Posted Apr 24 2012 - 02:48 PM
Chapter 6 Tobduk, the Survivor, the Hunter of Makuta and Empowered of Rage, glared into the dark, bottomless pits that served as eyes for Makuta Droth, Master of Mutation, Prince of Poison, and Lord of Durgolund. They stared silently at each other for a very long time.Then, finally, the off-green mask of mutation that Droth bore split into a fanged smile. “Oh, yes, it’s you!” the Makuta cried.“We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting,” Tobduk frowned.“Maybe not under your new name,” Droth replied, stalking slowly to the left. Tobduk rotated on the spot, keeping their gaze locked. “But I knew you once, Empowered of Rage. You always were one of the most promising on that island.”Tobduk’s anger flickered for a moment, interjected with confusion. The other Empowered, the ones groaning as they rose to their feet, strewn around the chamber were just as bewildered. “You were never the Makuta of our lands,” frowned Tobduk.“Or was he?” Barrest asked, cocking his head from behind Droth’s shadow chains. Kylodus and Nestra, the Toa imprisoned next to him, now furrowed their brows with confusion.“Quiet,” Vokkan barked, inspecting his wounds. The Empowered of Determination had suffered greatly at Droth’s power of poison, and a viscous slime still coated his body. But he was sworn to end Droth’s reign, and that thought kept him standing.“Yes, thanks very much, Vokkan – there will be silence,” Droth commanded. He waved his hand, and each of his intruders found that no sound escaped their mouths. “Now I’ll happily explain.”As he continued to stride in a circle around his chamber, Tobduk’s glare following him, Droth ran his nimble fingers up and down his ornate doom viper staff. “This was a gift,” he recalled, “from my good friend Makuta Chirox. Always thought my mask was ‘cheating,’ may shadows cloak his heart forevermore.“As you all surely know, Chirox ruled over a tiny little island to the south, inhabited by quaint little villages of a mostly peaceful, though exceptionally powerful, species. Like most of us, he paid little attention to the place, but it functioned smoothly by itself without interference, so there was no need to dote on his subjects.“Now, Chirox had a rival – Mutran, a rahi-creator like no other. Mutran had outdone Chirox so often that Chirox was simply burning with rage. I’m sure you felt it, Tobduk. Chirox was determined, Vokkan, to create a monstrous rahi that Mutran could never outdo.“Chirox was good at creating agents of destruction. He perfected seven ludicrously chaotic breeds of his magnum opus, each with rhotuka spinners that could paralyze or harness a different power, and blessed each breed with their own specialized ability. But he felt there was still something lacking… and so he turned to me, and another good friend: Makuta Luporax.“With my knowledge of poison and mutation, Luporax’s empathic connection to rahi, and Chirox’s drive to destroy… well, we together brewed a substance more potent than any other. A poison concocted by my claws, imbued with mutagenic toxins and corrosive agents (courtesy of Chirox). It was designed to inflict such suffering… to turn anyone infected into a rahi beast themselves and make their life Karzahni. That bit was Luporax’s area; he fiddled with the mind-addling ingredients, ensuring that a hordika would think just as a rahi did. We called this hordika venom. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.”There was unbridled malice hovering in the room, so thick that Tobduk found it almost difficult to move through the air… until he realized that Droth’s sloth powers were slowing him. But by default, this meant silence was no longer in effect…“Attack!” he barked, wagering that Droth would have to drop the sloth effect in order to fend off Tobduk’s comrades.At once, Vokkan and Spair – who by now had recovered – blasted twin streams of their elements at Droth. Earth and water slammed into the Makuta, caking him in mud, even as Spair helped Kikita to her feet. Smiling, the Empowered of Joy focused her beaming smile on Barrest, Kylodus, and Nestra, and Droth’s chains of shadow melted to nothingness.There was an eerie green glow escaping Droth’s mud-caked form, though, and soon the temporary prison was shattered to dust. Clods of half-congealed mud smacked into the Makuta’s enemies, even as he glanced around at them.He was surrounded. Seven powerful, intelligent, and angry warriors were closing in on him, five of them Empowered and the other two Toa. Droth’s mad grin flickered with… was that a bit of fear?Doubt, certainly, that he could make it out alive. Just a brief moment of indecision was enough for Barrest, who immediately locked down the Makuta’s teleportation abilities. “There’s no escape now, that you can be sure of,” Barrest grinned.“There will have to be,” Droth growled – and then his mask glowed.Each of the seven warriors cried out, shying away from the glow, but the fearsome power of Droth’s mask could only target one. Who was the recipient of his deadly gaze?A shriek of pain rent the air as someone’s body rearranged – a terrible grinding noise echoed in the back of everyone’s mind –A wretched little salamander dropped to the ground, wriggling in its own slime helplessly. With one less warrior to worry about, Droth easily vaulted from his pinned position and clung to the wall, tossing his doom viper staff aside. The thing was hardly fit for combat; it was time to bring out some more potent weaponry.Tobduk glanced from face to face, trying to judge who had fallen. Thank Mata Nui, he saw Nestra’s intact, albeit hordika, face, and Kylodus’s kanohi Akaku was untouched. Spair’s head was hung mournfully; Vokkan’s face was grim as he charged after Droth; Kikita’s grin was gone.Heart wrenching itself from his biomechanical body, Tobduk stared pitifully at the salamander that had been Barrest. I swear I’ll mourn you later, he thought quickly, after I’ve avenged you.Vokkan was batted aside, and Droth slithered back down to the ground, shifting his form for battle. A weak stasis field held everyone in place. All other eyes were on the Makuta as his regal form warped and distorted itself.Droth’s smooth, elegant kanohi split into three jagged mouthparts. His legs added another joint, and then another as an afterthought, growing long bladed talons. Fissures split each arm in half… and then four clawed arms sprouted from Droth’s agile torso. Two long spears extended out of Droth’s chest. With a grunt of pain, he snapped off each and anointed them with his acidic mouthparts, coating the tips in poison.The stasis field faded, and Droth grinned wickedly. “Come at me, then, now I’ve had time to suit myself up.”Vokkan and Tobduk were first to charge, but they were accompanied by the power of Nestra and Kylodus. A psionic rhotuka slammed into Droth’s leftmost arm, freezing its motion centers, while a blast of ice he ducked under. Spair remained silent and still.“Aah, now that’s more like a psychic assault!” Droth grinned. “But it’s easily remedied,” he continued, flexing the paralyzed arm and then backhanding Tobduk away.Droth’s bladed spears parried Vokkan’s axe, though how they held up no one could guess. Kylodus rushed forward, brandishing his broadsword, but it too was skillfully blocked. Tobduk, still unarmed, was forced to hold back and toss blistering fireballs past his allies at the Makuta – until Nestra noticed something with her augmented eyes, granted superior night vision by the venom.“Tobduk – catch!”Tobduk whirled to see a heavy, ornate staff hurtling through the air towards him. Just barely, he managed to catch it, his kanohi Sanok ensuring his hands were in the right place. While Vokkan and Kylodus held Droth cornered against the wall, Tobduk looked over the weapon and frowned. The carvings were certainly not of his choosing; they depicted the visorak hordes marching onwards to conquest. And the staff was topped with the gruesome visage of a doom viper, its mouth open and ready to spew elemental energy into an opponent’s face. Still, it was the best the situations had to offer, and he’d have to accept it for the time being.Tobduk thrust the staff forward, channeling the anger of Droth’s cowardly strike at Kikita. To his surprise, a beam of white-hot energy lanced forwards and struck Droth square in the chest, searing a dark hole in his armor. The Makuta screamed and briefly lowered his density to evade the attack, drifting through Vokkan and into the center of the chamber.“That’s a powerful staff,” Tobduk breathed. Then he realized Droth was charging at him, and thought only of defense.Thankfully, the staff was long enough and thick enough to parry Droth’s spears as they had parried Vokkan’s axe and Kylodus’s blade.“Nice parries,” Droth acknowledged. “But defense alone can’t win a fight.”Suddenly, a wall of water was where it hadn’t been a moment before, moving so quickly that Droth couldn’t even activate his dodging power. The Makuta was swept away in a torrent of tides – but Tobduk was left untouched.The Makuta regained his footing a few yards away, washed up against the wall, and leapt forward – but then a yellow-gloved fist smashed into his mask, and he crumpled to the ground, momentarily stunned. Kikita grinned from behind her kanohi Pakari.The water receded to show Spair, her hood thrown back and her kanohi Rau soaked with tears. “Empowered,” she croaked, “we strike now!”A howling wind lifted Droth from the ground, hurling his spears from his claws. Then a curtain of frigid water washed him to the ground again, bashing his armor into the floor. Bonds of solid stone curled around his body, penning it in… and a raging fire erupted in a sphere, engulfing the Makuta of Durgolund.Droth screamed.Nearby, Kylodus’s keen eyes located the orange mask, and his powers of ice froze it over. Grinning, he tossed it into the air, where a psychic rhotuka blasted it to oblivion. The vial shattered in Nestra’s hands. Smoke rose from the burnt-out armor of Makuta Droth. Not a wisp of antidermis escaped. Six ashen-faced warriors, breathing heavily, stared at the corpse for a long while. Then, finally, Toa Kylodus stepped forwards. “We can put this to good use,” he shrugged, kneeling down and wrenching the intact mask from Droth’s blackened form. Dusting off the soot, he pulled a revolted expression as he placed the mask on his own. The off-green mask of mutation transmuted to purest white and began to glow – even as Kylodus turned his head towards the salamander still wriggling on the floor. After another few moments, Tobduk dared to speak. “Barrest,” he breathed, “your… face…” “What about it?” Barrest shrugged, and clapped a hand to his kanohi Matatu. He froze immediately, an expression of disbelief on his mask. Then a wild grin stretched over it. “You’ve cured me,” he cried to Kylodus. “You are a Toa, aren’t you? You removed the mutation! Toa, I could very well hug you.” “Hug away, but there are other tasks for this mask,” Kylodus grinned. Once Barrest had expressed his gratitude and skipped away dancing, the Toa of Ice let the mask glow once more… and turned to the psionic hordika. The glow intensified to blinding light, and then faded. Kylodus tore off Droth’s mask to reveal his wide grin, and tossed the kanohi aside. “Tobduk,” he smiled, “it’s time to welcome Nestra back.” In the next few minutes, Kikita knew more power than ever before.
~~~~~ Two skiffs sailed happily away from Durgolund, breaking free of the cloudy skies to feel the sunlight on their prows once more. Four Empowered relaxed on one, Spair steering the craft along, while Kylodus transported Tobduk and Nestra in the back of his boat. “So, now that we’ve slain Makuta Droth and escaped… now what?” Barrest asked, trailing his fingers in the sea as the skiff sailed along. Vokkan’s kanohi Rode went blank. “Well…” he muttered, but didn’t finish the sentence after a few minutes of thinking. In the next skiff over, Nestra opened her eyes and sat up from her basking position. “I can answer the question for myself,” she said. “I… I am returning to Ce-Wahi.” “What?” Tobduk cried. “I thought over it, long and hard, with Kylodus as counsel,” Nestra explained. “My village needs me, Tobduk. My turaga did not bestow her power on me for no reason. This she explained before Lunidel, but I did not listen to her – and I paid a terrible price for ‘freedom,’ which could have been all too permanent if not for your help. Yours, Kylodus’s, and the other Empowered’s.” The thought was sobering, and all but Kikita’s smiles faded for a moment. Kylodus decided to break the silence. “As for me…” he said casually, “well, who knows? I’m not exactly welcome in most villages.” “Why’s that?” blinked Tobduk. Kylodus shot him a reproachful look, though whether or not it was in jest no one could tell. “Come on, Tobduk,” he frowned, “had you never given any thought to the circumstances under which we met? It was on Crono, I’ll remind you; the isle of exiles. I’ve lost my honour and I can’t easily reclaim it. But maybe helping you kill two Makuta will win me back some favour. I can only hope.” He stared off into the distance mournfully. There was another long, awkward silence. This one was not broken before the voyage was out.
~~~~~ There came a time when the two skiffs had to part ways. The farewells were tearful, but tears of both joy and sadness, as Kikita and Spair could attest. Vokkan wished Tobduk and his companions well, and firmly cried that the Empowered would carve out a new life for themselves, perhaps on Stelt or some other prosperous island. Barrest promptly began a list of all the other tasks they could pursue, and the two were still bickering as they sailed out of sight. Tobduk’s skiff sailed for another long and sober night before docking on the continent, where both Toa disembarked. After discussing it, Kylodus had decided to take up the mantle of guarding a village once more; he and Nestra would protect Ce-Koro together. After a heartfelt farewell, that left only Tobduk to sail alone back to Daxia. Tobduk stepped onto the shores of the island under cover of darkness, half-heartedly preparing an excuse for his week-long absence. As an alarm blared and guards rushed at him, Helryx leading them, Tobduk ran his alibi through his mind a few times as Helryx drew near… She raised her hand and glanced at Tobduk. Awkwardly, Tobduk took it and shook. “It’s good to have you back,” the elder Toa said. “Guards, disperse.” The Toa of Water escorted Tobduk back to his chambers, saying little. Just as he opened the door and prepared to enter, she said one last thing through her mask of psychometry. “I’m sorry, Tobduk. But I hope you’ve taken more out of this than you’ve lost.” Tobduk nodded. Then he closed the door and stared solemnly up at his wall of trophies, then glanced down at the staff he now bore. Wielding this, he would never forget. The Empowered still lived, but they had been so much more before the Makuta came. His revenge wasn’t complete yet, he knew. Tobduk could kill ninety-nine members of the Brotherhood, but the tragedy of the Empowered would never be righted until one moment. The moment when Makuta Chirox fell. THE ENDEpilogue It was a perplexing event that no one seemed to understand: all the slime that had coated the known universe had put off a mighty green glow and than evaporated into pure, clean air. As with many such inexplicable happenings, the subject was relegated to scholars whose job it was to ponder such things and look to older records in the hopes of drawing a comparison.Mazeka’s study of an ancient tablet was interrupted by his mentor’s signature knock on the door. Sighing, the Ko-Matoran scholar put down his readings and called, “What is it?” The elder Ko-Matoran shuffled into the room, adjusting his robe. “We have some… peculiar visitors,” he frowned."Oh?" Mazeka asked -- to which his mentor simply opened the door further.Four tall Toa strode into the chamber, their eyes darting about to survey the scene. The clear leader, a silver-armored, bulky warrior, stepped forth and nodded to Mazeka."I was just explaining to your mentor," he said gruffly, "that we are refugees from a disastrous visorak invasion, seeking shelter. We are, regrettably… being followed.""By whom?" Mazeka asked coolly.The large Toa's eyes ascertained no one was listening before continuing in a hushed voice, "A Brotherhood ship caught sight of our skiff and has been trailing us. Presumably they will send troops ashore. Do not worry, though, Matoran --- we can defend ourselves, and we are only here so that we may choose the battlefield.""I promise we'll keep the hut safe from attack," grinned a yellow-armored female with a kanohi Pakari. Mazeka's eyes widened at the sight of her; what element was she supposed to wield? Looking around, he realized he had no idea about the silver leader or the tall, thin one watching the window; his purple-and-yellow colors did not betray his powers. The last one was wearing a cloak that obscured her armor."Wha - " Mazeka started to ask, but then the purple Toa called, "Incoming!" and ducked. A fragmentation burst shattered the window and lanced through the opposite wall."All right, that's going too far," the silver one judged. "Guys, we're teleporting out.""What?" the mentor blinked. "None of you hold such a kanohi."As the strange Toa huddled together, all linking arms with the purple one, Mazeka stood up with a defiant look on his kanohi Volitak. "Now, just one question. Who are you? You look like Toa, but no Toa ever recorded."The silver one flashed a grin as the four warriors began to fade from view, and the hisses of rahkshi echoed from outside. "We're the Empowered," he smiled. "We're back."And with that, they vanished from sight, leaving two astonished Ko-Matoran scholars to stare at each other, seeking answers to a question never foreseen.
~~~~~Makuta Hunt will return with The Chained Makuta…
Edited by Lord Ghirahim, Apr 24 2012 - 02:55 PM.