This story is the second in a series of stories featuring the Matoran Inika. You can read it's companion, What We Become, here. However, these stories can really be read in any order. As always, I would welcome any comments or constructive criticism. Nuparu is next.
What We Destroy
Those Who Burn Episode Two by Yukiko
For a fire to start, there are those who must burn
The first thing Hahli thought was this is wrong.
She was sitting on top of a crag that emerged from the ocean under a sky full of stars. They were bright and familiar, yet at the same time they did not make sense.
Hahli turned around, searching for something familiar in the strange landscape. This can’t be. I’m back on Mata Nui!
She took a deep breath, trying to reassure herself that there was logical explanation for her situation. They must have broken through the barrier, and somehow she must have been separated from the others, and then...
Hahli scrambled down the rock, nearly falling into the water as she looked for the remains of the toa canister she had been traveling in. Nothing. Cupping her hand , she took a sip of the water and spit it back out. The taste was bitter. She was definitely past the great barrier. With absolutely no idea of how she had gotten there.
She gazed at her reflection on the sea’s surface, feeling her Kanohi to reassure herself. Yes, this was the same mask that Karzahni had given her. That had not been a dream.
Or perhaps, she thought. I’m dreaming right now. That would explain a lot. Why I’m in a place that makes no sense, why I have no idea how-
Beneath her reflection, something moved.
Hahli started, clambering up the rock as a figure emerged from the water. Her rational mind told her that if she was dreaming, there was really no point in running away from whatever was emerging from the sea. Her irrational mind didn’t care.
But how could I have dreamed up this?
The first movement that she had noticed had been the being’s bright blue eyes. And the rest...for a moment Hahli though of the half-rahi Toa Hordika, but no, this-she was clearly a toa, most likely a toa of water. She wore a Kanohi and sleak,fitted armor, yet there was still something different about her. Her body movement was almost too fluid. She crawled up unto the rock as if she were swimming through the air.
“Are you going to keep staring at me like that?”
The toa folded her fins-great shimmering, blue and silver, winglike things-across here back as Hahli struggled to answer her. (Of course she can talk, gukko brain.)
“I-I where am I? Is this close to Voya Nui?”
The toa shook her head. “Voya Nui? You’re not going to get there anytime soon, unless you can fly. No, we are on Mata Nui. What’s left of it, anyway.”
Hahli blinked. The toa’s voice was starting to sound familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it.
“What do you mean, what’s left of it? I don’t understand.”
She locked eyes with the toa. “But I want to. Tell me what happened. Please.”
The toa stared straight back at Hahli, and for a moment her gaze seemed to waver and soften. Hahli was almost sure she was going to start crying. Then she looked away, and that weakness was gone.
“Are you sure you want to to know?” she said in the same soft monotone.
“I’m a chronicler. It’s my business to tell the world of the past, to record events so that they will not be forgotten.”
“And why are you here, Chronicler?”
Hahli felt the toa’s eyes on her, examining her. She squirmed, despite herself. “Because I-”
“Because others didn’t want you to know, to understand. What makes you think that I give you an answer when others withheld it from you? You went to find to the truth for yourself. That’s the best way, the only way.” The toa turned her eyes to the ocean, gazing out across it. “But it is also the way that hurts the most.”
“And how am I supposed to find out anything for myself now?” Hahli almost shouted at the toa. “I’m on a spirit-forsaken rock in the middle of the ocean without anyway off of it! You obviously have nothing better to do, so why aren’t you telling me anything?”
The toa said nothing for a few seconds, apparently ignoring what had just been said to her.
“It was mistake.”
“What?” said Hahli, still struggling to keep her voice in check, “I still have no idea what-”
“It was a mistake,” said the toa. “The entire island of Mata Nui was a mistake. Every plant, every rahi, every rock and cave and river...all just the result of a malfunction, which has now been fixed.”
The toa pointed over Hahli’s right shoulder with her-no, where the three middle fingers of the toa’s right hand should have been were glittering, razor-sharp metal talons. Hahli’s back prickled as she twisted around, keeping one eye on her companion.
Now that she saw it, Hahli wondered why she hadn’t noticed it before.
It blocked off half the sky, a huge black thing that stretched up into infinity. It was too dark to see, but it seemed vaguely like the top half of a statue. Near its summit, something cast a dull red glow, illuminating a huge angular head.
“One little island doesn’t stand much of a chance against that, does it?” the toa said.
“Yes,” was the only word Hahli could manage at first. Then the questions started swarming their way into her skull. She turned back to the strange toa.
“What is that? Who are you? Where do you come from? What happened-”
Hahli paused, out of breath.
“Am I dreaming? I must be dreaming. There’s no other explanation.”
The toa sighed and closed her eyes. Hahli found herself feeling relieved. There was something that bothered her about the toa’s eyes, like her voice. She felt as if she had seen them before, but she had no idea where or when.
“We are both dreaming, I think,” said the toa, opening her eyes. “And when we wake up, you will forget. And maybe I will remember, but it won’t be much help. Just another reminder that I’ve lost.”
“Toa don’t lose,” said Hahli. There was something about this toa’s manner that scared her. “They keep going, even when all hope is lost, because they have the three virtues to guide them.”
The toa turned away, staring at the ocean again. “Do you really believe that? Or are you just saying it?”
“Surely you haven’t lost everything,” Hahli said, trying to keep her voice steady. Please, say there’s some hope. If the toa nuva have gone, we need it.
“Oh, but I want to believe,” said the toa. “But it’s so hard, waking up in the morning and feeling that the walls are watching me. Knowing it. I’ve killed, Chronicler, even if it was just filthy Makuta spawn. Do your rules even apply to me?”
She seemed to be speaking to herself now. “The worst part is knowing that I can live in the darkness, see in the darkness. I feel like I’m going mad, but I’ve come to expect it. And I can’t help but wondering if the darkness has gotten inside me, and that is the only reason I’m alive now.”
Then she looked at Hahli, and Hahli felt her body grow rigid with fear. She had seen that look once before in the eyes of Turaga Nokama while the elder had been caring for a rahi mortally injured by the Bohrak.
It was the look you gave to someone that you knew was about to die.
“I am sorry.” The toa said.
Hahli tried to stand, but her feet slid on the wet rock and she had to grab for a handhold. Her palms stung. (If this is a dream, the voice of panic whispered inside her head, it wouldn’t hurt.) Nowhere to run. Nowhere but the vast expanse of ocean, from where this toa had first emerged. She faced the stranger, who continued to look at her with that awful, pitying stare.
“I will destroy you,” she said, but without hardness, which somehow made the statement more terrible. “I will grind it all away, you innocence, your gentleness, your faith, until there is only myself left.”
As Hahli’s mind fumbled for half-realized comprehension, the toa spoke again. And as she spoke, she leapt at Hahli, her fins extended.
“Until there is only Hahli.”
The weight of the toa’s words hit Hahli along with the water. In one flash of clarity, she realized why the toa’s voice had sounded so familiar.
But there was little time for thought, because they were going down fast, further down that Hahli had ever managed to swim. The light faded, and Hahli’s lungs began to protest. Then the shock faded, and the panic set in.
I am going to die down here, in the dark, with thousands of bio of water above me and no one will know what happened to me.
She flailed weakly, but that only increased the burn in her chest and limbs. The water pressed down harder, insisting.
She opened her mouth.
Water rushed down her throat, but the feeling was strange. It wasn’t like drowning, or at least how she had imagined drowning to be. It was like the entire ocean was roaring inside her, filling not just her lungs, but her entire body, seeping into her hands and feet and crowding out her thoughts with the sound of crashing waves. She felt as if she might explode with the power that the shell of her could no longer contain.
The last thing she glimpsed before the feeling overtook her were the toa’s blue eyes, floating in the darkness like two luminescent see creatures.
She remembered how she had first seen them, rising from her own reflection.
Hahli woke, gasping for breath.
She grasped the sloping metal sides of the canister, still inhaling great gulps of air until she became lightheaded. Then reason set in, and she wondered why she had been in such desperate need of air.
There was something, she thought. Something I dreamed.
She groped for some memory of what had caused her to panic, but there was nothing, just a big blank spot of time between when she had slipped into the canister and where she found herself now.
Deciding that pursuing her former train of thought wasn’t going to get her anywhere, Hahli started to look for some indication of where she was. She felt her way against the cool rounded sides of the canister toward the front. On the way, her hands ran into something and she stopped, feeling until her fingers slid around a round object. She pulled, and something came away in her hand, something long that clanked against the floor of the canister. She set it to the side, making a mental note to take it with her once she had gotten out of the canister to see what it was.
It might be a good idea to have something to defend herself with anyway.
Crawling forward, she groped along for a hand hold in the pitch darkness. However, the lid of the canister moved easily once she found a grip. Holding the weapon in front of her, she walked forward into the night.
Hahli stood up, feeling odd. She had to hold out her hands to steady herself. All that time inside the canister must have affected her sense of balance. Despite this, she felt good, energized. The raindrops lashing her arm felt electric on her skin, as if they might leap into the air again.
She blinked once, to clear her eyes of the rain.
Edited by Yukiko, Nov 27 2011 - 01:39 PM.