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'm not answering that, he thought. I don't know what she expects me to say.

The two of them stood 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 stirred.

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. He fiddled with the green fabric of his tunic. What is she hoping for? That I'll change my mind?

"Even though it was only a short time, I feel like I've known you forever," Zelda continued. He restrained himself from reminding her that they had known each other for much longer, in a future she would never know existed. He was renowned as the Hero of Time; he'd traveled forward seven years to vanquish a great evil, sealing it away across all ages.

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, ready to protect himself from danger.

"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 we'll meet 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.

"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 the Royal Family's. It's yours. It can't help me anymore."

"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. 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?" she asked. "The Goddess of Time helped you last time you were in trouble."

"Yes," answered Link grimly, 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. "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 toward 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 comfortable. He lay against a tall, strong tree, underneath the leaves' 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 when he sat up, serving as his pillow. The ocarina rested in his left hand. Zelda, Link remembered. This ocarina and Epona were now the only two relics of his life in Hyrule, and he vowed to never let either leave his sight.

Link stood up, brushing the 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 to the small stream they'd rested beside.

As Link bent to fill it, 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. His small flame of hope died.

"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 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 mounted 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, lifeless darkness. The only noises to echo through the forest were Epona's footsteps on harsh, twig infested grass. They pushed on, nonetheless, no true destination in mind.

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

The horse's footsteps kept their rhythmic tempo, and Link felt his head bobbing with it. His eyes grew 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. He fell, plummeting backward 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 hard-packed dirt. He rolled over on his stomach, as the world spun and blurred. 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 his small amount of consciousness left; he tried to get to his feet but could barely move. He heard the stranger speaking, small footsteps shuffling to where he lay on the ground. The attacker's foot was suddenly underneath him, flipping Link over onto his back.

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

Something was removed from a pocket, 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 the thief blow into his ocarina, 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 strength to stand, turning to face them.

He realized that the boy and girl accompanying the heart-faced thing were fairies. The little, glowing balls of light had only their small wings visible from the true sprite within. One was a 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. The fairies noticed him first, each freezing in fear. The thief was facing away from him, still laughing and messing with the ocarina. However, the thief noticed 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 Link. It looked down at the ocarina in its hand, then back up at the well-armed adventurer. Quickly, the thief 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 wore a heart-shaped mask. The spikes on the top and bottom were merely a part of the face piece. The mask was purple overall, but red where the nose and mouth would be and green at the cheeks. The eyes, however, stood out the most. They were wide, perfectly circular orange orbs with a green iris. They stared, unmoving and unblinking, drawing him inward. Link tried his best to avoid their hypnotic effect.

The creature wearing it was a skull child. They were playful, mischievous creatures, and he knew that it probably thought robbing Link was a game. He has no idea what he's tainting with, Link thought. Not only a powerful memory, but an instrument that once bent time to its will. The thief continued to stand there, trying its best to appear inquisitively innocent from behind the mask, unsuccessfully hiding the ocarina behind his 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, clued into the tension. Guess I'll make the first move. Link put his foot back to keep his balance as softly as he could. Then, he lunged.

Just before Link grabbed him, the Skull Kid flew skyward, and the fairies followed. Link's hands only grabbed air, and he fought to keep his balance after he missed. He failed, 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. 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 his new horse.

"Epona!" Link ran after his only companion. His sword and shield were latched tightly to his back, while the Deku nut sack swayed back and forth on his belt. Epona fought savagely against the control of the Skull Kid; the fairies were unable to influence events further but to follow.

"Come on, you... stupid horse!" exclaimed the Skull Kid, sounding like a young boy as he kicked Epona in the sides. The horse reeled back toward 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 running horse.

"Get off!" exclaimed the Skull Kid. "You're ruining my fun!"

Link's hands were slipping from the saddle as Epona continued through the wilderness, weaving in between tree after tree, narrowly missing each and every stump. Link tried his best to hold on while keeping his legs in the air. His skin caught on the ground, tearing a long, slender cut into his leg. It bled, but Link merely squeezed his eyes shut and held himself closer and tighter toward his horse. I'm not letting 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 reaching into his bags and throwing bombs at him. 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 could scream amidst the chaos.

The Skull Kid obeyed, looking down at Link curiously; Epona continued onward in a panic. The Skull Kid tilted his head to the side, 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 the front and reined Epona to the right. She stumbled in that direction, and Link's lower body caught on the next tree stump. Link spun off his 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 landed beside him, and the possessions within rolled out onto the grass. Link lay there for only a moment in shock, and then he got to his feet despite the soreness, with blood staining half 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 shield 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. Sweat broke out on his forehead when he started panting; his sore back urged him to stop. 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 cave? the boy thought. Link knew if it led 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 downward into unknown depths.

He soon lost his stomach, letting out a scream as he fell further blindly. Link's breath didn't last long, and then he fell without sound, descending deeper into the chasm. Then, an entirely new feeling filled him. Visions flashed across his mind, and he saw an endless procession of faces and events played out before him over and over. He saw them repetitively - the same things, the same people, the same actions, as if he'd entered 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 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 of the game, 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 invalidated a major plot point. The most notable deviation is with the timeline theory. Now, that doesn't negatively affect this story in any way, and I think I can adequately justify that "departure," for those who care about that sort of thing. Nonetheless, I thought it worth mentioning here.

Also, if anyone is interested in an audiobook of this story, check out the YouTube channel "DragonRand100 AudioBook." I'm collaborating with him on the project, and it's definitely a solid rendition with voice acting, music, and artwork. It's still in its infancy - lots of chapters left to go - but I am very optimistic based on what DragonRand has so far!

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.