With the three shards of the Mirror of Twilight gathered, Link and Midna return to the Arbiter’s Grounds. The mirror is once again whole and intact, allowing Midna to open a gate to the Twilight realm. The gate takes the form of a black portal projected onto a large stone slab suspended by chains in the middle of the arena. If I recall correctly, this is the stone slab that Ganondorf was chained to when he was to be executed.
Before they enter the gate, Midna explains that it was Zant who cursed her, causing her to take on her current form. If Zant is defeated, Midna says, then she will be restored to her former power, and the Twilight realm will be saved. At that point, there may be a way to revive Zelda.
Okay. Sounds great. Let’s go!
The Twilight realm on the other side of the gate occupies a surprisingly small area, which is dominated by the Palace of Twilight. In front of the palace is a tiny bit of gray land, which vanishes abruptly into a cloudy purple and gold void. There is nothing in the distance save for a few scattered islands. It seems as though the Twilight realm is falling to ruin just as steadily as Hyrule.
There are a few Twili people standing around outside the palace, but they have been transformed into grotesque creatures crowned by bulky stone masks. Midna tells Link that she’s going to remain hidden in his shadow, as she’s ashamed to show herself to her people. They don’t seem to be in any state to recognize her, however. When Link passes in front of one of them, it will howl senselessly and make no move to interact with him.
The Palace of Twilight functions as a short dungeon, and its guiding mechanic involves Link transporting two large glowing orbs called “sol” from the wings of the building outside into its front plaza. When both sol are correctly positioned, the Master Sword is imbued with golden glowing light, which allows Link to cut through the waterfall of darkness falling over the road to the central section of the palace. Link can now kill most of the twilight creatures with one hit, and his sword slashes look really cool.
After he climbs to the top of the structure, Link enters the throne room to find Zant, who is just as creepy as he was the last time the player encountered him in the cavern housing the spring of the Lanayru light spirit. Moving with weird, jerky movements, Zant says he was next in line for the throne but was passed over for Midna. Although Zant is clearly unhinged, what he says to Link makes sense. The Twili people live in the Twilight realm “like insects in a cage,” where they “regressed” as a society into a state of complacence, knowing “neither anger nor hatred… nor the faintest bloom of desire.”
Before she brought Link into the Twilight realm, Midna had said, “The twilight there holds a serene beauty… You have seen it yourself as the sun sets on this world.” Based on her demonic facial expressions in various flashback scenes, Midna is motivated just as much by her desire for violent revenge as she is by any larger duty to her kingdom. In other words, she doesn’t seem to be serene or emotionless. Also, she was able to find her own way into Hyrule, so it doesn’t seem as if she was trapped in the Twilight realm.
Nevertheless, when the Twili are restored to their former selves after Link defeats Zant, they don’t speak to him. It’s unclear whether this is because they are unwilling or because they are unable. Either option indicates the sort of apathy and stagnation that Zant had hoped to challenge and dispel. The Twilight realm is falling apart, and its people don’t care. Although Midna demonstrates emotion and initiative, even she seems to have accepted the fate of her kingdom.
Zant reveals that he gained power through the intervention of Ganondorf, who came to him as an enormous ball of burning light. Ganondorf is the bearer of the Triforce of Power, which might be understood to represent endless energy and potential like the sun whose appearance he took. Although Ganondorf was drawn to Zant’s rage, which resonated with his own, I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out differently if he had revealed himself to Midna instead.
( Header image by ever-so-excited on DeviantArt )