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A Play of Light

Chrysalis Saga

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#1 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
  • Premier Member
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  • Former Senior Staff

  • 29-July 03
  • 14,314 posts
  •   Retired Staff

Posted Dec 01 2014 - 08:42 PM

APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

 

A new story by Takuta-Nui

 

 
 
Chapter 1
 
Vyroko woke up in the sand and saw the sea being laid down upon the land like a blanket.
 
He stared as the vast sheet of water hung in the sky like a cloth. Sections here and there dropped down with tremendous splashes. In seconds the entire sea had returned to its place.
 
The sea was still rocking as it settled, and a wave reared up toward the beach Vyroko was laying on. He jumped up and backed away. He thought he saw a shape in the water, but had to shield his face as he got sprayed by the impact.
 
There was a shape - it hit the sand and bounced out of the water onto the drier part of the beach. It was a humanoid being like him, but seemed to be covered in a complex full-body armour coloured light and dark blue. It came to an unceremonious rest in the sand.
 
“That was strange,” she blurted, sitting up.
 
Vyroko ran over. “Are you all right?”
 
“Yes, I think so.”
 
She was standing up already. Her eyes were wide and fixed on the sea. She hadn’t looked at him yet. Vyroko looked between the her and the still-settling ocean.
 
“Did you do that?” he asked. That made her look at him.
 
“Of course not! Where are we, anyway?”
 
She turned around and looked at the jungle that Vyroko hadn’t even noticed until now. They were standing on a wide beach bordered by water on one side and a wall of jungle-like foliage on the other.
 
That was, foliage that was still being restored along with the sea.
 
The leafy bushes and trees weren’t falling from the sky like the ocean had, but as Vyroko watched, the uniformly grey jungle faded into brilliant tropical colour. Dark greens became apparent first, and then the lighter green of grasses. Then the flowers showed themselves, having always been open but somehow robbed of their colour.
 
Vyroko realized that the sand had also been a bland grey and just now had regained the speckled pattern of many browns and gold-yellows.
 
Or perhaps the colour wasn’t being returned. Perhaps it was being added to the world for the first time.
 
Within moments, the jungle was truly a jungle again.
 
“What is going on here?” the blue one wondered. She looked back to him and blinked. “Sorry. My name is Nela.”
 
“Vyroko,” he greeted.
 
They looked around for a moment. It looked like an island they were on.
 
Without speaking, they started walking down the beach.
 

***

 

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
 
Nehara raced madly through the forest.
 
An angry buzz filled the air. Drilled into her skull. It was like the trees themselves were humming. Deep, full, dangerous.
 
She ran full speed past leafy branches. Leapt over small bushes. So fast that the fallen leaves ahead of her seemed to fly to the sides.
 
Nehara didn’t care how much it hurt to be running this fast for so long. It was better than being caught.
 
She hurtled through a particularly thick grove. Branches snapped painfully against her protective arms. She was broad-shouldered with thick black armour, so she could handle it. Her lithe legs gave her balance while her torso let her barrel through minor obstacles.
 
One odd thing she had noticed already. This forest was somehow completely new. There were no scars or splits in the trees she saw. No fallen twigs. The leaves on the ground were still completely green and crisp.
 
As if the forest had sprung up yesterday. Maybe even today.
 
BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
 
She didn’t remember how she got here. All she knew was that she woke up on the immaculate forest floor, heard that unmistakable buzzing, and started running.
 
The trees thinned out. She kept running. More light coming from ahead and above.
 
Going so fast that she burst out of the forest and almost ran straight into the sea. But water wouldn’t have worked against them. They could swim. Horrid little adaptive things.
 
Instead, Nehara turned a sharp right. Felt her ankle shudder. It would hurt later.
 
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
 
Kept running along the beach. Sand was slowing her down. Moved sideways into the wetter sand. It was flatter, more packed down. Started going a bit faster.
 
They weren’t giving up even after leaving their home. Perhaps this entire place - was it an island? - was their home.
 
Nehara just kept running. Hoping for something to show itself, something she could use to defend or attack with.
 
Beach curved. Forest on her right morphed into jungle. Very abrupt transition. Another odd thing about this place.
 
Running. It hurt so much now. Burning lungs. Protesting legs. Screaming ankle. Even her arms and neck were hurting now.
 
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
 
They were catching up.
 
Red and blue.
 
Full-body armour that seemed to be fitted so perfectly that it was part of their bodies, just like Nehara. But they were smaller, slimmer, still powerful-looking.
 
Toa.
 
Nehara was almost past them already. They had been walking her way and barely had time to react to her sudden appearance from around the tight curve of the beach.
 
Red!
 
“FIRE!” She screamed at him as she charged past. He flinched. Instinctively raised his hand, stopped for a split second in sheer confusion, then pointed his palm past her.
 
Whoosh.
 
The air rippled. Nehara felt a blast of heat sweep across her back. She didn’t dare stop running completely, but she looked behind.
 
A cloud of fire bloomed across the beach, throwing both Toa into silhouette. The blue Toa half-crouched and backed away.
 
In the fiery cloud, thousands of little black dots.
 
The dots dissolved in the midair blaze. In seconds they were all gone. The buzzing stopped.
 
The proven Toa of Fire let his hand fall to his side. Air cooled.
 
Nehara collapsed into the shallows. Cool water. Sea wind. A luxury experience after that ordeal.
 
“Are you all right?”
 
Female voice. Probably the blue Toa. Nehara didn’t raise her head or open her eyes. Just kept her neck angled enough to breathe and speak above the water.
 
“Yes.”
 
A pause.
 
“Nehara.”
 
“I’m Nela. And my friend who saved you is Vyroko.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
“What were those things?”
 
“Wasps.”
 
“Oh.”
 
Nehara could tell from her voice that Nela understood immediately.
 
Nehara had woken to that buzzing, which had unlocked a certain knowledge right away.
 
She was a Vortixx, a species of strength and endurance with few weaknesses. The buzzing was not the weakness - it was what the buzzing portended.
 
Vortixx had a deathly fear of stingers. The long thin tendrils that hung from the back of the Vortixx’s head were sensitive to the point that any kind of impact could be exceedingly painful. Stings, even just a few, would be agony.
 
That was why Vortixx often decorated their tendrils with rings of metal as protection. It also served to transform them into distinctive headdresses, but Nehara had woken with only her bare tendrils.
 
That, and a swarm of Bibaka wasps? Nehara thought it was a wonder her instincts hadn’t driven her to drown herself when she found the sea.
 
The Vortixx laid in the shallows for a few more moments before sitting up.
 
The Toa of Water gasped. “Oh dear.”
 
“What?” Nehara looked around her, and saw it immediately. A piece of her armour was hanging loose at an alarming angle from the middle of her chest. How had it broken like that?
 
She fingered it gingerly. No pain. It swung slightly at her touch as if it was attached to her chest with a hinge.
 
Something didn’t feel right. This didn’t feel like an injury.
 
The shape was very clean-cut. Looked designed that way. She touched it again, and swung it back toward her chest. It joined with the rest of her armour and was gone. Not even a line around the edges.
 
“That’s interesting,” she heard the Toa of Fire say.
 
Intrigued, Nehara touched the left side of her chest, where the piece had been. Nothing.
 
Paused. Tried again, this time with two fingers. Tapped.
 
The square plate swung open again, just as suddenly there as it was not a moment ago.
 
Nela crouched down in front of Nehara and pointed. “There’s a little space inside, a hollow.”
 
“I don’t have one,” Vyroko said.
 
Nela checked herself. “Neither do I. Looks like it’s just you, Nehara.”
 
Nehara felt uncomfortable and closed her chest plate again and looked around the beach.
 
“Is this an island?” Nehara asked them.
 
“We think so,” Nela replied, closing up her chest. “I can faintly sense the shape of the water around this land. It seems to be an island, but I can’t quite feel the other side. Perhaps a large peninsula.”
 
“Did you see anything... unusual about this place?” Vyroko asked Nehara.
 
“Besides myself?”
 
Vyroko tilted his head uncertainly.
 
Nehara went on. “I just woke up here. I don’t know where I am. I don’t belong here. Do you--?”
 
She stopped abruptly and bolted upright, jumping away from her spot. The Toa flinched.
 
It wasn’t a wasp. But it had felt like a sting.
 
A sting in her mind.
 
“Are you all right?” Nela asked again.
 
Nehara snapped her head toward her. “Yes!”
 
Nela looked hurt at the sharp tone, but Nehara was too interested in what had just happened to immediately apologize. A sting in the mind?
 
She knelt again and looked carefully at the submerged sand where she had been laying.
 
Something glinted. Metal.
 
Nehara reached out and gingerly brushed away more sand. Definitely an object.
 
“Looks like you found something,” Vyroko remarked.
 
Nehara touched it again. Sting in the mind. This time, she was expecting it so she didn’t jump. But it was still a deeply startling sensation.
 
And she noticed something else when it happened. Something in her vision changed, like a brief flash of black, as if she had been looking at a bright light and it had burned a spot in her eyes just for a second.
 
She scooped it out of the sand.
 
It was disappointing. A shard of black metal smaller than her hand. No features, no markings.
 
Nehara tilted her head. Looked back at Vyroko.
 
“What did you ask me?”
 
“Uh... whether you had noticed anything unusual about this place.”
 
Nehara stared at him intently. “By asking that, do you mean you’ve already seen something?”
 
Vyroko and Nela looked at each other, then nodded at her. They described how they had woken up - Vyroko in the sand, Nela in the ocean - and what they had seen. The sea falling back to the land, the forest’s colour sweeping back into existence.
 
“Very unusual,” Nehara said quietly. She looked back at the metal shard in her hand. Rubbed a finger along the sharp edges. It was the same shade of black as her own armour, but shinier.
 
The strange sensation was still in her head, but more muted. Her mind had become accustomed to it already, but she didn’t even know what it was.
 
It felt like… communication. Something talking to her in a gracious but alien language.
 
Despite the strangeness that entered her mind, Nehara smiled. Something made sense here, finally. Out of that sensation she had gleaned a small meaning. An intent.
 
She tapped her chest and opened it again. Then, with one more glance at the black shard to remember what it looked like, she placed it inside. It was odd, feeling a new weight inside her body. But then she closed it and the mind-sting stopped.
 
The black shard belonged in her chest chamber.
 
Looking up, she realized the two Toa were staring at her, mystified.
 
What could she say?
 
Looked over their heads. “Did you notice the mountain yet?”
 
They blinked for a moment before turning around. Rising above the jungle was a rocky crag. The slope meandered up toward a peak, making it look easy to climb. Much of the mountain was shrouded in thin fog.
 
“That wasn’t there before...” Nela said uncertainly.
 
“We were pretty focused on the beach,” Vyroko added. “But at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a mountain did spring up just now.”
 
“So where should we go next? There might be others on this island,” Nehara said.
 
Nela looked uneasy. “Maybe. But look at it this way... so far, we’ve been lucky to meet friends and not foes.”
 
That brought some silence to the three. They didn’t look at each other, but everyone knew they were realizing the fact that they really didn’t know each other. Names were as far as they’d gotten.
 
Nehara knew that Vyroko might have saved her from the Bibaka wasps only so he could learn more from her and eventually use her, if he was the bad guy.
 
She also knew that the Toa would be wondering if the Bibaka wasps had been a cover, to gain their trust. What better way than to appear in trouble and be saved?
 
Perhaps Nela had fabricated the falling sea and carried herself through it, so it would look to Vyroko like she had also been helpless.
 
All conjecture. Nehara shook her head. Nothing was certain yet.
 
“We can keep an eye on the mountain,” she said. “Let’s keep walking the way I came from. See if we can figure out whether this is really an island. And maybe find out how we got here.”
 
Both Toa nodded in agreement and they started walking further along the beach.
 

 



***

 

On the other side of the island, Jehui considered what he had just seen. He looked away and out across the still-turbulent sea.
 
Then he looked back in the direction where the two Toa and one Vortixx were. Raised one hand to his other. With two fingers, grasped a ring on his left hand’s pointing finger. Twisted.
 
His mask glowed faintly - he could tell because his eyeholes glowed.
 
His vision stretched. Sped over a green canopy. Coasted upward, swerving past the mountain that had just appeared. Dipped back down with the incline of the island. Arrived at the other side. Altogether, two hours of journey covered in seconds.
 
The three strangers were still walking in a line along the beach.
 
Jehui wasn’t fully accustomed to this power, but there was no harm in experimenting. There was no way they could know he was watching.
 
Shifted his vision to the side, so that it looked like they were walking toward him.
 
Zoomed in a little. Managed to stop just before going past the Toa of Water.
 
The Toa of Water had light and dark blue armour. Jehui knew he looked the same way, except that he was half the height of the Toa and had grey and silver armour.
 
What they held in common was how curiously perfect their armour was. No skin was exposed. To him, it felt like he was the armour.
 
Setting aside those bizarre thoughts, he studied the Toa. Her armour was more warrior-like than his with cobalt overlays on her arms, chest, and legs. She wore a mask that Jehui instinctively recognized as a Mask of Possibilities - blue with thick silver ‘eyebrows’ above her eyeholes and  a silver diamond-like outline on her forehead.
 
He studied the Toa’s eyes. They were steady but very alert, almost scared. Jehui didn’t blame her. He had been scared too when he woke up right next to the edge of the cliff. Nothing but watery noise as the sea crashed down, and then he had rolled away only to see a grey jungle being coloured in.
 
This was a strange island they were on. And from the look of the Toa’s eyes, she didn’t know much more than he did.
 
The first time he had watched them - accidentally discovering his mask’s power of sight by turning the ring he found on his finger and racing across the island before he brought it under control - he hadn’t gotten close enough to see their expressions. Only witnessed Nehara bursting out of the forest, the burning of the wasp swarm, and the resulting conversation that had gone silently before his eyes. Jehui couldn’t read lips.
 
Now that he was more used to his mask power, he delicately shifted his vision to the left to look at the Toa of Fire.
 
This one was clearly characteristic of his element - focused, almost angry. But clearly calm.
 
The Toa’s armour had some dark orange, with thick overlays similar to the Toa of Water’s on his arms, legs, and chest. Jehui mentally flinched. This one’s primary colour was red, but not any red.
 
Piercingly blood red.
 
He didn’t know why he knew, but no Toa would ever wear such a colour. It was more becoming of a Makuta.
 
Jehui didn’t know what a Makuta was either. These were instinctive thoughts rising out of his still-waking mind.
 
For the first time, Jehui really realized something. He, and these other three, had awoken on this island with no memory of who they were besides their names. No history, no experienced knowledge. Just these facts that seemed as self-evident as the grey colour of the sky.
 
He stopped mid-thought.
 
Looked up.
 
Everything had colour except the sky. Jehui didn’t understand why, but he sensed this was very wrong. It wasn’t cloud cover - the sky was literally featureless except for the sun.
 
This mental distraction lasted too long for his mask power to continue, and he felt his intangible spirit be pulled back into his body like a rubber band snapping.
 
Jehui fell to the ground. Looked up again.
 
A new sensation crept up on him… like he was being watched.
 
Where could he hide from those invisible eyes?
 
The forest. Jehui hesitated, but the feeling of being tiny underneath an immense grey gaze pushed him forth into the greenery.






Review


Edited by Takuta-Nui, Feb 13 2015 - 03:32 PM.

  • 2


APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#2 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
  • Premier Member
  • Premier Retired Staff
  • Former Senior Staff

  • 29-July 03
  • 14,314 posts
  •   Retired Staff

Posted Dec 08 2014 - 01:44 PM

Chapter 2

 

A Toa of Fire, a Toa of Water, and a Vortixx walked.

 

Nehara’s frantic footprints from her earlier escape were still imprinted in the wet sand, but slowly being washed away. They walked past those until they reached the spot where Nehara had left the forest. Nehara pointed that out to them.

 

When questioned, she didn’t recall seeing anything else unusual besides the impossibly new forest. They chose not to go into the forest just in case there were more Bibaka wasps. Vyroko also mentioned that his burning of the swarm had not been as elegant as it seemed. Due to the open space, he had merely unleashed an uncontrolled fireball. He feared setting the forest alight if he tried again.

 

They continued walking. Nela was mapping the shoreline in her head and trying to use her Mask of Possibilities to remember a few possible sketches at the same time. The maps kept getting blurred, so she gave up in frustration after a while.

 

“It’s all right,” Vyroko reassured her. “Either way, we’ll make it around this place and know what we’re dealing with.”

 

Nehara spoke up. “If we are on an island after all, we don’t necessarily have to map it out. We just have to start finding a way off.”

 

“To where?” Vyroko asked.

 

They all stopped.

 

Where... were they?

 

Nehara felt something. Not a sting in the mind... something much more subtle and terrible. A feeling of total loss. It wasn’t important that they didn’t know where they were...

 

They didn’t know where they should be.

 

“What is wrong with us?” Nela asked in despair. “Why do I have these memories that aren’t really memories? I know things like what sand is, what a Toa is, how to use my mask... but there’s no...”

 

“History,” Vyroko finished for her. They both looked at him. He was right.

 

Fibres for identities, Nehara thought. Just the basic threads for them to function. Nothing more.

 

Nobody said anything for a minute. Then they kept walking, each deep in thought.

 

***

 

Jehui looked up cautiously.

 

No sky visible through the thick foliage. Good.

 

The Matoran was frightened by the sky and didn't know why. As soon as he had thought of the sky for the first time since he had awoken, and looked up, he had become terrified of it.  The mental disconnect had interrupted his power, deactivating the ring on his finger and bringing his vision back to his body so suddenly it felt like a physical blow.

 

Then he had fled into the forest.

 

Even then, he had felt uneasy. The sky still peered down at him between branches and leaves. So Jehui had traveled deeper while maintaining his bearings. While he was moving, he might as well start getting closer to the other three. Find out if they were allies.

 

It was odd, he thought. It wasn't the sky itself, really - it was the colour. Grey. Somehow, this seemed terribly wrong to him.

 

The really odd thing was, he was a Matoran of Iron. The grey and silver armour on his body told him so. Plus, he felt... strong.

 

Already, he was looking after himself. Gathering information. Taking action.

 

So why was he okay with the colour grey on his body, but not on the sky?

 

It didn't make much sense to him. But he suspected he had experienced something similar to that Vortixx when she had picked up that black shard. He had been watching them before, having accidentally discovered them at the same time he accidentally discovered his mask power.

 

She had reacted as if the shard affected her. A distant look in her eyes. Like she was trying to remember something, but didn't even know that she was trying.

 

If Jehui was right, that was the same feeling he had now. The colour of the sky provoked something in him.

 

He kept moving. Curved his path through the island so he would arrive back at the coast just when the strangers were passing. And then...

 

Well. He didn't have a plan for that. Observe them in person from the cover of the forest-jungle?

 

It would take a couple hours at least. Not counting his periodical rests to send his vision ahead and check on their progress. He could figure it out as he went along.

 

***

 

The beach was giving way to flat stony rises that dropped into the sea. As they walked, the stone got higher. The sea no longer lapped against sand, but now crashed against steep rock.

 

Nela kept watching the forest. It was further back from the shoreline now, having no roots in the rocks. From here, she could see the slope of the island. It led up to that curious mountain in the middle.

 

The mountain was not very high. No ice cap. It looked difficult to climb - a steep rise until the very top where it levelled out.

 

Hadn’t it looked different before?

 

Nehara stumbled and both Toa looked, ready to help. She righted herself and then stopped again.

 

“What’s the matter?” Nela asked.

 

Nehara frowned. She wasn’t sure, but something had seemed wrong about that stumble. She knew why she almost fell - slippery rocks - but…

 

The weight of the black shard in her chest-hatch.

 

It hadn’t rattled around despite simply sitting in there.

 

She took it out again and looked at it. Then placed it back inside and left the hatch open.

 

“Nela, try to take it out.”

 

The Toa of Water obliged, but her hand stopped just before entering Nehara’s chest-hatch.

 

“I can’t. It feels like a cushion pushing back.”

 

“Can I try?” Vyroko asked. Nehara turned toward him. The result was the same - the Toa of Fire’s hand couldn’t enter her chest-hatch either.

 

“Some kind of force field,” Nehara said. “But it doesn’t affect me, and it holds the shard in place so it doesn’t rattle around.”

 

She closed the hatch with the metal shard.

 

“That means it does belong to you, then,” Nela said. “I wonder why.”

 

The three were quiet. Nehara watched the waves hit the hard shore.

 

They continued on their way.

 

 

***

 

An hour had passed. Jehui stopped for the fourth time to check on the other three.

 

Stood still, twisted the ring on his finger. Vision burst forth and raced through the forest.

 

Reached the shoreline in seconds. The sand beach had become rocky flats here. No sign of the travellers.

 

Jehui manipulated his vision to look right, in the direction they had been coming from. Coasted a bit around the curve of the island until he reached sand again.

 

Last time he had checked on them, they had already crossed onto the stony part of the island. They must have gotten ahead of him a bit. Of course - traveling on smooth stone was quicker than sand, while the Matoran was still traversing uneven terrain and going around trees and bushes.

 

He cursed at himself for not thinking of that earlier, but at the same time, he was satisfied. He had learned an important lesson without consequence. Even if they had gotten ahead of him a bit, it made no difference as long as he was able to sneak up and listen to them. Then he would know if they were allies.

 

Turned his vision back to the left, coasted onto the rocky flats again. Kept going until his vision was nearly two-thirds of the way to the cliffs he had started from.

 

No sign of the travellers.

 

Jehui’s heart skipped a beat. Where were they now?

 

Hastily reeled in his vision until he was back in his body. Looked around cautiously.

 

It was possible that they had decided to enter the forest in the past fifteen minutes since he had checked on them. That made things more difficult since he couldn’t easily locate them among the foliage. His vision power did not let him see through things - it seemed to only act as a temporary transposition of his eyes to wherever he wished to go, while his body stayed in its place.

 

His body was dead to the world during that time, but it still could be harmed.

 

A few moments passed as he decided what to do.

 

Just as he took a step forward, he heard something.

 

Buzzing.

 

Looked behind him. Saw specks of shadow hurtling at him from between the trees. Moving too fast to see clearly, but definitely the same Bibaka wasps that had chased the Vortixx. The ones Vyroko had burned must have not been the whole swarm.

 

Wasted no time. Running full speed through the forest.

 

Thought of the water. No, they swim. That was why the Vortixx had kept running along the beach.

 

Bzzzzzzzzz...

 

Fire!

 

Jehui had no idea where to get fire. He couldn’t exactly stop to rub sticks together.

 

He cursed again. He’d have to find that Toa of Fire.

 

Turned left onto the beach. He had already been running back the way he came. He was taking the gamble that they had gotten ahead of him.

 

Ran onto the wetter sand for more speed. Another trick he’d picked up from the Vortixx. But his legs were too short. The wasps had almost caught up to the Vortixx, and he was still going slower than her.

 

Nothing to be done about it.

 

“HELP! HELP!”

 

It surprisingly hurt a lot to shout at the top of one’s lungs while running. Jehui almost stumbled, but sheer fear kept him upright.

 

“HEEEE

 

BZZZZZZ

 

EEELLP!”

 

A flash of light from his left. Heat roared past Jehui.

 

He fell over into shallow water and wet sand. The front of his body was cool, but he felt his back warm up to a frightening degree. Not yet fully coherent, he half-shuffled, half-burrowed through the sand to get away from the heat.

 

“Are you all right?”

 

Female. The Toa of Water or the Vortixx? Jehui snapped his head up.

 

Dark blue armoured feet. Toa.

 

Lighter blue hands. Taking his hands and hoisting him up. He almost collapsed again, but she held him up. The sheer intensity of that near-encounter with the Bibaka wasps had taken everything out of him, he realized. Not so strong after all.

 

The Toa steadied him until he could stand by himself. He looked around. The buzzing wasps were gone, and now he was surrounded by the other three.

 

The Vortixx with the broad black armour and those gentle searching eyes. She stood head and shoulders taller than her companions.

 

The Toa of Water with her diamond-forehead Mask of Possibilities.

 

The Toa of Fire - two-time defeater of the Bibaka wasp swarms, Jehui assumed - with his strange blood red armour overlays.

 

This last one broke the silence.

 

“Let’s make sure everyone stays out of the forest from now on, all right?”

 

After introductions, Jehui led them to the place where he had awoken. While they stood at the cliff edge overlooking the choppy waters, Jehui thought about the new situation.

 

He hadn’t told them that he had tried to spy on them. Unsure if he ever would.

 

In fact, he was unsure why he had even tried that in the first place. Yes, he had been being cautious, but it was as if he had woke up with a mission in mind, and started acting on it immediately. He had thought it was pure accident that he happened to twist the ring on his finger, subsequently discovering his extended vision power. But maybe it wasn't as much an accident as it seemed.

 

Like Nehara the Vortixx, Jehui might have had something in mind, but even he didn't know what it was. Something planted in his head, like the sting in the mind she had described when touching the black metal shard.

 

The Matoran of Iron looked to his side, where Nehara stood. Compared to the Toa, Jehui sensed that Nehara was more… significant. There was a mystery about her.

 

"It's getting dark," Vyroko remarked. "Should we find some place to sleep?"

 

Nela looked behind them. "We shouldn't go into the forest when it's getting dark. But it's very exposed out here. We might be cold.” Then she looked at the ocean. “Still, I can sense the waters here, and they are not angry. We would be safe."

 

"Then let's settle down," Jehui said. He sat down in the exact same place he had woke up in hours ago. The imprint of his body was still clear in the gritty sand and gravel.

 

Everyone found their own space a few body lengths away from the cliff, but with plenty of space from the first trees of the forest. The grass here was sparse, so they had to sweep away loose particles and sleep on the smooth but hard ground.

 

Night descended as the sun disappeared behind the south horizon.

 

Jehui was dozing when something brought him out of his sleep. His face felt disturbed, like something was shining onto it.

 

He sat up, facing the edge of the cliff. Took a second to focus his eyes.

 

Light. A beam of brilliant white light shone up from beyond the cliff. The waves were still crashing and Jehui could hear them. Could feel the sea spray too. This light shot up like a tower of ice, solid but with a hint of translucence.

 

Jehui crawled forward cautiously. It was so bright that he could see the cliff clearly, and the other sleeping figures were thrown into sharp relief. He crawled until he could see the source of the light. It was coming from the water. The waves around it were lit up, so he could see into its depths.

 

Looked like the light was not that far offshore. The cliff was not very high, perhaps five Matoran heights. The base of the beam of light was about five times that distance from the island.

 

He didn’t know how deep the water was here, but he certainly wasn’t going to swim now.

 

Jehui heard stirring behind him. The others were waking up. He looked at them, watched them wake up and realize what they were seeing.

 

Nobody said a word. Somehow, it was known by all.

 

This light? Another mystery. Talking about it? Going nowhere.

 

In that moment, Jehui felt a real bond with the others. Regardless of their private intents, Jehui’s included, they were in this together. They were probably even more helpless than they realized. Surrounded by mysteries, one dangerous behind them in the forest, and one totally unknowable shining in front of them.

 

The Matoran of Iron laid back down and turned his back to the light so he could sleep better. Soon he heard the others do the same.

 

Morning came, and they woke up. The light was gone, but the forest was still there.

 

So was the mountain, except it was different again.

 

Jehui brought his vision back to his body and looked at the two Toa and Vortixx, who were waiting expectantly for his survey report.

 

“It’s definitely a door,” he said.

 

They all looked at the mountain. From where Jehui had started yesterday, he had spent some time observing the mountain before setting out in search of the others. He had combed his memory carefully until he was certain there had been no hint of a black rectangle in the mountainside.

 

Now there was. The black square was unmistakable against the brown rock lit by the morning light from the north.

 

His extended vision had shown him that it was near the peak, situated on a broad cliff. The very shape of the mountain seemed to have changed too, as he had noticed while coasting around it. It was more textured, more... aged. Showed years of wearisome existence rather than mere days or hours.

 

The fog was gone as well.

 

Jehui shuddered.

 

“Do any of you know of the other elements?” He asked abruptly.

 

Nela looked at him quizzically. “Elements? Like mine and Vyroko’s?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I know there’s air, earth, ice, stone. Oh, and iron,” she added, smiling at him sheepishly.

 

“Right,” Jehui nodded. “I was just thinking that if we had a Toa of Stone here, we could find out more about the mountain.”

 

“Or a Toa of The Green,” Vyroko added. “For the forest. And a Mask of Beast Control could be be perfect for handling those Bibaka wasps.”

 

“You don’t have any powers, do you?” Jehui asked the Vortixx, who had been silent.

 

Nehara shook her head thoughtfully. “Vortixx do not ordinarily have powers. But my memories, strange and timeless as yours are too, tell me of the Vortixx race’s unique skill at bringing out their Rhotuka power. A spinning wheel of energy that has a certain effect depending on the caster.”

 

“I know of Rhotuka,” Vyroko nodded. “All living creatures can use them if they train properly.”

 

“All this talk of powers doesn’t help us much, though,” Jehui interjected. “I was just asking.”

 

“Let me ask you now.” The Toa of Fire turned his attention on the Matoran. “How exactly does that ring work? Do you know?”

 

“Not really,” Jehui shrugged. “I twist it, and I’m able to send my vision out of my body.”

 

Vyroko looked at his mask. “It looks like a Mask of Spirit, since what you describe is exactly like how a spirit leaves the body to explore. You can’t touch or do anything in your spirit form, but... your body should be totally immobile. Yet you did it just now and stayed standing. I could even see you move a bit, as if you were responding to your spirit’s movements.”

 

Jehui nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps this ring changes how the power works.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

Everyone looked back at the mountain with the black door at its peak.

 

Nela spoke. “We have all day, so should we try going in the forest? Or keep going around the island to map the whole coastline?”

 

“I would suggest we do both,” Vyroko replied. “Split up, one group goes around the island, the other goes through the forest to the mountain. Then that group can climb a little, scope more of the island, and easily see if the other group needs help getting through the forest.”

 

“Sounds good,” Nehara said. “But we’re both going through the forest at some point, and there’s only one person who can handle the Bibaka wasps.”

 

That was Vyroko. The group discussed it and decided that Vyroko would go with Nehara into the forest, ready to protect both of them. Hopefully the Toa would be able to absorb his own fire quickly enough to avoid igniting the forest.

 

Toa Nela would go with Jehui along the coast. It made sense since they were nearer water and Nela could control it. While they traveled, Jehui would periodically check on the other pair to make sure they were okay. It would be easy to track them since they intended to travel in a straight line toward the mountain. If they couldn’t, they would leave markers that Jehui’s spirit could see if he sent it out to search for them.

 

Once Vyroko and Nehara reached the mountain, they would circuit its base and await Nela and Jehui’s arrival on the south side. If the Toa and Matoran ran into trouble, Nela would send up a jet of water above the trees as a warning.

 

They agreed on this. The island would get mapped with the help of Nela’s Mask of Possibilities, and they would get closer to investigating the black door on the mountain.

 

Right before leaving with Vyroko, Nehara checked her chest-hatch.

 

Her fingers felt nothing but hollow space inside. She jerked her hand away and looked around on the ground.

 

“Nehara?”

 

“I don’t understand,” she said tightly. Thinking back through the night - she had woken and seen the light, but not moved. Had she touched her chest meanwhile and opened the hatch accidentally, letting the shard slip out?

 

It was bizarre to feel such a loss after having it for only a few hours.

 

She looked up at the others.

 

“The shard is gone.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#3 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Dec 15 2014 - 07:49 PM

Chapter 3

 

 

Author's Note: Please download PDF to view this chapter until forum bug is fixed.

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#4 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Dec 22 2014 - 08:50 PM

Chapter 4

 

Nehara raced through the jungle for the second time in as many days.

 

A lot of other things were identical to the first time. Nehara's ankle was hurting again after running for several minutes. The mad buzzing noise was back and assaulting her from all directions. It felt like the wasps were right up against her audio receptors, beating their wings against the fine grills.

 

It hurt, but Nehara had realized the wasps were not real. So she endured it in the hopes of catching whoever or whatever was causing this illusionary sound.

 

The Vortixx reached a brief clearing and took the opportunity to check on Vyroko. She glanced over her shoulder--

 

Vyroko was not there.

 

She stopped and spun around. What?

 

Had the thing they were chasing somehow captured Vyroko from behind?

 

Instinctively, she knew that wasn't true. She hadn't taken her eyes off the rustling foliage ahead.

 

Maybe it could cause illusions of light, not just sound? Make it look like leaves and branches were moving in the wake of something passing through. Then it could have captured Vyroko, and silently too.

 

That seemed unlikely. Then again, they had no idea what kinds of beings hid on this island. Who knew how many others were wandering this island, seeking each other or avoiding each other. Or watching and planning.

 

If this thing had a plan, it surely was a trap.

 

Nehara shook her head in sheer indecision. Find Vyroko, or keep chasing?

 

She felt time seeping away. The longer she stalled, the less chance anyone had of catching this thing. The less they would know of what threats lay in wait.

 

Decided. Risk.

 

Started running again.

 

***

 

Nela watched her shaking breath turn into mist.

 

She stood inside the ice tower where she had been just a moment ago. Heard the soft clinking of the ice pieces falling onto the spiral walkway.

 

She felt like a scar had run through her the moment Jehui had grabbed her wrist. For a second, she had been back on the beach with no trace of this place, and then she had returned just as abruptly.

 

It wasn’t just the fright of being unintentionally ambushed. It was the unfinished task.

 

What this task was, Nela had no idea. She only sensed that it was of the utmost urgency, like sensing the awaiting power of water locked up in ice.

 

Walked back to the arched entrance. Looked outside. The same strange inversion was still there - she stood at the top of the tower even though this entrance had been on the ground at first.

 

The icy pond was still there with the tiny island. The thin chain running the full height of the tower was still clinking as it turned.

 

Descended half a rotation to where the chain looped.

 

The little circlets of ice were still being flipped out of the cup holders as they rose above the edge of the walkway. Each one slid down the sculpted groove in the walkway.

 

This time, Nela did not reach out for one. She felt that was how Jehui had been able to interfere.

 

By doing something Nela was not supposed to do in this world, she allowed its reality to break.

 

She didn’t know how that made sense, but the idea was there in her head.

 

Straightened up and walked further down, carefully stepping around the groove. It turned this way and that as it traveled down the gentle slope.

 

Nela completed a full circle around the tower, so that she was standing beneath the entrance. Here, she saw where the ice ‘coins’ were going. She would have to travel another half circle to arrive at their destination.

 

That thought made her feel a deep trembling fear.

 

She slid closer to the wall, flattened herself against it. Watched the ice coins as they slid past her in the groove.

 

Chain clinked, clinked.

 

Nela inched along the walkway, keeping her eyes on the groove. It was her anchor now. She didn’t dare look at the destination again after glimpsing it the first time. The groove was calculated, permanent... the destination, somehow, was not.

 

She was up alongside the place where the ice coins arrived.

 

Shaking.

 

Felt like it was an alive thing, waiting for her to just come into view before...

 

She didn’t look at it directly. Still focused on the groove.

 

The ice coins slid along the carved ice and disappeared beyond the threshold.

 

Nela fixed her sight on the threshold. The groove... ended.

 

So did the wall that she had her back up against. It just... stopped.

 

Her hand, her fingers... dancing on the edge. She had been standing here so long, she felt them freezing to the ice. Yet she felt a sparking energy in them, ballooning beyond fear.

 

She would have to pass in front of this threshold at some time or another. So she did it now.

 

Stepped and turned around at the same time. Faced the opening in the wall.

 

It was like a doorway, except that it had no edges.

 

Stared into the impossible blackness for a second. Felt a horrible yank from within, as if it was pulling her in.

 

Looked down again. Watched the ice coins slide into the...

 

Turned away. Stepped again. Not in front of it anymore. Still on the walkway. Still feeling the cold. Still hearing the clinking clinking.

 

Nela took a deep breath before continuing to the bottom of the tower.

 

Here it was more beautiful. The icy water had a luminescence to it, so that undulating light was cast along the rough walls.

 

The water was not still, for the chain passed through it with its cups. This disturbed the water gently. Nela spied a small mechanism at the bottom of the pool that moved the chain.

 

The chain’s cups were scooping up the ice coins that floated in the water. As Nela took in the scene, she realized that the pool was full of the curious little things.

 

Temptation rose again to reach out and pluck one from the water. But Nela did not. 

 

Instead, she waded carefully into the pool. Gasped softly at the stab of freezing water. The island was just a few paces away, so she stepped toward it. The ice coins swirled in her wake.

 

Stepped up onto the dry land, although it was not so much dry as frosted over. Grass blades crinkled and snapped underfoot.

 

***

 

Nehara flew through the air at the mercy of the shockwave sweeping the jungle.

 

It had come from her right-hand side, nearer the mountain than she. The blast tore her away from the ground along with some trees and innumerable clots of dirt, and hurtled her in the direction of the beach.

 

She tumbled through the air, frantically looking for a way to land safely.

 

***

 

Jehui tore his eyes away from the ghostly form of the Toa of Water.

 

The two rumbling booms resounded across the island. They had been spaced slightly apart, so he was certain it was two separate blasts. He didn't see anything, but it sounded like one had come from the opposite end.

 

The other--

 

Jehui braced himself against a shockwave that rushed out of the jungle. The trees on the beach swayed alarmingly, but Jehui saw many trees further inland shoot up and away from the source of the explosion. Whatever it was, it had been immense.

 

Hopefully the Toa of Fire and Vortixx were okay. They would still be coming down the halfway line toward the mountain. Being between both explosions, they might get hit more than he did.

 

Jehui looked back at Nela. She was now standing still with a look of utter despair. It seemed she had reached the end of whatever place she was exploring, and found no way out.

 

He couldn't stand it anymore. If there was nothing he could do to help her right now, he would at least check on the others.

 

Twisted the ring on his finger. Vision burst forth - and stopped.

 

Tower of ice.

 

The sky was black. The sea was gone. He was surrounded by trees.

 

Before him rose a towering structure of ice.

 

It was bitterly cold.

 

"What?" Jehui whispered. He looked down at himself. His body was still there, as if he had never activated the ring.

 

Intuitively, he knew this was exactly what had happened to Nela. He'd been transported to the same realm the Toa was trapped in.

 

The only thing that had changed was him sending his vision forth. Or rather, his spirit. Vyroko had to be correct - Jehui indeed wore a Mask of Spirit that worked because of the ring he had woken up with, despite being a powerless Matoran.

 

Having his spirit leave his body must have allowed him to enter the same place Nela was. Judging from her appearance, she had entered a spirit-like form as well, so it made sense.

 

It still didn't explain why or how this had been triggered in the first place. And where had Nela's body gone, if she was in her spirit form?

 

Jehui would find out more if he found her first. He remembered the last motions she had made as a ghost on the beach. Looked like she had been wading through water, and there had even been a blue shimmer against her shins like light shining through water. Then she had stepped up onto something and stopped with that look of despair.

 

All that had taken place after she had walked around in a total of three circles.

 

Along those circular paths, she had studied different things. And then - this had been the most disturbing part for Jehui to watch - she had seemingly struggled to pass some barrier that turned her eyes tiny with fear.

 

He looked at the ice tower, stark white against an impossibly black sky. All of that had to have happened in there.

 

Walked briskly toward the entrance, keeping all his senses alert. Held out a finger to catch a slow-falling snowflake: nothing unusual about it.

 

Entered. Looked around carefully. A spiral walkway hugging the wall and ascending to the ceiling, starting on his left. In the centre of the floor he was on was a small mound of dirt surrounded by frosted-over soil and rocks.

 

Looked back to make sure nothing was sneaking up on him. Nothing but dark forest and snow.

 

Stepped left onto the walkway and ascended slowly. Ran one hand along the wall, keeping his eyes over the edge for any sign of change.

 

Halfway up, Jehui froze in terror.

 

Felt like his hand had stuck to the wall... as if some wicked force was trying to pull it through the ice.

 

Fear coursed through him. He was confronting the same thing Nela had, but it was different somehow.

 

It took all Jehui's effort to turn his head toward the wall, and then he wished he hadn't.

 

For there was nothing wrong with the wall - it was simply ice. That made it that much worse, for he felt like he was looking right into the eyes of a malevolent creature.

 

The ring. It was on the hand stuck to the wall.

 

Trembling, Jehui reached out with his free hand. Took the utmost care not to come in contact with the wall, or he would be stuck with both hands.

 

Felt the cold metal under his fingers. Couldn't see clearly for some reason - like his trapped hand had become a blind spot in his eyesight.

 

Pushed it at an angle so that it turned around his finger a bit. Kept pushing until it had completed a rotation.

 

Instead of sending his vision forth, he sent it backwards.

 

Slid out of his body, saw his own back for a moment -

 

But he sensed that this realm did not permit such action. He was already a spirit - a spirit couldn't have its own spirit form.

 

Body slid along with him, collided with his vision -

 

BAM.

 

And he was free of the wall.

 

Felt the edge of the walkway on the back of his feet. Scrambled to stay on balance without lurching toward the wall. Sidled sideways until he felt the danger had passed.

 

Sighed in relief and sank to his knees.

 

***

 

Nela looked up in bewilderment. For just a few seconds, she had heard frantic shuffling and panting. Some flakes of ice had dropped from above, but she didn't see where from.

 

Someone was here, but she couldn't see them. And they had made it into the tower soundlessly, then suddenly made noise? Perhaps they had slipped?

 

Whatever was going on, she couldn't investigate herself. She refused to return along the walkway, for she would have to pass that terrible spot on the wall.

 

The mere thought made her mind stop.

 

Here she would stay until another way out presented itself.

 

***

 

Vyroko crept out from behind the deeply-rooted tree he had used for shelter against the blast. Whatever it was, it had been strong enough to tear thinner trees out of the ground. He saw them dropping down around him - though none were coming near him.

 

He pondered whether he should seek out the source of the explosion. But if it had been something actually alive... a misdirected attack, perhaps... then he surely couldn't face such a foe.

 

Heard a shout.

 

Whirled around, looking up.

 

Flash of something black above the canopy.

 

Flailing limbs.

 

Nehara!

 

Vyroko ran. Heard a thunk up ahead. Didn't sound like she had landed hard. Must have found some way to soften her fall.

 

Hurtled through another wall of foliage and burst into a small clearing. The black-armoured Vortixx was standing on her feet and looked quite surprised that this was the case.

 

"Are you all right? What happened?" Vyroko panted.

 

"Yes," Nehara replied while checking herself. Then she looked up at the Toa. "I just landed like this... managed to find my balance and hit the ground. It didn't hurt at all."

 

Vyroko was impressed. "You must not know your strength yet. I remember... well, I don't actually have a memory of it. But I just know that Vortixx tend to be very strong."

 

"That's good," Nehara said. "Especially if I don't have any powers like you or Nela. Speaking of running... what happened to you? You were right behind me."

 

Vyroko shook his head slowly. "I fell through the ground suddenly... but there was no hole. It was like I passed through the soil itself."

 

He described the rest of his discovery underground to Nehara, who listened intently. When he finished, Nehara looked thoughtful for a moment and then only said,

 

“Black metal."

 

"I'm sorry?"

 

"That's two times now we have encountered metal in a strange form, with strange behaviour. The black shard on the beach with its sting in my mind, and now this constellation of rings with a black one at its centre.

 

“But that’s just two things," Vyroko pointed out. "They might not be related."

 

“Three things,” she corrected, but didn’t elaborate when Vyroko looked puzzled.

 

She looked around. The beach was still far away; the blast hadn't thrown her as far as she had expected. "We've probably lost whatever it was we were chasing. We should find the others now and regroup."

 

Vyroko agreed. They deliberated on what direction to take. Enough time had passed for Nela and Jehui to be halfway around the island. Surely not enough time for them to have reached the mountain already even if they had walked fast.

 

They decided to cut through the jungle in a straight line toward the shore, and then make their way as quickly as possible to the place where the Toa and Matoran would have then turned inland toward the mountain. Hopefully the timing would be good enough that they'd meet on the shore and be able to travel to the mountain together.

 

Splitting up hadn't been such a good idea after all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#5 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Dec 29 2014 - 07:05 PM

Chapter 5

 

Jehui stood up slowly on the icy walkway. Looked around again.

 

He was still shaking from that harrowing encounter with whatever force resided in that section of the wall. Took deep breaths. He had to reach the bottom of the tower.

 

This time he took care to walk down the middle of the walkway, not touching either the wall or the edge.

 

He made it the rest of the way down without noticing anything else. Stood at the end of the walkway where it merged into the floor.

 

There was a mound of frosted grass in the middle. Hardly large enough to stand on.

 

Jehui went up to it. Noticed something strange.

 

Two spots on the mound seemed flattened. The grass had bent and cracked in those spots.

 

Jehui crouched and leant close.

 

Before his eyes, the grass shifted. Raised slightly, then back down as if some invisible weight had shifted.

 

He gasped. Stood up. Looked at the space above the mound.

 

He couldn't see anything, but he was suddenly so sure that Nela was standing right here, right now. Somehow he couldn't see her... and probably she couldn't see him either. How to make contact?

 

He stepped back and gripped his ring. What had worked up there for escaping that force might work here, if only momentarily. Enter his 'spirit of spirit' form and see what else was concealed here in this already-spirit place.

 

Twisted. Vision stepped forward out of his body.

 

Nela!

 

She had been looking to the side and up, but snapped her head toward him with wide eyes.

 

"Jehui!" she called.

 

But he was already back in his body. Or rather, his body had been dragged forward to reclaim his spirit.

 

"Can't have a conversation this way," he muttered to himself. It was still a huge relief to see the Toa again, though, and she had seemed okay if frightened.

 

How to stay in touch, though? Maintain contact and work together to escape? He thought about this for a minute.

 

He hadn't been able to stay in contact with Nela because his body was forced to the same position where his spirit had went. When that happened, it felt like his spirit clicked back into his body.

 

So as long as his spirit could stay away from his body, he should be able to see and talk to Nela.

 

Decided to try moving around while in his spirit form. Twisted his ring - saw Nela again - and immediately began gliding around the chamber.

 

Looked to his left. His body was trailing behind, but not accelerating to catch up with him. It was a little bizarre to see his unconscious self being half-dragged across the ground.

 

But it was working. Nela, however, was quite confused. She had stepped off the grass mound to meet him, but now was trying to turn her head to keep up with him.

 

"Sorry! I'm moving like this because my body keeps trying to take my spirit back. But you're seeing my spirit right now - my body is invisible to you."

 

"Okay," she replied, still clearly confused and dizzy trying to follow him around the room. Then she stopped trying to turn around and just stood and spoke, glancing at him as he zoomed past her field of vision. "How did you get here?"

 

"Not sure," he replied. "But -- whoa."

 

For the first time, Jehui noticed the water. The entire bottom of the tower was filled with water, creating a shallow pond. The mound Nela stood on remained dry.

 

"This water wasn't here when I was looking around." He explained to her.

 

She tilted her head. "So you only see the water when you can see me as well?" Something seemed to occur to her and she asked, "Did you see a chain going from bottom to ceiling?"

 

"No," Jehui said slowly, still zooming around the room. It felt silly to be holding such a serious conversation like this, but it was working.

 

"What about the little ice coins? They were being pulled up from this pool by the chain and sliding down the walkway into a... an opening," Nela explained. Jehui still shook his head, but noticed how Nela's voice tightened at the mention of the opening.

 

"Was that opening what scared you?"

 

The Toa nodded unhappily. "I can't explain it, but..."

 

"I know," Jehui interjected gently. "I encountered the same thing, except there was no hole. Just wall. My hand got stuck to it like someone was trying to pull me through."

 

"That's awful," she murmured. "But you saw none of this when you were coming down? What about now?"

 

Jehui motioned for her to wait, and zoomed up the walkway. Purposely kept his eyes toward the interior of the tower so that he did not gaze into the gaping maw of the opening Nela had traveled past.

 

Saw the groove in the ice underfoot, and the little circlets of ice sliding down in it. Saw the source - a thin chain looped from ceiling to pond with cups affixed at regular intervals to its length.

 

He almost returned to Nela by diving off the walkway, but remembered his body. It was  close behind, but still susceptible to gravity.

 

The walkway was too narrow to dodge it, so he allowed himself to be reabsorbed. Twisted his ring again and left again, going down the walkway.

 

The rapid switch allowed Jehui to see how there really were two towers. One with everything Nela had experienced, and the barer one that Jehui's body was in.

 

He returned to Nela and confirmed this with her.

 

"So how do we get out of here? Should we try going outside again?" the Toa suggested.

 

"I'll try that now," Jehui agreed.

 

Again, he zoomed up the walkway.

 

This time, he stopped.

 

His body caught up and he felt two jolts.

 

The first jolt was when his body and spirit rejoined.

 

The second jolt was a jolt of the most piercing fear he had ever felt.

 

***

 

Vyroko and Nehara had walked quickly through the rest of the jungle and onto the beach without encountering anything new. No Bibaka wasps, real or illusionary, had buzzed. And no vast blasts of air and sound shook the island.

 

There were also no Toa of Water and no Matoran of Iron.

 

Vyroko confirmed they stood at the same place he had met Nela. It had only been a day since, and he could still identify the disturbed sand where Nela had fallen from the falling sea.

 

The sea itself was somewhat obscured by a blanket of fog.

 

"If they're not here," Nehara said, "we have two options. Keep walking around the island, assuming they got delayed, possibly encountered trouble. Or go to the mountain, assuming they somehow got way ahead of us, and risk getting even further apart if we're wrong."

 

"I can't imagine they were so fast," Vyroko shook his head. "Our detour only took minutes - perhaps half an hour. And we ended up going just around the mountain, so we arrived here much more quickly than they could have if they stuck to the coast like planned."

 

"Perhaps, like us, their plans got sidetracked," Nehara pointed out.

 

It wasn't an encouraging possibility.

 

Then Vyroko realized the mountain was more than their ultimate rendezvous point - it was a vantage point. They could see most of the island from an height, and quite possibly locate their partners.

 

He explained that to Nehara and she agreed swiftly. It made the most sense. Even if the others had run into trouble, they would have enough sense to cut toward the mountain to get help sooner.

 

They were about to depart the beach when Nehara looked toward the sea and stopped Vyroko. He looked where she pointed.

 

The fog was rolling in now. He could see it covering the sea as it came. It was moving very rapidly.

 

"Fog," he remarked, waiting for the Vortixx to say more.

 

She looked at him. "It's moving very fast."

 

"Yes."

 

"Where's the wind?"

 

The Toa took a step back. There was nothing, not even a slight breeze to justify the fog moving so directly and quickly.

 

It was white and dense, almost upon the beach already. Mist swirled here and there in seemingly purposeful patterns, like arms in musical conduct. The more he watched, the more it felt like he was witnessing a slow sentence being formed, some menacing message carried by motionless wind.

 

"We should move," Nehara said. Vyroko saw the Vortixx shiver.

 

Without another word they turned into the jungle.

 

Just before they passed through the first layer of foliage, Vyroko looked over his shoulder. The fog had reached the dry sand. As it spread up the beach, plumes of especially dense mist rose up.

 

To Vyroko's amazement and horror, these plumes took on shape - the shape of bodies and limbs. Nothing definite, but unmistakeable silhouettes like a Toa or a Vortixx.

 

All of them had arms, and moved them in strange ways. He got the same feeling as before when the fog was still over the ocean. Like a phrase being expressed. But he couldn't possibly guess at its meaning, or why he even thought they were speaking.

 

"Nehara! Wait for me!" He shouted, plunging into the jungle. Thick leaves slapped his mask and chest.

 

He nearly ran into the Vortixx. She had been waiting just up ahead.

 

"Keep moving!" She hissed at him.

 

They did. Around them, Vyroko could see the fog filling the gaps between the trees. It swirled around their feet as they ran.

 

Up through the canopy, he caught glimpses of the mountain peak. The door was on the opposite side, but he saw stairs on this side. Those most definitely had not been there before.

 

Everything kept changing on this island. Hardly a moment of peace since he had awoken yesterday. Vyroko couldn't process so much all at once. He had a horrible moment of dizziness, and nearly tripped.

 

The stairs. He looked up again. Saw where they ended near the peak. From there, they descended in a somewhat direct path down the mountain. They were concealed here and there within a shallow canyon, following its path. Or did the canyon follow the stairs’ path?

 

 Lower down, the stairs passed out of sight below the canopy. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like the stairs started at the foot of the mountain, right where they were running to.

 

"Nehara! The stairs!"

 

"I saw them," she shouted back. As she did, she glanced behind. Eyes widened.

 

Vyroko didn't even have to ask. Raised his hand as he spun around.

 

FOOM.

 

In the split-second before his fireball burned it away, he glimpsed a fog-person reaching out toward him. He thought he saw a face, but it could easily have been the shapeless mist itself swirling around within the silhouette.

 

The fire charred the edges of the surrounding leaves, but didn't start a fire. The fog was all around them already, so it was too wet.

 

At least I can burn them away without starting a forest fire, Vyroko thought grimly. He wondered if they were actually alive, and whether that fireball had just killed one.

 

If he had just killed, then it hadn’t been by choice. They didn’t know if the fog was friendly or hostile, and right now it seemed pretty hostile.

 

He had no time to process that any further. The jungle was changing as they neared the mountain. Trees were thinning out. No low-lying foliage anymore. The mossy ground was turning to thin dirt and rock.

 

The right side of the jungle opened up suddenly. Vyroko looked. There was a stream flowing past them, and further down it turned away - he could see the bend. But as they ran alongside it, he saw up ahead that it widened into a pond.

 

At the other end of this pond was a splendid waterfall. The terraced rock made it spray in several separate streams into the pond, but higher up it was a single sheet of water.

 

The water veil was thin enough that he could see through it, although not very clearly.

 

The terraced rock continued behind the waterfall, so it looked like a small cave shelter.

 

Vyroko stumbled again - he was so intent on seeing everything. Anything that might help them in this bizarre and terrifying chase.

 

There was something more in the shapes he was seeing. Patterned rocks rising up and to the side...

 

Stairs!

 

"Nehara, go up the waterfall! The stairs start there!" He called ahead. The Vortixx waved in acknowledgement and continued along the stream.

 

They had pulled ahead of the fog a bit, but he looked behind and saw it seeping through the trees at the stream bend. Then it surged forward along the surface of the water. Vyroko realized it must be absorbing the moisture, giving it more speed.

 

Nehara reached the side of the waterfall and started up the terraced rocks. They were wet and slippery, but she was much heavier and had better balance. Vyroko struggled more, and fell behind slightly. Then he had an idea.

 

Let his element bloom throughout his body. Felt his armour warm. Looked down - steam was rising from his feet.

 

Grasped a rock. More steam. Under his fingers, he felt the stone dry out and was able to grip it better. It still was slower since he had to wait a split-second for each stone to dry, but it still gave him safe traction.

 

They ascended the rough rocks leading up to the main waterfall and reached the space behind. Vyroko's eyes proved to be correct - there were definitely steps carved into the back of of the waterfall cave. They led up and further to the right.

 

They were about to continue up when Vyroko looked back again. The waterfall was no longer translucent. Now it showed nothing but thick fog pressed up against the falling sheets.

 

Vyroko felt a creeping sensation that he had just made a big mistake.

 

Around him, the steam rising from wherever his limbs touched started to swirl. Tendrils reached out to each other, merged the plumes. Took form.

 

Now he faced another fog-person standing on the steps between him and Nehara, who had stopped and was watching uncertainly.

 

Vyroko stared at the fog-person.

 

It moved. He flinched. But it only slid to the side, half-vanishing against the stone wall of the stairway. Gestured with unmistakeable meaning: Pass.

 

The Toa didn't hesitate. He took the steps rapidly and rejoined Nehara, watching the fog-person as it faded away. Further down the stairwell, the waterfall cleared and he could see the stream and jungle beyond again.

 

"I don't know what just happened," Nehara said slowly, "but I feel safer now."

 

"Let's just get out of here."

 

They ascended further and reached a point where the stairwell came out of a hole. They stood on a low cliff now. The waterfall started here, bubbling out of a larger pool than that below.

 

Before them, the jungle spread. They were just above the canopy, so they couldn't see the shore itself. But Vyroko could see the fog receding just as rapidly as it had arrived, and fading into the sea.

 

They turned around. The cliff they were on was just a small outcrop of the mountain, at whose foot they now stood. The stairs continued in the side of the next cliff, slipping through steep walls that definitely looked carved out. This mountain's mysterious transformation had been very exact.

 

They began the next leg of the ascent. Several minutes passed as they climbed, and the stairs proved to be quite taxing. Vyroko became increasingly convinced that Nehara had immense physical strength and didn’t know it, since she kept a brisk pace while he struggled to keep up.

 

The stairs gradually curved to the right, and since Vyroko was behind Nehara, he couldn't see what was ahead. The passage was too narrow for him to see past her.

 

The black-armoured Vortixx froze in her footsteps. Even though Vyroko had been trailing behind, he was so focused on each step that he almost ran into her.

 

"What--?"

 

She hissed for him to be quiet. Seemed to be listening. Then whispered to him.

 

"The stairs join another set of stairs, and those continue up further. Someone else's coming up the other way!"

 

Vyroko froze as well and strained to hear.

 

Footsteps.

 

***

 

Jehui stood, frozen by fear.

 

After what seemed like hours of sheer emotion, he managed a coherent thought.

 

He was still in his 'spirit' form. His body hadn't caught up with him despite him being still for far more than a few seconds. So what had just happened?

 

The Matoran slowly turned his head left, away from the source of his terror, and saw his empty body behind him. It was standing and looking behind itself. He was startled to realize that it was copying his movements now, rather than hanging limply like a puppet.

 

As he turned his head back, he saw it do the same. So it wasn't a 'threat' any longer - he could roam freely without worrying about it catching up.

 

The jolt he had felt must have been something else, not the rejoining of his spirit and body. Since his body was still separate, it must have been something preventing his body from reclaiming his spirit. A barrier of some kind.

 

Barrier. Wall.

 

His fear now returned in fresh piercing stabs.

 

This terror he felt was emanating from the wall to his right. The exact same place where he had gotten his hand stuck, and where Nela had described a hole with inexplicable edges.

 

However, Jehui did not do what Nela had done. She had avoided looking into it as much as possible until she had moved past it. Jehui did not attempt this because he sensed something the Toa had not: an unavoidable path.

 

For the groove in the icy walkway that Nela had studied in her tower was here. Yet he was not here - he was only seeing Nela's tower through a window made possible by his spirit form.

 

As Jehui watched, a single circle of ice slid along it and into the darkness.

 

More followed.

 

The chain had also appeared further up the walkway, and was clink-clinking now as it looped around.

 

The two towers were one, and yet two. They stood in the same space, and yet existed differently. That much was evident, even though it didn’t make much sense.

 

Jehui did not know how he could be certain, but he sensed that this path in the icy walkway was safe, and the circlets of ice were key to understanding this place better.

 

A visitor by themselves, like Nela and Jehui, would be overwhelmed by fear at this inexplicable phenomenon, this passageway between two walls that were in fact the same wall...

 

Jehui understood this even less. He only knew that the longer he stood here, the more he sensed about this place. As if there was some kinship he shared with it. Standing so close to what was now clearly the true centre of this place allowed this knowledge to pass into him, emerging in his mind out of the black sea of fear.

 

Like perfect little circles of ice in a cold pool.

 

What Nela had attempted, Jehui now did.

 

He leaned down and scooped up a circlet of ice as it slid by.

 

The fear disappeared.

 

Jehui gasped. It was so abrupt. Relief flooded through him so intensely it was almost as unpleasant as the fear.

 

He gripped the little thing tightly. It was not slippery because it did not begin melting under his warmer touch.

 

Felt steady. Looked toward the wall.

 

It was still a dark hole with edges that constantly slipped out of his vision. No wonder Nela had been terrified to look at it. Jehui understood now that something was different about how he saw this passageway. Something so much more familiar than anything else he had encountered since waking up on the island.

 

He felt sure that he was doing the right thing now. Kept the ice circlet in his hand as he stepped forward into the darkness.

 

Felt something behind him shift.

 

Roar of movement. A gigantic mass moving into a space right behind him, the same feeling as his own body right before it took his spirit back in, only multiplied many times.

 

Took another step. Squarely inside the passageway now. Pitch black. No hint of anything.

 

The movement behind him ended. A massive sensation of something falling into place.

 

Another step.

 

Jehui re-entered the tower. Still on the walkway. Groove between his feet, ice circlets still sliding along it.

 

Looked at his own chest. Solid. His body had returned to him without him sensing it.

 

He stepped further to the edge of the walkway and looked down. Toa Nela stood on the mound in the pond, looking up. They locked eyes.

 

"You made it?" She whispered.

 

He nodded. Tried to start explaining, but couldn't. He needed more time to understand what had just happened.

 

Jehui descended again and stood at the edge of the pond.

 

"Do you sense the passageway still?" He asked Nela. She shook her head, visibly relieved. "Good, neither do I. What I think happened is... I healed it. It wasn't just a doorway, it was a hole in the body of the tower."

 

"And you healed it," Nela repeated. She didn't fully understand, but she heard a certainty in Jehui's words that she didn't doubt. "And you are here now, in my tower."

 

"That is one way to say it," the Matoran nodded. "But I didn't really move. I just... passed into a different space, and that somehow allowed the rupture to heal itself. The other tower is gone. I'm back in my body. We're sharing the same space now."

 

The Toa of Water smiled. "I'm glad you were able to do it."

 

She began to step away from the little mound in the pool, creating a wave that struck the mound. Jehui’s eyes suddenly widened. She stopped.

 

"I don't think you should move too quickly," he said, sounding less certain than before.

 

Nela waited. Jehui waded into the pool, wincing slightly at the cold, and came near the dry mound with frozen grass.

 

"There is something strange about this island," he said slowly.

 

Nela looked down at it. Her two footprints were still there, marked by crushed blades of grass. Now that Jehui said it, there did seem to be something off about the grass. As if there were little details on the blades she could barely see.

 

Jehui leaned down toward the island.

 

He talked in a quiet voice. "A connection between me and this place. Familiarity. I can do things here no one else can. Why?"

 

Nela remained silent.

 

"I want to see more of this island. But I keep using that word, island. Why not... mound? Lump? Peak? Because in my head, already, I know it is an island... the same island we woke up on."

 

Nela blinked.

 

The Matoran stood up and turned around. His eyes were searching, as if surveying his own mind for clues.

 

"I need to see more detail," he said. "I need better scale. I need this place..."

 

Gesture.

 

"Bigger."

 

Nela inhaled sharply. Where they had been standing in a knee-high pool of water measuring maybe five times her height across, they now stood in a chest-high pool twice the width.

 

Everything was bigger - the tower itself had grown, impossibly, in a split-second.

 

Jehui looked just as surprised as she did as he scrambled to stay afloat.

 

She waded forward to boost him up, and they both looked at the island in the middle. It was also bigger, but now held far more detail.

 

The blades of grass had become thousands of tiny trees surrounding a mountain in the centre.

 

The more Nela looked, the more detail she recognized.

 

Curves of sandy beach. Plateaus of rock. Cliffs.

 

The mountain itself was undeniably identical as well. She even saw a tiny black square where the door was.

 

"It's just like the island we've been walking on."

 

Jehui looked at her in a curious way, as if she had missed something. "Look closer," he said.

 

She studied. Noticed that there was some damage. Two areas of the forest and jungle on opposite sides of the mountain had been crushed. The shapes of the ruins were familiar.

 

Nela realized that these markings matched her footprints.

 

Jehui knew something else - that those two areas of impact matched the sources of the two explosions he had seen and heard.

 

The simple answer came in a bolt of new questions and bafflements.

 

Nela had stepped on the island in the most literal sense possible.

 

Toa and Matoran locked eyes.

 

"This is the island," she breathed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Takuta-Nui, Jan 19 2015 - 01:27 PM.

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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#6 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
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Posted Jan 05 2015 - 07:46 PM

Chapter 6

 

Author's Note: Please download PDF to view this chapter until forum bug is fixed.

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Edited by Takuta-Nui, Feb 13 2015 - 03:30 PM.

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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#7 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Jan 12 2015 - 12:34 PM

Chapter 7

 

Author's Note: Please download PDF to view this chapter until forum bug is fixed.

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Edited by Takuta-Nui, Feb 13 2015 - 03:38 PM.

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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#8 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Jan 19 2015 - 01:19 PM

Chapter 8

 

It was evening. Nela stood on the plateau outside the glass egg chamber and watched the sun draw near the horizon. The plateau that the door was situated on ran almost all the way around the mountain, and she sat on the south edge.

 

Her thoughts floated.

 

So much had happened. All the little details she had seen and heard in just a day dissolved into distant impressions. She didn’t think of anything in particular. Just let the feelings of the day wash over her like a receding tide.

 

A tremor ran through her body. Exhaustion.

 

She slowly lowered herself to the ground by the edge of the plateau. Then she scooted forward so her legs could hang over the edge.

 

The island, for all the frustration it represented, was incredibly beautiful. She took her time to study it in detail, since they would be descending into the forest-jungle again tomorrow for more exploration.

 

Inside the glass egg chamber, Tahtorak was still sleeping. He seemed to only be resting, as Vyroko had nudged him and gotten a reassuring but drowsy response. It wasn’t clear if the glass egg had had some direct effect on him. Nela suspected that the Tahtorak’s vision combined with the day’s events had simply tipped him over the edge of exhaustion.

 

Nela looked over the edge she sat on. The sunset threw sharp shadows across the canopy. Some trees were covered in shadow while others shone golden.

 

Tomorrow, the plan was to go back down as a team, leaving one behind to watch the glass egg and the entire island. No splitting up on different missions again.

 

They had a few goals. The main one was to encounter and finally capture the source of the illusions. But it was already clear they wouldn’t know where to start looking, so they would travel to the place Vyroko had fallen into and explore that further, and hope that they got ‘attacked’ on the way.

 

Vyroko’s underground room appeared to contain the only object of advanced machinery they had discovered so far, not counting the black door and Nehara’s black shard-key.

 

The smallest ring in the contraption Vyroko had discovered was made of black metal as far as he could see, but the other rings weren’t. They hoped to find some answers there.

 

Why each of them were on the island. Why they had no memories before waking up the day before. Why Nehara reacted to the black metal and not anyone else. How Nela and Jehui had become trapped in that icy place, and what they could do to avoid that strange event from happening again.

 

Those were a lot of little goals in one, she thought. But they hoped to establish a pattern, one that only had a few examples so far.

 

Black metal held power.

 

Nehara’s shard-key looked deliberately crafted, and clearly made to connect with the door. It had some property that reacted with the black door to block off the flow of energy to the glass egg, and yet only worked when Nehara held it.

 

They had already tested it by closing the door with someone inside and someone outside holding the shard-key. The door would only open when Nehara touched it to the invisible spot on the island map on the door.

 

When she did that, the glass egg’s light would vanish and reemerge as a large beam of light shooting up from the waters of the northern shore.

 

It was clear that the shard-key diverted this flow of energy. When left undisturbed, it would remain in the glass egg, but when the shard-key came in contact with the door, it was diverted.

 

Nehara’s peacefully tired thoughts continued to wander through what she knew.

 

They had determined that the ticking was definitely coming from the glass egg whenever the shard-key was taken away from the door.

 

So to prevent the ticking - and thereby the ‘countdown’ it seemed to indicate - they had dislodged a small boulder from the mountain for Nehara to sit on next to the door. That way she could keep the shard-key in contact with the door. The ticking continued if anyone else tried doing that.

 

The sun was nearly below the horizon. The sea glowed.

 

As it got colder, Nela realized that patches of fog were forming across the island.

 

She wasn’t sure if it was the strangely intelligent fog that came from the peninsula.

 

From where Nela sat on the plateau, she couldn’t see the peninsula. And she would rather not look at it in the oncoming darkness.

 

The team had unanimously agreed to avoid the peninsula until they had a better handle on their situation.

 

Team.

 

Nela leaned her head at the word.

 

They had been using that word ever since they had reunited, and nobody had commented on it.

 

Good.

 

***

 

Jehui stood up. He had completed two careful sweeps of the chamber and found nothing. Looked at Nehara and shook his head, to which Nehara responded with a sympathetic shrug.

 

Vyroko walked into the chamber and nodded at them both before standing at the glass egg pedestal. He crossed his arms and frowned.

 

Sunset.

 

The umber light burnished Vyroko’s armour as he stood directly in front of the doorway. This light threw his colours into stark hues, and Jehui blinked as he realized how truly strange Vyroko’s armour was. Something in his memory told him that red, orange, and yellow were normal for those that bore the element of fire… but not the colour of blood.

 

This colour covered Vyroko’s main torso and upper arms and thighs, fading to orange toward his extremities. His mask was a solid orange colour as well.

 

“Vyroko, I need to ask something,” Jehui said softly.

 

“Yes?” The Toa turned.

 

“Do you know why your armour is that way?”

 

Vyroko seemed puzzled. “How do you mean?”

 

“I mean, that colour. It’s not just red, it’s… well…” Jehui stammered. Vyroko’s puzzled expression was transforming into that of insult as Jehui spoke. He couldn’t even get the rest of his words out. Tried to switch tracks. “I’m just saying, there was something when I first saw you, before we met—”

 

“Before we met?” Vyroko repeated. Jehui’s voice caught. “How could you have seen me before we met?”

 

Nehara had been looking discreetly outside while they were having their conversation, but now she looked at Jehui in surprise. He didn’t know what to say next. Looked outside - looking for Nela - could she help? Touched his mask unconsciously.

 

“Ha!” Vyroko nodded knowingly. “You spied on us before you came running out of the woods, didn’t you? Of course. You used your mask power with your ring, and watched us. How long did you do that? Long enough to come up with a plan?”

 

The Toa advanced threateningly on Jehui. Now Nehara raised a hand, but stopped herself guiltily as she was still holding the black shard to the door with her other hand.

 

Sunset. The burning light grew brighter.

 

***

 

Nela drew her legs back over the edge in pure instinct. Dangling limbs over an unknown abyss was the stuff of nightmares.

 

It was black.

 

Nela gasped softly as her eyes grappled for some depth. It was as if a black wall had been suddenly been erected in front of her, cutting off a swath of the island.

 

The sun had been setting, and then it had vanished without a sound behind the darkness.

 

Footsteps behind her. The others had noticed, and Tahtorak woke up. He came up next to Nela.

 

The Vortixx stood with Jehui and Vyroko in the doorway. Both looked alarmed. Nehara was still holding the shard-key to the door, and the white light still shone from the north.

 

The blackness expanded and contracted.

 

Now Nela saw it was fog that had abruptly reared up in a giant wall in front of the mountain.

 

More expansion than contraction. The wall of fog was coming toward them.

 

All of them on the plateau backed away from the edge. Tahtorak was glaring at the blackness, but Nela didn’t see that familiar deep-sight look. He probably couldn’t discern anything. Did that mean it really was just fog, not an illusion?

 

Ticking from inside the chamber.

 

Nela and Tahtorak ran around the plateau to the door.

 

The other three were already inside, and all looking at the glass egg.

 

The glass egg was flickering like it was struggling to shine.

 

Nehara suddenly yelped, and the shard-key dropped to the floor with a clatter. It was glowing hot.

 

At the same time, the glass egg shone brightly.

 

Another sound. Again, everyone whirled around toward the fog. It seemed even closer now.

 

Then Nela saw something stir in the black fog. Something seemed to draw together into a denser formation and then extend toward the mountain.

 

It was a tendril reaching toward the glass egg.

 

The light from the glass egg shone more intensely, and the fog seemed to recoil. Then it continued to advance more slowly, snaking through the air.

 

They were trapped between these two things, and Nela knew they had to pick a side.

 

It was obvious.

 

The fog crossed onto the plateau just as Nela grabbed Tahtorak’s hand and pulled him toward the doorway. Jehui and Vyroko had the same idea and were already inside.

 

Nehara grabbed the cool shard-key and joined them.

 

Everyone was inside now. Nela turned around toward the open door just in time to see the edge of the plateau be swallowed up by the fog.

 

The black rushed toward them.

 

“VYROKO!” she screamed.

 

The Toa nearest the door shoved it with his shoulder.

 

Just as the black reached the doorway, it swung shut with a loud clang.

 

Nela flinched. Wanted to close her eyes to avoid seeing her own body be engulfed. Surely the door, the mere rock of the mountain, couldn’t protect them? But her eyes stayed open, glued to the door.

 

It was black too, which played tricks on her eyes, looking like it was expanding too. Little branches of shadow creeping from its corners.

 

Nothing happened for a minute.

 

Slowly, Nela became aware of other things.

 

Steady light from the egg.

 

Everyone breathing.

 

They looked at each other. Fright was in the air.

 

Ticking.

 

Everybody jumped. The egg had simply resumed its ticking as if its business with the black fog was concluded. It was almost a welcome sound after what had just happened, but the ticking still made everyone uneasy. What if the egg was somehow a bomb?

 

“We need to get out of here,” she whispered.

 

“The door’s the only way out. Maybe there’s another entrance through the mountain?” Nehara suggested.

 

“We might have to hurry. I think the ticking is a little faster, but maybe that’s just me.” Jehui looked at the egg uneasily.

 

“Maybe we’re supposed to let that happen, if you don’t want that,” Vyroko shot back.

 

Nela was puzzled by this sudden hostility and looked at Nehara.

 

“I’m not sure,” the Vortixx said hesitatingly, “but Jehui was asking Vyroko about his odd armour, and let slip that he had - might - have been watching us with his Mask of Spirit before we actually met.”

 

“Oh, so you think my armour is ‘odd’ too?” Vyroko rounded onto Nehara, who returned his glare with a stony stare.

 

“I’m sorry!” Jehui relented. “But it’s like you’ve forgotten how weird and scary it was to wake up the way we did. Of course I wanted to know where I was, and I figured out what my ring does. So I went looking around the island, and I saw you three. Of course I wanted to check you out, see if you were a threat or not.”

 

“I believe you, Jehui,” Nela said. She walked up to Vyroko and laid a hand on his shoulder. He relaxed slightly. “But Vyroko, even though we had more important things on our mind at the moment, you have to admit it. All of us, in our vague memories, we all know that nobody has ever worn blood red armour.”

 

Vyroko looked away. “I didn’t ask for it.”

 

“I know. If we find a way, we can replace it for you.”

 

They all stood quietly for a minute.

 

“Fine,” Vyroko said finally as he looked at the egg. “An idea. If it’s the egg creating the light, then maybe we can carry it with us to protect against the fog. It might be worth the risk.”

 

“That makes sense,” Jehui agreed.

 

Nela walked over to the pedestal and leaned on it with both hands, peering into the glass egg. Perhaps she would discern something like Tahtorak had.

 

“Tahtorak, did you see anything?” she asked.

 

“I did,” came the reply.

 

“Your eyes… they have some power, don’t they?”

 

“Yes, Toa Nela. My eyes are truth-seeing.”

 

“What does that mean?” Jehui asked.

 

“I see the inner truth of things. Of people. I do not see it explicitly spelled out before me, but I need only lay eyes on someone to gain a supreme sense of their inner being. What defines them - or what they truly believe defines them.” He looked around the room at his companions. “I can be deceived, I’m sure of that… but that deceit only occurs when the person I see is also deceived.”

 

“Okay,” Nehara said thoughtfully. “So that black fog. What sense of truth did you get?”

 

The Tahtorak frowned. “You might not understand. But let me try to explain. I saw nothing that you couldn’t because the black fog was precisely what it was.”

 

“So a giant wall of fog just sprung up across the island? I don’t…” Jehui stopped mid-objection and rolled his eyes. “Well, I guess if an ice tower and fog-people can just happen…”

 

“So it was that mystery of where the fog came from that I sought to see the truth of,” Tahtorak said. “What did it conceal? What had changed to bring about this fog? So I looked and I saw fog.”

 

Tahtorak fell silent.

 

Finally Jehui spoke. “See anything, Nela?”

 

The Toa of Water hadn’t said anything for a while as she looked into the glass egg.

 

Most of that time had been spent trying to calm herself from what she saw now. Even now, she couldn’t get any words out.

 

The wrong word, the wrong tone of voice could put them all in terrible danger.

 

She averted her eyes, but kept looking at the glass egg. Just made sure not to look directly at the reflection of the stranger in the room.

 

“Nela?” Jehui’s voice sounded concerned. She saw the Matoran’s reflection approaching her.

 

The stranger was looking at her reflection, she knew. Watching her eyes. Did he know she had seen him already?

 

She had only been looking into the egg itself, trying to see its bottom in the stone pedestal, and then her focus had shifted to its surface. Observing the reflections of her companions in the room. It had taken her a few seconds to realize the terrifying truth of what she saw.

 

An extra person.

 

Someone else was in the room with them.

 

Her mind worked frantically. How to warn everyone? How would they defend, or attack, against something that could only be seen as a reflection?

 

Nela’s mind paused. Moved to a new angle.

 

Why was this person here? What was so important to them that they would conceal themselves in such a small space where anyone could bump into them by accident?

 

The only special thing here was the glass egg.

 

So to draw them out, to make everyone aware of their presence and give them enough time to get over the shock that had taken Nela a whole minute… she was the luckiest one in this room right now. She needed to extend that luck to everyone else.

 

A small plan. So terribly risky… but at the very least, it would ensure only one person got hurt. She was willing to be that person.

 

Cleared her throat. Looked over at Nehara, feeling horribly self-conscious of her nonchalant expression.

 

“Do you have your shard-key?”

 

The Vortixx nodded and held it up.

 

Nela’s eyes sought permission.

 

Nehara held the Toa’s gaze for a long moment.

 

A flicker of realization in the Vortixx’s eyes. The minutest of nods.

 

Then she raised her hand holding the black metal and laid it in Nela’s.

 

Nela’s fingers closed around it. At the same time, she spun back toward glass egg.

 

Arm raised with fist. Sharp point of the shard jutting out.

 

Corner of her eye: Vyroko leaping toward her, convinced she was about to hit a bomb.

 

Brought her hand down.

 

Sudden stop.

 

Pressure around her wrist. Black shard almost touching the glass egg.

 

Her wrist warped. Melted out of blue, became white and gold like it was molten.

 

The melting stopped. Had a shape now.

 

A hand on her wrist, holding her back from striking the glass egg and shattering it.

 

Vyroko had come to a full stop next to Nela, leaning over the pedestal as well. His eyes were fixed on this impossible event.

 

The warping continued away from Nela’s wrist, along a path in the air that solidified into another wrist, forearm, whole arm…

 

Nela turned her head to follow this emergence that she had only half-expected, had thought too crazy to be true.

 

The figure next to her resolved into full form and colour.

 

Armour as white as snow. Thin lines of gold patterns that swirled.

 

Amber eyes. White mask with a tinge of the lightest blue, in a shape she didn’t recognize. Looked like a frozen pool of ripples spreading outward, and three ripple-circles for his eyes and mouth.

 

Those amber eyes were looking into hers with a mixture of the most righteous anger… and deep fear of her.

 

The room was deathly silent as Nela stepped back from the stone pedestal. She let the black shard slip out of her hands and drop to the floor with a clatter. Only then did the stranger release her wrist.

 

The chamber’s new visitor looked around at all of them. Then he spoke.

 

“I absolutely forbid you to destroy this egg.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#9 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Jan 26 2015 - 12:58 PM

Chapter 9

 

Author's Note: Please download PDF to view this chapter until forum bug is fixed.

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#10 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Feb 02 2015 - 09:52 AM

Chapter 10

 

Jehui tried to move his hands as little as possible.

 

His left hand hung down between his knees as he sat on the edge of the plateau. His right hand touched his left wrist, half-holding, half-resting on it.

 

The ring finger on his left hand twitched. Restless. Nervous.

 

Even though Jehui understood - as much as was possible - what he had done, his body didn’t quite comprehend. Feeling something that was still there, yet hidden away in a different… place… His finger protested at this ghost sensation.

 

Jehui drew a deep breath. Made it look like he was just taking in the fresh air. Deschyny was somewhere behind him on the plateau. Nehara too.

 

He heard footsteps. Looked behind, taking care not to move his hands. Any inadvertent gesture could have untold consequences.

 

Deschyny was walking, but in no particular direction. He seemed confused, but when Jehui looked closer, he saw a different emotion.

 

Feeling something… and being confused by that feeling. Two things at once. Deschyny’s face showed the struggle between the two.

 

The Toa’s hands moved as well, and Jehui looked at them.

 

Aimless…

 

No. A pattern. Circular. As if he was tracing out something on the ground before him.

 

The tracing stopped. Deschyny’s eyes cleared and he inhaled as he looked up at Jehui. It was clear that he had no idea what had just happened.

 

“Are you all right?” Nehara’s voice reached them from where she was standing at the opposite edge of the plateau.

 

Deschyny looked at her.

 

And he started talking in Vyroko’s voice.

 

***

 

“We can use the grooves in the ground to reconstruct the rings,” Vyroko said excitedly as he pointed at the ground.

 

Nela hadn’t noticed the patterns in the ground until now. She knelt down and felt one with her fingers. It was clean and dust-free. Freshly carved with a smoothness that suggested  utmost precision.

 

There were many such circular grooves in the ground, all concentric and centred toward the middle of the underground chamber. The only light came from the ceiling - a second hole in the ground above. Nela could faintly see tree branches beyond the light.

 

She picked up a piece of the broken rings and tried to fit it into the groove. It didn’t. Too curved, so it belonged to a circle nearer the centre.

 

Looked up at Tahtorak, who was still standing at the tunnel entrance. He nodded and joined her on the floor.

 

Vyroko looked grateful as he bent down as well. Together, the three of them started taking pieces of the metal and finding the groove that they fit into.

 

There were sixteen grooves altogether, meaning they had to sort through a lot of pieces. They were all roughly the same size, and Vyroko noticed this.

 

“Interestingly, the smallest one in the middle is still whole. It doesn’t seem damaged at all.”

 

Nela glanced over and saw what he meant. Although he recalled that it had stood upright on its edge in the ground before mysteriously levitating with the other rings, it now lay on its side slightly askew to the centre of the chamber.

 

Fallen, but not broken.

 

“It doesn’t seem right,” Nela said.

 

Vyroko looked up curiously, holding two shards in his hands.

 

“What I mean is that if the rings simply fell to the ground and broke, it doesn’t look like it. Every single ring broke except the smallest one, which doesn’t seem to be any different from the other ones.

 

“That’s right…” Vyroko said slowly. “Look at all the pieces. They’re all the same size, and the fractures do look the same. I didn’t notice this before. I was just too worried about putting it back together first.”

 

He sat back, still clutching the two pieces. “So what broke them, if not just a fall? I was thinking that they ran off the same energy source as the glass egg, and we cut it off when we used Nehara’s shard-key. But something else had to break them too. Tahtorak, do you see anything?”

 

Tahtorak looked up from his work on the other side of the room. Shook his head slowly.

 

Nela thought about it, studying the shards around her.

 

Their surfaces - that is, the parts that would have been exposed while they were whole - still looked pristine. No cuts or marks of impact on any of them. So it probably hadn’t been some physical weapon striking and shattering them.

 

Picked one up. Looked at either end where it had broken.

 

Jagged edges… and…

 

Closed her eyes. Sensed.

 

Felt the clue. Opened her eyes.

 

Stood up, went over to the wall. The other two watched her.

 

Brushed the rough stone wall with her fingers. The rock crumbled away slightly.

 

Very dry.

 

The air, too, was very dry. She felt almost no moisture. Her element was all outside, beyond that light-hole, in the soil and the leaves. While outside, she hadn’t felt this dryness underground, so it had to be shielded from her ability to sense water.

 

Except she could sense water in this chamber now that she stood in it. It was here in many little places.

 

If this place was so dry, why were there tiny droplets of water in the shattered ends of the rings?

 

***

 

“It’s almost just like what happened to Nela,” Jehui said worriedly as he and Nehara watched Deschyny.

 

The Toa of Light was on his knees, moving around invisible pieces of something.

 

Unlike when Nela had first gotten trapped in that ice tower, Deschyny was definitely still here. Jehui could touch his shoulder and the Toa responded, looking with his eyes but seemingly unable to interrupt his physical movements.

 

“Interestingly, the smallest one in the middle is still whole,” Deschyny blurted. “It doesn’t seem damaged at all.”

 

Jehui and Nehara looked at each other. Neither understood.

 

Body possession? Another spirit taking over? Why would it be doing those things, then?

 

Jehui got down near the ground so that Deschyny could see him.

 

“Deschyny, is there anything we can do to stop this?”

 

His eyes responded, but only to look at the Matoran in desperation.

 

“That’s right. Look at all the pieces. They’re all the same size, and the fractures do look the same. I didn’t notice this before. I was just too worried about putting it back together first.”

 

“Jehui, if this is Vyroko’s voice, it sounds like he’s talking about the underground machine,” Nehara said.

 

“But why?”

 

“I don’t know, but let’s try listening.”

 

Deschyny seemed to be holding two objects when he spoke again. “So what broke them, if not just a fall? I was thinking that they ran off the same energy source as the glass egg, and we cut it off when we used Nehara’s shard-key. But something else had to break them too. Tahtorak, do you see anything?”

 

They both jumped at the names. Nehara nodded quickly.

 

“So he’s with Tahtorak! He must be experiencing what Vyroko is doing right now.”

 

“But why?”

 

Deschyny didn’t seem to be in pain, just controlled by something else. Although they couldn’t be sure, it really didn’t seem like Vyroko was doing this.

 

“Okay,” Jehui said, trying to think. “If there is something around us that can help you, look at it.”

 

Deschyny’s eyes looked to his left.

 

The black door.

 

“Nehara—”

 

“No.”

 

Jehui didn’t say anything for a second. The Vortixx stood resolutely between the Toa of Light and the door.

 

“How do we know this isn’t a trick to get back into the room? For him to take control of that glass egg, or something?”

 

Jehui didn’t have an answer. It was plausible.

 

But the look in Deschyny’s eyes was too real. The Toa was panicking inside.

 

Jehui was sure this wasn’t a deception. But how to prove it to himself and to Nehara?

 

If Deschyny’s body really was being controlled by something else…

 

Jehui spun around and hit the side of the Toa’s head with all his might.

 

His fist bounced off painfully. Deschyny’s head didn’t budge.

 

“Hey!” Nehara was shocked the Matoran had taken such violent action.

 

Jehui looked at her defiantly and hit the Toa again, gritting his teeth against the pain.

 

“Stop it,” the Vortixx thundered.

 

Jehui deliberately kept eye contact with her as he pounded on the head again and again with his fists. He could hear small whines of pain escaping the Toa’s locked jaw.

 

Nehara had had enough. Moved over in two powerful strides to grab the Matoran.

 

Jehui dodged to the side.

 

She lost her balance and fell. Crashed against the Toa and fell onto her side. Looked up in confusion.

 

Jehui stood up, looking at her expectantly. She didn’t look pleased at being tricked… but she understood now.

 

A Matoran’s strength, perhaps… but there was no way the Toa could have resisted her heavy weight and not budged in the tiniest bit unless his body was controlled completely by something else.

 

With a hint of resentment, Nehara got up and went over to the door, pulling her chest compartment open and taking out the shard-key. Tapped its tip on the same place on the door as before. It unlocked and swung open.

 

Deschyny stood up, but it was clear he was still under the strange influence.

 

What he said next was even more confusing.

 

“What do you mean, the fog was here?”

 

***

 

Vyroko stared at Nela. He clutched two broken pieces of a ring in his hands. “Explain this to me again.”

 

Nela sighed worriedly. “It’s not a lot of proof. But I think about the only thing left that we don’t know anything about. What else?”

 

Tahtorak stood up as well, and moved around the room slowly. Shards clanked quietly as his feet brushed them aside. Both Toa watched him walk a full circuit of the room.

 

Finally the silver-horned one said, “I think Nela is correct. I do not see anything hidden here, but I do see a trace of a desire to keep a secret.”

 

He returned their confused looks with a patient smile. “Something was here, and it did not want us to know it was here. So yes, I think it was the fog that has disrupted our work several times.”

 

“Work? What do you mean?” Vyroko asked.

 

Tahtorak seemed honestly surprised that this wasn’t obvious. “All this time, we have been working toward something. What that is, I do not know. None of us do. We are guided by necessity. But two things interfered with our effort… Deschyny was the first, and it turns out he was only part of this process. He had his own task, to protect the mountain until it had finished forming.” 

 

He paused. “The second interference… is the fog.”

 

His ruby eyes narrowed. “And I think now that Deschyny is working with us, the fog will be trying even harder to stop us.”

 

Nela and Vyroko looked at each other with wide eyes. It made sense even though it was such a strange idea. Fog having a will?

 

Nela looked at Vyroko and shook her head. She wasn’t sure.

 

Vyroko turned away and paced for a moment too, thinking carefully.

 

He remembered how the fog ‘person’ had materialized in front of him when he was climbing the waterfall steps with Nehara. It had blocked his way at first, but then gestured for him to pass. He still didn’t understand what had happened there.

 

But he knew what had happened right after, when he and Nehara were climbing up the mountain stairs…

 

If Tahtorak was right, and the fog wanted to stop them from getting any further…

 

Only now did Vyroko realize the fog-person’s blocking and then stepping aside had not been a sign of acquiescence. It had been a delay.

 

A delay of mere seconds… but just enough of a delay to ensure something would be timed just right. Something that would set them back somehow.

 

“Tahtorak,” he said slowly with his back turned, “what are you not telling us?”

 

Nela made a surprised noise but stayed silent. Vyroko stayed where he was; neither of the others were moving, so he didn’t move either.

 

“I’m not accusing you of anything, but I have a feeling we weren’t supposed to meet the way we did, while going up the mountain,” the Toa of Fire explained. “If the fog hadn’t delayed Nehara and I, we would have gone up ahead of you… and then we might have realized you were behind us. Assumed you were sneaking up. Maybe attacked. We might not be the allies we are now.”

 

He turned around to look at Tahtorak. Looked into his eyes. Waited.

 

Tahtorak didn’t say anything, but his face showed deep thought. The claws on his left hand clicked together rhythmically.

 

Finally he said, “I saw Deschyny without seeing his form, his actual body. I only saw his mystery and followed that.”

 

Nela raised a hand from her crossed arms. “This isn’t the same as how he hid himself, right? That was just him using his element of light for camouflage?”

 

Tahtorak looked pained. “I’ve been quiet ever since he revealed himself. It’s been very confusing for me.”

 

“How so?” Nela approached Tahtorak, who seemed to be in distress now. Something was struggling inside him, an unsolved riddle becoming intractable.

 

Finally he said, “Because when I see Deschyny, I see Vyroko. And when I see Vyroko, I see Deschyny.”

 

Neither Toa said anything. It was clear Tahtorak didn’t want to talk any further.

 

Nela turned to Vyroko and shrugged.

 

Slowly, they all went back to reassembling the rings in the floor.

 

***

 

Jehui quickly backed away from the edge of the plateau.

 

He had heard Deschyny’s latest incomprehensible sentence, but didn’t take his eyes off what he was seeing now.

 

Fog.

 

It must have started behind them, on the other side of the mountain. Now it crept across the forest of the northern half of the island, burying all but the tallest trees in vaporous white.

 

In seconds, the entire island was a sea of fog.

 

“Nehara!” he shouted.

 

Then he heard tapping as if on a window.

 

The glass egg.

 

Backed away more so he was between Deschyny and the edge, then turned around to see the open door. The glass egg still sat on the pedestal inside, but it was moving. Rattling.

 

Deschyny’s eyes were fixed on it, but he didn’t move. Nehara kept watching him while Jehui went into the room. He pulled himself up onto the pedestal, careful not to touch the egg.

 

Looked at it. Saw something inside, but not actually in the egg… more like a reflection.

 

Confused, he looked around. Vyroko wasn’t here. So why did he see the Toa of Fire standing in the doorway?

 

Looked closer. Not right in the doorway… a little outside.

 

Jehui looked behind him.

 

Deschyny stood in the same place.

 

The Matoran took note of many things about the Toa of Light’s pose in seconds, then looked back. The reflection of Vyroko matched exactly.

 

“What are you?” He wondered out loud.

 

“But how’s that possible? One is here, and one is there.” Nehara had seen it now.

 

She was still watching Deschyny, who was on his knees again and handling invisible things with his hands.

 

Back at the egg. The distorted reflection of Vyroko was doing the same thing.

 

What if… even though it made no sense for Deschyny to be doing what he was doing here… it made sense for Vyroko, wherever he was with Nela and Tahtorak right now?

 

They had gone to find that underground ring device Vyroko stumbled upon.

 

Jehui looked back at Deschyny. Watched the Toa’s motions carefully. Each finger placement, the wrists… after a minute, the pattern had emerged. Deschyny - that was, Vyroko - was picking up pieces, comparing them, and then placing them at certain spots in the ground.

 

Maybe, just maybe, Vyroko and his companions had rediscovered the ring machine, but it had broken somehow. So they were working to reassemble it right now.

 

Jehui closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was a connection between Vyroko and Deschyny, but he hadn’t made all the connections. What else?

 

Fog.

 

Why had the fog come out just now, and covered the island so completely?

 

“Nehara,” he called. She looked inside. “Try touching Deschyny with the shard-key.”

 

She blinked. “Why?”

 

“I’m not sure. But it’s connected to the door, and we know Deschyny is connected to the glass egg inside. Maybe the key bridges them.”

 

“What if it hurts him?”

 

“You think he isn’t hurting right now?”

 

Nehara considered it. Then she walked over, bent down, and gently touched the black shard to Deschyny’s shoulder.

 

The Toa slumped over onto the ground. Nehara checked. He was unconscious.

 

“That seems to have worked,” Jehui muttered. “But what if we bring Deschyny back to consciousness? Does it just take over again?”

 

“I feel that this is rather cruel to Deschyny,” Nehara said pointedly. The Matoran sighed and nodded in agreement. Better to figure out what they could now, and bring the Toa back when they absolutely needed him.

 

Nehara took off the Toa’s mask to keep him weak even if he regained consciousness. Although this was not the way Nehara’s body functioned, since she did not wear a mask, not wearing one seemed to weaken Toa and Matoran.

 

Both of them took a moment to collect themselves. Nehara walked around the plateau, looking across the thick sea of fog. Jehui kept on watching the reflection in the glass egg, but it now only showed Deschyny’s immobile body.

 

Movement caught the corner of Jehui’s eye. He looked up, through the open doorway.

 

Deschyny’s body had jerked. More possession, even unconscious?

 

The Toa suddenly jumped up.

 

Before Jehui could shout, the Toa had bounded across the plateau toward Nehara’s unsuspecting back.

 

Shoved.

 

The black Vortixx’s startled scream was almost instantly silenced by the fog beneath. Jehui almost covered the sides of his head, not wanting to hear the distant thud of her body… but he listened in frozen horror for the sound.

 

It was useless. The ground was too far away for him to hear anything.

 

She was gone.

 

The Toa of Light turned around slowly and looked with narrow eyes at the quavering Matoran.

 

“One down,” was all he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#11 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Feb 16 2015 - 12:15 PM

Chapter 11
 
Vyroko and his two companions had almost finished reassembling the rings when Nela sensed something frightening.

 

The fog had returned.

 

According to the Toa of Water, the entire island was covered in a shroud of fog. Vyroko believed her, and when he looked up through the skylight, he saw nothing but milky grey mist.

 

“It’s returned to prevent us,” Vyroko hissed in frustration. Nobody had to be told to work faster, and for several minutes the clatter and skittering of the remaining fragments were the only noises in the chamber.

 

Vyroko saw Nela suddenly raise her hands upward, as if holding something above her head. He looked at her strained face with concern.

 

Looked up again.

 

Tendrils of fog were snaking their way down through the skylight. Vyroko almost jumped up, but then he noticed the fog was bending sideways and creeping along the ceiling, then stopping about halfway to the wall. It started to coalesce as more poured in.

 

Nela’s upraised hands… she was holding it back with her power over water. Fog was only vapour, after all, even if it had a consciousness within.

 

Back to the fragmented rings. Except now, Tahtorak had just located the gap for the last piece. He looked at Vyroko, who nodded hastily, before placing it in. It fit perfectly.

 

Vyroko was almost expecting the entire thing to magically repair itself and rise up like it had before, but nothing happened.

What now? Time was short. Nela only had so much strength.

 

“I think you need to re-fuse the parts together,” Tahtorak suggested.

 

“How? That would take ages.”

 

“Not if you warm all of the rings at the same time. Use the floor itself as your anvil. Heat it enough that all the rings become soft enough for the fragments to re-join at the same time.”

 

“Are you sure—?”

 

Tahtorak stood up and retreated into the tunnel, where the heat would be milder underfoot. But Nela…

 

She had to stay where she was, but the floor would burn her. It would break her concentration too. How would she stay off the floor while staying in the same place?

 

Vyroko grabbed his own mask in sudden realization. Running over to her, he searched her distant eyes for consent.

 

A tiny nod.

 

In one smooth movement, he switched masks with her. Put on her Mask of Possibilities, and gave her his Mask of Gliding.

 

Nela immediately rose up off the floor, levitating in place.

 

Vyroko returned to the centre of the room, but in his haste his foot caught and sent several pieces flying from one of the ring grooves.

 

“Ugh—!”

 

Quickly reassembled them. His hands were shaking.

 

Fire.

 

Stood in the centre and called upon his element. Took a moment to focus so that it did not come out of his hands as instinct would have it. Redirected it down his legs into his feet, and out.

 

The stone underneath glowed orange.

 

The little heat spot spread outward and reached the second inner ring, Vyroko didn’t worry about the intact one between his feet.

 

At first, the broken metal didn’t glow, just the rock of the groove itself. The heat continued beyond, and for a second Vyroko feared the rings themselves were heat-resistant.

 

But then the first ring started to glow red too.

 

He realized he could help this process along using Nela’s mask. Called on it in his mind and instructed it to adjust the possibility that the rings would grow just warm enough to meld together but not so hot they would distort.

 

Several rapid pops startled him. An equal number of tiny jets of steam shot up and dissipated.

 

Looking closer, he saw that the ring had healed itself along its fractured lines. The pops and steam must have been from the water droplets Nela had detected suddenly vaporizing as the fragments joined.

 

The same happened to each ring, and Vyroko continued sending the heat outward.

 

Soon the entire chamber was sweltering hot. Vyroko noticed a lucky consequence of this - the fog seemed to be retreating a little.

 

Each cycle of pops and steam jets got bigger as the larger rings re-fused. Vyroko tapered down the heat as it reached the final ring, and when that one was mended, he re-absorbed the heat. The floor steamed and the walls swayed in the hot air.

 

Looked over at Nela - she was still levitating and holding the fog back, but the ceiling was covered by the fog, which had progressed about a third of the way down toward the floor. If Vyroko jumped high, his head would enter the fog.

 

He shuddered at the thought.

 

Tahtorak returned from the tunnel and nodded approvingly. All the rings seemed to be healed, and as Vyroko looked, they had the same pristine sheen as before. There must have been some self-restoring power his heat had triggered, because they surely would have been misshapen.

 

He blinked. Something was odd. All the heat in the room was gone, but the rings were still glowing. And as he watched, they went from warm orange to brilliant white.

 

The small black metal circle that lay at the middle rose up into the air. Vyroko knew what was going to happen next, and grabbed Nela. She gasped, and the fog surged, then stopped again. Maintaining her barrier, she walked with him to join Tahtorak at the tunnel entrance.

 

One by one, each ring from the inner to the outer rose up to their positions.

 

It was even more spectacular this time because they glowed white. Not a hot sort of white, but luminous as though they were lit from inside. For a moment Vyroko forgot about the fog and revelled in the beautiful result of his success.

 

Then they slowly began spinning and gyrating. The black circle at its heart turned round and round along its edge.

 

“Did you notice the writing before?” Tahtorak asked. 

 

“Yes,” Vyroko replied. This time, the engraved symbols were shining golden. Vyroko tried to find some pattern in them, but the rings’ movements were too fast, and he couldn’t finish reading one ring before it turned away. The inner rings were nearly impossible since they were hidden half the time by the outer ones.

 

“Tahtorak, can you—?”

 

He looked at the half-beast, who nodded. “My eyes show me their meaning without needing to see them.”

 

The Tahtorak then spoke in a long recitation, almost singing…
 
The eternal turning returns one of the six
Their circle is cursed and must not be broken
 
Stay with the bulwark, his is the safest circle
Trust the protector, hers is the strongest circle
Support the beast, his is the noblest circle
Follow the advisor, hers is the wisest circle
Accept the healer, theirs is the purest circle
 
Tahtorak’s voice changed…
 
Burning gold
Broken black
Threads of water
Spinning silver
These are the instruments of calamity
 
…frightened…
 
Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices
From his hands flow treason, highest of the high
He will rule with fire and light, and he has glided for three days
So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning.
 
Vyroko wanted to believe that Tahtorak had just made up the last part as some sort of badly timed joke. But he looked around at his companion, and the ruby eyes did not lie.

 

On his other side, Nela slowly lowered her arms. The fog wafted nearer them.

 

“So it’s been you this entire time,” she whispered.

 

Vyroko had no words.

 

He wanted to protest

to defend
to accuse
to point out the absurdity of him leading them to a message that pointed at him…

 

Fire, yes, but Light - that was Deschyny, not him!

 

Awake for three days? His mask - gliding?

 

But the words wouldn't come out. He had nothing.

 

And then, up through his mind a treasonous thought floated.

 

Just like everyone else on this island, Vyroko didn’t truly know himself. Just like the others, he had awoken with no memories of himself.

To him, it was entirely conceivable that he, in the past, had constructed such machinations as to set himself against the others, for reasons now unknown to him.

 

Everything else in his heart and mind told him this wasn’t true. He knew it wasn’t true.

 

Yet, that mote of doubt floated up and fixed itself in his thoughts.

 

This was the only thing that stopped Vyroko from raising his arms when Tahtorak struck him across the face.

 

His mask was knocked off. He slumped down to the ground. Unconsciousness followed.
 


***


Jehui tried to move backwards, away from the doorway and the advancing maskless Toa, but his foot caught on the stone pedestal. He tumbled onto his back and scrambled on all fours until he pressed up against the wall.

 

Deschyny entered the room. His amber eyes glowed ruthlessly.

 

“I could never agree to anything less than complete security for the glass egg,” he snarled at the Matoran. “Once I’ve gotten rid of you, I’ll go down to her body and get that shard-key, and make it work for me.”

 

Jehui tried to talk quickly. “Deschyny, everybody agreed to try everything first. If we find the answers we want, we might not need to do anything to it. Who knows what Vyroko and the others will find?”

 

Deschyny didn’t answer. He only scowled and lunged.

 

Jehui threw himself to the side, dodging the Toa’s hands. Got up and ran around the room.

 

Then he raised his hand.

 

Time to try something.

 

He pinched his ring finger.

 

The ring resonated in reply from its hiding place, in a space smaller than a fragment of a grain of sand.

 

Jehui made a second sign. One hand with fingers together as if holding something. Moved this forward and down, as if placing that something somewhere.

 

He was making this up as he went along. The faintest of patterns from his time in the ice tower had hinted to him a secret way of the world. A way for things to be done.

 

Deschyny pursued him, but Jehui deftly dodged toward the pedestal and hid behind it so that the Toa could only stand on the other side near the door. The Toa grunted in frustration.

 

“I’ll throw you off the mountain to join Nehara too. No fancy signs are going to save you from gravity.”

 

Jehui ignored him. Focused on his instinct instead. The third sign - what made the most sense for what he wanted to express, to make real?

Simple.

 

He wanted to express an object: the glass egg. But it was in the room already. So all he had to do was point at it to complete his signed phrase.

 

He did just that. Deschyny blinked in irritation at this and snapped,

 

“What are you doing?”

 

Jehui smiled. “Nothing. It’s already done.”

 

This made the Toa pause. Then, with one suspicious glance at the Matoran, he leaned closer to the glass egg.

 

Peered into its depths.

 

Mouth slowly dropped open.

 

“HOW DID YOU DO THAT?!” he bellowed.

 

Jehui jumped back, then stood firmly. “If you try to harm me, or anyone else further, I will make the ring move. Guess what will happen then?”

 

Deschyny looked speechless. He stared back into the egg, seeing the impossible. Jehui’s very own ring that he had worn on his finger until just a few hours ago was now embedded in the very heart of the glass egg. The Toa was no doubt cursing himself for having missed that detail.

 

The command to make the iron band move would be very simple. Just repeat the sign for ring - the two fingers wrapped around his ring finger - and then a gesture to move.

 

The glass egg would surely shatter instantly.

 

Deschyny understood this. After a furious moment, the Toa looked back at the Matoran.

 

“What now, then?”

 

Jehui knew this next part was a gamble, but at the very least, he would get away.

 

“I’m going to walk out of that door,” the Matoran said. “I’m going to bring everyone back here. And don’t think my power ends when I leave. You saw me standing in the sky with Nela before. If I think anything is wrong at all, I’ll make the ring move and break the egg.”

 

Deschyny said nothing, but stepped aside. His rage-filled eyes did not leave Jehui as the Matoran sidled along the wall until he reached the door. Jehui slipped out, backed away across the plateau, and then turned and ran down the mountain stairs.

 

A gamble. Jehui had no idea if this power of his could travel far since the ice tower had been some kind of connected spirit realm that didn’t behave like a physical location. Plus, Deschyny might find some way to extract the ring from the egg without breaking anything… if it could be put in, it could be taken out.

 

He raced down the steps and glanced at his hands.

 

They held some inexplicable ability. He had only begun to understand it when he had felt that awful gap in the ice tower, and healed it in that way he didn’t even know.

 

When he and Nela had realized they were standing in the ocean with the actual island, the two of them having become world giants, Jehui had felt a tingle. As if an instinct inside him had travelled down to his fingers and guided them, showing him a small example of the many shapes and ideas that could be wrought with them.

 

Jehui stopped running.

 

Below him, the stairs continued through the narrow canyon. Just a few steps further, they entered a sea of fog.

 

He had forgotten about this problem.

 

So far - so far - the fog had not actually hurt anyone. It had only crept, scared, disrupted.

 

Could fog hurt a physical person like Jehui? He didn’t care to find out.

 

Before he could start thinking of a way through this, the fog abruptly parted. It did not leave the stairs altogether, but formed a corridor within the canyon so that the walls were still covered in the mist.

 

From one side of this mist-wall, a large mass of fog separated and took the vague shape of a Matoran.

 

Jehui stepped back.

 

The fog-Matoran  turned its head as if looking at him, and pointed down the corridor.

 

This was just like Vyroko’s encounter that the Toa had described.

 

An flicker of realization. What if…?

 

Jehui hadn’t thought about it until now, but when the fog had suddenly filled the ice tower he and Nela were trapped in, it had somehow shown Jehui how to escape the tower. That strange motion of fog had called his hands to follow, to copy the movements... and then to create his own.

 

Fog.

 

When it rolled across the beach when he and Nela returned to the island, it hadn’t felt like a threat. Instead, being surrounded by the fog after that ordeal had felt… comforting.

 

All this time, Jehui had thought that feeling came from being reunited with Vyroko and Nehara. Knowing they were together again. It was only now that Jehui realized his feeling of comfort had come before he knew Vyroko and Nehara were even there.

 

Fog. Physically obscuring sight, but mentally revealing so much more.

 

Fog. Rather than making one lose their way, it led them where they needed to be.

 

What if the fog was not their foe, but their friend?

 

Jehui started, remembering where he was. Deschyny was still nearby and that definitely wasn’t safe.

 

The fog-Matoran continued pointing down the corridor. So Jehui decided to take its advice and ran down past it.

 

After a few minutes of almost flying down the stairs, Jehui reached the waterfall. It was wet here, so he took more care until he landed on the soil by the creek.

 

He could only hear the creek, though, not see it. The fog was that thick. It maintained a corridor for Jehui to follow. The corridor turned to the left, meaning he would be going east.

 

Jehui allowed himself a small smile of relief.

 

The fog was taking him to the others.
 

***


Nehara groaned in pain.

 

She should be dead.

 

She hadn’t hit the side of the mountain at all. It had been a clean, seconds-long drop from the cliff to the forest floor.

 

She had missed all branches, so nothing had slowed her fall.

 

The ground she had hit wasn’t mossy or even grassy, but hard rock.

 

She knew she should be dead.

 

She had landed on her front, so she had felt her entire chest buckle in. Shards of splintered armour either flew away or cut into her. With the way her armour was fused with her organic parts like the others, it meant her muscle and organs were deeply mangled as well.

 

Having landed slightly on her left side, her left shoulder had shattered. Probably her neck was broken too. Her head felt oddly disjointed.

The only reason she wasn’t dead, she thought, was because of the fog.

 

For as she had fallen and reached the sea of fog, it had not blown away. Rather, it had rushed up and toward her.

 

Although it did nothing to soften the impact, she had felt the fog immediately seep into every crack, crevice, and fissure in her body. It flooded into her wounds and absorbed the worst of the shock, carrying the trauma away into the air.

 

Now she felt the fog dance along and inside her body, touching upon every nerve gently. As it left each filament, Nehara felt… better.

 

The fog was healing her.

 

Then, before she had even realized it, she could see again. She had been blind until now.

 

Both her eyesight… and her understanding.

 

The fog had never been their foe. It had directed them, herded them.

 

Into a long-woven trap? Perhaps. Yet, Nehara couldn’t help the feeling of relief that flooded through her. If not for the healing fog, she would be dead. Regardless of its other intents… she owed it her life now.

 

A dull crunching made Nehara jerk in surprise. Sensation returned in her left arm, and now she felt it straightening out. It was painless, which made it all the more bizarre.

 

Now her arm lay properly on the ground. She rolled her shoulder, and everything felt right.

 

Her neck did not have that awful disjointed feeling anymore. Now she lifted her head and looked around. The fog enveloped her so completely that she couldn’t see beyond a few pebbles laying by her face.

 

The fog seemed to thin out as she watched. Then it abruptly split. She blinked before sitting up to understand what she saw now. It was creating a corridor, like a subterranean path with fog overhead and on either side rather than stone. Shrubs and trees peered through the fog occasionally as the corridor passed by. 

 

Nehara inhaled deeply. This didn’t hurt either, and she looked down to see that her chest was also repaired. Even the chest-hatch was intact, and a quick check confirmed her shard-key was still inside.

 

She looked down the corridor again. Judging by where she had fallen and where this path was leading… she was pretty sure it went in the direction that Vyroko, Nela, and Tahtorak had gone.

 

But Jehui was up on the mountain alone with Deschyny.

 

Fury flooded through her as if it had been waiting behind a dam all this time. Nehara curled her hands into fists.

 

Deschyny had been lucky that time, tricking them both right after his episode of possession. But one well-placed swing from Nehara would cure him of all episodes forever.

 

But he was a Toa of Light. And possessed a Mask of Sonics, apparently. It was a formidable combination of powers, and indeed he had fooled them all for two days while concealing himself completely. Nehara had no powers… as hotly as her desire for revenge burned, she still knew he could easily overpower her.

 

Jehui…

 

If Deschyny had wanted to get rid of him, he would have thrown him off the mountain as well. But as far as she could tell, that hadn’t happened. So he was still up there, she hoped. Perhaps that ring of his gave him a way out somehow.

 

This fog had healed her, saved her life, and now pointed the way she was supposed to go next. It tore Nehara inside to not immediately climb up the mountain and throw herself at Deschyny, rage unbridled… it would be satisfying, but she knew it was more likely to get her killed in a place where the fog couldn’t reach her.

 

Accept the fog’s direction. That was her decision.
 
She took off down the fog-path toward the others.

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Takuta-Nui, Feb 16 2015 - 12:23 PM.

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#12 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
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Posted Feb 24 2015 - 10:12 AM

Chapter 12
 
Tahtorak looked down at the Toa’s limp body. Nela stood across from him. She leaned against the wall of the tunnel in shock. Behind them, the fog partly filled the chamber with the spinning rings that shone white.

 

“Is it really him?” Nela asked after a moment. “Is he really our enemy? I was starting to think there wasn’t an enemy at all, that we were all just stuck on this island…”

 

Tahtorak shook his head slowly. He felt such doubt. None of this felt right.

 

Closed his eyes. Breathed. Opened them.

 

Saw the same thing he had been seeing ever since Deschyny had appeared.

 

Vyroko’s body, same as it was with the Mask of Gliding now that Nela had taken her Mask of Possibilities back, and the blood-red armour… but even as Tahtorak gazed at it, his sight shifted and showed him parts of Deschyny.

 

A piece of orange armour replaced by white for an instant.

 

Red overlay on the arm suddenly gaining gold pattern, then losing them just as quickly.

 

It didn’t make sense because Tahtorak had seen nothing like this when he saw Deschyny. And Vyroko seemed completely unaware of this, so it had to be his own eyes.

 

Some kind of hidden truth was straining to reach his eyes, and just barely connecting before faltering.

 

“Nela, can you read what the rings say?” He asked.

 

Nela looked up, surprised, but looked around. The fog lifted away so it didn’t obscure the rings.

 

The golden lettering on their outsides still glowed, but they moved too quickly. She shook her head.

 

“What you said… was all of it right?”

 

Her voice sounded like she was afraid of offending him, but Tahtorak understood.  Nela was essentially confronting the possibility that her fellow Toa was evil.

 

Looking again, he saw the rings through a veil. The rings didn’t slow down, but the golden letters glowed brighter and floated into the air like a script.

 

Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices…

 

Was that Vyroko? The different lines could be talking about different people. Possibly. It didn’t seem that way at all, though.

 

From his hands flow treason, highest of the high…

 

Vyroko had been a good ally as they found each other and explored the island. When Tahtorak had watched them from the shadows of the forest, he had seen no sign of any secret plotting.

 

He will rule with fire and light, and he has glided for three days…

 

That was where it became strange. Tahtorak felt the same intractable terror as when he had first read it. That message, and the following line, had been meant for this moment. It would have made no sense if they had read it a day later or earlier. But it had been three days now on the island.

 

This was the fog at work, again. They had been directed and timed so that they would arrive back here and mend the machine once three days had passed. But was the fog tricking them, or trying to show them the truth?

 

So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning.

 

Something tightened in Tahtorak’s chest. That definitely had been meant for him. It made no sense for any other person.

 

All of this - this chamber, this congregation of rings, and all the events that had led him and Vyroko and Nela here - all of it had been precisely contrived so it would make sense to him.

 

The fog.

 

Tahtorak snapped his head up from his reverie.

 

The fog waited behind Nela. It was no longer as menacing as it had always seemed.

 

Could fog do all of this? What force lived within? To his eyes, it was nothing but fog.

 

Nela shifted uneasily. “This could be a trick.”

 

“You’re not holding it back anymore, are you?” Tahtorak asked.

 

Nela shook her head. “It seems to be just waiting for us to decide.”

 

“We need to get out of here first,” Tahtorak decided. “The only way out is through that skylight.”

 

“And we need Vyroko to pass through the barrier,” Nela reminded him. Tahtorak frowned. He had forgotten that.

 

It was obvious to him now that Vyroko had been lucky to make it out the first time by stepping on the rings as they spun. If they needed him to go through the barrier, they would have to revive him… and right now, neither of them were prepared to do that until they had more answers.

 

As if the fog could read his thoughts, some of it left the chamber, showing the skylight more clearly.

 

It took Tahtorak a minute to notice. The rings were slowing down.

 

They came to a stop in a pattern that, thanks to their concentric arrangement, formed steps leading up to the skylight.

 

“Does the fog control the rings?” Nela wondered. “What if it made that message too?”

 

“We will find out,” Tahtorak said decisively. Nela looked at him curiously, but he didn’t reveal his intention out loud with the fog present.

 

Nela had her mask back, and held onto Vyroko’s. They climbed the ring-formed steps, Tahtorak going up first and holding Vyroko’s shoulders and Nela carrying his feet and mask. Tahtorak tested the skylight and felt a solid barrier like at the other entrance. So he hoisted Vyroko over his shoulder and leaped up.

 

He kept a hold on Vyroko as he climbed out of the hole, and left the unconscious Toa’s legs dangling down so Nela could stay connected and climb up as well. Once she did, the invisible skylight was just a patch of grass.

 

The fog surrounded them but left space enough for them to stand apart from each other.

 

“Two ways?” Nela said in confusion.

 

Before them were two fog-corridors, each leading slightly to either side. Tahtorak didn’t know any more than her why there were two, and where they led.

 

Their confusion was answered when faint footsteps became audible. They were quick and light. A small person.

 

His gut tightened. Jehui? There could be no good reason for the Matoran to be running toward them. He was supposed to stay with Nehara and Deschyny.

 

The grey-armoured Matoran emerged in the distance in the left-hand corridor. He looked frightened, but also determined about something.

Nela rushed up to meet him. “Are you okay? Why aren’t you with the others?”

 

Jehui had to double over and catch his breath. While he did, he glanced behind and down the corridor. Nela noticed this.

“Were you being chased?”

 

“Don’t think so - he stayed,” Jehui gasped.

 

“He?” Nela repeated. “You mean Deschyny? Where’s Nehara?”

 

It sounded like Jehui’s harsh breathing was abruptly stopped up by a cork in his throat.

 

A high-pitched sob, as if he had just realized something.

 

“Dead,” he said with wide eyes.

 

Nela and Tahtorak exchanged glances. Tahtorak saw Nela’s thoughts - not with his truth-seeing eyes, but with his own heart - and knew they shared the same feeling. Once again, the decision to venture apart  no matter how safe they tried to be had resulted in horrible consequences.

 

Jehui gasped again, and Tahtorak realized they had been standing around with Vyroko’s maskless body at their feet.

 

“He’s only unconscious. There’s a reason for this,” Nela hurried to reassure him. “But - Nehara?”

 

Nela knelt down next to Jehui as he explained.

 

Jehui’s story was bewildering and tragic. Deschyny had experienced some sort of possession, and then as soon as he had recovered he had pushed Nehara off the mountain.

 

Tahtorak did feel a minor thrill when Jehui described his handtalking technique that had allowed him to escape. Concealing his ring, then placing it within the glass egg to threaten Deschyny… this Matoran really was brilliant.

 

Invoking events merely with one’s hand expressions… That was a riddle in itself they didn’t have time to address. Jehui finished and caught his breath again.

 

Tahtorak thought about everything for a moment, even as he felt a deep aching sadness at having lost a good and strong companion.

 

His desire was one with Jehui’s - Deschyny would answer for Nehara’s death. But it was clear they needed to tread carefully. And much about Jehui’s story had thrown Vyroko’s situation into even deeper mystery.

 

“Deschyny attacked you and Nehara without wearing his mask?”

 

Jehui nodded at Nela’s question. “I was surprised too. He seemed to be at full strength.”

 

“This matches up with what Tahtorak’s been seeing, I think,” she said.

 

Tahtorak agreed. “Deschyny is no ordinary Toa. But Jehui, what exactly did it look like when Deschyny was possessed?”

 

The Matoran showed them, and Tahtorak watched the several demonstrations of the Toa of Light’s strange postures and miming actions.

After a minute of this, Nela gasped softly. Looked up at Tahtorak, who met her gaze significantly.

 

Jehui’s physical demonstrations were just like what Vyroko had been doing in the underground chamber. Bending over, picking up pieces of the rings and moving them around.

 

This was a tantalizing clue for Tahtorak. Even now, he looked at Vyroko’s limp body and saw the jarring shift between Vyroko’s features and Deschyny’s. The two Toa were linked in some way, and it affected Deschyny far more deeply. Why? What made them different, why did it seem like Deschyny was on the ‘victim’ side of the relationship?

 

“Thank you, Jehui,” Tahtorak said. “I am sorry that you had to see Nehara die. We all are. Deschyny will answer for that. But Nela and I are afraid we have uncovered another traitor in our company.”

 

Jehui looked unhappily at Vyroko’s limp form.

 

Tahtorak started to explain what had happened. But even though the Toa of Water had been there to support the details, it was surprisingly difficult to explain to someone who hadn’t been present. The reason itself was so tenuous, so in clash with everything else they knew about Vyroko. Even Jehui’s expression showed this disbelief.

 

Foe of the World?

 

Once the ring’s lines had been recited in full to Jehui, the Matoran held up a hand.

 

“Fire and light?”

 

He looked at them both questioningly. The second-last line had caught his attention, and just now Tahtorak’s mind turned to it. He glimpsed the trickery of language at the same time that Jehui said it.

 

“Fire and light! It’s not an allegory, it’s talking about the elements!”

 

“You’re right,” Tahtorak said. He drew in a deep breath. Things were making more sense - slowly, a painstaking crawl toward the answer.

Vyroko and Deschyny - connected.

 

The rings spoke of fire and light - their individual elements.

 

But they were two different people, and the rings spoke of one person.

 

The conclusion was too strange, too terrible, to fully reveal itself in Tahtorak’s mind.

 

“One thing is clear here, though,” Nela said. “We need to protect each other more than ever before.”

 

“I agree,” said another voice.

 

Everyone spun around in alarm toward the other forgotten fog-corridor.

 

Nehara was standing there, strong and sad.

 

Everyone was speechless for a moment. Tahtorak momentarily forgot his truth-seeing eyes and wondered if he was really seeing her. Then he remembered - yes - he could see. It was no illusion.

 

Jehui broke the trance first and ran up to her. They embraced each other. The black-armoured Vortixx sighed happily and murmured,

“You most of all. I regret that I could not have protected you.”

 

“I did learn something,” Jehui replied. “I’m not a powerless Matoran, and I’m not reliant on that ring. I can change the way the world is just by expressing it on my hands. I wasn’t wearing the ring when I did it.”

 

Nehara drew back and looked at him with a curious but impressed face. Then she stood up and greeted Tahtorak and Nela.

 

“I arrived while you were talking about what happened in the underground chamber. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

 

“How did you survive the fall?” Tahtorak asked. No scrutiny of her body revealed any damage. Nehara smiled.

 

“My broken body laid on the ground, and it was healed.”

 

“By who? What?”

 

Nehara raised her hands around her, looking at the heavy mist that surrounded them and rose to engulf all but the tallest of trees. Daylight itself was softened by the foggy blanket overhead, so that it felt almost like night.

 

She said simply, “The fog is our friend.”

 

“I knew it!” Jehui declared. “I was thinking that too. I think all this time we’ve been misunderstanding the fog.”

 

Nela nodded. “I’m beginning to agree. One thing is obvious: Deschyny is a threat, and we must deal with him now.”

 

Tahtorak nodded in agreement. “We’re all together again, and we have Vyroko in our custody. So we will go to confront Deschyny.”

 

“What if he attacks?” Jehui asked.

 

“We attack back,” Tahtorak said. It was an unfortunate thing to say, but nobody offered any alternative.

 

“I came from the mountain, which is this way,” Jehui pointed. A moment passed. Then Tahtorak and Nehara picked up Vyroko and everyone started walking.

 

The journey back to the mountain was brief since the fog had woven a path through the forest where it was the least dense, and led them directly up to the waterfall steps. They ascended, and once drier rock had been reached, stopped to rest.

 

Nela brought up a concern about carrying Vyroko’s body. “It doesn’t seem like a good idea to have him unable to defend himself if we confront Deschyny. Could we simply leave him somewhere safe?”

 

“This mountainside is pretty safe,” Nehara agreed. “It’s above the forest, and although we haven’t seen any wildlife, you never know.”

“Let’s ask the fog,” Jehui said abruptly. Everyone looked at him strangely.

 

The Matoran stood up and made several gestures into the air. The fog surrounded them, but it was thinner up here. For a minute nothing happened.

 

“What did you say?” Nela asked.

 

“Just, Will you keep Vyroko safe?

 

“I don’t know how I feel about leaving him alone here,” Nela protested.

 

Tahtorak raised a claw gently. “Yes, but it saved Nehara’s life. It ensured Jehui was not harmed when he returned from the realm of the ice tower. It timed our ascents up the mountain so that we met at just the right time, as Nehara and Vyroko may have attacked me if I came up from behind. It has served our needs so well, so skilfully, we haven’t recognized it until now. I think it is clear the fog is honest.

 

Nela nodded slowly at this.

 

In response, the fog by the cliff edge shifted and a Toa-sized wisp separated itself, forming a rough shape with arms and legs.

This apparition glided over to the group, and although it was clearly unthreatening, Tahtorak still tensed slightly. It arrived at Vyroko’s body and pointed at it, then at them, and then up over their heads at the mountain.

 

“That answers that,” Jehui said. “I think we’re supposed to take him with us.”

 

Tahtorak nodded. It was time to trust the fog. After a moment of bracing themselves, they moved on.

 

When they drew near the summit, they went slowly. It was quietly decided that Tahtorak would lead, since laying his truth-seeing eyes upon Deschyny could reveal more vital information. Nela walked next to him, prepared to defend and attack with her element. Jehui and Nehara walked behind them.

 

They arrived at the top and laid Vyroko’s body against the wall, then stepped out cautiously onto the plateau. The fog was gone here and it was late afternoon.

 

The Toa of Light was nowhere to be seen on the plateau. If he had been serious about protecting the glass egg, everybody knew where he would be then. They fanned out carefully, keeping eyes on the plateau edge, the forest beneath, and the half-open black door. Jehui noticed that the Mask of Sonics was gone from where it had been left on the plateau.

 

“Leave,” Deschyny’s voice came suddenly from behind the door. “I do not want to fight. Leave, and we never need to see each other again. I only need my glass egg.”

 

Everyone exchanged looks. Tahtorak answered.

 

“You must answer for trying to killing Nehara. Come out here, and explain yourself.”

 

“If Jehui told you everything, then you already know why I did that,” Deschyny replied with a tone of exasperation. “I needed to protect the egg!”

 

“By acting the way you did, almost killing someone when your egg was under no threat, you only made it worse for yourself!” Jehui said angrily. “My ring’s still stuck in there, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be if you had just cooperated and stuck to the agreement.”

 

There was a bitter silence that seemed to spill out from behind the black door.

 

Then: “Almost? Don’t tell me it didn’t work. She can’t be that strong.”

 

“I wasn’t,” Nehara replied with a smile. “We discovered a new friend.”

 

“Well, I’m glad.” The voice was suddenly cheerful, and the door swung fully open. Deschyny stepped out onto the plateau, smiling. Everyone else stepped back in surprise. He was wearing his Mask of Sonics again.

 

“I regretted it as soon as it was done,” he said. “I know I went very far… too far. I’m relieved I didn’t actually hurt anyone in the end.”

 

“You did hurt me,” Nehara said, insulted. “That fall was the worst thing I’ve felt, and I laid there with a broken body until I was healed.”

 

Deschyny smiled his strained smile again. “Yes, I understand. But you didn’t die. That’s good. It’s a great relief.”

 

Disgusted, Nehara looked sideways at Tahtorak. He was watching Deschyny with a grim expression.

 

“You still have to make amends for that,” Jehui said hotly.

 

Deschyny lost some of his false humour then, and turned toward the Matoran with narrowed eyes.

 

“You’re right, but not about that. That ring of yours is still in my glass egg. What will it take to get that out?”

 

“There’s two ways,” Jehui smiled. “Like before, I can have it jiggle around a bit in there. Crack and splinter that egg. You don’t like that? No. The other way is to let us in that room again, so we can keep on studying the egg and find answers to everything we’ve been facing on this island.”

 

“I do not care for your issues—” Deschyny began to retort, but Jehui cut him off with a violent motion of his hand. Nothing happened, but the Toa still jerked his head fearfully toward the interior.

 

“You forfeited your right to any authority here,” Tahtorak said in a reasonable voice. “And we have already learned some things that could answer some of your issues. Like what caused you to be possessed? We understand that you and Vyroko have some strange connection that affects you more. You just took advantage of that as soon as you were released from it, but we can forgive that. Even you must realize that a Toa of Light driven to murder is completely unnatural.”

 

Deschyny nodded glumly.

 

Jehui added to Tahtorak’s plead. “Ultimately, we could figure out why you’re so attached to that egg. If we can unlock its secrets, we could make it so that you never feel like you have to do something so terrible just to protect it. Maybe. What do you say? Just…” Jehui sighed and lowered his hands symbolically.

 

“You have two options,” Nela said. “Take us on all together and causing Jehui to break your egg, or make peace.”

 

Deschyny was silent. Then he opened his mouth,

 

and Vyroko’s voice came out,

 

piercing and cold.

 

“The third option is punishment for my crime.”

 

The Toa of Light clapped his hands over his mouth, horror in his eyes.

 

Everyone whirled toward the top of the stairs. The Toa of Fire stood there, maskless. His bare face looked like a contorted mass of grey muscles and woven metal ribbons.

 

“Vyroko!” Nela gasped. “How did you—?”

 

Tahtorak knew the answer already. Deschyny was conscious, which had brought Vyroko back to consciousness at some point as well. Maybe because they had been brought close together.

 

Vyroko said it for him.

 

“His strength is my strength.”

 

The Toa walked past Tahtorak toward the Toa of Light.

 

“My words are his words.”

 

He walked past Deschyny and continued toward Nela, stopping in front of her. Held out his hand. Nela returned his mask with a visible twinge of reluctance. Vyroko put his Mask of Gliding back on.

 

Then he looked at the others, and Tahtorak was relieved to see the familiar gaze of righteous sincerity.

 

“His power is my power.”

 

What did he mean—?

 

“BUT HIS CRIME IS NOT MY CRIME!” Vyroko screamed, turning to Deschyny again. The Toa of Light froze.

 

“Calm down,” Nela warned. “I know you’re upset about all of this, but—”

 

“There can be no negotiation in this matter,” Vyroko snapped. “In any other, yes. But not this one. Not when two are bound by bonds stranger than anything we know of. This is our issue and nobody else’s.”

 

He looked at Deschyny and tilted his head in thought. “Yet, it is different still. If we were properly equal, we could resolve this as equals. But we cannot because you tried to kill.

 

“I was possessed!” Deschyny tried to protest. “Your actions were mine, and I could do nothing to stop it!”

 

“You know that isn’t true,” Vyroko spat. “You confirmed what they thought - that you did that after you were released from my will. I feel the tugs of your will against mine…” he leaned in close, “but you feel the tugs of my will too, don’t you?”

 

Deschyny looked like he was struggling not to run and jump off the plateau right then and there.

 

“I didn’t kill her! She’s still alive!” His protests fell weaker and weaker.

 

“That doesn’t matter. You may as well have killed her - that was your intent.

 

For all his rage, Vyroko had returned to a chillingly calm demeanour. He retreated almost all the way to Tahtorak, then stopped.

 

“I see no way toward peace as long as Deschyny stands,” he declared. “Due to our two-as-one existence, no others can decide our fate. And due to his crime, it falls to me to decide his fate.”

 

Vyroko raised his hand.

 

“NO!” Tahtorak roared, leaping onto Vyroko’s back. At the same time, Nela swept her arm and summoned a great wave of water to envelop Deschyny.

 

All of it was to no avail. Even as Vyroko struggled to dislodge Tahtorak’s grip from his shoulders, his element made itself known with a whisper of hot wind.

 

Air blasted outward as a blazing inferno spun up from the ground where Deschyny stood, engulfing the Toa in a column of fire.

Nela’s water leapt back and turned to vapour.

 

“No!” Tahtorak wailed again, trying to strike Vyroko unconscious again. But deep down, he knew it was already too late. The intensity with which that flame burned could not be survived after a matter of seconds.

 

Deschyny - gone. But Vyroko was still in Tahtorak’s grip, and he would ensure this Toa paid.

 

That fleeting thought was dashed away when a dreamlike weightlessness overtook Tahtorak. The ground bent and slid away from underneath the pair, and then was replaced by green.

 

They had fallen off the side of the plateau, and were falling. No - gliding, thanks to Vyroko’s mask power. But chaotically, as Vyroko couldn’t focus on where they were going.

 

Tahtorak wrapped himself around Vyroko as tightly as he could, feeling the smaller but still strong Toa still struggle.

 

They spun through the air, and Tahtorak completely lost track of where they were.

 

“How could you do that?” he shouted into the wind.

 

It was an irreversible breach. Something had broken that could never be recovered. Tahtorak felt like they had just collectively given up their right to a happy future. There must have been something they could have done to prevent this.

 

Dark thoughts soared up into his mind and clouded his sight. He closed them.

 

Felt softness under his right hand’s claws. In their mad scrabble against each other, he had happened to land upon Vyroko’s throat.

 

The darkest thought of them all surged into his heart, but he remembered his truth-seeing eyes. He turned this gaze inward. Shone it ruthlessly upon that darkest thought.

 

Yes, it was probably true that if he killed Vyroko here, that would be the end of the conflict. Nobody else in the group was bold enough to kill Tahtorak. He would end up leading, and he could ensure this never happened again.

 

It was true.

 

But it was wrong.

 

Vyroko went limp. Tahtorak had been squeezing his throat. Now they plummeted like rocks.

 

Tahtorak’s truth-gaze dissolved the darkest thought just as he felt the hard impact of ground.

 

It felt like hours had passed.

 

Tahtorak drew himself up sorely from the sand, spitting some out and blinking away streams that fell from his crown of horns.

 

Vyroko’s body lay next to him, as they had landed together and evidently both had been knocked out. Tahtorak was the first to come to.

 

He drew deep breaths and looked behind him. The mountain was there, but he couldn’t see well enough to tell whether anyone stood on the plateau. If it had only been minutes, they probably were still up there. If hours, then he could expect them at any moment.

 

Looked ahead.

 

Breath stopped short.

 

He understood what he saw, but had to look back toward the island again.

 

The mountain was fully visible, as were the trees. The entire island was bare under the early evening sunlight.

 

The fog was gone.

 

Now it had all collected into one great mass ahead of Tahtorak. He saw enough of the beach to recognize this as the southwest corner, where the small peninsula was. The source of the fog when he, Vyroko, and Nehara had seen it rolling toward Nela and Jehui.

 

The fog stood like a mighty grey-white column, so concentrated that it looked nearly solid. This column stood on the peninsula and was so wide it seemed almost like the outcropping of land had been crushed under a stone pillar from the sky.

 

The edge of the fog column was just ahead of Tahtorak. He watched it swirl from left to right, circling to maintain the pillar formation.

 

He looked at Vyroko again.

 

So strike him now, Tahtorak, and give him to the turning.

 

The turning of…?

 

He looked again. The fog was swirling - slowly and ponderously. Turning. He thought he could hear it whispering.

 

There was nothing else for Tahtorak to do.

 

It was time to give him up along with the tragedy that had just taken place. It was out of Tahtorak’s hands or anyone else’s. The fog was something else - not a higher authority, but it had a capacity none of the others had. It was capable of just the thing that was so badly needed here.

 

Healing.

 

So Tahtorak took Vyroko’s body and dragged it through the sand to the edge of the fog. Then he knelt and pushed, rolling the Toa away from him. Vyroko came to a stop after one turn, his body half-obscured by the thick fog.

 

Then the body continued, sliding across the sand and rapidly out of sight.

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by Takuta-Nui, Feb 24 2015 - 10:19 AM.

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Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#13 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
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Posted Mar 02 2015 - 03:32 PM

Chapter 13
 
Vyroko awoke slowly.

 

Blinked in panic, wondering if he had gone blind. No - it was just dark. Nighttime.

 

He got up and stopped in surprise at the leaves brushing along his torso. He last remembered tumbling through the air while Tahtorak choked him. He must have lost consciousness, crashed, and been taken by Tahtorak and the others back into the forest.

 

Something wasn't right, though. Well, a lot of things weren’t.

 

But something about the trees was unfamiliar. They were not the jungle or forest trees of the island.

 

Where had he seen those strangely slender trees before? They didn't grow straight up, but leaned this way and that as if a dozen storms had come from all directions for years.

 

The peninsula. He had briefly taken note of the odd trees when watching the fog emerge from the peninsula. How had he gotten here? He was sure they had still been above the forest, perhaps the beach, when they crashed.

 

Regardless of how he came to be here, he was alone. After what he had done, with little choice as he had felt, he didn't expect to be welcomed back to the group. Right now he had little desire to reflect on what had just happened.

 

Vyroko took a few steps past a bush.

 

Stopped.

 

Had to look twice to make sure he wasn't imagining it.

 

He had just walked through a very large ring. It was partly stuck in the ground, so it stood straight up like an arc.

 

Although it wasn't a ring like that underground device, but rather a simple hoop with no flat surfaces.

 

How had he not noticed it when he was looking around? It must have been positioned just inside the shadow of a tree... But even as Vyroko accepted that explanation, he couldn't help but notice the bright moonlight shining off the hoop.

 

Gingerly reached out and touched it. Felt and looked like a solid bar of metal with a thick ribbon of brown fabric wrapped loosely around the entire circumference.

 

Decided to leave it and move on.

 

Peering carefully, Vyroko saw hints of a small clearing up ahead. Started walking again--

 

How?!

 

Just as if it had always been there, a second hoop stood right behind him. It was no mistake - he looked through it and saw the first. This hoop had definitely just appeared out of thin air, but so silently, so instantaneously, he now struggled to imagine it having not been there before.

 

Vyroko bent down and looked at the ground where the hoop was embedded. The dirt was slightly raised, but packed well and bore no fresh marks.

 

It was plausible a Toa of Earth could have done this to achieve such a natural look. Deep down, though, Vyroko felt something else was at play.

 

Stood up again and took a deep breath. This time, he stepped forward slowly and deliberately while looking to his side and behind. Watching.

 

Shine of reflected moonlight.

 

Whirled back around. Now that was impossible. A third hoop stood as if he had just stepped through it. But he had seen nothing on one side, and yet this was something that had to appear on both sides...

 

Unless it wasn't a hoop at all.

 

Fuming now, Vyroko grabbed the third hoop and studied it closely. Struck the metal sharply, listening for any hollowness that might indicate technology inside. Tugged at the fabric but felt no give.

 

Vyroko wondered if the hoop had simply begun as a little rod waiting in the ground, and then shooting itself up both ways to form a circle faster than the eye could see. He looked at every part of the metal for a seam that would suggest this. But there was nothing. It was a properly joined circle, and the fabric binding looked like it had aged a century.

 

A baffling and silly mystery. Hoops appearing out of nowhere, seemingly tormenting him. Vyroko had no time for this. He wanted to rest, to find some quiet clearing where he could think.

 

But these hoops played with him. They didn’t threaten or tantalize… they played. It was like some emotion emanated from them that wasn’t anything but a wondering, a curiosity. An inquiring sensation that went both ways, as if the hoops were just as curious about Vyroko as he was them.

 

There were three. Was there a fourth?

 

Vyroko knew that hours ago, he would have destroyed those hoops just in case. The unknown was frightening to him, and he’d had enough of unknowns now. But here, in this moment, Vyroko was okay with the unknown.

 

So he took another step toward the clearing.

 

Hoop.

 

Even with his heightened watchfulness, it was so breathtakingly present. It had always been there. Some part of Vyroko began to suspect that was the strange truth. These hoops already stood where they did, inhabiting some greater space. It was merely Vyroko’s own defect to not be able to perceive this space.

 

He didn’t have time to wonder any further. Something small shot past him, almost glancing his elbow. Its path didn’t seem like a missed aim, but more like something had narrowly managed to dodge him in its speedy journey. It disappeared up ahead, beyond the clearing.

 

Vyroko ran across the clearing to a gap in the bent trees and saw that he was at the other end of the peninsula. He hadn’t seen the sea because it was so dark and calm here. A thin strip of pale stones separated the trees from the water.

 

Then Vyroko saw the thing that had shot past. It stood atop a tree stump that stuck out of the shallows. Right now it looked like a little folded stick figure.

 

As he looked, it began to unfold. Two sides spread out from the middle stick and broadened.

 

Those sides then split along the lower edge. They looked like feathers. Wings?

 

The middle stick turned on the spot, and revealed two shorter stubs at the base that stood upon the stump. Legs.

 

A tiny head raised up, with an upraised flare of plumage on the forehead.

 

It was a bird.

 

The bird spread its wings further, as if embracing the entire sea and dark sky before it. Then it bobbed several times, flexing its wings as if in time to some unheard music.

 

Then in addition to the bobbing, it started whirling around. One leg swung outward and back in toward the body with each spin. The wings joined at the feather tips each time. Now Vyroko was almost certain he could hear music, but it was a sound far beneath a whisper.

 

Orange light burst upon the pale rocks and tree trunks around Vyroko. It came from behind. He snapped his head around to see the the source in the middle of the clearing.

 

Fire roared in a shallow sand pit. There seemed to be no wood that bore this fire. He couldn’t sense it in his elemental control either.

 

The four silver hoops stood at the edges of the clearing like equilateral markers. Vyroko saw that the thick fabric wrapped around them was now colourful, and each hoop had a different combination of colours.

 

The bird was there as well. It had moved without him noticing.

 

Vyroko flinched.

 

It was huge. Easily as large as him now. The bird continued to spin like a rhythmic top, but at this scale it was almost disturbing. The firelight revealed the mad colours of the bird’s plumage - black and deep dark green with rust red and gold flecks.

 

The pompadour on its forehead was not feathers as he had thought. It was a headdress of sorts: a golden mask covering the upper beak and face and rising above the forehead in a flat half-circle like a crown. The flat part had a pattern of straight radiating lines like a sun’s beams.

 

Its legs were just like a bird’s, scrawny and three-taloned.

 

The bird stopped spinning, and began lumbering around the fire. Took each step as if it were a heavy one, and folded its wings along its body like a person placing their hands on their hips.

 

 
Oh-h-h-h, though dangerous places you have tra-a-a-aveled!

 

 

The singing shout was entirely unexpected. Vyroko took a moment to make sure it was the Toa-sized bird that had made the noise.

 

The bird’s steps became lighter, and it began a more fluid dance, turning and twisting.

 

 
Oh-h-h-h, the darkened lines you have tou-u-u-uched!
Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah!

 

 

The bird’s chant bludgeoned Vyroko like he had just slammed into a wall. He was paralyzed by prickling chills that coursed through his body.

 

A calling, an invitation, so hidden and so sacred he had to listen.

 

Took a step toward the circle of firelight. One of the four hoops was in front of him.

 

This time, he passed through it willingly and felt the fire’s warmth wash over him.

 

The bird passed in front of him. It had arms hidden underneath its wings - Vyroko saw them now only because the bird darted one taloned hand out toward the fire. A half-open pouch released a cloud of what looked like spores.

 

 
Sa-a-a-ay, what gliding thoughts you ha-a-a-ave,
Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah!

 

 

It was nothing. Words, sounds, a chant…

 

Yet Vyroko’s entire body, his very soul, bent under an immense force.

 

The bird danced around the fire, danced and danced around and around.

 

Vyroko was transfixed by the movements of its legs, its wings, the way its head bobbed this way and that. He didn’t study these things, he felt them. Felt the rhythm in his own limbs.

 

 

He-e-e-e-ere, in our circle of secret fi-i-ire,
Whe-e-e-ere’s your li-i-i-ight?
Ee-yah-ehh-yaa-naaah!

 

 

Vyroko was taken aback when he realized he was dancing with the bird, following it around the fire. Even though he had never danced before, his mask enabled him to trace invisible patterns over the sand like on ice. The bird danced opposite him with the fire in between.

 

Then the bird stood in front of him. Vyroko stopped in his tracks, almost bumping his mask with the tip of the bird’s yellow beak.

 

The golden mask shone. This close, Vyroko could see in the eyeholes the dazzling mosaic of tiny feathers that covered the bird’s face underneath. Mostly dark green, but with luminous flecks of soft gold and rust red.

 

The eyes stared into Vyroko’s. They were like none he had ever seen. They did not glow softly with a single colour behind a covering of hard glass like the ordinary biomechanical beings he knew of. These were eyes with a thin ring of white on the outside, a wide band of copper red, and black centres that seemed to glisten with a piercing gaze. Vyroko faintly registered his own reflection.

 

Then the bird opened its hooked beak and asked,

 

“Are you the Foe?”

 

Vyroko instinctively wanted to make a retort, but his voice stuck in his throat.

 

In his peripheral vision, he saw the upright hoops on either side of the circle of firelight rise up out of the ground. Behind the bird, the third hoop rose up as well. Vyroko didn’t have to look to know what the fourth one was doing.

 

With a start, Vyroko felt his feet leave the ground.

 

But something about the perspective of what he was seeing…

 

No, the hoops weren’t levitating. And he wasn’t either. He felt no motion of his body.

 

The land was dropping away.

 

As if the bird had been waiting for him to understand this, it let loose a loud and joyous shout, then continued dancing around the fire that grew smaller with distance.

 

Vyroko watched as this scene descended so that he stood above the trees. Here he saw the peninsula, and the dark island. One side of the mountain was lit by the moon.

 

Everything continued falling except him and the four hoops, which remained in their upright stations around him.

 

Then some unseen influence turned Vyroko around until he was facing out toward the black sea. He saw the hoops on either side shift, the left one down and the right one up…

 

And the world followed. He gasped as the sea, island, everything slid up and to the right.

 

Was it him that was moving? He had the distinct sensation that he was standing absolutely still. Madness.

 

The world continued sliding until it was completely sideways. Vyroko now stood in midair with the peninsula to his right and the sea to his left. The horizon, almost invisible in this darkness, was now a line arcing up and over, behind and below, rejoining itself.

 

The horizon opened.

 

Sky and land left each other.

 

The hoops collected themselves in front of him, aligning so it looked like there was just one hoop.

 

Now Vyroko felt motion.

 

He rushed forth through the air.

 

The horizon split to either side. What had been dark before was now utter black.

 

He shot through the four hoops.

 

The world around him folded backward like a paper fan snapped shut.

 

Into black.

 

Motion ceased.

 

Silence.

 

A rhythm. Not sound, not motion. A way of this place.

 

Out of nowhere, the bird came dancing. It was spinning and making little elegant hops and sweeps as it did so.

 

Slowed, almost stopped just above eye-level… then stepped quickly a few times with its skinny legs. Head jerked back and forth. Peck-peck-peck.

 

The bird vanished. Vyroko started, and looked around.

 

He was caught off guard by a taloned hand holding the pouch under his face. Before he could react, the talons squeezed. A puff of spores floated up into Vyroko’s face.

 

The bird was spinning again, this time across a surface that was water that was ice that was water.

 

Ripples spread out from wherever the bird touched.

 

 

Oh-h-h-h, it's the e-e-eternal tu-u-u-urniiing

 

 

The ripples seemed to switch between planes as Vyroko’s own eyes looked around. Upwards along an invisible wall in front of him - then, no, they were spreading like on a pond before him. Sometimes it felt like the ripples were in his own eyes, blurry lines caused by sheer sleepiness.

 

But they weren’t even ripples. They were breathing leaves. They were drying wings of a diving bird. They were wind-swept plains of grass. They were hidden lakes. They were cascades of frost upon oceans that washed against glaciers that rested atop rivers that drew ice in their own currents.

 

 

Oh-h-h-h, it's the e-e-eternal tu-u-u-urniiing!

 

 

The ripples were marking something in the space before Vyroko. He watched. Held the patterns in his mind even as they faded.

 

Like a layer hiding something within empty air… the ripples warned of something hidden here.

 

Finally he saw enough of it. The bird was dancing along the rings of the underground machine, except here it was huge. Vyroko recognized the concentric rings and as the ripples played over this, he saw that it was oscillating like the real one.

 

 

OH! The eternal tu-u-u-urniiing!

 

 

Vyroko lost perspective - seemed like the bird was an immense artifice moving along a distant circle marked by luminous swells of light.

 

Its voice beat like a drum.

 

 

OH! The eternal tu-u-u-urniiiiiing!

 

 

Faster. Wings and talons lashing out this way and that.

 

 

OH!
The
eternal
tu-u-u-rniiiing!

 

 

Sound crashed. Ripples froze.

 

The bird now stood in front of him. Ceased spinning.

 

The ring faded into darkness.

 

Spread its wings wide toward Vyroko.

 

Tapped its taloned foot once.

 

These new ripples were different - more like bands with some thickness. They expanded outward at different angles, then froze completely.

 

Vyroko counted…

 

Sixteen bands, each one slightly larger than the next inner band.

 

The bird stood above this, upside-down. It sang in a sharp staccato.

 

 

I found it first
Found the rings
You woke
You didn't know
So I read the words
The rings talked
They talked and talked
And I wrote it down
Wrote the words on the rings
So the rings wouldn't forget
They stopped talking
You found them
They started spinning
You didn't know
So I came back
I broke the rings
The rings stopped talking
Started reading themselves
You found them again
Your fire showed light
The words were read
Now talk.

 

 

The bird stopped suddenly as if interrupted. Vyroko knew the last line wasn't a narrative. It was a command.

 

"No commands!" the bird screeched. Vyroko jerked backwards.

 

"You can read my mind."

 

"Only what needs to be read."

 

Vyroko looked at the bird for a while longer. Then: "You're the fog. You broke the rings. You wrote those lines to turn the others against me."

 

The bird nodded twice, than shook its head.

 

"I only wrote what was already read.”

 

More silence.

 

“If you found the machine, then you must have also found the glass egg.”

 

The bird bobbed again. “I took the shard-key away from Nehara the first night so I could understand the mountain.”

 

“How? We were sleeping together when that light started. That would have been when you opened the door. How did you take the shard-key from Nehara’s chest-hatch?”

 

“You say ‘take,’ but your mind thinks a person sneaking up and snatching it with their hands. No. I did not do that. I took the shard-key and then left it.”

 

Vyroko shook his head slowly.

 

“And why all of that?”

 

The bird frowned - that was, frowned as much as a bird wearing a golden faceplate could.

 

“There are gaps. I must bridge them. What I see... is a deadly choice—"

 

Vyroko drew in breath sharply. Remembered one of the lines that Tahtorak had read off the spinning rings. Beware the Foe of the World, and deny him his deadly choices...

 

“—a series of choices that, while made with freedom, are deeply difficult to not choose."

 

Vyroko felt like he saw a shadow of what the bird meant. Had he not just argued to himself and the others that he had so little choice in what he did to Deschyny? Yet he had said those things while knowing he could choose to leave things as they were. It had only been the deeply troublesome future of living with another being's thoughts and actions so deeply intertwined with his own that had pushed Vyroko to choose what he did.

 

But even now, Vyroko was resolute that Deschyny would have had to pay an equal price for trying to kill Nehara.

 

Vyroko and the bird looked at each other. Then the bird abruptly hung its head. Its wings drooped.

 

"The ceremony is not working," it murmured to itself.

 

"What ceremony?"

 

The bird gestured around with its wings. "Tahtorak gave you to me so I could heal you. Healing a broken thing like a body or a mountain is simple. But I am young still, just as young as you. To heal a spirit, especially one that is incomplete..."

 

"Incomplete!" Vyroko repeated angrily. The bird met his eyes with its copper-reds.

 

"You burned Deschyny."

 

"I did."

 

"So you burned yourself."

 

"If I understood the nature of our relationship correctly," Vyroko said carefully, "then in a way, I did."

 

"Do you want to be whole?"

 

Vyroko blinked. "I suppose so. I don't want to be anybody's enemy despite what I did."

 

The bird looked forlorn. "Then you need Deschyny. Do you wish to return now?"

 

Vyroko nodded. The bird's sadness was so stark, he felt an unexpected sympathy for the creature.

 

The bird raised its wings again and started spinning, this time ascending straight up. Vyroko watched until the motion faded into the black.

 

With a sharp sound, the four hoops flew toward him and he passed through them again.

 

Stood in the forest again. The clearing was still there, but the fire was gone and the sand glassy smooth. Pale morning light streamed through the leaves and branches.

 

A single hoop floated over the clearing, turning lazily. A voice whispered from it.

 

"You know not yet your terrible choices. I am sorry... so sorry."

 

The hoop arced upward and passed through the canopy with a rustle. Then it was gone.

 

 

 

 


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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#14 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Mar 09 2015 - 09:42 PM

Chapter 14
 
Let these trees fall--
 
Jehui paused in the middle of the phrase. Frowned uncertainly. He wanted to sign fall, but the sign he had just produced seemed to mean something more like a fall from grace or leadership. That wasn’t the right meaning when he wanted to produce some timber.
 
Vyroko was on his mind.
 
Jehui heaved a sigh and sat down against one of the trees that no doubt counted itself as lucky to be still standing.
 
It had been two days since the Toa of Fire had vanished into the peninsula. The great column of fog still stood when Jehui glanced through the treetops to the southwest.
 
The Matoran of Iron pondered. Nobody was upset when Tahtorak had returned and explained what he had done. After witnessing Deschyny disappear in a pillar of fire, none of them were feeling very partial toward Vyroko.
 
But it wasn’t like they had begun to vilify him. What he had said about his relationship with the Toa of Light made enough sense for them to believe and sympathize with him. Everyone only wished he hadn't made such a rash decision so quickly.
 
But deliberation still didn’t make murder right.
 
Now the fog had him, and if the fog wanted to heal, they could only hope for a good outcome. Would Vyroko make atonement to them? Or would the fog demand other deeds within the peninsula to heal over his crime? They had debated those questions but shortly Tahtorak had left the group, saying he wished to be by himself.
 
Nehara had chosen to remain on the mountain guarding the black door and the glass egg… and the remains of Deschyny.
 
For he had not burned away entirely. Jehui shuddered and thought of how strong Nehara had to be to willingly stay near it.
 
It.
 
What could they do?
 
For the past two days, they had waited. For Jehui’s part, he had focused on the strange power of his hands. Nela had tried to learn with him, but her hands seemed to not carry any of this power. They all wondered if it was due to Jehui’s ring, but probably not because he had continued to handtalk after planting it within the glass egg. It was now back on his finger and the egg was whole.
 
Briefly, Jehui twisted the ring and darted his spirit a short distance away to confirm Nela was still where he had left her. The Toa of Water continued to meditate on the south shore.
 
The island felt somehow safer after all those events. And it was, really - Deschyny’s sonic illusions were no more and the fog, while strange, was generally accepted by everyone to be a friendly entity. So they all had begun to find their own ways and habits on the island while they waited.
 
Nela had begun exploring the waters around the island, and curiously discovered that the sea was much shallower than it seemed. The sea bottom stopped descending just a short distance from the island and remained flat as far as Nela was willing to swim. Even Jehui could wade with his shoulders above water for a long way from the island, although he hadn’t tried. Not that he was afraid of water, but being of the Iron element, Jehui felt a tiny bit of trepidation as the vision of rusting metal reared up in his mind.
 
Nela’s exploration had not only taken place physically, but spiritually. As she swept through the sea, she had fallen into deep trances that sometimes lasted hours. Whenever that happened, Jehui would let her be and wander around.
 
After two days, they had gotten a good handle on the layout of the island. The mad rush of the first three days had only given them a bare knowledge of where important things were. Now they knew, at least, there was nothing else of any great interest elsewhere.
 
Each night, Nehara would descend and meet them at the top of the waterfall. Beds of moss grew here that were comfortable to sleep on, and the rising mist always kept them cool.
 
Tahtorak was the only one who had chosen to stay by himself. He did not explicitly avoid them, but seemed to walk endlessly around the island. Jehui had bumped into him twice, and both times Tahtorak had acknowledged him quietly before continuing through the woods.
 
Mourning? Jehui wasn’t sure. His red eyes seemed dull.
 
Jehui sighed. The day was drawing on and they would need more wood for the night’s fire. So he stood up again and faced the trees.
 
Falling was never a good thing, he had decided. Falling meant something would be hurt or broken, and he didn’t want to be the cause of pain.
 
So instead, the trees would move.
 
More precisely, the part of the tree aboveground would move several feet to the side while the roots remained where they had grown.
 
Jehui threaded this idea into his fingers and signed it to the trees. They obliged with muffled crashes.
 
He set to work with the more tedious phrases of stripping leaves, and shaping the main trunk into logs that could be carried. The idleness of this task allowed a quiet rhythm of phrases and handshapes to begin spinning in his mind.
 



***

 

Whispers of currents passed by Nela’s closed eyes.
 
They opened to see a sculpture of water hovering above the beach.
 
It had sixteen rings and a central circle. Each current was one ring, and moved on its own path. It hovered for a second before crashing back into the shallows. Nela watched that spot settle.
 
Now she was certain. That shape, which Vyroko had originally discovered underground in the form of metal rings, was important. Not in the obvious sense of the past few days, but in the world.
 
Nela beckoned the water toward her. The small wave that was about to spread itself over the sand paused mid-froth, then raised itself up. Drew more from behind, growing itself. Then it glided over the sand toward its master and slipped under her crossed legs. Lifted her up.
 
The Toa of Water moved away from the shore and over the shallow sea. Changed direction, now moving parallel to the contours of the island.
 
Those contours. The way the water hugged them. The way the shallows shifted with the sand that it stirred up. The way the mist floated up in the first rays of the day. The way all of these things were…
 
Somehow, Nela felt absolutely certain that the sixteen-ringed shape of the machine was imprinted onto all of those things.
 
It was in no way obvious. Only through two days of meditation had Nela begun to sense some trace of pattern. And her latest meditation, the deepest one she had experienced thus far, had produced that sculpture.
 
She was a channel, a messenger. But channelling what, passing on what message?
 
Water conformed to any shape, thus to any meaning. So it made sense to her that she would be the most receptive to hidden… ideas? truths? warnings? She didn’t know what it was.
 
Yet, water could be otherwise. It could be unyielding, uncontainable…
 
The cool rushing around her turned to watery roars as the sea rose to match her vision.
 
She could decide the message. She could establish truths.
 
But that was not her way.
 
The sea calmed again.
 
Nela continued to coast on her perpetual swell around the island. She had started near the south side and moved along the east shores now. This was the same path where she had met Vyroko, and later Nehara and Jehui.
 
All those days ago, they had walked together to the north shore where they slept on the high cliffs. There, they had witnessed the strange column of light shooting up from the waters.
 
Nela had gone to explore this area yesterday, but found nothing. The light seemed to have no specific source. It simply began mid-way in the water, and shot up into the sky from there. She hadn’t gotten any closer as she wasn’t sure how harmful the energy was.
 
The glass egg had revealed nothing further about itself either. It continued to tick slowly unless the shard-key was connected to the door, which these days was Nehara’s duty to ensure.
 
She drew near the northern area and heard the water beating against the cliffs.
 
The sound was soothing. Water, alive and moving.
 
Nela frowned. Within this sound, though… something had changed. The wet claps reverberated more. The waves were higher, so the cliff was being hit with bigger waves, hence the louder sound.
 
No storm was approaching. The wind was quiet. So why were the waves higher?
 
Nela stopped. The fountain that held her aloft slowed. She sent her senses down through it and into the sea… spreading tendrils of feeling along the sea bottom.
 
It dropped into a deeper underwater pit. Nela gasped. That had not been there before.
 
The waves were higher because they had more depth to build before falling against the cliffs. This was new - within the past day.
 
The pit felt very large. But as she soon discovered, it was not extremely deep. Perhaps ten Toa-heights down. The bottom of this pit was also smooth, but an irregularity made Nela pause and focus her senses on one spot.
 
In the centre of the pit… something stuck out. She could not tell what it was solely by her water-sense, but it was definitely solid. A rock? Its perfectly central placement was suspicious, though.
 
Nela let the fountain fall, and dropped into the sea. She took a deep breath and then dove. She came down at the edge of the pit and looked around. Its edges were smooth, and the sand darkened as it slipped over into the lightless depth.
 
A few pulls of her arms, aided by a current from behind, brought Nela above the pit. It was dark but not pitch-black. The sun was still overhead. Gave her eyes a minute to adjust, and then dove further.
 
Dark waters swallowed her, but she was not afraid. It was still water, and it obeyed her.
 
She reached the bottom. It was dark, but she could see that it was a black stone surface partially covered by sand.
 
Realized she had lost direction, and looked around for a sign of where the centre was. The sand layer seemed to get thicker ahead of her, so she pulled herself along the ground. Her fingers dug into the wet sand, and she paused. She heard something.
 
A quiet tap-tap-tap of metal clockwork.
 
Ticking.
 
Nela didn’t believe it for a second. But as she swam further, the sound grew clearer and insistent.
 
She was so anxious she almost didn’t notice when she passed over it. It was smaller than she had expected, and almost completely buried by a mound of sand. She swept some of it away and stopped. 
 
Even in the darkness, it glinted with a translucent sheen.
 
A second glass egg.
 
Her air was almost gone, so she had to return to the surface. She shot up and within a few strokes was breathing again. She was dizzy, but not from holding her breath.
 
Looked at the cliffs and the peak of the mountain beyond. This was the same location where they had seen the beam of light shine, and later they had figured out it was connected to the black door on the mountain. Nehara’s shard-key seemed to block off a flow of energy that caused the glass egg in the mountain to tick like a bomb. Then instead of ticking, the egg’s energy would be burned off in the form of a beam of light here.
 
It made sense that a second glass egg would be the source of that light, like two ends of a power line.
 
So why had Nela not found it the first time she had passed by here yesterday in her explorations? And why was it not shining like expected if the energy was being blocked off from the mountain end? She needed to know more, so she dove again.
 
As she descended, she paid more attention to the surroundings. The seabed was rippled from the moulding power of the waves. No water plants or seashells littered it - it was pure sand all around the island.
 
The pit’s edges were smooth too, like they had been softened over time. Someone could have dug it out recently and done a good job of making it look natural, though. Nela scooped up some sand - and discovered that what she had thought was dark sand due to the lack of light in the pit was literally dark sand. She brought the mound close to her eyes. The particles looked like they had been burnt.
 
Her fingers inadvertently pinched and crushed some grains. A cloud of black dust floated up into her face and she backed away.
 
Her thoughts immediately turned to Vyroko and his fire. Was it possible for him to burn sand underwater? Perhaps a method of digging out a pit without having to go into the water himself?
 
Worried, she returned to the surface again and peered at the island. Searched for any hint of disturbance. If Vyroko had returned and done this, he had to be up to something.
 
Deeper breath this time. Dove.
 
Back at the glass egg, she pushed away the sand until it was completely exposed. Its round bottom was nestled in the hard ground beneath the seabed. Nela tapped and scratched for a while, looking for any clues. While she did this, she remembered another mystery the team had discussed.
 
If Nehara’s shard-key worked to shut off the energy flow to the mountain’s glass egg so that it got released here as light instead, then who had done that the first night on the island when they had slept on the cliffs? Nehara had already found her shard-key and stored it in her chest-hatch, and they knew it wasn't Deschyny unless he had lied.
 
Maybe Deschyny wasn’t the last person on this island. Maybe there was someone else.
 
Or the fog? Nela frowned. It didn’t fit in this situation. But who knew.
 
The underwater egg continued to tick, and Nela listened to it.
 
Then the blindingly stupid realization dawned on her.
 
She was underwater, and so was the egg.
 
How could she be hearing it tick?
 
A sick sensation surged through her body. With several powerful strokes, Nela took herself away from the egg and the pit. Surfaced.
 
She was shivering, and it wasn’t from the cold water. She felt like she was back in the ice tower, where everything felt alien. Her core felt frosted over, like she was solid and icy inside, and her limbs struggled to obey her mental commands.
 
A wave washed over her face and she half-choked. Why couldn’t she stay afloat? She was a Toa of Water.
 
Her teeth chattered.
 
Yet as her body failed, her mind grew sharper.
 
It had been invaded by the ticking, and now she felt the absence of a strange presence that had entered her mind along with the sound. Now in the wake of that breach, her mind bristled and refocused. It was as if all those invisible crystals of ice invading her joints happened to align, magnifying the light of her thoughts.
 
The fact was that the egg was ticking and not releasing energy. If it was connected to the mountain egg, then this meant the shard-key was no longer being held to the door.
 
Nehara was in trouble.
 
The webs of frost broke and Nela rose out of the water on a powerful geyser.
 
This geyser pushed her up beyond the cliffs, and arced toward the island.
 
Higher and further. Nela just kept pulling more and more water from the ocean, pushing herself further.
 
Now only one ice crystal remained in her mind, and it was positioned just so that yet another thought, shining even more brightly than anything before, emerged.
 
Of course it was impossible to hear sound underwater. The only person who might ever realize such a thing would be Nela herself. That could only mean one thing.
 
Trickery.
 
Nela was headed straight into a trap.
 
Amidst the spray of her chariot, she smiled.
 
She was a Toa of Water. With the might and subtlety of the ocean she stood upon, she would flood this trap and fool its machinations with her deceiving currents. With the relentless flow of rivers, she would erode its snares. And with the brunt force of a hundred sky-high waterfalls, she would break it.
 
 
 
 
 


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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#15 Offline Takuta-Nui

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Posted Mar 17 2015 - 05:49 PM

Chapter 15

 

Nehara sat on a tall stone seat next to the black door. Her eyes were closed, but she had sat here long enough to know exactly what she would be seeing.

 

Mid-day light, hazy grey skies. Silence up here but for the occasional wind. No ticking as long as she made sure the shard-key touched the door.

 

The black shard-key balanced on her shoulder as she leaned slightly against the door. Narrow end of the shard touching the hole on the door.

 

She had perfected this position, and now used it as her meditation.

 

The plateau spread before her, then gave way to a distant band of green canopy, and then the wider sea beyond.

 

In that sea, a beam of light shone. Bizarrely sourceless as they now knew from Nela’s exploration the day before. According to her, the beam of light had merely emerged from a certain point in the middle of the water. She had not dared get close for fear of harm.

 

Nehara preferred to keep her eyes closed to sacrifice seeing all those beautiful things so that she did not need to see the remnants of Deschyny.

 

Even as her thoughts touched on that, she shivered slightly. The shard-key wobbled.

 

She had gladly volunteered to stay up here and guard the glass egg, and prevent it from continuing what sounded like a long ticking countdown.

 

Three times in the past two days Nela or Jehui, or both had come up here to check on her during the day. At the last light she would stand up and stretch, then descend the mountain to the waterfall and sleep with them.

 

Once Tahtorak had visited, but had said nothing. He had only walked around Deschyny and examined the egg, the room, Nehara herself. Nehara also had said nothing and Tahtorak left.

 

Time passed like a dream. Really, the last two days had felt like a complete dream. Even the five days, from waking up and being attacked by a Vortixx’s nightmare swarm of Bibaka wasps, to the horrible fate Vyroko had thrust on Deschyny. Watching the Toa of Fire struggle with Tahtorak through the air until they crashed on the beach, out of sight.

 

Nehara heaved a sigh, eyes still closed.

 

Everything became very quiet.

 

As if another person had slowed their step, held their breath at the sound of hers. In straining to be unnoticed, they only made their presence known by absorbing the quiet murmur of the world’s turning.

 

Nehara knew it was foolish to try and attack him. Not if she wanted to burn like Deschyny. Vyroko was surely not evil, nobody in their group believed that, but…

 

“You had to return eventually,” she said.

 

He didn’t respond right away. Perhaps expecting a trick, but realizing Nehara wasn’t the kind of person to gamble on talking to thin air.

 

“Things have changed.”

 

His voice came from above. This surprised Nehara, and she opened her eyes and looked up.

 

He must have climbed the stairs partway, then climbed out of the crevice and made his way over the tip of the mountain to arrive just above the doorway. She could see his orange mask peering over the edge, looking down at her.

 

He looked peaceful. So Nehara cautioned a step off the stone stool, which he did not move to oppose. She held the shard-key to the door, paused, and then removed it. The egg’s ticking resumed.

 

It was like a little whip in the air. A machine, an automaton. Something real and solid and unstoppable. The ticking seemed to wind up inside Nehara’s stomach, tightening her guts with every turn.

 

She almost put the shard-key into her chest-hatch, but realized this would probably make her even more of a target for Vyroko. So she left it on the stool and walked away from the doorway to face him. He crouched on a lip of rock and watched her. His eyes flickered as they looked past, still getting used to the sight.

 

“Awful, isn’t it?” Nehara asked, filling her voice with as much recrimination as she could.

 

Worse than murder - a living death!

 

She turned to lay eyes upon the molten shape that stood in the centre of the plateau. 

 

Heard Vyroko drop down behind her and take slow steps until they stood side by side.

 

The shape was mostly gold in colour, and a few places had melted partway to reveal a hotter red interior.

 

One arm was outstretched and bent to shield himself. The other hung helplessly by his side. The final pose Deschyny had taken before being consumed by the inferno.

 

His legs stood molten as well. His shape was held together by some unknown force. Heat radiated from him so strongly that he had to collapse into a pool of slag, and yet he didn’t.

 

The worst part, the reason Nehara and the others knew it was a living death, were the eyes.

 

His mask and face were unrecognizable, mostly a smooth sheen of golden metal. But where his eyes were - the light of life remained in them like two lanterns held behind a thickly woven cloth. They cast around over and over, searching in the limited frame of vision they had.

 

Did he see, did he know?

 

Who knew.

 

Nehara turned back toward Vyroko, feeling real desire for violence now. What had that fog done for him? He had returned and was clearly bent on some new goal. Probably to do with the glass egg - he had glanced at the interior, and held his gaze just a moment too long for it to be mere investigation.

 

His face showed no remorse, only contented resignation. It was as if he couldn’t possibly see Nehara as a threat.

 

Now all she could hope for was one of the others to be looking at the right place in the sky right now and realize that the light wasn’t shining anymore, and come to her rescue. Maybe stop Vyroko too. Nela would be the best counter with her element, and then Jehui with his handtalking power if he could think fast enough. Tahtorak had been lucky not to get burnt in their hand-to-hand combat last time.

 

Vyroko stepped past her and past the curtain of intense heat that kept the others away.

 

He walked through the shimmering air and reached out, touching Deschyny’s protective hand. Light shone at the point of contact, and Nehara saw rivulets of gold and white run across the distorted body toward that point.

 

The lines didn’t stop when they reached Vyroko’s hand - they kept going, running across his arm and body. Drawing patterns just like those that had adorned Deschyny’s armour.

 

Then the entire molten frame of Deschyny shifted, and melted toward Vyroko’s hand.

 

Vyroko stepped forward again, mashing himself into Deschyny.

 

Nehara flinched. It was a grotesque sight, burying himself in the corpse of another. But there was a haunting beauty to it, for light burst forth from every point of contact.

 

Vyroko disappeared within the flowing gold and searing light. The heat grew, so Nehara backed up to the doorway. Instinctively grabbed the shard-key.

 

A loud noise like an explosion muffled by a heavy weight. Nehara jumped.

 

Some dust had been sent up by the explosion, and now it settled to reveal Vyroko.

 

Except - Nehara had somewhat expected this as soon as she saw them merging, since it fit with what they knew so far. But it was no less strange to see his new form.

 

Vyroko’s blood red and orange armour remained, but was now heavily overlain with gold. Thin white lines spiralled along the surface of his body like a long tattoo. He was now slightly larger than Nehara.

 

Vyroko’s mask had changed radically. It was… featureless. A simple dome of reddish gold from forehead to chin, with two eyeholes and a mouth cutout at the bottom. It was frightening, for it showed even less emotion than Vyroko had before his transformation.

 

The Toa of Fire looked at her and smiled. Nehara shivered at the strange mind betrayed by that smile.

 

Then he disproved his title by raising both hands and issuing a column of fire from one and a beam of light from the other.

 

No longer a Toa of Fire, Nehara realized. Now a Toa of Fire and Light.

 

The new Toa seemed to reel, and took half a step back. His elemental beams fizzled out. He closed his eyes and appeared thoughtful.

 

“…much more than he ever shared…”

 

His voice had changed as well. No longer like a real voice coming out of a mouth, but more like a sound echoing from another place.

 

Deschyny’s memories - he was processing them now. Nehara wasn’t sure what else would explain Vyroko’s trance.

 

Vyroko still did not move, so Nehara cautioned a look behind her. Quickly confirmed the glass egg was still there. Looked back. Eyes were still closed.

 

Whatever was going on, Nehara thought, one thing was certain: Vyroko had just achieved the first of his goals. Next was surely the glass egg.

 

She felt the shard-key in her hand. Ran a finger along its edges.

 

Should she…?

 

If she could, she should end it all now.

 

Vyroko had just become far more dangerous than anything else she could imagine right now. She took a quiet, deep breath. There was no other way. Whatever the risks… he had to be stopped before he went too far - as if he hadn’t already.

 

She pushed herself away from the door, gripping the shard-key.

 

Leapt into the chamber. Arm raised.

 

Nela had tried this exact same move days ago. This time, Deschyny wasn’t there to stop it.

 

With her powerful limb, she brought down the shard-key and struck the tip of the glass egg.

 

CRACK

 

“NO!”

 

Vyroko screamed, eyes wide. Nehara tried to twist away as she saw him lunge. He leapt across the plateau in one smooth motion and came up next to her. Wrist flicked.

 

Nehara smashed into the side of the chamber. Gasped for air.

 

Vyroko clawed at the air around the black shard-key now partially embedded in the tip of the cracked glass egg. Some force seemed to repel him. He stopped and his shoulders slumped.

 

“Oh, Nehara,” he said quietly. “I never intended to do anything with the glass egg. And now that I know what Deschyny knew…”

 

Nehara looked at the egg. A single crack had splintered its way through the egg’s centre.

 

She backed away, but kept her eyes fixed on the scene. Whatever happened now, she was the only other witness.

 

Slowly the egg began to glow with a light that bloomed from its centre. Despite the crack, the light was flawless and filled the room.

 

A humming sound started, getting stronger with every passing second. Now she saw that the tip of the shard-key buried in the egg was shining with a small ray of light pointed toward the interior. 

 

Brighter and brighter.

 

The humming intensified, then stopped.

 

Egg shone like a small sun.

 

Black.

 

Nehara shook her head abruptly at the sudden change. The egg was now pitch-black like it was filled with ink.

 

Black vanished, but not so quickly that Nehara didn’t see it flow back up into the shard-key.

 

Like a dream, the shard-key floated up above the egg.

 

Gone.

 

Nehara didn’t understand even after a chunk of glass hit her shoulder. She winced. Then she saw the hole in the stone pedestal where the egg had once sat.

 

The shard-key had shot down and drilled down through the stone, shattering the now-unneeded egg in the process.

 

She and Vyroko looked at each other. He seemed just as bewildered as her.

 

Then they felt the gentle shaking. Like the mountain itself was shifting.

 

Vyroko had been holding his head in shock. Now his hands slid down the sides of his mask in despair. He looked at her.

 

“Deschyny never told us the full truth. The real truth… is nothing like what I thought it would be.”

 

The mountain shifted again. It wasn’t bad, but enough for Nehara to place a hand against the wall.

 

“We had it all backwards,” he continued with wide eyes. “The shard-key wasn’t blocking off the flow of energy. It was absorbing it. The beam of light was just leftover waste.”

 

Nehara stared at him. “You mean all this time, I’ve been helping the process?”

 

“Deschyny stopped us from breaking the glass egg… but he specifically stopped the shard-key. As long as the two stayed apart, we would be safe. The world would be safe.”

 

“What do you mean?” Nehara shouted as the shaking intensified. The floor of the chamber cracked in three places, all radiating out from the stone pedestal.

 

Vyroko grabbed her arm before she could ward him off, and dragged her outside. Then she ran of her own accord. Whatever this shaking was, it was bad enough that they had to get off the mountain.

 

They had just reached the stairs when something slammed into Nehara and sent her sprawling. The object was strangely soft and flowed around her. She choked on water.

 

Nela!

 

Her voice rang out. “Face me, Vyroko.”

 

“Not now!” Nehara shouted, flailing for a grip. The flash flood was already draining off the cliff, and she doubted she would survive a second fall.

 

Felt a strong current grip her body. Got her head above water long enough to see Nela next to her, hands glowing blue. Her face was transformed - instead of the mild and thoughtful Toa she had come to know, this one’s eyes displayed the quiet fury of a swelling tsunami.

 

Vyroko was up ahead, and now Nehara saw they were flowing down the stairs like a water slide. Quick way to get down, after all.

 

It was harder to tell in the water, but the mountain was shaking so much that the walls holding in the water were cracking.

 

“We need to get out of here right now,” Nehara shouted at Nela. She only met her eyes and nodded.

 

They raced down the mountain as it trembled. Rocks were coming loose and sliding into the water with them, so Nehara concentrated on deflecting any that came her way.

 

Then they reached the waterfall and stopped, feet finding solid ground again. Even so, all three stumbled. The shaking was getting worse, a series of tremors piling up on each other. To Nehara, it felt more like a series of spasms. One powerful shudder followed by the aftershocks, and then another shudder.

 

Nehara managed a glance upward and saw the top of the mountain splitting apart. But it wasn’t merely falling to pieces. It was opening up, like…

 

Like an egg hatching.

 

Before she could say anything about this, a sky-shaking roar blasted out. Both Nela and Vyroko were thrown to the ground; Nehara only stumbled. This let her keep watching. Any and all information was valuable even as their world fell apart, if Vyroko really meant what he said.

 

For a second, there was silence and stillness.

 

Then the strongest tremor yet hit, and Nehara fell onto her back.

 

From the open tip of the mountain erupted what looked like pitch-black lava. It was hot and the air around it shimmered, but the black stuff held no shine. Like darkness turned into molten form.

 

A column of this blacker-than-tar stuff was thrown high into the sky and began to fall over the island.

 

“Jehui! Tahtorak!” Nehara shouted. Where were they now?

 

“RUN!” Vyroko screamed. That was all they could do as the black lava started falling around them.

 

They leapt off the edge of the waterfall and plunged into the creek, then scrambled to shore.

 

Trees were falling. Fissures were appearing in the ground as they ran, some widening so rapidly that they had to jump. Not just the mountain, but the island itself was cracking into pieces.

 

A glob of black lava crashed down just a short distance away in the woods, taking down several trees with it. All three of them got sprayed with dirt and twigs.

 

They were in the thick of the woods now, which was probably even more dangerous than the clearing by the creek. They couldn’t see falling debris from far off now.

 

More projectiles fell around them. One was so close that Nehara was blown aside by the impact. She managed to tumble and then spring back up and run again, arcing back to the others.

 

Branches cracked overhead. Nehara knew what was about to happen and tried to throw herself out of the way, but something hit her from the side and sent her flying instead.

 

Not black stuff - a green beast.

 

“Tahtorak!”

 

“Keep going,” he bellowed. Nehara spied with enormous relief Jehui riding on his back.

 

Together all five ran.

 

A rolling rumble started to sound underneath the crunching cracks of the island and the muffled crashes of the black eruption.
Nehara looked back, and through the now-sparse canopy saw the remains of the mountain crumbling down in a massive landslide.

 

The black stuff didn’t fall as often now, but the ground continued to buckle.

 

In her head, a dark image built itself as she finally pieced things together.

 

A massive egg sleeping in the centre of the island, sheltered by the mountain acting like a protective outer shell.

 

A flow of energy that passed through black metal, and could be absorbed by it. The door. The shard-key. The ring machine.

 

A conduit to convert the energy. The glass egg. The locus that tapped into the hibernating egg, listening to it grow. Listening to it tick.

 

It was too big, too strange, too terrible for Nehara’s mind to fully comprehend. What was the purpose to all of this? What had they done?

 

No, what had Vyroko done? She refused to take blame for this, even though part of her deep inside clenched with guilt.

 

They reached the beach and stopped just short of the water. Everyone turned back to the mountain, or the space where the mountain had once been.

 

Nehara didn’t see anything. Where was it, the huge thing that took an entire mountain to contain?

 

The mountain had finished falling, so the landslide had ended. The island was no longer shaking actively, but seemed to be shrugging off the leftover shockwaves.

 

From amongst the ruins of the forest, molten black metal came rolling out toward the beach. Trees shuddered and fell over, melting into the hot flow.

 

“Into the water!” Tahtorak instructed. Everyone splashed accordingly. Not even Vyroko winced. They moved into the shallow ocean and would have kept going, but then it became apparent the black stuff was stopping in the water, freezing solid.

 

It had covered the entire island. Completely. Not a single tree was left. Now the island was a mound of black from horizon to horizon.

 

There was silence, and the sound of ticking.

 

The stark black mound of leftover island shifted again, but there was no rumble. The mound grew in the middle, and then more lines resolved and broke away from the island.

 

Black against black, then black against the sky.

 

Rippling folds and junctions of metal. Sleek razor-tipped plates flashed in the sunlight.

 

A long spiny neck uncurled from underneath this body, raising a head into the sky.  At the same time, four sheet-metal sails flared out from either side of its body.

 

Parades of obsidian daggers slid past each other as a wide maw opened.

 

Four round pearly white eyes opened on its forehead.

 

The roar was not powerful or muscular. It was not gnashing or even violent.

 

It was a tinny noise that blasted across the land and sent waves away from the island. It sounded like the ticking that had mystified the group for days, amplified a hundred times.

 

Then Nehara heard it differently, as if a switch had flipped in her head. She still heard it as ticking, but now she heard the meaning.

 

It was laughter, harsh and ringing.

 

The eight sails flexed and pushed down, lifting the black dragon into the sky. They continued pumping, sending it further upward. Then it glided away over the ocean, its ticking laughter gone.

 

Nehara couldn’t prevent a mournful cry escaping her throat. All this time, she had wondered where her home was.

 

Now she realized she had just lost her home.

 

She felt Jehui treading water by her, and numbly reached out and held him close.

 

They were all quiet. Nehara wondered where it had gone, the thing that had hatched.

 

“Look,” Jehui said, pointing up.

 

Nehara looked.

 

The sky was blue.
 


***

 

Aniz watched the group standing in the shallows. They hadn’t noticed him yet, but he was sure that as soon as they turned around, they would see everything.

 

The grey wall of illusion surrounding the island had fallen. The island, or what remained of it, was no longer locked off from the rest of the world. The five long days of waiting that he and his city had endured had come to an end, but Aniz had seen the cost of that with his own eyes.

 

No more illusions. Now they could finally seek justice against the Foe of the World. But first, the islanders needed to be protected.

 

“Take them now,” he said, raising his Gearsword.

 

 

 

 


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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui


#16 Offline Takuta-Nui

Takuta-Nui
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Posted Mar 23 2015 - 10:54 AM

Chapter 16
 
He stood in a desert that met all edges of the horizon.

 

For a dreadful moment, he did not comprehend what had just happened.

 

What had just passed burned bright in his memory, and yet it faded rapidly as if pulled away from his mind’s eye by some inexorable law.
 

Now he began to feel the flow of time in this place, and it was alien. Some instinct buried deep awoke. An instinct that stirs only when a deep wrongness has come about, when the body has been transported out and far away from any place remotely similar to home.
 

This instinct sniffed the air.
 

It passed on its findings to the brain, which slowly found words, ideas to express what had been determined.
 

This was when he started to scream.
 

He screamed and screamed.
 

For he had lost everything - beyond everything.
 

Alone he screamed in a desert that had not existed for a hundred thousand years.
 


***

 

“Stop!” Nela said loudly. The soldiers continued to advance through the shallow sea, but she knew they had heard.
 

Nela drew up a wall of rushing water to separate her group from the strangers. She and the others stood in the shallows with their backs to the blackened ruin that was their island. In front of them, an entire coastline had materialized out of nowhere. It looked like a city covered most of this part of the coast, so the soldiers had to be coming from there.
 

“Who are they?” Jehui was watching the visored beings. Nobody had an answer for him, but he hadn’t expected one.
 

“Look,” Tahtorak pointed through the blurred wall. “They have no weapons.”
 

“Maybe not, but they might have powers,” Nehara said.
 

The beings looked like uniform agents, all wearing the same dull grey armour and helmets. These helmets did not look like masks, but the entire front was covered by a silver visor. It was possible those concealed masks of power like the ones Nela and Vyroko wore. And Jehui, although he was not a Toa.
 

The soldiers were almost at the wall. Nela hesitated, unsure if she should bring it down on their heads. It wouldn’t do much, and she didn’t want to try drowning anyone.
 

Behind this row of strangers, Nela caught a detail that had previously escaped her in the disorienting sight of steel towers and glass structures. A single figure stood on a surface that seemed to be in front of the city, ahead of the coastline. Probably a dock.
 

This figure held a strangely shaped sword aloft and was looking toward them. The commander, no doubt.
 

Nela had seconds to think as the first soldier stepped through the water wall.
 

A sudden upswell knocked the advancing line back. Some fell down and splashed around. A simultaneous upswell swept Nela and her four companions to the side, then changed direction and carried them past the invaders.
 

She saw the commanding figure take a step backward, as if surprised. Then it lowered its sword, pointing at the soldiers, and then moved to point at Nela.
 

Nela jerked her hands to the left and narrowly avoided colliding the two groups. The soldiers had appeared right in front of her, out of thin air. Teleportation?
 

The figure in front of the city repeated the same motions, but this time she was ready. The soldiers reappeared, and she noted how they were in exactly the same positions as where they had been before. Definitely being teleported.
 

It was a big group, and this time she didn’t try to dodge. Instead, she raised the sea on either side of her group, creating a little canyon that they surfed through. The sides of this liquid canyon expanded outward, pushing the soldiers away.
 

Now the soldiers were split into two, and even though the commander repeated the gesture a third time, only five of the soldiers reappeared. So the power couldn’t work over a large area. Nela smiled to herself.
 

These five were easier to dodge now, but she missed the fourth sword motion right after the third. The direction that she dodged into already had the second group waiting, and Nela felt Jehui get yanked out of the swell that they were riding.
 

“Tahtorak, get Jehui!” Nela shouted. Then she gave Tahtorak a separate swell of his own, and sent him zooming back toward the agent that was trying to restrain Jehui.
 

Tahtorak stretched his claws out and raked them along the agent’s back. The soldier cried out and dropped Jehui, who was picked up by Tahtorak’s swell.
 

Nela directed the water to rejoin hers, and raised it higher so that their feet floated above their opponents’ heads. Now she roared toward the coast with abandon, letting the soldiers tumble into the wave and be left behind in its wake.
 

The commanding figure was closer now, and she saw the expression on his stout face.
 

Deep contempt.
 

His eyes were directed to Nela's side. She glanced. Vyroko was in the water next to her.
 

The commander raised his strange sword and brought it straight down to the ground. All twelve soldiers reappeared around him, still wet.
 

“Please stop!” His voice boomed across the short expanse of water that now separated them. Nela slowed but drew the swell even higher, towering over the metal and stone dock that their foes stood on.
 

The commander was a little larger than Nela, but not quite as big as Vyroko was now that he had the bulk of two Toa.
 

Their opponent wore white and dark blue armour. His face did not appear to bear a mask, but was made of strips of metal that flexed like skin. His face metal rested in such a way that it looked like he was constantly grimacing. But then he smiled broadly and spoke again.
 

“I am sorry. I wanted to take you under my protection as quickly as possible, but clearly that will not be possible. Will you join a dialogue?”
 

“For what purpose?” Nela asked coldly. “And what shall be offered to make amends for attempting to harm us moments after we lost our home?”
 

“No harm was intended,” he answered, looking serious. “But we have seen many of the events on your island. We all may have awoken with nothing but our faces and names, but there needs to be law now.”
 

He pointed his sword at Vyroko. All the soldiers around him tensed.
 

Now Nela looked more closely at the weapon and understood why it had such a strange appearance.
 

Instead of a simple handle and blade, this one had a handle, then a gear above the hilt connecting it to the blade. The gear was positioned so that the blade ran through its length, rather than its centre as one might expect. The flat side of the gear was parallel to the edge.
 

At the end of the blade was another gear parallel to the first one. Even though the blade looked sharp, it obviously couldn’t be used as such very well since the edges of the gears reached beyond either edge of the blade. The entire tool was coloured plain grey.
 

Vyroko scowled at the sight of the commander pointing his sword at him.
 

"I will not answer to you," the Toa retorted. "I did what I had the right to in order to be free. I do not need to be bound to another's will."
 

"Even resorting to murder?" The commander demanded.
 

"Just as he did," Vyroko hissed.
 

“And yet Deschyny did not try to kill you,” he shot back. “You chose that.”
 

Vyroko swam out of Nela's swell and dropped onto the dock. The soldiers all took a step forward.
 

Vyroko’s new body of red, orange, and gold with white patterns began to glow. Tongues of flame ran along his limbs.
 

“If you want to fight me, let’s do it. I will destroy you.”
 

The commander’s eyes narrowed. Some of the soldiers seemed uncertain.
 

“But if you choose not to, I will keep the peace,” Vyroko finished. Fire and light grew hotter and brighter, and Nela had to squint.
 

“No!” The commander raised his sword, but instead of an attack, all the soldiers disappeared.
 

Nela didn’t expect that, and it seemed Vyroko didn’t either. His elements grew in power as if anticipating a trick. But then he glanced up at Tahtorak in the water swell.
 

“The soldiers are gone,” Tahtorak said quickly. His eyes did not lie.
 

“My name is Aniz,” the lone leader said carefully. “I will not challenge you, but I will continue to hold you in contempt until the day you can face justice.”
 

“Establish a court first before you say that,” Vyroko sneered. But his flames and light faded.
 

Nela lowered her water swell to level with the dock.
 

Nehara swam out first, followed by Jehui. Nela brought herself and Tahtorak onto the dock and let the water drain away. Her hands continued to glow blue. She felt like she had two potential foes now, not one.
 

Aniz held his sword loosely toward the ground. “These people are my agents, and I lead the city. We woke up a week ago, like you must have, with no personal memories. We have watched your island for that week, since it appears there was a wall of illusion that allowed us to see inside but not you to see outside.”
 

Jehui blinked. “So you’ve been here the entire time?”
 

“Waiting and learning.” Aniz’s expression darkened. “I wish there had been another way to meet… but based on the prophecy and what we discovered with our instruments, the only way to reach you was to allow that beast to awaken.”
 

“What was that thing?” Nehara asked. Aniz shrugged.
 

“A dragon is the best word to describe its physical form.”
 

“It’s an engine,” Vyroko said suddenly. Everyone looked at him. “Deschyny knew this - he woke up with this knowledge. That knowledge is part of me now and I’m just starting to understand it. That’s why he was so intent on protecting the glass egg. If it came in contact with the shard-key, the stored energy would be passed on and trigger the hatching. Before that, it was just sleeping. It was close enough to the flow of energy in the black metal that it could grow, but couldn’t wake until it got a big shock. That was the purpose of the shard-key.”
 

Vyroko looked away from the group, hiding his eyes. “He knew about what slept beneath the island. That’s why he was willing to kill just to keep it there.”
 

Nehara remembered the sudden terror of being pushed off the cliff.
 

Aniz nodded slowly. “We surmised as much in our observations.”
 

“Slow down,” Nehara said, putting up a hand. “How do you know the prophecy? You just said you couldn’t pass the wall of illusion.”
 

“The prophecy was not written in just one place,” the commander explained. “I would show you, but… I’m told that as the island was destroyed, so was our prophecy. It was written on a strange machine. Sixteen interlocking rings.”
 

They all looked at each other. The machine had been underground. How could he have known about it, and the prophecy, unless they did have a copy too?
 

“You tell much truth,” Tahtorak said. “But there are so many things that you wonder about, and many ideas flooding each other in your mind. It is difficult to discern in your voice what is real and what is not. You say a wall of illusion fell, but why did I not see it in the first place?”
 

Aniz nodded, looking slightly alarmed at Tahtorak’s clairvoyance. “I'm not certain, but I can tell you that the illusion surrounding the island was far beyond anything else. It drew power directly from the same flow that allowed the dragon to grow."
 

Nela couldn't be sure, but she was inclined to agree with that. She'd just seen an entire island shaken off the shoulders of a creature. If it was that powerful, then so could a wall of illusion.
 

Aniz looked around the group. "It might be best if I talked less and showed you more. But first, we should eat. As far as we could tell, there was no food on the island for you. It’s incredible that none of you have collapsed yet.”
 

This was met with bemused silence.
 

Eat?
 

Nela hadn’t thought about that concept until now.
 

Aniz had turned around to lead them into the city, but now he stopped. “Is something wrong?”
 

“Not really,” Jehui replied. “Just… we haven’t had to eat.”
 

Aniz looked blank.
 

“But you’re not hungry?”
 

“No.”
 

“You don’t get tired?”
 

Jehui looked at the others. “Yes, but a few hours of sleep has always fixed that.”
 

Aniz closed his eyes and frowned for a moment before turning toward the city.
 

“Then you must be immortal. Come, follow me.”
 

Nobody knew what to think.
 

A short walk down the length of the dock brought the group to the edge of the city. A long road ran parallel to the coast, turning inward and out with the natural shape of  land meeting  sea. They stood on this road, which was made of densely packed silt and small pieces of coloured glass.
 

Nela admired this. She had never seen such an artificial and beautiful thing before.
 

The others seemed to be having a similar reaction as Aniz led them along the coastal road. Now that they were up close to the city, all the details began to emerge as they passed each building.
 

These weren't simply tall buildings of metal and glass. Panes of glass were not mere glass. Beams and frames of steel were not simple steel.
 

One building's windows all had flecks of gold in them, making the entire tower glitter subtly. Another did the same, but with blue and silver flecks. Yet another had bubbles in the glass. And then another one had bubbles that contained coloured water, making it look like an actual column of bubbles.
 

The metal itself had a hundred variations as well. Some were as simple as being brushed in different directions, making light scatter off them in patterns. Some did this but more complexly with curved brushing, creating fractal reflections that shone onto the streets that passed between the buildings. And yet some others had properties that seemed downright impossible. One building's four corners appeared to be columns of molten metal, glowing white with streaks of deep orange moving slowly through the column.
 

Nela felt like her eyes were expanding beyond her head as she took in more of this city that must have taken a thousand years to build with such variety, beauty, and precision. And yet, if the rest of the world was like their island, it must have emerged in a matter of seconds when the jungle was still being coloured in and the sea being laid down.
 

The group stopped, and Nela's attention was brought back to Aniz.
 

A single agent, plainly armoured like before, had arrived and was speaking to him. Nela didn't hear what they said.
 

The agent went away down one of the city streets. Aniz turned to face the group.
 

“This city was born in the same instant that your island was,” he said.
 

“But how is that possible?” Vyroko asked, looking around.
 

Aniz shrugged. “We’ve only had a week. I woke up here - I mean myself and the ones living in this city.”
 

“Just like us - we woke up on the island,” Jehui said. “Did this happen everywhere?”
 

“We’re not sure.” Aniz frowned. “We discovered your island shortly, so we have been more or less fixated on that. But on the other side of the city, there is land. Much land, and likely many others out there.”
 

Nela was quiet. She had wondered about there being others, but the impossible and dangerous events on the island had kept those thoughts at bay.
 

“How many of you live in this city?”
 

She spoke so softly that Aniz didn’t hear her, but Jehui looked up at her.
 

The group was starting to move again, so she didn’t repeat the question. She would see soon enough.
 

They turned off the coastal road and traveled down one of the city streets. These lanes were immaculate, and everybody noticed. So there couldn’t be that many people - in fact, they had seen none except for his agents.

 

Now Nela started to notice more than just architecture. The city itself was quiet. As they passed through each intersection, she looked every way and saw nobody. Between buildings, she peered into the rooms within and also saw nobody.
 

An unhappy feeling began to well up inside her. But she was together with everyone else, and Tahtorak’s eyes continued to shine as he listened to Aniz. If anything went wrong, they would stick together.
 

They passed a few more blocks before reaching a large open space. It looked like a park, but it looked just like what had happened to the island. Nela winced at the raw memory.
 

Black stuff was spread out across the round clearing lined by shorter buildings. There was a mound at the centre, as if something large had been buried underneath.
 

“This used to be all grass,” Aniz said. “And at the centre was a dome with a black door, like the one on your mountain. It only opened when you opened that one with the—”
 

“Shard-key,” the Vortixx filled in for him.
 

Jehui gasped. “Wait! Did you see who took it the first night?”
 

Aniz frowned. “No. I didn’t know that happened.”
 

Vyroko didn’t say anything.
 

“When we did get inside, there was a machine, although it didn’t really seem to do anything. It was sixteen rings, each slightly larger than the inner one, and a central ring that floated of its own accord,” Aniz continued. “But it didn’t float or turn until the second day.”
 

“That’s the same day Vyroko discovered the one on the island,” Tahtorak said. “They must have been connected in some way.”
 

Aniz looked at Vyroko carefully. “The flow of energy reaches all black metal, it seems. It must have reacted to you when it wouldn’t have with anyone else. You are the only person to murder with good intent, for one thing.”
 

Everyone was quiet. Even Nela’s throat went dry. Were they going to get into this again?
 

Vyroko ignored the jab. “Tell us how you can know so much about what happened on the island? The wall of illusion kept you out, and the city isn’t that close.”
 

Aniz smiled again and turned toward the black ruins. “We deciphered the prophecy written on the rings, but weren’t able to do much with those words. And then today happened. The dragon hatched, and at the same time, my agents report that our machine began to spew black stuff that melted everything in its way. It’s not dangerous once it’s hardened, though.”
 

Nehara stepped up to the edge of the black stuff. She crouched and carefully tapped it.
 

A metallic sound rang. Solid and dense.
 

“It’s likely some kind of molten metal that acts like acid until it cools. I believe that dragon is our most dangerous foe right now. Other threats shall be dealt with later.” Aniz looked at Vyroko again as he said this.
 

“So, my question?” Vyroko repeated icily.
 

Aniz gestured for them to walk around the destroyed park. Then they turned back into the empty city, toward the coast again but at a different angle. They stopped after just one block in front of a building that was mostly metal and white-veined grey stone.
 

Nela looked up and realized this one was much taller than the others. They entered through glass doors that slid to the side without any buttons or switches.
 

It was dim inside, but Nela could see strange circles of light floating in the room. They each had different colours in different shapes, some ovals and some rectangles.
 

Her eyes adjusted further as they approached one of the spectral things. Now she saw they were circles - of glass, with light within. Along the edges of the circle they stood in front of were several thick cables that ran from the glass disc up to the ceiling. These cables were what kept the glass suspended.

 

Aniz stepped forward and touched something on the disc. The lights changed. Now one rectangle remained, but it was too small for Nela to see what it showed.
 

Aniz performed another gesture with his fingers, and the rectangle grew beyond the edges of the disc.
 

The black colour made it almost unrecognizable, but Nela’s Mask of Possibilities still held the map of the island that she had developed. She knew every turn and contour of the island.
 

This shining instrument showed the island as it was now, as if they were seeing it through the eyes of a bird.
 

“This is how you knew everything that was happening,” Vyroko said in satisfaction. “So what are your eyes in the sky?”
 

Aniz shrugged. “I haven’t been able to figure that out. I can learn anything I want about whatever the cameras are focused on, but there’s nothing about what those cameras are. Or if they even are cameras. There’s a telescope on the roof and I haven’t been able to see anything in the sky that would be housing them.”
 

Jehui stepped forward and studied one of the terminals. “I’m sure you’ll admit it’s odd that this city has everything you need for spying on the island, and a twin ring machine.”
 

Aniz spread out his hands in helplessness. “I cannot know the greater mysteries of how this all came to be. Until now, my mission was to make contact with you and your group. Now that we have connected, we can begin to look at these other riddles, and perhaps discover who we are and where we come from.”
 

Nehara sighed heavily. “This is a lot to deal with.”
 

Aniz nodded. "The day is nearly over. We should rest and reconvene tomorrow."
 

"I'd like that," Jehui said. "Where shall we sleep?"
 

"There are rooms in another building. Let me take you there. And..." Aniz paused as he led them outside. "Are you sure you don't need to eat?"
 

Everyone nodded.
 

"Well then. Let me know if you need anything."

 

Their day ended.

 

 

 

 

 

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APlayofLight_zps1888c63b.jpeg

 

Part One of the Chrysalis Saga

By Takuta-Nui





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