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Dark Moonlight

episode 7 of Makuta Hunt

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#1 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Nov 27 2011 - 04:37 PM

Posted ImageDARK MOONLIGHTChapter 1Gleaming light rippled and undulated, shining out of the waters. The crests of the gently lapping waves carried with them shining rays, a beacon of light in the all-enveloping darkness. Yet the light came not from beneath the waves, but from the shining orb hanging at the bottom of the sky – Daxia’s sun.Tobduk sat at the waters’ edge, staring fixedly out to sea. He was still and silent, glaring out at the ocean as if it had done him some terrible wrong.As a matter of fact, it had.That was a story for another day, but this designation didn’t stop the tale from surfacing in Tobduk’s memories. It was shaky and incomplete, a book with its pages marred and torn and burned by the horrors it held within it. He was thankful he did not recall the entirety of it, for if he did… He would surely be even less stable in his sanity, which some would have thought difficult.The ocean, that was what penned him and his people in, cutting off their escape. Theirs was a small isle, ringed on all sides by the rough waves. It was not difficult to launch boats – normally – but in that time, the waters were no givers of life. They took on a half-life of their own, as stoic and dangerous guards – guarding not the island from the world, but the world from the island.And over the weeks, as the island’s settlements and its people crumbled and gave in to despair and doom, the waters had seemed to cry with laughter and joy – crashing against the rocks with renewed vigor, lashing out at the things that hobbled at the shore, still trying vainly to hurl themselves from this place of nightmares. A pulsating shade of green had lent itself to the sea; they were no longer a deep blue, but a vibrant, sickly color, and seemed more acid than water –The next thing Tobduk had known was the small, coral reef shelter on which he had been nursed back to health by the nautilen, aquatic agents of the Order. Then Nynrah and Stelt, and finally Daxia… that was when his life began, his new life, the one of rage and anger and fire, all of it stemming from a drowned past of poisoned waters.Despite the warm humidity of the evening, Tobduk felt a chill come over him. He shuddered. Thinking of his past… it was one of the few items that fed him no anger. It did not stoke the fires of his rage… it extinguished them.“Tobduk.”Tobduk jumped, drawing his sword and spinning to hold it at the throat of his adversary. Another blade met it, grappling briefly before tossing it to the side. Tobduk’s sword embedded itself in the sands, leaving him staring into the face of his opponent.He saw no one.“Oh,” he grunted.“Yes, it’s me,” replied the voice of Jerbraz. “Sorry to sneak up on you. I can’t exactly help it.”Tobduk detected more than a little bitterness in the tone. It had only been a few years ago that Jerbraz had been the subject of a stealth experiment that turned nasty. Jerbraz had been rendered permanently invisible, along with all the equipment he had been holding at the time. He was still very sour about it, and he had good reason. Jerbraz had previously been a very attractive character, but now he was entirely hidden from the rest of the world.“What are you here for?” Tobduk asked.“Message from Helryx,” Jerbraz said. “You’ve got a new mission.”“Good,” Tobduk nodded. “I was starting to get bored.”Tobduk could feel Jerbraz giving him an odd look. “Your last mission was only three days ago,” the invisible agent explained.“I was still getting bored,” Tobduk shrugged. “Not much to do around here except beat up the new recruits. They kicked me out of the weapons rooms because I kept blowing things up accidentally.”“Yes. I know. I was there,” Jerbraz said sorely. “You know, we do have an entire library of – ”Tobduk held up a hand firmly. “Don’t even go there.”“Very well.” Jerbraz cleared his throat. “Anyway. I wasn’t sent over here to tell you how to spend your idle time, I was sent here to end it.”Tobduk walked deliberately over to his sword and picked it up, running his finger down its length. “Jabber away, Jerbraz. I’m listening.”Jerbraz ignored the alliteration. “The island of Lunidel,” he said. “It’s a small little place, only big enough for one village and a few acres of woodland. And something is threatening to destroy every last Matoran there if it’s not stopped.”Sparks scurried down Tobduk’s blade. “Keep talking,” he grunted impatiently. “Dramatic effect is lost on me.”“There’s some sort of monster lurking there, presumably a Makuta experiment,” Jerbraz explained. “Reports indicate it returns to the village each night to savage new victims. There’s only fifteen Matoran left; another few nights and it could be an island of ghosts.”“Except for the beast,” Tobduk finished, “and his Makuta master.”“Well, that’s the theory,” Jerbraz said. “It’s not proven that Makuta Luporax created or loosed the beast… but it’s very probable.”“So my mission is to hunt down and exterminate the beast,” Tobduk guessed, “and Luporax, too, since he’s surely behind it.”"Try to at least find some evidence first -- " Jerbraz said, but Tobduk wasn't listening. The tall warrior was already storming off to the fortress.~~~~~Lunidel.The word echoed in Nestra's mind, rousing her from a short rest. As she began to stir, the isle's exact location began to take shape in her head.A smile crept over the Toa of Psionics' Kanohi Huna as she picked up her mindblade and her pack of equipment. She crept from her dwelling and through Ce-Koro's dirt paths. She quieted her thoughts so as not to disturb the empathic fields of the Ce-Matoran now retiring to their huts.But her greatest efforts could not evade the alert and waiting mind of the hero gone before her. Nestra's boot touched gently upon a small stone - and stayed there, transfixed to the spot.She turned, her mindblade igniting with mental force, to see merely a small, frail figure draped in gold and blue robes. Nestra lowered her weapon, but the tension in the air did not fall with it."Where," said the Turaga, "and why?"Nestra sighed. The game was up. After several long moments, she answered, "The isle of Lunidel. To assist a… friend."The Turaga sighed as well, leaning on her ornate staff. "Nestra," she said, "you are a Toa, the Toa of Ce-Wahi. Your duty is to the Matoran of this koro, not to friends of undisclosed identity on far-flung isles.""Duty is a fine virtue, Turaga," Nestra replied, "but what of unity? I find none here. I am alone and isolated, even in this realm of empathy."The Turaga shook her head sadly. "I am sorry for your solitude, Nestra, but I could not have created any more Toa. My Toa power was spent long before, channeled into… well." She smiled slightly. "It is a long story, although an entertaining one.""Your adventures as a Toa were much like mine," Nestra said. "You were oft out on errands far from Ce-Wahi.""Yet more often, I was here, protecting my home from Rahi," the Turaga countered. She sighed again. "It is up to you to find your destiny, Nestra. I cannot order your actions for you. You may travel to Lunidel if you so desire, but make note of my strong disapproval.""Noted," Nestra nodded, and then rushed into the darkness, headed for the beaches. The Turaga watched her go, still shaking her head disappointedly. The deep orange light of the sunset shimmered on her robes.~~~~~The dying sun, with its final breaths, gazed on the isle of Lunidel. A small village rested in the midst of its tangled black trees, in the shadow of the tall stone tower their Makuta called home. Massive gates and barriers ringed the hamlet."Secure?" asked Kenfar, glancing over at the fortifications."Yes. Finally," replied Fohnt, tools still in his hands. "No thanks to Renfen over there," he sighed, gesturing to the Matoran sitting in the corner of the street.Kenfar shrugged. "Renfen is an odd case," he said."And that excuses him from the work and toil we put into guarding our village?" retorted Fohnt. "We're all equals - all Matoran. Why should you treat any of us differently?"Kenfar gestured to the box of tools lying near the reinforced gates. "Fohnt, would you use a pitchfork to dig a hole?""Well, no," Fohnt admitted. "That's a shovel's place.""You're quite right," Kenfar said. "Equals we all are, just tools in the service of Mata Nui, but shaped differently, for different duties. Even in Matoran of just one element, there is diversity among us."Fohnt frowned. "I suppose. But what is Renfen's duty, then?"Kenfar placed a hand on Fohnt's shoulder. "That is not for another Matoran to decide," he said, "not even the leader of his village.""No," Fohnt replied, grinning, "it is for the Makuta to decide."Kenfar chuckled. "A good day's work, Fohnt. Go back to your hut. Get some sleep now, while the sun is still clinging to the sky. Mata Nui knows we'll have none when the moon comes." He shuddered.The Matoran began to disperse, their work on the fortifications deemed satisfactory by Kenfar. In a few minutes, only two Matoran were left in the street: Kenfar himself… and Renfen.Kenfar strode quietly over to Renfen, almost cautiously. He knew that a gentle touch was required with him. "Renfen," he said, "it's time to go home."Renfen looked up from his elaborate drawings in the dirt. "Very well, Kenfar. I'll retire." Slowly, he stood to his full height (not much), staring down at his sketches. With a gentle nudge from Kenfar, he made his way over to his hut and crept inside.Now only the unofficial leader of the Lunidel Matoran stood outside. He glanced up at the sky nervously to see deep blue beginning to swallow the sunlight. It was time to head home and prepare for their new defenses to be tested. Before he walked over to his hut, however, he could not help but inspect Renfen's drawings. He regretted it.Nightmarish images swimming in his consciousness, Kenfar headed home for a restless sleep.As the sun's grip on the sky finally slipped and it vanished from sight, as the full moon inched upwards to replace it, a bestial howl echoed through the woods…

Edited by Angel Bob, Nov 28 2011 - 06:38 PM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#2 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Dec 08 2011 - 12:06 PM

Chapter 2 The full moon, that luminous white orb, hung in all its glory above the isle of Lunidel. Clouds of darkness lay pooled about like mist, but the beams of white light were stronger, lighting most all of the isle with an eerie glow. They shone down upon the twisted woods, the Makuta’s tower… and the village of sleeping Matoran, all of which were also subjected to an unrelenting rain. And now they shone down upon a hulking beast, covered in a metallic hide, stepping deliberately through the woods. It had awoken here, lying in the same clearing as ever, that one not a mile from the village, and it hungered. As its paws touched upon the edge of the woods, as its body pushed past the gnarled black branches of the trees, it looked upon the village. The Matoran had made extensive modifications to their gates in a vain attempt at safety, but walls of wood would not hold against the Wolf. There was a resounding crash as the Wolf smashed through their defenses, charging into the village square. The scents of the Matoran were strong here, and in mere seconds the Wolf smelled their awakened fear. The door of a hut shattered into wooden shards, revealing a terrified little Matoran. The scent of fear was overpowering. The Wolf raised its razor claws, and then the scent of death prevailed. Renewed energy filling its system, the Wolf crushed through the hut’s walls, headed for the next door over. The fragments of that hut’s walls dropped to the ground, but no Matoran cowered on the bed. The Wolf paused, momentarily confused – and then a sharp surge of pain erupted in its flank. The Wolf let out a terrible growl, but the Matoran did not back down. Without moving from its spot, the villager drew the spear back into its hand and thrust again, this time stabbing into the Wolf’s foreleg. The beast snarled and charged. At that point, the trap closed. Walls of metal slammed into the Wolf, thrown by an unseen, powerful force. The beast was knocked to the ground, pinned between sheets of steel, left to glare at the spear-wielding Matoran who had served as bait. The Matoran was saying something now, but the Wolf cared not for words. It replied with an enraged roar, and a sudden surge in strength tore the metal walls to pieces. It towered over the Matoran, claws flailing and fanged mouth open in a terrible roar – and then the Matoran’s spear was thrust again, and this time struck the snout of the monstrous beast. The Wolf froze, transfixed, its sense of smell temporarily blinded. With a roar of pain rather than fury, it slammed the Matoran aside and vaulted the gates, charging into the woods where it could take refuge. The Matoran watched it go. “Will that be the end of it?” asked another Matoran, creeping out from his shelter. “I doubt it,” replied the other. “But I’ve bought us some time to rebuild.” The other Matoran sighed. “Who made you Kenfar?” he said irately, but set to work on the fortifications.

~~~~~

Tobduk stepped boldly onto the shores of Lunidel, grinding the grey sand beneath his feet. Drawing deep of the air, he could sense the lingering threads of rage and pain. There had been a battle here. He grinned wickedly. Following a small stone path through the woods, the tall warrior could almost smell the anger. There could be no doubt as to its source: something that made no effort to hold back its rage, a beast – the monster he had come to kill. The trail of anger drifted into the woods, but Tobduk, for once, decided not to follow it. Before leaping into anything, he resolved, he would try to glean some information. Talk to the residents, he’d been advised. Apparently, you often found out a lot more if you asked questions before killing something. With some reluctance, he sheathed his sword and stowed his daggers out of sight. Within a few minutes, he stepped in view of the village gates. Several Matoran were busy adding sheets of metal and stone to the walls, yet they didn’t seem to be touching them. Tobduk could see how they managed it, just by the color of their armor. Although their bodies were primarily garbed in a dull, metallic grey, a shade that could be attributed to most any element, vibrant hints of red and blue accented their bodies. They were Matoran of Magnetism. The Matoran were hard at work, and so it took some time before any noticed his approach. Tobduk could tell when he’d been spotted by the sudden and unexpected collapse of a large portion of the wall, as its builders dropped everything at the sight of a ten-foot-tall warrior strolling casually down the path to their front doors. “Let’s not waste words with greetings,” Tobduk called, striding up to the gates. “Suffice it to say, there are various simple and painful reasons you should tell me everything I need to know.” He towered over the guards, his harsh and angry Kanohi Sanok staring down at them. “So you’ll answer my questions.”The Matoran glanced, terrified, at each other from beneath the sheets of metal they now held above their heads as shields. Finally, one dared to peek at the intruder. Yes… he was still there.“Oh… ok – k – kay…” one Matoran stammered. “W – wh – what d-d-d-do you w-want t-to know?”“There’s a monster on your island,” Tobduk grinned, stepping closer and leaning down to bring his leering face closer to the Matoran’s mask.“Y – yes,” the Matoran squeaked. “I know!”“Well, then,” Tobduk smiled, “everything you know about it. Tell me. Now.”

~~~~~

Nestra hauled her skiff onto the sands of Lunidel, pausing to telekinetically anchor it to the ground, and then headed inland. The path was a thin and winding one, little more than a tunnel through walls of wood and branches.As she walked, a vague sense of fear grew inside her, for reasons unclear at first. However, gradually she realized what seemed off – there was such little wildlife about. The forests were quiet. Absolutely still.More than a little perturbed, Nestra discreetly took hold of her hilt, willing her psionic power to pool around, ready to erupt into a razor-sharp blade should the need arise. Though she sensed no presence around her, this only made her more wary. If all the Rahi here had perished, as she suspected, then there had to be a reason. Eventually, the path led her out of the thick woods and into a green-grassed clearing, in the center of which sat a small village. It would have appeared cozy and welcoming were it not for the walls of metal erected all around its perimeters and the various other defenses – battlements, barbed wire, and a crude spear launcher – that adorned those walls. Though she knew Matoran were the only sapient inhabitants of Lunidel, save their Makuta, Nestra felt understandably apprehensive approaching the fortified hamlet. The gates were unguarded, and no Matoran could be seen from the exterior. Cautiously, Nestra willed the gates open; no traps were sprung, no spears launched, and somehow that made it all the more disturbing. Mindblade now flickering in her hand, Nestra stepped gently into the village. Each hut was empty, so far as she could judge from – wait. Now her empathic link picked up at least a dozen minds, each flooded with fear and a warning of terrible danger. Nestra grinned. That was more like it. Now everything was back to normal. Nestra bid her mask power activate, cloaking her in a shroud of invisibility. She crept around the side of a hut to see a crowd of red and blue Matoran assembled in what appeared to be their town square, trembling in fear. One Matoran, obviously bolder than the rest, stood in front of them with his arms extended, as if forming a shield. “Now I will have answers!” she heard a voice boom, and froze in surprise. Then she sighed, awash with relief, disappointment, and a new fear for the wellbeing of each Matoran in the village. Nestra dropped her mask power and stepped calmly into the scene. She was unsurprised to see that the object of terror from which each Matoran was cowering was none other than… Tobduk. “I am sick and tired,” the Order agent seethed, “of that sentence. ‘The knowing will come?’ Only if you actually tell me something! I thought only Turaga were supposed to be cryptic and incurably aggravating!” “He has a point, Kenfar,” said a Matoran to the bold one standing up to Tobduk. At that point, Nestra made her appearance widely known by causing all of Tobduk’s weapons to tear themselves from his body and land in a heap behind her. He whirled, the fire of surprise and anger blazing in his eyes, only to drop his stance as he saw who it was. “Oh, good,” he grinned. “Nestra, can you make any sense out of these Matoran? They won’t tell me anything.” Nestra cringed. “That’s because you’re interrogating them,” she sighed. “You’re trying to coax information out of them with threats of pain and punishment.” “Well… yeah,” Tobduk said, blinking. His mask shifted slightly in an expression of confusion. “What’s wrong with that?” Nestra’s palm was immediately upon her brow. “Tobduk, people will be happier to tell you things, and more forthcoming with information, if you make it clear that you’re not going to hurt them.” “But… then you give them the chance to talk at their discretion,” Tobduk said. “Er… isn’t it more efficient to force them?” “We’ll settle this later. Privately,” Nestra said sternly. “Why don’t you wait outside the village while I calm them down?” Tobduk hung his head. “Very well,” he growled. “I suppose…” Confused and angry, the ten-foot-tall warrior slunk down the street. He paused to grab his weapons, but a harsh look from Nestra discouraged that path, and he continued on. No one said a word until he had exited the village. “Very well, then,” Kenfar said. “Now, might someone be kind enough to explain to me exactly what in Karzahni has just occurred?”

~~~~~

Thoroughly bewildered, Tobduk paced aimlessly back and forth across the grass, his feet singing blackened marks in the grass with each step. What was the big deal? Interrogation had always worked in the past. He’d never even gotten a complaint from the subjects, unless one counted meaningless sobs and screams. Nestra’s reaction seemed entirely ridiculous. Gazing intently at the ground, like it was the source of all his troubles, Tobduk noticed something very interesting indeed. Who needed the villagers? He didn’t need their cryptic words to trace this monster right back to its lair… because imprinted in the muddy dirt beneath him was the claw of something large and vicious. Tobduk grinned as he saw the prints continue off into the woods. Leaving all thoughts of kindness and interrogation behind, he charged into the trees, his eyes fixed upon the massive tracks.

~~~~~

Dark clouds of shadow swirled and shifted around the windows of the tall, towering precipice that jutted out of Lunidel’s forests. Inside its walls of metal and stone, behind tiny windows gazing out into pure blackness, sat an ebon-armored character draped in a rich scarlet robe. Though there was nothing to see in this tower but shadow, Makuta Luporax saw a great deal. The darkness spoke to him, whispering secrets from every darkened corner of his realm. Though none could see them, out of the shadows of Lunidel peered the gleaming red eyes of their lord and master.How very… intriguing. I had thought my isle was cast off, separate from the rest of the world, and yet here come two visitors who know all too much of the Matoran’s plight. How is it that they know of the Wolf before stepping foot on my shores? Their purpose here cannot be doubted, though, and if that is so then they must be halted in their tracks. The angry one shall be more dangerous, and more difficult to seek out; he must be eliminated before the moon has risen, and before my cloud of shadows falls. The female, she will come to me; her wisdom serves her well, and she must realize there is one great source she will not find down there. To find out everything about the Wolf, she must confide in its creator, and so I wait for her. Luporax reclined in his throne, his claws tapping idly on the metal. He waited.

~~~~~

The trail led deep into the woods, but Tobduk knew little of distance or time in this pursuit. He was so focused on the tracks that the impact of branches and sharp, pointed twigs meant nothing to him, nor did puddles of water that he dashed through. The only thing that mattered was the beast’s tracks. It was evidently lupine, judging by its gait. It seemed to have been wounded, he reasoned, for the path was uneven and halting. The Matoran of this isle could defend themselves! Despite his hardships with interrogating them, he felt a sliver of respect. Finally, the trees parted before him, and a small clearing was revealed. The prints continued inwards, and he followed with glee. A few moments later, that emotion turned to shock, and then confusion took hold. Tobduk stood at the end of the prints, gazing down as what were obviously giant claws grew smaller and rounder, eventually becoming… Footsteps. A dull realization of the cruel and complicated truth dawned on Tobduk as he followed the trail of footsteps, watching them loop back around and head directly for the village. His heart sank. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he sighed. The beast was not just a Makuta experiment loosed on the Matoran. It didn’t lurk in its own small lair. It hid among its victims, he realized. By night a beast… by day, a small Matoran, Tobduk's voice of reason explained. “That’s just not fair,” he cursed.

Edited by Angel Bob, Dec 08 2011 - 09:26 PM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#3 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Dec 14 2011 - 08:07 PM

Chapter 3Viruses swirled in the darkness, twisting and melting, condensing and evaporating, and ultimately blurring together. Distinct shapes they took -- a claw here, a tail there, and between them was sketched a skeleton, upon which mass and muscle began to appear…Golden eyes blazed out of the shadows, and turned to examine their body in wonder. The creature inspected its newborn shape, and then gave a ferocious roar."You are complete," crooned a deep voice out of the darkness. The creature silenced itself, eyes darting nervously through the shadows. "There's no need to fear," the voice said. Gently, claws not its own stroked the beast's back, running their tips down its length soothingly. "I bore you, my creature, out of little more than wisps upon the air. It is by my hand that you, and all your kin, exist… You breathe, you see, you hear, all thanks to Makuta Luporax."Despite its fearsome fangs and claws, the beast found itself purring slightly. The claws continued to run themselves across its metallic hide."And… you hunger," Luporax said. "Yes, you do; I can feel the hunger burning in your mind, for I placed it there. Are you not fortunate that you were born to hunt and devour? You are to hunt one specific individual…"With the image of its prey placed at the forefront of its mind, the creature growled in anticipation. A shimmering sheen of energy enveloped it, and then it was gone from the Makuta's tower…

~~~~~

"Nestra!" Tobduk bellowed into the pendant. "I found something. It's not pleasant."There was no response. Tobduk waited a few moments, then cursed angrily (making sure the pendant was no longer linked to his mind before doing so). I suppose Nestra's giving me the silent treatment now. She's probably calming all the villagers down, isn't she? he huffed. How are little Matoran somehow more important to her than --A sudden growling interrupted his ranting. Tobduk turned to see the gaping jaws of a Muaka, complete with all its jagged teeth. The whole bundle was hurtling towards him at an impressive speed. He decided to duck.The next moment, the great cat landed gracefully on the ground behind him. Tobduk shot to his feet and conjured a fireball of fury. After all his missions exterminating Makuta, he was not going to be eaten by a beast out in the woods.The Muaka lunged again, its neck outstretched, and Tobduk just barely managed to leap from its targeted area. The fanged jaws snapped shut not inches from his leg.This time, though, he had a brief opening to strike, and he seized the chance. His flames cut into its flank, thrusting heat into its body, before he pulled it back in a thin arc. The cat howled, nearly bursting his audio receptors, and Tobduk dropped to the ground to avoid its swinging claws. He rolled behind the Muaka as it glared in entirely the wrong direction, leaping to his feet behind it.The slight sound of his boot crushing an innocent twig was enough. The Muaka whirled, and although it again failed to sink its teeth into Tobduk, its body slammed into him, knocking the warrior to the ground. The Muaka pounced, pinning him to the ground with its claws. Its golden eyes stared into his green ones, a feeling of mutual hate blazing between them.NESTRA! Tobduk yelled in his mind, but there was still no response.The Muaka was astounded to feel flames blossoming from beneath its underbelly, surging upwards with such force that it was thrown backwards, burned severely. Tobduk staggered to his feet, his boot reduced to a blackened shell, and looked over to see the Muaka groaning on the earth. He mustered his anger, and his fireball erupted in magnitude, blazing into a beacon of light and destruction.When it entered the beast's stomach, the flames surging out from the tip were so powerful that its skeleton shattered. The Muaka dropped entirely to the ground, limp and lifeless.Tobduk glared at it for an instant before turning and walking away.

~~~~~

Inside a nondescript hut off to the side of the village, the window-shades drawn and the door closed, Nestra sat with Kenfar, her empathic field projecting safety and calm. However, she felt this was unnecessary, for Kenfar was one of the most level-headed and unshakable characters she had ever known. According to the other Matoran, he was their unofficial mayor of sorts, and always kept his cool in a crisis. Nestra hoped he would be the same way while she asked her questions.“So,” she said gently, “what do you know of the Wolf?”Kenfar frowned. “I don’t know much. Not much at all,” he said. After a moment, he continued. “Not enough, at least.”“But what knowledge do you have?” Nestra pressed.The stout Matoran ran a finger down the chin of his mask in thought. “It is, of course, a massive creature,” he said. “Red and black in hue, with long, flexible joints.”“Its powers? If any?”“I’ve seen it smash down trees by brushing against them and crack the ground as it finished a jump,” Kenfar explained. “We’ve used our element against it, trapping it beneath sheets of metal, but the material just... warps around it, I suppose.”“A corrosive aura?” Nestra asked.“No, not like that,” Kenfar said, shaking his head. “I’m not certain, but going from our accounts, it would certainly seem the beast has... magnetic powers.”“That makes it difficult for you,” Nestra grimaced.“But the Wolf... doesn’t use them consistently,” Kenfar said. “Some nights it can snap a spear in two from yards away, or release a burst of magnetic force, I hear, but other nights it seems just an ordinary beast. I’m not sure it even realizes its abilities.”“It is only a rahi beast,” Nestra nodded. “Although...” Her voice trailed off.“Although what?” Kenfar asked.“Nothing,” Nestra said quickly.“Toa,” Kenfar said, “if you are going to ask questions of my people and me, then it is only fair that we might ask you some in return. What were you about to say?”Nestra smiled. “I like the way you think, Kenfar. Anyway... I couldn’t help but wonder. It seemed to me that your Makuta might have... set the beast on you,” she admitted. “But if so, wouldn’t he be using its full potential?”Kenfar nodded. “Very true, very true. Our Makuta knows rahi. He understands exactly how they work, even more than other members of the Brotherhood.”“So if he knows so much about rahi, I suppose he probably isn’t responsible for this,” Nestra theorized.Kenfar said nothing, only shrugged.“Do you have any other information concerning the Wolf?” Nestra asked.“No,” Kenfar shrugged. “Nothing of any importance.”“Very well,” Nestra said. “Thank you for your time, Kenfar. My... associate... and I are doing everything we can to rid your village of this monster.”“As am I,” Kenfar said, rising to his feet and striding from the room.The next Matoran sent in wore a mask of sand, an elaborately curved and sharp Kanohi. He strode in with an air of confidence, but underneath that layer Nestra could see fear.“There’s nothing to worry about,” Nestra said soothingly, amplifying her empathic calm. “It’s just you and I here.”“That’s the problem,” the Matoran chuckled humorlessly. “Call me xenophobic, but I’m just a little distrusting of strangers who walk in, knowing of all our problems, and within a few moments have us all lined up to surrender all our knowledge.”Nestra frowned. “You raise a point, but I am not here to harm you.”“Yet you associate with that giant killer,” the Matoran pointed out. “He was ready to - ”“Tobduk and I,” Nestra sighed, “will have a long talk about his methods when I am done with you and yours. Now, sit. What is your name?”“I’m Fohnt,” the Matoran said, leaning casually against the wall. “So, what do you want to know? Believe me, I haven’t a clue where it’s coming from, who its master is, anything.”“You believe the beast has a master?” Nestra asked, raising an eyebrow.Fohnt cringed. “Did I say that? No, of course I didn’t, you heard wrong. I meant, um, how much power it could muster. It’s a powerful thing. It’s possible we haven’t seen its true potential in action.”Through her empathic field, Nestra could literally see the shield of dishonesty Fohnt was hiding behind. That, defiance, and simple pride were the three feelings he exuded in harsh, short bursts. She knew immediately that any information he gave would be twisted towards a different meaning entirely, and narrowed her gaze on him.“I can see your look of distrust,” Fohnt said. “Don’t think your empathic field will lull me into a sense of security. I’ve been through too much hardship for that.”“What do you mean?” Nestra asked.“Lunidel is rich in ore,” Fohnt explained smugly. “We mine iron, protosteel, and all sorts of other metals from down below. Naturally, all this metal’s in high demand. I’m a tradesman, Toa. Always have been, always will be. Up until the Wolf came, I conducted the serious business of getting our metal to the other lands - and making sure there was enough payment for us all.”“This explains your way of telling a twisted truth,” Nestra said.“I learned the tools of the trade,” Fohnt replied. “And before you say anything further, it wasn’t just for personal profit. All of us made more widgets and lived greater lives for my efforts.”“And is a life built on tricks and thievery worth living?” Nestra asked, now abandoning her calm air for cold anger.“Mata Nui, it’s life, Toa!” Fohnt snarled. “You take it however you can get it.”Nestra caught herself just before she replied hotly. Calming herself, she switched subjects. “The Wolf would gladly end your life, Fohnt. Do you know anything that would help me prevent it from doing so?”Fohnt laughed for several long moments. “You’re good, Toa,” he smiled. “But believe me when I say I have nothing to fear from it.”The wily Matoran turned and headed for the door. Half out and half in, he turned his head back and whispered, “Actually... I might know something. Well, everyone knows it, but I’m the only one who’ll mention it. You see, Toa, I value the truth over the death of my friends.”“Oh?” Nestra asked, laughing inside at Fohnt’s idea of himself. “What do you know?”“Renfen,” Fohnt hissed. “I don’t trust the little guy. Always off to the side, never working with us - just drawing and sketching in the sand. Sometimes they’re interesting ideas: a new propulsion system for a boat, a better mousetrap, whatever. But then there are... things. Dark, twisted images that give you nightmares, like the creations of a diseased Makuta. He seems innocent on the surface, but look beneath, and you’ll see... there’s something in that Matoran’s head that shouldn’t be there.”With that, Fohnt disappeared from sight, slamming the door shut after him.After Fohnt came a Matoran bearing a mask of psychometry. This one made no attempt to hide his fear. His eyes darted around the room, and his arms were slightly raised, his legs tensed.“Be calm,” Nestra said. “I will not harm you.”The Matoran relaxed, enough to sit comfortably on the chair Nestra had prepared (and which Fohnt had ignored). “Now,” Nestra smiled, “what’s your name?”“I am Fennir,” the Matoran muttered. “What do you make of it?”“Nothing more than any other name,” Nestra said. “Now, Fennir, what do you know of the Wolf?”“Nothing more than any other Matoran,” Fennir replied.“I see,” Nestra frowned. “What does it look like?”“A wolf,” Fennir said after a brief pause.Nestra gave him a look, but said nothing. “Very well,” she sighed. “Do you know - ”“There is something more to its appearance,” Fennir said. “It has a set of extra arms.”Nestra blinked several times. “Well,” she said after a while. “That is... important to know. Thank you, Fennir.”“They’re short,” Fennir continued. “With just two claws at the end.”Nestra could get little more out of Fennir. She consented to let him go. Four more Matoran came and went, each knowing nothing more than the last and making not nearly as much an impression as Kenfar or Fohnt. Finally, the Matoran ushered in a spindly little creature bearing a deep purple mask and gazing intently at the floor. Nestra paused. He exuded definite emotion, but... she could not identify it. There was fear, and anger, and sadness, but each of them shifted and changed and shied away from taking dominance. He was... confused, she concluded.“You are... Renfen?” she asked.“Indeed,” the small Matoran whispered.“Renfen,” Nestra said soothingly, “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m trying to make your life better.”“I understand this,” Renfen replied.“Good,” Nestra smiled. “Now... What do you know about the Wolf?”Renfen said nothing, but drew out several thin sheets of metal from his satchel, extending them in his hand towards Nestra. Haltingly, she took them and stared down at them.Etched into the metal by a careful, diligent hand was the Wolf, in all its savage glory. Its fangs were bared on a cowering Matoran, with its extra arms flailing in the air. The moon hovered above it, rippling rays shining down from it.Nestra looked at the next sheet, and shuddered. A terrible beast was drawn here -- a monstrosity towering above the trees, with the roaring face of a muaka and the trampling hooves of a kikanalo. Squinting, Nestra could make out that its tail ended in what looked like the head of a horned serpent. What appeared to be lightning crackled around the appendage.“What is this?” Nestra asked.“It is a dream,” Renfen explained. “An idea... a thought... a nightmare.” Suddenly, he stiffened, and said no more.“Renfen,” Nestra said, extending a hand to him gently -- but the Matoran batted it away with a maddened look in his eyes. “It’s not just a dream,” he hissed. “It’s real -- and it is born!

~~~~~

Tobduk had remained at the end of the Wolf’s tracks for some time before coming to a decision. He would head back to the village, he resolved, and face Nestra’s wrath - however terrible it might be - because this information was so crucial to the elimination of the Wolf and the safety of these Matoran. She would understand this, wouldn’t she? She was a Toa, after all. Protecting Matoran was her sworn duty.Very well, then. I’m not often the bearer of bad news... I hope they don’t react the same way I always do, he grimaced.A loud craaash ripped through the air. Tobduk whirled, fingers ablaze, to see trees torn from the earth and dropped casually to the ground by the force of massive legs striding through them, crushing the crumpled stumps with its giant hooves.Tobduk looked up. Glaring down at him were the golden eyes of a muaka, with renewed hate and hunger. To his shock, two more heads peered out from behind it - those of a kikanalo and a horned red serpent, electricity coursing through its fangs.“Wonderful. Just... wonderful,” he sighed.The creature lashed out with the combined fury of all three beasts. Lightning leaping from limb to limb, savage wounds dug into his body, and still reeling from an impact like a sledgehammer, Tobduk discovered how to fly under someone else’s power. He did not enjoy the experience.

Edited by Angel Bob, Dec 15 2011 - 06:13 PM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#4 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Dec 18 2011 - 03:26 PM

Chapter 4 The sunlight glinted off of Tobduk’s armor as he ran. Behind him, the monster charged through trees as if they were grass, coils of lightning occasionally surging out of its serpent tail. This can only mean one thing, Tobduk thought to himself. Makuta Luporax really doesn’t want me on his island much longer. It was quite obvious in retrospect – although Lunidel’s forests were quiet as the grave, first a muaka and now some sort of chimera had suddenly and unexpectedly attacked Tobduk. They had to be creations of Luporax – that was the only possible answer. “Makutaaaa!” Tobduk yelled. “I get the message!” In his tower, Makuta Luporax laughed quietly to himself. “But far too late, tall one,” he chuckled. “Far too late, indeed.” Something about the chimera unnerved Tobduk. Then he realized it wasn’t a trait of the chimera – it was the lack of a certain trait. Although it bore the likeness of a muaka, it radiated none of the berserk rage that they did. There was nothing for him to feed on. It felt no anger – just a cold commitment to its mission. Tobduk vaulted a ditch, clambered over a tree, and ducked beneath a ceiling of tangled branches. He could hear the thunderous smash of the chimera’s progress. He ran.

~~~~~

Nestra walked purposely from the village, marching from the gate towards the woods Tobduk had entered. It was time to discuss his people problems.She’d left the Matoran to build new walls, and encouraged them to use some of Renfen’s ideas for traps. However disturbed his mind was, there was clever and cunning hidden beneath. The sounds of metalworking and hammering floated through the crisp air.A loud crash echoed dully across the clearing. Nestra winced. Someone had obviously dropped something of –Craaaaash!That was surprisingly loud. Nestra turned and glanced around the clearing – were they cutting down trees now, for more wood?The Toa of Psionics froze as she saw Tobduk dashing out of the woods, headed for the village. She cringed – what was this new harebrained plan?Just as Nestra began to run towards Tobduk, she saw the cause of all this confusion storming out of the woods: what appeared to be a muaka the size of Brond’s drill, its head raised high above the trees it was now knocking aside carelessly. But as it emerged, she could see there was far more to it – the head of a kikanalo was set on its back, and was even now slicing through the air with its horns and tusks; and the beast’s long, thin tail ended in the head of a red serpent, which fired electricity from its horns. It marched on golden hooves the size of a small hut, and the armor covering its form oozed with a greenish secretion. As Nestra watched, it turned to lunge at Tobduk, and some of the fluid splashed onto the nearby trees, which sizzled and burst into flames. Beneath that layer of acid, its body was mottled grey and black, roughly the contour of a mountain. Tobduk was now nearly to the village, not having been able to turn away in time. The Matoran gaped up at the chimera motionlessly, frozen as Nestra was by pure shock.“RUUUUUUUUUNNN!!!!!” Tobduk yelled. “You heard him!” Fohnt cried, terror in his eyes. “SCATTER!” The villagers scurried in all directions, most taking off into the woods. Only three stayed in the village, either courageous or crazy (though probably both) – Kenfar and two spear-bearing Matoran. Dismayed, Nestra watched helplessly as Fohnt, Fennir, and Renfen disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Nestra finally mobilized herself, and dashed across the grass towards the Matoran. She could appreciate courage, but there was no way any of them would survive a battle with this beast. In the moments before Tobduk vaulted the gate – and the chimera smashed it to dust – a wave of telekinetic force seized Kenfar and his comrades, lifting them into the air, and setting them safely off to the side. Now she could face the chimera itself. As it crashed into the village, bearing down on Tobduk, she ignited her mindblade and telekinetically boosted herself into the air, hurling herself at the serpent tail. Fixated on Tobduk, it was an easy target for her sword, and one of three heads was quickly severed from the monster. Lightning exploded outwards with a boom of thunder, and the serpent’s head dropped to the ground, instantly burning a bare spot out of the grass with its acid. That earned her the chimera’s attention. Roaring in pain, it whirled and lashed out with the kikanalo’s horn. Nestra was quick enough to twist her body away from that deadly point, but the sheer force of the attack - and a splash of acid - launched her into the ground. She struck the earth and lay still, smoldering. Tobduk cried out in rage and summoned a blazing fire out of it. A ring of flames circled his body and then hurled itself into the chimera’s face, searing into the roof of its mouth and streaming into its eyes, scalding them severely.The chimera roared, and Tobduk grinned – now there was true anger in its spirit! As he called upon its muaka rage to strengthen himself, he began to understand his foe. Luporax had created this in a rush – it had assaulted him just minutes after the muaka – and so he had not had time to brew up an original creature, just fuse together several others. Each rahi’s mind was vying for dominance, and until Nestra’s mindblade had destroyed it, the serpent had asserted its cold, intelligent demeanor over the weak-willed others. With the muaka in charge, the chimera was a raging, berserk beast; nothing more.Sheer rage flowed into Tobduk, and he easily dodged the chimera’s next lunges, leaving a burning blaze where he had been for it to swallow. His counterattacks sliced off portions of its rocky shell, revealing the thinner layer of skin beneath.At one point, he ducked into an armory, pausing long enough to weaken the foundations, and then dove from it; the chimera smashed its face into the structure and found a multitude of spears, swords, and shovels embedded in its brow. It howled in rage and pain, trying in vain to shake them out. Acid splashed everywhere, eating through the wall Tobduk was hiding behind.“All right,” he muttered, “it’s time to end this.”“I quite agree,” nodded Kenfar, whom Tobduk only just now noticed standing a few yards away. The burly Matoran pointed fixedly at two elaborate mechanisms mounted on the battlements. “Korri! Rogin! NOW!”The guards nodded and, as one, thrust their palms onto the metal plate serving as the control panel for their weapon. Magnetism manipulating its inner workings, each intricate thing clicked and whirred... and ultimately fired three razor-sharp poles of metal through the air at the chimera. Two struck its still-armored shoulders, and disintegrated to nothing upon striking its acidic slime. But the rest sailed straight and true, burrowing deep into the chimera’s flank. A terrible screech echoed from out of the monster as it felt the projectiles skewering its interiors.With a final roar from the muaka and a pained moan from the kikanalo, the chimera staggered backwards... and fell with an island-shaking thump onto the empty space of the clearing. A miniature wave of acid splashed over most of the grass, turning it to smoking black cinders - but by some miracle of fate, it spared Nestra’s still form. Kenfar, Korri, and Rogin stared at the chimera, futilely trying to ascertain whether or not it lived from a distance of some hundred yards, but Tobduk cared not for the beast. Feet burning marks in the grass, he dashed for the feebly-stirring Toa of Psionics. As he reached her, Nestra’s eyes finally snapped open, and with his help, she achingly stood to her feet. “It’s... dead?” she asked with disbelief in her voice, staring at the gargantuan corpse.“Yeah,” Tobduk shrugged. “Just a rahi, really. There was a bit of help from the Matoran, but I had it down already.”Nestra shot him an angry look. “And you put killing a rahi before seeing that I was okay??”Tobduk cringed. “Well...” he mumbled... “it was... kind of a pressing need - ”Nestra laughed. “I was only joking, Tobduk. The Matoran come first in any situation. That’s the Duty of us protectors.”

~~~~

The orange sun gazed down on the village, rebuilding itself again. Standing at the outskirts were Tobduk, Nestra, and Kenfar, watching as the Matoran went to work once more on the walls. In the last few hours, a few more Matoran had trickled out of the woods, and gone to work helping Rogin and Korri. But Renfen, Fennir, and Fohnt were still nowhere to be seen.“I’m worried for them,” Nestra frowned.“As am I,” Kenfar nodded.“We’re all worried,” Tobduk said. “But I’m not so much worried for them... as about them.”“What do you mean?” the others asked, wide-eyed. “None of them are any threat.”“By day, no,” Tobduk said. “Sorry, haven’t I mentioned this to you?”The blank looks he received were all the answered he needed.“I suppose the chimera distracted me,” he shrugged. “But... while Nestra was calming the Matoran down, I was tracking the Wolf’s prints. I found something very disturbing indeed. In a small clearing to the northeast, near a cave, they... change. What were the tracks of a beast become footsteps... about the size of a Lunidel Matoran’s.”Kenfar and Nestra stared in shock at Tobduk and each other. “This is... insane,” Kenfar breathed. “You are suggesting... one of my villagers is the Wolf?”“Not right now,” Tobduk said, “but very soon. The moment that moon rises, one of them will transform... and return to attack once more.”“That’s not possible,” Nestra said. “Sorry, but... there has to be another way. I talked with all of them - none of their minds hide anything that comes close to a monster. Fohnt is... immoral, but he’s clever and cunning, not a mindless beast.”“But supposing,” Tobduk said, “they don’t remember their nights? Their memories go blank, and they just remember sleeping.”“None of us get any sleep,” Kenfar said, “not any more.”“Then it should be really easy to figure out who’s the Wolf,” Tobduk grinned. “Very easy, indeed. And once we have...”“We can’t kill them,” Nestra interrupted. “Regardless of whatever they are by night, by day they’re a Matoran. I won’t let you kill them.”“Nor will I,” Kenfar nodded.“I didn’t suggest killing them,” Tobduk scowled. “We just need to find some way to purge the Makuta virus that must have infected them.”“Before you bring the Makuta into this...” Nestra said, her voice trailing away.“What?” Tobduk and Kenfar asked.Nestra sighed. “I have an idea. Not quite as suicidal as some of yours, Tobduk, but it could very well be a bad one.”“What is it?” Tobduk asked eagerly.“We still have an hour or two before nightfall,” Nestra said. “In that time, I think... we should ask one more person about the Wolf.”“You’ve spoken with all of us Matoran,” Kenfar said, confused.“And I’ve already told you all I know,” Tobduk said. “So who...?”“The one person on this isle I haven’t interrogated,” Nestra said solemnly, “is Makuta Luporax. So now... let’s go knock on his door.”

~~~~~

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Tobduk asked, even as Nestra stepped up the stone stairs leading to the grand doors of Luporax’s tower.“Didn’t I answer that question half an hour ago?” Nestra replied, placing her hand on the muaka-shaped door knocker. Steeling herself and sucking in a deep breath, she raised the iron ring... and knocked.The knocks rang out through the cold air of Lunidel for several long moments. Tobduk and Nestra waited apprehensively, Tobduk looking ready to run.“I thought you were the one who killed several Makuta,” Nestra hissed. “Why are you so frightened?”“I’m not frightened,” Tobduk said quickly. “But Luporax has the upper hand here. This isn’t my area of expertise - knocking on the enemy’s door, literally.”“No, it isn’t,” Nestra conceded. “You just kick it down and attack them.”“Exactly!” Tobduk nodded emphatically. “So why can’t we just...”He stopped talking. With an ear-splitting crrrrreeeeeaaak, the massive doors swung slowly inwards, revealing an interior of absolute darkness.The unmistakable voice of a Makuta floated out of the shadows. “Welcome to Lunidel,” Luporax said. “Please come in - that is surely what you came to do.”Nestra glanced at Tobduk briefly, and then turned and walked stiffly into the darkness. Tobduk snarled and followed after her.Even inside the tower, there was nothing but blackness. Tobduk groped around blindly until he located Nestra’s shoulder. “Can you see anything?” he hissed.“No,” she whispered. “Come on... let’s try and find -- oof!”The Toa went down, having tripped over what they soon identified as a stair. Tobduk helped Nestra to her feet, and the two began to ascend the spiral staircase. Tobduk bumped his head on the ceiling and cursed. Already their sight could tell them nothing, but now the walls were beginning to close in, becoming tighter and tighter...After what seemed an eternity, they reached the next floor. Tobduk was beginning to feel the fire of anger bubbling in his body, and was almost relieved to see blazing red eyes gleaming out of the gloom.“Luporax,” he said.“That is Makuta Luporax to you,” the Makuta replied, his voice coming from all sides. “So... to what do I owe this gracious company? It’s been so long since I’ve had visitors.”“There’s a monster assaulting your Matoran,” Tobduk replied. “A monster loosed by - ”“ - an unknown force,” Nestra finished. “Makuta, the Matoran need help.”“And so a mighty Toa and her mightier friend come to their aid,” Luporax said. “I have witnessed the pattern enough times... just not on my isle. How came you to know of the Wolf?”“We... heard of it in... the marketplaces,” Nestra said. Where was metal purchased...? “Stelt. Nynrah,” Tobduk added. “People selling Lunidel’s ore mentioned it.”“So Fohnt has been... talkative, has he?” Luporax mused. “Intriguing. I would not have expected it of him...”Tobduk cursed in his mind. They’d made up the story entirely; the Order had discovered tales of the Wolf from a Toa of Magnetism named Jovan, who had received a message from Kenfar about it and been too occupied with evading a ruthless Dark Hunter to travel to Lunidel and help. The Order had sent Tobduk in his stead.“Now... why have you come?” Luporax asked. “I know of the Wolf, yes; it is as elusive and dangerous to me as it is to the Matoran. I personally have never even set eyes on it. So how could I help you?”“You are the Makuta of this isle,” Tobduk snarled. “You see everything. You must have seen it!”“I am a Makuta of my word,” Luporax replied. “I swear by Mata Nui that I have not seen head nor tail of the Wolf.”“And I’m supposed to take your word for it that you are a Makuta of your word?” Tobduk growled.“Excuse me?” Luporax chuckled. “Are you saying that you refuse to believe me, even if I should be actually telling the truth? Then why, by the visorak, did you come here to question me?”“Her idea,” Tobduk grunted, gesturing towards where he assumed Nestra was standing. “I didn’t support it. What good is there to be had from talking? You sent both the muaka and that chimera after me, to keep my information from reaching the Matoran!” He could hear Nestra cursing, but he didn’t care. Luporax had tried to kill him; he was about to return the favor.Luporax laughed. “Oh, my,” he grinned. “You accuse me of attempting to slay you through my rahi? That muaka was hungry and desperate, and you killed it for an act of self-preservation. The chimera I do apologize for; it was proposed as a war beast for use against the Six Kingdoms, but never saw any battle. Truthfully I should have prevented its escape, but I was at the time occupied with determining information on the Wolf.”“You,” Tobduk seethed, “are a filthy liar of a Makuta.”“I do protest,” Luporax replied, his tone now undercut by menace, “that I speak only the truth. I am no filthy liar. You, on the other hand, are a most brutal and dangerous threat to my Matoran. I fear I must ask you to leave.”“I refuse,” Tobduk growled. “I will not go until your Wolf can no longer threaten Matoran.”“Your refusal pains me,” Luporax sighed. “I must now demand your departure.”Tobduk and Nestra felt power that was not their own surging through them, taking hold of their bodies and spiriting them from this place of blackness.Light cascaded all around them, startling their eyes. In the next moment, orange sunlight blazed everywhere, reflecting off of their armor and the rippling sheen of the waves - ?Tobduk spluttered, gagging on the seawater that had so suddenly appeared to thrust itself down his throat. It took him some time to right himself and gain command enough to tread water. In that time, the wild thrashing of his long limbs had attracted quite a bit of attention, and not just from Nestra.Something slithered past his leg, the water turning cold and frigid around it... and now, in his mind, he could feel the stinging teeth he knew were coming.On Lunidel, three Matoran still wandered in the woods, alone and unseen. The village was far from fortified, and even now, the moon was starting to rise...

Edited by Angel Bob, Dec 18 2011 - 09:07 PM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#5 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Jan 03 2012 - 04:59 PM

Chapter 5He scurried quickly along the path, shuddering as the cold night wind chilled him to the bone. If it were up to him, certainly he would never venture out into the Lunidel night; he knew what that entailed. But duty called… or rather, the Makuta did. An exchange was to be made.Still, it would have been really nice if Luporax would just teleport him. Why wasn't this an option, he cursed? Certainly it was within the Makuta's power.After an ordeal of icy air, he scuttled quickly up the stone steps of Luporax's tower and rapped his iron hand hard on the doors. Thunderous noise echoed through the space behind it for some time.And there was no response. The doors stayed shut, and the wind still ate away at his form.He knocked again, but again there was silence. Makuta Luporax, whether or not he was home, was certainly not expecting visitors.It was a shame; Luporax was letting a great opportunity slip through his fingers. But there was nothing he could do about it. Cursing angrily, he draped his cloak back around his form and retreated into the woods, eyes scouring the trees for a suitable shelter. Nervously, he glanced up at the sky. The sun had nearly sunk beneath the horizon, and the moon was ready to claim its dominion over the sky...

~~~~~

Tobduk staggered onto land, shaking the ice-cold water from his back. Nearby, Nestra was visibly shaking from the chill in the air. Tobduk easily mustered anger at the isle's conditions and summoned a blazing fire that darted through the air and around both of them, projecting its heat into their bodies."That," Nestra shivered, extending her hands towards the fire, "is very welcome indeed."Tobduk took a deep breath and coughed out a few ounces of seawater, before accidentally spitting out a jet of flame. "What was that thing?" he snarled, glaring out to sea."I'm not sure," Nestra shuddered, "but I glimpsed its mind briefly. Horrifying creature…""I could tell from its teeth and tentacles," Tobduk snorted. "You didn't need to look into its head to understand what an abomination that was.""But enough about that sea beast," Nestra said, turning her gaze to the sky. "The moon is nearly risen! Hurry!"Tobduk discarded his lingering thoughts of the sea creature, replaced by those of two far more frightening monsters: the Wolf and its Makuta master. He and Nestra charged across the sands and into the darkness of the woods.The village was far less hospitable by night. Sharpened stakes and iron fences ringed its perimeters, and stern-masked Matoran guards stared into the woods intently. A thin grey mist hung over the scene.Tobduk and Nestra dashed up to the walls, readying their weapons. "Any sign of it yet?" Nestra asked the nearest guard."Not yet, Toa," the Matoran sighed, "but it'll come." He readjusted his grip on his spear anxiously."What of the Matoran who fled?" Tobduk asked."Only some have returned," the guard answered. "Renfen, Fohnt, and Fennir are still out there. And Kenfar has disappeared.""Wonderful. Well, that really narrows down the suspects," Tobduk sighed.After a moment of terrifying tension, Korri had approached, and made as if to descend the wall. Nestra gently pinned him to the spot with her telekinesis. "No. The lives of Matoran need not be put in more danger.""No one is forcing me to do this," Korri replied angrily. "I want to defend my village. It's my life -- it's up to me."Nestra paused, considering the Matoran's words. Her grip loosened, and Korri scurried down to the ground, raising his spear valiantly."Very well," Nestra said. "If you believe your duty is thus…""It is," Korri replied solemnly.Another few minutes passed, every being's heartlight flashing with anticipation. Tobduk narrowed his eyes, frustrated. What was all the waiting for?And then it came. In the first moments, Tobduk had barely noticed it was there - his eyes only registered a blur of tooth and claw, and then something slammed into him with the force of a catapult.Somehow, his feet found the ground and his head realized which way was up. Glancing around, he could see - there! Tobduk yelled in anger at his attacker and loosed a fireball on it, catching its attention. The Wolf raised its snout from the downed Matoran and turned to glare bestially at Tobduk. Viscous amber liquid dripped slowly from its jaws."Well? Come at me!" he yelled.It obliged, its claw hurtling through the air at him. Tobduk just barely slipped under its arm and cut a stinging swath through its belly. The Wolf roared and swiped again, knocking off a plate of armor.Now Nestra was at his side, her mindblade flickering with psionic energy. Her swings touched no part of the Wolf's body, but it winced with every one, its mind lashed and flayed. Tobduk pressed the advantage and sank his blade deep into the Wolf's shoulder. Flames spurted out of the wound, and it howled in rage.These were new and dangerous opponents. The Wolf turned to retreat, knocking Korri aside like a rag doll and charging for the gates. Several Matoran rushed forwards, spears raised, and some landed a hit, but the Wolf was unstoppable in its flight."It's heading back to its master to be healed," Tobduk growled. "We'll have to make sure it never gets there."He and Nestra raised their swords and dashed after the beast, eyes locked on its flank as it barreled into the woods. Tobduk ducked beneath a branch and hurled a fireball at the beast, but only caught another tree. With a curse, he quelled his rage momentarily to extinguish the flame. It wouldn't do to burn down a forest in which innocent Matoran were still cowering.Tobduk's eyes returned to the Wolf just in time to see one of its claws dart out and slice a deep cut into a nearby trunk. The tree in question toppled to the ground, blocking off the path with its razor-sharp branches. Tobduk cried out in surprise, but Nestra was able to fling it out of the way with her mind. The Wolf had still bought itself several precious seconds, however - its flank was considerably further away. Tobduk cursed and quickened his speed."I'm going to try and bind it!" Nestra hissed."What?" Tobduk blinked. "How?""Let us simply say I'll put the 'net' in 'telekinetic,'" Nestra replied.She concentrated, thrusting a web of mental force into the Wolf's path. Abruptly, she stiffened - apparently the Wolf had charged right into the trap.That was when things began to go wrong. With a shout, Nestra was lifted off her feet and thrown to the side, crashing into a tree. Tobduk cursed, glancing briefly at the disappearing Wolf before rushing over to inspect Nestra. "What happened? Are you hurt?" he asked."I am perfectly healthy," Nestra seethed, "merely shaken. Wherever Luporax is, he must have interfered with my telekinesis; it turned against me! Perhaps he bears a Kanohi Felnas."Tobduk glared back at the path. The Wolf was nowhere to be seen.. but its fearsome prints were. "Come on," he sighed, "we'll track it to its lair. Then we'll end it, and its master too."The prints led on for some distance - the Wolf could cover much ground - before finally leading back to that clearing. Tobduk followed them intently as they curved to the side, lurking into… a small cave. How had he not seen it earlier?Summoning a small fire of anger to light the way, Tobduk stepped boldly into the Wolf's lair. "Wolf!" he called. "Where are you? Come out and face me!"Nestra tapped him on the shoulder. "Tobduk, things have just gotten more complicated," she sighed."What do you mean? We have it cornered!" Tobduk cried."No… we don't," Nestra frowned, pointing to the ground. "Look at its tracks."Tobduk knelt, bringing the fire closer to the Wolf's prints. As before, they became footsteps once they had entered the threshold of the cave - but now something very different was afoot. After several steps, the tracks… vanished."It teleported?" Tobduk cried."Or its master teleported it," Nestra replied."That's just not fair," Tobduk snarled."Well… we must see to the Matoran's safety, rather than track its teleportation," Nestra said. "To the village!"

~~~~~

"Matoran of Lunidel!" called a booming voice. Across the village, heads turned and bodies crawled to their feet, gazing around for whomever addressed them. Slowly, the scarce Matoran still in the village gathered in its center… and gasped in shock."Do not fear," echoed the voice out of the swirling cloud of shadows standing in the street. "It is I: your Makuta, your protector.""M - Makuta!" Rogin cried. "What do you address us for?""The matter of the Wolf," Makuta Luporax's voice replied, "concerns me greatly. It is a problem I have pondered for many days. And now… I have the solution. The final solution."The Matoran glanced at each other, breathing words of hope and awe. At last, the threat of the Wolf could be ended?"Yes, my subjects. Your plight shall end tonight," Luporax cried. "And in doing so, I cast off the shroud of darkness I have worn for so long!"All eyes were fixated on the maelstrom of shadow. Limbs were moving in its depths, untangling, stretching out into a recognizable shape…A mighty, clawed hand emerged from the darkness. It curled in on itself, and the shadows stiffened - drawn towards it, as if it were indeed holding them. And with a thought… Makuta Luporax dispelled them.All could now gaze upon the regal form of their Makuta. He towered a dozen feet in the air, armored in crimson and steel grey. His cape trailed along behind him, the very dirt ashamed to dirty it so. Beneath his ember horns, behind the iron faceplate he bore as a mask, gleamed eyes of solid darkness. Moonlight glinted off of his armor. Though none noticed, he twitched uncomfortably in the moonbeams."Indeed," Luporax smiled behind his mask, "the final solution…."

Edited by Angel Bob, Jan 04 2012 - 11:18 AM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#6 Offline Angel Bob

Angel Bob
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Posted Jan 18 2012 - 04:47 PM

Chapter 6Tobduk thrust aside a sharp, stinging branch, ducked beneath an immovable one, splashed through a puddle of watery mud, and thrust a fireball ahead to light the way through the deathly shroud of mist. “Faster!” called the voice of Nestra from a short distance away. “The Wolf could have already returned to the village!”“Faster, faster, faster,” Tobduk muttered. “I could be wearing a Kanohi Kakama, and people would still be asking me to go faster…” The thought gave him anger enough to quicken his pace, however. The next puddle his foot landed in was no more, extinguished by his furious energy.After what seemed an eternity, the two companions had crashed through the last ring of trees and emerged into the grassy clearing. An impossible distance away, the imposing walls of the Matoran village stretched into the sky – but no guards manned their stations, none saw them approach. A lone spear hurtled through the air and embedded itself in the ground inches from Nestra’s boot. Both halted briefly, staring at the weapon.“We are too late!” Nestra cried.“Too late to keep it out of the village, maybe,” Tobduk replied, “but not too late to end its threat here and now. I don’t care what your Toa code says – even if this beast lives a dual life as a Matoran, they’re too dangerous to be kept alive.”“Preserve it,” Nestra ordered, “until we can determine whether or not its mutation was of choice. I will not harm an innocent Matoran.”“It’s not an innocent Matoran,” Tobduk cried, “it’s a murderous monster!”“Only under the moon,” said Nestra. “If we could find a way to halt its mutations…”“This is not the time for hopeful fantasies,” Tobduk snarled, “it’s a time for action. Come on!” With that, he charged at and over the walls, sword raised high.“Mata Nui protect you, Wolf,” Nestra found herself murmuring before she herself flew over the wall with her telekinetic force.Their eyes found a dismal scene. The screams of Matoran echoed in the background, but they were few and far between. As they listened, one scream was cut abruptly short, and a menacing growl rumbled through the air.“This way!” Tobduk hissed, pointing towards the sound.“I can hear!” Nestra hissed back.Both warriors sped around a wrecked hut and into the main street, where the Wolf was hunched over the sprawled body of a Matoran, its jaws snapping eagerly at the broken villager’s limbs.“No!” Nestra cried, and unleashed raw emotion on the Wolf’s mind, flaying it with the force of her anger and sadness. It was thrown from the corpse and tumbled head over heels for some distance before slamming into a hut, smashing it to rubble. Then it leapt back to its feet, growling with renewed hate.“That was… powerful,” Nestra breathed. “I can see why you enjoy your powers, Tobduk. But the sheer potential was… frightening.”“Tell me about it,” Tobduk chuckled, but his focus was on the streams of anger flowing out of the nearby characters – blazing fury from both Tobduk, Toa, and monster. But… a fourth source? He blinked. That Matoran was dead, certainly. So who -- ?“No! Not more death!” bellowed the unmistakable voice of Kenfar. The burly Matoran charged at the Wolf, brandishing a woodsman’s axe. “I will not have it!”The Wolf glanced from Tobduk to Nestra to Kenfar. It tensed its legs and surged forwards, knocking Kenfar aside with the momentum of its leap, and pouncing on Nestra. The Toa was able to keep it somewhat at bay with a shield of force, but the Wolf’s claws darted around and cut deep wounds in her arms. She cried out, and her shield collapsed. The Wolf’s open jaws lunged hungrily, amber saliva splashing through the air –“How many times?!” Tobduk cried, bashing the Wolf’s head with a fireball of rage. “How many times do I have to do this before you’ll come at me?”He growled in anger. The Wolf growled back, and finally conceded to bound towards the tall warrior. Tobduk laughed and summoned a ring of fire around the two, trapping the beast in with him. “Now this can end,” he grinned.“Are you hurt?” Kenfar asked, inspecting Nestra’s limbs gently.“What sort of a question is that?” Nestra snapped. “Of course I’m hurt!” She gathered her thoughts briefly and took a deep breath. “My apologies. I mean… yes, I’m wounded, but that will be no deterrence from the battle!”“Look at your arms,” Kenfar said, wincing as he pointed at the accused areas. “They’ve been savaged. You need medical aid. Where’s Korri? He knows how to handle injuries, though this might be even out of his league.”“I don’t need a medic,” Nestra insisted, twitching in pain.“Last I checked, you weren’t foolish or insane,” Kenfar frowned. “What happened?”“Very funny,” Nestra snarled, glancing over at the walls of fire. She couldn’t see anything clearly beyond them, but there was definitely frantic movement – though whether it was on the Wolf’s or Tobduk’s part was anyone’s guess.“What’s this?” Kenfar asked, dabbing a small cloth to Nestra’s wounds. Liquid oozed around the material, soaking into it.“How should I know? Ask the Wolf,” Nestra chuckled darkly.“Thick and viscous,” Kenfar muttered, focused entirely on the strange substance. “Amber-colored… and you’re acting… oddly…”“You think the Wolf’s saliva is affecting my mind?” Nestra frowned.“It’s my best guess,” Kenfar said. “You’re quite lucky it didn’t manage to fully sink its teeth into you – otherwise, who knows what might have happened? Just a few drops have made you angry and frustrated.”“Let’s see if there’s any sort of Matoran mind hidden in there,” Tobduk called to the Wolf. He and the beast circled each other warily, both carrying too many wounds to try and make the first move. “I’ll try addressing you by name… that usually works. Renfen!”The Wolf’s eyes glinted, but its expression stayed fixed, snarling at Tobduk.“Fohnt!”The Wolf made a short growl, almost like a chuckle of laughter.“Fennir!”The Wolf decided this was enough, and leapt. Tobduk rolled forwards, beneath its trajectory, and his arms snapped upwards to grab hold of its legs. Grinning wickedly, he seared his handprints into its ankles and swung it in a quick circle before hurling the beast into the air. With an exultant roar of laughter, he scanned the moonlit grey mist for its return journey.It never fell back to the earth. Tobduk was suddenly thrust to the ground by the Wolf’s attack from behind. His sword flew out of his hands and beyond the flames, and then the Wolf’s slavering jaws were at his head. With no better options, Tobduk landed a savage kick into its underbelly. As it whimpered momentarily in pain, he scrambled through its claws and back to his feet some ways away.

~~~~~

What?” Nestra cried. “Luporax came to the village?“Yes, or so I’m told,” Kenfar nodded. “I was in the woods at the time, seeking our missing villagers. A few minutes ago, Rogin collided with me and shrieked some hysterical babbling – I hardly understood a word. Poor soul, he’s been scared out of his wits.”“I can fix that,” Nestra said quickly. “But what did he say??”“I’ve told you, it was mostly gibberish,” Kenfar said. “But I heard enough to gather Luporax had come to the village, and the Wolf had been released on them.”“Where is Rogin?” Nestra asked. “Bring me to him! We must know what Luporax did.”“He’s in the – But what about Tobduk?” Kenfar asked, glancing over at the battle raging on the other side of the flames. In the next few moments, both could easily see Tobduk smash the Wolf into the ground and begin slashing furiously at its prone form.“He’ll be all right,” Nestra shrugged.Kenfar led the way through the back alleys of the village, around shattered huts and over the sprawled, torn-apart bodies of Matoran. Both spared a quick word of mourning for the casualties, but they did not slow their pace.Finally, after all too long, Kenfar found the sheltered smith where he had left Rogin shivering in a corner. Nestra approached quietly, broadcasting the soothing sensation of peace into the delirious Matoran’s mind even as she scanned it to assess the damage.She cringed, and then blinked, surprised. “It wasn’t his fear that tipped him over the edge,” she frowned. “At least, not the fear he was feeling. Rogin is a bold soul; you know that more than I do, Kenfar.”“Yes…” Kenfar said slowly, trying to understand what she was getting at.“An exterior force made him this way,” Nestra said solemnly. “Rogin was struck by tone of the most deadly powers of a Makuta – their ability to strike terror into the stoutest soul. I expect the other Matoran who saw Luporax were also driven mad by his fear power; that’s why the Wolf managed to devour that many.”“Can you save him?” Kenfar asked in a desperate whisper.“I can try,” Nestra said. “Perhaps, if I could find the exact moment when it happened…”Slowly, deliberately, the Toa peeled back layers of Rogin’s recent memories. Hiding in the smith, meeting Kenfar, dashing into the woods, seeing the Wolf appear from nowhere –“There’s a barrier in his memory,” Nestra realized. “Just before he saw the Wolf. I can’t see much… there’s just a blur of tooth and claw. If I…” She cautiously reached into the further recesses of Rogin’s mind. “Wait – something’s coming back, from beyond the barrier…”The image of Luporax, tall and mighty and grand, floated in Rogin’s memory. He was entirely without any cloak of darkness, Nestra noticed… and his arms were convulsing slightly. Then his deep voice resonated through the mind: “We must embrace the darkness in all of us. The savagery. The parts of ourselves we like to think progress has made us forget…”Rogin’s memory faded, snapping back to the minutes after the Wolf’s appearance. Nestra gazed at Kenfar, eyes wide.

~~~~~

Tobduk smashed into the Wolf’s face with his unarmored foot. The impact knocked one of its teeth loose, and it grazed Tobduk’s own leg as it arced through the air. Tobduk paused, confused. The small cut would not normally contribute at all to his rage, but now he felt a noticeable surge in anger and power. What was this?He shrugged it off, facing the Wolf and dodging its next lunge. “You’ve got to be Fohnt,” he growled. “No other explanation.”The Wolf offered no confession of its identity, just another vicious bite. Tobduk yanked his leg out of the way just in time, catching a few drops of the Wolf’s saliva. Disgust stirred in his mind, but more prominently by far was the same temporary surge in anger as its fang had given him. Tobduk stared hard at the beast. Obviously it carried some unidentified power in its mouth…While Tobduk considered the Wolf’s unknown abilities, the Wolf was using its time wisely to dart in with another few blows. Its claws swiped around Tobduk’s blade, cutting into his knees, and he staggered backwards. Distracted and now caught by surprise, Tobduk dropped the wall of fire momentarily – just as long as the Wolf needed to leap away, into the back alleys of the village.Oh, no, you don’t, Tobduk snarled, getting to his feet and charging after it. An unfortunate hut was sliced horizontally by a steadily-growing flame trailing from Tobduk’s fist.The back alleys were almost a maze of twisting and turning pathways, constricting spaces between lopsided hut after lopsided hut, and every now and again one would stumble into a crate of metallic weapons, tools, or other materials. However, this worked to Tobduk’s advantage in some cases; the Wolf was just as clumsy as he, possibly more so, and its inevitable collisions pinpointed its location with the clashing crashes of metal.Finally, Tobduk skidded around (and partially through) a hut, finding himself face-to-face with the Wolf. It was a clear shot; it was startled and bound in a cruel cage of metal, set there by the villagers.. Tobduk grinned wickedly and lowered his clenched fist at the whimpering beast.Then… he reconsidered. Like Nestra had said, this monster had another being inside, and whether or not that being was innocent, they deserved a more merciful treatment than this.Besides, as Tobduk noticed, a dark cloud was beginning to creep in front of the moon. Perhaps, if shadows were to obscure the light, he could see the Wolf for who it truly was.

~~~~~

“They’ve gone!” Nestra realized as she and Kenfar dashed into the barren, rubble-filled square where Tobduk and the Wolf had been locked in combat.“We’ll find them,” said Kenfar. “They’re two ten-foot powerhouses on a small, quiet island. Hark – I hear their conflict even now.”But just as Kenfar turned to go towards the noise, Nestra laid a hand on his arm. “Hold. I hear something as well… the presence of an unclear conscience. Someone approaches.”Nestra’s and Kenfar’s eyes scanned the area briefly, coming to rest on one cloaked figure creeping discreetly into the village. It cast its hooded mask about carefully, checking the area for signs of any onlookers.Behind the magic of her mask, Nestra walked closer, even as her quarry ventured further in. Kenfar remained hidden behind a small hut.Finally, the two cloaked figures – one in cloth, one in Kanohi – drew within a foot of each other. The tension in the air was tangible now, clawing at the minds of all there.The creeping character, of course, was the most surprised by far when Nestra appeared out of thin air in front of him. With a yelp, he fell to the ground, knocking his hood askew, and scrambled backwards like a crab before calming his breath and reassessing the situation. Trying to remain dignified, he straightened up and exclaimed indignantly,“What sort of Toa duty do you call that – skulking invisibly through the night, startling innocent villagers out of their wits??”“Fohnt,” Nestra said coldly. “So you aren’t the Wolf after all.”“What? No!” cried Fohnt, and now he seemed genuinely confused. “What do you mean by that, anyway? Somebody’s turning into the Wolf?”“That’s the theory,” Kenfar said, emerging from his hiding place. “Until now, you were one of the chief suspects.”“Wh – H – I can’t believe this!” Fohnt spluttered. “How could you, of all people, suspect me of that?”“Even I can’t deny you are suspicious,” Kenfar said sternly. “I’m glad to know you aren’t turning into a monster by night, though, if it’s any consolation.”“I’m glad, too!” Fohnt scowled. “If it’s any of us, it’s that oddball Renfen!”“We’ve only just taken the finger of blame off of you,” Nestra said. “Now is not the time to point it elsewhere.”“Well, I think you’re all being quite quick to jump to conclusions, anyhow,” Fohnt reconsidered. “Who had the harebrained idea that somebody transforms into the Wolf, anyway?? I’d like a word with them. Maybe a word and a blow.”“It was my good friend Tobduk,” Nestra smiled. “You know… the ten-foot-tall one with anger management issues and the giant sword almost as tall as he is. I’m sure he’d be happy to defend his ideas.”Fohnt reconsidered again. “Maybe it’s a good idea,” he squirmed. “Actually, maybe it’s spot-on. I wouldn’t know at all, of course. How should I know? I’m just an innocent Matoran, just a tradesman, always have been, always will be, by Mata Nui and the Makuta and anything else significant starting with an M.”“You’re a tradesman, yes, we all know that,” Kenfar replied, “but do tell what exactly you trade in now. You haven’t left the island since the Wolf appeared.”Nestra shot Kenfar a frustrated glance. “Why didn’t anyone mention this before?”“I thought it irrelevant,” Kenfar said.“I thought it invasive,” Fohnt frowned. “Lunidel’s been so distressed by the Wolf that we haven’t produced nearly enough ore to ship out and make a profit. I’m not trading any goods, not at all! If a Matoran likes to take walks in the woods, that’s on him, right?”“These walks in the woods, where do they lead?” Nestra mused, noticing the images Fohnt subconsciously conjured up: walls of grey stone, giant doors, red eyes glaring out of shadow. “They don’t, perchance, take you to Makuta Luporax’s tower, do they?”Fohnt’s eyes widened. “I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” he muttered. “Call yourself a Toa… more like a ruthless inquisitor! I expect you and your partner aren’t just here to kill the Wolf, but its master, too. If that’s so, I guess I can spill and get away with my life.”Nestra frowned. “When we’re done here, Makuta Luporax will no longer be able to tyrannize Lunidel. I intend to keep him alive if at all possible, but my partner may beat me to his apprehension.”Fohnt took a deep, theatrical breath. “I,” he said proudly, “am a tradesman. I’m always out to make a profit. And Luporax knew that.“Luporax also knew,” he continued matter-of-factly, “that some of his subjects were less than obedient and loyal. Some disliked being ruled by a Makuta. Some might even have been planning outright rebellion. We can’t have that, can we? Our entire system of life could be torn apart!”Nestra didn’t like where this was going, and judging by the cloud of thoughts emanating from Kenfar, he didn’t, either.Fohnt seemed aware of this. “I did it all just for the peace,” he insisted. “To keep the peace! In my own humble way! Not by swinging a sword or using a mask, like Toa do – just with words. Luporax watches a lot of this island, but he can’t see everything. I traded… words… to Luporax,” he whispered. “Enough so that he could understand who might be a threat to order and peace.”Now Kenfar understood all too well. “And that night,” he finished for Fohnt, “they would be the ones eaten by the Wolf.”Nestra’s mindblade was almost ignited. “That is evil,” she hissed. “You’ve betrayed how many villagers to the jaws of the Wolf now?”“It matters not,” Kenfar said, holding up a hand. “I am the leader of this village, Nestra, and I can handle our internal affairs. Fohnt…” He gave him a hard look. “I daresay most of this village would like to punish you dearly for the deaths of their friends, and I would not be outside them, but we need to ensure that they all survive.” He turned to Nestra. “Go. Find your friend and help him with the big monster. I’ll handle this one.”

~~~~~

Tobduk waited impatiently for this cloud to get a move on. In just a few moments, he could know the true form of the Wolf, and he could inform them of their plight before regretfully apprehending them. The best part was that it had already caged itself in one of the Matoran’s traps.Come on, already, he urged the dark cloud. It crept with plodding deliberation across the moon, clearly in no hurry. Meanwhile, the Wolf was frantic, writhing and contorting itself in its attempts to escape from this cruel and restricting cage. But even if it had managed to scrape through, there was Tobduk on the other side, waiting for it.Finally, it happened. The world went dark. All of Lunidel was shrouded in the kind of darkness in which one could barely see one’s hand, and maybe could even be convinced none but them existed. It was so astonishing that Tobduk momentarily forgot his task at hand, but remembered just in time.The Wolf had gone still, transfixed by the lack of moonlight that transformed it. And then it slowly began to change. Claws shrank back into digits, limbs straightened out, and the outline of a Kanohi mask appeared around the Wolf’s snout.But then, after a few moments of rearranging itself and taking a humanoid, bipedal shape, the Wolf stopped. It stayed. It was now a half-Wolf of sorts, something between savagery and civilization. Tobduk realized that however dark the night was, a cloud was not a complete cover, and several beams of moonlight still shone down onto the earth – and the half-Wolf.Now was a good time to ask questions, he realized. “Hello,” he said uncertainly. “Who… who are you?”The half-Wolf took some time to speak, getting used to sending words through a mouth of wicked fangs. When it did, its voice was a peculiar mixture as well – the savage growl of the Wolf mixed with a clear, elegant voice. The overall effect was of two people speaking at once.“I… am… poisoned.”Tobduk considered this and found no obvious conclusion. “Poisoned,” he repeated. “How so?”“The… substance… known as… hordika venom,” the half-Wolf said. “It… taints… my body and… mind… but only… under the moonlight…”It all connected now! Tobduk knew hordika venom all too well. He was unsure as to how it might only apply at night – he knew it to be dreadfully permanent once it took hold – but that was what the Wolf’s brown, viscous, enraging saliva was! It wasn’t only poisoned by hordika venom, it could poison others as well! The Makuta responsible for this, Tobduk decided, was truly evil… not that Makuta weren’t already evil.“Who did this to you?” he asked. “Makuta Luporax?” He knew it was a stupidly obvious question, and he felt it was unnecessary, but Nestra had taught him that it was important to be entirely sure who was to blame before heads started rolling.The half-Wolf squirmed uncomfortably in its cage, and Tobduk considered helping it out – but then he remembered that it was still part Wolf, and that cloud wouldn’t last forever. The day was still several hours off. Eventually, the half-Wolf spoke, and its one syllable rearranged everything.“No.”If that one syllable had been a blow rather than a word, it would have brought Tobduk to his knees, if not the ground, and kept him there for a long while. As it happened, this happened precisely to Tobduk’s mind, which took several floundering moments to comprehend what this entailed and come up with a question in response.“Then… who?”The half-Wolf looked down at its gnarled, twisted form. “This… is the doing… of Makuta… Droth,” it hissed.“Droth,” Tobduk repeated, rolling the name around on his tongue. He would have to remember it. “Then… where does Makuta Luporax enter into this?”The half-Wolf fell silent. Then, slowly, it began to stand up. Its hind legs straightened, its arms – if you could call them that – pushed its body from the ground, and its body elongated to its full height. This far exceeded the height of the cage, but as the half-Wolf rose, Tobduk could see the metal bars twist and warp, curling themselves away from the massive beast-man.Tobduk looked up – he actually had to look up – at the half-Wolf’s face. It had not been improved by the transformation. A lupine visage looked even less pleasant when flattened behind part of a mask, and an intimidating mask at that, whose slanted eyeholes stared down at the rest of the world. Behind the mask, two wicked horns curved into the air, not unlike short swords in their shape and sharpness.The half-Wolf’s fangs shifted and contorted themselves into a bestial mockery of a smile. “You don’t… quite… understand,” it said. “I… am… the Wolf. And I… am… Makuta Luporax.”Tobduk’s mind was a whirling cauldron of feelings. Chief among them was bewilderment. Everything he thought he knew about the Wolf and Makuta Luporax had just been turned over and stepped on. A healthy amount of fear also churned in this cauldron, as he was currently facing a massive creature that combined the worst qualities of rahi and Makuta. But with just a bit of concentration, Tobduk was able to harvest the brightest-burning sensation in his mind: rage. Frustration at his own foolishness, anger at the deaths of so many Matoran, rage at the revelation of the Wolf.Tobduk yelled and unleashed the fires of his fury on Luporax, knocking the Wolf-Makuta back a few steps. Unsteady on his lupine legs, the monster toppled over and crushed another hut.But then he was back on his feet – all four of them – and charging for Tobduk, flames still flickering in the sharpened spikes that called themselves his fur. As clawed mitt struck protosteel blade, knocked it aside, and raked through armor, the conflict turned into a brutal wrestling match. Tobduk grabbed Luporax’s wrist briefly and snapped it, but the Wolf-Makuta gave him no satisfying howl of pain. Tobduk would simply have to try harder.Impact after impact after savage cut pounded into either’s body – one fought with tooth and claw, the other with burning hate and rage. Any onlookers, not that there were any, would not have found a clear winner after several years of scrutiny.And then something else was hurled into the fight, something neither of them had conjured in any way. The something else in question was an apparatus of solid light that clamped blinding prongs around Luporax’s body and – with almost no effort at all – wrenched him off of Tobduk and several feet into the air.Tobduk staggered to his feet, holding his arm up against the blazing light, and glanced blindly into the shadows all around. Finally, two figures emerged from the gloom and into the light. One of them, he recognized as Nestra. The other was obviously one of the Matoran, who was holding Nestra’s hand and whose mask was trembling in an expression of concentration.“Wh – what?” he asked, at a loss for words.Nestra smiled and gestured towards the small, purple-masked Matoran next to her. “This, Tobduk,” she grinned, “is Renfen. That contraption of light is his own. Yes, if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking – and I know how you think – you’re actually right.”Tobduk could scarcely believe his eyes, which was made easier by the fact that they couldn’t see much at the time. What was less difficult to believe was his mind, which had arrived at the only logical conclusion: Renfen…“…is an Av-Matoran,” Nestra finished, almost reverently. “A Matoran of Light, hidden among the people of Lunidel.”“I understand now,” Tobduk said slowly. “Something I’ve never mentioned – because I wasn’t one of those who carried it out – but my people, the Order, we did this.” Nestra looked blank. Tobduk explained, “The Time Slip. During that time, the Order of Mata Nui relocated several choice Av-Matoran from their hidden homes at the core of the universe to a variety of locations in the universe. The idea is that if the Mask of Light is ever found, there will be Av-Matoran spread out through the universe to retrieve and wear it, becoming the world’s first Toa of Light.”“But they don’t need to be Toa,” Nestra chuckled, “when they can do this.”A strained smile was evident on Renfen’s mask as he held Luporax’s light prison in place. The eyes of Tobduk and Nestra turned to their struggling prisoner then. In the blinding light of Renfen’s power, he had lost control and slipped back into Wolf form.“So,” Nestra asked, “who is it?”At that moment, the world underwent one of those magnificent twists it likes to do for fun, turning the tables entirely and sometimes literally. Tobduk noticed it far too late to react, but a small nugget of metallic ore hurtled out of the darkness and collided with Renfen’s forehead. With a surprised “Oh!,” the Av-Matoran dropped to the ground, his hand slipping out of Nestra’s grip. At the same moment, his own light construction lost its grasp, dissipating into nothingness and plunging the world again into shadow.Nestra noticed movement in the darkness where the chunk of ore had come from. In the dim light, she recognized the curved shape of Fohnt's mask. The Matoran ducked out of sight, pursued by a figure who appeared to be Kenfar.Free of the bonds of light and returning to half-Wolf form, Luporax landed gracefully on the ground, chuckling ferally. “So… the ugly duckling… has found itself,” he growled. “That won’t… help it… in a moment… when it’s dead!”“No!” Tobduk and Nestra yelled as one, both leaping in front of Renfen as Luporax lunged. But the Wolf-Makuta had anticipated this, and as it flew through the air it was already vanishing from that spot – teleporting to another one, behind the blockade of heroes.There was the rush of displaced air, a blur of motion, and a cry of pain – and then Nestra was down again, and Renfen was staying down. The light whimpers emanating from the Av-Matoran showed he was alive – but not for much longer, if Luporax was going to remain with him draped over one shoulder.“Just try… to follow,” the Wolf-Makuta rasped. Then it turned and darted into the darkness, releasing a victorious howl.There wasn’t time to check on Nestra, and Tobduk knew she would put Renfen first if it were her – so he ran, blade unlimbered, and rage trailing behind him. Luporax didn’t have any sort of plan, he realized now – he was little more than a beast at this point, thinking ahead only to his next meal. And if Tobduk didn’t quicken his pace, that meal would be Renfen!Up ahead, Luporax paused and convulsed, beams of light washing over his body. Tobduk smiled – Renfen had loosed off a little of the Av-Matoran’s inner light power. As the first Matoran, they had been afforded a bit more power than was reasonable in peaceful villagers, enough to stall a desperate Makuta long enough for his pursuer to catch up.“Luporax!” Tobduk cried. “Put the Av-Matoran down, and we’ll settle this!”The Wolf-Makuta howled in response: a bloodcurdling sound. Everything about it would have sent most beings packing, fleeing for the hills, and Tobduk imagined that any surviving Matoran were by now far into the safety of the woods. But as it vibrated through Tobduk’s lean body, it only ignited his rage further.With a final scream, Tobduk lunged, seizing Luporax by the throat and wrestling him to the ground. A vicious stab cut open the Wolf-Makuta’s body, and a wisp of antidermis trailed loose. This had neutralized the arm seizing Renfen, and Tobduk helped the Av-Matoran loose; then he leaned in close, glaring beyond the slanted eyeholes of Luporax’s mask, into his half-proud, half-bestial eyes.“You are poisoned, poisoned in mind and body,” he hissed. “And so is the world. You and your kind have covered it with evil and chaos, and not least of it a thick, caking, chemical slime. Before you die, I have only one question.”“And… what… is that?” Luporax hissed, fear beginning to show in his eyes as more and more antidermis seeped out of his monstrous body.“Where,” Tobduk snarled, “is Makuta Droth?”Luporax’s fangs stretched into a smile. “The poisoned island,” he growled, “the land of… green fire… and sickly skies…. where the land itself is a monster. And there the master of poison awaits you…”With those words, the last of Luporax’s antidermis leaked out of its bestial armor. It was nothing more than a green cloud hanging in the air over a dead, lupine corpse, and a sickly green cloud at that, tainted with the brown of hordika venom.Tobduk stood slowly to his feet. “Renfen,” he said quietly, “it’s over now.”And with that, he lowered his clenched fist on Luporax and loosed one simple jet of flame. Fire surged through the air, enveloping all of the antidermic cloud – and then it vanished as quickly as it had started, leaving just wisps of smoke.

~~~~~

They returned to the village square, Tobduk bearing the mangled mess of Luporax’s armor. He noticed that Kenfar had gathered the surviving population there. With a simple thud that was far more dramatic than he’d intended it to be, he thrust the Makuta’s remains at their feet.“Protosteel. That’ll fetch a bit on the market,” he shrugged.The villagers were silent, staring down at the remains of what had once been their iron-fisted ruler. Tobduk glanced around, noticing two conspicuous absences.“Where…” he began.“After a vote, we’ve imprisoned Fohnt in the Makuta’s tower,” Kenfar explained. “As for Nestra…”Gently, the village leader took Tobduk’s hand and drew him towards one of the few surviving huts. Korri emerged from it with a worried look in his eyes.With the terrible feeling that he knew exactly what was going on, Tobduk shoved the Matoran aside and rushed into the hut. Sure enough, stretched out on the ground was Nestra, convulsing spasmodically. He could see hordika venom oozing from her mangled arm.Luporax had left one final surprise.As Tobduk stared helplessly down, the mutation began….TO BE CONTINUED

Edited by Angel Bob, Jan 19 2012 - 09:29 AM.

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New short story: AN EVEN EXCHANGE, featuring the Makuta of Stelt

#7 Offline Hahli Husky

Hahli Husky
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Posted Oct 22 2012 - 06:55 PM

Great story so far! :) However, I noticed that you don't have a review topic linked from here. Every epic posted in this forum needs a separate topic, for other members' reviews. This is so your story won't be cluttered by comments. ;) If you don't understand or need any help, please feel free to post here and let me know. Thanks!
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