Where He Dwelleth None Can Say
[Title Quotation: The Fall of Gil-galad poem, Page 185 (By my copy), chapter ‘A Knife in the Dark’
Other Notes: There are a number of short passages and other references from the books and movies spread throughout the story. Some of them are almost straight-up quotes from the text or movies, while some of them are just thematic or action based references. Anyway, Tolkein fans should be able to recognize them fairly easily, and the title cited above is what really qualifies the entry. That quote is featured near the end of the story as well. Enjoy!]
The long, endless banks of the Hura-Mafa were usually a place for admiration. Sunlight glistened on the ripples in the long river, lined with grass, bamboo and Harakeke, populated by variety of small Rahi.
Alas, upon such a gray, morbid day, the river was not so. Rain came in short sprinkles, but the sky above Ga-Wahi remained eclipsed in cloud. For the nine Matoran that wearily stalked the river’s edge, this dismal weather was only a sign, a signal of what was yet to come.
Broken spears and scattered discs were the first real evidence of the battle that had taken place. Roughly a dozen bio downstream, the rest of the brutal remains were found. Several Matoran were scattered unmoving on the banks, some partially submerged in the water.
“Makuta will pay for this.” One traveller uttered. Upon sight of their brethren, the Matoran rushed forth to offer whatever help they could. One stood back, leaving the others to concern themselves with the fallen beings ahead. He feared their findings would result only in corpses to send back to Ta-Koro.
“He’s still alive!” The Captain of the Guard was surprised by the water-villager’s announcement. Thank the great spirit...a survivor. Another call rang out...that meant two guardsmen. Two more Matoran that might yet go on to serve another watch. However, the Captain had sent five out to this task, and when he looked out to where the other three forms lay, he was met with shaking heads.
Alas, the two survivors had both fallen past conscious, but one was awoken without much difficulty. Helped to his feet, the Guardsman took a moment to re-gather his thoughts, thoughts of the battle that had taken place here, and looking to the bodies as evidence to how it ended. Upon seeing his Captain high on the riverbank, the Guard snapped to attention and saluted. The Captain returned the gesture, and then walked down to the water’s edge, meeting his guard face-to-face. The Matoran spared no time in explaining.
“We wounded one of the beasts. It limped off before the fight was finished. I believe we snapped Makuta’s grip on the beast.” The guardsman grimaced. “It was the second that tore through us. Bigger, stronger, more aggressive. We’d never fought anything like it. I was the second to fall, when it hurled me down to the river’s edge. I saw none of what happened next, but as you can see...we failed.”
Jaller shook his head, dropping his hand firmly on the guard’s shoulder.
“You conquered one of Makuta’s greatest beasts, that is a victory on its own. As for our other fallen brothers...they will be avenged.” The Captain turned from his comrade, and called for the eight Matoran he had brought down the river with him. Five maiden’s of Ga-Koro, and three more loyal Ta-Koro guardsmen. All tuned in to hear him speak.
“Our regards to you, sisters from Ga-Koro, but it is here our paths diverge. My guardsmen and I are to pursue the monster, but we would not leave our fallen companions on this river. We ask you take our brothers back to Ga-Koro, and request that your Turaga tend to our two here wounded.”
The Ga-Matoran nodded one by one, and began to gather up the Ta-Matoran bodies. They were assisted by the stubborn survivor, who would not sit back idle and watch as the Ga-Matoran carried off his fallen brethren.
As for Jaller and his guards, they had matters more urgent. The three companions Jaller had brought with him from Ta-Koro gathered round behind him, awaiting their own commands. Assembled before him was Bastad, Jaller’s bold lieutenant, Kalama, a gate guard, and Agni, a sturdy, unfaltering watchman. These were Jaller’s choice men, the most capable for the long, dark journey they were to undertake.
“There will be time for mourning later. Find the tracks of the beasts. There will be two sets.” It took only a moment for the guardsmen to uncover both trails, one bound northward into the desert, the other northwest, through the crossroads, toward Onu-Wahi. The tracks were massive, the unmistakeable hoof prints of Kane-Ra, and usually very odd to find so far south.
“This one was limping.” Agni pointed out the falter in the desert-bound tracks. “It’s most likely this was the injured one. The bull’s trying to get back home, Makuta has lost his grasp on it.” The Guard Captain nodded.
“There is no use in following that trail.” Bastad interjected, to no disagreement. “The beast will live or die by its own will. Our other target is still a victim of the Madness. It still hunt’s our people. Captain, we should spare no time in pursuit.”
They did not. Only a brief farewell was given to the Ga-Matoran before the four guardsmen set off, following the clear, obvious path the Kane-Ra had left.
The plant-filled riverbanks began to recede into open plain as the band grew further from the heart of Ga-Wahi. The rich soil, ideal for harakeke, became thick, tough dirt that grew only grass, and that grass was the only plant-life to be seen for a few kio. The Matoran were at the crossroads now, where following the right path would take a Matoran anywhere, and the harsh, diverse climates of each Wahi met at a calm, neutral ground.
The rain began to cease as they moved ever on, the rain clouds breaking open to let sun rays shine through on the open grass. They met no travellers on the road, only a frigid breeze from the southwest that swayed the grass and chilled the Matoran. No sounds were to be heard either, save that same breeze, blowing over hills and echoing in the ears of the travellers. Without a doubt, the guards had been to places on the island far colder and less hospitable, but thoughts of the lively village of Ta-Koro and the warmth of Mangai’s offshoots still made for longing in the minds of the Ta-Matoran.
They stopped only for a short time, a few moments to rest the legs. They had come to a hill, a tall one, where one could look over the plains for a great distance all around. To the north, where grass became sand, to the southwest, where the hills capped with snow, and to the northwest, where all to be seen was the rough, jagged rocks with not an inch of flat ground in sight.
Even from the top of this hill could the tracks be seen, so the Captain of the Guard climbed the hill to its peak, and let his eyes follow the trail, which wavered about much, but mostly stayed true to a single destination. Onu-Wahi.
“Are we to follow the beast all the way to those black, sharp, ugly rocks, Captain? We’re far past our lands now, should we not return home, and leave the hunt for the other villages now?” Jaller had not even heard Bastad approach. “The great spirit knows we’ve lost enough Matoran already.”
“Vakama has given us leave to track this beast as far and wide as we must. You chose to join this hunt, do not think to go back on your word.”
“I agreed to follow two Kane-Ra into Ga-Wahi, to ensure the safety of our villagers, and to aid the pretty water-maidens. Not to track one Rahi to the farthest edges of the island...” Bastad withheld any further comments however, not wishing to truly defy his superior. Jaller too, remained calm, but his voice grew bitterer.
“You saw the huts as well as I did, brother. You saw what carnage came upon the beaches.” In Bastad’s eyes, Jaller could see the same bitter recollection and memory that haunted the Captain’s mind.
“If we don’t deal with this beast now, it will come back to haunt us tomorrow.” Jaller continued, turning to look his lieutenant in the eye. “We cannot allow Makuta to see weakness in us, or think he can make such ploys without retaliation. What you see here is not Jaller, Captain of the Guard, grabbing at a chance to show his quality. What you see is a need for closure, and assurance that the same rampage that Makuta inflicted on us will not be repeated, over and over, upon our great city of fire.” Bastad remained silent, and then nodded, slowly and reluctantly. He did not approve, Jaller knew, but he would obey, as he always had.
“Come then. We cannot fall far behind.” Jaller beckoned the lieutenant along behind him, and they returned to their long trek, bound for Onu-Wahi, just as the beast ahead of them had been.
The tracks were at no point difficult to follow, but eventually, the path they formed strayed somewhere truly bizarre and worrisome. From a distance, they could see a cave mouth ahead, found at the base of a low cliff, near the edge of what was truly Onu-Wahi. The guards knew opening led into a tunnel, very specific in where it led. This path travelled directly to the great village of Onu-Koro.
“Who ever heard of a Kane-Ra headed underground?” Agni asked as they drew closer, slowing to a halt at the opening.
“Makuta’s will can drive a beast anywhere, it would seem.” Kalama answered. “Will the Onu-Matoran be prepared for such an attack?” The guard already suspected the answer he would receive.
“They fight Kofo-Jaga and Kuma-Nui, but an attack from the surface? No, it is a hard blow they will have been struck by. Ready your spears, guardsmen, and ensure your discs are not far from reach. The village may well be in ruin’s when we arrive. Agni, light the way for us.” The Captain stepped back from the tunnel, and let Agni, with a lightstone in one hand and spear in the other, lead the path down into the dark. Each of the guards bore a spear, with a satchel of throwing discs slung on their back, alongside shields, torches, and other equipment. With these weapons in tow, they filed, one by one, into the tunnel.
The lightstone had little to shine upon but the rough tunnel walls, which cast moving shadows in their nooks and ledges. The guards could see a faint light at the end, doubtlessly the dim, grand cavern that was Onu-Koro.
But as they drew closer, what they saw stopped them in their tracks. Against the light ahead, they saw glimpses of movement, large, dark silhouettes. The tunnel filled with a loud clacking noise, not unlike footsteps, but not those of a Matoran, nor of the Kane-Ra beast they pursued. The guard’s thrusts their spears forward in defense, waiting for the figures to reach the clear illumination of Agni’s lightstone.
Something reached that light, but only for an instant before it landed on Agni’s chest, knocking the light-bearer off his feet. As his comrade’s rushed to his assistance and defence, they saw clearer what had struck him, lying beside the glowing stone Agni had dropped. It was a disc, crafted of bamboo in a form fit for a throwing weapon, and it was no different than the discs Jaller’s men carried upon them at this very moment.
The lightstone on the tunnel ground was what allowed them a glimpse of the second and third discs an instant before they landed, followed closely by more. Some glanced off the guards, some missed entirely, but it mattered not, for the Matoran scattered nonetheless. Intentions of calling out to their attackers were cut short by narrow dodges, and by the time the throwing stopped, the dark figures were upon them, now standing illuminated as they surrounded the four exhausted guards. Matoran they were, clad in black and purple, mounted upon crab-like steeds. They carried picks, hammers and discs, all of which they pointed at the Guard Captain and his companions. They did not falter upon seeing their quarries were Matoran, but Jaller heard mutter’s amongst themselves, words of confusion or relief in some cases. Only one spoke up to the Ta-Matoran, the Captain amongst the riders, doubtlessly.
“State your names, and your business within the realm of Onu-Wahi.” His eyes were narrow, and his throwing arm poised, clutching another disc in the case he did not like the response.
“I am Jaller, Captain of the Ta-Koro Guard, and Right Hand to Turaga Vakama. These are my guardsmen and comrades, Bastad, Agni, and Kalama. We track a Kane-Ra bull, a monster that has wreaked havoc upon the eastern villages.” He had no doubt these weary defenders had already met the beast he spoke of.
“To finish the monster’s work here perhaps?” another, gruffer rider cut in, turning to the first speaker. “Onepu, Makuta has many servants and spies, not all of them so easily distinguished by their claws or teeth.”
“Agreed.” A third called out. “We should not offer our trust so freely.” Jaller had intended to allow the rider Captain his own opinion, having said his peice, but Bastad did not share this approach.
“Well, we came to rid you of a great, black, ugly, foul smelling wretch of a creature. No offense intended, of course.” The lieutenant smiled at the disagreeable rider’s, who only grimaced and mock smiled at his jest. “Regardless, if you’ve already claimed or courted or otherwise dealt with the beast, then by all means we’ll leave you’re village in peace.” It was as if he was daring the rider’s to let loose their throwing arms. However, the rider Captain, Onepu, paid him no attention.
“Well met Jaller. I am Onepu, Right Hand to our own Turaga Whenua, and head rider of the Ussalry you see gathered around you. For now, at least, you have my welcome to the village of Onu-Koro. I am inclined to believe the claims you have laid, for the servants of the enemy have never appeared as such. Nevertheless, Whenua will be the one to truly judge your innocence.” Relief washed over Jaller. Most certainly a Turaga would recognize him and his guard for their true selves. Better he be the judge then this gruff rabble of fighters. The rider’s helped the guardsmen to their feet, muttering apologies for the mild damage they had inflicted, and muttering insults in retaliation to Bastad. They keept the captured Ta-Matoran surrounded as they guided them toward the village. Jaller took up a walk beside Onepu.
“The beast you speak of was here.” The rider spoke first. “It struck the village fast, and the damage was deadly. My rider’s and I were deep in the mines, patrolling for Kofo-Jaga. The guards we left here were no match. The village is mostly in ruin, and the beast is not accounted for. By the time we returned to what was left of the village, the bull was gone. We haven’t pursued the beast yet, for fear that in our absence, another attack may occur. Until we’ve recovered, the village need be our priority.” The disappointment the rider had for himself and how the event’s had gone could not have been more obvious.
Onepu had lost friends. Jaller had lost friends. The Ga-Matoran had lost friends. The Guard Captain doubted Makuta had any friends, but in any way Jaller could muster, he vowed every one of those lives lost would be repaid.
There was little left intact in the village, Onepu had spoken true. Most huts were half standing or less, with stone remains strewn about. Scattered light stones illuminated the ruin, shining light upon the dozen’s of Onu-Matoran, bustling back and forth in mostly folly attempts to rebuild their structures. Each tunnel leading into the village was blocked by Ussal Riders, well-armed and focused.
Onepu and his companions guided the Ta-Matoran through the crowds, back to where the largest hut in the village stood. Surprisingly, it was relatively undamaged. Here, Matoran gathered around the entrance, attempting to reach the attention of one figure, standing illuminated in the doorway.
The crowd at the doorway stepped aside at the approach of the Ussalry, allowing the warriors from both villages to pass through. The Turaga of Onu-Koro, a stout figure, little taller than his villagers, was finishing matter’s with a guildmaster of the mine’s, struggling to attend to the needs of all who approached him. Upon seeing Onepu and his company, he diverted his attention from the crowd to the riders.
“Turaga, we bring you travellers who claim to be guardsmen from the village of Ta-Koro. We would ask for your judgement as to the truth in their words.” Onepu shifted his Ussal aside, allowing the elder to look upon Jaller standing behind him, who planted the rear of his spear in the ground and bowed low to the Turaga in perfect unison with the other guards.
“Turaga Whenua, I am Jaller, Captain of the Guard and Right Hand to Turaga Vakama. We come in pursuit of the Kane-Ra beast that has struck your village and our own, with the intention of ending its rampage and preventing further destruction. We hope that you would guide us to its current location, so we may complete our task. If not, we ask you let us continue our journey, so we might find the beast ourselves.” Jaller looked up from the ground to the aging Turaga, and saw him return the bow.
“It is an honour to welcome the esteemed guardsmen of my fiery brother’s village.” Whenua looked to Onepu. “Captain, would you do me a service and tend to the needs of all these good Matoran? I would speak with these travellers in the privacy of my hut.” The rider nodded, and Whenua beckoned Jaller and his companions inside.
The hut was large, well lit, and comfortable, which made it the most pleasant place the Ta-Matoran had been since leaving their own village. Nevertheless, they were anxious and eager, remaining standing rather than finding comfort, resting only by leaning upon their spears. Whenua took the same approach.
“So, guardsmen, does my brother send word amongst you? I imagine such an undertaking would not go through without his command, yes?” Whenua inquired.
“Turaga Vakama gave us leave to hunt the beast as far as we must, but he knows not that we have journeyed quite this far. Thus, we bear no word from him to you.” The Guard Captain replied.
“If you please, Turaga, we wish to stay close on the beast’s tail, so to not fall far behind.” Kalama piped in from the back, to which he received a sigh.
“Don’t be hasty, master guardsmen.” The Turaga began to pace. “The creature you seek will not be travelling now. It rests, I suspect, under surveillance of its master. Your goal in hunting the beast may be folly. I saw where the beast has gone, I watched it prowl on once its hunger for destruction had been satisfied. But were I to tell you where the creature has travelled, I fear I would only be sending you to your doom.”
“Please Turaga, let us have a hand at conquering the beast. Your own brother has allowed us-” But Jaller was cut off, for Whenua was not finished.
“I do not know why Vakama has permitted you to pursue what seems so foolhardy a mission, but in these troubling times, I care not to ponder. Captain, this beast is Makuta’s greatest servant, and he would use it to lure you. Warn the villages, let them bear their arms against the beast should it attack them directly, and do the same yourself, but do not follow this most dangerous creature into Makuta’s darkest shadows, where the Lord of Shadow’s may do as he please with you. Think to the lives of the guards you bring with you.” But it was Agni’s turn to interject.
“We seek out the same target as our Captain, for the same motives.” He was backed by the nods for the other two guardsman.
“To what motives? For death and glory?” Whenua asked, ever-calm but bitter.
The highway to Ko-Koro was cold. None of the tunnels beneath the surface were particularly warm, but this path was marginally chiller. Darker as well, the tunnel was much longer than the route the guards had taken into the village. After a short time, the guards lost sight of the light of Onu-Koro behind them, with no sight of the tunnel’s end ahead. Twists and curve’s in the broad path kept the road submerged in complete shadow, save the glowing lightstones the guards relied on.
“You will find the beast in the southward highway that leads to Ko-Koro.” The Turaga had said, having given in to the Ta-Matoran’s stubbornness. “The route is long since abandoned, and for good reason. It is an evil place, of ice and shadows, where Makuta’s servant’s stalk the darkness, and sometime’s are joined by the Lord of Shadows himself. You may find him dwelling there now, awaiting you alongside his beast.”
“I do not imagine you will heed my warnings, but I still advise you not go. Onepu and his rider’s will not join you; they are busied enough with defence of the village. At this juncture, all I can ask if for you to be weary in your travel, and wish you a safe return.”
With that, they had set off into the dark. Only four guards, heavily armed, but blind for the shadows ahead. Even the light they shed upon the darkness seemed to fade into the shadows after only a bio or so, there was no glow to be had. The Ta-Matoran hadn’t been offered guidance through the dark, and Jaller knew they couldn’t have asked for such. Not when Onu-Koro was in ruin, and the task they were set upon seemed so very lethal.
“Never again will I set foot in this wretched, black hole.” Agni spat.
“Alright Agni. I’ll ensure not to put any ‘wretched, black holes’ on your regular patrol route. From now on, you get nothing but sunshine, and long lovely strolls along the beach, and cute little Gekula that can-”
“Quiet.” Jaller tried to snap at them, but the sharp sarcasm of Bastad had him on the edge of a grin. He couldn’t truly blame Agni however. Walking into the shadow of Makuta hardly sat well with him, not knowing when their greatest enemy might show his face, be it with his own eyes, or through the growling, ugly form of a Kane-Ra. To be blunt, Jaller did not know what to expect. He had never truly crossed paths with Makuta before, had he?
The first sign was the breeze, the cool breeze that blew across their backs and chilled their whole bodies. With their backs facing the route to Onu-Koro, they knew there could be no natural breeze as such. The Ta-Matoran glanced at each other, nodding in bitter acknowledgement of the unnatural forces at work. The breeze’s seemed to come from all sides, little more than chills, but all blowing toward the same location. The cave had grown broader, now stalactites and small boulder’s stood in the road, partially obstructing the long path.
The winds echoed in the tunnel, still seeming to gather in one corner of the twisting path. What very little illumination shed upon the corner began to disappear before their eyes, shrouding the area in darkness.
It was then that two rich, red, glowing lights grew from the blackness, glowing brighter than lightstone’s and shedding less light upon the cave. Jaller did not know which of his companions it was that muttered the single word that rested in each of their minds, but even their quietest voice made their fear clear to the Guard Captain. Perhaps they were even more frightened than he was.
Jaller’s gripped his spear as tightly as his hands permit. What breath’s he could muster came in short jabs. He felt cold, from his forehead to his fingertips, and the frosty spike’s of fear jabbed at his heartstone. He was terrified, to be sure. He could come face to face with any Rahi the cruel island could throw at him, but this black shroud of darkness was too dark, too mysterious for even him. However, nothing Jaller could see scared him half so much as the deep, evil voice that rang in his head when it spoke.
“Matoran...” The great red eyes grew wider. “Four watchman...born of a great burning flame. Their eyes have watched much in their noble tasks, but what have they truly seen? Fire? Light? Heat and prosperity they know...yes...and safety in the eyes of their great fortress. But what do they know of the shadow’s? Have they truly felt the cold?” Another gust came, stronger this time, blowing through every gap in the Ta-Matoran’s armour and leaving their limb’s numbed with cold for a short few moments. It was enough to make Kalama jump, his body bumping into Jaller’s which only gave the Captain another second’s worth of panic.
No. He was a Captain of the Guard. He could not be bullied out of that role just because of this dark lord’s enigmatic statements and glowing red eyes. He could not show weakness now.
“Is this how Makuta means to fight us? With long, boring words and the occasional breeze?” He called out, backed by a grunt of agreement from the lieutenant behind him.
“Riddles in the dark.” Bastad muttered. “What else do the shadows have to offer?” It was only then that Jaller realized that their words may have only brought doom upon them. That thought came an instant before Makuta’s deep laughter began to fill the cave.
“So bold....but blind. Ignorant. You would see me only as the darkness. What lurk’s in your village when the sun disappears. What even the hottest fires of Ta-Koro cannot frighten off. No, brave watchman. I am far...far more than that. I am destruction, the will to undo creation. I am the burning flames you so dearly love. I am the harshest wave’s that strike the water village’s shores. I am the brutal rains that sully the sky, the deadly blizzards that batter the mountains. I am the unbearable heat that makes barren the desert, and yes, I am the pitch black depths of the deepest tunnels, where only the shadows can thrive.” Jaller knew not if the eyes were growing bigger yet, or merely closer, but in their red glow, the guardsmen stumbled upon each other in their attempts to back up. The Guard Captain tripped up to one knee, but steadied himself with the spear in his hand. His other hand brushed along the floor to bring himself to his feet, but struck something first.
A lightstone. Agni must have dropped it. Its glow seemed weak, dimmer than ever, overpowered by Makuta’s shade. But summing up what little courage he could, Jaller grasped the stone, climbing to his feet and thrusting it forth between where the two great red eyes rested. In his hands, the stone seemed to outshine the red glow that filled the cave, and Makuta’s eye’s seemed to grow smaller. It was Jaller’s turn to speak.
“Then flee to those black depth’s Makuta. Go back to the shadow! Here there is light, and life, and fire, in the bodies of us simple guardsmen. We are the servants of the sacred flame of Vakama, and we shall not back down!” The words came spilling out of Jaller without thought to them, and the Captain’s burning defiance battled with the cold grip of fear. Between the two, Jaller could only stand and wait for his dark enemy to act. But he did not. Instead, more laughter met the ears of guardsmen, deep and dark still, but quieter. The red eyes of the shadows began to fade back into the blackness, and the guards were left alone in the blackness.
A bitter silence had overcome them all in anticipation. The Ta-Matoran stepped back, spears raised, forming a back-to-back circle of defence. The lightstones they held showed no evidence of movement in the shadows, but they all silently agreed on one factor. Makuta is not finished with us.
But after several minutes of dark, silent, eerie waiting, it was Agni who first began to lower his spear. Was the Makuta only playing with their minds? “Should we continue?” Kalama whispered to the Captain, who only grimaced. What was it they were expected to do...and where was the quarry they had journeyed so far to claim?
The Captain turned his head only for a second, just a moment, to answer his guardsman’s question, when these thoughts were put to rest. A monstrous bellow filled the cave, and a massive, dark form appeared from behind a stalagmite, seeming to emerge from nothing. The guards had an instant to raise their defense again, but their spears returned upward not fast enough. The Kane-Ra ploughed through their defence, throwing the guards about with its great horns and snapping their spears beneath him. Jaller was struck aside by a swing of its hoof, throwing him to the ground and leaving his weapons behind him. Head-first the captain landed, reeling from the shock the beast had given him. He desperately spun to sit up and for the first time saw clearly the beast they had been hunting for in the light of their glowing stones. It was larger in size than any beast Jaller had ever met with his spear. Its face was scarred and beaten, with one eye that remained nearly shut. Its two horns were larger than those of any other bull on the island, crooked and sharp. But these features did not change the most important element of the beast.
This creature was just a Rahi, and the Guardsmen could fight Rahi.
Alas, they did, for before Jaller was on his feet again, Bastad was upon the beast with his spear, blinding the beast with a lightstone in his off hand. He faced the monster without hesitation, jabbing at the pitted, black masks that corrupted the beast, but Jaller knew his lieutenant would not hesitate to finish the beast even free of its madness. Bastad was blinded by the rage and vengeance for those lost in Ga-Wahi, but in that determination there was foolery.
The other guard’s had not recovered to support him in time, and Bastad was not strong enough alone. Surging forward, the beast caught the guardsman against the broadside of its curved horn and ran him into the wall with all its force, continuing to drive even after it struck the wall, crushing the lieutenant in an agonizing pin. Bastad groaned in anguish, dropping his weapons to free his hands. The Matoran tried to push back against the horn, but the effort was futile. After several moments, the creature stepped back, letting Bastad drop to the ground. However, the beast delivered one last blow, a kick from its hooved foot, to ensure that Bastad would remain inactive for the duration of this fight.
By that point however, the other’s had fully recovered. Without access to his spear, Jaller looked instead to the two torches that sat in his bag, brought from Ta-Koro. “Use your discs!” He hollered to Kalama and Agni, who were already cocking back their throwing arms for a volley upon the beast. As their missiles hurdled through the darkness, Jaller ignited the torches and took one in each hand, moving to stand ahead of his two remaining comrades. Their discs struck true to the beasts form, forcing it back into a reserved stance. As the disc-throwers reached back for more discs however, the beasts did as all bulls did. It charged.
The beast was not afraid of flame, that much was clear. But Jaller stood in its path with his torches nonetheless. As it bound for the throwers behind him, Jaller swung his two burning shafts to meet the creature at its maw. The fires licked the creature, which yelped first in pain, then growled as its eyes grew narrow.
Jaller stepped forward again, battering away with his flames at the bulls face, its eyes, its maw, and its legs. The Kane-Ra shook its head and snapped at each, throwing clumsy, stifled blows that withdrew from the flames still, and thus did little harm to the Guard Captain. It was as he struck at its eye, its one remaining red eye, that it let go of restraint. The beast lurched forward again, relentlessly knocking the Ta-Matoran to the ground. It drew back for only a second, a build up for another goring blow, in which time Jaller raised his two torches once more, and met its driving force with a burning bite of flame.
The torches snapped beneath its strike, but Jaller never received the blow to his body. The beast lurched back before it could finish its attack, howling as the fire’s danced across its face. With the beast away from their captain, Kalama and Agni let loose with the remainder of their discs alongside those looted from Bastad and Jaller. Flying two at a time, they struck over and over, smiting the blinded beast until they met their true mark. The discs succeeded eventually in wrenching the pitted, deformed, infected masks off the monster’s face, freeing it entirely of Makuta’s will. The beast continued to dance back and forth, extinguishing itself of the live flame on its scowl, but still writhing in injury from the burns. The Matoran only had to dodge around the beasts blind rampage before the beast collapsed unconscious by the pain and the released force of Makuta’s iron will.
Another moment of silence in the shadows. Jaller stood gripping the splinters that were once his torches, while Agni and Kalama slowly reached to retrieve their spears. Bastad remained almost still on the ground, his chest rising and falling ever-so-slightly with what little breath remained in him.
Is that it? Jaller wondered. The beast was vanquished, their mission seemingly completed, but what of Makuta? What had become of the Lord of Shadows?
When no answer came to him, Jaller nodded to his two Matoran, not willing to wait anymore for a sign that may not came. He dropped the broken shard’s of wood at his feet, grabbing Bastad’s lightstone from the ground and approaching their fallen comrade. Bastad’s heartstone glowed faintly, but it glowed still, and his eyes flickered open and closed as his captain approached. Jaller lay the glowing rock alongside his lieutenant for light and knelt the fallen form. Bastad tried to speak, but only coughed wickedly. Jaller patted the shoulder of his friend, shaking his head. “Save your strength friend. We will have help for you soon. You will yet live to serve another watch.” The Captain looked over his shoulder to where his other two guards stood, and pointed back down the path they had come.
“Make for the village; retrieve some of Onepu’s men. Only a few riders’, that’s all we need. To help Bastad, and to do what is fit for this beast.” Jaller commanded. Kalama grabbed another lightstone and started for his task, but Agni, raised a quizzical brow.
“Are we not to finish the beast, like we set out to?”
“The fate of the Kane-Ra can be decided later, we have to get aid to Bastad first.” Jaller was careful not to state out loud the truth about his lieutenant. Bastad was dying. All three of the others were better off not knowing, but Bastad knew better. As Agni nodded and bounded off after Kalama, the lieutenant grabbed his Captain by the wrist. Stubborn as always, he tried again at speaking, more successful this time.
“Never....thought it would be....quite like this.” Bastad managed to gasp. “Lying down in a ‘wretched, black hole’,” it was his jest with Agni from earlier on he spoke of “with you kneeling above me.” He coughed again.
Again Jaller shook his head. “You fought bravely. You have kept your honour. Today is not your day to die. The riders of Onu-Koro will be here soon.” Bastad only grunted in response, and Jaller knew he remained unconvinced.
The lieutenant reached out his hand toward his spear, lying not far away. “I would...hold it, just the same. In...the case that...” He needed say no more. Jaller silently nodded and grabbed the weapon, handing it to the fallen guard; who gripped the shaft tight to his chest.
“You have fought to the edge of death for a cause you did not believe in,” Jaller spoke again, gripping Bastad by the shoulder, “and did your duty with greater ability than any Matoran on this island could have dreamed. I could ask no more of any guardsman.”
Bastad smiled, taking another long breath, and closing his eyes peacefully. “Yes.” He mumbled weakly, and spoke as if he had only heard a fraction of what his captain said.
“I did my duty.”
“Come in Jaller.” The Turaga noted, half-turned towards the door, but still standing toward the roaring flame before him. The Captain nodded, stepping inside the large hut, but standing as if at attention near the door still.
Vakama turned back to the flames. “You wish to speak of your mission in the North.” It wasn’t a question. It was clear. As such, Jaller did not answer, only giving a nod that the Turaga couldn’t see. He didn’t need to see.
“I cannot put you to any blame for the task I undertook, I know.” Jaller spoke up. “What I did is on my hands, and mine alone.” But the Turaga stopped his sentance there.
“No Jaller. I approved of the task, and sent you along on it with the blessing of the Great Spirit. I bear the same weight as you in that regard. To guide myself through that burden, I look to the Sacred Flame.” Jaller did not nod, nor shake his head. He only carried on.
“This is the reason I have come, Turaga. Why did you do so? Why did you set me off on a task so foolish of me, when I was in such a state of mind? Did the flames not tell you of what the journey might bring for those Matoran?”
Vakama did not respond. Jaller went on.
“My most capable lieutenant may never walk again. He lives by a miracle, and miracles could not save the three Matoran that lost their lives on the banks of the Hura-Mafa.”
“And how many more Matoran do you think would have lost their lives had you not hunted the creature down?” The Turaga interjected, and the Captain knew his own part had been spoken. Silhouetted by the fire behind him, Vakama turned back to the guardsman and continued.
“Do you not think I saw the huts of our people, demolished on the beach shores?” His fiery voice rose in volume. “Do you think I care for our people any less then you do, Guard Captain? That I sought for vengeance any less than you?” Vakama began to quiet once again, stepping forward towards Jaller now.
“But that is not why I sent you. There are six villages on this island Jaller. Six villages, but one people. The Matoran stand apart, but in spirit they are united. You journeyed out on a mission not just for the sake of your own people, but for the villagers from every Koro on Mata-Nui. To save them. To defend them. If we do not aid our brothers and sisters in times of need as such, then every village shall crumble overtime, standing alone against the shadow of Makuta.” Vakama took another step forward, close enough now to rest his hand upon Jaller’s shoulder, just as the Captain had done to Bastad in the tunnels below.
“But perhaps that isn’t the reason I sent you out either Jaller. Perhaps I did it for you. Not for your sense of vengeance, not to prove your qualities to me, but so you might put your mind to some degree of rest.
“I know that you, and Agni, and Kalama, and Bastad, and the two guards you saved in Ga-Wahi, will all rest better now for this. Your fallen brethren, who are with the Great Spirit now, will rest as well now, for the same reason. Every guardsman, lava farmer, and shop keeper in our village of Fire, might be put to some small measure of peace, all for this task now complete. Because now they know the truth. The truth that within the bodies of every matoran is a life force that is strong. That with every glowing heart stone, Makuta is driven further back into his shadows. That any beast the Lord of Shadow’s may conquer and twist to his bidding, the Matoran can still conquer with unity, duty, and destiny. It gives them hope, Jaller. A beacon of hope in these dark times we’ve been shrouded in. Do you understand?”
Another silent nod.
Vakama began to pace back towards the flames. “I know what it was you met in the dark depths below. The great, red eyes that looked upon you. It is true, where the shadow’s lay, he is, and I do not know where our nemesis truly lies. Long ago he hid away, and where he dwelleth none can say. But it matters not. You defeated him Jaller. You struck a blow he will not soon forget, and remember it Captain. Remember it well...”
The chamber grew silent as the Turaga drew to a close, looking back to the high-climbing fires, and Jaller took that as his permission to leave. The Captain bowed once again, and silently slipped out into the village central plaza.
The Matoran were slowly vanishing into their huts, and Jaller knew that the sun was disappearing on the island’s horizon now, although he could see it not. The guard’s night watch had begun to set out and stand guard, and the thought to return to his map room and plan through the night crossed Jaller’s mind. The watch would need to be shifted now, with the loss of the beach establishments...
...no. It was as Vakama said. Makuta’s rampage had been put to rest for now. It was time for Jaller, Captain of the Guard, to rest just the same. He and his brethren, alive and fallen, could sleep soundly tonight...
Comments and criticism of any sort are welcome!
Edited by Thunder on the Mountain, Mar 08 2012 - 08:32 PM.