This story was originally written for a contest, but it inspired a soon be written series of short stories featuring the Matoran Inika. I thought it might inject a bit of energy into the newly opened forums. You can read my other old original work in my library. I would welcome constructive criticism you have to offer. Hahli is next. Enjoy!
What We Become
Those Who Burn Episode One by Yukiko
For a fire to start, there are those who must burn.
Jaller was sure he knew this street.
But he did not know this street. He couldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be here. He had left Metru Nui days ago, and he had escaped the nightmare realm of Karzahni.
Or had he?
The stars above him were all wrong. Their pattern was different, with only the red star blazing in where it always was. The windows of the buildings were dark. No eyes peeked out to see why he was in the street. Jaller told himself that it was the middle of the night, and no one would care to look. But the windows gaped, empty holes.
Jaller spun around, hands searching for his nonexistent dagger. A pair of red eyes glowed in darkness at the end of the street. Jaller froze as the rahkshi walked closer. This was a dream. This was when he should wake up.
The creature’s eyes glowed brighter, and Jaller decided that he wasn’t going to wake up.
He dived to the side, scraping his front on the gravel. He felt heat on his scalp, but no pain. He scrambled to his feet, frantic to get out of the way before the rahkshi corrected its aim.
He didn’t need to.
The severed head of the rahkshi slid to a stop at his feet, its once searing eyes now lifeless and grey.
Jaller released his breath and looked up at his rescuer. The figure was clad in a dark cloak which shadowed its face but exposed sleek dark red and orange armor. A toa of fire, then. Jaller swallowed.
“Thank you for rescuing me.”
“You really shouldn’t,” said the figure, his voice soft. “You don’t know why I killed that rahkshi.”
He kicked the dead shell, and lifted his red-hot sword. In a smooth blur of red and silver, the top split open, and kraata fell out, sliced in half. “I could have just been saving myself. Or I could have been saving you for myself.”
Jaller looked straight at the figure, who avoided his gaze. “You’re a toa. Toa protect others because it is the right thing to do.”
The figure laughed. “I don’t know what I do anymore. I survive.”
His eyes met Jaller’s for the first time. They were a bright gold, which surprised Jaller. He had pictured the figure with red eyes.
“And besides, don’t you ever grow resentful of the ‘protection’ the toa give you? Don’t you get tired of the lies?”
“How do you know what I think?”
The figure turned away again, shaking his head. “Perhaps I felt the same way once. Perhaps I still feel that way.”
The stranger fell silent, and Jaller looked around him. “Are we in Metru-Nui?”
“Yes,” came the reply. “If names mean anything anymore.”
“What happened?” said the toa. “Why does it matter? Why does anything matter? You are dreaming, Jaller-captain-of-the-ta-koro guard, and when you wake up you will forget. What can you change, when destiny holds you prisoner?”
“How do you know my name?”
Jaller’s voice was deadly quiet.
The strange toa, who had been walking away, suddenly spun and leveled his sword at Jaller.
“Because I am a figment of your imagination. Or perhaps you are a figment of mine. Or perhaps we both are wisps in the mind of someone else, only to vanish when he or she wakes. Perhaps we both are nothing.”
All of Jaller’s instincts screamed at him to run, but he held the stranger’s gaze, repeating his question even though his voice threatened to waver.
“How do you know my name?”
The stranger grabbed Jaller’s shoulder and shoved him against a wall. Jaller felt a warmth in his chest, warmth rapidly becoming uncomfortable. The stranger’s sword rested against his heartlight.
“You are nothing, Jaller-Captain-of-the-Ta-Koro-Guard,” spat the stranger. “Every injury you have received, everything you have lost, is as insignificant as a drop in the sea. You have not known pain. You are nothing. Say it.”
The warmth increased. It was hot now, and Jaller wanted to scream, but he fought the urge down. He would stay silent. He would not give the stranger the satisfaction.
The pain doubled, filling him, an immense searing heat. His body was a volcano, and he would explode if he did not release the pressure. He screamed.
The pain subsided to a dull throb, a slightly uncomfortable warmth. But it was blessed relief after the terrible heat.
But Jaller had not screamed what the stranger had asked. The question still echoed in his mind.
"Who are you?"
The stranger lifted his other hand, and removed the hood covering his face. Those bright golden eyes stared out of a dark gold hau. They were filled with pain.
“T-toa, Lhikan?” he managed to gasp out.
“No,” said the stranger, and though his voice was barely above a whisper, Jaller heard it perfectly.
“I am what you will become.”
The heat increased again, pain so acute that Jaller couldn’t scream. His pain was a strange pleasure, a power that filled him with something that only he could have. Yet he couldn’t laugh anymore than he could scream. The pain crushed him, carrying him on waves of heat and light, golden waves the same color as the stranger’s eyes.
The same color as his own.
Jaller woke in darkness. His mouth felt dry and bitter, his head pounded in the confined space. He blinked spots away from his eyes. Strange. It was like he had stared into a bright light for a long time, yet it was pitch dark in the canister. It was not moving. He had fallen asleep, but for how long? He seemed to remember dreaming, but he couldn't quite grasp what the dream had been about. He knew it had been something important.
He groped for something. After minutes of searching, his fingers found the canisters lid. The air was stale, and even wrenching with all his strength only produced a slight movement before he had to take a breath. The next try produced better results. The lid no longer resisted him as it slowly turned and finally fell off.
Jaller stumbled out into pounding rain and almost constant lightning that left him nearly as blind as the darkness had.
He would later recall that he didn’t remember the canister being so cramped.
Edited by Yukiko, Oct 16 2011 - 08:40 PM.