Chapter 2: The place of Shadow
There was a knock at the door. GaliGee stood up from her computer and went over to answer it. Before opening it, she hesitated. She still felt faintly paranoid of the egotistical villain who had abducted her so many times before. Makuta Teridax had tried time and time before to take her prisoner and convince her that he was madly in love with her. Of course GaliGee knew it wasn’t true. He was simply looking for free publicity on BZPower.
During the course of her kidnappings, she had met many strange and frightening beings, although she did occasionally find an ally such as Krahka. Makuta hadn't bothered her in a while, but it never hurt to be safe. She looked through the peephole. Something was blocking the light, indicating that whatever was out there was huge. She sighed. It must have been Teridax. After a few years of leaving her alone, he was finally back. She swung open the door, preparing herself for whatever he was going to do. But she wasn't prepared for what stood outside. No one could ever be prepared for what she saw when she looked outside. She screamed.
It wasn't Teridax. It was much, much, worse. The thing that stood on her porch was impossibly huge, larger than Teridax had ever been. It gave off an unbearable odor; a sickening stench of death. It was broad and muscular, covered in spiked, rusted green and gray armor. Its legs were digitigrade like that of an animal, and rather than feet the being had two massive cloven hooves. Two powerful arms came out of its hunched shoulders. Worst of all was its horned head. Its patchwork mask appeared to be made of several different Kanohi. Part of it was grey and skull-like, while the rest of it was green and covered in strange, ancient markings. The mouth was stuck in a demented smile in which countless, yellowed, crooked teeth sat. The being gazed down at GaliGee with hollow eyes. They glowered and flickered like coals.
"Good evening," he said in a voice that was rather quiet and reserved for a being of his appearance, "I have come to collect my due." GaliGee could only stare in horror as the being wrapped a clawed hand around her wrist. His greasy digits had a grasp like iron. As he drew her closer she felt an unbearable heat radiating from his massive body. GaliGee could actually feel his claws burning her arm. Before she could even comprehend what was going on, there was a flash of light. In an instant every thing around them changed.
They were no longer on her porch, or even in her neighborhood. GaliGee was horrified at what she saw. As far as she could see, the land around her was nothing but a desolate, rocky wasteland that sat inside an enormous cavern. The sheer size of it amazed and intimidated the Toa. It seemed impossibly huge; the distance to the ceiling had to be at least a mile high. The putrid stench of decay hung in the air, and mixed with the harsh smell of sulfur. Smoke and ash blurred her vision. Occasional streaks of lightning soundlessly made their way through the air. Scattered throughout the landscape were what appeared to be crumbling statues of Matoran perched on large rocks or sitting on the dusty ground. There was no sun; the only source of light was the reddish haze created by gurgling lava and pits of crackling fire, casting the land in a permanent twilight.
"Welcome home," said the massive captor as he held out a clawed hand before them. GaliGee suddenly noticed the massive fortress that towered before them. It was constructed out of massive stone blocks the size of small houses. The material it was made from was some sort of jet-black marble. The structure resembled a gothic castle gone wrong. The architect must have been undoubtedly mad, for it seemed that it the castle was completely asymmetrical. Numerous towers pointed upwards like spears thrust at the heavens. Nearly ever inch of the fortress was covered in monstrous carvings of monstrous creatures, sculpted with such detail that one wondered if they were actually alive. They glared down at her with lifeless eyes that somehow conveyed a feeling of an unfathomable evil. GaliGee averted her own eyes from their stony gaze. Her captor opened the door with his free hand. The gargantuan door swung loudly on iron hinges. The noise was low and ominous, filling GaliGee with dread. Behind it lay a long corridor. It looked as though it was once magnificent, but seemed ancient and decayed, with dust covering everything. The inside of the castle was poorly lit by rows of weakly-burning torches. Nevertheless, GaliGee could see through the wavering shadows that the interior of the building was just as ornately decorated as the exterior was. The walls were covered in three-dimensional murals of hideous beasts, some of which GaliGee recognized. There were Visorak and Manas, and she thought she saw a carving of a Nivawk. But most were unidentified creatures that had their faces drawn in monstrous sneers.
"You can thank Ahkmou for the magnificent artisanship," the being said with an almost affectionate tone, "He's the chief carver of Karzahni." The moment the word left his fanged mouth, everything made sense to GaliGee. She looked up at her captor. His strange, hideous appearance suddenly became familiar to her. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed it before. The Toa stared at the creature’s legendary mask. There was no mistaking its patchwork appearance. The being before her was none other than Karzahni, ruler of his own horrific realm; the caretaker of the abandoned and the wretched.
"What do you want from me?" she whispered quietly. The being slowly looked over his hunched shoulders. He smiled, exposing dozens of mismatched teeth. Despite his hideous appearance, there was something about his mannerisms that seemed regal; in a way that was not unlike Teridax. But there was something else, something far darker than the Makuta’s façade of politeness.
"I require nothing. You see, little one, I have been trying to think of a way to extract vengeance from Makuta Teridax. Once I found out of your existence and his infatuation with you, I decided that the best revenge would be to deprive him of a being whom he simply adores.” GaliGee shuddered as he finished the sentence. There was something about the way he said ‘adores’ that put a chill in her veins.
"Now what shall I do with a powerless Toa?" Karzahni said to himself as he led the distraught GaliGee down a maze of corridors and doorways. Vermin skittered about the dank hallways, carrying bits of unidentifiable filth in their jaws.
At last they emerged in a gigantic dining hall lit by a roaring fireplace. Inside of the room was a long table that was surrounded by dirty, misshapen Matoran. They had twisted, broken, bodies and armor that was rust-covered and flaking. They sat at several benches and were kept to their seats by the means of rusted shackles. As Karzahni led his captive into the room, GaliGee noticed the odor of burnt meat and smoke that hung in the air. As she sat down on the bench, she gazed out at the table before her. It was set with primitive utensils made from the bones of what GaliGee hoped were Rahi. A burnt Rahi corpse was slowly being cooked over the fireplace on a rotisserie. GaliGee squinted at it and tried to determine what it had been, but was unable to.
At the back of the room was an enormous stone throne decorated with bones and rusted metal. Two other beings were in the room as well. Not too far away stood a bizarre Skakdi. He wore silver and black armor that had become grimy and dirt-streaked. A ragged cape hung from his narrow shoulders. He appeared to be deformed, for he had no head-spine to speak of. A rusted chain was fastened around his ankles. Despite this, he was the only person in the room with a grin on his face. His teeth were large and pearly; the kind of teeth that belong to a vicious animal. The last being GaliGee saw made her gasp. A beautiful Vortixx was curled up in the corner. Her cold sapphire eyes peered out at the world with a mixture of loathing and fear. There was a weary, almost beaten look about her face. At first GaliGee thought the voluptuous creature was wearing a golden necklace. It was as beautiful as the Vortixx herself. Illustrious patterns had been hammered around the large gems that encrusted it. But then GaliGee noticed the golden chain that was affixed to the back of the collar. It ended at the throne, where it was attached by the means of an ancient lock. GaliGee knew who this unfortunate being was. There was no mistaking that contemptuous leer. She had encountered her several times before.
"Master, we were just awaiting your triumphant return," said the Skakdi. His voice surprised GaliGee. Unlike the Skakdi she had heard before, this one seemed to have a lyrical, sing-song voice as opposed to a course, gruff one. She looked into his crimson eyes. They twinkled with madness.
"It is joyous to be back," Karzahni said. He turned to GaliGee. "Allow me to introduce you to my servants.” He pointed a clawed finger at the Skakdi. “This is Vezon." The Skakdi slid over to the Toa and bowed politely.
"Madam, I am entirely delighted to meet you," he said enthusiastically as he shook GaliGee's hand, “It is not often we have Toa for dinner.” GaliGee was unable to tell if he was glad she was simply attending the meal, or if he actually thought they were going to eat her. Either way, she was greatly disturbed by the Skakdi. GaliGee looked at the Vortixx in the corner, who was for the first time noticing the Toa's presence. Her face was contorted in an expression of disbelief and hatred. Galigee could feel the cold hatred emanating from the iridescent eyes of the Vortixx, which just for a moment flashed red.
"This lovely flower over here is Roodaka. I know you two have met before," Karzahni said as he turned to the miserable Vortixx, "Roodaka, please greet our guest." Roodaka turned away from him. Karzahni's eyes narrowed. Galigee cringed slightly. There was something in those eyes that indicated that something horrible was about to happen. GaliGee felt the air around in the room become unbearably hot. Karzahni's spiked gauntlets suddenly shrieked and crackled with energy. His mask glowed menacingly.
Roodaka's eyes went out of focus. They seemed to be looking at something that wasn't there, as if she was somewhere else entirely. Her expression turned to one of absolute horror as her body contorted as though to protect itself. A series of agonized screams escaped from her lips. GaliGee stepped back. She had never the Vortixx truly frightened before. It almost seemed unnatural. All the times she had meet Roodaka, the Vortixx was always a cold, collected villainess who never lost her cool. Galigee looked up at Karzahni. The tyrant watched Roodaka writhe on the floor with a satisfied grin on his face. He was a monster; worse than anything GaliGee had ever seen. Fortunately the horrible process stopped almost as soon as it started. The voluptuous Vortixx snapped back into reality. She looked up at Karzahni with terrified eyes that bordered on the edge of madness. The tyrant's face twisted into a look of disappointment.
"Are you going to greet our guest, or shall I show you what would have happened if the Zivon rebelled?" Roodaka glared at him and looked over at the Toa of water.
"Hello," she muttered. Karzahni patted her head and sat down in his throne. GaliGee reluctantly sat down on the bench closest to him. Although she was finally calming down after the terrifying episode, her heart was still racing.
"You'll have to forgive Roodaka," Karzahni said almost apologetically, "She's only been here for but a few month’s time. But I have a place for all of my subjects. For example, have you ever heard of a Matoran named Vultraz?" GaliGee nodded. She had read the online serial Brothers in Arms.
"Well, shortly after he arrived in Karzahni, I assigned him the task of designing new and inventive weapons. He finds his job very agreeable." Karzahni paused to take a drink out of his goblet, which was fashioned out of a Toa's skull. GaliGee tried not to look at it. "And what of you? Have you any special talents?" GaliGee thought about this. If she was going to be trapped in the worst place in recorded Matoran history, she may as well comply with her captor for the time being.
"I can write," she said earnestly. Karzahni's hideous face lit up.
"Ah yes, now I recall. You tried to write that biography for the tin-covered tyrant Teridax. I can't imagine how horrible it must have been to be around that ignoramus and his invertebrate spawn."
"It wasn't all that bad. The Rahkshi are actually quite pleasant once you get to know them." GaliGee couldn't believe the words that were coming out of her mouth. But compared to Karzahni, Teridax and his forty-two children were like the Brady Bunch.
"I understand you live in the human world," Karzahni continued, "I have only been there a handful of times. What is it like to be surrounded by a mindless horde of fleshlings?" GaliGee frowned. She had lived all of her life around humans; so much to the point that she often forgot she was a Toa. To find out that Karzahni regarded them so lowly angered her a little.
"They're not mindless. They're just like us, only-"
"Different," finished Karzahni, "I've heard it all before. They measure their lifespan in decades. How can they accomplish anything with only an estimated eighty years to live?"
“Supper’s ready,” Vezon called. Everyone looked to see him take the Rahi from the fireplace and remove the spit from the carcass. Karzahni watched as Vezon set the Rahi carcass on the table. Everyone tore into it hungrily. They hacked at it with crooked knives and stripped flesh from bone with tarnished forks. They even gnawed on the mechanical parts. Vezon dropped a charred hunk on GaliGee's plate. She stared at it and tried to hide her disgust. Unfortunately, Karzahni could sense her repulsion.
"I know you're not acquainted to such cuisine, but do try to eat. You won't be getting much else." GaliGee glanced nervously at the mess on her plate. The malformed Matoran next to her stared at it with a blank expression on his rusted mask, not moving a muscle. His weakly glowing red eyes gazed at the plate intently, offering no emotion whatsoever. It was a very disturbing and awkward moment. Slowly, GaliGee pushed the platter over to the demented creature. He immediately shoved his head onto the plate and tore into the blackened meat. GaliGee shrank backwards.
"Suit yourself," Karzahni muttered as he bit into his share of the beast. GaliGee sat back and observed the scene around her. It was like a twisted image of a medieval king's court; A mad tyrant surrounded by equally demented subjects. Vezon sat near Karzahni cracking jokes as he ate, while the Matoran muttered amongst themselves. Roodaka had curled up back in her corner and was chewing on a small portion of the Rahi. Despite all the Vortixx had put her through, Galigee couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Roodaka. It was sad really. What was once a mighty ruler of the Visorak was now reduced to sitting on the floor and eating table scraps.
“You’ll never see a more miserable creature than she,” Vezon whispered. GaliGee turned to look at he Skakdi, who was also glancing at Roodaka. “I’ve tried to make her happy, but she never wants to laugh.”
“I don’t expect she would want to,” responded GaliGee, “Being chained to Karzahni’s throne.”
“True,” said Vezon, “But I’ll make her laugh yet. Tell me, you’ve known her for a while. Does anything amuse her?” GaliGee could think of several things that amused Roodaka. Most of them were not pleasant.
“She enjoys watching other suffer,” the Toa answered truthfully, “And being in charge.” Vezon looked confused.
“There’s suffering all around her,” he said, “Everywhere you look around here people are suffering. She should be the merriest person here if that were true. But I’m the same way, you know. Anything awful makes me laugh. I misbehaved once at a funeral.” GaliGee was beginning to wonder why Vezon was talking to her.
“Why do you want to make her laugh so badly?” she asked, not sure if she really wanted to know the answer. Vezon smiled broadly.
“Because I intend to woo her and someday marry her,” said Vezon, as he looked at the Vortixx with wistful admiration, “She moves a goddess and she looks a queen.” GaliGee didn't know whether to find it humorous or incredibly disturbing that the Skakdi liked Roodaka. She wondered if she should be concerned; those who fell for the Vortixx usually met an untimely and painful end.
“You do know she killed Sidorak, don’t you?” the Toa asked, apprehensively. Vezon merely shrugged, and said in a singsong voice,
“If to her share some female errors fall,
Look at her face, you’ll forget ‘em all.” GaliGee decided it was best to terminate the conversation before it became anymore awkward.
“Well, it was nice talking to you,” she said.
After supper was ended, Vezon led the Matoran out of the room. The only noise that could be heard was the loud crackling of the fireplace. Karzahni looked at his captive with mild interest. He noticed the nervous glances she made at Roodaka. His grin widened.
"Don't fret about her. She'll behave if she knows what's good for her." GaliGee wasn't worried about Roodaka hurting her, but more mystified as to how the Vortixx ended up in this place. As far as she knew, Roodaka was still alive in the storyline. The same thought applied to Vezon.
"May I ask you something?" the Toa said nervously. Karzahni nodded his hideous head. "How is it that Roodaka and Vezon can be here?" The tyrant chuckled.
"I was wondering when you'd inquire about that. After reading your stories, I discovered that you knew of her potions. You recall the ones that caused anyone she wanted to listen to her?" GaliGee remembered the small laboratory in the coliseum and shuddered as thought of the enslaving mixtures that had been created there. "During the recreation of the storyline, she struck up a bargain for the recipe of said potions. She'd heard about them in Matoran legends and spent years tracking them down. I made a deal that I would lend her the recipe. I was feeling particularly generous that day, so I told her that if she succeeded in her nefarious mission and change history, I'd let her off scott-free. But as you can see, she failed." The maniacal ruler laughed harshly as he truculently yanked on Roodaka's chain. A cry of pain escaped from the Vortixx’s throat. GaliGee pitied the miserable creature.
"As for Vezon, he came on his own accord." This comment surprised GaliGee.
"He wanted to work for you?" she asked incredulously. However, moments after she spoke she realized that the only one demented enough to actually want to work for Karzahni would be Vezon.
"He came because he was lonely. Did you know Lego sent most of their villains here as soon as they outlived their usefulness?"
"Indeed they did," interrupted the Skakdi, "Nearly everyone was here by the time I joined." Karzahni’s face suddenly darkened.
“Almost everyone,” he rumbled, “Except for your admirer.” GaliGee felt the hatred flowing from the tyrant, and once more fear crept into her heart.
“You know that I don’t really love him, don’t you?”
“Of course,” grunted Karzahni as he took a long gulp from his horrific chalice, “Nobody in the right mind would even consider him a friend.” He glanced back over at GaliGee. “Which reminds me, be careful not to alert Gorast of your presence.” GaliGee’s eyes suddenly went wide.
“Gorast is here?”
“I’ve already told you,” said the tyrant as set his empty cup back on the table, “Everyone’s here. Even those imbecilic minions of Teridax’s. Most of the time I’m able to keep them in line, but that overzealous battleaxe Gorast poses a problem from time to time.” The giant stood up, and the room was filled with his twisted shadow. "Wyrm will show you to your room."
At that moment, a small, twisted Matoran hobbled into the room. His limbs were like sticks and his torso was hunched over. His Huna and armor were completely rust-covered, making it impossible to determine what kind of Matoran he was. His eyes glowed a dull orange and held a defeated, weary look to them.
"Follow me," he said in a raspy voice. He took GaliGee by the hand. His grasp was weak and greasy. GaliGee felt rust flake off from his fingers. He took her out of the room and down the hallway. They went through several twists and turns, until at last they reached their destination. A small, dungeon-like room with a makeshift bed in the corner. The blankets were moth-eaten and threadbare, and the mattress was merely a hay-filled sack. GaliGee reluctantly stepped inside. The iron door creaked shut behind her. She sighed as she heard the click of the lock. Then, a new sound filled her ears. It surprised her at first, but she recognized it as a pipe organ. Someone was playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The song echoed through the halls of the fortress in a frightening manner. GaliGee somehow knew it was Karzahni playing the loud and powerful instrument. The darkly brilliant tune seemed to match the being who skillfully played it. He was exceptionally talented, she would have to admit. GaliGee thought about her predicament. She had been captured by a maniacal tyrant who was actually worse than Teridax. Not only was he completely insane, but he had an entire realm at his disposal. He already had what Teridax had always wanted. A world to call his own.
As the song continued, GaliGee began to compare the two villains. Both were evil, there was no doubt about that. But there was something more sinister about Karzahni. Teridax seemed to be somewhat more of a dictator; cold with deadly efficiently. Karzahni had the same ambitious personality, but there was a difference. He was obviously learned, but he seemed to be a throwback to a medieval world where the one who wanted to be ruler had to fight for it. True, Teridax could be terrifying, but there was something almost archaically mortifying about Karzahni’s persona. GaliGee laid down in her bed, and tried to think of other things. The music remained with her until she drifted off into a deep sleep.
Edited by spyder ryder, Feb 01 2012 - 08:48 PM.