Word Count: 599
Desolation. Misery. Sorrow. That was what the forests of Zakaz represented now.
Once green and lush, now grey and dismal. Once indicative of life, now death. Once a prosperous, paradisal island; now bereft.
It was here, where the land had been bereft of its verdure, that I had been bereft of my Linorru. It was here the Skakdi had stood over her body, deprived of life, grinning psychotically as they always did. And it was here those Skakdi had died by my hand--and wept over Linorru's inert form.
Now it was here that I laid a flower over the spot she had fallen. It was here I caressed the earth where her body had breathed its last. It was here I listened to the raucous dirges of the Necrofinch as it circled overhead, grieving for all the death its eyes had beheld in this land.
I sighed to the wind, "I would curse Zakaz, if it wasn't cursed already. No words of mine can bring upon it worse banes than have befallen it. What worse bane than to live dead? than to remain but to breathe with life nevermore?"
Then I heard a voice. "Nevermore."
Startled, I looked about. But I was alone. I gazed up at the Necrofinch as it continued its flight and obsequial song.
Bar its song there was silence. I whispered, "Linorru--Linorru, is that you?"
"Is that you speaking, Linorru?"
"Nevermore . . . will you speak. This is the truth."
I looked about again. The Necrofinch's song had ended. It was gliding downward, to surcease its flight upon the bough of a lifeless tree. There it perched, its feathers fluffed regally, staring at me with a pompous air.
I almost smiled. "Can--can you speak?"
"What do you mean, creature?"
I regarded the Necrofinch with curiosity, wondering what the ominous creature meant in croaking its despondent word. It was a grim, ungaily creature, both ghastly and gaunt.
"Tell me, bird: have you seen much of the universe?"
"I take you to mean you have, but will----"
"Precisely. And now you are trapped here, to leave----"
I nodded. "I too am trapped. Trapped by my soul, laden with sorrow, burdened with grief for the love lost here, for the love I will see----"
"Tell me, bird--you seem a wise creature, witness to much in the universe--will you share with me your wisdom?"
"But please, I must know! You must tell me what I ask. Tell me whether--whether in some distant land, in some life to come . . . will I see again my love?"
I rose. Voice shaking, I echoed, "Nevermore?"
I bowed my head in sorrow. My hands shook. Dolor swept over me afresh. I glowered up at the Necrofinch. "Thing of evil!" I hissed. "Lies! All lies! I will see Linorru----"
I unleashed a cry of anger and unsheathed my dagger. With a frenzied vociferation I hurled it at the bird. It sunk into the Necrofinch's chest, driving it from its lofty perch to the ground below.
And then, incredulous, I watched the bird take flight, the dagger imbedded in its body. Slowly it flew higher, into the sky, doling out its melancholy dirge.
I watched it fly away. "But of course . . . the Necrofinch. . . . What worse bane than to live dead? than to remain but to breathe with life nevermore? than to fly in neverending death?"
I fell upon my knees and wept.
Theme: Alternate Universes
Word Count: 600
I stared into his eyes and he stared back. Emerald eyes glowed behind his virescent Noble Kadin. He was me; but he wasn't; yet he was.
It was as if I was peering at the surface of a still pond, into the depths of a world where everything is inverted.
Here in my world, in my universe, I am a scholar, a chronicler, and a storyteller. I am but a simple Matoran living a simple life of simple joys.
In his universe, where it is the Matoran who command the elements, he wielded his powers of The Green with a fist of hardwood. He was a ruthless tyrant who ruled over his world; suppressor of freedom, pitiless enslaver, hater and destroyer of all knowledge among the common people. He was devious and cunning, two things I was not; and he was most certainly evil, a trait to which I am proud to lay no claim.
He admired his new surroundings with surprise, wonder . . . and rapacity. Though his eyes glowed with the same hue as my own, they gleamed with an eager malevolence and an iniquitous joy at the prospects before him.
"A whole new world to conquer," he sibilated. "When that fool appeared with that Olmak, I thought it was but another mad scheme of deposition. Mad as it was, it took his madness to show me what has been right beneath my Kanohi all these many years. . . . I have grown weary of ruling a universe with nothing but senseless rebellions to quell beneath my heel. The life of an absolute is dull, at best. But I should have seen it sooner! Why limit my kingdom to one universe--when I could control them all?"
"Are you insane?"
He smiled at me. It was the tenuous smile of a crack in the earth, a deceptive crack that you know will any moment yawn into an abyss of endless shadow any engulf you; and in spite of this certainty, you do not flee, for their is an inexplicable beauty of a macabre tenor to the crack, an enthralled awe awaiting the opening of its sublime mouth.
"You should know full well that--we--are quite insane."
"You can't possibly rule two universes!"
"That batty Turaga--for your sake I hope he exists not in this universe--was right about one thing: I--excuse me, we--can do anything we put our minds to. I do not intend to rule two universes at all . . . but far more." He cocked his head at me. "You are me, are you not? I am you. We are . . . one. We should work together. You could join me . . . together we could be absolute across all the dimensions! You and I could become far more than mere Matoran. We could transcend the Great Beings themselves."
I was not going to listen to another word of this. I screamed "Never!" and unsheathed my blade and lunged. The next thing I knew I was hanging upside down, entangled in vines.
"So you are not me, after all. . . . A pity. This, then, is good-bye. I have a universe to conquer." And then he was gone.
I did not think as I freed myself from my bonds. Perhaps I had already resigned myself to my unruly task. Like it or not . . . I knew that I was the only one who could stop myself.
But one question did press at the corners of my mind: Which of us was the real Nuile?
Word Count: 600
A lone Kewa emitted a raucous cry tinged with weariness. It soared over the jungle canopy with effortless grace, gliding on the breeze until the air currents carried it to the tree where rested its fellows among the high branches, safe from the predators of the night. The branches swayed gently in the wind, rocking its tenants to sleep.
Elsewhere, other avian Rahi were settling among the treetops for the night. Below, hidden by the verdure, the diurnal creatures of the jungle were settling in their knotholes and burrows, while the nocturnal creatures awakened from their slumbers to revel in the darkness.
From the heights of the Great Tree, the jungle spread out in every direction, transcended by the twin peaks to the northeast, framed by a strip of blue to the west and to the south. But everywhere else it was green; tree after tree after tree, of a number greater than can be measured, of varieties more numerous than can be named. It was endless, boundless; it teemed with life.
Yet I knew the number of trees, though I could not count them. I knew the name of each Rahi, though I could not list them. I knew the jungle, because I felt the jungle, because I was one with the jungle--because the jungle was one with me. Because I am the jungle.
The panorama laid artistically before me was a vision. Here was beauty beyond compare, a magical world where everything was perfectly coordinated, perfectly planned, and adhering to a strict law; yet simultaneously untamed and unpredictable.
Both predator and prey and every tree and every stone had a purpose in this jungle. Equilibrium here reigned supreme. The predators hunt and kill, consume their prey; but when at last they die, the jungle consumes them. The jungle absorbs the dead, giving it new life through the trees and foliage; food for the herbivores. The hierarchy begins and ends in the same place.
The jungle is one. Everything within it has a position where it is necessary. And I had my position: hero of the jungle.
But to grow and thrive the jungle requires water. It feeds the jungle, every drop that falls from the sky, every stream that flows through its veins. Flora and fauna both are sustained and balanced by the water. Without the water, the jungle would die. It is the water that gives the jungle its beauty.
I had once been in thirst of this sustenance, a thirst which I had not realized I was afflicted. I had drunk in the beauty and the vitality of this element, that most vital Water; I had been given new life through it. But then I had lost it. And it had taken with it the life the jungle held for me.
The jungle I had once loved, called my home, my life; was dead. Each leaf had shriveled, every tree trunk had withered and collapsed. The Rahi had fallen into slumber. The whispers of the jungle were dulled and no longer fell upon my ears. Around me it was alive; but within I had lost my love for it when I had pushed away the love I cherished.
The jungle around me was a vision. But the vision in my eyes was a short, gracile figure; a blue Kaukau; a glowing smile; eyes that twinkled with effervescence.
This night I did not feel like king of the jungle. I was not one with it. I murmured to the stars, "I am no hero. I am no jungle. I am but sorry, Hahli. . . ."
Word Count: 598
The sun rose over the trees spread below me, the stars disappearing like drying tears. Only the clouds of the fluffiest mien drifted across the resplendent sky. The jungle leaves shimmered with the sun's golden rays. The Kohu and Kewa rose from their roosts, circling upward into the sunshine and greeting the day with lighthearted song.
The morn was of a beauty unparalleled, steeped in a joy long forgotten to me. It brought warmth to my heart and a smile to my face, carrying my woes away on the breeze.
I sat for some minutes on my high perch, watching the jungle waken to the day. The chorus of the jungle burst into a melody I had not noticed for a long time. It filled me with an energy I could not describe. From the Gukko's soprano to the Ash Bear's baritone it was a cadence that compelled me to clap along to the beat.
When I had heard my fill I descended the Nui-Kao, weaving through its canopy alongside the Fikou and Brakas. With agility and skill I ran from branch to branch, descending them with the ease of a flight of stairs. In the shadows of the trees Kavinika prowled among the roots and underbrush, being themselves hunted, perhaps, by Muaka on a final pursuit before taking to their nests for the day.
I brachiated among the boughs and vines. I called out to each Rahi in passing and they called back. I whispered to the trees. I felt the identity of every rock and stone, every river and stream, every tree and shrub. I was in a harmonization with the jungle that I had thought I lost. I was again the jungle.
And the rhythm persisted. It would rise to a crescendo before calming to a soft, steady refrain that insisted I emulate vocally. I descanted:
"A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh.
A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh, a-wimoweh."
I paused on a branch to allow a bevy of Taku to fly past. Instead they decided to alight in the same tree as I. One bird landed upon my shoulder by accident and, giving a squak of surprise, prepared to flee. But I reassured it with a coo, smoothing its ruffled feathers with a dexterously applied hand. It responded with a cheerful trill.
That evening I lay beside my favorite pool, watching the Lightning Bugs buzz about overhead, their light reflecting off the pond's gently rippling surface. A beautiful day was giving way to beautiful twilight, obfuscating the shadows and splashing the sky with rapidly evolving hues. The tune was beginning to calm and soften, but it thrummed on dulcetly. Birds, preparing to retire for the night, lent their song to the melody. But louder over them I heard the baritone yowls of prowling Muaka. I lyricized:
"In the jungle, the mighty jungle,
The Muaka prowls tonight.
In the jungle, the peaceful jungle,
The Muaka prowls tonight."
Soon twilight would give way to the night, and the moon would shine down like the eye of a nocturnal hunter. And I would prowl alongside every one of them, beneath each star, among the roots of each tree. While the music of the night lulled the diurnal into their sleep, I would revel in the nocturne of the darkness. Day and night, I was the jungle.
Day and night, this was my home. This was my world. Dirges and laments had no place in the repertoire of the jungle. This was my lilt. I was its tune and it was mine. I am and always will be Kaomata--Spirit of the Trees.
Lhii and the Hunters of the Dark
Theme: The Legends of Lhii
Word Count: 599
This is a tale from many, many years ago, in times more distant than any Matoran can remember, times when I myself was a Matoran. Yes, little ones, I was once a Matoran, like you. Yes, I was a Ta-Matoran. And in those days I could have taught you all a little something about staying out of trouble. But now then.
I was keeping watch at the gate, with another Matoran named Nury. Yes, I was a guard. Hush now.
It was a calm night. Everything was as normal. The clouds were dark and lazy, and every few moments one would drift over the moon to stanch its silver light, giving way to the deep glow of the lava river.
Suddenly we heard an unusual sound. It was a high-pitched, rhythmic metallic beat: clicketty-clacketty-clicketty-clack. Steadily it got closer; clicketty-clacketty--and louder; clicketty-clack.
Strange shapes flickered in the shadows. It began playing tricks on my mind. I saw ineffable horrors take shape in the dark. I daren't breathe. And still the sound got louder. Clicketty-clacketty-clicketty-clack.
And then with a resounding bellow a Kane-Ra appeared from nowhere and charged us. Shocked but undazed, Nury blew his horn. We held our ground, waiting for reinforcements as the beast charged ever nearer--and nearer--and nearer.
In unity we then threw our disks at the beast. Taken by surprised, it stumbled and fell, burning one foot in the river. We had bought the Guard an extra few moments.
But still that sound--clicketty-clacketty-clicketty-clack. It was louder than ever. And then its terrible scream rent the air, like a dying Gukko's cry, a shrill screech tinged with malice.
We looked up. It stood on the mountainside. It was bigger than an Ash Bear. It was more ferocious than a Muaka. It grinned cruelly down upon us. It was the second biggest Ussal I have ever seen.
Then Nury and I fled, hoping reinforcements would arrive any moment. We soon saw this was impossible. The bridge mechanism was damaged; we could fix it, but we would need time. And as the Ussal clawed at the gate, we knew that was something we did not have.
Without warning a fast disk flashed past and the Ussal staggered. When we looked out, what do you think we saw? That's right--it was the great warrior Lhii, surfing down the lava river toward us.
And then he sprang out of the river, separating his special lavaboard into duel blades. The Ussal screeched and lunged, but Lhii easily deflected its claws with his swords. He retaliated with a blow that knocked the creature off its many feet.
Now Nury and I cried out. The Kane-Ra was thundering up behind Lhii. With one glance over his shoulder he leapt into the air, sailing easily over the beast's head to land upon its back. He grabbed the bull by the horns and with his unsurpassed strength forced it to veer off its course, away from us and toward the Ussal.
The Ussal screeched and fled. Lhii jumped off the Kane-Ra's back as it and the Ussal blundered away into the night. He hurled a final disk after them to remember him by.
And then he turned to Nury and I. We praised and thanked our hero, but he silenced us with a hand.
"You two are the heroes tonight. You bravely stood your ground, united, and did not flinch from your attackers. You have made Ta-Koro proud."
And so it was that Lhii saved me. Without a further word he sprang onto his board and surfed away toward the rising sun.
Theme: The legacy
Word Count: 595
"Wear it with pride, Jala. "
"I will, Turaga Vakama."
I gazed at my distorted reflection in the silever sphere behind me, admiring my new Hau.
"It suits me, I think."
"I hope you will honor what the mask symbolizes."
I turned. "And what's that?"
"Nobility. Bravery. Protection. Can you live up to these precepts?"
"I--I think so."
Vakama smiled. "I believe you can. In time, I think you will be a hero to your village, for the Three Virtues, and for the legacy of your mask."
"I am flattered by your confidence, Turaga. I will do my best to live up to your expectations."
"I know you can."
I was startled by a strange voice echoing through my mind. I know you will, Jala. The destiny before you burns bright.
"Who said that?"
Never mind. Just promise me that you will uphold the honor you have been given.
No problem there. Confused but confident, I vowed, I will, strange disembodied voice.
* * *
"I am disappointed in you, Jala."
"I know, Turaga. I am disappointed in myself."
"You failed in your duty to Ta-Koro today. Your negligence put the lives of many villagers in danger today. If Agni had not raised the alarm in time and summoned your guards and fended off that Ranama, someone might have been killed."
"I realize this, Turaga. I have failed my duty. And that is why I wish to resign from from my captaincy."
Turaga Vakama turned with surprise. "Is that what you wish? To give up?"
"N-no, but I----"
"Listen to me. You made a mistake. Everyone does. But L--er, your legacy is one that does not give up easily. Learn from your mistake but do not look back. Move on."
I bowed my head. "Yes, Turaga."
Outside, still scolding myself silently, I heard the voice in my mind. Don't be so hard on yourself, Jala. Listen to Vakama. Learn and move onward.
"Shut up!" I hissed, startling a Lava Farmer. Mentally I continued, You're the last one I want to hear right now!
You must not allow yourself to be discouraged. That past is over and done with. Look to the future, and to the now; that is where greatness lies. Act there.
Shut up! In anger, I tore the mask from my face. It felt like my head was splitting in two. I reeled in pain, my vision blurring, mind dulling. Hastily I put the Kanohi back on my face and fell to my knees, panting.
That was foolish.
"I'll show you foolish!"
Before the day was out I had surreptitiously obtained from a Po-Koro mask carver an almost identical golden Hau. From then on I wore it, free from the responsibility and voice of the inherited Kanohi. I hid the heirloom away, deep in the volcano where I knew it would never be found. It almost felt as if I was hiding a piece of myself.
"I'm sorry. But I'm not the hero you think I am."
* * *
I am a Toa now. Many things have changed, and the mask is no longer mine to wear. But I did return to Mata Nui to retrieve it. It is now in my possession, and I will pass it on when and to whom it is destined to be given. I only hope my successor wears it with more pride and respect than I. For it is more than a mere Kanohi--it is the legacy of a great hero. And that is a legacy that will live on forever.
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear your thoughts on any or all stories, whether you liked them or not. Instructive compliments, constructive criticism; it's all welcome here!
From the desk of Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith
Edited by Nuile: The Daft Wordbender, Jun 07 2012 - 05:47 PM.