The world is changed. I feel it in the waters. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it. It began with the crafting of the Great Masks.

Three were given to the Hylians; mortals, yet fairest of all races.

Three were given to the Kokiri; ever-youthful and the purest of beings.

Three were given to the Gorons; great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls.

Three were given to the Zoras; protectors of the waters and creators of music.

Three were given to the Gerudos, the noble thieves in the night.

Four to the Sheikahs, the silent and wise defenders of life.

Five noble masks were the birthright of the Hero of Time, with which he was charged to guard all others.

Within each was bound the will and power to govern each race.

But they were all of them deceived………

For another Mask was crafted. In the distant south, from the heart of the mountain Valdruin, the Dark Lord Ganon crafted, in secret, a ruling mask. And into Majora's Mask he poured a spirit; the embodiment of his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.

One Mask to rule them all.

One by one, the free lands of Hyrule fell to the power of the Mask. But there were some who resisted. A last alliance of all the peoples marched against the armies of the Dark Realm. And on the slopes of Valdruin they fought for the freedom of Hyrule. Victory was near.

But the power of the Mask could not be undone.

It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that the Hero of Time took up the Master Sword. Ganon, the enemy of the free peoples of Hyrule, was defeated. The Mask passed to a hidden tribe, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever. But the hearts of the weak are easily corrupted. And Majora's Mask has a will of its own. A will to destroy.

And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for thousands of years Majora's Mask passed out of all knowledge. Until when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer. The Mask came to the Skull Kid, who took it deep into the core of Termina.

And there, it consumed him.

The Mask brought to the Skull Kid unnatural power. It poisoned his mind, until the new Hero of Time rose up against him to fight the power of the Mask.

While the battle was waged in Termina, darkness crept back in the edges of the world. Rumour grew of a shadow in the South, whispers of a nameless fear. And Majora's Mask perceived its time had come. It abandoned the Skull Kid, escaped from the Guardian of the Masks.

But something happened then the Mask did not intend. It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable. A human, an outcast in the world of Hyrule.

For the time will soon come when outcasts will shape the fortunes of all………

Legend of Zelda

The Lord of the Masks : The Fellowship of the Mask

Chapter One: A Long Expected Homecoming

Malon sat on the remainder of the Hylian Wall, with a book she was supposedly reading in her hand. The book, though, was closed on a finger that marked her page. It hadn't been open for the last couple of hours. She was waiting, staring out across Hyrule Field. Nothing was out there, though, and she was starting to think that someone had seriously misjudged the distances.

Then she heard a sound. It was only a hint, a suggestion of words, but it was there, and over the next few moments of mounting excitement, it grew into a song.

"Come away, run away, follow through the forest if you seek it, the sacred place. Come away, run away, days of friendship will come if you believe, and keep the pace. Be with me, stay with me forevermore, time of sorrow and of sadness nevermore!"

Malon spun so fast she almost choked on her long hair, and saw coming over the hill a shape on horseback. He was a powerful figure, muscular and tall without towering or being ludicrously bulked, dressed in green with blonde hair and a foreign sword slung across his back. Days of wandering southern lands had given him a stronger tan than usual, and his hair was as long and rough as she expected, which was saying something.

"Link!" Malon leapt up and ran as fast as she could across the short, hardy grass of the great field.

"Malon!" he cried, noticing her. Link spurred Epona on to greater speed and dashed toward her. Just he was about to pass her by, Link flung out an arm, grabbed Malon and lifted her into the saddle behind him. She wrapped her arms around him, partially because he hadn't been seen in Hyrule for the last six months and partially because that was the only way to stay on any horse Link was riding.

"It's great to see you!" she said, squeezing him harder. She noticed the bulging saddlebags, which were unusual since Link preferred to travel light. "What's in the bags?"

"Don't ask," said Link, fervently. "So where's everyone else? Where's Saria?"

"I didn't tell anyone else that you were coming!" she shouted over the rushing wind and hail of hoofbeats. "No time, anyway! I only found out about it this morning myself. A traveller coming in through the Gerudo pass mentioned you. Not by name, of course."

"Really?" asked Link, amused. "What did he say?"

"Something about a mangy beast blasting across the plains like a roguish fiend of hell."

"Honestly," Link muttered, patting Epona's neck in a comforting manner.

"He didn't speak too highly of Epona, either." Link laughed, and twisted his course a bit to follow the only clear path into the Kokiri Forest. They darted between trees at insane speed, which was the only one Link felt comfortable at.

"So what's been happening to you? What's the news in Hyrule?" asked Link, following his usual practice of not looking where he was going when there were plenty of dangers in the area.

"I'd rather hear about what you've been doing."

"Later. I asked first, anyway."

Malon sighed and gave up. "Life here's much the same as it always was. The Castle Town's looking better than ever, I'll say that much. And the first wall of Hyrule Castle went up last month. Things are great on the ranch, and the farms have never had such a good harvest as this year. Link rode on through the fallen tree entrance to the forest's centre. "Link? I though the bridge couldn't hold Epona's weight-"

And then they were soaring over the Lost Woods bridge, and coming to a hoof-clattering, way-too-drawn-out stop inside the Kokiri village.

"It's so different…" Link breathed, turned around and around. He was right, too. The cliff walls had been cut away at the western end of the village, so that tree grew all the way into the Great Deku Tree's meadow. The Hylian oaks there were already being shaped and carved into new houses, and the Deku Sprout had experienced a growth spurt. Already he was as tall as any of the Kokiri buildings, with long branches filed with vibrant green leaves.

And everywhere he saw strange faces. There had to be twice as many Kokiri as before, and all the new ones were young, even for Kokiri. For some reason, Link guessed, an entire extra generation of Kokiri had been born of the forest.

Kokiri never grow up past a certain age. But occasionally, whether due to disaster or monster, one dies. And when that happens a new one is born from the life force of the forest, found somewhere in the woods. But Link watched the Kokiri go about their business he recognised all his old friends.

The Kokiri Forest was not just alive in these days. It was thriving.

"Hey, Link," said one of the 'elder' Kokiri, a boy with long red hair who always seemed to have his hat pulled over his eyes. He was carting compost through the village toward the wild gardens, but did a double take and let go of the handles in surprise. The cart tipped, not that he noticed. "Link!"

"Link?" said a girl nearby, and when she looked up she saw that it was him. "Link! Link's here!" A cry of 'Link's back!' rippled through the village, and as he walked people called out to him from their tasks.


"Hey Link, good to see you again!"

"Is that another outsider?"

"That's Malon, you barkbrain. Welcome back, Link!"

Link found himself outside Saria's house, staring at the open doorway, unsure of what to do. So many emotions, all conflicting within him. He settled for charging inside at full speed. Saria looked up as he burst in, and she hadn't even finished speaking his name before Link had pulled her close, wrapped her in a hug, and kissed her.

It should be noted that Kokiri stop ageing after a certain number of years. The thing that most people forget is that it changes from person to person. Mido had been leader, or at least commander of the Kokiri for many years, having grown to the (relatively) considerable age of thirteen. Saria, on the other hand, had rocketed all the way to seventeen before she even slowed down.

"You're back," she said eventually.

"Yeah," Link confirmed. Malon, having decided it was probably okay to go inside now that she could hear voices, stepped through the door.

"Hey!" said Saria in mock annoyance. "Did you know Link was going to be here today? Why didn't you say so?"

"I only found out today," said Malon, guessing at the amount of truth in Saria's tone, which was that she really was annoyed, but was hiding by pretending to be annoyed. Oddly enough, this can be very effective.

"And you were too busy waiting to come tell me?"

"She was waiting the whole time," Link explained. "How long were you waiting, anyway?"

"Six hours," Malon eventually admitted, and everyone laughed.

"Well then," said Saria, smiling brightly. "Zelda and the rest will want to know. Just let me get a couple of things and I'll go with you to the castle."

"Okay," said Link. The three of them stood there, unmoving, for half a minute.

"Link," whispered Malon conspiratorially, "you're still holding on to her."

"Oh," said Link, blushing slightly. There was a pause.

"It might speed things up a bit if you let go," Malon continued matter-of-factly.

A few minutes later, they set out again, only managing to break through the crowd of Kokiri by promising that Link would be back the next day at the latest.

As Saria walked across the Lost Woods bridge and through the pass to Hyrule Field, she felt a touch of pride that she had been the one to use the Kokiri Emerald and the Deku Tree's power to break the seal that barred any forest people from leaving their home. It had been a vital, maybe even the deciding factor in the defeat of Ganon's forces less than a year earlier.

"Uh, wait, how are the three of us going to get to the Castle Town with one horse?" asked Malon.

"How did you and Link get here at the same time?" whispered Saria in a light yet menacing tone.

Link sighed. "Good point." He opened one of Epona's saddlebags and pulled out a pale yellow object, blushing slightly as he did.

"Hey, I've seen those before," said Saria as Link helped her and Malon onto Epona's back.

"Yeah," said Link, in a low, resigned tone. He put on the Bunny Hood, tapped Epona on her shoulder, and said, "Let's go." Epona took off toward Hyrule Castle, and the girls were astonished to see Link keep pace with them. They crossed the few miles quickly, and soon were at the gates.

In Hyrule Castle Town, Link was faced with the same sort of rebirth of the city as he had seen in the forest. The buildings had become broken, decrepit things while Ganondorf ruled, and they had been completely demolished to make space for the new town. As he expected as much from old Dabal, Link saw that the Bombchu Bowling Alley was already back up and open for business.

"Amazing," said Link as he stuffed the Bunny Hood back in its bag. "All this was just beginning when I left, and now it's a new home for so many people." He scanned the city, a look of dissatisfaction slowly appearing on his face. "What's the time, anyway?"

Saria and Malon laughed in surprise. "Don't tell me you've forgotten how to tell time," said Malon, pointing at the sun.

"Let me tell you, it wasn't a problem where I've been for the last six months," said Link. "Hey, the Happy Mask Shop is back up!" Link heaved Epona's saddlebags over his shoulders and made for it like a refugee heading for the last boat. Saria and Malon followed, trying to figure out what was going on.

Link burst through the door of the Happy Mask Shop, and the Mask salesman just about fell over in shock and surprise - for two different reasons, mind you.

"What on earth?" gasped the Mask salesman.

"Hiya," said Link, swinging the bags onto the counter. "These are yours, I believe, so put them in a nice solid box somewhere and BURY THE THING inside a HAUNTED TOMB that you can't get to except by leaping fifty feet over a river of hellfired LAVA and DIGGING A THOUSAND FEET STRAIGHT DOWN through FRICKING CAUSTIC BEDROCK, okay!?"

"How did you find me?" the Mask salesman asked.

"I live here," said Link, slightly wounded by the implication. The Mask salesman thought this over for some time, and then a big smile appeared on his face.

"Oh, of course, silly me! Bedrock, you say? I'm not sure I can manage the caustic part, though, but the rest of it should be-"

"Don't think that just because I live here doesn't mean I don't know who you are," said Link, arms crossed. The Mask salesman thought this over too. He muttered to himself 'Don't, doesn't, don't,' a few times, and then started counting on his fingers.

"You're the same guy I met in Termina, and everywhere else I can think of," said Link, when he got tired of the confusion. "I've heard of the Happy Mask Shop, but you seem so……… playful at first."

"I am playful," said the Happy Mask salesman.

"They say knowledge is a powerful weapon."

"Oh. In that case, I'm pretty well lethal. Are you sure you don't want to keep any of these?" he asked, holding up the Garo's Mask.

"Especially not that one. Bloody ninja spirits every six feet," Link muttered, and walked out.

"I liked him better the first time I met him," muttered the Guardian of the Masks.

Hyrule Castle wasn't much yet, Zelda knew. It was barely half the size it used to be, and not nearly as splendid as before, but she couldn't very well set everyone to work on her castle while the town was in ruins.

It was her castle now, too. Zelda's father had been a quick casualty when Ganon attacked, and her mother had been dead for years already. So now she ruled, though Hylian law stated that she was to be referred to as Princess until the age of twenty.

So now she sat on the throne, her elbow on the arm and her hand propping up her head while someone with a good announcing voice read out the day's business. Unfortunately, all the really annoying people seemed to have survived Ganon's attack and fled. What she would have given to find that Alaron, her father's advisor and former leading knight, had been so lucky.

In the middle of a particularly droning drone, the trumpet herald (they only had one right now) outside her court began to play. The sound was quickly cut off, followed by a slight struggle and an annoyed shout. Then music rang out, the likes of which Zelda had not heard for many years.

"Open the doors," she ordered, which rather surprised the guards, but they did so. The last notes of Zelda's Lullaby faded away, and Link handed the trumpet back to the lone herald.

"That's how you announce a hero," said Link, with a lopsided grin that said he accepted his title but didn't take it for granted. Link stepped through the high doorway into the court. "Princess Zelda! You're looking -huah- a bit flustered." The 'huah' had come when one of the guards tried to grab Link from behind. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt- Link hadn't had time to draw his sword.

"I didn't mean ambush him!" the princess groaned.

"I'm worried about what you said that made them think they were supposed to ambush me," said Link, waving in Malon and Saria. He stared at Zelda, unmoving, with a cool look. She stood slowly, and walked down the stairs to her throne with the air of an empress. They stood emotionless, several feet apart.

Zelda snapped first. "Link, you rebellious vagabond, it's so good to see you!" And she ran forward, hugging him tightly.

"Zelda, you inexperienced tyrant, it's good to be back," said Link with a sigh.

One of the multitude of court people stepped forward with an impressive glare. "I-" he began, reproachfully.

"-think you can stuff it," Link finished for him.

Zelda let go and stepped back from Link. "So are you back for good?"

"I sure hope so. You know, it's strange, you're one of the only people I didn't see copied in-" Link cut himself off quickly, and the sight of a hero slapping his hand over his mouth with his eyes bugging out was too much for the Princess, who broke down in laughter.

"Copied?" repeated Malon.

"Said too much, far far too much, just forget it, no problem," babbled Link to her. He spun around again and whispered to Zelda, "I'll tell you later."

"Well," said Zelda, and now she was speaking to the entire court, "The greatest hero Hyrule has ever known has returned to us. This calls for another celebration." A few of the court's more important people sighed resignedly, but most of those present cheered.

"Another?" whispered Link, turning his head slightly.

"They've been happening all the time since you left. The Gorons celebrated your defeat of Volvagia, the Zoras had a celebration marking six months since their domain thawed, the Kokiri had a feast just because they could, that type of thing," Saria explained.

"But those were just building up to this. Keeves, tell the kitchen that tonight is the night!" ordered Zelda.

"The night?" echoed all three of them.

"Naturally we've been prepared for some time. Our fleet of advance scouts-"

"What, both of them?" muttered Malon.

"-reported that you would likely be returning this week, assuming you kept the considerable pace you were moving at across country. Everything will be ready for seven o'clock tonight."

"You knew he was on his way for how long?" demanded Saria.

"And you didn't tell either of us?" added Malon.

"Well, I am Princess," said Zelda.

"Why am I always left until last?" muttered Saria.

"Not quite last," Malon realised, and laughed. "No one's told Ruto." Link made a spirited attempt to hide inside his own hat, but in the end even he agreed that everyone in Hyrule -including Ruto- was to be invited.

For the eighth time since Link's departure, Lon Lon Ranch had become a place of celebration and festivity. Actually, saying it was a place of celebration and festivity was like saying that Lake Hylia was damp, or Ganondorf's heart was an abyss of hatred. A bonfire had been put together at the centre of the horses' pasture, and already enough meat was roasting over it to give Biggoron an instant heart attack.

Most of the rest of the open space was filled with dancers. The most impressive of these were the Kokiri, who routinely leapt over the head of other people, doing multiple twisting backflips with their unearthly grace and landing in a headstand. Several of the Gerudos had broken off from their culturally traditional 'kikurainu' and were attempting, with equal amounts of success and pain, to copy them.

Link, of course, was the hero and 'man of the hour', and would have been cheered like mad even if he danced worse than Biggoron (in later days the phrase 'worse than a dancing Biggoron' became a philosophical idiom meaning 'physically impossible'). What really grated on some of those males watching him, especially those with dates, was that he really was good. It was just a good idea to stay away, since he had a tendency to do a Hylian swords dance when he really got into it.

And away from it all, inside the strange building at the back of the ranch, through the hidden tunnel and inside the most secret part of Lon Lon, Malon Romani stared at the most terrible and evil thing to ever be found in Hyrule.

"Why do I always get the feeling that this thing is watching me?"

Perhaps because I am. Why do you always speak to yourself when you see me?

Malon didn't move. She tightened her neck as though repulsed by the thought of talking to something that had a voice like that, and only stopped in a fit of coughing when she realised that she couldn't hold her breath forever.

I will tell you, if you wish. It is because you know I can hear you.

She shook her head and cursed her father for not telling her which milk he had added the Goron wine to (Goron wine is a type of rock, but when ground up and dissolved it has the same sort of effects as the regular grape stuff, only much stronger).

You don't think masks can talk? You believe in the Goddesses.

She still ignored it, and crept back out of the building, shaking slightly. Outside, Malon leaned against the door and tried to calm down. The music drifted over to her, than got uncomfortable and drifted back away much faster.

Eventually, as she knew would happen, Link emerged from the crowd and walked over to her, smiling. "Hey, Malon. What are you doing all the way over here? You can't even hear the music."

"I… just wanted to… look at the stars," she said, slowly.

"Fine, fine. All present and accounted for? Then come on, the Zoras are about to do a scene from Eschensa and Malkarii. You know, that whole dancing-singing-fighting-acting thing they do-" As he spoke, Link reached out and pulled on her arm. Malon stayed resolutely against the door.

"No. go on, Link, everyone got to be wondering where you are," said Malon.

"Then you'd better hurry up before they think we're doing something else."

Malon was to distracted to be shocked. "I… Just go, Link."

"All right, what are you hiding?" He was still pulling on her arm. Malon hung her head, and when it rose again her face was changed- entirely the same, and yet somehow twisted. Her eyes were black.

(Go from this place.) The ground under Link's feet shook violently, like someone had pulled a rug out from under him, then hit him over the head with it. The air rushed forward, concentrated, and smashed into him, sending Link rolling back toward the crowd. Thunder rolled like the breath of a great creature being released.

Malon watched in terror for a moment, then made a motion as though shaking off invisible hands and rushed forward. Link sat up rubbing his head. He felt as though someone was near him, and turned to see Rauru standing there, eyes wide and piercing.

"Rauru? How did you get here?" asked Link.

"I was simply looking in on you and the Princess," he said. "This is not… Where is the Princess?" he yelled, with tremendous force for such an old man. No one seemed to notice in the crowd, but Zelda emerged from it anyway, alert and uncertain.

"What's happening?" she demanded.

"Princess Zelda, I fear we are facing a threat now that will make even Ganon's defeat nothing if we do not stop it now. I don't know precisely what is happening, but we are in danger. Send these people home, or to Kakariko Village. Not here. Link?" The Sage looked down at Link, who was still reeling from the blast. The boy looked back up at him and understood.

"What must I do?"

[Notes]: And so it begins. I don't expect all the chapters will be this long, and I definitely can't promise when the next chapter will appear, but it will be here. Indeed, as is my wont (yes, I have a wont) I have twisted around the timeline a bit, or at least changed events to suit my needs. People should know by now that I always do that. Anyway, more coming soon, or at least soon for me, which means before 2003. Probably.