Author's notes: Well, "Masquerade" was originally meant as a one-shot, but the idea is just too intriguing to leave alone. This story is a five part sequel to/expansion upon Masquerade.

Spoilers for Majora's Mask.

"The swamp, mountain, ocean, and canyon Tael was trying to tell us about... I bet he was referring to the four areas just outside of town. There's one in each compass direction."

"South of town lies Woodfall Swamp. Be careful."


South -- Woodfall Swamp

"Come on, men, put your backs into it! Do you want to get this built or not?"

The carpenters are busily working on this year's festival tower. The air is full of the sounds of hammers and saws, and above it all, Mutoh yelling.

"You don't have any excuse this year -- we're going to finish this tower; do you hear me?"

Link kicks his feet in the air and watches them work from his seat on the laundry pool ramp. Four days left until the Carnival begins, and travelers are already pouring into town. He can feel the excitement building in the air.

Nothing like last year. Last year, an uneasy tension permeated everything and everyone. He remembers it, especially how unnerving it was at first. It never really stopped being noticeable; he just reached the point where he was too distracted by his own troubles to notice. He looks up at the sky, the beautiful clear blue moon-free sky.

A year, give or take three or six or however many days. That's how long he has been in Termina. He's taller now, taller and bigger. He taps his well-worn boots against the ramp. He needs new ones, really. These are barely holding together anymore, and they're getting a little tight, too.

It's weird, thinking about growing up, probably because he's been an adult in all but body for a long time. (Well, he's been an adult in body, too, but he's not, not anymore.) Link doesn't understand. He carries a sword -- and he knows how to use it -- so the guards see him as an adult. Most of the people treat him like an adult, a little adult. Even so, he knows they still call him a kid and talk about things like how much he's grown and how strange he is.

Is he a child or an adult? He's not even sure he knows.

Link sighs and stands up; the clock chimes midday. He should get moving if he's going to get Koume that paint this afternoon... especially since he isn't sure if she expects him to repaint that sign for her or not.

The trip to the swamp is uneventful. Of course, it is; there's nothing dangerous except for a few Chus, and those are so pathetically easy to avoid or destroy that he doesn't even see them as threats anymore. It isn't long before the humidity rises and the smells of mud and plants and damp reach him. The only noticeable change is how faded the paint on the Information Center's sign is. (Time passes. Time changes everything.)


"Ah, there you are!" Koume calls, flying over and taking the flask of paint. She gives it a good once-over. "Wonderful; wonderful! Now we can get that sign all fixed up! Thanks, kid!" She grins. "So, what do I owe you?"

Considering she gave him more than enough Rupees to buy the paint and told him to keep whatever was left, she doesn't owe him anything. "Nothing."

"Oh, ho! I should give you something, Link. After all, you made a special trip all the way out here just to get an old lady her paint." She winks. "I have to give you something, even if it's just another cruise. There's another pictograph contest going on right now, you know. Maybe you should enter."

Koume doesn't owe him anything, and he'd feel guilty for taking any reward from her for something so simple, but -- home home home home HOME -- it has been a while since he's been to the swamp.


Which is why he's standing just inside the entrance to the Deku Palace a little while later, holding the Deku mask. Its thoughts are stronger now. Home home home I'm home I'm home!

"Yes, you're home," Link says softly, sliding the mask on. It's easier to talk this way, and the humidity isn't nearly as suffocating to a Deku.

Sorry, comes the tiny squeak in the back of his mind.

"It's okay. Is there something you want to do?"

This is fine.

"Are you sure?"


It isn't that simple. There's something the Deku wants that it isn't willing to admit. Link doesn't press, though. Instead, he leans back against the cool wall and feels the sun filtering down through the trees, warm and gentle as it soaks into his wooden skin. Nearby, a couple of scrubs are busily painting over the ornate designs that loop and whirl across the palisade, brightening the faded colors.

It's a little weird, he thinks. The Deku are made of wood, yet the palace is made of wood.

Not all trees are Deku. Some trees are just trees. We only use not-Deku trees to build.

Not-Deku trees? That implies there are Deku trees, but is that so? He admits he knows little about this sort of thing, but scrubs aren't trees.

No, no. Scrubs aren't trees. Nothing more.

Link watches the scrubs paint a little longer, and then he starts hopping from one lilypad to another. A year ago, he stopped moving only when forced to by an obstacle or his own exhausted body; it's a habit he hasn't entirely broken.

Moon is gone, the Deku whispers. Link isn't sure it even means for him to hear. Evil moon is gone forever.

"Yeah, it's gone," he says in as soft a voice as his Deku body can muster. "You and me and Darmani and Mikau... we stopped it."

It's embarrassed. I didn't do much.

"You did enough." A thought strikes him. Has he really never asked this before? "What's your name?"

A long pause, long enough that Link wonders if maybe he's said something wrong -- part of him is confused, surprised, happy -- but then the Deku answers.

We don't tell our names to just anyone.

"Oh, sorry."

My name is Oakin.

"Oakin." The name sounds perfectly normal in a Deku voice; Link has a feeling that it's going to sound weird to his human ears. "So, Oakin, what do you want to do? There's nowhere we have to be, so..."

Th-this is fine.

Link hops to the next lilypad. It's still a very strange motion, one he's not entirely comfortable with, bouncing off the surface of the water. Part of his human mind is screaming that the water won't hold him, that he's going to sink, that he's going to drown (shouldn't he be used to this by now?), even as part of Oakin's mind wonders what drowning is. He doesn't drown, of course. Instead, his stubby little Deku feet bounce off the almost-spongy, resistant-yet-yielding surface of the water and find the soft, slightly-bobbing, strangely solid surface of the lilypad.

Link feels what he's looking for, waiting for: a wistful sigh, the breeze rustling through leaves.

And that's when he lets go.

"Link?" It's Oakin speaking, using the voice the two of them share, the voice that is so much more Oakin's than Link's. "What are you --?"

Do what you want to, Oakin.

Hopeful and needy and... nervous? "Anything?"


Oakin squeaks happily, and they're off, bouncing rapidly from pad to pad. It's a completely different motion now, one that's as natural for Oakin as walking is for Link and much, much faster than the hero can ever go when he's the one in control.

Link pulls back as Oakin dashes into the palace. Even as close as they are like this, everyone deserves a little privacy.

Enough still bleeds through the mental link to give him some idea of how Oakin spends the afternoon. He finds his father, and they race and talk and race some more. Then he escorts the Deku Princess up to Woodfall Temple for some kind of official business. He enjoys himself.

The last of the twilight is fading when Link finds himself back on the boat and back in control. "Did you have fun, Oakin?"

Yeah! Thanks, Link. Thanks a lot.

For a moment, they ride in silence.

When a Deku dies... he doesn't really die -- not like humans do, anyway. He puts down roots and goes to sleep, and his body becomes a tree. Like that one right over there.

Link follows the mental nudge and sees a small tree. It looks just like any other tree, until he looks a bit closer and sees the face, eyes closed in peaceful slumber, near the roots.

"So you can still see their faces if you look..." That's how the Deku know which is which. Normal trees don't have faces.

Yeah. And if the tree can get big enough -- tall enough to reach the sky! -- a scrub will sprout from its roots. That's what Dad says.

"Not like humans at all," Link says. All he really knows about dying is that people die. Impa said once that the dead go on to dwell in peace, if they are only given the chance. He doesn't know exactly what that peace is. He hasn't really seen many peaceful spirits before -- the few he's seen have faded away not long after he put them at ease.

Dad says that while our bodies grow to the sky, we go to a giant meadow and that all of our friends are there waiting for us.

Something like that, maybe. He remembers coming close to dying -- only a few times but still too many -- and hearing a woman calling his name. Not screaming or yelling, not panicking, just calmly, gently calling for him. Maybe someday he'll find out who she is. He's in no hurry.

The boat rounds a corner; he can see Koume flying slow circles around the Information Center, her broom glowing with magical light. She must be waiting for him.

Sorry I took so long...

"No. You had fun, right? That's all that matters." He reaches up, finding the edge of the mask but not taking it off just yet.

Can... can we do that again sometime, Link?

He grins -- at least as well as he can as a Deku. "Sure."

Thank you!

He pulls the mask off -- Koume's looking for him, after all, not Oakin -- and slides it (reverently) into his pack. The last impression he gets from the mask before he lets go is that of quiet contentment.

"Ho ho ho! There you are, kid!" Koume flies over and escorts the boat to the dock. "We were starting to think you'd gone off and gotten lost somewhere."

He feels bad; he doesn't like making anyone worry. "I'm fine," he says, because he is.

"Then let Koume see the pictograph you took."

Pictograph? Oh, right, that contest. He doesn't have one -- honestly, he never thought about it once he was on the boat, on the move -- but he pulls his Picto-box out just the same.

"Why are you so interested in this, Koume?" he asks as she takes the device. "I didn't think you really cared much for pictographs."

She winks. "Oh, I don't, but I've got 50 Rupees riding on you winning the contest."

Koume is a strange, strange woman, Link thinks. Even stranger than the Koume he met in Hyrule as an adult (and her crazy sister, too; he can't forget Kotake), and considering Twinrova wanted nothing more than to kill him...

She's scary.

"Oh, ho! How'd you get such a lovely picture? You'll win for certain with this!" She cackles happily.

What's she talking about? "Uh, thanks." He's confused, but she just hands his back his Picto-box and turns to leave.

"Now that I know you're all right, I should probably get home. Wouldn't want to make Kotake worry too much. Ah, yes, and thank you again for getting that paint for me!"

Link watches her fly away, and then he walks over to one of the torches so he can see the pictograph now that her light is gone.

The pictograph is of Oakin and the Deku Princess, both in mid-hop between lilypads near Woodfall Temple, taken by an unknown third person. The two Deku are clearly enjoying themselves; he thinks they might be racing.

I let her win.

Link carefully puts the Picto-box back in his pack and then looks up at the starry sky above. The evil, scowling moon is gone; the only moon is the sliver of a crescent hanging low in the western sky. Termina is safe, he reminds himself. Everyone is safe now.

He thinks of the carpenters working on their tower and the Deku repainting their palace and the sleeping tree slowly stretching its limbs up into the sky. He's been dreading the Carnival because he's afraid of the memories it has for him. But, he thinks as he starts down the road leading towards Clock Town, back towards the center, maybe he's focusing too much on what happened before and ignoring the present.

The Carnival is almost here. He's older (physically) and taller (a bit), and he's made a new friend today. He should be happy. Oakin is.

And he thinks of the other masks riding in his pack. There's an idea: he'll spend the days leading up to the Carnival retracing his quest to stop Majora -- only this year, he's looking not to free the trapped Giants but to, at least to an extent, free the souls trapped in his masks.

Oakin isn't the only one who deserves a day to do what he wants.

Link grins as the South Gate comes into view. That's exactly what he's going to do. He's already been to the swamp, so next is the mountains of Snowhead.

But first, first he needs a new pair of boots.