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The Ghost King's Tragedy

The Shika Trilogy Dimension Hoppers The Ghost King

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#1 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Aug 01 2012 - 08:46 AM

Table of Contents:


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten


Chapter One


Sitting on his throne, the Ghost King of World’s End looked down on his kneeling Ghosts. Not a single Ghost spoke or moved. The years of living under the Ghost King’s strict rule had quite disciplined the Ghosts. They moved or spoke only when the Ghost King ordered them to, not before. And anyone who did speak out of turn . . . well, the Ghost King had specific punishments in store for those who did not respect his authority.

The Ghosts all wore identical pale white armor, which shone dimly in the light of the bluish torches mounted on the walls. They had long monkey-like tails wrapped around their waists, short, sharp claws, and little tri-crowns of horns on their heads.

Their appearance reminded the Ghost King of his own appearance. He, too, was pale white, but even paler than they. Like the Ghosts, he had three horns on his head, but his were longer and sharper than theirs. He was far taller and bulkier than they, too, and his eyes were green as opposed to yellow.

The Ghost King raised his sword and said, “All stand.”

The Ghosts rose as one. Each Ghost slammed their fists together in the traditional salute, which created a loud echo in the stone chamber that quickly faded at a gesture from the Ghost King.

“Now, my Ghosts,” said the Ghost King, looking over them all dispassionately. “For years, our island of World’s End has been ignored by the outside world. Our island has remained nothing more than a legend to outsiders, which is why we have been at peace for so many years.”

None of the Ghosts said anything, but the Ghost King, through his telepathy, heard thoughts such as And that has nothing to do with us from one disgruntled Ghost, a sentiment that was shared by the others. That was good. The Ghost King despised arrogance, for it often led to rebellion. By making it clear they were not responsible for this peace, the Ghosts could not become prideful, or so the Ghost King believed.

“Now my Ghosts,” the Ghost King continued, “through my supernatural intuition and link to the spirits, I have discovered that four invaders have arrived on this island. What’s more, they were sent by my mortal enemy to kill me.”

Again, the Ghosts’ discipline kept them from reacting. The Ghost King went over their minds again and heard thoughts such as Impossible! from one Ghost and What could this mean? from another, although their bodies betrayed no reactions to the news.

“Allow me to repeat that,” the Ghost King said. He held up his left hand and began counting off his fingers. “Not one, nor two, nay, not just three, but four invaders, sent here to kill me. My enemy is too cowardly to show his face to me, but it is no coincidence that these invaders appear on my island at the same time that my enemy’s power has risen to unforeseen heights.”

The Ghost King again scanned their thoughts and heard one Ghost thinking What can we do against the Ghost King's enemy?, words which described the others' feelings quite well. Nor did the Ghost King see fit to comfort them. Fear was the primary tool with which he controlled the Ghosts. He made sure they were always afraid, so they would never think of overthrowing him.

“Tira, Balon, Virof,” said the Ghost King, beckoning toward the three Ghosts standing at the front. “Come here.”

The three Ghost Lieutenants walked up to the Ghost King’s throne. They stopped at the step just below the Ghost King’s feet and kneeled.

The Ghost King looked at his Lieutenants. Tira was thin and had a long scar running down her right cheek. Balon was muscular and had a knife strapped to his chest. Virof was taller than the last two, with longer claws than the others’. Though perhaps not all three Lieutenants were equal in their loyalty to him, the Ghost King did not doubt that they would do whatever he ordered them to do.

“I give you orders to lead the Ghosts to eliminate these invaders,” the Ghost King said, tapping each Lieutenant on the shoulder with his sword as he spoke. “Do not return until you can bring me their heads in a bag. They are at Skull Beach.”

“We shall not fail you, Your Highness,” said Tira.

“Then go!” the Ghost King ordered, pointing at the door with his sword. “Leave and do whatever it takes to save your king!”

The Lieutenants nodded. A second later, all of the Ghosts had teleported out of the room. The Ghost King sat alone on his throne as memories flooded through his mind, memories of his enemy and of a time long ago, when things were not quite as grim as they were today.

My old enemy, the Ghost King thought. You really think you’ve gotten me this time. You will be surprised.

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 04:30 PM.

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#2 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Aug 08 2012 - 08:47 AM

Chapter Two


Half an hour earlier . . .

Toa Akuna, Toa of Lightning, could not explain how, having gone to bed in her tent on dry land, she had woken up on a raft in the middle of a misty ocean.

Her first thought was that this was a dream. But when a wave splashed over her body, the ice cold water shocking her system, Akuna disregarded that idea outright.

Akuna stayed calm. She’d been in strange situations before. The best way to deal with them was to think over the situation carefully. She thought back to the past, to see if she might have heard or done something that could explain this bizarre situation.

Just a few minutes ago, Akuna had been encamped on the northern continent with her friends, Toa Oggakia, Toa Jokao, Toa Chimoy, and Igici, a former Dark Hunter. They had been there in search of the prison where their elder, Turaga Joha, had been taken captive by Makuta Teridax’s Rahkshi forces. After that, they’d planned to join up with the main rebellion and continue in the fight against Teridax’s unjust rule.

She remembered going to sleep after agreeing with the other Toa to continue their search for the prison in the morning. Oggak had volunteered to take over guard duty for the night and had talked to Akuna briefly about the possibility that Joha was already dead. The conversation hadn’t exactly been uplifting, but Akuna didn’t think that had anything to do with her current predicament.

Another mystery, Akuna thought. I hate mysteries.

Just then, Akuna heard paddling noises from within the mist. She looked around until she spotted a Toa of Psionics rowing from out of the mist toward her. The Toa of Psionics looked like a normal Toa, except for her mask, which was a rather old and rusty-looking Mask of Healing. Akuna had no idea what happened to that mask or why the Toa of Psionics was wearing something that didn’t appear to work, but Akuna decided she’d figure that out later after she knew who this Toa was.

“Oh, um, hi,” said the Toa of Psionics, when her raft reached Akuna’s. “Do you know where we are?”

Akuna shook her head. “No idea. I just woke up in this raft here a few minutes ago.”

“Me, too,” the Toa of Psionics said. “I mean, not in your raft, obviously, but in this one.”

She gestured rather unnecessarily at her own vessel. This Toa of Psionics didn’t seem very quick-witted to Akuna.

“The last thing I remember doing was going to sleep in a cave,” said the Toa of Psionics. “And then I woke up alone here and was afraid until I picked up your mental signature. I came over to see if you were a friend.”

“Okay,” said Akuna, scratching the back of her head. “What’s your name? I’m Akuna.”

“Kiriah,” the Toa of Psionics replied. “I’m the Toa guardian of the Time Stone. From Tanjo Nui.”

“Tanjo Nui,” said Akuna thoughtfully. “Isn’t that the place where the Tagiki rebellion is happening?”

Was happening,” Kiriah said grimly. “Then Teridax smashed it.”

“Oh,” said Akuna. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” said Kiriah, although she didn’t sound ‘all right’ to Akuna. “Horic and I have been working with the Toa Tanjo, so we’re doing all right even though Teridax effectively kicked us off Tanjo Nui.”

“Who?” said Akuna.

“Horic,” Kiriah repeated. “He’s the new Tagiki Time Stone guardian. He’s been really helpful.”

“What happened to the old one?” Akuna asked.

Kiriah looked away. “He . . . he died.”

The old guardian’s death was obviously a sensitive subject for Kiriah, so Akuna decided not to question her about it further.

Instead, Akuna said, “So you really have no idea where we are?”

“None at all,” Kiriah replied. “I’m just as lost as you are.”

Akuna was about to say that they should try to leave the mist and find land, but was interrupted when she heard more paddling from within the mist. She and Kiriah looked in the direction that the paddling sounds were coming from. In a few seconds Toa Oggakia, Toa of Shadow and friend of Akuna, came out of the mist, her black armor contrasting sharply with the white mist.

“Oggak?” said Akuna in surprise. “How did you get here?”

“No idea,” Oggak said, shaking her head. “I was on guard duty at camp and, the next thing I knew, I was in this raft. Then I heard you two talking, so I rowed over here to see who you were.”

“Well, it’s good to see a familiar face, at least,” said Akuna. Then she pointed at Kiriah and said, “Oggak, meet Kiriah. Kiriah, meet Oggak.”

The two Toa exchanged greetings, although Kiriah seemed a little apprehensive of Oggak. It was probably because of Oggak’s quiet and sometimes cold personality, considering Kiriah didn’t yet know what Oggak’s element was. Akuna decided she would tell Kiriah about Oggak’s element later, after they figured out where they were and what they should do next.

“So,” Oggak began, but was interrupted by the sound of even more paddling from the mist.

A Toa of Magnetism rowed out of the mist on a raft identical to their rafts. The Toa of Magnetism waved cheerily at Kiriah as she approached, saying, “Hey, Kiriah, what’s up? Who are your new friends? Are you lost, too? Does anyone know where we are? Are we in the middle of the ocean or just a really big lake?”

The Toa of Magnetism fired off the questions so rapidly that Akuna barely understood them.

Kiriah, on the other hand, seemed to understand the quick-talking Toa, for she said, “Ahova, meet Akuna and Oggak. Akuna, Oggak, meet Ahova, a member of the Toa Tanjo and a friend of mine.”

The Toa of Magnetism named Ahova smiled at Akuna and Oggak. “Nice to meet you. Lightning and . . .?”

“Shadow,” Oggak replied quietly. “But don’t worry. I don’t bite.”

Kiriah and Ahova looked taken aback by Oggak’s reply, probably unsure whether she was joking or not.

Then Akuna, figuring that this conversation wasn’t going too well, said, “Well, now that we’re here, we ought to figure out how we all got here.”

“I can tell you that,” said a fifth voice, a deep, masculine voice very much unlike the others’ feminine tones.

The four Toa looked around, but didn’t see the source of the voice until the mist began swirling in front of them. When it finished, a Toa-like figure hovered just above the ocean waters, his misty feet occasionally dissipated by the waves beneath him.

The mist Toa wore a Mask of Shielding, but had no eyes behind the mask or any other facial features for that matter. He was humanoid and bright white, which made him look a bit like a ghost.

“Who are you?” Akuna said. “Are you responsible for bringing us here?”

“Why of course,” said the mist Toa. “But fear not, Toa Akuna, I am not malevolent. I have only benevolent intentions for you four.”

“Then why did you kidnap us?” said Akuna.

The Toa shrugged. “I needed all four of you together in one place. I apologize for my uncouth actions, but it is easier to talk to you if all of you are in one place like this.”

Akuna looked at the others. None of them seemed to accept the mist entity’s reasoning for kidnapping them.

“Anyway, I should introduce myself,” said the Toa. “I am the Master of Mist. You may call me ‘the Master’ for short.”

“The Master of Mist?” Akuna repeated. “I’ve never heard of you before.”

“I have,” said Oggak, gaining the attention of the other three Toa. “He’s from the legend of World’s End. Don’t you remember?”

Akuna, Ahova, and Kiriah shook their heads, although Akuna was not surprised that Oggak knew this information. Oggak had spent a better part of her life on the Order of Mata Nui’s main base, Daxia, so the Toa of Shadow knew a lot of things that most people didn’t. Even now, after Akuna had known Oggak for a few months, Oggak still sometimes surprised her with her deep knowledge of various cultures and mythologies.

“Then tell them the legend,” said the Master, folding his arms. “It is a good tale.”

“Okay,” said Oggak. She turned to the others and said, “You know the legend of the Ghost King of World’s End, right?”

Akuna and Ahova blinked, but surprisingly, Kiriah nodded.

“I know about World’s End,” said Kiriah. “It was the last island created by the Great Beings. They dumped all of their failed creations on it and stuff.”

“That’s correct, Kiriah,” said Oggak. “According to legend, World’s End is ruled by a mysterious entity known as the Ghost King, who leads a Ghost army that protects the island. The Ghost King is said to have been banished there by the Great Beings to prevent him from causing chaos throughout the whole universe, which at the time was very new.”

“And that is where I came in,” said the Master, pointing at himself. “The Great Beings, you see, needed someone to imprison the Ghost King, make it impossible for him to escape. So they created me. And I swore by an oath that I, the Master of Mist, would use my powers to make it impossible for the Ghost King to leave World’s End.”

“Is that true?” Akuna asked Oggak.

“Yes,” said Oggak, nodding. “Of course, that’s just one version of the tale. In another-“

“Other, less accurate versions aren’t important right now,” the Master said. “Now that you know who I am, it is time you know why you are here.”

“Okay, then,” said Akuna, folding her arms. “By the way, if you’ve been around for so long, how come you haven’t been helping fight Teridax?”

“To answer your question, Akuna, I can and can’t,” said the Master, shaking his head. “To fight Teridax himself, I would need to leave my post as the Ghost King’s jailer, which would allow the Ghost King to escape. There’s no guarantee that I, a simple and humble entity, could defeat a being as powerful and cunning as Makuta Teridax anyway. And if the Ghost King were to escape . . . it wouldn’t be very pleasant. So I know of another, better way to help in the fight against Teridax.”

“That’s why you summoned us here?” Ahova chimed in. “You want to help us fight Teridax? That’s awesome. Having a guy made out of mist seems kind of lame, but I’m sure you can do something cool.”

Unless Akuna’s eyes deceived her, the Master seemed to glare at Ahova for a moment, but that didn’t make sense, considering the Master didn’t have eyes to glare with.

“I, too, wish to see the downfall of Teridax,” said the Master. “Yet it is impossible for any of us to defeat him unless we know the secret he used to defeat Mata Nui in the first place. Without that knowledge, your rebellion might as well give up.”

“And you know where we can get this knowledge?” said Akuna, leaning forward slightly.

“Of course,” said the Master, nodding. “It will require you four working together to get it, but I have complete faith in your talents and ability to work as a team.”

“So where is it?” said Ahova, bouncing up and down in her raft. “In a secret cave? Guarded in a Makuta fortress? In the hands of the Dark Hunters?”

“Wrong,” said the Master. “The secret lies on the island of World’s End. Specifically, it lies in the mind of one particular being on World’s End.”

“And who is that being?” said Oggak.

“The Ghost King himself, of course,” said the Master, as though Oggak were stupid. “The Ghost King is the only being in the universe -- besides Teridax himself, obviously -- who knows the secret to defeating the Great Spirit of the universe, which is one reason he was imprisoned. I ask you four Toa to go to World’s End and request that secret from him.”

“If you’re so powerful, why don’t you go get the secret yourself?” Akuna asked. “Why do you need four Toa to do it for you?”

“Because the Ghost King and I have been enemies since the beginning of time,” the Master replied. “He hates me more than any other being in the world, which I suppose isn’t saying much, considering he doesn’t know many other beings besides me. If I were to walk into World’s End and politely ask for the secret to defeating Teridax, the Ghost King would sneer at me at best and try to murder me at worst.”

“Let me guess,” said Oggak, looking up at the Master. “Because the Ghost King doesn’t know us, you think he might be more willing to tell us the secret?”

“Exactly,” said the Master, nodding. “He has no idea if you are friends or enemies. As long as you don’t treat him unfriendly, the chances are high that he will tell you what you need to know.”

“What if something goes wrong?” said Kiriah, looking around at the others nervously. “I mean, the Ghost King is supposed to be evil, right? What if he decides to attack us?”

“Why do you think I chose you four Toa in particular?” said the Master with a laugh. “Your elements are uniquely suited for protecting you if the Ghost King decides to harm you.”

The Master pointed at each Toa in turn as he continued, “Kiriah, your psionic powers can protect you against the Ghost King’s illusionary abilities and mind tricks; Oggak, your shadow powers can counter the Ghost King’s own dark powers; Akuna, your lightning will be able to harm the Ghost King’s immaterial form; and Ahova, you are basically a wild card.”

“Wild card is a-okay with me,” said Ahova, smiling as she gave him the thumbs up.

“Now that you all know why you are here,” the Master continued, “and why I chose you four in particular, will you accept this mission?”

Akuna looked at the others and then back at the Master. “Give us ten minutes alone to decide. Then we’ll give you our answer.”

The Master bowed. “As you wish.”

The Master’s form dissipated in the mist, but even then, Akuna felt like he was still there, watching them like a ghost that did not wish to be seen itself.

Shaking off that strange feeling, Akuna huddled with the others and said, “All right, what do you guys think?”

“I think it’s amazing that Oggak is a real Toa of Shadow,” said Kiriah, looking at Oggak. “I heard rumors about a Toa of Shadow somewhere in the universe, but I always thought it was just Makuta propaganda.”

“Me, too,” said Ahova, nodding vigorously. “With so much propaganda and rumors, it’s hard to know what to believe these days, isn’t it?”

“I don’t work for Teridax, if that’s what you’re thinking,” said Oggak. “I’ve been fighting him as hard as any Toa. Nor am I evil, either.”

“That’s not what I was asking,” said Akuna, slightly annoyed. “I mean, what do y’all think about the Master’s offer?”

“I don’t know,” said Kiriah, glancing over her shoulder nervously. “On one hand, if he’s telling the truth, then we ought to go. If there’s even the slightest chance that the Ghost King holds the key to saving the universe . . .”

“On the other hand, though, this could be a trick,” said Oggak. “I for one have never heard of the Master of Mist actually existing. Always thought he was a myth. Even if he was keeping to himself, he did it a little too well, in my opinion, because the Order’s archives state that he is a fictional character.”

“Personally, I think we should go for it,” said Ahova. “I mean, how often do mist entities offer you the chance to save the universe?”

“That’s just the point, Ahova,” said Oggak with a sigh. “We don’t know if we can trust him. His appearance is too sudden and illogical. I vote no.”

Akuna listened carefully to their arguments and then said, “The Master is mysterious, but on the other hand, I don’t want to pass up this offer because, like Kiriah said, it could be true. And like Ahova said, this is a rare offer which we can’t refuse. Even if it’s a trick, I’m sure we can take care of ourselves.”

“I agree with Akuna,” said Kiriah, nodding. “This is the whole universe we’re talking about here. We can’t just reject the one chance we could use to save it based on flimsy suspicions. I admit, though, that I couldn’t breach the Master’s mind with my telepathy at all. He has really strong mental shields.”

“That’s another reason to distrust him,” said Oggak. “People who use mental shields are usually hiding something.”

“Er, Oggak?” said Akuna. “You do realize what you just said, right?”“I do,” Oggak replied. “And I still stand by it.”

Akuna shrugged. Oggak also had unusually strong mental barriers, which she had used to hide an important secret from the Toa Shika the first time Akuna had met her, due to the Toa of Shadow’s insecurity. Oggak was more honest now, which perhaps explained her distrust of those who did that.

“Then let’s vote,” said Akuna. “All in favor?”

Kiriah and Ahova said, “I.”

“As I am also in favor of it, we will accept the offer,” said Akuna, looking at Oggak. “Sorry, Oggak, but majority rules.”

Oggak looked annoyed, but said nothing as they broke their huddle and turned around.

The Master was standing in the mist, almost like he had never left. Akuna wondered just how long he had been standing there and how much of their conversation he had overheard.

“So what is your answer?” the Master said.

“We will accept this mission,” said Akuna. “We will go to World’s End, find the Ghost King, and convince him to tell us the secret to defeating Teridax.”

The Master nodded. “Excellent. That is very good. Then it is time for you to go. The Ghost King is in Mount Apocalypse, the mountain in the center of the island.”

The Master clapped his hands (which made no sound, as they were also mist) and the mist suddenly dissipated. Akuna could now see that they were much closer to shore than she had thought, for she could see an island nearby, an island which could only be World’s End.


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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 04:41 PM.

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#3 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Aug 15 2012 - 09:00 AM

Chapter Three


Although it was true that Kiriah had agreed to go to World’s End, part of her wished she hadn’t. She had a lot of bad memories associated with that place and she could have lived a long, happy, fulfilling life without ever having stepped foot there again.

Of course, Kiriah knew that this World’s End wasn’t exactly the same as the one she’d been to. Some time ago, Kiriah and her deceased friend Isarot had visited a World’s End in an alternate universe. There they had been forced to fight an army of reanimated skeletal warriors that would have overwhelmed them had they not escaped in time.

Kiriah didn’t expect to have to fight reanimated skeletal warriors this time, but she still wished the Ghost King had been banished to a nicer place. Like the Konez Isles, for instance, which Kiriah heard were supposed to be quite tropical this time of year.

Kiriah didn’t tell any of this to the others as they rowed their rafts to World’s End. Mostly because she didn’t want to relive the memories by talking about them, but also because she doubted it would be important. After all, the reanimated skeletal army had been created under unusual circumstances, which Kiriah doubted would be repeated here.

This universe’s World’s End looked almost exactly the same as that other universe’s World’s End. Mount Apocalypse -- which Kiriah thought was a happy name -- stood in the center of the island, towering above the jungle that surrounded its base. Even from a distance, Mount Apocalypse looked enormous, like a foot of Mata Nui himself.

The beach they landed on was mostly empty, although scattered here and there were weird white rocks. The other Toa got off their rafts gracefully and without trouble, but Kiriah jumped off hers the wrong way and landed in the water with a splash. She immediately got back up, however, and waded quickly through the ice cold water after the others, who fortunately had not noticed her mistake.

World’s End was as quiet as she remembered. Kiriah felt a cool sea breeze on the back of her neck, but did not hear the wind blow. She didn’t hear any animals or even insects. The only sounds she heard were the muffled footsteps of the group as they walked on the sand.

“So this is World’s End,” said Akuna, looking up at the jungle. “I never thought it’d look so green.”

Ahova started, causing the other three Toa to look at her in surprise.

“What is it?” said Akuna, now holding a dagger-tipped staff in her hands. “Did you get hurt, Ahova?”

Ahova shook her head. “No. I was just checking out these white rocks, but as it turns out, they aren’t rocks at all.”

Ahova pointed at the ground and Kiriah and the others looked at where she was pointing. Kiriah immediately understood what Ahova meant when she said that those white rocks weren’t rocks.

They were bones; mostly skulls, from what Kiriah could see, but there were some limb bones as well. Some were half-buried in the sand, while others sat neatly on top of it. The sight was so nauseating that Kiriah almost felt sick.

“Bones?” said Akuna. “Where did those come from?”

Oggak bent down to examine one and said, “They’re not recent. They’ve been here for a while, which means their owners must have died some time ago.”

“What kind of sicko puts skulls on beaches like this?” said Kiriah, shaking despite herself. “Is this the Ghost King’s doing?”

“No idea,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “The Ghost King is supposed to have an army of Ghosts. Maybe they’re responsible for this.”

“But who could have been killed?” Kiriah said. “I thought World’s End is supposed to be unreachable by normal people.”

“Perhaps the Master isn’t as diligent a gatekeeper as he made himself out to be,” said Oggak, turning over a skull with her sword. “Or maybe there are real people on this island, not just spirits.”

“Whatever the case, we should definitely keep our guard up,” said Akuna. “We don’t want our skulls to end up on this beach, so everyone, draw your weapons and we’ll go through the jungle.”

Kiriah pulled out her sword, which she would have done anyway even if Akuna hadn’t said so. Oggak and Akuna already had their weapons out, while Ahova merely raised her gauntlets and said, “Magnetic gauntlets. They’re the best.”

“Well, now that we’re all equipped and ready, I suppose we just need to walk through the jungle to the mountain,” said Akuna, gesturing at the jungle. “Let’s go.”

-

Tira crouched low on top of the trees, her clawed feet gripping the branches with ease. Her eyes confirmed what the Ghost King had already told the Ghosts: Four Toa really had invaded World’s End and were entering the forest at that very moment.

Tira had watched the Toa talk briefly, but couldn’t make out most of what they were saying due to the loss of hearing in her left audio receptor. Still, Tira guessed that they had been discussing how to kill the Ghost King. They needed to be stopped.

Bending low, Tira strung a wire, which sent a vibration that would be felt in every tree. It was a part of a complex, crisscrossing wire system that acted as the main form of long-distance communication among the Ghosts, designed by the Ghost King himself. The Ghost King claimed to have been inspired by some beings known as the ‘stealers of life,’ who apparently used a natural version of this method.

The communication generally consisted of complex vibrations, but this message Tira sent was simple, for it required only one pull of the wire. No one would mistake its basic message:

The invaders have entered the jungle. Take no prisoners.

-

The jungle was exactly as Kiriah remembered it: hot and humid, with vines and tree branches sticking in their path. It was just as muddy, too, and more than once Kiriah nearly slipped. She didn’t feel so bad about it, though, because the slick mud made the others cautious as well.

Kiriah and Oggak were the only two with swords, so they were in the front cutting a path for their group. Kiriah had asked Akuna why they couldn’t just use their elemental powers to make a path, but Akuna had reminded her that such a move might be seen as an act of aggression by the Ghost King. They simply couldn’t risk alarming him if they were going to get the secret from him.

Most of Kiriah’s concerns were quickly proven pointless, though, because they seemed to be walking along an actual path, for the grass and mud looked as though they had been trampled here. There were fewer vines or branches to cut down, too.

This gave Kiriah and Oggak time to talk, although Kiriah didn’t really feel comfortable around the Toa of Shadow. Yes, Oggak had already reassured her that she was on their side, but Kiriah knew that shadow was generally not good, so she wasn’t sure what to say to Oggak, if anything at all.

“You’re a Toa of Psionics, right?” said Oggak, glancing at Kiriah as they walked.

“What? Yeah,” said Kiriah, nodding. “What about it?”

“Can you sense any other minds nearby besides our own?” Oggak asked.

Kiriah frowned and shook her head. “No. It feels like there’s this intense mental pressure covering the area, like a giant blanket. I can’t even feel your mind and you’re right next to me.”

“That’s probably because I already have mental shields,” Oggak said. “But that is an interesting observation.”

“It must be the Ghost King,” said Akuna from behind them. “This is his island, after all. Maybe he knows what your element is, Kiriah, and he’s trying to stop you from using it.”

“Could be,” said Kiriah, chopping a vine out of the way. “I don’t like it. You guys wouldn’t understand, but I feel blind. I’ve never had to rely solely on my physical senses to interact with the world before and it makes me nervous.”

“There’s no need to be nervous, Kiriah,” said Ahova, patting the Toa of Psionics on the shoulder. “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? An ambush?”

Their conversation was interrupted by a rustling sound in the treetops above. Kiriah looked up, but saw nothing.
Then something darted through the air, stabbing her in the shoulder before she could react. The blow was enough to send her staggering backwards, yelping as she looked at her shoulder.

A long, thin arrow stuck out of Kiriah’s shoulder. The wound burned like fire and it was bleeding profusely, but Kiriah had no time to think about it, for Akuna shouted, “Watch out!” and tackled Kiriah to the ground as a dozen more arrows flew by overhead.

When Kiriah hit the ground, she accidentally landed on her shoulder with the arrow in it, causing even more pain than before. She cried out, but Akuna slapped a hand over her mouth as she pulled Kiriah under a bush with her.

“Shhh!” Akuna whispered. “We can’t let them know where we are.”

Kiriah nodded, but the pain in her shoulder was hurting so badly now that tears were streaming from her eyes.

“Looks like Oggak and Ahova have the same idea as us,” said Akuna, pointing through a break in the bushes.

Kiriah looked and saw Oggak and Ahova crouched inside a bush nearby. The arrows had ceased raining down from the treetops, but Kiriah had no doubt that the archers were still up there. They were most likely searching for the Toa or maybe waiting for them to come out. What was worse was that eventually Kiriah and Akuna would have to move because Kiriah’s shoulder was still bleeding.

And yet if we go out, we’ll be killed, Kiriah thought. We’re screwed either way.

Looking up at Akuna, Kiriah whispered, “What do we do?”

Akuna looked like she was thinking hard. “We need to get the archers out of the trees somehow. We might stand a chance if we could do that.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” Kiriah asked. “We don’t know where the archers are, exactly, so we can’t shoot at them with our elemental powers.”

Akuna looked around until she spotted something next to them. “Hey . . . is that a bit of wire extending down from that tree?”

Stifling an incoming groan of pain, Kiriah looked and saw that Akuna was right. Wrapped tightly around the tree’s base like a rope was a thin wire, the likes of which Kiriah had never before seen. Akuna grinned triumphantly at the sight of it.

“Don’t move,” Akuna whispered to Kiriah. “I’ve got an idea.”

Kiriah nodded and watched as Akuna grabbed the end of the wire, which was sticking out next to them. She noticed that the wire seemed to wind all the way up to the top of the tree, but as Kiriah saw no sign of any machines or electrical equipment, she had no idea what the wire connected to.

Akuna closed her eyes and seemed to glow briefly before going back to normal. Kiriah was about to ask Akuna what she had done when she heard several ‘thuds’ outside, as though things were falling from the treetops one after the other.

She immediately peered out of the bush and saw several dozen white-armored beings lying on the ground, looking unconscious but not dead.Kiriah looked back at Akuna in amazement. “What did you-“

“I’ll explain later,” said Akuna. “Come on. Let’s find Oggak and Ahova.”

Akuna got to her feet and helped Kiriah up. Kiriah’s shoulder still hurt badly and she only barely succeeded in ignoring it as they walked over to the unconscious beings. Oggak and Ahova had come out from their hiding place, too, although it looked more like they had been scared out of theirs, for Kiriah noticed that one of the white beings had fallen on their bush.

“Is this of your doing, Akuna?” Oggak said, pointing at the fallen beings. “Not that I’m complaining, but I figured there had to be a logical explanation for this.”

“Yes,” said Akuna, nodding. “I knocked them out with a little bit of electricity.”

“I know how you did it,” said Ahova. “I felt it in the air. You somehow found a way to send a charge of electricity through the trees and into the archers, right? I know you did. It’s the only logical explanation, but then again something else could have happened-“

“No, your theory’s correct,” said Akuna quickly. “I found this wire going up to the treetops and I thought maybe it was part of a bigger system of wires. I also thought the archers might have been in physical contact with the wires. So I just sent an electrical surge up the wire, knocking them all out.”

“How did you know that, Ahova?” Kiriah asked. “You’re a Toa of Magnetism, not a Toa of Lightning.”

“That’s the interesting thing,” said Ahova. “Electricity and magnetism are a lot more closely related than you’d think. Not that that matters, though, because Kiriah, you’ve got an arrow sticking out of your shoulder and you’re still bleeding pretty badly.”

Kiriah had been so absorbed in the conversation that she had almost forgotten about the wound. Upon remembering it, a surge of pain went through Kiriah’s body, causing her to groan as she fell to her knees, gripping her shoulder with her other hand. The arrow felt like a large stinger, which hurt like Karzahni.

“We need to remove it immediately,” Akuna said. “Ahova, can you use your magnetism to remove the arrow? It has a metal shaft.”

“Sure,” Ahova said. “Anything to help a friend.”

Then Akuna looked down at Kiriah. “Kiriah, does your Mask of Healing work?”

“Yes,” Kiriah said, before groaning loudly. “I’m in too much pain to use it, though.”

“Not a problem,” said Akuna. “You can switch masks with Oggak briefly. You know how to use the Mask of Healing, right, Oggak?”

“Yes,” said Oggak, nodding.

“All right, then,” said Akuna. “Let’s get to work.”

-

The operation lasted only five minutes, even though it felt like hours to Kiriah. The hardest and most painful part of the process was Ahova’s removal of the arrow. Ahova had to use a complex combination of different magnetic techniques to remove the arrow without causing more damage to the shoulder, but that didn’t stop it from hurting so badly that Kiriah had to groan occasionally.

When the blood-soaked arrow was removed from Kiriah’s shoulder, Kiriah gave her Mask of Healing to Oggak, who thankfully did know how to use it. Oggak immediately sealed up Kiriah’s shoulder wound and healed it, too. By the time Oggak was done, Kiriah’s shoulder felt stiff and the armor was covered with dried blood, but it no longer hurt and seemed to function just fine.

“Thanks,” said Kiriah as she and Oggak traded back masks. “I owe you one, Oggak. And I owe you one, too, Ahova.”

“Don’t mention it,” said Ahova, slapping Kiriah on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’d have done the same for me if I was in your situation.”

“You’re welcome, Kiriah,” said Oggak. “It wasn’t that hard.”

Kiriah smiled, and then looked around. “Hey, where’d Akuna go?”

The three Toa scanned the area until they spotted Akuna bending over one of the fallen archers. They walked over to where Akuna was kneeling, causing her to look up at them as they approached.

“Hey, Akuna, what’re you doing?” Kiriah asked.

“Trying to wake this guy up,” said Akuna, slapping the fallen archer in the face. “Must have electrocuted him pretty badly because he hasn’t even stirred.”

“And . . . why are you trying to wake up one of the guys who nearly kill me?” Kiriah said.

Akuna looked at Kiriah with a slightly annoyed expression. “Because he, being a Ghost, probably knows more about the Ghost King than we do. Considering how few facts we know about the Ghost King, any information we can get about him or his Ghosts could be extremely useful.”

“Ghosts?” Ahova repeated. She looked at the fallen archers and said, “There’s no way these are ghosts. Ghosts are supposed to be transparent and float and immaterial and all that stuff. These guys look plenty physical to me.”

“No, I think Akuna’s right,” said Oggak. “The Ghost King is supposed to have an army of Ghosts. These Ghosts aren’t real ghosts; it’s obviously just a title, but it does make sense. What else would you call the Ghost King’s subjects?”

“Okay,” said Ahova, who sounded unconvinced. “Then does that mean the Ghost King isn’t really a ghost king himself?”

“Possibly,” Oggak said. “The fact that his Ghosts aren’t really supernatural beings certainly lends credibility to that possibility. If so, he will probably be easier to deal with if he ever chooses to fight us himself.”

“It’s no use,” said Akuna, standing up. “This guy’s out cold. I can’t wake him up.”

“Let me try,” said Oggak as she bent down. “Knowledge is always useful, so we shouldn’t give up just yet.”

Oggak stared at the Ghost for a moment. Kiriah wondered what the Toa of Shadow was doing until the Ghost’s eyes snapped open and he screamed, but was immediately cut off by Oggak covering his mouth.

“Scream again and I won’t be so merciful next time,” Oggak said, in a threatening voice very much unlike her own. “Understand, little wisp?”

The Ghost nodded with fearful eyes. Oggak took her hand off his mouth. As she did so, the other Toa immediately surrounded the Ghost, cutting off all avenues of escape.

“How did you do that?” Kiriah whispered to Oggak as the Toa of Shadow stood back up.

Oggak tapped the side of her mask. “Mask of Dreams. Nightmares. Think about it.”

The idea sent a shudder down Kiriah’s spine, causing her to wonder if having Oggak on their side really was that much of an advantage.

“Okay, Ghost,” said Akuna to the Ghost, who still sat on the ground. “Tell us your name.”

“Never,” the Ghost said, looking defiantly up at Akuna. “Nor will I tell you invaders anything else. I know you have come only to slay the Ghost King. I would die before I let that happen to my king.”

“We’re not trying to kill him,” said Akuna. “We’ve come to reason with him, not murder him.”

“You lie,” the Ghost said, pointing at her. “You attacked me and my fellow Ghosts. Your deceptive words won’t trick me.”

“She’s telling the truth, though,” said Ahova. “Only reason we attacked you guys was because you guys attacked us. We’re willing to be friends with you guys.”

Now the Ghost was shaking, as though suddenly cold. “No. I know what you are planning. You’re going to kill the Ghost King and rule World’s End as the Ghost Queens! I would rather die before I see that happen!”

The Ghost immediately stood up, but Akuna just shoved him back to the ground.

“Get real,” said Akuna, shaking her head. “Ghost Queen? Is that even a real mythical figure?”

“I don’t know,” said Kiriah, scratching the back of her head. “Ghost Queen doesn’t sound as horrifying as Ghost King.”

“Kiriah!” said Akuna, glaring at the Toa of Psionics, but it was too late.

The Ghost looked at Kiriah with shock. “I knew it! You really do want to kill the Ghost King and take over World’s End! You are terrible liars.”

“No, Kiriah just doesn’t think before she talks,” said Akuna. “She didn’t really mean it.”

The Ghost seemed to have stopped paying attention to Akuna, however, for he was now rapidly muttering under his breath, “Invaders . . . want to kill Ghost King . . . must tell him before it’s too late . . .”

Without even a hint as to what he was about to do, the Ghost vanished into thin air. Startled, Akuna fired a lightning bolt too late. It struck the ground where the Ghost had been sitting previously, charring the grass and earth and leaving the stinking smell of ozone.

“Well,” said Ahova, looking at the others. “He got away. Not a problem, of course, as there are plenty of other Ghosts for us to . . . interrogate.”

As Ahova said that, the other Toa looked around and noticed that all of the other Ghosts had vanished as well. They left behind only the imprints of their bodies on the ground where they had fallen.

“So they’re all gone,” said Ahova. “How nice.”

“Then we need to get gone, too,” said Akuna. “They probably just left to lick their wounds. We should get moving before they come back.”

Akuna and the others quickly returned to the jungle path, but with more caution now, their eyes and audio receptors open for any signs of an ambush. Kiriah stayed in the back, hoping that she hadn’t said something that was about to get them all into big trouble.

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 04:54 PM.

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#4 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Aug 22 2012 - 08:34 PM

Chapter Four


“Imbeciles and incompetent fools!”

The Ghosts actually cringed at the Ghost King’s harsh words, but otherwise did not move or say anything. Tira, Balon, and Virof were in the front as usual, although now looked like they wished they were in the back.

“There were two dozen of you versus four Toa,” the Ghost King growled, glaring at them all. “Does anyone mind explaining to me exactly how you failed, in spite of the odds being in your favor?”

At first, no one said anything. The Ghost King didn’t expect them to; after all, admitting the reasons for their failure was almost as bad as failure itself. He decided he was going to extract the information from their minds, but before he could do that, a Ghost stumbled forward.

“And what do you have to say?” the Ghost King demanded. “It had better be important or else I will-“

“It is vitally important, my lord,” the Ghost insisted. “Forgive me for my interruption, but it is important information that you absolutely need to know.”

“Then tell me what it is,” said the Ghost King, staring down at the Ghost with no enthusiasm. “I’m listening.”

“You see, my lord,” said the Ghost, “I was captured by the four Toa after they defeated us. They interrogated me and tried to get information out of me, my lord, but I outsmarted them and learned the truth. They have come to World’s End to dispose of you, my lord, and become the Ghost Queens!”

None of the Ghosts reacted to that news, while the Ghost King stroked his chin thoughtfully.

“That is what they said?” said the Ghost King, after a few moments of thinking.

“Well, that’s what one of them said, my lord,” said the Ghost conspiratorially. He smiled and said, “But the others tried to shut her up because she had revealed their true intentions.”

“Ghost Queens,” said the Ghost King thoughtfully. “What is your name, young one?”

“Steben, sir,” said the Ghost, bowing.

The Ghost King smiled and said, “Well, Steben, you are about to set an example for your fellow Ghosts.”

Steben looked up at the Ghost King, a puzzled look on his face. “An example, my lord?”

The Ghost King kept smiling. “Yes, an example. Please come up here.”

Steben almost hesitated, but then he dutifully trotted up the steps until he was in front of the Ghost King’s throne. Steben stopped and stood there, awaiting whatever orders the Ghost King chose to give him. Or, he would have, if the Ghost King had been intending to give Steben any orders at all.

Without warning, the Ghost King seized Steben’s head with his right hand. Steben didn’t even have time to cry out. Power flowed through the fingers in the Ghost King’s right hand and Steben’s head exploded, causing the Ghosts in the front row to be slightly splattered with blood.

Steben’s now-headless corpse fell to the steps and rolled down until it stopped at the feet of the three Lieutenants, who didn’t even acknowledge it. They just kept their eyes on the Ghost King, who raised his bloody hand high for all of them to see.

“Let Steben be an example to you Ghosts,” said the Ghost King. “He lied to me and told me his interpretation of events, rather than the truth. Therefore, I executed him, for all who lie to me are my enemies and not my friends.”

The Ghosts bowed low, including the Lieutenants.

“The Toa are not attempting to become the rulers of this island,” said the Ghost King. “Rather, they are seeking to crown another leader, the one who has been my sworn enemy for years. He has sent them here to eliminate me and take my throne, but I will never give up. We will fight until we have eliminated all traces of these invaders from this land. This I swear.”

The Ghosts raised their hands and said, “Hail the Ghost King of World’s End. Hail him.”

“Yes, hail me,” said the Ghost King, nodding. “But my Ghosts, you have proven yourselves incapable of handling these four Toa on your own. Therefore, I am handing this duty over to my other servants.”

At this, the Lieutenants looked up.

“Other servants?” said Tira, blinking. “Did I hear you right, my lord?”

“You did,” said the Ghost King, nodding again. “Though you Ghosts are my primary army, you are aware, I am sure, of my other servants, whom I use less often?”

Tira’s face went paler than usual. “Oh . . . of course, my lord. It’s just . . . I wanted to make sure I’d heard you right.”

“Well, Tira, you and the other Lieutenants will release my minions,” said the Ghost King. “You know where I keep them. Free them and tell them to kill the Toa.”

“Yes . . . yes, my lord,” said Tira. “I . . . I will go.”

“Except for you, Balon,” said the Ghost King, pointing at the male Lieutenant. “I want you to stay here and set up security around Mount Apocalypse. In the event that the Dark Horses fail, I want this mountain secured. Understood?”

“Yes, my liege,” said Balon, bowing his head. “Your will be done.”

“Then Tira, Virof, go unleash the Dark Horses,” said the Ghost King, tossing Virof a key. “The rest of you, go with Balon and obey whatever he commands you.”

All of the Ghosts disappeared at once.Once they were gone, the Ghost King slumped in his throne. He had been trying hard to act like he was still in control. He had sensed some dissent among the Ghosts, most likely as a result of their defeat at the hands of the Toa. So he’d killed Steben in order to reassert his dominion over them.

That may have been extreme, but extreme times called for extreme measures.

With the kind of power that my enemy now has, I cannot afford to lose control of my Ghosts, the Ghost King thought. For my sake . . . and for Jia’s as well.

The Ghost King pushed that name swiftly out of his mind. No. Jia was too difficult to think about. Every time the Ghost King thought about her, his grip on reality seemed to weaken. Of course, he’d never admit that weakness (for it was impossible to predict the Ghosts’ reaction to that), but he still thought about her and wished she was still alive.

Some day, I will avenge you, Jia, the Ghost King thought. Perhaps someday very soon.

-

Tira and Virof appeared in front of a familiar underground cavern entrance. It was partially obscured by shrubbery because no one had been by in a while, but the two Lieutenants quickly shredded the vines and bushes, allowing them to enter the cave.It was dark inside, forcing Tira to light a torch. Tira sometimes wished she had night vision, but that was an ability only the Ghost King had and he didn’t seem keen on telling them the secret to his powers.

The cavern was quiet as they walked, the sounds of their feet the only thing that broke the silence. Occasionally they rotated torch holding duty, but besides that they merely walked. Tira felt dread rising in her chest the further they walked, but with Virof holding her hand, it seemed less frightening.

As they walked, Tira asked, “So . . . what did you think of those Toa?”

“They are strong,” said Virof, holding the torch aloft. “And, more importantly, smart. The Toa of Lightning took advantage of our communication system to defeat us. If they are all that clever, then I fear for our lives.”

Tira nodded. “The Dark Horses, though . . . how long has it been since they last saw action?”

Virof thought about that for a moment. “Once, several years ago, after the Ghost King first came here, there was a revolt among the Ghosts. They didn’t want him as their leader because of his cruel and harsh punishments, so he created the Dark Horses, which herded the rebels down here and killed them all.”

“And then the Ghost King locked the Horses away down here,” said Tira, looking at the cave walls, which were stained with something that looked disturbingly like blood.

“Correct,” said Virof. She looked at Tira and said, “If you want to cuddle up to me, I’ll understand.”

Tira playfully punched Virof in the shoulder. “Come on.”

The two kept at this for the rest of the trip. Although Tira did genuinely love Virof, she partly kept this up because it kept her mind off the Dark Horses. Tira had never actually seen the Dark Horses herself before, but she had heard stories about them from the older Ghosts and she dreaded coming face to face with the beasts, even if they, too, were minions of the Ghost King. Tira decided not to stick around for long once they unleashed the beasts.

Soon -- too soon, in Tira’s opinion -- they arrived at the large gate that sealed the Dark Horses away. Tira turned her head to the right, trying to hear any sounds from the other side of the gate, but she heard nothing. Either the hearing in her right audio receptor was also going, the gate was so thick that it retained all sound, or the Dark Horses were simply being quiet. Whatever the case, Tira knew she’d be hearing something soon.

Virof gestured for Tira to stand back, which she did. Virof held up an old, rusty-looking key and inserted it into the gate’s lock. She turned it once, twice, three times, and then pulled it out. Then Virof pulled open the gate, which creaked open with a loud, spine-tingling shudder. Clearly, the hinges needed oiling, Tira thought.

Virof peered through the gateway and said, “Dark Horses of the Ghost King, awake from your slumber.”

Tira stood there watching, holding her breath, but didn’t hear anything. Had the Dark Horses ignored Virof or were they just sleeping hard?

Tira was about to suggest that Virof speak a bit louder when Virof backed up until she was standing right next to Tira. Virof slipped her hand into Tira’s and gripped it hard as she whispered, “They’re coming.”

Nervously, Tira redoubled her grip on Virof’s hand and waited for the Rahi to come out.

In the darkness, it was difficult to differentiate between things, even with the torch. So Tira didn’t notice the Dark Horses until she spotted several pairs of red eyes open in the darkness without warning. The light allowed her to see the vaguely horse-shaped outline of the beasts, causing Tira to take an involuntary step back. Virof’s firm grip on her hand reassured her somewhat, though.

“Dark Horses,” said Virof, her voice trembling slightly. “Your king desires your services again. There are four invaders on this island, traveling through the Silent Jungle, trying to kill your lord. They are four Toa. The Ghost King orders you Dark Horses to hunt down and kill these Toa. Do not spare even one Toa. Eliminate them all completely.”

Tira expected to hear at least a whinny in response, but the red eyes simply disappeared and so did the horse outlines.

“My hearing isn’t good,” said Tira, looking at Virof. “Are they gone?”

“Yes,” said Virof, nodding. “And don’t worry about your hearing. The Dark Horses are silent creatures. They never make a sound.”

Tira and Virof turned to leave, but Tira had one last question to ask.

“If the Dark Horses succeed in killing those Toa,” Tira said, “then how will we recapture them?”

Virof’s expression was blank as she said, “No idea. Only the Ghost King can control them. We’ll just have to trust His Highness will deal with them after this is all over.”

Tira didn’t feel terribly enthusiastic about that as she and Virof teleported out of the dark cave, however much she trusted the Ghost King. Something about the Dark Horses frightened her, but what it was, she could not say, nor did she feel inclined to dwell on it.

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:02 PM.

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#5 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Aug 29 2012 - 09:06 AM

Chapter Five


Because they did not know where the Ghosts might be, Akuna and the other Toa were forced to walk quietly and carefully through the jungle. Though their weapons were drawn, they chose not to use them or their elemental powers to make the path easier to walk through, lest the sounds of their powers alert the Ghosts to their position.

Thus, they had either to push the shrubbery out of their way or walk around it. The journey as a result was far more tedious than it should have been, although it was safer.

“Why are we still going to Mount Apocalypse?” Ahova asked. “The Ghost King doesn’t seem to like us that much. Seems like a stupid idea to go there. I mean, he’s probably got an ambush set up for us right now-“

“Shut up,” Akuna hissed. “Do you want every Ghost within five bios to hear you?”

“Sorry,” Ahova said as she ducked under a branch. “I was just trying to inject some common sense into this situation. You still haven’t explained why we need to go.”

“Because if we can actually talk to the Ghost King, maybe we can convince him that we’re not out to get him,” Akuna said. “As long as he is sane, I’m sure he’ll be willing to listen to us.”

“’Sane’ doesn’t seem like a good word to describe someone who calls himself the Ghost King,” Ahova said. “Besides, who wants to bet that Kiriah’s slip up back there confirmed the Ghost King’s fears?”

“I already said I was sorry,” Kiriah snapped as she stepped over a fallen tree branch. “How many times do I need to apologize until you guys drop it?”

“Until we know for sure that your slip-up didn’t mess things up,” Akuna said, glaring at Kiriah. “For a Toa of Psionics, you sure don’t seem to think through what you say before you say it.”

“And for a Toa of Lightning, you’re as slow as a dermis turtle,” Kiriah replied. “Because . . . well, you just are.”

“Stop arguing,” said Ahova, putting her hands over her audio receptors. “You two sound like a couple of Muaka cats hissing at each other.”

Akuna and Kiriah glared at Ahova, but before either Toa could say anything, Oggak intervened, saying, “I know we’re all tired and on edge, but we’ve got to remember that we’re all on the same team here. Insults and arguments aren’t going to get us to Mount Apocalypse or save the universe.”

Akuna looked away from Oggak. The Toa of Shadow’s words were quite true, but Akuna didn’t want to hear them. Kiriah’s slip-up could mean the difference between life and death here, while Ahova was just annoying. Knowing better than to ignore Oggak’s wisdom, which also happened to be in complete accordance with Akuna’s conscience, Akuna still didn’t apologize or forgive.

I only need to work with them until we find the Ghost King, anyway, Akuna thought. I don’t need to apologize for anything.

Still, Akuna decided to keep her mouth shut. The more they talked, the more likely it was that the Ghosts would overhear them. She didn’t really want to talk to Kiriah or Ahova anyway.

So Akuna sped up until she was walking well ahead of the other three Toa. The rational part of her mind was telling her that this was dangerous, that if she wasn’t careful she might walk into a trap, but Akuna ignored it. Danger always excited her and this was dangerous. As long as she didn’t have to talk to Kiriah or Ahova, Akuna would be fine.

As if against her will, Akuna’s conscience reminded her that Nastan, her late boyfriend, had always had a hard time letting go of his anger and forgiving. That had almost always led to more harm than good, but Akuna resolutely ignored her conscience. She was going to remain angry and that was that.

Akuna glanced up at the trees as she walked. She saw no sign of the Ghosts, which meant that there probably wasn’t a trap. That boosted her confidence. Her electrical wire trick earlier must have scared them off for good. As it should, for Akuna was a powerful Toa and if they got in her way . . . well, that was their problem, not hers.

As it was, Akuna was too caught up in her own thoughts to notice Oggak shout, “Akuna, get down!” until it was too late.

Akuna heard a rushing sound and, looking to the side, saw a mass of darkness charging at her. The darkness slammed into her full force, knocking her out instantly.

-

Kiriah had known stubborn people before. Her dead friend Isarot, for instance, had been as stubborn as a mule and even less reasonable. She’d always overlooked it, though, because of Isarot’s strong work ethic and intense loyalty to his friends. Both of which Akuna seemed to lack.

She probably thinks she can save the universe all on her own, Kiriah thought as she walked around a bush. Maybe we should let her try and see where that gets her.

It was then that Oggak threw out both of her arms, halting Kiriah and Ahova’s progress.

“Hey,” said Kiriah, looking at the Toa of Shadow. “What-“

Oggak interrupted her, shouting to Akuna, “Akuna, get down!”

Startled, Kiriah looked at Akuna, who didn’t seem to have heard Oggak’s warning. An instant later, some dark, horse-shaped thing exploded out of the trees and slammed into Akuna, sending her falling to the ground. Akuna disappeared among the thick foliage on the jungle floor and did not rise again.

“Akuna!” said Oggak, running over to where Akuna had fallen, Kiriah and Ahova keeping up behind her.

Right before they reached Akuna, however, more dark shapes burst out of the trees, standing between the Toa and Akuna. Now that the monsters weren’t moving, Kiriah could tell that these creatures were not merely horse-shaped, but actually were horses. The only difference was that they seemed to be made of shadow. They also had horns sticking out of their heads, which made them more like evil unicorns than normal horses.

“What the Karzahni are those things?” said Ahova, raising her magnetic gauntlets. “They look like horses.”

“I’m not sure what they are,” said Oggak, holding her sword in front of her. “They are probably creations of the Ghost King. I know the Ghost King is supposed to have a variety of demonic creatures serving him but-“

“Oh, so you just now remember that the Ghost King has evil ponies under his command?” said Ahova, throwing an irritated glance at the Toa of Shadow. “If we die-“

The horses -- which had been pawing the ground with their hooves silently -- dashed forward. This forced Kiriah, Oggak, and Ahova to scatter, avoiding the impaling horns of the horses. Kiriah tried to slash at a horse as it went by, but her sword just passed through its body like it didn’t exist. The only thing that happened was that a large crack now ran the length of her blade, causing her to exclaim, “How the Karzahni are we supposed to hurt these things?”

“You can’t,” Oggak said. “I might be able to, though, because I can control shadow.”

“So what,” said Ahova as the horses disappeared into the trees, “are we just supposed to stand by and let you do all the work?”

“Check on Akuna to make sure she’s okay,” Oggak said. “I can sense the horses, so I’ll deal with them. Protect Akuna with whatever you’ve got.”

Kiriah really didn’t want to run to Akuna’s rescue, but as she could do nothing else, she obeyed. She and Ahova ran over to where Akuna lay. The Toa of Lightning was lying on the ground with her arms and legs spread-eagled. Her chest armor looked like it had been crushed, but other than that Akuna appeared fine.

“Let’s try waking her up,” Kiriah suggested. “Then we can help Oggak somehow.”

Ahova nodded and the two started shaking Akuna and saying her name, but Akuna didn’t even stir. Kiriah didn’t like this. How hard had the horse hit Akuna? She wasn’t dead, but on the other hand, she wasn’t conscious, either. If Akuna was in a coma . . . Kiriah didn’t know what they would do.

Kiriah quickly glanced at Oggak. Oggak stood alone in the jungle, swinging her sword as she slowly rotated, looking around the area for the horses. Having never seen Oggak in battle before, Kiriah had no idea how good a fighter the Toa of Shadow might be. She just hoped Oggak could deal with the horses.

Without warning, the horses reappeared, charging from the trees at Kiriah and Ahova. Kiriah was about to get up and fight, but then Oggak fired several shadow blasts at the horses. The blasts were direct hits, sending at least one horse crashing to the ground, while the other two turned to face Oggak.

“Get Akuna out of here,” Oggak said, waving at them. “I’ll deal with the horses.”

Having no wish to deal with the demonic beasts, Kiriah, with Ahova’s help, immediately started hauling Akuna away toward the trees. Once they were safely hidden among the trees and bushes, Kiriah and Ahova watched as the horses charged at Oggak with lightning speed, their horns aimed directly at her chest.

Oggak, for some odd reason, didn’t move. Instead, she stood there with her eyes closed, as if deep in thought. Kiriah wondered if the Toa of Shadow was suicidal when Oggak opened her eyes and raised her hands.

Just as the horses came into contact with Oggak’s hands, they stopped. The horses were still moving, but in one place. And no matter how hard they tried, the horses couldn’t budge Oggak even one inch. In fact, unless Kiriah’s eyes were deceiving her, the horses actually seemed to be getting sucked into Oggak’s hands.

It was the most bizarre thing Kiriah had ever seen. First, the horses’ horns went in; then their heads; then their front bodies and front legs; then their behinds and their back legs; and, finally, their tails. And then they were completely gone, save for the one horse which Oggak had shot down earlier. That horse got up, but it didn’t fight Oggak. Instead, it ran off and disappeared into the shadows between the trees.

Without missing a beat, Oggak raised her hands into the air and unleashed a huge blast of darkness into the trees. Kiriah figured it was probably the excess shadow energy Oggak had absorbed from the horses, but that didn’t make the sight any less amazing as it tore through the treetops noisily.

Now Oggak looked a little tired and was covered in leaves and twigs from the blast she’d unleashed, but otherwise seemed okay, sheathing her sword as she walked over to Kiriah and Ahova. The two Toa’s jaws were open as Oggak approached.

“How . . . how did you do that?” Kiriah asked.

“That’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen,” said Ahova, looking at Oggak with awe. “I second Kiri’s question.”

Oggak shrugged like it was no big deal. “The horses were made out of shadow. Being a Toa of Shadow, I simply absorbed the horses like I would any other shadow.”

“But . . .” Kiriah frowned. “Doesn’t that count as killing?”

“I don’t think so,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “Those horses didn’t seem to be actual, living creatures. They seemed more like puppets than real Rahi.”

“You know, that explains why I didn’t pick up any mental signatures from them,” said Kiriah. “Even Rahi usually have some kind of detectable mind, however simple it may be.”

Oggak looked down at Akuna and said, “How is she?”

“Sleeping like a dormant volcano,” Ahova replied. “We’ve tried waking her up, but she’s out cold.”

Oggak bent down and put one hand on Akuna’s forehead. “Let me enter her dreams with my Mask of Dreams. I might be able to communicate with her in there. But please protect both of us because I will most likely become unconscious while doing this.”

“Um, okay,” said Kiriah. “You can actually enter peoples’ dreams with your mask in addition to creating dreams?”

“Yes,” said Oggak, nodding. “It’s a useful mask for situations like this. I will try to be brief, though, because I doubt it will take long for the Ghost King to figure out that his minions failed to kill us again.”

“You can count on us,” said Ahova, giving her the thumbs up. “We’ll do our best.”

Oggak nodded and then stared at Akuna again. Kiriah waited a few moments and then waved her hand in front of Oggak’s face. Oggak did not react at all.

“So it looks like she’s out, too,” said Kiriah, looking back at Ahova. “So . . . I guess we should just, um, wait here until Oggak manages to wake up Akuna.”

“Yeah,” said Ahova, nodding. “And keep an eye out for Ghosts. Would be pretty horrible if they attacked now.”

“I agree,” said Kiriah as she leaned up against a tree. “We need to remain vigilant.”

The two Toa just stood there for a few moments, not saying anything. Kiriah felt a bit uncomfortable. It had been a while since she had been alone with Ahova. Kiriah and Ahova were friends and had known each other for years, but Kiriah’s mind drew a blank whenever she tried to remember the last time they had spoken privately together like this.

“How do you think the others are doing?” Ahova asked, breaking Kiriah’s concentration.

“You mean the Toa Tanjo?” said Kiriah, looking at the Toa of Magnetism.

Ahova nodded. “Yeah. And Horic, too, I guess. They’re probably looking for us everywhere, I’m sure, but they’re not going to have a lot of luck finding us, considering we’re all the way at the end of the universe itself.”

“Yeah,” said Kiriah. “I just worry what will happen if Teridax attacks them.”

“They can probably take care of themselves,” said Ahova, scratching the back of her head. “But I know what you mean. I wouldn’t want Nasis or any of the others to get killed just because I wasn’t there, you know? I’m not sure what I’d do then.”

“If that happens, you shouldn’t feel responsible,” said Kiriah, folding her arms and looking up into the trees. “I was with Isarot and he died anyway. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter where you are. People still die.”

“That’s true,” Ahova said with a shrug. “It’s just . . . whatever.”

“I know how you feel,” said Kiriah. “I-“

The sound of a twig snapping cut Kiriah off. She and Ahova immediately looked in the direction the sound had come from and saw a black, horse-like Rahi walking toward them slowly. Its hooves made no sound as they beat against the ground and they probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it hadn’t snapped that twig.

It was the last horse, the one that had escaped earlier.

And it was coming toward Kiriah and Ahova.

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:09 PM.

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#6 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Sep 05 2012 - 08:51 AM

Chapter Six


Akuna lay against a large, shady tree in a hilly field that looked a bit like Shika Nui before creatures known as the Tuikas attacked it several months ago. The sun was nice and bright, warming her body to exactly the right temperature. The wind was blowing, but it was more of a gentle breeze, very soothing and kind. It made her feel fantastic.

She was not alone, however. Lying next to Akuna was Toa Nastan, which was strange because he had died earlier that year. Yet here he apparently was, alive and well, holding her in his arms like he always used to do.

Akuna looked out and saw, down in the valley, that the others were here, too. There was Addis and Barilo, Nonzra and Chimoy, all laughing and talking to one another like old times. She even saw Jokao and Turaga Joha sitting among the other Toa Shika in the valley below. It made Akuna feel happy in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time, seeing all of her friends alive and together again.

“This is so wonderful,” said Akuna, looking up at Nastan’s Mask of Accuracy. “Is this real?”

Nastan laughed heartily. “Real? Of course this is real. Why would you question this?”

“I . . . I don’t know,” said Akuna, feeling slightly confused. “I just remember being with three other Toa in a dark jungle on a haunted island. Was that all a dream?”

“Well, I don’t see a dark jungle or a haunted island here, myself,” said Nastan. He stood up and extended a hand toward her. “But I do see our friends down there. Why don’t we go down and hang out with them?”

Akuna smiled and allowed Nastan to help her to her feet. Then Nastan kissed her briefly, the feeling of his lips against hers destroying whatever thoughts of doubt she had entertained about the reality of the situation, and then grabbed her hand and started leading her down the hill.

I must just have been having a really strange nightmare, Akuna thought as she and Nastan walked. There’s no World’s End or Ghost King or Teridax ruling the universe or anything. It’s just me and Nastan and my friends, living in peace and happiness on Shika Nui.

They were about halfway down the hill when Akuna noticed something odd. Off to their right, the space/time continuum seemed to be going awry. It looked like that portion of the universe was bending itself out of existence, causing Akuna to stop and watch it.

“Akuna, why’d you stop?” Nastan asked, looking at her in surprise. “We haven’t even gotten to the others yet.”

“Don’t you see that?” said Akuna, pointing at the strange phenomenon occurring not far from them.

Nastan looked in the direction she was pointing, but he didn’t seem to notice anything strange. “See what?”

Akuna looked at Nastan, slightly annoyed. She knew he was sometimes not a terribly fast thinker, but she also knew there was nothing wrong with his eyes and that he should have seen the way the universe was acting over there. Maybe he was playing a prank on her, which wouldn’t be surprising because Nastan was something of a jokester.

Akuna pointed again, this time more sharply, and said, “Don’t you see that rift in the universe over there?”

Nastan shook his head. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about, Akuna. Are you playing a prank on me?”

Sighing in frustration, Akuna said, “No, Nastan, I’m serious. There’s something weird going on over there and-“

The rift vanished, replacing itself with a familiar-looking Toa of Shadow. It was Oggak, who, after stretching her limbs briefly, casually walked up to Akuna and Nastan, as though she appeared out of rifts in the space/time continuum every day.

“There you are, Akuna,” said Oggak, sounding relieved. “It’s time to wake up.”

Akuna blinked. “Wake up?”

Nastan immediately stood between her and Oggak. He had his bow in his hands, with an arrow nocked in it, but Akuna hadn’t seen him draw his weapon.

“Who are you?” Nastan demanded, aiming his arrow at Oggak. “If you take one step closer-“

“He’s very realistic,” Oggak said, looking straight down the arrow’s shaft without fear. “That’s just how the real Nastan would have acted if somebody had just magically appeared out of nowhere like I did.”

“He’s very realistic?” said Akuna, blinking again. “What do you mean?”

Oggak gestured all around and said, “This is a dream, Akuna. You know that Nastan, Barilo, Addis, and Nonzra are all dead. Chimoy is with Jokao and Igici back at camp. Shika Nui is a deserted wasteland ruled by the Rahkshi. Don’t you remember?”

The words rang a bell in Akuna’s mind, but it was a distant bell. “Everyone . . . is dead?”

“Don’t listen to that witch, Akuna,” said Nastan, without looking back at her. “No one’s dead. Shika Nui is not a Rahkshi-ruled wasteland. She’s obviously trying to intrude upon your dream and take over your mind.”

“Wait,” said Akuna, looking at Nastan in confusion. “If this is a dream, how do you, a figment of my imagination, know that?”

Nastan didn’t answer. Then he dropped the bow and without warning turned to dust. The dust fell to the ground in a small pile at Akuna’s feet.

“That wasn’t Nastan,” said Oggak. “Nor, for that matter, was that a part of your subconscious.”

Akuna stared at the spot where Nastan had been standing previously, but looked when Oggak spoke. “Then . . . who was that?”

“I don’t know,” said Oggak, her arms folded behind her back. “I did sense another presence in this dream, one far more powerful than either of us. It may have been the Ghost King. Some legends do say that he invades his enemies’ dreams and tortures them from within.”

“How is this torture?” said Akuna, waving her arms around. “This is paradise.”

“It’s torture because you miss Nastan and the others,” Oggak said. “Somehow the Ghost King knows that. By giving you what your heart desires above all else, and then taking it away from you again, he thinks he can cause you great emotional and psychological pain. No doubt he planned for ‘Nastan’ to die a horrible death at some point, which would have reopened your psychological wounds and made you even more vulnerable, perhaps even crushed your spirit if it was gruesome enough.”

Akuna shuddered at the thought. “The Ghost King is insane.”

Oggak looked around for a moment, frowning slightly. “I know I said the Ghost King is behind it, but on the other hand . . .”

Oggak’s voice trailed off before it picked up again. “Never mind. In case you’re wondering, I’m using my Mask of Dreams to be here. You’re currently unconscious due to an attack from the Ghost King’s minions. I came here to try to wake you up.”

Akuna nodded and then looked down at the others below. They were still there, but now that Akuna looked closely, she realized that they didn’t really look like her friends. Barilo looked too carefree, Nonzra too optimistic, to be her real friends. They were just figments of her imagination, dummies made by the Ghost King to fool her, although now that she looked she saw that he had done a poor job imitating them.

“You sometimes wish it didn’t have to be this way, right?” said Oggak.

Again, Akuna nodded. “Yeah. You don’t know how much I miss all of them every day.”

Oggak said nothing to that, instead saying, “Then it’s time to go, I think, and get the secret to defeating Teridax from the Ghost King. Then maybe no one else we love and care about will have to die.”

Akuna put her hand in Oggak’s. “Then lead the way, sister.”

-

Tira, Virof, and Balon stood in the Ghost King’s court. The rest of the Ghosts were stationed outside Mount Apocalypse at strategic points, waiting for the arrival of the four Toa. The Lieutenants were here because the Ghost King had summoned them, for he apparently had some important news to discuss with them.

“Tira, Virof, Balon,” said the Ghost King, looking at each Lieutenant in turn as he spoke their names. “You remember the Dark Horses, correct?”

“Of course, my liege,” said Virof, her hands on the floor. “Tira and I just unleashed them on the Toa.”

“That is good and excellent,” said the Ghost King, although his tone was flat. “Except that two of the Dark Horses are now dead and the third is no longer under my control. Besides that, though, excellent. Simply excellent.”

“The Dark Horses were defeated?” said Balon in surprise. “My lord, how is that possible?”

“It is possible, Balon, because one of the Toa is a Toa of Shadow,” the Ghost King said. “The Dark Horses are different from most Rahi. They are crafted from pure shadow and have no individual will of their own. As a result, the Toa of Shadow was able to absorb two of them as she would any other shadow.”

The three Lieutenants said nothing to that. Though the Ghost King’s tone was as flat as ever, Tira noticed that he gripped his armrests harder, scowled, and was sitting unnaturally erect on his throne, as though he had a board strapped to his back. In other words, the Ghost King was clearly not happy. Thankfully, the Lieutenants knew that silence was the best course of action when dealing with an angry Ghost King.

“As for the third, I am not sure what happened there,” said the Ghost King. “It seems to have broken free of my control somehow. It has no free will of its own so it should die eventually, but I still do not know where it is.”

“Is our course of action still the same, my lord?” asked Tira. “Wait until the Toa arrive?”

“More or less,” said the Ghost King. “The Toa are too clever and have too much of an advantage in the jungle. At the Field of Skulls, however, they will have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no clever tricks to use. As a matter of fact, I myself will be there to confront the four Toa.”

All three Lieutenants did a double take.

“My . . . my lord?” said Balon. “There may be something in my audio receptors, but I swore that you just said-“

“That I want to confront the Toa face to face?” the Ghost King finished for him. “Of course.”

“Your Highness,” said Balon, in a pacifying voice, “the whole reason we’re doing this is to keep you safe. If you compromise your safety by going to fight the Toa-“

“Are you disagreeing with me, Lieutenant Balon?” said the Ghost King. “Are you trying to tell me what to do?”

Balon shook his head so hard that Tira thought it would go flying off. “Of course not, of course not, Your Highness. I am merely trying to say that it would be unwise for you to put yourself in harm’s way like you said you would.”

“I am not unwise,” the Ghost King said. “You just called me unwise. How dare you, my faithful and loyal lieutenant, call me unwise.”

The Ghost King reached out with a hand and balled it into a fist. Immediately, Balon fell to the floor, screaming and shrieking, madly waving his hands through the air like he was trying to fend off something. Both Virof and Tira backed off, avoiding his flailing arms and legs as they beat at empty air. The Ghost King said nothing and merely watched as Balon continued to scream and shriek.

This went on for several seconds before the Ghost King pulled back his hand. Balon immediately stopped screaming, but he still lay on the floor, curled in a ball, panting hard and muttering, “Fikou spiders . . . millions and millions of Fikou spiders . . .”

Tira had seen this kind of punishment before. The Ghost King used his powers to create illusions so powerful that they often left mental scarring on the victim. This was the first time she’d ever seen the Ghost King deal that punishment out to a Lieutenant, which made her realize just how serious the Ghost King was about confronting the Toa personally.

“Now that that’s settled,” said the Ghost King as he stood up, “it is time that I go and join my subjects. Let us depart.”

The Ghost King walked over Balon’s curled, shivering form. As he did so, the Ghost King said over his shoulder to Virof and Tira, “Pick Balon up and drag him out of here if you must. He is still partially sane.”

Tira and Virof watched as the Ghost King exited the chamber, phasing through the walls like a real ghost.

When they were sure the Ghost King was gone, Tira and Virof walked over to Balon and tried to calm him. It took a while, but eventually they calmed him down to the point where he was willing to listen to reason. He still seemed jumpy, however, especially when little insects crawled by.

“Can you walk?” Tira asked Balon.

Balon nodded. “I . . . I think so. The Ghost King’s punishment didn’t hurt me. It just scared the Karzahni out of me.”

Virof looked at the west wall, through which the Ghost King had gone. “He’s been even more paranoid than usual lately, hasn’t he?”

“He has,” said Tira, nodding. “That’s why he’s been even more cruel and harsh than normal. He’s afraid those Toa will kill him.”

“That’s strange,” said Balon as he stood up. “I didn’t know anyone could kill the Ghost King.”

“I didn’t know that either,” said Tira with a shrug. “And yet that seems to be exactly what he’s afraid of. What do you think, Virof? Virof?”

Virof was still looking at the exit. She seemed to be deep in concentration. Tira had seen Virof like this before. It meant Virof was about to suggest something potentially dangerous and really crazy.

“You know, the Ghost King has been bossing us around for thousands of years,” said Virof, turning back to face Tira and Balon. “He’s beaten us, tortured us, even killed a few of us. All because we disobeyed him or angered him or sometimes just for his own incomprehensible reasons.”

“What are you saying, Virof?” Balon asked. “Are you saying we should overthrow the Ghost King?”

“I am only saying that maybe the Ghost King’s reign really is at an end,” said Virof, holding up her hands. “He’s ruled our island with an iron fist for a long time. During that time, he’s treated us with cruelty, paranoia, and evil. Do you really want him as leader anymore?”

Tira bit her lower lip. What Virof said was true. Tira herself wasn’t as old as some of the other Ghosts, but she’d heard enough stories from them and the Ghost King to know just how cruel their king was. Tira hadn’t really thought about it much, however, mostly because she’d never considered it possible to overthrow the Ghost King before.

“Virof, let’s be realistic here for a moment,” said Balon. “Assuming we agree with you, what then? The rest of the Ghosts are still the Ghost King’s loyal servants. If we rebel or tell anyone else about our plans, they will surely stop us and the Ghost King will just replace us with three others.”

“Actually, discontent with the Ghost King’s rule is fairly widespread among the Ghosts,” said Virof. “Not all are as single-mindedly loyal as Steben was. Many don’t want the Ghost King as our leader anymore, but no one has had the courage to rise up and challenge him, in part because of a lack of leadership.”

“Won’t the Ghost King know, though?” said Tira, looking around the room and expecting to see the Ghost King lurking in the shadows. “He can read minds, remember?”

“I do believe the Ghost King is aware of the discontent among his minions,” said Virof. “That’s why he killed Steben, you see. He was trying to send a message that he would kill anyone, even his most loyal minions, if he deemed them a threat to his rule. It had nothing to do with truth or lies and everything to do with securing his power.”

“So rebellion is doomed, then,” said Balon, taking a step back. “There’s no way we can defeat him. He’ll just kill us.”

“On our own, I agree, we probably couldn’t overthrow him,” said Virof, nodding. “But remember that there are four Toa on this island who could help us. I propose that one of us should go and convince the Toa to aid us. The Toa are here to kill the Ghost King anyway, right? So why not team up with them?”

“I doubt they’d listen to us, though, because we’ve already tried to kill them once,” said Balon. “They’d probably just kill us and then go on their merry way to kill the Ghost King.”

“We’ll just explain to them that it was misunderstanding,” said Virof. “Toa are supposed to be reasonable beings. Surely they will at least consider our proposal.”

“Then it’s settled?” said Tira, looking from Virof to Balon and back again. “We’re going to get the Toa on our side and then overthrow the Ghost King?”

“I think we’re moving too fast,” said Balon. He spread his arms and said, “What if this fails? We’ll not only lose our status as Lieutenants, but we’ll lose our lives as well, or maybe just our sanity if the Ghost King feels forgiving. Either way, there’s no happy ending for us.”

“If the rebellion succeeds, then there is a happy ending for us,” Virof said, extending her hand toward Balon. “Are you willing to take that risk?”

Balon looked incredibly reluctant, but eventually he put his hand on hers and said, “All right. I don’t have much to live for anyway.”

“And you, Tira?” said Virof, turning to face her lover.

Tira put her hand on top of Balon’s. “Of course. I’m tired of the Ghost King’s harsh rule. Even if we die, I’d rather die with you, Virof, than live under the Ghost King’s reign any longer than I have to.”

“Then it is decided,” said Virof. “We will overthrow the Ghost King with the aid of the Toa. I will talk to as many Ghosts as I can and see how many I can get on our side. So one of you should go talk to the Toa.”

Tira held up her other hand. “I’ll do it. Tell the Ghost King I’m scouting the jungle to determine how close the Toa are to Mount Apocalypse. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”

“All right,” said Virof. “Then let’s do this.”

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:16 PM.

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#7 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Sep 12 2012 - 09:13 AM

Chapter Seven


When Akuna awoke, she wished she’d remained asleep. The dark, stinky jungle was horrible in comparison to the wide open, lush green fields of her dream. And, of course, Nastan and most of the other Toa Shika were all still dead, which definitely put a damper on things.

Yet Akuna had to return to reality. She had a job to do, a job she couldn’t do if she was in dreamland. At least a part of Akuna, however, yearned for the past, but she tried to ignore it as best as she could. What happened in the past happened in the past and she couldn’t go back in time and redo it, no matter how much she wanted to.

Akuna sat up and rubbed her eyes, then looked around. She saw Kiriah and Ahova standing in front of her and Oggak, with their backs to them, which Akuna thought was odd until she spotted, through the gap between their bodies, a horse that looked to be made out of shadow. It just stood there, not making a sound.

“What . . . what is that thing doing?” Akuna asked Kiriah and Ahova.

The two Toa glanced over their shoulders at her and seemed surprised.

“Akuna, you’re awake,” said Kiriah. “That’s good.”

“Yeah,” said Ahova, nodding. “Just try not to make any sudden moves or the shadow pony will kill you.”

Oggak -- who had been kneeling next to Akuna -- shook her head and looked around in confusion until she spotted the horse.

“Uh oh,” said Oggak as she stood up. “Is that thing here to avenge its friends?”

“I don’t know,” said Kiriah with a shrug. “It just appeared out of nowhere and started walking toward us, but then just stopped for some reason. It hasn’t done anything since.”

“I think it’s waiting for the right opportunity to strike,” Ahova said, her gauntlets aimed at the horse. “It’s obviously too afraid of us to attack us. We must look pretty intimidating.”

“That’s can’t be true,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “For one, the horse doesn’t look intimidated. And why didn’t it attack earlier, when I was using my mask? I was practically defenseless. As I’m the only one who can harm these beasts, I’d think it would have attacked then.”

“I still think it’s waiting for the right moment to strike,” Ahova muttered under her breath.

“So it hasn’t done anything at all?” said Akuna as she stood up. “It hasn’t even whinnied?”

“Nothing,” Kiriah said. “It looks almost docile, but we haven’t tried to walk over to it or anything. Like Ahova said, it could just be waiting for the right moment to attack.”

Oggak watched the horse carefully for a moment, but it again made no move. Akuna thought it looked like it was waiting, but what it was waiting for, she didn’t know.

Then Oggak said, “Let me go over to it.”

Kiriah looked at Oggak as though she was insane. “Are you crazy? That thing’s friends just tried to kill us earlier. What if it attacks you when you least expect it?”

“I can take care of myself if it is a trap,” said Oggak. She pointed at her black and red armor and said, “Toa of Shadow, remember? I’m the best equipped to deal with it if it proves unfriendly.”

“I say you should go,” said Akuna, patting Oggak on the shoulder. “We can’t learn anything if we’re afraid to take a few risks, after all.”

“Trying to befriend a horse made of shadow seems like too big of a risk to me,” Ahova said. “But whatever. It’s your call.”

Oggak nodded and then started walking toward the horse. She did it slowly, but not fearfully. The others watched as Oggak drew closer and closer to the horse, but it didn’t even as much as move. It was definitely looking at Oggak, though, but what that meant, Akuna didn’t know.

Finally, Oggak reached the horse. It still stared down at her like it was waiting for her to do something. For a while, Oggak just looked up at the horse and the horse looked down at her. It was almost like they were having a staring contest.

Then Oggak reached up and started stroking the back of the horse’s neck. The horse didn’t say anything, but it did close its eyes, as though relaxed by Oggak’s touch.

Oggak looked over her shoulder and said to the others, “It’s okay. This horse isn’t bad. He’s a good horse.”

Akuna, Kiriah, and Ahova looked at each other dubiously, but then Kiriah took a step forward. Then another, and another, until Kiriah was walking toward the horse. Kiriah looked afraid, but she didn’t seem to be letting her fear get the best of her.

I shouldn’t be afraid, either, Akuna thought. If the horse isn’t attacking Oggak, then it won’t attack me.

Soon, all four of the Toa were standing around the horse, although Akuna, Kiriah, and Ahova stood a little farther from it than Oggak did. The horse opened its eyes briefly when they approached, probably to make sure they weren’t enemies, but then immediately closed them and went back to enjoying Oggak stroking it.

“So . . .” said Ahova. “Are we . . . keeping it?”

Akuna shrugged. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem violent or crazy, but on the other hand . . .”

“The only thing I don’t understand,” said Oggak as she stroked the horse’s mane, “is why Ata is no longer under the Ghost King’s control.”

“Ata?” Kiriah repeated incredulously. “Is that what you’re calling it?”

Oggak shrugged sheepishly. “It needs a name if we’re going to talk about it. So I thought Ata would be a good name for it.”

“Okay,” said Kiriah, although she didn’t sound convinced. “How do you know, er, ‘Ata’ worked for the Ghost King?”

“The ancient legends say so,” Oggak replied. “I just remembered it now. Some World’s End legends state that the Ghost King had three Dark Horses under his command, which were supposed to be more terrible and powerful than any of his Ghosts. They were said to have been created by the Ghost King to deal with threats that his Ghosts couldn’t.”

“Are there any other minions of evil that happen to work for the Ghost King that you haven’t mentioned yet?” said Akuna. “Like, say, demons that want to eat us from the inside out?”

Oggak frowned, still stroking Ata’s mane. “I think so. Some legends say the Ghost King has complete control over the sea monsters around his island, but that’s not relevant to us because we’re on land. Others say that he can bend the will of any flying beast, but considering how thick the tree tops here are, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about flying monsters.”

“Good,” said Kiriah with a shudder. “This jungle is already bad enough without extra dangers.”

“I know,” said Ahova, nodding. “I mean, look at all of this mud on my armor. Not to mention the Ghosts and annoying insects and the heat and the humidity. I just don’t understand how anyone can live on this island.”

Akuna stroked her chin and looked at Ata. “Hmm, I guess we can keep it. If it really is tame and the Dark Horses are supposed to be that powerful, it might be useful to have it on our side, in case the Ghosts decide to attack us again.”

Oggak didn’t smile, but Akuna could tell that the Toa of Shadow was pleased.

“Can we ride her?” said Kiriah, looking at Ata. “She doesn’t have a saddle, but can we ride her anyway?”

“I doubt it,” said Oggak. “Well, maybe I can, but that may have to do with my affinity toward shadow. Try touching her.”

Akuna, Kiriah, and Ahova hesitantly reached out to touch it, but their hands just passed through the Horse’s body. Akuna withdrew her hand immediately because Ata’s body was extremely cold. It felt like ice-cold water, perhaps even colder than that. She had no idea how Oggak was able to tolerate such coldness, although being a Toa of Shadow probably helped.

“Well, then,” said Akuna, turning away from Ata. “Now that we’ve got our little pony, we might as well continue on to Mount Apocalypse.”

-

The party of five continued walking through the dark jungle. Akuna was in the lead, for her Mask of Night Vision illuminated the path well. The path here was less cluttered with shrubbery and the ground was beaten flat, which probably meant that it was a path regularly used by the Ghosts.

Or by some really nasty Rahi, Akuna thought, but she pushed that thought out of her mind. There’s no need to invent fake problems. We’ve already got enough real problems as is.

Her dream from earlier still shook her. She remembered Oggak was about to say something about the Ghost King and his involvement with it, but then trailed off for some reason. Akuna wanted to talk to Oggak, but Oggak was walking behind her beside Ata, for Oggak was the only one who could keep Twilight in check. Akuna decided she’d talk with Oggak later.

They walked in silence for several minutes. The jungle, as usual, was eerily quiet, but Akuna was so used to that by now that she didn’t even notice. She just kept her audio receptors open for any unusual sounds -- a rustling in the trees, a scurrying in the bushes -- that would signal the presence of enemies.

It was then that Oggak said, “Hey, what’s that?”

Akuna looked over her shoulder and saw Oggak pointing into the darkness. The light of Akuna’s Kanohi reflected off something large and metallic, but whatever it was, it was covered underneath a blanket of thick shrubbery.

“What is that?” said Ahova, looking at the large thing. “It looks completely out of place here. Then again, so do we, so maybe it’s not that surprising. We should definitely investigate it, though.”

“I agree,” Oggak said. “We should go find out what it is.”

“Why?” said Akuna, glancing irritably at her friend. “That’s not on the way to the mountain. In fact, that’s almost the opposite direction.”

“Because I have been very curious about this island’s history since we first came here,” Oggak said. “Who knows, it might be something important. And if it’s not, we haven’t really lost much time, have we? It’s not like we’re on a deadline, you know.”

“Okay,” said Akuna. “But we’re only going to check it out for a few minutes. Then we’re getting back on the path.”

Oggak nodded and started walking through the foliage toward the object, Ata trotting beside her. Kiriah and Ahova came next, followed by Akuna, who brought up the rear. Akuna glanced over her shoulder as they walked, but she neither saw nor heard any sign of the Ghosts. Any minute now, she was sure, the Ghosts would be back to kill her and the others, but so far the Ghosts either had not found them or were cowards.

So Akuna kept her guard up until they reached the large metallic object. Akuna could tell that the object was an airship, even though it was buried halfway in the mud. She had never been to Metru Nui before, but she had seen Dark Hunters on Shika Nui using airships to transport agents and cargo. This one looked a little different from those ones, however, although Akuna didn’t know if that was because of its age or simply because of the mud and foliage that obscured it.

“What is it?” said Ahova, knocking on the airship’s surface with her fist. “Sounds hollow.”

“It’s an airship,” Oggak said. “By the look of it, an older model. I wonder how it got here. None of the legends I know speak of the Ghost King or his Ghosts using an airship.”

“It’s half-sunken in the mud, though,” said Akuna, tilting her head to the side. “I mean, it looks like an airship, but it’s hard to tell for sure.”

“Let’s find out,” said Oggak, turning to Ahova. “Ahova, can you lift this thing out of the mud with your magnetism?”

Ahova raised her gauntlets and smiled. “Of course. Y’all will just need to stand back, however, because I might accidentally knock some trees over, depending on how closely the roots are tied to the airship.”

Akuna, Oggak, Kiriah, and Ata retreated a safe distance away, near a cluster of trees that provided them some shelter in case of an emergency.

Then Ahova closed her eyes and started raising her hands. As she did so, the airship rose as well. It got stuck a couple of times and a few trees were knocked over, but eventually Ahova pulled the entire thing out of the thick mud. She used her magnetic powers to rest it on more stable ground a few feet away, then took a step back and sat on a protruding tree root.

“Whew,” said Ahova, putting one hand on her forehead. “That was a lot harder than I expected it.”

Now that the airship was out of the mud, Akuna could tell that it was rusted, and was missing some bits and pieces. It didn’t look flight-worthy anymore. Moss and mud covered it almost completely. The only hint of its original color was the orange poking out from beneath the layer of moss and mud, unless that was just the rust.

Oggak went over to it and started walking around it, occasionally scraping off bits of moss or mud with her sword. The Toa of Shadow’s actions were puzzling until she said, “Hey, guys, I’ve found something.”

Everyone else, Ata included, walked over to where Oggak stood, staring at a spot where she had scraped off some mud.

Akuna glanced at Ata, which was now standing next to Oggak like a loyal Ussal crab, and then shook her head and said to Oggak, “So, what have you found, Oggak?”

“This,” said Oggak, pointing at something on the airship’s hull.

Akuna leaned forward to get a better look. Three words were written on the airship’s hull, but they were so faded that it was difficult to read. Some of the letters were missing, too, so it came out reading something like this: :t:_ :e: :f: :l:_ :i: :n:_ :g:_ :m_o:­­­­_ :t:

“What does that mean?” said Akuna, looking at Oggak.

“The ship’s name is written on the hull,” Oggak explained. “It was standard practice when Makuta Miserix was leader of the Brotherhood of Makuta. It made it easier to identify airships that way.”

“So are you saying this is a Brotherhood of Makuta airship?” said Akuna, glancing back at the broken vehicle.

“Correct,” said Oggak, nodding. “Or, rather, was a Brotherhood airship. It obviously crashed here years ago, but who it belonged to . . . well, I have a theory about that.”

“What’s your theory?” Ahova asked. “Is the airship from another dimension?”

Oggak stared at Ahova for a moment and then shook her head. “No. What gave you that idea?”

Ahova shrugged. “I dunno. If no one from this universe has ever been here before us, where else could this airship have come from?”

“I’ll just talk about my theory,” said Oggak. “I think that this ship’s name was once The Flying Ghost. It’s the only Brotherhood airship whose name fits the remaining letters we have here.”

“Who owned The Flying Ghost?” said Akuna.

“A Makuta known as Trijorn, the former Makuta of Niji,” Oggak said, putting one hand on the airship. “Each Makuta owned their own private airship or sea ship for their own uses. Makuta Trijorn’s was The Flying Ghost. He named it that, I think, because his specialty was studying spirits; how they worked, what they were like, where they went after death, and so on.”

“So what happened to Trijorn?” said Kiriah. “Was he one of Teridax’s loyalists?”

“Not quite,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “Not many people know this, but after Teridax took leadership of the Brotherhood from Miserix, he sent Makuta Icarax and Makuta Gorast to eliminate members he felt were not loyal enough to the Plan. Trijorn happened to be one of them, but according to Order archives, Trijorn’s airship exploded south of the island of Artidax, completely incinerating Trijorn, thus saving his brothers the trouble of killing him.”

“If it exploded, then what’s this?” said Akuna, knocking her fist against the airship’s hull.

“That’s just the point,” said Oggak, frowning. “Both the Brotherhood of Makuta and the Order of Mata Nui confirmed Trijorn’s death. The Dark Hunters gave conclusive proof that they weren’t hiding him from the Brotherhood, too. I even remember the day Jerbraz returned to Daxia with the news. Said he’d seen the airship’s pieces himself and had seen no sign of Trijorn’s body or armor or anything.”

“Maybe someone else named their ship The Flying Ghost,” said Ahova, scratching the back of her neck. “I mean, I’m sure there are lots of people who like ghosts that fly. Who says this is the same one?”

“Even if that is true, it still does not explain how this airship got here,” said Oggak. “The Master of Mist is supposed to keep all beings from coming or going to World’s End. How could this airship have gotten here unless the Master allowed it to come here?”

Kiriah looked a bit uncomfortable, as though she were on the verge of confessing something she didn’t want to confess. “Um, guys?”

“Yes, Kiriah?” said Akuna, looking at her. “What’s the problem? Did you hear any Ghosts?”

“No,” said Kiriah, shaking her head. “It’s just . . . Ahova knows this, but I’ve been on World’s End before.”

“Say what?” said Akuna in surprise.

Kiriah explained, briefly and quickly, how she had gone on a dimension-hopping journey not long ago and how she had visited World’s End in one of those alternate universes. Ahova confirmed everything Kiriah said, so Akuna and Oggak had to believe her, however crazy her story was.

“The thing is, I didn’t see or meet the Master of Mist while there,” said Kiriah. “I know I should have mentioned this earlier, but we’ve been through so much recently that I forgot about it until just now.”

“How odd,” said Oggak. “Of course, that was an alternate universe, but from what you’ve said, that universe’s World’s End legends are more or less the same as ours. If so, then why-“

Ata stomped her hooves, causing all four Toa to jump. Kiriah even fell down in the mud, but immediately got back to her feet as all of the Toa looked around. Ata had obviously seen something, but whatever it was they could not spot at first.

That was when Akuna noticed a being in pale white armor standing next to a tree not far away. It was a Ghost, one who had a long scar running down her right cheek. The Ghost slowly walked up to them, her palms held out, but all four of the Toa were already aiming their weapons at the approaching Ghost.

“I didn’t know you managed to take control of one of the Dark Horses,” said the Ghost, glancing at Ata briefly. “Only the Ghost King has ever been able to control them.”

“Who are you?” Akuna demanded, still pointing her staff at the Ghost. “And don’t come any closer or we’ll make you wish you hadn’t.”

The Ghost stopped, still holding her hands up. “I'm not your enemy, Toa. My name is Tira. I'm one of the Ghost King’s Lieutenants.”

“A Lieutenant?” said Ahova. “Then that definitely makes you an enemy, ‘cause that kind of makes you a high-ranking Ghost, maybe even a leader for all we know.”

“Please, hear me out,” said Tira, clasping her hands together like she was begging. “I am no longer loyal to the Ghost King. In fact, most of us Ghosts no longer want him as our leader. He is cruel, paranoid, arrogant, and indifferent to our suffering. He is a tyrant whose harsh ways have gone unpunished for too long.”

“How can we trust you?” said Akuna. “Kiriah, can you read her mind?”

Kiriah shook her head. “No. That same mental presence covering the whole island makes it impossible to know what she’s thinking. I can only sense the most surface thoughts, but sometimes not even that.”

“So there’s no way we can know for sure that we can trust you,” said Akuna.

Tira lowered her hands and grabbed the axe attached to her belt. Akuna expected the Ghost Lieutenant to attack, but then Tira tossed her axe toward them. The axe landed at their feet and Tira immediately fell to her knees, both hands on the soft muddy ground.

“See? I’m not tricking you,” said Tira. “I gave you my weapon and I am on my knees. If I were planning something, you can bet that I wouldn’t be doing any of this.”

Akuna put one foot on Tira’s axe, but still didn’t lower her staff. “I guess that makes some sense, but . . .”

“The whole reason I searched you out was to tell you that we Ghosts are planning a rebellion,” said Tira. “And we need your help to pull it off.”

“Our help?” said Akuna, throwing skeptic glances at her friends. “Just why should we help you?”

“Help us because, well, you’re already here to kill the Ghost King,” said Tira. “So we thought-“

“We’re not trying to kill him,” said Oggak quietly. “Where did you get that idea?”

“Well, because the Ghost King said his enemy sent you four to kill him,” said Tira, looking slightly taken aback. “It was the only logical explanation any of us could think of, so we thought-“

“We’re heroes, not assassins,” said Akuna flatly. “While we were sent here by the Master of Mist, he sent us to get some specific information from the Ghost King, information that could save the whole universe if he tells it to us.”

“And what is that information?” said Tira.

“The secret to defeating Makuta Teridax, of course,” said Ahova. “The Master of Mist said that the Ghost King knows the secret to defeating Teridax. So we came here to talk to him about it, but then you Ghosts attacked us and we had to fight back and we’ve been on the run ever since. It’s a weird tale if you think about it.”

“The Master of Mist,” said Tira thoughtfully. “You know, I’ve never seen him, even though the Ghost King says he exists. He’s never come to World’s End or even interacted with us. The Ghost King always gave us orders not to go near the mist surrounding the island, probably to keep us from getting harmed by the Master.”

Oggak stroked her chin. “That’s interesting.”

Tira shook her head. “Well, I suppose that changes things, then. But can’t you at least help us? You don’t need to kill the Ghost King yourself, if you don’t want to. You can help us defeat him. Then we’ll take care of him in our own way.”

“We just want to talk with him,” said Akuna. “We want to convince him to give us the secret to defeating Teridax.”

“You clearly don’t know the Ghost King, then,” said Tira with a snort. “He’s incredibly paranoid. Right now, he’s got the rest of the Ghosts gathered at the Field of Skulls, waiting for you all in ambush. He himself is there, too, and he wants you four dead.”

“We can probably still reason with him,” said Akuna. “Can’t we?”

Tira shrugged. “In all of my years of service to the Ghost King, I have never seen anyone reason with that tyrant. I doubt he even knows what reason is.”

“That might complicate things a bit,” said Oggak dryly. “By the way, Tira, has the Ghost King ever told you the secret to defeating Teridax?”

Again, Tira shook her head. “No. This is actually the first time I’ve heard of it. I never knew that the Ghost King knew that.”

Oggak nodded, as though Tira had just confirmed some private theory of hers. Akuna didn’t bother guess at what it was, though, because she had more important things to worry about right now.

“You’re absolutely sure he can’t be reasoned with?” said Akuna to Tira. “The Ghost King is completely insane and paranoid?”

“Essentially, yes,” Tira said, nodding. “But maybe, if you help us, you’ll be able to force him to give you the information.”

“What do you guys think?” said Akuna, turning back to face the other three. “Should we work with the Ghosts to defeat the Ghost King or not?”

“Just so you know,” Tira hastily interjected, “regardless of whether you agree to work with us or not, we’re going ahead with the rebellion. Your involvement would help but isn’t necessary.”

“We don’t seem to have much of a choice,” said Oggak. “If this rebellion succeeds, the Ghosts will probably kill the Ghost King before we can get the information from him. If we work with them, we can at least make sure that the Ghost King lives long enough to give us the information we need.”

“I agree with Oggak,” Kiriah said, nodding at Tira. “This seems like a pretty good opportunity to finish this mission and help some oppressed people at the same time. It seems like a good situation for us.”

“I’m with Oggak and Kiri,” said Ahova with a smile. “It’ll be a heck of a lot easier than doing it on our way, anyway.”

Akuna looked back at Tira. The Toa of Lightning still didn’t trust the Ghost. The rebellion seemed too abrupt, too convenient for the Toa. It could just as easily be a trap set up by the Ghost King to ensnare Akuna and the others.

Yet Akuna, for the life of her, could not think of one logical reason to distrust Tira. She had no proof or evidence that Tira was lying, and frankly, with the approval of the others, it seemed paranoid to think that Tira was trying to deceive them. And considering the Ghosts’ track record, Akuna figured they could take care of themselves if this turned out to be a trap.

So Akuna turned back around and said to Tira, “All right. We agree to your alliance. Let’s start planning.”

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:27 PM.

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#8 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Sep 19 2012 - 09:07 AM

Chapter Eight


Standing in the mist that hung over the Field of Skulls, the Ghost King impatiently ran one finger up and down the hilt of his sheathed sword. All around him, hidden among the countless rows of mounted skeletons, were his Ghosts. Many of them stood among the skeletons, for their pale armor and skeletal appearances made them indistinguishable from the skeletons themselves. Others merely crouched low in the ground, using the mist itself as camouflage. And a few hid in secret trap holes that were impossible to see unless you already knew where they were.

For the tenth time, the Ghost King wondered where the Toa were. He fully expected them to come bursting out of the jungle any moment now, elemental powers blazing, and screaming his name, the name he had discarded when he had first came to World’s End so many years ago. The name, in other words, that was his only remaining connection to his past life.

Against his will, the Ghost King’s mind flashed back to his first days here. He had been wounded and weak, but the inhabitants of this island, the Siminites, had nursed him back to health. For his own safety, he had then proceeded to kill their original ruler and set himself up as Ghost King and had made the Siminites his Ghosts, due to his love of the Ghost King myth and to keep his real identity a secret.

Most of the current Ghosts were unaware of his true origin. They came after their ancestors, with no knowledge that they had never been ruled by the Ghost King. A few of the older ones, such as Lieutenant Virof, knew he hadn’t always ruled, but the Ghost King had worked so hard at indoctrinating fear into his Ghosts that he knew that, even if they all knew the truth, they would never try to rebel. Fear was a prison and only the Ghost King held the key to it.

Yet, in spite of his confidence, since that day the Ghost King dreaded every waking moment of his existence. He had only survived death all those years ago because he had managed to trick his enemy into believing he was dead.
Yet now his enemy not only knew that the Ghost King had survived, but had sent assassins to finish the job that should have been done so long ago.

The thought of dying haunted the Ghost King. Despite his extensive studies on the subject, the Ghost King knew little factual truth about life after death. Did good people go to one place and bad people to another? Or did both good and bad go to the same place, but earned different rewards or punishments based on their actions in this life? Or maybe there was no such thing as eternal rewards or eternal punishment and everyone simply ceased to exist after death.

That was partly why the Ghost King liked to kill disobedient subjects. Death scared his Ghosts just as much as it scared him and he knew it. They, of course, didn’t know how much death scared him and they never would as long as he ruled.

His thoughts were interrupted when Tira appeared before him. The Ghost King looked down at her as she bowed before him with due reverence.

“My lord,” said Tira. “I have just returned from scouting. The Toa are going to be here any moment now.”

“Why did you scout without my orders, Tira?” said the Ghost King.

Tira looked up at him uneasily and said, “Well, my lord-“

The Ghost King immediately reached down and seized Tira by the neck. She gasped and struggled to break free of his iron grip, but the Ghost King just raised her off the ground and held her face before his own.

“You think I don’t know that you despise me,” the Ghost King said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “You think I don’t know about your rebelliousness, about your plan to kill me and liberate your fellow Ghosts from my rule. I know all about it.”

Tira’s eyes widened, which was the only way she could ask “How?” with her throat constricted.

“Balon told me,” said the Ghost King. “He came to me a short while ago and told me all about the Lieutenants’ little scheme to kill me. I rewarded him by letting him watch a vision of you and Lieutenant Virof dying horrible deaths. He didn’t seem to think it was a good reward.”

Tira still struggled, but it was useless, for the Ghost King was not going to let her go.

“You made a huge mistake in thinking that you could overthrow the Ghost King,” said the Ghost King, tightening his grip on Tira’s throat. “A mistake you will never be allowed to undo.”

With a loud snap that shot through the air like a gunshot, Tira ceased struggling and went limp in the Ghost King’s hand. He dropped her body to the ground just as Virof appeared out of the mist.

“My lord, what was that sound I heard?” said Virof.

Then she spotted Tira’s prone body lying on the ground. Virof staggered against a mounted Toa skeleton, her eyes focused solely on Tira’s corpse.

“No . . .” Virof whispered. “It can’t be . . .”

“Yet, tragically, it is,” said the Ghost King, leaving no sympathy in his voice. “Tira suffered the fate of all who disobey my will.”

“That’s . . . that’s horrible,” said Virof, her body quaking with unrestrained anger. “You . . . you monster!”

“Balon told me that you are the genius who came up with the idea of overthrowing me,” said the Ghost King, regarding her with disgust. “I know how much you loved Tira; how you two spent every night together in passionate embrace. Killing her, I believe, is punishment enough for a Ghost as rebellious as you.”

Virof unlimbered her bow and aimed it directly at the Ghost King’s head. “Die, you murderous tyrant!”

She fired a steel-tipped arrow at the Ghost King, but the Ghost King just shrugged. The arrow passed through his body, which had briefly phased out of existence. Then his body phased back and he was as solid as ever.

“So I assume you desire a worse punishment than that?” said the Ghost King. “Not surprising. Love often makes people act stupid. Trust me. I know.”

Virof took a step back, which the Ghost King at first assumed meant she was running away, but then she cried, “Ghosts! Attack the Ghost King now!”

Without warning, several dozen Ghosts appeared out of nowhere. They all aimed arrows at the Ghost King, but the Ghost King reacted just as quickly. He snapped his fingers and then half of the Ghosts turned against the other half. They unleashed their arrows upon their comrades, causing the other Ghosts to unleash a volley of arrows against them in response. Soon, both sides had given up ranged weaponry and were fighting a violent battle with swords and axes and whatever other melee weapons they had on hand.

“You see, Virof, that not all Ghosts wish to overthrow me,” said the Ghost King, looking at her shocked expression. “Their fear of me is greater than their desire for freedom from my rule. Therefore they will slaughter their brothers and sisters solely to appease my will.”

Shadow energy began swirling in the Ghost King’s hands. “If only you were so lucky.”

-

Due to the thick mist covering the Field of Skulls, Kiriah was unable to see what was going on down there. She wondered if the Master of Mist was responsible for the mist, although she quickly forgot about it when she heard yells and screams and the sounds of bows twanging and swords clanging, as though a battle had broken out below.

The four Toa had exited the jungle not too long ago. They had agreed to wait for Tira’s signal before coming down to the Field to help the Ghosts defeat the Ghost King, so they’d been standing on the top of the incline that led down into the Field. Tira had assured them that most of the Ghosts were on their side, but it sounded like a war was going on below, which didn’t make sense to Kiriah, as she had thought there was only one army on World’s End, not two.

Kiriah looked at the others. Akuna, Oggak, and Ahova looked just as puzzled as she felt, while Ata looked completely unconcerned. As a matter of fact, although Kiriah wasn’t sure why, Ata almost looked pleased, if a horse could be said to look pleased.

“What the Karzahni is going on down there?” said Akuna. “It sounds like a war.”

“Tira must have already started the rebellion,” said Oggak. “If so, we need to get down there right away and help however we can.”

The four Toa and Ata immediately started running down the hill. When they were half way down, they heard a particularly loud shriek and a Ghost came flying out of the mist. The Ghost landed with a loud crash on the ground in front of them, causing them to stop quickly before they ran over her.

“Hey,” Akuna said, bending down over the Ghost. “Are you okay?”

That seemed like a strange question to ask, for the Ghost’s face looked as though it had been bashed in by a boulder. Kiriah would be surprised if the Ghost could even feel anymore.

Yet the Ghost managed to whisper, “T-Toa?”

“Yes, we’re Toa,” said Akuna, nodding. “And you are?”

“Virof,” the Ghost said, coughing up some blood. “Lieutenant Virof.”

“Tira mentioned you,” said Oggak. “Said you were on our side.”

“Tira’s dead,” said Virof. “And the Ghost King is coming to finish me off.”

They had no time to ask what Virof meant, however, for soon a giant warrior in pale armor leapt out of the mist and landed on the ground before them, causing the earth beneath their feet to shake slightly. When he stood up to his full height, he easily towered over them all. He looked as though he could rip a tree from its roots as easily as a Matoran picking a flower.

Kiriah involuntarily stepped back at the appearance of the giant. Like the Ghosts, his armor was pale white, but it was also streaked with green and something that disturbingly resembled blood. He had three horns sticking out of his head, which resembled a Mask of Reanimation, and he had dark green eyes that showed no sympathy or humor.
He carried a large, long broadsword, which he currently held in his hands as he surveyed the Toa.

“So the ‘heroes’ have arrived at last,” said the Ghost King, for that was the only person it could be. “You have come to take my life, just as I thought.”

His voice was chilly and threatening, yet at the same time, quite flat and lacking in emotion. Kiriah didn’t need telepathy to be able to tell that the Ghost King was angry, for somehow he showed it without actually expressing it.

“We’re not killers,” said Akuna. “We’re actually friends.”

The Ghost King laughed, a sound which sent uncontrollable shivers up Kiriah’s spine. “Friends? As if. You Toa would like nothing better than to take my mask and mount it on a pole for all to see.”

“I already said we’re not killers,” said Akuna irritably. “We didn’t come to kill you. We-“

“How much did my enemy promise you?” the Ghost King interrupted. “Or maybe he didn’t promise you anything as crass as money. Perhaps he promised to make your names known throughout the whole universe for slaying the legendary Ghost King of World’s End.”

“Talk reasonably for once,” said Akuna, her fingers sparking. “We’re not here to kill you. Are you stupid?”

The Ghost King shook his head. “Please. You cannot lie. I know you are trying to deceive me.”

“Prove it, then,” said Akuna. “Why do you think we’re killers?”

“It’s obvious,” said the Ghost King. He pointed at each Toa in turn as he said, “Toa of Shadow, whose abilities can counter my own; Toa of Psionics, who has the power to combat my mental abilities and see through my illusions; and possibly the most dangerous of all, the Toa of Magnetism, followed by the Toa of Lightning.”

Kiriah blinked. “Um, the Master chose us for our particular powers so we would be able to defend ourselves if you turned out to be less than friendly. Looks like he was on the ball about that one.”

Again, the Ghost King laughed. “Oh, what an innocent lie. I don’t believe it. I do believe, however, that my enemy specially chose you four because he knew your elemental powers were the kind necessary to kill a Makuta.”

“But . . . you aren’t a Makuta,” said Kiriah. “You’re a . . . a ghost king or something. So I really don’t see how-“

“Actually, Kiriah, he is,” Oggak said. “The Ghost King is a Makuta; in fact, he is a Makuta that we were just discussing recently.”

Kiriah tried to recollect which Makuta they had been talking about earlier. “Not Teridax?”

“Of course not,” the Ghost King snapped. “I am Makuta Trijorn, the former Makuta of Niji, and current Ghost King of World’s End, as, I am sure, you already knew.”

At first, Kiriah and the others were too stunned to speak. Virof also seemed stunned, though that was probably more due to her previous beating from the Ghost King than because of this revelation.

Finally, Akuna said, “Wait, how is that possible? Oggak just told us-“

“I was wrong,” said Oggak. “Everyone was wrong. Makuta Trijorn did survive the apparent explosion of his ship, The Flying Ghost. He came here to World’s End and tricked the population into thinking he was the Ghost King of legend and has been ruling here ever since. Am I right, Trijorn?”

“You are quite correct, Toa of Shadow,” said Trijorn, holding his sword at his side. “I faked my own death by building an identical The Flying Ghost and setting it up to be destroyed in the most deadly way possible so that no one would doubt my ‘death.’ I then flew the real The Flying Ghost as far away from the rest of the Brotherhood as I could get, which happened to be the very end of the universe itself.”

“But why would you do that?” Kiriah asked. “That just seems so crazy and weird.”

“Because, Kiriah, that occurred during the year after the Convocation of the Brotherhood,” said Oggak. “That was when Teridax took control of the Brotherhood of Makuta. He ordered all Makuta not loyal to the plan to be executed and Trijorn was one of them.”

“Indeed I was, Toa of Shadow,” said Trijorn, nodding. “You no doubt know that several of us traitorous Makuta were planning a rebellion against Teridax, one that would have put Makuta Miserix back on the throne and Teridax’s mask on a stake had Icarax and Gorast not been such successful killers. They got everybody; Hajax, Amtro, and even . . . even Jia.”

Trijorn’s voice broke when he mentioned Jia. The name sounded vaguely familiar to Kiriah. She remembered hearing stories of the old Makuta of Tanjo Nui, named Jia, the one who had died in a laboratory accident. Yet apparently, if Trijorn was telling the truth, it had been her fellow Makuta who had really slain Jia.

“I knew they were coming after me next,” Trijorn continued, after recomposing himself. “So I fled Niji, leaving that island to its own disasters, and went all the way to Artidax. And, as I said before, I faked my death and flew all the way down here. My airship ran afoul of bad weather when I reached this island and it crashed.”

“Yes, we know,” said Oggak, nodding. “We found it in the jungle.”

“And I have been hiding here ever since,” said Trijorn, gesturing at the area. “Since that day, I have been dreading this one; the day when Teridax would somehow learn that I had survived and would send assassins to kill me.”

“How many times do I have to say it?” said Akuna, throwing her hands up. “We’re not assassins or murderers or mercenaries or serial killers or anything having to do with killing. Toa. Don’t. Kill.”

“I always suspected Teridax knew that I was still alive somewhere,” said Trijorn, who did not appear to have heard a word Akuna had said. “He just never had the proof . . . until now, when his Plan finally came to fruition. He knows where every being in the universe is now and he used that information to send you four here to kill me.”

“Teridax didn’t send us,” Akuna said. “It was the Master of Mist. You know, the Ghost King’s archenemy from the old legends?”

“The Master of Mist doesn’t really exist,” Trijorn said, shaking his head. “Just as the Ghost King is a myth, so is the Master of Mist. If the Master really existed, I would never have gotten to World’s End, nor would I have had to take up the mantle of Ghost King. Your lies are so obvious that they confirm everything I have feared all along.”

“Is that true?” said Akuna, glancing at Oggak.

Oggak shrugged. “His reasoning is sound. It doesn’t explain who we talked to, though, if the Master . . . doesn’t exist . . .”

Oggak’s voice meandered somewhere and she looked like she was deep in thought. Kiriah didn’t know what that meant. Maybe Oggak was on to something, but whatever it was, she apparently wasn’t sharing it.

“It’s obvious to me what the truth is,” said Trijorn as he pointed at the four Toa. “Teridax chose you Toa for your elemental powers, which are just the powers necessary to kill me. Of course, Teridax gave you a story to tell to me, about how the noble Master of Mist ordered you to kill me, the Ghost King, in order to make the universe a better place. What a load of dung. I cannot believe Teridax would think that would be enough to fool me into believing your false innocence.”

The more Kiriah observed Trijorn, the more she realized just how insane he must be. His continual denial of the facts, his insistence that they must be lying, his apparent cruelty and lack of empathy toward the Ghosts, and his inability to even consider alternate scenarios convinced Kiriah that even if Trijorn hadn’t been a Makuta, he was still a very dangerous being.

“Guys, we need to be careful,” said Kiriah quietly, just enough so that Akuna, Oggak, and Ahova could hear her. “I know you probably already know this, but he’s completely insane. I’m a Toa of Psionics, so I know what I’m talking about here.”

Just then, Trijorn pointed at Ata, who as usual had been quiet, and said, “And you managed to steal one of my Dark Horses? Is there no end to the insidious devices that inhabit your tiny, barbaric minds?”

“Like I said, completely insane,” said Kiriah.

Trijorn snarled and said, “Insane? I will show you something insane, all right. Souls of the lost, rise and serve your Ghost King!”

Trijorn’s mask briefly glowed, which Akuna too late shouted, “Wait, he’s got a Mask of Reanimation!”

By the time she’d shouted that warning, dozens of skeletal warriors marched from out of the mist toward Kiriah and the others. As the skeletons surrounded them, Kiriah was reminded all too forcefully of the last time she’d been to World’s End. It had ended with Kiriah in a very similar situation to her current one, except last time there had been just a normal crazy king, not a crazy Ghost King.

“My true army arises,” said Trijorn, spreading his arms wide. “They will slay you, rip your flesh from your bones, and then your bodies, too, shall join their ranks. Teridax has made his biggest mistake in choosing to strike at me with mere mortals.”

Trijorn pointed at the Toa and said, “My skeletal warriors of the beyond, attack and kill these Toa. Show no mercy.”

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:35 PM.

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#9 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Sep 26 2012 - 08:52 AM

Chapter Nine


In the past, Akuna had fought a large group of enemies and won. But that had been under completely different circumstances, when she’d been with the rest of the Toa Shika and they’d had time to think through a plan of action before implementing it.

Now it was do or die. She fought on anyway, however, even though a small voice in the back of her mind told her it was hopeless.

Akuna electrified several nearby skeletal warriors, causing a few to fall into heaps of bones and armor, but most simply ignored the electricity and continued to attack her. She blocked a skeletal Zyglak’s sword with her staff and pushed it back. She then shot a lightning bolt at it, causing the Zyglak to explode, but two more skeletons appeared to take its place and these ones carried spears even longer than her staff.

How are we supposed to survive this? Akuna thought as she jumped backwards to avoid the spear of a skeleton. Yet we can’t give up. Trijorn may not be the Ghost King, but he still must know how Teridax defeated Mata Nui. If only we could . . .

She had no time to think any further, however, for a Toa skeleton slashed at her with a sword. The sword cut across her left arm, causing her to bleed as Akuna responded with another lightning bolt, knocking the skeleton off its feet. She cursed the pain in her left arm, but was forced to ignore it for now. The skeletons kept coming and coming, each fallen wave replaced by another wave of merciless foes.

Akuna bumped into someone. Glancing over her shoulder, Akuna saw that it was Kiriah, who was viciously slashing at any skeletons that came near.

“You know we’re pretty much screwed, right?” said Akuna as she knocked the head off of another skeleton and kicked its body over.

“Yeah,” said Kiriah, ducking to avoid the swinging axe of a Roffican skeleton. “But has being screwed ever caused Toa to give up?”

Akuna blocked a skeleton’s sword with her staff and then pushed it back. “True, but this moment seems a little too hopeless.”

“If we die, Akuna, I’d just like to say that I’m proud to have known you,” said Kiriah, using her telekinesis to instantly disarm several skeletons. “Even though you get on my nerves sometimes.”

“And I’m proud to have known you, Kiriah,” said Akuna, shooting another lightning bolt at a skeleton. “Even though you, too, get on my nerves sometimes.”

Through occasional gaps in the fighting, Akuna sometimes caught a glimpse of Makuta Trijorn, who stood outside of the fight, smiling and watching the battle with satisfaction. It dawned on Akuna that the only way they could survive this battle was if Trijorn lost concentration, which would turn off his mask and cause the skeletons to revert to inanimation.

As Akuna beheaded yet another skeleton, the question How? was on her mind. They were too many skeletons to get a clear shot at Trijorn’s head and anyway, if he saw her aiming for his mask, he might just move out of the way or even back into the mist. She figured Trijorn must know that as well, in which case Akuna and the others really were screwed.

It was at that moment that Trijorn shouted in pain and the skeletal warriors abruptly fell to pieces onto the ground. Surprised, Akuna looked around until she spotted Oggak and Ahova running over to her and Kiriah. Then Akuna looked at Trijorn and noticed that his mask looked squeezed together, like a giant hand had crushed it.

“What happened?” said Akuna as Ahova and Oggak reached her and Kiriah. “What’s up with Trijorn’s mask?”

“That was me,” said Ahova, whose armor was scratched and dented in several places. “I used my magnetism to crush his mask. It doesn’t work anymore and he can’t take it off without badly hurting himself.”

Akuna looked at Trijorn, who was fruitlessly trying to remove the mask from his face. He failed, however, and pointed at the Toa and said, “I knew it. You four demons really are trying to kill me. You cannot-“

Trijorn was interrupted by a volley of arrows flying out of the mist. They harmlessly bounced off his armor, but Trijorn looked around anyway as the Ghosts emerged from the vapor. Most looked beaten and wounded, but they did not appear afraid as they surrounded their former king, weapons at the ready.

Trijorn took a step back and looked around at all of the Ghosts. “What . . .no . . .”

“You’re right, Ghost King,” said one of the Ghosts, throwing something at Trijorn’s feet. “We killed all of your loyalists. Here’s a present.”

The thing the Ghost had thrown at Trijorn’s feet was round and about the size of a skull. It was only when Trijorn’s expression changed from disbelief to horror that Akuna knew what it was.

“Balon,” said Trijorn, his voice hollow. “You killed Balon.”

“We saw him leading the loyalists,” said the Ghost, raising a blood-stained axe. “I beheaded him myself. You’re out of loyalists now, Ghost King. Your days of lording over us are finished.”

“No, this cannot be,” Trijorn muttered. “I will not allow my rule to end like this. I will not.”

“Trijorn, give up,” said Oggak, gesturing at the Ghosts and the Toa. “However powerful you may be, you cannot possibly defeat us all. If you give up and tell us the secret to defeating Teridax, we will spare your life.”

“You could be a huge help in the rebellion against Teridax, Trijorn,” Ahova added, brushing some dust off of her armor. “You could even be a hero.”

Trijorn didn’t seem to hear anything Oggak or Ahova had said. He was staring at the ground, muttering under his breath, “It’s over . . . it’s all over . . . all of it, over . . . I cannot . . .”

Then he turned to Ata, who Akuna just now noticed was standing not far from where they were. Trijorn spread his arms widely and said, “Come, Dark Horse! Slay me!”

Akuna had no idea what Trijorn was talking about until Ata leapt through the air, far faster than any living being, and slammed her horn directly into Trijorn’s chest. Ata exploded into a burst of shadow and darkness, briefly obscuring Trijorn’s appearance until it passed.

Now Akuna could see a large, horn-shaped hole in Trijorn’s chest. Antidermis was floating rapidly out of the hole, but that wasn’t the horrific part. Trijorn looked down at the antidermis and started firing laser beams at it, destroying his essence as it escaped his body.

Akuna realized that Trijorn was trying to kill himself. She also realized that, if no one intervened, Trijorn would kill himself and the secret to defeating Teridax would be lost forever.

So Akuna began running toward Trijorn, but a strong gust of wind blew through just then, strong enough to send her and the others and the Ghosts stumbling to the ground. Shaking her head, Akuna felt the air spark with electrical energy and, glancing up, saw a huge thunder cloud had appeared overhead. The sky was crackling with electricity and Akuna, being a Toa of Lightning, had a very good idea of what was about to happen next.

She threw up a barrier of electricity around her and the other Toa; just in time, for the next moment, the sky roared and a lightning bolt hit the earth exactly where Trijorn stood. Akuna had to close her eyes due to the blinding light while at the same time maintaining concentration to keep up the barrier. She could hear Trijorn screaming over the loud lightning strike, his screams filled with pain and agony unlike anything Akuna had heard before.

It lasted only for an instant. The next moment, everything was silent.

Akuna opened her eyes and cautiously let down the electricity barrier.

There was no more mist in the area, for the lightning seemed to have incinerated it. The Ghosts were scattered every which way and so were most of the skeletons in the immediate area, all of them blackened by the heat of the strike. It was hard to tell if any of the Ghosts had survived the explosion, but Akuna doubted it. They were so still and their heart lights so dark that Akuna was sure that they were all dead.

The thing that caught Akuna’s attention the most, however, was the smoking crater in the center. Lying inside was Makuta Trijorn’s armor, except it was no longer pale white anymore. It was charred black and smoking, without a hint of life in it.

“What . . . what the Karzahni was that?” said Kiriah, looking around in confusion. “Did you do that, Akuna?”

“No way,” said Akuna, shaking her head. “That definitely wasn’t me. I’m surprised we survived at all.”

“So what, that was just a freak lightning bolt?” said Kiriah. She looked up at the sky nervously and said, “Um, lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, right?”

Akuna rolled her eyes and got to her feet. “Let’s check the Ghosts, see if there are any survivors.”

It took them only a few minutes to discover that none of the Ghosts had survived, as Akuna had thought. They left the bodies where they found them, for they had no tools to dig a grave for each Ghost and they couldn’t agree on whether to burn the corpses or not.

They also checked on Trijorn’s corpse, but they knew even before they investigated it that Trijorn was dead. They found no trace of his antidermis. It was just a big, empty chunk of armor now.

So Akuna and the others sat on the ground, not far from the crater where Trijorn’s body now lay. For a while, none of them said anything.

Then Kiriah said, with her face buried in her hands, “We failed. Trijorn died before we could get the secret to defeating Teridax out of him.”

Oggak nodded. “And everyone else died, too. We’re the only survivors.”

Akuna punched the ground. “We were so close. Now what do we do?”

Ahova shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe we should try to find a way off this island and make our way back north. I for one am tired of creepy jungles and even creepier skeletons.”

“Perhaps I can help you with that,” said a voice.

Looking up, Akuna saw that some of the mist from earlier had returned and now stood in the form of a Toa-like being wearing a Mask of Shielding. Akuna had no trouble recognizing the Master of Mist, who wore a smile on his face like everything was right with the world.

“Excellent work, Toa,” said the Master, clapping silently. “Everything went mostly as planned. There were a few kinks here and there, but otherwise a perfect performance.”

Akuna was on her feet in an instant and fired a lightning bolt straight at the Master. It merely flew through his body, not harming him in the least.

“What the Karzahni are you talking about?” Akuna said. She gestured at the area and said, “Are you blind? Trijorn is dead, the Ghosts are dead, and we have no idea how to defeat Teridax. Unless your brain is also made of mist, you’d see that we failed.”

“On the contrary, I think you succeeded quite well,” said the Master. He looked at Oggak and said, “Isn’t that right, Oggakia?”

Oggak scowled, the first time Akuna had seen her do so. “By your insane standards, yes, we did.”

“Okay, I am officially confused now,” said Ahova, looking from the Master to Oggak. “What is going on here?”

“Oggakia knows my true identity,” said the Master, his smile growing wider. “She has undoubtedly put the pieces together and knows who I really am.”

“You’re the universe’s biggest liar, but for once you’re telling the truth,” said Oggak. “Yes, I know who you are. You’re not the Master of Mist, just as Trijorn was not the Ghost King. You’re a fraud, a liar and a deceiver who only had his own interests in heart from the very beginning.”

“The flattery is quite unnecessary, Oggakia,” said the Master, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Really, I would blush if I could.”

“If he’s not the real Master of Mist, then who is he?” said Ahova, looking at Oggak.

“He’s the reason we’re here in the first place,” said Oggak. “He’s Makuta Teridax, former leader of the Brotherhood of Makuta and current Great Spirit of the universe.”

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:41 PM.

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#10 Offline TNTOS

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Posted Oct 03 2012 - 09:03 AM

Chapter Ten


“No way,” said Akuna. “There’s no way he can be-“

“Oh, but I am, Toa Akuna,” said the Master. “I truly am Makuta Teridax. Oggakia is quite smart to have figured that out on her own like that.”

“No, I’m not,” said Oggak, shaking her head. “If I was really intelligent, I would have realized this sooner and revealed your deception right away.”

“I’m still confused,” said Ahova, scratching her head. “So the Master really is Teridax?”

“As I said before, yes, I am,” said the Master. “Who else would wear this?”

The Hau on Teridax’s face changed until it resembled the Mask of Shadows, which Akuna realized fit his appearance a lot better than the Hau ever did.

“Only I wear the Mask of Shadows,” said Teridax, gesturing at his face. “Of course, Icarax was arrogant enough to believe that he should wear it and as a result got it destroyed. It just goes to show you that you should never trust others with your most valuable possessions.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Kiriah. “Teridax manipulated us all into killing Trijorn for him?”

“That’s right,” said Oggak, her voice seething with anger. “I always thought there was something fishy about the Ghost King and the Master of Mist because the Order’s records on them say that the two beings are fictional. That was the first clue that told me something was off.”

“Yet you still believed me anyway,” said Teridax. “Not surprising, for many legends in this universe are based on fact. I am still surprised that you all fell for my scheme so quickly, but I guess I must have overestimated your intelligence.”

“And, Kiriah, you kept talking about a heavy mental presence blocking others’ minds from you, right?” said Oggak. “You thought the Ghost King was using his powers to block yours. But now that Trijorn is dead, can you use telepathy again?”

Kiriah shook her head. “Now that you mention it, no, I don’t. I still feel that same intense presence that’s blocking my powers.”

“That was Teridax,” said Oggak, pointing at him. “Only he has the kind of power to negate those mental abilities over an entire island.”

“It’s true,” said Teridax. “I of course couldn’t let Trijorn read your minds and discover that you honestly were not trying to kill him. So I cast a ‘mental blanket’ over the island, so to speak, that made telepathy near impossible

And Akuna,” said Oggak, turning to the Toa of Lightning. “Do you remember that dream you had, where Nastan and the other Toa Shika were still alive?”

Akuna nodded. “Are you saying-“

“That was me, too,” said Teridax, almost gleefully. “I played Nastan. You see, Akuna, I needed to give you a personal reason to hate the 'Ghost King', so I invaded your dreams and gave you just what your heart desires. I was going to take ‘Nastan’ away, but when Oggak appeared and suggested Trijorn was behind it, I decided to work with it.”

“I had my doubts about that earlier,” said Oggak. “I thought it was Trijorn, but on the other hand, I remember feeling that presence in Akuna’s mind, which felt far too strong to be any normal being. That was when I started to suspect it was you, Teridax, and my suspicions were all but confirmed when Trijorn revealed his true identity to us.”

“This is kind of confusing,” said Ahova. “Let me see if I understand . . . Teridax pretended to be the Master of Mist to trick us into killing Trijorn?”

“Your summation of my grand plan is sketchy but accurate,” said Teridax. “By the way, Oggakia, I assume you noticed that the Dark Horse named Ata acted differently than its brothers?”

“That was you, too, wasn’t it?” said Oggak.

“Of course it was,” said Teridax, nodding. “The Dark Horses literally cannot exist without someone’s mind controlling theirs. They are similar to puppets in that they have no soul of their own and thus must be controlled by someone else. I did it in order to have a more direct hand in the direction events on this island took, just in case any unforeseen problems affected my plan.”

“You took advantage of my liking of horses,” said Oggak. “You really are a scheming manipulator, aren’t you?”

“So you played us the entire time?” Akuna said, lightning crackling in the palms of her hands. “Just to kill Trijorn?”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Toa Akuna,” said Teridax. “Let me start at the beginning. As my plan is now complete, there is no harm in telling you exactly just how much I screwed with your lives.”

Teridax spread his arms wide, as though trying to encompass the whole island. “You see, when I first took over the universe, one of my very first acts as Great Spirit was to eliminate my fellow Makuta. They were the only beings in existence, besides Tren Krom, who knew the secret to defeating me. As Tren Krom was not a threat and basically unknown, I only had to eliminate my brothers and sisters to secure my position as Great Spirit.”

“That’s awful,” said Kiriah. “Killing your own species just to keep yourself safe? What kind of a madman does that?”

“Your compliments are unnecessary, Toa Kiriah,” Teridax said. “Anyway, I thought I knew where all of the Makuta were. That is, until I discovered that a Makuta I had thought dead for some years was still alive, all the way here, on World’s End, trying to pass himself off as the fearsome Ghost King of legend and, in my opinion, misrepresenting that terrifying legendary being terribly.

“As you can imagine, I couldn’t let him live. Though Trijorn was by then insane and paranoid, so long as he existed and knew the secret to defeating me, my position as Great Spirit was always at risk. What would happen, I asked myself, if the rebels also learned of Trijorn’s existence or Trijorn gathered up the courage to join the rebellion and tell them how to defeat me? Then tens of thousands of years’ worth of planning would have all been for naught.”

“So why didn’t you kill Trijorn yourself?” Kiriah asked. “If you’re the Great Spirit, surely you could do that?”

“In the end, I had to,” said Teridax with a shrug. “I did not want to at first, however, because dirtying my hands is not my style. I prefer to manipulate my enemies into completing my agenda for me and then letting them suffer in misery when they know just what they had inadvertently done for me.”

“You sent that lightning bolt, then,” said Akuna.

“Indeed,” said Teridax, nodding. “You see, my plan had two possible endings at first, both fueled by Trijorn’s paranoia built up from living in fear of me for all these years. Either you Toa would end up inadvertently killing him during combat or Trijorn would kill himself to avoid that same fate by your hands.”

“So that’s why you chose us four Toa specifically,” said Oggak, looking at her friends. “Makuta use shadow and psionic powers frequently, so obviously, to match Trijorn’s abilities, you needed me and Kiriah. And, of course, Ahova’s magnetism would be perfect for breaking open a Makuta’s armor, and Akuna’s lightning would suffice for destroying the antidermis that would leak out.”

“You’re correct on that one, Oggakia,” said Teridax. “Of course, I knew that you four are strict abiders of the Toa code, so you probably wouldn’t have killed Trijorn. I originally intended to simply allow Trijorn to kill himself, as he was in the process of doing. But then I noticed you, Akuna, about to stop him and I couldn’t have that. So I intervened at the last second and killed him personally.”

Akuna looked around the area in disgust. “Did you have to kill the Ghosts, too?”

“They simply got in the way,” Teridax replied. “Besides, I am sending an army down this way. They will leave this universe to attack the one outside and World’s End is the only thing between them and the exit. Naturally, I couldn’t allow for the possibility of Trijorn and his Ghosts getting in the way of my men, so I had to initiate this plan. Brilliant, isn’t it?”

“It’s not brilliant,” said Akuna. “It’s mad. It’s evil. It’s insane.”

“Those are relative terms, Toa Akuna,” said Teridax. “What you call mad, I call rational. What you call evil, I call good. What you call insane, I call sane. It is only good military strategy. Two Gukko birds with one arrow, as they always say.”

“You’ve been manipulating us the entire time,” said Kiriah. “I mean, I’ve heard how you’re supposed to be cunning and sly, but I didn’t realize just how cunning and sly you were until now.”

“So are you going to kill us, then?” said Akuna, gesturing at the others. “Or are you just going to leave us stranded on this island?”

“Neither,” Teridax replied, much to Akuna’s surprise. “I am going to send all four of you back to your friends. That is the reward you shall receive for being so helpful.”

“Reward?” said Kiriah, blinking. “Why are you rewarding us if we’re your enemy?”

“Easy,” said Teridax. “You helped secure my rule. Indeed, how would you like it if I commissioned Ahkmou, the current Turaga of Metru Nui, to build four new statues of you in honor of your heroism and bravery?”

“No,” said Akuna flatly. “What we did wasn’t heroic or brave. You manipulated us into scaring a paranoid person into almost killing himself. I don’t see how that is heroic.”

Teridax sighed, which sounded strange coming from the mist. “Fine, fine. I doubt I could find room for more statues in my personal statuary anyway. You will simply live with the knowledge that you reassured my control over the universe. And for that I thank you, Toa, for without you my rule would always be fragile and insecure.”

Akuna had a lot of things she wanted to say to Teridax, but just as she opened her mouth to speak, she blinked and found herself sitting on a log in front of a campfire. She looked around in confusion and realized that she was no longer on World’s End, but back at camp, where she and Oggak had been earlier that day.

The camp looked about the same as they’d left it. There were four tents set up around a small campfire, which itself was surrounded by a few logs that acted as seats. It was in a hilly area, the hills around them hiding the camp from outside eyes. The campfire itself was almost out, nothing more than burning embers and ash at the moment. No one appeared to be there besides Akuna and Oggak.

“Teridax must have teleported us back here,” said Oggak, looking around with Akuna. “It’s good to be away from World's End, but . . .”

At that moment, Akuna heard the sound of a couple of people walking and, looking around, saw Toa Jokao, Toa of Fire, and Igici, a former Dark Hunter who wore gold armor, walking from behind one of the hills. They were talking quietly, but Akuna could tell that they weren’t happy.

Then Jokao briefly glanced at camp and started, causing Igici to stop. The two looked at Akuna and Oggak in disbelief.

Akuna waved her hand, saying, “Hey! We’re back. What’s up?”

Jokao and Igici immediately continued walking toward them. Akuna noticed that Jokao walked less naturally than Igici due to his robotic legs, which he’d gotten after losing the use of his natural legs not long ago.

Despite that, Jokao actually reached Oggak and Akuna first. He immediately hugged Oggak when he reached them and Oggak hugged him back, while Igici stopped a few feet from them, looking at Akuna and Oggak with surprise.

“Where have you been?” Jokao said, after breaking his embrace with Oggak. “Igici, Chimoy, and I have been looking for you two all over the place.”

“Speaking of Chimoy, where is he?” said Akuna, looking around the camp.

“He’s flying,” Igici replied. “He’s trying to find you guys from the air using that Mask of Flight we stole from one of Teridax's minions. He should be back any minute now.”

Just as Igici finished speaking, Akuna heard something dash through the air and, glancing up, saw Chimoy, Toa of Iron, drop to the top of a hill near them. Chimoy started walking down the hill with his head down, but when he glanced up and saw Oggak and Akuna, he picked up speed and soon was back in camp.

“Akuna, Oggak, where were you?” said Chimoy. “We’ve-“

“Been looking for us all over the place, yeah,” Akuna finished for him. “We know. Jokao just told us. As for where we’ve been . . .”

Akuna, with some help from Oggak, quickly recounted the events that occurred on World’s End. The guys looked intrigued and puzzled at first, but by the time Akuna got to the part where Teridax revealed himself, they looked just as defeated and hopeless as Akuna felt.

“I can’t believe it,” said Chimoy. “You went through all of that for nothing. Teridax really is a snake.”

“Having a Makuta on our side would have helped immensely,” said Igici, sitting down on a log. “Especially a Makuta with the knowledge Teridax used to defeat Mata Nui.”

“That Trijorn guy sounded insane, though,” said Jokao. “Would Trijorn have helped us even if Teridax hadn’t been intending to kill him?”

“Who knows?” said Akuna, bitterly staring at the ground. “All I know is that I want to do whatever I can to make Teridax’s rule as difficult for him as possible, even if we can never defeat him.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Chimoy, nodding. “By the way, do you know where those Toa Tanjo guys you mentioned are?”

“No,” said Akuna, shaking her head and looking up. “Why?”

“Because we’re going to need as many allies as we can get,” the Toa of Iron said. “During my flight, I noticed a large prison not far from here. I think it’s where the Rahkshi took Turaga Joha. That’s originally why I returned to camp, but I forgot to tell you all that in light of your return.”

“That’s what we came here for, isn’t it?” said Akuna. “We came here to find Joha and it looks like we did. So we might as well try to save him.”

“First, though, we should probably scout out the fortress’s defenses,” said Igici, looking over the hill that Chimoy had flown over. “What did you see, Chimoy?”

“Loads of Rahkshi and Visorak, mostly,” said Chimoy. “Big walls. Some turrets and a moat. I might be able to fly into it, but that’s assuming the guards don’t see me and try to shoot me down. It looked heavily fortified.”

“We’ve faced worse before,” said Akuna. “And besides; if Teridax is going to control the universe forever, we really don’t have much to lose by dying, do we?”

Akuna knew how pessimistic her words sounded, but it was the truth. Teridax had been right that they would always suffer with the knowledge that they had come so close to victory yet had failed so miserably. It looked like a clear victory for Teridax, but Akuna wanted to give the Makuta one last bit of trouble before it was all over. It was the only thing she could do.

-

The cave was silent at Kiriah and Ahova’s story. Kiriah looked at Toa Nasis, Toa of Iron and leader of the Toa Tanjo. The lump of metal he always carried and played with sat on the ground at his feet. Even Toa Noros, Toa of Stone and the most sharp-tongued member of the team, seemed at a loss for words at the news the two Toa had brought.

Kiriah looked down at the cave floor and felt a hand on her back. She glanced and saw Horic had put his hand on her. His red and white armor looked dark after he’d heard the news, but Kiriah thought that was just her imagination at work, rather than any actual physical effect taking place.

“This is tragic,” said Toa Laomos, Toa of Gravity, holding his head in his hands. “I’ve wrote tragedies before, but this . . . I can’t even begin to describe how horrible this is.”

“We really didn’t know,” said Kiriah, although her words sounded halfhearted. “If we had-“

“No one is blaming you, Kiriah,” said Toa Kicho, Toa of Earth, shaking her head. “Or Ahova or those other two Toa you worked with. It’s just . . . this news is disheartening, to say the least.”

“Disheartening is a kind way of putting it,” said Noros, punching the cave wall and creating cracks in it. “This whole rebellion seems completely pointless now. If Trijorn is dead, then we might as well give up and become Teridax’s slaves.”

“Never thought I’d hear you be the first to suggest we give up, Noros,” said Toa Kijaka, Toa of Water. “You’ve always been so stubborn.”

“I know when I’ve won and I know when I’ve lost,” said Noros, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. “And I’d say we have lost.”

“Let’s try and look at the bright side of things,” said Ahova, forcing an unnatural smile. “I mean, we’re all still alive, right? So long as at least one Toa lives, I don’t think Teridax is going to win.”

“You do realize how naïve you sound, don’t you?” said Kijaka, slumping back in her seat. “Teridax controls the whole universe. If Trijorn really was the only person who could have stopped him, then we’re completely screwed.”

Nasis looked up at Kiriah. His eyes met hers for a moment. Then he looked around at the rest of the group.

“Well, this does seem like a crushing loss,” said Nasis, his voice part grief, part defiance. “But do you remember what Kiriah and Ahova told us? Teridax is sending an army out of the universe, beyond World’s End.”

“Is there anything outside of the universe?” Kijaka asked skeptically. “What if it’s just another trick?”

“I doubt it,” said Kiriah, shaking her head. “Teridax’s trickery is less blatant than that. That means there probably is something out there.”

“Then let’s do it,” said Nasis, hitting his fist into his other hand. “We’ll track down this army and follow it out of the universe. Maybe we’ll find hope outside. Maybe we’ll even find Mata Nui.”

“That sounds far-fetched,” said Kijaka, looking at Nasis with skepticism. “There’s no way it will work. And the chances of finding Mata Nui are slim, if not entirely nonexistent.”

“It’s the best hope we’ve got,” said Noros. “Maybe we haven’t lost after all.”

“I’m willing to do it,” said Kiriah, raising her hand. “There has to be hope somewhere, even if it is not here. We’re Toa. We give up and everyone else gives up.”

She glanced at Horic, who was a Tagiki, and said, “No offense.”

“None taken,” said Horic. “I consider myself a hero and I will go alongside you if this will help the universe and my people.”

“All right,” said Nasis. “All in favor of tracking down Teridax’s army?”

Slowly, one-by-one, all of the members of the group raised their hands. Even Kijaka agreed, raising her hand perhaps higher than the rest of them.

“I see there’s no point in asking if anyone is against, then,” said Nasis. He stood up and said, “All right. I know someone we can talk to who can get us the information we need. We just need to find her.”

Kiriah nodded, but had a hard time feeling excited. Kijaka's skepticism that they could find anything outside of the universe seemed far more rational than their current plan, but giving up did not seem a more rational option to Kiriah. Hope was what they needed now, however silly or illogical it might have been.

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Edited by TNTOS, Dec 18 2013 - 05:49 PM.

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