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Wings

Theres nowhere to run Nowhere to hide ...

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#1 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 13 2011 - 10:50 PM

Wings – Prologue

Even through the dangers and the heartlight-overloading fear-energy that ran through her soul, Toa Stiaye Amari couldn’t help but feel satisfaction at where they had come now. For nearly two years, she and her small group of friends had hunted the last half-dozen or so Makuta that had survived the Destiny War and escaped the eyes of Toa. With her friends – Aeolus, Amphitrite, and Japoro – they had whittled down those numbers down to two, the ones she had sought for such a long time, ever since the destruction of Deimos on Enyo. Tageria and Hecate. From records they had found in the destroyed fortress, they had learned they had created a halfling in the Amari Islands, created from the Melding of venerable Turaga Nuju’s Shadow self and the antidermis of their brother, Makuta Deimos, nearly making an old force of the now-defunct Brotherhood rise again on another crusade of terror. Had Deimos not been destroyed, and Nuju rescued, they would’ve succeeded. Stiaye shook the foul memories out of her immediate attention and focused on the climb. The mountain path she was on now was more vertical than horizontal. After a long pursuit, Japoro had finally tracked down the two female Makuta: Holed up in a series of mountain caves, near the Northern Continent city of Aleris. Aleris had recently been reporting cases of Kanohi infection and sightings of Rahkshi – in this time, where they were mere memory to most that had lived during the time of the Brotherhood, they coupled with Japoro’s findings to confirm they were there. Japoro himself wasn’t with the Lightning Toa. He, Aeolus, and Amphitrite were heading up to the summit the easier way – which was also the way that had more guards. This route, while too narrow and dangerous for all of them to travel it together, had fewer guards. Stiaye scaled another rocky face, taking care to not glance down. There was a reason she hadn’t taken Amphitrite – who normally accompanied her – with her, despite the fact they could both be on the path without fear. For all of her bravado and swagger, she knew the Mahiki-bearing Water Toa was no rock climber. Stiaye, however, heralded from the village of Xi-Koro, where the native people would plow through the day’s chores to run back to their hut, pull on her Rock Scramble gear, and try and break the record time to summit either Mount Moonpeak or one of the other surrounding peaks. Finally, she grasped the top of the face that came before her final destination. She peered over the edge. Several robot guards stood before the entrance, but she saw nothing else. She smiled slightly. This was almost too easy. Closing her eyes most of the way, she focused on the electric charges that powered the machines, and drew all of that power into herself hungrily. One after the other, they all shut down, lacking the strength to remain active and continue their watch. Stiaye scrambled to the top and took a few hasty steps towards the entrance to the caves. There she paused, gathering her new energy into an orb on her hand. One, two, three. On three, she whirled around on the heels of her boots, casting raw bolts of her element out of the globe and into a wide pattern behind her. With screeches of pain, the four Rahkshi of camouflage that had been trying to sneak up on her reared, bolts pouring into their armored heads, frying the kraata within. “Same as the time back near Xia, with that halfling,” muttered the Toa of Lightning as she absorbed what remained of the orb and turned away, even as the charred, smoking, armored suits collapsed. Without a backward glance, she slipped inside. It was dark, very dark, but she knew in her heart it wasn’t as dark as the Razor’s Edge caves on Rohaya, even though she herself had never ventured inside those fabled tunnels. Even as her spears were unstrapped from her back and slipped into her hands, a veil of electricity flowed over her body, crackling as it formed a second armor of her own metal and provided her with light. About 150 paces down the tunnel, it opened further into a T-shaped intersection with another tunnel that traveled higher up the mountain. Movement coming from further down the tunnel’s left side made her retreat, in case it was a patrol of other Makuta-spawn. Three figures holding lightstones came into view, and Stiaye breathed a soft sigh of relief. “Nice to see you guys,” she said, stepping into view. Amphitrite, Japoro, and Aeolus regarded her with natural suspicion, but the correct answers of a few personal questions swept away their fears of duplicates. Not that Stiaye needed them – ever since she had slain her first halfling, she had come to sense the unique brain-impulses of her friends, which no Makuta could copy. Aside from a few new gashes on their armor and the fact Amph had an ice splint on her left forearm, none of them were hurt. Satisfied, the four Toa kept moving down the corridor, which steadily climbed up in a spiral as they ascended the mountain, via the tunnels and chambers that broke them up into segments. It happened right when Stiaye had stepped into one such chamber ahead of her friends. There was a loud slam of rock on rock behind her, and the Lightning Toa spun around to see a slab of stone cut her off from her friends. Similar sounds all around told Stiaye that all the possible exits had been similarly blocked. Muffled yells came from the other side as the minds of her friends caught up with what had happened. She felt the electric pulses that powered the muscles and minds of all non-Makuta increase as they tried to breach it, and while Stiaye attempted to use her Matatu to move it, the stone refused to budge. “It won’t move. So long as I will it not to move, you are alone.” It wasn’t the female voice she was expecting, but the electricity she could sense told her it was neither an illusion nor a Makuta. She turned ... and immediately began doubting her own certainty. There couldn’t possibly be a lower-class Steltian before her, armed to the teeth and speaking flawless Matoran ... right? The Steltian smiled, but the sight sent chills down her spine: the Lightning Toa had never seen such an expression used by a member of that species without it ending up as merely ridiculous. “Finally, you are alone; your weapon is free for the taking.” The smile suddenly became evil and ambitious; it was the look of someone that was anticipating a heavy reward. “My master will be pleased to hear of your defeat, Toa of the Amaris.” “What are you to them?” Stiaye asked, stalling for time as she gripped her weapons tightly in her hands. One of them had been passed down to her by the ghostly Fire Toa Ajax, whose Spear was responsible for saving her home, giving her the distinctive lightning-bolt imprint on her mask, and setting her on this quest. The remaining Makuta of the universe both coveted and feared the Spear’s power. “Simply the tool they use to get what they want? They’ll betray you in the end, youknow,” she added. An impatient rattle escaped the thug’s throat. “I have served her well over millennia; she trusts me above the rest of her servants. I have been crushing beings stronger than you before you first breathed, Toa of Lightning. And you shall pay for your insolence and meddling in the affairs of those above you – starting now!” He punctuated his sentence by smashing his meaty fist into the ground, and the stone beneath her feet erupted in response, making her stumble forward as she lost her balance. The Steltian took advantage of her moment of weakness. Rocketing forward with speed that she hadn’t expected, he slammed his metal gauntlet towards Stiaye’s face; only her instinctive dive out of the way saved her Kanohi from being shattered – along with her face. A large crack appeared in the stone barrier behind her former position, but it vanished abruptly, like there was a regeneration disk embedded inside. Loud, raised voices emanated from the other side; Stiaye’s friends had felt the impact. The Lightning Toa herself was forced to tune them out. Help was close, but if she didn’t focus on what was going on, they would find her in pieces. A bolt of electricity erupted from her spears, but her giant opponent simply caught them on his arm shields. Hissing between his teeth, he made a violent gesture with his right hand, and the stone beneath her feet rose, wrapping her lower body tightly in an embrace of rock. With an air of triumph about him, the servant of the Makuta moved forward, ready to finish this fight. No. She wasn’t going down like this! With a growl, she sent out a pulse of static electricity, making it race through his muscles and crippling him just long enough for Stiaye to rip the cocoon apart with her Matatu and send the sharp shards towards his ugly face. They never reached him. They suddenly froze in midair, a force tearing the fragments from her control and sending them back towards her. Even as the Lightning Toa spun and twisted, trying to evade, she realized that force had come from her enemy. A Steltian that can command the rock beneath my feet, can speak perfect Matoran, and is ridiculously fast. What’s next? Distracted by her thoughts, a blunt-edged piece of stone shrapnel managed to slam into her diaphragm with enough force to knock the wind out of her. Even as Stiaye doubled over in pain, trying to regain her breath, the Steltian shot forward, the blade that was sheathed on his forearm flying out with him, reaching to disarm her. Stiaye saw the danger, and raised her right hand to catch the blade on the Spear of Ajax’s shaft. So far as she knew, the protosteel that it had been forged out of was indestructible, so it ought to protect her. (Though then again, she hadn’t really tested to see what could destroy it very thoroughly, in case it did get destroyed, so who knew?) CLANG! A loud smash of metal on metal rang in her ears as the weapons collided, and her hand drooped a little from the sheer force that was pressing against her weapon. Unfortunately, the Steltian still had momentum, so his blade slid down the metal shaft, sparks flying – A flash of pain, both burning hot and freezing cold, originating from her wrist made her cry out, and she lost her grip on both of her weapons. Dizziness and the feeling that she was missing something made her collapse, and the impact of her head on the stone furthered the haze in her brain.She swore she could hear a voice – her enemy’s – chasing her into the darkness (death or unconsciousness? She wasn’t sure), but what words he said, if any, were indecipherable before she faded. XxX Review topic


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 18 2011 - 05:41 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#2 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 15 2011 - 10:27 PM

Hide and Seek

“She’s reviving.”Stiaye stirred, eyes slowly opening to look up at the ceiling – not rough rock, but softly-glowing metal, like that of a building instead of a mountain. Two Matoran, garbed in the attire of healers, were checking her vital signs. Knowing better than to argue with them, she remained flat on her back beneath the thin blanket they had covered her with, looking around her from her horizontal position.She appeared to be in some kind of hospital room, lying on a white-sheeted pallet. She was pretty close to the door for the hallway: from what she knew of Aleris hospitals, there were three people to a room, and she was the furthest from the window.Any other occupants in the room were obscured by curtains on ceiling rails; the window let hazy sunlight pour in.The ward matron bustled over, waving the Le- and Ga-Matoran aside as she gave the Toa of Lightning a final check. Still too tired to protest, she let her. While she was not a big fan of being taken care of –unlike Amphitrite, she didn’t like spas, and not just because she disliked massages – she didn’t mind all that much right now. She felt out of whack, out of sync with the world around her, and until she could get back in step, she didn’t mind being cared for.Thinking of the Water Toa reminded her of something. “Excuse me,” she said quietly to the Ce-Matoran matron as she completed the check, “have my friends been here?”Before the Matoran of Psionics could reply, the door flew open, slamming against the wall quite loudly. Amphitrite herself barged in, quickly followed by Japoro and Aeolus. The Toa of Ice and the Toa of Water both had irregularly-shaped packages in their arms.“Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty,” teased Amphitrite as she stripped off the wrappings of a pottery vase, detailed with images of a nature scene, and filled it with water as her significant other arranged flowers into it.Aeolus ignored this and the Matoran that were backing away to give the friends their space. He pulled Stiaye into an embrace, one that the Lightning Toa felt happy to return.She had no idea what day it was right now, or what time it was, but she didn’t mind all that much right now.“You fear-scared me,” the Air Toa murmured, his speech still lined with the chute-speak slang he had spoken all his life, though he didn’t pack his sentences as thickly with it as others on his native island of Metru Nui did. “When we managed to shatter-break through the hard-stone and get inside the chamber, when we discover-found you on the floor... I thought you were cold-dead, like your hand was.”“My hand?” she asked, releasing herself from his hold; he let her go, as Amphitrite and Japoro – satisfied with how the flowers looked – took up positions on the other side of her bed. Trembling as she sensed more electric pulses than there should be coming from her right arm, she lifted out from beneath the covers to come into sight.“We weren’t sure if you’d want it,” Japoro said, slightly uncomfortable as she examined the appendage. “You can always get it removed if you don’t.”A frown creasing her face – though more from curiosity than from annoyance – Stiaye examined the completely mechanical hand that was attached to her right wrist. Beneath the clever plating that hid and protected the gears and wires that were enabling her to manipulate it, she could see insulation that she knew would enable her to cast lightning with it as easily as she had with a hand that had flesh beneath it. No scientist in the universe had been able to figure out how to coax biological parts to be regrown and meld with mechanical replacements, or to reattach biomechanical parts to their owner, so until that breakthrough was made, completely mechanical prosthetics were the way to go.And really, she’d rather have a pair of hands that weren’t exactly the same than to just have one hand.She dismissed their concerns with a wave of her replacement hand, smiling. “It’s fine. It may take a little getting used to, but it’s cool, Japoro.”The Ice Toa looked relieved, and rightfully so. After all, they had allowed her hand to be replaced while she was unconscious and without her consent; if she had been angry, Stiaye would have every right to be so.Sitting up on her bed and kicking the covers off her body, Stiaye moved on to her primary concern: reestablishing her concept of time. “How long have I been out of it?”“This was the third day,” Amphitrite said from her position at the foot of the bed. While the Toa of Lightning had been examining her new hand, the cobalt Toa had dragged a chair out of a corner – ignoring the irritated looks of the healers – and was slouching in it as she continued on. “It’s about three hours before noon, in case you cared to know. What happened, Sti? We heard a bit of what was going on behind the stone slab, and felt the impact of whatever it was when it slammed into the rock, but who beat you? They were gone when we got to you.”Shifting position on the mattress – not that it did much to cushion the metal plate beneath it – Stiaye explained. “It was this Steltian: not an elite or a gladiator, but one of the lower caste. He wasn’t like the others we’ve met over the years, though. He spoke Matoran fluently, he was fast and smart, and apparently, the Makuta he works for gave him power over stone, and maybe sleep as well.”Aeolus and Japoro were fascinated as she rewove the details of the battle, and Stiaye, despite her embarrassment about her defeat, was enjoying being a storyteller. All three were so fixed on the words the Lightning Toa was speaking, though, that none of them noticed that Amphitrite was shrinking back in her chair, her good mood vanishing suddenly, eyes clouded with fear and concern that was born of negative memories. Perhaps the healers in the ward noticed, but – since they were blatantly eavesdropping on Stiaye’s tale – perhaps they didn’t.“... and then I woke up a few minutes here,” finished the Toa of the Amaris. “It’s kinda annoying for me to admit this, but I underestimated him. He beat me pretty badly,” she laughed.Something she noticed in her friends’ faces made her face lose its bright expression, frowning puzzledly. “Something wrong?”Amphitrite quickly hid both her fear about the Lightning Toa’s attacker and the growing dread that had made her and the two male Toa force their faces to not give away nervousness this entire time. “It’s nothing, Sti. Nothing important.”The Lightning Toa didn’t seem convinced. “Aeolus? Is there something you guys haven’t told me?” she asked her friend.Aeolus bit his lip and looked away, Japoro suddenly becoming fascinated in a wall fixture above her head. Confused, Stiaye looked from the faces of her friends, perplexed by their sudden behavior.“Oh fine,” the Toa of Water burst out, with an air of someone wanting to get over something quickly. With clear reluctance, she explained, “When we managed to get into the cavern and found you unconscious, Aeolus flew you back to Aleris while me and Japoro cleaned house back there. We looked around, but ... we couldn’t find either of the spears anywhere in the caves.”Stiaye stared at them, hoping that was just a joke. But the seriousness that her friends were now letting show, since their secret was now wasn’t so, told her that it was no hoax.“He must have them, then,” she decided grimly. “He and his masters ... they must have the Spear of Ajax.” And the grim mood overtook them completely.XxXElsewhere, the same Steltian that had severed Stiaye’s hand from her body didn’t seem assured of rewards from his masters. His confidence had evaporated with the hard, merciless backhand Makuta Tageria had dealt him, flinging him across the chamber and sending him to his knees. He was filled with a familiar grimness, magnified with old fears. Over the last five decades, he had borne the brunt of Tageria’s abuse during the times rage had consumed her completely, but never had she been so terrifying to him.“We gave you a simple task: crush the Lightning Toa and take her powerful Spear,” the Makuta snarled, bearing down on him again like a nest of enraged Nui-Rama. “And even that you bungled! I ought to destroy you now, insect!” The Steltian had suffered such threats from her in the past, but this was the first time he actually believed he would carry through with it.A black hand grasped Tageria’s middle and wrenched her back from him, holding her in place ten bio away.“Cease and desist, Tageria,” another female voice said, ringing out from the dark doorway behind the Makuta. “Beating my servant will not solve the problem at hand.”On the floor, bleeding and hurt from the Makuta’s punches, the Steltian felt a measure of relief as the owner of that voice stepped into the room, shadow hand still wrapped firmly around Tageria’s waist to keep her from moving while the other female traveled the small distance from the door to him. As Makuta went, Hecate wasn’t as tall as her deceased brothers and sisters had been: she barely made ten feet, as opposed to Tageria’s fourteen. Yet her stature bellied her powerful shadow, proving that size wasn’t everything when it came to power or reputation. Quite the contrary: she alone had caused hundreds of deaths in the war her people had made with the Dark Hunters and Toa, either by her hand, her servants, or the monsters she had created in her labs.Noting his injuries, Hecate didn’t haul her servant to his feet when she got to him, but she didn’t heal him right away either. Instead, she knelt beside him, placing her long, slender fingers onto his brow; he shivered at the cold metal on his forehead.“Now, Rarin,” she said almost kindly, “what happened? Leave out nothing.”Haltingly, yet still in his flawless Matoran, the lower-class Steltian told his masters of his ambush of Stiaye, their fight, and cutting off her hand and sending her into unconsciousness. The news of her injury satisfied Hecate, and even seemed to placate Tageria slightly.Then he came to the most perplexing part of his tale. “When I was moving to take the Spear from her, though, I only found one where two should have been. I assumed that one had been an illusion, possibly generated by her Water Toa companion, so I did not dwell upon it. I took the solid weapon, believing it to be the one you sought, as it matched the description.”Hecate digested this piece of information, then raised her hand and used her powers of magnetism to call the spear Tageria had thrown aside, even as she stood. To her eyes, the weapon she was holding did indeed resemble the Spear of Ajax, right down to the graffiti scratched into the metal. Yet when she attempted to sense the innate power the weapon she desired had, she felt nothing.Almost idly, she willed her shadow hand to release Tageria, though she kept herself firmly between her sister Makuta and Rarin, in case she made another lunge at him. At the same time, she quickly scanned her servant’s memories, reliving the fight through his eyes.“Judging from both the weapon and your memories,” she said, ignoring the other Makuta as she addressed Rarin, “I know that you are not lying in that you were fooled into taking a powerless decoy. However, I don’t think that the weapon that vanished was an illusion. There must have been a safety precaution of some kind in the true Spear of Ajax to make it vanish if we tried to seize it, and it was activated when the Toa of Lightning was defeated.”“Then how do you propose we find it?” Tageria finally said, ignoring Rarin as she addressed the female Makuta. “It could be at any safe place by now, in the time it took him to return to this base we have.”“I have some ideas on that,” Hecate said, now turning to look at the other Makuta. “But we cannot seek it out now. We are still hunted, sister, and we cannot take the risk of being detected by the Toa. Rarin must rest, before he can take up the hunt again for us.”With a finality that signaled she would not tolerate any argument from either of the other beings with her, Hecate snapped her fingers, and with a skittering of multiple spindly legs three of her other servants darted inside. “Bring Rarin to one of the chambers and clean his wounds. I will attend to him shortly,” she ordered them, and the creatures obeyed without hesitation. “Come, sister,” she said, sweeping out of the room; after a moment, her fellow Makuta followed.Rarin, as he was helped to his feet, tried not to show his disgust as Hecate’s Visotoran clustered around him. At one point, Hecate had turned Matoran she had captured into sick, twisted hybrids of themselves and Visorak spiders for use as lab assistants and foot soldiers in the defense of her fortresses – “Because,” she had once told him, “you are far too valuable a servant to be reduced to holding test tubes and beakers” – but he wasn’t sure if he felt pity or disgust for their states. They had six legs, each foot ending in a narrow, needle-like point, and six arms, though each arm ended in a different appendage: two had giant, heavy crab claws, two had seven, needle-fingered hands, and the last pair had blades of bone-metal protruding from their wrists. He hadn’t been around when Hecate had first created them, but he’d bet his Makuta-granted powers that she had made them on a whim of her twisted sense of humor.“Come,” one intoned without emotion, its blind eyes gleaming milky white in the dim lighting. “Come, Master Rarin.” And as he followed them, the Steltian wasn’t sure if the title of being called one of their Masters pleased him or not.XxXReview topic


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 15 2011 - 10:30 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#3 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 05:48 PM

Sunset

The colors of the setting suns painted the sky beautiful shades of magenta and orange-yellow, heralding the night that would follow. Below, on the rough road that cut through the forest, the trader that drove his cart barely noticed the spectacle that this area was famous for. If he did not reach his destination by the time the sky turned black, he would be forced to camp outside the village walls until the gates opened up again at dawn.The Po-Matoran gently tapped the backs of the pair of Rahi that pulled his cart, and they picked up speed – though not much speed. They weren’t dermis turtles, but they weren’t thundercats either.The trader’ steeds were said to be a relatively recent creation of the Brotherhood, brought out of their virus vats not long before the Great Cataclysm and their fall from grace. They were large, four-legged beasts, with manes of fine metal and hooves heavy enough to break the necks of a Matoran, were one so foolish enough to make it happen. They were faster than Ussal crabs, but harder to tame – so few fell under the yoke that most gave up trying to domesticate them. The trader had been persistent, and the fruits of his labors showed in the pair of Rahi that gamely, loyally, pulled his cart and wares.The Matoran – called Bism by those he did business with – glanced over his shoulder into what he had for his latest trip to Va-Koro. He mostly dealt in lesser Aleris gemstones and jewelry, but he tended to pick up various knick-knacks in his profession as a traveling merchant.His most out-of-the-ordinary thing he’d gained in his line of work was rather recent: some kind of weapon that seemed to have a long history behind it, if the many symbols and indecipherable words that covered every bit of metal on it wasn’t enough to convince him of that. The Aquaton that had traded him the thing had sold it for a few broaches and a ring – something he personally thought was a bit strange, since that spear had to be worth way more than a handful of jewelry. But, he wasn’t picky about what his customers paid him with, so long as they covered the cost.As soon as he had touched that thing, though, Bism had realized why the Aquaton had wanted to ditch it. It wasn’t so much a power surge as it was a feeling, a feeling that he shouldn’t be touching the thing. He had uncomfortably set it aside, and there it had lain for over a day, untouched but most certainly on his mind. He was sure that the thing wouldn’t get a high price amongst those that lived in Va-Koro, the Village of Time, since a powerful Toa of Psionics protected the area and alerted them to any evil being that came within three kio of the koro. However, he wanted that thing off his hands as soon as possible; if it meant taking a lower price, so be it.Or, a little voice hissed in his head, as it had been for this entire time, you could give it to her. Bism shook his head, trying to drown it out, but he had to admit giving it to his friend was a good idea. The friend in question had never told him her name – if she had one – but was simply known as “the Matoran” by the residents of Va-Koro. Her name and element were both mysterious, since her armor had no real color that was borne by any tribe. Perhaps that was the reason why she lived about a kio from Va-Koro proper, but since it was a touchy subject for her, he’d never asked.Bism glanced up at the sky, noted the position of the suns and the color, and decided to visit her. If that meant camping outside the walls until dawn, so be it. It was more likely that she would offer him a place to stay for the night, though, so it didn’t matter. Although I’ll have to go through those stupid cleansing rituals once I actually get there, assuming I tell them about it … or they pick it up from my head …Reigning in his Rahi, the Matoran swung off the driver’s seat and landed nimbly on the dirt road in front of a small hut, an expansive garden flanking it from three sides. While the Rahi browsed on the grass that grew on the road’s edge, Bism rolled his muscles and got the kinks out of joints before walking up the paving stone path to the front door.Just before he was about to knock, a voice sounded from behind. “Don’t bother, Bism; I’m right behind you.”Wheeling, the Po-Matoran found himself mask-to-mask with “the Matoran”, who was smirking behind her Kanohi Cereva, a watering can in her hand. As usual, the look in her green eyes was always one of sly amusement – which always surprised him, considering how humiliating a treatment she was given whenever she entered Va-Koro – and her armor was as grey as always. Her hooded cloak was still clasped around her throat, but it didn’t disguise the subtle bump on her shoulders. Bism had always assumed that it had been a flaw in her creation that created the strange bump, but again, he’d never asked.“Never mind, then,” he said quickly, stepping aside so she could put the watering can down on her porch. The hem of her mantle gathered up a thin layer of dust as she wheeled to face him.“Heading back down to the white village, Bism?” she asked.“Pretty much,” the male replied, taking her hand and leading her back to the cart, pulling down the back to expose the baskets of shimmering wares. “Though I always charge the residents double what I charge you,” he confided in a stage whisper, which made her giggle as she clambered into the back to get a better look.The Romata-masked Matoran followed her up, crouching in one of the few non-packed areas. “A few brooches, a pin or two,” he hummed. “Necklaces, bracelets, charms, and knick-knacks – all for the taking, if you want them.”His friend selected a silver brooch in the shape of two long, overlapping leaves, and after a bit of haggling, they settled the trade with her giving him several bags of some of the herbs she grew. He’d always tried to get some of them from her, since for whatever reason they had fantastic stimulating powers when ingested.They were just about to get off the wagon when Bism remembered the spear he had obtained earlier. “Hang on a second,” he said, reaching into the cart and wrapping a leather-gloved hand around the weapon’s shaft. The same uncomfortable feeling began to hum in his body again, so he got to the point. “You said you were working on Kanoka launching, right?”“I’m still not very good at aiming.”“Well, I picked this up about a day ago. I think you could put it to better use than anyone down in the village could,” he said, passing it to her for examination.“Maybe as a wall ornament,” she muttered, weighing in-between her hands. All the same, the Po-Matoran saw her starting to be convinced that taking it would be a good idea, even as his discomfort eased. “All right,” the female finally said, looking back at her friend. “How much for it?”“For you? It’s free.” As he jumped out of the cart, he glanced up and groaned: the sunset had faded. “Guess camping back on my agenda again.”“Nah. I’ll lead your Rahi to that paddock over there, and you move your stuff inside. You can spend the night in my home.”After it was all sorted, Bism took up residence on the couch for the night while “the Matoran” went to sleep on her bed. The spear was leaned against the fireplace, glowing dimly from moonlight that leaked through the windowpanes. Had the two been awake to see it, one word would have been lit up amongst the thousands of etchings on the metal: Ajax.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 17 2011 - 05:49 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#4 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 10:43 PM

Awakening

By the time the nameless Matoran woke the next day, Bism had harnessed his Rahi and drove down the road, the brooch and spear the only things that signified he had ever been there. The female smiled slightly as she fastened her cloak around her throat with the silver pin: the Po-Matoran was one of the few beings that was kind to her in the exiled life she led just a kio away from civilization. He rarely came this way – he liked Va-Koro even less than she did, which was saying something – but he always got good prices for his merchandise there, and he was always eager to trade for her herbs. But now he was gone, and until he made the return journey up the road, his visit only existed in her memory. Memory.“The Matoran” screwed up her eyes, trying desperately to remember, as she usually did. She knew that she had not spent all her life this way, but her earliest memories were of awakening in a Va-Koro medical clinic. Before being cast out, she had been told a group of villagers had found her unconscious body outside the marble walls, with no memory of what had occurred to bring her there. It had also been said that her name was found, but before it could be told to her, the kindly healer that had been attending to her had been cut off by his zealous underlings, who kicked her out with little preamble. She’d been living here, like this, for nearly a thousand years, still without her name or memory – or explanation of what she had done to deserve this existence. It wasn’t like it was bad – she actually preferred being near the forest than living in a village (though she reasoned it might have something to do with her treatment whenever she entered Va-Koro) – but the people of the village, obsessed with purity of the soul, treated her like dirt; like she didn’t even exist. Biting down on her tongue to stem the tide of her simmering anger, “the Matoran” stalked out of her bedroom into the living room, barely glancing at her new spear as she grabbed her machete. Her supply of firewood was running low; she’d have to go get more from the forest. The back door slammed shut behind her, loudly and dramatically, and the echoes rang out into the dawn. XxX Where was she? Nothing but the dark metal confines of the object that preserved her. No touch of the Master. The Master had been in danger … yes, now she remembered. She had felt an aura of darkness, and sensed the Master being injured and defeated. Fearing for her existence, instinctively knowing she had to protect herself, and pulling away. Being passed from carrier to uneasy carrier, until she reached this place, whatever it was. She reached out, felt for the Master. Kio away. She could return to her the same way she had left her, but her flight had left her drained. No, she could not return that way. Not yet, at least. With sullen thoughts, she rose out of her metal seal, what passed for arms folded over her breastplate. It was still in the ashen condition it had been when she had been ensnared. It was inevitable that the beings of darkness would reach for her again, the same way it had when her fragile spark of life had been snuffed out. But perhaps she could hide long enough to gather her strength and return – Wait. She felt a familiar presence – the one that had helped awaken her from her post-teleportation slumber. It wasn’t as familiar as the Masters’, neither of them, but it was so much stronger. Maybe that person could help. She turned, trying to find that feeling again so she could speak to them. There. Outside, not far into the forest this homestead lay by. Easily, she stepped away from what bound her to the world of the living and moved through the walls, looking for the one that could help her. XxX The nameless Matoran had only been hunting for wood for about ten minutes when she began to feel a prickling sensation on the nape of her neck; an instinctive alert that something was watching her. While she wasn’t in deep enough for her to gain the attention of ash bears and Kavinika, past experiences – even though she couldn’t remember most of them – had taught her to not ignore instinct. Quickly, she wheeled to face the tree line, machete at ready. When her momentum was spent, she saw nothing before her, yet as she began to look away, “the Matoran” saw a flash of movement in the corner of her eye. Fear crawled in her brain as she whipped to face that direction, only to see nothing but more foliage. “Who’s there?” she called into the trees, sounding braver than she was. A soft sigh, riding a breeze to caress her ears, pealed out from behind her, and she spun around in time to see the being she had seen step out from behind a tree. The figure was undoubtedly a Toa, but she was no Toa the nameless Matoran had ever seen. This female was taller than any of Va-Koro’s three Toa, and much paler, with eyes the color of periwinkles. Her armor color was hard to make out – a blackish substance obscured it for the most part – but her mask was in the classic Hau shape. Slung over her shoulders was a large quiver, packed with strange arrows and an unstrung bow, all carefully stored inside the horn-shaped container. The Toa’s eyes fell on the Matoran, who shivered from the force of the invisible beams that were focused on her. “Who are you?” she tried to say, but the three words came out as a whisper. The unknown Toa frowned, like she was trying to remember something; the nameless Matoran was struck by the strong resemblance between herself and the stranger. “Shiri,” she finally said, dawning remembrance illuminating her facial expression. “My name is Shiri – or was, back when I still lived.” A ghost! The Matoran was struck by amazement. The people of Va-Koro had a very strong opinion when it came to the spirit realm, stubbornly saying that any disembodied soul that hadn’t used an Iden to get there was evil, but looking upon this misty, confused female, she couldn’t see why they felt that way. “Where did you come from?” she asked Shiri; the Toa frowned once more in response. “I can’t remember where I came from – while I was alive,” she finally said. “But I know what is binding me to the physical realm.” “Your binding?” “A spear, called the Spear of Ajax. It’s in your home right now; that was where I slept for years uncounted.” “The Matoran” knew that she ought to be firing off a million different questions – how Shiri had gotten bound into the spear, why she was talking to her, what she wanted her to do – and they were present in her head; however, the only thing that really stuck (and managed to reach her tongue) was the comment, “You speak really eloquently.” Shiri laughed at that, after a surprised expression had appeared first; her laughter sounded like bells chiming faintly. “I guess I do,” she admitted. “I can’t remember much of my life, but I do remember that I had a bit of a flair for the dramatic.” XxX “ … So you were bound to the Spear over there by Ajax?” the nameless Matoran said later on, chewing on a piece of Madu fruit as she sat cross-legged on the floor. Shiri was hovering just across from her, the Spear still leaning against the fireplace. “Yes, but he didn’t realize what he had done – he couldn’t see me,” Shiri explained. “When he poured his elemental power into that weapon, he made me stronger, far stronger than a wraith like myself should be. You have heard of Halflings, correct?” she asked quickly, wondering if the Matoran knew about those creatures. Thankfully, the answer was yes; “I hear a lot of gossip from travelers,” was the explanation. Shrugging, the deceased Toa of Light continued on. “He never realized what made the weapon I was encased in able to destroy Halflings, but it’s a fairly simple process. Halflings are pure shadow. I am pure light and I’m stronger than them, especially with all the Toa power poured into the Spear.” “The Matoran” looked blankly inquisitive, and abruptly Shiri felt shame, like she had been egotistical in her long explanation. Settling onto the floor, the spirit looked steadily back at her host. “But what of you? I haven’t heard you give a name, or why you live here with a village so close at hand.” The cloaked female took her time in replying. “It’s a bit of a blur. My first memories were of awakening inside a healing clinic in Va-Koro nearly a millennium ago. I had no idea who I was, what tribe I was part of, or where I’d been before I was found outside the village walls. “Va-Koro is said to be one of the oldest settlements in the universe, and it hasn’t changed very much since it was founded. It hosts one of the largest communities of Ce-Matoran, and normally that wouldn’t be a bad thing: they’re exceptional healers, artists, and philosophers. Problem is that they have a tendency to get bored really easy: again, not usually an issue, except this group didn’t get much excitement until the Great Cataclysm. “There’s a theory a Ko-Matoran made years ago: how an area with too much change will be dangerous in a chaotic way, while an area with too little change can freeze, and that can also be a dangerous climate. Va-Koro hasn’t changed in hundreds of millennia, and as they went by, the bored Ce-Matoran started thinking about purity, and things began to snowball from there.” The nameless Matoran paused to moisten her dry lips, than continued. “Over time, the community became sort of a group of germ-a-phobes – but in a sense of the spirit, and not in the physical sense. An upper class emerged of the “purest” – the ones that have the strongest personal Light – and the less-pure are ranked down from there.” Shiri had a sickening feeling in her “stomach” as she asked the obvious follow-up question. “And you …?” “I’m part of the lowest class,” she replied, a twisted smile crossing her mask. “It’s not to say that I don’t have personal Light – I don’t think myself as pure evil, and neither do they – but part of their beliefs is that someone of the higher classes can be contaminated by coming into contact with members of the lower classes, especially through their bodies after they die.” Turning aside so she didn’t have to see the revulsion on Shiri’s face, “the Matoran” stared out the window at the suns as she continued. “It’s a twisted sort of logic that runs this place. When they found me, I was unconscious before the city gates. They brought me to their healing clinics, and revived me as they searched my mind for anything that could identify me. At some point, they must have been convinced that I’m contaminated too badly to be allowed to live in the village, and they kicked me out. I don’t even know my name, if I had one.” Wanting to get off this subject as quickly as possible, “the Matoran” looked back at Shiri’s face; the deceased Toa had to hastily hide the angry, sickened expression from her host. “So what now? You were separated from the bearer of your Spear – Stiaye, was it? – and you want to find her again. Do you want me to help you?” “Well, yes.” The Toa of Light rushed to assure that, “But only if it isn’t an inconvenience to you.” The cloaked Matoran laughed, a cold, self-mocking laugh that sent chills racing down Shiri’s form. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to leave this place for years, if only for a short time. I’ll help you find Stiaye; I doubt anyone will miss me.” As they rose to their feet, Shiri glanced out the window and shook her head. “It’s terrible … such a waste of time and energy, just to regulate people’s lives more strictly.” “The Matoran” looked surprised at this insight, but she said simply, “That’s Va-Koro. It’s been mostly undisturbed for so long, and that’s what happens when nothing changes for the better. It got even worse when the Brotherhood revealed their true colors in this world – anyone suspected to have a history with the Makuta was cast out, same as me.” XxX For the benefit of those that did not read Hero, Shiri was the main character in said songfic. I suggest you read the story if any part of her explanation is confusing; it’s linked in my Library in the Archives. The idea for Va-Koro’s social classes came from Hindu customs, along with the customs of the main city described in Tamora Pierce’s book Shatterglass. Review here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 18 2011 - 05:31 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#5 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 18 2011 - 05:22 PM

Hunt

Sunset was near, and work in the city of Aleris was starting to wind down for the day as the citizens prepared for their night, whether it was on the town or to sleep. Stiaye watched the activity from the window of her hotel room, getting used to her new prosthetic hand and the realization from that morning – when Amphitrite had revealed that the Spear of Ajax had been lost. Her eyes, like her mind, wandered over the crowd below, watching the people pressing through the crush of pedestrians.A pair of Toa caught her eye – one lime-green, the other azure – and as she watched them from across the street, Stiaye noted the expressions on their faces. The Water Toa’s face, masked by a Kaukau, carried a look she knew well: it was the same one that Amphitrite had when she was on one of her many flights of wild fancy. The Air Toa – whose hands were being yanked forward by his companion – was wearing some sort of stylized Miru and an expression that was familiar as well. The anonymous Air Toa’s look was so similar to Japoro’s when Amphitrite hauled him off somewhere that if she didn’t know better, she would’ve sworn he had copied the Ice Toa.By now, the pair had vanished into the throng, and Stiaye flicked her attention to some other sight.A small group of Xi-Matoran darted through the river of traffic beneath her window, chatting and laughing together. It took a moment to realize that her lip was curling, and she forced herself to stop. It wasn’t like she was disdainful towards other members of the Lightning tribe, after all; it was just the old rivalry making its appearance again.When most people thought of Xi-Matoran, they never thought that there was a distinct difference dividing the tribe in two. They mainly pictured females that were – overall – more adventurous, daring, and less inclined for peace and inaction then their Ga-Matoran cousins. However, there was a divide, however slight, between the Lightning tribe, stemming from their regions and armor colors. Xi-Matoran from the northern parts of the universe – like in Shi-Nui and Aleris – were mainly grey and yellow, the latter color usually an unattractive shade of sulfur. As a minor contrast, Matoran from the southern lands, like Stiaye herself, had a variation of grey and silver, but the yellow was always replaced by some shade of gold. No one knew why there was a difference, or how long the enmity had existed, but they knew that the Northern Xi-Matoran had learned to look upon their Southern cousins with jealousy, while the Southern Xi-Matoran had, in turn, learned to regard the Northern sect with equal parts pity and distain.In theory, Toa weren’t supposed to partake in the traditional rivalry, since it would be a stumbling block in both alliances and Unity. However, it had taken Stiaye and the Xi-Matoran of Shi-Nui a solid year to get over their differences, and she herself often wondered how Stara and Alvis – the latter being a Northern Xi-Toa and fellow member of the Toa Rohaya – had been able to stand living in close quarters before they’d buried the hatchet.Behind her, the door to the room creaked open, and for an instant when she spun to face the area, Stiaye felt fear – fear that the Steltian that had attacked her had tracked her down again and come to finish her off. However, her alarm eased when she saw Amphitrite slip through the portal into the room they shared.The Water Toa read the lingering apprehension on her friend’s face, and quickly guessed where that came from. “The Steltian?” she proposed, sitting down on one of the two beds. A silent nod was her answer, which the cobalt Toa quietly replied to with, “I’m worried, too.” A shadow crossed her face in conjunction to her response, which – unlike the first one that happened that morning, when the Lightning Toa had revived – Stiaye picked up on.“Something wrong?” she inquired, frowning towards her friend. Amphitrite quickly hid her trepidation and said, “No; nothing’s wrong. I’m fine, Sti.”As they lapsed into an awkward silence, Stiaye’s eyes absently settled on an interesting abnormality on her friend’s armor as she searched for another way to ask the question. For as long as she had known the Water Toa, there had been a strip of raised metal on Amph’s left shoulder plate. She’d always assumed that it was a poorly-done repair job for some sort of damage, but whenever she had asked about it, Amph had always been evasive in her answers, hinting that there was something up about it – or that it brought up memories that the Water Toa would rather keep buried.The silence was abruptly broken by the door flying open again, and the two Toa looked up to see Aeolus and Japoro charge in. Both had their weapons – Japoro’s sword and shield, and Aeolus’ twin longswords – strapped to their backs, and varying degrees of excitement on their faces.“Any news?” Stiaye asked, shaking off the awkwardness in a hurry.“We quick-found something,” the Air Toa replied in his incorrigible chute-speak as he flopped down on the Lightning Toa’s bed; across the room, Japoro mimicked him, albeit with a bit more grace. “Two-pair Matoran speak-said they sight-saw a Steltian heading up-north two-pair days ago.”“So we go north.”“Seems that way. It’s our best bet, in any case,” Japoro replied. As he spoke, the Ice Toa wrapped an arm around Amph’s shoulder, who flinched in response to his touch. Had Stiaye not been worried about catching up to the Makuta’s servant, this would’ve set off another mental alarm – in all her time with the two, she’d never seen her Water Toa friend flinch away from Japoro – but as it was, she missed it.Japoro similarly failed to pick up on this, since his next words were, “There’s a caravan heading in that direction; they set off tomorrow night. They’ve been asking for guards, and we fit the bill.”“Do they pay well?”“Good enough.”“Alright then; we’ll take it.” Stiaye knew that asking about the money was shallow, but as Toa currently unattached to a certain area or city, they lacked the luxury of government funds that based Toa enjoyed. They were usually paid to clear out Rahkshi, Makuta, halflings, and other Brotherhood remnants, as they had been here, but they all took jobs like this to help support their lifestyle.Amph bent beneath her bed and retrieved her pincer shields – a form of such payment, gained from the job they did on Xia nearly a year ago. “Let’s get rolling; take the job.” And with that, the antsy Water Toa left the room. Her friends stared after her for a moment, then grabbed their own weapons and followed suit. XxXThe suns were setting upon the base that the Makuta had claimed, years of air pollution choking the sky and making the colors far more radiant.Personally, Rarin was glad that he was alive to see this sight. Tageria had come close to killing him this time, come close to following through on the threats she had issued over the last fifty-two years since the razing of Destral. He had stayed with the two female Makuta since then – a suicide job, he knew, but he really didn’t have anywhere else to go. He didn’t stick around for Tageria’s abuse, but he felt a deep debt of loyalty to Hecate, stretching back almost since the universe began.A faint squeaking sounded nearby, and the Steltian turned to see a stone rat scurrying along the floor towards a crack in the wall. He made as if to destroy it – Hecate kept a clean camp, and didn’t like pests – but stayed his hand. This was the first Rahi he’d seen on this otherwise silent island, and he was curious about what it would do.The rodent ran on its tiny legs to the crack, pausing for a moment to stand up and sniff the air. Abruptly, the sun’s light shed a single beam that struck the creature’s armor, casting a glare on the creature. Squinting through it, Rarin beheld a very odd sight, one he wasn’t quite sure he believed was real: that the Rahi had suddenly become organic, armor plating being replaced by fur –and becoming a lot taller than a stone rat ought to be. To top it off, the creature seemed to have a perfect-scaled rapier sheathed on its hip, and a red feather stuck almost jauntily in a little gold band that wrapped around its head.The Steltian blinked, sure that he was seeing things in the glare, but by the time he’d refocused his eyes, he found he would never know if it was just his brain playing tricks on him. By then, the rodent had disappeared to Mata Nui knew where.“Rarin!”His master’s voice called him back to the real world. Turning, he looked Hecate in the eyes, wondering if she had noticed his negligence towards the Rahi, but she didn’t seem to care if she had. Rarin knew better than to think that he was safe, though – in the past, he’d occasionally ignore her instructions, think he had gotten away with it, and then realize the hard way that he hadn’t when she handed him over to Tageria for a week.He was forced to shove that to the back of his head when she asked him, “Are you recovered from your fight near Aleris, Rarin?”The Steltian closed his silver eyes, feeling for the stone beneath his feet. When the floor rippled in response, he opened them again and nodded in response.“Good.” Satisfied, the Makuta passed him a visor that he slipped over his eyes. “Your memories enabled me to create this. It will trace the unique energy signature you sensed when you fought Stiaye – the Spear’s signature. So long this remains active, the Spear cannot evade you.”The next thing she gave him was a small cloth bag, which chimed dully as it changed hands. “These are tied to my scrying crystal. If you find a reflective surface – a pool of water, an ice shard, mirrors – and need to contact me, place it in or onto the surface, and a link will be formed from there to here. I might not be there right away, but I will answer you.” In his mind, she added another note: Be careful – they will only work once, and I only had time to create ten.Humbled once again by his master’s generosity, the Steltian clutched the bag and bowed somewhat clumsily to the female Makuta. “Thank you, Master. I will not fail you this time.”“I hope so,” she said seriously, holding his mercury eyes with her own, glowing like hot coals behind her Kanohi Hepecs. “I saved you from Tageria this time, because she had attacked you out of hand. If you fail to bring the Spear of Ajax before us, all my rationalization might not be enough to save you from her wrath. I do not wish to lose you to her.”He felt a simultaneous chill and warmth from her words: chills from her near-threat, and warmth from her final sentence. By expressing her concern and hope that he would succeed – for his own sake, and not just for her own desires – she had shown she cared about him, and did not see him as simply a tool; in other words, assured him that what the Lightning Toa had said – about how Hecate would betray him in the end – was all biased assumption, with no real evidence to the contrary. Turning, Rarin began to make his way to where his transportation lay; he knew better than to wait for her formal farewell. The Makuta watched him go, her claret eyes shining as the suns set.He deserves a better life than this, she thought of her servant as she watched him go. He’s proved me that he was worth the toil it took to make him mine, ever since I saved him. I can only hope he will succeed.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 18 2011 - 05:23 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#6 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 18 2011 - 10:22 PM

Amari

Storm season had come and gone, the grey clouds that hovered perpetually over the Amari Islands during that time giving way to clear blue skies. The temperature that it usually was during the stormy season – the lowest that the region could reach – had not begun to rise and match what it would be in growth season (not that it mattered – the nadir that the island chain could reach was equal to average summer temperatures in the north). Warm winds were beginning to blow up from the deepest south, where few dared to sail, heralding the coming spring.The wind made its way through a carved wind instrument that hung outside one of the huts of Xi-Koro, leaving a playful melody in its wake. The hut was one of the rare two-story buildings on the islands, but the occupant wasn’t interested in the song the breeze made for her – she had bigger things to worry about.On the second floor, only three pieces of furniture adorned the one large room: a large, open-air telescope that faced the sky; a desk, with papers and a pair of lightstones covering the wood grain; and a simple chair, currently filled by the islands’ astrologer.The astrologer – called Chaka by her friends and fellow villagers – frowned at her marking-covered parchment, which had been made the night before. She was a worthy successor to the former astrologer, but she found making actual predictions the same night she marked the positions of the stars exhausting. Since she made less-accurate predictions that way in any case, she marked the positions down on paper, interpreted them the morning after, and no one minded the break in tradition.With her compass, she marked the angles between some of the major stars in accordance to the Red Star, which never changed position regardless of the viewer’s location. The thing that concerned her most was the Toa Constellation, made up of sixteen points of light that surrounded the Red Star. According to legend, each star represented one of the sixteen elements, including Shadow and Light, though the exact order of elements varied from region to region – in Metru Nui, Fire came first and Plasma last, while in the Amaris Lightning was first and Iron last. However, the thing no one disagreed about was that Light was the constellation’s second star and Shadow was the tenth. A change in the tenth star’s position signaled darkness on the horizon.After finishing her calculations, Chaka leaned back in her chair and stretched back, sighing as her cramped muscles loosened up. Yawning tiredly, she stood and walked away from her work temporarily. Once her mind had rested for five minutes, she walked back to what she had scribbled down on a separate sheet of paper and reread it. Behind her mask, Chaka’s eyes widened as she saw her own predictions, like she’d never seen them before.Quickly, she rolled up her star map and predictions, wrapped a band around the scroll they made, and – holding it under one arm – climbed down the ladder to the ground floor. Once there, she ignored everything and barged through the front door, letting an errant zephyr slam it shut behind her.Up ahead, deeper into Xi-Koro, a few villagers were clustered around a storehouse, working on repairing the collapsed roof. If anyone would know where Turaga Stara was, it was one of the workers.The astrologer put on the brakes next to Kouki, who was verbally guiding Scylla and Charybdis maneuver a heavy plank up the erected scaffolding. Once there, other workers would help nail it into place. Knowing better than to distract the guide while such a load was being carried, she waited until the plank was handed off to the rooftop hands before gaining the Ko-Matoran’s attention with a poke to the shoulder.The male turned to face her, his intense blue eyes boring into her own. Chaka noted that his white armor seemed to have more gold than the last time they’d spoken just before he replied to her. “What is it?”“Where’s Stara?” she asked without preamble. Surprised, the Matoran of Ice hesitated for amoment as he thought it over, and then said aloud, “She’s overseeing the ones on Notus. There’s a group of them on the beach right now, if my timing’s correct; in for lunch. You can ask them to bring you to Notus, if you want.”“Thanks, Kouki.” Any further discussion was cut off by a commotion that caused both residents of the Amari Islands to look up. Apparently, one of the workers on the roof had slipped and sprained her ankle while moving on the fragile roof; Scylla was helping her down the scaffolding. The astrologer nodded towards the Xi-Matoran, whose face was twisted in pain behind her mask.“You’re gonna help Razra?”The Ko-Matoran was already moving; he tossed a resigned look back at her. “What else can I do? She’s my sister.”XxXThe once barren island of Notus was now quietly active with the work of several dozen Matoran, all natives of the Amaris. Where the black atoll had once been the home of captive souls, the old fears had eased enough for them to venture beneath the surface and explore the Kingdom of Souls, learning more about their own islands from the perspective of invisible watchers.In the Cavern of Souls, a figure slightly taller than her peers was helping a Matoran record the words on the wall on a tablet. When a runner from the surface approached with a scroll, the taller female straightened up and greeted the Xi-Matoran. A quiet conversation followed, ending with the scroll changing hands and the runner departing for the outside.Turaga Stara left her friend to her work and ducked into a crevice, taking a lightstone to illuminate the writing. In-between two door-less huts, she sat down on the ground and unrolled it. She recognized Chaka’s handwriting straightaway, and knew what the rest of it was. She didn’t need a guide to help interpret the readings in the stars, as she already knew how. Before becoming a Toa – and subsequently exiled – she had been apprenticed alongside Chaka under Narissa, the astrologer before the Xi-Matoran. Had not the events that resulted in her leaving the islands occurred, she may have become the astrologer herself.She forced such thoughts from her head and focused on the writing. While that part of her past was behind her, and Xi-Koro was finally beginning to move past their shame in unjustly exiling her, thinking too much about it fouled whatever good mood she was in at the moment. As Chaka was, the results worried Stara. However, she had little time to dwell on what’d been found before being interrupted.“Turaga?”Stara tore her thoughts away and met Ariadne’s gaze. “What is it?”“The others opened up a new chamber,” her second-in-command said, her hands clasped behind her waist and back as straight as a spear shaft. “They found something they think you should see.”Curiosity aroused, the Turaga of Lightning got to her feet and followed the Xi-Matoran, fingering the charm of soulmetal that hung around her throat. Kronus and the spirits of the Toa Rohaya had given two such charms to her two years before, just before they’d ridden the cosmic wind to another realm, with the instructions to give one to Nuju when he finally returned to Metru Nui. When he had, they had discovered the charms enabled them to interact with each other in the realm of dreams, effectively erasing any need to travel and see each other. Letters to each other had confirmed that it wasn’t just wishful dreams – they had been able to quote what each other had said in those dreams, word for word.There had been another part of those instructions, a part she had been informed to keep to herself: When the day comes that you know it must be used – and you will know it, in your heart – bring it to the Elemental Well and fling it into the depths. Tell no one of this.To this day, Stara had no idea what her old friend and leader meant by that. However, a feeling had begun to press upon her shoulders, like a heavy shroud of certainty that something would happen soon, ever since work had begun in the Cavern of Souls.They stopped before a home about two non-doors down from the home of the Spirit Chieftains. To preserve any art or writing that had been created by the spirits, shallow tunnels had been dug under the walls, emerging in the floors: while it was agony to destroy parts of the beautiful floor, it was a sacrifice that had to be made.After emerging from the tunnel, Stara’s keen eyes quickly spotted the new chamber Ariadne had spoken of – and unlike every other structure in and on Notus, it actually had a door. Two Matoran were examining glyphs carved into the door, while another was inside the chamber, working by the light of a smoky lightstone.“You ought to see this, Stara,” Ariadne said, gesturing to the door. The others backed away as she continued, “So far as we can tell, this was carved 999 years after the Cataclysm.”The Turaga automatically made connections that had been ingrained deep in her mind – 999 years after the Cataclysm meant that it was two years before the Massacre of Rohaya, and the same year her name had been cleared – as she bent down to better examine it. The carving that covered the entire door depicted a rough sketch of a village, which was recognizable as Xi-Koro’s central area, where the suva was located. The suva seemed to be on fire … she frowned and studied further.There was a taller figure – a Toa – and judging solely from the illustration of the mask, she figured that the Toa was Selvan, the Water Toa that had been Reya’s friend. She could vaguely see Stiaye and Reya herself in the etched crowd, which surrounded a single figure. The being was easily recognizable; her expression hardened as she identified Sekmet.There were three other figures, all grouped around Sekmet and blocking the crowd from her. They puzzled her, since their imagery was too rough to make out clearly. The fingers seemed strangely long-drawn-out and curved, like they were sickles instead of extremities. The feet – all six of them – resembled bird talons, and their limbs seemed as twisted as tree limbs. But the strangest part was the wings rising from behind their shoulders: the scratches that portrayed them were irregular in length, indicating possible raggedness.As the Turaga withdrew, puzzlement in her mind, a cry came out from the room beyond. All four outside moved inside, where the Xi-Matoran was cradling a dusty object in her arms. “I found this in a corner,” she explained, handing it over to Stara. “There’s some other objects there: some armor plates, a cup, some disintegrating gloves …”Stara barely heard what followed; her attention was absorbed by the article in her hands. Once the dust and cobwebs had been cleared from it, the shape of a Matoran Hau had been revealed. Some Matoran had been brought to Notus in the past – probably to die. That alone would have been appalling, but the fact the Turaga knew this mask made it worse.Years before, back when she had been Narissa’s apprentice (and blissfully unaware for what Fate had in store for her), she had gotten into a fistfight with Sekmet, whose head was already swelled up with self-importance. The scrap had spilled out of Stara’s house, into the street outside, and had carried on for a minute longer before Stiaye, Athena, Luxa, and Steena forcibly separated them. Ever afterwards, they would insist that the other had started the brawl, but no one was really sure just who or what started it. However, Stara had come out the better in the fight, since she’d left permanent damage on her opponent while she just got a few bruises and cuts. Sekmet had made several attempts to mend her cracked Kanohi, but there would forever be a noticeable dent just above her left eyehole.Even when grey, with years of neglect and a lack of a wearer, Stara could recognize this mask as Sekmet’s. She sat back on her heels, an unbelievable cocktail of emotions swirling through her. All these years, she had thought Sekmet had been elsewhere – Karzahni, some desert island – and when she had learned years ago how the Matoran had framed her and caused her exile, she had felt smoldering anger towards her for the betrayal. But now, learning that Sekmet was dead, far from the suns’ light and achingly close to her home village, she could only feel sad pity. The Matoran had had so much potential, so much to live up to, but had allowed greed, jealousy, and anger to consume her, let her be tricked and taken advantage of by Makuta Kiria, and lost everything before she had been taken away by the mysterious beings that had appeared.The low excitement that had filled her companions vanished when they realized what the mask was, and who had worn it. “What do we do with her remains, Turaga?” Ariadne asked with quiet sobriety.Stara made her decisions quickly. “Find a leather wrap and fold these in it. We’ll bring her remains back and bury her. Be discreet about it. We’ll let the others know about this discovery – she must have a few people that still care about her – but not yet.”XxXLater on, as dusk began to set upon the islands, Stara found herself in her home, working painstakingly on a marble headstone that would rest above Sekmet’s grave. As the female who had been directly affected by Sekmet’s choices in the past, she felt a certain obligation to lay what was left of her to rest.Once again, her thoughts of what she’d discovered that day swelled in her mind, and she felt sick confusion, especially towards what had been found in that chamber. While she had eternally been nervous of Notus, due to the (true) stories about how it was haunted, learning that one of her own – even one that had been a traitor – had died under the watch of the ghosts made her angry. In particular, she was angry at Kronus, her old friend and leader while he’d lived, and who had gained leadership of the island by the time Halfling Deimos had appeared on the islands. Thinking that he might have had something to do with Sekmet’s death made her feel betrayed again – the same emotion that filled her when they had been facing down the halflings, all those years before on Rohaya.She was forced to shove that to the side – there were far more important things to worry about. As the Turaga set her work away and prepared to sleep away the night, the reading in the constellations rose to the fore. The Black Star had moved closer to the Red Star, the Morning Star, and the Storm Star; a grim reading, one that signaled danger to the universe’s light. The proximity of the Storm Star meant someone of the Lightning element would get tangled up in the affair – Stiaye, perhaps?There was another part that concerned her, though; one that little to do with the Toa Constellation. Chaka’s concern had been with that formation, but as an ex-astrologer, Stara had picked out the minor change even on paper. There were two stars that were said to represent Artakha and Karzahni, the latter having three dim stars circling it. According to the stories and her lessons, the three stars represented the Nightborn, the dangerous Hounds of Karzahni that brought the condemned to their master’s realm. Their attacks had been documented almost since the beginning of time, and when their stars brightened, it augured major activity by the infernal trio.In this case, the three stars had brightened and moved towards the Red, Morning, and Storm Stars, seeming to enter a new dual orbit with the Black and Karzahni Stars. This couldn’t be good since it meant the Nightborn themselves might be involved as well. How, she had no idea – the star readings weren’t clear enough for that – but she knew it was ominous.She thought back to the carving in Notus, of the three strange figures on Sekmet’s door, and wondered – were they the Nightborn themselves? Another thought rose to the forefront of her mind as she rubbed the medallion around her throat; the medallion that bore her team’s symbol. Is it almost time? And as she began to slip into darkness, she swore a voice answered her – a voice that belonged to no being in the Amari Islands.Soon. Soon.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 18 2011 - 10:23 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#7 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 19 2011 - 05:33 PM

Naming Day

A day had passed since Shiri had emerged from her casing and “the Matoran” had agreed to help the spirit return to Stiaye. Since then, the Light Toa had quickly learned that just because she looked like a Toa did not mean her new companion was going to listen to her – at least not in the manner Shiri had intended.For starters, the unnamed female had refused to leave the area right away, despite her own statement that she wanted to leave and wouldn’t be missed. While packing supplies, she also brought up another issue: while she could be referred to as “the Matoran” in the area of Va-Koro, she would need some sort of name to go by when they left.“So pick a name and be done with it,” the ex-Toa of Light replied, trying not to lose her temper. Now that she had gained an ally, she was eager to get moving, and having said ally stall made her antsy.“No,” came the flat reply. “I might not know much about my past or myself, but the Va-Koro healers do. My file is somewhere in the Hall of Records, and I bet my real name – the name wasn’t allowed to have – is in there.”As Shiri stared at the cloaked female like she couldn’t believe her ears, the Cereva-masked Matoran continued. “Don’t get me wrong; any name would do if we wanted to head out right away. But it’d be false, and I’d feel better if I knew it was my real name.“You want my help? I can give it, but for a price: you help me. Help me get into the Hall of Records and find my file. If my name is there, I’ll use it when we depart to find Stiaye – which will be done the moment we return to my home. If we can’t find it, we’ll leave Va-Koro, return here and come up with a fake name for myself, and then head out.”Shiri could not help but wonder if this request layout had been influenced by Bism’s own bargaining tactics. “What if I went?” she offered, sensing that her host was not going to give ground from her demand. “They can’t see me unless I want them to, and they can’t keep me out of the buildings. With directions, I could be in and out within five minutes.”“The Matoran” shook her grey-armored head. “That might be the case if the Hall of Records was run by computers, but the Village of Time hasn’t quite caught up with the rest of the universe. Last I’ve heard, the personnel were converting the stone records into the computer, but its’ slow going. Its’ still mostly stone, and the only physical object you can manipulate is the Spear. We need a better plan, since I’m not allowed to get inside the Hall.”As she finished her explanation, the female turned away from her window, where she had been gazing at the midmorning sun. Behind her powerless mask, her expression morphed into one of surprise as she realized that she was speaking to seemingly thin air. “Shiri?”“I’m here,” came the reply. As the ghost materialized beside the Spear again, she looked at it thoughtfully. “Maybe if you strapped the Spear onto your back, I could create a bubble effect around you – bend the light to turn you invisible. It won’t be perfect, but it could get you inside.”An excited look replaced the grey-armored figure’s bewildered one. “It could! The security is pretty limited in Va-Koro, since they rely so much on their Psionics Toa to detect danger, so I could just walk by – provided I don’t slam into anyone.”“Just out of curiosity, what would happen to you if you got caught in the Hall of Records?”The response was delivered in a flat, matter-of-fact tone. “Ever gotten hit by a Stone Toa’s barrage of elemental power?”The deceased Toa cringed as she realized what her friend was driving at. “Unfortunately, yes.”“Then you’ve got a good idea what awaits me if we screw up.”“Well, that’s … motivating,” the Light Toa said after an awkward pause. “Let’s get this rolling before one of us loses our nerve.”Taking the hint (Shiri still wanted to make this a fast errand), “the Matoran” quickly slung her stuffed knapsack onto her couch, hitting the Rahi leather with a clanging crash. After tightening her cloak around her throat, she swept around in a dramatic about-face to look toward the Spear of Ajax. Shiri vanished back into the metal casing as she reached out for it, ready to strap it onto herself.The moment her fingers closed around the shaft, though, a bolt of something hit her, making the nameless Matoran stagger. It was like she’d been standing in a room completely devoid of light, with no idea how large it was or where the exit was, and an unseen door had abruptly been flung open to send a beam of illumination to blind her eyes.Except it wasn’t her eyes. It was her mind …She saw the shining white bow of – a ship? Momentary confusion filled her – to her knowledge, she’d never been on a ship – until she realized what this had to be: a memory, long since forgotten, of her life before awakening in Va-Koro. Not that she remembered when or where she had boarded a vessel like this, a vessel that clearly had to be a luxury liner. Upon the prow of the proud ship was the name of the vessel in gilded letters: Sa-Fire.Like a movie camera shifting the focus, her eyes were pulled away from the bow and further down its length, finally coming to rest on a passenger deck. Several chairs were lined up on it, the occupants catching some rays as they slept or read, but one figure – a Matoran, decked out in a fancy cloak and hat –was standing by the rails, gazing out at the silver sea. Abruptly, she was zoomed in on the lone, seemingly-wealthy Matoran, forced to watch. As her eyes processed what stood before her, the female Matoran before her turned, adjusting her hat brim to give her a better view. Almost before she caught a glimpse, the nameless one seemed to know who was beneath that hat, whose face was behind the mask.Breathing faster, she looked upon herself.“Wake up!”“The Matoran” opened her eyes in a hurry at Shiri’s urging. She found herself lying on her hut’s floor, the Toa spirit hovering over her, deep concern in her eyes. “What is it?”“Just you passing out when you picked up the Spear and staying that way for about five minutes,” the ex-Toa of Light said dryly, moving back as her ally got up. After checking over her shoulder and noting that the Spear was strapped to her back – apparently Shiri had gotten it on her, though how that was possible while she had been facing the ceiling was beyond her – the nameless Matoran shifted her attention back to her friend and current ally, who now wanted to know just what had happened.Shaking her head in confusion, her only reply was, “I dunno … I thought I saw something when I fainted, but I’m not sure. Come on; let’s going.”“You sure you want to?”“Bism’s got a saying: ‘You can watch things happen, you can make things happen, or you can wonder what the Karzahni happened.’ I’d rather do item two right now, and save item three for later.”XxXTen minutes and much squabbling later found the odd couple overlooking the main gate into Va-Koro. Like inanimate sentinels for the people inside, two statues flanked the entrance, in the shape of two robed Toa: one cupping its hands in front of its heartlight as if in prayer, while the other had one hand thrust out towards the horizon, as if banishing enemies from its’ sight.“They’re big on symbols here,” the nameless female commented to Shiri, who was floating just behind her right shoulder. Her only reply came in the form of her vision suddenly bending, like she had been dropped inside a sphere made of thick glass, as the Light Spirit brought her powers to bear.Done, came the whisper in her mind. But I can only do so much for other people on the streets. While I have some control over their minds, I think you should avoid the main roads to get to the Hall of Records.Wasn’t planning to go any other way, the soon-to-be-named Matoran replied.I’m just saying, was the wounded comeback.With her heartlight in her mouth, the pair of living and dead moved down the overlooking hill to the dirt road. As it was nearly midday, traffic was down to a trickle in and out, as the occupants prepared for their rest at high noon, making it easy for them to slip in through the gates. Looking through her ally’s eyes, Shiri got a brief glimpse of a main street that seemed to lead to a center with a large fountain, but then her host steered down a side street and she lost sight of them.The back ways and alleys of Va-Koro weren’t as pristine as the main roads, but Shiri noted that it was made of the same white stone as the rest of the village, and so far she had not seen a single seam where two pieces of rock met. When she mentioned this to her ally, the reply came that the origins of the Va-Koro were thought to have come about as the result of a Stone Toa’s labor, who had carved the original village in one night from a mountain that had once stood there.Despite her normal policy of refraining from entering the village, the Matoran knew the way to the center well, as all roads led there in the end. Unconsciously drawing her cloak tighter about herself in nervousness and anticipation, she stepped out of the alleys at last and pressed against the walls of the central square, following the crowd’s slowly-circling route towards the temple-like building that she knew was the location she had desired to enter for centuries.The moment she stepped inside the entrance hall, the drone of the crowds outside and the trickling water of the center fountain vanished from their ears, leaving an almost foreboding silence in its wake. Slightly uneasy, Shiri watched as her friend paced towards a door on the left side of the hall, pushing it open on noiseless hinges.The room they found themselves in was large, lined with shelves stuffed with stone tablets. A large wooden table rested in the center, with several chairs flanking it. For a moment, Shiri doubted their ability to find the file in all this.How is this place organized? she asked into “the Matoran’s” mind. A slight pause followed, with the hasty reply Huh? Oh, by year, then in chronological order after that, hot on its heels. What was the year you came here?Three years after the Cataclysm – the seventh month of that year, if memory serves.With that to go on, “the Matoran” made a beeline for a section near the back, with an engraved brass plate fastened to it reading “3 AGC”. The shelves were located behind others, hiding the table and door from view, which comforted the pair a bit. While Shiri focused on maintaining her light-bending and keeping lookout, the soon-to-be-named female scanned the bookshelves, looking for the date. 4/03, 6/03, a-ha, 7/03. After that, finding the file she sought was easy.Hardly daring to breathe, “the Matoran” opened the file; sure enough, there were the details of her discovery and treatment. With Shiri preoccupied, she was free to peruse the dossier almost at her leisure – even in the thrill of near-discovery, she hadn’t forgotten that she wasn’t supposed to be here.Patient is of moderate health, read the healer’s report, referring to her physical build and the state of her immune system, but has no memory of her previous locations. Work is beginning to discover her name and background; no action towards Act 66 will be executed.Act 66 was the law that divided the people of Va-Koro into their spiritual classes. Amnesiac medical patients were normally exempt from this until more had been discovered about their background and their memories began returning; she had to wonder why she was an exception.After the report lost her interest, she came upon a form that dealt with her profile. And at the top, made up of three letters, was the object of this whole mission: her real name.Almost in a dumbfounded manner, the formerly-nameless Matoran read the name several times as if she was not sure she had comprehended it properly the previous time. There it was, though, plain as day: Name: Kya. She wasn’t sure what the appropriate feelings were for this, but she felt more at ease with herself, now that she knew a personal fact about herself. She also felt triumphant that she had done this, thumbing her nose at the twisted system of the Village of Time. In your face!Then she noticed what was written in the 66 box. The action itself wasn’t what interested her, but the reason: Suspected to have past dealings with Brotherhood.Kya was struck dumb. Her? Have something to do with the Makuta? Never! She didn’t have much time to dwell/protest, though, since Shiri abruptly alerted her that someone was coming. After a brief hesitation, the Matoran shut her file and replaced it on the shelf – much as it agonized her to set aside possible details of her previous life, she couldn’t take it with her, as her pack was back in her home and the missing article might arouse suspicions. Pulling her cloak tighter around herself, she began slipping around the shelves, even as the door flew open again to admit the intruders and their argument, jarringly loud in contrast of the silence that had dominated the atmosphere up until now.“…can’t believe we’re in this place, H – this is so far out of our way it isn’t even funny.” The voice that spoke this was male and slightly high-pitched, something that Kya found slightly strange. At her urging, Shiri darted out to examine the speakers, returning with an image: two Toa, one of the Air element and one of the Stone element; the former wearing a Mask of Intangiblity and the latter wearing some variant of Kanohi Kakama. The former was skinnier than the bulky, muscular Stone Toa, who seemed to be the “H” referred to by his companion.“Look on the bright side,” the second Toa said, slight impatience edging his voice, “at least we didn’t wind up in the Amari Islands; it’d take us a month to reach the rendezvous point from there.”As Kya edged past another set of shelves, there was the sound of a scroll being unrolled. “Here’s where we are; there’s the rendezvous. All we need to do is to head north, charter a ship, and we’re good.”“Just so long as …”The rest of the argument got cut off as Kya slipped through the doors and left the room; she was slightly disappointed that she couldn’t stay longer without risking discovery, but she knew what she needed to get rolling with a clear conscience. And maybe once Shiri’s back with Stiaye, I can start researching my background in other cities, she promised herself.These thoughts dwelled in her mind as she left the Hall of Records, pressing herself close to the edges of the crowd as usual. The activity was really starting to wind down for the midday rest, making it easy for Shiri to scan for abnormal activity and suspicious figures.What she saw sent a strong thrill of terror through her, powerful enough to gain Kya’s full attention. What is it? she demanded, the psychic fear strong enough to trigger a fight-or-flight reaction in her body.Barely able to mentally articulate, the Toa spirit indicated to a figure behind them. It’s him, she whispered. The one who separated me from Stiaye.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 19 2011 - 05:34 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#8 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 19 2011 - 10:25 PM

Speed of Light

Trying not to take to her heels right away, the newly-renamed Kya peered over her shoulder and through the distorted wall of light that hid her from the eyes of others. Sure enough, the towering, bulky figure that was about three bio behind her matched the appearance of “Stiaye’s” attacker (Shiri had provided her with images in her head to prove her point) almost perfectly. The only noticeable difference between Shiri’s illusions and the panic-inducing figure now wandering almost curiously through Va-Koro’s streets was the red-tinged visor that partly shielded his eyes from outside viewers.While Shiri was still panicking, the grey-armored Matoran had noted something surprising. From the spirit’s count, only four days had passed since she had fled the Steltian and his masters. How the giant Makuta servant had tracked the Spear of Ajax down so fast was a mystery, but they clearly did not have the luxury to ponder it at the moment. Their spell in the Village of Time’s area had clearly run out; if they wanted to flee safely and quietly, it had to be now.Can you distract him? Mislead him? she demanded of the Light Toa spirit. Shiri managed to float above her fear and shakily replied, I can distract him, but misleading him would be impossible. There is something in his mind – perhaps given to him by the visor he now wears – that allows him to find me and my vessel.So distract him. Just do it long enough for me to get out of Va-Koro.Meekly, the Light Spirit began to work while Kya moved faster through the crowd, no longer caring about not slamming into people. Many a person in Va-Koro felt themselves being shoved aside by an invisible force that day, but most dismissed it as the careless practice of Kalima, the village’s Toa of Psionics, making sure her skill with her element was still sharp.Meanwhile, Rarin – for it was indeed Rarin that the duo had spotted – frowned behind the screens of his visor as his mind seemed to feel ticklish. Abruptly, it was like it was harder for his mind to focus on his task, and fearing intrusion by a nosy mind-reader, he retreated behind the barriers in his mind that Hecate had trained him to build. During the days when the Brotherhood had been conquering Matoran lands, his Master had been close to dependant for him to be incognito when he did her work (or at least as incognito as a towering Steltian could be). To that end, she had taught him to protect his thoughts and – more importantly – had taught him how to lie effectively.He could never lie to his Master, that was certain – but he could fool those he encountered on his missions, as he could act perfectly like a normal lower-class Steltian, who were (according to the norm) too simple and stupid to be anything but honest.Narrowing his eyes, he focused on the readings his visor was giving him. According to the machine, the reading on the Spear of Ajax was moving to the western side of the village – the opposite direction that it had entered from. Perhaps there was some ignorant citizen that carried it, unaware of the power that the artifact possessed, wandering to visit a friend. If that were the case, perhaps he could peacefully convince them to relinquish it. It was worth a try – he had no interest in getting Va-Koro’s Toa involved if it could be avoided.Bowing his head, he moved after the signal, paying no heed to the people that watched him with apprehension and mistrust.XxXBism stepped back from one of his Rahi and finished tending to their hide, smiling as the creature nickered appreciatively and began tearing into the hay. While Va-Koro was not his favorite place in the universe, it was one of the few places that could properly care for the Serohes that pulled his cart, so he had since resigned himself to the fact he’d be going here more often than he’d like, if only for their sake.Gently running his gloved fingers through their manes of fine metal, he stepped outside to head for his temporary dwelling and promptly proceeded to slam into thin air – More like thick air, he thought as he stumbled back – and what made it stranger was the fact he heard a very familiar cry from the same place he’d banged into nothing.“What the … you’re here?”In response, a muttered argument was held between two unseen figures, ending when his grey-armored friend appeared as if she had thrown off a cloak of invisibility. “Yes, I’m here,” she replied, sounding tenser than she had been a few days prior. “It’s unbelievable, I know, but there you are.”“Just how in the name of Karzahni’s mask did you just do that?”“Do what?”Bism wasn’t sure if his friend was playing ignorant or not, but in exasperation he pressed his point. “How did you become invisible? Why did you become invisible? And why are you here?”She shook her masked head, eyes flashing with nervousness. “There’s no time for me to explain, Bism. I’m in danger, and I can’t delay leaving Va-Koro.”Before the Po-Matoran could grab her arm and get her to explain, what felt like a shadow fell upon him and his friend, and looking down the alley made his eyes fall upon the biggest Steltian brute he’d ever seen. The copper-and-colbalt bruiser towered over the two Matoran, his face stern and forbidding, and for a Matoran more than capable of keeping roadway gangs from attacking him, his embarrassing first thought was, We’re gonna die.“You carry something my master desires returned to her,” he rumbled, in a voice that sounded like it belonged to a living mountain. He was not addressing Bism, though – he was facing “the Matoran”, eyes locked on the spear he had given her just days ago.The female’s face twisted, like she was puzzled. “Pardon? This is mine.”“It is hers,” Bism said, hurrying to back her up. Something about the muscle-head was giving him creeps beyond the usual “tall, strapping person” creeps – it touched upon a primal fear that stemmed from nightmares he would rather forget. If it came down to an attempted robbery – while he doubted he could effectively combat the giant, he would give his best effort to try and protect his friend.“You carry stolen goods, Matoran,” he replied, still ignoring the smaller male, which irked him even more considering the fact he was protectively standing before his friend. “She wishes for it to be returned to her – by any means possible. What do you desire? Money? Creature comforts? I could give that to you, if only you allow me to return that spear to my master.”Bism didn’t turn his head to gauge the reaction – he could sense his friend’s hesitation. He knew what she truly wanted: her blank memory restored, which was something she had confided in him not long after they had cultivated their friendship. If past was prologue, she wanted the blank pages to be filled in, for better or worse.Yet he could sense something off this being; an instinct that told him to be on edge. While his promises were like honey, he could sense a hidden poison inside the sweetness. While he could hear the cultured sincerity in this strange person, he did not trust it, causing Bism’s cynical self to emerge and warn this being away; warn his friend from giving this male what he wanted, to not cave into the enticing pledges.“Listen,” he said loudly, drowning out the other’s uncertain reply, “I don’t know who you are, or who your ‘master’ is, but I don’t like you very much. I don’t know where that Spear came from, but she came by it justly – I gave it to her, and it was traded to me before that. I don’t think you can offer her what she really wants – if you’d even give it to her – so you should just walk away now.”Turning like it settled the matter, Bism turned and took his friend’s hand, who allowed it to be held. “Come on – let’s blow this place,” he said, and they began to walk away.With their backs turned, there should have been no way for him to know carefully repressed anger and frustration had flashed in their opponent’s eyes. Yet a voice in his head sent an instinctive warning, and he acted on it, shoving the female Matoran away and jumping to the side before a meaty fist could connect with “the Matoran’s” back and deliver a potentially crippling blow.“Run!” he yelled, prepare to take a lot of damage for his friend, even as his eyes remained fixed upon the assailant and his massive hands, which were drawing back for another blow.XxXKya was quick to take Bism’s advice in a fractional manner, diving behind the stable doors in an attempt to hide close to her friend. Part of her disobedience stemmed from her loyalty to him, but the rest of her reasons came from her guilt – guilt for considering, if only briefly, of surrendering Shiri over to the thug. The idea of regaining her lost memories had been highly tempting, up to the point where she had forgotten that the deceased Toa had told her that he was a Makuta’s servant, and they were not to be trusted.Heroes were supposed to reject these wishes, ignore what they wanted desperately in the face of protecting friends. But she knew that only a few people could resist the lure of their heart’s desires, especially when it came to them like this, and she was only mortal; she was as susceptible as any other average person. And if the records were true, if she was a former pawn of the Brotherhood, then maybe she didn’t want to know it all right away.Her remorseful thoughts were cut off by a cry; through the parted door, she saw Bism’s body collapse to the paving stones that made up the street, blood trickling from a head wound, though the grey-armored Matoran couldn’t tell if the agent or the impact had delivered it. He wasn’t moving, but she could tell from the steady flashing of his heartlight that he still lived.A grunt of satisfaction came from the adversary; he was rid of the pesky civilian that was interfering with his business. With the Po-Matoran out of the way, he would be free to look for her and seize Shiri’s casing at his leisure – or, almost at his leisure.The Toa are coming, Shiri reported grimly, the first words she had said since Kya had shamefully said an apology about her traitorous considerations. Two of them; a Toa of Stone and a Toa of Fire. Their leader was alerted of a disturbance here and sent her brothers to investigate.Fear set in; Kya knew of those two – more specifically, the Stone Toa – and knew that if they found her, Kalima would identify her and order for her death. We have to get out! she cried in panic. Can’t you do something?!I can … relax and do not resist.Kya could not imagine how she could possibly become calm under these circumstances, but Shiri’s influence managed to soothe her feelings of terror to the point that when the deceased Toa’s consciousness began to push gently against her mind, she let her in.The Toa of Light’s soul washed over her like a tsunami of will, pressing Kya’s mind to a backseat while the imprisoned ghost seized control of the tribeless Matoran’s body. With it came the knowledge of her powers – the ones she had in life, in death, and the ones gained by her fusion with Ajax’s Spear – and it was among the simplest she utilized for their extraction.Eyes gleaming with otherworldly light, Shiri rose to Kya’s feet, marveling at the sheer power she felt even in this Matoran shape. Rarin spotted her almost instantly, but before he could advance, a flash of light erupted from her hands to blind him, in a maneuver she had used millennia ago on a similar enemy.The Makuta’s servant staggered, eyes blinded by her light burst, but Shiri wasn’t done yet. In death, she had gained mastery over the many uses of the Light element, and one of the easiest was enhancing her speed. She began to focus, hold onto the mindset to activate that talent –We’re not leaving without Bism, Kya snapped from her passenger seat position, somehow able to wrest back enough control for this request. Amazed by the strength of her host, Shiri readily agreed. Scooping up the unconscious Po-Matoran in their arms, the two raced out of the alley, through the gates before the startled guards could react, and up the path to towards Kya’s home – and from there, a location she knew was safe for them to rest.Back in the alley, Rarin had shoved his visor off his face and was rubbing his eyes in an attempt to restore his sight. His ears – as enhanced as his mind – picked up two sets of running feet coming from behind him; the steps themselves informed him they were taller than Matoran but lighter than himself.A hand reached up touch his shoulder plating; his senses told him that the one doing the reaching had to lift up, and they were being cautious about it. A voice asked for him to come; Rarin quickly shifted mental gears. He was busted; he knew the two Matoran and their precious cargo was long gone. The best he could do now was damage control – get himself off the hook, without alerting the Toa that he was Hecate’s servant. It would take some skillful acting, but it wasn’t impossible.“Yeah,” he grunted, sliding into his dunce act. “Rarin no mean harm.” And with that, the Makuta’s agent allowed the pair to lead him off.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 19 2011 - 10:26 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#9 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 20 2011 - 05:26 PM

The Crystal Pool

Bism prided himself on being a light sleeper. Even when it appeared that he was dead to the universe, the slightest unnatural sound could rouse him in an instant, ready to fight whatever dangers threatened. All the same, it took him a while to lift from the fog of unconsciousness and back into awareness of the world around him.He was lying on a bed of grass and moss, in some forest glade with late afternoon light streaming through the trees around him. The radiance sparkled off the waters of a deep, clear pool, ferns growing around its edges and on the banks. While it was almost like a location from a fairy tale, the Po-Matoran had never seen this place before, so he was naturally confused.As he sat up, a gentle hand rested on his shoulder, and he turned his head to look at his friend as she pushed him back down. “Lie still. You got a pretty nasty knock to the head from the fight. It’s not a concussion, but you should stay down until I finish binding it.”Obediently, Bism lay down as she continued fussing over the bleeding wound on his head. “Where is this place?”“It’s about three kio from my home; far enough that Kalima can’t sense us. I found it while hiking in the forest a few years ago, and I’ve visited it enough times to remember how to get here. Not many people know it exists, so we should be fairly undisturbed.”The aura around them, of the grove’s tranquility, was enough to make Bism wish to sleep again, but consciousness had come with stark memories of the fight, the scrap that had given him another badge of courage. In retrospect – the vision that had no problems seeing – he could see the cold, practical gaze of his opponent, and with the calm safety gave him, he knew that if his friend had not somehow rescued him, he would be dead.Leaning just within his sight was the spear the goon had wanted. He stared at the graffiti-covered thing, not sure what could cause someone like that brute – and the brute’s “Master” – be willing to kill to lay hands on it.His friend noticed where his sight was directed. “He didn’t get it. To my knowledge, he’s currently in the custody of Kalima and her brothers. We’re safe for now, and so is it.”Bism wasn’t what made him continue to stare it, but the way she referred to the weapon – like it was a living being, like it was to be revered – caused him to ask, “Why is it so important? Do you know why that guy tried to kill us for it?”“I’m not sure about kill –” she began.“But he would’ve, given half the chance. Just who was he? Do you know him?”The grey-armored female rose to her feet and walked towards the spear. “Well, first off, I’ve ditched that whole “the Matoran” thing – my name is Kya now. That’s what I was in Va-Koro to do – find my records and learn my real name. And that guy was a servant of the last Makuta.”Waving aside the fact their enemy’s employer was one of the most hated beings in the universe, Bism persisted. “Kya, what would a Makuta’s puppet want with that thing?”“I’m not the person to explain it. Shiri, care to tell him about yourself?”Before the Po-Matoran could try and muster his mouth for another question, mist began to leak from spear, creeping across the grass and leaving cold moisture in its wake. It swirled upward, consolidating into a figure like air made solid, but the façade rippled like the surface of a disturbed pond.“Hello,” Shiri said pleasantly to him.Smiling crookedly at her dumbfounded friend, Kya said, “It’s a long story,” knowing that was the understatement of the year.XxXWhile the cell would be easy for Rarin to smash open and escape from, the Steltian servant of Hecate did not chose the easy route for flight. That would have the Toa of Va-Koro chasing him, and he could not afford to have a Toa of Psionics tailing him. No, he would have to take the hard route to evade their suspicion – and what better way to pin the disturbance on the Matoran, than to create false memories?The barred and reinforced door swung outward, and the Steltian looked up. It was one of the Toa that had brought him here – Morian, the Toa of Stone. His eyes were hard, the kind of eyes that belonged to those that had lived too long for their own tastes, but would remain if there still were those who wished them to.Morian wasn’t the chattiest of people, either. A lot of people in Va-Koro learned the fine art of silent communication, and he was obviously an expert. Rising up from the bench (too low to the ground to comfortably accommodate him), Rarin allowed iron cuffs to be placed on his wristsThey were inside the compound of the Va-Koro Toa, that much was obvious as Morian directed him through the halls, a sword indicating the clear warning. The entirety of the Village of Time had been built to accommodate Ce-Matoran, and this stronghold was meant to help a Psionics Toa. Rarin had once read that there were certain materials that could help or hinder their powers, and white marble was a favored substance, due to its flexible nature. It could both amplify the mental reach and silence their telepathy – no wonder that there were so many Ce-Matoran living here.The journey finally ended in a long room covered in mirrors – considered by tradition to stifle telepathy from traversing the walls. There were four chairs, one way-too-small and chained – obviously meant to contain him. There was one occupant, seated in one of the viewer’s chairs in the corner – the Fire Toa that had joined Morian in capturing him, Zraie. The scarlet armor he wore wasn’t covered in as many slash marks as the Stone Toa’s, but there was a general air of uncaring towards his appearance – the metal plates were dull from lack of polish.“Any word on when Kalima will be here?” Morian asked as he directed the Steltian into the tiny chair, who sat down with great discomfort.“She said she’ll be here soon.”“Sure,” the older male grumbled. “And Makika toads will fly before she shows up when she saysshe will.”As if on cue, the door opened again, admitting a female Toa clad in blue and gold. Her eyes were the radiant colors of spring grass behind her Mask of Biomechanics, but Rarin remembered his training and did not look deeply. Hecate had taught him that the Psionics tribe had the most beautiful eyes of all the tribes, but the beauty was a trap for those unwary of the danger. They could weaken a previously-strong mind if the beholder was enthralled, allowing the Toa to slip into their minds with ease.Psionics Toa had many tricks to read those they faced – their very being was built to accent their powers. Their eyes were one of the most readily at their disposal, to slide easily into the brains of their opposition and tear them apart – to do what an entire line of their kind, including Sirien of Toa Rohaya fame, had done in Va-Koro.Yet he could sense something in this female – Kalima, that was her name – that told him she was different from her predecessors, and especially her brothers. Compared to Morian and Zraie, who had lived through the Brotherhood-Dark Hunter War (even if Zraie hadn’t been part of it actively), Kalima was very young and inexperienced – a product of the Rebirth, and hesitant with her powers even after forty-five years. Her fear of crossing a moral boundary was her great weakness – and, in a way, her greatest strength.The young Toa glared at Morian, apparently from the residue of a thought she had picked up (most likely the conjuring of his criticism), and then returned her gaze to him as she sat down in the closest chair to him. As he knew it would, Rarin felt her mind pressing against his barriers, looking for purchase to open a way inside. Instinct was powering her efforts to learn his secrets, so it was easy for the Steltian to redirect her probes – without the finesse that would come with practice and time, Kalima could be fooled by a well-prepared individual like himself.With a graceful air, Rarin turned Kalima’s attention away from his unbreakable barriers to a hole he had left open. Eagerly, she slipped through and found what she was looking for – which was only what Rarin wished for her to find. There was nothing that connected him to Hecate, or any hints that he was smarter than he appeared – indeed, nothing real that pointed to him having an identity. In the past, this trick had hoodwinked cleverer mind-readers than she, so she swallowed it without any problems.Then there was one last piece of information to be delivered – an edited version of the altercation he’d had with the two Matoran. Of course, he had clipped the male out of it – there was no need to get a bystander caught up in this – but the grey-armored female he kept, capturing her appearance clearly for Kalima’s benefit, spinning a tale that the Spear was his, that she had stolen it from him and he had been trying to get it back, that he had lost his temper and tried to seriously injure her.He sensed her belief in his story – another one fooled with ease – and as she retreated, finding nothing to further interest her, he tasted something from her own mind. He mulled it over as she left and he pulled his barriers back together, wondering how to best turn it to his advantage.Dimly, he heard Kalima speaking with her brothers, and he made sure to tune out her voice and have only the words register – that was another trick, and he couldn’t afford to have his barriers weakened right now. Each time a Psionics Toa entered the mind of another, they left tracks, grooves they could follow next time they went inside. Each time would be easier – sometimes it got to the point where she could take control of another’s mind without much effort.Granted, his studies told Rarin that it took years for that to happen, but he didn’t want Kalima to blow his cover after having a path to follow into his head.“He’s clean,” she was saying. “A Matoran stole something from him, and it was his effort to get it back that caused me to send you.”Morian muttered something under his breath, but Zraie was more interested in what Kalima had said. “Who was the Matoran?”“He didn’t know her, but I recognized the profile from his memories. Seems our little Outlier came inside the walls.”The female Toa said it flatly, but her words seemed to agitate the pair, like the hissing of a feline alerting a pack of stone rats. Rarin didn’t pay much attention to why they were alarmed by the mention of the grey-armored Matoran – he had been more concerned about the Toa themselves – but as he glanced at Kalima, he noticed something strange. While she listened to her brothers discuss the development and what sort of action they needed to take, there was a minute sort of conflict in her eyes – like she wore a mask of emotional indifference beneath her true Kanohi; the sort of indifference Psionics Toa were famous for exhibiting.They were good at divorcing themselves from emotion, after all.But these tiny breakthroughs, cobbled together with the strange conflicts she had sensed from her retreat, came together in a rough estimation: Kalima didn’t like the system Va-Koro used, and wanted to change it. It was her brothers – them and the other members of the old guard – that were standing in her way.Like they suddenly remembered he was sitting there, in a chair that was much too small for him, Morian addressed Rarin. “We’re done with you, Steltian; you’re free to go. Your things are in one of the lockers in the main hall; the receptionist will tell you which one it is.” With that, he and the Toa of Fire left the room, leaving him and Kalima in the room.Rarin was quick to follow them out after prying himself out, but before exiting he stopped, concentrating on a thought he hoped the blue-and-gold Toa would pick up on. What you wish to happen is possible, but while energy can be redirected, your challenge is mind over matter.He left then, hoping she had heard it but turning his mind to other matters. He couldn’t think freely until he was out of her range, but he needed to find those Matoran. The last thing he wanted was to fail his Master again.XxX“Lemme get this straight. We’re running from a giant, overly-articulate goon that wants that piece of junk?”“Don’t call it junk,” Shiri said sharply, in reply to Bism’s blunt question. “I’ve had to live in it for a rather long time.”Sitting beside the Crystal Pool and playing with the cold water in the hollow, Kya sighed, knowing that would happen. Bism, while a good friend of hers, had a tendency to poke fun at those that spoke eloquently, like Shiri often did.Granted, the Po-Matoran did not pursue his ribbing at the ghostly Toa. Instead, in all seriousness, he returned his attention to the female Matoran. “You’re bringing her back to that Toa, right?” he asked.She silently nodded.“And Shiri can guide you to her?”Another nod; he looked relieved. “Good. Xanthus and Balius are faster than going on foot, but that’s not much use if you don’t know where to go.”Kya was surprised as Bism named the two Serohes that he had tamed and kept with him. “You’re not saying you’re coming with us, are you?”“Kya, if you two hadn’t been around to watch my back, that guy would’ve killed me. I’ve got something invested in making sure she returns to where she wants to go – making sure I didn’t crack my skull for nothing, and to help you. You’re my friend, and I won’t let you go without me.”Kya began to form words that would warn Bism not to come, that it was too dangerous, that she and Shiri could take care of themselves … then paused, as memories blossomed in her head. Bism had stayed in her home many times before, and he usually had stories to tell, the nights they weren’t so tired that they went straight to sleep. Sometimes the stories were of real adventures of heroes during the war that he had heard or witnessed himself, but others were tall tales.Either way, as she remembered them, she knew that the heroes of the stories – Toa, Matoran, Menirun, or some other species – were never alone in their stories. Some had started out with companions, while others had picked them up during their travels, but she now wondered: Had they all come because they had insisted on it? Had they followed the hero because of some oath of friendship, or another reason altogether?Whichever it was, she could see the pattern, and realized it as easily as Bism had decided that the Steltian would have killed him: Bism would come with her, no matter if she wanted him or not.Shiri had either come to the same conclusion or thought Bism was a good idea to begin with. However it was, she replied, “Then come with us. Any help will be appreciated.”“Anything to help a friend,” he replied, climbing to his feet. “Any chance I could be shown the way out? My stuff’s still in Va-Koro,”“Yeah,” the female Matoran said softly. “Be careful, though – Kalima probably found out about your involvement and might want to take you in for questioning.”Nodding, Bism was lead out on a hidden path through the trees by the ghost, her form shimmering with ectoplasm. As the suns dipped towards the horizon, his footfalls faded from Kya’s hearing until they were gone.XxXAuthor’s Note: And once again I find more ways to show my love for mythology. There are references to Greek myth in something Bism mentions, and the name of one of the Toa of Va-Koro comes from Hindu myth. (The former is more obvious if you’ve read The Iliad (as I have), and the latter should be obvious if you’ve watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)Review here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 20 2011 - 05:27 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#10 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 20 2011 - 10:39 PM

Gerilmi

It is time.The whisper in the dark floated through Turaga Stara’s mind as she lay in the arms of dreams. Her hand was clasped over the medallion that had been her last gift from Kronus, the rounded edges leaving dull imprints in her palm. Clouds obscured the words, and she sank deeper into sleep.It is time, the ethereal voice repeated, more urgently now, and this time her eyes snapped open, fully alert as she sought out the speaker. It had been almost fifty-three years since her last raid on enemy vessels, but after eight centuries of doing just that, there were lessons that the body and soul never forgot.Snatching up the dagger she always kept on her bedside table, the Turaga flung off her sheets and rolled off the mattress into a crouch that she had practice in – a maneuver that would protect her vital organs from any attackers with her legs and her back braced against her bedframe; it would place her in a position to cripple an opponent’s legs. As she triggered her Ceray to pierce the midnight gloom with enhanced night vision, her eyes found nothing solid; no Rahi that had snuck in, or a sentient threat. Yet the voice she had heard hadn’t come from her head, she had definitely heard it – so who had spoken to her?As the thoughts crossed her sharp mind, her mostly-closed door opened with an eerie creeeek, the gap between frame and door showing her living room deserted. Yet Stara swore she saw a misty figure flit out of her eyesight once she had focused on the scene beyond her bedroom.Slowly, she rose out of her crouch, sheathing her knife on her hip but replacing it with her staff as she walked out into the living room. As she expected, there was no one there when inspected, but she had no doubts that she had seen it. While not nearly as young as she used to be, the Turaga of Lightning was far from senile.Come outside, Wise One, and join me.There was that voice again, and while she was still drowsy, Stara knew that it was real, although it was only being heard in her head. Glancing sharply out her window, she swore that she saw the misty figure flit away from the glass panes the moment she looked.Quietly, she opened her front door and stepped outside, not wanting to wake anyone up that wasn’t already up. Keeping her Ceray’s power alive, she slipped through her village, heading for the gates that led deeper into the island of Amaria – most particularly towards the Xi-Kini, where the Elemental Well was located. She was sure that the time had come for her to surrender Kronus’ gift to the Well, and for what would result from it to happen.As she expected, her people were standing guard over the gates – the calm that followed the storm seasons was the opportune time for the pirates that were said to lurk in the far south to attack the islands. However, since the destruction of Deimos, she had cultivated the habit of taking late-night strolls, seemingly to rest her mind – in actuality, it was in case this happened. As Stara expected, her people gave a salute as they opened the gates for her, allowing the Turaga to climb the hillside path that led to the grove of trees that were the entrance to the Temple of Lightning.She paused at the crossroads, eyes lingering on the graveyard at the foot of Lookout Peak. Sekmet had been laid to rest there quietly, in a grave she, Steena, and Adridne had dug themselves. None of the other citizens of the Amari Islands had wished to be present when her remains had been sealed beneath the earth, but as the days went by from the burial, a memorial had accrued before her headstone – a few flowers, some tablets with carved messages. Stara had done nothing to discourage her people from these acts of post-mortem kindness – if anything, she encouraged them to forgive Sekmet for her deeds, for the Xi-Matoran was said to have repented in the end.Besides, she had bigger things to worry about. Since Chaka’s first observations, Stara had begun to watch the night sky herself, and the stars had become even more confused. The Nightborn Stars had intensified in color, while the Sea Star had joined the Black, Storm, Morning, and Red Stars in the new formation. As well, a tiny speck of a light – said to indicate things that are false or corrupted – had entered the mix, causing the two astrologers of the Amaris to be completely stumped on what they meant.Looking up and seeing no new star shifts, the Turaga turned away and began to walk down the path with its natural archway of bending trees. A sense of serenity washed over her with every step – a feeling she always had when she entered this place – washing away her doubts and fears about the action she was going to undertake.The sound of the burbling spring reached her ears as she reached the grove, walking up to the carved marble that marked the hole that was the Elemental Well. Reaching up over her head, Stara undid the clasp that held the medallion around her neck, letting the chain and steel gather in her palm.For a moment she simply looked at it. Kronus, my friend, she thought, biting back her suspicions that the Gravity Toa might have had something to do with Sekmet’s death, I hope you knew what you were doing when you told me this, as I’ll be throwing away one of my most precious possessions if not.With that, she threw it into the depths; it quickly plummeted past her sight. Peering into the Well, she tried to listen for any indication that it was still falling – the sound of it scraping against rock, or anything else. But all she heard was silence – for even the spring seemed to have become quiet, like it was signaling the calm before the storm’s final push.All around her, the forest seemed darker, darker –Then the darkness overwhelmed her.XxXWhen she came to, Stara realized that it was still night, but the sky was lighter – dawn was approaching. She was lying flat on her back, but when she lifted her head, her surroundings were different. Somehow, while she had been unconscious, she had been moved back into her bedroom, sleeping on top of her mattress.The thought put her ill at ease – surely the guards had not found and moved her, as they were used to her being up at all hours. Deciding to go and ask the night-shift captain, Stara sat up and slung her legs over the side, rising to her feet. She began to turn, meaning to see if her staff and dagger were in their usual spots – then she froze in surprise, like a Rahi deer in the glare of bright lightstones.She had moved, but her Turaga body still slept on her bed. In addition, she now realized that she had to look down when she examined herself, in a manner that was more like her Toa self than her Turaga shape.Already suspecting the truth, she looked down at her hands, outstretched before her. They were as pale and translucent as she had thought they would be, like she was a ghost and not a living being, but they were also the heavily-gauntleted hands of a Toa. No wonder she had thought things were alright – in a way, she was more used to her more powerful shape than to her elder version.“It is a bit of a shock, isn’t it?”The voice behind Stara was friendly and pleasant, as if she was an old friend and he had dropped by her home for a chat – which was true, since they <i>were</i> old friends. Turning away from her bed, the disembodied Toa of Lightning looked Kronus squarely in the eyes and said flatly, “That’s the universe’s biggest understatement.”The Toa of Gravity let it go with a shrug and a smile. He looked almost the same way he had when Stara had last seen his spirit two years prior: his black and violet armor rippling like liquid air, gold eyes shining behind his Kanohi Iden. Yet she could sense a change in him – he had become far less substantial, and his armor was almost natural in appearance, like it belonged on some wild Rahi instead of a Toa. Even his eyes carried a more primal gleam.“Why are you still lingering? I thought that Stiaye had freed you from Notus.”“Your medallions,” he said simply. Turning briefly, Stara saw that her body was clutching the soul-metal necklace again; Kronus had somehow retrieved it. “When we created them – your siblings and mine – we poured some of ourselves into them, tying a piece of ourselves to the earth so we may finish one last mission: or rather, help another Toa succeed.”“Stiaye’s part of this.” Stara stated it as a fact, since her intuition told her it was truth and not assumption, and her former leader nodded assent. “I thought so … the stars seemed to indicate that they had something to do with her. Do you know the meaning of the alignments?”For the first time, a shadow of concern appeared over his face. “I don’t know all of it, Stara – certainly not much more than you or Chaka, or any other astrologer. But I know this: somehow, someway, the Nightborn, the Incorruptible Ones, will somehow become false. I have no other knowledge.”A chill went through her. “And Sekmet?”“Rest assured that we that were under Ajax’s command did no deliberate harm to your former villager. The Nightborn brought her to the Cavern of Souls two years before you returned to the Amaris, and ordered Ajax to never allow her to see the suns’ light again. Even he cannot go against their wishes. She was tended to the best way spirits can, but the day you set foot on your homeland again was the day life fled from her body.”Reaching over, Kronus clasped Stara’s shoulders to better look her in the eyes. “We do not have much time, sister. Change is coming swiftly, and Stiaye will need your guidance in the troubled times that await her. She and her companions will lose far more than they have before now, and the kind of advice she will need is not that of Turaga to Toa, but Toa to Toa.“She is on the Northern Continent now, but she is separated from the Spear Ajax forged. Find its new bearer – the one that has shared history with us, though our paths never crossed with hers in life. Find her, and you will find Stiaye in time to help her.”Stara’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Could I get my directions without the riddles, please?”“I can’t say more than that.”“Can’t or won’t?”The Toa of Gravity ignored her critique. “We will cover your absence. Your people will not know that you are gone, with us animating your body. Go.” And with that, he vanished in a wisp of lavender energy.For a moment, Stara’s disembodied spirit stood alone in her bedroom, startled by what her friend had said. Then her soulless body rose up on the bed, and in her own voice, she heard, “Go. The Matoran will not see you unless you wish them to.”Well, I guess I’ve been dismissed. As she floated through the ceiling and into the sky, Stara wondered if this counted as the warning signs of unraveling sanity. XxXThe metal table was cold. It was something she remembered clearly even after all these years: the metal slab that made her organic components crawl from the chills, the leather straps that tied her down, the blinding spotlight that illuminated her and kept her captors in shadow.Fear was the primary emotion then. Fear of the unknown, fear of her subjugators – that fear blinded her senses and mind, erasing her knowledge of her name, tribe, and the names and tribes of the other two that were bound on either side. They were her cellmates, friends, and – in some intangible way – her brother and sister.The red eyes of the Dark Master shone from the tar-black shadow that surrounded them, burning as brightly as ruby coals. Slowly, maliciously, they raised their clawed hand, revealing the syringes clutched in their grasp. A colored tape was wrapped around each of the three injection needles, each a different shade: steel, black, and ivory.The former two were handed off to the assistants that flanked them; one was a giant, while the other was a multi-legged monster. The ivory-taped one remained in the hands of the Master, descending point-first towards her throat. She struggled against her bonds, knowing inwardly that resistance was futile.The needle sank into her neck, releasing its payload into her systems. Pain, white-hot pain, appeared almost instantly, but it mostly centered on her face. She twisted and turned on her slab, trying to fight the changes she could feel, clawing at her restraints – And for an instant, in her mind’s eye, she saw the savage monster she would become.The dreamer woke from her nightmare with a start, her heartlight flashing and tongue sore from chewing on it so she wouldn’t scream. Breathing through flared nostrils, she waited until her mind stopped racing, then released her tongue from her teeth.It was odd how fast her old nightmares had returned – how forcefullythey had come back in the light of recent events. How many centuries had she trembled in their grip, thrashing in her bedclothes, waking in a sweat as she tried not to scream? Too many to count, before they had faded and she had dared hope she was free of them for good. But they had returned with a vengeance, scaring her even more than before.Life bites, she thought sourly, running her abused tongue over her teeth, making sure they were all in order, but then again, so do I. A smile crossed her face at the thought, but it was grim and self-mocking.XxXKya woke to the feel of morning sunlight on her back, filtering through the trees. For a moment, she lay there confused – why was she not in her home, on her bed? – then remembered the events of yesterday. By now Kalima and her brothers surely must have learned of her involvement; once she left this area, there would be no coming back for a very long time.She opened her eyes. Bism was wrapped up in his bedroll not far from her, a gloved hand gripping the wicked-looking knife that was mercifully still in its sheath. Kya could never understand why her friend refused to take off his gloves even when he was asleep, but since she admired them quite a bit, being black leather studded with metal pyramids, she rationalized that perhaps he just loved them too much.A cool hand slipped over the brow of her mask, leaving dewdrops in their wake. Rolling over, the grey-armored Matoran looked up into the misty figure of Shiri, bending protectively over her as her hand passed through her forehead. Her eyes glowed as she looked down at the new bearer of her shell, and while the ghost said nothing, the tribe-less female knew that it was best for them to leave.When Shiri roused Bism – who woke up instantly, brandishing the knife until he realized that he couldn’t kill the Light Toa a second time – he felt the same way. Strapping the blade back onto his belt, he ducked through the trees to where he had picketed his Rahi the night before, even as Kya struck camp. A few moments later, the Po-Matoran came back, leading the pair by the reins and wearing a puzzled look on his face.“What’s up?” his companion asked, finishing her work and slinging her pack over her shoulders. The Spear alone lay untouched; for reasons obvious to her and Shiri (who had been informed about the full details of her fainting spell after she had led Bism out to the road), she wanted all of her things ready before possibly passing out again.“I could’ve sworn I saw something while I was going to get Balius and Xanthus, but I found nothing. Ah well,” he shrugged, “we better get going. I’ll saddle them.”As the Po-Matoran turned away to do his task, Kya bent down and gripped the Spear tightly in her hand, shudders running through her as the strange powers held inside took hold again. Shiri hovered over her in deep concern, ready to place the Spear onto her back if she fainted. It did not come to pass, though, as she opened her eyes again soon after.“What was it this time?” the Toa of Light’s spirit asked quietly.“A forest,” was the reply. “I was running, and when I looked back, I saw people chasing me with weapons drawn. They had skulls mounted on their shoulders, but I don’t think the place was anywhere in this area.”Bism looked around Xanthus’ flank, curious. “What’s up?” he asked, his left eyebrow getting its workout for the morning.“I’ll explain later,” the grey-armored Matoran muttered, strapping the Spear to her back as Shiri dissipated.“I’ll hold you to that. Kya,” he said in a more serious vein, “I know you’ve never rode one of my Serohes before, but it’s easy once you get on. Balius is a bit more forgiving with amateurs than Xan is, so he’ll be your mount.“Approach him from the right side,” he coached as his friend nervously edged towards the grey-armored Seroh, her eyes watching the pair of heavy hooves. Balius snorted, shook his mane, and watched her curiously as, under Bism’s tutelage, she placed her right foot in the stirrup, got the other leg over his back, and soon had herself sitting in the saddle, feeling very much out of her depth.“Please don’t be mean to me, Balius,” she whispered pleadingly as she leaned forward and worked her fingers into his fine mane.“Don’t worry, Kya,” the Po-Matoran said cheerfully, seated upon black Xanthus by now and looking quite natural. “He’ll be following Xan’s lead, so he won’t go charging off with you on top. Let’s move out.”As he finished his sentence, Bism gently tapped Xanthus’ sides with his boot heels, and with a snort he began moving forward. Thanks to the lead rope tied between their harnesses, Balius followed at a brisk walk, Kya clinging on for dear life and hoping to Mata Nui that she wouldn’t fall off or do something equally stupid.XxXOnce the sounds of their departure had faded from the hearing of even the keenest ears, Rarin emerged from his hiding place in the deeper parts of the forest and made his way to the Crystal Pool. After retrieving his things from the Va-Koro Toa, he had used his visor’s ability to track the two Matoran to the location, circling around them so he could observe without being observed. His original intention had been to wait until they had fallen asleep, then sweep in and steal the Spear, but as he had watched and listened to them, suspicions that had taken silent root in his mind during the fight began to grow, strengthening to the point where he stayed his hand until he could relay them to Hecate, just in case.Pulling out one of the devices his Master had made for him, the Steltian turned it on, dropped it into the clear water, then bowed his head in respect. The Makuta’s image crystallized upon the mirror-like surface, peering through the crystal that had once belonged to Makuta Deimos.“Have you found it?” she asked, not wasting time with pleasantries.Rarin nodded. “I tracked the signal to the village of Va-Koro, where it was in the hands of a female Matoran. I foolishly tried to take it from her within its walls, and she and an accomplice slipped away while I was detained by the village Toa. They released me after the Psionics Toa read my mind and I fooled her into thinking I was trying to retrieve stolen property from the female.” After pausing for breath – Hecate’s masked face remained unchanged throughout the narration – the enhanced Steltian continued. “I tracked the pair to a location outside of the Psionics Toa’s range. They left about fifteen minutes ago, and I am contacting you from their campsite now.”“You did not take the Spear.” It was a statement, not a question, and Rarin shook his head in affirmation.“Is there a reason why you disobeyed orders?” She sounded more disappointed that angry, and Rarin took heart in that as he asked, “You remember the Project, Master?”“How could I forget Teridax’s blasted Project? But what, pray tell, does that have to do with tracking down the Spear and bringing it to base?”“I believe the Matoran that carry it were part of it.”XxXOnce her servant finished explaining his reasons, Hecate sank back heavily in her throne-like chair. Of all the possible ways she had envisioned this to go, she would have never through of this, never in a thousand years – though then again, that was around the same amount of time it had been since it had been forcefully ended.Her original ideas suddenly whirled around in her keen brain, reforming into a new course. If Rarin’s hunch was correct, things could end better for her than she thought they would, but it all hinged on one thing – were these Matoran the real thing?Returning her attention to her servant who was obediently awaiting orders, she stated her intentions. “Make no aggressive motions yet – not until you can confirm their identities. Try utilizing the talents of the common highway scum and place them into a situation that would require them to use their abilities. Report back to me when you have gathered the necessary data.”“Yes, Master,” Rarin said, bowing. “But what if they are damaged?”“If they are who you think they are, not even a battalion will be able to impede them – and if they are who they appear to be, the third one cannot be far away. If your hypothesis is incorrect, though, they will die and you can take the Spear from them.”The Steltian bowed and the connection was severed. Hecate was left alone with her thoughts, clawed hands turning over a black onyx crystal in her hands, mind wandering back to the days when her fortress still stood before the Toa had discovered it and razed it to the ground. She had fled with Rarin and her Visotoran, destroying their notes and carrying the formulas that Teridax had bidden her to make so they couldn’t discover what she had been up to. For them to uncover even a small part of the Plan could trigger disaster.As the former Virus Master of the Brotherhood thought, she remembered the faces of the three subjects that had survived to be her final product, had the attack not happened. And as she remembered, a single sentence colored her words.Anything I create, I can destroy.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 20 2011 - 10:41 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#11 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 21 2011 - 05:25 PM

An Unexpected Detour

This time the vision did not take Kya to a forest, or a place beyond the silver sea – she was now looking at the inside of some sort of building, one that looked older than Va-Koro, though that was impossible. Va-Koro had been standing almost since the suns first rose over the universe; her assumption came from the fact the stone was nothing like the undamaged perfection of the Village of Time’s own building materials. It was worn and grey, as ancient-looking as the being before her.The Matoran (was it a Matoran?) wore armor that was pitch-black, making it match the deepest shadows. Those limbs were as twisted as those found on the oldest of trees – yet the seemingly crippling defects did nothing to keep the figure from advancing like its legs were whole and healthy. The glowing eyes and heartlight were a deep purple, but the Kanohi was extremely alien to her untrained orbs. It resembled a Matoran’s naked face, with long strands of metal hanging off its back and a second pair of slits positioned above the initial ones, black pieces of glass obscuring the emptiness behind it.As she watched, the twisted figure turned towards her, like it knew that there was a watcher. The mask began to glow, the second eyeslits shone, and the metal braids rose up as if under the influence of a Gravity Toa. With sudden fear in her heart, Kya realized that those ropes were not braids, but metal snakes …Kya’s eyes snapped open, breathing hard with her fingers wrapped claw-like around the shaft of Ajax’s Spear. She was leaning against the trunk of a tree, with Bism and Shiri watching her and waiting for the vision of the past to end.“What was it this time?” the ghost inquired.“Some old building. There was someone there, a Matoran – at least, I think it was a Matoran – who had a really creepy mask, like she was wearing a nest of snakes on her head. Her arms and legs were all twisted, like they were broken, but she could still walk –”“How do you know it was a female?” Bism asked rather reasonably.“Instinct. I just know that the person was female.”Seemingly accepting the explanation at face value, the Po-Matoran started counting off on his fingers. “So ever since I gave you that spear, you’ve seen a boat, a bunch of homicidal maniacs with skulls for shoulder-pads, a really posh apartment, and some Toa of Water that you don’t remember the name of – and other than the fact you think they’re part of your missing memories, they have no other concrete connections.”“Pretty much.” Not wanting to continue the conversation, Kya strapped the Spear to her back and addressed the deceased Toa of Light. “Is Stiaye still heading the same direction?”“Yes. I’ve been able to get a better lock on her since we left the Va-Koro area two days ago. She’s still heading north towards the village you told us about, Bism. If we move quickly for three days, we can intercept Stiaye.”“Then let’s get moving,” the grey-armored female said, walking towards the clearing they had left Balius and Xanthus in while they had rested. Bism waited until she had left the range of hearing, then quietly asked, “Just how is she getting these visions? I held the Spear for a good two days before I passed it on, and all I got was a strong desire to dig a hole and bury it.”The spirit shrugged. “I’m not sure. Ajax’s power flows into the Spear – I’m only just learning the full extent of them. It could be that she’s a Carrier: someone who can carry the Spear but not use for its intended purpose.”“But wasn’t there a Toa of Air who was a Carrier? He didn’t have anything like that in the stories.”“Aeolus didn’t have amnesia,” Shiri pointed out. “And in any case, a connection with a Toa is two-way. Kya’s is more of a one-way connection: my power goes in, nothing comes back.”“Then why –?”“I don’t know,” she groaned, shaking her head like a Muaka shaking off flies. “Her element might have something to do with it, but I haven’t got a clue how this works. I don’t know all the answers, Bism – we’ll have to figure it out as we go along.”As if to put an end to the conversation, Kya’s voice floated out towards them. “Guys, I thought we were in a hurry!”XxXRarin never really approved of the two-bit gangs that roamed the more rural roadways of the Northern Continent, and for more reason than that they clogged up transport of goods. They smelled bad, were more often than not clumsy with their execution of any plan, and paying them to do something for you usually ended in spending enough widgets to buy an opulent Ga-Metru apartment. Most weren’t the intelligent warriors that any gang that needed to be successful, and the ones that were tended to be pre-Madonna leaders that were dreaming of control over a major road before they had even cemented their hold over one minor path.Much as he disliked them, the Steltian had to admit that the gangs were useful for a few things. They were numerous, meaning he could threaten to barter with another group down the line so his real set of “employees” would settle for a smaller price. They had crude methods of operating: while he could make sure his enemies would remain unharmed, and his victims would always be aware of it, you couldn’t tell with a gang. That made them threatening, and any gang-buster worth their weapons would be looking for a way to put them out of business right away if captured.That led to the final three perks of employing gangs: They usually weren’t the best fighters, they were expendable, and the dead couldn’t reveal who was paying them.Such were his thoughts as the gang he was currently working with left their campsite and began to set up their ambush on the road half a kio away. Rarin had finally settled the price of the job with their leader, a Matoran whose armor was so filthy it was impossible to tell what his element was. His band was one of the more successful groups on this highway, and – according to some lesser groups – they had long been attempting to victimize Bism, the Po-Matoran that had fought Rarin in Va-Koro. Bism had always fought them off, but this time he’d have valuable goods to protect. Rarin had advised the crew to hold the female Matoran hostage to force his surrender, and then hold the pair, and everything they had, in camp for one night.“I will be waiting further down the road,” he had finished. “At dawn, I will return and take custody of them.”“I hope you bring a brute squad to help you with that,” was the leader’s only reply. “Payment in advance.”The payment in question: 5,000 widgets, plus any valuables and the two Serohes that Bism had. Rarin had insisted on keeping the Spear, which wound up ratcheting up the final payment to the Serohes and 7,500 widgets. That stung – it almost exhausted the purse he had of his funds – but if his hunch about Bism and his companion was correct, it wouldn’t matter anyway.Now they were gone, the thundercat that had been beside the chief’s side the whole time still chained to its metal stake in the center of camp. It had only been captured within the last three days, if the raw marks on its flanks were any indication, and it was clear that it didn’t take to its captors very well. Each time one of the grunts had come close it had hissed and spat sparks at it from its teeth, electricity racing over its claws. They were resorting to tossing raw chunks of meat at it from a distance to feed it.Rarin had never had much of a connection to nature, but he disliked seeing the beautiful, sleek, black feline with golden rosettes, famous for its speed and for the powerful connection it had with the Lightning tribe, tied down like a savage attack dog. If what he thought what would happen, happened, he hoped the creature would be spared, if not released.The Rahi’s flat amber eyes focused on him, like it was trying to seize up this great big thing that was in its line of sight and figure out if it could reach him and tear out his leg. Hastily, the Steltian pushed out of the clearing and deeper into the forest: he’d lied about his position. There was no way he was going to wait down the highway; thinking about this would drive him mad. He needed to be nearby, to watch what might happen.XxXTime passed, time that Rarin spent resting as afternoon began to sink into dusk. He’d had to run too many kio than he’d care to count in the last few days, so he’d get ahead of Bism without being spotted. Inquiries with smaller gangs had turned up the information he needed, and then he had to race back to check on the group’s progress. The female was progressively getting better with riding the Seroh, but she still needed to be linked to Bism to stay in control. It was a crucial weakness in an attack, and the mob was sure to take advantage of it.No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than rustling in the bushes ahead and loud, raucous voices announced the return of the gang. Quickly retreating further into the trees, Rarin watched as the group hauled the two Serohes in by their reins, the two Matoran still sitting in the saddle and not looking at all happy. Bism in particular was looking like he was ready to unleash Karzahni on the crew, but as the Spear’s new carrier had a sleazy-looking passenger holding a knife to her throat, the most he did was glare furiously at the gang leader, who returned it with a look of smug contentment.The two Matoran captives were dragged off their mounts and lashed securely to a tree; across the camp, so were the Serohes, who whinnied nervously. The packs were turned inside out, their contents sorted through, and the money they found was put in one pile with the Spear of Ajax, while the things they did not value were strewn about carelessly, including what looked like packets of medicinal herbs. Rarin’s excellent vision allowed him to read the labels, and recognized some of them to be cures for fever, while another one was filled with hallucinogens like nightshade.The Spear was leaning by a tree not far from the Steltian’s hiding place. A being with less patience than himself would try and snatch it, but he restrained himself. If nothing of interest happened here, he would get it tomorrow; if something interesting did happen, he’d have valuable intelligence to report to Hecate.A small group of the raiders left the camp as the rest got to work on their evening meal and throwing raw meat at the annoyed-looking thundercat. When they got back later, it was clear some of Rarin’s coin had gone to getting alcohol for the crew. As they cheered and filled their cups, the Makuta’s servant wrinkled his nose – he hardly drank, even when times had been good for the Brotherhood. He couldn’t perform his duties for Hecate when inebriated, and he certainly couldn’t think straight when he downed some of the stuff. Now that he thought about it, the last time he could remember touching alcohol was … a long time ago. Certainly not after the Dark Hunter-Brotherhood War had started.He shook his head and returned to observing. Much to his amusement, one of the grunts – who looked like he was dumb to start with – actually opened the discarded packet of nightshade and put some of the leaves in his rum. Some of the tipsier ones followed suit, and he sighed in exasperation.Glancing towards the tree Bism and his companion were tied to, Rarin was surprised – although not very much – to see the Po-Matoran had vanished from his side of the tree; the female had realized it herself, and even over the din of the party he could hear her softly, worriedly, calling out for him.So far, so good.As if his thoughts were a signal, Bism himself reappeared, his knife in hand. “Get Shiri,” he heard the Matoran say as he cut the female loose. “We’re getting out of here.”Rarin’s momentary confusion – just who was Shiri? – was erased as he listened to her reply.“How?”“Just sneak around and get the Spear, Kya. They’re too drunk on success and Madu rum to pay attention to us. Leave the rest to me.”Bism slipped away again, and after momentary hesitation, so did Kya. Rarin shifted his gaze, watching as she cautiously picked her way through the bush. The closer she got to his position, the further he retreated, until she was close by. Her cloaked back was turned to him, giving him a view of the slight hump that covered her spine. She reached out of the trees; grasped the Spear.Kya shuddered as her fingers made contact with the metal, and when that happened, the Steltian noticed something unusual. When the shiver reached her torso, motions like something was straining against the cloth of her cloak emanated. This was another piece of evidence he needed, but it wasn’t the proof he desired.That was only a heartflash. At the same time, in the clearing, all Karzahni had broken loose.When the female Matoran had grabbed the Spear, the dying campfire suddenly flared up again, like a Toa of Fire had coaxed the embers back to life. At the same time, the Serohes neighed loudly and began yanking at their restraints; on the other side of camp, the drowsing thundercat leapt up, snarling and tearing at its chain. Electricity raced over its body as its teeth worked into its links, headless of the fire that had begun to swirl above it.Even in their boozy hazes the gang could hardly fail to miss these strange happenings. Yelling hoarsely and staggering somewhat, they snatched up weapons to do battle with their strange new enemies. But drunken enemies were no enemies at all, and it was into this chaos that Bism reappeared and threw himself into. Ancient scars from fights long ago gleamed in the inferno’s light, amongst them a scratched Matoran number 24 on his right shoulder, and on his wrists were what Rarin had hoped to see: long, wicked, ebony-colored claws, freed from the gloves that had hidden their sheaths.It was clear the gang had never seen their old foe like this, and didn’t know how to react. Closer to Rarin was the female Kya, whose shudders had faded. A shimmering Toa-like figure had appeared beside her – the mysterious Shiri? – and as the orange light of the dancing flames played upon the forest trees, the Steltian looked at her cloaked back and wondered: did he see the outlines of what he thought he was seeing?XxXLike a bolt of knowledge had fallen from the sky and hit her in the head by touching the Spear, Kya’s eyes snapped open, a decisive light burning in her green orbs. Hurriedly, she fumbled with the brooch that she had bartered from Bism, which was holding the cloak that hid her disfigurement from the world. She finally tore away the silver leaves, letting metal and cloth fall to the grass.Now in the dim light of the fire, a harness of thin leather was revealed, wrapping around the Matoran’s waist, shoulders, and belly; disguised as they were in the cracks of her armor, it took a keen eye to notice them. As the female took out the knife Bism had stolen and given to her and cut several knots in the bindings, Shiri began to ask just what her companion was doing … then the leather fell away, and her words froze, unneeded as her question was answered.Rising up and out into view, stretching out to the span of a Gukko’s own, were a pair of wings, their feathers a softly-glowing silver in the radiance of the fire in the clearing. They were in a slightly mussy condition, after all their time pressed under the cloak and harness, but as Kya stretched them out, it was clear that given the right conditions, they were ready to fly.Her expression eerily serene, the Matoran lifted her hands up, cupping them around her mouth to magnify her voice. From her throat came the sound of a hunting Rahi eagle, echoed hundredfold by the winged creatures that made their home here as wind began whipping around her, stirring her feathers as it flew into the clearing.The whole thing seemed baffling to the Toa spirit, but Kya knew exactly what she was doing. The vision the Spear had given her of her past had helped her relearn these talents, but of more help had been the image of Bism’s claws shining in the fire’s light. Memory had exploded into her head like fireworks, and with those memories had come the knowledge. There were still gaps in places, but there was enough for now.Her eyes remained riveted to the clearing; the gang that had waylaid them had not yet taken real notice of her. Bism was dancing around them, black talons flashing and his eyes flat. And in time with her throbbing blood, thoughts whispered in her mind about him, unalienable truths: Bism, brother, friend, brother, protector, brother, brother, brother …As the wind whirled around her, the facts flew through her mind. Bism (brother) was here, he (brother) could control the flames and stir up the four-legged Rahi, but not all the time. For that he (brother) needed her, Kya, to be close. She could command the winds when Bism (brother) was near, and call upon the fliers that rode it – birds, bats, insects. She could fly without being taught, an instinctive skill and gift – a gift Va-Koro had tried to steal from her, tried to make her feel shame for having …And somewhere, she knew there was a third sibling. She knew they were near.But there was no time. She had no claws, but she had her knife. Leaving Shiri and her casing, she dove into the fray, slashing with the blade, and found herself standing near where the thundercat still struggled with its chains. Balius and Xanthus were kicking at any robber that came too close, but the feline was desperate to escape.Without knowing what she was doing, Kya grabbed the cruel collar that was around its neck. At her touch, the creature fell still, flanks heaving with its efforts, letting her cut the leather away and set it free.With a roar, electricity in its teeth and over its claws, the thundercat gathered itself and sprang at its former captors, and with a final cry of terror, the mob of thieves gave up and scattered into the forest. The feline wasn’t through with them as it gave chase and left the clearing; Kya and Bism were the only living creatures in the camp.Sanity returned slowly. Bism’s breathing slowed, his eyes – which had become dull and flat when the fight had started – returning to their normal luster as the fire retreated back from its spirals, devolving into a quiet campfire. The Serohes quieted, large eyes looking docilely at their master, who watched Kya retrieve the Spear and set it down in the center of the glade, and then straightened to look the Po-Matoran in the eyes.For a moment, all was quiet in the campground. The frightened cries of the roadway band and the roars of the enraged thundercat echoed through the trees, but the only sounds that were in the ears of the two Matoran was the crackling of the fire. It was a strange scene, had an unsuspecting passerby had looked at it: a pair of Matoran, one with wings and the other with claws, standing on opposite sides of the clearing and – from the look on their faces – were half-expecting a fight to continue. On one side, the fire burned; on the other, the spirit of Toa Shiri hovered above her shell, confusion in her eyes.Then there was a blur of motion, and suddenly the two Matoran were in each other’s arms, holding each other like the survivors of a ship-wreck. To the orbs of the Toa of Light, they no longer looked like old friends, but siblings that had lost each other long ago and only now had they found each other again.Lacking the ability to read minds, Shiri didn’t know what was going on. She made it her business to find out.“What in the name of the Dark Lord of Karzahni was that?” she demanded to know. “Kya – I’ve never even sensed those wings before, not even when I possessed you! And since when were you two able to control elements?”For all the good her shouts were doing, she might as well have remained silent. The two Matoran’s eyes were focused firmly on each other, their thoughts on the memories that the other’s presence was unlocking. “I can’t believe it,” Bism said hoarsely, throat somewhat raw from the smoke he had inhaled during the fight. “I spend over a thousand years looking for something I wasn’t sure of – and it turns out to have been in front of my mask this whole time.”“How long have you known?” she whispered. “Your claws were the trigger, but I haven’t known anything before then.”“Only what my nightmares gave me, Kya – but not enough to tell me that I could control flame when you were near, or to command the Rahi of the earth.”Shiri decided to try again. “Could I please have some explanations right now?” she said a bit louder.“We can hear you perfectly fine, Shiri,” Kya said, eyes shimmering as she looked at the Toa spirit. “But we are currently trying to sort out what’s been going on. Could you wait a few minutes for us to give our confessions?”The deceased Toa of Light sighed – this was far too much weirdness for one night. “Fine.”And in the bushes, hidden from their eyes by the tamed fire, Rarin smiled. His night was getting better and better with every word they said.XxXReview here


Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 21 2011 - 05:26 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#12 Offline Inferna Firesword

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Posted Oct 23 2011 - 12:14 PM

Code of Memories

“I guess it starts with our pasts – or maybe just mine,” Kya finally said after who knew how long a time. She had sat down on one of the fallen logs the raiders had used for seats; bottles of Madu rum littered the ground around her feet, along with the scattered packets of her herbs. She had picked up her cloak, harness, and brooch, but was yet to fasten them again to hide her wings. With the fire sketching an orange-tinted silhouette behind her, her green eyes and heartlight glowing in midnight-forest gloom as she looked at Shiri, Kya looked nothing less than a fiery, fallen angel. “At least – what I can remember of it.”Bism had sheathed his claws and put his gloves back on; with those fantastical elements hidden, he looked like a normal Matoran of Stone again. He was standing beside Xanthus and Balius, soothing them after the chaos of the previous hours, but it was clear that he was listening intently to what Kya was hesitantly saying as she pieced together the story, ready to jump in with any information that he felt might be relevant.“My memories of the past came back,” the winged Matoran said, and for some reason she sounded embarrassed. “Not all of them, but … enough. I was Kya, an upper-class Xi-Matoran from Aleris. Those days aren’t the most flattering thing to remember, especially now.” Her sentence was accented with a hot flush beneath her mask.Shiri chose to pass over the subject of who Kya had once been, and from his silence, so did Bism. The female Matoran took this as an indication to continue. “At some point, I was on a ship, a cruise liner. She was called the Sa-Fire, and it was her first mate, Toa of Water Zriah, that I saw in my visions.”“I remember that ship,” the Po-Matoran said unexpectedly. As the newly-remembered Matoran of Lightning turned towards him in surprise, he kept going. “She was caught in a storm about 20 years after the Toa-Dark Hunter War and presumed lost at sea. There were reports later on where people found former crewmates and passengers all over the universe, but they had no memory of what had happened to the ship, or how they got to where they were.”“Well, it did get lost at sea,” Kya replied. “We capsized on an island that wasn’t on any charts at the time, not too far from Shi-Nui. I think it might have been Rohaya, before it was discovered by its Toa and put on the map – its description matches the island I can remember.“It’d take too long to recount everything that happened there – they’re stories for another time – but essentially, there was a tribe on that island that didn’t like us being there. They were called the Arutayi, and they had the practice of stripping the flesh off their victims and using their bones as armor. We managed to escape the island with the help of Nocti, a real native that wasn’t thrilled with the Arutayi being around – and that’s all I remember of that little episode.”After pausing for breath and moistening her lips – neither Toa of Light nor Matoran of Stone had interjected – Kya continued. “When my memory picks up again, I’m in this prison cell and I’m with Bism. And that’s all I can really remember until I wake up outside Va-Koro; Bism remembers more than I do.”Falling silent, Kya looked into the depths of the fire, and Shiri noticed something branded on her right shoulder, which she hadn’t seen before. Like the Po-Matoran himself, who stepped into the spotlight, there was a two-digit number in her armor pad; unlike him, though, she had the number 17 where he had 24. Idly, Shiri noticed that the forest had fallen completely silent; she could no longer hear the screams of the gang or the roars of the thundercat. Either they had moved out of range of hearing, or the Rahi had … taken care of them.The deceased Toa of Light shuddered slightly.“Kya can remember what happened before,” Bism started. “I can remember what happened to us when we arrived in that cell.”XxXWhen I arrived (he said), there were only 30 of us. Kya was part of my original cell group, along with another female Matoran we only knew as Prisoner 19, and there was a two-to-one ratio between females and males.We were held in a fortress, but none of us knew where it was, or who was holding us. We were guarded by sick hybrids of Matoran and Visorak, but they were controlled by another person: the Steltian that attacked us in Va-Koro. Since we know now that he’s a Makuta’s servant, maybe there was something strange going on there even then, something related to the Plan.We were locked up in groups of three, and over time our cell mates began to disappear. Some were killed for trying to escape the fortress … others just were taken by the hybrids and we never saw them again. After 19 was taken, a new female joined us: Prisoner 39, someone from the outside that had been recently captured. I don’t remember much of what we all talked about, but I know she, Kya, and myself all managed to live to the end.The hybrids took us to a room that last day, and they helped the Steltian and someone – I’m betting the Steltian’s Makuta master – injected us with serums that gave us physical attributes: my claws, Kya’s wings, and something else for 39. We were told that it was just one injection out of many, but before they could keep going, something happened … and that’s all I can remember before I woke up in Aleris.I couldn’t remember everything, but I could remember Kya and 39. I knew, just knew that I had to find them again, so I started looking.XxX“I got into the jewelry business, and that’s how that mostly ends, until now,” Bism finished. Ignoring the Toa of Light spirit, he looked directly at Kya. “Now I’ve found you, and Kya, I know 39’s not far away. I can feel it in my heartlight. Maybe when we find Stiaye and return the Spear to her, we could find her. Please tell me you will.”There was a note of pure emotion in his voice, a note that the Xi-Matoran had never heard during the course of their long friendship. Knowing what she did now, and hearing his voice, filled with pure yearning, how could she possibly refuse him? Smiling faintly, she dipped her head in assent, feathers quivering on her wings.A brief, somewhat awkward silence followed, only to be broken by rustling in the bushes, heralding the thundercat the bandits had been keeping. Blood glistened on its muzzle, flanks, and front paws, but there were only a few new wounds on its body. Paying no attention to the strange creatures that were staring at it, it sauntered into the space just beside Kya, lay down, and began washing itself.“What is it doing back here?” the winged Matoran asked, not taking her eyes off the animal.“It might be reclaiming turf,” Bism offered, scratching his head. “This might have been its territory before the gang moved in. Or it might just like us. Some members of the Lightning tribe keep these as pets or companions.”As if it was reacting to a signal, the thundercat looked up and locked amber eyes with the Po-Matoran. There was a deep intelligence to them, one that went beyond the average beast. Swallowing nervously, he added, “At least, that’s what I think.”Hesitantly, Kya reached out as if to pet the Rahi, but then pulled back, hugging the Spear’s shaft to her chest. Curiously, the feline’s broad head turned so its gaze would fall upon the small female, then snorted and lay its head down.“I think we might be safe tonight,” Bism said at last. “If it didn’t like us being here it would try and chase us off, but it’s not making any hostile moves. I’d rather we didn’t press our luck, though.”Shiri was staring, almost fascinated, at the cat, but shook herself and vanished inside the Spear again. The two Matoran and the Serhoes elected to move to the other side of the campfire, putting fire between them and the drowsing hunter, but for the reunited members of the Trinity, sleep claimed them almost instantly when they closed their eyes.XxXIt was well into the early morning hours before Rarin slipped out of his hiding place to steal a hand mirror from the robbers’ stash. He had heard every word that the two Matoran had said, and an onlooker would have thought each syllable that escaped their lips was a diamond hewn from the depths of an impenetrable mountain. They had confirmed every suspicion he’d had and more; now he had to relay it back to Hecate.Retreating back into his hiding place – keeping a wary eye on the drowsing thundercat the whole time – the Steltian clipped a new communication device to the mirror’s rim and activated it. Hecate’s image swam into view almost instantly. “What news?” she demanded to know, looking and sounding more anxious than he could remember his Master being in some time. Hastily, he filled her in on what had happened since they had last communicated.“Well done, Rarin,” the Makuta congratulated him. “This might make our plans to obtain the Spear somewhat easier.”The Steltian didn’t quite follow Hecate’s meaning. “How so, Master? From my point of view, it would make the work harder.”She smiled: an expression that made lesser beings run for cover. “I have my reasons – more specifically, the theory that Subject 39 is far closer than her brother and sister believe her to be. I will explain in full when Tageria and I join you. Remain where you are, and when the Matoran leave, contact me. We will come.”“Yes, Master.” Just before he could break the connection, Hecate added, “Rarin? Your reward will be given when we achieve our goal. The thing you want most will be yours soon enough.”Before Rarin could say anything else, her image faded from the mirror’s surface, leaving him staring at his own reflection. The thing he wanted most … she had promised it to him when he had went to steal the Spear of Ajax from Stiaye. And although in his heart of hearts he wanted it so badly it was almost painful, part of him wondered … how much would the final reward cost him?XxXIn the refuge of the last Makuta, Tageria had teleported into Hecate’s part of the base within five seconds. Her companion’s psychic message had hinted a battle ahead, and true to form she was arrayed with weapons. The former Virus Master had expected this reaction, along with the blunt “What is it?”“Rarin has located the Spear of Ajax,” was the smaller female’s reply. “That and more – it is being carried by two of the last subjects of Project Fury.”“Project what? This is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing.”“This is the first time I have ever spoken of it to another Makuta, save Teridax who assigned it to me.” Turning away from the scrying crystal to face her fellow Makuta, Hecate continued on. “Project Fury was conceived as a branch program for the Plan – to create Brotherhood-controlled versions of the Nightborn to enforce Brotherhood rule when the Plan succeeded. Teridax advised me to make them as close to the true Nightborn as possible, but to make improvements when necessary.“I worked on the Project in my primary fortress, in the section of the universe I was assigned to. Rarin abducted thirty Matoran for use as initial test subjects, but captured more when they began to run dry. By the time we had refined the virus formulas, only three had survived to become our final product. They were designated 24, 17, and 39, meant to be Astark, Alesi, and Isipha respectively.“Everything was ready. Rarin and I had injected them with the first round of virus strains. Each was different: 24 gained claws like a rock lion’s, 17 had wings like a Gukko’s …”“And 39?”“Let’s just say she could bite someone’s head off once her mutation was complete. Before the injections were finished, though, my stronghold came under attack.”Tageria knew this part of the story already – the entire Brotherhood knew about the day Makuta Hecate and her servants had returned to Destral after decades in her territory, driven away by forces of Toa that had discovered her presence. Other than knowing Teridax had taken the Virus Master aside for a long, private conversation afterward, that had been all she had known, until now.“To hide what we had been doing, we destroyed our records of the tests, erased the memories of the subjects, and scattered them throughout the universe. Before we relocated them, I preformed a Binding on them.”The ex-Makuta of Xia couldn’t hide her surprise. “In the middle of a battle?”“Yes.” Hecate didn’t bother concealing her pride – it was tricky to do a Binding to start with, let alone in that sort of chaotic environment. “When the three were hidden, I placed them within the same general region– all awoke in the Northern areas of the universe. I instilled them with a desire to travel, so they might stumble across each other. Once they did, their memories would begin coming back, and their innate abilities would be unlocked. And once they were all together again …”“You would feel it,” Tageria finished. Bindings always included the Binder, and they were the ones that could sense when the other members were reunited.“Indeed. Now that two of them are together once more, I can faintly sense the third. Her identity – well, I’ll tell you when we join Rarin later today, since I hate having to repeat myself. Be ready for a fight when we go, as we’ll have to move when the Trinity, Spear, and Stiaye are all together.”Reading the response in Tageria’s eyes, Hecate smiled again. “It will be easier than you think, I assure you. Now leave – we need to prepare. I will call you when Rarin summons us.”With a flash, the warrior left the room, the Virus Master once again the only living being inside. Looking again into the depths of the scrying crystal, which had once belonged to Makuta Deimos, Hecate let out the faintest of sighs, even as a new image began to materialize. Like Hecate herself, the being on the other side was black in color, but their expression – even when partially-formed – was as forbidding as the roughest of storms.“I worry about her sometimes,” she murmured, claret eyes piercing the crystal and somehow meeting the neon-cast pair within. The image began to recede, until only Hecate’s reflection was darkening the mirror-like surface.“Luckily for me, I won’t have to soon – ever again.”XxXA/N: By now, you’re probably wondering: Who’s Subject 39? While I can assure you that she was the dreamer from Chapter 9, you’ll have some theorizing to do before Chapter 12, which is when her identity is finally revealed. >=DMood Music:

    [*]Closer To the Truth (Take Me Home) ~ Cryoshell[*]Angel ~ Sarah McLachlan[*]Crawling ~ Linkin Park (Hecate’s Theme)[*]Straight To My Heart ~ Sting (Theme of the Trinity)[/list]Review here

    Edited by Inferna Firesword, Oct 23 2011 - 12:14 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#13 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Nov 20 2011 - 11:26 PM

SoonWhen the Twin Suns finally emerged above the horizon, Shiri was already hovering above where the ashes of the fire smoldered, the tiniest cores of heat still hidden inside and making her image just a little more transparent. The thought crossed what passed for her mind to wake her companions up, but after some consideration, she rejected it. It had been a long night; she would let them rest.Once again she looked over her shoulder, at the two bedrolls that Bism and Kya were curled up in. The Xi-Matoran’s grey-feathered wings were folded tightly against her body; she was lying on her belly so they weren’t crumpled. Bism’s gloves were still on, hiding where the ebony claws retracted into his hands, but it was clear the two friends – siblings – had fallen asleep holding hands.The thought made the former Toa of Light feel lonely. After all, this was not the dimension she had originated from, and surely there was no spirit here that was like her: bound to an object of power until it was destroyed. Her nature meant she could see the world in color – unlike other spirits, who could only see in black, white, and grey – but that still meant little.Of course … her periwinkle eyes roved to the opposite side of the fire pit, where the thundercat still drowsed. The beautiful black cat was in a sort of half-sleep, so it was probably meaning to stay, and tolerated their presence. Of course, there was always the theory that Bism’s talent with land Rahi or Kya’s electrical roots was causing it to stick around, but that was rather unlikely.Before the spirit could think of more plausible theory, movements behind Shiri announced that her Matoran companions had revived. Once they had awakened enough that they could process thought somewhat efficiently, Kya and Bism’s attention turned to the thundercat. The Rahi was now wide awake, tail swishing lazily back and forth; Shiri didn’t remember everything about the creatures, but so far there was no signal that it would start generating electricity, which was a sign of hostility.“It could just not like its odds,” Bism suggested, edging by it as he gathered up the things the gang had strewn about the clearing. “Thundercats usually don’t go after Matoran unless they’re certain they have the upper hand.”“Or it might want to stay with us,” Kya pointed out. “You said yourself sometimes members of the Lightning tribe keep them as pets.”“They’re usually taken when they’re cubs, so they can be taught not to attack Matoran. Still, it might’ve been someone’s companion once, which would explain why it’s comfortable with us.”“There is a chance, then,” decided the winged female, stretching her extra limbs. “I think it should be given a name. Any idea if it’s male or female?”Shiri abandoned her position over the ashes and took a closer look at the creature. “Female. This one has the tear marks on its face.”“Alright, let’s call her Zee.”“Zee?” Bism looked up from the pack he had just hung on Xanthus’ saddle. “What kind of name is that?”“A good one. Besides, I can’t think of anything better right now.”Shaking his head to display his disapproval – but not offering up any alternatives either – the Po-Matoran just continued to pack. Only when Kya hooked her bags onto Balius’ saddle and made as if to put on her cloak again did he speak up.“So, Kya – can you really fly? I mean,” he amended, “have you ever learned to fly, or is it just something that was ingrained into you – the knowledge that Gukko have?”“Watch,” the female replied, a smile on her face at the thought. With that, she folded up the cloak, clipped her broach into the fabric, and – after stashing her things away – stretched out her wings. The grey feathers had been smoothed out sometime during the night; no longer appearing rumpled, the extra set of limbs now shone.Folding them back to keep out of the way, the grey-armored female looked around for something to suit her purpose. Her green eyes finally settled on a very tall tree that stood fairly close to the road they had initially been traveling on. Darting beside it and beginning to climb, she found to her satisfaction that there were sufficient footholds and handholds all the way to the highest sturdy branch.Perched high above the solid ground, Kya heard Bism’s voice floating up, now sounding very worried. “Are you sure about this, Kya?”Grasping the weaker branches for support, the Xi-Matoran peered down to look at the Po-Matoran’s anxious expression. She tried to ease his fears with a smile, but she doubted it had worked; his expression didn’t change as he stood beside his Serohes, holding them by their reins.Only one way to get rid of them, no matter how it ends.Steeling herself and drawing upon her instinctive knowledge, Kya dove off the branch. A split-second of fear – then her wings snapped open and she missed the ground.Gasping in delight, the Xi-Matoran powered her limbs, thudding up and down as she labored for altitude. For a while it was difficult – now she knew why Gukko ate so much – then she hit an early-morning thermal and shot up on a pillar of hot air.Far below, Bism shaded his eyes and watched Kya become a smaller and smaller dot in the sky. Once his initial terror faded, his heartlight stopped flashing like there was no tomorrow, and he was convinced she wasn’t going to abruptly drop out of the sky, he swung up into Xanthus’ saddle and began leading Balius at a faster pace than they had been moving in the past few days. Kya’s inexperience with riding anything had made them go slower than they could; while her flying wasn’t a perfect solution, it made it possible to make better time. Privately, he thought they might be able to make it to the village by the end of the next day.In the tree line, just within his peripheral vision, a graceful blur was weaving through the trunks: Zee the thundercat. It didn’t look like she was going to attack – more like she was just following him – but Bism kept a wary eye on her.XxXFar away from that glen, Hecate and Tageria waited in their room of stone, frozen like statues made of solid metal. Both had donned extra Kanohi and armed themselves, waiting for Rarin to send the signal to them. Seated on her throne, the Virus Master stared deep into the scrying crystal; multiple images swam on the surface, but she ignored them: none were what she wanted to see.Finally, the facets cleared up, replaced by a new picture: a forest clearing, a pit holding the ashes of a campfire. The Steltian was calling for them, giving an image to focus on when they teleported. Tageria looked hard at the depiction, internalizing it, but Hecate saw something below the surface, threatening to overwhelm what Rarin was giving them. “Go on ahead of me,” she ordered, not taking her eyes off the crystal. The warrior-Makuta gave her a curious look, but obeyed.As the former Makuta of Xia teleported to the Northern Continent, the Virus Master willed the image away: she would not need it to join her servant. For the briefest of moments, her expression twisted into a fond smile, before she addressed the face that rose up to dominate the crystal’s facets.“It’s almost done,” she said. “I’ll be keeping my word to you.”“We certainly hope so,” intoned the other. “It would be most … unfortunate if you did not.”Despite herself, the faintest of shivers rippled through the Makuta’s antidermis. It wasn’t fear of death that made her feel this way – it was the simple knowledge that they could make good on their implied threat if the mood struck them.“I’ll contact you when the time comes.”Without another word, the dark face melted away, leaving Hecate alone with her thoughts. Part of her wished she had never made this bargain – as Teridax had proved, getting mixed up with the universe’s higher powers wasn’t a good idea – but it was far too late to renege on her agreement, especially when she was so close to finishing her part of the deal.Rarin and Tageria didn’t know about this contract she had made, but they’d all get their rewards when she sealed it. Snapping her fingers, three Visotoran skittered out of the shadows and stood in a row, awaiting orders.“Have everything ready when I return,” she growled. The trio of her slaves bowed and left, and when the chamber was once again deserted, she took her leave as well.XxXAt roughly midday Kya began to glide down for a landing just ahead of Bism, who reined in Xanthus and Balius to watch. He was glad she was coming back to earth: the thundercat had left the road for the forest, probably to hunt. Shiri had not spoken up since they had started off for the day, but he wasn’t sure if he enjoyed the silence.For a first-time flier, Kya managed to land somewhat gracefully. Rising up from her crouched position and folding in her wings, the Xi-Matoran’s expression was split in a wide smile. “Had fun?” her companion asked as she walked towards him.“You have no idea. That Makuta should’ve given you wings instead of claws.” Climbing up in Balius’ saddle far more gracefully than she had before, Kya dug through a pouch and pulled out some Bula; passing them to the Po-Matoran, she added, “Granted, I’m really tired from flying. How’re things down here? Where’s Zee?”Bism shrugged. “Probably went off to hunt. Shiri hasn’t spoken up since we left, so I guess we’re still on the right track for that village.”“Actually, I saw something on the horizon while I was up there,” the female Matoran offered. “If I get airborne again, we might actually make it to the place by tomorrow morning if we rest earlier and ride through the night.”Her friend looked slightly concerned at the thought, but when he remembered what he and Kya were, and the powers they shared, he felt his mind be peaceful. “Alright. In two hours we’ll look for a place to rest, and then we’ll head out for Stiaye – hopefully for the last time.”XxX“You have no idea how long it’s been since someone talked to me in that way,” Shiri said, as winded as a spirit could be as she entered the clearing that the other spirit had called her to. Sure enough, the thundercat was sitting inside, but the former Toa of Light knew that this was just a façade; a physical manifestation of the disembodied soul. She had felt that there had been more to this creature than her appearance had indicated ever since the previous night, and the call from the other spirit – who now shed the illusion of mortality – had confirmed her suspicions.“No, I don’t know,” agreed the other female, looking and sounding amused behind her mask. “But I take it that the space between was larger than two years?”“Far longer. If I might say so, you look well as a spirit.”“It certainly makes travel much faster,” Stara admitted with a smirk. To Shiri, the Lightning spirit looked like the ideal warrior, a combination of all the identities she had adopted: in the spirit, she saw the primal cunning of the thundercat, the sly wit of a young Toa, the bitter experience of the exile, and the calm wisdom of the Turaga.“Not like you ever needed to use your mask to move at those speeds,” she pointed out.“Again, true.” The Lightning spirit’s mirth faded, and she got straight to business. “Shiri, do you happen to know anything about these two Matoran that hold your shell?”The Toa of Light shook her head. “No. I only know what they have told me, and nothing more. Stiaye is not far from here, but I doubt she would know anything either.”Stara looked disappointed, but set it aside. Looking up at the canopy, where slivers of the blue sky peeped out behind the young leaves, she said quietly, “The signs are more ominous than I thought. The stars indicated that the Nightborn would become false or corrupted – perhaps these two and their third member are what it means. They wouldn’t be the true Nightborn even if their transformation was completed, after all.”“But how would the Makuta know of them, let alone work the transformation? The last time we saw of the Makuta’s servant was in Va-Koro.”“I’m not sure, but we better stick to them like glue.” Stara’s spirit straightened up and then fell forward, reassuming the shape of the thundercat Zee and beginning to walk back towards where their traveling companions were last.They found them in a camp they had set up, bodies huddled beneath a tree with Balius and Xanthus hitched nearby. The Spear was held tightly in Kya’s grasp, and when its spirit began to move back towards it, her shape abruptly froze, her gaze fixed on the two Matoran. Do you see that? she asked Stara, pointing one misty finger at their shoulders.Yes – their numbers are glowing. What do you think it means?Shiri was quiet for a moment, then whispered, Call me crazy, but I think it means that the third member of Project Fury, Subject 39, is closer than we thought.My sentiments exactly. And right now, I’m starting to get an idea of just who she might be.XxXThe job had been finished, landing Stiaye and her group in the backwater village of Yumi. The caravan they had been protecting had collected a new set of guards to take their place, moving on to their true destination but leaving their money bags swollen with their payment. Stiaye herself was raring to keep going – after all, they still didn’t know that the Spear was closer than they thought – but Japoro quite sensibly pointed out that they had no further ideas about where Hecate’s servant had gone.“If we take off without a plan, we’ll waste time we can’t afford to lose,” he had pressed, firmly restraining one of her arms while Aeolus had held the other. “We should spend one night here; the locals might know something.”The Lightning Toa wasn’t sure if anyone in the village – local or visitor – would have any info on the Steltian. However, both Aeolus and Amphitrite had voted in favor of spending the night under a roof, so they had gone on with Japoro’s idea, booking two rooms in the Tollak Inn.All four Toa – Lightning, Ice, Water, and Air – were currently camped at one of the corner tables in the inn’s tavern, but Amphitrite was the only one drinking something other than water: straight-up Bula rum for her. The crowd that night was large and loud, with a bunch of rough types that looked like they had run some hard times lately and were looking to dredge their frustrations and sorrows in their mugs. Thankfully, it was like a Toa convention or something of the sort had decided to convene in the area: not counting the foursome themselves, Japoro had counted at least seven other Toa, including a black-and-white armored male whose element could not be determined. If push came to shove, there would be more than enough raw power available to bring the situation back to normal.They had the map out and were trying to decide where they should go next, but Amphitrite – who was sitting closest to the crowd – had only caught the first few words in Japoro’s sentence, and then every fifth word after those. After trying to make herself heard over the din three times had failed, the Toa of Water had given up on asking her friends to repeat themselves, figuring that Stiaye could fill her in when they went up to their rooms that night. Right now, despite a severe itch on her left shoulder that she was doing her best to ignore and the little situation that their arch-nemesis’ had the Spear of Ajax, she was actually enjoying herself.Or rather, she would be if a knot of people – ranging from Menurins to Matoran to that black-white Toa – hadn’t parked themselves at a table three bio away, at a table much too small to accommodate them and all their drinks, and brought all their tipsy noise with them, up to the point that she was seriously considering instigating a brawl just to deal with her growing annoyance.Amphitrite was weighing the odds of just how much mayhem a water burst in just the right place could cause when a string of words crossed her consciousness and shut down her train of thought. More accurately, it was just two words: Steltian brute.At the time, she had been raising her rum-glass for a sip, and once her brain had comprehended what that meant, the Toa of Water choked on her mouthful. Stiaye – who had been sitting beside her – and Aeolus, who was across from her, noticed her predicament, but when the Toa of Lightning thumped her back for good measure, Amph shook her head and pointed at the throng. “Listen!” she rasped.“… so yea see,” wheezed the speaker, an Onu-Matoran with more scars than a Kikanalo herd leader, “thze brute wan’ed uze the cahtch zeez Matoran an’ hold ‘em.”“What, he couldn’t do it himself?” jeered a Menurin in red armor.“Why ya askin’ me? I wuzn’t the one to agree,” scowled the storyteller. “De boss was, an’ dat was one of deh stupidest t’ings he’s done, an’ he’s done realleh stupid t’ings.”“Hear hear,” said the Toa, raising his glass in a mocking sort of toast. “What was that stupid thing this time?”“We wuz havin’ fun aftah we caught ‘em, and zen the whole fore’t went nuts. Deh Sehroes an’ de thunda’cat wen’ wild, deh fire wen’ crehzy, an’ den” – the speaker paused for dramatic effect, and everyone that was listening seemed to lean in to hear – “dose Matoran wer’n’t Matoran anahmore.”“Nonsense,” scoffed the Toa. “Matoran can’t be anything other than Matoran.”“Until they’re Toa!” a Vortixx shot back with a cackle. The group burst out laughing at the Toa’s folly, while he scowled at them all and then returned the attention to the Onu-Matoran. “How weren’t they Matoran?”They all fell quiet again, save for a few snickers, as he continued. “Whell, dey had des parts, Rahi parts: one had Gukko wings, an’ deh ot’er had Muaka claws.”“You’re changing the story; you said they were Rock Lion claws earlier!”“Ah, shaddup!” snarled the speaker, and everyone glared at the abashed critic while the former swigged down more of his rum. “Az Ah wuz sayin’, dey had doez parts of ehm, and dey let deh thunda’cat off its leash. It chased uz, an’ I told deh boss, ‘Now ya dun it; wen’ an got de spirits riled up. Ah told ya dat funky spear wit doez carvin’s wuz truble!’”All four of them exchanged looks, brains whizzing to process this new information. Amph was looking faintly ill, but Stiaye couldn’t tell if was from the choked-on drink or the news. Then again, this wasn’t the freshest-smelling room they had ever been in, so that might have been a factor as well.“You should go outside; get some fresh air,” she said in the Water Toa’s ear. ‘We’ll take care of this.”Nodding dumbly, Amphitrite stumbled out of her seat and towards the door. Aeolus and Japoro took their drinks and joined the crowd of listeners, ready to milk more information from the story-teller. After a moment, Stiaye followed them, casting a backward glance as her friend made her exit.XxXOutside the inn, the air still had the nip of winter chill, which was steadily being driven off by the dawning spring. The Twin Suns had set, and as the glow of their setting faded, the stars came into view, glowing like diamonds above the universe.Once she had escaped the cramped, crowded confines of the pub, Amphitrite’s mind cleared as if by magic, her tightened muscles relaxing as she entered the welcoming openness outside. Walking around to the back of the building, the Toa of Water closed her eyes halfway, body sagging against the wall in relief. Unconsciously, her right hand reached up to the opposite shoulder; the shoulder that had the metal patch on its plating.As she knew already, the plate itself had a temperature just below that of her body, but the space just beneath the patch was hot, almost to the point of feeling pain. Ever since Stiaye had been defeated by the Makuta’s servant, the area had steadily been growing warmer, like it was reacting to a signal that she didn’t know about.Sitting down in a hunched position and completely shutting her eyes, Amphitrite tried to dredge up the memories she had suppressed all these years, instinctively knowing that they could hold the answers she needed know. As usual, she managed to recollect the beginning and the ending, but the events that bridged the two together were still missing. She had lost count of just how many times she had approached beings with psychic abilities for help with recovering them, but aside from sharpening the memories that she already had, nothing had been accomplished.Every story has a beginning, middle, and end, she thought as she remembered …XxX“This seat taken?”The Ga-Matoran flicked her gaze up, trying to shake off her stupor long enough to focus, then shook her head in a negative. It was the end-of-season party in The Dweller pub, with the fishing fleet’s crew effectively dominating the staff’s attention. Amphitrite could hear the very off-key singing of Nareesha and Zriae as they and some of the other deckhands tried to help the band along and failed miserably. At a quieter table, in a back corner, the captains – including that of the Avalon, the ship the Ga-Matoran sailed on – discussed the season, profits, greenhorns, and various things she hoped she could one day discuss with them, when she herself became a captain of the fleet.As the newcomer settled into the opposite chair, the Mahiki-masked female wished she hadn’t imbibed in a third Hot Streak, as her preferred drink was called. Members of the Water tribe of Matoran were able to metabolize fluids faster than other tribes – unlike the Lightning tribe, who simply had a collective higher tolerance to alcohol – but even a sailor like her had their limitations.“What the Karzahni,” she muttered, knocking back another swallow of her drink. Her vision was getting dangerously blurry, but it wasn’t so bad that she couldn’t miss the confused look her new tablemate shot at her. Figuring that she knew what this confusion stemmed from, Amphitrite tried to indicate that she had been talking to herself. While he nodded politely (at least, she hoped it was polite), it was pretty obvious that he was still puzzled.Sighing, the fisher pushed aside the half-empty tumbler and rested her head on her arms, wishing she hadn’t come to the party. To her, end-of-season just meant she got her paycheck and a three-month break from ocean storms and heavy metal cages. Amphitrite just couldn’t see how fellow sea veterans Nareesha and Zriae could continually find entertainment here.Belatedly, she realized that her new companion had asked her a question, but she had a hard time understanding the words. The band had begun a new song, a melody with a deep beat, and over the clamoring voices, it was hard to hear someone who was talking right in front of her.“The earth can seeThe sky come downThe mountains allFall to the ground …”“Does it pay well?”It took a moment to realize that her tablemate had realized he was being drowned out and was repeating himself. Taking a few extra moments to string together a comprehensible sentence, she replied: “Fishing? Yea, well enough, for two months of around-the-clock grind on bad seas. Only problem – hic! – is that you gotta be stingy until next season ….”From across the table, the stranger waited, calmly and patiently, as the fisher’s sentence devolved into a steadily incoherent string of curses, and then into nothingness muttered into a tumbler. The Ga-Matoran was undoubtedly teetering on the edge of being sober and not being sober, though he was fairly certain that she had a firmer hold on dazedness.Amphitrite finally ended her colorful sentence and tiredly looked back up at him, eyes slightly unfocused. “But what do you care of a crabber’s life? Unless you’re offering me a job –”“I am.”“Dark waters riseAnd thunder poundsThe wheels of warAre goin’ ‘round …”At this point, the cobalt Matoran was so far gone that she was barely able to grasp what was being said. “H’wa? Job? W’a’ kinda job?”Her tablemate smiled knowingly. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather we didn’t talk of it in here,” he said conspiratorially, leaning forward so he would be audible in a low voice. “How about we talk outside, where it isn’t so loud?”Amphitrite’s fingers by now seemed to have lost all feeling in them, making her knock over her tumbler and crash to the ground. The din caused no one in the bar to notice, but she nodded dumbly, eyes guttering like a drowning candle flame. “Yeah,” the fisherwoman muttered.Gently, her companion helped the Matoran out of her chair, letting her lean on him: she hadn’t realized before just how much bigger he was in comparison. Her memory faded after that, with only the last lyrics of the off-key tune remaining.“Now on the dayYou come for meSomeday when TimeNo more shall beI’ll say ‘Oh DeathWhere is your sting?’You shelter me, loveUnderneath your …”XxX“Amph?”The Water Toa opened her eyes again when she heard Stiaye say her name. The Lightning Toa was standing in front of her and to the left and peering down in concern. The sky was far darker than it had been when she had started recollecting – while she couldn’t tell, she was fairly certain at least half an hour had passed since she had left the Tollak.“Guess I dozed off,” she muttered, climbing to her feet with the song still echoing in her head. “What happened after I left?”“We talked to the group – took a while to get them sober enough to give coherent answers, incidentally. The Matoran said that he was part of a gang that was hired by that Steltian to capture a couple of travelers, on one of the roads connecting Yumi to Va-Koro, but they managed to fight them off.”“How?”“He was too drunk to tell us – anything that made sense, that is. He said something about fire coming to life and woodland spirits, but you know gangs.”“So he’s here? Close to here?”“Close enough. We’ll head out in that direction tomorrow morning. Japoro and Aeolus already went up to sleep; we’ll talk strategy tomorrow on the road.”Stiaye had already begun walking away as she finished talking; dumbly, the Toa of Water followed. The noise from the pub had quieted enough that by the time they entered their room and locked the door, only the occasional cry of surprise or dismay could be heard.The silver-gold Toa seemed to fall asleep the moment her head hit her pillow, but Amphitrite sat up on her bed, looking out the window and turning over her thoughts. One hand unconsciously reached up to her shoulder, two fingers touching her patch.What does it mean? she wondered, feeling the burning sensation of the metal. The reason I fear Hecate’s servant is because of these memories – the ones that I’ve lost and those before them. But why does my pat- my mark burn? Without thinking, the Water Toa’s lips began to move, mouthing the song her crewmates had been singing that fateful night.“The earth can seeThe sky come downThe mountains allFall to the ground …”The tips of her fingers dug under the ridge of her patch. She hesitated, then tore it off with ease – not really metal, but adhesive and a synthetic metallic cover. Without it, what had been hidden beneath glowed dull red.“But I will fearNone of these things …”Satisfied for now, the cobalt female crawled under the covers and closed her eyes decisively. Whatever would come, she would no longer hide what was in the past. In the darkness of the room, burned into her shoulder plate years ago but glowing like it had been seared that very day, was the Matoran numeral for 39.“Oh, shelter me, loveUnderneath your wings.”XxXA/N: People that saw that coming, raise your hand. *raises because she wrote this* =P(And now I can finally say this: Let the fun times begin! (For me, anyway. Dunno if Japoro’s too thrilled about this.))Mood Music:
    [*]Shelter Me ~ Buddy Miller (modified version was used in this chapter; I used the Sons of Guns version) (this chapter's theme)[*]Hot Wings (I Wanna Party) ~ Jamie Foxx & Will.i.am feat. Anne Hathaway[*]Face Me ~ Edsim & Malta[*]Mother Father ~ Dave Matthews Band[*]The Other Side ~ Bruno Mars feat. Cee Lo Green & B.o.B[/list]Review here

    Edited by Inferna Firesword, Nov 20 2011 - 11:36 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#14 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Mar 03 2012 - 12:40 PM

Reunion

It was a dim light seeping through the dirty window that roused Amphitrite from her slumber, though it wasn’t enough to make her get up. For a while she drowsed through half-opened eyes, reluctant to leave her bed despite the burning sensation in her shoulder. It was an abrupt change in the light –plunging the room into darkness – and a flare of pain from her brand, like her arm was on fire, that made the Toa of Water awaken completely, though she wasn’t sure if she was still dreaming after all.For, leaning over her, blocking out the light as it sat on her legs and hips, was a figure that was a head-and-a-half taller than Aeolus, who was the tallest of the group. It was black, nebulous in features but with the shape of a winged Toa, but even in ambiguity, it caused her breath to be sucked away in terror.Makuta were said to be the essence of pride, power, and fear. Thanks to her work, Amph had faced several, but she knew the truth now. Makuta and Halflings were plenty scary, but this – it was the living embodiment of bone-chilling, soul-sucking fear. Fear and ugliness: for even with so few features apparent, the Toa of Water felt herself recoil in disgust.The figure stared (was it staring?) at her for a time: in her breathlessness, she couldn’t measure the passage of time. Slowly, a silver gap appeared on what passed for a face, breaking the darkness and revealing a mouth that was shining with long fangs: a smile, one that seemed too familiar.Slowly, the shadow faded, the weight lifted off her lower body. The light poured in again, and her breath returned.Wide-awake, she scrambled out of bed, fumbled for her weapons as her heartlight flashed double-time. Across the room, on her bed, Stiaye was still soundly asleep, limbs tangled in her bedsheets as soft breathing came from her mouth. She had not heard or seen what had happened. The realization made the cobalt-armored Toa feel terribly alone, more alone than she had felt last night, when she had bared her brand for the universe to see.A walk. Maybe a walk will help me feel better.But as she left the room, quietly closing the door to not rouse her friend, she felt as if the universe was holding its breath, waiting for something great and terrible to happen.XxXThe Twin Suns had only peeped halfway over the horizon when the jingling of tack began to be heard on the outskirts of Yumi. During the night, Bism had called Kya down from the sky and they had diverted onto a woodland trail that he occasionally used, to avoid the traffic on the main road in and out of the town. He was relatively well-known there, and the Po-Matoran didn’t want to announce his presence yet.They were a ragtag parade: Bism on Xanthus, leading Kya as she rode Balius and carried Shiri’s casing, with Zee the thundercat trailing behind. They were all tired from the long-night trek, but for those that could comprehend it, they could feel an excitement tingling in their veins: they knew Stiaye was near. The journey was almost at an end.Yet, despite the fact they would soon be free to find Subject 39, Bism could not help but feel uneasy. After dealing with the bandits, the ride had become far too simple: nothing had sprung out to attack them. He could have dismissed it as side-effects of his and Kya’s control over Rahi, or a conscious being’s fear over the thundercat, but it didn’t seem right.And on top of all that, the Steltian that had attacked them in Va-Koro seemed to have disappeared since the fight. Kya had shared his concerns over the perplexity. There was no doubt in their minds that he was free – the twisted logic of the Village of Time would have made Kya’s intrusion a far bigger deal than it should’ve been – but if he really was a servant of the Makuta, why hadn’t he come after them?Given all the inconsistencies, his paranoia was understandable. And when he heard the sound of rattling armor – armor that did not belong to any of them – he held up his hand for quiet, yanking on Xanthus’ reins to get him and Balius to halt. For good measure, he exerted his control over land Rahi, holding them in place.Quietly, he and Kya dismounted, the Xi-Matoran gripping the Spear tightly in her hands as her cloak trembled under the push of her wings. A flash of color caught his eye, and when he turned his head to look, he realized a tall figure was approaching their position. A tickle of something twitched in his head, but he ignored it until he had shooed the Rahi back a bit, then ducked behind a tree for a better vantage point.Peering around the Madu’s thick trunk, he and Kya watched the intruder approach, even as the tickles got stronger. The oblivious newcomer was a Water Toa, that was clear, but it was the color of her armor that was making the stirrings stronger, so he focused on that. It was unlike any other Toa’s he’d seen: a deep, rich cobalt, like the depths of the ocean.The observation struck a cord in him. Ocean … sea … water … fishing … his and Kya’s cellmate hadn’t talked much about the life before her capture – no one had – but she had said that she was a fisherwoman. Like a puzzle, he began fitting the scattered pieces of the shattered memories together, concentrating so hard on the mysterious 39 that he feared that his head would explode. Like it had been waiting for him to put so much effort into it, his foggy brain released a fragment of memory. It wasn’t much – just one syllable – but he hoped it would be part of the answer.“Amph?” he called softly, just loud enough to be heard by the passing Toa.Kya stirred in surprise, but it was nothing compared to the taller female’s reaction. She started like she had been stung by a dozen firefliers, looking wildly about for him, and her jump had two unexpected benefits: it showed the glowing 39 on her left shoulder, and as she had turned, long fangs had appeared from her mouth, growing from her canines.“Who said that?” she hissed. Sparks of recognition – of memory – were flying in those golden eyes, but Bism knew it wouldn’t be enough. Seeing Kya’s wings and her brand had triggered his memories for him, and his claws for her, so it should be true that it would be the same for 39.Taking a deep breath and gesturing to Kya to follow him, the mutated Matoran stepped out from behind the tree, leaving a concerned, manifested Shiri to watch over the Spear as they emerged into full view of the Toa. 39 stared blankly at them for a moment, but when Bism pulled off his gloves and Kya removed her cloak, revealing their abnormalities, she blinked.“Kya?” she whispered, like she was unsure of herself. “Bism?” And as she said their names, the final pieces in his mind fell into place, and he understood all that had been hidden.“Yes, Amphitrite,” he replied solemnly, “it’s us.”Dropping to her knees, the Toa of Water embraced the brother and sister she had forgotten, her eyes glowing with a sheen of tears. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, inwardly knowing that her words would never be enough to make up for what she’d done. “I should’ve come to find you, I was planning to – no, I’m not making excuses! Enki and Eurus were driving me crazy on Shi-Nui; it was only a matter of time before another Water Toa came to take my place. I was even leaving – ”“Then why did you stay?” the winged Matoran asked, voice quiet in the face of Amphitrite’s rising tirade.Amph’s rant abruptly halted, and she blushed through her Mahiki. Releasing them, she let one tear slide down her cheek, impatiently dismissing the others. “I fell in love,” she murmured.It was clear that Kya approved of the answer, but Bism waved it by impatiently. What was past was past – they couldn’t change it. They could only look to the future and try to do better.“Amph, we need to get to Stiaye. Do you know her?”The Water Toa started. “Yes – I know her; she’s my best friend. How –?”“Not out here. We have the Spear of Ajax, but we’ll be safer indoors. We’ll explain then.”She shook herself, and let the fangs retract. “Right. I think we’ll all have some explaining to do.”“Then lead the way.”XxXAt least half a kio away, deeper in the forest, the air shimmered as an illusion was removed, revealing the Makuta and their servant. Normal beings would not have been able to see or hear the reunion of the three Subjects, but they, of course, were not normal beings.Tageria’s scarlet eyes hungrily watched the group – Sehroes, thundercat, and all – slip deeper into the town. “Now?” she asked eagerly.“No,” the smaller Makuta replied. “Wait until they all emerge and start going up the road.”“It’s a small village. There couldn’t be enough Toa to stop us if we attack.”“If we destroy the village it will only make it obvious for all and sundry that we were there, and that will cause hundreds to hunt us. Four Toa, two Sehroes, a thundercat, and two altered Matoran are no threat to us.”The warrior harrumphed and fell silent. Hecate eyed her companion for a moment, then leaned over to Rarin and whispered in his ear. “Remember your part. Play it, and it will all go according to plan.”“What of your part?” he breathed back, barely moving his lips.“The bandit I coerced has served his purpose: Stiaye knows you were on this road. They will walk into the trap.”“I can hear you both,” grumbled Tageria. “If you don’t want me to interject, at least talk mind-to-mind.”Rarin waited, but no further instructions came from his Master, whose mind had turned elsewhere. During the War, she had frowned upon the torture of prisoners for sport – in her mind, it was a waste of good material – but after listening to the Subjects of Project Fury interact again after one thousand years, she was willing to make an exception.The Makuta’s claw-like fingers twitched, as she imagined casted bolts of electricity into the Ice Toa’s body.XxXThe next few hours went by uneventfully for the waiting trio. Makuta didn’t need to sleep, but Rarin spent most of the time dozing: for the last thirty hours, he had been awake. This final task his Master wanted him to perform would require that he not be tired, and he was determined to not let her down.Lacking such mortal needs, the two Makuta spent most of the time sharpening their weapons, occasionally sparring, keeping an eye on the village, and teleporting to the stretch of road that they had laid their trap on. It had taken two hours for Hecate to set it up, and resetting it after a misfire or an accident was not what they wanted to do.Just when Tageria’s threshold of boredom was about to be crossed – with unfortunate results for the nearby trees – movement coming from Yumi caught her attention. Turning her head, boredom vanished right away, as the entire party of Toa, Matoran, and Rahi began trooping towards the road to Va-Koro.Hecate teleported Rarin ahead to the trap, then dragged Tageria along with her before her companion did something rash. Settling into their new places, they waited longer.Finally, the sounds of the party came floating up the road, around mid-day. Around the corner the group came: the two Sehroes in the center, their Matoran handlers leading them by the reins. The Air and Lightning Toa were in the lead, while the Water Toa stayed with the two Matoran. The Ice Toa walked somewhere in the middle; behind the Sehroes prowled the lean thundercat.Behind their screens, the dark trio waited, ready to pounce. They moved slowly, agonizingly slowly. Just when Tageria thought she might be about to explode from impatience …The entire group crossed the threshold.XxXThe sky abruptly became dark, storm clouds sweeping into formation. Ominous rumbles of thunder sounded like drums from their depths, and a bald stripe of lightning split open the heavens. Around the road that the party stood upon, giant slabs of stone tore through the earth and created a loose fence. Glowing bright scarlet as energy charged inside them, the pillars than split their power, forming a dome that imprisoned the bipedal walkers, shutting Balius, Xanthus, and Zee outside. A faint yowl escaped the thundercat’s jaws as she flung herself at the fence, only to be flung back, tumbling onto her side: shaken, but unhurt.“This isn’t natural!” Aeolus managed to shout over the growing wind, as he tried and failed to calm them.“Certainly not.”The new voice was low and almost velvety, able to be heard in spite of the howling wind. As the four Toa fanned into a defensive formation (with Kya and Bism sticking close to Amphitrite), mist filled the pen: unnatural, like everything else that was happening, and making the entrance to come far more impressive.From the dark fog a lone figure swept into view, red eyes glaring out as their owner broke away from the cloud and into the dim light. She was smaller than others of her ilk, but she was plenty fearsome: spikes and blades covered enough of her armor to make her resemble a needle wolf. The Kanohi Hepecs she had donned filled the void that would be her face; in her hands, twin short swords were clenched.Amphitrite couldn’t take her horrified eyes off the Makuta. It was Hecate, the true source of her fear and the one who had changed her against her will.Like she had sensed the Water Toa’s fear, the Virus Master leered maliciously at her. “Hello, beautiful,” she purred, eyeing her frame with a lazy, arrogant avarice.Amphitrite made no reply, but on the other side of their battle line, Japoro shifted defensively as he noticed the transaction between them. While he hadn’t been happy about learning about Amph’s secret, ultimately he was more protective of her where the Makuta was concerned.Out of the corner of his eye, dark motion was seen, and he turned his head to better see it. The giant, indigo-and-black Steltian that Stiaye had described in the hospital was creeping up behind the two Matoran and their companion, and from the look of things, they were unaware of his presence. He was reaching out for them with his giant paws that he called hands, and instinctively started creating a wall of ice to shield them for a moment –A giant, unrelenting grip seized him around his mouth and torso, and he looked up in time to lock scarlet eyes with Tageria, her Crast replaced with a Felnas. Power built up in him, unable to be contained, and was released. The wall he had been creating expanded beyond his will, exploding into a roofed compound that obscured the Water Toa and her brother and sister from view.It all took place in less than a second; Stiaye and Aeolus were turning to look at him in alarm. In distain, the warrior-Makuta flung the Ice Toa aside and let him slam into the energy fence, stunning him. Hecate had vanished, but as he struggled to his feet it was the least of his worries: Tageria had come upon him again, and he and his companions were in for the fight of their life.XxXInside the cramped space, the Trinity huddled close, taking solace in their proximity. Bism’s gloves were off, his black claws reflecting multiple times on the surfaces, and Amphitrite’s ivory fangs gleamed in the false light. The Toa of Water had dropped her aqua saber – it was useless here – but Kya had picked it up: as the member with the least combat experience, she needed a weapon most.Bism reached towards one of the walls, but his fingers went numb before he could reach it. In his mind’s eye, he replayed the scene: the ice wall forming, Tageria grabbing Japoro’s throat, and the ice wall turning into a fortress …Ice. That was all this was – super-cold, super-thick ice, but ice all the same. Even the coldest ice would melt in the presence of heat, and with his sisters so close, his power over flame would be even greater.“I’m getting us out of here,” he said through gritted teeth, his breath condensing into a cloud. “It’s about to get very hot in here.”The Toa and Matoran said nothing, just pulled back and sticking close together. Closing his eyes, the Po-Matoran delved deep inside himself, into the well where his control over fire dwelled. With his siblings near, he didn’t need an existing flame to make things burn: they would be out in less time it took to count one, two –On three, Bism’s eyes flew open and his hands were flung forward, expecting fire to burst forth from his palms and leave a large, steaming hole in the icy prison.Nothing happened.Amphitrite watched as her friend’s face fell a mio. “What happened?” he asked weakly. “I thought …”“So did I,” the Toa replied grimly. “Maybe we both have a common weakness to ice.” A self-mocking smile appeared on her face as she spoke her thought.“Or…” purred a voice that belonged to none of them, “your powers do not work in the presence of your creator.”All three whirled around. Like the walls were made of air and not crystal, Hecate slipped inside the prison, the ceiling rising and walls pulling back to accommodate her greater size. Another Felnas was on her face in place of the Hepecs; somehow, the female Makuta could control the ice Japoro had created, in a manner even other Felnas users could not. Against the crystal walls, Hecate’s armor was even more striking: inky black and blood-red against the pure ice. Her eyes – narrowed to slits – held the Trinity locked in place, paralyzed by indecision: fear of the Dark Master that had toyed with them held back their desire to try and take revenge. Then those emotions became overwhelmed by another feeling entirely:Exhaustion. Sleep.Kya and Bism – already tired from their travels – were out in a flash; down for the count before the fight even started. Amph managed to hang on for a moment, long enough to stagger half-heartedly towards the impassive female Makuta, raising her pincer shields to deliver a blow to their enemy –And then she collapsed to the ground, unconscious.Hecate smiled thinly down at her. The Toa of Water was lying at her feet: obedient for once in her life. Bending down to remove her shields, she murmured, “It’s nothing personal, Toa of the tides. I merely have a bargain to uphold.”XxXStiaye by now had lost track of anything that was going on outside of her sphere of attention. The moment the ice prison had been formed Tageria and the Steltian had come down on the remaining Toa like a ton of rocks. The Makuta warriors had created an extra pair of arms on her body to wield an extra pair of swords; between the two dark-armored warriors, they were unable to think of anything other than trying to survive.A shriek filled the air, belonging to no one on the field. “Tageria! We must go!”An explosion of dark energy and ice shards ripped out, slamming into Aeolus, Japoro, and Stiaye and sending them flying: only the prosthetic’s heavy grip kept her from losing the Spear. Another detonation occurred behind them as she tumbled, sending her mask-first into the ground, a roar in her ears –And then it was quiet.Groaning, Stiaye rose to her feet, rubbing her temples with her non-prosthetic hand. The blast had destroyed the energy fence, knocked herself, Aeolus, and Japoro around in the road, and caused the Serhoes and the thundercat to scatter into the forest, yet for some reason the ice fortress was still mostly intact. Tageria was nowhere to be seen, and by that token, she was expecting that Hecate was gone too.And there were two other things.The Spear, with Shiri inside, was still tightly in her grasp: for whatever reason, the Makuta had not taken advantage of her weakness to steal it.And there was a fourth casualty.The Makuta’s servant was slumped against a shattered pillar, half-conscious. The Toa of Lightning watched warily as first Japoro, than Aeolus, roused themselves and took up positions beside her, partly-expecting him to jump back to his feet and attack again, or for his masters to pop back into existence for round two.But a few minutes passed, and all was quiet.Cautiously, the three Toa approached, Aeolus coming from the Steltian’s left, Japoro from his right, and Stiaye from straight ahead, a little behind them in case the Steltian jumped up and tried to attack her. As they closed in, his red eyes slit open, dully examining them. He was dangerous still, but for now, he showed little interest in launching an attack.They all kept globes of elemental energy in hand, though. Just in case.“Why did they leave you?” she asked softly: anything louder than a murmur hurt Stiaye’s head. “Why didn’t they take the Spear?”“Playing my part.”A thin smile crossed the servant’s face at their projected confusion. “In her mind, it is a trade. An exchange … she has left me, her loyal servant, and in return, she has reclaimed those she sees as hers.”As the words left his lips, he weakly gestured towards the icy pen. Turning her head, Stiaye watched as it melted far faster than it should, like a Fire Toa was applying their element to it. To her surprise – and her fear – the enclosure was empty: Kya, Bism, and Amphitrite were gone. All that remained was Kya’s cloak, Bism’s gloves, and Amphitrite’s sword and shields.Aeolus and Japoro had turned to look as well, and while the Air Toa’s expression mirrored her own feelings, a subtler change came over the Ice Toa. There was a remoteness to him that was foreign to him, but not to others of his tribe: at that moment, Stiaye feared her friend more than she ever had in the past.Returning his attention to the prisoner, Japoro brought the force of his telekinesis to bear, slamming the Steltian down against the pillar with an icy anger radiating from his eyes. “Where is she? Where has she taken her?” he snapped.“Away.”“I can see that for myself, Pit-spawn! Where. Is. She?” The telekinetic force on Hecate’s servant increased, pushing him further into the ground as a show of the Ice Toa’s increasing impatience and fear, despite the fact both his companions were urging him to stop, to ease up, to reconsider …“I can’t say,” the brute shot back. “Hecate ordered me to not say until the time was right.”Under different circumstances Japoro would have caught the admission right away. With the fact that one of the prisoners was the Toa of Water, it was Aeolus that connected the dots even as he and Stiaye restrained him from attempting more painful methods of persuasion. “’Until the time is perfect-right?’” he paraphrased, surprised. “Hecate need-wants us to thought-know?”The resulting nod was executed with some difficulty, due to the force pressing down on his throat. “She tasked me with giving you the location, and then escorting you there – but only when she had indicated. It’s why she left me here.”Japoro’s voice was hard as he tried to keep himself from betraying how much he would like to rip open the Steltian’s guts. “And what makes you so confident you can keep your mouth shut until then?”Hecate’s servant locked red eyes with Stiaye, and there was no arrogance or boasting in his reply. “The Toa Code means little to this generation: I know this already. But I have suffered at the hands of Tageria, who holds none of your kind’s sympathy. I will hold my silence.”Aeolus looked at Stiaye, still holding Japoro in a headlock with his fingers gripping his Matatu, threatening its removal if the Ice Toa attempted something unwise. The Lightning Toa stared down at the being that had robbed her of her hand over a week ago: phantom nerves made her prosthetic fingers twitch in sympathetic response. Part of her wanted to send bolts of her element into his body, and continue doing so until he gave up his secrets, until he could never harm another Toa again, or both. All the same, a Makuta would never employ a weakling as their most trusted servant. The likelihood of their being able to wrest the desired answers from him was slight.Him, him, him. She was sick of calling this enemy as if he had no name. “What does she call you?” she asked aloud.The Steltian’s red eyes flashed as he blinked. “My name is Rarin.”“When will she allow you to speak?” Japoro moved in protest of her words, but Aeolus’ grip tightened on him in response; rather than try to discover if the emerald Toa’s power could overcome telekinesis, the white-gunmetal male chose to remain still.“When the Twin Suns begin their descent to the horizon.”Stiaye looked up at the sky, remembering that the group had departed Yumi shortly before midday. The Suns hung close to the center of the sky still: it couldn’t have been long since then. It would take another hour at least for the suns to reach their indicated position … briefly she reconsidered rejecting her own conclusions and just zapping him. An hour was all the time in the world for a Makuta, let alone two, and they had kidnapped her best friend and her long-lost companions. Who knew what condition they would be in by the time they could receive the location from Rarin?She sighed, coming back to the same choice she had already. “Bring him off the road. We’ll wait her out.”As she’d expected, Japoro tried to protest, but she shot him a glare and he sullenly backed down. The telekinetic force pressing down on Rarin vanished, allowing him to stand, but as they escorted him off the road, they were careful to strip him of his weapons. He calmly submitted to their demands, letting them force him to sit on a log in the middle of a clearing and keeping their weapons pointed at him.Out of the trees emerged the thundercat Zee; Stiaye dimly remembered that she and the Serohes had vanished by the time the Makuta had. She took up a position beside the log, tail swishing as she looked at the prisoner.And together, they waited, even as precious time ticked away.XxXReview here

Edited by Inferna Firesword, Mar 03 2012 - 12:53 PM.

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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.


#15 Offline Inferna Firesword

Inferna Firesword
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Posted Aug 31 2012 - 12:09 AM

Lover’s Ancient Art

The Suns were arcing downwards, beginning to cast an orange sheen on the overgrown, uninhabited island of Rohaya. On the surface, it was the epitome of the deserted, ruined civilization. The Dragon’s Watchtower in the western valley had been reduced to ivy-covered rubble; in the south, the fortress that had once been home to the noble Toa Rohaya was little better-off. The parapets and towers were crumbling; the portcullis that barred the gates was rusting and the doors were rotting.Behind the facade of decay, however, the impression of deterioration proved false. Here the rooms had been rebuilt, able to support the weight of three huge, heavy beings. After fifty-four years of abandonment, the island was once again inhabited by sentient creatures, but the discrepancy between these new tenants and the former ones was ironic.Rohaya had become home to the last of the Makuta, their servants – and their three new prisoners.XxXMultiple churning vats burbled in what once had been the Toa Rohaya’s trophy room, overseen by Hecate and maintained by her Visotoran. The monstrous hybrids were silent as they worked – absolutely silent. Hecate was a demanding mistress to them, but on the rare occasion that she was in a truly foul mood – like now – to make the smallest deliberate noise was akin to offering to collect wood for their own funeral pyre.The only one that could approach Hecate without provoking her wrath while she was irate was Rarin – but unfortunately for all in the fortress, he was nowhere near to come to the defense of anyone that set her off. Even Tageria kept away from the room.Hecate’s stony expression never wavered as she paced around the vats, each filled to the brim with different strains of mutagens. In one set was a mix of heavy black and navy viruses, so dense that it was impossible to see through; in another set, gaseous silver-ivory ones swirled, almost unable to be seen in the tightly-sealed tank. A few Visotoran in another corner were at work with another set of vats, boiling and distilling a greenish liquid that cooled and hardened into crystals the color of moss and the size of a Toa’s clenched fist.As the Dark Master swept closer to this small group, a black-grey-copper Visotoran fumbled the pan of finished crystals he carried, causing some of them to fall to the floor and shatter, as they were surprisingly fragile. The Makuta’s magnetokinesis held the pan aloft as her fist’s quick movement knocked the unfortunate slave into the wall with two sickening cracks, where it twitched and lay still.“You are crueler than usual,” Tageria observed as she cautiously entered. “I wish you were crueler more often. While I’m not ignorant of your reasons – and I’m personally glad you decided to abandon Rarin for his failings – why did you not seize the Spear when we had its bearer helpless? It would be far more straightforward than your roundabout plan.”Despite her façade of seething anger, Hecate’s voice wasn’t affected by her mood: she still spoke in a smooth tone. “Straightforward plans are crude and can easily be disrupted; overelaborate plans are also prone to this, as our brother Teridax proved. My designs, however, are not on as grand a scale as his Plan.“The Spear cannot be touched by Makuta without it being rendered useless for what we need it for. Mutated Matoran – even those we have changed – can carry it without damaging the power we need. The Trinity will be the key to claiming it.“Now leave me, Tageria. I will soon complete my task, and I will meet you below when your time comes.”The warrior, who had wisely remained silent, made her exit, leaving the Virus Master to her work amongst her silent monstrosities.XxXThey were still hostile to him, though he was not hostile to them anymore.The Ice Toa was, anyway, and he could guess why. The Air Toa – Aeolus, he believed his name was? – was keeping a close eye on the Makuta’s servant, the thundercat prowling around the log he was sitting on, yellow eyes fixed on the giant Steltian. For his part,Rarin was calm about it, though he disliked the almost-ravenous look in the Rahi’s eyes (though he suspected something more than just predatory instincts). The Toa of Lighting and the Toa of Ice had moved away from the area, but the screen of trees and bushes weren’t enough to keep him from hearing their conversation, as Stiaye attempted to convince the Ice Toa into staying where he was and following her plan.He started listening. Not like he could do anything for a little longer, anyway.“-It’s not going to help, Japoro. He’s a Makuta servant; he could resist torture.” He was almost tempted to laugh at her redundancy: nothing they could do to him would be equal to what Tageria had done in the past, and in any case he had told her that already ... though then again, he might not have believed him.“I don’t care. I don’t need anything he tells us; it’ll probably be lies anyway. I can find her myself.” There was such stubborn determination in his voice that for a moment Rarin was almost inclined to believe him.Stiaye’s reply mirrored his knowledge. “It’s a big universe, Japoro. Even if you could find out where she’s being kept in time for it to be any good – I’ll leave the probability calculations to you – could you rescue her? One Toa, against two Makuta and whatever they’ve got guarding this place? Hate to say it, but you’d be coming back to your homeland as dust.”An inarticulate growl followed, with a shhhwip on its heels: probably the Toa using his powers out of frustration. Rarin checked the time: less than three minutes before his orders allowed him to speak of where Hecate and Tageria had set up their base.Of course, he could tell them right away if he wanted to, but Hecate, for better or for worse, was his master, and he was loyal to her. According to her, this was the last assignment he would have before her Plan was complete and she would release him from his service … let him go and make himself anew. It made him joyful to think he would finally be away from Tageria, but he feared it too. His days in Stelt as a two-bit dock worker were, even to him, vague memories, and he wasn’t going back to that. For all intents and purposes, being Hecate’s servant was all he knewCrashing in the brush caused him to look up and focus. Stiaye had returned, a sullen-looking Japoro behind her. There was still anger in her eyes, but overall he trusted her level of calm more: the white-gunmetal male looked like he would freeze him solid if he dared say the wrong thing.“Alright, Rarin” – the Lightning Toa’s voice turned cold at his name – “it’s the time you specified. I’m not a cruel woman, but I won’t hesitate to turn a few screws if you dare act coy.”His lips twitched: the beginnings of a smile that never fully manifested. “I keep my word, Stiaye. I said that I would tell you where they are, and I will.”“Then out with it!” It was that Toa of Ice, and under his anger he could smell the fear he felt. One of Hecate’s gifts had been to sense the pheromones that other beings secreted, and while all three Toa were angry and afraid, the smell was thicker off the white-and-gunmetal one.“Master Hecate and Tageria took the Trinity to the base. It was set up a year ago, around the time I was sent to find you.”“Where is it?” Aeolus seemed the calmest of the three Toa, so he turned to look at him. The thundercat was still at his side, glaring at him, and as he looked at the creature it finally clicked about what seemed so off about it. He almost smiled: it was a good disguise.“Before I say that, I would appreciate it if the fourth member of this party were to shed their current appearance and converse with us properly.”Before Stiaye (or her companions) could ask just what the Karzahni he was talking about, a familiar voice echoed from the thundercat, whose outline blurred and changed into that of an ethereal Toa’s as it spoke. “Sharp. I was wondering when someone would figure it out.”“Stara?” Even Japoro looked taken aback as Stiaye looked at her friend and mentor in bewilderment. “How’d you get like that?”The spirit waved her hand impatiently, eyes fixed on Rarin. “That can wait. Getting back to the point, where are they?”The Steltian took a moment to rearrange mental gears before continuing. “They took them to Rohaya. And before you ask, the halflings’ curse still remains to keep others away, and its’ close enough to Xia for them to obtain weapons and viruses.”Stiaye closed her mouth on her next question – which had just been answered – and moved on. “Why do they want them? What does Hecate stand to gain bringing them there and having you tell us where she is?”“I don’t know that. But after serving her for much of my life, I know this: the Makuta are rarely happy when they don’t have some sort of plan in mind or in action.”XxX“Yeah, yeah, plans of doom and destruction as usual,” the Water Toa shot at the one she was talking to, rolling her eyes. After waking up in her current position – tied down to metal tables in the middle of an empty, anonymous stone room, flanked by two slabs that held the still-unconscious bodies of Kya and Bism – and after trying to break out, Amph had resigned herself to whatever Hecate had planned for her and her Matoran companions … for the moment. Whatever Hecate had planned for them, she wouldn’t let her have the last laugh.Across the room, just a few bio from the cobalt Toa, the Makuta herself silently regarded her from behind her Kanohi Hepecs before her mouth opened and she laughed: a sound as hard as steel and soft as snow. “You were always defiant, Amphitrite: defiant to the end when I last held you within my grasp. Perhaps your actions shouldn’t surprise me; that your existence since leaving me has been a single act of defiance.”The cocky arrogance leeched away in a heartflash: just a façade, as she had suspected. “What?” she whispered, because she could hear the anger and sadness lurking in the Makuta’s voice.“Yearning, child. Ever since I was forced to let you go – for your own protection, against those that would kill or manipulate you – I have wanted you to return. You, Kya, Bism – I implanted a final set of commands into each of you, in case I needed to erase your memories and hide you. I couldn’t be sure you would stay where I left you – so I made sure you would look for each other, and your memories be restored when you found one another.”The Virus Master began moving about them, making sure that the three beings were tied down securely, while her Visotoran skittered around them, wheeling large containers whose contents sloshed around, or were pressurized tanks that presumably were filled with some form of gas. The theory was confirmed when they attached masks to Amphitrite, Bism, and Kya’s faces, covering their mouths and noses and forcing them to breathe the air pumped through them.As the activity scurried around her, the Makuta continued to speak, but as she spoke it became increasingly more clear that she was addressing the Toa of Water, tone becoming more and more acidic along with it. “Your original memory wipe was meant to erode and reveal your lost memories if you three came closer together and were reunited – hence why you were given the urge to explore and travel. Apparently it did not work quite as I intended it to. While Kya was effectively trapped by that ignorant village, and Bism actively sought out his sisters, you, Amphitrite – you had the most potential to succeed in your task, and yet you failed.“You had all the power of a Toa, all the excuse to explore, the best chance to find your brother and sister, the strongest yearning for them. But you squandered it, wasting your time with that Toa of Ice, who is so unworthy of your affections.”The Water Toa’s fury sparked at the casual dismissal of what she herself saw in Japoro. Straining against her binding chains, uncaring of the intravenous needles being pushed under her skin, she lifted her head and snarled out her reply. “Japoro might not be a hero of legend or be of great importance to you, but he is to me. He is nothing like the suns, but I love him.”Hecate didn’t reply immediately, saving her retort until she had bent over the Toa to check on her bindings; pushing her back down onto the slab and hissing into her ear, in a tone that provoked equal parts rage and illogical shame: “Your hunger for him, then, explains all that you have done.”As the captive fell silent, hunting for a suitable defense for herself, Hecate’s Visotoran finally pulled away from them, exiting the room on some unspoken command. The Makuta herself stepped back from the place the three were bound. “I had wished that this Project need never be completed, but circumstances have seen that this is not to be. I will return for you in three hours.”With that, she followed her servants out of the room, the door sealing after her exit.The room was silent afterwards, save for the echoing of the captive’s breaths, growing shorter and more panicked as the seconds crept by and they stared at the ceiling. The long-suppressed fear was setting in, helped along by the unsettling noise of machines coming to life behind them and behind the walls, in the unseen rooms beyond. Their restored memories offered few clues of what the sounds meant – and what little they knew only tightened their nerves and made their heartlights flash faster.Amphitrite forced herself to forget everything that affected her: the surroundings, what Hecate had said, her restored memories. Her observations had noted that her shackles were made of cracksteel, a metal nearly as strong as protosteel: powerful, but not enough to restrain a Toa if they had their hands free, which unfortunately she didn’t – yet. She knew a few tricks that might get her out of this situation.While normally she was dismissive of the stereotypical Ga-Matoran ways (like the idea that peace was always viable – how foolish), she had to admit that they were useful sometimes. In particular, there was a meditative use for the element of Water, that focused on unity with it instead of the use of it that might be able to free her.Keeping the distracting thoughts to the back of her head, she closed her eyes and focused on her hands and wrists; on the metal, circuits, and flesh that made up the joints and parts currently chained above her head. She focused on the tides she commanded, on rivers and seas, and willed solid and liquid to merge.Behind her sealed lids she felt it working. The process was all in her head, of course – no Water Toa had ever been able to turn themselves into liquid – but she was willing to believe that the gurgling sound in her ears was that of watery muscles under her armor, and that the armor itself was being slick with moisture.Once she judged that she was as ready as she would ever be, she pulled her hands down towards herself, trying to curl her arms over her chest. She encountered natural resistance, but she could swear that she felt stronger breathing the air that was pumped through her gas mask. She could almost feel the bulge of increased muscle mass against her as she pulled, pulled – and finally pulled her liquid-feeling arms out of the chains.Excitement filled her, causing Amphitrite to open her eyes and break her concentration. Her hands were free! If she could do the same for her legs, she might –Then her train of thought came to a screeching halt, as her eyes perceived what her minds has dismissed as illusions.The gurgling sound was the IV, already most of the way empty, draining every last drop of the brackish liquid inside it into her blood. Already one of its effects could be seen: her muscles expanding, legs lengthening, her bare feet beginning to change shape as they grew larger. What little composure that had remained from breaking her concentration vanished around that time; as she began breathing heavily from the mask, she detected a strange smell in the oxygen.Airborne viruses … have to stop inhaling them … but how can I stop breathing?Before that puzzle could be solved, a blast of energy (from Hecate?) ripped through the room and into her, making the Water Toa collapse and fall unconscious, arms dangling limply from the table as her body continued to mutate.On either side of her, the two Matoran had seen the Toa’s struggles and the black energy that had made her fall back. As both lacked their sister’s powers, neither had been able to free themselves. Their efforts and the heavy breathing their work had required had caused them to add the viruses to their systems at a greater rate, and as such their mutations were much further along than Amphitrite’s.Kya felt a strange itching sensation from the back of her shoulders, as she usually did when she needed to molt feathers. Once she managed to crane her neck to get a good look at her wings, her eyes widened as her silver-grey feathers fell out of their places at super-speed, finishing in seconds that normally took days. As they lazily fell to the floor, the uncomfortable feeling continued on her wings and spread to her hands and feet; black feathers began to grow in place of the molted ones, as heavy claws formed on her hands and her feet began turning into talons.On his table Bism felt the itching on his back and hands and feet be joined by a burning that engulfed his entire body, making him thrash in a futile attempt to tear himself free and find some form of relief. A searing in his arm muscle made him look over, and in shock he watched as his armor began to melt, liquid metal slowly taking the place of solid plates.As the same began to happen to his face, he clamped his eyes shut and screamed.XxXA long silence had fallen after Rarin’s declaration, the Toa trying to decipher what he had meant, while Stara and Rarin seized each other up. Stiaye herself wasn’t sure what to think of this hulking warrior who had robbed her of her right hand, and was now sitting before her. Her prosthetic clenched unconsciously around the shaft of the Spear, where Shiri was remaining dormant, retreating into the vessel after being returned to her.Aeolus finally broke the silence, addressing their captive. “Why would Hecate desire-want us to come?”The Steltian raised and lowered his shoulders. “I don’t know. I am her servant, and if she doesn’t want to confide in me, I won’t be trying to make her.”He hesitated for a moment, than continued. “I have my theories, though … while we were traveling, Tageria had been trying to convince my Master into turning her into a halfling. She’s had excuses to not do so, mostly because the materials were unavailable, but after we set up base on Rohaya, she couldn’t claim that as often.”“Why?” the Lightning Toa inquired. “You can’t create halflings on Rohaya –”“She can.”It was Stara who said this, not Rarin, and for a moment the younger companions stared at her in astonishment.“How?” Japoro finally asked.The former Toa Rohaya sighed, her misty shape rippling in response. “When the team was still active, we captured several Brotherhood supply ships that had vats of energized protodermis over the course of the war. They were mostly brought over to Shi-Nui for storage and experimentation, but we had three vats of it locked up in our basement at the time of the Massacre.”“Had the halflings found them by the time they were killed?” Stiaye asked.“I’d be surprised if they hadn’t, though they certainly didn’t get at it. At the time we kept the locks charged with elemental energy so no one that shared those elements could get in without a key. Kronus had the only one, and it was buried with him, but it wouldn’t be needed now: they haven’t been charged in over fifty years.” Her eyes shifted to Rarin again. “They found it, didn’t they?”The Steltian nodded assent. “It took a while for us to find the door, but we managed to break the seals and access the vats. Tageria wanted to use them right away, but Hecate overruled her. At this point, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if she started using it.”Japoro impatiently waved his hand. “This is not good, we get it. Now can we please get going?”“Right,” Stiaye agreed, holopacking the Spear and making to leave.Rarin quickly stood up. “I will come, as I said.”Japoro looked ready to just freeze the Steltian solid, but Stiaye made him lower his weapon. “Give me a reason to take you along.”“Whatever Hecate is planning, she needs us all there. If she just needed you, she would just tell me to give the location and then have me leave. And whatever it is, Tageria is bound to attack. I have my reasons to want to go back – and they won’t end well for her, halfling or not.“Besides,” he added in a sinister manner, “even if you make me not come, that won’t stop me from finding my own way there. Keep me along, and you can keep me under your eye.”She hated admitting it, but he was right. Sighing, she nodded weary assent, holding up a hand to indicate to Japoro she was not interested in arguing, then turned to Aeolus. “We need to head north. Good thing we left the Jaswinder at port there when we landed here. You kept a tab on those Serohes?”“Yes.”“Never rode one of those, but we can figure it out. Japoro, you ride one, I’ll ride the other. Stara, I guess you can either stay a spirit or turn into a thundercat. Aeolus, you’ll fly. Rarin?”“I will run,” he said simply. And with that, they vacated the clearing.XxXGroggily, Bism came to, with his head throbbing like there were pickaxes pounding away in his skull. For some reason, his eyes were stubbornly refusing to open all the way, forcing him to make do with his eyes only partly open. And, as it turned out, the slits were all he needed. Even only slightly open, the images his optic delivered were crisp and clear, better than they had been his entire life.They also gave an explicit detailing of what chains were on his ankles and wrists, binding him to the floor and back wall of this chamber. Growling in the back of his throat, he yanked, but the metal was firm. Ragged flapping came from directly behind the Matoran, like wind on a flag, but try as he might he couldn’t crane his neck to see.Footsteps sounded before him, and he looked around. Someone was here, lurking in the corridor ahead of him, but it wasn’t prey, or his kind.His kind? His sisters?Yes. On either side of him, two females were stirring, one his size, the other considerably taller. He looked and knew that to the eyes of prey, they were intimidating, grotesque, and horrifying, but he didn’t recoil. What did he have to fear from his own sisters?“Awaken, my Nightborn,” crooned the female before him, her voice gentler and kinder to them than she had ever been before, though none of them had any memory of those times before. A name floated up from the depths of his mind, that of Hecate.It was her name, he was certain of it. But what was Hecate? He sifted through hazy memories, finally coming up with a description that suited her, and called out to her.“Yes, Master,” he rasped, voice rattling around his in throat.He tried to rise to his feet, hobbled by the chains. Abruptly they fell slack; the cuffs had been snapped off him. The metal clattered against the floor, and he stretched his limbs gratefully.More clattering came from either side of him: his sisters had been unbound as well. His smaller sister rose up her arms in relish, even was her ragged wings stretched to scrape the air. The largest of them, tall enough to see eye-to-eye with Hecate, rolled her shoulders, ruffled her feathers as she folded her own massive wings, and hissed, “We are at your bidding, Master. What are your orders?”Bism tensed, hunching over instinctively. He remembered his Purpose … his Purpose was to hunt. What to hunt, though?Hecate reached out and caressed the face of the tallest, like a mother does to her firstborn. “There is a Toa,” she said softly. “She carries something of great importance to me. I require it.”Excitement filled him, and he felt his teeth scrape together as he grinned. “Shall we hunt, sisters?” he asked eagerly, addressing the others.His Master turned her kindly eyes on him and he shivered happily. “Not yet. I am glad you are eager, but you require practice. Your powers are great, but you must exercise them first. Then, you will hunt her.”“What shall we practice on?” the smallest of them asked, her voice higher-pitched and sounding much younger than it should be.“There is a settlement not far from here. Their leader, a Turaga, rules from the tallest tower in that city. Fly there and cripple the place, the worse the better, and bring back her mask. Cripple her as well.”Hecate turned from her creations and wove her hand at a panel in the wall. A door slid open in response. “There are three sets of weapons there, marked with your names. Array yourselves, Nightborn, and then meet me outside.”And with that, she vanished.Excitedly, the three shoved their way into the armory, as ecstatic as Matoran on Naming Day. Bism found his marked gear arranged neatly on the left wall, marked with his name. There were other words written on them as well, but they were in a language that he had no knowledge of.On went two weapons belts, one slung over his lefts shoulder and the other around his middle. There were two daggers on the waist belt, though they looked so puny in comparison to his claws he was tempted to discard them. Only his fear of disappointing his Master kept him from doing so. Over his chest were two-dozen metal capsules that he assumed were to be thrown. A sloshing from inside them indicated liquid contents; the smell that came from them almost made him gag.The last weapon was probably the most intimidating: a nine-thonged leather whip, the last foot or so of each lash coated in metal. There was no place from him to stow it on his belts, so he assumed that he was to carry it. As it weighed very little, he wouldn’t have much of a problem.By now all three of them – Nightborn, they had been called – were armed. The tallest led them out, racing eagerly outside.XxXOutside, Hecate watched as they joined her on the barely-together balcony. While her act of kindness to them when they had awakened wasn’t false – she was pleased that Amphitrite, Kya, and Bism had survived the mutations – under the act she was calmly and patiently evaluating them. The stronger they seemed, and the faster they met her requirements, she could proceed with her next step. She had a bargain to hold up, after all, and no one ever came out the better when you tried to scam those that were, technically, demi-gods.She didn’t let her thoughts leak into her façade as she addressed them. “I know one of you can fly, but the other two might need to practice and learn before I send you to perform these tasks. Take to the air and test your wings. I will call you when I am satisfied.”Without any further prompting, the trio flung themselves into the sky, giant wings grasping at the air. Kya was used to the currents, and it only took her a short while to grow accustomed to the ones of Rohaya. The Toa was fairly proficient, but not as good.Bism, however, was dreadful, the ingrained basic knowledge she had given him and the Toa probably being the only thing keeping him from plummeting to the ground. The other two were quick to swoop down to support him, and Hecate’s keen hearing let her realize that they were giving advice to him, as they should be. Gradually, he steadied himself, and it didn’t take long for the three to be tearing through the air like winged acrobats.During this she had watched, and finally summoned a Visotoran to obtain what she needed. They left and came again, bringing her onyx crystal from her sanctum. With it in hand, she performed her silence summons, and then called them back.The False Nightborn – for they weren’t the true Nightborn – landed before her, eyes gleaming. They were hoping they had pleased her. She smiled at them.“You have done well. Only one thing remains before I send you to carry out my will,” she said.They leaned forward, wanting to know. Instead of producing something for them, she turned into the shadowed overhang that was behind her. There they were: hovering in midair, not quite solid but not entirely spirits. The entirety of their grotesque bodies were as black as Tageria’s heart, but their eyes glowed like sinister stars.She knew why they were here: it was part of the deal. Ignoring the confusion of her False Nightborn, she bowed. “They are ready,” she said, spreading her hands. “Take them as your own.”She stood aside as the true Nightborn – reduced to little more than essence and vapor as the years had gone by – surged forward, physical appearances cast away at the promise and delivery of hosts. She watched calmly as the brief attempts to fend them off by her creations failed, and the black mist settled into them through their heartlights.They staggered a bit, as the Nightborn got used to the bodies, and then steadied. Amphitrite – now host to the leader, called Isipha – looked at her squarely, through eyes that wept a dark resin-like material, and growled, “Your work is excellent, Makuta. Not even Artakha could build such forms.”Hecate ignored the flattery. “All is as you wish it to be?”Their only male member, Astark spoke now, his body glowing red as he sensed and channeled the rage of countless beings in the universe. “Everything is as it should. You will proceed with final preparations?”“They are already being set in motion. The next phase won’t be ready to be initiated for a few days. I gave your hosts an objective to work with – if you so desire, you may carry it out … or not. I don’t care either way. You have a few days to decide which one.”Astark and Alesi looked ready to take off right away, but Isipha held up a hand to still them as she considered it. “We have new bodies, new frames, and potentially new powers. It has been a while since we were able to carry out our Duty, and never have we been able to unleash such potential mayhem as this.”A pause, and then she grinned, giant sharp teeth gleaming in the light of the setting suns. “We will do it.”Hecate returned the smile. “I’ll leave you to it.”Turning, she walked away, into the fortress, but didn’t go far. In the shadows of the hallway, she watched her partners take flight, heading north for the island she had directed them to. From the trees, a giant murder of crows rose up – where they had come from was anyone’s guess – surrounding them and cawing as they left Rohaya.Turning away and leaving them to their own devices, she beckoned to one that stood in deeper darkness than she, who stepped out to meet her. It was as tall as the average Toa, with bloodred eyes, but unlike others of its kind there were differences. Its black body almost seemed fractured into three parts – head, torso and arms, and legs – and was streaked throughout with blue, white, and copper.“Come,” she said to the shadow creature as she headed deeper into the fortress. Obediently, it followed.Her trap was nearly complete. This Shadow Being she had extracted from her Trinity would become another tipping block in that trap … but who would wind up being caught up in it would surprise all.She couldn’t help but grin: despite the fact the Nightborn had three days at least to perform their task, she knew it wouldn’t take nearly that long.Tonight, they dine at Karzahni.XxXAuthor’s Note: Muhahaha~ >=D Strap yourselves in, ladies and gentlemen: the fuse is lit, and it won’t be long before the powder keg ignites.Mood Music: “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace, “Ride” by Presence, “Straight to My Heart” (Theme of the Trinity) by StingReview here
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Thanks for the memories, BZP. Time for me to leave.





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