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About EmperorWhenua

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  1. IC Leklo | Ruin Ruins "Island," Leklo cautiously addressed Tuakana by the titles they claimed to have, "loam of this land, wind of this world, there was only love."
  2. IC Leklo | Ruins of Ruins The to a was reminded of conversations he had long ago with senior seers who's minds were so addled with studying the stars and poring over prophesies while drinking poppy milk that they spoke in a language of malarkey when they did. They were not fools, as some more quipping matoran, like those from Le-Metru, would have thought, but their wisdom was expressed thoughts that came from a different mindframe entirely, of wisps and mirrors and allegories. This... being, whoever it was, spoke in much the same manner; Leklo chose to engage, therefor, like he had back home, recalling the mannerisms he adopted to best communicate with the seers: By matching it. "Justice belongs to the injured," he said in reply. "Judgement goes to the guilty. Dirt and loam soak the blood, but it is not it's. Wherefore is there any guilt? Wherefore is the brother?" he asked. He didn't know where his friend had gone or become, but perhaps this entity knew something he did not, while also keeping his questions unrestrained to a single resolved answer as well. There was a wisdom to be discerned from it regardless, something ancient and native to this strange land called Zakaz, and he figured that if he stood nothing else to gain he at least would be able to see into the heart of this land and know it better.
  3. IC Leklo | Ruined Fortress Ruins It was the cerebral adventurer who grappled with his extreme exhaustion and intense wariness of the immobile Axonn who gave the interloping oddity the benefit of a moment's thought, and he turned slowly to face Tuakana without a look of confusion on his face. "You speak in riddles... but they are not riddles," he countered. Leklo narrowed his eyes slightly at it in slight realization as his mind considered what he was seeing. He cast a quick glance at the static warrior corrupted by the mire of the lapping sea's tumultuous energies and the corrupted remnants of the Rode on his face, then looked back at Tuakana. "There is nothing to solve, it is just your truth. Then what are you going to do?" he asked. @Eyru @~Xemnas~
  4. IC Stannis | Ko-Metru And just like that, Stannis had attained the services of a new companion. Not a thrall and not a friend—though there was always a potential for such things, in time—but rather someone to share in an adventure with. His adventure, specifically, and not a moment too soon it was that their leylines of fate would become twisted together. Everyone's journeys were legendary in their own ways, unique in the ways they tormented the individuals. Observing and studying these odysseys was one of the many fascinations the Aspect who inhabited the persona of Stannis possessed, and his many tomes and databanks in the Hiripaki Vault were in fact little more than the compendiums of knowledge he'd amassed about people. What set him apart from many of his fellow Aspects, with just a notable few exceptions, was his belief that individuals were interesting. Big events happened as a result of small actors playing their parts, living lives they believed were their own to live with a sanguine placidity begotten from naïveté individualism. Everyone was their own protagonist, and so every infraction on their livelihoods was a massive misfortune. Accordingly, reactions were always the same—what differed, of course, was the object of the emotion. Stannis had seen many expressions of grief and anguish in his years of anthropological study. He catalogued them all, curiously documenting where one person's dismay was equalled by another's joviality as each person reflected on an event in opposing fashions as it catalyzed reactions. Even the destruction of Mata-Nui and Metru Nui was a catastrophe to most, if not all, people he'd come across thus far, impacting an enormous swath of beings from Matoran to Zyglak, Vortixx to Skakdi. What eluded Stannis thus far, however, was to whom it had brought joy. He had his hunches, of course, but the fall of a once all-powerful god, for all the destruction and chaos it had created, would have had to instill a balanced reaction of rejoice. It troubled him, but he would find it out eventually, and he let his mind linger on the introspection as he slowly lowered his gaze from the top of the liquefying towers, lingered it on the elongated cascading stream of meltwater, and then to the chasm and then to the kneeling figure of Korruhn. Grief, he considered, always looked the same regardless how strong the individual was. Fear and hate were the most basal of feelings and the first ones everyone felt in the wake of something that tugged at heartstrings, and it would take mental fortitude to overcome it and move on to creative thinking so quickly from dealing with heartbreak. Ko-Matoran were notorious for their inward focus and lack of emotional overtures, but they all still felt things just like any other. Korruhn was a Ko-Matoran no longer, the feelings flowed differently now, and the experience would be novel for a while. It could continue to drive his focus, and so Stannis almost urged the experience to come out with a hunger, a longing to feel and share feeling. The Wanderer placed a hand on Korruhn's shoulder. "I'd almost forgotten, this is home for you," he said. It was half-true; the sentiment of sympathy was real but the words were hollow; he knew Korruhn's affinity to the region all along, but a well-placed card of condolence could make a world of difference for people in the heat of a moment. He felt for Korruhn, truly—he also knew what it was like to see a homeland ruined and altered beyond recognition, after all. "The rest of Metru Nui has not fared much better. You likely had no opportunity to really see the damages done with how you came in to the city, and to me. Dear friend, I am sorry." He listed his staff and conjured a bridge of stone to cross the chasm and inch closer to the surface. They've begun moving again and gotten closer to ground zero when the shadow-touched to a realized something, recognizing the towers by the placements of their cornerstones. "There. That one, with the red way-finding flags all around the edges near the corner of the Metru. The Cartographer's tower." "Why do you mention it?" Stannis asked, not quite certain what it was the cartographers truly did and hoping the tourguidelike attention shift was not purely for a sightseeing curiosity. "Because that was where we worked out of. There would be transports and supplies we can use there, apart from the vahki or chute networks." "An excellent suggestion," the Wanderer said. "We will need such things if we are to leave this city anytime soon." "Leave? We only just got here." "My friend, I have already been here longer than I need to. The whole of Metru Nui is decaying flesh and bones and if we are to have any hand at saving anything we will not be able to do so from here." @Crimson Jester IC Leklo | Ruined fortress ruins "I have had it with everyone's ancient riddles," the former alpinist said with a sigh. A tear formed at his eye but he wasn't sure which malady the lament was for. "There has already been too much spilled blood. What are you here for?" @Eyru
  5. IC Stannis | His Vault "It would be considered a dubious honor for me to visit," he said slyly, then shuffled back to his chaise and gradually stooped into it to finally settle languidly. "I will show you the state of things... later. For now, we will rest. You look like you could use it. War is a hellish thing, wherever it is fought, and it taxes the body more than Dume ever did."
  6. IC Stannis | His Vault "Your hate has made you powerful," Stannis admired, "it's no wonder you were given this curse of Shadow by the power of the Lake. You have an ambition about you and you want—and you will correct me if I am mistaken—you want to fight fire with greater fire, enlightened fire." Korruhn contemplated the aged man's words a moment, noting the choice of rather dark language. "Hate?" He chuckled softly, before continuing. "The Barraki Warlords, the Skakdi bloodmongers, the League of Six Kingdoms, they know hate. It pumps through their veins, crackles in the synapses, bleeds into their every facet of life. They are cursed with it, as I with Shadow." His eyes moved away from his companion and to a dark corner of the room, fixating on a singular spot. Perhaps there was something there that only he could see, perhaps it was nothing. He continued. "I want to rid the world of hate. I want to bore it out of the minds of those afllicted by it, drive it from our sacred lands. Hate has no place in this world that I now find myself the vanguard of." "As I said, enlightened fire," Stannis echoed carefully. "Everyone in the planes knows hate and breathes it in one way or another. Some hate being oppressed, while some others hate not oppressing. Some hate having an aimless destiny, while some others hate not having enough control. Things happen all around us and we, flawed as we are, will cling to our emotions. The difference between all these people... and what makes us all unique... is how we use that hate and what we shape with it. Hate isn't a terrible thing all by itself, it is just our reaction to something we do not tolerate, but what we don't tolerate, Korruhn, is what will plague us. "You want to create a better world where people know tranquility and prosperity? So do I. I want to preserve life and allow people to reach their true potentials, away from the petty grievances of forgetful gods and unchecked kings, where people can explore the unbounded realm of possibilities. But to accomplish this end, I must also admit that nobody is perfect, not you, not I, not anyone, and that there are always going to be possibilities that frighten and injure. All the knowledge in the worlds, in tomes or computers alike, cannot change that. 'Knowledge is power,' they say? Ah, ah, but it is not so! Power is power. Knowledge could not save Sans, or Pridak, or Lhikan, and it was knowledge that sundered Dume with fear and corrupted Nidhiki. Knowledge is a means to attain power, but only through power can you attain your goals. And, believe you me, it is your hate for what has transpired to your home that has empowered you." The old man ruffled his sleeves, scratching at some itch underneath, and then finally rose up from the floor, suddenly done with his meditative stance. "I can help you attain more, if you will let me. And you can help me in turn."
  7. OOC | Korruhn interaction courtesy of CJ. IC Stannis & Korruhn | The Vault Stannis cocked his head from under the cowl of his great cloak's robe in balking astonishment at the man's recognition of his toa alias. This interloper was apparently familiar with Stannis, but he still hadn't placed who he was in turn. Memories recent and historical bounced and rebounded in his mind but the films were not quite matching. The voice sounded like one he should know, but it didn't sync with the visage, the powers, or the place. The aged Aspect narrowed his eyes at Korruhn for a more suspicious examination. "I am who you say I am," he murmured, still grounded as a mountain and not moving in any direction. Whatever abilities this toa possessed were of the Shadows, and that urged the Wanderer to regard him with the upmost caution. There were so many variables on the table and so many unknowns he had not sussed out yet. Whoever he was and whatever he could do, though, Stannis doubtless knew how to handle him. Like the dark tunnels and caverns that lit his path to the Vault with their shadows, if this man were truly of Shadow, Stannis knew him as intimately as a candle. "Now tell me who you are." Korruhn paused a moment, taken aback by the Toa's inability to recognize him. He recalled the lake, the great pain of acid searing his flesh to the very core. And the explosion -- vaporized. Mata Nui only knew what Korruhn looked like at this point, and the Sahdow Toa certainly hadn't come across a mirror. "Forgive me," Korruhn replied. "I have had quite the day, and I can't say I don't bear the marks of it. I am Toa Korruhn, of Metru Nui. I met you in Dume's office." Stannis gave him a curious look as the memories started to come back to focus, bit by bit, with the siren call of the man's utterance of his name. 'Korruhn' was a more recent addition to Stannis' mental dictionary, a neural network still fully enmeshing itself with the two swirling selves in his body. The antidermis he'd imbibed before was his own, but it was an older version of his self, full of ancient knowledge and near-forgotten thoughts, which stood in contrast to the more progressed self he still maintained within his corporeal carapace. Like two currents, one warm and one cold, the two versions of Stannis were integrating and not quite working in his memories as one mind yet. Still, Korruhn's sharing of his name sparked fusion anew, and the images of the past week came back like bricks sequentially stacking to build a wall. "Indeed," he said. "Turaga Dume, and... Sans..." He said the second's name as though tasting a brand of coffee for the first time, feeling if it sat right on the tongue before fully partaking. "We have a habit of meeting in the offices of old men. Perhaps you shouldn't be surprised you find yourself in mine, now." He chuckled lightly, then finally removed his hood to reveal his stony face and he looked every bit as hale as he had before the battle that raged around the city days before. His eyes were bright and silver, his jaw steady and set, and his spine strong and erect. Were it not for the myriad of scars and pits on his mask and relic-like armor he seemed like a staunch young knight. Korruhn's eyes narrowed. Something seemed... well, off. Of all the places in the world he could have ended up, he ended up in what is apparently Stannis' lair of sorts? Wherever that even was. No matter. Korruhn had sensed something, a commonaliy between he and Stannis, at their last meeting. Whatever it was that drew him to Stannis, led him to trust him. For now. Sans. The name stung like bitters under the tongue, salt in a fresh wound. Although it hadn't been more than days, Korruhn felt for Sans, the curmodgeonly Turaga, whom he left behind at Metru Koro, presumeably to die at the hands of the League, along with nearly all that was left of his old life. He felt the rage, the pain. But for now, he would have to figure out where he was and what he could do from here. "Yes," Korruhn paused. "This is your office? Where are we?" Korruhn was about to mention the strange place from whence he'd just come, the cosmic horror world out of time and space. But he hesitated. Stannis could know of that later. "I was on the north shore of the crater lake, with a few other Toa. We encountered a Titan. He was attacking another Toa. We aided. I fell into the lake." "Yes, it is, so to speak; a minute chamber where I do my work in, sometimes, though it hasn't been used to meet in for a very long time. So you fell into the nightmare sea around this disembodied head we once called home?" Stannis asked for clarification. "Yes. The titan as well." "That would explain a great many things... and not least among them how you are not like the Korruhn I knew from before." "What... things?" Korruhn asked, more curious than anything. "I've seen some very odd things in the past few days." "I did not say that you were 'odd,' Korruhn... however you are not the same." Stannis moved to the side, coming in between the low flickers of light from the holographic table and the ominous umbra of the portal-door to the secret chamber on the opposite, with both men in line between the luminescences as well. He lithely twisted his legs and spun to the floor before coming to rest in a crosslegged position, a vulnerable one at that, and invited Korruhn to join him on the ground. "Tell me, what do you feel in your body?" Hello, what’s this? Toa Stannis of the Maru has a friend over!? Why didn’t he tell me!??? I love guests! Am I to assume this is a Welcome One as well? Well, okay, Toa Stannis of the Maru is sitting down now, and if he does not think it is a threat, well, so I won’t either! But I’ll sit—here in the rafters, anyway—and watch. [The AI observed, silently, from its cameras and sensors.] Korruhn nodded, taking his place across from Stannis. "Let me tell you, Stannis. Back on Metru Nui, when I was but the Cartographer of Ko-Metru, I had an encounter in a lonely hideaway in the darkest corner of Ko-Metru. An abomination. It -- reached out to me." The Toa brought up his arm, twisting his wrist to show the jagged mark where the creatue had burned his forearm. "I met that thing a second time. There, battling the titan. I took the life of an enemy combatant, and it appeared. I could summon it, or something of it's nature, at least." He paused again, looking to his arm, the symbol of his twisted destiny, the darkened path. "To answer your question, Stannis. I feel empowered. I feel enlightened. I am connected to something not of this plane." "But, I must say, I also feel something a bit strange about this place, Stannis. I feel... strength, in the darkness." "In the Shadows," Stannis said with finality. He paused a moment, wondering something in his head before finally letting the words out. "You have not seen yourself yet, have you?" Korruhn shook his head. “This is the first time I’ve sat down in days.” "You have an affliction, if you could call it that. Some would call it a curse, others a taint, and even certain esoteric others an evolution. The truth is it is none of those things and the reality is far closer to your perception than you realize: It is not of this plane. Shadows do not come from your universe, Korruhn, and most who find themselves in possession of its characteristics are frightened and astonished by what they find. Darkness... changes people, develops them, and adapts them." Stannis stirred slightly and raised his hand to the air. "Shadows have a tendency to obscure and enshroud the truth of things. The first step is always to compare what you see to what you know. And I can help you with both of these tasks. "Hiripaki, show Korruhn his visage." Oh goody! "Yes, right away! " a voice replied. The table sparked to new life, quickly showing a holographic render of a man who sat on a floor. Quickly, Korruhn realized he was looking at himself in real-time and in great detail, albeit in a mostly monochromatic fashion with various shades of blue, with red and gold showing vibrantly on the otherwise azure image. As the man moved so did the hologram, and Korruhn could see himself from the perspective of anyone else. It was a haunting rendition. Korruhn's eyes grew wide on the realization that the image before him was of he himself. Armor pitted, rusted, with thin veins of gold and purple. His afllicted arm, jet-black and jagged, and seemingly armored with designs of another world. And his mask. Melted, pock-marked, sucked to his face from the horrid effects of the protodermis acid. His ice blue eyes blazed beneath the sickly golden visage. He barely recognized himself. "The lake..." Korrruhn trailed off, thoughts of his visage still humming in the back of his mind. "When I fell in, I visited that plane. They called it the Far Shore." "The abominations? Do they live in that plane?" Stannis asked, genuinely curious and apparently unperturbed by the revelations. "Nuju. He was there. He was one of them." Korruhn knew it didn't make sense no matter how he put it. But he felt that if anyone knew, it may be the wizened old Toa before him. "I do not know of this Far Shore you speak of and I cannot quite know how it is you came to be here in this place... but what I do know is Shadow. And what's more, friend... I know that is why you are here." Korruhn pondered a moment. Was that why he was really here? All he knew, is he would avenge Metru Nui, one way or another. "Then please, Stannis, show me what it is you have to show me." He pulled the ancient tome from beneath his cloak, somehow having palmed it away earlier, and placed it on the ground between he and Korruhn. The bookbindings were green-tinged in the main realms's light, and a large in an ancient, almost unfamilar matoran runic script adorned the front of it. The tome was written in the same script as the words adorning the walls of every Suva and abandoned ruin around the island called Zakaz, and the book Stannis had plucked in particular was a primer study on the concept of Aspects themselves. In it, it spoke of Makuta, their antidermis, their kraata, their rites, and their taboos, though only in general senses—it was a primer, after all, and not a full compedium, and without a greater context of the world and the forces that governed it the book revealed nothing a discerning archeologist wouldn't be able to uncover with a sojourn around the island. Those, Stannis alluded, came later, with practice and application.. "I have spent my whole life gathering knowledge across the universes, even on this land called Zakaz by the Skakdi who dwell here. This particular morsel is a merest flavoring of what I know. Open it, feel it, smell its pages if you care to, and tell me if you sense something about it that touches you." Korruhn grabbed the book by its battered leather dustcover. The cartographer in him immediately identified its age, and therefore value-knowledge-wise. He studied the cover as he would have back in his old life, running his finger through each hand-tooled crevasse, as though time itself could be felt through the jagged tool edges and worn dimples of the leather surface. The Matoran runic script was of an oft-forgotten branch lost long ago, and of a very specific design: spiraling, thin lines, with jagged bold accents. Korruhn recognized the script -- it was nearly identical to those he'd studied in the hideaway, and more recently discovered in the Ice Ruins. He thought to open the book, to pore its volumes of information, but he did not need that distraction at the moment. For now, he had some questions for the old warrior. "What do you know of the taboo scripts in the ruins?" "The incantations? That they are power, and that they are not of this plane," Stannis offered simply. He scratched his chin thoughtfully, gauging Korruhn's fascination and attention to details, from how he'd inspected the tome and pointedly asked Stannis about the taboos themselves so quickly. The former cartographer was certainly worth his salt, he assessed. "And, I suppose, that you seek them out." "Suppose I've already sought them out." Korruhn's reply was fast, not enough to be rude, but enough to know he wanted to get to his point. He opened the book, not to the first page, but to one well into the stack of pages. The script was again archaic, but more common, and therefore more understood by those of the Cartographer's craft. To the untrained eye, it meant nothing, mindless etchings of a long-forgotten society. But to Korruhn, it told a story. He closed the book, and handed it back to Stannis. "I can't think of many beings that would have this much knowledge of Antidermic rites, of Makuta. Let alone wander the world with a book of it." "There aren't many at all. One doesn't become 'the Wanderer' and a professed wizard without countless years of exploration and archiving the mysteries and lores of the realms," Stannis collected the book and set it on the floor beside him. What he had been presented with was an unusual opportunity for the aged deceiver where an otherwise upright and moral toa was bent to forces he did not understand and yearned for more, which placed him in stark contrast to the beings Stannis had dominated before. He was accustomed to seeding his will in people who had very different walks of life, to heroes who needed a guiding hand to do the most good and to tyrants who required a tempering leash to not sunder the world, all in indirect fashions and none to be minions by any means for Stannis. It was not his intention to be a ruler, it was not in his nature to ascend to any thrones or dominate the will of anyone, he was a whisperer and counselor, not a king, and none should kowtow to him. Fate was a fascinating mistress, it seemed, with no shortage of surprises even for Stannis. He needed someone like Korruhn, someone afflicted by darkness but not from it and who earnestly wanted to learn more. There was no real point to deceive Korruhn as a result, and someone as erudite as he likely already determined that there was much more to Stannis than anyone had been led to believe, though there was also no benefit to being entirely forthright with him either, as the truth was potentially as alienating as the greatest fiction if not portioned correctly. Like the book. It served to whet an appetite without overwhelming the senses, and it titillated Korruhn enough with tantalizing potential to egg him to follow. The Wanderer futzed with his hands and stowed them in his voluminous cloak sleeves. His eyes were alight and intent at drinking in Korruhn's persona, his every excited twitch and apprehensive shiver, but he was not studying him with malevolence. Korruhn was there for help, whether he knew it or not... so why not help each other in turn? "I can help you uncover ancient things forgotten by time and perhaps even understand this Far Shore condition you now have. But you need something more precious than a quest for knowledge alone to define yourself. So tell me, my friend... what is it that drives you?"
  8. IC Stannis | Hiripaki Vault After having restored his strength and constitution with his Antidermis, Stannis spent a moment longer surveying the little pocket in the universe he was in and relished in the presence of the ancient tomes. He inhaled deeply, slowly, savoring the smells like a fine wine; they were musty, deadened from so long in a secret alcove separated from the world they'd come from, though their essences has remained untarnished at the same time and kept the familiarity of fragile paper and faded ink. The leather bindings were cracked and dry, yet oddly pristinely preserved as the rigors of reading only touched them hardly and deterioration was slowed to an infinitesimal rate, and the harsh light of the real world did not deteriorate matter like it did elsewhere. Instead, the only illumination came from the viridian glow of the antidermis and the circular dancing of a luminescent jellyfish, suspended in its own miniature timeless prison just like the rest of the things in the sanctum. This personal archive of Stannis', a predecessor to the Hiripaki AI and the first repository of knowledge he'd constructed by sheer might of Shadow when he first arrived to the Ark, was a time capsule of the time before time, a relic in and of itself. He turned to go back to the Hiripaki's main room in the prime dimension, but stopped right before passing through the portal. He felt something, someone, though it wasn't clear who or where. A leyline intersected with his own, that much was sure, and that much was all he knew. Having a second thought, Stannis knowingly collected a single tome from a shelf and then stepped through the eerie portal and found himself in the circular main room of his lair. Stannis promptly began to unwind, setting the great book on a table and then settling himself down on a lounge chaise at a far end of the space, shrouded by the ancient tubing and machinery that occupied a good portion of the crystalline walls. Stannis nested thence, bundling himself tightly with his cloak and settled in his tidy alcove where he could have full view of his lair from his corner. He did not like that someone's fate would bring them to his vault, but it was unlike the Wanderer to be overly anxious about it. They would come, like they always did, and he would either give them gifts if they were friends... or murder them if they were not. "Hiripaki," he said softly to his AI companion, "turn the lights down to minimal brightness. And turn the heat up! My old bones chill easily." A beat. "Please." The intelligence could almost he heard chuckling pleasantly before it complied. ... Stannis watched as the interloper materialized from nothing, like a thief in the night. He was a burly man, misshapen by the looks of it under his own black cloak, but carried himself with the spine of a toa. There was an odd familiarity to the man's gait like that Stannis had seen this man before, but he could not be sure of it, and neither could he imagine anyone he knew previously to possess the power this man had in appearing within Stannis' own sanctum, uninvited. Hiripaki's focus was directed elsewhere at the moment, content in allowing her aged master to rest without interference or chatter, and likely was turned either outside to the myriad of scanners or inward to her own self-maintenance. Either was, she failed to detect the man's arrival, which was not altogether unexpected. She could be roused, of course, Stannis knew that, but he still did not feel truly threatened and he was, after all, prideful in his own abilities. As quiet as a fox, Stannis stirred from his chaise and got to his feet, toeing around the central holo-table that dimly shone an azure display around the circular chamber, casting odd shadows of right angles and curved piping all around the space that looked like haunting vines of darkness that arrested the walls in place. They twisted the senses within the room, making it feel both more confining and less defined that it really was with its disorienting dances, and made even Stannis look like little more than another shimmering shadow among dozens. The interloper was staring at the vacant doorway to the pocket dimension study, hesitating but still feeling drawn to its ghastly green and black glow, and his back was turned to Stannis which allowed the Aspect to further move undetected. But he paused a toa's length away from the "guest" and stood regally thus. Whatever brought this man to his lair was not revenge, or any agenda to speak of besides curiosity, and so it was immediately apparent this was no agent of Miserix or Krika or any other Aspect who would do Stannis harm. Instead of taking to violence immediately and fighting where he ought never do combat Stannis spoke out, calm and assured in the relative silence of the moment. "Are you lost?"
  9. IC Leklo | Near Ruins The directive echoed in his mind to the thumping of his heartlight, to the pounding of his feet, to the gasps of his breath. Run. Run. Run. Don't look back. Okay, look back a little bit—okay, nope, just run. And run he did. His legs buckled again now. Good. Feel the fear. Let the emotion overwhelm you, he told himself. Maybe that will do it. And if it doesn't? Oh well. So much for being a toa-hero. Failure, like falling, was an inevitability by the rules of chance. No climber could keep a flawless record of accident-less ascents, and no warrior could hope to never be humiliated and overrun; to believe so would defy Fate, which often played at the hopes and dreams of the paltry denizens of the world, all clamoring for a chance at completing their duties and destinies. Luck always did run out in the end, for every single one of them. It was an assured thing, natural enough like how you'll always find what you're looking for in the last place you look, and like how you will definitely insert the USB connection the wrong way twice before somehow getting it right the third time even though you put it in like that on the first try. Luck always did... run out. What were the chances his would keep going, though? Slim to none. On the count of three, he told himself, he would turn around and summon his expectant elemental powers. They would work and incinerate his foes, or they would not and he would be devoured. Those were the odds. Fifty-fifty, he surmised optimistically. Do or not. Yes or no. Life or death. Three. Two. One! He turned around, a fistful of knife at the ready. He thought he could feel his powers flood to his hands!!!! And then— A flash as bright as the suns themselves. A cry of pain or of torment. A wash of darkness that nulled everything. His powers fizzled, but his enemies were no more, banished by some power that was not his own. What were the chances of that? Leklo stood there, still stanced at the ready to fight for his existence and for his destiny, but there was nobody to fight. In fact, there wasn't much of anything. Obsidian shards were strewn all around the ground like ancient arrows who's shafts had long since crumbled to dust, leaving only the haunting tips to hint at the battle they'd been volleyed for. Ink coated the grasses like tar, coated Leklo, coated the shattered landscape like splattered blood. The errant toa-hero realized he'd been holding his breath and released it in an exasperated and relieved gasp, then harrowingly inhaled again so forcefully he threatened to burst his lungs. It took him a few seconds to calm his gentle soul again, but he finally realized there was nothing more for him to do but return back to his friends. The coastline, what was left of it, was quiet and absent the sounds of fighting, only the lapping of waves against the shore remained. He trudged back as quickly as he could to where he was before, limping as he jogged until he skipped more than ran at all, and he didn't stop or pause until he came upon Ultan, Atamai, and the static Axonn again in the near-demolished ruin. And Leklo had no words. @The Captain @~Xemnas~ @Unreliable Narrator
  10. IC Stannis | The Archives The darkness carried Stannis to his destination. Nothing interceded in his path, but not from a projection of his own might or his ability to destroy another being. The Shadows sheltered him, though again not by some perverse power he was able to wield. The ancient man's knowledge of absence and night sheltered him and shone even when there was nothing to see in the tenebrous depths of Metru Nui. He scratched about, his feeble mortal body moving with a strange and shambling grace, but he was never hindered despite his blindness. The darkness was familiar to him, the absences and mysteries within its voids trivialized to simple child's games and riddles, and where danger lurked Stannis simply avoided. His focus was rapt and sharp on his quest—he would not be stymied again, and at the threat of faltering he simply stumbled on, but it was not easy for him and neither was his success assured. Twice he held his breath to avoid confrontation, the first with a great beast who prowled the archives, and the second with a patrol of beings he could not mettle with. In both cases he clutched his weapon close, pulled his cloak over his body tightly, and stayed in the corners of the caverns, earnestly clinging to the shadows. Once the threats had passed, he moved more slowly than before, careful not to test his luck more than seemed wise. It was cold in the Archives, also, and with power outages spread around the levels entire areas were devoid of ventilation, light, or heat. The sections below Ko-Metru were the worst, and he had to bundle even more firmly than before as he ventured around dripping ice stalactites and frigid pools of melt. He shivered despite himself as he passed through these areas, focused solely on his quest as best he could, even when seeing the path ahead was obscured by the dense fog of his breath in the jaw-chattering cold. Still, he pressed on, each time blessed with some salvational warmth ahead, sometimes a functional heating system or better, but never took more than a second's rest before he plunged ahead. He would reach his goal... or he could die in these forgotten caves and all his life would be for naught, a possibility Stannis refused to recognize. Until at last he found it, the familiar flight of tunnels in a secret section of a sub-level that brought back memories from centuries before. These were familiar grounds now, and Stannis quickened his pace again. Lights and sounds were restored thence as the generators were still functional, and soon enough Stannis rounded a corner and came upon his destination. His Vault, door still firmly sealed, and the outside scattered with the milieu of a scuffle. A totally bisected body lay to the side, a leg and arm were strewn elsewhere, and a puddle of crusty dried vomit was near the vault's door, all of which the aged Aspect gingerly stepped aside. He touched the control panel. "Hello! And welcome! Toa Stannis of the Maru! I am so glad to see you have returned. It has been 702,137 days, 18 hours, 53 minutes and 39 seconds since your last visit." "Hello, Hiripaki," Stannis breathed haggardly. He leaned his spear against the door and rubbed his eyes then blinked rapidly, banishing the thought of it being not quite what he needed. The artificial intelligence's voice evoked memories of a different machine entirely; it had scant been ten days, but already the memory of Vahki Unit BO-1337-P was distant. The unit had apparently not survived the cataclysm, but something about that machine's determination to follow and assist Stannis at the time had touched the luddite Aspect, as had Kilo in a far more perceptible fashion through their conversations abroad the Taku. Stannis looked upon the visual sensors at the door and open his arms out wide as though greeting a long-lost friend and expecting an embrace. "I'm home." "Yay! Please enter the passcode." "... The what?" "Please enter the passcode?" "It's me. You've already determined that, Hiripaki, so be done with this nonsense and open the god#### door." "Sorry, Stannis sir, but my programming will not allow me to do so without the passcode. And you're just not talented enough to program me otherwise." The AI paused. "That was what they call 'a dig,' sir." "I can tell you've been learning bad habits from Oreius..." Stannis scowled, then his frown tilted to an appreciative smile. "But I am a welcome one, and you will open the door regardless." "As you wish!" Instantly the noise of clanking gears and whirring machinery spun from behind the wall and the great doorways to the vault opened wide, first the outer, and then the inner, until finally—at last—Stannis had made it truly to his sanctum. "You are injured," the AI said in alarm. "Yes. Drained, more like," he said as he set his spear down on a table. "I need to get to my study, now." A secret entrance opened up at a far end of the vault's main area as a set of shelves and furnishing melted away and revealed an oddly fluorescent-lit side chamber. It's recess glowed with a sickly green and black luminescence, and Stannis walked towards it with feverish intent. Within that chamber was something otherworldly that none in the Universe but him and his once-god could have understood. Stannis stepped through the jamb and into the secret room unabashedly and sighed in relief. The great Aspect had expended so much of himself over the past few centuries. Battle after battle, fight after fight, injury after debilitating injury, and all while maintaining the charade of a magnanimous and righteous toa-hero who lacked no virtue had all worn down on him like an eon of winds sweeping upon a granite monument. The final fight with Pridak had done the greatest number on him, but he already was at a lack of carefully rationed Kuta-power when it started, and the sauces which powered who Stannis was had been well diluted to juice already. The eventuality of being stretched thin were why Stannis had commissioned his sanctum early on in his grand game, and it existed as an extension of himself in many ways. The Vault was a part of Stannis in his truest self, altogether amoral, secretive, full of unbound knowledge, and evil to those who didn't understand its functions, though to its owner it was all as simple and comforting as the mask on his face. He entered the space and at once was pulled into a different world from the one he was in before. It was a small area, comparatively speaking, entirely cut off from the rest of the twilight pocket dimension like a meditation capsule in a forest. There was very little light but just enough warmth in the crepuscular universe the little chamber was housed in. All around Stannis were shelves upon shelves of ancient tomes he'd absconded with, each binding laden with a dialectic symbol only another Aspect could decipher, and on the other side of the space were rows upon rows of bottles filled with concentrated green gas. He grabbed one of the containers and poured its contents into his mouth, letting the heavy gas pour into his body, and instantly felt the effects of the antidermis—his antidermis. It mixed with the being within himself and gelled into a single entity once again, restoring his mind as well as his power again, and it filled his self with such vigor like a potent drug entering his system. Ancient memories and obscure facts flooded back into him, all stored within the portioned canisters of his essence, and he basked in the power imbued in himself again. He pulled another bottle and repeated the ritual, and then a third time, each time feeling whole more that before, until he had at last become himself again. He was once again Stannis, the Aspect of Makuta, and he was keenly aware of his purpose again. And he would accomplish his Wish.
  11. IC Leklo | Fortress Ruins There was no time to think, no time to feel, no time to risk a look behind his back; there was only time to die and time to— —Run. —Run. —Run! Wind blurred past his ears again. Every step ached and stabbed. He knew he had a bit of of a limp. It got worse with every other pace. He paid no heed to it. He could not. There was too much on the line. He was on the line. The hounds of darkness could be sensed behind him. They were not heard or felt, their presences defied the conventional laws of sensations, they were just sensed. Leklo knew they were there, closing in, one shuddering footfall after another. How far had he gotten? Not far. He daren't dwell on it. He ran for his life, ran from death, ran from the yawning maws of death. —Run. —Run. —Run. He'd think about how far his mangled legs had carried him when he or the specters were dying. There was no other choice. He was panting hard then. The time was near. His or theirs? He wasn't sure. His heart pounded hard in his chest from the exertion and exhaustion. Or was it the thudding weight of his steps? He wasn't sure. Nothing was sure. He hoped his idea would work. Fear burned in his heart like bile in his throat. He felt like he was falling. Nothing seemed to be in control, everything was crumbling apart, every handgrip and handhold proved treacherous, and nothing was for certain anymore. Likewise he felt the pangs of power grow in his hands, egged forth by the sense of dread. He welcomed the feelings both, eager to sense his powers course to his fingertips and embraced the churning fear for what it heralded. Without a single other form of recourse, with no other options afforded to him, no lifeline available, he would be forced to draw his still latent and torturously inaccessible elemental powers out through sheer desperation like a pimple popped with sufficient and painful pressure. He did not relish the prospect, but he had conceived no other way. Draw the demons away, pull them so they were in a row, and blast them with whatever ability came to the fore of his fingertips. That was his genius plan. And then his dearly loved friend Korruhn's threw him a weapon. It clattered to the ground in darkness a few paces in front of him, visible only from the glint of metal as it reflected starlight in its course. ####! Let the fear flow. Run. Run. Run! —He snatched the kopesh up regardless, against every screaming calculated protestation his mind shouted. His fear was a drug, but it was also a siren and its alarm was undeniable, and it would not deny the salvation a blade could provide. Korruhn, his strongest friend and a real cockblocker. IC Stannis | Archives Onu-Metru smelled like death and decay and the stench of curdled blood and decomposed flesh was overwhelming to his nostrils, and Stannis had to pull a voluminous sleeve of his cloak up to his nose to stifle the sense. This was worse than the basement graveyard under the Coliseum; this was not meditated genocide in a trash compactor but a mass grave spread across a vast network and the echoes of anguish spread like poison in a bloodstream. Still, Stannis stayed resolute with the understanding that solace lingered at the end of the path, and he pressed on. He could have banished the senses with a litany to his kanohi but he chose to endure it regardless and keep his mask available for when and if he needed it. It was his only power left—his mind, that was, and all that was attached to it. Focus on the prize, he reminded himself. Focus on the wish and it will become true. The darkness of the depths were comforting to him, oddly enough, like an old friend come to visit again. Once, long, long ago, he held sway over these omissions of light, but since his bargain with The Hagah he's surrendered that prowess for a power more grounded than any of his fellow Aspects could grasp. Oh, how he longed that he still possessed some glimmer of his ancient abilities in times like the present, he lamented, though soon realized the foolishness in it. He'd learned all he needed about shadows back then, and now he didn't need power over them to know how to master them just the same. Darkness was an absence, he knew, and likewise he knew how to read the passages betwixt the lines. Stannis' time as a Shadow-wielder were over, but he could slip past them even better than ever now. And slipped he did, through the crags and crannies of the Archives, gingerly passing by corpses like fungi exhibits and giving only vague curiosity to them all. Life lingered ahead, he knew, and he would not stop until he finally got what he had come for before.
  12. IC Leklo | Ruined Fort As Leklo saw his friend rush off again to do battle with what he could only perceive as wraiths, Leklo looked at his hand, not quite understanding what had transpired. He intuitively knew he was still connected to the Ko-Suva and was aware of the items deposited, but try as he did to withdraw the electric weapon within it would not appear in his hand. Err-or, he kept hearing in his head. It was an heavily-accented droning voice like the old AI systems he found in abandoned knowledge towers back home that struggled to properly enunciate the Rs. He tried to pull the blade again. Err-or. He would not be able to pull anything from the Suva after all, probably due to not having anything to trade with. Well, and blast, he thought, abandoning the thought. Bereft of weapons and failed by his backup, Leklo would have to resort to other tactics. He could hear the scowling and gashing of teeth coming from a multitude of directions as the unknown foes coalesced to feed, drawn to the sweet smells of life and fear the dauntless toa projected uncontrollably. Leklo was the weakest link among the toa there by far, apparently powerless and weaponless as he was, battered and bruised from the duel with Axonn and wounded in pride and body both. If there was easy prey to be had, Leklo would seem to be it. A trio of the malevolent entities came around their corners and instantly drew their eyes to him, singling Leklo as their most eagerly wanted prize as he oozed of everything they hankered. "Alright," he said to himself, quickly summing up his desirability to them without so much as a second thought. They looked like death to Leklo, an antithesis to his nature and abilities, and he was certain to challenge them so long as he was able. Fighting them was not yet an option, and hoping someone else saved him had never even crossed his mind, so that left only one other route. "Let's see how well my legs still work. Come and get me, demons!!!" And then Leklo turned and ran as fast as he could away from the ruin. @Unreliable Narrator
  13. IC Stannis | Metru Nui The chute station had been destroyed—he would not be able to reach the Archives via the mass transit system after all. Most other chutes had been shut off or been damaged by the cataclysm, and the League had not brought their armada of vessels in to the city when they invaded so vehicles were in short supply, with most civilian transports conscripted into service of the occupants. He briefly considered using his mental link to the new king to attain use of one for himself, but he thought better of it and chose to keep his collar on Aurax for more important matters. Stannis could handle his own problems himself. With the chutes out of the question Stannis elected to take the more laborious approach and descended a winding stairwell from the ruin of the station into the ground level of the Coliseum island and the land bridge between it and the neighboring Metru. The old being moved slowly, more so than before, and as he meandered the understory of the city the only sure companion he had was in the clinking of his weapon's pommel on the ground with every pace. The first stretch would be easily and relatively harmless, he wagered, especially at such close proximity to the nexus of power and influence the Coliseum presented, though as he neared the subterranean entrances of One-Metru and lost sight of the towering citadel in the mass of tangled derelicts and shattered foundations he was sure to encounter resistances. Dangerous rah lurked in the shadows, and both militant extremists and vagabond desperados roamed the wartorn cityscape. An old passerby like him was sure to look like an easy catch... but Stannis could handle his own problems. @Unreliable Narrator
  14. IC Leklo | Fortress Ruin "N-no," he stammered, relieved to see his friend alive and earnestly there to help him up. "It—it still works!" he pleaded in defense of his Kanohi Peá. It squeezed at his temples like glasses a few millimeters too small but he was still sure the headache was from his injuries and not the distorted mask, and he was determined to hang on to it, hopeful that he'd eventually learn its actual function with a bit of trial. Likewise, Leklo felt the ebb of elemental power grow stronger in him like a throb in his loins, ready to shoot out if only he'd just release it, yet it stayed locked away with a key he still hadn't found yet. The former alpinist wagered, stubbornly and perhaps recklessly so, that if he could not unlatch the door his latent powers hid behind they would emerge with the volatility of a volcano on their own in time, with pressure. And—oh! what a thrill that would be! He looked left and right for his swords but couldn't find them. He'd have to make do with what the Suva provided him. "I can fight, though—I think. Look out!" he shouted in alarm, seeing ghostly apparitions materialize. IC Stannis | Metru Nui The elder Aspect remembered in his mind's eye the path his once-brother Oreius had taken. He started by exiting from the Coliseum's bowels, unfettered by vahki and evading League loyalists on his way through the bowels of the edifice, and then turned to a nearby chute station that could possibly take him to the ruins of Ko- and Onu-Metru.
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