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Theme: A Dark Hunt
"The Music Box's Song"
It’s often said that the most curious piece of treasure in all of The Shadowed One’s collection is a plain, wooden box with neither value nor decoration. A key juts from its front and when turned, the box begins to sing. A hollow, melancholic trill fills the room and drowns it in pensiveness. The Shadowed One has never attempted to sell it, to barter with it or even dare to gamble with it.
Why he keeps this box is known to few and fewer still who would speak of it. But yet it continues to rest amongst rubies and opals, broadswords and spears, trophies and spoils of war. It exists besides them without contest and most curiously of all, it has gathered the least dust in all its years of rest.
The Dark Hunter trod through the collection, his feet whispering across the stony ground with all the subtlety his name would suggest. In the distance The Shadowed One marched these halls in pursuit of a separate purpose. Whatever it was, it was of no concern to Darkness. His intent was of a different nature, independent yet important enough to allow his game to wander from his watchful gaze.
The music box lay where it had always been kept, on a pedestal between two tablets inscribed with a language older than the rocks used to host them. His fingers brushed the surface and left a trail of dust in their wake. Darkness made no noise as he lifted it from its resting place and held it to his face.
Something shifted beyond and The Shadowed One’s voice floated over to Darkness’ ears. Whatever those words said was left unqueried as the Dark Hunters’ attention returned to the plain box before him. He turned the key and shattered the silence with its grating groan. The gears were wound and the song began to sound.
Once upon a time Darkness had made it his goal to ascend to the Dark Hunter’s throne. His plan had been to follow The Shadowed One, to watch and wait. At any moment his prey would slip, would make a mistake, would show weakness. He would wait for the moment when The Shadowed One had finally proven himself to be unworthy for rule and then Darkness would slip in and take his rightful position at the head of the organisation with a well-placed knife. Once upon a time he had thought nothing of this plan. But once upon a time was a long time ago.
He had watched and he had waited. Years turned into decades and decades into centuries. Through time, Darkness had grown proficient at his job. He learnt The Shadowed One’s schedule, his plans and his aspirations. He slipped into his prey’s mind as though it were a comfortable set of armour without realising the cost. In joining the Dark Hunters he had surrendered his old self to become Darkness. In the pursuit of his goals he had surrendered Darkness and become The Shadowed One’s shadow. He was no longer an independent being. He was only an echo of The Shadowed One now.
And yet, the dark hunt might have been Darkness’ life, but the box held the key to something beyond. In its hollow notes it sang a song of a time gone by when the world was different and when Shadow was something else. Something now lost, not only to himself but to the universe itself. But the music box knew and through its gentle rhythm, Darkness would know as well.
The true meaning in the box’s elusive history was of course known to Darkness but it was a matter that was none of his business. He cared not for the object but for its produce. It was the music that enticed him to listen. It was the sounds it made, like a siren calling him home. Nothing could have drawn him from the thoughtful trance it cast him in, nothing besides the great shadow of The Shadowed One that loomed over him then.
Darkness turned and the two regarded each other in watchful silence. Not a single word crossed between them as the box’s notes continued to unfold, for there was nothing to say. They simply stood and stared and waited for the empty desolation of silence to envelop them, and then their interaction would come to an end. Two individuals stood in this room but they would leave as one.
Eventually the box fell into silence and the hunt resumed.
Theme: The Chronicler
"The Close of the Civil War"
Any good Chronicler knows that a story is no more than a sum of other stories.If a worthy Chronicler happened upon the Makuta-led massacre of civil war leaders in the Archives, that Chronicler ought not to think of only the heres and nows — the bodies strewn across the floor, the bloodstains on Teridax’s blade, the morbid satisfaction betrayed by his grin — but of the befores and afters.Such a Chronicler might say: There lies Odipheus the Po-Matoran, his right arm separated from the rest of his body, his eyes open in an empty gaze: Odipheus, who had pleaded in his prayers for the chance to face he who dared to incarcerate him, now free from bodily pain; who had asked that blood be shed and received his wish in more ways than one. And there lies Ta-Matoran Karhi, whose fiery temper ignited the hopes and fears of his kin, intimidating in death as he was in life: who drew his sword only to serve his friends and, in the end, gave up his life for them.That Chronicler might continue and note the Ga-Matoran Kokora, who courted Odipheus for a time before being repulsed by his rebellious streak and, for the duration of the Matoran Civil War, served only as healer and assistant. He may remark in brief about the passing of Ko-Matoran Irhu, perhaps the most pragmatic among those of the coldest Metru, who preached for cool heads and was rewarded being flung into battle with the opposite.But there was no Chronicler here.Teridax was cunning. As he had determined the war would end on his terms, so end it would — along with the talks of rebellion and the songs of heroes wrongly apotheosized and villains improperly labeled, of the very essence and hubris that had caused the conflict in the first place.Oh, Miserix would be furious if he discovered, and the Matoran would cry foul.But — and here lay the inherent pulchritude, the beautiful simplicity of his plot — Teridax would have cleaned the blood off his blade by then, and he would speak with squared shoulders and somber eyes of how he had been offered no other options. He would speak of a defender backed against a wall and forced to strike out against those he had sworn to protect. And no one would correct him.For he had made certain that he, and no virtuous individual, no Matoran or Toa — only he would write the chronicle of how the civil war came to its close.
Theme: Find the Power
Onua rose slowly, feeling the power of his mask flood his limbs as he pushed himself upright. The Pakari had always granted him strength far beyond the normal limits of any being, and even now it continued to do so. In fact, rather than being damaged in any way by… by whatever had just happened, it seemed to have grown in power, if that were possible – he felt as though he could lift the island itself as easily as any of the others could a pebble.
He called upon the power of the Miru—
He cleared his throat. The power of the Miru—
Nothing. So their little bath had destroyed his other masks? Quickly he reached out for his Akaku – nothing. Hau – nope. Kakama – still no. Kaukau? There wasn’t any way to test it here, but he expected the result would be the same.
He glanced down at himself for the first time. His form was bulkier, stronger, more powerful even than it had been before, which was certainly saying something. Sleek silver armor covered his body, accentuating every rippling muscle. He tapped the plating on his forearm softly – he doubted anything would be getting through that within the next millennium or three.
He examined the hand he’d just used. Minutes ago, powerful claws would have erupted from his fingers at a thought, but this, too, had changed. Simply a hand, he thought, flexing his fingers. How could he protect his koro without—
Slowly, instinctively, his hands drifted to his back and were greeted by cold, hard metal. He withdrew the weapons, examining them. Some kind of complex machinery – a long shaft fitted with a belt and dozens of sharp metal blades. Maybe he could…
The weapons roared to life, the blades dissolving into a blur and reappearing moments later as he mentally shut them off. Certainly these would be far more efficient at tunneling through the earth than his claws had been. And with practice, they would be deadly in combat.
He finally looked up, taking in the dark cavern. His fellow Toa were, like him, mesmerized by their new forms. Tahu had gotten his hands on some new blades, blades which were now engulfed in fire and whirling about in a flurry of flashy maneuvers. Pohatu was repeatedly vanishing and reappearing in another corner of the cavern before Onua could register he’d moved at all. Lewa, like Tahu, had been engrossed by his new weapons, a pair of swords that he was clearly more than eager to learn to use. Kopaka was simply leaning against a wall, looking on in disapproval – typical.
Gali had focused her attention on something else. She stood at the center of the cavern, gazing at an object that seemed to hover in the air. It was a cube, a cube carved with odd symbols and glowing with blue light. Onua made his way toward it cautiously, both apprehensive about the object before him and worried that Pohatu might not be watching where he was going and run him over.
Within a few moments the rest of the Toa had gathered. Lewa was the first to speak.
“So, uh… what’s the deal with the glow-bright cube-thing?”
No one had an answer. They stood in silence for a few moments before Kopaka extended his arm.
“Wait,” Tahu interjected. “We have no idea what—”
The Ice Toa silenced their leader with a glare as cold as his homeland and snapped his arm forward, his hand tapping the cube and then retreating to its place at his side.
A brilliant flash of light flooded the cavern and the Toa backed up as one, Lewa aiming his new blades at the cube. Tahu angled his for Kopaka, a curse on his lips. Ah, priorities.
A moment later the light had cleared, and, oddly, the cube seemed to be missing a side. A side, Onua realized suddenly, that Kopaka held in his hand.
“What—” Pohatu began.
Kopaka cut him off. “It’s cold,” he said, gazing at the square of stone. “Cold even to me. It houses power.” He looked up. “My power.”
Immediately Tahu stepped forward, touching the cube and claiming a piece as his own. The remaining Toa followed suit, Onua stepping forward last. Reluctantly, he grabbed the only side left. What Kopaka said was true – he could feel his own power emanating from the symbol in his hands. Should something like this really be removed from its proper place?
But he said nothing.
Theme: The Order
“Chaos is the law of nature; Order is the dream of man.”
The Le-Matoran watched as the grinning Vortixx and the stoic Ta-Toa clashed in combat. The Matoran knew his fate lay in the outcome of this battle, yet all he could do was hope and pray. His hands tightly clutched the stone that had caused this predicament.
“I will gave you one last chance,” the Toa stated to the Vortixx, his voice noble and regal, “Back away from the Matoran and never speak of this encounter, otherwise I have no choice but to end you.”
“Hah,” The Vortixx merely laughed in response, “We issuing threats now? What happened to the ridiculous motto of Toa don’t kill, or are you guys above that stuff now? Then again, I always did find that policy idiotic.”
Even as he bantered, the battle continued to rage on: The Vortixx would leap in, his daggers locking with the Toa’s sword, the Toa would then try an elemental attack and the Vortixx would leap back. Eventually the Toa realized that the Vortixx was too fast for his elemental attacks and began focusing on weapon combat.
“Do not speak of that which you cannot comprehend,” The Toa retorted back, as his blade blocked another attack from the Vortixx’s daggers. “Our outdated code restrained us from properly carrying out justice and ensuring order.”
The Toa then stepped back, twisting his body away to allow his blade to swing towards the Vortixx’s side. The Vortixx, with only a moment to respond, swiftly pivoted on his foot, narrowly avoiding the attack.
“What a load of Muaka dung,” the Vortixx responded as he darted in, his daggers aimed at the Toa’s stomach, only to be parried once more when the Toa slammed his massive sword into the ground. Then, taking advantage of the lull in the Vortixx’s assault the Toa smashed a gauntleted fist into the Vortixx’s jaw.
Rolling away, the Vortixx spat out some blood and readied his daggers while the Toa ripped his sword from the ground. “Alright Toa,” the Vortixx snarled, “You want me to speak about what I can comprehend? Fine. What I comprehend is that your sense of Justice and Order can go to Karz.” The Vortixx stated before dashing in once more.
At first it appeared his daggers were again aimed at the Toa’s gut, but when the Toa’s sword came down to intercept, the Vortixx sidestepped, swinging his daggers to the side of the Toa’s chest. Unfortunately the Toa and his Calix were faster, allowing him to masterfully swing around, rip his sword out and block the daggers.
Their blades locked once more, the Vortixx continued speaking his mind. “What sort of Order requires you to kill a Matoran?” He demanded. “All I see is a bully afraid of the power that Matoran may acquire, you’re scared of a new Toa.”
However, the Toa would have none of it and flames erupted from his blade to send the Vortixx flying back. The Vortixx collided with a tree next to the Le-Matoran with a sickening thud. He struggled to get up, but found only the Toa’s blade at his throat.
“You understand nothing!” There was rage in the usually stoic Toa’s voice. “We do this because we must, a new Toa would upset the balance of power, order needs to be established. Without it the entire land would be plunged into chaos. How can you not see that this is our Duty?”
The Vortixx only laughed bitterly, “Don’t feed me that nonsense. There’s no justification for the murder, no, genocide you commit upon your own people.”
“Then this is your end.” The Toa responded as he hefted his blade in the sky before bringing it crashing down towards the Vortixx’s neck.
“STOP IT!” A new voice begged in desperation, it was the voice of the Le-Matoran. “Kill me, but please let him go. He’s only protecting me, he’s done nothing wrong!”
“I cannot do that,” the Toa began to reply only to be taken by surprise when the Vortixx seized the opportunity and tackled him.
“Run kid!” He yelled before being skewered by the Toa’s blade.
“Fool,” the Toa grimaced as he began to make his way towards the Matoran, never noticing the barely standing figure of the Vortixx.
“Hey mate,” the Vortixx coughed out as he hefted one last throwing dagger, “I’ll see you in karz.”
His dagger flew straight and true towards the Toa’s heart causing both beings to collapse.
"Passing Through Paradise"
The sun blazes down, scorching the back of my neck. The sand beneath me is blistering; I feel as though I’m walking barefoot on a frying pan. My mouth burns; my throat is dry as cotton – it’s been forty-eight hours since I poured the last drop of water in my canteen through my chapped lips. The pack on my back seems as heavy as an obese kikanalo; with every step I take it threatens to pull me to the ground. But I trudge on.
Where I’m going is not important – all you must know is that this desert lies between me and my destination. I have lost count of the years I’ve spent out here, pushing ever onward towards my goal. Years? you question. Yes, I know. It amazes me as well, sometimes, when I pause to contemplate it. I am no Toa; I claim no great powers to ease the path before me. I am but a Matoran, a single, weak being alone in a sea of sand. But my goal lies ahead, and I must reach it. And because I must do so, I will.
I reach the crest of the dune and halt for a brief moment to observe the landscape. Sand. More sand. And, off in the distance, a small dark speck.
It is not until hours later that the speck becomes a narrow swath of green in the midst of the endless tan. An oasis. A sliver of paradise in a world of endless pain.
It is hours still before I reach it, but at last the sand turns to grass beneath my feet. The foliage radiates from a pool of water, deep and clear. I unshoulder my pack by its shore, dip my canteen into its depths. The water is cool and pure, life in the midst of death. I fill the vessel and seat myself beneath a towering palm, the tree shielding me, protecting me from the merciless sun. As I drink I dig my feet into the ground, relishing the feel of grass between my toes.
I finish off the canteen and turn to the tree, wrapping my arms around its long, limbless trunk and pulling myself upwards. I manage the climb on willpower alone; my strength, certainly, is not sufficient to carry me to the top. I draw my knife and cut free a cluster of bananas before dropping to the ground myself. I peel one of the fruits and eat it slowly, enjoying the sweetness that fills my mouth and the fullness that barely begins to fill my belly. I continue in this manner for the remainder of the day – drinking, sitting, climbing, eating. At dusk I curl up on the ground, grateful to be able to sleep on the soft grass rather than my coarse bedroll.
The next morning I wake, bathe, and begin again my routine of eating and drinking. I have gone long without water and longer without food; my energy must be replenished. I search the rest of the oasis, finding nuts, berries, and more fruits. No rahi have made their homes here, it seems, which is somewhat unfortunate – meat it would’ve been nice to have a bit of meat. Nonetheless, I gather what I can and return to the pool.
The next day, too, follows a similar pattern, but with the added task of drying and preserving any food I can find. By the end of the day my supplies have been replenished.
I wake the following morning and bathe quickly before refilling each of my canteens. I take a final sip of the pool’s cool water before shouldering my pack.
An hour later the sun is again scorching my neck; the sand is again blistering my feet. My throat is again dry and my lips are again chapped. Again my pack threatens to drag me to the ground. Paradise is behind. My goal is ahead.