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False Faces

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Link dreads wearing the masks that change his shape. It starts with the horrible sensation of the masks clinging and fusing into his skin that make him scream with terror and pain every time, the claustrophobic feeling of being buried alive inside a strange body whose rightful spirit has left it behind. 

His first movements are always awkward, but then the other body’s muscle memory kicks in. The Deku Scrub knows how to be a Deku Scrub, and so it is for the Goron and the Zora. That’s unsettling too, wanting to reach for his sword and finding himself blowing a bubble or swinging a punch. 

But fighting and moving is easier than coming face to face with the family and friends of the spirits who have passed on. Deceiving them into thinking their loved one is still alive. 

Link has never been a liar before, and it hurts, seeing the misplaced joy in their faces. But he’s also never been any good at words and he can’t think of a way to explain the truth that won’t hurt them even more than the continued deception.

Just a little longer, he tells himself, as the Baby Goron berates “Darmi” for not winning the race against real Gorons. Just a little longer, and then… they’ll realize something’s happened to him when he doesn’t come back. 

He can heal the dead and dying with a song, but the living they leave behind are not always so easily satisfied. 

As he collects more masks, Link begins to wonder about the Happy Mask Salesman. Sometimes he ventures back into the Clock Tower wearing a new mask, thinking perhaps the Salesman will be interested. 

Usually the Salesman reminds him that it’s Majora’s Mask he wants, not any of these other masks. Sometimes he remarks on the feelings of gratitude associated with the mask, as though he knows what Link went through to get each one. As though he’s been watching Link.

Except the Happy Mask Salesman never leaves the Clock Tower. For three days, all he does is stand inside with his load of masks like disembodied faces, grinning and waiting. Shouldn’t a salesman try to sell things? 

“Happy Mask Salesman?” Romani wrinkles her nose when Link asks. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a person…”

Well, that’s not entirely unexpected. After all, Romani doesn’t live in Clock Town, and Link has never seen her with a mask. Still, it sends a chill down Link’s spine. He’s never seen the Happy Mask Salesman interact with anyone but him and Tatl. Why is that?

“A man with a large pack covered in masks who always smiles?” Cremia shakes her head. “I’d remember seeing someone like that. But you could ask my friend Anju if she’s seen him. She works at the Stock Pot Inn in Clock Town.”

But Anju hasn’t seen him. Neither have any of the Bomber Boys in Clock Town— and that’s when Link really begins to worry. The Bomber’s Secret Society of Justice see and hear everything in Clock Town… so why don’t they know about the Happy Mask Salesman who waits in the Tower?

“Maybe it’s because he’s not from this place,” Tatl offers, though she doesn’t seem entirely convinced. “He’s just visiting, like us.”

But the only reason Link and Tatl are in Termina is because of Skull Kid. Is that why The Happy Mask Salesman is here too, or was he planning on going to Termina before Majora’s Mask was stolen from him?

Come to think of it, why is Skull Kid in Termina?

“Now you’re just giving yourself a headache,” Tatl mutters. “Not every question needs an answer, you know!”

So Link tries not to think so much, though he knows things have gone wrong before because he simply did as he was told and allowed himself to get led into a trap by a cleverer villain. He hopes he’s not making another mistake now. 

(He thinks, suddenly, of Princess Zelda, both as she was when he rode away from Hyrule and as she was in the ruins after Ganondorf’s defeat, older and wiser and wearier, the one he can no longer reach) 

If he dies here, who will heal his remorseful spirit? Will he be changed into a mask for the Happy Mask Salesman to carry around, perhaps even to wear his shape?

Will someone with Link’s face ride back to Hyrule?

And if so, what if that someone has an evil heart?

“So don’t die here,” Tatl says, which is not very comforting, but it’s all Link has. 

He’s getting stronger again, at least, more capable. He hasn’t needed a fairy to save him from the brink of death in some time. And time is on his side in a way it isn’t for anyone else in Termina, which he’s deeply grateful for. Even when he gets lost in the Pirate Fortress, searching for that last of Lulu’s eggs, he doesn’t look up at the moon looming overhead, knowing he has the power to start over if necessary. 

It eases his heart a little to see the smiles of the ones he’s able to help, even knowing he’ll soon have to turn back time and undo what he’s done for them.  

The Happy Mask Salesman is always smiling, except for when he isn’t. Link still remembers the way that face suddenly contorted with fury, the feeling of being shaken with powerful hands clenched painfully around his shoulders as though he weighed no more than a rag doll. 

“What have you done to me?” the Salesman had screamed, a question Link still doesn’t understand. Surely the source of the Salesman’s anger is Skull Kid, not Link. Skull Kid is the thief who stole Majora’s Mask. 

But what does the Happy Mask Salesman want with Majora’s Mask, anyway? An object of such evil should surely be destroyed, or at least hidden away where it can do no harm. 

Link has felt the power of these masks for himself. How they change his body, his instincts, even what letters he’s able to read. He can understand how that sort of power might creep into a wearer’s mind, changing the way the wearer thinks and warping the wearer’s desires. 

Does the Happy Mask Salesman want to wear Majora’s Mask, knowing what it will do to him? Or just to have it? 

In the swamp, Link discovers a house full of giant golden Skulltulas and a cursed man in the shape of one of them, wearing a strange mask. After he lifts the curse by killing all the Skulltulas, the man gives him the mask, and the moment Link puts it on he finds himself able to understand the man’s dog, full of contempt for his master.

Link wonders if this Mask of Truth can tell him something more about the Salesman. So he ventures back into the Clock Tower wearing the strange mask.

“That mask… That is the Mask of Truth, isn’t it?” The Happy Mask Salesman grins more widely than ever. “You have a frightful mask. But being able to see into people’s hearts and minds seems useful…” He pauses. “Unfortunately, that’s not the mask I am looking for. Keep up that pace. I am counting on you to get my mask.” 

He hadn’t really expected the Salesman to suddenly blurt out his inner thoughts, but his words unsettle Link more than ever. He takes off the mask quickly, glad that the Salesman doesn’t want such a frightful yet useful object. 

And yet, what the Salesman wants is worse, isn’t it?

The Salesman’s grin never wavers as Link stares up at him, doubt thudding in his heart. 

To the east of Clock Town lies Ikana Canyon, a place stranger and more sinister than any Link has yet visited in Termina. In the swamp there were Deku Scrubs, in the mountains Gorons, in the sea, Zora, all doing their best to survive despite the strange changes to their homes. By contrast, Ikana is barren and desolate— except for the dead.

Something terrible happened here. 

He knows it even before Tatl tells him about the spirits she senses that thirst for blood, before he encounters the strange man in the Spirit House who tells him about the Ikana Kingdom’s history of darkness. Like the Shadow Temple in Hyrule, this is a place most would prefer to forget… but Link does not have that luxury. 

Faintly, he remembers what the Happy Mask Salesman told him about the origins of Majora’s Mask. That a tribe used it in dark rituals, before sealing it away. 

Could this be where they lived?

When he puts on the Garo’s Mask, he is ambushed by spirit after spirit, who only upon defeat concede scraps of information, but Link is used to putting puzzles together and what they give him is enough. 

He fights what remains of a great general in the graveyard, then descends into his grave and finds himself face to face with a familiar yet mysterious song. He’d never expected to uncover the origins of the Song of Storms, let alone here. 

“That is a splendid thing,” the Happy Mask Salesman says, when Link shows him the skull-like mask that resembles the general’s face. “It earns the respect and sworn allegiance of legions of soldiers.” His grin is more ghoulish than ever. “Unfortunately that’s not the mask I am looking for. Keep up that pace. I am counting on you to get my mask.”

Link takes off the mask as he steps back. It feels different inside the Tower where the Salesman lurks, in a way he can’t quite describe. The air is still, almost as though he were dreaming. 

He reaches for the Garo’s Mask, but his hand freezes when he hears a sudden giggle. 

“You have obtained many fine masks…” The Happy Mask Salesman continues to grin. “Do you enjoy wearing them?”

The question takes Link by surprise. He shakes his head, unsettled.

“Really? I wonder…” 

Link stares up at the Salesman’s face, at that strangely permanent grin, and cold washes over him.

“To swim like a Zora… to fly like a Deku Scrub… to have the strength of a Goron… these are gifts many would do terrible things to obtain.” The Salesman continues to grin. “And yet… your favorite is the Bunny Hood, isn’t it?”

“Hey!” Tatl snaps, darting between them. “What are you, spying on us? Let’s get out of here, Link!”

“Spying?” Another giggle, rooting Link to the spot. “Such a rude word… I don’t need to spy on you. I can see everything I need to know from one look at you. And with every mask you gather… I see a little bit more…”

Tatl’s right. He should leave. But… 

Link pulls out the Garo’s Mask, but holds it out instead of putting it on. 

The Happy Mask Salesman’s expression does not change. “That’s the Garo’s Mask isn’t it? If you have that mask, you must be one with quite a bit of courage. Unfortunately that’s not the mask I am looking for.”

“You sell masks,” Link says softly, lowering the mask in his hands. “Do you ever wear them?”

Something gleams in the Salesman’s eyes. “Do I ever wear them? I’m wearing one right now.”

Link’s heart thumps.

“Would you like to see?”

And before Link can say a word, the Salesman’s hands rise up to the sides of his grinning face, digging underneath what still looks like smooth skin, peeling it away to reveal…

Nothing. 

An empty void where a face should be.

Only Link can’t look away, even as he hears Tatl quivering beside him. The emptiness is sucking him in, enveloping him. There’s nothing as far as the eye can see, or rather, can’t. 

He is in a chasm, and he is screaming as he falls. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A giggle 
               echoes 

                            through the void.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Link steps out into Clock Town on the dawn of the first day.

“L-let’s go back to the canyon, okay? I don’t know what that was, but…” Tatl trails off. “Link? …Are you… okay?”

Link says nothing.

“Hey! Listen to me! Stop smiling!”

But he can’t.