Chapter 1 - Fish
Kreth pushed himself to his feet, coughing.
He drew his sword and span on the spot, in time to see a single bomber soaring over the south-west horizon.
Their attempts to cover their tracks had failed; the Brethren clan had destroyed the selection of tents and shacks that they called a base camp.
Kreth turned away from the horizon, examining the wreckage. His close friend Slohaz was clambering out of the rubble, keeping a tight grip on a single fish.
Food was hard to come by on Barrawahi, and even then it was mostly crops grown on the coveted fertile land.
Slohaz was not bright, and he knew of the value of the food the clan had managed to buy from the Rockfoot Clan.
He had personally guarded the food supply once it arrived, and even when the camp was in flames, he had made that last attempt to save one bit of it.
Some would have found it amusing Slohaz had gone to such trouble to save a single fish, but to Kreth the sight of the bulky Skrall standing there with the fish was just a depressing reminder of the clans desperation to leave this world, and the deal that had cost them everything they had worked to gain.
The clan was a small and informal one. It was known as the Escape clan, with no official title. No coat of arms, or motto, and only one code of honour.
‘This is not the way to live’
As the clan ‘title’ suggested, they simply wanted to leave the planet-wide warzone for somewhere better.
Unfortunately, the clan system was severely flawed.
The lack of true honour in the group was inconvenient; there was no sense of comradeship.
All the members were determined to leave the planet. Many ended up jumping in Olmak anomalies, while possible, it was considered suicidal.
The more successful escapees sold out their clan for a totem trip to freedom, some of the more insane ones thinking they’d be better off on Tanuuk or Izumal.
On this occasion, Kreth was the sell out. Not for his freedom, but for the clans well being.
He had given information to the Rockfoot Clan in return for food.
This was a bad move, as the Escape Clan lay on the borders of the Brethren clan, who up until now they had had a mutual agreement of peace.
Kreth became aware that Slohaz was limping towards him, and that his leg seemed fairly severely injured.
Kreth quickly bent down and picked up an enormous Protosteel axe out of the dust. He passed it to Slohaz, who used it to take the weight off his injured leg.
Slohaz had the look of a true warrior in battle. He had elite Skrall armour, and the enormous axe gave him the look of a Barrawahi champion.
As far as Kreth knew at least, he wasn’t.
Slohaz certainly didn’t have the skill to be a champion; his combat abilities consisted of swinging the axe as hard as he could at his enemies, usually with no awareness for his own safety or surroundings. Occasionally though, he had surprising bursts of unprecedented skill, but these vanished as quickly as they came.
Kreth looked away from Slohaz, seeing the rest of the clan helping each other out of the rubble, one Toa of water was extinguishing a burning tent.
He was sad to see some people in the wreckage had been left. On Barrawahi, moving your dead was usually an unwise way to spend your time.
He was glad to see an Ice Agori picking his way through the wreckage towards them.
His name was Gapii and he had been with the clan for 10 years, having arrived through an Olmak anomaly from Tanuuk.
Kreth felt sorry for the Agori, as he was often dwarfed in the area, with very few of his own species for company.
Gapii had spirit though, arriving from a place as terrible as Tanuuk, most people would give up hope arriving on an equally derelict planet, but he had a constant will to make his life better.
Kreth expected others to join Gapii in gathering around him, Kreth was the leader of the clan, and they should look to him for their next move.
Instead, they were walking away, heading north, towards Iron Hawk territory.
“Where are you all going?” Kreth yelled after them.
There was no response, so he looked to the two beings that were walking towards him.
“Some honour still left then,” Kreth said.
“We’re all in the same situation,” said one of them, a Toa of fire. “I say we stick together.”
The other, a Skrall laughed at this.
“I just stayed to do this,” he sneered. And he spat at Kreth’s feet. “You’ve brought this clan to destruction, and you only lead it for a week.”
Slohaz hobbled between the two of them, staring his fellow Skrall down.
“Bring it on, Brainless!” the Skrall said, laughing manically.
He kicked the handle of Slohaz’s axe, and the Skrall toppled onto the floor.
“You think you’ll last out here like that?” Kreth said, drawing his sword. “It’s honour that gets you places here, and you don’t have a shred of it.”
Kreth was uninjured and armed, and the Skrall could see that. The Toa of Fire was also now standing at Kreth’s side, conjuring a fireball in his hand.
Even Gapii had picked up a piece of timber and was glowering at the Skrall.
Recognising defeat, he backed away.
“Are you coming?” asked the Skrall. This was directed at Slohaz.
Slohaz shook his head, and Kreth snapped, “Why would he come with you?”
“We’re Skrall brethren. We stick together. And he can’t think for himself, he needs to be with his own kind.”
“Slohaz can make his own choices,” Gapii said.
“Yes,” Kreth said, though this was not entirely truthful.
Anyone else in a campsite would forget their orders to protect the food while it was being bombed, and instead take cover. Slohaz just continued with the orders he was given.
“I’m staying,” Slohaz growled. “Wherever Kreth goes, I go.”
The other Skrall swore under his breath, and turned and ran after the others who had left.
Gapii threw his timber to the floor, and the Toa of fire flicked the fireball away.
“Azlok isn’t it?” Kreth said, turning to the Toa.
“Yes,” he replied.
“I’m grateful for your loyalty,” Kreth said. “You too, Gapii. And I always know I can count on you Slohaz.”
Kreth knew that it might have been fear of ‘the reign of Slohaz’ that partly led to most of the clan deserting him.
The longest serving member of the clan was always the leader. If Kreth was killed, or forced to leave the clan, Slohaz would be in charge.
Kreth wasn’t sure if this rule would stand, but many members probably wouldn’t want to be around to find out.
“What’s the plan Cap’n?” asked Gapii, upbeat as ever.
“Seek sanctuary in Zien,” Kreth said. “There’s never full on wars going on there, and we might be able to join up with another clan.”
“The escapes over?” Gapii said, saddened.
“For now, yes,” Kreth said, equally down heartened.
Azlok also looked disappointed, but Slohaz simply looked confused.
Kreth had concluded Slohaz didn’t really want to escape. Again it was a case of his inability to think for himself, Kreth had recruited the Skrall and explained the clan’s aims and why they were good.
Slohaz was part of war-like species though, and was unlikely to find himself any kind of occupation on another world. He was the purest of Barrawahi warriors really, and part of Kreth regretted making him think he would be happy elsewhere.
“So Zien?” Gapii said, with only a slight trace of enthusiasm. He gestured to the northeast.
The four of them headed that way, aware that the constant slight upward slope would make their life seem much worse.
They quickly formed a procession, Slohaz at the front ploughed on at a constant speed, untroubled by the pain in his leg or the irritating gradient.
Kreth and Azlok mostly kept pace with each other, occasionally falling back to the rear to walk alongside Gapii, who struggled to keep pace with his longer legged fellows.
It was a pretty unique selection of beings, Kreth thought to himself.
Slohaz seemed to have some mysterious past, but the earliest thing he admitted remembering was being sent by Hand of Faith to rescue Gapii from Shadow Honour.
Shadow Honour had locked up Gapii soon after he arrived on the planet.
Matoran and Agori were often used to sneak behind enemy lines, and Gapii’s sudden transportation to Shadow Honour territory had been far too suspicious to just let him leave.
Kreth himself used to be a Red Skull champion. He had idolised the Legendary Bajnok, but had fled the clan a few years before the Skakdi champion’s disappearance.
He did not like to relive that day.
Azlok was a fairly normal Barrawahi inhabitant. A strong sense of honour and loyalty and as a Toa of Fire with a mask of Parabolic vision, he was a strong asset to any side.
Azlok was also unique in his choice to very rarely use Toa tools. He was a master of simply conjuring his element and manipulating it to his advantage.
The group suddenly came over a crest, and found themselves looking out over a cliff edge.
The sight was impressive, not because of the height of the cliff and the view all around, or the imposing archway of Zien to the east.
What was impressive was the battle they could see raging below, the Iron Hawk clan locked in a brutal fight with the armies of the Brethren clan.
Bombers flew overhead, and the landscape looked like it was on fire.
Gapii stood and gaped at what he saw before him, before Azlok dragged him back.
“People on top of a hill over a battle field,” he said, “could be on anyone’s side if you don’t know who they are. If I were down there, I’d assume we were the enemy, and fire.”
“Agreed,” Kreth said. “We’ll try and stay away from the cliff edge.”
The group headed east for a while, but quickly came to a long, rocky, ridge down to the ground, the only way down from here to Zien.
By now the echoes and flashes of the battle were distant, but walking along this ledge, silhouetted against the glowing blue sky was incredibly risky.
Nevertheless, it was the only option available, so they made as fast a pace as possible over the rough terrain.
They were halfway down, when there was a whistling sound, and Slohaz yelled, throwing himself to the ground.
They were under fire.
Edited by Taipu1, Nov 02 2012 - 01:16 PM.