Ic: It made no sense to talk to the guards – they would only reply with ellipses – so Ambages said nothing as he led the way through the snows. The presence of company presented a new problem for him to deal with. They were not his plans or indebted to him in any way and had to be quite loyal to the captain if they were sent to "escort" the Hand. Korzaa was not stupid; she likely knew there was a game going on and took no chances. So, as he always did, Ambages weighed the situation and the solutions.
He could kill the guards easily, either by physically combating them and standing a chance to be injured in turn or by a brief use of his shadow powers, but doing so would raise questions when he returned to Ko-Koro or met with a Toa Maru, a possibility he began to consider more and more likely. Bodies could be linked, too, and Ambages already decided against such risks. Catching them in the environment, like with an avalanche or glacial air bubble, was nigh-impossible considering the Ko-Matoran's affinity with the landscape. Another possibility was attempting negotiation with them, but he had little in the way of leverage to control them. He had to think of something else that couldn't be traced, couldn't be suspected and wouldn't leave him with a little spy at his back.
And he had to get the men on his side before he reached his first destination.
* * * * *
The soft shuddering of snow gently compacting under his snowshoes was the only herald Ambages had in the Drifts. Sheer mountain peaks jutted out in all directions and pierced the pallid horizon. Ambages truly loved Ko-Wahi, the only realm as frozen and unblinking as he, and felt most attuned in the desolate parts of the wahi. It was haunting and serene, aspects of beauty he admired. A soft wind down around the alpine passes like a whisper and left a trail of flurries behind it, the body of a spirit caught in the prison of rock and ice that would forever be its purgatory. Ambages merely strode on. He was like the wahi; he gave the proverbial spirit no sympathy.
Pausing for a moment to drink some water and adjust his rucksack Ambages took the time to glance at his map. The trio had already covered a lot of ground but they had left later in the day than he liked and would not reach the massif before nightfall. While unfortunate in one regard it was still useful; it gave him a slightly larger window of opportunity to figure out what to do with the guards. He considered a couple places to camp and settled for a little grotto nestled between two alps with a stellar view of Mount Ihu – the sunrise would look utterly fantastic. After putting the map away he looked around to improve his bearings and made his way to the grotto.
The route was uneventful and still nary a word was expressed between the three men, even after Ambages found the grotto, laid out a bundle roll of kindling, his sleeping roll and the night's rations for heating over the fire. Stoic as all ###### the guards used no sleeping pad and merely reclined on the ice as though it were a soft cushion; Ambages was a tough man but even he had his limits. These men, though, were no ordinary men.
Still no solution had presented itself to him, though. He was still stuck with the "escorts." Then, as hauntingly sudden like the squall that whizzed by him earlier in the day, a thought came to him: Why not ask them? He looked at them more carefully than before and judged them. One was the more subdued guard, more detail-oriented and proper – perhaps new? no, probably simply by-the-book as though being a guard wasn't his initial job – and reclined less naturally. The other bore more scars and relaxed as though there weren't any cares. His eyes were constantly searching for threats, though, betraying the natural poses he exhibited with an inner lining of trained and constant caution. He locked eyes with the latter guard and their exchanged gazes could have frozen the Mangaia.
Ambages quietly ate his dinner, which consisted of a mug of tea accompanying a kebab stick rolled in a flabread, simple protein to last him the cold night, and then said the first words since leaving Ko-Koro. "I'd like to know your names." A smooth, casual start.
"I'm Zurec," the first guard said. Ambages figured he'd be the first to speak. He tilted his head to the other guard, "This is Ardor."
"Mm," Ardor grunted. His eyes flitted from looking outside to Ambages and back constantly.
Zurec cleared his throat. "Where are we going, Lord Hand?"
"Just call me Ambages, please," he said. "I don't care for titles outside of court or anything." Zurec agreed and Ardor, once again, merely grunted in agreement. "We're making several stops: The Massif, Le-Koro, Ga-Koro, Po-Koro and then wait until the election for akiri is announced for me to officiate it."
These facts were met with silence as the two guards considered that plan of action and the details. They were no peons; Korzaa chose the sharpest ones for this mission. It was best practice to lure the targets with absolute truth in order to disarm them in preparation for the hammerfall of the lie afterward. Conversation was slim, as was to be expected, but as the Hand and the escorts finished their dinners and looked at the quickly vanishing light of day they still spoke, and in doing so Ambages could feel a certain level of trust developing.
Finally, he asked. "You know, I... have a problem. Have you ever been plagued by something you have to solve by yourself but can't, for the life of you, figure out what to do about it?"
"Yes!" Zurec said and sealed his own destiny.