Chapter 4

Locke poked through the pile of booty he’d dumped on Celes’ desk and held up a shard of metal. “This one was a real pain - I had to pry it out of a doorway that had caved in.” He grinned. “But it was worth it, don’t you think?”

“Hmmm. It’s really quite lovely,” Celes said. Her eyes twinkled. “A kitchen knife, isn’t it?”

Locke took a closer look at it. Now that she said so, it did kind of look like a kitchen knife. And here he’d had it pegged as a ceremonial dagger at the very least. “Well, uh, sure is. Ah, hell - stuff that people really used is more interesting anyway - gives you a better idea of how they lived.” He carefully set it back on the pile.

Now that he’d had the chance to really do some treasure hunting in the ancient castle beneath Figaro Desert, he’d seen a ton of stuff that no one could’ve imagined would be there. Seen, and, where possible, brought back.

And as if that wasn’t good enough, there seemed to be at least another whole level below that, even older.

“Well, how about this one?” Locke held up a fragment of pottery he’d found in those lower levels. He was sure she’d be impressed with this one. It was really old - anyone could tell that - and he’d never seen that kind of writing. The best part, though, was the picture painted on it.

“Isn’t that my..?” Celes raised her eyebrows as she took the piece from his hand.

“Yeah, looks just like your sword.”

“And this is from that castle?”

“Beneath it. I found some tunnels that took me down below, and there’s a whole city there. Looks like some pretty good stuff, too, though I didn’t really get a chance to check it all out.” Locke placed the pottery back on the desk and waved his hand over the entire haul. “Which is why I’ve got to go back.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Ah,” Celes said, “that will be Ghaleon.”

“Who?”

She hurried to the door and opened it.

Locke’s first reaction to seeing the man waiting in the hall was to shudder. The guy looked sickly pale, and his eyes were a strange reddish shade. And what was more, Locke didn’t like the way the creep was looking at Celes when he came in.

Ever since he’d gotten back from his trip to the underground, which he’d cut short cause he couldn’t wait to show Celes what he’d found, Locke had noticed a change in her. She seemed nervous about something, and kinda distant, and she hadn’t mentioned her work even once.

He didn’t like the way this guy was looking at Celes, but he liked the way she was looking back even less.

The man sort of glided into the room. “I trust I am not interrupting anything?”

Locke opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Celes said, “Of course not, Ghaleon. As a matter of fact, I think you might be interested in some of these objects Locke found.”

“Ah, so this is the famous Locke Cole.” He shook Locke’s hand. “I have heard much about you, Mr. Cole. You most assuredly live up to my expectations.”

“Uh, thanks,” Locke said, stifling the impulse to wipe his hand off on his shirt. And he hadn’t missed the sneer that passed over Ghaleon’s face when he’d said that last bit. “So, what’s your business here at Figaro?”

“Ghaleon is a musician,” Celes said, and Locke could swear she was blushing, “of surpassing excellence.”

Locke shrugged. “Court songbird, huh? Edgar’s been looking for a resident crooner.”

Ghaleon waved his hand. “I am not a singer, Mr. Cole. I am a musician.”

“Oh, so you can’t sing?” Locke grinned.

“Locke!” Celes was probably glaring at him, but he didn’t care. This guy needed to be taken down a peg or two. Or three.

But Ghaleon never missed a beat. “It is not my chosen field of endeavor.” He said it like the subject was closed and then smiled at Celes. “Come now, Mr. Cole, surely there are more interesting topics for conversation than myself? Celes has told me that you’ve been investigating underground ruins.”

“Yeah.” Locke nodded at the pile of stuff he’d brought back. “Found some pretty valuable things, too, if I do say so myself.”

Ghaleon’s eyes swept over the treasures. “This is most impressive, Mr. Cole,” he said, but he didn’t look like he meant it. “You must be very good at what you do.”

“It’s all practice,” Locke said, cracking his knuckles.

“I don’t doubt it.” Ghaleon’s long fingers brushed over several of the artifacts. Then he stopped. Suddenly.

Celes walked to his side. “Is something the matter?”

“No, nothing of the sort...” Ghaleon picked up the pottery fragment with the sword painted on it and the funny writing and held it in the light. “Where did you get this?” he asked, without taking his eyes off the piece.

“I found it down there,” Locke said.

“There was more like it?” Ghaleon’s voice had lost some of its slickness.

“Sure, lots.” Locke stepped up and grabbed for the piece.

Ghaleon seemed like he didn’t want to let it go - those spidery fingers were stronger than they looked - but after a moment he let Locke take it and replace it on the table.

“I would be... most interested in seeing more like it.”

“I’ll bet,” Locke said. Then something occurred to him. He’d like to keep an eye on this jerk, try and figure just what the hell was going on. “I could always use some help down there.”

Ghaleon’s eyes sort of blazed for a moment, but then he held up his hands. “As much as I would like to accompany you, Mr. Cole, I am tied by duty to this castle. If His Majesty were to call upon my services...”

He let his voice trail off, but he was looking right at Celes.

Locke narrowed his eyes.

Celes hadn’t looked like she thought much of the idea, either, so Locke was pretty surprised when she said, “Oh, don’t worry about Edgar.” Her eyes were locked on Ghaleon’s. “I’ll speak to him. He’s really quite a pussycat when you know how to deal with him.”

“I cannot begin to express my gratitude,” Ghaleon said.

Locke stepped between them. “I just want to warn you - I can’t be watching out for somebody else all the time, not down there. So if you don’t think you can handle a little trouble, you better not come,” he said with a smirk.

“I don’t think it will be a problem, Mr. Cole.” Ghaleon bowed. “I trust we will be leaving soon?”

“Yeah, sure. How about tomorrow? Sunrise?”

“Excellent,” Ghaleon said, backing toward the door.

As Locke watched him leave, he wondered if this hadn’t been a really bad idea.