Dampe the Grave Keeper
In his search for a place to spend the night, he had somehow wandered beyond the cluster of houses onto a path that led up into a small canyon. When Navi asked him where he was going, he shrugged and told her, "I don't know. But I do wonder where this leads and I want to find out."
"Well, I feel we should turn back," she told him in a voice that brooked no argument.
But Link ignored her. With a sigh, his fairy followed behind him as he made his way up the trail, eager to discover what lay at the end of it.
He soon found out. The canyon suddenly opened up to a series of terraces. Immediately to his left was a shack with a lean-to. Immediately in front of him was a large slab of stone with etchings on it, and dotted all over on the terraces were smaller blocks of stone with sloped faces.
"Headstones," Navi murmured. "We seem to have wandered into a graveyard."
Link squinted at the large stone slab in front of him. He could see words carved into the rock but because it had gotten dark, he couldn't read them. Then Navi moved over the stone, casting her light over the words.
May those who slumber here -
the loyal servants of Hyrule and
its Royal Family - find peace
under the watchful eye of the
guardians of shadow, the Shiekahs
Link shook his head. "I wouldn't want to have that job."
Navi also shook her head but for a different reason. She was about to say something but then they both heard someone walking toward them from the graveyard. Link's hand automatically reached for his sword, but he stopped himself when he saw that whoever it was was very small - shorter than he was. The little figure had to hop down from the higher terrace as he walked toward the exit. He started to pass Link, but when Link turned to watch him leave, he suddenly jumped with a frightened cry of "Waaaaah!"
"Easy! Easy!" Navi cried, darting closer to the little boy to calm him down, shedding light on his face. "It's all right. We're not going to hurt you."
"Oh, sorry," said the kid, blushing bright red. "You just scared me. I thought you was a Poe! I was just going home now." He started shuffling past Link with his head down. Then he looked up as though he had just thought of something.
"Are you going on the Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour?"
"The what?" Link gave him a puzzled look.
The little boy shook his head sadly. "I wish I could go on the Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour. But everyone says I'm too little."
"What is the Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour?" Link asked him.
The little boy bounced excitedly. "Dampé does it every night! You go through this graveyard with him and he digs up treasure for you!" Then he added in a gleefully hushed voice, "But sometimes you find something that's not treasure at all!"
"Dead people?" Link guessed.
The little boy giggled and whispered, "Ghosts." Then he straightened and his face fell again. "Or at least that's what I heard. Oh, I wish I could go on the Heart-Pounding Grave-digging Tour!"
"Who, in their right minds, would want to go to something like a Heart-Pounding Grave-digging Tour?" Navi muttered out loud.
Without warning, from behind them, they heard a high-pitched voice that growled and made them all jump, "Aaargh! I'm Dampé the grave keeper!"
The Kokiri Sword flew from its sheath with a metallic ring that echoed in the canyon, slicing through the air with a viciousness that came from sudden fright. The creature it pointed to gave his own cry of fright and lifted a shovel defensively in front of him. "Easy, easy, kid!" he cried, his voice no longer coarse and menacing but high and cajoling, "didn't mean to scare ya like that! I know my face is hideous, but really I'm harmless!"
Link lowered his sword and took another look at the monster in front of him. He had a doughy face that sagged at the jowls, and large teeth that were crooked at odd angles, which made closing his mouth impossible for him. He had one vivid blue eye that was as round as an orange while the other was sunk behind an overhanging brow, like something lurking in a cave. He was hunched over and had wrinkles all over his coarse skin. He had a shovel in one hand, propped against his other hand which held a lantern. The light it cast gave him an eerie leer to his already frightening face. This was what had come at Link so suddenly and caused him to draw his sword automatically. But he could see by the meek expression in his eyes that the man meant him no harm, so he sheathed his sword and said sheepishly, "Sorry. I've just had way too many monsters trying to kill me."
The grave keeper lowered his shovel and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. "Whew! For a second there, I thought you were going to slice me in half!"
The kid bounced forward. "You have a real sword?! Can I try it, please?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Navi said to him. "You might hurt yourself."
"Or me," Link added but quietly under his breath.
"Aww!" The little boy stomped his foot. "It's not fair! I can't go on the Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour and I can't play with swords! It's not fair!" He stormed off down the road while Link and Dampé watched him. Then Dampé turned to Link and raised his lantern.
"Well, young man. What say you we try this again? Ahem!" He lowered his face, leering at Link with his bulging eye. He growled ominously, "Have you come to experience the thrilling and chilling mysteries that haunt this hallowed ground? To take part in this venture of great risk and great reward..?" He struck his shovel sharply against the ground and raised his face, throwing it in sharp relief against the light of his lantern. "Dampé the Gravekeeper's Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour!"
"Do you really find treasure?" Link asked him in interest.
Dampé winked. "Not all the time; you might find a ghost instead."
Navi wasn't too pleased with this idea. She drew herself up in front of Link's face. "We really should be in bed right now. We have to go to Hyrule Castle Town Market in the morning!"
"Oh, Navi," Link cajoled her. "I don't think this will take too long. And besides, that shield's going to cost Rupees, right?"
His fairy fell into a thoughtful silence.
Link grinned. "And on this gravedigging tour, Dampé is going to dig me up some treasure… Rupees for that shield that we're going to Hyrule Castle Town Market for."
With a sigh of defeat, Navi conceded, "I suppose you're right." Then she turned to the hunchback gravekeeper. "This tour really won't take too long will it?"
"Not at all, little fairy," Dampé replied politely. "As a matter of fact, I go to bed at nine, which means we'll have to make this tour quick. Now, if you'll follow me." He turned and began stalking into the graveyard. Link followed after him with Navi close behind. They soon caught up to him as he had paused before a headstone, holding his shovel above the grave. The stone read: Sagora the Wise R.I.P
Navi gasped in alarm. "Wait a moment! This is the grave of an actual person! Do you mean to tell me that you actually dig up occupied graves?"
Dampé chuckled. "In a manner of speaking."
The fairy looked horrified. "But isn't that disturbing the rest of the dead?"
"No. They're buried far too deep, resting within the royal chamber. I merely scrape the surface, and sometimes I get lucky and find treasure!"
"But what of the ghosts you 'sometimes find'?"
Dampé scratched his bald head uncomfortably. "Well, they're actually Poes, malicious spirits that haunt graveyards. Nasty pests and very troublesome to those slumbering here. My real job, besides digging graves, is to upkeep the graveyard, which includes taking care of any Poe infestations. I just thought I'd make a little profit on the side with my Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour!" He startled Link again when he growled and leered at him with his bulbous eye.
Navi cocked her head in mild surprise. "Well, if that's the case…"
Link smirked at her. "Just goes to show you don't know everything."
Navi looked down at Link with her lips set in a tight line and her hands on her hips. "I never made a claim of that sort. You, on the other hand, seem to think you do know everything, and you never pass up a chance to show when I'm wrong."
"That's because you always have to be right!"
"Excuse me? Have you forgotten what the Great Deku Tree told you? When she has advice…"
"…thou wouldst do well to heed them, yes, Navi, I'm not stupid. You just like to treat me like I am." An ugly feeling was bubbling in Link's stomach - the kind of feeling he usually got around Mido when he was bullying him. The feeling to just punch someone hard.
"I am offering you advice," said Navi slowly and deliberately. "But if you would prefer not to have my help then I will happily allow you to fend for yourself!"
Link was not happy with the way this was going. It wasn't as if he didn't appreciate her help, but did she always have to be so stuck up about it? Why should he let her treat him like a stupid kid? He could tell her to go ahead and leave, but then he'd have to go on this quest alone and face all the monsters all by himself. But if he told her that he didn't want her to go then he would only be humiliating himself.
"Why does everything always happen to me?" he cried to the sky.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
While the boy and his fairy argued, Dampé awkwardly shuffled away though he realized a moment later that there wasn't really anywhere to escape from their altercation. Changing tack, he stumped to a soft patch of soil. Then he turned and harrumphed to get the pair's attention. They stopped arguing and looked over.
"Shall I dig here?" he asked, poising his shovel above the spot.
To the gravedigger's relief, this worked. Both of them came over to inspect the spot, and then the boy nodded and said, "Sure."
Dampé nodded. "That will be ten Rupees."
Link's eyes widened in surprise. "Ten Rupees?" It was quite a bit of money, considering how difficult it was for him to find Rupees, pawing through every tuft of grass and heaving every rock he encountered.
"That's just what I said," said Dampé, ducking his head.
"Oh." The Kokiri boy scratched his head as he considered this. Finally, he asked, "How much do you usually find?"
Dampé smiled, which looked rather unsettling on his doughy face. "It depends. You may find as much as fifty Rupees or just one Rupee. And sometimes you won't find Rupees at all. You may find Poes instead."
Link stared thoughtfully at the ground where Dampé's shovel rested. After a long while, he looked up at the gravekeeper and nodded. "Okay. Ten Rupees." He reached into his wallet and pulled out a handful, counted out ten Rupees and then tipped them into Dampé's hand.
Satisfied with the transaction, Dampé dug into the grave. He expertly kicked the shovel into the dirt and then overturned it. With a gasp, they all caught the glitter of Rupees within the mound just before it plopped back into the hole. Dampé circled around, digging up the dirt and plopping it back in the hole to create a perfect semicircle of overturned earth. When he had done that, he stuck his thick, knobby fingers into the dirt, raking it until he had dredged up the Rupees that they had spied.
"Let's see now…" murmured the gravekeeper, and he picked them up, counting each one aloud until at last he announced, "Nine Rupees. Means you only lost one Rupee on this hole." He tipped the Rupees into Link's hand, who stared morosely at the scant pickings. Then he glanced at the overturned earth and asked, "Are you sure that's all there was?"
Dampé obligingly raked through the dirt with his fingers but no other Rupees came out. He stood up and gave Link a shrug. "Sorry, nothing else. But maybe if we try another hole, you'll have better luck?" He shifted his jaw into his disconcerting leer.
Navi saw her Kokiri glancing around the graveyard studiously as though trying to see which patch of dirt would give him the most Rupees. She raised her voice in warning, "It may be best not to risk it, Link. If you gamble too many Rupees, you may not have enough for that shield."
She was exasperated, though not at all surprised, when Link ignored her and paid for a second hole, which he personally picked for Dampé to dig - a spot close to the very corner of the graveyard. The spoils were even more disappointing this time, a mere five Rupees. But Link decided to pay for another hole - the last one, Dampé informed them, before he retired for the night.
The gravekeeper stabbed the shovel into the grave and then scooped up the dirt. He turned it over. When he did, Link's heart nearly burst out of his chest because there was a tumultuous clanking that he thought, for a brief moment, was the sound of a treasure mound of Rupees. Then he saw that it wasn't Rupees but a black iron frame with a globe of glass inside. A lantern.
Dampé suddenly roared as he threw his shovel in front of Link and used it to shove him backwards, "Get back, kid!" Link jumped at the sudden ferocity of the gravekeeper and then he screamed when the lantern swooped into the air and a blue flame burst into life inside the glass. In its flickering otherworldly light, a shape became visible: the top half of a squat figure in tattered rags. A dark hood hid its face, but two yellow points glowed inside.
"A Poe," Navi breathed, half in awe and half in fear.
"Just stay calm," said Dampé in a reassuring voice. At the same time, he quickly set down his lantern and then gripped his shovel in both hands. "Poes aren't especially dangerous. All you gotta do is…"
The Poe cackled in a voice that seemed to reverberate so that it sounded like it was coming from everywhere at once. Then it shot toward Dampé, raising its lantern above its head, which left a trail of blue fire behind it.
"Break the lantern!" Dampé swung his shovel upward, connecting solidly with the lantern. The glass shattered and fell in a shower of blue sparks while the Poe gave an unhallowed shriek as the flame that had been trapped in the glass suddenly wound up its arm like a ghostly snake and then devoured the Poe. Its shrieks faded as though it was falling into a void until all there was left was a ball of blue flame, which descended slowly to the ground. Dampé had dropped his shovel and now pulled out a bottle, which he used to scoop up the flame and then cork it. He held it out to Link and Navi for them to see.
"A bottled Poe, see?" said the gravekeeper cheerfully. "Now we just need to dispose of it."
"Where?" Navi asked.
"There's a temple beyond the graveyard." He waved his hand vaguely. "The Sheikah used it before for training and practicing their shadow magic. Now we use it to get rid of these little pests." He shook the bottle with the flame still inside. Suddenly he let out a yawn that sounded like an angry growl while he stretched his lumpy arms skyward. Afterwards, he licked his chops and said to the boy and his fairy, "That ends Dampé's Heart-Pounding Gravedigging Tour!" He startled Link again and then continued, "I hope you enjoyed the experience. If you ever get the chance again, drop on by. Maybe you'll get lucky." With a cheery wave, he started toward his hovel.
"Maybe…" Link echoed, staring at the small return in his palm.
Navi resisted the urge to say, "I told you so." Instead, she turned to the gravekeeper and called, "Mr. Dampé. If we may ask a favor. Can you tell us where we might find lodgings for the night?"
He turned around and scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Unfortunately, I can't. I don't leave the graveyard often. Not many appreciate my ravishing face." He grinned at his joke. "I would invite you to bunk with me, but it's rather cramped."
Navi sighed. "Well, thank you anyways, Mr. Dampé."
Dampé gave a short bow. "My pleasure, little fairy miss. Good luck." And with that, he stumped into his little shack.
Fortunately, it wasn't too long before they found a place to stay. After wandering the hilly village, knocking on doors, Link and Navi were finally greeted by a kind-looking woman. She was plump, her eyes sparkling above rosy cheeks.
"Hi boy! Can I help you?"
Link looked politely up at her while rubbing his arms. The temperature had dropped and he was starting to shudder with the chills. "Do you have room for me to stay…? Just for the night?"
"You're not from around her, are you?" she asked him with a smile. "This village was once the home of the Shiekahs, but Impa has given it to us poor folk who have nowhere else to go. It would be poor repayment on my part to refuse anyone else hospitality. Please, do come in."
"Thank you." He stepped inside and the woman shut the door behind him. Navi watched Link curiously. She had restrained herself from berating her Kokiri for gambling his Rupees on the gravedigging tour, so seeing him acting so humble surprised her. Could it be that Link had learned humility on his own? But perhaps she shouldn't be so surprised. He was a smart boy and smart boys didn't become smart by refusing to learn from mistakes. One of the many reasons he must have been chosen.
Thou must lay faith in Link… thou must never doubt him for even one moment…
The force of the Great Deku Tree's words was sudden, almost physically throwing her. She shook her head and then clamped it between her palms.
I wasn't doubting him, she thought in protest. I just… thought it would… take him longer. She glanced over at her charge, who was looking curiously about the room. She felt a twinge of guilt. Perhaps he's not the only one who needs to learn humility.
As Link gazed about the room, the first thing he noticed was that it was warm. There was a fire crackling in the fireplace and a pot hung over it. Something inside made appetizing bubbling sounds. Link sniffed and could smell something good cooking.
"Well, make yourself at home," said the kind woman as she walked back to the pot. She stirred its contents and then took a little sip from her spoon. "The food isn't ready yet, though."
"Thanks for letting us stay," Link said, sitting himself down at the small table. Navi nodded at him approvingly.
"My name's Mena, by the way," the woman spoke after tasting the soup again. "What about you? And where are you from?"
Link told her his name and about his home village. Then he told her about the journey he was making in order to save the land of Hyrule. The woman listened politely while stirring the soup. Eventually, she declared it done and ladled it into a bowl and brought it to him. He tasted the soup and expressed his thanks and how good it tasted.
"Be sure you eat it up now," she warned him good-naturedly. "From what you've told me, it sounds like you've got a long day ahead of you tomorrow."
Navi helped herself to some of Link's soup with the help of a teaspoon though he was eating it faster than Mena had ever seen anyone eat. And not only did he finish but he had a second and third helping. Mena's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets in astonishment. By this time, Link was full and sleepy. He rubbed his eyes and yawned.
"Oh, you're tired, poor thing," said Mena. She ushered him into a room where a small but comfortable-looking bed was.
"Is this your only bed?" Navi asked the woman in concern.
"Oh, if you're worried about me, I'll be all right. I have a comfortable rocking chair out there," said Mena reassuringly.
The fairy tried to talk her out of it, but the woman was stubborn. She bid Link goodnight and blew out the candle. Then she shut the door quietly. Navi watched the door thoughtfully for a moment, and then she turned to her charge and said, "We really shouldn't have kicked her out of her bedroom like that."
"Actually, she practically forced me to take it," Link corrected her with a yawn. He took off his shield and sword and laid them next to the bed. He took off his cap and set it over the bed-knob right next to his head. Then he crawled under the covers and snuggled inside.
Navi frowned. It seems his humility was short-lived. "You could have done something," she insisted. She waited for Link to argue against her but he said nothing.
His soft breathing was the only answer she got from him. She shook her head with a sigh and then settled onto his cap. She pulled a fold over herself for a blanket and after a while she too was asleep.
Ganondorf was about to retire for the night. He had hung his cloak over his four-poster bed when he heard a knock on the door.
"Enter," he said.
His servant, Balthagar, stepped into the room. Ganondorf straightened and folded his arms over his chest. He fixed his servant with a capricious stare. "What is it?"
The man bowed. "I have come to report that the Gorons are nearly ready to hand us the Spiritual Stone. They are slowly suffering from starvation and are desperate for food. The cavern is blocked, however, and they cannot enter it."
"As I planned," Ganondorf replied. Then he frowned. "But it is not them that I'm concerned about. It is their leader. The fool refuses to relinquish the Stone, even at the cost of his tribe. He is most stubborn."
"He will come to see reason soon," Balthagar assured him. "He cannot ignore the hunger pangs for very long. Even if he does, it will still work to your advantage. If he dies of starvation then it will be a simple matter for you to walk in and simply take the Stone from his cold hands."
"So it will," the dark man agreed with a cruel smile. "It shouldn't be too much longer. Soon the Stone will be mine." He looked down at his fingers which were slowly curling in on themselves as though he was gripping the Stone already. Then he looked up at his servant. "What of the boy?"
"The boy, my lord?"
"The one in green, the one spying through the window at me during my audience with the King." A smile played on his lips as though the image amused him. "Have you… spied him at all during your reconnaissance?"
"No, my lord. Not one hair of him."
"Mm." The Gerudo King frowned thoughtfully. Then he placed his hands behind him and turned with his back to his servant. "Never mind. It is of little consequence. A trifling disappointment, nothing more." His head rose. "Is that all you have to report?"
"It is, my liege," Balthagar replied with a bow.
Ganondorf waved him away. "Then you are dismissed."
On the other side of the door, Zelda gasped and quickly retreated down the corridor. She paused before a painting depicting a portly man with a bushy mustache wearing a red cap and blue coveralls, and pressed a knot in the painting's frame. There was a click and the painting swung open. She clambered up into the hidden passageway behind it and managed to pull the heavy painting closed just before Balthagar exited his master's chamber.