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Posted: Mar 9 2010, 08:48 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
Right, I see a few grammatical errors in this that are really getting on my nerves, and the plot can be a little thin and rushed in places, so I'm going to give this the once-over. Anything Goldenrod-ified is fixed or fine, and I'll work through from start to finish, so there won't be odd paches of yellowish font in odd places.
Silence was by far the most familiar sound to myself and my colleagues. Our work was as precise and time-consuming as they come, and even the smallest erors caused great irregularities in the tiny stones we worked with. Hennam, the master craftsman, stood ahead of the rest of us, and though his workbench was turned to face ours, he rarely looked up to inspect our actions, though any unusual sound would be immediately identified. Crates upon crates of small, polished crystals of all colours and shapes were stacked to the right of my bench, while a far smaller sack of rough, uncut lightstones sat to the left. While turning around from the desk to retrieve a set of scales from the rack behind me, I heard a sound not dissimilar to a drumbeat from outside, growing steadily louder, though still fainter than the scratching of protosteel tools on lightstone that chorused every so often from those around me, and myself. The noise abruptly stopped, so I returned to my task, shrugging to myself.
"Takal, Takal, come outside!" Themis the Onu- squealed excitedly and urgently, bursting through the doors of the lightstone workshop, the source of the noise now revealed.
There was a sharp shattering sound from the desk beside mine, sending small shards of crystal into the air, landing within a radius of about half a bio. The responsible craftsman through down his cutter in a show of disgust, fixing Themis with a glare. Hennam looked up slowly, his wordless demand for an answer ringing around the room. He was not looking at either Themis or the other Matoran, however. Sighing with my palm across my forekanohi, I turned to face the short, over-excited Onu Matoran, a beam plastered over his mask as if it were naming day.
"What is it?" I groaned, feeling Hennam's eves bore into my back. "I hope you've got a good explanation, because you've just ruined three weeks' work for..." I counter heads "Five people."
"He's here! He's here!" Themis practically hit the ceiling.
To my great surprise and disdain, the assembled lightstone crafters downed tools, leaving them laid out on their benches, then headed for the door, Themis bounding out after them. I alone remained within the workshop, turning back to my desk after judging the embarrasment to have passed. As I placed my current lightstone on the scales, measuring it up against a small group of weights, one set of footfalls became louder once more, and Themis pushed the door open slightly, sticking his mask through the gap.
"Aren't you coming?"
I continued my measurements, changing the weights over until the two sides balanced perfectly. "One: You do not rush into a workshop of precision crafts like some sort of deranged Kikanalo. Two: You do not scream "Takal! Takal!" at the top of your lungs when you mean to address the room at large and Three: I don't care. What use is a Makuta Guardian to oversee an island with no bioquakes, no particularly destructive rahi, no Dark Hunter or Skakdi threats and no droughts or famines? He's wasting his time coming here, and we're wasting ours preparing for him. Chances are he'll be gone within the month."
"I still think that you should at least see him in." Themis replied, his voice dropping out of ultrasound.
Realising that he'd at least made an effort, I sighed and followed Themis outside. He was as old as any of us, but I sometimes doubted whether he was long out of his third century.
Outside, the Matoran of our town and the scattered villages across the Northern coastline had assembled by the dock. Hennam had taken his finished lightstones with him, and was now halfway up a ladder, screwing them into the glowing bunting (an irrelevant and unnecessary addition to an already over-decorated scene). Turaga Nathek, who was beginning to become a little too authorative in his guidances, was standing at the front, his faded black armour out-of-place in the brightly coloured environment about him, though almost all of us seemed a little dull by comparison. As a Po-Matoran, I was far more able to blend into the background of the town in its usual state, but in this case all I could do was stand nearer the back of the assembly, and as far away from anyone who knew me as possible.
Out at sea was a small, streamlined vessel, overshadowed by a purple-edged cloud. It was moving swiftly towards us, barely upsetting the water it passed through. As it drew neared to the shore, it began to turn away in order to come around in the circle, docking extremely cleanly and clinically, seeming to have been rehearsed.
When the hatch in the side of the hull swung ajar and a thick metal plank was extended out, the crowd began to cheer, although they could see nothing inside for the shadows. I found myself cheering too, and stopped myself immediately.
From the depths of the shadows emerged a pair of hideous rahkshi, more disgusting than I had ever imagined. One brown, one black and red, and slightly taller. I was to learn later that the brown one was a generic Panrahk, the rahkshi of shattering; while the other was a Sorrowahk, the breed specific to Makuta Sorrowix, Makuta of Sona Nui.
Through all this, most of us continued to cheer, though at the sight of the rahkshii many voices had lowered. However, another shape stirred in the shadows, initially visible only as a set of piercing, orange eyes, causing a Ga-Matoran nearby to cease immediately, looking on in horror. Why the others continued cheering I did not know, because regardless of what he might have said, his mask was not that of a hero. He might have told us that he was to be our guardian, but the emerging clawlike hands, taloned feet, razor-sharp wings and ragged weapons proclaimed him to be anything but. A deep gash ran the width of his face, across his skeletal Kanohi's eye-slits, a deep and untreatable wound that had blinded even this being of shadow energy. Mounted on the side of his helmet was a rusted, lamplike apparatus, with which he now surveyed us with an unearthly emotionless gaze.
I stared into that eyepiece; set within the cruel, fanged mask of Makuta Ragidax, and wondered just what we had let ourselves into.
This post has been edited by Takal on Nov 22 2012, 09:31 PM
Posted: Mar 16 2010, 08:53 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
The Makuta turned away from me to survey the crowd, and the paralysis wore off. Looking around, it became apparent that it was not just myself and the Ga-Matoran who had seen the being for what he was. Hennam and Mezin caught my eye, confusion flecked with fear written across their faces. As the Makuta bowed theatrically, my eyes were drawn back.
"Thank you, Thank you." he spoke loudly, largely overcoming the rasping nature of his voice. "I Look forward to helping you all - maybe I'll even find something to protect you from!"
There were a few isolated bursts of forced laughter, but the statement hadn't put to rest the minds of those who hadn't gotten over his appearance.
"Now I'm sure you understand I'm going to have to set up a hive, and I've only got what I can carry onboard my ship, so I may need to borrow some lightstones, wood, protodermis and maybe a few craftsmen - particularly joiners."
Nathek stood forward. "Consider them yours. I would reccommend a few Matoran to you. Some of our best joiners are over there, and he's fairly good at chopping trees..." Nathek pointed towards several Matoran, one of which edged behind the Ko-Matoran in front of him.
"As much as I appreciate your help, I'll only need two or three. My rahkshi are excellent workmen." At the mention of itself, one of the rahkshi hissed, and the other grasped the handles of its staff, which hung about its waist, clearly showing the Turaga who would be giving the orders from this point on.
Nathek grumbled quietly, then backed off to let the three arrivals through. As he walked through the crowd, he pointed at a pair at random.
"But I don't know how-" one protested, raising his arms.
"I said they'll do!" he hissed, and the two terrified Matoran ran over to him, not daring to challenge him a second time, as the Sorowahk had taken the staff-ends from its belt. As they departed Southwards, Ragidax casually plucked a few lightstones from the bunting as one would pluck a berry from a bush.
Once he was out of earshot, Hennam wandered over to me, his features returning to their normal look of skepticism. "So you decided to join us? Well, it looks like we'll have work to do - I hope you've got free time." he said, pointing up at the gaps in the bunting.
I glanced at the irritating Matoran who'd dragged me into this "I'll work double shifts, just lock the door."
Weeks later, once Ragidax's hive was completed, we expected the two Matoran he'd picked to return, but they didn't. Ragidax had employed them permanently in his home, and in addition, he requested two more. However, he was frequently visited by members of his Brotherhood, and blimps passed overhead almost once every two days. At one point, a Metru Nui blimp landed in the centre of the village, Two Makuta disembarking to ask for directions. As was our luck, they entered the workshop, though in their defence, they did think to knock.
A large, bright red and deep black Makuta approached us, a definite swagger in his step. He opened his mouth to talk, cold menace in his eyes, but the other pulled him back. "I'll handle this. You're not good with Matoran." She said.
"We're Makuta Torix and Novex, friends of Ragidax. I expect he's inland?" Her armour was undoubtedly that of a Makuta, but it gave off a different... aura from the others I'd seen, and I almost felt safe in her company but for the sharp-edged rims and unreadable kanohi with a tinted visor, with only a slight glow from within to betray her eyes. She had an odd way of speaking - managing to combine a slightly deceptive Toa-like tone with a slight hint of... a threatening insinuation? No, it seemed somehow more subtle.
"Southeast." I replied, as the others had all found excuses to be in other rooms, or were 'engrossed' in their work. "But he'll send one of his rahkshi up this afternoon for these."
I showed the two of them the lightstones we'd been crafting for him. They were purple, dull and jagged, as we'd been instructed. "Although personally I can't see the point in them. They scarcely light themselves up."
"We Makuta are not friends of the light,..." She paused "Sorry, what's your name?"
"This is pointless." Novex growled, flexing his fingers within his clawed vambraces.
"On the contrary. We may need to be on first-name terms with these Matoran - when they become Toa."
Novex stifled a deep, unnatural laugh. I forced a smile, as did Torix.
"I'm Takal. This is Hennam, my boss-" I pointed towards the Ta-Matoran's back.
"Busy, Takal. You talk to them." He didn't even bother looking up from his work. I've always respected Hennam's perseverance and work ethic, but now I could see that it was a mask to cover his fear. Now that I thought about it, I was more than a little frightened, myself, and was rooted to the spot.
"Well, Takal, I suppose you could make yourself useful. When the rahkshi arrives, help it carry the lightstones onto the blimp. I'll see if I can make it worth your while."
"I like my job." I said automatically. Novex fixed me with a vicious glare, causing me to back away in absolute terror. Torix, however, seemed taken aback.
"Don't assume we're all after assistants. Some of us can keep our own lives running without outside help."
"Sorry." I mumbled.
"I just thought that a Kanohi Jutlin is no mask for a Matoran, and I know a Makuta looking for a mask like that. He's aboard the blimp, and I think he'd be more than happy to trade."
Novex suddenly showed signs of understanding, his frown uncreasing as if he'd just worked out something that had evaded him for years. "So Spiriah gets the..."
"Yes, Spiriah gets the Jutlin, and everybody's happy." Torix walked the obviously dimmer Makuta through her train of thought. A second knock at the door, this time a careless clatter of the rahkshi's inactive staffs on the doorframe, heralded its arrival.
"Novex, I think we had best inform Spiriah that his Mask will be arriving shortly." Torix stated before turning to the rahkshi "Now rahkshi, this is Takal. He'll be helping you to carry these stones to our blimp. He is to be allowed onboard."
The rahkshi nodded, taking three of the four crates in the stack at once, while I struggled to lift the single one that was left. By the time I had reached the blimp, it had already deposited its load and headed into the sky. I struggled with the crate on the 45 degree gangplank, and almost lost the crate, catching my arm on the hand rail as I slipped. Novex leant down and lifted the crate, while Torix pulled me up with less effort than her current form implied she would need to expend, glaring at Novex.
Once onboard, I was cornered by a multicoloured Makuta, his mask almost identical to Novex's. looming over me, he boomed: "So you're Takal. Torix told me about your mask." there was a vicious edge to his voice, and it was clear that only Torix had the gift among Makuta which allowed her to give the impression of a caring nature. I handed over my kanohi without a word, and recieved the other, and as I put it on, I saw its colour change from red to silver, and the dizzyness which had struck me as I had taken off my own mask dissipated. A groetesque change occurred on the Jutlin, too. The mouth opened up into a collection of fangs arranged around an endless mouth. Now I saw why Spiriah wanted the mask. To him it was a status symbol.
"Don't lose it. It's rarer than it looks." Spiriah grunted. I left hurriedly, not wishing to spend any more time in such company, gave a short wave (not returned), and headed back inside.
"Nice mask. What did you have to do for that?" Hennam asked suspiciously, having finally finished with the collection of lightstones he had been commissioned to craft.
"Nothing. Makuta seem to like different masks from us. Anyway, you should have seen what happened when he put the mask on. It grew fangs!"
Not wishing to continue the conversation, Hennam finished filing his tools "I think that's us done for today, anyway. I suggest you get the slime off of your mask."
"Hah." I said without tone or humour, smirking. As I left, I saw the silver shape of the blimp floating over the hills towards Mutran's hive, somewhere in the unseen distance.
That evening, as I tried to sleep, I saw a shape in the shadows of the woodland surrounding our town. It darted around for an hour or so, too close to the town for my liking, an animal clearly never seen on this half of the island before. It climbed to the top of the hill overlooking the village, then howled, an ear-splitting noise that shook every molecule in my body. That noise was the most petrifying thing I had ever heard, and even compared with Makuta, it had no rival. I did not get any sleep that night, as the monstrous noise echoed around my skull, leaving me staring at the ceiling.
Ragidax had found something to defend us from.
This post has been edited by Takal on Nov 22 2012, 09:35 PM
Posted: Mar 30 2010, 08:06 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
Still staring at the roof, I waited for the Waru dome sunrise. For eons, it seemed, I lay in fear, and when the sun finally did rise, it brought with it news of the disappearance of two Matoran. No-one was in any doubt as to what had befallen them, though no bodies were ever found. For two weeks we were terrorised by this nameless evil, though eventually a rahkshi came North to announce the creature's death at the hands of the island's protector. Once again, we found no evidence to support it, but in Nathek's own words: "Neither has anything been found to disprove his claim. It is gone. Whether or not it is dead and the identity of its slayer doesn't matter." It wasn't much of a consolation, and it didn't help my insomnia. Even with the beast gone, I could still hear its howling echoing around my head.
Other Matoran were getting suspicious, my friend Mezin in particular. Catching him en-route to Nathek's hut, I stopped him before he could draw attention to himself that he might live to regret.
"We need to talk. Somewhere quiet." I muttered under my breath, standing in his path.
"If it's about-" he mouthed 'Ragidax' "- then I'm all ears."
"Exactly. I was never under the illusion that he'd be a benefit to our lives, but I didn't think he'd be doing this."
"If you supply the plan, I'll supply the Matoran. I know a few who'd like to find out what's going on, and I can get them together by sundown. Where do you want to meet?"
"Does the Silent Cave seem a good idea?" I had taken a copy of the island's chronicles from the hall of records some time ago, and had been familiar with its geography since long before Ragidax had arrived. Besides the Chronicler herself, no-one else had really shown an interest in the far South of the island, though she had been unable to map it. However, by continuing the river Sola in the general direction it headed, I was able to make a rough guess as to the terrain. The Silent Cave, however, was in the North, and common knowledge, if a little remote.
"It's darker than I'd like, with those rahkshi around, but it'll certainly be private."
The Silent Cave was named for its peculiar ability not to echo. It wasn't far from the village, but it would be the best place to meet on this side of the island. The two of us disbanded to prepare, and I returned to the workshop. I spent the afternoon daydreaming, thinking of ideas that would get us close to his hive without becoming suicide treks. A few lengthy routes seemed safe, but required crossing open ground. I finally decided on our route: Over the stone plains, an expanse of flat land encompassing Mount Avohkii, from where we mined our lightstones; across the peaks in the centre of the island, which was possibly the most dangerous part of our route, because we would have to travel across cliffs over 1000 bio up in order to save time, meaning we'd have nowhere to run if we were spotted; down into a sandy expanse with little running water and many Jaga varieties in order to avoid the forests, which would be infested with Visorak and finally a short walk over the savanna surrounding Mutran's hive, or at least where I thought it would be.
"Takal, I'd tell you to get on with your work, but Mezin's just had a word with me. I'd tell you to pretend to do some work while you plan, but we've got to go now." Hennam suddenly said, causing me to jump.
"Well then, let's go." I grabbed my rolls of maps, stuffing them into my bag and heading for the door, having already jumped to my feet in fright. To my surprise, Hennam locked up the workshop behind us, then followed me through the woodland and up the mountainside.
In the cave itself, I was surprised to see just how many Matoran Mezin had scratched together in a few hours. Most were just the disillusioned, and Hennam was quick to catch on that point.
"Nuara? I never imagined her as a fighter." He laughed, pointing at a Ga-Matoran, standing off to the side of the group. Frowning to myself, I leaned to the right to get a better look. Nuara was the Matoran from the dock, and seemed just as nervous here as she did those few months ago.
"I didn't want to imagine any of us as fighters. You should be happy with what we've got. She's obviously got some skill we'll find a use for." I retorted, not altogether sure why I was standing up for this Matoran I'd never met.
"It's all right." She cut in quietly, moving over to stand beside us. "He's right, I'm no going to be much use."
"Which still means you'll have some purpose, even if it's just conversaional skills, which Hennam seems to lack." I commented supportively, if only to prove Hennam wrong.
Hennam glared "Well, I'm sure she can't knock you out with her mask off."
"And you think punching me's going to prove your point?" I replied, holding my ground. "I wish there were more Matoran like you in the world."
Mezin ran over, holding the Ta-Matoran back as he raised a fist.
"Fighting amongst ourselves isn't going to solve anything. Takal's got a point though, Hennam. We'll take all the help we can get."
Hennam lowered the arm, still glaring at me. Despite his somewhat destructive nature, the two of us usually got on pretty well, and he didn't often lose his temper with other Matoran. As he backed away, I turned back to Mezin.
"Bad news all 'round, unfortunately. Ragidax wants us to become self-sufficient. Nathek announces it formally tomorrow. Also, our Ga-Matoran friends caught a rahkshi sneaking about last night. They want to break off from the Town's jurisdiction and disown Ragidax as their protector."
"And that's bad news?" I failed to see his logic.
"Have you heard of the League of Six Kingdoms? The historians say that the Makuta did the majority of the fighting, but they barely ever describe what they actually did. That's because of their tactic. If an island was harbouring Barraki followers, they released hordes of Visorak and hundreds of rahkshii upon it, and onlywhen all of the Barraki agents were dead, they commanded their troops to stop their destructive actions. The rahkshii killed everything, innocent and Barraki follower alike, and burned the empty towns and villages to the ground. Makuta Teridax, Miserex and Sorrowix are brutal in their warfare, no matter how subtle and cunning they are while they take root. The Ga-village doesn't have much hope if Ragidax follows the others' doctrine."
"I've got the route, you supply the Matoran. How are we going to get them out of the villages without Nathek noticing?" I changed the subject, not wanting to think about such things.
Mezin walked over to the centre of the group: "We've got our route, so here's how we meet up: Over the course of the next few weeks, we're going to 'missing' in small groups, no more than three at a time. We meet up here, living in this cave until we're all present, then we go. Takal will come up here first, me last. Everyone else decide amongst yourselves. Takal, do you want to tell them the route?"
I stepped into the 'speaker's spot', and told them the plan. A few Matoran disagreed with it, but they were prepared to follow it, as the alternative was Ragidax's continued control. I finished by saying "When you leave, take what you need. You don't want to be weighed down, and you don't want Ragidax to suspect us. If you take all of your personal belongings, it'll be far too obvious. Take something to help the group as well. I'll bring lightstones, Hennam will take rope, Mezin will bring maps. Aside from that, it's whatever you see fit to take."
"Nicely done." Hennam grunted, eying some of the other Matoran, who were now looking decidedly unsure as to whether they actually wanted to come or not.
Without waiting for the meeting to end, I returned to the village and set up the lightstones I'd be bringing. They were small, robust, bright and dull-edged, perfect for lighting as beacons, then hiding when rahkshi were on the prowl. Tired out, I slumped in the corner of the workshop, too exhausted to return home. Once again, I found myself sleepless as disembodied howling coursed around my body, as if it had replaced my energy.
The next morning, as the town woke, there was a distinct feeling that something was happening, something good. Even the Matoran who didn't know of our plan were decidedly upbeat.
Early that morning, I headed out to the pier where Ragidax had arrived, looking out over the calm, blue-tinted sea. Focusing on a dot on the horizon, I was struck with an epiphany: Toa Metru! The island, scarcely a third of a Mio from our own, was the training island of rookie Toa, where tens, if not hundreds, of Toa of all elements held residence. If I could find some sort of evidence of the Makuta's wrongdoings, we could sail out there and bring the might of the Toa down on him. His pair of rahkshii wouldn't stand a chance, and I doubted that he would, either.
Spirits slowly dropping again, I spent the day subtly sorting out outstanding affairs, such as owed widgets and the like, then as the sun began to set, I made my way back up to the Silent Cave. It seemed to be a longer journey this time, as I knew that this might be the last time I saw my beloved town, and that even if I returned, there could be no assurance that my home would still be there. Feeling homesick in twenty minutes, I reached the cave, staring ahead so as not to give in to my feelings and return home. Once I arrived, I set down my equipment, and lit one of the lightstones. I checked the cave for Kofo-Jagas and Fikou, though instead illuminated a small blue figure, seated on a rock with her head in her hands. Still holding the stone aloft, I walked quietly over and sat down beside her. Lowering her hands, Nuara turned her head to face me, eyes full of fear and mourning.
"What is it?" I asked quietly, expecting her to ignore me.
"Mezin- was right. The rahkshi burned the village- to the ground, and I ran up here. I thought- this was the only safe place. They're all dead, Takal. Everyone who stood up- to them, everyone that surrendered, just like he said." Her voice was barely audible, and she was struggling to hold back tears, as every few words she had to stop for a second to keep control of it.
"You're safe here." I answered in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, turning off the lightstone.
Nuara looked away, and I followed her gaze out over the island. A dim orange glow had consumed the Ga village, and in a few hours, that glare would fade too, leaving only ash and smouldering wood behind.
"That was the last place I thought was safe." whispered Nuara.
This post has been edited by Takal on Sep 29 2012, 12:59 AM
Posted: Apr 11 2010, 01:19 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
"I woke up to the smell of fire and the screams of my friends." Nuara continued, almost trance-like "I was terrified. Can you imagine what it's like to wake up into a nightmare? I remembered what Mezin said, about them burning villages to nothing, and I knew I couldn't hide. When- when I reached the door..."
she stammered for a moment, shaking her head.
"All the fire, Takal! It wasn't just the buildings. The whole sky, the earth... I saw Yiezra run across the street, and before she even knew they were after her, one of the rahkshi blasted her with this... this thing! The brown one was tearing buildings apart with its hands, looking inside for Matoran. If it found them, It stuck its staff through the holes or the doors or the windows, then-"
She winced, tearing her face away from the pyre.
"I ran. I left them all to die. There was nothing I could do. I'm surprised I even made it out of the village, the red one was hunting down the Matoran who made it out. I don't know how it missed me because I didn't look back. I ran all the way up here, thinking that you'd be here. I couldn't go to the town, I mean, I'm a Ga-Matoran. I'm easily recognisable..."
I didn't say anything. What kind of consolation could I offer at a time like that? Nuara stood up, headed into the back of the cave and curled up, hoping to escape the nightmare, though I was still transfixed by the flames that had been her home
This post has been edited by Takal on Sep 29 2012, 12:59 AM
Posted: May 15 2010, 03:25 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
The glow and gentle heat of the dome's rising sun did nothing to raise our spirits: I had somehow managed to sleep for the first time in weeks, though waking to see the Ga-Matoran still gazing out at the ruins of her home brought me back to reality faster than I would have liked. Daylight illuminated the blackened stumps, the fires long ago having consumed all they could, and dying in turn. The grasslands around the village had either been scorched or covered in ash - it was impossible to tell at this distance.
"I should have stayed down there." Nuara muttered, hearing me move. "I'm beginning to think death was the better choice."
Still lacking the words to answer, another thought ran through my head - a name.
"What?" Nuara turned, confusion written on her mask, and I realised I'd said it out loud.
"Sola, not Av" I explained "This island is dying."
Nuara turned away again, though her gaze was soon caught by movement downhill, and she stood up, edging towards the cave mouth.
"Takal, come out here." she gestured for me to follow her out, from there I saw Hennam, Themis, Mezin and two others climbing the hill to reach us. All four looked exhausted, as if they'd been running around for the entire night.
"Rahkshi started rooting through the village, looking for traitors. They caught and killed a good four of us, and the rest scattered. Mezin and I were able to grab these three - Tek and Kuflat, as well as Themis, who you know already." the Ta-Matoran grunted to me, ignoring Nuara. "They went straight for the houses of the Matoran who were up here last night, which means we have a spy in our midst." he stated, glaring at Nuara.
"Give her a break! Her home was burned to a crisp last night!" I stood in front of the larger Matoran, returning to glare.
"Why would I betray you? If we manage this, at least you have a home to return to!" Nuara added, trying to stare Hennam down.
"The two of you are bolder than I give you credit for." Hennam conceeded, unfurrowing his brows. "I hope the other three have as many surprises as you do."
"I think Mezin does." Nuara said, smiling bitterly at the Ko-Matoran. "Take a look at his Kanohi."
The five of us, Mezin and Nuara excluded, scrutinized Mezin's mask. As Nuara had observed, there were small discoloured patches, concealed from direct view.
"You're infected!" Kuflat gasped, backing away from Mezin as if it were contagious.
"No- How dare-" Mezin spluttered.
The panicked Matoran held a hand up to the section of his mask, but Hennam pulled it away.
"How long have you been hiding this, Mezin?" he demanded, holding Mezin's arms at his sides.
Mezin's splutters ceased, and he stared up at Hennam with eyes that were not his own. Gritting his mask into a contorted grin of the rage of the monster controlling him, he forced his arms out of Hennam's grip, kicking the Ta-Matoran in the shins before taking a knife from his belt and lunging at Hennam.Hennam struggled to hold the feral Matoran at arm's length, but when he broke free, the burlier Matoran had no choice but to attack. He wrenched the knife free from Mezin's hand, but was bowled over in the process. Kuflat ran to Mezin's aid, then rest of us too stunned to move. Mezin picked up a rock, slamming it into Kuflat's head, knocking his mask off. The dazed Fe-Matoran staggered backwards, raising his arms in a futile act of defence. Mezin raised the rock again, but was tackled from behind by Hennam. Turning back to the Ta-Matoran, he moved to lunge, but was cut short by a swing from Hennam, knife-in-hand.
My paralysis was cut short, and I ran between the two of them, holding Hennam's arm up.
"No! Just get his mask!" I exclaimed, pulling the infected Kanohi from Mezin's face, but the face underneath had already gone slack. Dropping the mask and releasing my grip on the Ta-Matoran, I hung my head, speechless. We hadn't even crossed the mountains, and already our leader had been killed, and I had failed to protect him, both from Hennam and from his mask.
"Brilliant..." I muttered, voice cracking even under my breath as I stared down at the body that had been my friend only ten minutes before. "Just- Brilliant."
"I- I don't mean to be disrespectful, but do we have any weapons?" Tek asked tentatively, "Just think we should be prepared if anything like this happens again."
"I've got these." Nuara murmured hoarsely, swinging the backpack from over her shoulder. "My fishing equipment. I grabbed it on my way out."
"Fishing equipment?" Kuflat exclaimed, pulling the bag open, resulting in harpoons and knives spilling onto the cave floor. "I see..." he muttered, picking up a harpoon.
"And I've got lightstones." I added, as soon as I was sure my voice could be trusted. "They should stun rahkshi, so long as it is dark."
Everyone selected a lightstone. The rest lay on the floor, where we left them. It would be more of a risk to carry more lightstones, and Mezin's actions would mean the rahkshi already knew where we were.
"Where to now?" Tek asked, leaving the cave and glancing down at the ashes of the Ga-Village.
"We've got no choice, do we? We can't go back - we'll bring the same fate the Ga-village met to the town. Mezin..." I found it difficult to speak out against my friend, even more so now that he lay lifeless at our feet. He didn't betray us, I told myself, Ragidax was acting through him. He had no choice, no free will- I realised that the others were still staring at me, and that I'd been silent for a good twenty seconds. "Ragidax knows where we're going, now, but if we stay here to plan a new route, the rahkshi'll be all over us."
"So we run headlong across the island? Six barely-armed Matoran?" Tek exclaimed. "Loving this plan, Takal."
"Do you have a better idea?" Tek countered, "We're trapped halfway down a corridor, with rahkshi coming down both sides. We might as well make a run for it. Kuflat, we need your knowledge of the area if we're going to make quick progress."
Weighing up the odds, Kuflat nodded sourly.
"Come on. Follow me." he said curtly, setting off uphill. A few steps on he stopped, turning back before coldly adding "Unless Takal thinks we've got enough time to bury Mezin..."
Returning Kuflat's glare, I headed after him. "He's not going anywhere."
Once we were past Mount Avohkii and into the Southern hills, the luck we'd had so far ran out, as stormclouds began to centre over the path ahead.
"M-mezin, what are those?" Themis breathed, feeling the apprehension around him.
"Hide. Now." Hennam replied, directed at all of us, pointing at a series of rahi burrows to the right of the path. "If there's anything in them, keep quiet, 'cause it can't be any worse than what's going to be outside in a matter of minutes."
Each of us ran to a separate burrow except Tek and Kuflat, who were forced to climb over the rocks above them, as the left side of the path edged an almost sheer drop.
It was a cramped hiding place, but I was able to squeeze down far enough to reach a more open section, and I was glad of what little protection it provided when, with a pair of metallic thuds and a skitter of disturber soil, the rahkshi landed. A brown-armoured foot set down at the entrance to the burrow, and the panrahk began to kneel.
From a burrow to my right came a whimper of fear, and the rahkshii froze, mid-crouch. Reaching a hand down to its waist to retrieve its staff-tips. The foot raised, and the rahkshii disappeared from view. I waited, tense, for seconds that seemed infinite, though when it came, the blast shook me all the same, and the cut-off scream that followed echoed around my skull even as the foot of the other rahkshii, the Sorrowahk, came down where the last had. The being's monstrous head lowered into view, and the helmet splayed apart, revealing the kraata inside. But instead of the hiss I'd been expecting, it rasped "Here!"
I forced myself as far down the burrow as I could as the earth began to tremor. The rocks above me rained down, but to my infinite surprise I caught a glimpse of the panrahk being thrown from the cliffside. Struggling out of the cave, I found the rocks that had been over me had become scattered across the path, small plates of red armour scattered amongst them. Once of the Sorrowahk's hands protruded from a pile of them, slowly balling into a fist as a thin trail of Kraata fluids worked its way between the cracks.
Kuflat slid down the rockslide, landing beside the hand, kicking it.
"So how'd you like that, creature?" he shouted, stamping on the fist. As he did so, the hand opened swiftly, grabbing him by the ankle and pulling him to the ground. I was pushed aside as Nuara ran towards him, pulling him free before spearing the rahkshi's hand with her harpoon, fixing it to the ground.
"Nicely done!" Hennam praised Nuara, as well as Tek, who'd caused the rockslide by wedging his knife in a gap and levering. "I don't think Mutran saw that coming."
"And if you keep doing that, we'll make it for sure." I added, trying to stifle the guilt I felt for leaving Themis to his fate.
Nuara's expression remained the same as it had been yesterday in Silent Cave the as Kuflat pulled the harpoon free and handed it back to her, Hennam and Tek leading on.
"So we're not staying to pay our respects to Themis?" I called.
"Why? he's not going anywhere." Tek answered viciously.
As the rest of the group moved off, Nuara motioned for me to stay a short distance behind.
"We've made it worse, haven't we? We've killed his soldiers. He's going to come after us himself. By the time he finds out the rahkshi are dead-"
"An army of Toa will be knocking on his door." I answered.
She shook her head. "But I thought they would be harder to kill..." she muttered.
"So did I." I glanced back over my shoulder. "But it looks like we were lucky."
"For once." she muttered. I didn't answer.
Though we found our way out of the mountains safely, our fears of the path ahead were enough to keep our minds fully occupied. Although the rahkshi were gone, the desert was home to enough rahi to make even a Toa flinch. Progression was slow - each rocky outcrop was a potential nest for a Jaga, and Tek, Nuara, Kuflat and myself were in no state to run, let alone defend ourselves.
After six or so hours, Kuflat had lost his patience, and his faith in my plan.
"This is ridiculous! At this rate we'll be Turaga before we get to the hive!" he hissed to Hennam, his personally-appointed leader. "We can save days if we go through the forests."
"Are you out of your mind?" Tek retorted. "The whole place is crawling with Visorak!"
Hennam cut them both off. "We all know the dangers of Visorak, but their intelligence is often overlooked-"
"So they're smart, now? Why doesn't this put my mind at ease?" Tek shot back, dropping his voice level halfway through, remembering where he was.
"Because, Tek, they're opportunists. If they don't see an opportunity, they stay concealed. They'll only attack you when given a direct order or know they have the upper hand. If you keep your guard up, they'll leave you alone." Hennam explained.
Admitting that the Ta-Matoran was right, Tek stood by the other two.
"I vote we take the shortcut. Hennam knows what he's talking about."
I couldn't keep my silence any longer - "I planned around the forest for a reason, Kuflat. Do you think five Matoran are going to give a whole forest of Visorak difficulty?"
"We'd have seven if you'd been sharper. I don't want to die, Takal. I'm going through the forest."
Nuara sighed "So much for 'reason.' Takal's a planner. He didn't know this was coming, and he did the best he could. Hennam's a fighter." she shot him a dirty look "He thinks with his fists, and as soon as something happens he wasn't prepared for, the same thing's gonna happen. Now tell me: would you rather work with a planner or a fighter?"
"Judging by the mess the 'planner's' got us into already, I'm going with the fighter." Kuflat replied. "So what do we do, Hennam?"
"We head for the jungle - shortest path possible." the Ta-Matoran replied "But stay cautious."
"Y'know, I didn't think he'd do this well." Tek commented, staring up at the Visorak concealed in the canopy, shifting and staring, following our movements, but keeping their distance as Hennam had promised. Pincers clacked as the the creatures sent messages throughout the forest, giving the woods an alien ambiance.
Kuflat, turning back to check on us, walked into a thin green cobweb, the material instantly adhering to his armour. His yelp caused the Visorak to retreat into the branches with lightning speed, but they emerged again, one by one, as he pulled himself free.
"Sorry, I'll... I'll be more careful." Kuflat stammered, stumbling in his haste to pick up the harpoon he'd dropped in his moment of panic as Hennam and Nuara looked back and forth between the nearest Keelerak, their outlines still obscured by the foliage.
"It's not your fault." Nuara muttered without turning. "We all make mistakes." she added, casting a short glare at the back of Hennam's head "And making them doesn't make you anything less than you were."
As the last of the inquisitive Visorak retreated back into obscurity in the canopy, Hennam lowered his spear. "We have to keep moving. I think we have their attention."
He started off again, Nuara and Tek running after him, staying as close as they could, while Kuflat and I travelled a short distance behind. It wasn't long before he asked "So Takal... These Visorak. Do you think they work for... you know...?"
I glanced up at the jeweled eyes in the trees, each motionless despite the breeze that rustled the leaves but for their irises, which tracked our movement as we trudged through the leaf litter. "I don't know, Kuflat... But I hope not."
Fear streaked across the Matoran's mask. "W-we should keep up with Hennam." he stammered, quickening his pace. Seeing the others all ahead of me, I backed quickly towards them, watching in horror as the eyes of the Visorak behind us silently closed in.
I'd tried to avoid the forest as far as possible in my old plan, but it had been unavoidable. The green belt almost completely surrounded the area I'd watched the blimps in the distance descend into. There was a possible detour that could take us through a thin rocky band between the Southern and Eastern forests, but it would nearly double the journey time, and would almost certainly be guarded. I had hoped to cross the forest via the thinnest band, where we could pass quickly. Hennam, too, had hoped to leave for the other side as soon as possible, and his route would coincide with mine at that point, but as we approached it, it became clear that the task would not be as easy as I'd hoped. A path through the forest led to a small clearing ahead, below the ground level of the forest. The only way through was either around a narrow ledge, or to pass straight down and through it. The problem was, our surprise at the rahkshi's weakness had been well-founded. Hennam had no sooner reached the mouth of the ravine than he'd stopped cold, backtracking hastily.
"The brown one's down there!" he hissed. "The rahkshi!"
"What do we do?" Tek whispered, voice cracking into a tiny squeak. "Can we go back?"
"No." I answered. "I've been watching the Visorak. They're getting ready to storm us. We have to keep moving. We can't climb the sides of the ravine either... If we drop our guard..."
Hennam nodded, defeated. "I understand. I'll do it."
"You'll do what?" Nuara hissed in return, narrowing her gaze. "What can any of us possibly do that's gonna' help us get out of here?"
"I can distract the rahkshi while you run around the path." Hennam answered. "But we've got to do it quickly. Those Visorak are closing in, no doubt."
"You. Will. Die!" Kuflat seethed. "That thing took out half a village on its own before it blew apart Themis without so much as batting an eyelid."
"Then you'd better start running. Don't look back, and don't you dare fail." he said, drawing a knife and getting back to his feet. "Good luck."
"You too." I answered, nodding respectfully.
"I won't need it. Toa do this all the time." he smiled thinly. "Lead them out once you see it turn its back, Takal."
With that, he rushed out into the clearing. Before he'd even reached the bottom, the rahkshi had spun and fired off its staff, reducing a portion of the ravine wall to razor-sharp fragments and dust, cutting me off from the others.
"Go! Now!" Hennam roared, swinging the knife like a sword into the beast's helmet. It deflected off, leaving barely a mark as it swept its legs out from underneath him with its staff. It turned back towards Nuara, Kuflat and Tek, planting its staff into the ground and aiming the other end. Tek instinctively threw himself from the cliffside, and Hennam leaped onto the Panrahk's back, tearing at the exposed spines with his bare hands. The creature recoiled in pain, the staff blast going awry. It struck the rock face to the right of Nuara and Kuflat, bringing down the rocks above. Nuara was thrown clear, but Kuflat was caught underneath, his cries cut abruptly short. Seeing Hennam being thrown around like a doll, instinct took over and I jumped from the ledge, landing on its back as he had done. It threw me off as easily as it had done with Hennam, and brought the staff down on me.
I shut my eyes, and felt myself being dragged aside, the blow scuffing my leg. As I opened them again, I saw Hennam get slammed aside by a horizontal swing of the staff, colliding violently with the cliff wall as it turned its attention back to me. I fumbled for the nearest handle on my tool belt and thrust it upwards, feeling the force of the rahkshi bearing down on me turn to dead weight. I lay for a few seconds on my back underneath the rahkshi, panting for air until I hear a chorus of rasping, grating whines and forced the fallen creature off of myself to see dozens of green- and brown- clad monstrosities descending from the trees on thick lines of webbing, skittering towards us.
"Takal, catch!" Tek shouted, throwing me an end of the rahkshi staff. I caught the tool and pointed it at the nearest Visorak. An orange pulse ran the length of the staff-end, leaving the weapon at the same speed. It was nowhere near the force that the rahkshi had accomplished, but it was enough to badly injure the creature and knock it into the air briefly. In a haze of adrenaline and elemental glare, Tek and I fended off four or five of the spiderlike rahi, sending the rest scurrying back up the tree trunks in confusion as a third foe, the red and black rahkshi, landed suddenly into the clearing, heading for Hennam, who still lay motionless against the wall, a thin line of silver-grey fluid trickling out from under his mask. It touched his neck for a brief instant, then turned away towards Nuara.
I realised in horror what was happening, and shouted "The other end!" to Tek, who stared at me in temporary confusion, then tossed me his staff-end. With the two ends together, the joining beam grew from the handles of both, meeting in the middle and drawing the tips into line. I pushed one end into the ground and pointed the other at the rahkshi. "Stop, now."
"You are no Toa, Matoran. You cannot kill me." It answered in a hiss, reaching for the unconscious Ga-Matoran.
"Your buddy over there seemed to think the same thing. Didn't end well for him." Tek replied defiantly.
The rahkshi turned its neck to look me in the eye. The hatred and fury of the Makuta from which it had been created blazed in the rahi eye, and I flinched. "Then fire. Fire and kill the Ga-Matoran along with me."
I paused, unsure what to do. Kill my newfound friend, or allow her - and us - to be taken captive.
"Then it is as I thought. You have heartlight." it grabbed her shoulder. "I will return to rip it from your chest."
Before either of us could say a word, it launched itself skyward, leaving Tek and I alone and defeated in the forest.
This post has been edited by Takal on Sep 29 2012, 01:05 AM
Posted: May 26 2010, 10:33 AM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
For at least a minute, we stood silent and dumbstruck, overwhelmed by what had happened. It was Tek who moved first. Warily edging around the dead Panrahk, he stared out in the direction the Sorrowahk had flown, gazing between the trees.
"I can see something on the other side of the forest. You need to come and look at this." he reported, scrambling up the rubble the Panrahk had brought down. "Looks like a - I don't know what it is."
Sweeping my stolen staff back and forth, I followed Tek up. "Don't drop your guard." I instructed, handing the weapon to him.
"Don't worry; I have no intention of going through that again." he replied. "But I think this is what we're looking for. And where Nuara and the rahkshi are"
Peering through the trees, I saw what Tek had spotted almost immediately: A wall a short distance from the edge of the tree line, constructed of what looked to be interlocking black metal eggs, reflecting an oily sheen where the light that passed through the rahkshi clouds struck it.
"Makuta architecture?" Tek suggested, eyes still on the shadows in the trees. "I mean, what else could it be?"
"Could be a fort of some sort... Doesn't look big enough to be the hive." I replied.
"Not big enough? It's big enough for me!" he exclaimed, detaching one of the ends of the staff and passing it to me.
"It just looks like a wall, though. doesn't look like the buildings inside are gonna' be that big."
"Do you think we should try and attack it? We've got the staff, right? It'll be able to blow the rahkshi's armour apart. Assuming it doesn't kill us first, though..."
"One way or another, we're going to run into that rahkshi again, and we won't get a chance to save Nuara if we run. We don't really have a choice."
"Perpetual optimist, aren't you?" Tek shook his head. "Come on."
Night was fast approaching as we reached the outer wall of the fort, with still no sight of the Sorrowahk in the air. With Tek in the lead, we skirted around the wall to a gap, probably the entrance for Visorak. Keeping as much of himself back as he could, Tek leaned around the corner. For a few tense seconds, I waited as he surveyed the courtyard, finally pulling himself back abruptly.
"Yep, it's in there." he whispered, breathing deeply.
"There's a building built into the far wall, the one that faces the forest. It's not very big, but there's a lock on the door. Must be some kind of storeroom it's using as a holding area."
"There's logs, planks and crates and things all around. I don't think this is a fort so much as a store. Blimps probably drop stuff off here then Matoran take them up to the hive." Tek guessed. "There's plenty of cover, but it's got some kind of cannon."
"Yeah, Nuara mentioned that back in the Silent Cave. It's not something you want to get hit by."
"Do you think a staff end would be enough to keep it down?"
"Maybe. Crushing it under a landslide didn't seem to do much."
"Its armour's cracked. I don't think it wants to run the risk of its kraata being hit. I'll go in down the right half and make it take cover with one staff end, and you run down the left and blast the lock off the door with the other."
"Have you lost your mind? That kind of thinking got us into this mess!" I hissed.
"It'll turn on you once it gets the chance, Takal. I'll be fine if you hurry. Once Nuara's out, you start firing and I'll throw you the second half, then you blast a hole in the wall and blow that thing right back to Destral when it tries to follow us through the gap."
"And if it decides to shoot back?"
"I guess I'll have to keep the pressure up. Wish me luck." he finished, then ran around the corner, pulsing the staff as rapidly as he could. Swallowing my fear, I rushed out behind him, diving behind a pile of wooden planks as the rahkshi began shooting back, raining purple-green projectiles at a rhythmic rate. I ran along the length of the stack as the blasts annihilated the timber behind me. The fire from the rahkshi's weapon stopped abruptly and the creature let out a pained screech, over which I heard my newfound friend call out: "Yeah! how did that feel?"
Struggling to keep my breathing under control, I stumbled forward past the ruptured timber pile, now in cover behind the crates as the now-sporadic weaponfire blazed in the other direction.
"Keep going, Takal!" the other Matoran called. "I think I'm getting the hang of this!"
I reached the end of the row of crates, and leaned around the corner, pointing the staff at the door. It took four or five shots to hit the lock, but once it was struck, the door swung ajar and a faint yelp emanated from within.
"Nuara, are you all right in there? I need you to get over here!" I called out, turning to fire on the rahkshi. Now being hit from both sides, the creature backed off towards the gate, still taking potshots as it went.
"What's going on? I don't want to- I can't-" she stammered.
"Tek and I have the rahkshi under control. We need to leave now before one of us gets vapourised!"
"Come on, Nuara!" Tek called out. "You're okay, it's after me right now!"
It took more than a few seconds for Nuara to pluck up the courage to make a break for it, but eventually she burst from the doorway, hands clasped over the top of her Huna. She sprinted straight for the crate I was hiding behind, and ducked down behind me. "Now what? Do we do this all the way back to the village?"
"No, uh... Now's the inte-."
"TAKAL, NOW!" Tek screamed, throwing his staff over the stacks of material. I couldn't help it - the brief instant the tool arced over the courtyard, it stole my attention from the rahkshi, who burst from cover, striking Tek in the chest with a bolt from its weapon. I caught a glimpse of his disintegrating body as it was thrown out of view behind a column of metal plating, the rahkshi following after as Nuara breathed a profanity, clapping a hand to her mouth and turning away. Before the rakhshi had a chance to land another shot, I picked up the staff end that had landed beside me, reunited it with its pair and fired a blast at the stack, which flew apart, launching the rahkshi along with it.
"Come on! We need to be far away from here before it gets back up." Nuara urged, dragging me towards the gate.
Abandoning the original plan, the two of us sprinted from the fort and back through the forest, ignoring our burning lungs, blazing heartlights and aching legs until we reached a Nui Jaga's cave in the desert. Evicting the rahi with a warning staff-blast, we rushed inside, collapsing to our knees in fatigue.
For a long time we rested, panting heavily, all but passed out. I sat slumped against the cave's one stalagmite while Nuara lay on her back on the floor. With my adrenaline rush completely gone, it was a blessing from the Great Spirit himself that the Jaga never returned.
"I'm sorry about Tek, Takal." Nuara breathed, the sudden sound shocking me a little. "Thanks for getting me out."
"I lost them all. For nothing." I sighed, head bowed. "We didn't find anything at all."
Staggering over to sit beside me, Nuara smiled weakly: "You didn't lose me. You fought down a rahkshi for me."
Grinning despite myself, I corrected her.
"Two rahkshi!?" Nuara laughed, letting her head fall back. "What happened to the other?"
"I stabbed the kraata with a file." I answered, half-drawing the bent tool from my belt.
"If you keep this up, Takal, we're not going to need the Toa from Eilierah." She joked. Suddenly, she smirked to herself and broke eye contact.
"I was just thinking: you'd make a great Toa yourself. Mutran's going to think twice before he attacks another village thanks to you."
I gave her a sceptical stare. "You really think, after the five Mat-"
"Yeah, I do. They were rahkshi[i], Takal. We all knew we didn't stand a chance. What [i]you did was prove us wrong." she answered, leaving me lost for words. I knew she was right, and while it was inspiring, it didn't help to take my guilt away. Six Matoran had trusted me with their lives, and now only one sat beside me.
Yawning, Nuara broke the silence again. "We'll go back to the village tomorrow, tell Nathek what we found, and if he doesn't want to help, you can duel him with a jewler's pick or something. You don't mind if I sleep first, right?"
"Go ahead." I replied, though soon enough I had drifted off along with her.
Posted: Jun 1 2010, 09:58 AM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09
The morning sun, lighting up the mouth of the cave, woke me from my dreamless sleep. As realisation dawned, I snapped to full alertness, temporarily panicked as my hands reached out for the rahkshi staff, finding nothing. Looking up, I saw Nuara sitting by the entrance, staff lying across her lap.
"I- I'm so sorr-!" I blurted out as she looked over, scepticism written in her eyes. They warmed almost immediately, though, as she got to her feet.
"It's okay. I couldn't stay asleep." she said, collapsing the staff.
"Nerves?" I asked, concerned.
"Nightmares." she answered bluntly.
"Do you want to ta-?"
"No. We should get moving. I don't see clouds around here, so we should be safe for the moment." She cut me off. "It's gonna' take most of the day to reach the mountains, and if we keep a good pace going we can be back in the village before noon tomorrow."
"You've been this way before?" I frowned, getting up and walking to the cave, struck by the heat of the morning sun as I walked out into the desert.
"I was the Chronicler." she replied looking away in embarrassment. "Not that I did such a good job. You want the staff?"
I took the weapon tips from her outstretched hands as she followed me out, facing northwards.
"Here we go, I guess." she sighed. "I really hope that Turaga listens."
"So you were the Chronicler?" I began, trying to make conversation to pass the time as we crossed the barren plains of the desert.
"I wasn't really into it." she replied, looking back over her shoulder impulsively to check for the rahkshi. "I just felt like I didn't... fit in Ga Waru. I wanted to get out and explore the world around me, starting with the other villages, then eventually I wound up down here."
"So that's 'not into it'?"
"Well, I suppose I was into the travel side of things, but I didn't have much skill recording what I saw. I guess you saw how sloppy I could get when you planned the route out on my sketches."
Turning back forward, she hung her head, still maintaining eye contact. "I... don't feel right talking about things like this when we're in this position. It seems disrespectful. To Tek and the others. They're all gone, we're on the run from a rahkshi and you're trying to make small talk."
Taken aback, I stopped dead, lowering the staff I'd been holding protectively to my side. "I didn't mean it like that, Nuara. It's just-"
"I know, you're trying to keep both our minds off of what we've seen. But, it still doesn't seem right. I know you meant well." She followed me to a pile of rocks, sitting down and staring unseeing out the way we'd come. "My nightmare, Takal?"
"Yeah?" I encouraged.
"The village. It was empty, except for us. No rahkshi, no Matoran, just damaged huts and bodies. We'd made it back, but we'd only saved ourselves." she continued, resting her chin on the palms of her hands. "What if we got back and-"
"What good would Mutran get out of wiping them out? They're oblivious to what we know. They're still just the pawns he needs. If he's going to send his rahkshi out against anyone, it'll be-"
"Us." she finished. "We need to get moving."
"They can't be far behind." I confirmed, raising the staff again, heading uphill and out of the desert.
As we reached the crest of Mount Avohki, Nuara's fears seemed to be realised: A trail of black-purple clouds trailed from the thin forest band to the village. I felt my gut twist and constrict, and Nuara gasped behind me, leaning on the mountainside for support.
"No! Nonononono..." she whimpered, looking away in disbelief. As she turned back, she let out a stifled cry. "Not now!"
"It's waiting for us. We'll spend the night in the Silent Cave again, and it'll have gone back south by morning." I said, hoping against all the evidence ahead of us that I hadn't lied.
"Yeah." she answered, hollow and submissive.
The moment we reached the cave, a wave of guilt and shame washed over me. I felt monstrous, immatoran, for forgetting about Mezin's corpse. Droves of tiny insects hovered over the gaps in his armour, flying in and out of the flesh-filled crevices.
"Oh, spirits!" Nuara choked. "The stench! We can't stay here. Not with that -him- just lying there!"
Ridden with grief, I made a futile effort to wave the rahi away, heaving the stinking mass that had once been one of my oldest friends over my shoulder.
"I think I'm gonna-" Nuara rushed, gagging. Tearing her mask from her face, she ran outside, back uphill to vomit violently.
Leaving the cave south, the path lit by thin streams tainted by the lightstone deposits in the mountain, I headed for the forests, dropping the Matoran to the ground. Using the staff as a spade, I detachedly hollowed out a hole in the earth and lowered Mezin down, sealing it over again. As my feeling suddenly returned, I was overwhelmed by the stench covering my armour, and the memory of the decaying Matoran. Dropping to my hands and knees, I retched through my mask's mouth-hole, then rolled lifelessly onto my side. I have no idea how long I lay there, nightmarish memories rushing through my mind until the foul reek pulled me back to my senses. Heading back to one of the streams, I sanitised myself excessively, failing to wash away what I'd seen along with odour of death. When, finally, I was satisfied, I walked back up to the foul-smelling cave to find Nuara asleep outside, huddled behind a pile of rocks. Unable to shake the images from my mind, I sat in silence, watching the shadow tempest coil and flow overhead.
As dawn beckoned, black clouds still overhead, I roused Nuara from her sleep. It took her only a brief moment for her to reach her senses. Fully aware of the world around her, she breathed: "This is it, isn't it? One way or another, our journey ends today."
I couldn't find the words of solace or encouragement I needed to deliver, standing in silence over her, utterly demoralised.
"Thanks, Takal," She continued "For bringing us this far. We just need to get a little further, then we can put this behind us."
"'Put it behind us?' How can we just accept what's happened as being passed? What if you were right, and the rahkshi's already been to the village?"
"Don't talk like that!" she replied sternly "Your inspiration's been the one thing keeping me going. Don't just accept it's over!"
"Nuara, that... monster killed Tek without remorse or hesitation. What hope do you think we stand if we're headed straight at it?"
"We... we don't have to go back to the village."
A cold silence passed as I stared accusingly into the eyes of the Matoran, and hissed "You want to run away?"
"You said it yourself: we don't stand a chance. We have a fleet of rowing boats down at my old village. We could take one and head out for Eilierah, or, or Waru Bazarin."
"I can't just run away, Nuara!"
"Then we'd better stand our ground and get this over with." she answered slyly, smiling like a Makuta.
"You're a real Hapaka, you know that?" I sighed, defeated.
The two of us continued our trek downhill, Nuara transfixed by the clouds. As we re-entered the forest, she slowed her pace to a crawl, grabbing my shoulder and hissing in my ear "It's here. I know it."
Silently, I edged towards a fallen log, seeing a glint of dark metal on the other side through the thick undergrowth. Gripping the staff in clammy hands, I leaned over, weapon raised and ready. Lowering myself back down, I gestured for Nuara to move beside me. She hurried to my side, avoiding stick and leaf alike.
What is it? she mouthed, head tucked down.
"It's just the cannon, lying there." I answered.
Do y"ou think it dropped it there?" She asked, peering over.
"Either it left it there because it was in the way or-"
"It's a trap." She finished, again. "That we've walked into."
"Yeah, but it's not attacking." I responded, raising my head to look over again. "If it is a trap, it'll be hiding somewhere around here."
"You're right. I don't see it anywhere." she commented, confused.
"Perhaps that is because you are looking in the wrong direction." a third voice answered maliciously, between us.
Nuara screamed and dived over the tree trunk as I swung the staff around in a panicked flail, yelping in surprise. The Sorrowahk caught the staff just below the blade and tore it out of my grasp, throwing it away.
"For a Matoran, you have become a sizeable nuisance." It seethed, slamming me over the trunk with a backhand strike with its forearm. Holding the battered shoulder in my hand, I forced myself to my feet, eyes locked on the rahkshi's discarded heavy weapon. With an enraged hiss, the rahkshi grabbed my from behind, driving my face-first into the trunk of a standing tree, then threw me to the ground.
With a groan of pain, I tried to right myself but was flipped over onto my back by the gigantic beast. Pinning me in place with a mechanical foot, it extended its own telescopic staff and brought it up like a dagger. "[i]I will enjoy thisss." it spoke, splaying its helmet, its words devolving into a rahi hiss of victory.
Suddenly, the creature was illuminated in a greenish purple glare. Thrown aside by the blast, it began to force itself back upright on damaged arms, but a second blast threw it into a ditch, sending metal platelets flying in all directions.
"I wouldn't count on that." a defiant Ga-Matoran delivered from behind the barrel of the shadowcannon, dew still rising off of the muzzle in streams of vapour. "That was for Ga Waru."
Speechless, I rose unsteadily to my feet as she dropped the weapon, running over to see if I was all right.
"That was- was-" I stammered, staring in disbelief at Nuara, who was now recovering the rahkshi staff from the panrahk.
"Do you think we're going to need this any more?" She asked, turning the weapon over in her hands.
"N-no, I-" I began, cut short by a heave of metal behind me. Nuara stuck the tail end of the staff into the ground as the tattered rahkshi rose behind me. Expecting an attack, I dived aside but the creature shrieked a hiss of hatred and fury and took to the air, leaving its weapons behind.
Nuara began to laugh nervously as the defeated rahkshi sped away, slowly collapsing into a giggling fit. "I- Wow! I don't think he's going to bother us again!" she managed as she caught her breath.
"I take it back, Nuara, you're a fully fledged Muaka! Can you carry that thing back to the village?" I asked, in awe.
"It weights a ton. I could barely lift it before." she answered, shaking her head. "So long as we're careful, I think just the staff will be enough to keep it at bay."
Suddenly, doubt crossed my mind and I felt myself falling into the embrace of fear once more "Do you think it went back to Ragi-"
"We have to get back to the village NOW!" Nuara cut in. "We can't take that chance!"
We sped through what short distance was left of our journey in terror, charging back into the village. Matoran stared in confusion as the two of us, covered in dirt, bruised, cut and exhausted ran through through the centre of the town carrying an active rahkshi staff. Almost knocking down the door, we burst into Nathek's hut, calling out for the Turaga.
Whatever we thought we'd find in Nathek's hut, it wasn't anything like what lay before us: The room was full of Toa paraphernalia, a specific four.
"Is this his old team, do you think?" Nuara murmured, running a hand over a painting of the four toa: three well-built Toa clad in metallic grey and black; red and gold; and black and orange. The smallest of the four, a Ga-Toa, looked like she barely belonged in the same group.
Entering silently from behind a veil, our Turaga answered "Yes, Nuara. My brothers Tarthus and Pharos, and sister Heyana. We were the most glorious, iconic Toa Team in all of Mata Nui's domain, or so we were told."
"What happened to you? Why do we never hear about them?" I asked, surprised that he'd devoted so much of his time and home to them without telling us they'd ever existed.
"Toa Pharos and Heyana are no longer with us, Takal. I can't help but drift back into the memories of what we were, but I could never tell about them. It's... painful to relive their deaths." He answered solemnly.
"I understand, Turaga." Nuara comforted. "We're far too familiar with the feeling ourselves."
"...And I'm sorry I left you to go through it. Whatever glory and honour I once had is now long-dissipated, and I find myself serving the tyrant who now rules our island, a beast who's intentions I've been aware of for some time now. As a Toa, I was a hero, but as a Turaga I am a coward and a failure"
"You knew!?" Nuara charged past me, pulling a staff end from my hand "All along, while we died searching for something to prove to you, you KNEW!? A coward and a failure? No, you are a traitor and a backstabber! My whole village burned to the ground because of you!"
Grabbing the Turaga's shoulder, she pinned him against the wall, holding the staff tip to his throat.
"I should kill you right now, you traitorous piece o-" she began through clenched teeth.
"It's no more than I deserve." he agreed, offering no resistance "But your time would be much better spent running. The rahkshi you damaged is on its way."
Dropping the weapon, she spun herself to face back at the entrance as a shadow fell across the doorway. Holding the single end tip-out, I fired three pulses, none of which connected with the ruined beast that strode towards me, pinning me up against the painting by my throat, tearing the fabric. The rahkshi's spine armour lay in tatters, with the scalded kraata revealed in several places, skin black and cracked where the cannon had struck. The helmet had disintegrated almost entirely, and many pistons on the right shoulder had been completely severed.
"No. Not after all this. It can't..." Nuara managed to say through disbelief and terror as I choked against the wall, beating on the robotic arms helplessly.
"If I didn't submit to him, he would have destroyed all of the villages as he did yours, Nuara." Nathek tried to apologise, though the Ga-matoran was no longer paying any attention. I reached out for the rahkshi's kraata, but fell hopelessly short.
"A fate that may still befall you if this is allowed to happen again, Turaga!" the rahkshi hissed as it let me go. I dropped straight to the ground, not bothering to land on my feet.
"She should have killed you. You're no better than them!" I shouted at the Turaga, "And after so much, just to be killed in your home - it's not fair!" I couldn't believe it - it just wasn't right, wasn't how it should go...
"Kill you?" the rahkshi hissed sadistic laughter "My master needs Matoran, and they must be alive. You will go to his hive. If you do attempt to run, I will simply kill the both of you. I would vassstly prefer that you ran."
Had I known what was coming, I would have run there and then.
Posted: Aug 26 2012, 03:14 PM
Toa of Thunder
Group: Forum Administrator
Member No.: 11
Joined: 22-July 09