What I Should Have SaidThe Shika Trilogy
Posted Dec 20 2012 - 10:46 AM
For some background, the setting and most of the characters in this SS originally appeared in my old epic trilogy, the Shika Trilogy. This story takes place shortly after the events of the Shika Trilogy, although the bulk of it is basically a flashback to before the Shika Trilogy. I tried to write this story in a way that people who haven't read the Shika Trilogy could understand it, but if you wish to read the entire trilogy, please click the link to my library in my sig.
Now enough of that. It's time to move onto the SS itself:
What I Should Have Said
Toa Chimoy, Toa of Iron, awoke abruptly. He lay in bed, his heart racing before he realized that it had simply been a dream. There was no dark Toa standing above his friend, ready to deal the killing blow; no screams of terror as the sword was driven through his friend's stomach, tearing through his guts; and there was no blood, either, although Chimoy noticed that his body was drenched in sweat.
Sitting up in bed, Chimoy threw the blankets off his body and put his face in his hands. It seemed like no matter what he did, the nightmare kept recurring over and over again. This was not a mere nightmare, however. Rather, it was a memory of the past, a memory that had lodged itself so firmly in Chimoy's brain that there was nothing he could do to dislodge it, even though he wanted to very much.
He considered telling the others about this nightmare. Oggak in particular would probably be able to help him stop dreaming about it, due to her Mask of Dreams. In fact, several times Chimoy had considered going to her and asking her for help in easing his minds troubles.
But he resisted that idea. Chimoy did not want to tell anyone else about this nightmare. Pride had nothing to do with it, for Chimoy recognized the value of teamwork and knew that by himself he didn't always have the power or strength to deal with every problem he encountered. That, he could accept.
What he could not accept was the others knowing his secret. He considered it far too personal to simply reveal it to his friends. He couldn't even tell Akuna, who was probably his closest friend, or Turaga Joha, who Chimoy was sure would not laugh at him or treat him disrespectfully for his feelings.
This is something I need to come to terms with myself, Chimoy thought. It has nothing to do with anyone but me . . . me and him.
The very thought of him sent feelings of longing mixed with sadness through Chimoy's body. It also triggered the very memory Chimoy had been trying so hard to repress, but now he decided to simply let it free. He had never been able to repress even his least favorite memories before and, as he had had no luck in repressing this particular memory so far, he decided not to bother.
Chimoy remembered how, a few weeks ago, he and the other Toa Shika had entered a dark realm underneath their home island, called Wyoko, a realm filled to the brim with evil beings that had been banished there long ago. He remembered how he and his team had, after a series of harrowing adventures, managed to escape Wyoko and lock its Door with a Toa seal, thus preventing the villains in that realm from ever escaping.
Yet the Toa Shika had not escaped without loss. Toa Nonzra, Toa of Sonics and Chimoy's dearest friend, had been killed by one of the evil Toa that had been the rulers of Wyoko. Though he'd lived long enough to help the other Toa Shika lock the Door, Nonzra had died shortly thereafter due to his fatal wounds.
Chimoy knew that that was the memory replaying in his dreams every night. He was watching Nonzra's death, watching as the evil Toa Teivel stabbed his friend, watching as Nonzra died just outside the Door. He saw Toa Addis, the late leader of the Toa Shika, take Nonzra's Kanohi off the corpse, for at the time it was the only thing they could take with them back home.
Of course, now Nonzra's body had been given a proper burial, but Chimoy remembered his feelings at the time. The idea that they'd just have to leave Nonzra's corpse at the mercy of the Dark Hunters had agonized the Toa of Iron, adding to the pain he had already experienced at Nonzra's death. Things had looked better when theyd learned that the Dark Hunters had been eliminated, but they'd had to deal with another threat shortly thereafter, meaning Chimoy hadn't been given time to mourn Nonzra's death as soon as he would have liked.
Yet a lack of mourning of Nonzra's death wasn't the problem. When the new threat, the Tuikas, had been defeated, Chimoy and Akuna had both mourned Nonzra in addition to Addis, Nastan, and Barilo, other members of the team who'd died during the struggle against the Tuikas. They'd even held a quadruple funeral for their teammates, which had eased the pain somewhat.
The memory still plays, though, Chimoy thought. Why?
Of course, that was a rhetorical question. Chimoy knew very well why he still experienced the memory, but he didn't want to dwell on it. He'd never gotten the courage to do it when Nonzra was alive, so he didn't quite see the point in doing it when Nonzra was dead.
Chimoy lay back down in bed. He had trouble going back to sleep, however, mostly because the memory kept replaying in his head. So he decided he would remember a nicer time, a time before Nonzra's death. Remembering good times always helped Chimoy sleep, so he decided he would remember the day he first met Nonzra, which was also the day Chimoy had been invited to join the team of Matoran that would eventually become the Toa Shika.
Five-hundred years ago . . .
Chimoy dunked his head in the water trough and pulled it out. He shook his head, accidentally spraying his fellow slaves with water, but they didn't mind. After a hard day of working in the proto mines, getting hot and dirty and tired, any water at all was a welcome relief.
Then Chimoy scooped some water in his hands and drank it. The cool liquid felt good on his parched throat and he tried to drink as much as he could, knowing that the Dark Hunter overseer, a cruel slaver codenamed Whiplash, had given them only half an hour to eat and drink before they had to return to the mines. The last Matoran back would get whipped, something Chimoy had been told the first day he started working here, which was why he was usually one of the first out.
The other Matoran were chattering away, seemingly talking about the weather, but Chimoy recognize their speech as code. They were really complaining about the Dark Hunters, using simple code phrases like 'scorching sun' and 'hope it cools down' to talk about Whiplash and her cruelty. It was the only way they could talk about their overseer's evils without the risk of being punished or killed, for the Dark Hunters did not know about their coded language.
Just as Chimoy finished drinking his water, the door slammed open and a Dark Hunter entered the room. Immediately, all of the fifty or so slaves stopped eating and drinking and stood at attention as the tall, skinny Dark Hunter peered down on them all.
Chimoy didn't recognize this Dark Hunter, for there were only a handful of Dark Hunters overseeing the mines and this one didn't look like any of them. The Dark Hunter's most striking feature was his face, which resembled a Mask of Strength, although it clearly wasn't.
"Which one of you dirty little midgets is Chimoy?" said the Dark Hunter. "Give him up quickly and I won't be forced to beat each of you little dwarves to make a point."
Someone behind Chimoy immediately shoved him forward, causing Chimoy to stumble and fall to his hands and knees. He quickly got back to his feet, however, and stood at attention as the Dark Hunter focused his gaze on Chimoy.
"Are you Chimoy?" said the Dark Hunter.
Chimoy gulped. "Yes, sir, I am."
"Hold out your hands," the Dark Hunter said. "Now."
Chimoy held out both hands, wondering if the Hunter was going to chop them off.
Without warning, the Dark Hunter cuffed Chimoy's wrists with energy cuffs. Then the Dark Hunter attached an energy chain to it, holding the end in his hand like a leash.
"All right, little Matoran," said the Dark Hunter, now addressing the entire room. "Whiplash told me you've got only fifteen minutes until your break is over. So you'd better get finished quickly, 'cause the last person back is going to be spending the night in the mines."
The Dark Hunter laughed as he left the room, yanking Chimoy behind him as he went. Chimoy stumbled but quickly regained his balance and started following the Dark Hunter. He wondered what he was being taken away for. Was he going to be sent to another slave community on the island? Or maybe even shipped off Shika Nui to another Dark Hunter fortress? Or maybe he was just going to be punished for no reason other than to satisfy Whiplashs bloodlust.
Asking this Hunter would be useless. The Dark Hunters hated it whenever Matoran slaves asked them anything. As Chimoy didn't want to come across as impudent, he kept his mouth shut and followed as best as he could with both of his hands cuffed.
The Dark Hunter led Chimoy past the storage shed, proto trucks, and slaves' quarters before Chimoy realized that the Dark Hunter was taking him to Whiplash's house. He could see the large, well-kept manor not far away, standing on a hill overseeing the mining community. Chimoy had never been inside Whiplash's house before, as only a handful of slaves acting as personal servants were ever allowed in.
Am I going to work there now? Chimoy thought.
That didn't seem likely. Slaves who went to work for Whiplash were washed and cleaned before they were allowed to work in her house, for Whiplash hated dirt on her possessions. As Chimoy was still covered in the grime from the mines, he could only assume he was being brought here for a different purpose.
What that purpose was, Chimoy did not know. All he could tell was that he was in some kind of trouble; otherwise, why would the Dark Hunter have cuffed him?
He thinks I'm going to make a break for it, Chimoy thought. But why? He hasn't even told me what I'm going to be punished for.
Panic at the thought of being whipped flooded Chimoys mind, causing to him to mentally retrace his day. He could think of nothing that he'd done today that would earn him a whipping, nor could he think of any crime he might have committed even inadvertently over the past week of which the penalty was a whipping.
Right now, I wish I was a Toa, Chimoy thought. Or, rather, I wish Toa Joha was here. He'd be able to save me from Whiplash.
When they finally reached Whiplash's house, Chimoy was just about ready to confess to whatever crime they might charge him with even if he didn't do it. The suspense was so nerve-wracking that Chimoy almost asked the Dark Hunter to end his life now, but he held his tongue and waited for the worst.
The Dark Hunter and Chimoy strode down the path connecting the house to the main road. On either side of the path were beautiful flowers of a variety of colors and designs, part of Whiplash's private garden. Chimoy knew that the punishment for picking a flower from Whiplash's garden was forty lashes and then a week spent in the mines alone.
I didn't pick any flowers, Chimoy thought. I don't even like flowers that much. They can't pin someone elses flower-picking on me.
When they reached the door, the Dark Hunter grabbed the bronze knocker -- which looked like a curled whip -- and knocked on the door.
"Whiplash, it's me, Julok!" said the Dark Hunter loudly. "I got the Matoran you asked for!"
Oh, great, Chimoy thought, trembling. She specifically asked for me. That is not a good sign.
The door opened, but it was not opened by Whiplash. Rather, it was by one of her servants, a Le-Matoran whom Chimoy recognized as Arvon.
"Let me in," said Julok, pushing Arvon aside and dragging Chimoy behind him. "I want to know where Whiplash is."
"But sir!" said Arvon. "That slave is dirt-"
Julok glared at Arvon, causing the Le-Matoran seemingly to shrink. "Do you think I give a dang about that? Whiplash can cry about a little dirt all she wants. Now where is she?"
Arvon gulped. "Well, er, Miss Whiplash is, er, in the east wing, in the lounge."
Julok growled. "I see."
The tone of Julok's voice frightened Chimoy. He glanced over his shoulder to see if maybe Arvon could enlighten him about what Whiplash might want him for, but Arvon seemed to have disappeared, for he was nowhere to be seen.
Upon entering the east wing, it didn't take Chimoy and Julok long to find the door to the lounge, which was an ornate wooden door that was spotless. Chimoy had never been inside the lounge before, but his curiosity about what it might be like inside was replaced with fear when he remembered that he was in trouble.
Julok knocked hard on the door and a feminine voice on the other side said, "Come in," causing Julok to open the door and drag Chimoy through.
Whiplash's lounge was, to say the least, amazing. It was perhaps the largest room in a house Chimoy had ever been in. Large windows on the other end of the room illuminated the spotlessly white walls, the sofas and chairs were decorated with horns, and a large statue of some tailed figure wearing a crown dominated the whole scene. A chandelier replete with lightstones hung from the ceiling. It was almost too much for Chimoy to take in at once.
That was when Chimoy remembered whose house he was in. Glancing at the other end of the room, he saw Whiplash reclining on one of her sofas, a sleek whip in hand, her feet resting on the floor behind a coffee table.
"I see you found him," said Whiplash as she lazily rolled and unrolled her whip. "Thank you, Jul-"
Whiplash's crimson eyes narrowed on Chimoy. For a moment, she seemed too shocked to speak.
Then she glared at Julok and snapped, "And why didn't you clean him before bringing him inside? He's getting dirt all over the floor."
Chimoy glanced down at the shiny marble floor of the living room. It didn't look dirty to him, but on the other hand, there were rumors among the slaves that Whiplash had microscopic vision, which perhaps explained her irrational hatred of dirt.
"You didn't say clean him before bringing him in," Julok replied. "All you told me to do was find Chimoy the Fe-Matoran, bring him here, and then let you interrogate him."
"Cleaning him should go without saying," said Whiplash, pulling her feet onto the couch. "I know Icetraz just sent you down here yesterday, but I specifically remember telling you that any Matoran miners I summon to my house must be washed off thoroughly before coming inside. Are you that dull or just spiteful?"
"Just spiteful," Julok said. "If I had my way, I wouldn't be helping you put down Matoran rebellions. I'd be fighting Toa or stealing treasure from heavily guarded fortresses on distant islands. I might even be an assassin."
"Quit your complaining," Whiplash said. Then Whiplash squinted and said, "Oh, great. You're also filthy. I forgot that bathing is a foreign concept to you guys at Icetraz's fortress."
"It's not necessary," Julok said. "We Dark Hunters do our best whether clean or dirty. Luxury is just making you soft, Whiplash."
"Oh, luxury, you say?" said Whiplash, cracking her whip and causing Chimoy to cringe. "I wouldn't call overseeing a bunch of dirty Matoran working in dirty mines 'luxury,' Julok. They're perpetually dirty."
"Gee, I wonder why," Julok said, scratching his chin. "It can't possibly be because they work underground in the mines all day every day, can it?"
Whiplash glared at Julok and then shook her head. "We're getting off topic here. I'm going to talk to this Matoran and he's going to tell me everything he knows."
Here, Chimoy decided to speak up. "Er, ma'am? What do you want to know from me?"
Whiplash sat up in her sofa, but still didn't allow her feet to touch the floor. "It's simple. I was recently given reliable information that an insurrection is being planned among the slaves of the mines. The informant told me that you were the leader of this rebellion, Chimoy."
"That's not true," said Chimoy, shaking his head. "Ma'am, I would never, ever think of even joining a rebellion. Whoever told you that lied to you, ma'am."
Julok cackled behind Chimoy, causing the Matoran to look up at him in alarm.
"That's a good one," said Julok with a chuckle. "Even I know how much you slaves hate Whiplash. I don't blame you. If I had to work under her all day and all night . . . oh, that'd be real torture, all right."
"Julok, please do me the honor of shutting your mouth," Whiplash said, causing Chimoy to look back at her. "Or I'll shut it myself."
Julok went silent, but Chimoy figured it was less because he feared Whiplash and more because he wanted to see how she would punish Chimoy.
"Now Chimoy," said Whiplash as she cracked her whip again. "My informant doesn't lie to me. I specifically chose him, out of all you dirty little slaves, because he is loyal to me. When he offers me proof that someone is planning a rebellion, I have no reason to disbelieve him."
"Ma'am, I don't know who your informant is, but he's wrong," said Chimoy, trying to keep his voice steady. "I'm not brav- I mean, foolish enough to rebel against you."
Digging into a bag sitting next to her, Whiplash said, "Oh? Then what's this?"
She tossed a stone tablet at Chimoy. The Fe-Matoran awkwardly caught the tablet between cuffed hands and looked at it. Being illiterate, Chimoy didnt know what this tablet said. The only thing he recognized was his own name written at the bottom of the tablet, for that was the only word he knew how to read.
"I don't . . ." Chimoy said, his eyes still on the tablet. "I don't know what this says."
"Don't play dumb with me," said Whiplash. "That's a detailed account of your plans to lead the other slaves in rebellion against me."
Chimoy looked back up at Whiplash, who appeared smug. "I . . . I can't even write my own name, ma'am. This has to be a fake."
"It's real," Whiplash said. "Unfortunately, the plans do not include the names of every slave who was going to be a part of the rebellion. So how's about you tell me your coconspirators' names? I will take an extra lash off your sentence of forty lashes for every name you drop."
Chimoy bit his lower lip. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but there's no rebellion. I don't know of anyone in the mines who is even thinking of overthrowing you."
Sighing, Whiplash said, "If you won't talk, Chimoy, then I will make you talk. Julok, take the slave out to the whipping post."
Panicking at the mention of the whipping post, Chimoy actually tried to run, but Julok yanked the energy chain, causing Chimoy to fall flat on his back onto the hard marble floor.
"Julok!" said Whiplash with a gasp. "He's getting dirt all over the floor now!"
"Sorry," said Julok, although he didn't sound like he meant it.
Without helping Chimoy up, Julok dragged the Fe-Matoran out of the room. As the Dark Hunter did so, Chimoy distinctly heard Whiplash's panicky voice calling for Arvon to get a bucket and mop to clean up the mess Chimoy had made. He also heard Whiplash calling Julok a variety of rude names, but Chimoy paid little attention to that. He was too concerned with his own fate to care about what other people were calling each other.
The whipping post was a wooden stake driven into the ground, set on a slightly elevated hill located not far from the entrance to the mines. Ordinarily, Whiplash would gather all of the slaves to watch her punish one of their own, but as Chimoy's whipping was taking place at about the same time the slaves were returning to work, that didn't seem necessary. After all, they would see Chimoy's punishment on their way to work, which meant they needn't waste any time watching the whipping that could be better spent working in the mines.
Chimoy's hands were tied to the post. The whipping post was old and splintered, but it still held up strong and hadn't been replaced in years. This was to allow the splinters to be driven through the slaves' wrists during the whipping, adding to the pain of the punishment.
Chimoy was set facing the entrance to the mines. A few slaves were walking by, but they didn't slow down to watch. Instead, they sped up and entered the mines. They obviously did not want to see what was about to happen to Chimoy.
Having never been whipped before, Chimoy wasn't sure how it would feel. He had seen the scars that other slaves bore on their backs from past whippings, but most of them didn't like talking about the time they were whipped, nor did Chimoy ever ask. It just seemed like an experience too horrible to repeat.
Five minutes later, Whiplash appeared. She was riding a Kikanalo, her steed, which, like her house, was always kept in pristine condition. Arvon was with her, but he was walking behind the Kikanalo rather than on it, carrying what looked like a rolled up red carpet.
Arvon immediately walked ahead of the Kikanalo until he reached the whipping post. Then, without talking to Chimoy, he started rolling the carpet around and around the post, once asking Chimoy to lift his feet to make room for it, until the red rug surrounded the entire area around the whipping post. Then Arvon carefully stepped off the carpet as Whiplashs Kikanalo stopped at the edge.
Whiplash carefully dismounted her steed. Walking along the mat, Whiplash unrolled her whip and cracked it once, twice, three times, each time worse to Chimoy's audio receptors than the roar of an angry rock lion.
By now, dozens of slaves were on their way to the mines. Some looked at Chimoy, but the vast majority, like the slaves from earlier, did not even acknowledge that a whipping was taking place. Chimoy wished they would, but understood why they didn't.
Standing just outside the carpet circle was Julok. Although he himself was not going to partake of the whipping, the Dark Hunter apparently wanted to watch, as if it were part of some perverse form of entertainment designed specifically for him. It didnt help that he was grinning.
"Slaves!" Whiplash called out to the slaves as they passed. "Here is another demonstration of what happens to slaves who plan rebellion against their masters!"
Without warning, Chimoy felt something hard and burning slam into his back. The impact of the blow was so intense that Chimoy almost fell to his knees, but he managed to keep his footing. The pain dulled quickly, but that first blow had been so exhausting that Chimoy could barely stand.
"This is what happens to slaves who defy us!" Whiplash said.
Another blow, this time with even more force than the last one. Chimoy fell to his knees and tried to stand up, but it was now impossible, for he was in too much pain to stand.
"To all of you slaves," said Whiplash, "if you do not wish to see your brother slave die, then step forward and give us your rebellious names!"
Blinking the tears of pain out of his eyes, Chimoy looked at the other slaves. None of them seemed likely to stand up for Chimoy, especially because there was no rebellion being planned. It was then that Chimoy realized this whipping would have to end in his death. There was no other option.
"No one wants to stand up for their friend?" said Whiplash in mock surprise. "How despicable. Very well, then. One more time."
Whiplash cracked her whip as Chimoy closed his eyes and braced for the pain, but a voice Chimoy didn't recognize called out, "Wait! Stop whipping him!"
Opening his eyes, Chimoy looked and saw a De-Matoran standing just outside the whipping post circle, holding one hand up. Chimoy didn't recognize the handsome De-Matoran; in fact, based on the De-Matoran's relatively clean armor, he looked like a newcomer.
"And who are you?" said Whiplash. "What's your name?"
The De-Matoran stepped forward and said, "My name is Nonzra. I'm the one who planned the rebellion. Not Chimoy."
"Nonzra . . ." Whiplash repeated thoughtfully. "I don't seem to remember having a Nonzra working in the mines."
"That's because I'm new here," said Nonzra. "They sent me from Ironos to work in the mines because I'm so easy to get along with."
Nonzra's sarcasm apparently didn't go unnoticed by Whiplash, who said harshly, "Do you have your letter of transfer from the governor of Ironos, then?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Nonzra, drawing a stone tablet out of his bag. "Right here. Signed by Governor Ferkis himself."
"Check it out," Whiplash said to Julok.
Julok went over, took the letter from Nonzra, and glanced at it before saying, "The newcomer's right. This is Ferkis's signature."
Most of the slaves had stopped now to watch the proceedings. Many of them looked just as confused as Chimoy felt.
"Very well," said Whiplash. "If you, Nonzra, are the true originator of this plan, then why is Chimoy's name on the plans?"
"I put it there upon his request, of course," said Nonzra, rolling his eyes. "You should know, ma'am, that most slaves can't read or write. He told me he consented to the plans and wanted me to write his name so we'd remember. That turned out to be a real smart move, as you can clearly tell."
Whiplash glanced down at Chimoy and asked, "Is this true?"
It wasn't, but Chimoy nodded fervently anyway. He was in too much pain from the whippings to speak.
"Hey," said Julok, looking at Nonzra suspiciously. "If you're new, how'd you get Chimoy to agree to a rebellion before you even got here?"
Nonzra smiled sardonically and said, "Gee, I really wish I could tell you, sir, but frankly that's a matter best kept between me and Chimoy."
Julok raised his fist and said, "You little piece of filth. I'm going to bash your mask into your face and-"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said Nonzra, still smiling. "Did you read the entire letter of transfer? Governor Ferkis quite clearly states what happens to anyone who decides to punish his slave unduly."
Grumbling the foulest curses, Julok glanced down at the letter again. His eyes widened, and when he looked back at Nonzra, his teeth were clenched.
"So obviously," said Nonzra, folding his arms behind his back, "you don't want to bash my mask into my face. I mean, it would probably be very interesting if you did, of course, but you'd then have to explain to Governor Ferkis why you did it."
"You've got too much spirit, slave," said Julok. "I see why Ferkis sent you here."
"Yes, I've been told as much," said Nonzra cheerfully. "So, now that we have that out of the way, when do I begin work?"
Whiplash nodded at Julok, who immediately cuffed Nonzra.
"You're not working anywhere, Nonzra," said Whiplash as she curled her whip. "Now that we know who the real mastermind behind the rebellion is, were going to take you and Chimoy and lock you both up until tomorrow."
"If I may ask, Miss Whip, what are you going to do to me and Chimoy tomorrow?" Nonzra asked, seemingly undisturbed by the energy cuffs locked around his wrists.
"It's Whiplash, slave," Whiplash said. "And tomorrow, you will meet the fate that all rebels eventually meet, which is death."
Whiplash then tossed her curled whip toward Arvon, who hastily caught it as she said, "Clean my whip, Arvon, and make sure you get every speck of blood off it."
Blood? Chimoy thought. He hadn't felt her draw any blood, but now that he thought about it, his back still burned in pain as something hot and liquid ran down it.
"Julok, take Chimoy and Nonzra to the Box," said Whiplash as she walked back to her Kikanalo. "I will be taking a long, warm bath in my house. Anyone who disturbs me unless it is an emergency shall be executed without hesitation."
Whiplash climbed back onto her Kikanalo, which immediately started walking back to the house on the hill. Chimoy watched her go, feeling grateful that he hadn't had to be whipped more than three times.
Then Julok untied Chimoy's wrists from the whipping post and took him and Nonzra away. As they walked, Chimoy glanced at Nonzra, who smiled at him briefly before his expression returned to blankness. All Chimoy knew was that he was thankful for Nonzra, although he didn't know why Nonzra had saved him, for he had never known the De-Matoran or even known about him until today.
Chimoy and Nonzra were placed inside 'the Box,' a small, square wooden building that had only one window, which was blocked by several iron bars. It was located just outside the community, right in the view of a nearby guard tower, which would make escape very difficult if the guard was watching it.
This was the first time Chimoy had ever been inside the Box, but he had heard plenty about it from the other slaves. Disobedient or rebellious slaves were usually placed inside the Box for long periods of time, anywhere from four weeks to two months. They were allowed no visitors and were not allowed to leave the Box until their time was up. This enforced solitude was usually enough to break a rebels spirit, so the Box was always spoken of with dread by the rest of the slaves.
The Box itself was a cramped building. The walls, stained with what Chimoy hoped wasn't blood, were rotted, but sturdy enough to make knocking them down or making a hole through them impossible. The floor had no paneling to cover up its dirt foundation and there were no lightstones to provide illumination. It stank of dampness and death, which Chimoy had expected, knowing the Boxs reputation.
Yet somehow this place, despite its grim, dark appearance, seemed better to him than Whiplash's house. Perhaps it was because the mysterious Nonzra was with him or maybe it was because there wasn't an obsessively hygienic Dark Hunter living inside it.
Before Julok left, he demanded to know if Chimoy or Nonzra had any hidden tools on them which they might use to escape. Chimoy truthfully answered with no, while Nonzra also said no, although Julok didn't believe him, so he dragged Nonzra to the side and searched the De-Matoran until he discovered that Nonzra had a lock-pick on him.
"Planning to use this to escape, eh?" said Julok as he pocketed the lock-pick. "Yeah, nice try."
Then Julok put them both inside the Box and locked it. A second later, they heard him walking away until the sounds of Julok's footsteps were no longer within earshot.
When Julok was gone, Chimoy sat down on the dirt floor and felt his back. Something sticky met his fingers. When he lifted his hand up in front of his face, he saw blood on the tips of his fingers.
The pain in his back caused Chimoy to double over and groan. He wondered if he would even survive until the morning, for the pain was harsh and the bleeding felt like a river flowing down his back.
Nonzra knelt down next to him and said, "Hey, I think I can help you."
"How?" Chimoy groaned. "Are you a doctor?"
"No," said Nonzra, shaking his head. "But I do have some bandages on me that might stem the flow."
Nonzra left briefly, and then returned with some bandages in hand. He quickly wrapped them around Chimoy's torso and back, effectively stemming the flow of blood. Chimoy's back still hurt, but at least it was no longer bleeding.
"Thanks," said Chimoy. "But where did you get the bandages from? I thought Julok took all of your things."
"I convinced him that I couldn't escape with bandages," Nonzra replied. "I noticed he's a very reasonable guy."
Chimoy chuckled at that, but then asked, "So who are you? Are you really a slave from Ironos?"
"Of course not," said Nonzra as he stood up and walked over to the door. "Well, I used to be a slave, obviously, but I'm not anymore. In fact, I haven't been a slave for several years now. Freedom's great, if a bit dangerous."
"Youre free?" Chimoy asked curiously. "I didn't know it was possible for a slave to be free on Shika Nui."
"It isn't," Nonzra replied as he felt along the door. "I escaped and have been on the run ever since."
"By yourself?" said Chimoy incredulously. "But the entire island is controlled by the Dark Hunters. How have you managed to avoid being recaptured all this time?"
"Not by myself, no," said Nonzra, shaking his head. "I'm with a group of freed slaves. We don't really have a name for our group, but we are thieves who generally steal from the Dark Hunters to meet our needs, and then some."
"Wait," said Chimoy, scratching the top of his head. "I think I've heard about some Matoran thieves that live in the forest. Always thought they were just rumors, though."
"We're real," Nonzra said. Then he glanced over his shoulder at Chimoy and smiled. "Or do you think I'm a ghost?"
Chimoy laughed at that, but then said seriously, "Well, what are you doing here? Why'd you lie to save me like that?"
Nonzra stopped jiggling the doorknob, but didn't turn around to face Chimoy. "Well, I was supposed to steal something from Whiplash's house. But I couldn't handle seeing an obviously innocent Matoran being beaten to death in public, so I decided to save you."
"Why were you carrying a letter of transfer if you're not a slave anymore?" Chimoy asked. "And how'd you know I was innocent?"
"In case I was spotted," Nonzra replied. "I forged Ferkis's handwriting and made a fake letter of transfer so that, if I ever found myself in a situation like this, I'd have something to show the Dark Hunters. As to how I knew you were innocent . . . well, I asked a couple of other slaves that were watching the whipping and they confirmed it."
"Thank you," said Chimoy. "But . . . we're going to be executed tomorrow. Didn't that occur to you?"
"It did," said Nonzra, turning around with a smile. "But we'll escape at midnight, so Whiplash won't have to get her whip dirty again."
"How? Didn't Julok take your lock-pick from you?"
'Chimoy, I technically don't need a lock-pick," said Nonzra, shaking his head. "It's a nice little toy, but honestly, I've been doing this thief thing long enough to know all the tricks of the trade. I've already figured a way out, but as the sun is still up, I'm not going to do it yet. We'll be spotted too easily if we try to escape now."
"So we just wait until night, then?"
Nonzra sat down beside the door and his head immediately dropped to his chest. Within seconds the De-Matoran was fast asleep, snoring softly as he did so.
Chimoy looked at Nonzra interestedly. He's so brave to step in and save me like that. Not to mention he's rather handsome, too.
The Fe-Matoran shook his head. What am I thinking? Nonzra is probably not interested in me. He's probably resting so he'll have energy for tonight. I ought to do the same.
Chimoy sat against the opposite wall, but still stared at Nonzra despite himself. It was impossible not to, for Nonzra had such an athletic frame for being so short, and seemed so strong too. Were the situation a little different, Chimoy might have thought about sitting next to Nonzra, but as it was he chose to sit on the other side of the room. Maybe later he would try to learn more about his new friend.
Chimoy awoke abruptly as someone shook him. Blinking and yawning, Chimoy looked up and saw Nonzra standing above him. This caused Chimoy to start slightly, though more out of embarrassment than fear.
"Good, you're awake," said Nonzra. "I reckon it's about midnight. We can probably escape without anybody noticing."
Chimoy nodded, but then realized something. "There's a guard tower nearby. It might notice us."
"Unlikely," said Nonzra. "They'd have to focus a search light on the Box to see it. As long as we do it quietly and carefully, we should be able to escape without being seen or heard."
Chimoy shrugged, stood up, and followed Nonzra to the door, which wasn't hard to find in the darkness.
Whatever techniques Nonzra used to open the door, it was impossible to tell due to the shadows. Within seconds, however, the lock clicked and Nonzra murmured, "Yes!"
"Okay, Chimoy," said Nonzra, turning to face him. "We can't just go barging out. We're going to need to leave as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. I'll go first and you follow."
Chimoy nodded again as Nonzra slowly creaked open the door. Then Nonzra slipped through and, after waiting a second, Chimoy followed, closing the door quietly behind him as he did so.
The night was indeed dark, almost pitch black save for the stars in the night sky and the lights from the huts around the mine. The guard tower light was also on, but it was not aimed toward the Box. Instead, it was fixed on the road leading out of the mine and into the forest, which Chimoy thought might make it harder to escape.
"Okay," said Nonzra quietly. "Where is Whiplash's house?"
Chimoy looked at Nonzra in confusion. "Why do you want to know where her house is?"
"Because I'm supposed to steal something from it," Nonzra replied, as if it were obvious. "Didn't I already tell you that?"
"Now hold on a sec," said Chimoy as he glanced in the direction of Whiplash's house. "You didn't say anything about breaking into Whiplash's house. All you said was that we would escape from the Box. That's it."
"And we will escape once I steal what I want from Whiplash," Nonzra said. "So sorry I forgot to mention that to you."
"Well, I suppose you can do what you want, but I'm leaving," said Chimoy, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. "You can get captured, but don't expect me to stick around and get captured, too."
"Might want to rethink that," said Nonzra.
"Why?" said Chimoy. "You saved my life, yes, but that doesn't mean I'm going to risk it again like this."
"Yeah, you really might want to rethink that," said Nonzra with a chuckle. "Think about it. You won't be able to survive on your own in the wilderness, what with prowling Rahi looking for an easy meal, Dark Hunters searching for escapees, no easy source of food or water, and very little light to guide your way. Even if you survive, it won't be long before the Dark Hunters here realize you've escaped and send someone after you."
As much as Chimoy wanted to tell Nonzra that he was wrong, the Fe-Matoran knew his friend spoke the truth. "Well, then are you suggesting I come with you?"
"Ordinarily, I wouldn't bring along an unskilled civilian like you," said Nonzra. "But seeing as these are rather unusual circumstances, yes, I am suggesting you come with me. We escape together or are captured together. That's how I see it."
Chimoy bit his lower lip. "All right. We'll go to Whiplash's house together. I'll lead, seeing as I know where it is and you don't."
"That's the spirit," said Nonzra with a low chuckle.
The two Matoran slowly made their way through the darkness. Every now and then they'd stop and listen for any sounds of patrolling guards, for Chimoy dreaded running into Julok, who no doubt was looking for an excuse to kill both of them, especially Nonzra. They did not hear anything, which told Chimoy that the guards were either asleep themselves or had confined their patrol routes to inside the communitys perimeter.
Every now and then Chimoy would hit something solid with his foot, but thankfully it always turned out to be a rock. It startled him several times, though, because he feared it was perhaps the foot of a guard or even some kind of dangerous Rahi, like a night eater.
Finally, the two Matoran reached the top of the hill where Whiplash's house was. They briefly debated whether to go in through the front door or not, but, although it appeared unguarded, they decided against it. It might draw unwanted attention to their efforts if they came in through the front.
Chimoy remembered hearing about a back door for Whiplash's servants, so Chimoy led Nonzra around the back of the house. The back was dark and at first they couldn't find the back door, but eventually, by feeling along the wall, they found it. It was locked, but Nonzra did the same thing he did back in the Box and soon the door was unlocked.
After first looking around to make sure no one was watching, Chimoy and Nonzra slipped through the small, Matoran-sized entrance and closed the door behind them. Nonzra didn't lock it; probably intended to use it as a getaway, just in case things didn't work out.
The passage they'd ended up in was small and narrow, although the two Matoran were able to stand up in it without any trouble. As neither Matoran was familiar with the house, the two walked side by side, keeping their eyes and audio receptors open for any signs of trouble. The passage was too dark to see clearly in, so they mostly relied on their audio receptors and sense of touch to find their way around.
Thankfully, they didn't run into any of the servants and soon found another door at the end of the passage. This one, oddly enough, wasn't locked, which worried Chimoy until Nonzra suggested that the servants may have simply forgotten to lock it for the night.
Whatever the case, the unlocked door worked to their advantage. They went through it and found themselves standing in the entrance hall. At least, Chimoy assumed that was where they were, for it was too dark to clearly tell what room they were in. They were standing underneath a staircase that wound up to the next floor.
"What are you trying to steal, anyway?" Chimoy whispered to Nonzra.
"It's called the Jar of Light," said Nonzra, his voice as low as Chimoy's. "Supposedly, it's an ancient artifact from the Tren Krom Peninsula, said to have been built by the Nynrah ghosts. Heard some rumors that the Dark Hunters got their hands on it and gave it to Whiplash for safekeeping. You wouldn't happen to know anything about it, would you?"
Chimoy thought about that for a moment. "No. Why do you want the Jar of Light?"
"Because it's valuable," Nonzra replied. "Besides, we don't want the Dark Hunters having any more weapons than they already have. Our group isn't much, but we sting like a Nui Rama and vanish like a ghost. That's what Addis, our leader, always says."
"I see," said Chimoy. "Well, I don't know where Whiplash might keep the Jar of Light, if she has it, because I've only been in this house once. We'll have to search the whole place for it."
"Not necessarily," said Nonzra, shaking his head. "All we need to do is find Whiplash's safe. It's a common practice among Dark Hunter slaveholders to hide their most valuable objects in safes, mostly because they distrust their slaves."
"Well, we don't know where that is, either, now do we?" said Chimoy impatiently. "We might still have to search the whole house for the safe."
"Again, not necessarily," said Nonzra. Depending on Whiplash's creativity we might have to, but if she's anything like most slaveholders, she probably has her safe in the living. Don't know why they put it there, exactly, but based on past thefts the safe has always been in the living room. So let's check that room first."
"What do we do if we run into any servants?" Chimoy asked, although he was mostly thinking of Julok.
"I know a thing or two about fighting," Nonzra said as he and Chimoy walked down the hall. "We'll be fine."
I hope so, Chimoy thought as he followed Nonzra.
Finding the living room was the easy part. It was just down the hallway to their left, although due to the darkness it had been difficult for Nonzra to read the label on the door that identified the room as the living room. Chimoy squinted in the darkness as they entered the chamber, but couldn't see a thing. He closed the door to the living room on their way in so they wouldn't accidentally be interrupted by anyone.
Of course, that just made the room darker. Chimoy was about to ask Nonzra how they were going to find the safe without lights when, without warning, a dozen lightstones in the ceiling turned on, illuminating the entire room and temporarily blinding the two Matoran.
Chimoy blinked rapidly as his eyes adjusted to the bright light. He rubbed his fists into his eyes while wondering, Who turned on the lights?
When his vision finally adjusted, Chimoy looked around and noticed a Le-Matoran standing behind a coffee table. The Le-Matoran held only a small pistol in his right hand, though considering both Chimoy and Nonzra were unarmed it gave him a distinct advantage over the two of them in combat.
It took Chimoy a moment to recognize the Le-Matoran.
"Arvon?" said Chimoy in surprise. "What are you doing up this late?"
"I knew you would try to break into here," said Arvon grimly. "I tried to warn Miss Whiplash, but she wouldn't listen. She told me you two would never escape from the Box and if you did this house would be the last place you'd come to. Looks like I was . . . I was . . ."
The word he was looking for was probably 'right,' but Chimoy understood Arvons hesitation. Whiplash had made it clear that any slaves that believed themselves to be right and her wrong were bad slaves in need of a whipping. Even now, with no Dark Hunters around, the Le-Matoran seemed to have a hard time saying the word.
"I thought you didn't like working for Whiplash," said Chimoy. "The other slaves always told me that you were unhappy being Whiplash's personal servant. So why are you trying to defend her home against us?"
"The other slaves are wrong," said Arvon, who was shaking slightly. "I like serving Miss Whiplash. The other slaves just told you that because they're jealous of the fact that I dont have to sleep in the dirt every day. Just like how I'm jealous of you, Chimoy, which is why I framed you in the first place."
"You what?" said Chimoy, his eyes wide. "You mean you were the one who set me up?"
"Of course," said Arvon, nodding. "I wanted you dead, Chimoy. I knew you didn't have the guts to openly defy Miss Whiplash, so I forged the plans under your name, which I knew would earn you an execution or a whipping, although in the end those are just two different words for the same thing."
"But why did you frame me?" said Chimoy. "What'd I do that made you want me dead?"
At first, Arvon just stood there, shaking harder, before he said, "Because, Chimoy, you had friends and I did not. You were on good terms with the rest of the slaves, while I was treated like a traitor. I could not bear to be so unhappy anymore, so I decided to strike a blow at the other slaves by having you, who is liked by nearly all, executed."
"You are a traitor," said Chimoy, folding his arms. "A traitor and a coward. You never did anything to undermine Whiplash. No one wants to be friends with someone who loyally serves the enemy."
"Shut up!" said Arvon, waving his gun. "It doesn't matter now. I'll blow both your brains out, which will cause so much sadness among the other slaves. Then I will be able to live happily, knowing that my enemies are every bit as miserable as I am."
"Okay, calm down," said Nonzra, holding up his hands. "You don't want to shoot anyone. Put the gun down and-"
"Never!" said Arvon, although he didn't shoot. "I know you, Nonzra. I knew from the moment I saw you that you were a member of that band of thieves that has been giving the Dark Hunters grief since the Great Cataclysm. I didn't tell Miss Whiplash that because I knew I couldn't prove it, but I knew that you were here for a reason because your kind doesn't infiltrate slave communities unless they have something your group wants."
"You recognized me?" said Nonzra. "How flattering. Do you want my autograph or would a handshake do?"
"St-Stop mocking me!" said Arvon, his gun shaking in his hand. "Anyway, I hid out in this living room because I knew you'd come here in search of valuables belonging to Miss Whiplash. I wasn't about to let a dirty thief steal anything from my mistress."
"You're an example to us all, Arvon," Nonzra said, shaking his head. "Look, buddy, how's about-"
"I am not your 'buddy,'" Arvon growled. "And if you try anything, I'll shoot. Or I'll flip this switch-" he gestured at a switch on the wall, "-which will not only summon the other servants but probably Miss Whiplash herself. If you wish to live a little while longer, then I suggest-"
Without letting Arvon finish, Nonzra moved in and flipped over the coffee table at the Le-Matoran. Arvon shot the table in alarm, but that didn't stop it from falling on top of him with a crash. At that exact moment, however, dozens of loud bells started ringing throughout the house, which Chimoy realized must have been the alarm system Arvon had been threatening them with. He also realized that the other servants must have heard the sound of the crashing table and must have activated the alarm themselves.
"Quick, we've got to get out of here!" said Nonzra, grabbing Chimoy's hand and dragging the Fe-Matoran out of the room.
"Don't you still want the Jar of Light, though?" said Chimoy as Nonzra opened the door.
"I or one of the others can come back and get it later," said Nonzra. "For now, we gotta run."
The hallway was still very dark, but it was no longer silent. The cacophony of sounds hurt Chimoy's head, but that didn't slowed him down as he followed Nonzra under the staircase, where the servant's entrance was. The De-Matoran threw open the door and dashed through it, with Chimoy bringing up the rear.
As they ran down the narrow hall, Chimoy glanced over his shoulder, but it was too dark to see anything and he couldn't hear anyone behind them. Still, Chimoy knew they wouldn't be safe until they were far away from the house.
The two Matoran burst through the servant's entrance and immediately dashed down the hill behind Whiplash's house. They stumbled through the darkness, but didn't slow down until they reached the forest. Even then, they kept running for a long time after, not slowing down at all until they found a hollow tree to hide in, which they jumped into without hesitation.
It was at this moment that, as they were sitting in the tree's hollow, Chimoy realized that he and Nonzra were still holding hands. And he liked it.
Nonzra seemed to notice that, too, for he let go of Chimoy's hand and said, "Sorry for dragging you along like that."
"It's not a problem," said Chimoy, almost too quickly. "I mean, we had to get out of there pretty fast, didn't we?"
"Yeah," said Nonzra, nodding. "I guess they now know that we've escaped. What does that cow do when slaves escape from her, anyway?"
"She usually sends out a warning to the surrounding villages to keep an eye out for the runner," Chimoy replied. "I imagine she'll do the same for me."
"Then I guess we're going to have to avoid civilization for a while," said Nonzra with a sigh. "I'm used to it, though, considering I'm a wanted criminal and all. We can just use the route I used to get here to go back home."
"Go back home?" Chimoy said. "What do you mean?"
"I mean going back to my base," said Nonzra, rolling his eyes. "You know, the place where I and the others live when we're not out stealing things from the big bad Dark Hunters? It's located in a rather obscure part of the island, so I imagine we'll be safe from the Hunters there."
Chimoy nodded. "Looks like I don't have any choice but to go with you, then."
"You don't have to go with me if you don't want to," said Nonzra with a shrug. "It's definitely easier to live the life of a free person if you have friends, though."
"I don't think I'd last long in the wilderness by myself," said Chimoy. "So I guess I'll join your little band of thieves. Don't have anywhere else to go."
"Gonna have to talk to Addis about that, though," said Nonzra. "I bet he'll accept you, because he's a nice guy. Still, I can't wait to see the looks on everyone else's faces when I come back not with the Jar of Light but a Matoran. That'll be hilarious."
Chimoy chuckled. "So what do we do now?"
"Sleep," Nonzra said, lying against the walls of the hollow. "Tomorrow we'll figure out where we are and then start the journey home. That should take us about a day or two, depending on where we are."
"Assuming the Dark Hunters don't catch us first, that is," said Chimoy.
"They won't," Nonzra said. "They're really not that smart if you know how to avoid them. We'll be just fine, so good night."
With that, Nonzra went off to sleep. Chimoy looked down at his hand, the one Nonzra had been holding. He really had enjoyed holding Nonzra's hand, which made him wonder if Nonzra had felt the same way or not.
Regardless of whether he did or didn't, I think I'm going to enjoy working with him just the same, Chimoy thought as he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Present day . . .
Though Chimoy was tired and he knew he needed the sleep, still the Toa of Iron found himself standing just outside the village of Koro Nui, in the small graveyard located on the edge of the proto forest. The stars were out tonight, like on that night long ago when he and Nonzra had escaped from the clutches of Whiplash and her servant Arvon. Even with the stars out, it would have been too dark for Chimoy to see Nonzra's grave, located next to the grave of Toa Addis, the late leader of the Toa Shika, had not Chimoy brought the Jar of Light with him.
The Jar of Light, from what Chimoy had gathered, had been transported to the Dark Hunters' main fortress after Nonzra and Chimoy's attempted theft so many years ago. As Koro Nui was currently located inside the abandoned fortress, Chimoy had found the Jar within the Dark Hunters' vaults. He had brought it out with a sense of irony about the situation, for it was only after Nonzra's death that Chimoy had been able to find it.
Though Nonzra had been buried for only a couple of weeks now, the tombstone was already beginning to look faded. Chimoy had vowed to keep the graves of his former teammates in good condition, but with all of the work that rebuilding Shika Nui required, he barely had time to fulfill this duty. Akuna helped him and so did some of the Matoran, but as they were as busy as he was, even they didnt have enough time to help as much as they wanted to.
Chimoy placed one hand on top of Nonzra's tombstone. How he wished he had told Nonzra his true feelings for him before the Toa of Sonics' death; how he wished he could have saved Nonzra's life in return for the time Nonzra had saved Chimoy's life so many years ago.
I wish I had a Mask of Time, Chimoy thought. Then I could go back in time and say what I should have said but never had the courage to say.
Chimoy took a deep breath and said to the tombstone, "Nonzra, I don't know if your spirit can hear me right now, but there's something Id like to get off my chest. Something I've been meaning to say ever since we first met, but something I've never had the courage to say because of my cowardice."
Of course, the tombstone didn't respond.
"Since the day I joined our band of thieves, you and I had always been good friends," Chimoy said, emotion choking his words a little. "We went on a lot of jobs together and always looked out for each other. When we became Toa, our friendship didn't change. In fact, I'd say it got stronger as we worked together to become true heroes and defend the entire universe from evil."
Chimoy paused for a moment, wondering what Nonzra might say if he was still alive, before continuing, "But there was something I never got to tell you, Nonzra. Something that I always kept to myself even in our most honest, open moments. Even now, when you're dead and there's no one around to listen, I'm still afraid to say it. But I must because if I never do, I'll never move on and never be at peace."
Chimoy closed his eyes and dragged the words he was meaning to say to his tongue. He opened his mouth once, but nothing came out. He tried it again, but still nothing came out. Frustrated, Chimoy opened his mouth a third time and said these words, the very words he had been meaning to say to Nonzra for all of these years:
"I love you, Nonzra, and I wish I would have said so sooner."
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