline has a unique ability that enables her to 'attach' herself to the minds of those that are susceptible to her. She didn't mean to, but she managed to catch Link in a heavy net of the dance and almost drove him to the point of losing his mind." Midna looked out to the darkness, her eye narrowed in thought. "I don't know what the men think of the dance once they come out from under its spell, but the kid is probably trying to do anything 'routine-based' so as to get rid of the effects and carry on like nothing happened. In all essence, I think he's avoiding looking for Jacqueline for fear that it will happen again."

Ilia looked worriedly to the imp, "Will it happen again?"

The imp smirked, "Of course not; Jacqueline doesn't do those sorts of dances, and she only did it because she probably made a promise that she felt she couldn't break, and was also probably afraid of being seen 'alone' at that festival, since that scholar decided to skip out on her." Midna shook her head, "I don't get it what is so important of not going with someone you have love for, since not everyone who wants to celebrate actually has someone that wants them around; any reason you can think of is a reason that you celebrate in your own way, not at some pompous, frilly festival." Ilia seemed to accept the Twili's words. "What do you suggest I do? I understand that Link needs to heal, but Jacqueline needs his help! I don't know anyone else that can make her smile more than he can," Ilia said, and Midna raised an eyebrow at the phrase. "You don't, huh?" she said quietly, folding her hands behind her back and stretching.

"Well," Midna finally replied, "I suggest that you let things unravel. Don't say anything now, but give Link some time to, as Jacqueline would say, 'do his own thing'. At least for a few days; if he doesn't snap to after that, then my best guess is that he's avoiding his duty to protect Jacqueline. Gods only know that she can't defend herself from the dark magic coursing through her," she muttered, setting a seed of urgency in Ilia. Midna silently hoped that Ilia would come through after a few days and spur Link into action; Zant's particular interest in Jacqueline had slowly grown on the Twili, and she didn't want to find out what would happen if the girl was left alone for too long. Midna silently prayed that things would work out, and that she was doing the right thing. Jacqueline was an idiot by mixing 'love' into her thoughts, but Midna could conceive that it was probably stemmed by a longing to be accepted, and without Link there, very few would accept her as an individual. The twilight princess could understand that feeling, as it had been something she had for the Hylian people after she had been an outcast; to be accepted, after she had been thrown out of her own palace.

On top of that, there was nobody else in Hyrule that Jacqueline had bonded more closely with than the young man from Ordon. Midna could see the signs from both heroes that there was a deeper bond there, despite knowing each other for less than a year, but then again a lot had happened in the past few months to bring them together. The imp shook her head; she'd have to let things grow on their own from here, as she had already done enough to speed up the process by worming her charisma into Ilia's fluffy little head. "I'll let you have some peace and quiet," the imp said, "though please don't mention to Link that I spoke to you. He doesn't like having to explain his 'friends on the other side'." Midna winked and disappeared into the night, leaving Ilia to ponder over the events. Link came back a few moments later, holding wood with a small smile on his face, however he stopped when he saw the expression Ilia wore.

"Are you all right? Are you feeling ill?" he asked the girl, and Ilia blinked several times to come back to her senses. "Mm? Oh, no, just...worried of what my father will think when I meet him; I don't want him to become upset that I...can't remember him," the girl replied as best as she could to cover up her worries of what Midna had said. Link bought the lie and smiled gently, setting the wood down and starting to work on a campfire. "He'll be overjoyed that you will have returned safely to him," he said, "and that will be enough for him. He's a kind man, and I'm proud to have him as our village leader." The two companions ate their supper after the fire had gotten strong enough, illuminating them clear enough for Midna to observe from the distance she was at. She sighed and looked out into the field, crossing her arms in discomfort and worry.

Jacqueline, you idiot, where are you?
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2019
Location
Earth
Gender
Female
SPECULUM
Chapter Thirty-Two: "Out In The Open"
Rating: PG-13
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


39889

Origin:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


As I came to my senses, I sensed that I was no longer cold, but soon realized that I was no longer myself either. Uli's cloak was wrapped around my neck, my body much bigger than the frame it was intended for. ...Demise... I knew that He had transformed me into the beast as soon as He had crushed me under His foot back in my vision, but at this point it didn't matter; I would simply have to wait for the effects to wear off before I turned back to a more-natural state. I blinked my single eye and raised myself to peek over the rock. It seemed that the storm had blown over, but it still caused an alarming amount of snow to fall. I got to my feet, lumbering forwards on all fours towards the edge of the cave. My long ears detected the subtle notes of howling, however it was more musical than the snarls I had been chased by previously. Link? There was only one wolf that howled in song that I knew, and I wrapped Uli's cloak around my neck like a scarf before heading outside and bracing myself against the wind.

The pace was easier for me to maintain as I climbed the mountain, heading for the music. My enhanced strength and immunity to the cold winds allowed me to move through the snow with ease, where it had been giving me much greater trouble beforehand. I dug my claws into the rocky wall, finding nooks and crannies and using them to shamble up the wall easily, only slipping here and there due to loose snow. Heaving myself up to a higher stretch of the mountain I continued forwards, finding ice Keese flying about above my head. They left me alone, smelling the dark presence of evil of my form and keeping away from it. Even the snow wolves from before kept their distance, not seeming to pay much heed to me, or if they did, they didn't come close enough for me to swipe at them. I continued my way up until the storm was left below, releasing a clear sky to me and giving me a better sense of direction. I followed the sounds and came to a stone that whistled. I recalled the last time I had seen Link sit down and howl the musical notes of the stone, but I myself hadn't heard the notes as clearly as I did now.

Seeing the stone made me want to experiment; could I howl? I took in a deep breath and tried to sing out a note, causing a shriek of the note to shatter the air around me and deafen the animals nearby. I winced at the effects of my voice and decided to not continue the music. I turned around and blinked, seeing a golden wolf with a red eye standing tall before me. Link? No... I peered closer at the wolf, not to see it better but rather to observe its features. "Who are you?" I asked, watching the golden wolf observe me silently. "This stone is not meant for you, Maiden," the wolf replied, and I nodded, guessing as much. The wolf said nothing more but instead made its way up the ridge of snow, further into the mountains. I followed it after I watched it stop and turn around to look at me before continuing onward, keeping up easily and keeping it in sight. There was a pathway leading into the mountain, but the wolf easily leaped up onto the ridges above the entrance and over. I leaped after it and followed it through the snow before dropping down and landing on the other side. The wolf disappeared behind me into the rock wall, revealing a door. I figured it was a tunnel system that travelers used to progress through the mountain, though it was moot for me to explore it if I was already on the other side. I silently thanked the strange, gold wolf before lumbering forwards, seeing a massive tree of ice standing on a ridge above me.

I took a few steps forwards before pillars of twilight came falling down around me, and beasts fell from the portal that formed overhead. There weren't many of them, and I felt like more than a match for them. They came in as a group, making it easy for me to slice their throats with one sweep of my powerful claw. They fell over, disappearing into twilight particles and reforming a portal over my head. I felt remorse for having to kill the beasts, but I knew that without the Maiden Shard's energy I wouldn't have been able to help them anyway. I carried on my way, climbing the ridge to stand next to the tree and overlook the scenery.

It was a downward path from the top of the hill all the way to the bottom, and I could just barely make out the shape of a building at the very bottom. Remembering the words of the sages and the vision that Demise had given me, I knew that a piece of the Mirror would be held there. To confirm my suspicions, Zelda's spirit came out and pointed towards the building, and I nodded in reply. I leaped off the ridge and made my way down on foot, taking my time as I did so. The wind was blowing against me, but I smoothly and slowly made my way through the blinding lower regions of snow, the blizzard covering my tracks as I went. The monsters that accumulated in the recesses of the trees that I passed didn't bother coming out to attack me, allowing me to continue without issue. It took hours to get to the bottom, but I finally made it by nightfall. The moon was waning and was beginning to rise into the sky, illuminating the features of the giant building that loomed before me. I recognized it as a mansion, seeing its enormous form stretching over the abyss below. I walked up to the door, placing my claw over the large wooden frame and knocking out of habit. I didn't expect an answer, but waited for one, and after waiting for a few minutes in silence (excluding the howling winds) I let myself in.

Inside was a long corridor leading into an opening gallery, staircases veering off left and right to lead to the same door at the top. On the ceiling was a single row of chandeliers, unlit. The decor was unorthodox as well, seeing as a frost-covered red carpet yawned across the floor and the style of wood indicated wealth. Who could be living out here in the middle of nowhere? I lumbered slowly through the corridor, turning my head this way and that and being careful to lower my head in case my horns grazed anything overhead. There was a stretch of ice that planted itself between the carpet and the floor leading to one of the bottom doors, a curious lantern of light suspended in midair. I could see the ghost's form for myself, but it didn't approach me; rather, it kept its distance whenever I drew close. I ignored it and moved to the inner door, opening it and peeking inside before entering in.

It was a large living room with a lit fireplace and furniture, a large figure loafing over next to the fire. I blinked, cocking my head to the side; just what sort of creature was it? It only seemed to have two legs and feet, its entire body encased in fur with the exception of its face, which was dark-skinned. The figure turned to me, and she smiled. "Oh...? Who...." She coughed, and I recognized her illness from the congestion she had. "I'm sorry," she apologized, "I have sickness." It was obvious from where she was sitting that she couldn't see me very well, judging from her responses.

"It's all right," I replied, keeping my distance. "Won't you come closer, uh..?" she asked, and I stayed where I was. "That's...not a good idea. I'll stay over here, if you don't mind," I said, and the strange creature accepted it with a smile and a nod. "That is fine! We always happy with visitors! You here to see mirror, yes?" I blinked; so the Mirror was here! "Yes, actually," I said, and she nodded. "I will help you find mirror; so many bad things since mirror! I get sick, bad monsters in house, all bad things."

"Where is the mirror?" I asked. "We locked mirror in bedroom on third floor where it hangs," she replied and coughed, "but I have map that tell you where key is." She nodded over to the table, and I hesitated. How was I going to get the map without her seeing me like this? I didn't know how long I'd be stuck in the form, and already I had been stuck in it for hours, which was longer than usual, and there was no sign of me getting tired. I moved forwards and came around the sofa at an angle so that only my claw would be seen taking the map. The creature didn't seem startled by my claw, and so I retrieved the map and looked at the blueprints as she spoke. "Fever makes head blurry," she explained, "but it probably in room at the back of this floor." She inclined her head, and I quickly moved out of the way so she wouldn't see my form, crouching down like a dog lying on its belly, all four legs buckled underneath me. "Start with door there! Husband making soup right now, won't you have soup too?" My stomach growled, and I suddenly realized how hungry I was. I hadn't eaten in a while, all the stress staving off my urge to eat. "That sounds delicious," I replied and moved to the door, getting up as soon as I was far away from her.

"What your name be?" she asked me as I approached the door. "Jacqueline," I said, and the creature smiled. "Pretty name! My name Yeta," she said, and I nodded warmly to her, taking more care than ever as not to frighten the kind, sickly creature. "It is good to meet you, Yeta; I'll bring the key back for you," I said and headed into the next room where she said her husband was.

I entered into the room, hearing the bubbling sounds of water boiling in a cauldron, and I found myself standing in a kitchen. Across the way next to the giant cauldron was an enormous white beast, and I faintly recalled the description Ashei had given me before I had left. The yeti...! So then that means Yeta is the female yeti. The large yeti took notice of me and stared for a while, and I began to worry if he would make a scene from my appearance. Instead he spoke to me, "A stranger? Yeto never see you before, but...maybe you help? Wife not healthy since mirror, so I make soup for her!" I had no nose, but looking at the contents of the cauldron I recognized a salmon-like fish bobbing around in the broth. The reekfish! I silently gave thanks that this form didn't have a nose, as I couldn't begin to guess what the fish would probably smell like. I looked back to Yeto as he continued to speak. "If you tired," he said, "you have some soup too! It make wife healthy in no time!" His devotion to his wife warmed my heart, and I approached the cauldron. Yeto took out a ladle and scooped up some soup for me to drink, handing the bowl to me. I took it with one claw and swallowed the scalding liquid, eager to have something warm in my stomach.

The soup was amazing! Although it was a bit bland on the side and would probably do with adding more flavor, it was a marvel nonetheless. Not as good as the Lumpy Pumpkin's soup, but almost as good! I felt like a culinary genius as I recalled their recipe, watching the family that had run the Lumpy Pumpkin put the ingredients into their soup after I had worked for them for a bit. Still, the soup wasn't the biggest priority on my list; I still had to find that mirror! I looked to Yeto, "Yeta mentioned there probably being a key in the back rooms of the first floor. Do you know where I can start looking?" The yeti nodded to his right, "You take door over there!" I began to lumber over to it, but heard a rattling noise begin to pick up.

"Hello? Help!" Ooccoo! I turned around and looked left and right, closing in on the noise as I rounded a shelf of pottery and found one of the pots on the ground moving around violently, threatening to topple over. I gently reached down and took the opening of the pot in my claws, pulling it apart inch by inch until it shattered gently and released the bird-mother to me. "Goodness gracious, is that you, Jacqueline? It is good to see you, my dear!" I smiled and picked up the bird, keeping her close to me. "We'll stick together while we find your son," I said, and the mother beamed warmly at me. "That would be nice, oh gracious yes!" I retrieved the bird, having her nestle under my long sheet of black hair protectively before heading back to the door Yeto had told me to go through, taking the handle and pressing on through.

Leaving the warm and friendly atmosphere of the kitchen and living room behind, I pushed through with Ooccoo into the next room. The room was a puzzle with large blocks on ice that were meant to be pushed around until one evidently would slide over a switch. With my strength I was able to bypass the puzzle and lift one of the blocks to place over the switch, easily gaining access to a locked door as the switch pulled the gate up. "Gracious, that was easy! It is most fortunate you are transformed, dearie!" Ooccoo said, and I was inclined to agree; the beast form was especially helpful in shielding me from the cold and allowing me to avoid puzzles that would otherwise normally force me to solve them. Despite these boons, the ultimate flaw still stood out to me, and I sighed softly. "I can only hope that I turn back soon; I don't want to be stuck looking like this," I said.

"Agreed," the bird mother said, and we moved further into the mansion by accessing the unlocked door. On the other side a gentle wind blew, and I sensed the air was much colder. "How are you feeling, Ooccoo? Are you going to be all right?" I asked, cautious of proceeding if the mother bird was going to be endangered from the cold. In response, Ooccoo poked her head out from under my hair. "Oh gracious no, don't worry about me, dearie!" she replied. "I flew through much worse to find my son, but the winds knocked me out of the air and down into this building! Just do what you need to do, dearie!" Reassured, I instructed Ooccoo to keep under my hair for protection and walked along the outside corridor. A wall of ice stood before me, blocking my path. I used my claws to slice straight through the ice, causing it to shatter and open up the rest of the corridor. There was a door standing off to the side that led off into a courtyard, and I decided to survey my surroundings before I'd attempt to solve anything. I placed a claw against the wooden door and lingered it over one of the handles, causing it to turn by will. I recalled the door in Arbiter's Grounds had opened upon command by the same technique, and I looked at my claw for a moment. According to Fi, my magic got locked away when I had recently been transformed by Ghirahim. Maybe, because she's no longer around, I can now use whatever magic I'm possessed with. I had never considered that my beast form could also use magic as well as have enhanced strength, dexterity and perception, so I took note of the ability to turn the doors upon will and headed into the courtyard.

As soon as I entered, more snow wolves hopped up out of the snow, however they seemed hesitant in approaching me, as the other monsters had characteristically shown themselves to be earlier. Nevertheless, one of the wolves became bold and attacked out of retaliation of fear, the other summoning its courage and joining in. I easily batted them to the side, slicing their chests with my claws and spraying the stone walls with their blood. I figured the snow would cover the bodies and so I left them where they were. I felt Ooccoo stir on my neck and poke her head through my hair to look at the wolves before retracting without a word. There were many things outside, but out of concern for the mother bird I decided to head to an adjacent door located within this section of the courtyard and opened it with my magic, going inside the mansion once more.

Navigating from room to room wasn't difficult; possessed portions of ice slid across the ground and were easily crushed by a giant fist, and spearmen made out of ice were shattered into pieces by my claws. I checked the map to ensure I had gone the correct way that Yeta had indicated and located the chest that supposedly held the key. I opened it up and blinked in surprise to what was inside. Ooccoo poked her head out, cocking it quizzically. "Oh gracious, that looks like a pumpkin! Was that what you were looking for, dearie?"

I picked up the pumpkin, the large squash dwarfed by my claw. "No," I replied, "but I'm sure I can find some way to use this. I'm sure that Yeta made a simple mistake; she's sickly, after all." Ooccoo agreed, and I held the pumpkin securely as I made my way back to the kitchen. Yeto turned around as soon as I entered and sniffed the air. "Flavor, uh..hmm..." His eyes settled on me, and I detected an ambitious, hungry gleam in those large orbs. I almost shuddered in anticipation of what was going to happen next. "You could use this," I offered, holding up the pumpkin to the yeti. He took it, sniffed it experimentally, and then dropped it into the soup. "Thanks! You taste, uh?" I did and felt much happier from tasting the improved soup, the pumpkin adding the sweet, subtle, watery spice to balance out the reekfish's potent, pungent, sharp flavor. Although they balanced, I knew that the soup needed something else to bring forth an appealing, bountiful vibrance that would give it the vitality and 'life'. I laughed internally as I critiqued the soup and moved from the kitchen into the living room. I placed the map in Yeta's lap, keeping out of her sight. "The key wasn't in that room," I said, and the female yeti started in surprise.

"Oh...I sorry," she said and began to mark another portion of the map as she thought. "I think it in that room," she said, and I picked up the map from her lap to view where she had marked next. Judging from the map, it was located in the far reaches of the back of the mansion. "Gracious, that isn't far from the first room! It should be easy," Ooccoo piped up, and I nodded in agreement. "We'll be back," I promised, earning an eager nod from Yeta as we moved on the outskirts of the room and safely into the closest door, beginning our search again.

This time, the door led directly into another section of the courtyard, ice barring the sides of the courtyard from one another. A few wolves predictably leaped out of the snow, emboldened by their numbers and confident they could challenge me. I dealt with them in the same manner I had dealt with the wolves earlier, lumbering on and wiping my claws in the snow while I left their bodies scattered and broken. "Gracious..." Ooccoo's hushed voice alarmed me, and I stopped to pause, glancing back at the wolves. "I'm sorry, Ooccoo, but they were monsters. They were bad creatures," I explained, and the mother bird retreated into my hair. "It's all right, dearie," she replied and nuzzled under my neck to reassure me, "I understand." I wanted to stop right there and hold her tightly, the affectionate touch like a drug that I had desperately needed to take, but the cold wind blew and brought me to my senses. I moved around the courtyard, noticing a rotatable cannon in the center near the walls of ice. I didn't want to waste time loading up the cannon, as I was unsure as to its conditions and whether or not it was reliable, so I sliced through one section of the ice wall and moved further through the courtyard, passing through one of the doors and making my way further into the halls.

I came into a narrow passage of iron bars, two suits of armor standing erect and facing towards either door. Their positioning was random and strange to me, but nothing out of the ordinary occurred, and so I slowly trekked into the next room, finding the chest that Yeta had indicated. I opened it up, pulling out another obscure object. "Gracious, is that cheese? It smells delicious!" I bet it does. I couldn't smell it, but its texture in my claws made my stomach grumble, and I held it securely as I retraced my steps and found myself standing before Yeto again. The yeti seemed confused, unsure of what other ingredient to add to the soup. I presented the cheese, allowing him to take it from me and add it to the soup. He encouraged that I taste it, and I hungrily obliged, swallowing a large amount of the soup.

It was fantastic! I'm a culinary genius! I owed my idea to Pumm and Kina, and I was ever more thankful that I had paid attention to their stocks. The soup was perfect and ready for serving. "This should get Yeta better in no time," I said, and the male yeti seemed very pleased with the results. "It gourmet soup, uh? I give some to wife before you get mirror, uh!" I nodded, pleased that I could help the devoted couple. I returned to Yeta, voicing my concerns that she had, yet again, failed to identify where the key to the bedroom was. "Uh...try to remember..." Yeta struggled, her face flustered and scrunched up in concern. I didn't want her to strain herself, and so I reassured her and told her that I would find my way around on my own.

Once we were out of reach and heading back through one of the previous doors, the mother bird spoke up. "I saw the bedroom while we were in the courtyard, dearie," Ooccoo said, "perhaps the key will be located somewhere near it?" I glanced up at her and followed her directions as she moved me back out into the courtyard, coming out from under my hair and inclining her head upward. "Up there, dearie!" I looked up, seeing the main tower and noting the frost-rimmed door with a heart-shaped lock over it. I instructed for Ooccoo to hang onto me as I took my time bounding from wall to wall until I made it up the side of the tower, landing on the spiral ramp that led up to it. I approached the locked door and placed my claw over it, attempting to use my magic to open it.

It wouldn't open. I stood back, puzzling over the door for a moment, but seeing the shape of the lock, I figured that it wasn't barred due to evil; it was just a bedroom, and it needed a key to access it. Maybe if I explore a little more, I'll find the key. I knew that Yeta had been struggling to remember the location of the key, and as much as I wanted to add more ingredients to Yeto's soup, I decided to stay the course and turned away from the door, heading down the ramp. "What shall we do, dearie? It's going to be morning soon, so perhaps you should rest!" Ooccoo said out of concern. I looked up, noting that the sky had indeed begun to get lighter and I realized I had barely rested since I had arrived. "I can rest after I find the key," I replied, "since at that point it's a simple matter of getting back to the bedroom with it, but if you need to rest, then I can stop and find someplace to sleep."

The bird shook her head, "Oh no, dearie, I'm fine! If you're feeling up to it, then let's keep going!" I nodded and carried us further into the mansion, bypassing puzzles and teleporting short distances to avoid broken platforms that were too far to jump to in spaces to cramped to leap. There were more icicle sentries that fell down from the ceilings as we pressed onward, but I shielded Ooccoo and myself and retaliated, cleaving through them easily. The only trouble I had was an enormous mass of ice that had red eyes and breathed freezing-cold air that would instantly crystalize anything that came into contact with it. I took great care to keep Ooccoo from getting hit by the ice and opted to pass through the spray, moving on without disturbing the ice beast in any other way.

Although our adventure through the mansion was simple and easy, it was proving more difficult to find the key to the bedroom, considering Yeta hadn't remembered its location. I hadn't had the faintest clue of where to look, leaving me aimless and free to wander. Occasionally we would come by a window, seeing the moonlight hit the parting clouds above in the sky and giving them a silvery glowing hue to their edges. I paused to look through a window, looking at the beautiful moon and sighing heavily. I began to wonder how Link was doing, but the terrified look on his face at the dance gave me the answer I needed, and I dragged myself away from the window to carry on with my goal. I knew that Midna would be able to take care of him, and I didn't want to bother anyone at this point; being left alone would be better than hurting the people that surrounded me, and so keeping them at a distance while I could handle myself seemed to be the best option at this point. My route ended sharply, and I looked up to see wooden beams stretching up towards the ceiling. They were placed in such a way that I could use them as a way to climb up, and considering I hadn't tried going up to search for the key, a change in scenery was just the thing that spurred me into action. I began to climb the beams, the wood creaking under the weight of my tall form as I proceeded upward. There were more of the ice monsters gently sliding around on their narrow beams, eyeing me with interest but not approaching me. I blinked in surprise as I saw a door off to the far end of the 'room', if you could call it that. I became level with the beams and angled myself around the rafters, stretching myself across the beams and stepping over the monsters so as not to disturb them as I made my way over to the door and stepped inside.

There were more corridors and doors to move through, and I eventually brought myself and Ooccoo into a separate room that appeared to be a chapel for prayer. The rows of benches stood before an altar, and I felt a surge of happiness as I saw a rather distinct, decorated chest sitting behind iron bars upon the altar. Finally! I lumbered forwards, passing by conspicuously-placed stalactites of ice on the ground and heading for the chest. I knew that I'd be able to slice cleanly through the iron bars with my claws, or just as easily open a door with magic, once I got within range, however ice rained down from overhead as icicle sentries sensed my presence and came out to greet me.

I turned around and eyed the two sentries that had awoken, seeing their faces staring in my direction. A notion popped into my head, and I calmly reached forwards with a claw to extend my control and power to them. DESTROY THE OTHER ONES, THEN DESTROY YOURSELVES. I lowered my claw as the sentries looked at one another and did as they were told, moving about and spearing the strange formations of ice around the room. When all of the unformed sentries were destroyed, they turned to one another and gutted each other with their spears, falling to their knees and shattering into pieces. "How did you do that, Jacqueline?" Ooccoo asked me quietly, and I glanced back in her direction before moving towards the altar. "I've been able to do that for a very long time...that should take care of the threat when anyone wants to come here," I replied, second-guessing my choices when Ooccoo made herself apparent. The mother bird was like my shoulder angel, and I began to wonder if I actually needed someone there to question my morals, and if that was the case, did that mean that I was succumbing to lesser standards than what a hero would? I looked at my claw for a moment to ponder it, worried about the length of time that I had been stuck in this form. I shook my head and opened the door gently, moving into the room and retrieving the key. I exited the small chapel area and headed back to the beams, looking aimlessly as I was thrust deep in thought about what I was becoming.

I considered that there would likely come a point to where I would transform and never turn back, and I began to become afraid. "Jacqueline, look out!" Ooccoo's voice piped up, alerting me as I stepped on an especially-icy portion of the wooden beams that one of the monsters had lingered on, and the beam snapped in two. I plummeted, crashing through alternate beams as I flailed in a desperate attempt to stop the fall. One of my waving claws caught hold of a beam, and I began to swing in a painful under-arch, but the beam snapped under the strain and I continued my descent, falling without direction now. I heard Ooccoo's cries of fear, and I sought for the mother bird, reaching out with my clawed hands and untangling her from my long hair and clutching her close to my chest, curling up to protect her before we hit the ground.

Lucky for us, there was a huge pile of snow and debris to cushion the fall, however I felt a dull sense of pain gently spike along my side as the wind was knocked from me. My body relaxed as I began to black out, lazily looking up to where we had fallen. My eye closed as darkness took me, and I could just barely make out the tiny voice of Ooccoo calling my name over and over again before the world vanished.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Link

He awoke suddenly to a realm of shadow and light intermixed seamlessly along the infinite floor of mirror-like water. Looking around he caught sight of a figure in the distance, moving around erratically. Link became curious and approached the figure, hoping that they would have answers as to where exactly he was. He called to them and drew closer to see if he could recognize them.

Link faltered in his step and stopped short, watching the figure. He suddenly realized that the figure was dancing, and that they were wearing Gerudo clothing. Link numbly walked forwards at a slow deliberate pace, becoming increasingly entranced with the dancer and unable to look away. She was quite the spectacle; her steps were flawless, and her eyes were a brilliant sapphire-blue. Her figure was emphasized by the clothing, and her hair was perfectly set into place. Her movements were suggestive and erotic, and Link was unable to pull away. He could feel his pulse increasing as well as his breathing, and the desire to take hold of her was only building and threatening to bubble over. Her eyes caught his, and he knew that this magnificent creature owned him. The only thing that was able to sober him was one detail:

This creature was Jacqueline. Immediately he pulled away and backpedaled, unsure of what had just happened and fearful of what other magic the girl had under her sleeve. He stood at the ready, unsure of how to address her, but realized that she had stopped dancing as soon as she had seen him and was now standing without the exotic clothing. She looked like she was about to cry. "This isn't how it should be," her voice said quietly, and the young man blinked in confusion; had it been an accident? Had he merely been careless? He didn't understand the message that Jacqueline was trying to send him, but seeing the sadness on her face was something he didn't like to see. He began to walk forwards to her, but suddenly a blue crystal wall manifested out of nowhere, leaving him separated from the cursed girl as she looked down at herself with a guilty look on her face. "Jacqueline," Link said, but the girl didn't face him and instead turned away, walking into the darkness until twilight consumed her, and the realm evaporated--


Link's eyes flew open and he sat up, looking left and right. The sounds of crickets rang in his ears, and he recognized where he was. "...I'm home," he said to himself. A moment later a Cuckoo crowed, and he shook his head; worrying about his dreams would come later. For now, he had a job to do. He got dressed and ate a small, strict breakfast before heading outside to grab Epona and head over to the ranch to help Fado get the goats out of their pens and into the field. "Good to see you again, Link!" the rancher said while shoveling hay into the troughs. The young man smiled and spent the better part of his morning mucking out the stalls and cleaning the goats individually. The familiarity was soothing for him, and the routine was something he picked up without missing a detail. When the sun had gotten to its peak Link took a break and headed down from the ranch to clean up and get something to eat. On his way down he was intervened by Collin's mother, Uli. She offered him some lunch, and he graciously accepted, sitting out on the front porch and enjoying the sunshine. Uli came out and sat next to him, watching him scarf down her cooking with a smile. "My my, you must have gotten an appetite since you've been away," she commented. Link swallowed and smiled warmly to the mother, "It's been some time since I had home-cooking, Miss Uli. I was beginning to miss it."

Uli nodded sympathetically, "Do you need more water? How about some more food?" Link smiled; it was natural for Uli to bother over him, and he could understand why. Uli smiled gently and ran a hand through her hair. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, "it must seem a bit silly for me to be mothering you, but...I worry for your safety, too, not just Colin's." The young man nodded, fond of the young woman. Growing up he hadn't had parents, and nobody had explanations as to what had occurred to them; ever since being a toddler he had been raised mainly by Rusl and Uli until he had been old enough to share the tree-house with Fado, once he had started working and pulling his weight for the village. Even though he hadn't been Uli's child, he and the woman shared a bond that went as deep as a son-and-mother relationship could; it was one of the main reasons he felt so protective of Colin, especially, and possibly why Colin had a strong devotion to measure up to Link, looking upon him as an older brother. "Colin is safe with the rest of the children in Kakariko," Link replied, "and I'm doing what I can to make preparations to get them home safely."

The pregnant mother sat down next to him and leaned back, resting a hand on her stomach to ease her spine. "As long as they're safe, I can only be grateful," she said, "but I do miss them so very much. I know that you and Jacqueline will keep your promises to us and bring them home." Link felt his smile falter at the mention of Jacqueline and decided to take another bite into his lunch, keeping his expression hidden from the mother. Uli didn't detect his discomfort and looked to him, concern touching her features. "I noticed that she wasn't with you; is she eating well? Is she taking care of herself?" Link looked over at the mother, quietly thinking on how to reply. Her questions had reminded him of the disturbing nightmare he had had earlier that morning, and although he didn't want to dwell on it, he couldn't ignore the mother's questions about Jacqueline. Uli had a strong maternal disposition over most of the youth of the village, always there to aid a child when their parents were too busy working or otherwise preoccupied. Link could conceive that Uli had metaphorically-adopted Jacqueline as one of her own, seeing as Jacqueline didn't have a family of her own.

Or did she? She had never mentioned one, nor had she talked much about her past. The only hints to any details regarding the mysterious, cursed girl were the disturbing dreams that Link had borne witness to. Link looked away towards the village, his eyes gazing from hut to hut in consideration; did Jacqueline have a home like this? Or loving people to fall back on in case things were too difficult out there in the world? There had been times when Link had been homesick for Ordon while he had been out on his adventures with the girl, and he had always had the comfort that he could return to the village to relax in case things became too stressful for him. Did Jacqueline have the same? He looked down at his hands, folding them together now that he had finished eating his lunch. Perhaps Jacqueline didn't have anywhere to go, and Link already knew that because of how she felt about her appearance that she wouldn't try to impose living anywhere. He felt guilty of his previous emotions towards her as he mulled over more and more about Jacqueline's behavior.

She had been trying to fit in, just as he had when he was growing up, and she didn't have many friends or family to make her feel whole. Had he left a shattered and wounded girl to wander around on her own while he remained safe in the village, hiding behind a good purpose like a coward? He blinked, realizing the hypocrisy; Shad had done the exact same thing to Jacqueline, and here he was, doing the same to the girl. The only difference is that the scholar had been honest enough to come forwards and admit that he had been acting cowardly and was willing to face the consequences. Link looked up to where the mayor's hut was, wondering if he would go talk to Ilia and see if he could pardon himself early to perhaps look for Jacqueline. He still felt uncertain about it, deciding to keep it buried for the moment and focus on what was in front of him. "She's had her struggles, but she's...proven to be resourceful, if not a truer friend on more than one occasion," Link admitted. "She's saved my life more than once, almost at the expense of her own."

Uli looked proud, smiling warmly, "I knew she could do it; that girl truly has a giving heart, although I worry about her sometimes. Others may not see it, but I can clearly see through her eyes that she's holding back a great deal of pain. She's seen more than her fair share of struggle, I know that much; it's why I gave her the cloth." Link looked to Uli with curiosity, hearing about the mother's personal reason about giving Jacqueline the shawl for the first time. Uli smiled at Link's obliviousness, "The shawl wasn't merely to keep her warm out there in the world, but to give her a reminder that there's a place she can return to when she finishes her work out there." The mother lowered her head, kicking her heels against the porch gently. "I do hope she'll come home safely with the children; after hearing what she did to protect my little boy, I fear for her." She looked up at Link and relaxed significantly, peace crossing her features. "I know that with your help, she'll come around and perhaps come back to the village someday. You both will do terrifically out there, I'm sure of it."

Link nodded, "We'll do our best. For now, though, we're taking a break to finish up separate tasks before we see if there's more we can do for the kingdom."

"Is that right?" Uli said, sharing a tender moment with the young man before she started and got up as quickly as she could to hurry inside and come back out with two small packages in hand. "They aren't much," the mother said, "but I wanted you and Jacqueline to have these; they're small berry biscuits that I make for Colin, though I made them without yeast so that they'll last a long journey." Link took them and hugged his adopted-mother, mindful not to embrace too tightly so as to give the baby space, and held the parcels in his hands. "I'll make sure they get to their rightful owners," he said gently with a smile, and the mother backed away with a nod. "I know you will, Link. Let me know if you need anything before you leave the village!" Uli's words had coaxed Link enough to consider leaving the village to search for Jacqueline, however these words alone weren't enough to get him to head out immediately. Even though the cursed girl was a priority, Link had also made a promise to Ilia that he would show her the village and remain to monitor her in the hopes that she would recover some of her memories. Since his time arriving to Ordon, however, there had been very little progress, or none at all; the girl was still as oblivious as ever, and although Mayor Bo was ecstatic to have his daughter back in safe company, there was a small trace of sadness to the old man.

"Do what you can to help my daughter," were his words to the young man, and Link had promised the mayor that he would do what he could to help. With lunch done and over with, the young man headed back up to the ranch to finish off his chores. All seemed like a regular day in Ordon, with birds singing happily in the trees and the weather being as gorgeous as ever.

The only exception was the small imp that stood on the outskirts of the village, frowning slightly at the young man from afar as he disappeared up the path. She snorted softly and vanished into the shadows without another word to bide her time.

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Midna

"When will he get a move on? It's already been four days, how long will it take him to get a clue!" Midna was anxious enough to start hissing to herself, alarming some of the wildlife nearby. She snarled at them and looked back into the village, leaning against a tree with her arms crossed. Link had been going about his daily routine as if nothing was wrong, but the imp clearly could sense the dark magic's work on him; something had him spooked, and although the routine seemed to keep it at bay, it always seemed to get stronger whenever the sun set and the moon rose. Still, it wasn't enough to deter him from his chores, and so the imp decided to wait for the hero to fall asleep that night and steal in on his room while he was resting.

The hours were long, but eventually the day progressed into night, and the imp watched quietly from the shadows as the young man, accompanied by the rancher Fado, headed into the tree-house to retire for the evening. Midna wanted to beat his head senseless and get him started on looking for Jacqueline, but she knew that she'd have to be patient if she wanted her plan to work on the whole without arousing suspicion that she was the one behind the curtains. She closed her eye and sat down, waiting patiently for that strange, spike of dark magic to ignite from the house.

Another hour passed, and Midna felt the dark magic suddenly spike; subtle, but sharp enough to arouse her attention. The imp stole across the clearing and warped into the house, appearing next to Link's bedside and sitting behind him as he tossed and turned on his sides. He came to rest on his left side, and the imp sat next to his back, placing a hand on his head as she had seen Zant do to Jacqueline in Lanayru's sanctuary. This was a typical technique that Twili used to leaf through memories and dreams of whomever they were touching, and although Midna didn't know what Zant had found in Jacqueline, the imp felt that she could find something to hint towards whatever unseen, sinister foe was at work. She closed her eye and entered into the dreamscape, remaining safely at a distance to observe the scenario from afar.

What she saw was surprising; there was a realm completely made out of twilight, however it acted more like an endless void that gave access to other distant memories, like a melting pot with few limitations. By definition, it was chaotic and unstable, and yet it seemed to house images and people quite easily. The imp could see Link's representation looking around in bewilderment, unsure of where he was and what he was doing there. There was no interest in there for Midna; the imp knew that Link wouldn't have a clue what this place was. What she did have interest in, however, was the dark entity hiding across the void far off from where Link was standing. The entity seemed to be towering over another figure, and Midna came closer to observe.

Jacqueline! Midna recognized the black-and-white girl kneeling in the waters of the dream, her head bowed and her shoulders sagging with defeat. The imp narrowed her eye and saw the dream beginning to play out, suddenly turning to a field made of flowers. The girl was lying down next to Link in close quarters, and Midna quirked an eyebrow in some amusement at this turn of events; just what was this realm supposed to be showing Link, and for what purpose? There was sinister magic behind this, and the imp knew that it wasn't safe for the untrained mind to remain here. Midna began to gather power as patiently as she could as the scene played out, Jacqueline's hand on Link's shoulder as they lay down next to one another. A cry came from within the dream, and the imp almost lost her concentration as a representation of the Master Sword suddenly impaled Jacqueline from behind, and she lay dying with tears in her eyes, staring at Link. "Why did you do this to me?" she asked, and Midna felt the dismay and shock from the young man as he watched in horror at this display. The imp wrenched him free of his dream, bringing him out of it and forcing him to wake up.

Link shot up in bed, sweat beading his forehead, and Midna quickly tilted back to avoid being hit. The young man wasn't breathing hard, but he was in some distress, and the imp quickly made her presence known to him. "You were dreaming," she assured him, and Link blinked at Midna dumbly before realizing who had spoken. "...Midna?" he asked, and the imp rolled her eye, "Who else? The postman?" As Link adjusted to his new, awakened state, the imp began to ponder over what she had seen, and how she was going to explain it to the hero. Link wiped his brow with a forearm and remained sitting up. "What..." He sighed gently and placed a hand to his forehead, hunching over as he recovered. The Twili floated around to hover in front of him, glancing at Fado as he snored nearby. Link looked up into her eye, the unspoken question evident in his blue orbs. "You were dreaming," the imp repeated, and the young man shook his head. "It felt real," he muttered, and the imp nodded. "That's because the place where you were dreaming was real; I assume that every time you've dreamed recently you've gone back to that place?"

The hero looked up at her, "How did you know?" The imp smirked somewhat, tapping her helmet in an all-knowing manner. "Don't act so surprised," she replied, "we Twili are practically made out of magic! We have several spells at our fingertips, and I simply used one to look in on your dreams while you were sleeping." She frowned, crossing her arms. "I could sense something disturbing coming from your dreams, so I needed to figure out what was the source."

"What exactly is that place? I never dreamed of it before, but it felt familiar," Link said, and the imp glanced at him. "I'm not entirely sure, but my best guess is that it isn't your dreamscape, but actually Jacqueline's that we stumbled upon." Link blinked in confusion, sitting up straight to assess Midna's words. "But...why Jacqueline?" The imp looked out the window next to Link's bed, gazing at the moon in thought. She narrowed her eye as an answer came to her, and she spoke as she faced away from the hero. "It's possible," she said, "that when you were drawn to Jacqueline by the magic at the dance that you somehow merged with her. Not physically, but on a different level; a subconscious level." She looked back to Link to watch his reaction, seeing confusion building on his features as the seconds ticked by.

Midna sighed. "Look," she began, "it really isn't that complicated. Or, maybe it is, but it really isn't; if Jacqueline's magic was able to compel you to come under her spell, then you both merged in unison for a short span of time. Even if you managed to get out from under it, your signature is now plastered on her dreamscape, giving you access to her dreams at will, or at least, where she has her dreams. That isn't the thing you should be worried about, though." Link looked up to the imp, worried. Midna sat down on the edge of his bed, playing with the bedframe with an index finger. "I sensed something else inside that place with Jacqueline, while I was observing your dream, and it isn't friendly. I think whatever's creating that realm is the one behind Jacqueline's corruption."

Link looked away in thought, narrowing his eyes. "Is there anything we can do to help her?" he asked, and the imp smiled without mirth. "It isn't your realm, so you wouldn't have any control over it. All you can do is watch and react to what you see."

"And Jacqueline...can she see me in there?" The young man sounded more concerned, and Midna pursed her lips, stopping her index finger for a few moments to ponder. She closed her eye and then looked slowly at the hero. "If she could, what difference would it make? Whatever's in that dream with her has her by the collar; she's the only one that can alter that dream, and so far, she's not really fighting the darkness. I don't even think she's aware that she created that place; it has her signature all over it."

"But why make a place like that? It's..." Link trailed off, unsure of how to describe the realm. Midna contemplated, unsure of the answer herself; why would Jacqueline knowingly craft a realm so chaotic and so harmful to herself? The imp blinked, coming to a conclusion. "Perhaps she didn't know she created it, or a part of her created it and it wasn't made with her being aware of it." She knew this was a new concept to the young man, but she didn't need for him to understand all of it. The point was that she knew what was going on, but was merely questioning why it was occurring. Even if Jacqueline hadn't created it, why wasn't she fighting for control? Midna thought back to the fields, where Link had been exposed to one of Jacqueline's dreams. His hidden Light had calmed her from her nightmares, suggesting that whatever was manifesting the dreamscape could be fought off. If that was the case, why wasn't Jacqueline using her own Light to defend herself?

Unless... Midna shook her head; she couldn't make assumptions just yet, but she would keep the notion in the back of her mind. She would need more evidence if she was going to connect Link's mergence with the afflicted girl. For now, she could take some satisfaction that it would spur Link back into action. "Well, now you can see what Jacqueline's fighting when she's not awake," Midna said finally and hopped off the bed. "If I were you, I'd make a decision very soon about whether or not you're going to put on your breeches and go find her."

"Have you been able to sense her anywhere?" Link asked softly, and the imp rolled her eye. "I've been trying, bud, but if I don't even know where to look, I won't have any luck in finding her. I did sense a disturbance in the portal network, but we've made so many that I can't get a fix on where it is. We'd need to start moving around Hyrule for me to get a better idea as to where Jacqueline could have gone. I'm sure that even you've realized that she could be anywhere at this point." Link looked down, encouraging the imp to move in close and butt her face into his. "Which is why we need to go now," she hissed, her eye narrowed with determination. Link sighed, "I'll...make sure we leave soon, I promise."

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Midna growled and left the young man alone by teleporting back outside into the trees. She reflected on her words, her heart beating quickly. In truth she was even more alarmed at the dreams Link had shared with Jacqueline, and she knew that the girl was more vulnerable than ever because Link wasn't there to stave back the darkness with his Light. She looked over to the village and decided to take a stroll into Ordon to make a visit, stealing into Mayor Bo's hut and sneaking her way to where Ilia's room was. The girl was resting in her bed, peaceful as could be and without an indication that the imp was there. Midna appeared on her bedside and tapped the girl awake. Ilia blinked some of the sleep out of her eyes as she saw Midna's form come into focus, sitting up to address the imp. "Midna? What's wrong?" she asked.

Midna sighed; she couldn't keep the concern off her face, and she closed her eye to collect her composure. "I need your help, and that idiot won't listen to me; he's going to remain in the village while he keeps his promise to you."

Ilia took a few moments to process the information and nodded. "What do you need me to do?" she asked, and the imp grinned and waved her hand over Ilia's face, causing her to go into a trance.

"I merely need you and your memories to aid me."

◼~~~~~~l~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~◼~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~♦~~~~~~l~~~~~~~◼

Link stood at the edge of Ordon Province, overlooking the bridge that would take him to Faron Province, and then to the fields beyond. Was he ready to leave? In light of the events, he knew that he needed to begin his quest again. He glanced back down the path he had traveled, feeling the gentle allure of his village calling to him. He had a duty and obligation to help Ilia, considering he felt responsible for what had happened to everyone because of his negligence in the beginning.

Still, the spirits had charged him with a more vital duty, but there was no more twilight to dispel; there were still the Mirror fragments, however they didn't impose as much of an immediate threat as the twilight realm had. The contradictions were confusing, and Link knew what he wanted to do, but knew what he needed to do. He sighed; what was he going to do? He began to turn around and head back to Ordon to reflect more, but he stopped when he saw Ilia walking up the path. "Ilia..." he said, and the girl wore a concerned expression on her face. "Fado said you'd left the village after work this morning," she said, "and I needed to talk to you. I'm glad you haven't left yet."

Link smiled, "I wasn't going to leave. I still need to help you regain your memories, and if I have to stay a while, then I will; the mayor insisted." Ilia smiled sadly before frowning and passing by the hero to look at the bridge that lay before them. She placed a hand on one of the supports, tilting her head to the side. "You made a promise to me, Link, but you haven't seemed happy at all for returning here," she said, and the hero shook his head. "I'm not unhappy, Ilia, I'm glad to be helping you! I'm happier that I was able to find you and bring you home." Even for his words, the village girl didn't seem convinced and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. "I know you are, but...you just seemed so distressed a few days ago, and then you seem like nothing is wrong, and then I find you here?" She turned around to face him, leaving Link to lose his smiling composure little by little as she uncovered his façade. "Link," she said gently, "if we were friends in the past, please tell me what you're hiding? Why won't you go out there and help Jacqueline?"

The hero searched her eyes before smiling sadly. "You always seem to see right through me," he muttered gently and moved to stand near the bridge. "I don't know if I can bring myself to face her, Ilia; what she did to me was something I've never experienced before, and now I've been having nightmares about it." Ilia came up to his side to look across the bridge with him. "You did look frightened, I remember that much at least," she admitted and looked at him, "but are you angry with her? I don't think that's something that she would do."

Link bowed his head, "I...am angry with her, yes; she had total control over me, and I couldn't even pull away. I began to remember that night little by little as I was here in the village, and the feelings I had...I can't really explain them, Ilia, but they...frightened me. In all honesty, I am scared of what I felt that night, and that's why I ran away." He looked to his childhood friend, guilt heavy in his eyes. "I'm sorry that I wasn't honest with you from the beginning," he said gently, and the girl smiled warmly and placed her hand on his shoulder. "I don't have my memories," she replied, "but what I do remember is that you were never scared of Jacqueline." She stood back and retreated a few steps, wearing a small smile on her face. "I haven't gotten any of my memories back since I've been here, Link, and I had a feeling that you had come to Ordon for another reason. As one friend to another, I'm asking you to go save our friend. I'll stay here, and I'll be here in case you both need anything; just make sure you take care of yourself." Link glanced up the path, and Ilia seemed to beat him to the punch with a smile. "I already talked to my father and convinced him to let you go from your promise you made to him; we'll be all right." The young man felt he had no reservations left to tie him down to Ordon, and a strong gust blew from Ordon in the direction of Hyrule. Link looked up, seeing black and white clouds beginning to head in the direction of the fields.

He was convinced now that he had spent more than enough time feeling sorry for himself. A new sense of urgency erupted within him, and he ran back towards Ordon to make preparations to leave, leaving the girl to stand at the bridge and watch him as he left. As soon as he disappeared, the girl smirked slyly, opening her eyes and glancing to the side. "You can come out now," she said, and an identical village girl came out of hiding. The real Ilia looked to the path, concern on her brow. "Is that what I'm really like?" she asked. The other girl's form warped, transforming back into the Twili that had disguised herself. "Your memories suggest that you are supportive, caring to a fault, and you have quite a charismatic grip on Link that you only seem to exercise when things get serious," Midna said, crossing her arms, "I used your form, memories and words to give him the push he needed in order to pull himself out of the rut he had stuck himself in to begin with. Nothing I said to him was anything different than what you would have said, plus or minus a phrase here and there."

Ilia looked uncertain, glancing at the manipulative imp before looking back up the path. "Did I do the right thing, though," Midna asked herself aloud, and the village girl looked to the Twili. "I guess...that as long as he's going to save Jacqueline, then you did," Ilia said, and the imp gave the girl a look of gratitude. "I can only hope so. I used to not feel badly for tricking my minions," she replied and looked up the path. Somewhere out there, Jacqueline was struggling, and the imp knew that the only two that could come close to understanding what she was going through was the idiot and herself. He may not realize it, but that dance finally opened up what's he's been denying to himself. I guess I'll let things take their course from here. She bade farewell to the girl, leaving her near the bridge to take her place as she teleported to Link and remained in his shadow, answering his calls to help him pack up and move out. Ilia remained at the bridge to carry on Midna's façade and wave goodbye to Link as he made his way back to the fields with Epona.

The girl sighed, watching him as he left. "Please keep them safe," she prayed gently to the gods before returning to a home she no longer remembered.​
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top Bottom