"Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed."
-Niccolò Machiavellia, The Prince (c. 1513 C.E.)
The revenants of the slain writhe in my presence, gnashing their rotten, broken teeth as they scream my name with the ferocity of a legion of zealots. Gaze upon Hakann, they cry, decayed lips cracking and melting and breaking as their hollow chants pierce my mind like the incision of a thousand needles, gangrenous eyes rolling in their decomposing sockets as they intone the cries of the abused. Gaze upon the destroyer, Lord of Chaos, raser of flesh, annihilator, spawn of the infernal abyss; view his hypocrisy, the duality of Abaddon- I reach outward with unfaltering hands to snap their maggot-infested necks, and they disappear back into their graves, broken limbs and shattered skulls collapsing into the detritus of Ta-Koro, the ash and smoke and crumbling stone that litters these despicable streets.
As their moans vanish into the flat air of a city conscious of boding, I stride through the shadows of the Koro's outer limits, satchel (naturally occupied with all the tools of agony a degenerate of my stature could ever desire) impacting softly against my thigh with every step. As I, still within the safety of shadow, reach the edge of an alley, I hover in the wake of the slowly mobilising Guard, whose resolute determination to reclaim eluding prey evokes a distinctly advantageous peripheral cecity to villains yet announced. I pause in the shade of a derelict alley, observing the multitude of them jog heavily past; they trot and bluster in a manner so very comparable to an assemblage of children hunting for Taku in the shadow of the Muaka, so blissful in their imagined bravery and resolve, serene in their unbeknown vulnerability. Their blood will taste that much more saccharine on my lips, their flesh so inordinately saporous, now that is has been potentiated with the poetic nature of their coming fate.
Ah, ludicrous me, I do believe I am getting ahead of myself. The clever, cunning man has naught but an indefinite plan, occupied with appropriately tactical reactions to unexpected occurrences; as such, I am answering to emotion in place of reason in the formation of these fantasies. So, if you please, forgive my ramblings; I always get sentimental when Carnage and Death rear their dual pulchritudinous capita, offering me the shrieks of the innocent with lustful smiles and sultry stares (I will admit; overtures of a vehement nature induce a certain arousal within my mental recesses, stimulation the likes of which are rarely seen outside of Vezok's tantrums). I implore that you do not, despite the loquacious nature of my speech, think me hopelessly romantic; all metaphors offered are more truthful than I surmise you expect.
But I digress; the fires of Ta-Koro are quivering; its guards are scrambling, and its stones are disintegrating in the face of a mere jailbreak. This is truly a moment veritably ideal for the unveiling of the actual nature of my person, the instant wherein a new eon begins, millennia baptised in the blood of thousands, and adorned with the flesh of the innocent. I have so very much to do, and so little noteworthy opposition, a monolith assailed by particularly feeble zephyrs. As such, perhaps it is time indeed to make my presence known, to release the majesty and glory of my person unto the unconsciously awaiting crowds. This is the City of Fire, or so their signs and souvenirs proclaim, but I can not forbear testing its capacity to counter a true firestorm, a conflagration of unvanquishable wrath. We shall see how high these derisory Guards hold their masked heads when all they hold dear is burning, how intrepid they are when every component of their idyllic lives is christened in blood and basked in flame. I have much to teach this miserable aggregation of the asinine on the true nature of fear; they have been subjected to little more than the lowliest shadows and the slightest of foes. I shall be this island's Pale Rider, with suffering and death my subjects, double-edged sword in hand, and my form that of one like a flame; the consumer, destroyer, an exact iconoclast without equal.
Where does an iconoclast commence his devastation of the beloved, you ask? The location of greatest emotional, economic, or perhaps medicinal importance? I'm afraid there will be no rewards for correct responses; if it is not apparent already where one strikes to createdread (in place of an economic state characterised by low levels of trade and investment, and momentary panic, respectively), I doubt you have the tendency to become as gloriously destructive a person as myself. Dread is the state of being afraid; it is a response to events that are ominous, frightening, not economically inhibiting or possibly painful to your person. When you are in the shadows of a moonless night, and you feel the breath of a Muaka upon your neck; that is dread. The knife blade resting lightly on the skin's edge, the breath in the darkness, the whispered word; these are the tools of an artisan of fear, a master of the horrifying. Such a person would choose a location of religious or otherwise highly emotional importance as their initial target, a location of great emotional dependency. As such, I believe my location is already decided.
As the outskirts of the Koro's heart vanish into the dust and ash, I reach the entrance of the trail, and find it guarded, a Toa in grey and black armour, hand on sword hilt, accompanied by Matoran, armed with a reduced blade of otherwise similar construction. Their stares, filled with fear and nervousness half-hidden beneath false resolve, swivel to meet mine as I approach, timing my advance whilst patrolling squadrons are absent. “Sir, this is an area of strategical importance; no visitors allowed while maximum security precautions are being taken,” his voice is thick with the stupidity of the confident, eyes squinted in their unwarranted seriousness. Weapons seemingly inactive and held much like the numerous non-Guard aspirational heroes I've observed, with beautiful faux ineptitude, I respond with the gracelessness I've found in all residents of the Koro.
“Alright, alright,” I respond with acceptably realistic levels of friendliness and caution, stopping midstride, “I wouldn't want to bother any officers,” and, as they relax slightly, I fire two combat-reflex-examining blasts from my Lava Launcher in rapid succession at at a very close range. Their responses prove their relative conflict-reaction adequacy; Toa dives in a desperate attempt to dodge the testing offensive, successfully saving himself from possession of a liquefied encephalon, whilst the Matoran nimbly sidesteps, and doltishly resolves to charge with ferocity far exceeding her ability. She begins her attempt at combat with the maladroit hurling of a dagger, easily deflected with my Zamor Launcher, and then rushes in for mêlée with her petite gladius. A facile front kick connects with her thorax, driving her onto her back with a cacophanic gasp induced from impact-forced exhalation, before I turn to face the no doubt recovered Toa. He addresses my bequeathed attention with the conjuration and projection of a metallic spike, aimed to impale my abdomen. I circumvent the attempt at transfixation with an admittedly gadarene sidestep, which he abuses in an attempt to skewer me with his blade. I swivel in perfect response, before melting his sword-wielding hand with a well-timed blast as he attempts to recover from the overextension.
The Toa staggers dazedly as his companion resumes an offensive, hoping to benefit from the misfortune of her comrade. She begins with a slash from her dagger, that I allow to lightly scratch my abodmen as I pivot to meet her, which I riposte with a vicious backhand, shattering her Kanohi and sending her tumbling to the ground before she can recover from my spatial invasion. This allows me to end the weary combat with a consecutive lava blast, leaving her neck a smoldering mass of unrecognisable material. The Toa, now apparently able to cope with his injury, attempts elemental asphyxiation, singular hand outstretched in a farcical pantomime of rage. He falters as his companion's sword, so easily procured from before my feet, punctures his abdomen, at which he gazes in horror, mouth open, eyes wide, before attempting a panicked elemental displacement of my cervical structure. For a moment, it feels as if my neck is being luxated (albeit poorly, in an expectedly inept manner), then the Zamor passes through his sternum and into the thoracic cavity, and he crumples gawkily, mouth agape and lachrymal glands producing twin piteous rivers. Opponents defeated, I am free to continue my journey, after scrupulously disposing of the deceased Matoran, twitching Toa (following the force-feeding of said Toa his own blade), and all pertaining evidence in the Lava River directly ahead.
As I follow the twisting trail, I find myself sauntering through the darkness, following a road veritably less travelled, shadowing the paths snaking from the farthest reaches of Ta-Koro into the ineluctable night of the adjacent wilderness. The rocky outcroppings and hoodoos guide me along the shadowed road, featureless towers in the eternal dark, sentries whose watch is eternal and yet without action. At the rise of a particularly erose mountain path, I find myself greeted with the view of Ta-Kini, resident shrine and temple, a hebetudinous flame within the void of desolation, illuminating naught but starless sky and formless earth.
The chapel is in possession of a simple construction; central temple, surrounded by statues of an idealistic Toa, and guarded by two jaded Matoran, diminutive Yari in hand. As I briefly pause in further observation of the temple's distance from Ta-Koro, which is splayed out to my left, directly beyond and below the cliffside that composes half of this mountainous trail's surroundings, an explosion occurs within the centre of the city, a brilliant fulmination of vermilion and burnt orange that devours all other lights within its radius. I wisely continue my faltering for a moment longer, and view a singular Toa exit the shrine's central structure, stare briefly at the flames, and then retreat back inside.
Geographical Information procured, I move into position, following the mountain path until it curves out of the shrine's sight, and then climbing upwards onto a hazardous series of outcroppings, which I traverse with the utmost stealth. The blackened, jagged stone precipices lead to directly behind the temple, where I nimbly drop, as silent as the finest of predators. After a moment of silence, to ensure neither the Matoran nor the Toa noticed my approach, I sneak to directly behind the two Matoran, deliberate in maintaining silence.
As I reach their location, I suddenly bullrush outwards with a barrage from both weapons, incapicitating the closest, initial target with a calculated blast from the Launcher, leaving what once was an acetabulofemoral joint little more than smoldering flesh and blackened metal. As the initial target collapses inelegantly, the Jitter Sphere target rolls away from the speeding projectile, hastily sluing to a stop to avoid falling over the cliff edge. After rendering the crippled Matoran exanimate with a successive blast, I continue the charge, firing another lava blast to coerce him into more backwards crawling, complimenting the repulsion with a vicious kick, sending him rolling onto his side. He attempts to scuttle to his feet, drawing a knife as he does so, and finds himself greeted with the sight of a mere metre between him and the cliff's drop-off.
He turns and attempts to begin an avid offensive, thrusting and feinting in a display of half-adequate knife-wielding skills (in the presence of a master, little is truly satisfactory). After several moments of his blustering attempts at pushes and offensives (resulting in only a trickle of blood flowing weakly from my forearm), he attempts a thoracic puncture, resulting in momentary, but highly dangerous, vulnerability. I, but of course, capitalise upon this with the seizing and shattering of the knife-wielding hand's carpals and proximal phalanges, followed immediately by his assumption of a kneeling position. He attempts a destabilising low kick, which contacts my ankles with a dull thud and little affect (being capable of switching balance from individual pedal extremities is an oft unappreciated skill in combat), and I take advantage of his vulnerability to strike his exposed vertebral column with the Lava Launcher's claw, prostrating his abject form. To insure an absence of further opposition, I crush his miserable head into the ground with a submaxilla-shattering stomp, taking care to irreparably damage both pharynx and larynx with my heel. He flails desperately in an attempt to escape, apparently surviving the initial attempt at facial disintegration, so I am forced to grip his cranium tighter, crunching down with greater force. His majorly muffled groans grow higher in pitch, fingers twitching helplessly. I release my foot before the twitching ceases, and nonchalantly kick him, decimetre by agonising decimetre, to the cliff's edge, though refraining from sending his miserable form tumbling over the precipice.
I pause for a moment to appreciate his ruined face, now covered with blood and the broken shards of his Kanohi; his singular operational eye stares into mine for a moment, searching irrationally for the smallest trace of clemency. I send him tumbling to awaiting death with the politest of smiles, pausing patiently until I perceive the sound of his connection with the hissing lava below. After disposing of the other corpse in the same fashion, and pocketing the foolhardy Matoran's knife, I continue, cautious in case the Toa within noticed my resplendently executed dual deliverance from flesh's restrictions.
All but one opponent eliminated, I creep to the entrance of the structure, silent as the scythe of Death, borne of the wings of night, a spectre composed of shadowed crimson and possessing iniquitous designs. Lava Launcher holstered (on occasion, I admittedly savour the possibility of challenging defiance), I calmly, albeit rapidly, cross the threshold, observing the entirety of my surroundings between steps. The interior of the shrine is occupied by only a singular Guard, knuckles white and eyes shifting, unkempt armour lacking decoration suggesting lower rank. I supposed such poor quality of security (Five? I have destroyed legions; this is hardly worthy of my time) is justified; after all, who would visit a shrine when both a prisoner has escaped and an explosion has occurred? What manner of the strange and disturbed would pray to their gods and heroes when they could bestow a hand onto their living brothers-in-spirit, and what sort of criminal would attack it? There is nothing worth value, no wealth or precious materials, only the hopes and fears of an entire city, the prayers of a people forged in pain. What sort of person, indeed.
I cross a majority of the distance betwixt us in two measured strides; her eyes widen on the first footfall, and my personal attachment to the ground vanishes on the second, revealing her possession of gravitiational control. I quickly hurl my recently acquired knife at her vulnerable chest, which she foolishly focuses entirely upon in desperation (revealing telekinetic abilities as well), saving herself from a relatively painless death. Before she realises her error, I traverse the mere meter between us in a single step, fist careening out in a vicious, zygomatic-shattering strike. She is surprisingly capable of stopping that as well, but fails to consider my other limbs. In a fluid, singular motion, my unhindered left hand reaches out, plucking the Kanohi from her face like an overripe fruit, right leg striking into hers with utterly devastating force, sending her to the ground with a surprised gasp. She rolls and attempts to draw her sword, but forgets my ability to move as well; I grasp the radiocarpal joint of the hand clenching the sword hilt as she rises to a singular knee, and drive my knee into her confused face. A moment later, she is lying on the uneven stone ground, trying her best not to let her grunts and moans develop into screams as she nurses a severely fractured wrist (and possibly fractured par orbitalis and squama frontalis), eyes wide as they stare at the shards of what once was a Matatu resting in my left hand. I crouch down onto the balls of my feet, lightly resting my right manus over her unbroken hand, and stare flatly, no grin stretching my mouth, no manic fire burning in my crimson eyes.
“Tell me, little Toa,” the words are vehemently primal and yet alluringly suave, rumbling as they labour to remove themselves from my rima oris, hammering themselves into the listener's tympanic membrane with the force of Reidak's fists, and yet never exceeding the volume of a whisper, as subtle in their power as the artisan who molds them. She stares in fear, her horror feeding the whispered menace that slithers from my nonpareil lips, unwisely refraining from moving, utterly captivated by the debonnaire terror pouring from the mouth of god himself, “by what miserable title do your associates refer to your person?”
Momentary silence, succeeded immediately by a scream (If my audio receptors are functioning correctly, I do believe she exceeded the coloratura soprano range, an average reaction for the unintiated to agony), and then answer, uttered periodically between grunts of pain. I sit in silence for a moment, release her mangled left hand, and then rise, an emperor staring down upon the groveling subject at the foot of his throne.
“Patunga,” I walk around the shrine slowly, tasting the word, infusing its essence into the stone I calmly observe, impressing it into the charms and sacrifices I inspect. By the third ingemination, I reach the sealed Suva, an empty husk once containing divine power, a pitiful sepulchre of this hero's struggle for greatness. “Enlighten me, Patunga, if you will: who is this great deity, worthy of a shrine of this magnitude? What name shall his denomination cry and scream in its moment of need?”
“You're wrong,” each syllable is a struggle, exquisitely tinctured with anguish. I turn, and find her staring at me through inundated eyes, struggling to get to her feet. “He's not a god; he's Tahu, our hero. He walked into the darkness,” she appears more confident now, as she rises to one knee, mangled hands awkward at her side, “and he never came out. He was willing to sacrifice for us, and we in return sacrifice for him.”
I saunter to her, composed and unconcerned with the laggard rise. “Very impressive,” at last, I grace her with the beauty of my smile, the controlled, polite tightening of the lips that has sent a gelid sliver of fear into the hearts of my countless victims. “Most can scarcely negotiate the expulsion of a trinity of words when suffering, and yet you berate. Alas, I perceive that you do not appreciate the nature of your current situation.” the lurid sound of two patella collapsing inwards in quick succession fills the air around us, as does an accompanying shriek, and Patunga resumes her repose upon the stone.
“Do you care to be elucidated upon what I've noticed concerning heroes, your little men and women like Tahu?” I lightly rest a foot (coincidentally the same used to demolish her knee-joints) onto one of the mangled hands, and tighten my smile, leaning inwards until my face is uncomfortable close, filling the entirety of her vision. “Their appearance is directly contiguous with a rise in destruction, death, and anguish. When they don their inane armour and masks, and wave their little swords and declare themselves leaders, saviours, their enemies get furious. You have beholden the horrors I discuss. Tell me, Patunga, what magnitude of people were obliterated in the Rahkshi attacks, when your brave men and women decided to vex Makuta, so that you might be saved? How many innocents were slaughtered for the liberation, how many lives ruined for the vindication of your morals?”
“I can see your frown, your disbelief, your righteous indignation. Oh, my dear Patunga, you adjudicate my speech as false far too quickly. You are a guard, are you not? Tell me, when a murderer stalks the alleys and moonlit streets of this city, how is the crime rate affected? There is no need to speak; the answer is clear to all. The crime rate plummets. Criminals are not witless, contrary to popular opinion; they would not risk being caught during their transgression and tried as the killer who has captured the imagination and hearts of the populace. They remain silent, and wait until the murderer is incarcerated before resuming their decadence.”
As I whisper the syllables with the gracility befitting my person, my eyes glow vivid crimson, infused with the heat of my passion, my grin a flash of brilliant ivory mere centimetres from the horrified eyes of my victim. As I speak, I trace Patunga's jawline with the bladed claw of the Lava Launcher, slowing as I reach her mouth, and place one talon onto her tongue.
“In this way, even a murderer saves lives, albeit indirectly,” pausing, I seize her face with my free hand, letting the talon sink into the flesh of her mouth, creating a slight drippage of blood. “So tell me, little Guard, does it dismay you, to know that your heroes have conduced more destruction and suffering than the criminals you prosecute?” As I speak, she slowly moves her free hand, no doubt believing herself furtive. As I finish the last sentence, I remove the Launcher from her mouth, and in a singular movement, puncture the offending hand, centimetres from the hilt of a dagger, affixing her miserable manus with the stone it now bleeds so profusely upon.
For a moment, I sit in silence and stare at her with the utmost disgust, as she continues her stare of affright, and I retract my trusty Launcher, placing it into my satchel with a tired air. “Oh, Patunga, I tire of our disceptation. You are quite simply not gratifying to speak with; your argue and you sniffle, and, by far worst of all, your attempts to struggle to safety are so tepid, it is truly unbearable.” As I stare down at her, my eyes slowly lose their lustre, assuaged into emotional phlegm by her consternation. The claws of my foot flex around her broken fingers, forcing her to humorously attempt (and fail) abegnation of a torment-induced skreigh.
“Where is your hero now, Patunga? Where are your gods? Have they abandoned you in your time of gravest need?” I arise once more, my smile transfixed upon my countenance, the mask of a performer in an ancient tragedy, emotions transcendent into the realm of annul. As I press the entirety of my weight upon the injured hand, her arm stiffens in a desperate attempt to stop the agony. As she squalls desperately, I draw a long, thin obsidian knife designed and balanced for flaying, letting it dance along my fingers as I speak, a blur of iron hilt and extrusive igneous rock blade. As she watches the blade with dread reverence, I continue, my frozen, porcelain smile remarkably similar to the knowing grin of the maxillae.
“I'm afraid this conversation has come to an end, ye fiddling, fatuous Guard," she jactitates with the panic unique to the doomed as I draw her closer, until her broken form is adpressed to mine, increasing in her frightened madness as I bequeath a kiss upon her whitened lips, tongue resting lightly on her clenched teeth. I smile at her attempt at chastity, dislocate her left hand's index and annualry digits, and finish the grandiloquent tirade. "I desire your comprehension on a certain matter ere we commence; I am going to spifflicate your miserable flesh, but only in due time. When the blood is running, and your entrails lay displayed before you like so many coiled, crimson serpents, you will look into my eyes, like so many of your successors, and you will beg silently for the smallest indication of mercy. You will find none.”
Conversation finished, I began the excruciating process of victim preparation, my nerves calm and my movements deft amidst the symphony of screaming and sobs, and my ivory smile remaining ever bright, a clenched beau idéal. Truly, it has been too long since these blood-soaked fingers have danced their lissome adagio, the waltz of the flesh.
* * *
The cold, aloof light of distant stars hides behind the smog produced by Ta-Koro's miserable industry, afraid to behold the glory of my magnum opus displayed within the debased shrine. I stalk the streets of Ta-Koro as the heavens watch in terror, a predator waiting for potential prey to make fatal mistakes, Typhon amidst the charred ruins of Olympus. Yet, like all who conquer, I feel myself growing blasé in the face of this city's impending destruction; certain victory rewards no ecstasy. Perhaps it is time to rejoin my companions on their quest of fools; they are entirely too useful to ignore, too powerful to ridicule, and so gloriously destructive, that abandoning their company always seems a poor strategical decision in hindsight. As such, I do believe it is time for to prepare for a welcoming committee considerably less enjoyable than a legion of angered Guards.
Ta-Koro Guard HQ Official Crime Scene Report
Officers involved: Inspector Titiro Mataara, Constable Pakaru, Constable Manatu
This report is a description of the state of Ta-Kini, upon the arrival of Inspector Mataara, Constable Pakaru, and Constable Manatu, following the location's designated law enforcement officers failure to report. Upon my initial realising of the drastic nature of the events that occurred, we palisaded and examined the crime scene in further detail. The commanding officer of the unit, as well as her designated lieutenant, both of which were positioned at entrance to the trail, and two reserve constables are yet to be found; suggestions that their bodies and all pertaining evidence has been disposed of within the lava river are rational but unproven, due to the extremely frustratingly clean nature that the crime scene, as far as those four particular victims are concerned, possesses. The semi-circle of six statues, located on the north side of the structure, dedicated to Tahu and his procural of the six Great Kanohi were extensively vandilised and damaged; each statue was melted, deformed and stylised to the point of unidentifiableness, all marked with and in possession of twin tear-esque lines of blood running from eye sockets to chin. This blood belonged to Constable Patunga, whose body we discovered within the shrine.
The Constable was completely stripped of any objects Psychometry-users could use, as was the case of the entirety of the shrine's interior. The extent of the savagery conducted upon her person was of a magnitude rarely seen; when we entered the shrine, we were greeted with the sight of her suspended from the ceiling, feet impaled on two wall-mounted hooks used for the suspension of thurible. Immediate observations made it sadly clear that she had been vertically bisected through the central body mass to the sternum, with initial forensics suggesting the use of the jagged stone sword possessed by one of the outside statues. Both hands and both knees suffered extreme fractures and violence, meaning her placement from hooks would be of the utmost agony, and her forearms, calves, hands, and feet were completely and unusually expertly flayed. The facial area suffered intense violence, including the removal of several sensory reception organs. Intestines, several organs located in the thoracic cavity, tongue, eyes, teeth, and skin were all laid on appointed places of offerings or otherwise symbolically significant locations within the shrine.
Initial forensics heavily suggests the perpetrator of this murder conducted the torture to last as long as possible, indicating sadism on part of the culprit. It is of note that the fatal bisection was performed in a manner so that blood flow continued into the head, preventing the victim from dying during the activity until the torturer so wished, yet another indication of gluttonous sadism in place of even slightly efficient murder. If left in this condition, the Constable most likely died of blood loss or circulatory shock after a short time, which we assume is the case, seeing how no “mercy killing” marks such as throat-slitting or the like is noticeable.
The rest of the shrine is, as aforementioned, barren of items of any sort, once again most likely intended to frustrate our attempts at Psychometry confirmation of events. Much like the stylised nature of the statues' deformations on the north side of the shrine, the interior of the shrine was also partially melted and covered with symbols and less definable designs of an iniquitous, disturbing and morbid nature. The Suva is of particular note, for its defacement was of a rather unsettlingly pathologic kind; I don't believe I can currently describe it in the level of detail required. I do believe all superiors will want to witness it for themselves, for the sake of a lucid understanding of the severity of our situation.
Will report in detail when/if other bodies are found or further information is obtained,
"Thus the man who is responsive to artistic stimuli reacts to the reality of dreams as does the philosopher to the reality of existence; he observes closely, and he enjoys his observation: for it is out of these images that he interprets life, out of these processes that he trains himself for life."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872 C.E.)
OOC: I'd like to thank Gravity, Tyler, and Lord Snark/Alex for their critique and improvement of this post; without their confirmation of its adequateness, I doubt I would have posted it (and the finished product is largely their input). Now, as I'm sure we all desire, back to posts less than three thousand words in length; consider my walls of text successful destroyed.