Edited by ZOMBI3S, Aug 26 2014 - 07:08 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.
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