The Lingering Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Chapter IV - Masks

It had been five days since Zelda’s mother was entombed in the graveyard of Kakariko. Her father’s health had improved, but he was still very ill. Impa had discovered that the king had secretly been poisoned by Lord Ganondorf on the very day he came to offer allegiance. Zelda stared like a mute doll from where she sat on her mother’s chair in the Grand Hall of Hyrule Castle. Impa stood beside her chair on the dais, no less Zelda’s bodyguard than her nursemaid. A soldier entered the Grand Hall and approached, stopping at the base of the shallow stairs. He bowed and then stood at attention.

Zelda stared past him at the banner above the peaked double-doors. She didn’t want to speak. She didn’t even want to be sitting in her mother’s throne, desecrating it—proving by her presence that her mother was not there to fill it herself. But she felt that taking her mother’s place had both made her more a child, for inexperience, and more a woman, for responsibility. She vaguely became aware that Impa was looking down at her. Zelda quietly took in a full breath. The tears had long since been drained from her eyes. Now all she had of her mother was memories, and each time she sighed it was the falling of one more dry tear.

When it was apparent that Zelda would not greet the soldier, Impa spoke. “Well met. Approach,” she said. The soldier climbed the stairs to Impa’s side and whispered his news. She thanked him and he left.

Impa kneeled beside Zelda. “He comes, child. Are you prepared?”

Despite her sorrow, Zelda was glad when she heard news that Link had returned to Hyrule. There had been some preparation and Link agreed to an official reception. She sat up straighter. “Yes,” she said. “Have him come in.”

Impa nodded to the guards. They opened one large door and through the opening stepped a boy wearing green clothes. On his back was a round shield and at his waist hung a gilded sword.

“Come forward,” Zelda said, loudly, so as to be heard across the room. She suddenly realized that her small voice did not sound quite as brave as she thought it did. Link approached the dais and stopped before the stairs.

“Hi,” Link said. Impa raised her thin eyebrows. “…your Highness,” he added.

Zelda spoke. “On behalf of the Hylian Royal Family, I welcome you, Hero. We thank you for your service to the crown. We wish to extend to you citizenship as a member of our kingdom. What will you?”

Link shifted his feet within his small leather boots and wrung his hands. “I thank you, Highness,” and he remembered to bow, “for your kindness and wisdom. I accept, and swear fealty to the Royal Family of Hyrule.”

“Then kneel,” said Zelda, and she stood. From one side a soldier came bearing a long, thin sword. It was decorated finely, and made Zelda appear at once both more regal and, Link thought, a little silly—it was too big for her. Link knelt.

Placing the tip of the sword on his shoulder, Zelda recited the words Impa had helped her practice: “By this sword I honor thee with life among the citizenry. Among our people you shall dwell, your charge: to serve the Goddess well.” She removed the sword and Link stood.

He smirked. “All of this just to say ‘welcome’,” he said, so low that only Zelda and Impa could hear.

For a moment seeing Link like that, timid and playful, after everything she knew he must have seen…it made Zelda feel like there might be something to look forward to after the terror and hopelessness. A faint smile inched over Zelda’s mouth.

Impa spoke. “Well done, child. Now there are other matters to which our attention must be drawn.”

* * *

Rauru stood from his seat in the Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Time. His thinning white hair edged the lower half of his head and thickened as it came down over his cheeks to join in a mustache. Three others sat in the circle of chairs: Aako, the Koroki Sage—a young boy clothed all in green with a cap made of one big curled leaf, Lutai, the Zora Sage—a tall blue woman who closely resembled a fish, and Zelda—the Princess of Hyrule. By Zelda stood Impa, and next to her was Link. Lutai had a green book open to a blank page resting on her knees.

Rauru spoke. “As Gor Darmon is still recovering in the hot springs of Death Mountain, and the king is in the company of the doctor, we propose to begin this council as presently attended. In absence of Mudora, Nayru keep him, Lutai will take minutes.” The other Sages nodded. “It is agreed,” Rauru said, and Lutai scribbled something with an instrument that reminded Link of a fish skeleton.

Impa stepped forward beside where Zelda sat, in her mother’s place. “Members of the Council of Sages, I bring before you the Hero, Link. Previously of the Koroki, now a citizen of Hyrule, he has been accepted by Princess Zelda in her role as queen incumbent. I ask that he be honored by a place in your council that he may give an account of himself.” Link stepped forward.

The Sages nodded. Rauru said “It is agreed,” and Lutai noted something with her fishbone pen. Link went to sit in the chair to the right of the king’s throne, but before he could sit Aako slid from his seat, reached around Link’s waist and squeezed. Link gratefully returned the gesture.

“Hi, Aako. How is everybody?” said Link. Now that he was this close to Aako he noticed that the edges of Aako’s leaf cap were turning brown.

“Better,” said Aako, frowning. The Great Dekku Tree, the father of the Koroki, had died a week ago. Link defeated the monstrous spider nesting in its roots, but the sentient tree had been doomed the moment Ganondorf had cursed him. Having grown up with the Koroki, losing the Great Dekku Tree affected Link as much as it had Aako.

Still, Link was grateful for this one reminder of the forest back home. He also knew that the Dekku Tree would sprout again in seven years. “It’ll be okay, Aako. Just wait.” Aako smiled and they took their seats.

Once they were well settled Rauru continued. “We also recognize Impa of the Sheikah, nursemaid and bodyguard of Princess Zelda, and offer her a place in our council.”

“I thank you,” said Impa with a curt bow. She sat in the chair immediately to Link’s right, the place of the absent Sage of Spirit. She placed one of her thin hands over Link’s small hand and smiled. He remembered some time, long ago, in the back of his memory, when he had first met Impa. She had come up on him from behind. If he had been wary of her then, he had a deep and profound respect for her now. On his quest to save Hyrule he had watched as Impa took Zelda away from Ganon’s clutches, fought with her to conquer a shadow beast in the depths of the Hylian Royal Tomb, and seen her alongside her fellow Sages as they banished Ganon to the Golden Land. But what was past to him had not happened yet, and he realized that it never would. To Link, these events were quite real, but now they only existed as a story—his own story. And with that thought, he felt a little braver—he still had yet to live his life, whatever it might be.

Then Lutai spoke, pulling Link from his reminiscence. “Let us hear, then, the account of Link, Hero of Hyrule.” All looked interested; especially Zelda who looked like she would have wanted to sit closer.

Link did not know where to start, but he stood and gathered his thoughts. He looked around at the Sages, then at Impa. “Can I say something?” he said finally.

“My boy, I believe we are all hoping that you will say something,” said Rauru.

Link shuffled his feet. “I think Impa should be a Sage.” Impa’s face straightened.

Rauru’s blinked behind his bushy white eyebrows. “Why do you say that?”

“I…” he paused. “I just think she’s the best for it.” He looked over at her and gave her a short smile.

Impa looked down, speaking quietly. “I am honored by your favor, Hero, but…”

To Link’s surprise, Rauru continued. “It is proposed that Impa of the Sheikah be inducted as a Sage. Cast your favors.”

“Aye,” said Lutai.

Aako nodded once, emphatically.

“Aye,” said Zelda, beaming.

“Aye,” said Link, still smiling at Impa.

“Aye,” concluded Rauru. Impa looked very small, hunched over, her face down. Her toned white arms were still, her hands resting in her lap. Rauru regarded her with gentleness in his voice. “What say you, Impa of the Sheikah? Do you accept the role of the Sage of Shadow?”

Finally, she spoke. “Mudora was far more skilled than I…I have but little to offer.”

“Your prayers are all that are needed,” said Lutai, “and your opinion in council. All else will come as please the Goddesses.”

“To be truthful,” said Rauru, “the boy has cut us to the quick. We had already planned on asking you to be one of the Sages. It will, of course, be up to the Sheikah to accept you as their spiritual representative, but we would know your mind.”

Impa exhaled slowly. Then, inhaling long and deep, she straightened her back and sat as regally as any who had ever been given a high honor. “I accept,” she said.

“Well. Then as we have six to affirm, it is agreed,” said Rauru. “You may occupy your seat as Sage of Shadow.” Impa raised herself up and moved one seat over, next to Lutai, who welcomed her. Link thought she looked like a queen among her equals.

“Let us proceed,” said Rauru. “Master Hero, come, give us your account.”

And Link told them of his journeys since he had been away, how days had been weeks for him. “It all started when I went looking for Navi. I found a part of the forest I had never seen before. Someone attacked me, stole the Ocarina, and rode off on Epona.” Those in audience listened intently. The very Object that had been so preciously cared for these many years had come to danger.

“Who was it?” asked Rauru.

“Skulki,” said Aako, narrowing his eyes.

“It was a kid I met in the forest once,” Link said. “He was wearing a mask that made him curse people. He always liked masks. And he had two fairies following him around. They reminded me of Solfe and Felso…from the forest,” he added when he realized none but Aako would know the Koroki children. “But the kid didn’t have any fairies when I knew him before. After he stole the Ocarina I followed him into the forest and found a different place…like Hyrule, but different.” Link was reflective. “Much different. Everybody was the same, but they all did different things.”

“How so?” asked Lutai.

“Well, you know that man who races people in the fields, the one who always wanted to be an actor?”

Aako nodded, his eyes twinkling. “Fun.”

“Well he was the postman in this place. And, Impa, you know Anju, that lady in your village who keeps the cuccos?” Impa nodded. “She took care of the inn. And she got married to someone I’ve never met before.” For a moment link thought how silly that must sound. But to him it made sense. “And the Gorons lived in the snow instead of a volcano, and the Gerudo were pirates, not thieves, and the Zoras had a music hall, and some of them played instruments made of fish bones and things,” here Link looked like he had just remembered how it felt to fly, then slowly a sober look crossed his face. “I was sort of friends with one of them, his name was Mikau…but he died.” Link looked at Lutai as if he wished to apologize. He paused, shaking his head slightly.

Lutai leaned forward. “What is it?” she asked.

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s just…you remind me of…Well, Mikau had a…girl Zora. She lost her voice. You remind me of her.”

Lutai leaned back again. “Yes. I remember.” When five pairs of eyes did not blink she continued, quietly. “It’s strange,” she said. “I lost my voice when he never came back. I was sick for him. He had little patches of golden scales; he was the deepest diver of all the Zora men. We would go down to Lake Hylia or swim out to sea. We loved to just lie out in the shallows together. Then one day he saw someone struggling out in the open water and I had this terrible feeling…” she gulped. She seemed to watch a scene that played out in front of her eyes. “…but before he went he gave me one of his golden scales and told me he would be right back…but he…” A streak of wetness slid past her cheek and down her neck.

Link remembered going to the fishing hole by Lake Hylia and winning a golden scale as a prize. He wondered if it might have been one of his. When Lutai spoke again she was more composed.

“I cried for so long I lost my voice. I couldn’t speak for…” she made a vague gesture with her hand as she stared at her fishbone quill, not really seeing it.

“His name wasn’t…” Link began.

“Mica,” Lutai finished.

Link felt as if the ground were sucking him downward. “But…but Mikau had tattoos, not golden scales…” he offered.

Lutai smiled quickly, but the smile left as soon as it had formed. It was obvious she still felt strongly about him. Link busied himself adjusting his small belt and flattening out his tunic, glancing at Zelda for help.

“I’m sorry, Lutai,” Zelda said. Lutai made another vague gesture and hiccupped. Her face flushed a deep blue.

Rauru mercifully cut in. “Master Hero, you say all of this happened within three days?”

“Well, I was gone for a couple of weeks or so, but just three days, really, ‘cause I got back yesterday.” Link’s face scrunched up as he realized that what he said shouldn’t make sense. But it had to. “It was the same three days, see. The Ocarina; I got it back, and when I played the Song of Time in this other place it sent me back three days every time, and then everything was the same. Except me…and some things I took with me.”

“Like what, young one?” asked Impa.

“People,” said Aako.

“Like these.” Link un-shouldered his round shield. The surface was reflective, like a mirror, and it bore a face that looked as if it were crying out in agony. None asked about Link’s shield, however, for he presently drew a large satchel on his belt around to one side. As he opened it, he revealed a wooden mask that resembled the face of a Goron, with what looked like thin wispy gray hair protruding from the top and sides of the face. The mask appeared to be coated in grayish-brown clay, making it look remarkably like a very somber stone clown. There were small, round black eyes, a small flat nose, and the rock-crunching mouth looking like an enormous hole rimmed sporadically with teeth.

“Gods,” said Rauru, wide-eyed, “it’s Gor Darmon.”

“Yeah, I guess this was him; except in the other place,” Link said. “His name was Darmani the Third. He was a great warrior for his people. He went up into the mountains to stop it from snowing; it wasn’t supposed to be snowing, see. But he fell off…” Link stopped himself. He could see that it was like saying someone you knew should be dead, when they weren’t. “He…he asked me to help him free his people from the snow.”

Aako had gotten out of his seat and was now pulling a second mask from Link’s satchel. This second mask was the face of a Dekku scrub, a small plant-like animal. The mask showed traces of leaf-like hair and the sad expression of the red, half-moon shaped eyes. Protruding from its face was the characteristic tube of a mouth that was adapted to inhaling and spitting out large nuts. The wood of the mask represented the creature well, as the skin of a Dekku scrub had a wood-like grain. “Dekku,” Aako said, waving his hand in front of its eyes as if the mask were alive.

“What is that creature?” said Zelda. Link looked uneasy.

“It’s…they’re called Dekku scrubs. The kid turned me into this before I could catch him. They grow in the Lost Woods here, but in this other place they had an entire palace to themselves. Their swamp had been poisoned.” Aako started to play with the masks, making like they were talking to each other. “I found out later that this one was the son of the king’s butler.”

Zelda’s face reflected the horror in her voice: “You mean these masks used to be…people?”

“People,” said Aako, holding the Dekku mask to his face. Link’s heart jumped for a moment—it must have shown, for Lutai said:

“What is it, Master Hero?”

“It’s just; when I put them on like that I turn into something else…” When it seemed Aako was unaffected, however, Link relaxed.

Impa spoke. “When you say the child who stole the Ocarina turned you into this, do you mean something like it, or that this mask is the incarnation of his curse?”

Link thought a moment. “I guess it’s the curse…but it must be the person, too. When I wore this mask I…turned into him; the Scrub this used to be.” Link seemed to remember the experience with distaste; he shook his head quickly. “The butler thought I was his son. The kid wearing Majora’s Mask must have got him, just like the other two.” When he could see the Sages didn’t understand, Link explained. “Skulki, the kid I met from the forest—he was wearing an old mask. It was haunted by an evil spirit named Majora. Because the kid put the mask on it made him curse people, sort of. He would find them and then something bad would happen. That’s how Darmani and Mikau died.” But he realized too late what he had said, for the air in the room suddenly stiffened and Lutai looked toward Link’s shield, as if to look through it. But she only saw her own face reflected against the face of agony.

Aako stopped playing and turned to look at Link soberly. “Zora,” said Aako.

“I do have another mask,” Link said, tentatively. “But its not…”

“Please,” said Lutai, visibly teetering on the edge of hysteria. She was gripping the book she had on her lap like it would fly away at any moment. Zelda’s face was turned caringly on Lutai, as if she could feel precisely what Lutai did at that moment.

Link looked back and forth between Lutai and Zelda with uncertainty. Something would have to happen, he thought, or Lutai might faint. Finally, Link revealed a mask that resembled a Zora male. Link had no doubt that Lutai would recognize it immediately.

Lutai exhaled and sank into her chair. She met Zelda’s gaze across the circle and nodded slowly. Link felt like he was holding a dead person in his hands which, he realized with an eerie feeling, was not far from the truth. Mercifully, Rauru interrupted this thought.

“You say these masks were people, then…” said Rauru.

“Yes,” Link replied, happy to continue the conversation.

“And they only became masks after the people were cursed with magic,” Rauru clarified.

“Right. Well, I played them a song the Mask Salesman taught me,” Link replied. “He said it would help ease their sorrow. After I played the song for people who were sad they said they felt better. And if Skulki had cursed them his curse would sort of fall off and become these masks.”

“So the song condensed the spell into a physical form.” Rauru sank into a thoughtful repose. “And when you put the mask on you say you transform into the person? You take on their appearance?”

“Yeah. It wasn’t fun, though. Feels weird to get really big and have these huge rocks sticking out of your back, or have fins grow out of your arms,” said Link. “Sorry…” he added, turning toward Lutai.

“It is well, Master Hero,” she said. “It would be jarring for me not to have my fins.”

“Do you suppose you could still use them? Would they still work?” Rauru asked.

“I don’t imagine he would want to try, Rauru,” said Impa. “He has already described the experience as jarring; or rather ‘not fun,’ I believe.”

“Besides,” Zelda said, finally speaking, “who knows what they’ll do to him here. Link said in this other place the Song of Time actually took him back in time. It was never made to do that. If Link were to put on one of these masks in Hyrule, he might be possessed by the spirits of these dead people. Anything could happen.”

“Or nothing,” said Lutai, “though the princess has wisdom in this.”

“Then perhaps these items could to be studied,” Rauru suggested.

“No!” Link blurted. And then softer: “No. I mean, I would get them back, right?”

Behind his thick white facial hair, Rauru was inscrutable. “Of course,” he said.

Link acquiesced. “Okay. But not just yet,” he said, gathering his masks from Aako.

“Certainly,” said Rauru. “We will study them when you are able to part with them. And perhaps you could visit with me, after we are concluded here. I should very much like to learn the song you played for those poor folk.”

“Sure,” said Link. When he had stacked the masks and restored them to their former places in his satchel, he slid the satchel around and slung the shield over his back again. Aako went back to his seat, dangling his short legs over the edge of his chair.

“And what was the conclusion of your tale?” Impa asked.

“Well, I got some giants to help me—they have giants there; they look like really big tree-men—and they stopped the moon from falling so I could get to Skulki and take Majora’s Mask from him. Then the mask started talking on its own and the evil spirit came out and…” again Link appeared to be absorbed in the memory. Zelda thought she could see it on his face—a memory of horror, then relief, and finally exhaustion, as if a great battle had just ended. “Then the guy who used to sell masks in town showed up and took the mask with him. I don’t know whether it was the Mask Salesman from here or there. They might be the same person, I don’t know. And then I went looking for Hyrule again and I was back in the woods. That was yesterday.” As he said it, it seemed to Link that time was shrinking again. He had the sensation that he would be very old very soon. He had already lived seven years and had it all undone, and now he had gone weeks and only three days had passed.

Everyone was pensive. Link wondered what would come next. Then Lutai spoke. “Taking the matter into consideration, I propose we send out scouts to ascertain the nature of the portal to this other place, this…”

“Termina,” Link volunteered. “The place was called Termina.”

“Termina, then,” Lutai continued, “and discover if there are any other portals nearby.”

“As soon as can be arranged, the portals should be closed indefinitely,” said Impa.

“Golden Land,” said Aako.

Rauru spoke. “If any portals to the Golden Land are found, they should be reported and guarded with all diligence, and none are to enter. Thank you, Aako, for the suggestion.” Aako nodded once, vigorously.

“And the Knights will be at your disposal, Rauru, once they have returned,” Zelda added.

“Then it is decided,” said Rauru. “Your favors?” All responded in the affirmative, except Link, who did not know whether he had a say, so he said nothing. Impa caught his glance for a moment.

“Your opinion is welcome, Master Hero,” she said.

He looked like he had just been handed the reins to Epona again. “Well, sure,” he said, “I think it’s a good idea.” And almost imperceptibly Rauru tilted his head as if he were remembering something very familiar.

“Are our affairs concluded for the present?” Impa asked.

“I have nothing further,” Rauru said. “Lutai, could you review the minutes of our council yesterday?”

Lutai consulted her notes. “The three Spiritual Stones have been removed from the Temple of Time and entrusted to the Knights of Hyrule for safe keeping. The three pieces of Fused Shadow-Magic left behind by the intruders have been entrusted to the Zoras, Gorons and Koroki, respectively; it seems we will never be without something to guard,” she added, musing. “The Knights continue to patrol the country for the intruders who are to be taken into custody and put on trial,” she concluded.

Impa moved a hand away from her face. “Might I be permitted to study these ‘Fused Shadows’?”

“What are your thoughts, Impa?” asked Rauru.

“Missing,” said Aako.

“From the way you have described the attack on the Temple I believe there may be some connection to…the magic sounds familiar to me…”

“Certainly, Impa. We shall notify the Gorons and arrange for you to see the portion of the Fused Shadow they protect. Anything that might give us further knowledge about the deaths of our queen and her captain…” Then Rauru paused, his eyes staring blankly into the floor. “My friends,” said Rauru after a moment’s consideration. “I pray you forgive me to speak freely a moment.”

When none seemed to object Zelda said: “Of course, Rauru, what is it?”

“Only that…I have seen many evils in my day. It seems I am doomed to see this Gerudo Lord try again and again to wrest rule from those who rule well, who rule with kindness and compassion. I am much affected by the passing of our queen, Nayru keep her. She was our mother, our sister. She was my niece. I have watched her grow, seen her love and lose those she loved. And the captain…His was a valiant arm, a noble heart. May Faroe ever grant him rest. I am at a loss…” Wetness leaked from his eyes as he stared at Link. But Link did not think he was staring at him, really. He was staring through him; seeing something that was not there.

Rauru continued. “Moreover I fear this man’s hate. I fear his greed; I fear his disdain for life.” Rauru opened his arms, indicating the empty seats around them. “Our numbers are diminished every time this Evil raises its head. Can it be he will stop at nothing? Can any mortal bring themselves to have such disregard for the sanctity of life? But he can. And I fear he will not stop until he has achieved his goal. Link, you have withstood him. We all have withstood him. And shall we die before he is defeated? I know not…” Rauru passed into a quiet contemplation, looking very much like an old man.

Aako got out of his seat and placed a small hand on the old man’s arm. Rauru leaned forward and embraced the child. “Thank you, Aako. You have been a good friend. Faroe rest you, whatever our fate.”

“I feel it, too, Rauru,” said Lutai. “Mine is an empty heart. It may be that we die, and if we die then we go to the Goddesses…but if, perchance, we might live to watch over those who we love. That would be the wish of my heart.”

“Our beloved Mudora wished as much, departed these many years,” said Impa, “Nayru keep him.” She bowed her head. “I would ease his heart as soon as ask for my own to be comforted.”

Zelda could not speak, but sighed, and cried another dry tear.

Link didn’t know what to say. He had not known any of these people until he left the forest to find the Spiritual Stones. So trivial it all seemed—stones and swords and temples—next to life. He supposed he did not know what it was to lose someone; not truly lose them. He had watched Father Dekku’s life slowly ebb from him under the weight of Ganon’s curse, yet even he would live again, Link knew.

Presently Aako sat in his seat again and Rauru composed himself, becoming again the wizened sage. “Well. We shall reconvene when need calls for it or further information is gathered. With your permission, Majesty,” he said. Zelda nodded forlornly. Rauru and Lutai rose from their seats followed closely by Aako. As they left the Inner Sanctum, Link noticed that Impa remained in her seat, her hands folded in her lap, her countenance meditative.

“Are you well, Impa?” Zelda asked.

Impa looked at Zelda, then Link, saying nothing. She rose from her chair and then knelt next to Link, motioning for him to do the same. Link knelt. Zelda got out of her seat and sat beside him. “Young one,” Impa began, addressing Link, “do you know of your true birth?”

Link glanced at Zelda before answering. She shrugged. “Father Dekku told me that I was Hylian,” said Link. “I thought the ceremony today was a formality…”

“It was, child. It was. Do you know who your parents were?” Impa asked.

“Father Dekku said my mother was Hylian; that she ran away from a fire and a battle, and then she…died.” When he said no more, Impa spoke again.

“You do not remember your father?” she asked.

“No,” said Link, his interest piqued. “Why, did you know him?”

“Yes,” she replied, “and so did the princess, though she did not realize his connection to you.”

“But who…” Zelda began.

“Have you given thought to who should lead your Knights should the need for war arise?” Impa asked the girl. Zelda fell silent, thoughtful.

Link was becoming excited. “Where is he? Does he live in the Town? Can I see him?” he asked.

“No, child,” Impa said, shushing quietly, “you must listen.” She breathed serenely, closing her eyes. “You must be calm. Be calm.”

With one more glance at Zelda, he obeyed. Link matched his breathing to Impa’s, though he could not keep his eyes closed for long.

“What about my dad?” he finally asked, impatient.

“Are you calm?” she asked. Link tried to master himself and keep his eyes closed. After a few moments he heard her speak. “I am Queen Zethra’s secret keeper,” she began, as though she had rehearsed for this moment. “I have been entrusted with knowledge which must never be divulged, except as I am directed by the one who entrusts me with these secrets.” Link felt his heart beat faster. He squeezed his eyes to prevent them from opening. “Before she passed, Zethra wished me to deliver you this message if she should fall: your father is Colin, late Captain of the Royal Guard.”

Zelda gasped. Suddenly Link found that he could not speak. His father was Colin? He had been right here, in Hyrule all the time? Why didn’t someone say something? Why didn’t his father come looking for him? He could have known him, learned from him. Link realized that his eyes were open, but for all the world he could only see a vague image of what he could remember about the captain. All the same, he began to treasure that image; he didn’t even care if it was real.

But Impa continued. “It was Queen Zethra’s wish that, as his heir, you would take his place. You must be Queen Zelda’s protector, and Captain of the Royal Guard and the Knights of Hyrule. And you must begin your training immediately.”

Link was only vaguely aware that Impa left the Inner Sanctum of the Temple. For the first silent minutes, he just knelt on the dais in complete shock. Then, slowly, something nagged at the back of his memory. He reached behind him into the satchel at his waist and withdrew a fourth mask; it resembled a man with pointed ears, white hair and tribal markings on his face. It was the Fierce Deity Mask that Link had worn when he fought Majora’s Incarnation.

Zelda gasped. “I know,” said Link, studying the mask. “This mask looks just like my father, doesn’t it?”

Zelda nodded. She reached out to touch the mask’s cheek as if it were a real person, but it remained a wooden mask.

“I don’t know who this was before,” said Link, regarding the Fierce Deity Mask in his hands. “Majora gave it to me when we were on the moon, over Termina.” Link passed into reminiscence for a moment, holding the mask close to him, looking into its hollow eyes and stern face.

“It made me look like an adult again, but huge. It made me stronger, too…and I felt like I could do anything; like I couldn’t be afraid.” Link lowered the mask forlornly. “But it would only work if there was something to be afraid of…” He turned the mask over and considered it for a moment. Maybe he could…

“Link,” said Zelda, putting her hand on his arm. “You don’t have to…”

Link realized the mask was very close to his face. He lowered it slightly and put one hand on Zelda’s. “I know. I want to…I have to know.” And very slowly, he raised the mask to his face, bracing himself for the alarming pain that accompanied transformation. But nothing happened.

Link pressed the mask to his face willing it to make him change, but no matter how hard he tried it would not work. Then suddenly the reality of being so close to knowing his father started to sink in and he cried out as no pain had ever caused him to before. Even the light of midday filtering in through the stained-glass windows mocked him; bright when all he felt was dark. He lowered the mask from his face and still he sobbed.

Zelda pulled Link to herself and cradled him like a mother would a child, shushing him and cooing. And together they faced that grim reality that they now shared.

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