Clang. Clang. Clang.
Again and again, day after day, the Toa had worked exhaustive, menial labor.
She had enlisted herself three weeks prior into a large workforce of Matoran, assisting in the building of a walled village on a particularly Rahi-infested portion of the Southern Continent.
It was monotonous, mind-numbing, utterly dull work.
That was precisely what she wanted.
But her life was so tedious, so blatantly unfulfilled. The remnants of her past, those horrific, ghastly memories, stalked her in the day and tormented her by night.
She briefly let the sounds of the construction wash over her, filling her mind with blankness for the briefest of instants - until reality and her memories elbowed back into her psyche, jockeying for her attention once more.
She could not live with herself if she continued to truly be a Toa. To live as one, in her mind, would be to defile her brothers and sisters – all those that were, are, and were yet to be, the ones that deserved to be known as heroes and heroines. She lived by her own rules now, revoking by her own accord her status as a Toa, solemnly vowing never to use her elemental or mask powers again.
Her abilities had failed her. Every moment of her life was spent thinking about what had happened, or wishing ever so hard that something would whisk her back into her past so she could have a chance to correct her brutal mistakes.
She had to exhaust herself, as she had been doing for a while. Pushing herself to exhaustion was the only way she could rest, the only way to make herself feel in any way useful to the universe, the only way she could now live.
A Matoran’s voice interrupted her endless void of thought, jerking her mind back to the real world.
She glanced down. A Le-Matoran was staring back up at her, holding a hefty stone block. He released it, letting gravity take hold and slam it into the turf. Particulates of dust congealed around the edges and curled up into the air.
“Hello, Arkapi. Need some help with that stone?”
Arkapi half smirked, half grimaced. “You know, if you used your mask – what’s that, a mask of telekinesis? – you could really help us out. It’d make the build go a whole lot faster.”
“I can’t.” She paused, breathing, trying to compose herself. Her memories needed only the slightest stimulation to painfully and completely resurface. “I shouldn’t.” Her voice was breaking up.
“What, are you phobic of masks or something? Maybe being a Toa isn’t the right line of work for you, eh?” the Le-Matoran joked.
“It isn’t,” Puone replied sharply and quickly. Tears were welling up behind her mask.
Throwing down her tools, she briskly walked away from her briefly adopted life and into the hills and forests beyond.
There really wasn’t a place for her in the world.
* * *
She had traversed the hills, woods, and rocky outcroppings. She didn’t know how far she’d been going, but she knew was on the run from her past once again. But physical distance has no effect on emotions and memories, and only time would teach her that lesson. Until she learned it, or acknowledged that she knew it, she would have to rely on the numbing effects of exhaustion to drag her on through her miserable excuse for a life.
Now, here she was, kios from any civilization in a mountainous section of the Southern Continent. A dank storm malignantly brewed, lightning generating in its gloomy bowels and finally crashing to the earth in the distance. The fringes of the same storm had reached the trees above, sprinkling them with water from the sky.
Tired, alone, and now wet, she sank to the ground.
* * *
The gap in the trees ahead came forth into her field of vision, yielding a great and bustling village full of bright and happy Matoran. Her eyes darted around – it was like she remembered, but yet couldn’t quite.
Shadows sneered out from the sides of the city from the woods beyond, engulfing the buildings and streets in fire and terror as Matoran screamed and perished. Her instinct as a Toa was to help, to Karzahni with her vow of powerlessness – but yet she could not move – not even blink – as she saw before her the terror of the indefinite unknown wreaking its terrible wares upon the innocent, her body feeling drenched …
Puone started the next day in a pouring rain, jolting instantly awake in the first faint wisps of sunlight on the horizon. The main body of the storm had reached her, dumping its liquid contents upon everything below. Some water had pooled in the grooves of her mask, but she did not care to dry it out.
Getting up, she felt the strain of walking and climbing upon her legs. But, still, she had to move on. She needed to get to some shelter, at least until the rain and wind abated.
* * *
One of the few things that Puone liked was taking naps. She liked them because they weren’t overtaken by consistent nightmares, unlike her nightly rest. She had located a small outcropping under which to lie against a rock, thinking about anything she could to occupy her mental faculties. She tried to study the beauty of a small gulf that was in front of her, just beyond a few trees that obscured a perfectly idyllic view, but she had tired of that an hour previously.
Now there was something else to focus on – a patterned sound, unlike the random noises produced by simply being out in the wilderness. They were footsteps, and they were approaching.
As the rain lessened and the odor of petrichor increased in the air, Puone eased herself up off of the ground and looked around to the left and right.
Just a few paces away was Arkapi, walking staff in hand.
Puone allowed herself to return to her resting spot. “You know, I did try to get away from you. Why did you follow me? What do you want?”
The Le-Matoran eased himself down, sighing contently as he finally got off of his legs. “It’s not easy tracking a Toa down like that, especially after that storm,” he said. “I found you because I need to tell you something.” After a few seconds, he placed his hand on Puone’s armored thigh. “Thank you.”
“Of all beings, I shouldn’t be thanked,” the Toa replied, brusquely slapping the Matoran’s hand away.
“No, you should.”
Puone just growled in reply. Arkapi simply sat there, completely unfazed.
“A long while back – and this was many, many moons ago – I lived in a small village not unlike the one we’re building now. It was … attacked. Viciously. Unknown assailants ravaged it. A lot of my closest friends were killed, burned alive or … worse.” He paused briefly, gathering and then hiding his emotions. “No one knows who, or what, was really responsible. A few Toa tried in vain to stop it, only one having marginal success. But that one Toa could not stave off the forces of evil.”
Puone filled her empty heart with rage. “I have been replaying that moment in my mind for every second of my life since it occurred. It has turned my existence into a living Karzahni. I do not need to hear about it again!” She got up and began to walk off.
“You saved my life, Puone,” Arkapi said, gently, but firmly enough so Puone would stop and listen. “You saved my life, and to that I thank you and owe you an incalculable debt. No Toa could have possibly saved us all. You did well that day, and you would have been foolish to try and stay; you would have only gotten yourself killed. You saved as many of us as you could, as any Toa could, and you live to fight the forces of evil and discord again, on another day. For that, I’m proud to have known a great heroine.”
Puone took a deep breath, willing herself to stay, her back still stock-still to the Matoran. She could not accept herself as a great heroine. She had relived the moment too much to ever think that.
“One moment doesn’t have to define you, even if you think it does. You can’t change what’s gone. You can only move on and revere the past, and what it teaches us.”
“How could you possibly know anything about what I’ve been through?!” Puone screamed, half-crying, spinning around to face the Le-Matoran. “You were there. I can’t imagine you being so insufferably ignorant.”
“I lost many a friend that day, Puone. Matoran I had known all my life. I remember them, true, and I’m sad that they’re gone. Could I have saved them? Could I have done something, anything, to help them?” He looked to the ground and shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe I should have. I, too, carry a lot of weight from that fateful day. I’m not letting it go, but I’m not letting it completely define my life, my actions, the way I move on. I honor the past, but I’m not stuck in it.”
The Toa turned around. “You didn’t mention this earlier. When we were building the Koro back there, you could have easily mentioned this. Why didn’t you?”
Arkapi smiled softly. “I thought I’d give you time to get over it. I knew you had to have some grief, but I didn’t think that it would be this severe. I wanted to make it right for you, because I was one of only few in the Koro who understood who you were and knew your past.”
“And you felt like you had that responsibility.”
Puone sat back down next to the Matoran again, breathing heavily now, staring intently into the distance, like she wished to stare right past the horizon and into the mystery beyond. The dead silence, interrupted only by the chance sounds of nature, made the Matoran increasingly uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” he said at long last, picking up his sack and walking stick once again.
Minutes later, he was out of sight, traveling back down the winding path to the village. Puone still sat there, reflecting on Arkapi’s new point of view – and thinking for the first time the events of that day in a new light.
She glanced down, spying the rocks and loose pebbles on the ground. She lifted herself up off of the ground, looking about at them.
Raising her arms, she made them float.
Lightning shot across her limbs, arcing from sections of her armor. Power, her own innate power, something pure and energetic that she hadn’t felt in much too long of a time, flowed through her, sparking against the air and the ground.
As she stood there, elemental and mask powers ignited again and in full use, a stray thought occurred to her.
Maybe, just maybe, she had what it took to be a true Toa after all.
Edited by Sumiki, Nov 28 2011 - 05:38 PM.