Elder Leum gazed up at the branches hanging over her. Sunlight filtered in through the leaves, forming scattered patches of brightness on the shaded floor of the forest clearing. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. After a few seconds, she shook her head.
There was movement at the far side of the clearing. A group of seven people emerged from the trees: six of them wore thin armor decorated with feathers and emeralds, signifying them as soldiers of this land, but in their midst was an unfamiliar face. This stranger wore a brown travelling cloak, beneath which could be seen a crimson tunic; she carried a sword wrapped in cloth on her back, connected to the strap used to keep her cloak tight, with its plain iron hilt and crystal pommel all that were visible. She had long black hair, and her skin was a few shades darker than that of her escorts. Her expression was solemn and unreadable.
The calm face of a priestess, Leum guessed. Although, why a priestess would be carrying a sword, she couldn’t imagine.
The soldiers halted before Leum and parted so that she could look directly upon the stranger. At once, the stranger bowed.
“Elder, we apologize for disturbing you,” one of the soldiers said, “but this intruder was found on our shores and refuses to explain herself. She has said she will only speak with the elder.”
Leum nodded. “I see…you are from Tahu’s land, are you not? Few venture across the Void Sea to visit us. Is there something you want?”
Still bowing, the stranger answered, “My desire is to be of help. I am indeed from the land of fire, and I have been told that the Great Spirit of Air is in danger.”
The soldiers were visibly agitated by this. Leum was simply surprised, saying, “Oh. Strange—we didn’t know that any outsiders knew of Lewa’s plight. Who was it that told you?”
The stranger answered without hesitation: “I was told by the Great Spirit of Earth.”
Leum tapped her fingers against her walking staff for a moment. “You came from Tahu’s land, but it was Onua who sent you,” she mumbled. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. Are you a pilgrim?”
The stranger shook her head. “I was born in the land of fire and have lived there my entire life, up until this point. This may sound strange, elder, so forgive me…however, I think you will understand if I am allowed to present my sword.”
Leum didn’t understand, but she nodded anyway. “Very well.”
Getting back on her feet, the stranger grabbed her weapon’s hilt and removed it from the strap. The soldiers around her set their hands on their own weapons, ready in case she made any threatening moves. She moved very slowly, bringing the sword forward and unravelling the cloth that obscured it. As the wrapping fell away, glimmering metal caught the sunlight. The blade was golden from base to tip, and shaped in a peculiar way so that it resembled a tongue of flame. Leum’s eyes widened. Winding up the last of the cloth, the stranger held the sword horizontally in both hands and knelt, holding the blade out and lowering her head once more.
Leum stood. She stepped forward and reached out tentatively, brushing her fingers against the flat of the blade and tracing the flame pattern. “I never thought I’d see it,” she whispered. “…What is your name?”
“My name is Tahra, elder.”
Leum withdrew her hand and looked at the soldiers. “Don’t worry, she’s not our enemy. This is the Sword of Akamai.”
The soldiers gasped. They quickly backed away from Tahra, bowing respectfully to her. Tahra lowered the sword, saying, “Thank you.”
Leum returned to the large tree behind her, sitting at its base once again. “It seems our land isn’t the only one in trouble. If the Great Spirits unsealed one of the Kaita Relics, then I can only imagine how far the trouble reaches…”
“The Great Spirits of Fire, Stone, and Earth have tasked me with expunging this world’s evil. While I was told to begin by assisting the Great Spirit of Air, I was not informed of the specific nature of the situation. Please, if you can, tell me what has transpired.”
Leum looked at the ground. “It would be a lie to say it won’t pain me…so listen well, for I will not relate it twice.”
Tahra sat down and began to wrap the sword again, though her eyes were focused on Leum.
“We first noticed about four months ago,” the elder began. “Lewa is a kind spirit—many people have connected their hearts with his and gained power over the wind. But one day, that power started to fade, and it faded more and more until now…”
Leum raised one arm and made a small sweeping gesture with her palm. Tahra recognized it as a motion meant to summon wind, but the air in the clearing remained entirely still.
“Hahaha,” Leum laughed. “Even I, elder of this land, have lost my connection to Lewa. At first we thought we had upset him, so we went to his temple deep in the jungle to apologize. When we arrived…we found that the temple had been overrun by vines. These weren’t natural vines—they looked sickly and rotting, yet were still strong, and had spread over every inch of the temple walls. We tried to clear away what we could. Our efforts were futile, and as we worked, we soon felt an evil presence amassing nearby, and the interior of the temple suddenly became shrouded in darkness. One brave soldier went inside to find out what this presence was. He didn’t come back.”
Leum looked Tahra in the eye. “Unfortunately, Tahra, I can’t give you many specifics about this situation. All I know is that something foul has taken root in Lewa’s temple, and he is losing power as a result of it. Needless to say, anything capable of draining the power of a Great Spirit is not to be taken lightly.”
“I understand,” Tahra said. She pulled on the cloth around the sword to tighten it. “Thank you, elder. I shall make my way to the temple and do everything in my power to purify it. That should allow the Great Spirit of Air to regain his lost strength.”
“We will be forever grateful. I’ll have my best soldiers escort you there.”
“With all due respect, elder, I insist that I be sent alone. The Sword of Akamai contains terrible power. To cleanse the temple, I may have to unleash it all upon whatever lies within. I would not be able to bear the consequences should one of your people be injured in the battle.”
“…Alright,” Leum said. “Then all I can do is wish you luck, Tahra. I entrust Lewa’s fate to your hands.”
Tahra gazed up at the temple. At least a hundred stone steps lead up to the audience chamber, which consisted of four simple walls joining together four trees at the chamber’s corners, not a single opening in them save for the door at its front. Faint green light could be seen rising from the open roof at odd intervals, floating skyward slowly as if it were straining itself. As Leum had said, rotting vines could be seen snaking over the walls and extending down the staircase. Tahra ran her hand over one of the tendrils—its surface was smooth, and it felt firmer that it looked.
I don’t have long.
Quickly, she unwrapped her weapon, leaving the cloth and the strap she had secured it with draped on a nearby tree branch. She then paused to remove her sandals. In a burst of speed, she ascended the stairs, bounding up three at a time. She stopped at the temple doorway—only darkness could be seen inside, save for the faint green flashes accompanying the rising light.
Tahra knelt. “Lewa, Great Spirit of Air, I beg your forgiveness. I am an outsider without an escort, and I come into your temple with sword drawn to do battle. Judge me as you will.”
She stood up, readying the sword in her hand, and stepped inside. The chamber’s vastness could be felt even in the darkness, and the vines could be heard rustling along its floor and walls. Tahra stepped carefully over them and made for the center, where the green light was occasionally spurting up from. The brief flashes showed a carving on the floor: a face of some kind, or perhaps a mask. She stood next to the carving and waited.
After waiting a few seconds in silence, she heard a voice.
“Khyeeeeheheheheh,” it laughed. “What’s this, this, a human, is this, what human, human? Another one, yes, another come to die. Khyeeeeheheh…”
A pinpoint of red light appeared in the darkness. A scraping sound could be heard, and then it lurched forward. The sound again, and then it lurched to the left, and then continued to jump haltingly in that direction. The brief flashes of green were not enough to shed light on whatever this shambling creature might be, but Tahra held firm.
“Are you the evil that has desecrated this temple?” she asked, her voice strong and clear.
“Khyeeeeheheheh,” it laughed, its voice hushed like a coarse whisper. “Desecrate, I desecrate, this temple, yes, I do, desecrate. Lewa, what a weak fool, Lewa, unable to stop me, Lewa, and now his strength is gone, Lewa, weak. Die, even a spirit can die, khyeeeheheha!”
“If Lewa cannot stop you, then I shall condemn your blasphemy in his stead,” Tahra said. She grabbed the sword in both hands. “Tell me your name, creature.”
“Khyeeeeheheheheheheh. Name? Name me? My name? My name…when was the last time I told someone my name? Someone. Can’t you hear it, no, you can’t, can’t hear. They’re saying it, they are, in the rustling, rustle, rustle and tell my name, rustle, rustle, rustle. What? No, she can’t, not you, oh no, can’t, you. Fine, it’s fine, I’ll tell her, tell my name, fine…”
The light lurched once more, and then sat eerily still.
Tahra nodded. “Morbuzakh. I am Tahra, chosen by the Great Spirits to restore this world, and it is for that end that I will destroy you.”
After a moment, the light started to slowly rise. A horrible sound, like the twisting and breaking of limbs, could be heard growing louder as it did so.
“Destroy, Tahra, destroy me, for spirits, the spirits, spirits sending Tahra, Morbuzakh to die…die…not I…khyeeeehehehehHEHEHEHEHEHEAHAH!!”
The light lunged towards Tahra. She raised her weapon high, stared directly at her foe, and shouted, “Spirits of Valor, I Will You to Blaze!”
A golden aura burst forth from the Sword of Akamai. The creature was sent reeling, its attack stopped before it even made contact with Tahra, and plates of metal materialized in orbit around the girl. One by one they flew onto her body, forming a layer of strong armor. The plates on her forearms, chest, knees, and the front of her feet were gold, while red armor adorned her heels, legs, and torso. Her cloak billowed, revealing a gold mask taking shape on her left shoulder.
As the aura dissipated, Tahra lowered the sword. Her eyes glowed briefly. The darkness within the chamber thinned, and as light came back in through the roof, she was able to take a good look at Morbuzakh.
It was revolting. The body of the creature was an extension of one of the vines, thickening and contorting into knots that formed what vaguely resembled a torso at the end of the snake-like trail. It had the same color as the vines themselves: a sickening blackish green, broken up only by sharp fragments of brown wood jutting out at random all over Morbuzakh. On the left side of its “torso” was one long, massive arm of knotted vines that bore seven fingers ending in claws made of charred wood—on its right, two more arms, one above the other, both smaller than the left arm and the lower one smaller still, with the top hand bearing only three fingers and the lower bearing five. Atop it all sat a wooden replica of a human skull. The skull was about half as large as Tahra’s whole body, and the area to its upper left (including the eye socket) was missing, revealing a perpetually writhing mass of vines on the inside. The right eye socket remained unharmed, and in it shone that one burning red light.
Morbuzakh’s jaw opened. More vines could be seen writhing, and they rubbed and twisted together to produce a rustling whisper that soon became a voice.
“Khyeeeeheheheheh. Armor, what armor, oh well, well, not well, see, see me, now see, see…see…do I frighten, I, do I, I frighten, are you frightened, you, you are?”
Tahra felt sick. Swallowing hard, she responded, “You are indeed a horrendous creature. But in taking this sword, I have taken up the path of the warrior…and I shall not flee from anything I find on that path, no matter how repulsive.”
Morbuzakh lowered its body to the temple floor, resting on its two right arms. It reached out with its left arm, dug into the floor, and then pushed with both right arms, lifting its body up as it pulled itself forward. When it landed, it opened its jaw again.
“Khyeeeeheheh, so brave, a fool, fool brave, path of war, war. All for spirits, the spirits…they care not, no, care? Not for you, send you, yes, to death, death here, the spirits. Khyeeeeheheheheheheheh.”
Morbuzakh’s body twisted, producing the same cracking sound as before, lifting itself high into the air to tower over Tahra. The creature raised its left arm and swung. Tahra gripped the Sword of Akamai, its pommel suddenly flaring with red light, and swung it in an upward arc. A wave of fire flew out from the blade, cleaving Morbuzakh’s arm in two and making it shriek in pain. The light on the sword’s pommel continued to burn, forming a flame-like shape as it wisped off into the air; Tahra put an open palm forward and shouted, sending a fireball from her hand that collided with Morbuzakh.
The creature’s cries were as repulsive as its body. Tahra advanced upon it, but it suddenly flailed about, and one of the halves of its damaged arm knocked into her and sent her tumbling. She rolled to her feet and prepared to use another fire attack, but Morbuzakh threw itself in her direction. Pulling back her arm, Tahra shifted her body so that her left shoulder was facing the monster. The mask adorning it glimmered, and in seconds a barrier of transparent energy formed in front of her. Morbuzakh crashed into the barrier. Tahra felt her concentration shake when the impact was made, but she did not lose focus, so the shield held strong.
Now’s my chance!
Morbuzakh slumped against the barrier, likely stunned. Taking aim at the writhing vines inside its skull, Tahra lowered the barrier and raised her hand again. As fire built up around it, however, Morbuzakh began to slide away. Or, rather, it appeared as if the creature was being dragged away. Its body was pulled across the ground at a remarkable speed back towards the vine it was growing out of, and Tahra watched as Morbuzakh was pulled back into the vine and disappeared.
Cautiously, she took a few steps towards the vine. It didn’t move.
…Still, if the creature is in there, then I should be able to—
She was cut off as Morbuzakh reappeared, its body shooting out of a different vine and slamming into Tahra. The blow sent Tahra flying out of its reach, so when it tried to sink the claws of its regenerated left arm into her, it grasped only empty air.
“KhyeeeeheheheheheHYAH!” Morbuzakh laughed. “My body, these vines, vines are mine, my body, any vine, all vines, yes, my body, khyeeeehehehyahahyeh!”
Tahra was a bit dazed, though she could still see Morbuzakh’s body being pulled back into the vine again. Assuming she understood, this creature could form from any of the vines in the temple, meaning that an attack could come from any direction with little to no warning.
I must stay vigilant.
She gripped the sword and waited. A vine on the far wall rustled, and moments later, Morbuzakh emerged from it and shot out at her.
The light coming from the sword’s pommel turned black. Tahra waved one hand, then clenched it into a fist, and finally threw a punch. A cylinder of earth erupted from her fist and shot out at Morbuzakh, stopping the creature dead in its tracks. However, it then grabbed the cylinder with all three hands and drove its skull into its surface. Vines could be seen moving through the soil, and Tahra jumped away just as Morbuzakh’s skull re-emerged right in front of her.
Tahra slashed Morbuzakh’s eye before the creature moved. It howled in pain and thrashed against the wall, making the earth around it crumble apart. The sword produced more red light as Tahra ran after Morbuzakh, but it pulled its body back into the vines before she could attack.
Drat. Earth will not be of much use here. Think…if every vine is a potential point of emergence, then removing the vines would make anticipating its moves more probable. Perhaps if I use power over Stone, the walls can…
She shook her head.
What am I thinking! The walls and floor of this temple are sacred—manipulating them would be blasphemy! No, better to use Fire instead.
Tahra approached a vine and prepared to cut it off. As she raised the sword, however, Morbuzakh emerged from that very same vine, grabbing her as it rocketed towards the wall and smashing her up against it. The creature laughed in her face, and then turned and threw her into the floor of the temple.
“Khyeeeeheheheh, slow, so very slow, slow, so...”
Pain. That was all Tahra could feel. Fighting against it, she started to get back up.
“Khyeeee…alive, still, but why, alive, still alive…why? But why?”
Tahra blinked—her vision was a little blurry for a moment, but it corrected. She watched Morbuzakh carefully without giving an answer.
“Khyeeee…armor, the armor, that armor, armor of spirits, yes, the spirits, yes, alive by armor, alive, yes. Then more, more, I fight more, fight, pain, more pain, more, until death, until, you die…you shall die…khyeeeeheheheheheh…”
Morbuzakh withdrew once more. As it did so, Tahra said, “Great Spirit of Stone, I invoke your speed!”
The mask on her shoulder changed shape at this command, and it then started to glow. Tahra dashed out at superhuman speed, cleaving through one vine, then another, then another, then another. She sliced a dozen vines in the span of about ten seconds, at which point Morbuzakh re-emerged and tried to grab her again. Despite her speed, she was still able to see him coming—she sidestepped and jumped at the side of Morbuzakh’s torso, wreathing the sword in flames as she plunged it in.
Morbuzakh cried out. This shriek was worse than all the others, and Tahra could almost feel her head splitting open. She stumbled, drawing the sword out, and tried to retreat, but she did not get far. The scream prevented her from concentrating, so she could not use the mask’s speed.
Furious, Morbuzakh swung itself around, flattening Tahra. It then grabbed her with both right arms, its claws piercing her armor and digging into her skin. She yelled as Morbuzakh brought her up to its face.
It squeezed. As the pressure built up around Tahra, she tried to think. She couldn’t move enough to swing the sword. She couldn’t focus enough to use a mask. Maybe she could use an Element, but there would be no way to aim with her arms pinned to her sides.
Or…maybe there was.
Tahra glared into the maw of the evil creature and gathered her willpower. Then she shouted, sending flames gushing from her mouth and directly onto Morbuzakh’s face. The creature recoiled, but Tahra was still close thanks to how short the arms holding her were. Its grip was loosened just enough that she could take a deep breath.
“Great Spirit of Earth, I invoke your strength!”
The mask on her shoulder changed to a new shape as she felt raw power rush into her muscles. Wrenching one arm free, she punched through Morbuzakh’s skull, the wood splintering apart with little resistance, and grabbed onto the writhing vines within. The sensation in her hand was deeply unsettling. Before the vines could slip free, Tahra closed her eyes and yelled, “FOR LEWA!!”
Flames erupted from her hand, setting fire to the vines inside of Morbuzakh. Morbuzakh screeched and flailed, letting go of Tahra in the process—she fell to the floor and grimaced, then looked up at the creature. As the flames consumed its skull, Morbuzakh tackled the wall and clawed at its face in a vain attempt to put them out. Tahra grabbed the Sword of Akamai and moved in, enhancing her swing with the power of the mask to sever Morbuzakh’s torso from the tail connecting it to the vine.
Tahra watched as Morbuzakh’s spasms slowed and its cries grew weaker. Eventually it fell still and silent, and the flames engulfed it entirely. She shivered. Even if it was a thing of evil, it had still been alive…and now it was dead because of what she had done.
“…For Lewa,” she repeated in a whisper.
At last the fire died out, and all that remained of Morbuzakh was a pile of ash. Tahra turned to look at the light rising from the carving: it looked stronger now, and the intervals at which it appeared seemed more frequent, if still random.
The worst is over.
Tahra walked up to the nearest vine and started cutting. She decided not to use any of her powers to help in this—she was feeling drained after the battle and could use some time to cool down. The vines were cut down and thrown out of the temple, and soon the light formed a continuous pillar, which grew more and more vibrant the more she worked.
After a time, she heard a noise. The trees in the corners of the room opened up, and out of each walked an identical creature, all insect-like and bearing green armor. Tahra readied the Sword of Akamai, but then she heard a laugh.
“Do not worry-fear, champion. The Bohrok are gentle-friends.”
Tahra turned to the pillar. A figure was forming in it, a tall being with green armor carrying an axe, his face covered by a mask identical to the carving beneath him. Tahra immediately dropped her weapon and bowed.
“Great Spirit of Air,” she said. “I am unworthy to be in your presence.”
Lewa laughed again. “I don’t know-think there was ever anyone more worthy. Stand up—the Bohrok will finish repair-fixing this place, and I must have a speak-word with you.”
Tahra stood, picking the sword up in the process. She now felt a little guilty about dropping it. The four Bohrok moved around her, ripping out vines and carrying them outside, and Lewa looked at her and sighed.
“I was dark-worried there. Another day of Morbuzakh steal-draining my energy, and I would have died for right-sure. Thank you, Tahra, for help-saving me.”
“I only did as the Great Spirit of Earth requested.”
“Ah, yes, Onua. I’ll quick-thank him too, but he’s not the one who came here and slay-fought a Rahi.”
Tahra frowned. “Rahi.” She had heard the word before, but she could not recall what it meant.
“That’s what Morbuzakh was,” Lewa explained. “Rahi is a name-word we spirits have used since ever-long ago. Its meaning is plain-simple: ‘Not Us’. But, to be more right-specific, we use it to refer to things which can only be curse-called abominations.”
Now Tahra remembered. “Yes, of course! They were mentioned in the Archives! Not many details were recorded, however…”
Lewa nodded. “When we gave humans our thought-knowledge, we did not give-share much about the Rahi for two reasons. The first is that we dear-hoped you would never have to deal with their threat. And the second is that we do not fully understand-know them ourselves.”
He crossed his arms. “A Rahi is…something else. Something that form-exists outside of nature. Plenty of evil spirits exist, but they are sure-still a part of nature—the natural world has deep-darkness and destruction, so they still have a place-role. But a Rahi does not have a place. I think-suppose you could say it is something that is also nothing, for world-nature rejects their very existence.”
“…Forgive me, Great Spirit, but I do not understand. If a Rahi’s existence is rejected by nature, then how can it exist in the first place?”
“I do not true-know either. Rahi should not be…but they are. Though they are small-few in number, and most do not possess much force-power, they seek to destroy the natural realm-world which rejects them, to usher-bring an age of chaos and nothingness in which the rule-laws of reality hold no meaning. We spirits have been able to quick-slay those that appeared in the past, but now, things are move-changing.”
Looking to the pile of ashes, Lewa continued, “Morbuzakh was by ever-far the most powerful Rahi I have seen. I suppose I underestimated it, so my block-guard was down. But even if I had been right-prepared, it might still have been able to stop-best me. What’s worse, we have sensed the existence of more ever-strong Rahi appearing in the world. I’m not the only spirit in life-danger.”
Tahra looked down at the Sword of Akamai. “I think I understand. The Kaita Relics are so powerful because they contain the pooled energy of three of the Great Spirits, and if one could learn to properly control that power, they would have a much better chance at stopping these powerful Rahi. That must be why the Sword of Akamai was unsealed.”
“And why you were pick-chosen,” Lewa said.
Tahra looked down. “…I mean no disrespect, Great Spirit…but I do not know that I am qualified for this task. I am a priestess, not a warrior. How can I hope to control the combined might of three Great Spirits?”
Lewa paused a moment. “You already have.”
He waved his hand. A wind blew through the temple, carrying the ashes of Morbuzakh out into the jungle.
“Your dedication to the spirits is what makes you right-perfect for this task, Tahra. You have true-great appreciation for our power, so I believe you can learn to hold-wield it. Come closer.”
Tahra did as she was asked. Lewa reached out and touched her left shoulder, causing the mask there to change into a shape identical to his own.
“The majority of my powers are still store-sealed in the Shield of Wairuha,” he said, “but I can at least give-grant you this. May it help you in your job-quest.”
Bowing again, Tahra said, “Thank you, Great Spirit. I shall do all that I can to fulfill your wishes.”
With that, she was sent on her way. As Tahra exited the temple, she paused to breathe deeply. Her armor vanished, and she gazed out over the jungle.
I know not if I can become strong…but the Great Spirits have given me a mission. No matter the cost, I will not fail to accomplish it.
She started down the stone staircase. The Bohrok continued clearing vines behind her, and as a wind blew over the trees, she tightened her grip on the Sword of Akamai, its golden blade shining bright in the sun.
Edited by Noise #0579, Jul 24 2014 - 08:43 PM.