Chapter 23: The Temple of Din
Everyone rushed forward towards the shadowed depths of the slightly curving hallway. Link had noticed the shimmering red eyes immediately. Tetra was the first to reach the hidden creature and swing her weapon in front of her. She brandished her dagger with certainty but didn't seem to hit anything despite being directly in front of the crimson orbs. Connecting with nothing but air, the force she put behind her attack spun her around so she was facing the opposite direction. Something hit her from behind, and she fell forward out of the darkness and onto her hands and knees, losing her grip on her weapon.
"You okay?" Link asked, stopping to help her up. The others stopped as well.
"I'm fine," Tetra said, retrieving her dagger and waving his assistance away as she got to her feet.
They all turned their attention back to the glowing red eyes that seemed to be silently mocking them from the shadows. The monster appeared to blink once before it darted out of the darkness and straight for Tetra who just barely managed to raise her dagger in defense.
"What the-" Tetra exclaimed in shock, staring wide-eyed at her attacker. Link stared as well. Opposing Tetra was…Tetra. Well, not exactly. The girl that locked weapons with her could have been her identical twin if it wasn't for the difference in color. The girl had pallid skin while her hair was an unmistakable ebony. The clothes she wore were a mixture of grey. She used a dagger just like Tetra, but the color contrasted the originals’.
The girl mirrored Tetra's bewildered expression with one of her own before smirking in amusement and striking again which Tetra deftly blocked. They exchanged blow after blow, neither managing to touch the other. They were evenly matched, and Link knew that the fight would most likely go on until both or one of them collapsed. Tetra seemed to be tiring already but her doppelganger didn't appear to be expending any energy.
Link rushed in to help, hoping to surprise it with an attack from behind. The reflexes of the girl, no the monster, were swift, and it leaped out of the way, causing him to almost hit Tetra with his sword. Thankfully, Tetra's instincts were sharp, and she ducked out of range of his gleaming blade.
"Don't go hitting me with that thing!" Tetra yelled at him in annoyance.
"I wasn't trying to!" Link shouted back at her, looking around for the creature. It was eyeing them curiously with a disgruntled frown on its face. It suddenly sighed and shook its head as if they had disappointed it. Then the strange being returned to the darkness and a piercing whistle echoed throughout the wide passage. Three more pairs of eyes manifested to accompany the first.
A flash of flaming scarlet met Link's piercing blue gaze. Just as before the eyes winked out of existence for a mere second before darting out of the darkness and into the lighter section of the hallway. This time, Link was its target, and he brought up his shield to block it. His enemy appeared to be a dark version of himself.
Link lowered his defenses and tried to attack the creature, but it simply dodged and tried to best him with a back slice. The move caught him off guard, especially since it was a hidden skill, but he somehow was able to whirl around on his heel and block the attack with the flat of his sword.
A few more minutes passed, and the only cries uttered were those out of frustration. Everyone was battling themselves, and no one had been able to gain the upper hand. The duels were all at a standstill. Link thought that he had finally figured the monster out though. At least a little. It seemed to have knowledge of his skill-set and act, more or less, like he would in battle which was why they were so evenly matched. If he hoped to best his opponent he would need to think of and pull off a move that he wouldn't expect and wouldn't know how to dodge. In other words, he had to find his weakness to find his strength.
Thinking proved to be difficult when his doppelganger seemed to know what he was up to and was attacking him even more furiously than before. The blows were coming so fast that Link almost couldn't keep up. He dodged to the left and aimed a horizontal slice at his enemy's side. It was no surprise for Link that he missed his target and was forced back on the defensive once again.
He contemplated using one of his other weapons, but then dismissed the notion. There was no possible way to distance himself from his attacker long enough to dig out a different weapon from his pouch. He was stuck using his sword and shield which wouldn't be such a bad thing if his attacks actually made contact. Link attempted using a back slice but his foe leaped out of range of his blade. Letting out a growl of exasperation, Link sheathed his sword and shield in a last ditch effort to land a hit. However, his opponent seemed to know what he was trying to do and kept its distance.
'No hidden skill can help me now,' Link sighed inwardly as he drew his weapon again. The dark version of himself ventured closer, and Link took the opportunity to strike first. It did him little good. His opponent blocked every single attack that was thrown its way with fluid ease. The monster seemed to have an unlimited supply of stamina and even after nearly half an hour it showed no signs of exertion.
Link knew he was slowing down and desperately tried to think of a way to injure his enemy. Finally, an idea was blessed upon his brain, and he thanked Nayru for it. The creature was on the offensive once again, and Link was parrying as best as he could. He dodged and lowered his sword, raising his shield. As his doppelganger landed a vertical slice on the protective metal to only have it bounce off, Link wasted no time in throwing both of his weapons aside, ducking low, and rushing at the monster, grabbing it around the waist in a tackle.
He knew that he had surprised the creature by the pleasing clattering sound of its weapons following his own to the ground. They both hit the tiled floor, well into the shadows. Thanks to Zant's curse, Link had retained some of the heightened senses he held as a wolf when he was human. Of course, they weren't as sharp as they were when he was the divine beast, but they were distinctly sharper than an average person's. This was why he could partially see in the dark. His doppelganger appeared to blend into the darkness, but that didn't completely obscure Link's view of the creature.
It was a fist fight now, and Link knew that he was no good in fist fights if he wasn't aware that they were going to happen. This, he had found out when he was younger. Actually, he had Fado to thank since the boy had picked on him constantly when they were little, of course by now all of their petty squabbles had long ago ceased. Link didn't dwell too long on the memory and instead took the opportunity to do something productive while he still had a chance.
Link pulled his left arm back, his hand forming into a fist, and launched it at the monster's shocked face. He made contact, but it wasn't with flesh and bone like he'd been expecting. It was some very hard and unforgiving crimson tiles.
The shock absorbed into his arm and he grimaced at the pain, waving his hand as if it would help numb it. Link knew that he hadn't missed though! His aim was true, and his opponent never moved to avoid the hit. Somehow his hand had passed straight through the creature as if it was made of shadows itself…That was it! It was made of shadows and was only solid in the light. In its domain, it was untouchable.
No sooner had Link realized this than his enemy flashed him a triumphant smile and sat up, wrapping a hand around Link's throat.
"Ack-" Link choked as the monster squeezed tighter, standing up and causing Link to stumble back, trying to grab the hand constricting his airways. Of course he couldn't. There was nothing to grab. He'd need to lure it to the light if he could. Fortunately for him he was backing up in the right direction.
The red eyes of his dark side shined in the darkness, seeming to laugh at him, enjoying his helplessness. Multicolored dots danced across his vision as a result of the lack of oxygen. He fought to stay conscious though. They were close to the edge of the shadows by now. They had to be. Link stepped backwards towards the light. His doppelganger had stopped advancing by now, wary of the light that would make it susceptible to attacks again.
It wasn't going to allow him to back up any further though. This became apparent when it pulled him back into the shadows with it. Knowing that he needed help, Link tried making some noise by stomping on the floor. He was uncertain if anyone had heard it over the clanging of metal on metal though.
Just when black rimmed his vision, and he thought he was going to pass out, a bright ball of red and orange fire exploded dangerously close to his face, heat rolling off of it in waves. Light bathed the pair for a spilt second but a second was all he needed. Link kicked out in an attempt to get away, hitting something solid. The monster released him immediately and let out a strangled shriek of pain. He gasped for air and was grateful when it filled his deprived lungs. Link moved out of the shadows, rubbing his sore throat. He stepped back into the dimly lit section of the hallway where Zelda was just returning her full attention to her own battle.
He would thank her later. For now he settled for reclaiming his fallen weapons and kicking his enemy's as far away from the shadows as possible. At least he had a chance of winning now. The creature emerged from the darkness, quite obviously annoyed. It moved slower than before and directed its gaze to the floor, searching for its fallen weapons. Link waited until it got a little farther away from the shadows before making his move.
He performed a back slice, but this time his target couldn't get out of the way fast enough. It let out another cry of pain as it pitched forward onto the ground, a shadowy substance leaking out of the slice he had put in it. Before it could pick itself back up to make an escape, Link plunged his sword into its back. It dissipated into shadows with a pitiful squeal, forming briefly into a wisp of shadow that almost reminded him of a poe. Its red eyes flickered once before dying completely, and it vanished into the air.
Link let out a small sigh of relief that the monster was gone, but then turned to see how his companions were faring. Zelda seemed to be doing well enough judging by the shadows rolling off her opponent. Kid had been backed into a wall and was struggling to keep the enemy blade away from his neck. Link decided to help and thrust forward from the side once he was close enough. The shadow copy of Kid jumped away from the attack just like Link had expected. This gave Kid enough time to get away from the wall, yelling his thanks over his shoulder as the monster assailed him again.
Link continued to help Kid fend off the creature. His sword sailed through the air and either the monster didn't see it coming or didn't bother to dodge it. Whatever the case, it didn't change the outcome. Link struck it with a horizontal slice, but his attack passed straight through the creature as if it wasn't even there.
"What?! But I hit it! Why didn't it do anything?" Link cried out in frustration. "Don't tell me that the only one that can injure it is the person it takes the form of."
"I think," Kid began parrying a blow aimed for his side, "that might," he raised his shield, "be," he ducked under the black blade of his enemy, "the case."
So the monsters were only vulnerable to attacks from the person they were imitating and couldn't be touched by anyone else. If they were in darkness then they were untouchable to everyone. A complicated system so simple that it was irritating. Link backed up so he wouldn't get in the way of the fighting. Now he wasn't sure if he could do much to help his companions out.
A pained shriek met his ears, and Link turned his head towards the sound just in time to see a shadowy wisp disappear into the air. Zelda had finally defeated the monster she had been fighting. She caught sight of him watching and joined him.
"Are you hurt?" Link asked her immediately.
"No. I'm alright, Link. How about you? I didn't hit you with that spell did I?" Zelda replied in a worried tone.
"It was close, but I'm fine," Link admitted.
"Shouldn't we help them?" Zelda wondered indicating the two children still fighting the strange creatures.
"We can't," Link explained, frowning. "They're the only ones that can defeat those monsters. If they didn't take our forms then we can't touch them."
"Still, we can give them advice," Zelda mused.
"Sure, if we had any to give," Link agreed, a hint of sarcasm in his tone.
"Well, we both defeated the monsters already, so we must know something that they don't," Zelda pointed out.
"All I know is that in shadows they're invincible and that they act exactly the way the original would in battle," Link said, thinking that the information wasn't much, or very helpful.
"I figured out that they can duplicate any other attack that you show them," Zelda added.
"Wait, they can?" Link inquired. He hadn't known that. Now he supposed that it was a good thing that he couldn't get to any of his other weapons. He would have just made the situation worse.
Zelda nodded in confirmation, "Yes, I was using my sword at first, and then I used Nayru's Love to block an attack. Later on in the battle the monster used the same move."
They both shouted their pieces of advice along with words of encouragement at the others. Link repeated Zelda's discovery twice just to make sure that they heard it. With Kid's rapidly increasing arsenal Link didn't know what types of items he could possibly be carrying. Link had always noticed the golden bands clasped around the younger boy's wrists but never thought them significant. He hadn't even heard of power bracelets before, and the fact that Kid had iron boots was stranger still. Kid claimed that he traveled a lot, but if that was true, then what was the reason for it? It hardly seemed like a leisure activity. It was almost as if he had no choice in the matter.
Link could do nothing but speculate. Sure, he could ask, but he doubted that he'd get a direct answer. All of their answers to any of his questions so far had been equivocal. Focusing his slightly distracted gaze back to the fight he noticed that Tetra had finally managed to get a hit on the monster that opposed her. It was a decent hit too. Shadows seeped out of the cut, but that didn't seem to faze it much.
Another direct hit and the creature stumbled back, its movements more sluggish than before. Kid was doing better as well. His doppelganger bore various injures, all bleeding shadows. A few minutes later Kid dealt the final blow and the shadow being vanished, leaving nothing behind as proof of its existence. Tetra finished the last monster off when it misjudged the trajectory of her dagger and the weapon went soaring into the creature's chest. It died with a high-pitched wail and the room became silent aside from heavy breathing.
"Is it over?" Tetra dared to shatter the silence after a minute of catching her breath.
Link peered into the darkness behind him. Nothing presented itself, not even a flicker of life.
"Yeah, I think so," he answered, speaking slowly as if this would do anything to ensure he didn't jinx them.
"Good. I don't want to do that again," Kid groaned sitting down on the floor.
"I second that," Tetra announced sliding her dagger into its sheath and plopping down next to him.
The four of them rested there for what Link estimated to be about ten minutes before moving on. Link took out his lantern, and they ventured into the darkness. The only light was birthed from Link's lantern, and their Ash-Fire Rings which seemed to glow brighter the farther they went. After a while they glimpsed what looked like fire light and quickened their pace to reach it.
They arrived at the end of the hallway. To their immediate left were what appeared to be steps, smoothed out from the jagged mountain-side. The walls pulsed with an eerie red-tinted light, illuminating the passage with their glow. Link put away his lantern, wishing to save as much of his lantern oil as he could in case they really needed it later.
The foursome began to ascend the steps with Link in the lead. The staircase curved to the left and continued straight. They must have walked the entire length of the last hallway before the steps veered left one last time and delivered them into a passage not unlike the first. The walls glowed brightly here, lighting the room with a reddish orange hue. Beneath their feet slim tiles identical to the ones laid out in the other rooms of the temple were placed in a crimson wave.
Near the middle of the room, the floor seemed to give way. They approached the strange sight cautiously. Peering downward showed that it was a pit. It appeared to be bottomless, but it was too dark to be sure. Link didn't want to find out. Stepping away from the edge they viewed the rest of the room. On the other side there seemed to be a lever set into the wall. He didn't know what it did but if the hole was anything to go by it probably revealed a hidden platform of some kind.
"Hey, I think I found a way across," Kid announced and Link turned his attention to where the two children were standing. They were close to the edge of the pit, hugging the right hand wall. His eyes followed where they were indicating. The glowing wall jutted out a few inches over the pit. He couldn't possibly be suggesting….
"I could hang from that piece there and make my way across," Kid explained, pointing at the sliver of rock.
"Let's find a different way across," Zelda proposed, voicing Link's thoughts before he could make them known.
"There isn't another way across unless you can fly," Tetra insisted, and Kid backed her up with a nod of his head.
Link sighed. "Let's just look for another way. If we can't find one then…..then I'll go to the other side and pull the lever." After five minutes of fruitless searching they came up empty. There really was no other way across.
"I could go," Kid volunteered.
"No, it's fine. I'll do it," Link replied. He was happy when his response was silence. He didn't want to argue and besides that if Kid slipped and fell it would be his fault for not stopping him while he had the chance.
Link reached out and grabbed the rocky ledge, praying that it could bear his weight. The rock was hot to the touch, and the only reason why it wasn't burning him was because of the ring which was a vibrant scarlet hue now. Despite the magical ring the heat seemed to intensify the longer he held his hands in the same place.
He readjusted his grip and pressed down hard before he even tried to take his feet off of the tiled floor, lest he prove too heavy. This was a smart idea on his part for the rock crumbled almost to pieces in his hands, and he immediately released it, distancing himself from the edge of the hole.
"Now can I try?" Kid wondered, regarding him expectantly.
"Be careful," was his only response. Kid was forced to venture closer to the edge to grab the wall posing as a ledge. Link watched as the younger boy gripped the rock in his bare hands and tested it a similar way that he had. It held and Kid quickly relocated his hands to a different spot once the original grew too scalding.
Kid was eventually suspended over the pit by his fingertips. Link could tell that he was trying to rush because of the heat producing wall. When he was almost near the middle Kid's left hand slipped off momentarily, and Link sucked in a breath that he only let out when Kid regained his hold.
"Don't get hasty. You're more likely to make a mistake that way!" Tetra shouted her advice at him.
"Well, it's hot! It's practically burning my hands! What do you want me to do?" came Kid's curt reply. Tetra's response was a dramatic rolling of her eyes.
Kid made it to the other side after what seemed like forever, but in reality must have only been a couple of minutes. He appeared to inspect his hands briefly before continuing the short distance to the metal lever set into the wall. He pulled it down, and the sound of mechanisms clicking and winding met their ears. Slowly a bridge, if it could even be classified as such, composed of plain square tiles stretched across the gap. Once it spanned the length of the gap, the rest of them started across one at a time. The path was thin and with not so much as a single rope to serve as a railing on either side, the danger was apparent.
Despite this they all made it safely across. They barely had time to regroup before a creature appeared at the end of the long hallway. It didn't seem to be a creature created from the shadows like the others were. Link thought that it looked relatively harmless. Small in stature, it appeared to be an animal of some kind. However, it didn't closely resemble any animal he had ever seen. Its furry coat was a mixture of colors ranging from white to tan to black. Coal-like eyes were set into its head, giving it a truly innocent look. The animal possessed a long coiled tail. Its fur was spiked up in every possible direction, probably meant to make it look imposing but only succeeding in making it look even more ridiculous.
"Anyone know what that thing is?" Tetra wondered, eyeing the strange creature warily.
"Excuse me, it's very rude to talk about someone when they're standing practically in front of you, little miss," a voice that couldn't be distinguished as either male or female proclaimed suddenly, shocking them all into silence. Did that animal thing just speak?
"Um, sorry?" Tetra ventured, her tone questioning.
"’Sorry,’ she says!" mumbled the voice. Link was almost positive now that it was coming from the creature at the end of the hallway. The creature continued, "Why don't you just drop something expensive, watch it break, and tell it, ‘sorry.’ Tell me if it mends itself. Hmph."
No one else dared to speak, so it continued with a sigh, "No matter, let's get to the point then. My name is Alcina although some refer to me as Noisullinasti. That is a bit of a mouthful though, so you may call me whatever you wish; I, frankly, do not care as long as you don't refer to me as "that thing". It's very rude and the more I don't like you, the more difficult this will be for all of you.
Now then, my job, as those of you with brains may have already guessed, is to prevent you from moving on to the next level of the temple. A fun job for me, not such a great experience for those on the receiving end of it though, I'm afraid. Your task is to defeat me. Before we begin I am entitled to offer you a hint to besting me. Do you wish to hear the hint, or do you think that your minds are stronger than mine?"
The strange monster, Alcina, gazed at them with its large black eyes patiently awaiting their answer. Link thought this entire occurrence bizarre. What kind of monster willingly gave them hints to defeating it? It had to be a trick, but what if it wasn't? What if there really was a key to defeating it that they wouldn't know about otherwise? Link decided to chance it. After all, words can't hurt them.
"Sure, we'll accept your hint," Link answered for them all.
"Alright then, here it is: 'Strength doesn't come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't.' There it is; I grant it reluctantly to you. Let's get on with this then, shall we?"
They barely had time to try to process the hint they had been given before the entire passage shook, and they were forced to the ground. When the quaking stopped, they dared to raise their heads. The hallway that had stretched out before them was gone and replaced with multiple walls of rock, displayed in seemingly random positions. A maze.
"Is that its great attack? Make us go through a maze? What's the point of that?" Tetra wondered, taking in their new surroundings.
"No idea, but let's continue anyway," Link said, starting in a random direction. After a few minutes of walking it became apparent that the maze was not normal. The walls seemed to shift, and whenever they tried to double back, they found themselves in unfamiliar territory. At one point, Tetra claimed that Link had no sense of direction and took the lead instead which, to no one's surprise, yielded the same results.
Finally, Link stopped and put a hand on one of the walls. When it didn't shift under his fingertips, he allowed his hand to drop back to his side.
"Well, I'm officially stumped," he announced.
"That makes two of us," Kid agreed.
"You two give up too easily," Tetra huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I never said I was giving up," Link protested. "I just said that I don't know what to do, but if you have a plan then by all means, tell us."
"I never said I had a plan," Tetra muttered looking away.
"Truly disappointing," the voice of Alcina echoed around them, "I guess you need more than a maze for motivation."
Behind them, lava began to trickle down slowly from the walls of the maze. When the trails met up at the bottom they combined into a single blob. This was definitely not normal lava, seeing as it only congregated to one spot. The blob became larger. They watched in terrified awe as the blob of lava molded itself into a monster that grew to such a height that its head nearly brushed the ceiling.
Further incentive was not needed. Before the giant made purely of lava could even take a step forward, they were all bolting in the opposite direction. The foursome weaved around corners and hurdled other obstacles that popped into existence at their feet. The monster, fortunately for them, was slow and was not an expert at dragging its hulking mass around the labyrinth. Despite this, it seemed to be able to break down momentarily and squeeze through cracks in the walls which made its travel a bit swifter.
Eventually the group encountered an obstacle that they could not go around. Spikes covered the floor for the next few yards. There wasn't even a minuscule chance of them jumping over it. Behind them the menacing lava giant was slowly advancing, blocking off any other means of escape. This wasn't good. Link didn't even want to begin to think of what would happen once the monstrosity reached them. He hoped that the Ash-Fire rings would somehow protect them.
"Hey, look! Vines!" Tetra exclaimed, and Link turned his attention back to his companions. They were close to one of the walls which did, in fact, have vines covering it. The green vegetation crawled along the entire wall.
"Was that there before?" Link wondered, sure that he would have noticed it if it had been.
"Who cares?!" Tetra cried starting to climb them after Kid. "Just come on already!" Link followed after the others, deciding not to question it. The vines were strong and held their weight as they scrambled across as quickly as possible. They all made it to the other side just as the monster reached the spikes.
It ignited the vines with a single touch before pouring itself over the spikes and progressing towards them. They ran down the corridor created by the walls of the maze. Presented with no other options they turned left and were rewarded with a dead end.
"You have got to be kidding me," he heard Kid mutter under his breath.
Link looked around the corner they had come from. The giant had reformed itself and was dragging its feet towards them. It would be upon them in a minute or two for sure. He tore his gaze off of the approaching monster and back to his younger companions who were pounding and pushing on the wall, yelling things so fast that he couldn't comprehend them. Zelda was nowhere in sight.
"Where's Zelda?" he asked them, raising his voice slightly to make himself heard over their shouts.
Kid stopped what he was doing to look over his shoulder and answer, "She just told us she had an idea and then walked towards the wall, but she didn't hit it! She went right through it like it wasn't even there!"
"But it's obviously here. We're banging on it, and we can't get through!" Tetra added, pounding the wall one last time to prove her point.
"Are you sure she walked through and wasn't pulled through?" Link asked hurrying over to them and putting a hand on the wall.
"Positive," Kid answered him with a nod. If Zelda said that she had a plan then she was probably alright, but she should have at least informed them of it first.
"Hey, princess! You might want to come back and tell us how you did that!" Tetra shouted at the wall. There was no reply which worried him. Why would Zelda not reply? Had her plan gone wrong? Link pressed on the wall, but it remained stubbornly solid. Glancing behind him, he found the monster sluggishly rounding the corner. Suddenly the intelligent little creature called Alcina wasn't as harmless as he'd first assumed. Both children pressed their backs to the wall as they noticed the approaching lava giant.
Link stopped putting pressure on the wall and turned around, trying to detect a weak point on the monster in front of them. There didn't seem to be one. It was made completely of lava. Usually the weak point of monsters were their eyes, but this one didn't have any. In fact, it was completely faceless.
Suddenly the walls of the labyrinth and the monster disappeared in a flurry of tiny red particles that lingered in the air for a short time before fading away. Kid and Tetra each gave a small shout of alarm as the wall they were pressing against disappeared and they found themselves on the floor. Link looked around for the princess and found her cloaked form standing at the end of the hallway.
After the two children picked themselves up from the floor, they all ran to the end of the passage to meet her.
"Are you okay? What happened? Where'd you go? Why did everything disappear just now?" Link questioned as soon as they were within a reasonable distance of each other that shouting was unnecessary.
"Link, one question at a time please," Zelda replied, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Did we win?" Kid inquired, and Zelda answered with a nod of her head.
"Okay, how did we win?" Link interrogated her.
"We won because I was the only one paying attention," Zelda informed him, a hint of pride in her voice.
"Just explain what you mean," Link pleaded, genuinely confused and curious to know what had just transpired.
"Everything was an illusion from the start," Zelda announced.
"What? You mean none of it was real?" Kid wondered in amazement.
"Exactly. The maze, the monster, they were just mirages," Zelda confirmed her previous statement.
"But we could touch everything. It seemed real enough to me. Everything had substance to it," Tetra objected.
Zelda shook her head and continued her explanation, "Everything was solid because you thought that it was."
"Well, how did you figure out that it wasn't?" Link wanted to know.
"First of all, the creature appeared out of nowhere. As did the maze, monster, and obstacles. That in itself was a sign that something wasn't right," Zelda began. "Secondly, the creature that called itself Alcina gave us quite a few hints in its speech. It asked us if we wanted a hint, but it also questioned us if we thought that our minds were strong enough to not need a clue. The hint it gave us was actually quite helpful and basically told us that to find the strength to defeat it, we needed to think that we could do something we thought we couldn't.
When we admitted to not knowing how to get through the maze, the creature spoke to us and created a monster for 'motivation'. That got me to thinking how it knew exactly where we were in the maze to cause the monster to spawn so close to us. The walls were solid and there was no way to see through them. By the time we reached the spikes I had the suspicion that the creature was somehow contorting the maze and everything in it with its mind, so I tried to do the same thing. Originally, there wasn't anything on the wall near the spikes, but I simply thought that vines could be helpful as a way across and they appeared there. Later when we reached the dead end I was almost positive that everything we were seeing wasn't actually there so I tried to think hard enough to convince myself that there wasn't a wall there. It worked, and I could go through. The maze wasn't there anymore. From that point I made my way to the end of the hallway and with one hit from my sword the creature disappeared along with its influence."
"Wow, so it was just playing mind games with us?" Tetra summed up.
"That's one way you could put it, I suppose," Zelda said.
"So, if you figured all of this out as we went, why didn't you say anything?" Link wondered.
"Because I was doubtful that I was right, and by the time I figured everything out, there was no way for me to tell you. After I broke through the mirages I could hear and see you all, but none of you seemed to be able to see or hear me, even when I tried calling out to you. The illusion had convinced your minds completely and you couldn't hear or see anything in reality which was where I was when I stepped out of the 'maze'," Zelda responded.
"Whatever, as long as we won. Let's go to the next floor," Tetra urged them, suddenly impatient. They made their way to the steps to the left of them. These steps were identical to the last in terms of their construction and just as long as the last flight. It was no surprise when the carved out staircase led them to a corridor almost identical to the previous two.
The walls pulsed like a beating heart, and Link was sure by now that the uniquely tiled floors were meant to resemble a lava flow. The passage was lit just as well, if not better, than the last had been. Nothing presented itself, but Link didn't lower his guard. The other monster hadn't revealed itself right away either.
Their footsteps echoed on the tiles as they cautiously progressed down the hallway. Link glared at every shadow as if it was an enemy but nothing made itself known. Everything was quiet, and he didn't like it one bit.
"Watch out!" Zelda's voice startled him, and he swiveled around to see what was there. A humanoid figure was rushing at their small group, and Link grabbed Kid's arm, dragging him closer to him so the monster would miss its mark as Zelda pulled Tetra to the opposite side with her. The iridescent skinned creature sliced the air with a red handled scythe, its blade a shining silver. The monster took two agile hops back and turned its grotesque face towards the girls. Its eyes were completely black as if it bore no irises, only pupils. It mouth was contorted into an unnerving sharp-toothed smile.
It didn't make a sound, just tilted its head as if the girls were a specimen it had never laid its haunting eyes on before. Tetra was staring back at it, seeming to be mesmerized for some reason. She didn't draw her weapon, but took a step forward towards the creature. Zelda grabbed her wrist and demanded, "What are you doing?" to which she received no reply. Something wasn't right. Tetra wordlessly tried to take another step forward, but Zelda's firm grip on her right wrist restricted her from doing so. Something was wrong. The younger girl tried to shake Zelda's hand off, never removing her eyes from the monster. Zelda had no intention of letting go, and made this apparent when she grabbed Tetra's other wrist with her free hand and pulled her back. At this point Tetra suddenly came to the realization that she was being restricted and desperately tried to make Zelda lose her grip.
"Do something about the monster!" Zelda called, turning her head momentarily to address them. "I think it's influencing her somehow!"
"Like an illusion?" Kid wondered.
"Maybe, I don't know. Just do something fast! I can't hold her back forever!" Zelda ordered them.
Link didn't need to be told twice. He drew his sword and shield and ran towards the monster. Kid followed him. As soon as they were within hitting distance of the creature it whirled around on them, swinging its massive scythe horizontally. Link ducked under it and was about to thrust forward when Tetra screamed, "No! Stop it!" Caught off guard by her outburst the creature nearly got him with its next swing, but he retreated just in time. Kid took his place when he was forced to back out. Despite Tetra's pleas for him to stop fighting, Kid continued. The monster's defenses were weak, and he quickly landed a hit on it. However, his sword passed harmlessly through it as if it was made of nothing but air.
The monster swung its weapon, and Kid just barely had enough time to take a step back and raise his shield. When the scythe struck his defenses, the force caused him to slide back a good distance, almost causing him to hit the wall. Kid lowered the shield, confusion written on his face. Link was puzzled as well. The monster itself wasn't an illusion. It had been able to strike Kid's shield with ease. Even if it was just a mirage they should be able to hit it judging by the logic of the last monster they fought.
"Guys, help me! I can't hold her!" Zelda exclaimed and they both turned to assess the situation. Zelda was struggling to hold the younger girl back. Tetra had nearly wrenched herself free. Both of them hurried over and Link restrained the frantic girl by her arms, nearly picking her up off the ground in doing so. She wriggled in his grasp, trying to escape.
"Tetra, calm down. Whatever you're seeing isn't real. It's a monster," Link tried to console her. His words fell on deaf ears though. She continued to struggle without missing a beat.
"If it is an illusion then it's likely as strong as the last. That means she can't hear us," Zelda predicted before sighing. "I see you didn't have any luck at killing the monster."
"We don't stand a chance," Link managed to get out as he fought to keep Tetra from running to the monster without hurting her, "We can't even touch it!"
"You can't? I wonder if it's similar to the first monsters we fought then…" Zelda mused.
"What do you mean?" Kid asked, urging her to continue her thought.
"Well, on the first floor the monsters assumed the form of us, but we could only harm the one that looked like us. If we tried to hurt one of the others our attacks hit empty air no matter where we struck. Yet, the monsters did not seem to be as restricted, seeing as they could touch us whether or not we looked like them. My point is, I think that since it is targeting Tetra, then she's the only one that can harm it."
"She won't do that though!" Link protested, immediately pulling Tetra back when she managed to take a step forward, "Not unless we find a way to tell her that it isn't real."
"Wait!" Tetra suddenly cried out, and they all turned their attention to the monster who had begun to slowly back up. Tetra fought to get free from her bonds with more force than before, but Link's grip was too strong.
"She hasn't taken her eyes off of that monster the entire time. Maybe that's how it creates the illusion? Kid suggested.
"Possibly. If that's the case then if we cover her eyes we might be able to get through to her," Zelda concluded.
"It's worth a shot," Kid shrugged, stepping in front of Tetra. He placed his hands over her eyes. She still struggled in Link's grasp, but he detected a slight hesitation to it.
"Tetra, can you hear us now?" Kid questioned her.
"Y-yes," she stuttered, her voice sounding faint and smaller than usual. She almost stopped trying to resist.
"Listen to me," Link commanded, "There's a monster and you're the only one that can defeat it."
"A monster? Where? I never saw one," Tetra's voice was barely audible, as if she wasn't entirely sure if she should be speaking or not.
"Well, there is one, but it's making you see something else. All you need to know, is that it isn't real, okay?" Link tried to explain.
"Of course it isn't real. There is no monster. Just chains holding me back," Tetra insisted, a bit louder than before. Chains? So covering her eyes hadn't completely pulled her out of the illusion like he'd hoped it would. Did she know it was them talking to her?
Link attempted to play along, "What are the chains holding you back from?"
"Someone important," Tetra answered him.
"Who?" Link pressed.
"My mother," Tetra replied without hesitation. He supposed that made sense then. If she was really seeing her mother in place of the monster, then it was only natural for her to want to go to her. She was far from home, after all. She had to miss her family, and the monster was feeding off of those emotions.
Kid's eyes widened and he let out a small gasp.
"What?" Link wondered, suddenly fearful that the creature had crept up behind him when they were conversing with Tetra. Looking past Kid he could plainly see that the monster had not moved from its spot. It just stood there patiently, its head cocked to one side, staring at them in fascination.
Link suddenly realized what it all meant and the reason for Kid's look of horror. It meant that Tetra had to kill her own mother. Technically it wasn't her, but to Tetra it might as well have been. He wished that he could strike down the monster for her and became angry knowing that he couldn't. Link didn't even understand why they had to go through these temples or solve the riddle to get Tetra, Kid, and their friends back home. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like a bunch of pointless nonsense. He suddenly had the suspicion that the children were from some other point in time. The idea sounded ridiculous and implausible to him, but at the same time it was the only explanation that relatively made sense, if even just a little bit. It could explain why they didn't want to talk about anything.
Link was jostled out of his thoughts when Tetra spoke up again, "I can't even see her anymore! There's a blindfold over my eyes, and now there are voices in my head."
It was official. She didn't know it was them speaking to her. It was as if she'd forgotten them entirely. The illusion was strong, and they were only allowed to be a hidden part of it.
"Yes, we're voices in your head," Kid agreed, playing along with her to get her to listen, "But we're here to help you."
"Help me? How?" Tetra wondered.
"By telling you something that you seem to have either forgotten or are ignoring. Proof that what you're seeing is really a monster," Kid pledged.
"I don't think anything you tell me will make me believe you," Tetra sighed, her voice doubtful.
"You said that you see your mother, right?" Kid asked.
"Yes," Tetra answered him slowly, not knowing where he was going with it. Link thought he knew. He was going to remind her that they weren't at their home so her mother couldn't possibly be there. Smart kid.
"Well, that's impossible," Kid stated.
"Why?" Tetra wondered curiously.
"Because…." Kid hesitated here, biting his lip as if contemplating if he should finish the sentence. He decided to end it a second later, "…your mother is dead." Link was not expecting to hear that, and he momentarily loosened his grip on Tetra in surprise. He tightened it a second later, but Tetra didn't seem to notice. Was Kid just toying with her? Telling her that her mother was deceased when she really wasn't just to get Tetra to realize that it wasn't real, or…was he serious?
Tetra didn't say anything to that, just gave a small gasp as if in realization.
"Do you believe me now?" Kid whispered, his head bowed so his bangs shielded his eyes.
"I…think so. Yeah, I remember," Tetra responded. Did that response mean that Kid wasn't lying? Did it mean that Tetra really didn't have a mother? Link began to wonder if she had a family and then mentally chastised himself for thinking like that. Of course she had a family of some kind! She had to. Just because her mother was dead didn't mean that the rest of her family was. She probably lived with her father or some other relative.
"I can make the chains disappear but the only way I can do that is if you promise to defeat the monster, no matter who it may look like," Kid told her, raising his head.
Tetra quieted contemplated the offer before replying, "Alright. I promise.”
"Good. When the blindfold comes off we won't be able to talk anymore, but just remember that whoever you see isn't real. It's a monster," Link reminded her.
"I will," Tetra said her tone a bit more confident than before. Kid removed his hands and stepped aside. Again, Tetra's unfocused gaze transfixed on the iridescent figure of the monster, but this time she didn't move towards it. Link reluctantly released her, praying that they had convinced her enough. Still, he knew it'd be hard for her to do.
The creature opened its arms wide as if inviting her into an embrace. Realizing that she was free, Tetra straightened and slowly removed her dagger, dark blue eyes focused on the monster. She took a small step forward as if uncertain. When nothing restrained her she took another step and eventually built up enough confidence to run.
She reached the monster in seconds, stopping short in front of it. Link and the others stood tense, ready to intervene if necessary. The monster made no immediate move to harm her. Tetra raised her dagger but didn't bring it down. Even from a distance, Link could see her hand trembling. He feared that she'd lose her grip on the dagger, but the weapon remained in her unsteady hand.
Quickly she brought the weapon down in the center of the monster's chest. The creature immediately shattered like glass, multicolored shards littering the floor. She dropped her dagger with a quick intake of breath and they hurried to her side.
"It wasn't real, I promise," Link swore, putting a hand on her shoulder. He noticed that her eyes were no longer glossed over. They were focused and alert, yet a haziness still lingered in them.
"I know," Tetra said, stooping to pick up her fallen dagger and slide it back into her sheath. Her voice was almost devoid of emotion, her face stony.
Before anyone could utter another word a monster identical to the first appeared and they were all forced to scatter to avoid getting hit by its weapon. This time it only had eyes for Kid. Link watched as Kid's eyes became glassy. His expression was one of shock. He stood there staring for a while, but instead of taking a step towards the monster, he unsheathed his sword and shield.
It seemed as though Kid remembered that it was his enemy, but at the same time, he hesitated to move. Link hoped that Kid's knowledge of what it really was would help him see through the illusion. Kid loosened his grip on his sword briefly before tightening his hold on it more firmly. There was nothing Link could do but watch as Kid charged the monster, and with a yell, perhaps to distract himself from who he thought he was seeing, swung his blade. It connected with more than enough force in the creature's side to cause its being to shatter into pieces.
The strange look left Kid's eyes, but it was replaced with sadness. Link wondered who he had seen but decided not to ask for fear of upsetting him even more. They were left little time for recovery when a figure, different from the rest, quickly approached them. The figure was tall and was veiled by a cloak with intricate white designs burned into its fabric. Turning around and gazing into his eyes was the one person he thought that he'd never see again. Midna.
She was standing not too far away from him, and he didn't seem capable of removing his eyes from hers. Blinking was suddenly an inconvenience. They'd been separated for so long and finally he could see her again! The Twilight Princess in her true form. Her figure was lithe, and she smiled at him, her strangely beautiful eyes holding his and showing no signs of releasing him. He didn't care of course. It was almost too good to be true. Link suddenly realized what he had failed to before. Standing before him appeared to be Midna, but it wasn't. Not really. It was just an illusion.
'It's fake!' his mind screamed at him, but a small part of him still refused to listen. He couldn't shake the "what if" feeling that nagged him at the back of his mind as he drew his weapon. What if it wasn't an illusion? What if Midna had really found a way back and-Link stopped himself before he went too far. No! It wasn't her. It was a monster. He tried to picture the monster in her place, but his memory failed him. He didn't remember what it had even looked like. His eyes only perceived Midna.
Link tried to distract himself by tearing his eyes off of her to search for the faces of his companions, but he simply could not. No matter how hard he tried to redirect his gaze, he found his eyes locked onto the woman opposing him. It seemed like they were the only people in the entire room.
Tightening his grip on his sword he began to advance on his friend whose smile had fallen into a frown when he took the first step. She took an uncertain step backward, her face a mixture of confusion and terror. Once Link was close enough he swung his sword but stopped short of her neck. She stiffened, her expression filled with horror, her eyes pleading with him. A single tear escaped her eye.
Link faltered, lowering his sword slightly. A tiny sympathetic smile graced her lips and she slowly began to reach out her hand towards his face. He couldn't do it. His sword was positioned to kill her, but he couldn't bring himself to go through with it. Not when she was staring at him. Not when he was forced to look at her. Her hand crept closer to his cheek.
'It's not real!'he insisted silently as he gazed back at her, 'The real Midna is in the Twilight Realm. The only link between the world of twilight and the world of light was destroyed. It isn't possible for her to be here in front of you!'
Despite knowing the truth, it didn't make swinging his sword any easier. Her hand hovered next to his face, almost touching him. That's it. He knew he needed to do something, but he wasn't capable of doing anything when he was looking at her. Forcing himself to close his eyes, Link found that all of his hesitation disappeared, and he swung his sword. It struck something hard and the sound of tinkling glass met his ears.
Opening his eyes he was greeted by a pile of iridescent fragments at his feet. He stepped back, taking a shaky breath to calm himself. The creature had almost got him. Now he understood what Kid and Tetra had gone through minutes before. The disguise was impossible to see past and the wonderful sight of his old partner and friend had clouded his mind.
Another one of the crystal-like monsters jumped out and this time it peered at the princess. Zelda held its gaze for a mere second before drawing her sword, taking a breath as if bracing herself for what she was about to do, and running at the creature. She sliced it without hesitation and it broke in the same manner as the others.
"Wow, I never believed the whole 'Ice Queen' title until now," Link spoke up, shocked that she had managed to kill the monster so quickly.
"I am not," Zelda argued indignantly. "I just have the sense to know what's real and what's fake. Besides, we have been attacked three times already. I knew it was a monster the entire time."
"But…still," Kid said, "It had to look real. Didn't it?"
"Of course it did," Zelda answered him calmly, replacing her weapon into its sheath. This statement caused Link to wonder exactly who she had seen. It hadn't seemed difficult for her to complete the task. Then again, maybe it had been. She was normally pretty good at keeping her composure, no matter the situation.
Link noticed that Tetra hadn't said anything for a while and turned his attention to where the girl was standing. She had her arms crossed and was staring hard at the crimson floor tiles as if they were the most interesting thing in the world. He had gotten quite used to the fiery girl commenting on everything, so her silence concerned him.
"Let's all take a break before we move on," Link suggested. He honestly thought that they all needed it after that ordeal. Besides, if he remembered the map correctly, there were only three levels to the temple and a circular room was at the end of the third one. That was probably the guardian's chamber and, as they were now, attempting to face it would no doubt be disastrous.
Everyone agreed with him, and they all settled down in the middle of the hallway, lost in their own thoughts. No one spoke to each other, but for once the silence didn't bother them.