Edited by ZOMBI3S, Mar 31 2015 - 11:22 AM.
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, he 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, Mar 31 2015 - 11:35 AM.
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 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 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. But 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, Jan 22 2015 - 11:36 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 them without effort, and his agility amazed Takua. Not 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 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 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 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 said. “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 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, Jan 14 2015 - 06:08 PM.
Posted Jan 15 2015 - 11:50 AM
Chapter 12 - Shadow's Fall
All sound left Takua’s head as he sprinted straight toward Saku. He ignored the chaos around him, keeping his eyes fixed on the Toa as he ran, enraged and yet strangely excited. He yearned for battle. He needed to feel the edge of his sword slicing through flesh, and he needed to feel his enemy’s blood splattering against his mask. Dripping from his open wound, his own blood trickled down his arm before flying off the bend in his elbow, leaving a rough, splattered trail behind him. But none of that really mattered. There was only Saku and him, and the rapidly closing distance between them.
Lowering his weight as he approached, Takua clutched the leather hilt of his weapon, briefly dragging its sharpened tip along the cavern floor as he prepared to strike. Saku was close now, and with all the strength he could muster, Takua raised his arms let the blade fly. The steel sang as it sliced through the air.
But in the last second Saku whirled around, gently placing his own blade in front of Takua’s. The sound of jarring metal echoed throughout the cave, and the two beings stared at one another. Gritting his teeth, Takua pushed against Saku, trying to overpower him. The Toa stared back quietly, a smile starting to form on his mask.
Kokani looked up from where he lay on the ground, finally free of Saku’s wrath. He stared at Takua as he pushed against the Toa, cursing inside his head. Takua didn’t have the strength to put up a fight. Saku would be finished with him in minutes. He started to open his mouth, meaning to tell the Le-Matoran to run, run while he still could, but then he stopped himself.
He saw the look in Takua’s eyes, the anger and excitement on his face. This wasn’t the Takua he knew. Something had changed.
“After all this time, now you choose to fight?” Saku teased.
Takua thrust his neck forward, bashing his brow into Saku’s mask. Stunned, the Toa stumbled backward, and his cocky smile fell away. He looked back to Takua, startled by his aggression, but readied his staff all the same.
“Very well, Takua. Shall we?”
Takua ran at the Toa, not caring what he had to say. He thrust his sword forward and Saku parried, but Takua didn’t let that stop him. Again he attacked, blood pumping through his veins as his rage boiled inside of him. It gave him strength, speed, power, and anything else he could possibly need. He attacked again and again, his blade crashing against Saku’s as the Toa successfully defended against his onslaught.
Takua didn’t mind, however. He was starting to enjoy himself. With every clash of steel he grinned just a little bit more, maddened by his bloodlust. And besides, he could see the calm demeanor fading from Saku’s face. He could see the frustration building up inside the Toa as he found himself matched by a Matoran as weak as him. He lashed out as fast as he could, not allowing Saku any time to counterattack. Spinning around, he put all his weight into his swing, and his sword slammed against Saku’s. The Toa took a step back.
It was such a small, insignificant step. But it meant everything to Takua.
He yelled with renewed vigor as he attacked again, relishing his tiny victory as he let loose a flurry of stabs. The Toa defended himself, but soon found himself being pushed back, ever so slowly.
Takua swung his blade to the side and Saku rolled backward, giving himself a bit of space and a few precious seconds to retaliate. With a twitch of his feet he lunged back at the Matoran, slashing at him from overhead. Takua blocked it, grinning, but he didn’t see Saku’s other hand, which was quickly channeling a bolt of shadow.
Saku shoved the crackling orb into Takua’s stomach, and the Le-Matoran bent over, somehow still managing to hold Saku’s blade in place. The Toa of Shadow grinned, knowing he’d struck a critical hit, but as the seconds passed, Takua did not fall. He stood, unmoving, breathing ever so slightly, until finally Saku recoiled and jumped backward, unnerved by Takua’s reaction.
Inch by inch, Takua raised his head, still grinning with red and inflamed eyes. He let his arms fall loosely to his sides, and as he straightened back up to his full height, he began to laugh.
Saku gaped. This little Le-Matoran, who had never posed any significant threat, now laughed at what should have been a crippling blow. What was going on? Not even Kokani could have had the strength to stand after taking a bolt at such close range, let alone laugh afterward. It challenged everything Saku knew about Takua, about Matoran. And deep down, as Takua’s laughter echoed throughout the cavern, it scared him.
Leaping forward, Takua reestablished his assault, seemingly even faster than before. He swung his blade like a hurricane, coming from nearly all directions at once, and it was all Saku could do just to keep up.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
Steel rang in Saku’s ears as he stepped backward, trying to gain some room to move. But Takua kept up. He continuously pushed him backward, and as the Toa took a moment to take in his surroundings, he realized he was being driven toward the crevasse.
“No!” He cried out, throwing bolt after bolt of shadow. He would not be beaten by the likes of this Matoran. He was the Toa of Shadow! No one could stand up to him!
But with speed no Matoran should have, Takua dodged all of Saku’s attacks. The bolts crackled as they flew past his ears, missing him by inches, and he knew he had Saku on the ropes. It was as if he could read all of the Toa’s moves, as if he knew exactly what he was going to do next.
Again and again he struck, forcing Saku back, step by step, to the edge of the chasm. The unyielding blackness loomed behind the Toa, and Takua could see the frustration on Saku’s mask slowly turning to fear.
He was close now. Just a few more feet. Takua’s smile widened as he attacked with everything he had, his rage fueling his bloodlust, and his bloodlust now fueling his excitement. After all this time, he was so close. Everything Saku had taken away from him, Le-Koro, Matau, Talim…he was about to take it all back.
His blade sliced through the air, and in a last attempt to escape, Saku let out a huge pulse of shadow, draining all light from the cavern. Everything went black.
But it didn’t matter. Takua could still see.
Raising his sword high above his head, he sent it crashing down upon Saku, who barely had time to react. With both arms he raised his staff above his head, and Takua’s sword smashed into it. Jarred, Saku fell to his knees as he lost control of the darkness. Light returned, and Takua raised his weapon once more.
He looked into Saku’s orange eyes for only a moment before bringing down his blade, and with it he brought all his rage, all his bloodlust, all his hatred, and all his sadness. The metal crashed into Saku’s bladed staff, cracking through the handle and shattering the blade.
Time seemed to slow as thousands of pieces of broken steel rained down upon the Toa, glimmering in the dim light as he gazed up at the being standing over him. Saku stared in fear, his eyes trembling behind the Mask of Shadows. Who was this being in front of him? Who was this Matoran that wielded the strength to defeat a Toa? The Atouri hung motionless around his neck, and Takua stared back at him with hollow, hate-filled eyes. It was as if Saku was kneeling in front of Mata Nui himself, preparing to answer for all his crimes, for all his sins.
“Takua…” Saku said quietly. “Please…”
Takua paid no attention to Saku’s plea. Thrusting his free arm forward, he grasped the Toa directly over his heartlight, and the Toa screamed. Energy poured out of him as Takua’s face lit up with a look of sheer joy. Random bolts of shadow erupted from the Matoran, blasting into the cavern’s walls and ceiling, puncturing the metal hulls of the various drilling machines. The attack increased in intensity, until Saku’s scream slowly died out, and all that was left was the look of death upon his face. More and more energy Takua stole from him, until finally, roughly and unceremoniously, he released his grip.
His mask now void of all color, Saku teetered on the edge of the chasm until gravity took its toll, pulling him into the black crevasse. Takua watched him fall, and noticed that his mouth was still moving. He repeated one word, over and over:
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Jan 16 2015 - 11:53 AM.
Posted Feb 18 2015 - 11:41 AM
Chapter 13 - Silence
It was done.
Takua stared as Saku’s body fell into the unending darkness, slowly fading away. No longer would the Toa of Shadow haunt him. No longer would his dreams be tainted with hatred and suffering. He continued to stare at the crevasse long after Saku had disappeared, and he found the silent gloom calming. Slowly, his rage and passion faded, the ability to think returned to him.
He had thought about this moment in the past, and he’d always pictured it as a happy one. At the very least, he should have felt relieved, knowing that such a powerful enemy was vanquished. But he didn’t. Instead, it seemed like part of him had been lost, stolen away, even. Whether that part had been good or bad, he didn’t know, but when it came down to it, he felt nothing. He felt nothing at all.
He watched the blood trickle down his arm, now pooling between his fingers as he gripped the hilt of his sword. The pain in his shoulder gradually returned, along with a new, burning agony in his stomach. Together, his wounds reminded him that he was still alive. He was very much alive. He looked at his other hand, the same hand that had clutched Saku’s heartlight just a few moments ago. His fingers moved just as they always had, and it seemed that nothing had changed.
But it had. The realization welled up inside him. Mata Nui, it had. He stared at his hand, in shock at what it –no, what he- had done. His breathing quickened as he remembered how good it had felt, how wonderful it had seemed to steal a spirit, to banish a soul to the void. Just as Saku had done to Talim, he had done to Saku.
Mata Nui, what have I done?
His eyes widened in fear as he stared at his hand and started to shake. How did he do that? How did he have that power? All the rage, all the bloodlust, where had it come from!? The strength and speed it had given him…his thoughts paused as he remembered taking a shadow bolt to the stomach, and then laughing about it. Had that really happened? Was he going insane?
Mata Nui, what am I!?
He felt a hand on his shoulder and he whirled around, terrified. Jaka looked at him as calmly as he could, but Takua could tell there was distress behind his eyes. Takua stared back at him, shaking form head to toe, not sure of anything anymore.
“We have to go,” Jaka swallowed.
Takua didn’t move. “…h-how did I do that, Jaka?”
“I don’t know.”
Takua looked back to his hands. “…what am I?”
Jaka swallowed again. “We have to go.”
Looking around, Takua saw the true extent of what he had done. The shadow bolts he had released had torn apart the carven and the machines, leaving crumbling rock and shredded metal. The kryll’s contraption was broken beyond repair, and the infectious gas sprayed out of it, quickly forming a cloud of grey-green Madness. Even the kryll knew that there was no going back. They had stopped attacking the others and were shouting to each other, trying to figure out what to do.
Takua stared in shock. He had doomed them all. “I’m so sorry…”
A huge crack sounded above them, and the two Le-Matoran looked up at the cavern’s ceiling. A fissure ran along it, slowly spreading. It seemed the structure of the rock had been damaged, and there was no telling how much time they had until it collapsed.
“Look,” Jaka said. “Weird stuff happens. I get it. But this place is falling apart because of whatever you just did.”
But Takua wasn’t paying attention. He stared at his hands with wide eyes, shuddering, not comprehending the urgency of the situation.
“Look at me!” Jaka yelled, forcing Takua’s attention back. He placed a hand on his shoulder and stared in his eyes for a moment before continuing. “What just happened was scary, I’ll admit it. But you’re still my friend.” The ceiling above them cracked again, this time even louder. “Come on. Let’s get the karzhanni out of here.”
Quietly, Takua nodded. Sheathing his sword, he applied pressure to his wound as Jaka put an arm around him, supporting him in case his strength should fail. Turning toward the tunnel opening that would lead them to the next lockdown room, they ran.
With the kryll shouting at each other, trying desperately to repair their machine, there was nothing to stop them from escaping but the cavern itself. The cloud of Madness quickly spread, coating the cavity in a poisonous haze. Dust fell from the ceiling, obscuring their vision and threatening a larger collapse. Aya ran over to Kokani, and the two supported each other. Sorin, already close to the exit, limped his way into the tunnel, leading the way towards safety.
“Come on, this way!” he yelled as the ceiling cracked above him. He covered his head as dust rained down.
“Go!” Kokani yelled as he and Aya caught up to him, coughing as the poison in the air thickened. “Start the lockdown!”
Takua opened his mouth to object, but before he could clear his throat Sorin was already on the way, moving as fast as he could with his injured leg. Starting the lockdown before everyone was through the doors scared Takua. What if they didn’t make it in time? They’d be trapped outside, susceptible to the spreading gas.
But as he thought about it, he came to realize it was the only way. If the poison reached the control room before it was sealed, it wouldn’t matter which side of the doors they were on.
They turned into the narrow tunnel, barely able to see Kokani and Aya, even though they were just a few feet ahead. Dust hung in the air, mixing with the poison, and Takua’s lungs started to heave as he inhaled the fumes. It was getting worse.
But suddenly, Jaka stopped, pulling Takua to a halt. He looked behind them, scanning what little he could see of the cavern before turning to Takua. “Where’s Raipu? And Nika?”
Clutching his shoulder, Takua turned around. He strained his eyes to see through the toxic fog, but only the dark outlines of the drilling machines stood out. He cursed as he held his breath. They didn’t have time to wait.
Then, with the sound of rolling thunder, a huge chunk of rock fell from the ceiling, crashing to a halt where Takua knew the kryll’s machine to be. The shockwave almost knocked the two Matoran over, and with it came a stronger wave of gas. The grey-green fumes swirled around them, and they doubled over, wheezing as their bodies tried to reject the poison.
“Raipu!” Takua yelled out between gasps. “Where are you!?”
Then, a glimmer of hope: “I’m coming!” The voice sounded far away, but it was strong. At least the Matoran wasn’t hurt.
Looking back to Jaka, Takua nodded. Picking themselves up, Jaka placed his arm around Takua’s shoulder once more, and they headed for the control room. They ran as fast as they could, but Takua’s injuries were starting to catch up with him. His strength from his fight was gone, and it took all his willpower to ignore the pain radiating through his body. He started to feel faint, no doubt from his loss of blood, but Jaka’s support helped. His steps slowed and his lungs burned, but he knew there was only a little more to go.
Slowly, the rumbling of falling rocks grew quieter, and the gas thinned out. Little by little, they made their way to safety, knowing that Raipu and Nika were only a little ways behind them. Everything Onu-Wahi and Illum had put them through, it was slowly coming to an end. Soon, they would be free of this place. All of its lies, its pain, its darkness, all of it would soon be over.
Just a little bit more… Takua bit his lip as he willed himself forward. Just a bit more…
The sound of whirring gears reached their ears, and they knew they had to be close. There! Just a few dozen feet ahead, the cavern gave way to a heavy metal door, slowly creaking its way down from the ceiling. It seemed Sorin had just started the process, as it was still mostly open. Takua breathed a sigh of relief; Raipu and Nika still had time.
Ducking under the descending metal, they ran a few dozen feet more, until finally turning a corner and collapsing onto the floor of the control room. Coughing, wheezing, and in pain, they took the moment to rest, knowing that they had done it. They had beaten the collapse and the spread of the gas, and soon the doors would close. They would be safe.
Takua looked up as Aya put her arms around him, gently pulling him towards the wall. She propped him up and pulled out a cloth, folding it into a long rectangle before tying it tightly around his open wound. It hurt, but he knew it was necessary. He watched as the bandage quietly soaked up his blood, and then looked up at her.
Aya’s stern face surprised him. Her eyes were dull, and she said nothing as she turned around to check on Jaka. It was only then that Takua truly realized the extent of his actions. Jaka would always trust him, but as for everyone else…well, however they felt still remained to be said.
“Where’s Raipu?” Kokani asked. He knelt in the corner, breathing heavily as he clutched his cracked armor. The battle had taken its toll on him, clearly.
“He should be right behind us,” Jaka said in reply
As if on cue, the Po-Matoran appeared in the doorway, looking distraught. Quickly he scanned the room, and what little light he had in his eyes vanished. “No, no…” he shook his head. “Where’s Nika? She’s not here?”
Takua looked up at the sound of his panicked voice, and his heart sank. Nika wasn't with him?
“Wasn’t she with you?” Jaka asked.
“She was!” Raipu’s breathing grew more and more jagged, and he almost couldn’t get out the words. “The ceiling collapsed, and we got separated. I called out to her, and I thought I heard her ahead of me…” He clutched the sides of his head in distress, looking around frantically. “She’s not here!?”
Kokani shook his head, and Raipu cursed. Without warning he turned around, heading back the way he had come.
“Raipu!” Jaka yelled after him, but the Po-Matoran didn’t answer.
He ran back through the tunnel, stopping at the lockdown door, horrified to see it was already two thirds of the way closed. He got to the ground, yelling Nika’s name, searching the foggy air beyond the door for her.
“Nika!” he screamed. “Are you there!?”
There were a few moments of silence, but then, like a ghost, the shape of a Matoran appeared out of the expanding gas. It hobbled along, dragging one injured leg behind it, trying desperately to keep moving. Nika’s pained voice reached his ears, quiet and sad.
“Raipu…” she said, weakly raising a finger to point at the slowly closing door. “The door…”
“I’ll hold it open!” Raipu sprung to his feet, grabbing onto the metal and pulling upward, trying to stop it from closing. “You can do it, Nika! Just a little bit more!”
The gears whirred, grinding as they pushed against Raipu’s strength. He could hold it, but not for long. Inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, the door closed, no matter how hard he tried.
And Nika, still a dozen feet away, saw it. Only a few feet tall, the opening would soon be too small for her to fit through. “Raipu…” she coughed as the gas slowly caught up to her. “I can’t…”
“You can! You have to!” He turned his head around, screaming so that everyone else could her him. “Stop the lockdown! Nika won’t make it!”
His voice reverberated down the tunnel and into the control room, bouncing off the metal and reaching everyone’s ears. Takua looked around, horrified at the thought, but even more scared when he saw that no one was moving. Sorin stood in the corner of the room, crossing his arms as he bit on the tip of his thumb. The colored lights mounted on the walls flashed around him, illuminating his quiet, expressionless eyes.
“What are you doing!?” Takua blurted out. “You heard him, you have to stop it!”
“I can’t,” Sorin said quietly.
“What do you mean you can’t!?”
“I told you the last time. It’s how the system is designed. Once you start it, it won’t stop, no matter what.”
Takua remembered. He just didn’t want to believe it. This couldn’t be happening. He looked around frantically for someone to speak up, but nothing came. This couldn’t be happening!
“Well we have to do something!” Jaka yelled.
But still, no one moved. Kokani squatted in his corner, still trying to fight through the pain of his injuries. Aya stood quietly against the opposite wall, fidgeting ever so slightly, unsure what to do. Seconds passed, and no one spoke. The only sound came from the gears, clanking and whirring all around them.
“What can we do, Jaka?” Aya asked.
Raipu’s voice sounded again, echoing from down the tunnel. “Please! I can’t hold it! Stop the lockdown! Please!”
Takua turned to Sorin. “Well maybe you can’t stop it, but you can open it back up once it’s finished, right?”
Sorin was quiet for a moment, but slowly, he nodded.
“Then we have to do that!”
“Please, she’ll be trapped out there!” Raipu’s voice echoed.
But again, no one said a word. Takua looked at Jaka, then Aya, then Kokani for an answer, but no one had anything. And suddenly, all at the same time, the gears stopped whirring. There was the sound of metal hitting metal, and gas being pressurized. Sorin winced at the sound, and Takua knew that it was done. The doors had sealed them in, and Nika was on the other side.
The sound of Raipu’s fists banging against the door reached them. “Open the door!”
“You have to open it back up! There’s too much gas out there, it won’t just infect her; it’ll kill her!” Jaka yelled, breaking the silence.
Finally Kokani spoke up. “Yes, and it’s spreading fast. Anyone who goes out there will be killed too.”
“She’s literally on the other side of the door! It would just take a second!”
Sorin's face was emotionless. “You know how long it takes those doors to open. By the time we get them sealed again, it would be too late.”
“We can’t just leave her!”
“Let me do it,” Takua said.
“You’re not going anywhere," Sorin was quick to retort.
“Look, I never got the chance to tell you, but the reason I ran from Illum’s palace in the first place was because I was infected,”
It was still for moment as all eyes turned to Takua. Aya furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I went into his study to ask him some questions, and he had a canister full of that gas. He kept on staring at it, telling me that it was the perfect amount to infect a Matoran. It could change them in minutes. He smashed it in my face, and I inhaled almost all of it.”
“And why should we believe you?” Sorin snapped. “You’re just a truthful Matoran with shadow powers, right? Thanks for letting us know about that.”
“Hey, you back off!” Jaka retorted. “None of this is his fault!”
“We don’t have time to argue!” Takua cut them off. “Look, believe what you want about me, but you found me in those tunnels because I was screaming.” He paused, waiting for a response, but none came. “I went Mad. I saw the darkness take over my mind, I heard the voice of Makuta. But I’m not infected.”
“Everyone who goes Mad becomes infected.”
“I know it doesn’t make any sense. And I don’t know why, or how, but all of you saw what I did to Saku. What I did, why I’m not infected…” he trailed off, thinking of the right words. “…maybe it’s connected. Maybe something happened, and that’s why I’m immune. Maybe I’m different somehow.”
He looked around the room, but no one seemed to be able to respond. They stared at the ground and winced as Raipu’s screams echoed once more. “Please! You have to open the door!”
“If anyone is going out there, it should be me,” Takua finished.
Only the far-off sound of Raipu’s pounding fists reached them, and still they stood in silence. The lights flashed all around, casting long shadows onto the iron walls.
And slowly, Aya spoke up. She slumped her shoulders and looked at Takua with sad, desperate eyes. “Even if you’re right, even if you’re special, or immune, or whatever....what about us? You open that door, the gas comes in, and maybe you can escape it, but we can’t.” She stopped, as if struggling to pull the words out of her throat. Her voice was uneven and emotional, but she continued all the same. “And I hate to say this, I really do, but everyone is thinking it, and whether we like it or not, it’s the truth.” She let her arms fall to her sides as she shook her head, ever so slightly. “It’s either her, or all of us.”
Takua stared in disbelief, but her gaze was unyielding. He stammered, trying to come up with a response. "No..." he murmured. "No...you have to let me go!" He looked over to Kokani, and then to Sorin, but neither of them made eye contact. "I can't accept that..."
Aya bent her knees, allowing her back to slide down the wall until she sat on the floor. Her mask, scratched and chipped from all her battles, looked defeated. "We have to."
Speechless, Takua looked around the room again, stopping at Jaka. Surely Jaka had something to say? Surely someone could think of something? They couldn't just leave her out there! "I can't..." he looked back to Aya. "Please...please don't make me accept that..."
But Aya didn't answer. She crossed her arms and lowered her head into the crook of her elbow. She had no more words.
And slowly it began to sink in. Takua's eyes continued to flick around the room, searching for something, anything that would help. But gradually, little by little, he came to know reality. There was nothing they could do. Nothing. He stared off into the distance as the horrible truth filled him up. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. But it was, horribly, unequivocally true. All they could do was wait.
This can't be happening...
And the minutes ticked by. Eventually, the sound of Raipu banging against the door faded, and everyone was left alone to think. They thought about what they had done, and what it truly meant. They had made the choice, and there was no going back. Guilt hung in the room, eating away at their hearts, tearing them up inside. They could say that on some level they didn’t really have a choice, but inside they knew they did. And that’s what hurt the most to Takua: they hadn’t even tried.
This can't be real...
Sorin and Kokani were probably right, if they had opened the door, all of them would’ve shared the same fate, but…Takua racked his brain, sinking his mask into his hands. But, what if? Wasn’t there a chance? Wasn’t that chance worth fighting for? He should’ve done more. He should’ve ran out there and helped Raipu hold the door. He should’ve forced Sorin to tell him how to open it. He should’ve never fought Saku and put them in this position. He should’ve….he should’ve….
Takua gritted his teeth. He should’ve stayed in Le-Koro.
Why did this have to happen!?
He'd come this far, and after everything that had come to pass, he still felt that nothing had changed. He was still weak. He still wasn't good enough. And still, he hated himself.
Takua wasn’t sure how much time passed. It could have been minutes, or hours, but it felt like days. He could only picture Nika, trapped on the other side of the door as the Madness took over her mind. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad for her. Maybe she would be spared the visions of shadows coming alive, and demons hiding all around her. Maybe she wouldn’t hear the voice of Makuta, but rather slip calmly, peacefully, into the blackness.
But he knew this wasn’t the case. Deep down, he knew. Nika would see the darkness erupt around her, she would see true chaos, and she would be terrified. Only for her, there would be no release. There would be no coming back to the light. The darkness would consume her, and in the end, her only escape would be death.
Maybe it was better that way.
Finally, Takua couldn’t take it anymore. He pushed himself to his feet, breaking the dead silence, moving for the tunnel entrance. Every step seemed to echo. Every breath seemed to howl like the wind. Clutching his wounds, he turned into the tunnel, making his way to where he knew Raipu would be. It was dark here, and it seemed right that way. This tunnel belonged in the darkness. Takua moved forward, inching his way along, until finally he could make out the shape of the Po-Matoran, just a few feet in front of him. He sat with his back against the wall, resting his head against the door. With one hand he pulled his knees close to his chest, and with the other he rubbed the metal barrier, as if trying to comfort it.
And then Takua heard his voice. It was a quiet whisper, insecure and lonely. With his eyes closed and tears streaming down his cheeks, Raipu whispered to the door. Maybe he thought that Nika would be able to hear him through the thick metal. Or maybe it was just all the Po-Matoran could do right now. Either way, Takua knew the truth: Nika couldn’t hear him. She was gone. She had probably been gone for a while now.
Takua watched Raipu as he sat alone, whispering to the metal door. He thought about saying something, but he knew that nothing would help. He knew that when everything was said and done, he had caused this. It all was his fault.
His nerve failed him, and unable to bear it anymore, he turned around without saying a word. Raipu’s voice reached his ears for only second before he was out of range, once again surrounded by silence.
“It’s going to be okay, Nika…it’s going to be okay…”
Takua looked at his bloody hands.
Mata Nui, what have I become?
~End of Part IV~
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Mar 31 2015 - 11:49 AM.
Posted Mar 06 2015 - 05:07 PM
Chapter 1 - Moving Forward
The water gurgled as it rushed over Krosis’ feet, washing away the dirt and grime from his armor. He stood just beyond the moss-covered grey boulders that marked the river’s edge, thinking quietly as the fog swirled around him. It hung in the air, floating between the trees, holding with it the kind of silence that only a dawn in the wilderness can bring.
The outskirts of Ga-Wahi were peaceful, tranquil even, but the scenery had little effect on Krosis’ mind. He stared at the flowing water as he tried to calm himself, but deep down there was anger. It glowed like the embers of a doused fire, smothered, but ready to flare to life the moment they were uncovered. The source of his anger was a piece of parchment, now clutched and crumpled between his claws. A courier had delivered it to him the previous night, and now he awaited its dispatcher.
The brush behind him rustled as a figure appeared, stepping onto the riverbank. Noruk’s bronze armor glinted in the dull, early-morning light, his mandibles twitching. He stared at Krosis for a second, unsure how to start, but the moment he opened his mouth the King of the Kryll cut him off.
“I assume you came here to explain the contents of your report?” Krosis’ voice was deep and calm, but Noruk could sense the anger hiding beneath it.
He nodded. “I felt it was something that should be discussed in person.”
Krosis turned around slowly, his eyes narrow and his face stern. “My finest engineers, a patrol of guards, the machine we were going to use to infect Onu-Koro, along with hundreds of shipments of gas,” Krosis paused, letting the words sink in. “All lost in a collapse caused by the very Matoran I wanted you to capture. Correct?”
Noruk stared straight ahead. “Yes.”
“Those kryll spent months designing and building that contraption. It would have given us control of our second city. That would have been one third of the island.”
At first Noruk did not respond, but Krosis’ silence left him scrambling to come up with something. “We should have sent more guards…”
And Krosis’ anger erupted. “I sent you!” he screamed as he threw Noruk’s report into the water. “My own kin! My strongest warrior! What guards do we have to spare, Noruk!? From which front should I have pulled soldiers to help you accomplish your mission!?”
Noruk was silent as Krosis fumed. The golden-armored kryll stared at him with balled fists, breathing heavily as he slowly regained his composure. Eventually, he leaned back and sat on a boulder, staring at the water again. Its cool temperature soothed him, and he looked back to Noruk.
“Do you know how many warriors we lost in the battle for Po-Koro?”
Noruk shook his head.
“More than a thousand. And about half of them were killed by Pohatu alone. Since then, I’ve received word that our forward camp in Ko-Wahi was destroyed by an avalanche, no doubt the work of Kopaka. Only a handful out of hundreds survived. And now we’ve lost what little foothold we had in Onu-Wahi as well.” Krosis shook his head. “Our forces are being torn apart by six beings. Six beings that fell from the sky.”
Noruk was quiet. He had something else to tell Krosis, something he hadn’t mentioned in his report. But he didn’t know how to approach it. "Illum is still in power."
Krosis scoffed. "Not for long. Even if our agreement stays hidden, there is still unrest in his city. He does not have the resources to support his and Po-Koro's people. He will cling to his power, but give him a month and his reign will topple." He shook his head. “Where were you when all of this happened? How is it that you escaped?”
“I was in a deeper tunnel, dealing with a Toa.”
This caught Krosis’ attention. He looked up, suddenly very curious. “And?”
“The Earth-Toa was onto our operation. I led him off our trail, and managed to trap him behind a lava flow. It bought us time, but when I returned to the others, everything was already over. Only two of the guards survived.”
“Was the Toa of Shadow not there?” Krosis asked. “I was under the impression that he would handle any threat caused by the other Toa.”
And Noruk fidgeted. There was no avoiding it now. “I made a point not to mention the Toa of Shadow in my report.”
“And why is that?”
“The two that survived the collapse, they saw everything. It doesn't make any sense, but they both swear by their words…” he trailed off.
Krosis narrowed his eyes. “…go on.”
“They say that the Le-Matoran, the one who holds the Atouri…” he paused, readying himself again for Krosis’ wrath. “They say that the Matoran killed Saku. With shadow powers.”
Krosis stared blankly for a second, as if trying to comprehend the words. But then, much to Noruk’s surprise, there was no outburst of anger. Krosis looked back to the water in silence, and slowly began to chuckle. He shook his head, half-smiling as he looked back to his companion.
“Well, it seems we have work to do.”
Raipu was gone.
Takua sat with his knees against his chest as everyone else argued. No one had seen the Po-Matoran leave. No one had heard him go. But that wasn’t really surprising. Raipu had grown very quiet over the last few days.
It was understandable. He’d lost everything. First Le-Koro, then Po-Koro, and then finally Nika, the one Matoran he cared about most. Takua sighed. Raipu might have considered him a friend in the beginning of their journey, but that probably wasn’t the case anymore. The events in the Motara desert had soiled their relationship, and it was only downhill from there. No one had let him fight for Po-Koro, and then they had made the choice to leave Nika. They had sealed her fate.
Actually, now that he thought about it, Takua remembered Raipu leaving. It was late last night and he was half asleep at the time, but he could clearly picture the Po-Matoran staring at them, his bag all packed up and ready to go, his mask emotionless. He had only whispered one thing before he turned and left:
I don’t know who you are anymore.
Takua had thought it was a dream at the time, but now he knew it was real. Raipu was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. And to be honest, Takua didn’t blame him.
He stared at the blue sky, not listening to anything the others said. They were trying to figure out what to do. Should they go after the Po-Matoran? Where would he have gone? Would he come back? Takua crossed his arms. Whatever. He couldn’t find it in himself to care anymore.
Raipu hadn’t wanted to leave the lockdown door. He had stayed there, whispering to it for hours, clinging to it as if it was the only thing keeping him alive. But eventually, through consoling, convincing, and even a little force, they had left the control room, taking some elevator that Sorin managed to get working. They had hoped it would take them to the surface, but instead they were met with another tunnel, albeit much closer to the ground level.
As soon as he got his bearings, Sorin had lead them in the direction of Ga-Wahi. The tunnel was some sort of abandoned trade route, and eventually, after what might have been a day or two, it led them to the surface. It felt wonderful to see the sky again, and the wet foliage of western Ga-Wahi welcomed them with open arms. There, at the entrance to the tunnel, they had made camp, letting their bodies relax and their wounds heal.
The plan had been to rest up for the next day, which would be spent replenishing their supplies, finding out exactly where they were, and starting their journey toward Ga-Koro once more. But apparently Raipu had other plans.
Takua couldn’t shake his melancholy. He sat on the damp ground, staring at the trees as the sun traveled across the sky. Eventually the others stopped their debate and went about with the rest of their duties. Jaka went to a nearby stream to catch some fish, Aya went off to scout the area, Kokani gathered firewood, Sorin packed his bags, and Takua was tasked with…
“Wait, what?” Takua looked up at Sorin as the Po-Matoran said something to him. They were the only two left in the clearing.
“Just…” Sorin paused. “Were you just paying any attention at all?”
“…just stay here and guard the campsite.”
Sorin stood awkwardly with his pack strapped to his shoulders, looking around at the small camp. He scratched the back of his head. “Look, I’m sorry about the stuff I said back in the control room. I think you’re a good Matoran when it comes down to it, and I really wish you the best of luck.”
Takua looked at him quizzically. “Thanks, I guess.”
Sorin puffed air out of his lungs. “Well…see you.”
He went off, and Takua still sat there with his back against a tree, unmoving, unable to sooth his mind. He thought about Nika’s body, broken and alone, sitting in the middle of an unnamed tunnel a hundred feet beneath the ground. It wasn’t right.
And he thought about Saku. The one being who might have been able to tell him how to save Talim was banished to the void, at his own hands. He took the Atouri off his neck and stared at it, trying to comprehend how it was possible. Did the Atouri’s darkness rub off on him? Was he still infected? Nothing made sense anymore. It was all so…so…stupid.
They were in Ga-Wahi now, so Ga-Koro couldn’t be that far away. He could give the Atouri to Turaga Nokama and be on his way. They could do whatever they wanted with it. The Seventh Toa could be summoned, they could do their Toa magic, save the world…all that stuff. But he was done. If he’d learned anything, it was that the farther he traveled the more he lost, and he was sick of it. He didn’t even know who he was anymore, and that just sucked.
Suddenly there was a bowl in his face, filled with rice and fish. Jaka looked down at him, offering it with his right hand. “Eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
Jaka pushed the bowl closer until it was literally touching Takua’s mask. “You haven’t eaten all day. Eat it, you turd.”
Reluctantly, Takua took the bowl, just now realizing that the sun was setting. Kokani had made a small fire, and their bedrolls were spread out evenly around it, completing the small but comfortable camp. Aya and Kokani were already eating, and as Jaka sat down beside him Takua looked around for the fifth member of their party.
“Where’s Sorin?” he asked.
Everyone stopped eating. They looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
Slowly, Aya turned toward him. “…Sorin’s gone, Takua. He didn’t say goodbye to you?”
“He went back to Onu-Koro. His people are there, and he means to be with them while Illum is in control of the city.”
“And if Raipu went anywhere, it’s probably where the rest of the Po-Matoran are, right?” Jaka explained. “Sorin’s going to keep an eye out for him, so we can continue on. Did you miss all of that earlier?”
Takua looked down at his food. “I guess I did.”
So that was it then. It was just the four of them. He slumped his shoulders as he picked at his rice. He hadn’t known Sorin very long, but the Po-Matoran had done a lot to help them. And Takua had been so caught up in himself, he hadn’t even realized it when he was trying to say goodbye.
Stupid. He thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“...are you okay, Takua?” Jaka asked.
“No I’m not okay!” Takua snapped, standing up suddenly and throwing his dinner to the ground, startling everyone. “I killed Nika! I killed Saku with shadow powers! I stole his spirit! What kind of Matoran can do that!? What kind of person am I!?”
Whirling around, he slammed his fist into the tree behind him, breathing heavily for a moment before he plopped his forehead against its trunk. His unexpected surge of frustration waned, and he sank slowly to the ground, pain radiating from his fist. Angry and embarrassed at himself, he fell to his knees.
No one moved. Takua cradled his hand, flexing his bleeding knuckles. No doubt everyone thought he was crazy now. Why would he punch a tree? That was so dumb. His hand hurt a lot.
“I’m sorry I threw the dinner you made, Jaka,” he apologized
“It’s okay, we have more.”
His back turned to everyone else, Takua listened to the crackling fire, expecting someone to say something. Eventually, it came from Aya.
“All of us killed Nika. We all made that decision, and we all abided by it. All of us are to blame.”
Takua shook his head. “It would have never happened if I hadn’t caused the collapse.”
“And if you hadn’t, all of us would be captured or killed by now.”
Takua sucked on his busted hand, trying to stop it from bleeding. He hadn’t thought about that.
“And you saved Onu-Koro in the process!” Jaka chimed in. “A whole city, saved from infection because of you."
Maybe they’re right. Takua thought as he stared at the tree in front of him. But then again, he also knew why he had done it. His anger hadn’t come from a need to protect Onu-Koro or his friends. His rage, and thus his power, had come from hating himself. And what did that have to say about him?
“Nothing is black and white, Takua.” Kokani’s voice was quiet, but his words carried weight. “Sometimes we do good things for the wrong reasons, and sometimes we do horrible things for what we believe is right. None of us can change the past. All we can do is learn from it, and try to better ourselves for the future.”
Kokani’s words stuck inside Takua’s head, and he remembered what Saku had told them about the Ko-Matoran. The two had been close once, working as assassins. Kokani had done horrible things under the name of Makuta, no doubt. But whatever those deeds were, Kokani didn’t let them define who he was.
“Wow,” Aya broke the silence. “That’s some deep stuff, Turaga Kokani. Any more wisdom you can bestow on us lowly Matoran?”
Kokani rolled his eyes and leaned back on his sleeping mat.
“But seriously,” Aya chuckled. She picked a twig from the ground and tossed it at Takua. With a light tap it hit him on the shoulder, and he turned to look at her. “I’ve never met a Matoran with shadow powers before, and that might be a little weird, but I know you, Takua. And whatever you are, however you came to be, you’re still you. And that’s all I care about.”
Takua looked at her as the orange firelight flickered across her mask. He didn’t know what to say.
“And you!” Aya picked up another twig and threw it at Kokani, hitting him in the mask. “Whatever you did with Makuta or Saku or whoever, I don’t care. I feel like you owe us an explanation, but if you don’t want to, whatever! That’s fine with me. You taught me everything I know. You’ve gotten us this far and saved our sorry butts too many times to count. So you’re all good in my book.”
Kokani didn’t say a word, but he nodded slightly, and Takua could tell it was a weight of the Ko-Matoran’s shoulders.
“It’s just us four now, and I won’t have you acting weird all the time,” Aya continued. She looked at the fire for a second, letting the heat bath her mask. Then, quietly, she went on. “You guys are all I have.”
It was calm again, and Takua eventually turned around to look back at the fire. Night had taken over, and the moon shone dimly through the leaves above them. Crickets and cicadas chirped, giving sound to the night, and the dim gurgling of a stream reached his ears as well. All was well in the wilderness, and the more Takua sat there, the more he came to realize how good it felt to be back on the surface of Mata Nui.
Clearly, he need some closure. He had too many questions that needed answered, too many that issues needed to be worked out, but for now, all he could do was keep going. The past was the past, and while it hurt in many different ways, all he could do was try and learn from it.
Suddenly, there was a bowl in Takua’s face, filled once again with a steaming pile of fish and rice. Jaka stood above him, pressing it against his mask. “Eat,” he said calmly.
Takua accepted. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. “Thanks, Jaka.”
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Apr 01 2015 - 09:44 AM.
Posted Mar 30 2015 - 03:04 PM
Chapter 2 - The Wild
Takua knelt at the entrance to the tunnel, holding a large oblong stone against the ground in front of him. Bending over it, he worked with his dagger, slowly scraping into its hard surface. It was hard work, and his arm was beginning to tire, but he was almost done.
It was mid-morning, and the others were still back at camp, packing their bags and making sure everything was in order, but Takua was way ahead of them. His bag sat against a tree just a few feet away, already cleaned and inventoried and set for the journey ahead. He’d been sitting here for hours now, carving into the stone, making sure he would have enough time to finish it before they left. He’d learned long ago that Kokani wasn’t one to keep a flexible schedule.
And so he worked, scraping away at the stone, bit by bit, granule by granule. Sweat began to cover his brow as the humidity of Ga-Wahi ramped up, but that didn’t stop him. He paused only a second to shake out his tiring arm, and he heard someone come up behind him.
“You ready to go?” Jaka asked. “Kokani says we’re leaving in ten minutes.”
“Almost,” Takua replied, biting his lip.
“What are you doing anyway? You’ve been playing with that rock for hours.”
“It’s just a project.”
“Can I see it?”
Takua briefly moved out of the way and Jaka peered over his shoulder. It only took him a moment to understand.
“Oh…well…I’ll let you finish.”
Jaka pushed his way through the brush, leaving Takua alone again. He worked just a bit more, carving into the stone, using all his strength to make sure the markings were deep enough. Finally, he took a step back, admiring his work.
It definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was the best he could do. He bent over, digging a shallow hole in the dirt. The ground was soft, and it stuck to his fingers as he hollowed out a space just large enough for the rock to sit in.
That’s probably deep enough, he thought. Actually, would it be? Yeah. Probably. Maybe just a little more.
He sunk his hands into the earth, ignoring the sound of his name coming from the campsite. The others must be ready. Finally deciding that the hole was fine, he went back over to his rock. Gripping the oval-shaped boulder by its end, he lifted, straining as gravity fought against him. He rocked it back and forth, slowly moving its base until it slumped into the hole. Then, digging his feet into the ground behind him, he pushed until it stood upward, pointing toward the sky. Taking a second to make sure it was stable, he let it go, and the rock stood on its own.
“Takua, you ready or not? Come on!” Aya’s voice reached him.
“Just a minute!”
He packed dirt around its base, securing the stone in its position. Once finished, he gave it a solid push, and the stone didn’t budge. Satisfied, he stepped back, looking at the finished product.
“It looks good.”
Jaka’s voice came from beside him, and Takua saw his friend holding a handful of freshly picked water lilies. He walked up to the stone, placed the flowers at its base, and stood there for a moment in silence. Then, without a word, he turned around and left, pausing only a second to pat Takua on the shoulder.
And again, Takua was alone. He stared at the stone, standing upright in the ground. He knew it was time to go.
I’m so sorry.
Grabbing the strap of his pack, he turned to follow Jaka, leaving the stone to guard the entrance to the tunnel. It stood as a lone sentry, forever standing, forever watching, forever serving as a memorial to a life cut short. The light shone through the trees, illuminating the simple words Takua had etched into it:
In memory of Nika.
A good Matoran,
A good friend.
The four continued on their journey, slowly making their way across the land. Their time in Onu-Wahi had sheltered them from events happening on the surface, but it quickly became clear that the battle for Po-Koro had spurred an all-out war. Every once and a while they would come across the remnants of a military camp, or the ruins of a razed village. Trails left by armies crisscrossed the land, leaving trampled brush and muddy terrain in their wake. It all served as a constant reminder of the turmoil that plagued the island of Mata Nui. Nowhere was truly safe.
And so they stuck to the deep wild, avoiding any village or camp they might come across. Where there were Matoran, there would be kryll, and stopping in to replenish their supplies simply wasn’t worth the risk. They survived off of the land, hunting for food, drinking from streams, and sleeping under the cover of leaves and mosses. The war raged on, and they isolated themselves, avoiding as much of it as possible.
But much of Ga-Wahi was left untouched, and those portions were very beautiful. Willows, banyans, and eucalyptus trees lived in harmony, and along the edges of rivers mangroves were found, twisting their roots around each other. Flowering shrubs and mosses covered the ground, and the soil was rich, moist and soft. Brightly colored birds perched in the trees above them, Hoi turtles sunbathed on the rocks, and all around them was the sound of life, flourishing.
And of course, being Ga-Wahi, there was always water.
Countless streams, rivers, and marshes dotted the land, and it rained often. Almost every day the clouds opened up to pour down their life-giving nectar, whether it was a thunderstorm or a drizzle. Ponds and puddles gathered between the roots of large trees, providing an ever-present source of drinking water for the traveling Matoran. It was clear, cool, soothing, and healing.
And Takua loved it. The water, the foliage, even the humidity reminded him of home. He spent many hours of the day walking in silence, lost in his own thoughts, staring at the branches of the banyan trees as they reached down, yearning to establish new roots in the soil. How long had these trees sat here, slowly growing toward the sky? Hundreds of years? Thousands? He hadn’t realized it, but he’d deeply missed the cover that the forest provided.
The days passed, and slowly, wounds from Onu-Wahi began to heal. The pain in his shoulder eventually faded, and one rainy afternoon as they had stopped for lunch, Takua unwrapped his injury and found nothing but a scar. He looked at the discolored flesh just above his chest armor, about two inches in length and one in width.
Another one for the collection, he thought.
“Nice scar,” Aya said from where she sat a few feet away. “Want to compare?” she shifted her armor, revealing the now-healed flesh on her side. The scar tissue was discolored and striated; truly an awful sight.
“Ew!” Takua recoiled at the sight of it. “Alright, you win! Put that away!”
Aya lifted her arm so she could look at it. “I think it looks cool.”
Takua smiled and shook his head. “You’re weird.”
Aya was about to retort when Kokani’s hand went up. Instantly everyone went quiet, listening for whatever it was that had caught the Ko-Matoran’s attention. Takua closed his eyes, focusing his energy on his ears.
Thump, thump, thump…
Footsteps. Heavy footsteps. Lots of them.
“Get out of sight!” Kokani hissed.
In a second everyone had gathered their belongings, leaving no trace of their existence. They scattered into the trees, hiding behind them, waiting for whatever was coming to pass. The heavy footsteps approached, getting louder and louder, bringing with them the sound of clanking armor and weapons.
Takua carefully poked his head out from behind his tree. There, just a few dozen feet away, a squad of fifty kryll jogged past. They moved quickly, considering they were clad in full armor and carrying multiple blades each. Takua noticed gas canisters tied around their waists, and he knew that wherever they were headed, suffering would follow. He cursed, wishing there was some way to stop them. Their big feet thudded against the muddy ground as they passed, splashing through puddles and trampling over low foliage.
He looked back to see Kokani, Aya, and Jaka quietly hiding behind their own trees and bushes. They weren’t hidden very well, but the kryll never bothered to look. Clearly, the soldiers had somewhere to be.
Within a few minutes the last of the kryll passed, and the four Matoran were left alone, without incident. The trampling feet faded away, replaced by the pitter-patter of raindrops and the quiet babbling of nearby streams. And once again, bloodshed, war, and the outside world were all very far away.
Aya was the first one to speak. “You don’t think they’re heading to Ga-Koro, do you?”
Takua stared in the direction the kryll had went, suddenly worried. What if they were? What if they attacked the city, and by the time they reached it, it would be too late? He clutched the Atouri, unconsciously rubbing its black face with his thumb. Then what would they do? What could they do?
Eventually Kokani answered. “Wherever they’re going, there’s bound to be more of them. A run-in with a squad like that would be the end for us, no doubt. We have to be careful.”
Takua nodded, knowing that he shouldn’t worry about ‘what if.’ All they could do was be careful, and keep going. Wordless, he picked up his emerald green pack, and they continued on.
The rain let up that evening, just in time for dinner. They made camp beneath the limbs of a huge banyan tree near a slow moving river. Takua started a fire, and Aya prepared a stew from whatever herbs and roots they were able to find. Without any proper seasoning it tasted a bit bland, but everyone cleaned their bowls anyway, and nothing went to waste. As the light faded from the sky, they sat atop their sleeping mats, watching the fire crackle, listening to the sounds of nature. The orange flames illuminated their circle, casting their glow against the tree and its roots, protecting them from the rapidly approaching night. There was no moon in the sky.
They sat around the fire with minimal conversation, taking time to relax before turning in for the night. As much as Takua enjoyed walking through the trees, he always looked forward to this last part of their day. There was something so simple, something so right about sitting around a fire, content to listen to the world, not needing any conversation to go along with it. With his back against the trunk of the tree, he crossed his arms and closed his eyes, savoring the serenity of it all.
And that’s when he felt it.
He opened his eyes with a jolt, suddenly feeling that someone was watching him. Then, the sound of a twig snapping, the crunching of leaves beneath feet.
Kokani had head it too. He was already up, drawing his bladed staff, scanning the dark foliage around them. “Only one that I can hear,” he whispered to the rest of them. “But it’s big.”
The footsteps continued, getting closer with every second. Jaka grabbed his canteen, ready to douse the fire, but Aya grabbed his hand. “Don’t bother. It already knows we’re here.”
Takua whirled around, fumbling underneath his pack for his sword. Whatever was coming was coming fast. Aya stood up pointing her nocked arrow out towards the gloom. Kokani gripped his staff, searching for any sign of movement.
Then, it appeared. Slowly, cautiously, a dark figure pushed branches out of its way, standing taller than any Matoran. It moved quietly, with grace, in a way that no kryll or rahi could. It was strangely quiet, considering its size, and Takua strained his eyes as he watched, his nerves on edge. Whatever it was, it was coming straight for them.
“Come any closer and I’ll stick a hole in your skull!” Aya bellowed.
The figure raised its arms in an offering of peace, and suddenly, Takua wasn’t worried. Instantly, an air of peace fell upon him, as if there was some kind of magic at work. He felt at home, and as the figure opened its mouth to speak, Takua almost recognized its voice. It was deep and beautiful, hinting at a sharp mind, brimming with knowledge and wisdom. It reminded him of all the stories he was told when he was younger, all the tales of the elder times.
“Stay your blades, friends.”
Takua clutched the Atouri. There was power in this being. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but he knew it nonetheless. He squinted into the darkness as the figure slowly approached, trying to make it out, but he couldn’t help but feel that this being was different, different from all others he had encountered before. Whoever this was, they felt like a…like a friend.
“Aya, put down your bow,” he said.
“What? No! We don’t even know what it is!” She tightened her grip, almost sweating.
“You don’t understand,” Takua placed his sword on the ground, watching the figure with curiosity and reverence, somehow knowing deep inside that everything would be alright. “Its…it’s a…”
The figure stepped into the light, revealing royal blue armor, beautiful, yet ancient. Regal, yet approachable.
“It’s a Toa,” Takua finished.
And Aya shut her mouth. Gently, she lowered her bow, staring up at the figure with the look of pure astonishment.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Mar 30 2015 - 03:07 PM.
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