Ooc: Jam featuring Seraphim and I.
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho remained silent. By the by, this seemed like a generally good idea. He had raised an eyebrow at Ambages's little show of mercy; he couldn't say with any sort of certainity whose benefit that had been arranged for. Or maybe he was being paranoid. That was entirely possible. Generally, however, Illhamotho was fairly sure that his host was not to be trusted in the slightest.[/color]
[color=#696969;]The darkness from the tunnel quickly enveloped the two travelers, reducing visibility to just about zero. The Vortixx was not one to break the silence but he regarded(as much as he possibly could) his Matoran companion carefully. "Sir, pardon my asking, but perhaps a lightstone might be in order?" he asked, the cave reverberating with his voice.[/color]
"If you feel the need for a tool of the light," Ambages steadily replied, "then you may draw one." He had no desire to use one himself, however, and instead stepped forward with sure steps. One may draw a conclusion that he had become one with the darkness. While that was far from untruth the reality was something far simpler and mundane.The architect adjusted the focus of his eyepiece to allow more precious light into the lens.
[color=#696969;]The Vortixx unfortunately had no such advantage. His reptillian eyes, though generally pretty good as far as eyes went, had no such eyepiece and as such he could only squint in an attempt to see the approaching...whatever he was supposed to be seeing. He moved his polearm to his metallic left arm while his right desperately fumbled in his pouch.[/color]
[color=#696969;]"So, sir...if you don't mind me asking...where are we and where are we going?"[/color]
"We are in the Dark Walk, passageways meant to transport armies, now nothing more than haunting tunnels to the old lair of the Makuta," Ambages explained. "We are going to a meeting in Ga-Koro, which lies more assuredly on the other side."Ambages finished adjusting the eyepiece and sighed gently as vision was at full once again. "The purpose," he said, guessing the next question, "varies. Ostensibly I am going to do business with their akiri and you are my bodyguard. But I also wanted to speak with you."
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho finally pulled out the lightstone, filling the tunnel with a soft glow. With a brief motion, he tossed his polearm into the air at the same time as the newly gained lightstone, the hammer once again resting in his right hand. "Talk to me, huh? About what? Not much to talk about, in my opinion."That was a lie. What wasn't there to talk about? For starters: why did you recruit 120 seemingly random people from the slums of Xa-Koro which was destroyed soon afterward and then proceed to turn them into an army?[/color]
[color=#696969;]And why oh why was the newly appointed High Vizier of Ko-Koro perhaps not in charge but certainly privy to this shady operation?[/color]
[color=#696969;]He could formulate theories but it was certainly nothing he wanted to give voice to.[/color]
"Don't pretend to be simple," Ambages said. "You're a keen man, you know you're a part of something much larger than you can fathom on your own." And in the darkness, just within Ilhamotho's eyesight, he saw Ambages turn a little and flash a sly smile. "And you know I'm a part of it."
Ilhamotho frowned. Sharper than he thought. Carefully, he probed forward.
[color=#696969;]"Here's what I know. I was approached by a couple of men who asked if I was looking for employment. Turns out I was. Didn't hear any names of anything, just looked forward to do the job, whatever it would be. I end up with a bunch of other people literally in the same boat. Then, the training started. All pretty rudimentary, easy stuff.[/color]
[color=#696969;]"Like I said, didn't know any names until I met Commander Brykon."[/color]
"--Colonel Brykon," Ambages corrected.
[color=#696969;]"Colonel, sure. Colonel Brykon started taking me outside on so-called 'recon' missions which turned out to be, well, not about recon at all. Turned out to tutoring sessions...about tactics. About politics. About...what was happening on the island. About the Akiri." A little probing had revealed that he was not the only person on these recon trips, but that was something Ilhamotho kept to himself. "We move to Ko-Wahi and then suddenly Colonel Brykon gives me an assignment...an actual assignment this time. To escort you. Turns out the person I'm escorting is one of the most powerful people on the island."[/color]
[color=#696969;]The Vortixx gave the Matoran a toothy grin. "So, certainly I know there's something larger going on. Likely, I'm going to be placed in some sort of command position, though of what I cannot fathom. Perhaps this little army you have going...perhaps your personal guard. Who knows?"[/color]
"I do," Ambages said, matter-of-factly. "Colonel Brykon is resigned from his commission. It was by his suggestion when he left that I selected /you/ to be his replacement."
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho nodded. That made sense. Though what exactly this commission was...well, that was yet to be seen. "I assume I don't have a choice in the matter, correct?"[/color]
"Oh, no, quite the contrary," Ambages started to explain as he confidently led the way through the inky vast passages. "You can choose not to take the offer, in which case I will merely go to the next person on the list. But it is a small list and refusal would be met with a large amount of... disappointment."
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho chuckled. No choice, then. "What will I be...doing? Recruiting?"[/color]
"No. Recruitment was done long before the ships set sail and the condemned city swam with the fishes. Your job is one of leadership. You will serve the army as its general. It is yours to command."Just as you are mine."
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho was unfazed. He knew as well as Ambages that Ilhamotho's command would begin and end when either of them determined the relationship to be unsatisfactory. That was a long time in coming and it was very possible that rewards lay at the end of the track. Rewards he would have to survive to see, but rewards nonetheless. It was an awkward moment, a silence not even the darkness could fill.[/color]
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho took a chance and decided to break it. "Who are we fighting, then? I like to know what I'm going to fight before I send men to die against it. Just a policy thing. Professional stuff."[/color]
"Whomever I direct you to," Ambages said. "For now any number of opponents. This is an unstable time on Mata Nui -- anything can happen. A more pressing concern for you would be a question of why you would fight at all. For three months and a week you trained soldiers and led a squad like the other foreigners in the army. You watched a city collapse to nothing, the unending coastline, a desolate desert, and now the walls of an ice cave. But why?" he asked rhetorically."You're an army without banners. There are many on Mata Nui that are worried you exist but so very few people who know you do. And in a time of such strife as right now when nobody trusts even their neighbors, don't you think having an army of angry and trained refugees nobody knows about can be very useful? You will lead because you know a portion of my power and because I will line your pockets with gold, and where you lead others will follow. They will fight because they don't know better. Because I made it so."
[color=#696969;]Ilhamotho coughed. "Sir, you're intelligent. You're a good deal smarter than me, certainly. Men like the men you took...gold will lead them for a little while. That's how all mercenaries, all criminal types do. As for myself, I don't really care for gold. I do this because...well, this is what I do. Not everyone has killing in them though. And gold will only take them so far...there's a point where promises of wealth will fall on deaf ears. When you're suffering in some forsaken wasteland, praying to some deity you ain't never heard of to save you, you don't care much about gold. You can't eat it. You can't drink it. It takes a certain kind of person to push on through Karz for just gold. And if you don't give them a reason to kill? They'll desert and all of a sudden you don't have an army anymore."[/color]
[color=#696969;]People will follow me, sure. But they need a reason besides your say so."[/color]
[color=#696969;]Suddenly, inspiration struck the Vortixx. Perhaps there was a chance to get some answers...if he was willing to talk. He was already 'in the know' technically...surely a little more probing wouldn't hurt. But if he blew it, if he was misjudging the situation.[/color]
[color=#696969;]Then he could be dead.[/color]
[color=#696969;]Or perhaps that was not the smartest thing, at the moment.[/color]
And that was the game. Give a little and let the prey take the slack and be baited into the trap. It wasn't just a way to gain people's trust, it was a way to sense their desires and weaknesses and goad them into exploitable turf. It was how Ambages filled in the gaps left after researching people and it was an art he excelled at."People will follow not because of what I say but because of what you say," Ambages replied calmly. "And you will follow me because you want to. We're unlike the others we regard as our peers; you are not like your fellow sergeants just like I'm not like the politicians and artists seen as my equals. We require different incentives. And if you do not hold loyalty to gold then I would hope you hold it to purpose."I am giving you that purpose."
[color=#696969;]So that was that. Lie, if you have to. Absolutely brilliant. The Vortixx felt like he had just lost a particularly dizzying game of chess, a game where he had been doing well until a few moves later, almost all of his pieces were taken. Yet, he still held onto one, one piece of information, something that he could use. He wanted to grin, but kept his face perfectly still and nodded. "Then a purpose they shall have."How long does this tunnel go for, anyway?"[/color]
"Kios in every direction. Onu-Wahi holds no candle to the vastness of the Mangaia's reach," Ambages said. "Still, it is the fastest way between koros on the island, if not the safest." The even strides of his comparatively short legs were quick and beat a metronome Ilhamotho had to exert a little extra effort to keep up with -- Ambages wasn't a lazy traveler. "But there is another reason I wanted to come down this way. And it's just right here..." he said and slowed his pace.
He stepped up to a wall that was like all the others: Vastly flat and tall, black like the abyss. But he regarded it with what seemed like ceremonial reverence.
This was his wall."Tell me, Ilhamotho, what do you see in this wall?"
[color=#696969;]Another move, another pawn taken. "I can't say I rightly see anything, sir. Not without being a liar." He paused and gave it another cursory glance. "Looks like a giant black wall to me."[/color]
A thin evil smile graced his mouth with the subtlest of tugs. "A giant... black... wall," Ambages repeated to himself contentedly.
This was his mirror.
This was his muse.
He closed his eyes and placed his forehead on the wall and breathed deeply as if attempting to inhale the wall itself. He attuned himself to the glossy curtain of shadow, feeling it, reaching into it. Though the Makuta was no longer king in that subterranean realm his essence still flowed deeply in its veins, inhabiting the crevices and crags like plaque in a cavity, impossible to remove. And there Ambages thrived, in the darkness that had so long been his ally.
For seven hundred years the Makuta and he were equals in the great fight against Mata Nui, each with different ideals and agendas but still useful to each other. But despite their dubious alliance Ambages had found himself refused the final gift he always asked for from the darkness. Then, however, there was none to stand in the way of the request. The darkness was his to be had.
He reached up and touched the wall gently, he caressed it and felt it and the wall reacted. It shimmered as if in response to his touch and, to Ilhamotho's surprise, flowed into the matoran like black smoke wisps caught in a vacuum. And Ambages took it in with all his will.
"I have come here every week for the last three months," he spoke into wall which bounced his voice back to Ilhamotho. His tone was evil, sinister, deeper than before and more guttural. "I'm just a Matoran in a dangerous world. Sonics can grant me great perception, but little precious power. I needed my own strength." Finally he ceased absorbing the energies and turned back to face the Vortixx. His eyes were a bright purple, flared with surreal fire. "And so I conquered my inner Light, rejected it from my body and evicted the equilibrium we are all in possession of.
"We all require different incentives, Ilhamotho. Mine happens to be power."
He smiled genially as he always had. His eyes returned to their original red. His voice became normal again. "Let's go to Ga-Koro, shall we?"
Ooc: Ilhamotho and Ambages to Ga-Wahi.