It's time for things to heat up in Lightfall. If you've missed out on the action so far, start out right here. For the central hub of Lightfall, go to the review topic. Now, if nothing else must be said, I think some of the epic's characters have debts to settle...and they would like to started. Like...Right. Now.
Part 3 – The Paths of Warriors
Zakaz, 995 years after the Great Cataclysm
“…So you’re up to it then?” said a gray-armored Toa. A squad of Skakdi restlessly waited around him. “Sure, Toa. If we’re in on the bounty, we got your back,” responded a vicious overlord, the leader of these Skakdi mercenaries. The Toa said “Then we’re sealing the transaction, I get one third of the total payment from AlBeGam, your party gets the other two-thirds to split as you see fit. I still support the 50-50 split - ”
“Shut it, Toa, if you want your deal. The time for haggling is over - now it’s business or bust.”
“Fine. Then let’s go. Reiterate your squad’s names again, Falkhan. I got to call them something.”
“That’s Chief Falkhan. As for my squad, that’s Rayzan there, our demolitions expert. Krazann here specializes in close combat, and is generally our primary combatant. Morgoz is the last one. He makes sure nothing escapes alive, so he’s a secondary brawler and long-range specialist.”
“A well-balanced group. I suppose that’s why you stood out to me when I went looking for a team. Our destination is here,” said the Toa, pointing at a cove of the Northern Continent on a tattered map. There’s…some sort of fortress there, which is why I needed aid. Rayzan will be indispensable into gaining access. I believe our targets are holed up inside with the aid of at least two other Toa.”
The deal was made. The Toa in question wanted no longer just wanted payment, but also revenge. Revenge for the fool they had made him appear to be on Stelt. Order must be established once again. Justice must be dealt. Rynekaad was going to set things straight.
Northern Continent, 995 years after the Great Cataclysm
“Well, this is bad,” sighed Emeder. Guftivei contradicted “What? I was getting sick of just sitting here. Time we put things in motion!” After mentally scanning numerous areas to assess the situation, Imegna had found the mind of Rynekaad. She had just notified them of his intentions.
“Don’t forget, he doesn’t actually know what’s going on here. He thinks the fortress down the cove is under our control. He doesn’t realize we have been trying to break into it for over a year already, waiting for the opportune moment,” reminded Imegna.
The fortress was formerly a Brotherhood of Makuta outpost. It had since been abandoned, but the building still swarmed with their forces. After Imegna had approximated its location with psionic searches, they set out to pinpoint the exact location with traditional exploration. This had taken the better part of the last year. Now that they had found it, they had set camp for a few weeks, uncertain of what step to take next. They wanted to infiltrate it in order to obtain a very specific prize: shadow leeches.
After the revelation about the power of the Light Ravager, Imegna had been the least fazed. Certain some way to defeat it existed, she searched her memory of mind-reads to ascertain a feasibly obtainable shadow substance. After discussing possibilities she knew of with the others, the general consensus was that their primary objective would be to steal shadow leeches from a Makuta facility. This outpost, abandoned by its original overlords, seemed like a perfect starting point…until they saw the Rahkshi patrolling it. The party had remained unnoticed so far and determined that there were at least two Exo-Toa suits, a minimum of ten Rahkshi (quite possibly as many as twenty), and who knew what else. Imegna’s mind-reading was unsuccessful in obtaining more information as she had little practice with the unusual minds of kraata, if they could even be considered to have minds.
“How did he ever find out we were here?” Tignioni questioned. Imegna answered “It wasn’t clear in what I saw…sometimes - fine, frequently, I only get fuzzy views when trying to use my psionics over such distances or vast groups of people. When I said I read the minds of everyone in several continents, I didn’t mean that it was simultaneous or clear. It was in groups and often very vague.”
“Honestly, we passed several settlements on the way here. He could have been tipped off by someone in one of those, or he could have been in one himself. Long-range scouting on his part may have made it clear to him we were in the area and he might have assumed we were in the fortress when he saw it,” contributed Emeder. “We’re totally fried either way.”
“Nah…I say the fun’s just beginning,” said Guftivei. “Seriously, I say we blow that rock pile sky-high!” Even Tignioni had a hard time agreeing with this call to action.
“Actually, Guftivei –” Imegna started “Your enthusiasm just gave me a great idea. Somehow, I have a creeping suspicion that Tignioni isn’t going to like it too much…”
Northern Continent, 995 years after the Great Cataclysm
Rynekaad and Falkhan surveyed the beach. “This looks good. Relatively unassuming, near the ship, fortress in view. Get your squad over here with our supplies, Chief, and we got a camp.” Rynekaad said as they found a seaside opening behind a cluster of boulders. On a hostile rise above them was the fortress, but the boulders would prevent anything from seeing their camp. The terrain was simply austere. Crags of sharp rock existed in place of soil and rubble was littered around the area. Sickly bushes clung to life as unforgiving salty winds raced inland from the ocean. The fortress was about three hundred bios inland and their camp was set almost on the beach and skewed away from it by a slight amount to the right. The fortress walls were about twelve to fifteen bios in height. Sheer escarpments rose up a hundred or so bios out from either side of the fortress with the only gap being a valley that the fortress had been situated in the center of. The cliffs themselves were about thirty bios tall, with talus slopes cascading down them at intervals. Atop these cliffs were thickets of undergrowth that thrived at their elevation, free of the harsh winds in the valley. The valley, by its very nature, funneled foul weather both from the continent and the ocean to this point, leading to perpetually gray skies.
- - -
Tignioni looked down from the cliff face. From his vantage point he could see everything: the abandoned Makuta outpost to the northwest, the bounty hunter camp to almost straight west, even his own camp to the north. His camp was difficult to see from his spot due to thickets of trees obscuring it. Matter of fact, all he could see of it was the glow of the campfire. Rynekaad and his Skakdi were just getting settled in. Now was his time. With a deep breath in preparation, he jumped off the edge and began to slide down a talus slope.
- - -
“What in the name of Irnakk?” Falkhan asked himself. Not removing his eyes from the red streak hurtling toward the ground, he called out “Rynekaad, what do you make of this?” Rynekaad came over to assess the source of Falkhan’s confusion. As soon as he saw it though, he was flabbergasted. At the center of a dust cloud that was just starting to dissipate was the very Toa of Fire that had possessed the audacity to challenge him on Stelt. “Get him!” he roared.
The rush to secure the enemy wasn’t all that necessary, however. The Fire Toa was almost incapacitated after riding an avalanche of rubble down to the valley bottom. The Toa glanced up to see every Skakdi in the squad with armaments trained on him. He dropped his sword at his feet. Rynekaad stalked forward and removed one of the conventional daggers from the row strapped over his chest, then held it to the newcomer’s throat. “Well, if it isn’t Red Head again.”
“It’s Tignioni, if you wanted my name.”
“I’ll remember that Hot Shot. Get it? Fire, Hot?” Rynekaad continued, the dagger steady the entire time.
“You betcha’ fancy mask I’m funny.”
“Right. Um…so, I’m formally handing myself over. If you will just let me go when the battle’s over, I’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
“Considering there’s no price on your head, I say we got a deal. But first, I want to know just why you suddenly seem all excited to get on our side of things, when you pulled a sword on me back in Stelt. If I even smell a lie, I’m going to let my Skakdi acquaintances have fun with you. From what they’ve told me, they’re pretty creative when it comes amusing themselves. How’s this sound to you, Chief?”
“And you, Red Head?”
“Fine by me; I’ve nothing to hide. Just one question: Why do you call me Red Head when my mask is yellow? As I said, you can call me Tignioni.”
Ignoring the question, Rynekaad concluded “Deal. We’re taking you back to camp Hot Shot…”