Author's Notes: Here we are, the final chapter. To answer a question I'm sure someone will ask: this is the end of this story, but there will most likely be another story taking place after this one. I have a hard time putting this idea down for long. Thanks for reading, everyone, and another thank you to all of you who've reviewed.
Center - The Clock Tower
If there's even a small part of you that believes the moon could be falling, you should leave town immediately.
Everything - his quest to stop the moon, his quest to let his masks find some peace (and, he's come to realize, let him find some peace, too), all of the nightmares and all of the joy - begins and ends at the Clock Tower. The massive clock never slows, never stops. It stands in the center of Clock Town, in the center of all of Termina; the Tower is tall enough to be seen over the tall, tall city wall.
The first sound he heard when he reached Termina was the ticking of that massive clock. When he called the Giants to catch the moon, it was from atop that very clock.
Link looks up at the clock and sighs. He's gotten used to it over the last year. At one point, it confused him. Why is the tallest structure in town, the center of the town itself, a giant clock? He still isn't entirely sure why it is, but he knows that's just how Termina is. Termina is much more focused on the passing of time than he remembers Hyrule being. Even though he's basically given up on finding his way back to Hyrule, he still compares the worlds. He doesn't want to forget Hyrule. It may not be his home anymore, but he's still connected to it.
Someone laughs not far away, and there's music nearby; the sounds finally pull him out of his thoughts. From where he stands at the gate, he can see people filling the streets. Link looks up at the clock again, this time to read it. It's after eleven; no wonter the streets are so busy. It won't be long until the fireworks signal the proper start of the Carnival.
A lot of the people he sees have masks with them, though he doubts they're magical. If he remembers what Anju's grandmother told him right, it's tradition to wear masks during the Carnival. Masks and costumes and other forms...
Link slips through the crowd easily, looking for somewhere away from the people. He finds it at the laundry pool. He can still hear the growing commotion, but he isn't paying it much mind. Instead, he reaches inside his pack and pulls out the one mask with a spirit he hasn't worn lately. The Fierce Deity's mask hums in his hands, just as it always does (accept my power and don me, boy), but he doesn't put it on yet.
He isn't sure he wants to at all. True, the one time he's worn it outside of battle, the god seemed perfectly content to rest, but there are so many people here. Maybe he shouldn't have come back to town for this - except no, this is where he should be. It was from the clock tower that he entered the moon to face Majora, the tower that set off the chain of events that led to him being given and then wearing the mask in the first place.
He walks over to the edge of the water, holding the mask up enough to see what he'd look like if it was just an ordinary mask. His reflection is creepy, blood-red and sky-blue, and is his skin as pale as the mask when he wears it? Link lowers the mask and stares down at it. Do those marks mean anything in particular?
There's an impatient growl in his head.
"I thought I was imagining you," he says softly. "Even after what happened with the others," even after deciding that maybe he isn't crazy, "I didn't think you could be real."
His left arm twitches, raising the mask towards his face slightly. He wants to say it's just a random twitch, but there's a purpose to it that sends a shiver down his spine.
"You can't control me."
Nor you me, comes the answer, strong and defiant.
Link holds the mask up and out, over the water. "I can throw you away if I want."
It's an empty threat. He can't simply cast it aside. The mask has too much power to leave laying around where someone else might find it, and besides, he... He pulls the mask back towards himself, holding it against his chest. Why can't he? He can't throw it away, sure, but he knows dozens of secret places in Termina. He could pick any one of them and hide the mask away forever.
Why does that thought make him feel sick?
"What are you doing to me?"
Magic alters what it touches, often in unknown ways. There's a pause and a strange sense of pride. You're the first to survive me. I wonder why that is so...
Link flops down to the grass. The others, he thinks. That's why. Majora forced him to take Oakin's form, and then he had to take Darmani and Mikau's to stop Goht and Gyorg... He swallows hard. By the time Majora gave him the god's mask, he already knew how to yield but not yield, how to become someone else yet still remain himself.
The god laughs, sharp and sudden and harsh. There is more to it than that. Put the mask on.
Link takes a deep breath. "Promise you won't hurt anyone?"
Do you not trust yourself to stop me?
He doesn't even know anymore. Link takes another deep breath and stares down at the mask for a long moment. Then he puts it on.
When the transformation is finished, he lowers his head and looks at his reflection in the water. This isn't like the god's shell. Standing like this, the god looks like him. His face (their face) bears the same angular features he remembers from when he was an adult, though the marks and empty white eyes make those features seem harsher and much more dangerous. (The sum of parts, Link-plus-god; why is it so much like him?)
What's wrong? The god seems amused.
"You look like me," Link says softly. His voice is deep and strong; did he sound like this when he was grown? Maybe he did. He doesn't remember.
Of course I do.
Link kneels by the water. He has fangs; why does he have those? He doesn't have claws; his skin looks a little paler, but still like a man's. In fact, he looks almost normal, except that he's weirdly tall and has those creepy white eyes and fangs. (A man, yet not a man at all.)
You seem a bit disappointed.
"I thought a god would look different." Though he isn't really sure what a god is supposed to look like in the first place. The Giants are, well, giants, and he's never seen the goddesses, and if Majora was a god, Link won't admit it.
The god in his head laughs again. Some of us are more human than others.
There's a pop from nearby, followed by cheers. The fireworks must be starting. Link walks to the top of the ramp, far enough to still be away from people, but close enough to see the fireworks. They flicker and gleam and shine, flashes of brilliant color burning against the dark sky before fading into nothing. (Burn, die, fade.)
The tower is open; do you wish to climb?
"They'll see us," Link hisses.
No. They will see me.
He doesn't get a chance to protest. He feels himself start walking easily through the crowds, passing through them almost as if they weren't there. No one seems to particularly notice, but then again, with all of the people in costumes and ornate masks, they don't realize how unusual he is, do they?
His boots are heavy against the wood as he (they) climbs the stairs, and when he reaches the top, the world seems to go silent. The massive clock isn't ticking. (It wasn't then, either, but the moon was more important.) It's strange being up here like this. There's no moon looming over him, no Majora cackling evilly, no sense of urgency. A gentle breeze and the songs of the people below are the only sounds he hears.
He turns in place on the clock, looking out at the horizon and ticking off the places as he sees them. The swamp, the bay, the mountains, the canyon; there's the start of the Milk Road, and there's the observatory. It all looks kind of fragile from up here.
It requires protection, the god whispers in his head. There will always be those who seek to destroy it.
"What about you?"
What about me?
"Do you seek to destroy it?"
For a moment, there's no answer. Link can sense somehow that the god is thinking. Do you seek to destroy it?
"Why would I want to? I like this place."
As do I.
"But the way you fight..."
I fight the way I fight. I am called fierce for a reason. A chuckle. You are the boy swordsman, correct?
"I'm not a boy!" Link snarls, and for the moment, he's right. Nothing about him right now is a child.
The god laughs, long and proud. No, you are not. No mere boy could withstand my power, yet you have done it more than once. You do it even now. As if to reinforce that, there's a tug at his awareness, hard enough to notice, but it isn't enough to claim control.
"I'm tired of people seeing me as a boy."
People see what people see; it is their folly.
For a while, neither says anything. The sounds of the crowd get closer; others are climbing the tower as well. Link expects people to start or jump when they see him, but still no one seems to care overmuch about the tall man in armor. He doesn't understand.
As I said, it is their folly. We could kill them all right now, and by the time any of these fools realized what was happening, it would be too late.
"No," Link whispers. "I won't let you."
And if I truly chose to do so? Could you stop me? It's a challenge; the god's thoughts seem to move closer to his own.
"I would, and I will." Link reaches inward to the part of him that isn't him and yanks. "This is my body."
The god laughs at that and yanks back. It catches Link off guard, pulling his awareness back towards the god's. (In control yet out of control, being held, being watched over...) Is it now?
"It is," he says, though he's not sure if it's words or just a thought.
Right now you wear my form, not yours.
"It's my body. Without me, you'd still just be a mask!"
What did you say earlier? Oh, yes, that's right... the god's presence wraps itself around Link's; the god laughs. You said you could cast me away at any moment. Then do it.
Link reaches up and finds the edge of the mask; his fingers feel almost numb, and it's like trying to feel through thick cloth. "Maybe I will."
Maybe you won't.
Link slides his fingers along the edge of the mask. It would be so easy to pull it off right now, even with the crowd around him. But he doesn't.
Hesitation is dangerous.
"This isn't a battle."
"You know you can't win. You aren't fighting me." Link lowers his hands; he knows he can't win either. (For the first time ever, he has met a warrior he can't best.)
The god laughs again. As courageous as ever, I see. Suppose I am merely biding my time; you should be careful what you assume about my power.
"Why is that?"
I can break you, just as I have broken all who tried to claim my power.
(No one can break him. He's traveled through time; he's watched the world die.)
"I don't want your power."
Then what is it that you do want?
Link closes his eyes and sighs. "I don't know."
The people around him start singing; he closes his eyes. Call the Giants from atop the clock tower... Will they come? Termina isn't in danger this year.
Would you rather it was?
No, it's not like that. It's merely that when the world's in danger is when the people need someone like him. There's nothing for him right now. "You don't need a warrior when the world's at peace."
The god chuckles darkly. Which is why Clock Town has guards stationed around town at all times.
"I'm not a guard."
No, you are not. Their presence is proof that peace does not equal perfect safety.
He starts walking, or maybe it's the god making him walk. He doesn't know, nor does he care. He climbs down the tower and walks back through the crowds and out the southern gate; the guard doesn't even glance his way. He stops on the grass and turns back to town, looking up at the moon-less sky.
And he remembers there's a reason he's wearing the god's mask. "What do you want to do?"
He gets no answer. Still, Link feels like he needs to do this, so he takes a deep breath, slowly blows it out, and then he lets go.
It's almost dawn when something nudges his awareness and wakes him. He (the god within him) is atop the clock tower again, though the crowd seems to have disappeared. The eastern sky is covered in swaths of pale colors. It's pretty, really. He's never seen the sun rise from here.
The sun peeks above the distant horizon, and as dawn's light creeps down the tower and the city walls, he hears a hundred voice cheer. That's right; one year ago exactly, the moon crumbled to dust in the Giants' hands as Majora was sent back into its wooden prison.
A whole year...
"Merely a year," the god says softly.
For me, it's a long time.
"For you, yes. For the people here, yes. For Termina and myself, it isn't."
Link almost asks how old the god is, but no. If the god wants to tell (can tell), he'll share. Instead, Link asks, Did you do what you wanted to?
"This night I spent watching, not fighting."
All you want to do is fight?
"That is what I know. I am a warrior."
Link sighs. So am I. That doesn't mean I live every moment of my life preparing for the next fight.
For a moment, it seems the god is ignoring him. "Then how do you live?"
I live, that's all.
The god walks towards the edge of the clock, looking down at the people starting to fill the streets again, singing an energetic song. "Show me."
That confuses Link. Show you what?
"This is a carnival, yes?" The god heads for the stairs. "What do you do during a carnival?"
Well... Link hasn't been to many. Really, the only one was last year's Carnival. He remembers playing games and listening to stories and eating sweetcake. He made sure Kafei spent the rest of the Carnival with confetti in his hair, and somehow Romani convinced him to dance. (She is so much better than he is.)
You're supposed to have fun.
"I see." The god stops at the entrance to the tower, reaching up for the edge of the mask.
What are you doing?
"Show me your fun." And with that, the god pulls off the mask. There's a strange yanking sensation and a wave of dizziness as Link is pushed forward and given control. He falls against the side of the tower for a moment, but it quickly passes.
He looks down at the mask in his hand, now well aware of the presence still in his mind. (Not in the mask where it should be, no; it's in his head, watching through his eyes.) It should scare him, he knows.
But it doesn't. (He's shared his mind, shared his body, maybe even shared his soul. This is no different.)
"Okay, um..." Link slides the mask back into his pack so it won't get damaged or lost, and then he looks around at the growing crowds. He isn't really sure where to start.
So he sits down and watches as the Carnival gets into full swing. There are Deku merchants hawking all kinds of strange wares, a few Zora manning what looks like a shooting gallery, and there are several Gorons running some kind of wrestling game. And there are people everywhere, playing games and telling stories and dancing and singing and just generally being happy.
Link likes seeing everyone like this.
There's a wordless question in his head, but he doesn't mind. He already knows the question. And, he thinks, hopping off the platform he'd been sitting on, he knows the answer, too.
"You'd better pay attention," he says with a laugh, and then he heads off in search of something fun.
I am watching.