“Link, where are you taking me?” Asked a curious, young princess Zelda as she followed a boy in a bright green tunic through the depths of a quiet forest. The boy in question only turned around and gave her a small grin, reaching back and taking Zelda’s hand as he did so. Zelda’s smile widened at the boy holding her hand and she could feel her cheeks blushing.
“Don’t worry, Zelda,” Link replied reassuringly. “I only want to show you something that I brought back from Termina.”
“Termina? That place you went to when you disappeared from Hyrule? What did you bring back?” she inquired as her interest piqued at the mention of the mysterious land called Termina.
The young Hero had gone missing over a year ago, only to find out that he had been on an eerie quest in a foreign world. He had returned a few weeks ago, and surprised his old friend, Princess Zelda, by sneaking into her castle’s courtyard while she was playing.
Link didn’t say anything in response to her question about Termina, but tightened his grip on her hand and started to run, causing Zelda to trip over her skirts as she tried to keep up with his faster pace.
The pair of children didn’t spend too long running; Link stopped in front of an abandoned building that sat in a small, shady clearing.
Zelda nervously looked at the building and hid herself behind the short Hero as best as she could.
“What’s in there? Is that where we need to go?” She asked with trepidation.
“It’ll be okay, Zelda. There’s nothing bad in there.” Link said bravely. He squeezed her hand, and Zelda felt her embarrassing blush return.
“Alright Link. Show me what you’ve got in there.” She replied in her trembling, girlish voice.
Wordlessly, Link led the princess into the house. It looked as if it had not been abandoned long; there were hardly any cobwebs in the corners and there was no dust gathering on any of the surfaces.
Zelda looked around the tiny, one bedroom house, casually wondering why it lay empty. There was one large room, and a ladder at the other side of the area that led to a loft, which served as the upstairs portion of the house. There were no curtains on any of the windows. All signs of being lived in were completely erased.
“Zelda, do you see them?” Link’s soft question broke the silence. With her eyebrows furrowed, Zelda’s gaze wandered around the room.
“See what? I see nothing but…masks.” Zelda had answered her own question. At first glance, she noticed nothing out of the ordinary, but as she scanned the room more closely, she noticed that there were bizarre looking masks placed all around the room. The colorful faces stared back at her with empty eyes. Zelda shuddered as she found more and more sitting on their perches where Link had placed them.
She felt like they were looking at her, reading her thoughts, and judging her. The Princess didn’t like the uneasy way the masks made her stomach clench with anxiety.
“These are the masks I was telling you about.” Link once again shattered the silence. “I brought them back with me from my journey in Termina. They look scary, but they’re actually not that bad at all.”
Zelda nodded her head, not really sure if she agreed with him or not.
“Why are they here in this old house?” Why aren’t they with you in Kokiri forest?” She didn’t like the idea of these masks sitting alone in the house, unsupervised. What if somebody with a heart less pure than Link’s happened to stumble upon this house and used the masks for evil?
Link shrugged his shoulders. “I was afraid that the new Deku Tree wouldn’t let me keep the masks in his forest. There is magic in the masks, powerful magic, and I thought that maybe the Deku tree wouldn’t trust me if I brought magic into Kokiri. So, I brought them to this shack for now. You don’t like my surprise, do you?”
Zelda stopped inspecting the masks and looked over at her friend. Link’s eyes looked downcast and he was fidgeting with the hem of his tunic. Her soft, young heart warmed at the sight of him. He had only wanted to make her happy by showing her the masks that she heard so much about.
“No Link, I’m just a little timid, that’s all. Can you show me what they do?”
Link’s expression brightened and he ran to the nearest mask, which resembled a mighty Goron. He snatched it up and held it close to his face.
“Just wait until you see what this one can do!” He exclaimed eagerly.
An hour passed as Link tried on all the masks, showing Zelda how he could turn into a Goron, a Zora, and a Deku scrub. He allowed her to try on the Mask of Scents and smell around the empty house. Zelda laughed at Link when he put on a mask that made him look as though he had two giant bunny ears growing out of his blonde hair. After each mask that they explored together, Zelda became less afraid of them, even becoming fond of a few.
The children eventually went through all of the different masks. They were now lying in a huge circle on the floor, with their blank faces staring apathetically up at the ceiling.
Zelda and Link were standing in the middle of the circle, talking about what Link should do with them.
“You could keep them in the castle. You’re more than welcome to visit them anytime you want!” Zelda happily offered. If the masks were at her home, she could play with them anytime she wanted to!
“I don’t know about that…maybe I could ask the Deku tree if I could have them in Kokiri with me. I mean, they helped me out a lot on my journey. They’re like my friends.” Link replied as he bent down to pick up the Zora mask.
With slight disappointment, Zelda said nothing as she watched Link fiddle around with the Zora mask. That one was his favorite, she could tell by the way he kept picking it up and playing with it.
She turned away from her friend and looked around the room, her eyes settling on an object underneath a chair in a shadowy corner. It was another mask!
“Hey! Link! What about this mask? What does it do?” Shouted Zelda as she sprinted over to the corner. She was about to bend over and retrieve the lone mask from it’s hiding spot when she felt Link’s fingers wrap protectively around her outstretched arm.
“Don’t touch that one.” He ordered with absolute seriousness.
Something in his uncharacteristically stern voice made Zelda immediately stop what she was doing.
“Why not? What’s wrong with this one?” She whispered, her uncomfortable fear of the masks coming back in waves.
Link hesitated while Zelda waited with bated breath.
“That’s the Fierce Deity mask,” he answered with his voice low and quiet.
“Oh…” Zelda reverently replied. She remembered now. Her outstretched arm fell limply to her side. “That’s the one that turned you into the big, powerful man?”
Behind her, she could feel Link nod his head, confirming her answer. The boy stepped in front of her, his hand still grasping the Princess’ wrist as if to keep her at bay, and he knelt down to pick up the mask.
His thumb and index finger were tightly holding one edge of the pale mask as he slid it out from behind the chair. Link stood to his feet while the mask precariously dangled between his fingers. The boy Hero released his hold on Zelda and he let the Mask balance face-up on his fingertips, as if he were afraid of fully grasping the thing with his bare hands.
“This is the most powerful mask I have, Zelda. What it turned me into, and the strength it gave me was scary.” Link held the object in front of his chest, letting Zelda gaze at it.
“It’s dangerous beyond belief. There were times when I was afraid that I couldn’t get it off. I was so scared that it wouldn’t let me go…I think that it let me be free because I’m just a kid.” The boy looked down at the mask, terrified of ever putting it on his face again.
Zelda brought her wandering fingers to the surface of the mask, only to have Link push them gently away. Perturbed, Zelda contented herself with just observing it.
Fierce Deity mask was completely different than any of the other twenty-three she had just seen. The face looked almost Hylian, with it’s olive skin, pointed ears, and defined features. In fact, it looked somewhat like Link did when he was a sixteen-year-old boy, before she had sent him back to his days as a youth. But there were vivid red markings painted angrily across the cheeks and accenting the corners of his black, vacuous eyes. A bright blue V shape adorned his forehead, partially hidden beneath the tufts of white, artificial hair that puffed out over the mask’s face. The wood of the mask was molded into a perpetual glare that made Zelda believe this mask was angry about something.
But the most unusual thing of all about the mask was the sudden and strange emotion she was feeling. The princess could sense a strong, seething fury emanating from the object. She also felt raw power radiating off the mask in waves, like the thing was fully alive and desperate to get her attention. Even the expression on its face was alive. All the other masks were stiff and ambiguous, but this one had a spark of life to it that terrified her. The mask was undeniably strong, and it was pulling her closer towards it. Zelda’s mind grew fuzzy as she felt an unruly desire to grab it from Link’s hands and put it on her own face. She knew that it was completely irrational, but Zelda couldn’t make the thought go away.
“You can feel it, can’t you?”
Zelda broke her gaze from the mask and lifted her eyes back to Link. His face was set in a tense smile. “If you think it’s powerful now, just try wearing it.”
Zelda wanted to, she desperately wanted to put the mask on.
“Can I hold it?” She pleaded, holding out her hands, hoping that Link would place the object in her palms.
“No,” the boy replied, shaking his head. “I know you want to, but that’s just the mask talking. It wants you to put it on, that’s the way it works, but I’m not going to let you.”
Zelda let her hands drop to her sides and she knew Link was right. The mask would have been too much for her.
“I don’t know how you even handled it, Link.”
The boy’s tense smile returned to his face and he replied that he didn’t know how either.
Silence filled the air as the two children continued to stare at the wild mask in Link’s hands. Zelda knew that Link didn’t want to take the Fierce Deity into Kokiri; the Deku tree wouldn’t allow that thing within miles of the precious Lost Woods where his race of eternal children and fairies lived.
“I’m going to suggest something.” Zelda said as she broke the silent reveries that her and Link were in. Link’s blue eyes looked up at her, waiting for her to continue.
“Take all the masks to Kokiri. Ask the Deku tree if you can keep them there. They have good energy inside them, so I’m sure he will say yes. But this one…” here she gestured to the powerful face. “This one should be hidden. Don’t take this anywhere and don’t tell anyone about it.”
Link took a step back from the princess, searching the house with a determined frown. “Alright. I’ll hide it,” he said as he looked for a hiding place.
“I didn’t mean in here, Link. Can’t we find a better place to hide it?” Zelda skeptically asked as she watched the Hero turn over empty boxes and peer behind the few pieces of abandonded furniture.
“Link, we need to find a better place to hide it!”
Link didn’t seem to hear her demand, but had stopped in the middle of the room and was tapping his foot on the floor.
“What are you doing now?” inquired the impatient princess as she walked to Link’s side.
“The floorboard is loose. Maybe we can lift it up and stick it under the floor.” Answered the boy as he bent down, the mask still perched on his fingertips, and with his free hand, started tugging the stubborn board up.
With a great creaking sound, the board came loose and Link went flying back on his rear. The mask went sailing out of his hands and skidded over the floor, landing at Zelda’s feet. Zelda eagerly bent down to pick up the Fierce Deity. Her fingers were barely grazing the smooth surface of the angry face…
“Zelda!” Link called out in a warning voice. As much as she wanted to pick it up, Zelda waited for Link to do it up himself.
The boy held it between his two fingers once more, and he gingerly placed the Fierce Deity on the cold dirt that lay beneath the floor.
Sudden panic rushed through Zelda’s nerves as soon as the mask made contact with the ground. The thing knew what was happening to it, and Zelda could feel it’s deeply alarmed emotions.
Link could feel it too. Zelda saw that his eyes were huge and full of sheer terror. His hand rested on the surface of the wooden face, and Zelda could sense it begging for Link to not bury it beneath the floor. The mask used no words, but she could FEEL its thoughts like her own emotions! The powerful pull it had over the children was exerted tenfold than it had before, when it was telling Zelda to put it on her face. It was desperate to not be buried and forgotten.
Forever could have passed before Link reluctantly drew his hand away from the Fierce Deity and he lowered the floorboard with an aching slowness. Link gradually stood up, looking down at the floor with indecision.
Zelda walked to his side and boldly held Link’s hand, to silently reassure him that it was best for the mask to lie under the floor.
Without a word, the children gathered up the rest of the masks, carrying as many as they could in their arms. Link was forcefully thinking about talking to the Deku tree the next day, trying to get the Fierce Deity off his mind. Zelda wanted to leave the house as soon as she could. Her heart was wrenching with pity as the sensations the mask made her feel were still swirling around in her head.
Soon, but not soon enough, Link and Zelda were opening the door and escaping the house.
They had not gone five paces away when Zelda’s head exploded with unabashed emotions that were screaming at her to go back. Her steps were heavy with unwarranted guilt as she felt the mask’s helplessness and the burden of its rejection wash over her, drowning her senses. Fierce Deity was letting her know precisely what it thought about them leaving it behind.
Zelda compared herself to a careless mother abandoning her only child, leaving it to fend for itself. She tried to communicate with the mask, telling it that they needed to leave it behind because it was too dangerous. But the mask only pleaded stronger, voicelessly begging to not be left behind. It’s frantic command to turn around infiltrated every part of Zelda’s conscience. The mask was a living thing, capable of emotions as strong as any that a Hylian could have. Leaving it alone in a house would be like tossing away a child, wouldn’t it? She couldn’t do that!
Were those really her thoughts, she wondered to herself, as she felt dizzy from all the despairing feelings racing through her. Or was the mask planting ideas in her head?
Zelda looked over at Link, whose face was twitching slightly. He was dealing with the same internal battle that Zelda was having.
The realization that Link was also highly affected by the mask as Zelda, made her understand just how powerful the thing was. To get inside their heads and make them feel what it was feeling, and the fact that it felt at all, showed what kind of magic Fierce Deity’s mask held.
Link looked back at Zelda, and their eyes locked, each feeling the same terrified, helpless, furious emotions and thinking the same manipulated thoughts that the Fierce Deity was placing in their heads.
Without saying anything, Link and Zelda took off running as fast as they could with their arms full of masks.
After sprinting for as far as their legs could carry them, Zelda’s mind was mercifully free of the mask’s emotions, but she could feel hot tears streaming down her face. When had she started crying?
Link looked highly disturbed. He had never felt Fierce Deity give off such strong, vulnerable emotions before. It frightened him deeply as he wondered what would have happened to him if he had never gotten the mask off when he wore it last.
They both sat down on the floor of the woods, letting the peaceful air of the forest wash over them as they tried to empty their minds of what just happened.
Zelda brushed off the twigs and leaves that clung to her pink dress. She noticed that the hem was ripped and tattered from where her frantically running feet had stepped on them.
She knew that neither her or Link would ever go back to that house. The insatiable power that lived in the mask would relentlessly beckon to them as soon as it sensed their presence, and she didn’t think that they could resist it’s despondent pleas a second time.
The lonely hiding place beneath the floor would have to suffice, for the rest of time.