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Tyler Durden

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IC:

Progress could be both a blessing and a curse. New ideas, new technology all helped push society forward. They made life better for the average Matoran in every walk of life. From the stablehand who no longer had to hand pump water from an aquifer to the Guard on the wall, better equipped and able to handle foes normally much stronger than them. Quality of life was on the rise all over Mata Nui. With the Koros no longer on the edge of war with one another the entire island was on the verge of a golden age for the first time in living memory.

 

But as with all things, it wasn’t perfect. New ideas brought with them new challenges. The, at times delicate, balance of power shifted and had to be addressed. New technologies brought questions such as, “could a person own an idea?” If so, and a single person owned many very profitable ideas then how would that affect the economy of the island? Would it end up with a wealthy few ending up owning the property of all?

 

Renaka Lichgheist had been mulling over these thoughts for some time now. To some, she had answers. To others, she was still searching. For now however, she was done thinking. It was time to move on what answers she did have. Po-koro’s new Akiri hadn’t gotten where she was by sitting around till everything lined up on its own. No, she made them line up.

 

Which explained why she was currently walking into the reception area of Akiri Nuparu’s office.

 

An attendant looked up and met the Akiri as she stepped inside. The Akiri’s reception was currently empty aside from said attendant. They seemed entirely focused on their work, having been going over some notes when the visiting Akiri stepped in.

 

They addressed Renaka with a cordial nod, and made another note on the iStone they were currently holding.

 

“Akiri Renaka, welcome. Akiri Nuparu is expecting you, you can go on ahead” they said simply, gesturing towards the door leading to their superior’s office.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Simple, polite words, but enough for the occasion. With a nod to the secretary and a wave to her guards, she continued on. The pair of Po-Toa who had accompanied her to Onu-Koro stopped and did their best to find somewhere comfortable to wait. One lounged against a wall while the other settled into a chair and started thumbing through a newspaper.

 

Lichgheist pulled open the door to the inner office and strode smoothly through, continuing forward with an outstretched hand as the door swung shut behind her.

 

“Akiri Nuparu. I’m so glad we could have this meeting.”

 

The inquisitive Matoran who claimed the mantle of Akiri in Onu-Koro had never enjoyed making a huge spectacle about it. His office looked more like a workshop in many ways. The trash bin labeled "Lost Causes" had evidently been overturned, all of its contents re-examined as the habitual tinkerer found inspiration for ideas once-thought worthless. Such were the perils of a perpetually active mind.

 

Another was the fact that it took Nuparu a few moments to tear himself away from something he was currently reading, and look up to regard his visitor. This despite the fact that the meeting had been planned in advance.

 

"Hmmm? Oh, I must've forgotten for a moment" he bemoaned as he showed his notes to the side. A few loose bits and pieces spilled off the edge off the table as a result, Nuparu did not react.

 

"Glad you could come, Lichgheist, yes? Hopefully you had a safe journey?"

 

Letting the hand fall but keeping the smile the pale Matoran kept her gaze on her darker counterpart. His office was certainly...interesting. A bit cluttered for her tastes, but to each their own. As long as they could work together it didn’t particularly matter how tidy his workspace was.

 

“Quite. Thank you for asking. While I hope that my request for this meeting did not unduly upset your schedule there are things that we must discuss.”

 

"I actually canceled all my other appointments for today… just in case" Nuparu admitted with a sheepish expression.

 

"Anyway, yes. Things to discuss, indeed." he continued, getting more animated as he straightened himself in his chair.

 

"I've been thinking, and I gather so have you, about the nature of our growth since the First Toa fell. Since then, we've become more populous, more diverse, stronger… richer, even with Makuta and his servants never going away. We're even making contact with people beyond our shores. It's a lot to take in, wouldn't you agree?"

 

“Indeed I would. While we have prospered, that prosperity brings with it problems of its own. Since Po and Onu are at the forefront of this...industrial revolution I felt it best that we be the ones to make sure it does not follow the wrong path.”

 

Her smile was gone now. Replaced by the face of a woman on a mission.

 

"I agree," Nuparu replied, "After all, Onu-Koro's principle is Prosperity. I feel like this is the sort of thing that could definitely greatly enhance that, for everyone."

 

"Mata Nui is our home, and we all, generally, want to protect it, so I don't see why we shouldn't do what we can to take care of them while they do it."

 

"Matoro, Great Spirit rest his soul, had this very nice-sounding slogan he worked up. Based on those old Village principles. 'Peace through superior Willpower' he said."

 

"I'm going to make a similar declaration: Prosperity is for everyone" Nuparu revealed.

 

That raised an eyebrow.

 

“Interesting, considering some of the things I’ve heard from my predecessor. I would have thought that Onu-Koro would be more concerned with consolidation. While I can certainly appreciate this new take, you’ll have to forgive me if I am somewhat skeptical.”

 

“Errm, yes, well…” Nuparu halted, resting chin on hand as he did his best to look thoughtful, “I’m not saying you should take it at face value or anything. I hope for results to show for it soon enough.”

 

Nuparu thought back to his conversation with Onepu, and what he’d said at the time…

 

"Crime isn't just about sabotage, terrorism or infiltration, it's also about desperation, destitution, dissatisfaction. Those aren't evils, they're unfortunate circumstances. With the refugee situation... things aren't as peaceful here as they used to be, but I'm working on a solution."

 

And worked he had, and Renaka would be the first to hear about it.

 

“My intention is to redirect a portion of the wealth that Onu-Koro has accrued, and in all likelihood will continue to amass, to the everyday needs of my citizens.”

 

His pale audience was silent for several seconds. Warm orange eyes scanning his mask, attempting to peer beneath the social front and catch a glimpse of what lay within. The most egregious crimes Hewkii had commited had been at this man’s behest. Setting in motion a series of events that brought the island to the brink of war, and for a reason that Renaka could only guess at. The memories and mounting paranoia of those times still woke her predecessor up in cold sweats in the dead of night.

 

She’d probably never like him. Not after what he’d directly and indirectly did to her Koro. But...if what he said was true she might be able to work with him. Not that she had much choice in the matter. Po-Koro’s days of meddling in the regimes of others had passed with its last Akiri.

 

“Very well then. Po-Koro has been making similar efforts, mostly in the form of a series of large public works. It’s gotten to the point where we will likely have to expand the outer walls soon. Regardless I believe my Chief Engineer set up a full agenda for this meeting when he was here last?”

 

She pulled a task pad of her own from the satchel at her waist and flipped through several items. Once she found what she was looking for she laid the tablet on the desk where they could both easily see the list of items arrayed thereon.

 

“You were interested in a mutual sharing of technologies?”

 

Nuparu nodded sagely, his expression brightening a bit as Renaka directed the conversation towards a topic much more to his taste.

 

"Yes, and more so. I…" Nuparu began, but then stopped himself. He looked around, apparently looking for something, a meaningful glance skating past some of the papers that had fallen off his desk earlier.

 

"I'm sorry, what technologies were you interested in, again?"

 

That got a small smile out of her, but it mostly hid the confusion she felt within. What she had heard and what she found were two entirely different things. It was like dealing with two completely sepperate people.

 

“We never went over what Po-Koro would be interested in acquiring. If that makes you feel any better. There are no specific technologies that we are interested in at the moment. But it does dovetail quite nicely into something that I wanted to bring up with you. We are quite advanced in some areas, perhaps even rivaling Onu-Koro. However, that only applies to those very specific fields. In most other areas we are woefully behind.”

 

She picked her task pad up off the table and tapped on a particular item, turning it around to show Nuparu a diagram of a sprawling complex with architectural notes scattered across it.

 

“What would you say to a jointly run school. I suspect neither of us will allow our more proprietary technologies to be taught openly, but much of the lower level materials should be quite beneficial to all involved. You gain access to some of the most brilliant mechanical engineers on the island and we are able to obtain a more varied knowledge base.”

 

"Hmmm, I like the sound of that. A way to expand our pool of experts.” Nuparu mused. “Of course, I’ll be sure to see if I can find anyone suitable to help teach at the school”

 

"Anyone you can send would be appreciated.” Reneaka said with a nod.” Perhaps a rotating pool of teachers, that way they will still be able to perform their other duties.”

 

She expertly tapped through a few items on the task pad again, bringing up what appeared to be several paragraphs of legal jargon.

 

“Next is what I hope will be another joint effort between our Koros. As technology advances, the laws governing it must advance apace. In this case those laws deal with the ownership of technologies as they are invented.” She highlighted several lines of text. “At the moment our version of those laws are pretty simple. You invent it, you register it with the Engineering Department, you own it. It’s a good system that has worked so far. The only issue is that our laws stop at the edge of the Wahi. I imagine that Onu-Koro has similar laws but there is a grey area that I want to get ahead of before it becomes an issue.”

 

“At the moment there is nothing stopping someone from one Koro taking another’s invention and traveling to another Koro to ‘invent’ it there. It is my hope that we can achieve some level of unity in our intellectual property laws in order to prevent that sort of thing from happening.”

 

"Yes, we do much the same thing. I agree this is definitely something we should look at" Nuparu answered, briefly regarding his own hoard of blueprints.

 

"I'm committed to a more positive relationship between us. I… can't really ask you to take my word for it, but I believe you're committed. Like I said before, I want to let good results speak for me"

 

Lichgheist took her time responding to that one, staring at his mask once more. Nothing showed past her own well practiced poker face. Eventually she sighed and gave the other Matoran a nod.

 

“We shall have to wait and see. You are correct in my efforts to pull our two Koros together. We’ve been given an amazing chance here and I am not going to squander it, regardless of my suspicions. Now then,” Another few taps brought up yet another page on the task pad. “I have one last item I wished to go over with you. As you might have head, I have been making efforts to connect all the various settlements on the island via our new telegram system. Radios are nice but have limited range and the signal strength can varying depending on a thousand different factors.”

 

“My hope is to create a network that connects the entire island, providing instant communication between every town or village of reasonable size. As you might imagine, this is a very expensive undertaking. So. I’ve been asking for something in return from those we connect to. Usually a tradable good or help with one of our internal public works. As it so happens our biggest work is going to require a significant amount of fertile earth. hundreds of tons at the very least. Would Onu-Koro be willing to provide that earth in return for a connection to the telegram network?"

 

"Oh, gladly," Nuparu answered, expression showing clear interest, "Good and secure communication networks is an obvious route to take. I'll have someone get on that right away"

 

The Akiri of Earth sat back in his chair. "Thank you for coming. It was good to finally meet you" he said.

 

“And it was nice to meet the person I’ve heard so much about. I’m glad we were able to have this talk. You are...different, from what I’d been told. Hopefully that means we can continue to work together in the future.”

 

She once more stepped forward with her hand outstretched. Holding it there with an expectant air.

 

Nuparu took her hand - her grip was quite a bit firmer than his - and shook it amiably as he returned her suggestion of future cooperation.

 

“Absolutely. We have much to do, but that’s usually when I work best. I look forward to seeing what we create together.”

 

Stepping back, Renaka nodded in agreement. “Indeed. Now, I apologize for being so abrupt, but if you have no further issue to discuss I must be off. The amount of work that piles up even when I’m there to deal with it is immense. If I’m gone for much longer I’m afraid the weight will break my desk.”

 

Nuparu threw a self-conscious glance at his own desk, and smiled and nodded.

 

"I know very well what you mean. Good to have you here, glad to work with you, and have a safe trip home" he said, withdrawing his hand and sitting back down on his desk. The Onu-Matoran looked thoughtful as he pulled up an iStone and started looking through it.

 

The meeting was over and all of her goals had been accomplished. It was time to go. Her last comment had in fact been only partially in jest, the workload she was under was in actuality significantly more than she’d implied.  Almost too much so if she was being honest. If she didn’t get back to it soon she’d likely get swept under by the mountains of paperwork alone. Renaka repressed a shudder at the thought. Spending weeks stuck in her office trying to get back on top of things was not her idea of a happy time. Plus it would delay progress on everything she had planned.

 

With one last respectful nod she turned and left Akiri Nuparu’s office. Her two bodyguards looked up as she entered the outer reception area. Paper rustled as the one who had been reading folded his newsheets and placed them back where he’d found them. The leaning one simply pushed off from the wall and walked toward his boss, falling into step behind her as she made for the exterior door. Her second bodyguard joined them a moment later, in time to take his spot ahead of the Po-Koro Akiri as they exited the building entirely.

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"I serve the weak. I serve the helpless. I am their sword and their shield. If you want to strike at them, you must go through me, and I am not so easily moved."

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On 10/13/2019 at 5:02 PM, sunflower said:

IC: Onuzek (Ga-Koro, Great Takea)

The giant Ba-toa's brow furrowed as he considered the question, a task that was no easy feat for him. Eventually, he gave a shrug of his massive shoulders, clearly defeated by attempting to figure out an answer.

"Onuzek doesn't know," said Toa stated almost sorrowfully, as if disappointed he couldn't think of a way to answer his newfound friend's query, "Friend-Arisaka fights rocks."

IC: 

Arisaka nodded in understanding, she could understand Onuzek's struggle to answer the question. Arisaka wasn't someone who was known for her brains either. Her physical strength and prowess in combat is where she shone. Arisaka's eyes widened slightly as she got an idea, she glanced around and saw an empty table. "I have an idea Onuzek..." Arisaka gestured for the Toa to follow her to the table, she sat down on one end and then put an elbow on the tablet. 

"Have you ever arm wrestled?" She grinned.

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My Bzprpg Profiles, Six Kingdoms: Rebirth Profiles

Skyra | Savina | Darien | Hakari | Mekana | Oceanna | Taleen | Mimira | Denerium | Talinka | Arisaka | Wraith | Xxeth | Silene

 

 

 

 

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Kale Ironshaper- Ihu-Koro- Hospital

IC: The sounds of everyone trying to heal Krayn were easy enough to follow, they all belonged to people that the pair knew well enough after their adventure in the frozen Koro. So it only took the pair a minute or two to amble their way into the room and see their teammate laid out on the floor with Four and Praggos leaning over him. Skyra had obviously wanted to go faster, but it's difficult to build up much speed while imitating a three legged race in a place with multiple sharp corners.

Kale's breath caught in his throat at the sight of the De-Toa. Even after the two healers had seen to him, he looked terrible. Holes in his armor, scorch marks, ragged new skin where someone had done a rough patch job. It was obvious to anyone familiar with battlefield wounds that the other man had been through karz.

"How is he still alive?" Kale whispered.

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"I serve the weak. I serve the helpless. I am their sword and their shield. If you want to strike at them, you must go through me, and I am not so easily moved."

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IC: Jolek Highwind - Ta-Koro

Rebellion.

A double-bitted battleaxe of largely standard, but sturdy make. 

In looks, it really wasn't anything special. Well-kept, weighty and long, the Stormbringer wasn't one for striking imagery when he could simply strike. He was... like that. He was like that about a lot more than just how he had his weaponry crafted. It ran through his blood. Nothing put to waste. Not one bit more than necessary.

With the quartet of would-be adventurers having long departed in search of some new trouble to get into, Jolek Highwind quickly excused himself from his superior(s) in turn, a haphazard yet exact pile of widgets in his wake. There was a lot about city life he still didn't get, but "not owing things" wasn't amongst the number— that much even a jungle boy knew how to extrapolate easily. Warrant Officer Soter and Private Elly were pretty generous in letting him tag along, sure, but he wasn't ready to have any hard debts to them. The latter was definitely the type to hold it over his head some time down the road, and if "Taku Wash" were any indication...

I'll get taken advantage of for a laugh.

Pass.

Not my thing.

...It was a much safer investment. A little cash to take the place of a lot more energy and temper.

"I'm gonna head out. You guys have a good one."

He'd heard such values— that frugality and lack of needless frills— were passed down in their family from man to man. Duibhne Highwind. Diarmuid Highwind. Perkahn Highwind. Jolek Highwind. Fathers to sons, keeping their unlucky, unsung clan from getting their heads too big. "As if," the weatered Fe-Toa had said with a sardonic laugh, "life hadn't done it enough."

Jolek felt a hand creep towards the lengthy pommel that peeked over his shoulder as he walked. It was still a very unfamiliar weight upon his back to simply move around with, let alone contemplate. Nothing approaching crushing, not when you'd carried around something resembling a sledgehammer of similar proportions— but it felt weird in comparison. That, he supposed, made it seem far heavier than it should be.

He gripped it firmly for a moment.

Or maybe it's because this thing's family, too.

He lifted.

Perkahn Highwind and Arianna Highwind knew these things— the weight of a good battleaxe, the misfortune of their line, and how to take pride in both. They knew far better than he ever could, if he had to guess. Wherever they were.

His mother and father had left it to him without a word. They'd left... Everything. The house, the axe, the histories of both. That long-sought freedom that they'd built with their own two hands, enduring years of struggle and injustice. Criminal branding. Loss of those loved. Stuff he could scarcely comprehend— their stories were a lot bigger than his. He felt, even now, like an outsider looking in. Just some lunkhead from the humid forest to the south, barely knowing himself.

Let alone the weights they had shouldered.

He traced a familiar path across the flat of the head, where an old fight had once left the scar of warping. The eldest surviving Highwind had removed it himself, after another Toa of Iron (Kree, or some name like that) tried to be cute and turn his cutting edge elastic in a barfight. Perkahn had molded it into a greatsword for the next couple of minutes the tussle lasted. He'd liked telling that story. Always said that it was much more entertaining than the others that had scars still attached. The burns on his right hand, the map of weathering on his Kakama, those didn't have half the funny factor of "My opponent actually thought I yielded when I asked her to. Could you imagine?" 

A finger floated up to trace the white line on his cheekbone while he rounded a familiar corner. It made sense in hindsight, but Jolek had never realized just how sharp Rahkshi staffs truly were until one had sliced him open— and gotten its head lopped off for the trouble. Sharp as the wits of their master Makuta, but not sharper than Rebellion

That was how he'd describe it. If each scar had a story, then he had so many fewer than the man who had once taught him so much— before that siege, his slate had been wiped clean. He'd missed a lot of stories. There were a lot of memories, a lot of weight, a lot of meaning attached to all he'd been left. While he was spending simple days in Le-Wahi, that man had built the house he now stood before himself, piece by piece, wasting nothing. He had rubbed shoulders with warriors, leaders, men of all stripes and creeds. He had fought, raged, cried, and laughed as he wrested his name itself out of the mud, seeking justice. Jolek had gleaned little bits of it over their time together, just enough to know that each mark the years had left upon Perkahn's Kanohi carried a whole lot of hard life with it.

Compared to that, he was just a wisp. A ghostly, uncertain figure within that epic saga. One thin line, right at the end.

The porch was getting a little dusty.

Shields adorned the short hall inward, as they did seemingly every wall in the entire house. He hadn't known any man of the Highwind family to ever use one, actually— not that he was told. Rather, it was just...

"A collection, dear." Arianna Highwind had once told her curious boy, now a young man in his own right. Her voice was so unlike her husband's, soft, gentle, and always thoughtful. He'd always guessed that his ability to teach came more from her than Perkahn. She was a healer who had spent lonely days waiting with faith and grace beyond imagining, helping the village however she could. Even with a husband maligned, even with her flesh and blood missing or dead. "Your Father liked taking the crests, back when we were your age."

The countless months that she had spent tending this place on her own must have been like that too. Surrounded by shields with stories all their own, each a trophy from some victory, combative or otherwise. Tale after tale adorning those spotless, immaculate walls, while she lived out her own. How many were here when they had first built this place? How long did it take for them to begin to truly cover them? How many were won in a fight, how many were looted, how many were bargained for? He didn't doubt that she knew what each one meant.

Karz, he'd seen the woman's skill with her blade and her lightning— he wouldn't even be surprised if a few were hers, pacifist or otherwise. The elegant Vo-Toa lacked the scars Perkahn had, but hers wasn't an easy road either. Jol wasn't a very emotionally smart guy, that much he could freely admit. He was one of a pair of dudes who only really knew eachother when they came to this town, and were more busy making sure they were alive than really learning anything of the soul.

But even he knew that nobody cried like that seeing someone's face unless they had been hurting for a long, long time.

The martial artist dipped his head forward, peeking around a corner to observe the kitchen. Spotless. Untouched. Empty.

It had been for a good while now, hadn't it? Right when he was getting used to coming home from a hunt or trapping spree to a bowl of salad and feta. It had seemed like she was always there, until she just wasn't. Until neither of his parents were.

Given that he didn't have the heart to tell her just how out-of-place he felt sometimes, even in the face of their earnest efforts to welcome their returned son into their life... It was a small blessing that they had decided to go on one more adventure. He felt pretty selfish thinking that. No, he was definitely selfish. Accountability was irreplaceable, so to run from it was foolishness. Jungle Law. Be real.

"...Like I know what's real, huh?"

But that was the problem.

What was real for him? Everything his parents remembered, from the time before some great storm had taken him from them? He couldn't disregard it. Not to them, after they'd worked so hard for his sake, after he had miraculously came back into their lives. Their reality definitely included that, and their memory of him definitely included that too.

But his memory started after he'd coughed up seawater, far away from their home and this family. All he knew then was his name, how to fight, and he was staring at the Jungle before him. That was his world for every part of the childhood he'd lived, everything he could ever recall unclouded by a thick veil of inky fog. To deny that it was the foundation for who he considered himself to be would be more than wrong, more than painful. It'd just be stupid.

So. 

A weapon was reserved for somebody with the assuredness to use it. You didn't give dangerous things to those who didn't understand them, that much was really simple stuff anybody with half a brain could get.

Did he have the right, then, to hold Rebellion?

Simply made or not, the battleaxe was more than just a weapon, wasn't it? It wasn't something quite like what he could walk down to a local forge and get made for him within a week, it had a history.

It had a memory.

It had a story.

It had a weight.

One I don't know the half of. I'm sure you meant well, Old Man. I think I know you well enough to say that much.

But I don't think I deserve this yet. Not until I know me well enough to.

Honesty.

Honor.

Confidence.

Respect.

Discipline.

Self-Control.

Courage.

The principles of a martial artist. Things one aspired to be for their whole lives. He wasn't perfect at all of them— he probably wasn't even perfect at any of them, truthfully. But he knew that they were the things he had to be during times of real importance. If he wasn't, he'd falter as a man. He would fail his teachings, more than he had already in forgetting who they came from.

This was one of those times, wasn't it?

...Yeah.

The fireplace's humble stone, just as the house leaned against the walls of the fortress city, found Rebellion leaning against it once more.

Just as it had been left. 

He owed such a sanctified, venerable thing that much, at least.

After all, when Perkahn Highwind returned, he'd want to know where to find that tool for freedom. The weight upon his back that he knew best. Something that had shared the scars, seen him through the memories, and written the tale of his life through fire and blood.

The front door quietly closed, and two stories of wood, iron, stone, and history were once again left in solitude, standing silently vigil over the outskirts of the rebuilding cityscape.

Until that time came, Jolek Highwind would write a few of his own.

He had no doubt in his heart that they were both out there, same as his brother in all but blood from The Jungle.

They were a strong bunch, the people that were important to him. He knew better than to worry about anyone he could feasibly call his kin. Rather than that, a weird little thought struck him.

"Hey, Dad?"

He'd promised one that they would meet again and compare their growth, once upon a time...

He glanced back over his shoulder—

"...When you see me next, I'll be sure to have a couple stories for you to hear."

—And began to walk forward.

Not one more word was necessary.

Edited by Razgriz
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IC: Dehkaz

From his spot just off to the side of the senseless form of the Toa of Sonics, far enough away so as to not get in the way of the two working to mend Krayn's injuries, Dehkaz tore his gaze away enough to glance up at the two Toa who had made their way over to them. The deep furrow in his brow, as if attempting to will Krayn back to a state of good health, softened as he saw who it was, even if his arms remained crossed and fists tense. Skyra and Kale. The former obviously still injured as the silvery Fe-Toa assisted her over to them. Dehkaz gave a nod to them as Kale uttered a quiet question to no one in particular.

"He's hard to kill, and lucky on top of it," Dehkaz suggested, looking from Kale back down to Krayn. After a moment it struck him just how much seeing the group back together once again, even if fates weren't entirely certain at this point, meant. It was odd. For a man who'd spent his years alone, relying on one or no thing other than his own skill and determination, the sense of trust; of belonging; was... something else. At first it had been just Naona, the driven guardswoman becoming a rock solid anchor of near unshakable character in his life, though given the circumstances their paths would have crossed eventually regardless. It was so much more now, for every one of them. The island had thrown the worst at them and yet here they all were, battered and injured, but alive.

And together.

"It's good to see you."


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IC:

I'd thought myself prepared to see the worst, but seeing how horrifically injured Krayn was sent a shock through my system, I went completely stiff for a moment. It didn't help my already guilty conscience, that's for sure. 

I couldn't breath, I held on to Kale for dear life while I tried to collect myself. I had to remind myself that Krayn was alive, if barely, but alive. I let myself breath for a moment before looking at Krayn and the others again. 

"I...I'm glad you're all alive...I...I'm sorry I'm an idiot..." 



My Bzprpg Profiles, Six Kingdoms: Rebirth Profiles

Skyra | Savina | Darien | Hakari | Mekana | Oceanna | Taleen | Mimira | Denerium | Talinka | Arisaka | Wraith | Xxeth | Silene

 

 

 

 

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IC:

He found the old man underneath the stars, contemplating, with two cigar between his callused fingers.

It was the first face he’d seen in days; since the chosen few had boarded the arks from Xa-Koro, with Dorian being the last to have his ticket punched, he had sealed himself off from the rest of Aurelia’s anointed ones into his own cabin, and had not departed in days. The lithe figure that emerged and sidled up to the Colonel looked almost like the glorious lieutenant he’d been a week earlier – the swelling was subsiding, his movements were less shambling, bones had been set and scrapes gauzed up. By now Dorian Shaddix looked less like a man who had been beaten into a mound of flesh and left to slither for his life in the dirt of a doomed civilization, and more like a very, very well-off young daredevil who had just botched a stunt on a Gukko bird.

At forty thousand feet.

He was still clearly getting the hang of being back on his legs, and the slouch he took beside Brykon came with a relieved exhale.

“Hey,” he said simply. His voice was raw from days of disuse. Brykon’s face was expressionless, but he flipped the cigar once between his fingers and held it out to Dorian.

“Take it,” his commander instructed harshly. “It’s not for the rank and file. You may not have taste in clothes but you’ve got a taste for vice. How are your fingers? Can you cut?”

“I could probably manage butter,” Dorian replied, a little sullenly. “In Po-Wahi.”

Brykon’s mouth hardly quirked, but he did take an old, improvised-looking cigar cutter and beheaded the cigar at a few millimeters with the makeshift guillotine. He gave Dor a light, too, and the lieutenant of Bad Company took a long drag on it and puffed. His eyes widened, and he coughed slightly.

“Whaaaat the #####?” he rasped. “What is this?”

The old man’s laugh was metallic and coarse, like worn old widgets in a purse. There were some notes of humor in it, as potent as the notes of vanilla in the exhale Dorian had taken.

“It’s a specialty I’m working on. A man needs a retirement plan for the day his muscles get stiff, his eyesight goes bad, and his stomach starts roiling when he spills some blood. I’m thinking of cigars.”

Dorian eyed the old man curiously and took another puff. Now that he knew what to expect, his tongue clucked curiously.

“That’s good.”

“I’ll send you a box sometime.” Brykon stared up into the stars, face inscrutable as ever. Dorian found himself staring into the crags and contours, as he had so many times, and was surprised at how comforting he still found them, even after everything. He felt like a mountain climber in an old, familiar range, where even the dangers were old friends.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Yeah?”

“Mm. You and your restless legs. Like the whole island is just one big field trip, and you keep on finding stops while your life passes you by. While the world moves on.” Brykon took a puff on his own cigar, synchronized with Dor’s; the two Toa of Iron silently pieced together makeshift constellations from the stars. It was midnight, and their smoke was the only cloud cover. “I know you, Dorian. I know what happened to Xa-Koro bothers you. I can see it on your face.”

“Colonel, what happened happen—”

“Quiet, boy. We did what we did, I know that. I said I can see it bothers you. Do you think I plan on selling these death-sticks tomorrow? I saw you and Grokk going out for your boys’ nights, tearing up the length of the city. I saw how many nights Illicia’s bunk was empty. I see how Jin and Liacada look at you, then and now. You think you wouldn’t be in my shoes if I didn’t see you coming?”

“I don’t want to be in your shoes,” Dorian replied quietly.

Brykon stared at him and puffed again; the old man cleared his throat, rubbed by old cigars and bad gin into a hollow with the consistency of an old wallet.

“I know. Like I said, it bothers you. You want out?”

“No.”

“Quiet. If you and me and Jin and Grokk all worked at a Kolhii goods store, you’d be happy. It’s people that bind you, boy, not the jobs. It’s people that will lead you astray. ” Brykon’s cigar was wedged tight between his teeth, distorting the words in his poem. “Aurelia knows it. Much as those dreams she has about you thrill her at night, she knows you don’t tell her anything you haven’t said in a hundred girls’ ears. So she gives me the marching orders and I pass them to you, because she knows whose tune can make you dance. If she asked you to light that match, knowing there was gas in there to blow those islands to Artakha, would you have done it?”

Dorian was quiet for a moment, as though he was caught in some trap where the only mode of survival was to gnaw through his ankle.

“No, I wouldn’t have.”

“You’re the highest paid killer on the island, and you won’t kill for money?”

“But everyone in a Koro—”

“If you did a circuit around the island, six Koros, six kills, six days, in three months you’d have—”

“It’s not a math problem!” Dorian replied; the boy was getting heated. “There was no sport in that. That wasn’t even conquest. Nobody kept anything.”

“How many of your conquests have you kept around?” Brykon snorted, barreling over Dor’s response. “If a thing is only a conquest once it lasts, nobody could be called a conqueror for long. No. We did a , despicable thing, Dorian, and we’re on our way to do another. Look, say some brute on one of these boats gets cold feet. Maybe he was on the wrong end of a fight. Maybe he misses a girl or a boy he left at home. Say he’s made some powerful enemy on board and he decides to visit Gukko Force headquarters on shore leave. What do you do?”

Dorian’s response was predictable, the assassin’s code of honor. “He’s snitching. He’s a coward. We’re paid to kill cowards.”

“He is, and we are. He brings plans to sink Ta-Koro back into the volcano. What then?”

Dorian’s mouth was open to respond but fell silent. He sucked on his cigar and finally, visibly, grew contemplative along with his mentor.

“Two actions, two motivations. Saving a village, but only because you had to save your own #####. Do you get credit for that? How do you know if it’s cowardice or atonement?”

Dorian exhaled the puff he’d been holding in.

“We don’t know. Only he does.”

“Right,” Brykon said proudly. “Businessmen are rarely conquerors, Dorian. Either of us could crush the skulls of Aurelia and all her ilk if we so cared, and we might never face the consequences. But we’re soldiers of fortune and buying us is easy and safe. Whatever they needed Xa-Koro gone for, and whatever they need this next job done for, the consequences can’t be bought, negotiated, or written about in the minutes of the Cultured Gentry. So it’s conquerors that they choose to hire. They won’t care about the people we conquer. The soldiers won’t care, they just want a slice of what we take. You just take orders, too, and I know you’d do your job. But I also know you care. Don’t you?”

Silence.

“Don’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Dorian, reluctantly. Brykon put a hand on the younger Fe-Toa’s shoulder; he flinched, but not away from the contact.

“Redemption is only ever individual, Dor,” the old man said softly, his parchment-thin voice shaky. “It’s not rainwater. Yours won’t land on all of us. Only you. So pray for rain or don’t, but just be prepared to go it alone. You understand me? Hey. You understand?”

Dorian had been moved beyond words, and underneath his black eyes the iridescent blue was tearful. He nodded faintly, pursing his lips around the cigar.

“Good,” said Brykon Senegal quietly. “Then that’s my poem for tonight. You taste the vanilla?”

“Yeah.” Dorian chewed the cigar thoughtfully, looking back up into the constellation and hoping to lose himself there. “I guess I’m not too young for my own retirement plan.”

Brykon barked in laughter. “I guess you’re not, too. Well, I got the market cornered on these here cigars. But maybe you could go for some whiskey.”

Dor smiled wistfully.

“I could definitely go for whiskey,” he murmured.

...

 

The storm had raged for an hour now.

If he was a betting man, he would wager that Makuta was still attempting to test the limits of his power; no doubt the dark force that they had watched consume Echelon would be wroth at how his attempt at bluster fell short just outside Kini-Nui. But only one of the two heroes was a betting man, and he was currently still unconscious, body and mind no doubt spent from the ordeal of the past few days - or, given the very particular body and mind, the last lifetime. Dorian had exhausted himself time and again in the pursuit of atonement.

He had pulled the Toa of Iron into a makeshift shelter while the storm raged and begun to work on a fire. He still had some of his old power, but Merror felt it oddly invigorating to test the new physical limits of his body. Starting a fire by hand felt so unfamiliar Merror almost lapsed into thinking he'd never done it before. Dorian had a lighter around his neck, a bloodstained, pitted thing that the Turaga knew had once belonged to Joske. He had been wearing it since his drunken confession in Le-Koro, in what seemed like the time before time; the boy had carried that weight on his shoulders since then, and likely before. The lighter was a sign of the bond he and Joske had shared.

However this phase of his journey ended, Merror resolved to let Dor rest for now. The boy had heart, and made up in courage what he lacked in sense and patience. It was a fearlessness even Joske lacked; at least Joske had fretted over losing Cael. Dorian could lose everything, and it would only steel his nerve. That kind of drive deserved commendation, but it also exhausted the soul. 

Yes. It was best to let the boy rest. He must have just been resting.

Merror had to believe it worked. It was his destiny.

...

 

“Oh my God,” the waitress hissed to her best friend, the bartender, “that’s really him!”

“No way.”

“He’s a Toa of Iron!”

“Lots of people are, my dad was a Toa of Iron—”

“He’s wearing leather pants!”

“Oh."

“Girl,” the lucky waitress admonished, hissing low so her exclamation didn’t become a squeal. “I saw his eyes. They are so blue.”

“Holy Mata Nui—"

“--we’re serving Dorian Shaddix!

Since the fall of Ko-Koro, there had been a dearth of good news for the inhabitants of the frigid Wahi that was the village’s namesake. Every day the banter at the hearth would center around the confirmed casualties, the latest on mercenary movements to the fallen Koro’s zealously guarded gates, or the vile rumors about what was happening to the citizens trapped inside by Echelon. The only places of refuge were the secondary Koros and outposts, once used by Sanctum Guardsmen and mountain climbers for long arctic voyages away from Ko-Koro; the only bright spots in those days were the occasional Matoran refugees who came filtering in, carrying small nuggets of information and outlandish tales of escape. Now and then there would be some hero, an adventurer or new Toa who wanted to make a name for himself by storming the gates himself. They never came back for a return trip.

The Toa Maru hadn’t shown their faces either, though there were rumors now and again that they were operating in the area. The waitress had to believe that was true. In the old days, when Matoro was still Akiri, she had been to a commencement address that had been held in Ko-Koro for Ambages, the Hand –  another who was now allegedly gone, murdered by Makuta’s forces under a flag of peace. He hadn’t been the only beneficiary, however. Two of the Toa Maru had attended. Noble, mystic Stannis, with his sad grey eyes, had been far more handsome than anyone had led her to believe. The memory of his jawline alone…

There was Reordin, too, the renegade lieutenant, the hero of the Rama Hive, the people’s Maru. Rarely had a man ever looked so good in uniform –  and unlike most of the Maru, who had all come from military backgrounds, Reo had not abandoned his roots. The way that Muaka’s fur on his collar had framed his own jaw, his proud cheeks, the cutting smirk or inscrutable blue of his eyes…they were all etched into her memory, every frozen, perfect detail that still kept her up at night. Blue eyes were the best.

Joske Nimil’s were blue, too, weren’t they? And so were Dorian’s. And here she was, keeping him waiting on an order! Oh, no…

It was a crowded hall, full of witnesses, but the young woman realized with a flutter in her stomach that would hardly save her if it came to that. Dorian Shaddix didn’t fear doing anything to anyone. He was mad, bad, and dangerous to know – the island’s most infamous killer, now allegedly working for the heroes. It was hard to believe, but it made for a better origin story, right? Heroes with dark sides were even hotter than their counterparts. That was why, everyone agreed, Oreius Maru was the next hottest after Reo. If the merch sales in the bazaars of Po-Koro were anything to go by, at least. Even Korero is…kind of a clean-cut cute, I guess…

“It’s…bourbon, right? With…no ice?” The order was legendary, so the waitress didn’t know why she’d bothered phrasing it as a question. “And you want…”

“Another beer’s fine,” said the gruff Toa sitting across from him. He was older than Dorian, and shrugged his shoulders as if he didn’t even know how he’d wound up here. “Anything you got. I know times are tough.”

“Right. Yeah, they are. But that’s—” She broke off, staring into his eyes. They weren’t just blue, they were purple, rimmed with sleeplessness and faint bruising at the edges. He looked tortured; the waitress wondered what it would take to ease that anguish, and how many girls had been roped into attempting. They had to have known it wouldn’t last. She knew that, too. But boys weren’t beautiful because they lasted, or even because they were good people. For a lot of them that wasn’t the case at all. Boys are beautiful because the Great Spirit hates girls, and wanted to inflict them on us. She knew she should have gone and returned the order immediately –  why keep a pair of mercenaries like that waiting? – but something in her knew she would never get this chance again. She leaned in closer, so that the rest of the patrons wouldn’t hear her question.

“Did you…” she trailed off, as if there was more than one way to ask the question burning in the hearts of everyone on Mata Nui, “…kill Vakama?”

She had heard how the Mark Bearers eyes had used to glow in the face of emotion. Dorian Shaddix had been rage – everyone knew that. His eyes and tattoo were supposed to have been blue. She had no idea how any pair of eyes could glow more than they already did…but maybe the question had infuriated him, and his Mark was working as they spoke.

“Yeah.” The cigarette in his mouth, unlit, bobbed when he frowned. “Duh.”

Holy .

“Well…are you going to kill Echelon?”

“That’s the plan. Knock ‘em dead. But, uh,” he cocked his head, “I’m gonna need bourbon to do it. So…”

The waitress’ posture went ramrod, as she’d used to watch the soldiers do at home in Ko-Koro. Then she inclined her head respectfully at both Toa and scurried off, heart racing at the fact that she’d really survived.

Dor’s incredulous glance moved from the retreating waitress to his companion.

“Here I thought that stupid old man was going to haunt me until I died. Why isn’t anyone I know like that? Do strangers really forgive you that fast if you’re hot?”

“I wouldn’t know, but it checks out,” Cipher Compassrose said. The Su-Toa shrugged ambivalently and drained the rest of his first beer, foam clinging to his lips. “If it helps, I still think it was pretty heinous.”

“You get paid enough not to think that. Which reminds me, hey.” Dor grabbed a napkin from the corner of the table and pulled it over to him with his fingertips. “You got something to write with?”

“Maybe. I’ll check.” Cipher began rummaging through the pockets of the disheveled jacket that had once belonged to his best friend, presumably for some utensil that he’d lifted off Dor over the years. “Can you write with an eraser?”

“You might not want me to. I’m writing my will.”

Cipher exhaled through his teeth. “That’s a little dramatic.”

“I buried my friend tonight. He had a destiny way bigger than whatever mine is. I should start thinking about these things.”

“Nothing’s going to happen to you.”

“I’m giving you all the money I made off of giving Bad Company to the Akiri.”

“Well, would you look at this? You should’ve warned me this thing had inside pockets too. One pen, coming up. This is good thinking, you know. Never hurts to have a plan for the future.”

Dorian stared at Cipher for a long moment, as if he was somewhere else with someone else, before rolling his eyes. He cupped a hand around the cigarette pursed in his mouth and lit it. He looked down at the napkin for a long, long time before deciding that there was a simple way to word this. No legalese, no pretense, no personal messages to those he was leaving behind; after all, who was going to know until it was over? Instead, the Toa of Iron chewed on the end of the quill and scribbled out a short, sweet last testament.

CIPHER GETS EVERYTHING

-DOR

“There. Now don’t go losing that, it’s got my autograph,” Dor said through the beginnings of a cheeky grin, sliding the legal document over to Cipher. He looked at the napkin as if Dorian had thrown up on it.

“Lotta good this is going to do me when I’m dead in Mangaia, too,” Cipher drawled, pocketing the napkin in the driest part of the jacket. “At least I’ll know I could’ve been rich.”

“You’re not going to Mangaia.” Dor was staring at the table.

Silence fell over the table. The waitress came back, a smile full of nervous energy contorting her face, and set their drinks down. Dorian’s bourbon was down the hatch in a second.

“Do you want anot—”

“You should go,” the Toa of Plasma cut in, a slight note of warning in his voice. The waitress’ eyes widened at the implication. Everyone had heard about Dorian Shaddix’s bar-destroying meltdown in Le-Koro years ago, after all. Suddenly, the myth of Dorian Shaddix was growing very, very lifelike in front of her; the truth was starting to catch up to his image. “Now,” Cipher insisted. She scurried off, and there was silence again.

“I’m not letting you go down there alone.”

“You’ve never let me do something once in my life,” Dorian replied heatedly. “I go, I see, I conquer. You’ve never been mad about us taking off in different directions before.”

“This is different, Dor.”

“Why? Why would it be different if I’m not about to die trying?” the young Toa’s asked, voice continuing to raise.

“You were the one who said—”

“And you said I wouldn’t! What, you don’t believe that? C’mon, Ciph! Are you gonna need to cash that napkin in or not?”

“Maybe I wouldn’t if you weren’t so stubborn about this! You just buried your friend, you should know what charging in half-cocked could—”

The empty bourbon glass went flying. Cipher wore a Calix as well, so whether Dor meant to hit him or not he failed; instead, the glass whizzed by multiple heads and shattered in the fire of the hearth. A chorus of outcry started to rise up as people checked to make sure they hadn’t been cut. Dorian had already risen up on his heel and turned to march outside, hands tucked under his arms in the face of the snow.

Cipher followed. Figured that now, of all times, he wouldn’t get lost.

Not that the Toa of Plasma didn't hang back. He stood a few steps away,, watching Dorian tremble with cold and rage. His breath was leaving him in increasingly rapid puffs, wisps of frost that dissipated in the wind. Like a man who saw ghosts, Cipher wondered if he had ever seen them at all. Dorian's moods had always been ephemeral, removed from the realities and attitudes of normal people. Had his rage ever been there at all? His sadness? How many things had he cried over that were worth sobbing for again?

Had he ever really been happy? Cipher asked himself. When Dor spoke, his best friend feared he knew the answer.

"What good does it do anyone to make me live like this?" Dorian asked, with eyes gone blank as Joske's. "Why am I taking self-help lessons from people who never did the things I did? Who never had to climb back from where I fell? He was right. In the end, it only ever falls on me. What does it matter if--" He broke off.

"I would do it myself if I could. But I can't. It--It feels like giving up. If Echelon does it, then...there's no giving up. I just lost. That's not as bad, right?"

Cipher said nothing. The rain was falling on Dorian, and only Dorian; droplets steamed when they hit the snow.

"Will you just ##### tell me I'm right?" he asked. His young voice cracked.

Cipher chewed his lip and looked down to the snow.

"You're gonna do what you wanna do, man," the worn Toa of Plasma said to the banks. "You always do."

"I do."

The two brothers stood, staring at each other; Dor's shoulders hunched forward, struggling against his new backbone, trying to hold back an outburst with a maturity he had once lacked. Cipher seemed ramrod, solid as always...but when the two found themselves embracing, Dor could tell he needed the support too.

"Catch you 'round the way, then, brother," Cipher said into Dor's shoulder. It was shaking softly as the gunslinger cried, then cleared his throat.

"Yeah. Head for Ta-Koro on your way back," Dor sniffed. "That way we'll probably meet in Ga."

They both laughed, and Cipher thumped Dorian on his back with a fist. He had managed to shuffle the jacket so it slung over Dor's shoulder, cushioning his traps with the accessory.

"You know something?" Dorian mused quietly, voice calming down. "If we ran it back today? I bet the two of us would smoke that ##### ."

Cipher chuckled again.

"Like Rannare weed, brother."

...

 

The storm had died out. As Merror had anticipated, Makuta had tired himself quickly in his attempt to reassert control over the domain that was once his. He found some degree of peace in that, beyond the satisfaction of knowing that the darkness would have a more difficult return than perhaps anticipated. The winds that had been approaching gale force hours earlier had eased now into a pleasant breeze; it almost felt like the guiding hand of Mata Nui that streaked across Merror's face, and not the tendrils of his malevolent brother. 

Dorian still hadn't woken up yet. That wasn't so surprising, but doubts began to wriggle into his mind, like the worms from the soil as the rain subsided. He had no idea how long something like this took. Obviously he had never pried for specifics from Joske or Cael. Those wounds ran too deep, too visibly on their faces, to ever be picked at safely. Dor could be asleep for another hour, or for a day. Perhaps he would never wake up, and all he had bought was the young man's life - life in its simplest form. It seemed cruel to bring back a Dorian Shaddix who would never be able to laugh, never embarrass his elders in front of others or win a bartender's heart with a single smile. Merror had never understood what it was people loved about that smile until he had seen it as Echelon was dying - a bright, exhilarated grin, lacking in malice yet full of warmth. What if the sun rose in a few hours, but there was no warmth in the light?

Would it even be worth it?

No. Dorian had to wake. And soon. 

He was probably just thinking of something clever to say.

...

 

“If you stay here, you will pass on. I can't tell you where; all I know is that you will leave Mata Nui forever. But I've come to collect you, Cael: if you come with me, you can choose to return.”

 

“Does... does everyone get this choice?”

 

“It doesn't matter.” The First Toa smiled. “But you do, and that's all that matters.”

 

How long had he been here by now? Days? Months? Years? Cael had been right; time flowed differently here, at the crossroads, where everything ceased to matter. Eventually he had stopped tallying, for fear of going mad with the realization of how much time had passed him by. The idea of those he loved eventually going on was comforting, but naturally frightening, too. He had lived most of his life under the auspices of fame, and the idea of eventually fading to legend as the First Toa had came with mixed emotions. Still...those were problems for the world below him. Time flowed differently; for the first time in a long time he had been at peace, whether he had been dead for fifteen minutes or fifteen centuries.

At least, that had been the case when he arrived. Telling time had become impossible, now that Dorian was here and able to talk forever.

Joske sighed.

"I learned this one from a Vortixx named Marfoir, one drunken night in the Final Problem at Xa-Koro," the Toa of Iron crowed, body unnaturally balanced from the tips of his feet against the wall to his wrists propped on the pool table. "I watched him cut through three homeless vagrants with a single shot from this pose. Later he taught me how to adjust it for the pool table."

"So you learned how to bank three stripes from the murder of three hobos."

"If they didn't want to be homeless, why didn't they buy homes?" Dor asked rhetorically, cue probing between his knuckles somewhat suggestively. "A year after that it was banned from competition in all six Wahi."

"You cheated in a tourney?" Joske asked.

"Well...no." Dorian screwed up his mouth to one side, looking faintly sheepish, as though he'd had something to do with the crime - or had just never thought to take up a career playing snooker and was realizing how much legit money he'd missed out on. "Marfoir blew half of Matau's head off. But that was another life. I'm done using my talents for evil. Only for money."

"That still sounds just like mercenary work."

At first he'd had the strength to banter back, but by now they had settled into their routine. Routine was a dangerous thing to have in purgatory -- Dor's cheeky name for what, to him, clearly resembled the Lavapool Inn, "but with more pool tables and less Tuara drooling on the bar." Joske had sworn he'd come to on the Kolhii pitch in Ta-Koro, with the heat of the volcano and the emptiness of the stands weighing on his chest. Neither of their experiences seemed to match up with the blank canvas that Cael had described, and he had said as much to Dorian after a few drinks of bourbon too many. Dor shrugged, grinned, and cracked a joke like he always did: "She was an easy one. They're probably up there weighing our deeds against a feather." 

He had gestured upstairs ambiguously with his pool cue, and Joske immediately knew what he meant. Both of them had seen the Lavapool enough in life to know, instinctively, that there was nothing up there but rooms for rent. Both of the two Toa, one a reformed womanizer and one making a solid crack at it, had spent enough time up there to know there was nothing up there but hazy, drunken memories.

Yet somehow neither of them had been brave enough to venture up into the old, familiar halls of the second floor. They had just stuck to the ground floor, playing pool with the same results. Routine.

Dorian banked the last three stripes, as Joske knew he would. Dorian loved to treat each victory like his first, though, kicking off from the wall and spinning the chalk between his fingers with a victorious whoop! and a smile. The Toa of Fire groaned.

"You're getting better, Jos. Give it another three hundred and you'll go far with this game. Let's see, so we'll add one more tally mark, that's a five, so diagonal--"

"I'm going to the Air Kolhii table."

"--don't be a baby, so that's 195--" Dor was scribbling furiously on the chalkboard, blocking it from view.

"You said we'd play Air Kolhii at 69."

"--nice--"

Joske groaned. "...Nice. And then again at 100."

"--to 3! Another victory for the Young Conqueror" 

Dorian moved away from the chalkboard with a grand gesture, revealing a battalion of tally marks under the "KILLED ECHELON" column; the soldiers in Dor's army were swelling up faster than his ego, with only occasional - possibly intentional - defeats at the hands of the suicide squad under "DIDN'T KILL ECHELON."

At least it beat "SECURED THE BAG" and "FUMBLED THE BAG." Joske had suggested "WOKE MAKUTA" and "DIDN'T," but Dorian had pouted at that and reminded him that he'd had no fair warning of what would happen if the Vault was opened. Which was fair enough. He had also shot down "CAEL'S HOTTER" vs. "TUARA'S HOTTER" on the basis of feminism and not pitting strong women against each other, which got a little more of an eye roll out of Joske when one considered their track records with women.

Try as he might to deny it, he had missed this. Dorian had always been good for laughs - and they were both beyond talking shop.

"And again at 150," Joske finished. "Air Kolhii. Or I turn to guerrilla warfare and start burning divots into the table, Young Conqueror."

That made Dor pout again, and he balanced one elbow on his cue and clasped his hands together.

"You know, you could at least let me have this. You're gonna be out of here any time," he mused. "195 to 3 is respectable for someone who sucks at everything. Up there," Dor jerked his head towards the dreaded staircase by the bar, "they're probably ripping me to shreds."

Joske had to admit that was true, but he wanted to reassure Dor somehow about the struggle for atonement, the equivalent weight of good deeds for their own sake, motivating yourself to change. He hated hearing it, though, just like Joske got sick of hearing jokes about performing animal rescues and wearing tights and a cape.

"Fine," the Toa of Iron continued. "Air Kolhii. Lucky for you, I learned from the best players of real Kolhii on how to function with a Kolhii striker, and--"

"Really? I don't remember teaching you a thing, pretty boy. Have you been hoarding autographs of me somewhere? Or just watching from afar?"

"Nah, 'cause I learned from the guys who juked you out at that final in Ga-Koro three years ago."

"Prick!"

"Poor Joske, couldn't stand a chance," Dor tutted softly. "You were never going to kill Echelon with those snapped ankles."

"Well, now I want you to go to Karz."

Dorian grinned and opened his mouth to return banter when a voice rang out from upstairs.

"Paid in full."

Joske understood what it meant immediately, and a smile drew across his own face. Dorian, ignorant of what he had gone through to save Cael, looked suddenly anxious. Before--

"Were we supposed to be paying for these drinks?"

Joske laughed, both in amusement and at wonder. Truly, Dorian got all the luck; he held no bitterness, no resentment over the Toa of Iron's fortune. If anything, it gladdened his heart to know that someone down there had seen in Dor what Joske saw. Someone capable of more good than any mercenary, zealot, ally, or even the man himself would ever believe. Joske stepped forward and bumped a fist against Dor's shoulder.

"I'll pick up the tab. You're needed elsewhere."

Dor didn't understand. Or he was playing dense.

"You're right. No time to go upstairs. Air Kolhii in thirty seconds. Just you wait, my wrist action is perfect. I could take my Calix off and nail it to my own hand and I'd still have reflexes that could dazzle you. 195 to 3? You're gonna long for the days of 195--"

"Next time," Joske interrupted. "Next time you're 'round the way, Dor. You're being called back."

...

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"No!"

"You don't get to argue over it, I didn't resurrect you."

"Tell them to stop!"

"I'm dead, too."

"Yell upstairs!"

"They didn't get a choice, either."

...

"Paid in full," the voice said, more forcefully.

"No!"

"Yes."

"No!"

"No."

"Ye--!"

"You fell for that? I think you've hit the bourbon a little heavy, Dor. Go back to Mata Nui and clear your head. Take two Bula and call Cael in the morning."

Dorian chewed his lip, eyes glowing angrily. He looked fit to snap the pool cue and charge upstairs with the splintered halves akimbo. As his gaze roved around the bar, searching for other improvised weapons he could use to charge the powers that be, he squinted. Joske turned to look, and even for a one-time Toa of Light, the sheer whiteness of the glow outside the Lavapool's boundaries made shielding his eyes a necessity. That was it, then -- the light Cael had seen, the light he'd saved her from, the light he'd been prepared to feed himself to make his beloved whole again.

Joske had to love his friend for trying. Dorian Shaddix, ever predictable in his unpredictability, was already having similar ideas. His brain was moving at a mile a minute, eyes squinted to protect themselves from the glow but also racing with possibilities. There was none of the acceptance and grace with which he'd met his own face; instead, there was desperation, and longing, and hurt, and guilt. He knew the look well.

It was the last face Joske had seen in his life.

"Come with me."

"Next time around," Joske promised, squeezing his friend's shoulder. "I don't feel like winding up stuck in your body. Or digging my way out from under the snowbanks."

"We'll rob your grave."

"Yikes. Pass, you sicko."

Dor bit his lip harder; for a second, Joske wondered if Dor would attempt to bludgeon him with the cue. He doubted he could fall unconscious in this place if he tried.

"Next time around," Joske repeated, clapping Dor's shoulder and letting go. "Tell Cael I love her, and look after her for me."

"She doesn't need either of us for that."

"No. You're right." Joske smiled at the thought of her; Dor looked like he wanted to say something, but thought better of it. "Fine. Tell Agni not to blame himself, even though--"

"--we both know he will?"

"Yeah. And tell Angelus I'm sorry. And I'm grateful."

"Holy #####, you could just write a will already. You know, we have plenty of napkins, I could--"

"And one more thing. The boat won't take you all the way. You'll have to swim for the next one."

Dorian blinked. Joske grinned; to Dor's eyes, he seemed more vivid than he had since the Toa of Iron arrived. Maybe even more vivid than he'd been in life. The Kolhii star winked at him.

"What?"

"It's on you to do this if they don't let me out," Joske said playfully. "Give everyone my best. I believe in you, Dor. The boat won't take you the whole way. You'll have to swim for the next one."

"Again with the fortune cookie #####. You know, can't you just tell me something immediately useful? Directions? Lotto numbers? Where Cael likes to eat?"

The glow was starting to swallow the whole Lavapool, but it curved around Joske to lick at Dorian's limbs. The more Dor tried to back away into the corners, near the chalkboard that sang of his conquests, the more the light followed him specifically and left Joske to his devices.

"Like I'd give you the chance. See you, Dor. I'll keep practicing the Matau Brain Masher or whatever."

"--The Sharpshooter, you useless prick, and don't think this is over! I'm totally digging your body up when this is over, and if you don't come back I'm going to chuck you right into the volcano, you fortune cookie, kitten-saving, telegram-booth changing, third-wheeling motherf--"

...

"--CK!"

I shot upright like a cannon, hand cupping the wound where Heuani had pierced me all those years ago. There was a small fire burning, and the wind had picked up a little outside. A small enclave, formed mostly of low-hanging branches that had been snapped off or vines that had been sawed loose, was protecting the small blaze and I from the outside world. My vision was swimming, as though I'd never used my eyes before - or maybe like I'd just crawled from a grave, and was getting used to seeing something besides the inside of my own coffin. But from the looks of things, I hadn't even been buried. Not unless the old dickhead who was smiling at me from across the fire's tongues had been buried, too.

That wasn't a bad bet, honestly. I hated Turaga. They were wizened, pathetic reminders that some people were just too high-and-mighty to keep moving forward. They were proof of how seriously some Toa took the concept of 'destiny,' even though getting one particular job done in your life was no excuse for giving up your power. Becoming a Turaga was basically just taking early retirement. Who said you got to have peace while the rest of us were out here busting ##### to try and outwork the voices in your own head, telling you what you were doing wasn't enough?

I bet you wish you had that Toa Power now that Makuta's back, you hunchbacked old #####. Yeesh.

I must have woken up bitter. Did I pass out after the fall? I remember feeling something pretty important pop out of place near where the ol' R.I.P. Echelon commemorative tramp stamp was going as soon as I was back in Ta-Koro. And where had Merror gotten off too?

"I'm looking for my friend," I grumbled to the Turaga, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. "Did he go off for supplies from the settlement?"

"Your friend, eh?" The Turaga looked pleased with himself, green eyes bright behind his Noble Kanohi. "I can't say there are many people out here at Kini-Nui. Not tonight, of all nights, at least."

Tonight of all nights... Yeah. The story was going to go flying around, all of it, from Joske and Echelon's deaths to the return of Makuta. A lot had happened in only a little while. Time flew when you were about to die.

Wait.

My eyes flew back down to my midsection. The Turaga laughed.

"And what does he look like, lad?" the old man asked knowingly. "This friend of yours. We might be able to find him together, once you're able to move around a little."

"He's..." I closed my eyes, still sore from sitting up too fast, and winced. "Ta-Toa. Big green eyes, sad, looks like a...really old puppy."

"A really old puppy, eh."

"Yeah. Handsome. Like a DILF, but if he wasn't really hot. He's got a Calix on, and bit of a weird brogue in his...voice..."

I turned my head to the left, feeling the protestant creaks of a sore neck, and stared into the Noble Kanohi again.

"And here I thought I aged gracefully," Merror laughed warmly. "I gather that the Turaga lifestyle won't be for you when you grow up. Hello, lad. I'm so happy you're ali--"

"#####!"

Our enclave was torn to pieces by the force of the swing. The cold steel of the rifle's barrel felt good in my hands, but honestly, I could have done it with anything. I just picked up the first weapon I saw poking out of the bag.

And I swung it again. And again. And again. At trees. At the ground. I almost tossed it back into Kini-Nui, but the last thing I needed to do was give Makuta one more advantage.

I remembered everything now.

"What is the matter with you!?" I raged, turning around and screaming at Merror. The look of serenity on the Turaga's -- Turaga's! -- face made me want to pistol whip him. He didn't have the strength to fight it anymore, or to do anything but seize up and twitch if I started really laying into him. He didn't have the strength to...to... "What would you do that for!?"

"For you," Merror said softly. "You died, Dorian. Thinking you failed. Thinking the people who love you love a failure. You deserve to hear from them yourself how false that is.."

"You deserve better, son. And instead you died."

Merror shrugged.

"I thought it was a fair trade."

...

The fire in my stomach went as dim as Merror's had. I dropped back down onto my haunches, taking deep, unsteady breaths. I had died. For a second, I had known peace. Happiness. Real redemption. 

But then I woke up.

It had started to trickle at some point while I was out. The rain was falling on my head, and the Turaga whose life force the storm had doused crawled out from the remains of our shelter to sit beside me. My friend put his hand, so much frailer than it had been when I took it earlier tonight, on mine and clasped.

"It's not," I insisted weakly. "It's not fair. You were...good."

"Oh? Did I stop being good because I grew shorter? Did I lose my experience? Did my brain dull with age in the course of one night?" Merror squeezed my hand tighter with a teasing smile. "Sometimes, lad, I think you might put a little too much emphasis on looks. Just something we've all noticed."

I had to stifle a small laugh.

Merror's smile grew.

"Son, that man who died tonight has weighed on me for half my life. Probably all of yours. I know the valleys of failure more than most. Dorian, I look at you and I see a success for every man, woman, and child on Mata Nui. You understand? You did not fail."

"...Okay."

"Okay?"

"I said okay, ##### it." I took a long, deep breath, clenching my fist around Merror's gnarled old hand. 

"Okay.." Underneath Merror's Noble Kanohi, a smile turned into a full-bore grin -- one with mischief I couldn't ever remember seeing when the Calix had been Great. "Then let's go find a bar somewhere before telling our story. I want to see if I can still keep up with the great and self-destructive Dorian Shaddix."

...

Merror saw the boy smile softly.

"I could definitely go for that," I said. A beat went by.

"So wait, did your life juju fix my liver?"

"Nothing I could do on that count. Sorry."

This time, I laughed. I even gave Merror a ride on my shoulders for a minute, just to see if it was more comfortable for him than walking. He still had too much pride for that, though, and eventually we just decided on walking back to Ta-Koro as equals.

Metaphorically. My neck still hurt, and craning it down to look at him was already proving to be a pain in the #####. But I'd dealt with a lot lately. A little height difference between friends was almost...quaint.

"Actually, Ga-Koro," I corrected. Merror looked up at me, puzzled. No doubt he'd tailed me to Ga-Koro but had no idea why. I bit down on the edge of my lip and grinned again.

"Whole island's waiting for me."

...

"Aaaand it goes riiiiiight there!" Dor let out a victory yell and pumped his arms up in the air as though he'd been crowned the island's Kolhii MVP. From her perch on the couch, sitting atop her calves with a bottle of bourbon in her hand, Tuara Drigton looked at her lover skeptically.

"You...moved a piano."

"It's not a piano. It's the piano."

"Oh, the first piano. Wicked."

"Well, no, not--it's the one from the casino I knocked over, in Xa-Koro. There are some good memories that this piano absorbed via osmosis! I mean...most of them were probably knocked out when the island blew up. Or when the water corroded the wood. Or during the restoration process. But the memories of those memories...that's what people remember, babe."

"Oh my God, why did you never talk this much when you had a Mark." 

"Nothing fun to say. Besides, I've been playing music all my life."

"Explains the eighty guitars."

"Like...maybe half that." Dor rolled his eyes. "And we have the card table."

"It seats eight, Dorian. Good luck finding six suckers who will sit down and let you cheat at cards."

"I don't cheat!"

"You dumped Mark Bearers for other Mark Bearers."

"Oh, we're talking Mark Bearer stuff? Well, not for nothing, but you did let Kinvex die."

"##### dick, wow," Tuara sputtered through a drink. "False equivalence much?"

"For the good Captain, no less. Who you then left. For...who again?"

Tuara rolled her eyes as he plopped down beside her, and attempted to scoot away slightly. Dor wrapped his arm around her and kicked his feet up irreverently on the coffee table, back of his neck reclining to rest on the top of their couch. Both sighed.

"I'm applying for a job tomorrow," he murmured softly.

"Really? Is there anything still sacred enough to kill?"

"The ##### mouth on you," Dor rolled his eyes, "no. The Lavapool Inn needs a bartender. It pays alright. Comfy location. Gets a lot of business. I get to be around people. I'm thinking of going for it."

"Oooh, a plug," Tuara drawled, grinning and rolling on her side. "I'm in favor. Bring a gun to the job interview."

"Wha?"

"That way you'll definitely get it."

"That makes sense, actually. Just keep it holstered. People open carry all kinds of weapons in Ta-Koro."

Tuara's grin stretched cartoonishly. She was well and truly drunk.

"Are you gonna be able to handle that?" Dor raised an eyebrow at the mostly-drained bottle in her hand. Tuara jabbed at his cheek with the bottom. 

"Shhaddup. Dorian Shaddup. Who are you to teach me lessons," she grumbled through her grin. Dor rolled his eyes and smiled back. "You'll never learn your lesson."

"Says who?" Dorian Shaddup asked, sticking his bottom lip out in a perfect pout. "Deputy, you wrong me. Would I have managed to get this far if, somewhere along the line, I didn't start learning my lessons?"

Tuara giggled; Dor laughed. They leaned in as one, together.

The piano sat in the corner, suppressing all the ghosts who had graced its keys or ran fingers across the gilded wood. The angry shade of a callow young Toa of Iron was somewhere, buried alive beneath all that polish. It could not avert its eyes.

It watched the couple kiss.

...

-Tyler

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whats up doc

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IC (Jin - Ko-Koro)

The storm raged overhead, only getting stronger as the minutes ticked by. Where in karz had it come from? I wasn't exactly a meteorologist (although I've been told I could be a weather girl) but this wasn't normal, not even for Ko-Koro. An icy wind swirled down and raced me through the streets, carrying flurries of snow with it as the sky grew darker. I hurled silent curses at the storm to save my breath for running, then ducked into a nearby alley as another hail of bombs and disks struck the earth like lightning.

Snow, ice and stone burst into the air, then fell like rain. I covered my head with my arms as the debris came down, feeling pieces of the street and nearby buildings glance off my body. Most of it was harmless, but I winced as one particularly big rock bounced off my shoulder. That's gonna bruise, I thought absently, but I was already shaking off the dust and moving again. The clock was winding down on this village, and if I stopped for anything then I was probably gonna go with it.

I came to stop where two streets intersected in a large square, my breath coming in clouds as I watched a large group of people battling in the open space. Balls of fire burst against the sides of buildings and spears of earth buried themselves in the ground, and over everything rang the sounds of battle, the clashing of weapons and the screams of anger and pain. There didn't seem to be a reliable way of figuring out who was on my side and who wasn't, so I figured the best course of action would be to skirt around the edge of the battle and keep going, keeping my eyes peeled for Nika and Pae—

A blast of ice almost took me off my feet, scattering my thoughts to the wind. I stumbled through the snow into something that might've resembled a ready stance and looked around for the moron who'd attacked me. It didn't take long. A gangly Toa of ice leered at me from behind a scarred Pakari, hefting a greatsword in both hands. With a snarl, he swung the blade up and unleashed another blast. He wasn't exactly being subtle, so it wasn't hard to dodge; I dove to the side, rolling to my feet just in time to see him rush up into melee range, swinging the massive sword as he approached.

I'll be honest—I don't remember the last time I was in an honest fight. It's been awhile. Used to be I had my hands full either taking out my mark or dealing with the motley assortment of guards that accompanied them. These days? I usually operated in silence, working under the cover of darkness or with someone else drawing the heat. No need for fists with my kind of work—they worked too slow anyway. I needed bigger weapons than ones just a single person could wield. A girl with flashing fists and feet couldn't have sunk Xa-Koro on her own, not in a million years. That took something bigger, something calculated and worked over in secret. It felt less honest, which was kinda dumb, because it was all death in the end, right? It was all blood and violence no matter what way you took, no matter how small the gate or wide the road.

Still... this felt better. More honest. More real.

I ducked under the strike, twisting to see the Toa bury his blade in the ground. He cursed, then raised a hand and conjured a hail of icicles to rain down where I'd been standing a moment ago. I was already gone, a knife flashing in my fist, ready to sink it in between his shoulder blades when a fist of ice sent me sprawling, knocking the wind from my chest. I hit the ground with less than my usual grace, and he was already moving, the sword abandoned, wielding a spear as clear and sharp as glass. I got to my feet, then sprang backwards, the tip of the spear coming inches from turning me into a Vortixx-on-a-stick. I managed to fumble a second knife from my belt as he approached, then sidestepped the next jab and grabbed the haft of the spear to pull myself into melee range. The weapon was made of ice; I could feel my fingers going numb already, and then the spear turned into vapour and he caught my wrist in his hand and squeezed.

I heard a strangled cry of pain and realized belatedly that I was the one making it. I tried to pull my hand free, but he wouldn't budge. The Toa raised his other hand and conjured an icy dagger out of nothing, like a magic trick, I thought blearily through the haze of pain, like it's not real, and I reached my hand out to touch him because maybe he wasn't real, maybe this was all just a dream and I'd wake up in a moment in my bed in Kumu, Liacada's peaceful breathing coming from the bunk below and my hands were still clean, Xa-Koro still stood, and there was still time to get out, get to a boat and escape before it all came crashing down—

I felt armour beneath my fingertips. Under that, flesh and bone. He was real. Real as I was. Real as everything I'd done. Real as everything I wanted, and wished, and was gonna get from this world if I had to find Karzahni himself and rip it from his hands. I wasn't done yet. Not by a long shot.

And there's no way I die in ##### Ko-Koro.

I smiled through the agony and activated my buzzer. The Toa's body went stiff and he made a choking sound as the electricity coursed through his body, then he went limp and hit the ground as I easily escaped his suddenly nerveless fingers. I staggered to my feet and started to run, cradling my left hand like a baby bird. The chaos raged around me, then faded as I moved down a side street. Time seemed bendy, so I don't know if it was minutes or hours before I made it to another square, this one a little more peaceful than the first. I could still see people fighting, but there was nobody immediately threatening, and the airstrikes didn't seem to have hit this part of town yet. I was safe for now, or at least as safe as I could be in the karz-forsaken hole of a—

"Jin."

The voice wasn't loud, but it cut through the noise like a knife through butter. I turned and found them instantly, like my eyes were drawn by a magnet. I nodded once, then made my way over, biting back the pain. They didn't seem too banged up, but Nika was leaning on Pae like something had happened. Whatever. We didn't have time for status reports. We had to get out of this warzone. Everything else could wait.

"Good. You made it," I said by way of a greeting. "We gotta hustle if we want to make our check out time."

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IC:

Years ago.


 

The Toa of Water and his kid sister spoke in hushed tones as they trudged through the thick undergrowth of the jungle floor. It was hot and sticky out, probably one of the hotter summers Mata Nui had had in a long while. Kazon had to hand it to his sister, though; being as young as she was and not complaining the whole journey was, at least in his eyes, no mean feat.

Even still, Tor would forget that they were supposed to be quiet as possible and Kazon had to gently shush her when she started absentmindedly raising her voice back to normal levels.

“Sorry, sorry, she blustered almost inaudibly. They paused for a moment while Kazon cut a thick vine from their path and Tor shifted the quiver on her back.

“It’s okay, sis,” came the hushed, even-toned reply. “We’re almost there.”

 

He could tell she was nervous. This was the furthest from home Tor had gone, even if it was only just a stone’s throw from the Koro proper. Le-Wahi was a big place, but she’d grow into it one day. She’d certainly grow into the quiver she was hauling, which was almost exactly half her height. Kazon smirked at the mental image of Tor all grown up, heading off on her own and travelling the island.

“What’re you smiling about?” Tor inquired. ######. He was facing away from her, too. How could she tell?

He let out a chortle. “Just imagining you being all big and strong like your older brother one day.”

 

“I’m already big and strong!” she pouted, before being shushed again and turning beet-red in embarrassment.

 

“Always room to improve. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.”

Kazon cleared a couple more leafy branches in front of the two siblings, and then spotted the bright orange flag he’d left in this tiny clearing nearly a week ago.

“Here we are, Tor. Set the quiver down over there,” he instructed, pointing to the fallen log adjacent to the flag. Torana hesitated for a few moments before doing so. He remembered being as anxious as she was when their father brought him out into the jungle for the same purpose.

The young Vo-Toa leant herself against a trunk, arms crossed, head down and feet fidgeting and poking at the dead brush littering the clearing. She glanced up at her brother, setting the Yari down and unslinging the bow from his shoulder. He gave the bowstring a couple firm pulls before looking to his sister. She immediately glanced back down at her feet, kicking at a fallen branch.

“C’mon, Tor-”

“Do we have to?”

 

He blinked at her before averting his gaze and letting out a breath. Maybe we don’t. Maybe next month. Maybe she’s too young. Maybe-

 

“Yeah, Tor. It’s important. I’m not gonna be around forever, y’know?”

She mumbled something under her breath. Karz, she reminded him of himself at her age.

 

“It’s like ripping off a bandage, sis. Take it too slow and you’re just gonna draw out these bad feelings for longer. Best to get over with quickly. Trust me. I turned out okay, right?”

 

Her fidgeting slowed down, but she wasn’t budging yet. “Do we…” she started repeating her question, more quietly this time, but trailed off. She let her arms drop to her sides as she shut her eyes and let out a ragged breath.

“Okay…” she whispered. Kaz moved over to where she was, draping an arm around his sister’s shoulders and pulling her close.

“It’s okay, Tor. You’re gonna be alright. I’ll carry you home afterwards if you want. Okay?”

She nodded slowly, still looking at the ground. He knelt down to get to eye level.

“Fun stuff first, okay? We won’t hunt ‘til later. Archery is fun, Tor, you’ll like it. Promise.”

 

She finally looked at him and nodded. He gave her a smile. She was gonna be okay.

 

. . .

 

“Here.” He handed her another arrow before kneeling down to place his hands over hers. “Hold it a little higher up here.. There you go. Feels a little more natural, right?”

“Yeah.”

 

“Mhm. And when you draw…” he guided her hand to nock the arrow to the bowstring. “...tuck your hand a liiiiittle closer to your chin. No no, too close, you’re gonna thwap yourself with the string. There.”

“Do I always put the arrow on the left first?”

 

“Huh, well… dad taught me to put the arrow on the left side and then nock it. Most people do it that way. But you can put it on the right side, too. It’s easier to draw and nock that way, but it’s a bit harder to get used to and sometimes it won’t work with a specific bow. Which way do you prefer?”

“I like putting it on the right.”

 

“Well, then, right-side it is. Go on.”

She switched the arrow around, drew back, took a moment to aim…

 

“Remember to loose on the exhale-”

 

...and loosed.

 

thunk

 

“Hey! You hit it!"

 

Torana stood motionless for a moment before her mind registered that her arrow hadn’t tumbled a few feet in front of her or sailed straight into the brush. It was sticking out of the tree Kazon had carved a haphazard target into. Well, it had just missed the edge of the target itself, but both the Avaliona siblings counted it as a minor victory regardless.

 

“Well, I didn’t hit-” she started.

“Hey, hey. Stop that. You’ve only just started. You’re doing great.” He patted her on the head. “I’m proud of you.”

 

That made her smile a bit. Which in turn made him smile.

 

“Alright, try it again. You’re gonna be a natural archer, sis.”

 

The two spent another hour loosing arrows at the tree, which slowly collected more and more projectiles within its bark. The occasional whoop of excitement rang out through the treetops and into the summer air.

 

. . .

 

“On the exhale,” he reminded her. She drew back, took aim…

 

...and then Kazon’s hand clamped down over her own before she could loose. Tor gasped in shock, jerking her head to look at her brother. He was looking back with a hard look and a finger over his lips, shushing her once again, but with a lot more vigour this time around. Tor was confused for only a moment before she clenched her jaw and pushed her lips together, slowly nodding in acceptance of her brother’s instruction. Satisfied, he withdrew his finger and pointed past her head, his eyes moving to follow the same vector.

 

Slowly, Torana turned her head to follow suit. There, right on the edge of the clearing, was a plump Pokawi, clucking softly to itself and pecking at the ground, looking for seeds dropped from higher up. The two siblings were motionless watching it.

 

After a pause, Torana turned back to her brother. She shook her head. The rest of her body was shaking, too, but not quite in the same way. Her brother responded by nodding. She shook her head even more violently.

 

“C’mon, Tor,” he pleaded in a voice so quiet it was barely audible over the sounds of the jungle itself. “Remember what I told you about the bandage? This is what we came out here for. You just gotta get it over with.”

She shook her head again, but Kazon gently held her chin with two fingers to get her to stop and look at him again. “Kaz, I don’t…”

 

“Just one shot,” he pleaded. “Just one arrow. I promise. One shot and then we can go home. That’s it. I promise, Tor.”

She looked back towards the bird, before returning her gaze to her elder brother. “Just one,” he repeated. She lowered her head and closed her eyes.

 

“Just one?” she mumbled.
 

“Just one. I promise. Okay?”

 

She paused again before nodding slowly. “Okay…”

 

He patted her on the shoulder. “Alright. Chin up. Draw your arrow. Just pretend it’s the tree.”

 

She couldn’t. But shakily, she drew back her arrow, and pointed it at the Pokawi.

 

“That’s it, Tor. You can do it. On the exhale.”

 

She didn’t exhale. She didn’t even look. She shut her eyes and loosed the arrow. Her eyes remained shut when she heard the awful scream of the wounded bird and she dropped the bow when she heard it still fluttering around moments later.

 

Kazon sprang up and snatched the Yari from where he’d set it down. With one quick motion, he swung the polearm and deftly severed the dying bird’s head. The fluttering stopped. The bird’s cries stopped.

 

But Torana’s sniffling started.

 

Kazon turned back to his sister. Her eyes were still shut and she was frozen in place, arms straight down at her sides, her fists balled. The sniffling only lasted a moment before the tears started to fall.

 

He dropped the Yari again and rushed over to his sister. She turned limp as he embraced her and the sobbing intensified.

 

“It’s okay Tor. Shhh. You did good. That’s all we’re gonna do today. Shhh. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It’s gonna be okay. Just let it out. You’re gonna be okay. We’re going home now. Shhh…”

 

. . .

 

He was true to his word.

 

She was still lightly sobbing, but they were heading home. Kazon had bagged the bird and collected her gear. When Tor had calmed a bit, he’d hefted her up onto his shoulders, and she held onto him tight as he trudged through the jungle, back to the Koro.

 

She kept sniffling even as she slumped down and closed her eyes, lulled by the rhythmic movements of Kazon’s trek back home. He’d promised her.

 

. . .

 

Tor drifted back from her nap. She was still slung over Red’s shoulder. She didn’t know when she’d passed out again and she wasn’t awake enough yet to know where they were going, just that she’d probably been lulled to sleep by Red’s slow, meandering gait.

 

 

And in the back corner of her mind, she remembered. He’d promised her.

 

 

 

She was gonna be okay.

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OOC: @Mr. House, @Mel, @Vezok's Friend, and  @Razgriz thanks for being patient. I had a trip over the weekend and then needed time to catch up on some other projects. Also wow, all these wrap up posts are awesome. I'm excited for arc three to start.

IC: Arero (Ga-Koro, The Great Takea)

"Thank you," I say as I read the address on the note. I remember the street name. It's not far away. "I'll check there first.

"In Onu-Koro I asked a stranger if they knew a blacksmith, and it turned out they were a blacksmith," I reply to the other Marine. "It may just be luck, or maybe Destiny is real. I certainly wouldn't assume everyone knows everyone. I'm lucky to have met Cipher though. he seems to know a lot of people." I glance back at Cipher sitting in the booth talking with Rhow. "Well, I better go find my friends. Thank you, again, and sorry to be a bother."

I walk over to Cipher. He and Rhow are talking about something. I wait in peripheral view until it seems they're finished and then say, "excuse me, but, um, thanks for the drink. Very nostalgic. You really didn't have to. Ciph," I turn my attention to my new friend, "I have an address we can look into. Is now a good time or do you need a few more minutes? I'd go ahead but..."

The compass shouldn't leave the mariner.

 

Edited by Unreliable Narrator
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OOC: @Vezok's Friend @Unreliable Narrator @Tyler Durden

IC: Cipher - The Great Takea

Cool and refreshing, I downed a healthy swig of the cactus water. Took a fair bit of rummaging around behind that cabinet of hers to retrieve it... well, all I'll say is that I appreciated the note of florality and how smoothly it went down. I've never really kept track of the economics regarding cactus water shipment, so I didn't know how much of a windfall this really was— but all the same, it was fresh as advertised. 

Bottle she used looked fancy enough. I'd feel pretty safe in guessing the Skakdi— Rhow, I'd heard in passing— had treated us to a good one.

"Obliged." I replied, raising the mug for a moment in thanks before my smile shifted to a smirk. "And it was my pleasure. I like this place, y'know?"

As Rhow then made her way over to Arero, so did my attention. He'd managed to suss out the second marine's accent fairly well now, and had been giving a brief rundown on the idividual he was looking for... a "Kotzu". Sold tea, pale Akaku-shaped mask, Ko-Matoran...

In spite of myself, I'd begun to run through my admittedly short list of names and faces to try and peg a match while I savored the slightly bittersweet water. Couldn't tell you why. Ko-Koro was a rare stop for me most of the time— I've probably wandered the drifts more. Even though I always make sure to at least look for civilization, within all that whiteness that was easier said than done.

Nothing came. I had a vague recollection about passing a birdseller one of my visits to Ga-Koro, at least, but it certainly wasn't a solid one. Never patronized one of those in my life, thankfully. Taking an animal into my life would be cruel and unusual to the poor thing, for sure. I got into too much trouble.

Not that I'm gonna say it to his or his friends' faces, but it'd probably get eaten.

Ah, he was walking back over. Guess things finished up.

"Ready when you are, pal." I replied with an easy grin, setting the empty mug down onto the table as I scooped up my halberd from the depths of the booth. "You've got a friend waiting."

"...That way we'll probably meet in Ga."

Clock's ticking, D.

Edited by Razgriz
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helo frens

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[Ga-Koro, The Great Takea (Lucira/Talli)]

The rest of the interviews were more of the same. Talli hardly registered words the other witnesses were saying as her iStone recorded them.  The Ta-matoran was last, and Talli felt the dread settle in the pit of her stomach as the older woman looked straight at her. But her interview was uneventful, plainly told and practical like the personal giving it.

 

It was only after Lucira had finished signing the testimony that she reached in her bag.  Talli had let her guard down, and she might have twitched a little. Stupid.

 

It was the little opaque bag that Lucira had removed some soaps from earlier, now drawn around something heavier.

 

“I...don’t need--”

 

“Listen,” Lucira said, “I know this may be a lot.  You’ve got a lot on your plate, it looks like, and this is going to be a shock.  But I don’t need this.”

“I can’t… I’m…”

But Tali could already feel herself leaning toward the back, wrapping her hand around the object. At least it didn't glow this time.

 

Lucira shrugged.  “Mata Nui has his own ideas about how to run things.  Maybe it’s less about what that will turn you into and more about what it makes you do, knowing that.  I don’t know really...but you might need this in the future. Maybe not. But I think if someone meant to hold onto it, it’s not me.  Now if you’ll excuse me--I’ve got a hotel to check into.”

She laid down a few widgets on the counter.  “Something for the marine, for all her hard work.  Don’t worry,” she said before Talli could open her mouth to protests.  “I’ll give the guy in charge a heads up.”

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[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - LuciraMorie - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed

Clan Plangori - Clan Kuychar
I got that string theory--it doesn't work to push, you gotta pull.

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IC: Before the Storm, Before the Island....

They passed the bottle back and forth, one to the other, into the small hours of the morning, waiting for the call to come. They had both known it was coming — it wasn’t unusual, a call to escort a Turaga from across the waters — and they had known that it would come for both of them. It would be their initiation. It would prove them as worthy of the name Simul.

“Bet we don’t even run into a pirate ship,” Plagia said, knocking back the bottle of whiskey as easy as if it had been water before passing it back to her brother. It had been Rynekk who had brought the bottle up to the roof of the family home, filched from their father’s liquor cabinet — for all his talk of piety, their father was man accustomed to a stiff drink at the end of the day. Sometimes more than one.

“Hey, no complaints here,” Rynekk said, leaning back on the rough tile roof, fingers laced behind his head, watching the sky. It was turning purple in the east, the first rays of sunlight catching on the clouds, refracting into pink and yellow through them. But even in all that light, the stars….

“I’m just saying,” Plag said, leaning forward, chin tucked behind her knee, “might as well be a bit of a challenge, you know? Just so….”

Ry chuckled.

“So everyone knows,” he said. “For sure.”

His sister didn’t say anything for a moment — a long moment — and Ry turned to see her looking away from him, away from the rising sun, and off to where the sky was dark.

“Nothing wrong with wanting a little praise, kid,” he said.

“Kid? You’re still not older than me.”

“S’what Mom told me.”

“Bull.”

“Ask her yourself,” Ry said, grinning a pearly grin, propping himself back up onto one elbow as he raised the bottle to his mouth.

“Maybe I just will,” Plag said, snatching the bottle out of his hand before he could even get a sip off. “It’d be nice to see you eat  ###### for a change.”

“Big talk for someone who still hasn’t chosen her Toa Tool.”

“Shut up,” Plag said, taking another swig of whiskey. “You took the spear. That was the one heirloom that might’ve been worth taking.”

“Just ask Mom to make you something,” Ry said. Fe as she was, their mother had the requisite gift for iron — but she was a woman to take anything she did one step beyond where most would have. Most mornings, one of Simul kids would find her out in the backyard, one ear to the hardscrabble dirt, listening for the veins of iron that ran through the land. Most days, she would spend her time extracting ores, forging new weapons, fine-tuning the old ones. It was always best not to bother her during her work, Dad would tell them, sitting in his study. He’d sit there often, drink in one hand, sword in the other. He would stare out the window, to where the shore met the sea. For hours on end.

It was always best not to bother him, too.

“Nothing really feels right,” Plag said. “Swords and axes and spears. They all feel like extra weight.”

“So what?” Ry said. “You’re just gonna punch whatever comes your way?”

“Maybe I will.”

He chuckled. The sun was clearing the horizon. The call was bound to come soon enough. Who else was it going to go to? The Simuls were the only Toa in town — had been the only Toa in town for generation upon generation. Who else were people to go to for protection? Matoran? The words rumbled in Ry’s head, in the gravelly baritone of his father. They were Toa, they were Simuls. That’s what they always said. They were the strongest there were.

He closed his eyes against the sun, and imagined his mother — when he imagined her, it was usually with a sword laid across her lap, sliding a whetstone down its length. Evil will not submit to weakness, she would say. It won’t be felled by a blunt blade or a brittle axe. 

Ry could feel the sun hit his body.

“I think I see someone coming,” Plag said.

“Hm?”

“I think this is the call,” she said.

Ry kept his eyes closed. 

“You’re probably right,” she said. “Probably best that nothing comes our way on this. We escort the Turaga, we come back. No muss, no fuss. No fights or nothing.”

Ry let one eye flutter open.

“Just that…?”

“Nothing.”

“Aw, c’mon,” Ry needled. But, when Plag didn’t respond, he added, “You gonna finish that bottle?”

“‘Course I am.”

“Just wondering,” he said.

For a long moment, then, neither one of them said anything. There was nothing but the sound of the trees swaying in the early morning breeze, the soft cries of the mourning doves, low and melancholic, the crunch of footsteps on gravel coming closer, closer, closer.

“What do you think they’re gonna do?” Plag said.

“What are who gonna do?”

“Mom and Dad,” she said. “Once we’re heroes — really heroes. The new defenders of the town. What do they do?”

“They’ll probably work with us for a while,” Ry said, shrugging. “Y’know, just in case we need help or something, and then….”

“And then?”

The sound of footsteps got louder, closer — so close that Rynekk could hear the laboured breath of the messenger.

“There are some teams that have six members,” he said. “Four of us — that wouldn’t be so weird.”

“I know,” Plag said. “Just that … I dunno. Have you ever seen Mom and Dad do anything that wasn’t, like … work?”

“######,” Ry said. “‘Course I have.”

But the more he thought about it, the less he could think up. With his eyes closed, he imagined his mother, sweating over the a half-sharpened sword in the heart of her forge. He imagined his father in his darkened study, staring out at nothing with a drink in his hand. Dad had been drinking more than usual, lately. Mom had been spending more time in her forge, too.

“I just…,” Plag said. “What does a Toa do when they’re not needed anymore?”

“They become a Turaga.”

“But what do they do when they’re a Turaga?”

“They lead towns, villages — they offer, I dunno, advice or some ######!”

“Can you really imagine Mom and Dad offering advice?”

“I don’t know, Plag,” he said, eyes open, pushing himself up to his feet. “What’s with all the questions? I’m pretty sure that Mom and Dad know what they’re ###### doing, don’t you?!”

The morning breeze whistled through the branches of the trees. Rynekk watched his sister look at him, and then look away. Her eyes, sharp green, were wide, and then narrowed as she leaned back and finished the last of the whiskey.

“I guess so,” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her forearm. “Yeah, I ###### guess so.”

“Plag, I didn’t mean—”

“The messenger’s almost here,” Plagia said, getting to her feet and walking to the edge of the roof. “Grab your spear. I’ll just grab a couple of swords from the forge. Better than just punching things, right?”

And she dropped down from the roof. Rynekk didn’t need to see her to know that she had landed. But he stayed where he was for another moment, watching the sun creep higher and higher into the sky, throwing light across the town, across all the houses, across himself. He looked away, shielding his eyes from the light.

This would be a good trip, he thought. We’ll prove that we’re worthy. Of being heroes. Of being Simuls. It’ll be an easy trip — so easy that we’ll forget all about it. Another half-remembered anecdote to bring up over another half-finished bottle of whiskey. This would be good, he thought. 

Surely, this would be the beginning of something good.

-Void

Edited by Conway
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OOC: @Razgriz

IC: Arero (Ga-Koro)

Congratulations to me. I’m not arrested for property damage, assault and battery, assistance with violence on private property, or banned books. Ga-Koro is very different from Po-Koro.

Walking out of Rhow’s tavern I see the sculpted mask of toa Gali to the far left across Naho Bay. Her kaukau spews the waterfall from the hills into the ocean. Like toa spew the Code before violating it. I don’t have to look back at the address Corporal Shajs gave so I give the note to Cipher for safekeeping. He’s got his classic silver cloak tossed over his shoulder. Very debonair.

“I’m sorry but I have to ask: where did you get the cloak?” I lead on while Cipher answers. On the right are the boats in the harbor. Engines are rumbling as others come in from an early morning fishing excursion. The strange vessel from Kentuckit glitters in the sunlight. It seems to be made entirely of some sort of crystal? Maybe once I know Kotzu is safe I’ll find out about the far away cultural techniques of Kentuckit’s shipbuilders. Sea birds are cracking open palm fruits on its hull. 

“This is it,” I say as we reach a traditionally made shop nestled between more modern buildings. A wooden sign dangles above the door. It sways in the wind with the beaded shell chains that make up the door screen. The sounds of screeching birds bursts from within. “Yep. This is it.

“Hello, excuse us,” I say as I step into the shop. My voice is drowned out by the whistles, caws, and chirps of rare birds. They line the walls in cages or are tied to wooden posts. Small birds flit between rafters-- probably not actually for sale but birds that got stuck in the shop by accident. Small birds, large birds. One cage in the back of the shop is covered with a dark blanket. “Um, hello?” The covered cage echoes my hello back.

Two masks pop out from behind a second beaded curtain behind a small counter. One I don’t know. The other is a teal akaku. A bird lands on her mask, pecks at it, and chirps.

“Oh hello welcome can I help-” 

“Arero?” She steps out from behind the curtain and puts a tea cup down on a nearby stool. The gold bangles on her arms glitter and jangle as she rushes forward.

“You know him?” 

“I’m so glad you’re safe!” I say and bounce forward as Kotzu rushes up for a hug. I accept it. It’s not every day I know my friends are alive. “ Kotzu, how did, are you, I mean what happened?”

“I’m okay,” Kotzu replies, shushing me. “You don’t have to worry. Gaksi here is renovating their house so I have a place to stay until I make enough money for a tea shop in town. Oh it’s so good to see you. How did you know I was here though? I was still writing a letter to tell you about it.”

I break the hug and look back at Cipher. I realize now that a dwelling constructed for matoran might be a bit cramped for him. “Well, he helped. Told me about the problems in Ko-Koro. Cipher, meet Kotzu.”

“Hello Cipher,” Kotzu says as she offers a fist to bump. “Thanks for taking care of my friend. I hope you were able to get him out of his books at least for a minute.”

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OOC: @Unreliable Narrator

IC: Cipher - Ga-Koro

I smirked, touching my knuckles to the lively Ko-Matoran's.

"Got a mean left hook on him. Good to meet you."

My fist practically dwarfed hers in frame alone, through the natural difference in build between us as Matoran and Toa. Factoring in that hers was (to my knowledge) so much less conditioned than mine on top of that... Must have felt a little weird for both of us. I've thrown a lot of punches in my life, and I won't call all of 'em smart; my first two knuckles were a touch more pronounced than anyone else in the building's.

Probably felt like fistbumping a rock on Kotzu's end.

Pulling away, I made sure to mind the ceiling— Ga-Koro housing, being on a lilypad as it was, was a bit smaller than other villages by necessity of light weight. Not to the point where I myself was squeezed, but there wasn't much extra headway left for, say, a halberd made to Toa scale— polearms are generally accepted to be taller than their wielders by a noticeable margin, after all. I'd held it in my off hand at a bit of an angle as we entered to minimize the chance of dragging a spearhead through Gaksi's roof.

This was all to say nothing about carrying camp on my back through this mess of caged avians. I wouldn't have been surprised if a few of the more adventurous ones didn't try to grab a flap of a pocket, or maybe my hastily stuffed duster within one, through the bars. I never knew much about owning them, but experiencing them in the wild taught one more than enough about how they played when they saw something they could get their beaks around.

Deal with that when it came. For now, I'd let my friend and his friend catch up quietly.

Edited by Razgriz

helo frens

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[Ihu-Koro, General Vicinity (Ranok)]

Ranok had always been a wanderer, so wander he did.  Within the bustle of the makeshift Ihu-koro hospital tents, he flitted around, carrying whatever messages he could for the promise of a warm hearth to sleep next to.  Another de-matoran, in fact, most de-matoran, would have preferred the wind and the near-silence on the edge of town, but Ranok had grown up around the constant sound of music and chatter and laughter, and silence was a disturbance to him, not a refuge.

 

Occasionally, when he had a moment, he would play his harmonica.  The wounded wanted sad music mostly, but he would get the occasional request for a bawdy tavern song.  He fit between the spaces of people’s lives, as he always had. That was his life--to play and to listen and to remember.

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[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - LuciraMorie - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed

Clan Plangori - Clan Kuychar
I got that string theory--it doesn't work to push, you gotta pull.

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IC: Arero (Ga-Koro, Gaksi's Bird Store)

"He's been good to have around," I say after Cipher removes himself from the conversation and awkwardly stands among the birds with his gear. 

"I can image." Kotzu replies. She stares at me and understands. "Ambitious."

"Yeah," I grumble. "Okay enough of that tell me about you. Really, what happened?"

Kotzu and I spend the next few minutes talking about her escape from the battle of Ko-Koro. Her tea shop is gone but she saved her birds. We talk about her future plans. Kotzu wants to stay in Ga-Koro. I ask about Kentuckit, and she laughs. "It's Kentoku, silly. They're an archipelago far east of here. Rumor had is they can read minds."

"Oh," I reply. "This is why I read books more than I talk to people."

"Books can be wrong too."

"True."

We're quiet. Then, "would you be able to send a letter for me? I'm helping Ciph find some of his friends next."

Kotzu nods. "Sure."

I pass her the letter I'd written yesterday while on the road. "Thanks."

"It's the least I can do," she says. "Thanks for checking in on me. And hey, best of luck with…"

I laugh at that. It's a genuine laugh. Rare for me. "it's good to see you Kotzu. Can you send me a letter if you learn anything about Kentoku?"

She nods and we hug. Kotzu hands me a small package of tea and I join Cipher by the door. My friend is safe. I'm happy about that. I hope she makes a good new life here in Ga-Koro.

"Okay.  Let's find your friend."

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IC:

It was a grotesque little thing, writhing and squirming with all the enthusiasm of a dying animal. That was to say, the disgusting "tentacle" was a surprisingly accurate facsimile of a Razor Whale floundering pathetically atop a Ga-wahi sandbank, its life essence draining away in ragged breaths as the Sun's heat made seafood of its barely functioning body. It seemed that there was very little difference between the dead and the un-living - they were equally inanimate and pitiful in the end.

Although, it was pretty harsh of him to describe his own creation in such a way. It didn't reflect well on him either, especially when his own wrist had fathered the rope of liquid steel now thrashing against his armoured palm. Its disappointing performance wasn't entirely due to its existence as an ugly, experimental chunk of metal, but because his parenting skills hadn't been up to snuff either. It wasn't very "dadly" of him to place all the blame on his own spawn.

And it was very much, a hundred percent, his own spawn. Not the spawn of Teridax or anything else like that.

No, it was absolutely, definitely, his spawn.

It was protruding from his left arm, after all. And he distinctly remembered giving birth to it.

Shame that it would never compare to its siblings. It would never meet his expectations, unlike the blades that he had so painstakingly crafted in his time as a blacksmith. It was the black sheep of the family, forever overshadowed by its betters - those blessed by Mata Nui's generosity. And like every disappointing child, its fate was oblivion.

"Okay, that's starting to get a little too creepy."

His arm shuddered, and the metallic tentacle was absorbed in its entirely.

"Well, this experiment was honestly creepy from the very beginning."

It was probably for the best if he stuck to swords.

"Still ..."

The Nui-Rama hadn't left. It floated ahead of him, above that great chasm. It was waiting, watching, for a hapless victim to menace, together with the small swarm he could feel - he could hear - hidden and ready in the darkness of the jungle brush. A hapless victim like him, perhaps. Someone arrogant enough to believe they could destroy one Rahi, only to fall prey to its brethren as they tore him apart, rendering his flesh and armour into chunks that would never be found, for the chasm would swallow them whole.

But fortunately, he wasn't arrogant enough to believe he could fight a single Nui-Rama.

In fact, he hated Nui-Rama.

He was terrified of Nui-Rama.

Maybe it was a little irrational of him to be so frightened by a single species of Rahi, but he absolutely detested insects. Giant insects. Giant insects with swarming behaviour. Giant, hostile insects with swarming behaviour that could murder him with extreme prejudice and leave his remains to the scavengers.

He had no shame in admitting that right now. It wasn't like there was anyone else around.

In any case, it was his fear that was keeping him rooted to the branch. Keeping him from flying over the ravine and drawing the attention of the Nui-Rama. He didn't want to draw its attention at all. He actually didn't even really want to look at a Nui-Rama. But, even if he was to choose another way around, some other hapless fool would probably come along at some point and find themselves dead in a very large ditch. Meaning that he needed to deal with the Nui-Rama.

Not because he wanted to help some hypothetical other traveller or anything. This was entirely self-serving. This was a great opportunity for him to face his fears. Any heroism or benefits for others were entirely incidental to that. His willingness to do this was entirely for himself, not to help others.

Was it dishonest?

Probably. But, he was trying and failing to construct some sort of "large iron net" all because he didn't want to see a Nui-Rama carcass, so maybe there was some truth in it.

That hadn't panned out very well, though.

So there was only really one route left open to him.

"Yeah, I should stick to swords."

Curling his fingers into a gun-like shape, he made a "pew" sound.

The flying blade screamed through the air and into the insect's brain.

It stopped.

It fell.

It died.

The little swarm in the jungle behind the ravine dispersed into the air with a terrifying sound.

"Well, I hope I have enough in stock."

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IC: Cipher - Ga-Koro (Gaksi's Bird Store)

"You sure?" I asked, idly waving away a beak from behind me as it tugged curiously on something it wasn't supposed to. "I've got time if you need it. Believe me, these things like to work out either way."

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helo frens

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OOC For Josh. I hope I got his voice right.

Suggested listening: 

Spoiler

 

IC (Cael – Ko-Wahi)

He was buried facing east.

She stood over the grave, and the sun cast her shadow over the little heap of rocks that served as a marker. Although it was long past dawn, the cold still bit at any exposed skin. This high up the mountain, there was only so much the sun could do to warm the air. Cael’s breath rose before her in great clouds of vapour that drifted until they were lost in the vastness of the blue sky. She pulled the scarf tighter around her neck to ward off the chill, but it did nothing to ease the ache deep in her chest.

Joske was gone.

The truth tasted bitter in her mouth, like medicine. She wanted to vomit it up, to empty her body and mind of the knowledge so she could return to blissful ignorance. It would be better to remain in Ga-Koro and tend to her people and miss him terribly, but still hold out hope that one day she would hear his knock on the door and open it to see his face, smiling down at her like the sun. Instead, she stood here in the snow, watching over a grave, and felt the enormity of her loss settle over her like a suffocating cloud.

It hurt in a way she’d never known. She knew broken bones and burned fingers and scraped knees, but this loss hurt differently. She could feel it roosting in her chest behind her heartlight, a slow, steady, unbearable ache poised to tear her heart in two. It felt like her chest might cave in at any moment, her ribs giving away to her anguish like twigs before a hurricane. It threatened to engulf her like the ocean, to sweep her away like an undertow. She had mourned for Gali, and for Nokama. She had borne the weight of a thousand years of loss. But she had never known grief like this.

“You said once that love is suffering,” she said aloud, her steam-clothed words breaking the stillness at last. “So I guess this means I still love you. Because it hurts.”

Her voice cracked on the last word. Her shoulders buckled once, twice, but no sound came out. The tears came silently, the way the stars appear at dusk.

“It hurts, Joske,” she managed to say, squeezing each word through a voice thick with emotion. “It hurts so much. I just… I can’t…”

She clenched her eyes shut and bowed her head, pressing her palms to her temples. Each inhalation hissed through gritted teeth, and each ragged exhalation carried a whimpered sob with it. It was an ugly sound, had anyone been close enough to hear it. The sound of a wound too deep to heal.

“It’s… not… fair,” she said, sniffling back whatever tears hadn’t yet escaped. She lowered her hands, then wrapped her arms around her shoulders and hugged herself tightly, staring down at that little pile of rocks that symbolized him. The topmost rock was blueish grey speckled with white chips; it was such an unfitting grave; it was nothing like him. His armour had been red and his mask had been gold, but more than that, he’d always been so warm and alive. His every movement was full of energy. He never stopped moving, never stopped thinking, never stood still for a moment and it drove her crazy and it made her love him all the more because they were so different but he still loved her.

For a moment, she imagined that her arms were his and he was holding her tight against the cold, but her shivering gave it away. He was gone. “It’s not fair,” she repeated, but the rocks gave no reply.

***

They ate breakfast together.

The fruit was fresh, the bread was warm, and the milk was cold and sweet. Cael apologized over the lack of coffee (she said she didn’t like it) but Joske waved it off. He was an athlete, he said, and preferred not to trust his performance to chemicals anyway.

It was a bit of a grandiose thing to say, but the way he said it made it funny instead of pompous. She laughed and reminded him not to eat too quickly. He’d just woken up as a Toa yesterday, after all, and he was still getting accustomed to his new body.

Joske accepted the advice and did his best not to wolf down everything in sight. As they ate, he asked how long she’d lived in Ga-Koro.

“As long as I can remember,” she said, spreading jam on a piece of bread. “It’s where I grew up, and I’ve never found a reason to leave.”

“I can see why,” the Toa of fire replied through a mouthful of fruit. “You’ve got it all here. Sun, beach, water, beautiful women—” He caught himself and smiled sheepishly. “—I mean waves. Beautiful waves. For surfing. You ever done it?”

Usually, Joske would’ve already tossed out a half-dozen lines far more risqué than that. The Kohlii star was known for his cranked-to-eleven charm, and he had the marks on his bedpost to prove it. But he’d decided not to hit on Cael. Sure, he’d retain his trademark sarcasm, wit, suave, maybe throw in a flirt or two… but nothing past that.

What’s this? A conscience?

“I haven’t,” the healer replied, breaking his train of thought. “I guess it’s not my style.”

“And what is your style?” His eyes crinkled mischievously. “Knitting by the fire?”

“Try saving daredevils who get out of their depth,” she shot back.

Joske clapped a hand to his chest in mock agony. “Karz! She heals with one hand and kills with the other!”

They laughed.

“Seriously though,” he continued, pouring himself another glass of milk. “You’ve lived in Ga-Koro your whole life and never once got the urge to pack up and see the world? There’s a lot of island out there.”

“I’ve left once or twice,” she admitted. “I’ve been to Onu-Koro before, and Ta-Koro a couple times.  But you’ve seen a lot more than that, I’m guessing.”

He nodded. “Yeah. I mean, away games are half the fun of Kolhii. As much as I love playing home games, hearing the Ta-Koro crowd chant my name…” he drifted off, a lazy smile playing on his lips. “Well, it feels just as good to shut down another team on their home turf. Did you ever hear about the time I beat Hewkii six to one in Po-Koro?”

She shook her head. “I don’t keep up with Kolhii much, to be honest. But tell me.”

“Well, it’s kind of hard to do that game justice,” he said with a laugh. “I’m an athlete, not a poet. But let’s just say it was legendary…”

***

“It’s not fair,” she said again. Her fingernails dug into her shoulders as she hugged herself tighter, but the pain seemed to be coming from far away. Everything was far away now, everything that mattered and everything that she loved, and she couldn’t get it back. She choked back another sob and let her arms fall and hang limply at her sides. The rocks remained unmoved by her grief, and their insolence turned her sorrow to sudden anger.

“It’s! Not! Fair!” she screamed, and the sound scraped her throat raw as it passed. She stepped forward and kicked the pile of stones, scattering them to the snow. Her foot blossomed with pain, but it only fueled her fury. Fists clenched, she emptied her lungs again and the scream tore itself from her chest to echo across the unforgiving mountain. She kicked again and again with all the grace of a drunk, lashing out against the lifeless rocks that dared remind her that he was gone, and she didn’t stop until no two of them stood together.

The rocks lay strewn across the snow like drops of paint on a canvas. The painter stood over them, breathing hard, her shoulders rising and falling and her eyes glassy with tears. She shuddered. What crime had she committed to deserve this? Surely she had done some awful thing and this was penance, to stand alone in the cold and never again feel his warmth. To never again see the light in his eyes or the way he smiled. His smile was effortless, she remembered, it came to his lips like it was meant to be there, like he’d been born smiling.

She desperately tried to fix it in her memory, to memorize the line of his jaw and curve of his mouth before time stole it away. That was the cruelest punishment of all: to know that one day she was doomed to forget the blue of his eyes (like ice on the ocean, like the sky after a storm, like the sea under the sun) and the sound of his laugh (like water over rocks, like birds’ wings, like the wind in the trees) and the way he held her like she might break (like she was made of glass, or spiders’ silk, or light).

Time was the enemy now. She felt tears trickle down her cheeks as she stared down at the scattered rocks, stark against the snow. Time had taken Joske from her, and she was still here, a blue figure standing over dark stones.

***

They sat and talked together.

Night hung over the island, a vast black sheet studded with constellations of twinkling stars. The trees of Ga-Wahi swayed under the sky as a gentle breeze made their leaves rustle and their boughs creak. These sounds mingled with the soft noises of the jungle: wild Rahi stalked through the undergrowth, and insects chirruped and clicked as they flitted from place to place.

In the midst of this, two Toa sat on a rocky outcropping overlooking a river, silhouetted against the canvas of the sky. Joske had come here to be alone—to sort out his thoughts and figure out what to do next and how to keep his team together while they did it. It was hard enough being a new Toa, and harder still having the fate of the island resting on your shoulders. The Toa of fire would’ve liked nothing better than to hang up his quest and return to an easy life of Kolhii games and adoring fans, but that wasn’t an option. He had a job to do and a destiny to meet, and nothing would stand in his way.

So he had come here to be alone. And yet—for some reason, he didn’t mind that he wasn’t.

He leaned back against the rock and ran a hand along its surface, feeling the grooves and bumps under his fingertips. The two of them had talked for awhile about a lot of things: the Toa Code, their quest, the weather… regardless of the subject, talking with Cael was helpful. She straightened his thoughts out, untangling his quandaries with a practiced hand. They were a good team: her practical outlook balanced his outbursts of passion. But more than that, they enjoyed talking with each other. It was easy, even natural.

“So there I was, leaning backwards over the table,” he said. “I thought for sure I was gonna drop the cue. Or snap my wrists. You know, one of the two.”

She laughed. “Par for the course with you.”

“Har har. But I had a hundred widgets on the line, not to mention my pride. So there was no way I couldn’t at least try to make the shot.

“Naturally.”

“I remembered my training—‘my training’ being that one time I watched Dorian Shaddix make the same shot. I took a deep breath. Easy in, easy out, and boom. Sunk it.”

“Fascinating,” she said playfully. “So, when do we get to the part of the story where you actually meet this Dorian? I thought’s that what you were telling me.”

“I’m getting there! Karz, woman, you’ve got no patience.”

“Sorry. You know me, impatient as always. Can never wait for anything.”

He chuckled and squeezed her hand. “Lucky you’ve got me around. You know, to teach you all those virtues, like patience, caution, common sense…”

He trailed off and winked, and they both laughed. There was a sense of timelessness there, under the night sky. Like evening was a dream and morning was a myth and neither might actually exist. But if this was all there was, Cael would be satisfied. It would be enough.

“Cael,” Joske said, his smile fading. “I need to tell you something. Not about pool, or Kolhii, or anything like that.

She nodded. He took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes.

“Look, I don’t know how all this is going to end. Tomorrow we’re going to go to Ga-Koro, find the last Crystal, and then I'll be off to find the Wanderer's Company and the Keeping Place... before fighting Heuani. I still have many questions left unanswered, and I don't know if I'll find answers for them all in time, let alone feel confident in my abilities. There are so many things I am unsure of right now, but I do have one immovable constant: you."

He swallowed hard but didn’t break her gaze.

"Cael, I love you. I love you so much. So much so that when this is all over, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But I’m not going to ask for that. Not yet. Will you just stay here with me tonight, and just gaze at the stars? I don't want to go back right away, back to the pressures and choices and destiny... just us. The calm before the storm, I guess. And maybe a kiss that I don't have to steal?"

She leaned into him, her heart beating so loud she swore it seemed to reverberate through the air. She had never anticipated something so much and felt so nervous at the same time. And yet, somehow, it felt right. Something she'd been waiting on for a long time. She opened her mouth to reply, but found herself, for once in her life, with nothing at all to say. Joske had said it all. Instead, she kissed him under the sky.

No one was around to see, except for the stars. Those glittering points of light bore sole witness to the promise: whatever happened after this, neither of them would be alone.

***

She was still here. Alone on the mountain, standing over a grave.

This was her curse, to carry on in presence and absence. Long after others were allowed to move on, she remained, steadfast and lonely as a lighthouse. She persisted, even in the face of what now lay before her: an impossible expanse of empty time.

She was no legendary hero. Those mythical men and women in the Turaga’s stories—they rose to a grand occasion, a climactic clash of good and evil that left the world forever changed. They lived and died for that decisive event, then laid their burdens down when it was done, and the curtain fell on their stories. But she was the epilogue. She rose from her seat and left the theatre to brave the outside world. She was allowed to partake of the great stories, to follow along from the first chapter until the last, but she was not allowed to rest when they came to an end. No—long after the book closed, she was doomed to persist.

The immeasurable burden of time weighed heavy on her shoulders. It was an immensity of time, a colossal expanse of mundane hours and long days. No chronicler would bother with that time—it would never be tallied on the Wall or studied in the Sanctum. That time, like her, existed in the spaces between the great stories, enduring between lines and long past final sentences.

She wiped her eyes, but the tears were gone now. What she found instead was a weary emptiness. The wind whistled gently over the snow, but its chill couldn’t touch her anymore.

“I can’t do it, Joske,” she said softly. “I’m so tired. I thought I could. I promised I could. I know I said I’d wait for you, but I can’t.”

Her voice broke again, and she covered her mouth with a hand.

“I can’t,” she repeated, as if this confession was the secret phrase that would finally convince someone, anyone to listen and take this burden away. “I can’t.”

No one was listening, but she pressed desperately on.

“I can’t wait for you. Not for this long; it’s too much. You should’ve known that. I never would’ve asked this of you.”

She breathed in—a long, shaky breath that filled her lungs to bursting and made her chest ache. Her throat hurt. The sky was too bright: the endless blue was vivid and cold and it bore down on her like the weight of all the time that lay before her, vast and utterly empty.

***

They lay quiet together.

The sun hung heavy over the horizon like a nodding head, like it was blinking back sleep and couldn’t wait to set. Its golden light pierced the frosty windows and fell soft over the room, illuminating a couch facing a smoldering fireplace.  Two Toa sat there, covered in a thick blanket. One awake, one asleep.

Joske had nodded off awhile ago, exhausted after a day of training. Each day was a new whirlwind of activity where he desperately pushed himself to be better, to move faster and hit harder. He woke before dawn every day to practice his swordplay, followed that with a morning of meditation and studies, then spent the afternoon training and sparring with anyone he could find. This handful of evening hours was his only free time, but he was often too tired to enjoy it.

Cael didn’t seem to mind. She rested her head on his shoulder and watched the flames flicker. It was enough to be together, she thought, just to lean on his body and feel his warmth. To know that he was there.

She envied him, though. She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept through the night. Closing her eyes brought no comfort anymore: the darkness reminded her of the cold shadows beneath the island, the ones that had taken her and swallowed her whole. So she stayed awake until she was too weary to fight her own weariness, and then she would sleep for a few blissful hours, only to awake in a cold sweat, heart pounding. Antrim said the nightmares would pass in time, but for now, she sat and watched the fire.

“Morning,” Joske’s sleepy voice drew her from her thoughts. “What time is it?”

“Nearly sundown,” she replied with a tired smile. “You’ve only been sleeping for half an hour.”

He rubbed his eyes. “Sorry. I guess I passed out.”

“That means you’re tired. Your body needs the rest.”

“I can think of something else it needs more,” he teased, planting a kiss on the side of her head. “Like… a snack.”

“There’s fruit on the table.”

“Boring.”

“Bread in the cupboard?”

“Nah.”

“There might still be some leftovers in the icebox.?”

“I was thinking… maybe I’ll just eat you,” he said playfully, and mimed taking a bite out of her shoulder. “There’s gotta be a reason I call you honey. Or sweetie. It’s cause you’re just too…”

He trailed off, noticing that she wasn’t laughing with him like she usually did. His smile faded.

“You’re thinking about him again.”

She nodded, suddenly afraid to speak. He sat up and looked for her eyes.

“It’s okay. You’re here, with me.”

Silence.

“Say it, Cael.”

“I’m here,” came the soft reply. “With you.”

“I love you.”

“You love me.”

“I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“You won’t let anything happen to me.”

“I promise.”

“You promise.”

“I promise,” he repeated, and placed a kiss on her forehead. He hugged her tightly as the sun finally sank below the snow-covered hills, leaving a twilight canvas that stretched from earth to heaven. She breathed in his scent and closed her eyes. For this brief moment, the darkness was comforting, because she was with him.

She was home.

***

The sun still shone down, but now the healer’s shadow lay behind her, stretched across the snow. Time passed, as was its nature, and she was doomed to move with it while Joske was left farther and farther behind.

She had chosen this, hadn’t she? This was her place: not in the great stories, but before them, and after. For by their very nature, healers must exist in the aftermath. Theirs is to deal with the fallout, to mend what was broken and rebuild what was ruined. Joske could never have survived in peacetime: he was restless, always aching for the next chance to prove his strength. He would’ve gone crazy. But her? Her place was here, in the space between stories. The years the history books sum up in single sentences. There was nothing for her in glorious battles, in dangerous quests, in climactic duels of shadow and light. No, hers was the aftermath. To pick up the pieces and do her best to carry on.

She bent down and began to collect the stones. They were cold; each one numbed her fingers as she gently lifted it from the snow. Silently, the tears came again, running down her face and falling to the snow like drops of rain.

Hers were the patient hours and sleepless nights. Hers were the broken wrists and sprained ankles and the detritus of ordinary life. Hers were the survivors, like herself: the ones who were blessed and cursed to live in the vast shadow of what they had lost.

One by one, she placed the rocks back where she had found them. The pile grew slowly but steadily until it resembled again that marker she had destroyed. It no longer seemed an affront to her, but a tender reminder of the one she had loved, and who had loved her in return.

It was no sprint they ran, these survivors, but a marathon. They would set a steady plodding pace across the innumerable years, through hills and valleys, neither to break into a sprint nor to stop and rest. Like all the others, she would run bearing precious cargo: the memories of a man she could never forget. She would carry his legacy in gentle hands across the vast face of implacable time. She would remember Joske Nimil long after the stories ended. She would carry their love until the end of all things.

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Ooc: @Razgriz

IC: Arero (Ga-Koro, Gaksi's bird store)

"I guess with Wairuha's wisdom we'll all find our destinies intertwined." It was a paraphrase of something I read long ago. I found myself going back to that book -- a small and unbound tattered manuscript -- whenever I wondered if the Virtues were still applicable. During the Dark Times it felt like the Virtues brought us together. Now I wonder if society's glue is only the threat of something worse than us.

"You know, I might have one more thing I need to do here," I say to Cipher. And then to Kotzu I ask, "how much for the bird?"

"Which one?"

I point toward the small rahi flapping on the back of Cipher's backpack. It's tiny, has a small beak, brightly colored plumage, and very loud. Cipher seems mildly annoyed. It's a classic trope. It shouldn't be this easy for him. 

"Uh, not sure. Gaksi? How much are your smaller birds?"

"Depends on the variety," Gaksi calls back from behind the curtain, then returns having put the teapot down. "Oh that one?"

"Mhm."

"The Screamer is twenty-five widgets, plus ten for food, plus fifteen for jesses and a bell. So, fifty widgets in all."

I pull my coin pouch out from my satchel. "That works for me. I'm sure Cipher will love his new friend."

Gaksi takes my payment, equips the small Screamer with it's jesses, and offers it to me. It's adorable. But also very loud. I try holding it close to my heartlight. That seems to work. Quiet now, I offer it to Cipher.

"Okay start thinking of a name for your new friend while we find your old friends."

And then I walk out into the street, leaving Cipher with his bird. 

Edited by Unreliable Narrator

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OOC: @Unreliable Narrator

IC: Cipher - Ga-Koro, Gaksi's Bird Store. 

Blankly, I stared over my shoulder at the Matoran's leaving form.

...

A pair of beady black— no, actually dark brown— eyes tried to meet mine, ensconced within a mess of sun-colored plumage. I slide mine down, and find the Screamer nested (somehow) within the crook between my bedroll and the strap of my bag. Right down at the bottom corner of my line of sight.

A soft chirp heralded a nibble at the corner of my kanohi, maybe as some attempt at allopreening. Luckily for the little guy it wasn't under the impression my face was a chew toy. It'd have really soured my notoriously good mood.

But, more importantly, the sensation made everything click into place.

...Alright.

You got me, you little son of a brakas.

I started to follow him through the throng, after giving Kotzu and Gaksi my thanks on the way out.

 

Edited by Razgriz
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helo frens

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IC: Arero (Ga-Koro)

I don’t wait long for Cipher to exit Gaksi’s hut. Only long enough to read how a certain Akiri of Fire pressed his friend’s back to a wall and leaned in close, hand on… I close the book and look up to Cipher’s chirping backpack companion.

“It likes you. Thanks for all your help Ciph. I really appreciate you making sure the journey was safe. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you. And,” I get distracted by putting the book away in my satchel, “um, it’s been really nice learning things from you. Did you really mean what you said about my left hook? Actually don’t answer that, I’m getting distracted. Now, you said earlier who your missing friend is, but do they have other friends in Ga-Koro they might be visiting like Kotzu did?”

OOC: @Razgriz

Edited by Unreliable Narrator
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[Ga-Koro, Eastern Residential District (Talli)]

 

In her dreams.  It was her hands.

 

Everything was the same, the blasted buildings and the twisted walkways and that thing, wedged between the metal and wood that couldn’t be her brother, because Chahlu had been (no no not was)  so alive, so animated and warm and cheerful and solid.  He would never, never leave them.

 

But this time, it was her hands that commanded the waves, their reflections stretched and distorted until they covered the sky and her voice, throwing mocking echoes back at her as she tore the world apart.

 

This is what you were meant to be.

 

There was never any easy respite from these dreams.  She had to struggle back to consciousness as if from underwater, until the real world crystalized, dully, around the space of another headache.

 

She was looking at the grain of the kitchen table.

 

She’d sleepwalked again.  S##t.

 

“Talli?”

 

The Ga-matoran looked up in the face of her younger brother, concern knitted across his brow and a warm cup of tea in his hand.  He slid it across to her wordlessly, and she took it, inhaling the lemongrass-scented steam. They had formed a routine by now. The first time he’d tried to wake her and received a bruise on his cheek for his troubles, which he’d promptly gone and lied to their parents about.  Talli had hated how it sounded, hated herself for not being able to own up to it later.

 

She looked back up at him again, taking a careful sip.  Nahlu wasn’t like her or Chahlu had been, animated and gregarious.  He was...careful, his speech softer, his longer-limbed movements slower.

 

“Mom came an hour ago--checked on her and dad and they’re out cold.  You’re fine.”

 

She wasn’t fine.  But she couldn’t keep this from him.

 

“I have something to show you.”

 

* * *

 

Nahlu turned the stone in his hands.  The pale light of their jellyfish lanterns caused the patterns carved on its surface to refract the light into phantom waves on the table.  But it didn’t glow for him. It didn’t send slow pulses of light outwards, like a heartbeat. That only happened when she touched it. It only glowed for her.

 

“This means…” she was relieved to see a mixture of confusion on his face.  No joy, no assurance that she was crazy. She wasn’t crazy.

 

“How can I?”  She barely kept her voice from rising into a shout, far about the soft murmur of her brother’s voice.  “I...I--hit Jumah yesterday, yeah he was being annoying, but he’s ten--that’s what he does.”

 

“Talli--”

“I’ve hurt you so much already--I don’t want to--”

 

Talli.”

 

Nahlu’s voice was louder that she’d ever heard it, firmer.  That alone made her pause. He was looking at her straight on, with a gaze so intense that it stopped her out of sear surprise.

 

“Talli, maybe you should quit the marines.”

 

The silence between them hung in the air for a long, long time.  The jellyfish lights continued their circular, luminous lives.

 

“You can’t be serious.”

 

“Talli, you need help.  Maybe you can’t admit it, maybe you want to believe that we can’t get on without you, but we can.  We’re our own people, sister. We don’t need you.”

 

Oh, that hurt.  Tali struggled not to shout--what did he know?  He had seen their brother all laid out and peaceful and surrounded by flowers.  He had…

 

Talli watched the hot, salty water as it drip-dripped onto the surface of the table.  It was only after she started speaking and her voice came out ragged and breathless that she realized it was her own tears.

 

“Why...then?  Why am I here?”

Her brother had his hand across hers now, his voice soft again but just as earnest.  “I want my sister back. I want you to laugh again and go out with your friends and tease me about how cute the guy who serves shaved ice in the market square is but...you need help.”

  

“Nahlu…” Talli looked back at him, his face purplish with the hint of a blush.

 

 “I’m tired of watching you try to be the only karz-cursed strong one.  Maybe this is a sign from Mata Nui that you need to stop.  To be yourself again.”

 

“I can’t go back...Nahlu he’s...gone.”  Gone like her trust in toa and the power they wielded.

 

His eyes never faltered.  “You think I don’t know that?  We’re still here, Talli. We’re your family too.”

Talli looked past her brother, to where the stone was placed, slightly to the side.  Her stone.

 

“I...I’ll talk to them when I go into work tomorrow.  Or today.” It was definitely early in the morning.

 

She got up, and he watched her as she padded back toward her room, taking the stone with her.

 

“Love ya, sis.”

 

“Love you too, smallbro.”

“Hey, you can’t call me that again yet.”

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[BZPRPG Profiles]

Hatchi - Talli - Ranok - LuciraMorie - Akiyo - Yukie - Shuuan - Ilykaed

Clan Plangori - Clan Kuychar
I got that string theory--it doesn't work to push, you gotta pull.

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OOC: Jam between Vezok's Friend and myself.

IC: Tuara Drigton - Ta-Koro

"We can stop by the healers, get your wrist treated properly and then find someplace nicer. What do you think?"

Tuara glanced at Jaller again, but as quickly as their eyes met, Tuara turned away. This shame was not one she would soon forget. "Yeah." She sniffed. "That sounds good." As she stood up, she stopped at the door. Still not quite ready to look at Jaller again. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. Talk again soon, alright?"

"Yes, sir."

* * * * * *

I followed her to the door. Jaller and I exchanged another look, then he took a step back and Tuara and I left the cell. We didn’t speak as we made our way down the corridors to the infirmary, though I had plenty of questions. Dorian had taken off while I’d been at the morgue, I hadn’t seen Merror since before returning to the Koro, Joske has been absent even longer and I felt very much out of the loop in general. But I didn’t say anything. Everything I wanted to ask felt like it would be opening up too much, too fast all at once. Right here right now was way more important. Questions could wait.

Tuara still knew the place like the back of her hand and a few minutes later we got to the infirmary. The healer on duty was an old Turaga I remembered even from my Matoran days in the guard. The old torch eyed us quizzically, immediately drawn to the scarf-turned-sling. We went through the usual pleasantries and for her medical report I improvised a story about some unruly inmate crushing her wrist with a table - which wasn’t even a lie. Guess it was good enough for her too–the old healer took it at face value, then asked Tuara to take a seat. She gently took of the sling and examined her wrist, harrumphing as she went about her work. Then she used her mask of healing to fix the worst of the break and made a splint for the rest, secured in place in tight wrapping. 

I watched, leaning against a table. As the Turaga put the wrapping on, I finally broke the silence again. “Will you be fine if we go back to your place?” I knew she and Dor had lived together for some time. She must’ve had a lot of memories in that place. But if that was the right thing right now, I couldn’t tell. “If not I’m still at the barracks. Would be no trouble finding you an extra spot there. Or we can skip town altogether. Go to...I dunno. Wherever is good for you.”

Tuara looked on with a blank stare as the doctor made the final preparations for her splint, securing the wrapping with a small pin so it would stay in place. She gave Tuara a half-hearted wave, mumbling some message. Likely to not look for anymore fights in the near future. Tuara didn't feel much like answering, she had been lost in thought at Agni's question. The doctor waited for a response at first, but before too long she let out one last huff, turned around, and began cleaning her hands in a nearby basin instead. With a deep sigh, Tuara finally spoke. "I -" but she trailed off as slowly as she began. Her eyes narrowed, focusing on the other side of the table, carefully choosing her next words. With a sharp intake she started again, taking each word like a slow step, "I used to think that somehow, coming home to Ta-Koro was going to help me. I spent years mourning in Le-Koro, thinking that eventually I'd move on and finally come home. But when that day never came, I thought I could just force the issue, that I could just... change the scenery."

Tuara finally looked back up at Agni, watching her carefully, listening intently. "Then after the Rahkshi attack, I told Dor that Ta-Koro was going to kill me too." She shook her head, biting down on her lip. "But I think what I'm finally starting to realize, is that no matter where I go, I've still got me: This... -" Her face twisted, and with her hand she gestured some wicked half-open fist, fingers warped and curled. "- this husk of a person. This corpse. I thought I could prop it up in some village somewhere, make it play house, or give it a job." She calmed down again, her posture softening once more, laying her hand on the table gently. "But it's dragging me through the filth and the #####, trying to choke me in it."

"I don't think it matters where I go, Agni." Her eyes became suddenly very focused, her crown stern. "But if you'll let me, I'd like to go to the house. There's something I want to do."

“Yeah. I mean yeah of course.” I replied. The words came a little slower as something clicked in my brain. The way she talked about herself- if someone else had done all that to her I sure would want to burn them to ashes...

I was starting to get the picture. At least a glimpse of it. I nodded. 

“We done here?” I asked the healer. The Turaga nodded.

“Yes, but take it easy, alright?”

“That’s the plan.”

* * * * * * 

Tuara was back on her feet and we left the infirmary and soon after the headquarters, stepping into Ta-Koro’s streets. “Don’t think I ever saw your place from the inside. Always too busy to visit.”

That was my attempt at conversation.


As the pair stepped out into the hot open air, Tuara took a deep breath and looked around. Matoran at work, travelers in the market, and the ever-watchful eye of the Guard watching over them all. However, something was different now. News among some of the guard had surely spread now, since the usual nods or half-smiles were now accompanied by tighter lips and sterner eyes. "We should have invited you." She turned her face to his as they walked, giving him a soft smile. "Never seemed to be a good time, I guess. Sorry this isn't any better."

"It's alright." I returned a glare coming our way with one of my own. I wasn't in the mood for rumors.

We soon reached the residential areas and not long after the house. In my mind I was still debating if this was the best thing to do right now. But she'd wanted to come here and that meant it was worth doing, even if it might be painful. I tried to suppress my uncertainty but some probably showed through. "Well then...here we are."

Tuara paused for a moment, staring at the wooden door. "Here we are." She repeated coldly. With a shaky breath out, she reached forward and gripped the knob, twisting it in her hand before giving it a shove open. They stepped through the door-way inside. The hot air seemed much stiller in here than usual, and Tuara moved to the living room to open the shutters and let in some air-flow. Behind her was Dorian's piano, keys torn apart from his fight weeks earlier. Just beyond the grand was the couch, a pillow and blanket lazily pushed into the corner: Kitea's sleeping arrangements. To the right of the entrance was the kitchen, an open bottle of rum from that very morning on the counter, some other bottles shoved against the wall behind it from days before.

Tuara looked back at Agni, putting her hands together and picking at her fingertips. He was still in the doorway. She could tell by his expression that he wasn't totally convinced it was the right call to come here. He was a little tense and unsure. Avoiding the subject she awkwardly entered host mode, stammering a little as she asked, "Are you hungry? Can I get you something to drink?"

"Just water, thanks." I said. One of the stupid things about doing this job for so long was that it was really hard to switch off the detective mode. I'd immediately taken note of the cot in the corner and the state and details in the room, as if looking at a crime scene. Technically it was, considering we'd just put her brother in the slammer. But I really didn't want to deal with that case any more today than needed. So I made a mental note for later and ignored as much as possible, making sure not to disturb the place too much. "But please, don't let me get in the way. I can find a glass. You do what you have to. I'll be right here if you need me."

Tuara stepped past the piano and into the kitchen anyways, pulling a glass from the cupboard and filling it. She handed it to him before turning her own attention to the counter-top. She picked up the empty rum bottle, staring at it intently. Her hand started to shake. "Do you believe I can change, Agni?"

I was quiet for a few seconds. Scenes started playing before my mind's eye. A certain fateful attempt at making pancakes together with some other young and unruly Toa that had undergone their own transformations since, and a very strong exit by Tuara. Her question hit as hard as the elbows she'd thrown that day. I doubted the word softball was in her vocabulary. #####. The smile forced its way onto my face as inevitably as the next sunrise. 

"Yeah. I do." I said. And I meant it. "Who knows. You might have already started."

I held out a hand, inclining my head slightly to signal her to pass me the bottle.

"Don't need to tell you it's not gonna be easy. In fact, it's probably gonna suck. But that's when you dig in and keep moving, right?" 

I tried to look encouraging, but that last bit...my hand and the smile dropped somewhat. "Sorry...that was about as useful as those motivational posters Jaller plastered all over the office." I sighed, frustrated at the blanks I kept drawing when it came to actually being helpful.

Tuara looked at outstretched hand grimly, then back up at Agni's eyes. He wasn't the easiest read in the Guard - or on the island even - but the years they had spent together had given her enough experience to know he was being earnest. "You're right." She nodded as if to herself and handed him the bottle. "It's going to be heII."

"But I'm glad you're here with me Agni." She crouched down, kneeling in front of the liquor cabinet, gingerly pulling it open. Her hand curled into a fist as she looked at the contents, reaching for the nearest bottle of bourbon. "I don't think I could do this if you weren't." She stared at the drink, swishing the liquid inside around, watching it splash into itself. Tuara felt her heart rise up into her throat, and the shaking got worse. Just when Agni seemed about to speak, she acted.

Tuara stood up, brought the bottle up to her head and threw it across the kitchen into the stone wall. It shattered, glass and liquor flying everywhere. Her shoulders shuddered as she choked back something, but she quickly bent down to find another one. She spoke through grit teeth, her voice soft but hoarse. I survived the Mark Bearers.With another great swing, the next bottle crashed against the same wall. I survived torture. Tuara made a noise and despite her teary eyes she sent it flying too. “I survived the Rahkshi! Glass rained down, the smell of alcohol filled the room, and she continued. She indiscriminately was reaching for the swill now, grabbing the closest one and sending it to a wasteful fate one at a time. A few short violent moments later, and all that could be heard was the sound of liquid running down her wall into the sink, and her heavy labored breathing. She held the final bottle, the shaking in her hand getting stronger and stronger. Her shoulders were hunched over, and in her chest her heart yearned to escape, thoom-thooming off her rib-cage. She was spinning, something inside of her swirling, her head pounding harder than her heart. "I'll. Survive. Me. Too!" Tuara wound up again, and with a sudden burst of fire and fury she put it to the floor.

Shards flew to the kitchen walls, vodka splashed against her feet and legs, Agni covered his eyes as not to be hurt by the flying debris, but Tuara watched, eyes wide open. Every drop was gone, and she was still there. A husk in a mess, but there nonetheless.

Maybe my being here helped, but this push - that had all been her. I ached thinking about how long she'd been carrying the weight of her struggles on her shoulders. And it had been just her. Sure we were all friends or more. I knew Dor had tried, but the baggage he carried probably outweighed most of ours combined. Joske on some spirit-given scavenger hunt all over the island, expected to take on whatever prime henchman was leading the bad guys at the moment. Cael one step behind, picking up after him and willing to take on death itself. Me, Merror and Jaller, three duty-bound grumpy old men playing by a rule book I wasn't sure was even in print anymore. All our other friends - between destiny-ordained quests and our own troubles, how much had we lost sight of each other? 

"You've been fighting your battles alone for a long time now. I'm sorry I -we- weren't there for you sooner."

When first bottle shattered. I watched the carnage unfold with relief. The tension that had built up somewhere around my diaphragm dissolved, as if witnessing the end of a tense Kolhii match with your team making the winning score in the last second. Except this felt much better. It wasn't just the bottles breaking, something else had finally given way as well for her. That's the spirit - was the spirits? I thought, looking at the liquid splattered across the kitchen wall.

I grabbed a drying rag from the counter for her to clean her hands and stepped up beside her, placing my right across her shoulders. "I'm proud of you."

Tuara took the rag and wiped her hands with it, still shaking. "I never knew to ask for help." She shook her head, looking down at her feet. After a moment of breathing, Tuara looked over to the wall and the floor and stepped over to clean it up. "I don't know I would have if I did."

"Well...all I'm saying is: Maybe we could all do with a little change for the better." I commented, moving up to help with the cleanup. "Broom?" I asked. She nodded, indicating a closet. I found the broom and got to work. We spent the next couple of minutes quietly, with just the rattle of broken glass as we swept up her efforts. In the end we had amassed a sizable pile of the stuff. I twirled the broom in my hand and harrumphed. "What?" Tuara asked. 

"What a waste..." I said. Her eyes widened at that, as if I was lamenting the liquid that had seeped into the floor. "Not the drinks." I said, pointing at the pile. "The glass."

I picked up the shard she was now eyeing and took it in my hand, careful not to cut myself on the sharp edges. Then, I began to heat it up, gradually, until the clear material began to melt, glowing orange hot. The temperature wasn't an issue for the likes of us. As the shard became soft, I started to flex my fingers, shaping the previously rigid material into a lump. I looked at Tuara, then pointed my chin at the pile. "How about it?"

Tuara looked back at the lump in Agni's hand carefully. She reached for it and took it herself, feeling the hot putty in her palm. She began to add her own heat, using her own fingertips to flatten it out. It took considerable force at first, but as the temperature continued to rise it became much more malleable. She rounded out the thinner edges carefully, kneading the flat edge turning it into a small disc, no bigger than a widget. As she began to absorb the heat, the pair watched as it cooled, a smooth sheen returning to its surface. She held it out, in her bruised palm, the light blue glass reflected off the lights of the room.

I nodding approvingly, watching the reflected light dance across the room. Now she had a reminder, something to mark the occasion. "Good."

We watched the reflections a little longer, then I gently cupped her hands in mine and pushed them close around the disk.

"You hang on to that."

Tuara hoped that she could.

“Listen, why don’t you leave the rest of the cleaning to me, hm? It’s been one of a day. Go get some rest.” There was a hint of uncertainty in her eyes. “No worries, I’ll stick around. I’m not going anywhere.”

* * * * * *

Edited by Palm
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[]BZPRPG Profiles[[]FACTION[]

METATRONLIVES2.png.da62b3c9ce88e204853411829432d3e1.png

M   E   T   A   T   R   O   N        L   I   V   E   S

 

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IC: Vilda Mako (Chisai Ryuu)

"The more things change the more they stay the same, eh girl?"

Kama cawed something in response that only I could hope to interpret. I sometimes felt like I probably looked quite the fool, trying to keep up conversation with a bird. Well, that's where being a Datsue whose mere status demands respect comes in. I was sitting on the top deck of the Ryuu, having made an invigorating solitary trek down from the cold mountain our little party had run off to. Well, "alone" is a relative term for a Vilda, of course, and being who I am, I could get away with some mild bending of the rules here and there. It's all part of my incorrigible charm, promise.

I had secured a sweet-tasting beverage from one of the locals trying to be friendly, my only regret being I couldn't invite them on board for a chat. It's all well and good to visit a new land and all of that stuff, but considering what happened last time I was invited to share a meal with one of these people, I was taking my precautions.

The horizon was empty. I looked with a bit of apprehension in the direction I guess Kentoku was. All things considered, I was in no hurry to go back.

Kama took off, stretching her wings and flying around above the anchored sub. I have to say it wasn't too much of a surprise that I decided to get close with a bird, huh?

"Next chance I get, I'm heading out to some eatery. Need to get a chance to judge the local cuisine." I thought to myself with a smile.


BZPRPG Profiles

 

Ferron-Nuparu-Mar-Zelvin-Tamachan-Wiremu-Farzan-Trava-Mako

 

 

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OOC: @Unreliable Narrator

IC: Cipher - Ga-Koro Streets 

"It's not bad for a guy who by all accounts picked it up a day ago. You got a feel for it quicker than I'd figured."

Offhanded explanations aside, I openly allowed myself a thoughtful frown as I folded my arms and pondered the actually pertinent question he'd asked. Dorian and I had met here several times before, true, but it always seemed as travelers crossing paths rather than anything else. Ever since Anthyn, we seemed to be content to simply meet when those journeys intersected and part once either respective road led us to. No real rhyme or reason beyond "I tend to show up for the important bits" that I knew. To be honest, this was the first time we'd earnestly promised to meet somewhere specific in recent memory—

That is, if you ignored where his pit stop was gonna be.

Regardless, this meant that I hadn't the most perfect grasp of who he really knew from here— names like Flay, Tuara, Skyra, Onuzek, Stannis, and Cael all passed through my train of thought, but I knew many of them to be scattered to the four winds as we ourselves, and didn't know them near as much as I knew he knew them. Even if we all shared one story, I knew preciously little about even some of my closest allies.

...Well putting it like that makes it sound lonely as all karz. 

Yeesh, Compassrose.

"Can't say." I finally replied, shrugging my shoulders. The bird on my pack seemed to be used enough to the natural sway of my cadence already, so he wasn't overly bothered. "We have a nasty habit of just dropping in and out on eachother. Even a guy like Onuzek, I've only met the once before."

Edited by Razgriz
noticed word repetition that really annoyed me
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helo frens

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IC: Vaíl, Le-Wahi, jungle

We return once again to the woman with the bandana on her forehead to find that the bandana is tied now around her neck. What forces could have prompted such a change in the accessory's position is a mystery that shall perhaps never be penetrated by mortal minds.

A crack of thunder peals in the distance and, as if on cue, the heavens open their floodgates upon our wearied traveler. Thick droplets stream down Vaíl's mask, clouding her vision. The bandana is returned to its initial position.

Vaíl is walking again, and she is again alone. The remainder of her conversation with the leaf-running Lesterin was of passing interest – pleasant but insubstantial. It became clear that their destinations were not aligned; they parted ways accordingly.

In hindsight, this outcome was to be expected. Such is Vaíl's curse. To find one's own path is to follow no one and to be followed by no one.

Vaíl's path finds her at the base of a small rock outcropping. Night has fallen, and the storm darkens the moon and stars. Vaíl makes camp by the light of both her lightstones. Branches twist out of the wet ground at her command, taking the tarp from her hands and wrapping themselves slowly into a crude shelter against the rock face. Vaíl is hungry again. She withdraws a handful of trail mix from her pack and eats as she works.

Something within her has changed without her understanding. The jungle is no longer a suitable home for her. She can no longer stand to be alone.

Vaíl is hollow.

The rain has soaked through the bandana and drips now into her eyes once again. Thunder once again cracks and the downpour redoubles its efforts. Vaíl grimaces and her branches redouble theirs.

The shelter is completed. Vaíl collects her lightstones, removes her pack, and climbs into its marginally drier embrace.

Mere miles away, a force of incomprehensible evil enters the world. Vaíl does not and cannot notice its coming; nor can she – nor I – predict the ways in which Makuta's return is soon to alter her path. But perhaps, in time, we both – along with you, reader, should you be so inclined – will find out.

Vaíl curls up around her heatstone and drifts into an uneasy sleep.

Edited by Baltarc
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IC:

Times were changing in the village of stone. It used to be that she'd spend at least an hour every two days or so here, just… taking a breath, taking stock of things. Talking to Prei, when he had words he wanted to say. Or just sitting in silence.

‘Here’ being the doughnut shop, of course. 

At least it hadn’t been smashed in the airship attack, the Rahkshi attack, any of the assorted bar fights--

Point is, the doughnut shop had survived a lot. Enough to be a fixture of the Koro, no matter how it changed. She glanced across at the lavender-grey Toa at the table with her, taking a deep breath. 

Another reminder of simpler times. But at least he was still with her.

“Is it just me, or has the recipe for these things changed?”

“They changed the ratio of milk to eggs,” her long-time friend replied, quietly taking a bite of the humongous cinnamon doughnut in his hands. “It feels … softer and chewier.”

She regarded her own doughnut for a few moments, the soft glow of her blue eyes running over the sprinkles and glaze. “Hmm.”

Tera took another bite, chewing pensively. There was a long pause, then she spoke again. “I… I’m not sure how I feel about this.”

“You dislike it?”

“Mmm. It’s definitely different. Different might be good.”

Her eyes opened wide again from the intense squint she’d been considering the doughnut with, and she gestured to her old partner with it. “No Makuta. That’s different, that’s good.”

“Makuta-free doughnuts …”

Prei took another bite. His expression didn’t particularly change, but after the millennia they had known each other, she knew that behind his dull eyes, he was likely in deep contemplation.

“I like them,” he said finally. “They feel nice. Comfier. But … the taste seems a bit more complicated, too.”

His gaze met hers. “Does it satisfy you as much as before?”

She let her current bite sit on her tongue for a few moments before chewing and swallowing. She’d always been the more outwardly emotional of the two, but Prei likely had more nuance to his lack of expression than she did overall. Just had to know how to look for it.

“I think so,” Tera paused for a moment, biting her lower lip, then nodded. “It does. I do believe this is an improvement, though a little strange when you’re used to the old recipe. Definitely nice to be Makuta-free.”

“The old flavour I miss sometimes,” admitted the other Toa. “But, this new one is a testament to everybody’s efforts to make something new. It’s something I can take more time to enjoy.”

He glanced over at the fading red curtains at the back of the store, where they knew the kitchen to lie beyond.

“It wouldn’t be polite to ask for the old recipe.”

“No, not at all,” Tera mused, finishing off her doughnut. “Not polite to try to go back to how they were before. No point in it, really.”

She held up a fresh cruller as an example. “For better or for worse, this is how the doughnuts are now.” The Po-Toa paused, then looked back toward the kitchen, following Prei’s glance. “I agree. I think this new one will grow on me.”

“Mmm. To resist change can only lead to sorrow.”

Prei leaned back, the humongous cinnamon doughnut gone, as if it had disappeared into thin air. He had, in that short time, consumed it whole. And though it did not seem like it, the Toa of Gravity was very much satisfied.

“Whose turn is it today?”

“Mine, I believe.” Tera tossed a few widgets on the table, standing and pulling her scabbard and shield from the back of the chair, strapping them on her waist and back. “See you tomorrow, Prei.”

“Have a safe journey home, Tera.”

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OOC: @Razgriz

IC: Arero (Ga-Koro)

Cipher’s expression while ruminating is brooding. Looking at him hurts inside my chest. Strange. I’ll deal with it later. I gesture toward the road, navigating to nowhere while we continue to talk. I’ve learned he does his best thinking while walking.

“If friends of friends is a dead end, maybe there’s something else we can work with, like finding his favorite bar or sunset viewing spot,” I reply. I’m surprised he knows so little about his friends. It’s only been a few days and I feel I’ve learned so much about Cipher and his life. Maybe that’s because I listen.

My thoughts turn inwards to my own friends. I’m glad to have reunited with Kotzu. One of the few over the years I’ve been able to be genuine and friendly with. She was the first to know. And she waited until I was ready to admit it to myself. Cipher’s bird screeches me back to the present. 

“What do you think?”

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IC: Onu-Koro's having a few decision moments. In a historic hut, two Akiri draft village futures in soil. In quiet private chambers, a poet puts off a personal transformation in liquid. 

And in an Ussalry office stinking of cigar smoke—recently blended with notes of ketchup—one spy decides to cut the ####.

"Cut the ####, Colonel," Mars says. One of her feet’s kicking her chair up slightly, both of her eyes staring down at the man sitting behind the desk. Her hand flicks a fry out of the pack on her lap. “I appreciate that you’re giving me your robot.” She reaches over to the desk for a dip in ketchup, still looking at the colonel. “Karz, I can even understand why you’d want me to ‘take this as an opportunity t’ practice squad cohesion in suboptimal conditions,’” she mimics, ending with a blood-colored nibble that goes down smooth. "But if I’ve learned anything from all those squadron barhops, it’s that whenever you start talking about ‘squad cohesion,’ it’s because you’re about to ask for help with ‘suboptimal conditions.’ P sure you don’t need a wingman for hitting up the only stallion around," she says, jerking her fry at the statue of Stannis, “so what do you want?”

Ussalry Colonel Gavarm—veteran of the Nui-Rama Hive Assault, the hunt for Jazek Rehn, and various attempts to get an attractive stranger’s attention—is thinking that romancing the stone would be preferable to this. Well, not really, he thinks, fingers circling the case of cigars in his desk, but some wordplay on “closing the distance between a prophet and his polearm” would at least make Mars groan. And then Gavarm could say “about those squadron barhops...” And then they could trade the office for some place with greasy food and cheap drinks and start forgetting about all of this. Just like old times. Ask along Uyism, and Tarnok, and no sense not asking Leli as well…

Leli. 

Gavarm stills. No forgetting that. He owes it to Leli.

“I want you to listen,” he says, and Mars only opens her mouth to finish the fry. He tells her about Gyn Kirsug; not the smiling squadmate Mars met all those ops ago, but the Gyn Kirsug Gavarm knows. Gavarm tells Mars about the man who engineered Sulov’s exile, who backed Kyju’s murders, who brainwashed Leli. As Gavarm speaks, he can sense his seething: I was part of this. He can’t count the number of times he chokes up, drowning in what he’s uncovered or finally voiced. But Mars just keeps flicking out a fry, giving it one dip, nibbling away without more ketchup until she’s onto the next one. That is all Gavarm needs to swallow and keep going. By the time he’s done, the fries are nearly out, and he can speak clearly: “I’m going to kill him.”

Mars nods. “Where do we begin?” 

Gavarm predicted this, and his response rolls out of his mouth like liquid. “That won’t be necessary, old sport. I’m not putting anyone else in the legal crossfire.” He draws a cigar and cradles it. ”This is a one-person job, and it has t’ be me.”

“And you’re not the right person for it, Colonel.” Mars jams a fry into the last bits of ketchup, cuts its down in two trim bites. “Yeah, you screwed up with Sulov. But you didn’t know about that #### with Kyju or Leli. ‘Your’ job? Karz no, the dude brought this on himself, and if I thought the justice system would treat him that way I’d say Nuparu should pass the sentence. Let me do it,” she says, inclining her chair until her eyes are almost level with Gavarm’s. “We’re talking about eliminating one target while avoiding legal retaliation. That’s how I got in the force, and even if this job means I have to leave the force behind, I’m the best you’ve got.”

Gavarm did not predict this. Still, he recovers in time to muster a “no.” Mars drops the chair to the ground, still looking down at him, and he adds gently, “You’re right, you’re the best I’ve got.” He runs his fingers over the cigar, assured by the familiar smoothness. “But this is my responsibility.”

“Don’t be a Maru, Gavarm,” she fires back, and the name tells him he’s stepped in it. She yanks the ketchup off the table and slides it in the pack alongside the last fries, springing out of the chair. “It’s not your Duty to clean Makuta’s ####ing kitchen sink by yourself.” He starts to move his lips, but she holds up a fry, a salty and now-cold finger. “You don’t need to march off into Mangai with just your sword and a squadron’s worth of regrets. Why tell me about this job if you just want to play hero?” 

Gavarm sets the cigar down and stands up. He’s been waiting to say this, and now that he’s staring up at the person who should hear it, he knows this is his first responsibility. This won’t be another regret. He speaks quietly, accent washed from his voice. “I don’t want to play hero. I want revenge.”

Mars slides the fry back.

“I want to hurt the person who’s hurt the people I care about. And I want to stop being part of the system that made that hurt, especially if it means leaving the force.” Gavarm meets Mars’ eyes, stands straighter. “I need to do this and leave because I’m selfish. I told you about this because, with how you got in the force,” he adds—and Mars’ fingers tightening on the paper package is the loudest he’s ever heard her—“I thought you’d understand.” 

“How you got in the force” hangs between them again: the story of a Le-Matoran gardener who would rather turn her knife on someone else than be cut out from her roots. 

Mars puts the pack down on the table. 

She nods. She pads over to Gavarm and opens her arms. And Gavarm throws his arms around her and the hug alone is warmer than he’s felt in weeks. 

She pulls back, grabs the fries and slides one out again. “Copy that, Colonel,” she says, and Gavarm hears she’s not sarcastic. “Orders?”

“Key in Tarnok and Leli, and Uyism; haven’t seen them in a while, but they deserve to know.” Gavarm picks up the cigar again and imagines lighting it, blowing away his frown. Then he perks up. “Rynekk too—Po-Toa with the Sentinels,” he adds, seeing Mars’ blank stare. “And take care of yourself. I appreciate that you’ve got my back, but Exo-Matoran or not, there’s only one Mars.” 

“Could say the same to you, Colonel.” Mars chews a cold fry with a liberal dose of ketchup. “You’re the one who’s about to go do something selfish, after all. Better not screw it up by becoming just another professor.” 

“Come on, Mars,” Gavarm says, chuckling. “I don’t miss research enough t' become an adjunct.”

Mars rolls her eyes. “Says the man who nearly talked poor Kol Uskey’s ear off about Nui-Rama nerve clusters after exactly one drink. Can’t promise I’ll be around to shut you up next time.” She tosses the empty ketchup in his bin. “Use your own ‘nerve clusters’ and don’t make me clean up after you.” 

“Good luck t' you too, Mars,” Gavarm says, and he is suddenly aware that he’s been grinning even as Mars alludes to his mission. He won’t stop now. “Don't keep me waiting when ya write.”  

“Don't intend to.” Mars tips back the pack and lets the fragmented fries at the bottom fall into her mouth. She gives it an exact crunch and swallow. The pack joins the ketchup in the bin, and Mars steps over to the door. She flicks a final side-eye back to Gavarm.  

“And Colonel?”

“Yeah?”

“Really, don’t make me clean up after you.” She tilts her head at the ashtray on the desk. “That Gold Standard aroma isn’t exactly cologne.” Then Mars opens the door and steps out.

Gavarm’s grin has pulled back to a small smile, but he doesn’t stop. He puts the cigar back with the other Gold Standards and picks up the tray instead, moving to take out his trash.

He has a job to do.

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[Profiles]

Cropped.png.611b6f973fd434d0847c1fdaa53ac881.png

Wisdom. Restraint. Emptiness. 

 

 

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Kale Ironshaper

A Taste of Home

IC:

Le-Wahi air was always so full of life. Millions of insects provided a constant background hum, the air was always damp and heavy from the ever spritzing rains and trapped humidity beneath the massive jungle trees. And that wasn’t even getting into the smells. Earthy loam, sweet flowers, stale water, decomposing biomass. It all mixed together into an experience that you just couldn’t find anywhere else on Mata Nui.

 

It had been a while since Kale had scented this particular aroma. Months at the very least. Not since...the wedding? He’d sailed past it since then, sure. But actually trekking through it? It had been even longer since he had been to where he was currently traveling. At least a year, if not longer. Probably longer. Closer to two years in fact.

 

They were going to be so angry when he showed up unannounced.

 

Cobblestone clacked between his metal boots as the silver Toa scanned the foliage on the edge of the Le-Onu highway. He was close to his destination now. The tenth mile marker was behind him and the eleventh somewhere ahead. Somewhere along here would lie the path he sought. Assuming it hadn’t been overgrown yet again by the wahi’s ever encroaching plantlife. It had happened on occasion, when trips to one Koro or the other had been few and far between.

 

But not now it would seem. Up ahead, the foliage was cut away cleanly and a stone pillar had been erected beside the well trodden dirt path. Kale walked up to the carved stone and ran his hands over the clean letter engraved upon it. A smile raising one corner of his mouth as he read them.

 

Ironshaper Ironworks

 

This definitely hadn’t been here when he’d left. But he didn’t mind, it meant that the homestead was doing well. Just because he’d been too afraid to write didn’t mean that he hadn’t worried about them. Not with everything that had been going on in recent months.

 

With one last look at the marker stone he hitched his pack a few inches higher and turned down the dirt path. Apparently they hadn’t gotten around to paving it yet. Maybe that was in the works. Business had been very good if the marks on the jungle floor were anything to go by. What had once been black loam was now packed into brown dirt by a surprising number of feet. Wagon ruts were ringed by the dents of ussal claws. Here and there he could even spot the outline of Matoran and Toa.

 

For several minutes he traveled in relative silence. There was never true silence in Le-Wahi, but those that spent any length of time there knew how to ignore the constant drone. Silence wasn’t anything new to him. Kale had been traveling more or less silently ever since leaving Po-Koro a full week before. Even before then he’d spent a long time wandering Mata Nui with no one to keep him company. Now however, the silence ate at him. Every step closer added to the knot of tension that was forming in his neck. Coming home was supposed to be a happy event and the fact that Kale felt so nervous about it only added to the guilt eating at his guts..

 

He should have written more, stopped by when he was in the area. Something, anything more than just vanishing into the void and barely even acknowledging that his family existed. Now it was the better part of two years later and he’d had no contact with his family since leaving home. And yet...there had always been reasons for why he’d never done those things. He’d been traveling and there would be no way for a return letter to find him. Or he’d been busy running around the island as the First Mate of the Fowadi. Maybe those were excuses and maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were both. At the end of the day it had always boiled down to one final reason. He hadn’t wanted to be tempted to come home.

 

Any contact would have reminded him of the green grass of the glade. Of sharp morning air as they got the fires going. Long nights with warm cider and loving family. Of home. The place where he’d grown up. It was warmth, fun, safety, love, plenty. It was so much more than he could ever put into words. Home was a siren’s call that threatened to lull him into a sense of complacency from which he might never awaken.

 

That’s why he’d left. Kale had wanted to do things with his life. To get out and make a difference in an increasingly dark world. Ironshaper Homestead was far too isolated and remote. A little island of perfection in which one could pretend that everything was fine and that the world wasn’t falling apart at the seams. It was almost magical in a way. Something you’d hear about in a fairy tale.

 

“Kale?”

 

His gaze slowly lifted from his unmoving feet. When had that happened? Several yards away stood a slim figure. Silver armor much like his own covered a young Toa with a shocked look on her face. Wide yellow eyes stared out at him from her angular Rhode, the swept back crest quivering. As he met those eyes with his own green pair the heavy machete in her hand dropped to the ground and she leapt at him with a cry.

 

“Kale!”

 

He barely had time to brace before she crashed into him. She might have been smaller than him but she certainly knew how to build momentum. Staggering back a step, his arms reflexively wrapped around his assailant while slightly wheezy chuckle escaped his lips.

 

“Good to see you too, Dahlia.”

 

Any further words were driven from his lungs in a whoosh of air as a metal fist smashed into his stomach. The slight figure slipped from his arms as he doubled over and desperately tried to suck in air, his mind reeling. Not at the fact she’d hit him. No, he’d rather expected something of that sort. But rather that the power behind that blow had been way higher than she should have been able to manage from that position.

 

“Where the #### have you been Kale? Two years, two karzing years and nothing!” From where he leaned over Kale could see one of the grey boots swing back as if readying for a kick. It paused for a second, then returned to the ground. Dahlia’s next words were much quieter. “I thought you dead. Lying in a ditch somewhere on the side of the road. Not even a letter. Is it so hard to write a couple circles?”

 

Finally catching his breath, Kale straightened and looked up at his younger sister. Twin golden orbs blazed at him with a roiling storm of emotions. Anger was predominant, but he could also see worry, relief, and a few others too subtle to make out. He knew she was using her mask. There would be no hiding the truth from her. No subtle evasion or half truth to placate her.

 

Had this scene taken place but a few months ago he’d have shied away. Looked aside, unable to meet the accusation he saw there. His time had not been spent in idle wander, however. Kale had grown over the last two years, most especially since taking position as the first mate of the Fowadi. So he met those miniature suns and let the quip building on his tongue die. Replacing it with what needed to be said.

 

“You’re right, I should have sent a letter at the very least. I’m sorry for leaving you all in suspense for so long. Regardless of how busy I’ve been it’s something that I should have seen to months ago.”

 

As he spoke, Dahlia’s eye’s bore into his with that particular look they got whenever she was judging the veracity of their words. They narrowed as he finished speaking and she spun around, calling her dropped blade to her hand with a thought.

 

“Come on then. Mom and Dad will want to know you aren’t a rotting corpse in some Onu-Koro alleyway.”

 

With a wince and a hand gingerly rubbing at what was probably going to turn into a very impressive bruise, Kale followed his still rather irate sister.
 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Reuniting with the rest of his family was a much less violent affair, if not a quieter one. Voices were raised in curiosity at Dahlia’s quick return, then surprise at her companion, and finally a clamor of excited words as the news spread through the small community. Ironshaper homestead was set within a good sized clearing in the Le-Wahi jungles. Trees and large shrubs had been cleared in an ever widening circle as new buildings were added. Five of said buildings of various sizes lay scattered across the soft grass. Although Kale could see the foundations for what he guessed was going to be a new workshop, if the size was any indication.

 

People appeared in ones and two from various locations. Most trickled out of the various buildings, although a pair of Matoran did come out of the surrounding foliage with arms full of firewood. When the crowd had stopped gather, almost fifteen people of both short and tall stature milled around the silver Toa. Joyful greetings were called out, handshakes, claps on the back, and hugs were exchanged. A joyful atmosphere filled the large clearing as the inhabitants rejoiced in the return of one of their own. It was almost enough to put Kale at ease.

 

Not entirely though. When he saw two particular figures approaching from the largest building his stomach dropped and he had to resist the urge to disappear into the jungle. The taller of the two was a Toa of intermediate years and solid build. His armor was unadorned but still sleek and bright. Deep emerald eyes stared keenly out from behind an Akaku, upon which was the only hint of decoration lay. A rippling series of lines flowed above the left eye live as if in imitation of flowing water.

 

Next to him strode a woman of similar age and only slightly shorter size. Her armor was the same beep blue as the ocean when the shore is but a distant haze, accompanying an angularity that suggested the clean lines of a Takea shark. Bright golden eyes glimmered from behind a sleek Kakama, an embossed anvil above her right eye.

 

Adaman and Lillian Ironshaper, Kale’s father and mother.

 

The crowd fell silent as the pair arrived and for a couple seconds there was silence. Kale awkwardly stepped forward and cleared his throat to speak. His mouth opened and closed several times before he was able to settle on something to say.

 

“Uh..Hi Mom, Dad. Long time no see. Um, I’m ho-”

 

Before he could finish talking his mother had wrapped him in a hug, followed shortly after by Adaman.

 

“-me.”

 

It wasn’t a long hug, but it wasn’t a short one either. In fact it probably would have gone on for much longer if his mom hadn’t disentangled herself and held him at arms length so she could ask the question that was probably running through the mind of everyone else there.

 

“Where have you been. We were worried sick!”

 

“Ah, well.” Kale said, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck, his hand clanging into the large stave hooked to his pack. “That’s a rather long story. Do you mind if I get myself settled in first? Assuming you haven’t turned my old room into extra storage that is.”

 

Lillian’s eyebrow rose as she took in the ornately carved rahkshi weapon sticking above his shoulder, then looked down at her son, eyebrow still raised. “So it would seem. Get yourself unpacked then. We were about to call everyone for dinner so come join us when you are ready. Dahlia!” She called out to the young woman lurking at the edge of the crowd. “Help your brother out. He’s going to need help moving all those practice dummies you’ve filled his room with.”

 

Turning to face the aforementioned sibling, Kale raised an eyebrow of his own.The stare he got back was one part embarrassment and one part defiance. Mostly defiance though. With a toss of her head, she turned and headed toward the large log house at the center of the clearing. Kale shrugged to himself and followed with a chuckle.

 

Reaching his room didn’t take long. Both of them were intimately familiar with the darkly stained planks that formed the interior walls of the log house. So it was only a minute or two later that Dahlia pushed open the door to his room and led the way inside. Kale followed a moment later and then blinked in surprise at what he found. All his stuff was still there sure, but most of it had been pushed up against one wall. The skeletal frame of his bed stood end up in a corner. His dresser shoved next to it and accompanied by a carefully stacked series of boxes that presumably held the rest of his stuff.

 

What took up the newly freed space was a series of heavy practice dummies and related equipment. Some were obviously caricatures of various species, Matoran, Toa, Skakdi. Others were more abstract. Like the thick wooden pole with the various smaller poles sticking out at various angles. Many of the dummies were also in very poor condition. The Skakdi’s left arm was dangling by a few trailing fibers and heavy splintering could be seen on the torso. The Toa dummy was apparently in the middle of disintegrating, It’s head having been punched clean off into the wall behind it, if a suspiciously new dent in said wall was to be believed.

 

“Well,” Kale said as he settled his pack onto the pile of boxes with a thud. “This is new. Did you uhhh...switch to a Pakari after I left or something? You’re punch back in on the trail was weird as well. I know you certainly couldn’t do that, “And here he gestured to the broken Toa dummy and its corresponding dent in the wall. “When I was here last.”

 

Embarrassment flashed across his sister’s face for a second as he pointed, quickly chased away by more defiance and...was that pride? She grinned back at him with a savage flare in her eyes. Something shifted in her stance and she strode over to the hulking Skakdi stand-in. There was something odd about her movements. They were just a hair too smooth, a hair too fast for the casual nature with which she walked.

 

When she reached her target she grinned that feral grin at him one more time before grabbing the dummy around the waist and hefting it over a shoulder with barely a grunt. Kale eye’s widened as he watched her casually carry it over to an unoccupied corner of the room and set it down with a thud. That thing was solid hardwood and must have weighed as much as a real life example of the species.

 

“How…”

 

“You know how mom’s always talking about how there’s no difference between a Toa and their element? It got me thinking, it’s rather more literal for us than for most other Toa.” She said, tapping a naturally armored forearm. “I figured, ‘If I can move other metal, why not myself?’ And guess what? I can!” The smile was less feral this time. The simple joy at having accomplished a significant feat radiated from her like the light from a campfire. “It took a while to get the hang of it but now I can merge my physical will and my elemental will whenever I want.”

 

Kale grinned back because what she had done was (in his opinion) absolutely awesome. It was an extension of what their mother called ‘Elemental Transcendence,’ the idea that the line between a Toa and their element was much more blurred than most realized. There was no point where one stopped and the other started. Instead they were parts of a greater whole. Every piece of their element in the surrounding area was as much a part of the user as their own body. The element was the Toa and the Toa was the element.

 

In his experience it was a fairly rare technique. He’d never actually met someone who used it outside of his family, although he had heard stories of others. The reasons were myriad. Many people had simply never heard of it. Some had, but simply thought it too philosophical for practical use. Add onto that the fact that some elements were easier to use with it than others (such as Iron and Water vs. Stone) and it’s rarity made sense.

 

This time it was Kale who blurred across the space between him and Dahlia, wrapping her up in a hug and laughing in joy. Not wanting to get punched again, he quickly disengaged and stepped out of range. His sister looked annoyed at him, but this time it was the old annoyance he had seen so many times growing up rather than the defiant glares that he’d been faced with since coming back. With the grin still on his face Kale turned to the ruined visage of the wooden Toa.

 

Setting his feet into a combat stance he lifted his hands in a guard position and shifted several times. Once he felt he had the form down the silver Toa reached with his senses. He used Elemental Transcendence as well, their mother had taught all her children as much as they could understand. However his style was primarily externally focused rather than Dahlia’s internal. Of course that didn’t mean he couldn’t do the same things she did, the theory was simple enough after all. If he could jus-

 

CRACK

 

“####karz####croweaten########pieceof####!”

 

His hand had shot out and slammed into the dense wood of his target with much more force than he’d intended. Now, Kale was jumping around the room while a flurry of curses spilled from his mouth and he desperately clutched at his injured arm.

 

Dahlia on the other hand was doubled over in laughter. Tears of mirth blurred her vision as sounds of pain and hilarity filled the room. Eventually the two settled down enough for the shorter of the pair to step forward to take the injured limb in her hands. She reached out with her will and probed around the impact zone. Here and there, hairline fractures spiderwebbed through the metal bones of Kale’s arm. An easy enough fix for those who knew how but still extremely painful. Power rushed out of her and the cracks closed, earning a sigh of relief from her brother.

 

“Thanks Dahlia. Guess it’s not as easy as it sounded.” He was still rubbing his right arm. The main issues might have been dealt with but there was still a lot of tissue bruising. Full healing was going to take time or help from someone else.

 

“This took me months to figure out how to use without hurting myself.” Dahlia said with a chuckle. “While my technique might mimic some of the effects of various masks it lacks many of the secondary abilities that allow them to be used to their full extent. Extra speed without extra reflexes. Extra strength without the supernatural reinforcement of a Pakari. Go too far with this and you’ll turn yourself into a pile of broken metal.”

 

“Well that’s...sobering.”

 

“Heh. You don’t know the half of it. I lost count of how many times Mom and Dad had to patch me up.”

 

Both of their heads turned at the sound of a bell ringing from somewhere near the front of the house. It was accompanied by the clear sound of their mother’s voice.

 

“Sounds like the food’s ready.” Said Kale, flexing his fingers one last time. He heaved a sigh before turning to the door. “Time to face the music.”

 

The sounds of voices raised in happy clamor met the pair as they traversed the house’s extensive hallways. Every now and then the sound of a door opening and closing joined the chorus as people came in from their work. By the time they reached the dining hall it had reached such a crescendo that one almost had to shout in order to be heard. The noise only increased once Kale entered the room. Everyone in the homestead was there and their voices raised once more in greeting as they saw him. He had to force himself not to flinch as the noise hit him like a solid wall. The room was big, but it wasn’t that big.

 

Calling it a room wasn’t completely accurate. It was more like a small hall. Arches of what appeared to be black iron supported a high ceiling of jungle wood covered in dark resin. The walls were of similar construction with lightstones set into the metal supports every few yards. Down the center of the hall ran a long table of varnished tan wood, likely from the surrounding forest. Around that table sat an almost random collection of chairs. Some were obviously part of a set, but others looked as if they had been individual purchases or thrown together locally. Upon the table sat a bountiful collection of platters. Each one was piled high with a variety of dishes. Fruit from the jungle, vegetables from the garden, fresh bread from imported flour, and what appeared to be a wild boar.

 

All together the place was just as homey and inviting as Kale remembered it. He’d spent a lot of time in here as a kid, both eating his own body weight in a variety of foods and by himself. It provided a good place to sit and think alone in the middle of the day, since most of the others were busy working at that time. It was where he had made the decision to leave as a matter of fact.

 

Now, it was filled with people. His entire family was there, silver and blue mixing light like glinting in a stream. His father’s hired helpers were there as well. Several skilled Onu-Matoran smiths and their apprentices or families. It was a riot of various colors, smells, and sounds.

 

Once again people crowded around him, greeting him, slapping him on the back and welcoming him home, or asking what he’d been up to. It was like back when he’d first shown up only worse because of the enclosed space. Thankfully, Kale had gained some experience with crowds in his time with the Aggressors and before long people were dispersing to take their seats at the table.

 

Seating at the table was usually about as haphazard as the chairs themselves. Usually it followed a rough rule of age, which meant that the kids could safely goof off at one end of the table without disturbing their elders at the other. This meant that Kale was closer to the head of the table where his father sat, Dahlia to his left and one of the master smiths to his right.

 

Grace was said and the crowd dug in with the fervor of people who’d had a long day of physical labor. It was all good, wholesome food and for a time people were too busy enjoying themselves to talk much. But the relative quiet could not last forever and eventually Adaman sat back with a sigh.

 

“Well Kale, you’ve had some time to unwind. I think it’s time you told us what you’ve been doing for the past two years. You never hid your intention to leave and find your place in the world, but you also never sent word since you left. We were worried about you.”

 

Kale leaned back in a move much like that of his father’s. What to say...what could he tell them? There were some things in his tale that were not his to tell. Personal stories of others in which he was but a side character. But...most of it. He could tell them most of what he’d been through. So he did. It was a tale long in the telling. Hours went by as words rolled off of his tongue, from when he’d first left, to wander the island. Showing up after the destruction of the Ta-Koro hospital. Wandering once more until he joined the Aggressors. His many adventures with them and then finally, his infiltration of the Worshiper held Ko-Koro.

 

By the time he had finished talking night had fallen and everyone else had long since emptied their plates. None of them had left though. This was a tale that they had oft wondered about of late and none of them wanted to miss the telling.

 

“With the recent quiet I decided that it was time for a visit. Like you’ve all been saying, I haven’t been home for a while and...I also needed a favor.” This last comment was directed awkwardly towards Adaman, who raised an eyebrow. “My fight in Ko-Koro made me realize that I’m not capable of properly protecting those close to me. Throwing metal at people is fine and all but what happens when I run into somebody who can counter that? I’m too limited in my repertoire. I need more options if I’m to continue down my current path.”

 

“I want you to turn my rahkshi staff into a usable weapon. Right now it’s sized and balanced for the monster that originally wielded it. I can’t do it myself because it’s immune to elemental manipulation. But,” And here he nodded to the smiths around the table. “It’s not immune to more natural methods of heating and manipulation. I’m sure you can see the utility of such a weapon and there people who can teach me how to use it once you’ve finished.”

 

Adaman nodded and rubbed his chin. A vague look entered his eyes as he remembered the weapon Kale had entered the homestead with. When his gaze returned to normal the twin green orbs settled on Kale with a serious look.

 

“It’s possible yes. I can even see the logic in your thoughts. But...are you sure you want to continue down this path? I don’t mind admitting that hearing what you’ve gone through terrified me. I’m happy that you’ve met people you can call comrades but this road you’ve embarked on could end in your death.”

 

Kale sighed. They’d had a similar conversation before he’d left. He knew that his father was just worried about him but it still grated. Adaman’s somewhat overwhelming desire to keep him and all the other kids safe had been one of the elements that had pushed him to leave and not even write a letter until now.

 

“It’s too late for me to back down now. People are counting on me. I have responsibilities, duties that need to be fulfilled. You know that I can’t just quietly sit around in some safe corner of the island while there are people out there who need help. Sure there are others who can help, but that’s only because they don’t hide and pass the buck. How can I do any less when I have the skills to do otherwise?”

 

Adaman was about to reply when Lillian placed a hand on his arm.

 

“We all must find our own Destiny. It is clear that Kale’s will not not be one of peaceful contemplation or craftsmanship. Even though I fear for him I take heart in the fact that he has worthy companions by his side. Our boy has grown into a fine man. It is time for you to accept that fact.”

 

Green eyes met golden as unspoken messages passed between the pair. Nobody but they knew what was said in those silent moments. Some agreement was reached and Adaman turned back to the rest of the table with a sigh.

 

“Alright Kale. I can’t convince you to take the safer trail so I should at least make sure you have what you need for the path you have chosen.”

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

He stayed for a week after that. Making a personalized weapon for someone required significant measurements and adjustments. Oftentimes a client would stay for a day in order to get measurements taken and then leave. Since Kale wasn’t in a rush there was no reason not to stay and get all the details just right. Plus, despite his hesitation to come back he genuinely missed his family. Each one had their own quirks and sometimes they clashed, but he loved them all the same.

 

So the silver Sentinel took a well earned vacation. Whenever he wasn’t in the forge helping his father and the smiths he was playing with the younger children or ‘practicing’ with Dahlia. Of the two activities Kale much preferred the former. Dahlia took far too much glee in his pain for his liking. She hadn’t been joking about the cost of her technique either. He’d likely have maimed himself for life if there weren’t people around who knew how to heal him. Even if one of them always seemed to forget that painkillers existed.

 

The Ironshapers were a big family, as might have been guessed by their equally sizable house. So whenever he’d had enough of his sister’s totally-not-revenge training regime Kale could always find a hidden corner to share with someone much more interested in enjoying their eldest brother’s company than making him suffer. That was probably the part of his stay that he enjoyed the most. Sometimes he’d hide in a table fort with some of the younger children, blankets and pillows piled around them, a pilfered lightsone set on a protruding chair seat. He’d tell them stories of action and grand adventure he’d heard from others on his travels (the one love story he’d tried was met by scrunched faces and disgusted noises by the prepubescent munchkins.) Sometimes they’d stay awake through the whole tale, other times he’d have to quietly carry a sleeping form to their room.

 

Often he’d join the older children in their helter skelter dashes through the surrounding jungle. Taking part in those games was admittedly, not very fair and he had to make sure not to win too often.Still, everyone involved had a blast and he was able to impart a few tricks and techniques as they all hunted each other through the dense undergrowth.

 

Time passed all too quickly in the secluded clearing. Here, the outside world was a faraway place. It was quiet and peaceful. Quaint during the day and breathtaking at night. Artfully grown lightvines on the buildings competed with the thousands of fireflies in the foliage while overheard millions of stars winked in silent amusement. Within this place time ceased to matter. One day slipped easily into the next with little difference to those living within.

 

So it was with a certain level of surprise that Kale followed one of the apprentice blacksmiths into the forge. He hadn’t been allowed in once the design was finalized yester...no, no it had been the day before yesterday. What he found was a bit surprising which, he supposed, had been the point. Well placed lightstones provided enough illumination to that seeing was not an issue even after having just been outside. On the right was a wall covered in shelves full of well worn tools. To the left was a table filled with finished and half finished projects. Directly opposite the door lay the forge itself. A cleverly constructed piece of equipment that had cost his father quite a bit to have built. Heatstones were worked into the interior walls in such a way that one hardly had to add external heat to work. The center of the room was taken up by an anvil so large it had more in common with a table than it did with most of its brethren.

 

 Adaman Ironshaper and his primary employees stood next to that anvil with self satisfied smiles on their faces. Tattered burlap was set over the metal block, hiding several objects that formed a series of conspicuous lumps. Kale looked at the trio with a bemused smile.

 

“I take it you’ve finished?”

 

“That we have.” The other man said as he took hold of a corner of the burlap. His next words were accompanied by the whoosh of air as he swept the cloth off with a flourish. “Some of my finest work to date. What do you think?”

 

A staff and quartet of broad daggers lay on the grey metal slab. They were works of art as much as weapons. The staff was a bit under eight feet tall and carved with flowing lines that drew the eye. Whirls and eddies slipped around the silver pole in endless loops. It was like looking at the hidden currents in deep waters. When Kale checked one end of the staff he found a hole drilled a solid six inches in, the inner edge lined with spiral ridges.

 

The daggers were no less impressive. In overall shape they were identical. Each one was eighteen inches from the tip of the blade to the knob of the handle. A handle that he could feel was, if not fake, then at least hiding something. He couldn’t feel the metal that had formerly been a rahkshi staff but he could feel where the much more normal metal of the handle wrapped around something solid. It felt much like the corkscrew design on the inside of the staff. That made sense.The knives were designed to be able to screw into the quarterstaff and turn it into a spear. Obviously they wouldn’t be much use as melee weapons if the user had to hold onto relatively thin screws so Adaman had decided to hide the feature inside fully metal hilts. A Toa of Iron could simply absorb or remove those hilts at need.

Each dagger also came with an extra inch and a half of crossguard on either side of the three inch blade. In the center of that crossguard each dagger had a unique swirling pattern. Once more the thought came to mind of the unseen currents of deep waters. Everyone one of these knives echoed those hidden eddies. Dangerous, but beautiful if one could take the time to perceive them.

 

As Kale ran his hands over the last item his father spoke once more. “I know I haven’t been the most supportive of your endeavors. Not when you first decided to leave and not after you came back. But...I just want you to know that I’ve always been proud of you. You made your own decisions and did whatever the karz you wanted regardless of if I thought it was safe or not. And you’ve done amazing things. I-I’m not a brave man, or good with words or emotions.” He said with a chuckle and a shake of his head. “Those were always Lillian’s area. Those and a lot of other things.”

 

“For me it’s always been this.” Here he waved a hand at the forge around them. At the newly created weapons on the table. “This is how I express myself. How I help others. Put me on a battlefield and I’ll probably stab myself accidentally. Ask me to lead Guards and I’d be abandoned within a month. Why your mother married me I’ll never know. “Another self deprecating chuckle. “But I’m rambling now. What I mean to say is, take these and go with my blessing. You should have had it the first time you left. I only hope that you can forgive me for waiting until now to give it.”

 

Sudden wetness clouded the younger Fe-toa’s eyes as he stared at the carven staff. His fingers tracing its clean lines. Hours of dedication had gone into making these gorgeous pieces of art. In such a short amount of time his father had rendered masterpieces in what had once been an item of dark power. Now Kale could feel the oceans of love that had been poured into the work. It lay in every ripple, flowed with every curving line. He’d had many disagreements with the older man over the years. It had been especially bad right before he’d left. They’d argued the night before and he’d been fuming as he trudged down the path to the highway.

 

Every son wants the approval of their father. They might fight, argue, or come to hate one another. But deep down that boyhood desire for the man he looks up to to say, “Well done,” remains. It just gets deeper and deeper as time passes. Kale didn’t realize how much he’d missed that feeling of validation. A flood of emotion brought more tears to his eyes and he was almost blind when he turned to his father and gathered him in as tight a hug as he could manage. The one he got in return was just as tight.

 

“Of course, Dad”

 

The words were choked, both because he could barely breath and because his vocal cords weren’t doing what he wanted them too. Kale’s home was on the Fowadi. Helping to lead the Aggressors and keep Mata Nui safe. But it was also here, in a hidden vale in the Le-Wahi jungles, and it would always be waiting for him.

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"I serve the weak. I serve the helpless. I am their sword and their shield. If you want to strike at them, you must go through me, and I am not so easily moved."

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OOC: Haven't done this in a while. Attached listening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ISqkwOjMtw

IC: Mar (Naho Bay)

You know, usually I haven’t been much for trying to look fashionable, but it’s remarkable how circumstances change your outlook, isn’t it?

I say this because where my lithe frame was seated underneath a palm that provided a shady spot, the stylish conical straw hat resting on my head probably would’ve looked pretty out of place if I was acting like my usual self. Especially if you were to throw in the predatory Rahi resting on the ground nearby.

Trying to have some nice, quiet alone time off is never an easy task for a Sonics elemental, but practice makes perfect. Even so, I kept my ears peeled. The fishing rod planted in a small rockbed nearby serving as clear proof as to why.

The lure bobbed gently in the water as I scanned the horizon. Ga-Koro was plainly visible a little off in the distance, maybe a twenty minute walk away? Something like that. Suited me just fine, a brisk walk back to the Inn I was staying at could be just what the doctor ordered. In the other direction were the Kau Kau waterfall, the roar of the thundering water providing one major disturbance to me that I learned to live with, once I provided a smidgen of my power to dampen it just a little bit, making it more of a pleasant background noise.

Whiling the hours away with fishing was a funny way for things to come full circle, in a certain sense. Once I did it for a living, then this Toa Stone showed up, and now I was back where I started, just on the other side of the island. The Great Spirit works in mysterious ways, and all that? It’s not much, but I’ll take it. I haven’t really been much of a religious man, but… I mean, surely there’s some point to me getting these powers, right? Right? Finding out what that is… that’s something I want to do.

That felt weird to say… “I want to do that”, it’s… I wasn’t used to that.

As I was beginning to realize, taking a break had been good for me. Especially because I was a little tired of pushing the boundaries of the law, honestly. It would soon be time to get back out there again, but… maybe not the same way as before.

Even though Rhea Heartsflame’s little gang had disbanded, I still felt more… optimistic, to tell you the truth. We had our one big job, and got ourselves a big score, feels silly to just go back to my normal, cynical self after that success. For the first time in quite a while, or since I’d actually become a Toa to tell the truth, it felt like there was something a little bit more to life than what I’d staked out so far.

I wondered privately if I was fooling myself, but really, I had already been doing that a little before Rhea recruited me, and at least I had a better excuse back then to feel sorry for myself than I do now.

Shame Rhea had just vanished like that, but then again, I had some nagging doubts, maybe it was best that she left the stage when she did. I certainly wouldn’t feel quite so enamored now as I did back then with the idea of becoming a hardcore merc gang’s resident cook.

Speaking of which...

I could hear it before I would’ve ever seen it. I snatched up the rod as I saw the lure bob under the water, and I got to my feet as I pulled back. Karv also stirred awake as he saw that dinner was on its way. I smiled as I reeled in a nice, big Ruki fish that spasmed at the end of the fishing line. This would hit just the spot when I was done with it.

A second one followed soon after, and with catch in hand, I picked up my belongings and began to walk back to the Koro, with a certain Kavinika in dutiful tow. Having a successful day out fishing was… a bit of a portable home, in some ways. When you grow up doing something on the regular, it might be the one thing that keeps you sane at the end of the day. It’s the good kind of habit. The bad kind, though, it’s high time I did something about those.

As I said before, it was soon gonna be time to head out again, but… this time, it was going to be different. I wasn’t completely set, yet, and what it was I wanted, but… I wanted something to keep that sense I had of things looking up going. I thought back to some isolated episodes of my recent past, where I’d ended up feeling best about myself when I brightened somebody else’s day. Now, I’d had time to think, and to realize a few things about myself. I wanted to do something more.. positive, honestly. Being a mercenary may pay the bills, but it’s got no monopoly there, and it’s beginning to feel like I’m just not that guy anymore.

I still wasn’t quite sure how I was going to pull it off, but… I was going to find some way to pull this off, I felt ready, more ready than I had quite some years. The key ingredient, it felt like to me, was having a team. I’d have to see if I could find something like that again.

I guess this means setting out to make friends? Now that’s a challenge, but let’s see how it turns out. I’ve certainly gone through worse.

I offered a tip of my hat to the guards as I headed through the gate and wandered into the Koro. There was a faint, melodious whistle blowing through the air to anyone who came close by. Soundtracking your own life like that is a bit silly, sure but… I felt like I could afford to be silly right now, and that wasn’t a common feeling for me to have. Actually a very new sensation indeed.

Better enjoy it while it lasts. Karv and I made it back to the Inn as the afternoon set in, and I had a meal to ask the staff to prepare for me.

It had been a lazy day, but rather worthwhile all the same.

 

 

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BZPRPG Profiles

 

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OOC: CW - Dysphoria, Self-Harm

IC: Ihu-Koro

Aelied could hear voices coming from inside the hut where he had laid Soraph, as well as Cyrix, who was asleep. The elder Bo-Toa ducked inside and found Casanuva, kneeling beside Soraph's cot, and Kalyss was pacing back and forth in front of him. Both ceased their discussion.

"Pardon me, I did not wish to interrupt."

Kalyss slightly bowed. "Master Aelied, you didn't interrupt anything. Cas and I were breaking down what happened in Ko-Koro."

Without him? Not a cause for alarm, but a sign of independence nonetheless. Aelied inhaled and stood up as far as the hut allowed. "That was something I wished to discuss as well. I believe enough time has passed. Tell me, Casanuva, how do you think this outing went?" Kalyss began to interject before Aelied raised a finger to silence her.

Casanuva glanced between the two before speaking. "... Well, we rescued Soraph and Skorm. I think at the end there we did the best we could. There was a lot of information we didn't know." Casanuva punctuated his point by cocking his head at Cyrix, knocked out by anesthetics.

Aelied nodded. "And Kalyss, what is your report?"

The Su-Toa took a deep breath and sighed. "It was a major cluster. Soraph ran off to meet with a contact that turned out to be Legacy, and got herself... like this. Skorm ignored protocols, and we didn't know there was another Kalta in the Koro in the first place."

"Yeah, can we talk about that?" Casanuva frowned and crossed his arms. "The whole Cyrix thing?"

Aelied sighed. It was true, by being conservative with his assets he had endangered them. Not to mention trusting an outsider. "You're right. I should not have kept his existence a secret, and I should have brought Soraph's plan to greater attention. Our time apart has impacted our Unity; all of us." Aelied closed his eyes for a moment of reflection. He had mulled over this issue in his mind for the last few hours, and had made up his mind.

"I shall remedy that. Command code Kalta. Authorization: Aelied."

The two toa froze. Casanuva slowly slumped over, while Kalyss's neck twitched. The both of them stretched, as if they had been confined for a very long time. In a few silent moments, Casanuva and Kalyss were no longer in the room, and were replaced by two different toa in their bodies. Casanuva's body rolled back first. Merceon had always been one of the more stable ones, Aelied reflected. Merceon sniffed, looking around, and settled back into a sitting position.

Kalyss's body knew no such peace. Shialo flexed and winced, a look of pain and disgust coloring his mask. If Aelied had had a choice in which personalities were implanted in whom, he probably would have chosen a male toa; Shialo hated being in someone else's body, let alone Kalyss's body.

"Well," Aelied stated once he was sure both were probably listening to him, "the one benefit to come from this is that the Kalta are whole again, finally. Unfortunately, I have grave news; while Skorm has returned to the fold, Nuhros I'm afraid is gone."

Merceon furrowed his brow. "How... how can that happen? Skorm is still alive, isn't he?"

Aelied shook his head. "I believe it occurred when he was healed of his antidermis infection. It must have taken the other personality and programming as well."

The Fa-Toa grimaced. "I can't believe he's that weak. It never would have happened-"

"Of course it would have happened!" Aelied snapped. "He was alone! It could have happened to any of you!"

A shuddering sigh came from Shialo. "What would you have us do, Aelied? Get on with it."

The Bo-Toa tapped his staff onto the hard ground. If worded wrong or too strong, a new precept would fracture Kalyss and Casanuva's psyches. Otherwise, it could be confusing or cause alienation. "Kalyss and Casanuva are vital members of the Kalta; Kalyss as the deputy leader, and Casanuva as a strong personality. Given recent events..." Aelied glanced at the Dasaka on the floor. "Your interpersonal relationships must be kept under control."

Aelied noticed that Merceon had begun stroking Soraph's head. Was Casanuva's infatuation bleeding over into Merceon? The Fa-Toa also stared at him with an intensity he did not usually detect in the personality, normally aloof and direct. "Casanuva must keep his mind on the team first. This... relationship may be of benefit to the Mission, but it has to be kept in check. The team comes first. Is that understood, Merceon?"

Nodding, Merceon's frown lifted slightly. "Understood. I'll keep his head in the game."

Satisfied, Aelied turned to Shialo, who was becoming increasingly agitated. "Shialo, Kalyss's duties as the deputy leader are even more important now that all seven members of the Toa Kalta are united. She must step up; while I am still the official leader, Kalyss must become more than a shot-caller in the field. She must take a public-facing leadership posture." The Su-Toa didn't look at Aelied. Shialo's fingers were digging into his arms; Aelied spotted a rivulet of blood. "Get a hold of yourself!"

He abruptly stopped, and nodded. "I understand. Become the leader."

"A leader." Aelied smiled. "I'm not ready for retirement yet. Kalyss should seek to take on more leadership responsibilities for the Kalta, but ultimately will defer to me. Am I clear?"

Shialo exhaled loudly. "Yes sir."

Aelied took a last look at the two. He was proud of his team, but could not help but sense the desperation. These were the tools he had been made to wield. Pale, dysfunctional echoes of his past glory. He cleared his throat. "That will be all. Authorization: Aelied, end command."

In several moments, Kalyss and Casanuva were back. Their demeanor betrayed no hint of the past few minutes. Kalyss winced and grabbed her arm.

"Ow! What the Karz...?

Aelied strode towards her. "Is something wrong?"

"I think I cut myself or something."

The Bo-Toa took a look at Kalyss's bleeding arm, grunting in thought. "Well, whatever happened, you're in the right place. Casanuva, hand me those bandages. Kalyss, why don't you give me your report on Ko-Koro? It will be good to put this matter to rest as we look towards the future."


BZPRPG Profiles


TOA KALTA: Casanuva Vakua Kalyss Skorm Zueya Aelied Cyrix


OTHERS: Denrika Fyura Raiyo Aokora Maeloc Askha Somei Sydelia


"They belong in a museum!"


"So do you!"

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IC: Kaen - (Ko-Wahi)

Kaen awoke face down in a snowdrift.

The last things he seemed to recall was escaping a fight, running through a blizzard, and tripping on a snow-covered rock. From the looks of what he could see of Ko-Koro from where he was laying, he'd missed...a bit.

He slowly got to his feet, snow falling out of the openings and crevices in his armor and mask. It was deathly cold; no place for a Le-Toa. He rubbed his head.

I think it's time I went somewhere warmer and got caught up.

He started walking. The sky seemed darker...maybe it was just late.


IC: Datrox - (Po-Wahi)

The Toa of Fire stood with his hands on his sides beneath the blazing sun--the heat of the Po-Wahi desert was enough to make even a Ta-Toa sweat a bit, it seemed. Dust covered his armor. He pulled his visor back and looked around. Sand that way, rocks that way. He felt like he'd been standing there a while. His feet hurt. Wasn't someone with him? Was he alone? Oh god.

At least he had his hat.

...

His hat was gone.

He looked behind him and saw small rahi eating it.

"Son of a--"

He chased them off and picked up the remains of his rootin', tootin', kane-ra skin hat. He wasn't even sure kane-ra had skin. He tossed the torn up fashion statement to the wind. He could always get a new one. With fringe! 

....

.....

Man, he was thirsty.

And hungry.

And lonely.

"At least I didn't miss anything important," he mused.

This was funny, because he was wrong.

Edited by King of Kings

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Six Kingdoms: Rebirth profiles: Nale Rose Jutori Korio Triage
[BZPRPG]

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IC:

Bausch and Lomb were an odd couple; a duo of male dashi who, by the grace of being skilled in the art of glasswork and tinting, scrounged up enough capital to jointly open their optemetrics shoppe in one of the choicest sections of the market district. Their ownership of the shop was not forbidden, per se, but it was an act of quiet rebellion behind a facade of capitalistic survivalism since possession of such a valuable slice of real estate was almost exclusively reserved for merchants of rank or privilege—a demographic by pure coincidence dominated by women.

These two men were not of noble families though, or played games of status escalation, or even cared about such things, and instead merely did what they did exceptionally well, cared for their clientele, and demanded nothing less than the best in all they did. These traits served them well in their profession and attracted enough attention to their wares that when they arrived in Sado’s mall they were received with (hesitant) excitement, but did not serve them well in the boudoir.

Years spent in constant close proximity taxed the two more than the government or the labor. Where once they were happy to share every aspect of their lives together—living, working, and sleeping together—that happiness soured and their spirits were tempered. Their shop was still immaculate with spotless surfaces, streakless panes, but their home was laden with proof of quarrels over dirty dishware, who’s turn it was to do chores, and stubborn refusal to put the throws back where they came from. Neither one was more to blame than the other, both were equally condemnable. The triangle of relationship equilibrium—that is, one can only choose two of the three choices of roommate, partner, co-worker—once again proved itself law, and even the once-cheery couple of Bausch and Lomb could not escape it’s rule. Now, the dashi couple begrudgingly opened the shop, neither arriving at the same time as the other but staggered precisely enough so that they did not walk the route from the home they split between themselves together, but could each take solace in that quiet commute apart from the other.

On the day Rora Yumiwa broke away from her ill-fated scripted marketing soiree neither one had spoken to the other yet all day. Customers hadn’t come in, and without the catalyst of new business there was not much to say. This quiet treatment, each dashi working at their tables, assembling eyepeices and crafting crystalline lenses to fill orders, went on for quite some time until Bausch, who’s knees had started to cramp, got up and sauntered to the front of the shop to stretch his legs.

Through the window he observed a flurry of activity, first of other dashi making way in the streets for an upcoming entourage of highborns, and then a small squad of Clan Hogo guards running with purpose past the shop. A second such squadron followed, immediately accompanied with shouts. The pedestrians were still cautiously missing at the fringes of the street, unsure what to expect next and not wanting to be on the receiving end of imperial disciplining for getting in the way of whatever royal business was afoot, but none was more confused as Bausch as he spied both groups of guards come back and, inexplicably, stare and point first at the sign above the shop’s door and secondly at… him...?

We’ll have customers soon,” Bausch said. His voice was quiet, but in the solitude of the shop his voice was easily heard by his partner.

What makes you say that?” Lomb grumbled.

This:” he said just as the bell over the door chimed and two Dasaka in Clan Hogo armor and finery stepped into the shop.

Are you the owner of this establishment?” one asked of Bausch.

He nodded once and pointed at Lomb, still seated and focused on his work in the corner. “We are Bausch and Lomb of Bausch and Lomb’s. I am Bausch, he is Lomb.

Are there any others in this shop besides you?

Bausch immediately wanted to employ his wit, sharpened over time to be pointed and merciless, to say ‘Yes, there’s the two of you,’ but he bit his tongue and simply shook his head once, no.

Good.” The guardswoman relaxed slightly. “Slow day for you? I think your fortunes are about to change somewhat, as you’ll have a new patron imminently. Prepare to receive Her Majesty the Rora.

This, finally, caused Lomb to stir from his place, and he begrudgingly got up from his workstation and patted his apron clean of dust, his best effort to be presentable for esteemed guests at the time. Bausch gave him a scolding look but nothing more, knowing it was all for naught anyway.

And then things were quiet as they, four dasaka now, awkwardly waited, as before, for customers to come in.

Edited by EmperorWhenua
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 BZPRPG Profiles / BZPRPG Rules and Index / Rebirth Profiles

"... Even you, EmperorWhenua, you stupid beautiful contrarian, you." —Tyler Durden

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Posted (edited)

IC: Verak, Toa of Sand

I’m back, Baby!

Mata-Nui, it’s been ages, hasn’t it? Feels like years, doesn’t it? Like you’ve been missing out on some vital part of your life, like you have an overconfident, reckless, bad boy shaped hole in your heart?

Verak! Where the devil have you been?

Where am I always? 

Gallivanting around the island, nowhere and everywhere, having one wild adventure after another, joining up with one organization after another, getting beat up, beating others up, and wandering into all sorts of interesting things in between women, wars, and waking up with another minor concussion.

But Verak, where have you been lately? I haven’t noticed any gallivanting, wild adventures, or concussions! 

Well, I’ll be honest, this answer isn’t quite as romantic as the last one.

I’ve spent most of this time locked up in an Onu-Koro prison.

Not that I haven’t tried to escape, God of course I have. I tried every scheme in the book, from flirting with the guards to trying to carve out an escape tunnel with the point of my Kualsi (and although that didn’t work I did manage to wear both points down to the same length so now it looks quite fashionably distressed.) Those thrice cursed Onu-Matoran kept that prison locked up tighter than a… a…

Hmm. Maybe I’m not as good at with words as I remembered. I mean, there’s plenty of comparisons to be drawn to tight body parts that are far too inappropriate for be written here, but I suppose those would be a little too easy, huh?

Okay, let’s get back to the good stuff: Me being free, luxuriating in the wide open spaces, the new faces, and the boring dark cavern roof that passes for a sky in this town! I’m back! I’m ready to zoom around from Koro to Koro, to kick some butt, to infuriate the unenlightened with my devil-may-care attitude. 

WOOHOO! YEAH! Let’s go ##### some #### up!

….

Ahh, I missed this. It’s good to be back. 

 

IC: Korzaa, Captain of the Ko-Koro Guard

“I’m back.”

Korzaa’s words sounded empty, not quite enough to express the situation. Words had never worked very well for her. They weren’t working very well to answer the question the guard at the gate had asked her either.

“Back now.” He stated. “After the battle. We thought you were dead.” The words were dispassionate in a way only a Ko-Matoran could be, but Korzaa knew how to read the hidden judgement in his eyes.

“I’ve been in Ta-Koro, safe. Rescued at the last second by some mercenaries.” As she said it aloud, the answer sounded like a worse excuse than she thought it would. “I helped plan the retaking of this Koro with Jaller and the Ta-Koro guard.”

“Where were you when we were fighting to retake it a few days ago?”

“I don’t need you to remind me of my failures,” She snapped, “I have done nothing but muse on them since I’ve been out of the Koro.”

The guard didn’t respond. He kept his spear crossed in front of the gate, staring dispassionately at his captain long enough to make her wonder if she would even be let back inside her home before he finally moved. As he stepped aside, the patches of snow that had been accumulating on his armor – the sign of a good Ko-Matoran guard – slid off of his arms and shoulders. 

Korzaa and her Ta-Koro Guards escorts stepped through the gate, and the Captain of the Guard saw her city again for the first time in ages.

Tears almost welled up in her eyes as nostalgia, grief, and guilt exploded in her chest at the sight of her once familiar Koro in ruins. But there was joy there too – joy at finally being reunited with the thing she loved most in the world, joy in the way the snow slid off the smooth polished sides of the glacier, joy in the snow-muffled silence of an entire city, and most of all in the hardworking people who were already repairing the damage done. As she looked around at the piles of rubble and half collapsed buildings, she suddenly saw what the village would be like in a few months – rebuilt, stronger than ever, healing from its wounds in ways that made it stronger, vowing never again to let evil have its way here, filled with the long surprised relief of being able to call this settlement home again, the joy of having survived a tragedy filling the hearts of people of Ko-Koro.  

Korzaa realized she was thinking the way Matoro used to talk, big words about big ideas. Maybe all those flowery speeches weren’t just empty words, just a way of expressing a civic pride Korzaa had never felt so acutely or sharply until this moment. With another pang, she missed her Akiri. 

“Captain Korzaa?” one of the Ta-Guards interrupted her thoughts, and she sniffed hard, blinking her eyes a few times to clear them of any trace of emotion as she turned them to meet the guard's.

“Where to?” he asked. 

She didn’t know the answer. She hadn’t really thought out what came next, after freeing the village, after making her way as fast as she could but still not fast enough over the mountains to reach her village as the Maru and the Gukko Riders and Ihu Koro fought for its freedom. 

Korzaa looked out at the collapsed buildings, the makeshift hospitals, the freshly re-carved ice of a Koro on the mend. Of a Koro whose leader had died, and died again, and died again, but still pressed on, helped by its friends, by heroes from all over the island who had fought and died to give them freedom again.  

Then she looked back at the guards, and mustered up some of her aura of command that she had let slip for a moment. “I’m going to find whoever is in charge, ask forgiveness, and then dedicate everything I have to rebuilding this place.”

In what way, she didn’t know, but she was home again, and all the pieces in her life seemed to be fitting back together. 

Edited by Visaru
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Posted (edited)

IC:

Near death experiences are Kane Ra dung.

No slowing of time, no sudden recollections, and certainly no conversations with the departed. Maybe Mata Nui couldn’t think of anyone. No sight, no sound, only the feeling of an ever heavier gravity pulling inexorably into the dark. Not even conscious enough to dream but he could feel the crossroads at which he hovered. It would be so easy to let go. Even now without a conscious thought he was hanging on, clinging to the last threads of life that bound him to the cold beyond his mind. 

He almost didn’t want to.

For all that he wanted to live that abyss called to him and promised rest. Exhaustion threatened as much as hypothermia, even more than his injuries. Without complaint he had pushed and pushed for days; placed the mission above his health. Now at the end of the worst week of his life, Krayn hit a wall. There wasn’t any strength left. 

Why should he have to fight so hard? Why did he have to dig deeper still for enough will to hang on a little longer? It was never enough. All of the energy that he could put into the world and it was never enough. It just demanded more. It taxed his will by the minute, the second, and for diminished gain. He was never enough. Nothing he could do was ever enough to fill the holes he saw in the world, no matter how hard he tried and how much he pushed he never seemed to get anywhere. All he could do was keep his head above water, never reach the shore. He could labor until every breath hurt, and he had. But he was no closer to anything at all. Everything had a breaking point. Everything had to end. No supply of energy was inexhaustible.

He just wanted to rest.

In the snow, jostled with every step despite his rescuers care, his resolve slipped, and slipped, and slipped. Every whisper made it a little easier. There was no reason to struggle, it was all out of his hands. There was nothing more to be done, he would make it or he wouldn’t. All he had to do was let go of that control. All he had to do was rest.

… What then, another thought whispered, had been the point?. What had been the point in fighting at all if he was willing to surrender here? They had come for him, risked everything to carry him out of that alley. What would it do to them to know he had died minutes shy of safety? To rest now was death, there could be no doubt. He could feel it even through the insensate haze of his mind, the thick mire every thought had to fight through. Every breath was shallow and his heart beat with the weak, fevered pace of desperation. His whole world had shrunk to those feelings, those sounds. He could not see, not without the strength to open his eyes. He could not hear, he could not even think. But if he could focus on those feelings, if he could still feel that weak pulse, he was alive. That was all he had to do. Just hang on a little longer.

The slide towards eternity slowed and stopped.

"You're safe now."

The words were muffled and distant, barely perceptible, but he heard their sincerity. The words were tense under the calm, tired and drven. The cool energy that flowed through his body brought the fuzzy world into far flung focus, snippets of conversation breaking through the haze. She said he was okay but still he fought, struggling to pull himself out of the haze. The danger had passed, but what if it hadn’t? He needed to do something, he had to find out what happened. He needed to tell them what was wrong with him, where to focus. If he couldn’t, they might…

They’d get it right. They had not brought him so far to let him die now. It didn’t make any sense. He’d have to ask them, when he could. But they wouldn’t let him fall. These foolish, stubborn people had refused his choice and made their own. Choosing to give his life for them had been easy. He could trust them to preserve it instead.

When the darkness rose, gently this time, he didn’t fight it.


* * *

Dehkaz sat across from the unconscious form of the gunmetal-armored Toa hands clasped together and chin resting on his knuckles. All things considered, Krayn looked at peace where he lay, though that fact alone was still slightly disconcertingly close to looking too peaceful. It was difficult for Dehkaz to shake the resemblance between his comrade’s current state and the state which they had left too many of those out on the frozen streets of Ko-Koro in their desperate escape from the citadel from his mind.

With effort he had to remind himself to take it down a notch, the Commander was still far too on edge. Dehkaz felt his brow relax, unaware that it had furrowed in concentration.

He had been at Krayn’s side for some time now, lost in his own thoughts. The initial rush of activity as refugees had been moved into the village, some injured some not, had died down in the following hours. They had made it. While the future was still uncertain, those within the confines of the small mountain village were safe from harm. After making certain that Krayn was no longer in danger of drifting away completely from the land of the living, Dehkaz had done what he could to assist the rest in need.

Unfortunately that… wasn’t as much as he would have liked. He was a fighter, a guardsman, but that wasn’t what was needed at this point. Sure, he could patch up a wound well enough, as he had done to his own while waving off others to help those more in need, but his area of expertise was far more firmly planted in taking beings apart rather than pulling them back together. No, for now those in danger needed healers, not fighters.

So, Dehkaz had resigned himself to making sure to not get in the way of those at work, as well as watching over a friend. Here, alone with just the familiar comforting chill of the mountain air, his thoughts, and the resting Toa that they had worked to get back to safety, he stayed.

Waking up was a surprise but the pain was not.

The first thing, by long habit, the former officer’s brain did was take stock of the damages. There wasn’t much. The discomfort was almost everywhere regardless, but it was muted; the muffled echoes of injuries already healed. Not perfectly, there wasn’t enough energy to spare for him alone. It was sufficient to get him out of danger but the new tissue was fresh, tender. His muscles were worse. Even stationary they burned. The slightest move brought a fresh wave of fire in every fiber. But the worst-

Oh, the worst was his shoulder.

The slightest move, even further down the limb, was agonizing. No, that wasn’t quite right; he just thought it should be. It hurt to be sure, but it wasn’t the white hot lance he expected. Slowly, carefully, he clenched the bed’s blanket in his fingers. They moved when he commanded, he could feel the material between them. So his arm was there after all. He hadn’t been sure they could salvage it even if he survived. It was a relief to know he was wrong. Even so he could tell it wasn’t… Perfect. Something still felt wrong. Perhaps it needed more time to heal.

But Nui, was his throat dry. It was like trying to inhale the entire Po-Wahi desert. The first sound he could make was a wracking cough, which in turn only made his torso burn. Someone had left water on the table next to his cot, and with great difficulty he propped himself up enough to grab it and swallow a few, precious mouthfuls.

“Commander,” He rasped out, breath more ragged than he would have liked. “Where?”

Krayn’s ragged cough snapped Dehkaz out of his reverie and the Toa of Magnetism moved to stand before it was clear that Krayn was, for the most part, not in any serious danger of keeling over.

Ihu-Koro,” he explained, sitting up straighter and folding his arms to address Krayn, “We pulled what refugees we could here.

How’re you holding up Krayn?

“I’ve been better.” The De-Toa coughed again, but his voice was a little clearer. Actually, his head hurt more than anything now. The cough seemed deafening after his hearing loss, and mustering the focus to reduce it was… Difficult. He’d never experienced it before, managing it with his element had always been enough. “No disrespect, but I’ve had better stays in the Wahi. Fewer injuries. Less loud.”

He grimaced, rubbing at his head and trying to clear his throat.

“Actually sir, really, quietly please.”

With an understanding nod Dehkaz continued, lowering his voice to a quieter volume, “To be expected, you gave us quite the scare there, glad to see you’re all still in one piece. Surprised to see you up so soon.

The Toa of Magnetism paused, giving Krayn a look of appraisal, before shaking his head slightly in almost disbelief.

You’re crazy, you know that?” His tone was equal parts respect and weariness, “Not many would be willing to pull off what you did… not many would be able to pull off what you did.

Krayn cocked his head a little, a gesture that unlike the rest had nothing to do with his condition. This one was born of confusion. He was thinking slowly. That at least was part exhaustion even if it was still frustrating. Everything a little after the Madu dropped was a little unclear, hazy and incomplete. It only got worse as time went on until he woke up here. He could remember the highlights, but…

“I’m not sure what you mean, sir,” He said slowly, quietly. That was half true; he had an idea of what the other Toa meant, but he couldn’t begin to understand why. “And I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but what the Karz were you thinking?”

Krayn… they all made it out,” Dehkaz explained, “Kale and the rest, they made it here, they’re safe. From what I heard things were looking bad, and something had to be done if any of you were going to make it out of that citadel in one piece. You made sure of they did.

The Commander stopped to let Krayn process that for a minute. Well, that, and also for-

And, ah, apologies for the arm,” he gestured to the Toa of Sonic’s shoulder, addressing what he thought was Krayn’s second point, “Didn’t exactly have much choice. You were bleeding something fierce. Healers did their best with it, told me it should be fine in a week or two.

“No, not the-” He broke off the remark with a grimace, feeling the way it moved when he tried to hold up his hand for emphasis. Krayn rolled the joint almost unconsciously trying to find what exactly didn’t feel right, where in the motion it just felt wrong. The muscles ached from being knit together where they had been cut, the flesh was tender and new, but still something didn’t feel right. An imperfection in the muscles or in the bones where none had been before. 

“Not the arm.” The thought continued while he experimented slowly. “If you didn’t stop it I would have died.”

“Which I was prepared to do.” Krayn’s eyes wandered back up from the foot of his bed where they had lain unfocused to meet the Commander’s gaze. Beneath the fatigue there was an element of puzzlement, the look of a man trying to turn the question around in his mind. “I’m glad it didn’t come to that. But it was going to. Kale and Four, the others, they were going to make it out. It was close, there would have been a little fighting. But they would have made it. I stayed behind because I was injured. If they stayed to get me out we might all have been killed.”

“Like you could have been. You and the Lieutenant both. I could already have been dead, probably should have been. You both could have died trying to haul out a body that no one needed to bury.”

Comprehension hit Dehkaz in pieces as Krayn spoke, and the understanding caused his brow to furrow in mixed amounts of concern, thoughtfulness, and mild confusion.

Probably should have been.

The words resonated in his mind for a moment. They were all too familiar, the meaning and sentiment behind them all too well known by his unconscious for it to let them go so soon. It was a headspace he’d found himself in before.

It was, if he was being quite frank with himself, unnerving to hear the words spoken aloud by another being.

Ah.” He replied eloquently.

Maybe. Maybe we could’ve. You know as well as anyone else; better I think, after all this; that’s just another risk.” Dehkaz inclined his head towards the Toa of Sonics, “If it was anyone else we would’ve done the same. And you can’t tell me if you were in our position you wouldn’t have done the same.

It was risky, sure, but there was a chance. Not one of us, you, me, Kale, Naona, Fourth… none of us would have let that chance slip away.” His tone, while no louder than it had been a moment earlier, had taken on a firm note. “You might’ve hung up the badge but you’re sure as Karz still one of us, can’t get rid of that. We don’t leave anyone behind.

Krayn wanted to argue. He half opened his mouth to do it, an objection already on his lips, before he made himself stop and think. Not an easy feat when someone had cheerfully been stomping all over his skull, at least it felt like it, but he did anyway. Not just listen to what Dehkaz had to say but consider it. He didn’t know the Commander particularly well. That was part of the problem. It was difficult to take what he was saying at face value, hard to consider that someone he had only worked with would take that sort of risk. 

But broaden it out and he began to concede the point. Naona, Kale, Four, Skyra, Praggos… For slightly different reasons maybe but not one of them would have left him behind if they could help it. He had seen even through his confusion the look on Kale’s face when he had to, and he couldn’t imagine how Skyra had reacted. No, he really couldn’t. That was something of a blind spot that Krayn had to admit to himself. The two of them had spent so long butting heads, then quietly adversarial, that it was difficult to comprehend how her opinion had shifted. But if she had been there she wouldn’t have agreed to leave him behind, either. Naona had to have been there. She had to have at least carried him, maybe him and Dehkaz, or he would never have made it to Ihu-Koro in time. Even that hike would have been fatal if he had waited so long for medical attention. 

And there could be no doubt which two had put him back together, pulling him back even from the brink.

The surprise was disproportionate to so simple an answer. It shouldn’t have been, the thought was almost chiding, but had he held onto his problems for longer than they had? He would have run the same risk for any of them. Even Skyra, and he had run that risk for her and Kale. It wasn’t like Ga-Wahi. 

Had he been carrying around that day for so long?

Karzahni, he had some apologies to make. The low, weak laugh sounded more like a cough as the De-Toa found a less tiring way to prop himself up and shook his head. 

“I owe you an apology, Commander.” Another cough and a long drink of water. “I owe a few of them. What I should have said was ‘thank you’.”

Dehkaz let out a short breath of... not quite disbelief so much as patience. He shook his head once more, though it seemed as though it was more to himself than from anything the Toa of Sonics had said.

Apology accepted,” He replied nonetheless. “I have a feeling however, call it a hunch from parallel lines of thinking, that you shouldn’t forget to apologize to yourself as well.

With that, the Commander rose from his seat, his tone slightly more upbeat than it had been moments before. “Now that you’re awake, I’ll get someone to come and make sure you’re all in good shape. Went through an awful lot to get you back here in mostly one piece, not going to let all of that go to waste.

He paused at the door, a hand resting on the frame as he turned slightly to address the recovering Toa.

And Krayn, you can drop the Commander, it’s just Dehkaz.

With that, he stepped out of the room.

Krayn managed another rough and weak laugh, carefully propping himself up against the wall behind his cot. The bustling sounds around him were almost too loud even muffled by walls, but he could tell there were many more wounded and recovering people in the building than him. He couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed. Even if he could it would be a bad idea. But his friends were out there, somewhere, and someone needed to pass the word. 

“Excuse me,” he managed, catching the attention of a Bo-Toa walking briskly by to her next crisis. “Somewhere in this building is a bunch of fools waiting for me to wake up. If you could let them know I have before I fall asleep again, if you see them. Please.”

The medic seemed to look him over, thoroughly displeased by the notion, but relented and nodded. It was probably his seraphic smile. 

But he still slouched heavily as soon as she moved on, deciding not to fight sleep too hard if it came. Any visitors would have him up as soon as they stepped near the door.
 

Edited by Krayzikk
Typo and diction.
  • Like 3

fK5oqYf.jpg

 

On this eve, the thirtieth anniversary of that first colony, many are left to wonder; is the world fast approaching a breaking point?

 

 

  Breaking Point: An OTC Mecha RPG

 

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