Some might argue that one should not have to fight for his freedom, instead believing that freedom is a right, to be given away to everyone. Others would argue it is merely an ideal, which can be neither given nor earned – that freedom exists only in the mind of the dreamer.
I know for a fact that freedom is neither. It is not a thing to give or take, nor is it a state of mind – it’s a state of being. Of knowing deep inside you that your actions are your own and that every breath you take is yours to breathe.
And yet – is it possible to believe you are free, with every fibre of your being. To know deep within your soul that your actions are your own... but not have any control over them at all?
The cost of freedom is always high.
For we are never truly free.
Seven Lives... Two Faces
A Novel by Kini Hawkeye
Summary: Skierós is a Toa of Two Faces – always the victim, always the villain, never just one or the other. His curse will never break, but is it possible for him, when faced with the greatest decision of his life, to break a cycle so much different, but so very entwined with his own?
The clouds drifted slowly over the mountains, their wispy trails white over the expanse of grey that covered the sky – forerunners to the great storm behind them. The last dwindling traces of snow were almost nonexistent toward the lower reaches of the mountains, but near the peaks vast expanses of white still laid dormant.
Skierós made his way along the rugged path before him, boots slipping on the mud covered ground with each step, before finding purchase and restarting the process. He grunted as the awkward slope of the road threw off his balance and nearly sent him off the cliff to his left. It probably wasn’t the best path to be on, but it was the quickest. He was headed into a storm... that much he knew, but it was impossible to tell if it would be snow or rain that hit him – one of the greatest difficulties of weather during the spring months.
As he walked, his pace grew slower as he struggled against the wind that now threatened to send him off the edge of the road and down the not-exactly-gradual slope of the mountain. He wasn’t necessarily the strongest Toa, more average than anything. He’d never been one for the intense “workouts” that some other Toa seemed to enjoy – in his life he simply acted as another civilian. His one great skill lay in swordplay and his control of Elemental Energy, and they were skills he'd put to use as both a Mercenary and Guard in various cities and villages around the continent.
The snow began to fall, slowly at first, but over time the flakes sped up, until they bit at his face and skin. He let out a snarl as one particular flake managed to cut deep into his face – far enough to sting. Lifting a hand out from the depths of his black travellers’ cloak, he held it palm out towards the snow, and watched with a savagely amused grin as fire leapt from his fingertips and formed a semi-transparent screen of fire in front of him.
The fire lent a small glow to the area around him, now darkened by clouds and the haze of falling snow. His black armour glinted with tones of red and yellow. His mask, a wolf-like, black Hau, shadowed further despite the new source of light.
His feet were weighed down by weariness, but he pressed on. Somewhere over the next mountains peak laid his target – a small town where he could rest and restock on supplies. He scowled slightly as he increased the power of his “fire screen,” to the point where he could properly see a few feet ahead of him. His efforts aided him only a little, but it was enough to help him see exactly where he was.
The peak of the mountain, the highest point on the "hill" he’d been climbing for almost a week, and all he could see in any direction was white. And after all this hard work, he thought, this is what I’m rewarded with? That just won’t do...
With a grim smile, he raised both hands, snuffing the life out of his “fire screen” with a single thought. He cupped his hands, almost as though they were holding water, and summoned the flames.
Two red orbs of fire burst into life, one in each of his palms. They floated an inch or two above the skin, but with the absence of the flames keeping the snow at bay, they may as well not have existed – all light and heat was swallowed up by the raging storm around him.
Skierós willed more and more of his power into the flames, urging them to grow bigger, brighter – hotter. He continued this until the heat began melting the snow around his feet. Immune to heat as he was, even he felt the warmth that the fire lent to his surroundings.
Skierós lifted his arms higher bringing the two flames closer and closer together. Like two magnets, wisps of flame were drawn out of each flame and in between the two. The two flames merged into a single, larger flame, which Skierós slammed into the ground with force rivalling even the legendary Onua.
The entire world – sky, ground, the very air around Skierós – burst into flame.
In the aftermath of the explosion, nothing was left of the massive snow storm that had obscured Skierós’ view, only clear, blue skies and that big yellow ball that had been strangely absent during the trek through the mountains.
And in the valley before him, stood a small town – the entire reason for his detour through the mountains – Ceneta. Considering the size of the town, this was probably the single most useless detour ever... of all time. He thought sarcastically.
Shoulders heaving with a heavy sigh, Skierós began the long trek back down the mountain, grunting as his boot crushed snow with each footfall, forcing him to bring his knees to his chest just to continue moving.
It was going to be a long trip back down.
This town is a lot bigger down here than it was from up there, Skierós mused. Of course, he should’ve realized that anything would look much smaller than it really was from so much higher an elevation, but he’d passed it off as something that was just a little too small to be worth the trouble he’d gone through to get there.
In reality, it was quite the opposite – Ceneta was, or at least seemed to be, a fairly modernized village – despite its location so far north. Skierós couldn’t help but recall, with a slight chuckle, a conversation he’d overheard in a bar just before leaving for this isolated “city.”
“Those Cenetans, thinkin’ they’re so great with their Rahi sleds and houses made of ice – they’re annoying – saying ‘eh’ at the end of every sentence!”
The last was met with applause and cheers of agreement from the stranger’s companions. Skierós couldn’t agree with all that was said, the few Cenetans that drifted south were a lot more civil than his own kind – and they were usually more formal - unless drunk.
He just hoped they wouldn’t all say eh – and besides, Rahi sleds were a good idea in this climate.
Skierós neared the main gate of the town, but even though he was hoping for barely a second glance, he knew there was no way his peak-side fireworks would’ve gone unnoticed.
So when he walked through the front gate, only to be welcomed by a group of five or six spearmen with their weapons levelled at his face, he didn’t even flinch. Instead, he raised his hands calmly, showing that he had no weapons and dropped to his knees – he’d been through procedure before.
One of the Cenetans, obviously the leader of the guards, stepped forward, spear now held in only one hand at his side. Skierós had the time to observe the weapon as the guard captain neared. It was of similar design to many of the “superior” southern craftsmen, albeit a bit more intricate. A small ribbon hung off of the spearhead, alternating red and white – the colors that represented the county.
“Sir, what is your name and business in Ceneta?” the captain said, authority creeping into his wary voice.
Skierós chuckled – that’s one myth about Ceneta busted.
“My name is Skierós, and my business is my own.” He said calmly, “I am simply here to restock on supplies and continue my journey.”
The guard captain looked uncertain, though he nodded all the same. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about the recent fireworks display up on the peak of Mount Aeyan, would you? We’ve been on high alert ever since – an explosion that big hasn’t been seen since the days of the dragons.”
Skierós swallowed uncertainly before answering. “In truth sir, I caused the fireworks – though I assure you I mean no harm. The snow was very... annoying, shall we say?”
The guard looked at him with wonder, and a hint of fear, before smiling. “Well sir, I’m not going to hinder your stay here – however I’d like to ask that you remain in the city for a night or two before leaving – if you turn out to be a dangerous character, I would hate to allow you to slip through my fingers and cause trouble in some other town.”
Skierós just smiled. “Of course captain, I understand completely. Will lodging be arranged or will I have to find my own?”
“Just down the street – the Kanohi Dragon Inn – should have a room for you for a small fee.”
Skierós stood, “Thank you captain. I shall make my way there, if there is no other business at this moment?”
The captain nodded dismissively, returning to his post, as Skierós simply stood and walked away, towards the Inn.
End Chapter One
Remember everyone, review are welcome
Edited by Lord Kini Hawkeye, Dec 18 2011 - 05:29 PM.