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The Herald of Darkness


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#41 Offline ZOMBI3S

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Posted Aug 26 2014 - 06:39 PM

Chapter 7 - The Horrors of the Dark
 
 
Takua gasped as the glass cut across his mask and he fell to the ground. In a second Illum was on top of him, holding him in place.
 
“I didn’t want any of this, Takua,” he said, his eyes suddenly bloodshot. “I only do what I have to.”
 
The gas seemed to cling to Takua’s mask, and even though he tried to inhale as little as possible, he knew he’d already breathed in enough. Frantically wriggling, he managed to unhook his dagger from his belt. Seizing the opportunity, he whipped it out and struck.
 
Illum saw him coming, but dodged just a second too late. Takua heard a sickening crack as his dagger slammed through Illum’s mask, cutting a deep gash across his eye to his temple. The Onu-Matoran screamed as blood seeped from his eye-socket, and Takua made a run for it.
 
He slammed his body weight against the door, practically falling out into the crowded gathering hall. He pushed his way through a group of Matoran, not paying attention to their gasps and startled noises as he coughed. He exhaled, trying to force all the poison that he could from his lungs, praying that it wasn't too late. All he could hope for was to get somewhere safe.
 
Seconds later Illum burst into the room, clutching his eye as he screamed for his guards. “Where is he!?” He searched the crowded room with his one good eye, before catching a glimpse of Takua heading for the exit door. “Grab him! He’s a traitor! Heretic! A servant of Makuta!”
 
Takua didn’t have time to defend himself from the Turaga’s lies. He pushed through more Matoran, making his way toward the exit as fast as he could. He could hear the guards chasing after him, but he didn’t dare turn around. He searched for his friends as he struggled to find his way through the crowds, but it seemed they were gone, and only one thought was left in his mind: he had to escape the palace.
 
Bursting his way out of the gathering hall, he found himself in a dimly lit hallway. Vaguely remembering it from when he had entered the building, he tore off as fast as he could. The lightstones here were few and far between, and the shadows dancing on the walls disoriented him. Slowing down in order to right himself, he stared at a lightstone for a moment.
 
It flickered, and he blinked as his vision went fuzzy. Panic flooded his body as he realized that the poison was affecting him. He had to get somewhere safe. He had to get out.
 
Shouting from down the hall snapped him back to reality, and he once again sprinted in the opposite direction. He passed rooms and corridors, trying to remember the path that would take him outside. But he couldn’t seem to focus. All the hallways, passages, and meeting rooms blended together. The black marble was all the same, and he couldn’t tell which way was right.
 
Pausing again to collect himself, he forced his head to focus. Downstairs. I have to go down.
 
Desperately searching for a staircase, he passed more and more rooms. Every once and a while he would pass a few Onu-Matoran workers, but he didn’t dare waste time asking for directions. Even now he could hear the feet of Illum’s guards chasing after him, always just the turn of a corner behind. And besides, who could he trust now?
 
He whirled around to see a black marble staircase, and promptly ran down it. Jumping three steps at a time, he looked up to see a pair guards standing at the bottom, waiting for him. Panicking, he tried to turn around, but his body was too slow. The world spun as his feet slid on the slick marble, and he careened down the last ten steps, knocking over the guards in the process.
 
Get up! He screamed at his body as he watched the guards struggle to right themselves. Everything was blurry now, and he could tell the infection was spreading. His senses were dulling and his body was slower, but he couldn’t let that stop him. I have to get out. He told himself as his legs finally obeyed and he stumbled down the hall, struggling to get back up to speed. I have to get out.
 
He passed more corridors, meeting rooms and dining halls, searching for a way farther down. The guards were behind him somewhere, but he couldn’t seem to hear them over the sound of his own heart. It beat harder and harder in his chest as he ran, and a sense of restlessness overcame him.
 
Just keep going. I have to get out. He told himself.
 
His fingers on his left hand started to twitch, and he stared at them as he barreled down another staircase. One after the other they moved, and it took him a few seconds to realize that he wasn’t controlling them. Grabbing them with his right hand he clutched them against his chest, praying for it to stop.
 
“No…no…” he gasped between breaths. He had to stay in control. He couldn’t become infected.
 
Lightstones on the wall flew past him, and he made his way further and further down. Nothing was familiar anymore, but still he continued. He couldn’t let Illum catch him. He had to run because…because it was the only thing he knew how to do.
 
He gave himself a mental smack. Stay in control. He ran because he had to get somewhere safe. He ran because he had to get out. He had to get out. I have to get out…
 
His heart pounded harder and harder the deeper he went, until he could practically feel the blood pumping through his veins. The corridors weren’t corridors anymore, he realized. They were tunnels. The black marble had been replaced with granite, rough and unevenly hewn. The lighstones were even farther apart here, and the shadows leapt on the wall like monsters, reaching for him as he ran past.
 
“No, please…” he asked them. “Please, I have to get out…”
 
Fear filled him as he realized the Madness was taking over his mind. He told himself the shadows weren’t real. He knew they weren’t real, but they terrified him still. On and on he ran, his legs moving on their own as he struggled with his own thoughts.
 
I can’t be infected…
 
“Mata Nui…” he slowed his run and looked behind him. There were no guards chasing him. He was alone in these tunnels. But at the same time, he wasn’t.
 
There were things here, horrible things. Invisible creatures, monsters, deities, and demons. He whirled around as the single lightstone above him flickered. It was the only source of light. Shadow dominated the tunnel in front and behind him, and his fear welled up, coursing through his veins. It twisted and churned inside him, morphing into terror.
 
I have to get out!
 
“No, please!” he pleaded with the dark. He clutched himself, pacing under the light and watching the flickering shadows. “Please!” The Atouri thumped against his chest and he heard the shadows speak. His own heart beat loud in his ears, but the Heart of the Darkness overwhelmed him.
 
Thump-thp.
My child…
 
“Oh, Mata Nui!” he sank to his knees as he heard the voice in his head. “Oh Mata Nui, please!” he howled as tears fell on his cheeks.
 
Grabbing his arms, he pushed with his legs, desperately trying to distance himself from the shadow. The rock cut into his back as he pushed up against it, and there was nowhere that he could go. But he didn’t stop. He couldn’t control himself. There was too much fear, too much terror, too much horror for any Matoran to handle. He felt his mind unhinge.
 
Welcome to the dark, Takua.
 
Takua fell over, sobbing as he clawed at ground. There was no way out. He couldn’t escape. With his last breath of sanity he repented for all his sins, and he could feel his mind open to the dark. Death was upon him. His eyes wide, he gazed up at the shadow as he would the face of an almighty god, and patterns flashed before his eyes. He recognized them, as if he had known them as a child, and the familiar darkness surrounded him, embraced him, and entombed him.
 
He writhed in the dusty tunnel, paralyzed and controlled by fear. He couldn’t fight it. He couldn’t run from it. All he could do was accept it.
 
And the darkness won. It clouded his mind as he felt the rust accumulating on his mask. He huddled on the ground, shaking as his unseeing eyes stared at the rock, unable to fight anymore. The darkness crushed him, and his mind broke. He was alone in the void, and nothing reached him. Nothing at all.
 
Nothing…except a whisper.
 
“Come back, Takua. Come back to the light.”
 
Takua didn’t answer as he stared at the rough floor. He rocked back and forth, humming to himself as he started to chuckle. Then, smiling, he spoke in a voice not his own. “The closer you are to the light, the greater your shadow becomes.”
 
“Your shadow walks in your footsteps. Not the other way around. You can do this, Takua.”
 
“What do you know!?” Takua spat as he twitched. “You know nothing! Nothing!”
 
“I know you.”
 
Takua felt a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t look up to see who’s hand it was. “You know nothing,” he repeated. “You know nothing...”
 
“Open your eyes, Takua. Look at me.”
 
“No,” he said between gasps of breath. “No.”
 
“You can. You’re stronger than you know. You can fight it.”
 
And somehow, deep down, Takua was able to fight. Twitching, he slowly turned his head to look at the voice. His eyes widened as he stared, and he tried to comprehend the being that knelt before him. Slowly, his vision came into focus, and he recognized her. A tinge of his sanity returned, and he stared for an instant before he spoke her name.
 
“…Talim?”

Edited by ZOMBI3S, Oct 20 2014 - 10:04 PM.

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#42 Offline ZOMBI3S

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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:

 

“Promise?”

 

She looked down at him and smiled.

 

“Promise.”

 

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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#43 Offline ZOMBI3S

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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.

 

“Takua!”

 

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?”

 

Thunk!

 

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.

 

Kryll!?

 

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.”

 

“The what?”

 

“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?

 

Whoosh!

 

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.

 

“Hurry up!”

 

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…

 

Crunch!

 

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.

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