Life was good.
Linebeck the Third counted the rupees he'd gained from his sale of a Stalfos skull. What strange things rich people liked to collect. He liked the play up the old legend that a "Stalfos" had once been a cursed traveler, lost in an ancient wood and forced to turn into a monster. Linebeck didn't believe it for an instant, but it increased the mystique (and therefore value) of what would otherwise just be a musty old piece of bone. "There's a sucker born every day," his grandfather had said. He had lots of clever maxims.
"Stupid is as stupid does" was another one, usually directed at him and his father. Linebeck the First had been a famous adventurer (or so he said; his grandson could never find anybody who remembered him), but Linebeck the Second wanted a more "honest" living. He became a fisherman, and the family wound up poorer than even the average fisherman, because Linebeck II was so bad at it. You had to have a knack for these things, and poor Linebeck II had few knacks of any kind.
So the family wound up borrowing from the eldest, and Linebeck III spent a lot of time around his grandfather, who had learned to appreciate the finer things of life. Linebeck the First told the best stories, too, though most of them had probably been embellished at some point. Once in a great while he would bring an elderly friend of his along, to vouch for him. The friend told even stranger stories, about a hidden kingdom under the ocean and an evil sorcerer thousands of years old. Linebeck III figured that his grandfather met a lot of his friends in pubs, trading stories about modest travels that turned into epic voyages by the time the tale was done.
But "Never do anything yourself if there's someone else" was probably the old man's best piece of advice. Linebeck III rarely had to go looking for treasures himself; by building his house on the rail line, he met all sorts of people eager to buy, sell, or trade. When the tracks had mysteriously started disappearing (how does a rail line disappear, he'd thought to himself), he'd been afraid his business was through.
Then The Kid showed up. Linebeck could never remember The Kid's name, but there was no doubt that the little squirt had a nose for sniffing out treasure. Why, he'd managed to find Linebeck I's inheritance, which the old coot (true to form) had hidden from his heir as a joke. His grandson never really appreciated his sense of humor. Or understood it, for that matter. In any case, the cavern where the inheritance had been hidden was full of disgusting metal-eating squishy creatures, big slugs that liked to drool on your face and relieve you of anything valuable. He'd attempted to catch and dissect one, to reclaim whatever it had swallowed, but that hadn't ended well.
The Kid was a weird one, but then most adventurers were. When he first walked in, Linebeck thought he was a castle soldier gone AWOL, because he wore their green uniform. He couldn't be sure; it had been a long time since he'd been to the castle. As much as he liked money and treasure, he had no desire to muck around with nobility. They tended to be stiff, and snobby; and according to his grandfather, they had never fully rewarded him for services he'd paid them in the past.
But The Kid was a train conductor, Linebeck knew that for sure. He not only drove the train, but he drove it well. Linebeck didn't have a knack for machinery and generally kept away from it. Since The Kid had a train, he could go all over the country. And pick up treasure. He did both very well, and Linebeck was always pleased to trade train parts for treasure. The train parts were from his late mother's business; she was the one with the knack for machinery in the family.
As good as he was at finding treasure, The Kid unnerved Linebeck just a bit. He carried a sword and shield, for one, and knew how to use it. For someone so skilled, he seemed awfully naïve, never questioning the high prices Linebeck charged for his mother's machinery. What was more, The Kid had a weird habit of glancing to the side before he spoke, as if listening to voices only he could hear.
But The Kid brought him the best treasure. So when he showed his little face at the door again, Linebeck was more than happy to give him a big smile and welcome him in the door.
"What'll it be today, squirt?" Linebeck asked. "Can I take a peek at your newest acquisition?"
"I want a stronger cannon," The Kid said.
"Hmm hmm hmm…well, I've got a nice one in the back, very nice." Actually, Linebeck couldn't imagine anyone needing something that powerful unless they were going to make a full-scale assault on Hyrule Castle, but he doubted siege was in this kid's personality. "It'll cost you, though. It's a very fine piece of work."
Most buyers' ears would perk up whenever Linebeck described his wares. He was good at making something sound better than it was, but The Kid never responded. He had a tired, harassed look about him most of the time. Either that, or grim determination. It was a little creepy to see such a face on such a young kid, who said nothing but obediently followed Linebeck into the machinery room.
"See, you'll never find anything like it," Linebeck said with a flourish of the hand as he ripped the dust cloth from the massive metal cannon. "Look at the metalwork! I guarantee that it will fire twice as far as the one you have now, plus it's made of lighter material, so it should actually weigh as much as the one you have now, so it won't wear out your engine."
The Kid was never impressed with his assessments. "How much?"
"Well, it's a unique piece, so…I can't take less than two pearl necklaces, one pirate necklace, and six of those old gold coins."
Digging into his pack, The Kid dug out the necklaces and handed over the treasures without a second thought, as if he were passing Linebeck gnarled apples and not items of rare beauty. He counted out five gold coins and put them in Linebeck's hand, then said, "Is there anything else you want in place of the sixth coin? I've got more necklaces…more demon fossils…and a load of those funny wood hearts."
Linebeck frowned. "I saw you have another gold coin. Just hand it over and I'll give you the cannon."
The Kid looked up at him with something like irritation, though he hid it so well Linebeck couldn't tell. "I want to keep that one."
Linebeck tried to snatch it from him. "What, as a souvenir? You've got no use for it, kid. Just let me have it and you can have your cannon."
The Kid jerked it out of his reach. "It's mine!" he snapped. Linebeck held up his hands and tried to smile, remembering that The Kid carried a sword, after all.
"Whoa, whoa, just relax, there. I'm not going to take anything that's yours." Not overtly, he thought to himself. "I'm just curious why you want it. I'll assure you, nobody will give you a better price for it than I will."
"I don't want to sell it."
"Someone's just going to steal it from you, kid. You might as well unload it if you don't have someplace secure to store it."
The Kid stuffed the coin deeply in his pocket and set his jaw, looking squarely at Linebeck. "Isn't there anything else that you want?"
He could take something else, but he was stumped as to why The Kid was so insistent. Perhaps there were other antiquities dealers out there? Was The Kid dealing with buyers himself? Linebeck tried not to panic. If that happened, he would be ruined! Not only would The Kid find the treasure, but hand-deliver it, and at lower prices too! "Did someone ask you to find one of those?"
"No, I just want to keep it."
Linebeck scratched his head. "Well, there's not really a lot of value in it, kid, unless you're into collecting that sort of thing." He straightened. "As an antiquities trader, I have to have a basic knowledge of everything that flows through here. A lot of items have value simply in that they're old…or beautiful…or hard to find." He held up one of the coins The Kid had given him. "These are supposedly from another country, the country the Princess' ancestors came from, so that's one thing that makes them valuable. They're pretty old, so that's another. But besides that…" He shrugged. "Eh, you keep it, kid. Give me a few more Stalfos skulls if you have 'em and I'll give you the cannon."
After hesitating for a moment, The Kid asked, "What does the symbol mean?"
"The symbol on the coin. What does it mean?"
Linebeck glanced at it. "It's just a heraldic symbol," he explained. "See, it's a lot like the seal of Hyrule Castle. They named it for that country, you know. My grandfather knew Queen Tetra. Oh yes!" Linebeck assured him as The Kid's eyes narrowed in doubt. "Yes, my grandfather knew both her and her heroic friend, who traveled here from 'Hyrule', wherever that might have been.
He bent down to point out the designs to The Kid. "Look, you know how our herald has gears below the triangle? The coin has a spread-eagle. Heralds change slightly like that over time…they can be stylistic changes, or a change in the country will bring its nobility to decide it needs to be represented by something else." Linebeck easily lost himself in his trade. "See here, on the coin there's some symbol of three triangles, whereas on ours there's only one."
"What was the meaning of the three triangles?" The Kid asked suddenly.
Linebeck scratched his head. "I don't rightly know…not sure there was one."
"There must have been," The Kid shot back, looking to the side as he always did when he received his mysterious messages from another dimension. "The triangles mean something, I know it."
Linebeck stared. "Well, I suppose there was, but it's lost to the ravages of time." Ravages of time. That was a good phrase. He made a mental note to store it for later. "Anything I could tell you would just be a guess. An educated guess, but a guess nonetheless."
"Okay…there's a lot of old legends that talk about the train tracks being connected to some mystical force, and for whatever reason a triangle is usually used to represent it. Makes as much sense as anything else, I suppose…what shape would imaginary magic take? So, maybe the three triangles on the coin means roughly the same thing. Beats me why there would be three of them, though. Might just be a stylistic choice, same as changing the spread-eagle to gears."
The Kid looked mournfully down at his gold piece. "That's all?"
"Yep, that's it. Sorry kid, if there was a more interesting explanation I'd definitely tell you."
"Well…thanks anyway." He handed a Stalfos skull to Linebeck. "I'll take that cannon, anyway."
"Sure thing, kid. I'll rig it up for you."
As Linebeck went to work, whistling, he heard The Kid speaking to someone several feet off. Curious, Linebeck pricked up his ears, but only got a one-sided conversation. Was that crazy kid talking to himself?
"Are you sure your grandmother didn't tell you anything?" The Kid said to no one in particular. Each time he spoke, a long pause followed. "Well, you'd think the Queen would know. What? Well, it's only been three generations, I can't imagine everyone forgot…yeah, you told me she said the country was destroyed. Still seems odd to forget it entirely. And how do you destroy a whole country?"
Strange, Linebeck thought. Maybe the grandmother of The Kid's imaginary friend knew the old geezer his grandfather always hung around with. Too bad The Kid never met the geezer. The Kid looked like he would have been born maybe ten years after the geezer died.
Linebeck wished he'd realized he would become an antiquities trader when he was a kid himself. Linebeck I had died when he was ten. If he'd known, he would have asked the old man about this stuff. Knowing about where things came from and what they did made them more valuable to collectors. Oh well, he thought to himself. Can't have everything, as much as you try. Yet another of Linebeck the First's maxims.
He gave The Kid a grin as he approached the train Linebeck had set up for him. "Well, good hunting, little adventurer. If you find more treasure, you know where to go!"