A Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess fanfiction.
Chapter 1: The Cannon is Perfectly Safe
Link stared upwards and frowned.
How to activate the cannon?
Ugly, heavy, and fearsome, the cannon stood silently and mightily, its grotesque, clawed feet digging into the ground as if claiming it for their own. The carnival man's cannon was awful and brightly-colored… this cannon sported its own awfulness, in spades, but in a substantially more unsettling and less comprehensible flavor. Link didn't like it. Really didn't like it. He'd had several cannon rides in the past, courtesy of the carnival man, and remembered none of them favorably… the last thing he wanted to do was clamber inside a cannon and go flying into the unknown heavens, especially THIS cannon. And who was supposed to operate it, anyway?
Walking around the machine's foreboding bulk, Link noticed one of those little red-and-gold metal plates that his clawshot could grab onto.
He pulled out the clawshot and shot it out at the metal plate. Couldn't hurt to try, right? The claw clamped down easily, and the chain pulled him up, click click click click, as expected. He'd used the clawshot hundreds of times… the familiarity of the ride upwards, in contrast to the unfamiliarity of the cannon and the territory to which it could theoretically send him, was almost comforting.
With a last couple of clicks, the clawshot's chain settled back inside the main body of the device, and Link was fixed to the plate, holding onto the clawshot and looking around. Hm. Ok. So he was inside, at least. Well…more like, hanging on the underside. Not exactly progress, if the goal is to get in and propel yourself skyward, right… and again, how is this supposed to work without an operator?
But then the cannon began to make ominous noises, started changing, started to move, reposition its disturbing clawed feet, and Link realized with horrified certainty that he was about to go flying into space within the next few seconds.
"Quirp!" shouted Ooccoo as she leapt in after Link and grabbed his left foot.
"Quirp!" shouted Ooccoo Jr. as he leapt in after Link and grabbed his right foot.
"I'm coming with you!" shouted Ilia as she leapt in after Link and grabbed his waist.
"WHAT?" Link shouted.
Then the cannon fired the four of them (five, counting Midna) into oblivion.
The pool of water the group landed in was warm, too warm for a pool of water so high above the ground. It was warm because it was directly above a portion of the magic and heavy machinery that kept the city floating. But Link didn't ask himself why the water was warm. He didn't ask himself why the city was floating. Didn't take in the ancient, sandy-colored forgotten paths and buildings that branched off from the pool, creeping with moss and light green grasses; completely failed to marvel at his rare and fantastical surroundings. Now that the group had surfaced, gotten their noses and lungs as free of water as possible, and swam to a flight of steps to rest on, Link was looking at Ilia. And Ilia was looking at her feet, looking at the shifting partial images of them through the calmly dancing water.
"You're probably mad at me…" she said, using a low voice that sounded too delicate and pretty to shelter regret. "But of course you'd be mad, right?" She finally looked up, expression unreadable.
Link stared at her, uncertain…surely there was a crucial layer of meaning behind her words, but he had no idea what it could be. I'm in trouble, he thought. He had no idea why he should be in trouble, but he was certain that he was.
"Why DID you do all of that work to help me get my memory back, Link?" Ilia asked.
Link only continued to face her, feeling a familiar rising sense of fear.
"Because I'm your friend and I needed you?" Ilia asked. "Or because you and your super important adventures needed to know some of the things one of your little tools had forgotten?"
"Ilia!" Link said, quickly putting a hand on her shoulder, eyes wide. Ouch! He should say more! Defend himself! But what?
"Don't, don't… I don't need you to touch me," Ilia said, pushing his hand away. "And yes, my name's Ilia, I know that … you act all concerned, but you didn't answer my question! I'm supposed to believe that you absolutely couldn't spare ANY time at all, until just recently, to try and help me? I'm supposed to believe that you're still my best friend, when all you ever do is run around collecting glory for yourself? I didn't remember you, and you didn't try very hard at all to remind me who you were! You didn't even try to get to know me all over again, I meant that little to you… did it occur to you that maybe looking at a stupid whistle was only one of SEVERAL ways I could have gotten my memory back? But you didn't care to put in the time for anything else, did you…"
"Ilia…" Link said. At some point the fear had switched from rising to consuming; he wants to hide…from her? But he should comfort her! He needs to comfort her…
Link continued to stare. Spirits sinking.
Mixed in with the fear is protest – and he'd thought he'd improved over his adventures! He'd talked to people, helped people, found skill, found confidence… He thought he'd become something more than the ranch hand who timidly followed around the mayor's daughter, shrinking at her rebukes, doing everything she said…
But now that the mayor's daughter had her old self back, now that she was right here in front of him, he found that he had his old self back too. Meek. Uncertain. Voiceless. Afraid.
Afraid of what?
"You probably think you're some kind of hero," Ilia said, glaring. "Everyone else thinks that, at any rate! How many people know what you're really like, I wonder… just me and you?"
Afraid of himself.
Now it was Link's turn to look at his feet.
His mouth twisted; he never knew what to say.
She wasn't looking for a two-way conversation.
She never was.
She wanted the both of them to help him figure out how not to be wrong anymore.
Anyone would be upset with me…
I'm a terrible friend…
Ilia waited a bit, then filled his silence with her words.
"I thought you were cute, back when I didn't remember," she said bitterly. "Cute and mysterious. You always had somewhere to go… something big to accomplish… you seemed so kind and capable, and I really liked that…then I remembered you, and you were just my old Link from Ordon! I was so happy – my hero was my friend, all along! I know I told you to go off by yourself again, I'd wait for you, it was okay… but then it hit me that I was only saying that because I'd come to expect it of you… of the hero. I realized that you can't HAVE a hero who's your friend. If you're friends with someone, it's because you're on the same level. You stopped treating me like a friend the instant I couldn't remember you anymore, Link. Then I came to look for you, to join you on your adventures, as a friend, and you were in the middle of flying off to HERE, like I didn't even EXIST. That HURTS, Link. I guess I should just ask you… do you WANT to be friends anymore?"
"We can send the lady human back in that cannon," Ooccoo said, unprompted, almost cheerfully.
"What?" Link said defensively, startled out of his unease. He didn't like the creature's tone… as if Ilia were some useless annoyance to be gotten rid of…
"Over there," Ooccoo said, pointing. "In that cannon. It shoots you back to the ground."
"Are you…" Link stared at the cannon, a ways off in the distance, by itself at the end of one of the paths leading away from the pool. Just like the one he'd been shot upwards in – clawed feet, bulbous body, everything. "Are you INSANE? We'd die if we FELL from this height! How would shooting someone towards the ground make it a safe fall? Wouldn't that make you fall even faster?"
"The cannon is perfectly safe," Ooccoo said.
Link only continued to stare, fixated, like he was staring at his own (hideous) tombstone. Everyone's tombstone, maybe. Then he looked around, all around him, at silent buildings and empty sky. "How… how WILL we get back down?" he said in a small voice, partly to Oocoo but mostly to himself. "I should have asked Shad…"
"I'm not going back that easily," Ilia said crossly. "So Link, is this your friend? You replaced me with a bird?"
"STOP!" Link said, standing up, fear quickly replacing itself with panic. "Ilia, STOP! STOP TALKING! Look around you…we're STUCK HERE!"
Ilia looked around stupidly, not yet comprehending but concerned enough not to be mad at him for talking to her like that, just yet...
Lap, lap, lap, went the calm water against the stairs.
The sky was blue, dazzling, and, all the way up here, all-encompassing.
The blowing breeze was chilly and crisp, but the sun warmed the bricks of the walkway and the steps, warmed the faces of the four travelers.
Such a beautiful place. Peaceful.
"Stuck…" Ilia said uncertainly.
Then her hands flew to her face.
"Link, how will we get down?"
Then the dragon flew overhead.
Ooccoo and her son ran away screaming; Ilia was quick to follow and happy to contribute to the noise. Link ran a ways after them and turned, almost automatically, to cover their escape; he tore the Master Sword out of its scabbard and waited, steadying his breathing, readying himself for a fight…
"Maybe you should follow them too," Midna said from behind Link, resting a gentle, shadowy hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah…and hey, I'm sorry about Ilia," Link said tiredly, lowering his sword and following the dragon with his eyes. Okay, fine, so there's a dragon. It didn't seem to have noticed anyone, despite all of the screaming; there it goes flying. That's good.
How could this have turned into such a long and exhausting day already? It was barely noon….
"You probably won't want to come out much, will you?" Link continued. Midna didn't like to be seen, he knew.
"Oh, I'll be fine," Midna said, her bittersweet smile and the distance in her visible eye hidden from him by their positioning.
He did notice her tone, though. Light and reassuring… even more than that, sad. Link found himself troubled by it. But how to address that? He sheathed his sword and walked after Ilia and the birds, to the ancient, sandy-colored building they'd gone into. Link doesn't talk much. He isn't very good at it. He doesn't know how to say the right things. He could never tell Ilia the right things, growing up, and with her here again he can feel chunks of the confidence he's accumulated eroding away. He should say something to Midna. But what?
He closed his warm hand around her gray, partly substantial one.
Midna softly slid her hand out from under Link's, to return to his shadow.