Edited by ZOMBI3S, Nov 17 2014 - 03:33 PM.
The Herald of Darkness
Posted Aug 26 2014 - 06:39 PM
Posted Sep 08 2014 - 04:49 PM
Chapter 8 - An Old Friend
“Hey,” Talim smiled. “How you doing, kiddo?”
Takua stared at her, stunned and motionless. It couldn't be her. It had to be his mind playing tricks on him. It had to be the Madness. Slowly, he reached out toward her, shaking as he did so.
“Is it really you?”
Talim took his hand and placed it on her cheek. Takua was shocked. If she was just an illusion, it was one he was willing to dive headfirst into. He could feel the warmth emanating from beneath her mask, the smooth skin of her hand as it held his own. The light of the lightstone twinkled in her eyes, and her dark green Huna was as real as the rock on which he sat on.
“Does it really matter?” she replied.
Tears fell from Takua's eyes as he grabbed her and pulled her close. “I missed you so much...” he said between breaths as he buried his mask into her shoulder. He gripped her as tight as he could, afraid that if he let go she would disappear forever. “I'm so sorry Talim...I'm so sorry...” he trailed off.
She returned his embrace, holding him gently as she rubbed his back. “Don't be sorry. You did everything you could.”
“I tried to find a way to bring you back,” Takua sobbed. “I asked everyone I could, but, but...” he had to force the words out of his throat. “but I don't know if I can...”
“Hey,” Talim cupped his mask in her hands and looked him in the eye. “Don't worry about me.” She wiped a tear from his cheek, leaving a tiny smudge on Takua's scarred Kanohi. “You've got a quest to finish, right? You just do what you have to. Just keep on going, and I'll always be with you, no matter what.”
Takua managed to smile, but he shook his head. “I just, I...I don't know,” he stammered as he looked around them, cautious of the shadows that had terrified him just moments ago. Everything seemed back to normal now, but how could he know if it would stay this way? All the horror he had faced, all the insanity...he couldn't bear to think about it. “It's just hard sometimes,” he shrugged.
“I know,” she replied. “But you can do it.”
Takua shook his head. There was just so much out there. So much fear, so much chaos, so much darkness. “I don't know if I can though...”
“You can,” she rubbed his arm comfortingly. “You just have to believe it.”
They shared a moment of silence together, and Takua couldn't help but wonder what might have been. What if things had gone differently? What if the Atouri had never came to him? Would they both still be in Le-Koro, living their normal lives? Maybe he'd still be living under his tree and dreaming of adventure, instead of out on an adventure and dreaming of his home.
Talim spoke up again. “Now, are you going to go out there and do what you have to do, or sit here like a crybaby?”
Takua smiled as he wiped the last of the water from his cheeks. “Shut up.”
She laughed softly as she brushed the dust off her armor and stood up. Sticking out her hand, she offered it to Takua. “The first step's the hardest.”
He looked up at her, not ready for the moment to be over. “I don't want to leave. Not yet.”
“Do what you have to do, and I'll be waiting when its over,” she replied.
And as much as he hated it, he knew it was time. His reply was brief, but it managed to hold all his emotions in one word:
She looked down at him and smiled.
Takua nodded, taking her hand, and she pulled him to his feet.
And he was back. Back in the dark abandoned tunnel, surrounded by nothing but blackness. He was alone, but he was himself, and he was sane. Cautiously, he felt his mask, and he breathed a sigh of relief. There was no rust. He wasn't infected.
What happened? He asked himself.
He felt a long scar on his Pakari, stretching from his left brow to his right cheekbone, and he knew that at least some of it was real. The glass from Illum's canister had cut him, and he had definitely succumbed to the Madness. But his infection, and Talim...? Why wasn't he infected now? Where did reality end and his visions begin?
Looking around, he realized he had no idea which way he had come from. The tunnel looked exactly the same in both directions, and he couldn't see more than a few dozen feet past the lightstone. He forced himself to think. His tunnel must have connected to Illum's palace somehow, but how far back and in which direction was a mystery to him. From the roughly hewn walls Takua guessed that he was past the outskirts of the city, if not deep into Onu-Wahi. Was he beneath the city now, in some lower level only frequented by miners and explorers? Who knew what kind of rahi might roam these tunnels? How far had his maddened mind taken him?
Takua furrowed his brow and sighed. There was only one thing to do.
Cautiously, he found a foothold in the wall and pulled himself up. Climbing just a few feet off the floor, he was able to reach the lightstone embedded into the ceiling, and he grabbed its largest crystal. He pulled on it, trying to free it from the crack it was wedged in. After a few good tugs the stone came loose, and he smiled to himself as he hopped to the ground.
Well, he thought, here goes nothing.
Holding the lightstone high above his head, he picked a direction and started to walk. It was easy going, but he was still cautious. The shadows still unnerved him, and he kept his free hand on the hilt of his sword at all times.
He thought about it as he walked. He hated the thought of using a sword given to him by Illum. It seemed wrong, almost dirty, to use such an item to protect himself. Takua had trusted Illum, and the Onu-Matoran had betrayed him. It hurt, and Takua wanted nothing to do with the 'Turaga' of Onu-Koro. He looked down at the weapon, calmly hanging at his waist.
But it was a really nice sword...
He kept walking, making his way though the dark tunnel. He wasn't sure how much time passed, but eventually he stopped to rest. Slumping his back against the rock wall, he let the lightstone rest beside him. He listened to the silence of the cave for a few moments before he closed his eyes. It was only then that he heard it:
Hum dee hum, doo da dee,
By his will, we live free.
Takua turned his head towards the tiny sound. It came from the direction he was headed, quietly bouncing off the tunnel's walls. What was it? Someone...singing?
The skies, the earth, water and trees
Everywhere, he watches thee.
Takua got to his feet and held the lightstone high above his head. There, at the very edge of his vision, he could see light shining through a bend in the tunnel. Gripping his sword as he did so, he approached it. The song grew louder and louder as he did, until he could make out the voice of what seemed to be a very old Matoran. It was scratchy and guttural, but somehow managed to have springy youthfulness to it. The song was bubbly and happy, and the more Takua listened the more he realized he had heard it before.
As he rounded the bend his eyes were flooded with light, and he had to squint to be able to see. The tunnel's end was in sight now, but the blinding light obscured his view of anything that might lay beyond it. Shielding his eyes, Takua walked forward, out of the tunnel. It took a moment or two for his his eyes to adjust, but once he could see his jaw dropped in amazement.
He stood in a huge cavern, studded with hundreds of thousands of lightstones. They flickered silently as they rested, illuminating far-off columns, stalactites, and other rock formations. Water dripped from the ceiling, forming puddles and small streams that weaved their way though the lightstone clusters. Some crystals were small, but others were almost a dozen feet tall, and as big around as a tree. They covered every surface, reaching outwards, as if determined to snuff out all shadow in the cave. It was beautiful.
Hum da dum, dee dee da
His Hau protects you, la la la....
Only now, as his astonishment had started to fade, did Takua turn his attention back to the singing. There, just a few dozen feet in front of him stood a Matoran: old, alone, and quietly humming to himself. He wore dark yellow armor, and clutched a knotted walking staff in his right hand.
Cautiously, Takua approached him. The Matoran was standing in the middle of a puddle, and he didn't seem very aware of his surroundings. “Hello?” he called out.
The Matoran whirled around to face him, revealing a Hau, lined and scarred with age. At first he seemed surprised, but once the Matoran saw Takua he smiled. “Windsprinter!” he called out, beckoning for Takua to come closer.
What...? Takua recognized old one's mask. He'd heard his scratchy voice before, a long time ago. “What did you call me?” he asked.
“Windsprinter, baldwalker, it matters not. It is you!”
And then Takua remembered. It was the crazy, tree-speaking Matoran he had met in Le-Koro. The one who had annoyed him on his walk home after visiting Talim. The one who had first told him to 'follow the stars.'
“What....” Takua stared at the Matoran in disbelief. “...what are you doing here!?”
“Ah, you see...” the Matoran hobbled over to him, splashing through the muddy water as he did. He pointed above them, towards the lightstone-studded ceiling. “Star watch-gazing! Beautiful, no?”
Takua looked up at the lightstones, flickering high above them, and then turned his attention back to the Matoran. “You do know these aren't actual stars, right?”
“Ha!” he cackled. “Hee hee hee! It matters not. They are all light.”
Takua looked at the insane Matoran, wondering how in the name of Mata Nui he had ended up in this situation. “They're lightstones. They're really different from stars. I promise.”
“It matters not!”
“Really? Do you even know where you are right now?” Takua asked.
“I am here.”
Takua rolled his eyes, but before he could respond the old Matoran had swooped around him and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“But do you know where you are?”
“Stop that! It's creepy!” Takua shook himself free of the old one's grasp.
The old one looked at him quizzically, as if waiting for an answer to his question.
“And no,” Takua replied. “I have no idea where I am.”
The Matoran rolled his eyes and turned away.
Takua sighed. “I was in Onu-Koro with all my friends, and then I went to talk to Illum. One thing led to another and I was infected with the Madness, which, by the way, might be something you would know about,” he pointed at the Matoran, but the old one didn't seemed phased.
Takua shook his head. “Anyway, my friend Talim helped me out of it, and I think she was just in my head, but I don't know. I should be infected right now, but I'm not, and that doesn't make any sense either. So then I hear singing. Singing. Underground, in an abandoned tunnel, which is also crazy. But I follow it anyway, and end up in this, this...” he searched for the right word. “...this fantastical cavern of light, which definitely seems like something I would make up in my head. And now you show up!” Takua threw his arms in the air out of frustration. “Of all the people in the world to run into, I find the one person who's less sane than me!”
The Matoran was looking up at the ceiling now, once again staring at the lightstones and humming to himself.
“Are you even listening to me!?” Takua asked.
“Life-dawn leaf-runner worries too much,” the Matoran said. “Where you are or how you got there, it matters not. Follow the stars, and they will guide you.”
Takua shook his head. It was like talking to a wall. “Even if I knew what that meant, you can't see the stars here. What am I supposed to do?”
The Matoran looked at him as if Takua was the insane one, and rapped him on the head with his staff.
“Ow!” Takua yelped. “What was that for!?”
“Slow-thinker does not listen! Stars, stones; they are all light.”
Takua rubbed his head, at a loss for words. Then, after a moment of thought: “Why am I trying to get advice from you anyway? You're a crazy person.”
The Matoran suddenly turned very serious, and the bubbly tone in his voice disappeared. Takua almost swore that the cavern physically darkened as he pointed in the direction that Takua had come from. Slowly and with purpose, the Matoran spoke.
“Because you are desperate, and the darkness is coming for you.”
Takua turned around to look at the tunnel, and he could hear the sound of armor clanking and people yelling. Illum had found him.
He whirled around to look back at the old Matoran, but he had disappeared entirely, and Takua was once again alone in the underworld. Only now, the threat was imminent. This wasn't something in his head. This was very real, and if he didn't move now he'd be caught.
Cursing the old Matoran for wasting his time, he ran in the opposite direction, searching once again for a way out. Winding his way through the lightstone clusters, the Matoran's song found him for a moment or two before fading away into the darkness.
Take his hand and live anew,
Always, he is watching you.
Dum de dum, dee dee do
Always, he believes in you.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Sep 14 2014 - 08:51 PM.
Posted Oct 20 2014 - 08:33 PM
Chapter 9 - A Turn for the Worse
Takua ran though the lightstone clusters, splashing his way through the puddles and streams that crisscrossed the cave. He weaved back and forth, hoping that it would make his muddy footprints harder to follow, but the more he ran, the closer the guards sounded. Their armor clanked as they shouted to one another, ordering to their comrades to spread out, search over there, or let them know if they found anything.
“Footprints!” someone shouted. “This way!”
Takua cursed as he slid around a large lightstone cluster, pausing to catch his breath. He had to find somewhere to hide. At the rate they were going, he'd be caught if he kept on running. But then again, how could he escape? The cavern floor was so muddy his footprints would lead them right to him.
Takua swerved around a giant crystal and stopped dead in his tracks. An Onu-Matoran guard stood in front of him, and their eyes met. The Matoran’s purple Pakari was just a few hues away from Takua’s, and he seemed to be about the same age. The two stared at each other for a moment, both surprised by the other’s appearance.
“H-Hey!” the guard yelled out, fumbling to draw his sword. “He’s over here!”
Takua tore off in the opposite direction, but the guard was right on his heels. He sprinted as fast as he could and managed to put a few precious yards between them, but then the sound of feet splashing through water met his ears, and he knew that more guards were closing in. Hurdling over a fallen cluster, he glanced back to see one, two, then three guards struggling to climb over the crystal, and he smiled to himself. Their heavy armor slowed them down. At least he had that going for him.
Hearing his name, Takua looked to his right, not slowing his mad sprint. There! Just a few dozen feet away stood a Ko-Matoran holding a bladed staff dripping with blood. Takua lit up at his presence. “Kokani!? Is that you?”
“Get down!” Kokani yelled.
But Takua couldn’t quite hear him, and he slowed down to a jog. “What?”
Takua screamed in pain as something buried itself into his collar. With a splash, he fell into a shallow puddle as searing hot agony radiated from his neck to his upper arm. He looked to his right to find the shaft of an arrow sticking out of him, its head buried deep into the flesh just above his chest armor. Clutching the wound, he cried out as he tried to look around, searching for the arrow’s source.
There, in the direction he had been headed, stood a tall figure, barely illuminated by the lightstones. It was too tall to be a Matoran, and as the figure stepped into the light, and Takua’s eyes widened.
But then a guard was on him, pulling him back by the ankles, and Takua had to fight back. He kicked at the Onu-Matoran as he reached for his dagger, throwing mud and water into the air as he did. The guard cursed as Takua’s foot made contact with his fingers, but he wasn’t deterred. Reaching out to grab Takua again, he was stopped only by Takua’s blade, wildly slashing through the air. It bought Takua a few moments, but then the other two guards appeared out of the darkness. One grabbed Takua from behind, locking his right arm while the other grabbed the shaft of the arrow and twisted.
Takua screamed as pain flew through his head, and he cried out for help. “Kokani!”
But the Ko-Matoran was already there, grabbing the guard that held him and throwing him into a nearby lightstone cluster. There was a flash of blue and Takua caught a glimpse of Aya, vaulting over him as she tackled the guard who pulled at his ankles, nimbly rolling to her feet as she prepared to fight. Thinking fast, whirled around ready to fend off the third guard: the one who wore the purple Pakari. Once again the two locked eyes.
But in a second it was over. There was a spray of blood as a barbed arrow slammed into the side of the Matoran’s head, cracking his mask in half. With eyes wide open, he crumpled to the cavern floor, dead.
Shocked, Takua whirled around to see the kryll, still standing in the same spot, calmly nocking another arrow to its bow. Panic set in, and Takua willed himself to get to his feet.
He stumbled behind the nearest cluster of lightstones before the kryll could fire again, and there he took a moment to rest. Blood oozed from between his fingers as he clutched his wound. He clenched his teeth as he gripped the shaft of the arrow, ready to pull it out.
“Don’t! Not yet.”
Takua whirled around to see Sorin sliding around the other side of the cluster, his sword stained red.
“You’ll lose too much blood if you pull it out now. Wait until we make it to the others; they have all our supplies. We can patch you up there.”
Takua closed his eyes and grimaced as the pain exuded through him. “How did you find me?” he swallowed.
“I used to work in these tunnels, remember? I know them like the back of my hand.” Sorin peered around the cluster, checking if the coast was clear. “That, and sound echoes a long way in these tunnels. We heard you screaming.” He took a moment to look Takua up and down. “What happened?”
Takua sighed, not knowing where to start. “I’ll tell you later. Where’s Jaka? And Nika and Raipu?”
“The control center for Tunnel Eighteen.”
“No time to talk, let’s go!”
Sorin grabbed Takua around the shoulders, supporting him as they ran through the clusters. Glancing behind him, Takua managed to catch a glimpse of Aya and Kokani, still fighting off the guards. But one question burned in his head: where did the kryll go?
His question was answered as an arrow whizzed by just a few feet to their left. Turning his head, Sorin caught sight of the kryll darting behind a lightstone. Picking up the pace, he urged Takua to go faster.
“Where did that kryll come from?” Takua asked. “Is it fighting us or the guards?”
Sorin pulled Takua behind a boulder as another arrow thudded into the mud beside them. “Probably both. And it doesn’t make any sense. We’re right below the city; the kryll shouldn’t be able to get into these tunnels, but there are no patrols down here. It’s like this place has been abandoned, but the power for the control room is still on.”
“What is this control room?”
Another arrow slammed into the mud behind them, and Sorin gripped his sword tensely. He turned back to Takua. “What do you think? It’s a control room for the mine. An operator there can regulate ventilation shafts, lockdown doors, basically anything mechanical in the entire tunnel. If there’s a threat to the miners, whether it’s a gas pocket, lava flow, or rahi attack, they can go there and lock the room down.” Another arrow flew overhead and smashed into a cluster in front of them. “Basically, it’s exactly what we need right now!”
Takua stumbled as Sorin pulled him by the arm, making sure he kept the pace. Reaching the edge of the cavern, the two ducked into a smaller tunnel. It was straight and narrow, obviously cut by Matoran hands, and a few dozen feet ahead of them Takua could see an iron doorway, opening up to a brightly lit room.
Sorin yanked him forward, and Takua winced as he tried to ignore the pain shooting through his shoulder. They were close now, but as he glanced behind them, he realized it wasn’t close enough. The kryll stood at the entrance to the tunnel, readying its bow once again. It had a clear shot, and there was nothing for them to hide behind.
“Come on!” Sorin yelled.
Takua gripped his wound, trying desperately to overlook it and keep moving. The kryll had readied its arrow now and was lining up the shot. Just a few more feet, Takua told himself. Just a few more feet!
The kryll pulled back the string, and Takua yelled at his feet to move faster. The room was so close now. Just a bit more…
Takua looked back at the sound and caught a glimpse of Aya pulling her blade out of the kryll’s neck. Blood splattered the walls, and Takua breathed a ragged sigh of relief as he passed through the doorway, collapsing onto the ground as he did.
“Mata Nui, what happened to you?”
Takua looked up to see Jaka, holding a roll of bandages in one hand and a dagger in the other. Breathing heavily, Takua propped himself up against a wall and groaned. “I’ll tell you later,” he nodded towards the arrow, still sticking out of him. “Can you get this thing out of me?”
“Yeah, yeah! Sorry!” He waived for Raipu and Nika, and the two brought over more bandages and cleaning supplies.
Takua looked around at the room he now found himself in, as it was certainly something to behold. Every surface was cast from iron, and hundreds of levers, buttons, and screens lined the walls. Sorin was in the far corner now, plugging away at some of them as small colored lights flashed in different sequences. Takua wondered how long it must have taken him to learn all their functions.
But by now Nika had prepared a salve from the supplies in her pack, and she quietly nodded to Jaka and Takua. “Ready when you are.”
“Okay,” Jaka turned to Takua and carefully gripped the shaft of the arrow. “You ready for this?”
Takua took a deep breath and nodded. “If I have to.”
“Okay, ready…now!” Jaka pulled on the arrow and Takua screamed as pain flashed through him.
“Stop! Stop! Mata Nui, stop!” he yelled.
Jaka did as he asked, but looked at him sternly. “It’s got to come out, Takua!”
“I know,” Takua managed to say. He was dizzy from the pain, and felt like he was going to pass out. “Just…just give me a minute…”
“We only have so many minutes!”
“Look out!” Aya yelled as she slid into the room, almost knocking over Raipu in the process. She looked back out the tunnel anxiously, then turned to Sorin. “Hey, you might wanna start the lockdown process. Things are getting a little hairy out there!”
“I’m working on it!” Sorin shouted as he pressed away at the controls.
Aya turned her attention to Takua, whose mask seemed to be losing color. “Mata Nui Takua, you look like mahi dung. What happened?”
Takua gritted his teeth. “I’ll tell you later…” he moaned.
Sorin pulled down a large lever in the corner, and a loud beeping echoed through the tunnels. Gears whirred to life, clanking as they turned one another, and slowly the room began to seal itself. Iron doors crept down from the ceiling, closing the doorways one inch at a time.
“Stay away from the doors,” Sorin noted. “Once the lockdown is started it can’t be stopped. If your arm is in the doorway when it closes…well, you’ll have one less arm.” He then turned to Aya. “Where’s Kokani?”
“He’ll be here.”
“He better be. He has three minutes until those doors close.”
Takua stared at the doorway they had come through, suddenly very nervous. Slowly, the thick iron door descended to the floor like a caterpillar making its way down a leaf, and the thought of being crushed by the unrelenting gears sneaked into his head. He shook himself, forcing his attention back to the matter at hand.
“Okay,” he told Jaka. “Ready.”
Jaka pulled on the arrow without warning, and white hot pain clouded Takua’s vision. “Stop! Stop stop stop stop!”
“We gotta get this over with Takua!” Jaka yelled at him.
“I thought you were going to tell me before you started pulling!”
“You said you were ready!”
They were cut off as Kokani ran into the room, ducking under the closing door as two arrows stuck into the floor behind him. He looked around frantically. “How long until the lockdown finishes?” he asked Sorin.
“A little under two minutes.”
Kokani cursed. “Kryll are swarming out there. It has to go faster.”
“I can’t change how fast it goes.”
“It’s okay,” Aya interjected as she pointed at the door, now about halfway closed. “Thirty more seconds and the opening will be too small for kryll to fit under, right?”
It was silent for a few seconds before Kokani responded. Slowly, he nodded. “Right.”
But then, a metal cylinder rolled under the closing door, beeping as a little red light flashed on its top. Takua watched it roll for a fraction of a second, but by the time he realized what it was, it was already too late. The cylinder exploded, sending shrapnel flying as the grey-green gas inside of it escaped, unleashing the Madness upon them.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Nov 17 2014 - 12:22 PM.
Posted Nov 03 2014 - 04:54 PM
Chapter 10 - Revelations
Takua braced himself as the explosive went off. All sound left him as his ears rang, but he didn’t feel the blast. Slowly, he uncovered his eyes and looked up to see Jaka leaning over him, protecting the two of them with his new shield. Jaka nodded to him with a look of reassurance. Takua still couldn’t hear, but he could read his friends lips:
“I’ve got you.”
But that wasn’t going to be enough. The poison gas was filling the room, billowing out in a cloud of grey-green poison. Takua looked around to see Kokani trying to hold one of the lockdown doors open, but the door was slowly overpowering him, and they didn’t have much time.
“No one breathe!”
Takua heard Aya yell as his hearing started to come back, and he made a point to exhale, pushing all the air out of his lungs. Sorin ran across the room, picking up Raipu and shoving him under the slowly closing exit. Jaka helped Takua up, and as the two ran for the door Takua’s ears managed to pick up a small noise, just barely discernible. It was a soft whimper, like something that a dying rahi would make. Ducking out of the room, he glanced behind him to see Nika lying on the ground, clutching her leg. Aya bent over her, trying to get her to move as fast as she could.
Oh no… Takua thought back to Po-Wahi. Raipu’s wounds, maybe even his infection, it was happening all over again, only now with Nika. Takua watched as Sorin and Aya dragged Nika out of the room and under the closing door. It was almost shut now, but the three cleared it successfully. Only Kokani was still inside.
“Hold it open!” he yelled, and Aya and Sorin grabbed the door, trying to give Kokani as much time as possible. The gears whirred and grinded, slowed by the force of their arms, but they didn’t stop. The door crept downwards, only a foot and a half away from the ground.
Kokani dropped to the floor, crawling on his stomach as fast he could. He was halfway out now, and Jaka leapt into action, pulling him clear of the door just a few seconds before it crunched into the ground. Kokani propped himself up on his hands and knees, coughing. He covered his mouth, his lungs heaving for a few moments before he stood back up again. There was blood on his hand.
Aya stared at him. “Did you breathe it in?”
Aya stepped in front of him, forcing him to look at her. “If you breathed that stuff in, we need to know, Kokani.”
The two stared at each other for a moment before Kokani answered. “Not any more than the last time.”
“Good,” Aya replied. “Where do we go, Sorin?
“We can’t go yet!” Raipu interjected, kneeling over Nika. “She’s wounded! We have to help her first!”
Takua got his first real look at the Po-Matoran, and it wasn't pretty. Metal shrapnel was stuck into her right leg, starting at her calf and traveling up to the side of her thigh. Like tiny daggers, the metal shards had cracked her armor, puncturing the flesh underneath. Blood slowly seeped down her leg, and she stared at her wounds with wide eyes, still in shock.
“There are ways around that control room,” Sorin said. “Those kryll will be here eventually if we don’t move.”
Aya cursed. “Nika, can you walk?”
Nika didn’t respond. She stared at her leg, quivering.
“Nika!” The injured Po-Matoran looked up, jolted back to reality as Aya knelt down beside her. “I know it hurts, but we’re not out of this yet. We need to know if you can move on your own.”
"I don't know..." Nika stammered. "I don't know..."
"Well you have to try, okay?"
It was only now that Takua saw it: Nika wasn’t the only one injured by the explosion. The armor on Aya’s arm had been blown off, and there was a large swath of flesh on her forearm and side that were stripped raw, seared away by heat.
He looked at the Ga-Matoran, impressed and amazed. Aya didn’t let the pain stop her. She knew her priorities, and she put the safety of the group before herself. Even injured, she didn’t flinch when it came to getting him and the others to safety. Takua took a deep breath, trying to ignore his own wound. If they were going to get out of this, he would have to do the same.
Slowly, Aya helped Nika her to her feet. She limped and clutched her leg as she took her first step, but she was able to walk, albeit with a horrible limp. It would be slow, but they had to keep moving.
“Okay,” Sorin finally said as he started to move. “There’s another control room in the next tunnel over, and if I remember right, it should have access to an elevator that can take us to the surface. It’ll be a bit of a walk, but it’s our best shot.”
“Alright, let’s go!”
They took off, moving as fast as they could. Jaka helped Takua, keeping his arm around him in case he might fall, and Raipu did the same with Nika. Sorin led the way with Aya right behind him, still managing to ignore her wounds. Kokani stood watch in the back, listening quietly for any signs of movement.
Takua looked around, trying to get a bearing of where they were. The cavern slowly opened up before them, but it was unlike any he had visited before. Metal pumps, drills, and other machines lined the walls, connected with pipes that ran into the ceiling far above. Air ducts hung from the rock, burrowing into the walls as they lead to other areas of the mine. Only a few lightstones lit the place, and the machines cast long, dark shadows against the rock.
Takua looked to his right and was taken aback. Just a few dozen feet away the wall of the cavern disappeared abruptly, giving way to an empty blackness. It took him a moment before he realized what he was looking at, but then it hit him: a chasm. A huge, underground chasm that went on for unknown distances, deep into the earth. He stared at the blackness for a moment or two, as if he were staring down a wild rahi. His spine prickled, and his nerves set him on edge. He looked at the machines, casting their shadows silently, as if they were watching, watching and waiting. It felt like he was entering Onu-Koro all over again, seeing the darkness behind Illum’s celebration for the first time. Something was wrong here, but he couldn’t place quite what it was.
Unease filled his body as he looked at one of the larger machines in front of him. It was different from the others. Its metal was newer and shinier, and a huge container of some sort reached almost to the top of the cavern. Tubes connected it to the pipes and ducts that ran along the walls and ceiling, and it seemed fragile in its construction, as if someone had hastily constructed it under a tight deadline.
Sorin stopped in front of it, gazing up at the metal monstrosity. “I don’t remember this.”
Sorin gestured to the huge machine. “This container. It shouldn’t be here. It doesn’t belong.”
“Who cares?” Aya asked quickly. “Nika’s bleeding out, we have to go!”
“You don’t understand,” Sorin said, growing increasingly flustered. “Onu-Matoran don’t just change things very often. Look up there," he pointed toward the ceiling. "It’s connected to the ventilation shafts. Those pipes on the ceiling lead directly to Onu-Koro; if something happened to the air supply we might suffocate or be poisoned if we go any further. That might by why there are no patrols down here─”
“Look,” Takua spoke up as he saw it. There, carefully concealed in shadow at the base of the machine was huge pile of canisters. Empty canisters, the kind the kryll used to spread the Madness.
And all the pieces fell into place. There was a reason why these tunnels were abandoned, even though the power was still on. There was a reason Illum hadn’t ordered his guards to patrol down here, and why the kryll had tried so hard to stop them from advancing.
Sorin’s eyes widened as he took the words right out of Takua’s mouth. “The kryll built this machine. They’re going to fill the ventilation shafts with gas, and infect the entire city.”
And without warning, everything went black. Takua felt the Atouri, beating in his mind.
Barely able see his hand in front of his face, Takua’s heart began to race. He knew this darkness. He’d seen it before, and he knew the pain that came with it. A voice sounded in the shadow. A dark voice, one that Takua recognized.
“You’ve got to hand it to the kryll, they really know how to execute a good plan.”
“Get behind me!” Kokani yelled, instantly drawing his blade.
Takua closed his eyes and covered his ears. It was Le-Koro all over again. This can’t be happening…
“To be honest, I didn’t think Krosis could pull it off.”
Sorin and Aya joined Kokani, drawing their weapons as they formed a circle, keeping Takua and the others inside. It was impossible to tell where the voice was coming from. It echoed all around the cavern, reverberating against the machines and into the chasm.
“I figured he would capture Po-Koro, but forcing all the people into Onu-Koro? Two birds with one stone, I suppose.”
Takua reached for his sword and winced in the process. He could barely move his shoulder without pain surging through him. He clutched the arrow, wishing he could tear it out. They stood there, blind, waiting for the voice to stop. But it went on, taunting them.
“And now he has delivered you to me.”
“Show yourself!” Kokani yelled into the black.
The shadow laughed. “You would like that wouldn’t you, old friend? Step into the light? Show myself for what I truly am?”
Kokani fidgeted, suddenly at a loss for words. He clutched his weapon with white knuckles, ready for anything.
“How does it feel, being at the mercy of shadow, instead of ruling it?”
Aya looked at the Ko-Matoran, confused by the echoing words. “What’s he talking about, Kokani?”
There was silence for a few moments as the darkness swirled around them. But then, rather anticlimactically, it disappeared and Saku revealed himself. He stood alone at the entrance to a tunnel ahead of them, one that Takua assumed to be their way out. Gripping his blade in his right hand, he looked at the ramshackle group of Matoran, seemingly a bit puzzled.
“Wait…” Saku said as the corners of his mouth turned up. “You mean they don’t know?”
Kokani glared at the Toa of Shadow as his muscles twitched, but he said nothing in reply. Slowly, Saku began to smile, growing increasingly amused at the situation until he threw his head back and laughed. His voice echoed into the chasm, bouncing against the walls as the Matoran stood there, not sure how to react.
“You never told them?” Saku said between gasps as he rested his hand against the tunnel entrance. He motioned to everyone that stood behind Kokani. “After all this time, none of them know?”
“It’s not their concern,” Kokani replied quietly.
“Not their concern!?” Saku laughed again. “It’s been a long time, but I thought something would’ve come up! Kokani the Killer? The White Hand of Death? What was that little rhyme they used to say about us? ‘Kokani and Saku, agents of darkness, they’ll slaughter and pillage and then burn your carcass!’” Saku spread his arms wide and approached them. “Kokani and I were assassins once, working under Makuta. Didn’t you all know?”
Takua looked up at Kokani, confused and worried. Kokani was always quiet about the details of his life, but that couldn’t be right. He’d done so much good, why would he have anything to do with Makuta? Saku had to be lying. It didn’t fit, it didn’t make sense.
But the more Takua thought about it, the more he knew it did. Kokani’s refusal to tell them anything about his past, the fire in his eyes whenever he fought, the beast that seemed to come out whenever Takua got on his bad side; it all pointed to something darker, something sinister. Slowly, Takua opened his mouth.
“Kokani, is that true?”
Kokani didn’t turn to face him. He stared only at Saku as he slowly replied, clutching his blade as he spoke. “It was a long time ago.”
Takua looked up at the Ko-Matoran, his trust in him slowly cracking. So many questions raced in his head, but he still didn’t know what to say. “…why?”
Kokani didn’t answer, and Saku continued to taunt him. “I don’t think you’ve changed at all, have you? You’ve been trying to hide what you really are, but you can’t escape it forever. I can still see the fire in your eyes, I can see the bloodlust. The monster inside you wants to get out, doesn’t he, Kokani?”
“Go,” Kokani said to everyone behind him, ignoring the Toa of Shadow. “I can hold him off for a bit. You have to make it out of here.”
Takua looked at the others, but none of them had anything to say. No one felt safe anymore, and Takua would be lying if he said he still trusted Kokani. It wasn’t exactly Kokani’s past that he cared about. Whatever the Ko-Matoran had done, however long ago, for whatever reason, he didn’t care about that. It was the fact that they had been together so long and after everything they had been through, it took Saku of all people for them to finally learn the truth. Kokani would have never told them.
He wasn’t angry or sad, but rather simply disappointed. He thought he’d known Kokani better. “You’ll probably die if you fight him.” It was the only thing Takua could say.
Only now did Kokani turn to look at him, and Takua saw him trying to hold back his emotions. Kokani’s eyes were sad and cloudy with desperation, and Takua could tell he knew how much he had let everyone down. Slowly, he nodded his head with acceptance. “Please, Takua. Just go.”
Takua slumped his shoulders and sighed. His answer was calm, simple, and short. “Okay.”
Wordless, Kokani sprinted forward, his feet pounding against the rock as he rapidly approached the Toa of Shadow. The distance between them closed, and the sadness in Kokani's eyes turned to concentration, and then to anger, and then to rage. The fire erupted and the monster came out, ready for battle and blood. Saku replied with his bladed staff as Kokani struck, and the two steel edges rang, singing together for what would be the last time.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Nov 17 2014 - 11:55 AM.
Posted Nov 17 2014 - 12:48 PM
Chapter 11 - Boiling Blood
Takua stared as the two beings clashed their blades together, Kokani thrashing out with anger, and Saku taunting him, grinning as if the whole thing were a game. Once, twice, three times the steel rang out, until Saku unleashed a storm of shadow, dimming the lightstones as he separated himself from the Ko-Matoran. He hurled crackling bolts of shadow, but Kokani dodged each one, spinning and rolling gracefully as he narrowly avoided injury. Saku’s grin soon disappeared as he attacked even faster, sending even more bolts flying towards his enemy.
Kokani’s evaded the attack effortlessly, and his agility amazed Takua. Without pausing to breathe he launched himself back at the Toa with a new flurry of strikes. He weaved in and out and around Saku as shadow bolts flew past him, until finally he caught Saku off guard and landed a kick in the Toa’s chest. Saku staggered back a few feet, a bit stunned.
“Still got some fight in you, old friend.”
Kokani ran at him again, and Takua watched as the two locked blades. He had never seen anyone move as fast as Kokani did now, nor fight with such ferocity. What kind of Matoran could hold his own against a Toa? Who was this being that had watched over him for so long, without anyone the truth?
The whirlwind of blades and shadow that the two had become raged on. Steel met steel over and over again as both warriors blocked, parried, and dodged each other’s bouts. Kokani rushed around, never stopping his relentless attack, but he couldn’t seem to gain an edge on the Toa.
An arrow flew over Takua’s head, diverting his attention. It slammed into the metal behind him, puncturing the hull of the kryll’s giant machine. The grey-green poison sprayed into the air, pushed out by high pressure inside the chamber. Takua stared at it for a moment then whirled around, catching a glimpse of a tall, angular being darting behind a drilling contraption. The kryll had found them.
Jaka’s voice reached his ears, and he looked around to see chaos breaking out. Nika sat with her back against the kryll's contraption, clutching her leg as Raipu tried to pull shrapnel out of her. Sorin engaged one kryll as it appeared between the machines, and the two clashed weapons as they moved about. Jaka stood in front of Aya with his shield, protecting her as she knelt down to bandage her sword arm. Takua turned his attention to the metal equipment, and he saw more kryll weaving their way towards them, coming closer with every second.
“Takua, get down!” Jaka yelled.
He immediately dropped to the floor as another arrow slammed into the container, puncturing it again. More gas sprayed out, and Takua grimaced as he crawled his way to Jaka, going as fast as he could. His and shoulder pained him, and he noticed that his arms wouldn’t move as fast as he wanted them to. His coordination was off, and he suddenly felt weak. Looking down at his wound, he knew he had to get patched up soon. Blood slowly dripped form his collar, trickling down his chest and staining his armor. He cursed; the loss was starting to affect him.
“Okay, done!” Aya nodded as she tied off her bandage and pulled out her bow.
Ting! An arrow bounced off Jaka’s shield just a second after Takua managed to get behind him, and the Le-Matoran fell over from the impact. “There!” he yelled, pointing between two machines. A kryll stood between them, readying its bow for another attack.
Aya fired her own arrow, and a second later the kryll fell, clutching its arm where the projectile had imbedded itself. There was a moment of silence as the creature writhed, and Aya seized it, running off towards the exit tunnel. “Come on! Now’s our chance!”
Takua followed her and Jaka as fast as he could, but the moment he stood up he felt dizzy. The floor in front of him seemed to slant, and he looked back to his wound. No… he thought to himself. Not now…
Forcing himself to clear his head, he pounded after his friends. They were almost to the exit now, but suddenly two bolts of shadow slammed into the ground in front of them. Rock and dirt erupted from the shockwave, and they were forced to take a few steps backward. Looking over to where Saku and Kokani fought, Takua briefly made eye contact with the Toa of Shadow, who smirked.
He’s not going to let us leave. Takua thought. The Toa of Shadow didn’t miss a thing. Even distracted with Kokani, Saku was aware of everything going on, and he wouldn’t let his prey escape so easily.
A roar caused Takua to turn around, and he flinched as a huge kryll came running at him, battle axe raised high. He fumbled for his weapon, but Aya stepped in just in time, blocking the kryll as its blade came crashing down. The Ga-Matoran retaliated, engaging it as another, more intense spell of lightheadedness crashed over Takua.
He fell to his knees, the cave spinning in circles. He caught a glimpse of Jaka hovering over him, yelling something, but the words didn’t make sense in his head. Hot pain radiated form his wound, and he clutched the arrow as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to force his way back to consciousness.
“Takua, you can’t do this now! You have to get up!”
Jaka’s words reached him and he opened his eyes to see his friend waving his arms at another kryll, trying to divert its attention away from Takua. Twice his size, the monster barreled after Jaka, its sword crashing into his shield as he tried to fight it off.
Takua forced himself back to his feet, making his way to where Raipu still tried to bandage Nika. They were still slumped up against the kryll’s poisonous machine, just a few feet away from where the gas sprayed out. Raipu looked up as he approached. His eyes were wide, full of fear.
“The gas is spreading,” he said nervously as he wrapped another bandage around Nika’s leg. She cried out as he tightened it, and Raipu winced at the sound. “We have to get her out of here.”
Takua nodded, but then he stared at Nika, whose mask was deathly pale. Her wounds bled through her bandages, and tears sat in the corners of her eyes. The sight made Takua sick, and he fell over, suddenly nauseous. His mask hit the cavern floor hard and his vision blurred for a second.
“Takua!?” Raipu yelled. Then more quietly, “Mata Nui, not you too…” He patted Takua on the mask, trying to bring him back to consciousness. His hands were dripping with Nika’s blood, and Takua heard him whisper to himself as his voice started to break. “I can’t do this…I can’t do this…”
Takua screamed at his body. Focus! Come on!
Willing himself back once again, he looked around, trying to clear his head. Saku and Kokani still fought, now dangerously close to the edge of the chasm. Their weapons clashed over and over, but Takua could tell Kokani was tiring. His reactions were slower, his blows not as powerful. But he continued to fight.
He raised his bladed staff and swung three times in quick succession, but Saku blocked every one. He let out a burst of shadow, blinding but not dangerous, and Kokani flinched only for a second. But a second was too long.
The blunt end of Saku’s staff smashed into Kokani and he fell to the ground. Saku spread his arms out, yelling at the Ko-Matoran. “Did you think you could win!?” he sneered.
Stumbling, Kokani struggled to get back up. He held his head as he groped for his fallen staff, but Saku kicked him in the stomach and he was back on the ground, groaning in pain.
“Did you think it would end well for you!?” Saku yelled. “Did you think you could just leave, and there wouldn’t be any consequences?” His armored boot slammed into Kokani’s stomach again. “You betrayed me!”
The Toa of Shadow kicked Kokani again and again. The Ko-Matoran tried to get to his feet, but Saku was relentless. Kokani moaned like a dying rahi with every hit, until Saku finally rested his foot on the ground, giving him a moment of mercy. He pushed himself up to his hands and knees, his chest armor cracked and his breathing heavy.
Then, with speed only Kokani could manage, he whirled to his feet and attacked with his fists, punching Saku in the mask. The Toa stumbled backward, clutching his jaw as he made eye contact with Kokani. There was a flash of steel as Saku retaliated, and Kokani didn’t have time to dodge. He blocked with his forearm, and blade cut into his armor, sinking an inch into the flesh underneath. Kokani grimaced as blood dripped down to his elbow, but he made no sound.
Saku ripped his blade from Kokani, throwing him off balance and allowing himself to rush in. He kneed Kokani in the stomach, and the Ko-Matoran took the full force of the assault, gagging as he fell back to his knees. Another blow to the shoulder and Kokani was down, taking another beating.
Takua watched, wincing as each one of Saku’s blows made impact. No doubt he could end it at any time, but it seemed he didn’t want to. He wanted to watch Kokani suffer. Over and over Saku lashed out, stomping Kokani into the ground, and Takua had to look away.
But then there was Aya, sliding across the cavern floor as she took a blow to the chest, wincing in pain as her burned skin rubbed against the rock. The kryll she fought advanced toward her, clicking its mandibles as it gripped its huge battle axe. Sorin came into view on the other side of the cavern, slowly backing away from two kryll. A deep gash on his forehead spilt blood over his mask, and he limped from an arrow stuck into his calf. Over there was Jaka, just a few dozen feet away, desperately trying to fend off a kryll twice his size. He stood his ground as he blocked an attack, but his shield rang out, wrenching his arm. It fell to the ground, and Jaka looked up at his attacker, defenseless. Even Raipu was doing his part. He hated seeing Nika in pain, and she cried out with every piece of shrapnel he pulled out of her, but still he persevered.
And Takua knelt alone, watching as all of his friends fought for their survival. He watched, trying to stay conscious so that he…so that he could do what?
He looked down at the arrow, sticking out of his collar. He wasn’t fighting. He wasn’t helping. He might as well be unconscious.
Looking back, if he had been paying attention, he could have dodged the arrow. Kokani had even warned him, but he was too slow. He could have had it bandaged up by now, but when Jaka had tried to pull it out, it had been too painful. It was too much for him. He was too weak.
He looked back to see Kokani attempt to grab Saku, only to fall again as Saku dodged and kicked him in the back of the knee. How many times had Kokani saved his life? He didn’t know. What about Aya? Jaka? How far would he have gotten if it weren’t for these Matoran? These strong Matoran protected him, and for what? They didn’t have to be here. He was the one with the Atouri. Matau and Nuju had trusted him to carry it, not them. They were only here because of him.
They were dying because of him.
He clutched the Atouri, staring at his reflection in one of its black faces, and he hated himself. He was weak. He was so weak. He looked up to see Jaka, fighting a kryll twice his size with a dagger the size of a butter knife. He stared at Aya on the ground, rolling frantically as the kryll above her bashed its axe into the floor. He looked to the edge of the chasm, where Saku toyed with Kokani, slowly beating him to death.
And suddenly, Takua wasn’t in the cavern anymore. He was in Po-Koro, where Matoran much braver than him had fought, so that he could flee to safety. He was in Ko-Wahi, where others had banded together to fight the Rahi Nui, so that he could escape. He was in Le-Koro, where he had lost Talim and Matau had given his life, so that he could run away. The realization hit him like a brick wall: all he had ever done was run.
His hatred boiled inside of him. He hated Saku, he hated the kryll, he hated the Atouri and he hated himself. The hatred surged through his veins as he inhaled diluted wisps of the kryll’s gas, twisting and turning into fury. It gave him strength, it gave him purpose.
He’d lost his home, Matau, and Talim because he was too weak, because he was a coward. The thought coursed through him like an infection, spreading until he couldn’t take it anymore. All he had ever done was flee from his problems, while others bailed him out. All of it, this whole time, his whole adventure and his whole life: all he had ever done was run.
Primal, animalistic rage surged through him, and he grabbed the arrow and pulled, slowly tearing it from his collar. Tendons ripped and blood spurted out of him, but he didn’t care. Pain cascaded through his body, and he relished it. It cleared his head, sharpened his vision, and he pulled harder, smiling as an insane sense of bloodlust came over him. He’d never felt more alive.
With one final burst he ripped it out, spraying the floor with his own blood. He felt his heart pumping as he arose, eyes bloodshot, ready for battle. Throwing the broken arrow onto the ground, he drew his sword and took his first step.
Raipu looked up as Takua moved. His eyes darted from the Le-Matoran to the broken arrow, and then back. “…what are you doing?” he asked.
Takua grinned as he rolled his shoulders, letting the red liquid drip freely from his wound. It was warm, delightful, even. He felt no pain, and paused only a moment to answer Raipu’s question before tearing off into the chaos, heading straight for the Toa of Shadow.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Nov 17 2014 - 12:56 PM.
0 user(s) are browsing this forum
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users