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CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE EMPTY TOMB

 

 

 

 

 

 

            It was Mendelssohn who brought the news to Amadeus that another piece of the Heartstone had been located.

            "Oh, has it, now?" Amadeus asked, leaning back in his chair.

            "Yes, sir," the impish creature responded, tweaking his mustache.

            "Before I let you go any further," Amadeus began, raising an eyebrow, "Is it in a heavily-populated area of any kind?" He paused for a second. "Specifically, the kind of thing that you like to destroy?"

            Mendelssohn shook his head. "No, my 'lord.' It's actually in a tomb, of all places. I would appreciate permission to go retrieve it for you now."

            Amadeus sat up in his chair. "I still haven't forgotten what happened last time," he said as he stood up. "And I don't want a repeat of that."

            The goblin shrugged. "You haven't dismissed me yet! I'm still your employee," he interjected.

            "Good point," Ama answered, folding his arms. "Why do I have an annoying little sociopath working for me? I don't agree with any of your tactics, and I personally dislike you. You've never done anything that didn't somehow harm other people, or indirectly damage me." He looked out of the window to his right. "Perhaps, then..."

            Mendelssohn realized the danger that his job security was in, and promptly interrupted.

            "You've forgotten, my lord, that you need me!"        

            "Need you?"

            "Yes, need me!" Mendelssohn piped. "You need me because nobody else was willing to-"

            "True."

            "-undertake this plan to reunite the-"

            "I get the point."

            "-And use its power to-"

            "I understand. Shut up."

            "-Everything that Ganon did, which although you may hate, I happen to like, which makes me wonder why I am working for you!" Mendelssohn ended his short rant with a question.

            "I pay you." Amadeus responded, relieved that Mendelssohn's mouth had finally shut. The impish creature didn't have much of a response for that.

            "Now, where were we?" Ama asked, pacing around a bit. There was a light knock on the door.

            "Who is it?" Amadeus called out.

            "It's just me," Miyu's voice came from the other side of the door. Amadeus nodded.

            "Come in," he said.

            "You have good timing, Miyu," He began as she entered in the room. "Mendelssohn has just brought us some very interesting news."

            "And that would be?" she asked, walking up next to him.

            "Another piece of the Heartstone," he replied, smiling at her. "And our diminutive little friend here was about to take us there, now, wasn't he?"

            "If you don't mind, sir," Mendelssohn started up, "I'd like to request permission to go there myself and retrieve-"

            "I mind. Do as you're told."

            Mendelssohn bowed again. "Then go get your horses ready. It's not that far off."

            The shadows began to lengthen as afternoon turned to evening, the land soon to be bathed with the soft golden light of sunset. In another city, three people, capable of calling one another "Friend," were watching that sunset from the side of a cliff.

 

***

 

            Evening tarried on, and night was beginning to fall as Mendelssohn led both of his superiors to a small cave carved out in the mountainside, just off Kakariko village.

            "The Kakariko graveyard is much smaller than it should be," the impish-goblin began, "The reason being that those afraid of the Shadow Temple often choose to be buried somewhere else, and their graves get lost over time. People have found graves, sepulchers, and even full tombs in the surrounding area. The graveyard itself dates back to Old Hyrule, and Kakariko itself is relatively new in comparison."

            "All three of us know this," Amadeus commented, reigning in his steed. "I take it this is one of those tombs you mentioned?"

            Mendelssohn nodded. "That it is. This tomb was carved out, but never fully finished. The intended owner, a rich man, never made it there. He died overseas, and his body was never shipped back. His servants, in a panic, moved all of the man's valuables into his tomb, so that they could retrieve them later. Hence, this tomb."

            "That makes sense," Miyu replied, nodding slightly, "But what makes you think that there's a piece of the Heartstone in here?"

Amadeus turned to her. "The servants themselves were caught and arrested in the act of carrying the last load of treasure here... They never stated where the tomb was, and the man's descendants had lost nearly all of their family fortune."

            Miyu blinked. "How do you know this?"

            "The man himself had only told the location of his future tomb to his head servant, who was the one to tell all the others," he went on, "The grave has been assumed robbed by then." He looked up. "However, the De Castillo family has since built back its name and fortune, and nobody has searched for the empty tomb in a long time. The only thing is... Lord De Castillo had owned one shard of the Heartstone, which was never found."

            Miyu nodded, now understanding everything.

            Amadeus De Castillo dismounted, and looked back over to Mendelssohn.

            "How did you find this?"

            The creature shrugged. "Our kind has always been able to find things like that. I'll warn you, though- most of the tomb has been looted, to an extent. Most of the treasure was hidden near the front, where it was still safe. Certain, shall we say, 'valuables,' are in a place of honour in the back."

            Amadeus nodded, and went over to the mouth of the tomb. There was a single round door, knocked somewhat askew, sitting on its hinges. "You're telling the truth," He commented, looking over the doorway in the front of the cave. "This has my family's crest on it." He looked back over to Mendelssohn. "How long have you known this?"

            "Long enough to know that it would be useful some day," the creature replied with a snicker.

            "I hope that everything is how you said, little man." He slowly pushed the door back, widening the opening. "I'm going to do the stupid thing and go in. This is my family, after all."

            Miyu looked over to him again. "Ama..." She began.

            "If I end up getting killed in here, feel free to work any and all wrath on our impish friend here," He stated, stepping over the ruined doorway. "And besides, I wouldn't trust anybody else to collect this piece right now."

            Amadeus De Castillo entered the empty tomb, and found it to be much larger than he had expected.

 

***

 

            As expected, the inside of the tomb was pitch black, forcing Amadeus to cast a light spell in order to see. A moderate glow filled the area, illuminating a single, stretching hallway. The tomb itself was carved from limestone, slightly damp from the natural water currents underneath the mountain. He unsheathed his sword and went on. Telling from the state of the ruined door outside, the tomb hadn't been disturbed in a very long time. The quiet sounds of every step taken in that dark place seemed to be a roaring stampede, disturbing the silence of an abandoned place, never meant to be inhabited by the living.

            An ordinary bat buzzed by Amadeus' head. He jumped to his left and drew his sword, as if on instinct, before realizing that there was no danger. If it were a Keese, it would have circled back again in an attempt to dive-bomb him. Still, the thought served as a reminder to the dangers of "undisturbed" tombs in Northern Hyrule. The graves in Kakariko were dangerous, and the ones outside of the towns even doubly so. Such was the curse of the Shadow Temple, which housed innumerable souls of the undead. Amadeus kept his sword out as he continued on.

            Around him near the gate were chests and rotten boxes, perhaps the remains of a sack, all empty. Testimony to Mendelssohn's tale. Further on in were signs of entry- the occasional overturned panel, effects dropped by grave robbers. The tomb itself was vast, as was to be expected. In Hyrule, nobility had always created virtual palaces for the dead. The well in Kakariko village was built on one of those. Unfortunately, those same palaces were often inhabited with dangers of their own soon enough, as the few ragged skeletons inside one of the rooms made obvious. No thieves had trespassed beyond this point. Amadeus cast another light spell and looked around. There was nothing of any danger in sight, but as he entered the next short hallway, the feeling that he was being watched began to take hold. A quiet sighing noise suddenly picked up behind him. In an instant he turned around, and found nothing that could have made the sound, although bit continued above him. The ceiling itself was bare as well.

            It was when Amadeus looked down and saw the shadow overlapping his that he realized what was going on. The sound built into a crescendo, almost a growl, and the gigantic hand nearly grabbed him before he dashed out of the way. The hand landed on the floor next to him, standing on its fingers. It faced the man, not moving, looking almost surprised at his presence.

            "It figures that there would be Wallmasters here," he said, looking down at the purple hand creature. "You don't get much company down here, do you?"

            The purple hand skittered a bit to the left. It easily came up to Amadeus' knee.

            "Feel free to try again," he commented, watching it. "I'm not as slow as the others who came before me."

            The hand began to fade, slowly blending in with the background. It stopped with a jerk as Amadeus' sword pierced it, stopping the Wallmaster from attacking him again. The hand's fingers tightened into a fist for a second, as it tried to break free, despite its waning strength. Amadeus held it there until the giant hand fell limp and unmoving, no longer a threat. He pulled his sword from its body and went on.

            A thought touched the back of Amadeus' mind as he went on through the hallway, keeping a watch for any more surprises. Why had his ancestor built this tomb? Why out in the middle of nowhere? And why not even tell his own family about it?

            Hylian tradition always stated that if a man had lived a dishonourable life, his grave was to be hidden. But never had a man ordered his own tomb to be concealed, even out of guilt. The family records themselves showed nothing wrong in the elder Castillo's life. Not a blot was on his record. There was probably something, Amadeus thought to himself. Man's nature always leads to darkness.

            He heard a low moan from up ahead, joined by a few others. The sound was unmistakable. The Redeads, a horrendous breed of zombies that populated dark, empty, or cursed ground were about. Amadeus readied his sword as he kept thinking over the issue again.

            Man always falls because he compromises his standards, He began, as he cast the light spell in the next room. Four or five masked, gaunt figures looked over to him, their dark moans filling the room with sound. It always begins small... The clerk who takes three rupees from his business to pay for lunch, or the ruler who oppresses a vocal minority because they were too loud- it never matters how. He kept thinking this as he leapt into action, assaulting the shuffling demons before they could attack him first.

            I wonder where Ganondorf started, that led him to such a dark path. Or rather, the Twinrova sisters who raised him. He stabbed one Redead through the chest, turned, and chopped the head off another one behind him. Did it start with pure motives, but an impure heart? His blade cleaved another in two. Was it caused by single compromise that drove the King of the Gerudos to evil? He slayed another creature, stopping to rest in the silence for a moment. All the evils in life are caused by this, He thought to himself, surveying over the dead to make sure that he had gotten them all. The grandest of ambitions, corrupted by one foolish moment. Have I done this? He looked over to his left. Still clear. Have I betrayed the righteousness that I've been working for? Mendelssohn did the evil deed.... but how much responsibility do I hold for him? Am I compromising? Have I compromised?

            Amadeus' thoughts broke off as he heard one more low moan, barely audible, over his shoulder. He tightened the grip on his sword and began to turn when the Redead, the one that he missed, let out a shrill, piercing shriek. The death knell for its victim.

 

            Amadeus stood there, frozen in mid strike by the creature's voice, as the Redead shuffled toward him. As cursed beings, Redeads had the power to freeze the living with the shrieking sound of their voices. Amadeus struggled to free himself, unable to move his sword toward the demon that was nearly upon him.

            The Redead reached Amadeus, and suddenly leapt on his shoulders with a speed not before shown in its slow, clumsy movements. As the creature lifted its mask to bite at Amadeus' throat, the curse was broken and he flung himself into a nearby wall in desperation, sending both of them toppling into the ground.

            Amadeus jumped to his feet, turning to face the creature. The Redead stood back up, its mask having fallen off. Its face was grotesque, decomposed but not rotting. Its eyes were black, and glowed with a small, fiery light inside. It opened its mouth to scream again. The Redead dodged to the side as Amadeus swung at it, his sword chopping off the creature's hand. it circled around and grabbed him from behind, not bothering to try shrieking again. Amadeus shoved it off and into the wall again, stunning it.

 

            "I will not compromise!" he shouted as he stabbed it through the head. Holding his sword there, Lord Amadeus De Castillo closed his eyes for a second, letting his head clear. He caught his breath, then removed his sword from the defeated creature's skull. it dropped to the ground next to him, as limp and lifeless as it should have been to begin with.

            "It's in times like this when I hate my ancestors," Amadeus commented to himself as he went on, nearing the heart of the tomb.

           

***

 

            "Who designed this place?" Amadeus asked himself as he saw what was ahead. Now nearly to the end of the tomb, there was a single wide bridge stretching over a wide expanse in the floor. Anyone with sufficient lighting could easily traverse it, making it a useless trap.

            He shrugged and began walking across, checking the stone to make sure that it was solid. All was well, and Amadeus began to cross the bridge, which was easily wide enough for two people. Ahead was another room, and telling by the designs of its doorway, barely visible in the dim light, it was the "Main room," so to speak, in the back of the tomb. Either the shard was inside there, or Mendelssohn was a moron. Perhaps both were equally true.

            Finally, he reached the central room. There was no coffin, as the tomb itself was unused. The floor was no longer paved, but instead was all dirt. It looked fresh, not packed down by time. In its place, however, were several bags, boxes, and chests of treasures. The few that could be seen in the dim light were known artifacts, all of Old Hyrule. He would have to delegate a party to excavate the tomb at a future date, and return these pieces to where they belonged. First, though, was the matter of the shard.

            As luck would have it, a small, black, wedge-shaped piece of polished stone was lying separate from the other artifacts, as though it had fallen out of one of the boxes and more toward the center of the room. There it lay in the dirt, unmistakably the piece that Amadeus was looking for. he went over to it, bent down, and picked the shard up before stowing it away. It was then that hell broke loose.

            Two white, emaciated hands shot out of the dirt, attached to unseemingly long arms. The grabbed Amadeus by the shoulders, as two more reached out to grab him by the ankles. His sword clattered to the ground beside him. A hideous beast, composed of grey, lifeless flesh, began to rise out of the ground in front of him.

            "A Dead Hand," He said to himself, struggling to get either arm free as the monster rose up from the ground. it's slit-red eyes looked down at him, and it shrieked, revealing rows of uneven fangs. Dead Hands were rare in Hyrule, as far as demons went. There were a few in the Shadow Temple, and in the old Well at Kakariko, but not many other sightings had been confirmed. Either way, the vicious creature was about to bite Amadeus De Castillo's head off, sentencing him to death in his own family tomb. That wasn't exactly the turn of events that he had wanted upon entering in.

            Using all of his might, Amadeus freed his left arm, and in desperation cupped both of his hands together as another of the creature's claws rose from the dirt and grabbed him. he began to invoke the powers of the gods.

            "Din, Farore, Nayru," he began, chanting a spell, "Grant me your power... Combine your light of purity to vanquish this darkness..."

            An aura of three colours began to form around the man as he chanted. Red, green, and blue. The Dead Hand hesitated, unsure of what was going on. Amadeus continued.

            "...Let this destroy my enemy... Tri-Dazer!"

            And with that, Amadeus De Castillo called on the most powerful spell that he had command of, sending out a tremendous bolt of the three colours of the goddesses. It hit the creature head on, burning a hole through its chest and knocking it back. The hands that were holding Amadeus let go, and fell limp. The Dead Hand itself let out one final cry of anguish before collapsing on the floor of the tomb, unmoving.

            Amadeus heaved a sigh of relief and picked up his sword and the shard again before turning around to head back out. Some tombs were better left undisturbed.