Chapter 1: Tainted Memories

"You are already leaving this land of Hyrule, aren't you?"

The boy found it hard to meet her eyes. "I need to know what happened to her," he stammered. "There's really no reason..."

"You don't have to explain." The two of them stood just outside of the great, stone wall that surrounded the castle's bustling marketplace, on the drawbridge that connected it to the seemingly endless, rolling hills of Hyrule Field. The sun hid behind the gloom of the cloudy midday, and the soft wind gently danced through the air. Zelda's summer dress hardly rustled.

He looked to his horse. The small, young steed, her brown coat and short white mane blowing in the gentle breeze, stood beside him patiently. "I know why you have to go," the princess continued, "I just don't want you to leave."

The boy didn't have a response to that. He remained watching his horse, as his fingers fiddled with the green fabric of his tunic.

"Even though it was only a short time, I feel like I've known you forever," Zelda continued, looking sadly at the boy in front of her. The green-clothed, blond-haired youth restrained himself from reminding her that they had known each other for much longer – in the future she would never know existed. He was renowned as the Hero of Time, yet no one had traveled with him to the future to witness his great deeds.

That peaceful period following his return to the present had just ended. Now he was on a personal quest, to find a lost friend. His sword and shield were once again clad on his back, and the familiar weight of his utensils had returned.

"I'll never forget the days we spent together in Hyrule, Link," Zelda added. "And I believe in my heart that a day will come when I shall meet you again. Until that day comes, please, take this." Link watched Zelda outstretch her hand, palm up, to show a deep-sea blue ocarina resting there.

"I... I can't...," started Link, recognizing what it was.

"I am praying... I am praying that your journey be a safe one," she interrupted.

"I can't take that from you," persisted Link, pushing her hand back against her chest. "It's a treasure of the Royal Family, and I don't need it anymore. You should keep it. It can't help me."

"But it will. I believe that it's been kept in our family this long so that one day, it would find its way to you. You've put it to better use than anyone else has before. Please, take it. If something should happen to you, it might come to your aid again."

He took the Ocarina of Time back into his hands; he'd sealed the wicked sorcerer away through its power. "Do you remember the Song of Time? The Goddess of Time helped you last time you were in trouble."

"Yes," answered Link sadly, slipping the ocarina into its usual pocket on his belt. There was a long moment of silence, and both of them merely stood together in it. Then, Link gave Zelda a small, weak smile, and turned to his horse without another word. "Come on, Epona."

He led the young horse by the reins away from the princess... Hyrule... the ranch... home for the two of them. The horse looked back and forth between the two youths, confused at the moment of silence that prevailed. Link and Epona had only gone a few steps when Zelda broke it.

"Link," she called out once more.

Link stopped short, wondering if he should even turn around; it would be less painful if he kept walking.

He found the urge irresistible.

Zelda, at a loss for words, quickly found them. "Please don't forget me. Don't forget Hyrule. You'll come back, won't you?"

Link didn't answer at first. "I promise." And then he threw himself over Epona's back, and the two rode off towards the mountains, leaving Zelda behind on the drawbridge.

A sore back opened Link's eyes from his dream-infested sleep; the forest floor wasn't very comfortable. He was lying against a tall, strong tree of the forest, underneath the tree tops' canopy of darkness. I can't tell if it's night or day, he thought.

His long, funnel-shaped hat was still up against the tree as he sat up, serving as his pillow. The ocarina rested in his left hand. Looking at it, Link remembered that he'd been dreaming of the day he'd left Hyrule. This ocarina and Epona were now the only two relics of that life, and he vowed to never let either leave his sight, lest he lose those days forever.

Link stood up, brushing the now dirty lower half of his tunic as he got to his feet. He looked around in the misty darkness of the uncharted forest, wondering how much longer he would be traveling through it. He'd left Hyrule by crossing over Death Mountain, which he knew made up the northern border, and was now attempting to battle nature on the other side.

Link opened a small bag of Deku nuts on his belt and popped a few into his mouth, going over to pet Epona, who had also just awoken. He stroked the white stripe running along her nose. "Hey girl. Did you sleep well?"

Epona buzzed her lips in response, bending her head away from his hand to the bucket at the base of the tree she was reined to. The pail was now void of water, so Link picked it up and walked towards the small stream they'd rested beside. "I'll fill it up again. Don't worry."

As Link bent to fill the container, he heard a familiar noise behind him. It was a sort of twinkling, chime-like sound that faded quickly, but it was also filled with some characteristic of life. He spun around on his feet, dropping the pail of water and letting it spill back into the stream. "Navi?"

However, nothing was there. Link looked back and forth in search of the noise, even rounding the trees circling his small camp to see if anything was flying away. The small flame of hope died, and he looked down to shake his head.

"Come on, Epona," Link said, walking over to her reins with a sudden urge to start moving again. He felt like they were on the verge of some great discovery. Epona, however, whined in protest when he began to untie her, and, confused at first, Link remembered that he hadn't watered her. "Sorry, I forgot."

Link quickly filled the pail and put it in front of Epona to drink, slipping his hat back over his blonde head. He had no need to keep the other various items on his belt while he had his horse; while passing through Goron City, he'd bought several bags to tie around the saddle. The only things he made sure to carry on his person were his ocarina, sword, shield, and the Deku nuts, which served the dual purpose of food and weapons.

He thought about the twinkling noise when he was mounting his horse, but eventually decided that he must have imagined it.

Link once again found himself riding alone through the misty forest, in its mysterious, seemingly lifeless darkness. Other than the sound he'd heard earlier, the only other noises echoing through the forest were Epona's footsteps on the harsh, twig infested grass. They pushed on, nonetheless, wondering if it had been a good idea to go through these uncharted territories.

Thomp... thomp... thomp... thomp...

The horse's footsteps kept their rhythmic tempo, and Link felt his head bobbing with it. His eyes grew heavier and heavier.

"... The Great Deku Tree wants to talk to you! Link, get up!..."

"I don't want to," said Link, going further into his half-sleep. The first time he'd ever met Navi replayed in his memory. Epona trudged forever onward through the forest as her master fell asleep. "I'm... I'm... too tired... I had a bad dream..."

"Hey! C'mon! Can Hyrule's destiny really depend on such a lazy boy?"

"What do you mean... Hyrule's..."

"Link, get up!"

"Navi, I can't..."

"Link, get up!"

Suddenly, Epona whined loudly and reared up on her hind legs, and Link's eyes shot open in surprise. He instinctively grasped for his horse's reins, but his fingertips barely missed them. A moment of weightlessness caught him as he found himself falling, plummeting backwards to the ground.

In the distance, he swore he heard a sickening snapping sound cut cleanly through the air. He let out a scream as the back of his head slammed into the dirt-packed floor, and he rolled over flatly on his stomach, spread-eagle on the ground. The world was spinning and blurred, and his head throbbed painfully.

"... You two fairies did great! I wonder if he has anything good on him."

The voice was distant and unrecognizable in the small amount of consciousness he had left; he tried to get to his feet but was barely able to move. He heard the stranger speaking, small footsteps shuffling to where he was lying on the ground.

Link, at first, sighed with relief when he heard footsteps, but he quickly realized the footsteps were coming closer to him, not further away. Before he could even take this in, he felt something stuck underneath himself: the attacker's foot. Link was then flipped over onto his back.

The dizziness returned at the sudden movement, and he looked up at the highwayman with blurred vision. It looked as if its face was heart-shaped, with spikes coming out of the top and bottom. Whoever it was, the assailant wasn't very tall, and had old, frayed clothing. A large, witch-like straw hat adorned its head. Link's vision cleared as the person, if it was a human, began to rummage through the items on his belt. Link smiled to himself when he remembered that he'd put most of his items on his horse. The only two things he had on his belt were his Deku nuts and his...

Something was removed from a pocket on it, and the thief waddled away.

"Ooh, ooh! What a pretty ocarina. Hey, Skull Kid, lemme touch it! I wanna see!"

Link's eyes shot open when he heard his ocarina being blown into nearby, producing horrible, screeching noises from the obviously inexperienced player. Someone else, no... two other people, one female, one male...he's not alone. They were chatting, disregarding the boy they'd knocked over. Link regained the will to stand up, and did so, turning to face them.

He realized that the boy and girl accompanying the heart-faced thing were actually fairies. They were each little, glowing balls of light, with only their small wings visible from the true sprite within. One was a very dark purple, the boy, while the female one... was a familiar white shade. He knew this couldn't be Navi, however, and kept his expression of anger as he looked at them. The fairies noticed him first, each freezing in fear and trembling. The thief was facing away from him, still laughing as it messed with the ocarina. However, it seemed to notice that the fun and games were over when the fairies stopped moving.

The thing turned around slowly, and let out a gasp when it saw the anger in Link's face. It looked down at the ocarina in its hand, then back up at Link. Quickly, it put it behind its back, foolishly attempting to hide it. Link's expression was stone, not moving or twitching in the slightest at its attempt at humor.

He realized that the thing's face was not heart-shaped, but that it was wearing a heart-shaped mask. The spikes on the top and bottom were merely apart of the face piece. The mask was purple, overall, but red where the nose and mouth would be, and green where the cheeks of the mask were. The eyes, however, were what stood out the most. They were wide, perfectly circular glowing orange eyes, with a green iris. They stared, unmoving at him, unblinking, drawing him inward. Link tried his best to avoid their hypnotic effect, looking away from the eyes of the mask.

The creature wearing it was a skull child. They were typically playful, mischievous creatures, and he knew that it probably thought robbing Link was a game. It has no idea what it's tainting with, Link thought. Not only a powerful memory, but an instrument that once bent time to its will. It continued to stand there, trying its best to appear inquisitively innocent from behind the mask, unsuccessfully hiding the ocarina behind its back.

Link waited... waiting for something to happen, for the fairies to move, or for the Skull Kid with the mask to. Epona watched in the background silently, feeling the tension in the situation. Link continued to stare at it threateningly, and, when he realized he had to make the first move, he put his foot back to keep his balance as softly as he could. Then, he lunged at the thief.

Just before Link grabbed it, the Skull Kid flew high into the air, and the fairies followed. Link's hands only grabbed air, and he fought to keep his balance after he missed. He stumbled, falling onto his face. He scrambled back to his feet when he realized where the Skull Kid had landed: on Epona.

Epona reared angrily at the unknown creature on her back, and the Skull Kid laughed in delight, grasping the reins tightly and flinging them viciously. Epona neighed loudly and took off through the forest, trying her best to throw the Skull Kid off, while the two different colored fairies followed the thief on its new horse.

"Epona!" exclaimed Link, running as fast as he could after his last companion. His sword and shield were latched tightly to his back, while the Deku nut sack swayed back and forth madly on his belt. Epona fought savagely against the control of the Skull Kid, though the fairies were unable to influence events further but to follow.

"Come on, you... stupid horse!" exclaimed the Skull Kid, kicking Epona in the sides. His voice sounded like that of a young boy's. The horse reeled back towards her true master, and Link took the opportunity to dive after her, grabbing onto the saddle before Epona went too far past. He held on as tightly as he could, dragged by the still running horse. The Skull Kid laughed uncontrollably at the turn of events.

"Get off!" exclaimed the Skull Kid. His laughter ceased when he noticed Link. "You're ruining my fun!"

Link's hands were slipping from the saddle as Epona continued madly through the wilderness, weaving in between tree after tree, narrowly missing each and every stump. Link grunted throughout the epidemic, trying his best to hold on while keeping his legs in the air. His skin caught on the ground at one point, tearing a long, slender cut into his leg. It bled, but Link merely squeezed his eyes shut and held himself closer and tighter towards his horse. I'm not going to let him take you.

"Get off!" screamed the Skull Kid again, when something hit Link in the face. He almost let go of Epona, and looked up to see the Skull Kid was reaching into his bags and throwing bombs at him. Obviously, the imp had no way of lighting them in the high-speed horse ride, but the bombs themselves made great projectiles. Link was bombarded with a constant stream of unlit explosives.

"Stop!" was all Link was able to scream amidst the chaos.

The Skull Kid obeyed, looking down at Link curiously; Epona continued onward as fast as she could. The Skull Kid tilted his head to the side curiously, as if not quite understanding what Link had said. Then, he laughed. Link's face boiled with anger, but his grip was slipping and there was nothing he could do.

The Skull Kid turned to face the front and reined her to the right. Epona stumbled slightly in that direction, and Link's lower body caught on the next tree stump. Link spun off the horse, trying desperately to grab onto something before he fell too far. His hands only met the new bags he'd bought from Goron City, and his momentum pulled them from the saddle.

Link hit the ground hard, rolling several feet before coming to a stop. The bags hit the ground beside him, while the possessions within rolled out onto the grass. Link laid there for only a moment in shock, and then he quickly got to his feet despite the soreness, with blood staining half of his left leg.

Link ran for Epona without a second thought, not stopping to tend to his wound, or to pick up the numerous possessions that had fallen out. The only thing he needed was his sword, which he drew from the scabbard on his back, taking the Hylian shied into his right hand and charging tirelessly for his stead. Link did not stumble or falter, but Epona was too fast, and the Skull Kid and two fairies only got further away.

Link continued running nonetheless, knowing they'd have to stop eventually. He began to pant heavily, sweat breaking out on his forehead and sore back as he pushed onward. Eventually, Epona came to the underside of a cliff, whose wall of soil was broken by a large hole, and the Skull Kid drove her into its darkness and out of sight. Why would he go into a small cave? the boy thought. Link knew if it lead to a dead end, then he'd be able to fight them.

He was at the hole soon after, and Link charged inside without pausing. He plunged into absolute darkness and was quick to realize just how long the underground tunnel went. He continued onward, until the next step did not meet hard-packed soil. This particular step met thin air, and there was no recovering from his lunge off the hidden ledge. Link plunged down – downward into the depths of the large hole he'd stumbled upon, in the complete darkness.

He soon lost his stomach, letting out a scream as he plunged further blindly. Link's breath didn't last long, and then he was falling without sound, descending deeper into the chasm. Then, an entirely new feeling filled him. Visions flashed across his mind, and he saw what appeared to be an endless procession of faces and events played out in front of him over and over. He saw them repetitively - the same things, the same people, the same actions, as if he was entering some loop that never ended, repeating back to the beginning every time.

The feeling intensified, until it was a part of him. It was still there, but now it seemed to grip him, and he had been forced to accept it and call it his own, never again to be rid of it. The entire time he continued spinning through the air, and then...

He stopped falling.

Note: Majora's Mask* is easily one of my favorite games of all time. One of the main reasons behind that is the amazing, dark story this particular installment in the series had. I found it to be incredibly unique, engaging, and thought-provoking. But despite all of that, I couldn't stop myself from trying to take it a lot further, and piecing together the countless mysteries the game presented. Because, though the game is great, I recognized it was a video game, and a rated-E Zelda game at that, which restricted some of the directions it could take with its plot.

So, here, I present a novelization of the one game in the series I thought had the most potential for creative interpretation. I've tried to capture the nature I felt the game boasts, and as a result of that (and my writing tendencies) the story is rather dark. It's been a project that's lasted over four years now, so it's definitely a strange feeling that it's finally done.

I should also address something brought up in several reviews. For those that care about "official" Zelda lore, this novelization began before Hyrule Historia was published. I did my research throughout this story, to make sure I followed the narrative parameters Nintendo set... but then that book came out, and basically invalidated a major plot point in this story. The most notable deviation is with the timeline theory. Now, that doesn't negatively effect this story in any way, and I think I can adequately justify that "departure," for those who do care about that sort of thing (so just message me). Nonetheless, I thought it worth mentioning here.

Another side note - when I first published the story, it happened, entirely by coincidence, to be posted on the tenth anniversary of the game's release. So, since that clearly means this story is divinely sanctioned, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

Anonymous Reviewers: If you post an anonymous review or one from a guest account (and want to see my reply), look to find a link in my profile; it'll take you to a blog post where I've compiled all of my responses to them. I intend to respond to every review submitted, and I think I've managed not to skip over anyone thus far.

*Some of the characters, lines of dialogue, scenarios, and settings in this story are owned through copyright law by Nintendo EAD.