Disclaimer: I don’t own… not my intellectual property…my own ideas…no profit being made, blah, blah, blah.
“You still don’t know how to use my body very well, do you?”
Link looked around for the source of the voice he’d heard. It did not sound like Tatl. The fairy was silent; doing sentry-duty in case any more giant dragonflies came their way.
“What are you looking at?” she shot at him when she noticed his stare. “No meganeura in sight, so hop over those lily pads and get a move on! Time’s a wastin’!”
Link prepared to jump. He’d done this move many times before, but it always felt strange since wearing the Deku Mask made him so light. He constantly felt off-balance.
“Not that way! Be careful! You’re still carrying yourself as if you’re made of flesh and bone and filled with blood…ugh… disgusting, hey, wait! Stop!”
“Link!” Tatl cried.
Pain! Ow! Hurt! The boy flailed in the swamp water, the poison on its surface sending burning and prickling sensations over his skin. His head was above the water, but he felt the air escape his lungs and could not draw any fresh air in. His mask had slipped off and was floating a hair’s breadth from his hand. He snatched it as his other hand found the muddy bank he’d been previously standing on. He pulled himself up and lay panting in wilting grass.
His golden fairy companion flitted above him. “Are you alright, kid?”
Link caught his breath as the slick poison dripped off his skin. “I…I think so,” he moaned as he sat up and got his bearings.
“What in the world were you doing?” Tatl demanded.
Link held his head in one hand and the little wooden Deku Mask in the other. “I got distracted,” the boy said.
“By what, pray tell?”
“I heard this weird voice.”
“You’re hearing voices now?” the fairy complained, “What’s next? All I wanted to do was help my little brother and here I am – stuck on a quest to save the world with the only person who can do it and he’s gone mad!”
“I’m not crazy!” Link shot back, his face the very picture of petulance, “I know I heard something!”
“Well, whatever. Let’s get going.”
“Can’t I have a little rest first?” Link asked. “I kinda… just almost died. Besides,” he said pulling the blue ocarina from his tunic pocket, “if I take too long, we have all the time in the world.”
“Very well,” Tatl conceded. She floated around above him, around the swamp trees, keeping a lookout for danger.
“Great, there it is again,” Link sighed to himself, “Fighting monsters and tyrants… Time travel and watching everyone forget me… Zelda…looking for Navi… falling moons… I have gone crazy in it all, haven’t I? I’d hoped going mad would be more fun…”
“In your right hand. Look at me, kiddo.”
Link obeyed the mysterious voice. He had not heard it with his ears – it seemed to be within his skull, which was merely confirmation of a forming mental illness. The child looked at the little wooden mask of a Deku Scrub in his hand and felt along its cheek-area with his thumb.
“I know what you are thinking. We are connected now, you and I. You have not lost your mind. I’m under a curse.”
Link’s ears shot straight up. He sighed in absolute relief. He was familiar with curses. He held the mask with both hands, resting in his lap, regarding its strange, blank eyes – dead eyes. “I was cursed with you for a little bit,” he said, “until the mask salesman taught me the Song of Healing. You didn’t speak with me then.”
“I’m the quiet type.”
Link subconsciously rubbed at his throat. His encounter with that psychopath salesman had left its mark on him and he didn’t like thinking about the man. He turned his attention back to the mask. “I thought the curse was broken and you were healed when I played that sacred song.”
“In part, yes, I am soothed, but the reality is that I need your body. That sounds creepy, I know. I don’t like it either. Oh, and I like girls... just so you know and one in particular, so it’s not like that. I just need your body for a while and you need mine, as unfortunate a partnership as this is, but I sense that you are accustomed to unusual partnerships.”
Link looked at the now distant Tatl. “So, what is all this about, Mr. Mask? This… whole world, really… is a little bewildering.”
“I have a name you know,” the mask said, “or I had one, when I was alive. Yes, I’m a dead person. I am a restless spirit that cannot move on to where I am supposed to go and the state I am supposed to be in. That’s not just a mask you’re holding in your chubby little hands right now – it’s my remains.”
Link startled, but did not loose his grip upon the Deku Mask. “You have a name?” the boy asked innocently, “I didn’t think most Deku had names – the ones I’ve met usually went by titles – Business Scrub, Deku King…”
This time, the mask was indignant. Link could feel it shake beneath his fingers. “So you’re a racist like the rest of them!” the Deku spirit screeched, “All of you blooded-peoples! You never even bother to think that we might have our own identities and names! You only care about how we might serve you!”
“No! No! No!” Link yelped in frustration, tears at the corners of his eyes, “I’m sorry! Really! I’m a forest-child; I was raised by the Great Deku Tree! I’m just new to this world and… didn’t know the way things worked here…”
The mask was silent.
“Mr. Mask?” Link asked, staring at it. “Come on, I’m sorry!”
“My name was Gareth.”
“Link is a nice strong name. I like it. Anyway, the way this seems to be working for us is that I borrow your body for its life – and am able to replace the flesh and blood with wood and sap – a reasonable facsimile of my what was once my own body. It does seem to be tailored to you, though. Then, you use it – to finish my unfinished business. Like I said, you could learn to use it better.”
“I have some questions, yes,” Link said. His stomach growled.
“Drink your milk, kiddo,” Gareth encouraged. “I thought you had some. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about with my body. Deku do not eat. We photosynthesize – that is, we make our food from sunlight. If you’re still hungry when you put me back on, just stand in the sun for a while.”
“Why do you have mouths, then?”
“To speak, to call and sing, and for defense. You’ve figured out how to blow bubbles. I’ve actually been jealous of you blooded-peoples for a long time because you can eat. It must be wonderful to have that ‘taste’ sense that you have. From what I’ve seen, it gives you great pleasure – though I’ve heard that it sometimes brings great pain if the wrong person is cooking at the inn in town!”
Link chuckled softly. He’d heard the rumors of Anju at the Stock Pot. He had yet to brave dinner there, however.
“If we’re going to work together,” Gareth began, “I think we should get to know each other, hmm? Already, I can sense some things about you… I’ve been able to see a bit of your mind when you’ve had me on. You’re from another world – I can tell that much. You’re also quite a seasoned hero – a knight without a master. This gives me confidence.”
“Don’t look too deeply,” Link sighed quickly, the words running together, “You’ll get nightmares.”
“You don’t sleep much. Listen – we’ll get through this together, then we’ll both have some peace, I’m sure of it. And you’ll get to go home to your princess, too. Your mental image of her is very pretty. I, too, was a knight without a master and loved a princess.”
“Really? You may tell me about it if you wish.”
“I was low-born, relatively speaking,” Gareth began. “My family has always served the Deku Royals – my father’s the personal butler to King Randalf. My father had been training me since birth to follow in his footsteps, but I wanted… something more.”
“I was an orphan, myself,” Link said. “Adopted and raised by the Great Deku Tree, like I said. I lived among other children, but was different from them, got made fun of, treated badly by a few.”
“Then you know what it is like to feel out of place,” Gareth replied. “I think that you and I understand one another very well. You’ve seen it in the town – when I first was joined with you – how the blooded-peoples treat Deku Scrubs, how they look down upon us?”
“Yeah,” Link answered, “even that dog…”
“I wanted to change that. I was tired of the other races seeing us Deku as cowardly, or greedy. The Deku Royalty have always had servants, but never anything like a standing military or knights. The Royal Family has always had butlers, but never any bodyguards. I wanted to become more than a butler. I wanted to become a protector – the first Deku Knight.”
“That’s… rather noble,” Link said with a smile, “But have the Deku ever needed such things? From what I know of your people, for the most part, you’re pretty peaceful – and the palace has guards and stuff.”
“But no personal protectors!” Gareth insisted. “No official emissaries to the other races! No code of honor! The princess… has no personal guard. She plays here in the swamp all the time with the monkeys but… there have always been dangerous creatures here, and thieves and other things.”
Link grinned broadly and held the mask up high in front of him. “The Deku princess… you love her.”
“That’s Princess Fern to you, forest-boy, and yes, although she never paid me much notice. I doubt she even knows my name. I’m just another servant-boy to her, but I’d planned to show her the depth of my devotion someday. Every day I could sneak away from my servant-duties, I’d follow her out here, ready to defend her if any trouble arose. We Deku Scrubs do not use swords, but I’d honed a stick into a weapon of reasonable service – and I had my bubbles and Deku nuts, of course. Many dragonflies and Baba-plants fell to me protecting my princess from behind the scenes.”
“I’m sorry she never noticed you.”
“It’s okay. She was safe, that’s all that mattered. Well, until…”
“The Skull Kid,” Link sighed.
“Or, should I say, the Skull Kid and that mask. I knew the Skull Kid long ago – he’s from my world, I think, or maybe he goes in between this world and mine, I don’t know. He’s not a bad person, really, just a little… confused. It’s that mask that’s causing the problems! We have to save the Skull Kid, too!”
“He murdered me, Link.” Gareth said with a strange, cold calmness. “Princess Fern had gone exploring… she found these odd catacombs beneath
. I was at her side – the monkeys wouldn’t come and she’d decided to abide my company. She’d claimed to feel a strange energy coming from those tunnels, like it was a gateway to another world and she wanted to check it out. She’s curious, Fern – smart, too. We were down there when the Skull Kid found us. That…fairy… was there, too.” Clock Town
“Yes. She was there and she did nothing! She didn’t even speak up! I know that you are partnered with her, too, for now, but don’t trust her. I don’t.”
“Gareth,” Link sighed, placing the mask back in his lap. “She’s on our side now. Her little brother is trapped with the Skull Kid and she wants to save him. She wants to save them both.”
“She was there when that masked demon tried to take my princess!” Gareth wailed. “She was there when. He. Killed. Me.”
“Gareth, please calm down, okay?” Link pleaded. “She might hear you!”
“She cannot hear me,” the Deku spirit said, “Only you can because of our connection and common curse. Besides, I wouldn’t care if she could, the little winged accomplice!”
“Sssh.” Link said, stroking the mask’s cheek, hoping remotely that it might have the soothing effect a light touch from a caring hand had on him. The boy considered playing the Ocarina of Time – but there was a problem in remembering or coming up with a song that wouldn’t alter the fabric of existence.
“Do you know what it feels like to die, Link?” Gareth asked morbidly.
“Actually, I do,” Link answered, a shiver running up his spine. His chest felt tight. “If I’m remembering things correctly, I died at least five times in the course of one year… back in Hyrule – that’s where I come from, my kingdom. I was tasked with breaking a lot of curses and felling a demon-king. Do you know what healing fairies are?”
“Of course. They are sacred creatures and rare. They heal the wounds of travelers – the ones they think are worthy.”
“Apparently, I was worthy,” Link elaborated. “Some of them even let me carry them around in bottles on my belts and in my tunic.”
“No way!” Gareth exclaimed. “Oh, you must be really special then, if they let you do that to them!”
“I put air holes in the corks!” Link explained. “And they could free themselves easily whenever they wanted to, which was a good thing for me because…”
“The death thing. As I said, I’ve died before. There were times when I’d fall in battle – taking on monsters and trying to break curses, as I said.” Link looked up for a moment, his gaze directed toward the mists of the swamp, his eyes distant. Gareth sensed this.
“It was never pleasant…. To feel my heart stop. Sometimes with burns all over me, a blade in my gut…. Magic ripping my nerves to pieces… I was always taught that the Goddesses of my world took care of people, but there was always that horrible fear when I felt my heart give in. It never mattered if I knew I had a healer-fairy on me, there was always that fear. They never failed to bring me back, to stop me from going to the other side or becoming a ghost – felt weird, like being shoved right back into myself, and then my heart starting up again. I’m… supposed to be brave. Most people say it’s my core trait, but…. That moment, that…”
“Don’t cry, kiddo. Sssh.” This time, it was Gareth doing the soothing. “We’ve a lot in common, you and me. I’m sorry I was so harsh. I forgot my manners.”
“It’s okay,” Link said with a sniff.
“Anyway, back to my little story,” Gareth continued, “I feel that it is important for you to know. The Skull Kid… in that mask of happy-colored doom… demanded Fern. I had no idea what he wanted with her, but I knew that it was something bad. I stood up as tall as I could (as you know, I’m quite the little guy) and held up my honed stick and said ‘Leave her alone! You can’t have her! You’ll have to go through me, first!’ That was when he sent this strange… bolt of magic at me. The next thing I knew, I heard the princess screaming and I felt my body stiffening. It was horrible.”
“The tree… that little tree I saw…” Link said absentmindedly.
“My remains – outside this mask,” Gareth replied. “Yes, you saw my dead body, though, not entirely dead, I suppose. There are some processes still going on with it, but I am no longer in it. You blooded-creatures, particularly you humans….and you with the pointy ears – you go still when you die, limp and then you stiffen. Sometimes you feed creatures if you die in a certain way or your fellows don’t find you to bury you. You become the earth. Zora are buried at sea and feed the fish. Gorons become the stones. We Deku Scrubs… we become one with the forests.”
“That’s actually… rather poetic,” Link said in a stunned tone.
“Isn’t it just?” Gareth said with a touch of sarcasm. “My father doesn’t know what happened to me yet. I’d like to keep it that way until all this is over. When everything’s at peace again, he can know that I have gone on and am at peace with Mother. It is horrible for him that I am missing, but at least he has some hope this way. As long as I’m in this…limbo, this turmoil…I do not want to trouble him.”
“I won’t tell.”
“Good. Great evil has come upon the land – and this swamp, my homeland and kingdom. My princess has been kidnapped and is in the clutches of a corrupted god. One of my good mammal friends is being tortured in the palace of my misguided king. The guardians of the four directions have been cursed and sealed. To top it all off, I got a glimpse into the future thanks to you and I know that if we do not succeed in breaking these curses, the moon’s going to fall and destroy everything.”
“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen, Gareth,” Link said, fingering the ocarina in his pocket, “no matter how many times we have to start over.”
“Traveling through time using something blue, and it’s not even something you have to ride inside… rather novel,” Gareth said. “Are you sufficiently rested-up? I’d like to head to our poor corrupted temple.”
“Yep!” Link said brightly. “Let’s go save your princess!”
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