OOC: Y'all should probably read this delectable jam, written with the wonderful Wotz and the magnificent Vorex, as it will automatically make you all better people guaranteed.
Note: The following events take place several months prior to Rynekk's rejoining of the Fowadi.
IC: Rynekk and Lyna -- Underground Temple
"Years?" I repeated, following the sound of her footsteps deeper into the darkness. "You've been down here for years?"
"No, I'm just trying on the starved and half-dead look for fun," Lyna snapped, rolling her eyes. "Yes, I have spent my fair share of the years down here. The whole 'oppression by Makuta' thing never really suited me anyway, I appreciated the break."
My contribution to the conversation was followed by a long and uncomfortable moment of silence.
"Well. Nice place you've got down here then. Very cozy."
"It's not mine," she explained as they walked, looking up at Rynekk. "But I think it's time for some questions on my part. For instance, why are you so bloody tall? Seriously. That's bloody unnatural."
"Nothing unnatural about it, miss. To be honest, I'm actually a tad on the short side as far as Toa go," I said, softly chuckling. "But don't go telling anyone about that, if you catch m'drift."
Lyna considered a number of questions in the silence after Rynekk spoke. She considered asking what a Toa was, in what world Rynekk could believe himself to be short, and possibly for the details of whatever it was he'd ingested to lend his mind to such thoughts, but eventually she ditched those in favour of something simpler. "You aren't from around here, are you?"
Rynekk's response never came, as his concentration on the conversation had been suddenly displaced by the majestical cavern before them.
It was a huge, cleanly carved cylinder of a chamber. On the opposite wall, a small waterfall fell from a crack in the wall to a small pond on the ground at the bottom. Tiny fish that fed upon microbes darted about the pond, seeing by the light of the fluorescent plants that surrounded the water in clumps. Luminescent flowers and fungi climbed all the way up the walls, suspended from a gigantic blue fluorescent column was a circular platform, in the centre of which was another sarcophagus, standing on its feet. A stairway led from this and spiralled around the curved wall of the cave to the small landing, on which stood the pairing and their almost comical height difference.
"Well, as a matter of fact," was what I'd started to say before stepping into what I can only describe as the cavern to end all other caverns. At that point, I just stopped talking, starting gawking, not ashamed to say it.
I wondered if Lyna had seen this place before; I assumed that it was the case, but I still glanced down at her to watch her reaction.
Lyna gave every impression of caring little for the surroundings. It was actually a clever facade, of course, hiding her actual feelings toward it. The fact of the matter was, she couldn't help but have the same response every time she saw the place.
She actually didn't care at all.
Well, Lyna looked suitably unimpressed with our surroundings, and if this was any other time and place I might've tried to hide my own feelings of wonder and amazement from her keen eyes. But I was far too tired, far too hollow, and far too desperate for any scrap of beauty I could find to care much about the judgements of others. And this place certainly was beautiful; so much so that I almost forgot about Stendhal and Tadris and the Prophecy and all of the things that I couldn't stop remembering.
But then I saw the sarcophagus on the pedestal, standing imperious like a preacher at his pulpit, and I was pulled back to reality. My face turned grim, despite myself my eyes filled with morbid wonder, and as though controlled by a puppeteer's strings, I began walking up the carved stairs to their summit.
"You open that thing, I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to denounce you as a walking cliché," Lyna warned. From a safe distance.
Not that she was scared. Just intelligent enough to know how to handle these situations.
With a unintelligible noise somewhere between a snort, a huff, and a sigh, I turned around to face Lyna, where her face was unreadable as always.
"Well, let's be fair; you could call me many, many worse things," I said, managing a weary grin. "And besides, do you have a better idea of how to handle a sarcophagus?"
"Look at what I've been doing for the past couple of centuries and take a wild guess." Lyna paused. "The right guess is yes, by the way, in case you feel like getting snarky. The idea is 'leave it the ##### alone'."
"If I leave it alone, a friend may die," I snapped. "Not like I really have a choice, now do I?"
"That's what people do. The only response to death is to delay it, and I recommend you take care of delaying your own before anyone else's." Lyna's expression had become harsh, her somewhat playful snark dying in an instant. "The only thing saving people will do is make it more painful when they die anyway. I've been down that road, and there's no such thing as winning when you play that game."
I might've asked her what she had meant, but I was far too scared and far too angry and far too self-centred to consider that for more a second, and a retort was bubbling out of my mouth like foam on a rabid dog so I couldn't have anyway even if I'd wanted to.
"This was never a game to be won," I said, my voice cold. "You don't know it, but my life is nothing but a string of mistakes and bad decisions, and whoever is at risk down here -- whoever -- is worth a thousand times what I am. There's blood on my hands that'll never wash away, and the least I can do is use them for something at least a little worthwhile. If whoever's down here dies somewhere along the line, then fine; at least they'll have had a chance to live. That's the least I have to ensure. And if I die in the process, well ######, maybe the universe can breath a little easier.
"Besides, Toa don't have a great history of delaying death. Why break the tradition now?"
A faint, almost undetectable breeze seemed to whisper Rynekk's name as it passed through the chamber from an unknown source.
Lyna was ready to snap out a retort when the breeze caught her off guard, the sudden sussurus chilling her to the bone. She wondered if Rynekk was expecting a reply, but in all honesty she no longer cared. She didn't know the significance of the name, but she did know one thing: she had never felt a breeze before. There was no such thing as a draught down here, or she would have found it and followed it to its source. That breeze was something entirely new, and Lyna was bloody terrified by it. "I don't know who you are, mate, and I don't know what a Toa is or whether or not you've made enough mistakes for your life to be worthless, but you came in here and started walkin' toward sarcophagi and now we've got draughts driftin' through a virtually undisturbed and inescapable temple. On the one hand, that's left me #####-scared, but on the other you got down here, and any kinda wall-whistling is an implication of an escape route. So... you want to open that coffin, you go right ahead. I'll be right back here to catch your corpse when it tumbles down the stairs."
"Glad we have a plan," I said, and like the moron I had been, was, and would probably continue being until whatever was in that box killed me, I continued my ascent towards the sarcophagus. The wind whispering my name hadn't exactly bolstered my spirits any, but at least it gave me a sense that I was headed in the right (if not necessarily the safest) direction.
Then I stopped, though I didn't turn, and said, "Lyna, if I don't come back, follow the tunnel that you found me in. It'll bring you to the surface. If you meet a woman named Plagia -- she'll probably be breaking someone's face in a bar or something -- tell her that Rynekk's dead, and that if she wants to hate him forever he'd be perfectly all right with it."
"Hey," Lyna called up after a short pause, smirking slightly. "You be careful up there. Remember, pointy end at face height or below, won't do much good if you aim it too high in a life-or-death situation."
"Aw c'mon now, give me some credit. I may be next to useless at most things, but I do know how to kill a man, awful as that may be," I said, smirking back despite myself. "As for you, you better get headed to the surface. I'd hate to keep from seeing the world again. It's a brand new place, trust me; you'll love it."
"Well. I'll see you on the surface then," Lyna smiled, throwing a salute at Rynekk before turning around to head back the way they had come. He seemed nice enough, she thought. Shame. Nice people have an awful habit of dying around here.
I watched as Lyna walked further and further away from me, until the sound of her footfalls was a memory and I was all alone again. I suddenly wished that I'd asked her about her life, that I'd told her about mine, that the last good person I'd probably ever meet could say more about me than that I'd said hi and then died. I wanted a longer conversation, an infinite moment, a never-ending human experience. I remembered what she'd said about delaying death, and I realized that no matter what I said, I wanted that.
It would be easy to walk away.
I looked back at the sarcophagus. Remembered Tadris.
No, it wouldn't be. Not really.
Tendrils of stone reached out from the ground, jamming their heads underneath the lid of the box, and just like before, they pried it off.