1. Chapter 1 by Yuko6754
2. Chapter 2 by Yuko6754
3. Chapter 3 by Yuko6754
4. Chapter 4 by Yuko6754
5. Chapter 5 by Yuko6754
Scooter: This is the second longest chapter that I have ever done. It still needs some minor touching up, though. I hope you enjoy either way!
Disclaimer: In no way do I own Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. Not the manga or the game. =(
The campfire crackled and reflected in Vio's purple eyes as he sat, his knees drawn to his chest. He looked to his side and found Blue sleeping with his tunic crawling up on his belly, Red resting his head on Blue's stomach, snoring lightly. Looking even further back, he spotted Green - the original Link - resting against a tree, his head bowed so far his chin was resting against his chest. Green's hands were folded over his stomach. He was the one who was sitting closest to the Four Swords and the shields.
A part of him couldn't believe that he had followed Shadow through the whole damn ordeal. He had almost killed Green for the Goddess' sake! It had all been a part of his strategy however. He had been struck with uncertainty when Shadow had begun to open up to him.
"It's of no concern of mine. He's the damn shadow and we're trying to kill him along with Vaati." His frown deepened and he fell to his side, closing his eyes against the crackling flames of the fire.
"Pl-Please, My Lord. . . . I-I won't f-fail again! J-Just n-no more light!"
Vio's eyes shot open to find he was no longer staring at the night sky, but a stone ceiling that was illuminated by flickering lights that probably came from a few lanterns. There was, however, a bright spot in his vision, and the purple-clad Link looked over, his purple eyes widening in shock at the sight:
Shadow was cowering upon the stones, his hands covering his face as his body tensed with what looked to be pain. Vio sat up with a start and recoiled when a hulking figure leaned over Shadow's body, obscuring him from sight. The only people in the room that Vio could see were himself, the figure hovering over Shadow, and finally, Shadow himself. The large figure drew back slightly, allowing Vio to see what had been done to the shadow.
Without thinking of the consequences, Vio pushed himself up from the floor, his purple eyes fixed on the black-clad Link ahead of him.
Shadow was curled up into a ball, his arms covering his face as if to ward off an attack.
Or the light. . . . Vio thought, his eyes narrowing.
The towering figure didn't seem to notice Vio even as the blonde slipped by right in front of him to check on Shadow.
Well, that's lucky at least. Vio mused with a small smile. That's when he realized the other fact. Shadow couldn't see him either.
A dark and menacing voice came from above and a little to Vio's left, making the boy jump a bit and turn. The sight he was greeted with caused his mouth to drop a bit. He knew Ganon was probably ugly, but a pig! Ganon was a goddamned pig! Shadow stirred, looking out from the small wall his arms had made and glanced directly past Vio and to the hulking beast.
"M-My Lord. . . . Please! I won't fail you again! Just no more light!" Shadow sobbed, breaking the strong image that Vio held of him.
He had always pictured Shadow to be some sort of pillar of strength, but it turns out it wasn't. He was just as flawed as Blue, Red, Green, and himself. Ganondorf gave a scoff and turned, his black cape swishing behind him as he left. Vio was left to look over the still slightly cowering Shadow, and the purple-clad Link reached out, biting his lower lip. He desperately hoped - prayed - that the shadow would be able to feel his touch. He was not to be disappointed. Vio's hand gently clasped onto a black shoulder, causing Shadow to gasp and raise his head, a few tears standing out in his black eyes. Vio sighed, wishing that he could give actual comfort rather than just being able to physically touch him, so when Shadow said his name in a disbelieving voice, needless to say he was shocked.
"V-Vio. . . .? What are you doing here! How did you even get here?"
The only thing that Vio could do was shrug hopelessly. He had no idea how he got to be at Shadow's side. "I . . . I don't really know. I was just sleeping, and then I was here."
The shadow let out an aggravated breath and Vio blinked a few times, trying to regain his dignity. He had lost it somewhere upon coming to this place. He turned his purple eyes down to Shadow and sat back on his haunches, waiting for elaboration on the shadow's part. When no answer came, Vio rubbed the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath, preparing to ask Shadow his question once more.
"I heard you, purple, damn."
Vio's face twitched. 'Purple'? Wow, Shadow really must not be having a good day if he was calling Vio 'purple'.
"The problem lies in the fact that you're no longer in the world of the light. You're in the Dark World." Vio's eyes widened in disbelief and Shadow continued. "For some reason you came here from your sleep. If you had truly wanted, you could have woken up and not been here at all. This is what's confusing me: apparently you sub-consciously wanted to be here."
Vio started up in protest.
"That's not right! I want you dead, Shadow! We all want you dead! Green, Blue, me, Red!" He paused. "Then again, Red's such a kind soul, he wouldn't want anyone to die. He even cried when that rock monster attacked us."
That caused one of Shadow's eyebrows to raise in surprise, and a laugh left him. The laugh was short-lived however, when the darker half began to cough, covering his mouth with one hand and his mid-section with his other. Shadow took a deep breath and looked up at the purple Link once more. "If you really wanted me dead, Vio, then you would have killed me as soon as My Lord left me. You would have finished the job."
This stopped Vio and he recoiled a bit, shaking his head. "No." He said resolutely. "We all want you dead."
"Except for Red."
"Fine, maybe except for Red. But the rest of us sure do!"
Shadow's face turned harsh suddenly, and Vio blinked in confusion. "You do realize that if you kill me, you'll be killing a part of yourself?"
Vio stopped. He hadn't thought too thoroughly about it, but perhaps the shadow was right. "Wh-What do you mean. . . .?"
Black eyes fluttered slightly and Shadow began to explain. "Of course you would have thought that it was just you, Green, Red, and Blue. It has all your personality: determined, reckless, innocent, and calm collectiveness. But there's one aspect you fail to overlook, Vio. What might that be?"
"I-I don't get your meaning. . . ." Vio offered lamely, much to Shadow's disappointment. He had hoped that the clever Link would have gotten his meaning.
"You're missing the darkness, Vio. The darkness. You can't have light without the darkness. You of all the Links should know this. You're supposed to be the clever one. Hold up to your title."
Vio could feel his face redden at the other's words. "I am the clever one!" he shot at the wounded shadow.
"Oh really, then why didn't you know instantly why you were here? Why don't you know how to get out? Why did you overlook the fact there are five Link's, not just four?"
Yet again, Vio recoiled and Shadow couldn't help but feel a sense of pride at the result of his own yelling. It was a bit ludicrous, the fact he was yelling and criticizing himself. What was the world coming to?
"So, there are five Links', not just four. I am the essential darkness in the equation. And you failed to overlook this fact, didn't you?" Vio looked at Shadow and nodded lamely.
"Yeah, I guess I did overlook it."
"Did you also overlook the fact that I may not want to live my life like this? That I hate being in servitude? That I'm sick of being tortured for doing the slightest thing wrong? For having my greatest fear thrust upon me like a whip-crack on my back? That I may not want to hurt Princess Zelda? That I may love her like you, Red, Blue, and Green? That I actually feel pain, sadness, loneliness, anger, love, happiness? It never occurred to you, did it, Vio? It never occurred to you that I have all emotions like you do."
The shadow's words had startled Vio. He looked into Shadow's eyes and saw the pain, anger and loneliness. He felt a bit ashamed that he thought Shadow wasn't a part of him and that the black Link did the bidding of whomever owned him. It never had once occurred to Vio that Shadow was like the others.
The shadow startled Vio with his next words before he had a chance to answer.
"I can go to the world of light."
"Y-You can go back to the world of light?"
Vio's surprise was evident and his normally calm exterior was a bit faulty, allowing shadow to see the youth and innocence in the blonde.
"Yeah, I can go there." The shadow paused, seeming to be debating over something. "But it hurts, and I know that in my current. . . ." the shadow hesitated, obviously not liking to admit his weakness. "In my current condition I wouldn't be able to hold your form for longer than ten or fifteen minutes, and that's still if I'm lucky." Although in pain, Shadow smirked, at the shocked look on Vio's face. Shadow scoffed, trying to sound strong, but not being able to succeed. "Do you remember when we first met? When I said I was stronger than you and the others?"
Vio nodded slowly and Shadow continued. "I meant what I said y'know. I have powers you couldn't reach no matter how long you train. Even if you somehow win this battle and become one again you wouldn't be able to get this power."
Vio couldn't help but notice that even while wounded, Shadow was still a sarcastic asshole. The purple-eyed blonde knew the other was just trying to bait him, but he took said bait anyway. "Oh? You don't know how strong we would get if we became one once more. You wouldn't know because you'd be dead." Vio jerked back instantly as the shadow acted a mere second or two after the words had left his mouth. Shadow had a furious look in his black eyes.
Shadow had lunged up at Vio, only to fall back to the floor with a thud that echoed through the silence of the Dark World. Arms that had instinctively covered Vio's face when Shadow had lunged, fell back down when he heard the other give a hiss, a poorly concealed groan, and a curse. Vio saw the shadow on his side, his arms wrapped around his midsection, and a mix of pain, anger, and sorrow written on his features.
"H-Hey . . . Shadow . . . you OK?
The blonde watched as Shadow pushed himself to a sitting position, his arms still wrapped around his midsection. Gulping quietly and trying to come up with the cause of Shadow's anger, Vio tentatively began his question once more.
"I heard you already!" Shadow quipped, suddenly glaring at the purple Link. You think that I'd be dead?" Vio opened his mouth to reply, but Shadow spoke over him. "You forget yet again that I am you, you moron."
Vio growled slightly, his hands balling into fists. "I . . . I didn't forget about that."
Purple and black Links glared at each other, and Vio was astonished to find that Shadow gave in first.
"This isn't getting us anywhere." Shadow inhaled deeply. "Vio, you have to pay attention to this. You have to take care of my body here. Any injury I sustain in the world of light for the most part will be directed to my body here."
Vio blinked in mild confusion. "For the most part?"
"Well, yeah. I'm assuming that when I return to this form, your buddies - Blue especially - will want to beat the living hell outta me. I'll be able to redirect most of the pain to my body here, but I don't think I'll be able to redirect all of it." A small smirk - a flash of the old Shadow - and the look was gone. "I'm hoping your buddies don't try and welcome me with the sword, although they probably will." Shadow paused in thought. "They'll also want some form of proof as to my mission."
"Is there a way to show them the Dark World without really taking them there?"
"If they saw I was here unharmed, then they might believe your story." Vio smirked smugly, but frowned at the mistrust he saw on the shadow's face. "What?"
Black eyes turned upwards to meet purple. "How can I be certain you won't harm me yourself when I leave?" Vio bit his lips shut, but knew where Shadow was coming from. He had, after all, betrayed the dark Link by nearly destroying the Mirror of Darkness while Shadow was sleeping. The purple Link looked at Shadow with actual sadness in his eyes, and Shadow sighed. "Alright, but I'm trusting you, Vio, not to kill me."
Vio nodded; he wouldn't betray Shadow this time. The shadow took a deep breath to prepare himself, then looked up at Vio from his not-so-comfortable position on the ground. "Well, off I go." A dry smile formed on his lips. "Wish me luck."
Vio did so and seconds later had to gently lay the shadow back on the hard ground as his consciousness fled to the world of light.
"Honestly Shadow, good luck, and I hope your wish is granted."
"Oi! Oi! Vio get up already!"
Shadow - in Vio's body - groaned and opened his eyes, dismayed to find his gaze already slipping. Once assured that he was indeed wearing Vio's purple clothing, he concentrated a bit more, finding Vio's voice. Shadow blinked up at Blue and pawed himself into a sitting position. "I heard you already, damn."
He looked up, finally bringing Blue into focus and noticing the slightly surprised look on his face. That was when his brain managed to completely turn on. Shadow realized he hadn't answered how Vio would, but how he himself would.
Attempting to recover and cast off any suspicion, Shadow fumbled for a reason that would explain his outburst.
"Sorry, Blue, I didn't sleep very well last night. I guess I'm still a bit groggy."
The faint touches of sunlight began to filter down through the leaves, and the shadow prayed that the other hadn't noticed his cringe. Blue's fierce face creased with a frown and Shadow's heart leapt into his throat, wondering if the game was up already. His heart regained its natural rhythm and Shadow hoisted himself up, letting a swear shoot through his head at how unsteady he seemed. A hand came into his line of vision, and Shadow lifted his gaze to meet Blue's.
"You seem unsteady today, Vio. Did that damned Shadow Link do something to you to make you like this? If he did, I swear I'll kill him!"
Shadow saw red. He couldn't help it! Goddesses Blue was so insufferable! The shadow controlled his features and opened his mouth, not really trusting what he would say, but not really having a choice.
"No. He didn't do anythin'."
The blue-clad Link furrowed his brows again and Shadow felt uneasy, knowing that Blue was being extra clever today.
A higher pitched voice shot through the air causing Shadow and Blue to simultaneously cringe. "Viiiooo! Bluuue! Are you two up yet? Green's caught some fishies and we're gonna eat!"
Shadow gulped quietly. Just what he hadn't wanted. Not only was Blue suspicious, but now he had to test his disguise to the limit by going out into the sunlight. Wasn't this all just hunky-dory? The fierce eyes looked at Shadow again and the fake Vio saw a challenge in them. Go on, they said. Go on and prove to me that you aren't Shadow Link.
Well there's no way in hell that Shadow would back down from a challenge. Especially a challenge from Blue.
"I don't know why you're so suspicious, but maybe you're the one who needs a bit more sleep." Shadow took a breath and stepped carefully towards the opening in the trees. He experimentally used up the majority of his powers and a faint rectangular object slowly materialized to his left. Since Blue gave no indication of this new development, Shadow figured his experiment was a success. Two figures slowly materialized within the faint rectangle, and Shadow already knew who they were: Vio and his true body. Vio was gazing up, presumably at another screen in the Dark World, and Shadow's unconscious body was next to him.
Vio and Shadow locked eyes and Shadow was pleased to know they could see each other. That meant that at least he hadn't used up most of remaining power for nothing. On the other hand, Shadow could see his body occasionally twitching as if it was being electrocuted. Shadow saw Vio look over at the body and back again, shrugging slightly and giving Shadow a look that said he didn't know what to do. The shadow would have liked to reply to the purple Link, but he had two things stopping him. The first was the fact that Blue was right there and would hear him if he spoke, and the second was the simple fact that Shadow didn't know if he could even speak through this two-way mirror. All Shadow had wanted to know was if it was possible to contact Vio. The result had certainly been in the shadow's favor, that's for sure.
Shadow turned his eyes from the plainness of the Dark World and back to his current destination: the clearing just beyond those trees, and into the damned light. He felt a light shove in the small of his back and he felt the urge to spin and yell at Blue, but quelled the urge and just continued walking.
From his position behind Vio, Blue's frown deepened and he opted to keep an even closer eye on his friend. Blue eyes blinked quickly a few times, looking a bit surprised. Since when had he considered Vio a friend? Red and Green as well for that matter. The blonde shook his head sharply twice to get his mind out of the fog. Sharp blue eyes looked at Vio, shocked a bit as the 'team strategist' stumbled over his own feet.
"Viiiooo! Bluuue!" Red's shrill voice caused Shadow and Blue to wince and the purple-clad Link took a few deep breaths. The two Links looked at the happy-go-lucky Link warily as if they'd be pounced upon at any moment.
Innocent ruby eyes gazed up at the two and Shadow was greatly relieved to learn that Red at least wouldn't find him out. That just left the final test.
Blue eyes (though not as dark as Blue's) looked at the two late arrivals, smiling slightly.
"Hey, you two. Welcome back. I was getting a bit worried; I sent Blue to wake you about twenty minutes ago. Can't have anything happen to a member of the team, can we?" A grin spread over Green's face, showing that he (like the others) had matured over the course of the journey. "After all, how are we going to defeat Vaati and Shadow Link if we're separated?"
Blue, seeming to forget his suspicions of the purple-clad Link next to him, pumped a fist into the air and let loose a whoop of affirmation.
"Oh hell yeah! It's just a shadow and a wind mage!"
Red chimed in with a cheer as well, still grinning good-naturedly. When Vio didn't give his support, Green's smile faded a bit and Blue's suspicion promptly returned. The leader of the group stood from his kneeling position next to the fish and moved towards their newly recovered team-member.
"Vio, are you alright? You're trembling and your face is pale. Do you have a fever or something?"
Shadow took a breath and snuck a look to the mirror only he could see. This time he just sought out Vio, paying no mind to his own body. The look he received from the real purple Link had a mix of fear and sympathy. Shadow could understand both looks, but he hated sympathy! Shadow heard Green call Vio's name once more, this time more urgently, and Shadow snapped back to attention. His mouth opened and he replied that he was indeed fine.
"Vio?" Red's voice was curious and Shadow looked at him. "Why does your voice sound different? It sounds really familiar?"
Shadow felt a hand descend upon his shoulder, gripping hard. "Yeah, I think you're right, Red. It sounds like that shadow."
It was at this moment that Shadow realized his mistake. Ever since he had cleared the trees and entered into the clearing, the dreadful sun had been steadily sapping his powers. Shadow knew his disguise as Vio had not faded, but he now knew that it was his voice that had given him away.
Shadow felt two arms hook under his armpits, effectively holding him in place. The shadow could only watch as Green approached, his once calm and pleasant eyes now angry and a tad curious. Red had backed up behind Green and closer to the fish that were now cooling. Shadow expelled a shaky sigh and dropped his Vio disguise, the purple tunic being replaced by a black one, and the white undershirt by a gray one.
The light immediately began to sap his remaining magic, and now that his ruse had been seen through, the pain only grew worse. Shadow chanced a look back at the mirror and couldn't help but bite his bottom lip in anger and frustration.
Vio had moved to face the unconscious body of Shadow as said body had begun to jerk in unsuppressed pain. The shadow could barely make out that his body's eyes were tightly clenched and his mouth was open, probably making gasping sounds.
The arms that were holding him immobile tightened their grip, causing Shadow to release an involuntary hiss of pain. His mind whirled around, trying to come up with a solution to his current situation, and he found one answer. It certainly was a last ditch effort, but the dark Link had no other options available to him.
Would Green hurt him? He figured Red wouldn't, but he honestly didn't know about Green, and he didn't want to take any chances. He knew his power was mostly exhausted anyway.
Closing his eyes tightly, Shadow forced his remaining power into the hazy mirror, causing it to slowly solidify. His dark eyes still closed, he heard four gasps: Blue, Green, Red, and . . . Vio? Ah, that means his plan had succeeded then.
The mirror, which only Shadow and Vio could previously see, now became visible enough for the other three. And since the shadow had heard Vio's gasp, he knew that communication was possible as well. Just as his consciousness was fading however, he heard another voice gasping and he cringed.
No dignity left, huh? Lo . . . vel. . . .
Blue hardly registered the fact that Shadow Link had gone completely limp in his grip. After all, it wasn't every day you see a white rectangular object appear out of thin air and show you your missing companion.
Green stared at the clear form of the real Vio inside the . . . mirror . . . and noticed that the strategist of the team wasn't alone. Off to Vio's side lay Shadow Link on his back, body jerking and mouth open, gasping for air and pleading for mercy in a breathy voice. Red had darted towards Blue as the hot-headed Link let the shadow drop unceremoniously to the forest floor. The innocent Link turned the black-clad Link onto his back, noticing the sweat already forming all over his forehead and dripping down the sides of his head. The young boy looked up at the mirror as the real Vio began to speak.
"You guys can hear me, right?" The other three noticed how calm Vio sounded and Green took control of the conversation.
"Vio! Where are you? Why is Shadow Link here and where you are? Why is he here anyway? How did he get here? Are you alright?"
Vio held up a hand to quell Green's frantic questions that sounded like they'd come from Red and not their fearless leader. "Calm down. Firstly I'm in the Dark World. Shadow told me that I got there from a dream."
"A dream?" This couldn't be anyone but Blue.
"Yes. If you'd just quiet down and let me finish, I'll tell you the rest." The purple-eyed Link looked to his side at the now thrashing Shadow. "Blue, could you take Shadow into the shade before he dies?" He caught Blue's incredulous look and Vio repeated himself. "Just do it, Blue, I assure you I'll answer all of your questions."
Red surprised everyone present when he hoisted the unconscious Shadow to his feet, making the shadow lean on him and slowly walking to a patch where the light barely reached the ground. The red-eyed Link lowered the shadow to the ground as carefully as he could. As Blue and Green joined him, Red noticed that the mirror was following them.
Vio continued once he saw that Shadow had quieted in both worlds for the most part.
"Last night when I finally fell asleep, I found myself in a dream of the Dark World. In front of me I saw a huge black shape towering over another, smaller figure. The large figure was Ganon, and he was looming over Shadow who I heard was pleading for mercy. After a few seconds I realized two facts: one, I couldn't be seen or heard, and two, Ganon was torturing his underling with the thing Shadow fears most: light. When Ganon finally left, I started talking to Shadow and was surprised when I was answered. I'm guessing that that was when I ceased to be dreaming and actually entered the Dark World. So Shadow and I talked. He . . . enlightened me on a few subjects- No, Red! Blue! Not like that!" Vio spared a glower for the now snickering Blue before continuing his story. "Anyway! We talked and I made my own deduction that Ganon is the real villain, not Vaati or Shadow. I also concluded that Ganon has given up on Shadow, but not lost all hope in Vaati.
"Shadow informed me that I was trapped in the Dark World but that he could get out here." Vio stopped talking, thinking back to that moment where Shadow had looked at him warily, afraid that Vio would betray him yet again. The purple Link moved on to continue his tale, shifting to sit cross-legged on the black floor - ground? - of the Dark World. "I told Shadow about a plan I had and he barely agreed to it. The plan sounded simple enough anyway: I would remain here while Shadow would take on my form. While disguised as me, he would attempt to steer you guys to where the Dark Mirror is located. Shadow would proceed to let you break the Mirror, resulting in the death of both Vaati and Shadow, but enabling you to face Ganon. Naturally Shadow wasn't very gung-ho for this plan, knowing that if he screwed up in any way, you guys would be on him. As for the reason he's both here in the Dark World and the world of light, his true body is still with me here and his consciousness is in the world of light. That body he's in over there isn't his real body."
As Vio paused for a much needed break, Green asked a question he figured was running through not just his mind, but Red and Blue's as well.
"If this here isn't his real body, why isn't he waking up over in the Dark World since he passed out and why can he still feel pain?"
"Hmm." Vio thought for a moment on that one before answering. "I'm guessing that a part of him knew that if he came back here, this mirror would fade. He knows it's the only convenient way for us to communicate. So his consciousness is most likely still over there. As for the question on pain. . . . I don't think I can answer as well. The only way I can think to say it would probably just make it even more confusing."
"We'll figure it out!" Red chirped, as optimistic as ever. "I doubt Blue will though! You know how he is, always slo-ouchie!" The red-clad hero clamped his hands over his head, his face bearing a surprise it shouldn't have.
"I'll get it!" Blue snarled, pulling his fist back from slugging the other blonde. "Though now Red won't get it because his brain's probably ruined! Whatever amount he had in the first place anyway." he murmured the last part to himself.
"C'mon you two, cut it out!" came Green's disapproving voice. "Let Vio finish!"
Red, Blue, and Green turned back to the mirror once again, noticing that Vio was grinning at their banter. He blinked when he realized he was on the spot once more.
"Oh, right. Anyway, like I said this will just confuse you more, but here we go. I'm thinking that perhaps his consciousness - when it registers that the fake body is being hurt - transmits the pain to his body here." Vio seemed to realize that this hadn't been the answer to the question Green had asked. "Ah, sorry. Wrong explanation." The purple Link rubbed at his eyes tiredly, sleep rushing at him when he realized he had only gotten about five minutes of sleep. "The reason - my reason, anyway - why Shadow reacts to pain over there is because his consciousness is trying to make it as real as possible over here." He saw the completely blank looks of Blue, Red, and even Green, and Vio resigned himself to the fact that he'd need sleep. "I have one, no two favors to ask of you guys." He got a nod from all three and made his two requests.
Requests he was sure Blue wouldn't like.
"One is please don't injure Shadow any further. As I hope you've noticed, he is rather important to our quest." As Vio expected, he saw Blue's face contort with distaste. "Two, Shadow won't be of us anyway unless his powers recover. If you guys can find a cave or something to put his body in, it will speed his recovery."
A low moan came from Red's feet and the four Links looked towards the sound to discover that Shadow's eyes were barely open.
"S-Sorry to d-disappoint," he began, this time not finding any strength to hide his weakness. "I'll have to leave this world and return to the Dark World for a bit. My powers are too far gone and keepin' the mirror will only make it worse. I'll . . . I'll re-return b-by nightfall. . . ."
Blue's face turned to a scowl and he reached down to grasp the scruff of Shadow's neck, only to hear a weak chuckle and the feeling of his fingers closing. In seconds, the false body of Shadow Link was gone from the world of light, and the other three Links saw his body jump inside the fading two-way mirror.
Vio's attention also turned away from his companions and had directed his attention towards the shadow.
Green looked at Red and Blue before the mirror had even completely faded and he clapped his hands, getting their attention.
"Well. I guess we'll just have to go to a cave, now won't we? I don't want to work with Shadow any more than you guys do, but I'm going to trust Vio instead of focusing on figuring Shadow Link out."
Red nodded vigorously while Blue just let out a huff of annoyance and crossed his arms over his chest, looking defiant.
"Fine." He said, his voice tight. "But you're going to spar with me, Green!"
The leader of the group sighed, a small smile upon his features as he stood, patting the dirt from his clothing.
"Sure thing, Blue. Now let's get a move on."
"I guess it wasn't as easy as you thought it'd be, huh, Vio?"
The purple-clad Link looked over his shoulder at the shadow who was still laying on the black ground of the Dark World. Only about ten minutes had passed since Shadow's consciousness had returned to its true body, and the shadow had barely moved at all.
Shadow's black eyes were open, but he looked tired. Vio exhaled gently and turned away from the dull sight of the Dark World.
It really wasn't much to look at: the only colors Vio could see without consciously searching were black, gray, and maybe, just maybe, a dull yellow and green. The scenery - the little that was there anyway - was boring as well. The purple Link saw the dim outline of a few trees, a medium-sized cottage, and a boulder.
"Yeah. Yeah I guess you're right, Shadow. I was a tad optimistic, wasn't I? The drain on your powers must've been greater than you had anticipated, huh?" He walked over to Shadow, the echoes from his footsteps sounding deafening in the silence. Vio crouched down next to Shadow, his forearms resting on his thighs, and black eyes met purple.
"The damned sun certainly was an issue, but the biggest reason for my powers drainin' that quickly was because I created that mirror. That was one thing I hadn't foreseen." A frustrated sound made its way past the shadow's closed lips. "I should have known I'd be easily seen through. I know I'd get through Red's defenses because, no offense, he is not the brightest bulb in the box." Shadow watched Vio's face as it contorted slightly, showing that he didn't like it when the shadow insulted any of the other three.
Guess that makes sense though, doesn't it? I mean . . . if I insult any of them - Green, Red, Blue, Vio - then I'm technically insultin' all four of them includin' myself. Huh.
"Shadow are you alright?" Black eyes turned from looking into space and snapped to focus on Vio's frowning face. The other had probably thought Shadow was in pain. . . .
Why all the time with the goddamned pity? Couldn't someone just space out if they wanted to?
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. I'm not a doll y'know; I won't break from just a bit of pressure."
Vio's concerned frown altered to show a look of mild disbelief, as if he actually thought the shadow would break.
Tch. Yeah right. Shadow mused, I'm not the Hero's Shadow for nothin'.
"Honestly, team strategist, I won't break. Goddesses. 'M just a bit sore. My powers are already returnin'."
"Would it help if you slept?" The question was asked with innocent enough intentions, and so Vio felt a bit hurt when he saw a flash of distrust coupled with wariness in Shadow's dark eyes.
"Nah." Came the eventual answer. "Won't really matter. I know how much I'll need for when I go back." A laugh that sounded just a bit too evil to Vio came from the dark Link. "I doubt your posse' will want to go gallopin' through the darkness though. Guess we can't do anythin' but pray they get at least a bit of rest cause I won't be stoppin' for many, if any, breathers."
What are you, a slave driver? mused Vio absently. His purple eyes widened a fraction as another question struck him. "Hey, Shadow?"
Shadow twitched slightly and pushed himself to a sitting position, looking at Vio with an eyebrow raised. "What?"
"Are you really prepared to die?" Vio watched Shadow's face carefully, seeking a reaction of any kind. The shadow's features remained stoic for the most part, but Vio managed to catch the discreet widening of Shadow's eyes. the reaction had indeed been minute: his black eyes had barely widened two centimeters.
While his eyes betrayed a sliver of his emotions concerning the destruction of the Mirror of Darkness, his voice betrayed nothing.
"'Course I am. Wouldn't've offered to help if I wasn't, right?"
A small frown marring Vio's face, he nodded. "Yeah. Sure. As long as you don't chicken out at the end."
Mental smack to the forehead.
Vio watched as Shadow's eyes became suddenly guarded and his defenses were raised again.
"Oh, you don't have to worry 'bout that." he quipped, his tone reverting to the one he had when they all met.
Taunting. Cold. Merciless. Evil.
The shadow pushed himself to his feet, looking down at Vio. Said Link rose from his own position, looking Shadow dead in the eye. "Lord Ganon won't bother coming here, but I wouldn't wander far. This one area is safe, but it doesn't mean any other parts are. Keep in mind you also don't have the Four Sword or your shield." He had already begun to walk away from Vio when he spoke again. "On second thought, go to sleep."
Vio's first instinct was to argue back, but he knew the other was right. . . . He really did need sleep. A small huff leaving his lips, Vio sat back down again, watching as Shadow turned away from him again. Vio lay down completely, a scowl gracing his features. This wasn't going to comfortable that's for sure. Grimacing in discomfort, Vio shifted a bit, trying to find some semblance of comfort. As he closed his eyes, Vio resigned himself to sleep, not noticing that Shadow had turned back again to look at him.
A sigh escaped from the shadow, and he shook his head.
"Make up your mind, Vio," he muttered, his black eyes showing a few more of his hidden emotions, "Do you think of me as a friend? Do you trust me? Do you not trust me? Do you hate me? Do you . . ." Shadow hated himself for his hesitation. "Do you want me to die?" With his final question being directed to un-hearing ears, the dark Link shook his head once more, turned, and walked away again.
This time he didn't look back.
"Thank the Goddesses for this cave, huh?" Red chirped, "I'm sure Shadow will be able to help us too!"
The red Link recoiled slightly when met with Blue's fierce glare.
"You actually believe that guy? I bet you he's just manipulating Vio again! When we get Vio back this time, I'll have to smack some sense into him!" Blue completely ignored Green's look and just continued to rant. "I mean, we're gonna have to travel at night! That's when that bastard is strongest and probably when the monsters will come out and ambush us!"
"Blue, shut up!"
Red and Blue both finally looked at Green, who was glaring at Blue. "Vio wouldn't be stupid enough to get caught unawares again. He could not have been faking either. That pain was too real." The leader shook his head. "Vio may be in Shadow's territory, but he'll be fine. Out of the four of us, Vio's the most persuasive." Link's trademark 'just-try-and-stop-me' grin washed over his boyish features.
"Besides, do you really think Ganon can stop us?"
Blue's face lost most of its anger and that same grin spread over his own face. "Damn right!" he cheered, for once looking over at Red with something other than anger or frustration on his face. The innocent Link nodded vigorously.
"Yeah! We'll get Vio back and all four of us will beat Vaati and Ganon!"
The leader walked to the pile of equipment and knelt, standing up again with two of the swords in his hands. The two Four Swords were still sheathed and Green approached Blue again, offering him one of the weapons. Blue took it, a grin of a more challenging nature appearing on his face.
"You said you wanted a match, right? Then let's go; we have to kill some time."
The two were set to leave the cave when Red called after them.
"You two should also sleep a bit before nightfall. You know, to keep your strength up!"
Green smiled and nodded while Blue just looked a bit stunned by how smart Red was being today. Happy he hadn't been blown off, Red unrolled a bedroll the four of them had purchased in a town a few days ago. They weren't the most comfortable things to sleep on, but decent enough. Within seconds of laying down, Red was asleep although he'd only woken up about six hours ago.
Sparks flew as the two blades met. Their owners were certainly giving it their all even though it was just a scrimmage. Blue grunted slightly and un-tensed his legs, preparing to jump. The blue-clad Link pulled his sword away, leaping back to avoid Green's swipe.
It nicked his tunic.
Landing, Blue twisted the Four Sword to get a better grip. His body only barely tensed as Green rushed at him, face pulled into a frown of determination. Blue feinted to the right, ducking the thrust and he lashed out, aiming for Green's left side. Dark blue eyes widened in joy: he was actually going to win this one!
Disappointment crossed Blue's face as Green blocked his strike.
"You cheated." Blue accused childishly, knowing full well that Green had done no such thing.
"Oh yeah," Green started, taking the accusation in stride. "Because by blocking your attack I'm a cheater. Astounding logic, Blue. I'm amazed!"
Blue scowled at Green and the green Link might actually have been scared if they hadn't known each other. Blue growled, narrowed his eyes, and raised the Four Sword once again. A childish pout appeared on his face and Green grinned.
"It's just like Red said, Blue. We should try and get some rest."
"Even though we haven't been up for very long in the first place?" Blue sounded angry, and Green couldn't help but think what a relief it was that Blue was acting like his regular, hot-headed self.
"Yeah. We need as much energy as we can get. Unlike you I do believe that Shadow wants to help us. On the other hand I don't think he'll be completely tame about this either. Personally I'd like to be at my best."
Blue grumbled something about unfairness and wanting to knock Green on his ass for once during a spar, but followed Green as he began his trek back to the cave. When the two of them returned, Green smiled slightly at the sight of Red curled up in his bedroll.
"Ouch!" The green-clad Link spun towards Blue when he felt something hard collide with the back of his head. "What was that for you moron?" he hissed sharply. The impact hadn't hurt per se, but it had been uncalled for and just . . . stupid.
Payback Blue mouthed, a smirk plastered on his face.
Green, being the second most mature Link (the first probably being Vio), stuck his tongue out at Blue. Hearing a small groan and the rustling of cloth, the two Links looked towards Red. the innocent Link had merely turned over in his slumber, showing no signs of waking up soon. Green and Blue sighed simultaneously before unrolling their own bedrolls, preparing to try and get some shut-eye.
Once settled, Blue looked over to Green, a question on the tip of his tongue, only to find the leader already sleeping. Resigning himself to hours of boredom, Blue looked at the mouth of the cave and the sunlight streaming in. Blue didn't know how long he stared at the entrance, but he knew that it eventually became dark. A gentle breeze wafted into the cave, ruffling the hair of the three sleeping Links.
In another world, one person was still sleeping while the other was lounging on the roof of the small cottage, staring up into the completely dark sky of the Dark World.
"Lord Ganon will not remain blind to this. He'll find out 'bout this plan for sure, no doubt 'bout that." Shadow sighed heavily, looking away from the dreary sight of the black, starless sky, and to Vio's sleeping body.
"Sorry, Vio, but I don't think this'll go accordin' to your plans."
Crickets chirped lazily in the stillness of the night and the light of the moon just barely illuminated anything inside the cave. The three Links had been sleeping since about midday and none of them showed any signs of waking.
the entrance became blocked suddenly as a figure stepped in. His dark eyes scanned the ground and would have missed the trio if the faint rustling had not caught his attention. Shadow stalked further inside, remaining completely and utterly silent until he was practically on top of the three.
How easy it would be, Shadow thought wryly, to just reach out and kill them while they sleep.
The shadow extended a hand towards the lump furthest to the left and he had a feeling of unease. He knew that feeling; someone was watching him.
Black eyes shot right and he saw the middle figure sitting up, looking at him, or at least in his direction.
Ah. Of course. Green would never leave them unprotected. One corner of Shadow's mouth lifted up into a small smirk and he rested his hand on the shoulder of the Link he was closest to. He heard Green shift again but ignored it.
One thing Shadow prided himself with was his eyesight. Living in the Dark World and forever skulking in the shadows had to be a contributing factor. It was his eyesight that alerted him to the fact that the Link in front of him was Red.
Red eyes opened slowly, proving Shadow to be correct. He was stared at blearily for a few seconds before Red came completely awake. The reaction that followed caused the shadow to feel conflicting emotions.
Joy because Red seemed to be at ease around him (he even grinned, much to Shadow's chagrin). Anger for that exact same reason.
Green had extracted himself from his bedroll and had approached Blue with the obvious intent to wake him. the leader felt a hand grip his shoulder and he could barely make Shadow's face out in the darkness.
I must be out of my mind, Green thought, his shoulders slumping slightly. Letting Shadow wake Blue will be like tossing a lit match into a puddle of oil.
The leader relented however, and he watched in mild amusement, ready to jump in if he needed to. Green felt another body close to him and he heard Red's soft intakes of breath. Both Links watched as the shadow went down on his knees next to Blue and lean forward slightly.
"What's Shadow do-"
Green's voice was trembling slightly, proving his desire to laugh at the faint scene in front of him. The light didn't allow much to be seen, but Green and Red were able to make out that Shadow was on his knees, his body slowly bending over Blue's slumbering body.
While a tiny part of him would forever regret this moment, the majority was in favor of the upcoming stunt. Shadow moved slowly until he was mere inches from Blue's face. The deed would have to be done quickly lest he lost some vital part of his body (while the loss of a limb was inconsequential to this body, his true body would be smarting for ages). Without giving himself time to think anymore, Shadow acted. He leaned down a tiny bit further and loudly whispered:
The blue Link opened his eyes till they were at half-mast. While the blue Link was still waking up, Shadow executed part two. He leaned down a bit more, pressing his lips against Blue's.
Well Blue certainly was awake now.
In fact, Green had never seen someone jump up so quickly before in his life.
"What the hell? What the hell was that?"
That's when the dam broke and peals of laughter emanated from Red and Green, drawing Blue's furious gaze to them.
"You two. . . .? Goddamnit you two knew what he was doing?"
He heard a snort next to him and he snapped his gaze to where he assumed his assailant was sitting. "Someone light one of those damn lanterns so I can see if my punches are connecting to this guy's face!"
"Oh, but Blue," Shadow spoke, his voice low and smooth. "All I did was grant your wish."
"Heh?" This was Red who had moved his position to a little behind Blue. "Blue has a wish?"
"Yeah!" Blue snarled, his face becoming visible in the light of the lantern that was now lit. "To kill you!" Blue's face was a bright red and he had the sheath of his sword aimed about three inches to the left of Shadow's shoulder. He changed his position so the tip of the sheath was aimed at the shadow's throat.
"Come now!" Shadow said, a sneer playing at the corner of his lips. "We all know you love Red."
Well that certainly had shocked Blue into silence. A soft clink alerted that Red had set the lantern down and Green couldn't stop the snort that left him. While he didn't particularly trust the shadow yet, he still couldn't help laughing at his prank on Blue. The light emanating from the lantern made it possible to see Blue's flushed face as well as Red's. Green looked at Shadow, a bit surprised to see mild confusion written on his face. So it appeared that Shadow had shot blindly into the dark, only to hit an apparent bulls-eye.
Standing, Shadow sneered. "So, dear Blue, it seems that I'm right."
"Such a quick denial. . . . Are you sure you aren't hidin' somethin' from the rest of us?"
He knew Blue would snap eventually but he hadn't expected it to take so little provocation. Shadow rubbed his aching jaw, glowering at Blue. Shadow wouldn't deny that he had provoked Blue into hitting him, but that didn't mean Shadow wasn't angry. In fact he growled at the blue-clad Link. He was itching to draw his own blade and introduce it to Blue. Shadow just might have done it if it hadn't been for Green clearing his throat.
"Hey, come on guys. Shadow, please don't pull or attempt to pull that stunt again. Next time you'll probably come off worse than just a sore jaw." The leader looked at Blue, who in turn was snickering at Shadow. "And Blue, don't assault our guide." The snickering promptly ceased.
"So . . . So what do we do now?" Red asked timidly. Green, Blue, and Shadow all turned to look at Red.
Green and Shadow grinned (Shadow a bit more evilly). Blue groaned.
Red was blushing.
Well, Green thought, amused, It would appear that I'm two-fifths gay.
Shadow, his voice trembling with the urge to burst out laughing, answered. "First you guys pack up; we have to go. Now." When the three Links continued to look at him expectantly he spoke again. "Really, I have to wonder if Vio and I didn't get all the brains. When I said 'now', I meant now!"
"Calm down." Green said, moving past Shadow and Blue. He knelt next to Red, gathering some equipment.
Shadow didn't move, looking at Blue. "You gonna make them do all the work while you glower at me?"
Blue opened his mouth to retort but yet again Green stopped him.
"Come on, Blue. The faster we move the faster all of this ends." He jerked his head to the side, beckoning the blue Link over. Huffing, Blue did as he was told.
"Are you finally ready?"
Shadow was standing just outside the cave, his arms folded neatly over his chest. He was traveling light, carrying nothing but a shield on his back, and the shadow of the Four Sword around his waist. Quite the opposite of his three companions. Red, Green, and Blue were all carrying good-sized backpacks which probably contained the sleeping rolls and some food. A light brown canteen hung on a darker brown string that was attached to the backpacks, easily accessible if need be.
"So," Green said, keeping his voice light, "Which way are we going to go?"
Shadow turned away from the trio, looking at the surrounding area.
The forest in front of him obscured his line of sight. The trees nearly surrounded all three sides (the fourth - behind them - was the cave) but they thinned out so that a rocky path was barely visible. Shadow took a few steps in that direction before turning back to Green, Red, and Blue.
"We'll go this way. If we take this path we'll have to go through the mountains, but it's faster than any other path save the Dark World." The dark Link turned his head to the sky, looking at the moon. "As of right now I'd guess I have about nine hours - ten at the very most - until the sun starts to come up." He pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closed as he thought. "I'm guessin' it'll take 'bout two nights for us to get to our destination."
"That's all?" Red asked, sounding a bit surprised, "I'd have thought it'd take longer to get to the Dark Mirror."
Red beamed happily, pumping a fist in the air. Blue and Green looked at Shadow who looked back emotionlessly. Just as Blue opened his mouth to say something the shadow turned on his heel and began to walk down the rugged trail. Green sighed and followed, Red right behind him with Blue bringing up the rear.
It'd better take two nights, Shadow thought. If it's any longer they'll get suspicious and the entire plan will be shot to hell!
Shadow balled his fists at his sides as he led the way up the trail. Light blue eyes narrowed in the darkness, the gaze on their guide's back.
Blue kicked some rocks down the mountain side, rubbing his eyes and growling irritably. They had been walking for about three hours and all of them (even Shadow) thought Red would be the first to complain. To everyone's shock however, Blue was the first to give in. Shadow didn't stop climbing. The four Links were on a narrow edge that they had to sidle across. By that time Blue had started to complain verbally, but Shadow still didn't stop moving.
It took another hour for Red to begin breaking down. Instead of appealing to Shadow directly, he appealed to Green who brought it up with the dark Link.
Shadow looked anxiously up at the sky before nodding once.
"Fine," he said, his voice tense, "But only for fifteen minutes,"
The four had managed to get to solid ground where they could set their packs down and take a breather. "I'm goin' to scope out ahead so you three stay here, got it?" He continued up the mountain when Blue yelled at him to stop.
"Why do we hafta listen to you?"
Shadow turned back to the three. "I don't think I have to explain myself to you," by the way Shadow finished his sentence it was obvious he was refraining from insulting Blue. If no monsters have attacked us for four hours, you'll be fine."
Leaving it at that Shadow continued on his way, this time undisturbed. He left Green to restrain Blue.
Shadow closed his eyes, focusing his powers again. As usual he felt the drain, but he was prepared this time. He had reasoned that the magic needed to create the mirror wouldn't drain him completely; he'd have plenty for the rest of the night.
He was greeted by the dull sight of the Dark World and by Vio. Huh. To be honest he hadn't thought that Vio would be awake. The purple Link was awake but not facing him.
"You really don't like to take orders from anyone, do you Vio?"
Vio turned to look at Shadow, surprise written on his face. "Shadow! What. . . .? Are you strong enough?"
Shadow cursed himself as well as Vio. He hated the fact that Vio cared and he hated himself for liking it. Shadow clenched his teeth.
"I'm fine. I'm takin' your posse' to the Mirror."
"Oh?" Vio looked to the side of Shadow's head. "There's a path through the mountains?"
Shadow nodded. "You don't remember 'cause you were unconscious." He was, of course, talking about the time when Vio had turned against his friends. Or at least when Shadow thought he had turned against his friends.
"Oh. That would explain it, huh?" Vio chuckled slightly but Shadow didn't share the same amusement at the memory of that time.
He did nod however. "I don't like Blue." He said simply, and this time Vio laughed.
"Hahahaha! Yeah, I know, but thank you for putting up with him."
Shadow grimaced. "I'd knock him out but then I'd probably have to carry him." He looked behind himself to see if there was something to sit on. The dark Link sat on a semi-flat boulder, rested his elbows on his knees, and propped his chin on his hands. "Nothin's happened on that side, right?" Vio nodded. "Good. I'd give you your own sword, but I don't think I could pass it through the mirror. Because it's supposed to be a sword that repels darkness it would react badly with the mirror and probably drain most of my powers. I mean, it might be possible to pass it to you but. . . ." Shadow huffed slightly, looking directly at Vio, "I don't really want to take the risk." His black eyes registered the disappointed look on Vio's face and he found himself apologizing to the purple Link. The disappointment faded as Vio smiled slightly in response but another look replaced itself on Vio's face. Shadow blinked once in confusion.
"Are you alright?"
The question startled both Vio and Shadow. He shouldn't be concerned about Vio; he should still hate Vio for Goddesses sake! But he couldn't anymore.
Shadow opened his mouth to try and fix his mistake, but realized that any attempt he made would only make it worse.
"Well, it's just that I'm getting a bit hungry. There's no food here, is there?"
"No; I don't really eat, and none of the monsters need to either." His black eyes narrowed. "They do it just for sport."
Vio shuddered and Shadow blinked once, then looked down at the rocky ground.
"Hey," he started, hesitating slightly. "It'll cost me a bit of energy . . . but I can try and bring some food through the mirror. I mean the food isn't exactly created to repel evil so it won't destroy the mirror or completely drain me." His eyes were closed as he spoke and only opened them when he was finished.
Vio looked surprised but the look faded as he smiled. "That'd be awesome, Shadow. Thanks."
"Hmph." The shadow turned his face away from Vio as he felt his cheeks beginning to heat up. Thank the Goddesses for the darkness that surrounded them.
"Yeah, yeah." Looking immensely uncomfortable, the shadow stood up and coughed into his fist. "I need to go back to the moron, the child, and Green. Not a lot of time before the sun rises."
Vio grinned and Shadow 'hmphed' again before standing up. "It'll be a few hours yet, but I'll be sure to bring food when I return." He turned his back to the mirror, letting his magic go.
"Thank you again, Shadow," Shadow heard Vio say.
Shadow raised a hand to acknowledge that he had heard. The dark Link lowered his hand the moment the mirror faded completely. He lowered his head, purple bangs falling into his eyes, and he bit his bottom lip hard. He stopped when he tasted the metallic taste of blood and licked his lips, swallowing the crimson liquid. The shadow clenched his fists, commanding his heart to stop beating so fast. He kicked a rock out of his way, watching as it plummeted down into darkness.
"Means nothin'!" He growled angrily. "Absolutely nothin'!"
He was just nervous. Nervous about the plan. Not nervous over Vio. Shadow took a deep breath to calm his nerves and continued down the narrow path that led back to Green, Red, and Blue.
The three had started a campfire and were all eating what looked to be some kind of dried meat. The red Link was the first to notice Shadow's return and he called out to him happily.
"Hey, welcome back, Shadow! Did you talk to Vio?"
Blue looked up next, eyes not leaving Shadow for an instant even when he had approached them and sat down between Green and Red. The blue-clad Link wasn't sure if it was just because of the fire light, but he spoke up anyway.
"So, uh, you blushing over there Shadow?''
The black-eyed Link twitched slightly but made no other movement. "Not only are you deaf, but you're blind too."
Still, Blue persisted. "Did your talk with Vio make you angry or something?"
A sudden feeling of relief spread through Shadow, and he grasped on to what Blue thought had happened.
"Yeah. You morons are hard to deal with y'know?" Shadow's face lost even more emotion, if that were possible, and looked to his right at Green.
"I need food to take back to Vio when mornin' comes around."
Blue opened his mouth to reject Shadow's request but Green threw a small pebble at him, causing him to close his mouth. Red looked at the dark Link with a smile on his face and reached down for his bag. He pulled out a bit more of the dried meat.
"Will this be enough?"
"Yeah, but put it back for now; we have to get movin'." The black-eyed Link rose and turned his back to the other three. "We've wasted far too much time."
This time they moved quickly; the fire was out in less than a minute. With their packs situated, the four continued their long trek deeper into the mountains.
Despite Shadow's worries that they were moving slowly, they actually made a great deal of progress. The sky gradually began to grow lighter as the sun began its ascent and Shadow stopped suddenly, running the back of his hand over his forehead and turning around to face the other three. His eyes locked onto Red's face.
"The food . . . please . . . Red." Green hid his smile from Shadow, pleased that he was beginning to mature at least a little bit. Green didn't let Shadow see his smile because he didn't think Shadow had matured enough to accept praise. . . . At least not from them.
Red shrugged his pack off and pulled out the dried meat, handing it to Shadow. "Tell Vio we say hi, okay, Shadow?"
The purple-haired Link nodded once before turning to look at Green. "I'll come back the same time I came last time so you guys should get some sleep, though it doesn't really matter to me 'cause I'll make y'all move no matter how tired you are."
He didn't even give them a chance to get a word in edge-wise before his body began to fade, slowly, until he had completely vanished.
Red and Green looked at each other and yawned simultaneously.
"Well," Green said, taking his role as the group leader back again, "let's stop here and try to get some sleep."
"Yeah." Red agreed, his voice weary and slow. "Shadow barely let us rest."
They looked at Blue who had remained silent and noticed he was staring at the place Shadow had been mere seconds before. "I hate the fact we have to rely on that bastard so much. We don't know if he'll keep his promise not to hurt Vio! What if Vio's under his control again?"
Green placed a hand on Blue's shoulder to try and calm him down. "If he can't be trusted we'll figure it out soon enough, Blue. Just cool down and relax. Don't waste your strength trying to decipher Shadow's intentions." He gave Blue's shoulder a squeeze before moving to help Red set up a small camp. Blue inhaled deeply and followed suit, forcing his worries about Vio and over Shadow's intentions to the back of his mind.
The shadow's body jerked as his consciousness returned to it. He knew without even opening his eyes that he had been successful in bringing the food over. Groaning slightly, Shadow pushed himself into a sitting position, hissing in pain as his jaw began to throb. He spat out a curse that was slightly slurred and rubbed his jaw. The dark Link finally stood up completely and directed his attention to Vio who was laying a bit to his left, curled up on his side.
Shadow walked until he was standing over Vio, and he knelt down, looking at the purple Links' sleeping face. His black eyes narrowed slightly and he reached out, resting his hand on Vio's cheek gently.
"I hate you," he said softly, his voice shaking as he slowly caressed Vio's cheek. "I hate you for what you do to me, for what you make me feel, for tauntin' me with somethin' I can never have. I'm a shadow and nothin' more." He moved to gently trace Vio's lips and his voice dropped a bit more. "I hate you for makin' me love you."
Shadow clenched his teeth, paying no mind to his still smarting jaw and stood up quickly, needing a moment to himself before he faced Vio again. He removed his cap and placed it on the ground next to Vio, putting the food on top of it. Shadow stood, turned, and walked in the direction of the small cottage.
Purple eyes slowly opened when the shadow's footsteps had faded into silence. Vio sat up slowly and the first thing he did was touch his lips almost in disbelief. Shadow hated him?
More importantly . . . Shadow loved him?
Well that certainly was a surprise. It's not like he had tried to make Shadow develop feelings for him. The purple Link wracked his brain, trying to recall if he had ever said or done anything that would cause the shadow to think that way. Unable to come up with a reason Vio glanced down at the food that Shadow had so graciously provided. He sighed heavily, picking the meat up and taking a bite. It certainly was no feast, but to Vio it tasted like heaven. As he chewed he mulled over what Shadow had said.
"That's not good." Vio muttered, rubbing his temples. "This'll all end badly, won't it?" Vio sighed heavily and finished the small portion of meat with less enthusiasm. Vio supped his hands around his mouth, preparing to call for Shadow, but paused, wondering if it would attract any unwanted attention. He gave it about three seconds of thought before he made his choice.
"Shadow? You here?" The purple Link kept his gaze on the small cottage, even though he was prepared for the shadow to appear from anywhere.
Sure enough, she shadow's voice came from behind Vio, causing the strategist to jump in surprise.
"So you're up?"
"Such a rhetorical question," Vio said, turning to face Shadow and still trying to regain his breath. "If I were still sleeping I wouldn't be talking to you right now, would I?"
"Tch." Shadow folded his arms over his chest, his jaw twitching slightly. "I need to talk to you."
Vio couldn't suppress the sudden jolt his heart gave at those words, and he actually had to focus to keep his face neutral.
"What's up?" He asked, pleased that his voice was completely steady even though his heart wasn't.
"I'm takin' your friends through the mountains 'cause there's a shortcut to the Mirror of Darkness."
Vio nodded, relieved that Shadow wasn't talking about what Vio had thought he was going to talk about. In fact, he recalled that Shadow had mentioned this to him before. Maybe Shadow had just forgotten. . . .? Or maybe Shadow had had lost his courage and hadn't said what he really wanted to say. Vio's heart started up again at the thought and he had to struggle yet again to stay neutral.
"That's fine. You don't really need my approval for that, do you? I mean, you know more about what you're doing and where you're going than I do."
The purple Link looked at the shadow as he rubbed the back of his neck, looking a bit indecisive for a split second.
"Yeah. I'll bring some more food back tomorrow, alright?"
Vio nodded again and looked a bit closer at Shadow, noting that his face was a tad drawn.
"Hey Shadow," the dark Link snapped to attention and looked at Vio in question. "You should rest a bit before night falls; you look beat."
I feel beat. Shadow mused. Out loud, however, he agreed. "Yeah. I need as much power as I can get if I want to continue leadin' those friends of yours. Red and Green aren't that bad, but Blue. . . ." The shadow trailed off as he growled in distaste.
Vio laughed, nodding twice. "I know he's a bit annoying, but thank you again for helping, Shadow."
Shadow abruptly turned away from Vio and spoke in a voice that seemed a bit . . . off . . . to the purple Link.
"Yeah, well, I got nothin' better to do, and I don't want to spend the rest of my life takin' orders." He started away from Vio. "'M gonna go get some rest for tonight. See ya."
With that said, Shadow left Vio alone to muse over the entire situation.
When Shadow was out of sight (which didn't take long at all considering how well he blended in with the Dark World) Vio sighed, rubbing his temples and sinking back to the ground, feeling drained even though he had just woken up.
"This. . . . Where is all of this going? None of this makes any sense!"
"Aren't we supposed to be looking or a damned palace in the sky?"
Green sighed and took it upon himself to place a hand on Blue's shoulder. Light blue eyes met dark blue and Blue huffed in annoyance.
"He's just trying to lead us into a trap and you know it, Green! Red might not be able to see it cause he's too trusting, but you at least should realize it!"
The green Link looked away from his hot-headed friend and instead looked at their guide. The moon was able to illuminate a few feet inside the cave. It looked like any other cave in this land which led to the question of why? Why did Shadow bring them here? Was he really going to betray them to Ganon? Had Vio been mistaken?
Shadow finally turned to the other three, the moonlight reflecting in dark eyes that were unreadable. He just looked at Green, Red, and Blue as if he were appraising them. Blue's hand had been on the hilt of the Four Sword and at Shadow's persisting silence, he began to unsheathe the blade. Finally the shadow began to speak, his voice low and clear in the cave.
"On the subject of me leading you three into Lord Ganon's clutches so that he can brutally murder you while I return to the Dark World to finish Vio off so that darkness can cover the world-" Shadow couldn't stop the smug smirk that resulted after seeing the shocked faces of his temporary companions. It was obvious - painfully so - that those exact thoughts had gone through their minds. Undaunted, Shadow resumed his explanation. "On that subject my friends-" Blue snarled "-you happen to be incorrect. True, I am not leading you directly to the Mirror of Darkness, but then again that would be suicide with your current power." The shadow was - as much as he hated to admit it - pleased that Green had not contradicted him, but merely nodded. Red looked like he was about to mimic Green, but the frustrated look on Blue's face must have stopped him.
In fact he seemed mere seconds away from trying to strangle the shadow. His hands even made clenching motions as they were slowly raised to simulate the action that Blue would like to be performing.
Shadow continued. "Without Vio you cannot defeat Vaati, and remember that he can't fight from within the Dark World, not to mention he has no weapons. If you can't defeat Vaati, then there's no way in hell you can defeat Lord Ganon. As for the reason I've brought you here, I just thought you'd like a boost to your strength."
Deep blue eyes narrowed at Shadow. "Does Vio know about this?"
There it was. A small hesitation that didn't even last for one second but was long enough for Blue to catch.
"Of course." The indifferent mask had returned but the damage had already been wrought. Shadow let no other emotion through, but turned so his back was to the three Links.
Light blue and red eyes turned to Blue as the challenge was spoken. The innocent Link glanced over to Shadow to see what the response would be.
"I can't call the mirror, moron," Shadow's smirk returned as he spoke. "The moon might not hurt me as much as the sun does, but it does drain me."
Blue advanced slowly, his hands clenching and unclenching. "I don't give a damn if it hurts you. Call Vio!"
Shadow hadn't meant to take a step back, but he had and that was all Blue needed. The fiery boy lunged towards the shadow, shoving him back against the rocky wall. Shadow hissed, one eye closing as he attempted to shove Blue away from him. The impact had hurt but Shadow was certain there'd be nothing but bruises when he returned to the Dark World. It wasn't that he was scared of Blue, but his powers were already diminishing and he hadn't wanted to risk a fight. All the air left his lungs when Blue punched him in the stomach and he'd never been more grateful to another person when Green finally managed to haul Blue off of him.
Green had his arms hooked under Blue's armpits in the same hold Shadow had been in not a day before. Shadow made out that Red was kneeling in front of him, worry creasing his forehead.
Damnit! The punch shouldn't have hurt that much, but because of his waning powers, Shadow was easier to injure. The shadow grunted slightly and swatted Red's inquiring hands away irritably. The red Link didn't even look injured when Shadow had shoved him away, but instead looked a bit concerned. Shadow's black eyes were latched onto Blue as he struggled against Green's hold.
All at once the angry gaze shifted to the side, showing that Blue would be glowering at the leader if he could. Shadow began to speak once more, his voice steady.
"Before I even consider assistin' you any further I want your word - no - I want you to swear upon the Goddesses that the child won't assault me again."
Blue ceased his struggling, waiting for Green's answer. The dark Link had slowly risen so he could better see. Red looked between Shadow and Green from his crouched position, his optimism momentarily drained. Green bit his bottom lip, his light blue eyes holding emotions that his face did not express.
"I swear on the three Goddesses Din, Nayru, and Farore that none of us will harm you."
Green finished, but Shadow spoke again. "Add that none of you - Red, Blue, or even Vio - will force me out into the sunlight. If I need to - not that I can think of any way that would require it - I'll go on my own."
The snarl that resulted from the request was obviously Blue's but Shadow nor Green paid it any mind. Red was the only one who looked at the hot-headed Link.
Maybe we should start calling him 'sparky'? Red silently clapped his hands over his mouth to cover his giggle at the thought.
Shadow watched Green's illuminated face, paying close attention to the other's eyes.
"I swear on the Goddesses Din, Nayru, and Farore that none of my companions, myself included, will force you out into the sunlight. You will go out during the day by your own volition."
The shadow finally seemed satisfied and he inclined his head. "Thanks ever so much." The voice was full of thinly veiled sarcasm.
"Now before a certain blue-clad moron wastes anymore of the night we should get movin'."
Shadow turned away from the other three, walking further into the cave. His voice made its way to three pairs of ears, and it had a weary ring to it. "We've got a lot to do, a long way to go, and not a lot of time left."
Green heaved a sigh and motioned briefly for Red and Blue to follow. Optimism returned to the red-clad Link, and he jumped up with renewed energy, dashing after Green. Blue growled, his hand gripping the hilt of the Four Sword tightly until his knuckles began to turn pale. Scoffing at the stupidity of it all, Blue trotted after the other three.
The cave eventually began to narrow as it became a tunnel. Shadow and Blue had both been silent since Green had spoken the oath to the Goddesses. Red had occasionally tried to start up a conversation, but Green always gave him a look that silenced him. This silence, which was by no means comfortable, was broken by a sudden light up ahead.
Green, Red, and Blue all shielded their eyes from the sudden onslaught of light, but Shadow forced his eyes to adjust quickly. The quartet emerged from the tunnel and Shadow looked around the large room, assessing it. Examining it.
Right up ahead were stone steps that led up to four pedestals that held nothing. A small triforce design was on the front of each pedestal. Each one of the four triforces was a different color: Green. Red. Blue. Purple. The walls of the room were a dark gray stained even darker by blood in some places. Candles were suspended on the walls, illuminating the room and casting flickering shadows. A tapestry was suspended on the wall behind the empty pedestals. This tapestry was the one thing in the room that provided color other than the four triforces, the gray walls, and the blood on said walls. The image on the tapestry was that of seven figures, three female and the other four male. The top of the tapestry was a mix of light blue and white; the sky. A golden light surrounded the females as they hovered near the top.
The female on the right had dark green hair that was pulled up into two pigtails on her head. Her eyes were the same dark green and she seemed to be clothed in a flowing emerald gown, brown dotting up the sides and front. Her face was set and stern, showing she would be willing to do anything it took. It spoke of a few emotions, but courage stood out among all of them.
The female in the middle had long red hair that flowed out behind her as if being blown by a gentle wind. A few strands had fluttered across a fair face with fierce dark red eyes that spoke of power. She, too, wore a flowing gown, though hers was red, and the bottom appeared to be burned away.
The final female had blue hair that would remind one of a lake or sea. Her hair was held up, pressed to the sides of her head against her ears. Her bangs fell mostly over her eyes which were a deep blue that managed to convey vast knowledge and wisdom. Like the other two, she was wearing a flowing gown, but hers was a roayl blue. Unlike the first, which hugged the body of the woman, and unlike the second, which went straight down, only separating from the woman at the bottom, this one was different: All the way down the gown were different shades of blue and it gave the four Links (yes, even Shadow) a sense of tranquility.
Below the three women were four males, and it didn't take much thinking to figure out who they were. They were lined up, their faces unable to be seen. Not that it mattered; the coloring of the tunics gave it all away. The boy on the far left was wearing a green tunic, and although you couldn't see his face, it was easy to tell his head was held up high. The boy to the right of the one clad in green was wearing a bright red. To the right yet again was the third boy, this time clothed in blue. The final boy, the one on the far right, was garbed in purple. All four of the boys held the same position with their heads held high, and their right arm extending upwards toward the sky and the Goddesses. Predictably, each extended hand was holding a sword. The Four Sword. A golden light surrounded the four boys and at the very edges of the tapestry one could see a few - just a few - black spots that most likely symbolized the end of darkness and the beginning of light.
"Is that . . . us?"
The long silence had been shattered by Red's soft voice. The chamber rang with the quiet voice, making it sound like fanfare instead of a simple question.
"It's obvious, isn't it?" Blue replied. Even his voice was soft, as if he didn't want to break the spell everyone seemed to be under. Instinctively, Blue and Red looked at Green, hoping he at least would know what the tapestry meant. Their hopes were crushed however when Green looked just as lost as they did.
"Legend says that someday Vaati, along with Lord Ganon will be released from their imprisonment within the Dark World. It continues on to say that a hero would take up the sacred Four Sword and challenge the two beasts. The legend is saying that this feat can be accomplished with just the Four Sword alone." Shadow spoke softly, his tone almost the exact opposite of his normal, taunting 'I'm-better-than-you' tone. "That's the basic legend, anyway. Heh. How foolish." The shadow broke away from the small group and slowly walked up the stone steps, his black eyes focused on the large tapestry. He stopped about a foot away from the impressive piece of art and looked at it closely.
Shadow grunted in satisfaction, turning finally to the other three. "Upon closer inspection you can see some writin' around the edge of this thing."
"What does it say, O Wise One?" Blue asked, sarcasm oozing from his voice.
"Well, sparky," Shadow began, his voice calm as if he were speaking to an unruly child. "If you would actually let me talk, then you wouldn't be so confused."
Shadow looked on in mild amusement as Red began to giggle at Blue's new nickname. He didn't wait for Blue's response before he resumed speaking.
"This legend is so much better. More realistic, I think. This legend is basically the same, but tells of the four heroes obtainin' a great power that helps them both to grow and prepare for battle. This power is a gift from the Goddesses and is obtainable in this room." The shadow's eyebrows furrowed and he opened his mouth to speak again. "But obviously they are no longer here. They must have been moved before we got here."
"Then. . . ." Shadow turned his eyes to Green. "Then how are we supposed to get this power? Are they actually in this room?"
Shadow scratched his cheek for a moment, his eyes eyes narrowed. "I honestly don't know. It is true that this is the only room . . . but. . . ."
"Maybe there are other rooms but they're just invisible?" Green, Blue, and Shadow all looked at Red in surprise.
The thought that there were other rooms, just invisible, hadn't even crossed the minds of the other three.
Green looked beyond Red so he could see Blue, then forward to look at Shadow. The shocked look Green was sure he wore was mirrored on the faces of Shadow and Blue.
"That is . . . possible," Shadow admitted, his head turned away from the others.
"Even if it is, how the hell do we go about finding these hidden rooms?" It seemed that Blue was not happy to have been showed up by Red of all people.
"Should we just feel around the walls?" Green asked, looking around the room himself.
The dark Link began his descent down the stone steps. "That does appear to be the only method." He suddenly jerked his head to the three in front of him. "Keep the Four Sword out. It may not be completely restored, but for this it should be enough."
The sound of blades being unsheathed.
"We are looking for the triforce pieces in other rooms." Shadow explained. "The green, blue, red, and purple ones. That is the goal for this." Shadow's eyes turned sharp. "Oh yes, word to the wise: only touch your own triforce. Green, if you somehow do find another room and a triforce, only touch it if it's green!"
"And if it's not your own color?"
Of course Blue had to have a say. Personally Shadow thought the answer was obvious.
"Common sense, sparky, it's a Goddess send. If it isn't your color then just retrace your steps until you're back here, then try another room." With that said, Shadow headed towards one of the walls, running his hands over the rough stone. The blood on the walls was still fresh.
Don't ask, don't ask, don't ask. . . .
"What about the purple triforce then?" Shadow moved his left hand to the side a few inches and felt it literally go through the stones. Keeping his hand there he turned his head to look over his shoulder at the blue-clad hero. Shadow saw Red and Geen on the opposite side of the room, their hands on the wall, but looking at him and Blue.
The shadow tipped a smirk in Blue's direction before walking into the wall where his hand had been. He heard Blue calling after him angrily but he paid him no mind, just continued to walk down what was a pretty narrow corridor.
Shadow could feel the darkness and knew there just might be a fight up ahead. Small yellow lights were peering down at the shadow but the Keese didn't swoop down upon him. Apparently even they knew when attack was a moot point. His hand around the hilt of his own blade tightened. Shadow bit the inside of his cheek.
Although the exposure was minimal, Shadow could tell his strength was waning. There might or might not be a fight. It all depended on if his plan was working.
The corridor was long and dark, making it a difficult trek even for the shadow. He had no warning whatsoever when the area around him suddenly lit up.
"Agh! Damnit!" Shadow hissed, covering his eyes and waiting for them to adjust to the blinding glare. It took about ten seconds, but to Shadow it felt longer. For each second that passed he expected to be ambushed. When his sight returned to him, Shadow first looked up at the ceiling, then down at his feet.
Just as he thought. A circular shadow encircled his boots, letting Shadow know exactly what lurked above him.
"Seems the plan is workin'. Ten seconds is plenty of time for a Wallmaster to attack me."
He took a few steps forward, finally looking at the room fully.
It was small and at the very back was a small wooden chest. Shadow advanced confidently, noticing that as he got closer more monsters appeared. Even Shadow didn't know how they got there. It was almost as if they had been wearing something that made them invisible, and as Shadow approached it was thrown off, allowing them to be seen.
First was another Wallmaster, then a Re-dead, then finally two Stalfos. They were all just looking at the shadow, watching as he advanced towards the chest. The two Stalfos were standing in front of the chest, obviously guarding it to prevent anyone from getting too close. The skeletal warriors' posture was lax and the dark Link was able to approach the chest easily. The Stalfos even stepped to the side to allow Shadow easier passage. The clicking of bones was the only sound in the near-silent room. Shadow took a deep breath, steeling himself, then reached down to unhook the golden latch on the front of the chest. He pushed the top of the chest back to reveal an object that glinted slightly in the dim light.
The object was a small purple triangle that Shadow knew instantly as one of the four triforces that were hidden. Shadow reached inside the chest, grabbed the triforce piece, and held it in front of him, looking at it. The triforce piece was small, easily fitting in the palm of his hand.
"Hmm. This will drain my powers a bit more than I'd like but I have to. I have to if I want to stay with the plan."
So he weighed his options like he usually did. The good versus the bad; the pros and the cons.
The bad: his power would take a hit, he'd run the risk of being found out, his power would remain low for a long time, and he might royally screw up everything.
The good: the plan would stay on track, and if the drain was too much, daybreak would be soon enough so that he could return to the Dark World without suspicion.
The drawbacks certainly were greater in number and had pretty bad consequences, but Shadow knew - had known - what he would pick in the first place.
A blackish fog formed around the small triforce, covering it, and gradually vanishing. While the fog was now gone, the triforce piece had turned pitch black. Shadow growled, his black eyes narrowing in anger and seemingly ever-apparent frustration.
"Come on, damnit!" he snarled, entire body tensing.
The black color of the triforce piece began to fade from the top, revealing the deep purple from before. It took about tree seconds before the original color returned completely.
The dark Link was suddenly bent double, his left hand graspoing the edge of the chest. He would have liked to brace himself against the wall but he felt that he would collapse if he tried to take so much as a single step. Why was he underestimating the drain on his powers lately? That was a question to which Shadow didn't know the answer. A few seconds passed and Shadow finally managed to catch his breath. The dark Link pushed himself away from the chest and took an experimental step backwards.
A bit wobbly but bearable.
He looked down at his hand and examined the triforce piece, checking to make sure the color was still purple, which it was. Shadow closed his hand again and turned around completely to face the entrance of the small room. Despite the sudden weakness he felt, Shadow moved briskly back the way he had come. Curiously, he looked down at his feet, noticing that the circular shadow was gone. Good. While both Shadow and the Wallmasters were creatures of darkness, the sight of those rotting hands gave even Shadow the chills.
"At least I was given a personality."
With that thought to accompany him the shadow retraced his steps back to the main chamber.
"I'll probably be the first one back," he murmured as he walked through the trick wall, shivering slightly at the odd feeling.
Sure enough the main chamber was devoid of all life save the shadow himself.
"I know the sun will rise son, but I have no idea when. . . ." Shadow walked to the entrance of the long tunnel and focused, trying to see if he could detect any glimmer of light. No such luck. He turned again so he was facing the large tapestry.
"Nothin' left to do other than wait for them to get back."
The shadow leaned back against the uneven wall, sinking down and pulling his knees to his chest, prepared for a long wait.
Shadow didn't really know how long he had been sleeping (he certainly hadn't meant to doze off) before he heard a voice calling his name through the black fog that accompanied a dreamless sleep.
"Shadow! Hey, Shadow wake up!"
The voice was soon coupled with shaking and the dark Link jolted awake, his hand fumbling for the hilt of the Four Sword. He had to blink a few times before two figures came into focus. Hazy colors registered in Shadow's min: blue and red.
Where is Green? The shadow thought curiously, rubbing his eyes to rid them of sleep. His head turned to the side, trying to locate the missing hero, but was unable to find him.
"Took you long enough!" Blue growled, placing a hand on his hip in an almost feminine way. "Red and I n-" he halted, looking to be having an internal struggle. Blue heaved a sigh and turned to face Red, tapping his food impatiently.
The innocent blonde blinked a few times and cocked his head twice before finally realizing what Blue wanted. "Oh!" He grinned at Shadow who was still slumped against the wall. "Right! We can't find Green!"
Shadow stood up slowly, using the wall as support and hoping that neither Red nor Blue noticed his weakness.
"Did you, by any chance, look down the path that he took?"
Blue turned icy blue eyes to Shadow and grunted irritably. "What do you think, you moron?"
Shadow's eyes narrowed dangerously at the insult. "Well I apologize that I can't see what's goin' on in my sleep, sparky."
Red swallowed inaudibly, looking back and forth between Shadow and Blue. This was what he'd been afraid of: Shadow and Blue fighting over nothing, wanting to settle a score that existed between them and them alone, though Red had no idea what the score could be. He was frightened even though he smiled, and knew he had to try and be a peacemaker between the two aggressive Links.
"Hey, come on you two!" he tried, his voice higher and a bit shakier than he'd have liked. "We need to find Green . . . a-and we c-can't do that if we j-just stand here fighting!"
Blue closed his mouth on the insult he had been about to let fly but still glowered at Shadow. Said Link turned away from Blue all together and instead looked at the giant tapestry.
His strength was nearly gone by this point and that was probably the reason why he had fallen asleep in the first place. His short nap had done little to restore his energy and even less to alleviate the dull throb behind his eyes. But he would not appear weak in front of Blue of all people, so Shadow just gritted his teeth and started walking towards the large piece of art. He moved slowly, lest his fatigue show.
"So he wasn't down any of the passages, right?" Shadow asked, trying to keep his voice as cold and uncaring as possible.
"That's what I told you, you mor-"
Red covered Blue's mouth with his hand, head turned in Shadow's direction, completely missing the blush that covered Blue's face.
"Yeah. We checked all the passages and he wasn't in any of them."
Momentary panic overrode Shadow's fatigue. They had inspected all the secret passages? What if the monsters that had been down his path had still been there? Blue at the very least would be suspicious about it. When Red didn't say anything else about the passages however, Shadow relaxed.
"We don't know what to do!" Red said, tears already shimmering in his eyes.
"Okay, okay, calm down and we'll find him. I might have an idea as to where our esteemed leader is, but I'm afraid that I shall require some assistance. You and blue will have to do the work while I tell you where to go. That sound good?"
"It does not sound good!" Blue's yell was muffled due to Red's hand still covering his mouth.
Shadow looked at the blue-clad Link calmly, not wanting to waste what remained of his precious energy. A few more minutes now, and he'd have to concentrate just on holding this form.
"I have my reasons," he stated, speaking evenly, "My power is almost gone due to it bein' sunrise by now most likely. I'll have to work on simply holdin' this form in a few minutes and any strain on this body at this point will merely cause it to deteriorate faster. I can make a very educated guess as to where Green is, so if you want to find him I'd shut the hell up, listen to me, and do as I say!" He hadn't meant to lose his temper, but talking to Blue usually resulted in a loss of cool. Shadow rubbed his temples and looked back at the tapestry before speaking again.
"I'm guessin' that Green is behind this tapestry. I don't really know how he got behind it but I can feel the presence of some monsters back there. I don't know how I didn't notice it before but it's certainly there now. However, since I'm so weak at the moment, you and blue will have to either pull the tapestry back or destroy it."
The dark Link turned back to Red and Blue upon hearing a gasp of mixed horror and disbelief. He cocked an eyebrow.
"We-we can't just tear the tapestry down!" Red stammered, red eyes frantic as they darted from Blue, to the tapestry, to Shadow, then back to Blue. "I-I mean it's probably an important-"
"Look if you don't want to find Green then I'm okay with that!" Shadow snapped. He'd been holding Red in somewhat higher regard for the past day or so but his already shortened patience was gone. "I'd rather be in the Dark World regainin' my powers. Hell! I'd rather not be on this little suicide trip at all! So if you want to leave Green in there because of some stupid tapestry, be my guest and if that is the case, then I am outta here and you can figure out how to rescue him on your own! Got it?"
Shadow's voice had risen during his little tirade and now that it was over he felt even more exhausted. Red's hand fell from Blue's mouth finally and Shadow could not stop the near inaudible snort that came from him.
Goddess, but doesn't he look flustered, Shadow mused with amusement.
The blue-clad Link appeared to Shadow like he was thinking.
Well this day is just chock full of novelties, isn't it?
"C'mon, Red." Blue said, beginning to walk past Shadow. "Let's go see if Green really is down there. If there's a passage that is."
"B-But. . . ."
"Besides, he's weak right now so if he turns out to be lying-"
"Ya don't have to sound so hopeful 'bout it," Shadow groused under his breath.
"-then we'll just take him as a hostage and force him to tell us where Green is!"
Shadow heaved a sigh, knowing that he probably wouldn't get anything better than that from Blue.
"You do know that the longer we stand here doin' nothin', the more danger Green might be put in." he moved pointedly over to stand in front of the tapestry and cocked an eyebrow at the other two. "It's somethin' that hasn't been discovered. Ever. So destroyin' it wouldn't mean a huge loss in anythin'. Now let's go!"
Red and Blue looked at each other before finally moving to stand on either side of the tapestry.
The innocent Link looked quite the opposite but nodded his ascent anyway. The two Links reached out to grab the tapestry but pulled back as their hands met with solid stone. They looked at Shadow and saw the surprise they felt reflected on his face.
Without speaking a word, the dark Link walked forward and braced himself for the impact of running into the wall.
Said impact never came. He merely walked right through the wall. Shadow could not hide his smirk upon hearing Red and Blue's surprise, and called for them.
"In here! The wall is fake!"
He stepped back to lean against the wall so he wouldn't be run into when Red and Blue came into the secret passage.
"The monsters are all the way at the end of the tunnel. I'll walk behind you so you can have the element of surprise."
Shadow left no room for argument. Blue grumbled under his breath and took the front position down the passage with Red close behind him. Shadow took up the rear, trying his hardest not to fall flat on his face. The strain on his body was getting stronger and he fought the urge to kneel and regain his breath which was coming out in gasps now. The longer the three of them walked, the more Shadow used the wall as support.
This . . . is-isn't goin' too well. . . . He thought wearily.
They walked on in almost complete silence which made it all the more difficult for Shadow to conceal his trouble breathing.
"Heeeeey!" Red groaned, causing the other two to jump slightly. "How long is this tunnel anyway? Blue?"
"How the hell should I know?" Blue snapped. He obviously did not really like this mini-detour they had embarked on. "Ask Shadow, not me! I'll bet he's hiding something!"
Ah, damn it. Shadow thought wearily. I don't need him lookin' back here and seein' how weak I am!
"Fine! Maybe he does know!" The red Link looked back at Shadow and frowned slightly.
Why is he moving so slowly? Red wondered, forgetting his question for a second.
Shadow glared back at him and that caused Red to clam up completely. "I shouldn't think this is much longer. Just shut up and keep walkin'. I'd draw your blades, though. Never know what's ahead."
Red and Blue both drew their swords without saying a word and Shadow nodded, not commenting on Blue's lack of talking. The only thing Shadow was concerned over was keeping his small pants and gasps for breath inaudible.
There, he admitted it! It hurt! When he blinked he just wanted to keep his eyes shut. He wanted to find Green and verbally abuse him; this whole little escapade was all his fault anyway!
The trio continued walking for only two more minutes, though to Shadow it felt like two hours. His energy had never been depleted this much before, and his thoughts turned anxiously to his real body and to Vio. Was Vio watching his body as it physically showed the pain he was feeling? Was Vio looking down at him with that goddamned pity? The thought of that pitying gaze being pinned on him caused Shadow to clench his hands in anger. The emotion strengthened him.
the room where Shadow, Red, and Blue emerged into was packed. And not just with ancient artifacts and works of art, but also with monsters. The room was large, about three-fourths the size of the main room, and was dotted with hanging lanterns. Shadows danced along the walls, flickering and swaying along with the lanterns. The lighting was dim but it was still possible to see dark red splattered on the rocky walls. On the opposite side of the room, Green was against the wall, arms spread out to the side and his feet not even touching the ground. His head was bowed, leading the rescue team to believe that he was unconscious. Near his hands were two large, ugly, Skulltulas, their bodies turning in continuous circles.
Standing in front of Green were two Stalfos, their bodies swaying slightly as if listening to a tune only they could hear. They were already gazing in the direction of Shadow, Red, and Blue. At the Stalfos' feet lay two more enemies. Two enemies that, Shadow thought, gave the enemy a huge advantage. A couple of snow white Wolfos were at the feet of the bony warriors. The left one's nose twitched and it sat quickly, the other following suit.
Red took a slow step backwards and Blue even followed suit.
"This sucks!" Blue hissed his body visibly tense.
"Well, sparky, things are 'bout to get worse. Look to your left . . . slowly."
The blue-clad Link did just that and Red mimicked him.
Both groaned softly.
To the far left of the room stood two Darknuts, ready and waiting for battle.
Red whimpered and tried to slink back against Shadow, but the dark Link wouldn't let himself be touched. An idea struck Shadow and he spoke quietly yet quickly.
"Blue, Red. Do either of you have any weapons other than the Four Sword?"
Blue remained motionless for a few seconds and then he spoke in the same tone of voice that Shadow had.
"Yeah. I got a hammer, and Red has the Flame Rod."
Damn, Shadow thought, vaguely disappointed, Though I'm not that surprised. I know that Vio has the bow cause I saw it on him while he was unconscious. The Darknuts're gonna be a problem. . . . They'll spot us if we try to go for any of the others and vice-versa. He registered distantly that Red was watching him intently and Blue was fidgeting anxiously. And I'm pretty much spe-
His train of thought halted as black suddenly descended upon him, causing him to stumble back against the stony wall. Shadow felt a hand on his shoulder and knew that it had to be Red. No way in hell Blue would voluntarily help him.
Damn, damn, damn! Goddesses, no! I'm not finished here!
Vio did not like watching Shadow struggle and he attempted to reason that no one would want to watch someone struggle like this. The purple Link guessed that the sun must be close to rising, but he couldn't be one hundred percent sure.
And that scared him more.
If it wasn't because of the approaching daylight, then could Shadow be injured?
Vio really didn't want to think about it like that. Of course Shadow would be fine. He had said that he couldn't really die unless the Dark Mirror was destroyed.
Either way he didn't want to continue watching Shadow's struggle. Vio was fairly certain that if Shadow had really needed him, he'd have conjured the mirror.
"Damn, damn, damn! Goddesses, no! I'm not finished here!"
Vio's purple eyes gravitated to Shadow's shaking body and he acted without thinking. The purple Link rested his hands on Shadow's chest and closed his eyes.
What in the name of Hyrule are you doing? What are you expecting to happen?
But something was happening. Vio didn't exactly know what it was but he felt himself growing weaker and weaker. His eyes opened and he looked down at the shadow's body in confused shock. Well this wasn't cliché or corny at all, was it?
"I guess some things in stories are real after all, aren't they? I'm not complaining, though. If this does help him, then that's goo-"
That was as far as Vio got before he felt his arms turn to jelly and he collapsed unceremoniously over Shadow's body, his consciousness fleeing him.
"Shadow! Shadow! Wake up! Are you alright?"
Awareness, along with Red's urgent voice, flooded back to Shadow gradually. Black eyes opened to the sight of Red hovering over him anxiously. Blue was behind the innocent Link keeping a look-out in case any of the monsters suddenly noticed them. Shadow didn't know exactly what had happened, but he felt strength surging into his body and mind, refreshing him. A few reasons flashed through his mind and he dismissed almost all of them in turn. It hadn't been a miracle; he didn't believe in miracles, he never had. It couldn't be nightfall either. One could easily lose track of time in a place like this, but Shadow could roughly tell when twelve hours had passed, so that thought was out as well.
Well . . . what about Vio?
And where had that thought come from?
Nah. No way it coulda been Vio. For one thing, how could he do anythin'? And why would he?
"Hey, hey, Shadow? Are you gonna die? Please don't die!"
Shadow was brought back out of his reverie when he heard Red give a sharp gasp of pain which was probably the result of Blue cuffing him upside the head.
"'M fine, 'm fine." Shadow didn't really like the fact that his voice sounded breathy and a bit weak. "Jus' a momentary lapse." His voice was already regaining its strength.
The dark Link noticed that he was slumped against the wall and he quickly stood up, hoping that his face wasn't flushed.
Well, I don't know why I'm still here, but I should come up with somethin' before this energy wears off as well.
"Red, I've an idea. . . ." Shadow spoke slowly, hoping that this would not come out as bad as he thought.
Blue moved a bit closer and Shadow wanted to laugh at the look of worry on the blue-clad Link's face, but that would just be stupid, wouldn't it? Because Shadow was sure that he was wearing the exact same look on his face.
"Red, I'll need to use that Flame Rod you have. I have some strength left but not nearly enough to take on a Darknut. Let alone two." Shadow was looking at where Green was suspended by the sticky webs as he spoke. "I'll use that and my Four Sword if I have to, to fend off those monsters while you and Blue take out those Darknuts."
He finally turned his dark gaze to Red and Blue, keeping his face emotionless. Shadow saw the hesitation on Red's face immediately and spoke quickly, forcefully.
"If we don't do somethin' now, then I won't have enough energy for anythin'! Green could very well be dyin' over there and you aren't willin' to put your life on the line to protect your friend?"
Shadow looked at Blue who had an undisguised look of shock in his eyes. Blue recovered and the shock was replaced by determination in an instant.
"Give him the Flame Rod, Red. We gotta do this." he did not even give Red a chance of giving Shadow the weapon, and instead snatched it from him. "Under no circumstances does this mean that I like you!" Blue hissed.
Shadow smirked, the feeling of normality returning to the trio. Red was scared, and Blue and Shadow were fighting again. All's perfect.
Shadow gripped the Flame Rod tightly, his heart deciding that now was a good time to betray him. He could feel it rising in his throat, threatening to choke him and he swallowed hard while taking a deep breath.
"Ready?" Shadow was greatly relieved that his voice was steady and commanding.
"Let's get Green outta here!" Blue said, his Four Sword drawn.
The countdown was silent but all three knew exactly when to charge. The two Darknuts grunted and moved to draw their massive swords. This cost them as both Red and Blue slashed at the monsters. Blue's strike was lucky and nicked one of the clasps that held the Darknut's body armor together. The creature grunted and staggered back slightly, but did not fall. Blue wondered absently if they would be easier to kill if the Four Sword was at full power. Blue chanced a look at Red and felt his heart sink slightly.
Red's strike had most likely been aimed at the weak point in the Darknut's armor, but the creature had been faster than the one Blue was fighting, and had managed to block Red's blow.
Bright red fire and heat struck Red and Blue and they both chanced a look at Shadow who was alternating between fireballs and shooting long jets of fire. It was the two Wolfos who had approached the shadow and while the fierce beasties were fast, Shadow seemed to be holding his own. He didn't seem to be harming the white Wolfos, but he was holding them off.
Blue turned his attention back to his own opponent and had to quickly duck as the large sword swung at his head. The blue-clad Link rolled to the side and kept the Four Sword at an angle, going for the clasp at the monsters' back. The strike was fast and the Darknut was slow. The clasp snapped and the body armor clattered to the floor. The Darknut grunted and Blue's little mental victory was interrupted when the monster swung its arms at him, knocking Blue to the floor. He grunted and grimaced, his arm wrapped around his aching stomach.
Well that had hurt.
But at least that annoying armor is gone! Now I can freely go slash-happy on this thing! The blue-clad Link would have spared a glance at Red and Shadow, but the Darknut's massive weapon had come flying at him again, forcing him to dodge to the side.
Despite his early blunder, Red was holding his own very nicely. He was terrified of the monster in front of him, but he knew that if he couldn't face this, then he couldn't face Vaati let alone Ganon.
The Darknut's massive weapon whistled by, so close to Red that he let out an involuntary squeak of pure fear.
I was just about sliced in half! he helped to himself.
His body reacted. Red went on autopilot. He would later tell Blue that it had been adrenaline, but all he could think right now was that he was going to die. Red kicked up from the ground, not aiming for the clasps on the body armor. The blade of Red's Four Sword caught under the Darknut's horned helmet and pulled it up. The armor flew off the creature's head and collided with the wall behind it. The black monster staggered and its beady eyes held a look of surprise.
they were big, scary, and strong, but they weren't the brightest.
Red regained his footing and his boyish face split into a triumphant grin. Unlike Blue, his joy was not interrupted with a hilt to the gut. The red Link back stepped a few paces and eyed the Darknut warily. An unfamiliar courage welled up inside him and a new confidence was right on its heels. The enemy was more vulnerable and Red was certain that he could finish the job this time.
With a cry that was purely spur of the moment, Red darted forward, aiming now for the Darknut's unprotected head.
The cry startled Shadow and his grip faltered on the Flame Rod slightly. The closer of the two Wolfos growled low in its throat and lunged at the shadow. It got a face full of fire.
"Sorry, bastards," Shadow snarled. "It's not easy to get the drop on me as it is for the two jokers back there."
The sound of steel clashing against heavy armor made Shadow yearn to use his own blade.
But I can't, Shadow thought dryly, 'Cause we're made from the Dark Mirror and I can't use darkness to destroy darkness.
The Wolfos he had burned in the face was whimpering and nuzzling the cold stone floor to try and ease the burning. Shadow wondered absently if Red was alright and he shook his head, telling himself that it didn't matter to him if Red fell.
Those two better hurry the hell up, Shadow thought, beginning to feel irritated. I can't hold these Wolfos forever. Not to mention I'm startin' to feel a bit weak again. . . .
The dark Link shook his head again and took a chance to blink rapidly a few times to try and organize his thoughts. The pause cost him.
Pain flared in his right thigh and he couldn't stop the sharp yell that passed his lips at the sudden feeling. Shadow could feel his leg shaking and much like Red, he found his body acting of its own accord. A sickening crack erupted as the business end of the Flame Rod descended upon the top of the Wolfos' head. It yowled in pain and dropped in front of Shadow, its crazed yellow eyes open but glazed over in death. His right leg felt wet and he shifted the Flame Rod to his left hand and felt his thigh with his right. Pain flared up his leg and his hand came away slick and red with blood.
Shadow looked at the remaining Wolfos and noticed that it was eyeing the fresh wound hungrily. The shadow could feel himself growing weaker and he took a deep breath, concentrating on shifting the wound to his real body. His real body would be of no use here. Best to try and keep this one in good shape.
Or in the best shape that he could manage.
Shadow watched as the crazed yellow eyes finally moved to meet his own.
"See, you stupid mutt?" Shadow growled. HIs patience, which had constantly been decreasing, had finally depleted. "No more blood. So now pay attention to me so that you can see who kills you." He paused. "then again, Lord Ganon probably didn't even give you the capacity to think. Pity."
The Wolfos snarled at Shadow, its hackles raised and its sharp teeth bared. Shadow pinned it with a black stare and both fell silent.
Only a few seconds passed before the white monster lunged at Shadow, and that was when he acted. Shadow thought that this Wolfos was the one who had gotten a face full of fire because the fur on its face had turned brown-black and patches were actually burned away.
Shadow swung the Flame Rod in front of him, sneering as the wolf lunged straight at the fire. The monster howled and Shadow thought for a split second that he had failed and the Wolfos was going to claw his face off. The Flame Rod was lowered and revealed the charred body of the Wolfos. The adrenaline slowly seeped out of his body and Shadow could feel his legs trembling. He touched his thigh again, feeling the now-sticky blood and wondered briefly if the wound was still there.
When he looked down he found that the wound was indeed gone. the feeling was faint, but he wondered it Red and Blue had defeated their respective opponents. Shadow ignored the trembling in his legs and approached Green who was stirring faintly. The two spiders on either side of Green began to spin frantically and the shadow raised the Flame Rod again. Just before he shot a ball of fire at the two ugly creatures, he remembered something important.
Green was held to the wall by the same webs that the two spiders were spinning on.
"Just great." Shadow groused, "I burn the spiders, I burn the webs, which'll burn Green. If I get too close, they'll just plain bite Green."
"Burn 'em. . . ."
The voice was quiet but Shadow heard it nonetheless. His black eyes focused on Green's hanging body and, sure enough, he was met with clear light blue eyes. Shadow swallowed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling before aiming carefully at the left spider and blasting it. Seconds later and the other fell to the ground, legs still twitching.
Shadow would have gone up to help Green (probably, anyway) but he could feel the room starting to spin around him. He felt lightheaded and he heard something clatter to the ground in the distance.
Weapon. . . . he thought weakly as his eyes started to flicker shut.
Time stopped for Shadow then, and he felt like he was floating through the air. It was peaceful and Shadow found himself calming and enjoying himself.
He was violently jarred back to reality, back to that large dim room with its stony and blood covered walls. His black eyes opened and fixed on the slightly hazy form of Green. Green's hands were clasped on Shadow's shoulders and he was shaking him.
"Shadow! Wake up!"
He saw fuzzy red and blue outlines and surmised that Red and Blue had indeed been successful in their fights.
Stalfos . . . must've . . . after Blue and . . . Red. . . .
He felt Green carefully lower him to the stony floor and he brought up a hand to get Green's attention.
"Can' stay. Go back t'main room 'nd wait til night." His black eyes narrowed on Green's face. "Stay together."
Those last two words were mostly clear and that was all Shadow was able to stay before his eyes rolled to the back of his head and his body went limp. Just like last time, Shadow's body began to grow transparent and within a minute his body had completely vanished, leaving the three Links to just look at each other.
Vio sighed and leaned back against the wall, looking over at the prone form of Shadow who was still unconscious and laying on a small bed. The strategist could still hardly believe that he had actually managed to drag Shadow into the small cottage, let alone get him on the bed. He closed his purple eyes and took a deep breath, opening his eyes as he exhaled. He didn't think that he should be this tired, but he assumed that it was due to giving the shadow some of his energy. that had been something he had never done before so the experience had been exhausting. Although it seemed to be a mental fatigue rather than a physical one.
He is far too reckless! One of these days he is going to push himself too far and I won't be able to help him! If he-
A loud 'thunk!' broke Vio away from his rambling thoughts and his eyes drifted over to Shadow who had flung his right arm over the side of the bed. His hand was open and when Vio looked at the floor he spotted a faint glimmer. The purple Link pushed himself up, walking over to Shadow's side and kneeling, picking the glimmering object up.
Said object was small, smooth, and triangular.
"Purple?" Vio tilted his head to the side slightly, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Why would Shadow have something like this on him?" As Vio stared at it, things slowly slipped into place. "I'm pretty sure that Shadow didn't have this with him earlier so he must have picked it up in that cave. The fact that it looks like a part of the triforce can't just be a coincidence so it's very likely that it's important. As for the color . . . the fact that it is purple is telling enough. This is supposed to be mine. So that means that he was watching this for me." A slow smile stole over Vio's face, glad that Shadow had acted for someone else rather than just himself. As the seconds passed, however, his grin and pleased feelings started to fade. The purple triangle in his hand slowly started to darken in color and it took the strategist just a few stunned seconds to realize that the triforce piece had turned completely black.
And it burned his hand.
Vio quickly dropped the triforce piece, oblivious to the loud 'thunk' it made when it collided with the wooden floor. He didn't stoop to pick it up either, but just stared at his burned hand. The pain was not horrendous, but it throbbed and he wished that he at least had some water so he could lessen the pain. No such luck in that area. He could, however, see what the extent of the damage was, and the results were . . . odd. The longer Vio stared at his hand, the clearer it became.
In the center of his palm was a black mark about an inch and a half big. The mark changed over seconds to form a triforce (a complete triforce) of pure black. His mouth opened but no words came out. In the back of his mind he vaguely wondered if it was shock over seeing the symbol of the Goddesses tainted with darkness. With a small jolt he realized that even the throbbing had ceased only to be replaced with an itching feeling.
"D'you always talk to y'self when you think no one's listenin'?"
Vio fell back onto his rear with a small yelp of surprise and looked up from the floor to see a smirking Shadow.
"Obviously. You were starin' at your hand like it turned into a Floormaster."
Vio extended his hand out to Shadow who blinked at it for a few seconds before his eyes widened ever so slightly. Purple eyes narrowed in response to black and he knelt, picking the triforce piece up and showing it to Shadow.
"You know what happened to my hand, don't you?"
Shadow took a deep breath and forced his eyes to meet Vio's.
"I really wish you hadn't found that, Vio."
Vio's heart sank. "What is it, Shadow?"
He was silent for so long that Vio thought that he wouldn't answer at all, so he was startled for the fourth time that night when Shadow leaped out of the bed and grasped Vio's shoulders. He spoke then in a frantic voice that Vio had never heard him use before.
"Listen to me, Vio. I have to go." His eyes then narrowed dangerously when he resumed speaking, "I know you don' like takin' orders but I highly recommend you heed me. Do not leave this cottage! No matter what."
"Shadow what the hell is going-"
The dark Link vanished. The weight on Vio's shoulders vanished as well.
"Shadow Link!" The voice ran through the hall and Shadow appeared before the large throne, already on one knee.
A large figure leaned forward slightly and the shadow's eyes immediately shot to the floor respectfully.
"Shadow Link! Why did it take you so long to return?"
"I was leadin' the four heroes astray." Any taunting note he had had in his voice was gone, leaving it flat and filled with respect.
"Yes. The Stalfos returned with a message of that sort after you obtained the fourth triforce piece. It said that you had turned the stone black but did not know your reasoning." Shadow wanted to open his mouth to speak but waited instead; he would be told when he would be allowed to speak. The voice continued on. "Of course the Stalfos doesn't have any brains to speak of and they do not need them. There are only two who have been given the privilege to be allowed to reason."
There was an expectant pause and Shadow knew his cue.
"And what a great power it is. I give you my greatest thanks." He spoke with respect although he knew he'd just be shot down.
"I do not care about your feelings on this. I want you to repay me by telling me what the Stalfos could not. Why did you turn that piece black?"
The answer came without hesitation.
"I turned it black with the power of a curse. If any of the heroes happen to touch it now, they would bear a burn in the triforce's shape. While the mark remains on the hand, I can draw power from them anytime I wish."
Shadow kept his gaze fixed upon the ground, not taking a chance in raising them.
"That is, I admit, a very clever trick. Your return was a little delayed so I guess that you were just in the Light World. Your posture is a bit slacking and that makes me think so even more." The voice paused. "Rest up, Shadow Link, and then continue to lead the heroes to the Sky Palace where Vaati will take care of the rest."
The dark Link stood then, raising his eyes to the massive shape in the chair and bowing.
"As you wish, Lord Ganon."
Shadow's form vanished from the hall, leaving the evil king alone once more in silence. It was a silence that was broken by a deep and wicked laugh that seemed to ring throughout the empty hall.