Things had been dreadfully melancholy since the old geezer went down the tubes in Onu-Koro, cut down by an agent of the Four Peers after just the teensiest public spectacle. The Village of Earth was a far cry from its normal hustle and industrial bustle: all was quiet in the wake of Whenua’s assassination, and somewhere, in an otherwise-empty bar in the middle of an otherwise-empty district, two mercenaries for a certain Gyn Kirsug sat in the rec room playing pool, though it was very clear their hearts weren’t in it.
One, a Skakdi of Ice with attractive features and a grim look on her face, knocked the white ball carefully with the grace of someone who had wielded swords all her life: the pool stick worked like an extension of her arm, sending the ball into several striped pool balls and scoring her one, two, three, four, five points. The other Skakdi groaned, threw up his hands, and then dropped the pool stick against the edge of the table. This on was nowhere near as attractive, but there was still something off about him: he was a Skakdi of Fire, dark, powerful, a red shirt covering up a variety of battle scars earned in the name of Gyn, and the way he casually discarded the pool stick would have been enough to break a Matoran’s back if it had been dropped on him. The utensil, but created no other sound: the Ice Skakdi took a second to glance disparagingly at her companion before going again, this time scoring a measly one point.
The male Skakdi walked over to the bar, poured two more drinks, slid one down the pool table for his partner to sip on. The ale went untouched as the Skakdi lined up another shot and then set the pool stick down reverently, much more so than her partner had; she seemed to recognize the folly of smacking around a couple balls in such an environment with only one person there to watch as the competition unfolded. The male shook his head with a small laugh and then downed his in a lackluster gulp, a motion sorely limited in the energy department.
“Look on the bright side, Aexias.”
“Vat bright side could zerr POSSIBLY be to zis, Rehd Shurrt?”
The Skakdi opened his gaping mouth to answer, but no words ever spilled from the cavernous maw: a shadow blipped out from behind the bar and then came up behind the Skakdi of Fire, sliding a gladius carefully and lovingly through his chest. Red Shirt choked thrice on his own blood, tried to force out a warning to Aexias, before the sword was yanked unceremoniously from his vertebrae, where the tip had been lodged, and the mercenary fell.
In his place stood a woman, just a hair’s shorter than normal and starved looking for a Toa, beautiful, but slightly unhinged looking: though her appearance was neat and matted, there was something in her deep brown eyes, a smoky tendency, that made even gazing past the outer layers of her irises feel dangerous. Aexias felt her spine crawl: it was sudden and sharp, a slow trickle of ice water down the back. It was a reaction she was unaccustomed to, and she went to move before the Toa was on top of her, bending her at the waist so that she was laid down evenly from the small of her back to the tip of her head on the pool table. The Toa grinned, waved slightly, and then released Aexias’ wrists from her cool, smooth grip; though she was no longer bound by the Toa of Plasma, the Skakdi of Ice still could not move, for the Toa had her pinned in such as fashion that even the slightest move would open her up to a variety of positions that would be anything but favorable in close quarters combat. Her assailant hovered over her curiously, like a child holds a present close to his face on his birthday, trying to see through the top of the box and discern what’s inside before ripping the packaging apart.
“Listen, I want both of us to have fun tonight,” the Toa chirped, her voice far too cheerful when juxtaposed with the blood freshly spilled onto her hands, “but if you so much as try and throw a punch, I’ll turn all 27 of the bones in the offending hand to dust, mmkai?”
Aexias merely nodded in response, eyes mutinous; the Toa grinned.
“You’re Aexias,” the Toa continued, speaking in statements rather than hypothesis; her eyes seemed to fill with more of that mysterious smoke as she talked, lending more enigma to the very air around her. “Skakdi mercenary, one of the best on this podunk little rock. You’re an excellent fencer, you have a penchant for faking your own death, and somehow, you keep finding the time to look absolutely beautiful in between it all. Just, coincidentally, someone who I’d like to have on my side. Believe you me, sweetie, we are gonna have SO. MUCH. FUN. TOGETHER.”
As the last four words eked out of her mouth, her hands balled suddenly into fists, fingers becoming slick with Rehd Shurrt’s blood, and banged on the pool table on either side of Aexias’ pretty face. The grin never changed, nor did the eyes; Aexias felt a sudden chill of fear examining that face, beautiful, yet somehow contorted in a fickle sort of madness that almost seemed to come and go, as if it were a beast on a leash, a wolf with a half-working muzzle. A sudden snap: the wood underneath the green felt of the pool table gave out, and the woman’s hands ripped through the top of the table as though it were paper, leaving gaping holes on either size of the Skakdi’s head.
“This is so weird. I just had one of those moments where you feel like you’ve dreamed this exact moment in time before,” the Toa whispered, as if she were sharing her crush on the schoolyard. “You ever get that, Aexias?”
“And who are you, again?” the Skakdi asked, her voice finally returned, now with a somewhat spiteful tone. The Toa didn’t seem to notice; on the contrary, she seemed almost flattered that Aexias cared enough to ask. As the Toa pushed away from her, Aexias’ eyes flicked towards the glass of ale and for a second, she looked like she would’ve almost considered drinking it just to soothe her nerves, but the Pa-Toa shook her head and withdrew a small vial of rat poison from her pocket, grabbed her collar, stuck her tongue out and made a choking sound. Aexias’ eyes slowly made their way to the back of the pool table, to Rehd Shurrt’s glass, knocked to the floor beside his lifeless body, and the ale sliding off the bottom of the glass, blending with his hot blood. In front of her, the Toa giggled. Another shiver of fear down Aexias’ normally-collected spine.
“Again,” she repeated, “who are you, and vhat business do you have vith me?”
“Oh, wow, I’m sorry, I must seem terribly rude,” the Toa of Plasma replied, sitting down on the other pool table and casually snapping the pool stick with a giggle: both sharp edges were twirled around like batons, almost for fun, it would appear, for a minute or so before being jammed into the ground like gladiator’s swords in the middle of a coliseum. When she seemed satisfied that they wouldn’t budge anytime soon, she stood again and reached out her hand for a shake, barely restraining a small, excited giggle.
“My name’s Anyanka. Now, how about you and me try some girl talk on for size?”