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Thud.

Vio set his mortar and pestle onto the alchemy table in front of him with a sigh, running his fingers through his hair and tugging on it with a quiet groan as he rested his forehead onto the edge as well. Above him furniture thudded against the wall again, small dust particles shaking themselves free of the walls and dancing in the bright lantern light. Below him Shadow gesticulated wildly, no doubt teasing him once more about his choice to stay inside and not participate in the festivities currently occurring. It was the first afternoon of the Midsummer Solstice- a Hyrule-wide three day festival celebrating the peak of the year and the harvests and fertility to come.

Thud.

Of course, some people chose to begin their… celebrations earlier than others. Vio muttered deep in his throat and pushed the tools farther from the edge of the table, standing up to stretch. It was a particularly rowdy time of year, and if he had his choice he would currently be sequestered in Hyrule Castle's much more serene halls. Since Princess Zelda's yearly public prayer to the Goddesses was an integral part of the Solstice and drew visitors from far and wide it would be just as impossible to get any work done there, however, and so Vio was stuck in his small rented apothecary tucked into the side streets of Castle Town.

It had been near a year and a half since Green had fought and defeated the so-called Shadow King, and since then nothing out of the ordinary had been reported. The four Heroes- five if they counted Shadow, which of course Vio did- had returned to Zelda to inform her of what happened, and had stayed at the castle to protect her in the case that the Shadow King's minions- or worse, its master-would want to take revenge.

Blue and Red's relationship had been the talk of the town for quite a while- the Four Sword Heroes were quite popular, and they had received nothing but an outpouring of congratulations and encouragement until even Red had stayed inside for a few days out of embarrassment. The attention had lessened over the year, and Blue had mellowed accordingly, until the sight of he and Red walking hand-in-hand around the town was nothing out of the ordinary.

Vio had made no progress on a method to restore Shadow to a full-time being of the Light World, and Shadow had begun to grow bored of days spent sitting in the same dark room as Vio buried himself in books and alchemy. Surprisingly, Shadow and Red had struck up quite a rapport between them, and he spent almost as much time in Red's company as he did Vio's. He spent quite a bit of time travelling with Blue and Red nowadays, as the two seemed to get into quite a bit of mischief wherever they went, be it Blue training with Green and the castle guards or Red quite unintentionally winning hearts as he worked part-time in a large pastry shop down the road.

Vio's progress with Green, however, had progressed to the point where he was not sure how to extricate himself. Green continued to woo him, content with simple flirting and stolen kisses, small heated looks across a table and touches slightly too long to be casual. Vio's guilt grew at each, for he didn't have the heart to brush Green off after this long.

He refused to admit to himself that he didn't brush Green off because he enjoyed the attention.

A hand gripped Vio's shoulder and he jumped, startled out of his musings.

"Easy, Vio," Shadow's voice rumbled in his ear, chuckling. "Just me." His hand slid down Vio's arm, tugging at the sleeve. "You've been in here way too long! Let's go out for a night on the town- it's Solstice!"

Vio turned and frowned, shaking his head. "I should continue working. I feel as though I may be on the verge of a breakthrough," he argued. "And besides-"

"Vio, Vio, Vio," Shadow said seriously, interrupting him with a finger pressed to his lips. "You keep talking, but all I hear is 'blah blah get me out of here before I turn into some cranky wrinkled old man who waves his cane at people and demands that kids get off his lawn', so drop the disagreement and let me take you dancing!"

Thud.

They both looked up at that- it had been blessedly silent for a few minutes but it appeared that the upstairs neighbors had regained enough energy to resume their prior activities. When Vio looked back down he found Shadow's gaze locked on him, a grin that was nothing less than wicked spreading across his face.

"Or," Shadow purred, stepping forward in a swift movement that had Vio backing away until his back hit the edge of the alchemy table. Shadow was quick to trap him there, arms to either side of him, smirk widening as he leaned even closer. "We could perform a different kind of dance right here."

Vio snorted, unable to help a laugh from escaping him or a blush from rising to his face. "I'm sorry, was that supposed to be seductive?" he teased, pressing his palms to Shadow's cheeks and mushing them in .

"Is it working?" Shadow waggled his eyebrows, looking a bit ridiculous, which caused Vio to laugh again. "Come on Vi, we can do the tabletop tango!"

"With all these ingredients around?" Vio countered, leaning forward enough to place a small affectionate peck on Shadow's cheek. "That sounds uncomfortable, potentially dangerous, and bound to end in disaster. However, you may take me dancing in the town square," he conceded with a sigh, and Shadow cheered and tugged him out the door with no further ado.

~~*~~*~~*~~

They had danced all night, and Vio was quite surprised upon waking to realize that he had quite enjoyed himself. The pleasant soreness from overtaxed muscles was easily worked away with stretching, and he dressed himself before grabbing a bite to eat and returning to his mock laboratory and immersing himself in his work.

It was midday before he leaned back, a phial of odd-colored liquid resting on the desk in front of him and satisfaction in every line of his body. "I told you I was near to making a breakthrough," he said to Shadow, who made a rude gesture back at him. "None of your sass, now. I'll have to test it on something before we try it on you, but I think this could be it."

Vio picked up the glass bottle, turning to bring it to the other end of the small room when he noticed Shadow had gone completely still. "Is there something the matter?" he asked, frowning-

The floor heaved under him and the world tore itself apart.

The next thing Vio was aware of was cool hands on his face, a voice calling his name through what sounded like ten layers of wool, and a splitting pain along his palms. He groaned, opening his eyes with an effort. Green's blurred face hovered above him, slowly coming into focus. It was dark- the only light in the small room radiated from a small lantern beside his head.

"Thank the Three, you're finally awake," Green said in relief, brushing Vio's bangs back away from his forehead. "Are you alright?"

Vio mumbled something noncommittal, pushing himself upright with a wince. Green immediately put a hand on his chest to stop him from moving further. "Be careful- there's broken glass all around you. Were you carrying bottles or something when the earthquake hit?"

"Earthquake?" Vio asked, staring at the floor. There were glass shards, yes, but there should have been at least spots of dampness where the potion had fallen… His gaze fell on Shadow, who waved back and shrugged at him. Vio risked a glance at his hands then, cataloging the chemical burns from where the potion had managed to splash onto him. They were minor and would be fine after he washed his hands.

An incongruity struck him then, and he looked up and frowned. "Green, it's the middle of the day. Why are you carrying a lantern?" When Green held out a hand to help Vio up he took it, nudging the scattered glass into a pile with his foot.

"Come outside and see for yourself, Vio," Green said in a low voice. "You won't believe me if I tell you."

Vio crossed the room to the door, apprehension slowly coiling in his gut, and when he stepped outside he froze in shock.

It was midday, he knew it was midday, but the sky was completely black.

Scattered points of light dotted the street- people had hung lanterns outside their houses, and the cobblestone street was coated in a light layer of rubble. A light layer of dust floated in the air, as if some great disturbance had shaken it free. Vio could see broken glass gleaming- buildings up and down the way had lost windows, it appeared, and some had their doorways hanging from broken hinges as well. He heard voices raised in confusion and fear, but none calling for help or screaming in pain.

Thank the Three for small favors.

He felt Green brush past him as the latter stepped outside as well, stopping next to him for solidarity. "Zel was performing the Solstice Prayer at high noon, just like usual," Green began in a low voice. "The moment she finished, everything just…" He gestured at the surrounding houses and the road below them. "The earth shook, and there was this loud roar, and then the sky blanked out. Zelda's fine," he added almost as an aside. "She sent me to get you, and I passed Red and Blue on the way."

Vio took one last look around and nodded, stepping out into the road. "Let us be on our way, then."

~~*~~*~~*~~

They found Zelda still in her ceremonial finery deep in the castle's vast library, heavy books and yellowing scrolls scattered on a table in front of her. Blue and Red were seated on the other side of the table, listening as she talked at a breakneck pace that only slowed when she noticed Vio and Green approaching. "Excellent timing," she told them , leaning back away from the table with a grimace. "How does it look out there?"

"Still black as night," Green said as he pulled a couple of chairs over. "The streets are a bit messy, but it doesn't look like there were any serious damages or injuries."

"Excellent!" Zelda repeated, clapping her hands twice and causing the lanterns around the room to flare up brighter. "That'll be the infrastructure spell I laid down this past winter in case anything like this happened." She gestured for them to sit down, and when they did she shoved the largest of the scrolls in front of them. "I've been waiting for something like this to happen for months now. I was surprised when it didn't happen at Midwinter."

"And what, exactly, is 'it'?" Blue asked, leaning forward to place his elbows on the table.

"Ganon," Zelda said simply, and grabbed the scroll back from where she'd shoved it. "Look at this." With a deft flick of the wrist she'd unrolled it, smoothing it flat on the table so all could see. "I've been researching the methods used for imprisoning him over the years. The Hero of Time was the first to go up against him, followed by the Hero of Twilight, 100 years later- you all know the basics, right?"

Each of them nodded- the tales of the Heroes of Time and Twilight were as common as fairy tales, if heeded more.

"Well," Zelda continued. "The Hero of Time tried to seal him into the Sacred Realm, and that worked for a while, but he still had the Triforce of Power- he was able to begin corrupting the space he was trapped in until he was able to escape. Somehow he met and struck a deal with one of the Rulers of Twilight, and in exchange for helping him overthrow the throne Ganon was granted amnesty there. When he had regained enough strength, he and the Twilight Usurper combined their powers and managed to overshadow the land far enough that Ganon was able to use beasts of Twilight in his attempt to take over Hyrule again. This is the first record we have of the skies blacking out."

She paused, fiddling with the edge of the scroll and then said, "No, I'm not finished!" as Red opened his mouth. "When the Hero of Twilight sealed him back into the other world with the help of the Land Sages, they made sure that he wouldn't be able to do that again as long as the Land Wards held out. That's partly why we perform the Midsummer Blessing every year- it reaffirms that seal and tightens the bonds between the Land Wards and the Goddess Crystals that gain power from them. I've sent messages out to check on each Ward, and they're all holding steady, so we're in no danger of the Twilight for now." She sighed and scrubbed a gloved hand across her hair.

Red raised a hand, and when Zelda nodded at him he asked, "Why now? Why not at Midwinter, like you thought would happen?"

"As far as I can tell, it's a combination of two things. First, though Midsummer is the brightest day of the year, it's also when the hours of daylight begin to wane. I believe Ganon may be able to draw power from the lessening of the light. Secondly-" Zelda rested her hand on her palm and gave the four of them a steady look. "The Sword of Sealing was never returned to its pedestal. I estimate that, given the rate he's managed to free himself before, we have until Midwinter before the Twilight Seal breaks and Ganon is loose again."

Silence gripped the room as each of them looked down at the hilts of their swords.

Zelda was the one to break it. "That being said," she said briskly, "it doesn't mean that we're all doomed. I need a little more time to research things- and to be honest, boys," she smiled at them, fond affection in her voice as she looked from Blue to Red, and then from Green to Vio. "I much prefer the four of you as you are now- you're four times more effective than just one silly old Link!"

Red got up to hug her at that, and Zelda laughed as she hugged him back. "Stay the night in the castle with me?" she asked over his shoulder. "If I find something I want to be able to tell you as soon as I can."

"Of course!" Green answered immediately, Blue nodding half a second after. "Just let us know if we can do anything to help."

"Perhaps two sets of eyes would be better than one?" Vio snagged the book nearest to him with a smile.

"That would be perfect, Vio!" Zelda beamed at him, releasing Red and pulling the wrinkles out of the shoulders of his tunic. "The rest of you should find food, and maybe see if there's anything any of the locals need help with?"

They nodded in agreement, and turned to get to work.

~~*~~*~~*~~

It was hours later that Vio set his book down, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his palms. "I do not understand how you managed to read through all of these by yourself," he admitted, and Zelda let out a soft laugh. He heard her close her own book and set it down, jumping a bit as the smooth silk of her gloved fingers wrapped around his wrists.

"Don't rub your eyes, it's bad for you," Zelda chided, making a 'tsk'ing noise with a grin on her face. "Were the letters starting to blur for you too?"

"Your endurance is admirable," Vio admitted a little sheepishly. "They were swimming at least twenty minutes ago."

Zelda laughed again, tugging him up from his seat. "Come on, let's go find the others and get some food, I haven't eaten since breakfast and you have to be hungry too!"

Vio acquiesced, trailing after her but coming to a halt as soon as he reached the stairs. The torchlight coming from behind him was enough to cast his shadow in front of him, and he frowned at the motionless blob. "Zelda, would you say it's roughly nightfall?" He asked, beginning to follow her.

"It feels like it should be, yes," she called back over her shoulder, and Vio's frown deepened. They ascended in silence after that, weaving through the corridors until they reached Zelda's personal wing of rooms. Green, Blue, and Red were already sitting in the foyer, eating their way through a rather large platter of sandwiches and not looking any the worse for wear.

Green's shadow elongated and twisted towards them, and Vio barely stopped himself from increasing his pace towards it. Why hadn't Shadow turned solid yet? He refrained from mentioning anything through dinner, merely stretching out a leg far enough so that his personal shadow merged with Green's, allowing Shadow to transfer between the two. Through silent hand signs that the two had worked out years before, Shadow was able to convey that he had indeed been trying to turn solid since nightfall, but it felt like something had been weighing him down, keeping him pinned and unable to.

Rather than interrupt Zelda in the midst of whatever she was talking about now, Vio opted for silence- he would speak with her in the morning, away from the others, and see if she knew of anything that might be able to reverse this mess he'd created. He could see her beginning to sway in her seat- she'd been awake longer than all of them, and busier by far.

Green noticed as well, it appeared, for when she went to branch out on a separate topic he leaned forward and poked a sandwich half between her lips. "Zel, you gotta eat and get some sleep," he said over her miffed and muffled protests. "We all do- it's been a long day."

She chewed and swallowed with a grumpy expression, and when her mouth was empty once more she reluctantly agreed. "Take these two rooms off the corridor here," she directed them, raising her empty hand to cover a yawn. "I'll see you in the morning, then?"

"Yeah!" Red chirped, rising to hug her again, and started steering her towards the doorway. "Get some rest, Zelda!"

They didn't linger for very long after she disappeared down the hall, divvying up the sandwiches between them, and Blue was the first to rise. "I'm out," he yawned, gripping Red's shoulder. "We'll take this room over here. Y'coming, Red?"

"Igna sekkun," came the garbled response as Red tried to answer through a mouthful of sandwich. He swallowed and tried again. "In a second, Blue!" He waved the half-eaten sandwich over his head in explanation, and Blue snorted as he left.

Red watched him leave, a silly smile on his face that faded as he turned back to face the other two. "Where's Shadow?" He asked Vio, a slight furrow between his brows.

Vio winced a bit as Shadow waved from the floor. "We had an incident this afternoon, when all the commotion started. I believe he may be trapped. I am sorry," he added in a softer voice, looking down at Shadow. "This was never meant to happen."

Shadow shrugged, as if to say "it is what it is," and slithered across the divide into Red's shadow. Vio drew back at that, surprised- and although he would never admit it, quite hurt as well.

"Sure you can stay with us tonight, Shadow!" Red told him with a smile as he got up, unaware of the sudden tension between Vio's shoulders. "I won't tell Blue, he'll just complain all night- what? Nooo, I iwon't/i tell him, I don't care how funny it'd be!" The one-sided conversation carried the two of them out of the room, and Vio held back a sigh as he rubbed his temples.

He jumped a bit at the touch of a hand against the back of his neck, cool and welcoming. "You should get some rest too, Vi," Green murmured into his ear. "You look exhausted, and I'd bet anything that Zel's gonna put you straight to work in the library again tomorrow morning."

Vio couldn't help but snort at that. "I fear you may be correct on all counts," he said as he rose. "Flip a rupee for first rights to the bath?"

"Nah," Green chuckled, thumb rubbing back and forth at the nape of Vio's neck. Vio let out an undignified noise as Green tugged him a little closer, guiding him into the room they would be sharing for the night. "You can have it first-for a fee."

"A fee," Vio repeated with the best 'unaffected' tone he could muster. "What are you, the troll living under the bathroom?"

"Yep!" Green waggled his eyebrows, causing Vio to laugh reluctantly. "Fee fum fo fi- I smell the blood of an innocent Vi," he added, pitching his voice much lower and adding a rumbling undertone.

Vio scoffed at that and pulled free, unable to help the snickers escaping from him. "That was terrible," he managed to get out, batting Green away as the latter came after him. "Poetry is not your forte."

Green was undeterred, however, and between Vio's stifled laughter and attempts to shove the other away he managed to corner Vio right before the door leading into the bathroom. "Be he alive or be he asleep," Green rumbled, blocking one of Vio's forearms and immediately digging his fingers into Vio's exposed side. "I'll… hm. The only rhyme here I can come up with is weep," he admitted, a little abashed as Vio smacked him in the shoulder, laughing helplessly. "And I would hate to make you cry, Vio! So I guess I'll have to come up with a different toll."

Thankfully, he pulled his hand away from Vio's ribs. Before Vio could react to that other than taking a huge breath of much-needed oxygen Green was kissing him, slowly, sweetly. He pulled away after a few moments, smug with triumph, and let Vio out from the cage his arms had made. "Fee paid!"

"Paid indeed," Vio grumbled, out of breath, and fled.

~~*~~*~~*~~

When they regrouped the next morning the sky was clear and blue once more, and it was immediately obvious that Zelda had barely rested- the dark circles under her eyes accentuating the determination in her face. "I couldn't sleep," she told them, hands on her hips. "So instead of lying there in bed not doing anything useful I went back down to the library. It only helped confirm what I'd been thinking—we don't have anywhere nearenough information here at the Castle." She papped Red's hand away when he went to touch her face.

Blue frowned and leaned forward at that. "Then what are we supposed to do? Sit around and wait for the world to end?"

"Of course not!" Zelda scoffed, waving a hand at him. "You'll have to travel to the Old Library." When that garnered a host of blank stares in response her eyebrows furrowed. "You know, the one south of Kakariko? It's the biggest repository of knowledge in all of Hyrule- a very old Sheikah outpost."

Vio nodded in sudden recognition- he'd heard the name somewhere before but hadn't been able to find anything else about it.

"I have a map you can borrow to find it," Zelda continued as she paced back and forth in front of them. "It's very old, so things might have changed, but you'll need it- the Old Library is right at the edge of the forest, before it turns into the Lost Woods. It's not much more than a day's travel south, so if you leave within the hour you should be able to get there before nightfall."

"Why so fast?" Red asked, startled, and Vio echoed the sentiment.

Zelda slowed in her pacing and came to a stop in front of them. "I know I said we'd most likely be fine until midwinter," she said hesitantly, "but I'm getting a bad feeling about all of this. I feel that the quicker we move, the sooner we'll know what actions to take, and that means you four- pardon me, Shadow, you five- should get to the Library as soon as possible!" With renewed zeal, she began pacing again, skirts flaring out around her ankles as she turned on her heel to look at them. "I'll keep researching while you're gone- I'm sure there are archives that I haven't managed to dig into yet, but if the knowledge is anywhere the Old Library is where you'd find it!"

Green held up his hands in surrender, laughing softly. "Alright, alright!" he yielded. "We'll head out as soon as we can get our things together."

"Excellent!" Zelda beamed at that, and moved to give him a fond peck on the cheek. "I don't know iwhat/i I'd do without you," she told them all, repeating the process with Red, then Blue, then Vio. The latter she grabbed by the forearms and tugged from his seat, to his confusion. "You come with me, Vio," she told him. "I need to teach you some Sheikah words to get into the Library with."

Blue rose at that, crossing his arms. "Why him?" he complained.

Vio snorted and rolled his eyes. "Blue, do you really want to spend the next half hour studying a foreign language and practicing the correct way to pronounce glottal stops?" He asked with a raised eyebrow. "You can barely speak fluent Hylian as it is."

"Why, you little-!" Blue lunged at him before Red caught his arm, Green grabbing the other one moments later.

Zelda laughed at that, turning to flick Vio lightly in the head with an index finger. "Don't lie, Vio," she grinned. "There aren't any glottal stops in the Sheikah language." As she pulled him behind her she called to Blue over her shoulder, "It's all rolling 'r's and elongated uvular trilling!"

True to her prediction, within the hour the five of them were on their way.

Chapter Text

Hyrule Field was quiet and peaceful, showing nothing of the turmoil that had plagued the past 24 hours. The road leading down from Castle Town had been free of traffic, which the four of them had been quite grateful for-- Green made an offhand joke as they left that if there had been, Zelda would have stomped out after them and moved it herself. The sky was a clear cloudless blue above them, the grass soft and springy at the side of the packed-earth path, and the only thing that disturbed the air was the friendly bickering between Blue and Green.

“I’m just saying!” Green deftly dodged as Blue shoved at his shoulder. “There’s no way you could travel the whole length of the field by rolling, you’d throw up from motion sickness before you were a quarter of the way there! And besides,” he added as he hooked an ankle behind Blue’s, causing the other to stumble with a swear, “what would you do with your sword? It’d trip you up before you rolled more than three or four times.”

“You’d have to hold it out from your body,” Blue argued right back, hip-checking Green off the path and into the weeds off the side. “As long as you kept your elbow straight and locked you’d be fine! And I’m not saying to roll all the way, but if you pace it right you’d save at least half an hour from the edge of Ordon.”

Vio snorted at that, a pace or two behind them. “Would it really be worth it?” he asked, eyebrow raised. “You would arrive panting, sore, and covered in sweat and grime. The potential to catch the edge of your blade on a rock is incredibly high, which would leave you toting around a near-useless slab of metal for the rest of the journey-- unless you wish to carry it in its scabbard, which would add more weight and magnify the chances of you simply dislocating your elbow.”

Blue turned around at that, and Vio smirked at the grumpy face he was making. “You could wrap something light around the edge,” Blue grumbled. “Pad it with wool and wrap it in leather, maybe.”

“But what if you dropped it?” Red piped up from his position beside Vio. “Then you’d lose all that momentum you built up going back to look for it!”

“And padding it would make it next to useless if you have to fight on the trail!” Green added, taking advantage of Blue’s distraction to knock him off balance once more.

“That still leaves the scabbard to be considered as well,” Vio mused, an eye on the clouds above as he suppressed a smirk at Blue’s renewed cursing. “Unless you wish to travel with just a bare blade, like some sort of highway brigand? Not everyone can recognize one of the Four Swords at a mere glance, you know- -that could lead to some unpleasant misunderstandings.”

“Oh! Blue!” Red said in excitement, taking a quick two steps forward and stepping on the back of Green’s boot just as Blue elbowed him sideways. “What if you just tied the sword to your hand? Then you wouldn’t drop it-eep!” he broke off with a short surprised noise-- as Green fell he’d hooked an arm around Red’s knees, causing him to topple as well. Blue’s instinctive move to grab him put him well within range of Green’s feet-- in a flash Green had kicked the back of Blue’s knee hard enough to send him tumbling down into the two of them.

Vio calmly hopped over the resulting pile of tangled limbs, stopping a good five feet past them. “I suppose here is as good a place as any to break for lunch,” he remarked to the air, setting his pack neatly on the edge of the road and turning back to look at the three-way tussle.

For all appearances Blue was holding his own in this roadway wrestling match, deftly fending off swats from Green and tickling Red into incoherency simultaneously. That would not do at all.

Vio sighed, straightened his tunic, and at the next available opening stepped into the fray and plopped himself squarely down on Blue’s back, pinning him to the ground. “Tickling is a very dirty way of fighting,” he told Blue solemnly, ignoring the outburst of shouting and cursing coming from beneath him. “An offense worthy of capital punishment, I believe.”

Green snorted at that; Vio ignored him as well, crooking his fingers into claws.

Blue twisted enough to glare up at him, hat perched at a ridiculous angle on his forehead as it dipped down over one eye. “Oh, you fucker, don’t you even dare,” he breathed, voice laden with menace and promises of retribution.

Vio gave him a smile so full of innocence it could rival Red’s and dug his fingers into Blue’s sides.

The ensuing battle was truly a struggle for the ages.

Red was the one to finally call a halt to it, face nearly the shade of his tunic from laughing so hard. Vio gave in with good grace, rising and brushing the dirt from his knees as Blue lay panting beneath him. “And let that be a lesson to you,” Vio said with mock gravity, moving to where Green had set their packs. “You are a hero, and heroes must fight with honor and dignity.”

Green let out a bawl of laughter at that, and Red collapsed once more into uncontrollable giggling when Blue lifted his head from the dirt with a glare. “You attacked me from behind!” he yelled, making no move to get up. “How is that honorable?”

“Sometimes a hero must strike when the most opportune moment arises,” Vio told him loftily, nose in the air. “That happened to be quite opportune, since you were too occupied with the bait in front of you to realize you had left yourself a gaping indefensible opening.”

“Bait?!” Green put the back of his hand to his forehead, splaying his fingers and looking away dramatically. “And here I thought after all this time we meant more to each other!”

“In your defense, you make quite serviceable bait,” Vio said as he settled down with his food onto the grass beside Green.

“Fine!” Blue had gotten off the ground by this point, meticulously removing any trace of grass or dirt from his tunic. “Why don’t you fight me face-to-face this time, we’ll see who bests who then!” He stomped over and picked up his Four Sword from where it lay carelessly on the ground. “You’ve been locked up in that damn lab of yours for so long I bet you don’t even remember how to use a sword!”

Red’s ceaseless giggling stopped abruptly at that, and Green looked up sharply. Vio did not outwardly react at first, chewing his mouthful of bread and cheese thoughtfully and then swallowing. When he’d finished, he wiped the corner of his mouth with the edge of his sleeve and stood, stretching. “Why, Blue,” he said finally, with the saccharine sweetness born only from the tongue of a master of sarcasm, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Blue let out a rage-garbled series of noises at that, and Vio smirked as he unsheathed his own sword. “Well, soldier?” He asked, moving into a guarded stance. “Have at you.”

Blue came at him fast and hard and Vio easily stepped into the flow of his movements, dodging his first straightforward thrust and parrying the second. At the third swing he took a chance, sliding the flat of his blade down along the length of Blue’s and giving it a quick twirl-- jerking Blue’s sword out of his grip completely and causing him to drop it.

Three!" Blue swore, and dove out of the way of Vio’s next attack. “Where did you even learn that?!”

“Places,” Vio replied shortly, stepping back so Blue could retrieve his blade without incident. Blue growled at the flippant reply, and his next attacks were much harder to block completely. Vio was quickly on the defensive, forced to give way beneath Blue’s sheer tenacity and ferocity. An unlucky misstep had him stumbling on the rough terrain, and before he could blink the tip of Blue’s sword was hovering a hand’s width from his neck.

Vio froze, eyeing the sword warily before glancing upward at Blue, who was stonefaced and statue-still. After a moment, he remarked “Clearly my defeat was inevitable,” and raised his hands in surrender with a genuine smile on his face.

Blue returned it, stepping forward to give him an affectionate punch in the shoulder. “Not bad for a bookworm,” he told Vio as they walked back towards Green and Red. “Nice trick with the twist, there. You should spar with us more often.”

“I would enjoy that,” Vio admitted, rubbing the back of his neck and settling back into his former position. “I admit that it has been far too long.”

Lunch was a quiet and pleasant affair after that, and before much longer they were continuing on their way.

~~*~~*~~*~~

The trees along the path grew more clustered and dense as they made their way into the outskirts of Ordon Forest, as was only to be expected. The four of them had half-consciously shifted until they were no longer walking two by two-- Vio took the front-most position, his careful steps making barely any noise on the soft loam that coated the ground. Red and Green followed side by side, with Blue taking up the rearguard. The easy and carefree conversation that had carried them through the open expanses of the field dwindled beneath the oppressive lurk of the canopy above-- as they traveled further and further the atmosphere turned gloomier, murky sunlight struggling to reach the ground.

They stopped once at a nearly-overgrown trail marker where the path branched out into three other directions. Green and Red cleared it of greenery and old spider webs the best they could, while Vio retrieved the map Zelda had loaned them and browsed over it. He indicated the center path after a moment, and they continued on in silence.

The light levels continued to fall, and what illumination did make it through seemed gummy and indistinct. Vio scanned the trees in consternation, noting off-white strands of webbing stretching from bough to trunk to bough again, spanning entire sections of canopy.

Green let out a sudden startled noise behind him and Vio paused, turning to see what the problem was. The other three had stopped about ten feet behind him, a mobile black blob about the size of a large loaf of bread separating them. As Vio watched, it skittered a few inches towards the clustered heroes, motions jerky, and Red let out a squeal and backpedaled rapidly.

“Oh, for the love of Farore, it’s just a gohma,” Blue scoffed, rolling his eyes as Red took shelter behind him. “What’s the matter? You’ve seen tons of gohmas, there’s that guy in the marketplace who trains them and sells ‘em as pets.”

“B-but they’re never that big!” Red wailed, letting out another shriek as it advanced towards them again. Green hastily jumped backwards as well, cringing as the oversized arachnid rotated towards him. “Th-that’s a really big gohma, Blue!!”

“Is that even natural?” Green asked nervously, trying to scoot around it and then flailing back as it advanced again.

“You guys are such wimps.” Blue rolled his eyes again as he stepped forward and unsheathed his sword. “Red I kinda expect it from- no offense,” he added quickly.

“None taken!” Red piped back.

“But you, Green?” Blue continued, raising his sword and pointing the tip downward. “I’m ashamed of you- big bad soldier of the Hyrule Guard can’t even take on a little spider,” he teased, cleanly stabbing the gohma through its swollen abdomen and watching its legs writhe madly before they curled up rigidly in a death pose. “Don’t worry, li’l babies, Blue’ll take care of all your spider-slaying needs-“

“Blue, shut up,” Vio said tersely, stepping forward and kneeling to look at the dead arachnid. There were small wisps of darkness swirling along the bright gleam of Blue’s sword, emanating from the gohma. “Put your sword away.”

The gohma was impaled a little too solidly- Blue had to shake it free, which made Red shriek again and caused Green to move about ten feet farther away than he had been. Once it was lying on the path unimpeded the tendrils were much more apparent- in moments it was nothing more than a billowy puff of oily darkness that dissipated with the slight breeze.

Green tentatively shuffled forward to look at the spot where the gohma had been as Vio pushed himself to his feet again. “That’s … not supposed to happen, is it,” Green said with a frown.

Blue smirked widely, moving over to one of the webbed trees. “Wanna test it out?” he asked devilishly, moving as if to rattle it.

Red’s immediate “NO!!!” was followed by Green’s “Din help me Blue if you shake that tree I will kill you while you sleep,” and Blue sniggered and returned to the path.

“Enough, all of you,” Vio said sharply, catching their attention. “We need to move if we wish to make it to the library before night falls-- I certainly do not wish to camp under these trees.” He turned and began walking without a moment’s hesitation, trusting them to follow-- which they did.

The light levels dimmed further as they progressed and the afternoon passed into evening. The path below them became less and less easy to differentiate under its thick coating of loam. Vio had to stop and pull out his lantern eventually, hanging it on a nearby spur of wood and unfolding the map to go over it once more with a frown. It felt like they should have reached the Library by now…

His contemplation was broke by the sound of raised voices, and Vio lifted his head just in time to catch Red’s worried face staring into his from mere inches away. It was all he could do not to flinch back in startled surprise, masking his annoyance with one carefully raised eyebrow. “How can I help you?” he asked dryly.

Red frowned and bit his lip, hands clasped together in front of him. “We’re not lost, are we?” he asked, hope and doubt plain in his voice.

“Of course we’re lost!” Blue called scornfully from further behind them. “We must have walked off the path ages ago, there’s nothing here but leaves and dirt! I thought you knew where we were going, Vio,” he complained as he moved to peer over Vio’s shoulder. “Let me see that damned map.”

“I assure you, it will do you no good,” Vio remarked, but Blue had already snatched it and was peering at it in the warm lantern light.

“I can’t even read this!” Blue shoved it back to him after a few seconds of perusal. “What language is this even in?”

“Ancient Hylian, which is why I am the one carrying it,” Vio told him shortly as he folded it back up and tucked it into a belt pouch. “As I said, it would do none of you any good.”

“Well, you’re not doing us very good either,” Blue said in a snide voice.

“It is not my job to do any of you,” Vio said with heavy sarcasm, causing Blue to sputter and back a few steps away.

Green stepped between them then, clearing his throat. “As interesting as this is to listen to, I think we should probably keep going.” He gave Blue an unsubtle push forward, making the other grumble deep in his throat.

With no other options they traveled on, the trees above them arching and twining and cemented together with wads and strings of white webbing. Gohmas crossed their path every now and then, but none were as large as the one Blue had killed. Green and Red still eyed them warily until they had passed.

It was nearly another hour before Red broke their self-imposed silence. “Do you hear that?” he whispered, as if unwilling to raise his voice any louder than necessary.

“Hear what?” Blue asked, peering into the murky darkness.

“I thought I heard…laughing,” Red said hesitantly. “Someone over there was laughing….” He pointed off to the right, where the trees seemed to cluster more thickly.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Green murmured quietly. “Maybe you’re just imagining it?”

Red shrugged and moved closer to Blue at that, one hand fisting in the material at the bottom of Blue’s tunic. Blue allowed it, pulling Red closer for a brief hug around the shoulders.

They all heard the next laugh.

A poe materialized in front of them, the icy white glow of its lantern jarring in the darkness. Blue let out a swear and lunged forward, already drawing his sword, but the poe swirled backwards with another earsplitting cackle and vanished.

More ethereal lights began to bob in and out of the darkness around them, the forms of the poes themselves indistinct between the trees. The illumination did nothing to light up the area around them; instead, it seemed to accentuate the darkness, making it deeper. Though they had effectively encircled the four of them, few seemed interested in bothering them; aside from the one Blue had advanced towards, none of the lanterns even so much as twitched towards them.

“I’ve never seen this many poes before,” Green whispered in quiet awe. “What do you think they’re doing here? Is this some sort of secret poe hiding ground or something?”

“I bet they’re just waiting for us to let our guards down,” Blue grumbled, sword bare in hand and catching the lantern light at odd angles. “Just let ‘em try.”

Vio made a noncommittal noise, taking a hesitant step forward. In response the line of poes in front of him shifted, drawing back into two parallel lines while continuing to take next to no notice of him.

“Almost like an honor guard,” Vio said thoughtfully, turning back to look at the other three. “Sheikah were said to have close connections with the dead-- perhaps this means we are nearing our destination.”

“Vio!” Red said with alarm, reaching out to point at something behind him; he drew his sword and shifted into a guard stance in a single fluid movement. Four poes had sprung up behind him, their lanterns ranging from sunset red to lime green, deep sapphire blue to a purple nearly the shade of Vio’s tunic. The poes among the trees had ceased all movement; silence lay heavy as a blanket between them all.

Vio slowly sheathed his Four Sword and the poe with the amethyst flame chittered something that sounded like approval, sweeping around him in a wide circle. As if finding everything to its liking it cackled once more, returning to the rest and swinging its lantern at them in a clear order.

“What the hell?” Blue asked warily, stepping forward level with Vio. “What do they want?”

“I believe they may be guides,” Vio responded after a moment’s hesitation. “We must have strayed too far- Ordon Forest borders the Lost Woods, after all, and the borderland between the two can become dangerous to those without the means to discern the correct path.”

The poes all laughed together at that, as if following their conversation-- Vio was surprised to note that their voices were much less shrill than their lesser brethren.

“Well,” Green stepped up beside them, Red at his heels, and huffed a sigh. “It’d be rude to turn down a helping hand, wouldn’t it?”

“Rude indeed,” Vio agreed, and turned to the poes with an elaborate bow. “Lead on, if you will, and we will follow.”

~~*~~*~~*~~

The cobblestone under his feet was soothingly civilized compared to the stretches of forest floor they had been traversing; Vio could feel himself relax as soon as they had passed beneath the large marble archway. Stacked-stone walls stretched out and away far beyond the light their lanterns gave out, and though the urge to break off from the small group and explore along them was strong he resisted the urge.

Their poe guides had disappeared in the few seconds he had spent looking around-- a quick glance and a moment’s listening told him that the courtyard they had been taken to was completely barren of movement besides the four of them. Vio did break away from their small cluster then, boots tapping on stone as he advanced further into the courtyard.

The glow of his lantern fell upon a long stone staircase; he stopped at the foot of it, raising the lantern above his head to catch a glimpse of what may lie above. He could make out a large stone slab overhanging what appeared to be a walkway around a long, low-set building, hanging vines and creeping ivy throwing thick black shadows against the walls. The stairs led straight up to a wall, it appeared; Vio took a step forward onto the first and turned to check on the others.

Blue and Red still stood under the archway, but Green had moved over to the inside curvature of the nearest wall and was busily examining something. “Hey, Vi!” he called over-- Vio could see the lantern bobbing and assumed Green was gesturing to him. “Come over here and see this.”

Vio did so, beckoning Blue and Red further into the courtyard as he passed them. “There are no other beings here but us,” he told Red directly, hoping to soothe some of the latter’s nerves, and Red gave him a shaky smile in return.

Green called to him again and he huffed out a sigh as he trotted over the last patch of grass separating them. When Vio reached him Green stepped aside from the waist-high rock that he had been fussily clearing of moss and ivy. “Check this out- doesn’t it look familiar?”

Vio crouched in front of it, inspecting it thoroughly. When it had been placed here it may have been white, but time and nature had weathered it to a soft gray. Hollow pits and spots of lichen dotted its rough surface. The side facing the wall was rough, but the side facing into the courtyard had been thoroughly smoothed. The top half had been carved and sanded further into rough geometric shapes. The bottom half was dominated by a hollow entrance that refused to be lit up no matter how close to it Vio placed his lantern. He frowned at the anomaly, gaze drawn back to the carvings.

“I believe this is a Stone of Truth,” he said after a moment, rocking back on his heels. “Legends say that if you crawled inside of one, it could show you all manner of things.”

“Wanna try it?” Green smiled at him, and Vio let out a puff of laughter.

“More than you could imagine,” he said honestly, rising to his feet. “But now is most definitely not the time for that, as I have heard the side effects for those untrained to withstand it can be…severe.”

“Vio! Green!” Red called to them then, and both turned. “Can you come up the stairs, please?”

“Coming!” Green yelled back, turning and offering his arm to Vio with a waggle of his eyebrows. Vio scoffed and jabbed him in the ribs, taking off across the courtyard at a run as Green let out a yowl. Vio couldn’t help a smirk at that, taking the shallow stairs two at a time until he reached the top where Blue and Red waited.

Blue gestured to the wall in front of them, which was carved into the same patterns that had been on the stone in the courtyard. “We looked all up and down this stretch but there’s no door, and nothing different but this.”

Vio nodded at that. “Sheikah lore outposts were generally guarded. If none were available to fulfill that duty they sealed the entrance, confident that any Sheikah would be able to enter easily.”

“That’s great and all, but we don’t actually have a Sheikah to open the door now, do we?” Blue asked with very exaggerated patience.

Vio leaned forward and flicked him in the forehead, drawing a loud complaint. “That’s why I will be using other means, you ignorant peasant,” he sighed, shifting his stance and placing his left hand squarely in the center of the design on the wall.

He took a deep breath and held it, reaching within himself to the barely-defined source of his magic-- he’d known it was there for the longest of times, but before now had had little chance to use it. Zelda had spent their time together that morning teaching him how to draw upon it at need, and that is what he did now—he sent a tendril of conscious thought into that glowing golden place deep inside him, filling himself with it before channeling it into the palm of the hand pressing into the stone.

The back of his hand began to glow faintly, sharp golden lines etching themselves into his skin as he leaned forward. Vio could feel the energy within him building to a sharp point, crackling around his teeth and tongue when he opened his mouth.

“Balq’ar embzir almais meiada al'kma mstasq Farore ei’dskil,” he whispered, the words dripping from his tongue, thick as honey and full of unfulfilled potential. Gold sparks flared from underneath his hand, arcing across the stone wall and sinking into the carved surface. The designs flared briefly into light, then faded, and an entire section of wall simply disappeared to expose a long, dark hallway.

Red let out a startled noise at that, and Green whistled in approval. “That’s pretty impressive!”

“But your accent is simply atrocious, darling,” said a voice from inside. Before Vio could do more than stumble a few steps backwards in shock a poe appeared in front of him, its lantern a bright buttery yellow. “You sound as though you’re gargling river rocks.”

“My apologies,” Vio said stiffly after a moment, eyes narrowing as the others clustered behind him. “I only learned the language this morning.”

“That is no excuse,” the poe told him severely. “If you wish to come inside, hurry up- there are dark things afoot in the forest and the door must be sealed as soon as possible.” It floated back a few feet into the hall and gestured impatiently, the metal of its lantern creaking.

Vio paused, looking back at the others. Red was clearly eager to move inside, but Blue was much more guarded, eyeing the poe with suspicion. Green, on the other hand, brushed past him with a smile and a nod. “Don’t mind if I do!” he said cheerfully, moving beyond the hovering spirit.

Vio shook his head ruefully and motioned Blue and Red inside, holding his left hand in front of the entryway as they passed and gathering power to the tip of his tongue again. ”Baghliaq,” he whispered, and the wall shimmered into existence once more.

The poe sniffed behind him, and he allowed himself a single roll of his eyes before he turned back to it. “Simply atrocious,” it repeated, hovering in front of him and eyeing him closely. “But you have potential, so maybe you’ll do.”

“I am flattered by your approval,” he told it dryly, and it laughed, sweeping past the other three to examine them in turn.

“I am the guardian of this outpost,” it said, beckoning them further down the hallway. “My designation is Myn Alemktub, which in your language would translate to ‘The Librarian’.”

“What’s your name, then?” Red asked from behind Blue, and the poe floated over to examine him again.

“My name has been long lost to time,” it said, sounding almost mournful. “When I took my post my name became irrelevant.”

“We can’t just call you ‘Librarian’ though!” Red frowned. “That’s just rude!”

It chuckled and moved back to the head of the small procession, winding its way further down the long hall. “Rude, you say,” it murmured. “And we can’t have that, can we?”

“Clearly not,” Green agreed with a smile.

“Then you may call me Sheia,” it said with finality as they stepped into a large hexagonal room, bare of anything but what appeared to be a circular cage attached to a chain in the ceiling. “Fitting, for a forgotten member of a race that does not forget.”

“You were a Sheikah?” Vio asked with interest.

“More to the point here, what the hell is this?” Blue interrupted, gesturing at the contraption.

Sheia laughed again, circling around it. As she passed a section it sprung open, revealing a set of levers inside. “You did not believe we would house the entirety of the library in such a small building, did you?” she asked Blue scornfully, and Blue let out a mutter but didn’t reply. “The true library is underground, fortified with every spell of preservation we knew. Come, into the lift, unless you wish to turn back now.”

When Blue hesitated Green prodded him in the back and whispered, “Don’t worry li’l baby, big bad Green’ll protect you from all those books!”

Blue smacked him in the head with a snarl, stomping onto the lift with Red on his heels. Green and Vio followed, and Sheia closed the door after them.

With a jolt, they descended.

Chapter Text

“I must ask,” Sheia said, drifting above their heads as the lift creaked slowly downwards. “What brings four Goddess-touched heroes to the greatest of the Sheikah repositories in the middle of the night?”

“We would have gotten here earlier if Vio hadn’t gotten us lost in the woods,” Blue grumbled, but his heart clearly wasn’t in it. The long day’s travel had left all of them tired- Red looked as though he was about to fall asleep on his feet where he stood; Green and Blue looked only marginally better. Vio had no clue of his appearance, but was managing to keep his own exhaustion at bay through sheer tenacity- this was the largest source of collected knowledge in Hyrule, after all, and no matter how tired he was he yearned to explore.

“The princess has sent us to find information on the Twilight Seal and the history behind it,” Vio said after a moment’s thought.

Sheia made a noise of affirmation. “That would have to do with the tremors from a few days ago, would it not?”

Green nodded. “The entire sky blacked out for about twelve hours at midday.”

“There was a bi-i-i-ig earthquake,” Red added through a yawn.

“Mmm, well,” Sheia hummed thoughtfully. “You may want to brace yourselves, it has been quite some time since anyone used the lift and the landing tends to be … rough.”

“Rough?” Green began to ask, but was interrupted as the metal lift let out a sudden grating noise and hit the ground with a jolt, knocking everyone standing off their feet and into the walls. Sheia let out a cackle and pulled the lever to open the door, spilling them all onto the smooth stone floor.

Vio, at the top of the pile, was the first to roll to the side and sit up, shaking his head in wonder. The lift had descended into the center of what appeared to be a vast underground chamber. Poes floated everywhere, their lanterns scattering light across hundreds of bookshelves that stretched towards a ceiling he could not make out. The shelves loomed in a manner that should have seemed threatening, but instead was almost cozy, creating narrow corridors and comfortable nooks and dead ends. The scent of old paper and worn leather permeated the air; Vio was not sure if he had ever been in a more comfortable place.

“Welcome to the Library, Chosen of Farore,” Sheia said quietly, floating above them and gesturing with her lantern. “If you would follow me, I will bring you to a room where you may rest for the eve.”

They trailed after her through the maze of shelves. Neither Red nor Green were able to keep their eyes on their Poe guide, the sheer vastness of the library far too captivating. Blue marched behind them with a scowl on his face the entire way, never hesitating to prod Red in the ribs or give Green a shove to get them back on track. Vio, on the other hand, managed to damp down his enthusiasm to the point where it was swiftly overtaken by his exhaustion- the books would still be here in the morning, thank Farore, and he was sure he would have plenty of time to explore.

Sheia left them at a plain wooden door set into the only wall they had come across. “This room was used when the Library still had living staff,” she told them with a trace of humor. “Pull the cord by the doorway when you wish to begin your search on the morrow.”

“Thanks,” Green nodded at her, the others repeating the statement as they filed inside.

The room was small but not cramped, with two double-wide pallets serving as mattresses tucked into the back corners. A desk covered in papers lined one wall, a flameless lantern attached above it, while a doorway in the other led away into a smaller bathing room.

“Well!” Green said brightly, setting his pack onto the floor. “This is nice and homey.”

“Mmm,” Red agreed, pressing on one of the pallets with his hand. “Oooh, this feels like it’s stuffed with cucco down!”

“Dibs on the bath,” Blue stated as he kicked off his boots and lined them up at the base of the bed Red was standing by. “You need one too,” he told the latter, who in return just stared in confusion until Blue started moving him bodily.

Green snickered into his hand. “I better not be hearing the two of you getting up to anything in there, Blue!” he called after them, and Blue just smirked back and waggled his eyebrows.

Vio let out a groan at that, sinking down onto the edge of the bed he would be sharing with Green. “You do know he will be as loud as possible now, even if they do not end up actually doing anything?” he asked Green reproachfully.

Green laughed at him, stripping down to his under layers in the center of the room. “It’s not like they would have been subtle in the first place.”

“Blue? Subtle?” Vio snorted at that, giving into his rising exhaustion and letting himself flop down in an undignified sprawl. “Of course not.”

“You know…” Green’s voice was thoughtful, and Vio turned his head towards him without opening his eyes. “They’ll be in there for a while.” Vio felt the bed shift somewhat, and a hand touched his forehead, his cheek, rubbed teasingly against the bridge of his nose. “You’re pretty warm- not coming down with anything, are you?”

Vio shook his head, not hard enough to dislodge the palm cupped over his forehead once more. “Using magic is draining,” he admitted softly, keeping his eyes firmly closed. “It far surpassed my expectations.”

Green hummed sympathetically, shifting beside him. “Sit up, Vi, you don’t want to sleep in your hat and belt.”

“I will sleep however I want,” Vio said petulantly, and Green laughed again.

“No, Vi, come on!” With that, Vio was unceremoniously tugged up by his collar and efficiently stripped of hat, belt, overtunic and boots, much to his half-hearted complaints. Green let him back down gently when he was through, and Vio managed to open his eyes long enough to squint sullenly at him. “Doesn’t that feel better?” Green asked him cheerfully.

Vio grumbled a non-response and rolled completely onto the bed.

He was asleep moments later.

~~*~~*~~*~~

Sleep refused to stay with him for long, however- when Vio next surfaced into consciousness it was to Blue’s snoring and Green’s arm warm around his waist. The near-total darkness was disorienting; at some point after he’d fallen asleep someone had managed to dim the flameless lantern completely.

Vio carefully detached Green’s arm from around him and slipped off the edge of the bed, feeling around in the darkness for his boots. It was a simple matter of memory to retrace his way to the doorway, and only a few moments more to find the cord that Sheia had told them of. Pulling it produced no sound, which Vio was grateful for, if curious about. He moved outside in silence, cautiously letting the door close behind him, and nearly ruined all of his care by shrieking like a child when he turned to see Sheia hovering barely a foot away from him.

“Well, Goddess-touched,” she said to him in the blandest of voices that immediately caused Vio to narrow his eyes. “I suppose it is the morrow, by the barest margin. Where shall we begin?”

He thought for a moment, eyes narrowing slightly. “When the others call for you, set them to looking for information about the Twilight Seal, if you please,” he said finally. “As for me… I will need to join them eventually, but until then…” He hesitated, and Sheia made a noise of amusement.

“You thirst for knowledge, young one,” she said, smug approval practically radiating from her. “I could tell from the moment you saw the shelves.”

“I do,” Vio admitted, letting his lips curve into a smile. “I would spend months in here, if not for our task.”

“You must come back once all is said and done,” Sheia said, drifting ahead of him. “What would you like to fill your time with, Chosen of Farore?”

Vio thought for a moment, biting his lip as he pondered. “Do you have any relics from the Suppression or Twilight Wars?”

Sheia’s lantern glowed brighter at that, and she immediately darted off into a side passage. “I knew I liked you,” she told him smugly. “Right this way, Hero of Courage. Come and meet your ancestors.”

~~*~~*~~*~~

“Oi, bookworm!”

Vio hissed in frustration at the sudden shout, as the arrow that he had carefully aimed at a target on the far wall missed by a good three feet. Sheia let out an amused cackle behind him and he glared at her. She unrepentantly continued, fetching his arrow for him, and Vio sighed. He scrubbed a hand through his hair, lowering the bow as Blue, Green, and Red poked their heads in through the nearest doorway.

Sheia had taken him down further into the catacombs of the Library to a massive open room filled with relics of the past. Woven tapestries lined the walls, depicting events of the major wars of Hyrule’s past in which a Hero rose up to protect the land. Underneath them, protected with spells of preservation, lay both the Hero of Time and the Hero of Twilight’s amassed weaponry and tools. Sheia had delighted in leading him to each, explaining what they were and how they were used, and Vio soaked up the knowledge in fascination.

He had stopped in front of the bow of the Hero of Twilight, wishing that he had brought his own to compare, and was quite shocked when Sheia dispelled the wards in front of it with a touch, urging him to take it. Its draw weight was quite a bit higher than what he was used to, but other than that the bow settled into his hands like it belonged there, like not even his own bow did.

Sheia had urged him to test it out, setting targets for him around the room. He had struggled for a few minutes as he adjusted to the tension of the bowstring, but after his muscles had warmed to it his accuracy had only increased.

That is, of course, until an idiot wearing blue had interrupted his concentration.

“Yes?” he asked tightly without turning to face them.

“We were worried about you!” Red called over, nearly bounding into the room. “We woke up and you weren’t there! Why didn’t you wait for us?”

Vio turned to them at that, feeling surprisingly bare as he realized he was still without hat or tunic. “I had no clue what time it was,” he shrugged in answer to Red’s query. “I didn’t know when you had gone to sleep, and if it had only been a few hours I most certainly was not going to risk Blue’s wrath.” He gave an exaggerated frown and Red laughed.

“Still, can you leave us a note or something next time?” Green asked him, coming up beside Red.

Vio raised his eyebrows at that. “You overestimate my ability to see in the dark.”

“Vio…” Green grumbled, and opened his mouth to say something further, but was promptly interrupted by Blue’s “HEY, LADY!” from the other side of the room. Both of them turned- Blue was standing in front of a pedestal where a gleaming hammer lay protected by wards.

“Lady?” Green muttered.

“Charming,” Vio remarked dryly. “You can nearly feel the charisma radiating from him.”

Green snorted.

Blue ignored them both, staring aggressively at Sheia. “I wanna try this out,” he stated firmly. “Vio gets a weapon, I get a weapon.”

Sheia drifted over to him, making an approving noise. “You wish to handle the Megaton Hammer?” she asked. “This was favored by the Hero of Time- what a darling lad,” she added in a wistful undertone.

“Wait- you knew him?” Green said, sounding shocked.

Sheia turned to face him, ignoring Blue’s impatient noise. “Well, of course I knew him! He quite liked it here, and visited often, since it bordered his homelands near the Lost Woods.” She made a ‘tsk’ing noise. “This was quite a sanctuary for him, I believe. Travelling through time so much left him feeling quite unsettled after the war- he was quite happy to bequeath his weaponry to us as soon as he could.”

“What was he like?” Red asked eagerly, looking awed.

“Mmm, he was quite a peculiar one,” Sheia said thoughtfully. “Innocent as a babe, yet as deadly as anything I’ve ever seen. Quite gifted in magic, that one was, and he had the most awful vendetta against cuccos, of all things! He never explained that one to us, no matter how often we asked. He had a core of brightness in him that nothing managed to stamp out, no matter how hard the world raged against him.” She turned back towards Blue, dispelling the wards around the hammer with a wave of her lantern. “You may take that with you- if you can remove it from the pedestal,” she told Blue, a hint of mischief in her voice.

Blue grabbed the hammer possessively- - yet when he attempted to pull it off, it didn’t move.

“Well, Goddess-touched?” Sheia turned back to face Vio, Green and Red, ignoring Blue’s muttered swearing as he tugged. “The day gets no younger, and you still have information you need to find. Shall I take you to it?”

“If it would please you to do so,” Vio told her with a formal bow to hide the smile threatening to break onto his face. Green and Red were less discreet- Red was unable to contain his giggling when Blue’s swearing took a harsher turn.

They followed her out of the room, Blue’s enraged yells beginning to echo behind them.

~~*~~*~~*~~

Sheia finally took pity on Blue and gifted him with the Goron’s Bracelet to aid him in lifting the hammer, but not until several hours had passed. In that time, Vio and the others had found all they needed to know and more.

Red had taken it upon himself to read aloud to them any lore of Ganon he could get his hands on, spending nearly half an hour regaling them with what seemed to be a first-hand account of the Hero of Twilight’s final battle with him.

“He actually fought Ganon four separate times!” Red had told them, poring through a dusty old tome. “Ganon possessed the Princess and made them fight first, and then he turned into a huge beast and he and the Hero fought like that! Then when he got defeated again the Princess woke up, and she and the Hero went out and fought Ganon on horseback, and then finally the Hero faced him in honorable combat!” Red had sounded awed, as if the thought of a battle stretching for so long was almost incomprehensible. “And after that, the Hero and the Princess and the Twilight Queen sealed him really tightly in the Mirror of Twilight, and hid it away in the desert so that the Sages could guard it.”

“Why didn’t they just kill him while they had the chance?” Green had asked, and Red had flicked through the pages of his book until he’d found an answer.

“The author says here that it’s cause Ganon has a piece of the Triforce,” he recited. “As long as he holds Power, Power will keep him alive.”

They had continued searching- Vio came across and committed to memory several spells that could be quite useful in the future, including one that allowed arrows to carry flames. Green was the one to come across the true treasure trove, however, when one of the scrolls he had been looking through turned out to contain detailed depictions of the Mirror of Twilight and the Second Sealing of Ganon.

Unfortunately, it was in a language that none of them could read, and Sheia refused to help.

Green finally bundled the old parchment up and threatened to take it back to Zelda- and to everyone’s surprise Sheia agreed with him. “Your Princess will be far more of a help to you than I could be,” she had said. “And aside from that, I am not sure if there is anything here that can aid you in your quest any further.”

Repacking their bags after that took nearly no time at all- within twenty minutes they were ready to leave. Vio found that his new quiver balanced quite well on the edge of his pack, even with the bow strung and tucked inside as well. Blue simply hooked the Megaton Hammer onto his belt loop, where it hung beside his sword.

Sheia waited for them at the lift’s entrance. “I expect it goes without saying that you will take excellent care of those weapons?” she said before anyone else could.

Vio snorted. “Of course, Alemktub,” he said with a bow that was only half-mocking. Blue rolled his eyes and made an agreeing motion with his hands.

“Excellent.” She drifted out of the way of the lift, the door opening as she moved. “You will have guides until you reach the edge of the forest- I trust you can make your way back from there?”

“Yeah!” Red told her cheerfully. “Maybe we’ll even try rolling all the way back to the castle just to get there quicker!”

Green almost managed to stifle a laugh at that.

“That may be wise, Goddess-touched,” Sheia told him, complete seriousness in her voice. “These woods have become home to something great and dark. Though it is as of now too weak to break into this sanctum, daily I feel it growing stronger above us.” She drifted back and forth in front of them slowly, as if lost in thought, before appearing to come back to herself. “Even so, you should be fine once you reach the edge of the forest. Those who guided you here will be happy to lead you back.”

“Those poes?” Blue clarified, frowning.

“The Sisters, yes,” Sheia agreed. “Now heed me, Chosen of Farore, if you wish to learn of things that may prove helpful to you in your quest.” They clustered around her a little more attentively. “Far to the west, in a place you will most certainly come upon before too much longer, lie a pair of rods imbued with elemental fury. Farther to the south of here, deep within the Lost Woods, lies another that could be of great use.”

“…that’s it?” Blue asked after a moment of silence had passed. “No useful information or anything?”

“These implements will be quite useful, Goddess-touched,” Sheia remarked acerbically, “if you have the wherewithal to seek them. I shall take my leave of you now, and remind you that should you wish to return, any resources we can offer are freely yours.” She bowed to them then, and one by one they returned it. “May Din’s strong arms cradle you, Nayru’s infinite wisdom guide you, and the warmth of Farore’s winds be always at your backs.”

~~*~~*~~*~~

Vio took the opportunity to look around as they descended the long stone staircase into the courtyard. In the daylight it was much easier to see- he recognized the Stone of Truth he and Green had examined by the gates, but was surprised to note that perhaps a dozen more lined each curved wall surrounding the courtyard. The forest did not manage to breach the walls- the branches of each tree stopped roughly six inches before they would be able to hang over into the courtyard.

Each and every tree surrounding them was covered in so many webs they looked as though they had been swathed in cotton. Vio heard Green make a noise of disgust behind him, and bit his lip to keep a smile from rising to his face. Who would have known their stolid leader was arachnophobic? He was merely grateful that that particular aspect of Link as a whole hadn’t passed to himself.

A heavy unnatural silence filled the air, and Vio slowed as his boots hit the cobblestone pathway leading outwards. He moved aside so the other three could file off, slowly turning around to scan the rest of the area. The dark sloped roof of the Library contrasted quite a bit with its pale stone walls, he noted idly. It was lopsided, with four bristling pillars staggered along the edge in no clear order. His gaze drifted around the courtyard once more.

Wait.

“Vio, come on! We gotta move!” Blue called from behind him. Vio made no move to listen, gaze inexorably drawn back up to the roof, where the pillars had shifted- now separated into two groups of two. His heart sank.

“Blue.” Vio’s voice cracked and he had to swallow, trying again. “Green, Red. Place your packs on the ground as slowly as you can. Try to make as little noise as possible.”

“Why?” Red called loudly. Vio cringed as he watched the pillars move once more, a steady wave of motion pulling them a quarter-turn away from where they had begun. He unslung his pack and dumped it out of the way, swinging the Hero’s Bow out of his quiver and nocking an arrow.

Three more thumps met his ear as he backed over to the others, gaze locked on the heaving dark mass rising from the roof. He could hear Green swallowing heavily behind him, followed quickly by Blue’s muttered “Oh fuck me”.

It breached the wall almost faster than thought, a great dark armored gohma with a legspan that could possibly have stretched across the courtyard from wall to wall with no room to spare. Eight luminous orange eyes rolled back and forth above an overly-large set of mandibles that twitched and glistened in the weak sunlight, dripping with something viscous and more than likely fatal. Each barrel-thick leg bristled with wiry hairs. Glowing red lines throbbed between the chinks in its oily black carapace.

Red let out a whimper, and all eight of its eyes focused on the tightly-knit group immediately.

“Everyone back!” Vio yelled, noting the tensing in its legs seconds before it threw itself forward off the building. He dropped the arrow he had nocked and grabbed Green’s arm, flinging him ahead of himself as Blue did the same for Red. The armogohma landed heavily between them, making the ground shake. It turned towards Vio and Green, its movements twitchy and nauseating and wrong somehow, and behind him Vio heard Green retching.

“You can throw up after it is dead, Green,” Vio said tensely, and aimed and fired. His accuracy was off- the arrowhead skittered across the tough chitin plating of its exoskeleton and it hissed at him. “I could use a little help over here, Blue!” he shouted, voice coming out a bit more panicked than he wanted.

Blue shouted something incoherent and there was a wet meaty crunch. The armogohma dipped to the side, letting out a high thin noise reminiscent of a teakettle’s whistle at full boil. Vio pulled another arrow out of his quiver, beginning to raise it, and then paused. “Hyryq,” he hissed, sparks dancing between his teeth, and the tip of the arrow took on a lurid red glow. He turned- it was advancing on Blue now, one of the legs on its right side dangling limp and useless as Blue waved the Megaton Hammer menacingly in front of himself.

“Mashar alhyryq!” Vio yelled as he let the arrow fly, and it burst into flames.

His aim was impeccable- it lodged itself squarely in one of the largest eyes, bursting the jelly-filled orb and causing the armogohma to writhe in pain. “Go for the legs!” he bellowed to Green, who immediately sprang into action. Blue joined him, and between the two of them they managed to hack off the useless leg and one other before the armogohma appeared to regain its senses and shake them off.

Its attacks became much more vicious after that, as it used its front pair of legs to swipe at any who came too near. Blue hovered just outside its range yelling taunts as he tried to keep its attention from Vio, who had retreated halfway up the stairs for a better vantage point. The second he had a clear shot he fired once more, and his arrow flew true. Two more eyes burst, sending the armogohma into convulsions again.

This time when it collapsed Red joined Green and Blue in their gruesome task, and Vio continued to methodically fill the armogohma’s head with arrows. He pierced the last eye as the other three detached the last of its right legs. The armogohma let out a shrill noise as its other legs flailed uselessly, tipping it forward so that its head rested on the ground. Vio wasted no time in dashing down the stairs, drawing his Four Sword as he did.

As one, the four of them surrounded it. As one, they plunged their blades into its massive head.

The armogohma froze and gave off one last horrific noise before it went limp, its remaining attached legs splaying limply across the courtyard. Vio removed his sword from its head, grimacing at the streaks of black ichor that dripped from the gleaming blade. The others were quick to follow, Blue giving his a shake with a mutter of disgust while Red and Green simply held theirs away from their bodies to drip themselves clean.

With all four swords removed the armogohma’s body began to let off the same black tendrils that had emanated from the much smaller gohma in the forest. The four legs scattered around the courtyard did so as well- they were the first to dissolve completely, and the rest of the hulking corpse followed, until the only signs left of the battle that had taken place were Vio’s scattered arrows and stubborn splashes of tar-like ichor staining the cobblestones.

In the silence that followed, a songbird cheeped tentatively.

“That was disgusting,” Green said flatly, edging around the nearest pool of muck to get to his pack, sword still held awkwardly away from his body. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel clean again.”

“I love this hammer!!” Blue whooped, shaking it above his head- somehow he had managed to escape without a single drop of goo marring his clothing. “Did you see how much damage I did to that thing?!” He spun it around in a circle, narrowly missing Green- who took the opportunity to shove Blue off balance and into the nearest ichor puddle.

Red hung back from the resulting tussle, standing beside Vio with an uncharacteristic frown on his face. “That’s what Sheia meant, wasn’t it?” he asked, voice pitched low so that it wouldn’t carry. “When she talked about dark presences in the woods- that was what she was talking about.”

Vio nodded, barely repressing a shudder. “I fear we may have worse things in store for us.”

Chapter Text

They reached the palace at the cusp of twilight.

Their pace had been fast but easy, leaving them time to stop at farm and field alike and question the people there to find if they had seen anything out of the ordinary. Farmers were quick to show them strange withered patches in their fields, places their herds would circle around, strange beasts they thought they had seen from the corners of their eyes at dusk or daybreak. One even claimed he had seen a shadowy dragon fly across the sky and to the east, coming from the great Gerudo Desert.

The reports were troubling, to say the least, and none of the four were surprised when Zelda met them on the steps of the palace, chivvying them inside without a word. “Bathe and come to my quarters to eat,” she told them shortly. “I’m sure we have much to talk about.”

“That we do,” said Vio, stopping her with a gentle touch on her forearm. “Have you slept since we have left?”

“Briefly,” she admitted. “There’s just too much work to be done to waste my time resting!”

“Make sure to take care of yourself,” said Vio, and the rest nodded in agreement.

They bathed as she had asked, splitting off into their usual groups; Blue tugging a tired Red into their own washroom with Shadow still in tow, while Vio, then Green, bathed in the other. Vio was grateful that Green made no overtures towards him, though he did see Green eyeing him when he emerged with only a towel wrapped around his waist, another drying his hair.

Once they all had dressed they trooped up to Zelda’s rooms, where she had laid out food and drinks. When they had eaten, servants cleared the mess away, and Zelda looked at them all in turn.

“Please, tell me what you found,” she said, and they did.

Green and Red told her of the overlarge gohmas lining the path to the library, and Blue explained what had happened with the poes. Vio took over when they reached the temple, explaining the words of power he had used to open the door, the Librarian, and all the knowledge they had seen within, as well as the battle with the Armogohma. Zelda examined the arm wraps he had been given with awe, and gasped when Blue hefted the Megaton Hammer onto the end of the table.

Finally, Green handed her the folded parchment he had taken from the library. “None of us could read it,” he said with a sheepish grin, “but Sheia seemed to think that you could.”

Zelda opened it up reverently, tracing a finger across the old illustrations. “Yes,” she said slowly, “I can read this. But it will require a lot more effort than usual—this is in the language of Twilight, one that I am not fluent in. The Armogohma sounded like a creature of Twilight as well, but…that can’t be.”

“Why not?” Red asked through a yawn.

“Because it would take a tremendous amount of energy to send a being of Twilight into our world, and I would have noticed. The only way it could have been done is if it was sent through the Mirror of Twilight, but again—I would have noticed if Ganon had broken any of the seals.”

“But how?”

Zelda folded the parchment, setting it in the middle of the table. “You know of the Land Wards and the Goddess Crystals, yes?” she asked.

“I know of them,” said Vio, “but not exactly what they are.” The others echoed his statement.

“Well.” Zelda sat back in her chair, folding her hands in her lap. “After the Twilight War, before the Twilight Queen returned to her realm, she and the Princess and the Hero went about the land, and between them wove enchantments that tied strings of magic between the Twilight and our world. That way, if Ganon attempted once more to make his way from the Twilight, we would know. Those strings are what we know as the Land Wards.”

Despite his tiredness, Vio was fascinated. “How did they anchor the magic so it would persist?”

Zelda smiled. “They tied the magic into our bloodlines, of course—that of the Twilight royalty, the Hylian royalty, and the heir of Courage. So if, and when, Ganon does appear, you will know as soon as I. Now,” she continued, “to power the wards and to strengthen the bonds holding Ganon in the Twilight, the three also created what we call the Goddess Crystals. These, as far as I know from what I have read, were also focal points for the Land Wards, strengthening them a thousand times over.”

“Were they just big crystals?” asked Blue. “How many were there?”

“Innumerable,” said Zelda. “The Princess sang them from the ground as the three travelled, the Queen would imbue them with magic, and the Hero would dedicate them to a goddess, depending on where they were. The Crystals of Farore are all in the south, the Crystals of Din to the east and north-east, and the Crystals of Nayru to the west and north-west. They scattered them across the land, hiding them for the most part. I believe they even placed some at the bottom of Lake Hylia.”

“So, uh,” Blue rubbed the back of his neck. “If someone were to hit one, would it be bad?”

“Blue.” Vio gave him a look. “Did you hit a Goddess Crystal in the Library?”

“I didn’t hit it!” Blue protested. “I just pinged it a little when I was exploring! It lit up and made a noise so I left it alone.”

Zelda laughed, patting Blue’s arm. “It’s fine,” she said in amusement. “If anything, you’ve helped to strengthen the Land Wards a little more. I’m not surprised you found one in there—the Old Library was also known as Nayru’s Sanctum before the Suppression War. It’s likely there are crystals in the other two goddess-touched places as well, Din’s Palace and Farore’s Arbor. But enough about that,” she said briskly, watching Red yawn and rub his eyes. “You’ve had a long day, and you’ll need rest, but before you sleep I’d like to bring you someplace.”

“Is it far?” asked Red. “I don’t want to walk much farther today…”

“It’s just behind the castle,” Zelda promised. “For now, head back to your rooms, rest a little longer. Vio, I need you to come with me. There’s someone I want you to meet, and something I need your help with.” She pushed her chair back from the table, palms flat on it as she rose.

The others followed her. Red and Blue left without question but Green hovered at the doorway, looking back. “Is there anything I can do to help?” he asked.

Zelda shook her head. “Thank you for offering, Green, but I will be fine with Vio. This is a matter of magic, not might.”

“Am I not mighty enough for you, Princess?” Vio asked, faux-hurt. Zelda just laughed, giving him a quick hug before taking his arm in hers to guide him out of the room. Green stepped aside to let them pass, but placed a hand on Vio’s other arm. He turned, tilting his head in silent question.

“Blue and I were going to go over our swords with a whetstone and some oil,” said Green with a shrug. “Would you like me to do yours while you’re away?”

“I would appreciate that, yes,” said Vio, unbuckling his sword belt. “Thank you for offering.” Green took it from him, his fingers brushing over Vio’s, and Vio suppressed a shiver.

“Be down by this room in an hour and a half, Green,” Zelda said, turning and tugging Vio with her. “You won’t need your swords or any equipment; where we’ll be going is one of the safest spots in Hyrule.”

~~*~~*~~*~~

As they walked, Zelda asked Vio to recount what had happened in the Library again, focusing on the gifts Sheia had given him and the knowledge he had learned. Vio gladly shared all that he had with her, pausing only when she pulled him to a halt in front of an ornate tapestry. “The person I want you to meet is very dear to me,” she told Vio as she lifted it, gesturing him into a dim, narrow tunnel. “She was my personal guard when I was young, but had to leave a few years ago because of an emergency in her home country.”

“Where is she from?” Vio asked. Before Zelda could answer, he came to the end of the tunnel, a flat sandstone wall.

“Oh, I didn’t think this through very well,” said Zelda ruefully. “Can you open that, Vio?”

“With magic?” Vio frowned, resting his forehead against it. “I can attempt to.” He placed his left hand against the wall, reaching down into the well of his magic. It was easier to draw the power forth this time, and he pulled until he could feel it crackling in his mouth. “A’trahq aljdari,” he murmured, breach the wall, and it split down the middle, pulling wider until he could step through.

“Effective enough,” said a voice from the other side, “but wordy. Open would have worked just as well.”

“Impa!” said Zelda in delight. “Oh, do hurry up, Vio, this tunnel is fairly cramped with two.”

Vio did as she asked, stepping to the side as soon as he was out. Zelda slipped through the opening, turning to close it with a touch of her gloved hand and a murmured word. “There!” she said happily. “Now I can introduce you. Impa, this is Vio of the Four Sword, Hero of Hyrule. Vio, this is Impa of the Sheikah.”

Impa was, to put it in a word, terrifying.

She loomed over the princess and himself, six-plus feet of lean muscle and hidden strength. Her hair was a steely grey, but her tanned skin was unmarred by wrinkles. Her eyes, a piercing burgundy, seemed to transfix him where he stood. She wore leggings and a sleeveless tunic the color of the desert sky, metal bracers on both forearms and upper arms, and a metal waistcoat embossed with the Sheikah’s Eye of Truth. A polearm taller than her was strapped to her back. When he met her gaze for the briefest of moments her lips quirked up.

“So,” she said in a voice lower than any woman’s he had heard before, “you are the one the Princess has been speaking of.”

“Yes,” said Vio. “At least, I believe so?” He glanced at Zelda, who nodded.

“Vio has the best grasp on his magic,” she said. “In time, I’m sure the other three can master it, but time is one of the things we lack right now. He’s most equipped to help us.”

“Then follow me,” said Impa, turning on her heel. “You have much to learn, and not long to do so.”

She led them down a dark and narrow passageway, passing several short wooden doors set deeply into the stone walls. Vio eyed them with curiosity—this was a part of the castle he had never thought existed—and when Impa stopped in front of one it took a moment to halt his steps.

Impa turned to face him, her expression stern. “You may not speak of this room to anyone, not even your compatriots, unless and until either the Princess gives you permission or you come across one of its like on your own,” she said.

“Is it a secret?” asked Vio, brows furrowing.

“Not precisely,” said Zelda, laying her hand on his arm, “but neither should knowledge of it spread across the land. Come on.”

Impa opened the door and ushered them in.

The room beyond was large and hexagonal, each side close to fifteen feet in length. The walls were made of a warm, creamy sandstone, the floor of grey-flecked white marble. Flameless lanterns were mounted about halfway up each wall, cradled in intricate metal brackets. In the center of the room a Triforce was carved into the floor, inlaid in what appeared to be smoothed, faceted yellow agates. At the corners of the center downward-facing triangle were set fist-sized chunks of amber quartz. They caught the light, making them appear to glow.

“This is an altar to the Goddesses,” said Impa, descending the few steps leading into the room. “They are sprinkled across the land. Most are not this elaborate, but all will allow you to commune with the Goddesses in a more efficient manner than usual.”

Vio followed her, equal parts awed and unnerved. The moment he stepped onto the floor he could feel power humming in the air, setting his tired nerves alight. “This is incredible,” he breathed. “How long has this been here?”

“No one knows,” said Zelda, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. She stepped into the leftmost triangle, dropping to her knees and spreading her skirts neatly around her. “I was exploring the castle with Impa one day when I was young, and we happened upon this room.”

“Come, Vio,” said Impa, seating herself in the topmost triangle. “I am not the heir, nor do I hold Power, but it did once belong to the Sheikah, and so I am an acceptable substitute. Zelda is an heir of the Princess of Wisdom, and you are heir and holder of the Triforce of Courage. Seat yourself, and let us begin.”

“Begin what?” Vio asked as he stepped inside the bounds of his triangle and sat with his legs crossed. He felt the power tingling along his skin abate somewhat.

“Oh!” Zelda put a hand over her mouth, looking abashed. “I never mentioned, did I? Since you’ve been dealing with Twilight magic, Impa and I thought it best if the four of you carry charms of light with you from now on. They should protect you from harm, and give you warning if beasts of the Twilight come near.”

“And you needed me for this because?”

“Normally I could do this on my own,” said Impa. “But it is a good skill for the Princess to learn, and a good skill for you as well. Now,” she said, and her manner grew stern once more. “Place your hands on the crystal nearest you, and we shall begin.

Vio did so. The gem was cold underneath his hands, its sharp edges seeming to throb in his grip. “Empty your mind,” said Impa. “Clear your thoughts. Breathe as I do, when I do.” She breathed in and out, steady as a forge bellows. Vio and Zelda followed her lead.

With every breath he took, Vio’s mind cleared and his tiredness receded. He closed his eyes, stilling his thoughts, until he was empty, open, a vessel waiting to be filled.

“Now,” said Impa, her voice ringing deep and sonorous in Vio’s ears. “Zelda, begin. Vio, listen for now. Gather the rhythm of the magic in your heart and your hands.” And she began to hum, a low, buzzing metronome in the back of his mind.

Zelda’s voice split the air, curling light and effervescent, coiling around the nascent power waiting beyond the borders of the jeweled Triforce. Vio felt it snap to attention, thrumming to Impa’s voice, Zelda’s words. The lanterns brightened, the agates beneath them shimmering as if aflame.

en daʃeʋu nobe̞ ʃo̞ndʊ
tʏe ʃʊtʊ keuænu sale̞
en daʃeʋu nobe̞ dʊʃʊ
tʏe ʃʊtʊ nobe̞ dezu dotʃe̞

She sang, and it felt like the world sang with her. Vio curled his fingers tighter around his gem, noting with distant surprise that it was beginning to glow under his palms.

Now, said Impa, her voice ringing strident in Vio’s mind, for she never stopped her humming. Add your voice to ours, child, and shape the light around us into your hands.

How? Vio tried to ask. He opened his mouth, but the words refused to come out. I don’t know the words!

No, that was untrue. He knew them deep in his soul, deep in the part of him that belonged to earlier heirs of Courage. The melody ran soul-deep, entwined in earth and sky, heavens above and stone below and every living thing in the world knew it too, every living thing was singing along in its own way.

His own voice joined Zelda’s, half an octave lower.

They sang, and Impa hummed, and light flickered and danced around them until each of the crystals and the entirety of the gem-inlaid Triforce was glowing with blinding, breathtaking radiance. Vio closed his eyes but the light burned behind his lids, and in the light he thought he could see faces, three of them, warm and welcoming.

Then Impa stopped humming.

The power gathered within the bounds of the Triforce hummed in his bones for a second more as if in indecision; then it sputtered, guttering out like a dying flame, and left Vio to crumple onto his side with a gasp. He was exhausted, as if he had run all the way to Ordon Village carrying a goat. His limbs shook hard enough that when he tried to prop himself up they spilled out from underneath him, leaving his face pressed to the cool marble. Zelda fared slightly better, dropping her hands from her crystal to brace herself on the floor, but she still seemed out of breath.

“Well done, Vio,” said Impa, appearing to be unaffected. “You performed much better than I had hoped. Look what you have wrought.”

Vio tilted his head to the side. In the center of the Triforce lay six irregular lumps of opaque crystal, shot through with milky-white streaks and smears. He could feel the power throbbing in each one from where he lay.

“Why…” he paused, swallowing drily. “Why am I so tired?”

“This is the first time you have worked such a large-scale spell, is it not?” Impa stood, dusting off her knees, then helped Zelda to her feet as well. “Your personal well of magic has been drained, and will need time to recover. That saps the strength from your bones and your mind. Do not attempt to cast any more spells before you have rested.”

“I do not think I will be able to ever cast another spell,” said Vio, closing his eyes. Zelda laughed softly, kneeling beside him and placing her palm on his cheek.

“You did well, Vio,” she said, quiet laughter in her voice. “I don’t think I would have been able to do as much after walking all the way back to the castle, nevertheless fighting an Armogohma beforehand! It’s no wonder you’re exhausted, but I have the solution for that. Can you sit up?”

“My head is spinning,” said Vio. After a moment’s consideration, he propped himself up on his elbow. The motion caused the world to swing dizzily in his vision, and he groaned and let himself drop to the floor. “Maybe a moment more.”

“Take all the time you need,” said Impa. “I will bind the crystals so you all may wear them as necklaces, but that will take time. Before that, though, I will help you to the tunnel, and Zelda will help you through.”

~~*~~*~~*~~

Zelda helped Vio lean against the wall before covering the secret passageway with the tapestry once more. He took the opportunity to catch his breath; Zelda, though she tried to hide it, was in little better shape than his own, and so he took it upon himself to lean on her as little as possible through the long tunnel. It had cost him much—his head was pounding and the ground would not stop moving.

“Come on, Vi,” Zelda said, and he felt her cool hand curve around the back of his neck. “Just a little further, alright?”

He made a grunted noise of assent—he could not be sure that he would not retch onto the floor if he opened his mouth. It was easier to walk when he could brace himself against the wall, though their pace was slowed because of his careful steps.

They rounded the curve where Zelda had told the others to meet them. To Vio’s relief they were already gathered—Red talking, as animated as ever, to both Shadow and Blue while Green leaned against the wall, lost in thought.

“Good, you’re here,” said Zelda as she and Vio drew closer. Pride made him take his hand off the wall and walk the last few paces unassisted, though it felt like the ground was heaving beneath him with each step. Green frowned and took a step nearer to him.

“What have you two been up to?” asked Red, looking less tired than when they had last seen him. “I took a nap while Blue and Green sharpened our Four Swords.”

“We worked some magic,” said Zelda with a smile. “The results of which, you will receive tomorrow morning. For now, follow me.” She swept along in front of them, beckoning them forth with a wave. First Red, then Blue followed, leaving Vio to grit his teeth and place one foot in front of the other as steadily as he could.

Green stayed by his side, oddly silent. Vio appreciated that more than he could explain, and allowed Green to brace him when he missed a step and swayed on his feet.

Zelda took them outside the castle walls, into a low, sloping tunnel. The ground was hard-packed earth, the walls smooth stone bricks. At the end of the tunnel was a dim, flickering light. The air grew heavy and moist as they descended.

They reached the end of the tunnel. The floor flattened out, turning to glossy white tile, while the walls of the tunnel swept outward and up, creating a natural dome. Someone had tiled the walls as well, and water coursed down them in thin shimmering curtains.

Deep in the center of the room stood four pillars, upon which burned warm golden flames. The flames lit up a deep, sunken pool, warm enough that they could see steam rising from it. The rest of the room was dim, barely bright enough to see the tiled path leading to the stairs bordering the pool.

“What is this place?” Red asked, fascinated.

“This is what was once known as a Great Fairy Fountain,” said Zelda. “Long ago, six Fairies had six Pools where they lived, dispensing advice to travelers and healing them of their wounds. They’ve long since left, but the water still has rejuvenating qualities.” As she spoke, she stripped off her gloves and laid them on the tile, then began to unlace the ties holding her overdress in place.

“Woah woah woah,” said Blue, holding up a hand. “What are you doing?”

“Zelda!” Red added, scandalized. “You can’t just strip in front of us!”

Zelda sighed deeply, and Vio could see her rolling her eyes. “I have an underslip on, Blue,” she said, patience thin. “You can’t expect me to soak in the spring with all of my clothes on.”

“Well, no, but—“

“But nothing! You’ve seen me in far less clothing when we played when we were younger!” She slipped off the overdress, then reached into slits in the underdress, fiddling with ties. The greater parts of her voluminous skirts dropped to the floor and she stepped out of them. “Besides, you four are the most trustworthy people I know. None of you will do anything untoward, am I correct?”

Blue muttered an assent.

“Good. Now help me with the ties on my back.”

Red, in the meantime, had stripped to his undershorts, leaving hat, clothes, and boots in a messy pile where he stood. “Last one in’s a rotten cucco!” he said, dashing up the tiled stairs. Zelda laughed, and Blue made a grumpy noise, stripping off his own clothes and folding them neatly before following Red’s lead.

That left Vio where he stood, leaning against the wall, reluctant to even raise his arms as nausea swirled in his gut. Green stepped in front of him, and Vio could see the concern on his face even in the dim light. “Do you need a hand?” Green asked, voice quiet.

Vio opened his mouth, swallowed to clear his throat, and said, “I believe that would be wise. Thank you.”

“It’s fine,” said Green. His hands were deft, flitting from belt to hat to boots, helping Vio shimmy his tunic off over his head. His hands lingered briefly at the ties against Vio’s collarbone, and Vio flushed at the sweep of skin against skin as his shirt parted. Green’s hands moved further down, but before he could reach the ties of Vio’s leggings Vio stopped him.

“I will be able to manage from here,” he said, heat rising further in his cheeks. Green’s mouth opened in a slight ‘o’ as he looked up from where he had been focused.

The sound of splashing jolted them apart, and both turned to look at the source. Red had climbed to the top of the stairs and cannonballed into the spring, a laughing Zelda following him while Blue splashed at them both from below. Vio sucked in a breath, shifting back on his heels to step away and continue undressing, but before he could Green cupped his face.

His hands were so cool, Vio thought, before Green’s lips were on his. He kissed Vio softly, sweetly, and Vio trembled in his grasp—whether it was from exhaustion or nerves, he could not tell.

Green broke the kiss, pressing their foreheads together and closing his eyes. “Am I making you nervous?” he asked in little more than a whisper. Vio couldn’t find the strength to do more than nod, and Green smiled ruefully in the half-light. “I’m sorry. I got scared for a moment, seeing you so pale and fragile like that.”

“I am not fragile,” Vio muttered, tilting his head so his face pressed against the cool walls.

“I know, I’m sorry. You just… you looked like spun glass, like someone had taken you and used you up, emptied you out, and I didn’t like it.” Green pressed his lips to Vio’s cheek, his temple. “Will you be okay?”

“Yes,” said Vio, not moving. “Zelda said that soaking in the spring would go a long way toward reviving my strength and recovering my magic.”

“Alright,” said Green, moving back far enough to start peeling off his clothing. Vio took off his leggings in silence, setting them with the rest of his clothing, and waited for Green to finish before he walked towards the spring.

Stepping into the water was like stepping into a warm bath. The stairs continued downward from the edge of the pool until the water was roughly chest-deep. Vio sat on the third step down, leaning back so the water covered his shoulders and neck, his head half-submerged. He could feel his hair drifting in the water currents.

The sounds of Red, Blue, and Zelda horsing around were muffled, almost otherworldly. The ripples they were making splashed up against the stairs in soft, rhythmic waves. He closed his eyes, intending just to rest for a moment.

“Hold your head up a moment,” said Green from beside him. Vio made a grumpy noise, reluctant to move. “Vio, come on, or you’ll slip down the stairs and drown to death, and then where will we be?”

“Nowhere,” he muttered, raising his head from the water and propping himself up on his elbows.

Green slipped onto the stair behind him and sat, his legs bracketing Vio’s torso. “Exactly,” he said, hands cool on Vio’s bare shoulders. “Lean back—see, I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.” He carded his fingers through Vio’s hair. “Rest your eyes for a bit. I’ll wake you when it’s time to go.”

Vio narrowed his eyes to bare slits. Through the shimmer of steam rising from the water, the three bodies at the far end of the spring looked ethereal, lacking substance, as if they might turn to steam themselves and float away into the sky. His mind turned, unbidden, to the faces he’d seen in the light as he sang.

With an unformed question in his mind, he allowed his eyes to close.