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The Shadows Coil (Book 2 Of The Xaterex Storyline)

Xaterex Chronicles

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#1 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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Posted May 25 2012 - 06:19 PM

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XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

Xaterex Art Blog | Xaterex Wiki

 

 

 

Volume II: The Shadows Coil

 

 

Prologue

 

The tall Ix's cold, dispassionate gaze stared at the hazy image of the elemental standing before him. Like all of his kind, the Ix was wearing robes of the darkest black, and his eyes were cold and impassive, touched with the barest gleam of feverish light. The chamber they stood within was shrouded completely in mist, and the Elemental was barely visible, a faint outline of obsidian armor in the half-light.

 

"They escaped, Skorpix." he rasped at last.

 

He was merely repeating a fact they both knew, but he needed to impress upon Skorpix that the narrow escape of the Spirit Toa had been due to chance, nothing more. Although he knew the elemental was not truly standing in front of him, it was merely an image of a faraway place he'd brought before him using his highly advanced auric powers, he still felt as though the Elemental's cold red eyes were burning through him, as though he knew everything the Ix would say.

 

"Silencer is dead, and Melnox has been lost in Illiera. Our allies there will see that he is exterminated."

 

The Elemental merely nodded, his image flickering out of sight for the briefest of moments before returning.

 

He raised one claw imperiously, and said at length,"We have learned of this. We have already ordered a group of Ix assassins from Illiera to hunt down and kill Ion and the Glatorian with him, and recapture the Toa. It was fortunate he was not killed in the Circle due to the overeagerness of the Fury...we need him alive."

 

"However, this will not be enough." whispered the Elemental Prince.

 

"They will not arrive in time to stop Ion from contacting his allies. Alert the demon Asgard. Tell him we are in need of his services."

 

The Ix nodded, his face behind the mask coldly indifferent, but inwardly he felt a jolt of shock, quickly followed by satisfaction. Asgard would tear the Toa from limb to limb.

 

"Oh, and alert our other agents in the Void that the victor Fairon will be joining them shortly." Skorpix smiled coldly.The Ix bowed his head slightly as Skorpix waved his hand. The image of the Elemental vanished, and the Ix stepped back and vanished, the mist shrouding him from view.

 

Review


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 07:08 AM.

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XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

Xaterex Art Blog | Xaterex Wiki

 

 


#2 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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Posted May 30 2012 - 04:24 PM

PART I: The Toa

Chapter 1

 

"Hail, Fairon!"

 

"Hail!" The tall Toa of light replied to the speaker, a small, hunched Ta-Matoran. He shook his head. Ever since the Eternal Game, his victory, and the return to Gigas Nui, all of the inhabitants of the ancient city had treated him like a celebrity. Fairon wished to shake off the Games forever, but no one would give him time to heal.

 

The Ix Empire makes sure these horrors never leave you. Fairon reflected as he strode down the narrow alleyway. After having been captured by the Empire, he, like many of their enemies, had been forced to fight to the death in a gladiatorial arena. 

 

The so-called Eternal Game. 

 

If it was up to the Toa, he would forget about the games completely. Scour them from his memory. Destroy them. But the Empire made sure that this would never happen. They would soon begin another game, and after that, another, to continue the Games for all eternity. Fairon felt a wave of dark memories wash over him as he strode through the city.He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. The memories left him feeling spent, as they always did. Fairon had always thought that the "Eternal Game" was so called as it continued forever, but now the Toa wondered if it was because the memories of the arena would never leave him, no matter how long he lived.

 

Fairon shook his head again and sighed. There seemed no way for him to reflect on his world without the dark memories of the Game returning. He lifted his head from the scattered rubble and grime that coated the alleyways and lifted his face to the sun. Another day was beginning, the fifth since he had returned to New Metru Nui. Now, just as suddenly, he was leaving again. The Empire was going to take him on a trip across the universe to the Drakos System, their capital, where they would collect tribute from the other star systems for the victor, as well as rounding up other innocents for the Game. 

 

Fairon cut his nightmares off before they could return to plague him again. He could not let his mind wander from the task ahead. The Empire wanted him. The resistance wanted him. He had to choose a side. The Eternal Game was not over. There were more deadly challenges to come.

 

But how? Fairon thought. Beyond the insane beings that would fight hopeless battles against the Kodax in the distant Fells, there were none who dared oppose the Empire and live. The fear of losing their lives in the Eternal Game held them in a state of perpetual terror. There was no way for them to resist without the Empire destroying them all in a bloody arena.

 

Although it had been a week since the conclusion of the Game, Fairon still felt the horror as if it where happening to him all over again.

 

Fairon cursed and kicked at the rubble-strewn ground with one armored foot. He could not rid himself of the horrible memories of the arena.

 

But I will make sure that no one ever has to suffer through another Eternal Game again! He thought defiantly.

 

Soon after the Games had concluded, a small group of rebels had contacted him, and he had met with one of their agents and agreed to meet them. While they were small, they hoped to strike a blow to the Empire that would keep them from gaining unending dominion over the universe. Fairon had agreed to meet them in one of the ancient, weakened towers of Gigas Nui, where the Gigas Magna Enforcers had once ruled. The city's once most powerful district had fallen apart, and was full of rebels, criminals, and other beings who fought with both Veiled Ones and slaves alike.

 

And the Empire does nothing to stop it. Thought Fairon. Turning down a long corridor, the Toa saw a single dilapidated building at the end of the alleyway like a grim sentinel among the ruins of the district. Fairon walked silently though the rubble, making sure not to disturb the wreckage.

 

Fairon opened the unlocked wooden door, pulling it so hard it came off the hinges. He crushed the door into the earth so hard it splintered into fragmented shards. Fairon savored his victory for a brief instant before entering the chamber. A bolted steel door barred his way, the rebel's last line of defense. Fairon knew how to bypass that as well. Raising a gloved hand, the Toa stared at the door with intense concentration. Sparks of light burst from his raised hand, and the door swung open. Fairon entered the chamber and the door clicked shut behind him.

 

He stood in a massive room filled with smashed armorplates, rusted swords, and cracked walls. The room seemed on the verge of collapse, and the ceiling above him creaked ominously.

 

"Oh, don't worry, It won't fall." Hissed a voice. Fairon turned as a clawed hand touched his shoulder. Reacting instinctively, he whirled around, blade drawn, to confront a tall Toa in gleaming silver-gold armor. He carried an icy sword that gleamed with an otherworldly pulsing light, giving the impression it was charged with lightning. His hands were covered by clawed gloves.

 

Out of the rubble of the wreckage heap of weapons. A Toa of Water, eyes gleaming in the darkness as she appeared like a ghost from the wreckage. Then two Toa of air, a male and a female. They were armed with powerful, bladelike weapons and they stared at Fairon with a mixture of pity and hatred. Last to appear were five Glatorian, one armored in red, the others in white.

 

"Greetings." said the silver-masked Toa. "I am Toa Jarereoden, a leader of the resistance. These are GalikaSayna,Treedaka. He said, his eyes staring at each of the Toa in turn, first the Toa of Water, then the two Toa of Air. "Flardrek." he said, gesturing to the red Glatorian. "And ShardosXataxVorral, and Zhrek."

 

The four Glatorian nodded a greeting, as did Galika, Sayna, Treedaka, and Flardrek. The four white Glatorian, however, remained silent, contempt in their eyes.

 

"Oh, don't mind them." Jareroden said. "They lost their families and friends in a search after Vinax fled the Empire."

 

Fairon nodded. When he'd returned, he learned that his mentor Toa Vinax had fled from Gigas Nui for reasons that had never become clear. All of his friends had been killed. Fairon and his dead friends Fyxan and Leviathos would have been killed as well, but they had died in the arena before Vinax left them. It was only Fairon's status as victor that kept him alive. Vinax, however, had yet to be found.

 

I hope they kill him quickly when they find him. Fairon thought. Not torture him or send him into the next Eternal Game.

 

"They believe that Vinax fled because you won the Eternal Game, and blame you for the deaths of their team."

 

Fairon remembered the bloody corpses of the Toa lying crushed at the edge of the void, Kodax spears embedded too deep to ever be removed from the body. He remembered Tanuva, the Toa who had died so Fairon could win the Eternal Game, and Leviathos, who, though mortally wounded by Ghost's soul-eating scythe, had saved Fairon's life by dragging him into the Void.

 

I, too, have lost my team.

 

"It was not my fault that Vinax chose to flee. His motives were never made clear. Maybe the Empire knows. Maybe not. But tell them I am sorry for their loss, and sympathize with them more then they know."

 

Jareroden nodded. "They will eventually forget their anger. And while they hate any victors, they will cooperate with our plans, for they know it is the only hope for the Empire to ever be destroyed. While we cannot hope to overthrow the Empire, we can prevent them from gaining the ultimate power. The power of the Ignika."

 

"The Ignika?" asked Fairon incredulosly. "The Mask of Life?"

 

"Yes" Jareroden replied. "I will explain more in a moment." Jareroden raised a small, computerized screen that was playing one of the Eternal Games throgh silently. The Toa inspected the screen and pressed a few keys. The sound was turned on and the Toa turned the computer over to Fairon.

 

The Toa of Light gasped in shock. The scene was all white, and was showing a scene he recognized all too well. It was the arena.

 

"During the games, a group of our agents found evidence that supported the idea that your old enemy Iruka was a traitor to the Empire. They managed, before he entered the arena, to attach a tracking device to him, without the Empire discovering it."

 

"However, this device malfunctioned once its user fell into the Void, as you might imagine. However, one week ago, the device appeared again-- in the Circle."

 

"The Circle?" asked Fairon. "Why--"

 

"We have agents there as well, and yesterday we sent a transmission to Silencer a mutated Toa of Fire allied with our cause, asking why the beacon had turned up in the Circle. He stated that they had discovered the location of the Mask of Life, and after recovering the device, attached it to the bearer. Soon after, three undercover resistance operatives in the Drakos System managed to trace the mask's whereabouts to a specific location- The Void."

 

"The Void?" Fairon felt as though he'd been punched. His memories of the Void were so horrible, it took all his willpower not to vanish into his memories of the arena. "Surely it was destroyed, along with the entry to the arena. And even if it wasn't, the Void would have absorbed them. I watched it kill four contestants in the games. Ghost, Nightwatcher, and Leviathos all met their deaths there. Dredzek may have vanished into the Void as well."

 

"We believe, however, that the Void does not instantly kill."

 

"What?!" Fairon was shocked. "It kills beings and absorbs them. All who fall there are obliterated from the universe, used to feed the Void..."

 

"Yes" said Jareroden. "That is what the Empire wants you to believe, and yes, it does absorb beings and feed on them. While there is no doubt that many of those who fell were killed by the fall itself, there was one being we were able to trace who fell into the Void and survived."

 

"Iruka!" said Fairon. "I was sure he was killed by the fall, yet he somehow emerged after his battle with Nightwatcher to attack me again. How?"

 

"We do not know for sure. However, we believe that Iruka encountered someone or something there that returned him to the arena for an unknown reason."

 

These revelations were making Fairon dizzy. He asked. "So where is the mask now?"

 

"Possibly lying in the realms below the Void. Ancient tales speak of beings who live there, deities of death, space, and time, that control the fabric of the multiverse and would tear it to shreds if ever released. But the mask could enhance their powers to impossible levels, levels so great that they would break free from the Void and rip this world apart forever."

 

"So you wish me and a group of resistance members to follow the Mask into the Void? How will I enter the Void?"

 

Another thought occurred to him. "And what of my status as victor? The Ix want to control me, to use me as a pawn to exert control over their Empire."

 

"Yes, we are aware of that. If you agree to help us, Zhrek and Shardos will go in your place. You will go disguised as me, the leader of the rebels. Flardrek, Galika, Sayna, Treedaka, and I will accompany you."

 

"So that's is where the Void entrance is, Drakos City?" Fairon guessed.

 

"Obviously." Said Jareroden. "The Ix have been using it as a method of execution to destroy prisoners that displeased them. If the Void really is a portal, however, then they may be still alive." He locked eyes with Fairon. "I cannot tell you more unless you agree to join us. If they capture you the Empire will torture this information out of you, something we can't afford unless you join us."

 

Fairon realized they had backed him into an inescapable corner. If he did not join, they would kill him, for they could not let the secrets they told him be known to the Empire. If he did join, he would be forced to commit suicide by jumping into the Void. Or worse, If he survived...

 

Fairon let the thought trail off. They may have been forcing him into a a suicide mission, but he had vowed he would do everything he could to destroy the Empire after the Games.

 

"I will join you." He answered. He wished Jareroden had explained why and how Silencer had discovered the tracking beacon on Blast, but decided against it for now.

 

"Excellent." said Jareroden. "We have discovered another entrance to the Void in a place you know very well. The old arena."

 

Fairon felt as though he'd been punched again. He would be returning to the scene of his nightmares.

 

"I know what you experienced there. But if we succeed in recovering the Ignika, we're one step closer to making sure your horrors are never repeated."

 

Fairon relaxed, remembering his goal. While he certainly did not trust the Glatorian, he trusted these four Toa. They'd probably been victors themselves, or they would have long since been killed or turned into shadow Toa by the Ix.

 

"I will come." he said finally, sealing his destiny as an enemy of the Empire.

 

***

 

All was still within the dark abyss that was the Void. Not a creature stirred, and the blackness that obscured the Void prevented sight completely. But what did it matter to the corpses that lay in the Void, their eyes staring sightlessly up into the blackness. Everything that mattered in the world above was meaningless here. All was dark. All was still.

 

Suddenly, light broke through the darkness. Twin glowing red orbs slashed through the black shades, gleaming balefully in the shadows. The dark light that shone from the eyes cast red light on the approaching figure's shadowy claws.

 

Most of the being was pure black, the rest of his armor gray, colors that seemed to melt into the darkness and blend the being into the shadowy void. Slowly, the creature came into view, illuminated by the torch he carried in one clawed hand. Light, something so incomprehensible in this realm of darkness, flickered constantly. The tall shadow Matoran who carried the dying torch shivered with a tingle of foreboding.

 

Corzakx gazed through the darkness, trying to keep the torch burning while his eyes stared coldly at the Void. If he was not as loyal to his master as some, he would not be here. Only the thought of Dredzek's last message to him through their telepathic link kept him going, had made him jump into the Void the way he did. He had expected to be killed, like the Ix who had forced Dredzek and Millennium into the Eternal Game had told him, but he had not.

 

He had survived, and was now in a prison, a prison with absolutely no way out. He had tried for hours to escape this prison, but, while this world had less gravity then the world above, he still had no way to escape the Void. Only Dredzek's last message kept him going.

 

Come to the Void. The Scythe is there.

 

Most Matoran, having seen their master die, would ignore this final message. But Corzakx was not most Matoran. Like all Onu-Matoran, he had once lived a simple life on his home island of Versuva. When Dredzek became protector of Versuva, Corzakx had joined him, and when the Makuta rebelled against Mata Nui, Corzakx became a shadow Matoran.

 

Dredzek had risen in the Brotherhood's hierarchy, and Corzakx with him. When the Brotherhood met destruction after the takeover of the Ix in the Xaterex Civil War, Corzakx and Dredzek's true master was revealed-- Millennium, leader of the Shadow of Ages, a secret organization that wished to rule over time itself. After a long time, the Empire took over leadership of the Shadow of Ages, and Millennium, along with Dredzek, Corzakx, and an inner group of elite Shadow of Ages soldiers had fled.

 

Millennium continued to manipulate the Empire from behind the scenes. Eventually, However, Millennium and Dredzek were hunted down and subdued, and after being held prisoner for a few years, was forced to join the Eternal Game.

 

The previous game had ended with a Makuta lord as victor, and Dredzek was sent with his master in to the Eternal Game. Corzakx and a small group of Shadow of Ages had escaped, and they had watched the game together, hoping that their masters would triumph and return. When Millennium was killed, Corzakx saw for the first time a chance that Dredzek would win. The Matoran had watched as the final contestants, the last of Antidax's Kodax, Tabaris, Fairon, Serrakaan and Iruka make their moves.

 

Tabaris had been killed first, destroyed by Serrakaan. The Kodax fell to the Blood Summoner as well, and when the arena exploded into flames Fairon survived and escaped while Dredzek and Iruka were destroyed. Corzakx, however, knew that Dredzek was a survivor. He had obeyed Dredzek's last instructions to enter the Void, knowing that Dredzek had flung the Scythe into the Void during the final battle before the flames. Corzakx and fifty of the most fanatical Shadow of Ages members had entered the Void itself, sneaking into the Drakos System and flinging themselves into the Void.

 

Most of the Shadow of Ages soldiers had been lost on their arrival, disappearing into the Void, and four were wounded badly and abandoned. Six were found lying dead in the Void, and three still followed Corzakx through the darkness.

 

The Matoran motioned to the soldiers behind him. They were tall, masked beings with scythe-like spears made of iron that gleamed in the shadows. The spears ended in long, curved sickle points that could kill a Glatorian with a single blow. They all were wounded. One's shoulder was savagely torn open, and the others were badly scraped. Despite these wounds, the soldiers displayed no signs of pain.

 

From the dying light of the torch and the gleaming spears, Corzakx made out his surroundings. They were on some sort of ledge that jutted out into the otherwise empty Void. On one side, the walls of the Void gleamed in the darkness. To their right the Void cascaded into the darkness. Even with the light, Corzakx could not see into the pit. Ahead, a body lay sprawled unnaturally on the ground, his dulled golden armor gleaming in the shadows. Half of the corpse hung over the edge of the Void, but the feet, buried completely under the rocks, held it hanging halfway over the edge of the Void.

 

Corzakx approached the corpse, he kicked it twice, but it did not stir. Corzakx inspected the body. One dead hand still held a gleaming sword, the other, a bloodied dagger. A smashed metal blaster lay at the Glatorian's feet. Corzakx thought back to the Eternal Game, when he had seen this same toa kill a Makuta in the battle on the edge of the Void. He also remembered watching Antidax smashing the Glatorian to death with a single blow and watching the body fall over the edge of the cliff, wounded horribly. The fall had obviously killed him.

 

Well, it didn't matter now. All that mattered was finding the Scythe. Corzakx gestured to the Shadow of Ages soldiers to search the Void. Two began searching around the Glatorain's corpse, the others continued along the cliff face, holding their blades out before them. The Void had many legends surrounding it, and the Shadow of Ages had been studying the abyss for centuries. Eventually, they had come to the same conclusion as Jareroden-the Void was a prison, not a destroyer. A prison for every being that had ever crossed the Empire, as well as beings that predated the current multiverse.

 

A Shadow of Ages soldier walked silently over to Corzakx. His hood was slightly torn, and his armor was badly dented. In addition to his normal weapons, he carried a damaged Scythe. Though damaged and badly mangled, power still glowed in the blunted, melted blade. While it was useless as a weapon, Cozakx knew it still contained the power of reality-possibly the most deadly force in existance.

 

The Scythe of Creation had been created long ago by a mysterious being. Little was known of him, and no one knew anything about him. Millennium had known about him, as had Dredzek and Corzakx, as well as a few elite Shadow of Ages members. The being had long since vanished, and even Millennium could not locate him. Since the death of its original weilder, the Toa of Light Crystillix, it had been in the possession of the Empire.

 

For reasons known only to them, the Empire had let Blast retain the Scythe for the Games. Corzakx had seen him use it, and while he had displayed deadly power with the Scythe, such as aiding Leviathos' time powers and vaporizing Makuta Benjarmin in the caverns below the arena. It had then caused a massive explosion, burying Millennium forever beneath the caverns, along with the Baterra and the Element Lord of Technology.

 

Corzakx rasied the Scythe, and felt the object's power. The power contained within the weapon was deadly. The power of reality contained in the Scythe was so great that Corzakx recoiled. He withdrew his mind from the Scythe, knowing that it would kill him if he immersed himself in its power. He felt, rather than saw, the beings that had carried the Scythe, remnants of those who had used the Scythe, for good or for evil.

 

First to appear was a Toa in gleaming golden armor, Crystillix, the being that had been created to use the Scythe in the Great Being War. Then more Toa appeared. Fire, Water, Air and Earth Toa, long forgotten. Another Toa of Light, Hendrax, who also carried the Scythe. He "saw" A Toa of Air, a Toa of Gravity, a Toa of Stone. The Corpsian who had slain the Toa of Ice who had last carried the Scythe and taken it to the Empire, where it had been thrown away, and eventually had come into the possession of a being known as Blast. A being called Leviathos, from the games, who had been killed by Ghost, had carried the Scythe briefly in the Eternal Game. Then Fyxan, who had been imprisoned in stasis by Dredzek, who had taken the Scythe and flung it into the Void before he had been killed by the flames in the final battle at the Void.

 

As he called upon the powers of the Scythe, Corzakx felt the power surge through him. He was unable to control it at first, and the power began to control him. Corzakx fell to the ground, and writhed like a Doom Viper. Somehow he managed to hold the Scythe. He tried to fling it away, but found he couldn't. He felt as if his skull was about to burst-

 

Then the pain vanished.

 

Corzakx rasied the molten Scythe, willing it to recreate Dredzek. He knew that the Scythe was capable of altering reality. He knew it could recreate his master. Just as the Scythe was used by its owners, its owners were used by the Scythe. The Scythe contained some of Dredzek's spirit, and using the Scythe, he could return Dredzek to life by creating another spirit to merge with Dredzek.

 

He saw the artificial spirit he had created flow through the Scythe, then merge with the antidermis trapped within the Scythe. The Matoran writhed in agony, pain blocking out his vision completely. Slowly, Dredzek's antidermis began to reform. The artificial antidermis merged with Dredzek's completely, and an image of Dredzek's body appeared, faint at first, then slowly becoming whole.

 

Corzakx fell to his knees.

 

"My Lord." he whispered.

 

Dredzek smiled thinly. "You came to the Void. I knew you would."

 

"I will go to the end of the multiverse if Dredzek commands!" said Corzakx. "I have taken the Shadow of Ages with me. They still have no idea how to escape this Void, but we can find a way. The Scythe of Creation has powers of reality so great it could eaily free us from the Void.

 

"We cannot leave the Void." Dredzek snarled. "Not while my antidermis is incomplete. I feel...broken, with only this weak peice of Antidermis. The artificial spirit keeps me alive, but it is a half-life, weak and torturous."

 

Corzakx was confused. "Then why did you want this...half-life, if it is so weakening? Surely, in all the thousands of years you worked for the Shadow of Ages, you could have found another way to heal your antidermis."

 

"While I was within the Scythe of Creation, I sensed a new power enter the Void. One that contained a limitless supply of power. It could heal me completely, and free us from the Void. Trying to use the Scythe to return to the surface would destroy the weapon and leave us stranded here, and I still need it. Once we have this power and the Scythe, I will be more powerful then the Great Beings themselves! And even the Empire will fall before the power of the Shadow of Ages!"

 

Review


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 06:15 AM.

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tumblr_static_3xklkaa5baucs4kwgosokcw0o_
 

XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

Xaterex Art Blog | Xaterex Wiki

 

 


#3 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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  • 14-December 11
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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 04:08 AM

Chapter 2

Toa Shardak awoke to pitch blackness.
 
His first sensation was confusion. Where was he? How had he come to be here? Why had he entered this strange place of darkness? Had he been blinded?
 
Then his confusion was replaced by excruciating pain. His entire shoulder burned with pain, and, staring at his wounds, he saw the horrible tear in his shoulder that was covered in dried blood and acid, and the memories of the past few days came flooding back.
 
We were trying to escape the Ix...they caught us, and a Stalker tore open my shoulder.
 
He was conscious of a lesser, yet still horribly painful, wound on his leg, where a deadly Ix Eliminator had cut him in their escape from the Circle two days earlier. Though the memories pained him, Shardak was forced to recall what had happened in the Labyrinth: The Fury, a deadly Ix commander, had caught them, and Silencer had sacrificed himself to hold off the Ix's armies of darkness.
 
Then the final memory, why he'd come to this place of blackness, came back to him in all its dark glory. They'd been attacked and confronted by the Ix on the edge of the Grand Abyss, and Melnox had revealed their only hope for survival was to enter the Void itself.
 
And so Toa Shardak, as well as his friends, Blast, Kyhrex, and Ion, had lept into the Void, trusting that Melnox had not condemned them to death.
 
But where was he now? Had he actually fallen to the bottom of the Void? Was there even a way out? Melnox had seemed convinced there was an exit to the Void, but he'd never been there himself.
 
Oh, Mata Nui. thought Shardak. He felt around for a few moments, remembering he'd been carrying a lantern from the Circle, the underground outpost of the Ix. Had it been extinguished in the fall?
 
A quick search confirmed his worst fears. The lantern was gone, as were all his supplies. As he searched around frantically for a few more moments, he felt his hand hit something solid, quickly followed by a burst of pain. Raising his hand to his mask, he realized he was bleeding.
 
Lifting the object, he felt the edges of the tool and realized what it was. The Blade of Arcturas he thought, elated now.There has to be a way to light it on fire, the way Arcturas did in the battle with the Copies of Corpse. 
 
Saddened now, Shardak remembered how Arcturas had died- at the hands of the Fury or another Ix leader, already impaled by the Ix commander's spear.
 
You can't dwell on that now. Shardak thought. Finding Ion and the others is what matters now, or Arcturas' sacrifice was in vain. How did Arcturas light his weapon afire?
 
The answer came to him quicker then he expected. He probably used Elemental Fire, like Kyhrex, to create the flames. I don't control that power, however.
 
Hopelessness engulfed him. He'd been awake in this black void for nearly twenty minutes now, and still his vision had not adjusted. Since he'd been captured by Banrax and taken to the Circle, he'd been in many dark corridors and tunnels. But these shadows seemed different, as though they were hungary for light and devoured it at any oppurtunity. He could feel them now, surrounding him with a thickening aura of all-consuming darkness, as if life itself was not welcome here.
 
Desperation, the thought that he might never emerge from this abyss, gave Shardak strength. There's got to be a way out of this. he thought, and though he himself did not believe the words, the thought made him more confident.
 
My lantern's probably around here somewhere. he thought, then bit back a scream of pain as he rose to his feet. The wound on his leg made running nearly impossible.
 
Shardak wondered if there was a way to heal his wounds using the aura field. Even after nearly three weeks under the training of Silencer, Ion, and Melnox, there was still much he did not know.
 
Slowly, he began walking forward, his entire body screaming in protest when he moved his arm or shoulder, searching for something solid. The ground beneath his feet felt hard and rocky, like the edge of a cliff. The ground was also slanted. He followed the slanted ground for a few more feet, carefully placing one foot in front of the other
 
Suddenly, he took another half-step forward-- into nothingness. He'd almost walked over the edge of a massive cliff and fallen even deeper into the oppressive darkness. Shardak's breath caught in his throat. How far had he fallen? Had he landed on an overhang, looking over the Void?
 
Then suddenly he saw a spark of green light out of the corner of his eye. Turning away from the ledge and toward the source of light, the Toa realized Kyhrex's lantern, powered by the Circle's efficient light crystals, still gave off light in the dark void. Lying beside it, half-illuminated by the green light, was the object that the Ix had killed Silencer for: the Shadow Orb, once called the heart of the Ix's power.
 
"Mata Nui, thank you." gasped Shardak in relief, grabbing the lantern and the Orb. His own voice sounded strange, muted and subdued, as if the darkness stifled even sound. Whatever else could be said about the Ix, they created items to last the test of time. Both of the items had survived the fall.
 
But had they even truly fallen? Shardak remembered how Melnox had told him the Void's Edge was merely another gateway to the Void, as Banrax had taken them through a gateway to enter the Circle, a plane that bordered Xaterex.
 
Surprised, Shardak raised the lantern, shedding green light on his surroundings. The cliff he stood upon was formed of black rock, darker and harder then the obsidian prison of the Ix.
 
Raising his lantern, he saw two spires of dark rock, curved like the blade of a scimitar, rising high above his head like ominous avengers. The cliff itself was wide and narrow, with a jagged wall of rock rising high above his head and out of sight.
 
Shardak wondered if he could scale the cliff, but quickly abandoned the idea. This cliff was far too sheer, and there was absolutely no way even Ion could climb to the surface.
The eerie green light did not travel far in the oppressive darkness, but it did shed light on his surroundings, Shardak quickly realized he was on a small cliff jutting out into the grand abyss.
 
Walking toward the edge, he attempted to shine a light across the massive chasm. He could hardly penetrate the darkness.
 
We couldn't even see the other side of the Abyss at Void's Edge. remembered Shardak. Again he wondered where he'd landed, and how far he'd fallen. He certainly hadn't reached the bottom of the Void, for he could see the depths of darkness descended even further into the abyss.
 
Guided by the light of his lantern, Shardak walked along the edge of the steadily widening cliff, feeling very small and insignificant in the dark void. He felt so completely helpless it was as though he did not exist, as though the blackness had sucked away his very identity.
 
The small ledge had grown much wider, and Shardak eventually could no longer see the cliff's edge. He saw many more of the tall curved rock formations, however, and wondered briefly if this void was inhabited.
 
Eventually, Shardak saw another light-- not green this time, but blue. "Yes!" he said. He recognized those flames. They were that of a Cold Fire torch, used often in the Circle, where ice was burned and fire was cold.
 
And Blast had been carrying one during their escape through the Labyrinth three days ago. Hardly daring to hope it was his friend, Shardak raced toward the source of the light, his breath caught in his throat.
 
"Shardak?" the voice broke the silence, small and faint yet still wholly recognizable.
 
"Blast!" gasped Shardak, happiness flooding through him. His friend had survived the fall, and had been searching for him.
 
Walking over to his friend, Shardak smiled. "You survived the fall."
 
"There you go again, stating the obvious." said Blast, but Shardak detected real warmth in his voice. "I've been searching for you, Kyhrex, and Ion for hours!"
 
"So have I." Shardak recounted how he'd landed on the narrow ledge, then followed the cliff's edge until he'd come to this massive plateau hanging out into the Void.
 
"Have you seen Ion and Kyhrex?" asked Shardak. "Are they okay?"
 
Blast's expression turned grave. "I haven't seen them since we jumped into the Void."
 
Shardak wondered if leaping into the Void on Melnox's orders had been the right desision. Maybe if they'd given themselves up to the Ix--
 
Blast must have seen the expression on his face, because he said, "Shardak. There was nothing you could do. It was enter the Abyss or die."
 
"Maybe I could have made the Ix listen to me." said Shardak.
 
"They'd have listened, all right, while they were cutting you from limb to limb!" snarled Blast. "If your evil sister or the Fury had gotten their hands on us, we'd be dead as well."
 
Shardak knew Blast was right. He'd seen the Ix and their brutality reflected in the faces of the Kranr and Matoran from the Circle, in the eyes of Silencer as he told Shardak about the Eternal Game, and the shocked features of Barit as Nightshade had-
 
"I know. I just wish I could have saved Barit as well."
 
"You can't save everyone, Shardak." said Blast.
 
"I can't save anyone." said Shardak miserably. "Ion and Kyhrex could be dead now, for all we know. Melnox, Silencer, Barit, Arcturas-- all dead."
 
"We never saw Melnox die." argued Blast, but his expression said otherwise. "Maybe he escaped the Ix."
 
"Silencer knew much more about you then he told you." said a new voice. Startled, Shardak, Blast, and Kyhrex turned as a tall shape stepped into the light.
 
Shardak felt as though his entire world was balanced on a knife-edge as he strode toward the oncoming figure, the Blade of Arcturas in his hand. Not for the first time, he wished he could set it afire, the way Arcturas had in the Void.
 
Then he recognized the figure and lowered the blade.
 
"Ion?" he gasped, letting all of his fear of a foe far worse then Asgard flicker out.
 
"That's the second time you mistook me for an enemy." said Ion. Shardak fell silent as he remembered the first time three days earlier, when Silencer had rescued them and fought the Fury to the death so they could escape the Ix's tyranny.
 
Shardak nodded, but inwardly he seethed with impatience. He'd been wanting to ask Ion about Silencer's mention of the words 'spirit' and 'victor' in his discussion with the unknown ally, and about the mention of his allies. The Ix had murdered his friends, killed Silencer before his eyes, and forced them into the Void. He deserved to know the full truth.
 
Ion led the group of Toa and Glatorian to a small ledge overlooking the wider plains below. Three of the strange black spires had fused into a massive curved pillar of stone that hid them all beneath its massive shadow. Kyhrex fingered her laser crossbow, as though she expected Asgard or another enemy to attack them immediately.
 
"Shardak. I sense that you have many questions for me, even though I cannot use the aura field. Tell me, what is it you wish to know?" said Ion as they sat down at the base of the massive pillar.
 
Shardak froze, ashamed that Ion was able to read him so well. He sensed nothing but calm from Ion, then again, his aura senses were limited. Still, he decided to ask the question that had been plaguing him ever since Melnox's revelation near the edge of the Void.
 
"Everything." said Shardak. "Melnox told me that 'we' were planning all along to flee into the Void. Why did Silencer bother to train me, if he was going to condemn me to the Void? Is there any hope for you and your allies?"
 
Ion sighed, resigned. "Very well. I will answer your questions. However, understand I will not tell you everything. This is not because I wish to hold anything back from you, but because the information will only put you in more danger then you already are."
 
Ion paused for a moment, then said, "There is a war going on, all across the Solis Magna System. And both sides are fighting over you."
 
"Me?" gasped Shardak. "A war--"
 
"Doubtless very few beings outside the Circle know of your existence here." said Ion. "But they're not fighting over you, exactly, they're fighting to see who controls what remains of the Toa Order."
 
"But I thought--" Shardak began, but Ion cut him off.
 
"Yes, the Toa have either been killed or won the Eternal Game, and are thus as good as dead. But remains of the old order still exist, and are still fighting.
 
"When the Order was young, it was then we first encountered the mysterious sect of aura users known as the Ix. Back then, they were far more secretive then they are today, but still
aggressive. By the time I came into being, they'd corrupted the Order from within, and by then the multiverse had exploded into all-out war. The Ix seized control of most of Xaterex and
the nearby planets, and Silencer, Melnox, and I were forced into hiding after the Battle of Chrone."
 
"The Battle of Chrone?" asked Shardak.
 
"It was the Ix's greatest decisive victory over the Toa Order. Using a secretive order known as the Shadow of Ages to lure us to Chrone, the Shadow's island base. We were defeated there, and it broke the power of the Order.
 
However, this was not the end, for many other remnants of various governments joined us in opposing the Ix. I was forced into hiding, for my powers were greatly diminished. And so the war rages on, the remnant fleeing from the Ix's relentless threat.
 
"And you, Shardak, are the Ix's grand prize in the war. Melnox was not lying to you when he said you'd been marked. We needed to get you as far away as possible from the Ix and their deadly plans."
 
"But why the Void?" asked Shardak. "Do you have a way out?"
 
As Ion opened his mouth to answer, another light fell over them. But unlike the light from a Cold Fire torch or a Circle lantern, this light was red, cold and feral.
 
"Mata Nui, what is that?" gasped Blast.
 
The creature standing before them reminded Shardak slightly of an Elemental, but his features were bestial, alight with rage. Spikes and crimson armor covered it from head to foot, and it had three long, spiked tails. Oddly, the creature's eyes, which Shardak saw were burning red, seemed dimmed and weakened, like the Void had sapped his vitality.
 
"What have we here?" it whispered. It's voice was a deep baritone drawl. "Two lost Glatorian? Or maybe...a Toa?" the being turned his cold gaze on Ion.
 
"Asgard." whispered Ion, his voice cold and full of surprise and hatred. "What are you doing here? What do you want?"
 
Shardak was beginning to grow uneasy. This being's bizarre appearance and burning red eyes reminded him too much of his time spent as a prisoner of the Ix, where two of the Ix had tortured them to glean information about their past. They'd have discovered his destiny had not Silencer rescued him.
 
"What do I want?" asked the being. It seemed amused by the question. "Existance on the Great Plain isn't terribly exciting. It's so massive, beings rarely ever encounter others here, and when they do, their power levels are all relatively the same. But a healthy young Glatorian, as well as the two Toa the Ix are seeking...We'll be able to play with you for a good, long time."
 
He knows. realized Shardak. He's working for the Ix.
 
As the being spoke, two more of the red-eyed beings emerged from the darkness. Unlike the first, they were smaller, and only had a single tail. Their eyes gleamed with predatory excitement.
 
"Your orders, Asgard?" asked one of the beings.
 
"You know what to do." answered the three-tailed being. "Now, would you rather run, or shall I fight you now?"
 
Shardak didn't quite know what to say. They'd only narrowly escaped the tyranny of the Ix, only to be once more in their domain. He'd heard from Silencer that most of the beings who haunted the void had been prisoners for so many years they'd become apathetic to their situation and merely drifted through the empty blackness. These were definitely not prisoners.
 
They'd learned somehow about their narrow escape from the Circle.
 
Then Asgard's eyes fell on Shardak's mask. His eyes widened in shock, which quickly turned to determination. "So you're the Toa...amazing. Why would they risk one of their operatives, with such an important Kanohi, no less, here?"
 
"Well, it is no matter." said Asgard dismissively. "After five hundred years trapped within the Abyss, I see no reason to refuse a way out. The Ix will reward me graciously for finishing off Toa Ion and the Glatorian who caused them so much trouble in their Circle."
 
He turned to the two beings standing behind him and motioned with his clawed hand toward the Toa and Glatorian.
 
"Kill them." he snarled. "Kill them both!"

 


***

 
Fairon sat tensed within the small hovercraft, watching as Flardrek, Jareroden, Galika, Treedaka, Sayna, and the other toa readied their weapons. Fairon had already readied his lance. The
rebels had replaced the one that had been destroyed in the arena.
 
"So, how did you all survive it?" Fairon asked Jareroden.
 
"Survive what?" asked the Toa of Psionics.
 
"Elimination." said Fairon. "The Corpsians virtually annihilated the Toa race." He knew the story. Everyone did. When the Ix had first attacked the Toa, they'd engineered a bioweapon known as Elimination to quickly kill Toa. The disease spread and dispersed quickly, allowing the Ix to use it often and dangerously effectively during the war.
 
"We were from an alternate reality, like many of the Toa captured last year for the Eternal Game" Sayna answered. "We were captured by the Empire's dimensional gateway traps, and taken to the arena."
 
"So you're all victors?" he asked.
 
"Treedaka and I won the games in two years, first him, then me." she answered. "Jareroden, Flardrek, and Galika have also won the Eternal Game."
 
Fairon nodded in reply. He'd seen Jareroden's victory before. The Toa had killed a massive Makuta by stabbing him with a lightning spear. The Makuta had survived, and flung Jareroden over the edge of a cliff, but the Toa had dragged the Makuta over the edge with him. Jareroden had suffered near-fatal wounds, but the Empire had managed to rescue him in time to save him.
 
He remembered Flardrek winning the Games as well, he had impaled two Kodax with fire arrows, and killed the last contestants by using his fire sword he had gained in the games to set off fire traps within massive pockets of earth below the arena, causing the entire arena to burst into flames as soon as the Skakdi warriors attacked him. Flardrek had killed the final survivor himself, disarming the Skakdi and beheading him with his own axe.
 
The thought of fire made Fairon remember the explosion of red-hot flames as Iruka, his final opponent in the games, emerged from the darkness, demanding--
 
They've all been through what I have. thought Fairon. For some reason, the idea both unsettled and intruiged him.
 
"We've all been forced to do things we would have never done as Toa." said Sayna, as though reading his thoughts. "We're probably not even worthy of that title now. But we will do anything to prevent the Empire from forever crushing freedom across the multiverse."
 
Fairon nodded, unsettled by their discussion. Discussing the arena brought back a wave of memories, most of them dark. Even the moments he'd spent with Blast, Tanuva, and Leviathos were tainted by the Ix, for all of his friends who had been taken with him into the arena had been killed.
 
Even now, the memory of Leviathos' final battle with Ghost and Tanuva's ultimate sacrifice were still as vivid as the day they had occured.
 
"We're here." said Jareroden, his voice grim. "The Void."
 
Fairon was surprised. "Shouldn't this arena be completely off-limits by now? That the Ix would fail to guard the arena is unusually sloppy of them."
 
Jareroden also looked puzzled. "It is odd that they'd not guard this arena heavily. Still, I doubt they'd expect six Toa and Glatorian in a stolen hovercraft to leap into the soul-eating Void."
 
The hovercraft landed silently, and Treedaka entered the main chamber. "We're ready." he said grimly.
 
Leaving the confines of the starcraft, Fairon steeled himself to return to the place of his nightmares. It was night, and the stars shone coldly down, as coldly impassive as they had been since the end of the games. Most of the trees and other plants had been burned, and the grass had been charred or, in many places, completely burned away.
 
So this is what became of the arena. After the game, it's been simply abandoned.
 
Fairon wondered the arena for a few moments, then was struck by an idea. After wandering this place for nearly a month, he knew exactly where he wanted to go. Striding through the forest, he quickly saw it come into sight-- the cave where he, Fyxan, Leviathos, Tanuva, and Blast had taken shelter during Nightwatcher's massive shockwave attack.
 
The caven remained unchanged, though the entrance had collapsed in on itself. Fairon guessed that when Dredzek had left the cave with the Scythe of Creation, the barriers Leviathos and Blast had set up around it disintegrated into nothingness.
 
Lying sprawled at the cave's entrance was the charred corpse of a being, features still recognizable.
 
Fyxan.
 
This Kodax had been one of his greatest friends, one of his only true allies in the arena. Apart from Tanuva and Leviathos, he had been the only being to sacrifice his life for Fairon's.
Fairon remembered that last moment they'd spent together, within the cavern, Tanuva, Blast, and Leviathios ready to return to the arena.
 
"I will stay." Fyxan spoke quietly, his voice steady. "I'm the most wounded of us all. I'll hold him and his machines off as long as I can. Until I die."
"But the caves will collapse around you as soon as Blast leaves the caves." pointed out Leviathos. "If you die before he reaches you, Dredzek will escape unharmed."
 
Blast unlimbered his Scythe. "Take this, Fyxan. The Scythe contains the power to hold the time walls up a few more minutes."
 
Fairon stared at his friend, and watched as Blast gave away his most prized possession to the Kodax. He handed it to Fairon, who passed it to Fyxan. And at that moment, Fairon didn't care that everyone in the Kodax Empire was watching, every one of the remaining Toa stood within the chamber. This moment was only for the two friends, parting, unlikely to ever see each other again.
 
"No one can tell me." Fairon said, his voice cracking. "That there are no heroes in the Eternal Game. May the Great Beings be with you, Fyxan."
 
"And you, Fairon." Fyxan turned, and readied his own blade and the Scythe of Creation, and prepared to face Dredzek...
 
After seeing the complete Game after his victory, he'd watched Dredzek imprison Fyxan in temporal stasis, and guessed the prison had disintegrated when the arena went up in flames. He'd tried to flee the collapsing cave...only to be destroyed in the inferno.
 
"May your spirit find peace, Fyxan." whispered Fairon, turning away. He'd hoped that perhaps Fyxan had survived the imprisonment, but he realized now it was a foolish hope. Dredzek had no way of knowing it was Blast's and Leviathos' power holding the cave together, and he knew nothing about the shockwave. Had his prison not failed, Fyxan would have been crushed to death.
 
Suddenly Fairon wanted to be anywhere but the arena, even the Void. Returning to the group of Toa and Glatorian, Fairon saw that Treedaka, Sayna, Jareroden, Galika, Flardrek, Xatax, and Vorral had gathered near the edge of the Void. While the rest of the arena had been changed irrevocably by the firestorm, the Void remained the same, a well of pure, enigmatic darkness.
 
"Ready?" said Jareroden.
 
"Ready." confirmed Fairon, hoping his voice sounded firm. Reentering the arena and seeing Fyxan's corpse had shaken him, and now they were about to enter a realm that was either a void of annihilation or a prison that contained entities from the dawn of time. Fairon wasn't sure which he preferred.
 
As the group of Toa and Glatorian readied to leap into the Void, Fairon whispered a final sentance, one last group of syllables that could be the last he ever uttered on the surface of the earth. Words that no one, except perhaps Jareroden, heard before it was swept away on the wings of the wind.
 
"I will return."

 

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Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 04:09 AM.

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#4 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 04:46 AM

Chapter 3

The darkness of the Void, oppressive and cold, shrouded even the shadows of beings from sight. Had any being been standing there who could see through the darkness, they would have seen the murky shadows of beings striding across a ledge overlooking the Void. All were armed, and carried lanterns that shed red light. The illumination served to penetrate the darkness for only five feet around them.

They were, thought Ix warrior Valkyria Rhai with satisfaction, for all intents and purposes, invisible. Unless a being was standing directly in front of them, they would never spot the Ix until it was far too late.

Beside her, her old mentor Scrall Vhokyn gestured with one clawed hand toward a shadowy shape in front of them. Both of the Ix wore shadowy cloaks of mottled green and brown, that blended well with the darkness. Both carried daggers, and Valkyria had a bow and quiver slung over her slender shoulder.

"There is our target. Hopefully he will be able to provide us with the information we need to find the Toa." Scrall whispered, his voice paper-thin and nasal.

"Is he alone?" asked Valkyria. Her voice, light and musical, was similar to all the Ilierans who had served the Ix in the generations following their separation from the Core Universe during the Xaterex Civil War.

Tall and slender, Valkyria possessed all of the physical qualities the Ix desired, and had been trained in both the aura field and in physical combat until she could defeat nearly all of the opponents she faced. She had quickly become one of the most skilled Ix apprentices. Still, the challenges she faced here were greater then anything any of their order had faced in nearly a century.

She and an elite strike team selected from her Ix order under Scrall Vhokyn had journeyed to the Void through a dimensional portal, hunting a being who had grown infamous in the Core Universe for his actions: Shardak, the legendary Spirit Toa, whose destiny had been foretold long before Valkyria's order had been separated from the Ix Empire. While Valkyria was proud to have been selected for this vital mission, she betrayed not the slightest flicker of emotion.

Turning back to signal to the group of Ix warriors following them, Scrall motioned toward their target. Valkyria could now make out at least two of the beings in the gloom. They all carried long spears with curved blades, and they were armored heavily. They were like no beings Valkyria had encountered before.

And perhaps they also possess knowledge of the Toa's location. Or, at least, information about the Void.

For Valkyria, knowledge was the greatest treasure any Ix warrior could hope to gain. If she was able to find the Spirit Toa, she would ask him what he had done to force the Ix of the Core Universe against him before she killed him.

Shardak. That was his name. Valkyria remembered. The name sounded alien to her, not harsh enough to be an Ix name, not musical enough to be an Illieran's. They had learned of what he had done in a location known as the Circle from a group of Ta-Matoran who had a Toa with him by the name of Melnox. He'd been a weak foe, she'd finished him off herself.

They had followed the beings toward the edge of a small chasm. They were waiting there, and Valkyria now saw there were six, maybe seven of them. They were talking in the main language of the Core Universe, but their voices were hushed so she could not make out what they were saying.

"And now." whispered Scrall, interrupting her thoughts. "We strike."

Suddenly the Ix materialized out of the darkness. For one brief moment, one of the soldiers turned to face Scrall, then he brought the being down with a single stroke of his scythe.

Valkyria raised her weapon, the long, curved dagger known as Silverblade, and drove it through the back of one of the beings like a striking viper. Valkyria felt the dagger stab through muscle and bone, blood spattering against her cloak and arms. For one moment, the being gasped for breath as his life began to fade, then he fell to the ground.

Two of the being's number lay dead, and another was badly wounded, but the rest recovered quickly, one spearing an Ix warrior through the shoulder and slamming him onto the rocks. Valkyria drew a throwing dagger, but missed by a fraction of an inch as he whirled away to face his attacker.

Another of the beings brought a mace down on an Ix's head, shattering the being's skull. The warrior staggered backward, his body going limp at the edge of the cliff and plunging into the void below. Scrall quickly dispatched him with a strike from his long scythe.

Only three of the beings remained, and one was badly injured. One of the two uninjured beings charged her, his face alight with hatred, but she dodged his blow easily and blocked his next attack. He was strong, stronger then Valkyria would ever be. But he would soon learn that no being in the Core Universe could stand against an Ix warrior.

As the being brought his sword down, ready to decapitate her, Valkyria raised Silverblade in a defensive position, leaving herself open to attack from one side. For a moment, the being paused, confused, then changed direction of his bloodstained sword. As he was about to strike, Valkyria switched her grip on the blade and stabbed out beneath his guard. At the same time, the soldier, confused by her escape, hesistated in dealing the final blow.

That was all Valkyria needed. The being never even noticed the dagger arc upward in a flash of silver as she ran it through his shoulder. As she tore Silverblade free, he crumpled to the ground, his face a mask of pain. Valkyria saw another Ix warrior fall upon the wounded soldier savagely, forcing him to the ground.

Surveying the battlefield, Valkyria saw that the two remaining soldiers were being forced backward, toward the edge of the cliff. To the Ix warrior's surprise, she saw the soldiers snarl defiance, then one lept into the void, an echo of his last scream rising from the depths before vanishing.

For a brief moment, his suicidal jump distracted the Ix. The remaining soldier speared an Ix warrior through the leg. For a few more moments he traded blows with the wounded Ix warrior, and one of Valkyria's daggers struck him in the shoulder. Then the soldier vanished into the darkness.

The Ix quickly realized pursuit was nearly impossible without casualties. The soldier obviously knew this area of the Void better then they, and could lie in ambush for them. Then Valkyria remembered the soldier she'd wounded. Racing toward him, she saw the Ix attacker had disarmed him was forcing him against the face of the cliff. He was badly wounded, and would soon be finished off.

"No. Don't kill him." Scrall ordered, and the Ix immediately abandoned his attack. The soldier attempted to flee, but a group of dark cloaked Ix barred his way, scythes drawn.

Scrall spoke quietly and coldly. "What is your name?"

The being remained silent.

Scrall did not lift a finger, but the being screamed in pain, writhing against the cliff wall. He attempted to flee again, but the Ix easily subdued him. Valkyria knew she was witnessing an elemental technique she had yet to perfect, psionics. While she could cause pain using the power, she could not inflict the extreme mental damage Scrall Vhokyn could. She saw Scrall concentrate further, and she realized with some surprise his mind was shielded heavily against telepathic probing.

Finally the being fell back against the cliff wall, drained mentally and physically.

Scrall asked again, as though nothing had happened. "What is your name?"

"I am Ahi." gasped the being, as though the words he spoke pained him. With each syllable, he was betraying his entire mission, the reason he'd entered the Void in the first place.

"Whom do you serve?" Scrall asked.

"I am a member of the Shadow of Ages." gasped Ahi, in pain. "I am a Kranr."

For the briefest of moments, Valkyria felt shock run through the aura field. Scrall quickly recovered, then said, "The Shadow of Ages. Their legendary mental shielding must have decreased over the years, since I've broken you so easily."

Ahi snarled something unintelligible, then said, "I was only recently recruited. I joined during the last war."

Scrall nodded as though everything Ahi had said was unsurprising. "What is your organization's purpose here?"

"I do not know." gasped Ahi. Reaching out in the aura field, both Valkyria and Scrall knew he was telling the truth.

"What do you know of the Spirit Toa, Shardak?" asked Scrall.

"A Toa?" gasped Ahi in shock. "I know nothing of this." Again, Valkyria knew he did not speak falsely.

"Then you are of now further use to us." said Scrall, waving his fingers in Ahi's general direction. There was a horrible crack as his spine and neck snapped, and Ahi crumpled to the ground.

"We will follow the trail of the remaining Shadow of Ages soldier." said Vhokyn once the Ix had gathered. The Ix did not give any sign of acknowledgement, but gathered their fallen weapons and regrouped behind Scrall.

"What is this organization...this Shadow of Ages?" asked Valkyria once the Ix had gathered and had begun following the soldier's trail.

"More then any being can ever comprehend." answered Scrall. "I learned of this organization during a recent raid, during the weeks you spent tracking down Melnox. Their leader, Millennium, an ancient being of temporal power, and his deputy, Makuta Dredzek, where executed in the Eternal Game."

Valkyria had seen the last Eternal Game, she vaugely remembered Millennium. He'd been killed by a massive cavern collapsing atop him during a major battle in the game. The entire game was a brilliant display of power, one that made Valkyria admire her Ix order even more. The games were the perfect balance of fear and awe for the lesser beings who served them.

"I remeber Millennium and Dredzek." said Valkyria. "You said Dredzek was a Makuta. Is Millennium also one?"

"No one truly knows what Millennium is. Like the Ix once were, he was regarded as a myth by most of the known universe, a half-forgotten yet also barely remembered shadow of darkness upon the Matoran and Agori."

"Are they a dangerous threat to the Ix's rule?" asked Valkyria.

"No." answered Scrall. "There was a time when this was so, but their organization grew smaller and smaller in the days before the Fall of Arcaea. Caught between the massive armies of the Ix Empire and the Toa Order, they stood no chance when the Toa destroyed their main base on the island of Chrone During the following year, another battle was fought, which eventually led to Millennium and Dredzek's capture and their subsequent executions."

"Then what are they doing down here?" asked Valkyria.

"That's what the final surviving Shadow soldier will tell us." hissed Scrall, his voice growing colder now. "When we capture him."

Asgard moved blindingly fast, his tail whirling around and striking Blast in the leg. The Glatorian screamed in pain, a scream that was abruptly cut off as one of Asgard's minions slammed his fist against Blast's throat.

"You cannot win, Toa. My race, the demons, were created long before you and your Order existed. Weaker then the great Elemental Demons that came before us, we were nevertheless strong and adaptable, which is why we survived after they were destroyed. That's why we still exist on the surface world, whereas one day your Toa will be completely exterminated."

Shardak almost laughed at the irony of that statement. The Ix had wiped out nearly all of the Toa, and he'd never heard of these demons before Asgard had told him. They'd probably destroyed them as well, with their powerful biological weapons, during the great war.

"While you've been wandering around down here doing the Ix's bidding, you should know the world has changed, Asgard. Your race is long gone, as is the Toa Order."

"Even if what you are saying is true, it will no longer matter. With a prize as powerful as your Kanohi--"

"I don't even know what it does!" protested Shardak.

"Really?" the idea seemed to amuse Asgard. "You do not know? That is disappointing. Well, it is immateral now. The Ix will reward me for capturing you." Asgard opened his mouth to speak again, but at the same time he lashed out, claws raking open the old wound an Eliminator had dealt him in the Labyrinth.

Pain, pain like he hadn't known since his narrow escape from the Ix, shot through him. He'd escaped through insurmountable obstacles in the Circle, only to die at the hands of a being long forgotten to the realm of the living. Beside him, Ion was forcing one of the demons away from Blast, while the other still fought the Glatorian.

One of Asgard's tails, barbed and painful, whipped around his legs, distracting him for a few precious moments. And as Asgard slashed blindly at his shoulder, one of the one-tailed demons slammed into Shardak, knocking him off balance. Asgard's second tail whirled around, about to strike him in the shoulder.

Wildly swinging the Blade of Arcturas, Shardak felt it strike the one-tailed demon a solid blow to the side that sent it reeling. As Asgard's tail was about to strike, Shardak lifted the weapon and slashed off the barbed tip of the demon's tail.

Asgard roared in pain and rage, and this time Shardak knew the demon would not toy with him. Asgard would finish him off quickly and painlessly now.

"Perhaps if you had been a good little Toa, I would have chosen to play with you a little longer. But since obviously you are armed and dangerous, I must kill you now. Farewell, Shardak."
Blast snarled something incoherent and tore free from the other demon's grasp, scythe flailing wildly in his hands. Shardak didn't see where Blast landed that final blow, but Asgard reared back, his blood spattering against the sheer obsidian cliff behind Shardak.

"Blast! Look out!" Shardak called. As Asgard slashed at Blast with claws and his two remaining tail spikes, a second demon was creeping up behind him, his clawed hand holding a short, heavy broadsword. Neother he nor Ion were close enough to help. Blast whipped around at the last second possible, then narrowly dodged the demon's blow. Asgard took full advantage of Blast distraction and swiped his claws, aiming to sever Blast's spinal cord.

Unluckily for the demon, at that exact moment, Blast dodged a swipe from the attacking demon's claw, which also caused Asgard's attack to miss the Glatorian completely. Blast brought his scythe down with a crash against the demon's back, and Asgard's minion staggered away, his eyes raging.

Asgard hissed in annoyance. Shardak dared not reach out to the demon, even with his limited aura senses he knew Asgard was a dark, burning ember in the field, similiar to the Elemental Flareus, yet weaker and slightly dulled. The other demons' auras were simularly smouldering, though far less intense then Asgard's presence.

As the three-tailed being raised his claws, burning fire crackling at his fingertips, Shardak struck. He slammed into Asgard, knocking the demon off-balance. Asgard flung him off with annoyance, clawing at his arms, trying to tear at the shoulder that had been wounded by the Ix Stalker.

Rage leant Shardak strength. I refuse to die today. I need to escape, find Kyhrex, and save Ion. They're the only ones who can bring us to Silencer's allies. To help the remnants of the Toa Order to make sure the Ix never manage to completely destroy freedom.
The thought of the Ix and the evil they'd done spurred Shardak on. The Blade of Arcturas glowed with crimson light, as it always did just before it struck a target. Asgard's eyes widened in surprise, and Shardak realized that somehow the being recognized the blade. Asgard's features quickly became full of hatred again, making him look even more sinister in the cold, unflinching darkness.

Asgard blocked Shardak's next strikes, and turned toward Blast, knocking the Glatorian off his feet, Instantly, the wounded one-tailed demon lept on the Glatorian, claws extended, ready to tear open his throat. Shardak tried to race to his friend's side, but was stopped before he was even halfway there.

Asgard's claw reached out, grabbing Shardak by his unwounded shoulder. "Your friend's life is over. Soon yours will also be ended."

Suddenly a blue arrow, like a dart of cold lightning, struck Blast's assailant in the shoulder. The being screamed in pain as two more arrows took him between the eyes and directly in his heart. For one moment, confusion flashed across the face of Asgard's minion, then he collapsed, dead.

"Kyhrex!" Shardak called as Asgard hissed something under his breath, tightening the claw around his shoulder. Their Glatorian guide, who had saved their lives more then once during their escape through the Circle and the sebsequent battles with the Eliminators and Flareus, had finally found them.
More of the blue crossbow bolts struck Asgard and his remaining minion, and Asgard saw they'd been completely outmaneuvered. Unless they fled now, they'd be killed by Kyhrex's arrows. The demon gave Shardak and Ion one last glare of hatred, before vanishing into the shadows beyond.

Shardak knew there was no hope in following him. Asgard and his remaining servant obviously knew the Void far better then they did. They'd be killed quickly if they attempted to persue them, either by Asgard or something far, far worse.

Silencer's word's came back to him. The Void is a place of horrors, where ancient lords of madness and destruction dwell. Eternally they wander the endless blackness, with no hope of ever escaping the shadows that hold them trapped between dimensions. Only their hatred is greater then their craving for the deaths of beings weaker then they.

"Are you okay?" Kyhrex's voice, low and tense, broke through his recollections.

"I'll live." answered Shardak, grimacing as pain lanced through his shoulder. "Stalker wound acting up, that's all."

Kyhrex nodded. "I've heard of beings like those before...they're smaller offshoots of exiled Elemental Princes. I didn't know any still existed."

Kyhrex shook her head. "The last thing I remember is Melnox telling us the Ix would follow us wherever we go and that our only hope for survival was to risk the Void. I wonder...did he have something else planned all along?"

"What?" asked Shardak, curious now. He'd always wondered if Silencer's small group had been the only active resistance against the Ix, but was almost sure that was not the case. Why else would Silencer be so eager for them to risk their lives within an abyss of countless horrors?

"Before you were captured by the Ix." Kyhrex began. "I heard Silencer talking to someone. It was definitely an ally, and they mentioned the words 'victor' and 'spirit' often. I had no idea what that meant, and I'd wanted to ask Silencer about it later, but I never got the chance before..." her voice trailed off into silence.

Shardak knew what she was thinking. Before the Ix had sent the Fury to kill Arcturas. Before he'd been taken prisoner by Banrax, before they'd been marked as enemies of the Empire, before Silencer's death. So much had happened in the past three weeks Shardak still found it hard to comprehend completely.

Ion walked over to them. His eyes were grim, and he looked more tense then Shardak had seen him in a long time.

"That was a Xhranr, a three-tailed demon. They've obviously wasted no time in contacting their most dangerous allies."

"They sent demons after you?" asked Kyhrex.

"Yes." winced Ion. "I've fought Asgard before, he's one of their most dangerous allies. Of course the Ix would have allies on the Great Plain."

"The Great Plain?" asked Blast as they rose to their feet. Raising his lantern, Ion led them into the darkness.

"The many ledges that overlook the Void are collectively known as the Great Plain. They're nothing like the planes of existence, though. The Void borders all of the planes, and time flows at the same pace as on the material world...that is, your planet Xaterex. However, it's not a plane, but an abyss, a gap between planes. Otherwise, it follows all material world laws."
Shardak knew that some planes didn't follow the same physical laws as Xaterex. For example, in the Circle, fire was blue and cold while ice was orange and burning. His eyes were instinctively drawn to his Cold Fire torch as they ran through the shadows, hoping desperately the Ix were not directly behind them.

"If the Ix are willing to send demons after us, they've got more allies on the Great Plain. We're no longer safe here." said Ion.

"I thought Melnox said the Ix weren't down here." Blast protested.

"The Ix and others like them are scattered across the myriad planes and realms of existence." said Ion. "It's impossible to define where their empire ends and where it begins. They don't rule the Void as emperors, obviously, but they're here. They have agents everywhere.

"Shardak." said Ion. "Do you still have the Shadow Orb?"
Shardak nodded. He was burning with questions now, but his overwhelming fear that the Ix were watching them silenced him immediately.

"They're not here yet." whispered Ion, his voice quiet but firm. "But they wouldn't have sent Asgard alone. Soon they'll realize he's failed, and they'll--"
He was abruptly cut off before he could finish by the sound of Blast's shout of warning, Kyhrex raising her laser crossbow, and Ion turning around, looking for some way to escape.
A group of beings stood before them, tall and heavily armored. One was pointing a spear at Ion, two others were charging toward Ion and Kyhrex.

Ion tried to call out a warning, but before Shardak could even move he saw the soldier's swords slashing downward. The darkness came alive with the clash of steel on steel, but Shardak was only conscious of Blast's voice, raised above the chaos of battle.

"Shardak! No!"

 

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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#5 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 04:52 AM

Chapter 4

Fairon opened his eyes and realized he could see nothing at all. For one, panicked moment, he thought he'd been blinded. Then his memories, as though he'd just woken up, hit him again.

Have I fallen all the way to the bottom of the Void?

Then he remembered what Jareroden had told him. The interior of the abyss was so vast they'd probably landed on one of the massive outcroppings that overlooked the Void. The chances they'd fallen to the bottom of the vast abyss were extremely small.

Suddenly light, flashed before his eyes, illuminating Jareroden's silver armor. Both Toa had been slightly bruised from the fall, but they were alive. Fairon could see Xatax, Vorral, Sayna, Treedaka, Galika, and Flardrek were all alive.

"Where are we?" asked Fairon. He remembered Jareroden had brought several bright lanterns with him in the Void, but the light he now carried was far dimmer. Fairon realized that somehow the Void had dimmed their illumination.

It's almost as though the darkness is alive. thought Fairon uneasily.

"Legends call this place the Great Plain. It's a massive outcropping that extends for many miles. There are many, many more like it deeper in the Void, but this is where most beings who attempt to pass through the dimensional gate end up."

"Where'd you learn all of this?" asked Fairon, amazed. "Certainly not from the Ix."

Jareroden smiled slightly. "No. There are many ancient legends that predate the Ix's invasions and the Fall of Arcaea, and if you know where to look, you'll find they're very much still alive."

"So, what's our plan?" said Fairon. "We don't know where the Ignika is, or how to find it,"

"We'll begin by setting up a base camp, then we'll start our search from there." answered Jareroden. "But be careful. It's very easy to become lost on the Great Plain. Apart from the tall spires of dark stone that rise from the ground, it's impossible to find landmarks of any type."

Fairon nodded. He wondered if the mask was even on the Great Plain, or somewhere deeper in the Void. He hoped fervently it was the former. Then he began wondering how they'd return to Gigas Nui.

We probably won't survive our mission. And if we do, then we'll think about a way to return.

Still, the thought of being trapped down here, forever, unsettled him. Then he remembered all he had to look forward to on the surface world was a lifetime of enslavement to the Ix in Drakos Capitol, and relaxed slightly.

Jareroden was already dividing up scouting teams near a large obelisk of rock, "Flardrek and Fairon, you'll search to the west. Galika and Sayna, east. Treedaka and Vorral, guard the obelisk. If we're not all back in a few hours, light the signal flare. I'll search north with Xatax."

The signal flare was a massive torch that, when lit, would explode, causing a massive firey explosion. While Fairon guessed its effect would be slightly deminished by the Void, nearly everyone within a few miles would hear the explosion or see the lights and be able to find their way back to the obelisk.

The teams began to disperse, Fairon joining Flardrek. The Glatorian's lantern illuminated the area around them, a massive, unchanging plain, gradually sloping downward. How long Fairon wondered the empty blackness, he could not say. He was only consious of the hatred he felt all around him, as though the Void hated all living things that dwelled within it.

"How does Jareroden plan to return us to Gigas Magna?" asked Fairon at length. Flardrek had been mostly silent during their journey, and for some reason Fairon felt the need to speak. He realized it was because the Void's sheer blackness made him feel like he didn't exist any more.

"I'm not sure, yet." answered Flardrek. "But I know he has a way. He and the mutated being Silencer studied the Void well. They mentioned the Nameless City, I think, as an escape route."

"The Nameless City of the Mindeaters?" said Fairon skeptically. "Silencer believed it existed?"

"As does Jareroden. A few years ago, many would never believe a group of victors, who happen to be the last Toa in the universe, have entered a Void long reported to be a death trap. If the legend that the Void is a prison is true, perhaps the Mindeater's secret capitol also exists."

Fairon was still slightly skeptical. The legend stated that nearly a millennia ago, during the hight of the ancient Mindeater Empire, the Mindeaters, psionic beings of dark power, had established their capitol far below the present-day Circle, within the Void between dimensions. This capitol, always referred to as the Nameless City, was eventually forgotten by the Elementals after the defeat of the Mindeaters.

However, a few days ago he had been equally skeptical of the idea that the Void was a prison, not a realm of annihilation. So perhaps the Mindeaters really had explored the Void, if not built their captiol there.

"Perhaps." said Fairon eventually. Then all thoughts of their discussion vanished as he saw the Great Plain suddenly began to slope downward, and toward a large crevice in the earth.

An from far below Fairon heard a rasping voice he knew only too well. He turned to Flardrek.

"Ix." he whispered, voice quiet, full of shock and fear.

***

Quietly, Nightwatcher stalked the Toa through the shadows. The tall Toa of Shadow trained his emerald green eyes on the Toa and Glatorian accompanying him, and quickly dismissed any threat from them. they was weak, immaterial.

And he was worth nearly five thousand widgets alive.

The Ix's instructions had been clear. Nightwatcher's mind began to drift back to that day, the day after...

What? His mind suddenly wondered. What had happened before the day he'd been hired by the tall, dark robed Ix with red eyes?

It wasn't as though his memories were faulty. Nightwatcher remembered nearly everything he'd done for the past fifty years, how he'd adapted to the aftermath of the Ix's invasion and their subsequent destruction of the Toa. The war was still going on, but there truly was no hope for the rebellion and their allies at this point. They were doomed to defeat.

Now the Ix were determined to stamp them out once and for all.

"Your orders are clear." the tall Ix had rasped, his voice cold and nasal. "Return all of the victors alive to Drakos Capitol. We will make an example of them."

"And what of their other allies?" asked the bounty hunter. "They are irrelevant. Kill them." said the Ix.

Nightwatcher had nodded. The job's location, the Void, was annoying, but the Ix were paying him handsomely to return the rebel victors to the capitol. With their last remaining undercover agents eliminated, the rebellion would lose the momentum it had gained by Fairon's victory in the Eternal Game.

Nightwatcher had also learned the Ix had business of their own in the Void, something that had nothing to do with his mission. The Ix were determined to win the war, once and for all.

But still the question plagued him: what had he been doing before the day the Ix had hired him? Something was missing from the picture here, something that deeply unsettled him. His last memory had been the time he'd been hired by a fragmented organization known as the Shadow of Ages, during the hight of the war. Then, it was as though one year of his life had passed, without him knowing it.

The bounty hunter felt a cold chill run through him, but he put it down to the callous darkness of the Void. Although Nightwatcher often considered shadows allies, the darkness in the Void was a little to...oppressive for his liking.

It does not matter now. thought Nightwatcher finally. When I return to the Capital with the Glatorian dead and the victors captured, the Ix will give me my reward. And then I will find the being who has taken my memories and finish him off myself.

Silently, like a wraith, the bounty hunter stalked Jareroden. The Toa would have long since been captured now, but Nightwatcher needed him free. Soon the Toa would lead him to the rest of his allies, and they would be quickly overwhelmed.

A cold smile flickered across Nightwatcher's face. As far as he was concerned, the job had already been completed.

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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#6 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 04:59 AM

Chapter 5

 

Fairon had faced down many dangerous foes in his lifetime. He’d fought the shapeshifting Toa of shadow Zaeron, Iruka, Antidax, and many other beings in the cold, deadly arena. But nothing terrified him more then coming face-to-face with the Ix again.

 

If they know I’m down here…it’s all over. He thought.

 

"What are the Ix doing down here?" asked Fairon, voice quiet.

 

"No idea." said Flardrek. "They must have a way out as well, then. But why would they—"

 

The cold, hissing rasp of the Ix cut into their whispered conversation. Fairon could not understand the language the Ix spoke; it reminded him of nails scraping against rock. He could almost ‘’see’’ the Ix in his mind’s eye now, as they were about to capture him, and later, the Kodax addressing the crowd, telling them the captured beings’ sentence: To fight to the death in the Eternal Game…

 

Fairon shook his head, clearing his thoughts. They were only distracting now, and served no real purpose. He heard shouts in the distance, and realized the Ix had left guards surrounding the entire area. Of course they’d been noticed, the Ix were just waiting for the right time to strike.

 

"We need to warn Jareroden." whispered Flardrek urgently. "He needs to know."

 

Fairon nodded grimly. His old habits he’d been forced into in the arena, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching, began to return. The Void was no longer a prison; it was an arena, with the Toa and the Ix as players.

 

Then Fairon heard the Ix speak again. This time the words were in Matoran, but it was impossible to make out. Then he saw a torch of cold flame gleaming in the depths of the shadows. There was no need for communication between Toa and Glatorian. Fairon and Flardrek ran; their eyes filled with fear and dread. Had the Ix seen them?

 

Suddenly, Fairon slammed into another being, knocking them both to the ground. He realized it was Vorral.

 

"What the—" Vorral snarled as he recognized Fairon.

 

"Ix." Fairon choked out. "They’re here."

 

Instantly Vorral’s eyes were on alert. Turning to Treedaka, he noticed the Toa of Air’s weapon was already raised, blue lightning shimmering along the edge.

 

"How far away?" he asked.

 

"Very close." answered Flardrek. "They’re in a secret tunnel, which descends deeper into the Void. They’ve obviously guarded the parameters, so we’re sure they noticed us."

 

"Did they recognize you?" asked Treedaka.

 

"I don’t know." said Fairon. "If they did, they gave no indication of it."

 

Treedaka nodded tersely. "We’ll hold them off as long as we can. It is imperative they do not know you’re down here. Warn Jareroden, Galika, and Sayna. They need to get as far away from the Ix as possible."

 

Fairon knew better then to ask what would happen to him. They were sacrificing themselves for him again, just as Tanuva and Leviathos had in the arena. Perhaps Treedaka could escape; he was a Toa of Air, after all. But no matter what happened, their expedition to the Void had become horribly complicated.

 

"May Mata Nui be with you." He said at last, before turning away, into the shadowy blackness. He knew that the Empire believed he was coming to Drakos Capitol for the annual post-game interviews, and that if they knew he was in the Void, they’d kill the two Glatorian who had gone in his place.

 

With a start, Fairon realized he’d never asked what Jareroden meant by "going to Drakos in his place". Perhaps they’d be killed, possibly for nothing. Fairon knew that in war, sacrifices must be made, but the true war was going on far from the Void, the rebels still unshakable, the Ix determined to crush them utterly. Now, in retrospect, Jareroden’s mission seemed insane. Couldn’t he be doing so much more good for the rebellion by fighting on the front lines?

 

The Ix, obviously, have a way out. And they’re obviously after something here. So who knows, perhaps the Ignika reallyis down here, and that’s what the Ix are also hunting for.’Fairon thought. Concentrate on finding Sayna, or one of the other scouting teams.

 

In the distance, Fairon heard and Ix’s nasal rasp, Vorral’s shout of defiance. The darkness seemed to come alive with the clash of steel on steel. Fairon wasted no time; he raced past the massive saberlike obselisks and bleak ledges before nearly slamming into Sayna and Galika.

 

The Toa of Air and Water were fighting against a group of Copies of Corpse, but it was a hopeless battle. While the Copies lacked the skill of a true warrior, there were nearly two dozen of them, hacking and stabbing at Sayna and Galika with rage and fury. While neither Toa had suffered fatal wounds yet, they were inexorably being forced back, toward the Void’s edge. Fairon breathed faint a sigh of relief as he saw no Ix were with them. The situation was bad enough without any of the far more dangerous Ix backing up the Copies. The Toa steeled himself for a moment; then flung himself into battle for the first time since the arena itself.

 

A Copy, eyes cold and mechanical, flung itself at him, but Fairon sidestepped narrowly and speared the creture through the side with his lance. As he tore the spear free, the Copy crumpled to the ground. A second Copy, longspear stabbing, broke through his defenses, but Fairon narrowly managed to stagger out of the way, striking the Copy a blow to the side of the head with his lance.

 

Sayna nimbly dodged attacks, Galika covering her with her scissorlike sword. Weaving in and out of the Copy's reach while all the while using her air powers to force them back, Sayna needed no help. As Fairon watched, she dodged a Copy's blow and sent it spiraling over the edge and deeper into the abyss.

 

However, the narrow ledge was proving to be their undoing. While Fairon could easily defeat enemies from a distance, when their stabbing spears closed with him, the lance was unwieldy at best. Sayna's air powers were having less effect on the Copies, and the Ix soldiers waded through the torrents of water Galika flung at them like they were nothing. Slowly, the Copies were forcing them off the ledge.

 

Fairon wondered for a brief moment if they would die if forced into the Void. Perhaps time would slow, as it did on the Great Plain, allowing them to land lightly. Either way, he did not want to find out.

 

Smashing his lance into a Copy's helmet, Fairon watched as the damaged Ix machine staggered to his feet, only to be impaled on the Toa of Light's lance moments later, The flame faded from the Copy's eyes and it collapsed, scattering shards of obsidian at Fairon's feet.

 

Meanwhile, Galika had been nearly overwhelmed. The Copies' quick, dangerous attacks had forced her away from Sayna, causing the Toa of Air to lose her main defense. A ring of Copies surrounded her, their spears finding weak points in her armor more often then not.

 

Fairon decapitated his remaining adversary, then raced toward her, intending to save her from certain death. However, another Copy, moving impossibly fast, slammed into him, forcing him back, toward the edge of the Void. The remaining Copies disengaged Sayna, their spears at the ready as they regarded Fairon coldly.

 

The Toa of Light wondered if the Copies had a way of communicating with their Ix masters. If they did, he realized nowhere in the Void was safe. The Ix would hunt him down through terrain they knew far better then he, until all of his allies were dead.

 

The thought of Treedaka and Vorral facing all those enemies alone, and Jareroden and Xatax, further away, meeting a simular fate, galvanized Fairon into action. Before the Copies could even raise their spears, he'd speared one through the mask and, swinging his lance wildly, felt it connect with a sickening crunch against two other Copies' helmets.

 

The Ix droids recovered quickly. While they had no voices to snarl with, their hideous obsidian features betrayed their contempt for all living things. They raised their spears, but Fairon's next blow shattered one of the lances, then the other. Fairon slammed one with his armored hand, and saw it plummet over the edge out of the corner of his eye.

 

Suddenly, the remaining Copy slammed his broken spear hilt against Fairon's leg. Unprepared for the attack, Fairon fell to his knees. Grabbing a fallen Copy's spear, his assailant readied to deal the final blow. Fairon watched as the weapon descended, not moving at all. Then, as soon as the weapon would have struck him, Fairon dodged. The Copy's spear met thin air, and before it could react, Fairon raised his lance and speared it through the chest.

 

Fairon raced toward Sayna. Galika, and Flardrek and saw that they were all wounded, but had destroyed the remaining Copies. They lay in pieces, scattered across the edge of the Void.

 

Fairon exhaled. He hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath until two minutes ago. The fight against the Copies had shaken him. While they'd simply been mechanical robots, created to defend the Ix's strongholds, the fight had reminded him too much of the horrible undead creatures Ghost had created to guard the Fallen Six's territory in the arena.

 

Is this all my life has become? A never-ending series of battles?

 

Then Fairon remembered that the only fate that awaited him on the surface was eternal slavery to the Ix, and realized that his destiny had been sealed the moment he'd defeated Iruka. He'd either live out his days as the Ix's puppets, as Jareroden, Flardrek, and the others had pretended to be for so long, or join the war against the Ix's enemies.

 

"We need to help Treedaka." said Fairon grimly. "He's probably fighting the Ix right now."

 

Sayna's eyes flashed in alarm. "What happened?" she asked.

 

Fairon told her how he and Flardrek had discovered the Ix's base, and how they'd been discovered and Treedaka's order for them to run; to find the rest of the scouting teams.

 

Sayna nodded. "Splitting up here was a bad idea, but I can see why Jareroden doesn't want us wandering too far away. The Void holds many dangers far worse then the Ix."

 

***

 

Shardak dove to one side, and the being's spear missed him narrowly. Suddenly Shardak saw a flash of green eyes and a long, scythelike spear emerge from the shadows. The weapon's carrier, a small, hunched black being with an elongated head, raised the spear, pointing it at Ion.

 

"What do you want?" snarled Ion. The being did not deign to answer, simply slashed downward with his spear. Ion narrowly blocked the blow, then brought his claws down, shattering the spear into three fragments. For a brief moment, the being hesitated, then Kyhrex's arrows felled it.

 

More beings emerged from the shadows, and Shardak counted at least ten of them. They were closing in on Ion, and a few raced toward Blast and Shardak. The Toa had no time to think before he saw twin swords flash, illuminated by the cold green light of the Circle lantern. A second assailant, a tall, thin Glatorian, struck Blast with astonishing speed, and the Glatorian was knocked off his feet and flung bodily to the ground.

 

Shardak wanted to race to Blast's side, run to his aid, but there were to many beings surrounding him. His first attacker, another one of the dark armored beings, slashed downward with his twin weapons again, and Shardak was forced to leap narrowly to one side to avoid being skewered through his badly injured shoulder.

 

Raising the blade of Arcturas in a classic Lihtne attack pattern, Shardak forced his opponant backward. However, the being twisted both weapons around, and, in a blindingly fast attack pattern, easily blocked his next blow.

 

Seizing his advantage, the being immediately slashed downward with one weapon, forcing Shardak back a few feet. Bringing his second weapon around to slash at his shoulder, he forced Shardak to narrowly sidestep. With Shardak's defense lowered for a moment, his assailant followed up his Guokte attack with a series of blindingly fast Napad attack patterns.

 

No two beings' fighting styles are exactly alike. Silencer's voice came back to him. A good warriro need not master all the combat forms, but learn how to defend against them all.

 

Remembering how Melnox had blocked his precise attacks during training, Shardak forced his weapon between the hacking whirl of blades the soldier was wielding. As he brought them down for a strike he couldn't possibly miss, Shardak twisted the weapon around, feeling it slash through armor, then bone. The being screamed in pain and flung his weapon to the ground, his wounded arm falling limply to his side.

 

Shardak took a moment to access the battle, and realized that his attacker was simply keeping him occupied. Ion had been forced to his knees by a mass of hacking, stabbing soldiers, and the remainder of the attackers were battling Kyhrex and Blast. While they were still both alive, Shardak saw that two groups of their mysterious attackers were closing in on them, forcing them back toward the massive pillar.

 

His attacker recovered quickly. Just as he was about to thrust with his remaining weapon, Shardak saw a blur flash by him. A second being, this one nearly as tall as Ion, and carrying a massive curved knife, slashed down at him. Shardak barely blocked his blow, and felt pain run through his arm as he realized how strong this being was. As he was preoccupied blocking his new assailant's thrust, his original attacker struck.

 

Shardak felt burning pain, the first wound he'd suffered since his narrow escape from the Circle, sear through him as the being's weapon connected. He'd evaded the worst of the blow, so it wasn't a deep wound. However, as he was forced to block the being's next strike, his tall adversary struck. Shardak watched, transfixed, as the blade descended, not even noticing his original attacker lunge forward, weapons flashing.

 

Before the weapon could sever his head from his shoulders, Shardak dove to one side. He heard the tall being's snarl of frustration, and felt pain flash through him again as the other attacker's weapon slashed open his leg.

 

"Shardak, run!" Ion's voice shouted over the clash of weapons. "You and Blast have to survive, or it's all over!"

 

Ion's voice was quieter now, and though Shardak was now standing, fighting a losing battle against his two opponents, he heard every word Ion said. "Find...Jareroden...or Atarus. They will give you the answers you need. And the Nameless City--" he added, looking as though he wanted to say more before the tide of spears engulfed him once more.

 

"I'm not leaving you!" yelled Shardak, and suddenly another memory burst upon him, the last time he had said those four words:

 

"Shardak!" Arcturas screamed. He was carrying his flaming weapon, the Blade of Arcturas in one hand, a spear from the obsidian beings in the other. "Run! You shouldn't be here! Get Blast and-"

 

One of the beings stabbed out at him, but Arcturas blocked the blow with a sweep of his flaming blade and speared the being under the chin. Scarlet blood fountained.

 

"I'm not leaving you!" Shardak screamed, trying to make himself heard over the clash of weapons and the roar of the inferno. It seemed as though the ground was giving way beneath him. The world was spinning rapidly, causing him biting nausea and horrible pain from where the spear hilt had struck him.

 

Now Shardak wondered, How much did Arcturas know about this? How much didn't tell me?

 

"Run!" yelled Ion again as a second spear stabbed into his side. With a start, Shardak realized he could no longer see Blast or Kyhrex. Had they been killed or forced to flee?

 

Shardak realized more soldiers were moving in to intercept him. If he didn't run now, his fate was sealed.

 

"Shardak." said Ion as he saw what he was about to do. "I wish there was more I had told you, and even more I wish I understood."

 

The Toa didn't know what to say. He opened his mouth, what to say he did not know, but then he was stabbed again in the arm by the tall being. More were moving in to cut him off, and Shardak, against his will, turned and ran across the great expanse of darkness.

 

He was conscious of only his shock and pain. Ion had probably given his life so he could live. So had Arcturas and Silencer and Barit. Everywhere he went, he seemed to leave a trail of destruction in his wake. He remembered Silencer saying how if he, Melnox and Ion ever left the Circle, their families and friends would all be killed in retaliation. He wondered how many more were dead now because of his actions.

 

No, I can't have been responsible for all those deaths. It's impossible. he told himself. When he judged he was a safe distance away from the attackers, he pondered over Ion's last advice.

 

Find Atarus...or Jareroden. They will give you the answers you need.

 

Who were these beings? More mutated Toa, like Silencer, Ion, and Melnox? And how did the Nameless City fit into all of this?

 

He remembered Silencer's ancient legend, the tale of the city at the bottom of the Void. He wondered if the city had ever truly existed.

 

I may have. Since the Void is usually considered to be a mechanism of execution, like the Eternal Game, perhaps this city could exist. Why else would Silencer have told me?

 

Then he saw them. At first they were merely dark shadows, then he recognized their features. One was his original attacker, the other two were tall, thin Glatorian. Shardak cursed inwardly that he'd forgotten that you couldn't see anything in the Void until it was literally right next to you.

 

Shardak knew he stood no chance against even a small group of attackers. His wounds were still aching painfully, the Stalker's acid still burning through his shoulder. He broke into a run, the three beings close behind. Shardak ran across the endless expanse of blackness until he was sure he could run no more--

 

Then he stopped. He was standing on a ledge overlooking the Void. The sheer wall slowly narrowed, until he was backed up on a narrow ledge with no way to escape the attackers except by leaping deeper into the Void itself. It was the perfect cul-de-sac.

 

Shardak realized he was out of options. As the beings were about round the corner and realize he was completely trapped. He began lowering himself down the sheer drop. The sheer wall was nearly impossible to climb, but to his surprise, he was able to find a foothold.

 

Suddenly the cliff gave way beneath his feet. He reached out, desperate for a handhold, but was unable to find one and plunged into the darkness of the Void.

 

***

 

In a distant part of the Void, far, far away from both Shardak and Fairon, a tall being, his Salek gleaming coldly in the shadowy torchlight, bowed his head. His face was impassive, but his eyes betrayed the surprise he felt,

 

"My lord?" he asked, in shock. "How did you--"

 

A cold voice rasped from the darkness, cutting him off. "Soon, Dredzek. Soon I will explain everything. But while you and I have both sensed this new presence in the Void, one that has power enough to free us from the abyss and allow us to became rulers of the universe once more, I have slightly more tangible evidence."

 

"Yes, my lord?" asked Dredzek. His voice was colder now, recovering, accessing the situation once more. Still, his surprise was still clearly visible to all. "Do you mean the Toa that escaped our attack?"

 

"He will pay soon enough. I am handpicking the ten soldiers that will go hunt him down. No, I am talking about another presence I recently sensed-- Ix. But these are no ordinary Ix-- they are survivors from Illiera."

 

Dredzek winced. He remembered Illiera only too well.

 

"What do you suggest then, master?" asked the Makuta.

 

"They are currently persuing a single survivor from your group that was scattered when Corzakx came looking for you. It seems your soldiers ran across the Illierans and they were more dangerous then they imagined. Kill them all...except maybe one, for questioning. Even with your reduced power, they cannot hope to stand against a Makuta."

 

Dredzek nodded. "And what will you do, my lord."

 

"Me?" came the voice again. This time it seemed amused. "I will be...preparing. Preparing for the beginning of our rule over the universe."

 

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Edited by V-2, Feb 12 2016 - 05:06 AM.

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#7 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:04 AM

Chapter 6

The darkness of the Void wrapped Valkyria like a second cloak, hiding her from the small, hunched Skrall they were following. Her keen eyes surveyed the scenery around him, all of her senses and the aura field telling her that he did not notice her presence, nor that of the Ix soldiers with her. Drawing Silverblade and a second, smaller dagger from the sheath on her thigh, Valkyria watched his every moment.

A skilled assassin uses the shadows. Scrall's words came back to her. Strike first, and without warning, and your target will not live long enough to even recognize you before he's dead.

We need him alive. Valkyria reminded herself. For now.

He'd led them on a long, dangerous chase through a seemingly endless plain of darkness, across ledges on which they had lost two Ix warriors when they'd lost their balance and plummeted deeper into the Void. But they'd finally caught him, and now, he would be forced to explain the Shadow's presence in the Void.

Ahi had known very little interesting information. He'd been a guard, a powerful being probably hired by the Shadow for protection or military support. While Scrall had been unable to get a good glimpse into the Skrall's mind, it was obvious from the way he'd commanded the soldiers during their first attack he was a higher-ranking member of the order, one who understood far more about the reasoning behind their attack.

Maybe they were just prisoners in the Void. Valkyria thought. Or maybe...he knows where the Spirit Toa is. Or has information on the Ix of the Core Universe.

Creeping foward, another Ix warrior, her old friend Xhallin Naar, drew his weapons just as Scrall unlimbered his scythe and whispered something so quiet only an Ix could have picked it up.

"Strike."

Valkyria watched as Xhallin, Scrall, and a small group of Ix warriors raced toward the wounded Shadow soldier, and drew back her arm to throw a dagger. She aimed for his shoulder, and heard his snarl of surprise and pain as it drove through his upper arm. Now wounded, with no way to fight the oncoming Ix warriors, he turned to flee.

That was his first mistake.

Valkyria's next dagger caught him in the leg, and a female Ix warrior slashed open his armor. He fell to the ground, and his assailants rushed toward him.

Suddenly Valkyria saw a flash of dark armor in the half-light. As she opened her mouth to call a warning, the dark being released a barrage of chain lightning bolts from his long, daggerlike claws at the Ix in the lead-- the female who had attacked him first. The spears of darkness impacted against her armor, flinging her to the ground The unfortunate warrior died instantly.

Quickly recognizing this new danger, Valkyria drew her longbow and aimed an arrow at the being's throat. However, the being anticipated the danger, and stepped to one side. Valkyria saw her arrow had impacted against another Shadow soldier standing behind the tall, clawed being, and he fell to the ground, his blood black against the grim backdrop of the abyss. Valkyria could see at least six more soldiers standing behind him as well.

At the same time, the Ix recognized the presence of these new attackers. Scrall Vhokyn retaliated with burst of pure auric energy, but it seemed to have no effect on the clawed being. Valkyria knocked another arrow to her bow, this time aiming to take out his remaining subordinates. Three of her arrows found their mark, and three Shadow soldiers crumpled to the ground.

However, then the battle turned against them. The tall clawed being had wounded Scrall, and was forcing him back, toward the cliff's edge. Xhallin Naar and two more Ix warriors were still fighting him, but before Valkyria's eyes the being evaded two blows that should have killed him instantly, followed by a blindingly fast tear of claws. Another Ix warrior fell dead, his blood pooling around that of a slain Shadow member.

Naar tried to regain his lost ground with a desperate offensive, but before he could even land a hit on the being, the attacker hit him with a bolt of chain lightning. Naar staggered backward, then fell to his knees. Another Shadow soldier raced forward, spear in hand. Suddenly, he stopped and fell as Valkyria's next arrow took him between the eyes. Before the two Shadow soldiers with him could react, Scrall speared one through the heartlight and another Ix warrior threw a dagger into the other's throat.

The remaining three soldiers were smarter. One of Valkyria's arrows took a soldier in the leg, another skewered through an attacker's shoulder. But they were warier now, not attacking directly but sneaking through the darkness behind the powerful clawed being, throwing their spears when they saw an easy target. These tactics were effective, and Valkyria winced as two warriors fell, one wounded, another slain.

Aiming another arrow into the blackness, Valkyria heard a snarl of pain and knew she'd wounded a soldier. Three of her arrows struck the tall being, and he roared in pain, his red eyes boring into hers. As he pointed his claw, dark power dancing at his fingertips, Scrall Vhokyn's scythe struck him in the shoulder. Blood flowed from the wound, and the being screeched in pain as Xhallin stabbed both daggers into his side.

Valkyria saw another Shadow of Ages soldier rush to his master's aid, but before he could reach him, Valkyria's arrows felled him. His eyes glazed over, his face set in an expression of incomprehension as he died.

Clearly, the leader of the attackers saw that the battle had turned against him. Snarling a command to his two remaining soldiers, the beings retreated into the shadows. Scrall stabbed out at him, and Valkyria and several other Ix warriors fired arrows and daggers at the retreating soldiers, but the clawed being evaded them all, deflecting the projectiles telekinetically. As Scrall's scythe was about to tear him open, the being grabbed one of his soldiers and flung him into the path of the oncoming scythe. The soldier died instantly, and the beings disappeared into the shadows.

Valkyria's eyes followed the remaining beings as they melted into the shadows, and saw that the Skrall who had led them into the ambush was dead, probably decapitated by an Ix warrior just after the ambush. Four Ix warriors were dead, and Scrall and one apprentice were wounded, though not badly.

Scrall, though injured, concealed his emotions beneath a mask of emotionlesness. He was talking with several of his lieutenants, including Xhallin Naar. They were arguing, which was extremely unusual for Ix. They were treacherous, yes. Treachery came as naturally to them as breathing. But no Ix warrior would ever question an order from his superior. Yet a group of the Ix warriors were arguing with Vhokyn, their voices harsh and cold.

Allowing her features to become cold and impassive once more, Valkyria shouldered her longbow and walked over to the arguing warriors.

"--Follow their trail? Why should we?" one of the Ix was speaking. Valkyria recognized him as Ivrel, Xhallin's old mentor. His usually callous features had become twisted with rage. "Commander Thaer sent us to hunt down and kill the Spirit Toa, not waste our time chasing a half-remembered organization. Why should we lose good warriors in a battle in which we have nothing to gain?"

"Because." said Scrall, his expression unreadable. "They are obviously not from the Void. They're surfacers, from the Core Universe. They could very well possess information that will guide us to our eventual goal."

"Very well possess?" hissed Ivrel. "If they do not, have we lost five Ix warriors for nothing? One was killed in the initial battles, another lost in the Void, and now three more have died fighting in a pointless battle."

"Hardly pointless." said Valkyria. "Their sacrifice was not in vain, and when we find and kill the Spirit Toa, they will be honored."

"Is that so, Warrior Rhai?" asked Ivrel. "The Void is massive. This plateau is merely one of many ledges that overlooks the Void. The chances that the Spirit Toa is here are next to none. If we do not find him soon, we will all die here, of starvation, of dehydration, or in battle. Then we will have failed."

"We are Ix warriors." Valkyria reminded them. "Leaders of the greatest Empire ever created. When we rejoin the Core Universe with the Spirit Toa dead, our ancient empire will once more be made whole. We will not fail."

For a moment, all was silent. Then another warrior spoke. "Warrior Rhai, your words have reassured us, brought us back from the edges of destruction. We will continue following the Shadow of Ages."

Slowly, the Ix began to disperse, until only Xhallin, Ivrel, Valkyria, and Scrall remained. Xhallin seemed torn, he kept looking at Valkyria, then back at Ivrel. Eventually, he stepped behind his former mentor, his face hidden by his hooded cloak.

"We will follow the Shadow." said Ivrel coldly, his words clipped. He stared at Scrall in anger, but did not once look at Valkyria. "But if I find that you were wrong, Commander Vhokyn..." he wrapped his hand around the hilt of a dagger to prove his point.

"You may go." said Scrall. Ivrel nodded curtly, then vanished into the darkness to gather the surviving warriors.

"Do you think he plans rebellion?" asked Valkyria, once Ivrel was out of hearing range, leaving her, Scrall, and Scrall's second in command alone. Deep within, she knew the Ix warrior was. Ix warriors were so disciplined that for a senior warrior to display anger meant he was certainly planning violence.

"I am sure he does." said Scrall. "Doubtless had you not won the neutral Ix warriors over, he would have killed us both. For now, he will obey his orders, but if we find out that the Shadow does not have any information on the Spirit Toa, he will certainly attempt to seize control of the strike team, and the rest of the warriors will probably side with him."

"And even if we learn information from the Shadow of Ages, he'll still rebel, only most of the Ix will fight against him." finished Valkyria.

"For now." said Scrall, nodding briefly in acknowledgement. "We must gain the full support of the rest of the warriors. Four will side with us, but the remaining twelve are undecided. Once we have their support Warrior Ivrel's rebellion will surely fail."

Scrall paused for a moment, then asked. "Will Warrior Naar side with us?"

"I'm not sure. We were friends once, before we became apprentices, but now I think his only loyalty is to Warrior Ivrel."

"Thank you, Warrior Rhai. You may go." said Scrall, and Valkyria rejoined the group of Ix warriors, leaving Scrall and his deputy alone to plan their next course of action. All were ready now, swords, bows, and scythes drawn.

Like avenging phantoms, the Ix warriors vanished into the darkness, following the trail of the Shadow soldiers.

***

Shardak felt a flash of pure, raw terror as he lost his balance, vanishing into the darkness impossibly fast. A whirlwind of thoughts tore through his mind. Would Ion and the others survive and find out what happened to him? Would the fall kill him instantly, or would he lie there, broken and bleeding, for hours before the callous darkness of death descended?

All this flashed across his mind in a fraction of a second as he fell through the blackness. Pain exploded within him as his body slammed against the cliff's edge, followed by the sudden absence of light as his Circle lantern was torn from his hand. He held the Blade of Arcturas tightly, not wanting to lose the only thing he had to remember Arcturas by before he died.

Shardak slammed against the jagged edge of the cliff again, and reached out with one hand, trying desperately to grab hold of the anything to support himself on. Finally, his hand grabbed hold of an outcropping, and he braced his feet against the cliff. Now less sheer then it was above, he would easily be able to climb deeper into the darkness.

For a moment, it crossed his mind to try to climb up the cliff. He quickly abandoned the idea when he saw how far he'd fallen, and how sheer the cliff was above. It would be impossible for any being to climb that. Then he thought of something else: why hadn't they been killed when they'd lept into the Void? Surely the fall would have been fatal.

Then he remembered something Silencer had told him, while they'd been discussing the Void and the Nameless City.They say that there's a massive ledge that hangs out over the Void, called the Great Plain. some reason, nobody who falls onto the Great Plain from above dies. This is because the Void, like the portal that brought you into the Circle, exists in a state between the myriad dimensions. The portal opens a few bio above the floor of the Plain, so those who fall are rendered unconsious but not killed. It's as though the Void does not want to allow beings an easy death.

For the first time since Silencer's death, Shardak felt a slight flare of resentment towards him. How many gambles did you take with my life? Were you so sure that all of the legends about the Void were true? So sure that you'd stake my life on them? That and the only hope of defeating the Ix, the Shadow Orb?

Then he remembered Silencer, standing, dying yet defiant, facing that army of Ix with drawn scythes. He'd died so Shardak could live. Yet had his last plan ultimately thrown all of their lives away?

He knew that the Ix were ruthless and deadly. They'd murdered Arcturas, captured and tortured him. He knew from the days he'd spent with Silencer's resistance and his days as a slave miner how callous they were, and knew that somehow, his destiny and that of the Ix were inexorably intertwined.

Kyhrex had mentioned that an Elemental known as Arcturas was the only being who had ever escaped the Circle and lived. And Shardak could not forget the flash of recognition that had flashed across Silencer's face when he'd first mentioned Silencer's name, and Asgard's strange amusement when he'd told the demon that he didn't know what his Kanohi's power. There was something he did not yet understand, something that no one had yet explained to him.

There are some things I will not explain to you. Ion had said. Not because I wish to hold anything back from you, but because they put you in danger.

Now Ion was probably dead, and Blast and Kyhrex. Shardak remembered how Blast had used his powers to slow down time, and how later he'd summoned the Scythe of Creation and the Blade of Arcturas into his hands during their escape from the Spire. Yet another question that would go forever unanswered.

Have I lost my best friend? Have those soldiers killed him? Thought Shardak as he climbed down the bleak cliffs. He could not accept Blast was dead. Surely Ion would have helped him escape, even at the cost of his own life. And what of Kyhrex? The female Glatorian had been a loyal friend, one who'd guided them through the treacherous Labyrinth, defeated the Elemental Flareus, and killed the Stalker that had bitten his shoulder. Was he now completely friendless?

He thought of Kor, his Glatorian friend. For the past three weeks, he had no time to think of his old life in Intax. He wondered how he was doing, and if he would ever see him again.

No where is safe. They will hunt you wherever you go. Anyone who gives you shelter will be killed as well. You are marked now...

Perhaps the Ix had already killed Kor, to make sure no one who had ties to him in the world above was left alive. He'd seen their callous brutality reflected in the pitiless eyes of the Kranr slavemasters, the beaten-down Matoran and Agori who dwelled within the Circle, and in the way Melnox had revealed to him their only hope was to vanish into the abyss between dimensions.

Even those who knew you in Intax are not safe. The Ix will make sure no one ever learns your fate...

Shardak saw he'd almost reached the foot of the massive, jagged cliff, but he was in too much pain to care. He remembered Melnox's toneless voice as they fled the Ix, before they'd come to the Void.

None of us wanted this. I suppose we're all homeless now...

And though Shardak's soul railed against the injustice of it all, he knew there was nothing he could do against the Ix here. If he could survive, and focus on finding Atarus or Jareroden, he might live to fight them another day.

He knew needed to find shelter. He didn't know if he'd reached the bottom of the Void, but he knew very well that the beings trapped within the Void would kill him instantly if he didn't rest. He was also tired, he realized it had probably been more then twenty-four hours since he'd awoken in the Void and began his search for Blast. For a moment he wondered how long he'd lain unconscious within the Void before he'd awoken. It couldn't have been long, otherwise he'd have been killed long ago by Asgard, the enigmatic soldiers, or another, equally dangerous group.

Looking around, he expected to be surrounded by darkness, as the light from his fallen lantern could not reach this far down. However, to his surprise he saw small pinpricks flickering white light in the distance. Slowly, the Blade of Arcturas extended before him, he drew nearer to the source of the illumination. Then, suddenly, he saw another flash of light, and realized it was a Circle lantern.

"Shardak?" came a whisper. "Shardak, is that you?"

Shardak almost gasped in relief as he saw Blast stride out of the darkness, his scythe in hand. Behind him stood Kyhrex, her face grim. Her eyes brightened when she saw Shardak, but Shardak realized that Ion was not with them.

"Did Ion escape?" asked Shardak, dreading the answer.

Blast's grin vanished. "I don't know." he admitted. "Ion told us to run, to follow you...he wa surrounded by soldiers, I don't see how he could have escaped..."

Shardak had already guessed the answer, but the loss of Ion felt like a physical blow. He knew it was fortunate both Blast and Kyhrex had escaped, but Ion had been guiding them through the Void. How had he known about Atarus and Jareroden? And more importantly, he'd been their mentor, their friend, and their last link to their mission.

Unconsiously, Shardak fingered the Shadow Orb, knowing that Asgard and the Ix were still out there, and knew he had the Orb.

Shardak realized he was standing within a small gorge, where the cliff descended. Behind him, he could see the jagged cliff he'd climbed down.

But it was the other cliff, ahead of him, that held attention. Unlike the others, it had two small diamonds, gleaming with white light, embedded within it, shedding light on a massive stone gateway. Shardak saw, to his surprise, it wasn't a cliff at all, but almost a mirror of the Spire in the Circle, where he and Blast had been held captive by the Ix. Another cliff rose in the distance behind it. Apart from the two gleaming orbs embedded within the gateway, the small circle was completely dark.

Looking at the Spire, Shardak could see that the creators had modeled it extensively on the Ix's Circle above. Then he realized that perhaps the creators of the Spire had based their stone archways and the Circle on this structure. It was impossible to tell with stone, but to Shardak this spire felt far older and more mysterious.

For a moment, Shardak wondered if he should enter. It seemed abandoned, but it was in a seemingly abandoned tunnel he'd been captured by Banrax. Steeling his nerves, he stepped through the gateway. He pushed open the door, and Blast and Kyhrex followed.

As he entered the building, he heard a voice rasp from within. "Welcome to the Sanctum of the Mind, Toa Shardak."

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Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 05:06 AM.

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XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#8 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:13 AM

Chapter 7

The room was large, a domed, opaque glass ceiling hiding the upper levels of the massive Spire-building. Cold blue light burned feverishly, their light shining down upon the faces of an ancient Matoran-like being. Two other beings, another, heavily armored being and a smaller but no less ancient Matoran who stood guard next to them. There was an air of weary tiredness about them all, as though their very existence caused them pain.

 

As soon as they saw the beings, Kyhrex's crossbow had been drawn and Blast had raised his scythe. But Shardak did not even attempt to raise the Blade of Arcturas, he simply stared at the being in shock.

 

"How-- how did you know my name?" he asked, wondering who these beings were. They obviously were not Ix, nor were they Asgard's strange minions. He wondered, for a moment, if they could be affiliated with the Toa Order, another remnant like Melnox and Ion. The Toa-like being could have--

 

"Within the Sanctum of the Mind, much is possible." said the being simply.

 

"Who are you? What is...the Sanctum of the Mind?" asked Shardak.

 

"I am Turaga Meilo." the being said. His voice was soft and calming, and Shardak felt almost instantly this being could be trusted. "This is Turaga Pierra and Krost." he said, gesturing to the armored being and the Matoran in turn.

 

"I am Kyhrex." said the female Glatorian. "This is Blast." but Shardak barely heard her.

 

"You're a Turaga?" gasped Shardak in shock.

 

"Then how did you survive the Purge?" asked Blast.

 

"The Purge?" echoed Meilo curiously. Then he seemed to understand, and his voice became sad. "Many beings in the world beyond shadows have spoken to me about what has transpired in the worlds that the Void bridges."

 

Meilo turned to Korst and Peirra. "Guard the entrance. I don't know if any of the demons from the Great Plain followed him here. "

 

"No, they didn't. I fought one, but he--"

 

Meilo's expression looked grim. "We must talk. I sensed you the moment you entered the Void, and thanks to my ability to move within the Shadowrealm, I know that you have come here from the Circle, have you not?"

 

"You've been to the Circle?" asked Blast. "Then you know--"

 

"Come." said Meilo, cutting him off. The ancient Turaga led Shardak, Kyhrex, and Blast through a glass door, into a darkened chamber. Only one light was burning within, a small Cold Fire torch that cast cold light upon a small chair and desk.

 

"This was once the library of the Sanctum. Millions of ancient, now illegible stone tablets fill these halls. When I am not wandering the Shadowrealm, I am here, descipering the ancient writings the Mindeaters left behind."

 

"How many beings are here?" asked Kyhrex. While she was no longer carrying her crossbow, she still looked slightly wary of Meilo.

 

"Nearly forty. All of us have--" Meilo paused. "Tell me everything, Toa Shardak. Tell me what has occured in the worlds beyond since I was there last."

 

Shardak had no idea where to start; he wasn't sure how much Meilo knew of the Ix, their empire, and the losing battle against the massive legions of darkness. He eventually decided to begin with his own involvement in the war, telling Meilo of the death of Arcturas, and how the he and Blast had been lured down into the Void by Nightshade and captured by Banrax. He told of the soul-rending torture he'd experienced within the Spire, and how Silencer had rescued him, and trained him briefly in the use of the aura field. Finally, he told Meilo how Silencer had sacrificed his life to defeat the Fury and allow him to escape.

 

Shardak held nothing back. Something about Meilo made him want to tell the Turaga everything that had transpired within the Circle, despite the danger that he could be an Ix agent. Shardak knew from bitter experience how the Ix could pretend they were your friends, only to stab you in the back when you turned away.

 

Meilo listened carefully to every detail, occastionally questioning him about the state of the worlds above the Circle. Once or twice, Blast and Kyhrex interjected, clarifying occasional points about Ion, Silencer, and the Shadow Orb.

 

"The Ix have nearly conquered the entire planet, and only the warring Skakdi and Kodax prevents them from overrunning the Kodax Fells from the Circle. There are many resistance groups scattered across the edges of the world, but at this point the Ix are merely cleaning up their domain." Shardak's voice nearly broke as he said the last words. Were the Ix simply too powerful to defeat?

 

Meilo nodded sadly. "I suspected this would come to pass." he said. "The beings locked within the Shadowrealm warned me of this, they warned me that the world I once knew had changed beyond recognition."

 

He turned to Kyhrex. "You are an water Elementalist, are you not?" he asked. She nodded.

 

"Silencer fought them. We spent two weeks fighting side by side against the Ix...then I finally got up the courage to ask him to help me free Blast." added Shardak.

 

"What did you do, mainly?" Meilo asked.

 

"Train, battle the Ix if they attacked us. We'd move from safe house to safe house, while Melnox would guard against attacks from Kranr. I never really participated in the action, Silencer's priority was to make sure I entered the Void with the Shadow Orb. But the Ix are here as well. They've already sent a Xhranr after us-- a three-tailed demon and his minions."

 

Meilo nodded again. "Not unusual. This Silencer seems to be a great scholar of the Mindeater Era; he obviously understood that the Abyss was a prison. But he was also wrong. The Void is a base of operations for the Ix as well, the Ix are not unaware of this."

 

"They're not? Then why--"

 

"Because it suits them to say that it devours its victims, feeds on their life force. In reality, it has been used as a prison for centuries before the Ix's rise to power."

 

Meilo paused for a moment as the Cold Fire torch flickered out, running his fingers over the torch and restoring the blue flames to life. Then he continued. "My friends and I, the Toa Teishu, were once protectors of an island on another Shadowrealm. We--"

 

"You continually mention the Shadowrealm? What is this?" asked Shardak.

 

"Silencer told you nothing of this?" asked Meilo. He sounded surprised. "The moment you entered the Void, you left a plane. The moment you entered the Sanctum of the Mind, you entered another. They are all interconnected; the world you come from is connected to nearly twenty other planes of existence. The Shadowrealms are the higher planes; the planes of thought where the Ix and others like them dwelled before the Year of Darkness."

 

Shardak nodded, Meilo had strayed onto familiar ground now. Silencer had mentioned that he'd been created during the Year of Darkness, as well as something about a prophecy the Ix feared. It was a common enough Matoran myth: the year when all light ceased from the world, only to return inexplicably a year later. He'd never heard of the Shadowrealms, but he'd heard of the planes, and remembered Silencer mention that no one knew where, exactly, the Ix originated.

 

"And you can travel into this Realm?" asked Shardak.

 

"One of the many higher planes, yes. There are many beings who dwell there, this particular Realm has no exit save for those who enter it willingly. You can speak with them, if you wish." added Meilo.

 

"You came from another Realm, a second Plane?" asked Shardak.

 

"The Realm coexists with the Plane you're from." said Meilo. "As well as this plane, the Sanctum of the Mind. Eventually, years after defeating our greatest foe, one of the primal Elemental Demons, we fell pray to the Ix. With no option but death, either by execution or the Eternal Game, we opened a gate between the planes, forcing us into the Sanctum of the Mind. The escape weakened us horribly, destroying everything we'd worked for as the Ix completed their conquest. We--"

 

"So the Ix rule all of the planes and Realms?" asked Shardak.

 

Meilo shook his head, surprising him. "No...the Ix are merely one of the branches of the race that ruled over the Shadowrealm Empire during the times before the Storm Wars."

 

Shardak was burning with questions about the Storm Wars and the Ix, but listened closely to the end of Meilo's tale.

 

"At last, we nearly lost the will to live, trapped within the Sanctum plane with no way out save for the Void. Then finally we managed to translate an ancient scroll, describing how to walk between worlds. We eventually discovered how to open a gateway into one of the planes of thought, and encountered beings from the outside world there.

 

"Occasionally once-powerful beings who could still sense the world outside spoke with us, and it was one such being who told me that he had sensed a powerful presence within the Void, from the worlds outside the Circle. They watched you battle the demons on the Great Plain, and told me of how you became separated from your friend."

 

"Did they tell you if Ion is alive?" asked Shardak eagerly. He could see Blast and Kyhrex were eager to know as well, and despite his anger at Ion for not explaining the world he'd been dragged into, he hoped desperately the mutated Toa still lived.

 

"They did not say. This was before you re-encountered the Elementalist and the Glatorian, before the soldiers attacked you. I don't know who these beings were, or what motivation they have for being in the Void, but they are not prisoners here."

 

"What do they want? Why did they attack us?" asked Kyhrex. "It's almost as if they could sense us, but that's impossible, neither the soldiers nor Asgard could use the aura field..."

 

"Perhaps they can sense Elemental power, like your friend Kyhrex." suggested Meilo. "But I agree it is rather strange that you'd be attacked by a demon and a group of soldiers in the same day. Most of the beings on the Great Plain are too slow or apathetic to bother with a Toa and a group of Glatorian."

 

"I have to go back, then." said Shardak grimly. "I can't leave him alone if the soldiers are still after him." Kyhrex nodded grimly.

 

"And get yourself killed?" said Meilo. "Your Stalker bite is dangerously close to becoming infected. You could die if the acid gets into your bloodstream. You've been cut twice by Shredsteel in the past three days, and that's obviously not going to give you a fighting chance to save your friends."

 

Shardak wanted to open his mouth to protest, but he knew Meilo was right. He'd be killed instantly if he tried to fight a trained soldier. He'd barely escaped a group of Ix once, and only narrowly held off a Kranr.

 

The thought of the slavemaster he'd killed saddened Shardak. Meilo had not even seemed annoyed that the Kranr had died by his hand when he'd told him, despite the fact that killing was a direct violation of the Toa Code.

 

It wasn't like you had a choice. whispered a voice within his head. He and the Ix had you surrounded.

 

"Meilo, about the Kranr I killed--" Shardak began, but Meilo cut him off.

 

"I have fought many beings, Toa Shardak." he said. "And while killing amorally or recklessly, or allowing others to die because of your neglect, is a violation of the Code, the Kranr would have killed you. I'm not saying killing in self-defense is the right thing to do, but when you have no other choice, when it's either you or your opponent, slaying a Kranr does not make you like them. Those who can kill with no emotion, with no sadness or regret-- they are the truly evil beings."

 

Shardak nodded. He opened his mouth to speak again, but Meilo silenced him. "Do not dwell on this further, Toa. His blood, like that of Silencer's, is on the Ix's hands."

 

Shardak nodded again, then asked, "What must I do to save my friends?"

 

Meilo opened his mouth to reply, and Shardak knew what he'd say before he said it.

 

"I will introduce you, Blast and Kyhrex to the rest of the beings who dwell within the Sanctum, including my fellow Turaga. Then, though I have not trained a student in years, and am weakened by age and battle, I will teach you how to Mind Walk, and find Ion." "Mind Walk?" asked Shardak. "You think that's possible?"

 

Meilo smiled. "Certainly. You, Toa Shardak, have no idea how much elemental power you control. What I don't understand is why I couldn't sense you earlier."

 

"You couldn't sense me earlier?" asked Shardak. "I thought you said--"

 

"I did. But seeing you standing before me is another matter. Like yoru Glatorian friend Kyhrex, I am an Elementalist. I can sense your elemental power when it is being used, and can certainly track you using Mind Walking. However, you seemed less powerful from a distance...I'm surprised the Ix didn't know you and Arcturas were hiding in Intax, considering the strength of your aura."

 

Kyhrex nodded in agreement, then broke off, confused. "Arcturas...was he--"

 

"I don't know if he was the same being who escaped the Circle." said Shardak. "He never told me anything about this."

 

As he said those words, he realized how true they were. Arcturas had obviously known of the Ix before his death. He'd told the Fury: I knew you'd find me someday. Could it be they were one and the same?

 

He remembered something else Melnox had told them, as they stood at the edge of the Void. Arcturas was their mortal enemy. He hadn't thought much of it at the time, they'd been cornered by Ix then, he didn't even know if they'd survive, but something within him wished fervently that they'd had more time to discuss what Ion, Melnox, and Silencer knew about Arcturas.

 

"Why didn't you tell me, when I mentioned his name?" asked Kyhrex, confused.

 

"No time." said Shardak. "I was wondering the same thing when the Eliminators attacked. And then..."

 

There was no need to finish. Everyone present knew what had happened after that.

 

"It would explain much if Arcturas and the only being to have escaped the Circle are one and the same." said Meilo. "Such as how you remained unknown to the Ix for so long. Why did Silencer give you the Shadow Orb? Did he know of an exit to the Void?"

 

"I don't know." said Shardak. "Do you?" he asked Kyhrex.

 

"No." she said. "Though Ion mentioned something about the Nameless City, so perhaps if it exists--"

 

"It exists." said Meilo confidently.

 

"Have you been there?" asked Shardak.

 

"No." said the Turaga. "But if you studied the ancient texts within this library, I'm sure you would find something on the subject of the ancient civilizations, such as the Shadowrealm Empire and the Nameless City of the Mindeaters."

 

"Do you have any idea who these beings, Atarus and Jareroden, are?" asked Shardak.

 

"I have never heard of either." said Meilo sadly. "I vanished from the known world over one hundred years ago, and know very little about the current state of the universe beyond what I have already told you."

 

Shardak was disappointed. But he told himself that obviously these beings weren't prisoners in the Void. Neither Ion or Silencer had ever been there. They must have had something to do with the "spirit or "victor" that Kyhrex had mentioned. Once more Silencer wondered how much the Fire Toa had kept from him.

 

Meilo looked as if he was about to speak, then broke off as another being entered the room. She was a Turaga, like Meilo, but armored in sapphire.

 

"You're needed in the main council chamber." she said grimly. "Ario wanted to execute the Toa and Glatorian right off, but fortunately Senkou and Izon overruled him."

 

"Thank you, Lilian." said Meilo. "Come." he said to Blast, Shardak, and Kyhrex. "There had been a development we must attend to."

 

"Development?" asked Blast. "Why does this Ario want us dead?"

 

Meilo made a face halfway between a smile and a grimace. "Turaga Ario is very strict. He was extremely upset when we were exiled to the Void."

 

"But he won't harm us, will he?" asked Shardak.

 

"No. I will not allow him." said Meilo. "Besides, Turaga Senkou and Izon have already dealt with him."

 

"How many Turaga and Matoran are here?" queried Blast.

 

"There are seven Turaga, the former Toa Teishu." said Meilo. "And Krost is, I believe, the only Matoran here, though there may be more. There are other beings here besides us, but they spend more time reading the ancient tablets within the Sanctum or Mind Walking that they rarely, if ever, bother us."

 

The ancient Turaga halted beefore a large, ornate door made of metal simular to that of the Circle's buildings. Like the Spire in the Circle, it was carved into the obsidian stone. For one moment, Shardak was back in the Circle, remembering the horrible torture he'd suffered within the Spire. Then he remembered their current, but no less dangerous, situation.

 

Entering the chamber, he immediately saw it was far larger then the library or the entrance chamber. Five Turaga were standing in the room, including the blue Turaga, Lilian. He looked around for either Krost or Pierra, but saw no sign of the Turaga. However, Krost was standing alongside the group of Turaga.

 

"Greetings, Meilo." said one of the Turaga, armored in green. His face was masked, but he smiled at the Toa, and seemed hightly energetic, as though he was about to leap into action. Another Turaga, in brown armor, glared at Shardak with undisguised contempt.

 

"Greetings, Duuril." answered Meilo. He nodded toward the brown Turaga. "You wished to speak with us, Ario?"

 

"Ario wanted to quick-slay the Toa and Glatorian." explained Duuril. "Lilian, Senkou and I tried to quick-change his mind, but he still-insisted to speak with you."

 

"That is correct." Ario scowled. "From what I have heard from Pierra and Krost, they bring the Ix with them. We all know the devastation they brought about in both the planes and the Void, and the influence they wield here even today. We in the Sanctum of the Mind have escaped destruction, and I will not condemn us all to a long, lingering death at the hands of the Veiled Ones."

 

Meilo looked solemn, as did Lilian and the two Turaga Shardak supposed must have been Izon and Senkou. Even Duuril's grin had faded slightly at the mention of the Ix.

 

"Even if that is so, we must completely-protect this Toa and his Glatorian friends!" said Duuril, recovering quickly. "If the shadow-Ix hunt-follow them here we'll protect them!"

 

Shardak relaxed as Ario seemed to relent slightly at Duuril's insistance. "Still, they will be the destruction of our Sanctum!"

 

"Do not presume it is our Sanctum, Ario." Meilo pointed out gently.

 

"There are hidden-secrets even I have not learned." agreed Duuril.

 

"I'm not sure." said Senkou. "While I believe that it is our duty to protect the Toa, I also believe that we should not allow him to destroy us all."

 

"You would simply hand him over to the Ix?" Duuril spat. "Asgard's still out there, and if the Ix are clustering, he should stay with us!"

 

"Of course not." said Senkou. "But we can't sacrifice everything to defend them."

 

"I have already agreed to teach Toa Shardak to Mind Walk." said Meilo, holding up his hand to silence them. "He stays with us."

 

"What?" burst out Krost. "It could tear apart his mind!"

 

"Toa Shardak has powers that most Toa can only ever dream of." said Meilo confidently. "He will not be harmed."

 

"If you're sure." he said.

 

"Meilo is rarely wrong." pointed out Izon, speaking for the first time. "While Senkou and Ario do make a point, I don't believe we would be worthy Turaga if we simply allowed them to be handed over to the Ix. Meilo has heard Shardak's tale, he belives and trusts them."

 

Ario looked furious, but Senkou nodded in acknowledgement of Izon's words. Robbed of the last of his support, Ario bowed his head.

 

"Very well. But if this Toa ends up destroying everything we have worked for here...I would regret to be him."

 

"Was that a threat, Ario?" asked Meilo, his voice now deathly calm.

 

"No, not at all." said Ario quickly. "Simply a statement."

 

"Thank you." said Meilo. "If there is nothing more to discuss, then this meeting is adjourned. Kyhrex, Blast, Shardak, Krost, come with me."

 

Without another word to the other Turaga, Meilo swept out of the room, the Shardak, the Glatorian, and Krost following him.

 

"What does Ario have against me?" asked Shardak, now confused.

 

Meilo sighed. "Ario has always been ambitious and talented. But he is also impatient and harsh, and our long exile between worlds has stripped him of his will and purpose. He obviously wishes to vent his anger on someone other then Krost or the other Turaga."

 

"How did you meet Krost?" asked Blast. "He wasn't with you during the final battle against the Elemental Demon, was he?"

 

"I was banished to the Void long before the Turaga arrived here. Like the others in this complex, I had lost all feeling, and I was near death." answered Krost. "Meilo and Izon and the others gave me new purpose. A will of my own to live."

 

Meilo led them into a darkened chamber, then drew three Cold Fire torches for them to carry. "These are for you. You may rest here for now; in the meantime I will treat Shardak's Stalker bite."

 

"We should be with him." said Blast flatly, and Shardak sensed mistrust and fear radiating from his aura. Shardak guessed he still didn't completely trust Meilo.

 

Meilo smiled faintly. "I am glad you do not blindly trust me, however, I assure you that if I'd wanted you dead, I could have allowed Ario to simply hand you over to the Ix."

 

Kyhrex hesitated for a moment, then relented. She and Blast vanished into the room, but her eyes blazed a warning. Tell him nothing more.

 

Shardak nodded briefly, wondering if he'd made a massive mistake in trusting Meilo.

 

No, because if he was a servant of the Ix he'd have simply given me over to Ario. Shardak reminded himself.

 

But that doesn't automatically mean he's trustworthy. whispered another voice.

 

Shardak sighed. The past three weeks had taught him to be suspicious of everyone, even a kind, ancient Turaga. He was more resolved then ever to trust Meilo, and tommarrow he would Mind Walk and find Ion under his guidance. If the Toa was still alive, the process would tell him.

***

Dredzek watched as the group of Ix warriors fought against their three remaining Shadow soldiers. Had he had a mouth, he would have smiled coldly. As it was, he did not, as he was forced to remain a ghostly, intangible being with no features whatsoever so the Ix could not notice him.

 

They stood no chance against the warriors, of course, but they had been well trained, he had told Corzkax to only select the best, most fanatical Shadow members to journey with him on this mission. So when he'd ordered them to buy him time to escape the Ix, they'd obeyed, despite the fact they'd all surely be killed.

 

Already weakened after his initial battle with the Ix, Dredzek's shapeshifting power was also painfully limited. While he didn't want to accept that he was dying, the pain he'd felt when he'd unleashed chain lightning on the Ix had confirmed the painful truth: he was far too weak to survive another battle against the Ix warriors.

 

He'd fled, the two surviving Shadow soldiers following him. They'd run into another Shadow soldier they'd lost in the Void, and he'd ordered them all to make their final stand here.

 

The Makuta had remained behind, despite the pain, however. He was curious why these Ix were so determined to hunt them down. Perhaps, they, too sought the Ignika, but had no idea how to find it or believed they had it. If they did, they would leave one of the Shadow soldiers alive for questioning. And maybe they new something he didn't about the legendary Kanohi's whereabouts.

 

Dredzek knew that the Ignika was the only object that could cure him of his weakness. The life he'd experienced since the horrible inferno in the arena had been nothing but a lone being trapped within an ancient weapon of power; he'd never encountered any other beings within the Scythe except when Corzkax had used the Scythe to bind his antidermis to the artificially created antidermis. Instead of feeling triumphant at his narrow escape from death, Dredzek felt completely empty inside, as though the small piece of antidermis that was still Dredzek was dying, but not allowed to die.

 

The Ignika was the key. It had to be. Turning his attention back to the battle, Dredzek saw that one of the Shadow soldiers lay dead, slain by repeated Scythe strokes. Another soldier had lost an arm, and was staggering away from the two warriors he'd been fighting. As he watched, the Ix delivered a blindingly fast blow to the soldier's throat, and he fell dead.

 

The remaining soldier had been completely surrounded. Two Ix warriors were closing in on him, scythes drawn. Another Ix, a female, had an arrow pointed at his heart. Dredzek listened as they began to question him, wondering what, exactly, they were after.

 

 

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XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

Xaterex Art Blog | Xaterex Wiki

 

 


#9 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:15 AM

Chapter 8

The Ix were surrounding the Sanctum.

Valkyria held Silverblade in one hand, a smaller dagger in the other. Her green eyes were trained on the building where their quarry was hiding, the being that they'd followed into the Void on the orders of Khazin Thaer. The Toa that the Shadow of Ages had mentioned could be no other then the Spirit Toa, Shardak.

Moments after Xhallin Naar had killed the Shadow soldier they'd captured, Valkyria had seen the look in Ivrel's eyes. There was no turning back now. He would have to make his move soon, or all was lost for him. She'd advocated Scrall's plan, so unless he killed them both now, there was no chance he would even survive the return to Illiera. His only chance was to sieze control of the strike team and say Scrall, Valkyria and their remaining supporters had been killed in the battle.

Vhokyn was ordering Ivrel and his group to lead the one of the main attack forces, while he and his elite commanders led the other. She and Naar would stay behind, along with three other Ix warriors, and they would lead the third attack force. Any remaining Ix warriors would follow the first two groups into the Sanctum, aiming to finish off the guards. While the Shadow soldier had told them that the Sanctum was merely guarded by a small group of Matoran and Agori, Valkyria knew from bitter experience how deadly a small group of beings with nothing to lose could be.

And then there was the Spirit Toa. Valkyria found herself wondering once more how deadly he could be. Was he a deadly, murderous being who had taken the Mask of Life by force? Or had he merely been unfortunate to bring the Ix's wrath down upon him?

"Ivrel will make his move soon, or he will lose the last of his supporters." whispered a new voice. Valkyria turned to see Vhokyn standing there, three Ix warriors by his side.

Valkyria had been expecting this, and she smiled grimly. "He's desperate at this point. And desperate people make mistakes. If we can just isolate him and his supporters and kill them all--"

"And have too few Ix warriors to assault the Sanctum?" argued Vhokyn.

"They're a few old Turaga and a Matoran." said Valkyria contemptuously. "They are not the dangerous threat."

"True." said Scrall. "However, I'm more worried about how dangerous the Spirit Toa and his allies are."

"They don't seem that dangerous." said Valkyria. "The Toa is very injured, and the two Glatorian are simply not fast enough to evade an Ix warrior."

Scrall nodded, then turned away. "I go to oversee the battle. They haven't noticed us yet, but they will in a few minutes."

Valkyria drew her daggers, confident of victory. The Ix warrior's first wave were striding toward the Sanctum door, and as she joined the group, her cloak blending perfectly with the darkness, she watched as Ivrel swung the door open and the Ix poured into the Sanctum.

For one moment, everything was a blur as the world around her exploded with the clash of weapon striking weapon and Elemental energy whirling madly across the battlefield. Valkyria saw two Matoran leaping, weapons raised, with dexterity that nearly matched that of the Ix. Before one warrior could even defend himself, he fell, a Matoran's sword embedded in his side.

Not wanting to fall prey to the same fatal attack, Valkyria drew back a dagger to throw. However, Ivrel was quicker. Before the Matoran could even cry out, Ivrel's weapon severed the head from his shoulders.

Three other Matoran and an ancient-looking Turaga of Earth were still fighting. The Turaga was holding his own against three Ix warriors, but the Matoran were simply too weak to defeat the strike team. Valkyria's dagger buried itself in a Matoran's throat, and Xhallin Naar skewered another through the heart.

The Turaga of Earth opened his mouth to call a warning, maybe to call more of his allies to aid him. Two Ix warriors lay dead beside him, and one was badly injured. Before he could even open his mouth, Valkyria's dagger speared itself directly through his heartlight. The Turaga staggered backward, but Scrall slashed his head from his shoulders in one stroke.

Seeing the Turaga fall seemed to rob the final Matoran guard of all sense of purpose. Whether he would have tried to flee, surrender, or simply fought to the death would never be known, as another Ix's arrow took him between the eyes and he fell to the ground.

Valkyria scanned the battlefield, and saw that Ivrel was striding toward the Sanctum's entrance. She turned to run after him, but suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder.

The Ix girl spun around, green eyes flashing as she saw Xhallin Naar standing before her, holding a scythe.

"I'm sorry to do this to you, Warrior Rhai." he said, and Valkyria saw his eyes were pained. "But you have to die in order for my mentor's takeover to succeed.

The raised his scythe. "So I'm just 'Warrior Rhai' now?" she said, realizing immediately he'd already resolved to finish her off and her only hope for survival lay in distracting him. For one brief moment, Xhallin hesitated, and Valkyria slashed her dagger across his arm, drawing blood. His scythe descended, cutting into her shoulder.

Valkyria's pain was almost immediately replaced by annoyance. It wasn't the betrayal that bothered her, while she'd once been friends with Naar, she would have killed him without emotion had a superior ordered her, and she knew he'd do the same to her. But did Xhallin honestly think that Ivrel could win, whether he killed her or not?

Naar's next slash nearly slashed open her arm, but she dodged the blow narrowly. As Xhallin came at her once more, face twisted into a mask of pain and rage, Valkyria disarmed him, grabbing the scythe, and watched as Ivrel brought his weapon down on one of Scrall Vhokyn's supporters, who fell dead to the ground. Three Matoran were weaving among the battling Ix, felling several.

Valkyria drew back her dagger as both Ivrel and the Matoran slammed into Vhokyn, causing the Ix to stagger back, scythe swinging wildly. The Matoran was forced backward, but before Scrall could finish him off, Ivrel struck just as Valkyria let her dagger go.

The dagger struck Ivrel through the heart just before he was about to finish off Scrall, and the treacherous Ix warrior fell to his knees, shock and pain on his features. He screamed once, then fell to the ground.

Xhallin Naar turned around in surprise and shock at Naar's final scream, just as Valkyria called out a warning. The Matoran wasted no time, and struck Xhallin, felling the Ix warrior before he could even register what had happened to his treacherous mentor.

Valkyria watched in shock as her once-friend's body fell to the ground, his throat torn open by the Matoran's dagger. His blood flowed at her feet, staining her boots with his blood.

In a different time, a different world, we could have been good friends. thought Valkyria sadly. If only Ivrel had not turned him against us.

Quickly ridding herself of emotion, Valkyria raised Silverblade, but saw that by now the battle was over. The Matoran lay dead, and with Ivrel's death, his supporters had quickly been slain. Now, only twelve Ix warriors including Valkyria had survived, and only one of the apprentices was alive.

Valkyria felt her sadness vanish, replaced once more with the anticipation at the end of their long mission. Having slain Ivrel, the only Ix traitor on Illiera in years, her status would rise even higher in the order, and she may even be assigned to join the Circle, or one of the Ix Empire's outposts in the Core Universe.

But first she would have to complete the task Khazin Thaer had assigned her.

The Spirit Toa, Shardak, was somewhere within the building, and Valkyria had resolved she would be the one to finish the Toa off.

***

Darkness pressed in all around him. Shardak could not decide exactly where he was, or what he was doing. Then, as though his thought had triggered the mental image, he saw a group of beings standing on a long plateau leading into the forest. He could make out the features of a battle-scarred Toa, his eyes gaunt and hollow from years of war, standing near the forest. In his hand he held a weapon of flickering blue fire.

Standing beside him was another being, a female, wearing a cloak and light armor. She was standing next to the first being, holding his hand. Shardak could see that a third being, armored in yellow or perhaps gold, was standing on the small hill. He raised his staff, as though in farewell. The two beings called something back, but he couldn't hear anything, nor could he make out the faces of the beings in the vision.

And before the vision turned to blackness, he saw a flash of pure black energy tear across the scene, causing it to dissipate into mist. He tried to call out, but his voice would not come to him. Visions of a massive spire-city and a cloaked figure racing toward it flashed through his mind--

Then shadows rent his world in two and Shardak felt the world plunge into dizzying blackness.

With a start, Shardak awoke, the Shadow Orb in his hand.

It's the Orb. he thought, gasping for breath. It's making me see visions of the past, like Silencer's friend dying.

Yet somehow, he felt as though something was wrong with that idea...then he realized the truth. He had not seen the past, but the future. Was that why the image was so hazy and indistinct?

"Having visions?" asked a new voice, startling Shardak.

"Krost?" he asked, staring at the white Matoran. "How did you--"

"It's not the stone you carry." said Krost. "It's the Sanctum of the Mind. Like many demiplanes, it exists outside the normal confines of time and space, and sometimes you can see images of what will come to pass in your universe."

"So it was a vision of the future?" asked Shardak.

"A vision of a possible future." said Krost. "Not the future. The Future is based on the actions of beings, not on what you see in the Sanctum or other planes. It's why many beings are driven insane by this place; they can't tell what is truly happening in the world beyond, for they know nothing save several possible futures."

"Was the vision I saw my future?" asked Shardak.

"Perhaps." said Krost. "Perhaps not. I do not know, the only one who could tell you is perhaps, the Sanctum itself."

"You speak of the Sanctum as though it's alive." said Shardak, wondering still if everything he'd seen would happen to him, or if it would occur millennia into the future.

"There are many ways of being alive." answered Krost, and refused to elaborate.

"Do you think this...possible future has any significance?" asked Shardak.

"To some it may, to some it will not." said Krost. "I do not know what you saw, nor do I wish to know. The secrets the Sanctum shares with you are yours alone."

Suddenly, there was a knock upon the door. The sound was so unexpected that Shardak almost jumped, but Krost rose calmly to his feet.

"It's probably one of the Turaga. They are highly sensitive to what goes on here, they probably want to make sure you're okay."

"It is possible for the visions to damage you?" asked Shardak.

"Many have succumbed to madness, but the Turaga have not, nor have I."

Krost opened the door, and Shardak was nearly blinded by a flash of red light. Before he could move or cry out, Korst was felled with a single slash of the gleaming red and silver weapons.

Though the arms they carried were unfamiliar to Shardak, there was no mistaking the black, hooded robes that seemed to be one with the night itself, the chilled eyes that spoke of death and destruction, and the clawed, corpse hands and skull-like masks.

Ix.


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#10 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:18 AM

Chapter 9

Fairon barely thought about what his next move would be, frozen in time for three seconds before he could move. The Ix wasted no such time in hesitation. Drawing his scythes, he slammed into Sayna, flinging the Toa to the ground, just as Fairon struck. The Ix snarled in recognition as Fairon brought his lance down on the Veiled One, missing him by inches. Flinging the wounded Sayna aside, he charged toward Fairon, ignoring Galika's repeated blows with her scissorlike sword.

Fairon narrowly managed to avoid the Ix's first blow, then caught the Ix in the shoulder with his lance. He turned to look at Galika, who was helping Sayna to her feet. Before they could renew their attacks on the Ix, he'd slashed down his weapon at Fairon's face.

Suddenly Fairon was back in the arena again, facing Malok on the cliffs alongside Blast and Tanuva. Before the Ix's weapon could slash him open, Fairon lept aside and thrust his lance at the Ix again, his weapon crackling with Elemental light. The Ix showed no discomfort at his attack, however, he merely flicked his fingers and sent Fairon flying backward against the walls of the cliff.

Fairon winced as his armor struck the cliff with a dull thud, but quickly rose to his feet, ignoring the pain. As the Ix warrior brought his scythe down once more, tearing the spear from Sayna's grasp, he struck, slashing in vain against the Ix's armor. He and Galika continued to battle the Ix, but nothing they could do seemed to be able to hold him for long.

The Ix drew a second scythe, forcing Galika on the defensive once more, and with one swipe of his scythe, displaced the air around them and sent both female Toa slamming into the wall where they fell, unconsious.

The Ix then turned on Fairon, his weapon gleaming in the shadows. Fairon charged him, spear raised, but the Ix disarmed him easily. Fairon felt his last hope vanish as the weapon fell to the ground. Before he could even move, the Ix took a step toward him.

It's over. thought Fairon as the Ix raised his weapon. After the Eternal Game, after the battle with Iruka, it ends here.

Before the Ix could strike, however, there was an explosion of blood and a snarl in the Ix's language. When Fairon's vision cleared, he saw Treedaka and Vorral had appeared from nowhere and attacked the Ix, The Ix had recovered quickly, however, and he could see more of the armored and cloaked Veiled Ones appearing out of the shadows, following Treedaka.

Fairon realized that, far from saving them, Treedaka and Vorral had forced them into a trap from which he saw no way out. More Ix were following him, and, backed up against a cliff, they would be slaughtered within minutes. He could see Sayna and Galika rising to their feet, saw their shock when they saw the battling Ix and Toa.

Vorral turned, looked at Treedaka, and nodded once. Before they could do anything else, the Ix were upon them, and Treedaka grabbed Fairon's arm, tearing him out of the path of the Ix warriors. Momentarily distracted, the Ix whirled around, three of them charging the Toa.

Before they could reach Fairon, however, Vorral screamed and lept in the path of the oncoming Ix warriors, weapon waving wildly. His sword slammed against one of the Ix's heavy armor, actually forcing the Veiled One to take a step back. The two others pressed in on him, but Fairon could see no more, as he was dragged away into the darkness by Treedaka.

"Don't waste his life." whispered the Toa furiously. "You know we need to keep you alive."

Fairon wanted to protest, to ask the Toa why he'd sacrificed Vorral's life, but he knew the answer already. Because they needed him, he was the victor, apparently a symbol of the only good that had ever gone on within the Eternal Game.

"We need to go back. I can't let him--"

"Do you think I left him?" asked Treedaka. "He wanted this. I would have done the same."

"Where are Galika and Sayna."

"We're here." came another voice. Both Toa emerged from the shadows, Galika supporting Sayna, who had been wounded in the side and shoulder.

"Vorral's still fighting. He won't be able to hold them off much longer."

Treedaka nodded grimly. "We need to find Jareroden, and warn him there are Ix down here. I hope he's safe."

For a while, all of the Toa were silent, leaving Fairon to his dark recollections of Vorral's sacrifice, and the dangers that still lay ahead.

***

For one moment, all was silent, the baleful red and silver light from the Ix's weapons illuminating the chamber around him. The Ix had already noticed him, and Shardak could see that they had him cornered now. There were simply too many of them to fight off this time, he counted nine of them, and could hear shouts and the sounds of battle coming from far below.

"Meilo! Blast! Ix!" yelled Shardak, trying to warn them. They did not answer.

"It's him!" came a voice, nasal and harsh. "The Spirit Toa, Shardak!"

"Really?" came another voice. Shardak nearly recoiled in shock, this word was not spoken in the usual nasal voice of an Ix, but sounded almost musical, though cold. He could see the Ix who had spoken, a female standing in front of the other Ix. She was wearing silver chainmail, and her face was shrouded in the shadow of her helmet. She also carried a bow and quiver over one shoulder.

"Yes, he's a Toa, we can easily eliminate him." confirmed the first Ix. "He has no weapons."

Shardak cursed inwardly, realizing they were right. He'd left the Blade of Arcturas with Kyhrex and Blast, thinking he wouldn't need it. He remembered Silencer's comments on the first day of training, how he should always be careful and have one way to defend himself.

I'm sorry, Silencer. thought Shardak desperately, as he held the Shadow Orb in his hand tightly and stared at Krost's limp, still bleeding body. I have failed.

"Does he have the Ignika?" asked the female Ix, and to Shardak's surprise he realized the voice sounded young; almost his age. He wondered how she'd been put in charge of the group of Ix, they all seemed to defer to her as their leader.

"Yes." said the Ix, his silvery weapon shining steel-gray illumination onto Shardak's Kanohi. "I believe he also holds the Shadow Orb."

"Take it from him." ordered the Ix girl.

"Shall I eliminate him?" asked the Ix, his voice cold and impassive as he reached out and grabbed the Shadow Orb. He handed it to the female Ix.

"We need him alive." said the Ix girl. "At least until we can question him about this Sanctum and what he's been doing in the Void."

As she spoke, she toyed idly with her silvery dagger, as though she was imagining stabbing it through Shardak's heart. The other Ix nodded, his eyes gleaming coldly beneath his skull-like mask. He raised his scythe--

And then the room exploded with the flashing green light of a Circle lantern. The Ix snarled, whirling around to face his new foe. In the pale illumination, Shardak barely made out the features of the being, who was grappling with two heavily armored Ix warriors.

"Ion?" he gasped in shock. The mutated Toa nodded, and Shardak could see Kyhrex and Blast beside him, tearing through the crowd of Ix warriors. Ion felled one with a massive slash of both claws, another was slashed simultaneously by Blast and speared by Kyhrex.

The other Ix, however, recovered quickly. Shardak could see Kyhrex and Blast were on the defernsive now, three Ix, scythes swinging, were forcing them back. The clash of steel on steel from below proved there were still more Ix alive down there, probably fighting some of the Turaga. What was more, the two Ix that Ion, Blast, and Kyhrex had wounded were rising to their feet once more.

Then the tide of the battle changed again. Two Ix who were fighting Kyhrex fell backward as Ario struck, their bodies slamming against the wall where they collapsed, unconsious. Meilo and Duril burst into the room. Three more fell, unconsious or dying, and Ion decapitated two with his claws.

That left only two Ix remaining. Shardak whirled around, looking for the remainder of the attacking group, and saw the Ix girl in silvery chainmail and another Ix, taller and masked were both still alive, and where fighting their way back, toward the stairs leading to the door. He could already see they would get away if he didn't stop them.

"Shardak, stop those Ix! Finish them off!" yelled Blast, passing him the Blade of Arcturas. More Ix were slowly rising to their feet, and more reinforcements from both sides were entering, but the combined force of the Toa and Turaga was too much for the Ix. However, if the Ix girl escaped with the Shadow Orb, all was lost, and he, Ion, Kyhrex, and Blast would have failed the task they'd been given. He could see it, clenched tightly in her hand, and he charged toward her, Blade of Arcturas swinging wildly, aiming at her neck and shoulders.

The Ix girl dodged narrowly, the weapon missing her by inches. Shardak raced after her as she turned and ran, the taller Ix following her. Ion broke free of the Ix he was grappling and raced down the stairs, toward where Shardak and the Ix were running. Shardak could see the corpses of most of the attackers lying dead on the stairs, slain by the many traps the Turaga had set up there.

As they reached the door, both of the Ix abruptly turned around and attacked, their blades crashing against Ion's armor. Ion snarled in fury at the pain and slashed his claws at the tall Ix, but missed narrowly. At once, the Ix girl was on him, her weapon finding its mark. Ion grunted as the silver dagger tore open an old wound on his thigh, a sound which quickly changed to a roar as she continued to sink the dagger in deeper. Slowly, Ion would die if Shardak let her continue.

"No!" he yelled, and, for the briefest second, his shout distracted the Ix girl. As she turned and looked at him in suprise, he lunged forward, aiming to run the Blade of Arcturas through her. That the Ix had aimed to kill had wiped all thought of mercy from Shardak's mind.

The Ix girl was too fast, however, although she was forced to pull her weapon free, leaving Ion alone to continue his assault on the taller Ix. As her bloodied silver weapon met his, Shardak's blade was forced aside by three sudden blows. While he was stronger and heavier then the Ix girl, she was as fast as the others of her kind, and could land three blows in the span of time it took Toa to land one.

Shardak only narrowly managed to dodge a blow that would have killed him had it landed, and he slashed out again, putting all his strength behind the thrust of his weapon. His undisguised ferocity seemed to startle the Ix girl, and for a moment, she hesitated. Shardak knew his weapon was about to strike, and felt the weapon peirce her armor, then skin below it. As he parried her next blow, he saw he'd reopened an older wound on her shoulder, but had failed to finish her off.

Before either Toa or Ix could move again, Shardak saw Ion was still wrestling the larger Ix. Slowly, the Ix was gaining the upper hand. For one instant, both sides appraised each other, then struck once more. The tall Ix slammed Ion against the wall, and the Ix girl, rather then attacking Shardak once more, charged Ion. As the mutated Toa staggered away from his foe, the second Ix raised her weapon and brought it down across Ion's face.

For one terrified moment, Shardak thought she'd killed him, but he soon noticed Ion had only been wounded. Blood spilling from the wound, Ion slashed wildly at his new assailant, but half-blinded he could do nothing but miss her. Shardak watched as Ion drew back his massive broadsword, whirling it all around him. Both it were forced to take a step back, and Ion refocused himself.

The tall Ix engaged the Toa again, scythes sweeping blindingly fast, but Shardak was quicker. Slamming into the Ix's legs, he forced the tall Ix to take a step back. Ion took advantage of this distraction, slashing off an arm, a leg, and finally the head. The Ix warrior fell dead to the ground.

Both Shardak and Ion turned, expecting the Ix girl to be on him again in an instant, but saw she was nowhere in the immediate area. She was standing near the doorway, her face still shrouded from view. Her eyes blazed a promise, however, as she stared at the Toa. For one moment, they stood there, then she vanished into the darkness.

Meilo came rushing down the stairs. "Ion! Shardak! Are you okay?" he asked frantically. "I heard-"

"The Ix leader is dead." said Ion. "One escaped, but we'll hunt her down. She has the Shadow Orb."

"And I know exactly where she's going." murmered Shardak, remembering at last the second vision he'd seen in the Sanctum, one he had not given any thought before now. The spire-city, the cloaked figure racing toward it...

"Where?" asked Meilo, surprised.

"The Nameless City." he whispered.


Edited by V-2, Feb 12 2016 - 05:19 AM.

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#11 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:22 AM

PART II: The City

Chapter 10

Valkyria did not stop to look back, stop to make sure the Spirit Toa and his allies were not following her. After locking eyes with the Spirit Toa once more, giving him a promise of vengeance, she'd fled, racing through the shadows. Realizing her silver chainmail would only slow her down, she replaced the armor with her mottled camouflage, allowing her to blend once more with the darkness.

Immediately feeling calmer now that she'd left the Sanctum, Valkyria paused for a moment, scanning the area for any sign of pursuing Toa. While the Void would have blinded nearly any other being, Valkyria could see through the darkness, though her vision was more limited then if she'd been on the surface.

Years of suppressing all but the slightest emotion prevented her from feeling sorry for Scrall Vhokyn or the other Ix warriors within the Sanctum. However, the death of Xhallin Naar had shaken her- he had not deserved to die fighting for the traitor Ivrel.

Annoyed with herself for even thinking of the deaths of the Ix in the Sanctum, Valkyria decided to consider her options now. Unless she killed Shardak, the Ix Empire was forever closed to her, despite the fact she held the Shadow Orb. Thinking back to their brief battle, Valkyria knew he was a novice at best, who allowed his emotions to dictate the course his attacks took-- he'd attempted to kill her when she'd wounded the larger Toa.

The Turaga and Toa protected him. thought Valkyria. If he was alone, if I could draw him away from his protection, he'd be finished.

The Ix girl knew it would be suicide to attack Shardak while he was guarded by the massive Toa and the Turaga. All of the Turaga were skilled warriors, and their traps within the Sanctum of the Mind had killed many of the Ix warriors. She had to battle Shardak when he was alone, separated from the remainder of his guards.

Then the plan came to her, and Valkyria almost laughed, it was so simple. Knowing none were watching her, Valkyria smiled coldly, knowing that within days, Toa Shardak would be dead.

Meilo, Lilian, Duuril, and Ario strode between the bodies of slain Ix and Matoran. Most of the Ix warriors were dead, they'd either been killed by the Turaga, or by the massive bladed traps that they'd set off on the stairs. The five Ix warriors that had survived had been captured by the Turaga; only the Ix girl had escaped.

The thought of the Ix who had taken the Shadow Orb, as well as the sight of Pierra's fallen form on the ground, served to galvanize Shardak once more into action. Rising to his feet, he walked over to Ion, Blast, and Kyhrex, who were wounded, but alive.

"We would remain in the Sanctum of the Mind." Ion was saying to Meilo. "But we need to find that Ix girl. It's possible more of the Ix are out there, and if they are, we can't let her reach them."

Meilo nodded regretfully. "I only wish I could go with you, but I must remain here, to tend to the wounded and bury the slain." he looked regretfully at Pierra's body, as well as the slain Matoran lying on the ground beside the Ix warriors.

"I will, however, send Duuril and Ario with you. They have never been to the Nameless City, though they can guide you deeper into the Void."

Duuril smiled, but Ario grimaced coldly. "Why should I go, and risk my life for the beings that caused Pierra's death? While it would satisfy me to take the life of the Ix girl who escaped, I would much rather simply kill all of the Toa and Glatorian now, then persue her."

"No." said Meilo, firmly. "Had Toa Ion and the others come to our aid, we would have all been killed by the Ix."

"Had these Toa and Glatorian never come to the Sanctum, Pierra would still be alive!" snarled Ario.

"These Toa are noble beings." argued Meilo. "They are enemies of the Ix, of the demons, and our allies. Ario, you are the most skilled warrior among us save myself, you alone out of the group could take on the Ix girl and win."

Meilo had done well, Shardak thought, appearing to Ario's vanity. He knew what the Turaga would say now before he said it.

"I will go with them, then."

"Excellent." said Meilo. Turning to Ion, he said, "So I take it you must leave immediately?"

"Yes." said Ion. "I wish we could have spoken, or at least been able to discuss the Sanctum of the Mind further. However--"

"You cannot let the Ix girl escape." finished Meilo.

"You will catch her." said Izon confidently. Duuril is our best tracker, and both he and Ario can match the Ix girl in speed and skill. She has nearly no chance of escape."

Ion nodded grimly. "For the sake of the known universe, I hope you're right, Turaga Izon."

From within the Void, surrounded by shadows, Skorpix's eyes gleamed like chilled embers. Turning to one of his Ix servents, he asked in a nasal, raspy voice. "What is the status on Toa Fairon?"

"The Ix have him surrounded." said the Veiled One confidently. "He has no chance of escape."

"However, our attack team from Illiera has failed." said Skorpix. "And it is unlikely that the Ix warrior who escaped will be able to evade them for long, even with the Shadow Orb."

The Ix touched Skorpix briefly in the aura field to show Skorpix that he understood. For a moment, both beings stood still, then Skorpix said,

"Find the Shardir."

"Is that wise?"

"It is nessessary."

The darkened plains, hidden from view by the Void's oppressive darkness, surrounded Toa Shardak, his Circle lantern barely penetrating the darkness beyond. They were not far behind the Ix girl; Ion had found her footprints leading away from the Sanctum almost immediately. Judging by her tracks, she was less then an hour away.

But will we be able to catch her? asked Shardak. They'd lost her trail twice already, and he knew from bitter experience how cunning the Ix could be.

Beside him, Duuril seemed to understand his fears, and said confidently, "We're quick-following her this happy-time. She cannot run-hide from us forever."

"She doesn't have much of a lead on us." agreed Blast. "We left the Sanctum a half an hour after she did, and even Ix have to rest."

"I know, but they still possess nearly twice the stamina Toa or Glatorian do." argued Shardak.

"Enough of this." Ario hissed, speaking for the first time since the group of Glatorian, Toa, and Turaga had left the Sanctum of the Mind. "We will catch her, and soon. Your Orb will be recovered."

"Listen." said Ion. Shardak, Blast, and Kyhrex drew in to listen. "When we reach the Nameless City, if indeed that's where the Ix girl intends to take the Shadow Orb, I'm sure that's our escape route. Silencer mentioned the city too me, and I know that there is an escape route there."

"And what of the beings you told me of? Atarus and Jareroden? Who are they? Something to do with 'spirit' and 'victor'" he asked.

Ion's eyes widened for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "Kyhrex told you of this?"

"Yes." said Shardak. "You promised you would explain everything. I understand you plan to take us to the resistance?"

"Initially, I was hoping to train you first, but the recent attack at the Sanctum has proven my worst fears correct: the Ix know where you are. There is a gateway from the Nameless City, but it is as firmly under the control of the Ix as the Circle was."

"And the rest of the rebels are hiding there?" Shardak guessed.

"Only a small group of warriors, who moniter the activity there. The Nameless City is an Ix base, but it's nowhere nearly as regimented as the Circle. Even I do not know what to expect there

"With luck." said Ion. "We'll have retaken the Shadow Orb before he need to rest again."

Still, Shardak felt uneasy. What if the Ix girl had allies like Asgard, or worse, more Ix then those Meilo had captured or killed in the Sanctum? She could have already met another group of Ix warriors, who had then returned the Orb to the Circle.

For a moment, Shardak wondered how Silencer had acquired the ancient item of power. There was so much he'd wanted to ask him. It had crossed his mind, earlier, to ask Ion, but as they were solely fixated at the moment on tracking down the Ix girl, he knew they had no time to discuss irrelevant information.

Suddenly, another light caught Shardak's eye, and for a moment, his Circle lantern illuminated a curved spear. Shardak opened his mouth to call a warning, but Ario and Duuril had already noticed the new threat. To Shardak's surprise, their assailants were not Ix, but the mysterious soldiers who had attacked a day earlier, separating him from Ion, Blast, and Kyhrex.

With his weapons drawn, Ion and Ario did not hesitate to strike back, their weapons flashing in the half-light. Shardak saw Ario's weapon fall, decapitating one of their assailants. However, Shardak could already see they were here in force, at least ten of them charging Ario, with more waiting behind them.

Before Shardak could even raise the Blade of Arcturas, Ion had charged their attackers, and the cavern exploded into battle once more. Duuril was standing amidst a massive group of the soldiers, his speed allowing him to stand against them all easily. However, three of the beings, a taller, black armored being, a small Matoran, and a heavily armored Glatorian, were overmatching Ario, forcing him back.

Shardak had no time to see how Blast and Kyhrex were doing. He raised the Blade of Arcturas, felt the now-familiar hilt in his hands as he raised it and slashed out at a Glatorian attacker, cutting open his shoulder. The Glatorian staggered away from Shardak, dropping his weapon. Once again, Shardak wished he could use the aura field aggressively, the way the Ix did. He'd seen them telekinetically throw beings against walls and shatter weapons using the field, however, Silencer had died before he was able to train Shardak completely in his aura field skills.

A second Glatorian charged Shardak, his weapon sweeping downward in a classic Lihtne attack pattern. Shardak countered it easily, but his second and third strikes were harder to dodge and the Toa was forced to take a step back. Two more beings, a Matoran and a second Glatorian, charged at Shardak, but he managed to narrowly dodge both of their attacks and disarm his original opponent.

As Shardak parried his two new assailants' weapon strikes, he saw a flash of green armor, and the two beings fell to the ground, Duuril standing in their place. the Turaga was spattered with his attacker's blood, but was otherwise unharmed. Before the attackers could rise to their feet, Duuril stunned them with his Elemental powers.

"Shardak!" yelled Ion over the roar of the flames. "Shardak, run! This time there's no hope for escape!"

Looking around him, Shardak saw that Ion was correct. The Glatorian was completely surrounded by a massive group of the soldiers, and while Blast and Kyhrex were still alive and not surrounded entirely, they could not escape easily. He could hear Ion yelling the same thing to Blast and Kyhrex, but was unable to help them, as they were barred by a virtual wall of the soldiers, some of them Glatorian, others Vortixx, some beings that Shardak did not recognize.

Shardak did not wish to leave, he felt as though history was repeating itself, that they'd been lucky once that Ion had survived, and that now they had almost no chance of escape. As Ion disappeared under a sea of attackers, and Duuril and Ario held them off barely, on the verge of being overrun, Shardak could see Blast and Kyhrex racing away, deeper into the Abyss.

Shardak only hesitated for a moment, staring at the massed beings who were about to kill Ion and the Turaga. Then he turned and vanished into the Void, determined more then ever to confront the Ix girl and retake the Shadow Orb.

How long the Toa of Aura wandered the inky blackness he could not say. His entire being burned for vengeance against the Ix girl, and though he knew his anger was irrational, he felt that since he could do nothing against the soldiers, the most he could do was to recover the Shadow Orb.

And once again, he had failed to ask Ion about what Silencer had meant by the words Kyhrex had overheard, the words "spirit" and "victor". His only hope now was to find the Ix girl, then Atarus or Jareroden, the rebellion's agents in the Nameless City.

***

Farther away from Shardak, deep within the Void, Valkyria smiled. The Ix girl was seated at the edge of a massive ledge descending even deeper into the Void, her heels against the edge of the cliff. She was resting and thinking about what she'd done to her pursuers.

She'd watched as the Toa had followed her footprints directly toward the area where she knew the soldiers would be patrolling. The tallest of the beings had been taken prisoner, another had fled, and the two Turaga had been captured. One had lost an arm, the other had been wounded very badly. She hadn't seen what had happened to the ebon armored Glatorian, but suspected he'd been killed.

That left only one being hunting her.

The Spirit Toa, Shardak.

It had worked out even better then she'd hoped. The one being she'd been sent to either capture or kill, the Toa who she'd tracked across the Great Plain, had been the only being to have escaped the Shadow of Ages. In the distance, Valkyria could already see her destination, the massive city of great domed buildings and thin spires made of pure glass shot through with golden metal. It was massive, stretching deep into the Void.

Valkyria Rhai knew it was her only hope to lure her remaining pursuer here. If Shardak did not die on the cliffs or was not killed by the Shadow's soldiers, he would have to face her, this time without the Toa who had killed Scrall or the Turaga warriors by his side. Her mission that had taken her so far from Illiera, that had cost the lives of so many of her strike team, was about to be completed.

Victory was so close she could almost taste it. Khazin Thaer and the other Ix would have been so proud of her. She'd taken two loose threads and brought them together. The best outcome would be that they ended up neutralizing each other, but even if they didn't she would still be there to finish off whatever remained, and return to the Ix Empire, the Shadow Orb in hand.

Valkyria lay back, resting her tired body against the cavern wall. She would only be allowed a few hours of sleep, before the Toa would have caught up with her. Already her plans for returning to Illiera were being fullfilled.

***

Fairon guessed that had he not spent nearly a month with no undesturbed sleep within the arena, he would have become tired by now. They'd spent nearly thirty hours alternately resting and searching for Jareroden and Xatax, but had as of yet found no sign of either. They'd found their footprints, and eventually saw they'd inexpliacably vanished. There were no signs of a struggle, the beings had simply vanished.

Something about this reminded Fairon of the Eternal Game, how many contestants simply vanished off the face of the arena, either killed or captured by the former bounty hunter and Toa of Shadow known as Nightwatcher.

Then, like a bolt of lightning, out of the darkness, Fairon remembered. Nightwatcher, along with his battered pet, a Gariahk Rahkshi, had both fallen into the Void, the Rahkshi dragged in by Ghost and Nightwatcher defeated by Iruka. Was it possible Nightwatcher had survived?

No. Fairon decided. Nightwatcher wouldn't attack Jareroden, because nobody's paying him to. He was a bounty hunter, and there are no real employers in the Void. If he's escaped, he'll have returned as quickly as possible to the world above the abyss.

"We'll have to accept they're gone." said Flardrek at last. "We have no way of finding them."

Fairon realized that he was right. Whoever had captured or killed Jareroden or Xatax was as skilled as Nightwatcher himself and had obviously left no tracks to follow at all.

"Fairon." said Flardrek. "You need to rest, to save your strength. We all do."

Against his will, the Toa nodded. Fairon joined the group of Glatorian and Toa, who had gathered near the massive obelisk and surrounding caverns that Jareroden had said would serve as their base.

After he was rested, Fairon knew, he would wonder about the fate of Jareroden and Xatax. But now, all he could think about was the death of Vorral, and how another being had been added to the death toll that had begun in the arena.

***

The tall Ix warrior strode through the massive complex of an Ix Citadel, his gaze impassive. All of the other beings deferred respectfully to him, for he was one of the most powerful Ix currently stationed here. Because the only beings here were the Ix's elite warriors, none of them looked at him questioningly.

The Ix strode imperiously toward the massive double doors, not even shivering as he realized the usual cold in the citadel had somehow fallen even further. Despite the uncomfortable chill, the Ix showed no pain at the cold.

Pushing open the door, the tall Ix entered the chamber. Unlike the rest of the chambers in the citadel, this room was lit with Cold Fire torches taken from the Ix's outposts known as the Circle. The room was empty, save the three beings who stood before the Ix. They were female, armored in ice white and blue. Their eyes were the only way to differentiate them: one green, one dark blue, one violet. Their stares were as cold as that of the Ix.

They were Sharidir.

Once rulers of an Empire that followed the destruction of the Mindeater race, today some of the most deadly and reckless mercenaries in the known universe, arguably second only to Nightwatcher himself. The Ix warrior knew that if his masters were willing to employ both Nightwatcher and not one but three Sharidir, something massive must be going on, beyond the comprehension of the rank and file Ix warriors.

"Greetings." said the green-eyed Sharidir. Her voice was simular to that of an Illieran's, but with an unmistakable icy edge to it. "What do you want from us?"

The Ix did not bother to greet her in turn, but merely said. "A group of known rebels operating near our outpost known as the Circle have entered the Void, and are planning to escape with an object that belongs to our order. We have attempted to capture them using an Elemental Prince, a group of Eliminators, a Stalker, and several demons. All have failed, or only partially suceeded. Now, they are nearing the city, though only four survive out of the original group."

"And you wish for us to destroy them?" asked the violet-eyed Sharidir.

"Yes. Kill them all, except the Toa wearing the Ignika, and return the Orb and the Toa to us. We have heard you are three of the finest bounty hunters the Sharidir have to offer, and we know you know how to navigate the Nameless City and understand the perils hidden within."

"They are no danger to us." said the third Sharidir.

The Ix ignored her, saying, "The Toa of Aura is heavily guarded by a Toa called Ion, as well as an Elemental-sensitive being known as Kyhrex. Make sure to eliminate them both."

"They will pose no threat to us." said the blue-eyed Sharidir. "We will not go alone. Our group and your Ix Empire have given us permission to unleash a being on the Toa that the universe has not seen since the Elder Times. For years, it has been trapped in a demiplane so far removed from this world its hunger burns greater then ever. It will make sure that none of our enemies save the Toa of aura will survive."

"Who do you plan to unleash?" asked the Ix warrior.

"The ancient World-Eating Serpent, the Devourer of Corpses, the Greatest Predator. We will unleash the being once known to the universe as Sarkanian!"


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 06:14 AM.

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#12 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:25 AM

Chapter 11

The glow of his Circle lantern woke Shardak. Like the rest of the days in the past three weeks since he'd entered the Circle and encountered the Ix, Ion, and Silencer, the fear that his enemies would find him kept him wide awake. Just because he was hunting the Ix girl didn't mean Asgard or more Ix weren't out there.

Rising to his feet, he raised his Circle lantern to illuminate the cavern he'd chosen as his resting place. He doubted the Ix girl had gotten too far ahead, even Ix needed sleep. He'd only been resting for six hours, because he had no idea how long Ix needed to rest.

Shardak briefly wondered if it was day or night in the worlds outside the Void, then his thoughts immediately turned to the Ix girl, who he was sure could not have gone far. He'd chased her for more then twelve hours, and he doubted that any being could run that long without needing rest, even an Ix. He'd soon catch her, take the Shadow Orb, and then--

Shardak realized his thoughts had been so preoccupied with finding the Ix girl, he hadn't thought about what he'd do after he'd recovered the Shadow Orb. Kill her? Imprison her? He didn't know. He certainly didn't want to kill her, but what choice did he have? He certainly couldn't let her escape after he recaptured the Shadow Orb, she'd kill him given the chance.

He remembered Meilo saying that, because he had killed the Kranr guard in the Labyrinth in self-defense, he shouldn't trouble himself over it. But while it was one thing to slay a being in the heat of battle, it was quite another to hunt the Ix girl down and kill her with the Blade of Arcturas.

He wondered what Silencer would have done, but realized he knew the answer. Silencer would have accepted it was his duty to kill the Ix girl, as he had accepted it was his duty to finish off the Fury. Then again, the Fury had been a revenge killing, revenge for the death of Silencer's Toa friend during the earlier war nearly eighty years ago. He turned his thoughts to Ion and Arcturas, and realized the bitter truth: he didn't know. The fact was, he didn't know Arcturas well enough to know what he would have done. The Arcturas he'd thought he'd known would have never lifted a weapon to her.

You don't even know if you'll reach the point where you have to make that choice. said Shardak, trying to calm himself.There are so many things that could go wrong before I even attack her, and maybe one of the Turaga will join me and help me to decide what to do.

Shardak knew that he could waste no more time, however. Putting aside his own thoughts and distractions, he began to climb down the massive cliff that descended far deeper into the Void. He climbed for nearly an hour, seeing no signs that the Ix girl had been there, then found her footprints again, this time on a small ledge leading into a cave. While he saw no other signs that she'd been here, she guessed that she'd slept here, before moving on, deeper into the Void.

Shardak had no more time to search the caves, as he was nearing the base of the cliff, but he knew she wasn't there, as she'd have easily killed him with her arrows had she known he was on the cliff, virtually helpless, with way to draw his weapon to defend himself.

Finally reaching the base of the cliffs, Shardak turned away from the massive cliffs.

He could see, in the distance, a massive, gleaming city made entirely of glass in the distance, starkly contrasting with the dark, rocky plateau it was built on. Tall spires and massive domed complexes reminiscent of the Le-Matoran's moto-hubs in Intax rose into the dark, empty skies of the Void, and all of the glass buildings were shot through with golden metal. Many were damaged, and some had collapsed entirely, but many others were still perfectly preserved. Occasionally, Shardak noticed several flickering green lights that appeared and disappeared within the Nameless City as well, and wondered if they were simular to the Circle's light crystals, which powered the lantern he now carried.

"The Nameless City." Shardak breathed, awed at the massive, decaying urban landscape before him. It seemed completely abandoned, with no sign of either the Ix girl, the Turaga, or the mysterious soldiers. \

She's probably gone into the city. thought Shardak. It's what I would do in her position.

Steeling his nerves, the Toa strode toward the massive city, feeling very small in the shadow of the landscape before him. Yet another legend had been proven real; the Nameless City truly existed at the bottom of the Void, while it was decaying, and many of the buildings were completely wrecked, Shardak saw it was still a near miracle of creation.

Before Shardak could take another step towards the heavily damaged city gates, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Reacting instinctively, he threw himself to the ground, just in time to see two arrows flash over his head. Rising to his feet, he saw that the helmeted Ix girl was racing toward the city, her bow once again slung over her shoulder.

Shardak raced toward his quarry, he could see the red light of the Shadow Orb burning through her fingertips. All thoughts of sparing her life were forgotten, he realized it was kill or be killed now. With no way to draw her bow, the Ix girl raised her long silver dagger as Shardak charged toward her.

Toa and Ix faced each other, his Kanohi gleaming in the half-light, her face shrouded in the shadow of her helmet. Shardak slashed down to parry her first attack, then countered her next two attacks easily as well. However, she recovered quickly, and nearly tore the Blade of Arcturas from his hands. Taking advantage of his confusion, the Ix girl thrust her dagger at his heartlight, and Shardak was forced to stagger backward before she could finish him off.

Suddenly, there was a flash of another weapon in the darkness, and Shardak saw the Ix girl's weapon whirl around, aiming at the scythelike pike's tip and slashing it from the hilt. Shardak's eyes widened in shock as he saw the metal weapon break and wondered what type of weapon she carried, and how it had destroyed the soldier's pike so easily.

Shardak's vision cleared, and he saw that the Ix girl was fighting a second pike-wielding Glatorian, while more soldiers, a Vortixx and a larger group of Glatorian, charged toward them. Shardak brought the Blade of Arcturas down on a Glatorian's pike, and blocked his assailant's next thrust, disarming him easily.

In the distance, Shardak saw that the Vortixx's three Glatorian guards had fallen, and the Ix girl racing away, toward the city gates, the Vortixx and several guards following her. Four others turned to face Shardak, their weapons raised.

For one moment, thoughts raced through Shardak's mind at the speed of light. Earlier in the Circle, he had escaped Flareus and the Stalker only narrowly with Kyhrex's help, and the Fury had been defeated by Silencer. In the Sanctum of the Mind, Meilo and Ion had rescued him from the Ix, and Ion had held off the mysterious soldiers twice. Now, nothing was standing between him and certain death but his own limited skills.

The soldiers came charging toward him, their weapons readied. As the first to charged, Shardak dodged one pike easily and deflected the other with the Blade of Arcturas. As the Glatorian charged Shardak again, the Toa swung his weapon around, tearing the pike from the Glatorian's hands. Before any of the other attackers could move, Shardak slammed the Blade of Arcturas' hilt against his opponent's head. The Glatorian fell to the ground, unconscious.

The three other Glatorian, however, showed no signs of discomfort at the fall of their companion. As Shardak whirled around to face his remaining assailants, two of the Glatorian charged forward, and Shardak felt a flash of pain in his unwounded shoulder as the pike speared through his armor. Shardak staggered back, the pike tearing itself free. Shardak knew the cut wasn't deep, but it was still painful. As the Glatorian charged him again, Shardak used the Blade of Arcturas as a spear, tearing open the Glatorian's shoulder.

His opponent staggered backward, and Shardak attempted to disarm him. The Glatorian grunted, tightening his grip on the weapon. Shardak grabbed the pike with his fist, the point swinging dangerously near to his heart. Realizing this, the Glatorian attempted to impale Shardak, but the Toa's grip was too strong and the pike was torn from his hands. Whirling the weapon's blunt end around him as the Glatorian closed in, Shardak struck two of the attackers on the sides of the head with a dull metallic clang, knocking them both out.

The one remaining Glatorian was smarter. After seeing how Shardak had defeated his companions, and not wanting to come in range of Shardak's pike, he cautiously probed Shardak's defenses, willing him to try to attack. Shardak, however, did not dare, for he knew the Glatorian was far more skilled then he was, and having never learned to defend against a spear, knew he would lose.

As the Glatorian's spear weaved in and out of Shardak's defenses, Shardak brought the Blade of Arcturas down on his opponent's weapon, forcing him back. The Glatorian recovered quickly, and thrust forward, forcing Shardak to take a step back. As the Glatorian reached forward, Shardak brought his weapon down on the Glatorian's, and traded a series of blindingly fast thrusts with his opponent before finally forcing the Glatorian backward, toward the cliff's edge.

However, the Glatorian noticed the danger. Throwing his pike aside and drawing a long, curved scimitar, he charged toward Shardak, trading blows with the Toa for a few moments before slashing his weapon down, tearing open an old wound on Shardak's leg. Shardak counterattacked furiously, fighting with both spear and blade, but the Glatorian easily knocked the pike from his hand and slashed open Shardak's shoulder. His Stalker bite burned with pain as he blocked the Glatorian's weapon, his next attack forcing the Glatorian nearly to the cliff wall.

The Glatorian recovered quickly, and his next thrust nearly tore the Blade of Arcturas from Shardak's hands. The Toa parried his attacks for a few moments, regaining the upper hand as their battle began to degenerate into a furious series of slashes, parries, and strikes. Shardak was unable to keep up with his opponent's weapon, and felt pain flash through both shoulders and his side as his opponent's attacks became more and more furious. Shardak saw they were nearing the Namless City's gates, and knew his enemy was cornering him.

As the solider bore down on him, Shardak thrust forward with the Blade of Arcturas, and felt it leave his hands as the pike struck it with a metallic clang. Seeing his enemy completely defenseless, the Glatorian smiled.

"You put up a better defense then my master said you could." he conceded as he raised the pike. "But no Toa can stand against the future rulers of the multiverse."

As he charged Shardak raised his hands, a last, desperate defense against the lethal-looking pike. As the Glatorian was about to strike, Shardak saw cold blue flame appear at his fingertips, striking the pike and shattering it into one thousand shards of Protosteel which struck the Glatorian full in the face. Stunned, the solider fell to the ground, the remains of his weapon scattered around his unconscious body.

Shardak, however, could barely move, he felt as though every drop of vitality had been drained from his body. He watched for a few moments as the blue fire flickered around the body of the Glatorian before vanishing completely. Had he created Cold Fire? He'd been defenseless one moment, facing certain death...and then, the next, the Glatorian was lying unconscious on the ground, his spear shattered.

Did I use the aura field to destroy the weapon? Shardak wondered. Ion said it was rare...nearly impossible for a Toa to use the aura field offensively without destroying himself.

Shardak wondered if that was why he felt so tired. Focusing, he attempted to bring the Cold Fire to life once more. Nothing happened. If the soldiers returned, they would find him completely defenseless.

The thought of the soldiers attacking again galvanized Shardak into action once more. As he felt his strength begin to return, Shardak rose unsteadily to his feet, grabbing the three pikes and the Blade of Arcturas. While the three weapons were cumbersome, he knew that leaving them with the Glatorian when they awakened would give them another chance to attack him.

In the distance, Shardak could hear the shouts of the remaining soldiers and footsteps coming closer and closer toward him. Raising the Blade of Arcturas, Shardak entered the gates and stepped into the Nameless City.

***

At the south gate of the Nameless City, the three Sharidir, armored fully in helmets and silver-white chainmail, stood before the massive runes engraved onto the cold stone outside the Nameless City. Engraved there for centuries, they had been there long before the Mindeaters had claimed the city for their own. Behind them, a phalanx of elite Ix warriors, scythes drawn, watched impassively.

This location was one of the few places where the barriers between the Void and the planes were thin, allowing beings of great power to tear open the veil between dimensions and call beings forth. The mysterious beings had obviously known this, and created the runes to allow weaker beings to also call beings from the myriad planes of existence beyond the Void.

"Sarkanian..." whispered the violet-eyed Sharidir, and the runes glowed with light, first blue, then red, then green, then black. The demiplane on which Sarkanian was sealed was far beyond the four Elemental Realms.

Passing through planes where the Ix dwelled....and others which they ruled, the Sharidir reached deeper into a void of nothingness far blacker then the one they were currently in...and touched the consioussness of a being that had not walked the known universe for millennia.

"Sarkanian..." whispered the blue-eyed Sharidir, and the runes glowed once more...

The runes gleamed with light as the Sharidir's auras, cold and white, touched Sarkanian's...

"Sarkanian..." whispered the green-eyed Sharidir, and the runes glowed for the third time, this time far brighter then before...

..And Sarkanian, for the first time in centuries, moved toward light, toward freedom.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#13 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:27 AM

Chapter 12

Fairon was standing on the edge of the cliff, facing Iruka. He held his weapon, a long dagger, in one hand; the other held the only way to escape the area: the teleporter. Iruka roared in fury, his weapon, a massive broadsword, held above his head as he charged.

The arena was burning all around him, the world had turned to ash as trees and the rest of the world vanished around him, until only Iruka remained, a massive armored warrior standing, like a conquering general, in the midst of the raging inferno. Fairon felt himself falling; they were both over the edge of the cliff now, and the flames were all around them. He was conscious of every detail, saw the myriad shades of orange and red burning all around him as he fell…

With a start, Fairon awoke, the flames still burning behind his eyes. He’d had this dream before, the one that ended as Iruka charged toward him, a crazed, maniacal look in his eyes as he tried to wrench the teleporter from Fairon’s hands.

It’s over. The Eternal Game is over. Iruka is dead. Fairon told himself.

But the truth was, the Game was not over. He’d been playing the Game ever since he’d left the arena, since the rebellion had contacted him. The most dangerous part of the Eternal Game had begun, the Ix knew he was affiliated with the rebellion, and he would be marked as a criminal, just as Iruka had been marked once.

"Fairon?" a voice broke through the silence. The Toa turned, and saw Flardrek on his feet, weapon raised. All around him, the Toa were waking, ready to continue their search for Xatax and Jareroden. Fairon had begun to believe, against his will, that they would not be found here. Whoever had captured the Toa had left no trace, not even a single footprint.

"Yes?" he asked.

"We can’t afford to continue searching for Jareroden. We need to complete the task that he assigned us: recover the Ignika. We’ve been searching for nearly two days now, and we’ve lost eight more hours resting." There was regret in the Fire Glatorian’s voice, but also steely resolve.

"It’s what Jareroden would have wanted." said Galika.

Fairon nodded at last in agreement. While he did not want to leave Jareroden and Xatax alone and lost in the Void, they could simply not waste any more time if they wanted to find the Ignika.

"Okay." he said.

Flardrek grimaced slightly, but said, "Okay. The mask is obviously nowhere on this plain. We need to continue our search deeper in the Void."

"Agreed." said Treedaka. "The mask is not hidden-kept here."

"Sayna, what did your team find while you were searching two days ago? Are there any safe ways of descending deeper into the Void?" asked the Glatorian

"I don’t know." Sayna answered. "We were searching for a pathway leading downward when we were attacked by the Ix."

"It’s still a place to start-begin." said Treedaka. "There may be a pathway leading ever-deeper into the dark-Void that we have not search-looked yet."

Gathering their Toa tools, the group of warriors began to search the Void, retracing Sayna's path to the edge of the plain. It quickly became obvious, however, there was no way deeper into the Void that was safe. The cliffs were sheer, and in some places, nearly impossible to climb. Fairon saw that the place where they'd fought the Ix was completely abandoned, whatever had happened to Vorral, the Ix had cleaned up after themselves. It also ended in a dead end.

Fairon cursed inwardly, remembering how the Ix had backed him up against the cliff during the battle. There was no safe way down the cliff.

Then he remembered, and turning to Treedaka, said, "Could you and Sayna use your elemental powers to lower us into the Void?"

"No." said Treedaka, surprising Fairon. "We could use our powers to lower us into the Void, but we simply can't lower you, Flardrek, and Galika as well."

Fairon was about to reply, when suddenly he felt a strange pulling sensation. Instantly reminded of the teleporter in the arena, his initial thought was to fight it, but he simply could not, and could see that none of his companions could as well. He saw Sayna's body dissolve completely, then Treedaka's, then Galika's, then Flardrek's. Finally, only Fairon remained, and though he tried to fight, he vanished into the shadows.

***

The city was vast, built into a cliff in a similar fashion to the Ix Citadel in the Circle. However, unlike the Circle, this city was vast, a massive landscape of damaged towers, smashed glass domes, and ruined buildings. Much of the city glowed with faint green light, though for what reason Shardak could not guess. It was as though the ghoulish green light of the Circle, despite the absence of any lanterns or light crystals, continued lighting the streets of the ghostly city.

Now Shardak could see where much of the Circle's architecture had come from. While the buildings' meterials were different, made of glass shot through with streams of gold and bronze, the lampposts were very similar to those within the Circle. Shardak could see many of the buildings resembled those of the Circle, despite the meterial's differences. The Gates, though damaged, also strongly resembled the Circle's.

It was all true. thought Shardak, awed in spite of the damage. Everything that Silencer believed, about the lost city of the Mindeaters...it's real, just as the Void's prison was real.

"He's there!" a voice jerked Shardak back to reality as he saw the flash of weapons in the pale green light. "Kill him!"

Shardak saw more of the soldiers racing through the city streets, their bright orange and red torches contrasting starkly with the cold green light. Shardak knew that in his weakened state he could not hold off the soldiers again. He'd be killed within minutes.

Racing down the streets made of smooth obsidian, the Toa flung his Circle lantern aside, realizing it would only distract him. Raising the Blade of Arcturas, which gave off a smouldering red light in the shadow of the massive buildings, he turned down a second alleyway, the soldiers close behind him.

Suddenly, Shardak saw an arrow flash by him, then grunted in pain and shock as he felt a second strike his shoulder. He scanned the area hastily, searching for the Ix girl, but saw no sign of her. Remembering the Ix's uncanny ability to meld with the shadows, he realized that meant nothing. Shardak turned, and saw that the soldiers had nearly cought him.

Karzahni.

They were nearly up to him now, their spears within throwing distance. Afraid to run, for fear the Ix girl would kill him instantly, and knowing it was impossible to fight both the soldiers and the Ix girl. Before he could make a descision to run or fight, however, one of the soldiers; the most heavily armored of the three, fell to the ground, an arrow embedded in his throat. Two more of the soldiers didn't even notice anything was wrong, and were both felled by three more arrows, one striking a Glatorian in the heart, another taking an Agori in the shoulder and the third impaling him through the throat.

The fourth and final remaining soldier stopped as he saw the Agori warrior fall, confused. His eyes stared at the arrows that had felled his allies, and he had just enough time to realize who had killed them before another of the Ix girl's arrows downed him as well.

Shardak whirled around, expecting to die immediately. But nothing happened. There was no sign of anyone there at all. Had the Ix girl saved him?

His answer came moments later. He heard a cry of pain, and the clash of weapons. The Vortixx and his patrol of soldiers must have found the Ix. Shardak's immediate sensation was relief, that he didn't have to go after her futher. He didn't want to be caught between the Ix girl and the Vortixx warrior, both were probably equally dangerous.

Then he remembered the Shadow Orb. He could not let the Ix girl or the soldiers have it, if the Ix returned it to her commanders, or the Vortixx was able to keep it, everything was lost.

Racing toward the sounds of battle, Shardak turned the corner of the dilapidated street, and saw the corpses of the remaining soldiers lying scattered across the alleyways. Every one of them were dead, one shot down from a distance, the rest surrounded by the green sparks that surrounded the rest of the city.

Shardak wondered briefly how all of the beings had died, looking at their corpses he saw that most of them had been killed not by the Ix girl, but had somehow been simply slain, with no weapons. As he watched, the green light grew more intense, and their bodies crumbled to ash.

Hardly daring to look and see what lay ahead on the street beyond, Shardak hesitated. Would he find the bodies of the Ix girl and the Vortixx soldier, both killed by the mysterious, ghoulish green sparks?

Finally making up his mind, Shardak turned the corner and gasped in shock.

He was standing before a massive crater, a large indentation filled with pale green light and sparks. He looked around wildly for some sign of the Shadow Orb or the Ix girl, but saw none. He realized that they must have never come this way.

Turning his gaze on the massive crater, he wondered how or if the energy had destroyed the Glatorian warriors. It was certainly not at all similar to the Circle lanterns, rather, it seemed to be composed of thousands of myriad threads of green energy, winding their way through the center of the crater. All around the glowing threads, pale sparks danced, abruptly coalescing into shadowy forms, then vanishing once more. All the while, the threads moved throughout the center of the crater, twisting and changing every second, yet always remaining graceful and mesmerizing.

Then, as Shardak's eyes began to lose focus, abruptly, the green mist coalesced once more into beings, this time fully solid. But Shardak could tell they were not truly alive. They were merely constructs, somehow possessed by the green energy.

As one, their gaze turned to Shardak, their glassy, smoky green eyes gleaming, and the leading being, a tall, obviously long dead Glatorian, smiled at Shardak, a twisted, unreal grimace that made Shardak's blood run cold.

The beings said nothing, their faces cold, expressionless. Their battered weapons, made of metal, bronze, and protosteel, suggested they were from many ages, many times. Two of the beings charged him, dented swords gleaming coldly in the pale green illumination. Shardak tensed; wondering what these beings were, and remembered something else Ion had told him.

Once, according to the legends, a mysterious plague devastated the Nameless City, eventually it was completely abandoned by even the Mindeaters for this reason.

Shardak knew he must not let the beings even touch him. He’d seen what had happened to the Glatorian warriors who’d tried to fight, and did not want to suffer the same death. As the attackers’ weapons flashed down toward him, each blow hammering him back, each narrow escape placing him once inch from death once more. While these beings could not equal the Ix in speed or strength, their skill far surpassed those of the Glatorian swordsmen and pikemen he’d battled earlier.

Shardak felt the Blade of Arcturas strike the twisted Glatorian helmet, and the impact jarred his arm, deadening it for a moment. All four of the beings pressed in on him, the Glatorian, spider Rahi, Agori, and Matoran. He took a step back, knowing he was only prolonging the inevitable. Sooner or later, they would completely overwhelm him.

Pressing their advantage, Shardak was forced even closer to the cliff, and an inexorable dread also mounted within him. In one moment, he would die, and he would never recover the Shadow Orb, never find out if Blast, Kyhrex, and Ion were alive…

The thought of his friends brought Shardak back to reality, and with a sweeping arc, slashed off the heads of the undead Agori and Matoran. For one moment, their bodies merely stood there; then they dissolved into green light, becoming part of the enigmatic matrix once more.

Neither of the remaining two attackers even spoke, nor did they acknowledge Shardak. The green energy within their eyes, however, burned with a malign intelligence that was not their own, but that of the mysterious plague-being.

The Glatorian brought his weapon down, and Shardak nearly lost his grip on the Blade of Arcturas as their swords met in midair. For one moment, it crossed Shardak’s mind to attempt use the mysterious auric power he’d used to defeat the Glatorian, but decided against it. He didn’t even know if it would work, or if it would even affect the hideous animated corpses.

Shardak felt a second jolt in his arm as their weapons met again, and the Toa seized the advantage, forcing both the Rahi and the Glatorian back toward the energy matrix. Slowly, he began to batter at the Glatorian’s armor, feeling it tear through the thick steel plates.

However, as he was distracted fighting the Glatorian, the spider Rahi had not been idle. As Shardak disarmed the Glatorian, the spider pounced, massive fangs extended, the cold energy ready to end the Toa’s life. Had Shardak not taken one step forward to slash off the Glatorian’s hand as it reached for him, he would have been killed instantly. As it was, the Rahi missed by a few inches. It recovered quickly, but by then, Shardak was facing his attacker once more. As the massive scorpion-like spider raced at him, intending to haul him to the ground with its sheer strength, Shardak slashed downward, drawing blood. Turning around, the creature faced him, but Shardak easily speared it with the Blade of Arcturas, careful to not allow the Rahi’s body to touch him.

Within seconds, the body of the Rahi had disintegrated. Shardak rose to his feet just as the Glatorian’s weapon descended upon him. Shardak, reacting out of instinct, speared upward with the three pikes he’d carried with him impaling the being through the heart. As he slumped to the ground, all three of the weapons disintegrated along with the Glatorian.

Startled, Shardak looked at the Blade of Arcturas, but could not see any damage at all. For a moment he was puzzled, then he remembered that if this was an ordinary weapon, it would have been incinerated the moment Arcturas had used his fire elemental powers to ignite it.

Suddenly angry, Shardak wanted to throw the weapon to the ground. Why hadn’t Arcturas told him of any of this? Surely he knew that even though they lived outside the Empire, one day the Ix would hunt them down? And how had Nightshade been able to fool them both, all those years?

Shardak knew that many of these questions would never be answered, for even Silencer had known little of the Glatorian’s life. Most of the answers had died along with Arcturas.


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 05:28 AM.

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#14 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:31 AM

Chapter 13

Fairon felt the pull of the shadows begin to relax, coupled with the sudden flow of emotions as he became solid once more. The relief, however, quickly turned to horror as he realized what must have happened. Somehow, they’d been taken prisoner.

Looking around him, Fairon saw nothing out of the ordinary; it was merely another ledge overlooking the Void. Finally, the lantern he carried broke through the oppressive darkness, illuminating the helmet of a massive male Vortixx. He was carrying twin curved knives, still stained with blood. His eyes gleamed with triumph as he stared at Fairon, Sayna, Treedaka, Flardrek, and Galika.

"Four Toa and a Glatorian." hissed the Vortixx. "Just as our master reported."

"Who is your master?" asked Flardrek angrily. "The Ix?"

The Vortixx smiled and shook his head. Unexpectedly, he turned to Fairon. "Oh, I think the Toa of Light knows. You know him quite well."

Fairon felt his heartlight freeze within his chest. His first thought was that the Vortixx meant Iruka. Then he remembered Iruka was dead. Running over the names of all the contestants who had fallen into the Void, Fairon was about to ask another question when the Vortixx cut him off.

"The commander is coming. He will take you to the Nameless City, where you will meet our master yourselves."

"The commander—" Fairon began, but he saw a chill mist begin to form within the chamber. A massive being, formed of smoke, began to shift, his clawed hands visible first, then his ebony-armored body, which gleamed coldly in the shadows, and lastly, the Kanohi Salek, scarred by years of war, with two cold red eyes burning behind the mask.

"So nice to see you again, Toa Fairon." rasped Makuta Dredzek, and Fairon felt the last of the defenses he’d created since he’d left the arena fall and the memories rage through him as the Makuta raised his claw, darkness forming within his clawed hand.

***

Leaving the bodies of the slain Glatorian who had attempted to pursue her, Valkyria tossed her head contemptuously. It had almost been too easy to defeat them, and when the Vortixx saw what had happened to the attackers, he’d abruptly changed targets, chasing after the Spirit Toa.

However, the Ix warrior knew that this had been merely a temporary escape. It would not help her escape the Ix forever, nor would it allow her time to rest. Slowly, against her will, Valkyria was growing tired. She’d lost nearly all of her allies, and those who had survived were probably imprisoned within the Sanctum of the Mind now, along with the foolish Turaga.

Turning toward the massive towers that, while damaged, were still beautiful, Valkyria saw something else that caught her eye. A tall, heavily armored female warrior in ice-white chainmail was racing toward the tower, and Valkyria could see two other beings standing guard behind the first, so alike that they could only be differentiated by their eyes: blue, violet, and green.

Then Valkyria saw something else, a tall being, one of the soldiers who’d assaulted the Ix strike team two days ago. He rushed toward the beings, his weapon raised, shouting angrily. The green eyed being did not even move, merely raised her hand. A pure bolt of ice-white lightning flew from her armored palm, striking the soldier head-on. He screamed, a horrible sound that seemed to go on for ages before vanishing as he fell to the ground.

Valkyria watched this in horror, and realized she could hear more of the soldiers racing toward the sound of the scream. She and Shardak were both trapped between the Shadow of Ages soldiers, whose intent to kill them both could not have been plainer, and the three warriors, whose motives were completely unknown.

Valkyria knew she needed an ally. Someone powerful enough not to be slain immediately by the Sharidir, but a sacrifice she could abandon if the battle turned against them. She was completely trapped on all sides, with no way to rest without assuredly being found and killed.

Unbidden, an idea began to form within her mind, an idea that was so risky, daring, and deadly that any Ix commander would praise her for completing it. Or would they, she thought uneasily. If she was unable to eliminate him when the escape was done, she would be punished severely by the rest of the Ix.

She would not fail. She could not fail. She'd been trained for this all her life, could the Spirit Toa defeat her without help from the other Toa, Ion, or the two Glatorian if it came to that? It was impossible. But what if he didn't agree...

Valkyria smiled. He was just as trapped as she was, with no hope of escape from the soldiers or the ice-armored beings. And he wanted desperately to survive, so he could recover the Shadow Orb from her. He would not dare to attack her immediately.

But still...she might lose any chance of ever returning the Shadow Orb. But if she did not choose to act, both of them would be killed by the soldiers, and their mysterious plans would never be known.

Steeling herself against the inevitable, and hoping desperately that this was not the end for both of them, Valkyria stepped out of the shadows to meet the Spirit Toa, Shardak.

***

Shardak sat beside a burning fire, probably created by another of the enigmatic soldiers. After defeating the strange undead beings, Shardak had attempted to locate the Ix girl or the one surviving soldier, the Vortixx. Neither were near, both seemed to have vanished. However, there was no shortage of his soldiers, they'd virtually pinned him beside the fire, and Shardak thought it was amazing that they hadn't killed him yet.

Still, Shardak knew while he'd been lucky so far, he would eventually be found and killed. There was no chance that he'd remain free for much longer, not while he was so totally trapped.

Suddenly, he felt someone touch him in the aura field, and he recoiled, whirling around just as the Ix girl stepped out of the darkness, and finally Shardak was able to make out her features without violence or attempted murder getting in the way.

She was tall and slender, and wore mottled green and brown camouflage that somehow blended even better with the darkness then a black cloak. She carried a long, silver knife in one hand, and another was sheathed on her thigh. Her bow and quiver were slung over one shoulder, and she would have been quite beautiful were it not for the cold, slightly arrogant look in her blue-green eyes.

"Toa Shardak?" the Ix girl asked.

"You!" Shardak snarled, the Blade of Arcturas immediately drawn as he met her gaze, trying to figure out what she wanted. Surely she could have already killed him if she'd wanted to. "Who are you? What do you want?"

"I am Valkyria Rhai." said the Ix girl. She seemed uneasy, and did not answer his second question immediately. "The soldiers have us both surrounded."

"So?" asked Shardak. "Surely you can finish them off, and then we can fight for the Shadow Orb?"

The anger in his voice was palpable. All the anger over everything the Ix had done to him, from killing Arcturas to the Circle and then to the Void he focused on her, and he told her so in the aura field.

"We could fight now." said Valkyria. "But we'd both be killed. The Shadow of Ages soldiers are not the only threat here."

"So that's what they're called?" asked Shardak. "The Shadow of Ages?" Then he remembered who he was talking to, and asked again, "What do you want?"

"We could fight now, and you may even defeat me." said Valkyria. "But we'd be sealing our own deaths as well. The soldiers would follow the sounds of battle, and neither of us could stand against a Vortixx, or worse, the Makuta."

"They have a Makuta?" asked Shardak, shocked for a moment into silence.

"Yes." said Valkyria. "And it controls far too many elemental powers for either of us to defeat. But if we could work together to defeat the Shadow and find a way out of the city, we could continue our battles over the Orb." Valkyria opened her hand so the red glow bled between her fingers.

Beyond anything that Valkyria had said so far, beyond anything that anyone had told him in the past three weeks, nothing shocked Shardak like this. At first, he was almost ready to accept the alliance immediately, then he remembered exactly who this girl was and what she had done.

"Do you honestly expect me to believe that you'd accept an alliance with a Toa?" Shardak said, slightly angry now. "I know how you Ix operate, and I'd much rather finish you here and now and take my chances with the soldiers."

For the first time since he'd met her, Valkyria smiled, but it was as cold as the glaciers in Ko-Metru. "If it was my intention to kill you, you would be dead now."

Shardak paused, knowing it was true. Then another possibility, more frightening, occured to him. "Then you want my Kanohi, or information about my allies. I won't give either to you."

"Again, I have the only thing we were sent to take from you: the Shadow Orb." argued Valkyria.

Shardak realized Valkyria was right; they were both trapped. They could not finish their battle without both of them being killed by the Shadow of Ages soldiers. But she was an Ix...not to be trusted. Everything she could have said could have been a lie.

Valkyria seemed to understand this. "I know you don't trust me, and I don't ask you to. But I know that you don't want to die at the hands of the Shadow of Ages, and neither do I. We can settle our battle over the Orb when the Shadow has been destroyed."

Shardak knew she was right now. Neither of them had any hope of surviving without an alliance, and while he still harbored reservations about trusting the Ix girl, he knew now he had no choice.

"Agreed." he said, relaxing a little now.

Valkyria seemed more relaxed as well, and Shardak realized that she must have been just as frightened that he would instead choose to attack her.

"So, where are the Shadow soldiers now?" asked Shardak, trying to relieve the uncomfortable silence that followed.

"They have this area surrounded, and there are about ten of them altogether." said Valkyria. "Not counting the Makuta or the Vortixx. I haven't seen any of them since yesturday...if you can count days and nights here."

Shardak knew now she wasn't lying. The Shadow did have them surrounded, and there were around ten of them.

"Are there any other threats?" he asked.

"Yes. Three heavily armored warriors I do not recognize have attacked and killed one of the Shadow soldiers with a white bolt of lightning."

Shardak thought this over for a few minutes, and wondered how powerful these beings were. He could sense very little true emotion in Valkyria's voice, so he could not tell whether she considered them dangerous or weak. However, he realized, if their presence could drive Valkyria into an alliance with her mortal enemy, he suspected they were far more dangerous then herself.

Shardak nodded slowly, then said, "So should we fight our way out, or at least figure out what the Shadow's plans are and who their leader is?"

"All of the soldiers defer to the Makuta, and seem to consider him their "commander". However, I do not know if he is their leader."

Worried now, Shardak wondered exactly what this Shadow of Ages had planend within the Void. They'd attacked him twice, both times seperating him from Ion, Blast, and Kyhrex. Not for the first time, he wondered if Ion had survived the second attack or if all of his friends and the Turaga were now dead.

"Do you know what happened to my friends?" asked Shardak. For a moment, a shadow of unease passed over Valkyria's face, but it was gone so quickly Shardak wondered if he'd imagined it.

"No. How were you seperated?"

"The Shadow of Ages soldiers attacked us." answered Shardak. "After we left the Sanctum of the Mind."

Valkyria nodded once, and Shardak noticed how tired she was for the first time. She was dangerously good at cloaking her emotions, something he'd have to watch out for.

"Then shall we finish this?" asked Shardak, raising the Blade of Arcturas. "The Shadow will be here soon."

"I'm ready." confirmed the Ix girl, her daggers both drawn. For one moment, Shardak wondered what Valkyria was thinking, what motivated her beyond service to the Empire. Then they were ready, and Shardak prepared himself, once more, to fight.

He could see the Shadow soldiers even in the darkness of the Abyss, their torches gleaming in the darkness. Of the Vortixx or the Makuta there was no sign, but there were six altogether.

"There are more, currently scouting the area." whispered Valkyria, and Shardak nodded grimly.

Before the soldiers could even react, Valkyria's dagger took him between the shoulder blades, and he fell to the ground, dead. Shardak raced forward, parrying his first assailant's blow and disarming him within seconds. Before the Glatorian could react, Shardak slammed the sword's hilt against the attacker's head, knocking him unconsious.

Valkyria, meanwhile, had slain three of the soldiers, their bodies lying at her feet as she fought a tall, heavily armored insectlike being weilding a massive scimitar. Shardak wanted to protest, but realized that Valkyria had to have killed them, or be killed herself. As another being, this one tall and cloaked, charged toward him, Shardak realized there was no hope for him to simply stun these beings, as he had the Glatorian pikemen. Like the fight with the Stalker and the Ix and Kranr, it was kill or be killed, fight or die.

Then, suddenly, the tide turned against them. Valkyria was battling four different foes at once, all of them stronger then she was, and despite the speed of her attacks, they were slowly weakening her. Shardak was suddenly battling three Glatorian, not one, and more pikemen and other beings Shardak did not recognize were charging toward them.

This is the end. thought Shardak. Valkyria had managed to fell two of her Glatorian attackers, but three more beings, all armored in grayish black, raced toward her, weapons ready. He was barely even dodging death now, for they were overmatching him.

Then, suddenly, it was over. For one irrational moment, Shardak thought he'd died, then he realized that the soldiers had retreated, staring at something. For one moment, Shardak heard nothing, the next a horrible hissing rasp and the sound of shattering glass.

Shardak, Valkyria, and the remaining soldiers all turned, shocked, to see the massive serpentlike being strike the nearest Shadow soldier like a lightning bolt. In one second, the being had vanished, then the massive snake's tail whipped from side to side. Valkyria leapt out of the way just in time, but the soldiers were flung into the air, their bones snapping with a sickening crunch as they all slammed against the rocks.

The three remaining Shadow soldiers drew back to stand beside Shardak and Valkyria, their battle forgotten in the face of this massive monster. Shardak had one moment to realize how much danger they were all in now before the massive serpent uncoiled its massive, whiplike tail and charged toward him.

Shardak slashed the Blade of Arcturas over and over again at the massive creature's throat, but every blow failed to penetrate his armorlike scales. He could see Valkyria, firing arrow after arrow at the serpent, and the three Shadow soldiers hacking at the scales in vain. Shardak watched as the massive creature's gnashing teeth descended toward him, and at the last moment possible, he slashed upward with the Blade of Arcturas. The weapon struck home, tearing through the creature's massive tongue and tearing out a tooth the double the size of the Blade.

The serpent recoiled, its tail slashing from side to side, decapitating two of the Shadow of Ages soldiers. The third soldier charged toward the beast, aiming to slash open the mouth, but before he could even reach the craeture, it snapped its prehensile tail and slashed the Glatorian in half at the waist. Shardak stabbed upward, aiming toward the being's throat, but before he could even touch the weapon to his throat, the massive creature turned on Valkyria, its tail snapping at Shardak, who only narrowly managed to escape suffering the same fate as the Glatorian soldier.

Valkyria, however, was too quick to be easily killed by the creature, and managed to fire three arrows into the attacker's cavernous maw before leaping out of the way to avoid the being's tail and gnashing jaws. These attacks only affected the being like stings, however, and merely enraged it further. As its tail slashed from side to side, Shardak felt it wrap around his leg, knocking him to the ground. For one moment, he thought the massive creature would whip him from side to side until he was killed, but to his surprise, the creature released him, his blade-like tail slashing upward at Valkyria at blinding speed.

However, the Ix girl was quicker. Dodging near certain death once again, Valkyria raced toward Shardak, as the monstrous serpent reoriented itself, slithering toward them.

"Shardak! Run!" yelled Valkyria, as the creature snarled and Shardak deflected the bladelike tail with the Blade of Arcturas. The being turned to face them, and suddenly a cone of fire burst from his jaws, aimed directly at the two warriors. Valkyria easily evaded he attack, but Shardak felt pain race through him as fire splashed against his armor.

Sarkanian gnashed his bloodied maw, more flames gathering within. Shardak needed no further urging, and both Toa and Ix raced through the Nameless City, now united by the horrible threat of the World-Eating Serpent, Sarkanian.


Edited by V-2, Feb 12 2016 - 05:32 AM.

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XATEREX MULTIVERSE STORYLINE

 

Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#15 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:34 AM

Chapter 14

The chase through the Nameless City was a blur to Shardak. All he remembered was racing past stunned Shadow of Ages soldiers, cutting any down who attempted to block his way. The clash of weapons and the massive serpent's roar as it relentlessly pursued them, making no distinction between Toa and Ix, Glatorian, or Vortixx. All were being hunted now.

Racing down a fiendishly twisted alleyway strewn with broken glass, Shardak and Valkyria had no time to pause or look back to see if the Shadow soldiers were still chasing them. Only the shattering of glass as Sarkanian smashed through the beautiful, delicate structures told them that the serpent was still following them. Turning a corner again, he nearly slammed into two armored Shadow soldiers, who seemed as surprised as he was. Shardak, however, was faster then they were, and felt the Blade of Arcturas drive through armor. The soldier fell to the ground as Shardak tore his weapon free.

The second soldier was a little faster, but Shardak was so frantic to escape the massive serpent-being that desperation lent him speed. In one move he disarmed the soldier, and, bringing his sword around, slashed open his neck. He fell, and Shardak raced away from the two soldiers before he could even register whether he'd killed them or not.

"Shardak!" he whirled around to see Valkyria fighting a Shadow Glatorian in hand-to-hand combat, and he could see where she was looking. The massive serpent-being smashed through a massive dome of glass, scattering shards of the once-magnificent building across the obsidian floors of the city. Its mouth was still bloodied by Valkyria's arrows, and its tongue was bloodied and mangled by Shardak's attack. Seeing the Glatorian, Toa, and Ix all frozen into stillness at his appearance, he charged toward Valkyria and the Glatorian. Shardak opened to call out a warning as the serpent's jaws snapped shut, but the Ix girl escaped decapitation by inches. The Glatorian was not so lucky, however, and was crushed to death and swallowed whole.

Shardak attempted to warn the Ix girl again, remembering the creature's fiery breath weapon. However, Valkyria was already racing toward him. For one brief moment, the serpent paused, confused by Valkyria's disappearance. Then it spotted them racing down the twisted streets and, uncoiling its massive, winding body, slithered after them faster then lightning.

Shardak could hear the serpent right behind them, and dared not open his mouth to speak with Valkyria for fear it would distract them and slow them down. With a roar, Sarkanian smashed an impossibly intricate spiraled tower to shards of glass with its bladed tail and tore through a glass dome with its teeth, causing its blood to stain the shattered building red. The pain merely seemed to drive the creature into further rage, however, and with a sweep of its tail, tore apart a fleeing Shadow soldier within seconds before focusing once more upon Shardak and Valkyria.

The eternal night dissolved once more into a cacophony of sounds as more Shadow of Ages soldiers charged them. Shardak was dimly aware of the Blade of Arcturas' weight in his hands as he hacked in wild desperation at any being who came too close to him. The next thing Shardak was aware of was the serpent-being closing in on him, and the massive black cliff that barred them from escape.

Shardak realized that they'd now been forced into a trap. If they tried to scale the cliffs, the serpent would simply rear up and tear them off the cliff and into its massive mouth. He looked at Valkyria, and he could see she was just as fearful as he was.

Then he knew that if they were about to die, he should at least try as hard as he could to help them both survive as long as possible.

Looking at Valkyria, who had knocked an arrow to her bow in a last, desperate defense against the colossal predator, he nodded once. The Ix girl raced toward the cliff, using her aura powers to allow her to leap far higher then any normal being. Valkyria reached out with both hands, grabbing onto a cliff jutting out into the darkness. Shardak heard Sarkanian's jaws snap behind him, and the sheer terror he felt gave him strength to reach out into the aura field.

Mata Nui help us. thought Shardak, before leaping into the air, willing the field surrounding him to bend, to allow him to grab onto the cliff's edge. Seeing that it barely drained his energy at all, he followed Valkyria up the cliffs, the massive predator snapping its jaws behind them.

As Shardak and Valkyria looked back, and saw the massive serpent rearing up to tear Valkyria from the cliff and into his mouth. Shardak, on the ledge above her, saw her grasp falter for a brief moment, and screamed a warning as Sarkanian opened his mouth. However, rather then tear her from the cliffs, the massive serpent opened its mouth, a cone of green vapor spraying from its mouth. Valkyria had no way to dodge or deflect the breath weapon, and the corrosive acid began to burn her. Then her grip on the cliff loosened further, and Shardak grabbed her hands, attempting to pull her onto the ledge.

However, Shardak knew the breath weapon was poisonous, for Valkyria's eyes were half closed and the desperation was beginning to fade from them. Seeing his prey weakened, the serpent-being lunged forward, and Shardak realized that unless he let Valkyria go, they would both be pulled into the serpent's maw.

As the beast's tongue reached out to drag Valkyria into its mouth, Shardak swung the Blade of Arcturas downward, aiming to drive the weapon through the roof of the massive predator's maw. However, at the last moment, the serpent lunged to one side, and the Blade tore through the thick skin just below the creature's eye. Shardak drove the Blade deeper, and the massive being screamed in rage and pain, letting go of Valkyria as the Toa tore his weapon free.

Then, suddenly, flashes of another place, another time appeared within Shardak's mind, like the visions of the past he'd seen at the edge of the Void.

A dark, barren realm, entire cities razed to the ground by his apocalyptic might...

Small, two-legged beings in armor and masks cowering before him as he tore through their city, destroying it and all his inhabitants as he had done to so many other cities...

Entire worlds devoured by his unquenchable hunger, entire demiplanes made forever barren by his rage...

He was...he was...

Sarkanian.

The name tore through Shardak's mind like a bullet, returning him to the present. He was half-dragging Valkyria up the slope, away from the serpent-- from Sarkanian's cavernous mouth. The Ix girl seemed to be recovering quickly from the poison, and her eyes were alert once more as she let go of Shardak's hand and climbed onto the ledge.

"Are you okay?" he asked Valkyria, and he nodded slightly. Shardak could hear Sarkanian raging below, and knew that soon the massive world-eating serpent would recover and come after them, more vengeful then ever. His fears were proved correct when he saw the massive beast haul its way up the ledge, toward them. Both Shardak and Valkyria rose to their feet, knowing they had nowhere to go and ready to fight Sarkanian with the few weapons they had left.

Sarkanian charged toward them, fire and poison frothing at his bloodied mouth. As the serpent charged, Valkyria continued shooting arrows at the massive being, one striking Sarkanian directly in the eye. Blinded for a moment, the serpent roared in pain. Turning, the two warriors fled across the cliffs, toward the Nameless City once more. As he leapt off the cliff, Shardak used his limited control over the aura field to slow his fall. Seeing they were escaping, Sarkanian whipped his head around, lowering it to the ground and charging after them.

Shardak could see a being charging toward him, but he couldn't tell whether it was a Toa or an Ix or a Glatorian. He could see Valkyria, who he was struggling to keep up with now. His Stalker bite throbbed for the first time since Meilo had treated it, and the burns he'd suffered from his earlier battle with Sarkanian were still burning.

Racing down the alleyways within the city, which were now strewn with the glass from hundreds of shattered buildings, Shardak suddenly realized, though Sarkanian was still persuing him, he could no longer see Valkyria. He turned, looking for any sign of the Ix girl, but he couldn't see her anywhere.

His first thought was to go and search for her. Then he remembered Sarkanian was directly behind him, chasing him through the city. For one moment, Valkyria was no longer merely the Ix warrior who had been sent to kill him, but his ally, and he hoped, as he turned to face Sarkanian once more, that she was safe.

***

Valkyria raced through the Nameless City, Shardak close behind her. She could hear Sarkanian's roars of pain and rage as he smashed through the citadel of glass, the pain only serving to further his rage. As an Ix warrior, she had faced down many beings, often to the death. However, she had never faced anything as deadly as this massive serpent.

She'd almost died there, on the cliffs. Caught completely unaware by his poison breath weapon, she'd have fallen to her death and been devoured by Sarkanian had not Shardak rescued her. Only one thought plagued her as she fled the massive snake-being chasing them- Why?

Had their positions been reversed, she'd have left him to die, rather then risk her life for that of a being who had tried to kill her more then once. And she'd been sure he'd known that, when they'd made their alliance against the Shadow of Ages. So why had he saved her life, when he could have simply let her die?

I have the Shadow Orb. Valkyria thought. Maybe he wanted to make sure it wasn't eaten by the serpent-being.

But inside, Valkyria knew it went beyond self-interest, probably for some bizarre, noble Toa reason. For a moment, the thought unsettled her, but she couldn't quite figure out what bothered her about it.

Suddenly, there was another explosion of glass, and Valkyria lept aside as Sarkanian's tail lashed toward her like a whip. The being was fast, faster then she was, but he was also clumsy because of his massive size. Looking around her, Valkyria saw that Sarkanian was charging toward Shardak.

Before she could race after the snake-being, Valkyria saw a flash of lightning, an ice-white bolt of electricity that missed her by inches. Whirling around, she recognized her attackers, two female beings armored heavily in ice-white armor. Seeing her, they fired two more bolts of icy lightning at her, but she dodged them both easily.

Seeing that their elemental attacks were ineffective, the two beings charged toward Valkyria, weapons raised. One of them threw back her hand, a spear poised to throw-

With one swift strike from within the aura field, Valkyria reached out and crushed the spear. With a savage hiss, her attacker flung the shattered weapon aside, then drew a long, mirrorlike scimitar and charged toward her. The second being was still firing bolts of lightning at her, but she was still dodging them all easily.

As the being charged toward her, weapon raised, Valkyria raised her hand, willing her aura to redirect the lightning the other being was firing at her. As the attacker bore down on the seemingly defenseless Ix warrior, the lightning bolts the second being was aiming at her struck Valkyria's attacker instead. However, while the being seemed surprised, the lightning did not seem to affect her at all.

Valkyria changed tactics quickly, however. Before the first being could recover and resume her attack, she lashed out in the aura field, fire materializing at her fingertips and splashing across the being's body. With an hideous snarl that would have chilled the heart of any being save an Ix, the white-armored warrior staggered and fell to her knees.

Valkyria raised Silverblade, ready to decapitate the being with a single slash of the blade. However, before she could move, the being rose to her feet. Her silver and white chainmail was singed badly, but her cold blue eyes gleamed with unspoken words of vengeance.


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 05:34 AM.

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#16 Offline Varkanax39

Varkanax39
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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:37 AM

Chapter 15

With a bestial roar, Sarkanian uncoiled and flung itself bodily at Shardak, fire and acid spraying wildly from his jaws. Shardak felt pain roar through him, as deadly a monster as the serpent itself, as Sarkanian tore the Blade of Arcturas from his grasp. Now completely defenseless, Shardak staggered backward, Sarkanian still snapping at him.

Shardak lunged toward the Blade of Arcturas, but Sarkanian was quicker, and barred it from him with a single sweep of his blade tail, narrowly missed Shardak. However, as his attacks became more wild and less precise, Shardak reached beneath his wildly swinging tail and grabbed the weapon, meeting Sarkanian's tailblade in midair. Sarkanian's rage broke, and he charged forward, tearing open Shardak's shoulder. Shardak winced in pain, but kept the weapon raised steadily, and as Sarkanian slammed into him, flinging Shardak off his feet, the Blade of Arcturas buried itself within the monster's shoulder.

Sarkanian roared in pain, a hideous sound that was abruptly cut off as his blood flowed from the wounds. As soon as the blood began to spread, it began to open more old wounds all along Sarkanian's body. The primordial serpent screeched, and memories began to flood Shardak's mind once again...

Caged! Trapped! Held prisoner!

His massive body unable to move, unable to shake off the pain as the beings surrounded him, the very weapons they'd used to encase him in this sphere of auric energy raised...

And then he was free once more, and he was rampaging across the planes, sowing destruction wherever he went...

A tall warrior, armored in black and gold chainmail, facing Sarkanian, the Blade of Arcturas held in one hand...

Shardak returned to reality just in time to see Sarkanian snarl once more and then turned and fled into the gloom. Shardak, raising the Blade of Arcturas, knew he'd probably changed targets. He'd be after Valkyria now, and Shardak knew that if the Ix girl was still alive, she'd stand no chance against fighting the massive serpent.

As he turned the corner, following the sounds of shattering glass, Shardak caught a glimpse of a figure in the distance, a female armored in ice-white chainmail. She carried a mace in one hand, a long dagger in the other. Ahead of her, he could hear Sarkanian smashing through the massive, once-beautiful city. Seeing how strewn the city already was with broken glass, Shardak wondered if the Nameless City would be a massive pile of rubble within a few days.

Racing after Sarkanian, Shardak kept his eyes open for the white-armored being, wondering if she was on the same side as Sarkanian. He wondered briefly if Sarkanian was affiliated with the Shadow of Ages, but quickly abandoned this idea. After all, Sarkanian had not spared them from his first attack.

Suddenly, there was a massive explosion, and Sarkanian smashed his way through a small domed building to face Shardak. The serpent was in even worse shape then he'd been before, and now he was bleeding from multiple wounds. Despite this, his eyes still gleamed with malign intelligence, and when he saw Shardak, he opened his mouth and raced toward him.

As Shardak lept to one side, there was a flash of white, and suddenly he felt pain explode within his chest. White lightning was flashing all around him, and he could no longer tell whether he was standing upright or spinning through the void. Then he fell to the ground, and saw that the white-armored being, small sparks of lightning still crackling in her hand, was standing beside Sarkanian. The massive serpent was bleeding badly, and Shardak realized he must have slashed open the being's face before the white armored being had attacked him.

Rising slowly to his feet, he turned and faced the white armored being. Sarkanian was standing still, breathing heavily. Somehow, Shardak realized, the Blade of Arcturas had wounded him far worse then any normal weapon would, and that Sarkanian was finding it harder to move, as though his entire body was turning to stone.

"Lava." whispered the white-armored being, as though she'd read his thoughts. Her voice was calm, but her green eyes betrayed her rage. "When you struck him with the Sword of Fire, you caused lava crust to harden beneath his scales, wounding him further.

"The Ix have offered a substantial reward for you alive." whispered the being. Shardak saw she was stepping closer, both weapons raised in a combat form he recognized as Guotke. "And while Sarkanian will recover, but not in time to destroy you."

The being smiled, a cold smile devoid of all pity and warmth. "This will only take a minute."

Shardak felt her mace strike the Blade of Arcturas, nearly knocking the weapon from his hands. While he was distracted, she lunged forward, aiming to run him through with her dagger. Reacting quickly, he brought his weapon around, blocking the attack narrowly, but unable to block a strike from her mace. The pain flashed through him, but by now Shardak was barely aware of the pain. His entire body burned from his earlier battle with Sarkanian, and the white-armored being's attack with the icy lightning had felt like daggers driving through him.

The Toa raised his weapon again, deflecting his attacker's next two blows, but with one swift slash, the being tore the Blade of Arcturas from his hands.

The green-eyed being smiled. "Easy. Too easy. A legendary sword does not make you a master swordsman. How could you think you could stand against one of the greatest bounty hunters in all of the planes? This battle is over."

***

Valkyria blocked one of the violet-eyed Sharidir's thrusts, then slashed open the second's shoulder. The Sharidir snarled in pain, but both were slowly forcing her back. They were some of the best fighters Valkyria had ever encountered, second only, perhaps, to the Toa known as Melnox, who she'd tracked down and killed after he'd fled the Circle.

Valkyria knew these beings weren't aura users, but they were certainly water Elementalists. Quicker then Valkyria would have thought the beings could move, a flash of silver slipped through the shadows, tearing open her shoulder wound from the fight with the Makuta and the Shadow soldiers. Before she could even turn and face her attacker, the second Sharidir closed in on her.

"This is over." snarled the blue-eyed Sharidir. Valkyria turned, and saw that the blue-eyed Sharidir had raised her massive broadsword and tore Silverblade from Valkyria's hand. While the Ix warrior was still carrying a second dagger, she knew she'd be killed long before she was able to come within striking distance.

Before the Sharidir could move again, however, there was a flash of darkness. Valkyria watched as the blue-eyed Sharidir was flung to the ground, slammed against the walls of the cliff. The Ix warrior watched as the Sharidir, bleeding badly, fell to the ground, unconsious.

Valkyria and the violet-eyed Sharidir turned as one to face the attacker, and Valkyria realized it was the Makuta, his mask and body shrouded in darkness so that only his long claws and eyes could be seen.

The violet-eyed Sharidir said nothing, merely charged toward the Makuta, blue-white lightning forming in the palm of her hand. Neither Sharidir nor Makuta noticed as Valkyria slipped into the shadows, Silverblade in hand, to find Shardak.

***

"Shardak!"

For one moment, the Sharidir wavered, and both she and Shardak turned toward the speaker. Shardak had just enough time to recognize Valkyria before she knocked an arrow to her bow and fired it at the Sharidir. Two more followed, both of them striking the Sharidir in the left shoulder.

"Shardak, run!" yelled Valkyria, and Shardak turned just as Sarkanian's jaws snapped shut, inches behind him. Knowing he had no time to look back and find out if the Sharidir were even following them, but he could hear Sarkanian's roar as the badly wounded serpent continued its persuit.

Turning a street corner, Valkyria stopped. Shardak saw her shoulder was bleeding badly, and she had many burns from the corrosive acid poison.

"Where were you?" Shardak hissed under his breath. "The white-armored being and Sarkanian had me cornered."

"The Sharidir." said the Ix warrior. "The white-armored beings are called Sharidir. I ran into two more of them, but they were attacked by the Makuta before I could finish either of them off."

"So either way our enemies will be after us." said Shardak. "Can the Sharidir defeat the Makuta?"

"Probably not." hissed Valkyria. "One of them was already unconsious when I left."

Shardak quickly told her about his fight with the green-eyed Sharidir and Sarkanian, leaving out the detail that they were working for the Ix. He didn't know if she would ally with them instead if he did tell her, and didn't want to risk it. He hoped that she didn't sense what he hadn't told her in the aura field, and was relieved when she did not seem to notice.

"We can't wait any longer." she said. "Any minute now, Sarkanian will be after us."

"Where should we go?" Shardak asked, wondering if there was a location here that Sarkanian could not enter.

"The heart of the city." said Valkyria. "The city circle."

The next few moments were a blur for Shardak. All he remembered was racing through the city, Sarkanian roaring in pain and rage as the fire continued to burn beneath its scales. He couldn't tell if the Sharidir was after him, nor did they encounter any more of the Shadow of Ages soldiers.

Shardak could see green light flowing from the center of the city, and recognized it as the same light he'd encountered when he'd fought the enigmatic zombie-beings controlled by the green energy. He wanted to call a warning to Valkyria, but had no idea how to without giving their positions away to the Sharidir, or even worse, slowing down and allowing Sarkanian to catch them.

Turning one last block, Shardak gasped in shock as he saw what stood before them. Here, he could tell, was where the Ix in the Circle had based their massive spire-city on. The entire central hub of the city was based around an impossibly intricate spire of pure glass shot through with gold. Nearby, massive buildings, all domed and interconnected with the main spire, made up the city's central command. A massive glass barrier barred the central hub from the rest of the city. The only hint of the mysterious green light were the tendrils wrapped around the spire.

Shardak raised the Blade of Arcturas and attempted to smash through the glass, but to his surprise, it did no damage whatsoever. He tried again, but the glass was far harder then he anticipated, and he realized how powerful Sarkanian must be to have smashed through the massive buildings and spires.

"Here." said Valkyria, and the Ix girl pressed both hands against the glass. Dark tendrils of power began to spread across the wall, and within moments it shattered, leaving a large gateway into the heart of the Nameless City.

The entire central hub seemed completely empty. Shardak could see the wall formed a massive circle within the rest of the city, reminding him once again of the Ix's Circle. However, the entire circle seemed forbidding, as though a storm was about to break.

Climbing a massive flight of stairs, Shardak and Valkyria arrived at the top of a massive platform, overlooking the city below. A massive bridge of glass connected this platform to the spire. Far below, Shardak could hear the clashes of weapons from farther away, and Sarkanian's hiss echoed throughout the eerie silence of the city. Shardak looked down, and saw that the platform overlooked a dizzying drop of more then one hundred feet. It even made the massive glass domes below look small.

"And so it ends." whispered a ragged voice in the gloom. Shardak and Valkyria were both so startled that they almost dropped their weapons.

Out of the darkness strode a being unlike any Shardak had ever seen before. He was tall, and his skin was dead gray, and his body glistened with chilled slime. He was wearing a cloak with a hood, but was unable to conceal the prehensile tentacle-like weapon that hung above his hideous, fanged mouth. His breathing was horribly irregular, and in one hand he carried a long staff covered in runic markings that throbbed with green light.

"The last beings in the Nameless City have arrived. The others said they would. Now I will complete the cleansing that my brethren began, but never completed. Soon, this universe will be cleansed of all life..."

"Who are you?" asked Shardak.

"What are you?" breathed Valkyria. Both Toa and Ix could sense his presence in the aura field, a cold gray spear of pure intent hatred.

"I am the ruler of the city once known as Seruamaera." hissed the being, raising his staff. "I am the last of the Mindeaters."

***

Shardak had no idea what to say, so shocked was he he nearly fell to the ground. This hideous being was a Mindeater?

"There are no more Mindeaters." said Valkyria. "They vanished millennia ago."

"I am the last..." whispered the being. "The last of my race."

"What...happened?" asked Shardak.

"We were a great people." snarled the Mindeater. "We were, perhaps, the greatest Empire these planes of existance have ever known. We wrested this city from its previous rulers and made it Seruamaera, the heart of our Empire. Our people cleansed the world of inferior beings, until the Shadowdark was free of them completely.

"Then came the plague. It destroyed almost all of us, and Seruamaera was forgotten, sealed away. Many other beings began to venture once more into the Shadowdark, and our numbers were too few for us to complete our great cleansing. Eventually, they were all slain, all of the lords and eventually the Emperor himself. Only I survived, Karizdun, the last lord of our Empire. But I completed the cleansing, at last, the plague was stemmed. Now, I will finish the task my brethren began, and rid this great city of the last of the inferiors who polluted it."

"You mean you didn't build the Name...Seruamaera?" asked Shardak.

"No more questions!" snapped Karizdun. Shardak could see his eyes were gleaming the same green as the zombies he'd fought earlier that day. "You both must die for your crimes against our great Empire. I will destroy you, in the name of the Emperor!"

He's insane. thought Shardak, as a bolt of green energy materialized from his staff and flew toward them. Valkyria deflected it easily, sending it ricocheting off the glass floor and into the darkness beyond. Karizdun snarled, a hideous sound which chilled Shardak's heartlight, and fired more bolts of green fire at them.

"Don't let them touch you!" yelled Shardak to Valkyria. She nodded grimly, then lept away from one with amazing agility and dodged two more easily. The three blasts aimed at Shardak missed as well, two slamming against the glass staircase and the other vanishing into the darkness beyond.

"You cannot dodge forever, inferior beings!" hissed the Mindeater. With those words, blue flames flew from his hand. Shardak dodged them easily, but Karizdun raised his staff, three massive bolts of lightning and many other smaller bolts exploding from the tip of his staff. One exploded at Shardak's feet, sending him flying backward, where he slammed against the staircase. Valkyria was faster, and dodged them all, before reaching out to Karizdun in the aura field and telekinetically forcing him to his knees.

As Shardak rose to his feet, he saw that Karizdun, while breathing slightly from his furious series of attacks, was recovering quickly. As he rose to his feet, he attacked Valkyria back in the aura field, this time forcing the Ix girl back several steps. However, he quickly attacked again, and the green energy struck Valkyria directly, flinging her to the ground.

"No!" Shardak yelled, but Karizdun strode toward her. "Now, to finish her off with the same disease that destroyed our Empire."

Shardak realized that the green bolts Karizdun had used to strike Valkyria were not poisoned the way the zombies had been, they were simply lightning bolts shot through with the green energy. More sparks began to gather in his hands, and this time Shardak saw that they were eating away slightly at the palm of his hand. While he could tell Valkyria was alive, she still didn't move.

Shardak raced toward Karizdun, but the Mindeater simply flung him to the ground telekinetically, then turned once more on Valkyria. His staff was held as though it was a spear, and the fatal poison crackled at its tip. Karizdun raised the staff-

There was a roar and a hiss as a massive streak of dark armor and lightning slammed into Karizdun, knocking him off his feet and flinging him onto the bridge. Shardak looked around to see Sarkanian's massive form in the half-light, the green-eyed Sharidir by his side. The Sharidir was now fighting Valkyria, both of them fighting with their long daggers. Sarkanian was charging toward the prone Karizdun.

As the massive serpent-being charged toward the Mindeater, Shardak saw Karizdun rise to his knees. The cold light in his eyes had returned.

"Hello, serpent." Karizdun hissed, and aimed a bolt of the green lightning directly at Sarkanian's eye. The charging creature had no way of anticipating the attack and was struck dead-on, blinded in that eye instantly. Sarkanian turned away from Karizdun as he saw more lightning gathering in the Mindeater's hand, his one remaining eye fixed on Shardak.

This time, however, Shardak was ready. As Sarkanian charged toward him, Shardak lashed out wildly with the Blade of Arcturas, tearing at Sarkanian's horribly bloodied face and mouth. The hideous being's blood splashed against Shardak, who winced in pain. Sarkanian's blood burned like acid. With one swipe of his massive, bladelike fins, he nearly tore the Blade of Arcturas from Shardak's hands. Shardak swung backward to block a strike from his tailblade, but Sarkanian was faster, and the Blade of Arcturas clattered to the floor.

Karizdun, now, was fighting both Valkyria and the green-eyed Sharidir simultaneously. His attacks were having little effect, but he was keeping both of them from fighting while more lightning crackled at the ends of his staff. Sarkanian, seeing that Shardak was once again undefended, charged toward him, all of his weapons, tails, claws, and teeth slashing downward. Shardak felt pain once again burn through him as Sarkanian battered at him, rage at Shardak's continued escapes making him reckless. Shardak slipped away from Sarkanian's lashing tail, then reached down to grab the Blade of Arcturas. However, it wasn't there.

Shardak looked around in panic, and saw Valkyria, the weapon in her hand, plunge it into Sarkanian's massive body. Blood sprayed across the glass floor as Sarkanian screamed in pain. Using the aura field, Valkyria threw the Blade of Arcturas to Shardak, and he reached out and caught it.

Seeing Valkyria distracted, Karizdun closed in on her, readying to aim a bolt of the poison acid from his staff. However, at that moment, Sarkanian's tailblade struck the Mindeater dead-on, the impact flinging him back several yards. Shardak, however, could not tell he was still alive, for Sarkanian, his single eye gleaming with hatred, charged toward him. However, Shardak raised the Blade, and drove it into Sarkanian's mouth.

With a high-pitched screech, Sarkanian turned away from the Toa, and, seeing Karizdun once again rising to his knees, charged toward the Mindeater. Karizdun waited until Sarkanian was inches away- then struck.

A massive blast of pure acidic poison exploded, striking Sarkanian directly in the face. The serpent snarled, then roared as fragments of its teeth sprayed everywhere, blood pouring from its open mouth. Sarkanian's facial scales had also been shattered, and they were disintegrating before Shardak's eyes. The serpent's jaw had been completely shattered, and its horribly bloodied mouth hung open. Using the last of his strength, Shardak lunged forward- and speared Sarkanian directly through his one remaining eye.

Now completely blind as well as broken, Sarkanian writhed and thrashed desperately, trying to drag his massive, broken body away from Karizdun. However, the Mindeater was quicker, and a second, more powerful blast of the energy struck Sarkanian in the chest, Shardak heard ribs shatter as the impact lifted Sarkanian off the ground- and dragged him over the edge of the platform. The horribly wounded being gave one final broken scream that seemed to last for an eternity. Then came the sound of shattering glass far below, followed by complete silence.

For one moment, the Sharidir, Karizdun, Shardak, and Valkyria all stood frozen, as though they could all still hear the echoes of Sarkanian's final screams. Then Karizdun charged toward Shardak, weapon raised once more.

"Let the purge continue!" snarled Karizdun, punctuating every word with a thrust or block at Shardak. The Mindeater did not seem to be using the energy, however, on the contrary, it was as though he was trying to hold back the green sparks that usually trailed behind him like a cloak.

"The disease that killed the rest of the Mindeaters is within you, Karizdun!" yelled Shardak over the clash of weapons. Valkyria and the Sharidir were once again fighting, their weapons moving so quickly that Shardak couldn't tell who had the upper hand. "You're a carrier!"

"I am the lord of the Mindeaters!" snarled Karizdun. "Do not defy me, Toa!"

"It's over!" yelled Shardak. "Can't you see? There are no more Mindeaters. No more purges. Your Empire is gone!"

"My Empire will rise again once I have cleansed Seruamaera!" screamed Karizdun, the dark energy dancing at his fingertips as he forced Shardak backward, toward the ledge. "Soon, my brethren will return, and this city will once again be the capital of the multiverse!"

Shardak saw there was no way to convince this Mindeater that his world had ended millennia ago. Nearly tearing the staff from Karizdun's hands, he began to force Karizdun backward, toward the edge of the platform where the Sharidir and Valkyria were fighting. Karizdun continued attacking relentlessly with lightning, but to no effect. His attacks were also growing weaker, and as he was forced backward, toward the cliff's edge, his cold gray-green eyes darted from place to place nervously.

Suddenly, Shardak felt himself falling backward, toward the edge of the cliff. Karizdun screamed in pain as white lightning struck him dead-on, and Shardak saw the Sharidir, her green eyes gleaming with triumph, standing above him. He looked around for Valkyria, and saw that the Ix girl was rising to her feet, racing toward the Sharidir. However, before she could reach the bounty hunter, the Sharidir raised her hand and shot a bolt of ice laced with lightning directly at the Ix warrior.

Valkyria lept aside, but this time she wasn't quick enough. The lightning struck her directly in the shoulder. The Ix girl staggered backward and fell to the ground, stunned.

The Sharidir raised her long dagger, easily blocking Shardak's attacks. "This battle is over." she hissed, her eyes dancing with hatred as she attempted to tear the weapon from his hands. This time, however, Shardak was ready, and dodged easily.

Seeing he'd left his defenses open, the Sharidir lunged forward. However, before she could attack, a massive wave of green energy struck her directly, flinging her backward. The Sharidir slammed against the ground, her armor charred and disintegrating, her body beginning to turn to ash as the disease took hold.

Shardak saw Karizdun, looking tired now, stagger toward the Sharidir. The wounded being began to stagger to her feet, her face charred by ash. She was wounded badly, but still alive, and she charged toward the Mindeater, tearing the weapon from his hands.

At that moment, Valkyria struck. The Ix girl, now standing once more, tore the dagger from the Sharidir's hands. The Sharidir raised her second weapon, a mace, and brought it down on the green staff.

Karizdun screamed in rage as Valkyria and the Sharidir lept aside as the green energy exploded in Karizdun's face, flinging him backward, where the Mindeater landed in a crumbled heap on the bridge. This time, he did not get up.

The Sharidir staggered backward, blocking attacks from both Shardak and Valkyria. Slowly, she regained her offensive, and telekinetically forced Valkyria to the ground. Shardak charged toward her, but she forced him back, forcing the Blade of Arcturas toward the ground. She raised her mace-

Suddenly the expression on her face changed from triumph to horror. A crackling ray of dark energy struck the Sharidir, flinging her backward. There was a jarring snap as her neck struck the bridge, and her body fell limply to the ground.

"This battle is over." said a new voice. Shardak and Valkyria turned to face their new attackers, and saw the Makuta commander, standing next to a phalanx of twelve armored Galtorian. The Vortixx was standing there as well, a bestial grin on his face.

Shardak could make out seven beings with them, all surrounded by a second group of soldiers. Four of the five he did not recognize, they were Glatorian or Toa. However, the others he knew, and he gasped in shock.

"Kyhrex? Ion? Blast?"

"Surrender, Spirit Toa." snarled the Makuta coldly. "Surrender, or they all die."


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#17 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:40 AM

Chapter 16

"No! Shardak, don't listen to him!"

Blast's voice carried clearly across the silence. Shardak saw he was guarded heavily by four Shadow soldiers, as were Ion and Kyhrex. The fact that more beings were with him made Shardak feel only worse about the already horrible situation. He could hardly believe that after escaping the Ix's operatives again, he and all of his friends were facing nearly certain death at the hands of the Shadow of Ages.

He saw Valkyria was fingering her bow, but had not raised it yet. He had no way of telling her not to attack without being impaled by the pikemen from all sides.

"How did you find us?" he asked the Makuta, trying to buy some time.

"Oh, you'll find out soon enough." said the Makuta. "As soon as our master arrives..."

"Master? Where is he?"

At that moment Blast suddenly fell to his knees. The Glatorian screamed once, then fell silent. Staggering backward, he slowly rose to his feet. However, now his eyes gleamed red.

"Blast?" he asked.

"Your friend is alive." whispered the voice. "Though not for much longer."

"What have you done to him?" asked Shardak. "Who are you?"

"You don't know?" the being sounded amused. "I think the Toa of Light knows, don't you, Fairon?"

Blast turned to face the tall, battle-scarred Toa of Light the Vortixx was guarding. He looked tired and worn, but his eyes still blazed with anger.

"You're Millennium." he snarled. "The leader of the Shadow."

However, Shardak barely payed the Toa any attention. "You're a Toa?" he gasped in shock.

"Yes, he is." said Millennium before Fairon could answer. "As are Treedaka, Sayna, and Galika. We also have another Glatorian prisoner, Flardrek."

"What do you want?" asked Shardak. "Do you serve the Ix?"

"Not intentionally." said Millennium, his voice cold. "But there is a reward out for you, my loyal servent Dredzek tells me, and the Ix certainly won't mind if I take a little compensation of my own...maybe the Sword of Fire?"

"I'll never give it to you!" snarled Shardak. "How did you take over Blast's body?"

"It's a long, complicated story." said Millennium coldly. "Your friend was an enemy of the Empire. He attempted rebellion, but they captured him and sentenced him to the Eternal Game. I was there as well. During a massive battle against a horde of warriors known as Baterra, Blast destroyed my body, burying it beneath hundreds of tons of rubble. However, a portion of my spirit remained in my weapon."

He turned to the Vortixx. "Hand me the Glatorian's scythe."

Silently, the Vortixx raised Blast's scythe, and handed it to Millennium. The being raised it, looking it over.

"Not bad." he commented. "But I prefer its true form by far."

As he spoke, the Scythe began to morph and change, finally turning into a massive, heavy axe. Millennium grinned coldly, the expression so terrible that Shardak recoiled to see his friend's face twisted into the cold grimace.

"The Glatorian took my weapon. My spirit, craving life, entered his body, buried within his subconscious. Later, soon after my 'death', the Glatorian you know as Blast was apparently killed as well, flung into the Void. I used my teleportation powers to remove us from the arena, and my memory wiping ability to remove the very memory he was ever in the Eternal Game from his mind. Until this day, he believed he escaped the Empire, and he fled to Intax.

"I watched everything you did, and in the Sanctum, when Blast needed weapons, I used my abilities to call the Axe of Eternity, disguised as his scythe, and the weapon you know as the Blade of Arcturas to him. However, I still could not free myself from his subconscious...until I met Dredzek, days ago, while you were still unconscious. I would plan with my commanders, during the times my soldiers separated you...did you think it a coincidence?"

As he spoke, Millennium/Blast was walking toward them, the pike-weilding soldiers preventing all means of escape. Shardak wanted to speak with Valkyria, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from Millennium's cold red gaze.

"I thought it was the scythe that contained the power." said Shardak, remembering the time he'd probed the "scythe" in the aura feild, surprised it contained so much raw power.

Millennium smiled again at that. "Yes, it was...ironic that you believed that, for the scythe that Blast carried before the games did hold power. Called the Scythe of Creation, it can change the face and nature of reality itself. It even restored my loyal commander, Dredzek, to life, for it held a portion of his soul. Corzakx here-" Millennium gestured toward an ebon-armored Matoran with red eyes- "Led these soldiers here as well, and now I have returned to power.

"I know all of the secrets you shared with Blast and Kyhrex..." hissed Millennium coldly. "I know your friends, your enemies, even your unlikely allies." he looked at Valkyria.

He's toying with us. Shardak thought. He's going to turn us over to the Ix.

Millennium was beckoning toward the Vortixx, who came forward to stand beside his master. "We will leave this city soon, however, I require a more powerful host. I have already exhausted most of this Toa's vitality, and it was specified that you were all supposed to be returned to the Ix alive."

"Master?" asked the Vortixx, confused, and at that moment, Blast/Millennium reached forward, and dropping the Axe, reached out and grabbed the Vortixx by the throat. Surprised, the Vortixx could do nothing to fight back, but suddenly Blast's eyes flashed from red to their normal green, then he fell to the ground as the Vortixx's eyes became Millennium's.

"This host will last me far longer then that pathetic Glatorian." said Millennium. "One day, I will be restored to my full power, but for now... I'll settle for turning you in to the Empire."

"For someone who was sentanced to fight to the death by the Ix, you seem very willing to join them." said Shardak.

"I am not their allies." answered the Vortixx/Millennium. "Perhaps, in another place, another time, this could have been so. However, I am a pragmatist, and, for now, turning you into the Empire will allow me the freedom to walk the surface world again."

"But how did you find us?" asked Shardak. "How could you know-"

Millennium cut him off. "Oh, someone you know very well helped us with that."

"Who-" Shardak began, but broke off as he saw who was walking toward them. It was Ario, flanked by more Shadow soldiers who were leading Duuril. The Turaga of Air was glaring daggers at Ario, who looked completely satisfied as he saw Shardak and Valkyria cornered by the soldiers.

"This is perfect." Ario exaulted. "The Toa of Aura who allowed Pierra and Korst to be killed, allied with the Ix warrior we spent days hunting down. Finally shown your true colors, have you?" he taunted.

"You-" began Shardak.

"You may console yourself I was already planning to kill off the other Turaga anyway." he said. "Whether or not you had come to the Sanctum. You merely allowed my plan to happen earlier. Soon, the number of surviving Turaga will be reduced from six to five, and Millennium has already promised to overrun the Sanctum once we've turned you all, Toa and Glatorian alike, over to the Ix."

Valkyria took a step forward, her weapons at the ready. Ario merely laughed. "You certainly won't mind returning to your people, however. Which is why you're not going back. Surely nobody here will mind if I kill you."

He turned to Millennium, who nodded once. Duuril opened his mouth, but one of the soldiers grabbed his neck, cutting off sound. As Ario raised his broadsword, both Duuril and Shardak tore free from their captors and charged the treacherous Turaga. Ario whirled around as Duuril, unarmed, slammed into him, battering Ario with punches and kicks. Ario's broadsword clattered to the ground.

"Stop them!" snarled Millennium, and several soldiers charged toward him. Shardak disarmed one, and watched as two of them fell, Valkyria's arrows embedded in their throats. Shardak saw a second soldier charge him, but he nimbly sidestepped the being's spear and slashed the weapon in half with the Blade of Arcturas.

Suddenly, a dark shadow loomed above him, and Shardak saw Makuta Dredzek's eyes gleam in triumph. The scythe that Blast had carried before the Games gleamed within his clawed hands. Slowly, the weapon began to descend, and Dredzek, confident of victory, readied to deal the final blow...

The scythe never reached him. There was a flash of golden armor, and Dredzek staggered backward, as a second spear impaled him through the shoulder. The Makuta snarled in pain, a greenish-black substance leaking from his wounds. Shardak saw the Toa known as Fairon was fighting him, as well as a Glatorian and a green-armored female Toa.

The Makuta recovered quickly, slashing out at them both elementally and physically. However, Fairon was ready, and beams of yellow light struck the Makuta, causing Dredzek to scream in rage and pain. As he staggered backward, swinging his scythe wildly, the Toa of Air caused a gust of wind to spring up around him, flinging Dredzek to the ground.

Shardak, meanwhile, was fighting two insectlike beings, both of which were skilled fighters. The red-armored Glatorian was fighting beside him, cutting through Shadow soldiers easily. More rose to take their place, but the Glatorian warrior was easily holding his own while Valkyria shot down any soldiers who got past him.

However, on the other edge of the platform, the battle was turning against the allies. The male Toa of Air and Duuril were both fighting Ario know, but were unable to finish him. The Turaga of Stone laughed madly as he parried another blow from the Toa, while all the while forcing them backward, toward the edge.

Shardak speared one of his assailants through the chest, who fell to the ground, and Valkyria's arrows slew the other. He charged forward, weapons raised, but the Vortixx blocked his way, weapons raised.

"Hello, Shardak." the Millennium hissed through the Vortixx's mouth. "Worried about your friend?"

With a start, Shardak whirled around, and saw Blast's unconsious form lying behind the fire Glatorian, who was defending it alongside the female Toa of Air against Dredzek. The Makuta, while battered, was still a powerful adversary.

"He will soon be dead. The Ix wanted you all alive, but certainly they'll allow me to kill at least one of you besides the Ix girl."

Shardak charged toward the Vortixx, but Millennium merely smiled as Shardak felt vitality begin to drain from his body. It was as though the air had turned to molten protodermis, he could barely move.

"I cannot manipulate time as I could before my body was destroyed without eliminating this host." said Millennium. "However, I can still slow you down."

Shardak felt horribly helpless, trapped as he watched Ario charge toward Duuril, tearing the spear from the Turaga's hands and slashing open his shoulder with his broadsword. The male Toa of Air charged toward him, but Ario slashed his blade out in a wide arc, aiming to sever his head from his body-

There was a flash of blue and red armor and then a scream, as Ario was swept off his feet by a massive wave of water. Shardak turned, and saw the Toa of Water. The broadsword was torn from Ario's grasp, just as the red Glatorian's sword slashed Ario's head from his shoulders.

Seeing the treacherous Turaga fall emboldened Fairon, who forced Dredzek once more onto the defensive. The Makuta retaliated, bolts of shadow flying wildly from his claws like chain lightning. Several struck the red Glatorian, causing him to stagger backward and fall to the ground.

The Toa of Water whirled around as she saw the Glatorian fall, but charged forward at the same moment, water spraying from her weapons. Nearby, the male Toa of Air was on his feet once more, forcing Dredzek back, toward the cliff's edge. The Makuta continued holding their attacks off, and suddenly the Toa of Air fell to the ground, stunned by a blast of concussive force. Now Dredzek was fighting not only Fairon, but Duuril, the female Toa of Air, the Toa of Water, and Kyhrex. Even with the combined might, the Toa could not seem to finish him, and still he fought.

Millennium smiled. "Finish them off." he ordered to Dredzek. He turned to Shardak.

"Now you see how hopeless your cause is." said Millennium. "Now, to-"

Before he could finish, a blur of darkness struck Dredzek dead on. The Makuta staggered backward, scythe flying from his grasp. Shardak turned to see Blast on his feet, weilding a spear taken from a downed Shadow soldier. The fallen Toa and Glatorian were on their feet again as well, holding off the remaining soldiers as Dredzek, now wounded badly, was doused in water and shocked over and over again by Kyhrex's laser crossbow.

However, even this was not enough to finish off the Makuta. He was suddenly attacking again, but this time, Blast was ready. Rays of energy that Shardak did not recognize flew from the scythe, tearing through Dredzek and causing antidermis to leak through the gaps in his armor. The shadow Matoran, Corzakx, was fighting Fairon now, and while the Toa of Light was winning, the Matoran was keeping him occupied, distracted from the real threats of Millennium and Dredzek. Slowly, Dredzek was overpowering them, and two Toa, the male Toa of Air and the female Toa of Water were hit by a blast of chain lightning and knocked unconsious. Frozen into silence, Shardak could only watch as Millennium turned, satisfied, to Shardak. He raised the axe.

Suddenly, an arrow struck the Vortixx in the shoulder. Millennium snarled quietly, and Shardak saw Valkyria readying another arrow. However, before it could strike the Vortixx, Millennium used his powers to deflect it. However, during that moment, his concentration wavered. Shardak, immediately freed, charged toward him, his weapon raised. Millennium deflected it easily, and Shardak felt time begin to slow once more, his weapon moving slower and slower toward Millennium's host until it stopped entirely.

Millennium laughed through the Vortixx's mouth. "Did you honestly think you could wound me? And even if you could, do you think that I would simply remain in my host and die along with it? I was old when your plane of existance was young, Toa. I have seen civilizations rise and fall on not one, but many worlds."

He's toying with us. He knows he has all the time in the world. thought Shardak.

"But I tire of this." said Millennium. "You have caused far too much trouble, and I have decided to grant you the mercy of a quick death. Goodbye, Toa."

Shardak knew then, it was over, that Millennium had won, and that now he'd decided to kill him instead. The red eyes glared at him, betraying no more secrets. It was over, and he would die, and the others had nothing but captivity and the Ix to look forward to. The Axe began its inevitable descent, and Shardak closed his eyes-

-But not fast enough to obscure the bolt of green energy that seemed to appear suddenly in the darkness and strike Millennium dead on. Shardak was flung backward by the impact just as a spear held by a dark-armored figure impaled the Vortixx through the chest.

With a screech of rage, Millennium's powers exploded from his host's body, and the attacker, struck dead-on by many rays of cyclonic light and darkness, staggered backward. At the same time, the Vortixx, eyes changing once more from red to green, staggered backward, axe falling from his hands.

Shardak barely payed him any attention, he raced to the side of his mysterious rescuer, lowering the hood-

The Toa gasped in shock. Despite the ravages of Millennium's temporal power and the horrible wounds the axe had inflicted, Karizdun was still recognizable, his breath coming in horrible rattling gasps.

"Must...be...cleansed..." he managed to rasp.

An insane smile lit the last Mindeater's hideous features as his eyes glazed over and his head rolled to one side, a final, glassy look of triumph frozen on his face.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#18 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:43 AM

Chapter 17

Seeing his master fall, Dredzek faltered for one moment as the soldiers began to scatter. Fairon charged forward, standing alongside Blast to block his wildly swinging scythe. The Glatorian tore the weapon from his hands, and at that moment, the female Air Toa struck.

The Toa of Air's elemental blasts struck Dredzek directly, causing him to stagger backward, to the very edge of the podium. Shardak could see the red Glatorian had felled or driven off the remaining soldiers, so that only Dredzek, Corzakx, and three pikemen still battled the unlikely alliance.

Shardak, however, was hardly paying attention. He stood over the body of Karizdun, wondering why he'd finally sacrificed himself to save him. It was obviously not out of pity, merely a step further in his envisioned "cleansing". The Mindeaters had tried to wipe out all of the other species in the Void, and what had become of them? Every single one of them dead now, their city barely remembered as a myth in Matoran legends.

Valkyria's arrows felled one of the pikemen, and the clash of weapons brought Shardak back to reality. The Ix warrior's second arrow wounded another pikeman in the shoulder. The Air Toa's next attacks struck the second pikemen, and he fell with a single scream over the edge of the cliffs. Dredzek and Corzakx manage to leap aside, but Valkyria's next arrow hit Corzakx in the thigh. The Shadow Matoran, standing so close to the edge of the cliffs, lost his balance and plummeted into the Void below. Dredzek and the remaining pikeman, realizing the battle had turned against them compeletely, attempted to fight their way backward, toward the bridge.

They'd nearly reached the bridge when Fairon charged toward them. Shardak, battling the pikeman, watched as Fairon, his allies, and Valkyria all charged Dredzek, who was fighting his way through them to reach the spire. He was now forcing Fairon, the Glatorian, and the female Toa of Air back toward the spire. Shardak could see how exceedingly delicate and thin the spire was, and realized that if the glass were even broken slightly, it would collapse completely.

Suddenly realizing what Dredzek was planning, Shardak yelled, "Fairon! It's a trap! Get out of the way!"

Fairon, noticing what Shardak had, yelled warnings to the Toa and Glatorian. Dredzek snarled, realizing his plan had backfired, and flung Fairon and the Glatorian to the ground with a blast of force. He then turned to face Sayna and Valkyria.

Before he could even raise his weapons, Shardak charged forward, tearing his final weapon, a spear, free. At that moment, Valkyria attacked him in the aura field, raising him off the ground. Sayna, realizing what Valkyria was planning, lifted him off the ground with a massive gust of air, and the raw power flung Dredzek against the impossibly thin spire.

Dredzek opened his mouth, but his screams of rage were lost in the clatter of glass as the entire tip of the spire exploded into thousands of shards of glass. Dredzek was immediately knocked unconscious, and his body plummeted downward, into the void.

Shardak stared for a moment at the half-shattered tower, and then turned as the final Shadow soldier fell to the ground, one of Valkyria's arrows through his heart. Shardak knew the threats were over. With Karizdun, the Sharidir, and Sarkanian dead, the Ix's threat had ended, and the power of the Shadow had been broken with the death of Dredzek, Corzakx, and Millennium.

For now, at least, they could rest.

"Who was that being who saved you?" asked Fairon, as the allies walked back to the platform. "It's a long story." said Shardak, and began by telling him of the day when Arcturas had died, his journeys that ultimately got him and Blast captured by the Ix, the battle in the Circle, Nightshade's revelation, and their battles in the Void. He'd just mentioned Valkyria when Blast interrupted him.

"You made an alliance with an Ix warrior?" asked Blast incredulously. "Why?"

"We were both trapped by the Shadow of Ages." said Shardak. "It was the only way for either of us to escape."

All of their eyes turned toward Valkyria, who kept her expression unreadable. She fingered her bow, and Shardak realized that the Ix warrior could have turned on them when Millennium revealed he was working with the Ix. If she had, nothing, not even Karizdun, would have been able to have stopped Millennium.

"You could have fought on the Shadow's side." said Fairon, voicing what all of them were thinking. "Why didn't you help him turn us in to your people?"

Valkyria looked uncomfortable, but answered, "The Shadow of Ages warriors who fought here today are all dead, so no one will ever know I fought on your side. Besides, they attacked our strike team several times before, killing several of our warriors."

Fairon and Kyhrex still didn't seem convinced. "I'm pleased you chose to aid us against the Shadow." said Fairon. "But we have no way of trusting anything you say."

"She could have killed me, many times over." said Shardak. "That should be reason enough."

"Shardak, are you defending an Ix?" spat Kyhrex. "Have you forgotten her people killed Silencer? And Melnox? And Arcturas?"

"I have forgotten nothing." said Shardak. "But what else do you suggest we do?"

"Kill her now." said the male Toa of Air bluntly. "It's what she would do in our position."

Shardak turned to Valkyria. The Ix warrior looked surprisingly calm, considering they were deciding her fate. Or maybe she was simply cloaking her true feelings again.

"Exactly." said Shardak. "But we've killed enough beings today. Besides, we are Toa. Killing her this way would make us just like the Ix."

Kyhrex rolled her eyes, and Fairon and the two Toa of Air were obviously fighting to keep the skeptism off their faces. The Toa of Water, however, seemed unconvinced by either argument, as was Blast.

"It is true." said the Toa of Water. "That we have suffered much at the hands of the Ix. However, killing one more of their warriors will not make a difference in their war effort. We cannot forget the Toa Code, despite our experiences in the arena."

"Well said, Galika." said the female Toa of Air. Blast suddenly interrupted her.

"Are you all forgetting she's downright dangerous? You saw how she killed the Shadow soldiers, they didn't have a chance! This isn't a question of morality, it's a question of survival. She may not have killed you, Shardak, but that doesn't mean now that she has met still more surviving Toa she will let us all live. She was sent to kill you, for Mata Nui's sake!"

"Still, it's wrong." persisted Shardak. "I know we can't afford not to kill our enemies on the battlefield, but it's wrong to kill Valkyria after she helped us win a battle against our enemies."

"He's right." said Fairon unexpectedly. "We cannot forget our own experiences in the arena, when others decided our fates. It would be wrong to do this to any living being."

"We can't let her keep her weapons, then." said Blast. "Surely you agree with me on that much, at least."

He looked at Shardak once, a quick, silent apology for the information he'd withheld from him earlier, about his origins with the Ix. I'll tell you everything later. the look said. Shardak nodded once.

"Yes." said Shardak. He turned to Valkyria, who was still wearing the same expression as before. Shardak wondered what she'd have done had the other Toa decided they should kill her. Wordlessly, she handed Shardak her bow, quiver, and daggers.

Shardak began to speak again, telling the Toa of how they had fought Sarkanian and the three Sharidir, culminating with their battle against Karizdun and the deaths of the Sharidir and Sarkanian.

"How were you captured by the Shadow of Ages? And how did they know you?" asked Shardak.

"We were all victors of the Eternal Game, sent to find the Kanohi Ignika, the mask of life. The Kanohi that you now wear." said Flardrek.

Shardak was stunned into silence. "This mask is the Ignika?"

"Yes." said the Toa of Water, Galika. "It is the Ignika, the mask of life. We learned of its location from your friend Silencer. I am sorry to hear that he was killed."

Shardak nodded, but inwardly he was thinking over Fairon's statement. We were all victors...

"You!" he said. "You're the victor that Silencer mentioned!"

"What?" asked Fairon, confused.

"Silencer mentioned something about a 'spirit' and a 'victor'" explained Kyhrex. "Now we know who one of the beings was that he mentioned."

"And Shardak, the Spirit Toa, is the other." said Valkyria.

Shardak was still reeling from the shock of discovering his mask was the Ignika. Inwardly, however, he realized it made much more sense. The Fury had said it himself four days ago on the edge of the Void. Give us the Spirit Toa and we will spare the others.

"The Fury!" said Blast, echoing Shardak's thoughts. "He mentioned the Spirit Toa during our final battle."

"Where is Ion?" asked Shardak, suddenly remembering that the yellow Toa was not with them. "What happened to him?"

"I don't know." said Kyhrex. "I can only hope he escaped the Shadow of Ages and wanders the Void still."

"We journeyed here on the same hope that you did." continued Fairon. "That this Void was a prison, not a means of execution."

"The Void is both a prison and a means of execution." a new voice broke in. "And it is now time that you have left one prison and entered another.

A tall being stepped out of the darkness, a heavily armored being with cold green eyes that reminded Shardak of colored fragments of the glass the Nameless City was built out of. He carried a long silver sword, wickedly sharp and curved. His mask covered most of his features, and in the darkness, only his shining eyes and curved weapon were fully visible.

Fairon rose to his feet, shocked. "Nightwatcher!" he snarled.

The being gave no sign of recognition, merely raised his sword and strode toward the Toa. "Not many beings have heard my name and survived to tell of it. However, for you, there is an exception. The Ix want you- and any of your allies- alive."

***

Fairon knew that the battle was already over, and that it was unlikely any of them had any hope of escaping this alive. The Toa of Shadow known as Nightwatcher was a bounty hunter of the highest cabal, and would have no qualms about turning them all in to the Ix.

"So, you're going to fight me?" asked Nightwatcher, amused as he saw all of the allies ready their weapons. Valkyria was still unarmed, but looked determined to fight him- or maybe aid him, Fairon could not tell. "Then I should warn you that I will only spare the Toa of Light and the other Toa who are with him."

Go to Karzahni. Fairon thought, and charged forward. Nightwatcher deflected his thrust easily with his sword, and, as Treedaka crept toward him, unleashed a blast of pure shadow that flung the Toa off his feet. Treedaka was alive, but Fairon could see he had been wounded badly.

Flardrek raced forward to continue Treedaka's attack, parrying three of Nightwatcher's thrusts in quick succession. Nightwatcher was holding his own now against Fairon, Shardak, and Flardrek, none of them overmatching him, none of them able to destroy him. Several of Kyhrex's crossbow bolts flew from the shadows, but Nightwatcher dodged them all easily, parrying another thrust of Shardak's easily.

Flardrek, meanwhile, was pressing his advantage. Nightwatcher, focused on Kyhrex, Shardak, and Fairon, was allowing his defenses to lower slightly. Flardrek's sword snaked forward, but even the Glatorian was no match for Nightwatcher, who whirled around and easily disarmed him, blocking both Fairon's and Shardak's attacks easily as well.

As Flardrek staggered backward, Nightwatcher hit him with a blast of shadow, flinging him to the ground. This time, Flardrek did not get up. Fairon had no way of knowing whether he was alive or dead, for Nightwatcher was forcing him to the ground, his blade tearing through the air faster then the Toa would have believed possible. In the shadows, it shown like a cold flash of ice, like a silver tear in the fabric of the universe. Fairon felt pain, worse then any he'd suffered since the Eternal Game, tear through him, and he slashed wildly at Nighwatcher.

Now all of the allies except Flardrek and Valkyria were battling Nightwatcher, every one of them hoping desperately to score at hit on Nightwatcher's heavy armor. However, the Toa of Shadow was dodging them all, every one of them narrowly missing, every elemental power failing to injure him. Kyhrex quickly abandoned the idea of using her laser crossbow against him, for the bounty hunter was simply to fast for her crossbow to do even slight damage, and she realized it was far more likely she'd injure one of her allies.

Fairon was wounded now, but he was still fighting desperately alongside Blast and Shardak, striving to strike the bounty hunter's armor. Now, he realized, Nightwatcher was simply toying with them, and Fairon hated being toyed with. He'd had enough of that during the Eternal Game, when he was the Ix's pawn.

Galika and Treedaka raced forward, their weapons raised. Nightwatcher simply smiled coldly and stunned them both with a blast of shadow energy. Both Toa fell to the ground. Nighwatcher then disarmed Blast, and grabbing the scythe, slashed it across Shardak's shoulder. Blood welled from the wound, black in the cold illumination.

Sayna and Fairon staggered toward Nightwatcher, battered horribly by his power. Shardak was retreating, the firey sword he held hanging limply from his wounded arm. He looked around, and saw Valkyria, her dagger in hand, making no move to attack but warning them not to come any closer.

Easily, his weapon raised in a wide, sweeping arc, Nighwatcher disarmed Fairon, then Sayna. Both Toa stood still then, at the mercy of Nightwatcher. The bounty hunter smiled, raising the Scythe of Creation. Fairon suddered inwardly. What did Nightwatcher plan to do to them with the powerful weapon?

Suddenly, a vortex, simular to the one that pulled Fairon into the clutches of Dredzek, began to form. Unlike most portals, which allowed passage between one dimension to another, this was merely an extension of the Void, a reverse of the abyss' power.

"Follow me." said Nightwatcher. "Let the power of the Scythe return you to your masters."


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#19 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:47 AM

Chapter 18

All was quiet in the shadowy, empty plain. To the casual observer, the plain would have been empty. However, Fairon could tell that this was not the case, for a phalanx of several Ix warriors stood guard over a heavy transport aircraft. One of the newer troop carriers, this was not one of the smaller Warrior- class transports that he and his allies had used to enter the arena. This was a Phantom- class transport, used mostly in military battles. However, this transport was not on a battle mission. Its job was to return the rebel victors and any of their allies to the Ix Empire.

All this Fairon realized as he, Shardak, Valkyria, Flardrek, and the other Toa victors were escorted by the heavily armored Ix warriors into the transport. While none of the Ix warriors had spoken, there was a definite sense of eerie calm as both the unconscious and conscious beings entered the interior of the vehicle. Nightwatcher was standing alongside the Ix warriors, and Valkyria was talking to the Ix warriors in their own scratchy language. However, after a few moments, the Ix warrior hissed, and Valkyria lowered her head.

The message was clear. Valkyria would share the rest of the allies' fates. Fairon, however, felt no pity for her. He knew how the Ix operated, this was simply what they did to each other. While they were too disciplined to ever attack their rivals openly, they would never miss an oppurtunity to eliminate a rival covertly.

Not for the first time, Fairon wondered where they were going and what would become of them.

With a rush of air, the Phantom rose into the air, camuflaged perfectly against the sky. Nothing would notice them, even another aircraft flying on the same level would simply mistake it for a trick of the eye. Fairon could see they were flying over the countryside now, before passing over cities. The entire ride was a blur for the Toa; he could hardly believe that one moment they'd been within the abyss, seemingly never to return, then suddenly transported into the Empire's clutches again. He looked at Nightwatcher, but the bounty hunter was even better then Valkyria at cloaking his emotions, and his eyes revealed nothing.

Seemingly moments later, but what Fairon knew was probably hours, the Phantom landed. Fairon saw they'd landed directly outside a massive building, a building he knew far, far to well. It was the coliseum of New Metru Nui.

No...no, not this. Fairon thought desprately, but he, Shardak, Valkyria, and the others were all escorted from the Phantom and, handcuffed, led into the building.

The room they entered what just as Fairon remembered it, a large dias, on which stood several Kodax and a group of masked Ix. He barely took in the surroundings, he only had eyes for the Kodax whose voice had announced the worst period of his life. He could see the signs, read the words, but his mind rejected them. It could not, could not possibly be true...

The Kodax, in his familiar voice, was reading off the words that Fairon knew almost too well, the words he'd heard each year, including the year he'd stood in this very room, nearly as scared as he was now...

"...One hundred and seventy-five years ago, we crushed the Hand of Mata Nui and their corrupt allies..."

"And threw all those that rebelled into an ever changing arena to fight forever. Now, more shall be sent, so that the one hundred and seventy fifth Eternal Game will have its share of contestants, with only one victor returning alive..."

I've already won the Game once. thought Fairon. Surely they cannot...

"Azzurok, Struxx, Jaina, Sligorian..."

Now the Kodax was announcing the names of the contestants, but they were meaningless to Fairon, all his mind was doing was desprately trying to convince itself that he was not here, couldn't be here, it was as though the wheel of life had come full circle...

"Graf, Skarge, Lothia, Shadowplayer..." the few names he picked out all belonged to beings he recognized, beings he knew, and as the Kodax paused, he realized that they were all victors.

Now Fairon was listening, for he knew now that the Games always contained a twist of some type, an extra challenge to make it more dangerous for the contestants. Last year, there had been nearly double the contestants there usually were.

And then the Kodax said the words that Fairon had been dreading, as though he'd known since they were all captured by the Ix that this would be their fate...

"This year, to remember the fact that none will ever triumph over us, the forty contestants are all surviving victors..."

No, no, not this, anything but this. Fairon thought, but as the Kodax continued, dispassionately listing off the names of the contestants, Fairon knew that their fates were sealed, and that despite everything they'd done, despite all of the dangers they'd faced...

They had all been sentenced to the Eternal Game.

 


Edited by Varkanax39, Feb 12 2016 - 05:47 AM.

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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#20 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:49 AM

PART III: The Empire

Chapter 19

Still reeling from shock, Shardak allowed himself to be led down the corridors without protest. He had, as Nightwatcher had said, left one prison and entered another. Unlike the Void, Ion was no longer with him, and all of his allies save Blast and Kyhrex were now potential enemies. And there was nearly no hope of escape from this prison, unless he killed every one of his friends. Which, now as he looked at Fairon, whose eyes were empty and expression grim, and Valkyria, trying to keep her face impassive but, for once, failing to conceal her shock.

We're not victors. Why have we been sentanced to the Eternal Game? Then, a more worrying thought. Why hasn't Valkyria mentioned that I'm the Spirit Toa to the Ix? Or maybe she has, but we're all going to be sentanced to fight to the death anyway.

Shardak knew they were at a disadvantage for another reason. Many victors formed alliances very early in the Games, then betraying each other later. The only allies he knew would stand beside him were Blast and Kyhrex, who were just as lost in these games as he was.

When the Ix had asked his name, he'd told them he was Barit, an alias he'd also used in the Circle. He knew calling himself Ion, Silencer, or Melnox would attract immediate suspicion. No, it was better that he was an unknown Glatorian. Blast and Kyhrex had also given aliases as well, for they had no way of knowing how much Asgard and the other Ix knew the names of the beings who'd escaped the Circle and killed the Fury.

Despite the horrible situation they'd been placed in, Shardak was already trying to figure out the chances of his survival. The instincts he'd had to develop when he'd been disguised as a slave in the Circle, and later in the Void, were already calculating what he had to do to, at the very least, allow Kyhrex or Blast to escape the arena and complete the cryptic instructions he'd been given when Ion vanished. Find Jareroden, or Atarus.

He knew from Fairon's story that Jareroden was a past victor, who had disappeared mysteriously during the early battles in the Void. But who or what was Atarus?

Shardak knew now that soon, the storm would break, and the victors would tear each other apart in the arena. He held little hope for his own survival, but at the very least, if one of the Toa or Glatorian lived, they would be able to complete the task Silencer had given him.

***

Fairon was led into the massive antechamber, remincsent of the one he'd been deployed to the arena in during the Game he'd won. While he knew it was a different room, he still felt as though the clock had been turned back, that he was once again sentanced to the arena.

At first, he'd thought the entire thing an elaborate, horrible dream, such as those he'd had in the Void. But he realized now this was no dream. The Ix had struck back, as Fairon had known they would, as Jareroden had hinted.

Surveying the room, Fairon saw that the victors numbered nearly forty, substantially less then the beings he'd faced in the last Game. However, these opponents would not fall as easily, nor did he think that they would be destroyed quickly. They'd all won the Games, of course, and every one of them was a hardened killer.

He recognized several, such as Shadowplayer, who was extremely fast and agile, and his eyes gleamed, as though he could hardly wait to return to the arena. Makuta Blettnox, another well known victor, who had won the Games the year before Fairon, and another Makuta, Struxx, a victor many years ago.

The other group was made up of far older victors, several of which were so weak they could barely hold a weapon. Fairon saw there were only six of them, and knew that very few of them would make it past the first day.

Several more victors caught his eye, Graf, scowling and annoyed, and Kharix, one of the younger victors, her eyes gleaming with excitement. Fairon knew that she, along with Shadowplayer and the mysterious Azzurok, were some of the most deadly victors in these games. Unlike in Fairon's Game, when all of the victors had grouped in their alliances, most of the victors stood alone, giving no clue of their allegiences.

Nearly every one of the victors was looking at them, sizing them up. Kharix stared at Fairon contemptously, but seemed slightly wary of Treedaka, Flardrek and Sayna. Shadowplayer ignored them all, simply readying for battle. Struxx, on the other hand, seemed slightly afraid of Fairon.

This was usual, of course. Older or more powerful victors, or those who had won against overwhelming odds, usually looked down on those who had won more recently.

"Fairon!"

Fairon turned, surprised, to see Jareroden and Xatax racing toward them. Seeing them under any other circumstances would have made Fairon happy, but here, about to enter the arena...

He could see the same expression reflected in Jareroden's eyes.

"Ready to be deployed into the arena." said one of the Ix, and Fairon could see the clear tubes of glass that would carry them away from New Metru Nui and to the mysterious new arena had arrived. Fairon wondered, for a moment, if he stood the slightest chance of winning against victors such as Azzurok or Kharix, who made his victory over Iruka seem small and insignificant.

They said we were safe, that the Games were over. said Fairon, and he could see that some of the victors looked betrayed, others shocked.

But Fairon knew that even that was a lie. He'd been playing the Game ever since he'd been taken to the arena, and he was still playing the Game now.

It's called Eternal, for the players, even those who win it, never, ever stop. thought Fairon as he stepped into the cylinder marked #24: Fairon.

"Remember." the Ix warrior called. "In the arenas, you kill. Or you die." Then he stepped back, vanishing once more into the shadows.

At the same time, Fairon felt a rush as as the tube tore upward, ready to enter the arena. He wondered what dangers it held, what perils that it would hold. Surely it would have to be far, far more deadly, to challenge those who had won the games themselves before.

We're here. he thought, as the cylinder ground to a halt. Fairon could see the arena, but he hardly wanted to believe what he saw. For the arena was neither fire nor water, but a horrible combination of both. Flames exploded from crevasses in the distance, a massive lake stretched out to one side, and atop a crag was a single cache of supplies.

Peering into the inky blackness, Fairon could make out a jungle, a relection of the arena that Treedaka had fought in. And all of those horrible perils did not account for teleporters, hidden traps and grids, underground tunnels, and the other competitors.

Fairon observed nearly forty contestants, mostly victors, ready to return to the realm of death and devastation.

And he knew that only one could ever return.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#21 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:50 AM

Chapter 20

Within that moment, the storm broke. Quickly, but what seemed like an eternity to Fairon, the cylinders opened, and out rushed the contestants. Shadowplayer decided to take the approach Nightwatcher had during the last game, and smashed his way free of the cylinders. Fairon could see the first danger already, the small pits that spewed flame directly in front of them. With no weapons, and the only cache in the water, Fairon raced toward the fire.

All around him, chaos reigned as the victors charged past the fire and into the water. Fairon had nearly reached the lake when a geyser of flames exploded in front of him, blinding him for a moment. The Glatorian standing next to Fairon was not so lucky, and he screamed as the fire consumed him completely.

Several others were burned, but Fairon saw that nearly all of them had made it past the flames unscathed. Most were already in the water, fighting with the weapons lying scattered across the shore. Without thinking, as though he had been ready for this all along, Fairon raised a spear, just as an attacker slammed into him. The assailant screamed as the spear entered his leg. In the half-light, Fairon could not tell whether the attacker was Toa or Glatorian or Ix, but he left the wounded being lying on the shore.

The instincts he'd tried to bury after his defeat of Iruka took over, and Fairon found himself holding a spear in one hand, a sword in the other, thrusting, hacking, stabbing, and tearing at anything that attacked him. His eyes had adjusted to the dim light now, and he could see that all around him, other battles were going on.

A helpless Glatorian, staggering desperately away from Makuta Blettnox, was blown to bloody shreds by a Shattering Gun. Xatax, sword in hand, standing over a defeated opponent and fighting several more. In the horrible light of the flames, the battle looked even more darkly intense, with the blood and the water both appearing black. Fairon could see several contestants lay dead in the water, and still more were climbing up the cliff's edge, trying to grab supplies.

Nearby, Galika was battling another victor. Fairon caught a glimpse of his mask and spear, and recognized him. Makuta Skarge, a victor who'd won the Games years ago by hiding in the shadows, killing off the other contestants before they had a chance to retaliate. He certainly stood little chance against Galika in the water.

Blettnox was now spraying round after round with his Shattering Gun, the pulses ricocheting off the crags and striking anyone in sight. Fairon dodged to one side and a pulse missed him by an inch, and nearby an Agori fell, holding his leg, before the massive currents Galika was creating pulled him under. He did not come up. What was more, the water was growing deeper as he half walked, half swam toward the main cache, and with the spray of water and the flashes of flame surrounding the dark arena, the faces of his opponents all seemed to have a ghastly, unreal quality to them.

Struxx was battling Treedaka now. Fairon looked around for signs of any other dangerous competitors, and could see Blast, a few feet away, holding a long, curved scimitar and battling a Makuta. He seemed to be holding his own, despite the Makuta's much more powerful elemental abilities.

Suddenly, a shadow reared above him, and as a flash of flame lit up the stars, Fairon caught a glimpse of his mask in the gloom, and recognized him. Agrana, one of the oldest victors, though still in perfect physical condition. His eyes gleamed with an emotion Fairon couldn't quite classify. Was it fear? Exhilaration? Hatred? Or a combination of the three? However, he was carrying a broadsword, and seemed perfectly capable of slicing Fairon apart.

A horrible thought occurred to him. What if they've all been given orders for us to die in the arena? That would explain the Ix not searching them for the Shadow Orb or the Ignika. While Fairon knew Arcturas had disguised the mask Shardak wore so well that it could almost pass as a Glatorian helmet, he-

Agrana's slash and a spear of pain brought Fairon back to the present. The victor's face was contorted in rage, and as he jabbed his scimitar forward, aiming to run Fairon through. Fairon feinted to one side, thrusting outward with his spear at the same time. Agrana tried to dodge, but he slipped, lost his balance, and plunged into the roiling current.

Agrana quickly found his footing, but before he could reorient himself, a scimitar ran him through. Fairon made out Khadix in the gloom, her eyes gleaming with the thrill of the Games as she nimbly sidestepped a Glatorian attacker's sword, then slashed his arm off completely. The Glatorian staggered back, directly into one of the shattering pulses Makuta Blettnox was firing. His horribly wounded body vanished beneath the waves.

Fairon suddenly found himself fighting next to Jareroden and Xatax. Jareroden was holding a massive trident, spearing anyone who came too near to them. Fairon half swam to a rocky outcropping, and no victor followed him. He could see Struxx and Blettnox were both still fighting the other victors, while Khadix and Shadowplayer were nowhere in sight.

Fairon looked at Jareroden, who seemed just as shocked by the carnage as he was. He could see Galika and Flardrek walking over to them, and the same haunted look shone in their eyes.

"I would have thought...there would be more hesitancy." said Fairon. "After all, these are victors, all of whom were forced to kill for the Empire."

"What did you expect? None of us won the Games by chance, Fairon. We've all had to become killers in order to win." Jareroden answered.

"Where are Sayna and Treedaka?" asked Fairon, scanning the battlefield for either of the Toa, but seeing neither.

"I don't know." said Jareroden. "They've--"

Suddenly, there was a flash of white light, and Xatax staggered back, clutching his shattered arm. Blettnox, seeing him wounded, fired more pulses at him. Even wounded, the Glatorian victor was still fast, and narrowly escaped death by inches.

"Watch out!" Jareroden roared, and Fairon saw Struxx rise out of the water, Kanohi Crast gleaming in the shadows. Xatax fell, his spine snapped in half.

"No!" yelled Jareroden, stabbing out at Struxx. However, the Makuta had already vanished beneath the waves once more, and Blettnox was standing on the other side of the cache now, firing his Shatterer at any moving target.

Fairon, seeing that the battle was dying down as surviving contestants fled or consolidated the territory they'd carved out for themselves, grabbed several weapons and supplies from the cache before rejoining Jareroden. He cought up to the Toa as they staggered onto shore, on the opposite side of the lake. A sparse forest, which eventually led into a deeper jungle, lay ahead of them.

Fairon, however, barely payed any attention to his allies as he staggered ashore, and began discussing where they could hide until morning. He was simply replaying the battle over and over in his mind, another nightmare that would haunt him forevermore.

Slowly, Fairon, alongside Jareroden and Galika, followed Flardrek toward a hidden cavern covered in moss, ivy, and hidden from view by several large trees. It was an excellent place to hide a small group of contestants, and it was also easily defended. However, Fairon had learned never to underestimate the Ix. The arenas were always riddled with teleporters to seperate allies, traps that were just as dangerous as fellow competitors, and predatory Rahi.

Suddenly, a voice boomed across the arena, another voice Fairon recognized. It was that of the Kodax announcer, the voice that had haunted Fairon's existance for nearly a month. After congratulating the survivors, the Kodax began to announce the death toll on the first day. Fairon payed little attention, trying to focus on names he knew.

"Agrana, Mardun, Nazak, Namrus..." the list went on and on. Fairon listened for any more familiar names, but found none.

"...Nerstak, Varr, Xatax!" finished the announcer. Then his voice vanished, and Fairon and his allies were alone in the arena once more.

"Sixteen dead." said Jareroden grimly. "Twenty-one still alive."

The majority of the victors that had been listed Fairon knew only by name, but for victors such as Jareroden, who had known them for many years, the losses must have been greater. Fairon could see that they all were shocked at the carnage, but all of them had a glint of determination in their eye.

"So, Duuril, Shardak, Blast, and Valkyria are all still alive." said Fairon. "Who else do we need to watch out for?"

"There's Lothia." said Flardrek. "But I didn't see her at all during the battle."

"She's a loner, anyway, like Graf." pointed out Jareroden. "She wouldn't be likely to join any of the alliances."

"Nor would Skarge." commented Galika. "He's probably going to try his old assassination tricks again."

"What other alliances are out there?" asked Fairon.

"Well, Shadowplayer controls the largest alliance. Kharix, Blettnox, Azzurok, and Struxx are all under his command, and there may be more."

Like the Fallen Six in the previous Game. thought Fairon. They recruited several Glatorian as well.

"But we can't rule out other alliances developing either." said Flardrek. "The last I checked, Sligorian had an ally, the bounty hunter Klugron."

"Both dangerous victors." said Jareroden. "Wherever he is, I hope Shardak's safe."

Mata Nui protect him and Blast. Fairon thought. They're not victors, and if they're attacked, they don't even stand a chance against Struxx or Shadowplayer.

Shardak, wounds bloody, raced away from the massive bloodbath, his mask scarred, his armor dented. They'd known he, Blast, and Valkyria were not victors, and he'd only narrowly escaped with his life.

So this is what the Eternal Game is. Shardak thought as he watched the flames light up the lake, the shadows of the furiously battling contestants illuminated by the darkness. This is what haunts Fairon's dreams.

He'd escaped death, but he didn't even know how likely it was he'd survive past the next day. He was hopelessly outnumbered, and nearly every other contestant here were victors, who had fought and killed beings far more powerful then he or Blast. Even Valkyria, who had been trained as an Ix warrior, had little experience compared to several of these contestants, such as the being Fairon called Shadowplayer.

And there's Duuril out there as well... Shardak thought. He's a skilled warrior, but could he ever defeat a victor?

Hidden deep within the forest, Shardak's thoughts were interrupted by the Death Toll. The Kodax named sixteen dead contestants, none of which Shardak knew by name except Xatax, Jareroden's ally. He wondered if Blast and Valkyria had both escaped unwounded, or had crawled away from the battle, bleeding horribly, and would die sometime into the night.

Shardak listened, but could hear nothing but the usual sounds in the forest. Several Glider Owls called in the distance, and several bats flew overhead. None took any interest in Shardak. Slowly, knowing he was safe, or as safe as a competitor could be in the Eternal Game, Shardak began to drift off into unconsciousness.

Then, suddenly, something happened that jerked him wide awake. Darkness began to move, seemingly of its own accord. It spiraled upward, in a formation simular to the shadows that announced the Games were ending. Shardak could see it was twisting, turning, rising higher.

Then the formation reversed, becoming a massive, spectral serpent. Within seconds, the shadows had swarmed to cover many of the stars.

"What the..." whispered Shardak

Then the formation changed again. What was once the snake became a twisted knot, a hideous explosion of shadows that spread across the heavens, blacking out the stars.

That was when the screams started.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#22 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:55 AM

Chapter 21

"It's a Shadows Coil." whispered Jareroden, his voice filled with shock and awe.

"A what?" asked Fairon, shouting to be heard over the cacophony of screams that had begun when the formation appeared in the sky.

"A Shadows Coil." Jareroden said. "You've heard of the spectral formations the Veiled Ones use to announce the end of the Games?"

"Yes." Fairon answered.

"This is another of their formations, another way of making announcements. However, I haven't seen a Coil since the Last Great War. The Shadows Coil is a death mark, Fairon. It states that the Ix have taken their revenge, that one of their enemies is dead or as good as dead. It was every Toa's, every Glatorian's, every being's worst fear during the wars, save Elimination itself. It hasn't been seen in many, many years, not since the Order was destroyed."

"Imagine you're a Matoran, walking home from a day's work." Galika said, her voice shaken. "Then seeing the Shadows Coil over your home and you know...what you'll find..." her voice trailed off into the shadows, only the screams throughout the blackness.

"If the Shadows Coil is here, it can only mean one thing." said Jareroden. "The rebellion is finished. The Ix have won."

"It can't be that..." Fairon whispered.

All around him, the rest of the Toa and Flardrek were readying their weapons. "We have to find Shardak and Blast." said Jareroden. "If they're attacked by a terrified, fleeing victor..."

He didn't even need to finish the sentance. It would be no contest. Fairon wondered if this was how Leviathos and Tanuva had felt, before they'd sacrificed their lives to allow him to win...

Now, he was going to do the same. While he knew that it was likely that the Ix had given the other victors special orders to kill him in the arena, he had to help Shardak win, so that the rebellion could continue.

And as they raced through the darkness, Fairon hoped against hope that they were not too late.

***

Shardak raced through the shadows, the cries of the contestants echoing across the arena. He could barely even see in the shadows, for the massive, shadowy mark hid many of the stars. The moment the screams had started, Shardak realized several beings were hidden several yards away from him, and that any moment, they'd recover from the shock and begin pursuing them.

He'd fled immediately, not pausing to consider if the beings would notice and pursue him. Fortunately, none of them even seemed to notice him, they'd been so distracted by the appearence of the mark in the sky. Shardak had no idea what it was, but he did know that if it was able to cause hardened victors to scream in terror, he knew it was something truly horrifying.

Racing through the sparse forest, he hardly noticed that it was giving way to a wider, more dangerous jungle. Then, suddenly, a being seemed to appear out of the shadows. Shardak staggered to a halt, his weapon, a heavy scimitar, nearly falling from his grasp.

"I knew someone would come, eventually, Klugron." a second being hissed. Shardak could see his attackers, a Skrall and a smaller warrior. The Skrall was carrying a large war mace, the warrior twin daggers. Both were heavily armored, and the predatory look in their eyes locked with Shardak's. "The fact that there was a Shadows Coil in the sky would eventually send someone toward us...someone inexperienced and alone."

"Hello, Toa." Sligorian snarled, then charged. Shardak deflected his first strike easily, but saw a blur of darkness flash out of the corner of his other eye. Klugron lept toward him, daggers missing Shardak by inches. Klugron recovered quickly, and Shardak felt pain stab through him as Klugron tore through his armor with a dagger.

Sligorian, meawhile, was readying for another attack. As he easily deflected blows from Shardak's heavy scimitar, the Skrall seemed to be withdrawing. Shardak saw his eyes, half-hidden in the shadows of his helmet, were gleaming brighter and brighter.

Suddenly, a ray of pure red energy flew from Sligorian's eyes and struck Shardak directly into the shoulder, sending him staggering backward as pain exploded across his wound where the Stalker had bit him nearly five days ago. Seeing his enemy wounded, both Sligorian and Klugron closed in for the kill.

Klugron raised his dagger, and Sligorian was approaching more warily, wondering if Shardak had something else planned. The sixth sense that all victors possessed was warning him that there was something-

Klugron suddenly staggered backward, an arrow embedded in his shoulder. Sligorian was more lucky, and the next volley of arrows missed him entirely, another striking Klugron in the leg. All three beings turned toward the attacker, and Shardak was surprised to see Valkyria, her camouflaged armor allowing her to blend in perfectly with the darkness.

Sligorian snarled in rage and fired more blasts of laser vision at Valkyria, but the Ix warrior dodged them all easily. The laser beams impacted against a tree, charring the bark slightly. Shardak was now battling Klugron, forcing the victor back but unable to defeat him.

Pain flashed through him as Sligorian's laser vision struck him again, wounding him badly. Klurgon grinned and lept toward him-

He never even touched him. Klugron staggered backward, an arrow through his neck. With a horrible choking sound, the victor fell backward. Then he halved his remaining seconds of life by tearing the arrow free. His body shuddered once, then he went still.

Shardak recovered, then looked around for Sligorian, but the Skrall was nowhere in sight. Valkyria walked over to the Toa, her gaze searching for Sligorian but finding nothing.

"That's the second time I've saved the life of a Toa in two days." said Valkyria, in mock disgust. Shardak laughed, then remembered who, exactly, he was talking to. He could see the red gleam of the Shadow Orb in the Ix warrior's hand, and wondered why she hadn't given it to the Ix to try to escape the Eternal Game.

Sensing what Shardak was thinking in the aura field, Valkyria led him deeper into the forest. Both Toa and Ix were alert for any sounds of danger, Shardak knew enough about the Eternal Game to know that any being could be watching them, waiting for the perfect moment to attack them.

"There's no one here." whispered Valkyria under her breath. "I've been hiding here since I escaped the initial bloodbath."

"Was Fairon there? Did he escape?" asked Shardak eagerly. "I had to escape that battle quickly.'

"He escaped, with little injury. I'm sure you know they lost one of their allies, Xatax. Otherwise, they're all alive, but I have no idea how injured the others are."

"How did you know I was being attacked? The aura field?" Shardak guessed.

Valkyria nodded. "I could sense the presence of Sligorian and Klugron." she said. "And I knew they were attacking you."

"You could have left me to die." said Shardak. "In fact, you could have joined the Sharidir and Sarkanian in the Void, or killed me at the initial battle. Why didn't you tell the Empire who I am?" The last sentance was whispered so low that only Valkyria could hear.

"Because we were allies in the Void." said the Ix warrior. "And because the Empire would have forced me into the Eternal Game no matter what I did, for allying with a Toa against Nightwatcher in the Void."

Her voice was toneless as she said the last words, but Shardak could sense her sadness in the aura field. He wondered how he would feel if the resistance that Silencer had led had sold him out to the Ix despite everything he'd done for them, and he extended his aura slightly, touching her lightly in the aura field.

Valkyria smiled, and for the first time since Shardak had known her, she actually seemed amused. "You need to learn to control your aura more fully. I can read your emotions and ideas far too easily."

"I was never taught. Silencer died before he could teach me attacks or defenses in the feild, and since then..." he let his voice trail off into nothingness.

Valkyria smiled slightly again, then quickly reverted to her usual, cold mask. Shardak could see she'd felt uncomfortable even displaying slight emotion, after so many years of keeping them hidden, it must have been hard. He did not continue speaking, simply waited there in the shadows, listening for any sounds of conflicts. In the distance, he could hear shouting, but stayed silent.

"Who is it fighting?" he asked Valkyria. "Is it Fairon?"

"Yes." whispered Valkyria. "They're in danger. Shadowplayer has found them."

***

Fairon raced through the trees, searching for Shardak. He wished desperately his friend Rantu, another Toa of aura, was with him now. Shardak could be anywhere now, at the mercy of any of the other victor contestants. He had to help Shardak survive. It was their unspoken promise, the promise that united Jareroden and Flardrek and the other victors who had journeyed to the Void.

Suddenly, Fairon was jerked out of his thoughts by an orange light bleeding through the trees. Peering through the undergrowth, he could see that one of the contestants had lit a massive fire, and that smoke was rising up through the trees, vanishing into the rapidly disintegrating Shadows Coil above.

Surely not. said Fairon. Surely no victor would ever light a fire in the arena. It's the same thing as yelling "come and get me" to a powerful alliance. Why would--

"It could be a trap." whispered Jareroden, eerily echoing Fairon's thoughts. "There are very few victors still alive that would do something so irrational."

Within seconds, their questions were answered. He could hear whispering, and could see a flash of armor in the shadows. He could hear another voice, begging and pleading, and recognized it, to his surprise, as Tonitrus, an old Makuta victor who, unlike Agrana, had weakened over the years. He was probably so confused by being back in the arena he'd forgotten the dangers of lighting a fire.

Fairon cursed as he recognized Blettnox's voice. Shadowplayer's alliance had found them, and they were less then a bio away. He could hear another, gravelly voice whisper something, and heard Kharix answer. At least three of the deadliest victors in the entire Games were standing less then a bio away from them, and Fairon knew it was only a matter of time before they noticed their large group. It was impossible to stay hidden from such a powerful alliance for long.

Then came the inevitable end, and Tonitrus' voice fell silent forever. Fairon winced as he heard the victors laugh for a few moments, then begin to search once more. Blettnox loomed above Fairon, and the Toa hardly dared to breathe, he was so frightened. However, the Makuta did not seem to notice them, and wandered off once more.

The alliance was having a hushed discussion, from what Fairon could hear, they were discussing splitting up and searching the arena for more victors. Then they vanished into the darkness after what seemed like an eternity.

Fairon rose to his feet, and breathed a short sigh of relief. Beside him, Jareroden, Flardrek, and Galika did the same. Walking through the clearing, taking care to tread silently, the Toa and Glatorian continued their hunt for Shardak. Fairon kept his eyes alert for any sign of Kharix, Blettnox, or Shadowplayer, but saw none of them.

Suddenly, Jareroden whispered quietly, "We've found him."

Peering through the undergrowth, Fairon saw Shardak, a long scimitar clutched in one hand, standing beside Valkyria, who had raised her longbow.

"Shardak, we're here!" hissed Fairon, under his breath. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine." whispered Shardak. "Did you run into Shadowplayer? Valkyria sensed he was near you in the aura field."

"He was, but we did not fight him. He and his allies were battling a Makuta called Tonitrus. We narrowly escaped him."

"I was attacked by two beings named Sligorian and Klugron. We defeated them, though Sligorian escaped. What was that mark in the sky that caused some of the victors to panic?" asked Shardak. "Sligorian called it a Shadows Coil."

"It's a death mark that the Ix use when they've defeated one of their enemies." said Jareroden. "It was used during the war."

"We need to get back to shelter." said Fairon. "Soon it will be morning. If we want to find Blast, we'll have to rest before the day dawns and the real battles begin once again."

"Agreed." said Jareroden, and began to lead them back to the caverns.

There are only nineteen of us left alive. Fairon thought. The Empire is certainly not done with their dangers. The Shadows Coil was just the beginning. And soon the truly deadly battles will begin.

 


Edited by V-2, Feb 12 2016 - 05:56 AM.

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#23 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 05:56 AM

Chapter 22

The sun rose above the arena, chasing away the last whisps of the Shadows Coil remaining in the sky and bathing the arena in light for the first time during the Game. Fairon watched this, listening to the sounds of the Rahi and other animals waking, roaming free through the forests.

Fairon, whose watch was last, knew that soon, all of the various contestants would be attempting to carve out their territories in the deadly arena. There had been no action after they'd rejoined Shardak and Valkyria, and he guessed that Shadowplayer's alliance had withdrawn after killing the older victor.

Fairon had enough experiance with the games to know that the other alliances would continue to hunt them soon. They could try to track down weaker victors and eliminate them, but in battle they could easily lose the less experienced Shardak. He doubted that even Valkyria, who had fought alongside them to destroy the Shadow of Ages, would be able to take on a victor like Shadowplayer or Blettnox.

We need to find Treedaka, Sayna, and Blast. he thought. An inexperienced loner would stand little chance against Sligorian or Lothia, and even Treedaka and Sayna could not defeat Shadowplayer's larger alliance.

"We need to find Treedaka and the others." Jareroden was saying, again echoing Fairon's thoughts. "We're the only alliance almost as large as Shadowplayer's, and with three more warriors beside us, we'll outnumber them."

"But could we, even then, overpower them?" asked Flardrek. "I know Kharix and Blettnox well, and all of the others I know by reputation."

"Do we stand even a chance without our other allies?" Fairon asked. "They'd overpower us easily. We've encountered five of them, and I'm not sure if the other two Mattrelor victors aren't also allied with Azzurok."

"Krimsonnar and Grennkirro?" said Flardrek. "Possibly. I didn't see either of them at the initial battle, but it was so wildly confused I could barely tell who was friend or foe."

"So, are we all agreed our next move should be to locate Blast, Treedaka, and Sayna?" asked Jareroden, after a few more moment's discussion.

"Yes." Shardak answered, and the others began to gather their weapons. There was a steely look of determination in their eyes that matched Fairon's own, and Fairon knew then that none of them would abandon the alliance until they all died fighting for Shardak to win. Valkyria...Fairon couldn't read the Ix warrior's expression, but she seemed willing to go along with the plan.

Fairon doubted she was trustworthy. They were in the arena, and an Ix warrior was probably the last being he wanted as an ally in the Eternal Game. However, she'd done nothing hostile to any of them so far, so Fairon was willing to let her live until she did.

Fairon wondered exactly how many days all of them had to live. His Eternal Game, with nearly double the number of contestants, had lasted close to a month. The average Game lasted nearly two weeks, but after the high death toll on the first day, Fairon wondered if these Games would be significantly shorter.

"Remember to keep silent." Fairon whispered. He knew that none of the victors or Valkyria needed any reminding, but it thought it was best to mention to them all rather then to Shardak alone. "We don't want any one of the contestants spotting us until we've attacked ourselves."

Slipping through the early morning dawn, the alliance strode warily through the large jungle, alert for any traps. Fairon remembered how the Fallen Six, during the last Game, had lost two of their allies when beings known as Kawa and Alloystepped on a pair of hidden teleportation traps. Galika, who had a keen eye for detecting traps, was scanning the forest floor while Fairon and the others were standing attentively, searching for any signs of other contestants.

Fairon wondered for a moment if there was a larger battle going on somewhere else in the arena, for it had been almost eerily quiet in the jungle that morning. He actually wouldn't mind that. He'd already been attacked far too often during the past few days then he cared for.

We won't know until tonight. thought the Toa, his gaze returning once more to the viny undergrowth ahead. A massive tangle of vines and fallen branches had barred the way, and Galika was causing a small flood to wash them away. Fairon knew that a Toa of Fire or Air would have easily completed the task in seconds, but the only two surviving Toa of Air were Treedaka and Sayna, and Fairon knew that only one Toa of Fire was still alive, another victor whose name he did not remember. Fortunately for him, he had not been chosen for the Game this year.

Then the still air was broken by a clash of arms, and Fairon was jerked once more into reality. Racing through the undergrowth, Galika and Jareroden using their elemental powers to blast the larger vines out of the way, Fairon raced to the edge of a larger clearing.

There he saw Sligorian, black armor gleaming in the rising light, facing off against Blast. The Toa was holding the Scythe of Creation, but Fairon knew that since the previous Game, his memory had been wiped by Millennium. He had no idea of the power it contained.

Fairon had seen it in action against a massive alliance led by Malok and Antidax in the previous Game, and when he'd seen the final version of the complete Game when he'd won, he'd watched in amazement as its power had utterly annihilated a Makuta known as Benjarmin. Now, if Fairon did not stop him, Sligorian would kill Blast and take the weapon.

And if it falls into the hands of someone who could actually use the power, like Azzurok or Shadowplayer--"

Fairon didn't even finish the thought before he charged out of the shadows, Shardak close behind him. Sligorian, who had been about to crush Blast's skull with the mace, whirled around as Fairon charged him, beams of laser vision striking both Fairon and Shardak. Fairon hissed in pain but kept going, but Shardak fell to his knees. For the first time, Fairon noticed exactly how wounded he was; Shardak had suffered wounds all across his legs and burns all over his body. His shoulder was also bleeding slightly, and Fairon could tell that while it had been healing, it would soon become infected if he did not have it healed.

Sligorian's mace flashed before Fairon's eyes, and almost instinctively Fairon countered the blow. Sligorian began rapidly battering at his defense in a complex attack pattern that would have disarmed almost any sword wielding Toa. However, Fairon was no longer the naive young Toa who had been recruited into the Eternal Game, his narrow victory over Iruka and the other opponents in the previous Game had given him far more skill then he'd had before.

Lunging to one side to dodge Sligorian's laser vision, Fairon used a burst of light to momentarily distract Sligorian enough for him to seize the offensive, his rapid sword strokes causing the Skrall to stagger back to avoid being skewered by Fairon's broadsword.

Suddenly, Fairon saw a blur of green armor flash by him and slam into Jareroden, causing the Toa to fall to the ground. For one irrational moment, Fairon thought it was Sayna, then he recognized the armor: Grennkirro. He looked for one moment at Sligorian, but the Skrall seemed just as confused as Fairon was.

Sligorian, seeing Grennkirro was busy fighting Jareroden, Flardrek, and Galika, turned to focus once more on Fairon. Completely unprepared for the sudden attack, Fairon could only watch as the club descended-- then fell from Sligorian's grasp as four of Valkyria's arrows buried themselves in the Skrall's arm.

Shardak charged toward Sligorian, the sudden attack forcing the disarmed Skrall to stagger backward, his laser vision flying in all directions. Then he recovered, his laser vision striking Shardak, then Fairon. Fairon charged forward, broadsword readied to finish him off.

At the last second, Sligorian leapt to one side, the sword bouncing harmlessly off his armor. The Skrall charged forward again, snatching his club from the ground and charging toward Fairon.

Then three things happened at once. Grennkirro, having disarmed Jareroden and stunned Galika, charged toward Shardak and Blast. There was a hiss and an explosion as something flashed past Fairon's line of sight, striking Sligorian full in the face as he lunged toward Fairon. Sligorian's helmet and head exploded into shards of black armor and blood as his decapitated body collapsed at Fairon's feet.

Fairon whirled around, dodging a second Shattering pulse as Blettnox charged toward him, spraying pulses from his Shatterer. Several struck Grennkirro, but despite his wounds the Mattrelor continued his battle with Shardak and Blast. One hit Flardrek on the leg, tearing through armor and muscle. Fairon had no idea how deep his wounds were, but had no time to think as Struxx's longsword flashed out of the darkness, the powerful Makuta's strike tearing the weapon free from Fairon's hands.

Nearby, Krimsonnar, another Mattrelor, and unlike Grenkirro, an ally of Shadowplayer's, was fighting Jareroden and Grennkirro now, allowing Galika, Shardak, and Blast time to focus on dodging Blettnox's Shattering pulses. Struxx, seeing Fairon distracted for one moment, charged forward, his armor shifting and changing, until suddenly the Makuta was holding a second longsword as well as the first. His weapons flashed in the sunlight, and Fairon dodged his attacks, retaliating with a burst of light, which blinded Struxx for a moment.

Struxx, half-blinded for a moment, was unable to dodge a pulse fired by Blettnox, and his leg was half-shattered by a ricocheting blast from the shatterer. However, due to his mysterious armor, the injury was repared within seconds.

Fairon knew they could not hold them off forever. Krimsonnar had wounded Grennkiro badly, and as soon as the Mattrelor was dead, Krimsonnar would be able to focus on destroying the Toa. And with two Makuta and a Mattrelor against them, it was only a matter of time before one or more of their allies were killed.

Struxx was now once again forcing Fairon to the ground, elemental light and shadow flying from both of the combatant's hands and weapons, half-blinding the Toa. Fairon could see Blettnox was still firing shattering pulses, and several had struck Galika and Jareroden. Both Toa fell to the ground.

Fairon had no idea whether either of them were still alive, and he had no time to run to their aid. Blettnox was now spraying more rounds from his shatterer, and while he and Struxx had deflected them all so far, it was incredibly distracting. Struxx was hit by several head-on, something that would have killed almost any Toa or Makuta. Struxx simply stemmed the flow of blood with his mysterious armor.

Shadows exploded in front of Fairon, and without thinking his elemental light powers countered the blasts. Struxx charged forward, but at the same time, Fairon saw Grennkiro lunge toward him. There was an explosion as several shattering pulses exploded between them.

Struxx lept aside and Fairon staggered out of the way. Grennkirro, however, deflected them all with his claws, blasting all of the pulses back at Blettnox along with a burst of acid. Blettnox tried to dodge, but the acid splashed over him, causing him to stagger backward just as the pulses struck him. Blettnox didn't even have a chance to scream before the shattering pulses killed him, his half-shattered body falling to the ground.

While Grennkirro was distracted, however, Krimsonnar struck. The red Mattrelor brought his sword down across Grennkirro's neck, slashing his head from his shoulders. Stepping over the green Mattrelor's body, Krimsonnar charged toward Shardak, Blast, and Kyhrex.

Fairon saw Jareroden was on his feet now, and that Struxx was fighting him, Galika, and Flardrek. They could not reach Shardak and the Glatorian in time to save them. Fairon raced toward Krimsonnar, but the Mattrelor was ready, and nearly tore the weapon from Fairon's hands with a single slash.

Fairon raised his weapon, blasting the Mattrelor backward with a burst of elemental light. Krimmsonarr rose to his feet, flames flying from his hands and striking Fairon. For one moment, Fairon was once again fighting Iruka on the edge of the cliff in the burning arena. Then he was back in the present, blocking Krimmsonarr's relentless attacks. Shardak stabbed out at the Mattrelor, but Krimsonnar easily dodged and continued his relentless attack on Fairon.

Struxx, meanwhile, was staggering away from the combined attacks of Blast, Kyhrex, Flardrek, Galika, and Jareroden. Fairon looked around for Valkyria, and saw her firing arrows at the Makuta. Shardak charged toward Krimsonnar again, but he easily fought them both, flames flowing from his fingertips and striking both of the Toa like chain lightning. Shardak fell to the ground, unconsious, and Fairon felt his arm burn and his weapon fall to the ground.

Krimsonnar smiled. "This battle is over."

As Krimsonnar's sword descended upon him, Fairon flung himself to one side, grabbing the shattering gun. Krimsonnar, seeing what he was holding, backed up, but was too late. Fairon fired six rounds from the weapon in quick sucession, all of them striking Krimsonnar dead-on and causing his legs to shatter into red shards. Remembering that the Mattrelor could regenerate, he fired it several times at Grennkirro's fallen body, scattering the already shattered shards across the jungle floor.

Krimsonnar, horribly wounded, dragged himself toward Fairon, slashing at his legs. Slowly, the Mattrelor was reforming. Fairon fired the blaster several more times him, and Krimsonnar vanished, his body reduced to shards of red armor and blood.

Struxx could see the battle had turned against him. With one final sneer, he vanished into the jungle. None of the allies pursued him. Fairon could see that Galika, Flardrek, and Blast were all wounded, though none of their wounds were mortal. However, Fairon knew that, without healing, wounds in the arena could become fatal.

"They'll be fine." said Jareroden. "But we can't continue following Struxx."

"We'll split up, then." said Fairon. "I'll go after Struxx with Shardak and Valkyria. Not to finish him off, but to find out where the rest of Shadowplayer's allies are hiding, and to find Treedaka and Sayna. You and Flardrek will guard Blast, Flardrek, and Galika until they can follow us."

"But what if Kharix and the rest of her allies are watching us, waiting for Struxx's signal to attack.And if you and Shardak are killed, what's the chances any of us will win."

"We'll have to risk it." said Fairon. "Treedaka and Sayna are still out there, and with eighteen odd contestants out there, they don't stand a chance against a powerful, lone victor like Skarge, much less Shadowplayer's allies."

"Hopefully the deaths of Krimsonnar and Blettnox will unsettle Shadowplayer enough to call off any further attacks today. How many allies does he have left?" Jareroden asked.

"Struxx, Azzurok, and Kharix. Maybe another, I'm not sure."

"May you find Treedaka and Sayna quickly, before they find you." said Jareroden. "We'll go back to the caves. If we're not there when you return, try to lay low until you hear the death toll."

Fairon nodded, the words eerily echoing Fyxan's during the last Eternal Game. For one brief moment, he was standing not beside Shardak and Valkyria, but next to Tanuva, Blast, and Leviathos again, and it was not Jareroden he was wishing farewell, but Fyxan. Then it was over, and Fairon was once again in the arena, following Struxx's footprints deeper into the jungle.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#24 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 06:00 AM

Chapter 23

The late afternoon sun began to fall below the trees, and the shadows began to return at last. Hidden within a grove of vines, Skarge smiled. The twilight was his time to strike, it was the time that he could hide within the half-formed shadows, before the larger alliances went hunting for loners yet after the battles that day had died down.

He'd had been surprised when he'd been chosen for this Game once again. Pleased, but surprised. He'd won the Game against beings far more skilled by hiding the the shadows and assassinating them, and was confident he could do it again. While he was wary of Shadowplayer's alliance and dared not attack them yet, he could see that the other alliances and loners would easily be defeated.

As if he'd summoned her, another competitor, one that Skarge recognized very well, strode toward him. It was another surviving Toa, the one known as Lothia. She seemed to be following someone, and in the shadows he could make out her quarry in the distance. Duuril.

While the lone Turaga was vanishing into the distance, he would be an easy kill, Skarge was certain of that. He stood no chance against Lothia, one of the younger victors. However, if he allowed her to kill Duuril, he'd lose his oppertunity to kill one more competitor. Skarge smiled. His knives were already drawn, his weapons ready to strike. Lothia had still not sensed him, indeed, she had began running now, intent on catching the Turaga. He smiled at her ignorance.

This battle is over. he thought as he leapt at Lothia, slamming into her. Years of skilled assassinations, first for his master, Makuta Malok, and then in the 125th Game allowed him to place his weapon, driving it through her armor and finally through muscle and bone. Lothia staggered backward, blasts of shadow flying from her fingertips, before she collapsed on the ground.

Skarge walked over to her, checking to see if her breathing had stopped. As he did, he saw that her body was changing. Her black armor was becoming blue, her eyes becoming sapphire. Quickly, "she" rose to her feet, returned to his original form. Skarge staggered backward, dagger in hand. He was now facing Azzurok. He tried to flee, but another being emerged from the shadows, scimitar in one hand, dagger in the other.

Kharix smiled as the Makuta realized their deception, then, before he could move, slashed her weapon across his neck. Skarge staggered backward, gasping for breath. His eyes misted over, his mouth whispering protests. Finally, he fell still.

"I knew disguising as the Toa of Shadow we killed earlier would give us the advantage needed to eliminate this assasin." said Azzurok, satisfied. "Now, let us rejoin Shadowplayer and Tronica. Soon, Blettnox, Struxx, and Krimsonnar will rejoin us, and the arena will fall before our might."

***

Fairon raced through the trees, hoping to eventually find Struxx's trail. Following him closely were Shardak and Valkyria. However, the Makuta, while wounded, was also fiendishly clever. He'd chosen to cross paths in an area where many beings, both Rahi and competitors alike, had passed through. Then the trail went completely cold, and Fairon remembered that Struxx was a Makuta, a shapeshifter. Once he'd healed enough, he could have easily taken to the air.

Karzahni. thought Fairon. There's no hope of finding him tonight, as he's obviously rejoined his remaining allies. Who's with Shadowplayer? Kharix, Struxx, Azzurok, and--

Tronica! Fairon thought. That was the name of the silver-armored victor Treedaka had been fighting in the initial battles, the fourth ally whose name he couldn't remember. A powerful Glatorian, she'd won her Game by pretending to be weak until the stronger contestants had killed each other off, then defeated the remainder easily. While not as powerful as Azzurok or Struxx or as skilled and deadly as Kharix or Shadowplayer, she was still another competitor, and one whom he could not afford to underestimate. He knew she could kill viciously.

The shadows were lengthening by the time Fairon returned to their camp. Jareroden, Blast, Flardrek, Kyhrex, and Galika were waiting within the cavern.

"No sign of Treedaka, Sayna, or Duuril." Fairon reported. "Or Struxx."

"Did you run into even a single competitor?" asked Galika.

"Not one." said Shardak. "They could be on the other side of the lake, near the small forest."

"True." said Jareroden. "However, it bothers me that no other competitor has come hunting for us. While none of the loners, like Graf or Lothia, would, there are other alliances simular to Sligorian's and Klugron's."

Suddenly, the Kodax's voice echoed through the arena, congratulating the competitors who had survived a second day in the arena. He then began to list the death toll.

"Klugron, Sligorian, Krimsonnar, Grennkirro, Lothia, Skarge."

That was all. Then the voice vanished, leaving the contestants once more with no ties to the world outside once more.Six dead today. thought Fairon grimly. Seventeen still alive, and six, nine if you count Sayna, Treedaka, and Duuril, are Shardak's allies.

"Lothia and Skarge are dead?" Jareroden said, keeping his voice flat and expressionless. Fairon felt a stab of sympathy for the other victors, he knew how hard it must be for them to fight and kill again after all those years since their games, when they'd done their best to forever forget their experiences in the arena.

"So who else is still alive, besides our and Shadowplayer's alliances?" Flardrek asked. Fairon could see that the Glatorian was not badly injured, by tomarrow, certainly, he'd be able to run and fight again. Galika, on the other hand...she'd been hit by a Shattering bullet on the leg and another on the shoulder, and Fairon knew that while it would take more then that to kill her, such a wounded Toa would not last long in the Games.

"Not many." answered Jareroden. "Duuril, Treedaka, Sayna, Graf, and Jaina are all out there somewhere."

"We'll have to resume our search for them tomarrow." said Jareroden. "And I don't think it's wise for us to remain here for another day either. If we do, another contestant will be sure to find us."

For a while, the contestants continued discussing the possibility of more alliances developing later in the Games, but all the while there was the unspoken battle raging between all of their allies: they all could not win the Game. Fairon was determined to help Shardak win, so that he could return to the Void and return the Kanohi Ignika to the other surviving rebels, Zhrek and Shardos. They obviously had more allies, and would make sure that he would be protected as the last Toa still free from Imperial control.

And soon, nearly all of those will be dead. Fairon thought. Out of the twenty-odd victors who had not been chosen for the 175th Game, only three others were Toa.

The trouble is that I don't know if Valkyria will stay loyal to us if it comes to a battle. Fairon thought. I'm sure Jareroden, Flardrek, and Galika will side with me, but what of Blast? And if we find Treedaka, Sayna, and Duuril, what then?

The cold night gave Fairon no answers. Slowly he began to drift into sleep, waking Jareroden for his watch before closing his eyes. However, despite the fact he knew that these were his allies, Fairon was only half-asleep, during the three weeks that he'd spent in the arena, he'd slept with one eye open, and now that he'd returned to the arena, he could not force his mind to sleep fully.

However, he hardly noticed when the room was filled by more shadows. However, he soon felt his breathing becoming labored. He could see they were all struggling to breathe now, and that Jareroden was shaking the others awake. Fairon gasped for air, but found he was losing oxygen rapidly.

"Run!" Jareroden managed to gasp out, half-dragging Galika to her feet. Fairon tried to create a small light, but failed in the oppressive darkness. He raced out of the cave, still half blinded, and staggered through the blackness, Jareroden and Galika by his side. With no way to determine whether the rest of his allies were following them, or, indeed, were even alive, Fairon raced through the blackness, hoping desperately that Shardak and the others had survived.


Edited by V-2, Feb 12 2016 - 06:01 AM.

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#25 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 06:03 AM

Chapter 24

Shardak raced through the darkness, the faint, smouldering red light that the Blade of Arcturas always gave off illuminating the area five feet ahead of him. He raced through the blackness, Jareroden supporting Galika, Flardrek and Fairon ahead of them. Nowhere in the blackness could he see any sign of Valkyria or Blast.

He'd hoped they'd made it out, but he couldn't be sure if they had. When the dark vapor had surrounded them, sucking the air from their lungs, he'd awoken immediately, and following Jareroden's orders, ran. Now, he could see the horrible fog blanketed their entire area of the arena, from the jungle to the lake. Shardak was now gasping for breath, and he could see that Jareroden and Galika weren't faring much better. Ahead, Fairon was beginning to slow down, though Flardrek continued running through the darkness.

With a gasp for breath that simply wouldn't come, Shardak raced after them. The Blade of Arcturas suddenly felt heavy in his hands, even his Kanohi-- the Kanohi Ignika-- seemed to be slowing him down. Quickly, Jareroden fell behind him. Even now, the battle for survival was hardly over, for while Shardak had now pulled alongside Flardrek, Blast and Valkyria were nowhere near them, and Galika and Jareroden were falling further behind.

Now he was growing desperate. He was holding his breath now, to even breathe in would mean certain death. He was no longer walking, but staggering, hoping that soon it would end, soon the fog would lift. However, if anything, the darkness seemed to be growing more oppressive.

Shardak realized that it no longer mattered that he and Blast could not both win the Game, for within minutes they'd all be dead. Each time he exhaled slightly, he knew he was letting out a little more of the precious oxygen he needed to survive. He began wondering if any of them would escape this trap alive...

Then, suddenly, it was over. Shardak was standing, knee deep in water, gasping for breath. Beside him, Fairon had fallen to his knees and was drawing in lungfuls of precious air, gasping out the last remnants of the horrible fog. His vision, somewhat hazy, was beginning to make out the scenery. They were standing by the edge of the lake, and Valkyria had walked out of the shadows. The mist hadn't seemed to have effected her, Shardak wondered if she'd used the aura field somehow to allow her to pass through the fog without any mists, or if she'd just recovered quickly.

Blast staggered out of the darkness as well, breathing heavily. Flardrek and Fairon, mostly recovered, looked around for any sign of Jareroden and Galika. There was none.

"Did you see them?" Fairon asked Blast. The Glatorian, still gasping for breath, could do nothing more then shake his head. Worried, Shardak began to wonder if he should suggest going back to search for them, but suddenly Jareroden emerged from the darkness, Galika by his side. Both Toa gasped for breath, then both fell to the ground. Fairon raced over to them, helping Jareroden to his feet. The Toa's breath still came in short, sharp gasps, but Shardak could tell they would live.

Slowly, the fog was lifting, the sun chasing it away as it had done to the Shadows Coil the previous night. Shardak knew that the danger had passed, but was still badly shaken by the experience. Had the Ix tried to eliminate their entire alliance?

No. If the Ix had meant that trap to kill us, we would all be dead now. It was probably just a ploy to drive us toward the other competitors.

"Jareroden!" called Flardrek, breaking through Shardak's thoughts. "Shardak! Jaina, Treedaka, and Sayna are coming."

"Is Duuril with them?" asked Shardak, hopeful for a moment.

"I don't see him, no." said Flardrek. "But why is Jaina with them?" he wondered aloud. "She's not one of our allies."

Shardak saw that Treedaka and Sayna were slightly wounded, but looked otherwise unharmed. Jaina was a tall, strong-looking Toa of Fire who carried a broadsword and two smaller handaxes. Shardak saw that Treedaka had overheard Flardrek.

"She is now." said Treedaka. "After the initial battles, we formed a temporary alliance to defeat several other victors led by Lothia. She escaped, only to be killed by Azzurok. However, we spent the past two days searching for all of you and Duuril, but found none of you."

"Were you attacked by any victors today?" asked Fairon.

"No, Lothia's alliance was destroyed the day before, the first night in the arena, though she was only killed by Azzurok this morning."

Shardak felt a rush of hope as he realized they were now the largest alliance in the entire arena. Now, he thought, there was hope they'd be able to survive. The victors, as one, began to rise to their feet, beginning to plot their next move. If they remained here any longer, they would surely be attacked, either by a loner like Graf, or worse, Shadowplayer's alliance.

***

Night was beginning to fall once more as Fairon led his patrol of scouts, consisting of Galika, Blast, and Sayna, back to their new camp. It was nearer to the lake, hidden well by the tall trees. None of the contestants had found it yet, nor had any predatory Rahi. The entire arena seemed to be holding its breath for a storm about to come.

It was literally about to rain, Fairon realized. The moisture in the air was palpable, and since it rarely rained in the arena, Fairon knew the Ix would be gearing up for another trap that would end in the deaths of many more victors. He wondered briefly if the Ix had been attempting to eliminate them with the black fog that night, but quickly pushed the idea from his mind. If they'd wanted them dead, they'd all have been dead by now.

Returning to camp, Fairon woke Treedaka, telling him to gather his patrol to guard their territory. Treedaka nodded, and Shardak and Kyhrex rose to their feet and followed the Toa victor. Fairon decided he'd take the first watch. Despite the fact that the sky was growing darker, and more and more stars were disappearing behind black clouds, the Toa and Glatorian were alert, Valkyria was holding her bow in one hand, a dagger in the other. Even Shardak seemed uneasy.

Suddenly, a scream tore through the night, and Fairon recognized it as Treedaka's. Instantly Fairon was on his feet, Jaina was racing toward the lake, Shardak and Valkyria following her. The clash of arms tore through the darkness, and Fairon emerged from the woodlands to see that the winds were picking up and the waves were crashing against the shore. He could see Struxx and Tronica racing toward him, Kharix drawing a second knife, and Azzurok dragging himself away from the horribly bleeding body of a Toa.

Fairon suddenly recognized Treedaka, and before his eyes Azzurok drew a second knife and buried it in Treedaka's throat up to the hilt.

"No!" Sayna screamed, racing toward Treedaka. Before she could run far, however, Kharix raised her long scythe and slashed Sayna across the mask. Fairon reacted instictively, raising Blettnox's Shatterer and firing round after round at Azzurok. The dead Mattrelor sank beneath the waves, his upper body damaged beyond repair.

Everything was happening amazingly fast all around him. One of Valkyria's arrows struck Struxx in the shoulder, and Jaina was fighting Kharix, forcing the female victor backward, toward the waves.

Half swimming, half charging toward Struxx, Fairon had no way of determining who was alive or dead, enemy or friend. It was a throwback to the first day in the arena, when all of the contestants had been battling furiously, and as Fairon fired pulses of elemental light at Struxx, causing the Makuta to vanish beneath the waves, Valkyria fired several arrows at Shadowplayer, forcing the Cryomancer onto the defensive.

Suddenly, Fairon felt cold claws grab him, dragging him under. He could see Struxx, smiling coldly as he struggled in vain. Beside him, he could see Jaina, too distracted by Kharix to help, and Shardak, Blast, Kyhrex, Valkyria, and Flardrek, all fighting Tronica and Shadowplayer, were unaware of his plight.

"Say good-bye, Toa Fairon." sneered Struxx, as the Toa was dragged beneath the waves. Fairon struggled, but was unable to escape Struxx's hold. He writhed desperately, but Struxx simply held him below the crashing waves...

Suddenly there was a flash of green armor, and suddenly Struxx staggered backward, blood pouring from a wound in his throat. There was a flash of silver, and Kharix's dagger impaled Struxx's attacker through the heart. All around him, chaos had broken loose once more; Struxx collapsed, his eyes glazing over, Jaina had buried an axe in Kharix's side. In the midst of the chaos, Fairon rushed to the side of the dying being, the being who had saved his life.

All around him, the chaos was growing larger, Jaina had thrown an axe which felled Tronica, and Shadowplayer was being forced backward. Kharix was fighting both Kyhrex and Shardak, but both were unable to finish her. But Fairon barely payed the conflict any attention, for he suddenly recognized it as Duuril, the Turaga from the Sanctum of the Mind.

Seeing the wound, Fairon knew instantly it was hopeless. Kharix's dagger had speared him directly through the heartlight, and it was beginning to flicker and dim. Feebly, the Turaga reached out a hand, fighting to keep himself above the thrashing waves. Then he fell below the water, vanishing into the darkness.

Nearby, his allies were beginning to retreat, their stricken looks confirming that there was no way to help Duuril, Treedaka, or Sayna, no need to finish off Struxx or Tronica. Fairon looked around for any sign of Kharix or Shadowplayer, but saw neither.

"Where'd they go?" asked Fairon. It was Shardak who answered. He was bleeding slightly, but despite Shadowplayer's attack, he seemed to be faring well, despite the shocked look in his eyes at Duuril's death.

"They retreated after Struxx was killed." he answered. "Valkyria wounded the silver female, but Shadowplayer escaped unharmed."

The others were all wounded. Valkyria had been slashed across the thigh by one of Kharix's daggers, both Galika and Jaina were wounded badly. Flardrek was standing beside Jareroden, watching as the waves continued to grow.

Six contestants were dead, eleven still lived. Three who had been killed were their allies. While Fairon knew they should leave now before Shadowplayer or Kharix or Graf came to find them, he felt they should stay, to remember what Treedaka, Sayna, and Duuril had sacrificed.

Despite the fact that Fairon had known they'd all have to die, including himself, so that Shardak could win, seeing Duuril, Treedaka, and Sayna die before him had made it irrevocable, real. Soon, their third day in the arena would be over, and at the rate the contestants were dying, it would be all over tommarrow or the next day.

It was nearing midnight when Fairon, Jareroden, Galika, Valkyria, Shardak, Blast, Kyhrex, and Jaina returned to their camp. Their alliance of eight was far too large to be attacked openly by any of the remaining contestants, and as Fairon walked back, toward their camp, he was thinking over possible situations. He did not know if Jaina was to be trusted, and he doubted Valkyria would allow herself to die so Shardak could win. She'd probably remained with their alliance thus far because there was more strength in numbers.

As they were nearing the camp, it began to rain. The storm had broken, but Fairon knew that, for the eleven surviving competitors, the true storm had yet to begin.


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Volume I: Into the Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW PageVolume II: The Shadows Coil  (Review / CBW Page| Volume III: The Darkest Light  (Review / CBW Page| Volume IV: Shattering (Review / CBW Page) Volume V: The Final Prophecy  (Review / CBW Page| Volume VI: Eternal Darkness (PDF / Review / CBW Page)

 

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#26 Offline Varkanax39

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Posted Feb 12 2016 - 06:06 AM

Chapter 25

Shardak could hardly believe that Duuril was dead. The Turaga had been his last link to the Void, last link to Meilo and the visions that had haunted him in the Sanctum of the Mind. The battle had lasted all of a few minutes-- yet when it was over three enemy victors and three allies had been killed.

Valkyria seemed completely calm, Shardak wondered why. Only one of them could win this Game, and he was sure it wouldn't be him or even Blast or Kyhrex. Compared to Fairon, Flardrek, Galika, and Jaina, they were far too inexperienced to last beyond a few days, when the alliance would collapse.

We need to leave. thought Shardak. He'd trusted Fairon in the Void, but now...with only a few competitors left, the Toa knew that the alliance would disintegrate. Smaller alliances, such as Tronica's and Shadowplayer's, would survive, but not for long. Seeing that even Fairon was still resting, he called Kyhrex, Blast, and Valkyria over.

"What is it?" whispered the Ix girl, suddenly alert. Kyhrex and Blast still looked tied, but Valkyria had sensed his fear in the aura field.

"We have to get out of here." whispered Shardak. "Today will be either the last, or second to last, day in the Game, and we have to find a way out of the arena."

"A way out of the arena?" asked Blast. "It's impossible. They have invisible barriers surrounding the entire grounds, even the sky is barricaded by an invisible force field that keeps flying beings from escaping. We're walled in."

"We have to find a way. Today the alliance will break, and they'll begin fighting." He stopped, and touched Valkyria briefly in the aura field, trying to let her know that then they could settle their battle over the Shadow Orb. Valkyria gave him an almost imperceptible nod. Shardak, relieved, continued.

"Do you honestly think that Fairon, Jareroden, Flardrek, Galika, or Jaina will let us live?" asked Shardak. "We have to escape before the alliance breaks and the entire Game ends."