A barrage of attacks rained down upon the fortress walls. The screams of the wounded could be heard from inside, their tortured howls leaving an eerie echo amidst the din of battle.
A lone being, his armor crimson and gold, strode through a deserted hallway. In his hand was a simple sword, its blade scratched and battered by the blows it had taken during its lifetime. His footsteps were steady, but there was a sense of dread in them that indicated his trepidation.
The figure approached a doorway guarded by two similarly armored and battle-weary beings. The guards kept silent as he knocked on the door; evidently, his presence wasn’t enough to relieve them of their deep-seated boredom.
Taking a deep breath, the being opened the door and entered the dimly-lit room into which it led.
The room was bare, save for a small table and the beings gathered around it. A stone tablet rested upon the table. At a glance, its surface appeared almost unnaturally smooth.
“Ah, Lhikan, there you are.”
The Toa named Lhikan nodded, not entirely certain how to respond. However, the older Toa didn’t seem to expect an answer, and had already turned away from Lhikan to face the others in the room.
For three days the two sides had fought bitterly, with no end in sight. The strange creatures the Toa were fighting against – which according to some were called Frostelus – had appeared from the night and attacked without warning. In response to this strange threat, all Toa in theteam had been given the duty to guard the fortress, and the treasure it held, with their lives.
“I’m sure you are all aware of the situation,” said the Toa who had greeted Lhikan, “but I have some news to report. Only a short while ago we managed to capture one of the fiends who have been attacking us.”
A few of the Toa started to clap, but a swift look from their leader put a quick end to their actions. The veteran’s voice startled the young Toa of Fire out of his disheartened thoughts, but no one in the room noticed it due to the entrance of two Toa at that moment. Lhikan recognized them as the guards from the door, and briefly wondered why they had abandoned their posts before he noticed the load they were carrying. As they entered the room and more light was cast upon it, their burden was revealed to be a pile of armor. After setting it down, they exited the room without a word.
Upon closer inspection, Lhikan realized that it was actually a large
The room fell silent, and all eyes turned to the Toa who had led them through danger on countless occasions. His leadership had saved their lives, and the lives of many others. He was a fierce warrior, and each member of the team looked up to him. To Lhikan, he was a mentor and a friend.
This same Toa now stood before the group, a grim look about his mouth. His eyes, fierce with determination, failed to completely conceal the despair he carried. He opened his mouth, as if to answer, and then closed it.
“Once we captured it, the creature became limp. At first we thought it had been knocked out or even killed, but when we inspected the armor we found that it was empty.”
One of the other Toa stepped forward, a note of fear coloring his voice. “Then are these ‘Frostelus’ some sort of mechanical monsters? Or maybe the armor is possesse-“
His words were cut off as the group fell into chaos. Within moments, each Toa seemed to lose what little fortitude they had managed to cling to. Morale was dangerously low, and their leader could recognize that fact. What the group needed was a powerful speech to motivate them into wanting to fight again.
He lifted a hand into the air, asking for silence in the way that only respected leaders could; with the expectation that silence would be achieved without a word. It was a request to be given the chance to speak without uninterruption, nothing more.
“Before we panic and lose sight of what must be done, I’d like to remind you all that this fortress is our home. We built it with our own hands, and we will defend it the same way. We’ve also been entrusted with a treasure that’s value is impossible to state, especially to Toa like us. Some of our brothers and sisters gave up their lives in order to create that tablet you see over there, so it is our duty to protect it and make sure their sacrifices were not in vain. So what if these Frostelus are mysterious? We already took one out, and now we can do it again. We can defeat our enemy, that much I promise you. So instead of sitting here and moping, how about we stand up and fight? The team of Toa I’ve fought together with wouldn’t let something like this stop them, so let’s send these invaders back to where they came from!”
The group that only a few moments before had been ready to give up was suddenly changed. As if they had been brought back from the dead, new life crept into them, and their eyes shone once more with a fierce hope and determination.
Lhikan walked through yet another empty hallway. His footsteps were faltering, as if he was uncertain where to go. He had only arrived at the fortress a week before the attacks had begun, so he had yet to memorize the layout of the building. Even earlier that day he had needed directions to get to the room where the meeting had been held.
The thought of the meeting, and especially the rousing speech that the veteran Toa had given, lifted his spirits slightly. Even if he was lost, for the first time he felt like he could fight on par with all the others.
While Lhikan basked in his newfound self-confidence, he heard the sound of his leader’s voice through a barely-open door. Inching closer, he was able to barely make out the words being spoken.
“- am I kidding… For though I do not ask for aid, we need it… What madness is this? Why didn’t I ask that messenger to send for help? We lost this battle the moment it started, yet we dare not retreat for fear of what lies behind us. If only I hadn’t decided to build the fortress here, maybe this could have all been avoided …”
Lhikan stepped back slowly, careful to not make a noise. He took another step back, and another, and another until he found himself before the door to his room. With shaky steps, he entered his room. Only minutes before he had been feeling as if he could take on the world, (or at least all of the enemies pounding continuously on their front door) but now he realized just how grave the situation was. Everyone in the isolated fortress was doomed.
But, if that was the case, why remain? What reason was there to stay when it would only result in their deaths?
Lhikan was yanked out of his melancholic thoughts by the abrupt entrance of a Toa in blue and green colored armor. He immediately recognized the Toa, but before he could utter a greeting he was pulled onto his feet and dragged out through the doorway. The Toa started to explain the situation, but a sudden tremor throughout the fortress, accompanied by the sounds of a battle in the distance, made it unnecessary. The two rushed down the hallway in silence, each preparing for the approaching fight in their own way.
For Lhikan, this meant debating on whether or not to share what he had heard earlier. Although he hated keeping something like this hidden from the other (especially when it put their lives in danger), he quickly realized that it wasn’t the right time. What mattered most at that moment was assisting those who were already fighting against the Frostelus. However, he decided that he would tell the rest of the team what he had heard once they had repelled the invaders.
They turned a corner, and Lhikan briefly wondered if he had entered a war zone. Elemental attacks and spinning wheels of energy were flying through the air, their creators not differentiating between friend and foe. Everything was chaos, and for an instant Lhikan wanted to do nothing more than to turn tail and run in the opposite direction as fast as possible. However, the Toa of The Green bravely stepped forward and into the fray. His eyes were filled with a grim determination, and somehow the sight served to calm Lhikan down slightly. He took a deep breath, and also dove into the struggle.
For a few minutes, Lhikan was aware of nothing outside of the Frostelus in front of him. Twice already a stray shot from one of the other combatants had struck his opponents, and twice he had taken the opportunity to incapacitate the same enemies. However, he had no chance to celebrate his victories, for there was always another to take the place of the one that had just fallen. Lhikan’s movements became sluggish, and each new enemy managed to drive him a bit farther back.
It was during one of these fights that fate turned against Lhikan. A blast of wind created by one of his teammates knocked him off his feet, and the Frostelus he was fighting saw the chance to avenge its fallen companions. Reaching forward, it grabbed Lhikan by the shoulders and threw him against a nearby wall. The impact knocked his breath out, and he was left crumpled up against the stone and barely conscious. He watched, as if in slow motion, as the creature stepped forward, its visage twisted into something resembling a cruel smile. It slowly lifted one of its weapons into the air, and Lhikan wondered vaguely if he was about to die.
A spike erupted from the creature’s chest, and it gave off a shrill shriek before collapsing onto the ground. Behind it stood the leader of Lhikan’s team, his face distorted with anger. In his hand was a broadsword, but its blade oddly bore no traces of battle. Lhikan dimly stared past his rescuer to see that several others had met a similar fate. Before Lhikan could figure out how the Toa had defeated so many on his own, he was pulled back onto his feet and the older Toa returned to fending off the numerous Frostelus that sought revenge against him for defeating their comrades.
As he struggled against three opponents, the veteran Toa turned and yelled at a nearby Toa of Stone. “Make a wall!”
The Toa of Stone nodded, and at his command the walls shifted and changed position. After a moment, the Toa who were still standing rearranged themselves into a wall that hid the majority of the creatures from sight. Lhikan, who had finally recovered enough to fight again, lobbed a couple of fireballs at the remaining Frostelus. The sudden attack from a being they had deemed disabled took the Frostelus by surprise, and the veteran Toa of Iron crushed their armor in that brief window of opportunity.
The hallway seemed eerily silent without the din of blades clashing and elemental attacks flying through the air. However, after a moment a series of dull thuds from behind the makeshift wall proved that the invaders were not willing to let the battle end until they had crushed the opposition.
The older Toa grabbed Lhikan and pulled him away to the side, quickly speaking in a hushed tone so that the others would have difficulty hearing what he said. “Lhikan, you have to grab the stone and get out of here. We can’t hold these things off much longer, and-“
He was cut off by a chunk of rock flying past his head. The wall was already beginning to give way to the onslaught.
“I know. I heard what you said after the meeting,” Lhikan said, before he had the chance to resume speaking. “I’ll get the Makoki Stone, but I’m also going to get reinforcements. Just because you won’t let go of your pride to ask for help doesn’t mean that the whole team should be doomed to die.”
The other Toa smiled weakly. “I hope you do. Now get out of here, before they break through that wall.”
Lhikan turned around and ran. After a few brief commands, the rest of the group formed a living barrier to prevent any of the Frostelus from following him. As he turned the corner, Lhikan saw the creatures smash apart the stone wall and rush towards the remaining defenders. Wheels of energy flew through the air, striking three of the Toa.
Lhikan forced himself to keep moving. Staying to help wouldn’t change the outcome of the fight. If he wanted to save his team – no, his friends – then he had to get help. But the Makoki Stone had to come first.
When he reached the room where the meeting had been held, he felt as if something was off. The door was ajar, and the torch that always illuminated the room had been extinguished. Lhikan stumbled in the darkness before he gave in and created a small flame to help him see.
The tablet was gone. The Makoki Stone had been stolen. Lhikan stared at the table, hoping that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Something that his team was risking their lives to protect couldn’t have been stole. The world didn’t work that way. There was no such thing as a senseless sacrifice. Nothing his team had done was futile.
These thoughts and many more raced throughout Lhikan’s mind. However, he knew the truth. The stone tablet was gone.
He clenched his fist in anger. He had already failed in the mission he had been given, and yet his team was still out there trying to protect him. Protect him. Protect…
That’s right. I wanted to save them. Even if I don’t have the stone, I can still save them!
He ran, his feet instinctively carrying him down stairs and through hallways until he reached the only exit not guarded by the creatures. He stepped outside for what felt like the first time in days, and a fierce gust of wind clawed against Lhikan, its invisible hands chilling him to the bone. He shivered, not from the cold, but from the thought of what he was about to attempt. Pushing his fears away, he started to climb down the cliffs. It was slow going, and each second seemed to last an eternity. Hand by hand, foot by foot, he gradually descended down the face of the cliff.
At one point, the wind almost caused him to lose his grip and fall down into the river far below, but he somehow managed to cling to the rock. After what felt like hours of climbing, Lhikan felt the spray of the waves and tasted the bitter tang of salt in the air. He had made it past the Frostelus. Elation flooded throughout his body, as he realized that he could still save his teammates. All he had to do was-
Suddenly, his body – beaten, battered, and pushed far beyond its limits – gave out on Lhikan. With a weak cry, he plummeted into the water below.
As the sun rose, a being in crimson and gold armor lay collapsed on the shore. He was alone in the world. All his friends were dead, and he had failed to save them.
Yet, he was still alive. As he woke up, he slowly realized what had happened and was filled with quiet sadness. He had failed to save his team, but that didn’t mean he had to live a life of failure. No, he would become a hero. He would fight in honor of his fallen friends and in gratitude for what they had accomplished.
He might have failed, but they hadn’t.
After all, he was alive.
- - -
“For though I do not ask for aid, we need it.” – Boromir, page 268 Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond