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Dimension Hoppers


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#1 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 14 2011 - 04:03 PM

Welcome to Dimension Hoppers, an epic about two best friends - Toa Kiriah, Toa of Psionics, and Isarot, a member of the Tagiki species - going on a dimension-hopping journey to rescue an object important to both of their peoples.

Each chapter is written in first person, from the point of view of Kiriah or Isarot, the two protagonists. In order to make it clear who is narrating which chapter, the name of the POV character is written in bold underneath the chapter name but before the actual story itself.
 

Contents:

Prologue
Chapter 1: A Decision is Made
Chapter 2: The Quest Begins
Chapter 3: A New Universe
Chapter 4: A Conflict
Chapter 5: Identities
Chapter 6: The Plan
Chapter 7: Mysterious Writings
Chapter 8: Handed over to Death
Chapter 9: A Message Received
Chapter 10: Rescue & Recruited
Chapter 11: Put to Work
Chapter 12: At World's End
Chapter 13: The Expedition Begins
Chapter 14: Him Again
Chapter 15: Confrontation
Chapter 16: Questions Answered, Questions Raised
Chapter 17: Explanations
Chapter 18: The Final Battle
Chapter 19: The Weeping Gods
Chapter 20: A Decision


So without furthder ado, here is the Prologue:




Prologue

Isarot.


I awoke, dazed and confused, and wondering what had disturbed my slumber. Looking around the room for the disturbance, even in my sleepy state I could tell that it was around midnight. The window on the wall to my right showed me a dark sky lit only by the stars, shining bright light into my room. I could see my tomahawk, mounted on the wall where I had left it a few hours ago; my stone chest, set right underneath my weapon, where I kept my few personal belongings. A small light stone sat atop the chest, although it was off at the moment, since I preferred it to be as dark as possible when I sleep.

Shaking my head, I did not notice anything out of the ordinary until my advanced hearing picked up sounds coming from somewhere in the Temple of the Time Stone. I listened closely and realized the noises were unfamiliar to me. They sounded like metal tearing through stone and explosions going off, which I knew was not the cause of Kiriah or any of the Toa Tanjo. This led me to the only logical conclusion:

There was a thief in the Temple. And I had to stop him.

Even as I seized my tomahawk from the wall, I realized that this thief had made a smart choice. The best time to commit any theft was at night, when everybody was asleep. He had even managed to sneak in without me or Kiriah knowing, apparently, which meant he either had super stealth skills or else we’re both simply extremely heavy sleepers. I hoped for the first myself.

Bursting out of my room and into the long, narrow hallway of the Temple, I nearly ran straight into Toa Kiriah, Toa of Psionics and Toa guardian of the Time Stone, who had just emerged from her room, which was opposite mine.

“Whoa, Isarot!” said Kiriah, who sounded like she was still half-asleep. “Watch where you’re going!”

“I’m in a hurry,” I said, not even bothering to apologize. After all, what was there to apologize for? “Did you hear those sounds coming from the-“

Kiriah nodded, now looking more awake and alert. “Yes. Someone’s trying to steal the Time Stone, but we’re not going to let him get away, are we?”

“Of course not,” I said, shaking my head. “We’d be terrible guardians if we let the thief get away without a fight. Now come on. Less talking and more running.”

Kiriah nodded again and we both turned and ran straight down the hallway, the sounds growing louder as we got closer and closer to our destination. I figured that the traps set up around the Time Stone would probably get the thief, but based on the noises I heard that seemed unlikely to me. It sounded more like the thief was tearing the room apart, rather than unintentionally setting the traps off like most thieves would. If so, then that meant he was both sneaky and powerful, or at least intelligent enough to destroy the traps instead of getting impaled by six-foot-long wooden spears.

It did not take us long to reach the Chamber of Time, where the Time Stone – the most sacred object of both the Tagiki, my people, and of the Matoran of Tanjo Nui – was located. Much to our surprise, the heavy stone doors that were reinforced with large metal locks showed no signs of being broken into. I found that odd because I was sure that I had heard a thief behind them, even if the sounds had died down much by now.

Kiriah briefly fumbled with the keys before finally unlocking the doors (quite unnecessary, in my opinion, when we just could have blown them in). Then we dashed inside and stopped on the top steps, using the light stone Kiriah had brought, which illuminated a scene of total destruction unlike anything I had imagined.

Two black craters filled the areas where the aforementioned six-foot-long wooden spears had been kept, almost like someone had melted the stone right off the walls. Several deformed metal spearheads were scattered beneath the craters like leaves under a tree, looking just as bad off as the walls.

Then I glanced at the pedestal on the other side of the room. The first thing I noticed was the net that was supposed to drop from the ceiling and capture any unwary thief was in tatters all around the dais, looking more like someone had burnt it than cut it, though.

And standing in front of the plinth – one hand grasping the Time Stone – was a tall Toa-sized figure wearing a black coat that hung loosely around his body. He had his back to us, like he was ignoring us. Whether he was deaf or was intentionally ignoring us didn’t matter. What did matter was that he was obviously attempting a theft, something that we, as guardians of the Time Stone, had to prevent at all costs.

“Hey!” I yelled, startling the figure so much that he nearly dropped the Time Stone. “Put the Time Stone down right now, or else we’ll be forced to use violence. Trust me; we’re not as peaceful as we look.”

The figure slowly turned around, the Stone in his hand. But even now that he was facing us I still could not make out his face, for he wore a hood over his head. I could only see two glowing red eyes, which gave him an eerie and evil appearance. I wasn’t afraid of him, though, because he didn’t look as threatening as some beings I’d seen before.

He made no hostile moves as he looked at us. For a moment, I figured that he had not been expecting us to come bursting in on him like this while the theft was still in progress. I knew he had been thinking that he would get in and out with no problem at all, but we had obviously messed up all of his plans just by showing up. Now he would simply have to face the-

A dimensional portal exploded into existence behind the thief, totally startling us. The whole room was illuminated by the strange blue hues of the portal, which were so bright that I had to squint to be able to see the thief, who still stood in front of the podium without having moved an inch.

Then, while we were still surprised, he turned around and kicked the pedestal out of his way. It took me only a second to realize that he was attempting to escape through that portal. If he went through there, then he may very well successfully escape with the Time Stone in his grasp. The idea of telling the island elders that the Time Stone had been stolen for the first time in 100,000 years was unbearable. Kiriah and I would be disgraced and probably punished for this unforgiveable failure, since we were responsible for the Stone’s wellbeing in the first place.

It was that thought that broke me out of my trance and caused me to act. I leapt off the steps, landing gently on the stone floor with the help of my large wings, and ran as fast as I could toward the podium, ice and light energy swirling in the palms of my hands. My attention was focused totally on the thief, who looked like he was about to enter the portal very soon. If I didn’t hit him now, then he would likely escape.

But before I could fire my elemental powers at him, the thief whirled around and hurled two bolts of a burning substance that struck the ground beneath me. The false floor – which I remembered just now existed – gave way, which caused me to fall into a bottomless pit from which I would surely not emerge. I cursed myself for not remembering the fake flooring, which had been designed to capture any thieves who stepped on the wrong part of the floor.

As I fell, I hurled a bolt of pure light energy at the thief, who was just entering the portal. The bolt struck one of his hands, but I couldn’t tell which one. As the darkness grew blacker, all I saw was the back of the thief as he went into the portal. I knew I had failed and that I was going to die for my failure. I attempted to fly with my wings, but they simply weren’t strong enough to get me back up. The floor was too far up for me to do anything other than stare at it as I fell farther and farther away. I closed my eyes, ready to feel the inevitable bone-shattering impact of the bottom below.

Without warning, I abruptly stopped in midair, but then continued falling and fell a few more feet before I stopped again. Dazed and hurting slightly, I looked up and saw the outline of a figure I recognized as Kiriah, holding her lightstone above her head to brighten the area. I realized that she must have caught me with her telekinesis powers, as I had no powers of my own that could do that.

“Hang on!” Kiriah called, her voice echoing distantly from above. “Can’t really see you well, so be prepared for any sudden movements, although I’ll try to be as gentle as possible.”

To be honest, I did not have much faith in Kiriah’s ability to lift me safely up and out of the pit, considering she wasn’t a particularly experienced Toa, plus I’d never seen her use her telekinesis on anything heavier than a lightstone before, so I wasn’t sure she could lift me out. But since the only other option was to fall to my death, I decided not to complain as I slowly and unsteadily began rising out of the pit with the occasional abrupt stop. It was uncomfortable, yes, but I was still alive, at least.

Five minutes later, I landed hard on the ground at Kiriah’s feet not far from the rim of the pit. After murmuring a brief “thank you” to her, I leapt to my feet and scanned the area. I was secretly hoping that the thief was still there, but I knew that that was a false hope. I had seen the thief escape with my own eyes. It was foolish to believe that he might have lingered, for I am certain that Kiriah would have dealt with him had he not escaped like he did.

That was when the full force of what had just happened sunk in. We had not just failed to stop a thief; we had failed to protect the Time Stone. The most sacred and beloved artifact of our peoples was gone, stolen for the first time ever. There was no way to bring it back, for how does one chase a dimension hopper? That thief could be halfway across the universe by now or else in another dimension entirely. It was almost pointless to even inform the elders of what happened, but I knew we had to do it anyway.

Gesturing to Kiriah, I said, “Come on. There’s no point in hanging around here any longer. The thief’s gotten away. All we can do is make sure that the elders know what has happened. Let’s go.”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:34 PM.

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#2 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 17 2011 - 09:08 AM

Chapter 1: A Decision Is Made

Kiriah.


It was a day after the theft that Isarot and I found ourselves sitting opposite each other at a long table with a handful of other beings. I kept my head down the entire time as everyone took their seats for the meeting, feeling ashamed of myself for allowing the thief to get away like that.

Well, actually, it was because of Isarot that I felt guilty and somewhat ashamed of myself. See, he got onto me for rescuing him from becoming a splattered mess last night rather than trying to stop the thief first. He had accused me of putting his own life above the needs of the Time Stone and had implied that I was an inefficient guardian (unfairly, I might add).

I had tried to explain to him that yes, I had attempted to stop the thief, but I had realized that there was no way I could have stopped him and so decided to save Isarot instead, which was something I could do. But of course, Isarot being who he is, he still wasn’t happy with that explanation and told me that both of us might lose our guardianship because of my mistake.

I don’t hate Isarot. But it’s just that whenever he has an idea, he often gets so stubborn about it and refuses to budge no matter what. That’s what makes working with him so frustrating at times because he doesn’t always agree with me on important issues such as temple security, our roles outside the temple as protectors of Tanjo Nui, and so on. Arguing with him is like arguing with a wall sometimes; it doesn’t get you anywhere and by the time you’re done you feel like you wasted a lot of time.

However, I’m not going to lie and say I’m not worried. I am worried that Isarot and I might get punished for allowing something as horrible as this to happen, even if we had tried our best to prevent it from happening. I knew that the island elders – Turaga Klio, leader of the Matoran, and Baiji Kolora, leader of the Tagiki people – were both very strict about this sort of thing, so I expected nothing short of a forced exile for our terrible failure.

What made the situation even worse was that I was losing control over my telepathy powers slightly, meaning I now caught bits and pieces of everyone else’s thoughts even if I didn’t want to. You see, whenever I get upset or am under stress, I usually lose control over whose minds I read and when. This probably doesn’t seem like a particularly bad thing – in fact, it seems quite minor when compared with the theft of the Time Stone. But Isarot had made it clear to me, on my first day working alongside him as a guardian that he did not tolerate or like people who invaded others’ privacy by reading their minds without their permission.

So I usually tried my best not to lose control, but in stressful situations like this, I was usually incapable of controlling my telepathy no matter how hard I tried.

I glanced down toward the end of the table. I saw Turaga Klio, Turaga of Lightning, sitting there. She wore a Noble Mask of Healing, but she wasn’t necessarily a gentle soul herself. Not that she was cruel or mean, but she was kind of, well, bossy and cold. She’s a good leader, though, and has been leading Tanjo Nui’s Matoran for as long as anyone can remember. I don’t know how old she is, exactly, but despite her age she’s a very sharp Turaga. It’s hard to fool her, even if you do use illusions. (Trust me, I tried once. Long story.)

I couldn’t catch most of Klio’s thoughts, which suited me just fine. Although I would never willingly read her mind without her permission, whenever I accidentally did ended up doing that I usually never caught much from her mind anyway. I think she might have a mental barrier, like the kind Ce-Matoran have, but I don’t know how that is possible or why she has it. I’ve thought about asking her about it at times, but I really didn’t want her to get angry at me if she knew I’d been (accidentally, mind you) trying to read her mind without her knowing.

I then glanced down the table at Baiji – which I think translates to “head elder” in Matoran - Kolora, a gold and black armored Tagiki, who of course lead the Tagiki of Tanjo Nui. I had never had much contact with her, since Isarot usually reported in to her as the Tagiki Time Stone guardian and all.

But I did know that she was around the same age as Klio, with an even worse temper. As a result, I never read her mind, either, if I could help it, since I had seen firsthand from training exercises with Isarot just how powerful a Tagiki could be when angered. However, based on what I did know of her, she didn’t seem as sharp as Klio. She seemed to rely on emotion more than reason and logic like Klio usually did.

Others who were present for this meeting were Tajah – an older Tagiki, leader of the Chofier, a group of Tagiki who acted as Tanjo Nui’s defenders, similar to Toa, – and Toa Nasis, Toa of Iron and leader of the Toa Tanjo.
Nasis was sitting next to Klio, looking slightly worried. We all were, since this was the first time the Time Stone had ever been stolen in the history of Tanjo Nui. Who wouldn’t be worried about that?

I watched Nasis eagerly, although he was not looking at me. It’s not that I had a crush on him or anything, but ever since I became a Toa, I had always had this dream to one day join the Toa Tanjo. Unfortunately, I never got that chance, since I was given my guardianship not long after I became a Toa. Toa guardians of the Time Stone, although allowed to work with the local Toa team sometimes if necessary, were not allowed to officially join any Toa team. It was an ancient rule, which had been created because it was believed that the Toa Time Stone guardian would have a difficult time balancing Toa team duties with her own work as guardian of the Time Stone.

Look, I’m not saying I hate being a guardian of the Time Stone. Oh, no. It is a great honor to be given such an important responsibility, especially since I am not as experienced as some of the other Toa such as Nasis. Really, I’ve even been told I’m lucky for being picked for such a job, although I think most people tend to ignore the fact that it’s as boring as Karzahni more than half of the time.

It’s just that if I had had a choice, I would have chosen to become a team member of the Toa Tanjo instead. Working with Isarot isn’t all that bad – and sometimes, it’s actually kind of fun – but to be honest I’d rather work with other Toa who understand me rather than a Tagiki who thinks differently than I do. I just think there’d be a lot less conflict in my life if I worked with a Toa rather than a Tagiki, although I do think of Isarot as a good friend just the same.

My desire to someday join the Toa Tanjo was the primary reason I often sought to impress Toa Nasis whenever he happened to be around. I know it was more wishful thinking than anything, but maybe, just maybe, if I did something impressive enough whenever Nasis is around, then maybe he’ll talk to Klio about making me a member.

I knew it was possible for a Toa guardian to relinquish his or her duties as a Time Stone guardian and join a Toa team, although that only happened when a member of said Toa team chose to replace the original guardian. And, as far as I knew, none of the other Toa Tanjo members were interested in taking my job, unfortunately. I still held onto the hope anyway, just in case.

“Is everyone present?” asked Turaga Klio from the end of the table, looking around the well-lit room. Once she saw that we were all present, Klio continued, “Then let the meeting begin.”

“Allow me to first give the report, Turaga,” said Isarot without hesitation. “Kiriah and I have been spending the last day or so searching for clues and writing up a detailed report based on what we remember and what we have found.”

“What is there to report?” asked Toa Nasis, leaning back in his chair a little. “We already know the problem. Some arrogant, no-good thief somehow broke into the temple and stole the Time Stone. I’d say all we need to do now is catch the thief, wherever he is, and return the Time Stone to its rightful place.”

“But these details are important, Toa Nasis,” said Isarot, his wings folding irritably. I often noticed Isarot did not seem to care much for Nasis, although I had never asked him why. “The thief was extremely unusual. He had a strange, yet unique way of escaping.”

He glanced from Kolora to Klio and asked, “May I give the report, Baiji? Turaga?”

Both elders nodded their approval, so Isarot began our report. Since I’d helped write up the report and already knew what it said, I chose not to listen to most of what he was saying. Instead, I paid more attention to how everyone reacted to the account of theft.

Oddly, only Kolora showed a reaction. Her eyes grew wider when Isarot described the thief and she gripped the arms of her chair awfully tightly. I had no idea for her strange reaction, but I almost wondered if she somehow knew the thief’s description already, despite not having seen him before. If so, she was keeping quiet about it.

Klio merely kept silent and listened intently to Isarot as he finished the story.

“So the thief escaped through a . . . dimensional hole?” asked Tajah, his black eyes shifting from Isarot to me and back again, as though he were waiting for one of us to deny it. Actually, based on the snippets of thoughts I caught from his mind (still trying to shut off my telepathy, by the way), he really was thinking that. “That is quite . . . um, original, I guess. We haven’t had thieves breaching the space-time continuum in order to steal the Time Stone before, have we?”

Klio nodded slightly and said, “It is an interesting case indeed. Whoever this thief is, he seems to have a stronger desire for the Time Stone than the average thief does if he was willing to go to those lengths to steal it.”

“I only wonder where he got the ability to do that,” said Nasis, who I hadn’t realized had been listening to Isarot’s report. I guess he really must’ve been paying attention, even though he had been playing with a small scrap of metal that he always carried around with him for amusement. In fact, he was still messing with it now, using his power over metals to alter and reform the piece of iron to entertain him. “As far as I know, dimension-hopping isn’t exactly a Toa element, is it? Perhaps he was simply using a more powerful form of teleportation that simply looked like dimension-hopping, but in reality wasn’t.”

“I disagree,” said Isarot, shaking his head as he sat down opposite me, although he did not even glance at me. He was probably still annoyed at me for ‘letting’ the thief escape. “The portal looked exactly like the kind described by Toa Ahova during the Great Disruption. It was big enough for a Toa-sized being to travel through, gave off blue energy almost like lightning, and showed a weird mixture of colors and textures through it. There’s no mistaking it; our thief is a dimension hopper. Right, Kiriah?”

“Uh, yes,” I said, nodding earnestly. “It certainly didn’t look anything like teleportation to me. Not that that’s a bad theory, Nasis, but it really did look quite different from normal teleportation.”

“Fine,” said Nasis with a sigh as the little metal ball transformed into a miniature version of himself before he smashed it into a formless lump again. I was always amazed at the way he was able to hold a full-length conversation while, at the same time, messing with that little thing. “So maybe it is dimension-hopping. That still raises even more questions, like how he got that power, where he came from, who the thief is in the first place, how are we going to get the Time Stone back-“

“If that is even possible,” Kolora muttered.

“-and many other things besides.” Nasis looked at Turaga Klio and Baiji Kolora. “Elders, what do you say we should do? Of course,” he added, “if there is anything we can do at all.”

“Why wouldn’t there be?” asked Klio calmly, looking directly into Nasis’ red eyes. She said it with such seriousness I almost thought she was joking, until I remembered Klio rarely joked about anything.

Nasis seemed taken aback by Klio’s seriousness, for he said, “Um, Turaga, what do you mean by that? I am merely trying to hold a realistic view here. I mean, none of us can dimension-hop, and for all we know, that thief could be in some obscure alternate reality somewhere that none of us even know about. So the possibility of retrieving the Time Stone seems very slim to me.”

“Nasis is right,” said Kolora abruptly, before Klio could reply. “There’s no way to do it.”

“Now, elder, I never said-“ Nasis began, before Klio cut him off.

“There is a way, Kolora,” the Turaga of Lightning replied, now staring at the Baiji. “You know what it is.”

Confused, I looked at Isarot, who looked as puzzled as I felt. We then collectively looked at Kolora, who seemed very angry now. What was Klio talking about, I wondered, and why was Kolora reacting so strongly against it?

“I know exactly what it is, Klio, and I will not stand for it,” said Kolora, folding her arms in defiance. “It would do us no good to have our two Time Stone guardians lose their sanity just to retrieve a single piece of rock.”

“’Lose their sanity?’” I repeated incredulously, shifting my attention to Turaga Klio now. “No disrespect meant, Turaga, but what is the Baiji talking about?”

“Kiriah, she is talking about an event that happened many, many eons ago, before you even existed,” Klio replied. It was almost comical the way she was reacting so calm to the news that Isarot and I could possibly lose our minds. “But of course, our dear friend Kolora is mixing facts with her own interpretation of events.”

“I am not!” Kolora snarled, slamming her fist on the table, catching us all by surprise. “I merely think that Isarot and Kiriah’s sanity would not survive should they do what I believe you are suggesting they should do. They may succeed in retrieving the Time Stone, but if they were to go insane, then it would be Darranas all over again.”

“Darranas? As in, Toa Darranas, deputy leader of the Toa Avha?” asked Nasis, his eyes widening in interest. His plaything morphed into a vaguely Toa-like figure before collapsing again. “The Toa Darranas? What does he have to do with it?”

I, too, became more interested in the conversation now (not that I wasn’t before, since any conversation that revolves around you possibly losing your sanity would probably interest anyone). I remembered hearing the old tales of Turaga Klio’s Toa team when I had been a Matoran. Although it had been a while since I’d last heard them, I remembered that the Toa Avha – which Klio had lead as a Toa – had fought against the forces of evil a long time ago and won in a climactic battle toward the end of a huge war that had spanned the entire universe.

My memory wasn’t too good (Isarot often commented on that, saying it was ironic that a Toa of Psionics had such bad memory), but I remembered Toa Darranas, who had supposedly accomplished even greater good than the rest of the Toa Avha combined. Unfortunately I could not recall any specific accomplishments of his. It was a shame because I had really enjoyed those stories when I had been a Matoran.

“I thought Toa Darranas was just a legend,” said Isarot, looking at Kolora in confusion. “I mean, what kind of Toa is capable of taking down fifty enemies all by himself? With a broken axe?”

I smiled as I remembered that story. That had been one of the wilder tales, where the brave Toa Darranas had been cut-off from his friends during a huge battle and was forced to fight the enemy alone. However, in the version of the story I heard, he had had a broken sword, not an axe. Wonder where Isarot got that part from.

For the first time, Klio actually looked a little uncomfortable, like she didn’t want to have to explain anything to us. “Well, the Darranas of the legends was a myth. But I can assure you that a real Toa Darranas did exist, but Kolora is merely exaggerating his final fate.”

“I am not exaggerating anything, Klio,” Kolora said, balling her fists. I hoped Kolora didn’t try to attack Klio; a brawl was the last thing we needed right now, in my opinion. “When he used that . . . that accursed Kanohi mask, his mind snapped. Why deny the truth?”

“It is you who are denying the truth, Kolora,” said Klio, shaking her head. “The mask had nothing to do with his collapse in sanity. His mind simply couldn’t handle all of the horrors he saw and experienced anymore.”

“Lies,” Kolora hissed. “Darranas had a strong will. It was the mask that really crushed him. He went insane and died because of it!”

“Went insane and died?” I repeated in shock. I looked from Kolora to Klio again, which now that I thought about it we all seemed to be doing. “Elder, what does she mean by that?“

Klio shrugged, as though we were discussing nothing important. “What Kolora means is that Toa Darranas did indeed go insane and die, but the mask itself had nothing to do with it. She is merely expressing her dislike for Kanohi in general and-“

“For the third time, I am not!” Kolora roared, exasperatedly throwing her hands up. “I do not care for masks, true, but I do not hate that mask for that reason. You saw what it did to him, and, although I hesitate to say this, it may be better if we simply allow the thief to escape with the Time Stone. Better to let our greatest, most sacred treasure remain stolen forever than to lose the minds of two people, which can’t be as easily replaced as a rock.”

I was too shocked to say anything. One of the elders of Tanjo Nui – the ones who made it their top priority to protect the Time Stone no matter what – suggesting that we let the thief get away with the Time Stone?

The idea was too bizarre for me to accept, but here was Kolora, saying exactly that. I mean, I appreciated her concern for our sanity and all (I had never believed she actually cared for either of us so much), but it was almost blasphemy the way she suggested we just allow this theft to slide like that.

Tajah seemed to think so, too, for he looked at Kolora with eyes that appeared almost angry and said, “Baiji, do you even realize what you’re saying? The Time Stone is Tanjo Nui’s most sacred treasure. According to legend, the Great Beings themselves created the Stone and handed it down to the first Tagiki-“

“Toa,” Nasis corrected. “The Great Beings gave it to the first Toa.”

“Toa, Tagiki, whatever,” said Tajah impatiently, although I knew that he believed the Tagiki version of the story over the Toa version. “It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Great Beings obviously gave it for an important reason. The legend stated that the Great Beings promised to return at the end of time and take the Stone back. If we are to take that story as fact – which I am sure we all agree on, even if we don’t exactly agree on all of the details – then we must retrieve the Time Stone no matter what. Otherwise, think of what would happen if the Great Beings were to return only to find that it was gone. We would be to blame, Kolora, and I am sure the Great Beings would punish all of us greatly for our inaction.”

“No single object is worth the lives of two beings,” said Kolora stubbornly as she sat back down, folding her arms again. “Even if the Great Beings themselves were to come and punish us, it does not matter. By the time the universe ends, we’ll probably all be dead anyway. There’s nothing to fear from them, if there is any truth to that story at all.”

“All right,” said Isarot, speaking up suddenly. He looked at Klio, then Kolora, as though making sure neither was going to run, which seemed a bit silly to me. “Someone in this room is hiding something . . . and I think I know who. There’s a lot more to Tanjo Nui’s ancient history than we know, and you two, Baiji, Turaga, know the truth. Sorry if I sound disrespectful, but I think everyone in this room would like to hear exactly what happened to Toa Darranas, all those years ago, as well as the truth of the Time Stone.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. Isarot’s own bravery amazed me, since I myself would never have interrupted a conversation between the two leading elders of Tanjo Nui like that. “I think it is safe to say that I am not the only confused person in this room.”

“Indeed,” said Nasis as his metal ball transformed into a near-perfect replica of his own confused face. He looked at Turaga Klio and said, “Turaga, I think we’d all benefit from hearing the truth about what happened all those years ago. At least that way we won’t feel like we’re missing something.”

Now everyone in the room was staring at Klio, pressuring her with our silent, persistent gazes.

Klio, who looked completely unaffected by our stares, shrugged and said, “All right, then. Because of this most recent theft of the Time Stone and because I believe we only have one option that we could use to retrieve it-“

“If we have to retrieve it at all,” Kolora muttered under her breath.

“-then it would be best if everyone here knew the truth,” said Klio with a sigh. “But be warned that most of what I and Kolora – yes, Kolora, you will have to help – will completely contradict almost everything that you have been taught all of your lives. All of it, I am sure, will be shocking, but please do not think any less of either of us for keeping this a secret from you all this entire time.”

I didn’t know how to take that. Being told that everything we thought we knew was false was not only surprising, but a bit unsettling as well. I decided to listen anyway, however. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Perhaps it wouldn’t be drastically different from what we were told all our lives. Klio might just be exaggerating. Yes, it was probably-

“Now, let’s begin with the first theft of the Time Stone,” said Klio.

Okay. So it was drastically different. Sue me for being optimistic.

“First theft, Turaga?” asked Isarot, leaning forward in surprise. “But I thought the Time Stone had never been successfully stolen before now.”

“No, Isarot,” said Klio, shaking her head rather vigorously for such an old person. “Once – 100,000 years ago, to be precise - the Time Stone was stolen by a thief, a dimension hopper, and Kolora, Toa Darranas, and I went after him using a special mask that allowed us to dimension-hop just like the thief.”

“Whoa, wait,” I said, trying to take it all in at once. “There’s no way that’s possible. None of the historical records ever mention such a theft happening before. Even the oldest ones do not-“

“That is because we made sure that no one ever found out about it, young Toa,” said Kolora shortly, glaring at me like I was being stupid. “It happened shortly after the great war, when the universe was still in chaos.”

I felt surprised and embarrassed now. Surprised that Kolora had bothered to supplement Klio’s story at all, considering how she seemed to be so angry at the Turaga, and embarrassed by the fact that I hadn’t even considered Klio and Kolora keeping the theft a secret from everyone else. I guess I was so used to accepting that the Time Stone had never been stolen before that I never thought to question what we were told. Nobody else did, after all, so why should I?

“So Turaga,” prompted Isarot. “Both you and Baiji Kolora went after the thief?”

“Yes, Isarot, and with Toa Darranas, too,” said Klio, nodding wearily, like all of her years were on her shoulders. “Like Kolora had said, it was shortly after the great war that spread anarchy throughout the universe. My team and I had been assisting in the rebuilding efforts here when the Time Stone was stolen by this thief. Because we couldn’t afford to take everyone along, Darranas and I were the only two Toa sent, while Kolora came with us because of the significance the Time Stone holds to her people.”

“They wouldn’t let me come at first,” Kolora murmured, like it had happened just the other day. “Said they only wanted to go alone. Since I didn’t want them stealing all of the glory, I pressured them to let me go until they said yes.”

“Please allow me to continue, Kolora,” said Klio, rather harshly, to the Tagiki elder. Then, after making sure Kolora wasn’t going to say anything else, she continued: “Toa Darranas, Kolora, and I used that mask – known as the Kanohi Olmak, the Mask of Dimensional Gates – to chase after the thief. It was a lucky thing we had it in our possession, since otherwise we would never have been able to track down that thief. The Time Stone would have been lost forever.”

“Excuse me for interrupting, Turaga,” said Nasis suddenly. He was looking interestedly at Klio now, as though he could not get enough of what he was hearing. “But where, exactly, did you and Darranas find that Kanohi anyway? Seems awfully convenient that you would just happen to have one lying around like that.”

“Darranas and I found it in a fortress of our enemies not long after the end of the great war,” said Klio vaguely. “It was in a secret chamber that few were aware of. But beyond that, we did not – and still do not – know exactly what their plans for it had been. We think they may have been planning to use it for interdimensional conquest, but they never actually used it, as far as we know.”

“Another reason we shouldn’t use it,” Kolora snapped. “Anything used by those pieces of shadow spit can’t be good no matter what.”

I was a bit tempted to ask Kolora exactly who these ‘pieces of shadow spit’ were, but Kolora’s tone and expression did not invite any questions. So I kept my mouth shut and said nothing.

Klio, ignoring Kolora’s comment, continued: “As I was saying, the Olmak allowed us to go after the thief, but not as easily as you might think. It was difficult to track him down, exactly, because he kept moving from universe to universe. But eventually, thanks to our Olmak’s mysterious connection to the Time Stone, we confronted the thief, defeated him, and took the Time Stone and returned home triumphant.”

Kolora snorted. “If by ‘triumphant’ you mean ‘tired, weary, and distrustful of others’ decisions after witnessing countless mind-crushingly depressing alternate realities,’ then yes, we were quite triumphant in that regard.”

Tajah looked at Kolora in surprise, but Klio shrugged and reluctantly said, “Well, yes, we did return more than a little . . . paranoid I suppose is the word you would use to describe us. Many universes we saw were absolutely terrifying in their horrific state and-“

“Uh, Turaga,” said Nasis again, as his metal ball took on the form of a Toa that I had only seen statues and carvings of: Darranas. “Sorry to interrupt for the umpteenth time, but you forgot to mention the fate of Darranas and the thief to us.”

“The mask drove Darranas insane and he died,” said Kolora before Klio could say anything. “The thief died when he attempted to flee into a dimension of flames and got burned to a crisp.”

Klio glared in annoyance at Kolora and said, “What I believe our old friend meant to say was that the countless horrific alternate universes Darranas saw were what caused him to lose his mind and die. It was lucky for us that I could use Kanohi masks; otherwise, Kolora and I would have been stranded in a universe where we were wanted fugitives.”

“What universe was-“ I said, but then Kolora shot up like a water spout and pointed a thin finger at the Turaga of Lightning, her rage barely contained.

“I did not mean to say that, Klio,” said Kolora, and for a moment fire crackled around her finger tip before cooling down. “I meant what I said, and I said the mask caused him to go insane. We must never let these two use it; otherwise, they’ll end up following the same path as him.”

“Whatever,” Klio said, although she didn’t sound like she meant it. “It does not matter which way he died. What matters is that we know a way to track down this new thief. There is absolutely no reason why Kiriah shouldn’t use it.”

Until then, I’d forgotten that Isarot, being a Tagiki, was incapable of using Kanohi masks. It had totally escaped my mind that I – not Isarot – would have to use the mask that had possibly ruined the sanity of one Toa already. Being a Toa of Psionics, I preferred to have my mind in one piece, thank you very much.

“Hey, wait,” I said, sitting up straighter and looking from Kolora to Klio. “I’m all for saving the Time Stone and all, but if my mind is going to be shattered-“

“It’s not,” said Klio firmly. “Trust me on this.”

“Don’t trust her,” Kolora warned me. “You can’t trust her. She can’t guarantee that you will retain your sanity. It’s not worth it.”

“Not worth it?” repeated Isarot incredulously. “Isn’t the Time Stone the most important artifact of all?”

“It is important, true, but not important enough to repeat Darranas’ mistake,” said Kolora sharply. “I do not want to bear the guilt of destroying the minds of two young beings that have barely seen life.”

I felt a little insulted by that. I was only 30,000 years old, after all. Isarot was 42,000. True, maybe we weren’t as old Klio or Kolora, but it wasn’t like we were totally inexperienced or anything like that. She was talking of us like we’d just popped into being yesterday or something.

“But Kiriah and I took the oaths of honor when we were made guardians of the Time Stone,” said Isarot.“We promised to protect the Time Stone with our lives, even if it was stolen by some dimension-hopping thief. Even if our sanity was in danger of being destroyed, we would have no excuse for letting some thief get away with it without even trying to retrieve it.”

“That’s easy for you to say because your sanity isn’t on the line here,” I muttered.

At first, Kolora looked a little taken aback by Isarot’s assertiveness, which was understandable. Isarot was generally pretty respectful toward her and rarely disagreed with Kolora on anything. So it made sense that she would feel a little surprised and maybe even angry that Isarot would disagree with her.

Much to my surprise, however, Kolora, though her hands were balled into fists, took a deep breath and slowly sat back down into her seat. She looked at Isarot with weary eyes. All of that yelling must’ve taken a lot out of her, for she looked really tired now.

“Isarot, I only want what is best for you and, to an extent, Kiriah as well,” said Kolora. “I . . . It had hurt when Darranas had died. I do not want to feel guilty or responsible for allowing a similar fate to befall you two. Or, in this case, just Kiriah, but I worry that you might somehow be affected by it, too, Isarot.”

“It’s a possibility that has occurred to me, elder, but I will not back down,” said Isarot, folding his arms in defiance, just like Kolora, I noticed. “But this is important. At least let us try. If we cannot find the Time Stone or the thief, then we will attempt to return to this dimension as soon as possible. There’s nothing you can say that will persuade me not to go.”

“Well, that’s fine and dandy,” said Nasis. This time – I noticed with a strange kind of excitement – his little iron figure transformed into a smaller, although very accurate version of me. “But what about Kiriah? I assume she wants to go, too, but if she doesn’t-“

“I’ll go,” I said, so quickly that Nasis looked at me in surprise. “Yeah, I mean, like Isarot said, we’re guardians of the Time Stone. It wouldn’t look good if we gave up just because we were afraid of losing our sanity, right?”

I looked at Isarot, who nodded approvingly. I then snuck a side glance at Nasis, who still seemed taken aback by how fast I answered. Maybe I hadn’t thought this through, but I wanted to impress Nasis. Saying that I was scared out of my wits and fearful for my sanity would make me look weak and unimpressive. Nasis would probably think I was a coward if I said no.

However, saying yes would make him more likely to think of recruiting me. I know the rules and all, but maybe, if I do well enough, they’ll make an exception and make me part of the Toa Tanjo. Either that or one of the other Toa Tanjo will take my job while I become an official member of the team. It’s happened before, so maybe it’ll happen to me if I retrieve the Time Stone.

“Well, then,” said Tajah. “I suppose now that both Isarot and Toa Kiriah wish to go, all they need now is the approval of the elders.” He looked at Kolora and Klio. “Elders, what do you say?”

“I approve,” said Klio, nodding and looking quite relieved to see that things were going her way. “The mask will not cause insanity. However, it is far more powerful than your Mask of Rebounding, Kiriah, so I suggest exercising extreme caution when using it, just so you won’t hurt yourself or Isarot or anyone else that happens to be nearby.”

“Uh, okay,” I said. I hoped she was only exaggerating. I had handled other Great Masks before, but now that I thought about it, the idea of a Kanohi ripping a hole in the space/time continuum sounds almost too crazy to believe. How could any object hold such power yet also be used by a mere Toa? Considering that I’m not nearly as experienced as other Toa, I began to worry that my chances of actually controlling the Olmak or whatever it was called were very slim.

Now everyone was looking at Kolora, who was clearly conflicted, which was easy for me to tell even without my telepathy. She looked anxious and angry, even though she sat quite still. Her breathing was a little heavier, like she had just run a mile, but she didn’t appear to show any signs of weakness otherwise.

“Although I am reluctant to do this, I, too, approve of Isarot and Toa Kiriah using the Olmak to chase the thief and retrieve the Time Stone,” said Kolora, slowly and carefully. “However, that is only if they agree to return upon experiencing the slightest bit of insanity.”

“Fine,” said Isarot, nodding. “We’ll do exactly that.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, although I knew I didn’t sound nearly as confident as Isarot did. “We’ll come back before we go too insane, heh.”

“This is not a laughing matter, Kiriah,” Kolora told me, looking at me with those sharp eyes of hers. “Even if the mask itself does not incite insanity in you, the horrors and monstrosities you will see in your travels very well might. It would be wiser for you to stay here, safe and sane, but I will not try to stop you if you two truly wish to go.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. Was she implying I was going to go insane anyway, even if the mask didn’t do anything to my sanity? Or was she simply warning me? I hoped it was the latter, since I prefer being in my right mind, being a Toa of Psionics and all. Yeah, that had to be-

“Just like poor Darranas,” Klio added, looking grim.

Okay. I was going to go insane. Yay for me and my idiotic desire to desperately impress Nasis. Again.

“All right, then,” said Klio, looking at me and Isarot. “Tomorrow morning you will both meet me in the basement of this tower, where your quest shall begin when I give you the Kanohi Olmak.”

“Tomorrow morning?” Isarot exclaimed, looking shocked. “Why not now?”

“Because you both need time to rest and think,” said Klio wisely. “You need to prepare your supplies, your weapons, and your armor. If you were to go after the thief right now, no doubt you’d both end up dead the minute you took your first step in the first dimension you stumble upon. You have all of today and some of tomorrow morning to prepare and do whatever it is you need to do that you will be unable to do in an alternate universe. Understood?”

“Yes, Turaga,” I said, nodding. I was quite relieved that we had to wait a little while longer. Unlike Isarot, the idea of putting my sanity on the line wasn’t my idea of fun and if I could find a way to postpone the moment I had to put the Olmak on, I would do it.

“Excuse me, elders, but there’s another problem I think we all missed,” said Tajah, looking out the window at the rest of the city surrounding the tower. “What will we do when word leaks out that the Time Stone is stolen? The Tagiki and Matoran alike might panic or demand to know where it is when we ourselves have no idea where it might be at this moment.”

“Let’s keep the theft a secret,” said Klio. “We kept the first one a secret for 100,000 years; surely we can do the same again, if necessary. We will simply say that the temple was attacked by a group of vicious Eframas and is currently under repairs. No visitors will be allowed to enter the temple under any circumstances, of course.”

I was almost surprised at the readiness that Klio displayed in making up that lie. Then again, if she and Kolora had kept the first theft a secret for so long, I wondered how many other things in Tanjo Nui’s ancient history that they had covered up and whether we would ever learn of them.

“Excellent idea, Turaga,” said Nasis, nodding. “With that out of the way, how’s about we let Isarot and Kiriah begin their preparations, eh? Let them get their supplies and say their farewells and all that?”

“Most certainly,” said Klio, nodding. She looked around at us and asked, “Does anyone else have any other concerns or questions?”

“Er, actually, I do have one more question,” said Nasis as his statue morphed into a ball, which he began throwing up and down in his hand. “Why did you keep the first theft of the Time Stone a secret for all of these years? Why’d you do that?”

The elders glanced at each other for the briefest of moments before Klio turned back to Nasis and said, “As for that . . . realize the state the universe had been in at the time, Nasis. Every island’s culture was shattered due to the infestation of the enemy. We didn’t know how the Tagiki and Matoran would react to the Stone’s theft, especially because- erm, never mind. The point is we thought it would be best for everyone if we just buried this black chapter of history so deeply that no one would ever know about it.”

Then Tajah cleared his throat and said, “Er, can we be sure that the Dark Hunters aren’t somehow related to this? Not that I am saying the Hunters have dimension-hopping technology, but the Shadowed One has always had his eye on the Time Stone and you just never know what lengths he’d go to get his hands on it.”

“It is possible, though unlikely,” said Klio. “The Dark Hunters are currently at war with the Brotherhood of Makuta. The Shadowed One probably can’t afford to spare any of his men to attempt a theft on Tanjo Nui when the Brotherhood is the bigger and more immediate threat. There is also the problem, like you said, that the Dark Hunters are not known to use interdimensional tech and thus couldn’t enter or exit the Temple via dimension-hopping anyway, even if they wanted to.”

“But wouldn’t it be wise to at least investigate the Hunters?” asked Tajah, leaning forward. “I mean to say, they are the most likely suspects we have here. It would only make sense to keep an eye on them at least.”

“If we do, I volunteer to check on them,” said Nasis, his scrap of metal quickly transforming into a crude replica of the Shadowed One. “Me and one of the other Toa Tanjo can track down some Hunters and see if they know anything about the theft.”

“That sounds dangerous,” I commented. I had never met a Dark Hunter myself, but I had heard plenty of stories about them from others and they did not sound particularly, well, nice. “You could get killed.”

“You could get killed on your own adventure, too, you know,” Nasis reminded me. I noticed a spike was stuck through the Shadowed One replica’s head, which looked really freaky to me. “Actually I’d say my chances of survival are a lot higher than yours. Besides, it’s not like I’d take on the Shadowed One himself or anything. Just do a little bit of reconnaissance and see what I can find. That’s all.”

“I suppose I can approve of the idea,” Klio said with a shrug. “As long as you do not do anything reckless and come back as quickly as possible, it makes sense to investigate the Dark Hunters. You may take one of the other Toa Tanjo along and then leave the island whenever you’re ready.”

“Sounds good to me, Turaga,” said Nasis, his tone slightly cheerful, although I could not imagine why anyone would be happy at the prospect of investigating beings as murderous and evil as the Dark Hunters. “I’ll be careful. I’m never reckless.”

Although I usually never said anything bad about Nasis, I remembered hearing about a time he had chased down a Visorak that had washed up on Tanjo Nui. I remembered that the others said it was a reckless move and he nearly got himself killed before he finished the spider off, so I wondered if he had ever been that reckless before and, if so, what that might mean for the future. I just hoped he didn’t get himself killed this time, at least.

“Could not the Chofier also help?” Tajah offered. “The Time Stone matters just as much to us as to the Toa, you know. While we will leave the Dark Hunter investigation to the Toa, I think we’ll search the island for any clues we can find regarding the Stone’s theft. It is possible someone may have seen or heard something about it, you know.”

“I approve,” said Kolora, nodding. “It is a good idea. We need people searching both abroad and at home for the Stone or clues to its whereabouts. You can begin the investigation tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Baiji,” said Tajah, bowing his head in her direction. “We shall search diligently and without giving up.”

“Now that we have that out of the way,” said Klio, looking at us all again. “Any more objections or concerns?”

No one present said another word, since we were all pretty satisfied with the current plans. Well, I wasn’t exactly satisfied by the whole ’possibly going insane’ shtick, but since I doubt they’d let me change my mind I said nothing.

“All right, then,” said Klio. “Meeting dismissed."
 

Review Topic.


(Author's note: If you are interested in seeing what Nasis discovers through his investigation of the Dark Hunters, check out Dimension Hoppers: The Other Tale here, which tells Nasis's tale.)

Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:35 PM.

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#3 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 18 2011 - 08:58 AM

Chapter 2: The Quest Begins

Isarot.


“Where are they?” I grumbled, looking around the large basement at the collection of crates full of weapons, armor, Kanohi masks, and many other things I did not know about. “They should have been here ten minutes ago.”

It was early in the morning. I had awoken immediately before the sun rose. Because I had prepared the night before, all I had had to do was sling my bag full of food, water, and other necessities over my shoulder and I was ready to go. The only weapon I brought was my trusty tomahawk, although I had a small dagger packed away in my bag, just in case.

Even if I had wanted to bring along more weapons, I didn’t have any room for anything other than my tomahawk and dagger. There was nothing practical about lugging around both a large axe and a tomahawk all day long. I should know, since one of the Tagiki guardianship rituals included heaving a gigantic axe from Rimos to the capital city of Tuyar Akam. And I can assure you that that is much longer than a short stroll down to the beach.

I also wore new armor. It was thicker than my original suit, but I had intended that. I had no idea what Kiriah and I would be facing on our journey. I only hoped Kiriah had had the same foresight as I and had chosen to wear some thicker or tougher armor today.

Then again, knowing Kiriah, she probably didn’t. Not only that, but she’d probably forget to bring her own bag of supplies, forcing me to share with her, thus cutting our food and water supplies in half and making it not last nearly as long as it should. She was just like that. It was odd, really, because she was a Toa of Psionics. I would think she would actually be smarter than me, yet I often got the feeling that she wasn’t.

I strode over to a nearby crate and sat on it. Or rather, I tried to sit on it. I hadn’t realized the lid was open, so I fell into a large box of hard stone tablets. Although it was by no means a great fall, it still was painful to land onto the tablets just the same. I struggled to get out, but the crate was a bit deeper than I originally thought, which made getting out more difficult than I thought it would be.

“Isarot!” said a sharp voice from the other side of the room. “What are you doing in that crate?”

I looked up quickly at the sound of the voice and saw Toa Kiriah and Turaga Klio standing at the bottom of the stairs, both looking puzzled at my predicament. Embarrassed, I tried to get out again but failed. Why was this so difficult and how come the sudden appearance of Kiriah and Klio seemed to make it even harder?

“Here, let me help,” said Kiriah, clearly trying not to laugh at my problem.

Without warning, I flew into the air and landed roughly on my feet. I staggered forward a bit, then straightened up and tried to look as dignified as I could after recovering from such an embarrassing predicament.

Without looking at her, I told Kiriah, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” said Kiriah, who still seemed to be holding in her laughter. But she giggled slightly anyway, which annoyed me greatly.

Trying my best to keep my face averted from Kiriah, I turned to Klio, who did not appear to be in the mood to laugh, and asked, “Do you have the Olmak, Turaga?”

“I do indeed, Isarot,” said Klio, nodding. I noticed a large, gray, dome-shaped Kanohi mask in her left hand, which I assumed was the Olmak. “I would not have come here today without this Olmak, you know.”

I glanced at Kiriah – whose eyes were fixated on the Olmak – and asked, “Exactly what took you so long to get here, Kiri?”

“What?” She seemed to snap out of some kind of trance after hearing the abbreviation I had given her several years ago, when we had first started working together. “What’d you say, Isarot?”

I sighed and asked again, “I was asking what took you so long to get here, Kiriah.”

“Oh, er, I was saying good bye to everyone,” said Kiriah, shrugging. “And taking one last look at Tanjo Nui’s sunrise. I mean, we might never see one again, you know? And they’re quite beautiful this time of year.”

I folded my arms and said, “Hmph. Right. Did you say ‘good bye’ to Toa Nasis, per chance?”

“I, er, didn’t,” Kiriah admitted, looking at her feet. “He and Toa Ahova are currently preparing to head for Stelt, where they plan to get some information on the Dark Hunters. They’re in Rimos, getting a boat ready.”

“I see,” I said. “Good to see he’s getting ready, then. At least he’s not swimming to Stelt without a plan anyway.”

Kiriah said nothing, but I could tell she was clearly annoyed by what I said. I don’t see why she was. Just because she had a crush on him doesn’t make Nasis perfect. I never liked Nasis anyway, so she shouldn’t expect me to say anything nice about him.

I looked at Klio and asked, “Turaga, what are we waiting for? Give Kiriah the mask and we’ll be on our way.”

Klio shook her head. “Not yet. Kolora is still absent. As the Baiji of the Tagiki, she must be present before you go. She wouldn’t want to miss this, since I know the Time Stone is just as important to her as it is to us, despite what she may have said earlier.”

“Do you know if she’ll be here soon?” I asked. I knew how rude I must have sounded to her, but I was impatient. I wanted to get going now, since we’d let the thief get a two day start ahead of us already. Who knows where he might be at this very moment?

“Don’t worry, Isarot,” said Kiriah, patting me on the shoulder, as though she were reading my mind (which she probably was, now that I think about it). “I mean, who knows how time acts in other universes? Maybe when we get into the same dimension as the thief, he’ll have only been there five minutes or something like that. We have all the time in the world to go after him.”

I glared at her and said, “You just don’t want to risk your sanity, right?”

“Er, yeah,” said Kiriah, somewhat awkwardly. “I mean, if you were in the same position as me, you wouldn’t be in a hurry to put on a mask that could possibly drive you insane, right?”

“I guess,” I said doubtfully. “But I still wouldn’t want to wait. Not if it was the only thing I could do about the theft.”

Kiriah shook her head like she couldn’t believe me, but before she could say anything we heard the sounds of footsteps. A minute later, Kolora appeared at the foot of the staircase which Kiriah and Klio had come from. She looked like she hadn’t slept a wink last night, which I understood well, considering how stressful this situation was for all of us.

“Ah, good to see that you are here, Kolora,” said Klio, nodding as the Tagiki Baiji approached us. “Now we can give Kiriah and Isarot the Olmak and they can finally begin their quest to retrieve the Time Stone.”

“Yes,” said Kolora with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever. “Well, there’s no reason to delay it any longer. Just give the mask to them and let them be on their way.”

I nodded eagerly and almost reached for the mask before remembering that Kiriah would be the one using it, since Tagiki cannot use Kanohi masks. So I watched as Turaga Klio handed Kiriah the gray Olmak, which my friend held as far away from herself as possible, as though it would explode any minute.

“There,” said Klio. “All you need to do now is put it on and activate it. You’ll know what to do from there.”

“Er, thanks, Turaga,” said Kiriah, slowly and hesitantly pulling the mask closer to her, like it was a dangerous artifact that could harm her. “But aren’t we going to be doing some kind of special ceremony before we leave? Like, get a blessing from Mata Nui or something like that?”

“No,” said Klio, shaking her head. “There’s no need. Besides, this is something that only happened once before, and even that was secret. We have no elaborate or sacred ceremony when sending heroes off onto a journey across dimensions anyway, so the point is moot.”

“Well, okay,” said Kiriah, who sounded a little disappointed to me. “I wasn’t actually expecting anything like that. I was just . . . um, curious about why we were being sent off so abruptly like this.”

“It doesn’t matter, Kiriah,” I said, feeling annoyed and impatient now. “We gotta stop dawdling. If we’re going to go, then why don’t we just go?”

“Well, before we go, I’d like to ask you both a question, elders,” said Kiriah, who I figured was trying to delay the moment of departure as long as possible.

“Fine,” said Klio, nodding. “What is it?”

“Er, who was the original thief? The guy who stole the Time Stone when you were a Toa, Turaga?” asked Kiriah.

Even I noticed how quickly Klio and Kolora’s expressions darkened, like Kiriah had just asked the wrong question.

“We . . . do not know,” said Klio reluctantly, after glancing at Kolora, who looked almost enraged. “He wore a hood the entire time. He never even told us his name.”

“Well, do you even have an idea of who this thief could be, then?” Kiriah inquired. “Could he somehow be related to the original?”

“No,” said Kolora, speaking up for the first time. “We have no idea who this new thief is. Probably just some greedy fool seeking to make himself more powerful through the power of the Time Stone. Ha! As if any being could control the Time Stone’s power . . .”

“I’ve heard legends about the Time Stone’s power,” said Kiriah, “but I’d never thought they were real. Is the Time Stone really-“

“That powerful? Most likely,” said Klio, after glaring at Kolora. “We have never seen its power in action ourselves, but that thief might have heard the legends of what it could do and decided he wanted that kind of power for himself.”

Although my patience was beginning to wear extremely thin by now, I could not help but remember the many different legends regarding the Time Stone’s unique powers. Some said that it could freeze or speed up time, like the legendary Kanohi Vahi could supposedly do; others said that the Stone actually granted its user the ability to travel through time. Most claimed that the Time Stone could give one the powers of Mata Nui himself. The idea of a thief wielding the Great Spirit’s strength frightened me more than I would like to admit.

Kiriah seemed to get the same idea as me, for she said, “Well, let’s just hope the legends are wrong, then.”

“Unlikely,” said Kolora, folding her arms. She then looked at Kiriah and asked suspiciously, “Why are you so interested in knowing this sort of thing anyway?”

“Well, elder, I figured we should know as much about the Time Stone and the thief as we possibly can before leaving,” said Kiriah as she finally swapped her old Kanohi for the Olmak. I began to get excited, for I knew that meant we were about to leave soon. “Just so we are prepared for whatever challenges we might face.”

“I can tell you right now that even if we were to give you all of the information in the universe, you still wouldn’t be prepared for whatever you will soon encounter,” Kolora warned, in a voice that almost broke before she regained control of herself. “There are countless alternate universes out there and each and every one is unique. No two universes are alike and even if you master one, another will knock you right off your feet because you knew nothing about it. You’ll be lucky to survive even one, young guardians.”

“In other words, be prepared to die at any moment and have a nice day,” Klio muttered.

“Uh, right,” said Kiriah, though she looked a little uneasy now. “We’ll, uh, be sure to remember that, elder.”

“You had better,” said Kolora sternly. “Unlike you two, we did not have any warnings or advice about the unpredictable and often dangerous nature of alternate universes. Consider yourself lucky, young Toa. Now get going. You have no time to waste standing around and listening to a couple of old fools rambling about the old days.”

Kiriah seemed too surprised to respond.

I said, “Thank you, elders. We’ll be going now. Right, Kiriah?”

“Er, yeah,” she said, nodding. “Sure. Bye, elders.”

“Good bye, Kiriah, Isarot,” said Klio. “Let us hope that Mata Nui will assist you on this vital quest.”

“Indeed,” said Kolora. “Although if you do fail, don’t worry. You probably won’t live long enough to face the consequences of your actions.”

I bowed respectfully and said, “Good bye, elders. We shall never give up, even if death itself looms before us!”

“Well, if death itself does loom before us, don’t expect me not to scream at least,” Kiriah murmured.

Neither elder seemed to catch what she said. They simply nodded, which I took as meaning it was really time for us to go now.

But then Kiriah asked one more question: “Um, how are we supposed to find the Time Stone in the first place? It could be in any of the countless dimensions out there!”

“The mask itself will lead you to the Stone,” Klio answered softly. “For reasons we cannot know, the Toa Avha’s enemies somehow infused that Olmak with the ability to sense the Time Stone, wherever it is. It is how we chased the original thief in the first place; otherwise the Time Stone would have been lost forever.”

“How does that work?” asked Kiriah in amazement.

“It will allow you to instinctively know where the Time Stone is,” said Klio. “Sort of like radar, except in your mind. It is difficult to explain. You will have to experience it for yourself.”

“Um, okay,” said Kiriah. “I guess I will.”

My patience wearing thin, I looked at Kiriah and said, “All right, Kiri. There’s no reason to delay any further. Activate the mask and let’s get going.”

“Um, all right,” said Kiriah, nodding. She sounded unsure, like she doubted her ability to handle the Olmak’s power. Being a Tagiki, it was a fear I did not understand. But I had faith in her ability to control it, even though she was a bit of a screw up most of the time. “Stand back. It might be a little . . . surprising.”

I thought I was prepared for whatever the mask could do. After all, I had seen a dimensional portal before, so I figured this wouldn’t be that shocking or surprising.

I was wrong.

At first, there was a strange tingle in the air that I had never felt before. It was almost like something was . . . wrong, as though reality itself was buckling underneath a surge of power even greater than the sun. I could sense energy being drawn from the air like metal to a magnet. How I knew this, I did not know. Perhaps it was simply another power of this powerful Kanohi. Whatever it was, it made me feel uncomfortable, although not afraid.

And then a large dimensional portal exploded into existence. Caught off guard, I accidentally stumbled backwards into another crate, although fortunately I managed to keep myself from falling into it. I looked around and saw that even Klio and Kolora were keeping their distance from the swirling portal of energy.

Gazing into it, I could not see much other than a swirl of colors and textures that kept shifting so much it hurt my eyes. Actually, it was almost like a wall of water had appeared in front of us, for the surface of the portal appeared to be constantly flowing like the ocean and it was slightly transparent just like water. I, however, doubted that it would feel anything like water once we stepped into it.

Despite the great power radiating from it, Kiriah managed to hold her ground. I was impressed, since she was standing closest to the portal. Perhaps it had to do with the fact she was wearing the object that controlled the gate. That would make sense, since I doubted Kiriah was really that strong.

“Wow,” said Kiriah, her eyes transfixed on the constantly fluctuating portal. “It’s so big and bright . . . and I am controlling it . . . That’s so cool . . .”

“All right, enough gawking,” I said, getting up and walking over to her. “We didn’t come here to stare at this . . . thing all day. We’ve got a mission, remember?”

“What? Oh, right,” she said, like she hadn’t been paying attention. “Got to rescue the Time Stone. Could lose my sanity. Right.”

I rolled my eyes at her sarcasm and said, “Very funny, Kiri.”

I turned my head toward Kolora and Klio, who were still standing away from the portal. Neither of them seemed happy to see it; Kolora looked downright angry. But they did not say anything; only stared.

“This will be the last we’ll see of each other for a while, I think,” I told the two elders. “So I guess this is good bye.”

“For real,” Kiriah agreed.

Oddly enough, neither Kolora nor Klio spoke. They merely nodded, as though they understood that they might never see me or Kiriah ever again.

After an uncomfortable silence, I turned back to Kiriah and said, “Let’s go. We should, um, hold hands to avoid getting separated in the space between dimensions.”

“Uh, okay,” said Kiriah as I slipped my hand into hers. “Why not?”

Holding hands firmly, we leapt into the portal in unison, without ever looking back. Our quest had finally, truly begun and I was ready to do whatever it would take to retrieve the Time Stone, no matter the cost.

But even as we entered the portal, Kolora’s warnings echoed through my mind like a gong and I could not help but wonder if this quest would somehow end in tragedy. And that thought scared me far more than any of the unknown places we were journeying to.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:36 PM.

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#4 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 19 2011 - 07:50 AM

Chapter 3: A New Universe

Kiriah


Let’s get one thing straight here: I hate dimension-hopping. Period.

Oh, I thought the idea sounded really cool at first. Interdimensional travel? How could that not be cool?

But that completely ignores the reality of what dimension-hopping actually is. It ignores the fact that you’re falling at a million miles per hour, to who-knows-where, in a swirl of colors and textures and designs that make absolutely no sense to the sane mind. Don’t even get me started on the fact that you’re constantly being blinded by hundreds of thousands of millions of lights every second from every direction.

In short, dimension-hopping is not – and never will be – my cup of tea.

But hey, at least I was managing not to scream too loudly, although it was difficult to tell what the volume of my voice was in such a vast, wide open area. Maybe I was actually whispering . . . or maybe I wasn’t. It’s hard to tell in here, but it sure felt like I was screaming.

Not that it was doing me any good in here, of course. I was still plummeting at a gazillion miles per hour, without an end in sight. I was kind of happy about that, however, because if there was a bottom to this void (which I doubted) then I’d end up a broken pile of smashed Toa armor and organic tissue if I collided with it.

Isarot wasn’t screaming. He kept his mouth closed the entire time. Figures, since he’s not the kind of guy who’d scream even if he was falling in the endless void between dimensions. He’s not that cowardly. I had to admire him for that, unless keeping his mouth tightly shut was his way of showing how terribly afraid he was. Which was always a possibility, I thought.

Now I had to ignore all distractions, which was kind of hard since we were passing by so many different universes so quickly. I could only catch glimpses of the universes within, but I could tell that a lot of them didn’t look very . . . well, let’s just say that at least one looked exactly how I imagined Karzahni to look and leave it at that.

Anyway, ignoring everything was essential right now. I had to focus on the Olmak – which Turaga Klio claimed would warn me of the Time Stone’s location – and try to feel any sort of signal that might indicate where the Stone is. Since I hadn’t done this before, I was not sure how I would know when I was being alerted, since for all I know it might feel exactly like my head was going to explode, which is kind of how it felt now, by the way.

Forcing myself to stop thinking, I focused all of my thoughts on the mask. It seemed to take forever, or perhaps an instant; it was difficult to tell, but eventually I picked up some kind of signal in my head. Instantly, the Olmak seemed to have dropped the precise location of the Stone in my head, in a way I still did not understand, and then – almost as though a giant, invisible hand was yanking me – I leaned toward the right, holding Isarot tightly, and then fell through a portal of light that left me temporarily blinded for an instant as Isarot and I passed through the dimensional gate.

And then my face met solid ground. Ow.

I got on my hands and knees, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. My eyes were acting up; I could barely see anything except for the dirt a few inches from my face. I could still hear, and based on the sounds of footsteps, voices, and various other noises that I heard, we seemed to be in some kind of city. Where, I didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. The signal was extremely near, like the Stone was really, really close. I couldn’t shut it off no matter what I did.

I felt around for Isarot until I grasped somebody’s hand. It felt like Isarot’s, which made me feel a little safer. It was just nice to know that, even though I was in a completely different universe, there was at least one person here whom I knew. I wasn’t totally alone.

But just to be sure, I read his mind – despite knowing how much he hated that – and discovered that he was indeed Isarot. I knew this because he was currently cussing extremely badly in his mind, using only Isarot’s choicest cuss words.

“Oh, Isarot, I’m so glad I found you,” I said, relieved. “Are you okay?”

“Not really,” Isarot groaned somewhere in front of me. “Feels like my back broke in several places. What about you?”

“I’m okay,” I said, rubbing my back with my other hand. Even though I had fallen face first, my back still hurt pretty badly. “Just a little banged up is all.”

“Good,” said Isarot. My vision clearing, I could see Isarot sitting up now, shaking his own head. He didn’t look too bad to me, although his armor seemed to be covered in dirt and mud.

Isarot looked around and asked, “Where do you think we are, exactly?”

I, too, looked around at our surroundings. We seemed to fell in some kind of alleyway, between two brick and metal buildings like the kind I’d heard existed in Metru Nui. In fact, this whole city appeared very futuristic (for want of a better phrase), considering how metallic and technologically advanced the metropolis seemed to be. It seemed to be much more refined than most of the cities in Tanjo Nui, anyway.

“We seem to be in some kind of city,” I said as I, too, sat up, with my hands on my head, which was aching quite a bit. “However, I don’t know which one we’re in. Then again, I don’t know of a lot of cities and considering we’re in an alternate universe that makes it even more difficult to tell where we are.”

“But this is the universe where the Time Stone is located, right?” asked Isarot.

“Um, I think so,” I said as I felt the mask on my face. I could not feel the signal anymore. “Odd, though, how the signal seems to have died down now. I would have thought it would be going off the charts now that we’re in the same universe as the Stone.”

“Perhaps it shut itself off,” said Isarot as he got to his feet, dusting his armor off. “There’s gotta be a reason we ended up in this particular city in this particular universe. Logically, the Time Stone must be located somewhere in here, which has narrowed down our search area considerably once you think about it.”

“Right,” I said, nodding. I got up and then leaned against the wall, for I was still hurting pretty bad from the fall. “Look, how’s about we go search for the Time Stone elsewhere? This alley is too small and cramped for my liking. Let’s go into the streets and see what we can find.”

My friend glanced at a pile of garbage, as if seriously contemplating diving in. “Why don’t we just explore this area a little bit more before moving on? You never know, the Time Stone might be underneath one of these piles of-“

“Sorry, but no,” I said, shaking my head vigorously. “I mean, if it was, I would know, wouldn’t I? The mask would be telling me. Right now, I am not getting any sort of signals from that pile of junk, except to stay well-away from it.”

“Maybe,” said Isarot, although he sounded a little doubtful to me. “Actually, that does make sense. After all, the thief did have the Time Stone with him. I doubt he’s clumsy enough to just drop it in a pile of junk like this. He’d be a pretty lousy thief if he lost the thing he had just successfully stolen, after all.”

“Right,” I said, nodding eagerly. “I mean, he probably has the Stone on him, so all we need to do is find him and we will find the Stone.”

“Then let’s get going,” said Isarot impatiently. “We’ve done enough talking. No more delays.”

“No more delays,” I agreed as we began walking up the alley toward the street. “Absolutely no more delays.”

It did not take us very long to reach the street and . . . well, I couldn’t think of how to describe this city, exactly. I had only seen a brief part of its buildings back in that alley, but they were nothing compared to the city itself.

Every single building was huge – almost beyond anything I had ever seen before. They were all of a shiny kind of metallic protodermis, reflecting the bright sun above us. Most of the beings I saw wore armor that seemed to be less shiny and nice-looking than the buildings, but still a lot better than the armor people wore back home.

Another thing that amazed me as we entered the street was how many different types of beings there were. There were not only Matoran, but Skakdi, Vortixx, Tagiki, and so many others that I didn’t even recognize. What was even more amazing was that they seemed to be relatively peaceful. I mean, yeah, everyone seemed to be going out of their way to avoid the Skakdi, but I actually saw a Matoran and Tagiki peacefully chatting like old friends. That was very different from the situation on Tanjo Nui, where the tensions between the Matoran and Tagiki were so thick you could see it in the air.

The streets were paved smooth and flat, which made walking easy for everybody. I even saw a few vehicles being driven, although most beings seemed happier with walking. The vehicles looked nice, too, with shiny armor plating, round, sleek wheels, and windows that safely protected the driver from the winds that would have blown in his face.

So mesmerized was I by the new sights that I almost got separated from Isarot when a large crowd of Vortixx passed by us. When they cleared, I almost panicked before Isarot immediately turned up at my shoulder, frowning as he looked around the area.

“This city seems a lot bigger than I thought,” said Isarot as he scratched the back of his head. “Way too many people. It’s going to be nearly impossible to find the thief, much less the Time Stone, here.”

“That’s not even counting the rest of the universe that we might have to search, too,” I said. I attempted to hide the panic that was beginning to overwhelm me, now that I actually began to realize exactly what we were attempting to do. Had Klio, Kolora, and Darranas experienced such fear before when they had tried to save the Time Stone, too? “That is, unless we somehow ended up in a universe that’s a thousand times smaller than ours.”

“Good point,” said Isarot thoughtfully. He looked at me and asked, “Is it possible you could use your powers and do a broad mental sweep of the minds of everyone in the vicinity?”

“Um, I don’t think I can,” I admitted. “I’m not that experienced. It would take too much out of me and I might fall unconscious, which would be a bad thing because-“

“You’re needed to use the Olmak, yeah,” said Isarot, nodding. “But doesn’t the Olmak have some kind of scanning feature or something that’ll let you know where the Time Stone is?”

I shrugged, feeling a little frustrated now. “I don’t know. When we got here, the Olmak stopped picking up the signal, so I don’t know if that means we’re dead on target or if-“

At that moment, we saw a cloaked figure burst out of an alleyway not too far from us. She – my constantly active, low level telepathy picked up that fact about her from her mind - looked around wildly, as if taking in her surroundings, and then crashed through the crowd. I wondered what she was running from when I saw three strange creatures emerge from the shadows of the backstreet, as though born of the darkness itself.

The first word I’d use to describe them, I guess, would be scary. However, I felt even that failed to capture the full horror and strangeness of these monsters. They wore black armor and had deep, dark colored eyes that seemed utterly devoid of all emotion. They were stick-thin, but appeared to be strong, for one of the things accidentally knocked over a street light with the slightest brush of its foreleg. They towered over everybody, but for some reason everyone seemed more frightened of the cloaked being than the trio of strange creatures that had appeared in their midst.

“Stop, thief!” one of the creatures boomed in a flat, monotonic voice, which in my opinion contrasted sharply with its insect-like head. “Under the orders of the Council of the New Republic, you are under arrest!”

I thought they were being naïve if they thought that she’d heed their warning, since the cloaked figure just kept running up the street without even looking back. I didn’t know where she was going, but I guessed it was probably anywhere where those things weren’t. Even I, a non-criminal, was pretty frightened by them.

When the thief didn’t comply with their demands, the creatures leapt over the crowd of pedestrians in one bound and tore after her, almost as though they did this every day. Considering how casually they seemed to approach their job, they probably did.

“Wow, Isarot,” I said as I watched the monsters chase after the thief. “Those things are weird.”

I looked at Isarot, who didn’t seem to be paying attention to me. He was wearing an expression of eagerness as he watched the thief run away. “Isarot?”

He looked at me with a triumphant expression on his face and, pointing at the escaping thief, simply said, “I think we’ve found our thief. Let’s get him.”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:38 PM.

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#5 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 20 2011 - 06:22 AM

Chapter 4: Conflict

Isarot.


“Isarot,” Kiriah whined as we ran after the robotic monsters and the thief. “How can you possibly be sure that this thief is the same one who has the Time Stone?”

“This thief wears a cloak, just like the one who stole the Stone,” I replied as we ran. “Their cloaks look almost exactly alike. They seem to be about the same height. Plus, who says that our thief isn’t looting other dimensions as well? I know if I were an interdimensional thief I’d steal from multiple universes.”

“But this one is female,” protested Kiriah. “The one we’re after is male!”

“How do you know that?” I asked as I leapt over a parked vehicle, my eyes focused solely on the creatures and their prey up ahead. “There was no way to tell exactly what the thief’s gender was at the time. He could be a she for all we know!”

“Yeah, but-“ she said as we rounded a corner into an alley, where we had seen the thief and monsters disappear into.

“Enough talking,” I said, stopping abruptly and holding out my arm to halt Kiriah. “Looks like the chase is over.”

I was, of course, right. The three machine-like monsters had cornered the thief at the end of the alley. It looked like a hopeless situation for the thief; the walls were too high for her to climb, the trio was closing in on her on all sides, and she didn’t appear to have any sort of teleportation abilities to use to escape the situation, otherwise I bet she’d have been long gone by now.

Of course, I knew better than to assume she could not escape. If she was indeed the same thief who had stolen the Time Stone, then any moment now she’d open a dimensional portal and escape into a place where no one but us could follow her.

But to my shock, she didn’t do that. Instead, she whipped out two sharp-looking daggers, which were instantly blown out of her hands by twin eye beams from one of the mechanical beasts. She then tried to deliver a jump kick, but the second creature ducked and knocked her out of the air with a swipe from its thin, spiked leg. She crashed hard into the side of the building and fell to the ground, apparently unconscious. Then the robots closed in on her, probably to take her to prison, if that was where captured criminals went in this dimension.

However, I was not about to let them get her, not if she was the thief. If they put her in jail now, then we might never find her again.

So, drawing my tomahawk, I jumped and, gliding on my wings, I flew through the air and beheaded one of the robots, sparks flying as its body crumpled. I landed a few feet away and turned around, ready to take them all down if necessary.

Of course, there was no way the other two would just sit by as their friend was killed. They turned toward me and one of them – the one with red eyes – said in a monotonic voice, “Assaulting an Anican police officer is a criminal offense. State your name and homeland and we shall make sure that your people will deal with you as they see fit once we have arrested you.”

“Sorry, but my name is unimportant right now,” I replied, twirling my tomahawk in my hands. “As for where I come from, I doubt you’d believe me if I told you. Just give me that thief and things won’t have to get messy.”

“No,” the red-eyed one answered, shaking his head slowly. “She is a criminal and we, the Anicans, must capture all criminals and bring them to the law. To prevent another rise of the Olmak Empire is our primary mission, as well as bring peace and justice to the peoples of-”

“Olmak Empire?” asked Kiriah curiously. “What’s that?”

For the first time, the two Anicans seemed to notice Kiriah. Their robotic heads swiveled until both of them were staring at her with an unflinching gaze. I had no idea what they were doing until the blue-eyed one said ominously, “You, Toa, are wearing a symbol of support for the Olmak Empire. For that, you must be put to death . . . immediately.”

With blinding speed, the blue-eyed one shot forward and slashed at Kiriah. She tried to dodge, but it moved far faster than her. With one swift slash it sent Kiriah crashing to the ground and penned her there. She didn’t move even slightly.

“Kiriah!” I yelled. “No!”

The red-eyed Anican swept forward and probably would have gotten me had I not blocked the attack with my tomahawk. Again, the Anican displayed surprising strength despite its frail appearance. I found myself pitting all of my strength against its own and even that didn’t seem to be enough. If I didn’t do something quick, I’d probably die. So would Kiriah and maybe even that thief, too, if the Anicans thought we were her friends.

But I wasn’t totally hopeless. Tagiki don’t just have immense strength. We also have elemental powers; two each, in fact, although they’re weaker than that of a Toa’s single elemental power. Still, they usually get the job done and it gave us Tagiki a greater variety of tactics in battle. I have ice and light . . . which ought to make my next move interesting, to say the least.

I allowed the Anican to push me backwards, a bit harder than I had calculated, and I staggered back a bit before regaining my balance. I narrowly dodged another blow from the Anican, which crushed the pavement where I’d been standing previously.

Then I unleashed a blinding flash of light, which obviously confused the Anican, for he took a step back and looked around for me. I lunged forward, grabbed its spiky forelegs, and sent a wave of chilly ice through its form, instantly freezing it. The Anican was no more.

Then the blue-eyed Anican – which had been busy with Kiriah – seemed to notice that its comrade had fallen and, instead of killing Kiriah, jumped at me. I forced the frozen Anican in front of me and the blue-eyed Anican smashed into it, shattering the robot into a million pieces as I dove aside to evade the blow.

I slashed at the Anican, but it managed to deflect the blow off of its thin armor. Then the Anican tried to slash at me, which I blocked with my tomahawk. Somehow – perhaps because I had been fighting for so long – this Anican seemed stronger than the last and forced me to block each and every one of its devastating blows, lest I end up getting killed.

“Give up, supporter of the Empire, and your life might be spared,” the Anican said as it leapt back to dodge one of my attacks. “Continue to fight and I will be forced to eliminate you.”

“Right, you’re going to give me that chance, but not Kiri?” I shot back. “Just because she’s wearing-“

Unfortunately, in my attempts to defend Kiriah, I let my guard down. The Anican charged and slammed into me, sending me flying into the side of a building. I crashed into the structure and fell to the ground, groaning in pain as I hit the pavement. My head hurt, my limbs hurt, my back hurt, my chest hurt . . . everything hurt. Not to mention my armor appeared to be cracked as well.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Anican advancing. I reached for my tomahawk, but the Anican shot twin laser beams from its eyes and destroyed my weapon before my fingers had even brushed the handle. Now it was just a smoldering pile of metal, and I had a bad feeling that I would not look much different from it once the blue-eyed machine was through with me.

Although I was in great pain, I still had some fight left in me. So I rolled over onto my stomach and raised both of my hands high before smashing them down as hard as I could, sending cold waves of ice at the Anican. I was certain that it would instantly freeze the robot solid and for a moment, it seemed to be working, for the Anican stopped as the coldness slowly encased its body in sleet and ice.

Then it did something completely unexpected.

“Activating elemental energy destabilizers,” the Anican said in its monotone voice that was colder than the ice which covered its body.

Immediately, what parts of its body had been frozen began to thaw, until it soon looked like not even a thin sheet of sleet had ever been there. This amazed me, but I had no more time to think it over. It seemed to need to stay still in order to use its destabilizing feature, but even if I tried to hit it with everything I had, there was no way I could take it down with elemental powers. And, although I was pretty strong in terms of physical strength, I doubted I could punch it without hurting myself.

Then a new idea occurred to me. It was crazy and might get us all killed. It depended almost entirely on the foundation of the street, whether there were any sewers below, and whether I wanted to commit what would obviously be considered a form of vandalism. However, since this thing would probably kill us all anyway, I figured I could take a few risks.

I slowly got to my feet, leaning on the building for support as the Anican’s elemental energy destabilizers finished their job. The Anican itself began walking toward me again, its dark blue eyes never leaving me as it advanced.

I reached into my backpack and drew a knife. I had originally brought this along in case of emergency and I knew there was no way it could help in direct combat against an Anican, not if my tomahawk wasn’t even up to the challenge.

But that wasn’t what I needed it for. All I needed it to be was strong, strong enough to be able to channel elemental energy through it without breaking it.

So, without hesitation, I began to do something I had never done before: Charging light and ice energy into the knife itself. I had heard of Toa charging objects with their elemental powers, giving the artifact the ability to shoot said element or control it in some way. I knew Tagiki were also capable of this, but to a much weaker degree. There was no guarantee that it would work, and even if it did, the level of energy it would unleash might not be sufficient to blow a hole in the street and into the sewers below.

But I had to try. If I failed, then we’d die. And if I succeeded . . . well, we might all die anyway, but I figured it was worth trying just the same.

The Anican had stopped and gazed at my now-glowing knife, as though mesmerized. I knew it was likely seizing up the weapon, trying to decide whether it was a threat or not. I decided to help it reach its conclusion a little quicker and – the dagger now shaking with all of the energy I had poured into it – I hurled the blade at the ground right underneath its feet.

I cannot accurately described what happened next, for there were so many lights and sounds that I had a difficult time making out even the barest of details. As the wave of cold energy and the bright lights slammed into me like a pile driver, I could hear stone and metal shattering, debris falling everywhere, and then . . . silence. Just like that, it was over.

But I had my eyes closed. I was almost afraid to see what my little surprise had done, but that was stupid. Dimension-hopping was probably scarier than looking at the wreckage left behind by my exploding knife, after all.

So I opened my eyes and looked around the area. Even I was amazed at the damage my attack had caused. There was a hole in the middle of the street, right where the Anican had been standing, but it was huge. It almost stretched from one side of the alley to the other, with little room to go around it. I peered into it and saw only endless darkness, with a stench like sewer water rising from its depths.

The rest of the area didn’t look good, either. One of the nearby buildings had a small crater in it and dust filled the air, making it hard to discern specific features. I could hear people screaming somewhere nearby, and if I wasn’t mistaken I thought I saw a crashed vehicle just outside of the alley. My knife seemed to have disrupted traffic, but there was no time to worry about that. I knew I had to get Kiriah and me out of here before more Anicans arrived.

I struggled to stand and cried out as my right arm throbbed. I couldn’t tell whether it was broken or simply badly wounded, but it hurt. I had to force myself to ignore the pain as I went around the huge crater in search of Kiriah.

As I reached the other side of the ravine, I noticed a glint of blue and gold lying underneath a piece of rubble. It wasn’t moving. My heart beating fast, I limped over to the body (had my leg somehow been damaged, too?) and bent over and heaved the heavy rock off of Kiriah’s body.

She looked . . . well, not pretty, that’s for sure. Her armor was cracked in a lot of places and left arm appeared badly wounded. Somehow, though, the Olmak was relatively unscathed, save for a few insignificant scratches here and there.

I placed my hand on her chest and felt it heaving up and down and sighed. At least she was still breathing, I thought, but I had no idea how I was going to get her out of here quickly. I was too weak from all of the fighting to drag her out by myself, not to mention I did not know where I could hide anyway. But I also knew that if I didn’t do something, Kiriah might die or more Anicans would arrive or something even worse would happen.

I couldn’t just leave her here. She was my friend, even though I didn’t always agree with her on everything. Besides that, she is the only one who can use the Olmak. I wasn’t capable of using the mask even if I was heartless enough to take it and leave her to die (which I wasn’t, by the way).

I tried to pull her out with only one arm, but it was slow-moving and I only managed to drag her a few feet before I had to stop and rest. This was getting us nowhere, but I was the only one who could save her. Leaving her behind wasn’t an option.

So I began pulling her again, but then – just as I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it for much longer – another pair of hands grabbed Kiriah and heaved her along with me. Surprised, I looked up and saw the hooded face of that thief the Anicans had been chasing – the one who I suspected was the same thief Kiriah and I were after. But why was she helping me save Kiriah?

“Why-?” I began, but the thief cut me off.

“You saved me,” she murmured. I could definitely tell it was female now; her voice was feminine, although dangerous, too, like she saved that tone for whenever she was about to finish off her enemies. “If you and your Toa friend here hadn’t arrived, I would have been captured and thrown in jail. I’ll help you both get to somewhere safe, and then we will separate so the Anicans can’t find us easily.”

I wanted to interrogate her about the Time Stone, now that she was right here next to me, but I realized that this was not the right time. Kiriah was badly wounded; Anican police officers were probably on their way here now; I myself wasn’t in very good shape; and something in the thief’s voice and demeanor was giving me second thoughts about her true identity.

So, nodding my approval, the thief and I began dragging Kiriah away. I hoped that the thief had a safe location in mind and that Kiriah would hang on for just a little while longer. I didn’t know what I’d do if she died.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:39 PM.

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#6 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 21 2011 - 11:25 AM

Chapter 5: Identities

Kiriah.


I was walking along a strange, dark pathway. I had no particular destination in mind. I was just walking, strolling along for fun or something like that. I found it strange that I didn’t know where I was going, but I sort of went with the flow and didn’t give it too much thought.

What was even stranger, though, was the fact that no matter where I looked, everything seemed blurry and distorted. I couldn’t make out any specific details, save for the overpowering darkness that seemed to be trying to crush me under its weight.

Then another thought occurred to me – Where am I?

On one hand, I sort of thought it looked like Tanjo Nui, with deep forests and huge cities visible in the distance. But at the same time, it looked like an island I had never seen before. A dark fortress loomed up ahead, much larger than any I had ever seen before. Its design was unusual, too; there were six towers, shaped like swords, reaching toward the sky, with what looked like shadows swirling around the tips. The fortress itself was painted black, or was made out of black stone. I couldn’t tell.

At first, the fortress was the only thing I could distinguish. Then – literally without warning – everything came into focus. A large forest; a chain of mountains somewhere in the south; beings in black armor patrolling the walls of the fortress; statues of six Toa-like beings dotting the landscape; and a small rocky beach just behind the stronghold.

I also noticed two beings crouched low in the forest outside of the fortress. They appeared to be Toa to me, but not Toa I had seen before. Their armor was similar to mine, but bulkier and less streamlined, like the designs I’d seen on the stone carvings on Tanjo Nui that were commonly used to depict the Toa Avha.

One of the Toa wore yellow and white armor – which meant she was a Toa of Lightning – with a Mask of Healing on her face. I noticed she held a long scythe – the head of which was shaped like a lightning bolt, which I thought was slightly unnecessary but cool-looking nonetheless – and had familiar cold white eyes but I did not know why they looked so familiar to me. I thought I’d seen them somewhere before, but where, I could not remember.

The Toa crouching next to her – who was the taller of the two – wore orange and white armor similar to the kind Toa of Plasma usually bore, which helped me identify his element. He wore a Mask of Charisma, although with his handsome blue eyes I wondered why he would ever even need that Kanohi to charm people in the first place.

Due to my own obliviousness – which Isarot keeps telling me is a problem I should work on, but I’m not sure – I had not noticed the two were deep in conversation. I drew a little closer to listen, afraid that they would notice me if I were too loud. But to my surprise they took absolutely no notice of me at all, even though I was standing right next to them now. Either I was a lot stealthier than I thought, they were stupid, or they were intentionally ignoring me, which I thought was mean if the last was the case.

“Kolora’s leading the rebellion on Tanjo Nui?” asked the Toa of Plasma, his eyes on the looming stronghold rather than on his friend.

“Yes,” the Toa of Lightning confirmed, nodding, her eyes also on the fortress. “Helryx said the Kra-Matoran have been driven back to Tuyar Akam. The Kra-Matoran have thus far been unable to mount an effective defense because some of Helryx’s agents had sabotaged their weapons supply.”

“By ‘sabotage,’ you mean ‘blow into a million pieces,’ right?” asked the Toa of Plasma with a smirk on his face. “And took out a whole bunch of Kra-Matoran at the same time, yes?”

The Toa of Lightning nodded, although she did not appear to be as happy about it as her friend. “Yeah. That means that without reinforcements from Tanjo Nui, we and the others might just be able to mount a successful raid here on Shika Nui.”

Shika Nui? I searched my memory for that name, but couldn’t remember if I’d ever heard of an island called Shika Nui before. I wondered where that was, or if it even existed. Somehow none of this seemed real to me, almost like a dream. But at the same time it felt too real to merely be a dream, like I was witnessing an actual event happening here.

The contradiction hurt my head, so I ignored it and continued listening to the conversation.

“Good to hear,” said the Toa of Plasma. “I only wish I had been there, though, just to see the surprised looks on the Kra-Matorans’ faces before they got blown into kingdom come. It is good to know that there are several less evil beings in the universe now, isn’t it?”

“I suppose,” said the Toa of Lightning with a shrug. “Anyway, there’s no reason to be at Tanjo Nui at the moment. This is the headquarters of the Kra-Matoran Empire. According to our spy all six of the Shodios are currently located in that building in front of us. If we can take this fortress, then hopefully this war will be over. With their leaders defeated the Kra-Matoran will become disorganized.”

“The war will be over, maybe, but I doubt the Kra-Matoran will give up that easily,” said the Toa of Plasma grimly. “Oh, well. I suppose that means that, once we finish this, I will have the joy of eliminating whatever pockets of resistance may remain after the war.”

“Helryx told me she has other plans for the Kra-Matoran, though,” said the Toa of Lightning as she stretched her arms nervously. “Something about locking them all up somewhere.”

The Toa of Plasma snorted. “Helryx may be smart, but she has got to realize locking up a whole tribe of Matoran, plus six Toa and a Turaga, is downright impossible. It would also be too impractical, for I doubt we could keep them all locked up for very long. They’d break out sooner or later and probably sooner.”

“Darranas, the only other option we have is genocide, which wouldn’t be right,” said the Toa of Lightning, shaking her head. “Even if they do deserve it, it would be wrong for us to kill them. We wouldn’t be much different from them if we killed our enemies like they do, right?”

Darranas?

I looked at the Toa of Plasma again. Was this the legendary Toa Darranas I had heard so many stories about? I tried to read his mind to find out, but I picked up nothing. I mean, I know some people are air-heads and all, but I picked up literally no thoughts from his mind whatsoever, like he didn’t actually exist. That was a bit freaky and made me wonder just what the Karzahni was going on here.

“I never suggested genocide, Klio,” Darranas said, tearing his eyes away from the fortress to look at the Toa of Lightning. “I am only saying that they have committed many atrocious crimes to further their own selfish desires. If extermination isn’t the answer, then we could at least drive them to the uninhabited southern islands. Keep an eye on them there and if they do anything . . . well, we’ll make sure they don’t do anything.”

Klio?

I glanced at the Toa of Lightning and felt a tingle of shock run through my form. Although she was a Toa, I recognized her Mask of Healing and her slightly cold eyes quite well. But she did look different from her Turaga self; more confident, less secretive. I didn’t pick up any thoughts from her, either, which was starting to really freak me out by now.

“Well, not all of them are bad people, Darranas,” said Klio, shooting an irritated look at him. “Remember our spy? The one who has kept us updated and informed on all of the enemy’s movements before they even do them?”

Darranas looked away from her and said, “Oggakia has been very helpful, I guess. Her information has been accurate and because of her we have been able to turn the tide of this Mata-Nui-forsaken war. I still don’t trust her too much, though, on principal.”

“Is it just because she’s a Kra-Matoran?” asked Klio, somewhat exasperatedly. “She has proven that not all Kra-Matoran are pure evil. Remember that other Kra-Matoran, Siklo? He was a good person, too, which is why I think imprisonment is probably our best option for dealing with the rest of them.”

“I . . . guess so, even though it sounds impossible,” said Darranas reluctantly. “Maybe we can let a few good villagers free, but the rest ought to be imprisoned. They’re far too dangerous to be allowed to run around free like they have been doing now.”

“I agree with you there,” said Klio, nodding. “Allowing them to run free after we defeat them will just create another Kra-Matoran Empire, maybe one even worse than it is now. Whatever Helryx’s plan is, I hope it works.”

“I do wonder, though, where one can find a prison big enough for a whole tribe of Matoran,” Darranas said thoughtfully. “It’d have to be gigantic.”

“Definitely,” Klio said in agreement.

There was silence for a few moments as they sat there and stared at the fortress. Then Darranas spoke up again, asking, “So we’re going to strike as soon as Helryx’s agents attack, right?”

“Yes,” said Toa Klio. “We’ll also attack at the same time as the other Toa Avha. We take the front, Omira and Ukio get the left, Arcus and Ujat get the right, and then Helryx will lead her agents through the back entrance. If we play our cards right, everything should just go exactly as planned.”

“That is good,” said Darranas. “There are only supposed to be about a thousand Kra-Matoran stationed here, right? We can deal with that many.”

“And all six of the Shodios,” said Klio grimly. “Even separately they’re more than a challenge for us. Remember our last encounter with them?”

“Well, we’ll beat them anyway,” said Darranas as he punched his fist into his other hand. “We have unity. They don’t. They constantly bicker and argue with each other, while we work together as a team. As long as we can take them by surprise I am certain we’ll defeat them once and for all.”

“I just hope Oggak remembers to stay out of the way,” Klio said, looking at the fortress. “There have been too many unnecessary casualties in this war already. She’s a good soul and doesn’t deserve to die.”

Darranas looked like he had a lot to say about that, but then he stopped and immediately tensed. He looked like he heard something. Klio, too, looked like her audio receptors had picked up some new sounds. Both of them looked at each other and gripped their weapons more tightly.

At first, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then I heard battle cries and yells from somewhere on the other side of the fortress and then a huge burst of energy exploded in the sky, illuminating the area for miles around in every direction. Startled, I stumbled backward, but neither Klio nor Darranas seemed surprised to see it. In fact, they seemed to have been expecting it.

“The Order has struck,” said Klio as she and Darranas stood up. “That’s the signal. The time to strike . . . is now.”

And then . . . there was nothing. I was floating in empty blackness, stunned by the abrupt transition, wondering what was going to happen next. And then I fell straight down into the endless abyss.

“No!” I cried as I thrashed about. “Help! Don’t let me fall!”

“Kiriah!” said a voice from somewhere above me. “You’re-“

I fell out of a bed and landed on what felt like cold stone, the impact jarring the panic out of me. I lay on the gelid floor, drawing in deep breaths as I tried to calm myself.

“-on the floor,” finished the voice sardonically. “Come on, Kiri. Get up.”

I felt firm hands haul me back up onto the bed. I looked up and saw that the hands belonged to Isarot, who looked tired. He tried to push me back on the bed, but I wanted to sit up. I could barely remember what had happened before the dream. I wanted him to explain everything to me, or did I want to talk about the dream? I didn’t know. I was in no condition to think, but I tried anyway.

“You need to rest,” said Isarot firmly. “You’re in no state to be sitting up like this.”

“But, Isarot,” I mumbled, putting one hand on my head, which hurt a lot. “I don’t remember . . . the dream was so real . . . where are we . . .”

“Don’t force her, Isarot,” said a new feminine voice off to the left, one I didn’t recognize. “If she wants to sit up, then let her. She can figure out the consequences of not resting the hard way if she wants.”

“Not consequences,” I protested half-heartedly. “Just want to talk . . .”

“Those Anicans wounded you way too badly, Kiri,” said Isarot. “You need to rest. Understood?”

“Anicans . . .” I muttered the word like I’d never heard it before, but then it triggered some memories. The Olmak Empire . . . the Anicans chasing the thief . . . large mechanical monsters trying to kill me and Isarot . . . However, they were still too fragmented for me to remember any specific details.

“Yes, Kiri, Anicans,” my friend sighed. “Now would you please rest?”

“What . . . happened?” I asked. It was surprisingly difficult to speak; I really must have been hit pretty hard. “How’d we get here?”

“Thanks to our little thieving friend here, we managed to escape before any more Anicans arrived,” said Isarot grudgingly, like he didn’t like having to admit that. “She led me to this abandoned building. We’ve been here for about a day, waiting for you to wake up.”

“Actually, he was waiting for you to wake up,” the feminine voice – whose owner was out of sight – corrected. “I was just about ready to get a move on, myself, but he insisted that I stay here until I answer his questions.”

“Which you still haven’t, by the way,” Isarot snapped at her. “But that doesn’t matter. Kiriah here is a Toa of Psionics. She can read your mind, isn’t that right, Kiri?”

“I guess so . . .” I muttered. I was still thinking about that dream, so I wasn’t giving my fullest attention to Isarot.

“And the minute you do, you will both find knives in your throats,” the thief – that was the only person it could be – replied sharply. “I was known for being an expert in knife throwing before I became a wanted criminal, you know. Actually, I still was a wanted criminal, but that’s not the point.”

“Maybe I should just leave her alone, Isarot,” I said. “I’m not a big fan of having knives lodged in my throat.”

“Unless she’s bluffing,” Isarot suggested, when a dagger came flying his way and struck the wall an inch from his face. He jumped back in surprise and exclaimed indignantly, “Hey!”

“I don’t bluff about things like that,” the thief said. She walked into my view and she looked exactly the same as I remembered her; tall, with a black cloak that covered her entire body from head to toe. “If I did, no one would fear me.”

She pointed at my face, revealing a robotic clawed hand, and asked, “Where did you get that from? I thought only King Brutaka wore the Kanohi Olmak?”

“Hey,” said Isarot, swatting her hand out of my face and glaring at her. “You answer our questions first, thief. Or else I’ll-“

“Fine, fine,” the thief sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t need another enemy, I think. Not since I have the entire Republic against me, anyway.”

I thought that was a sudden change in attitude, but I was still too tired and freaked out from my dream to give it much thought.

The thief walked away from us and looked out the window, which I just realized existed. It seemed to be night outside now, or early morning; I couldn’t tell. They looked exactly the same to me at the moment.

At first I thought she was deeply contemplating her thoughts, but then it occurred to me that she was probably looking out the window for any sign of the Anicans. She said she was an enemy of the ‘Republic,’ whatever that was, so she was probably on the run all the time.

“What do you want me to answer first?” she finally asked, turning around to face us.

Isarot folded his arms and said, “First, I want to know who you are.”

“That’s easy,” said the thief. She lowered her hood and said, “I am Lariska, ex-body guard of King Brutaka of the Olmak Empire.”

I was shocked to see her face. Not that it was particularly ugly or anything like that, but it was heavily scarred. She looked like she’d been through lots of fights and hadn’t come out of them in exactly one piece. There was a particularly bad gash under her left eye, which looked pretty recent to me.

“Who is King Brutaka?” asked Isarot suspiciously. “A lie, made up to cover your theft?”

“What theft?” Lariska asked, clearly puzzled. “I haven’t stolen from you. I would have known it.”

“You’re lying,” said Isarot, pointing accusingly at her. “You didn’t steal from us, per se, but you did steal the Time Stone.”

“You mean that worthless hunk of rock on Tanjo Nui?” said Lariska. “Why would anyone want that? Besides, it hasn’t been stolen. Considering how the Tanjo Nuians tend to overreact at the slightest sign of trouble, everyone would know if the Stone was gone.”

“You mean-?” Isarot stuttered. Then he shook his head and said to me, “Kiriah, read her mind. If she’s telling the truth, then she wouldn’t mind, now would she?”

“Well, I suppose I have nothing to hide,” Lariska said, shrugging. “Go ahead. Do your worst.”

“As long as you promise not to impale me with knives,” I muttered as I used my mental powers to scan Lariska’s mind. I was too tired to do a particularly thorough job. So I did a quick sweep of her mind and some of the deeper layers instead.

Mind-reading is a bit difficult, even for me. For one, you have to overcome a person’s own mental barriers (if they have any at all, that is) and, depending on the strength of the barrier, that could take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, possibly even longer or never at all if the barrier is strong enough.

Another thing that makes telepathy not-so-easy is the complexity of the mind itself. It’s not like a book, which you can flip through easily. It’s more like one thick layer of dirt over the other, with the current thoughts on the surface. To penetrate into a person’s deepest, most hidden thoughts and memories would require a lot more effort than I was willing to put into it at the moment.

So, after a few quick sweeps of Lariska’s mind, I found what I was looking for and told Isarot, “She’s telling the truth. As far as I can tell, she is not the thief we’re looking for, although she has stolen a lot of things from the Republic recently. She doesn’t know who we are, where we came from, or anything relating to the Time Stone, aside from the fact she said it’s just a worthless hunk of rock.”

“You mean we saved her from the Anicans for no reason at all?” Isarot demanded, his tone rising like his temper. “We wasted all of that time – nearly got ourselves killed – only to learn that she is completely unrelated to our current quest? Argh!”

He was so angry he punched the wall, creating a shallow crater in it. I knew all about Isarot’s short temper, which, while useful sometimes, almost always proved to be one of his worst flaws. The only way to calm him down was . . . well, actually, I could never remember a time when I managed to calm him down myself. He usually mellowed out on his own after a while. I just hoped he didn’t try to attack Lariska out of rage. He was known to break things when he was frustrated.

“Cool off, Isarot,” Lariska said, folding her arms. “I don’t know what either of you are talking about, but I know enough that you must know who King Brutaka is. Why else would your Toa friend be wearing the symbol of his empire on her face?”

“This is a king’s symbol?” I asked, feeling the Olmak, which was still on my face. “I had no idea.”

“No, it’s not,” said Isarot stubbornly, like he usually does when he’s upset. “It’s just a tool we use to accomplish our task.”

Lariska shook her head in disbelief and said, “I never knew that any being in the universe today was unaware of the legendary King Brutaka. He was so powerful and his empire lasted for so long that even now, 500 years later, people still speak of his name in fear, as though he still lives.”

“Well, we don’t know who he is, nor do we care,” said Isarot. “We need to find the Time Stone, not learn the history of some-“

“-dead king no one cares about!” I finished hurriedly for him, looking at Lariska to make sure she didn’t hear anything she didn’t need to. “I mean, if he’s been dead 500 years, who cares? It’s not like he’s relevant to the present, right, Isarot?”

I looked at him pointedly, but unfortunately he did not appear to understand what I meant. I was attempting to convey to him that, if he brought up that we are not from this universe Lariska would ask us even more questions and would probably make it difficult for us to leave. I didn’t think we needed to let Lariska know who we really were. I didn’t know how she would react to that information and wasn’t willing to risk it.

But it appeared I said the wrong thing, for Lariska was in my face in a split second and, holding a dagger up to my throat, growled, “What did you say about my king, stupid Toa? Say that again, and you won’t be able to say anything else ever again.”

Isarot quickly grabbed Lariska by the arm and hurled her at the walls. She slammed into them, but quickly recovered, drawing more daggers from her robes as she rose. Despite this being a tense situation, my mind wandered a bit and I wondered where she kept getting all of those knives from. She seemed to have an unlimited supply of them hidden underneath her cloak.

“Don’t you dare threaten Kiriah – or me, for that matter – ever again,” Isarot snarled as light and ice energy began swirling in the palms of his hands. “I might just be forced to hurt you. Trust me; you really don’t want to see what I can do when I’m angry.”

“Like bright lights and ice cubes are going to scare me,” Lariska growled, twirling her daggers dangerously fast.

“Wait!” I said. Before they could begin trading blows, I activated my telekinesis powers and telekinetically held them back from each other. “Killing each other isn’t going to solve anything! I mean, I guess I said the wrong thing, but you two killing each other won’t help anyone!”

They both struggled against my power and for a moment I feared they would break through. But fortunately, neither could advance even an inch closer to the other. I was surprised at my own mental strength, considering I was pretty weak at the moment, but I ignored it since it wasn’t relevant to the current situation.

“Let me go, Kiri!” Isarot growled, straining against my powers.

“Yeah, let us go!” Lariska said. “I just want to rough him up a bit, that’s all.”

“No,” I said, as firmly as I could. “Not unless you both promise not to kill each other. And don’t even think about double-crossing me for a second. I can read your minds to see if you are both being honest or not. Got it?”

“All right,” said Isarot reluctantly. He ceased struggling and, after a quick scan of his mind, I discovered he really wasn’t going to kill Lariska, although his thoughts about her were far from positive.

Lariska, too, stopped tussling and said, “Fine. I won’t kill your friend as long as he doesn’t kill me.”

After reading her mind, I decided she too was being honest, so I hesitantly released them both.

At first, because of the dirty looks they were throwing at each other, I thought they were going to fight anyway. But then the energy faded from Isarot’s hands and Lariska turned away as she sheathed her daggers somewhere in her cloak. They were both quite disgusted and still wanted to kill each other, but they knew I wouldn’t let them do it.

“So,” I said, after an uncomfortable silence, “Lariska, um, why did you get so upset when I said what said about that King Brutaka guy? Did you like him or something?”

Lariska looked troubled now. “I was his personal bodyguard, young Toa, until he died. Now I am nothing more than a common crook, attempting to find the truth that the Republic hides from the people.”

“Oh, really?” I asked. I was trying to keep my tone as friendly as possible, lest Isarot and Lariska have a go at it again. “What, exactly, is the Republic hiding from the people that’s so important to you?”

She turned toward me, her arms hanging at her side, and said, “The truth about King Brutaka’s death. That’s what they’re hiding. Someone in the Republic knows how he really died – who really killed him – and I am determined to find out who and why.”

“Could you, er, refresh our memory?” I asked innocently, throwing a dark look at Isarot as he began to speak. I didn’t trust him to blurt out something and get Lariska at his throat again. “It was so long ago, wasn’t it?”

“As I said, King Brutaka died 500 years ago,” said Lariska impatiently. “The official report was that he had finally gone insane, thought he saw someone trying to kill him, and fell from his fifty story castle to the streets below.” She looked at me and Isarot suspiciously and asked, “Why don’t you know that? You wear the Olmak, but claim not to know that it is the symbol of Brutaka. You act like you know nothing of recent history – or even of this universe’s history.”

“Well, um,” I said hurriedly, trying to think up some kind of cover story, “we, um, don’t pay much attention to the current happenings. We’re just not interested in politics and stuff, right, Isarot?”

“But how could you not?” asked Lariska in shock. “After the king’s death, his Empire fractured into multiple warring factions until about 250 years ago, when the Republic was formed. The entire universe was in anarchy. Unless you slept through it or are extremely dumb, there is no way you could not have noticed the chaos that had engulfed the whole universe at the time.”

“That’s because-“ I began, before Isarot cut me off.

“Kiri, there’s no reason to make up any more excuses,” Isarot said, leaning against the wall and surveying Lariska with dislike. “Lariska’s obviously very clever. You already know we aren’t from around here, don’t you?”

Lariska nodded. “It was obvious when your Toa friend here showed complete cluelessness about the symbolic significance of the Olmak. Everyone knows that, and because you two don’t, it was easy for me to deduce that you must have came from another place, somewhere where King Brutaka had no influence or power over. Where that might be, I don’t know, but I do want to know why you are here and what you are doing.”

“We can’t tell you that,” Isarot said. “It’s not like you could help us or anything, even if we did tell you. We only saved you because we thought you were someone else, but we were wrong.”

“You mentioned something about the Time Stone and someone stealing it,” said Lariska, “when I know for a fact that the Stone is currently on Tanjo Nui. I don’t know what is going on, but if you aren’t going to tell me then interrogating you two is useless.”

“Indeed it is,” Isarot replied acidly. He turned to me and said, “Since we have no further reason to remain here, I say we should get a move on and continue with our mission.”

“Uh, I don’t know about that, Isarot,” I said, putting one hand on my head. “I’m getting better, but I don’t feel well enough to travel yet. Maybe we could hang out here for a few more hours and then leave?”

“But we’ve got to leave now,” said Isarot, pacing back and forth now, obviously agitated. “We’ve wasted enough time as it is.” He looked at Lariska, who had been watching us with interest, and snapped, “What do you want? Go if you have nothing else to do here.”

“Stop acting like you own the place,” Lariska said harshly, but she turned to leave anyway. “I have no reason to hang around here. You two won’t tell me anything about yourselves and I won’t tell you anything more about me. So I’m out of here. That is probably the wisest choice, since I don’t think it will take the Anicans long to track us down. See you later.”

With that, she left the room, leaving us both alone. Isarot seemed relieved that she was gone now, but I still wondered about her. She seemed like such a mysterious person to me and I wondered why she thought Brutaka’s death was not what it seemed. Admittedly, I knew even less than she did about the situation, but I was still interested anyway.

“All right, then, Kiri,” said Isarot as he looked out the windows at the streets below. “Do you know where the Time Stone is?”

“How am I supposed to know that?” I asked.

“The Olmak, Akilini-brains,” Isarot snapped. “It should tell you where the Time Stone is, shouldn’t it?”

“Oh,” I said, feeling extremely stupid and embarrassed now. “Right. Well, I am not so sure about that anymore. The signal disappeared when-“

And, of course, just to prove me wrong, the Olmak picked up the signal again with such abruptness I actually grabbed my head. It didn’t hurt; it was mostly the shock of feeling the Time Stone’s signature for the first time in a while that caused me to react the way I did.

“What happened?” asked Isarot, walking over to me, probably to make sure I was okay. “Are you hurt?”

“No, no,” I said, waving him off. “It’s the Olmak. It’s picked up the signal again.”

“Then that must mean the Time Stone is close by!” Isarot said eagerly. “Where is it?”

Without hesitation, I pointed out the window and said, “That way. The Olmak’s picking up the Time Stone’s energy signature from that direction.”

“Well, then,” said Isarot, with obvious enthusiasm. His energy seemed renewed by the fact that we were on the Stone’s trail again. “Now that we knew where it is, we should go as soon as possible.”

“After I take a nap for a couple of hours or so,” I muttered as I tried to lie down again.

“No,” said Isarot, grabbing me by the shoulder to prevent me from lying down. “We gotta go now.”

“Could I at least sleep for half an hour?” I asked irritably. Although I understood how Isarot felt, I also needed to rest, for I still hadn’t completely recovered from our battle with the Anicans yet.

“Okay,” said Isarot reluctantly, gently releasing his hold on me. “But only half an hour. And once you’re awake, we’re out of here.”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:40 PM.

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#7 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 22 2011 - 08:37 AM

Chapter 6: The Plan

Isarot.


After Kiriah finished her thirty minute nap (although it seemed to take forever to me), we left the building through the back entrance. Although the streets appeared empty, we didn’t want to be taken by surprise by any sneaky Anicans. After helping Lariska, we were probably wanted criminals by now. It didn’t help that Kiriah was wearing the Olmak, which was some kind of symbol for some dead king I don’t care about but everybody apparently hates. We were probably sworn enemies of the ‘Republic’ by now, although considering none of the Anicans we fought survived the battle I didn’t know how anyone could possibly know we had done it.

But none of that mattered to me at the moment. Kiriah’s Olmak had traced the Stone’s signature and according to her, we had to head toward what seemed to be the center of the city, for as we journeyed deeper into the metropolis we encountered a larger abundance of beings than we had before. Fortunately no one seemed to recognize us, but we were still cautious anyway.

The tricky part was getting Kiriah through unseen. No one would look twice at me; it was Kiriah wearing the Olmak that would make people think there was something up with us. Because we traveled the back alleys to avoid making a scene in public places, we ran into a gang that recognized the Olmak and attempted to kill Kiriah for being a ‘supporter’ of the Olmak Empire. Of course, we soundly and easily beat them (they were just a bunch of Matoran trying to be tough), but it made me stop and think.

“Kiri,” I said as the last of the gang ran away, his right arm frozen in ice, courtesy of me. “I think . . . Well, as much as I hate to delay our journey, we need a find a way to keep you inconspicuous while still wearing the Olmak.”

“How do we do that?” asked Kiriah. She hadn’t been hurt in the clash with the gang, but she was obviously shaken by the experience. “Not that I disagree, but it’s not like we have some kind of disguise I could wear to hide my mask. Maybe we should just be more careful next time.”

“No,” I said firmly as I walked over to a dumpster and began rummaging through it. I thought I might be able to find something here, since there was garbage practically everywhere in this city. “I am not going to risk your safety. If you are seen by the Anicans, they’ll try to kill you and destroy the Olmak. If they succeed then our quest will be pointless, even if we do manage to retrieve the Time Stone somehow.”

“Oh,” said Kiriah softly behind me. “I didn’t know you cared that much-“

“Ah ha,” I said as I pulled a long, black cloak out of the dumpster. It was about Kiriah’s height, but covered in grime and dirt. Still, it had a hood, which looked like it would hopefully cover her face. “Here, try this on.”

I threw it to her and the Toa of Psionics reluctantly caught it. An expression of disgust spread across her face as she held it away from her, like it was infected by some kind of deadly virus.

“This? I’m not wearing this,” said Kiriah, shaking her head. “It’s too dirty and will look suspicious.”

“Just clean off the dirt with your telekinesis powers or something like that,” I said. “You can do that, can’t you?”

“Maybe,” said Kiriah, though I noticed she hadn’t brought the robe even an inch closer to her. “I’ve never attempted to perform such a precise task before. It’s harder to manipulate smaller doses of elemental power than it is to control larger doses, you know. But I guess I can try.”

She stared intently at the cloak (which I doubted she enjoyed doing) and . . . nothing happened. She sighed and said, “Well, Isarot, I tried. Guess I can’t clean it. Let’s find a cleaner one somewhere else.”

I marched up to her, ripped the cloak from her hand, shook as much dirt and grime off of it as I could and handed it back to her.

“There. All clean,” I said, folding my arms as I looked at Kiriah’s startled expression. “Now let’s get going.”

-

For the remainder of our trip she didn’t say a word to me. She didn’t even respond when I asked her whether we were approaching our destination. She just pointed ahead, which I figured was her way of showing she wasn’t happy with the clothing arrangements. I don’t know. Females are strange like that.

As we drew closer to the center of the city, the crowds got larger and the traffic, for some reason, became wilder. I was nearly run over by a strange hover vehicle driven by a Skakdi and he didn’t even apologize. Just yelled a string of curse words at me that I’d never heard before and then sped off, nearly running over another pedestrian in the process.

This city was nothing like the ones back home, I thought as Kiriah and I stayed well-away from the roads. Although this city was obviously bigger and more advanced than anything on Tanjo Nui, I didn’t like it. It was too noisy for me, the people always seemed to be rushing everywhere, the gangs, although not much of a threat, were still bad, and I am pretty sure no one in the area knew how to properly operate a vehicle. I was glad I did not live here otherwise I would have hated it more than I already did.

“Where do you think we’re headed, by the way?” I asked as we walked past a couple of Skakdi that were skulking in an alleyway.

“No idea,” said Kiriah stiffly. I was a bit exasperated at how she was acting toward me, but I didn’t mention it. “I don’t live here. Maybe it’ll be some obscure part of the city or-“

She stopped so abruptly that I continued on without her until I realized she wasn’t with me. I searched the crowd until I found her exactly where I left her and asked, “Kiri, what’s wrong? What’re you staring at?”

She looked at me and then pointed up ahead and said, “I think we’ve just found where the Time Stone is, Isarot. It’s in there.”

I looked in the direction she was pointing at and my eyes popped open at the sight:

Right where she was pointing stood a gigantic building, much bigger than the rest of the structures around it. And just outside its entrance was a squad of about a dozen Anicans. They all looked vicious and ready to capture criminals, but fortunately for us, we managed to blend in with the crowd, so they didn’t notice us.

I didn’t want to risk capture, however, so I grabbed Kiriah by the wrist and pulled her into a side street out of the Anicans’ sight.

“You sure that that is where the Time Stone is?” I asked as I peered around the corner, watching the assembled Anicans glare at the civilians as they passed.

“That’s what the Olmak is telling me,” she said. “It’s in that big building they’re standing in front of. Which means the Time Stone must be somewhere in there.”

“But how are we going to get past a dozen Anicans?” I wondered. “Three gave us more than enough trouble. I don’t want to know how we’re supposed to take on four times that much and win.”

“Getting inside is probably going to be even more difficult,” Kiriah added, slumped against the side of a building. “I bet that that place is crawling with Anicans. Even if we miraculously defeat those twelve, I bet that a hundred more will have arrived by then.”

“Then we will have to sneak in,” I decided as I sat next to her. “Sneak in, find the Time Stone, and then leave this dimension behind for good.”

“But how do we sneak in?” asked Kiriah. “We don’t know of any other entrances into that structure, not to mention neither of us has been trained in stealth before.”

“Could you conjure an illusion that could fool the Anicans?” I suggested. “Lure them away from the entrance so we can break in without being caught?”

“They’re machines,” Kiriah said, obviously frustrated. “They can’t be fooled by illusions. Even if they could, someone is bound to notice us trying to break in and will alert the Anicans of our presence. It’s too risky and not worth trying, in my opinion.”

“I could help,” said another voice from within the shadows, startling us both.

Believing it was some kind of sneak attack, light and ice energy conjured in my hands and I aimed my fists in the general direction of the voice. Kiriah drew her sword, which she nearly dropped before redoubling her grip on it.

“Who’s there?” I demanded, ready to blast apart any enemies that might answer.

“I am,” answered the voice, which I realized was feminine. “You know who I am.”

And then a being I recognized as Lariska walked out of the shadows, still wearing that black robe with a hood over her face. Her voice was still the same annoying shrill I hated. I was almost about to blast her into pieces anyway, but since I knew that that would only attract the unwanted attention of the Anicans, I refrained from attacking her.

“What do you want?” I asked, lowering my hands and glaring at her. “I thought you were going your own way?”

“I only wanted to help,” Lariska replied acidly. I noticed she was unsheathing her daggers. Apparently she thought she was going to have to fight us, too. “But if you don’t want my help, then you two can find your own way into the Hall of Unity, that big building over there. Perhaps you can even convince the Anicans that you did not destroy three of their number and aided a wanted criminal and that you need to urgently enter.”

“Well, that’s not necessarily a bad idea, is it?” asked Kiriah innocently as she put her sword away. “I mean, technically no one knows that was us, right?”

Lariska laughed. “As if. The Anicans have a communication system that allows them to contact each other even from a distance. I know for a fact that the Anicans you two eliminated have already sent images of you two to the headquarters – which, incidentally, is just a few blocks down the street. Every Anican in the city is probably looking for you by now, since Anicans are rarely defeated in combat like what you did to those three.”

“Oh,” said Kiriah. “I didn’t know that.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter if every Anican in the universe is after us,” I said, glancing over my shoulder to make sure no one was eavesdropping on us. “We need to get in there. There’s something important in that building that we need.”

“Coincidentally, the information I am looking for is also probably inside the Hall of Unity,” said Lariska. “If you want, we could team up and break into the building and get what we’re both looking for.”

“Not a chance,” I said, shaking my head. “We can’t let you know what we’re after.”

“The Time Stone, right?” Lariska guessed. “You also mentioned something about ‘leaving this dimension behind for good.’”

“How did you know that?” asked Kiriah in surprise.

“I overheard your entire conversation before revealing myself to you,” said Lariska, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Something about your Olmak ‘telling’ you where it is. I take it you’re both not even from this universe, then, which explains why Kiriah here wears an Olmak yet has no idea of its significance to my culture.

“However,” Lariska continued, before I could respond, “I will not ask you where you came from or why you are after the Time Stone. It would be useless for me to ask, since you’re both pretty stubborn people-“

“Hey!” Kiriah and I said at the same time.

“-but I think I can help,” she finished, looking at us both. “It only makes sense. We both want something and the Hall of Unity is our best bet to find everything we’re looking for. We can probably get in if we work together. I’ve broken into worse places than this, although I haven’t had to lug around two big lumps like you guys before.”

“That is assuming that we ‘lumps’ want to be ‘lugged around’ in the first place, Lariska,” I snapped. “We don’t need the help of some arrogant upstart who thinks she’s all that. We’re smart. We can figure out a way in without any of your help.”

“I don’t know, Isarot,” said Kiriah slowly. “Even just a cursory scan of her mind revealed to me that she’s already got a pretty good plan ready. I mean, why not at least try her plan? She seems more knowledgeable about the building than we are.”

“Kiri,” I said sternly. “We are not going to follow someone like her. Even if she does have a good plan, she’s too stuck-up and probably doesn’t like us, either.”

“You are right,” said Lariska. “I don’t like you. However, I am a practical person. I think it would be more practical if we worked together like this. If we can pull off this plan, then we don’t even have to look at each other again. I know at least that you two will be captured and probably killed if you try to sneak in on your own. It would be wiser to follow me.”

As much as I wanted to argue with her, I realized she was right. We knew absolutely nothing about this ‘Hall of Unity,’ as she called it. We had barely survived a fight with only three Anicans. If we tried to break in on our own, we would probably end up getting captured or possibly even killed. It did make more sense to work with Lariska, even though I hated to admit it.

So I reluctantly said, “All right, Lariska. We’ll go along with whatever plan you have, as long as it gets us into the Hall of Unity without anyone noticing.”

Lariska smiled. “Good. Then let’s get started.”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:43 PM.

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#8 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 22 2011 - 08:40 PM

Chapter 7: Mysterious Writings

Isarot.


“So this is our plan,” I said as we crawled through a stinky, rat-infested sewer system that made me feel sick. “Sneaking through the sewers, hoping we don’t end up gagging on dead rodent. You called this a ‘good’ plan, Kiri?”

I looked over my shoulder at her, or as much as I could in this narrow space with no light.

“Hey, I said I only performed a cursory scan of her mind,” said Kiriah. “I didn’t see every detail of it. Just the major parts.”

She slipped and splashed face first in the gross water, causing something to slither past my hand into a side tunnel. Kiriah quickly pushed herself up, but it was with a little too much force, for she smashed the back of her head into the thick metal ceiling and cried out in pain.

“Gross! Ow!” Kiriah said, rubbing the back of her head. “It seemed like a good plan to me.”

“It is a good plan, I can assure you both of that,” said Lariska, who was ahead of us both. Neither she nor Kiriah were wearing their robes now; the heavy clothes would only have weighed them down, so they discarded them shortly before we entered the sewers. “The Hall of Unity was built on top of King Brutaka’s old castle. If my information is correct, this sewer system – which was built into the original castle – should lead us into an old sub-basement that His Majesty used as a study. This is especially useful because these old sewers are mostly forgotten, so we can probably sneak in without anyone noticing.”

“Why would anyone sell information to you?” I asked. “Aren’t you a wanted criminal?”
 
“Not everyone is loyal to the Republic,” Lariska replied shortly. “There are still some who are loyal to the Empire, and then there are some who will tell you anything as long as the price is right.”

“So what kind told you this information?” I said.

“A mixture of both,” Lariska answered. “Anyway, we should be getting there soon. Just a few more feet and the entrance ought to be directly above us.”

“Hey, what’s the Hall of Unity, anyway?” asked Kiriah, displaying her knack for asking questions at the oddest of times again. “And the Republic? We still have no idea about any of these things. Could you explain it to us?”

“No,” said Lariska shortly. “I have no time to give you a history lesson about a universe you two aren’t even inhabitants of. It’s not really important, anyway. What is important is that we get in, find what we need, and get out. Not much simpler than that.”

“But I-“

“Zip it, Kiri,” I advised, accidentally splashing some disgusting water in her face as we crawled. “For once, I think Lariska’s right. We don’t need to know about this. It won’t really help us when all we need to know is where the Time Stone is and how to get it.”

“Okay,” Kiriah mumbled. I could tell she was offended by being told to shut up, but I felt she had to understand that you can’t always know everything you want to know all the time and that most of the time that information is useless anyway.

We quietly crept along the ankle deep water for a few more minutes. I was almost unable to handle any more of the terrible stench or murky water until Lariska finally stopped, looked up, and then disappeared.

At first, I wondered where she had gone until I reached her point and looked up myself. Then I saw a rusted ladder going straight up. I couldn’t see Lariska because of the lack of light, but I could hear her climbing the ladder one rung at a time to who-knows-where. I followed.

I climbed slowly up after Lariska, since I wasn’t sure how far ahead of me she was. I could still hear her climbing above me, and below, I could hear a third person ascending after me; Kiriah. I was glad she had figured out where Lariska and I had gone, since Kiriah was a very absentminded person. At least I hoped it was Kiriah; it had to be, since as far as I knew there was no one else within the sewers besides the three of us.

“Stop,” I heard Lariska’s voice say. “There’s a porthole here. Let me open it.”

I halted and waited as Lariska fumbled with the latch. I didn’t hear Kiriah below me. She had probably stopped, too.

After what seemed like forever, hanging in this empty blackness, I heard what sounded like a great door shudder open somewhere above us. Lariska said, “Yes!” and I heard her continue climbing. Believing she had opened the entrance, I followed after her, and below me, I could hear Kiriah making her way up, too.

I did not have to wait long to reach the surface. In less than five seconds, my hand reached up and, instead of grabbing a rung, grasped at empty air for a few seconds before I gripped the edge of the tunnel. With not much effort, I heaved myself up and out of the tunnel, and, shortly afterward, I was followed by Kiriah, who looked and sounded tired from all of the crawling and climbing we had been doing.

“I think this is it,” said Lariska somewhere in the darkness. She sounded close by. “Isarot, you have light powers, don’t you? Make us a light so we can see where we are.”

“Good idea,” I said as I raised my left fist and charged light energy through it. I had not done this back in the sewers because it would have been impractical for me to crawl through such narrow tunnels with only one free hand. “Let’s see exactly what we came for.”

At first, my eyes, so accustomed to the darkness, took a little while to adjust to the sudden brightness. I blinked hard a few times and soon my vision returned to normal, allowing me to view my surroundings with relative ease.

We had climbed into a large, wide-open room that I could hardly believe had been just a study. It looked more like a throne room, extending so deep down that not even my light at its brightest could illuminate it in its entirety.

At one point, I was sure it had been an expertly designed, marvelously crafted chamber. But looking at it now, in its decayed state, reminded me more of the ancient, uninhabitable ruins on Tanjo Nui. Green moss grew on the walls, obscuring most of the images and writing. The floor – which I realized had been plated with solid gold – was covered in dirt, mud, and Mata-Nui-knows-what. It was badly damaged in some areas, leaving huge pitfalls that would be difficult for us to navigate around. I couldn’t see the ceiling since it was so high up, but I had a feeling it wasn’t much better off than the rest of the room.

“Wow,” said Kiriah in awe behind me. “It looks so . . . decayed.”

“It was once perhaps His Majesty’s grandest chamber in the entire castle, next to his throne room,” said Lariska sadly. It was obvious that the contrast between its past and current states disappointed her greatly. “But, although it is far from its original beauty, I think it will have to do for now. We are only using it as an entrance into the Hall of Unity itself anyway, so there’s no reason to linger any longer than we should.”

“What’s with all of the writing and pictures?” asked Kiriah, striding over to a nearby wall and examining the scratches made on it. “Did he like to draw or something?”

I wanted to tell Kiriah off for wasting our time like this. Who cared about what some ancient, possibly mad king had written five hundred years ago? It wasn’t like it was important to our mission or anything, so I saw no reason to try to decipher it.

I expected Lariska would tell her off, but oddly enough, the untrustworthy thief glanced at the walls with a puzzled expression on her face. “I actually do not know anything about the writing or the pictures, Toa. During the last days of his life His Majesty became increasingly reclusive, until the only places he ever visited in his castle were his bedroom, the dining room, and this chamber, which he always referred to as his study. He never let anyone in here during his final few weeks; in fact, I remember one time he actually killed a servant that had came to bring him a meal.”

“Sounds like a paranoid man,” I remarked while Kiriah wiped dust and dirt off the walls to get a better look at the pictures. “Killing his own servant just because he valued his privacy? I don’t see why anyone served him in the first place.”

“He wasn’t always crazy,” Lariska said defensively. “He used to be a brilliant and powerful king, but overexposure to the Ignika’s power and to the antidermis he’d collected over the years addled his brain, unfortunately.”

“The Ignika? You mean the Mask of Life?” asked Kiriah, looking over her shoulder at us. “Wasn’t that a myth?”

“It was – it is – real,” said Lariska, nodding. “In fact, it is primarily because of the Ignika that His Majesty managed to establish his Empire. So many powerful beings fell to the power of the Ignika alone. Makuta Teridax . . . Toa Helryx . . . the Shadowed One . . . Tren Krom . . . and many, many more.”

She sighed and said, “But the Ignika has been lost. His Majesty hid the Ignika in a pocket dimension where no one but himself could reach it. He made sure that he – and only he – had access to dimension-hopping technology, so that no one else would ever gain the immense power of Life. No one has seen it in 500 years, but I don’t think anyone really wants it anymore.”

“This is interesting and all,” I said, tapping my foot impatiently, “but we don’t have time to sit around and discuss the history of some long-dead king. It’s not relevant to our quest to retrieve the Time Stone.”

“You’re right,” said Lariska grudgingly. “We have to find a way into the Hall of Unity, since that is what we came here for. Once we get what we’re looking for, then I’ll probably return here to research what my king had written in the last days of his life.”

Lariska and I both turned to continue forward, but then a loud gasp made us both whirl around, wondering what had happened.

“Kiri, what’s wrong?” I demanded, watching the Toa of Psionics staring at something on the wall. “Are you just overreacting again or-“

“Isarot, it’s the . . . it’s the Time Stone!” said Kiriah, pointing at a small carving. “Look! It’s a picture of the Time Stone.”

“A picture of the Time Stone?” I repeated in disbelief. “Why would Brutaka make a carving of the Time Stone on the walls of his study? It’s probably just a rock that looks like the Stone.”

“No, it’s the Stone,” Kiriah insisted. “It’s even colored orange.”

“The Time Stone?” said Lariska curiously. “Let me see.”

She pushed Kiriah out of the way and squinted at the carving. Sighing, I walked over to the wall. I knew Kiriah could be really stubborn when she wanted to, and if she said it looked like the Time Stone and I said it didn’t, we’d both be here a long time arguing over nothing for hours. One glance, I was sure, would be enough to prove Kiriah wrong.

But as it turned out, one glance was enough to prove me wrong. I saw, but could not believe. There, on the wall, was a foot-tall carving of the Time Stone. It was almost perfect in detail and, like Kiriah had said, it was even colored the exact same shade of orange the Stone had been, although slightly faded due to age.

“She’s right,” I said in disbelief. “I don’t believe it, but there’s an exact replica of the Time Stone right here, down to the minute details, preserved for 500 years.”

“It even says ‘Time Stone’ right underneath it,” said Kiriah, pointing at the words written in Matoran that did indeed spell ‘Time Stone.’ “So that is probably what it is.”

“Why would His Majesty ever make a carving of the Time Stone?” Lariska muttered, apparently to herself. “He kept worrying about Axonn’s return during his last days. Why would he even care about the Time Stone?”

“What’s this?” said Kiriah suddenly, wiping off a thick lay of dirt that covered the wall. “Looks like a lot of jumbled up words.”

All three of us stared at the place Kiriah had indicated. It was difficult to read it because the writing was chipped and faded or filled with dirt in many places. It didn’t help that I couldn’t read Matoran as well as Tagiki, which made the task nearly impossible for me to accomplish.

“Kiriah, could you read it aloud for us?” I asked. I had to admit I was getting curious now, even though I didn’t want to waste any time here. “The words are hard for me to read because they’re so decayed.”

“It’s hard for me to read, too, but I’ll try,” said Kiriah. She stared at the wall for a moment before saying, “All I can make out is, ‘Almighty Ones . . . it . . . given . . . to . . . them. Time Stone . . . madness . . . he is coming . . . No more dreams . . . no more . . .’ It’s pretty incoherent and that’s all I can make out. Your king wasn’t very specific, I think,” she added to Lariska, who was still staring at the wall as though reading it for herself.

“Who are the Almighty Ones?” Lariska mumbled. “What does the Time Stone have to do with anything?”

“You said he was insane, right?” I said impatiently. I had no more idea of what those words meant than anyone else, but I wasn’t interested in figuring this mystery out at the moment. “He probably just wrote down random words and phrases that came to mind. That’s why it is so incoherent. He wasn’t in his right mind, so there probably isn’t any kind of deep meaning behind his words or anything like that. Come on, guys, let’s go. We’ve wasted enough time here as it is.”

“The Time Stone’s signal is still strong,” Kiriah insisted. “And I doubt it will die off any time soon. I want to read more of the writing on these walls for a little while longer.”

“Me, too,” said Lariska as she reached out with her mechanical arm and wiped another layer of dust off the walls. “There’s so much here that no one has ever read. I am sure I will be able to discover the truth of what happened to His Majesty if I can read and study these ancient inscriptions.”

“You can stay here, if you want,” I said. “But Kiri and I are leaving. You can try to read your old king’s words in the darkness if you want, since I don’t plan to stick around here.”

“But-“ protested Kiriah.
 
“Sorry, Kiri, but you remember our mission,” I said. “We can’t just sit here dillydallying all day, not when we are so close to the-“

A faint – although noticeable – scuttling sound cut me off. I froze and listened. It sounded like there was some kind of giant insect nearby, but I couldn’t tell for sure. I might have been imagining it, although it sounded awfully realistic to me.

“Isarot, what’s wrong?” asked Kiriah, looking puzzled. “You look tense.”

“Do you hear that scuttling noise, somewhere in the darkness?” I asked as I turned around and waved my lit fist in the air to illuminate the area. I still couldn’t see very much beyond what I had before. “Is it some kind of Rahi?”

“I don’t hear anything, but I think it is highly unlikely that it is a Rahi,” said Lariska irritably, looking over her shoulder at us. “At least, it can’t be big enough for you to hear it. This room has been abandoned for 500 years. There’s no life in here besides small insect Rahi, which definitely aren’t big enough to threaten us.”

“But I thought I heard something,” I said. I strained my audio receptors to listen, but there was no scuttling sound anymore. Instead, I heard quite a different sound – something that sounded like energy building up somewhere nearby.

Before I could tell Kiriah or Lariska what I heard, twin blasts of energy lanced forth from the shadows just outside my range of vision and struck my hand. Sharp, stabbing pain shot through my arm as I cried out and stumbled backwards onto the floor. With my concentration shattered, the light shut off, plunging the chamber into total darkness. But I was too busy groaning in pain to pay any attention to that. Whatever I had been hit with hurt worse than anything I’d ever experienced before. Or perhaps the pain was simply greater because it had hit my hand, which usually didn’t get harmed in battles.

“Isarot, what happened?” Kiriah asked somewhere in the shadows, her voice full of panic. “Are you okay?”

“Who’s there?” Lariska shouted. I heard her unsheathe two of her daggers. “Come out and show yourself!”

For a moment, there was only silence. None of us moved or spoke; the moment was too tense for us to do anything. In my pain, I secretly hoped that whatever had attacked me relied on its hearing to hunt us. So long as we didn’t make any unnecessary noises, we would be safe.

“Maybe whatever it was has . . . has left,” said Kiriah, her voice trembling slightly. “It hasn’t-“

This time, it wasn’t just two lasers that appeared. Dozens of blasts of energy exploded from within the darkness and had Kiriah not manage to deflect them with her telekinesis we probably would have all been killed. But even that may not have been a good idea. She hadn’t deflected them back at their owners; instead, they ricocheted off the walls, ceiling, and floor, creating explosions, destroying walls, and shaking the room itself. I was afraid the whole place would collapse on us, but it held well. I was not sure it was capable of taking another attack like that again, however.

Just as I was beginning to calm down, a couple of energy blasts shot from the darkness and struck two things somewhere behind me – two things that turned out to be Kiriah and Lariska, which I discovered when I heard them both scream painfully and hit the floor behind me.

Now I heard the scuttling again . . . and then several bright lights turned on at once. My vision disoriented from the sudden lights, I felt thin, skeletal hands grab my shoulders and haul me up to my feet. Then I felt heavy handcuffs clamp shut tightly around my wrists. They didn’t help the pain I was feeling in my right hand, which was hurting even more than before.

But I wasn’t going to just stand here and let myself be chained up like a wild animal. I struggled against my captor, but something heavy smashed into the back of my head, nearly knocking me out. I was still conscious, but at the moment unconsciousness seemed preferable to the pain I was experiencing in my head.

“Do not resist,” said a flat, monotone voice – an Anican. “Or else we will be forced to kill you, Olmak supporter.”

I shook my head and my vision gradually cleared. I almost wish it hadn’t, for the sight I saw made my stomach do back flips in an uncomfortable way.

By the many lights they were supporting, I could see at least two dozen Anican robots. They weren’t enough to fill the chamber, but there were enough that told me that a fight would only get us all killed. Three had been bad enough, but two dozen? Even I wouldn’t last long against that many. I knew that much.

“Hey, give that back!” I heard Kiriah say. I looked around and saw an Anican – this one colored white, for some reason, instead of the usual black – rip the Kanohi Olmak from Kiriah’s face. “We need that mask!”

“Quiet, Olmak supporter,” the Anican restraining my friend growled. “That Olmak is being confiscated. It is a sign of disloyalty to the Republic and evidence of your support of the late King Brutaka.”

“But we need it!” Kiriah protested. She looked a lot weaker without her Kanohi on. “Without it, we can’t-“

“Yeah, give it back!” I shouted as again I struggled against my bonds. “Give it back, or else I’ll-“

“You’ll do what, Olmak supporter? Get yourself killed?” said a voice from among the Anicans. It was different from the typical Anican voice; it had more emotion and was far more sinister-sounding. “You’re in absolutely no position to do anything to us.”

Then the Anicans parted as a being with a snake tail for legs – much smaller than the towering robots – slithered forward, a smug expression on her face. She wore a long, flowing cape that gave me the impression she was someone important. Her snake-like face was off-putting and she seemed satisfied with herself, like she had planned this whole thing out from the very beginning.

“Looks like we got not just one, but three Olmak supporters,” said the caped being, grinning as the white-colored Anican handed her the Olmak. “And an Olmak, too. How interesting. I thought the Republic had destroyed them all? Where did you three get your hands on this? Made it yourself, perhaps?”

“Unlikely, chief,” said the white Anican. “Only Artakha was capable of crafting such Kanohi and he has been missing for several centuries, since the fall of the Empire.”

“I know, Cynko,” said the caped being. “I doubt any of these three have any idea of how to make an Olmak. Still, you never know. Nothing is impossible if you’re stupid enough, like these fools apparently are.”

“You,” Lariska growled. I noticed she had dropped her daggers, but I knew that she’d have probably already hurled them at the chief if the Anicans hadn’t grabbed us. “How’d you know we were down here?”

“Your little informant told us,” the chief replied as she placed the Olmak in her bag. I wanted to punch her out and get the mask back, but the Anican holding me back was too strong and I was too weak. “Tamaru, I believe was his name. He informed you of this room, but just because he once supported Brutaka doesn’t mean he does anymore. He then turned around and told us that you had asked him for advice on how to enter the Hall of Unity without being noticed, allowing us to set up this perfect little ambush in advance without any of you knowing. Aren’t we clever?”

“Tamaru?” gasped Lariska. “He told you? I thought I could trust him!”

“Indeed you did, but look how that turned out,” said the chief, grinning as she slithered up to us on her snake tail. “Anyway, this is a very good catch, in my opinion. A major Olmak supporter and an Olmak? Plus, if I am not mistaken, these other two attacked and destroyed three Anican police officers. I wasn’t made chief of the Anican police force for nothing, you know.”

“So what are you going to do to us?” asked Kiriah, her voice trembling slightly. “Kill us?”

“As much as I would like to, no,” said the chief, shaking her head. She sounded like she was really disappointed by that. “You will all have to stand trial before the Council before we throw you in prison or, as you said, kill you. Personally I don’t see the point, since you’re all right here, caught in the act. But I have to obey the government regulations, so off to the trial you go, then.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” said Kiriah. “When we first ran into the Anicans, they tried to kill us when they saw that Olmak! Not that I am complaining, but I just find it a little odd that you are not killing us now.”

“They did, did they?” said the chief, disbelievingly. However, I thought I caught a hint of fear in her voice, as if Kiriah had just confirmed the chief’s worst fear. “Well, I am sure it was a simple mistake. Anicans are not designed to kill unless absolutely necessary. No one would trust the Council if those things killed people just because someone stole a bula berry. They can be rather rough, though, but that is totally necessary, since it is the only way to, ah, ‘pacify’ criminals.”

“Only way to-?” Lariska gasped, but she was cut off by the chief, who turned around and ordered the waiting Anicans, “Strip them of all of their weapons and equipment. Throw anything that isn’t valuable into the incinerator. Anything that seems valuable must be brought to the treasure room, which is where this little Olmak will be going once the criminals are tried,” she added, patting the Kanohi in her bag. “Now get to work.”

Without a word, the dozens of Anicans moved in and started reaching for our things. They took our supply bags, Kiriah’s sword and Mask of Rebounding, and all of Lariska’s daggers. Once they had taken everything, three of them hauled us out of the room, followed by the rest of the group.

As we left, I glared at the chief with all of the hatred I could muster, but all that seemed to do was amuse her, which made me hate her even more.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:44 PM.

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#9 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 23 2011 - 08:46 AM

Chapter 8: Handed over to Death

Kiriah.


Because of my lack of Kanohi, I was too weak to thoroughly analyze our entire trip to the upper floors of the Hall of Unity. I only got the basics.

It didn’t take us long to reach the end of King Brutaka’s study. After that, we exited through a secret exit, and then we traveled through a dark tunnel until we emerged into the main hallway of the building. Then we went to the right, climbing stairs and going through long, eloquently designed corridors that I did not see much of because we were moving so fast. All I noted was that there seemed to be statues representing every species in the universe.

Anicans broke off from the main group as we headed up, probably to go do work elsewhere, until only about a dozen or so were left. That didn’t make me feel any more optimistic. We stood no chance against even a dozen Anicans, so even if we did try to fight back, the Anicans would simply kill us because it would be ‘absolutely necessary,’ as the chief had put it.

Speaking of the chief, I tried to read her mind while the Anicans dragged us. My elemental powers were halved due to my loss of Kanohi, but I managed to learn her name: Syala. It sounded Amakan to me, but I wasn’t sure if she was actually an Amakan or if I was just confusing cultures again.

But that is essentially all I learned about her. I was too tired to dig much deeper in her mind, so the Anicans dragged me and the others along until we finally entered a huge, magnificent room near the top floor.

I had to look at the place as we entered. The chamber was made out of polished stone and marble, with long, tall windows looking out over a vast city. And on the ceiling, I saw a giant mural of some kind, which seemed to show all kinds of beings standing together in peace and harmony. It was beautiful, really, a work of art, although I noticed that the Matoran had far more prominence than the others and some species, like the Skakdi, were merely skulking away in one corner of the mural, barely noticeable among the rest of the peoples.

That was as much as I got to see of it, though, for the Anican roughly threw me, Lariska, and Isarot to the floor. I struggled to my hands and knees and shook my head. Then I looked up and wished I hadn’t.

Seated before us on six thrones was the strangest group of beings I’d ever seen together in one place. There was a Skakdi, a Vortixx, a Steltian, a Tagiki, a Turaga, and a huge being in black armor that belonged to a species I could not identify. Regardless, he, like the others, looked powerful and watched us with intimidating dark eyes as Syala the police chief approached the six beings.

“Noble and powerful Council of Unity,” said Syala as she respectfully bowed at the Council. I looked behind me and saw the Anicans were doing the same, although I knew this was not the ideal moment to attempt to make an escape. “The Le-Matoran Tamaru was correct when he informed us of an Olmak supporter making an attempt to break into the Hall of Unity for her own nefarious reasons. It was King Brutaka’s ex-bodyguard, Lariska, who tried to sneak in. We set up a trap and caught her easily, just as I promised.”

“Who are the other two, then?” the black-armored being demanded, pointing at Isarot and me. “Tamaru said only Lariska was attempting to break in.”

“Perhaps Tamaru was mistaken,” Syala said as she glared over her shoulder at us. “They are Lariska’s companions, apparently, for one of them – the Toa of Psionics – had actually been wearing a Kanohi Olmak!”

“Impossible,” said the Vortixx coldly, shaking her head. “Only the Council has access to the Olmaks. You must be mistaken.”

“Not so, ma’am,” said Syala as she fished the Mask of Dimensional Gates from her bag. “Look. See for yourself what these criminals had in their possession.”

All six of the Council members recoiled in disgust, as though the Olmak was contaminated or something. The Skakdi – who wore blue armor and carried a weapon shaped like the crescent moon – looked like he wanted to destroy it, while the black-armored being seemed to be deciding how to use it to his advantage.

“Is that . . . an Olmak?” the Skakdi growled. “Or is it a fake?”

“It is real, Nektann,” said the black-armored being grudgingly. “I read the Tagiki’s mind. I also saw . . . images that make me question exactly where these beings come from.”

I glanced at Isarot, who looked just as surprised as me. Apparently he hadn’t even felt the black-armored being read his mind. That meant the being must be a pretty powerful telepath, since to be able to dig that deep into someone’s mind without them knowing requires deep concentration and practice. It was a skill I hadn’t acquired yet, in other words.

“Hajax, what are you saying?” asked the Vortixx as she tapped the arms of her chair nervously. “Where they are from doesn’t matter, I think. What does matter is that we decide upon a punishment for these supporters of the Olmak and I say we-“

“What I meant, Axelis, is that these beings are not from this universe,” said Hajax, the black-armored being. “They are from someplace where our glorious Republic apparently does not – and never has – existed.”

That caught everyone’s attention. The other five Council members and Syala looked at us in shock. Even the Anicans seemed slightly more attentive now, as though their robotic brains had somehow realized how important this was.

I myself felt a little embarrassed that everyone was staring at us, but I kept my face up and looked into each of their faces. Isarot wasn’t showing any weakness, either, while Lariska just appeared bored. She already knew we were not natives of this universe, so she was probably thinking of some kind of escape plan while the Council was distracted.

“Another universe, is that what you’re saying?” Nektann the Skakdi said in a low voice, like he didn’t believe it. He stroked his chin and said, “Hajax that is a load of dirt. No one from another universe has ever come here before, otherwise we would have known about it. What makes you think these two are-“

“Because I read their minds, you dolt,” Hajax snapped. “Makuta are telepathic, you know.”

I suddenly felt a thrill of terror. Hajax was a Makuta. I had never met a Makuta before, which explained why I couldn’t identify his species at first. But I had heard plenty of legends about them, most of them terrifying tales that described them as beings of power capable of destroying anyone who dared stand in their way. It surprised me that a Makuta was working with these other beings who were not nearly as strong as he was, but since this whole universe was a pretty screwy place anyway, I figured it probably wasn’t the weirdest thing around here.

“Of course,” said the Steltian, folding his arms and glaring at Hajax. Now that I got a better look at him, I realized he was part of the ruling class of Stelt, the tall and powerful-looking Tetakians I often heard stories about. His armor was yellow and green, which I thought looked ugly. “I heard that Makuta are also dishonest liars who manipulate others for their own gain. But of course, that doesn’t apply to you, now does it, Hajax?”

“I am telling the truth, Rorand,” said Hajax. “I have no reason to deceive any of you. The Toa and Tagiki really are from an alternate universe. They used that Olmak that Syala is holding to get here. They are searching for the Time Stone.”

“The Time Stone?” repeated Rorand the Steltian incredulously. “They came all the way from an alternate universe just for that? Honestly?”

“It is the truth,” the Makuta replied. “Believe it or not, that is what they came here for. The only question is why they thought it would be here.”

“What, you didn’t steal that bit of information from my mind, too?” asked Isarot angrily. “Or did you realize you were invading my privacy and stopped before you got too far?”

One of the Anicans slammed its foreleg into the back of Isarot’s head, sending him stumbling face first.

“Speak disrespectfully to me again and I will order the Anicans to do much worse to you,” Hajax growled. “Understood, Tagiki?”

“Hey, you’re the ones who are acting disrespectfully toward us!” I said. I was a bit scared, talking back to a Makuta who could probably kill me easily, but I couldn’t just sit there and let him beat up my friend like that. “We are arrested and are being trialed for laws I am not sure even apply to us! You’re even having your cronies attack us just because we speak disrespectfully. Honestly, you’re just a-“

I would have said a lot more than that, but for some reason, I lost the ability to speak. No matter how much I yelled or raised my voice, absolutely no sound came out of my mouth whatsoever. Not even a small whisper escaped my lips.

“I tire of disrespectful and arrogant foreigners,” Hajax sighed. I realized he must be using his silencing power to keep me quiet. “Especially if they happen to be Toa.”

“Hajax,” said the Turaga warningly. With a quick sweep of my telepathic powers, I learned he was Turaga Dume, Turaga of Fire, although that didn’t help much, since I didn’t know who Dume was. “Although she may be a criminal, I do not like the way you treated a Toa. I was once a Toa myself years ago, and I still feel a connection with other Toa even now. I will not tolerate even one more action against her by you.”

“Nor did I appreciate your treatment of the Tagiki, Hajax,” said the female Tagiki Council member. She wore dark green armor splashed with black, giving her an exotic look. I read her mind and discovered her name was Roloki, but again I did not know who she was, so the name was useless to me. “He’s probably a criminal, but you have a lot of nerve to treat a member of my own species with such disrespect in front of me like that.”

“Whatever,” Hajax said, obviously not at all threatened by the other two Council members. “The point is they’ve already shown immense disrespect toward us. I say that’s more than enough reason to have them hanged from the top floor of this building.”

“Syala is there anything else we ought to know about their capture?” asked Axelis, ignoring the argument other Council members’ argument.

“No, ma’am,” said Syala, shaking her head. “The only other thing is that they seemed awfully interested in the late king’s notes on the walls in his study. But since most of Brutaka’s writings are merely the words of a madman-“

“He was not a madman,” Lariska muttered, “not all of the time, at least.”

Syala glared at Lariska, and then continued, “They were probably not looking at much. They did not do anything else, nor was there much to look for.”

“I see,” said Axelis, nodding. She pointed at the Olmak in Syala’s hands and said, “Take that . . . that evil symbol of the Empire and throw it in the treasury. Once we decide the fate of these three, we shall decide what to do with that mask. Agreed?”

The other Council members murmured their assent. Syala bowed respectfully, turned around, and walked out of the room. On her way out, she passed Lariska, whom she ‘accidentally’ (and roughly) bumped into. Lariska could only throw daggers at Syala with her eyes, rather than with her hands, as the chief and several of the Anicans departed.

Now it was just us, the Council members, and three Anicans standing close by, probably to protect the Council members in case we somehow broke free. To be honest, I thought that was a little bit unnecessary, since there was a Makuta in the room, after all. He could probably crush us without even thinking about it, assuming the legends about their immense power I’d heard were true.

“So,” said Rorand, breaking the silence, “you two are not from this universe?”

“No,” Isarot replied quickly. I looked at him, wondering why he was still lying when this secret had already been revealed to everyone. “Hajax is lying. We’re not from another universe. We’re just-“

“Quiet, you fool,” Hajax snapped. “Why would I ever lie about something like that? I have no reason to do it. I have nothing to gain from lying to anyone. You are the liar, and quite a bad one at that, I might add.”

“But . . . oh, fine,” said Isarot, sighing. “Yes, I was lying. The truth is, we are not from this universe, like Hajax said. We’re here . . . for our own reasons.”

Nektann laughed harshly. “Don’t be vague with us, Tagiki. Hajax said something about you guys wanting the Time Stone. Why would you ever want that worthless piece of junk? It is strange that you would come from a completely different universe just to get that. I’d say it’s almost worth humoring them by giving them the Stone and letting them go home.”

“Almost, Nektann,” said Roloki solemnly. It was clear to me that she did not approve of our motives. “But I don’t understand why they would attempt to break into this building when the Time Stone is all the way in Tanjo Nui at the moment. Why did they not head there instead?”

Lariska looked at us suspiciously and asked, “You know, even though I think the whole Council is full of scum, I also think she has a point. Why’d you want to break into here anyway? Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

Before either of us could react, Hajax said, “It is quite clear to me that they thought the Time Stone was here, rather than on Tanjo Nui.”

“Of course it was clear to you,” said Axelis, irritably tapping the arms of her chair with her fingers. “You’re a telepath, after all. There’s no reason to pretend you have insightful powers of the future or some crud like that.”

“Watch your mouth, Axelis,” Hajax said threateningly, his fingers gripping the arms of his chair, although he looked more like he wanted to put them around Axelis’ neck. “Look at who you are talking to.”

“All I see is a Makuta who thinks he’s more important than he really is,” the Vortixx replied acidly, folding her arms defiantly.

“This is no time to be arguing, Axelis, Hajax,” said Dume, shooting them both a warning look. “We have three criminals deserving of punishment who need our attention at the moment.”

“Oh, no, keep arguing,” said Lariska sarcastically. “Just take your time. We can wait while you argue over how to kill us. We’re very patient, you know.”

“Hey, I thought you were on my side!” I said to Dume, shocked. “What’s-“

“I merely said that I do not appreciate the way Hajax treated you,” Dume responded coldly. “You are still a criminal and therefore shall be punished accordingly, even if you are a Toa.”

Now that was cold, although I suppose it was preferable to being smashed in the back of the head by an Anican anyway.

With a pang of fear I now realized we were probably going to die for real. Dume was unsympathetic to our cause and Roloki did not seem like the kind of person who’d stick up for a criminal, even if he was a member of her own species. I found that surprising, because I had always assumed Tagiki considered one another brother and sister, although since this was an alternate universe maybe things were a little different around here.

Then a completely unrelated thought occurred to me. I asked Hajax, “Were you leader of the Brotherhood of Makuta or something? Is that why you’re on the Council?”

“I was not the leader, no,” said Hajax, who seemed honestly surprised by my question. I realized it was pretty random, but I was curious to know anyway. “However, I did help found this Republic and as a result was given a position of leadership in this Council.”

“You mean you threatened to kill everyone if you weren’t made a member, right?” jeered Axelis. “I believe I remember that was how it happened.”

Hajax looked like he was just about ready to tear the whole room apart, but fortunately Dume intervened yet again and said, “How Hajax came to power is not relevant to this trial, Toa. We are here to discuss your fate, not ask stupid questions about the history of the Republic.”

“She tends to ask stupid questions a lot,” Isarot added dryly. “Despite being a Toa of Psionics, she doesn’t seem to think too much.”

“Hey!” I said, slapping his shoulder with my shackled hands. “Whose side are you on?”

“I say we kill them right here,” said Nektann, smiling savagely as he bent forward to look at us better. “They were already caught in possession of a Kanohi Olmak, were they not? That’s more than enough to earn them a death sentence. Besides, I’ve never seen the purpose of setting up appointments to kill people anyway. On Zakaz, when we wanted someone dead, we’d do it ourselves as soon as possible, rather than throwing a big execution ceremony like we do here.”

“Nektann, you know we cannot simply kill them right here,” said Rorand, shaking his head as he picked up a stone tablet to read. “We would only make a big mess if we did that. Not to mention Lariska is a known terrorist and Olmak supporter-“

“Terrorist?” I muttered to Lariska. “You’re a terrorist?”

Lariska didn’t say anything, but she never got the chance to, for Rorand continued, “-it would only be right to hold a public execution so that the people will know that they are safe from one of the biggest threats to our Republic’s peace.”

“What about the other two?” Nektann asked. “They aren’t even from this universe, remember. What do we do, send them back to their own dimension or something?”

“Chances are no one even knows they are missing from their own universe,” said Roloki. “After all, didn’t Brutaka often make secret visits to other universes that no one knew about? Even today we still do not know what he did while dimension-hopping.”

“It’s obvious, Roloki, what he sought to do,” said Axelis. “He was probably thinking of extending his conquest to other universes. He had a big enough head to think of attempting something crazy like that, you know.”

“His Majesty actually went to other universes, without telling anyone?” Lariska muttered, so low that only I could hear her. “I never knew that . . .”

“So, I assume that, even though they are technically not in our jurisdiction, we should still punish them anyway?” said Rorand, looking around at the rest of the Council uncertainly. “They were attempting to break into a government building – this building, in fact – which is against the law. They even dared to wear the Olmak, which is also against the law. That’s two strikes against them.”

“Unless they happen to belong to a universe where dimension-hopping is common, I say we should sentence them to death,” said Hajax. “Lariska can have a public execution ceremony – which I am sure is something we all agree on – but since no one knows or cares about these two, then we can afford to be a little bit more . . . private, in our treatment of them. Agreed?”

“Hey, you can’t punish us!” Isarot protested. “Just because we had an Olmak on us you’re going to punish us? We didn’t even know that it represented King Brutaka when we got here. That’s not fair.”

“Did I forget to add they also assaulted and destroyed not one, not two, but three Anicans?” added Rorand, holding up three fingers. “And, at the same time, aiding a known criminal/terrorist, Lariska, in escaping? That’s so many strikes against them that I am afraid I’ve lost count by now.”

“I agree with Hajax,” said Dume, nodding. “There is no reason to bring the attention of these two interdimensional criminals to the public. It would just create unnecessary questions that do not need to be answered.”

“Agreed,” said Axelis. “We should deal with these two differently from Lariska.” She looked at the rest of the Council and asked, “All in favor of a public execution of the terrorist known as Lariska?”

All of the Council members raised their hands, Nektann with a wicked smile on his face and Hajax smirking.

“And all for dealing with these other two criminals privately, without ever informing the public of their existence?”

Without hesitation, the Council members all raised their hands in unison yet again. At that moment I just realized our death sentence had been handed to us, as Rorand gave the Anicans orders on where and how to kill us specifically. Panic flooded me as the Anicans seized the three of us and began dragging us out of the room. I would have struggled, but I knew there was no hope of escape now. We were all dead, so the Anicans to dragged me out without any resistance on my part, I hoping that our execution would at least be painless.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:46 PM.

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#10 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 28 2011 - 09:30 AM

Chapter 9: A Message Received

Isarot.


Our situation seemed hopeless, but giving up, I knew, was not an option. It was true we did not have the Olmak in our possession and that it was likely hidden in a high-security vault somewhere deep within this building, but that actually gave me hope. If we could escape, then we still had a chance of finding the Olmak and maybe the Time Stone, too and getting out of here alive.

That was why I still struggled against the Anicans, but they were too strong and I was too weak. Not to mention my hand was still burning from their previous attack, although the pain had lessened slightly. It still hurt badly, but I ignored the pain and continued to fight as we were dragged down several corridors.

None of us said anything during the whole trip and even I gave up struggling after a while. I was too tired to continue, but that didn’t mean I had accepted our fate. I was still figuring out an escape plan as we passed the various statues representing all the species of the universe, although I was having a hard time developing a realistic plan because of the difficulty of our situation.

After climbing down several floors, we were brought to what appeared to be the dungeons. Why a building that was apparently built to symbolize the peace between everyone in the universe had a set of dark, dank dungeons, I had no idea, but considering how corrupt and evil the Council seemed to be, perhaps the dungeons were not too out of place. The Toa skeleton in the corner of one of the cells seemed especially ironic in such a ‘peaceful’ place.

Lariska was thrown into the same jail cell that contained the Toa skeleton. One of the Anicans explained that she would stay there until a date for her execution was confirmed. Lariska said nothing. She merely sat on the floor in the darkest corner, probably brooding over her past and how she had managed to end up in this situation. I didn’t know. Nor did I care.

Instead of being thrown in cells, Kiriah and I were thrown against the wall on the other side of the room. Normally we would have made a run for it, since the Anicans were no longer holding us, but we were too weak to even attempt that.

“By the Council of Unity’s orders, we shall execute you two in private,” said the Anican standing in the middle. “Your bodies will then be burned and the ashes scattered. There will be no evidence that either of you ever existed.”

That’s encouraging, I thought.

The Anicans’ eyes began to glow as they charged up what would probably be their strongest energy bursts yet. Although I knew nothing of Anican power levels, I could tell that these three could probably kill us with their eye beams. Conjuring up a wall of ice to deflect the blasts might work, but I realized that would only invite the Anicans to get personal in their killing and make it even worse for us. Not to mention that Lariska might somehow get hurt as well, although our own safety was more important to me at the moment than hers.

Is this how we’re going to go? I wondered. I looked at Kiriah, who had her eyes closed and her face buried in her hands. She probably did not want to see death rushing toward her like a phantom in the night. I didn’t understand that desire, because to be frank I didn’t think covering your face would make death any less painful.

In the instant before the Anicans fired, I realized that we were going to die as failures. We had lost not only the Time Stone, but the Olmak as well, and now we had neither. Baiji Kolora, Turaga Klio, and everyone else on Tanjo Nui waiting for us to return would never see the Time Stone again. I did not know what would happen once the Matoran and Tagiki of Tanjo Nui inevitably learned of the theft of the Stone, but at the moment that did not seem important. Our imminent executions seemed a bit more important to me, for obvious reasons.

Then the Anicans fired . . . at each other. No, I was serious. All three Anicans turned on one another and blew their heads up. Startled, I watched as the now-headless trio of robots fell over, with absolutely no signs of life from any of them. They weren’t moving even slightly.

“What . . . happened?” asked Kiriah as she lowered her hands from her face to look at the destroyed Anicans. “Why’d they attack each other?”

I was about to say I don’t know, when a sudden thought flashed through my mind: You are free. Get the mask. The strangest part about it was that it was in a voice I had never heard before, plus it sounded almost like an order, as though the person issuing it was used to giving commands.

But all thoughts of the mysterious order disappeared when I looked down and saw that our chains had fallen off of us. It seemed like a stray Anican eye beam had shattered our shackles. At least, that was the only reasonable explanation I could think of, since the chains appeared to have simply fallen off by themselves, although I knew that made no sense.

“Isarot . . . how . . .?” said Kiriah in amazement as she rubbed her wrists and neck, looking at the fallen manacles in wonder.

“I don’t know,” I said as I rose to my feet unsteadily. Even my hand’s pain seemed to have faded away now. “What is important is that we get the mask, I mean the Olmak. Destiny’s given us this chance to succeed. Let’s not mess it up.”

“But I still don’t know how we got freed,” said Kiriah as I helped her to her feet. She looked tired and a bit weak, but she seemed all right besides that. “Why’d the Anicans destroy themselves? Why did our shackles break?”

“There’s no need to think about this if we can’t know the answer, Kiri,” I said, dusting my armor off. “However, I think we can escape if we can find the Olmak.”

“To where?”

“Anywhere but here,” I responded.

I looked ahead and saw Lariska standing behind the bars of her cell, looking just as shocked and confused as we did. Clearly, she had no idea what had just happened, either, so questioning her would be useless.

“You two are lucky,” said Lariska in disbelief. “If they hadn’t malfunctioned like that or whatever they did, you both would have died.”

“Yeah, we kind of already know that,” I said. Then I said to Kiriah, “Come on, Kiri. We’ve got to find the Olmak.”

“Hey, you can’t just leave me here!” said Lariska. “Who got you into the Hall of Unity in the first place?”

“Who lead us straight into a trap that nearly got us killed?” I shot back. “Besides, we don’t help terrorists, if that is what you are. Not if you’re going to cause more terror once you’re freed.”

“Well, it is true that I have been part of some Olmak uprisings, but I do not seek to cause terror,” said Lariska, shaking her head. “I only want to learn the truth of King Brutaka’s death. Just let me out and all I will do is find out the truth. Once I do that, I promise to never commit any terroristic acts ever again.”

I folded my arms, completely skeptical. “Right, I am sure that’s what you’d do.”

“Isarot, do you honestly care about the Republic?” asked Lariska harshly. “Did you not see the corruption inherent in these beings? They planned to execute you two without letting anyone even know of your existence!”

“She does have a point, Isarot,” said Kiriah, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Admittedly, the idea of helping someone who has been branded a terrorist feels wrong, but the Council seems to be even worse than her. She’s telling the truth, anyway, based on my scan of her mind. All she wants is the truth, and nothing more.”

I looked at Kiriah’s mask-less face. I tried to stay skeptical and angry, but somehow looking at her calmed me down. Then I looked back at Lariska, who looked like she genuinely only wanted the truth, as Kiriah had said. The idea of freeing her left a bad taste in my mouth, but I could tell she was being genuinely honest here.

So I grudgingly said, “Fine. We’ll free you. Stand back and let me freeze the bars.”

Lariska quickly jumped back as I walked up to her cell. I placed my hands on a section of the bars and then concentrated ice power through them. Within moments they were completely frozen from top to bottom, allowing me to easily smash them to pieces with one swipe of my fist.

Then I stepped back as Lariska walked out of the gap I’d made. “You’re welcome,” I told her.

“Thanks,” Lariska said, although she sounded like she didn’t mean it. I found that irritating, but made no comment on it. “See you two later.”

“What? You won’t go with us?” asked Kiriah in surprise.

“No,” said Lariska, waving the Toa of Psionics off. “I’m faster on my own. Besides, we’re heading in two different directions. I’m heading for the library – where the truth of Brutaka’s death is sure to be hidden – and you two are heading for the treasury, where your Olmak is being kept. It makes sense for us to split up.”

“Well, could you tell us where the treasury room is, at least?” asked Kiriah. “We don’t know anything about this place. It’s so huge, we could easily get lost.”

“It’s on the fifth floor,” said Lariska. “Should be at the very end of the hall. We passed on it the way down here.”

“How’d you know that?” asked Kiriah in amazement.

Lariska shrugged. “Tamaru – who is a dirty, untrustworthy double-crosser, by the way – gave me a map of this place when I asked him for information. I memorized it, since I didn’t want to get caught with the map, so I pretty much know this building like the back of my hand.”

“Yeah, impressive,” I said without enthusiasm. “Now we gotta stop sitting around talking. All of us here have something we need and the only way to get it is to, well, go.”

“I agree, Isarot, but I need a mask first,” said Kiriah, gesturing at her mask-less face. “I’m only half as strong without a mask. I don’t have the Mask of Rebounding that I brought, either, since Syala and those horrible Anicans took all of our supplies and weapons.”

I cursed our luck, but then Lariska unexpectedly handed an old, rusted-looking Mask of Healing to Kiriah, who accepted it with a surprised expression on her face.

“Where’d you get this?” asked Kiriah as she examined the mask. “I thought the Anicans stripped us of all of our supplies.”

“Took it from him,” said Lariska, gesturing over her shoulder. “I don’t think he needs it anymore.”

“Him?” I repeated as Kiriah and I looked at where she was pointing. “Who is-“

I saw exactly whom Lariska was speaking of. Sitting in the corner of Lariska’s jail cell were the skeletal remains of a Toa, whose armor was so faded and rusted that it was hard to tell what his element was. The skeleton looked frightening, sitting against the wall like that, especially now that it was mask-less.

“You looted a dead person?” Kiriah gasped, almost dropping the skeleton’s Kanohi. “That’s-“

“The only way you’re getting a mask, sister,” Lariska interrupted. “Either you fight your way through hordes of Anicans at half-power and with no weapons or you take this mask, which will at least raise your chances of survival. What do you want?”

“When you put it that way, I guess it isn’t too bad,” said Kiriah as she hesitantly placed the mask on her face. All of a sudden, Kiriah seemed stronger. “I can feel my power returning to me. I feel like I can do anything now.”

“Great to hear,” I said, patting her on the back. “Now I’d say we’re just about ready to escape. All we need to do is get some weapons.”

“Unfortunately, the dead guy back there doesn’t have any weapons on him,” said Lariska disappointedly. “Not even a dagger. I guess I’ll have to use my stealth to get into the library, which I am pretty good at.”

Light and ice energy began swirling in my hands and I said, “And we’ve got elemental powers. Let’s go.”

-

As soon as we reached the ground level, Lariska broke off from us on her quest to find the library. To be honest, I was not particularly sad to see her go, since I never really liked her in the first place. Still, to be alone in such a huge building filled with beings who wanted us dead made me feel more than a little afraid. But I had to go on, regardless of my fears.

Oddly enough, there did not appear to be anyone on the ground floor. However, we weren’t stupid. Kiriah was using her telepathy powers to detect any being that we might run into. Our basic plan was that Kiriah would disguise us with illusions anytime we ran into a sapient being. It seemed to be working well, for the first sapient being we ran into – a Le-Matoran who seemed satisfied about something – walked right by us without a glance.

The only problem I could see with this plan is what would happen if we ran into the Anicans, which I knew were incapable of being fooled by illusions. The best I could come up with was that if we ran into any Anicans we would have to fight them or hide somewhere, neither of which appealed to me all that much.

The higher we progressed, the more beings we ran into. I was relieved that we did not run into any Anicans, otherwise we surely would have been spotted. The only real trouble we ran into was Kiriah’s own fatigue. Because we had both been beaten pretty badly by the Anicans – Kiriah especially – she was not feeling well and the illusions she cast upon unwary beings would waver just a little, but no one would ever notice anything, fortunately. We didn’t dare enter or look into any room; we trusted Lariska’s advice to be accurate and so we headed straight for the fifth floor.

For a while there I thought we’d go all the way without ever being spotted once. That was, until we reached the fifth floor and saw two Anicans guarding a large metal vault door at the very end of the hall. There was no one else on this floor save for the robots.

Since we knew they would not be fooled by an illusion, Kiriah and I hid behind a large stone statue of a Skakdi, which hid us well from the robotic eyes of the Anicans.

“How’re we going to get past them?” Kiriah whispered. “Illusions won’t work on them.”

“We fight,” I responded without hesitation.

“Fight?” repeated Kiriah. “How’re we going to take down two Anicans? What if we attract too much attention?”

“I don’t see anyone else here besides us and the Anicans,” I said, briefly glancing down the hall. “Sure, we’ll cause a commotion, but all we need to do is get into the treasury, find the Olmak, and then get out. We’ll be in and out before anyone even knows what happened.”

“Well, I don’t sense any other minds here besides our own,” said Kiriah, “but the idea still seems a little risky to me.”

“Going on an interdimensional journey to retrieve the Time Stone was a little risky, Kiri, and I’d say it’s turned out pretty well, considering we’re still alive and all,” I said. “We can afford a few risks. Besides, those Anicans probably think we’re dead, so we’ve got the element of surprise on our side. I’ve defeated three before; two ought to be easy if we strike hard and fast.”

“When you put it that way, it sure does sounds easy,” she said. “I guess we could try it, but we’ve got to do it quick. If we let either of them recover, the fight may turn in their favor.”

“All right, then,” I said. “On the count of three, we’ll jump out and attack them with everything we’ve got. Understood?”

“Er, okay,” said Kiriah. She sounded nervous, which was a reasonable response considering what we were about to do. I myself felt a little nervous, but I ignored it to help me concentrate on the plan. “I’ll, um, try my best.”

“Good,” I said. “Now on the count of three. One . . . two . . . three!”

We leapt out from behind the Skakdi statue and struck simultaneously. I froze the Anicans instantly and, before they could activate their elemental energy destabilizers, Kiriah sent the giant stone Skakdi statue flying in their direction via her telekinesis powers. The statue collided with and shattered the two guards into a million pieces.

“That was unexpected,” I commented, looking at Kiriah in surprise. “What gave you the idea to throw a statue at them?”

Kiriah shrugged. “It was a spur of the moment type thing, you know. I just sort of thought it would be cool.”

“Anyway, we’ve got to get into that safe, find the Olmak, and get the Karzahni out of here before more Anicans swarm the place,” I said, looking up at the ceiling, for I heard voices and footsteps coming from the floors above. “I’ll seal the entrances off with ice, while you crack the safe.”

“Gotcha,” said Kiriah, nodding as she ran around the Skakdi statue. “I’ll tear the door off with my telekinesis.”

I turned around and created a huge block of thick ice that covered the entire doorway. Then I rushed to the other end of the hallway, where Kiriah was staring at the vault like her life depended on it, and created a similar blockade there. I figured that it would take a while for the Anicans or anyone else to break through those blocks, and by the time they did Kiriah and I would be long gone.

“Got it off yet?” I asked, turning away from my handiwork to see what Kiriah was doing.

“No,” said Kiriah, who sounded frustrated. “It’s too heavy and I’m too weak. I just need to try a little harder.”

“Well, be quick about it,” I said. “I’m not sure how much time we’ve got until everyone realizes what’s happened.”

There was an ominous shudder and then the vault swung open, ripped straight off of its hinges. Kiriah slowly placed the vault door on the ground and, as soon as it touched the floor, she collapsed. I caught her and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m . . . I’m fine,” she said, pushing herself away from me and staggering a bit before regaining her balance. She turned around, smiling slightly, and said, “I mean, I’m tired, but I think I can enter a vault. It’s not like we’re going to have to fight anyone, right?”

I could tell she was trying to reassure me, but even if she hadn’t been there’s no way we could simply let her rest right now. We didn’t have the time. In fact, I could actually hear someone pounding at the ice on the other side of the nearest barricade.

“Okay, let’s go,” I said as I walked past her. “We’ve got to get that Olmak.”

“All right,” said Kiriah as she followed me. She put a hand on my shoulder, probably to steady herself as we walked. “But what’ll we do if they break through the ice?”

“This,” I replied. I held up a hand and, just as Kiriah crossed the threshold I created yet another icy blockade – as huge and thick as the previous two – to block the entrance.

“Er, how’re we going to escape?” asked Kiriah, looking at the block behind us.

“Easy,” I answered. “You’re going to use the Olmak and we’re going to get the Karzahni out of here. Duh.”

“Uh, okay,” said Kiriah. “As long as we get the Time Stone first . . .”

-

We had to walk a short way before we finally found the treasury room itself. As we walked, I created a few more slightly thinner walls of ice behind us. In case the Olmak was well-hidden, I wanted to give us as much time as possible to search the treasury without any interruptions from Anicans or anyone else.

Anyway, as for the treasury itself . . . it was huge. Perhaps it was only my opinion, since the biggest room I’d seen in my life was the Time Stone’s chamber, but the vault made the Chamber of Time look like a cramped broom closet. The walls, floor, and ceiling all seemed to be made out of solid gold, light gleaming off of them from the torches mounted on the wall. There were weapons, Kanohi, and suits of armor mounted on the walls, while piles of stone tablets rose to the ceiling. They looked old, but I didn’t care enough to read the tablets.

There were also jewels; rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and many others that I could not identify. An old though valuable-looking crown encrusted with rubies and other treasures sat on the top of the pile, but it looked as though no one had worn it for several years.

“Well, this is the place,” I said. “I don’t see the Olmak anywhere. Do you?”

“Uh, what?” said Kiriah, who seemed to be distracted by all of the valuables. “Oh, right, the Olmak. Well, I don’t see it anywhere, either, so we should probably start searching.”

“This might take a while, though,” I added as we began walking down the long, beautiful hallway. Yes, the room was large enough to have its own hallway. “Where could Syala have put it?”

“I don’t know,” said Kiriah. “Maybe it’s at the end of the hall.”

“That’s as good a place to check as any,” I said, shrugging.

So we continued walking, gazing at all of the treasures stored in this place, most of which were unfamiliar to us. Although I was not the kind of guy to get distracted easily (that’s Kiriah’s job), I had to admit even my concentration wandered as we traversed the treasury. I saw a particularly vicious looking axe mounted on the wall. It looked similar to the axes used by Tagiki on Tanjo Nui.

“Hey, Kiriah,” I said, a new idea occurring to me. “Neither of us have weapons, right?”

“Yeah,” said Kiriah. “What about it?”

“There’re a lot of weapons in this place,” I said, gesturing to everything around us. “Why don’t we each take a weapon so we’ll be armed?”

“Isn’t that stealing, though?”

“We’d only be stealing from the Council,” I reminded her. “And we need the weapons, anyway. The Council won’t miss a few.”

“Yeah, but it’s still theft,” Kiriah pointed out. “Maybe they have loads of weapons, but as a Toa I know that stealing isn’t right.”

“Well, what if I said we were only borrowing weapons from the Council?” I said. I really wanted a new axe, since even with my elemental powers I felt vulnerable. “We can borrow a couple of weapons from them for a little while.”

“But you have to ask people when you borrow something,” Kiriah said, folding her arms. ”We haven’t asked the Council for permission to borrow any of their weapons.”

“Do we really have the time to argue about this?” I asked, frustrated. “We will probably need weapons when we leave this place. Besides, you can’t fight well without a weapon, remember?”

Kiriah scowled. “Yeah, I remember how you always used to beat me in hand-to-hand training sessions. I admit I would like to have a new sword, but something feels wrong about stealing, even if we are stealing from a bunch of creeps.”

“Well, okay then, Kiriah,” I said, walking over to the axe mounted on the wall. “As a Toa, you do not steal. But I am a Tagiki and so therefore do not abide by your Toa code, so I shall take this axe as my own. Care to argue?”

Kiriah looked disapproving as I lifted the axe off the wall, but she said nothing. Instead, she walked over to some weapons and picked up something as she said, “Maybe you’re right about needing a way to protect myself. This looks good.”

My friend had found a long, thin sword that glittered in the torchlight. It was very different from Kiriah’s original blade, however, because the blade curved backwards like the crescent moon, although it was not perfectly curved.

Kiriah seemed to like it and swung it a few times before saying, “I want this.”

After looking through a few more piles of weapons, we continued on our search. I felt a little bad about wasting so much time getting weapons, but I rationalized that our mission was dangerous and we were probably going to need weapons which we could defend ourselves with. Besides, it wasn’t like the Olmak was going anywhere, right?

We walked for a couple more minutes. Again I inwardly marveled at the size of this place, when Kiriah gasped and said, “Isarot! Look! It’s the Olmak!”

She pointed and I saw a dull gray Kanohi mask sitting atop a large pile of gold. I recognized the Olmak’s trademark dome shape anywhere.

We quickly and eagerly made our way over to it. Once within arm’s reach of it, I snatched the Olmak off the top and examined it closely. Although I was happy to have the Olmak again, I inspected it just to be sure that this was ours.

Not being an expert on Kanohi, I couldn’t tell for sure whether it was ours or not, so I handed it to a very excited-looking Kiriah. “Try it on. I want to make sure it is ours.”

“Okay!” said Kiriah, swapping the Mask of Healing on her face for the Olmak. She waited a few moments – probably to be dramatic, I thought – and then said, with a big smile on her face, “This is it, Isarot. This is the same Olmak that got us into this mess in the first place.”

“All right,” I said. “That’s a relief. Anyway, has it told you of the Time Stone’s location yet?”

“Actually, no,” said Kiriah, frowning as she scratched the top of her head. “In fact, the signal is totally dead. I mean, I can still feel the Olmak’s power flowing through this mask and I am absolutely sure this is the one we’re looking for, but I don’t think the Time Stone is here, for some reason or another.”

“What?” I said, completely disappointed. “You mean we’ve spent all of this time here for nothing?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” said Kiriah, who sounded just as disappointed as I was. “It means we’ll have to move on. We’ll have to go to some other alternate universe now, it seems.”

“Good,” I said. “This universe sucks.”

“Agreed. Now let’s-“

We heard a shattering sound somewhere behind us . . . and then what sounded like an entire army rushed toward us from the other end of the room. With dread I realized the Anicans must have destroyed the ice barriers I had put up and were advancing full force into this chamber. There was no way they’d spare us if they caught us in here.

“Quickly, activate the mask!” I ordered as I created yet another thick ice barrier between us and the Anicans, which I hoped would be enough to slow them down at least slightly. “We’ve got to get out of here before the Anicans catch us!”

“On it!” said Kiriah.

Kiriah seemed to be focusing hard on nothingness. At first, I despaired of it failing, for I could heard the Anicans coming ever closer as the seconds passed.

Finally, a dimensional portal big enough for the two of us exploded into existence. At the same time, a sharp crack ran up the ice barrier I had created. I knew we had only seconds to escape, so I didn’t even hesitate. I dashed forward, grabbing Kiriah’s hand as I passed her, and leapt beyond the universal threshold with Kiriah not far behind.

I heard the ice wall shatter behind us as we fell through the space between dimensions. It was the last sound I heard, for the next moment my whole world went black and then there was . . . nothing.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:46 PM.

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#11 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Nov 04 2011 - 08:46 AM

Chapter 10: Rescued & Recruited

Kiriah.


Because so many things had happened so quickly, a bunch of emotions rushed through my head all at once. First I felt fear, then confidence and excitement, then caution, and now I felt fear again as Isarot and I fell through the void between dimensions. My head was hurting badly, so much that I could barely think.

I ignored the pain, however. The Olmak had caught the Time Stone’s signal again as I moved to the right, although I could not tell whether I was moving of my own free will or if the mask was somehow pulling me in that direction like some kind of giant magnet.

I glanced at Isarot, who had his eyes closed for some reason. Maybe he was trying to rest or something, which I thought was weird since the space between dimensions seemed like a strange place to take a nap. Then again, I never understood Tagiki very well, so what did I know?

Anyway, I saw a bright light up ahead and realized that the Olmak was tugging me in that direction. I knew that’s where the Time Stone had to be, so I inched over to the shining light until we passed straight through it . . . and landed in deep water, its coldness shocking my every bone.

Isarot and I sank a few inches underwater, until we recovered from the shock of the gelidness and began swimming up. Well, I swam, anyway. Isarot just sort of held onto me and paddled a little, which I found strange, since he was usually the one who was in top athletic condition and I the deadweight.

We finally broke the surface. Gasping for air, I looked around the area, hoping to see that we had merely fallen into some kind of river, or perhaps lake, and that we could swim to shore easily.

Oh how wrong was I. We had landed in the middle of the Silver Sea, with not a speck of land in sight. Of course, that may have had to do with the fact that we were also caught in a huge storm that was brewing, pelting us with rain and throwing about strong waves that sent hundreds of gallons of water into the air, sometimes with us, too.

Isarot and I struggled to stay afloat, but that was nearly impossible to do with such violent weather. The wind was harsh; the sky was dark with storm clouds; the sea seemed to have something against us; and in general, I figured the only way things could get worse was if we were surrounded by a pack of Takea sharks that hadn’t had dinner yet.

“I’ll try to do something!” Isarot shouted over the howling winds. He was awake now. I guess the shock of the cold sea must’ve awoken him. “Hold on!”

I had no idea what he was doing until I felt the temperature drop around us by a dozen degrees; then I felt something thick and cold underneath my body, which rose rapidly until we were floating on a slightly smaller than average floe. Although it was chilling, it wasn’t as frigid as the waters in the sea, surprisingly enough. And we weren’t in danger of sliding off, thanks to the waist high borders Isarot had made around the edges.

It was a valiant effort, but the sea still tossed us about like ragdolls. Only this time, we were like ragdolls in basket made of ice and were in danger of falling out every time the sea got upset. Once we even were thrown fifty feet into the air.

We are going to die, I thought. Combined with the injuries we had sustained in the last universe, I figured we were going to die any second. I hadn’t even joined an official Toa team and I was going to die out here, without anyone ever knowing of my fate.

I just about gave up hope when, as we were tossed into the air yet again, Isarot cried out, “Look! I see something!”

We fell and crashed into the floe, which was now in danger of breaking apart from the repeated beatings. In pain, I raised my head and thought I saw what he was referring to. With the waves constantly rising and falling, the rain that was pouring, and the general darkness around the area, I could barely see anything. However, I did see a light in the distance, bobbing up and down on the waves, steadily approaching our direction.

My heart leapt, and it wasn’t because we had just been tossed into the sky for the umpteenth time, either. Did that light belong to a ship? Had the people aboard the ship somehow seen us through the storm and were coming to rescue us? At this point I didn’t even care if they were friendly or not. Even being imprisoned upon an enemy ship would be better than this, in my opinion.

Isarot and I slammed into the floe again, but this time my Tagiki friend moved faster than the sea. He raised both of his hands high and light burst forth from his palms, illuminating the sea around us for several yards in every direction. I knew what he was thinking even without my telepathy and I hoped it would work. He was trying to attract the ship with his lights, but whether it would get here fast enough to save us I did not know.

After what seemed like forever and a half, a ship’s silhouette appeared in the rain and darkness not far away. There were multiple lights shining from the windows in the sides, but beyond that and its immense size I could not make out many details. I saw movement on board, but I didn’t know if they were Toa or Tagiki or another species entirely. Not that I cared; as long as they saved us, I would be happy no matter who they were.

Our floe was sent flying and Isarot and I just barely clung to it as it splashed back into the water. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fall out of the ship, but didn’t know if it was cargo or a person. I didn’t have time to wonder, anyway, because our floe finally tipped over and sent Isarot and I tumbling into the extremely cold water again.

Oh, crud. The ice floe – which had been our temporary salvation – was now on top of us and we were still underwater. Worse, we had no opportunity to move it, nor could we swim around it because of the thrashing sea. Our limbs were too frozen and in too much pain to move. And we had no air. I figured we would simply sink to the bottom of the ocean now. Even if the ship had come to save us, they’d probably only be in time to drag our frozen corpses out of the depths of the sea.

Then I felt a strong hand, slightly slimy like an octopus, grab my arm. My first thought was that some kind of sea creature was going to eat us, but then whatever it was dragged me (and, by the looks of it, Isarot, too) toward the surface, going much faster than I thought was possible in this sea. I could barely see anything because we were going too fast, and it was simply too dark to see our savior.

Finally, we broke the surface, which was still stormy. I looked around, gasping hard, and saw we were right next to that ship now, which looked even bigger up close. I looked around wildly and saw that a strange being had both me and Isarot in his hands, but due to the darkness of the night I could not make out any distinct features on him. All I could tell was that he must have been a very good swimmer to be able to pull Isarot and me along in this terrible sea as fast as he did.

“Haul us up!” the being shouted at the ship in a wet voice, like he had water in his mouth. “I got them!”

I looked up, barely able to make out anything in the rain and darkness, but heard something plop into the water beside us. Then the aquatic being (that was the only thing he could be, since no land being could swim that well) pulled us over to the source of the splash and then yelled up at the ship again, “Lift!”

Immediately and without warning, Isarot, the aquatic being, and I went flying straight up into the air. I realized we were all sitting in a huge, wooden bucket that smelled of fish and other disgusting things that made me nauseas. The water drained out of holes in the bottom, which were fortunately too small for any of us to slip through.

And then – just as abruptly – we were hauled on board the ship’s deck. Isarot, our savior, and I were all tipped out of the bucket and onto the slippery, wet deck of the boat. Isarot and I got to our knees, coughing out water and shivering, while the aquatic being got to his feet and shook his head like he had just taken a refreshing swim.

Looking up, I saw that there were dozens of other beings standing around us, talking and chattering, but my audio receptors were so full of water I couldn’t make out a word of what they were saying. Most of these beings looked similar to the aquatic being, but a few I could tell were clearly land dwellers. I thought I saw a Matoran trying to get a good look at us from behind a couple of tall beings, but my vision wasn’t working all that well in this weather and next time I looked, the villager was gone.

Suddenly, the beings stopped chattering and began moving out of the way, like someone of importance was coming through. In fact someone was approaching, for through the gap that now existed between sailors, I saw a tall, powerful-looking being in green armor walking toward us, but it was difficult for me to get a good look at him because I was so weak.

The captain (that’s who it had to be, considering how respectfully everyone was acting toward him) stopped in front of us and, from within the weird dome thing he wore on his head, looked down at us with cold, blue eyes that felt like they belonged to a creature of the sea. I caught a glimmer of silver out of the corner of my eye and, glancing quickly, I saw he had three long metal talons on each hand, which made me apprehensive.

“State your names and your business,” the captain snapped and, although he looked strong, he sounded a bit nervous for some reason. “Or else I will have you thrown off of my ship.”

“I . . . I am Isarot,” Isarot coughed beside me, very weakly. He was lying on his back, breathing hard, just like me. “And this . . . this is Toa Kiriah. We’re . . . we’re on an important mission. Thank . . . thank you for rescuing us.”

The captain snorted. “And just what is that mission? Sent by one of the other warlords to ‘check up on me,’ is that it?”

“Who . . . are you?” asked Isarot, eyeing the captain warily.

“Ignore my questions, will you?” the captain growled. “You should know who I am. I am Ehlek, ruler of the western portion of the universe, and you are going to be dead meat unless you answer my questions.” He looked at Isarot and snapped, “You’re a Tagiki, aren’t you? From the island of Tanjo Nui, in Kalmah’s realm?”

“Uh . . .” said Isarot, which summed up how well my own thoughts were organized at the moment.

“Then what are you doing-“ Ehlek began, but was cut short when he looked at me. His mouth fell open comically, but he immediately regained his composure and barked at one of his minions, “Take these two into the lower cabins, where I will interrogate them further. As wonderful as this rain is, these two are in no condition to be shouted at in this weather. Give them food and warm blankets and whatever else land dwellers need. I shall be with them shortly.”

“Yes, sir!” said one sailor, who seemed to belong to the same species as Ehlek.

The sailor and a few of his companions moved forward and grabbed us with those same slimy hands that our savior had had. Then they lifted us onto our feet and got us walking, although Isarot and I stumbled quite a bit on the slippery, tilting deck of the ship. We were both far too weak and tired to resist their efforts, so we simply went wherever they happened to guide us.

We were taken below deck, down a long corridor and into a room with several hammocks. This chamber was cold, but much warmer than the deck had been. We were laid down on a couple of the hammocks, given some food of a kind I hadn’t seen before, and then the sailors left, locking the door behind themselves as they did so. I didn’t see any reason for that, though. Escaping this ship was the last thing on our minds because of our fatigue. I personally simply wanted to lie down and rest forever, but I was also hungry and, since I liked food a little better than sleep, I ate.

We just lay on our hammocks and ate, not saying a word to each other. We were still freezing and wet and weak; in other words, not in the mood to say anything. Isarot found some blankets in a corner, which were surprisingly dry and warm. Wrapped in these covers, Isarot and I just lay in our hammocks for a long time, trying to recover what little strength we could.

After a while, however, Isarot lay back in his hammock, looking troubled as he finished his food. “What . . . was up with that?”

“What was up with what?” I asked as I too leaned back in my hammock. The food wasn’t the best, but since I hadn’t eaten in a while I wasn’t complaining.

“The way that Ehlek guy was treating us,” said Isarot, looking up at the ceiling now. “I don’t know why he didn’t just throw us off the side of his ship, considering how he thought we were spies or something.”

“Well, I don’t know,” I said as I finished my food. I was still hungry, but not as much as before. “Maybe he’s actually not that bad of a guy, since he did order his men give us this food after all.”

“Kiriah, I can’t believe you’re that naïve,” Isarot snapped, throwing an annoyed look at me. “I think I’ve heard his name before. Remember the stories about the six warlords – ‘Barraki,’ your people called them – who used to rule the universe before making a failed rebellion against the Great Spirit? I believe Ehlek used to be one of the Barraki.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that,” I said, nodding. “But wasn’t that years and years ago? Shouldn’t he be dead now or something?”

“Remember, Kiri, this is an alternate universe,” said Isarot. “What may have happened in our universe may never have happened here. Thus it is possible Ehlek and his fellow warlords are still alive and ruling. Perhaps they’ve never even attempted to rebel here. Who knows?”

“Never tried to rebel . . .” I repeated thoughtfully as I stretched out on my hammock. Somehow that sounded familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it exactly. “I think I’ve heard of some kind of rebellion recently.”

“That’s nothing new,” said Isarot, folding his arms. “Rebellions have been breaking out all over our universe ever since the Brotherhood of Makuta went to war against the Dark Hunters. Remember the rumor that the Matoran slaves on Shika Nui were rebelling against their Dark Hunter masters? Things like that always happen wherever dictators rule. Wouldn’t surprise me if Ehlek has had to deal with a few within his own empire at some point or another.”

“Shika Nui . . .” Suddenly it all clicked . . . and I fell out of my hammock because I leaned the wrong way. “Ow! I just remembered!”

“Remembered what?” asked Isarot, peering over his hammock to look at me.

I looked up at him and said, “Isarot, I totally forgot to tell you this in the last universe, but when the Anicans knocked me out, I had this weird dream where I saw-“

The door flung open at that moment. Then Ehlek entered the room, slamming the door shut behind him as he entered. I quickly jumped to my feet, although I was unsure how I should act toward a warlord like Ehlek. He didn’t seem like the forgiving type to me, so I decided to act as respectfully as possible toward him.

But, surprisingly enough, he did not look particularly impressive or intimidating right now. Actually, as soon as the door closed shut behind him, he nervously pointed at my face and said, in a trembling voice, “Where did you get that?”

Caught off-guard, I could only answer, “Um, it was given to me by-“

“We can’t tell you that,” Isarot responded coldly as he sat up in his hammock. “It’s none of your business.”

“None of my-?” Ehlek snarled. He slashed at the desk next to him, cutting it cleanly in half with one swipe of his metal claws. “It is every bit my business if you are intruding upon my ship! Now answer my question, or else I’ll show you exactly what my protosteel claws can do when I’m angry. Understand?”

“But why are you so interested in my mask?” I asked. “I mean, it’s a pretty powerful and rare mask and all, but honestly I don’t see why-“

“You know why!” Ehlek yelled, stomping his foot so hard he actually made the hammocks sway. Despite his thin body, he was clearly stronger than he appeared. “The dreams . . . the messages . . . You both know what they all mean! I saw your Mask of Dimensional Gates in my dreams!”

Isarot and I looked at each other. I had no idea what these ‘dreams’ and ‘messages’ he was having were all about, nor did I know why he thought we might know what they mean.

“We don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Isarot, shaking his head. “Sorry, but you just sound like you’re senselessly babbling to me.”

“I am senselessly babbling?” repeated Ehlek, enraged. “Then look at these images I drew and these words I wrote!”

Ehlek hurled two stone tablets at Isarot, who narrowly caught them before they hit his face. Curious, I walked over to Isarot. I looked down at the tablets and was puzzled by what I saw.

On the first tablet was a picture of the Kanohi Olmak, Mask of Dimensional Gates. The drawing was perfect in detail, right down to the tiniest scratches. Next to the Olmak drawing was that of a rock. With shock I realized I was seeing a drawing of the Time Stone. I vividly remembered seeing a similar picture in King Brutaka’s study back in the last universe.

On the second tablet was a picture of some strange cloaked being with glowing red eyes. At least, the carving’s orbs appeared to be glowing. Perhaps Ehlek had used some kind of special paint or something. I also noticed a huge, vault-like door stood behind the cloaked figure, but I had no idea what any of it meant.

I glanced at the first tablet again and noticed a single line of writing written beneath the Olmak and Stone: Bring us the Stone. The Olmak will reveal the answer.

I looked quizzically at Isarot, who seemed just as puzzled as I was. Isarot looked back at Ehlek and said, “I am sorry, but we still don’t-“

“Know? Of course you don’t,” said Ehlek with a snarl. “No one in the universe knows what any of this means. First I have strange dreams; then I am sent bizarre messages, and then I write it all down. I only thought, because you wore the Olmak, that maybe you might have known something my own subjects didn’t.”

Ehlek sounded a little deranged, but I was interested in these dreams he mentioned. I could have read his mind, but I was a little frightened to delve into the mind of a being that seemed to be on the verge of insanity.

So I asked, “What kind of dreams have you been having, um, sir?”

At first, I expected Ehlek to jump on me and start tearing me to shreds, ‘cause he sure looked like he was about to snap any minute now. Isarot seemed to think that, too, because I could see him reaching for his axe, just in case.

To my relief, however, Ehlek took a deep breath and said, in a low voice, “Dreams of the Time Stone, the Olmak, and beings I do not recognize. In my dreams, I hear voices, repeating that same command again and again: Bring us the Stone. The Olmak will reveal the answer. No explanation; simply bring it to them.”

“Well, maybe you’re just having a bunch of weird dreams,” I suggested. “I mean, they sound pretty ran-“

“They are not random,” said Ehlek, now pacing backward and forward in front of us. He was clearly nervous, but I could tell he was trying to hide it. “Someone is sending them to me. Someone wants me to bring them the Time Stone. And neither of you know anything about it?” he questioned, stopping suddenly and looking at us suspiciously, like he thought we were lying.

“Like we said before, we don’t know anything,” said Isarot, folding his arms. “We’re just as lost as you are.”

“Then why are you wearing that mask?” Ehlek demanded, pointing at my face with his long claws.

“We have it for our own reasons,” Isarot replied, glaring at the warlord. “And if you want it, you can’t have it. Find your own somewhere else, sir.”

Now Ehlek looked really angry. “Do you even know who you are speaking to? I ought to have my crew throw you back into the ocean, where you and your disrespectful tongue can drown or be eaten by sea monsters.”

I really didn’t like the sound of being thrown into the sea, especially since we still weren’t completely dry yet. I hoped Isarot would at least begin treating Ehlek more respectfully, but my friend merely smirked and said, “Go ahead and do it. We’ve got no reason to linger here anyway, right, Kiri?”

“What?” I said, looking at him. I wasn’t sure what Isarot was getting at.

“I said, right Kiri?” Isarot repeated, this time more forcefully.

This time, I understood (I think. I wasn’t sure). Isarot was trying to tell me to scan the area for the Time Stone, and if we knew where it was, we might be able to get there ourselves. To be honest, because of recent events, I totally forgot to pay attention to the Olmak’s Time Stone detector thingy, but with a quick scan I realized the Stone’s signal was coming from down in the south, not far from this ship.

“Uh, yeah,” I said, nodding. “What we’re looking for is definitely not here. Yeah.”

“Kiriah!” said Isarot angrily. “Be quiet!”

“What?” I asked, now totally confused. “What’d I do-“

“So you’re searching for something?” Ehlek said, looking from me to Isarot with undisguised hatred in his eyes. “What is it?”

“Sorry. Can’t tell you that,” said Isarot. “It was supposed to be a secret.” He gave me a dirty look when he said that and I returned it.

“Now that I think about it,” said Ehlek slowly, “what are a Tagiki and a Toa doing all the way out here in the middle of nowhere? With an Olmak? And keeping their motives secret? You are two suspicious characters whom I will have to hold prisoner until I can learn your secrets.”

“Whoa, wait,” I said as I lowered myself into a hammock next to Isarot’s. I was getting weary standing for so long, so I had to sit somewhere. “Hang on there. We never talked about being your prisoners here, sir.”

“Kiri’s right,” said Isarot. “We’re under, um, King Kalmah’s jurisdiction.”

“Yeah!” I added, nodding confidently. “We’re Kalmah’s most beloved servants. If you even touch us, you’ll have him to answer to.”

Ehlek folded his spindly arms and, to my horror, actually smiled at us. “Well, then. If that is the case, then I will simply keep you safe in my ship until we make the return voyage. Then I will return you to your oh-so-mighty king, since it would be quite unwise of me to kill two obviously very important people in Kalmah’s little kingdom. It would be safer than killing you and risking an all-out war between me and Kalmah, after all.”

“Oh, no, that’s okay,” I said, shaking my head. “You can just drop us off at the nearest port town and we’ll catch a ride home on another ship. We’re fine, but thank you for-“

“But there is the problem, young Toa,” said Ehlek lowly, his eyes locked onto mine, “the nearest port town is all the way on the southern continent . . . thousands of miles away from where we are currently located. I could drop you off on one of these uninhabited islands, but I am afraid you wouldn’t survive very long by yourself on these uncharted lands.”

“What? Then where are we?” I demanded.

“In the unexplored southern portion of the universe,” Ehlek answered. “But surely you already knew that? After all, how can anyone sailing these waters not know where he is?”

“Oh,” I said. “Sure. I knew that.”

“No you didn’t,” Ehlek growled, pointing at us again. “You are bad liars. You are not Kalmah’s most beloved servants otherwise I would have seen you during a meeting at some point or another. Your ignorance of these seas also proves that you did not sail down here. You came here in a different way and probably accidentally, too.” He looked at my Olmak and I realized he knew exactly how we got here. “That Olmak is what you used to get down here, isn’t it? You traveled from somewhere else and ended up here, though whether accidentally or on purpose, I cannot tell. It is the only reasonable explanation that I can come up with.”

Okay, I had to admit that, although he didn’t seem entirely sane, he certainly wasn’t stupid. He managed to figure out how we got here and saw through our lies quite easily. I wondered if it was possible to hide anything from him, but fortunately the warlord did not seem to have guessed our reason for being here just yet.

“All right, you got us,” said Isarot, his face downcast. “You see, sir, we were testing this Kanohi a friend of ours – who is a very good mask maker – created. We ended up here accidentally. If you hadn’t saved us, our mistake might have proved fatal.”

I looked at Isarot, surprised at how quickly he came up with that lie. But I looked back at Ehlek just as fast and said, “Oh, yeah. We didn’t know what it did and tried to find out, which is how we ended up here.”

“Testing it?” said Ehlek, although he did not sound entirely convinced. “Then I suppose that means you could use it to leave this room this very instant, go back to wherever you originally lived?”

“Uh, I still don’t have very good control over it,” I said. “If I used it now, Isarot and I might just end up in a completely different universe, you know.”

That was partly true. Yes, I could open dimensional portals with it, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. Of course, the real reason I said that was so that Ehlek wouldn’t make us leave his ship, since the Time Stone’s energy signal seemed to be emanating from somewhere south of us. I hoped we would be able to go there on Ehlek’s ship and investigate the source of the signal before Isarot and I had to leave.

“But didn’t you say you were searching for something?” asked Ehlek suspiciously. “That’s what you said earlier.”

“Well, er, we were searching for something,” Isarot said hastily. “We asked our friend the mask maker to make this Olmak so we could find a, um, great treasure, yes. We heard great treasure was hidden in the heart of the universe, so we tried to use the Olmak to get there but somehow ended up here instead.”

“If you are willing to tell me about it now, why were you so secretive before?” asked Ehlek skeptically.

“Because we weren’t sure if we could trust you with that information,” said Isarot quickly. “But we can now, right, Kiriah?”

“Er, yeah, sure,” I said, nodding. “You seem okay.”

For a moment, Ehlek was silent. He looked like he didn’t believe a word we just said. I wondered if he would call us liars and throw us overboard anyway.

Surprisingly enough, however, he said, “Fine, then. I suppose you will both have to remain on this ship until we make the voyage home, if you can’t use that Olmak of yours without getting yourself lost.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said eagerly. “Doesn’t it, Isarot?”

“I guess so,” said Isarot reluctantly. “It is better than having to swim through the cold ocean water, anyway.”

“All right, then,” said Ehlek, who didn’t sound at all enthusiastic about us hanging around. “I will allow you two to remain on this ship until we return to the north. Until then, you will both work in my ship like the rest of the sailors, keeping the ship in shape and protecting the ship from storms, monsters, and so on. I can always use more hands on board.”

“I suppose we don’t have much of a choice, so we agree,” said Isarot. “We’ll do whatever work you ask of us, sir.”

“Good, then,” said Ehlek, nodding. “At least you two might be useful for something. Now get some rest and speak to Amphibax – my deputy on the ship – about your duties after you have slept.”

Ehlek turned around and left the room just like that. He didn’t say good bye or indicate that he was going to leave. He just left. Not that I was complaining, since I didn’t like him very much, but I found his abrupt departure a bit strange.

“Well, this is a bit better than being hunted by mechanical law enforcers, right?” I said to Isarot as I lay down on my hammock. “Even if the working conditions are horrible, at least we’ll probably be treated all right, eh?”

“I guess so,” said Isarot. He was examining the tablets Ehlek had left us, obviously troubled. “I don’t know. I can’t think. Perhaps we should both get some rest.”

“Yeah,” I yawned. “Good night.”

And with that, my eyes closed tight and I drifted off to sleep. I was far more tired than I had thought, for I fell asleep the minute my head hit my hammock.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:48 PM.

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#12 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Nov 11 2011 - 08:37 AM

Chapter 11: Put to Work

Isarot.


As I couldn’t make heads or tails of the pictures and words written on Ehlek’s tablets, I decided to sleep like Kiriah. I was far too tired to do a lot of heavy thinking, even though I was curious about the tablets. They reminded me of the writings and drawings in King Brutaka’s study, but since I knew nothing about those it didn’t help me.

So I closed my eyes . . . and then I was in another world entirely.

Where I was I had no idea. All I knew for sure was that I was in some kind of dark, cold stone chamber. Oddly, despite the lack of light, I could make out my surroundings almost perfectly. There were several notes scattered over a large stone table, but they looked like they hadn’t been read in a while. I also spotted a large metal box on the table, but what was inside of it, I had no idea.

I turned to look at the rest of the chamber and was shocked by what I saw. There were dozens of stasis tubes in all directions, each containing a grotesque monster within. In fact, there were so many tubes that it appeared nearly impossible to navigate the place, except for a straight line between all of them that lead to a staircase, which spiraled upward toward a doorway at the top.

Since I didn’t want to stare at a bunch of disgusting Rahi all day, I decided to check out what was behind the entrance. I walked toward it when the door above unexpectedly swung open, a faint light spilling in as two figures emerged onto the staircase.

I did not recognize either of the beings who had just entered, although I could tell they were Toa. One wore orange and white armor, with a Mask of Charisma on his face; clearly a Toa of Plasma. The other was equipped with white and yellow armor and a Mask Healing; a Toa of Lightning. The Toa of Lightning looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place it at the moment.

“This looks like the room we’re searching for,” said the Toa of Plasma as he and the Toa of Lightning hesitantly and carefully descended the staircase. The Toa of Plasma was holding a tomahawk that looked like my old one, while the Toa of Lighting bore a scythe. “Creepy, inhumane experiments on helpless Rahi? Definitely looks like Jero’s work.”

I looked around for a place to hide, but couldn’t find an adequate hiding spot. Although neither Toa seemed to notice me, I was sure that if I tried to talk to them they’d mistake me for some crazed monster that broke free of its stasis tube. They might even attack me, but as I could not find any place to conceal myself I could only watch as they slowly walked down the stairs toward me.

“I cannot believe Jero actually spent hours alone in this room all by himself,” said the Toa of Plasma once he and his companion had reached the bottommost step. I was clearly in view of them now, yet neither gave any sign they had noticed me, if they had at all. “Look at all of these monstrosities. They’re a crime against nature, not to mention just plain creepy. I think we should destroy them all, just in case they somehow awake and attack us. Don’t you agree, Klio?”

Surprised, I looked more closely at the Toa of Lightning and realized that she was indeed Klio. She wore the same solemn expression of the Klio I knew, except younger-looking. Still, she looked like she had been through a lot of hardships despite her young age.

“They aren’t a threat right now, Darranas,” said Klio, shaking her head. “Not to mention they look pretty dead already.”

Darranas? Wasn’t that the same Toa who’d used the Olmak and gone insane or died or whatever happened to him? How could he still be alive? And now that I thought about it, why was Klio a Toa when I knew she was a Turaga? Why was no one paying any attention to me when I was clearly standing in front of them, making absolutely no attempts to hide myself?

I decided to try to catch their attention. “Hey! Can either of you see me?”

Neither so much as glanced in my direction as they walked down the aisle, looking at all of the strange experiments lined in stasis on either side of them. Since I had yelled pretty loudly, I figured that this must be a dream of some kind. Only in dreams would people act this illogically, unless they were just trying to infuriate me, which was working quite well.

“So what are we looking for again?” asked Darranas.

“Anything that could be a threat to the future safety of the universe,” replied Klio.

“Gee, that sure looks like everything in this room to me,” said Darranas dryly, stopping to examine what looked like a giant bat with antennas growing out of the top of its head. “Or maybe they’re all just really ugly.”

Klio lifted up her light stone and, pointing with her scythe, asked, “What’s that?”

Since she was pointing in my direction, I thought she had finally noticed me. I was about to say something to them until Darranas said, “It’s just a metal box, Klio. But let’s investigate it anyway. Maybe we’ll find something in it.”

So the two Toa walked right by me – again, without even the slightest sideways glance – and reached the table quickly. I turned around and saw Darranas heave the box off the workbench. As he did so, the Toa said, “Ugh, this thing is heavy. Whatever is in it, Jero obviously didn’t want anyone to get into it.”

“Since I don’t see a key anywhere, I think you should melt it open, Darranas,” said Klio, “but be careful, though. You might accidentally melt whatever is inside of it if you don’t do it carefully.”

“If it is some kind of monster, then melting it might be for the best,” said Darranas as he placed the container on the ground and took a step back. “If only Ujat was here, though. He’d be able to break it open without damaging the contents. Anyway, step back and let me do my job.”

Klio nodded and did as he told her. Darranas raised one hand carefully and let loose a thin beam of plasma at the box. It struck the lock and melted it into an oozing puddle of metal. Then, with a small burst of electricity from Klio, the lid flipped open. Darranas and Klio leaned forward to get a better look at the treasure and, my curiosity getting the best of me, I flew over (which I could do in this dream, apparently) to got a better look.

I had been expecting there to be perhaps gold or jewels or something else equally valuable inside. Instead, I was disappointed to find that there was only a single gray, dome-shaped Kanohi mask. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wait . . .I inspected it again. That was no ordinary dome-shaped mask. It was a Kanohi Olmak and looked surprisingly like ours, although it didn’t appear as worn or old as the one Kiriah currently wore. It probably wasn’t ours, though, since this was merely a dream. It wasn’t like I was actually watching an event from the past, I knew.

“What’s this?” asked Darranas as he hefted the mask in his hands, examining it. “I’ve never seen such a Kanohi before.”

Klio glanced at the inside of the box, saw some words written on the bottom, and read aloud, “’Kanohi Olmak, Mask of Dimensional Gates.’ Is this the thing Jero was supposed to be working on in secret?”

“I guess,” said Darranas, frowning. “I thought it’d be something like a sword or gun or some kind of ultimate power that could destroy an island or something. Just a mask.”

Klio picked up a random tablet and said, “There’s got to be more to this mask than simply this. There is no reason why Jero would keep this thing hidden in a safe in a secret room if it wasn’t important. Let’s see if we can find any clues in these notes.”

The two picked through the notes for a few minutes, while I only watched, for that was all I could do. Finally, Klio said, “Hey, look at this.”

She lifted up a thin stone tablet and said, “It is titled ‘The Olmak Experiment.’”Darranas stopped reading something titled “The Mysteries of Shika Nui” and looked up, interested. “So? Does it say anything about that mask?”

“I think so,” said Klio, pointing at a small carving of the Olmak located in the upper right hand corner of the document. “Looks like Jero did a lot of research on the subject.”

“I don’t care whether he did a lot of work on it or not,” Darranas snapped as put the tablet he had been reading down. “He’s still a Toa of Shadow. But regardless, I am interested in hearing what it says.”

Toa of Shadow? I didn’t know what she meant by that, but then Toa Klio began reading aloud: “By the directive of Toa Teivel, I have finally finished crafting a Kanohi of unimaginable power for him. A few test runs have already proved that it can indeed open portals to different universes, like he thought it would. How he knew that the Mask of Dimensional Gates – or, as I have named it, the Kanohi Olmak, after the Matoran word for ‘dimension’ – was capable of such power, or that it was even possible to create it, I do not know. Someday I would like to dissect that brain of his and find out whatever else he might be hiding from us.” Klio stopped there and shook her head, obviously disgusted by that last sentence.

“Klio, can you expect anything less from a Toa of Shadow?” asked Darranas impatiently. “They’re all like that. Keep reading, I say.”

Klio looked like she would rather throw the report against the wall, but she continued as Darranas directed: “I cannot say I know the exact reasons for Teivel’s desire of such a mask. He told me that we could use its power to expand our empire to other universes, which is the only reason Turaga Krashadi allowed this project to go forward at all. But I personally believe he has an ulterior motive behind his apparently selfish desire for conquest.Of course, interrogating Teivel won’t help. Nor would a Mask of Telepathy give me much insight, since Teivel has recently began to develop a mental shield against intruders. I have only been able to glean information from my own eavesdropping on Teivel whenever he thinks he’s alone.

Suffice to say, Teivel is even crazier than I originally believed. Once I overheard him carrying a conversation in his room – alone. Of course I did not gather much, but I heard him say something about how he is ‘close’ to achieving his ‘goal,’ but what his goal is and why he wants to achieve it, I still do not know. It is worth investigating.


“He’s crazy,” said Darranas disgustedly. “Just like all of the other shadow spit. Is there anything else?”

“Not much,” said Klio as she scanned the rest of its contents. “He goes on about how he created the Olmak, what it can do, and a lot of other technical stuff. Nothing that important.”

Darranas looked at the gray Olmak, which sat innocently on a stack of notes. He said, “Well, if it can open portals to other universes, then we ought to-“

He paused, like he’d forgotten what he was about to say. He put his right hand on his head, like he was trying to remember something important.Klio looked at him, puzzled, and asked, “What’s wrong?”

I did not know if Klio noticed or not, but I saw the light in Darranas’ eyes change for a split second before returning to normal.

Then the Toa of Plasma shook his head and said, “I said, we ought to take that mask and, um, hide it! Yes, that’s it. Hide it so that other evil beings cannot use its power for their own nefarious schemes! Right?”

“I say we should destroy it, personally,” said Klio as she reached for the mask. “It’s too dangerous to allow such a powerful object to be sitting around like that, even if it we do keep it well-hidden.”

Right before her hand touched the Olmak, a bolt of plasma flew dangerously close to her hand, causing her to back off. It didn’t appear to have even grazed her, but the intense heat from the plasma seemed to have been enough to cause her to think twice.

“Darranas, what was that for?” asked Klio, shocked as she looked at her ally. “You could have melted my hand right off!”

I glanced at Darranas and saw that he appeared angry. But that was only for a brief moment, for it was soon replaced by surprise and he said apologetically, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Klio. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I just . . . I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. You know I’d never intentionally attack you, Klio. I’m not a Shodios.”

Klio eyed him warily, but nodded and said, “Well, maybe what you said earlier was right. About keeping the Olmak hidden, rather than destroying it.” It was clear to me she still wanted it gone, but perhaps she thought it was unwise to argue with someone who might not ‘pay attention’ to what he was doing and ‘accidentally’ harm her.

Darranas’ apologetic expression was instantly replaced with a smile as he snatched up the Olmak and stashed it in his bag. “Good. I want to, um, protect this from evil. That’s all.”

“Right,” said Klio, who sounded unconvinced. “Well, let’s keep searching through these notes. Maybe we’ll find out more about this mask and whatever else Jero was up to, eh?”

Darranas nodded and the two Toa continued their investigation. I stood above them, looking down as the entire room began to fade to black, until I could not even see my hands in front of me. Then I turned in midair, looking around to see if I could find anything. This had to be the most bizarre dream I had had in a while . . . and worst of all, I was actually interested in it.

Then, without warning, I plummeted like a rock and instantly awoke on the hard wooden surface of a cabin room floor, breathing deeply and quickly, like I really had just fallen several feet.

“Isarot, are you okay?” asked Kiriah somewhere above me. She sounded like she was far away, but I knew she was actually close by. “What happened?”

At first, I was too disoriented to say anything. Then, as I gradually became aware of my location, I rolled over onto my back and, grabbing my upside down hammock for support, sat up. I immediately felt sick because the floor seemed to be constantly moving underneath me. Up and down, up and down, up and down . . . just like the ocean’s waves. Needless to say, I didn’t like it and didn’t want to move lest I worsen my condition.

“I’m f-fine, Kiriah,” I said, wrapping one arm around my abdomen to help steady it. “I’m j-just not used to sleeping in a hammock.”

“Really? You look awful,” said Kiriah, who was looking over the edge of her own hammock at me with worried eyes. “Did you get any rest at all?”

“I did,” I said defensively. “I just had a bad dream. Spooked me a little. That’s all.”

“Oh, okay,” said Kiriah. I was surprised at how readily she accepted that, but then again, since I had forbidden her to read my mind she probably had no reason not to believe me. “Well, I still say you need some rest. You look sick.”

“No, I’m f-fine,” I said as I tried to stand. I felt my stomach lurch inside me, but I tried to act normally. “See? Completely normal.”

I stood straight and tall and gave Kiriah no sign that there was anything wrong with me. She just frowned, shrugged, and turned over in her hammock. “Well, whatever. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but you sure do look seasick to me.”

I slowly sat back down on my hammock as the ship lurched forward. Although I wanted to ponder over that dream, I could not help but wish the ship would simply stop rocking all the time. To be honest, I had never ridden a ship before, for I had never had any reason to leave Tanjo Nui. Thus, I supposed I was unused to the constant movement of the sea, but I still would have given anything to make the waves steady.

Doing my best to ignore my seasickness, I thought over the dream. It’d been strange, like dreams tend to be, but it also felt real. Like I had been watching an event that had actually happened, but I knew that didn’t make any sense. Dreams are just dreams. They aren’t real. They don’t predict the future or show past events or anything like that. It had been a strangely realistic dream, yes, but a dream nonetheless.

Feeling sick, I had just decided to go back to sleep when I heard something slamming against the other side of the door. I heard someone yell, “Hey, you two! Get up! We’re almost there, but that doesn’t give you two land people any excuse to laze around all day!”

“We’re getting up!” Kiriah shouted irritably as she sat up, readjusting her mask as she did so. “No need to scream!”

I heard the sailor on the other side grumble something that probably wasn’t polite and then leave.

“These guys aren’t very nice, are they?” said Kiriah.

“Sailors are generally not ‘nice’ people,” I said. “They’re usually rough and these guys don’t seem to be much different.”

“Well, couldn’t they at least treat us a bit more kindly, considering what we’ve been through?” said Kiriah, now standing and stretching her limbs. “I mean, we were nearly drowned in that storm!”

“Whatever,” I said, feeling too sick to argue or correct her. “Look, let’s just go find that Amphibax guy and see what we’re supposed to do around here.”

-

Surprisingly enough, it did not take us long to find this Amphibax, an amphibious being who, although shorter than Kiriah and myself, seemed quite fierce. We found him in the hallway just outside our room. He had evidently been coming to check up on us himself, per Ehlek’s orders, although he didn’t seem to enjoy his task.

To be frank, I do not believe I had ever seen a being such as Amphibax before. As I noted earlier, he was shorter than Kiriah and me, but he seemed twice as fierce as either of us. He had two long arms, with claws tipping the end of each hand. His legs were slightly shorter than ours, but looked lean, strong enough to help him swim at fast speeds easily. He also had some kind of third arm protruding from his back, which hovered silently above his head as he spoke to us.

“His Highness – that is to say, Lord Ehlek – has given me your assigned positions,” Amphibax told us in a rough, salty voice that reminded me of the sea. He looked at me and said, “Tagiki-“

“Isarot,” I corrected.

“Isarot,” said Amphibax, who did not sound thrilled at my correcting him. “Since Ehlek thinks you look strong, he has assigned you to the hold. You and several other sailors on this ship will make sure the cargo does not fall over and break during the journey. And, once we reach our destination, you will have to help haul the cargo out.”

I nodded. That didn’t sound hard, since I was a pretty strong guy, as Ehlek correctly assumed.

“What about me?” Kiriah asked. “What do I get to do?”

Amphibax looked her over for a moment before saying, “Well, since you are the only female member of the crew besides the Chronicler, Lord Ehlek has decided that in order to keep his men’s minds on the task rather than on . . . other things . . .”

It wasn’t hard to guess what these ‘other things’ were. It was clear Kiriah knew, too, for she looked extremely embarrassed.

“. . . You will remain in your cabin until we reach our destination or until Lord Ehlek changes his mind,” Amphibax finished.

“What?” Kiriah said indignantly. “Why can’t I work with Isarot?”

“Honestly, Kiriah, do you want a bunch of questionable sailors looking at you?” I asked. “Not that there’s much to look at, but . . . “

Kiriah glared at me, but Amphibax merely nodded and said, “Your Tagiki friend is correct. We’ve been at sea for a few months now, without any hint of the opposite gender besides our Chronicler. It is for your own safety that you are confined to your room.”

Kiriah looked like she wanted to argue some more, but she merely folded her arms defiantly and said, “Okay, fine. I didn’t really want to work anyway, at least by myself. How much farther until we reach wherever it is we’re going, anyway?”

Amphibax shrugged and said, “Probably a couple of days-“

“Days? I can’t be locked up for days!” said Kiriah, her eyes widening in shock. “I’ll go crazy!”

“For a sailor, days are nothing compared to the months we’ve had to endure on this ship,” Amphibax told her coldly as his third arm thing slowly rested on his shoulder. “Besides, you will be provided with food and water. And if you do go crazy, it is of no loss to us. Many of my fellow sailors have lost their minds because of the horrors and disasters we’ve seen and experienced. Losing one more won’t make any difference to Ehlek; if it would, we would be heading home right now.”

“Don’t worry, Kiri,” I said to her. “It’s not like you’ll be totally alone. I’ll still have to return to our room after my work is done.”

“Actually, Isarot, you will have to sleep in the hold with your coworkers,” said Amphibax. “That way you can be on hand in case there are any leaks that may develop down there.”

“Oh,” I said. “But I can at least visit Kiriah, right?”

“It depends on how much work you have to do,” said Amphibax as he folded his arms thoughtfully. “But since I barely have enough time as it is to talk to Lord Ehlek, I doubt you will have much time to visit your Toa friend.”

“Aw, that's not right,” said Kiriah. “What am I going to do for several days?”

“Hopefully be quiet,” Amphibax retorted. “Now go back to your cabin. Your breakfast will be delivered shortly.”

“Okay,” said Kiriah as she turned around, although she didn’t sound like she was ‘okay’ with the arrangements. “At least the food might be nice.”

“You will get the leftovers from the sailors’ last meals.”

Kiriah groaned as she entered her cabin and closed the door behind her. Once she was within her room, Amphibax turned to me and said, “Come, Isarot. I shall lead you to your work zone and quarters. Then your coworkers will show you the ropes.”

-

The ship was, to say the least, quite huge. There seemed to be dozens of quarters for all of the sailors who worked on the ship and we must have passed at least a hundred men, maybe even more than that. When I asked Amphibax how many sailors were on this ship, he told me there were a little under 250 of the 700 that had started on the voyage.

“What killed so many sailors?” I asked as we walked by a pair of rough-looking beings who glared at me as we passed.

“Disease, sea monsters, violent storms, insanity, among other things,” Amphibax replied. “There were also the few who became dissatisfied with this whole voyage and tried to mutiny against Ehlek. Of course, His Lordship slew each and every sailor who dared to stand against him. We haven’t had any mutinies for a couple of weeks now, but one must be careful and cautious just the same.”

“Right,” I said as we passed through what was obviously the dining room, for a Matoran servant was taking plates and cups off of a table. It appeared to me that they had had a meal just recently. “And, may I ask, where exactly are we going anyway?”

“We’ll tell you when we get there,” said Amphibax sharply as we walked down a small staircase. I was amazed at how deep this ship seemed to be, or perhaps I simply wasn’t used to being inside of one. “Lord Ehlek still does not trust you and your Toa friend, Kiriah. He doesn’t want me or any of the other sailors revealing any information about our voyage to you until we get to our destination or until he feels you should know.”

That made sense to me. Kiriah and I had just appeared out of nowhere, with a mask he had seen in his dreams, and had given an extremely fishy story. Combine that with his already paranoid personality and it was no surprise to me that he didn’t trust us. Still, I found the lack of information frustrating, but I decided I could live without it, at least for now.

As we walked across the creaky floorboards, the ship lurched suddenly and my stomach soon followed. I leaned against the wall briefly, although Amphibax seemed completely unaffected by it. It was then I noticed that the wall I was leaning against seemed to be made out of different material than the rest of the ship. In fact, it looked like someone had attempted to quickly patch up a hole rather than create a permanent solution to the problem.

Apparently noticing what I was looking at, Amphibax explained, “This ship has been through a lot of tough times. Sometimes, sharp rocks would cut a hole in the bottom; other times, some kind of sea monster would attempt to eat it. We’ve had to fix all of these kinds of damages, but I do not know how the repairs will hold up on the voyage home.”

“I’m not sure how much longer my stomach will hold up,” I muttered as I followed Amphibax, who didn’t appear to catch what I’d said.

Finally, after some more stumbling and ship-lurching, we finally reached the hold. Like the rest of the ship’s cabins, it was lit by several lanterns hanging from the ceiling, but unlike the others, it was huge, easily the largest room in the entire ship. There were loads of boxes stacked up to the ceiling, though many appeared to be empty or near empty to me. The walls, floor, and ceiling appeared to be made of thick wood and iron, although the floor still felt damp to me.

I also noticed was the stench. The hold smelled of rotten wood and rusted iron and Mata-Nui-knows what else. I found it difficult to take, since I was already seasick as it is. But I was tough. I wouldn’t let any disgusting scents get to me.

There were about a dozen other guys working down here, a bunch of strong looking beings that looked capable of crushing boulders beneath their heels. They all seemed to be members of the Roffican race of Stelt, that species that served as the servant class to the ruling Tetakians. None of them spoke when Amphibax introduced me and explained to them that I was going to help them, although whether that was because they were unfriendly or simply too dumb to form coherent sentences, I didn’t know for sure.

“So what do I do here again?” I asked Amphibax, before he could leave.

“You will help make sure that the cargo is kept in fine shape and doesn’t fall over and break,” Amphibax told me sharply. “And, once we reach our destination, you will also help haul the cargo out of the hold. But until then, I suggest you make yourself nice and comfy, or as comfortable as you can be down here, anyway. Good bye.”

With that, Amphibax turned and left, closing the door firmly behind him.I myself turned around and saw that almost all of the Rofficans had lost interest in me now. They were either sleeping, or eating what looked like leftovers from the sailors’ last meal, or talking to each other in a language I didn’t understand. None of them looked very friendly, but I figured if I kept out of their way they wouldn’t smash my skull in.

So I merely walked over to a large crate and sat on it, as none of the cargo seemed to need any sort of help from us, and looked down at the floor. I still felt sick and wish I had something – anything – to distract me from the constant rolling and tipping motions of the ship, but there was little to do in here, since none of the Rofficans appeared to be interested in talking to me.

I suddenly realized I was very hungry, even now, after I had eaten earlier. I briefly glanced at the Rofficans’ food, which didn’t look very appetizing. I still wished I had something to eat, though. Perhaps that’d put thoughts of seasickness out of my mind, at least temporarily.

I heard a pair of heavy feet stomping and looking up I saw one of the Rofficans walking toward me, a particularly large blue and white one who seemed to be missing an eye for some reason. He looked formidable, even with the piece of fish in his hands.

I prepared myself for a fight, since I figured that was the only reason any Roffican would come up to me, as none of them appeared to be talkers.

But to my surprise the Roffican stopped just short of me and, holding one of his large arms out, said, “Hungry?”

He was offering the piece of fish to me that he had had earlier. At first, I was suspicious at why he was offering me the food, but since I was so hungry I took the food and began eating it.

Once I was finished with it, I said to him, “Thanks, uh . . .”

“Name’s Krekka,” said the Roffican. His voice was deep although very dull, like he didn’t use it very often. “What’s yours?”

“Isarot,” I said, holding out my hand. “Er, nice to meet you.”

Krekka seized my hand in a powerful grip and shook it firmly. My arm felt like it was about to be ripped off due to his strength, but fortunately it survived (just barely), although it hurt badly afterwards.

“Where you come from?” Krekka asked me once he finished shaking my hand. “I no see you before.”

“Uh, I come from . . .” I tried to think of some elaborate lie, but none came to mind. “I and my other friend who isn’t here right now were sent by one of the other Barraki to see how the voyage was going.”

I figured he would see through it immediately, but to my surprise he simply nodded like he understood and said, “I see. No more confusion.”

This guy must not be very smart, I thought. I’d heard tales that Rofficans were generally all brawn and no brains, but I’d thought they were an exaggeration. Krekka did seem very strong and not all that intelligent, but at least he was somewhat friendly toward me.

Krekka sat down on the floor next to me, which shook my box a little. He was so big that he was at my height even while sitting down.

“So is keeping the cargo in one piece a, er, hard job?” I asked.

“Sometimes,” said Krekka. “When big storm hits, that when it bad.”

“I see,” I said, and after that neither of us said anything. However, as much as I wanted to deny it, I felt a certain bond with Krekka, which would help me in the days to come, for, as I soon discovered, this was going to be an extremely boring job.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:49 PM.

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#13 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Nov 18 2011 - 09:44 AM

Chapter 12: At World’s End

Kiriah.


“Did anything interesting happen on your way back here?” I asked Isarot the instant he entered the room. “Any fights or mutinies break out that I wasn’t aware of?”

“No,” said Isarot wearily as he walked over to a hammock and fell down on it like a rock. “Had to do some repairs on the bottom of the ship, though, because of that violent storm earlier. Apparently my job also includes being a shipwright. At least Krekka knows a thing or two about ship repair, so the job went by fairly quickly.”

“You’re lucky,” I said miserably as I curled up on my hammock and stared out of the porthole at the now-calm sea, which just a few hours ago had been attacked by a raging storm. “At least you get to go out and about. Me, I’m stuck in here, with my only friend being the Olmak. The signal just keeps getting stronger and stronger and I can’t shut it off for even a moment.”

Isarot threw an irritable glance at me and snapped, “Lucky? What’s so lucky about having to be cooped up inside a smelly, dirty cargo hold all day with a dozen other guys who either ignore you or hate your guts, with the threat of being crushed by huge, heavy boxes always hanging over your head? I’d rather sit in here, keeping an eye out for the Time Stone, than in the hold without a hint of where we’re going. The only good thing is they’ve allowed me to take breaks to visit you briefly.”

“Well, whatever,” I said as I turned over in my hammock. “I hate being locked up like this, even if it supposedly for my own ‘protection.’ I can handle a bunch of morons who can’t keep their minds on their work. Doesn’t Ehlek realize that?”

“I think he keeps you here because he doesn’t trust us,” said Isarot. “Think about it. You’re a Toa of Psionics with an unknown level of control over your element. Since he doesn’t know whether you’re trustworthy or not, he probably thinks you might try to take control of the minds of his crew and turn them against him.”

I looked over my shoulder at Isarot in disbelief. “Really? Does he honestly believe that?”

Isarot shrugged. “That is more or less what I’ve inferred from my conversations with Amphibax. Ehlek’s paranoid, and his paranoia is getting worse the closer we get to our unknown destination. I believe that’s why you’re down to only one meal a day now, Kiri.”

“So he’s starving me because he doesn’t trust me,” I said. “Definitely paranoid.”

“Anyway, I don’t even know what we’re still doing here,” said Isarot as he sat back up and glanced out the window. “We’ve been with these guys for what, three days now? Are we any closer to finding the Time Stone than when we first got here?”

“Well, the signal is still going strong,” I said. “Actually, it’s been getting stronger the farther south we go. That’s about the only good news I have, though, but I guess it’s better than nothing, right?”

“That is good news, I agree,” said Isarot as he flexed his fingers. That was a habit he seemed to have picked up these past few days, probably from the Rofficans in the hold. “Yet we still do not know where we are going.”

“Have you asked anyone?”

“I’ve asked loads of people,” said Isarot, obviously frustrated. “Amphibax, Krekka, random sailors I bump into on the ship, but not a single one will tell me anything, per Ehlek’s orders. I even tried to ask Ehlek himself about it, but he got a bit angry at me for asking and . . . well, that’s where I got this scar right here.” He pointed at his chest, where a deep wound made by three claws was visible. “Haven’t asked anyone else since.”

“I’ve tried to read peoples’ minds whenever they come to give me my meal,” I said, just as frustrated as Isarot, “but they’re usually not thinking much more than, ‘Why do we have to share our food with someone we don’t even like?’ It’s frustrating to say the least.”

“Well, at least we should be arriving soon,” said Isarot. “Remember what Amphibax told us when we first got here? How it was only a few days away? It’s been three days since, but I don’t think we’ve seen even the slightest speck of-“

At that moment, without warning, Amphibax burst into the room, looking quite out of breath as he stopped. Hands on his knees and panting slightly, he said to us, “Land has been sighted by our man in the crow’s nest.”

“Really?” I said, perking up at the news. “You mean-“

“Yes,” said Amphibax, now standing straight. He pointed at the porthole and said, “Just look out the window and you’ll see our destination.”

Excited, Isarot and I scrambled to the porthole and peered out of it, straight ahead just like Amphibax was pointing. Although it was far away, I could make out what looked like a tiny island in the distance. It was so far away I was surprised the guy in the crow’s nest had seen it, but it was definitely land and not some kind of gigantic sea monster or anything (at least I hoped it wasn’t, anyway).

“That little speck is our destination?” asked Isarot, squinting to get a better look. “What’s it called?”

“Well, since we’re almost there, I suppose I can at least tell you that,” said Amphibax. “It is called ‘World’s End,’ according to the ancient legends. I’ll tell you more once I speak with Ehlek about this. Good bye.”

With that, Amphibax turned around and exited the room, leaving us to stare longingly at the island in the distance. Although I was ecstatic about the fact we were finally going to be able to walk on land, my mind wandered a bit and analyzed the term ‘World’s End.’ It sounded familiar, but I just couldn’t place it.

So I asked Isarot, “Hey, doesn’t ‘World’s End’ sound familiar to you?”

Isarot took his eyes off the island and nodded and said, “Yeah, it does. I vaguely recall hearing a legend about something called ‘World’s End.’ Something about it being the final island created by the Great Beings. I can’t remember anything beyond that, however.”

“Well, at least we’re almost there,” I said, relieved. “I thought I was going to go crazy in here if we didn’t land soon.”

“You mean you aren’t crazy already?” asked Isarot with a smirk.I hit him on the arm and said, “Shut up. Let’s just wait a while. We’ll probably reach the island within a few hours, I bet.”

-

Since we were now nearing ‘World’s End,’ as Amphibax had called it, I was finally allowed to leave my room and come onto the upper deck (with Isarot, of course). Now I wish I hadn’t, for the top of the ship smelled like rotten fish, moldy wood, blood, corpses, and Mata-Nui-knows what else. I had a strong urge to return to my room, the scent of which I had gotten used to by now. Not to mention the air was pretty cold, too, uncomfortably gelid for my tastes.

Also, the ship itself looked terrible. I knew it had seen better days, but as Isarot and I walked along the deck, I could not help noticing the mold-green wood that seemed to be decaying beneath our feet. The sails looked like they’d been patched together several times, resembling a quilt more than real ship sails. I was amazed this thing had managed to stay together for as long as it did, but I supposed that the sailors must be competent shipwrights, too, otherwise I doubt this ship would have made it very far.

Anyway, we weren’t out here to see the ship. Isarot and I joined the large crowd of sailors that had gathered at the forecastle of the ship, near the bow. All of them were looking at the oncoming island in the distance, chattering excitedly because we were finally approaching our destination.

Isarot and I stood in the back, peering around the crowd of sailors at the island in the distance. I couldn’t make out many of its details still, but I did notice what appeared to be a large mountain in the center of the island, although whether it was actually a mountain or something else, I did not know.

“Finally . . .” I heard someone hiss behind me. “Our voyage is at an end . . .”

I looked over my shoulder and saw Ehlek looking longingly at the island. His eyes were focused on World’s End in the distance, so much that he didn’t even seem to notice me standing there. I moved a little bit out of his way, since I felt uncomfortable around him.

“The whole reason I went on this journey in the first place,” said Ehlek, resting his claws on the rusted iron railing of his ship. “I knew it existed. I knew it. And now the answers to my questions will be mine.”

“Um, excuse me for being rude, uh, sir,” I said, as respectfully as possible as I glanced back at the island. “But how do you know that that is the last island in the universe?”

Ehlek shot me an irritated, angry look and for a moment I feared he’d slice me up into bit-sized Toa pieces.

But instead, he gestured toward the distance and snapped, “Look beyond that island, Toa, and tell me what you see.”

I hesitantly turned away from Ehlek (I didn’t trust him not to try to kill me when I had my back turned, see) and squinted my eyes and looked just beyond the island. At first I saw nothing but clouds and never-ending blue sky . . . until I saw that the ‘never-ending’ blue sky ended right at what looked like a massive stone wall in the distance, similar to the kind that separated other islands from one another up north.

“I see a giant stone wall, just beyond World’s End,” I said. “Is that-“

“The last wall of the universe?” Ehlek finished for me. “Of course it is. There is nothing beyond that stone wall; World’s End is the last island. We can’t go any farther than that, but we don’t need to. We will reach that island and come for what we – for what I – wanted.”

Curious, I glanced at Ehlek and asked, “Uh, what’d you mean? Why’d you come all the way to the end of the universe, anyway? Looking for treasure? Power? What?”

Ehlek glared at me and snapped, “You will learn that soon enough, Toa. For now, we must prepare to land. I don’t want us to crash right before we get to World’s End because we were being careless.”

He then barked at the sailors, “Get to work! Prepare the anchor, arrange the cargo to be carried out, and do whatever it is you have to do to keep this ship in running order! We’re going to make landfall at World’s End in a few hours and our journey will be complete! Anyone who dillydallies will be thrown overboard! Understood?”

“Yes, sir!” came the rebounding chorus of sailors. Soon they had all scattered to do their jobs.

I saw Isarot walking off toward the cargo hold with a bunch of Rofficans, but when I tried to follow them, I felt three cold metallic claws grasp my shoulder painfully tight and, glancing over my shoulder, I saw Ehlek’s cold blue eyes staring into my own azure orbs. He didn’t look happy, which made me wonder what I’d done to get on his bad side. Was it because I asked too many questions? Or was I being disrespectful somehow? I didn’t know and was afraid of what he was going to do to me.

“Come with me, Toa,” said Ehlek. “Since I despise ignorant fools working for me, I must inform you of where we are going and why we are going there. At least when you die, you will realize what you were dying for.”

I didn’t like the sound of dying, but I was forced to follow, for Amphibax appeared and pushed me along after the warlord. Because I didn’t want to be thrown into the ocean, I followed Ehlek.

-

Upon entering the captain’s quarters, I realized it was probably the worst kept room in the entire ship, which I found odd because I thought Ehlek, being the king/captain and all, would have made sure it was in top condition for himself. The carpeting underneath our feet was rotted straight through in the middle, mold growing on parts of it. The walls, although nice-looking at first glance, had several deep cuts and gashes in them, made by Ehlek’s claws no doubt. A chair in the corner looked like a wild animal had torn it to pieces, while several bits of smashed stone dotted the room. It was also damp and cold, making me wonder how anyone could live in here for even a day, much less several months as Ehlek had.

But there was still some beauty to it, I suppose. The ceiling, although slightly leaky, looked pretty sturdy and thick. The curtains hanging on the windows were of a vivid red color, slightly faded, and brought to life by the light of the candelabra on the desk, which shone brightly and eerily. Ehlek’s bed, which was in one corner, looked like it was in bad shape, but at least it seemed less moldy than the carpeting.

It was only when I entered that I realized Amphibax had followed us and closed the door behind us. It was at that moment that it dawned on me that I was alone in a room with a half-crazed warlord and his loyal lieutenant . . . and I wasn’t afraid in the slightest. Odd, but I was known for delayed emotional reactions, so I figured my fear would catch up with me sooner or later.

“Sit down,” Ehlek barked at me as he took a seat behind his desk. I looked around and didn’t see any chairs, so I used my telekinesis to bring over the debris of the chair and sat on it, although it was uncomfortable. “Now, I suppose I should begin-“

“What about Isarot?” I interrupted suddenly.

Ehlek’s intense eyes gleamed as he growled, “You mean your Tagiki friend? He, too, will learn about World’s End eventually. But you . . . I believe that you will be useful and thus ought to know where we are going before we get there.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me this before?” I asked, puzzled. “’Cause if you thought I was important-“

A strong, thick claw slammed into the back of my head, sending me sprawling to the floor hard. Whoever had struck me had hit me where the Anicans had earlier, doubling the pain that coursed through my skull. It was so bad I was barely aware of the cold, slimy hand hauling me back to my feet and back into my chair.

“That was Amphibax, teaching you just what happens when you speak disrespectfully to a Barraki,” Ehlek snarled as he laid his claws on the desk. “Anymore questions?”

I briefly glanced at Amphibax, who stood not far from me and looked like he was willing to smack me again if I said anything else he didn’t like. I looked back at Ehlek, my head still ringing with pain, and I said, “N-no, sir. No questions at all.”

“Good,” said Ehlek, satisfied. “Then listen up and I shall tell you a legend I am sure that you have heard before. It is a tale that is shared by all cultures of this universe, including my own. And I hope that by the end of it, you will realize why I am going to World’s End.”

Because I didn’t want Amphibax to bash my skull in again, I listened intently, ignoring the pain I felt.

Ehlek took a deep breath and said, “One hundred thousand years ago to this very day, the Great Beings finished constructing this universe. They gave all lands equal attention and detail and populated each island with species, such as Matoran, Skakdi, Vortixx, my own people the Kaeras, and so on.

“However, there was one island they left . . . unfinished, populated with their failures and mistakes. This island supposedly existed at the very end of the universe, in the south, beyond the unexplored island chains. This island was incomplete. The weather was crazy; it would rain all day every day for months on end and yet go for even longer without a single drop or dark cloud. It would become unbearably hot one minute and bitingly cold the next. Sea monsters of unimaginable strength and size supposedly roamed the seas, sinking and destroying any ships that dared come close. A ghost king was said to rule it. It was called ‘World’s End,’ for that was where the world ended. It was the very last island in the universe.”

Now I remembered that tale, although I wasn’t certain it was as famous in my universe as it apparently was in his. Also, I didn’t remember sea monsters in the version I’d heard. Regardless, though, his legend sounded similar to the one I’d heard a while ago from Toa Laomos, who was a big mythology geek.

Ehlek gestured to the window and said, “I know we are near World’s End now because the signs all point to it. Do you not remember the violent storm we had earlier? Yet now there is no sign it had happened at all. And we have run into many sea monsters since we have begun our journey. Right, Amphibax?”

“Indeed, sir,” said Amphibax, nodding. “I well remember when that giant Takea shark took out one of our other ships.”

“Not to mention that you can clearly see that giant wall of stone just beyond this island,” said Ehlek, who sounded very eager, almost excited. “This is definite proof that we’re nearly there. This cannot be any other island but World’s End.”

“Um, excuse me, sir, for being disrespectful, but isn’t World’s End just a legend?” I asked hesitantly. “Why’d you set out for it if no one knew if it really existed?”

At first I thought Ehlek was going to start raging at me and maybe even attack me. But instead he said, “Because, in my dreams, I was told it existed. Then a being in a black cloak informed me that World’s End existed and that I would find the answers to all of my questions there. He even gave me a map to reach it. Of course, the other Barraki believe I am merely looking for more lands to add to my kingdom, but they don’t know what I am really looking for. Nor will they, not until I have completed this voyage.”

I become more interested at the mention of the cloaked being and I asked, “Who was the black cloak guy, sir?”

“He did not tell me his name,” said Ehlek, with more than a hint of annoyance in his voice. “He appeared out of the blue one day, about a year ago. I believe he was a Toa, for he was about as tall as one and had the same air of arrogance about him that your kind usually has.”

I ignored that jab, although I did entertain myself with the thought of imagining what would happen if Ehlek’s chair were to ‘accidentally’ throw him off. It was almost too tempting to resist.

“He did not even tell me where he came from,” said Ehlek as he slammed his claws on the table, clearly angry now. “All he told me was that, if I brought the Time Stone to World’s End, I’d-“

“What do you mean ‘bring the Time Stone to World’s End?’” I asked without thinking. “Do you mean to say that you-“

I stopped and looked sideways at Amphibax, who was raising his claws again, which shut me up good. I only hoped Ehlek wouldn’t try to throw me off the ship or tear me to shreds or something for rudely interrupting him like that.

Fortunately, although Ehlek was clearly annoyed by my interruption, he only gave me another dirty look and said, “Yes, Toa, the Time Stone is on this ship, in this room. According to the cloaked being, I am supposed to bring it to World’s End. Then the dreams I have been having would be made clear to me. It may sound crazy, but I believe it is true, for the map he gave us has so far been one hundred percent accurate, more or less.”

The black cloaked being sounded like our thief, the one who had stolen the Time Stone in the first place. I had no idea if they were one and the same and the chances of the two being the same person seemed extremely remote to me. But if the Time Stone – our Time Stone that is – was in this universe and if the thief had it in the first place, then maybe Isarot and I might just retrieve it after all.

“Anyway, I believe that that is all there is to tell you,” said Ehlek as he rose from his chair. “You will return to your cabin until we reach World’s End. Then . . . let’s say I will find a use for you and your Olmak.”

I didn’t like the way he said he would find a use for me, but I was glad to leave his company anyway. Then another thought occurred to me and I asked, “Um, sir, why do you wear that dome with water on your head? Can’t you breathe air like the rest of us?”

You know, Isarot has always told me that I often ask stupid questions, but I had never known what that truly meant until just now.

Ehlek looked absolutely furious at me for even daring to ask that question. Without warning, he yelled, leapt on top of his desk, and slashed at me with blinding speed, so fast I couldn’t react until he’d dealt the blow. Then he kicked me off of my chair, sending me skirting to the middle of the room, safely out of the reach of his tri-claws.

Pain throbbing all over my body as I groaned, I looked up and saw Ehlek standing above me, his domed helmet reflecting the light of the sun streaming in from the open windows. His eyes looked like they belonged to a maddened beast now and again I worried for my life.

“My people are of the sea, ignorant and narrow-minded Toa,” Ehlek said in a low and threatening voice. “We cannot naturally breathe air like your people can. We are not even amphibious like Amphibax’s people are. Therefore, in order for me to rule on land, I must use this breathing apparatus, otherwise I will die. Understand that, Toa?”

Admittedly, it probably wasn’t very brave of me to cower in fear at this guy (he did have an awfully open weak spot, after all), but because I had already suffered some physical abuse today, I was too weak to do anything but nod. However, I did keep a mental note to inform Isarot about how Ehlek had treated me as soon as possible, if I found the right opportunity.

“Then go!” Ehlek shouted, turning around and stomping away from me. “Go, and stay in your cabin until I give you further orders. Amphibax, escort her back to her room so she doesn’t wander off and find her friend or get lost.”

“Yes, sir,” said Amphibax as he walked over to me. The amphibious being reached down and hauled me to my feet with tremendous strength. “Come on, Toa. You’ve got somewhere else to be and Lord Ehlek doesn’t need an air-breather distracting him.”

I willingly allowed Amphibax to steer me out of the room. I figured I would just sleep until we made landfall, because right now that’s all I wanted to do. Being attacked by a crazed warlord kind of makes you want to hide under your blankets for a long time.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:50 PM.

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#14 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Nov 25 2011 - 10:05 AM

Chapter 13: The Expedition Begins

Isarot.


We made landfall at World’s End in just a few hours, as Ehlek had said. Once the ship was anchored at the shore, a long ramp was built that would allow me and the Rofficans to haul the ship’s cargo out onto the beach. According to Amphibax, the plan was that the crew would stay here for a few weeks before heading back north, during which time Ehlek would do whatever it is he came here to do. Of course, neither Ehlek nor Amphibax knew that Kiriah and I would probably leave sooner than that, but I didn’t want to tell either of them that.

Krekka and I worked together to haul a huge box of food down to the beach. During these past few days, Krekka had become sort of a friend to me. He wasn’t much of a talker, but he didn’t seem like a particularly bad person. I wasn’t as close to him as I was to Kiriah, true, but I trusted him more than the other sailors at least.

I leaned against the hard, wooden crate and looked out at World’s End. It was a large island, it seemed, although probably not as big as Tanjo Nui. The cool sea breeze blew in from the north, but the island itself felt strangely hot. A deep jungle stood before us and in the center appeared a huge mountain or perhaps dormant volcano. There was no sign of any inhabitants, although I thought I caught a gleam of eyes from within the thick darkness of the jungle. Still, it was eerily quiet – almost unnaturally so – and, although I would never admit it to Krekka, I secretly desired to get as far away as possible from this place for reasons I cannot say.

Then I felt Krekka’s powerful hand tap my shoulder, nearly dislocating my arm. I turned around and saw Krekka looking down at me, obviously worried.

“You afraid of island?” asked Krekka as he and I began walking up the ramp back to the ship, for there was still more cargo to haul.

Surprised by the question, I said, “Um, what makes you think that, Krekka?”

“You look nervous,” Krekka replied as a pair of sailors walked past us, chatting to each other.

“Well, I, um . . .” I wasn’t sure what to say.

“No worry,” said Krekka as he patted me reassuringly on the back (nearly breaking it in the process). “I don’t like island either. Scary and strange. I hope we leave soon.”

“Yeah, I guess I do, too,” I said as we descended into the cargo hold. “I’m no coward, but this island does seem a little off.”

“Off, yes,” said Krekka as he and I heaved a huge crate and proceeded to carry it out of the hold. “I stay on ship until we leave.”

“If Ehlek will let you do that,” I added under my breath.

We spent the better part of the morning hauling out cargo, which was almost literally backbreaking work. Most of the crates seemed to hold food or other supplies, but there were a few that seemed far too heavy to contain mere food. I was half-tempted to open up one of these weightier boxes and look inside myself, but I knew Ehlek would probably have me killed on the spot for treason or disrespect for his property or whatever other reason he could think of.

As we worked, I noticed Ehlek and Amphibax leave the ship and stand on the shore of World’s End, talking to each other in low tones. Ehlek had a small wooden box in his hand, about the size of the Time Stone, but I didn’t know what was in it or why he was holding it so close to his body like that. Not that I had much time to think about Ehlek and his mysterious package, because hauling heavy cargo tends to distract you from everything else.

At long last, Krekka and I, with the aid of another Roffican, heaved the last crate out of the ship and onto the sandy shore. Once we roughly placed it on the sand (there was no particular reason to be gentle, because the box was so big), I nearly fell backwards onto the ground in exhaustion. Instead, I sat on one of the smaller boxes to rest briefly and observe the area more carefully than I had before.

Sailors were coming out of the ship now and onto the beach. Some were stretching their limbs, obviously relieved that their long journey had finally come to an end. Others were eyeing the jungle and mountain apprehensively. Still others were chatting normally, as if they did not sense the strangeness of the island. I wondered if it was only Krekka and I who felt it, when I suddenly saw a familiar Toa walk – or rather, stumble – down the ramp toward me.

“Hey, Kiri,” I said, watching as the Toa of Psionics regain her balance and begin walking toward me again. “They’ve finally let you out of prison?”

“Yeah,” said Kiriah as she stretched her arms and legs. “Now that we’re actually here, I think Ehlek wants to keep me where he can see me.”

“He looks more concerned about that little box he’s carrying than he is about you,” I commented, pointing at the Barraki, who was still talking to Amphibax.

“Little box?” Kiriah repeated, looking in the direction I was pointing. Then an expression of dawning comprehension spread across her face. “That’s the Time Stone!”

“The Time Stone?” I said, looking at her in shock. “You sure?”

“Yes, I am,” said Kiriah empathetically. “I mean, the Time Stone isn’t the box, but is inside-“

“Who’re you?” said Krekka suddenly, which caught me by surprise. He’d been so quiet I had forgotten Krekka was there.

“Oh, Krekka, this is Kiriah,” I said, looking from Krekka to Kiriah and back. “She’s my friend. Kiriah, this is Krekka, that Roffican I told you about a few days ago.”

“Oh, um, hello, Krekka,” said Kiriah, holding out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Hello,” said Krekka as he seized her hand and shook it. I imagined Kiriah felt just as shocked as I did when he had first shook my hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Kiriah held her arm, which looked a little broken, and for a moment there was awkward silence among the three of us. Then I cleared my throat and said to Krekka, “Um, Krekka? Would you be willing to go see if Ehlek or Amphibax or someone else needs some help? Please?”

“Okay,” said Krekka brightly. “I’ll go find someone to help.”

Krekka lumbered off. I was not particularly surprised that it had been so easy to convince him to leave us alone, because in my opinion, although he was a generally nice guy, he wasn’t all that bright. Then I turned back to Kiriah and asked, “So what was that you were saying about the Time Stone?”

After looking around the area to make sure no one was eavesdropping, Kiriah said in a low tone, “I was saying that Ehlek has the Time Stone in that box, most likely.”

“Then let’s get it and get out of here now that we know where it is,” I said as I got to my feet, ready for action.

“But you don’t understand, Isarot, I think it is a different Time Stone than the one we’re looking for,” said Kiriah hurriedly. “The Olmak doesn’t detect its signal. Instead, the signal is still coming from the south, from that huge mountain over there. Ehlek’s Stone is not ours. It’s the Time Stone of this universe, not of ours.”

“Oh, right,” I said, although I still watched Ehlek anyway. “Sorry. I thought that was ours he had. You sure it’s not?”

“It isn’t, as far as I know,” said Kiriah, nodding. “I just said the Olmak isn’t picking up its signal, so-“

“Lord Ehlek requests you,” said a voice behind us, causing us both to jump, startled. “Or are you too busy talking to obey your king’s commands?”

We turned and saw Amphibax, long, spindly arms hanging at his sides, glaring at us like we had done something wrong. I almost allowed panic to override my critical thinking process. Had Amphibax overheard our conversation? Did he hear us talking about the Time Stone and alternate universes? Or did he only hear a little or perhaps nothing at all?

Swallowing my fear, I said, “Lord Ehlek has requested us?”

“Yes,” said Amphibax. His expression was impossible to read at the moment. I hoped Kiriah was reading his mind to find out what he was thinking, but considering how slow-witted she was at times I doubted it. “Lord Ehlek is planning an expedition into the jungle and has requested you two. I will lead you to his tent.”

-

Amphibax lead us to a large tent that must have been constructed fast, for it had not been there last time I had looked at that spot. I saw a large, empty crate nearby, which I assumed is what the canopy had been brought in. A couple of Rofficans were guarding the entrance like bodyguards, but they allowed us in when Amphibax told them to.

There wasn’t much furniture inside the tent. There was a wide, simply designed wooden table in the middle, with Ehlek standing over it, poring over what looked like a map. He didn’t even seem to notice us as we entered. Instead, one of his claws was resting on the very center of the map, as though he was contemplating his next move.

“I have returned, Lord Ehlek, and have brought the Toa and Tagiki with me, as you ordered, sir,” said Amphibax as he bowed respectfully. We bowed, too, although I didn’t like it.

Ehlek looked up, but his expression didn’t change much upon seeing us. “As much as I hate to admit it, you are both necessary for my plan.”

“What plan, um, sir?” I asked.

“Do you not know why we are here in the first place, Tagiki?” Ehlek growled. He glared at Kiriah and snapped, “I thought you had already told your friend why we are here.”

“Oh, I forgot about that,” said Kiriah, looking a little embarrassed. “Um, sorry.”

I looked at Kiriah, confused. Had Ehlek told her something that she was supposed to tell me? I hadn’t known that. Then again, despite being a Toa of Psionics, Kiriah was a pretty forgetful person, so it actually wasn’t very shocking that she happened to forget something important like that.

“Well, since I want to get this underway before sundown, I will inform you of World’s End, since I hate commanding ignorant fools,” said Ehlek.

Once he began, I realized that I was already well-acquainted with the legend. The only thing I didn’t understand was where the sea monsters came from, since the legend I’d heard hadn’t mentioned anything about sea monsters. Besides that, though, this universe’s tale of World’s End was almost exactly the same as our own. I found that odd, but considering all of the other strange things I’d already experienced I didn’t question it.

“As for why we are here, it is because I know the answers to my questions lie here, on this island,” Ehlek finished.

“Answers to your questions . . . ?” I repeated.

“The dreams will make sense,” Ehlek murmured as he looked at the map again. Now that we were closer, I could tell he was charting a route, because there seemed to be a lot of scribbles on the map. “All of them. The beings I saw . . . the Olmak, the Time Stone . . . even the voices in my head will become clearer . . . .”

I figured I knew where the voices in his head were coming from, but because I wanted to keep my head I kept my mouth shut.

“That is why I brought this!” Ehlek exclaimed as he slammed the small wooden box I had seen earlier onto the table without warning. “The cloaked one told me to bring the Time Stone to this island, World’s End, and then all would be made clear. A fool’s quest, some might call it, but I must know the answers. I must!”

I eyed both Ehlek and the box carefully. Ehlek looked crazy and I was prepared to fight him in case he should suddenly spring on us for no reason.

As for why I kept an eye on the box . . . well, even though I had told Kiriah I wasn’t going to steal this Time Stone, I just wanted to make sure I knew where it was, in case I had to protect it. Or take it, if necessary, but I wasn’t going to steal it. That would be wrong.

“Now I am sure you both are wondering why I summoned you here,” said Ehlek, looking at Kiriah and me again. “It is because I am about to go on an expedition into the jungle, to the center of the island where the answers to my questions lie. I have great need of your Olmak, Toa, for I know that there must be some kind of connection between that mask and my dreams.”

I remembered the tablets he’d given us on our first day here, but I wasn’t so keen on going into an unexplored jungle alone with a lunatic like him. I figured we’d have to enter that jungle eventually, because according to Kiriah that was where our Stone seemed to be, but if we could go alone without Ehlek or any of his men following us, that would be ideal.

So I said, “Don’t you have an Olmak of yours that you can use instead? Why do you need ours, sir?”

“We had originally brought an Olmak along, but lost it when a sea monster attacked our ship and created a large hole in the hold,” said Amphibax. I noticed he had somehow gotten next to Ehlek without any of us knowing. “We nearly lost the Time Stone as well, but the Rofficans managed to repair the hole before it got any bigger. That is why the Stone was no longer kept in the hold, lest another attack like that should happen again and we lose it for good.”

“We almost turned back because of the loss of the Olmak,” said Ehlek. “But of course, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. We went straight ahead and eventually found you two, drowning in the sea. It is a lucky thing Amphibax saved you otherwise we would not have gotten another Olmak in our possession.”

“That was you?” Kiriah asked Amphibax, surprised. “You saved us when we first got here?”

“Yes,” replied the amphibian, nodding. “I was the only one willing to see what was out there. It seems I made a wise, although debatable, decision to save you both.”

“Debatable?” Kiriah repeated incredulously, before Ehlek continued.

“Anyway, if you two try to run I will personally make sure you don’t make it off of this island alive,” said Ehlek. “Understood?”

Kiriah and I both nodded, but I began making plans to separate from their group anyway.

“Good,” said Ehlek, although he didn’t sound very happy. “Now I will be recruiting a few others to join us on this expedition soon, perhaps a couple of the Rofficans in case we run into any . . . unknown threats.” He looked at Amphibax and asked, “Do any of the legends mention any sort of mythical Rahi, besides the sea monsters we’ve already encountered?”

“Yes, my lord,” said Amphibax, nodding. “World’s End is supposed to be inhabited by the ghosts of the Great Beings’ failed creations, but that is of course ridiculous.”

“I agree,” said Ehlek. “Sea monsters are believable, for my people in their underwater homes have been menaced by similar creatures in the past. However, I have yet to see proof of any ghosts anywhere. At worst there might be some unknown Rahi here, but I am sure they will be nothing we can’t take care of.”

He looked at Kiriah and I and, pointing at the entrance, barked, “Go outside and prepare. We’ll be leaving in ten minutes. Amphibax, pick three or four of the strongest-looking Rofficans you can find and take along that Matoran Chronicler, Niham. We’ll need something to distract any Rahi we run into with and considering she’s just deadweight we can sacrifice her if necessary.”

“Sacrifice . . .?” Kiriah gasped. “A Matoran? You mean let her get eaten by whatever’s lurking in that jungle?”

“As I said, if necessary, yes,” said Ehlek, glaring at Kiriah now. “Do you have any objections? I can easily quell them with my claws, you know.”

Kiriah’s hands were balled into fists. I could tell she was pretty angry and thought she might try to attack Ehlek if he provoked her further.

Because I figured a fight would only be pointless and messy, I gently but firmly placed a hand on Kiriah’s shoulder and said to Ehlek, “No, she doesn’t have any objections, sir.”

“Good,” said Ehlek as he went back to his map. “Then leave at once. I don’t want to be forced to suffer your presences any longer.”

Guiding Kiriah, we followed Amphibax through the tent flap and back onto the beach. While Amphibax went to find the Rofficans and the Matoran Niham, I lead Kiriah over to a nearby open crate and began digging through it while Kiriah glared at Ehlek’s tent, like she hoped to set it on fire simply by staring at it.

“Did you hear what he said?” said Kiriah angrily. “He just wants to bring that Matoran along simply to feed the beasts if they try to attack us!”

“Well, he said if necessary,” I said as I lifted up a Cordak blaster. I was rummaging through this box of weapons and spare armor, looking for anything we might need on our expedition. The blaster was too big, though, so I dropped it and continued to search for something smaller to use. “This island is pretty quiet, isn’t it? Maybe there is no life on it. That Matoran may not have to be used as bait, you know.”

“I know, but I still don’t like the idea,” said Kiriah. I could just imagine her folding her arms right now. “A Matoran is a living being, not live bait. It’s wrong to use her that way. Besides, we’ll probably be more than enough for whatever happens to be lurking in there. No reason to endanger a Matoran’s life like that, in my opinion.”

I didn’t respond to that. Instead, I found a couple of knives that I thought might be useful, which I stuck in my bag that had been given to me by Amphibax the day after I was put to work in the hold. I looked at Kiriah – who, just as I had suspected, had her arms folded and was still glaring at tent – and said to her, “Well, since I doubt Ehlek’s going to change his mind just because you’re upset, maybe you want to get some extra weapons to bring along or something? So you don’t get killed?”

“I already have my sword,” said Kiriah irritably, holding up her crescent blade. “I don’t need any other weapons. It’s Niham I am worried about.”

“Yeah, well, you might want to bring along a couple of extra knives or something anyway,” I said. “It was one of those extra knives of mine that saved us from our first encounter with the Anicans, remember?”

“It was?” asked Kiriah, throwing a quizzical glance my way.

“Oh, that’s right, you were unconscious at the time,” I said as I closed the crate and pulled out one of the knives. “Well, that is what saved us anyway. Never underestimate the power of one tiny knife.”

I tossed the knife her way, which she caught in midair with her telekinesis. She asked in alarm, “Why’d you nearly impale me with that?”

“I was just trying to give it to you,” I replied, annoyed. “Just in case your sword turns out to be less-than-ideal, you know?”

“Whatever,” Kiriah sighed as she put the dagger in her bag. “I just hope we don’t run into any monsters so we don’t have to use anyone as a distraction.” She looked at the silent jungle and added, “Considering how quiet this place is I wonder if there is any life here at all. Besides those ghosts Amphibax mentioned, that is.”

“Ghosts don’t exist,” I said, shaking my head as I sat on top of the crate. “Like Ehlek said, there’s no proof. But this island does seem eerily quiet. I haven’t even heard the wind blowing. Almost like all sound just stops here for some reason.”

Kiriah shivered and said, “Well, whether ghosts are real or not, I say we get the Time Stone and get out of here as soon as possible. This place gives me the creeps.”

I nodded as I watched the rest of the sailors. Because there was no more equipment to haul off the ship, the sea faring men of Ehlek were now unpacking supplies, chatting, resting, and a few were eyeing the huge mountain in the middle of the island. I looked at it myself, for it was easily the largest thing on World’s End, dwarfing everything around it for miles.

The mountain had a strange shape, too. It almost looked like a giant coliseum, like the one I’d heard about that existed in Metru Nui, except with a surface made of hard rock and was probably not as large, although having never seen the Great Coliseum in person I could not make a fair comparison between the two. Still, it was easily the largest mountain I’d ever seen in my life. I only hoped I wouldn’t have to climb it, because it looked way too big to scale without special equipment.

I glanced at Kiriah and whispered, “Is the Time Stone nearby?”

Kiriah nodded and said, “Oh, yes. In fact, the signal is stronger now than it has ever been before. That must mean it is right here, somewhere on this island.”

“I guess that means our journey is nearly at an end,” I said. I looked around and saw Amphibax – standing among a small group of sailors, Ehlek among them – gesturing frantically for us to come. “Come on, Kiri. Looks like they’re just about ready to start the expedition.”

So the two of us walked over to the crew of the expedition, I wondering if we were ready for whatever might be lurking in the jungle. That is, if there was anything for us to be prepared for in the first place.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:51 PM.

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#15 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Dec 02 2011 - 09:53 AM

Chapter 14: Him Again

Kiriah.


When Isarot and I joined up with the expedition, I did not need Amphibax to introduce me to everyone. With a quick application of my telepathy I discovered that three Rofficans – Mekel, Rokke, and Isarot’s friend, Krekka – were accompanying us, as well as half a dozen other beings that belonged to the same species as Amphibax. Niham, a Le-Matoran, was also going along, although based on her thoughts she didn’t seem to know Ehlek’s intended purpose for her.

Niham was a small Matoran, unusually so, and was nervous at the prospect of going into the unknown jungle, even with the rest of us. Since I knew people generally do not like having their minds read without their knowing, I refrained from reading too much. I only learned that Niham was apparently the Chronicler of Ehlek’s kingdom, which was why Ehlek had brought her along on the voyage to World’s End in the first place.

Before we left, Ehlek gathered the rest of the sailors that were staying behind together and said, “I and the sailors grouped behind me will be heading into the jungle in order to reach the center of the island. We do not know how long it may take, but once we reach the center we shall launch a signal into the sky so you shall all know.

“While we are gone, you must all remain here at this beach. Do not wander off into the jungle or sea no matter how bored or curious you may be. Protect the ship and the cargo until we return. If you are attacked, fight to the death and do not run. We will likely not be gone very long, but if we are gone for more than seventy-two hours then you may head home, for we will probably be dead if that is the case. Understood?”

“Yes, sir!” shouted the sailors in unison.

“Good,” Ehlek said as he turned around. “Then wish us luck as we unlock the mysteries this island holds! Come, my loyal servants!”

Although I did not consider myself one of Ehlek’s ‘loyal servants,’ I followed him into the jungle anyway, right behind the Rofficans and everyone else. I took one last look over my shoulder at the beach behind us before it was obscured by the thick branches, leaves, and vines of the deep jungle.

-

It is official: I hate jungles.

Although it was just as quiet as the rest of the island, it was hot, humid, and sticky. Mud clung to the bottom of my feet and the back of my legs and we were forced to cut our way through what seemed like an endless amount of overgrown foliage. True, since I was at the back I didn’t have to do as much cutting (Ehlek, up at the front, was attacking brush like it’d insulted his pride), but more than once I was hit in the face by a low-hanging branch or nearly tripped over a tree root. I did not have Isarot to share this misery with, either, since he was up front with Ehlek, using his axe to chop down whatever happened to be in our way. Only little Niham was with me in the back and, despite her height, seemed to be tripping and stumbling far less often than me.

“How’re you so good in this muck?” I asked as she nimbly walked across a particularly muddy area without tripping once. I wasn’t as lucky.

“Oh, I’m just used to it,” Niham replied. “I used to live in a forest back on my home island, Shika Nui. Jungles and forests aren’t too different, except jungles are a lot more humid, harder to navigate, and a lot muddier, too.”

“You can say that again,” I said as my foot sunk into a deep mud puddle. “Disgusting,” I added as I wrenched it free.

Niham looked at me as we continued to walk through the path the others were carving out and asked, “Who’re you anyway? And who is your Tagiki friend? I saw you two when you first got here, but I’ve never had the chance to talk to either of you.”

I opened my mouth, and then closed it immediately. I needed to carefully think over what I was going to say, even to someone as innocent as Niham. I didn’t want to know what would happen if Ehlek learned the truth about Isarot and I, considering how paranoid and on edge he seemed to be. I always got into trouble for talking without thinking anyway. At least Isarot wouldn’t get onto me if I though through what I was going to say before I say it.

So I said to Niham, “My name is Toa Kiriah. My friend’s name is Isarot. We, er, are from up north.”

“Oh, really?” asked Niham in surprise as she kicked a rock out of her path. “Where? Tanjo Nui? I know Tagiki and Matoran live there, although I’ve never been to the island myself.”

“Somewhere like that, yeah,” I said as I looked around. I heard no sounds and I picked up no other mental signatures besides our own. So why was I feeling tense?

“How’d you get down here so fast?” asked Niham, tilting her head to one side. “We’re like . . . um, I’m not sure how far away from the League’s dominion, but we’re pretty darn far. I don’t think two people would be able to make it this far out to sea so quickly like that, especially without a ship.”

I struggled to remember the story Isarot had made up to convince Ehlek, but as I had forgotten it by now I decided to make up a new one. I didn’t think Niham needed to know we’re not from this dimension. I didn’t want her asking too many questions.

“Ah, that’s an interesting question,” I said as I ducked to avoid an overhanging branch. “See, Isarot and I were, um, sent by the other Barraki to make sure Ehlek was doing okay.”

“Really?”

“Really,” I said, nodding. I was keeping my voice low so Ehlek wouldn’t accidentally overhear, as I was sure this wasn’t the cover story Isarot had used on him. “They gave us this mask here, which took us straight to where you guys were. We were going to head back after we saw Ehlek was in one piece, but we’ve decided to hang around and check out World’s End with you all.”

“Huh, that’s funny,” said Niham, a bit more loudly than I would have liked. “I was always under the impression the Barraki never liked one another very well.”

Nearly slipping on some mud, I regained my balance and said, “Oh, they don’t?”

“At least Lord Ehlek doesn’t seem to like them,” Niham commented. “Being his Chronicler, I also act as his recorder whenever he says something he wants to remember. Many times I’ve had to record how much he hates the other Barraki, how he despises working with them, and how he wishes he had sole dominion over the universe, rather than having to share it with the other five, among other things.”

“Well, um, the discovery of World’s End matters to the other warlords a great deal,” I said hurriedly. “After all, this is a legend proven real. Besides, I think they may want to add some of the lands Ehlek discovered to their own kingdoms.”

“That makes sense,” said Niham. She lowered her voice and whispered to me, “The Barraki are all greedy like that. Personally, I think that Ehlek wanted to go on this voyage purely to expand his kingdom, too, even though he says he’s only searching for answers.”

“What makes you think that?”

“We’ve already conquered a few of the lands we’ve visited,” Niham answered. “Such as the island of Uual, for instance. Ehlek conquered that place pretty easily, although we did lose a far number of sailors before we crushed their capital. Most lands, though, we just passed by, because most of their inhabitants looked far too powerful for us to take on with our little numbers.”

“Like what kind of things have you guys run into?” I asked as I took one step forward and slid again. This time, I landed on my behind, getting mud all over my gold and blue armor. “Ouch!”

“Well, we saw a group of tall, monstrous-looking beings that could teleport,” said Niham, apparently oblivious to my accident. “They were creepy, but they left us alone after one of them teleported onto our ship and nearly got himself killed by Lord Ehlek.”

“I heard about sea monsters,” I said as I grabbed a vine and hauled myself back to my feet. “Like giant Takea sharks and stuff.”

Niham nodded. “Yeah. And that’s a snake you just grabbed.”

“What?” I said glancing at the ‘vine’ I’d taken hold of, which was indeed a snake hanging from a tree branch, staring at me with its deep black eyes. It did not look happy, to say the least. “Argh!”

I jumped backwards and again slipped on the mud and landed on my back, stunned. Above me the snake hissed and curled back up into the tree it was hanging from. My heart was racing, but I realized that that snake was the first sign of life I’d seen on this island, which means that perhaps World’s End wasn’t totally uninhabited after all.

Niham giggled and said, “You’re funny, Toa Kiriah.”

“Funny, right,” I mumbled as I got back to my feet and tried to wipe the mud off of my armor.

“Hey, what’re you two doing back there?” Amphibax called from up ahead. He had stopped and was looking at us disapprovingly. “Playing in the mud? Get over here, or I’ll come and drag you the rest of the way by force.”

“We’re coming,” I said as Niham and I continued walking along, this time at a faster pace than before.

Amphibax shook his head, muttered something I couldn’t hear, and turned around and continued following the rest, who were not too far ahead of us. I decided I wasn’t going to ask Niham any more questions, since I did not want to get distracted again, and by Amphibax’s tone, I figured he really would drag me along by force if I continued to slip and slide in the mud like that.

As we walked, I puzzled over that snake. Even though my low level telepathy was always on at all times, I had not picked up that Rahi’s mental signature. Then again, Rahi tend to have minds that aren’t as advanced as ours, so perhaps I didn’t pick it up because it doesn’t do a lot of thinking. Still, I had a feeling that wasn’t the case, but I could not think of any reason I did not pick it up besides that, which made me nervous.

-

After about an hour or so of carving out a pathway through the jungle with our weapons, I began to wonder if we would ever reach the center. The mountain hadn’t looked very far away from the beach, but it seemed like we weren’t getting anywhere any time soon. I was made even more nervous by the distinct lack of wildlife; besides that snake I’d run into earlier, we hadn’t seen or heard any other Rahi on this island. Again I had the feeling that there was something off, but I could not place it until we emerged from the deep jungle into a large clearing, at the foot of the mountain. And what I saw frightened me more than anything else I’d ever seen in my life.

Below us, lined up like a ghostly army, were rows upon rows of the skeletal remains of various beings. There were Toa, Matoran, Skakdi, Vortixx, Rofficans, Tagiki, and many other species I was unfamiliar with. They were all mounted on wooden stakes, staring right at us behind rusted Kanohi masks and helmets. One Toa had a large metal spear sticking straight through his head, a gruesome way to die. I assumed these must be the remains of the Great Beings’ failures, but who had set them up like this and why, I did not know.

Now that the mountain was closer, I could see even less of it than I did before it was so huge. Tall cliffs that looked like lethal towered above the skeletons. A lone pathway wound up the mount, but it appeared so narrow and so treacherous that I was not sure that anything but a Rahi goat would be able to make it safely up the pass.

Ehlek, however, did not appear grossed out or frightened by the army of skeletons. Rather, he stood out before us and, his eyes focused on the mountain, said, “We have finally made it. My journey is nearly over. Once we penetrate the inner chambers, then I am certain I will find what I am looking for.”

“There’s no need for that,” said a voice without warning, coming from somewhere in the mountain. “Not when the one being who holds all the answers to your questions is right . . . here.”

Somehow he must be really fast, for when I blinked a Toa-sized being in a black cloak appeared above us on one of the small cliffs where no one had been before. It was the thief. I had no idea how long it had been since Isarot and I had last run into him (it’s hard to keep track of time in these alternate universes, you know), but I knew it was him anyway, even though I had never heard the thief speak before. His appearance gave it away, for he wore the exact same cloak as the thief we knew.

“You!” Isarot and Ehlek exclaimed in unison, pointing at the thief at the same time. Then they looked at each other quizzically.

“You know him?” asked Ehlek suspiciously. “Have you met before?”

“Know him? Of course I do!” said Isarot. “He’s the . . . he stole something from me and Kiriah and we have been trying to locate him ever since! I am surprised that you know who he is!”

“He’s the one who told me to come here in the first place,” said Ehlek. “Although,” he added, turning to glare at the thief, who hadn’t moved an inch from his perch, “I did not know that he himself was the one who would answer my questions. He never told me that.”

“I had no reason to,” said the thief. His voice sounded very, very old and ragged, like his lungs were covered with dust. “Not when I knew that you would come here simply if I told you to. You are so predictable that way, just like every other villain in this cursed multiverse.”

“Villain? Who are you calling a villain?” Ehlek growled as he advanced down the slope, claws flexing dangerously while his eyes locked on the thief. “I am Ehlek, one of the six Barraki of this universe. I would kill you, but because my desire for knowledge currently outweighs my desire to kill you for your disrespect, I won’t.”

I had a hard time believing Ehlek wouldn’t simply kill the thief as soon as he came within arm reach, but Ehlek did stop when he was about halfway down the slope and lowered his claws. Amphibax and the other sailors went down after him, but then a dozen deadly bolts of some kind of hot, burning substance struck the ground between them and Ehlek, causing the sailors to stumble backwards in surprise.

“Sorry, but this is between me and your king,” said the thief. He was now standing at the bottom of the cliff, on the other side of the army of ghosts. How he got there so fast was beyond me. “He has something to give me. And I, in turn, have something to give him. Do you have what I asked for, Ehlek?”

Ehlek gestured to his minions to stay back, but I had a feeling that if this turned out to be an ambush Amphibax and the rest would no doubt run to Ehlek’s rescue.

“I have the Time Stone right here,” said Ehlek, holding up the box which the Stone was held in. “I shall give it to you and you shall tell me everything I want to know.”

“Fine with me,” said the thief as he began walking toward Ehlek.

“Let’s get him, Kiri,” said Isarot, swiping his axe angrily through the air. “He’s evaded us far too long and-“

“Uh, Isarot, I think maybe we should wait a bit longer,” I said cautiously as I watched Ehlek walked through the field of skeletons toward the oncoming thief, the stone container in his right hand. “I mean, if we attack, Ehlek might also attack us because he doesn’t want us interfering with his goals. We should strike as soon as Ehlek gives him the other Stone, I think.”

“Kiriah, you’re crazy,” said Isarot, shaking his head. “You can wait if you want. But me, I’ve waited far too long for this moment. I’ll cut down Ehlek if I have to; as long as I take down the thief and get our Time Stone back, I don’t care if I die or not.”

Without warning, Isarot went tearing down the hill, swinging his axe madly and yelling loudly as he did so. He was so frightening that Amphibax and the others actually parted to let him through. I could only watch in disbelief as he ran, but shook my head and decided that, as a guardian of the Time Stone and – more importantly – as Isarot’s friend, I had to help him, regardless of whether I wanted to or not.

I pulled out my crescent blade and dashed down the hill, while a startled Niham called after me, “Wait, Toa Kiriah! What did your friend mean by ‘our Time Stone?’ What’s going on?”

I had no time to explain because I was running so fast. Even if I had the time, I doubted I would have been able to anyway. Certain things are better left a mystery. That’s what I told myself as I ran, anyway.

Unfortunately, as I ran, I accidentally tripped on a rock (yeah, I know, real heroic) and probably would have gone stumbling all the way to the bottom of the incline and broken every bone in my body had someone with strong hands not grabbed me before I went flying.

“Thanks,” I said to whoever had caught me. I looked over my shoulder and saw Krekka – Isarot’s Roffican friend – had grabbed me. “Could you put me down now, please? It’s really important that I go help Isarot.”

“Okay,” said Krekka as he released his grip on me. “But I help, too.”

“You want to help?” I asked, looking at him in disbelief. “But why?”

“Isarot my friend, too,” said Krekka as he folded his massive arms. “I help friends.”

“Uh, sure,” I said. I was a bit surprised that Krekka was apparently willing to go against his own master’s wishes to help a friend, but I didn’t care. Isarot was going to need my help if he was going to take down the thief. Somehow I knew that. “Then let’s go.”

I turned my head and saw that Isarot had already reached the bottom of the hill. He was now running across the field of skeletons, swinging his axe every which way, knocking down dozens of mounted corpses with every swing. He was carving a pathway to Ehlek and the thief, both of whom stood in the middle of the field. I could see Ehlek handing the stone box to the thief, who after inspecting its contents quickly stuffed it into his pocket.

“Now,” said Ehlek, loud enough that we could hear it over Isarot’s screams, “answer my question: Why am I having these dreams? What do they mean? Explain!”

Although I could not see the thief’s expression, I could just imagine him smiling evilly as he said, “Why, you have been touched by the Almighty Ones, Ehlek. That, I believe, is all you need to know. Good bye.”

A dimensional portal immediately sprung into existence behind the thief, almost without warning. It caught Ehlek off-guard, who stumbled backwards in surprise as the thief took a step back toward the gateway.

“I would have stolen this immediately,” the thief told Ehlek as the portal expanded behind him, “but I was busy, hence why I asked you to come to this island. That is all I will tell you.”

“Oh, no you don’t!” Isarot shouted as he withdrew a dagger from his bag and hurled it at the thief with deadly speed. “Not now, you won’t!”

The thief merely tilted his head to one side to avoid the knife as it spiraled through the portal and said, “I am sorry, but I don’t think I will allow either of you to continue your foolish quest to capture me. Perhaps all of these poor, lost souls will have something to say about it.”

The thief pulled out what looked like the Time Stone from his robes and, raising the Stone into the air, cried out, “O lost and forgotten creations of the Great Beings! Eliminate these misguided villains, in the name of your King!”

A brief burst of light blinded me for a second and when it passed I noticed something odd about the field of skeletons below. I saw movement among them as they became a literal army of ghosts. Long dead corpses walked again for the first time in centuries, drawing out rusted swords, axes, maces, and various other deadly-looking weapons. Fear gripped my heart as I realized that Isarot was right there in the middle of them. I doubted they would simply give him a big group hug.

“These are the skeletons of the Great Beings’ failures!” the thief said as the army turned as one to face Isarot and Ehlek, who were now completely surrounded. “Your own bodies shall soon join them!”

With that, the thief took one last step backward and disappeared into the dimensional portal, which closed shut with a pop that would have been comical had my best friend not been surrounded by an army skeletons that were eager to kill him.

“Hey! Don’t just stand there looking like morons!” Ehlek shouted to his sailors as he sliced a Matoran zombie in half and kicked aside a Skakdi that had been coming up from behind. “Save your king or I will personally haunt you all after death!”

“Kiriah! Help!” Isarot shouted as he blasted own a whole row of zombies with a combined burst of light and ice. “There’re too many for Ehlek and me to take alone!”

“Hold on! We’ll get there!” I said as me, Amphibax, Krekka, and the rest dashed down the hillside with our weapons drawn. “We’ll save you!”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:53 PM.

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#16 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Dec 09 2011 - 10:13 AM

Chapter 15: Confrontation

Isarot.


I swung my axe, chopping off the heads of three zombies not fast enough to dodge. I kicked a Vortixx away and flash froze half a dozen Matoran zombies armed with rusted daggers. I ducked to dodge a Skakdi that tried to crush me with its flail and returned the favor by incinerating its head in a blast of searing hot light, causing its corpse to fall to the ground, lifeless.

One might think that I would be too frustrated by the thief’s disappearance to fight well. Actually, it seemed to be the other way around. I was so angry that I was actually fighting better and more fiercely and effectively than I usually do. Every single blow I landed on the advancing army hit and took out a couple of zombies at the same time.

But it was all pointless. If I killed one zombie, a hundred and one more would come to take its place. If I slew three in one blow, another three thousand would turn up to avenge their fallen brethren. It was a fight I knew we couldn’t win, especially since I was sure the skeletons kept getting up after I killed them.

I briefly glanced over my shoulder at Ehlek. Although I had seen Ehlek angry before, I had never seen him so enraged. He moved with ruthless efficiency, running so fast he appeared to be teleporting, taking out a dozen skeletons wherever he struck. Perhaps he, like me, was fueled by his anger of being denied what he wanted and was taking it out on the zombies. But also like me, no matter how many he took out even more would come to take their place.

A hulking skeleton of a Roffican came up to me and for a moment I hesitated. I was vividly reminded of Krekka, whom I genuinely liked. Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to destroy this one even as it raised its fists to crush me into oblivion. I was too slow. I knew I was going to die, simply because I had let my guard down at the worst possible moment.

But then a fist burst through its chest, sending it falling forward. I jumped out of the way as the hulking skeleton crashed to the ground, as unmoving as it ought to be. Looking up, I saw Krekka standing behind it, looking quite fierce as he shook the dust off of his hands.

“Krekka? You saved me!” I said as I punched out another zombie that tried to take me from behind. “Thanks!”

“Me help friends!” Krekka responded. “We take these bone guys together!”

“Right!” I said, smiling despite myself. “Let’s go get them!”

Krekka roared, perhaps in agreement or maybe in anger, and ran off to go mow down a fresh wave of zombies that had just appeared from a cave within the mountain. I turned around and blocked a blow from a Tetakian skeleton. With my free hand I froze the Tetakian and then sent it falling backward. It hit the ground and smashed into a million pieces.

Then I glanced desperately around the area for Kiriah. I couldn’t see her distinctive blue and gold armor anywhere, although I did spot the other Rofficans and amphibians fighting the army of ghosts quite valiantly. I didn’t see Amphibax until he and Ehlek jumped into view and took down at least two dozen or so zombies faster than lightning. Seeing how deadly they fought on land, I shuddered at the thought of how powerful those two must be underwater, in their native environment.

I had to find Kiriah, I thought as I took out yet another zombie, because I couldn’t go after the thief without her and the Olmak. I was stuck here unless I could find her.I felt two powerful hands seize my shoulders and, looking over my shoulder, I saw that a huge being of a species I was unfamiliar with had grabbed me from behind. Without hesitating I threw both of my arms back and blasted the skeleton with a combination of ice and light, breaking its rock hard grip on my shoulders.

I didn’t look to make sure it wasn’t getting back up, for about six Toa skeletons appeared, armed with dangerous-looking swords. They charged me, but with not much effort I covered the ground beneath them in ice. Obviously unprepared for my surprise attack, the zombies slid and tripped on the ice, allowing me to finish them off with a powerful burst of light energy.

A Zyglak zombie leapt out of the crowd, but I sliced it cleanly in half with my weapon and then punched the head off of another zombie that had been sneaking up on me. Panting hard, I took a step backward and accidentally tripped on something, causing me to fall onto my back. When I hit the ground, my axe went flying out of my hand several feet away from me.

I reached for my weapon, but for some reason I couldn’t move. Looking down, I saw that six pairs of skeletal hands had grown from the earth and were holding me down with surprising strength. I struggled to break their grip, but it was no use. I just wasn’t strong enough. My elemental powers were useless as well, for the hands were far too close to my body that I would likely harm myself if I tried to destroy them with my powers.

I looked up and saw a Skakdi skeleton standing over me, its sword raised above my head. I was about to raise my arms to blast it into oblivion, but then two more sets of hands burst from the dirt and seized my arms, as if they knew what I was about to do. So all I could do was watch as the sharp tip of the blade went flying down toward me. There was no way to dodge it and for the second time I wondered if I was about to die.

The sword abruptly stopped an inch from my face, far closer than I felt comfortable with, although it was better than being stuck in my skull. The Skakdi zombie almost looked puzzled, if a skeleton could, and then the sword went flying out of its hand, high into the sky, and fell straight down into its skull. The zombie stumbled off somewhere, trying to remove the blade from its head, while I heard footsteps running toward me from the right.

Turning my head, I saw Kiriah dashing over to me, taking out any zombies that got in her way as she approached. I was surprised at the ferocity she showed towards these monsters. I had never thought of her as a particularly fierce warrior, but seeing her behead two Vortixx in one stroke and then totally dismember another zombie on her way toward me made me question my previous views about her fighting skills.

Finally Kiriah reached me and, bending down, asked, “Isarot, are you okay?”

“I’m okay, Kiriah,” I said as I looked into her worried blue eyes. “Just a little tied up with these hands here. Were you the one who dealt with that Skakdi, by the way?”

“Yeah,” said Kiriah, nodding as she gazed at the skeletal hands that were holding me tight. “Saw you fall over here and then saw the Skakdi try to stab you. He’s a little busy trying to get rid of that sword. Now let’s see what I can do with a little telekinesis.”

Without warning, the zombie hands that had gripped me so tightly snapped into pieces. Kiriah helped me up to my feet and, with another application of that amazing telekinesis of hers, caused my axe to go flying into her hands. She then handed my weapon back to me, which I gratefully accepted from her.

“Thanks,” I said. “Now let’s get out of here. The thief’s got the Time Stone, which means we can track him down and stop him once and for all.”

“Yeah, I agree,” said Kiriah, nodding. “We . . . we should.”

I frowned. She said ‘I agree,’ but I could easily tell she was reluctant at the idea of following him. Why she was when the Time Stone was the whole reason we’d gone on this stupid journey in the first place, I had no idea.

So I asked exasperatedly, “Kiriah, what do you have to say? That we shouldn’t go after him?”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” said Kiriah. The Skakdi zombie with the sword in its skull came up behind her, but an ice bolt courtesy of me finished it off. “It’s just that, well, can we really abandon Niham and the others like this? There are so many zombies and more just keep coming from everywhere. I doubt Ehlek and his group will survive on their own.”

“Kiriah, they will be fine,” I said firmly. “If they are overwhelmed they’ll just retreat and leave this island. We’ll die, too, if we hang around here, but if there is a chance that we can get that no good thief then that is what we must do. It is our duty as guardians of the Time Stone to make sure it is safe, which we would not be doing if we got ourselves killed just because we wanted to help a crazed warlord and his sailors. Got it?”

Kiriah looked hurt by my words, but I could tell she knew they were true.

So she said, “You have a point, Isarot. There’s no reason for us to stick around any longer. Besides, I can’t sense the Time Stone in this dimension anymore. The signal died out when the thief left. It must still be on him.”

“Then let’s go and get this darn thing over with already,” I said impatiently as a Toa zombie leapt out of the battle. I slew it with ease. “The sooner we retrieve the Time Stone the sooner we can return home.”

Kiriah nodded and almost immediately a dimensional portal opened before us. Without hesitation, I grabbed Kiriah’s arm and we both jumped in even as a zombie tried to follow us. As the portal closed behind us I looked back and saw that only half of the zombie had made it through. I watched as that half fell into some random alternate universe. For a moment, I imagined how freaky it would be if someone was simply walking along a beach and half of a zombie fell from the sky without warning.

I didn’t have time to think about the humorous images it conjured, however, for the next moment Kiriah began pulling me in one direction. Although she was not saying a word to me, I understood what she meant: She had picked up the Time Stone’s signal and was following it. That meant that this whole thing was nearly over.

I tried as best as I could to help Kiriah steer toward the right. Below us I saw a shining light that nearly blinded me. That seemed to be where we were going, for Kiriah had stopped moving now and was staring right into the portal below us. Almost there . . .

We passed through it and landed face first on cold, hard ground. Stunned though I was by the sudden impact, I was used to the abrupt transition that usually accompanied dimension-hopping. In an instant I was on my feet, axe at the ready. I looked around everywhere for the thief, sure that I would spot him any minute now.

But I saw . . . nothing. We had ended up on what appeared to be a small, rocky island in the middle of an ocean of darkness. No, seriously, the water was so dark it appeared to be made of shadows. The air was also quite gelid. It reminded me of the ruthless coldness of the ocean that we had fallen into in the last dimension, which had been a very unpleasant sensation.

The adrenaline rush that I had gained during my battle against the army of ghosts was rapidly disappearing and pain and fatigue was starting to catch up with me. I was so tired that I actually fell on my behind, sitting next to Kiriah, who appeared just as worn out as I felt.

“Is . . . is the Time Stone here, Kiriah?” I asked, trying to catch my breath to soothe my hurting lungs. “Is that why we’re here?”

Kiriah nodded and said, “I . . . I think so, Isarot. The Stone’s signal was coming from this dimension. I am sure of it.”

“Then that must mean the thief is nearby as well,” I concluded, looking around. “But where is he? Why doesn’t the coward show himself and fight us like a real warrior?”

There was no answer, save for a faint breeze that caused us both to shiver.

“Isarot, can you hear that?” asked Kiriah as she glanced over her shoulder nervously.

“Hear what?” I replied impatiently. “I don’t hear anything. This dimension is completely quiet.”

“No,” said Kiriah, shaking her head. “I hear voices. Very, very faint voices, but if you listen close enough you can make them out.”

I tilted my head, listened for a minute and didn’t hear anything, and said, “Are you sure you just aren’t going crazy, Kiriah? Didn’t Kolora say that the Olmak made Toa Darranas go insane?”

Kiriah hit me on the arm rather roughly and said, “No, I am perfectly sane, thank you very much. Just be quiet and listen for a change, Isarot. You’ll hear something.”

I did not like playing these sorts of games with Kiriah, but she seemed so convinced that there were voices that I decided to listen again anyway, just to humor her.

I strained my audio receptors and for a long while I didn’t hear anything. Then I heard something. It sounded like a multitude of voices and, although I could not make out any specific words, their tones sent a shiver down my spine. Some were full of guilt, others sorrow, and many were simply depressed. It was almost like these voices were talking about how they had failed to live meaningful lives or achieve their dreams. Many sounded suicidal. It made me feel depressed myself.

“Yeah, I hear the voices,” I said, my tone almost sorrowful as the voices. “But who do they belong to? Why do they sound so mournful? What do they regret doing so badly?”

“Mistakes,” said another voice from the shadows, this one much louder and more prominent than the lesser ones. “Failed dreams. Meaningless lives spent fulfilling their own foolish desires rather than doing anything truly good or worthwhile. In other words, they are the voices of the villains who chose the life of crime but were ultimately crushed by the heroes of righteousness whom they dared to stand against.”

Kiriah and I were back on our feet instantly at the sound of the voice, weapons at the ready. We both looked around and I muttered to Kiriah, “Can you sense his mind anywhere?”

“No,” Kiriah muttered back as she glanced out over the dark ocean that surrounded the island. “It’s shielded, I think, because I can’t even feel it.”

“Then keep your eyes open,” I responded, looking every which way for the thief, for that was who I believed it was. “If you see him, strike. Don’t hesitate, got it? He’s caused far too much trouble to be allowed to get away again.”

“Why do you think I want to get away from you?” asked the thief’s voice. “I am where I need to be, unlike you. You two come from another universe, one that rejected me for my ideals. If you return there now, I will spare you once ultimate power is mine.”

“First give us the Time Stone – our Time Stone – and then we’ll leave,” said Kiriah, her voice as firm and steady as her grip on her sword. “That’s all we want. We aren’t seeking a fight, not after what we’ve been through.”

“That, I am afraid, is a request I cannot honor,” said the thief. “I need your precious Time Stone, just as I need the Stones of the other universes. I have spent a long time – perhaps one hundred thousand years, I don’t know anymore – gathering Time Stones from each universe, hoping to one day access the secrets of the Almighty Ones and become as powerful as they. Not until I am done with yours will I give it back.”

“Done with ours? What do you mean by that?” I asked. I didn’t like not being able to see him; it made me feel far more nervous and tense than I ought to. “What do you need the Time Stone for?”

“Did you not see how one Stone was powerful enough to grant those skeletal warriors in the last universe a semblance of life, Isarot?” asked the thief, whose voice seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. “That is but a mere fraction of its true power and even less of the ultimate power it will grant me soon.”

“So your plan is to take all of the Time Stones from all of the universes and then make a big army of skeletons to conquer everything or something?” asked Kiriah.

The thief laughed, his voice echoing loudly, which hurt my audio receptors. “No. There are practically an infinite number of universes out there and so, by extension, an infinite amount of Time Stones in existence. Only a mad man would attempt to collect them all. Only a few hundred billion will suffice for my plans.”

Only a few hundred billion?” Kiriah gasped. “How’d you get so-“

“As I have said, I have spent countless years gathering Stones from every dimension,” the thief answered. “Most of the time it was easy, but you are the only two who have thus far attempted to chase me. I am impressed, but I must request you leave . . . or else.”

“Or else what?” I demanded as I swung my axe at empty air, just to relieve my nerves. “Give us your worst. After what we’ve been through, we can surely handle whatever an interdimensional thief could throw at us.”

“You cannot handle my worst, dimension hoppers,” the thief responded, “but perhaps a portion of my power will teach you the mistake you made in following me here.”

Suddenly, the air around us got extremely hot. The heat almost dazed me, but I was aware enough that I realized the temperature was rising rapidly. It was becoming nearly unbearable and I only just realized what he was planning to do before he did it.

“Jump!” I shouted at Kiriah, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her out of the heat.

We hit the ground hard a few feet away and – literally a second later – there was a huge explosion behind us that seared out backsides until the fire faded away. We kept our heads down until I was sure it was safe to look.

Glancing over my shoulder, I was shocked to see the spot where Kiriah and I had been standing previously was totally annihilated. It looked melted, like molten protodermis had been dropped in the center, creating a small though deep crater in the ground. The ground around it was burnt so black that it stood out even from the rest of the blackness around us. Indeed, I speculated that if I had not acted when I did, Kiriah and I would have been totally incinerated.

“That is only a fraction of his power?” Kiriah gasped as she rolled onto her back and looked at the crater. “If that is what he can do normally, then I don’t want to know what he’ll do once he gets that ultimate power of his.”

“So I see that you both survived,” said the thief. “I thought I had got you there. Oh, well. Killing is a waste of time that could be better spent convincing you to join me.”

I blinked once and then, somehow, the thief was there, standing in his dark cloak that allowed him to blend in almost perfectly with his surroundings. I could only make him out because I could see his bright red eyes shining from within his hood, but I could not make out any other physical features besides those.

“There you are, you coward,” I said as Kiriah and I got back up again. “You can’t run from us this time.”

“You are brave even when you have just seen an example of my power?” asked the thief, sounding impressed. “Interesting. If you two would join me, why, I could make you very prominent in the new multi-universal order. I could give you power greater than you could possibly imagine if you would only listen to me. Whatever you desire will be yours if you follow me, Kiriah.”

I looked at Kiriah and saw that she appeared to be entranced. She didn’t look very different, but somehow I could tell that she was even more absentminded than she usually was.

“You’d give even me my own Toa team?” asked Kiriah, her voice hopeful.

“I could give you a hundred Toa teams under your leadership if you wish,” said the thief as he held out one orange-armored hand. “Anything you desire. If you simply choose to follow me, then everything and anything you want will be yours as long as you do not stand against me.”

I knew Kiriah wasn’t always the brightest, but she seemed to seriously be falling for his rather weak offers. She took a step forward, but I grabbed her arm and said, “Hey, Kiri. Remember our mission. This guy stole what is rightfully ours and he just tried to kill us. He’s going to kill you if you get any closer.”

“But Isarot,” said the thief, now looking at me, “why would you ever want to squash your friend’s deepest desire? Hasn’t she ever confided in you about how much she desperately wants to join a real Toa team? Don’t you have any dreams of your own that you so desperately wish to fulfill? Couldn’t I help you fulfill them, if you would simply follow me?”

“My only dream is to retrieve the Time Stone and get back home,” I responded fiercely, never lessening my grip on Kiriah, who was somewhat struggling to break free of my grasp, “and maybe kick your butt if you get in the way.”

“Fine, then,” said the thief, who sounded hurt by my words. “You are clearly a lost cause. If you do not want to be my friend, then I am afraid I will have Kiriah here teach you a lesson.”

He said to Kiriah, “Your friend Isarot doesn’t want you to be part of a Toa team. Can’t you see how he selfishly wants to keep you to himself, rather than share you with others? What kind of friend is that?”

“You’re right . . .” said Kiriah dreamily, although I thought her voice sounded a little bit angrier now. “Isarot’s not my friend if he stands against my dreams . . .”

“Then might I suggest you teach your ex-friend a lesson?” asked the thief as he folded his arms, apparently very satisfied with how things were turning out. “That crescent blade you have looks like it might just do the trick, if you know what I mean.”

Kiriah glanced at her sword, which she was holding in her hand, and said, without looking at me or the thief, “Yeah, it does look like it would work well . . .”

She went silent and didn’t move. An ominous feeling swept over me, making me wonder just what she was going to do.

Then Kiriah – moving faster than I had ever seen her move before – whirled around and slashed at my arm with her sword. Caught by surprise, I cried out in pain as the sharp blade cut through metal and tissue, causing hot blood to bleed down my arm. Cursing myself for not seeing that coming, I looked up in time to see Kiriah raise her sword above her head and bring it down. I leapt to the side, narrowly avoiding getting my head cleaved in two.

“Kiriah, what are you doing?” I asked, shocked as she wrenched her sword out of the ground. “What’s gotten into you? I’m your friend! It’s me, Isarot! You should be attacking the thief, not me.”

When Kiriah turned to face me, her eyes no longer revealed a kind, sweet – albeit slightly naïve at times – Toa who would never harm her friends. Instead, they showed a merciless killing machine that didn’t distinguish between friends and enemies. She only cared about killing now, which worried me a great deal.

“You are trying to stop me from achieving my dreams, Isarot,” said Kiriah, her voice filled with anger, her chest heaving with suppressed rage as she raised her sword at me. “You don’t want me to be part of a Toa team. You are a selfish person. You don’t want to share me with anyone else. You are not worthy of my friendship.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Was this really the same, sweet and sensitive Kiriah I knew? This murderous, anger-driven killing machine couldn’t be her. The thief must have some kind of power of persuasion over her, but unless I could break her out of the trance somehow I was afraid I was going to have to fight.

Getting up to my feet and resting my axe on my shoulder, I said to Kiriah, looking her straight in the eyes, “I am sorry, Kiriah. I do not want to have to do this, but if you are not willing to listen to reason then I will fight you, if it is the only way to possibly bring your sanity back.”

“I am perfectly sane, Isarot,” she responded as she lifted her bloody blade, giving her a fierce appearance in the shadows. “I only know who my real friends are now, and you aren’t one of them. I won’t hesitate to kill you, you fool.”

I readied myself for a battle I was sure I would enjoy even less than other battles. I could only hope I wouldn’t let my guard down, for I knew she was seriously aiming to kill me in this fight. I didn’t want to have to go all out, but if push came to shove I was ready.

So I said unhappily, “Then bring it on, Kiriah. Hit me with everything you’ve got.”
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:54 PM.

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#17 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Dec 16 2011 - 09:37 AM

Chapter 16: Questions Answered, Questions Raised

Kiriah.


I swung my blade at Isarot, which he blocked with his axe. But he left his left side wide open and with one swift movement I kicked him as hard as I could in the abdomen, causing him to shout in pain and nearly drop his axe before he redoubled his grip on it. I could tell he wasn’t trying to hurt me, which suited me just fine. I would kill him whether he went all out or whether he didn’t even try.

Righteous anger coursed through my body, giving me unparalleled strength. I was even a match for Isarot, forcing him back with all of my might. I was going to teach that selfish Tagiki a lesson. He only wanted me for himself, the scoundrel. I knew that if I were offered a spot on the Toa Tanjo, Isarot would do whatever he could to keep me from joining. I was so sick of his selfishness by now that I wanted to kill him. Then I would be free to pursue my true dreams, rather than going on this silly quest to retrieve some silly rock from a person I didn’t care about.

Isarot pushed me back hard and sent me stumbling. I regained my balance, however, and dove at him with a flurry of attacks that he was only barely able to block.

We were evenly matched. I slashed. He blocked. I kicked. He dodged. He knew my fighting style too well and now seemed to actually be trying to defeat me. This wouldn’t work. If this went on for too long, Isarot might defeat me and prevent me from ever joining a Toa team ever again.

Then a new thought occurred to me. I was a Toa of Psionics. I could control the mind, influence it to an extent, and – although I had never done it before – I could crush it into a million little pieces if I wanted to. I knew how fragile most minds were. Just the simplest exertion of my elemental power would be enough to kill him, I was sure, especially since Isarot was probably not prepared for attacks on the mind. Then he wouldn’t be a threat to me – or anyone else – ever again.

I rolled to the side to avoid his next attack. I was out of his reach now. Without even hesitating, I struck at his mind with my powers, which worked very well, for he dropped his axe as his hands flew to his head. He yelled in shock at the unexpected attack.

Since that wasn’t satisfying enough, I decided to up the pressure until he was on his knees and practically screaming in pain.

“Please, Kiriah, think about what you’re doing!” Isarot yelled. “Think about who you’re attacking! It’s me, Isarot, your best friend! You’re killing your best friend!”

“You’re not my best friend anymore,” I responded coldly as I folded my arms. “You just weigh me down, keeping me from achieving my true dreams. What’s the point of getting the Time Stone back? Why’d we have to go on this stupid adventure anyway? All because we were told to, not because we wanted to. Well, I’m not going along like a well-behaved little girl anymore. I’m doing what I want, when I want, regardless of what some old hags want me to do.”

That seemed to break Isarot’s will, for the next moment, he fell to the ground, completely unmoving. I didn’t need to read his mind to know he was dead. I’d finished him, as I ought to have done long ago, and I did not regret it one bit. Why should I?

“Very good, Kiriah,” said the thief as he walked up to me. “Very good. You took care of that villainous Tagiki extremely well. You could make a very good Toa, just like me, and I am certain you would be able to gather a Toa team in absolutely no time with your skills, as long as you follow me.”

“Of course,” I said, turning my back on Isarot and looking at the thief’s eyes. Even standing in front of him I could not see his face, but I didn’t really need to. “If you will help me achieve my dream, then I will do anything you ask.”

“Your devotion is admirable,” said the thief. “Indeed, if I had any further use of you, I’d say you would be a great apprentice.”

“Wait, did you say ‘if I had any further use of you,’ sir?” I asked, confused. “I don’t get it. What do you mean by ‘if?’ Am I not still useful to you?”

The thief merely shook his head, like I was a little child who didn’t understand what he was saying. “I am saying, Kiriah, that I will shortly be gaining power beyond imagining. I will be so powerful that I will no longer need the help of weaklings like you, even though you are useful sometimes. Therefore, I am afraid I must dispose of you, my gullible friend.”

Moving faster than lightning, the thief seized my neck and lifted me up, nearly strangling me.

“Wha-?” I said. “You promised me a Toa team!”

“I do not need any kind of help, especially from you,” said the thief as he tightened his grip on my throat. “My Mask of Charisma works quite well, I’d say, but eventually its effects will wear off and you will be just as bumbling and useless as before. I might as well dispose of you now before you become a serious problem in the future. Good bye, Kiriah.” Then he added, “And by the way, I was lying about giving you a Toa team.”

Suddenly, my neck felt searing hot. I could barely breathe and couldn’t say a word. I somehow knew what he was trying to do to me: He was trying to melt my neck. I didn’t even have the strength to struggle as I realized what was going to happen to me.

I almost gave up all hope of escaping when – a mere second after he began the burning process – the thief cried out and threw me to the side as he stumbled backward, cursing a ton of words under his breath as he did so. My neck still burning, I looked at the thief and saw one of his legs was nearly frozen solid, with ice up to his waist.

I wondered how that was possible when the thief snarled at somebody, “Still alive, are you?”

I looked in the direction he was glaring at and saw Isarot – still alive, although appearing badly bruised – lying just a few feet away from the thief, one hand raised. Isarot’s smile was as cold as the air that trailed from his outstretched hand. I realized he had tried to freeze the thief’s leg when the thief had been busy with me. How Isarot had survived my attack on him earlier, I didn’t know, but – although I had hated him with all of my might earlier – I suddenly realized I liked him better alive than dead.

“Sorry, thief,” Isarot said with a cough, his eyes focused firmly on the thief in front of him. “Can’t let you kill my friend, even if she did just try to kill me.”

“How did you survive her attack?” asked the thief angrily. “Kiriah killed you!”

“Yeah, well, that’s where you’re wrong,” said Isarot as he sat up painfully, with his legs crossed. “I took advantage of one of Kiriah’s personality flaws: Her naiveté. She saw me fall dead and so believed it was the truth, a mistake she used to make all the time during our training sessions when she thought she’d knocked me out. True, I get annoyed by her naiveté at times, but this time it saved me. And for that I am grateful.”

The thief smashed his frozen leg against a nearby boulder, freeing it from its gelid cast, and said, “Very clever, Tagiki, just like Kolora, I see. She used to pull stunts like that, playing dead and striking when her opponent least expected it. It was what I always hated the most about her.”

“Wait, you knew Baiji Kolora?” Isarot asked in surprise. “Who-“

“Am I?” the thief finished for him. “I am an old friend of that witch, and of that Toa of Lightning, Klio. I knew them both one hundred thousand years ago, when I first stole the Time Stone-“

“You’re the original thief?” I asked as I sat up against a small boulder. It was difficult to talk because my neck still hurt, but I didn’t care about that right now. “You were the one who first stole the Time Stone, all those years ago?”

“Yes,” said the thief, “although ‘thief’ is a term I do not prefer to use. I would call myself a hero, a crusader of righteousness and light who was chosen by destiny to purge the multiverse of evil. Any sane person can see that.”

“Then I must be insane,” Isarot shot back, “’cause all I see is a power-hungry dimension-hopping thief with an ego bigger than the entire multiverse.”

The thief hurled a plasma bolt at Isarot, but Isarot stopped it with a wall of ice, which melted instantly upon making contact with the projectile. I’d been worried there for a bit, but I knew Isarot was a lot faster than he appeared.

“Do not insult me, evildoer,” the thief growled, “or else I’ll punish you, as I should rightfully do.”

“I’ll insult you all I want, thief, regardless of whether you ‘punish’ me or not,” Isarot responded as he got to his feet. He staggered a bit, but seemed perfectly fine despite receiving such severe damage to his mind. “We just want the Time Stone back, and we want it back now. Got it?”

“I will never give the Stone to villains such as you!” the thief said. “I will die before I ever let that happen!”

“Then maybe I’ll kill you if you’re that stupid,” said Isarot as light and ice energy began swirling in the palms of his hands. “And Kiriah’s gonna help, right, Kiri?”

I got hastily back to my feet, rubbing my neck and not at all sure I’d be able to kill someone. But I said, “Yeah, I’ll help beat him.”

“You would fight against one of your own, Kiriah?” asked the thief, looking at me again. “I am a Toa, just as you are. To fight me would go against Unity, Duty, and Destiny! Kill the Tagiki for real this time!”

“No way,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m not falling for your Mask of Charisma again. Besides, if you’re evil, then it is my duty as a Toa to defeat you, even if you are a Toa yourself.”

The thief’s shoulders sagged, like he didn’t know what else to do. “Well, let me put it this way. Would you attack a respected and beloved hero, one who is known throughout your culture as a hero of justice? Would you attack one of the legendary Toa Avha, one of the heroes who saved your universe from the darkness all those years ago?”

I faltered a bit at the implication and said, “Wait. You’re a member of the Toa Avha?”

“Impossible,” said Isarot, shaking his head. “All of the Toa Avha went on and became Turaga of their own lands, as the legends said, or died, as in the case of poor Toa Darranas-“

“He died?” asked the thief in amazement. “Is that what they seriously say happened to Toa Darranas? That he died?”

“Of course,” I said, somewhat exasperated. “You should know that, if you’re the original thief. Didn’t Toa Klio, Toa Darranas, and Kolora go after you when you first stole the Time Stone all those years ago? Darranas died trying to get the Stone from you.”

The thief laughed, a rough and old kind of laugh, and said, “That is a huge lie you have been told, it seems, for if Toa Darranas were indeed dead, you wouldn’t be talking to me here right now.”

“Wait,” I said as I realized what he had just said. “Do you mean to say that you’re-“

“Indeed,” said the thief he reached up and took off his hood, revealing an orange Kanohi Casoria, the Mask of Charisma. “You are correct, Kiriah. I am Toa Darranas, Toa of Plasma and deputy leader of the Toa Avha, the one and only, not counting my infinite alternate universe counterparts. Perhaps you’ll realize who you’re dealing with now that you know my true identity.”
 

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#18 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Dec 23 2011 - 09:42 AM

Chapter 17: Explanations

Isarot.


To be honest, I was quite shocked at the revelation of the thief’s true identity. He was the Toa Darranas, the one whom had worked with Turaga Klio 100,000 years ago? It couldn’t be true. He had gone insane and died from using the Olmak, according to Kolora. There was no way this could be the same Darranas Kolora and Klio had known, for that Darranas was long dead.

However, that whitish orange Mask of Charisma the thief wore looked exactly like the one I’d seen Toa Darranas wear in my dream. Now that I thought about it, his voice also sounded similar, if a bit older and rougher than from what I remembered. His eyes were the same shade of red as the Toa Darranas I had seen in the dream as well.

I glanced at Kiriah. Even without telepathy I could tell she was in a state of total shock, based on how wide her eyes were and how far her mouth was hanging open. She appeared very still and unmoving; for a moment I feared she had literally died of shock, but I dismissed the ridiculous notion quickly.

Finally, Kiriah voiced my objections, saying, “You can’t be Toa Darranas.”

“Why can’t I be him?” asked the thief as he surveyed my friend. I didn’t like the way he was looking at her, but he didn’t do anything. “Is it because I am supposed to be dead?”

“Well, yes, you, er, I mean he is,” said Kiriah. “According to Turaga Klio and Baiji Kolora, Toa Darranas went insane one hundred thousand years ago after he, Klio, and Kolora went after the original thief. He then died. That is a fact.”

The thief chuckled, like he was amused by the tale. “I suppose, in the eyes of Klio and Kolora, I did die. But that is inaccurate. I survived, although I suppose the lie can be forgiven since I do not believe either Klio or Kolora knew that I survived.”

“You still can’t be Darranas,” I said. I wanted to get his attention away from Kiriah, since I didn’t like that Mask of Charisma after seeing its true power. “The original thief and Darranas were two different people. The thief died when he fled into a dimension of flames, while Darranas died due to insanity, as Kiriah has already said. If you truly are the original thief and Toa Darranas, then you ought to be dead either way.”

Now Darranas – er, the thief, I mean – looked at us with pity, like we had disappointed him. “Really? Is that what they told you? If they lied to you like that, then perhaps they don’t hate me as much as I thought they do. But I believe I should clarify what really happened one hundred thousand years ago, when I first took the Time Stone away from Tanjo Nui. Would you like to listen?”

“Yes, please,” said Kiriah, nodding vigorously. “Of course, we may not necessarily believe you-“

“You will after you hear this story,” the thief insisted. “Now, where do I begin? Ah, here’s what happened:

“Shortly after the fall of the Kra-Matoran Empire-“

“The what?” I asked, puzzled. “What’s the Kra-Matoran Empire?”

“So they kept that a secret from you, too?” asked the thief in amazement. “I never knew Klio and Kolora were so good at lying and deceiving like that. But what the Kra-Matoran Empire was is unimportant to the story. All I will tell you is that it was a bunch of evildoers seeking to conquer a universe to which they had no right, which my team and I defeated easily and righteously with help from the allies of Mata Nui. Any questions?”

Darranas’ tone made it clear that he didn’t actually want us to ask anything, although I was still intrigued by the Kra-Matoran Empire. Kiriah looked curious but kept quiet just the same.

“Anyway, back to the story,” continued the thief. “Now, shortly after our righteous victory against the Kra-Matoran, Klio and I were searching their main fortress on Shika Nui and discovered a certain Kanohi mask, an Olmak. The same Olmak, in fact, that is currently resting on your face, Kiriah.”

Kiriah reached up and felt the mask she was wearing as she said, “You mean this one?”

“The very same,” the thief said. “Now, as I was saying, Klio and I, after searching the main fortress of the Kra-Matoran, discovered that Olmak in the secret laboratory of Toa Jero, one of the leaders of the Kra-Matoran. We took it with us, for we did not feel comfortable with leaving a Kanohi of such power where anyone could get it. We believed it would be safer with us.“

It was at that moment that I remembered my dream I had had earlier, where Darranas and Klio had searched a secret room and discovered the Olmak. Could he possibly be referring to the same event? If so, then perhaps he really was Darranas after all, but I kept quiet about it, for I was still skeptical.

“And then . . . they contacted me,” said the thief, his voice even more ragged than usual. “They asked me to bring them the Time Stone on Tanjo Nui, to bring it directly to them. They did not tell me why they wanted it, but I felt a strong urge to obey. And so I took the Stone and began my dimension-hopping journey to find them, after I discovered that they had granted me the ability to dimension-hop without the need of a Kanohi such as the Olmak.”

“Who are they?” asked Kiriah, looking at the thief cautiously. “You aren’t being very specific.”

“The Almighty Ones, of course,” the thief replied, as though it was obvious. “The Almighty Ones requested that I bring the Time Stone to them. They contacted me through dreams and visions, until it became clear to me what they wanted.”

“But who are the Almighty Ones?” asked Kiriah, sounding just as puzzled as me. “I remember we came across that name in the Brutaka universe and you told Ehlek he had been ‘touched’ by the Almighty Ones in the last dimension, but we still don’t know who they are.”

“That is because they are just as much of a mystery to me as they are to you,” the thief said as he folded his arms. “All I truly know about them is that they are an ancient, powerful, and – as their name clearly suggests – almighty group of beings who have a greater knowledge of the multiverse and how it works than anyone else. I have searched for answers, for their true identity, but even after one hundred thousand years I have found little-to-nothing. They are very good at covering their tracks, it seems.”

The Almighty Ones didn’t sound realistic to me. Based on his description of them, they had to be gods or at least god-like. If they had so much power and knowledge, then why didn’t they have the entire multiverse under their command? Why weren’t they revered as dictators by the inhabitants of every universe? Surely with that much power they did not just sit around and do nothing all day, right?

I figured he was making it all up, but then I remembered the writing in Brutaka’s study, how it had mentioned the Almighty Ones. Then again, Brutaka had been insane, so maybe he had somehow been having the same delusion as the thief. I suppose that was about as unlikely as the existence of the Almighty Ones themselves, but I still chose to remain skeptical until the thief could offer some definite proof of the Almighty Ones’ existence.

“Anyway, let’s get back to the story,” said the thief. “Before I left, Klio and Kolora discovered what I was doing and they tried to stop me, but ultimately I escaped. Then they got a hold of that Olmak I mentioned earlier, which turned out to have the ability to track the Time Stone. Thus, they followed me across the multiverse, until they finally caught up with me in a universe where the Kra-Matoran ruled.

“Because I was tired of running, I foolishly chose to fight my former friends. When it became clear I was losing, I used my dimension-hopping powers to open a portal to escape. However, one of the two – I cannot remember which – hurled a bolt of whatever elemental power they were using, which struck me in the back. I dropped the Time Stone in that universe – luckily for them, unluckily for me – but I myself, mortally wounded, fell into the portal I had created for myself, most likely to die.

“But, due to the grace of my true patron, I ended up here, in this very dimension, where I rested and healed up for a while. I was far too weak to go after Kolora and Klio, you see, and besides that, I needed time to reevaluate my own personal goals anyway.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“I mean, I had to rethink why I was obeying the commands of a group of beings I didn’t even know,” the thief replied, like I was being stupid. “Once I concluded I had no particular reason for following them, I forsake the Almighty Ones then and there. My new goals were clear to me. After traveling through so many alternate dimensions and seeing so much evil running rampant and free, I decided that the multiverse needed to be saved . . . or perhaps rebuilt from its own rubble.”

“Uh, what does that mean?” asked Kiriah, who sounded a little scared.

“It means I had lost faith in the Almighty Ones,” Darranas answered. “They have so much power and knowledge, yet do nothing to heal of the multiverse of its endless suffering even slightly. They are cowards who do not deserve the kind of power they have.”

“Then who does?” asked Kiriah.

“I do,” Darranas said, pointing at himself. “Although my knowledge of the Almighty Ones themselves is severely limited, I have, through my own research, discovered that a secret storehouse of the Almighty Ones is located in this dimension. I do not know what is hidden inside it, but I feel it might be exactly the power I need.”

“So, you’re going to take that power and use it to save the multiverse or something?” I asked as I nonchalantly reached for my axe. I didn’t like Darranas – if that was indeed who he was – one bit and was going to take him out as soon as I got the chance. “Is that what you plan to do?”

“Why, of course,” Darranas replied. “But I cannot save it in its current state. It is too far gone, too broken . . . too imperfect. Something at some point went wrong a long, long time ago, before your universe was ever even thought of. I will destroy this multiverse with this power of the Almighty Ones and recreate a newer, more peaceful and happier multiverse where evil shall be exterminated before it can ever get the chance to rise again.”

“You’re going to destroy everything, just because it is imperfect?” Kiriah gasped with her hands on her mouth. “That’s crazy! Think of all the innocent lives you will kill if you do that!”

“Innocent?” Darranas snorted. “I do not believe there is a single truly innocent person in the entire multiverse. Everyone has committed evil at some point, including you two. Everything is unclean and flawed. I am not the only one who has thought this, for on my travels not long ago I met a Toa of Water named Tuyet who agreed with my views, but she merely wanted to rule her own universe to fix its problems. Her scope was too narrow, too confining, which is why I sent her on her way home rather than ally with her.”

“The multiverse can’t be that bad,” Kiriah reasoned, looking at me. “Right, Isarot?”

“Yeah, Kiri,” I said, nodding as I looked at Darranas. “The multiverse isn’t entirely beyond redemption, Darranas. There are good people everywhere you look.”

Darranas laughed softly. “Oh, naïve Tagiki, I believe it is beyond redemption. I have visited countless dimensions during my travels. I saw millions of broken and imperfect universes where evil ran amok while good were squashed beneath its feet. I saw dimensions that were dying because a villain made one crucial mistake that resulted in the deaths of billions. I once visited a universe where Toa ruled with an iron fist, but they were no better than the villains they had destroyed. Everything must be reborn, and in order for rebirth to occur there must be destruction. Even our own universe was beyond redemption, after I saw just how cruel and evil the Kra-Matoran really were.”

“And just what gives you the right to use that power to judge the multiverse?” I said. I had my axe now, but the time to attack hadn’t come yet. “You seem to be just as corrupt and imperfect as those you wish to see destroyed.”

“Exactly, Isarot,” said Darranas as he spread his arms, like I’d just gotten to the point. “I know I am imperfect. However, I also know that I am far more noble and respectable than most beings in the multiverse. I know that, in order for me to achieve the perfection that would allow me to transcend even the Almighty Ones, I must steal their power. That is why I have been stealing the Time Stones, for they are the key to everything.”

“Key to everything?” asked Kiriah. “What’s that mean?”

“It means that the Time Stones can unlock the door to the storehouse of the Almighty Ones,” Darranas answered. “The Time Stone is a literal key, in this sense, and in a figurative sense it is the key to the future of the entire multiverse.”

“But why do you need more than one?” asked Kiriah, tilting her head in confusion.

Darranas smiled evilly as he said, “Allow me to show you both this storehouse of the Almighty Ones. I believe it will answer your question.”

He turned around and, raising both hands slowly through the air, said to nothing, “Arise, warehouse of the Almighty Ones! Show these fools the fruits of over one hundred thousand years of hard, dedicated work!”

At first, I figured he was insane, because he appeared to be talking to nothing at all. In fact, I was just about to call him crazy before a large tremor shook the ground beneath us. I nearly fell over, but managed to regain my balance. Kiriah, predictably, fell over as soon it was felt, but Darranas stood completely still, like the ground wasn’t shaking at all.

“Where’s that shaking coming from?” Kiriah said, looking around the area wildly. “Is the entire island going to fall apart?”

“No,” Darranas replied, shaking his head slowly. “Not until I recreate everything anew, it won’t.”

I, too, was looking around everywhere, but it was difficult to see anything in the darkness. All I could hear was the splashing of the waves, the trembling of the earth, and the moans of the disembodied voices that seemed to grow ever louder as time went on.

I braced myself for whatever was going to happen next, but I was not prepared for a huge dome-like structure rising slowly, majestically out of the ocean. It wasn’t just big; it was gigantic. If I had to estimate its size, I’d say it was about five hundred stories tall, perhaps larger, for it soon rose above the clouds. No wonder the ground was shaking; anything that large was bound to cause an earthquake.

Once it stopped rising, there was nothing but darkness and silence for a brief period until – without warning – a huge flash of bluish light blinded me. I raised my hands to protect my eyes from being permanently damaged until the hue faded away, allowing me to lower my hands and see what had happened.

“What . . . is that?” Kiriah asked as she pointed with a finger that trembled as much as the island itself. “What is-“

“It is the storehouse of the Almighty Ones,” Darranas answered calmly, without looking at her. “The true power lies beyond that door.”

He gestured at the immense structure, which towered above our tiny island like a giant. The only part of the building that I could see was what appeared to be the front gate, which was studded with what looked like billions of light stones all giving off that same blue glow that all light stones do. They lit up the area well, but I did not see anything on the island that I had not already noticed before, besides what looked like the ruins of a temple on a plateau below us.

Darranas turned around and, gesturing behind him, said, “Look at this. Can either of you tell me what is covering that door?”

“Light stones,” Kiriah breathed, her eyes fixated on the storehouse entrance. “Millions – perhaps even billions – of light stones.”

“Not light stones,” said Darranas, shaking his head. “Time Stones. Billions of them.”

“Billions of Time Stones?” I gasped, looking at the doorway in shock. “Where’d you-“

“There are an infinite number of universes out there, Isarot,” said Darranas, spreading his hands again. “And almost every universe has a Stone of its own. Thus, in order for me to unlock the door, I had to steal each and every one of these Stones from a different universe.”

“But why is the Time Stone the key?” asked Kiriah. “I mean, that seems awfully convenient to me, that the Time Stone would ultimately end up becoming the key to ultimate power.”

“That is because the Time Stone was not created by the Great Beings, as the peoples of Tanjo Nui believed,” Darranas said as he dug in his cloak pockets for something. “It was created by the Almighty Ones. Indeed, it is probably the best possible security method ever devised by any being in the whole multiverse.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Whenever you make a decision in a universe, multiple other dimensions pop into existence featuring what would have happened if you had made a different choice,” the Toa of Plasma answered. “Thus, the Almighty Ones knew that, by simply placing the Time Stone in even just one universe, a million more would come into existence in a million other new universes. And then countless more dimensions would spring into existence from those dimensions, making even more copies of the Time Stone. As a result, it is nearly impossible to gather the exact amount needed to open this storehouse, for there are so many and dimension-hopping is so difficult that it would be almost impractical to try. I doubt even the Almighty Ones themselves have managed to open the storehouse since the day they locked it up.”

Then Darranas pulled a couple of things out of his pocket: Two Time Stones. I didn’t know if one of them was ours, since it was impossible to tell at this distance. I glance at Kiriah and could tell purely by her expression that Darranas was indeed holding ours, although I didn’t ask her which one belonged to us.

“These are the last two keys,” said Darranas, his breathing heavy. “I have been traveling all over the multiverse, searching every universe I’ve came across. Although I was temporarily delayed by the loss of one of these Time Stones in the Brutaka universe, all of my hard work is now nearly completed. I just need to fit these two into the door and the multiverse shall be saved.”

At the sound of those words, the voices all around us began moaning and whispering louder, but their words were still unintelligible. All it did was make me feel more than a little frightened, even though there was nothing to be afraid of. It wasn’t like the voices could harm me, after all, but I looked over my shoulder anyway just to be sure there wasn’t someone lurking in the darkness behind me, waiting to strike me down when I least expected it.

“Oh, be quiet!” Darranas snapped at the voices, like they were obnoxious little children. “No one wants to listen to your moans!”

“Who are they?” asked Kiriah as she, like me, glanced over her shoulder. “Where are the voices coming from?”

“As I have already explained, they belong to the villains who lived their lives wrongly,” Darranas explained, glaring contemptuously into the shadows. “When they died, their spirits were drawn here, to this dimension. I do not know exactly how it works, but it seems to me that this is where villains go to pay their debts.”

“Are we in the afterlife, then?” Kiriah asked fearfully.

“No,” Darranas said as he shook his head again. “Not necessarily. I would say it is a place a dead person goes who is given a . . . second chance, so to speak. Once here, they feel the pain, wrath, and torment that they exacted upon the people they knew in their lives. In order to move on, they must experience several years of retribution. It is absolutely glorious, which is why I am going to spare this particular dimension out of all the universes in the multiverse once I achieve full power.”

“Glorious? It sounds awful,” said Kiriah as she looked around the area. “Even going to Karzahni or some other horrible place would be better than this.”

“It is glorious because justice is served to those who did not feel its wrath and punishment in life,” said Darranas, his voice hard. “Those villains such as the Shodios can have their just deserts. It is exactly what I want to remake the universe as; a place where justice is administered as soon as the evil deed is carried out. Once I am in charge, not even one little white lie will ever escape punishment.”

“So, basically, you’re going to control everyone through fear of death?” I asked bitterly. I gestured at this place and said, “This place is already bad enough. If people live with fear that even the tiniest wrong thing they do will be punished severely, then that is not true freedom or happiness.”

“There is no need for freedom or happiness in a world full of pure, good people,” Darranas responded coldly. “All free will has ever done is cause evil and pain, anyway. Once I recreate the universe, there shall be no imperfections or evil thoughts or deeds. All shall be one; all shall be perfect.”

“Doesn’t sound perfect to me,” I said, staring him full on in the eyes. “Sounds like a dictatorship, except a million times worse.”

“It is only just,” Darranas insisted as he turned around. “After all, if I become superior to every other being in the multiverse, then it is only logical that I should be allowed to recreate it however I wish. The insignificant opinions and ideas ants like you hold will count for nothing, for I could wipe you both out of existence like you never existed in the first place once I have achieved total power.”

He raised both of the Time Stones which he held. As slowly and majestically as the storehouse had risen, the Time Stones flew out of his hands and fit themselves into niches in the titanic door, holes so small I couldn’t even tell which ones had been in Darranas’ hands anymore.

Then Darranas shouted, “Now, open to your new master! Allow me to devour the power of the Almighty Ones so I may right what went wrong so many, many eons ago!”

At first, the door looked just about the same as always. Then it momentarily lit up brightly and began to slowly creak open. The miserable voices all around us got louder and actually sounded frightened, like they knew something bad was about to happen. The ground beneath us shook again, except even worse than before, like the Great Spirit himself was awakening. This time, even I hit the ground, but Darranas kept his balance.

Finally, after several long minutes of rumbling and trembling, the twin doors stood wide open, but I could not see much inside because it was so dark. I watched as Darranas – his eyes fixated solely on the entrance – began walking over a huge metal bridge that had extended from the mouth of the storehouse to where he stood, allowing him to cross the ocean without having to swim.

“Hey, get back here!” I shouted as I rose hastily to my feet and raised both hands. “Don’t think you can get away from us!”

I fired twin beams of ice and light at Darranas and they struck him dead on the back. However, he didn’t seem to notice my attacks, for he kept on walking, totally unaffected, until he finally disappeared in the shadows of the entrance. I could no longer see him, so I knew trying to shoot him would be pointless.

Now there was total silence again, save for the voices of the ghosts that seemed to have calmed down now, although they still sounded nervous. I glanced at Kiriah, who was on her feet and leaning against a boulder, looking quite tired and apprehensive.

She looked into my eyes and asked, “So, um, what do we do now, Isarot?”

I didn’t want to have to say it, but I said anyway, “Well, the Time Stone is safe where it is for now. I think . . . I think we’re going to have to go after Darranas. If there is indeed ultimate power in there and if he decides to use it exactly the way he said he would . . . it would be wrong of us to let him succeed.”

I would like to say, in my defense, that I was not against saving the multiverse. My problem is that I wished we could simply take the Time Stone and go home, rather than risk our lives fighting some crazy old ex-Toa. The entire multiverse rested upon our shoulders now. There was always the possibility Darranas was wrong, that the storehouse did not hold any power in it, or even if it did, that he might not actually get it.

However, I realized the chances of him finding and using that power were far higher than him not finding it. We were the only people in any position to stop him from utterly destroying all of reality. I didn’t care if he thinks he can create a ‘perfect’ multiverse. If he’s the one ruling it, it would never be truly perfect. He had no right to judge beings just as imperfect as himself.

But, as I looked at Kiriah, who seemed frightened, I realized that perhaps not both of us had to go after Darranas. I didn’t want her harmed or possibly killed, not if I could keep her out of harm’s way.

So I said to Kiriah, “Kiri, I have an idea. Take the Time Stone and use the Olmak to get out of here. I’ll go after Darranas.”

Unsurprisingly, Kiriah said indignantly, “What? You just said we have to stop him. Not you. I’m . . . I’m going with you. I wouldn’t be a real Toa if I didn’t help, would I?”

“But you do realize that we could both die, right?” I said. “We could die brutally at his hands if he gets that power.”

“Sorry, Isarot, I don’t want to go back home without you,” said Kiriah, shaking her head. “Unity is one of the Three Virtues, after all. And besides, even if I did take the Time Stone, it would all be in vain if you failed to stop him anyway. I think you need all the help you can get, personally, especially against someone like Darranas.”

“So you’re not afraid?” I asked as Kiriah pushed herself away from the boulder and walked toward me.

“Of course I am,” Kiriah replied as she drew her sword. “I am afraid of Darranas. I am afraid of failing. I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of you dying. I am afraid of both of us dying. But I’ve been scared plenty of times during our journey and yet I didn’t run away once, did I? Why should I do that now just because you told me to?"

I smiled. Kiriah could have a pretty thick skull and be very absentminded at times, but one thing I liked about her was how she was capable of making the right choices when the time came. I still feared that perhaps her absentmindedness might get her killed in this battle, though, but I hoped it would not.

So, raising my axe, I turned to face the looming doorway and said, “Let’s do this, then. We’ll make sure Darranas doesn’t destroy our multiverse, at least not without a fight.”

I had to admit I was secretly afraid myself, but I realized we had no choice in the matter. We couldn’t run now, not unless we wanted Darranas to destroy everything we loved. We couldn’t let him do that.

And with these thoughts I entered the storehouse with Kiriah by my side, ready to save the multiverse, as cliché as that may sound.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:56 PM.

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#19 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Dec 30 2011 - 10:07 AM

Chapter 18: The Final Battle

Kiriah.


Isarot and I entered the storehouse of the Almighty Ones as silently as we could. Although it was extremely dark, Isarot was not using his light powers. I didn’t need telepathy to know that he did not want Darranas to notice us, although considering how obsessed Darranas had been with this place we probably could have invited the entire multiverse here for a party and he still wouldn’t have noticed us.

Darranas . . . something about his true nature made me feel weird. I had heard stories about how great a Toa he had been all of my life, ever since I was a Matoran. He almost always outshined the rest of the Toa Avha in the stories, so much that I thought at one point that he had been leader of the whole team rather than just deputy leader. I’d heard how he had fought bravely and heroically against the forces of evil, defended innocent Matoran from harm, and was in general a pretty awesome guy. He hadn’t necessarily been my idol, but I had held him in high esteem because of the stories.

Yet now, I didn’t know what to feel. I was horrified at what the real Darranas was trying to do. He was so far removed from the stories that I wondered if there had been another Toa of Plasma who had gotten confused with him or something. I wondered why Turaga Klio and Baiji Kolora had made him out to be a hero who had died in the line of duty rather than as a villain who sought to cause untold chaos in the multiverse.

I felt stupid for believing all of those stories, but I guess that I had no reason to disbelieve them until just now. Still, I felt foolish. More importantly, I decided I would ask Klio and Kolora why they wanted to idolize such a person when they had known the truth about him. I could not think of any justification for that, not even one.

“Kiriah!” whispered Isarot suddenly.

“What?” I said, stopping quickly to listen. “Did you see or hear something?”

“No,” said Isarot. I could tell he was frowning even in the darkness. “I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Remember, we’re facing a guy who could melt us into slag if we aren’t careful. Get your head out of the clouds and become fully aware of your surroundings. Understand?”

“Yes,” I said, somewhat annoyed, even though I did understand his concerns. “I was just thinking about Darranas, how different he is from the old tales I used to hear about when I was a Matoran.”

“Yes, he is different, I agree,” said Isarot quietly as he looked into the shadows. “But now’s not the time to ponder about that. If we don’t move fast, everything will be destroyed.”

I nodded, and then we continued, this time moving a little faster. My mind would stray back to the subject of Darranas every now and then, but generally I forced myself to ignore those thoughts and focus on my surroundings instead.

It seemed like forever, but eventually we reached a large metal door. It looked like it had been locked pretty tightly, but a certain someone had apparently melted a hole through it. The hole was big enough for me to slip through, but Isarot had to chip away at the edges a bit to enlarge the hole so he could fit through.

Once Isarot got through, we traveled a few more feet before we emerged into a huge room, much bigger than any chamber I had ever seen in my life. It could have probably held an entire city in it, maybe a whole island even. The ceiling was so high that I couldn’t even see it, while the walls were so far apart that they weren’t visible to our eyes. It was so immense that I thought I saw a couple of clouds hovering near the top, but I figured my eyes were playing tricks on me, for there was no way clouds could form inside an artificial structure like this.

You know I said it looked like you fit an entire city in it? Well, there seemed to be a city all right, except it was a city of crates and boxes piled high on top of each other or on shelves that filled the place. The containers all appeared to be covered in extremely thick layers of dust, as though no one had moved or touched them for a thousand years. There were hundreds of thousands of aisles between the huge stacks and shelves, but they went on for so long it was impossible to see the end of them. Long catwalks stretched above us from one end of the storehouse to the other, though they were so lengthy it was impossible to see where they ended or where they began.

“Wow,” I said, staring at the room in awe. “I mean that’s just . . . I don’t know how to describe it.”

“Admire the scenery later,” Isarot said as his eyes swept the room or at least the small portion of it that we could see. “I don’t see Darranas anywhere, but he’s here somewhere. Let’s keep searching. We’re bound to find him eventually.”

“Can you be so sure of that?” I asked incredulously as we began walking down the first aisle that was before us. “This place is so huge we could probably walk around for days and days and never see him even once, probably.”

“If that’s how long it’ll take, so be it,” said Isarot as he stared down an aisle. “He might get lost like us. Therefore, he is less likely to find the power of the Almighty Ones, which gives us more time to track him down and stop him before he can destroy even one universe.”

“I hope so,” I said.

So for what felt like hours we wandered up and down the many aisles of the Almighty Ones. It was eerie how quiet the place was, so to distract myself from the quietness I tried to read the labels on the boxes. Unfortunately, they were written in a language I did not understand. I asked Isarot if they were in a language he knew of, but he merely shook his head and told me to get my priorities straight. I was a bit annoyed at how he snapped at me, but I figured he was right. With a crazy megalomaniac bent on destroying the multiverse lurking around here, it would probably be wise to keep my eyes open for any sign of Darranas rather than trying to decipher the labels of a bunch of mysterious crates.

So I began thinking about what was inside the boxes. There must have been a lot of things of varying sizes, for some boxes were about as small as the Time Stone, while others looked large enough to fit an entire team of Toa comfortably with room for another Toa or two. I wished I had a Kanohi Akaku, for then I would be able to examine the contents of each and every one of these boxes to my pleasure.

As we rounded a corner, I noticed something at the end of the aisle. I saw what looked like a box that had been knocked over, its lid off and contents spilled all over the floor. Curious, I quickly walked over to it, Isarot close behind.

“Hey, Kiri,” Isarot said warningly as we walked. “Don’t just walk over there and start picking through that stuff. Darranas could be nearby and-“

“What are these?” I said, bending over to pick up one of the tablets.

I tried to read the stone tablet, but it was nigh impossible because it was written in that same strange language as the labels were. Only one word was decipherable: Masqouth. It looked fairly recent, like someone had just written it just a few minutes ago. If I remembered correctly, ‘Masqouth’ was a Matoran word that meant ‘the echo that lives,’ but I had no idea why that word was here. There was a faded drawing of some kind of being beneath the word, but it was too old and I could barely make out any details on it, except the face of the being appeared to be entirely featureless. Even on this carving it was pretty creepy in my opinion.

“Do you think Darranas was looking through these?” I asked as I discarded the unreadable tablet.

“That would explain why they are just sitting here open like this,” said Isarot as he looked around. “But it doesn’t matter. If this is Darranas’ handiwork, then Darranas himself must be close by. We’ll have to be very careful if that is the case.”

We journeyed through the huge storehouse for . . . I don’t know how long, it was impossible to tell here. All I could tell was that we were lost. It occurred to me that even if we did somehow manage to find and defeat Darranas, how would we ever find our way out? Would we end up being lost in here forever and die without anyone knowing that we had just saved the entire multiverse? Or would the guys who owned this place – those Almighty Ones that Darranas mentioned – eventually discover that someone had broken in and come to investigate? Where were the Almighty Ones anyway? And why weren’t they stopping Darranas, not us?

Isarot abruptly stopped and held out his hand to halt me. He had his head tilted to one side, like he heard something.

“What is it?” I asked in a whisper. “Do you hear something?”

“Yeah,” said Isarot, nodding. “I hear footsteps, not far from us, but not too close, either. They’re heading in the opposite direction.” Isarot looked at me curiously and asked, “By the way, is there any reason you haven’t been able to locate Darranas’ mind yet?”

“He has it shielded,” I answered, frustrated. “Somehow he’s developed a mental shield so powerful I can’t even find it. Otherwise, I think I would have found him by now.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I have advanced hearing, then,” Isarot replied as we began walking in the direction of the footsteps. “Otherwise we’d never find Darranas.”

All the while we could not see the owner of the footsteps. We could only hear the sounds, which kept a steady progress north. (I think it was north, anyway. My sense of direction seemed messed up in here for some reason.)

We wounded our way through several dozen aisles of shelves and boxes until finally we reached a wide open area where there were no boxes or shelves. It was a circular place, with many strange markings on the ground. The markings appeared to be part of some kind experiment, but again I couldn’t decipher them because they were written in that unknown language everything else was written in.

Glancing up, I noticed what looked like a giant cannon hanging from the ceiling, aiming right at the middle. It was huge, so large that I thought it must be capable of blowing an entire continent to pieces. Was it a weapon? If so, it looked quite nasty. I decided to remain out of its line of fire, even if it wasn’t active at the moment.

It felt good to be in such a wide open place, as I had been beginning to feel claustrophobic with all of these boxes and shelves everywhere. I felt like I could actually breathe and for a moment I forgot we were tracking down a merciless, justice-driven Toa who could benefit from some therapy.

“That’s odd,” Isarot commented, looking around the area. “I don’t hear the footsteps anymore. They stopped when we got here.”

Snapping out of my relief, I looked at Isarot in fear and asked, “Does that mean Darranas has found what he is looking for?”

Isarot shrugged. “That, or he somehow figured out we were following him and is watching us from the shadows to see what our next move will be.”

“Or perhaps both,” said Darranas’ voice from somewhere, catching us both by surprise. The Toa of Plasma, still clothed in his cloak, walked out from behind a huge crate, arms at his sides as he approached the center of the circle.

“Ugh, do you have to keep appearing when we least expect it?” I complained. “I mean, seriously, it’s getting so old and cliché by now that-“

“Kiriah, be quiet,” Isarot snapped as ice energy began gathering at the tip of his axe. “This is not the time to complain about his lack of imagination. We’ve gotta beat him before he can get that power and destroy the entire multiverse.”

Darranas stopped in the very center of the circle – right underneath the canon, I might add, which I thought was stupid even if it was off – and then looked at us not with hate, but with curious eyes.

“Why do you wish to stop me?” asked Darranas. “What wrong have I committed that has caused you to fight against me?”

“We’re fighting against you because of what you’re about to do,” Isarot said, raising his axe. “You’re going to destroy this multiverse and everyone we love in it, just because you don’t like it the way it is. That’s absolutely evil, even if you do plan to recreate it.”

“But surely you must agree that the entire multiverse is beyond redemption,” said Darranas, folding his arms. “You saw with your own eyes the corruption inherit in the Republic that sprung up after King Brutaka’s untimely death. You saw how Ehlek had abandoned his own kingdom simply to satisfy his own selfish desires. Did you not know that, shortly after Ehlek went on his voyage to World’s End, the other five Barraki attempted to conquer his unprotected territory and as a result ended up destroying one another, creating total universe-wide anarchy? I myself have witnessed universes even worse off than those. Wouldn’t it be better if we could erase it all and try again, Isarot?”

I glanced at Isarot, who seemed to be struggling with something. He replied, “Well, I guess maybe you’re right, Darranas. I mean, the multiverse is a rotten place. Maybe it would be better off destroyed.”

At first, I was puzzled as to why Isarot was agreeing with Darranas. That made no sense to me, since Isarot had been extremely opposed to Darranas and his ideals right from the start. Then I realized Darranas must be using his Mask of Charisma on Isarot, which was the only logical explanation for this sudden turn of events. I only vaguely recalled how I had been when Darranas had tried to influence me with his Kanohi and I realized that, if Darranas managed to get Isarot totally devoted to him, I’d be in a very bad spot.

So, without ever hesitating, I flung a huge crate at Darranas with my telekinesis powers. Taken by surprise, Darranas raised his hands and unleashed a devastating burst of plasma that totally annihilated the box. It appeared to break his concentration, for Isarot seemed to be back to his normal self again.

“You can’t fool us with that mask of yours, Darranas,” I told the Toa of Plasma, who was glaring at me like he was picturing how my head would look as a melted stump. “If you try that stunt again, we’ll-“

“Kill you dead,” Isarot finished for me. The energy at the tip of his axe seemed to be growing larger and I knew he was about to unleash it any minute now. “Not that we ever planned on sparing you, but-“

“But you still have not answered my question,” Darranas said. “Why are you against me? What makes you fight for such an imperfect multiverse? Can’t you see how much better off everyone will be dead? Don’t you know that I could remake it as a peaceful and happy place, where no evil shall ever live?”

“We’re not against that,” Isarot answered. “I think Kiriah and I would both like a multiverse where there was no evil, pain, suffering or any other bad thing. However, unlike you, we realize that the destruction of the multiverse isn’t going to solve the problem of evil.”

“Why is that?” asked Darranas.

“Because if you’re the one ruling it, then the problem of evil will always survive,” I said. I hadn’t read Isarot’s mind, but that seemed to be his line of logic. “You’re just as imperfect as everyone else and gaining immense power won’t make you any more perfect than us.”

Now Darranas looked angry. “But I am the only one fit to rule the multiverse! If no one else will do something about it – if not even the Almighty Ones themselves will act – then I must do it. I have waited one hundred thousand years to solve the problem of evil once and for all, and if you two decide to stand in my way, then I must brand you friends and lovers of evil that must be vanquished. You are lucky; you two shall be the first to die in the new multiversal order!”

Darranas slammed his foot down on the ground, sending a wave of plasma hurtling toward us. Isarot unleashed a blast of ultra cold ice that collided with the plasma and exploded, creating a haze of heat and cold that felt unreal. I could see Darranas through the haze and charged him, just as Isarot did the same by my side.

Darranas shot more plasma bolts at us, but I deflected them with my telekinesis. I slashed at Darranas, but he deflected my sword with his own shining silver blade. Isarot swung his axe at the thief, but Darranas narrowly dodged it. With surprising strength he pushed me back, sending me stumbling backwards as Isarot tried to cut him down again.

Upon regaining my balance, I dashed back into the fight. It was two on one, me and Isarot versus Darranas. Logically we should have been winning, but Darranas was so skilled with a sword that he was capable of blocking both of us with ease. I swung my sword and Isarot slashed with his axe, but Darranas’ own blade somehow managed to block both at the same time, even if we attacked from two different angles. It almost seemed like Darranas’ weapon was capable of growing in length, for sometimes it looked longer than it should be.

“You are both arrogant,” Darranas snapped as he blocked both of our attacks again. “I have been fighting for one hundred thousand years against many villains that used a variety of different weapons and powers to try to kill me. Do you honestly think you can defeat me when they failed?”

“No, we don’t think that,” Isarot replied, swiping at the Toa of Plasma with his axe. “We know that we can beat you.”

“We hope so, anyway,” I added as I jumped back to avoid a blow from Darranas. “We’re not that weak, you know.”

Isarot, too, avoided another attack by Darranas and, lifting up his free hand, countered with a bolt of light that struck Darranas directly in the chest. I thought it would be enough to defeat him, but Darranas merely staggered backwards, shook his head, and then lunged at Isarot with extreme speed and ferocity.

Darranas raised his sword and brought it down on Isarot, who caught it with his axe. I tried to help, but Darranas unleashed a burst of plasma at me that caused me to jump back to avoid being melted into slag. Then, with his free hand, Darranas reached out and grabbed Isarot’s wrist. At first I wondered what he hoped to accomplish, until I saw plasma explode from his hand and cover Isarot’s wrist.

Isarot screamed as he wrenched his wrist out of Darranas’ hand, which looked like it was melting. He dropped his axe and gripped his melting wrist with his other hand.

This gave Darranas exactly the moment he was looking for. He ran forward and stabbed his sword straight through Isarot’s stomach until the tip of the blade pierced my friend’s back.

“No!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as Darranas, smirking, withdrew the now-bloody sword from Isarot’s stomach. “Isarot! No!”

To add insult to injury, Darranas kicked Isarot in his wound, right where he’d stabbed my friend, causing Isarot to shout in pain as he hit the ground. Isarot was barely moving as he lay there in an ever-widening pool of his own blood, not screaming, although he didn’t need to yell to make it clear how much pain he was in.

“You monster!” I said as I leapt over the plasma-charred floor and stopped in front of Darranas. “I’ll . . . I’ll kill you for hurting my friend!”

I swung my sword with all of my might, but Darranas easily caught it with his own blade. I was putting all of my strength into pushing him back, but he didn’t appear to be even trying to hold me back as he smiled.

“Your friend will be the first to die in the new world order,” Darranas told me triumphantly. “And soon, you too shall join him. This is what happens to those who fight against the powers of justice and righteousness; they die in vain, trying to further their own selfish agendas.”

“Selfish, am I?” I growled as I swiped at him with my sword, but he just blocked it again. “I am selfish because I love my best friend in the whole multiverse? I am selfish because I don’t want to see everyone I love die just because you deem them imperfect? Is that what you’d call selfish?”

“Stupid villain, don’t you understand?” Darranas responded fiercely as he swung his sword. “It is because I care about this multiverse that I wish to see it perfected. It is imperfect as it is, but if I can recreate it, there shall be no more evil anywhere in any universe.”

“At the cost of countless lives?” I asked angrily as I blocked one of his attacks. “To me, it sounds like you’re the evil one here!”

Now that really ticked him off, for Darranas’ face contorted with rage like I’d never seen before in any being’s face. He snarled, “Evil? You are calling me evil? How dare you! You are nothing but a witch who must be put to death!”

Darranas swept my legs out from underneath me, causing me to fall. I hit the ground hard and looked up in time to see Darranas’ sword coming straight toward me. Without thinking I used my telekinesis to stop the blade midway and I rolled several feet away from him. Then I allowed his sword to strike the ground. He’d thrust with his sword so hard that the tip of his blade actually snapped off upon connecting with the stone floor. An ugly crack ran the length of his blade, which probably wasn’t too good for him.

“Curse you, villain!” Darranas roared as he lifted up what was left of his sword. “This sword was given to me by my patron himself!”

“I’m so sorry I broke your favorite toy,” I said. “I’ll try to be gentler next time you let me play with your stuff.”

Yelling in rage, Darranas hurled his broken blade at me. I easily sidestepped it, but the sword had been a distraction, for the next moment Darranas came charging at me and he punched me in the face as hard as he could.

It wasn’t just any old punch, though. He seemed to have charged elemental energy through it, for I felt severe heat as his fist connected with my mask. Crying out in pain, I stumbled backwards and dropped my sword. The punch had left am melting gap in my mask and the only way to relieve myself of the pain was to rip the Kanohi off of my face and throw it aside, which I did with haste.

But that was a mistake, for as soon as the Olmak left my face I suddenly felt weaker. I was so stupid. I had forgotten that Toa are at half strength without their masks. And now all of the blows and pain I had taken up to this point seemed to have finally caught up with me, for I was too exhausted to do anything. I fell to my knees, struggling to keep my consciousness – or perhaps my life – from slipping away. I couldn’t afford to fall unconscious, not in this battle.

I looked up and saw Darranas standing not far from me, plasma energy swirling in the palms of his hands. He looked mad, crazy, and triumphant. I was barely aware of anything now. All I knew was that Darranas was about to kill me, here and now, and there was nothing I could do about it.

“You fought valiantly for a being as evil as yourself,” Darranas said as his plasma grew hotter and hotter. “If you had only rejected your Tagiki friend and joined me, I would have spared you and perhaps even shared some of the ultimate power I will soon possess. But because your heart loves evil, you have chosen to die.”

“Even if you . . . even if you did spare me, I would never want any power from you,” I snapped, breathing heavily. I remembered the Mask of Healing I had in my backpack, but I was too weak to pull it out and put it on. “I don’t care if you think I’m evil, either. I’m doing what I think is right, and so was Isarot.”

“But so am I,” Darranas insisted. “Except, of course, I am right. Villains always think that they are doing the right thing, when in fact they are simply making things worse for everyone, perhaps including themselves. It is that sort of evil I fight against, as well as every other form evil takes. It is my duty as a Toa to save the multiverse from itself.”

My mind was wandering again – a dangerous thing here, but because of my fatigue it seemed to be wandering more than usual. I noticed Darranas’ broken sword lay nearby. It still looked sharp, even when broken. It might even be strong enough to . . .

I had an idea, but I had to distract Darranas first in order for it to work.

“You’re . . . you’re not a Toa,” I replied defiantly, my eyes constantly darting between him and his discarded sword. “Toa don’t save things by destroying them. They save them by defending them from evil beings such as you.”

Darranas snorted. “Again you accuse me of being evil. That is simply wrong, you villainous excuse for a Toa. I am a true Toa because, unlike you, I have recognized the true threat to the multiverse and have gone to meet it head on. This is the only way to destroy evil once and for all.”

“You might destroy evil beings, but you’ll also destroy a lot of good people, too,” I answered. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Darranas’ sword beginning to float due to my telekinesis. Weak though I was, I figured I had enough elemental power left to stop Darranas for good. “Besides, it is impossible to create a universe of beings that are good all the time. You can’t force people to be things they aren’t, at least not always.”

“That is why I will always be enforcing order in my new multiverse,” Darranas answered. “Unlike the Almighty Ones, I shall constantly watch over my people. I shall punish any evil deed as soon as it is committed. People will be so afraid of sparking my anger that no one will do even one bad thing.”

“That doesn’t sound like a perfect multiverse,” I remarked. Darranas’ sword had stopped shaking in midair; I held it steady now. All I would have to do now is aim and thrust as hard as I could. “It sounds like a multiverse-wide dictatorship. No one will do good things because they genuinely want to; they will only do good things because they don’t want you to kill them.”

“It doesn’t matter to me whether they do good because they want to or not,” Darranas said, his cold tone sharply contrasting with the hot plasma forming in his hands. “If they follow my ordinances and guidance perfectly, then they will live happily and without fear of death or evil.”

I was extremely skeptical about that, but I said nothing. The sword was at just the right height and now, without warning, I sent Darranas’ sword flying straight through the air toward him. It wasn’t as fast as it normally would be, but it was quick enough that Darranas only had time to turn around and say, “What the-“

The blade, although broken at the tip, went straight through his mask. Blood exploded out of the back of his head as the sword pierced his skull and brain. He didn’t even cry out as he fell over backwards, the plasma energy in his hands dissipating as he hit the floor.

Gasping for breath, I reached in my pack and pulled out the Mask of Healing. I slapped it on and immediately felt my energy go back to its normal level, although I still felt tired and weary after so much fighting.

Then I looked at Darranas’ cold, unmoving corpse. I admit, it was a gruesome way to go and I regretted that I had to be the one to do it. As a general rule Toa weren’t supposed to kill, especially in such a horrible way. I wondered if I still counted as a Toa or not – particularly after killing a fellow Toa – but I forgot about that, for I heard a loud groan coming from somewhere nearby.

Oh, crud. I had completely forgotten that Isarot lay dying in a pool of his own blood. Stupid me, I thought as I hastily got to my feet, worrying about whether I was still a Toa or not. My best friend was dying and I was worrying about my own status when there was no one around to criticize me! Was I messed up or what?

I hurried over to where Isarot lay as quickly as I could and turned him over. He looked horrible; his armor was covered in blood; there was a gaping wound in his stomach that was impossible to ignore; and his right wrist looked half melted. I couldn’t even imagine the kind of pain Isarot was in right then, nor did I have any idea how he was still alive.

“Isarot . . .” I said, tears forming in my eyes as I held him in my arms. “Don’t die . . .”

Isarot looked at me with half-closed eyes. I could tell he was trying to hide his pain and be tough, like he always does, but it was easy to tell that, no matter how tough he may have looked, that pain was as real as anything.

“Kiriah . . .” Isarot gasped, with one hand on his stomach. “I am afraid . . . I am afraid I don’t have much longer, Kiriah.”

“Don’t say that,” I said tremblingly, holding him tighter. “Look, I’ve got the Mask of Healing. Maybe I can heal you. Maybe I can . . . maybe I can save your life.”

“Not possible,” Isarot replied weakly as he rested his other hand on my arm. “Already, I can feel my life slipping away. I doubt even the Mask of Healing could fix me up.”

“Let me try,” I said as I activated the mask. “Even if I can’t save you, I can at least alleviate your suffering a little.”

I set to work, but my inexperience with the Mask of Healing made it difficult to do anything. I healed his wrist somewhat, but it was impossible for me to heal the gaping wound in his stomach. No matter how hard I tried, the wound was still open, which frustrated me beyond measure. It did close a little, but not enough to halt the flow of blood.

“What’s the point of a Mask of Healing if you can’t use it to save somebody’s life?” I muttered, frustrated, as tears began streaming out of my eyes. “Seriously, what is the point?”

“Kiriah, I thank you for . . . for trying to help me,” Isarot said. He breathed deeply and continued, “But I believe my life is coming to an end. No one can reverse death once it overtakes its victims.”

“But it’s not fair,” I said. “Why should you die? You were always the one trying to get the Time Stone, and you were also the one who sought to stop Darranas when we learned what he was trying to do. You should be allowed to live a long, happy life now that you’ve completed what we set out to do.”

“I do not see it as . . .” Isarot coughed loudly and grabbed his wound and for a moment I thought he wasn’t able to continue. But then he said weakly, “I do not see it as unfair, myself.”

“What?” I said in disbelief. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You’re dying just as we completed our mission! The mission you risked your life several dozen times to complete. If you can’t live to enjoy the fruit of your success, then what was the point?”

“Kiriah,” said Isarot, gently though firmly, “That is the . . . that is the point. I have completed what I was supposed to do . . . and now, I can peacefully die. I don’t need to enjoy . . . I don’t need to enjoy the fruits of my labors. You and everyone else can. I don’t need to. I can go on knowing I have completed my destiny.”

I wanted to argue with him, tell him he was wrong, that he shouldn’t die, that there was no reason he should die . . . but I knew, deep down, he was right. He had finished the job, stuck with it to the very end, and now was ready to depart. He was going to die protecting the Time Stone, which I knew was what he wanted. There was no way I could save him, especially since the Mask of Healing didn’t work.

That didn’t mean I liked it, though. I wished Isarot would stay alive a little while longer. He was my best friend – my only true friend – and he had saved my life several times during this journey, and vice versa. I just couldn’t accept that he was dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

So I said to him, “All right, Isarot. You’re right. I know this is how you would have wanted to go, so you really can die peacefully.”

“I’m lucky,” Isarot said softly. I noticed his heartlight was fading in and out. Any minute now it would go out for good. “Few people die happily like me. It is the best way to die, knowing that one has completed everything one has wanted to do in life. And don’t cry, Kiriah, because someday I know we will be reunited again, in the next life. Good bye . . .”

And . . . with one last flash of his heartlight, Isarot died, there and then, leaving me all alone holding his bloody corpse in my arms.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:57 PM.

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#20 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Jan 06 2012 - 10:06 AM

Chapter 19: The Weeping Gods


I carefully laid Isarot’s corpse on the ground. I reached out and shut his eyelids. I couldn’t bear to look into his lifeless eyes any longer than I had to. It was just too painful.

Then I stood up. I noticed his axe lying not far away. It flew toward me via telekinesis and I caught it with ease. I then placed Isarot’s axe on his body and repositioned his arms to be holding it. It didn’t look very professional, but there wasn’t any need for it to. I just figured that, since Isarot had liked that axe, he would have wanted to be buried with it.

I felt empty as I looked at his corpse. He was dead . . . my best friend in the whole entire multiverse was dead. He had been killed by a merciless maniac and had suffered great pain before dying. I wished he were still alive, as much as I realized it was stupid, wishful thinking, but I was somewhat comforted by the fact that he had died happily. It was better than dying sad, anyway.

I had no idea where I was going to bury Isarot now. I couldn’t dig up the stone floor of this storehouse. I thought about taking him outside and burying him out there, but somehow I didn’t want to bury him in this dark, desolate and depressing land. Although Isarot was never the most happy-go-lucky type of person, I doubted he would have liked to be buried in this place.

I’ll just bury him when I get home, I decided, before I realized that I was no longer wearing the Olmak anymore. I had forgotten that I had discarded it when Darranas had punched me in the face, but with little effort I found it.

It looked horrible now, although not as bad as Isarot. There was still that fist-sized hole Darranas had made in it and I realized with dread that it probably did not work anymore. However, I was determined not to be stranded here in this storehouse and so, putting it on my face, I attempted to activate the Mask of Dimensional Gates once more and get out of here.

But no matter how hard I tried, the Olmak didn’t open any kind of dimensional portal. It was just as lifeless as Isarot and Darranas now. I knew that even the slightest crack could render any Kanohi mask useless, so it came as no surprise to me that the Olmak – with a big gaping hole in one cheek – didn’t work, however disappointed I was by that.

Now how was I supposed to return home? With no Olmak, I was totally stranded. I had no way of going back home. Did that mean I would die here, just like Isarot had? Would I slowly starve to death in here, with no one knowing of Isarot’s noble death or that we had succeeded at all?

Isarot may have died happily, but I still had plenty of things I wanted to do before I kicked the bucket. For one thing, I still wanted to join a real Toa team at some point. But now that I had no way to go to any dimension that had Toa, I was frustrated. So frustrated, in fact, that I threw the Olmak on the floor and crushed it beneath my heel, breaking it in two. The sound echoed throughout the storehouse, until it gradually faded away in the building’s immense vastness.

It was at that moment that I felt a sudden wind blow through the place. Except, I could tell it wasn’t any ordinary gust of wind. It felt like a powerful presence was sweeping the place, searching and scanning the place, perhaps to find out what occurred in its domain. It was so strong that I was nearly knocked over, but I regained my balance and looked around for any sign of the presence. I saw none, although I could still feel it in the air.

Then reality went black and I was floating in emptiness. I could see nothing at all in the shadows. Was this death? Had that powerful presence back there somehow killed me? Was I going to see Isarot soon?

No, young one, came a voice . . . or a multitude of voices speaking as one. You are still alive. You have merely encountered our presence in the only way your finite mind can comprehend it.

So what, I’m experiencing an out-of-body experience or something like that? I asked, although it was more like I was using telepathy, for my mouth did not move as I spoke.

Something similar, yes, the multitude responded.

Then who are you? I asked, although simply by the sheer force I was experiencing I already knew the answer to that.

We are the Almighty Ones, said the multitude. We have come to see who has broken into our storehouse of secrets. It is a task no one has accomplished in all of our eons of existence; thus, it is only natural we would want to learn who had done it.

Well, you’re late, oh so Almighty Ones, I said scathingly. A maniac named Darranas – one of your former servants, if you don’t recall – stole billions of Time Stones from all over the multiverse and broke in. He wanted to steal your power and become a god so he could reshape the multiverse in his image.

We know that, the Almighty Ones said sadly. We were aware that our once faithful servant betrayed his purpose and sought power for himself. He was supposed to bring your Time Stone to us and then return home; but, it turns out we made a mistake by touching his mind.

Why do you want the Time Stone for? I asked suspiciously. And if you wanted it so badly, why didn’t you get it yourself?

I wasn’t afraid to talk back to these guys. I didn’t like them and wasn’t in a good mood after Isarot died.

It appears, then, that our former servant did not learn the true purpose of the Time Stone, the Almighty Ones said, sounding intrigued. Besides that it could be used as a key to our storehouse, he failed to realize that the Time Stone is a recorder.

A recorder? I repeated incredulously. What’s it supposed to record?

The history of an entire universe, of course, the Almighty Ones answered simply. It records all of the major and minor events that go into shaping a universe. Simply by studying its records we could discern what brought about the current state of a dimension.

I tilted my head, puzzled. But why do you want to record a universe’s history? Do you guys just like studying history or whatever?

No, the Almighty Ones replied. Studying history for the sake of history is one of our interests, but certainly not our primary reason for constructing the Time Stone in the first place. We study history in order to understand our own universe better . . . and to right what once went so terribly, terribly wrong.

Now I was confused. The Almighty Ones sounded quite sad, regretful almost, like they’d done something they weren’t proud of. I contemplated telepathy, but I figured that my mind would probably get incinerated by their own if they felt me trying to intrude upon their thoughts. If a normal being got angry at having their privacy invaded, I shuddered to think what beings as powerful as the Almighty Ones would do if I tried telepathy.

So I took the safe route and asked, What happened to your universe? Is there any way I could help?

I heard a loud, grating noise that startled and frightened me, but then I realized the Almighty Ones had just laughed at my suggestion, as though I were a little child trying to butt into the elders’ business.

Unless you happen to know how to give life to a universe – which with even a cursory scan of your mind we can disprove with ease – you cannot help us, said the Almighty Ones. Only we can correct our mistakes; we do not need help from mere mortals such as you.

I felt a bit annoyed by that comment, but I said, Well, can you at least tell me what happened to your universe? Maybe I can’t help, but I would like to know what you have done, at least. That is, if you think a ‘mere mortal’ like me could comprehend it.

At first, there was no response. It was clear to me that the Almighty Ones were deciding whether to answer me or not and how much they should share about their past. I didn’t blame them; they did not know me, so naturally they could not trust me. I didn’t particularly trust them, either, considering they hired maniacs like Darranas to steal things from people.

Finally, after what seemed like forever and a half, the Almighty Ones began: Once, long, long ago, we ruled a prosperous and highly advanced world. We were loved by our subjects and created many, many different inventions to help make life better for our people. It was a happy time, a time of peace, and for many years there we thought nothing could go wrong. Until that fateful day, until the day the destiny of not only our world, but our whole universe took a turn for the worst . . .

Immediately, the empty blackness I had been floating in exploded into color and images, until I was standing in an icy area that was completely unfamiliar to me. I looked around and saw two Matoran-like beings in white armor working at a rock wall. They appeared to be mining some kind of metal from the rocks.

“Look at all of this exsidian we’re getting,” one of the villagers said, gesturing to a large cart that was filled with the metal. “Lord Xocion will be pleased.”

The second villager nodded. “I agree. This kind of exsidian looks even better than what we usually mine. We’ll be able to trade it for just about anything, I bet.”

A faint bubbling sound interrupted their conversation. The villagers looked confused, glancing around the area for the source of the noise. I, too, searched, since I didn’t see any water around here that wasn’t frozen.

Finally, one of the villagers spotted something. “What is that?”

I looked where he was pointing and saw a strange, silvery liquid bubbling out of the ice. It looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place where I’d seen it before. It looked harmless enough, but I realized it was far more dangerous than its appearance let on.

Unfortunately, neither of the villagers appeared to know what I knew, for the second villager approached the bubbling liquid, saying, “It looks so strange, yet interesting, too.”

The first villager looked cautious as his friend reached out to touch it. “It might be dangerous. I think we should leave it alone and tell someone about it.”

But his friend didn’t appear to heed his warning. Instead, he said, in a kind of mesmerized voice, “So beautiful . . . I must touch it . . .”

It was at that exact moment I remembered what that liquid was and what it could do. I tried to cry out, to tell him to leave it alone, but I couldn’t speak. All I could do was watch as the tips of the villager’s fingers made contact with the energized protodermis.

Then, without warning, the second villager exploded. He screamed painfully as the energy consumed him, while his friend could only cry out, “No!”

But it was too late. I and the first villager watched as the second villager totally evaporated into nothingness, leaving only the energized protodermis bubbling up as a small pool. I was too horrified by what I’d seen to react. I had seen energized protodermis before and knew exactly what it could do. I felt like I’d seen Isarot die again; powerless to save him. I could only watch as the villager died, leaving his friend alone and unsure of what to do next.

Then suddenly, everything flashed forward and I was in the middle of a battlefield between two opposing armies. Both sides appeared to be made of Toa-like warriors; one side red, the other blue. They were fighting in a mountain pass, the reds trying to keep the blues from passing. It was a gruesome battle and it didn’t make me feel any happier.

Once this substance was discovered, news of it spread all over our world, the Almighty Ones continued, their voice echoing as though they were speaking from far away. The six rulers we had designated to keep order in our world – known as the Element Lords – wanted to use the power for their own purposes. But, as they could not agree with one another on exactly who should control it, they went to war. Six tribes, one mighty source of power coming from the core of their planet; the Core War ripped Spherus Magna apart. None of our efforts to stop the war worked.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small, hunched over, silver-colored creature with two blades on each hand. It was sneaking up behind an unknowing red-armored warrior. I knew what was going to happen before it did. I only closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see what the creature did to its prey. The warrior’s final scream of terror was enough to tell me what happened.

Eventually, we managed to secure a small amount of the silvery liquid through the bravery of two villagers, Raanu and Kyry. We tried to use the power ourselves. We learned it could not only destroy, but transform. So we exposed ourselves to it, hoping we would gain enough power to stop the Element Lords and their insane war. Instead, this is what happened . . .

The scene changed again, almost too abruptly for me. Now I was standing outside a huge tower that appeared to have no entrance of any kind. It appeared to be made out of crystal and metal and looked absolutely magnificent, if a bit imposing. Clearly, whoever had designed this thing had put a lot of thought and effort into it.

Then I heard something. Turning around, I saw a large group of warriors – this time made up of mixed colors, ranging from blue to red to green and beyond – advancing on the tower, carrying weapons that seemed to glow with elemental energy. They all looked ragged and battle worn. Their armor was scratched, dented, and outright broken in several places and their eyes reflected the crushed spirits of those who have suffered a great deal of pain in a short time. They looked like they wanted to end whatever they were going through and attacking this tower was the only way to do that.

But, as they drew closer, a huge thunder cloud expanded into existence above the very top of the structure and began floating toward the multi-colored army. Now the soldiers all looked tense, some even frightened. They aimed their weapons at the cloud, which I didn’t understand. Sure, it was strange that a cloud would just pop out of nowhere like that, but I doubted it would do anything worse than rain a little, perhaps thunder slightly. They looked like they needed the rain anyway, considering how dirty their armor appeared.

Of course, I was totally wrong to assume the cloud was harmless. It was far, far from harmless, as I soon discovered.

I watched as the cloud advanced until it hovered just above the army, which had stopped and was aiming its weapons at the nimbus. Then – with the loudest clap of thunder I’d ever heard in my life – a gigantic lightning bolt exploded from the sky, directly striking the center of the army and creating the biggest explosion I’d ever seen in my life.

When the flash of white light and loud noises ceased, I looked at the spot where the lighting had struck and immediately felt my heart fail. There was no one – not a single soldier – left of the army that had once stood there. Only blackened soil and the charred remains of armor bits revealed that there had been any sort of army there at all. The cloud was gone, but it was unfortunately all too easy to see the destruction it left behind.

You see, although we managed to stop the war and rid ourselves of the Element Lords, our power was too much, the Almighty Ones said sadly. We became just as tyrannical as the Element Lords, if not more so. Any time there was even a hint of rebellion against our rule – or whenever an army of unhappy warriors gathered, like that one – we would simply use our power to utterly annihilate it. We believed power could solve every problem on our world . . . and so, in a way, we became even worse than those we did away with.

The scene shifted again, and now I was standing in the middle of a barren wasteland. There was no sign of life here; just barren rock and sand for miles around in every direction. No living beings, not even plants. It was an empty, dead, and miserable place. I even liked the realm of the dead better than this place, for the voices of the fallen gave at least the illusion that there was life. There was no such hint in this wasteland.

This is what happened to our world because of our irresponsibility. Eventually, we wiped out all life through the continued use of our power. Not a single living creature inhabited Spherus Magna anymore, besides ourselves and our twisted creations that we cannot seriously call ‘life’ anymore. So we moved on to other worlds, to see if we could find a way to restore life to our own. This is what happened when we made first contact with the inhabitants of a new world . . .

Now I was standing on a mountaintop, overlooking a small village nestled between two high cliffs. The inhabitants of the village all appeared to be tall, lanky organic beings, completely unlike anything I had ever seen before. Some were chatting, others working hard at whatever tasks they were given. It was a quiet, peaceful sort of town, which I figured, based on the Almighty Ones’ words, wasn’t going to last.

As if on cue, a dark cloud appeared high in the sky overhead. It was so huge that, despite being far away, the people noticed it. Almost everyone stopped whatever they had been doing before to watch as the cloud grew closer and closer, flying down at a gradual pace.

As it got closer, I realized the ‘cloud’ wasn’t a cloud at all. It was a ship, a huge one that looked like it could travel from planet to planet with ease. It was saucer-like, except with two giant lights sticking out of the domed roof. I could see six beings moving around inside the domed area, but I could not make out any details of them except that they appeared humanoid.

It was also incredibly loud, which seemed to frighten the people of this world, for many ran into their homes and locked their doors. Only a few brave – or perhaps really stupid – people stood their ground, gazing up at the flying machine as it drew ever closer to them.

I honestly had no idea how this could go wrong. After all, surely the Almighty Ones learned their lesson back on Spherus Magna? Wouldn’t they try to peacefully contact the villagers and tell them about their problems?

But, to my horror, a huge laser beam exploded out of the bottom of the ship and struck the village, totally annihilating it and its inhabitants in the blink of an eye. When the smoke cleared a few minutes later, there was no sign that a village had ever been there before.

We were arrogant back then, the Almighty Ones said mournfully. We believed these people would stand in our way, force us to leave their world once they learned what we had done to ours. We feared rejection and failure and so we tried conquest. We annihilated hundreds of settlements just like that one and wrecked many cities, until we had eliminated all life on that world and yet found no answer to our problems. We greatly regret ever committing such atrocities now, but back then we saw it as necessary in order to fulfill our own goals.

Fulfill your own goals? I asked as I looked at the smoldering ground where the small village had once stood. How can committing genocide help fulfill your own goals?

As we have said before, arrogance was our primary motive for committing genocide, the Almighty Ones answered, their tone still sad. And we repeated this scene on countless worlds all over our own universe. We would arrive on a new planet in search of a way to repopulate our own, but instead end up destroying all life simply because we did not trust the planet’s inhabitants. It is only after we eliminated the peoples of the last known inhabited world in our universe that we realized what we’d done . . . and we wept sorrowfully. One of us even committed suicide because he could not forgive himself.

I wanted to say he deserved it, but I realized that would be bad. I mean, two wrongs don’t make a right, right? Killing himself because he killed whole species seemed rather backward to me, but since I didn’t quite know how to react to that I didn’t say anything about it.

Instead, I said, So, what’d you do after you . . after you destroyed all life in your universe?

We discovered alternate universes, the Almighty Ones said. We realized that, although our universe did not appear to hold the key to recreating life, there might be some answer in another universe somewhere. It was our last desperate hope. If we could not find the key to recreating life in another universe, then all hope was lost.

So, er, did you ever discover a way to bring everybody back to life in your universe? I asked. I was a bit taken aback by how such obviously powerful beings could sound so sad and helpless.

No, they responded. Not yet. We have been studying other universes for eons, but we have yet to find an answer. We knew it would be fruitless to study each and every individual universe, so we crafted the Time Stone, which would scan a universe’s history for us. And, due to the fact that new alternate universes spring into existence almost every second, we knew that by simply creating the Stone there were an infinite amount already in existence out there.

But why didn’t you try to import people from other universes to repopulate your own? I said. I mean, wouldn’t that be easier than trying to-

No! said the Almighty Ones angrily. Their voices were so loud that my head felt like it would burst open inside out, if that were possible. Two wrongs do not make a right, young one. We were already guilty of genocide. Do you honestly believe we would stoop to something as lowly as stealing? Those people, although similar to ours in many ways, did not belong to us and we know it would be wrong to steal. It is a shame, however, that we were not aware it would be wrong of us to eliminate whole species, otherwise this whole mess would not have happened in the first place.

I was beginning to feel sorry for the Almighty Ones now. True, they had destroyed all life in their universe, but they seemed to be genuinely seeking a way to fix their horrible mistake and redeem themselves of their sins. Darranas had said the Almighty Ones were foolish for not using their great power to purge the multiverse of evil. I thought it was sad that, despite all of their great power and wisdom, the Almighty Ones had not used any of it to save their own universe.

Well, then I suppose interdimensional conquest hasn’t crossed your minds, either, I said.

It has, but we have chosen against it, said the Almighty Ones in agreement. We do not seek to conquer other universes, even though we do have the power to accomplish that. It would be pointless to conquer other universes, not when we do not deserve to rule them in the first place. It brings back bitter memories of when we destroyed our own universe.

That’s a relief, I said. I wouldn’t want to have to defend my own universe from you guys. Anyway, if the Time Stone is a recording device, then why was Darranas able to use its power to grant life to those skeletons in that last dimension Isarot . . . Isarot and I were in? Saying Isarot’s name was hard, even here, and I got sad just remembering him.

He did? Interesting, the Almighty Ones said. He must have some mysterious power of his own, then, because we did not design the Time Stone to do that. It is possible, however, that we may have accidentally slipped a bit of our own power inside the Stone during the creation process and as a result he was able to grant fake life to those skeletons. We do not know. We need more evidence before we can come to a conclusion.

A sudden, hopeful thought filled my mind just then. It was a crazy idea, but now that the Almighty Ones were here, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Hey, um, Almighty Ones? I asked hesitantly. I wasn’t sure how they’d react to my question, but I had to ask it anyway. May I ask something of you? If that’s all right with you?

You may ask.

I just wanted to ask if, somehow, you’d be able to bring my friend, Isarot, back from the dead. He died shortly before you arrived and I was wondering if it wasn’t too late-

We are sorry, young one, but there is nothing we can do for your friend now that he is dead, the Almighty Ones said, sounding sad. If we could but bring even one person back to life, we can assure you that we would have found a way to apply that power to everyone within our own universe first. We wish we could help, for your friend appears to be another death as a result of our arrogance and mistakes.

The last bit of hope that had burned within me was extinguished. I was now thoroughly depressed. If these ancient, god-like beings couldn’t bring Isarot back to life, then he really was dead. He wasn’t coming back. He was gone for good.

Okay, I said, feeling hollow inside. I . . . I understand. If I were in your situation, I guess I’d try to bring my own people back to life first.

You do not blame yourself, they observed suddenly. Unlike us, you do not blame yourself for your friend’s death. Is there any reason why?

I was taken aback by that question and wasn’t sure I could answer it, for the thought had never crossed my mind before.

But I answered anyway, Well, I suppose it is because I know I was in no position to save him and that I had not set him up to die or anything like that. He died because Darranas – that servant of yours – killed him in cold blood, trying to steal your power so he could reshape the universe in his own image.

We would like to say that our once faithful servant was driven mad by exposure to our power, said the Almighty Ones sorrowfully. Just like our other servant, a being named Brutaka, who gave us the Time Stone of his universe once we had deemed enough time had passed. He was stronger willed than most, but even he couldn’t withstand our power. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the same happened to Darranas.

A thought occurred to me at that moment and I asked, Did you also, er, ‘touch’ Ehlek’s mind? Darranas said you did.

No, we did not, the Almighty Ones answered, almost in disgust. For one, the Time Stone had not yet recorded enough of that universe’s history to be worth studying. For another, we would never have chosen Ehlek. It appears Darranas was attempting to fool others into thinking we had contacted them, when we had not.

But how’d he do that? I asked, tilting my head in confusion. Ehlek claimed to have received dreams and messages from you. Did Darranas somehow do it?

We are aware of Ehlek’s claims, young one, said the Almighty Ones, sounding troubled. We have investigated them and all the evidence points toward someone as powerful as us aiding Darranas.

An ominous feeling washed over me as I said, Wait, there is someone as powerful as you guys out there? And he was helping Darranas?

The thought troubles us as greatly as it does you, said the Almighty Ones. Despite all of their great power, they actually sounded worried. We must still investigate further into this. Such a being – if it exists - is far more of a threat to the multiverse than Darranas or any other dimension-hopper.

I wanted to ask more, but it was clear to me the Almighty Ones knew about as much as I did regarding this mysterious being, whoever he or she was.

So another thought suddenly occurred to me and I asked, Were you the ones that saved Isarot and I from being killed in the Brutaka universe? When those Anicans that were supposed to execute us suddenly malfunctioned for no apparent reason?

There was no answer at first, until the multitude replied slowly, That was us, yes. We kept careful progress of you and your friend’s dimension-hopping quest to stop Darranas, whose goals we were well aware of. We sent you both dreams to help you discern the identity of the thief which you were chasing. We hoped you would succeed and so helped you in whatever ways we could while still keeping ourselves hidden from you.

But if you’re so powerful, why’d you rely on Isarot and I to stop Darranas? I asked, somewhat frustrated. Couldn’t you have blown him up or something so none of this would have had to happen?

We were not particularly worried about him succeeding. Even if Darranas had killed you, he himself would have died shortly afterward anyway, the Almighty Ones answered.

Why is that?

No one being could possibly contain all of our power, they answered, as if it were obvious. Darranas’ body and soul would likely have been obliterated if he had tried to absorb our power into his own form. Not to mention he was completely mistaken about where our power was hidden in the first place. Although we were confident that our storehouse could never be broken into, it had never occurred to any of us – individually or collectively – to store even the tiniest portion of our power there. All vaults can be broken into if one is greedy enough, as Darranas himself proved, and we knew it would be unsafe to leave our power just sitting around like that for anyone to take. It is perhaps the only wise decision we have ever made during our long, arrogant lives.

I see, I said, feeling angry now. So basically, Isarot died for no reason?

Not necessarily, the Almighty Ones said. There were plenty of other dangerous artifacts and weapons Darranas could have used to wreck untold destruction upon the multiverse once he learned obtaining our power was impossible. It is why we were glad that you and your friend defeated him, even at the cost of your friend’s life.

Hmph, I said, looking away, although I couldn’t be sure which direction the Almighty Ones were actually in. I was still too angry at them to say anything nice, even if they did offer a reasonable answer. He’s still dead. You could have at least intervened before he died, couldn’t you?

We were busy elsewhere and only arrived just now, they answered angrily. We were dealing with a threat much worse than Darranas. Had we not, both you and your friend would be dead.

A threat worse than Darranas? What was that?I asked, my anger forgotten as I looked straight ahead even though I couldn’t see them.

It is unimportant now, said the Almighty Ones shortly. It will not be a threat for many, many years, perhaps never if we are lucky. As long as Darranas’ powerful ally remains ignorant of its existence . . .

Their thoughts ominously trailed off before suddenly picking back up. What is important is transporting you back to your home universe, young one.

There’s no way I can go home, though,
I said miserably. My hands balled into fists as I pushed away my frustration and misery. Darranas damaged my Olmak so badly it can’t function anymore. I’m completely stuck in your storehouse and I’ll probably die there, too.

Not necessarily, young one,
the Almighty Ones said. We have the power to cross dimensions. We can also teleport beings anywhere within our reach, and fortunately for you, young one, your home universe is easy for us to find. We will even allow you to take your Time Stone back with you, for that is the whole reason you started this journey in the first place, is it not?

But don’t you need to study its contents or something?
I asked quizzically.

It has not yet recorded enough information for us to need it just yet, the Almighty Ones explained. Once it does, however, we will allow you to bring it to us, if you wish.

Then why did you want Darranas to bring it to you in the first place?
I said.

False alarm, said the Almighty Ones, almost sheepishly. Somehow the timer set in your Stone was set off much earlier than it should have been and we believed we had to take it. It was only after two others from your universe took it back from Darranas that we realized the mistake and reset the timer. It will likely be many more years before we will need it. Could we ask of you to return the Stone to us once its designated time has passed?

I suppose so,
I said, although I could care less either way. As long as you don’t cause me to go insane, I’ll do it when the time comes.

Then we suppose that that is all we have to discuss, young one,
said the Almighty Ones. We will now-

Wait, please,
I said quickly. I still don’t understand why you’re talking to me now. Why did you feel the need to explain your history to me and stuff? Not that I don’t find it interesting, but I find it strange that you simply choose me out of everyone in the whole wide multiverse to talk to about this.

We felt that you deserved an explanation, after the death of your friend,
said the Almighty Ones. We realized your friend’s death was indirectly caused by us and our ineptitude. Thus, we believed that you deserved to know the truth. And yes, you may share this with your friends back in your home universe, but we would like it if you shared it with only a select few, lest evil people attempt to use their knowledge of us to manipulate or even destroy us in some way.

Well, I guess that makes sense,
I said. I couldn’t understand how anyone could manipulate or destroy these interdimensional entities, but I figured they knew more than I did, so I didn’t say anything. Don’t have any more questions on my mind right now, I guess.

Then we believe it is time for you to go home now,
the Almighty Ones said satisfied. Good bye, young Toa. Remember what we said about contacting you when the time is right. It would be wise of you to expect us to call you at all times, lest you end up in a situation where you are unable to bring us the Time Stone. Be ready to drop whatever you doing at the time in order to bring the Stone back to us once we call you.

Without waiting for me to answer, the blackness around me vanished, leaving me standing (with Isarot’s corpse next to me) at the beach of a familiar island I knew and loved well: Tanjo Nui.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 06:59 PM.

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#21 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Jan 13 2012 - 10:11 AM

Chapter 20: A Decision


It had been three days since I and Isarot’s corpse had returned from our dimension-hopping trip. As I sat in a chair at the funeral service we were holding for Isarot, I thought back to the events that had lead to this point.

As it turned out, the Almighty Ones had teleported Isarot and me to the beach that was located right behind the Temple of Time. Coincidentally enough – or perhaps not-so-coincidentally – Turaga Klio, Baiji Kolora, Toa Nasis, and Chofier Tajah had been inspecting the Temple at the time, which allowed me to easily find them.

I well-remembered how shocked those four had been to see me dragging a dead Isarot behind me, especially considering how we seemed to have come out of nowhere. After I hastily replaced the Time Stone in its rightful place (making mental notes to improve security around it later), I sat down and explained to the four of them what had happened on our dimensional journey, the true identity of the thief, and how Isarot died. I even briefly explained the Almighty Ones as well to help them understand Darranas’ motives.

Klio and Kolora were silent for a long time after I finished, refusing to explain to an enraged Nasis and Tajah why they had lied about Darranas for so long. I had never seen Nasis – who had greeted me with a hug, by the way – look so angry before in my life. Clearly he had felt betrayed by Klio and Kolora, which was evident even now, three days later, for I saw he sat as far away from the two of them as he realistically could, not even bothering to look at the elders.

Finally, Klio had said, without looking at any of us, “We have no excuse for keeping the true history of Darranas hidden from you all. It is only because . . . because he had been a close friend to both of us. We simply couldn’t imagine our heroic Toa Darranas going down in history as a villain. So we made up legends about him or exaggerated the stories that already existed about him until it was impossible to tell fact from fiction anymore.”

“We were fools,” Kolora had admitted with her face in her hands. I had never seen her look so weak and sad before. “Fools above all of the other fools. We were given an even greater incentive to keep the true Darranas a secret because we believed him to be dead. We reasoned that if he was not alive, then no one would ever discover – or need to discover – the truth.”

“The only other ones besides us who knew the truth were the rest of the Toa Avha,” Klio had said bitterly. “I had pleaded with Arcus, Omira, and the others to carry this secret to the grave. They agreed, although I do not believe any of them enjoyed having to lie about Darranas’ true fate.”

“With good reason!” Nasis had responded angrily. His scrap of metal that he always carried around had taken the form of a Toa showing off a very rude gesture at the two elders. “Why any honorable Toa would lie for so long, I cannot even begin to-“

“It troubles me that you were in on this plot, Baiji,” Tajah had said more calmly than Nasis, although his tone had sounded bothered just the same. “I do not know why you never told me this, for I would have kept it a secret unless you were to order me otherwise.”

“We have already apologized,” Klio had snapped, pointing at him angrily with her staff. “Getting angry at us will accomplish nothing. Understand that we both had . . . had loved Darranas at the time and could not think of letting his memory go down in history as a villain, even if it was true. We now realize it was a mistake, don’t we, Kolora?”

“We do,” Kolora had said in agreement. “It would have been wiser of us to tell you the truth before you set out, Kiriah, otherwise . . .” She had gestured at Isarot’s body.

“No,” I had said at the time, shaking my head sadly. “Even if you had told Isarot and me the truth, he still would have died. Besides, we would have thought he was dead anyway. It wouldn’t have done us much good even if you had been honest.”

“I am still infuriated,” Nasis had said. His mini-statue transformed into a warrior which brandished a small sword at the two elders. “Even if it would not have helped Isarot and Kiriah, it is still crazy. You deceived generation after generation of Matoran and Tagiki alike with the false tales of Toa Darranas. I do not know if I can forgive you for that.”

“You do not have to forgive us,” Klio had said, shaking her head. “But do realize we will have to inform the rest of Tanjo Nui about Isarot’s death, especially to the Tagiki people. They would demand to know what happened to him and I doubt we could keep lying to them for long.”

“You mean you couldn’t make up a lie to cover it?” asked Nasis harshly. “If you explain Isarot’s death, then you will also have to explain the theft of the Time Stone, which we’d kept a secret from everyone here for the whole four weeks Kiriah and Isarot were gone. We might get into big trouble if we tell them we lied to them about the status of the Time Stone.”

“I was gone for four weeks?” I had asked in amazement. “Surely it couldn’t have been more than a couple of days?”

“Time travels at different rates in different dimensions,” Klio answered quickly. “A day may pass in one dimension, while in another one thousand years may have passed. I thought you would have learned that during your travels.”

Then, turning to Nasis, she had said, “You raise a good point. The inhabitants of Tanjo Nui may distrust us if we inform them of the truth. And if do we that, then surely beings in other parts of the universe would soon learn of this tale and come to our island for their own reasons. It might raise so much controversy that Kolora and I would end up losing our jobs as top elders.”

“I never thought of that,” Kolora had said, looking terrified. “There is already so much tension between our two peoples; why, if they learn the truth, then only the Great Spirit knows what could happen. It might mean the end of our island’s civilization, for Toa Darranas is an important hero to both of our peoples. I think it would be for the best if we at least altered certain parts of the story so no one would know of Darranas’ identity.”

“So you’re going to honor Isarot’s memory by lying about the identity of his killer?” I had asked, unimpressed at the time. “You’re just going to say he was killed by some interdimensional thief and leave it at that?”

“Well, his real identity isn’t important, is it?” asked Tajah slowly. “I mean, that is what really happened, right? An interdimensional thief really did kill Isarot, so simply ignoring Darranas’ name wouldn’t hurt anything, would it?”

“Tajah, why are you suggesting this?” Nasis said as his metal statue transformed into a Tagiki that looked surprisingly like Isarot. “Aren’t you bothered by their lying? How will more lies solve the problem?”

“Although I believe honesty is a virtue, I also believe certain virtues must be ignored for the greater good at times,” Tajah had answered. “I don’t want our island erupting into civil war due to their trust in their leaders being broken, do you? Besides, it won’t technically be a lie anyway. The only thing we’ll censor is the real identity of the thief. We’re not denying Isarot died, right? We simply won’t honor the thief by telling everyone his name.”

I had felt extremely angry at that at the time. Even though Tajah had said they wouldn’t deny Isarot’s death, somehow it had still felt wrong to me. Looking back, there wasn’t much reason to be angry. It was better that Darranas not be mentioned or remembered. He wasn’t the hero who had died nobly saving the universe; Isarot was.

But I still had said, “But are we going to continue to let people think of Darranas as a hero? He was a villain. He killed Isarot and tried to kill me and planned to annihilate the entire multiverse. How can we let our peoples go on thinking he was the greatest hero of all time when we know for a fact that he wasn’t?”

Klio had looked troubled, but said, “Think of it this way, Kiriah. Although we know the Darranas of reality to be a villain, we can perhaps work to make sure that the Darranas of legend is different. He was how the real Darranas should have been; brave, heroic, kind, and willing to sacrifice his life to save everyone. We don’t have to acknowledge the real Darranas. The legendary Darranas can instead be a symbol of what all Toa should be, rather than a dark stain on our island’s history.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read or listen to another story about the ‘great’ Darranas without thinking about how the real Darranas killed Isarot,” I had answered sharply, so disgusted with Klio I wasn’t looking at her anymore. “I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it if we continue to produce stories about how amazing and awesome Darranas was, when in reality he was a psychopath who cared for no one but himself. It just isn’t right.”

“It’s either that or we lose the trust of the Matoran and Tagiki,” said Klio. “It would be difficult for us to lead our peoples effectively if all or even most of the population distrusted us. If they come to the conclusion that we haven’t told them everything, they may just revolt and overthrow us. It would be unwise for us to sacrifice the possible future of Tanjo Nui simply to make you feel more comfortable, Kiriah, although I do understand your feelings.”

“Won’t telling them this story be destroying their trust in you, though?” I had asked, bothered. “Even if you were to take out Darranas’ name, you guys kept the Stone’s theft a secret from the general public, right? Since no one knows the Time Stone was stolen, I think everyone will be nastily surprised by this tale.”

“I say we tell them anyway,” said Nasis, throwing an angry glare at Klio and Kolora. “Making up some cock-and-bull story about how Isarot died due to an accident or whatever would be dishonorable. If we tell them Isarot died, then we must tell them the Time Stone was stolen. Considering how far-fetched the story sounds, it wouldn’t surprise me if no one believed it at first.”

I could tell Klio and Kolora didn’t like it, but neither of them argued with Nasis. So Kolora had said, “Yes, that will do. We’ve been far too dishonest with this island’s peoples for too many years. In order to honor Isarot’s memory, we will tell them the truth of the Time Stone’s theft.”

“Except for Darranas’ identity,” Klio had said quickly. “That, at least, is something we must keep secret. It would cause even more of an uproar if they knew we lied about Darranas.” She looked at me and asked, “Is that all right with you, then, Kiriah?”

I wanted to argue about that, but I refrained from doing so. I knew it would be too much to ask them to also reveal the truth about Darranas. At least they were going to tell how Isarot died, even if they kept the identity of his murderer a secret. I secretly decided that someday in the future, I would make sure everyone knew the truth about Darranas. When that day would be, I didn’t know, but I would do it anyway.

For now, I had said, slightly reluctantly, “Okay. I suppose the thief’s true identity isn’t all that necessary. I’ll just try not to get sick in public whenever I hear a story about how awesome Darranas was. Can we also give Isarot a proper funeral soon, too?”

“As soon as possible, Kiriah,” Klio had said reassuringly. “He deserves it, after saving the multiverse.”

After that, the next three days seemed like a blur to me. Isarot’s body was taken to his room, where it was to be kept until a coffin could be constructed for it. Klio and Kolora sent out the message of Isarot’s death to the entire island, while Toa Nasis himself informed the rest of the Toa Tanjo of my return. (Tajah told the rest of the Chofier of my return as well.)

I was left alone in the Temple so I could mourn Isarot’s death, which didn’t make me feel any better. Still, I knew that any day now, once the message was out, people would be coming from all over Tanjo Nui to talk to me, which I wasn’t so sure I would be able to handle.

And come they did. At first, only a few beings came to talk to me, such as our Chronicler, a De-Matoran named Baciza, who had been sent by Turaga Klio to have our dimension-hopping quest written down in the annals of Tanjo Nui history. I spent the better part of a day recounting as much as I could remember about our adventures, much to Baciza’s confusion. Evidently no one had told him about our adventure or the theft of the Time Stone. His reaction of shock and confusion was a prelude to the reactions of the rest of the islanders.

After Baciza left, people started coming to the Temple of Time in droves, all of them asking me if there was any truth to the strange message the top elders had sent out to every part of the island. I tried my best to answer their questions and queries, but soon so many people kept coming that I was forced to retreat to a place where I had some peace and quiet from everybody (which turned out to be Turaga Klio’s tower).

Now it was the day of the funeral. Hundreds of beings – Matoran and Tagiki alike – had gathered for this event, although due to social conformities they kept themselves segregated from each other. On one side was the Matoran; the other, Tagiki. I didn’t like it, since I knew firsthand that Matoran and Tagiki could live peacefully together and even be friends. But because of the prejudices held by both sides, they kept away from each other.

There was not much talk in the crowd, for this funeral was a solemn event. However, even a cursory use of my telepathy powers revealed to me that there was much annoyance about the sudden revelation of the truth of the closure of the Temple. Most of them seemed skeptical of the supposed theft of the Time Stone, since there was little proof that it had happened besides Isarot’s corpse. I felt angry at them for their unbelief, for it seemed to me like they were suggesting Isarot had died for no reason at all.

The funeral itself was taking place just outside of the Temple, in the graveyard where deceased guardians of the Time Stone were generally buried. The place was so crowded that some people had to stand outside of the cemetery because there was no room for them. Meanwhile, Toa Kicho, Toa of Earth, had already created a suitable grave for Isarot thanks to her power over dirt.

Turaga Klio, Baiji Kolora, Tajah, the other three Chofier, Toa Nasis, and the rest of the Toa Tanjo, along with me, sat on chairs on an erected platform above the rest of the crowd. Normally I would have felt honored to sit beside the Toa Tanjo, but I was so distracted by the thoughts of everyone, the presence of so many people at one time, and my own misery over Isarot’s death that I did not pay much attention to any of the Toa in particular.
I just sat there trying to organize my thoughts, which was very difficult for me to do in my current state of mind.

There weren’t many decorations, mostly because this funeral was being held on such short notice. I didn’t care. Isarot wasn’t the kind of guy who liked things fancy and complicated. I remembered how he always preferred things simple and straight to the point. Making a funeral look like a party seemed awful inconsiderate anyway, in my opinion, considering what a funeral is supposed to be about in the first place.

Isarot’s coffin had yet to be brought out. I knew that, once his Tagiki brethren had finished preparing the body for burial, it would be brought out of the temple and then be buried after the eulogy. I hadn’t seen the coffin yet, although I knew that Toa Laomos, who was a pretty good artist, had helped design it under the supervision of Kolora and several other Tagiki who knew what a ‘proper’ Tagiki coffin ought to look like.

But as I looked over the Tagiki gathered in the cemetery today, I wondered whether Isarot ever really considered any of them brethren. After all, he, like me, had had to stay in the Temple all day every day. Neither of us was allowed to go out and socialize or visit friends unless given special permission from the elders. Had he, like me, felt separated from his people because he had been chosen for a job of supreme importance? I had never thought to ask him whether he had ever wanted to be a normal Tagiki and live among his people like anyone else. I had been so caught up in my own desires to be part of a real Toa team that it had never occurred to me that Isarot might have similar feelings or wants.

That’s not to say I didn’t know Isarot. Oh, no. I knew him very well, since we both had to live in the Temple all day, keeping it in shape, protecting the Time Stone, upholding our duties and occasionally assisting the Toa Tanjo or Chofier when necessary. It is difficult not to get to know a person whom you are forced to live with day in and day out, but I still felt bad for never asking him whether he had ever thought about what life would have been like had he not been chosen as guardian of the Time Stone. I suppose I had always assumed he never even thought about that, since he had always taken his job very seriously and showed little-to-no interest in having a social life outside of the Temple.

Instantly, everyone in the chattering crowd grew quiet. So did the Toa Tanjo, Tajah, and the top elders. I looked around, not sure what was happening, until I noticed the doors to the Temple had opened. I immediately knew that it was time.

Four Tagiki slowly descended the stone steps of the Temple, carrying between them an ornately carved coffin just about the size of Isarot, which made sense since Isarot’s corpse was inside it. No one said anything as the carriers walked down the aisle between the Matoran and Tagiki and climbed up the platform, which they put the coffin upon. There was absolutely no sound besides the wind that blew in from the west.

Then Baiji Kolora rose from her seat and walked over to a tall wooden podium. She looked over the crowd with her old, aging eyes, like she regretted everything she had ever done in her life. I thought that was a bit overdramatic, although perhaps it wasn’t totally unfounded, considering how badly she and Klio had lied to everyone.

“Fellow Tanjo Nuians,” Kolora began. “Today we honor the death of the Tagiki guardian of the Time Stone, Isarot, who died not only protecting the Time Stone, but also while saving the multiverse itself from destruction.”

There was some muttering in the crowd at this, its tone disbelieving. I wanted to go down there and beat up the guys who didn’t believe how Isarot died, but I restrained myself. Fighting wouldn’t accomplish anything, although I thought that Isarot, if he were still alive, would have walked straight down there and smacked whoever didn’t believe that or at least glare at them with those intense yellow eyes of his that would make anyone shut up.

“We know his death has came as a great shock to many of you, most of whom did not even know of the quest he and Toa Kiriah, the Toa guardian of the Time Stone, had undertaken to retrieve the Time Stone from an interdimensional thief,” Kolora continued, ignoring the disbelieving mutterings of the crowd. “But he did indeed die doing a noble thing, which I am sure is how he would have wanted to go out.”

For a moment I thought Kolora had glanced over her shoulder at me, as though wondering if I agreed. If she had, she must have done it very quickly for she was now speaking to the crowd again, as though she hadn’t done anything like that.

“Isarot was a brave warrior, one of the most courageous Tagiki guardians of the Time Stone which this island has ever seen,” Kolora went on. “He went on what was perhaps the most dangerous and unpredictable journey any being could ever go on. He had no way of knowing what lay ahead, yet he and Toa Kiriah went forth anyway without a hint of fear in their hearts.”

That wasn’t exactly true. I’d felt fear plenty of times while dimension-hopping, but I knew she was just trying to make Isarot and me sound good.

“And so we shall honor his sacrifice with a traditional Tagiki burial,” said Kolora, gesturing at the coffin. “Once his coffin is lowered into the ground, we shall set it ablaze to allow the Great Spirit to collect his body so he may live peacefully and wholly in the afterlife. But,” she added with a small smile, “I am sure that the Great Spirit will not waste any time making sure this hero’s body is reunited with its soul.”

She then turned to the Tagiki that had brought out the coffin and said to them, “Lower the casket into the grave. Then set it on fire.”

Nodding, the four Tagiki lifted the large coffin and slowly and gently lowered my friend’s body into the grave. I almost stopped them, for I wanted to get one last look at Isarot’s body before they burned it, but I knew that Tagiki never opened the coffins of their dead once the corpses were inside, so as to not disturb the body’s spirit. Isarot wouldn’t have wanted me to do that, but somehow I thought he would also have wanted to see me one last time before his body was burned.

Once the coffin was safely in the pit, a Tagiki in blue and purple armor named Henol stepped up to the grave. He prayed a silent prayer and then, raising his hands, fired a large bolt of fire into the grave, immediately filling the pit with roaring flames, its heat so hot I could even feel it from where I sat. I imagined Henol’s flames burning through the wooden coffin of Isarot, slowly burning up my friend’s corpse. Eventually Isarot’s body would burn to ashes and the grave would be filled with dirt and appropriately marked with a tombstone.

After that, Kolora spoke a few more words of praise for Isarot, but I wasn’t paying attention. My eyes were diverted to the orange flames which were consuming Isarot’s coffin in the grave. Isarot truly seemed gone now. I mean, I knew he had been dead for a few days (there was no way I couldn’t), but at this moment I realized he was truly, finally gone. I would no longer be protecting the Time Stone with him, nor would we hang out together in the Temple anymore. He would no longer tell me to stop dozing off when we were performing our daily rituals and I wouldn’t have to wake him up anymore whenever he slept in late. I would even miss how he had threatened to punch my Kanohi in if he found me reading his mind without his permission.

Yes, it was true Isarot would be replaced. Kolora would pick out a Tagiki to take Isarot’s position as official Tagiki guardian of the Time Stone. I doubted the new guardian would replace Isarot for me, but I supposed I could still be friends with him or her. I just wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get used to not having Isarot around anymore.

-

After the funeral service, I was in my room in the Temple of Time, lying on my bed, exhausted. All of the excitement of the past few days had finally caught up with me and now all I wanted to do was sleep. Turaga Klio had told me Kolora was already picking out Isarot’s replacement and was going to announce the new guardian within the week. That seemed a little too fast to me, but I understood how important the Time Stone was to the Tagiki and so I didn’t say anything against it.

There was a sudden knock at my door. I said, somewhat sleepily, “Come in.”

The door opened and in came Toa Nasis. I sat up perhaps a little too quickly as he closed the door behind himself. Wide awake now, I said, “Oh, Toa Nasis! What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Toa Kiriah,” said Nasis as he took a seat on a nearby chair. I noticed he didn’t have his little scrap of metal that he was so fond of playing with anymore. “I just came by to see how you were doing. I know you and Isarot were best friends, so his death must have severely affected you.”

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to talk about Isarot considering how sad I felt, but since Nasis rarely ever visited me I said, “Yeah, it did. I don’t know if I want to talk about it.”

“That’s okay,” said Nasis. “I lost a good friend of mine once, too, when I was a Matoran. I was badly affected and still haven’t gotten over it completely, although I suppose I don’t cry about it as much as I used to, heh.”

“I never knew that,” I said curiously.

“Well, now you do,” said Nasis. “Anyway, actually, there was something else I wanted to talk with you about in private. Something important.”

“What’s that?” I asked, leaning forward. “What’s so important that you have to talk to me about it in private?”

“Two things, actually,” said Nasis, as he straightened up in his chair. “The first is that Toa Ahova and I discovered, through our investigation, that the Dark Hunters were not connected to the theft of the Time Stone in any way whatsoever. In fact, they themselves heard rumors about the theft and sent one of their own men to Tanjo Nui to find out if the rumors were true.”

“Really?” I said. “Well, of course I knew the Dark Hunters had nothing to do with it, but the fact that they found out about it and even sent one of their own agents is surprising to me.”

“Yeah,” said Nasis, nodding. “They sent some guy named Raider, supposedly one of their best agents. Sure gave us a heck of a time while you were gone, but we managed to beat him and sent him back to the Shadowed One with his tail tucked between his legs.”

Knowing Nasis’ tendency to exaggerate things, I figured that meant that Raider had left the island only after the Hunter had learned everything he needed to. Didn’t say anything like that, though. I just listened.

“Anyway, I’ve got something else to tell you about, Kiriah, something I think you’ll be very pleased with,” said Nasis, smiling broadly.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Well, Kiriah, the rest of the Toa Tanjo and I have been having some serious discussions over past few days,” Nasis began. I saw his hands twitching, like he didn’t know what to do with his hands without his little statue. “We all agree that you displayed remarkable bravery and courage setting out on that quest to retrieve the Time Stone, more than the rest of us combined. We have now decided to offer you membership in the Toa Tanjo, if that is what you would like.”

As you can probably guess, my heart kind of stopped for a minute as I let those words sink in. Then I said quietly, “Wait, you mean you want me to join the Toa Tanjo? As a real, full-time member? Not honorary or anything?”

“Indeed,” said Nasis, nodding again. “You will be considered a full-time member just like the rest of us. You will get to go on missions with us, discuss potential threats to Tanjo Nui, train with us, and do everything else a member of the Toa Tanjo usually does. We believe you deserve it after all you’ve been through.”

“That’s great, but isn’t it against the rules for a Toa Time Stone guardian to be a full-time member of a Toa team?” I asked uncertainly.

“That’s why there is going to be a swap, Kiriah,” said Nasis. Then I noticed a new ball of metal had formed in his hand and was rapidly changing shapes now, too fast for me to identify them. “Toa Kijaka has offered to give up her place on the team if you want to join. She’ll take your place as guardian of the Time Stone if you choose to accept our offer. Turaga Klio has already approved the idea, since there are no ancient laws that speak against such a swap. So? What’s your answer?”

I vaguely recalled, before going on the dimension-hopping trip, how I thought volunteering to go would impress Nasis enough so that I would be allowed to join the Toa Tanjo. Of course, I had never believed it would actually work, but now here was Nasis, offering me to join, to become a full-fledged member of the Toa Tanjo, precisely because I had gone on such a dangerous journey and survived. It was almost too good to be true, yet it was one hundred percent genuine. If I said yes, then I’d be an official member of the Toa Tanjo, which had been my greatest dream ever since I had first become a Toa.

But then, before I could open my mouth and say yes, I hesitated. I remembered Isarot, who had always been happy with his job as a guardian of the Time Stone, even if it kept him from hanging out with other Tagiki too much. It occurred to me that he would probably not approve of me joining the Toa Tanjo. He would have wanted me to remain a guardian of the Time Stone until I retired or died, which is how he had chosen to live his life.

I didn’t have to follow in his footsteps, though, did I? Just because he had been satisfied with being a Time Stone guardian doesn’t mean I had to be. This could be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was being offered here. If I said no now, would Nasis or any of the other Toa Tanjo ever offer me this again? It seemed too risky to say no if I did not know whether this was a one-time offer or not.

But . . . I had grown so attached to the Time Stone and this Temple. I had lived here for a long time and had risked my life to get the Time Stone. I had a feeling that, if I were to join the Toa Tanjo, I’d be coming here every day just to make sure the Stone is safe and sound, rather than enjoying my new life as a member of the team.
 
I also wanted to train the new Tagiki guardian. Chances are he or she would be very inexperienced. I knew that when I had been appointed new Toa guardian over the Time Stone I appreciated having Isarot – who had been guardian slightly longer than me – there to guide and train with me. He had helped me learn the ropes and to better understand what a guardian of the Time Stone really is. I figured the new Tagiki would want someone with experience to guide him or her and I was probably the best candidate for that job.

And yes, I still believed it was important to protect the Time Stone, despite knowing its true origin. I would have to be on hand for whenever the Almighty Ones might contact me again and where better a place to be than the Temple, where I had complete and open access to the Stone every day?

As much as I did not want to admit it, I realized that remaining a guardian of the Time Stone – at least for now – was probably the wiser choice to make.

So I said to Nasis, “Thanks, but no thanks. I think I’m going to remain guardian of the Time Stone for now. As much as I want to be a member of the team, I believe that protecting the Time Stone is far more important at the moment. Maybe you can ask me again in the future, but for now I am satisfied with my job.”

Nasis nodded, almost like he expected it. “I see. Well, if you ever change your mind, call me. See you later, then, Kiriah. I’ll tell the others you said no.”

The Toa of Iron got up and left, leaving me all alone in my room. I felt a slight tinge of guilt at saying no, but I also realized I had ultimately made the right decision. I would have to help the new Tagiki guardian learn what it means to be a true guardian of the Time Stone . . . and maybe, after that, I would rethink Nasis’ offer.
 

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Edited by TNTOS, Mar 24 2014 - 07:00 PM.

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