Posted Jan 07 2012 - 07:01 PM
The hills of Tua-Nasene were a bleak faded brown. The footstep of a dried-up river cleaved the landscape in two as it twisted intricately around the scattered boulders at the valley's bottom. It led to a gnarled forest, who's leaves were burdened with grey dust. It could've been mistaken for snow, had snow been so hideous and rough to the touch. The four Toa dragged their feet as they walked. The leader, a good five yards ahead of his companions, was hunched at the back and limped as he trod. His body was slender and fine, not meant for the hardship that had led him to his current situation, and it was patterned with thick scars that gaped freely as he swayed from side to side. In comparison to the other three Toa he fared well. A heavy-chested Toa of fire bought up the rear of the group, his head brutally cleaved in half leaving one eye socket devoid of apparent life. He bore no mask, and both of his arms ended prematurely in a ragged stump that spewed rusty wiring. The other two Toa made up the middle of the pack, and leant on each other as they struggled to stay upright. One, a Toa of illusion, clutched at his shoulder which had been torn open to reveal the innards of his skeleton. The other, a Toa of frenzy, stared blankly at his own feet, arm limp at his side. No injury was obvious, yet the faint glow in his eyes had died to nothing. A shrill screech echoed about the great hills. At its sound the Toa's flinched. The leader hastily beckoned his flock forward with brash sweeps of his arm. They quickened in an attempt to catch him up, but fell back to their tired pace within a moment. The slightest gust of wind rippled through the valley. At its call a cloud of dust leapt from the ground and drifted quietly through the air. The afternoon sun shone through the dust and it sparkled in and out of view. In a way it could be considered beautiful. The leading Toa pulled up a soiled cloth around his neck and tied it about his face, The fire Toa hacked and coughed, glaring furiously through the haze of brown. "We cannot continue now, wait for the dust to pass!" The other Toa's almost jumped at the abrupt interruption to their silent journey. Without looking about the leader spoke, loudly and clearly in a smooth voice."Our enemy continues, dust or no dust."Though his voice was light, it carried a harsh tone that quelled the fire Toa's rage. The group of Toas, now no longer spread out, passed into the woodland. The transition was sudden and the forest was dense. Not watching where he was going, the Toa of fire walked through a twisted branch and a shower of gritty dust poured over him. "Blast this evil dust!" He shouted."I know just what to do with you!"The Toa roared deeply at the tree, and it burst into blood-red flames. The fire was powerful and the tree hissed in despair as it quickly blackened and shrivelled. The dusty coating melted and then cracked under the heat, covering the tree with crude shards of glass. The three other Toa flopped down in front of the blaze, glad of the warmth and colour that it gave. Their leader was not so keen, he tensed and his eyes suddenly were filled with glistening fear."Damp that flame you fool!" He cried. "Our enemy will see us from a thousand Zyglak strides away! I beg you, damp that flame, and then follow me far from this spot!"The Toa of fire snarled at his leader."You'd have us walk until we were on all fours, curse your cowardice. If our enemy knows our place, let him come! Let him feel his blood boil in his veins! We are Toa, not Matoran. Our duty is not to run, it is to fight!"The Toas of Illusion and frenzy remained silent, content to let the mutiny play out for better or worse. The leading Toa looked around cautiously as if he heard a distant whisper. "If you wish to fight, then fight you shall, but do not doom our tired friends here with you" He uttered.The Toa of Illusion looked up briefly, his face worn with exhaustion. "Not me, my lord. I can no longer endure this journeying, I choose to stay in the warmth whatever my fate may be here. However I cannot speak for him."He indicted the Toa of frenzy with a nod, who was now crumpled at the ground in an unnatural position. Dust was settling on his back already. The leader lacked the mental energy to argue Illusion's decision. With a great strain, he leant over and heaved the Toa of frenzy onto his slim shoulders. They buckled visibly under the weight that they were not intended to bare. "We'll be all right." The Toa of Illusion's words were said with conviction, and his Leader had no doubt that he was masking his true feelings with his power. He wasn't going to be all right.The leader hobbled onwards, carving a thick line through the dust as he went. He disappeared over a distant hillock crowned with leafless trees of silver bark. Much time passed from then. The deserters said little for a long while, satisfied with simply huddling around the ever-flaming tree. The Toa of fire dangled his broken arms closer to the heat, his joints loosened as warmth spread through his aching body. "I wonder what wonderful lands they shall see" he said aloud. The Toa of Illusion smiled lightly in reply. His eyes were drooping shut from lethargy, the flickering flame of the fire easing them on their way. "Do you think they shall ever find a land free of dust?" The Toa of fire added."Do such things even exist outside of dreams?" The Toa of illusion sagged as he himself entered his own land free of dust. The Toa of fire hummed deeply under his breath and the tree's flames grew a little more joyous. The evening sun spread vast dark shadows across the ground until it was shredded by the shadows of tree trunks. Dust swirled in the air, glowing orange as the light set them afire. For a while the moment was timeless, and just once the Toa of fire began to feel sleepy.A broader shadow cast itself across the forest floor. It fell like a cape over the two Toas, instantly dispelling the orange glow of dust. The Toa of fire felt a chill creep upon him. He inhaled sharply and sprang to his feet with surprising speed, quickly kicking the Toa of illusion in the broad of the chest to wake him. He erected with similar ferocity, eyes wide with new-born fear."Is it here?" The Toa spoke in a hushed murmur, soft if it weren't for the crackling of his sore voice. "It is"The Toa of fire turned to face the shadow. The swollen silhouette of an immense Vortixx strode towards them, huge clouds of burning steam shot out from its flared nostrils and its terrible clawed feet hid beneath dust they kicked up. It broke into a run, striding fearlessly in their direction. "- the we shall fight"The Toa of illusion hurled a black orb onto the ground in front of them. It exploded into a heavy cloud of white smoke. The Vortixx faltered in its approach, and stepped left into the concealment of a short cliff in one sweeping movement. The two Toa ran frustratingly slowly across the dusty ground. Their legs bowed under the unwelcome strain, the Toa of fire in particular seething with pain. He soon fell behind, if 'behind' was measurable considering their direction was aimless. The Vortixx then appeared, leaping from behind a close-knit family of trees on top of a knoll behind the Toa of fire. He screamed an inaudible threat and lifted a crossbow to his shoulders, which then shook with an almighty crack as a bolt was released from its jaws. The projectile fell short, landing at the Toas feet. It spat and hissed in the ground that it had ploughed into, the Toa stepped over it as he paced towards the Vortixx. He through his head back, as if in the memory of a long forgotten power, and let out a roar that shook the trees and stirred the dust. Plumes of fire darted from about his broken body, punching the Vortixx with audible crumpling of metal. the Vortixx ran forward as if unharmed, slashing through the flowing flame with the bayonetta on his crossbow. With one fell-sweep he severed the main branch of the fire, causing the Toa of Fire to collapse under the strain. He approached the fallen figure, raising his weapon above the body.A rock clattered against the Vortixx's head. It growled, baring its teeth almost in a grin, and turned to face the offence. "Did you feel that?" Screamed the Toa of Illusion, rocks piled in his hands."Perhaps you'll feel this!" Another rock, larger and pointier than before, smacked weightily across the Vortixx's crown. The smile faded and the Vortixx bore down on the Toa with a powerful blow. The Toa fell back onto his hands leaving the sweep to strike dust-choked air. The Toa of fire gathered himself from the ground and steadied himself for a new attack. Anticipating his move, the Vortixx swerved around and stabbed the Toa of fire through the centre of his chest with the bayonetta. "No! NO!"The Toa of illusion stood still as stone as he gazed upon the limp body of his friend, caught on the devilish blade of the enemy. The Vortixx lifted the body into the air, bringing it to meet his cruel face. The Toa of Fire shuddered from the pain of movement, but lifted his head to look into the eyes of the Vortixx. It had none. The Toa shot back from the blade with a thunderous clap as the Vortixx let loose another bolt straight through the body of the ensnared victim. The Toa landed on the ground with a soft thump onto the dusty ground. "I'll see you regret that! Your closest friends won't dare look at you after what I do to your face!" The Toa of illusion readied another rock in his hand, when suddenly he swept back and was pinned against a tree, dust fell from the branches and landed around him. He exhaled and let loose the rock where he stood. The Vortixx pushed a new bolt into his crossbow and strode back to the flaming tree that had bewitched his senses earlier. It was now cold, and steam gently rose from its once burning bark. The Vortixx froze suddenly, then retraced a step. He stood over the thick trail left as leader passed through. The Vortixx felt the trench with a clawed toe, then a wide smile slithered across his face. He pivoted, and slowly stomped along the path.