I know this place, my mind whispers, but the specifics are lost to me. Slowly, I gain my bearings and break the hollow stare I have on the ghost forest, easing my joints and striding away. My limbs grow continuously weary with each step, even the reinforcement of the pistons in my armour doing little to ease the strain. The landscape is unchanging with time, and a smidgen of my conscious questions to what destination I am working toward.
Another voice breaks my concentration, and this time I’m certain it’s no phantom. I crane with unnatural speed and my oculars do likewise, pinpointing a fleeting shade kios away in the forest. In an instant, it’s gone, but by then I’ve already broken into a sprint.
I don’t know why I’m running. I don’t know what I so desperately need from this apparition.
“Stop!” I plead, my voice thunderous over the deadness of the woods. I instinctively trigger my mask and suddenly the world is painted in vibrant white-black, with my target a blur of crimson motion. I barely feel my body labouring or my legs bounding as I fall into pursuit: the whole of my mind is focussed on that red point, growing closer and closer in my vision. Finally it swells to nearly blot out my peripherals, and I lunge. Two bodies collide and we topple violently down the hill, smashing through decaying twigs and ashy dirt.
Our plummet is halted with a crash, and there’s a moment of astonishing silence. I power my mask down and struggle to gaze at the subject of my pursuit. His face is bare and weak, maskless features curled into a painful grimace. Tears well up from glowing jade eyes.
My heartlight flares in nostalgic agony and I feel the wavelength crawl the span of my body. I know this being, I can feel it, but something is clouding my memory. “Who are you?” I demand.
“Kagha…” the figure says, but his voice is an echo a million mios away. “This isn’t real. You have to come back…”
“Kagha?” I repeat, before realising it must be my name. “Come back? Back where?”
But the figure proffers no answers, and his body and cloak are fading, falling away into a collection of ash and dust. In a matter of seconds, the powdered remnants of this being are swept away into an abrupt gale and dispersed to the rest of the woods. I stare longingly at the emptiness: gone, just like everything else in this Karzahnine realm I’ve inhabited for the Spirit knows how long. Don’t leave me.
My fingers graze something warm. There’s some kind of crystal lodged in the dirt beside me, meticulously symmetrical and gleaming with an internal flame. A line of inscriptions written in light fleet across its surface. Hesitantly, I lean in my head to decipher them.
And before I know it, the world explodes in a cascade of white.
I wake up screaming and manage to smash my face into the headboard, but for the first few instants I’m still too asleep to register the pain. When it finally surges in, so does the major portion of my better conscious, and I’m aware that it’s dark all around. Moreover, the “headboard” I slammed into is curiously positioned directly above my face, and less than a quarter-bio away at that.
As though it would do anything, I squint my eyes to see clearer. The smart protometal of my mask responds as naturally as I’d expect, but there is an absence of the ocular augments I’ve become used to. I reach my hand to feel my face and my knuckles scrape against the tiny ceiling, which I am now aware is made of frigid stone.
My heartlight reveals the most of my situation. Long shadows are cast in a very form-fitting box, with deep corners and an ancient musk about it. I’ve become so disconnected with reality that it takes several minutes for it to dawn on me: I’m in a coffin.
Oh Spirit, I’m in a coffin.
“Help me!” I screech at the top of my lungs and pummel the coffin face, but the noise is only reflected back. My heart is racing now and my body tenses up with a serious claustrophobic fit, until I rear my hand back again and strike –
Momentum springs me from the coffin like a gust of wind and I pass straight through the stone without damaging it, surfacing into a world of light that makes my eyes burn. Whatever I did to make it happen stops immediately though, and I fall back to my feet and tumble head over heels down a crude mountain of similar coffins and other stone artefacts. My senses all crush together and my mind goes blank, every time my shoulder hits hard rock reverberating through my entire body. My feet go flying out below me and I’m due to roll again when my fall is broken and I’m swished into light air as easily as a feather.
“Kagha? Is that you?”
The bubble that contains me is invisible and there’s an apprehensive jitter that comes with reaching out at nothing to stabilise myself, but I slip against the force sphere and manage to get a glimpse of my captor. Standing at least ten bios below at the foot of the sepulchre is a green-armour clad Toa. She wields a broadsword and wears a Calix, which is currently screwed up in disbelief. Kagha. That’s the name from the dream. My name, I remember. But who is this?
“I’m afraid I have no recollection of you,” I stammer, every word feeling alien as they curl out of my mouth. “Nor of this locale at all. So you would pardon me if I don’t respond properly.”
The field of force vanishes and the ground rushes up to meet me. Pain sprouts in my hands and knees and I yelp sharply, oblivious to the footfalls as they grow closer. As soon as I make it to my feet where I intend to squirm further, my body is frozen by the presence of a blade at my throat. The woman is leaning forward, fury in her eyes, and her lips are drawn back in a snarl. “Just as snide as you were in the Prefall, are you? What nerve you have, you slimy piece of Visorak spawn.”
“Was it something I said?”
She draws back and at first I expect her to hit me, but she simply lets out an incoherent growl. Taking a few steps back, she batters the air with her fists and not a split second later I find the tip of the same sword affixed again before me, poking between my eyes. “You think you can just waltz back in here again? Really? You’re scum, Kagha. I don’t know why you bother.”
I frown. “I’m sorry, who are you?”
The blade falls. In the space of a second all the anger on her face is washed away with genuine surprise. “You really don’t remember? By Mata Nui, you’re oblivious!” She draws a vox bead to her mask and pinches it. “Akaku? You’re going to want to see this.”
“Akaku? What is that, some kind of rahi?”
That makes her laugh, a kind of laugh you can only have when somebody you’re comfortable with says something witty. The only problem with that scenario is I have no idea in the Pit who this person is. “I’m sorry, was I being funny?”
“Just shut up.” She shakes her head, still laughing. “Even now, you don’t know when to close your mouth.”
Stranger or not, that stings a little bit. Indignantly, I turn away and pretend to be fascinated with the ruination of a mausoleum I currently find myself in. The pile of coffins and broken statues is at least eleven bios high and a total mess. Many of the stone deathbeds are sundered open like eggshells, ash spilling out, and pieces of decaying armour are scattered across the scene. Shivers crawl down my spine thinking I was once a part of that. How am I alive?
Surrounding the ominous mound, huge cathedral pillars erect a stolid palace roof far overhead, though many of them are crumbled and withered as though they underwent merciless bombardment in the past and were never cared for following that. At the very end of the gargantuan chamber, dark walls draped with lichen-ridden banners span at least the length of a coliseum, and the only sources of light are a massive gate at one facing end and stained glass windows high up near the roof. It seems like a peaceful place, in a gothic, deathly kind of manner. Every breath I inhale feels old, used.
As the woman has ceased speaking by this point, there is a shroud of silence gripping the entire place. Something tells me that the application of that word is wrong though, the faintest of drones in my jawbone, gradually working out to a full-on mechanical roar. In the distance, of course.
“What is that?” I ask my captor.
“That,” she responds succinctly, “is Akaku.”
Then the wall caves in and slabs of rock fly everywhere, a detonation of debris like the place was just struck by a missile. I lose balance and fling myself back, landing on the ground hard and pleading into every outlet of energy in me to stay alive. In the peripherals of my vision, beyond credibility, I see my female captor simply standing there and facing into the blast, not moving an inch, arms casually akimbo.
The mechanical roar is painfully present now and a bestial vehicle rolls in. Spiked tracks devour the ground and a hulking frame lurches to a stop, its ear-shattering motor – the sound I heard earlier – powering down into an intimidating purr. A hatch in the roof of the vehicle pops open and a vested Toa appears. Clenched in his teeth is a stick of cured antidermis, puffing grey smoke into the stale air. “By all that is mythical! Kagha! That really you?”
An ocular lens on the Toa’s mask, quite similar to the one I remember so closely, whirs and extends as he inspects my face. He whistles, hops out of the vehicle, and takes another puff. The armour he wears is heavy duty stuff, reinforced and plated, and is a deep green shade. Two membrane-encased blades clatter against his back.
I step back as he approaches. “How do all you people know me?”
Noticing my nerves, he stops. He and the female share a glance, and then he turns a friendly smile in my direction. “You’re suffering from memory loss. Happens to ‘em all, at least the one’s we’re able to get back. Just a little while ago, B.Z. Nui had a collapse. Even prior to that, ranks of denizens were being struck by some sort of plague, and they fell into incurable comas. You were one of the first to go.”
I laugh hysterically. This man is nuts.
“B.Z. Nui? Collapse? What are you talking about?”
He shakes his head. “Here. Eat this,” he reaches into his belt and withdraws a tuba. “Black Six gave me a bunch, says they’ll help the survivors regain their memory.”
I stride forward to take it, but then I hesitate. What if it’s poisonous?
Akaku seems to have read my thoughts and he makes a reassuring gesture. “Trust me.”
For reasons beyond imagining, I trust him. Reaching out, I take the tuba in my hands and examine it for a moment. Then I break off a chunk and I slip it in my mouth. Juices flow down my throat as I chew the organic matter and at first I’m not sure if it’s working. “Am I supposed to feel any different or—?”
Heat surges through my veins and my head swells like helium. My joints lock and I fall to my knees, and I’m not sure if I’m imagining the animalistic growl that’s wracking my body or I’m really uttering it. Everything turns orange for a few moments and then, normal. The pain wears off and I’m sweating beneath my armour. My breath comes in tatters.
And I remember.
“Kagha! Are you okay?”
Akaku is at my side, a look of guilt and surprise on his mask. I glance into his eyes and all of a sudden I feel a completeness, a familiarity, because I know what world this is now. Because I’m no longer slave to that dream. He helps me to my feet and the female Toa – Inferna, I remember – is rushing over to help balance me.
“You guys … I remember. I’m sorry I left …”
“Calm down, Kagha,” Inferna interjects, and suddenly I’m being dragged by the shoulders toward the vehicle. Akaku opens a port in the side and they sidle me in. I immediately fall down in the seat. “Let’s get him back,” Inferna says as she and Akaku climb into the bridge. They gear up the transport and we back out the way we came in (through the wall, that is) until we’re rolling away down a deserted cobblestone street, leaving the shadow of the ancient cathedral.
“What do you remember, Kagha?” Inferna asks.
I push myself upright in the backseat and massage my temples. “Um, I’m not sure. It seems so far back now.”
“Think,” she urges.
“I’m trying! Mata Nui… okay, it was back in B.Z. Nui.”
“During the Prefall.”
“I guess,” I concede wearily, really still having no clue what this Prefall is. “Anyway, I was on my way to the library. There were new publications out and I know I was interested in making some purchases. There must have been some telepath though, because I kept receiving this mindspeak to go into some alley. I tried to resist but the telepathy must’ve been really strong, because I found myself going there. There was a Vortixx there, I remember. A male.”
“What did he want?” Inferna is glaring intently at me now.
“He offered me a Rhotuka. Said it would make all my problems go away. It’s name was in some dialect I’d never heard before … I think he called it ‘ayaurell’. And that’s as far as I can remember.”
Out of nowhere, Akaku bursts into laughter. “Wow. I’m sorry, that was really cruel of me, but that sounds like a poster story for wayward Matoran. You took contraband from some shady Vortixx in an alleyway? Could it get more cliché than that, Kagha?”
Inferna slams a fist into his shoulder and the Toa of Air curses colourfully.
“Shut up,” I jab, but my voice sounds adolescent. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Inferna agrees. “The important thing,” she punctuates this with a glower at Akaku, “is that you’re back. And not dead.”
“It sure would suck if you were dead,” Akaku grumbles, although I suspect his heart isn’t entirely in that sentiment. I brush it off. “What about Reep? HN? The other Seneca… are they okay?”
“Better shape than you,” Akaku quips.
Inferna sighs. “You’ll see. We’ll be there in time.”
That’s when I look out the window and notice we’re driving across a long, winding bridge several kios far, arcing in a continuous upward spiral overlooking an unimaginably distant blue sea. Behind us is a long stretch of distance on an industrial road preceding the beginning of the bridge, the road itself curving off of the canyon edge of an enormous island. Cities and people may have once populated the island, but now smoke billows from vast ruins and industrial squares cave and collapse in on themselves. From a distance I see chute systems in disrepair, skyscrapers folded in half, farmlands ridden with blight. Even then, the rest of the island stretches far into the horizon, its second end distant beyond sight, and I can only imagine the destruction extends further.
“Is that...?” I say around the lump in my throat.
“Prefall B.Z. Nui. Before the Renaissance,” Inferna tells me. She can see the pain in my face. “Don’t worry, though. Look up.”
I do. Through the window, the sun shines through an unbelievably blue sky. Against it is the silhouette of an airborne metropolis. The winding road we’re on spirals into the firmament and ends at the gate of this floating city, a sprawling complex whose levels I can’t begin to comprehend at this vantage point. Inferna notices me gawking and smiles. “That’s the new B.Z. Nui. There’s been a lot of construction and the Turaga are discussing a great deal of reform and progress. Black Six still worries about those stranded down on the island though. So he sends teams, like us, to scout out and search for survivors, like you.”
I frown. “The libraries, were they reconstructed? My books…”
She smiles reassuringly, but there’s pain behind her smile.
“No. Don’t tell me.”
“This is the Afterfall, Kagha. The Renaissance. It’s an era for rebirth. That ayaurell stole you away for a time but it didn’t steal this.” She taps the side of her forehead, and I nod. From the driver’s seat, Akaku turns to face me briefly and grins. I look to meet his eyes.
For a moment, my heartlight swells and turns homely orange. “Thank you.”
Hello, BZPower! So, as you have (hopefully) already read just now, this was a B.Z. Nui story and the first I've posted in what feels like, I don't know, a million years. The characters used in this are meant to represent of course myself, Inferna Firesword, and Akaku: Master of Air. (I hope you guys are okay with that, if you're reading this ... >.>)
So yes, this is my first post in quite a very long while. I feel terrible for leaving BZPower; real life (IRL, ayaurell, get it? heheh I'm so clever ...) kind of caught up with me and I fell out of it. But I could never just turn my back on Bionicle, so I came back, and now I'm back to stay. This time I mean it.
So yes. Message me if you want to. Reply if you feel you must (I would appreciate it ^.^). If you are either Inferna or Akaku or any of the other Toa Seneca for that matter message me because I want to talk to you because I miss you guys!! And yeah. I'm going to get reacquainted with the site. Very spiffy looking, I must say.
Edited by Kagha, Dec 21 2011 - 07:50 PM.