Rei woke up to the sounds of beautiful music playing, and the sights of beautiful young girls attending his every need. Then he really woke up to the feeling of some foul-smelling chemical being shoved at his nose by a someone who he couldn't really see, a dull throbbing ache in every single part of his body including the gash on his forehead from being bopped with a beam, and the stale smell of smoke that belonged to a fire long since put out.

            "There!" The woman- he could be sure that it was a woman now- called out to someone behind her, "He's awake! Get your ass over here and help me give him medical attention!"

            Rei attempted to sit up and explain that with the exception of the small gash on his forehead and a few aching joints, he was just fine when the woman shoved him back down with nearly enough force to multiply his aches and pains tenfold.

            "Stay down, you might be injured" she said, looking him in the eyes, and at that moment Rei recognized her.

            "Hey... you're that girl from the marketplace?" he said, noticing that his speech was half-slurred with sheer disorientation.

            "Yes, and your friend tried to flirt with me. I don't give a damn. Talien! get over here!" she yelled again before actually standing up and starting back toward whomever Talien was.

            "Excuse me for a minute- and Don't Move," she commanded with a low, quiet voice before advancing off out of Rei's line of sight- which wasn't hard to do, considering that he was lying on his back. Rei caught a slight glimpse of a reddish eye-shaped symbol on the woman's sleeve that struck a gong somewhere in the back of his mind, but he was too befuddled to think of anything else at the moment.

            A few seconds later, he heard another voice mingled in with the woman's- this one a kinder, calmer voice that was indisputably male.

            "I couldn't find any more survivors back that way, Damodred. I think that they all either died or escaped back here. I haven't heard of anything like this happening since the Imprisoning War, and the gods know we've seen since..."

            At that point a little piece fell into place in Rei's mind. He remembered what the symbol meant- it was the Sign of the Sheikah. That was all that Rei's mind could process before Talien bent over him and offered a hand.

            "You look perfectly fine to me, whatever my companion might say about you. Now please get up- I have something to ask you about.'

            Rei spent another moment in confusion over the drastic difference between the woman- Damodred's manner of speaking, and Talien's before he took the older man's hand and let him help him up.

            "By the way, my name is Talien. My partner here is Damodred. May I have your name, please?"

            "Rei. Rei Elanis," Rei said, somehow managing a polite smile in spite of the throbbing in his head.

            "That's good, Rei, because there's something I'd like to ask you about last night's attack..."




Amadeus paced quickly up and down the hallways of his quarters, the agitation showing on his face. In his hand was an inconsequential bit of news concerning a small town northeast of the castle and the apparent raid that had taken place there.

            "I swear, when I get my hands on the little bastard I'm going to strangle the very life out of his..." he trailed off before he could finish. Miyu had long since given up trying to calm him down, and after looking at the bulletin had decided that his emotions were completely justified.

            "Over twenty confirmed dead," he repeated to himself, going over it again. "The rest all scattered... damn him!"

            "Please don't curse so much," Miyu said from the corner of the room. "It makes you sound vulgar."

            Amadeus tensed up again, but then relaxed his features. He tucked the paper away and tried to recompose himself. "Look... I told Mendelssohn what he was supposed to do, and look at this!" It's not even three days since he went on this little adventure and the news has already come back here! Why did I trust him?"

            "He was the only one available," Miyu responded, walking up closer beside him.

            "I should have shopped around more," He said, shaking his head. "Maybe hired someone else..."

            "Liszt is no better than Mendelssohn, and you know it," She responded. "There wasn't anything that you could have done about it. Don't blame yourself."

            "I'm not." he replied curtly.

            "Ama, please calm down," She said again, putting a hand on his shoulder. Amadeus smiled. It was at that point that Mendelssohn had decided to make his grand return.

            "I have returned," Mendelssohn began, " and I bear good tidi-"

            Amadeus jumped him.

            "What the hell did you think you were doing?" he shouted at Mendelssohn, picking the imp up by his throat and shaking him. "I told you to just get the stone out of there, and not cause any trouble! I did not, I repeat, NOT tell you to BURN THE VILLAGE DOWN AND KILL OVER TWENTY PEOPLE!" he resumed choking Mendelssohn.

            "Ama... calm down..." Miyu offered, trying to ease him down.

            "You're right," Amadeus said. "A death by strangulation in my living room wouldn't look very good." he dropped Mendelssohn, who writhed on the floor for a few seconds gasping for breath. Amadeus put his head in his hands. "What were you doing there, Mendelssohn? What did you think you were doing?"

            "Obeying your orders," Mendelssohn replied, finally catching his breath. Amadeus wheeled on him.

            "No!" he shouted. "I did NOT sanction you to kill people! I would have you put on trial right now if I didn't need you for-"

            Mendelssohn interrupted. "You told me to take the stone. You said that I can use any extra means that I deem necessary."

            "You think that a company of Stalfos with swords, axes, and torches are necessary to take an oversized cobblestone from a bunch of country people?"

            Mendelssohn didn't reply. He simply stuck his tongue out at Amadeus. The taller man bent down to eye level with him.

            "If I didn't abhor violence so much, I'd probably kill you right now. And I would be totally justified, too. I hate your kind of scum, and I'm at the end of my rope. I am indirectly responsible for all of those deaths, even if they are for the greater good in the end. If you do anything like this again, I am seriously considering trying to find another wizard to help me. Do you understand?"

            Mendelssohn folded his arms. "Of course. I understand you perfectly."

            "Then get out of my sight," Amadeus told him, turning around.

            "Fine. Your stone is out on the doorstop." Mendelssohn told him before leaving in a puff of smoke.

            "It's where?" Amadeus asked. He made an odd, panicked shouting noise as he ran outside of his castle annex to retrieve the large black stone before it was noticed leaning against the main doorway. Miyu put her head in her hands and sighed.




            "...The Heck?!? It's gone!" Rei exclaimed, looking at the heartstone-sized hole in the ground.

            "What's gone?" Talien asked him.

            Rei snapped his fingers in the air, trying to recall the exact name of the stone. "The... the thingy… You know… The keystone… Wait, that's not right. One second... it's right on the tip of.... the heartstone! That's what he called it!"

            "Heartstone?" Talien asked, arching an eyebrow. "Who called it that?"

            "The guy who visited a few days ago. He said that he'd send a few people in to study it soon."

            "Who did?"

            "Amadeus de Castillo. You know- the queen's vizier." Rei replied. "He seemed like a really nice guy."

            Talien nodded. "He is. I've met him before. Did he have a reason for being here?"

            Rei nodded. "Yeah- he was enjoying his vacation time by looking at some relics from Old Hyrule- that's what he told me."

            "Hm. Have there ever been any other attempts to steal it?" Talien asked.

            "Yeah- there was one while back, but it didn't work. Amadeus really seemed surprised that there weren't many others."

            Talien nodded. "As am I. Why do these things always end up in town squares in the middle of nowhere?"

            "Probably because most of the local idiots are too stupid to recognize it," Damodred said from a few feet back. "Therefore- no advertising. I'd call it smart if it didn't come out of total ignorance."

            Talien nodded. "Possibly. Either way, it's gone. There's only one use that I know of for a heartstone, and you need all three to do it, anyway. Rei, do you have any place to go?"


            "Rei, do you have anywhere to stay- any friends nearby, or family?"

            He shook his head. "No. I don't really know anyone outside of the town, and I'm not exactly from a large family, if you know what I mean."

            Talien nodded, and thought to himself for a moment. Damodred rolled her eyes.

            "Oh, by the gods, not again. Don't even think about it."

            "Rei," Talien said, ignoring her. "Would you like to come with us back to the Sheikah headquarters? We can probably find a place for you to stay there."

            Damodred folded her arms. "No, Talien. Don't try to drag another stray along."

            Talien didn't respond.

            "Well... I don't really have anywhere else to go..." Rei started. Talien shook his hand.

            "That's good, then. We'll find somewhere for you. I hope you can forgive the rudeness of-"

            "Can it," Damodred interrupted. "I'll let him come along if you so very much insist."

            Talien held his peace. Damodred turned over toward Rei. "One simple word of advice, kid. Don't bother me. We shouldn't have to deal with each other for more than a few days, and I can already tell that you're annoying. Trust me, you don't want to piss me off."

            Rei, having already decided that he didn't want to experience whatever sort of agonizing death that she was capable of inflicting, nodded. "Yes, ma'am. You won't hear a peep from me!" He moved over behind Talien, who had folded his arms.

            "Are you through, yet?" he asked her.

            "Quite," She replied. "Let's get out of here."

            "Rei, you can use my horse if you want," Talien offered.

            Rei thought about it for a moment, and decided that taking the offer would most probably mean death at the hands of the OTHER Sheikah member.

            "No, thank you. I need the exercise."

            Talien shrugged. "We'll find one for you, then. Damodred- didn't you find a few horses back there"

            She folded her arms. "They've probably run free by now."

            "Would you terribly mind fetching one for our companion here? If any are left, that is."

            "I'd mind it, but that doesn't mean that I won't do it," she responded. "Just don't thank me."

            As she walked off, Rei turned over to Talien. "What's with her?" he asked.

            Talien folded his arms. "That's just the way she is. Damodred's always been like that- and I've known her for a long time. You get used to it eventually."

            "She's nuts!"

            "You don't know the half of it," Talien smirked. "And besides, considering her background, and all, she could have turned into one of those annoying amazon warrior-women types. I guess we're lucky that she just turned into a total bitch instead."

            Rei blinked a few times.

            "Sorry," Talien responded, "You'll have to get used to it- everyone calls her that. It's gotten to the point where it's a compliment now."

            "What's her background?" Rei asked.

            "You'll have to ask her that yourself. I'll just tell you that she has somewhat of an excuse for her, er, temperament. Just ignore her, and you'll be fine."

            Rei nodded. "Thanks," he said. It wasn't much longer when Damodred came back with a horse. Strangely enough, she had picked one that looked semi-normal.

            "Hey, thanks," He said, taking the animal's reigns. He didn't get a response. In a way, Rei decided, that was probably a good thing.




            It was about two hours later, on the road, when Rei realized something.

            "I just realized something," he said. The other two turned toward him.

            "Today was my twentieth birthday."

            There was silence for a few seconds.

            "We'll buy you a cake. I nearly bled to death on mine." Damodred replied coldly.

            Talien was far more sympathetic. "According to tradition, twenty is the age in which a boy passes into manhood. You deserve that title more than most."

            "Talien," Rei changed the subject, "You said that we're going to the Sheikah headquarters. What am I going to do from there?"

            "The Sheikah are more than simple fighters," Talien replied, "A large part of what we do is find homes for people like you whose lives have been destroyed by evil. We started doing this when Ganon first took over. Don't worry, you'll do fine. Just don't bug Damodred too much, and you should still have both arms."

            Rei had to literally bite his tongue to avoid laughing and thus incurring the Wrath of Woman.

            "I find it interesting, though," Talien commented.

            "What?" Rei asked.

            "Most of the townspeople escaped. Of the ones who didn't, all were killed except for you. We counted roughly twenty bodies, and sent a passerby off toward Hyrule Castle with the news. The fact that you're still alive, much less uninjured, is a miracle from the gods, Rei. Never forget that."

            Rei shrugged. "I guess they must be planning something."

            "Probably," Talien commented. Rei did not seek Damodred's opinion on the matter.