Posted Aug 15 2012 - 09:00 AM
Although it was true that Kiriah had agreed to go to World’s End, part of her wished she hadn’t. She had a lot of bad memories associated with that place and she could have lived a long, happy, fulfilling life without ever having stepped foot there again.
Of course, Kiriah knew that this World’s End wasn’t exactly the same as the one she’d been to. Some time ago, Kiriah and her deceased friend Isarot had visited a World’s End in an alternate universe. There they had been forced to fight an army of reanimated skeletal warriors that would have overwhelmed them had they not escaped in time.
Kiriah didn’t expect to have to fight reanimated skeletal warriors this time, but she still wished the Ghost King had been banished to a nicer place. Like the Konez Isles, for instance, which Kiriah heard were supposed to be quite tropical this time of year.
Kiriah didn’t tell any of this to the others as they rowed their rafts to World’s End. Mostly because she didn’t want to relive the memories by talking about them, but also because she doubted it would be important. After all, the reanimated skeletal army had been created under unusual circumstances, which Kiriah doubted would be repeated here.
This universe’s World’s End looked almost exactly the same as that other universe’s World’s End. Mount Apocalypse -- which Kiriah thought was a happy name -- stood in the center of the island, towering above the jungle that surrounded its base. Even from a distance, Mount Apocalypse looked enormous, like a foot of Mata Nui himself.
The beach they landed on was mostly empty, although scattered here and there were weird white rocks. The other Toa got off their rafts gracefully and without trouble, but Kiriah jumped off hers the wrong way and landed in the water with a splash. She immediately got back up, however, and waded quickly through the ice cold water after the others, who fortunately had not noticed her mistake.
World’s End was as quiet as she remembered. Kiriah felt a cool sea breeze on the back of her neck, but did not hear the wind blow. She didn’t hear any animals or even insects. The only sounds she heard were the muffled footsteps of the group as they walked on the sand.
“So this is World’s End,” said Akuna, looking up at the jungle. “I never thought it’d look so green.”
Ahova started, causing the other three Toa to look at her in surprise.
“What is it?” said Akuna, now holding a dagger-tipped staff in her hands. “Did you get hurt, Ahova?”
Ahova shook her head. “No. I was just checking out these white rocks, but as it turns out, they aren’t rocks at all.”
Ahova pointed at the ground and Kiriah and the others looked at where she was pointing. Kiriah immediately understood what Ahova meant when she said that those white rocks weren’t rocks.
They were bones; mostly skulls, from what Kiriah could see, but there were some limb bones as well. Some were half-buried in the sand, while others sat neatly on top of it. The sight was so nauseating that Kiriah almost felt sick.
“Bones?” said Akuna. “Where did those come from?”
Oggak bent down to examine one and said, “They’re not recent. They’ve been here for a while, which means their owners must have died some time ago.”
“What kind of sicko puts skulls on beaches like this?” said Kiriah, shaking despite herself. “Is this the Ghost King’s doing?”
“No idea,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “The Ghost King is supposed to have an army of Ghosts. Maybe they’re responsible for this.”
“But who could have been killed?” Kiriah said. “I thought World’s End is supposed to be unreachable by normal people.”
“Perhaps the Master isn’t as diligent a gatekeeper as he made himself out to be,” said Oggak, turning over a skull with her sword. “Or maybe there are real people on this island, not just spirits.”
“Whatever the case, we should definitely keep our guard up,” said Akuna. “We don’t want our skulls to end up on this beach, so everyone, draw your weapons and we’ll go through the jungle.”
Kiriah pulled out her sword, which she would have done anyway even if Akuna hadn’t said so. Oggak and Akuna already had their weapons out, while Ahova merely raised her gauntlets and said, “Magnetic gauntlets. They’re the best.”
“Well, now that we’re all equipped and ready, I suppose we just need to walk through the jungle to the mountain,” said Akuna, gesturing at the jungle. “Let’s go.”
Tira crouched low on top of the trees, her clawed feet gripping the branches with ease. Her eyes confirmed what the Ghost King had already told the Ghosts: Four Toa really had invaded World’s End and were entering the forest at that very moment.
Tira had watched the Toa talk briefly, but couldn’t make out most of what they were saying due to the loss of hearing in her left audio receptor. Still, Tira guessed that they had been discussing how to kill the Ghost King. They needed to be stopped.
Bending low, Tira strung a wire, which sent a vibration that would be felt in every tree. It was a part of a complex, crisscrossing wire system that acted as the main form of long-distance communication among the Ghosts, designed by the Ghost King himself. The Ghost King claimed to have been inspired by some beings known as the ‘stealers of life,’ who apparently used a natural version of this method.
The communication generally consisted of complex vibrations, but this message Tira sent was simple, for it required only one pull of the wire. No one would mistake its basic message:
The invaders have entered the jungle. Take no prisoners.
The jungle was exactly as Kiriah remembered it: hot and humid, with vines and tree branches sticking in their path. It was just as muddy, too, and more than once Kiriah nearly slipped. She didn’t feel so bad about it, though, because the slick mud made the others cautious as well.
Kiriah and Oggak were the only two with swords, so they were in the front cutting a path for their group. Kiriah had asked Akuna why they couldn’t just use their elemental powers to make a path, but Akuna had reminded her that such a move might be seen as an act of aggression by the Ghost King. They simply couldn’t risk alarming him if they were going to get the secret from him.
Most of Kiriah’s concerns were quickly proven pointless, though, because they seemed to be walking along an actual path, for the grass and mud looked as though they had been trampled here. There were fewer vines or branches to cut down, too.
This gave Kiriah and Oggak time to talk, although Kiriah didn’t really feel comfortable around the Toa of Shadow. Yes, Oggak had already reassured her that she was on their side, but Kiriah knew that shadow was generally not good, so she wasn’t sure what to say to Oggak, if anything at all.
“You’re a Toa of Psionics, right?” said Oggak, glancing at Kiriah as they walked.
“What? Yeah,” said Kiriah, nodding. “What about it?”
“Can you sense any other minds nearby besides our own?” Oggak asked.
Kiriah frowned and shook her head. “No. It feels like there’s this intense mental pressure covering the area, like a giant blanket. I can’t even feel your mind and you’re right next to me.”
“That’s probably because I already have mental shields,” Oggak said. “But that is an interesting observation.”
“It must be the Ghost King,” said Akuna from behind them. “This is his island, after all. Maybe he knows what your element is, Kiriah, and he’s trying to stop you from using it.”
“Could be,” said Kiriah, chopping a vine out of the way. “I don’t like it. You guys wouldn’t understand, but I feel blind. I’ve never had to rely solely on my physical senses to interact with the world before and it makes me nervous.”
“There’s no need to be nervous, Kiriah,” said Ahova, patting the Toa of Psionics on the shoulder. “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? An ambush?”
Their conversation was interrupted by a rustling sound in the treetops above. Kiriah looked up, but saw nothing. Then something darted through the air, stabbing her in the shoulder before she could react. The blow was enough to send her staggering backwards, yelping as she looked at her shoulder.
A long, thin arrow stuck out of Kiriah’s shoulder. The wound burned like fire and it was bleeding profusely, but Kiriah had no time to think about it, for Akuna shouted, “Watch out!” and tackled Kiriah to the ground as a dozen more arrows flew by overhead.
When Kiriah hit the ground, she accidentally landed on her shoulder with the arrow in it, causing even more pain than before. She cried out, but Akuna slapped a hand over her mouth as she pulled Kiriah under a bush with her.
“Shhh!” Akuna whispered. “We can’t let them know where we are.”
Kiriah nodded, but the pain in her shoulder was hurting so badly now that tears were streaming from her eyes.
“Looks like Oggak and Ahova have the same idea as us,” said Akuna, pointing through a break in the bushes.
Kiriah looked and saw Oggak and Ahova crouched inside a bush nearby. The arrows had ceased raining down from the treetops, but Kiriah had no doubt that the archers were still up there. They were most likely searching for the Toa or maybe waiting for them to come out. What was worse was that eventually Kiriah and Akuna would have to move because Kiriah’s shoulder was still bleeding.
And yet if we go out, we’ll be killed, Kiriah thought. We’re screwed either way.
Looking up at Akuna, Kiriah whispered, “What do we do?”
Akuna looked like she was thinking hard. “We need to get the archers out of the trees somehow. We might stand a chance if we could do that.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” Kiriah asked. “We don’t know where the archers are, exactly, so we can’t shoot at them with our elemental powers.”
Akuna looked around until she spotted something next to them. “Hey . . . is that a bit of wire extending down from that tree?”
Stifling an incoming groan of pain, Kiriah looked and saw that Akuna was right. Wrapped tightly around the tree’s base like a rope was a thin wire, the likes of which Kiriah had never before seen. Akuna grinned triumphantly at the sight of it.
“Don’t move,” Akuna whispered to Kiriah. “I’ve got an idea.”
Kiriah nodded and watched as Akuna grabbed the end of the wire, which was sticking out next to them. She noticed that the wire seemed to wind all the way up to the top of the tree, but as Kiriah saw no sign of any machines or electrical equipment, she had no idea what the wire connected to.
Akuna closed her eyes and seemed to glow briefly before going back to normal. Kiriah was about to ask Akuna what she had done when she heard several ‘thuds’ outside, as though things were falling from the treetops one after the other.
She immediately peered out of the bush and saw several dozen white-armored beings lying on the ground, looking unconscious but not dead.
Kiriah looked back at Akuna in amazement. “What did you-“
“I’ll explain later,” said Akuna. “Come on. Let’s find Oggak and Ahova.”
Akuna got to her feet and helped Kiriah up. Kiriah’s shoulder still hurt badly and she only barely succeeded in ignoring it as they walked over to the unconscious beings. Oggak and Ahova had come out from their hiding place, too, although it looked more like they had been scared out of theirs, for Kiriah noticed that one of the white beings had fallen on their bush.
“Is this of your doing, Akuna?” Oggak said, pointing at the fallen beings. “Not that I’m complaining, but I figured there had to be a logical explanation for this.”
“Yes,” said Akuna, nodding. “I knocked them out with a little bit of electricity.”
“I know how you did it,” said Ahova. “I felt it in the air. You somehow found a way to send a charge of electricity through the trees and into the archers, right? I know you did. It’s the only logical explanation, but then again something else could have happened-“
“No, your theory’s correct,” said Akuna quickly. “I found this wire going up to the treetops and I thought maybe it was part of a bigger system of wires. I also thought the archers might have been in physical contact with the wires. So I just sent an electrical surge up the wire, knocking them all out.”
“How did you know that, Ahova?” Kiriah asked. “You’re a Toa of Magnetism, not a Toa of Lightning.”
“That’s the interesting thing,” said Ahova. “Electricity and magnetism are a lot more closely related than you’d think. Not that that matters, though, because Kiriah, you’ve got an arrow sticking out of your shoulder and you’re still bleeding pretty badly.”
Kiriah had been so absorbed in the conversation that she had almost forgotten about the wound. Upon remembering it, a surge of pain went through Kiriah’s body, causing her to groan as she fell to her knees, gripping her shoulder with her other hand. The arrow felt like a large stinger, which hurt like Karzahni.
“We need to remove it immediately,” Akuna said. “Ahova, can you use your magnetism to remove the arrow? It has a metal shaft.”
“Sure,” Ahova said. “Anything to help a friend.”
Then Akuna looked down at Kiriah. “Kiriah, does your Mask of Healing work?”
“Yes,” Kiriah said, before groaning loudly. “I’m in too much pain to use it, though.”
“Not a problem,” said Akuna. “You can switch masks with Oggak briefly. You know how to use the Mask of Healing, right, Oggak?”
“Yes,” said Oggak, nodding.
“All right, then,” said Akuna. “Let’s get to work.”
The operation lasted only five minutes, even though it felt like hours to Kiriah. The hardest and most painful part of the process was Ahova’s removal of the arrow. Ahova had to use a complex combination of different magnetic techniques to remove the arrow without causing more damage to the shoulder, but that didn’t stop it from hurting so badly that Kiriah had to groan occasionally.
When the blood-soaked arrow was removed from Kiriah’s shoulder, Kiriah gave her Mask of Healing to Oggak, who thankfully did know how to use it. Oggak immediately sealed up Kiriah’s shoulder wound and healed it, too. By the time Oggak was done, Kiriah’s shoulder felt stiff and the armor was covered with dried blood, but it no longer hurt and seemed to function just fine.
“Thanks,” said Kiriah as she and Oggak traded back masks. “I owe you one, Oggak. And I owe you one, too, Ahova.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Ahova, slapping Kiriah on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’d have done the same for me if I was in your situation.”
“You’re welcome, Kiriah,” said Oggak. “It wasn’t that hard.”
Kiriah smiled, and then looked around. “Hey, where’d Akuna go?”
The three Toa scanned the area until they spotted Akuna bending over one of the fallen archers. They walked over to where Akuna was kneeling, causing her to look up at them as they approached.
“Hey, Akuna, what’re you doing?” Kiriah asked.
“Trying to wake this guy up,” said Akuna, slapping the fallen archer in the face. “Must have electrocuted him pretty badly because he hasn’t even stirred.”
“And . . . why are you trying to wake up one of the guys who nearly kill me?” Kiriah said.
Akuna looked at Kiriah with a slightly annoyed expression. “Because he, being a Ghost, probably knows more about the Ghost King than we do. Considering how few facts we know about the Ghost King, any information we can get about him or his Ghosts could be extremely useful.”
“Ghosts?” Ahova repeated. She looked at the fallen archers and said, “There’s no way these are ghosts. Ghosts are supposed to be transparent and float and immaterial and all that stuff. These guys look plenty physical to me.”
“No, I think Akuna’s right,” said Oggak. “The Ghost King is supposed to have an army of Ghosts. These Ghosts aren’t real ghosts; it’s obviously just a title, but it does make sense. What else would you call the Ghost King’s subjects?”
“Okay,” said Ahova, who sounded unconvinced. “Then does that mean the Ghost King isn’t really a ghost king himself?”
“Possibly,” Oggak said. “The fact that his Ghosts aren’t really supernatural beings certainly lends credit to that possibility. If so, he will probably be easier to deal with if he ever chooses to fight us himself.”
“It’s no use,” said Akuna, standing up. “This guy’s out cold. I can’t wake him up.”
“Let me try,” said Oggak as she bent down. “Knowledge is always useful, so we shouldn’t give up just yet.”
Oggak stared at the Ghost for a moment. Kiriah wondered what the Toa of Shadow was doing until the Ghost’s eyes snapped open and he screamed, but was immediately cut off by Oggak covering his mouth.
“Scream again and I won’t be so merciful next time,” Oggak said, in a threatening voice very much unlike her own. “Understand, little wisp?”
The Ghost nodded with fearful eyes. Oggak took her hand off his mouth. As she did so, the other Toa immediately surrounded the Ghost, cutting off all avenues of escape.
“How did you do that?” Kiriah whispered to Oggak as the Toa of Shadow stood back up.
Oggak tapped the side of her mask. “Mask of Dreams. Nightmares. Think about it.”
The idea sent a shudder down Kiriah’s spine, causing her to wonder if having Oggak on their side really was that much of an advantage.
“Okay, Ghost,” said Akuna to the Ghost, who still sat on the ground. “Tell us your name.”
“Never,” the Ghost said, looking defiantly up at Akuna. “Nor will I tell you invaders anything else. I know you have come only to slay the Ghost King. I would die before I let that happen to my king.”
“We’re not trying to kill him,” said Akuna. “We’ve come to reason with him, not murder him.”
“You lie,” the Ghost said, pointing at her. “You attacked me and my fellow Ghosts. Your deceptive words won’t trick me.”
“She’s telling the truth, though,” said Ahova. “Only reason we attacked you guys was because you guys attacked us. We’re willing to be friends with you guys.”
Now the Ghost was shaking, as though suddenly cold. “No. I know what you are planning. You’re going to kill the Ghost King and rule World’s End as the Ghost Queens! I would rather die before I see that happen!”
The Ghost immediately stood up, but Akuna just shoved him back to the ground.
“Get real,” said Akuna, shaking her head. “Ghost Queen? Is that even a real mythical figure?”
“I don’t know,” said Kiriah, scratching the back of her head. “Ghost Queen doesn’t sound as horrifying as Ghost King.”
“Kiriah!” said Akuna, glaring at the Toa of Psionics, but it was too late.
The Ghost looked at Kiriah with shock. “I knew it! You really do want to kill the Ghost King and take over World’s End! You are terrible liars.”
“No, Kiriah just doesn’t think before she talks,” said Akuna. “She didn’t really mean it.”
The Ghost seemed to have stopped paying attention to Akuna, however, for he was now rapidly muttering under his breath, “Invaders . . . want to kill Ghost King . . . must tell him before it’s too late . . .”
Without even a hint as to what he was about to do, the Ghost vanished into thin air. Startled, Akuna fired a lightning bolt too late. It struck the ground where the Ghost had been sitting previously, charring the grass and earth and leaving the stinking smell of ozone.
“Well,” said Ahova, looking at the others. “He got away. Not a problem, of course, as there are plenty of other Ghosts for us to . . . interrogate.”
As Ahova said that, the other Toa looked around and noticed that all of the other Ghosts had vanished as well. They left behind only the imprints of their bodies on the ground where they had fallen.
“So they’re all gone,” said Ahova. “How nice.”
“Then we need to get gone, too,” said Akuna. “They probably just left to lick their wounds. We should get moving before they come back.”
Akuna and the others quickly returned to the jungle path, but with more caution now, their eyes and audio receptors open for any signs of an ambush. Kiriah stayed in the back, hoping that she hadn’t said something that was about to get them all into big trouble.
Edited by TNTOS, Aug 15 2012 - 09:08 AM.