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Ruined, But Not Abandoned

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There are statues in the ruins of Castle Town.

Scholars have mused about them for centuries, of course. Archaeologists and travelers alike have wondered about Hyrule’s ruins for as long as they have been ruined.

(Ruined, yes, though not abandoned. Far from abandoned.)

The traveler that stands in Castle Town’s center is just the same. False rainwater drips onto his face, drenching him. He’s long given up hope of staying dry, not with Hylia’s tears falling from the lake above.

It’s fascinating, this city. Every structure of intricate stone was built to withstand the constant false rain. The traveler spent a long while inspecting the architecture, all swoops and swirls designed to catch the rainfall and drain it away into streams lining the city streets.

The statues are strange, though. Unfitting.

Oh, true, they were made of the same cool gray stonework as the rest of the place. But most of these statues were not built to last. There are no cleverly-hidden rivulets or smooth, swirling pathways for the rain to travel through as it falls upon them.

The rain falls upon the shoulders of these statues and splatters. It runs down their stone masks and carves its own path.

And by Hylia, are the statues unsettling.

There are nine of them, with one in the center haphazardly surrounded by the other eight. It appears as though the center one was the only one planned, and the rest added later--somewhat proved by the age of them all, by the wearing of the water on the dark stone.

On their left hands, every single one of them bears a design--carved so deeply that the hands of some have started to crack. The triangular symbol is easily recognized.

None of them have faces.

Yes, they wear masks just like the rest of Hyrule’s people--an ancient necessity. But their eyes are dark and empty, and their masks are blank. They stand with their hands on their nails in front of them, shoulders back, like guards--or perhaps toy soldiers. Figurines.

There’s no life to them.

The center statue’s grand, swirling mask reaches towards the sky. This one was built to last. Not… well, but there was effort put into its structure. It looks as though it once had wings, but they’ve long since weathered away to ruins, leaving sharp, skeletal stone reaching out from its back.

If you move past the other statues surrounding it, it has a plaque. None of the others do.

The other statues barely retain their form. The shapes of their masks are clear, as is the shape that they once were, but they are muddled. Warped, like something out of a vague dream, or a childhood memory.

So many of them are small. There are statues of children, in this odd display, their masks round and soft-edged, and their eyes wide and lifeless.

There’s one that remains in entirely good condition, like the rest of this city built to remain for eternity. It’s shoved to the side with the rest of the eight surrounding the center statue, but the telltale signs of care are almost glaringly obvious compared to the rest.

There are long-dead flowers and old puddles of melted wax surrounding it. Leaned against its pedestal are what must be a hundred nails.

They’ve rusted in the ever-falling rain, corroded under its drenching tyrade, but they remain there, steadfast. Some have even been shoved in between the cobblestones of the walkway, as though when they ran out of room against the pedestal, there was still a line of people waiting to lay down their weapons. There are even a few that simply lay at the statue’s feet.

The traveler wonders. Hyrule is a dangerous place. Why has no one taken a weapon for themselves? Is it out of respect for the warrior depicted in stony form? Or... perhaps there is a curse laid upon them?

He doesn’t want to find out, and so moves past the statue, into the center. When he moves in between the pedestals, the statue on his other side depicts a figure not even half his height.

The plaque on the winged figure’s pedestal remains unchanged and unweathered, somehow. When he runs his gloved finger across it to clear off some of the rain droplets, it shimmers.

It reads:

Memorial to the Chosen One
In the Sacred Realm far above.
Through its sacrifice, Hyrule lasts eternal.

 

Hyrule is a land with many, many secrets. The traveler steps away from the plaque, away from the statue, and shoulders his large pack, full of his collections and wares. Without a single word or a farewell to the figures he is leaving behind, he goes.

 

***

 

There is a temple near the top of Hyrule’s cavernous ruins. There are roads worn into the dirt where pilgrims once tracked, but now it lies forgotten.

It is white stone, weathered into pale gray. Intricately carved columns and long-ago-faded stained glass windows stand proud and defeated, as the temple reaches towards the cavern ceilings with a tall central tower.

The temple is in ruins, but its inner sanctum still stands. The door to it is sealed shut with something woven bright and incomprehensible.

But were you to enter inside, you would be struck by its darkness.

A sealed chamber is normally dark, of course. But this darkness, slow and spreading, is different.

(It lies still, right now. You are not a threat.)

Wherever you step, wherever you touch, there is light. It does not illuminate the chamber, but it travels across every surface, every inch of stone, and it is pale and gleaming and intricately woven with patterns you couldn’t even begin to understand.

There are chains.

They are cast across the floor, shattered and broken.

There is nothing else.

 

***

 

There is a town on the surface. It is small, and dusty, and sparsely populated. It lives in constant fear of Hyrule’s dangers just below it. There is a plague, they hear from explorers. A phantom creature that comes for you in the night and ensnares your mind and soul, and eventually your body. If you aren’t wearing the proper mask, it will use you and burn you from the inside out and then discard your corpse.

They don’t go down into Hyrule.

The odd one living on the outskirts of the town, however, does.

He never speaks to anyone, and never removes his mask (not that anyone really does, not so close to Hyrule). He sells little trinkets, carved-shell statues and tools. They’re beautiful.

He never leaves for long, but there’s always a hush when he does. He may be odd, but he’s become somewhat of a permanent fixture around the town, and change is a strange thing to a place so close to Hyrule--so close to the Wastes.

He flutters out of the well leading down into the ancient kingdom every time, alive and well, his wings iridescent and grand behind him.

That’s the only time they ever see him fly.

 

***

 

There is a forest, brilliantly and stubbornly defying the laws of nature and reality by growing far underneath the surface. Gnarled trees reach for each other with long, twisted claws, their branches dripping with vines. Every stone and trunk has a coating of moss.

It is foggy, and dark, and dim, but far from still.

Lumaflies dance through the mist, shimmering with their inner light, and the fog reflects it into brilliant little shards of glass. A far-off brook can be heard rushing, and were you to find it, there might be a lovely iron bench nearby, overcome with growth but perfectly positioned to watch the maskflies flutter.

In the heart of this place, there is a tree. It is enormous, and its branches reach the cavern ceiling and travel across it, reaching every edge of the forest. Were you skilled enough, you could run across the branches and travel anywhere you liked within its bounds.

It looks as though there’s a face carved into the bark--worn, and weathered, and still.

Living nearby are a man and a woman. They are not the only ones living in the forest, but only they dare live so close to the Great One, who grew the forest himself from bare stone and named every blade of grass and lumafly and leaf.

It is dangerous to go so near the heart. The fog is deep, and survivors have told of false lumaflies lighting the way, and a little girl’s voice singing a soft, haunting song that nearly led them to their doom.

But the man and woman are welcome there, and they know the way. Perhaps they’ll take pity on you.

 

***

 

There are wanderers, in the caves and pathways that make up Hyrule’s ruins. There have always been wanderers in Hyrule, of course, but now there are many.

 

There is a knight. He is an odd one, that wanderer. Knights have not bothered to exist for a long, long time.

But stories and songs are sung of a blue-cloaked hero who will come if you call, if you’re in danger. They say he can materialize a spear from thin air, from the very soul in the blood on the edge of his blade.

That he will bow, refuse to accept your thanks, and vanish without a word.

 

There is the healer. A quiet little thing, but fierce with his nail and gentle with his hands. He won’t make a sound, and doesn’t seem to have any sort of goal but aimless travelling, but he will help anyone he comes across.

There aren’t many users of soul magic these days, and especially not those who mend wounds. It was an art unique to Hyrule, and so much of Hyrule has been lost. But the healer seems quite talented.

 

There is a strange one. He too is fierce with his nail, and will assist any passerby, any fellow travelers and wanderers without homes. This one is sharper, though. His silence is cold.

He’s hard to look at, sometimes. Rumors abound of the way that out of the corner of your eye, he seems to flicker and shimmer. His eyes are dark and empty, but they see right through you anyway.

He will trade what he has for charms, if you’re interested in business.

 

There is a little one, confident and bouncing. His blank mask is at odds with his young, excited demeanor, as is his well-traveled air and skill with a blade. From his hands, air shimmering with pale light whips forth. Any husk will fall to him.

Once he has rescued you, he will pull out from his cloak a crude carving on a bit of old shell. It looks like a little girl, with an empty mask like his, and he will cock his head in a questioning manner.

You’ll have to say that no, you haven’t seen her, but you’ll keep a lookout. You’ll let him know if you do.

 

There is a another little one, too. This wanderer is calm and gentle and kind, and he seems to see.

When he helps someone in danger, he shatters.

He comes back together at the end of it all, but somehow he still looks like a broken thing.

He shrugs it off. He knows.

 

***

 

There is a village remaining underneath the surface.

Actually, there are multiple--but they are few and far between, and the distance between them is great.

This village in particular is livelier than most. There is laughter in the air, here. There is mourning too, but there is always mourning.

Its cavern is small, and its homes are built high above the ground, for fear of plague husks. Its people are kind, but harsh.

They have survived every siege.

They are protected by darkness itself, people whisper. They say a great beast of shadows with six bright eyes lives there, and it claws the husks to pieces.

But when travelers arrive, they only find a little farming village, and an odd, quiet young man taking care of the children.

 

***

 

There is nothing outside of Hyrule.

There is no world beyond. Those foolish enough to traverse this void must pay the toll.

There is nothing but emptiness and desert.

...That is a lie, of course. There is plenty. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of kingdoms. There are millions of souls.

You do, however, have to cross the Wastes to get to them. And in the Wastes, there truly is nothing. There is only desert sand and wind.

It will fly against your mask and your skin and your cloak and it will batter against your mind.

It will burn and shred and tear apart everything that you hold dear until you have nothing.

Until you are nothing.

Just like the Wastes.

 

The boy from the desert has found a hundred kingdoms, and a million souls. His eyes are depthless and empty, and his mask is cracked and shattered from a battle that he can’t quite remember.

The ghosts that follow in his shadow take pity on him.

And something is calling him back home.

 

***

 

There is a dark place, where few will dare enter, and fewer leave.

Creatures skitter in the walls, and it is dark and horribly cold and the darkness is reaching for you and there are masked shadows crying out and a clawed hand reaches for you--

And something smiles.

 

***

 

There is a palace where a goddess lies dead. She will not wake for you, nor anyone. Do not bother crying at her feet. She did what she could.

 

***

 

There is a cavern far, far below Hyrule. It’s a long fall to get down.

(If you can even get past the woven seal at the door, shimmering and pale.)

When you reach the bottom, it is cold. It’s not a sharp kind of cold, not the cold of winter. It is slow, and patient. There is darkness here, and the darkness is wild. Angry. (It has been wronged.)

If you look down at your feet, you might notice that you are stepping on masks.

Some of them are very small.

As are so many of the shades that reside here, ghostly and empty and vengeful.

(Hylia, in her desperation, brought ruin.)

 

***

 

In the land beyond waking, a horrible, awful thing screams.

It has been trapped, sealed away--but it is far from defeated.

Its avatar reaches for the mind of another creature, and snaps it.

It smiles, and burns.

It will not be forgotten.