CHAPTER FOUR: THE EVER-WATCHING EYE
Over time, events become memories, memories become history, history becomes legend, legend becomes religion, religion becomes children's tales, and children's tales influence the minds that will later rule the world. The Sheikah had existed long enough to transcend all of those, and in truth served to influence many even in their waning years. Once, it was a proud organization that worked for kings and toppled nations, but as time passed the Ever-Watching Eye of the World slowly drew back into the shadows, until its presence was mainly felt but not seen or heard. The Sheikah still existed, yes, but the only real proof of their existence was the princess' nursemaid. This had changed in recent years, with the Containment War against Ganon, but for a while the Ever-Watching Eye still preferred to watch from the shadows. For Rei Elanis, the shadow surrounding the Sheikah was about to lift, and change his life forever.
"Well, we're here." Talien drew his horse to a stop.
Rei squinted. The three of them had parked their horses by the base of a cliff some miles behind the graveyard at Kakariko.
"We're where, exactly?" he asked, still puzzled at their ultimate destination being a seemingly random patch of ground.
Damodred rolled her eyes at him. "We're at the Sheikah headquarters, idiot. Where else would we be?"
"Huh?" Rei responded, still puzzled. "There's nothing here."
Talien chuckled, then produced a small flute. "One second, Rei." he said. The man played six distinct notes, forming a lullaby-sounding tune. Rei was still confused. He was more puzzled when two previously unseen doors in the rock face in front of him swung open.
"As I was saying," Talien said, stowing the flute away, "We're here."
Rei followed Talien's lead inside, completely amazed at what he saw. After a small cave, they emerged into the capitol city of the Sheikah. Mankurosa was hidden entirely within a rather large valley, fenced off on all sides by the surrounding mountains. Travel in and out was well nigh impossible except through the front gate, and the city itself wasn't even visible from the outside.
"Wow..." Rei began, looking around him, "This is where you guys live? This is incredible!"
"Whatever." Damodred replied. "You'll get sick of it before long." Rei watched her ride forward with his horse for a few seconds before turning to Talien.
"Is she always like that?" Rei whispered to him.
"Welcome to Mankurosa," Talien responded before spurring his horse. Rei shrugged his shoulders and followed them further in.
Instead of being ruled by one absolute head to their organization, the Sheikah were governed by a council of seven members, known as the Sheikah Minds, with one presiding head of the council known as the Sheikah Star. Beneath that council, was a group of committees pertaining to new members- either recruits or volunteers. Subdivided within those committees were yet still more people with one specific goal in mind: To test an eligible person without his/her knowledge of it. If Rei had known about this, he would have been far more suspicious about Talien's apparent kindness to him.
"So, you really think he has it?" Damodred asked him. "The Inner Burning Strength?"
Talien shrugged. "I'm not omniscient," he said, "But I've been watching him. He might have it, and he might not. If he does have it, we'll find out soon enough. He shows a lot of potential- he just doesn't know it yet. And besides, I picked you, didn't I?"
She cocked an eyebrow at him. "And just look at how I turned out. And besides, are you really sure about him? Rei seems more like a naive, idiotic fool to me than a potential warrior."
"No one is what they appear to be."
"Oh, well, then," she replied, "You'd better be completely sure before you take him in as an apprentice. You don't want to have to clean up the mess when I'm through with him."
Talien chuckled. He had gotten used to Damodred's sense of humour, and the fact that more than half of what she said wasn't an exaggeration. "You know," he said, "You really are one of a kind."
"I am," came the reply.
Meanwhile, outside, during his "short stay" at Mankurosa, Rei was unwittingly being tested for recruitment into the elite organization known as the Sheikah.
It was Tuesday afternoon, and Rei was finally beginning to enjoy himself again. He had come to realize that with the help of these people, he really could start a new life. Perhaps he could even reconnect with some of his old friends, if he found any of them again. Life was good. He had a few complaints- namely a certain blonde woman whose personality could probably gnaw through iron if given time- but for the most part he was fine with life.
"Hey, Rei. How are you doing?" Talien asked Rei, stepping up behind him.
"Me? Great, thanks. Hey- thanks for taking me here, and all."
Talien waved a dismissive hand. "It's nothing. I like to help people."
"Hey, Talien," Rei started, "I've been meaning to ask you this."
"Yeah- where's Damodred from?"
"Why do you ask?" He replied.
"I was thinking that that might give me a little insight on her personality- you know, if she had any Gerudo blood or anything."
Talien smiled. "No- she's from the Southern Kingdom. Coastal, I think. Note how her ears aren't pointed like ours."
"Yeah, I did notice that..."
"And not many Hylians have eyes like that. Did that help at all?"
Rei shrugged. "Somewhat. Maybe she was dropped on her head one too many times as a child and wants to take it out on us."
The two shared a quiet laugh for a moment. "Hey, Rei," Talien said, "Could you do me a favour for a minute?"
"Sure," Rei answered.
"This is one of the training rooms, isn't it?' Rei asked.
"Rei, could you hold this sword for a second?" Talien handed him a small long-bladed sword.
"Umm... sure." Rei took it.
"Good. Now, just stand right there." Talien backed up into a corner of the room. The lights dimmed.
"What's going on?"
"That sword that you are holding is no ordinary sword," Talien began. "It was passed down through my family from eldest son to eldest son for generations. It was made as one of the few Finding Swords in existence. With it, one may discover many things about himself. Now, hold the sword, and wait."
Rei had just started to wonder what all of this was about when he noticed the three Stalfos surrounding him. His next statement was one that should be recorded for all of history.
The three lunged. Rei ducked instinctively, and just missed getting his head sheared off by their swords. A rather interesting jumble of thoughts began to run through his mind, not the least of which having something to do with talien's apparent attempt to kill him. Rei dodged to the right, and dashed to the other edge of the room. he had to find a weapon, no matter what. The giant skeletons turned around and began to charge. Rei gripped the hilt of Talien's sword, still trying to think of an available weapon that he could use to...
Rei brought up the sword in a defensive motion- he really had no idea how he knew how to do it- and started defending against all three of the Stalfos. Without even thinking twice, he lashed back out at them, and cut the one directly in front of him down with a direct stab. Spinning on his heals, he beheaded the one on his left with a slash, and was just about to finish number three when he realized what he was doing.
"Wait a second... I don't know how to fight!" He shouted as he killed the last of the three skeletons. All three of them disappeared, and the room lit up again. There was Talien, leaning against the far wall, smiling.
"What the HECK just happened back there?" Rei shouted at him. Talien didn't seem to notice.
"You held my sword up, and started running around the room like you were being attacked. Magical swords can do funny things to the brain sometimes."
Talien put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, you were never in any real danger. There was no conceivable way that you could have really died back there, unless you had stabbed yourself or something."
Feeling relieved, Rei handed him the sword back. "Then... then what was all of that for?"
Talien took the sword, and nodded. "Since you arrived here, we have been testing you. Remember the arrow incident?"
"You mean the arrow in my soup?"
Talien nodded. "Yes, that. There were people watching you, seeing how you reacted to its presence. You passed the test. Pretty much everything that's happened in the past two weeks since you came here has been a test."
"A test of what? What are you people trying to do to me?"
Talien closed his eyes. "Why, recruit you, of course." he said. "And I'm glad to say that you're more than fully qualified."
"Come on, let's take a walk. I'll explain it all to you on the way."
Walking along the cliffside, Talien explained everything to Rei.
"The core of every Sheikah's skill and power is in their Inner Burning Strength. An exact handle on what that is hasn't been reached yet, but it appears to be something left behind by the gods to empower us to uphold their law. It inspires people, and gives them strength. It's also the source of a man's potential for magic. Some of the time, your Strength will come from a specific thought or emotion, or memory. But most of the time it's just already there, waiting to surface."
Rei nodded. He had an idea where this was heading.
"Link, for example, had a lot of Strength- probably more than any other person in history. However, his life had a purpose, and he returned to his own time. Rei, you're a really nice guy, and we would have put you up here anyway, but your potential Strength amount is incredible. Who were your parents?"
Rei shrugged. "I never really knew them. My parents split up early, and my dad put me in foster care before running off into the distance. Not exactly the mystical upbringing you expected, was it?"
"It rarely is," Talien answered, "But you'd be surprised in some cases. Now, as for you, your performance against the illusions this afternoon was incredible. You handled that sword like an expert."
Rei stopped walking. "How did I do that? What the heck happened to me?" he asked.
"Your Strength showed itself," Talien answered. "Often, it only shows itself in training situations like that, so don't expect it again. You will have to learn how to use a sword from now on- if you do indeed join, that is- but I suspect that it won't be that difficult a task."
"But... but why are you so sure that I'll join you guys?" Rei asked again. "I mean, I don't have anything against you, but I'm really not a fighter!"
"That's what I said before I joined. Damodred, no. She came here wanting to kill people. But I know exactly where you're standing." He gestured with his hand. "Look around you. From these cliffs, you can almost see outside the valley. From here, you can see all of Mankurosa, the city of the Ever-Watching Eye of Hyrule. We don't necessarily need a new member of the Sheikah, but we aren't exactly closed either. Think about it, Rei. If you were to just leave here and try to build a life from scratch, you'd probably be successful. But you'd just live a normal, quiet life without making much of a real difference in the world. You'd be significant, but you'd be forgotten, as well. Tell me, have you ever wanted to make a difference in this world?"
"Yes," Rei answered.
"Then trust me, you want to join us," Talien said, smiling.
"Let me sleep on it," Rei answered.