The Lingering Shadow

By Wm. Jay Carter III (Hero of Geeks)

Prologue ~ The Mask Keeper: A Terminan Myth

In the legends of the people of Termina there are tales of four ancient tribes, chosen of the Gods, who lived in a symbiotic balance. Each tribe’s magic was imbued into a ceremonial mask representing their patron deity. These Masks of the Gods were used in moonlit dancing rituals which called upon the Gods to aid the people in some way, whether to gift them with power over an enemy, wisdom in council, courage to overcome a hardship, or a timely harvest according to their need. Over time it was said the bearers of the Masks of the Gods became possessed by the spirits of the Gods themselves and they acquired powers far superior to even the most experienced tribal shamans.

But then one day, during a ritual dance, the bearer of the mask of the God of Power, a child named Majora, went mad and cursed his entire tribe. As the members of Majora’s tribe could not control his magic they were forced to fight the child, and very nearly killed him. With the child in a weakened state, the tribal shamans saw their chance and sealed the soul of the child within the mask.

Soon after, the same circumstances were reported in the other tribes—the bearers of their masks went insane and attacked their own villages. Each tribe was compelled to fight their respective Mask Bearers and seal their souls within their masks.

None could agree why the mask bearers had suddenly turned on their own people. Some said the bearers were unworthy. Others claimed a member of the tribe had committed some act of ill will against the Gods and the whole tribe had been punished. Regardless of the actual cause, Majora’s Mask was hidden away in shadow by the shamans and its use was forbidden. The other Masks were kept safe by their respective tribes. All, that is, except the mask of the God of Courage—called the Mask of the Fierce Deity—which was lost. Though many sought them for the power they contained, the Masks of the Gods were never found again.

Then unnatural storms arose, thick fog covered the land, and the cursed tribes began to suffer terrible fates. Many died when the seas became treacherous with whirlpools and the mountains spat scalding water. Others perished at the bottom of gorges that opened in the east and yet others when the swamps in the south became tainted. Many claimed that these disasters were the curse of the Mask Bearers being fulfilled.

Whether the curse was real or imagined, however, it was certain that the tribes were dying out, and always in unspeakable ways. Soon they were gone, and as time passed these events faded into oral tradition, colored by those who told of them. Some claimed they saw the mask bearers fighting one another in various locations, but these accounts were given little credit. Eventually the stories of rampant mask bearers were only a means of scaring little children.

According to one story, a member of the Tribe of Wisdom survived as a mercy from the Gods. This lone tribesman thanked the Gods for his life and pleaded with them that the Terrors of the Masks would never occur again. In return, the man was blessed with immortality, but the Gods granted this boon under two conditions. First, he must care for the Masks of the Gods, never allowing them to fall into evil hands. Second, he must appease the sorrows of the dead. The tribesman agreed and the Gods entrusted him with the masks of the four tribes. They also taught him a sacred healing song which would condense the troubles of the deceased into mask form. The tale concludes as the Keeper of the Masks of the Gods goes off in search of sorrowful souls to comfort.

None in Termina know for certain whether any of the tribes survived, where the Masks of the Gods might be, or if they even exist. But then, this is only one of many stories told about the ancient tribes. In any case, one thing is certain: those Terminans who survive the death of a loved one ask the Gods to send the Mask Keeper to come and ease their sorrows.

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