Here is a short story I planned on posting for Halloween, but my job and other events kept me working on it and finishing it until now. I hope everyone that reads it enjoys it.
Death by Pride
Dyson used his Ax to clear out some of the branches blocking his path. He separated them from the bushes they were connected to in three swings. He then kicked them aside and pressed on, with Aro and Bapuz, a Ta-Matoran and Po-Matoran respectively, following a few steps behind him.
"Do you know where we are?" Aro snapped at him. "Because I think you're lost!"
"I'm not lost!" Dyson shot back. "Le-Matoran do not get lost in a forest, no matter how big, dark, or scary it is!"
'Big, dark, and scary' were understatements when it came to describing the forest the trio of Matoran were currently traveling through. The vegetation was so intertwined together that the sun couldn't shine through the top of the trees, causing the ground level of the forest to be almost pitch black. If it weren't for the Matoran's lightstones, they wouldn't have even been able to see their hands directly in front of their faces. This could've made the Matoran easy prey for any carnivorous Rahi that might've lived in the forest, but thankfully they hadn't encountered one so far on their journey. It wasn't too hard to guess why very few of the Matoran living in the village next to the forest had voluntarily went into it.
"I'm starting to think that there are not any Toa Stones to be found in these forsaken woods," Bapuz complained. The Toa Stones that were rumored to be hidden in the forest was the sole reason that the three Matoran were exploring through it.
None of them were very popular back in their village. None of them had any real friends. They were treated as outcasts, only useful to help out with jobs in the village that no one else wanted to do. It had been this way for many years, and the three Matoran were tired of it. All they wanted was respect and admiration. What better way to get these things and more than to become a Toa?
"They're here, Bapuz. Show a little faith," Dyson insisted. The Le-Matoran looked again at the map that supposedly showed where in the forest the stones were located. He had been the one to originally find it, and he had used it to convince Aro and Bapuz to come along on this journey to fame and fortune. Of course, he had thought about trying to find the stones alone before approaching them, but he knew that going on this journey without help would have likely led him to an early death.
He studied the map silently for a moment, as if he were studying some mathematical equation. Le-Matoran were known for always knowing where they were, especially in a forest. A Le-Matoran losing his way was unheard of. Many Le-Matoran would be embarrassed if they became lost and someone found out about it. For Dyson, however, it would be the worst humiliation in his life to lose his way. It was a point of pride for him to lead his group to the Toa Stones with his map. He would not admit to Aro and Bapuz that he sort of didn't know where they were in the forest. He wouldn't let them use that knowledge to ruin his life even more at their village.
"Let me take a look at that," Aro said impatiently to Dyson. The Ta-Matoran reached for it, but Dyson pulled it away from his grasp.
"This is my map," the Le-Matoran said defensively. "I'll be the one to read it, thank you very much."
"I've come to doubt to your ability to read a map," Aro said in annoyance. "Maybe if Bapuz or I looked at it..."
"Le-Matoran don't get lost in a forest," Dyson repeated, angered by the Ta-Matoran's words. "I know exactly where we are and where we're going. If you don't believe me, FINE! Find your own way out!"
And with that, Dyson turned and stormed off deeper into the forest. Aro and Bapuz watched him go, wondering why he wouldn't let either of them look at the map and if he really did know where he was going.
"So, are we are going to follow him?" Bapuz finally asked Aro.
"Might as well," Aro replied. "But if we are still lost in the next two hours, we'll knock that lunatic out and look at the map ourselves."
The two Matoran ran down the path that Dyson had taken, catching up with him in a few seconds. The trio then continued on their journey, traveling on the path that Dyson said would lead them to the Toa Stones. Before any of them knew it, a hour had passed, and there was still no sign of the stones. The vegetation from the bushes on the ground level of the forest had grown even thicker than the top level. So thick, in fact, that Dyson's Ax couldn't cut through it in a quick fashion, which slowed the Matoran's journey to a crawl.
Aro, whose mood had gone from impatient to irritated to enraged in that same last hour, finally couldn't take it anymore. He was tired of Dyson refusing to let him or Bapuz look at the map, and he was going to say something about it.
"That's it, Dyson!" Aro finally said. "We've have been in this forest for hours, and we have yet to see any signs of the stones. Let me look at the map and see if we'll on the right path."
"No," Dyson replied. "We are almost there. Trust me."
"'Almost there'?" Bapuz said. "You've said that for the last three hours and we still haven't gotten there!
"I say we head back," Aro suggested. "This has been nothing more than a wild Nui-Rama chase from the start, and I'm sick and tired of walking around in the dark!"
High above the Matoran, a vine connected to one of the trees began to move. If anyone had been watching it, they would've question whether the vine was a vine at all, for it was clearly moving on its own. Soon, another vine also began to move. Then another. And another. Soon over a dozen had suddenly been given the gift of movement, and they were using newfound their abilities to slither slowly and quietly down the trees to the Matoran below.
Of course, none of the Matoran noticed them. They were too busy fighting among each other to see that the vines were moving on their, or to sense the presence that had given the vines 'life.'
"You two are cowards!" Dyson cried. "Both of you claimed to want exactly what I want; respect, honor, fame! After all the 'being pushed around' and 'yelled at for making mistakes,' I thought you two would do anything to shed your unpopularity and become legends. But no! You two would rather turn tail and run from a few shadows a harmless Archives Mole would bravely go through!"
"We do want to be brave and strong," Bapuz protested. "And we do want to be treated with respect like everyone else, but not at the cost of our lives."
"I'm surprised we haven't encountered some dangerous Rahi yet," Aro added. "We better leave before that changes."
Dyson let out a prideful laugh. "In the next few minutes, we'll be Toa, and then no Rahi will be able to stand against us."
Aro opened his mouth to reply to Dyson's statement when the sound of a breaking tree branch echoed through the forest. Less than a second later, Dyson let a heart-wrenching scream as something grabbed him from above and pulled them into the trees above. Caught off guard by the sudden attack, he dropped his lightstone and Ax, only allowing Bapuz and Aro to see their ally disappear into the darkness.
Then the two remaining Matoran felt themselves being grabbed around their arms, legs, and waists. They, too, were then lifted violently into the shadow-filled trees. Aro watched helplessly as the ground below him left his sight as the darkness around him consumed it. Then his and Bapuz's ascent came to abrupt end, leaving both of them hanging at least 50 feet in the air.
Bapuz tried to lift up his lightstone, which he had been able to hold on to after being grabbed, to get a better view of his surroundings. Though it didn't really help him get a better look of his surroundings, it did help him notice two things. One, that Aro and Dyson were tried up next to him. And two, that the Matoran were all beings held up in the air by what appeared to be vines.
"Are you two alright?" the Po-Matoran asked his colleagues.
"I guess so," Aro replied. "But what is going on here?"
"Maybe this is a trap set by whoever hid the Toa Stones here?" Dyson theorized. "Maybe it keeps the unworthy from taking them?"
"I wouldn't say that, Matoran."
The response didn't come from Aro or Bapuz, but instead came from a dark, menacing voice that echoed through the trees. There wasn't a trance of good or righteous in the sound of the newcomer's reply. It reeked of only death and evil.
"Who...are you?" Bapuz asked, failing to conceal the fear growing inside of him.
"You have no need to know my name," the stranger replied. "But I will happily tell you that I'm a Makuta."
If any of the Matoran weren't afraid before, they certainly were now. Though none of them had ever personally met a Makuta, they all had heard legends of them. They were beings of darkness, rumored to possess various amounts of powers.
And I bet one of them is plant control, Dyson thought. That would explain why the vines came to life and grabbed us. This Makuta is controlling them.
"What do you want from us?" Aro asked.
"I want to play a little game with all of you, or rather, watch you all play the game," the Makuta replied. "And the prize will be the Toa Stones you all seek."
"You know about...." Aro began to say.
"...The Toa Stones? Of course I do," the Makuta interrupted. "I easily read your minds and learned of your intentions. Its like reading an open scroll for me. Now onto the game."
The vines holding the Matoran in the air slowly began to lower them back to the ground. At the ten foot mark, the descent stopped and the vines released their captives, dropping them to the muddy ground below.
"The rules are simple," the Matoran's tormentor explained. "All of you will fight each other to the death. The one that survives will be teleported by yours truly to the Toa Stones, where he, and he alone, will become the newest Toa to enter into the stories of legends."
Bapuz looked up into the darkness above him with shocked disbelief. "Are you crazy? You can't expect us to kill each other! We're all friends!"
"And that is what will make this fun," the Makuta laughed. "But if you need insistence..."
Suddenly, bolts of chain lightning began to rain down from the trees. The three Matoran jumped and dove out of the way as they scrambled to make a break for it down the path. They had each only made it a few steps before the trio ran into what felt like an invisible wall. Then an invisible force struck them all, sending them all flying. They hit the ground hard, but none of them seriously injured from the attack.
Dyson pulled himself to his feet. It took him a moment to notice that the bolts of chain lightning had stopped raining down on them. He was thankful for that, but in his heart he knew it wasn't over. More horrors were surly to come.
"We won't do it."
Dyson turned to the sound of Bapuz's weakened voice. The Po-Matoran was on his feet, looking angrily up into the darkness above the Matoran.
"We are brothers, created by the Great Spirit," Bapuz went on. "We have only come here to gain the means to the recognition that is rightfully ours. You dare to stand in our way for no reason other than your entertain yourself. Let me tell you something, we will not play your game. My friends and I started this together, and we will finish it..."
Those were the last words the Po-Matoran said before an energy bolt flew out of the shadows behind him. It hit his back, insulting in the incinerating of his body. In less than a second, his body was gone, leaving no trace that he had ever existed.
"I never did like loud-mouths," the Makuta said almost jokingly. "Now only two are left. Fight, and one of you will survive and enter into the legends. If neither of you comply, you both will join the Po-Matoran in death."
Dyson just stared at the spot where Bapuz died, shocked by what he had witnessed. The Makuta wasn't buffing. He would kill him if he didn't participate in his game. The fear of death began to grow inside of him, causing his hands to shake.
Fear was the last emotion going through Aro. Instead, he was filled with rage. He picked up a rock and threw it at where the Ta-Matoran had guessed the Makuta's voice had originated from. "You will pay for this, monster! When I become a Toa, I will make you wish Toa killed their enemies! You hear me!"
Dyson watched as the Ta-Matoran shouted at the Makuta, continuing to make threats that the Le-Matoran knew he couldn't pull through on. There was no urge inside him to join the Ta-Matoran on his emotional rampage. All the Le-Matoran could think about was if anyone would miss Aro back at the village. The Ta-Matoran wasn't the best at his job. He didn't have many friends.
No one would miss him, Le-Matoran, a dark, menacing voice echoed in Dyson mind. He recognized it as the Makuta's. And even if someone did, you could always tell them a Rahi brought an end to his miserable life.
The sound of metal hitting rock caused Dyson to look down. There, laying at his feet, was his Ax. It hadn't been there a second ago, but now it was, thanks to the teleportation powers of the Makuta.
Here is the key to your salvation and new life, the Makuta went on. Use your weapon to strike down your 'friend' and I will teleport you to the Toa Stone.
How do I know your telling the truth?
You don't, but then, how do you know your ally won't try to strike you down first?
Aro's urgent tone in his voice snapped his attention away from his conversation with the Makuta. Dyson looked up to the Ta-Matoran, who was now standing before him. A beam of confidence could be seen in his eyes.
"We are going to stand against this Makuta together!' Aro said. "Even if it costs us our lives, we will at least die with our pride intact."
Aro then noticed Dyson's Ax laying at the Le-Matoran's feet. For reasons unknown to the Le-Matoran, Aro began to reach for it. Panic suddenly grew inside Dyson. Was the Makuta right? Was Aro about to try to strike him down with his own weapon for a chance to get the Toa Stones?
Dyson wasn't going to wait to find out.
What happened next happened in less than a second. Dyson quickly reached down and took hold of the weapon before Aro could grabbed it. Then he raised the weapon and brought it down on his former ally's head.
Three seconds later, Aro's lifeless body was laying on the ground before Dyson. The Le-Matoran couldn't take his eyes off the body.
The Makuta's laughter began to echo through the woods. "Congrats, Matoran. I honestly thought for a moment that you wouldn't do it. I am impressed."
Dyson simply looked up into the direction where the Makuta's voice originated, still too in shock to reply.
"And now no one will know that you became lost, unlike other Matoran of your kind," the Makuta went on. "Your pride remains intact as well."
"I've done what you've asked," Dyson finally stammered. "Now give me what you promised."
Of course," the Makuta replied as the world around Dyson began to vanish. "Here is the reward you have earned!"
Dyson expected to be teleported to the Toa Stones that he so desperately desired. True, he didn't know how to access the powers inside them, but he planned to figure it out once he had his hands on them.
But instead, he found himself teleported to the center of his village. He didn't know how the Makuta had known that he lived here. But he didn't have time to think about that, for he had noticed two things. One, his Ax was still in his hand. And two, the Makuta had also teleported Aro's body with Dyson, and it now resting at the ground in front of the Le-Matoran.
One by one, other Matoran in that part of the village noticed Dyson standing over the fallen body of the Ta-Matoran. They gasped in horror at the sickening site. The Le-Matoran then remembered that he, Aro, and Bapuz didn't tell anyone that they had left the village the night before. They had to sneak out of the village, for the Turaga would've never given them permission to leave. For all that the other villagers knew, Dyson, Aro, and Bapuz had been in the village the whole time.
Oh no, Dyson thought in fear of his life when he realized the conclusions the other villagers were making about the violent scene before them.
"This....this isn't what it looks like!" Dyson shouted, throwing his Ax to the ground. "This is a huge...misunderstanding..."
Two Po-Matoran tackled Dyson from behind, slamming him hard into the ground. One of them grabbed the Ax that the Le-Matoran had just dropped and held it to the back of Dyson's head.
"Don't move, murderer," the Po-Matoran said roughly.
"You don't....understand...," Dyson continued to weakly stutter.
Soon, security came and arrested Dyson. They tried up his arms and legs and roughly dragged him to the Turaga's hut, where the Le-Matoran would be sentenced for his horrendous crime. Dyson knew even if he told everyone the truth, told them about the map, the Toa Stones the map supposedly led to, and the Makuta and the wicked game he made the three Matoran play, he would still be put in jail for the rest of his live or executed for the murder of a fellow Matoran. An act he willingly chose to do.
His life as he knew it was over, and though he truly wanted to blame the Makuta, he knew that the only one he could blame was himself.
Comments and criticism appreciated!