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The Poisoned Island

episode 8 of Makuta Hunt

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#1 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Feb 22 2012 - 04:27 PM

Posted ImageTHE POISONED ISLANDChapter 1A wretched little thing, squat and slime-drenched, wriggled from the pool of off-green liquid it called its home. Prey had to be found and eaten.Slowly, carefully, the amphibian creature waddled across the sharp, jagged black rocks that were the ground. Acrid smoke drifted lazily through the air from the north, bringing with it no scent of food. The creature paused and weighed its options. Perhaps there was prey to the south. The unstable terrain would have to be risked.Suddenly, an ear-splitting cry echoed about. The creature yelped and flattened itself against the rocks, its shell taking the hue and texture of the ground. Above, another predator on the hunt slithered through the sky, hungry and frustrated. The ground beneath yielded no prey, it seemed. Acid seething in its fanged mouth, the winged snake twisted itself about and drifted elsewhere.The amphibian stood gently up and began to waddle due south. It tested the air cautiously, with its broad tongue. It gently placed its foot down. Then another step. And another, and another ---The world exploded into fire and death. Winging itself away, the snake glanced back to see a column of blazing green standing as a terrible beacon. It was not perturbed. Such was the way of Durgolund.

~~~~~

Deep in the heart of Durgolund, shrouded in sickly smoke, stood a tall spire, covered in stone plates and oozing slime. Inside, the chambers and corridors resembled a twisting network of caverns, stained a sickening green by poisonous sludge. Light pulsated out of the slime at irregular intervals.Occasionally, the green rays caught a bulky figure bearing a kanohi elda, striding briskly down the hallways. His armor was crimson, accented with hints of gold, and a massive broadsword rested on his back. Vicious claws like those of a bear swung at the ends of his arms.After several minutes of purposeful walking, the Elda-bearer strode through a curtain of slime and into a sooty room filled with bubbling equipment. Vats of acid sizzled amongst pipes and cords that resembled tentacles more than machinery. Indeed, on closer inspection they seemed to writhe like snakes.A tall throne carved from jagged rock sat at the end of the chamber. The claws and tendrils of its occupant were just barely visible.“What news,” rasped the poisonous master, “Grodak?” Grodak bowed his masked head, nearly touching it to the sludge-strewn floor. “O Makuta,” he announced in his gruff voice, “I regret to inform you that your experiment involving the Wolf has been… terminated, due to the murder of Makuta Luporax.” The Makuta did not respond, which Grodak understood as a silent “Go on.” “My informant,” he continued, “is a Matoran of Magnetism, a villager on the isle of Lunidel. This particular villager worked with Luporax and was imprisoned by his kinsmen after the Makuta was killed. A fearful character.” The Makuta chuckled darkly. “You work well with such sources.” “Indeed. The Matoran has given me much valuable information… including, my lord, the names of the visitors responsible for Luporax’s death.” There was a tangible silence. Then the Makuta spoke again. “Their names?” Grodak smiled. “It appears that Makuta Luporax fell to the same killers as Makuta Brond had earlier: a tall, angry warrior and a Toa of Psionics. Their names, according to the Matoran, are Tobduk and Toa Nestra.”“Tobduk…” the Makuta hissed, rolling the name around in the air. “A peculiar-sounding name. By my reasoning, this should be a word in the skakdi dialect. I understand you speak that tongue?”“Indeed,” Grodak nodded. “Just as my name means ‘hunter,’ the word ‘tobduk’ corresponds to… ‘survivor.’”Droth chuckled darkly. "The name shall not fit him in several days. Oh, he will come to us, this much is certain. The question is when…"Grodak cleared his throat. "I may have an answer to that question as well, my lord. Before perishing, Luporax was able to infect this Toa Nestra with hordika venom."Slowly, achingly, the Makuta's throne rotated, wriggling to turn and face Grodak. Makuta Droth stared down at his servant, grinning wickedly. Grodak wisely averted his eyes."Then he will come, and he will come soon," Droth cackled. "For if his companion is hordika… there could be no one better to come to than Makuta Droth. But don't you fear for him, Grodak? For another of your kind?"Grodak blinked. "No," he grunted. "My fear is reserved for myself and only myself. It shall strengthen no other being."Droth laughed darkly. "You serve me well," he grinned. "Any compassionate weakling, however, would certainly worry for this Tobduk. Within the week, the wrenching of his poor feeble heart will tear his body asunder."Sinister laughter echoed from the tower across the razor plains of Durgolund, across the heaving waves, dispersing with the distant island of Daxia just within sight...

~~~~~

A dark shadow stole through Daxia’s corridors – tall and thin like a metru mantis, it crept through the hallways, under cover of darkness. Somehow no sound escaped as it placed each foot on the floor. Great care went into each step, and the audible silence of anxiously held breath echoed through the island. Daxia did not often serve as a prison. There was the Pit for that, and any criminals who didn’t deserve imprisonment there were left to the local authorities. Only occasionally, during the great wars, were any criminals or monsters held in Daxia’s cells. Or so most Order members thought. Tobduk had never quite realized it before, but Daxia truly was a prison. His prison. And the warden of that prison was Toa Helryx, whose mind it was that decided when he was let out on an enemy of hers. This was only a recent revelation. Until several days ago, Tobduk had been happy with the system; he was allowed to brutally kill members and servants of the Brotherhood of Makuta, and that was all he cared for. Freedom was, for him, the act of revenge on those despicable lords of shadow. Yet now his views were shifting. Nestra needed him. The bite of the Wolf on Lunidel had infected her with debilitating hordika venom; it hurt to think of her current state. Tobduk had ransacked Daxia’s libraries for any records of a cure, but he found nothing. He would have to rely on the few words Makuta Luporax had choked out before his death at Tobduk’s hands: “The poisoned island, the land of… green fire… and sickly skies…. where the land itself is a monster. And there the master of poison awaits you…”Records in Daxia's library had indicated that this might be a vague description of Durgolund. That sounded slightly familiar to Tobduk. On further examination, Durgolund's name was tied to that of Makuta Droth, a name Tobduk knew -- Makuta Luporax had mentioned him while Tobduk battled the lord of Lunidel as the Makuta who had helped create the Wolf with a modified strain of hordika venom. Durgolund was where Tobduk needed to go, and Droth was who he needed to see. Droth would certainly know all there was to know about the stuff. The trick would be coaxing that information out of him. Makuta were nothing if not arrogant and would rarely submit to intimidation or interrogation. Tobduk wasn't entirely sure how he would manage to get the cure, but he had to, and knowing that was enough to ensure he would.The matter at hand, though, required all of Tobduk's concentration. It went against his nature to creep about anywhere, making an effort not to be seen. He preferred to go in, rage blazing, and wait until everything was dead on the ground before checking the perimeters for any other threats. Yet Helryx's night watch was well prepared for such a foolhardy agent of destruction, although they surely expected one to be headed in the opposite direction.Breathing deeply, Tobduk sought to drown out the rage in his mind, to avoid conjuring any bright fire to give his position away. He turned inwards and focused on the one thought that could do this: the memories of his home.The visorak. They had not come, merely appeared, skittering and crawling across the grassy hills as if born of the island. But they were not creatures of life, but rather pain and death incarnate. Tobduk had seen too many of his friends and comrades downed by the spider swarms, dying dozens of deaths, each worse than the last. Some were vaporized, reduced to wisps of smoke on the wind. Others fell to the acidic, knife-sharp knees of the keelerak breed, sliced in two and dissolving into desiccated skeletons. A few died with their hands clutched to their ears, trying futilely to drown out the humming of the boggarak, and were then frozen in stone forever. But surely the worst fate imaginable was to become hordika.Not a week after the visorak had spawned, the place was a freakish zoo of malformed, miserable beasts, half-men and half-monster. Most gave in immediately, their minds cracked by the stress and the sorrow of the invasion, and became ravenous predators. Others held out, and these were worse to see for the sheer despair on their snouts.Only Tobduk and a handful of others had managed to evade any unnatural injury or condition. He could see them in his mind, half-formed and swimming through a haze of memory: himself, naturally, as well as a bulky golden titan, a gaunt purple-armored character, and a small little yellow-clothed girl. There may have been more, but they were few and far between, scattered through the universe, the only survivors of a slaughtered kind.After that, his memories closed off. Tobduk opened his eyes and came back to the present to find he was standing at the very edge of Daxia's beaches, surrounded by silence and serenity. Somehow he had evaded the entire night watch, but he was too sober to feel any kind of pride or awe.Inconspicuously, Tobduk uncovered his hidden skiff and stole away into the night.

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

#2 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Mar 06 2012 - 04:14 PM

Chapter 2 Tobduk’s ebon boot ground itself into the hard, green-stained rocks of Durgolund. He stepped from his boat, overbalanced, and was rewarded with a surge of swampy green waters rushing into the skiff and caressing his leg. He cursed and blasted most of the offending liquid out of his craft, then scrambled onto solid ground before he slipped and drove his whole body into the sea. With a hunter’s look in his eye, he began to sniff the air, and then thought better of it. If the billowing smog was anything to go by, Durgolund’s air was far from clean, and he didn’t even want to think about how it might smell. In that case, he’d find Droth by sight.He glanced around to see nothing but a plain of jagged rocks blanketed in shrouding smoke. Tobduk growled, angrily, but he began to grin. That might have been a problem for other beings, but not him. With that, he transmuted the momentary frustration into a bright sphere of burning light, conjured in his palm. Tobduk snarled, feeding the flame, and then held it before himself to light the way. His other hand resting on the hilt of his sword, he stepped forwards, into the smog – - the world exploded. After a few moments of pain, shock, and anger, Tobduk came to realize the world was still intact. That was good. He wasn’t so sure about himself, though; his body felt as if Indusko’s Factory had stepped on him. Glancing down – up? – at his torso, Tobduk winced to see his armor burned severely. In some places it was more a collection of razor-sharp peels of metal than any suit of armor, digging into his more vulnerable organs. He noticed a few stray sparks and cursed vehemently. Realizing his previous mistake in a split-second, Tobduk’s eyes lit up with fear rather than anger, and he quelled the rising fire. It had just occurred to him that Durgolund’s smog was extremely flammable, which would have been good to know before he arrived and plunged a naked flame into it. With several winces and muffled curses, Tobduk staggered to his feet, trying to tuck scattered components back into what roughly had been their places. A steady stream of liquid protodermis diluted with energy, however, refused to ascertain the correct path and continued to trickle out of his side. The blue mixture cascaded down his armor and began to paint a deep blue stripe down his leg. Five seconds on the island and he was badly wounded. It didn’t bode well for his fight with Droth if the Makuta’s land itself was almost able to kill him. Setting his face into a resolved expression, Tobduk again surveyed his surroundings. The place seemed much the same as before, except the rocks were now boasting several blue puddles and a slight crater a few yards away, presumably where he had taken his first step. He supposed this was what happened when he didn’t bring Nestra, but that was the entire reason he was here. It certainly wasn’t a very entertaining mission, that was certain.Tobduk gave a start as he realized he’d said those last few sentences aloud. He’d even started talking to himself. That couldn’t be a good sign. Perhaps the explosion had wounded him in more ways than physically.Still, standing around and feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t get him anywhere, he reminded himself. He’d have to find some way to rest and recover.Tobduk looked around again and realized something very heartening: the explosion had, at least, cleared the fog in all directions. He could see the edges of what looked like a jungle off to the left. Hopefully he’d be able to find something to fix himself up with. At the very least, he could patch up the wound with a few leaves.Trailing blue blood behind him, the tall warrior walked with a mostly correct gait towards the forest.

~~~~~

Elsewhere… “He’s here.” “So soon?” Droth chuckled quietly, sounding almost disappointed. “The excitement building up to the moment of truth is the best part, and it seems this Tobduk has cut that hype short. What a shame. We shall have to ensure his demise is truly entertaining.” Grodak ignored his master’s mad ramblings and focused on fear. He had sensed it, so clearly, just a few minutes ago… a massive spike in fright, somewhere on the southeast coast. It had vanished moments afterwards, but there was no mistaking the unique signal. It was definitely one of his kind, and not one that Grodak would have expected. This was the new one. This was Tobduk. After several minutes of concentration, Grodak opened his eyes and began to stand. “I’ll equip myself for the hunt, then,” he nodded to Droth. “Have fun, Grodak. Make sure to catch this intriguing Tobduk. Just don’t catch a chill – make sure to remember your hunting armor!” Grodak sighed, shaking his head, and left Droth to tinker with his toys of tangled tentacles. The burly Elda-bearer had no idea whatsoever of the odd things’ purposes; it seemed their only function was to entertain the mad Makuta in his spare time. The Makuta was, of course, completely mad – not that any of them could see reason, but Droth was more crazed than most. Grodak still remembered the time Droth had decided to enhance one of Durgolund’s pathetic slime lizards with every natural weapon he could think of – claws, stingers, tentacles, and more – then condemned it to serve as simply a tablet-end. It was still sitting in Droth’s office, as far as Grodak knew, keeping a stack of virus recipes secure on a slime-drenched shelf. No doubt it felt particularly bored with its existence. Shaking his head, Grodak reminded himself that Droth was still dangerous. One didn’t have to look very hard to realize that. The Elda-bearer had occasionally ventured into Durgolund’s wild jungles and plains, and the environment was truly worse than Karzahni. Grodak had actually been to that land; the atmosphere of fear was delicious, and it was pleasantly quiet and peaceful. Tentacles lowered themselves lazily from an arched ceiling, clutching Grodak’s hunting armor. He kept walking slowly, simply extending his arms for the tendrils to fit the outfit onto his already burly form. The suit was hewn from the scales of Droth’s acid serpents and matched the greenish-black consistency of Durgolund perfectly. At a whim, Grodak shifted the golden color of his Elda to a shade of jet black. A final tentacle had the honor of carrying Grodak’s weapon. He grinned as he took it – a massive blade nearly as wide as he, and certainly as tall. Energy radiated from it: the weapon was a power sword, a weapon truly feared in this universe for its vicious weight and edge. Tales abounded of mighty dragons slain by a simple Toa with such a blade, and although they were far exaggerated, the weapon was still an impressive one – moreso in the hands of a master like Grodak. It almost saddened him to know that there was no way under Mata Nui’s gaze that Tobduk could put up a fight.

~~~~~

Durgolund, Tobduk had decided, had no right to exist, and nor did any of the rahi living on it. Everything here was poisonous, sharp, predatory, slimy, or simply evil. In just under an hour of exploring both its beach and the jungle shortly further in, he had scraped with death a total of five times. First he had lit the air on fire. Second, he had inadvertently stepped on something camouflaged as a rock, and just barely evaded some very sharp teeth. Third, upon entering the jungle, what he mistook for a sturdy vine was actually the tentacle of some greater entity he chose not to investigate. Fourth, a pack of things that resembled a cross between wolves and sharks attacked, and Tobduk just barely managed to kill them (thankfully, the fog did not reach into the jungle, and he could use fire freely). Finally, he had just decided against using an innocent-looking leaf as a bandage when he noticed a large fly land on it, take a bite, and instantly die.Naturally, he had entirely failed to locate anything that could be used in first aid, although he had discovered seventy-two or more murder instruments. He noticed that the trickle of blue wasn't nearly as strong. This had come as good news until he realized it might be due to the gash having emptied him of all fluid. Still, he didn't seem like he was about to drop dead, although the acid snakes that had circled above him in the plains thought otherwise.Things weren't looking up. Tobduk considered the possibility of using fire to reforge his scraps of armor into something more cohesive, but in the hours he'd have to work, he'd be incredibly vulnerable to attack.Tobduk pushed aside a vine - after having checked, he was very sure it was a vine - and stepped forward to find himself back on the plains. Well, there was absolutely nothing helpful in the jungle, so it wasn't as if moving on would cost him. Indeed, there were far more rahi in the forest anyway, so this was a good move as far as he was concerned. The problem was, of course, the fog. It had settled in again, and as long as it was there fire was out of the question. He supposed he'd simply have to wander aimlessly through it. With that decided, he proceeded to do so.A few moments and several careless steps later, Tobduk's motion was cut short by an impact. Something had leapt onto him from nowhere, and its fiendish claws were gripping his lean body tightly. A thunderous noise echoed in the background. Tobduk gazed up into the huge, compound globes that were an insect's eyes. Sharpened mandibles darted about beneath the eyes, seemingly beckoning for Tobduk to come closer."Off!" he cried, jamming an elbow into the monster's chest and easily scrambling free. Its grip had loosened immediately after the first grab, and it seemed entirely unprepared for a fight. "Picked the wrong prey, did you?" Tobduk snarled, raising his sword.The insect cowered in a huddled tangle of long, spindly limbs - only four, Tobduk counted, arms and legs. It seemed to be wearing armor, in fact, and of a purple hue. Then it spoke."I wouldn't dream of eating you," it spat in a hurt voice, "though I'm quite sorry about the rough grip - you nearly wandered happily into a toxic geyser, friend."All of Tobduk's fears had been confirmed. "Durgolund's done it, hasn't it?" he sighed. "I've gone mad.""Certainly not," the insect chuckled. "The only mad one on Durgolund is Makuta Droth, and possibly me, though I can never be sure. What's brought you to our lovely little island of peace and tranquility? Always good to see another of my kind, though under the circumstances…""Cease your rambling," Tobduk growled. "You are mad, then - I'm no insect, so how am I of your race?""Look closer," the insect replied, and straightened up to its full height. Only then did Tobduk notice: it only had the face of an insect, but the rest was distinctly a sapient being. Built, in fact, just like…"I'm one of your kind, mate," the stranger grinned. "One of the Empowered, just like you."

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

#3 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Mar 12 2012 - 04:53 PM

Chapter 3"How…?" Tobduk gaped, his mouth moving aimlessly as he struggled to comprehend."Do I need to repeat myself? Name's Barrest," chuckled the bug-faced creature. "Sorry about the face, I'm sure that's what threw you off. Well, I can't be sure. You really never can be sure about anything. But enough of that - I'm pretty confident it's a nasty side effect of a tangle with a visorak a few years back. Took a spray of hordika venom to the face and, well, here I am. Nasty stuff, that. Thankfully I made peace with my inner beast before it could drive me any crazier."Tobduk blinked. "Visorak?" he repeated hoarsely. Then he blinked. Was his vision deteriorating, or was Barrest really blurring into the air, shifting back and forth?"Now, this is why I can never be sure of anything," Barrest mused, seemingly unaware that he was fading in and out of reality. "You see, one thing I thought I knew for certain was that any Empowered would remember the visorak all too well. You don't have amnesia, do you, bud?""Amnesia?" Tobduk grunted. "No, why?""How am I supposed to know that?" Barrest shrugged. For a moment, he blinked out of existence - only to reappear in full focus directly behind Tobduk. The tall Empowered yelled in shock, tightening his grip on his sword."Oh, right. You're new, I'd forgotten," Barrest cackled. "Well, as an Empowered of Indecision, what did you think my powers were -- gravity? Even I can be sure your emotion manifests itself as fire. Anger doesn't lend itself to much anything else."Tobduk narrowed his eyes. Certainly Barrest seemed to know what he was talking about, but it was hard to trust a spindly, insect-faced creature with powers of intangibility and teleportation. It was all too possible that he was nothing more than one of Droth's servants, and a poorly-disguised one at that.Barrest glanced down at his hand… or at least where his hand would have been if it was visible. He sighed. "I'm not doing a good job of convincing you, am I? Very well - supposing I were to show you some certified Empowered who don't resemble rahi beasts? Yes, that sounds good, doesn't it? A nice little family reunion ought to get my message across."Suddenly, Barrest was fully within focus and clearly visible - but the rest of the world wasn't, blurring and swimming together. And then it condensed into someplace very different: a small cavern, reinforced with metal beams, playing host to several perfectly-carved stone huts. Tobduk and Barrest stood apprehensively in the center. Slowly, Tobduk loosened his fingers from the hilt."Come out, come out, everyone," Barrest called. "It's me, Barrest, and… friend."One by one, figures began to creep out of the shadows of the huts - figures directly out of Tobduk's own scattered memories. His breath caught in his throat as they reappeared - three glorious Empowered, their faces almost as shocked as his own surely was.There were three of them, only three, but any number of Empowered was a brilliant sight. The first to appear was a slim, small female with bright yellow armor, carrying something between a sword and a dagger. Walking purposefully behind her was a large and muscular character armored in dark grey and wielding a battle-ax. Finally slunk a blue-armored female bearing no weapons, her head bowed and a black cloak drawn about her spindly form."Here they are," Barrest said with the ghost of a smile on his face. "Meet the Empowered rabble."The grey-armored one stepped forth, the floor trembling with his steps. "Barrest," he breathed, "this is… this is one of us.""Is it really? I hadn't noticed," Barrest blinked. "Can never be sure about these things.""Now is not the time for your sarcasm," the grey one growled. He turned his golden eyes on Tobduk, inspecting the tall, thin killing machine from head to toe. After several long, awkward moments of this - and Tobduk felt the two females examining him similarly - the goliath stuck out his hand. Tobduk recoiled at first, but after a quick assessment of his learnings on social customs (which were few in number), he took the giant's hand and shook warily.Finally, the ice shattered and all present - save the cloaked female - broke into grins, although some were more forced than others. Tobduk almost made to shield his eyes from the radiance of the yellow-clad female's smile, and withdrew his hand."I am Tobduk," he nodded customarily. "It's… intriguing to run into others. But… how came you to this rancid rock of death?"The grey one chuckled. "I could ask you the same thing, Tobduk," he said in a booming voice. "I am Vokkan, unofficial ringleader of this 'rabble,' as Barrest so adequately described us. The grinning girl is Kikita, pride of our little tribe. Muttering to herself in the corner is Spair. And you've met Barrest.""Pleased to meet you all," Tobduk nodded."You're not pleased," Kikita said. "Believe me, I can tell. You're… afraid. What do you have to fear from more of your kind? There are so few of us, we wouldn't dare to battle one another.""I'm not… I'm not scared of you," Tobduk said. "I'm scared for you. Durgolund is worse than Karzahni, we can all see that. You have to get off this rock before it's too late." He stopped. "What in Mata Nui's name are you doing here, anyway?"A low voice echoed from the shadows, where Spair reclined in darkness. "It was ten years before," she said. "I was on Nynrah… the ghosts knew I could keep secrets, and so they enlisted me to help with their productions. Then… I heard a voice.""We all did," Kikita murmured. "A scared one.""It was Grodak," Vokkan recalled. "Do you remember him, Tobduk?"Tobduk searched his past. "I think… perhaps," he said. "A silver-and-black one? He could do anything, I recall. Empowered of what? Jealousy?""No, that was the one we call Mimic," Kikita said. "Grodak was a… different kind of creature.""Empowered of Fear," Vokkan said. "He drew strength and power from terror, that of other beings and his own. Typically it manifested as ice, but - ""But somehow, we each heard his voice echoing in our minds," Kikita shuddered. "It was… well, terrifying.""Screaming for help," Vokkan grunted. "Well, what would you have done, Tobduk?""Easy to answer," Tobduk shrugged. "I couldn't let another Empowered be in danger. We're too few to face any drop in numbers." At the same time, he wondered how he had not heard this voice -- and then recalled his mental shielding. What if I'd been the only other Empowered besides Grodak, and the Order's training deafened me to his screams? he thought."That was precisely what we thought," Vokkan nodded."So, what did we do? We dropped everything and ran," Spair chuckled darkly. "Never stopped to consider how Grodak had developed telepathy. Never worried about him possibly being used as a trap. But that's what it was.""Droth had already bent Grodak to his will through his threats," Kikita said. "The Makuta can do terrible things, and Grodak knew that all too well. Think of the visorak.""I don't particularly want to," Tobduk shuddered."I arrived first, naturally," Barrest said. "Ta-da, 'Barrest to the rescue!' Then I caught a spray of hordika venom from Grodak's new pet keelerak. Did you know they're Droth's personal favorite? Apparently the acid was his idea. In any case, once I realized he'd turned, I made sure to warn the others so they could turn back.""But the waters would not obey me," said Spair. "They were slave to Droth's will, tainted green with his poison - and we were trapped.""That basically brings you to where we are now," Barrest shrugged. "Not much has happened since then. Droth and Grodak haven't stopped combing the island for us, but as Vokkan mentioned, when you can control land, sea, and sky, you can hide anywhere.""Now you, Tobduk, have come," Vokkan said. "Why? How did you not come earlier?"Tobduk paused, frowning as he tried to think of an explanation. "I was… otherwise occupied at the time of the voice," he eventually said. "But… recently… Hordika venom. It's claimed a friend. I traveled here to try and find a cure.""What makes you think you'd find a cure in the land of poison?" Vokkan frowned."Makuta Droth knows much of venom," Tobduk replied. "It's my hope he also knows the flip side of the coin.""I wish you luck in finding a cure, Tobduk," Vokkan said, "but it's my hope you might aid us in a venture. A bid to escape this island."Tobduk raised an eyebrow. "What makes me so instrumental?" he asked."Nothing, really," Barrest shrugged.Vokkan glared at him. "Well, I'm no turaga, so I can't play the 'destiny' card," he chuckled. "But you have something the rest of us don't, Tobduk."Tobduk grinned. "Well, I daresay none of you have killed more than four Makuta, so I might be the man for the job," he said.There was a shocked silence as the other Empowered tried to recover. Tobduk frowned, realizing this was, indeed, an uncommon boast to hear."Ah… well, it is true that you have achievements we do not," Vokkan said, eyes wide. "But I was speaking more of your personal powers, Tobduk. I remember you from the days before the visorak… you are Empowered of Anger.""Indeed," Tobduk nodded. "That does seem to come in handy when I wreck Makuta's plans. Then they're just so much fuel for my power.""But more crucially, Tobduk, you stand as a counterpart to Grodak," Vokkan said. "None of the rest of us could face Grodak and survive; his fear cuts as a protosteel knife to our hearts, and within minutes we'd be terrified wrecks. But your anger is just as powerful as him. You, Tobduk, have what we don't: a chance."Tobduk considered this for a long moment. "I understand," he said. "I'll destroy Grodak first, and then move on to Droth.""Oh, no point in shoving the full burden on you, Tobduk," Vokkan chuckled. "I'll handle Droth, along with the rest of us.""No," Tobduk said immediately. "I can't allow that. We all know we're too few to risk all our lives at once.""But we couldn't live with the idea of sending one man up against both Grodak and his fearful master," Vokkan insisted. "No, Tobduk, we must accomplish this together.""I can't allow it.""But you must, Tobduk. With our power combined, we have a chance.""I'm sorry, Vokkan. I can't stand the thought.""Afraid, are we, that the Empowered are helpless victims ready for the slaughter?""No… no, I just… I've taken risks before, and they've ended terribly. I can't let that happen to my -- " Tobduk stopped abruptly. Something didn't click here. After a moment, he realized with a chill that Vokkan's mouth had not uttered the challenge on his resolve.There was a high-pitched noise from behind the tall warrior. It sounded as a blend of snarl, shriek, and the scrape of metal on metal. Slowly, spine tingling, Tobduk turned to gaze upon another Empowered, resplendent in crimson and gold. This one's eyes gleamed with a bright light, seemingly a challenge and at the same time piercing Tobduk's soul with their cold gaze. Scuttling on either side of it was a disgusting, repellent spider… a visorak."At last, I've found you again," Grodak chuckled. "You can all thank the mounting tension of your conversation for that. The fear of one man for his kindred is… delectable.""You," Vokkan snarled, raising his axe. Tobduk tore his sword from its scabbard and saw Kikita do the same. Barrest and Spair remained unarmed, staring angrily at Grodak. Tobduk felt their rage at the traitor flowing in his veins, and it was strong indeed."We outnumber you," Kikita grinned. "Go on back to your master's tower, where all you have to fear is a terrible, painful death. There are worse things waiting for you here.""I'd say we stand as equals," Grodak smiled in response and gesturing vaguely to the visorak flanking him. "We all know what my pets here can do." Kikita's smile wavered, and she flinched briefly, before Spair stepped forth. Tobduk noticed water streaming down her cloak now. As she raised her arms slowly to point at Grodak, her voice was like a drowning flood."You are shameful and wretched, Grodak," she declared. "Your emotions have distorted you into that which we all swore to destroy. You sicken me."Now Grodak's face reverted to a frown -- before a stream of water exploded from Spair's cloaked arms, impossibly fast, slamming into Grodak with the force of a nine-tailed whip. The Empowered of Fear was thrown to the ground, wincing, and then everything seemed to happen at once."Go, quickly!" Vokkan shouted to the others. "Scatter! There are three of them and five of us.""Don't even bother," Tobduk shouted back. "You wanted me to eliminate Grodak -- I'll gladly do so right now, and his visorak pets, too. Run, fools, there isn't time for an argument!"Vokkan thought this over for a moment and then nodded curtly, vanishing into the ground. Barrest had already disappeared, and Tobduk saw Spair and Kikita fleeing into a side tunnel, even as Grodak began to stagger to his feet. There was murder in his eyes, but Tobduk felt no anger escape him -- rather, fear for his own life lent Grodak strength.The Empowered of Fear barked a command in the skakdi language to the visorak, who scuttled into the tunnel after the girls. Tobduk aimed a spray of fire, but their hard scales resisted long enough for the repulsive things to escape."Just you and me, then," Tobduk said, raising his sword. Flames trailed from the blade."Just as Vokkan would have it," Grodak smiled, lifting his own power sword. The room temperature plummeted, frost drifting around the weapon. "I've waited for this conflict for some time now. There's no point in loquacious trash talk before we begin."Tobduk said nothing. He simply unleashed his fury, and that of all the Empowered.

Edited by Lord Ghirahim, Mar 13 2012 - 03:20 PM.

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

#4 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Mar 22 2012 - 07:44 PM

Chapter 4The boat struck the rocky shore of Durgolund with a dull clung. Two cloaked figures gazed apprehensively at the shifting green mists.The taller and more robust of the two muttered something, to which its companion - a hunched being with long claws - chuckled, with no humor in the sound. Helping each other out of the skiff, they strode inland, a cold blue glow emanating from one's outstretched palm to light the way.

~~~~~

Grodak had taken a few hits. Far too many hits to still live, by Tobduk's count. But after the first few barrages of fire and death, the gold-armored warrior seemed to stop feeling the blows. Indeed, Grodak was now grinning wildly, unleashing his own strikes. Tobduk was easily able to evade the broad swings of the power sword, but Grodak's continued wellbeing was a matter of some concern to him.It took him several minutes and a few uncomfortable brushes with Grodak's weapon before Tobduk pieced it together. After he had started combat, Grodak had been frightened of his sheer destructive power. He was running scared. But that, Tobduk recalled, was exactly what strengthened Grodak. It empowered him."So, uh, no need to feel tense," he shrugged as he dodged a swing and replied with his own thrust, which Grodak's claws blocked. "We're all friends here."Grodak chuckled mirthlessly at a chillingly high pitch. "On the contrary, Tobduk, we're bitter enemies," he replied, "and you'd do well to remember that." A bolt of frost slammed into Tobduk and froze over his shoulder long enough for Grodak to land a solid smash with his blade. The tall warrior staggered back for a moment before blasting the ice apart with frustration and lunging forwards again. Their blades met in a clash of fury and fear."Scared yet?" Grodak grinned."Just angry," Tobduk replied.Fire and frost met in an explosive burst of power, knocking both Empowered back several yards. Tobduk landed on the roof of one hut and flipped forwards, landing gracefully on the ground. Grodak simply flew into a hut and subsequently strode out of its rubble.Tobduk smiled maniacally and hurtled forth, sword raised and trailing flames. Grodak began to raise his own to block. Tobduk saw the angle, anticipated a new direction of strike, and stabbed that way - only for Grodak to correct his parry at the last moment, unbalancing Tobduk for a brief moment. The tall warrior slammed to the ground, his breath knocked out of him. A foot planted itself on his head triumphantly.But that wasn't Grodak's boot…Tobduk looked up into the blood-red eyes of a visorak keelerak, acid dripping from its whirling mandibles. He gave a shout and hurtled away, somehow keeping a hold on his sword, and whirled to glare at Grodak. "Bringing friends to the fight can't be fair!" he seethed."Call it my second," Grodak chuckled. A nimbus of cold blue light was surrounding him now. "But it served its purpose. A moment of sheer terror was enough to fuel my power for another ten minutes.""That's a substantial length of time," Tobduk conceded, "but you forget that my anger runs for eternity."

~~~~~

Elsewhere on Durgolund…At the proper signal of the winds, four mighty entities reunited at the outskirts of the acid geyser fields, Droth's tower spiraling into the sky nearby."It's good to see you all made it," Vokkan panted. "Mata Nui, I haven't run in a while.""Should've come with me," Barrest suggested in a singsong voice."And listen to your incessant 'Maybe yay, maybe nay' ramblings? I'm sure the exercise was preferable," Vokkan scowled. "In any case -- it is now or never, fellow Empowered, that we strike a bid for our freedom. Grodak is occupied beneath our feet with Tobduk, and if we are lucky, the traitor will be dead by the next hour." "Hear, hear!" Kikita smiled. Spair hung her head, sighing."Regardless of his fate, however," Vokkan continued, "our attack on Droth commences shortly. You all recall our tactics.""Even I'm entirely sure of it," Barrest laughed, "though that will happen if you lecture us on it each day and night.""I'm glad," said Vokkan. "So if everyone remembers their part to play, then… we shall begin."Barrest faded away as if he had never been present. The other three nodded to each other, and then they vanished into their respective elements…

~~~~~

Tobduk and Grodak's duel had carried them through a cavern into a chamber that seemed primarily nondescript, save for the peculiar holes that had been punched in the walls and floor. Tobduk glanced cautiously at their placement before continuing in, keeping Grodak at bay with his longsword.The Empowered of Fear was steadily laughing now as he crossed blades with Tobduk - a shrill sound that clawed at Tobduk's ears. The noise was obnoxious and… infuriating."If that was supposed to unnerve and weaken me," Tobduk said, swinging his blade, "it's done just the opposite. I'm angrier than ever!"Grodak said nothing, but he lazily parried and slashed his own power sword at his opponent. One absentminded blow caught a stalactite instead of Tobduk, bringing it crashing to the ground. He laughed softly and steadily."Face it, Grodak, you're only making me more powerful," Tobduk cried. "What's so funny, hmm?""You're only standing on an acid geyser," Grodak chuckled.Despite himself, Tobduk yelped as he dove out of the way just before corrosive liquid spewed from the ground in a shower of putrid green. He surveyed the room with considerably more caution and acumen now. He was interrupted by the impact of Grodak's power sword smashing into his back. Frost spreading over his form, Tobduk collapsed to the ground and rolled for a few feet before recovering. He narrowed his eyes at Grodak, and then realized the new rules of the game."I get it," Tobduk frowned."Indeed. You'll find it's I who hold the higher ground here," Grodak laughed. "The acid geysers are far more frightening than mere giggling - and we're both a little scared, now, aren't we? Double the helpings for Grodak!"With that, Grodak lashed out with a ray of frost, catching Tobduk full in the upper torso and arms. Frozen, Tobduk couldn't dodge a vicious kick that knocked him into the wall. After a split-second, he realized his position and rolled away just as the acid geyser erupted.Tobduk leapt to his feet and raised his -- empty hand. With a spark of newfound fear, he looked over to see Grodak surveying his crimson longsword with an amused expression."Nice balance, but just not enough weight for a good blow. And it's just sharpened metal, really. You need a more powerful weapon if anyone's going to take you seriously, Tobduk."Grodak stared at Tobduk, grinning evilly - and tossed the longsword into the nearest geyser just before it erupted in a blaze of destructive liquid. There was no way even protosteel could have survived.Tobduk grimaced, but he wasn't yet finished. He summoned a fireball and charged, Grodak readying his weapon to block -- and then suddenly backflipped across the chamber, hidden from Grodak's eyes by the Empowered of Fear's own power sword. Grodak lowered his weapon just in time to see Tobduk's boot vanish around a corner into a side tunnel."Now you've done it, Tobduk," he grinned.Grodak tossed his power sword to the side and shed his thick coat of armor, revealing a lithe suit of chain-mail. Lengthening his razor claws to the size of short swords, Grodak dashed into the tunnel after his quarry, mask glowing dimly.

~~~~~

Makuta Droth was not pleased.The fifth solution's addition had been most rudely interrupted by a peculiar shaking of the ground. Or was it the wind? At this altitude, it could be either that was caused the tower to sway slightly. Whatever the case, it was a nuisance that had shattered a vial of a very important substance that was now munching happily on the floor and not at all doing what it was supposed to in his latest concoction.Droth straightened up to his full height and seized an ornate staff. Hoping it was just the wind and a simple modification of the weather would fix his problems with the solution, the Makuta stormed from his chamber and down the corridor. Brushing aside a curtain of slime, he exited the interior of his tower onto a narrow balcony overlooking the beautiful acid geyser plains.The wind certainly was acting up. What a breeze! The tower's massive tendrils were swaying, which was something to marvel at, as the smallest was the width of a small hut.Well, it wouldn't do. Droth raised his staff, focusing his power through the doom viper's head at the tip, and forced his will on the weather. It would obey him, as the lord and master of this island.Unless… someone else was currently controlling it, as he could now sense. Droth grimaced, an expression that unfortunately revealed far too many teeth. Who could that be? It certainly wasn't the nutrient delivery Matoran.Droth looked up, scanning the dark sky for the culprit. Being a weather controller himself, he understood well that the most entertaining and exhilarating place to command the sky was from within it, and that was likely where his offending weatherman was enjoying themselves, stirring up trouble.After a few seconds, Droth's the deep black pits that were Droth's eyes alighted on one small figure hurtling through the winds, almost as if they were controlling her: a lithe, dainty female armored in bright yellow. Droth refocused his gaze. Was she… smili -A loud rumbling rose to Droth's ears, something not of the wind's doing. He glanced down at the acid geysers to see the perfect plains smashed and torn apart as a platform of earth and stone trundled quickly across it, headed for the tower. Standing at the head of the protrusion was a silver-armored warrior with a firm, ready stance.Finally, the crashing of the waves intensified tenfold, and Droth turned right to see the ocean writhing before the shore. A huge wave had risen out of the sea and lay still, coiled like a snake, ready to strike. Standing at the top was a blue-garbed figure."Well, that's a problem," Droth muttered. "Still, who needs the solutions? I know when to choose between my work and my life." Smiling smugly at the three attackers, he raised his clawed fingers and snapped them decisively.Nothing happened. Droth frowned. At this point, the scenery was supposed to change, and he was to be happily relaxing on Destral in the company of such delightfully macabre and demented Makuta as Gorast and Skultice. As it was, he still saw that ugly wave, the advancing earth, and the whirling tempest to his right, down below, and far above.He turned to his left and found himself staring into the compound eyes of a Toa-sized insect. The purple-armored, spindly being was reclining against Droth's banister railing, a pleased expression on its face."There is such a thing as a doorbell," Droth began."I tried it once," the insectoid sighed. "The thing tried to swallow me whole.""This attack is useless. I shall simply teleport from this crazed island," Droth said."Or you would, if I wasn't using my powers to restrict all teleportation save my own," replied the bug-man. "Handy, right?""I have no time for this," Droth grimaced, and tossed a sphere of poisonous liquid at the intruder. He stole from the balcony and back into the tower, even as the noise of the land, sea, and sky grew ever louder. After a few moments, he noticed the purple creature following again, and decided to ignore it. Droth returned to his chamber and sat down in his throne, mixing and testing vials of solutions again."One of these has got to be the right one," Droth muttered.The bug-man raised its hand. "Hello, Droth, name's Barrest. I don't give any sort of care as to your wellbeing, but I'd point out that three Empowered warriors are converging on your tower with all their pent-up emotions behind them in the form of deadly elements. It might be wise to pay them a little attention.""Hold your tongue, insect," Droth spat, and suddenly Barrest found that no sound escaped his mouth. An ugly expression appeared on the insectoid face.After a moment, Droth grinned widely to see his vial filled with bubbling, greenish-brown muck. "At last," he breathed. "The solution… to all of this world's problems."

~~~~~

Tobduk ran.He was quickly coming to the conclusion that the tunnel had been a bad path to take. Sure, there weren't any acid geysers here, but in this confined space he could only run in one direction: forwards. Grodak was behind, somehow much faster and laughing even more shrilly. Confined spaces, he resolved, would never again be his chosen battlefield."Ik Tobduk vikoto?" Grodak cried, his voice echoing through the cave. "Vek ek Tobduk?"The Empowered of Fear had started taunting him in the skakdi tongue a few minutes ago, after mentioning that both their names were of that language (Tobduk's having been inducted into the Matoran language as well). It was not particularly surprising to know that Grodak was indeed a "hunter," but it was certainly not reassuring.In any case, Tobduk thanked Grodak slightly for the skakdi taunts, as he understood absolutely none of it. It was all gibberish to him, really, and that let him focus on running out of this terrible tunnel.After altogether too long an eternity spent dashing through the twisting tunnel, Tobduk found himself escaping into a larger cavern - much larger, filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and… well, beyond that, he didn't know the names for such rock formations, but they were impressive. More importantly, they were sizable enough to easily conceal himself.Grodak stormed out of the tunnel, almost frowning. "Oh, come now, Tobduk, that was fun!" he cried. "Do say you'll join me for another round!"He scanned the chamber and saw no sign of the tall warrior. "Very well… I get it. Another Matoran game, then? I'm afraid I'm all too good at this one."A golden glow radiated from Grodak's smooth, tubed mask. He winced slightly, then craned his head to stare… directly through Tobduk's cover.Uh-oh, Tobduk muttered. I should have thought of the kanohi Elda.Still, he remained exactly where he was, waiting until he could hear Grodak's boots clanging on the ground… and then…Just as Grodak whirled around to where Tobduk had crouched, the tall warrior soared gracefully through the air, grabbing a stalactite and gaining some extra momentum from a flip before landing gracefully at the other edge of the cavern and heading back into the cavern. "Follow me, then, for another round!" he cried, a plan dawning in his mind."My pleasure," Grodak grinned, and followed at a run.

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

#5 Offline Angel Bob

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Posted Apr 17 2012 - 06:35 PM

Chapter 5The situation was hardly preferable, Barrest decided, but it could go a few different ways. Droth could unleash the bubbling concoction he held on the world. If so, they could all be doomed, it could turn out he'd mixed it poorly and had no effect, or… well, basically anything could happen with one of Droth's potions.There was always the possibility, of course, that Droth wouldn't even get the chance.The tower shook as Droth danced through his laboratory, the silenced Barrest trailing a few yards behind. Humming a distorted melody, the Makuta shifted his body back towards the wall… which split open to reveal an entirely different room. Barrest transported his body through space to follow, just as the slimy stone sealed itself once more.The two tall, spindly, and thoroughly insane entities were now perched on the catwalk circling a spherical chamber, a thick podium set into the center. Barrest glanced at it. It was covered with a tarp, but -- Chains of darkness shackled him to the wall as Droth descended to the floor. "My apologies, Empowered of Doubt, but I can afford no indecision at this moment. This is the climax of my plans, wretch, and no one will interrupt me!"The Makuta paused for a moment, contemplating what he had just said."Of course, this invites all of my enemies to burst through the door and do just that," he frowned. After another moment of thought, he slipped the vial into the shadows and clutched his doom viper staff, tensed for battle.The walls exploded. The silver-clad behemoth that was Vokkan charged through the shards of stone, bellowing a war cry. On his left bounced Kikita, still grinning, and across from her entered Spair, head hung.Droth twitched once and then unleashed a bolt of chain lightning. Kikita managed to dodge the attack, however, and it arced into the night sky outside."Drat," said the Makuta, realizing he'd lost the element of surprise with a missed attack. And at that moment, Vokkan made contact with his body.Droth crumpled to the ground, but was up again in a moment, a shimmering sheen of energy rippling around his form. Vokkan whirled and swung his axe, but Droth slipped out of the way impossibly quickly and casually batted Spair's next wave aside. Kikita dropped from the sky, grinding into the ground with gravity multiplied tenfold.Vokkan bellowed and unleashed a flurry of earth on Droth, but the stones bounced harmlessly off of his body, his powers of limited invulnerability again at work. Kikita groaned on the ground, and Spair seized her sorrow, converting it into a torrent of water."Water? Really?" Droth cackled, raising a claw casually. "At my touch, water turns to poison."The water circled his claw and turned from deepest blue to distorted green before arcing back at Spair. She dropped out of its path, sliding down the sloped floor to meet Droth -- and a simple kick unbalanced her, bringing her to the earth."Just you and me, Vokkan," Droth grinned. "Oh my, our escape plan isn't working so well, is it?"Vokkan grimaced… and swung his weapon, screaming in rage.

~~~~~~

Something echoed in the back of Tobduk's psyche, but he didn't have the time to pay it heed. He was focused on dashing through Durgolund's caves, headed back for his and Grodak's original battlefield."It's not very fair with only one combatant armed…" lamented Grodak from behind him. "Still, I can hardly call it quits. My master would reduce me to a gibbering monster if I did so."Tobduk tuned it out, imbuing his feet with lightning speed, harnessed from his rage at this twisted mockery of an Empowered."But if you were willing to forfeit and bow to Droth's will?" Grodak finished. "The wages are good and you don't get turned into a homicidal beast.""Too late, then," Tobduk called over his shoulder. "Ask anyone -- I already am a homicidal beast!" He raised a column of fire in the tunnel and sped past, waiting for the joyous sound of Grodak's screams.It never came, regrettably, though Tobduk could hear the tinkling sound of ice smoothing over the tunnel's floors. Thankfully Grodak was too far behind to coat the ground under Tobduk's feet with ice -- if that came to pass, he'd be doomed.Finally, Tobduk sped to the left and hurtled out of the cramped, dismal tunnels. Glancing around to get his bearings, he grinned and again dashed to the left, down a tunnel dripping with noxious green liquid.Behind him, Grodak stepped out of the tunnels and sniffed the air. Also grinning, he sped purposefully down to the left.

~~~~~

"Where to now?" asked one of the two hooded figures that now wandered across Durgolund, their path lit by the glowing sword one held."You're asking where we'll find him?" replied the sword-bearer. "Simple -- wherever the action is."As they spoke, the cool blue sword-light illuminated a massive tectonic upheaval -- trenches continuing for hundreds of bio ahead. At the end of the gaping tears in the earth sat a tall tower, pitted with ugly-looking holes, its tentacles waving in the air."I think we've found our destination," grinned the sword-bearer.

~~~~~

Grodak found Tobduk standing solemnly in the center of a familiar chamber: their first battlefield, where acid geysers had claimed the "survivor's" longsword."You really would rather be here?" Grodak chuckled, glancing nervously at the geysers all around. "Goodness, have I cracked you?"Tobduk turned around to face Grodak, his expression a terrible one to behold. Grodak stepped back briefly, the ground within a bio radius frosting over.The Empowered of Rage was smiling."You betrayed me. You betrayed us all," said Tobduk. "You led the Empowered into a life on the run in a place worse than Karzahni, and you know why: so that Grodak, the Empowered of Fear, could live another day."Grodak stammered over his words, trying to find a comeback. "Well - well, of course," he replied, "that's -- that's what fear does to any rational living creature, something with a basic instinct to survive! You and the others, you're - fools who won't listen to that voice!""All fools, are we?" Tobduk frowned. "Better a fool than a coward. A fool can live with themselves.""You're testing me," Grodak said suddenly. "You're trying to see where my allegiances lie -- within the realm of reason or the realm of radicals. Or… good or evil, if you prefer.""Perhaps," Tobduk shrugged, casually stepping out of a geyser just before it erupted. "Or, say, functional or faulty. Or maybe just… mature or immature. Surely you understand maturity, Grodak?" Before Grodak could respond, Tobduk continued: "We walk a thin line between good and evil, mature and immature, as Empowered. I slip sometimes. We all do. Because the basic measure of both scales is how selfish you are.""Call it selfish, or call it - ""Sane. Yes, I know, you're an intelligent young boy and the rest of us are morons. I've heard your argument," Tobduk grinned. Secretly, he wondered what Nestra would think of his speech. "But another way to measure selfishness… I wonder, Grodak.""Wonder what?" Grodak snarled, readying his blade."Do you rule your emotions?" Tobduk asked thoughtfully. "Or do they rule you?"Grodak opened his mouth wordlessly, then shut it in a snarl and raised his sword."Because I know which side I lie on," Tobduk said solemnly. "I control anger. And the anger I feel now at you, and the anger I've sparked in you… well, I can put it to good use."Grodak's charge was interrupted by a wall of flame rising from the ground, catching him off-guard. The Empowered of Fear yelped and paused for a brief second to inspect his armor, then relegated the thought to later and continued his charge --Whooosh.All anger in the room vanished, snuffed out by a cold swoop. A cloud of acid obscured Grodak from view, a bloodcurdling scream the last Tobduk heard of him. Despite his opponent, Tobduk cringed.The blackened, ruined body of Grodak dropped to the ground as the geyser subsided. Acid sizzled in the biomechanical body while Tobduk stepped forward solemnly and bowed his head for a moment."Now let's put this gear to good use," he said, gently removing the barely intact kanohi from Grodak's charred face. Placing it over his Sanok, Tobduk activated the power of the Elda and thought hard on one subject: Makuta Droth.A splitting headache ripped through Tobduk's mind as he glanced due northwest. Wincing, he tore off the mask and left the chamber, his heart a mixture of emotions. The dominant was easily sorrow.

~~~~~~

The entrance of two hooded figures disrupted Droth's disturbing victory dance. The Makuta, irate, glared at the intruders and reached for his staff, muttering something along the lines of "Not more of them! Where do they come from??"At that instant, a spinning wheel of psychic energy struck Droth full in the face, sending him reeling… for a brief instant. He glanced up and grinned. "Surely that's not the best psychic assault you have?" he cried. "That was barely a kraata's confusion blast!""My power fluctuates," growled the attacker. "But one constant is my rage at the Makuta for making me as I am."Ice coated Droth's limbs as the speaking figure lifted her hood.Nestra glared through vaguely reptilian eyes at the Makuta that Luporax had sent her to. "Now, Makuta Droth, we'll negotiate.""I hardly think so," Droth grinned. "My powers of ice resistance render your companion's abilities thoroughly useless." Steam rose from his frosty prison, and he stepped free. "Well, I should have guessed a Makuta would have a counter," muttered the sword-bearer. He, too, threw back his hood to reveal a kanohi Akaku. "Kylodus's the name. Putting an end to ugly overlords's the game.""Are we introducing ourselves, then?" Droth gave a fake bow. "I am Makuta Droth, as you likely know, ruler of Durgolund, master of poison. You two… are rudely interrupting."Bonds of shadow flung both Nestra and Kylodus against the wall. Barrest glanced over and muttered, "Welcome to the club.""And still I triumph, even after all these assaults!" Droth yelled. "You cannot trump a Makuta, fools. Now watch as I change the world… starting with you!"Droth threw back the cloth over his podium to reveal the crux of his plans. Nestra gasped. Sitting in the center of the chamber was the scarred, pitted, and soaked scrap of metal that had once commanded the Factory.Indusko's mask."But how -- " she began."Indusko's Factory pumped poison sludge all across the known universe, hordika," Droth crowed. "Little did he know that I had added an extra ingredient to his waste processing units. Something I call, say, hordika venom version 2.0. But dormant, you see! Dormant, that's the key! It lies waiting… until I activate the residual consciousness of Indusko, preserved in this mask, to awaken the hordika venom and mutate everything in this world."The intruders could say nothing, so struck were they by the scope, power, and lunacy of Droth's plan. Worse, none of them could raise a hand to stop him. It seemed this was the end.And, of course, one final intruder stormed in, fire ringing his form as he rocketed into the chamber on a geyser of flame. Droth, reaching for his vial, was struck by a volley of fireballs and caught entirely off guard. The Makuta toppled to the ground, screaming in anger."I," Droth breathed, straightening up, "I am TRYING to end the world as civilization knows it! Why can't you all just wait your turn??? And who are you???"The flames dimmed, revealing a tall, thin figure resplendent in crimson armor. His kanohi Sanok was contorted into a grimace of disdain as he looked his opponent up and down."I am Tobduk," he said. "The survivor."

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

#6 Offline Angel Bob

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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.

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




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