Edited by ZOMBI3S, Oct 20 2014 - 10:04 PM.
The Herald of Darkness
Posted Aug 26 2014 - 06:39 PM
Posted Sep 08 2014 - 04:49 PM
Chapter 8 - An Old Friend
“Hey,” Talim smiled. “How you doing, kiddo?”
Takua stared at her, stunned and motionless. It couldn't be her. It had to be his mind playing tricks on him. It had to be the Madness. Slowly, he reached out toward her, shaking as he did so.
“Is it really you?”
Talim took his hand and placed it on her cheek. Takua was shocked. If she was just an illusion, it was one he was willing to dive headfirst into. He could feel the warmth emanating from beneath her mask, the smooth skin of her hand as it held his own. The light of the lightstone twinkled in her eyes, and her dark green Huna was as real as the rock on which he sat on.
“Does it really matter?” she replied.
Tears fell from Takua's eyes as he grabbed her and pulled her close. “I missed you so much...” he said between breaths as he buried his mask into her shoulder. He gripped her as tight as he could, afraid that if he let go she would disappear forever. “I'm so sorry Talim...I'm so sorry...” he trailed off.
She returned his embrace, holding him gently as she rubbed his back. “Don't be sorry. You did everything you could.”
“I tried to find a way to bring you back,” Takua sobbed. “I asked everyone I could, but, but...” he had to force the words out of his throat. “but I don't know if I can...”
“Hey,” Talim cupped his mask in her hands and looked him in the eye. “Don't worry about me.” She wiped a tear from his cheek, leaving a tiny smudge on Takua's scarred Kanohi. “You've got a quest to finish, right? You just do what you have to. Just keep on going, and I'll always be with you, no matter what.”
Takua managed to smile, but he shook his head. “I just, I...I don't know,” he stammered as he looked around them, cautious of the shadows that had terrified him just moments ago. Everything seemed back to normal now, but how could he know if it would stay this way? All the horror he had faced, all the insanity...he couldn't bear to think about it. “It's just hard sometimes,” he shrugged.
“I know,” she replied. “But you can do it.”
Takua shook his head. There was just so much out there. So much fear, so much chaos, so much darkness. “I don't know if I can though...”
“You can,” she rubbed his arm comfortingly. “You just have to believe it.”
They shared a moment of silence together, and Takua couldn't help but wonder what might have been. What if things had gone differently? What if the Atouri had never came to him? Would they both still be in Le-Koro, living their normal lives? Maybe he'd still be living under his tree and dreaming of adventure, instead of out on an adventure and dreaming of his home.
Talim spoke up again. “Now, are you going to go out there and do what you have to do, or sit here like a crybaby?”
Takua smiled as he wiped the last of the water from his cheeks. “Shut up.”
She laughed softly as she brushed the dust off her armor and stood up. Sticking out her hand, she offered it to Takua. “The first step's the hardest.”
He looked up at her, not ready for the moment to be over. “I don't want to leave. Not yet.”
“Do what you have to do, and I'll be waiting when its over,” she replied.
And as much as he hated it, he knew it was time. His reply was brief, but it managed to hold all his emotions in one word:
She looked down at him and smiled.
Takua nodded, taking her hand, and she pulled him to his feet.
And he was back. Back in the dark abandoned tunnel, surrounded by nothing but blackness. He was alone, but he was himself, and he was sane. Cautiously, he felt his mask, and he breathed a sigh of relief. There was no rust. He wasn't infected.
What happened? He asked himself.
He felt a long scar on his Pakari, stretching from his left brow to his right cheekbone, and he knew that at least some of it was real. The glass from Illum's canister had cut him, and he had definitely succumbed to the Madness. But his infection, and Talim...? Why wasn't he infected now? Where did reality end and his visions begin?
Looking around, he realized he had no idea which way he had come from. The tunnel looked exactly the same in both directions, and he couldn't see more than a few dozen feet past the lightstone. He forced himself to think. His tunnel must have connected to Illum's palace somehow, but how far back and in which direction was a mystery to him. From the roughly hewn walls Takua guessed that he was past the outskirts of the city, if not deep into Onu-Wahi. Was he beneath the city now, in some lower level only frequented by miners and explorers? Who knew what kind of rahi might roam these tunnels? How far had his maddened mind taken him?
Takua furrowed his brow and sighed. There was only one thing to do.
Cautiously, he found a foothold in the wall and pulled himself up. Climbing just a few feet off the floor, he was able to reach the lightstone embedded into the ceiling, and he grabbed its largest crystal. He pulled on it, trying to free it from the crack it was wedged in. After a few good tugs the stone came loose, and he smiled to himself as he hopped to the ground.
Well, he thought, here goes nothing.
Holding the lightstone high above his head, he picked a direction and started to walk. It was easy going, but he was still cautious. The shadows still unnerved him, and he kept his free hand on the hilt of his sword at all times.
He thought about it as he walked. He hated the thought of using a sword given to him by Illum. It seemed wrong, almost dirty, to use such an item to protect himself. Takua had trusted Illum, and the Onu-Matoran had betrayed him. It hurt, and Takua wanted nothing to do with the 'Turaga' of Onu-Koro. He looked down at the weapon, calmly hanging at his waist.
But it was a really nice sword...
He kept walking, making his way though the dark tunnel. He wasn't sure how much time passed, but eventually he stopped to rest. Slumping his back against the rock wall, he let the lightstone rest beside him. He listened to the silence of the cave for a few moments before he closed his eyes. It was only then that he heard it:
Hum dee hum, doo da dee,
By his will, we live free.
Takua turned his head towards the tiny sound. It came from the direction he was headed, quietly bouncing off the tunnel's walls. What was it? Someone...singing?
The skies, the earth, water and trees
Everywhere, he watches thee.
Takua got to his feet and held the lightstone high above his head. There, at the very edge of his vision, he could see light shining through a bend in the tunnel. Gripping his sword as he did so, he approached it. The song grew louder and louder as he did, until he could make out the voice of what seemed to be a very old Matoran. It was scratchy and guttural, but somehow managed to have springy youthfulness to it. The song was bubbly and happy, and the more Takua listened the more he realized he had heard it before.
As he rounded the bend his eyes were flooded with light, and he had to squint to be able to see. The tunnel's end was in sight now, but the blinding light obscured his view of anything that might lay beyond it. Shielding his eyes, Takua walked forward, out of the tunnel. It took a moment or two for his his eyes to adjust, but once he could see his jaw dropped in amazement.
He stood in a huge cavern, studded with hundreds of thousands of lightstones. They flickered silently as they rested, illuminating far-off columns, stalactites, and other rock formations. Water dripped from the ceiling, forming puddles and small streams that weaved their way though the lightstone clusters. Some crystals were small, but others were almost a dozen feet tall, and as big around as a tree. They covered every surface, reaching outwards, as if determined to snuff out all shadow in the cave. It was beautiful.
Hum da dum, dee dee da
His Hau protects you, la la la....
Only now, as his astonishment had started to fade, did Takua turn his attention back to the singing. There, just a few dozen feet in front of him stood a Matoran: old, alone, and quietly humming to himself. He wore dark yellow armor, and clutched a knotted walking staff in his right hand.
Cautiously, Takua approached him. The Matoran was standing in the middle of a puddle, and he didn't seem very aware of his surroundings. “Hello?” he called out.
The Matoran whirled around to face him, revealing a Hau, lined and scarred with age. At first he seemed surprised, but once the Matoran saw Takua he smiled. “Windsprinter!” he called out, beckoning for Takua to come closer.
What...? Takua recognized old one's mask. He'd heard his scratchy voice before, a long time ago. “What did you call me?” he asked.
“Windsprinter, baldwalker, it matters not. It is you!”
And then Takua remembered. It was the crazy, tree-speaking Matoran he had met in Le-Koro. The one who had annoyed him on his walk home after visiting Talim. The one who had first told him to 'follow the stars.'
“What....” Takua stared at the Matoran in disbelief. “...what are you doing here!?”
“Ah, you see...” the Matoran hobbled over to him, splashing through the muddy water as he did. He pointed above them, towards the lightstone-studded ceiling. “Star watch-gazing! Beautiful, no?”
Takua looked up at the lightstones, flickering high above them, and then turned his attention back to the Matoran. “You do know these aren't actual stars, right?”
“Ha!” he cackled. “Hee hee hee! It matters not. They are all light.”
Takua looked at the insane Matoran, wondering how in the name of Mata Nui he had ended up in this situation. “They're lightstones. They're really different from stars. I promise.”
“It matters not!”
“Really? Do you even know where you are right now?” Takua asked.
“I am here.”
Takua rolled his eyes, but before he could respond the old Matoran had swooped around him and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“But do you know where you are?”
“Stop that! It's creepy!” Takua shook himself free of the old one's grasp.
The old one looked at him quizzically, as if waiting for an answer to his question.
“And no,” Takua replied. “I have no idea where I am.”
The Matoran rolled his eyes and turned away.
Takua sighed. “I was in Onu-Koro with all my friends, and then I went to talk to Illum. One thing led to another and I was infected with the Madness, which, by the way, might be something you would know about,” he pointed at the Matoran, but the old one didn't seemed phased.
Takua shook his head. “Anyway, my friend Talim helped me out of it, and I think she was just in my head, but I don't know. I should be infected right now, but I'm not, and that doesn't make any sense either. So then I hear singing. Singing. Underground, in an abandoned tunnel, which is also crazy. But I follow it anyway, and end up in this, this...” he searched for the right word. “...this fantastical cavern of light, which definitely seems like something I would make up in my head. And now you show up!” Takua threw his arms in the air out of frustration. “Of all the people in the world to run into, I find the one person who's less sane than me!”
The Matoran was looking up at the ceiling now, once again staring at the lightstones and humming to himself.
“Are you even listening to me!?” Takua asked.
“Life-dawn leaf-runner worries too much,” the Matoran said. “Where you are or how you got there, it matters not. Follow the stars, and they will guide you.”
Takua shook his head. It was like talking to a wall. “Even if I knew what that meant, you can't see the stars here. What am I supposed to do?”
The Matoran looked at him as if Takua was the insane one, and rapped him on the head with his staff.
“Ow!” Takua yelped. “What was that for!?”
“Slow-thinker does not listen! Stars, stones; they are all light.”
Takua rubbed his head, at a loss for words. Then, after a moment of thought: “Why am I trying to get advice from you anyway? You're a crazy person.”
The Matoran suddenly turned very serious, and the bubbly tone in his voice disappeared. Takua almost swore that the cavern physically darkened as he pointed in the direction that Takua had come from. Slowly and with purpose, the Matoran spoke.
“Because you are desperate, and the darkness is coming for you.”
Takua turned around to look at the tunnel, and he could hear the sound of armor clanking and people yelling. Illum had found him.
He whirled around to look back at the old Matoran, but he had disappeared entirely, and Takua was once again alone in the underworld. Only now, the threat was imminent. This wasn't something in his head. This was very real, and if he didn't move now he'd be caught.
Cursing the old Matoran for wasting his time, he ran in the opposite direction, searching once again for a way out. Winding his way through the lightstone clusters, the Matoran's song found him for a moment or two before fading away into the darkness.
Take his hand and live anew,
Always, he is watching you.
Dum de dum, dee dee do
Always, he believes in you.
Edited by ZOMBI3S, Sep 14 2014 - 08:51 PM.
Posted Oct 20 2014 - 08:33 PM
Chapter 9 - A Turn for the Worse
Takua ran though the lightstone clusters, splashing his way through the puddles and streams that crisscrossed the cave. He weaved back and forth, hoping that it would make his muddy footprints harder to follow, but the more he ran, the closer the guards sounded. Their armor clanked as they shouted to one another, ordering to their comrades to spread out, search over there, or let them know if they found anything.
“Footprints!” someone shouted. “This way!”
Takua cursed as he slid around a large lightstone cluster, pausing to catch his breath. He had to find somewhere to hide. At the rate they were going, he'd be caught if he kept on running. But then again, how could he escape? The cavern floor was so muddy his footprints would lead them right to him.
Takua swerved around a giant crystal and stopped dead in his tracks. An Onu-Matoran guard stood in front of him, and their eyes met. The Matoran’s purple Pakari was just a few hues away from Takua’s, and he seemed to be about the same age. The two stared at each other for a moment, both surprised by the other’s appearance.
“H-Hey!” the guard yelled out, fumbling to draw his sword. “He’s over here!”
Takua tore off in the opposite direction, but the guard was right on his heels. He sprinted as fast as he could and managed to put a few precious yards between them, but then the sound of feet splashing through water met his ears, and he knew that more guards were closing in. Hurdling over a fallen cluster, he glanced back to see one, two, then three guards struggling to climb over the crystal, and he smiled to himself. Their heavy armor slowed them down. At least he had that going for him.
Hearing his name, Takua looked to his right, not slowing his mad sprint. There! Just a few dozen feet away stood a Ko-Matoran holding a bladed staff dripping with blood. Takua lit up at his presence. “Kokani!? Is that you?”
“Get down!” Kokani yelled.
But Takua couldn’t quite hear him, and he slowed down to a jog. “What?”
Takua screamed in pain as something buried itself into his collar. With a splash, he fell into a shallow puddle as searing hot agony radiated from his neck to his upper arm. He looked to his right to find the shaft of an arrow sticking out of him, its head buried deep into the flesh just above his chest armor. Clutching the wound, he cried out as he tried to look around, searching for the arrow’s source.
There, in the direction he had been headed, stood a tall figure, barely illuminated by the lightstones. It was too tall to be a Matoran, and as the figure stepped into the light, and Takua’s eyes widened.
But then a guard was on him, pulling him back by the ankles, and Takua had to fight back. He kicked at the Onu-Matoran as he reached for his dagger, throwing mud and water into the air as he did. The guard cursed as Takua’s foot made contact with his fingers, but he wasn’t deterred. Reaching out to grab Takua again, he was stopped only by Takua’s blade, wildly slashing through the air. It bought Takua a few moments, but then the other two guards appeared out of the darkness. One grabbed Takua from behind, locking his right arm while the other grabbed the shaft of the arrow and twisted.
Takua screamed as pain flew through his head, and he cried out for help. “Kokani!”
But the Ko-Matoran was already there, grabbing the guard that held him and throwing him into a nearby lightstone cluster. There was a flash of blue and Takua caught a glimpse of Aya, vaulting over him as she tackled the guard who pulled at his ankles, nimbly rolling to her feet as she prepared to fight. Thinking fast, whirled around ready to fend off the third guard: the one who wore the purple Pakari. Once again the two locked eyes.
But in a second it was over. There was a spray of blood as a barbed arrow slammed into the side of the Matoran’s head, cracking his mask in half. With eyes wide open, he crumpled to the cavern floor, dead.
Shocked, Takua whirled around to see the kryll, still standing in the same spot, calmly nocking another arrow to its bow. Panic set in, and Takua willed himself to get to his feet.
He stumbled behind the nearest cluster of lightstones before the kryll could fire again, and there he took a moment to rest. Blood oozed from between his fingers as he clutched his wound. He clenched his teeth as he gripped the shaft of the arrow, ready to pull it out.
“Don’t! Not yet.”
Takua whirled around to see Sorin sliding around the other side of the cluster, his sword stained red.
“You’ll lose too much blood if you pull it out now. Wait until we make it to the others; they have all our supplies. We can patch you up there.”
Takua closed his eyes and grimaced as the pain exuded through him. “How did you find me?” he swallowed.
“I used to work in these tunnels, remember? I know them like the back of my hand.” Sorin peered around the cluster, checking if the coast was clear. “That, and sound echoes a long way in these tunnels. We heard you screaming.” He took a moment to look Takua up and down. “What happened?”
Takua sighed, not knowing where to start. “I’ll tell you later. Where’s Jaka? And Nika and Raipu?”
“The control center for Tunnel Eighteen.”
“No time to talk, let’s go!”
Sorin grabbed Takua around the shoulders, supporting him as they ran through the clusters. Glancing over his shoulder, 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, Oct 21 2014 - 01:23 PM.
0 user(s) are browsing this forum
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users