It was dark, but Heuani hadn't found darkness unnerving for a long time; he inhabited it, after all. What kept his shackles raised instead was the stillness and quiet which pervaded that darkness now. Despite the presence of others around him in an echo chamber of a room, Heuani's ears only registered an ambient ringing; there were no inadvertent shuffling noises, no coughs or exchanged words or even audible breath to muffle the dim ping. The others were as quiet as he was, another similarity that dissolved unpleasantly in Heuani's stomach as it entered his mind.
Here the Toa of Shadow had been, standing in a loose line with his five destined kin - he recalled the last time they had done so - for minutes, yet none of the others nor Heuani had moved or made a sound. Heuani was used to being around much noisier beings, or else being alone; silence was not customarily related to company. The unshakeable, mild paranoia that came with the fear of a sudden noise grew like a weed in Heuani's mind. The Toa of Shadow did not need to close his eyes to find darkness in which he could gather his thoughts. He tried to calm himself, and he slowed his breathing as best he could; there was a marginal difference. What did he fear? That a pin might drop? It was irrational. Heuani chided himself for being so childish, and in doing so he clung for the umpteenth time in the past few hours to the stability of self-criticism. Only by reminding himself that he was losing his touch could he keep clear what he'd once touched. He was slipping; he resolved not to slip; he would slip.
Heuani felt that he was losing the battle against a frustrating, evasive, ultimately chilling insecurity.
Within the course of just a night, Heuani's assurance of his identity had been excommunicated from his empty soul: firstly by his loss to Joske, and secondly by the revelation of the survival of his kin. Both blows had hammered him in a core he'd long forgotten about, fragmented his vision like impacts on a glass window, and sent him sprawling again and again into a detached numbness. It was extraordinary, a divergent fragment of him chimed in with malicious comedy, that such devastating blows came in quick succession. He was drowning in the thick mud of upended perspective. His subconscious immortality was shattered by a cheating Toa of Fire; whatever peace of mind remained after that shameful loss was smothered by the return of Heuani's former team. He had betrayed them to become what he was, and to have seen them emerge from the ground as his mirror images was a ghastly nightmare. The frothing earth from which they had emerged, the moment of his epiphany, replayed neurotically in Heuani's mind.
Once more, he remarked on his idiocy, a long-standing one, at that. Why had he ever believed the terms of his master's deal? After all, why would Makuta have settled for one weapon when he could have just as easily have had six? Heuani hadn't considered these questions before - he'd been overeager and naive in the moment of his betrayal - but now their answers stood like statues on either side of him. Heuani knew that his deal with the darkness must not have been the only one made: his had merely been the first. Heuani was the flaw in otherwise thick ice that, when struck right, created exploitable fissures. The other Toa had surely been stung by his betrayal, and that must have been an easy point of entry for the same coercive voices that had taken hold of him so long ago. They, like he, had been cast into an inferno and emerged ashen.
These Toa all have new names, he reminded himself. They had not yet spoken, but Heuani had been given plenty of time to obsess over the ramifications of their return.
The others had been changed. Now they were like him, and not just elementally. Around Heuani stood four godly male bodies, irresistible arrangements of features that he found his eyes uncontrollably drawn to. The four faces were heightened versions of their former selves, all clean lines and immaculate proportion, like his own visage. Their armor, like Heuani's, was sharp at the same time as it was smooth; the forms were precise as sword blades, rippling daggers that pierced the mind and drew the eyes. Heuani, when he had looked cursorily at the others, had finally been given the relativity of his own attractiveness; if this was how other beings felt looking at him, he had wondered... Makuta had clever, masterful hands indeed. Among his other more confused and painful reactions to seeing the rest of his kin, Heuani was able to locate distinct pride: he knew that he was as handsome as they. Only Joske's mark tainted his - their cumulative - flawlessness.
But all the devilish tempters were forgettable beside the temptress next to Heuani.
She was a dream, the bestial acceleration of the heart. She was full-body warmth and she was cold, nervous spears in the ribs. She was firm curves, shapely elegance, the tension of slow caresses. She was a graceful, feline stride, the smiling air between eager lips, the visceral thrill of touching. She was the throb of blood in the ears, the gentle exhale of satisfaction. She was the adventure of unspoiled innocence and the allure of skillful experience. She was the comfort of familiarity and the anticipation of secrets withheld. Her face seemed to Heuani mutable, indescribable, for looking on it he was aware simultaneously of her playful humor as her beautiful wisdom, her coyness as her confidence, her pleasure as her pain.
She had hardly needed to be improved by Makuta to be so attractive; even the astute Heuani couldn't tell what had been altered. Yet by merely looking at her changed form for the first time, Heuani had been set instantly afire. Remembering his first impressions of her, the Toa of Shadow could not resist looking again. He turned his head slowly and simply stared; he noted in a corner of his thoughts that his rapture was far too deep for him to be at all apologetic for his hungry gaze. The short look she gave him in return, attempting indifference, could not dissuade him from continuing to devour her graceful, sensual figure, athletic yet soft, with his imagination. The minimal light that fell on her midnight armor only accentuated her gorgeous features, darkened her expressive, albeit enigmatic, golden eyes. Heuani pleaded with his own eyes; he needed her to meet his gaze and unclothe her spirit. She would not look. He had to act.
Heuani's footfalls broke the silence of the dark room, drawing the lazy attention of all the other four male Toa; they looked on casually, and some started to walk in for a better view. She watched him too as he took a few short steps towards her, approached until he was close enough that he could grab one of her flawless hands. She looked down at the connection, and Heuani stroked the inside of her palm lightly with his fingertips. Her fingers were limp in his, but the mere contact was enough to send a flood of emotion high into Heuani's cheeks. She looked up at his face, lips subtly pursed, and her irises traced Joske's mark before locking into Heuani's eyes. Heuani thought he recognized a spark in her dark pools, and his fingers glided over her of their own accord, slipped about her perfect waist and drew her close-
"Stop," she said simply, stiffening under Heuani's grip. Heuani let his fingers fall. "I have not forgotten."
Heuani bowed his head for a moment, exhaling, before looking back up. "Neither have I," he said, smiling more weakly than he intended. He had lent no lightness to the situation.
"We haven't forgotten, either," said one of the male Toa. Heuani's chest gripped angrily; he recognized the cadences of that voice, and hearing it set him on edge, as it always had. "You broke."
"I did not break," Heuani retorted sharply, spinning to the male Toa. "I made a choice. I saw that I had a choice."
"You chose betrayal," the other Toa said, approaching Heuani. They were still the same height - that had always bothered Heuani - and the other Toa even looked a little like Heuani, now that their faces had been carved by the same sculptor. "You chose to follow your selfish impulses. It isn't admirable."
"I-" Heuani said, before stopping himself. He looked back at the dark beauty; she was watching him impassively, and even her distance seduced him. He noticed the way her hand stroked the stone wall, and envied the rock face. "I followed my heart," he pleaded to her. "You have to see-"
"You no longer have a heart," the other Toa sneered, stepping between Heuani and the female Toa. "None of us do, not now. Our hearts have been lodged in others. Once we kill them, we will be able to retake what was ours."
"Who do you think took our hearts out of us in the first place?" Heuani grinned sadistically, gleeful at his informational advantage as he spoke to all the others. "Our master took our hearts, and then he lost them... They were taken by the Chronicler, no less..."
"The Chronicler?" another one of the Toa asked. "I never liked-enjoyed him much. He annoyed-pestered me, and so did his-"
"Even if our master did take our hearts, as you claim," the Toa facing Heuani interrupted, staring him down. "When we kill the usurpers, we will be able to take them back. It was a condition of my deal, and of the others' deals as well."
"Our master does not keep to the conditions of deals," Heuani said exasperatedly, flicking the other Toa in the chest. "He broke the terms of mine... You were never supposed to come back, any of you."
"We'll get over it," Heuani's rival spat.
Heuani rolled his eyes, turned away. "Have you all been together since I 'broke,' then?"
"Yes," the rival replied shortly. "Mostly."
"Have you actually done anything for our master?"
"If we had, would it matter?" the rival said. There was a pause as all the Toa were silent. Heuani felt their attentions fixed on him. "We know what you did, and what you have done since," the rival commented. Heuani risked a glance at the female Toa; she regarded him sadly, coldly. She knew. Had she seen? She did not understand; Heuani had to explain.
"I couldn't match you," Heuani assured her desperately. "I needed... You were-"
"I loved you," she cut him off. "But as a brother. You took me against my will, and sentenced us to death. Do you expect forgiveness?"
"We cannot forgive you, Heuani," the rival said, using Heuani's new name with irony. "You've turned us all into monsters."
"We are beautiful," Heuani said, though his counter sounded even more hollow as it left his lips.
"A beautiful monster is still a monster," said one of the other Toa from a corner of the room.
Heuani had no answer for that, so he sat down dejectedly on a rocky protrusion and looked at the ground. The others, deciding the conversation was over, returned to their standing spots and assumed silence. Heuani was behind them on the wall; his eyes were drawn again to the gorgeous silhouette of the female Toa, who stood before him. She seemed to feel his gaze, so she turned. Heuani smiled with as much charm as he could muster. "...Come sit," he said. "I promise I won't touch you, though that will be difficult." His smile faded as she ignored his attempt at playfulness, but she sat anyway.
"What do you want to say?" she asked guardedly.
"I don't know," Heuani admitted.
"Fine," she consented cautiously, starting to stand. "Maybe you'll think of it."
"What can I call you, now?" Heuani asked, stopping her.
"...Is that it?" she said with a half-smile that made Heuani's chest ache.
"No," he said. "But I still want to know."
"Reka," she said.
"Reka," he agreed. She left him sitting alone.
But for all his efforts, Heuani still could not banish her real name from his mind.