My breath puffed out in thin, white streams as I watched on in silence. My fists tightened at my sides... At last. After all the seemingly endless searching, it was really him! That cursed imp! The one who would doom us all in his ignorance; the one who had stolen my precious mask! For longer than I even knew now, I had wandered these woods in search of this thief. I was starving, dirty, and I knew I must be nearing death; but the angry pangs that bombarded my stomach, and the deep shadows under my eyes were long forgotten to me now. All that mattered was that I'd finally found him. After such a long and horrible trial, there he was, in front of me! When I had first set out after him, I had tried tracking the imp, but his steps left no footprints, and his presence stirred these woods in all but a physical way. He left no trace. Without any clear path, I had wandered aimlessly, consumed with anguish and desperation for ages. That mask had cost me dearly - more than I thought I had been willing to pay. When I first set my eyes upon it, however, I knew I would pay much more than I would ever have to give. That mask was my responsibility, and I had to get it back… even if I ended up paying with my life.
I looked ahead of me wearily. The trees stretched on as far as I could see, and of course, there was no sign of the one I sought. At first, I had followed in the general direction the imp had scampered off in, but when I realized there were no tracks to follow, I had tried to resort to other methods. I stooped down and dug into the large travel pack I kept slung on my back. It was well stocked; a rolled up mat for sleeping, provisions for eating and drinking, medicinal herbs, and extra clothes. Aside from the mat, which was rolled on top and carried separately, these things were shoved somewhat haphazardly away from everything else in my pack. The other items were, of course, much more valuable; gathered over years of collection, and protected with great care. Carefully laid out into neat rows, and taking up most of the space in my packs, were a collection of many masks, in all manner of shapes, sizes, colours and patterns. I dug through these carefully, searching as swiftly and delicately as I could, and finally, pulled out a white, triangular mask, holding it reverently in my softly trembling hands. It had a large, hollowed, red-rimmed eye with a great golden pupil in the centre. A hollowed out mouth, also rimmed in red, smiled at me eerily. I set the bag aside and slipped the mask over my face, standing as sturdily as I could. Upon the instant the mask covered my face, my vision went completely black. Despite the hollowed out eye, I could see nothing save a vast, empty expanse of darkness. The Mask of Truth, as it was called, forced the wearer to see the truth, and so barred any sight that was not completely 'true'. Passed down by the Sheikah people, this mask was said to see into people's minds and hear their thoughts as well. No matter who's hand it turned to, however, no one could see anything when putting it on except darkness, let alone hear the thoughts of others. It had been easy for me to obtain, as no one really wanted it after most had accepted it was impossible to use. Rumours spread that only one who's heart was completely unbound by human bias, and who always saw things as they were – plain and true – could see when they put the mask on, and use it to hear other people's hidden thoughts. While I myself was a good man, or at least tried my best to be, I could in no way claim that I had always seen things plain and true the way they were. Human emotion was a powerful thing, that could sway even the most rational man to believe a lie, and so, when placing the mask upon my face, I could see nothing. However, through my many years of research, and from a very interesting conversation I once had with a Sheikah woman, I learned something that made this mask useful to none but me.
I whispered softly into the chilly morning, "Though I know I cannot see; I would know Sight through the Eyes of Truth." At first, nothing happened. Slowly, however, light began to fill my vision. After a time, I could see through the darkness the mask held over me and into the land before me. Though a powerful thing, truly, this was a frightening mask. As I looked about, creatures, whose features seemed impossible, slid by on strange appendages that looked like they couldn't support any living being; let alone these misshapen things. Smoke and clouds drifted by in ethereal dances that numbed the senses, and glowing lights in impossible colours blinked in and out of sight. Other worldly sounds filled the air, filling my ears, and then a piercing silence would creep in and nearly rob me of all my sanity. This mask could see the ultimate truth, even if that truth was something no one wanted to see. A frightful thing indeed. Abruptly, a voice, deep and thunderous, whispered into my ear.
"You come again, Mask Man…" it said. The sound was old, cracking with age, yet full of absolute surety; something that could only come with being ancient. It echoed through my body, deep and powerful, and left me feeling hollow and frail. Truly, this was a frightening mask…
"I would know the Truth," I said quietly. I knelt in the soft grass below my feet, and bowed deeply to the invisible force. Small translucent creatures appeared from beneath the grass and began crawling over my hands and knees, slithering and waddling and hobbling in their strange way. Sometimes, it almost seemed like a dance. Everything through these eyes seemed that way, sometimes; the great dance of Truth.
"…You had bid to know the same Truth before, Mask Man," the voice spoke slowly, "It led you to what you sought with a great urgency in your heart. I had believed the finding of this Truth would have kept you from my Sight for some time, but… I feel now an urgency in you greater than last we spoke," the voice made a great sound, like the clamour of deep drums and rushing winds. I could only equate it to a sigh; with difficulty.
"All the same, I would see what Truth you had led me to before," my voice began to tremble, "Where is my Mask… where is Majora?" I tried desperately to keep the erratic edge out of my voice.
"YOUR mask…" a clamouring sound filled my ears. A laugh, I supposed, "You amuse me, Mask Man… though, I am disappointed in you. Even with my Sight, you do not see. Look before you, Mask Man." The voice cracked sharply on my name. I lifted my head and began to look around. I realized with a slight lump in my throat that the voice was right; I had not seen. There were strange creatures and lights, smoke and sounds, clouds and all manner of strange things as there had always been when I put on the Mask of Truth. Yet when I looked again, I noticed the colour of the sky; a dark, bruised purple. There were low whispers pervading the air; angry, sharp tones filled with fear. Shadows passed, writhing like snakes, twisting as though trying to escape some great pain. Moans echoed through the trees, lamenting and sighing. And a thick, dark grey fog filled the forest as though to choke out all the air. I shivered, feeling suddenly very exposed.
"…What does this mean?" the voice did not answer right away, "...Can the Master of Sight not see?" I asked. I forgot myself in a moment of sardonic humour. A deep sound like the crashing of great thunder filled my ears and made my body tremble, almost to the point of collapsing, and I remembered myself.
"I can See, Mask Man…" the voice continued calmly but firmly, "But… choose not to interfere. It is not in my interest," a clamouring, as before, followed this, "Tick, tock, tick, tock, the great clock chimes… you would be wise to heed its message, ye who would mask the world. Tick… tock…" the last words vibrated through my bones, as though a great clock were ticking all around me.
"Wait… you choose not to?" I became frantic as the words sunk in, "But… but you have to help me! I need to see!" all of my composure was forgotten, and I began to yell, "Tell me! This is something I must know; where is my mask!? Where is Majora!?" A clamour again, and then the voice began to whisper, "Tick…tock…tick…tock…"
"Why will you not tell me? You have never led me astray before, why now? Please, answer me, though I know I cannot see; I would know Sight through the Eyes of Truth!" repeating the ancient words did nothing, the great voice continued to clamour and whisper, "Tick…tock…tick…tock…" I became desperate, repeating the words again and again, and again the voice said nothing and continued repeating its slow chant, 'tick…tock…tick…tock.' I knelt there in the grass, listening to his mocking chant, completely dumbfounded and speechless. Never had I felt so lost; so... helpless. Why would he not answer? Why now, when my need was greatest? Was it this accursed forest? I looked around. Everything about this place felt off. It was as though the air was stale with dust, and the ground seemed too hard to sustain such large trees and supple grass. Even the trees seemed strange, they grew almost no leaves despite how lush the ground was. Short, barren branches jutted from the sides, and not one tree leaned quite the same way as the other, never standing tall or straight, always just slightly askew; off. This wood was considered cursed by most. Not many came here unless of great need, like myself. People felt things when they came here, like their life was being drained away from them, or that the forest led them places they had not meant to go. People believed this forest was alive, but not many spoke about it aloud; it was considered bad luck. Being here, I did feel sort of strained, like my arms had become heavier and my movements more clumsy. And the air certainly didn't feel friendly; everything about this forest seemed to want to strangle you. At times, it felt like the wind blew in such a way as to tug me from where I was heading. Clearly, the rumours about this place were not ill-placed… however, that did not explain why the Mask of Truth would not provide me with a direction; I had been in this place before, and much more cursed places – places no man had dared to tread in centuries – and still the mask had always served me well. I felt anger begin to bubble inside me. I felt cheated, betrayed, but most of all… terrified by what I could not understand.
"Tick…tock…tick…to-" I tore off the mask and threw it to the ground in frustration. Everything around me spun for a moment as my eyes adjusted to the light; they had been barred from sight the whole time. Once the world settled, I looked at the mask, "Tick…tock…tick…tock…" even though I'd thrown the mask off, it was as though I could still hear the voice whispering from it. I grabbed it and quickly tucked it carefully away in my bag among the other masks. I got up off my knees slowly, lifted my bag, slung it back over my shoulders, and looked ahead. There were no more strange creatures, no lights, no dancing shadows. Everything was back to human sight. I looked up; the sky was the same pale grey colour it had been when I first set out after the imp. The air around me had become slightly foggy. I heaved a sigh. Without direction – a condition I was entirely unused to – I decided all I could do was continue to head forward, in the general direction the imp had run off in… not much of a plan, but I had no other. I sighed again, angrily this time, and began to slowly head off between the trees, in what I believed would be the most accurate direction. I walked for some time, perhaps days, even. Time seemed to pass slowly here, as though the sun lazily crawled across the sky and the wind blew slow and soft across my skin. I knew I was hungry by the way my stomach growled fiercely, but I had a very limited supply of food, and besides that, I barely noticed anyway. My mind was a slew of fear and anger, desperation, anxiety, depression, and all manner of unpleasant things. I stopped only when my legs would not carry me any longer or nature called me. I didn't know where I was going, or how long it would take me to get there, or if there even was an end to where I was going. In truth, I did not care. I had one true purpose in life, and an imp had just stolen it.
I ate once a day, or at least what felt like a day; a small handful of baked crackers and some dried beef I'd had a friend of mine cure for me. I drank from a small canteen when I became parched, - and thankfully, that was the one thing I had plenty of in my bag - and filled any empty canteens I had when I came across a stream; though there didn't appear to be an abundance of water in this forest. I walked ever forward, each step setting me in a more and more foul state of mind. Occasionally, I would stoop down and attempt using the Mask of Truth again, but each time I did, all I was met with was "Tick…tock…tick…tock…" and eventually I gave up on that venture all together. Clearly, that mask would be of no help. I had enough food to last me a month or so, if I kept rationing it so strictly the way I was, but eventually it would run out, and then I would be in trouble. I was already running thin if I was planning a return journey, which truthfully I wasn't. Finding the mask again consumed me; it was all that mattered. I would worry about those other details once I had it back. Though I was slight, I had knowledge of many plants that were edible, and I could even attempt hunting if it came to it. Thankfully, being as slim as I was, I didn't need to eat much to keep me going, so I decided to put all thoughts of food out of my mind and just focus on the task at hand, which was truthfully not hard at all.
Much time had passed. I ate, answered nature's call, walked, drank, and even slept sometimes when my body forced me to. Only for a few hours though. This cycle repeated itself for what seemed a very long time. I no longer attempted to walk perfectly straight anymore; it was, after all, highly unlikely that the imp had gone in the same direction for as long as I had been walking. I simply wandered aimlessly, caring only about finding my mask… I had run out of food some time ago. I had managed to stay alive on some plants and herbs I had deemed safe, but even for someone as slight as I was, this was not enough to last. The large bag slung to my back grew heavier with each step. Still, I pressed on, searching, wandering like so many spirits do in this wood for something that's been lost. I began to feel like a spirit myself. Every time the wind blew, it felt like it carried me somewhat, as though I really was made of air. I found it strange that wind blew here at all, the trees seemed much too thick… but so much was strange about these woods, I didn't pay it much mind. I began to feel myself slipping away… there were times when I would find my eyes shutting for just a moment, and opening them to find my legs ached like they had been walking for days. I knew I was reaching my limit; but still I walked. I needed my mask… I needed my mask… I needed my mask… the thought echoed in my mind, spurring me on, probably the only thing keeping my frail body going.
It was a pale grey morning, much too early for the sun to have risen, when my legs finally decided to quit. I collapsed, falling hard to my knees. My bag slipped off my back and rolled lazily away from me until it came to a dull stop, and, eventually, until my face was flat against the soft grass. I stared ahead of me into the forest, seemingly no end in sight to all the trees and grass and pale fog… a never ending dream. I thought bitterly of my fate. Would I continue to wander these woods when my body was long gone; always in search of that which had become most precious to me? Forever doomed to lament over my sad end, thinking of nothing but the search that had consumed me. How long had I walked? Ah, what did it matter now…? I had failed. For a moment, I thought I saw a small twinkle of light above and a little ahead of where I lay, but I assumed delirium from exhaustion was more likely at this point. The last thing in Hyrule I trusted now was my senses. I lay there for who knows how long, a year; A minute? I thought of the imp, of what I would say if I ever saw him again… but then again, the world might have fallen to ash by then. Ah, life can be so cruel. I sighed. The sound that came out was more of a cracked whistle though. I had run out of water a while ago as well, unable to find a new source of water among this never ending forest.
Neeiiighhh! "Waaahhh! Euuuhhh…" A horse whinnied loudly, and a small voice cried out.
...What? I managed to lift my eyes and squint at what was ahead of me. A tree stood directly in my line of sight. With all the strength left in me, I pulled myself up to a half-sitting position and dragged myself behind the tree, peering around it. My legs couldn't carry me, but my arms still had some strength left. What I saw was a small, red-brown horse - merely a baby, and a female at that - looking frantic and confused, pattering this way and that and snorting, shaking its tiny white mane. A small, blonde boy lay on the ground behind the horse, wearing an all-green tunic and small brown boots. He appeared to still be breathing. It appeared as though the little horse had been startled by something, and had flung away her tiny rider. I checked to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me… yes; the boy had a large, Hylian shield hung on his back, and a small sword… by the looks of it, Kokiri made. What was a Kokiri boy doing so far away from his forest; and with a sword and shield, no less? I understood that Kokiri did not last long away from their home. The horse appeared to settle down when it decided no more surprises were in store for it, and waited passively for its master to wake. I saw two fairies floating quietly above the horse's mane, one a dark purple and the other white. Not an altogether strange sight, seeing that this boy was clearly Kokiri. But I wondered if having two fairies was normal for a Kokiri child? I thought I recalled that only one fairy came to a Kokiri when he or she was born, but then, what did I know? No one had ever ventured into the Kokiri Forest except the Kokiri… and of course, the Hero of Time… but seldom few knew the full extent of that tale, save myself and some exceptional others.
Suddenly, the air grew thick and heavy. I felt a presence appear to the left of the small boy, hidden by the trees. I scanned the area in that direction until finally, slowly fading in through the pale grey fog… I saw him. For a moment, I truly believed I had gone mad, but when he didn't immediately disappear, I felt my body reach its second wind and I sat up, completely erect. It was him! The imp! He had seemed to appear from nowhere. He stood no taller than a small child, maybe three or four feet in height. On his head was what looked like a farmer's hat made of red straw, decorated with a chain of gold rings. He wore a large grass necklace, and a red shirt, belted by a similar chain of gold rings around the waist. He had straw, fingerless gloves and shorts, and his shoes were red and pointed up at the tip, with gold rings for buckles. His head was small and round, and also appeared to be made of straw, his eyes were beady, bright red dots, and his mouth was a small yellow beak. I had never felt such elation in all my life. I nearly jumped up and ran to that cursed little monster, but with all my strength, I lay low and watched. I may have been dying, my mask may have been no less than five meters ahead of me, but I was no fool. I would watch and see what would unfold before me, until the time was right.
I felt my hackles rise when I realized the imp was wearing the mask… surely it shouldn't surprise me, Majora's Mask held immense power, even one such as this creature should know that. Anyone fool enough to steal it would have no qualms about using its power for themselves, but seeing it was still enough to set me on edge in the worst way. Still, I watched quietly, though all my muscles struggled against it. This horrid little fool would doom us all! Suddenly, the fairies fluttered over to where the imp appeared.
The imp raised his mask to survey the scene and let out a high pitched cackle, "You two fairies did great!" I squinted in confusion. The fairies had scared the horse? The imp continued, "I wonder if he has anything good on him…" I felt my cheeks go red. So he was still thieving, eh? Again, this should have been no surprise, but my heart truly went out to the child lying still in the grass. I heard a high-pitched whisper from one of the fairies, it was too low to make out, but I could tell it was coming from the white one. The imp looked mildly surprised, "Huh? This guy…" he paused for a moment, "…Well, that shouldn't be a problem." The imp replaced his mask and began scampering slowly forward, stopping short for an instant, then closing the distance. The fairies rushed over. The imp stood over the small figure and began nudging him with his foot, eventually turning the boy onto his back. Witnessing this and doing nothing made me feel dirty, especially after what had been done to me, but I was in no shape to take on anyone right now, not even such a small imp. Besides, even if I was at full strength, he had Majora… no one was a match for him right now. The imp bent over and began rummaging through the small boy's belt. I felt blood rushing from my cheeks into my ears and neck. Thief… The imp stood slowly and turned towards where I sat, concealed, with a small blue shape in his hands.
The purple fairy spoke, its voice high with excitement, "Ooh! Ooh! What a pretty ocarina… Hey, Skull Kid, lemme touch it! I wanna see!" It was difficult to tell with fairies, but I was pretty sure that one was a boy. I squinted at the blue object in the imp's hands - the 'Skull Kid,' as the purple fairy had called him - and examined it as best I could. The shape and colour… my eyes went wide, and I restrained a loud gasp. There was only one ocarina in Hyrule with that colour and sheen… I noticed the small silver band around the mouthpiece. A small, golden insignia glinted against the silver in the pale morning fog. There was no doubt… the Ocarina of Time! How had this child come to possess such a…?! I thought for a moment… green tunic, Kokiri child, fairy-less… my heart stopped. It… it couldn't be… it was him… it was… The Hero of Time… The Hero of Time!
Fate was truly a magnificent thing. I suddenly felt a new kind of rage as I watched the unworthy Skull Kid put his lips to such a precious thing. Though, he seemed to have a knack for tainting precious things. He blew random notes, giggling like an idiot as he did. Suddenly, the white fairy spoke up in response to the purple fairy, bonking the little thing on his head. I believed this fairy was a girl.
"You can't, Tael! What would we do if you dropped it and broke it? No way! You can't touch it!" I thought of the little purple fairy - Tael - trying to pick up the ocarina with… did fairies even have hands? I supposed they must have… but surely not big enough to lift a thing nearly its own size! I felt grateful to the white fairy's insistence. 'Tael' seemed to droop slightly, "…Aw, but sis… W-Why can't I try it out too?"
At that moment, the small boy stirred. He sat up suddenly, put his hand to his head and shook it to collect his senses. The Skull Kid had his back turned, busily messing with the ocarina he had stolen, not noticing a thing. The boy turned and saw the Skull Kid with his ocarina. The boy's eyes narrowed. He stood up and stared daggers into the Skull Kid's back. The Skull Kid continued to busy himself away with the ocarina, still noticing nothing. I couldn't help but smirk. The fairies turned and noticed the boy, jumping and crying out with alarm. The Skull Kid stopped playing with the ocarina, dropped it to his side and turned slowly at the sound. The sight of the glaring boy made him yelp, jump, look to his sides guiltily, and hide the ocarina behind his back… which I didn't believe was going to work. I couldn't help but admire the boy's courage; there was such ferocity in his eyes.
The boy took a steady step back… then leapt forward suddenly in an attempt to grab the Skull Kid. In a motion that was unnaturally lithe, the Skull Kid leapt up and away, landing skillfully on the boy's horse. The horse reared violently from the sudden change, and neighed in protest. The horse began to fly forward, the Skull Kid looking triumphant, but the boy leaped forward just in time to grab the Skull Kid's ankle and held on for dear life as the horse began to crash through the forest at break neck pace. The little horse was faster than it looked.
I gasped in alarm. They were going to get away! With my new-found strength, I scurried over to where my bag had fallen, tore it open, and dug around frantically until I found it; a small yellow head-band with large, yellow bunny ears made of stiff cloth. They swung this way and that, like real bunny ears. I put the silly looking head-band on, closed up my bag, slung it over my back in a rush, and took off as fast as my legs would take me. I felt the magic of the head-band envelope me, and though the little horse was crashing through the trees in a panicked dash, I kept an even-paced distance just behind them, running amongst the thickest trees for good measure; though the way the two little figures were struggling, I doubted they would notice me even if I was astride of them. The horse galloped on for quite some distance, until she came to a little grove surrounded by wooden walls. They seemed to have occurred… naturally? A massive tree stump with a tunnel hollowed through its base stood at the mouth of the wooden wall, and a few, much smaller stumps were scattered in the centre of the ring of wood. The horse, seeing this dead-end, rounded one of the smaller tree stumps in a sharp turn to head toward the only way through; the tunnel. The sudden turn had the little hero, who had been clinging to the Skull Kid's ankle for dear life, flung to the ground. He rolled into the grass with a harsh stop, and the Skull Kid let out a high-pitched, triumphant laugh as the horse carried him away. The boy got up in a hurry and ran after the Skull Kid, into the dark tunnel. I stopped inside the horse-shoe shaped, wooden formation and halted for a moment… The air was too thick here. Something was wrong… I turned to look where I had come from, only to find that the horse-shoe shaped walls were now a circled enclosure. My heart skipped a beat. There was no turning back. I shook my head and turned forward. This was no time to worry about turning back, the Skull Kid was within my grasp; I had to press forward! I quickly stooped down again, placing my bag in front of me and removing the head-band from my head. My body was shaking violently from the sudden strain and exertion, but I ignored this. I rummaged through the bag, returning the head-band, and this time pulling out a plain, grey mask that looked like it was made of stone. I hurriedly put it on, closed my bag, slung it over my back, and ran after the little hero and the Skull Kid. Through the dark tunnel, I emerged into a strange area, a little space enclosed by more naturally-formed wooden walls and stumps that started small and got taller and wider going forward. They created a sort of stair case to a series of tall, shooting, mushroom-like plants that were an eerie, glowing, green colour. They were growing out of a wooden formed archway that led into the dark. I got there in time to see the boy rush through the archway as fast as his small legs would take him. I decided to follow his lead. I climbed the first wooden stumps and jumped awkwardly from them to the larger stumps that were spaced away from each other. With a great gasp of effort, I finally leaped up and onto the landing where the archway stood. I began to run forward, same as the child, when suddenly a voice halted me so vehemently, I almost fell on my face.
"STOP!" it thundered. I recognized the voice immediately. With visible effort, I stopped and bent down, pulling the bag off my back and once again opening it up to dig for a mask. Once I had it in my hands, I set the Stone Mask aside and placed the Mask of Truth over my face. My whole body was trembling ferociously, and all I wanted to do was chase the tiny hero and the cursed imp before the one thing I cared for most in this world was lost to the darkness forever... but the ancient voice in the mask had never once called out to me like that. Whatever it was, as much as it seemed impossible to me, this was more important. I spoke the ancient words, "Though I know I cannot see; I would know Sight through the Eyes of Truth." Immediately my eyes flooded with light, nearly blinding me, and I heard the voice rumble and whisper in my ear, "See the Truth…"
The world went dark.