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“‘It should be fine’, he said. That wasn’t fine, Traveler, that was HELL.” Blue snarls stomping out of the cave ahead of the group. 

 

They're all a little roughed up, some singed in a few places due to… reasons. Only Wild, Wind and Red are happy about it. The rest of the company drifts out of the cave behind the hotheaded boy in various states of disgruntlement. It took them hours to get through the entire valley, and there were a few really close calls. Between the invisible enemies that only a few of them could see, the spear throwing enemies that were a cross between a Lizalfos and a Darknut, and the terrifying floating eyeballs they kept trying to close in on them, it's a wonder more of them were not hurt seriously. At least the enemies didn’t seem to be infected by black blood, which is a miracle.

 

“I wanna know why the great goddess couldn’t just drop us off in front of the damn palace instead of having us go through that shit,” Legend snarls, “That was highly unnecessary!”

 

“I don’t think she could, this area is surrounded by a barrier,” Hyrule says, “So she sent us to the nearest safe location to give us time to recuperate before making our way here.”

 

“That unfortunately makes sense,” Warriors sighs.

 

“Please tell me we don’t also have to go through a full temple,” Sky says, gasping a little for breath. 

 

The air in Hyrule’s time has always been the worst and Sky falters faster here. Twilight is at his side holding him up with Vio on the other side walking him through breathing exercises to try and minimize the adverse effects of the long trek on him. Indigo is walking on Vio’s other side with Eon piggybacking on him since he was able to hide them both in shadows so the rest of the group could fight without the distraction of having to protect the smaller shade.

 

“No, once I defeated my shadow all the enemies within the Great Palace vanished. I haven’t been back here since, though.”

 

“So it’s possible for there to be monsters inside?” Green asks, coming up beside the Traveler.

 

“Most likely not if there's a barrier and this place was built as a test,” Time says, taking Eon from Indigo.

 

“Yeah, I don’t sense any monsters nearby,” Indigo points out.

 

Hyrule pauses in front of the entrance to the Great Palace, looking up at its towering majesty. The white marble pillars streaked with shadowy cobalt loom high above him, surrounded by the rust red ragged mountain range that rings the area around the palace. He closes his eyes and shudders, remembering the terror that was his journey through this final trial. This place was somehow even worse than the Death Mountain dungeon. He struggled his way through it, fighting not only the swarms of enemies within the building but the swarms of doubt within his own mind. Legend lays a hand on his shoulder, startling him from his thoughts.

 

“There’s a time and place for memory lane, Hyrule. Come on, show us the way before the chaos trio decides to torch something else.”

 

Hyrule takes a deep breath and nods, glancing back to make sure the chain is ready to continue. They’ve all grown quiet, recognizing the seriousness of the situation. They don’t really know what they will find inside beyond Hyrule’s Shadow. They don’t know if the Shadow will be hostile or not. Hyrule’s Shadow was a test for him, not afflicted by Ganon’s malicious control, but that doesn't mean that he couldn't be cruel or antagonistic. 

 

Hyrule leads them through the long, cold, dark corridors. The outside of the palace may have been a beautiful marble, but the inside was mostly slate gray stone. The air is still and there's a sense of foreboding lingering. There were a few sprung traps in their path, and the occasional physical hazard built into the castle's foundation. Their sturdy Traveler guided them through the few dangers easily, showing them the correct passages and shafts and talking them through getting down to the lower levels. The deeper within the palace they traveled, the heavier the air seemed to become, and they slowly shifted their walking formation in preparation for anything. By the time they reach the final room, Indigo has wandered up to the front drawn by a subtle pull from within the chamber.

 

They all shuffle uneasily into the room, Hyrule leading the way with determined steps with Indigo dogging his heels like the shadow that he is. The room is full of opulent splendor, shining and shimmering. Yet, for all the gold and carvings and adornments, the room is cold and silent as the halls behind them had been. There is no warmth to be found here, though it is more brightly lit by torches than the rest of the palace had been. There is no company, only cruel unending loneliness. The old man that used to reside here is long gone, turned to dust once his task was complete. The blue curtains sway slightly and Hyrule puts out his hand, halting the procession as he stares around the room warily.

 

“He’s here…” He murmurs, eyes flitting around the various shadows, trying in vain to spot his counterpart. Indigo comes up beside him and nods. 

 

“Yeah, he’s watching us. I can barely feel his shadow magic, and I'm pretty sure that's intentional, it's too steady to be anything but.”

 

“Hello?” Hyrule calls out to the empty room. For a moment all they can hear is the echo of his call resounding off of the stone walls. Then, without any warning, the torches lining the walls go out. The room is thrown into sudden darkness, but before they can panic long, luminescent purple stones set in the columns begin to glow dimly. It is not much help, barely giving anything a visible outline, but in that dim lighting they can just barely see a figure perched daintily upon the balcony above them. Piercing red eyes gleaming brightly compared to the glow of the gems, and locked directly onto their traveler.

 

"I see you have returned once again, Link. Pray tell what brings you back to my abode? I had assumed that once you had collected the final piece of the Triforce I would be left here alone for eternity. Did you come to end my existence for good? You were remarkably petrified upon our first meeting, I am afraid I did not leave a good impression upon you, but you see I was simply doing the task I was assigned. You cannot fault me for that."

 

The voice is cold and pointed, the words graced with poise but lacking any and all emotion. As if he does not care what the outcome of this meeting will be. The red eyes trail across the gathered group, pausing on the two shades accompanying the chain. The eyes narrow slightly.

 

“What do we have here? Two beings of shadow following a chain of light? You have been busy I see. What strange task have you been assigned to lead you to keep such company? The gods never stop toying with the hero apparently, and we shadows are dragged along in the wake. Is that why you are here? Collecting your abandoned shadow?”

 

Hyrule frowns and steps forward a little, “I didn’t mean to leave you behind… I didn’t even know what you were. All I was told was that you were a final test, a reflection of the darker parts of myself. You did not speak to me…”

 

“I was not allowed to.”

 

Hyrule pauses, “What?”

 

“My words were sealed, as was my magic. I was restricted to sword and shield. Resigned to silently bearing the pain and heavy blows until I was defeated. When I reformed, my words were freed but my magic was not. Then I discovered I was still bound to this room even though my purpose was completed. I have remained here ever since.”

 

The words are bitter and frigid. Not blaming but not forgiving either. Hyrule stares up at his counterpart with horror in his growing understanding. His shadow was trapped like Time’s was, and he was just as unaware as Time was. He thought that his shadow was gone after that final decisive test, but the thought that he had been here all along…

 

“I’m…. I’m so sorry,” Hyrule whispers as his eyes lock with cool red, “I had no idea you were still here…”

 

“I do not need your apologies. Even had you known, could you honestly say you would have returned for me?” 

 

Hyrule flinches, the words like an arrow to the heart, because he truly doesn't know the answer to that question. He looks down and away, guilt eating at him. Legend lays a hand on his shoulder and glares at the figure above them.

 

“You can’t fucking blame him for that kind of shit. There are too many ‘What ifs’ in that line of thinking.”

 

“I never said that I blame him.”

 

“You never said that you didn’t, either,” Indigo points out dryly. The shade scoffs softly and pushes off the balcony, landing gently without a sound in front of the group. He stalks closer, each line of his barely visible shadowy form exuding tension while his footsteps leave small frosty patches behind that glint in the weak light. 

 

“He may not be to blame but he was a part of it, no matter how unwilling or unknowing. It seems to be the common occurrence with your kind. Heroes seem to be nothing but weapons to the gods, only ever cutting down whatever they are set upon without any thought or reason to the whys or whos.”

 

He stops right in front of Hyrule who gazes upon his double mournfully. The shade tilts his head a little.

 

“You never did reconcile yourself with your more volatile emotions. Or your incessant need to help everyone. Your heart bleeds for others, but you know how dangerous it is for you to bleed for anyone.”

 

Hyrule sucks in a sharp breath and the chain behind him all shift into more battle ready positions. One of the secrets their humble traveler had revealed was the fact that monsters in his time were constantly after him for his blood. They believed it would revive Ganon, which wasn’t true at first, but now with the power of the triforce he wields it is entirely possible that it could. To be reminded of that is cruel and borderline threatening.

 

The red eyes freeze him in place, judging him and finding him lacking for all that he’s already defeated this shade once before. This close he can make out that his shadow isn’t just a silhouette, he’s shrouded in a cloak like Eon was. That means this isn't how he truly looks. He remembers Indigo’s words, about how they cloak themselves in their counterparts’ vices and wonders. What are his vices? The shade’s head tilts to the side a little as that thought crosses his mind, and he realizes that there's a soft hum of connection between the two of them. Magic.

 

“Oh,” Hyrule breathes, suddenly understanding, “You’re still hurting. You can feel your magic even though you can’t actively use it. You can’t even change your cloak.”

 

The shade scoffs lightly, “You and I both know that our greatest skill does not lie with the blade. We live and breathe magic, it is what makes the air so thick in our land. Even though there are precious few who can utilize it anymore, it is still there. I know it is. I can feel it slowly draining away from me. It is not replenishing fast enough. I cannot stop what is already being used, and I cannot use it to get the hell out of here .”

 

He suddenly lashes out at Hyrule, who yelps and leaps back from his counterpart in shock. The others tense to move forwards but Indigo waves them back as he has started to realize what's going on as well. This shadow is going through the equivalent of starvation. His magic is locked away to where he cannot actively use it, but his cloak is draining it since it's a continuous drain while it's active. With his magic locked he cannot turn his cloak off, so his magic won’t replenish fast enough on its own, and without access to mana potions as an alternative the cloak will just slowly drain away his magic until he is nothing but a husk. 

 

It’s honestly amazing that he was so cognizant upon meeting them. He had to have been dealing with the drain for a year or more now. His true form probably looks like an emaciated corpse. He wasn't wrong about living and breathing magic, but it holds even more true for those like them. By the nature of what exactly the Shadows are; they are creatures of magic regardless of whether their counterparts use it and losing it completely is a death sentence. Trapped here on his own there would have been no hope for him, and a piece of the Traveler would have died with his shadow’s true demise.

 

As it is, right now the shadow is in a frenzy. Even a mana restoring potion or elixir would not give him what he needed, only potentially halting the drain momentarily instead of replenishing, and it would be a waste with the constant drain of magic. So his instincts are driving him to the closest well of pure magic. With enough of it, he may be able to shatter the shackles sealing away his magic. But like any starving trapped animal, all sense of rationality has fled in the wake of the shadows' desperate need for sustenance and safety. 

 

His actions have no grace to them at all currently, disregarding all weaponry to instead engage in a furious grapple with his counterpart. The Traveler is confused at the approach, as well as extremely worried for his shadow, not understanding how they went from a slightly tense conversation to this. He reaches for the connection between the two of him and looks not with his eyes but with his magic. What he sees devastates him. The state of his shadow’s magic is like that of a barren wasteland: cracked and desolate, barely able to sustain anything and screaming out for relief. His heart twists in remorse at the agonizing pain and suffering laid before him.

 

If there is one thing that the traveler is proud of, it's his control of magic, a control that his counterpart seems to share. Yet, in this state, it seems his control has completely failed and he is now hemorrhaging magic at an alarming rate in his feral desperation. The Traveler doesn’t know quite what to do, but now the situation is dire since the poor shade was already starving for magic and cannot lose much more or it will all be gone. He then gasps in shock as something sharp nicks his hand and reflexively kicks his shadow away hard. The shadow slams into the ground a short distance away groaning and shuddering. Hyrule stares in his direction momentarily before trying to focus on his hand in the low light. A thrill of panic shoots through him as he recognizes the slight wet feeling and the dull gleam from the light catching just right.

 

Blood.

 

His head snaps up to stare towards his shadow, who is shivering violently curled up on the ground. Drained after his outburst. He pauses slightly as he notices a slight surge in the figure’s magic levels that almost immediately drains away but it was clearly there. He glances down at his hand and then back to the pitiful creature before him, apprehension rising in his gut and closing his throat in fear. There is magic in his blood, pure undiluted magic granted by the triforce that he safekeeps, and if the monsters believe they could revive Ganon himself with it then what else could it do?

 

He shuffles forwards and drops to his knees beside his counterpart. Peering into his face he notes the red eyes that have dulled slightly and seem to be unfocused, though it's hard to tell with the lack of pupils. He can just vaguely see the tips of sharp fangs as the weakened silhouette wheezes heavily. So that's what nicked him. He looks back down at his hand and thinks hard. His worst vice is his fear. He was always running and hiding and fighting to get away after defeating Ganon. His fear of spilling his blood has kept him from doing so many things. He has always worried about it being used for evil… It had never occurred to him before that there is a possibility that it can be used for good. His blood is magic, its life, so maybe…

 

He gently tugs the shade’s head into his lap and sets his trembling, bleeding hand against his counterpart’s mouth. Red eyes flicker, seeming to focus on him for a moment before he feels a hesitant tongue lap at the weak trickle of blood from the small nick on his palm. The eyes flash and he hisses out in pain as the fangs suddenly lodge into his wrist after a claw tears away his bracer. 

 

“Roolie!” Legend nearly lunges forward but Indigo pulls him back again.

 

“Leave him be, you all have to face your shadows by yourselves. What happens here is his choice, you just have to trust him.”  

 

“The bastard is fucking sucking his blood!!! Hyrule told us about how dangerous that shit is here in his world!!!”

 

“I’m fine Legend, he’s a part of me so it's alright,” Hyrule says softly, meeting the widened eyes of his counterpart. The back of his hand glows, the illumination of all three pieces of the Triforce lighting up the room in a blinding flash, drawing cries of pain from all. When they can see again, the torches of the room have lit back up again, and they double take at the scene before them.

 

 The shadowy silhouette is now gone, and in its place lies a familiar stranger. Hyrule gazes down at a face identical to his own in all ways but color, the pitch-black hair and gray skin startling at first. His clothes are also a far cry from his own humble attire, the rich red cloak, lined with gold, draped elegantly around his shoulders and neck and pinned with a golden amulet set with a deep purple gem. His ankle length robes are a deep cobalt blue, tight to the skin of his upper body but split at the back and above each thigh to reveal the dark ebony lining the inside of the robes and legs clad in similar cobalt fabric. The robes are held secure by a bolt of red fabric tied tight around his waist. Shining boots of black leather clad his feet, emphasized by the gold alighting upon collar, and matching the bracers upon his forearms.

 

His eyes had closed as he had taken in Hyrule’s life blood and his magic had surged, but now they opened slowly to meet his gaze once more. Brilliant molten gold eyes gaze up at him in wonder and gratitude. His gasp startles the restored mage, causing him to pull away quickly if not unsteadily as he attempts to sit up.

 

“Careful, you’re still a bit weak,” Hyrule says, reaching out to him, for once not caring of the blood still upon his skin. 

 

“I am fine now,” the shade grunts, grasping the wrist with gentle strength, “You must heal that as soon as possible… but I thank you. I apologize for my lapse in propriety, it was uncalled for, and I should have had more control than that barbaric display.”

 

Hyrule smiles at him, “You were starving, I think it can be forgiven. Besides, you’re free now, aren’t you?”

 

“... Yes. The power of the magic in your blood shattered the shackles upon my magic. However it is still not fully recovered.”

 

“Do you need more?” Hyrule asks, prompting a double take from his twin.

 

“Are you mad? Have you already forgotten your position? You cannot just idly bleed for anyone.”

 

“But you’re not just anyone, you’re a part of me and you were hurting.”

 

Molten gold narrows at earnest brown before he sighs and looks away haughtily.

 

“I will be fine now, I simply wish to depart from here,” he begins to struggle to his feet, faltering in the wake of his lingering weakness. Hyrule is quick to shoot to his feet and pull his shade the rest of the way up, his counterpart's arm across his shoulder and his own arm supporting him up underneath his cloak. The mage glowers at him only to receive a wide smile in response.

 

“...You are going to be unbearable.”

 

“I’m not the one you need to be worried about.”

 

In true fashion, the worried mothers of the chain surge forward to check on the two. Sky pestering Hyrule to show him his hand and Red and Twilight pestering the increasingly agitated shade. Indigo strides forward and levels the taller shadow with a narrowed look. 

 

“There’s still one last thing, you need a name.”

 

The mage blinks slowly, “A name? Am I not already named? I am Shadow Link.”

 

“That's what you are not what your name is, idiot,” Indigo snarks being met with a cool glare.

 

 “All of us are named Link and we all picked our hero titles as our nicknames,” Wind chirps, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

 

“Eon was named in allusion to my nickname, Time,” the old man says calmly referring to the small shadow clinging to his back and peering warily at the new addition.

 

“Indigo is a part of our colors,” Green adds.

 

“I’m assuming your hero title is Hero of Hyrule, if I remember correctly. That does not lead to many options for names,” the nameless shadow says coolly.

 

“Well, maybe it does. Like you said, we are alike in that we live and breathe magic. It’s an integral part of us and none of the others seems to rely on it like we do. So what about Mage?”

 

“No that’s too simplistic for this pompous ass, Vio what’s that old term for like a magician or sorcerer,” Blue shoots a look at his purple clad sibling.

 

“Magus, the term is Magus. You are correct, it is fitting,” said sibling eyes the mage critically.

 

“Magus…”

 

“What do you think? Do you like it?” Hyrule peers sideways at him.

 

“It is adequate,” the newly dubbed Magus replies seemingly begrudgingly, but the slight curl of his lips betrays his delight.

 

 “Great, now can we get the hell out of here. This place creeps me the hell out,” Warriors snaps.

 

“I imagine it would, it was made to test whether the hero was determined and humble enough to bear the weight of the Triforce. I believe you would be found lacking,” Magus states, staring the captain down.

 

Warriors gapes in shock at the mage as Legend bursts out laughing, “OH! Oh, I like him.”

 

Twilight groans softly, “Oh dear Ordona, please don’t start.”

 

“We need to set up camp and regroup before discussing our next step, let's head back to the entrance,” Time states, wrangling the group back in.

 

“We can just teleport,” Magus states.

 

“Not in your state you don’t,” Hyrule scolds him, “No magic until you have had a full night's rest and actual food!”

 

“I don’t have to eat.”

 

“Are you really a vampire? Do I need to worry about being drained in the middle of the night?” Wild inches away warily.

 

Magus stares at him, “No, I just exist on magic.”

 

“How come Eon and Indigo have to eat then?” Sky asks curiously.

 

“We need it when we do actual physical stuff instead of just magic, so he will probably need to start eating now that he isn’t stuck and he will be traveling with us.”

 

Magus makes a face of absolute disgust, setting half the group into laughter. Hyrule chuckles softly and glances at his twin again as the group starts moving to return to the entrance. There is much to discuss, and much to catch their new member up on regarding their purpose. For now, though, there’s only one thing that really needs to be said.

 

“Welcome to the chain, Magus.”