CW/ Ableist language.
The lean, blond teen stepped into the room. The door slammed shut behind him, bars emphasizing the impossibility of turning back. His sword gleamed in front of him as he looked around, expecting four walls and a ceiling. Instead, he saw a gray mist that seemed to extend for miles. He took a step, splashing into the few inches of water covering the floor.
This couldn’t be inside the temple … could it? There was an island here, for Farore’s sake! Another door stood beyond the island. He ran to it, but could see no way of raising the bars across it to let himself through.
“Look!” A small, irritating voice cried. Navi, the boy’s companion fairy, turned yellow and flew back toward the island.
Cautious, the boy—Link—followed. As he approached, a shadowy figure stepped forward from the tree.
This featureless figure appeared to hold the same sword and wear the same clothes as Link. It was hard to say for certain, because it was a shadow. From its head to its toes, it was a translucent silvery-gray. A dark image of Link.
“Watch out!” Navi hovered above them, out of harm’s way.
“Haah!” Link leaped at his shadow and slashed with the sword. As he did, Dark Link mirrored his moves. Their swords clanked as steel met steel.
Link tried again and again, but Dark Link seemed to read his mind, matching move for move. Link stabbed his sword straight as his foe, who leaped onto it. Dark Link laughed and jumped off.
“I don’t want to fight you, man.” Dark Link sheathed his sword and held out his hands.
Link did a double take as his sword drooped. He had to fight Dark Link. It was the only way he could continue through the temple. If he didn’t get the water medallion and awaken the sage . . . He raised his sword again.
“Seriously? You want to be a part of all this negativity? I’ve done nothing to you.”
Link’s sword drooped again before he gestured with it to the barred door.
Dark Link shook his head. “I have no power over the door. You’d have to kill me.”
Link charged at Dark Link again, and Dark Link pulled his sword and matched Link’s movement. Swords clanked. Link attacked again and landed a hit.
Dark Link disappeared into the floor. Link barely had enough time to ponder where his foe had gone when something stabbed him in the back. He lurched forward, stumbling to maintain his feet. He turned.
“Have you had enough, yet? I don’t want to hurt you.” Dark Link stood with his sword resting on his shoulder.
What choice did he have? The fate of Hyrule depended on his success, which wouldn’t come if he was stuck in this temple.
“You think the entire kingdom will fall if you don’t kill one bad guy?”
Link tilted his head. Had Dark Link known Ganondorf, he’d know Link was facing more than ‘one bad guy’. He couldn’t leave everyone else defenseless against this great darkness. He charged at Dark Link again.
Dark Link evaded the attack then dropped his sword with a splash. Link gaped at him.
“I know you think fighting is the only way, but I promise it’s not.”
Link scrunched his face. How could this be?
“Hyrule may be suffering, but if you’re tired, it’s best for everyone that you rest. In the long term, you’ll help more that way.”
Link lifted his sword again, determined to fulfill his destiny. Saving Hyrule wasn’t only the right thing to do. It was honorable, and brave. It was decidedly non-lazy. Let the Kokiri try to make fun of him after he saved the whole kingdom from Ganondorf.
Dark Link wouldn’t pick up his sword. Link charged at him and caught his arm with the Master Sword’s blade. Dark Link looked at his arm, then at Link.
Link stood, sword not quite at the ready. How honorable and brave was it to defeat an unarmed person? One who wasn’t defending himself, and as he had pointed out, had done nothing wrong. Link wondered how it would feel after saving Hyrule, knowing he had killed people who hadn’t deserved it. His stomach churned.
“Hey, Listen,” Navi said. She hovered down by Link’s head. “You need to conquer him so we can keep going. I promised the Great Deku Tree I’d guide you in your quest.”
Somehow, hearing it from Navi irritated Link. He knows what he needs to do. Who does Navi thinks she is, his mom? His mom was dead. So Navi could back off. He swatted at her.
“Do you mind giving me a hand?” Dark Link had torn off a swatch of his tunic and was trying to tie it around his bleeding arm. Cautious, Link sheathed his weapon and stepped forward to tie the makeshift bandage. He scurried backward, pulling his sword out once more.
As he stood, wary eyes on Dark Link, Link realized he had taken no time for himself. Earlier, he had misjudged a jump and landed on some spikes. He may have been imagining the throbbing in his leg, since the health potion he took afterward would have taken care of that. But he was tired and hungry. A nap wouldn’t hurt. He’d fight better if he were feeling refreshed …
“You know killing me will kill a part of yourself,” Dark Link said. “Are you ready to do that?”
Link rubbed the back of his neck. Shirk his responsibility as Hero of Time in favor of some R&R, possibly sacrificing Hyrule, or kill a man who wouldn’t defend himself? The choice should have been obvious, shouldn’t it?
“Take a moment,” Dark Link said. “If you don’t feel better, than I will fight you. And if you do feel better, whatever doubts you have won’t stop you from doing what you need to do.”
Dark Link whistled as he waited for Link’s decision. It was a bright, upbeat tune. It reminded Link of the forest. Of Saria.
They couldn’t live in the same world, that’s what she had said. His oldest friend. If he had known they’d never see each other again, he wouldn’t have taken their time together as children for granted. Dark Link was giving him one last chance to seize the moment and appreciate what he had. He didn’t have Saria anymore, but he was still strong and in good health. Things would only get worse from here.
Link dropped his sword. Dark Link clapped.
“Hey!” Navi said.
Link swatted her away and let Dark Link put an arm around his shoulders and led him around the tree.
“I know this doesn’t look like much, but it’s a great place to relax.”
“Listen!” Navi cried.
“Loosen up, fairy.” Dark Link threw her a peace sign. “May as well join us.”
Link sat with his back against the tree. Aches beyond his age made his joints throb. He hadn’t realized the torture he was putting himself through. He had never stopped long enough to think about it.
“Take a breath.” Dark Link sat next to him. “Liberating, isn’t it?”
Link inhaled deeply and his tension melted away. His eyes drooped, and he fell asleep with his head on Dark Link’s shoulder.