A lone De-Toa sat in his cell, held within the Sanctum Headquarters. The bars were bent, the interference of an unknown Fe-Toa down the corridor. He had a chance to escape, if he could merely muster the strength to stand, to walk. It should have been easy. Walking was something so many took for granted, something so many appreciated without really understanding its worth. Krian could not muster the strength to move far, perhaps not even halfway down the hall. That was the curse the Valkyr, Anthyn, had placed upon him. She had robbed him of his strength, of his vitality.
But it was more than that. She had taken away his soul, his very essence. What made him, him. Mankind can overcome so many obstacles, so many challenges. They can push themselves beyond what they should be able to endure, beyond the limits of their mortal frame. But that is because of their spirit. Their drive, their determination. Their soul. Without it, Krian was nothing. His limits were imposed, set in stone, and limited even further by the Valkyr’s actions. Not only could he never again exceed the bounds of his body, his body itself was weakened.
Even if he could force himself to stand, to walk out of his cell, there was no point. He would follow Kai, and he would arrive too late. He would arrive too late, and people would pay with their lives. It had occurred so many times already, it was inevitable. No matter how fiercely he fought, how hard he tried, Kai would get away. And if he could not deal with Kai, a single Vortixx, he had no hope. No hope of defeating the one he sought vengeance against. No hope of beating the Valkyr, of reclaiming what was stolen. He had no hope of success, in any aspect of his life. His only goals, the only reason for his continued existence, were kept out of his reach. They defied him, mocked his weakness.
He had no reason to exist.
Such a defeatist outlook does not suit you, Krian the Soundblaster. It goes against your inherent will, your determination.
In his mind, a presence appeared. Though he had not truly realized, the presence had been there for a long time. It had appeared shortly after the ritual that took everything from him, shortly before Kai stole from him the one meaning left in his life. It had been there all along, but quiet, dormant. Though now, Krian realized, it wasn’t dormant. It was watching.
What... What are you?
You already know the answer to that question. The presence answered, drawing the De-Toa’s attention to what his instincts had been telling him. He had felt a consciousness like this before, though it was somehow softer. It did not feel malevolent, as the first had done. It was not kind. No, it was firm. But somehow.... He knew it was good.
No. Not like that one. Similar, yes. But very different. That one exists to bring destruction, to bring your world under her heel. And though you do not know it, there is another. Another like the one you know.
Yes. Far more recent, more subtle. But another has broken through.
And so, you seek to warn me. How noble of you, but I have not the strength to fight them. I have not the strength to combat their power, power that rightfully is mind.
You are wrong. You see yourself as permanently weakened, never again to be strong enough to fight back. You see your physical limits, and you give in. You see no solution, only defeat.
Am I wrong? My strength has been stripped from me, my very soul stolen. I am not who I was, I am a shell. A shadow of who I once was.
And yet, in your shade, you have found greater purpose than ever before. You once again have goals to strive for, you once again have the will to seek them out. No longer are you beholden to the undecided path of a mercenary, you have found your true path again. Those like you have not. One seeks to fill his days, perhaps regain the strength to kill the one behind this, and regain himself. Another follows like a lost pup, always yearning for something, though they have mistaken what it is they yearn for. A third has been destroyed so completely that even now, he is only beginning to regain his sense of self. The rest have fallen into depression, become angry and cynical, given up on the paths they were meant to walk.
And that’s wonderful. I have purpose. Purpose is nothing without the ability to fulfill it, without a way to follow it, to make it a reality. There are many dreamers, but only some have the strength to make their dreams reality. I failed to save so many, and only know do I start to realize how horrific it truly was. How much I had desensitized myself not only to my own actions, but the actions of those around me.
But you feel guilt. You see the horror. Even if it a sight only recently reawakened, it is one you followed, even while blind. You sought to end both of your foes, for vengeance. But inside the shell of vengeance, a core of justice was buried. Amongst all of you hate was a reason to put it right.
It is pointless. I have not the power to carry it out, no matter how much I might strive to.
You have given up already. It is disappointing, to see a will so strong brought low by a handful of failures. The deaths because of your failures should not deter you, they should be fuel for your will. They should be the reasons you fight to put things right, to make amends to the souls lost because of your weakness. You claim weakness alone forced your defeat, but that is not so. Your determination made you fight long past the point when anyone without your determination would have long since fallen. Physical weakness does not eliminate your drive for justice.
You misunderstand me.
I understand you better than you understand yourself. You have played the villain for so long, but even then you have clung to a code, a code so dear to you that upon breaking it you promptly gave up that path. Have you forgotten?
That was... It....
You try to deny it. But you can’t. For what point did that code truly serve? It prevented you from harming innocents, from harming the helpless. It helped to keep your conscience, in some small way, clear.
You have the will to win. You have the skills to win. You have the moral strength to do what must be done, even if it does not seem like the right decision to those around you. You have the mental fortitude to force yourself forward, even when your body demands to be allowed to rest. All that you lack is the power to do what you must.
And what is your point? I cannot fix that. I cannot restore that power. The one before you stole it, and I cannot take it back.
You are right. Your soul is lost, most likely for good. Nothing, not even her death, will change that. It is because of your lack of a soul, because of what was stolen from you in your brief contact with my realm, that I am able to speak with you now.
But what if I told you I could give you that power?
..... You have no way to give me my strength back.
You are right. I don’t. But you do no wish to continue, do you? It is why you are content to remain here, in this cell, even though your fate is most certainly death. I cannot give you your strength back. But mine still remains.
You suggest that I surrender my body. My existence, so that you might come into this world, and do what I cannot.
Without a soul, I will cease to exist, won’t I?
Most likely. Some part of you will remain, buried deep, but you will no longer be your own being. You will become components, parts of a greater whole.
A trade. My life, for the power to do that which is necessary.
Yes. I will come through to your realm, I will restore the balance. I will right the wrongs, and accomplish your goals where you could not.
This is my deal. Your body, for the power to do what must be done. Your existence, for the righting of the wrongs. Do you accept my contract?
For the first time in the days since his imprisonment, Krian stood. He did not shake, he did not sway on his feet. His posture was firm, assured. For the first time since Ga-Wahi, he was himself. Powerful, strong, and determined.
Then farewell, Krian. Though you feel you do not deserve it, I think you shall find that your fate is not as grim as it seems. No, you are not bound for Karzahni. I think a much more pleasant destination awaits you.
No sooner did those words pass through Krian’s mind, a blinding light fill his cell. The other prisoners averted their eyes, some in fear, some already blinded, and others out of reverence. For the light was accompanied by an overwhelming sensation of power, of angelic brilliance. Neither kind nor cruel, but always firm in its path. Guards raced forward, seeking to determine what devilry was behind the event, and what prisoner the effect came from. But even they were forced to look away, for the light was too bright, even when their eyes were tightly closed.
This was the bargain Atrin had promised. One life, one consciousness, for the power to put things right.