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CHAPTER 2: MENDELSSOHN GOES OVERBOARD

 

 

 

 

 

            As far as impish goblins went, Mendelssohn was rather fortunate. Unlike others of his kind who were forced to hide out in chimneys and pull pranks for meager leftovers of dinner, Mendelssohn had been born in the midst of the Spider Moon, and was thus blessed with enough magic power to do what he liked to do most- break things and kill people. And break things was what he planned to do.

            "Mendelssohn, I want the Heartstone, and only the Heartstone," Amadeus had told him. "Take it by whatever means necessary, but please do so quietly and discreetly. I don't want any of this traced to me. Do you understand?"

            The goblin nodded and stroked one side of his large, white, bushy mustache. "You don't want any evidence that you might possibly be involved, right?"

            Amadeus had glanced at him suspiciously. "You are correct. I don't want any evidence left there. The boy had said that there were threats to steal it in the past- try to make it look like a typical theft."

            "This will require some liberties on my part, my lord."

            Amadeus cocked his head back, and raised one dark eyebrow. "Liberties?"

            "Why, yes, my lord. A great deal of liberties," Mendelssohn replied, bowing like a court jester. "To make it look like a theft, I will have to rent the help of some thieves..."

            Amadeus looked at him sharply. "Then why do I even need to hire you if you can't pull off a single, simple assignment? Why don't I just hire the thieves, and remove you from the equation? Why not?"

            "Don't forget, my lord, you need three of us for-"

            "I don't care about that!" Amadeus snapped at him. "I can always use you for that, or hire someone more skilled."

            "Yes, yes, you could, my lord... but don't forget who it was who first told you about the Hear-"

            "I already knew about the Heartstone, Mendelssohn. What I want to know is, what do you plan on doing to that town in order to get the stone?"

            "Nothing too severe, but I guarantee that all traces of your part in this will be properly... erased."

            "Watch how you erase it."

            "I will. But please allow me to do what I think is necessary."

            "Just get out of here and get the stone!" Amadeus snapped at the little dwarf, then regained his composure. It wasn't like him to lose his patience- except when it concerned a certain impish employee of his who was quite less than official.

            Mendelssohn grinned deeply, although he waited until Amadeus could no longer see his face before he did it.

            He had such a way with words, Mendelssohn did. Usually people got so irritated at him that they let him have whatever he wanted- a skill learned in the childhood of long ago.

            It won him no popularity contests, but it got things done.

 

***

 

            "So, what are you planning to do for your birthday tomorrow?" Gabe asked Rei, who was intently busy lounging on a couch and flipping a coin.

            "I dunno," Rei replied, still flipping the oversized coin. "I mean, I really can't think of anything to do- maybe just have a typical day out, chat up a few girls- but this IS my twentieth... and I can't think of anything!"

            "We don't have to do anything big, you know." Gabe replied to his friend. "So what if you're turning Twenty. I did three months ago. We didn't do anything big."

            "Then we'll just cruise around and pick up some girls if we can?"

            Gabe smirked. "The day that you can even hold a full conversation with a girl," he replied, "Is the day that- never mind."

            "Never matter," Rei answered with, and both of them shared a short laugh.

            "Look, Rei," Gabe said, leaning in, "I'm the ladies' man of the team. You couldn't chat up a house cat."

            Rei let out a kind of snorting laugh. "And you could?"

            Gabe crossed his arms and assumed a macho posture. "Of course I could. Why, I could impress any girl around here if I wanted to."

            "Okay, then, prove it?" Rei gave him a cock-eyed grin.

            Gabe returned the expression. "All right. just point me in the right direction, and let the Gabe-man do his thing!"

            Rei got up from his wonderful seat at the couch, and looked outside at the town street. There were a few young women about his age scattered here and there, but most of them he already knew, or had a crush on Gabe already, or just looked to easy. Then he noticed the blonde across the way talking with some guy.

            Obviously, neither one was from town. The woman was rather tall, thin, had an athletic build, and her hair was cropped just short enough to be barely feminine. The man who she was talking to was tall, had almost an elven grace to him, and had a hairstyle and facial structure similar to Amadeus', but not by much. The two appeared to be old friends from their posture, and when the man walked off; apparently to check on something- and in the process leaving his female companion alone- Rei knew that he had the perfect person to send Gabe to.

            "Hey, Gabe- how much you wanna bet on this one?"

            "I don't know... a weeks worth of chores at the Home?"

            Rei grinned. "Sounds good. If she likes you, I'll do all of your work for a Month, how does that sound?"

            "Happy birthday, friend," Gabe said in a perfectly evil tone. "So, who do you want me to talk to?"

            Rei pointed at the woman, who was now leaning against the side of the building in a rather bored manner. "Her- the stranger."

            "Doesn't she look a little old?" Gabe asked.

            "Nah, can't be any more than four years older than us. Besides- you look really mature for your age."

            Gabe tossed his head back in an extremely cocky gesture. "That I am, aren't I? You watch from the sidelines. The Master is at work!"

            Rei followed Gabe out and into the street, but graciously stayed across the way from him,  secretly wondering what was going to happen. He also wondered if she woman was involved with that guy she was talking with in any way, and after getting an actual clear look at her face and general expression, he sincerely hoped not.

            Gabe leaned on the wall next to her. "Beautiful day, isn't it?" He asked, flashing his most charming smile.

            "I couldn't care less. I hate the sun." the woman with the short hair replied, not even looking up. Gabe, caught off guard by the response, took a few seconds to come up with anything to follow it up with. "Yeah, I hate beautiful days, too."

Good. Always agree with them.

            She glanced over at him, and Gabe noticed her eyes. A rusty shade of brown that was almost red. In fact- he could almost have sworn that they glinted red for a second. "You didn't a minute ago," She said with less emotion than a machine, and turned her head back. Gabe noticed her arms, at that moment, left bare by the sleeveless garment that she was wearing. She wasn’t exactly muscular, but it was pretty obvious that the woman could probably knock Gabe’s teeth out if she so wished.

            What am I getting myself into? Gabe nervously asked himself, but then thoughts of having to do Rei's chores for a week in the foster home where they lived drove him onward in his mission. He took in a deep breath, and tried to sound suave and sophisticated. He managed nervous and undedicated.

            "Well.. uh.. I.. uh... disagree with myself a lot!" He nearly slapped himself.

            She turned her head over again, and cracked a smile. Normally, Gabe would consider this to be a good thing, but the way that she smiled at him made him want to stab himself and end the misery right now.

            "Well, at least you're normal for a local idiot." the smile disappeared. "Now, could you please stop chattering at the air like that? You're disturbing the peace." She went back to leaning against the wall, looking as if the entire previous conversation had never happened.

            Caught completely off guard, Gabe decided for one last attempt- the all-out approach.

            "Did anyone ever tell you that you're really beautiful?" he asked sheepishly, hoping to the gods that she wouldn't slug him for saying it.

            The woman gave him a somewhat confused, slant-eyed look. "Yes I am," she said in a rather disinterested tone. "And you're not. Go away."

            "Gah!" Gabe let out in frustration. "That's it! I give up!" he pointed at Rei across the street. "HE put me up to this! Look! Him! See?" he pointed again in Rei's direction. Rei tried to blend in with the crowd. The woman looked over at the boy, and grinned again.

            "Having fun?" she shouted back at him, and now a good group of people stopped to stare. "Your friend here certainly seems to be enjoying himself. I'd call him back now, if I were you!" she put a playful sing-songy tone into that last statement that was particularly dreadful.

            "Uh... Gabe... the bet's off. Let's get away from here." Rei called back sheepishly.

            The woman put a hand on Gabe's shoulder. It felt like ice. "Yes, Gabe. You should go back now."

            Gabe suddenly found that not a single muscle in his body wanted to obey his brain and move. He felt like someone in a particularly nightmarish story- "The Red-Eyed banshee from Hell," or something similar to that. Finally, he managed to get one leg moving, followed by the other. He staggered across the street, basically shaking from terror of the woman with the reddish eyes, scarred arm, and icy grip.

            When he made it up to Rei, Gabe glanced back and saw that the woman had assumed her former indiscreet posture of leaning against the wall, seemingly waiting for someone or something. She looked the exact same way that she did before Gabe had even left the building to cross the street.

            "I said point me toward a girl, not some sort of crazed demon!" Gabe snapped at his friend. "I was afraid she was going to kill me, or something!"

            Rei stammered a bit. "Gabe... uhh.... I've never seen anything like that before. I'm sorry."

            "Yeah, and I'm scarred for life!" Gabe snapped back at Rei, somewhat relieved at the fact that he was no longer shaking.

            "So," he asked, suddenly giving that sly grin again. "Wanna try again? Maybe talk to a human woman out there somewhere?"

            Rei laughed quietly. "You and your... okay, I'll pick someone who looks more normal."

            They both walked away.

            The woman smirked and shook her head. It was amazing how immature some people were. Not to mention how ignorant of what was going on around them, or of what could happen soon.

            "Where is that damned man," she snapped at no one in particular, then let out a rather tense deep breath. "And this had better not be another mistake. I'm really getting sick of it."

 

***

           

            Mendelssohn looked over the small group of Stalfos that he had been able to gather on short notice, then surveyed the small sleeping town of Napouro. It was the middle of the night.

            "Now, you all are aware of the mission?" Mendelssohn said, tweaking his mustache a bit. "The Lord Amadeus wants us to retrieve the Hearstone from the center of this town."

            The Stalfos, being incapable of speech, just nodded and grunted in response.

            Mendelssohn nodded, and closed his eyes. "Kill anyone that you see. Set fire to the village if you want. I don't care." Mendelssohn grinned as the skeletal warriors all drew their swords and charged the village.

 

***

 

            Rei woke up to a fire. He had been having a very interesting dream, all about running and jumping and climbing and marauding hunchbacks with big clubs chasing him around when he started to smell smoke in the dream. The smell, as well as the heat of the fire itself, of course, was what woke him up. The flickering light from the fire was what got him fully awake and aware of his surroundings. The sounds of screaming and crashing were what finally got him out of bed.

            And at that moment, at the stroke of midnight, Rei's childhood ended.

           

            "Rei! This way!" Gabe shouted from across the smoke-filled hallway. Rei ran in the direction of the voice, not able to see what was at the other end, not caring in this hot, dark nightmare that was reality. He took an accidental turn to the left, and most likely would have gotten trapped and killed inside a collapsing room if fate had not been smiling upon him that day. The doorjamb to the room that Rei was about to enter suddenly collapsed inward, sending the young Hylian crashing clumsily back into the hallway.

            Think, Rei, Think... he thought to himself as he scrambled out of the pile of collapsed wall that he had hit. Smoke rises, so you should stay low to avoid getting yourself killed, right? In fact, you should move before the CAUSE of the smoke just happens to make it to where you're sitting right now. Sitting, and doing nothing. Move, you idiot! Move!

            Finally obeying his mind, Rei got on his hands and knees, and started crawling as fast as he could down the hallway, all thoughts of what that fire might be doing to anyone else or how the heck it had started in the middle of the night completely leaving his conscious thoughts. All that was left now was survival. And then Rei ran into Gabe's knees, sending Gabe toppling down on his back.

            "Rei! What are you doing? The whole building's on fire!" Gabe shouted at him while getting up.

            "I was keeping away from the smoke! What's going on?"

            "I don't know! I woke up, and everything was in chaos! I think we're being attacked by bandits, or something!"

            "Bandits?" Rei asked before a section of ceiling behind them crashed, and all conversation ceased.

            "Just come on!" Gabe shouted, leading the way. "We need to get out of here!"

            The two exited the collapsing building and saw that the true chaos was really on the outside.

            "I don't think these are bandits..." Rei commented absently, looking on in shock.

            There were Stalfos everywhere. The Skeletal monsters usually restricted to children's fairy tales were out in full force that night, destroying whatever got in their way in an odd, mindless fashion.

            "This can't be happening..." Rei started to say before Gabe grabbed his hand and headed for the last remaining horse in the stable directly to their left.

            "Hold on! We're getting out of here!" Gabe said, getting Rei on the horse behind him.

            The hand of Fate is mysterious. Many different things are said about its Providence when what it does is deemed good, and its Mystery when what it does is deemed wrong. Either way, what happens in the course of Time cannot be written off as mere chance. Even if most events are guided by that which is known as the Random, the Purpose always plays its hand. Whether through a major event like a war, or through a small one like a simple insect being crushed underfoot, everything happens for a reason, and Fate cannot be denied. Fate moved its hand in the smallest of things that day- it weakened a simple wooden beam and so changed the course of Hylian history from the disasters that would have followed after.

            As Gabe was busy riding his horse like all manner of hellfire, one simple wooden beam in a simple nearby barn burned through and dropped off the side of a building and directly at both of them. Gabe saw it and ducked, but Rei did not. The beam didn't hit Rei directly, otherwise it would have undoubtedly killed him.  Instead, it grazed his head just hard enough to knock him both off the horse and unconscious, but light enough that Gabe didn't feel the lightening of the load for a long time as he rode off into the horizon. Whether Rei ever saw him again or not was open to interpretation- but for now, Gabe was out of his life. Fate plays its hand, and chooses its people. For what reason, nobody can say.

 

            Rei struggled his way back into the land of the living as a disoriented mess, with a dull throbbing pain in his forehead where the plank hit. He began struggling to his feet, slowly remembering what was going on behind him in the village. Strangely enough, most of the sounds had ceased.

            There came a low grunt from behind him, and Rei turned around to see four Stalfos all facing him, rust-coloured swords drawn. The four had apparently not done much in the way of carnage that evening, and looked very unsatisfied. Rei realized at that point that his life was going to end in an extremely painful and gory way. What he did not realize was that he was about to trip over the same piece of wood that had gotten him into this mess to begin with and hit his head on a rock going down.

            Rei's last conscious thoughts before darkness swallowed him were that the Stalfos weren't supposed to be falling apart like that- it was almost as though someone was killing them.

 

***