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Friar Tuck

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  1. IC A slight snort of mild amusement escaped my nostrils as she blurted that last part, my eyes still staring at the door across the lounge. "Your compliment... means much." I began slowly, thinking carefully on how I wanted to word this. "I do not... receive them often. But as to... fulfilling both roles, I... was only able to because... your mother was alive. I did not feel... the pressure of... family patriarch. I could... serve her, be... Executioner, and privately... be your uncle. But in even that I... seem to have... failed in. I know you as well as... inside the crater atop Mount Koshiki. I did not... spend the time with you... when I had the chance. Now I fear... I don't." I paused for a second, closing my eyes. "Which might explain... our spat. I don't... know you or your... ways of leadership. I don't... understand your... 'style'. You may have been... properly trained and prepared, but I... still see an inexperienced, if not at times a... spoiled and bratty Chojo. Perhaps I need to... realize you are now an adult, let you... lead as you should. You ARE... the Rora. But there are... few outside the palace who have... confidence in that. Or you." "And forgive me, my... Rora, but I am... one of those... people." I sank a little lower in the sofa, feeling relieved of the admission but at the same time extremely guilty for saying so. The term I used - her title - was purposeful and explicit; as my niece, daughter of my sister, my own flesh and blood, I had every confidence and undying love for her as one of my only two remaining close family members. As supreme ruler of this empire however... that confidence wasn't as stable. She may be strong and smart and resourceful, but as always I watched. I'd seen her when she thought she was alone. Observed her mannerisms and they way she dealt with individuals. And having been there during that party when she... I willed that particular memory out of my head. To always walk the tightrope Yumi, to be two different people and maintain dignity and honor for both... is something that few understand. To be continuously on the outside looking in, rarely able to share what's in my head... it's maddening, I thought privately. The interview had only lasted a few minutes thus far, yet his was probably the deepest and most perceptive conversation I had ever had with her. I had no idea how she was going to react to what I said... because I didn't know her. This was either going to be a really short or really long conversation.
  2. IC "Come in," came the rather regal reply through the door. I almost rolled my eyes as I went to open it; even now she still had it in her to sound like Queen of the World. How she managed to do it despite circumstances I would never fathom... I stepped in, closed the door quietly behind me, then looked as Yumiwa- And promptly everything I thought I had prepared to possibly say went out the window. She stood in front of the sofa, hands behind her back, as calm and cool as any regent should be. Fairly relaxed and dignified stance with feet at shoulder width, calm and colected face, neutral demeanor, a near duplicate of my late sister, albeit much younger. It was the perfect poise for this meeting, a near-perfect impression for the upcoming... discussion, if you wanted to call it that. But that's all it was - an impression. A good one at that, but I could see. Her knees were slightly locked, no doubt to prevent shaking; hands behind back to hide any possible tremors; a hint of overly timed breathing to relax unsteady nerves; but what most got me was the eyes. Hidden behind the regal gaze of a prepared Rora, tucked away beneath those steely, glowing orbs: anxiety. No matter hard hard she hid it, no matter how calm she made herself, the fact was there - she was afraid. And that hit me harder than any strike that I had ever felt during any honor duel. To see her frightened of me, even in a subtle way... it really was the last straw. Part of me broke. It shouldn't be like this. The people were generally afraid of my position as enforcer of the laws; the Twins while innocent were still mildly terrified when presented with the concept of being questioned; even Inokio fidgeted and looked uncomfortable when talking with me. Now this. No matter where I go or who I speak with mild apprehension seems to surround my presence, regardless of my words or actions. Only the guilty should have to fear me, not... everyone. Not... family. I... At this moment my mind refused to work, nothing I could do but stand and stare at her for a long minute, longer than I really should have. By sheer will I managed to pull myself out of it, unclasping my sword as I did so and setting it by the door. Very slowly I walked over the couch and sat down, the sofa a size too small for my frame, and... sighed, my chin leaning heavily on a pair of fists as elbows dug almost painfully into a set of knees. She may not be, but I was tired of keeping up appearances. There was no point. "How... are you feeling?" I finally asked
  3. IC And so pretension to Order is coming to its climax. Everything that has been bubbling underneath, unseen, hidden, for generations, is finally coming to the surface. I walked slowly through the Royal Apartments, more so than usual even for me, lost in my own thoughts. Part of me was consumed with this increasingly-frustrating search for my sister's killer, the the other half was slowly coming to grips with political ramifications of my earlier actions. I was not convinced that they were wrong; at this point however I could see that I was not completely in the right either. The last several weeks had been difficult and tolling on both my mind and body, to which the meeting with the twins put me on edge... and then Yumi put me over the edge. Again, I was not wrong... but somewhere in the back of my head I felt like I was missing something. Generation gap possibly? I really didn't know her as well as I should. At this point though I should be used to missing a lot of things; I was no longer in the loop with anything these days it seemed, my inability to bring Justice and Order to the Empire proof of concept. I let out a long sigh and shook my head. I was getting... tired. Ever since the day I was handed this mask and sword it was my duty to uphold Law and Order. Justice. And though that, Honor. Every waking moment and every single day as was my obligation. It was my purpose, my sole reason for existence. I never mated or had children. I didn't have a personal life. No friends, only distant family and coworkers. The closest thing to a vacation I ever got was my fleeting escapes to bonsai plants and crystal-carving. There was no place I could go, no one I could talk to about the daily struggles I went through. I had no one to bear my feelings to, no individual that I could release the inner pressures this job demanded. There was one person, but now she was dead. Masa helped, her constant presence a witness to my struggles, but she was my underling and therefore the relationship only went so far. Simply put I was very much... alone. I stopped in the hallway, standing only for a second before turning sideways and leaning back into one of the pillars. The stress and burden of my responsibilities were weighing heavier on me these days, and I felt like it was beginning to show. This was not because of age; I was the youngest of my generation, only now beginning to enter middle-age, but even I would admit I looked far older. I closed my eyes, my mind drifting. Had it been worth it? The personal sacrifices given to be where I was now, to have the authority of the law on your side, to have ultimate Power over life and death? To be the unshakable pillar of Order? After the events of the last twenty-four hours, I was beginning to doubt that. Beginning to wonder if my lack relationships with my nieces was worth the tradeoff. Clan honor and all that. Flaring my nostrils I pushed myself upright once more and resumed my stroll, this time with a little more purpose. It wasn't long before I arrived at the Rora's personal quarters, my women still standing guard faithfully. "Report." "No visitors save the Chojo," replied the sergeant crisply, giving a short bow, "bringing food per your orders." Despite my neutral stance my eyebrow went up a fraction. "I... see. What kind... of food?" "Basic gruel, my lord, per your instructions. Palatable, but I wouldn't call it even three-star dining." The slight smirk on her face revealed her true thoughts even as it faded as quickly as it came. I could sense they all felt the same way... with a slight exhale of breath I waved my hand. "Thank you. Dismissed." Each saluted as they filed away, leaving me alone at my niece's door. I raised my hand to knock, but paused right before I did. Desde always did have a kind heart. Though fooling my guards like that... I would need to have a chat with her about faking orders. The thought of my younger niece almost made me smile. With a few solid raps I knocked, awaiting permission to enter. I had no doubt she was going to rail into me... and probably with good reason too. As always I would need to stand there and take it, just like I did with the Twins... and pretty much everybody else. Sometimes my job required me to be the proverbial punching bag... though this time it was going to be different. Different because now I had an opportunity to have a real sit down and conversation with Yumi - a conversation I've never had before. This was possibly the best chance to begin to learn who she was now that she was Rora and an adult. Learn how to deal - no, work - with her. She was, after all, the Rora, and I was the Executioner, elder uncle or not. If I didn't start now, I feared I would never get the chance to again. Clasping my hands behind my back I awaited patiently.
  4. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Streets Chapter Two: Courage under Fire I should have seen that coming. It was a strange turn of events: after years of getting swarmed by fans, friends, and foes alike, I was finding myself having to prove my own identity. I mean itt made sense after all the changes over the past two years, both physically and socially, but I honestly hadn't really thought about it until now. I could not help but grin at the prospect - one of the most famous people on the island suddenly a nobody because nobody recognized him. It almost made me giggle. Almost. I gazed around, looking for something that might help me with this endeavor. I began to (carefully) tear up the place, this smorgasbord of trinkets and strange wares, looking for the one thing that I could use to... aha! From underneath a pile of blankets and fur pelts I pulled out an old staple of mine: a Kohlii ball. Truly an indispensable tool, without such an object it I would have been unable to unlock off the temples on my first go around the island... not to mention kill time during the slow spots. Standing up to my full height I gave her a wink and without fanfare dropped the ball. *tap... tap... tappy tap tap tap* With a flick of the ankle the ball hit my foot and bounced back up in the air, to which I caught it with my right knee. After balancing it there for a second I went to a hopping routine, bouncing the ball back and forth with precision between my kneecaps. With a sudden upwards motion I shot straight up, as it drifted back down I bounced it off my forehead, letting it drop again as I used my left foot to catch and release, this time the ball gracefully arcing over my left shoulder to behind my back. What should have been the end of the foot juggling routine instead became my second act as I bounced the ball off my heel as I kicked my foot towards my rear, the ball arcing over my other shoulder, then off the knee again... The next minute was a flurry of fancy footwork, the ball bouncing between my knees, feet, over the shoulder, head, and otherwise demonstrating my superior feet-eye coordination, never once the ball hitting the ground or even looking like it was close to doing so. After that minute was up I gingerly caught it in my hand, and with the other I began to spin it, balancing the spinning sphere on one finger. Once it was moving fast enough I began to move it from hand to hand, finger to finger, under the arms and legs, and otherwise doing contortion tricks even as I kept it continuously balanced on a single finger. Eventually I came to the point where I was tilted sideways, ball held up in the air, to which I let it go, letting it roll down my arms and shoulders right into Kaia's awaiting arms. Slowly I bent down, grinning like a kid on his birthday. "That, little one, was no mask power; that's pure skill, skill honed by years of play and experience. But if you need more proof... " With that I reached into my bag, pulling out my old Kakama, the unmistakable gold mask with red streaks on it's edges. Along with that I also produced a fistful of documentation and paperwork that Angelus had given me not an hour earlier, my name and signature written all over it. With my eyes shining bright, not having that much fun showing off in years, I grinned at her triumphantly. "You convinced or am I going to have to drag you out to Captain Angelus myself to validate all this?"
  5. I don't see any reason why not. If a weapon, or any item for that matter, is left behind, either on purpose or because of extraneous circumstances, others can take it.
  6. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Streets Chapter Two: Courage under Fire I could not help but smile back. As were all Le-Matoran she was energetic and excitable, not to mention sociable and curious, making it easy to feel comfortable around her. Also, her tree-speak accent wasn't as pronounced as it could have been, making it relatively easy to understand her. I grasped her small hand and shook it firmly, enjoying a "normal" conversational exchange for once. How long had it been since I had simply meandered through a Koro square browsing? "Joske... Joske Nimil. And yes, I am an island-traveler... of sorts. I can't say I've ever seen you or your stand before, though after seeing what you have I'm kinda disappointed I haven't. This is pretty amazing stuff you got here... " It would probably take a week for someone to fully comb through what she had here, my eyes unable to soak it all up fast enough. Placing my hand on my hips I took yet another look around, marveling at the mini miracle I saw before me. "How do you manage so much stuff... ? Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. Yes, that 'Shaddix Scarf'... and that plain white one. How much?"
  7. IC The mention of my beloved sister like that caused me the stiffen ever so slightly, but it was more of a knee-jerk reaction than any form of anger. .:You are right. I took too long in my initial investigation, tarried too much before confronting the Twins, and what I have to show for it is riots in the streets and nothing for the murderer. I moved too slowly and therefore bear some of the blame for this current situation. Normally my slow pace is acceptable, but it seems we no longer have that luxury. We need to act swiftly to engage this new threat:. Even as I "spoke" those words I could not help but notice his fingers twitching. Probably a nervous tick, nothing more, though for some reason my gut was giving me mixed signals about it. Obviously this was distressing news, and though his words wise and rather sage for his age he seemed more... worried than I would expect. Almost... torn about something? Still, he brought up several good points that needed addressing so I simply filed the observation away. I myself was not in top shape after the days events so I could hardly judge. .:Speaking of swiftness, I appreciate your approval of cleaning house. Not that I need your approval, of course, but it will make the process significantly easier if you are willing to work with me on this and throw your weight behind it. To that extent I am going to ask you and your staff to be the first ones I interview... I won't order you to do it, not yet at least. If this is kept as voluntary as possible it will make the process that much smoother. Still, I won't be able to move as swift as I need with my current boundaries... I will need my hands unshackled to do so. I hate to say this, but I will need more power and authority to interrogate those I need to in the timeframe we need:. Out of the corner of my eye I saw it was his turn to stiffen. It took a moment for that movement to happen however as Inokio's mind processed and then dredged up the particular power I was speaking of. In my peripheral vision I saw him turn towards me with wide eyes. I didn't return to look, instead choosing to stand rather stoically, hands clasped behind my back as I gazed out over the Endless Sea as the sky turned from the blue-orange to bright red. "Yes... the Inquisition." I rumbled quietly, eyes hard. This was something I hoped I would never have to do, but as Inokio had rightfully pointed out events were moving faster than we could possibly hope to control. We would need to move as fast or faster to catch up if we had any hope of countering this new threat. "I... will need permission from... the Dastue that... make up my superiors. To grant... me the power to... activate the office... under their watch." I paused for a moment, contemplating what I was suggesting .:But first I must speak with my nieces... about all of this. Bring them up to speed. If they agree then I can possibly activate the Inquisition and within a day or so clear the inner circle but also the privy council... or at least, those that remain here. I know it's a tad unorthodox, but it's the only way to get to the point where the Rora can begin making decisions as quickly as possible, as well as free myself up to pinpoint the person who helped the murderer get so close to... :. I forced myself not to think about my sister .:I will remain cautious and meticulous as always, but now speed is of the essence. No one will be spared my gaze, not even you. Order, Honor, Power... our virtues will be upheld. Even if I have to go to great lengths to do it:. I bowed my head, looking at the sprawling palace below. I never thought I would have to use this power, let alone ask for it... but it seemed that I didn't have a choice. My usual methods had failed; it was time to up the ante. I just hoped my nieces understood.
  8. I have... Regained... My honour... *Glurk*. Edit: wrng quote I declare this an official WIN. Well done Norik, you would make an amazing Menti in real life This made my night...
  9. IC "Thank you... for being level-headed." The compliment was an honest one; I may not be one to lie, but it was not out of the ordinary for me to do the backhanded compliment or to use slighted politeness on occasion if called for it. As much as the Battlemaster may have hated politics I loathed it even more. I took a moment before answering, choosing to lean forward heavily on balustrade, eyes closed, letting the built-up tension of the day release somewhat. It would take more than this single moment to undo my irritability, but at least now I was allowed regain a bit of my composure. Inokio was respectfully looking as the sunset, but I had no doubt he could see the frustration and anxiety on my person as I slowly forced myself to relax. This was not my usual demeanor, not by any means, but everyone had their bad days. Slowly I breathed out, letting the stiffness in my neck and shoulders melt away, finally opening my eyes to enjoy the sight as well. Sunsets were particularly beautiful this time of year, especially from this vantage point. It... almost gave me some inspiration for my next carving. I gave a small nod. "Stunning... isn't it." "Mhm." It was the classic answer of truthful acknowledgement with the undertone of too-much-on-the-mind. I snorted and frowned slightly. .:I hope you don't mind if we converse like this; I can relay more accurate information quicker than if I were to speak:. .:Not at all:. .:Thank you. Where to begin? The beginning is the best place I suppose. So the Twins... :. * * * .:So as you can see this is not at all our parent's or even grandparent's conflict:. The wonder of Ideatalk was the ability to express more complete feelings and knowledge quicker than speech, something that was not lost on me. What would have taken more than an hour took only ten minutes or so, with more detail than words would allow. The crowds, the attempted deception of the twins and their identity, Jasix's unbridled cheekiness, Arsix's untold hatred of the system, his exoneration of the crime... but the biggest part was her feelings; no, their feelings. My mask had given me a glimpse into their world, their views, the ability to see things from the other side of the wall... and it wasn't good. It was as if they didn't care if Jasix was found guilty or innocent - and in all honestly it probably didn't. .:They have no love for the system, for the way things have been. They, in fact, loathe it more than they do Yumiwa, to the point where they see no reason to be a part of it. It was not said explicitly in my presence, but after centuries of experience I am well versed in reading between the lines: they mean revolution. This is not a power struggle; it is, in fact, the complete opposite. They want nothing to do with the current power system - they want out. Completely out. Either they are going to foster a rebellion the likes never before seen, or more likely, and what I am afraid of... complete secession:. I paused for a second before continuing .:Until they make their next open and public move I cannot prove this, but I am willing to wager my sword that is their game plan. But the worst of it is that now that I am certain that the Dastana family heads had nothing to do with the murder, I am left at square one. Which means I will need to do the one thing I didn't want to do - start cleaning house from the inside out. Interrogating everyone, questioning even those who I know are steadfastly loyal to us... not what I want to do. Add the general state of disorder these days and the looming threat of clan secession and you get my situation:. I turned to look at him .:So what does your years of service and experience in the political world advise you about that?:.
  10. Yup. The Bzprpg began its existence in 2002, though I myself didn't start playing until 2003, the year I joined this site. Technically the game started in 2001, as B6's timestamp clarifies, but it was pretty much only a dry run on the island of Mata-Nui. After that kiddies the rest is history Boy have I been around for a while More on-topic I remember reading somewheres that we had an archeologist or two in the character bunch here... who are they, where are they, and who controls them? I may have a job for you...
  11. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. "Shoot straight, stay true, say hi to the girls," Angelus ordered, forgoing the fist and standing up to embrace his one-time teammate. "And bring everyone home again. I'll have one of the deadbeats outside see that you get a little bit of a Guard pension if you need some coinage in your pockets - if you need anything else, just let them know." I embraced him back, taking a moment longer than usual. "Yes sah. I'll what I can do about Dorian, though I can pretty much promise you you'll have a full report on Ta-Kini on your desk by evening. Hopefully there will be something in there salvageable for you." I turned to leave. "Oh, by the way... good luck. You're gonna need it." "Me? What about you?" "Ah, don't worry about me, brother. I make my own luck." With that I tapped my mask, smiled, winked, and disappeared out of his office. * * * "Personal log: the counteroffensive has begun. As of today I managed to meet up with long-time friend Angelus, who also happens to be Captain of the Ta-Koro Guard. I divulged to him as much information and knowledge as I could without compromising the main objective... needless to say he knows. Knows enough to start organizing the people and the Koros for the storm that is coming. It's a small start, but now that I have shared most of the burden I feel significantly better, especially since it's someone I know I can trust explicitly... not to mention someone who knows how to use such information to the greatest advantage. If he can draw the attention of the forces of darkness on this island long enough I might be able to sneak past and complete my mission relatively unnoticed. Still, easier said than done... especially considering I haven't been able to get in touch with most of my former teammates, let alone patch things up seeing how long I was away. I doubt I will successful unless I can restore Unity in my daily workings. First though I will tackle Ta-Kini seeing as I am here. Hopefully things go smoothly. Joske out." I clicked off the iStone, stashing it away as I stepped out of the bathroom. Apparently the techs knew their stuff and it took less time than predicted to download the info Angelus promised me, giving me just enough time to scurry down the street to the forger's shop and pick up my personalized gear. By the time I got back they were done, reading me to the bathrooms where I could change and record my recent activity in private. Speaking of change, I re-adjusted the strap yet one more time. It was strange wearing fabric armor even if it didn't look like it; the paint and shellac-like coating gave it a metallic look, and the cuts were fairly straight. The weight however was different, as well as how it was distributed, not to mention how it moved. Yet despite the strangeness of it the feeling was right, and it fact flowed better as I walked than any metallic armor I had worn to date. I felt lighter, faster, more nimble, yet just as protected as before. So far I was liking the change. As I walked out of the Guard HQ for the final time I had to marvel at their efficiency. Not only the techs but the paper-pushers at their desks, even the the "deadbeats" as Angelus called them got me the proper authorization and even spending money in no time flat. Armed, armored, all geared up... I chuckled. This was probably the first time I was actually prepared for something in my life rather than winging it. Me? Toa Joske Nimil... actually prepared? It was a scary thought. The world was not ready for this. Sucks to be the world. Ah, the dry humor. It was back. I MUST be feeling better. Now where was Dor... ? * * * Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Streets Chapter Two: Courage under Fire You'd think finding a charasmatic high-profile merc coupled with an attractive Le-Toa warrior girlfriend who talks to much easy to find, but clearly either they were hiding or I still had issues with my new mask. They weren't home, and as I wandered the streets of Ta-Koro I wasn't having any more luck finding them either. You know luck doesn't exist, I chastised myself silently, your eyes have been opened to that. To an extent chance does, but that's merely Destiny's way of tying things together... I stopped, taking a second look at my own thoughts. If I couldn't find Dor, normally a very easy task, then that meant there must be a reason I couldn't find him. Which meant where I needed to be was right here... I looked around, finding myself in the middle of the Ta-Koro marketplace. It was late morning, by now everybody was out and about, the bustling of shoppers and the calls of the merchants in full swing. Frowning I planted my hands on my hips, just taking in the scene. Well, I guess I should wander. Either Dor will find me or I will find what I am apparently looking for- Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something. Scarves. There was a stand selling... scarves? Ta-Koro was the warmest Koro on the map, why would anyone be selling cold-weather gear here? I mean who wears scarves in the middle of... oh yeah. Dorian. You know, his collection seemed to be getting a bit old and ratty. It would be a nice gesture... not to mention a way to start re-building the relationship after that terrible disaster in Le-Koro. I've made headway already, but honestly who doesn't like a good gift? Something told me there were few people who were actually nice to Dor for no other reason than being nice. Oh why the karz not. I strode up to the stand, noticing the Le-Matoran hovering around it. As I began to pick through the selection of scarves I also noticed the seemingly odd collection of other tradeable items on the shelves: kaoris, pelts, sand tarakava bones, but there was also fruit, trapping supplies, and apparently a decent selection of other clothing attire. If this wasn't the oddest assortment of wares I'd ever seen... "How much for the scarves?" I asked absentmindedly. OOC: Kughii, that's you!
  12. IC This is why I try stay out of politics... the incessant needles and dagger jabs under the guise of cordiality are enough to drive any sane Menti mad. "Ah, yes... because I have the... unfortunate advantage of... knowing more than I... have been allowed to share." I begrudgingly gave Inokio credit. He was courageously standing his ground despite his anxiety... and yes I could see it. I have spent a lifetime reading people, studying their mannerisms and movements, learning what makes a liar, a killer, or a truth-teller. Despite appearances he was a little flustered, and I could not blame him; most did not find themselves at odds with me, let alone continue to verbally spar. "I... understand where you... come from. I agree my... actions may be... questionable. But I ask... when was... the last time you... saw me lie?" I let my last two statements sit on him for a moment. Nobody was perfect. If anyone under Zuto-Nui's grace knew that, it was me. Everyone had their dark secrets. Everyone had their vice. Yet most individuals also had a handful of things that was their virtue, a redeeming quality that was above reproach. I may be slow in action as speech, I may be overbearing with Order and Honor, I may even be a bit zealous when it comes to traditionalism, but the one thing I had above reproach was my honesty. I may not understand everything perfectly, but when I DID speak it was truth, or as close as one could come to it. Perhaps it was my nature, or perhaps it was an after effect of using the Rode for the last several centuries, but in any case no one in recent memory had known me to speak falsely. :So if you combine the two, Inokio, perhaps you will better grasp my actions. This is NOT just another conflict, not a 'civil war' in terms you understand. I admit, you make more than a point with my dealings with Yumiwa earlier, but you seemed to have missed the boat and point she was trying to make to you about there being more going on that what is visible on the surface... not that I can blame you. You poked, and she swung back. Hard: I let out a long breath of air :So if you're willing to settle down and get off that high-steed of yours I would be more than happy to explain to you the information that you are missing. If afterwards you wish to pass judgement then so be it but I would appreciate it that you would hold off such pointed remarks until you know the whole story. This is, after all, my specialty: I respected Inokio. He was an acclaimed Battlermaster, a devoted tutor, and a skilled bodyguard. I could not deny that... but that didn't mean I had to like him. Let's just say he had always rubbed me the wrong way... even if he WAS previously my sister's bodyguard.
  13. IC "... these are the last words I will say to you today." "STOP." The deep rumbling baritone of my voice could have mistaken for a small thunderclap. "Everyone. Just... stop." I found myself in the awkward situation of standing between my shadow and the Battlemaster mentor. The moment I opened my mouth the arguments and vocal back-and-forth ceased instantly, an uncomfortable silence settling on this wing of the Royal Apartments. I rubbed the bridge of my mask in frustration, eventually leaning back to stair at the ceiling, placing my hands on my hips and with enough air to fill three Menti's lungs released a large sigh. I glanced first at Masayoshi, then at Inokio, my eyes flicking back and forth a few times before eventually settling on the Toroshu. I could deal with my Shadow later, in private, right now the most pressing concern is preventing this day from getting any worse. Not that it really could at this rate. "Toroshu Morie, please... forgive the offense. My... apologies that you have... wandered into a... family affair," at that statement I glared at Inokio, "made... further complicated by lack... of knowledge and communication. Not every here is... privy to what I... may know, and the... precedence it sets. Or again... lack thereof." This time turned to Masa and glared at her before returning my gaze to clan leader, forcing myself to be humble and gracious as much as I could despite my temperament, willing my mask to be pleasantly neutral. "There is... no reason you cannot... see her. In fact, my Shadow, Masayoshi, will... escort you personally to her quarters. Again... forgive the delay... Toroshu." Even as I gave a half bow Morie - not nearly as awkward as my massive frame would suggest - I could see my Shadow stiffen out of the corner of my eye. My words were in effect a dismissal, the closest thing to punishment for her that I could do without actually physically doing anything... the mild shame of it would be enough to satisfy me, as well as get her out of this conversation - not to mention move the Toroshu away from these currently private matter and to her delayed request. Over the years I had found it was best not to keep an elderly woman waiting, especially without good reason. With a sharp movement to attention and a respectful bow to me Masa gestured to the noble, the two of them quickly disappearing from view. Inwardly I breathed a sigh of relief; this conversation would have gotten nowhere without the separation of the Battlemaster and my bodyguard. Having solved three problems with one solution I was finally able to divert all my attentions to Inokio and his... word paintings. We just stared at each other, after a moment I found myself shaking my head. "You know better than to... insult honor... in front of her. Not everyone is as... gracious or thick-skinned... as I." I wasn't smiling, but there was a hint of amusement in my voice.
  14. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. "Legally, the bounty is Dorian's for the taking," Angelus explained, scribbling as he did. "And as much as I hate the smug little Brakas, if I know him at all, he'll spend some of the money on Tuara. But with the Piraka attacking, and the Lavapool destroyed, Dorian's consulting agreement is technically null and void unless we can find him another Guard-sanctioned job. I could have had a secretary or something do it, but since you mentioned stiffing him...what do you think, partner? You've spent time with him. What kind of employment do you think would do him some good?" I leaned back, hands laced behind my head as the old chair groaned quietly in protest. I studied the ceiling for a second, a debate raging in my head. To his credit Angelus seemed to sense this, giving me a quizzical look. I rolled my eyes. "Do him some good? Because honestly I have a perfect solution, not only keeping him busy but also having him literally doing some old-fashioned hero good for once. But I would probably hate every minute of it." He had gone back to write, but as I spoke those words he paused. But it wasn't the kind of pause of wheel turning, however, it was more like... my eyes shot wide with indignation as I leaped forward, slamming my palms on the table. "Son of a rahkshi, this was trap, wasn't it?!" "You suggested it." "You mean I fell for it, you twit. You knew I would suggest he come temple diving with me." He shrugged. "Just playing the cards right." I fell back into my chair, arms crossed, fuming, while he smiled triumphantly. "Yeah, sticking with me might show him the other side of things, a hands-on lesson on being the good guy without removing the danger part of it. Not only that since we're now working together he would now be working for you as well, giving all the perks you're giving me, so still working for the Guard. I suppose this is why you're Captain?" He gave me that wolfish grin. I sneered at him, snatching the ledger from his hands. "Well, glad to see that the side of Right has a Chess Master at the helm. Now if you don't mind I'm going to stalk off now, fuming as I go, trying to convince Dor to come with me. No promises though. If he says no, he's YOUR problem, not mine. I'll pick up my stuff after I figure out Ta-Kini, which should give you enough time to get the stuff uploaded and make copies of your files. I'll make sure to report what I find to you then as well." I stood up, finally smiling. "Now that I got that out of my system... well played." I held out a fist. "Any last words brother before we start the counteroffensive?"
  15. IC What would I do without her... A pace behind and to the right. So simple, so normal, so... inconsequential. Yet it was the little things like that which always garnered my attention. Granted, I may be quick on my feet for my size, I may have unusually quick reaction times for my frame, my arm strength was enough to take my blade and cleave in two any living being, but all that did not counter the simple fact that my swing still took time, the right being my exposed and indeed weak flank during my initial attack. With her being right there she is the perfect shield for my one weak spot, buying me time should the unthinkable happen. And I didn't even show her this. She just... learned. On her own. Through her own wits, intelligence, and observation. But her position by my side merely looked like the respectful distance kept by underling to her superior... the perfect placement. It's the little things. "Lord High Executioner!" I turned the corner, and there he was. Or should I say, there they were. Inokio had not come alone, for behind him stood what looked like the entirety of the Rora's personal security detail, Dasaka and Dashi alike, all grim-faced and armed for Kanohi Dragon. That is, except for Inokio, as usual wearing minimal armor, instead opting for the open robe of his clan's color, deep orange, with a black belt around his waist. Clearly he himself did not come itching for a fight or planned on having his soldiers do it for him - if he was he would be wearing the standard opaque azure armor over his teal body. I'd never seen him wear it unless actively serving as a soldier, mostly because his powers and reputation were great enough that he didn't need much armor to protect himself adequately. Still, this conflict of messages interested me, causing me to wonder if it was done on purpose if only to throw me off balance. "We need to talk." "Indeed." I rumbled in reply, coming to halt just a few paces before him, assuming my normal casual position of spread-legs and arms clasped behind my back. I could feel my Shadow stiffen slightly; it irked her to no end that I would constantly put myself in more vulnerable positions when dealing with people, but experience had taught me that if someone thought they had the upper hand, they were less likely to instigate hostilities, not to mention looking less of a threat made that concept more crystal. "You seem... agitated." "Yes, and I wonder why." came the dripping retort. "Do you have any idea what kind of spectacle you pulled back there? In front of who? And with whom!?" "Lord Executioner... usurping the Rora's... influence, in... the Throne Room." "This is not a board game, ######!" He waved a finger at me. "That is my charge that you humiliated back there! Do you understand the repercussions that your actions may cause? Believe me, I understand why you did that, everyone does, but that does not give you permission to do it! At least, not like that, not so drastically and with so many witnesses." His usual kind and calm demeanor was cracking, his voice no longer gentle and with some force; clearly I struck a nerve somewhere. What I said next probably wouldn't help. "Yes... it does." He was dumbstruck for a full minute before replying. "What... how!?" At that last world I could see his warriors tense, as if mentally preparing for an order soon to come. Ignoring them I continued. "Yes... because if you haven't... noticed, I am now in a... difficult position." I broke eye contact, looking at the floor. "With the death of... Yusanora, I am now the... patriarch of the family. I bear the... responsibility of... rearing and training the... younger generation and preserving the... honor of the clan. Yet I am still the... Lord High Executioner. I am to be... apart and above family, to be separate from... the politics and games of nobles, to serve... the Rora unquestionably, to... maintain Order and Justice. I am simultaneously my... niece's superior and... her humble servant. I must find... balance between... the roles." Inokio didn't reply immediately, instead taking a long moment to weigh what I said as he evaluated me. "Alright, I can see some reasoning behind your actions, but why break tradition completely and barge into the Throne Room unannounced and order court around like you were Zuto-Nui herself? I've seen you execute someone for less. What could possibly be so important that you risk such dishonor and possible political travesty-" :Because Jasik is innocent: The thought blew across every consciousness in the immediate vicinity like a firework on Founding Day. Inokio stood there in absolute shock, as did all his soldiers. Pressing the advantage I continued :Yes, the First Son of Clan Dastana did not kill the late Rora, and I have witnesses to my interrogation. This unfortunately leaves more questions than answers, stuck with an even more pressing concern than a spoiled Rora - there is a murderer on the loose, one that can duplicate Soulsword weapons: I took a step forward, leaning down and onto Inokio slightly :And if you do not understand the implications, allow me to extrapolate; weapons created by Soulswords are as unique as the individual wielding them as both the mind and soul are put into its creation. Yet here we are with an individual who not only can copy that ability, but also has the skills to enter into a secured platform unnoticed, move about undetected, and then leave without anyone getting as much as a trace. Not only is this person a master of the mind, but also had help - help from the inside. Otherwise it would have been impossible to get in and away so cleanly. Which means everyone here is suspect. Everyone. To find this individual should be our top priority, but even that pales to what else I learned while talking to the Dastana twins: The Battlemaster looked a little pale as the full scope of what I just said sunk in :There's more?: :Yes, there is: I paused, unsure how to to word this. :The possibility of outright civil war:
  16. IC "Barbaric-" Silence. "Spineless- " Still dragging her by the ear I made the last corner... "Traitorous- " We were crossing the hall the led directly to her quarters- "Savage honorless hoko ape!" "ENOUGH." With my free hand I pushed her door open, and not-to-nicely but still gently as to not rip her hear off tossed her into her room. She skitted several paces before falling to one knee, gingerly holding on to her assaulted ear as she turned to look at me with a glare that would have evaporated the Endless Sea. "I... have had enough... of attitudes for... one day. You... will remain here... until I call for you." She snarled at me, spewing yet another burst of obscenities, this time including my mother into the mix (does she not realize that is her own grandmother... ?), yet the only visible response I gave her was the tightening of my eyebrows. "Dinner... will be brought... presently. I suggest you... take this time to... think about your actions." She stood to her full height, outwardly looking more calm but I could tell on the inside she was seething. "Will I at least get my handmaidens and the crumbcake you so despicably crushed underfoot?" "No... on both accounts." Her eyes went wide for a moment before she made a sprint for the door, but for all her spry quickness she was no match for the speed of thought as I willed her door shut and locked it with my own mental combination. Turning I gave a relieving sigh even as she pounded fruitlessly on the heavy wooden door, her screams and protests now finally muted... except, that is, for her mental ones that went screaming across my mind. At least with that I could tune her out. Turning to Masayoshi I gave my bodyguard a look. :You enjoyed that a little TOO much methinks: That garnered a half-smile, even as her stance was that of an alert guard. The moment I had her attached to my entourage the rumors started flying, rumors that I cared little about. Yes, she was blind and "crippled"... I use that word loosely. That weakness of hers has become of my greatest assets, a greater boon than most people realize. If anything it gives her a more pure and distinctly unique view of the world around her, one that has over time significantly opened my eye and given me a new perspective, if not her ability to reveal things that eyes would tend to overlook. It also made her more resistant to Sighteye illusions, given that visual illusions had no effect on her, and the Arthron tended to slice through all but the most carefully-constructed deceptions. Couple that with her skill with several types of arms and a distinct sense justice, and you have a very talented and multi-purposed individual. Her bodyguard position is just a mere formality; to me, she was more than that and in fact extremely and indispensably useful. Before either one of us could comment however, I felt another mind nearby... and it was on the warpath. :Looks like I will need to confront Inokio after all: I thought sourly :Come, Masa, and don't worry about the Rora; my personal guards will keep an eye on her: Even as my Ideatalk was underway several Dasaka and Dashi warrior appeared and took postions around the Rora's residence. Technically policemen and Officers of the Law under the Head of Justice, the Lord Executioner, they were far more capable combatants than their name and title let on. Yes, they were more suited for civil matters and detective work, but they were picked from the finest in the yards, chosen not only for their combat ability but also for their mental prowess in terms of problem-solving, meaning they were much more rounded and capable then their strict militaristic sisters. Giving a simple nod to acknowledge their presence I began to walk back towards the public sectors of the residential area, knowing that Yumiwa's personal bodyguard would have a few words for me. This... is going to be an interesting conversation.
  17. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. "That's... good." Its amazing how much can change in just a few years even as individuals mostly stay the same. I found myself staring down the half-filled water bottle, tapping it absentmindedly. "Knowledge is power, and I hoped I empowered you just now, even if it is a little hard to swallow. And speaking of, don't blame me about the temples, blame Stannis." Out of the corner of my eye I saw him look at me funny, no doubt picking up on the angry undertones in my voice. "I was all ready to live a normal life after the last fiasco. Brought back Cael, giving up everything in the process, was graciously given a place to stay at the Massif, both of us residing there as we re-built our shatter lives... karz, I was even thinking about maybe starting up a Toa Kohlii league or something once I recovered enough. Let the Maru do their thing, be the heroes they're destined to be. I did my job and I wanted my rest. But then one day Stannis shows up, babbling something about a vision and his Lady Destiny and the next thing I know wham-bam-kablam I get a one-way ticket and free trip through that god-like mask of his into Legend... and with it any hope of living a normal life." I sighed, feeling my body fall limp into the chair I was in. I stared at the ceiling, mildly shaking my head. "Sorry brother, forgive me. It's just that for everything I've done and every rule I've broken I can't undo the past, can't un-learn what I have been taught. I was greedy once and wanted prestige and greatness, now that I have it and matured some I want to give it all back. I've come to grips and accepted what I need to do a long time ago, but that's doesn't mean I have to like or enjoy it. I suppose one day I'll come to embrace my gifts but for now they're burdens." I lifted my head enough to see over my chin and look at Angelus. "Though I appreciate it that you're willing to share some of this burden... even if it is temporary." He nodded. "I understand; there is no need to apologize." Taking a breath I leaned forward, rapidly sitting upright again. "Back to the issue at hand, yes, I'll take whatever tools and resources you can throw at me; if we're going to pull this off we're going to need to work together and share intel, divide and conquer so to say. While you start organizing the defense and eventual counteroffensive, I'll work on the more clandestine activities I seem to do well in. If you can keep these groups and forces busy and looking at you, that would go a long way to buying me time to unlock the secrets, knowledge, and tech that can give you the eventual edge against these guys, because without them I don't see us having much of a chance. As for my former team, don't worry, I actually haven't invited them back yet... as I said I'm still trying to make contact with most of my old acquaintances, and I need to feel them out first. I guess the big thing will be keeping tabs on one another so that we're always in the loop.. " I paused for a moment, voice trailing off as I thought. "Then again, maybe not. There are ways of making contact without doing it directly, and honestly once I go into deep cover we probably won't be seeing much of each other... if at all. Say, while the techs and paper-pushers get everything organized and downloaded, care for a quick sparring match? I wouldn't mind one more bonding experience, if not to kill time while we wait. It might be a while before we see each other again." My eyes suddenly lit up. "And speaking of cash... why don't you give me the check for Grokk's bounty? I did help Dorian bring him in, along with Skyra... that way I get a reasonable payout, you don't have to allot extra money to me, and just maybe you might get the satisfaction of stiffing they guy a bit. I take it you and him aren't exactly... friends."
  18. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. I settled myself into that well-worn visitor's chair, taking the time to get comfortable... easier said than done when a thousand other butts had decided to do the very thing I was doing now. Still, I managed to find a measure of comfort as I leaned back, the frame protesting ever so slightly with a squeak. "So you've renovated everything including the kitchen sink... except this chair, apparently. What, too many memories of sitting in it in front of Jaller and then Tuara?" Angelus shook his head and gave me a playful sneer in response, cause me to laugh again. I found myself enjoying the small talk and the light jabs we kept poking each other with. It was reminiscent of simpler times, when we were a little more carefree and less hanging over our heads; an era where we were free to be ourselves, for good or for bad. Now look at us: careers, responsibility, significant others... oh yeah. "Um, yeah, hey, look, sorry about that back there." I admitted quietly, mixed with a tad of sheepishness as I sat in the chair, referring to Kino. "I've been gone for so long I didn't know you had... yeah. My bad." "Aah, don't sweat it, bud," Angelus said good-naturedly, waving a hand. "It's a recent thing, actually. She's new in town. Does consulting work. A lot nicer than she lets on. She'll understand. Apparently I have what non-jungle people say is called 'animal magnetism.' Not actually a good thing to be magnetic around a bunch of wild animals, but hey. I'll take it." My thoughts briefly wandered back to the sparring center, scrutinizing and analyzing my memory over the woman I had initially ignored. The Le-Toa had all the right curves in all the right places, to the point that she could probably make any jaw drop when she entered a room. It was probably due to that revealing leather armor she was wearing, its revealing nature most likely due to how tightly it clung to her figure, as if it fit the Toa of Air like a glove, flexing and bending with her body. If this woman wanted to seduce the armor would only work to accentuate her figure. Simply put if she were to stand perfectly still I might have mistaken her for one of Hafu’s masterfully carved statues. It wasn't a stretch as to how someone like him could nab a girl like her. On the other hand the fact that I hadn't noticed or at least purposely processed this until after the fact spoke volumes to my changing disposition I realized. There was a time when I would have smelt a woman like her from a thousand paces and been all over her in a heartbeat; now she didn't even register until way too late. Hm. "Well, I WILL say it's a lot less pronounced now that when I first met you." I crossed my arms and raised my eyebrows in cheekiness. "Almost on the tame side if I may say so. Has the time in the Guard made you go... soft?" He instantly leaned forward, fingers laced together as his elbows pressed hard on the paper-strewn desk, eyes boring into me - and then he growled. And not a growl made from a Toa. No, this wasn't a copy or even an artificial mimicking; the sound coming from the back of his throat was that of an actual animal, as if there was a Muaka in the same room with us. So much so that I was actually taken aback and my breath was stolen away. I gave a nervous grin. "I... stand corrected." My eyes darted down tot he chair I was in. "Amended: I sit corrected." With a savage, toothy, predatory smile he instantly relaxed, leaning back in that chair as the tension once again popped. "So, Joske, you said you have information for me?" "Yes, yes I did." I said quickly, shifting myself upright a little more as we reverted to the business at hand. "Unfortunately, this comes at the price of a story, so make yourself comfy because I'll need to give a little background before you can truly understand the significance of it... * * * I had decided to start with my adventure in the Vault. I didn't spare any details as I recounted my adventure underneath Kini-Nui. From my "companions" to my meeting with Echelon's spy, to my run-in with the Abettor. Then came the inner Vault... and Zaktan. Here I slowed and gave as much detail as memory would provide, to my playing as Dorian as cover, to the banter with the little Matoran, to my close shave with death at the hands of the Piraka and their minions. About the Antidermis, about Echelon, about Ambages, and this unholy alliance between them. About their evil power, about the masks, about the tech... and then the fact that I walked away scott-free with a prize. How the Maru had showed up, probably tracking me, and how I left the fight in their hands as I tried to elude my tail... and how I got here. That was the prelude. Then came the other foot. It was at this point that I told him why I went to the Vault in the first place. About the teleportation station that was hidden by the great telescope, how it was down, how I went there to re-activate it... and why. And how the Crystal Temples were connected with it, how there was more to those structures than we had ever dreamed they could be. There was a course a mountain of information I didn't tell him. Obviously I told him nothing of my time in Legend, and made sure to carefully tip-tow my way around those topics. I also didn't mention the Riddle or the real secret to the Vault at all; I wasn't about to start revealing that yet. Besides, what I had already told him was enough to make the average Toa's head swim, if not shut down from information overload. But Angelus was made of sterner stuff, though I could see him struggle with everything that I said. "... and that's about the jist of it." I said finally, gulping down a whole bottle of water. I didn't know how long I had spoken, but I couldn't imagine it was short. "I'm telling you this Angelus because one I trust you explicitly and two, the forces of darkness on this island have officially regrouped, and frankly are far more powerful than anyone has yet to realize. And yes, as I have alluded to, if what the spy said was true, I would believe that by now Ko-Koro has fallen to Echelon on his allies." I paused, my own mind spinning in the silence. "I can't do this alone. The Maru for all their power can't do this alone. We need to fall back and regroup, to draw a line in the sand and prepare for a storm that makes the fight against Makuta a training session. Not only that, but I'm going to need help if I'm to unlock the second layer of the Temples and extract what's inside - honestly it may be the key to giving you and everyone else the edge you will need to meet this new threat. It's time to put that Virtue of Unity we all claim to believe in to good use." I raised my head to look right at him in the eyes, a sad smile on my lips. "How's it going back there in that head of yours?"
  19. Because even a Rora can be sent to her room.
  20. IC Servants and soldiers alike scattered before me like a brisk evening wind off the Endless Ocean, doing everything they could to get out of my way. My severe demeanor, my projected presence, even my pace were the not-so-subtle clues of my current disposition and I strode meaningfully through the shimmering crystal palace. My entourage of bodyguards found it hard to keep up with my massive strides, nearly at a run, even though I myself was merely moving at a brisk pace. With a final turn I found myself in the hall that led directly to the throne room, one of the most sacred and procedural-guarded room in all of Sado. I breezed past the Honor Guards, ignored the door sentries, and with complete disdain for protocol I willed the door open. Opened by the sheer weight of my mind with a bang without a summons, without being properly presented, without even a single knock. Good thing I ENFORCE the rules... I thought dryly. Whatever humor I had left in me evaporated as I witnessed the scene before my eyes. There sat my niece upon the throne - no, sitting wasn't the proper word. She was lounging on it, stretched out sideways so that she was leaning over one armrest while her right leg swung daintily over the other, dressed in something better reserved for more private affairs. She was surrounded by her handmaidens who seemed just as jocular, girly, and carefree as her at this very moment, with Inokio standing a little too closely by her side... and a glazed crumbcake between her fingers. A treat she practically dropped at my loud and quite sudden appearance. I don't have time for this. "We... need to talk." Her shocked face blinked once, then twice, as if to comprehend this simple demand, her body frozen in time. In fact, every body in the throne room was, from the handmaidens to the assorted nobles present. I wouldn't exactly call the scene before me a circus, but it wasn't the somber chamber of leadership it was designed to be either. With stern eyes I gazed around, sensing the confusion and apprehension of every mind in the room. "Leave. NOW." I commanded with a single wave of my hand, gesturing to pretty much everyone minus Yumiwa. Those last words must have broken the spell as time began to move again, including my niece. "Rayuke!" Her reply was a sharp as it was reprimanding as she stood, glaring at me as if she was insulted. "What is the meaning of this-" :This is important- : :Important enough to barge into my throne room unannounced and otherwise order my entourage and nobles around like they were children!?: :I have been dealing with children all day and considering the spectacle I see before me- : :Are you judging me in my own palace?: Her face turned into a slight snarl as our silent conversation progressed. :I will judge whoever, whenever I want Yumiwa, as is my position and honor: came my sharp retort, my own eyes narrowing :And will you stop interrupting m- : :And I will interrupt whomever whenever I want!: her thoughts became more livid :And you will use my proper title when I am holding session, Uncle: :And you will use mine as well, Niece. And I hardly call this 'session'; more like debauchery: :WHAT!?: It was at this point Inokio stepped forward, sensing the mental argument and reading his charge's face "Not to interrupt, but it hardly seems like the place or time to- " "NO!" we both shouted simultaneously, staring at the bodyguard before returning our glaring faces towards one another. Yumiwa took several steps towards me, stomping angrily down the small flight of stairs from the platform that held her throne to the floor below, crumbcake magically still in one piece in her hand. It had become deathly quiet in the chamber, this type of confrontation virtually unheard of here as the nobles watched in morbid fascination and her handmaidens in mild terror. "It is one thing to waltz in unannounced and demand a conference," she said with not a little bit of venom, "but to at the same time degrade me and my position in front of the upper castes-" "Perhaps... if your Ideatalk wasn't so... shouty, we... wouldn't have this problem." "How dare you interrupt me when I am speaking!" she shouted, her voice beginning to edge into a shriek, her finger pointing accusingly at me; clearly her agitation was reaching a boiling point. "Imperial Executioner or not I've had it up to here with your actions. You WILL give me the the respect I deserve or you WILL leave my presence. I will not tolerate this disrespect in my own domain!... even from someone like you." The room was ever so still as her last words echoed across the chamber. The silence was so heavy I could see out of the corner of my eye one of the handmaidens nearly faint from it as our stalemate reached a climaxed. Taking in a long breath I lifted my chin. "You demand... the respect you... deserve?" "Yes." "And will... take nothing... less?" "Yes." it was her turn to raise her chin as she eyed me warily. I myself took a full turn around the room, sizing up everyone who stood within it. "Very well." She smirked in victory, air escaping from her nostrils in a type of snort as she began to turn around and walk back to her throne in apparent victory. That is, until I reached out and not-to-nicely grabbed her ear, gripping it vice-like between my forefinger and thumb, stopping her cold in her tracks. As well as producing a scream that made everyone jump more than my sudden entrance. "UNHAND ME!" she shrieked even as I lifted her to her full height and held her there, her arms flailing a bit. "No," I said quietly, my deep rumbling voice resuming its normal octave. "You requested... the respect... you deserve. You know... how my parent dealt with... spoiled, bratty, and otherwise... unruly children?" For an instant she froze, a mixture of apprehension and seething anger on her face, not knowing what I was going to say next. There was no way she could either, for as much as I loved and respected her mother, my sister perhaps loved her a bit too much, proving the old adage "Spare the rod, spoil the child". "For starters... we sent them... to their room." The entire Wards could have exploded and fallen into the sea and not a soul in here would have noticed. Yumiwa's eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared up at me, head to one side as I still gripped her ear. "You... wouldn't." she breathed. :Watch me: Without another word I began dragging her across the chamber to the complete and utter astonishment of those present, literally kicking and screaming as her arms flailed uselessly at my impervious frame and a string of obscenities spilling from her mouth. I didn't teach her those words... "This... has gone on long enough." I paused, Inokio standing before me. He stood in a combat-ready stance, his right hand sparking as Soulsword energy pulsed through it, ready to summon his weapon at a moment's notice... or attempt to separate myself from my niece with his impressive control of the Mindarm discipline. He was as much as a legend in the combat arena, a Battlemaster of the top degree, a natural choice for the then-heir's personal bodyguard, someone few would stupid enough to tangle with. His voice had an unusual amount of force in it, his demeanor threatening but not explicit. He was at least giving me the honor of standing down... "Release the Rora and perhaps he can return to some civility in this conversation otherwise I will be forced to- " Inokio blinked, only his training keeping him from flinching. In the time it took him to subconsciously summon his nodachi I had with one hand pulled out my greatsword from it's sheath on my back and leveled it at him, the very tip of it so close to his nose he had to cross his eyes to get a decent look at it. And this was no ordinary sword. This was THE sword. The sword of my station. A greatsword that truly was great, the only weapon in the entire Empire forged out of solid metal, and impossibly perfectly so. It's length was a solid two bios, taller than most Dasaka, and its monetary value more than several Menti could hope to earn in a lifetime. Crafted at the beginning of the Empire it had been handed down from one Executioner to the next, the amount of lives lost to this single blade immeasurable, the blood spilled over it unfathomable. With indasaka ease I held it level at his mask, more than five bios separating us between the length of my blade and arm combined... farther than his blade could ever hope to reach. I leveled my gaze as much as I did my blade. "Forced to... what?" I asked quietly, already knowing the answer. "This is... family business, and none... of yours. If you wish... to argue... the point, feel... free." With that I twitched my arm, my blade coming precariously close to his mask. His glare was unmistakable, but he wisely said nothing. Unlike most Menti this warrior knew what I was capable of and at this moment didn't have the stomach to continue this spectacle. I merely nodded. "Then please... stand aside." Without a word he did so. In fact no more words were spoken as I pulled Yumiwa out of the throne room and into the passages that led into the private chambers of Umbraline Royalty. And straight to her room. Because even a Rora could be sent to her room.
  21. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. I returned the hug and slaps, my laughter a little louder than his. The moment his mouth twitched I knew he was yanking my chain, but I could not help but release. I had been under such stress for such a long time, I didn't even remember that last time I had a good laugh, even if it came at a ribbing. If anyone was going to poke at me though I wouldn't have it anyone but Angelus. He had been one of the few who had stuck it out with me through the thick and thin; we had lived, fought, laughed, and cried together for several weeks scouring the island for the Temple Crystals. The memory that stuck in my mind the most of him though was that talk he gave me in the Onu-Koro mines, during one of my sparring outbursts with Agni. It was in that moment that he had earned my respect, something that he hadn't lost to this day. Granted, I hadn't seen him since that adventure, but considering his greeting our friendship was apparently still as strong since the moment we last spoke. It... was one of the few that I had left after all this time. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to express that to him; I was going to trust that he simply silently understood. Pulling back I kept an arm on his shoulder, giving him a knowing, friendly smile as I presented a fist. With a strong, macho clank his own met mine and I nodded in reply. "It is good to see you too brother." There was a moment longer of silence as we stared each other down, one warrior to another in the sacred, silent communication before life resumed as normal. I took a step back to retrieve my gym bag. "There is nothing I would like more than to stand here and reminisce about the good old days, swapping manly stories and overall catch up considering how long it's been, but this is one of the few cases where it's business before pleasure." He gave me a look. "Such as?" "Let's just say I happen to have information about these Skakdi 'Piraka', the Vault under Kini-Nui, the Crystal Temples, and how they're all connected." In that one sentence my face had gone from the usual jocular to very dark and serious. I lowered my head even as my voice lowered a few octaves. "Do you have someplace private where we can talk... and has a good, solid chair for you to sit down in? Because what I have learned in Legend and seen since I've been back will knock you off your feet." Like change-island-forever-kind-of-big, I thought darkly.
  22. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Guard HQ Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. "The Captain is ready to see you now. He's in the sparring center." I raised a curious eyebrow but nodded cordially. "Thanks much. I guess I'll be going now." With that I raised my cup, downed the coffee, then topped it off one more time before slinging my gym bag over my shoulder and walking into the hallowed hall of Guard HQ. It had been more than two years since I had been here, and like the Kohlii Stadium not much had changed; same walls, same room, same layout, same boring pictures on the wall. The place had definitely gone through some renovation - it actually looked nice for a change - but in the end it was still the same facility that when I was a Matoran I avoided like the plague. Now I found myself not only wanting to be here, but thankful that this institution was still standing strong. How things come full circle... True to her word I found Angelus in the sparring room; standing over a bar, canteen in his hand, a spotter next to him, looking like he had spent the last hour lifting weights. Good ol' Angelus, always ready for the next battle. I always admired the commitment of the guy, his straight-forward perseverance and dedication to a cause - Mata-Nui knows how much of it I lacked back in the day and how he had slapped me up silly more than once trying to beat that into my think skull. The events of our last adventure, the Crystal Temple quest, came to mind, and that's when I realized that was the last time I had saw him. Even spoken to him. I had so much catching up to do. Even as I sized him up he turned to look at me, and at first I got the blank expression. A rich, deep-red Ta-Toa with gold accents with a splash of black and brown had just walked in, a never-before seen gold mask on his face that was quite angular that ended up with red spikes on top, full-bodies, a gym bag over his shoulder and simple cup of steaming coffee in his hand. To him I would have looked nothing like the old Joske he knew. He continued to look at me curiously until I got close enough for him to see my eyes, those impossibly-bright piercing blue orbs that people swore could be seen at night, my one instant giveaway. He actually gave a start as he began to piece things together, a look that pulled a very quiet chuckle from my lips as I plopped my gym bag on a nearby exercise machine. I took two full steps towards him, rested my free arm against my hip, and took another sip of the coffee before deciding to break the ice before the heavy stuff arrived. I spoke cheerfully. "Morning Captain."
  23. IC I sat in sullen silence the entire way home. Why are the males in this generation such children? Granted, Jasik was on the top of the list in terms immaturity, cheekiness, and obstinate behavior, but he was the perfect post child for the trend I had been seeing for decades, even a century or two: impunity and complacent coupled with entitlement. The males in this society were always separated from birth, treated as something special and given every opportunity... and whim. Coupled with the current wealth of the Empire and the yes-woman mentality if the upper castes it was very easy for young people to get everything they ever wanted, the word "No" rarely entering the conversation. This was the perfect storm to spoil the sheltered child, breeding a sense of entitlement and therefore immaturity since they did not have to deal with what the real world provided. Now add the sense of family and clan unity into the mix, the indoctrination of protecting your own and honor... And let's not forget how the caste system has been handled, I thought glumly, replaying what I had heard and the memories I had gleaned from the twins. The system had been used and abused, and now resentment and complacency was chipping away at that foundation. I touched my temple and shook my head, deep in thought. This was turning out not to be the average uprising. Like clockwork every generation there was an outbreak, a confrontation between clans as the new leaders jostled for power and pecking order, using old gripes and slights as convenient scapegoats for their actions. I myself had done this centuries ago, killing the former Fursic First Son in single honorable combat, effectively ending that round of violence. This however... this was different. This wasn't just the rattling of sabers. This wasn't the jockeying for position. This was much deeper, a corruption and virus eating away at the very foundation of our society that was finally showing the signs of its presence. If what the twins were saying was true, and if they were serious about their actions, then this was not just another rebellion. This was the opening moves of a full-blown revolution. Clan Dastana may be spearheading it, but it wasn't only them. The growing discontent could be felt all over the Empire, and now I could tell the simmer was rapidly reaching a boiling point. Sooner rather than later it would explode, all I could see was a full-blown civil war erupting out of this. Not a war over territory, or power, or even honor - but over the very fabric of society. About the wrongs. About the mistreatment and unfairness of the system that has governed our way of life since the formation of the Empire. This was going to strike at the very core of our society and at every level; no-one would be safe. At best the Dastana Twins would be the heralds of it. At worst, they would be leading the charge. Even as I thought through the scenarios I could see little chance of this being solved diplomatically. And in the end how this played out depending as always on one person and how she handled it: the Rora. The Imperial Empress herself. As I sat in the coach I found myself straighten up and square my shoulders. It was time I had a little talk with... ... my niece.
  24. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. I stepped outside, the air ever so slightly cooler than normal. To any other being the change in temperature would have been imperceptible, but not to Ta-Matoran and their ilk. It was the pre-dawn "chill" of Ta-Koro, or at least as cool as it got with a city in the middle of an active volcano. In fact it was hard to tell most days if it was light or dark, day or night with all the smoke and ash in the air, the orange-red light of the lava reflecting back and otherwise obscuring the sky most days. It was just something you learned living here, and apparently I spent all night in that library; at least I got some sleep. Strangely enough I felt awake and quite alert despite the fact that that was my first real shut-eye since well... honestly I don't remember. It had been that long. I guess my body was reveling in the fact that I actually got some sleep rather than lamenting the lack of it. Speaking of sleep, I hope Angelus got a decent night of it. Because in a few minutes I was going to turn his world upside down. There were very few people out in the streets at this hour, meaning my walk to Guard HQ was uneventful. Captain Angelus. Now that was something I was still getting used to. I was used to calling Jaller that, but now that he ran the Koro he had a different title and responsibilities... and by the time I got used to calling Tuara that Angelus took over. Talk about rollover positions. The bell dingled, signalling my entrance to the building, but to my surprise I didn't see anyone. If there was no-one here it would normally be locked... I glanced over at the secretary's desk, seeing a brightly-colored tote bag. Ah, right, must have just gotten in and was setting up everything for the day before the rest of the Guard showed up for shift exchange. Which meant Angelus probably wasn't in yet and-I raised and eyebrow. Hello what's this? I didn't know what it was the drew her in, the smell of the coffee or the sound the machine made when brewing it, but all I knew was that a few minutes later the matoran came huffing in, surprised to see a Ta-Toa leaning casually against the counter, pouring himself a large cup of coffee. I smiled and raised the cup. "Morning! I'm the Captain's seven a.m. appointment." She looked flummoxed. "C...C-Captain Angelus? He's not here-" "Oh, I know. I have no problem waiting." I strode over to the waiting area and sat down, leaning back, kicking my legs up, and having no issues making myself at home. I took a moment to take a long slurp of the hot beverage. "I gotta say, your guys' coffee has improved since my old Guard days." "Who... who ARE you?" I paused for a moment before answering. "A former Lieutenant... checking in on a old friend. And to see if he's taking care of that magical sword the mask in the sky gave to him." I smiled cheekily at myself. That meant absolutely nothing to her, but it would be a dead giveaway to him as to my identity seeing how I looked nothing like my old self anymore. Oh how times change. I took another long sip. OOC: Ready whenever you are Tyler
  25. IC Toa Joske Location: Ta-Koro Chapter One: Crystals, Temples, Secrets... oh my. I had completely taken over the room. Papers were strewn in seemingly random places all over the floor. Leftover food containers could be found in various corners. Books took up much of the table spaces, piled high with topics ranging from local geography to island history. And in the center of it all were a series of maps that would make any conspiracy theorist proud: pictures of Mata-Nui with scribbles inked all over them, pins sticking out of specific locations with yarn attaching them like a type of misshapen spider web with the Kini-Nui complex in the center of it all. I sat cross-legged in the middle of it, studying that map intently, as if I was waiting for it to move. *sluuuuuuuurrp* I furrowed my brow as I took in another mouthful of noodles, trying to piece together this puzzle before me. I sighed before leaning back and collapsing on a pile of paperwork, sheets gently flying upward and floating back down to earth. I didn't know how long I had been at this; right after the blacksmith I hit up the Guard Archives and the public library, grabbing as much information about the Crystal Temples as I could and settling into this reading space. All I knew was the sun had gone down and that the noises downstairs had ceased, so either they were closed or were going to soon... no, they had to be closed already, it was far to late for that. And of course there is practically no information on the temples. Anything anyone knows if from my expedition... which really isn't much. I closed my eyes and rubbed the bridge of my mask in an attempt to shake off the weariness and tiredness. The temples were the key, but how to unlock them... again... was the issue. As I laid there I felt my mind begin to wander, and this time I let it. Perhaps it I stopped trying so hard a solution would prevent itself... * * * "So, wait, you mean to tell me there's a transportation system on Mata-Nui!?" I stood there looking at my tutor, an incredulous look on my face. The Toa, hands clasped behind his back, slowly turned to face me. We were standing amidst a series of moving pictures and images, things and knowledge being forced upon me. Even as he moved the images pulled back, to which I silently breathed. I would happily take a break even if it meant another admonition from him. "Teleportation system, not a transportation system - there's a difference." he said sharply, as if I was supposed to get the difference. "One allows for instant individual movement over long distances, the other implies larger loads or numbers over the same distance." He frowned at my blank face. "It's like a Kualsi verses a well-traveled highway." "Oh. Right." "Not only that but it was under your nose the entire time you were there." "Wait, can we back up - this system is based out of Kini-Nui?" He was silent for a moment, as if contemplating how to best explain a complex idea. I had come to quickly know that look, just as quickly becoming tired of it was well; one can only take so much like being treated like a child. "Kini-Nui has far more importance and the temple far larger than you give it credit for," he said finally, speaking in slow, low tones. "There is a reason its centrally located, and why Makuta moved in when he took over. He is one with the darkness, so he seeks to hide and obscure what was once commonly known. This is how you managed to get to the Keeping Place at all - you teleported there via the back door." I raised my hands up in the air. "Okay, okay, teleportation nexus, former important place, much larger than before. I get it. But what the karz does that have to do with the Crystal Temples? I mean sure, they were there to keep the gems safe, but that's all they were meant for. For Mata-Nui's sake I was inside all of them and that's all there was - it was one grand storage vault for these 'crystal keys'. Nothing else. I mean that revelation within itself was a shocker; all we thought they were was some simple, old worship sites from antiquity, at best significant religious locations from the deep past. There isn't anything else there - I looked, personally, and there aren't any records about them either. I mean it's as if-" "-as if the just suddenly appeared one day long ago, nobody knowing how or who put them there?" My mouth froze in mid-sentence as he finished my thought for me, my jaw slightly slack as I stared at him. Slowly I closed my mouth, just staring at him as he gave me a ghost of a sad smile. "No, you DON'T get it. There is something you must learn Joske - nothing on Mata-Nui is what it seems to be. It's like an onion; once you peel back one layer, you find out that there's another. The buildings and structures on your home island have far more important and far-reaching implications than you or anyone else think, and that's the doing of Makuta. He spent every effort to erase as much past as possible, to blind and deafen you to the truth. He had his reasons, and they're very good ones, but this is why I'm telling you this now. Now that the Maru sent Makuta away everything that he has been suppressing is slowly coming to light, both the good and the bad; and unless there are individuals who have the knowledge of it there is every chance your society will simply fall apart or succumb to the forces that have been unleashed upon it. You are not the only one who is realizing this, not by far, but since Takua made you his heir it's your job to bear a decent portion of that weight. It will lessen in time as you begin to open people's eyes and empower them to take on the burden and fight themselves, but until then you're stuck with it." He paused for a moment, letting me soak it all in. He looked at me hard, speaking so softly I barely hear him. "I hope Takua chose wisely." He seemed to snap back to the present, resuming his tutor-like demeanor. "So, Joske, are you ready to learn about the Crystal Temples?" * * * Slowly I blinked, opening up my eyes, finding myself staring at the ceiling. Was that a dream, or a memory? It was getting harder to tell as I resumed my normal life here instead of residing in Legend. Perhaps a side effect? I shook my head, chasing away the sleepies. Sitting up I wondered how long I was out. Minutes? Hours? It was still dark outside so I couldn't tell, but at least I had a partial answer. I needed allies, more than just my old team, and I needed to start letting people in on the know. I needed to start empowering them so that they could fight back at the growing darkness themselves instead of placing their bets on a single group of heroes. Myself and the Maru had our places, but we couldn't be everywhere. The general populous, on the other hand, could. But I had to do this carefully. Zaktan and those 'Piraka' whatever they call themselves know who I am and that I'm here, and I'm sure Echelon won't be far behind. Springing into action I began to clean up, sorting papers and rolling up my maps as hastily as I could. I may not know exactly what direction I needed to go to solve this, but I knew my first step: allies. And there was only one person in Ta-Koro who I knew I could explicitly trust AND had the position of power to help begin the counteroffensive. Angelus. OOC: Tyler, I'm coming for you
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